There’s nothing like government-imposed isolation to bring out the best and the worst in people. It’s time to take a break from the empty shelves, homeschooling, terrifying headlines (and harrowing reality) and the truly unprecedented times we’re currently living in and lighten the load with our favorite memes of COVID-19.
In seriousness, we know these are scary times. We hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.
If someone were to ask me what the best advice is for someone buying a home, I would have to say “educate yourself.” I realize that sounds vague, but there is SO MUCH information, more importantly, incorrect information, out there and every family situation is unique. I’m hard-pressed to say what is most important, but breaking barriers to getting started would be first. Unfortunately, I see a lot of myths repeated on a daily basis, sometimes from fellow mortgage professionals! I will continue to share digestible pieces of information, but first, need to get these common myths out of the way, so no military family is deterred from getting started:
There is no debt-to-income ratio cap.
The VA’s deciding factor on whether or not you can afford a loan is based on “residual income” (p.57), meaning how much money is left over every month after your debt obligations are met. This is a formula based on loan amount, geographic location and family size; it’s not always a one-size-fits-all answer. Some lenders have “overlays,” which are additional requirements that reach beyond what the VA themselves require, which is why the DTI myth is still floating around. The big takeaway here is that if you’re told by one lender your DTI is too high, they might have extra requirements on top of what the VA states, and you should SHOP AROUND! Not all lenders are created equal.
The VA has one residency requirement (pp.12-13), that you intend to make the home your primary residence and occupy “within a reasonable period of time” – usually deemed as 60 days. A spouse or dependent child can fulfill this residency requirement, but no other family member. I continuously see the myth of “one year,” circulated, but it is simply a myth. Last-minute moves and orders happen; the VA knows that, and according to their guidelines, you are not tied to live in any home for any period of time that doesn’t work for your family – period.
County loan limits still apply for multiples.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act Sec.6(a)(1)(C)(ii) that went into effect January 2020 lifted the VA county loan cap for how much money you can borrow with down, but that’s only if you have full entitlement available. A borrower can have multiple VA loans out at once, but if any entitlement is currently used, the county loan limits DO apply for bonus entitlements. You may be subject to a downpayment requirement if you exceed your remaining entitlement available.
Work history – what counts?
I repeatedly see posts in social media about a service member transitioning, receiving a new job (or job offer), and they don’t think they can qualify for a loan until two years into the job. This is totally false! Military active duty counts towards work history. The VA allows future employment income to be counted if the lender can verify a non-contingent job offer, including start date and salary. Documented retirement and disability pay also count towards qualifying income, but GI bill benefits do not.
Social media can give instant access to other people’s experiences, but some of the answers to your VA loan questions can only be found in a licensed professional. Make sure you’re talking to a lender that is passionate about educating you and your family, allowing you to make smart financial decisions. Not all financial institutions lend “by-the-book,” so ask more than one lender if something doesn’t feel right, or you’re not satisfied with the answer. An ounce of prevention, in this case, is certainly worth well more than a pound of cure!
The Spanish-American War started after the USS Maine suddenly exploded in Havana Harbor in February 1898, an incident that was later found to be caused by faulty ship design but was blamed, at the time, on a Spanish mine. The resulting war was focused on Cuba, but the growing American military contested Spain across its empire, resulting in combat from the Atlantic to Pacific.
China is taking a stand and drawing a line in the sand. The Chinese regime in Beijing is upset over reports that Japan is considering adapting their Izumo-class “helicopter destroyers” to operate the F-35B Lightning.
According to a report by UPI, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry urged Japan to “do more that may help enhance mutual trust and promote regional peace and stability.” China and Japan have a long-running maritime, territorial dispute centering around the Senkaku Islands.
China currently has one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, a sister ship to the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov, and is building a copy of that ship along with plans to build four larger carriers, two of which are to be nuclear-powered. Japan, presently, has two Izumo-class vessels in service, as well as two Hyuga-class “helicopter destroyers” that are smaller than the Izumo-class ships.
If Japan were to modify the Izumo-class ships to operate F-35s, the cost could be huge. The vessels need modifications to their magazines to carry the weapons the F-35s use. Furthermore, the decks would need to be re-done to handle the hot exhaust from the F-35’s F135 engine.
