Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Soundpainting at 701

701 Center for Contemporary Art (CCA) has announced the avant guard jazz septet ZAHA, a chamber ensemble devoted to real time composition, will bring its debut spring tour to the 701 CCA on Thursday, May 26. At a public workshop from 4:30-6 p.m., the group will reveal how they structure their adventures using Soundpainting, a live composing sign language created by composer Walther Thompson.   ZAHA director and composer Evan Mazunik will use Soundpainting as he leads the group in an 8 p.m. concert. Doors will be open at 7 p.m. During the performance, ZAHA will record material for a live EP to be released on Snapback Records in the summer of 2011.
According to the galleries news release, “New York-based ZAHA creates architecture for the imagination through installations, instant compositions, multimedia collaborations and educational outreach programs.”
In addition to Mazurik, members are Justin Wood on alto sax and flute, Nathan Koci on horn and accordion, Frantz Loriot on viola, Sebastian Noelle on guitar, Ryan Kotler on bass and Eric Eigner on drums.  Koci has performed at 701 CCA several times, among others with Charleston’s New Music Collective and The Opposite of a Train. Together, the ZAHA members generate a repertoire of original works that play with the boundaries between sound, text, color and gesture. Past performances have featured a live film score to Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr, a guerilla performance in Times Square and an installation based on human bowling.
Admission to the concert and workshop may be purchased separately, each at $10 for non-members, $8 for members and $5 for students, or as a package at $16 for non-members, $12 for members and $8 for students.  The 701 Center for Contemporary Art is located at 701 Whaley Street in Columbia.
For further inquiries contact:  info@701cca.org or call Wim Roefs at (803) 238-2351.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Star Witness in Terror Trial Could Heighten U.S.-Pakistan Tension

by Sebastian Rotella ProPublica,

This report is part of a ProPublica and PBS FRONTLINE investigation.Versions of this article appeared in the Washington Post [1] and the Guardian [2].

CHICAGO -- The life of David Coleman Headley, a confessed American terrorist and Pakistani spy, has moved from a soap opera to a crime story to an espionage thriller embroiling the elites of India, Pakistan and the United States.

Monday begins the most revealing chapter yet: The courtroom drama.

Headley, a Pakistani-American businessman and former DEA informant, will be the star witness against Tahawwur Rana of Chicago, his boyhood friend and alleged accomplice in the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai. Opening arguments are set for Monday in a trial that has drawn international attention because Headley's testimony could reinforce allegations [3] that Pakistan plays a double game in the fight against terrorism.

The prosecution will depend largely on how the jury views Headley, one of the most intriguing figures to surface in a U.S. terror case. The burly, smooth-talking 50-year-old has a swashbuckling personality and a knack for juggling relationships with multiple wives, terrorist groups and law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

"Sometimes he'd tell my husband, 'Oh, I want to be in movies,' a movie star or something like that," Rana's wife, Samraz, told ProPublica and PBS FRONTLINE in her first-ever interview. "So it looks like he wants to be famous."

Headley has gotten his wish. He pleaded guilty last year to conducting reconnaissance for the Mumbai attacks [4], which killed 166 people, and for a plot against Denmark. His confessions painted a devastating portrait of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), because he says ISI officers helped the Lashkar-i-Taiba terrorist group plot the commando-style attacks on Mumbai.

Rana's defense will center on the ISI links. His lawyers say Headley duped Rana into thinking he was helping an ISI espionage operation in India, then betrayed him to escape the death penalty. Rana, the defense will argue, had no idea Headley was plotting mass murder.

"They are using a whale to catch a minnow," said defense attorney Charles Swift. He called Headley "a master manipulator."

Federal prosecutors recently raised the political stakes by indicting a suspected ISI officer [5] for the murders in Mumbai of six Americans, whose deaths are the basis for the U.S. trial. The officer, identified only as Major Iqbal, allegedly oversaw Headley's scouting in India and then helped launch him on the Lashkar plot against Denmark, although Iqbal is not charged in the Denmark case.

The decision to indict Iqbal was made at high levels in Washington. It sent a tough signal from the Obama administration, which had expressed frustration about Pakistan's reliability even before Osama bin Laden was found in a military town near Islamabad.

"I think [the indictment] shows the government believes Headley when he says his handler was an ISI officer," said James Kreindler, a former federal prosecutor who is suing the Pakistani spy agency in New York on behalf of the Mumbai victims and their families. "At some point in time there is not going to be any doubt whatsoever that the ISI coordinated the attack with Lashkar."

The indictment refrains from mentioning the ISI, part of a calculated low-key approach, according to an Obama administration official who requested anonymity because of the pending trial. But the prosecutors will likely address the allegations about the ISI, especially because the defense has emphasized them.

"The decision not to name the ISI does not reflect second thoughts about the evidence," the official said. "There are no second thoughts about the evidence."

Pakistan Questions Headley's Credibility

The prosecution's case is based on a secretive international investigation by the FBI and some 30,000 pages of court documents, most of them sealed. Headley's testimony is backed by corroborating evidence from other witnesses, communications intercepts, travel records, reconnaissance videos and the contents of his computer. If there is strong evidence that ISI personnel helped kill Americans, it would inflict further damage on an endangered alliance with Pakistan into which Washington has poured billions.

Pakistani officials deny any links to terrorism and question Headley's credibility because of his past as a double agent and criminal.

The Pakistani major and five of the six other masterminds charged in Chicago remain at large. The FBI has photos of some of them, intercepts of their voices and emails, and information about their whereabouts, but Pakistani authorities have done little to pursue the fugitives, U.S. officials say. Pakistan's prosecution of several Lashkar chiefs arrested in 2009, including one now under U.S. indictment, has stalled.

Rana, a doctor by training, is the lowest-ranking suspect and the only defendant in Chicago. He is charged with material support of terrorism for letting Headley use his immigration consulting firm as a cover overseas.

Rana has known Headley since they attended an elite military school in Pakistan. Rana's wife, who also has a medical degree, met Headley in the 1990s after she emigrated to the United States. Although he was a convicted heroin dealer and recovering addict, he charmed her conservative family, she said during the interview in their bungalow near Devon Avenue, the heart of Chicago's South Asian community.

The bespectacled 48-year-old mother of three teenagers smiled wearily as she recalled Headley's relationship with her children.

"He was like a gateway to American culture for us," she said. "He was like a second father for my kids...My kids would say, he's cool, this guy. He was taking them to the movies, Chuck E. Cheese, all this fun stuff...He talked to me like a brother. He knows what I liked. He knows what my husband liked. He knows what my children like...He has different faces."

Headley's mother came from a rich Philadelphia family and his father was a renowned, politically influential Pakistani broadcaster. Headley told investigators that he has a distant Pakistani relative who was a former deputy director of the ISI and Army general, according to Indian and U.S. officials. If that link is confirmed, it could help explain why the agency later recruited Headley and how he had access to senior officers and militant chiefs.

At 17, Headley returned to the United States, where he managed bars and owned a video rental store. Multi-lingual and gregarious, he has shown a con man's gift for winning over accomplices, investigators and romantic conquests.

"He was a tall, handsome guy," Samraz Rana said. "He was wearing very expensive clothes and, I mean, he was really impressive."

After a 1997 arrest for heroin smuggling, Headley became a prized DEA informant who targeted Pakistani traffickers. Immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, the DEA directed him to collect intelligence on terrorists as well as drugs. In December 2001, the U.S. government ended his probation three years early and rushed him to Pakistan, where he began training in Lashkar terror camps weeks later, according to court documents, officials and his associates.

Some federal officials say he remained an informant at least three more years, but the DEA disagrees.

"David Headley was sent to Pakistan for approximately three weeks to further a drug investigation in 1998," said a DEA official familiar with his work as an informant. The DEA official declined to comment on Headley's mission in late 2001, but said: "He was deactivated in early 2002."

That assertion only deepens the contradictions and mysteries about Headley's missions overseas. Between 2001 and 2008, federal authorities were warned six times [6] by his wives and associates that he was involved in terrorism. None of the resulting inquiries yielded anything. The FBI and CIA say he never worked for them.

Headley’s Personality: Charming and Chaotic

Headley's personal life has been melodramatic. He has four children, including a son named Osama with a Pakistani wife from an arranged marriage in 1999. But he has been married to three other women and several of those relationships overlapped.

At times, Headley has worn a full beard and traditional garb and expressed warlike beliefs, quoting the Koran, praising al Qaeda and declaring his hatred for India. But he has often gone clean-shaven and behaved like a high-rolling entrepreneur with a taste for champagne and luxury.

After he began training with Lashkar, he joked with his third wife, a New York makeup artist, that their pet dog could be a good "jihadi dog," according to a close associate. Hard-core extremists shun dogs because they see them as un-Islamic and unclean.

Despite Headley's guilty plea, Rana's wife finds it difficult to believe that her jovial, playful family friend helped plan the carnage of Mumbai. She recalled an anecdote her husband told about their military school days, when Headley would avoid morning prayers.

"Dave, he knocks on all the doors of students and he says, 'Get up, get up, it's time for prayer'," she said. "And then when everybody gets up, he went to his room and went to sleep, you know. So he was laughing. He was like that."

When the DEA busted Headley in 1988 and 1997, Rana put up his house as bond. When the Ranas ran into financial trouble in 2005, Headley came to the rescue with a loan of more than $60,000, Rana's wife said.

"We were like almost at the border of bankruptcy," she said. "So my husband, he became more close to him. And he said: 'Oh, he is my true friend because he helped me at this time when I really need money'."

Still, Headley had traits that made her uneasy. Her husband told her he had once used an elderly aunt to smuggle drugs on a flight overseas, hiding the package in her pocket without her knowledge, the wife said.

In 2006, the ISI recruited Headley in Pakistan, according to his confession to Indian investigators. In addition to Major Iqbal, his trainer and hander, he said he met ISI officers named Major Samir Ali, Lt. Colonel Hamza and Colonel Shah. After specialized ISI training, he did two years of missions in India directed by Iqbal and Sajid Mir, a Lashkar chief who is the suspected project manager of the plot.

Mir's voice was caught on wiretaps overseeing the three-day slaughter in Mumbai by phone. Some U.S. and European anti-terror officials believe Mir once belonged to the military or ISI; others say he only had close ties to the security forces.

Both Mir and Major Iqbal concentrated on terror targets, but Iqbal assigned Headley to gather military intelligence as well. He gave Headley about $28,000 to establish an office of Rana's firm in Mumbai as a cover and for other expenses, the indictment says.

The Ranas Took Care of Headley’s Wife and Children

Rana's wife insists that her husband had no idea about the plot. The Ranas traveled to Mumbai, where she has family, days before the attack in November 2008.

"It's a zero percent chance that my husband is involved in this thing," she said. "My relatives are there...I was there. My husband was there. We [could have been] killed in that attack."

The defense, however, will have to explain wiretaps in which Rana appears to praise the Mumbai masterminds. Evidence indicates he communicated with Major Iqbal. And he helped Headley maintain his cover in Denmark in January 2009 by sending an email to an advertising representative at the Jyllands Posten newspaper, which Lashkar targeted because it had published caricatures of the Prophet Mohamed, according to the indictment.

