Campaigning for Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections kicked off on Sept. 28, 2018, despite a wave of deadly violence across the country and allegations of fraud.
More than 2,500 people, including 418 women, are competing for the 249 seats in Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga.
Banners and posters of the candidates could be seen across the capital Kabul and other cities across the country.
The campaign period is set to finish on Oct. 18, 2018, according to a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan, Mirza Mohammad Haqparast.
The election is scheduled for Oct. 20, 2018.
The rival political parties of President Ashraf Ghani and his Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah are expected to be among the front-runners in the vote.
Most parliamentary deputies are seeking reelection. But hundreds of political first-timers — including the offspring of former warlords and journalists — are also contesting the vote.
Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah.
The election comes amid increased violence by the Taliban and the extremist group Islamic State, which have been staging frequent attacks across the country.
Some 54,000 members of Afghanistan’s security forces will be responsible for protecting polling centers on election day.
More than 2,000 polling centers will be closed for security reasons.
Opposition groups and political parties have demanded biometric machines to be used for transparency and to prevent people from voting more than once.
A deputy to Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that so far more than 4,000 biometric machines out of 22,000 sets have been delivered to Afghanistan.
Maozollah Dolati said more equipment will be delivered in the coming week.
He said the election body will work to deploy the machines in all voting centers.
“Afghanistan’s Election Commission will work for the elections to be held transparently and without any fraud, even if for some reason the machines won’t be transferred to some of the voting centers,” Dolati added.
Ten years after the two countries fought a short but deeply formative war, Russia is quietly seizing more territory on a disputed border with Georgia as it warns NATO against admitting the tiny Eurasian nation as a member state.
Despite warnings from Washington and the fact Georgia is a top US ally, Russia and local allies have been swallowing more and more territory in recent years. The Georgian government and international community have continuously decried this ongoing practice as illegal.
The ongoing, incremental seizure of land has had a detrimental impact on many locals, as the Russia-backed “borderization” has split communities and led some Georgians to literally find their homes in Russian-controlled territory overnight, NBC News reports
Areas around Abhazya and Guney Osetya currently occupied by Russia
Russia occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory
Since 2011, there have been at least 54 instances of “borderizaton” on the border separating South Ossetia and Georgia, according to the Heritage Foundation . The “borderization” process “includes constructing illegal fencing and earthen barriers to separate communities and further divide the Georgian population,” the conservative think tank said in a recent report.
It’s not clear whether this is being directed by Moscow or the pro-Russian government in South Ossetia, but the Kremlin hasn’t done anything to stop it.
Russia has 19 military bases in South Ossetia alone and its activities in the region, on top of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, have continued to raise alarm bells in the West. The Russian military and its allies currently occupy roughly 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory.
The ongoing dispute over these territories has made the normalization of relations between Georgia and Russia impossible.
It’s also a large part of the reason the US has continued to provide Georgia with 0 million in aid every single year, which is also linked to the country’s active role in supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Georgia has sent more troops to Afghanistan per capita than any other US ally.
With Russia to the north, Turkey to the west, and Iran not far to the south, Georgia is at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East. It’s also an important route for oil from the Caspian Sea.
In short, Georgia may not be on the forefront of every American’s mind, but the country is of great geopolitical significance to the US.
A Georgian soldier with the Special Mountain Battalion takes a knee and provides security after exiting a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Feb. 16, 2014, during Georgian Mission Rehearsal Exercise
Georgia’s NATO woes
Prior to the 2008 conflict, Georgia received assurances it would soon join NATO. The war complicated this process, but NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg recently reaffirmed the alliance’s intention to accept Georgia as a member state. Subsequently, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned he would respond aggressively if this occurred.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday echoed Putin and said if NATO admitted Georgia it could trigger a “terrible conflict.”
“This could provoke a terrible conflict. I don’t understand what they are doing this for,” Medvedev told the Russia-based Kommersant newspaper.
The Russian prime minister added that Stoltenberg’s recent reiteration of NATO’s intention to admit Georgia is “an absolutely irresponsible position and a threat to peace.”
‘The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering’
The US government has spoken out against Russia’s activities in the region, but seems reluctant to offer a more forceful response.
“The United States support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering,” Elizabeth Rood, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Tbilisi, told NBC News.
