North Korea’s inter-continental ballistic missiles still have a lot of work to do in order to be ready for prime time, the Defense Intelligence Agency claims. North Korea in the past has had problems getting its missiles up – but that technological hitch may not last long.
According to a report by Bloomberg News, North Korea still faces a number of “important shortfalls” in its longer-range missiles like the Taepo-dong 2 and the KN-08 inter-continental ballistic missiles. Last month, North Korea saw a failure when it attempted to launch a missile during a test.
That said, senior American intelligence officials note with concern that North Korea is not letting the failures prevent a push toward developing a reliable ICBM inventory.
“North Korea has also expanded the size and sophistication of its ballistic missile forces—from close-range ballistic missiles (CRBMs) to ICBMs—and continues to conduct test launches. In 2016, North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of ballistic missile tests. Pyongyang is committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States; it has publicly displayed its road-mobile ICBMs on multiple occasions. We assess that North Korea has taken steps toward fielding an ICBM but has not flight-tested it,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a written statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee prior to a May 11, 2017 hearing.
“North Korea is poised to conduct its first ICBM flight test in 2017 based on public comments that preparations to do so are almost complete and would serve as a milestone toward a more reliable threat to the US mainland,” Coats added later in the statement.
The United States has currently deployed a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile battery to South Korea, and also operates MIM-104 Patriot missile batteries – systems also owned by South Korea and Japan. All three countries also have Aegis warships, capable of launching SIM-66 Standard SM-2 and RIM-161 Standard SM-3 missiles.
The United States has deployed a carrier strike group to the area around North Korea as tensions have increased.
“It is again with our deepest sadness, our heartbreak that we inform you that National Guardsman SPC. Angel Candelario-Padro was among the victims we have lost,” said Matt Thorn, executive director of OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that represents the U.S. lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Candelario-Padro had been a member of the Puerto Rico National Guard and was assigned to the Army band, Thorn said in a statement. He also played clarinet with his hometown band and had just moved to Orlando from Chicago, he said.
Candelario-Padro served in the Guard from Jan. 12, 2006, until Jan. 11, 2012, at which point he transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Houk, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, confirmed in an email to Military.com.
Additional information about his service history wasn’t immediately available from the U.S. Army Reserve.
“Very painful to mention this but we have to recognize and do a tribute to one of our own,” it stated. “With great sadness I want to report the loss of who was in life the SPC ANGEL CANDELARIO. The Band 248 joins the sadness that overwhelms your family and we wish you much peace and resignation. Spc Candelario, rest in peace.”
Candelario-Padro for two years prior lived in Chicago, where he worked at the Illinois Eye Institute and had side jobs at Old Navy and as a Zumba instructor, according to an article in The Chicago Tribune.
He was at the Pulse nightclub frequented by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history occurred.
Authorities say 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in 911 calls, killed 49 people and injured another 53 before being killed in a shootout with police.
Army Reserve Capt. Antonio Davon Brown was also killed in the attack and may be eligible to receive the Purple Heart, a Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Imran Yousuf, 24, is being recognized as a hero for helping between 60 and 70 people escape the mass shooting by unlatching a door near the back staff halfway of the building.
Candelario-Padro will be flown home to Puerto Rico to be buried in the Guanica Municipal Cemetery in a section reserved for service members, Thorn said.
We all love the A-10 Thunderbolt II, commonly known as the “Warthog.” For years now, this airframe has brought the BRRRRRRT and provided close air support to grunts on the ground. But the A-10 is actually older than many think.
For a combat plane, 46 is pretty old. Now, it’s not the grumpy, “get-off-my-lawn” level of old — the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress claims that honor. It entered service in 1952, making it old enough now to collect Medicare.
A number of A-10 Thunderbolts were painted green, but these days, they’re a plain gray.
At the time of the A-10’s introduction, NATO nations had half the tanks of signatories of the Warsaw Pact. The Warthog was intended to fight off those huge, armored hordes. The A-10’s GAU-8 30mm Gatling gun (that provides its signature BRRRRRT), was only part of the solution. The plane is also able to haul over eight tons of bombs, rockets, and missiles.
One missile is of particular note: The AGM-65 Maverick. The A-10 has been loaded up with several variants of this powerful weapon, mostly the AGM-65D and AGM-65G. These variants use imaging infra-red seekers and are able to hit targets in any condition, day or night, clear skies or bad weather.
The A-10 has been in service for over 40 years and, still, no plane has been able to truly replace it.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie Norman)
The Maverick has a maximum range of 17 miles and packs either a 125-pound, shaped-charge warhead or a 300-pound, blast-fragmentation warhead. With this missile, the A-10 can pick off enemy anti-aircraft guns, like the ZSU-23, before closing in to drop bombs and give enemy tanks the BRRRRT.
Despite its age, the A-10 is slated to remain in service for a while. The Air Force is currently running the OA-X program in hopes of finding a true replacement, but the real solution may be to simply build more of this classic plane.