Major Iqbal met at least twice with Headley about the Denmark plot, expressing enthusiasm about attacking the newspaper, according to Headley's account. The officer cut off contact with Headley when Mir, the lead plotter, backed away from the operation in March 2009, documents say. But Headley continued meeting and communicating with Col. Shah and Major Samir Ali as the Denmark plot was taken over by al Qaeda, according to officials and an Indian court document.

Shortly before the Mumbai attack, Headley had brought his Pakistani wife and children to Chicago. They lived with the Ranas for 20 days before moving into a nearby apartment.

"They become very close to my kids," Samraz Rana said. "And the wife was nice. And we have like sort of family relationship at that time... Dave was not here, he only sent his family. So we were taking care of his family."

During this period, documents show, Headley was spending most of his time in Pakistan, where he had a Moroccan wife. The Ranas paid rent for Headley's family as part of the strict conditions he had imposed for repaying the money he had loaned them, she said.

The FBI arrested Headley and Rana in October 2009. A DEA agent who had handled Headley when he was a drug informant was present when investigators brought Headley in, perhaps in a strategy to induce cooperation. Headley quickly did what he had done in the past: he changed sides. He spent weeks detailing his role in the Mumbai massacre.

"If you see him, you cannot even imagine that he can do things like that," Samraz Rana said. "I mean he talks so good. He's so polite."

Now, though, Rana's wife sees Headley as a predator.

"He just thinks about himself," she said. "I think he [studies] human beings...more as compared to the ordinary person. He can understand what [someone] likes and he changes himself according to that...Now I realize what intention he had."


 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Navy Seal Team 6 Rewarded With Fleshlights

By Brian Gross
Fleshlight Correspondent


Austin, TX/ May 10, 2011 – The world’s number one selling male sex toy company, Fleshlight (www.Fleshlight.com) has extended their thanks to SEAL Team 6, the country’s highest protective detail Navy SEALs, who conducted one of bravest missions in American history, forever changing the landscape of the Unites States of America, and the world.
The company sent the SEAL team a six case of Fleshlight products named “Stealth”. This product is aptly named as it is very concealable and hard to detect. These “Stealth” Fleshlight products have now been replaced by the arrival of Fleshlight Pure www.fleshlight.com/pure.
“We want to thank the Navy SEALs for their efforts,” says Brian Shubin, COO of Fleshlight. “For their courage, and the fact that they risked their lives to protect our freedom, we hope they will appreciate our gifts.”

Just this past month, Fleshlight has officially sold over 4 million Fleshlights around the world. “It is important to us, and to our customers, that we are able to deliver a high-quality product, anywhere freedom and sexuality are desired. We salute those who protect and serve.”
Fleshlight was started in 1995; patents were received in 1998. The company made its large online retail venture in 2001. Before Fleshlight went online, product creator, founder and mastermind Steve Shubin was molding the individual Fleshlights himself and hand delivering the final products to retail stores like Good Vibrations. By taking the product online, the company became one of the first adult manufacturers who took their product direct to consumers.  In 2006, Fleshlight started molding adult stars and launched the Fleshlight Girl Division, which has grown into the power house brand with exclusive molds of the world’s most famous and respected adult film stars.
fleshlightnews@columbiacitypaper.com

Conservation hotlist

S.461, the Alcoholic Beverage Container (ABC) Recycling bill by Sen. Ray Cleary would create thousands of new jobs in South Carolina. There are seven material recycling facilities and over 300 collectors, brokers, processors and manufacturers across this state. Today that is approximately 15,600 jobs. A Clemson University study projects recycling industry growth at 12% annually producing 37,000 direct and indirect jobs in five years.

The cost of recycling is comparable to the price of sending waste to a landfill. When businesses recycle, the expenses incurred paying haulers to take their waste to landfills decreases, offsetting any costs for recycling. Taxpayers benefit as well by not being saddled with the costs of building new landfills. You don’t have to take our word for it. Testimonials from business leaders speak for themselves:

“The positives I see in requiring restaurants to recycle are numerous, and not just the obvious benefit to the environment being just one. From my perspective as a restaurant manager, I think it will be safer for employees and sanitation workers if glass is kept in one place and removed safely. Glass is dangerous, especially if it is hidden in a garbage bag and someone doesn’t know it’s there. Imagine something as simple as restaurants & bars recycling glass could be used to make the USA more energy independent, grow green jobs and generate revenue. I urge you to vote yes to restaurant and bar recycling.” - Kaitlin Ohlinger, Manager, Cellar on the Green, Columbia

“In Myrtle Beach we currently have 6 restaurants that are participating in green recycling efforts. In just 8 months, our restaurants have recycled 53 tons of materials. Initially, we thought it would be a difficult transition to move the restaurants into a recycling mentality and a challenge to get our staff involved…We have realized how easy it is and how much our staff wants to be a part of these efforts. We recycle paper, glass, cans, plastic, oil and cardboard and have noticed a significant decrease in our dumpster pick-up. We are committed to helping make Myrtle Beach a more green-friendly destination and recycling is critical to this effort.” - Elise Angell, Myrtle Beach Public Relations, Centra Archy Restaurant Management Company 

The time for recycling in South Carolina is now. We encourage Senators to support a green economy and vote in favor of S.461.

In the Senate
Alcoholic Beverage Container (ABC) Recycling (S.461, Sen. Ray Cleary) PRIORITY
S.461 calls for establishments that have a permit for on-site consumption of alcohol to implement a recycling program in the next two years for plastic, corrugated cardboard, aluminum and glass. (The bill provides establishments without access to glass recyclers, 3 years to implement glass recycling.) S.461 also calls for these establishments to develop recycling plans guided by DHEC. Minimal funding will come from the Governor’s Task Force on Litter with money going equally to DHEC and the Department of Revenue for implementation and enforcement. Permit applications or renewals are given a 10% discount for 8 years if there is a recycling plan that does not include glass, and a 25% discount for applications and renewals that have a recycling plan with glass. S.461 remains on the contested calendar.  Email your Senator to ask him to support this priority bill that creates South Carolina jobs.

Natural Resource Agency Funding- PRIORITY
Forestry, agriculture, outdoor recreation and tourism account for $54 billion, or about one-third, of our state’s economy. That’s over 450,000 jobs, or approximately 25% of all jobs in South Carolina. However, the combined budgets of the South Carolina Agriculture Department, Forestry Commission, Department of Natural Resources and Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism account for less than one percent of the state budget. The Conservation Bank received $750,000 in the House version of the Fiscal Year 2011-2012 Budget. This funding would ensure that the Bank has the operational funding necessary for the upcoming year, as well as cover a portion of the $3 million in outstanding grants. Two weeks ago, the Senate approved $2 million of likely surplus funds for the Conservation Bank in its budget in a 38-4 vote. The Senate will go into session earlier than usual Tuesday morning at 10:00 am to continue their debate on othe! r parts of the budget.

Phosphorus Bill (H.3470, Rep. Mike Pitts) PRIORITY
H.3470 would prohibit the use, sell or manufacture of dishwashing detergents containing phosphates, a harmful chemical found in our lakes and rivers. Phosphorus is already banned in 15 states because it kills fish and lowers recreational revenues and home values. This bill passed the House and was referred to the Senate Medical Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Harvey Peeler.

Chronic Sewage Polluter Bill (H.3617, Rep. Mike Pitts) PRIORITY
H.3617 would require any wastewater utility with two spills over 5,000 gallons each in a 12-month period (per every 100 miles of pipe) to undergo a comprehensive audit of what caused the spill and fix the problems identified. This compromise language is supported by the conservation community and the 30 largest South Carolina wastewater utilities as a means of bringing the most chronic violators into compliance. A Medical Affairs Subcommittee (Sen. Wes Hayes- Chair, Ray Cleary, Brad Hutto, Floyd Nicholson and Danny Verdin) will discuss this bill Wednesday, May 18 at 12:30 pm in Gressette Room 207. (If the Senate is still in session at that time, the Subcommittee will meet in the third floor conference room in the State House.) If H.3617 receives a favorable report, it will be discussed by the full Medical Affairs Committee, Thursday, May 19 at 9:30 am in Gressette Room 308.

Solar Tax Credits (H.3346, Rep. Dwight Loftis/S.474, Sen. Glenn Reese) PRIORITY
H.3346 establishes a 35 percent state tax credit for the installation of solar energy equipment for both residential and commercial purposes placed in service in taxable years after 2010. This legislation not only promotes renewable energy; it encourages solar installations and creates new jobs. H.3346 has passed the House and resides in the Senate Finance Committee.

Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (H.3059, Rep. Jim Merrill) SUPPORT
H.3059 extends an existing, state income tax credit of $2,000 for highway-speed, plug-in vehicles. The tax credit has an annual impact cap of $500,000 and is provided on a first-come, first-serve, basis. Within three years, over a dozen hybrid models are expected to be available, providing economic, national security, and environmental benefits. This bill passed the House and resides in the Senate Finance Committee.

Prescribed Fire (H.3631, Rep. Jim Harrison/S.501, Sen. Ronnie Cromer) SUPPORT
Prescribed burns are the most efficient and cost effective tools for managing healthy forests. These companion bills provide greater protection for landowners who choose to burn responsibly on their property. Both bills are on the Senate contested calendar.

Saluda River Trout Moratorium (S.800, Sen. Phil Shoopman) OPPOSE 
This bill would impose a moratorium on permits for a federally funded trout enhancement project proposed for the South Saluda River in Greenville County.  This project will not disturb the river’s flow or public recreation opportunities, and the public would continue to have foot access. South Carolina has lost over 90% of its original habitat for trout. The Senate Fish Game and Forestry Subcommittee (Sen. Chip Campsen- Chair, Mike Fair, Greg Gregory, John Land, Shane Martin, Vincent Sheheen and Danny Verdin) postponed its Thursday, May 12 meeting.

Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act (H. 3735 by Rep. Dwight Loftis) OPPOSE 
This bill seeks to exempt South Carolina from federal energy efficiency standards that passed with bipartisan support in 2007 to require 25-30% energy efficiency gains by 2014 and three-times more efficient light bulbs by 2020.  The bill would skirt interstate commerce by promoting the in-state manufacturing of old fashioned and wasteful incandescent light bulbs.  The full LCI Committee will likely discuss this bill at its next meeting on Thursday, May 19 at 9:30 am in Gressette Room 209.

In the House

Conservation Bank Sunset Clause (H.3083, Rep. Mike Pitts/S.138, Sen .Chip Campsen) PRIORITY
H.3083 removes the Sunset Clause that would close the Bank in 2013.  The House adjourned debate on this bill again last week and will continue their debate this week.  Rep. Pitts will offer an amendment extending the Sunset to 2023 in order to push the bill out of the House.  (The Senate may take it up this year if two-thirds agree to do so.)  Email House members today to ask them to support amending H.3083 to no less than a 10 year Sunset extension this week.