“We strongly support Georgia in calling out Russia and the de facto separatist regimes on human rights abuses in the occupied territories,” Rood added, “and on the continued violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Vice President Mike Pence made similar remarks on a visit to Georgia last year.
“Today, Russia continues to occupy one-fifth of Georgian territory,”Pence said . “So, to be clear — the United States of America strongly condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgia’s soil.”
A decade later, a six-day war is still on Georgia’s mind
The subject of who fired the first shots in the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is a subject of great debate. But the conflict ended in a matter of days after Russian troops pushed past the disputed territories and marched well into Georgia, sparking international condemnation.
The conflict resulted in the deaths of roughly 850 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
The six-day war was largely fought over two disputed territories in the region: South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russia has occupied these territories since the conflict ended, though the vast majority of the international community recognizes them as part of Georgia. The Russian government at one point agreed to remove its troops from the territories, but has not followed through with this pledge.
Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the war. Georgians marked it by taking to the streets in Tbilisi and protesting against Russia’s ongoing occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Iranians on July 23, 2018, shrugged off the possibility that a bellicose exchange of words between President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart could escalate into military conflict, but expressed growing concern America’s stepped-up sanctions could damage their fragile economy.
In his latest salvo, Trump tweeted late on July 22, 2018, that hostile threats from Iran could bring dire consequences.
This was after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani remarked earlier in the day that “America must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”
Trump tweeted: “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKE OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Within hours, Iran’s state-owned news agency IRNA dismissed the tweet, describing it as a “passive reaction” to Rouhani’s remarks.
On Tehran streets, residents took the exchange in stride.
“Both America and Iran have threatened one another in different ways for several years,” shrugged Mohsen Taheri, a 58-year-old publisher.
A headline on a local newspaper quoted Rouhani as saying: “Mr. Trump, do not play with the lion’s tail.”
Prominent Iranian political analyst Seed Leilaz downplayed the war of words, saying it was in his opinion “the storm before the calm.”
Leilaz told The Associated Press he was not “worried about the remarks and tweets,” and that “neither Iran, nor any other country is interested in escalating tensions in the region.”
Citing harsh words the United States and North Korea had exchanged before the high-profile summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Leilaz said Trump and Kim got “closer” despite the warring words.
Trump’s eruption on Twitter came after a week of heavy controversy about Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 election, following the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, the tweet was reverberating across the Mideast.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the U.S. president’s “strong stance” after years in which the Iranian “regime was pampered by world powers.”
In early 2018 Trump pulled the U.S. out of the international deal meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon and ordered increased American sanctions, as well as threatening penalties for companies from other countries that continue to do business with Iran.
With the economic pressure, Trump said in early July 2018 that “at a certain point they’re going to call me and say ‘let’s make a deal,’ and we’ll make a deal.”
Iran has rejected talks with the U.S., and Rouhani has accused the U.S. of stoking an “economic war.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Rouhani also suggested Iran could immediately ramp up its production of uranium in response to U.S. pressure. Potentially that would escalate the very situation the nuclear deal sought to avoid — an Iran with a stockpile of enriched uranium that could lead to making atomic bombs.
Trump’s tweet suggested he has little patience with the trading of hostile messages with Iran, using exceptionally strong language and writing the all-capitalized tweet.
“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!,” he wrote.
Another Tehran resident, Mehdi Naderi, fretted that the U.S. measures and his own government’s policies are damaging the lives of the average Iranian.
“America is threatening the Iranian people with its sanctions and our government is doing the same with its incompetence and mismanagement,” said the self-employed 35-year-old.
Trump has a history of firing off heated tweets that seem to quickly escalate long-standing disputes with leaders of nations at odds with the U.S.
In the case of North Korea, the public war of words cooled quickly and gradually led to the high profile summit and denuclearization talks. There has been little tangible progress in a global push to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons program since the historic Trump-Kim summit on June 12, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Pyongyang for follow-up talks in early July 2018, but the two sides showed conflicting accounts of the talks. North’s Foreign Ministry accused the United States of making “gangster-like” demands for its unilateral disarmament.
Some experts say Kim is using diplomacy as a way to win outside concessions and weaken U.S.-led international sanctions.
Many in Iran have expressed frustration that Trump has seemed willing to engage with North Korea, which has openly boasted of producing nuclear weapons, but not Iran, which signed the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Since Trump pulled out of the deal, other nations involved — Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China as well as the European Union — have reaffirmed their support for the deal and have been working to try and keep Iran on board.
