Ticks are some of the dirtiest disease-carrying bugs on Earth. They can carry any number of pathogens, bacterias, and viruses – a single tick bite can infect a human with more than one of those at any given time. The point is ticks don’t need any help to be terrible disease vectors.
But you couldn’t tell that to the U.S. Army, who apparently doesn’t have an off switch.
“… and that’s how I made cancer airborne and contagious. Go Army, beat Navy.”
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to require the Pentagon’s Inspector General to tell the public if the Army weaponized disease-ridden ticks and then released them into the continental United States between 1950 and 1975. The vote came as part of a vote on amendments related to the 2020 defense authorization bill, which was passed the next day.
A very important aspect of the request is finding out if the military released the ticks on purpose or if the release came as an accident. Congress also required the Pentagon to provide the House and Senate Armed Services committees with a detailed report on the scope of the experiment.
How would you vote on this measure?
Ticks can cause Lyme Disease, Typhus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Meningoencephalitis, Hemorrhagic Fevers, paralysis, and even an allergy to meat. The House vote was only to force the Pentagon to acknowledge and deliver a report on whether or not the military released weaponized ticks, despite a ban on such experiments implemented by the Nixon Administration. The vote, however, would not require the Pentagon to reveal what the ticks were carrying, though advocates of the bill are primarily interested in the spread of Lyme Disease, which affects 300,000 to 400,000 new people every year.
The Senate bill did not have the weaponized ticks amendment and it remains to be seen if the reconciled bill bound for the President’s desk will include it.
Check out our list of the worst times to have a negligent discharge:
7. At a funeral detail
Many military funerals have a 21-gun salute waiting fire at a specific time during the ceremony. Interrupting the service by having one of the riflemen accidentally discharge their weapon before they’re supposed to would be less than ideal, to say the least.
Everyone tends to jump a little even when the rifles are fired at the correct time.
6. During a foreign military weapons inspection
We advise and work alongside many foreign countries’ militaries throughout the world. When you’re trying to build and/or maintain relationships, there’s nothing more cancerous than having an ND occur to set everyone on edge.
5. Right before stepping out on a stressful foot patrol
The primary mission of allied foot patrol is to make contact with the opposition. When a trooper accidentally taps the trigger of a weapon that’s no longer on “safe,” some very crappy things can follow.
BANG. *Angry Looks* (Source: Army.mil)
4. While handling business in a porta-sh*tter
Many troops are required to carry loaded sidearms on their hip. Having a negligent discharge while you’re taking care of business can lead to a messy result.
Oh, and you can shoot yourself.
BANG. Just Bang. Any other sounds effects would be disgust– *gag*
3. Inside an up-armored vehicle
Armored vehicles are designed to keep the bad guys’ bullets from entering the cabin. That’s pretty obvious, right?
Having an ND go off inside the vehicle is really bad as the bullet will ricochet until it loses speed. Hopefully, it doesn’t land inside of one your buddies.
2. In the “CoC”
The “Center of Communication” is the artery for directing the troops on the ground. If an ND were to occur inside, that live round could kill a troop or damage some important computerized gear.
On second thought, just clear all your weapon systems before entering.
Afganistan is considered one of the most dangerous battlegrounds in the world. The already intense energy in the area can quickly become deadly in a blink of an eye. A negligent discharge could launch an entire battle — or worse.
Bonus: During Bowe Bergdahl’s trial
Do we really need to explain why this is a super bad time for an ND?
Imagine how long it takes to reprogram millions of years of evolution in the human brain, trying to snuff out the instincts that kept early humans alive. Forcibly changing those instincts to instead train an individual to put themselves in harm’s way. If you ask a Navy SEAL, he’ll tell it takes about about six months, give or take — the amount of time you need to get through BUD/S.
If it ever seemed like SEALs and SEAL veterans just tend to think differently than most other civilians and veterans, then you’re on to something. Their brains have actually been reprogrammed, specifically within the amygdala, to process fear differently from everyone else.
