Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Investigative website Bellingcat has identified the second suspect in the nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain as a military doctor employed by Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.

In September 2018, British prosecutors charged two Russians — Ruslan Boshirov and Aleksandr Petrov — with attempted murder for carrying out the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with the Novichok nerve toxin in the southern English city in early 2018.

The prosecutors said at the time the two were undercover GRU officers.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Skripals’ attempted murder.


“We have now identified ‘Aleksandr Petrov’ to be in fact Dr. Aleksandr Yevgenyevich Mishkin, a trained military doctor in the employ of the GRU,” the British-based group said in a report published on its website.

Bellingcat, a website that covers intelligence matters, had previously identified Boshirov on Sept. 26, 2018, as being decorated GRU Colonel Anatoly Chepiga.

“While Aleksandr Mishkin’s true persona has an even sparser digital footprint than Anatoly Chepiga’s, Bellingcat has been able to establish certain key facts from his background,” the Oct. 8, 2018 report said.

It said that Mishkin was born in 1979 in the Archangelsk region in Northern European Russia and was trained as a military doctor for the Russian naval armed forces at one of Russia’s elite military medical schools.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov at Salisbury train station.

“During his medical studies, Mishkin was recruited by the GRU, and by 2010 had relocated to Moscow, where he received his undercover identity — including a second national ID and travel passport — under the alias Aleksandr Petrov,” the report said.

“Bellingcat’s identification process included multiple open sources, testimony from people familiar with the person, as well as copies of personally identifying documents, including a scanned copy of his passport,” the website said.

British police declined to make any specific comment in relation to Bellingcat’s latest report or the real names of those charged with poisoning the Skripals.

“We are not going to comment on speculation regarding their identities,” London’s police force said in a statement in response to a media query about the report.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that the two men shown in British surveillance footage near Skripal’s home in Salisbury and identified by British authorities as Boshirov and Petrov were actually civilians on a tourist trip.

Skripal, a former GRU colonel, was convicted of treason in 2006 by a Russian court after being accused of spying for Britain. He relocated to Britain in a 2010 spy swap.

Putin on Oct. 3, 2018, said that Skripal was a “scumbag” who had betrayed his country.

The Skripals were found unconscious on March 4, 2018, on a bench in the southern English town of Salisbury. They were seriously ill but made a full recovery after spending several weeks in a hospital.

British officials said the two were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Putin’s government for the attack.

In June 2018, a British citizen, Dawn Sturgess, died and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, fell ill when they stumbled across remnants of the poison in a town near Salisbury.

Britain on Sept. 5, 2018, announced charges against the two Russian men as police issued photographs of the suspects.

The men acknowledged they were in Salisbury at the time but claimed they were there as tourists.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

11 classic banned books written by veterans

Every year a coalition of organizations, from pro-library groups to anti-censorship associations, come together to celebrate “Banned Books Week.” It’s a celebration of the right to read and the right of access to information. At the same time, it’s a challenge to libraries and schools to re-examine the titles they try to keep off the shelves.


Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
Maybe Henry Jones said it best.

The list of frequently banned books is surprising, especially considering the effect some of these books had on American history, including Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harrier Beecher Stowe, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown.

We can celebrate Banned Books Week by catching these legendary titles, written by combat veterans and banned by people who wouldn’t understand them anyway.

1. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway was an ambulance driver for the Allied Powers during World War I, working on the Italian Front. He tried to enlist as a regular infantry troop, but was turned down due to poor eyesight. He was wounded in action by shrapnel from an Austrian mortar round – but never stopped his front line duties.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
Fact: Jody got to Hemingway’s love back home.

Related: 10 ways Ernest Hemingway was a next-level American warrior

A Farewell to Arms is the author’s book about his experiences in the Great War. The novel, first released serialized in 1929, was considered overly violent and borderline pornographic at the time. If anything, read this book because F. Scott Fitzgerald sent Hemingway 10 pages of notes on it and Hemingway told Fitzgerald to kiss his ass.

2. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Then-Private First Class Vonnegut was captured by the Nazis during the WWII Battle of the Bulge. He, along with boxcars full of fellow POWs, were taken to the German city of Dresden and forced to work in the city – until it was firebombed by the Allies. Vonnegut and a few others survived the devastation, in what looked like a different, horrifying new world.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Slaughterhouse Five is named after the underground bunker in which he waited out the bombing. The book is the story of a man who became “unstuck in time,” floating back to the past at seemingly random times. It has become the PTSD flashback story and one of the most banned books of all-time.

Once called “depraved, immoral, psychotic, vulgar, and anti-Christian,” the Indianapolis-based Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library sends dozens of free copies to districts which ban the book.

3. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

Norman Mailer was from an affluent family. He was drafter after graduating from Harvard and drafted into the Army as a typist in 1943. He did many things, including communications, cooking, and even recon. He saw a lot of action doing recon patrols in the Philippines and his experience became The Naked and the Dead.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
Mailer at 21.

Mailer’s book follows an infantry platoon fighting the Japanese in the Philippine island of Anopopei. The book was deemed so obscene, it was banned in Canada. CANADA. Though popular, the book is really long and detailed.

4. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

At age 19, Heller enlisted in the Army Air Corps. It was 1942 and WWII was in full swing. Heller actually enjoyed his military service as a bombardier on a B-25. He  flew the required 60 missions over Europe on the Italian Front, just like John Yossarian, the main character.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
Heller flying in a B-25 Mitchell Bomber during WWII.

Catch-22 became so popular for lampooning the bureaucracy of the military, the term stuck and is now in common parlance. It was the other language in the book that caught the ire of towns and districts in the United States for being obscene – as if fighting in WWII was supposed to be clean.

5. Animal Farm by George Orwell

Orwell didn’t just write books against Fascism, he went out and did something about it. During the Spanish Civil War, he twice traveled to Barcelona to join the fight against the Franco regime. He was shot in the throat by a sniper and barely survived. This made him unfit to fight for Britain in WWII.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
George Orwell with his Fascist-hunting gun.

Orwell, despite fighting with Communists in Spain, saw the Soviet Union as a tyrannical dictatorship and wrote Animal Farm to criticize Stalin and his regime. The book also closely follows the events of WWII and predicted the coming Cold War. Animal Farm was banned in the Eastern Bloc until 1989.

6. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Of course A Clockwork Orange was written by a veteran, and of course someone tried to ban it. Burgess was a veteran of the UK’s Royal Army Medical Corps and spent much of the war in Gibraltar. Even though he disliked authority and regularly pranked his fellow orderlies and made a general mockery of the rules, he was often promoted.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
I couldn’t find a photo of Burgess in uniform.

His book is set in a dystopian England, and is the violent story of a teen named Alex and his gang. The book’s true focus is about free will and how much humans are born prone to destruction versus how much they’re taught. This book is violent even by today’s standards.

7. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien served in World War I France as a member of the Lancashire Fusiliers. His experiences at the WWI Battle of the Somme would not only come to color his descriptions of combat in The Lord of the Rings, it would also come to describe the worlds he created in Middle Earth.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
More than a million people died at the Somme and you can read about it in The Lord of the Rings.

Related: How Tolkien’s war experience shaped ‘The Lord of the Rings’

While the descriptions of war were from personal experience, he went out of his way to inform people that there was no real-world analogy to his work. Sauron did not represent any world leader and there was no ring to rule them all. The book was banned for being anti-Christian and anti-religious – despite the idea of a King returning being foremost in Tolkien’s mind.

8. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

Author William Styron was once a United States Marine, serving much of World War II stateside. In 1944, he was sent to the Pacific for the planned invasion of mainland Japan – but the Atomic Bombs ended that idea. His book The Long March is reflective of his time training as a U.S. Marine, especially being called up to fight the Korean War.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
The author as a United States Marine.

Sophie’s Choice was banned in a number of countries, including Poland, the Soviet Union, South Africa, and a number of localities in the U.S. for explicit sexuality and drug use.

9. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Evelyn Waugh was 36 years old at the outbreak of World War II, but used his connections to get a commission in the Royal Marines. He fought in West Africa, North Africa, and the evacuation of Crete from advancing Axis forces, among other missions, inluding escorting Winston Churchill to a meeting with Yugoslavian leader Marshal Tito.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
Lieutenant Waugh in WWII.

Though set in WWII England, the book doesn’t have much to do with the war. The principal reason for it being banned is because of the matter-of-fact depiction of homosexual characters. The book makes no judgement on whether it’s right or wrong, just that it exists.

10. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Golding joined the Royal Navy in 1940, spending much of World War II at sea, attacking submarines and battleships, even taking part in the sinking of the German ship Bismarck.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
Golding with an epic Navy beard.

His experience prompted him to say, “I began to see what people were capable of doing. Anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or wrong in the head.”

So a book about children exposed to the worst of human nature is hardly a surprise coming from a man of such experience. The book is banned for its violence and language (even though it’s necessary for the theme of the book) – and is often accused of racism.

11. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Salinger joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and stayed through the end of the second world war. He was on Utah Beach in Normandy on D-Day, drank with Hemingway in Paris, was at Hürtgen Forest, and it was his unit that first encountered the Dachau Concentration Camp.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
Salinger landed at Utah with the second wave.

The whole time, he carried a typewriter with him. When he couldn’t type, he wrote. And what he was writing was the Catcher in the Rye, a book that saw more military action than most of the guys on this list. And like other entries on the list, it was banned or challenged for vulgar language, sexual references, blasphemy, undermining of family values and moral codes, and promotion of drinking, smoking, lying, and promiscuity.

MIGHTY SPORTS

First Army goes back to basics to prepare for the ACFT

The upcoming Army Combat Fitness Test is intended to improve soldier readiness, transform the Army’s fitness culture, reduce preventable injuries, and enhance mental toughness and stamina.

But the new test leaves one question: How do soldiers train safely?

First Sgt. Daniel Ramirez, the first sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, First Army, answered this question for his soldiers by partnering with a local functional fitness gym. He and fifteen other soldiers of the Detachment recently attended a four-day, in-depth class at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois on proper techniques for lifting, squatting, and other exercises essential to safe completion of the ACFT. The goal of the workshop was to “Train the Trainer,” enabling First Army personnel to be subject-matter experts in advising their teammates on safe and efficient methods of exercise.


