Friday, November 06, 2009

Fort Hood, Texas Shooting: sorting out the tragedy

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First, my sympathies to the families and people directly and indirectly harmed during the Fort Hood Shooting. Watching that unfold was difficult and confusing. Let's sort out what happened on Thursday, because I'm still confused about what happened and why.

First, all of this actually started at 1:30 PM Central Time, according to my notes, blogs, other blogs, and updated information, reports of shots were coming from Fort Hood, Texas, the largest military installation in America.

(Fort Hood is huge. It spans 339 square miles and is the largest active duty armored post in American. It's home to about 5,000 active duty officers and 45,000 enlisted; with approximately 9,000 civilian employees. It's located next to Killeen, and northeast of Austin, Texas. To give you an idea of how large Fort Hood is, Walt Disney World is 49 square miles, larger than Manhattan Island. Fort Hood is over six times larger than Walt Disney World.)

At that time, according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Nathan Banks, shots were fired and there's where things got confusing for me.

I was watching MSNBC at the time and as the moments advanced, they said that there were reports of more than one gunman at Fort Hood. At that point Fort Hood was on "lockdown": no one can get in, no one can get out or move from place to place. So I turned to CNN for a different perspective, as they commonly find someone to go on camera as an information resource.

I then found this video, thanks to Cao's Blog:

Then I wrote: There was a graduation ceremony going on at the time of the shooting, according to MSNBC and CNN. The shooting happened at the solidier readiness facility on the base.

The gunmen were carrying M-16s according to General Russell Honore U.S. Amry (Ret.) on the Rich Sanchez Show on CNN just three minutes ago.

President Obama was informed of the incident and CNN reported that the White House expected him to make a statement, soon.

Then here's what was confusing for me:

First, the number of gunmen, which started at one, then two, then three, and now it's back to one. What's unexplained is how there could be gun shots in different places of the installation in the same time frame?

Then there were the number of fatalities: it started at 7, then went to 12, then 11 because one of them was said to have been the gunman or a gunman, and now its at 13. The number of wounded is at 31, that increased steadily during the day, starting at 12 people.

Obama makes his statement:

Finally after a woman "first responder" reportedly shot the person who's said to be the "lone gunman" named Major Malik Nadal Hasan. At that point he was reported to have been killed. We later learn he's still alive and said to have been upset over the chance that he would be sent to war.

This is from the Associated Press, later in the evening:

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the president is being kept updated as details about the shooting emerge.

Gibbs said he told Obama about TV news reports that seven people were dead at the Texas military location and others were injured. Gibbs said he informed Obama based on broadcast reports and the president is being kept up to date through the White House Situation Room.

The Web site of the base in central Texas has posted an alert that says, "Effective immediately Fort Hood is closed." The Web site said that units at the base have been ordered to account for all personnel.

The site says, "This is not a Drill. It is an Emergency Situation."

Fort Hood is located halfway between Austin and Waco.

On the Fort Hood Web site, the word "closed" is posted with the statement, "Effective immediately, Fort Hood is closed. Organizations / units are instructed to execute a 100 percent accountability of all personnel."

Fort Hood was asking people on post to stay away from windows, CNN affiliate KXXV said. The incident took place at the sports dome, now known as the soldier readiness area, the station reported.

FBI agents are headed to the scene to assist, said Erik Vasys, spokesman for the FBI office in San Antonio. He had no other details.

The military installation is located near Killeen, Texas. It is the Army's largest installation, Honore said.

What to make of this? Well, what does concern me is a report by CNN that Major Malik Nadal Hasan was constantly working as a therapist for soldiers who've gone through horrible stuff, and yet he has no outlet. No girlfriend or wife to come home to and share what he's going through or better yet, forget about it for a bit.

He's one - reportedly according to Keith Olbermann's interview with Clint Van Sant, a former profiler with the FBI - shrink responsible for about 750 officers who are being processed to enter society after returning from wars. That's a hard job to do and keep one's mind straight.