Commercial Center Revitalization Act (H.3604, Rep. James Smith) SUPPORT
This concurrent resolution encourages the Council of Governments to adopt ordinances to enable the retrofitting of shopping centers into dense, walkable, mixed-use town centers, while lessening environmental impacts on the state. We thank the full LCI Committee (Rep. Bill Sandifer- Chair, Grady Brown, Shannon Erickson, Carl Anderson, Jimmy Bales, Eric Bedingfield, Bill Bowers, Joan Brady, Kris Crawford, Mike Forrester, Mike Gambrell, Jackie Hayes, Phillip Lowe, David Mack, Dennis Moss, Steve Parker, Gene Pinson and Mac Toole) which gave this bill a unanimous favorable report last week. H.3604 could come up for a vote by the full House as early as this week.

DNR Restructuring (H.3049, Rep. Alan Clemmons) OPPOSE
This legislation would move DNR to the Governor’s Cabinet and relegate the DNR Board to an advisory role. DNR has a successful record spanning over a century of protecting our natural resources and restoring wildlife. Under the current structure hunters and anglers can express concerns to the Board and work with them to promote new projects and innovations. With the passage of this bill, sportsmen who regularly interact with DNR leadership could lose access to the Director who would change with each administration (possibly every 4 years). Also, with no professional requirements in place, under a cabinet structure a Governor can appoint a DNR Director with little experience or qualifications. Because DNR is the commenting agency on environmental permits, it needs to remain an independent agency to provide unbiased permit decisions. A House Wildlife Subcommittee voted 2-2 to give this bill a favorable report last week, so the bill did not have the votes nee! ded to pass. We’d like to thank Rep. Ted Vick, Chair of the Subcommittee and Rep. Kenneth Hodges for voting against H.3049, and Rep. Davey Hiott for raising several good points about fallacies in the legislation. (Representatives Bill Hixon and Kevin Ryan voted in favor of the bill.) 

DHEC Permit Review (H.3569, Rep. Dwight Loftis) MONITOR
This bill allows DHEC wetland permit applicants to review the DHEC draft permit and discuss the draft with DHEC personnel. We advocate amending this bill to allow ALL interested or affected parties, in addition to the permit applicants, to have the right to request review of draft permits. The House Environmental Affairs I Subcommittee (Rep. David Hiott- Chair, Bill Crosby, Chandra Dillard and Chris Murphy) will discuss this bill Wednesday, May 18 at 8:30 am in Blatt Room 410.

Community Land Trust Act (H.3676, Rep. James Smith) MONITOR
This bill more clearly defines in state law that the purpose of a community land trust (CLT) is to hold legal and equitable title to land for future lease for affordable housing. The bill states that a CLT provides for mutual ownership and control by the community including the owners and renters of CLT homes and apartments. Current state law has no such provision. The full Judiciary Committee (Rep. Jim Harrison- Chair, James Smith, George Hearn, Karl Allen, Bruce Bannister, Boyd Brown, Alan Clemmons, Derham Cole, Greg Delleney, Laurie Funderburk, Dan Hamilton, Jenny Horne, Peter McCoy, Walton McLeod, Wendy Nanney, Todd Rutherford, Bakari Sellers, Garry Smith, Mike Sottile, Leon Stavrinakis, Eddie Tallon, Thad Viers, David Weeks, Seth Whipper and Tom Young) will discuss this bill Tuesday, May 17 at 2:30 pm, or one and a half hours after the House adjourns, whichever is later, in Blatt Room 516.

Provided by Debbie Parker of Conservation Voters of S.C.

Live music this weekend

05/19/11 :: Thursday

Chris Compton
Cafe Strudel

The Packway Handle Band
El Burrito

New Brookland Tavern
Ty Bru
Trublklef & Miles Franco
Rawzen
BLZ

Utopia
Open Mic w Brett Mello

05/20/11 :: Friday

Manchester Orchestra
O’Brother
Cage the Elephant
All Get Out
Jillian’s

Bobby Sutton
James Irvin
Cafe Strudel

Leslie
The House
Ponderosa
The House 5 Points

John Schmitt
Tom Hall’s BBQ & House Concert

05/21/11 :: Saturday

The Love Language
The Art Bar

Newbrookland Tavern
Decadence
Host To Another
Necessary Evil
Columbia Necktie

The Trye Horn Band
Utopia

5/22/11 :: Sunday
4th annual shrip fest at
Utopia (see back cover)

American Babies
The White Mule

5/24/11 :: Tuesday
Open Blues
Utopia

5/25/11 :: Wednesday
Sounds of Subuerbia

05/27/11 :: Friday
Pamela Austin
Cafe Strudel

Listener
The White Mule

Concrete Jumpsuit
Utopia

05/28/11 :: Saturday

Nashville Pussy
The House 5 Points

Stillhouse
Utopia

06/02/11 :: Thursday

Allison Weiss
The White Mule

06/03/11 :: Friday

The Blue Dogs
The White Mule

06/16/11 :: Thursday

The Packway Handle Band
El Burrito

Gimme Hendrix
The House 5 Points
06/23/11 :: Thursday

Keith Urban
Colonial Life Arena

06/25/11 :: Saturday

The Supervillains
Lefty at the Washout
Rumpelstiltskin
The House 5 Points

07/13/11 :: Wednesday

The Farewell Drifters
The White Mule

07/17/11 :: Sunday

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit
Jonny Corndawg
The House 5 Points

08/20/11 :: Saturday

Rush of Fools
Colonial Life Arena

We post shows from jambase.com so get on it, or buy an ad and we will list for you in both places!

Movie review

By James

The only interesting thing with vampire films these days is trying to work out what kind of vampire your going to get and what rules have been thought up to govern them in the world. The vampires of Priest are actual gruesome monsters with sharp claws and fangs which makes a change from the usual humans with slightly bigger incisors. That being said, they do exist as the human-turned-vampire slaves to their true vampire masters.
Based on Hyung Min-Woo Korean graphic novel, Priest is set in a world where humans and vampires were at war. Realising that they were loosing, the humans invested in training up an elite group of warriors who could combat the vampires and turn the battle in their favour. Interesting really since the original comic did not involve vampires but rather fallen angels and daemons hence why the name of this film doesn’t completely fit the content.
The church decides that after the war is won they no longer need their crack team of assassins and so fearing what they could do, they are disbanded and sent away to live normal lives with the authorities and society shunning them. (I got the impression this was at least in part attempting to parallel modern day war veterans but it was a theme that was only briefly passed over.) When Priest (Paul Bettany) finds out his family have been attacked by vampires and his niece (Lily Collins) taken, he goes against the word of the church and teams up with his nieces boyfriend Hicks (Cam Gigandet), the local sheriff to get her back.
Then follows some fighting, more CGI and special effects (which as a whole are good) and an attempt to fashion a story out of the situation. I just felt that this movie didn’t have much going for it with the acting rather disappointing, the ’scary’ parts failing to let my heart racing let alone make me jump from my seat and I began to lose interest half way through- never a good sign. Watch the trailer and save yourself a trip to the cinema and a few quid.
The film also didn’t know what direction it was heading in. By this I mean that it amalgamated a western theme with horror and action and a slight attempt at romance and threw it into a Mad Max post-apocalyptic type world. Maybe this might have worked in the graphic novel where you can imagine a cowboy western world to be more god fearing but it just didn’t adapt to the big screen.
Although a didn’t see the 3D version the general consensus is that I made the correct choice in opting for the 2D. This is probably down to the fact it was post-converted into 3D rather than shot in 3D and with large parts of the film set in the dark (one guess why), the addition of 3D glasses isn’t going to help your viewing experience.
Finally, you like me may be surprised to find that it’s only a 12A rating. If I ever saw some of the stuff in this film when I was younger than 12 I wouldn’t have slept for weeks but then maybe the kids today are made of harder stuff!
So I was not the biggest fan of this movie and I have a feeling that I will not be the only one. If it wasn’t for the cross shaped tattoo across his forehead, I would have had trouble distinguishing Bettany from his role in this and the equally disappointing Legion. One word sums this up and that word is rubbish.

Rating: 3.9/10
For further reviews feel free to check out: http://www.fanaticalaboutfilms.com or follow this site on Twitter @ FAbFilms
http://www.moviefilmreview.com/author/fanaticalaboutfilms

Movie times for weekend of 5-20

Nickelodeon Theatre
937 Main Street, Columbia, SC 29210
OF GODS AND MEN
Awarded Grand Prix honors at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival, this compelling historical drama relates the ordeal of seven French Trappist monks in the mountains of Algeria who are taken captive by Islamic fundamentalists. Before the monks' abduction, they have ample reason to believe they may be in danger, but their assumption that there can and must be common ground between Islam and Christianity leads them to remain at the monastery. View Trailer

MAY 20-26, Friday-Thursday
Friday, May 20th - 3:00, 5:30 and 8:00
Saturday, May 21st - 3:00, 5:30 and 8:00
Sunday, May 22nd - 3:00, 5:30 and 8:00

Regal Columbia Cinema 7
3400 Forest Drive Suite 3000, Columbia, SC 29204
Bridesmaids new! (R)
2:10 4:55 7:40 10:25

Priest 3D new! (PG-13) Showtimes More Info
2:30 5:10 7:30 9:50

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil (PG)

2:25pm

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil 3D (PG) Showtimes More Info
4:30 7:00 9:30

Water for Elephants (PG-13)
2:00 4:40 7:20 10:00

Hanna (PG-13)
2:20 5:00 7:35 10:10

Soul Surfer (PG)
2:15 4:50 7:15 9:40

The Lincoln Lawyer (R)
2:05 4:45 7:25 10:05

Carmike Wynnsong 10
5320 Forest Drive, Columbia, SC 29206

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides new! (PG-13)
12:15 1:15 3:30 4:30 6:45 7:45 9:50 10:30 12:00am 12:01am

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D new! (PG-13)
11:15am 12:45 2:30 4:00 5:45 7:15 9:00 10:00 12:05am

Jumping the Broom (PG-13)
1:10 4:10 7:10 9:55

Something Borrowed (PG-13)
12:15 3:30 6:45 9:50

Thor (PG-13)
12:30 3:30 7:00 10:10

Thor 3D (PG-13)Digital 3D Showtimes More Info
12:00 3:00 6:30 9:30

Fast Five (PG-13)
1:00 4:00 7:05

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family (PG-13)
7:15pm

Rio The Movie (G)
12:45 4:00

AMC Dutch Square 14
800 Bush River Rd., Columbia, SC 29210

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides new! (PG-13, No Passes)
9:45am 12:55 4:05 7:15 10:25