“We want to get everyone on the same page technique-wise so we can prevent injuries,” said Ramirez. The Foundation coaches, Ramirez said, were ideal instructors, due to their knowledge and experience.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Soldiers of First Army practice lifting techniques and proper lifting posture at Foundation in East Moline, Illinois.

(US Army)

Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Sims, Command Sgt. Maj. First Army, also attended the training. He agreed with the idea of partnering with fitness professionals to learn the fundamentals.

“It’s crucial to have a better understanding of what we are asking our soldiers to do,” explained Sims. “By working with professionals in this, it’s only going to build our knowledge base when we go back and train the rest of the team.”

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Brandon Bartz, Co-Owner of Foundation in East Moline, Illinois, observes Soldiers of First Army practicing their technique that will be used during the standing power throw of the Army Combat Fitness test.

(US Army)

Brandon Bartz and Josiah Lorentzen, owners of the Foundation, instructed the soldiers in the proper exercise techniques.

“We just want to help the soldiers get ready for the new test,” explained Bartz. “We just want all of you to be able to train effectively and safely.”

In addition to developing First Army’s philosophy as a team of Fit Army Professionals and preparing for the fitness test, the event also strengthened ties to the local community and the Rock Island Arsenal.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Josiah Lorentzen and Brandon Bartz, Owners of Foundation, in East Moline, Illinois, demonstrate the proper dead lift technique to First Army Soldiers.

(US Army)

“It’s awesome to work these soldiers, said Lorentzen. “They are close to home, so we love getting to work with them whenever we can.”

The Army Combat Fitness Test becomes an official for record test staring in October of 2020.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time an Air Force pilot saved a United Airlines flight

For most airmen going on leave for the holidays, the time off means an escape from their everyday Air Force career. After all, when is someone going to need a loadmaster at the liquor store (unless there’s a huge bourbon shortage at an egg nog festival and Costco is planning a relief drop from a C-17)?

An Air Force pilot on a United Airlines flight, however, is another story.


Like a scene out of a movie, Captain Mike Gongol was on a flight to see his extended family in Denver from Des Moines in 2013 when the B1-B Lancer pilot noticed the Boeing 737’s engine begin to idle — something only another pilot would realize. When the plane began to descend and drift to the right, he knew something was up.

He was right. A nurse on board the flight, Linda Alweiss, entered the cockpit, and found the pilot slumped over in his seat.

The rest of the plane knew something was up when a flight attendant asked the passengers if there was a doctor aboard the plane. They were asked to remain seated as the crew ran up to first class with a medical kit. When the attendants again addressed the passengers, they asked if there were any “non-revenue pilots” aboard the plane.

Gongol realized the pilot was probably the patient – and his Air Force specialty was needed. The first officer must have been the only other pilot aboard. He “looked to his wife as she gave him a nod, and Gongol pressed his button and headed toward the flight deck.”

“He was sick and mumbling and was just incoherent,” the nurse told KTLA.

A Rockwell B-1 Lancer is a very different craft from a Boeing 737. Differences in weight, crew, engine number and thrust, top speeds and ceilings are all significant factors. The moment Gongol entered the cockpit, he and the first officer sized one another up – he opted to support her as her first officer.

The Air Force captain decided to let her take the lead. He backed up her checklists, used the radio, and kept an eye out for anything going wrong.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

“She was calm, but you could tell she was a little stressed, who wouldn’t be,” Gongol told Air Force Space Command. It was only when they moved to land in Omaha that Gongol took the lead. The first officer had never landed in Omaha, but Capt. Gongol knew the airfield well, landing there many times in training. Still, he talked her through it.

The pilot, as well as the other 157 people aboard the flight, survived the trip.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to resolve a fight in under a minute

We’ve all been there.

Maybe you’re exhausted at work and accidentally end up butting heads with a supervisor, or maybe things have boiled over at home and you suddenly find yourself in a shouting match over who forgot to buy toilet paper on their way home.

Before you know it, emotions have taken over and an otherwise inconsequential situation has turned into an hour-long conflict with someone you otherwise love or respect.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s no need to pay for anger management lessons or pick up a self-help book, because psychologists Susan Heitler and Susan Whitbourne have a few actionable suggestions that can help anyone begin to immediately de-escalate a conflict and come to a resolution that both parties can agree on.


Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

(Photo by Harli Marten)

It’s tempting to swallow up our emotions in order to avoid a conflict, but Heitler and Whitbourne say instead it’s important to acknowledge that our negative emotions may be trying to tell us something.

“Negative emotions help you by telling you that there’s a conflict — i.e. a decision ahead, something you want that you are not getting, or you are getting something you don’t want,” Heitler, a psychologist and author of “The Power of Two,” told Business Insider. “Like yellow highlighting, they signal to you pay attention and do something.”

However, “addressing a conflict with negative emotions in your voice invites the person you are trying to work with to get defensive,” she said.

While it’s important to check in with our own emotions, Whitbourne, professor emerita at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said it’s also important to have empathy and stay in touch with the other person’s emotions as well. If you go into an argument only caring about your wants and needs, a win-win solution is going to be much harder to come by.