Fear is a primal instinct that kept a lot of early humans from becoming food for dire wolves and cave hyenas. These days, humans have fewer cave hyenas to worry about, but that instinct still keeps us from walking down a dark alley in a tough neighborhood at night. Fear helps us manage risk and book it out of a situation that overwhelms us. The part of the brain that processes fear is the amygdala, which actually processes all emotions.
With fear present, the amygdala alerts the brain stem, which causes you to sweat, causes your heart to race, and initiates your body’s “fight or flight” response. The amygdala’s emotional response process is twice as fast as the frontal lobe’s logical decision-making processes.
Humans, as it turns out, are emotional creatures. The Navy takes full advantage of that.
“We introduce our students, on day one, to absolute chaos,” Capt. Roger Herbert, then-commander of the SEAL training program at Coronado Island, told the History Channel. “When you look at historic mistakes on the battlefield, they’re almost always associated with fear and panic. So, the capacity to control these impulses is extremely important.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Zack Schaffer, U.S. Navy SEAL and an advanced training instructor, engages targets during a close quarters defense hooded-box drill at Naval Special Warfare Advanced Training Command. The drill tests operators’ ability to quickly react to lethal and non-lethal threats with the appropriate use of force. Individual augmentees are used as role players during each scenario.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michelle Kapica)
Navy SEAL recruits are put through special training to change how their brains react to fear. The Navy wanted to know why lifelong athletes could fail BUD/S training while some kids who never saw the ocean before the Navy could succeed.
One close-quarters combat exercise, the hooded box drill, involves putting a hood on a SEAL candidate that renders them blind and deaf, and then putting them in a combat situation. The hood is then ripped off and the candidate has to respond in seconds.
Sometimes, the response needs to be lethal and sometimes it needs to be nonviolent. Panic is not an option. Constant exposure to fear results in experiencing suppressed emotional responses and less lag time between the fear response and the frontal lobe logic process.
A gap between the two responses could leave a special operator standing frozen, unable to respond, not knowing what to do next. Navy SEALs do not have this problem.
The Wall Street Journal reporter Rory Jones was aboard the USS Boxer in the hours before the US amphibious flattop downed an Iranian drone and recounted a series of tense encounters that led up to the engagement.
According to Jones, the Boxer was leading a flotilla of Navy ships through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf, where Iran has repeatedly harassed international vessels. Just after 7 a.m. local time, Jones reported, an unarmed Iranian Bell 212 helicopter came so close to the Boxer that it could have landed on deck. A US helicopter chased away the Iranian craft, cutting short an incident that Capt. Ronald Dowdell, the commander of the Boxer, called “surreal.”
Shortly after, an Iranian military vessel sailed toward the Boxer flotilla, following it at 500 yards — the exact distance the Navy allows before it warns another vessel not to come closer. Jones reported that a US helicopter flew between the two ships, deterring the Iranian vessel before tailing an aircraft identified as an Iranian Y-12 surveillance plane.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class James F. Bartels )
After these incidents, the Iranian drone came “within a threatening range” of the Boxer, according to Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman, prompting the US crew to take defensive action. Military.com reported that the Light Marine Air Defense Integrated System aboard the Boxer attacked the drone by jamming its signal.
INSIDER reached out to US Naval Forces Central Command to confirm Jones’ account of the hours leading up to July 18, 2019’s confrontation and didn’t receive an immediate reply. INSIDER has also reached out to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its mission to the UN regarding the incidents in Jones’ account.
Iran’s deputy foreign minister has denied Iranian involvement, and said that USS Boxer shot down its own drone.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For a lot of years I’ve listened to my friends and the people I served with talk about their trips back to Vietnam. It was interesting to hear, but I was never prepared to spend the time or effort to do so myself. Most importantly, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go back.
