Are you donating to one of America's worst charities?

The Tampa Bay Times has done some excellent investigative reporting on the 50 worst charities in America — organizations that took in more than $1 billion over the past 10 years, and gave almost all of that money to their own staffs and professional solicitors. The series explains how charities like this operate and skirt the regulatory system. But if you're feeling TLDR, there's also a PDF that can help you quickly figure out if you're donating to one of these scams. A large portion of the 50 worst is made up of charities devoted to cancer and veterans' issues.

US military continues to abuse and abandon wounded soldiers

In 2010, The New York Times uncovered systemic abuse within units meant to help wounded Army soldiers transition through months-and-years-long treatment and rehabilitation. Today, The Colorado Springs Gazette has a profile about one of the soldiers who stood up for Warrior Transition Units back then. The abuses exposed by the Times weren't fixed and Jerrald Jensen ended up becoming a victim himself. After questioning the mistreatment in the system, he was nearly given a less-than-honorable discharge, which would have cost him long-term Veteran's benefits — a pattern that the Gazette has found happening over and over among the most-vulnerable wounded Army men and women who need the most care in order to rehabilitate from their service injuries. The treatment described here is disgusting, all the more so when you compare it to Jensen's service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Exposing this kind of crap is why journalism exists.

Stress on special ops troops 'worse than we thought' in 2012

Snip from a report by USA Today's Gregg Zoroya: "According to Pentagon data, there were 17 confirmed or suspected suicides this year among commandos or support personnel through Dec. 2, compared with nine suicides each of the past two years. That's a suicide rate among these troops of about 25 per 100,000, comparable to a record rate this year in the Army and higher than a demographically adjusted civilian suicide rate."

Iraq war veteran Kayvan Sabehgi beaten by police at Occupy Oakland, left with lacerated spleen

Video from The Guardian: "Protester and three-tour American veteran Kayvan Sabehgi was beaten by Oakland police during the Occupy protest's general strike on 2 November. Sabehgi, who was 'completely peaceful', according to witnesses, was left with a lacerated spleen."

The War Project: Interview with Staff Sgt. Jason Deckman

Jason-Deckman-Final.jpg

Susannah Breslin's "The War Project," a series of interviews with veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has a new feature up: the story of Staff Sgt. Jason Deckman. The 38-year-old veteran has been in the Army for 16 years. "I dream about my weapon," he tells Susannah.

Deckman is a combat engineer who has deployed five times--to Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Iraq twice. He has served with the 3rd Infantry Division, 1st Armored Division, 1st Cavalry Division, 54th Engineer Battalion in Bamberg, Germany, and 420th Engineer Brigade. In early 2007, he transferred to the Army Reserves and is currently assigned to the 980th Engineer Battalion at Camp Mabry in Austin. Later this year, he will deploy to Afghanistan. He lives in Killeen, Texas.
From Deckman's story:

One of the things that I got was I had nightmares for a while. I've been having a few more lately. It's a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. It's not normal to think you're going to be killed in the very next second. It does weird things to your brain.

I dream about my weapon. I can point it at the enemy, and I can see him coming at me, and I pull that trigger, and it feels like someone jammed gum inside there, and I can pull it, and pull it, and pull it, and it only budges a little bit at a time.

I didn't dream about IEDs while I was in Iraq. It wasn't until after I'd come back. I had one dream after I came back where I was walking through this little, shitty mud shack village. I kind of went up a hill on one side, and there was a little road come down to this ditch. Somehow I had fallen in the ditch, I couldn't get out of the ditch, and the enemy was up at the top of the hill rolling IEDs down the road at me.

INTERVIEW: Staff Sgt. Jason Deckman (thewarproject.com, interview and photo by Susannah Breslin)

Read Susannah's post at Forbes about the process of helping these vets tell their stories. Follow her on Twitter.

Veterans, some with brain injuries, curate neglected Army archaeological collection

Steve sez, "Brain-injured vets are curating a huge, neglected archeological collection from Army Corps of Engineers:"
The collection dates to the 1930s, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started building dozens of locks, dams and reservoirs, and the ground beneath them was excavated for archaeological treasures.

Prehistoric and historic pottery, stone tools, arrowheads, Indian beads, necklaces, earrings and ear spools, and ceremonial artifacts, even human remains, were collected. The items then sat in boxes and paper bags in university museums as well as private basements, garages and tool sheds.

In recent weeks, U.S. veterans - many with traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder - have begun processing, cataloguing, digitizing and archiving the collection as part of a one-year $3.5 million project, funded with federal stimulus money.

US military vets working on archaeological project (Thanks, Steve!)

(Image: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Photo by David Knoerlein)