American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

The U.S. military says one of its soldiers was wounded when insurgents launched an attack in eastern Afghanistan’s remote Achin district of Nangarhar province.


Capt. Tom Gresback, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, told the Associated Press one U.S. service member was wounded and in stable condition in what he would describe only as “active ground engagement.” He refused to give further details including whether it involved a local militia.

Also Read: Marines and Air Force just iced one of the most wanted Taliban kingpins

In Afghanistan, local militias are often paid by the U.S. and are partnered with them in operations in remote regions.

The Taliban claimed the attack Jan. 11 was carried out by two insurgent disguised as local militiamen. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press the attackers had infiltrated the local force months earlier.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 times they found something on Storage Wars that could’ve been hidden in a barracks

“Storage Wars” has uncovered thousands of odd things in the depths of overdue storage units during their 12 season span: breast enlargement machines, an Elvis Presley collection, and a disturbingly complete “My Little Pony” collection. There have been a couple things stuck in the crannies of a storage unit, that might as well have been found under the bed of some unkempt barracks room. These are seven of those such items…


Storage Wars: Rene and Casey Find a Stripper Pole (Season 5, Episode 5) | A&E

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A stripper pole

It’s definitely odd that this was lost in storage and not in the dull lamp-shadeless lighting of some recently divorced 30 something’s bachelor pad. Be honest though—if you found a stripper pole stored in an abandoned unit, or in a barracks occupied by a bunch of single military men—you’d be more surprised to find it in a storage unit.

Storage Wars: New York: Mike’s Nuclear Fallout Locker | A&E

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Gas mask

Perhaps not the strangest find by a Storage Wars team, but this one could easily be misplaced in the messy sprawl of barracks across the U.S. It probably would be a personal use mask, not a military use one. Anyone who has ever sat next to a soldier after they’ve just eaten their 6th straight microwaved pulled pork Hot Pocket knows exactly why someone would have one of these bad boys handy in the barracks.

Storage Wars: Ivy’s World War II-Era Mine Sweeper (Season 9, Episode 9) | A&E

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World War II minesweeper

In a unit down in Lancaster, California, the “Storage Wars” gang unearthed this 0 relic inside a tin Army supply box. So this one could easily be lost in a barracks somewhere of some explosive ordnance expert’s bed. You might be thinking to yourself, “why would a modern soldier be holding onto something that was still being used in 1943?” And to that question, the answer is: because it’s the military and it’s probably still currently issued.

Storage Wars: Mary’s Vintage Camel Saddles (Season 8, Episode 13) | A&E

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Camel saddles

In yet another abstract find in Southern California, “Storage Wars” heartthrob Mary stumbled upon a saddle meant for a two-humped camel. I have personally witnessed a particularly wild Marine try to “ride” a wild deer on a hunting trip. The idea that that same man would have a saddle specifically intended for tossing on a wild camel in the middle east in hopes of domesticating the beast—does not sound off base to me.

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Storage Hunters (USA) Brandon & loris snakes in an storage bin

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Fully alive snakes

​There is an episode of Storage Wars where they uncovered a bunch of ​living​ albino pythons. Buteveryone knows youcannot have pets in the barracks. Everyone also knows the drinking age is technically 21. It would be very reasonable to imagine how these rules might be bent. Maybe a soldier takes a sip of a beer. Seems reasonable enough. Maybe a soldier keeps 8 fully grown albino pythons in a tank so that he could throw rats in it then sit around the tank with 4 or 5 buddies and scream and cheer as the pythons educate the rats on the hierarchyof the food chain.

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

Snake skeletons

This find came on the heels of a massive 100 unit auction in (you guessed it) Southern California. The lucky buyer was more than surprised to find a display case featuring a perfectly laid out snake skeleton. Now, you may find this in a barracks, but only as an inevitable result of the previous “item” on the list.

Finders Keepers (2015) – Foot in a Grill Scene (2/10) | Movieclips

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A forgotten limb

Okay so this one is from a documentary called “Finders Keepers” but it was simply too good to pass up. In the movie, a man named Shannon Whisnaut purchased what he thought was a run of the mill storage unit, waiting to be flipped. When he opened the vault, he happened upon a standard barbecue. When he opened the top he discovered someone had some foil-wrapped leftovers on the grill. He removed the foil to unveil—a human leg. He reported the leg to police. The previous owner John Wood, was tracked down, and he immediately copped to knowing about the leg. In quite possibly the most “oorah” twist of the list, he had lost the leg in a 2004 plane crash and opted to keep the severed limb so that it could be buried with him—only to forget where he put it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US residents reportedly detained in Chinese prison camp

Multiple US residents are reportedly detained in China’s prison-like detention camps for Muslims, where inmates have to pledge allegiance to President Xi Jinping in exchange for meals.

“A few” American residents or citizens are being detained in those camps, CNN cited unnamed State Department sources as saying.

It comes after Sam Brownback, the US’s Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, told reporters on March 28, 2019, that a man in California had emailed him to say that his 75-year-old father, who has legal residency in the US, had disappeared after traveling to Xinjiang, a region on China’s western frontier.


China is waging an unprecedented crackdown on the Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority who mainly live in Xinjiang.

Beijing is accused of detaining at least 1 million Uighurs in prison-like centers, where inmates are required to memorize Chinese Communist Party doctrines and shout patriotic phrases like “Long live Xi Jinping!” to receive small amounts of rice for meals, according to recent testimonies reported by The Telegraph.