See how the Air Force introduced the A-10 back in ’72 in the video below.
The US military has a host of awards and medals for its service members.
Some awards, like the Medal of Honor and the Silver and Bronze Star awards, are given to service members who display bravery in combat.
Others are given for serving in specific operations or even missions — these are known as campaign awards.
Depending on the medals a service member or veteran wears, it’s typically possible to determine which wars or regions of the world they have served in.
Scroll through to see campaign awards for operations and missions since the Korean War.
The National Defense Service Medal is automatically awarded to anyone who signs up to serve during wartime.
The medal awarded for support of Operation Inherent Resolve was authorized for service starting in 2014.
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyle Wilkie)
The ISIS fight
Service members who have supported Operation Inherent Resolve, the US mission in Syria to combat the Islamic State, are now eligible for a medal.
The medal was approved in 2016 — prior to that, service members who supported OIR were awarded the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary (GWOT-E) medal.
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Global war on terror
There are two different campaign awards for service in the US’s war against terror.
The GWOT Service medal is awarded to service members who serve in either a direct or indirect role in support of operations during the global war on terror, including personnel stateside who process paperwork for deployed troops.
The GWOT Expeditionary Medal, seen on the left, is more specific — service members must deploy for service in an anti-terrorism operation. Ground troops deployed to Somalia for over 30 days, for example, would qualify for this medal.
A service member who qualifies for the GWOT-E typically also qualifies for the service medal.
The Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terror Expeditionary medal are not authorized for the same period or action.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)
The Afghanistan Campaign award is given to service members who complete at least 30 days in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Iraq Campaign Medal.
(Army Institute of Heraldry)
The Iraq Campaign Medal is awarded to service members who deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
For both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaign awards, service members are only eligible for one of each, regardless of how many times they deployed to the country.
Stars may be worn on the ribbons as indicators of participation in specific, designated missions during the operation.
The Antarctica Service Medal and ribbon are awarded to people who spend at least 30 consecutive days in the Antarctic or fly 15 missions into or out of the continent.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)
The Coast Guard and Navy have Arctic equivalents, which differ slightly but both reverse the color scheme of the Antarctic ribbon and medal, with black or dark blue in the center and white on the outer edges.
The Kosovo campaign medal was awarded to service members who served during the Kosovo Defense Campaign, which began in 1999.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. John Valceanu)
The NATO bombing campaign led to the retreat of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo. A peace-keeping force remains there to this day.
The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.
Liberation of Kuwait
Depending on their specific mission and location, service members who participated in the liberation of Kuwait may have qualified for awards presented by the governments of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.
The Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, government of Kuwait.
Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm
The government of Kuwait authorized US personnel to wear this award if they served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s.
Southwest Asia Service Medal.
An arrangement of medals made during a military ceremony honoring Vietnam veterans.
(Photo by Jonathan Steffen)
The Vietnam service ribbon has a yellow background with three red lines in the center and a green line on each side.
The award was given to service members who served in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or air or water space in that region between 1965 and 1973.
Other medals depicted here are the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal, and Purple Heart.
Republic of Vietnam Campaign medal.
This medal was awarded to service members who provided direct combat support to South Vietnam’s Armed Forces during the war.
Criteria included those who served for six months or more in South Vietnam or who were injured, captured, or killed in the line of duty.
The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)
The Republic of Korea Korean War Service Medal was authorized in 1999 to honor the sacrifices of Korean War veterans.
This award specifically designates veterans who served in the country of Korea during the war.
The Korean Defense Service Medal is awarded to any US service member who has served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)
Recognizing that the Korean War never ended, the Defense Department authorized the Korean Defense Service Medal for service members who deployed to or served in the Republic of Korea after July 1954.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Republican and Democratic senators have introduced legislation threatening tough sanctions to discourage Russia from meddling in U.S. elections, Reuters reports.
The Deter Act is intended to sanction Russia’s banking, energy, and defense industries, and sovereign debt for election interference.
The legislation was introduced on April 3, 2019, by Senators Chris Van Hollen (Democrat-Maryland) and Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida).
The two legislators offered a similar bipartisan measure in 2018, which was never brought up for a vote by the Senate’s Republican leaders, who have close ties to President Donald Trump.
Such an approach is thought to have better prospects this year, because control of the House of Representatives is in the hands of Democrats.
Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
Reuters reports that the measure would require the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to determine, within 30 days of any federal election, if Russia or other foreign actors had engaged in election interference.
If such interference is detected, the act would require that mandatory sanctions be imposed within 10 days on Russian banks and energy companies among others.
The act would provide for sanctions to be imposed on two or more of the following Russian banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank, and Rosselkhozbank.
It also would ban all transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Russian sovereign debt, Russian government bonds, and the debt of any entity owned or controlled by Russia’s government.
Moscow has denied trying to influence U.S. elections. But U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have established that Moscow sought to interfere with the 2016 poll to boost Trump’s chances of winning the White House.