Then I met Jason in 2015 and we began what has become an interesting and lasting friendship. One of my early questions to him was, “so you make rucksacks, shirts and pants – but what about the most important thing for rucking – the boots?” His answer was, “we’re in the process, how about you getting involved?” That set the hook and the rest is history. Jason established a strong team to design and oversee the making of the boots – Paul (who is the ultimate shoedog), Andy (the marketer and A-1 video guy), Jason himself (a rucker with SF credentials), and to my honor included me (an earlier generation SF guy).
The factory that builds the boots is in Saigon, Vietnam and in February of 2017 Jason asked me if I would accompany the team on its first trip to Vietnam to visit the factory and “wherever else I wanted to go.” I wasn’t sure what to expect and after some thought I accepted his offer. I was very interested in seeing what had happened in Vietnam since my departure 45 years before.
I’ve had a coping mechanism for all of the traumatic events in my past – I simply put them in a large wooden box with iron straps around it in my head, and I take them out at my leisure – to deal with as I see fit. Now I was going to have to face them head on. Luckily, the team I mentioned above was there every step as we moved to several locations I had been to previously, each one triggering memories of a time past. It all began at Tan Son Nhat Airport seeing the customs officials dressed in what I knew as North Vietnamese Army uniforms, an increase in heart rate and minor flashback; the official war museum, where victors always get to tell the story their way; the shoe factory in Long Thanh, where I attended the Recon Team Leaders Course and heard the first shots I had ever heard fired in combat; Ban Me Thuot, my original base camp and a beautiful location in the Central Highlands filled then and now with butterflies; Dalat, a stately resort city for both sides during the war where a helicopter I was in had to make an emergency landing; and lastly the Caravelle Hotel, where I stayed when I went to Saigon to be debriefed after some missions. It had a gorgeous rooftop bar where you could watch mortar attacks on the outskirts of the city while enjoying drinks – a bit surreal. It’s still there by the way.
I was really glad that I hadn’t come alone and the team I was with were all true professionals in their own right – it was, and continues to be, a privilege to be associated with them.
As I mentioned, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip – but what developed was surprising – it helped me honor those who had fallen, closed a loop for me that had been open for years and gave me peace.
One can never be sure about the outcome of anything in this world, but I have come to realize that education, by any means (formal or informal), will always stand you in good stead. So by sharing my humble story perhaps I can help bring a small piece of history into clearer focus.
This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.
As the sun rises over the jungle canopy, the workers are already on the move. They take in the crisp scent of the morning air as they head up the rocky mountain path, slipping between the trees of a wet, dew-covered forest in Vietnam.
At the top of the green mountain ridge, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Quoc Bao Lam is waiting to greet them with a smile and a handshake before getting started on the day’s work.
On a normal day, Lam is a master-at-arms with the military police at Naval Station Everett, Washington, but today he’s part of a unique assignment. He is acting as the lead linguist for a recovery team deployed by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency on its fourth mission to Vietnam.
Lam works at an excavation site found on a remote mountain peak in one of the Vietnamese jungle’s most austere locations. The site is only accessible by helicopter, and the nearest village is about 5 and a half miles away, down a long steep rocky trail on the brink of being overgrown by the jungle. Being at a site so removed, a linguist is a necessity for a successful recovery mission.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Quoc Bao Lam, left, a linguist deployed by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, talks with local people in Quang Binh, Vietnam, Sept. 6, 2018.
(Photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
“Nothing in this mission could be accomplished without the skill sets and abilities of an experienced linguist on the team,” said Marine Corps Capt. Mark Strickert, DPAA senior recovery team leader. “Linguists translate intent, interpret body language, serve as cultural advisors, facilitate negotiations and build camaraderie with the local community and government officials we work with so closely every day. Linguists are the underlining glue in the tireless steps we take to fulfill our nation’s promise to bring our fallen home.”
The mission of DPAA is to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing service members to their families and the nation from past conflicts.
The total number of service members unaccounted for from the Vietnam War was 2,646, but through the work of DPAA, 1,052 of those missing have been found, identified and repatriated. The work of DPAA continues to find the remaining 1,594 missing U.S. service members from the Vietnam War.