Iraqi forces have discovered a mass grave — which appears to contain the remains of slain army and police personnel — in the northern Kirkuk province, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said Oct. 28.
“A mass grave was discovered that appears to contain the remains of some 50 army and police personnel killed by Daesh terrorists in the village of Al-Bakara in Kirkuk’s Hawija district,” the ministry said in a statement. “The grave will be excavated — and the remains examined — in accordance with proper legal procedures,” it added.
Earlier this year, army sources said security forces had stumbled upon two mass graves containing the remains of dozens of members of the Iraqi army and police who had been killed by Daesh in Hawija.
On Oct. 8, Iraqi forces announced the recapture of Hawija, which had been one of the terrorist group’s last remaining strongholds in the country.
Hamed al-Obaidi, a Kirkuk police captain, told Anadolu Agency that security forces had been tasked with investigating mass graves found in the district.
According to al-Obaidi, the fate of “dozens” of Iraqi military personnel had remained unknown since mid-2014, when Daesh overran vast territories in both Iraq and Syria.
In recent months, however, Daesh has suffered a string of major defeats at the hands of the Iraqi military and a US-led coalition.
In August, the group lost Tal Afar in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province. And one month earlier, the city of Mosul — once the capital of Daesh’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” — fell to the army after a nine-month siege.
China has landed on the far side of the moon, according to state media, in a giant step for humankind — and a step towards China’s desire to match the United States and Russia in space exploration. The unmanned Chang’e 4 probe reportedly touched down on the moon at 10:26 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2019, according to China Central Television.
The probe was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket on Dec. 8, 2018, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, and its sister relay satellite has been in orbit since May 2018.
China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that the Chang’e 4 probe entered a planned elliptical orbit some 9 miles from the surface on Dec. 30, 2018, in preparation for a soft landing on the the South Pole-Aitken basin.
The Chang’e 4 mission is to shed light on the dark side. This will include surveying terrain, mineral composition, and shallow lunar surface structure, along with other scientific observations, according to David.
The Chang’e 4 mission totes six kinds of scientific payloads, David says: “On the lander, it carries the Landing Camera (LCAM), the Terrain Camera (TCAM), and the Low Frequency Spectrometer (LFS). There are three kinds of payloads on the rover, the Panoramic Camera (PCAM), the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), and the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS).”
China’s space ambitions
President Xi Jinping wants to make China a space powerhouse within the next decade. Conquering the moon’s mysteries has been an early and critical first goal of China’s ambitious space program.
The US made its own incredible firsts this week. On New Year’s Day 2019, NASA’s New Horizons probe flew past the most distant place ever explored by humankind — a frozen rock at the edge of the solar system.
When Japanese President Shinzo Abe addressed a packed audience at the Eastern Economic Forum in September 2018, held in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, he had a direct message for his host.
He appealed to Vladimir Putin, like he does every time the two leaders meet, to help expedite the signing of a treaty that would formally, and finally, end World War II.
A little later, Putin turned animatedly to Abe. “You won’t believe it, but honestly, it’s a simple thought, but it came to my mind just now, right here,” he said. “Let’s sign a peace agreement by the end of the year,” he told Abe, “without any preconditions.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese President Shinzo Abe.
The room erupted in applause, and Russian state media hailed the offer as a breakthrough. “This is a sensation,” gushed a Rossia-24 presenter covering the event. “Unbelievable progress has been reached.”
But as Putin and Abe prepare for talks in Moscow on Jan. 22, 2019, a territorial dispute that has remained unresolved since the war continues to stall efforts toward a Russo-Japanese peace deal, and analysts say there is little indication the latest round of negotiations will change that.
‘Inherent part of Japan’
For the past 70 years, Japan has waged a dogged diplomatic campaign to reclaim what it calls its Northern Territories, a handful of islands off the coast of Hokkaido, its northernmost prefecture, that the Soviet Union captured in the final days of World War II.
Today they are referred to by Moscow as the Southern Kuriles, an extension of the archipelago that extends southward from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.