Instead, both psychologists suggest keeping a friendly tone when expressing your concerns and trying to understand the other point of view as well. Your tone of voice is the first key to resolving a fight quickly.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

(Photo by Nik MacMillan)

2. Get on the same page

You could spend hours arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong, but the psychologists said a little empathy is the trick to ending a fight quickly.

“Access those feelings of empathy in which you put yourself in the other individual’s place,” Whitemore said. “Without being disrespectful of the other person’s unhappiness in the moment, you might even try to find a way to laugh yourselves out of the situation if it indeed was something ridiculous.”

Likewise, Heitler said it’s important for both parties to reiterate that they understand the concerns of the other person.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

(Photo by Joshua Ness)

Another important step in resolving your own conflicts efficiently, say the psychologists, is to brainstorm not only solutions that work for both parties, but plans to actually achieve those solutions.

“At the time of the resolution, set forth the agreement that both of you will adhere to the decision that was mutually reached. This will help you push the reset button should the conflict begin again,” Whitbourne said.

Heitler also suggested taking time to make sure both parties understand the agreement the same way, and that no stone has been left unturned.

“End with this magic question: Are there any little pieces of this that still feel unfinished?” she said. “Then summarize the conclusion, especially what each of you will be doing as next steps, and you are good to go.”

Conflict is not always avoidable, say the psychologists, but how you approach the situation can make a world of difference in the outcome you see.

By checking in honestly with your own emotions, as well as honoring the emotions of the other person, you can begin to quickly find the root of the argument and come to a solution that works for both of you — without burning any bridges along the way.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what happens when the Coast Guard makes a drug bust

Most troops and vets know very little about what the Coast Guard actually does. They’re often seen as either the “Navy National Guard” or as a bunch of puddle pirates trying to pretend like they’re one of the cool, DoD kids.

Yeah, sure; we’ll hear their name get brought up whenever a hurricane hits or they’ll be cursed at when they catch someone speeding on a private lake, but the truth is that they’ve more than earned their right to be a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

When they aren’t out helping idiotic boaters, they’re dropping narco-terrorists just like their grunt brothers.


Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

When it kicks off, Coasties stay busy and can probably expect six or so busts in a week after that long-ass wait.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake)

It all begins with actionable intelligence. Despite what you might think about gangs not snitching on each other to save their own hides — they absolutely do. Apparently, it doesn’t even take that much to get them to talk. A threat of extradition and being sent back to their home country (where they face grave, domestic threats) is usually enough to get them singing like a canary.

So, the Coast Guard goes out to the expected route of traffickers in their Cutters and they wait… and wait… and wait…

This process could take days, weeks, or even months. If it turns out that the collected information is indeed legit and they find the smugglers, then the fun begins.

First is the show of force and an appeal to try and get them to surrender peacefully. There’s literally no escape when the Coast Guard has you surrounded with much faster vessels and helicopters flying overhead. The ones who value their well-being will give themselves up.

If they don’t, warning shots will strafe the waters in front of the bow. If they still don’t get the message, snipers from inside the helicopters will disable the engines — that’s right: The Coast Guard has highly trained snipers who can hit speedboats from helicopters with surgical precision.

They should get the hint by now, but just in case they don’t, the Coast Guardsmen then board their vessel and detain the smugglers while remaining very weary of any potential threats that may appear. For a look at what that’s like, in a safe-for-television manner, check out the video below:

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Ever wonder what half a billion dollars looks like? This was from just three busts.

(U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mariana O’Leary)

The traffickers will go into custody and may be sent back to their host nation for trial (or execution, depending on the country). Then, the drugs are incinerated or destroyed by other means.

We’re not talking small amounts either. We’re talking about cartel-level quantities. Each bust account for tons of narcotics that will never make it to the streets. When they’re set ablaze, that’s millions that will never make it back to the cartels. Between 2010 and 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard took out 500 tons of cocaine — billion in street value.

The war on drugs is a constant battle, but busts like these make significant dents.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lawmakers try to expand list of diseases eligible for Agent Orange benefits

Proposed amendments to the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act would add three diseases to the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ list of illnesses presumed to be linked to Agent Orange — measures that, if approved, would provide health care and disability benefits to roughly 22,000 affected veterans.

The House and Senate amendments, proposed by Rep. Josh Harder, D-California, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, would add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism to the VA’s list of 14 conditions considered related to herbicide exposure during the Vietnam War.


In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine deemed the three named diseases to be associated with exposure to defoliants used during the war.

But the proposals do not include hypertension, a condition that the Academies also linked to Agent Orange in 2018. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is common among the elderly and, if included, could add more than 2 million veterans to VA disability rolls in the next 10 years, at an estimated cost of $11.2 billion to $15.2 billion, according to department estimates.

Thirty veteran and military groups have backed the proposals and asked congressional leaders to do the same.

On Tuesday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America and 27 other groups wrote House and Senate leaders urging them to get behind the provisions.

“We call on you to lead and pass House Amendment 264 into law and end the waiting for many of our nation’s ill veterans so they can receive disability benefits,” stated letters sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“There is more work to be done to care for those who are ill from toxic exposures, including adopting hypertension as a presumptive disease … but with your leadership, tens of thousands of Vietnam War veterans will receive their benefits and justice,” they wrote.