The Deter Act is aimed at Russia but notes that China, Iran, and North Korea are other major foreign government cyberthreats.
ISIS is quickly losing ground in the Middle East thanks to American and Russian airstrikes and Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian ground forces. The so-called caliphate is on the ropes and it looks like it may actually fall. But even as its armies fall back under attacks from the Islamic coalition, adherents to ISIS’s violent philosophy have launched deadly attacks in western countries. The bloodiest was in Paris in 2015 where 130 were killed. More recently, 49 Americans were killed on June 11 during an attack on the patrons of an Orlando nightclub.
To carry out violent attacks across the world despite being surrounded at home, ISIS relies on two groups of potential terrorists. The first is ISIS members who fought in Iraq and Syria to launch attacks abroad, such as Mohamed Abrini and Najim Laachraoui. These two men were suspected members of ISIS who played key roles in the Brussels bombings in 2016. Intelligence agencies track people returning from Iraq and Syria and had flagged both men.
The second group ISIS relies on is harder to track, though usually less trained than veterans of the Iraq and Syria conflict. These are disenfranchised, unhappy Muslims or potential conflicts living in countries that ISIS would like to target. Rather than trying to send fighters to all the countries they would like to attack, ISIS sends its propaganda to those countries and tries to find potential terrorists who just need a few nudges into radicalization. Only a few will actually decide to become terrorists, but each of those is another potential terrorist like the San Bernadino or Orlando shooters.
First, there are tips for traveling to Iraq and Syria to fight and support the caliphate, something ISIS considers the duty of all Muslims. Muslims who refuse to do so are “apostate,” a status punishable by death. Next, Dabiq regularly features articles glorifying fighters who have died for ISIS, especially those who died in a terror attack. Finally, it routinely runs articles about how great it will be when the U.S. invades.
No joke. ISIS is actively campaigning for an open war with the West. The name Dabiq is actually the name of the land where ISIS thinks the “crusader” armies will burn. Every issue opens with this quote:
The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify — by Allah’s permission — until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.
The magazine is spread throughout the world and translated into Arabic, English, French, and German. These translations are expertly done. The English version reads like it was written by a native-born English speaker, and it might have been.
ISIS has adherents from around the world as well as hostages it can rely on to make sure its message is perfectly pitched to different countries. “Jihadi John,” the British-born ISIS executioner killed in a drone strike in 2015, was in charge of making sure propaganda aimed at English-speakers was effective. And ISIS can also lean on British journalist and hostage John Cantlie who was captured in 2012 with James Foley.
Cantlie is especially interesting since he often writes for Dabiq and sometimes hosts videos that spout ISIS propaganda. Former hostages who knew Cantlie in captivity have said that he is regularly beaten and starved off-camera, but his words seem authentic when he delivers them. This is thanks to the magic of editing.
But, while Cantlie is definitely edited, ISIS doesn’t do it the way you might imagine. They allow Cantlie to call them all terrorists and to write about ISIS fighters dying as long as he also condemns America for airstrikes and talks about government services offered by ISIS.
Issues of the magazine and other propaganda talking points are spread through the use of social media, pro-ISIS websites, and the dark web. The terrorist group’s Twitter game was legendary until the social media company and hackers began shutting down the accounts as fast as ISIS supporters could open them. While this leaves the total number of ISIS accounts about level, it reduces the number of followers each account can get before it is deleted, lowering the group’s reach.
Finally, ISIS directs many potential recruits to videos of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born imam who spent most of his formative years in Yemen. Al-Awlaki was known for spouting a particularly violent interpretation of Islam and was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011.
Al-Awlaki had connections to some of the 9/11 hijackers, the 2009 Fort Hood shooter, and the attempted downing of a plane in 2009 by a bomber wearing explosive underwear. Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, was known to have watched al-Awlaki videos. While al-Awlaki is dead, many of his lectures are still available on YouTube and other outlets.
Add YouTube and Twitter accounts and other propaganda outlets, and it’s easy to see how potential terrorists are able to find ISIS’s messages and continue down the road to radicalization.
While many children dislike being the middle child, Bryce Caldwell saw it as the best of both worlds.
He loved the attention of being younger and once he was thrust into the role of big brother, it sort of became his calling.
Right from when the Caldwell family’s third son was brought home from the hospital, Bryce adored and protected him.
“Bryce was always hovering over him, kissing him, hugging him,” said Maj. Jeremy Caldwell, his father. “He was just so proud to be an older brother.”
Almost a year ago on Dec. 14, 2017, Bryce, a 6-year-old boy who not only loved his brothers but also football, died from a brain tumor called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG.
A photo of the Caldwell family. Bryce Caldwell, lower left, had his wish come true when he visited the Denver Broncos headquarters in 2017.
Earlier that summer, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Bryce visited Denver Broncos players and had the chance to play on a real football field with his brothers.
Although his life was short-lived, Bryce’s smile and personality often drew people to him.