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

China is waging an unprecedented crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Those who refuse to do so are reportedly electrocuted with a cattle prod, The Telegraph reported. Past detainees have also described being shackled to a chair, strung up, deprived of sleep, and being psychologically tortured.

China refers to these camps as “boarding schools” and “free vocational training” as part of its counterterror measures. Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on March 29, 2019, “the overall situation is stable” in Xinjiang, according to CNN.

Geng added in response to Brownback’s comments that Beijing “is firmly opposed to the US attempt to use the Xinjiang issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Referring to the unnamed California man who emailed him, Brownback said: “He’s not been able to reach him [his father] for months … doesn’t know whether — where he is and whether he’s still alive.” He added that this account has not yet been verified.

“This gentleman that I just was reading the email about has legal status in the United States,” he added. “He’s not a U.S. citizen, but he had legal status being here, traveled back to Xinjiang after being here with his son in California, and then has not been heard from since.”

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.

Brownback added that this man is “an intellectual” and has “a number of chronic illnesses,” and that it’s not clear whether he is receiving any treatment. Scholars and activists have warned of Beijing’s efforts to eradicate Uighur culture.

Residents of other countries, including Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Australia, have also been swept up in the crackdown.

Many Uighurs in Xinjiang have actively cut off communications with relatives living abroad for fear of China’s retribution. Talking to people outside China — regardless of the content of the conversation — can get Uighurs arrested and imprisoned.

Relatives of Uighurs in Xinjiang have previously told Business Insider of their anguish at being blocked by their families on social media and messaging apps.

The US government has repeatedly criticized China over the Xinjiang crackdown, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting with several Uighurs and describing Beijing’s actions as a sort of “shameful hypocrisy” late March 2019.

Democratic and Republican members of Congress have for months called on the Trump administration to punish Beijing for its actions towards Uighurs in the form of sanctions against those involved. The White House has yet to respond to those requests.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

Veterans will continue to see improvements in VA services, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said at “State of the VA” speech Feb. 5 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


These improvements for Veterans include increased innovation—including the VA’s first 5G hospital—along with decreased wait times for appointments and better overall care.

Increased innovation

The secretary pointed to several programs designed to provide better Veteran care.

The VA hospital in Palo Alto, California, is about to become one of the first 5G enabled health facilities in the world, with portions becoming operational this week. The secretary said will deliver is richer, more detailed three-dimensional images of patients’ anatomy. He added the resolution is so clear and consistent that it will give VA a reliable means of delivering telesurgery services to Veterans.

“That means we will have the capacity to allow VA’s best physicians to consult during surgery even if they’re not in the same room and are halfway across the country,” he said.

Wilkie also pointed to VA’s work on exoskeletons, which do the work patients can’t do on their own. The VA currently has a pilot program to develop exoskeletons that stimulate the spinal cord.

“Instead of the exoskeleton moving the patient around, the patient can increasingly control the exoskeleton as their own muscles are reactivated,” he said. With further research at VA, we are hoping to turn the exoskeleton from a mobility device into something that trains injured people to walk again under their own power.”

Other innovation

The secretary also pointed to a VA partnership to help Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and pain management.

The partnership is with the University of Southern California, a non-profit called Soldier Strong, and AppliedVR. Veterans with PTSD use virtual reality relive and reimagine traumatic events in a controlled setting, under the care of a clinician. The program gives Veterans a chance to process these emotions, which can be an effective treatment for PTSD. He said virtual reality can also help block pain signals from reaching the brain, and thus is a drug-free supplement to traditional pain therapies.

Veterans also see improved care through innovations such as telehealth, a new technology to identify potential diabetic foot ulcers and the precision oncology program. All these innovations help increase Veteran care, he said.

The secretary said this innovation carries on VA’s previous innovation, which includes inventing the cardiac pacemaker, inventing the nicotine patch, performing the first liver transplant and introducing a powered ankle-foot prosthesis. He said all these innovations have a direct impact on Veterans’ well being.

Better Veteran care

Veteran wait time is shorter at VA than compared to private sector. This decreased wait time is for primary care and two of three specialty areas. Wilkie said that’s coupled with a record-high 59.9 million Veteran visits in fiscal year 2019. That’s 1.7 million more appointments for Veterans than ever before. He added 90 percent of Veterans surveyed trust the care they get at VA.

When Wilkie took over, only 25% women vets were enrolled in VA care. Now, he said 41% receive VA care.

Overall Veteran care is improving, Wilkie said. He said VA will implement a provision of the MISSION Act in 2020. This will extend Caregiver benefits to Veterans who served before 1975.

Veterans also receive better mental health care, Wilkie said. This includes same-day mental health care and a universal screening process to identify Veterans who may be at risk. Since late 2018, VA screened more than 4 million Veterans. He said the Veterans Crisis Line is taking more than 1,700 calls each day, and VA takes emergency action on about 100 of those calls.

“I believe that Veterans can show the country the way on how to deal with this terrible problem,” Wilkie said.

Different approaches

Wilkie said the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, task force is weeks away from releasing recommendations. The task force will include a community integration and collaboration proposal, a national research strategy and an implementation strategy. Wilkie said he will recommend that VA opens up financial support. This includes charities, local governments and non-governmental organizations to help Veterans.

Overall, the MISSION Act gives Veterans choice, Wilkie said. In the first six months, VA approved nearly 2.8 million referrals to private sector care for 1.5 million Veterans. Wilkie said just like the MISSION Act rollout, he expects the upcoming Electronic Health Records Modernization will improve Veteran care.