“Iran is angry since Trump responded to Tehran’s engagement diplomacy by pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear deal,” Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh told the AP.
He added, however, the war of words between the two presidents was to be expected, since official diplomatic relations between the two countries have been frozen for decades.
“They express themselves through speeches since diplomatic channels are closed,” said Falahatpisheh who heads the influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy.
On July 22, 2018, in California, Pompeo was strongly critical of Iran, calling its religious leaders “hypocritical holy men” who amassed vast sums of wealth while allowing their people to suffer.
In the speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Pompeo castigated Iran’s political, judicial and military leaders, accusing several by name of participating in widespread corruption. He also said the government has “heartlessly repressed its own people’s human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms.”
He said despite poor treatment by their leaders, “the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government’s many abuses,” Pompeo said.
“And the United States under President Trump will not stay silent either.”
Lester reported from Washington. Associated Press writers David Rising in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, Aron Heller in Jerusalem and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.
The Army is now testing virtual-reality goggles that will allow soldiers to rehearse combat missions that they are about to undertake.
The Integrated Visual Augmentation System, known as IVAS, will be tested by 82nd Airborne Division troops next month at Fort Pickett, Virginia. The IVAS goggles will allow soldiers to see simulated images superimposed over the actual terrain.
The soldiers will wear the goggles and miniature computer equipment as they negotiate obstacle courses, run land navigation and conduct other missions, said officials from Program Executive Office Soldier.
Called Soldier Touchpoint 2, the test is designed to provide feedback to PEO soldier so the IVAS heads-up display can be further enhanced before 200,000 of the headsets begin to be fielded in 2021.
Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the Army’s AI Task Force, discusses how artificial intelligence will modernize the force during a Warriors Corner presentation at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Mr. Gary Sheftick)
IVAS has been touted by senior leaders as a “game-changer” for soldier lethality and a quick win for the modernization priority.
The IVAS headsets are a good example of how artificial intelligence is being used to enhance soldier lethality, said Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the Army’s AI Task Force.
Each pair of IVAS goggles has “significant amounts of high-tech sensors onboard and processors,” Easley said at a Warriors Corner presentation Monday afternoon during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.
Each IVAS headset has integrated AI chips built into the system, he said.
“Those chips are doing visual recognition,” he said. “They’re tracking a soldier’s eye movements, they’re tracking a soldier’s hand as it interfaces with the system, and they’re tracking a soldier’s voice.”
Brig. Gen. Matthew Easley, director of the Army’s AI Task Force, discusses how artificial intelligence will modernize the force during a Warriors Corner presentation at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
The IVAS headset “uses a customized AI piece” to make it work, he said.
AI will be an enabler for all of the Army’s modernization programs over the next decade, Easley said.
“Each one of those systems need AI,” he said, from Future Vertical Lift to Long-Range Precision Fires to the Next Generation Combat Vehicle.
“AI, as you know, is becoming a pervasive part of our society,” he said.
“Every system that you can think of — from self-driverless cars to ride-sharing applications, to restaurant recommendation systems to healthcare systems — they span every area of our society.
“They need to span every battlefield system that we have,” as well, he said, from maneuver to fire control.
The White House on Nov. 4 hit back after former President George H.W. Bush gave his most candid assessment yet of President Donald Trump.
“I don’t like him,” Bush said. His comments were included in a new book by historian Mark Updegrove, called “The Last Republicans,” which focuses on the lives of George H.W. Bush and his son, former President George W. Bush.
“I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a blowhard,” the elder Bush continued. “And I’m not too excited about him being a leader.”
George W. Bush threw in his own two cents as well.
“This guy doesn’t know what it means to be president,” he said.
A White House official told CNN, in response to the Bushes’ comments, “If one presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past two presidents really had.”
“And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history,” the official said.
Trump repeatedly blasted the second Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq during the 2016 primaries, as he was running against George W.’s younger brother, and George H.W.’s son, Jeb.
“I was totally against the Iraq war,” Trump said at a national-security forum at the height of the presidential race. “You can look at Esquire magazine from ’04. You can look at before that.”
But in a 2002 interview during which shock-jock Howard Stern asked Trump if he supported the invasion, Trump replied, “Yeah, I guess so.”