“He would have this incredible light about him,” Jeremy said in a phone interview. “He was so warm and caring even at such a young age.”
Shortly after their son’s death, Jeremy’s wife, Suzy, found information on a 14-week hiking and fundraising challenge sponsored by the nonprofit organization.
Bryce Caldwell, left, takes a photograph with Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller during his wish trip to the Broncos headquarters in 2017.
(MakeAWish Foundation photo)
The culminating event was a 26.3-mile strenuous hike through the Talladega National Forest that is completed in one day.
With help from their friends, Will and Kate Searcy, the Caldwells were able to raise more than ,000 for the challenge — enough to grant five wishes from children with life-threatening illnesses.
For their efforts, the Caldwells were awarded the Lori Schultz-Betancourt Indomitable Spirit Award last at the nonprofit’s annual conference in Phoenix.
The Caldwells were left speechless when they found out they were considered for the award among the other nominees.
“We never expected when we went on this journey to get an award,” Jeremy said.
They also never expected to raise so much.
Dealing with the frustration and grief of losing a child, the Caldwells thought the challenge would help channel those emotions into something positive.
“It was a good way to focus all of that energy,” said Jeremy, who is currently a student at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base. He has also deployed to Iraq twice to fly UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
From left to right, Maj. Jeremy Caldwell, his wife, Suzy, and their friends Kate and Will Searcy participate in a hiking challenge to raise more than ,000 for a non-profit foundation in memory of their son, who received a wish trip to visit the Denver Broncos headquarters in 2017.
Their initial goal was to raise ,500, the minimum pledge needed for one person to take part in the challenge.
But the outpouring of support they received from the local community and the military community across the world was much more.
“All I can say is that we are blessed we had so many good people behind us, lifting us up at such a difficult time in our lives,” Jeremy said.
After seeing their son’s joy during his wish trip to the Denver Broncos headquarters in June 2017, Jeremy and Suzy just wanted other families to have the same opportunity.
The trip provided some welcome relief from all the weight put on their shoulders at a time when they constantly worried about medications, doctor appointments and MRI scans.
Maj. Jeremy Caldwell, right, accepts the Lori Schultz-Betancourt Indomitable Spirit Award in October at the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s annual conference in Phoenix.
(MakeAWish Foundation photo)
“You can just focus on your family and enjoy the moment and the happiness that you see in your kid’s face,” he said. “That’s the incredible, almost healing, factor of these wish trips and that was an inspirational part of why we kept pushing to raise the amount of money that we did.”
The Caldwells have also raised nearly ,000 for another nonprofit that supports research to cure pediatric brain cancer like DIPG.
There are even plans to tackle the hiking challenge for a second time.
“I don’t know if we’ll get to the 40-something thousand dollars again, but maybe we’ll just focus on getting to one wish,” Jeremy said. “That’s the initial goal and we’ll see where it goes.”
A U.S. Huey helicopter sprays Agent Orange over Vietnam. The U.S. military used at least 11 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam from 1961 to 1972. (Wikimedia Commons)
Proposed amendments to the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act would add three diseases to the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ list of illnesses presumed to be linked to Agent Orange — measures that, if approved, would provide health care and disability benefits to roughly 22,000 affected veterans.
The House and Senate amendments, proposed by Rep. Josh Harder, D-California, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, would add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism to the VA’s list of 14 conditions considered related to herbicide exposure during the Vietnam War.
In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine deemed the three named diseases to be associated with exposure to defoliants used during the war.
But the proposals do not include hypertension, a condition that the Academies also linked to Agent Orange in 2018. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is common among the elderly and, if included, could add more than 2 million veterans to VA disability rolls in the next 10 years, at an estimated cost of $11.2 billion to $15.2 billion, according to department estimates.
Thirty veteran and military groups have backed the proposals and asked congressional leaders to do the same.
On Tuesday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America and 27 other groups wrote House and Senate leaders urging them to get behind the provisions.
“We call on you to lead and pass House Amendment 264 into law and end the waiting for many of our nation’s ill veterans so they can receive disability benefits,” stated letters sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
“There is more work to be done to care for those who are ill from toxic exposures, including adopting hypertension as a presumptive disease … but with your leadership, tens of thousands of Vietnam War veterans will receive their benefits and justice,” they wrote.
A decision on whether to add the three conditions has been delayed since 2017, when then-VA Secretary David Shulkin expressed support for including them but never formally announced his decision.
According to internal VA documents, Shulkin had been on the verge of including the three conditions when the Office of Management and Budget and other White House officials objected, citing what they called “limited scientific evidence” and cost.
Meanwhile, thousands of veterans have waited.
“Vietnam vets have been waiting for this for decades, and it’s a national shame that it’s not fixed yet,” Harder told Military.com. “We have a real chance here to make this right after all this time, and we should seize the opportunity.”
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told lawmakers late last year he wants the results of two studies — the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study, or VE-HEROES, and the Vietnam Era Mortality Study — to be reviewed for publication before announcing a decision on whether to broaden the presumptives list.