Japan established sovereignty over the islands in dispute — Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan, and a group of islets known as Habomai — in an agreement with the Russian Empire in 1855. They are still considered by Tokyo to be an “inherent part of the territory of Japan.”
“There’s a historical and ancestral aspect to this discussion from the Japanese standpoint,” says Stephen R. Nagy, an associate professor with the department of politics and international studies at International Christian University in Tokyo. “Many feel they have left the lands of their ancestors.”
For Russia, the Kuriles provide its naval fleet with access to the Pacific, and serve as a symbol of the Soviet role in the World War II victory.
Following the war, the two countries failed to sign a peace treaty, although the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration of October 1956 formally ended hostilities and opened diplomatic relations between the two sides. The declaration also annulled previous Soviet claims of war reparations against Japan and provided for two of the disputed territories — Habomai and Shikotan — to be returned to Japan following the conclusion of a formal peace treaty.
When Putin and Abe followed up on their Vladivostok meeting with talks in November 2018 in Singapore, they agreed to use the 1956 agreement as a foundation for further discussion. But that leaves Putin’s offer of “no preconditions” in question.
What comes first?
After talks in Moscow in January 2019 between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, Moscow made clear that Japan must accept Russian sovereignty of the disputed territories before any peace treaty is signed. “Questions of sovereignty over the islands are not being discussed. It is the Russian Federation’s territory,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.
And there have been key developments since 1956: namely, the deepening of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, and more recently the decision to station a U.S. missile-defense system on Japanese territory. The Japanese press has reported that Abe assured Putin no U.S. bases would be built on the islands once under Japanese possession, a fear that Russia has voiced many times. But Japan’s partnership with the United States remains a sticking point.
Artyom Lukin, an international-studies expert at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, says there is little reason to believe a treaty will be hammered out immediately.
“I don’t think that anything substantive, anything which could be pronounced publicly, will come out of this meeting,” Lukin says of the Jan. 22, 2019 talks. “They may make a tentative, preliminary agreement, but because the issue is so complex they’ll need more high-level meetings before the issue is settled. My guess is that we’ll see no public announcement until Putin’s planned visit to Japan in June.”
Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia In Global Affairs, says that Putin’s statement in Vladivostok was blown out of proportion. In fact, Lukyanov argues, the Russian president was just reiterating a long-held stance.
“The Japanese position is the territorial issue first, and then, after having settled that, we can discuss the peace treaty,” Lukyanov says. “And the Russian position, strongly supported by Putin in that speech, is just the opposite — first normalize the relationship and then maybe we can discuss this issue.”
Lukin agrees. “I wouldn’t read too much into Putin’s statement in Vladivostok,” he says. “I think we should pay much more attention to Abe’s statement in Singapore, when he said that Japan was ready to negotiate on the basis of the 1956 declaration. For me this basically means that Japan is ready to accept the fact that it can’t get from Russia anything more than Habomai and Shikotan. So the question is, how much and what will Russia demand from Japan in exchange for those two islands.”
Generosity not popular
At a press briefing in Tokyo following Putin’s appearance with Abe in Vladivostok in September 2018, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga insisted that Japan’s position remained that “the Northern Territories issue is resolved before any peace treaty.” But few expect Russia to yield.
An opinion survey carried out in November 2018 by the independent pollster Levada Center found that only 17 percent of Russians support the handover of the disputed territories to Japan in exchange for a peace deal to end World War II. Almost three-quarters were against the idea.
Russian Protesters Decry Possible Territory Handover To Japan
Russian state media has helped keep those numbers up. On Jan. 13, 2019, flagship news program Vesti Nedeli dismissed the Japanese suggestion that the islands be returned before a treaty is ratified.
“We have the hypersonic Avangard rocket, we have the hypersonic Kinzhal,” host Dmitry Kiselyov said, referring to two nuclear-capable weapons ceremoniously unveiled by Putin during his state-of-the-nation address in March 2019. “We don’t need anything from Japan…. And how can we politely explain that one should behave politely?”
In November 2019, the independent Russian daily Vedomosti wrote in an editorial that “much time has been lost” in settling the Kuriles question. “The Kremlin has succeeded in reviving imperialist passions,” it wrote. “Any territorial concession after the annexation of Crimea will damage Putin’s image as a gatherer of Russian lands, and will raise the level of discontent among his traditional support base.”