Regal Columbiana Grande Stadium 14
1250 Bower Pkwy, Columbia, SC 29212

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides new! (PG-13, No Passes)
11:00am 1:15 2:05 4:20 5:10 7:25 8:15 10:30
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D new! (PG-13, No Passes)
Showtimes More Info
10:35am 11:25am 12:50 1:40 2:30 3:55 4:45 5:35 7:00 7:50 10:05 10:55
Jumping the Broom (PG-13)
11:20am 1:55 4:40 7:20 9:55
Something Borrowed (PG-13)
11:30am 2:10 4:55 7:30 10:15
Thor (PG-13)
11:10am 1:50 4:30 7:10 9:50
Thor 3D (PG-13)
Showtimes More Info
11:40am 2:20 5:00 7:40 9:00 10:20
Fast Five (PG-13)
11:05am 1:30 2:00 4:15 4:50 7:15 7:45 10:00 10:35

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family (PG-13)
12:00 2:40 5:15 7:55 10:25
Rio The Movie (G)
11:55am 4:35 9:25
Rio The Movie 3D (G)
2:15 7:05
Insidious (PG-13)
12:05 2:35 5:05 7:35 10:10

Carmike 14
122 Afton Court, Columbia, SC 29212

Bridesmaids new! (R)
1:00 4:00 7:00 9:55

Priest new! (PG-13)
2:10 5:10 7:35 10:00
Priest 3D new! (PG-13)
1:50 4:45 7:15 9:35

Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil 3D (PG)
1:45 4:20 6:30 8:50
Prom (PG)

1:30 4:05 6:30 9:00
African Cats (G)

1:40 4:25 6:40 9:00

Water for Elephants (PG-13)
1:15 4:15 7:10 9:50

Hanna (PG-13)
1:55 4:30 7:05 9:40

Soul Surfer (PG)
1:45 4:20 6:50 9:15

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (PG)
2:00 4:25 6:40 9:00

Limitless (PG-13)
1:55 4:50 7:30 10:00

The Lincoln Lawyer (R)
1:25 4:10 6:50 9:30

Paul (R)
1:50 4:35 7:20 10:05

Unknown (PG-13)
1:35 4:10 6:45 9:20

Regal Sandhill Stadium 16
450 Town Center Place, Columbia, SC 29229

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides new! (PG-13)
9:45am 10:35am 12:50 1:40 3:55 4:45 7:00 7:50 10:05 10:55
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D new! (PG-13)
Showtimes More Info
10:10am 11:00am 12:30 1:15 2:05 3:35 4:20 5:10 6:40 7:25 8:15 10:30 11:20
Bridesmaids new! (R)
11:30am 2:15 5:05 7:55 10:45
Priest new! (PG-13)
11:45am 2:30 4:55 7:40 9:50
Priest 3D new! (PG-13)
12:15 3:00 5:25 8:10 10:20

Jumping the Broom (PG-13)
11:20am 11:50am 2:10 2:40 4:50 5:20 7:30 8:00 10:10 10:40

Something Borrowed (PG-13)
7:20 10:00

Thor (PG-13)
2:20 5:00 7:35 10:15
11:40am

Thor 3D (PG-13)
12:10 2:50 5:30 8:05 9:45 10:45
Fast Five (PG-13)
11:05am 2:00 4:55 7:45 10:35

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family (PG-13)
11:35am 2:15 4:40 7:15 9:55
Rio The Movie (G)
9:50am 2:25 7:10
Rio The Movie 3D (G)
Showtimes More Info
12:05 4:40 9:30
Soul Surfer (PG)
11:20am 1:55 4:25

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides new! (PG-13)
1:15 4:20 7:25 10:30

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 3D new! (PG-13, No Passes)
12:50 3:55 7:00 10:05

Bridesmaids new! (R)
1:30 4:45 7:35 10:15
Priest 3D new! (PG-13)2:00 4:50 7:30 9:35

Something Borrowed (PG-13)
2:10 4:40 7:15 9:45

Thor (PG-13)
2:20 5:00 7:40 10:20
Thor 3D (PG-13)
1:45 4:30 7:10 9:50

Fast Five (PG-13)
1:00 4:10 7:20 10:10

Waiting for the Rapture

We're always waiting for something in this state

By Will Moredock

If you are reading this, you obviously were not Raptured up to heaven last Saturday. And as I write this, three days before the big Rapture event, I confess that I am not optimistic about my own chances.
Another confession: For years I have been lying awake at night worrying about the Mayan Doomsday – you know, December 31, 2012. At least I don't have to sweat that any more. Looks like the Christians beat them to it by scheduling their Doomsday on May 31. I thought I had dodged a bullet when I survived the Y2K scare on December 31, 1999, but these Doomsdays seem to be coming thicker and faster than ever and you have to wonder what will happen if one of them is finally gets it right. You know what they say – even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then.
One of the blessings of living in this great land we call America is that there is a creed, sect or denomination for just about every taste. There are more kinds of Christianity in this country than there are flavors at Baskin Robbins; more varieties of faith than varieties of Heinz. The good news is that –  if you are so inclined – you can find a church with the perfect theology to save your soul and send you to the heaven that is just right for you. The bad news is that sorting out all these brands of Christianity can be a real challenge.
I know the difference between a Presbyterian, a Baptist and a Catholic. But this Doomsday crowd is something else altogether. The group that has been cooking the May 21 Rapture is led by Harold Camping, an 89-year-old radio evangelist in California. His followers are called dispensationalist premillenialists, not to be confused with postmillenialists, amillenialists or historic premillienialists.
According to Camping, about three percent of the earth's population – some 200 million believers – are destined to be Raptured up to heaven on Saturday. The rest of us, well, the rest of us are in for a bad time – and if you are reading this, I assume you are one of them. By the time this issue of City Paper hits the street you will be wading through lava and floods, running from earthquakes and storms.
And the worst is yet to come. Five months after the Rapture – on October 21 – the world comes to an end. Poof! Gone! Just like that.
Let me say that again: The world comes to an end! You. Me. Lady Gaga. The Atlanta Braves.
Joe Riley. The Boeing plant. Tina Fey. The Wash Out. Everything.
But here's another confession: I'm sort of looking forward to a world without the holy rollers. As bad as it will be – even with the floods, fires, earthquakes and so forth – it can't be any worse than eight years of George W. Bush.  It can't be any worse than this Baptist-infested state that gave us Nikki Haley for governor. It can't be any worse than Bob Jones University, which attracts kooks and crazies from around the country to South Carolina, where they are so comfortable they decide to stay and run for the General Assembly.
So I say, Rapture them away. Whoosh them right out of here so the rest of us can enjoy four months of  sanity, without the misogyny, gay-bashing, anti-intellectualism and environmental degradation that are inextricably bound up in the Christian creed. Who knows? Maybe we can even smoke some friendly ganja without constantly looking over our shoulder like criminals.
So bring on the Rapture. I'll stand down on the Battery and wave them off.  I'm pretty sure I won't be going with them. Based on the things I hear about Christians and heaven, I don't think I'm Rapture material. I guess that means that I will be stuck down here somewhere around Rutledge Avenue when all the chosen get whooshed up to meet Jesus in the ether.
While the word “Rapture” does not appear in any Bible translation that I am aware of, I don't think that will discourage any true believer. The idea has been fermenting in Christian theology for nearly 2000 years. Various prophets have predicted an imminent Rapture dozens of times. Why, even Harold Camping set his first date for the big event in 1994, then had to do some recalculating when things didn't work out. But don't let that discourage you. If you believe in something as crazy as the Rapture, I hope you get your holy ass whooshed out of here like a cruise missile. Stand outside so you don't bump your head on the way up.
As for myself, I will be writing again next week – barring anything unforeseen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Aftershock: The Blast That Shook Psycho Platoon

 

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="437" caption="A photo of Staff Sgt. Brock Savelkoul from his service in the military. (Katie Hayes Luke)"][/caption]

by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica, and Daniel Zwerdling,
with reporting by NPR, ProPublica and Frontline

MINOT, ND -- At 8:20 p.m. on Sept. 21, 2010, Iraq veteran Brock Savelkoul decided it was time to die. He lurched from his black Tacoma pickup truck, gripping a 9-mm pistol. In front of him, a half dozen law enforcement officers crouched behind patrol cars with their weapons drawn. They had surrounded him on a muddy red road after an hour-long chase that reached speeds of 105 miles per hour. Savelkoul stared at the ring of men and women before ducking into the cab of his truck. He cranked up the radio. A country song about whiskey and cigarettes wafted out across an endless sprawl of North Dakota farmland, stubbled from the recent harvest. Sleet was falling, chilling the air. Savelkoul, 29, walked slowly toward the officers. He gestured wildly with his gun. "Go ahead, shoot me! ... Please, shoot me," he yelled, his face illuminated in a chiaroscuro of blazing spotlights and the deepening darkness. "Do it. Pull it. Do I have to point my gun at you to ... do it?"

Twenty feet away, the officers shifted nervously. Some placed their fingers on the triggers of their shotguns and took aim at Savelkoul's chest. They were exhausted, on edge after the chase and long standoff. They knew only the sketchiest of details about the man in front of them, his blond hair short, his face twisted in grief and anger. Dispatchers had told them that Savelkoul had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. They warned that he might have been drinking. Family members told police that Savelkoul had fled his home with six weapons, including a semiautomatic assault rifle and several hundred rounds of hollow point ammunition. To Megan Christopher, a trooper with the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Savelkoul's intentions seemed obvious. "Suicide by cop," she thought. "He wants to go out in a blaze of glory."

As it happened, Savelkoul's state of mind was of interest not only to the cops, but to some of the nation's top military officers and medical researchers.

More than 2 million troops have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Tens of thousands have returned with a bedeviling mix of psychological and cognitive problems. For decades, doctors have recognized that soldiers can suffer lasting wounds from the sheer terror of combat, a condition referred to today as post-traumatic stress disorder. They also have come to know that blows to the head from roadside bombs -- the signature weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan -- can result in mild traumatic injuries to the brain, or concussions, that can leave soldiers unable to remember, to follow orders, to think normally.

Now it is becoming clear that soldiers like Savelkoul are coming home afflicted with both conditions, in numbers never seen before. Studies have estimated that about 20 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury while deployed. Of those, anywhere between 5 percent to nearly 50 percent may suffer both PTSD and lingering problems from traumatic brain injuries. It is an epidemic so new that doctors aren't even sure what to call it, let alone how best to diagnose and treat it.

Savelkoul and four of his comrades landed on the front lines of this confounding new conflict over the minds of America's soldiers when an Iraqi rocket exploded near their trailer in January 2009. By chance, a senior Army neuropsychologist was in Iraq at the time to conduct a study on the military's tools for diagnosing concussions. After learning of the attack, he persuaded Savelkoul and the others to enroll. The men became the first fully documented victims of "pure blast" concussions -- that is, mild traumatic brain injuries caused by the force of an explosion, rather than a secondary effect, such as slamming into a Humvee wall after a roadside bomb.

The concussions marked only the beginning of the men's problems. Aftershocks from the blast would ripple through each of their lives differently, mirroring the spectrum of psychic and physical outcomes that doctors have begun to catalog. Of the five men injured that night, three remain in the Army and are currently deployed to overseas war zones. One recovered quickly, though he continues to suffer occasional severe headaches. Two recuperated more gradually but complain of forgetfulness and problems concentrating. A fourth left the military, tired of the violence and still grappling with concussion symptoms.

