Each year Dispatches From The Edge gives awards to individuals, companies and governments that makes reading the news a daily adventure. Here are the awards for 2018:
The Golden Sprocket Wrench Award to Lockheed Martin, the world's largest arms manufacturer, for its F-22 Raptor Stealth fighter, a fifth-generation interceptor said to be the best in the world. That is when it works, which is not often. When Hurricane Michael swept through Florida this fall, 17 Raptors -- $339 million apiece -- were destroyed or badly damaged. How come the Air Force didn't fly those F-22s out of harm's way? Because the Raptor is a "hanger queen" that loves the machine shop. Less than 50 percent of the F-22 fleet is functional at any given moment. The planes couldn't fly, so they got trashed at a cost to taxpayers of around $5 billion.
Lockheed Martin also gets an Oak Leaf Cluster for its F-35 Lightning II fighter, at $1.5 trillion, the most expensive weapon system in U.S. history. Some 200 F-35s are not considered "combat capable," and may never be, because the Pentagon would rather buy new planes than fix the ones it has. That may cost taxpayers $40 billion.
The F-22s and F-35s also have problems with their oxygen systems, but no one can figure out why.
However, both planes did get into combat. According to Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, the F-35 achieved "tactical supremacy" over the Taliban (which doesn't have an air force). The F-22, the most sophisticated stealth fighter in the world, took on Afghan drug dealers.
As for Lockheed Martin, the company was just awarded an extra $7 billion for F-22 "sustainment."
The Golden Parenting Award to the U.S. State Department for trying to water down a resolution by the UN's World Health Assembly encouraging breast feeding over infant formula. A Lancet study found that universal breast-feeding would prevent 800,000 infant deaths a year, decrease ear infections by 50 percent and gastrointestinal disease by 64 percent. It lowers the risk for Type 1 diabetes, two kinds of leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome and asthma. It also makes for healthier mothers.