Lukyanov says that Putin is aware of Russian public opinion and unlikely to advance such a controversial cause at a time when his approval ratings are already slipping.
“Any territorial concession in any country is a very unpopular move, and to make it, a leadership should be in a strong position,” he says. “Theoretically, I can imagine that something like this would be doable immediately after the Crimean takeover five years ago, but now the situation is different, and the whole atmosphere in the country is much less optimistic, because of economic and other problems. And in this situation, to give such a juicy piece to opponents, to accuse Putin of unpopular territorial concessions, that’s certainly not what he needs right now.”
In recent weeks, several rallies have been held across Russia to protest the possible handover of the islands. On Jan. 20, 2019, some 300 nationalists and members of the Russian far right gathered in central Moscow, chanting slogans including “Crimea is ours! The Kuriles are ours!” and “We won’t return the Kuriles!”
In its bid for a diplomatic breakthrough, the Japanese leadership has suggested that Russia’s cession of the islands would open up trade with its Asian neighbor at a time of debilitating Western sanctions. But Lukyanov describes as a “primitive interpretation” the notion that Russia might relinquish the Kuriles because it needs Japan for its economic development.
“Russia’s real calculation is much more geostrategic,” he says. “Because Russia’s drift toward Asia is inevitable and will continue, because the whole of international politics is shifting to the East, and to Asia.”
The Russian leadership is aware of the risk of becoming overly dependent on China, he adds.
“For Russia, strategically it’s much more important to have a stable and constructive relationship with the big powers in Asia — South Korea, Japan, India, and Indonesia — all those that might play a role as counterweights to China. And this, to me, is the only reason why the whole discussion [about the Kuriles] is still going on.”
Seven United States Marines played a vital role in saving the life of a U.S. Airman with 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron in Okinawa, Japan Dec. 31, 2018.
The airman, whose name is being withheld out of respect for the family’s privacy, was involved in a motor cycle accident along Japan National Route 331. A group of Marines witnessed the accident and rushed to the scene as first responders.
Marine Sgt. David Lam, an assistant warehouse chief with 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group and San Jose, Calif., native was one of the first Marines on the scene, ordered the group of Marines to call emergency services and directed traffic along the busy road to allow ambulances to arrive.
“I never would have imagined myself being that close to an accident. It was an oh-snap moment,” Lam said. “I couldn’t fathom how quickly everything was moving.”
United States Marine Corps Cpl. Devan Duranwernet, a training non-commissioned officer with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion pictured here aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan, was one of seven Marines who acted quickly to save an U.S. Airman’s life following a recent motorcycle accident Dec. 31, 2018. Duranwert, a native of Charleston, S.C., started to support the injured airman’s body by stabilizing their head to ensure they didn’t move from being in major shock.
Assisting Lam were 1st Lt. Sterling Elliot with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment; 1st Lt. Jose Diaz with 9th Engineer Support Battalion; Gunnery Sgt. Memora Tan with 1st Bn., 4th Marines and Cpls. Devan Duranwernet, Joseph Thouvenot and Gerardo Lujan with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion. Each Marine played a vital role in saving the airman’s life.
“Their quick actions and willingness to get involved are commendable and exactly the type of actions you would expect from all military members that may find themselves in this sort of situation,” said Air Force Maj. James Harris, the Squadron Commander with 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron.
Diaz, from Orlando, Fla., rushed to the injured to begin cutting off layers of clothing, which helped identify the airman’s wounds. He then ran to the neighboring areas to find large pieces of wood for splints to support any broken bones.
United States Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jose Diaz, the motor transportation platoon commander with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, pictured here aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan, was one of seven Marines who acted quickly to save a U.S. Airman’s life following a recent motorcycle accident Dec. 31, 2018. Diaz, a native of Orlando, Fla., ran to the neighboring areas to find large pieces of wood to create splints to support the airman’s broken bones and started cutting off the layers of the injured airman clothes to see all the wounds.