A decision on whether to add the three conditions has been delayed since 2017, when then-VA Secretary David Shulkin expressed support for including them but never formally announced his decision.

According to internal VA documents, Shulkin had been on the verge of including the three conditions when the Office of Management and Budget and other White House officials objected, citing what they called “limited scientific evidence” and cost.

Meanwhile, thousands of veterans have waited.

“Vietnam vets have been waiting for this for decades, and it’s a national shame that it’s not fixed yet,” Harder told Military.com. “We have a real chance here to make this right after all this time, and we should seize the opportunity.”

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told lawmakers late last year he wants the results of two studies — the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study, or VE-HEROES, and the Vietnam Era Mortality Study — to be reviewed for publication before announcing a decision on whether to broaden the presumptives list.

But lawmakers and advocacy groups have balked at the delay.

“This is something we are still fighting after how many decades from the Vietnam War?” asked Corey Titus, director of veterans benefits and Guard/reserve affairs at MOAA. “We should be making sure there aren’t any service members with illnesses who aren’t getting the care and benefits they earned.”

In February, Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, penned a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to “take corrective action” and add all four diseases to the list, including hypertension.

“Your administration has the ability to add these conditions to the presumptive list and provide lifesaving benefits to more than 190,000 veterans. Without your action, tens of thousands of sick and aging veterans will continue to go without VA resources and health care in their time of need,” he wrote.

The letter was signed by 77 members, all Democrats.

While hypertension is not included in the proposed amendment, the coalition of veterans and military organizations pledged to continue working on adopting it as a “presumptive disease as linked by the National Academies.”

“This needs to be covered as well. This is not something that we will forget — hypertension,” Titus said.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have both passed their versions of the fiscal 2021 defense bill and forwarded them to their respective chambers for consideration. Currently, committees are weighing the rules for amending and deliberating the bills before they move ahead for debate.

Both Harder and Tester’s proposals must make it through that process before coming up for a vote.

A legislative source said Tester’s amendment has been identified for a vote.

“With a bipartisan team of lawmakers and the support of the entire veterans community, we have a strong chance to finally get this done,” Harder said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military Spouse of the Year champions suicide awareness Million Mile Project

Paulette Fryar was named the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year on May 7th, 2020. It was the first time in the award’s history that it went to a Coast Guard spouse and the excitement over her win reverberated loudly throughout the military spouse community. The next day, the joy and excitement over her honor would be muted.

Her cousin committed suicide.


David Heathers was a Marine veteran of the Iraq war. After leaving the service and returning home, he suffered from debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder. Living through the effects of that diagnosis in the midst of the isolation of COVID-19, would ultimately take his life. Fryar comes from a long line of family members who have served, but had not yet truly been touched by devastating impacts of war, until now.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
“I had no idea how bad it was for my cousin David until it was too late. If there is something I can do to bring more awareness so that other families don’t have to go through this, I want to,” Fryar said.

Although her initial platform of serving young military spouses and families had garnered her the title of Military Spouse of the Year, this deeply personal experience shifted things for her. Fryar has become very vocal about discussing the impacts of trauma and PTSD. She wanted to do something to combat the issue.

The Million Mile project was born.

In collaboration with the 2020 branch and base winners of the Military Spouse of the Year award, she approached Armed Forces Insurance to help sponsor the project. They immediately said yes. The goal was to unite the entire military community, as well as any patriotic supporters in raising suicide awareness. The participants would do this through logging miles for 22 days, to remember and honor the veterans lost to suicide.

“I knew I wanted to start a campaign to bring attention to this issue and provide some resources in hopes that other families would not have to experience this kind of loss,” Fryar explained.

The project began on August 15th, 2020 – which would have been her cousin’s 39th birthday and was the day in which is family held his celebration of life. This day was also significant because it was exactly 22 days before suicide prevention week would begin in September.

“One reason I wanted to start this Million Mile Project is that losing my cousin to suicide really opened my eyes to how awful this issue of military and veteran PTSD and suicide is. Once I saw it, I couldn’t turn a blind eye or look away,” Fryar said.

Studies have shown that up to 20% of veterans who have served since 9/11 are diagnosed with PTSD. Suicide has also been on the rise according to the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. Medical professionals are now on alert for increased rates of suicide due to the isolation and stress that COVID-19 is placing on veterans in particular.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Fryar and the other 2020 branch winners created a Facebook group for The Million Mile Project and it has over 6,000 members and continues to grow. The unique miles project allows members to log their miles in almost any way. Participants can walk, run, bike, swim or even skateboard for the suicide awareness project.

The parents of Fryar’s cousin have joined the project and have expressed their deep appreciation for the love and support they’ve received. It is their hope that through creating events like The Million Mile Project, they can reach people contemplating suicide and show them they matter and how important they truly are.

It is their hope that their story will show that life isn’t better without them.

“As the 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, my main quote is ‘Together we are stronger’ and I feel it applies to the Million Mile Project so well,” Fryar explained. She continued, “Working together on a campaign like this is so important! I want people suffering from the loss of a loved one or possibly a veteran struggling with PTSD or suicide ideation to know that they are not alone, that they are needed and loved deeply.”

