Ognjen Gajic, a lung expert and critical care specialist at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the northern U.S. state of Minnesota, was interviewed by Ajla Obradovic, a correspondent with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, about the coronavirus and the disease’s symptoms and treatment.
RFE/RL: How fast does a person’s health worsen after becoming infected? It seems that patients diagnosed with the coronavirus die rather quickly but recover more slowly compared to other diseases? Or is that an incorrect impression?
Ognjen Gajic: Critical illness [in people with the coronavirus] occurs on average after seven days of mild symptoms. From the moment one starts experiencing shortness of breath, [a patient’s condition can worsen] rapidly, sometimes within a few hours, and then intensive monitoring in a hospital intensive care unit is critical.
RFE/RL: How are COVID-19 patients treated? Is there a standard procedure?
Gajic: Most patients have mild symptoms and there is no specific treatment thus far other than controlling the symptoms — paracetamol (aka acetaminophen) for fever, weakness, and the like. Untested forms of treatment can be dangerous due to side effects and should not be used until research shows they are efficient.
I deal with the treatment of the critically ill, so I can say more about [those patients]. In many of them, the [COVID-19] disease progresses to severe bilateral pneumonia characterized by shortness of breath and hypoxia (that means oxygen deprivation in body tissue).
These patients should be immediately taken to the hospital for oxygen treatment and their condition should be constantly monitored so it is possible to respond in time [to these problems] with intense respiratory support, including respirators. Sophisticated intensive care with control and support of all organs is successful in about 50 percent of the most severely ill cases, although some patients may be on a respirator for several weeks before recovering or dying.
So far there is no proven specific treatment [for COVID-19] and untested experimental drugs should not be prescribed without the proper research [being conducted]. We are working with colleagues around the world on a day-to-day basis on research projects for new treatments and prevention.
RFE/RL: Is there any data so far on the underlying diseases that are, in some way, more pernicious in combination with the coronavirus?
Gajic: Rather than specific diseases, more important is [someone’s] physiological condition as far as their lungs and [general fitness]; elderly patients who are not fit and those with severe forms of chronic lung or heart disease have little reserve and little chance of successfully enduring intensive respiratory treatment.
RFE/RL: How much more infectious is the coronavirus than other communicable diseases and what is the best way for people to protect themselves? In the Czech Republic, for example, they require everyone to wear masks in public, while the World Health Organization has not cited this as essential for people who are not infected. Can you give some specific tips on protection?
Gajic: Masks should be left to health-care professionals. A thorough hand washing with soap and water is by far the most important tip and, at this point, isolation from all but essential contacts — especially groups — must be respected. Also, before coming to a health-care facility, first make contact by phone, since it is safer to stay home for home treatment if one is showing mild symptoms.
RFE/RL: I understand you worked with your colleagues from Wuhan. What is it that other countries can learn from them and apply in their response to the pandemic?
Gajic: Several colleagues from Wuhan hospitals have been at the Mayo Clinic in recent years and we have been doing joint research. At the beginning of the epidemic in Wuhan, we sent support in terms of treatment guidelines and [medical] staff protection. Now they are helping us. After some initial setbacks, our colleagues in Wuhan, with rigorous isolation measures, adequate equipment, and training, were able to prevent their health-care professionals from becoming sick despite working with critically ill patients.
RFE/RL: The latest information shows that the United States now has the largest number of infected people. Did the U.S. response to the epidemic come too late?
Gajic: I’m not an epidemiologist so I can’t comment on that. When it comes to the critically ill, U.S. hospitals provide fantastic care in these difficult conditions.
The Israeli Air Force has long been dominant over the skies of the Middle East. They have superbpilots and they use their planes very well. There was a time, however, when that dominance was challenged – and it was arguably Israel’s darkest hour.
In 1973, Israel stood triumphant in the Middle East. For a quarter-century, it had fended off efforts to wipe it off the map. But on Yom Kippur, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched an attack. To protect their armored forces, the Egyptian-Syrian forces used a combination of two Soviet-designed systems: The SA-6 “Gainful” surface-to-air missile and the ZSU-23-4 “Shilka.”
The latter system was truly deadly, considering Israeli tactics. Radar-guided and with four 23mm cannon capable of firing as many as 1,000 rounds per minute, the ZSU-23-4 was able to hit targets almost two miles away. Many Israeli pilots in A-4 Skyhawks, Mirage IIIs, Neshers, and F-4 Phantoms soon found out the hard way that flying low to avoid surface-to-air missiles was hazardous. In one strike, six aircraft were lost taking out a missile battery.