“I saw bones sticking out of the airman’s body and knew I would need some kind of splint to support the injuries until emergency services arrived,” Diaz said. “We took action and worked together [relaying on] past training and knowing we needed to help.”
Duranwernet, a Charleston, S.C. native, stabilized the injured airman’s neck and spine while providing comfort through the shock.
Emergency services loaded the airman on to a helicopter with assistance from Tan, a native of Orange County, Calif. Elliot, from Katy, TX, used the airman’s cell phone to call their command and accompanied the airmen to U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.
United States Marine Corps 1st Lt. Sterling Elliot, the Operations Officer with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, pictured here aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan, was one of seven Marines who acted quickly to save an U.S. Airman’s life following a recent motorcycle accident Dec. 31, 2018. Elliot, a native of Katy, Texas, stayed with the injured airman providing body support stabilization, he also flew back with the injured airman on the helicopter to the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa as an escort.
“I rode in the helicopter to give the airman a friendly face, to be there with them, to let them know everything was going to be okay,” Elliot explained.
The airman was given emergency medical treatment to stabilize their condition then transported to another location for follow-on treatment and recovery. According to 353rd Special Operations Squadron leadership, the airman is expected to make a full recovery.
Harris said the Marines were the only reason the airman was still alive. He explained that “if the Marines didn’t respond when they did or how they did the airman could have lost his arm or worse.”
The US Air Force’s flight schools have a reputation for churning out some of the best pilots in the world. But not even with that standing, only 558 in the service’s entire history were ever able to earn the title “Bandit” — the name awarded exclusively to pilots assigned to fly the top-secret F-117 Nighthawk stealth jet.
During the first years of the Nighthawk program in the 1980s, candidate pilots were drawn from a pool of fast-jet pilots. Only fighter or attack pilots with minimum of 1,000 hours were considered for the job, though candidates with 2,000 or more hours were preferred, given their extensive piloting experience.
According to Warren Thompson in his book, “Bandits over Baghdad,” stealth program brass struck a careful balance between recruiting pilots with phenomenal service records and pilots who were known to push themselves to the edge of the envelope — constantly demonstrating their prowess in the cockpit of the latest and greatest multimillion dollar fighters in America’s arsenal.
Early Bandits already in the program, having earned their number, were allowed to refer fellow pilots from other units, based on critical evaluations of their skill and abilities as military aviators. The majority of candidates, however, came from fighter squadrons whose commanding officers were vaguely instructed to cherry-pick one or two of their very best pilots, and send them to Arizona to begin training on a new airframe.
Nobody, including the selectees themselves, had much of a clue what they were about to get involved in.
Further adding to the mystery was the fact that this “new” airframe was actually the A-7 Corsair II, an attack jet which had already been in service with the Air Force for a number of years. Nighthawk program evaluators chose the A-7 for its similarity to the F-117 in terms of handling, cockpit layout and flight characteristics. Upon the conclusion of their flight training, candidates would appear for a final series of check rides and tests in Nevada.
The 162d Tactical Fighter Group of the Arizona Air National Guard handled this segment of the selection phase on behalf of the 4450th Tactical Group. The 4450th was the cover for the Nighthawk’s existence, drafted up by the Air Force as a supposed A-7 flight test unit.
The casual observer, and even other military personnel not read into the Nighthawk program, would merely see this outfit as yet another one of the Air Force’s myriad boring units, though in reality, it was anything but that.
If the candidates survived the A-7 flight course, passed their final tests in their new jet, and were approved by the selection cadre, they were finally told what they were really there for — to be the next breed of American black operations pilots, flying an aircraft the government habitually denied even existed.
The Nighthawk was developed more as an attack aircraft than a fighter, though it was still granted the “F” designation like other fighters the USAF fields today. Built to evade and avoid radar detection, the F-117 was the deadly ghost America’s enemies didn’t see coming or going, even after it was too late and the bombs had already deployed from the jet’s twin recessed bays.
All prospective Bandits were now introduced in-person to their new aircraft at the Tonopah Test Range, a highly-guarded military facility known to play host to some of the most secretive Air Force projects ever undertaken. After strenuous classroom sessions followed by training missions flown in top-of-the-line simulators, pilots were then taken back to Arizona to Luke Air Force Base, where they would train briefly on the F-15 Eagle, learning to perform a ‘no-flap’ landing, which would simulate the Nighthawk’s handling dynamics during approaches and landings.