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

To prevent Russian invasion, Ukraine might need NATO

Ukraine’s border service has said that it will only allow Ukrainian citizens to travel to Crimea following the imposition of martial law.

Kyiv imposed martial law in 10 of its 27 regions for 30 days on Nov. 28, 2018, after Russian forces fired on Ukrainian ships and seized 23 sailors in the Black Sea off the coast of the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula.

“In connection with the introduction of martial law, the administrative border with temporarily occupied Crimea can be crossed exclusively with Ukrainian documents,” a spokesman said on Nov. 29, 2018.


Citizens from all nations were previously allowed to enter Crimea through the administrative border via mainland Ukraine. But the process for doing so for non-Ukrainians was fraught with bureaucracy.

Crimea is accessible by plane from Russia or via Russia’s newly built bridge from the country’s mainland. But under Ukrainian law, those routes are illegal. Violators — and there have been many — are given official bans of three years or longer by Kyiv.

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on NATO to send ships to the Sea of Azov to help protect Ukraine.

He claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin sees himself as a “Russian emperor” and Ukraine as a Russian “colony.”

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Ukrainian president later on Nov. 29, 2018, tweeted that Kyiv will impose “restrictions” on Russian citizens in Ukraine.

“No need to run to shops and buy matches and salt. There will be no restrictions on cash withdrawals, currency-exchange operations, travels abroad for Ukrainian citizens. For Russian citizens, these restrictions will be introduced. And I think that’s quite justified,” he wrote.

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have deteriorated after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and shortly thereafter began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has left more than 10,300 dead since April 2014.

In an interview with the German tabloid Bild published early on Nov. 29, 2018, Poroshenko said he hoped European states will take active steps, including increasing sanctions and military protection against Russia, to help Ukraine after providing verbal support in the wake of Russia’s capture of 24 Ukrainian sailors.

“We hope that NATO states are prepared to send naval ships to the Sea of Azov to support Ukraine and provide security,” Poroshenko said.

“The only language he [Putin] understands is the solidarity of the Western world,” Poroshenko said. “We can’t accept Russia’s aggressive policies. First it was Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, now he wants the Sea of Azov.”

Opening a German-Ukrainian economic forum in Berlin later in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she planned to press Putin at a Group of 20 (G20) summit to urge the release of the ships and crews.

“We can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts,” she added.

Meanwhile, an unknown number of the captured Ukrainian sailors have since been transferred to a detention center in Moscow, according to one of their lawyers.

Dzhemil Temishev wrote on Facebook on November 29 that his “colleagues” in the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow had informed him that some of the Ukrainian sailors had been brought there.

Also on Nov. 29, 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticized Poroshenko’s request for NATO to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov, saying it was “aimed at provoking further tensions” and driven by Poroshenko’s “electoral and domestic policy motives.”

Putin has claimed that the naval confrontation was a ploy to boost his Ukrainian counterpart’s popularity ahead of an election in March 2019.

A NATO spokeswoman said the alliance already had a strong presence in the region, with vessels routinely patrolling and exercising in the Black Sea.

“There is already a lot of NATO in the Black Sea, and we will continue to assess our presence in the region,” Oana Lungescu said.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

The Sea of Azov is the body of water that separates the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, from the Ukrainian and Russian mainlands. Russia opened a bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea with Russia in May and has asserted control over the strait.

The Kerch Strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, and the Black Sea, which is the arena usually patrolled by NATO.

Ukraine is a partner of NATO but not a member of the military alliance. NATO has already said it “stands with Ukraine” and has called on Russia to release the captured ships and their crews.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also warned Russia on Nov. 26, 2018, that “its actions have consequences.”

Poroshenko, who on Nov. 28, 2018, instituted martial law in parts of Ukraine in response to the Russian actions, told Bild he had evidence suggesting Russia is planning a new ground offensive against Ukraine, and he said he had shown NATO partners satellite pictures supporting that allegation.

“Germany also has to ask itself: What will Putin do next if we don’t stop him?” Poroshenko told Bild.

Ukrainian parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy has joined Poroshenko in calling for increased protection from NATO, saying on Nov. 27, 2018, that “I urged [NATO] to increase [its presence] in the airspace above the Black Sea and the number of military ships in the Black Sea as a guarantee of security and a guarantee of stability in the Black Sea.”

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

EU: ‘Utmost Concern,’ But No New Sanctions

Poroshenko’s remarks came as the European Union failed to muster support for any immediate new steps to either impose new sanctions on Russia over the naval incident or increase enforcement of existing sanctions on Moscow.

Poland, Britain, and the EU’s Baltic states have called for more sanctions, but after three days of debate, the EU’s 28 states could agree only to issue a statement on Nov. 28, 2018, expressing “utmost concern about the dangerous increase of tensions” and the “unacceptable” use of force by Russia.

The statement issued by EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini did not mention sanctions, saying only that the bloc will “act appropriately” while continuing to monitor the situation.

The bloc’s top powers, Germany and France, have so far emphasized efforts to ease tensions. Other members, including Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, have been calling for a softening of sanctions on Moscow.