Veterans also see changes in how VA uses Whole Health, setting a standard for care. Wilkie said programs like yoga, aqua therapy, music therapy and art therapy were unheard of decades ago. Now, he said VA uses a Whole Health approach to develop a personalized health plan.

Wilkie also addressed Veterans stationed at Karshi-Khanabad base in Uzbekistan, better known as K2. U.S. forces occupied the old Soviet base shortly after 9/11. Wilkie had candid advice for any Veteran who served there.

“I want all Veterans who have been there and who feel they need to see us to come forward,” he said. He added all Veterans should seek out VA to use the benefits they’ve earned.

“Come see us. File the claims. Come speak to us. This is not your grandfather’s VA where the paperwork is going to take 10 years.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US-Taliban peace talks end with ‘real strides made’ but no deal

The longest round of peace talks between the United States and the Taliban has ended with “real strides” being made but without an agreement on troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said on March 12, 2019.

“The conditions for peace have improved. It’s clear all sides want to end the war. Despite ups and downs, we kept things on track and made real strides,” Khalilzad said on Twitter, adding that another round is possible later this month after the 16 days of negotiations in Qatar’s capital, Doha.


But Khalilzad said “there is no final agreement until everything is agreed.”

U.S. and Taliban negotiators have been attempting to hammer out the details of the framework agreement reached in January 2019.

The main disagreements are over four interconnected issues, including the Taliban breaking off ties with groups designated as terrorists by Washington; the timetable of a U.S. military withdrawal; a cease-fire in Afghanistan; and an intra-Afghan dialogue that would include the Taliban and government representatives.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said negotiators made “meaningful progress” during the talks.

The spokesman said the Taliban agreed that peace will require agreement on counterterrorism assurances, troop withdrawal, and a cease-fire.

“Progress was achieved regarding both these issues,” said a Taliban spokesman, referring to the U.S. troop withdrawal and assurances that foreign militants would not use Afghanistan’s territory to stage future terrorist attacks.

Neither side mentioned any progress made on reversing the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with the government in Kabul. The militant group says the Western-backed government is a U.S. “puppet” that must be toppled.

Afghan Chief Executive: Foreign Troops Still Needed ‘Until War Over’

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The Afghan government has been angered and frustrated at being sidelined at the peace talks.

Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told RFE/RL that he was skeptical of the Taliban’s motives and urged Washington to keep troops in the country until a formal settlement that includes the Kabul has been signed with the militants.

Abdullah also said Afghans were “concerned” that the Kabul government has been sidelined from the talks in Qatar but insisted it had not caused a rift with Washington.

“Unless the Afghan government has direct negotiations with the Taliban, Afghan people have the right to be concerned,” Abdullah, who is the de facto prime minister in the national unity government, said in an interview in Kabul on March 12, 2019.

“The Taliban wants to use these peace talks for political and propaganda purposes instead of using this as a step towards peace,” he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump wants to pull out the roughly 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan and has tasked U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad with reaching a settlement with the militants.

During a round of talks in Doha in January 2019, U.S. and Taliban negotiators reached the basic framework of a potential peace deal in which the militants would prevent international terrorist groups from basing themselves in Afghanistan in exchange of a withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan.

But Abdullah urged Washington to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan until a comprehensive peace settlement is reached between the United States, the Taliban, and Kabul.

“The Taliban wants foreign troops to leave Afghanistan,” he said. “It’s also the demand of the Afghan people. But our opinion, and that of the Afghan people, is that until the war is over and peace is restored, there is a need for the presence of these troops.”

U.S. and other foreign troops have been in Afghanistan since an October 2001 invasion that brought down the Taliban government after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Osama bin Laden, who launched the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Vet goes from sailor to singer/songwriter

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack


Logan Vath left the Navy in 2012 to be pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. Crowdfunding his first album, Logan started to find success, playing wherever he could, building relationships in the music industry, and keeping up with old friends.

Vath has a unique take on his experience thus far: “I visited a recruiter’s office, and, what happened to me usually happens to most people who visit a recruiter’s office — I joined the Navy,” Vath laughed. “On my 2nd deployment, on the USS Monterey, I was actually performing weekly when the ship would pull in. We were doing ‘Show Your Colors’ tours on the boat and the Captain, Captain Jim Kilby, had me playing in the corner, in my dress uniform during receptions. I was lucky, everyone I’ve ever encountered in the military was always really supportive of my music. I think they all knew that this was what I was going to do at some point, or try to do at the very least.”

He says that what he learned in the Navy wasn’t always directly related to the skill set he maintained in order to perform his duties. “Playing to a crowd of people can teach you a lot about how to win over an audience if the subject matter isn’t something that is totally interesting to them,” he said. “Still to this day I use a lot of humor in shows in between songs just to keep people involved — to let them know that I’m not that sad of a person actually. The music can be, but I think performing on the ships is something that helped build my style.”

As he frequently laid topside, looking up at the stars, Vath admits that his lyrics frequently reference his own experience.  “I think lyrically, things still sneak in from being out there and spending so many nights staring at the stars,” he said. “I think it’s extremely easy to romanticize the ocean and even songwriters that weren’t in the Navy do it frequently. I’ve never written specifically about things that have happened, but I would say there are definitely some themes from my experience.”