After passing muster, the candidates were handed the figurative keys to the F-117 and were allowed to fly for the first time. Upon their first solo in the Nighthawk, each pilot was assigned a number and were officially awarded the title “Bandit.” As no Nighthawk was ever built with a twin cockpit, instructors flew near their candidates in chase planes while maintaining constant radio contact. After further nighttime and daytime training missions which qualified pilots to operate their jets in adverse conditions, a battery of tests and evaluations followed.
By this time, the class was severely depleted in size – the starting quantity of candidates diminished over time either because pilots opted out of the program, or were dropped by evaluators and instructors just because they weren’t good enough to fly this next-level aircraft. If the candidate was successful in his very last round of testing, he would be sent for further training to become combat qualified and would be initiated as a permanent member of the Nighthawk community.
Pilots were then sent to an operational squadron, where they would go on to fly daring missions in extreme secrecy around the world, from Panama to Yugoslavia, and onward to Afghanistan and even Iraq. The Nighthawk has since been retired from service, having been replaced by the F-22 in its role as a stealth attack jet, though the Bandit number has been permanently capped at 558, forever sealing the status of these pilots as some of the most elite military aviators in history.
The US Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin a more than $14-million contract to integrate and test an advanced version of the Aegis Weapon System, the Department of Defense said in a press release.
“Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems Moorestown, New Jersey is being awarded a $14,083,369 contract for ship integration and test of the Aegis Weapon System for AWS baselines through advanced capability build 16,” the release stated on July 14.
Most of the work on the project will be performed in Moorestown in the US state of New Jersey over the next year and is expected to be completed by August 2018, the Defense Department said.
The AWS can simultaneously attack land targets, submarines, and surface vessels while automatically protecting the fleet against aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles, according to Lockheed Martin.
Military families can wait up to 49 weeks for burials of loved ones at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) because of the high demand for graveside ceremonies and the increasing mortality rates of older veterans, according to a Pentagon Inspector General’s report.
The system in place for scheduling and conducting burials is suited to the task, the IG’s report states, but the sheer volume of family requests routinely exceeds “the resources available on a daily basis for the conduct of burials,” including honor guards and chapel availability.
In addition, the advanced age of veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam leads to more requests for burials than can be handled on a daily basis, states the IG’s report, released in May 2019.
Delays in families’ completion of required documents, and decisions regarding the type and timing of burial service, can also add time between the request and burial, according to the report.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Katie Maynard salutes as a casket is lowered during a funeral ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Oct. 24, 2013.
(DoD photo by Cpl. Mondo Lescaud, U.S. Marine Corps)
As a result, “burial services at the ANC can result in a 6- to 49-week wait from the initial contact to the conduct of the burial ceremony,” the IG’s report states.
As of September 2018, there were 3,471 burial requests in process at Arlington — 3,259 for cremation services and 212 for casketed services, according to the report.
Arlington has the capacity for 30 burials per day, but the military teams available for Full Military Funeral Honors services also have responsibilities for other ceremonies in the National Capital Region and can conduct only about eight per day at ANC, the report states.
The 59-page report examined the operations and management of ANC and the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery (SAHNC) in Washington, D.C. — the two national cemeteries in the nationwide system of military cemeteries. There are also 36 other cemeteries run by the service branches.
Arlington National Cemetery.
(DoD photo by SSG Sean K. Harp)
The report found that major reforms at Arlington had corrected the mismanagement that led to scandals over missing markers and missing remains in 2010.
As of late 2018, Arlington was the final resting place for more than 375,000 decedents and had space available for 67,000 more, the report states. The IG’s office took a random sample of 553 burials and 145 available spaces and “found no accountability errors in the records.”
At SAHNC, the burial site for more than 14,000 veterans, the report found five errors in a random sample of 290 burials and 62 available spaces.
In two cases, the names of the decedents were not on the grave marker at the corresponding location in the cemetery. In two other cases, what were coded as empty plots in the database actually contained decedents.