Savelkoul struggled the most to return to the person he had been before. On that night last September, his troubles transformed from academic data point to terrifyingly real confrontation. All the Army's men, all its research, all its treatments, had failed to prevent the desperate showdown that would unfold on a deserted stretch of highway just south of the pinched hills of the Dakota badlands. Now the outcome depended on one distraught man and a half-dozen nerve-wracked police officers, trying to negotiate a battlefield of the mind that none of them -- no one in the world, really -- understood.

An Unremarkable Blast

In the violence of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was an unremarkable attack on an unremarkable day.

On the night of Jan. 16, 2009, several soldiers were hunched around a small television screen in a trailer at Camp Liberty, a sprawling base just outside of Baghdad. The men of Psycho platoon, Hell Raisers Battery, 1-7 Field Artillery of the famed 1st Infantry Division, the Big Red One, had arrived in Iraq from Fort Riley, Kan., in October 2008. They were on their second or third tours. After spending most of the day patrolling a nearby Iraqi village, they decided to unwind by playing "Call of Duty 4," a video game that allows players to act as U.S. Marines fighting in an unspecified Middle Eastern country. Subtitled "Modern Warfare," the game's scenes are harrowingly similar to the conflict in Iraq, with patrols down narrow streets of dun-colored buildings, sudden explosions and attacks by hidden enemies. "It sounds strange, but it's how we relaxed," said Staff Sgt. Derrick Junge, a muscular Illinois native with a shaved head and a fondness for reading Virgil, John Milton and Charles Dickens.

At about 8 p.m., the men heard the warning klaxon of the Phalanx, an antimissile system designed to destroy incoming mortar and artillery rounds by spraying bullets into the sky. The men continued playing "Call of Duty." Rocket attacks were common. The insurgents aimed so poorly that they rarely posed a danger. Seven minutes after the first warning, a second sounded. One man remembered that a fellow player, referring to the video game, called out "He's got a grenade!" Then, chaos enveloped the men.

Staff Sgt. James Hopkins, a Missouri native with a slight build, sharp face and a love of Red Vines candy, was sitting on his bed in a room next door to the rest of the men. He was talking to his wife on Skype. The blast force threw him to the floor. "It was just loud and thunderous. The living quarters actually shook. It was like if I were to stand next to the biggest Fourth of July explosion ever."

Spc. Jared Hollingshead was standing when the blast hit. The stocky Texan remembered "a bright flash of light, a very loud bang and everything goes blank after that. It was the most heart-wrenching thing you'll ever go through. It feels like your whole body clamps up. It's beyond words. It's utter terror."

Shane Fuller, then a corporal, was sitting with his back to the wall, listening to music on his laptop computer. "I just slumped over from the force of it," said Fuller, a Missourian who joined the Army after the lawnmower engine factory where he worked shut down. "All I could hear was ringing for 10 to 15 seconds."

An Iranian-made 107mm rocket had just slammed into one of the 12-foot-high concrete blast walls that protected the soldiers' housing compound, blowing a football-sized hole into the wall. Shrapnel, jagged and red hot, shredded the thin shell of the trailer, puncturing it with holes. Lights crashed down from the ceiling. Power went out. Fuller miraculously escaped physical injury, though shrapnel pierced the wall around him and ripped apart a Missouri State flag hanging above his head.

The men remember the next few minutes haphazardly, like a movie in which they duck in and out of the theater. In the dark and smoke that filled the trailer, several of them heard Savelkoul call out: "I'm hit, I'm hit!" A piece of metal from the rocket had burned his leg, making him the only soldier to suffer an external injury in the blast. Junge groped through the dark for a flashlight. Hopkins staggered out of his room to check on his men. Hollingshead grabbed his rifle. Fuller, who had blacked out, came to with blood streaming from his nose. Several ran to Savelkoul, dragging him to a nearby bunker.

Within minutes, combat medics arrived and took the men to a nearby medical clinic. They cleaned and bandaged Savelkoul's wound. They checked out Fuller but determined he had no injury. Though medics are supposed to check soldiers exposed to a blast for concussion, none of the men remembers talking about traumatic brain injury -- though all admit their memories were hazy. According to a doctor who reviewed their medical charts, none were diagnosed with concussions.

The men felt lucky. Nobody had died, nobody was seriously wounded, as far as they could tell. "I looked at it as though it wasn't a huge deal," Junge said. "You look at yourself and you say, nothing really happened to me."

By the next morning, Junge and several others went back on patrol.

As chance would have it, two weeks earlier, Lt. Col. Mike Russell -- then the Army's most senior neuropsychologist -- had landed in Iraq to begin a study of concussion at the behest of the Army's surgeon general. One of the first graduates of the neuropsychology program at Walter Reed Hospital, Russell had spent much of his career studying traumatic brain injury at Army hospitals and combat zones all over the world. He was something of an iconoclast in the military. Blunt-spoken and easily frustrated with bureaucracy, Russell decided the best way to find patients for his study was simply to hang out in military clinics, seeking blast survivors. He happened to hear about the rocket attacks at Camp Liberty and asked to examine Savelkoul and his comrades personally.

After assessing them at a field clinic on base three days after the blast, Russell concluded that five of the soldiers in the blast that night had, indeed, suffered mild traumatic brain injuries. The signs were obvious, Russell said, showing up clearly in the daylong battery of neuropsychology exams he performed. "When you work a lot with acute concussion, you actually kind of recognize even the look of a person who has been acutely concussed, which is kind of a dazed expression, a little bit unfocused, a little bit slow to respond," Russell said. "Several of them had significant gaps in their memory. And it wasn't clear how long they were unconscious. The last thing they remember is they were playing video games. The next thing they remember, they are outside the trailer in a shelter. Some minutes had actually passed where they weren't recording memories. That's post-traumatic amnesia. And that's your classic symptoms of a concussion."

For each of the men, Russell entered two diagnoses in their electronic medical records:

1. Concussion 2. Post concussive syndrome

The New Epidemic

War has always fueled innovation, helpful and horrible. Better body armor and battlefield medicine have helped soldiers survive injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan that would have proven fatal in previous conflicts. But the advances that have saved soldiers' bodies cannot protect their minds from insurgents' primary weapon, the roadside bomb. Blast waves penetrate through Humvee doors, bulletproof vests and Kevlar helmets, rattling soldiers' brains and altering cells and circuitry. Most recover quickly, but some suffer lasting damage to their cognitive abilities. At the same time, the terrifying experience of surviving such blasts haunts them, seeping out in violent nightmares and emotional outbursts.

Given the number of troops deployed, tens of thousands of soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen may be suffering from this pernicious combination of PTSD and lasting problems from mild traumatic brain injury. They become, quite literally, different men and women than they used to be, a generation of warriors whose fight has shifted from external combat zones to invisible internal battlefields.

The issue has ignited debate in scientific and military circles, where much of the basic science remains in dispute. Are the two conditions related? If so, how? Does having a mild traumatic brain injury increase the chance of developing post-traumatic stress disorder? Or does surviving a terrifying event somehow make it more difficult for the brain to recover from a concussion? Doctors also struggle to tell the two conditions apart. PTSD and traumatic brain injury can produce similar symptoms, such as problems with memory and concentration. Yet both conditions escape detection by medical imaging devices, hindering diagnosis. Other conditions further complicate the picture. Besides PTSD and cognitive problems stemming from brain injury, soldiers also face chronic pain, missing limbs, vision, hearing and other physical problems. "It's very complicated," said Jennifer Vasterling, who has studied the issue and treated soldiers as chief of psychology at the Boston Veteran's Administration Hospital. "There are no simple scenarios."

Until recently, concussions were not even seen as particularly serious. Boxers boasted of returning to the ring after being knocked out. Soldiers in combat shook off feeling dazed and unfocused. Symptoms of concussions can include headaches, dizziness, difficulty speaking, memory troubles and sometimes balance and visions problems. Most people recover within four to six weeks. But for some, the symptoms can persist for months or even years. Civilian studies have found that between 5 percent and 15 percent of concussion victims endure long-term problems -- a condition formally known as post-concussion syndrome. Recent studies of athletes in the NFL and other sports have shown that repeated concussions can result in chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition associated with dementia and other Alzheimer's-like disorders.

Some researchers believe that soldiers' concussions may pose an even more complex medical challenge. Soldiers sustain their injuries in settings dramatically different from those encountered by athletes or car accident victims. Civilian concussions are typically caused by a physical blow to the head. But nobody is sure exactly how the brain is damaged in a blast concussion. Do blast waves rupture miniature blood vessels inside the brain? Does the force sever connections between neurons? Does it damage individual brain cells? Or does it simply slam the helmet into the head hard enough to injure the brain?

After the blast, soldiers face a different environment than typical concussion victims. No fans applaud as they rise from the field. Medics often can't rush them to the safety of a hospital right away. Instead, they remain on a hostile battlefield, fighting for their lives, the violence and rush of combat filling their brain with abnormal levels of chemicals such as adrenaline. Those left dazed, but not unconscious, experience a fear so fierce that it may simultaneously trigger post-traumatic stress. Paradoxically, patients who suffer severe traumatic brain injuries are less likely to develop PTSD -- perhaps because, knocked unconscious, they do not actually experience the horror unfolding around them.

"The scientific literature does not capture or mention the kind of patient that we are seeing," said Maria Mouritidas, psychology chair at Baltimore's College of Notre Dame, who worked with soldiers returning from the battlefield. "You can't compare this to a football game or a car injury. In a football game, if you go down, the game stops. On the battlefield, the game doesn't stop. Your survival depends on it."

For decades, the military has struggled to sort out the mysteries of concussions. In response to soldiers suffering head injuries during the Gulf War, the Pentagon and the Veterans Affairs joined forces to create what is today called the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center [5], a network of research and treatment clinics. But the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq dramatically expanded the need. Military doctors began noticing a wave of troops suffering brain injuries in blasts. In August 2006, the Armed Forces Epidemiological Board, responsible for monitoring health trends among troops, noted the growing number of head injuries. In a memo first disclosed by USA Today [6], the board warned senior Pentagon health officials that the military's medical system "lacks a system-wide approach for proper identification, management, and surveillance for individuals who sustain a TBI, in particular mild TBI/concussion."

However, it wasn't until the Walter Reed Hospital scandal of 2007 that the military dramatically increased attention to the so-called "invisible" wounds of war. The Washington Post revealed [7] that officials at the hospital, the crown jewel of the military medical system, housed soldiers with brain damage in moldy hospital rooms, often ignoring their needs. The scandal caused an uproar in Congress and across the nation. Lawmakers passed legislation devoting more than $300 million in new research funds to brain injuries and PTSD. They ordered the military to conduct cognitive screenings of soldiers before and after deployment. President Bush created a commission headed by retired Sen. Bob Dole and former Health Secretary Donna Shalala to suggest recommendations to improve care for soldiers with PTSD and brain injury. In 2008, the Rand Corporation produced a groundbreaking report [8] estimating that 19 percent of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan had suffered a probable traumatic brain injury, while another 18 percent reported symptoms of PTSD or depression. About 5 percent reported a combination.

