Here and Now

Iraq War Declared Over, Bad Practices Behind “Fair Trade” Labels, Small Businesses and Job Creation, Amazon Angers Brick & Mortars: Today on Here and Now

1:06pm: In Baghdad today, the U.S. military officially declared an end to the war in Iraq, a war that cost more than 4,000 U.S. lives, and the lives countless Iraqis. But as the war ends, and all the troops come home by the end of the year, a story in today’s New York Times probes one of the darkest days of the war, the massacre by U.S. Marines of two dozen Iraqis in Haditha in 2005. Reporter Michael Schmidt discovered pages of interrogations of the Marines in a Baghdad junkyard.

1:12pm: When we buy products with a “fair trade” label, we assume the products come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated and treated ethically. But a Bloomberg News investigation found that in some cases, the fair trade label might be masking some of the worst labor practices. Bloomberg found children working in slave-like conditions in the West African country of Burkina Faso, growing and picking the cotton that is used in millions of pieces of clothing sold by Victoria’s Secret.

1:35pm: Can small businesses really grow enough to help the overall economy? Our Changing Gears team has been looking at magic bullets – the big ideas that can solve our economic crisis. Today, in the final installment of our series, we take a look at small businesses and the impact of the jobs they create.

1:40pm: Last Saturday, Amazon made a special offer to customers with mobile phones: Go to a brick and mortar shop, use Amazon’s price check app to scan the bar code for the price on something you want. If you then buy the item online from Amazon, the company will give you an extra 5% off three purchases. The offer angered Main Street businesses, who say it turned their businesses into show rooms for Amazon. Amazon defended the promotion saying it was just helping consumers save money. We’ll talk about it this hour.

Local News

Guard Unit Returning To Louisville Under Iraq Drawdown

Nearly 50 Kentucky National Guard troops are due to arrive in Louisville tomorrow after a three-month stint in Iraq.

Guard Captain Stephen Martin says the returning soldiers are members of the 198th Military Police Battalion.

“This is part of the drawdown and transferring the military portion of the mission over there to civilian agencies and being able to re-deploy successfully. So we will see the majority of those guys come back to the states,” Martin said today.

Local News

Kentucky Native to Receive Medal of Honor Today

A Kentucky native will receive the Medal of Honor today.

Two years ago in Afghanistan, then-Marine Corporal Dakota Meyer ran into a firefight to search for ambushed comrades. He later helped retrieve four of their bodies. Meyer says he felt like a failure afterward and didn’t expect to be recognized for his actions.

After his discharge last year, Meyer returned to Kentucky. He works pouring cement and is raising money for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation. He says his life has been hectic since it was announced he would receive the medal. Interviews remind him of what he calls the worst day of his life, and he hopes his life calms down after today’s ceremony.

“Why would I change? I keep getting told, ‘There’s expectations you have to live up to.’ To be quite blunt about it, the only expectation I have to live up to is to the four guys up there looking down on me,” he says. “As long as I don’t’ disrespect them I think I’m fine.”

An interview with Meyer:

Audio MP3

Meyer was discharged last year and has returned to Kentucky. He is raising money for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation and plans to pursue a business degree. He doesn’t have any current plans to do more work with the Marines, but he says he’d like to.

“If I could go in there and fight, I’d be in there today. If I knew I could go back to combat, I would reenlist today,” he says.

Meyer will be the third living recipient of the medal for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He is the first living Marine to receive the medal since the war in Vietnam.

Local News

Kentucky Guard Members Deployed Overseas Will Lessen, But Not Cease

by Dan Conti, Kentucky Public Radio

U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan mean fewer people from National Guard units in Kentucky will be heading overseas, according to Brigadier General Lonnie Culver.

“As we draw down, the Kentucky National Guard deployments will lessen as well, Culver, who is also the Deputy Adjutant General for the Kentucky Guard, said. “But they won’t be eliminated. One Hundred Forty-Ninth Maneuver Enhancement Brigade just completed the mobilization and deployment of the largest single-unit mobilization since World War Two for service in Iraq with almost 1,400 soldiers.”

General Culver says the Kentucky Guard currently has units ready to deploy to Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and the Horn of Africa. He says they’ve been involved in projects like intelligence collection and analysis, route clearance and economic development.

General Culver testified last week before the Kentucky Legislature’s interim joint Committee on Military Affairs and Public Protection.

Local News Politics

McConnell Asks Holder To Reconsider Iraqis’ Trial Site

From the Associated Press

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder repeating his request to reconsider holding civilian trials for two Iraqis arrested in Bowling Green last month.

McConnell released that letter on Tuesday, saying the decision to treat Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi as civilian criminal defendants in federal court in Bowling Green is “ill-advised.”

The men were charged with trying to send weapons and money to al-Qaida operatives in Iraq.