The work to recover missing service members starts with intense analyzing of historical records from all sides of a conflict surrounding the missing individuals. This is followed by interviewing eye witnesses, gathering local accounts and pinpointing and evaluating possible dig sites. Once all the data has been compiled and strongly suggests a specific area, recovery teams are brought in to dig and sift the soil, looking for remains of the missing individuals.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Quoc Bao Lam.
(Photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
When Lam first learned about DPAA and its missions to Vietnam to recover missing troops, he felt an instant connection and he knew he had to find a way to contribute.
“I wanted to be a part of this important work,” Lam said, “to have an opportunity to help my fellow service members and their families find closure, and possibly help to find some of the lost or fallen friends of my father.”
Lam moved to America at age 8 with his mother and siblings. His father, Ouang Lam, had left five years prior to escape prosecution and possible execution at the end of the Vietnam War.
From the start of the conflict, Ouang fought with South Vietnam’s army. As U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War increased, the U.S. Army began seeking out local people who could speak English, Chinese and Vietnamese to help U.S. troops better navigate the region.
Becoming a translator
After applying to train with the U.S., Ouang was sent to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to get a better grip on the English language and military terminology. Once proficient in English, he was sent to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he was taught how to fly medical helicopters before going back to his country and the war.
For the rest of the war, Ouang delivered supplies and wounded U.S. and South Vietnamese troops by helicopter. He regularly came under fire and, throughout the conflict, lost fellow aircrew, friends and family. Ouang made it to the rank of chief warrant officer 3 at the war’s end.
North and South Vietnam were reunited. Those who had worked with the Americans were soon hunted by the authorities. Ouang had to leave his country to save his and his family’s lives.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Quoc Bao Lam, right, lead linguist, translates for Marine Corps Capt. Mark Strickert, left, senior recovery team leader while deployed by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Quang Binh, Vietnam, Sept. 6, 2018.
(Photo by Senior Airman Donald Hudson)
Ouang began building a new life for his family in Chicago, thanks to a religious group that sponsored individuals who had fought alongside U.S. troops during the war. They brought foreign veterans and their families to the U.S. to ensure they were not harmed by the new Vietnamese government.
After all he experienced during the war, Ouang was against war for the rest of his life. Ouang urged his children to go to school and not join any military service, but Lam wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. Luckily before his father passed away, Lam was able to explain why he chose to serve in the military after realizing school was not for him.
“My father was incredibly upset and did not talk to me for some time,” Lam said. “After a few years I sat down with him and talked about why I joined the Navy. While he still did not like the idea of me being in the armed forces, over time came to be very proud of my service to the country that has given his family so much.”
If it wasn’t for Ouang’s close work with the U.S. during the war, he may never have gotten out of Vietnam after the country’s reunification and would have never had the chance to provide his family with the American dream.
“Lam’s father is always watching from above and he would be proud of Lam working to find his lost friends from so long ago,” said Lam’s mother. “We have been proud of everything that he has done so far in life, to give back to the U.S. for all the U.S. has done for our family. We are extremely proud.”
After weeks of facilitating negotiations, advising on cultural differences and interpreting body language, Lam’s mission in Vietnam came to a close.
From his position atop the mountain, Lam surveyed the green valley below, as the setting sun cast the sky in hazy blues and purples.
The number of deaths from the coronavirus in China has surged past 800 people, surpassing the number of fatalities of the SARS outbreak in 2002-03, but overall figures showed a one-day slowing of new cases, raising hopes that it was the first sign of a peaking of the epidemic.
China’s National Health Commission on February 9 said the central Hubei Province recorded 89 new deaths on February 8, pushing the total to 811 throughout the country and above the 774 who died from SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.
The number of new infections in Hubei Province — whose capital, Wuhan, is considered the epicenter of the outbreak — showed a decline in new cases for the first time since February 1.