But lawmakers and advocacy groups have balked at the delay.
“This is something we are still fighting after how many decades from the Vietnam War?” asked Corey Titus, director of veterans benefits and Guard/reserve affairs at MOAA. “We should be making sure there aren’t any service members with illnesses who aren’t getting the care and benefits they earned.”
In February, Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, penned a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to “take corrective action” and add all four diseases to the list, including hypertension.
“Your administration has the ability to add these conditions to the presumptive list and provide lifesaving benefits to more than 190,000 veterans. Without your action, tens of thousands of sick and aging veterans will continue to go without VA resources and health care in their time of need,” he wrote.
The letter was signed by 77 members, all Democrats.
While hypertension is not included in the proposed amendment, the coalition of veterans and military organizations pledged to continue working on adopting it as a “presumptive disease as linked by the National Academies.”
“This needs to be covered as well. This is not something that we will forget — hypertension,” Titus said.
The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have both passed their versions of the fiscal 2021 defense bill and forwarded them to their respective chambers for consideration. Currently, committees are weighing the rules for amending and deliberating the bills before they move ahead for debate.
Both Harder and Tester’s proposals must make it through that process before coming up for a vote.
A legislative source said Tester’s amendment has been identified for a vote.
“With a bipartisan team of lawmakers and the support of the entire veterans community, we have a strong chance to finally get this done,” Harder said.
The heads are eighteen to twenty feet tall, remnants of President’s Park, an open-air kind of museum. First opened in 2004, the Mount Rushmore-inspired park was the product of Everette Newman, a Virginia native, and Houston-based sculptor David Adickes. It cost $10 million to open the park and a lack of visitors caused its bankruptcy six years later.
Newman enlisted Hankins’ help in destroying the heads. Instead, he moved the heads, weighing eleven to twenty thousand pounds each, to his farm ten miles away. It took him a week and cost upwards of $50,000. The move also substantially damaged the heads.
Now, the heads are decaying. Ronald Reagan was struck by lighting and still wears the scar from the strike. The ground around the statues is overgrown with vegetation, and frogs now live inside James Madison. There isn’t even a bust of President Obama because the failing park couldn’t afford the sculptor’s $60,000 fee.
Hankins’ field is not currently open to visitors. It’s not intended to be a tourist attraction at all, but people still manage to sneak onto the farm to snap photos. He hopes to one day recreate the park into something people would like to visit, maybe even merging them with an existing museum.
Just as cannabis is gaining traction as a legitimate treatment option for military veterans, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the “breakthrough therapy” designation to MDMA, the main chemical in the club drug Ecstasy, for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The move appears to pave the way for a Santa Cruz, California-based advocacy group to conduct two trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for patients with severe PTSD.
The nonprofit group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies plans to test out the strategy on 200 to 300 participants in clinical trials this spring.
“For the first time ever, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy will be evaluated in [advanced] trials for possible prescription use, with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD leading the way,” said Rick Doblin, the group’s founder and executive director.
The FDA says it doesn’t disclose the names of drugs that receive “breakthrough therapy” designation. But if a researcher or drug company chooses to release that information, they are allowed to. In this case, the Psychedelic Studies group is the researcher.
Veterans have pushed for new treatments for PTSD, which some consider the “signature” injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Symptoms include depression, isolation, inability to concentrate and, in the extreme, suicidal thoughts.
At present, the US Drug Enforcement Administration lists the drug as a Schedule I drug, which means there are no currently accepted medical uses and there’s a high potential for abuse.
The drug affects serotonin use in the brain.
It can cause euphoria, increased sensitivity to touch, sensual and sexual arousal, the need to be touched, and the need for stimulation.
Some unwanted psychological effects can include confusion, anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleep problems, and drug craving, according to the DEA.
Clinical studies suggest that MDMA may increase the risk of long-term problems with memory and learning.
1. Marine Brian Chontosh’s incredible response to an Iraqi ambush
Working Title: Killing Up Close
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Tom Hardy
Hollywood has a reputation for embellishing “true stories” with an extra dose of drama, special effects, and too-beautiful-to-be-real actors. “Brian Chontosh: The Movie,” however, would require no exaggeration — this story of military valor is unbelievably badass from start to finish.
Then-Lt. Brian Chontosh was a Marine platoon leader during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. On the morning of March 25, he was sitting shotgun in a Humvee when a large berm appeared in the distance. Before he and his men knew what was happening, Iraqi soldiers began showering the vehicle detail with machine gun fire, grenades and mortars from behind the shelter — instantly killing a medic and damaging a tank.
Most people would try to organize a hasty exit at this point. Not Brian Chontosh. As bullets and explosives screamed past their Humvee, Chontosh ordered driver Cpl. Armand McCormick to drive forward, straight through the berm. McCormick floored it as another Marine, Cpl. Thomas Franklin, manned the Humvee’s .50-caliber machine gun, crashing through the obstruction and into the trench on the opposite side.