The Israelis eventually came up with workarounds to defeat the SA-6/ZSU-23 combo, but they needed aircraft replacements from the United States, due to losing roughly 100 aircraft. The Israelis would learn their lesson, and in 1982, Syrian forces found themselves on the wrong end of a turkey shoot.
Having proven itself in combat, the ZSU-23-4 was widely exported. As of 2014, 39 countries use this system to provide tactical air defense for their forces. Russia has since replaced the ZSU-23 in front-line units with the 2S6 Tunguska and the Pantsir gun-missile combo systems but this mobile gun will forever be known for the time it almost chased one of the best air forces in the world from the skies over a battlefield.
A new initiative from BAE Defense Systems wants to create a system for “growing” drones in vats in a next-generation version of 3-D printing.
The process would be very quick, allowing military planners to manufacture new drones only weeks after a design is approved. That would allow custom aircraft to be grown for many major operations.
If the Air Force needed to get bombers past next-generation Russian air defenses, they could print drones specifically designed to trick or destroy the new sensors. If a group of troops was cut off in World War III’s version of the Battle of the Bulge, the Army could resupply them with custom-designed drones carrying fuel, batteries, ammo, and more. Different designs could even be grown for each payload.
The drones would grow their own electronics and airframes, though key parts may need to be manufactured the old fashioned way and plugged into new drone designs. BAE’s video shows a freshly grown aircraft receiving a final part, possibly a power source or sensor payload, on an assembly line after the craft leaves its vat and dries.
The 3-D printer that would be used, dubbed the “Chemputer” and trademarked by BAE, could potentially even recycle some of its waste and use environmentally friendly materials.
Since each aircraft is being custom built for specific missions or niche mission types, they can be highly specialized. One vat could print an aircraft optimized for speed that needs to outrun enemy missiles while the one next to it needs to act as a radio relay and has been optimized for loiter time.
The project is headed by University of Glasgow Regius Professor Lee Cronin. Cronin acknowledges that roadblocks exist to getting the Chemputer up and running, but thinks his team is ready to overcome them.
“This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry,” Cronin said. “We have been developing routes to digitize synthetic and materials chemistry and at some point in the future hope to assemble complex objects in a machine from the bottom up, or with minimal human assistance. Creating small aircraft would be very challenging but I’m confident that creative thinking and convergent digital technologies will eventually lead to the digital programming of complex chemical and material systems.”
National Guard troops deployed to the border in Arizona are puttering around doing administrative and maintenance work in order to keep them out of potentially dangerous situations and to allow the border patrol to focus on working in the field.
Troops have been deployed to the border in the past — both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent troops there under similar circumstances — but the ones currently stationed in Arizona are even farther from the border than past deployments, according to a Politico report, and have no involvement in law-enforcement activity there.
President Donald Trump has called for up to 4,000 troops from various states to deploy to the border from Texas to California. Only about 200 Arizona National Guard soldiers have been put to work there, less than one-third of the 682 who have been authorized to deploy.
The troops are not allowed to join patrols or operations to detain people trying to cross the border undetected.
“There is a false narrative that we are doing ride-alongs,” Capt. Macario Mora of the Arizona National Guard told Politico. The troops also are not armed, Mora said, “and there is no anticipation that will change.”
Feeding horses and shoveling manure
Many have been pressed into service providing administrative support and doing upkeep, including feeding horses and shoveling manure out of stables, office work, and basic repairs and maintenance work on border patrol facilities and vehicles. “We fix flats,” one sergeant, a cook, told Politico.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)
Troops in Arizona are kept far from the border, though some have been given training to monitor the remote cameras the border patrol has set up along the frontier. In Texas, troops are allowed to visually monitor the border, but the ones tasked with surveillance are not allowed to look into Mexico. Those troops are also performing maintenance and doing repairs on roads and vehicles.
Jurisdictional issues and legal restrictions are part of the reason troops are tasked with such a narrow range of duties, but there is also an effort to keep the soldiers out of trouble, particularly in areas where they could encounter criminal groups along the border.
The soldiers are not really trained or equipped for law-enforcement duties, and officials are still wary of the potential risks involved in them interacting with civilians. Officials are still mindful of the 1997 killing of an 18-year-old by marines who were patrolling along the Rio Grande River in Texas as part of a drug-surveillance patrol.
Esequiel Hernandez was shot and killed within sight of his home by marines who had followed him as he herded goats along the river. The marines, who had been deployed to the area secretly days before, said Hernandez pointed his .22 rifle at them fired twice in their direction. A prosecutor and Texas Rangers doubted that story but were unable to indict the marines on a murder charge, leaving locals bitter.
Mora, the Arizona National Guard captain, told Politico that the troops were in a “much safer environment” miles away from the border. “It definitely helps mitigate the risk of the National Guard running into conflict,” he said.