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

However, not every part of his career was a cakewalk. At one point, Vath let on that the ship he was stationed on, the USS Nassau, suffered from a fuel leak and simultaneous air-conditioning snafu off the coast of Africa. “I lived off of powered milk and Red Bull for a while even though they said the water was good,” Vath recounted. “Something in my body would not allow me to drink water that tasted like fuel for some reason, I don’t know why [laughing]. But that lasted a while; that was horrible. I just remember so many horrible, horrible sweaty nights in those racks with no A/C, just in a giant, baking tin-cup.”

Setting out to get out of Nebraska and make his own way, Vath remembers the day he chose what he would do in the Navy. “When I was at the recruiter, they gave me four jobs,” he said. “What prompted my choice of AG, (Aerographer’s Mate), was the recruiter saying, ‘This never comes up; you gotta do this job. You’ll love it.’ So, I signed up and said I’d do it — and he was correct. We had such a small community. The beautiful thing about being an AG, was that when you went out to a boat, nobody really knew what you did, so you can fly under the radar often. You have a lot of things that you have to take care of, but it’s a very isolated, quiet job.”

Vath says the turning point in his life started in boot camp. “The most important part was being cut off from everything,” he said. “That shaped me for so much about life. I always think about that, the most scared I ever was, was surrendering that cell phone after the first call because I had gone from a life of complete connection to nothing. I didn’t have anybody, I didn’t know anybody yet. And I think that that’s really good for people to be put in those situations because so many people aren’t. It’s terrifying to be a situation with no way out. You learn a lot about yourself in that.”

Admitting that maybe his expectations weren’t completely accurate when imagining who he would be as a result of his service, Vath says he thought the Navy was going to be a cure-all. “I thought I was going to become cleaner, faster, more efficient and abandon all my old habits,” he admitted. “That didn’t really happen. What I liked about the Navy, and everyone says you get what you put into it, and that’s so true. If you do it correctly, the Navy allows you to take whatever personality traits you have that are strong and utilize them in a lot of different ways.”

He discovered not only himself, but a new perspective on the world around him as he experience what life in the Navy entails. Says Vath, “I think everything I thought I would get out of the military, I got. It taught me that things can be a lot worse sometimes, things can be a lot better, you don’t always get to do what you want, sometimes you just have to do things that are completely against the way you would do them just because it’s just the way it is. Which I think is a really good skill to have and that people don’t often have it. I anticipated it would make me a harder worker — it did. I anticipated it would make me not take home or family for granted — it did, which is huge for me. I anticipated I would make great friends and see the world — I did. And I anticipated that after four years, I would come out a more rounded individual with better critical thinking and life experience and I did. I am in debt to it for that, as an organization because it gave me a lot of opportunities.”

Reminiscing on his first experiences, Vath admits that the part of his service that he misses the most is the ‘firsts’ of everything. “When you hop on your first boat, I remember that feeling of just being overwhelmed; going out to sea for the first time,” he said. “And there’s so many things you get to do like that in the Navy such as the first time you take off from a flight deck. You’ll never get that first feeling back, and so many first feelings that you’re given the opportunity to feel. I miss that a lot. I have goosebumps right now, thinking about coming home on the USS Nassau for the first time and playing ‘City of New Orleans’ by Arlo Guthrie while coming in, getting ready to dock.” He began signing,”‘Good Morning America, How are you?‘” He paused for a moment and took a deep breath, Beautiful song — I’ll always associate that song with that feeling. And you can never get that back.”

Once known for a satirical song entitled ‘The Fraternization Song’, Logan chose to remove the tune from the public eye after receiving a lot of publicity for the song’s comedic twist on enlisted-officer relationships in the Navy. Says Vath, “It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. I was playing a show in Charlottesville, VA and there was a big media writeup in Charlottesville and a lot of it focused on the song. I didn’t want to use the military as a novelty. I’m happy to be a veteran and I had such a good time in the Navy, it was nothing but good to me. I have nothing but good things to day about it and I didn’t want to use that in the music. Any fans I gained, I wanted to gain organically. I wanted to earn their respect instead of them listening to be because I was a sailor.”

Logan has recently been working with a record label in Brooklyn, NY to record his next album. Vath declines to pigeonhole his music into a genre, choosing instead to focus on its substance. “I sing about personal experience but not in a storytelling way,” he said. “It’s more drawing parallels of everyday things and trying to view them differently. Putting myself in a genre is hard. People who do what I do usually say Indie Folk, but I’m not sure that that’s where I am.” He takes a sip of his beer and looks up, “Being able to hold a room of 50 people for an hour to an hour and a half and they are genuinely interested in what you’re saying is an incredible feeling. Of course the next time you’re in town, hopefully that number is 75, and eventually you’re moving into a venue that can fit 100. It’s a cool progression to watch. The trend is, for me, that if there is good music, people are going to listen to it; regardless of genre. Good music is good music.”

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack
Brittany Slay is the Editor of American Veteran Magazine and a US Navy veteran, completing a 9 month deployment to Bahrain in 2014. She’s a fan of dark humor and enjoys writing, visiting breweries, and meeting people.

 

 

For more information on Logan Vath, please visit loganvath.bandcamp.com.

And check out American Veteran Magazine at amvets.magloft.com.

Now: This Army veteran uses powerful images to show the realities of war

MIGHTY TRENDING

US diplomats in China suffer strange sudden brain injuries

No one knows exactly what caused 24 US diplomats and their families in Cuba to fall ill and in many cases show signs of brain injuries after they reported hearing strange noises.

