October 25, 2014

Sen. Fischer says country must upgrade nuclear weapons

Sen. Deb Fischer

Sen. Deb Fischer

Sen. Deb Fischer has returned to Washington after touring the three nuclear weapon facilities in the United States.

Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, visited the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Fischer says those sites are a key to maintaining what she calls the backbone of our nuclear deterrent.

“You know, we have aging nuclear weapons and they take them apart, they inspect them to make sure that if they need to be used those weapons are going to perform the way they’re intended to perform,” Fischer tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN.

Fischer says the president and Congress have made a commitment to upgrade its nuclear weapons.

“But we have fallen short on it. So, I have some concerns on that and to make sure that our country is modernizing the weapons we have,” Fischer says. “Other countries are doing that. They’ve made the financial commitment and they are doing that. And we need to make sure our arsenal, our nuclear deterrent, is well maintained and is always at the ready.”

The United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) is located in Nebraska, based in Bellevue.

Congressman says Congress should return, debate ISIL threat

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

A Nebraska Congressman suggests Congress should return to Washington and debate the threat the Islamic State poses.

Islamic State, ISIL, ISIS; whatever you call it Congressman Jeff Fortenberry sees a grave threat to civilization itself.

Fortenberry supports President Barack Obama’s action to launch air strikes against ISIL.

“With certain conditions. That this continue to be an international effort,” Fortenberry tells Nebraska Radio Network. “America cannot fight this alone nor can we stop it alone, nor should we. Sunni Muslim countries have to fight. Iraqis have to regenerate their central government in Baghdad and their army has to fight for itself.”

The difficulty lies in identifying who to support.

“This is complex and multi-layered,” according to Fortenberry. “People blend in the population very easily. There are shifting loyalties. It’s not one side versus the other all the time. Sides can shift.”

Fortenberry says the legal authority the president is relying on to attack ISIL is old, perhaps outdated. Fortenberry suggests that not only does the president need Congressional authority for further action, Congress needs to debate the threat itself.

But, would a session of Congress devolve into petty politics?

“Well, that’s probably part of the underlying resistance to doing this in the short term,” according to Fortenberry. “I just think the question is so serious that it ought to transcend politics and we ought to address it immediately.”

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [1 min.]

American group providing aid to thousands after ISIS attacks

A humanitarian aid group that started in Kansas City is on the ground in Iraq helping thousands of people as they flee the terror group ISIS.  Sean Malone with Crisis Response International just returned from Iraq.  Malone says up to 200,000 Christians and others have fled from Mosul, which is under ISIS control to the town of Irbil, where his group is set up.

“These people are being traumatized day in and day out, living for fear of their lives that they would be beheaded or crucified,” Malone says. “They’re also afraid they’ll be apart of some mass killing from ISIS.”

According to Malone, the Kurdish soldiers are fighting ISIS bravely, but ISIS has stolen valuable equipment that was provided to Iraqi forces by the United States. Malone notes that Kurdish fighters are asking his group for assistance and better equipment.

“We don’t have night vision. They took your equipment that you supplied Iraq with,” Malone notes, from conversations he had with Kurdish fighters. “ISIS now has night vision and now at night time, they can attack us and we can’t hold these lines without better equipment”

“That just broke my heart.”

Malone says hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes because ISIS has threatened them with death if they don’t covert to Islam or pay a $10,000 dollar fine for being Christian.  Malone returned from Iraq five days ago, but several other teams from his group are still working in Iraq.

KLIN’s Kevin Thomas contributed to this report. Malone appeared on Thomas’ afternoon program “Drive Time Lincoln with Kevin Thomas” on KLIN Radio in Lincoln.


Sen. Fischer: Congressional OK needed to escalate attacks on ISIL

Sen. Deb Fischer

Sen. Deb Fischer

President Obama says America will go after Islamic State militants on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, but Nebraska U.S. Senator Deb Fischer says Congress should vote on whether the U.S. escalates its response to acts of terror by members of the Islamic State, or ISIL.

“A number of officials in the administration are saying that dealing with ISIL and destroying them, taking them out, could take three to five years,” Fischer says. “That’s an extended campaign. That, in my opinion, would require authorization by Congress.”

Senator Fischer, who sits on the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, says expanding the area of attacks also needs permission.

Fischer says, “When you look at extending the bombardment in Iraq, taking that into Syria and talking about this whole-scale elimination of ISIL, then you need to come to Congress.”

While President Obama addressed the issue last week in a nationally-broadcast speech, Fischer says the president needs to be more clear on the goals and requirements of any operation attempting to take on the Islamic State.

“The president really needs to lay out his case and he needs to do so in detail,” Fischer says. “He needs to explain this to the American people.”

Fischer says she is reflecting the strong message she is hearing from Nebraskans on any wider military operations in the Middle East.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


VA’s Power of 1 program aimed at suicide prevention

The U-S Department of Veterans Affairs is launching a new campaign offering support to veterans in need. It is called “The Power of 1″ and it emphasizes the effect that just one person, one conversation or one act can have on the life of a veteran or service member.

Dr. Caitlin Thompson is the Deputy Director of Suicide Prevention for the VA and encourages friends and family to know the warning signs. They include a change in mood or behavior, lack of interest, isolation, anger and more use of drugs and/or alcohol.

Dr. Thompson says many of the service members dying from suicide have not been deployed. She says more people commit suicide when they are going through a major transition and that happens frequently for those in the military. Statistics also show that Vietnam War era veterans are at particular risk and more than 50% of veterans that commit suicide are age 50 and older. Dr. Thompson says, “however we also need to be aware of our youngest veterans. Those who are ages 20 to 29 years old. Their suicide rates are increasing very quickly.” 

Dr. Thompson says they are committed in helping veterans and military members by getting the support they need. The VA offers a number of programs. All VA Medical Centers, including the facility in Omaha, have a suicide prevention coordinator and they are holding special events and health fairs during September which is Suicide Prevention Month. Veterans and current military members and their families can also get help by calling the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or send a text to 838255. Online chat is also available at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.