The troops’ muted presence stands in contrast to Trump’s rhetoric about the threats posed by border crossers and about his administration’s response.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Both the Border Patrol and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the deployments, the former regarding them as a misuse of resources and latter seeing it as unneeded. Military officials have also criticized the deployments, viewing them as a distraction and a needless strain on US-Mexico relations.
The deployments, paid for by the Pentagon, are only funded through September 2018, the end of the fiscal year. It’s not clear if funding will be extended beyond that, and other events may limit or curtail the deployments going forward.
Governors from at least eight states have said they withhold or withdraw their states’ National Guard troops from the border, many of them citing dismay over the Trump administration’s now-rescinded policy of separating children from their parents as they cross the border.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There’s no doubt about it. World of Warcraft is one of the most influential video games ever to hit the market. As a massively multiplayer online role playing game, it let you create a fantasized version of yourself and seamlessly wove you into a living world, filled with quests and ongoing wars.
Warcraft isn’t just some “click attack, smash your 1 key” kind of game, either. Every little detail — from gear choices to talent selections to which race you selected back at the start — matters when perfecting your unique character. Though the game has changed dramatically over its 15-year lifetime, if you wanted to get anywhere back in the early days, you needed to think through all the details, down to ensuring that everyone in the raid was wearing the right cloak; that took an insane amount of time.
Over the years, these minute (some would say “tedious”) intricacies devolved to appease the more casual audience, but with Monday’s re-release of the Classic World of Warcraft servers, everyone has a chance to experience the basics anew. And now that we’re looking at the game through a more mature perspective rather than our awkward teenage years eyeballs, it’s worth it to reevaluate how we setup our raids…
…Or, more accurately, how the military gave us that tiny little edge in thinking about how to best kill a world-threatening fire lord with our buddies this Tuesday night. Sadly, there’s no coordinating with air support — after all, Blizzard didn’t add flying mounts until The Burning Crusade.
“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle.” – Richard Marchenko, First Commanding Officer of SEAL Team Six
Train in low-stress environments
This should be drilled into everyone’s head the moment they step off that bus in Basic/Boot Camp. For the next several weeks, you will practice fighting during every waking moment of your life. Not only is it important to get time on the range, but MOUT training, where you enter a simulated environment made to mimic the conditions that await you on deployment. It’s a good way to give troops an easy training scenario where it’s actually crucial to let them fail — so they can learn what not to do when the real thing comes.
In World of Warcraft, this same concept applies. If you want to learn how to most efficiently use your abilities, do so by running dungeons that are a little on the easier side relative to your level. That way, when it’s time for the big bad, you’re not sending your friends to the graveyard.
Not just any chump off the street could get a shot at wielding Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker.
Physical proof you’re ready to undertake a certain mission
No one will let you jump out of a perfectly good aircraft unless you’ve proven you’re capable at the Airborne school. No one will let you join the SPECOPS unless you’ve proven you’re capable of fighting at their level. It’s nothing personal — it’s just that watching over the dead weight isn’t a high-level operator’s duty. Prove you’re ready and they’ll welcome you in with open arms.
Classic World of Warcraft ran the same way. Before you’re ready to step into the higher-end dungeons and raids, you’ll need to do lengthy attunement quests. Don’t get mad at your guild when raid night rolls around and you can’t get in — show up prepared.
If it looks cool, great. If it doesn’t, at least your DPS should be high enough.
Double-checking everyone to see if they have the right gear
One of the best things about leaving the Army is that no one will ever make me unload every last bit of TA-50 I was issued onto the motor pool parking lot just so some butterbar can take a quick glance at it hours later for all of five seconds. But there’s a method to the madness; it ensures that every troop has everything they need — even if it’s something mundane, like an extra red filter for their L-bend flashlight, before the deployment.
When planning a raid, you should make sure everyone has every last potion they need, every last reagent required for their spells, and above all, the right armor and weapons to get them through the intense fights about to happen.
Just leave the fire doggo alone.
Timing the infiltration perfectly to cause the least amount of conflict
The military isn’t running missions like the Wild West. You don’t go kicking down every single door. That’s just dumb. What you really want to do is find where you’re going and take the path of least resistance.
For the most difficult encounters in Classic WoW, you’ll need 40 people to coordinate amongst themselves. If that sounds difficult to manage, that’s because it is. Only kill the monsters that are absolutely essential, and let everyone focus on what’s important: theloot, the boss.
If you’re a hunter, your role is to turn on the wrong aspect, set your pet to tank, wipe the raid several times, and still claim that any weapon that drops is for you.