But whatever is causing these mysterious illnesses, it seems to now be happening in China too.

On May 23, 2018, the US State Department announced that one embassy worker in Guangzhou experienced “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” before being diagnosed with symptoms similar to those found in the diplomatic personnel that were in Cuba, including mild traumatic brain injury.


The New York Times reported June 6, 2018, that at least two more Americans in Guangzhou have experienced similar phenomena and also fallen ill. One of those embassy workers told the Times that he and his wife had heard mysterious sounds and experienced strange headaches and sleeplessness while in their apartment.

After the evacuation of the first diplomatic employee from Guangzhou was announced, the State Department issued a health alert via the US Consulate in Guangzhou telling people that “if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.”

On June 5, 2018, the office of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the establishment of a task force meant to respond to these mysterious incidents, which some have called “sonic attacks.”

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack
Mike Pompeo
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“U.S. government personnel and family members at affected locations have been directed to alert their mission’s medical unit if they note new onset of symptoms that may have begun in association with experiencing unidentified auditory sensations,” the State Department announcement said. “Reported symptoms have included dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints and hearing loss, and difficulty sleeping.”

A mysterious problem that began in Cuba

The saga began in late 2016, when American diplomatic staff (and some Canadians) that had been in Cuba began to report odd physical and mental symptoms. Some individuals could no longer remember words, while others had hearing loss, speech problems, balance issues, nervous-system damage, headaches, ringing in the ears, and nausea.

Some even showed signs of brain swelling or concussions — mild traumatic brain injuries.

A study of those victims suggested a disconcerting possibility: some unknown force projected in the direction of the patients could have somehow injured their brains.

“The unique circumstances of these patients and the consistency of the clinical manifestations raised concern for a novel mechanism of a possible acquired brain injury,” the study’s authors wrote.

Many of the victims remembered strange occurrences before the symptoms appeared, though others didn’t hear or feel anything. One diplomat reported hearing a “blaring, grinding noise” that woke him from his bed in a Havana hotel, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reported that some heard a “loud ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas” in short bursts at night, while others said they could walk “in” and “out” of blaring noises that were audible only in certain spots.

The US State Department eventually determined that the incidents were “specific attacks” and moved to cut its Cuban embassy staff by 60%.

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack
The U.S. embassy in Cuba.

The recent State Department announcement said there have been at least 24 victims of these attacks. Of those, 21 were studied by a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair. More than 80% reported hearing a sound that had a “directional” source — it seemed to come from somewhere.

After three months, 81% still had cognitive issues, 71% had balance problems, 86% had vision issues, and about 70% still reported hearing problems and headaches.

The fact that a number of these symptoms could be subjective has raised questions about the possibility that this group of people is suffering from some sort of collective delusion, according to the study authors. But they say that mass delusion is unlikely, since affected individuals were all highly motivated and of a broad age distribution, factors that don’t normally correspond with mass psychogenic illness. Plus, objective tests of ears and eye motion all revealed real clinical abnormalities.

The symptoms seem consistent with some form of mild brain trauma, according to the researchers. But these symptoms persisted far longer than most concussion symptoms do, and were not associated with blunt head trauma.

“These individuals appeared to have sustained injury to widespread brain networks without an associated history of head trauma,” the study authors wrote.

An unknown cause

Despite having identified common symptoms and clinical evidence of some sort of injury, researchers are still at a loss about what happened to these diplomats.

If there is some kind of weapon involved, no one knows what kind it was or who would have used it. The Cuban government denied any connection and investigators hadn’t found a link to Russia, which intelligence analysts have speculated might have the means and motivation to carry out such an attack.

Now that there are cases in China, the mystery is even deeper.

The reported presence of strange audio and of the feeling of changes in air pressure have led to speculation about some kind of sonic or audio-based weapon. But although sonic weapons exist, they’re very visible and easy to avoid, according to Seth Horowitz, a neuroscientist who wrote the book “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. Plus, the specific symptoms make a sonic weapon unlikely.

“There isn’t an acoustic phenomenon in the world that would cause those type of symptoms,” Horowitz said.

He speculated that perhaps some sort of mysterious pathogen or other phenomenon could have caused the symptoms, but the authors of the study on the victims from Cuba reported found no signs of infection (like fever). They determined that it was unlikely a chemical agent caused these effects, since it would have damaged other organs, too.

In an editorial published alongside that study, two doctors wrote that without more information and more data on the patients before they reported feeling ill, they couldn’t definitively figure out what went wrong.

“At this point, a unifying explanation for the symptoms experienced by the US government officials described in this case series remains elusive and the effect of possible exposure to audible phenomena is unclear,” the editorial’s authors wrote. “Going forward, it would be helpful for government employees traveling to Cuba to undergo baseline testing prior to deployment to allow for a more informed interpretation of abnormalities that might later be detected after a potential exposure.”

Now, employees headed to China may have to consider similar testing.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine artist Maximilian Uriarte publishes compelling new graphic novel

Maximilian Uriarte is the renowned creator of the popular Terminal Lance comics and New York Times Best Seller The White Donkey. Uriarte’s new graphic novel, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli, lends a raw and compelling, modern voice to the combat veteran experience. But before he did all of that, he was a Marine.