The White House official added on Nov. 4 that Trump “remains focused on keeping his promises to the American people by bringing back jobs, promoting an ‘America First’ foreign policy and standing up for the forgotten men and women of our great country.”
The George H.W. confirmed in the new book that he voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, while George W. says he left his ballot blank.
Large parts of western Uzbekistan and northern Turkmenistan are recovering from a severe salt storm that has damaged agriculture and livestock herds.
The three-day storm hit Uzbekistan’s Karakalpakstan and Khorezm regions, as well as Turkmenistan’s Dashoguz Province, beginning on May 26, 2018.
The salt — lifted from dried-out former parts of the Aral Sea — left a white dust on farmers’ fields and fruit trees that is expected to ruin many crops.
The storm also caused flights at the Urgench airport to be canceled, made driving hazardous, and caused breathing difficulties for many people.
Particularly hard hit by the storm, which reached speeds of more than 20 meters per second, were the Uzbek regions of Khorezm, Navoi, and Bukhara.
Remnants of the storm were also reported as far south as Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Temirbek Bobo, 80, told RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service that it was the first time he had seen such a harsh storm.
“I’ve seen the wind bring sand before, but this was the first time I saw salt. This event can be called a catastrophe,” said Bobo, who lives in the Takhiatash district of Karakalpakstan. “The whole day there was nothing but salt rain [coming down]. The sun was not visible.”
He added: “Nature began to take revenge on us for [what we have done] to the Aral Sea.”
A representative of the Karakalpakstan’s Council of Ministers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the council had not received any instructions regarding the situation, but suggested that the region’s Agricultural Ministry may have.
RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service was unable to reach Karakalpakstan’s Agricultural Ministry for comment.
Salt storms are common in areas near the Aral Sea, but this one carried salt over a much wider area.
Once one of the four largest seas on Earth, intensive irrigation projects set up by the Soviets in the 1960s led to its desiccation.
The runoff from nearby agricultural fields has polluted the remaining parts of the Aral Sea with pesticides and fertilizers, which have crystallized with the salt.
Inhalation of the salt can cause severe throat and lung problems. The salt also can poison farmers’ produce and cause chemical damage to buildings.
Russia says it has received the genome of the coronavirus from China and is working jointly with its neighbor to develop a vaccine against the illness as the number of deaths and confirmed cases continues to jump.
Chinese authorities said on January 29 that there are 5,974 confirmed cases nationwide in the country, from which 132 people have died.
Another 9,239 suspected cases of the respiratory illness are being monitored, the government’s National Health Commission said on January 29.
Dozens of cases have been confirmed outside mainland China as well, including in Europe, North America, the Middle East, and elsewhere in Asia, prompting Russia, which has no confirmed cases, to join the race to stop the illness.
“Russian and Chinese experts have begun developing a vaccine,” the Russian consulate in China’s Guangzhou Province said in a statement on its website.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it believes China is able to contain the coronavirus, but mounting concern over the jump in cases has prompted hundreds of foreign nationals to leave the provincial capital, Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
The total number of confirmed cases now surpasses that of SARS, another respiratory illness that killed more than 600 people worldwide in 2002-2003.
Symptoms of the new kind of coronavirus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Authorities have sealed off access to 17 cities in Hubei Province, where the pathogen is believed to have originated and was first reported in December.
Australia plans to quarantine its 600 returning citizens for two weeks on Christmas Island, some 2,000 kilometers from the mainland.
The personnel chiefs for the Navyand Marine Corps revealed Tuesday that both services are considering updating their policies to require mandatory processing for administrative separation for troops found to have engaged in abusive social media activity, a move that would make online violations akin to drug use and sexual assault.
Lt. Gen. Mark Brilakis, Marine Corps deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, told Military.com that a task force organized to address the aftermath of a social media scandal implicating Marines is considering the option.
The scandal centers on a private Facebook page called Marines United, where hundreds of active-duty troops and reservists apparently viewed and exchanged nude and compromising photos of female service members without their consent. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service probe into the illicit activity has since expanded beyond the page to other groups and users, NCIS officials said last week.
“There is mandatory processing for administrative separation in a number of different cases. Use of drugs requires mandatory administrative processing, sexual harassment requires mandatory administrative processing, sexual assault requires mandatory administrative processing,” Brilakis said, following a congressional hearing on military social media policies on Capitol Hill.