In the fifth case, the location of the decedent in the database did not match the location of the headstone, according to the report.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
After months of praise — calling him “smart”, congratulating his reelection, floating forming a “Cyber Security unit” — President Donald Trump finally called out Russian President Vladimir Putin by name on Twitter April 8, 2018, for the first time since taking office.
Trump placed part of the blame on Putin for the suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people in Douma, Syria on April 7, 2018. Putin’s government has backed Syrian government forces for years, while the US has sided with the opposition rebels.
“President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad,” Trump tweeted, referring to Russia’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Big price … to pay.”
Ian Bremmer, president of geopolitical-risk firm Eurasia Group, said that if the US can get confirmation that chemical weapons were indeed used, Trump will probably order a strike like he did in April 2017 after the US concluded Assad’s regime was behind another chemical attack.
“I think he’s probably going to engage in strikes against Syria,” Bremmer told Business Insider on April 8, 2018. “He’s made very clear both then and now that he’s not going to tolerate use of chemical weapons by Assad’s regime.”
(The White Helmets / Screenshot)
Lawmakers from both parties have encouraged Trump to make the call. Sen. John McCain of Arizona went so far as to say that Trump’s pledge to withdraw US troops from Syria “emboldened Assad.”
“Trump was quick to call out Assad, along with the Russian and Iranian governments, on Twitter. The question now is whether he will do anything about it,” McCain said in a statement. “The President responded decisively when Assad used chemical weapons in 2017. He should do so again, and demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes.”
‘A defining moment’
Bremmer said Trump’s “strange” unwillingness to criticize Putin, and Russia in general, finally changed on April 8, 2018.
“None of us know why it is that Trump decided he was going to be so nice individually to Putin. It’s not like he cares about being nice to people,” Bremmer said. “Why was he being nice to Putin, and why is he suddenly shifting? Anyone that tells you they know the answer to that question is lying.”
The Trump administration is already imposing sanctions on Russian oligarchs and entities, and has expelled dozens of Russian diplomats. Bremmer said the US could decide to impose harsher sanctions on the country, conduct cyber attacks, or even release embarrassing information on Putin.
Former President Barack Obama didn’t escalate into this territory, Bremmer said, because Obama “recognized there was a potential for escalation that was quite dangerous.”
Trump also criticized Obama in a follow-up tweet on April 8, 2018, saying that his predecessor should have “Drawn A Red Line In The Sand.”
“There’s one thing we know is that Trump absolutely wants to show that he is the opposite of Obama,” Bremmer said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on ABC’s “This Week” that Trump has the opportunity to “reset the table” in Syria, and suggested bombing Assad’s air force and setting up so-called safe zones to achieve peace.
“If it becomes a tweet without meaning, then he has hurt himself in North Korea. If he doesn’t follow through and live up to that tweet, he’s going to look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran,” Graham said. “So this is a defining moment, Mr. President. You need to follow through with that tweet. Show a resolve that Obama never did to get this right.”
What the international community plans to do about Assad
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)
“One of the few things that Trump has done in foreign policy that really the international community widely supported was the strikes that he engaged in April 2017,” Bremmer said.
The US, along with France, the UK and other nations called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to be held on April 9, 2018, “in reference to the horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians in Syria,” UN Ambassador Nikki Haley tweeted April 8, 2018.
“This is becoming all too common,” Haley wrote. “Strong action is needed.”
The US could partner with France in the strike directly. Bremmer said French President Emmanuel Macron “recently put out his own red lines against Assad, saying that he would strike any base that lethal chemical attacks were launched from. He said he’d do it by himself.”
Bremmer said “given that Macron and Trump have both made those statements, I think strikes against Assad do make sense,” adding that the US would need to be careful not to hit Russian forces.
One potential downside is that Russia could execute more cyber attacks in response, Bremmer said, which could further deteriorate relations between the US and Russia.
“We’re not heading to a nuclear war with the Russians, but this is a dangerous period,” Bremmer said. “If the Americans engage in direct strikes against Assad given their direct support by the Russians and the Iranians — it is a dangerous thing to do, but I do think that it’s an appropriate thing to do in this environment.”