Artistry and the Marine Corps aren’t words that you typically see put in the same sentence, but Uriarte himself defies any Marine stereotype. “I’ve been an artist my whole life. I was always the kid in school drawing in the back,” he said with a smile. “I joined the Marine Corps infantry to become a better artist. I viewed it as a soul enriching experience.” He’s well aware that most people don’t use those words as a reason to join what is thought of as the toughest branch of service.


When Uriarte joined the Corps in 2006, he was adamant about becoming an infantryman – even though his high ASVAB scores allowed him to pick almost any MOS. But he shared that he wanted to do something that would shape him as a person, making him better. So, with his recruiter shaking his head in bafflement in the background, Uriarte signed on at 19 years old to become a 0351 Assaultman.

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

It was a decision that took his family by complete surprise, especially with the Iraq war in full swing. Raised in Oregon, Uriarte hadn’t been around the military but always knew he wanted to do something to challenge himself — something he was confident the Marine Corps would do. The year after he joined, Uriarte was deployed to the Al Zaidan region of Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines from 2007 to 2008.

Uriarte deployed to Iraq once again in 2009 and this time, had the chance to be a part of Combat Camera. It was here that he really started examining his experiences as a Marine and he began developing the now infamous Terminal Lance comic strip. He launched it in 2010, five months before his enlistment with the Corps was up.

“When I put it out [Terminal Lance] I really thought I was going to get into trouble,” Uriarte said with a laugh. What sparked its creation was being surrounded by positive Marine stories, told in what he describes as an ever-present “oorah” tone. “To me, it seemed not authentic to the experience I had as a Marine Corps infantryman going to Iraq twice. Everyone hated being in Iraq, no one wanted to go there.”

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

The Marines loved Terminal Lance. It wasn’t long before it became a cultural phenomenon throughout the military as a whole and Uriarte became known as a hero among young Marines.

Uriarte shared that he had always wanted to do a web comic and the Marine Corps was definitely an interesting subject matter for him to dissect. “In a way, it was cathartic. The experience isn’t something most humans go through. Doing it helped me move on in a healthy way,” he said. While authoring the comic strip, he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a major in Animation through the California College of the Fine Arts.

In 2013, Uriarte self-published The White Donkey after a successful kickstarter, which raised 0,000 for the book. A few months after its release, it was so successful it was picked up by traditional publishing and went on to become a New York Times Best Seller. The gripping graphic novel pulls back the curtain to expose the raw cost of war, especially for Marines serving in combat.

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

Uriarte knew he wanted to keep going and this time, wanted to take his storytelling a bit further. It was his hope that he could create something focused on the importance of human connection. Through all of this, he created Battle Born.

“It’s a story of a platoon of Marines going to Afghanistan, to fight the Taliban over the gemstone economy…. But it’s really about Sergeant King and his emotional journey,” Uriarte explained. He shared that he really wanted the character to reflect a modern day Conan The Barbarian, who he feels would definitely be a Marine.

“It’s really a meditation on the history of Afghanistan in the shadow of western imperialism, colonialism and looking at the tragic history of Afghanistan,” Uriarte said. “What does it mean to be civilized, is really the central theme of the book.”

Uriarte’s main passion is creating good stories that he himself wanted to see. He had never seen anything like Battle Born before – a Marine infantryman story that was very human grounded. “I truly believe that representation matters. It’s a lens I don’t think we’ve seen a war movie through before – the eyes of a black main character,” he explained.

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

Hollywood agrees: The book is currently in film development to become a live action film.

The biggest piece of advice he hopes to impart on service members getting out of the military is to use their GI Bill and go to school when their enlistment is up. “Just go and figure yourself out. It is a very safe place to decompress,” he explained. “The Marine Corps is very good at making Marines, but it’s bad at unmaking them. It’s a hard thing come back to the world and not be a Marine or in the military anymore.”

The 2018 annual suicide report found that soldiers and Marines took their own lives at a significantly higher rate than the other branches.

Uriarte struggled himself when he got out, but he found that school and writing was therapeutic for him. “When you get out, the thing Marines struggle with the most is, ‘Who am I?’ We always say, ‘Once a Marine always a Marine,’ but I think that is unhealthy,” he said. “People wonder why we have such high veteran suicides and it’s because we turn them into something they aren’t going to be for the rest of their lives.”

When asked what he wants readers to take from his work, Uriarte was quick to answer. “These are really stories of human experiences; passion, love and loss. It’s just showing that people are human and that Marines, especially, are human,” he explained. Uriarte also feels that his latest full-color graphic novel will appeal not just to those who enjoy comics, but to a wide spectrum of readers through a beautiful visual journey.

Uriarte uniquely tackles the difficulty of being a Marine and serving in the military with raw honesty and creativity through all of his work. His newest book, Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli is a deeply compelling compilation of the human experiences that affect us all.

You can purchase Battle Born Lapis: Lazuli and his other work at your local Walmart, Target or online through Amazon by clicking here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time the US and Iran teamed up to fight the Taliban

The days following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States were strange days for many of us. Not only here at home, where the American worldview changed literally overnight, but also in Afghanistan. For obvious reasons.


American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack
We don’t scramble B-52s for just anyone.

What might not be so obvious are the many ways which the United States systematically struck back against al-Qaeda and the Taliban who protected its members in Afghanistan. By now, many have heard of the U.S. Army Special Forces who assisted the Northern Alliance on horseback. The new movie 12 Strong depicts their mission.