Coordinating everyone’s strategy down to the letter
If you enlisted as a radio operator, be the best damn radio operator you can be. If you’re a medic, you keep an eye on everyone in case someone goes down. The team leaders and commanders should have their battle plans and stick to them perfectly. Even if you’re just a rifleman given just a single window to provide overwatch on, you keep your barrel on that window. There’s a greater mission at play, and everyone is counting on you to do your one task.
WoW gives kind of a double meaning to the term “roleplaying game.” There’s the disassociation with reality aspect that lets you pretend you’re a sexy elf girl when you’re really a 300lb bum sitting in your momma’s basement, but it also implies that everyone is given a mechanical role and that you’re expected to adhere to it.
If you’re a priest, heal or cast attack spells (depending on your specialization choices). If you’re a warrior, tank or stab (depending on your specialization choices). If you’re a rogue, stab or… well, you have no choice but to stab, but you get my point. Focus on what you’re best at and let that be what you bring to the table.
I don’t care what anyone says…. Stand in fire, you DPS higher.
Debrief to improve next time
There’s nothing better than rolling back in from a successful mission, dropping your gear, and hitting the chow hall. But there’s always that pesky debrief the commander wants everyone to attend first. It seems boring to the private in the back of the tent, but it’s crucial information for next time. Let everything out — what worked, what didn’t, what needs to be brought next time, what can stay back. There’s no such thing as a perfect mission, but you can tweak it ever so slightly each time.
We get it. Ragnaros didn’t drop your Perdition’s Blade and you just want to Hearthstone back to Orgrimmar. That’s fine, as long as you’re still on voice chat with your raid leaders. When everything’s said and done, it’s nearly impossible to keep tabs on 40 people at once — everyone’s input is valuable.
Jeremy Lee MacKenzie is an artist & filmmaker whose career began after being incarcerated as a teenager. His artwork, “Hidden Blueprints,” is a collection of wood-scrollwork cut from blueprints that were hidden in the prison system. He discovered the blueprints while serving sentences that totaled eight years, for bank robbery & drug trafficking.
He was inspired to become a filmmaker while working as a prison movie projectionist where he studied screenwriting and was released with scholarships to Champlain College. In 2015, he was awarded a screenwriting fellowship to Stowe Story Labs and that same year, won gold in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards in LA.
In 2017, MacKenzie completed his film “Hidden Blueprints: The Story of Mikey,” and received the James Goldstone Emerging Filmmaker Award. In 2018, he was chosen for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Award and was then admitted to the USC School of Cinematic Arts to pursue his MFA on a George Lucas Scholarship.
Annenberg Media: Tell me about where you are from and your life growing up?
MacKenzie: I’m from Burlington, VT and my childhood was complicated. I had a lot of challenging things happen while growing up and I ended up in adult prison at the age of 17 for bank robbery. Looking back, it feels like it was 100 years ago, like I’ve lived in quantum time where every year contained the events of five years.
Annenberg Media: What is the most distinct memory you have of your mother and father?
MacKenzie: A positive memory I have of my mother is how she always encouraged me to be an artist and be creative. She was always very honest and encouraging if she thought I was good at something. My father encouraged storytelling and read me a lot of books growing up. He tested me on the stories to see if I was listening. He would reread me the same story and then change certain plot lines to see if I was paying attention. I would stop him and tell him, “no dad, the storyline goes like this…”
Annenberg Media: What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
MacKenzie: My parents separated after my younger sister passed away. I lived with my mother most of the time and my father during summers. When I was really young, I did well in school. At a certain point in my childhood we moved into a trailer park where we were living in poverty. A lot of the people living in that trailer park did not care much about school and were into drugs. Those became really tough years since I valued education but was now being punished for valuing academics.
At first I had to fight kids often when getting off the school bus because I was into focusing on school. My parents always tried focus my attention on education. I was very young and got sick of fighting and being an outsider, so I ended up joining the crowd. I got into drugs to succeed in that world. I often wondered if people around me who chose the drug path, went through those same bad experiences as I did.
At the age of 12 or 13, I transitioned into selling drugs and became a drug dealer. I wanted to excel in a world I was way behind in. By 14-years-old, my parents had lost full control. I had an 18-year-old stripper girlfriend living with me. I was deep into the world of drug dealing: at age 14, it was cocaine, 15, it was opiates, at 16, I was arrested for dealing heroin and at 17, I was locked up for bank robbery.
Bang, that escalated quickly! My parents were baffled at how things changed so rapidly.
Annenberg Media: Where did this lifestyle lead you?
MacKenzie: I served three sentences totaling eight years. During one of those sentences, I earned my high school diploma but was still struggling to separate from the drug world. During the course of one of my sentences, I was sent to a corporate prison in Kentucky. When I got there, I got my first college opportunity. Hazard Community College selected 20 inmates who they gave grants to start college while incarcerated.