“We are considering whether events wrapped up in Marines United, those things, would rise to the level where the commandant would recommend or direct me to begin mandatory administrative processing for separation,” he said.
Processing does not guarantee that an individual will be separated from the service, but it does direct that the relevant commander begin a review, and an administrative board review the case of the service member in question. Such a move would require a change to the Marine Corps separations manual, Brilakis said.
The Navy, which organized a senior leader working group in the wake of the scandal, is considering a similar step, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke told the House Armed Services subcommittee on personnel Tuesday.
“We are reviewing the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] and Navy policy governing mandatory administrative separation to ensure they are adequate,” he said.
The fact that both services are considering such a move, reserved for violations for which the military has a zero-tolerance policy, underscores how seriously the military is now addressing the problem of social media harassment and the pressure from lawmakers to produce results fast.
Similar policies implemented in the 1980s to combat drug use in the services resulted in a huge reduction. According to Defense Department statistics, 47 percent of troops were found to have used drugs in 1973, compared to just 3 percent by 1995. More recently, the military has worked to apply the same approach to sexual harassment and assault, though the results to date have been more muted.
The policy reviews come as multiple lawmakers express outrage at service members’ alleged behavior and call for decisive action.
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a freshman Democrat from New Hampshire, called on the military to boot offenders, reading aloud from an enlistment document that states troops will be subject to separation if their behavior falls short of military standards.
“I don’t know why we have to debate and you tell them at the very beginning and you sign off saying their behaviors are unacceptable,” she said. “I don’t understand why we have to then pursue many various avenues. Do you still have the power to throw them out if it’s very clear they can’t do this?”
Brilakis, however, emphasized that everyone in uniform deserves due process and will continue to receive it.
“Whether it be through an administrative procedure or a military justice procedure, there are processes,” he said.
With the A-10 Thunderbolt II having narrowly escaped the chopping block and the F-15C Eagle currently awaiting a potentially early end to its service, the Air Force’s bomber fleet is next to face a series of retirements. While the older B-52 Stratofortress is currently safe, the Air Force is currently considering putting the B-1B Lancer and the B-2 Spirit out to pasture earlier than expected with the eventual advent of its next-generation B-21 Raider bomber.
The Air Force’s Global Strike Command, the major command under which its bombers serve, plans on procuring between 80 to 100 of the new bomber, if not more. Earlier plans called for Global Strike Command to phase in the B-21, which would serve alongside the B-1B, the B-2, and the B-52 for years before gradually replacing them altogether.
Now, instead of simply adding the planned complement of B-21s to the existing fleet of B-1Bs, B-2s, and B-52s, the service would instead begin retiring its Lancers and Spirits by the 2030s and supersede them en masse with scores of Raiders.
The B-1B Lancer serves as America’s sole supersonic strategic bomber. A marvel of engineering, the Lancer can comfortably dash at supersonic speeds at low altitudes, making it almost untouchable by enemy air defense systems. While originally designed to fulfill a nuclear strike role during the Cold War, the Lancer has since evolved into a conventional munitions “bomb truck,” serving in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past twenty years in close air support roles.
For all its incredible power and strategic value, however, the Lancer does come with a set of limitations. Its high operating and maintenance costs make retaining it as a long-term active bomber a very expensive and undesirable option. Additionally, it is prohibited, by treaty, from carrying cruise missiles.
Existing in a class of its own, the B-2 Spirit is an aircraft unlike any other. Born of a need to revamp America’s aging Cold War bomber fleet of B-52s with a long-range deep strike aircraft that couldn’t be shot down if sighted. The solution to that last requirement was to build an aircraft that couldn’t be spotted at all — an all-stealth bomber that evades and defeats radar detection.
While the B-2 was highly revolutionary with its flying-wing, all-stealth design, and still remains unmatched today, the Air Force has an undeniably strong rationale behind pushing it towards retirement as well.
The B-2’s operating costs are sky-high, coming in at a whopping $130,159 USD per flight hour. With just a 20-strong fleet of Spirits, this plus the fleet’s unique support structure and incredible maintenance costs combine for a strong case against holding onto the B-2 for more than the next two decades.