Yet, despite the pressure and the growing numbers, the Pentagon's response was uneven, at best. ProPublica and NPR reported last year [9] that the military continues to have problems diagnosing and treating brain-injured soldiers. The military's standard screens failed to catch as many as 40 percent of concussions, according to a study published earlier this month. Injuries weren't always noted in soldiers' medical files because of poor recordkeeping. In some cases, soldiers resisted admitting that they had sustained head traumas because of a desire to remain on the battlefield with comrades. In the command echelons, some high-ranking military officers dismissed the effects of mild traumatic brain injuries.

Col. Heidi Terrio, an Army doctor who has worked extensively with soldiers returning from the combat field, conducted a study published in the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation [10] that reported that 7.5 percent of combat soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan showed three or more symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome, with another 20 percent reporting one symptom. Terrio said her study showed that it was important to pay attention to soldiers with concussions. "Mild traumatic injury does not mean it's a mild problem," she said. "Mild doesn't necessarily mean mild consequences. One concussion may cause you to have lifelong problems. Most of the time it doesn't but it can."

The lack of clarity has frustrated battlefield commanders trying to navigate the debate in the middle of a war. "I don't feel comfortable on where the science is right now," said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff for the Army. "It's an extraordinarily tough nut to crack."

Chiarelli has worked relentlessly to change that, convening conferences of top neurologists and flying them to his wood-paneled office in the Pentagon's inner ring to hammer out possible treatments. He has encouraged researchers to find biomarkers to better diagnose brain injury. He envisions a system that, with enough data, could one day help commanders predict which soldiers were at greatest risk of committing suicide.

Although he acknowledges there is more work ahead, Chiarelli's temper flares at the suggestion that the Army is not trying hard enough to improve how it diagnoses and treats soldiers with brain trauma. He points to a directive issued last year [11] that mandated rest periods for soldiers involved in blasts and thorough neurological examinations for those suffering three or more concussions. He also notes that the military has spent millions of dollars on research that has generated promising new technologies to identify and treat injuries related to PTSD and TBI.

"Our doctors are doing everything they can to come up with the best techniques possible to insure they get better at the initial diagnosis of these injuries," Chiarelli said. "But it is extremely difficult because the science is not as developed as it is with the mechanical nature of this war."

Call of Duty

Though the men of Psycho platoon returned to duty shortly after the explosion, several continued to experience aftereffects.

Hollingshead remembered stumbling across the base, unable to keep his balance on the white gravel that lined the ground between buildings. His ears rang constantly. He had difficulty keeping track of what his sergeants were telling him to do. "I just could not remember it. I'd ask three different times. It's a very unusual feeling, not being able to remember all of a sudden." Hopkins had similar trouble. "I just didn't feel right. I could barely walk a straight line," he said. "I was forgetting things, my attention span was shot, someone would be directly talking to me and I would not even really be paying attention. I couldn't recall or say back what they said to me. It was like I was paying attention but I wasn't gathering the information." Junge had splitting headaches, so he popped ibuprofen and Tylenol PM to help get to sleep.

In March, the Army held a ceremony to award the men combat action badges, given to soldiers who have attacked or been attacked by the enemy. For the wound to his leg, Savelkoul also received a Purple Heart, one of the military's most revered symbols of sacrifice, an honor dating back to George Washington. The other men, however, were turned down, even though Army regulations specifically list concussion as an injury deserving recognition. Hopkins was incensed. He began firing off appeals [12] on behalf of himself and his men, with no success. "They don't consider [concussions] to be an injury that is going to stay with you for the long term," he said. "That's a big slap in the face."

For most of the men, some symptoms improved. Their balance got better, the headaches were not as severe -- a typical recovery from mild traumatic brain injury. But the symptoms did not go away entirely. Fuller's ears kept ringing. Hollingshead's headaches remained painful, sometimes disabling. Still, the men continued providing security details for senior commanders, patrolling villages, or protecting fuel and food convoys racing across the desert. "After we saw Dr. Russell, that was it. It was back to work," Hollingshead said. "Nobody ever came back to us to follow up."

Savelkoul was awarded another commendation, the Army Achievement Medal [13], for manning a gun truck and coordinating air support during a dangerous run between Baghdad and Al Hillah. That April, he was scheduled for a rest and relaxation break. He decided to go with a friend to Thailand. On March 20, he posted a message on Facebook: "on my way to Thailand !!!!" His sister, Angie, quickly wrote back: "have fun. Don't do anything stupid."

Savelkoul didn't reply.

The Farm Kid

Savelkoul grew up in North Dakota. His father was a car salesman, then a truck driver. When Savelkoul was getting ready to enter high school, the family enrolled him in a school in Glenburn, pop. 347, in far north-central North Dakota because their hometown school in Minot, pop. 36,000, was too big. Savelkoul played football and basketball for the Glenburn High Panthers. During halftime, he played trumpet in the high school band. At Christmas at his grandparents, Savelkoul and Angie, a flute player, would play mini-concerts. The family had its troubles, and Savelkoul's parents eventually divorced, but they stayed close.

Savelkoul loved hunting: deer, geese, coots. When he was 14, Savelkoul and his father Bruce drove out to the North Dakota badlands on a rainy, gray winter day. They hiked up a hill, getting soaked as they searched for game for hours. Suddenly, right in front of them, Bruce spotted a mule deer. It would be Brock's first kill. He started shaking uncontrollably as he tried to lower his rifle. Bruce gently crouched in front of him and had Brock lay the rifle across his shoulder, steadying it. Brock aimed, killing the deer with a single shot. It was a beautiful buck, its antlers tall and broad above its head. The mount, which won first place at a local trophy show in 1996, would hang on the wall of Bruce's mobile home, the first thing you see when you walked in the door. "He was a good kid, a very good kid," said Bruce, who is balding, with glasses. His pride in his son is obvious. "He was a farm kid. We had farm values -- scruples and values and respect."

After high school, Brock Savelkoul attended community college but soon dropped out. He was bored and unsure of what he wanted to do. He moved to Fargo, where he got a job with a fencing company. One day, he was on a job with an older man. He suddenly realized that he didn't want to spend the rest of his life building fences in Fargo. In February 2003, he signed up with the Army. He was assigned to Fort Riley. Six months later, Savelkoul headed to Iraq for the first of three tours.

During his tours, Savelkoul took on a number of different jobs. He was the gunner on a Humvee that patrolled the streets. He did foot patrols of villages. He took a course and began to operate Ravens, small surveillance drones used to fly above roads to make sure they were clear of bombs. Mike Krebsbach, a friend from basic training, said Savelkoul was a good, conscientious soldier. They were based in Baghdad, their quarters a palace that had once belonged to Saddam Hussein. At night, they would sit on the roof, staring over the boxy brown cityscape. Krebsbach, an atheist, would debate Brock, a Catholic, about God, life, the war. "We didn't talk much about the fear," Krebsbach said.

Two incidents seemed to affect Savelkoul, changing him. During his first tour, his unit began taking fire after turning down an alleyway. The men, novices to combat, fired back, seeking desperately to escape. All survived, but the incident shook them. "Everybody was tripping out," Krebsbach said. "We were acting like a combat infantry team, but with zero training. ... There was just a bunch of really scared soldiers."

During his second tour in 2005, Savelkoul was responsible for giving the OK after he scanned a route with the Raven and determined that there were no signs of IEDs, or improvised explosive devices. In an article for a base newsletter [14], he proudly told the reporter that his job saved soldiers' lives. "We're protecting them from the sky," he said. One day, however, a convoy driving down a route he had checked hit an IED. Details are unclear. Savelkoul rarely spoke of it. The bomb destroyed one of the vehicles. Several soldiers apparently died in the blast. "It blew the truck into nothing. You didn't even know it was a Humvee," said Krebsbach, who remembered seeing the vehicle after it was towed back to base. He said Savelkoul became sullen and withdrawn afterward. "It was hard to get him not to fixate" on that incident, he said.

Bruce Savelkoul remembers getting a solemn phone call from his son after the explosion.

"Dad, I'm responsible for those deaths," Brock told his father.

"No, you're not," Bruce responded, trying to console him. One of Savelkoul's commanders, who did not want to be identified because the Army had not authorized him to comment, said that he had looked into the incident and concluded that Savelkoul was not negligent in carrying out his duties.

In any case, the Humvee deaths weighed on Savelkoul, as did the failure of a brief marriage, which ended in divorce just a few months before he left Iraq in January 2006. To Angie, his sister, he seemed different. Although some family members had suffered depression, Savelkoul had never shown any signs of mental distress. "He wasn't his normal self. He was very quiet, withdrawn," Angie said. "It's like he wasn't there."

With straight blond hair and an open, honest face, Angie is the glue of the Savelkoul family, the little sister who keeps tabs on everyone. A labor and delivery nurse married to a plumber, she juggles crazy work hours with family crises and the kids' basketball games. Through it all, she made sure to communicate with Brock regularly. When he deployed to Iraq again in October 2008, she convinced him to open a Facebook account. They exchanged messages after the Jan. 16 explosion. Brock assured her he was OK.

That was why Angie got nervous when Brock didn't respond to her messages after he left for Thailand. "You need to write, call, something," she wrote. " ... gettin worried ... "

She had reason to be. Her brother had begun to fall apart.

Falling Apart

Photos taken of Savelkoul in Thailand show him acting as soldiers often do on leave, partying in bars, surrounded by friends and women. It's impossible to know exactly what happened, but about a week after his arrival, he began sending out strange messages: "I'm under special army training in Thailand ... It's crazy!!!" read one. Nothing in his military records indicates he received any training in Thailand. Friends remember getting nonsensical text messages on their cell phones. Bruce Savelkoul said Brock called him from Thailand in the middle of the night.

"'Dad, there are guys trying to kill me, Dad, you got to help me,'" Bruce said his son told him. "He was absolutely paranoid. I was 7,000 miles away. What could we do?"

At some point, U.S. Embassy and military officials picked up Savelkoul and transported him to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. There he was placed under lockdown and diagnosed as having suffered a psychotic breakdown.

After stabilizing at Tripler, Savelkoul was transferred back to Fort Riley. He seemed to pine for Iraq. "You guys have no clue how bad I want to be there!!!! It's just not the same without you guys," he wrote in a Facebook message in May 2009 to a fellow soldier still in Iraq. Officials at Fort Riley declined to comment on what kind of treatment he received. Savelkoul's military record shows that his condition wasn't improving. In August 2009, he was hospitalized a second time. In October, the Army barred him from possessing weapons. Savelkoul was diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder has its own controversial history. Accounts of soldiers suffering mental afflictions after exposure to war's horrors date back thousands of years. In Homer's Iliad, some have speculated that Achilles' blind rage after the death of a beloved companion is an early description of post-traumatic stress. During the Civil War, men who struggled to return to normalcy after the war were described as suffering from "soldier's heart." In World War I, it was called shellshock. World War II brought the name "combat fatigue." All generally described soldiers numbed and haunted, unable to return to battle -- or normal life.