Due to overcrowding and the mistreatment of inmates, a lot of violence was going on in the facility. It was a for-profit prison and the administration was not friendly. I had to make a choice between focusing on college or joining an uprising in the prison. A group of inmates were planning a revolt and ended up having a riot at the facility. The riot took over the facility for a night and the administration building was burned which included the education facility. The college opportunity went up in smoke. We were in lockdown for many months while they rebuilt the prison around us. This gained a lot of national media attention.
Annenberg Media: Did you have any creative outlets while incarcerated?
MacKenzie: Isolation can be a powerful tool. After the riot, while in lock down I started designing artwork. I would design blueprints for big pieces of wood-scrollwork. I had learned this wood cutting technique as a teenager from an old clock maker in prison and I taught myself how to design. I was designing on taped-together pieces of paper but we weren’t allowed to have the paper so I had to hide my blueprints until I could bring them home.
Those blueprints came to be my artwork years later. I used them as a tool for storytelling. Many of the blueprints I drew didn’t directly depict prison but told the stories of our experience on the inside through ancient themes. When I was not designing I started getting into TV and movies and I started watching this show called “Medium.” Everybody watched it. It was a way to escape from prison.
MacKenzie: My darkest moment came during my third sentence when I could no longer hide from my darkest truths and my responsibilities. I couldn’t hide the impact my actions had on my friends, family and community; I experienced a paradigm shift. I was in a segregation cell where I had more charges coming. The drug dealers who had been supplying me since I was an adolescent, who I had been protecting my whole life, were not protecting me or anyone else. The whole veil of that world came crashing down.
I realized the effect my life was having on everyone around me and the people I had protected and followed didn’t care about me anymore. I was in the segregation cell and I noticed there was a broken razor blade on the floor. “This is my out,” I thought. This was one of the few moments in my life where I contemplated suicide. But, I looked out the window and thought to myself, “No one could explain this to my dog, she’s never gonna know what happened.” I just wanted to see my dog again. She probably saved my life. Tests find a way of placing themselves in your path, especially at your darkest moments. I needed to let things play out until the end.
Annenberg Media: How was your life impacted after making the decision to stay alive?
MacKenzie: That was a very challenging period of time, but it passed. And I ended up getting a job as a prison movie projectionist. It was a makeshift movie theater with prison walls. We screened everything from the original “Star Wars” to “Casablanca” and “Chinatown.” It was a powerful experience watching “Star Wars” projected onto a prison wall.
While working as a prison movie projectionist, I started writing stories with the women’s prison. The women were relatable and had similar situations to mine. But we weren’t allowed to write to other prisons so I would send the letters to my father and he would re-address them to the women I was writing. I invited them to write a story where the women and I could insert our own characters and set them off on a journey together. I was very grateful to the women for that, as it provided a creative medium that was very valuable. It also provided companionship and helped with loneliness.
Working with the prison movie theater was a crucial time for me. All those earlier years of my father testing me on stories came back to me. I decided I wanted to become a filmmaker. I focused on screenwriting and reached out to different colleges to get the books they used in their screenwriting courses. I was no longer in a corporate prison and I made a deal with teachers to recycle prison paperwork. The education offices would print scripts on the back of the recycled paperwork I brought them. Filmmaking was like life or death- in my previous life I was going to die and this new life was the only way out. There were no other choices.
Annenberg Media: Did you plan on getting further education?
MacKenzie: I got a scholarship to go to college when I came home. The scholarship letter came from Bernie Sanders, which I still have. When I came home I realized there was all this time that I had missed. I did a lot of catching up in college.
As soon as I got to undergrad, I won gold in the Page International Screenwriting Awards for a screenplay. The award and screenplay got me connected with Julie Pacino, Al Pacino’s daughter. I began to excel and was pushed more towards directing. Julie ended up producing my film, “Hidden Blueprints.” Things began to happen much more rapidly and I ended up using “Hidden Blueprints” to apply to USC.
Back then, Ben Stiller was making his show “Escape at Dannemora” and his group reached out to have me in the show as an inmate. I have an escape on my record- at one point I tried to run away from prison- so I was not able to get security clearance to enter prison. But, I took a role as an extra on a different part of his show so I could still be apart of the production. I had this really funny moment where I was standing on set with Ben Stiller to my right and I was quietly watching him work. Then, the main actress comes out and I’m suddenly hit with this really familiar feeling: the actress was Patricia Arquette who I watched in the TV show, “Medium” years ago in that destroyed prison in Kentucky. I realize I’m standing in the middle of a show about escaping from prison starring the actress of the show we all used to watch to escape from the prison we were in. It was an interesting and affirming moment.