The B-52, on the other hand, will soldier on for decades to come due to the fact that it can carry a considerably diverse combat payload, including guided “smart” munitions, and the Long Range Standoff cruise missile. Additionally, the B-52, more popularly known as the “BUFF,” will soon be upgraded with newer fuel-efficient turbofan engines, which will make it even easier to maintain, cheaper to fly in the long term, and improve performance metrics.
While the B-21 and the B-2 will share a passing resemblance with their flying wing architecture, the new bomber is projected to be far more cost-effective, easier to maintain, and highly multi-role, with the ability to perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions as needed. It will also be able to carry the LRSO upon its completion and entry into service.
It should be noted, however, that nothing is set in stone. The Air Force will have to account for this proposed plan to Congress before putting it into effect, and as with the earlier A-10 retirement issues, it’s all too possible that Congress could stand in the way of America’s B-1B and B-2 fleets being sent to the boneyard early.
President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Thursday afternoon.
The ceremony took just under 13 minutes, according to video of the event available at CSPAN.org. Neither the president-elect nor vice-president elect chose to speak at the event.
According to a report by Bloomberg, the ceremony is one of the first of the series of events that will culminate in Trump and Pence taking their oaths of office on the West Front of the Capitol Building on Jan. 20.
A 2013 report by EverythingLubbock.com notes that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took part in a similar ceremony on Jan. 20, a day prior to their second public inauguration, and C-SPAN.org has video of Obama and Biden taking part in a 2009 ceremony prior to taking office on Jan. 18 of that year. The ceremony honors military personnel who have “served and sacrificed” according to EverythingLubbock.com.
The ceremony takes place at the Tomb of the Unknowns. According to the website of Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb was first built to honor an unknown serviceman who fell during World War I. It was dedicated on Armistice Day, 1921 (Nov. 11, now Veterans Day).
In 1958, unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were interred on May 30. On May 28, 1984, the Vietnam Unknown was interred. According to homeofheroes.com, all four Unknowns were awarded the Medal of Honor. An official Army website notes that unknown Belgian, British, French, Italian, and Rumanian soldiers from World War I were also awarded the Medal of Honor.
In 1998, the Vietnam Unknown was exhumed. DNA testing later identified him as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie. CNN reported that Blassie was returned to his family and buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
No matter how well you plan, PCSing is expensive. You’re going to make (at least) 15 trips toTarget to get all the little things you had no way of knowing your new home lacked. You’ll probably be ordering a lot of pizza and eating in restaurants while you wait for your household goods to arrive. And, you’ll be doing all this spending while your family is likely living on just one income. It’s the catch-22 of military spouse life: You can’t afford childcare until you have a job, but how can you search for or accept a job when you can’t afford to pay someone to watch your kids?
Starting this month, soldiers and their families can get extra help with childcare expenses after PCSing from Army Emergency Relief (AER), a non-profit organization that helps soldiers with unplanned financial hardships caused by military service. AER will provide up to 0 per month to qualifying Army families through grants and zero-interest loans to help offset childcare expenses, for up to 90 days following a move.
AER’s assistance goes hand-in-hand with a program all the branches of service have to help families find and pay for childcare. Last year Secretary of the Army Mark Esper (now Secretary of Defense Esper) heard the cries of military families and put together a plan to help families find and pay for childcare. Under Esper’s plan, the Army (and now all the other branches of service, too) pay a subsidy to service members to cover the difference between the cost of childcare in a Child Development Center (CDC) and the cost of a civilian childcare center.
The Army program subsidy, for example, pays up to id=”listicle-2645026519″,500 per child per month. Which, while it may sound like a lot of money, in some areas, for some families, was still not enough. “The childcare piece has always been a struggle for families with young children, especially dual-income families,” said Krista Simpson Anderson, an Army spouse living near Washington, DC, who serves as the Military Spouse Ambassador for AER. “Let’s say your kids are in daycare at the Child Development Center at Ft. Carson, and then you PCS to Ft. Bragg. You don’t automatically get a slot at Bragg. You get put on a waitlist. But you have to have childcare so you can go out and find a new job. The CDCs are usually more affordable than daycares in the community, but you may have to use a community daycare or a babysitter while you wait for a slot at the CDC. This money is intended to help with the difference in cost.”
AER’s CEO, LTG (Ret.) Ray Mason said that even with the Army Fee Assistance program, some families were still experiencing an average of 5 in additional out of pocket expenses for childcare.