McConnell also told Holder that a Bowling Green trial is widely opposed by Kentuckians and their elected leaders.

Holder has defended his position, saying terrorism-related trials can be successfully handled by civilian courts.

McConnell wants the men sent to a Navy-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Local News

Civilians Get Glimpse of National Guard Life

by Brenna Angel, Kentucky Public Radio

Several civilian employers recently got a taste of military life at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, where some of their workers are preparing for Deployment with the National Guard.

They took a flight aboard a C-130 Hercules, had a Meal Ready to Eat for lunch, and watched a live fire training session.

Dave Robinson, a resource manager for the Army Corps of Engineers in Harlan County, Kentucky, visited the Kentucky National Guard’s 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. One of his employees, John Lundy, is a brigade member.

“Knowing that they’re going overseas, that’s a really big honor just to come up and get to be able to see John and see what he’s doing, see what they’re getting ready to go do over in Iraq,” he says.

Specialist John Lundy left his regular job with the Corps to go on active duty with the Guard.

A Department of Defense agency coordinated the employer visit. About 13,000 Kentucky soldiers will soon wrap up training and deploy to Iraq to assist with the military drawdown.

Local News Politics

Terror Suspects Arrested in Bowling Green Due in Court

by Dan Modlin, Kentucky Public Radio

Two Iraqi men who are facing terrorism charges are due in court tomorrow (Wednesday) in Bowling Green. The hearing will determine whether the men should be held without bail while their case is pending.

The two were indicted on 23 counts in connection with their alleged attempts to provide cash and weapons to al Qaida in Iraq. If convicted of all counts, they could face life in prison.

Court filings indicate the men were involved in IED attacks against American soldiers before they came to the United States. They were arrested in Bowling Green in May. Their case has raised a number of questions about how the men were able to enter the U.S. Senator Rand Paul has called for congressional hearings to investigate the matter.

Local News Politics

Two In Kentucky Charged With Plotting Iraq Attacks

From Kevin Willis, Kentucky Public Radio

Two Iraqi men living in Bowling Green are facing charges that they tried to send Stinger missles, sniper rifles and money to Al-Qaida in their home country.

A 23-count federal indictment was unsealed today against 30 year old Waad Ramadan Alwan and 23 year old Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, who have both lived in Bowling Green since 2009.

Authorities say the weapons and money didn’t make it to Iraq because of a tightly controlled undercover investigation.

“Let me underscore that neither of these defendants has been charged with plotting attacks within the United States. These charges relate to conduct that occurred in Iraq and also conduct in the United States regarding their attempt or conspiracy to aid Al-Qaida in Iraq,” said David Hale, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky.

The pair made their initial appearance in federal court today in Louisville. Both face a June 8 detention hearing in Bowling Green. The charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Local News Politics

In Wide-Ranging Speech, Biden Discusses Egypt, Bipartisanship, War

Vice President Joe Biden says it’s time for a smooth transition to Democracy in Egypt.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigned shortly before Biden took the stage at the University of Louisville McConnell Center. The Vice President began his remarks with a comment on the situation.

“This is a pivotal moment in history, it’s a pivotal moment in not only Mid East history, but in history I would argue. We have said from the beginning as an administration that this unrest, that the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people,” he says.

Biden says any violence against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable and the rights of the Egyptian people must be respected.

In the rest of his speech, Biden discussed everything from education and the economy to innovation and infrastructure.

Referring to Iraq and Afghanistan, Biden said the Obama administration will begin withdrawing forces in Afghanistan in July and 50 thousand troops will be coming home from Iraq by the end of the year.

Biden was accompanied by the center’s namesake, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. The Vice President said despite frequent disagreements, he and McConnell have been able to reach some common ground.

“We also share the conviction that we can sustain our position in the world and we can and must strengthen it. We share the conviction that America’s best days are ahead,” he said.

Biden cited the recent tax cut compromise as an example of his bipartisan work.

For video of the speech visit the McConnell Center website.

Local News

Many Soldiers Marking Holiday In War Zone

By Angela Hatton, Kentucky Public Radio

While Thanksgiving means family gatherings for many, thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will be on duty for the holiday. Nearly 17,000 members of the 101st Airborne Division from Kentucky’s Fort Campbell Army Base are deployed in combat. Fort Campbell spokesperson Rick Rzepka says they’ll get a brief chance to mark the holiday.

“I know they will get a good meal. Which I know doesn’t sound like much to you and (me) right now, but a hot meal when you’ve been eating MRE’s for two to three months, it’s pretty special,” he said.

Traditionally, unit leaders serve the meal to soldiers, both on deployment and on base. Rzepka says the number of Fort Campbell soldiers fighting overseas will soon increase. Soldiers in the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade will deploy in the next two months.