Major Hassan was placed in a sensitive position, dealing with the issues and pains of fellow officers and internalizing them, and with no outlet, he apparently snapped and shot a lot of people, or shot at them.

He had to have lost it: Hassan had no previous extensive experience using guns and was said to have hated the idea of going to the gun range.

(Oh, this has nothing, zero, zip to do with being Muslim or Arab or anything , so please don't be a major bonehead and go there.)

California's education and economic problem; Chevron's aide

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Aside from jobs, education funding is the most important problem in California. I was surprised to learn that Chevron Oil Company - the company commonly associated for bad things and unfairly so in my view - was behind a $7 million initiative to fund education non-profit organizations in Northern California.

It's called The California Partnership and was developed to help those organizations that were focusing on, and making a difference in, disadvantages neighborhoods, primarily in Northern California.

I was invited to join other media at the San Francisco City Club and frankly learned something shocking. I learned that while other media outlets were invited, at least one organization said they only covered a story involving non-profits if their was something negative, like a staff member stealing funds, for example.

Think about that the next time you see a bad story on a non-profit in the media.

The organizations Chevron helped for this round of funding who attended the breakfast are Teach For America,, Donors, and Project Lead The Way. Here's the total list of organizations assisted in 2009:

Chevron California Partnership Nonprofit & Community Partners for 2009

- California State University Bakersfield (CSUB) – REVS-UP program for STEM education in local middle and high schools, and creation of a new STEM Activities Center at CSUB
- Contra Costa County Office of Education – online media services to local districts and schools
- – providing grants to teachers to purchase tools for STEM education
- Project Lead the Way – preparing middle and high school students for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics
- Project SEED – teaching high-level mathematics to increase education options for urban youth
- Science Buddies – online resource for science fair projects and content for class assignments
- Teach For America – places high-achieving college graduates as teachers in low-performing schools
- Techbridge – a hands-on after school science program for young girls

Economic Development

- AnewAmerica – business incubation, asset-building and social responsibility for entrepreneurs
- THE BREAD PROJECT – career training program for low-income people with barriers to employment
- EARN – asset-building services to help low-wage workers to escape poverty permanently
- Goodwill Academy – post-secondary vocational education and help for those with little work experience
- Jewish Vocational Services – vocational training and employment services
- – person-to-person microlending website for small businesses and entrepreneurs
- Opportunity Fund – provides loans to low-income entrepreneurs and small businesses
- Opportunity Junction – helping low-income adults build sustainable economic self-sufficiency
* WE Invest – provides tools and resources to help women achieve financial self-sufficiency
- Women's Initiative for Self Employment – training, resources and support for women entrepreneurs

The video features talks with representatives of the firms at the breakfast and I'll have more information on each company as they've got great stories to tell.

Ian McKellen rips out Bible pages of Leviticus..for a reason

Taking a bit of a break from what's frankly a hard chore of paying attention to shooting (Fort Hood), after shooting (Orlando), after shooting (Tokyo) to share a bit of light news.

I clicked over to and learned that great actor Sir Ian McKellen (Lord Of the Rings, The X-Men series) has an interesting habit he practices in hotel rooms. He rips out a specific page of the Bible from Leviticus, Chapter 18, verse 22, which reads:

"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."

According to Jewcy, McKellen told Details magazine:

"I'm not proudly defacing the book," he asserts, "but it's a choice between removing that page and throwing away the whole Bible."

McKellen says his actions have inspired others to do the same. "I got delivered a package of 40 of those pages that had been torn out by a married couple I know. They put them on a bit of string so that I could hang it up in the bathroom."

As one who's straight and Christian, but one who believes in civil rights for all - in fact that it's even a conversation is really annoying to me - there are parts of the Bible I elect to skip, like that one. So Sir Ian McKellen's doing a favor for me by taking out a part of the hotel version Good Book I skip anyway.

So the next time you're in a hotel, look at your Bible. If the page containing Leviticus, Chapter 18, verse 22 is gone, you'll know Ian McKellen was there.