Officials said 2,656 new cases were identified throughout the country for the day, with 2,147 in Hubei.
Joseph Eisenberg, professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan, told Reuters it was too early to say whether the epidemic was peaking given the uncertainty in reporting procedures.
“Even if reported cases might be peaking, we don’t know what is happening with unreported cases. This is especially an issue in some of the more rural areas,” he said.
The total of confirmed cases hit 37,198 in mainland China.
The virus has spread to about two dozen countries, but all but two of the deaths have occurred in mainland China. The first U.S. citizen died from the disease, officials said on February 8, identifying him as a 60-year-old man in Wuhan.
The virus broke out at a seafood market in Wuhan that reportedly sold exotic animals for consumption — similar to the SARS outbreak.
Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.
Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.
Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.
Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.
“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.
An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.
“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.
Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology. A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects. The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.
Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.” Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.
In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.
Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.
Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.
The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.
The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.
While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.
Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.
“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains. In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant. They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk. Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”
Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.
“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.
A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.
Army Defends Against Mini-Drones
While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.
This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.
The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.
Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.
As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.
The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.
The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.
“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.
There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.
“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”
An American detainee wearing an orange jumpsuit with his hands bound resists questions from a sadistic, faceless interrogator. Faced with repeated torture and more questions, it’s only a matter of time before he cracks.
The scene is from a short film called “Prisoner of War,” released on Veterans Day 2015, and it shows the internal struggle that some combat veterans face after they take off the uniform.
“This is an emotionally charged short film that will leave a lot of people speechless,” Executive Producer Marty Skovlund, Jr. told The Havok Journal. “Thanks to the exceptional performance that Josh [Kelly] put on, as well as the creative genius of both director Matt Sanders and the director of photography Chris Koser, we have something here that will send shockwaves through the audience.”
– A cast-iron skillet big enough to comfortably fit your steak.
– A roasting rack
– A sheet pan
– A serving spoon
– A sheet of parchment paper
– A pair of grilling tongs
– 1 cowboy-cut, 1.5 inch-thick ribeye steak (Buy it from the butcher, ensure it has great marbling)
– 2 tbsp vegetable oil (do not use olive oil, the smoke point is too low)
– Black peppercorn (Freshly ground/crushed to order), to taste.
– Coarse, flakey salt, to taste.
– Half stick of butter
– 4 garlic cloves (crushed)
– 6 sprigs of thyme
Step 1. Assemble your gear.
Put your steak on the parchment-paper-lined sheet pan and let it sit under refrigeration for an hour. Put the skillet on the stove on medium heat and have all other ingredients close by. Once you get started, this process will require constant attention, so prep your ingredients beforehand.
Step 2. Be ready.
Once all items are in place and your skillet is hot, add the vegetable oil to your pan (Ensure that the oil is at least 1/8 inch deep across the pan). The oil needs to reach 375 Fahrenheit. When you see a slight shimmering across the top of the oil, it’s good to go. Test the oil by dropping a thyme leaf — just one leaf — in the oil. If it makes a popping noise, you’re on track.
Step 3. Sear your steak.
Once your oil is ready and all items are in place, season your steak with salt and pepper generously. Crush or grind the pepper before sprinkling it on all sides of your steak. Use your hands and really cover the steak with seasoning. Next, turn the stove to high. The oil is going to reduce in temperature significantly when you add the steak, this will help keep it at 375-Fahrenheit.
Just before putting the steak on, pat the steak dry. Then, using tongs, place the steak into the cast iron skillet. Press to ensure as much surface area as possible is making contact with the pan.
Let it cook for a minimum of four minutes on that side before attempting to move. The steak will stick when it first comes into contact with the heat. It needs time to cook off before it will freely move.
Flip your steak with tongs to the other broadside for three minutes, or until edges turn brown. Sear all asides — the edges as well.
Step 4. Baste!
Next, toss in the butter, garlic, and herbs. When the butter has melted, tilt the pan so that the butter pools to the side of the pan closest to you.
