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Daily Column
US Papers Sunday: PTSD as a Defense Witness
Guam's young sign up in droves; A father's righteous fight; Iraq & GOP politics
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 01/27/2008 01:50 AM ET
With Sen. Barack Obama's big win in South Carolina, datelined stories out of Iraq take a breather. There's no news from the war today. But the home front is very active, with another installment of The New York Times's "War Torn" series and a Washington Post feature on Guamanian enlistees.

Home front
The Times' Deborah Sontag and Lizette Alvarez tackle part three of the "War Torn" series, looking at the problem of returning veterans who have killed. Often PTSD is involved, and this week looks at the number of cases that the mental trauma of a soldier is brought up on the witness stand. It's a defense that's sparking debate among prosecutors and judges, some of whom want to consider the mental trauma while others are leery of creating offenders with distinct privileges. Aggressive defense attorneys are pushing the PTSD defense.

Clark Hoyt, the Times' public editor, also looks at the "War Torn" series, and finds a few "missteps." He accuses the first story of using "colorfully inflated language" to deal with a problem the Pentagon acknowledges and for a trend the paper could not reliably quantify. Nor did the article make clear what the focus was. Killer vets or human tragedies? The reporters' statistics on the homicide rate of returning veterans of the last six years are higher than those of the previous six years, but the reporters also invited comparison when they noted that homicide rates across the country were falling. His final verdict? "Questionable statistics muddy the message," and sometimes turning anecdotes into data harms more than it helps.

Blaine Harden of the Post reports that Guam, the only U.S. territory to suffer extensive occupation, has a surfeit of riches when it comes to recruits for the military. Guam and other Pacific Island territories provide a higher per-capita share of recruits than any other part of the United States. On the mainland, where they're accepting recruits with criminal records, they're turning away find kids because they don't have enough doctors to do the physicals.

Kevin Coyne of the Times reports on Bill McGinnis, father of Sgt. Brian D. McGinnis, a Marine who was killed on March 30, 2003, the 11th day of the war. For the last five years, he's been waging a fight to help families stay in touch with their sons and daughters serving in Iraq, and now to benefit Veterans Haven, a home for homeless veterans in Camden County, N.J. He also wants to get a federal program going where taxpayers could check a box on their returns to donate to a fund for veterans.

Political battles
Michael D. Shear and Juliet Eilperin report for the Post that in Florida Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are arguing over Iraq, and whether Romney once supported an early troop withdrawal. McCain said he wanted one, Romney says that's a damn, dirty lie.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

Washington Post
Michelle Singletary warns against schemes to invest in Iraqi dinars.

USA Today, Christian Science Monitor and Wall Street Journal
No Sunday editions.

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