As Iraqi soldiers began to swarm the Humvee, Chontosh swung out of his vehicle guns-a-blazing, firing from his pistol and rifle until he was out of bullets. Iraqi soldiers dropped dead left and right, and Chontosh continued to pull the trigger, machine gun fire clouding his senses as he pushed his way through the maw. It was the first time he had ever killed anyone.
“It’s nothing like TV,” Chontosh told Newsweek. “It’s ugly. It’s contorted. People fall how they fall. It’s not like the bullet hits and they’re blown back or anything like that.”
When his rifle jammed, Chontosh ripped an AK-47 off of a dead Iraqi, unloading every bullet in it before picking up a second AK as he ran, shooting everything he could. By the end of the battle, he would shoot and kill nearly two-dozen Iraqis single-handedly. At this point the exhausted Marine finally reconnected with his men and headed back towards the Humvee, when they noticed an Iraqi soldier huddled on the ground, playing dead but holding a grenade.
The men scrambled for weapons but were out of ammo. Amazingly, Chontosh saw a cluster of live M-16 rounds glinting in the dirt, where they had fallen when his rifle jammed. He dove for the rounds, loaded a single bullet — and shot the soldier in the head, saving himself and his men. Can you imagine that scene on an IMAX screen?
If that’s not Hollywood-blockbuster enough for you, they still had to get medical help for the Marines who had been wounded. Oh, and a sandstorm rolled in. Totally casual.
Chontosh would later be awarded the Navy Cross and two Bronze Stars for heroism, and is currently considered one of the top CrossFit athletes in the world. If that isn’t prime movie material, we don’t know what is. Your move, Hollywood.
2. The story of Larry Thorne’s military valor under three different flags
Have you ever watched a movie that you loved so much you didn’t want it to end? This is that movie — and don’t worry about a short running time, either. Lauri Törni’s story is filled with so many twists and turns that even a conservative film adaptation would give The Hobbit’s running time a run for its money — so maybe a two-part series would be best.
Törni’s story begins in Finland in 1938, when he joined the army at 19 years old, determined to fight the Soviet Union. It didn’t take long for his natural leadership skills and military instincts to shine, and he was soon promoted to captain — of a skiing troop. Törni and his men would pursue their enemies on skis, kicking up powder on the Finnish slopes. Is anyone else thinking of that chase scene from The Grand Budapest Hotel? Just add guns and Soviet Russians.
Everything was going great until Törni skied into a mine in 1942, leaving him badly wounded. The young soldier was soon back on his feet, however, and would later be honored with the Mannerheim Cross for his war efforts (the Finnish equivalent of the Medal of Honor).
But Törni wasn’t ready to give up the fighting — though he would give up his Finnish uniform. When Finland agreed to a ceasefire with the Soviet Union in 1944, he decided to switch teams to keep up with the action, joining the German SS for the promise of future combat against the Communists.
Unfortunately, as we know, Törni picked the wrong team. When the war ended, he was arrested by British forces for being a Nazi officer. Didn’t think the protagonist was going to get tangled up with the bad guys, did you? But he wasn’t in prison for long. Törni successfuly escaped his POW camp and snuck back into Finland, where, unfortunately, he was arrested again, this time by his own people. Things really went downhill after that skiing accident.
Luckily, however, the president of Finland had a soft spot for this adventurous turncoat, and Törni only served half his sentence before he was pardoned and released in 1948.
But wait, the story’s not over. In June of 1950, America would pass a law that would create an opportunity for foreigners to serve under the U.S. military, granting them citizenship if they stuck with it for five years. It was called the Lodge-Philbin Act, and it came right around the same time a new military unit was created — The Special Forces.
Törni, along with 200 other Eastern Europeans, joined the American military under this law. This wasn’t merely an opportunity to continue military service, however — the Soviet Union forced Finland to arrest Törni for his time fighting alongside the Nazis. When he found out he would be shipped to Moscow and tried for war crimes, Törni knew it was time to get out of dodge and start a new life. So he escaped — again — and changed his name to Larry Thorne, ready to embrace an American identity.
Not surprisingly, Thorne thrived in his new military environment. Originally enlisting as a private, he was quickly singled out for his skill and experience, and began teaching at the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, where he instructed recruits on guerrilla fighting tactics and survival skills. Soon after, he would become a Captain in Special Forces, and successfully retrieved classified documents from a U.S. Air Force plane that went down in the mountains near the Turkish-Soviet border.
Thorne quickly made it into the U.S. Special Forces and in 1962, as a Captain, he led his detachment onto the highest mountain in Iran to recover the bodies and classified material from an American C-130 airplane that had crashed. It was a mission in which others had failed, but Thorne’s unrelenting spirit led to its accomplishment. This mission initially formed his status as a U.S. Special Forces legend, but it was his deep strategic reconnaissance and interdiction exploits with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Studies and Observation Group, also known as MACV-SOG, that solidified his legendary status.