Using that serving spoon, push the steak towards the other side of the pan and begin spooning the hot, aromatic butter over the top of your steak. Let the butter touch as much of the steak as possible before tilting the pan and pooling the butter once more.
Continue to do this until your steak is cooked the way you prefer (Anywhere from rare to medium is acceptable).
Step 5. Let the it rest.
Turn off the heat, remove the steak, and let it rest on the roasting rack. Let the skillet and oil cool in a safe place.
Let the steak rest at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
Pakistan’s former sports-celebrity-turned politician, Imran Khan, in his televised election victory speech July 26, 2018, pledged to tackle poverty and endemic corruption through a revamped governance system in the country.
Khan delivered the speech as about 90 percent of the results from July 25, 2018’s parliamentary polls already had been compiled. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PT) party was well ahead of its main rival, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of jailed former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
Almost all the main rival parties have alleged the polls were rigged and manipulated in favor of Khan, allegations the independent Election Commission of Pakistan rejected.
Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Mohammad Raza strongly defended the voting process as free and fair. “These elections were 100 percent transparent and fair … there is no stain,” Raza insisted while speaking to reporters early July 26, 2018.
The commission admitted that its electronic reporting system collapsed shortly after vote counting began late July 25, 2018, causing unprecedented delays in announcing results.
Khan also promised to provide any assistance required to investigate the rigging charges, though he declared the polls as “the fairest in Pakistan.”
Chief Election Commissioner Sardar Mohammad Raza
Analysts say partial election results suggest Khan’s party, with the help of smaller groups and independents, is poised to establish governments not only at the center but possibly in three of Pakistan’s four provinces.
Khan pledged in July 26, 2018’s speech to deliver on campaign promises, saying he would turn Pakistan into an “Islamic welfare state.”
The would-be government, he said, would not use the palatial prime minister’s residence in Islamabad and would use the space for other priorities as it focuses on good governance and economic challenges facing the country.
“I would be ashamed to live in such a large house. That house will be converted into an educational institution or something of the sort,” he said. “Our state institutions will be stronger, everyone will be held accountable. First I will be subjected to accountability, then my ministers and so on.”
Khan acknowledged while speaking to VOA on the eve of the election that the economy is the biggest challenge facing Pakistan.
“The only way we can overcome this is by revamping the way we do governance in this country, strengthening institutions and then spending it on our human beings,” Khan noted. This is “the rock bottom” for Pakistan, he warned.
“Never have we fallen so low as we have right now in terms of human development, in terms of the cost of doing business, in terms of our economy going down the drain. So, the challenges are huge but they can only be done … if we change the way we do governance in this country.”
Sharif’s party has been for months accusing the military of covertly helping Khan’s election campaign, charges both Khan and the military have strongly denied.
The PML-N’s electoral chances also have been shaken by Sharif’s conviction in absentia earlier this month on corruption charges involving expensive properties he and his family held overseas.
Sharif, who immediately was placed in custody after returning from Britain nearly two weeks ago, has denounced the verdict as politically motivated. He accused a covert military-judiciary alliance of trying to keep him out of politics and undermining the integrity of his PML-N party.
Khan and his party were instrumental in leading street protests and fighting legal battles to win the conviction in corruption cases against Sharif.
In his brief speech, Khan also spoke about how his party intends to deal with foreign policy challenges facing Pakistan.
Years of wars in Afghanistan have inflicted unprecedented sufferings on Afghans and they need peace, he said. The new government will make all possible efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan to ensure peace in Pakistan, Khan vowed.
“I also want to build relations with Afghanistan to a point where we have open borders just like those within the European Union,” he added.
Khan said he would seek a mutually beneficial and balanced relationship with the United States.
“We want to improve our relations with India, if their leadership also wants it. This blame game that whatever goes wrong in Pakistan is because of India and vice versa brings us back to square one. If they take one step toward us, we will take two, but we at least need a start.”