AER is funded entirely by donations and distributes grants and loans based on need. So, to get the extra financial assistance, soldiers or their spouses must go to the AER office on their new post and show proof of their income and their monthly expenses.”Individual soldier readiness and spouse employment are top priorities for the Army,” Gen. Mason said. “Providing child care assistance helps soldiers focus on their mission, while also supporting spouses returning quickly to the workforce after they arrive at a new duty station.”
Mina and Jason Burbridge have been married for two years. She’s 47. He’s 48, and they’ve always maintained separate bank accounts. It gives the Boston couple some freedom to act unilaterally. As Mina says, “If he wants to buy something that’s dumb, he can do it. And so can I.”
They also set up a joint account early on in order to pay for big household expenses, although another motivation came right before their October 2015 wedding. Mina’s account was hacked into and had to be frozen for two weeks as the situation was rectified. The incident made them realize the benefit of two things: spreading their money around and having some always be mutually accessible, she says.
But the separate accounts have continued to show their worth. Mina is a psychologist and clinical trainer. Jason works from home, building a business buying and selling baseball cards. It’s all online, much of it on eBay, and having distinct accounts provides another layer of protection, as he could be doing 20 transactions a day, Jason says.
Mina and Jason’s arrangement is not as atypical as it may seem. A Bank of America study found that Millennial couples have separate bank accounts more than twice as much as Generation X and Baby Boomers. At first glance, it could be seen as affirming their independence and pushing back against the idea that marriage has changed much in their lives. But it’s more than that, says Dr. Robyn Landow, a psychologist in New York City.
(Photo by Evan Forester)
Millennials are waiting to tie the knot. A Gallup poll showed that 27 percent of Millennials are married versus 36 percent of Gen Xers and 48 percent of Boomers at comparable ages. Couples often live together for longer and have separate accounts, and, when they do marry, they don’t change the setup. It’s part inertia, part lack of urgency, part, “If it ain’t broke,” Landow says.
Still, while said couples may not see a need, having a joint account carries symbolic and concrete weight. It’s an awareness that there’s now an “ours”, which one day might involve expenses for houses, children and extended family. There’s the above-mentioned minimizing risk and making money available for a worst case scenario. And on a more granular level, a check made out to both people – gift, joint tax return refund – is an easier deposit if both names are on the account, says Brian Haney, financial adviser in Silver Spring, Maryland.
But the type of account in and of itself doesn’t predict or guarantee marital success or failure. Trust, commitment, and love are still the must-haves, says Landow, adding “The truth is if someone wants to hide or withhold money, with enough planning, they could do it.”
Whatever the system, couples first need to understand each other’s financial type. It involves figuring out whether a person believes in enjoying life as it comes, or in being a hardcore saver, always wanting something in the bank in case of emergencies, which Haney says, are not theoretical occurrences but realities. When attitudes are talked about, decisions become less arbitrary. “It makes it easier to know where you’re coming from and easier to find common ground,” he says.
(Flickr / reynermedia)
And if all that’s in place, responsible people can make individual accounts work – it just becomes a matter of assigning out the bills. But the setup loses the macro perspective of building something together. “You’re not roommates,” Haney says. In other words? Being married means sharing all parts of life – one house, one bed – and money is another component.
The joint account takes down barriers, because, especially when using a budgeting tool such as Mint, a couple can see all money coming in and going out. The information may be uncomfortable, but with everything out in the open, problems can be reconciled, plans can be tweaked, and spouses can make more informed decisions based on what they want.
“It reinforces stability in your relationship,” Haney says. “You’re a team, and when you keep things separate, it’s harder to be a team.”
That doesn’t mean individuals accounts don’t have a place, whether it’s for surprise gifts, the occasional indulgence, or something else. They just need to be another joint decision in what they’re going to look like and be used for. And to help get to the decision, Haney says to merely look at the monthly budget. The numbers will provide the answer to what’s needed for shared expenses, and then how much partners can donate to themselves. The approach is more detached, less emotional. “It takes the feelings out,” he says. The big thing is that it’s discussed and transparent to prevent suspicion, surprises and distrust.
“If you know it, you may not like it, but you can deal with it,” Haney says. “But if you don’t know, you automatically don’t like it. The unknown is always uncomfortable. It’s never comfortable.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.