The EU first imposed sanctions on Russia after it seized Crimea, and it has ratcheted up those sanctions from time to time. The United States on Nov. 27, 2018, called for stricter enforcement of the EU’s existing sanctions on Russian and Crimean officials and businesses.

While the EU failed to take any immediate action against Russia, in a gesture of solidarity with Ukraine, Estonia said on Nov. 28, 2018, that it had summoned its Russian ambassador and condemned Russia’s use of military force in the incident.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A woman made it through SEAL officer test for the first time

The Navy marked a first earlier this year when a woman completed Navy SEAL officer assessment and selection, Military.com has learned.

At the quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services in December, a Navy official disclosed that the woman had reached the end of the physically and mentally demanding two-week SOAS process in September. Ultimately, however, she was not selected for a SEAL contract, officials said.

While the military formally opened SEAL billets — and all other previously closed jobs — to women in 2016, no woman has yet made it to the infamous 24-week Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training to date. If the woman had been selected for a SEAL contract at the end of SOAS, she would have been the first to reach BUD/S.


Capt. Tamara Lawrence, a spokeswoman for Naval Special Warfare, said the candidate had not listed the SEALs as her top-choice warfighting community. She was awarded placement in her top choice, Lawrence said.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

US Navy SEAL candidates during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

“We do not discuss details of a candidate’s non-selection so it does not interfere with their successful service in other warfighter communities,” she said.

Candidates for SOAS are taken from college Reserve Officer Training Corps programs, service academies, and the Navy’s Officer Candidate School, all prior to getting their first Navy contract. Lawrence declined to specify which pathway the recent female candidate had taken out of concern that doing so would reveal her identity.

Lt. Grace Olechowski, force integration officer with Naval Special Warfare Command, said five women had been invited to participate in SOAS since the pipeline was opened to women. Three had entered SOAS to date, but only one had completed assessment and selection.

Military.com broke the news in 2017 that a first female student had entered SOAS — an ROTC student at a U.S. college. She ultimately exited the process before reaching the selection panel, however.

Lawrence said the SEAL officer selection process is candidate-neutral, meaning the selection board does not know the gender or other personal information of the candidates.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participating in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Furey)

“Selection is based on the candidate’s scores during the two-week SOAS assessment,” she said. “This process ensures every candidate has a fair and equal chance based on Naval Special Warfare standards.”

It’s also possible that not listing the SEALs as a primary career choice would factor against a candidate in the selection process.

The selection panel is made up of senior SEAL officers, Lawrence said, who use SOAS assessment data along with resume information to select “the most competitive candidates.”

Roughly 180 candidates are selected every year to attend SEAL officer assessment and selection, she said; on average, the top 85 candidates are chosen to continue on to SEAL training. There are four two-week SOAS blocks held every year.

While SOAS precedes the award of a final SEAL contract, it is not for the faint of heart. It was previously called “mini-BUD/S” in a nod to its grueling and rigorous nature.

“Physical stress and sleep deprivation are applied to reveal authentic character traits,” the Navy says on its official Naval Special Warfare recruiting site. “Performance and interview data on every candidate is meticulously documented and presented to the NSW Selection Panel.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA listed as top employer of veterans

Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest job and recruiting sites, recently singled out seven top employers of veterans and their families, and it’s no surprise that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made the list, along with Booz Allen, Home Depot, Southwest Airlines, and others.

A total of 123,608 veterans — more than 30 percent of the workforce — work at VA, according to the latest federal government data. Glassdoor said veterans choose VA careers for its generous employee benefits, such as tuition assistance and loan repayment. A physician quoted in the article commended VA for its “great mission, incredible benefits (and) good work/life balance.”


Through the Transitioning Military Program, VA also has well-paying careers specifically for veterans with healthcare skills. Veterans of healthcare fields successfully work as health technicians, Intermediate Care Technicians (ICTs), mental health providers, nurses, physicians, and support staff in other healthcare occupations.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent
(Department of Veterans Affairs)

ICTs, for instance, are former basic medical technicians, combat medic specialists, basic hospital corpsmen or basic health services technicians applying their skills to care for fellow veterans. (Meet ICTs Ryan White, Anthony Juarez, and other VA employees.)

Choose VA today 

Other benefits of a VA healthcare career include 36 to 49 days paid time off per year, depending on the leave tier, and the ability to apply military service time to a civil service pension, participate in a 401(k) with up to 5 percent in employer contributions and gain access to a range of exceptional health insurance plans for individuals and families.

Are you transitioning from the military? See if a career with VA is the right choice for you.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 surprising targets of Chinese espionage

For America, there’s a pretty clear idea of what our intelligence agencies should do, and it’s mostly about keeping tabs on new enemy weapons, terrorists plots, and counterespionage. But, American technology and innovations are also a coveted target for other countries, especially ones like China that are developing rapidly.

And China has the money and the culture to do something about it. They have proven capable of stealing secrets, partially to support military programs and partially to support the state-run companies that are in charge of keeping the people happy so President Xi Jinping can keep concentrating on wandering the Hundred Acre Wood.


(He reportedly hates being compared to Winnie the Pooh, so that’s just the best)

Here are six targets of Chinese espionage that you probably wouldn’t guess:

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

The site of some of the most sinister thefts of secret technology.