I sent the production staff of the show an email about it. It made me reflect on how far my arc had brought me. Within a matter of days the George Lucas Scholarship came in for USC. It gave me chills. I had projected “Star Wars” movies on a prison wall. Now I was headed to LA.
Aron Meinhardt, J. Lee MacKenzie, and Julie Pacino
Annenberg Media: Why Hollywood and why now?
MacKenzie: This is the epicenter of storytelling. I came here to fully engage in storytelling and USC helped me get here. I knew this was the path. This is the place to begin and branch off. This is a time when people from all different places and backgrounds can tell stories. I felt like I was one of those people that could have a place here.
Annenberg Media: What is it like to be a George Lucas Scholar at the School of Cinematic Arts?
MacKenzie: From where I come from, it has been extremely helpful and it has been an honor to have the opportunities I’ve had. I had the opportunity to work with some incredible people like Riley and Austin Lynch, Julie Pacino, Aron Meinhardt and many others. I got to collaborate with C. Craig Patterson who is a great friend, he is on a George Lucas Scholarship as well. I look forward to seeing who else I get to meet and work with.
Annenberg Media: What are your career and life goals?
MacKenzie: I want to direct movies. I direct films not because I love it, but because I feel compelled to. Telling stories was my only way out and it is the only pathway I see forward. I am going to continue on that path and see where it leads. It took a lot of people helping and believing in me to get this far. It didn’t start out that way. I deeply appreciate the people that helped me along the way. Wherever this path goes, I hope it is fruitful for both myself and for those that helped.
Annenberg Media: How is the coronavirus social distancing affecting you and do you have any recommendations?
MacKenzie: As I said, isolation can be a very powerful thing. I know a lot of people are stuck inside right now, for much longer than they are used to. A lot of movies are not getting made. People are scared and they are experiencing their own moments of darkness. But some of the most creative years of my life began with isolation and darkness like this. It wouldn’t surprise me if the solitude of this pandemic inspires and gives birth to a lovely period of filmmaking in its wake, the likes of which the world has perhaps never seen. I really hope to be a part of that movement and I think we will all feel fortunate when we see it happen.
Featured image shows J. Lee and Isabela Penagos—USC arts students.
Army veteran Jason Kander is running for the US Senate to unseat Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and he just dropped an incredibly effective ad pushing back on criticism of his gun rights positions.
He assembles an AR-15 blindfolded while simultaneously talking about his time serving as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. “I approve this message, because I would like to see Sen. Blunt do this,” he says, holding up the finished rifle, in what is the political equivalent of a mic drop.
Last week, the National Rifle Association released an ad that criticized “liberal Jason Kander” for a 2009 vote against the defensive use of guns. The spot criticized the Democrat as being weak on Second Amendment rights.
In response, Kander is seen blindfolded in a new ad released Wednesday, pushing back on that view.
“Sen. Blunt has been attacking me on guns. In Afghanistan, I volunteered to be an extra gun in a convoy of unarmored SUVs,” Kander says. “And in the state legislature, I supported Second Amendment rights. I also believe in background checks so that terrorists can’t get their hands on one of these.”
Brandon Friedman, a former Army officer and CEO of public relations firm McPherson Square Group, told Business Insider the spot was “a masterpiece.”
Still, Kander has an uphill battle in the race. His opponent Roy Blunt scored the endorsement of the influential NRA in April, and he currently leads the challenger by three points, according to the RealClearPolitics average of Missouri’s US senate race.
The 36 page indictment outlines a massive scheme to defraud the government through a series of kickbacks, money laundering, and medical malpractice.
The feds allege the conspiracy began in 2014 when Richard Cesario and John Cooper founded CCMGRX, LLC (later renamed CMGRX). The premise of the company was to market compounded prescriptions to service members, retirees, and their dependents, documents show.
Compound prescriptions are drugs which are mixed in an effort to provide a unique prescription that meets the specific needs of the patient. They are not approved by the FDA, but may be prescribed when a patient is unable to have a specific ingredient in a drug, or the drug is not available in a specific form, such as prescriptions for children who can’t swallow a pill and must have a liquid version of the medication.
Cesario and Cooper enlisted the help of three marketers, Joe Straw, Luis Rios, and Michael Kiselak, to recruit pharmacies and patients, the indictment shows.
The patients allegedly were oblivious to the scam, instead being told that they were taking part in a medical study being done by an independent non-profit organization, the Freedom From Pain Foundation. The company was operated by Cesario and Cooper, who used the company to launder the money they received from TRICARE, Justice says.
Money was allegedly paid to five different pharmacy owners and two doctors.