The election is just Pakistan’s third peaceful transition of power. The military has ruled the Muslim-majority nation of more than 200 million people for nearly half of the country’s 71-year-history.
July 25, 2018’s vote was disrupted by militant attacks and incidents involving gunfire between political rivals.
The deadliest incident occurred in Quetta, capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, where a suicide blast ripped through a crowed of political activists, voters and security personnel, killing more than 30 people. The Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for the bloodshed.
The campaign leading up to the July 25, 2018 vote had been marred by violence that left more than 170 people dead.
Recently, I had the honor of sitting with five Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) from VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System in a quiet private airport in Reno, Nevada. We were waiting for their jet, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force, to arrive and whisk these heroes away to New Jersey. They were on their way to provide relief to the weary practitioners fighting the pandemic.
These LPNs volunteered to go to New Jersey to assist medical staff in nursing homes, where staff has been stretched to the breaking point caring for their high-risk senior population.
As I sat with them, I realized that I had an honest admiration not only for these five individuals, but also for my entire VA health care team.
Not one of them expressed regret with their decision to volunteer. Each would be working nonstop, 12-hour shifts (maybe longer) with complete strangers, caring for senior citizens on the East Coast. They spoke with compassion and used phrases like, “This is what I was born to do.”
Nurses on their way to help in New Jersey.
We need nurses now more than ever
One even stated she has no family here in Nevada and if requested to extend her short tour in New Jersey, she gladly would. She said she hoped she would inspire someone to consider a career in health care. “We need more nurses,” she said, “now more than ever.”
The small Air Force C-21 jet arrived and three young crew members stepped down onto the tarmac. Through the waiting lounge window, the six of us made comments about the crew’s appearance in their military issued olive green flight suits.
We started making Top Gun references. “That one looks like Maverick,” said one. “If there’s a Goose, we are screwed!” said another. We all burst into laughter, which increased even more as the three young service members entered the airport with looks of bewilderment at our good humor. Their faces quickly transformed into comforting smiles. They understood that this moment was necessary.
“God speed and safe travels”
The pilot assured everyone that once the plane is fueled, loaded, and pre-flight checks done, they would be on their way. The flight crew graciously humored me with pictures of them with our nurses and the plane.
I assisted with loading the LPN’s bags onto the jet and bid everyone a safe journey. I remained in the small airport to watch through the window until the wheels were off the ground.
“God speed and safe travels,” I said aloud. I heard an “Amen” from behind me and turned to see a baggage handler had come to watch as well.
To the nurse who claimed to have no family here in Nevada, I beg to differ. You have VA. Together we are strong, and together we are a family.
Defense Department officials told lawmakers Wednesday they hope to forgive about 90 percent of cases involving thousands of California National Guard members that auditors say received improper bonuses during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It is my hope that by the end of the year, we will have something between 1,000 and 2,000 cases total out of the universe of 17,000 that are subject to review,” Peter Levine, undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, told members of the House Armed Services Committee.
Levine was among Pentagon and Army National Guard officials who testified at the Dec. 7 hearing to tell lawmakers how the Pentagon plans to resolve what some are calling a betrayal of the troops by next summer and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
“Compensation, whether it is a bonus for a service agreement or regular pay, is an obligation to our service members and their families that they should not have to worry about,” said Rep. Joseph Heck, a Republican from Nevada and chairman of the panel’s Military Personnel Subcommittee.
“I find it unacceptable that we would place the additional burden of years of concern about the legitimacy of a bonus payment or a student loan repayment on those who volunteer to serve,” he added.
Lawmakers have come up with a compromise as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that calls on the Pentagon to forgive the enlistment bonuses and student loan benefits unless the soldier who received the money “knew or reasonably should have known” that he or she was ineligible for it.
The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau reported last month that the Pentagon was demanding repayment of enlistment bonuses given to California Guard soldiers to help fill enlistment quotas for the wars. Many of the soldiers served in combat, and some returned with severe injuries.