(Photo by Don Graham)

Farms

Perhaps the most surprising target of foreign espionage, especially Chinese, is American farms. America has some of the most advanced farms in the world, both in terms of the machinery used and the seeds that are grown there. The seeds and machines are so advanced, in fact, that it creates friction with normal farmers who are banned from repairing their own machines and cannot grow new seeds from their crops (they have to purchase a new batch of seeds from the manufacturer, instead).

China needs to feed millions of mouths, but doesn’t want to spend all the time and money to do the research required. Instead, they’ve sent agents across the U.S. and other nations to steal seeds from suppliers, like Monsanto and Pioneer, either illegally purchasing them or straight ripping them out of the ground.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Self-driving cars like, the Waymo, could remake the economy, and China doesn’t want to get left behind.

(Photo by Dllu)

Self-driving cars and other automation

While self-driving cars seem like a luxury more than anything else, the underlying tech is challenging to create and could, potentially, be extremely lucrative. Add to that the fact that deep-learning algorithms for one task can give you a better idea how to create algorithms for another task, and it’s easy to see why nations, especially China, would target the companies making the new vehicles.

Prosecutors allege that a former Apple employee was stealing tech for a new employer in China when he was arrested in the airport with stolen trade secrets from an autonomous car project.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Microbes are an important part in the manufacture of some drugs and recently, chemicals. Yeah, China and other countries like those.

(Agricultural Research Service)

Microbes

Really any important biological discovery, especially medicinal, could go here, but a particular microbe case is instructive. Ching Wang, a man of Chinese descent who discovered an anti-parasitic drug in the 1970s, told the New Yorker that he received a phone call a little after he and his colleagues published their paper.

The caller worked for a state-run pharmaceutical company in China and was wondering if Wang could fly himself out to China with a sample of the microbe, just for funsies. Wang didn’t go, obviously, but China needs advanced medicine that it isn’t always willing to research. When China can get people to hand over crucial information, extort such information from companies, or simply steal it from non-secured computers, they can bound forward in science overnight.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Universities are centers of learning and research that China would love to rip off.

(Photo by Ulrich Lange)

Universities

Speaking of which, universities are a great place for espionage agents, and it’s not about the co-eds. Many advanced projects being done in a country are typically the result of a partnership between governments, corporations, and universities.

And, as you might imagine, universities are typically the weakest links in these partnerships. So, they’re often the target of spies.

While there used to be only a couple thousand active contracts driving defense-applied research at any given time, a 2007 report showed that that number had risen to above 50,000 by 2006. Needless to say, there’s a lot of great research being done in places like MIT.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

Chinese wind farms are often made possible by technology that was stolen from an American company that nearly went bankrupt thanks to the theft.

(Photo by Land Rover Our Planet)

Wind and solar companies

China made a pledge to generate more clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To do so, they apparently decided to just steal a bunch of U.S. secrets. In one high-profile case, American company AMSC sold 0 million in tech to Chinese firm Sinovel, putting safeguards in place that would, hopefully, prevent theft of their intellectual property.

Yeah… Those safeguards failed. China got help from an insider to download source code, reversed engineer the tech, installed it on all of their projects, and then didn’t pay the 0 million. A U.S. court recently decided a case against Sinovel for million.

The lawsuit might have gone better, except the Chinese military allegedly broke into AMSC’s servers to steal their legal strategy against the Chinese firm.

Bellingcat IDs second poisoning suspect as Russian agent

The Chinese Meng Shi, or “Brave Soldier,” is a vehicle that isn’t at all a ripoff of the AM General Humvee that American troops and their allies drive.

(Photo by Morio)

Free samples

​Oddly enough, despite all of China’s thefts, companies are still super eager to do business with state-run corporations and other entities in the country just to keep their foot in the door. Some even give free samples, something China encourages and regularlytakes advantage of.

That’s likely how China was able to domestically produce the Meng Shi, the “Brave Soldier.” AM General tried to sell them a Humvee and left behind a free sample after a visit in the 1980s. Later, China purchased a few for “oil exploration.” Then, the Meng Shi rolled off the line looking distinctly Humvee-like.

For its part, China insists that the appearance is a coincidence stemming from the vehicles’ similar missions. And besides, the Meng Shi is better on every metric, at least according to papers written by military officials and not subjected to peer review.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Check out eerie new ‘Westworld’ trailer

In a new teaser video released by HBO, several major events and the fictional world’s timeline is revealed.

The timeline indicates that a “divergence” happened in Hong Kong in June 2019, marked by political unrest and then followed by the impeachment of the President of the United States.


These real-life events are then followed by a fictional vision of the world’s future, with “ecological collapse” in 2020 and the assassination of the President-elect of the United States in 2024.

Westworld | Season 3 – Date Announce | 2020 (HBO)

www.youtube.com

The timeline escalates, with an unidentified narrator speaking about a “system” that was initiated in 2039.

But that system underwent it’s own “critical divergence” in 2058 — which is likely when Dolores and the other “Westworld” hosts gained consciousness, took over the park, and infiltrated the outside world.

“Westworld” returns with an eight-episode season on Sunday, March 15, 2020.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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