After paying beneficiaries for participating in the study, kickbacks were allegedly sent in the form of checks to the doctors, pharmacy owners, and marketers. The rest was pocketed by Cesario and Cooper, the feds say.
More than 30 separate counts were filed against the men, including conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.
The indictment also outlines some of the punishment the men will face should they be found guilty, beginning with a list of properties in Texas, Florida, and Costa Rica that the men will have to turn over to the government.
Additionally, 32 vehicles, including Ferraris; Maseratis; Aston Martins, Corvettes; Mercedes-Benz; Jaguars; Porsches; Hummers; Cadillacs; BMWs and several trucks and SUVs will be seized by the government upon conviction of any single offense.
The indictment goes on to list multiple boats and recreational vehicles, bank accounts in the names of the men and family members, cash, investment accounts, firearms, jewelry, other property, and “working interest” in several oil companies, as well as a “money judgement” that could all be seized by the government in an effort to recoup the over $100 million scammed by the group.
According to the press release regarding the indictment, Cesario and Cooper, who were placed in custody earlier this year, are being held until trial. The other 10 men all made bail until their trial.
Each of the charges against the men is punishable by between 5 and 10 years, and a $250,000 fine.
The FBI and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service helped investigate and breaking up the alleged conspiracy ring.
The boy just left militia life to enroll in the fourth grade and was no threat to the terror group, a spokesman for the Afghan independent human rights commission told the New York Times.
The boy’s uncle is a former Taliban commander who switched sides to support the Afghan government, along with 36 of his followers, one of which was the young boy’s father. His uncle, Mullah Abdul Samad, was appointed commander of the local police militia and soon became the government’s main force fighting the Taliban in the Oruzgan province. The Taliban laid siege to Samad’s district in 2015. Young Wasil Ahmad’s father was killed in that fighting and so Wasil took command of the garrison’s defense.
“He fought like a miracle,” Samad told the New York Times, adding that Wasil had fired rockets from a roof. “He was successfully leading my men on my behalf for 44 days until I recovered.”
In a wide-ranging interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Oracle founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison had a few choice things to say about Google’s newfound disdain for the U.S. military.
“Well I think it’s actually kind of shocking. Here Jeff Bezos and I absolutely agree,” Ellison said, in a rare show of kind words for the competitor that Ellison spends most of his time these days trash-talking.
Bartiromo had asked Ellison about the fight going on in the cloud computing industry over a massive cloud contract from the Department of Defense. The DoD will award the whole contract, worth about billion, to just one company. By all accounts the winner is expected to be Amazon Web Services. Oracle is one a handful of cloud competitors fighting tooth and nail to grab a portion of the contract away from AWS.
“I think U.S. tech companies who say we will not support the U.S. Military, we will not work on any technology that helps our military, but yet goes into China and facilitates the Chinese government surveilling their people is pretty shocking,” he said.
To be fair, numerous Google employees are also protesting the company’s plans to return to China, just as they protested the military work. So the situation is more about whether Google yields to employee protests about China rather than a double-standard in the company’s business ambitions. If Google’s management had its way, it would presumably be doing business with both the military and China.
Bezos has also spoken out against Google’s policies.”If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Bezos told Wired in October 2018.
Bezos doubled down by donating million to With Honor, a political action committee fund trying to get more veterans elected to Congress.
Ellison also told Bartiromo, “I think it’s very important that U.S. technology companies support our country, our government. We are a democracy. If we don’t like our leaders, we can throw them out. If you don’t like the leaders in China, you can … fill in the blank.”
He went on to say he views China as a big threat to the U.S. these days.
“I think our big competitor is China, and that if we let China’s economy pass us up — if we let China produce more engineers than we do, if we let China’s technology companies beat our technology companies, it won’t be long that our military is behind technologically also,” he warned.
Here’s a segment of the interview where he discusses China.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marine Corps and Raytheon are developing a new precision-guided 120mm explosive mortar round so that forward deployed forces can more effectively target and destroy enemies from farther distances than existing mortars.
The weapon is designed to shoot up into the air in a vertical trajectory before identifying, tracking and exploding and enemy target upon decent to the ground. The vertical landing allows the weapon to achieve great precision, Raytheon officials said.
Called the Precision Extended Range Munition, or PERM, the program is test firing a GPS-guided mortar round able to extend the range of today’s mortar weapons from about seven kilometers to about 16 kilometers, Paul Daniels, Raytheon Program Manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“This doubles their range and gives them precision,” Daniels added.
The extended range could provide a key tactical advantage because 16 kilometers stand-off distance from the enemy could enable Marines to destroy enemy positions without themselves being vulnerable to incoming fire.