Many of soldiers were told to repay bonuses of $15,000 or more years after they had completed their military service. Student loan repayments, which were also given out improperly to soldiers with educational loans, sometimes totaled as much as $50,000.
“Many reasons these cases are particularly troublesome,” Levine said. “Many of them are based on a technical deficiency.
“Particularly in cases like this, where we have a service member who made a commitment on the basis of a bonus and served out that commitment, so when we come in later after someone has fulfilled their commitment and then question on a technical ground why they received a bonus in the first place — that is a particular hardship,” he said.
There are two basic categories of cases, Levine said. One type involves about 1,400 cases already ordered to pay back bonuses. The second category of 16,000 cases involves soldiers who were put under suspicion or threat of recoupment of bonuses they received.
“For those cases that are in recoupment, we have the question of, ‘Are we going to dismiss the case? Are we going to forgive the debt? Are we going to repay the soldier if we decide it was improper?’ ” Levine said.
Through detailed screenings, “It’s my hope we can get from about 1,400 down to about 700 … that’s a goal; I don’t know what exact numbers we can get to.”
As for the larger category of about 16,000 cases, “We have greater discretion because we haven’t yet established the debt yet,” Levine said.
Several “rules of thumb” will be established in an attempt to:
— Screen out cases that are more than 10 years old.
— Screen out cases with a debt of $10,000 or less.
— Screen out most of the cases that involve enlisted members and lower ranking members without prior service on the basis that it’s unlikely they would be able to understand their contract fully without assistance.
“As we go through those screens from that second universe of 16,000 or so cases, I expect to reduce that by about 90 percent, so we get down to about 10 percent,” Levine said. “We will then put that universe through the kinds of substantive screens, and I hope to get that down further.
“The objective is to find that easy ones first, get rid of those, tell people ‘we are not pursuing you … we are telling you, you are off the hook; we are done with you,’ so we can focus our resources on the cases that are the most significant.”
Many lawmakers said they felt the California Guard scandal severely damaged the trust of current Guard members across the country.
“In some of these cases, there have been troops — through no fault of their own — that are suffering the consequences,” said Rep. Paul Cook, a Republican from California. “It’s our fault, and I use that word collectively on behalf of all officers that are in positions of authority. We betrayed the trust of the troops, and there is no excuse for that.”
Rep. Susan Davis, a Democrat from the state, said it’s “critically important that we do not forget service members and their families that have been deeply affected by this.”
“Once these families have encountered financial hardships, we know it can be truly difficult to recover. Even if we return their bonus, we have already upended their lives by creating unnecessary emotional stress and financial instability.”
Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffe, the California Guard’s incentive manager, pleaded guilty in 2011 to filing false claims of $15.2 million and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
But National Guard officials told lawmakers that many others were held accountable, including leaders who failed to provide proper oversight, said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, adjutant general for the California National Guard.
“We punished, within the California National Guard, 61 people — including firing four general officers and two full colonels,” Baldwin said.
The Department of Justice prosecuted 44 soldiers. Of those, 26 were found guilty and convicted, Baldwin said. Another 15 cases are pending, and the remainder were either dismissed or acquitted, Baldwin said.
Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, told lawmakers that the National Guard Bureau has taken steps to prevent this from happening again.
In 2010, the bureau conducted a review of all incentive programs across all states territories and the District of Columbia and found “no systemic fraud,” Kadavy said.
In 2012, the National Guard stood up the Guard Incentive Management System, or GIMS, which now provides “a centralized oversight program for bonus and incentive payments,” he said.
In 2016, the Army Audit Agency conducted an “external review” of GIMS and validated its effectiveness, Kadavy said. Auditors found that the system “substantially improved the controls of eligibility monitoring and payment phases of the incentive process.”
Despite the steps being taken to resolve the problem, officials admitted that they should have known about this a lot sooner.
“We have oversight on the California National Guard, the Army has oversight, the National Guard Bureau has oversight,” Levine said. “We were not aware of this until we read it in the newspaper, and that is on us; we missed this.”