Related: The Special Forces who avenged 9/11 on horseback 

But three days after the Green Berets and Northern Alliance leader Abdul Rashid Dostum teamed up for the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif, another joint American-Northern Alliance team was fighting to capture – and keep – the Afghan city of Herat.

Army Rangers and Special Forces teamed up with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards special ops unit, the Pazdaran. The operation was reportedly planned in Tehran between General Tommy Franks and Iranian General and commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Yahya Safavi.

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack
Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Yahya Safavi.

According to reports from the open-source U.S. Foreign Broadcast Information Service, American air power had been conducting air strikes on the city since October 2001, destroying armored columns, tunnel complexes, and other support facilities. The city was ready by the time the joint assault took place.

The Revolutionary Guards moved in first, setting up a forward post for the assault on Herat. They were joined shortly after by U.S. Special Forces, with an army of 5,000 Northern Alliance fighters led by Ismail Khan. The Americans directed air support while the Shia militias led an insurrection in the city.

American Special Forces, Northern Alliance fighters, and Shia militias moved on the city as the populace took arms against the Taliban with anything they could find. Defeated Taliban fighters fled the city within the same day.

The whole operation was overseen in Tehran by agents of the CIA working with Iranian intelligence officers.  Shortly after the city fell, a Northern Alliance spokesperson said it was the first time Khan set foot in the city since it fell to the Taliban in 1995.

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack
The Afghan city of Herat in 2001.

“The people are celebrating on the rooftops of their houses. Car drivers are honking their horns,” according to the spokesperson.

In 2005, an Iranian Presidential candidate alluded to the story via an interview with USA Today’s Barbara Slavin, who was able to confirm some parts of the story, while some sources alluded to further collaboration and denied other parts.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Dunford discusses military deployments to the border

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid out the process for military support to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during a discussion with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy Nov. 5, 2018.

The U.S. military has stepped out smartly to support DHS, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said. There are now 5,200 active-duty personnel helping Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest border.

The chairman spoke of the process solely from a military perspective. The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency have the mission of securing the borders. DHS officials have said that they are worried that caravans of Central American asylum-seekers pushing up from the south may overwhelm CBP personnel. DOD was tasked to provide logistical and medical support.


Capabilities

Homeland Security told DOD in writing what capabilities they needed, Dunford said. DOD officials studied the request and proposed what is being deployed now. This includes logistical support, specifically to harden points of entry.

“There are soldiers on the border putting up concertina wire and reinforcing the points of entry,” the chairman said.

DOD personnel are also helping with movement and providing trucks and helicopters. DOD is also providing some medical support.

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses the U.S. military’s support to Customs and Border Protection with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

“There is no plan for U.S. military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry into the United States,” Dunford said. “There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capabilities.”

The military is following an order from President Donald J. Trump to support the Department of Homeland Security, the chairman said.

Clear guidance

From a military standpoint, he said, he asked a number of questions. The first was, “Do we have unambiguous directions on what the soldiers … have to do?”

The answer is yes, Dunford said, and what’s more, the soldiers understand what is expected of them.

“Number 2: ‘Is this legal?’ And the answer is, yes,” Dunford said. “And three, do they have the capability, the wherewithal to perform the task we’ve asked them to accomplish?”

The service members on the border “know exactly what they are doing, they know why they are doing it and they have the proper training and equipment to do it,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A US airstrike crushed ISIS fighters massing in Syria

U.S. military officials say American airstrikes in Syria on Jan. 21 killed up to 150 Islamic State fighters in a command center in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.


The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State says the strikes were near As Shafah, which is north of Abu Kamal in eastern Syria. They targeted an IS headquarters and were assisted by Syrian Democratic Forces who watched the area before the attack.

Also Read: Mattis says Turkey is fighting in the wrong part of Syria

The coalition says there was a heavy concentration of fighters at the site and they appeared to be “massing for movement.” The large number of fighters killed in the attack underscores U.S. assertions that the Islamic State group continues to be a threat in Syria and hasn’t been defeated.

The coalition says only IS fighters were killed in the strikes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. releases more details about MiG-29s, Su-24s it says were flown to Libya

The U.S. military has provided more details about an alleged Russian deployment of fighter jets to Libya, as officials in Russia continued to deny the presence of Russian military aircraft or personnel in the North African country.

The United States says Moscow deployed the jets to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping a local warlord battle Libya’s internationally recognized government.

The alleged deployment could have a big impact on the war pitting the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar and forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognized by the United Nations.


The conflict has drawn in multiple regional actors, with Russia, France, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates backing Haftar’s command.

Turkey, which deployed troops, drones, and Syrian rebel mercenaries to Libya in January, supports the government in Tripoli, alongside Qatar and Italy.

As Libya continues to be subjected to a UN arms embargo, the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) on May 26 said it assessed Russia had recently deployed military jets to Libya via Syria to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside the LNA. It said the jets were repainted in Syria to remove Russian Federation Air Force markings.

In a tweet on May 27, AFRICOM added that MiG-29 and Su-24 fighters bearing Russian Federation Air Force markings departed Russia “over multiple days in May.”

After the aircraft landed at the Russian military base of Hmeimim in western Syria, the MiG-29s “are repainted and emerge with no national markings.”

AFRICOM wrote in a separate tweet that the jets were flown by “Russian military personnel” and were escorted to Libya by “Russian fighters” based in Syria.

The planes first landed near Tobruk in eastern Libya to refuel, it said, adding: “At least 14 newly unmarked Russian aircraft are then delivered to Al Jufra Air Base” in central Libya, an LNA stronghold.