Raytheon was recently awarded a qualification and production contract by the Marine Corps, which plans to use the new weapon as part of its emerging Expeditionary Fire Support System, or EFSS.
This system is put together to allow forward-deployed Marines to quickly maneuver into enemy territory with precision firepower and mobility. EFSS can deploy on board an MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter or travel from ship-to-shore as part of an amphibious operation, among other things. The new weapon will serve as part of the Corps’ fires triad which includes 155mm artillery rounds, 120mm mortars and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems, or MLRS.
PERM can fill what’s called a needed “capability gap,” because there may be some targets that are not suitable for larger 155mm artillery rounds and are better attacked by 120mm mortars.
Precision mortar fire could bring tactical advantages for Marines in combat, particularly in condensed urban areas or mountainous terrain where elevation might separate attacking forces from the enemy.
“Mortars are particularly useful. They have a very high angle and rate of fire. They can fire almost straight up,” Daniels said.
For instance, the precision targeting technology integrated into PERM could allow forces to attack enemy positions in urban areas without risking damage to nearby civilians; this kind of attack would not be possible with today’s unguided 120mm mortar rounds.
“It will be ready within a couple of years,” Daniels said.
We first meet the brave Delta Force operator as he’s undercover, lurking around the city of Mogadishu with his eyes fixed on potential targets, gathering info. That’s a pretty badass thing to do and take a lot of balls in our opinion.
The only backstory we get from the film is that Hoot uses his trigger finger as his safety.
Maybe that’s all we need.
3. There would have been more aerial target practice
Remember when that Black Hawk helicopter picked up Hoot in the middle of the desert and then he shot that wild pig looking thing off-screen? That was awesome!
Well, we bet that if Hoot were the star, that scene would have been a set up for a dope aerial-to-ground shootout with the Somali militia — just sayin’.
2. He’s the most interesting character in the film
We understand that film is based on the real raids that took place, but take a step back from that, and we bet everyone can agree that we all felt like Hoot was always cool and calm even though the troops faced an uncertain future.
Shout out to the cast and crew for making this character so compelling.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced a temporary cease-fire with the Taliban for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that caps off the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, though it was not immediately clear whether the militants had agreed.
The truce will last from June 12 until around June 20, 2018, Ghani said in a video message on June 7, 2018, as deadly militant attacks across Afghanistan showed no sign of easing during Ramadan.
Ghani said that Afghanistan’s security forces will “stop offensives” against Afghan Taliban militants but will continue to target the extremist group Islamic State (IS), Al-Qaeda, and “other international terrorist groups” and their affiliates.
The cease-fire is “an opportunity for Taliban to introspect that their violent campaign is not wining [sic] them hearts and minds but further alienating the Afghan people from their cause,” the president wrote on Twitter.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed declined to comment to RFE/RL on the matter.
Senior security officials said the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, a militant group affiliated to the Taliban, was also included in the unilateral cease-fire.
The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said that foreign forces will also honor the cease-fire.
“We will adhere to the wishes of Afghanistan for the country to enjoy a peaceful end to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and support the search for an end to the conflict,” General John Nicholson said in a statement.
Ghani’s announcement comes days after the country’s top religious body issued a religious order, or fatwa, declaring suicide attacks forbidden, or “haram,” under the principles of Islam.
Meeting in Kabul on June 4, 2018, the Afghan Ulema Council also appealed on both Afghan government forces and the Taliban and other militants to agree on a cease-fire, and called for peace negotiations between the sides.
A suicide bombing outside the gathering, attended by around 2,000 Muslim clerics, scholars, and figures of authority in religion and law from across Afghanistan, killed at least seven people, including several clerics.
A local affiliate of IS claimed responsibility.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan welcomed Ghani’s announcement, saying on Twitter that “there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.”
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on the Taliban to join the cease-fire, saying that the militant group “will not win on the battlefield.”
“The only way for them to achieve a solution is to sit down at the negotiating table,” he told reporters.
The U.S. State Department said that “the Afghan government’s offer of a temporary cease-fire underscores its commitment to peace as both a national and religious responsibility.”
It said it will allow the Afghan people to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday without fear of violence.
However, a former Afghan army general, Atiqullah Amarkhel, expressed concerns that the cease-fire would give the Taliban a chance to regroup.
“From a military prospect, it is not a good move,” he told Reuters.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.
The Taliban has stepped up its attacks against Afghan security forces as well as government officials across the country since the announcement of its spring offensive in April 2018.
In February 2018, Ghani offered to allow the Taliban to establish itself as a political party and said he would work to remove sanctions on the militant group, among other incentives, if it joined the government in peace negotiations.
In return, the militants would have to recognize the Kabul government and respect the rule of law.