If this wasn’t cool enough, Thorne was also awarded five Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star medal for his military bravery. His last ever mission was in Vietnam in 1965, when he led the premiere MACV-SOG cross-border mission into Laos. While his men successfully entered a clearing within Laos, Thorne watched and waited in a chase helicopter, ready to provide assistance if necessary. When his men had made it safe, he began flying his helicopter back to base.
Only a few minutes later, the helicopter lost control and crashed — likely the result of stormy weather conditions. The Army reported Thorne as MIA, and many of his comrades refused to believe this military legend was dead. Their beliefs were further cemented when the chopper and air crew were found without Thorne’s body, and many hoped that he had escaped the crash and was still making his way out of the jungle.
The legend of Larry Thorne and his mysterious disappearance lived on until 1999, when a second exploration of the crash site produced a body who’s DNA and dental records matched that of the beloved Special Forces soldier. His life was cut short, but the legacy he left behind was larger than life, and completely worthy of a couple hours on the big screen.
3. The story of the orthodontist who became America’s first Navy SEAL
Working Title: Another Navy SEAL Movie
Director: Stephen Spielberg
Starring: Christoph Waltz
Everyone loves a good underdog, and Navy Lt. j.g. Jack Taylor is one of the best “little guys” we’ve ever heard of. Before the start of World War II, Taylor was an orthodontist in Hollywood, California. When the U.S. declared war on Japan, however, Taylor swapped his dental scrubs for a Navy uniform, planning to teach boat handling skills to American and Allied servicemen — a pretty safe wartime occupation.
Fate had other plans for Taylor however, and they were way more exciting than pulling teeth or rigging sails.
He didn’t know it yet, but DDS Jack Taylor would soon become Lt. j.g. Taylor, and would prove his worth as the first ever Navy SEAL, undertaking ocean operations in Greece, land operations in Albania, and parachuting into Austria — 20 years before the first SEAL team had ever been assembled.
In the Maritime Unit, Taylor personally commanded fourteen missions into the enemy-occupied Greek and Balkan coasts. He and his team delivered spies, weapons, explosives, and other supplies to friendly forces from Sep. 1943 to March, 1944.
Taylor also commanded a land team in Central Albania around this time, escaping near-capture by enemy forces at least three times. For his valor, he received the Navy Cross.
Before Taylor and his men could head to Italy to meet up with American troops, the group was captured on Dec. 1, 1944, and sent to prison in Vienna before being transferred to Mauthausen, a camp that was notorious for its cruel treatment and deplorable living conditions. There Taylor was jailed as a political prisoner, and watched as inmate after inmate was executed — a brutal reminder of what his own fate would surely be.
Taylor was nearly executed on two different occasions. The first time a friend who worked in the camp’s office found his papers among a stack of to-be executed prisoners and removed it, burning it before his superiors noticed it was gone.
Eventually the Nazis realized Taylor had evaded his sentence, and scheduled a second execution. But just when it seemed that his number was up, the 11th Armored Division liberated the camp, only days before he would have been killed.
When an American film crew arrived and asked him for an interview, Taylor got the chance to tell the world what he and so many others had experienced under Nazi prison conditions, later recounting the same information at the Nuremberg trials, where his testimony of the horrors of Mauthausen would lead to the conviction of all 61 camp personnel.
4. “Mad Jack” Churchill’s sword-wielding World War II victories
Working Title: Mad Jack
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Star: Harvey Keitel
When it comes to movie characters, American viewers seem to agree on the same cinematic mantra: The more eccentric, the better. If you’re skeptical, just Google John Malkovich, or ponder how “The Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise continues to grind out terrible sequels that people continue to pay for. Sometimes, people don’t want quality, they just want crazy.
Luckily, however, we’ve found a story that fits the bill in both categories: A war account so bizarre it sounds more like an urban legend than a part of America’s WWII history.
Lt. Col. John Malcom Thorpe Fleming Churchill, or “Mad Jack” as he would later be known, may have been one of the most badass — and insane — people to ever walk the earth. Picture the weirdness of Jeff Bridges a la “The Big Lebowski” crossed with sheer majesty of Mel Gibson in “Braveheart” and you’ll be in the ballpark.
Churchill joined the British military in 1926 at age 20, only to leave shortly after to pursue professional bagpiping and compete in the World Archery Championship in 1939 — because why not. But when WWII rolled around, Churchill was more than ready to jump back into the fray, and racked up a war record so unbelievable we’re shocked his story hasn’t already made it to the big screen.
Churchill stormed the beaches of Normandy carrying a Scottish sword, wore his bagpipes in battle and made many of his kills with a longbow he wore on his back. During a night raid on the Nazi lines, Churchill led his men to capture 136 enemy soldiers — and he himself captured 40 plus Germans at sword point. During a different battle on the Nazi-controlled island of Brac, “Mad Jack” fought until he was the last of his men standing. Then when he ran out of ammo, he stood his ground, playing his bagpipes on top of a hill until a grenade knocked him out and he was captured by the Germans. That scene alone could win an Academy Award.