Meanwhile, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied that new jets had arrived, calling it “media rumors and lies,” according to Reuters.

Viktor Bondarev, the chairman of the Federation Council’s committee on defense and security, dismissed the U.S. claims as “stupidity.”

“If the warplanes are in Libya, they are Soviet, not Russian,” Bondarev said.

Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, said Russia had not sent military personnel to Libya and the Russian upper house of parliament has not received a request to approve such a dispatch.

Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin, has been helping Haftar’s forces. A UN report earlier this month estimated the number of Russian mercenaries at between 800 and 1,200.

The Bondarev and Dzhabarov comments are the latest denials from Moscow that the Russian state is responsible for any deployments.

But U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM, said on May 26: “For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth-generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way.”

Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed popular uprising ousted and killed the country’s longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, in 2011.

Haftar, who controls the eastern part of the country, is seeking to capture the capital, Tripoli, from GNA forces.

But his LNA lost a string of western towns and a key air base in the past two months after Turkey stepped up military support for his rivals.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Tillerson tackled these major issues in his South Asia trip

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tackled several of the world’s most sensitive issues during a whirlwind trip aimed at preventing Afghanistan from falling back into chaos, easing Kurdish-Iraqi tensions that could allow Islamic State to revive, and isolating Iran as much as possible.


Unsurprisingly, Tillerson was welcomed in Afghanistan and India, where President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to foster a growing partnership as part of his recently announced policy for the region. His reception was more muted in Pakistan, which is under increasing pressure to crackdown on extremist groups and eliminate their safehavens.

Those stops on the five-day, six-nation trip epitomized the diplomatic tightrope that Washington faces, along with the risks in dealing with them face to face. Likely mindful that insurgents attacked Kabul’s international airport hours after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited a month ago, the stops in Kabul and Afghanistan lasted just hours, and neither involved an overnight stay.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani went to Bagram Airbase to meet with Tillerson, whose visit was not announced in advance, to discuss how to deal with the Taliban insurgency that has resulted in what US military officials have called a stalemate.

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.

Faiz Mohammad Zaland, an Afghan analyst who attended a number of conferences with Taliban officials abroad, welcomed Tillerson’s proposal for Afghanistan to draw the Taliban into the peace process, as long as the group renounces terrorism and violent extremism.

“We’ve made clear to the Taliban: You will never achieve a military victory,” Tillerson told a news conference Oct. 26. “Do you want your children and grandchildren fighting this same fight?Because that’s the way it’s going to be if you don’t find a different way to go forward.”

Related: This is SecState’s plan to welcome Taliban into Afghan government

Akbar Agha, an ex-Taliban official, told VOA the Taliban want a change in the system of government and insist on a pullout of foreign forces from Afghanistan at a time the US and its allies have been beefing up their presence.

In Islamabad, Tillerson was greeted by a low-level Foreign Ministry official and then taken to meet separately with the civilian government and the military, underscoring the difficulty of putting together a united policy when each side has different priorities. There has been strong speculation for years of ties between Pakistan’s intelligence service and extremist groups, and the military’s primary focus is on tense relations with India.

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson thanks local police officers for their service before departing Islamabad. Photo from US State Department.

And while the US repeatedly has said it feels that having Pakistan play a positive role is key to success in Afghanistan, there are signs that Islamabad is hedging its bets by growing closer to China – which has undertaken mutually beneficial, multi-billion-dollar development projects in the country – and bolstering relations with Russia in case Washington were to cut back on aid.

Former Pakistani Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi said the low-key welcome shouldn’t be seen as a slight, saying then-President Bill Clinton was given similar treatment when he visited in 2000.

“The meetings were important, the welcome was not,” Naqvi said.

Tillerson described his talks in Pakistan as “frank and candid.”

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack
US Secretary of State Tillerson, flanked by his delegation participate in a bilateral meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the Pakistani Government of Representatives at the Prime Minister’s House in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 24, 2017. Photo from US State Department.

“We probably listened 80 percent of the time and we talked 20 percent,” Tillerson said. “We put our expectations forward in no uncertain terms. We’re going to chart our course consistent with what Pakistan not just says they do, but what they actually do.”

The two sides reportedly exchanged lists of terrorists they want apprehended or eliminated, and they are seeking help in pursuing them.

Also Read: Russia, Pakistan join together in first-time anti-terrorism exercises

The reception for Tillerson was much warmer in India, which is clearly happy about the US plan for the country to play an enhanced role in Afghanistan – where it earlier stepped in to provide air transport of Afghan produce and other goods when Pakistan closed border crossings – and the rest of the region.

“He must be very tired, but the good part was that his last stop is a country that is a close friend,” said Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swarah. “It is said visiting a close friend’s place cures you of tiredness. I hope Secretary Tillerson is not feeling tired any more.”

American Soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Prime Minister’s House in New Delhi, India on October 25, 2017. Photo from US State Department.

After wrapping up his first trip to the region, Tillerson said his goal had been to expand on Trump’s new policy and what role is envisioned for each country.

“What we’ve received in the region is enormously positive over the South Asian strategy,” he said. “People have said this is the first time we’ve seen a strategy.”

“I think many have said, yes, we’ve been fighting a war in Afghanistan for 16 years; when we’ve been fighting, it was 16 one-year strategies. There was never anything in mind as to how does this come to an end,” Tillerson said. “We now have to go execute.”

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