Military commanders showed little tolerance or understanding during earlier eras. Gen. George H. Patton became infamous for slapping and publicly berating a soldier suffering from combat fatigue, calling him a "coward" and ordering him back to the frontlines. Patton was later forced to apologize.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychiatrist's primary diagnostic tool, did not formally recognized the syndrome until 1980, after thousands of veterans returned from Vietnam suffering psychological distress. Today, the diagnosis requires that troops meet a series of criteria. They include having faced a risk of serious injury or death; recurring nightmares or memories; and problems with sleep, anger and emotional control that last beyond a month. Researchers continue to debate the criteria and what happens inside the brain to trigger the disorder. Does a sudden rush of chemicals in the brain change fundamental pathways for dealing with stress? Do genes play a role?

Despite the questions, after a 30-year push by veterans and their advocates, PTSD has gained greater acceptance than post-concussion syndrome. Commanders and soldiers are reminded to watch for signs constantly during military training. Nearly all VA and military medical facilities offer some form of counseling for PTSD. By comparison, mild traumatic brain injury is the new kid on the block. At times, researchers have seemed to divide into factions, with PTSD advocates seeking to protect their gains and TBI advocates fighting to make advances. Charles Hoge, a retired colonel who published groundbreaking research on PTSD in Iraq and Afghanistan, has expressed skepticism publicly regarding the severity of mild traumatic brain injury. In an opinion piece in the New England Journal of Medicine [15], Hoge worried that overdiagnosis of lingering problems from concussion will create "illusory" demands for the military's medical system. "There tends to be camps. One camp is everything is TBI and the other is nothing is TBI," said Rodney Vanderploeg, director of the brain-injury treatment program at the Tampa VA, which specializes in treating soldiers with multiple traumas. "The truth is somewhere in the middle."

Savelkoul was suffering in that middle. In November 2009, the Army made a last-ditch effort to help him, sending him to a residential mental health program at a veterans' home in Yountville, Calif., called the Pathway Home.

It is hard to imagine a more idyllic location. Surrounded by the gentle brown hills of Napa Valley, the sprawling campus of Spanish-style buildings has towering redwoods and lush green lawns. Fred Gusman, a nationally prominent expert in PTSD who recently retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs, established the program in January 2008 for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The intensive, six-month program is designed for the hard cases, the troops and veterans who have had an especially difficult time recovering in traditional military settings, where therapy can be haphazard and uncoordinated. At the Pathway Home, teams of doctors and clinicians strive to take a comprehensive approach to care, coordinating treatments for psychological trauma, chronic pain and other issues, such as alcoholism. Patients have encounter groups. They go fly fishing and hiking.

Savelkoul, Gusman remembered, had symptoms similar to scores of patients that have gone through his program. He suffered nightmares, severe depression, trouble sleeping, headaches. "He's not unique in what we see," Gusman said. Savelkoul struggled to adjust to the program. Sometimes he would participate. Sometimes he would withdraw, apparently not convinced that he needed help and uncertain whether he wanted to remain in the Army. "There is anger, fear and shame. A lot of people wonder why they are in this treatment and others are not. They get stuck like that," Gusman said.

After about two months in the program, Savelkoul wandered off campus -- which is not closed -- and somehow made his way to Sacramento. Bruce Savelkoul got a call a short while later. Brock told him that he was back in Baghdad, surrounded by thousands of people. At about the same time, Gusman got a call from a staff member. Savelkoul had been found in the Old Town section of the city, a tourist area near the Sacramento River. He had been drinking and was having a panic attack, they told Gusman. Gusman sent a van to pick him up and transport him to Travis Air Force Base. Eventually, Savelkoul was sent back to Fort Riley. Gusman said Savelkoul was not yet ready for his program and that the military did not aggressively pursue other treatment options: "The problem in this country is that we haven't accepted the hard reality that we can train people to be in a war. ... But we can't train somebody in how they're going to respond."

For the military, it was the last straw. Staff Sgt. Brock B. Savelkoul was honorably discharged from the Army [16] on March 31, 2010. He had served two years, three months and four days in Iraq. His awards included the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal. He was placed on temporary disability due to post-traumatic stress disorder. He was ordered to be re-evaluated in six months.

Savelkoul was going home.

The Others Struggle

In September, just before Savelkoul was shipped off to California, the rest of Psycho platoon returned from Iraq. They began to split up. Junge was transferred to Fort Campbell in Kentucky. On a test he took shortly after getting back, a screen given to all soldiers to check for potential brain injury and mental health problems, Junge had filled in "Yes" for every question relating to traumatic brain injury. Positive answers are supposed to trigger an evaluation by a medical professional. But nobody at the local TBI clinic ever examined Junge.

Junge, his wife Holly and their kids moved to a modest home with two magnolia trees in the front yard in Clarksville, Tenn., a short distance from their new post. As they settled in, Holly began to notice changes. Junge would snap at the kids, something he had never done before. He started building a tree house in the front yard but never quite finished. Before joining the Army, Junge had been an air force mechanic on the B-2 stealth bomber, one of the most complicated pieces of machinery ever invented. Now he struggled to fit together the pieces of a trampoline in their backyard. Holly, a nutritionist with a soft face and brown hair, grew worried. "From day one, he was a different person," she said. "He was very irritable. He doesn't sleep well. He forgot things, little things, but kind of annoying."

One day, the couple's 10-year-old daughter asked Holly, "Why is Daddy so mean to you?" Recalling the question, Holly began to cry. "Everything was wonderful. Not that's he's not now," she said, wiping tears from her face. "But it's different."

Junge said he never considered his troubles serious enough to go see a doctor. Nobody had ever ordered him to seek counseling. He was focused on his men, he said, and getting ready to redeploy to Afghanistan. "I just don't deal with stuff like I used to," he said. "I guess you could say I used to be a different person. It kind of sucks. But it's where I'm at and you work with it the best you can."

Upon his return, Hollingshead had a mental health examination at a VA hospital in Shreveport, La. He was hoping to begin PTSD counseling, but he left the Army before treatments could begin. Hollingshead said he was simply tired of the violence and bloodshed. "I wanted to be done," he said.

He eventually moved with his wife, Lena, to be near his family in Marshall, Texas, on the far eastern edge of the state. They found a small home surrounded by piney woods. He began taking classes to learn how to become a lineman for a power company but struggled to find a job. During his time in Iraq, he had lived through two bomb blasts, the one in January 2009 and an earlier one on his first tour. Now he would wake up in the middle of the night, thrashing his arms and legs. When he went to a July 4 fireworks show, he panicked at the explosions, gripping Lena's arm so hard that it left marks. "I'm glad this military time is over," she said. "It took its toll. It took its toll."

Hopkins and Fuller stayed at Fort Riley. Both began to see therapists at the base's traumatic brain injury clinic. Hopkins went four times a week. He did exercises to help improve his memory. He got a handheld computer device to help him make lists. He practiced reading. His wife, Brianne, labeled the closets in their home to help him remember where to put things. At first, she said, it was frustrating. Hopkins would forget things that she had asked him to do. The couple has five kids. "Sometimes I joke about having an extra child because we have to repeat ourselves to the kids to remind them to do things." After about two months, Hopkins took a new battery of neuropsychological tests. "They pretty much cleared me at that point," Hopkins said. "They asked me how I felt, and I told them I felt pretty much 100 percent better besides the headaches and things of that nature."

Fuller had a similar experience. The ringing in his ears continued even after he got home. He got prescription-strength medication for his headaches, which came less frequently but still hit him hard. His wife, Hillary, who had known him since the 6th grade, noticed that he would start a sentence and then suddenly stop talking, as if frozen. He would forget to do small things, like button his shirt. He was irritable and angry. But slowly, she said, he improved. By the spring of 2010, about six months after his return, most things had returned to normal, she said. "I've dealt with him coming back from Iraq before without any complications. This was just a little different," she said.

"I think that had a lot to do with the rocket attack."

Seeking Help

Savelkoul returned to Minot and moved in with his father, into a 16-by-80-foot mobile home on the southern edge of town. On April 3, he posted on Facebook, referring to his profile picture. "Home!! Great to be home with family!!! Guess I should take that Army pic down and put up a civilian pic ... errr don't want to but that's what I am now." He tried to continue psychological treatments, but Minot is 271 miles from the nearest Veterans Affairs hospital. He started to make the drive several times but would get spooked when going under overpasses, often the site of insurgent attacks in Iraq. Savelkoul also sought help at a local VA clinic in Minot, but his counselor left. He tried going up to the Air Force base north of town but didn't feel like he fit in.

Savelkoul's troubles in finding treatment were not unusual. The majority of VA patients are older and served in the Vietnam War. The VA has struggled to figure out how best to adapt to the newer, younger veterans now seeking mental health counseling and therapy. The issue is especially acute in rural areas.

Savelkoul's family noticed how much he had changed. He couldn't remember birthdays, anniversaries or even the date his mother had died. On a shopping trip with Angie, he didn't recognize the house where they had grown up. He seemed uncoordinated and had trouble playing catch with his nephew. Trips to the Minot Zoo and a Minnesota Twins baseball game ended in disaster when he grew panicked at the crowds around him.

"All these people are dead. Why should I be alive? I'm lost. I'm confused," he would tell Angie.

The family felt confused, too, and unsure what to do. As a nurse, Angie was upset at all the different medications Savelkoul was taking -- antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, sleeping pills. "They weren't doing anything for his symptoms," Angie said. "Every doctor he'd see, they'd give him something different. ... You get that many meds, they interact with each other. They can be dangerous."

"We wanted him home because we thought he needed family," Bruce said. "He was not ready for the real world. ... We didn't know how to handle him."

On the evening of Sept. 21, Brock sent Angie and Bruce a text message. It read: "I love you guys more than anything. Never forget it. I can't do this anymore."

Bruce raced home. On the stove, Bruce found a grocery list that Brock had begun with the word "butter" at the top. After that, Brock had scrawled a note. It read: "No hope for me. Love you so much."

A licensed gun dealer, Bruce found that Brock had ripped open boxes containing guns that he planned to sell. Missing was a DPMS AR-15, an assault rifle similar to the M16 used in Iraq, two hunting rifles and three handguns. Also gone were two 30-round magazines and several hundred rounds of hollow point ammunition.

Bruce went to Brock's room and found he had destroyed his laptop computer. He also had smashed open a small, wooden case that hung next to his bed. It contained photos, mementos and awards from Iraq. He had taken out his Purple Heart.

Bruce knew he had no alternative. He called the police on his own son. "I didn't know what to do. I thought that he was gonna hate me forever, but I really had to call the cops," he said.

The hunt for Savelkoul had begun.

The Chase

At around 6:20 p.m. on Sept. 21, Savelkoul walked into a convenience store called the Kum N Go in Watford City, a small town about 120 miles west of Minot. Police records say that he pointed a rifle at one of the patrons and asked, "Do you want to die?" Then he fled the store.