Churchill would later escape his POW camp and meet up with American troops, only to find out — to his profound disappointment — that two atomic bombs had been dropped, and the war was essentially over. According to Vice, Churchill reportedly complained, “If it hadn’t been for those damn Yanks, we could have kept the war going for another ten years!”
Who knows, with the film industry being so sequel-happy these days (we’re looking at you, Peter Jackson), maybe his movies could go on for ten years.
With the fear that hordes of Russian tanks would storm through the Fulda Gap at the start of World War III, the United States Army looked for an advanced helicopter.
The first attempt, the AH-56 Cheyenne, didn’t quite make it. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Cheyenne was cancelled due to a combination of upgrades to the AH-1 Cobra, and “unresolved technical problems.”
The Army still wanted an advanced gunship. Enter the Apache, which beat out Bell’s AH-63.
The Apache was built to kill tanks and other vehicles. An Army fact sheet notes that this chopper is able to carry up to 16 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, four 19-round pods for the 70mm Hydra rocket, or a combination of Hellfires and Hydras, the Apache can take out a lot of vehicles in one sortie.
That doesn’t include its 30mm M230 cannon with 1200 rounds of ammo. The latest Apaches are equipped with the Longbow millimeter-wave radar.
According to Victor Suvarov’s “Inside the Soviet Army,” a standard Soviet tank battalion had 31 tanks, so one Apache has enough Hellfires to take out over half a battalion. Even the most modern tanks, like the T-90, cannot withstand the Hellfire.
Then, keep this in mind: Apaches are not solo hunters. Like wolves, they hunt in packs. A typical attack helicopter company has eight Apaches.
So, what would happen to a typical Russian tank battalion, equipped with T-80 main battle tanks (with a three-man crew, and a 125mm main gun) if they were to cross into Poland, or even the Baltics?
Things get ugly for the Russian tankers.
That Russian tank battalion is tasked with supporting three motorized rifle battalions, in either BMP infantry fighting vehicles or BTR armored personnel carriers, or it is part of a tank regiment with two other tank battalions and a battalion of BMPs. In this case, let’s assume it is part of the motorized rifle regiment.
This regiment is slated to hit a battalion from a heavy brigade combat team, which has two companies of Abrams tanks, and two of Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles, plus a scout platoon of six Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles.
A company of Apaches is sent to support the American battalion. Six, armed with eight Hellfires and 38 70mm Hydra rockets, are sent to deal with the three battalions of BMPs. The other two, each armed with 16 Hellfires, get to deal with the tank battalion.
According to Globalsecurity.org, the AN/APG-78 Longbow radars are capable of prioritizing targets. This allows the Apaches to unleash their Hellfires from near-maximum range.
The Hellfires have proven to be very accurate – Globalsecurity.org noted that at least 80% of as many as 4,000 Hellfires fired during Operation Desert Storm hit their targets.
Assuming 80% of the 32 Hellfires fired hit, that means 25 of the 31 T-80 main battle tanks in the tank battalion are now scrap metal.
Similar results from the 48 fired mean that what had been three battalions of 30 BMPs each are now down to two of 17 BMPs, and one of 18, a total of 52 BMPs and six T-80 tanks facing off against the American battalion.
That attack would not go well for Russia, to put it mildly.
The Iraqi Army has been pushing forward with its tanks and infantry but has not released exact numbers for what they gained on the second day of fighting. According to reporting in Al Jazeera, they liberated 20 villages in the first day.
Meanwhile, Kurdish Peshmerga forces attacked and cleared nine villages around the outskirts of Mosul, freeing 200 square kilometers from ISIS control, according to CNN.
Both the Kurdish and Iraqi commanders told reporters that they expected gains to slow after the first day. ISIS has buried IEDs along most major roads and throughout many of the nearby villages, forcing troops to slow down to avoid the explosives and to create clear paths.
Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Sirwan Barzani told CNN that it would take two months to clear the city.
The international coalition supporting the ground advance releases a daily list of targets struck by air and artillery. Four strikes were launched against ISIS forces near Mosul on Oct. 18.
The release claims that these four strikes destroyed 10 mortar systems; five artillery systems; four buildings; four fighting positions; four vehicles; two supply caches; two generators for radio repeaters; a factory for creating suicide car bombs; and a car bomb.
The coalition also hit targets around the nearby city of Qayyarah where Iraqi forces are moving towards Mosul from the south. Strikes there destroyed a mortar position, a building, a tanker truck, and a rocket-propelled grenade.
On Oct. 17, strikes in the same areas hit three tactical units, two staging areas, 12 assembly areas, a bridge, six tunnel entrances, five supply caches; four generators for radio repeaters; four solar panels; two artillery systems; two vehicles; two tunnels; and an anti-air artillery system.
All that seems to spell a pretty horrible first 48 hours for ISIS at Mosul.