He headed south down Highway 85, a narrow, two-lane road undergoing construction repairs. A Watford City police cruiser heard the call about the altercation at the Kum N Go, spotted Savelkoul headed out of the city and turned on his lights and siren.

Savelkoul gunned his Tacoma through the narrow gravel beds of the construction zone. He kept going faster and faster, 60, 70, 80, until he hit 105 miles an hour, police records say [17], flying down the arrow straight road, across the river, toward the North Dakota badlands.

Back home, Angie and Bruce had told a friend from the local police department about Brock's past, that he was a veteran suffering from PTSD, and heavily armed. The friend relayed the information to the police chasing Savelkoul. As the chase progressed, the friend would call Angie and Bruce to give updates. In the background, they could hear the dispatchers talk as more and more police officers were called in to stop Savelkoul.

Bruce Savelkoul realized that his son was driving toward the same area where they had stood together 15 years earlier, to shoot his prized deer. "I don't know that anybody can say why somebody wants to kill themselves," Bruce said. "But that was one of the favorite places he'd been in his life. Maybe a person wants to go to a favorite place to die. That's what I think. I think his mission that night was to die."

The chase, captured on video cameras mounted on Highway Patrol cruisers, unfolded like a movie. When a patrol car attempted to block Savelkoul's route, he pulled off the highway, bouncing through high grass, blasting through a barbed-wire fence. A few minutes later, he roared back on the highway. Finally, out of gas, he pulled over on a farm road about 15 miles from the hunting grounds where he shot the deer. Within seconds, he was surrounded by sheriff's deputies, police officers and highway patrol troopers. They began yelling: "Drop the gun, drop the gun!"

The standoff was just beginning. Over the next two hours, Savelkoul paced, smoked, brandished weapons and even shot a round into the back of his pickup. On several occasions, Savelkoul disappeared from view behind his truck. Officers worried that he was attempting to sneak through the darkness to get behind them. At perhaps the most tense moment of the standoff, he came within feet of one of the patrol cars. Raising his 9-mm handgun to his side, he begged someone to shoot. "Go ahead, shoot me!" he yelled. As the officers held their fire, he reassured them he would not shoot first. "You already ... know that I won't ... hurt, I will not ever shoot, a law enforcement agent," he said. "This gun will go to my head before it will go to you. I guarantee it."

Through it all, one officer, Megan Christopher, talked to Savelkoul nonstop, working feverishly to save his life. Christopher had joined the North Dakota Highway patrol only two years earlier. With high cheekbones and bright blue eyes, she had already made her mark, helping chase down four fugitives featured on an episode of "America's Most Wanted." In her brown trooper's hat and carefully pressed uniform, she could pass for a real life version of the cop Frances McDormand played in the movie "Fargo."

On the evening of Sept. 21, she had been sitting down to dinner when the call came in. She and her commander raced to join the chase. When Savelkoul finally ran out of gas, Christopher was one of the first on the scene.

Although she was a junior officer with no real training or experience in crisis negotiation, she was the first officer to use her patrol car megaphone to talk with Savelkoul. Savelkoul seemed to respond to Christopher, the only woman on the scene. "I tried to put myself in his shoes and empathize," she said. "I think my voice was softer and not expected."

Christopher tried anything she could think of to convince Savelkoul to surrender. When she learned his first name, she introduced herself. "Brock," she said. "My name is Megan." When Savelkoul took out a tube of Chapstick, Christopher needled him. "What kind of Chapstick was that? I need some," she said. "My lips are really dry now. I've been talking a lot." When he turned up the radio, Christopher tried to sing along. "La, la, la. It's time for Karaoke," she joked. She appealed to his past. "You sound like you're pretty proud of the medal that you have," she said, referring to his Purple Heart. "I appreciate everything that you've done for your country, for me and my country." She urged him to think of his future. "You have a lot of people who want to help you," she said. "What you're doing is not fair to anybody. And especially not to you."

With a cell phone in one hand to communicate with one of Savelkoul's friends and a microphone in the other, Christopher never stopped the chatter and never left her position crouched behind the door of her patrol car. The cold cramped her hands. The sleet soaked her uniform. Over and over, she made a simple, emotional plea: She wanted to meet Savelkoul in person, alive and well. "Brock, I'd like to meet you. Put the gun down so we can meet," she said.

Finally, at about 9:30 p.m., more than three hours after the chase began, Savelkoul aimed his gun toward the open prairie and fired a round. Then, the videotape shows, he walked toward Christopher. After she promised to give him a cell phone if he put down the gun, he placed it at his feet. Christopher walked toward him, holding the cell phone in front of her, her own weapon holstered. Her voice broke as she neared him. "I'm kinda new at this. Sorry," she said. "I think I'm going to cry."

Suddenly, Savelkoul turned toward her. Two coiled, white wires unspool through the night air. Another officer, believing that Savelkoul was turning to attack, had fired his Taser, a weapon designed to shock a person into incapacitation. Savelkoul stiffened and fell to the ground. Police officers ran toward him from all sides, their knees on his back, arms, legs. They handcuffed Savelkoul. Christopher walked toward him and knelt. She put her hand to his cheek.

"I'm Megan," she said, "I'm glad I get to meet you."

New Mission

In November 2009, Lt. Col. Mike Russell presented his initial findings [18] involving Savelkoul and nearly 300 other soldiers at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Neuropsychology. His conclusion: The primary test the Army was using to evaluate whether soldiers had suffered concussions was "only slightly better than a coin toss." Another tool being deployed was even worse. The tests were fixable, Russell told the gathering, but the Army was still a long way from diagnosing and treating soldiers like Savelkoul and his buddies. "We did not design our health care system for mild traumatic brain injury," Russell told the audience. "There are a tremendous number of people who have concussions ... meet the diagnostic criteria for mild traumatic brain injury, that never seek professional attention."

Russell's work featured prominently in the Army's Surgeon General's testimony before Congress on problems at the military's top medical center for brain injury. The Army is working now to develop better tests. Russell has recently launched a follow-up investigation in which he hopes to re-evaluate the soldiers in his original study.

In October 2010, a few months after Congress learned of Russell's results, Staff Sgt. Derrick Junge redeployed to Afghanistan. Before he left, he visited a doctor for the first time since the January 2009 blast, discussing his troubles with short-term memory and concentration. The doctor recommended that he visit Fort Campbell's clinic for traumatic brain injury. Junge declined. "I told them to hold off. I didn't want it to keep me from deploying," he said. Last month, Junge survived another roadside explosion while on a convoy with his men in Paktika, a remote province in southern Afghanistan. He was checked by a medic, who cleared him to return to duty, said his wife, Holly. Junge, who has only occasional access to e-mail, could not be reached for details. Holly said that her husband continued to have problems with his memory. On a recent break, he suggested renewing their wedding vows. He asked her to write down his request in case he later forgot making it. "It's worrisome," she said. "I told him that as long as he doesn't forget my name and the kid's names, we're OK."

Hollingshead is still seeking steady work. He and his wife are looking forward to the birth of their first child this summer. Memories of the blast still haunt him, he said. "We weren't missing an arm or a leg or a finger. We weren't bleeding. But the brain is just as important. If it's injured, it's injured. I'm going to have these issues for the rest of my life," he said. Hollingshead is still waiting for an appointment to see a doctor at the nearest VA hospital, which is 45 minutes away. He has already signed up to be in Russell's follow-up study. "I'd like to get an MRI and do whatever. It'll help soldiers down the line later on. What they find out in me might help somebody else later on. Anything that I can do to help the future, I'll do it."

Fuller, now a sergeant, and Hopkins have both redeployed to Iraq. Fuller, who has had a ringing in his ears since the explosion, said he is returning to the war zone convinced of the severity of even mild traumatic brain injuries. "TBI effects different people in different ways. It's critical that this is discussed. It's a serious injury, even though you can't see it," Fuller said. A few days after his arrival, he visited the trailer where the January 2009 blast had occurred. It still stands, the shrapnel holes patched with white caulking.

Prosecutors charged Savelkoul with three felonies and a misdemeanor. His sister, father and a local veterans' advocate lobbied North Dakota's governor and other officials, urging that he get treatment instead of remaining in jail. At a court hearing in October, the judge agreed to release Savelkoul [19] on a $10,000 bond, as long as he attended a VA treatment program.

In December, Savelkoul was committed to a psychological lockdown ward at the Fargo VA hospital as he waited for an opening at the nearest VA residential treatment program. He was the only patient on the ward. His room had a single plastic chair and a single bed. There was nothing sharp. The bathroom door was a piece of foam covered in soft beige fabric. He looked hollow, bewildered and tired. He said that he could not recall details of the police standoff. But he did recall wanting to end it all.

"I was suicidal. That was the main plan," he said. "I was thinking that I was worthless, about the constant struggle I was putting my family through. Family is everything to me. Having to see them go through what they were going through for me was too much. It all came to an overwhelming point."

A private man, embarrassed over what had happened, he spoke guardedly about his experiences: the blast, the trip to Thailand, the psychological breakdowns. He said he had difficulty adjusting to civilian life. He had loved the Army and had planned to make his career there. Now, he said, he felt like a failure for being unable to stay in.

"Civilian life is so slow that it's hard. You don't have that day-to-day adrenaline. Everything that goes through your mind is, I've got to do something different. Maybe I can do something more dangerous," he said.

"Now it's my goal, or my mission, to do whatever it takes to get better for them and for myself."

Eight weeks later, on Jan. 31, Savelkoul finished residential treatment at the St. Cloud VA. As part of it, he completed a program for alcoholism and a second program to help him deal with post-traumatic stress. He and a small group of other veterans had undergone so-called "exposure therapy," remembering and reliving the events that seared them. He called it an "educated hell," a kind of boot camp for the mind to help him regain control of his emotions. "I finally got to talk about the demons and what the real demons were," he said. "We talked, we cried together and we shared intimate details that won't ever leave that room. It helped a lot."

Under a plea deal reached this month [20], Savelkoul will have the felony charges dropped if he meets a series of conditions, including remaining in treatment until he is cleared by a doctor. He's now back in Fargo, where he is receiving outpatient treatment from the local VA. He recently rented an apartment and bought a dog, whom he named Lucky. He wants to attend school and resume a normal life, perhaps aiding other veterans in similar situations.

One day last month, he climbed into his black Tacoma pickup—restored with $11,000 worth of repairs since the chase. He drove through minus-15 degree weather to a coffee shop a few miles from the Veterans Affairs hospital. Snow covered the ground. The sky stretched endless and blue above the city.

Savelkoul seemed more at peace, more rested, more confident of the life ahead of him. He had taken the first steps, he said, toward understanding the war in his mind. He said that the VA and the military were helping.

"They teach us how to get over there," he said. "Now they need to teach us how to get back."

Follow on Twitter: @txtianmiller [21]


A version of this story was co-produced with NPR [1] and aired on All Things Considered [2]. (Listen here. [2]) This story was also published as part of Amazon's Kindle Singles program, and is available for reading [3] on that device.