Drug theft rises at VA hospitals - We Are The Mighty
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Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

Federal authorities are investigating dozens of new cases of possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at Veterans Affairs hospitals, a sign the problem isn’t going away as more prescriptions disappear.


Data obtained by The Associated Press show 36 criminal investigations opened by the VA inspector general’s office from Oct. 1 through May 19. It brings the total number of open criminal cases to 108 involving theft or unauthorized drug use. Most of those probes typically lead to criminal charges.

The numbers are an increase from a similar period in the previous year. The VA has pledged “zero tolerance” in drug thefts following an AP story in February about a sharp rise in reported cases of stolen or missing drugs at the VA since 2009. Doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff in the VA’s network of more than 160 medical centers and 1,000 clinics are suspected of siphoning away controlled substances for their own use or street sale — sometimes to the harm of patients — or drugs simply vanished without explanation.

Drug thefts are a growing problem at private hospitals as well as the government-run VA as the illegal use of opioids has increased in the United States. But separate data from the Drug Enforcement Administration obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act show the rate of reported missing drugs at VA health facilities was more than double that of the private sector. DEA investigators cited in part a larger quantity of drugs kept in stock at the bigger VA medical centers to treat a higher volume of patients, both outpatient and inpatient, and for distribution of prescriptions by mail.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Senator Marco Rubio calls for increased accountability of the VA medical centers to curb prescription drug abuse and theft.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., said AP’s findings were “troubling.” He urged Congress to pass bipartisan accountability legislation he was co-sponsoring that would give the agency “the tools needed to dismiss employees engaged in misconduct.” The Senate is set to vote on the bill June 6.

“The theft and misuse of prescription drugs, including opioids, by some VA employees is a good example of why we need greater accountability at the VA,” Rubio said.

In February, the VA announced efforts to combat drug thefts, including employee drug tests and added inspections. Top VA officials in Washington led by VA Secretary David Shulkin pledged to be more active, holding conference calls with health facilities to develop plans and reviewing data to flag problems. The department said it would consider more internal audits.

Criminal investigators said it was hard to say whether new safeguards are helping.

“Prescription drug diversion is a multifaceted, egregious health care issue,” said Jeffrey Hughes, the acting VA assistant inspector general for investigations. “Veterans may be denied necessary medications or their proper dosage and medical records may contain false information to hide the diversion, further putting veterans’ health at risk.”

Responding, the VA said it was working to develop additional policies “to improve drug safety and reduce drug theft and diversion across the entire health care system.”

“We have security protocols in place and will continue to work hard to improve it,” Poonam Alaigh, VA’s acting undersecretary for health, told the AP.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
A Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta, GA

In one case, a registered nurse in the Spinal Cord Injury Ward at the VA medical center in Richmond, Virginia, was recently sentenced after admitting to stealing oxycodone tablets and fentanyl patches from VA medication dispensers. The nurse said she would sometimes shortchange the amount of pain medication prescribed to patients, taking the remainder to satisfy her addiction.

Hughes cited in particular the risk of patient harm. “Health care providers who divert for personal use may be providing care while under the influence of narcotics,” he said.

AP’s story in February had figures documenting the sharp rise in drug thefts at federal hospitals, most of them VA facilities. Subsequently released DEA data provide more specific details of the problem at the VA. Drug losses or theft increased from 237 in 2009 to 2,844 in 2015, before dipping to 2,397 last year. In only about 3 percent of those cases have doctors, nurses or pharmacy employees been disciplined, according to VA data.

At private hospitals, reported drug losses or theft also rose — from 2,023 in 2009 to 3,185 in 2015, before falling slightly to 3,154 last year. There is a bigger pool of private U.S. hospitals, at least 4,369, according to the American Hospital Association. That means the rate of drug loss or theft is lower than VA’s.

The VA inspector general’s office said it had opened 25 cases in the first half of the budget year that began Oct. 1. That is up from 21 in the same period in 2016.

The IG’s office said the number of newly opened criminal probes had previously been declining since 2014.

Michael Glavin, an IT specialist at the VA, says he’s heard numerous employee complaints of faulty VA technical systems that track drug inventories, leading to errors and months of delays in identifying when drugs go missing. Prescription drug shipments aren’t always fully inventoried when they arrive at a VAfacility, he said, making it difficult to determine if a drug was missing upon arrival or stolen later.

“It’s still the same process,” said Glavin, who heads the local union at the VA medical center in Columbia, Missouri. The union’s attorney, Natalie Khawam, says whistleblowers at other VA hospitals have made similar complaints.

Criminal investigators stressed the need for a continuing drug prevention effort. The VA points to inventory checks every 72 hours and “double lock and key access” to drugs. It attributes many drug loss cases to reasons other than employee theft, such as drugs lost in transit. But the DEA says some of those cases may be wrongly classified.

“Inventories are always an issue as to who’s watching or checking it,” said Tom Prevoznik, a DEA deputy chief of pharmaceutical investigations. “What are the employees doing, and who’s watching them?”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Two Army veterans received the Medal of Honor in 2017

This year, the only two Medal of Honor recipients were both Army veterans, who were receiving the medals for courageous, sacrificial actions in combat during the Vietnam War. Here are the stories of Spc. Five James McCloughan and Capt. Gary M. Rose, presented again to commemorate their courageous, sacrificial actions that earned them the highest military honor in the land.


On July 31, President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to former to former Spc. 5 James McCloughan during a White House ceremony for gallant actions in the Vietnam War.

McCloughan, a medic, was one of 89 Soldiers in Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division who fought on Nui Yon Hill, near the city of Tam Kỳ, from May 13 to 15, 1969.

Within minutes of landing there on May 13, about 2,000 enemy soldiers had the unit surrounded and two of the unit’s helicopters were shot down, Trump related during the ceremony. Seeing a badly wounded Soldier lying in an open field, McCloughan blazed through 100 meters of enemy fire to carry the Soldier to safety.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
U.S. Army Pfc. James McCloughan, posing in front of the Vietnam Regional Exchange Snack Shop, 1969. (Photo courtesy of James McCloughan)

When North Vietnamese forces ambushed the unit a short time later, McCloughan again rushed into danger to rescue his wounded men. As he cared for two Soldiers, shrapnel from an enemy rocket-propelled grenade “slashed open the back of Jim’s body from head to foot. Yet, that terrible wound didn’t stop Jim from pulling those two men to safety, nor did it stop him from answering the plea of another wounded comrade and carrying him to safety atop his own badly injured body. And so it went, shot after shot, blast upon blast,” the President said.

As the darkness of night approached, McCloughan continued to crawl through rice paddies, dodging bullets, to rescue wounded Soldiers and bring them to a medevac helicopter. When McCloughan’s lieutenant, seeing the extent of the medic’s own injuries, ordered him to get into the medevac as well, McCloughan refused, saying “You’re going to need me here.”

McCloughan would later say, “I’d rather die on the battlefield than know that men died because they did not have a medic,” Trump related.

Over the next 24 hours, without food, water or rest, McCloughan fired at enemy soldiers, suffered a bullet wound to his arm and continued to race into gunfire to save more lives, the President said.

“Though he was thousands of miles from home, it was as if the strength and pride of our whole nation was beating inside of Jim’s heart,” the President said. “He gave it his all and then he just kept giving.”

In those 48 hours, Jim rescued 10 American Soldiers and tended to countless others, Trump said, adding that of the 89 in the company, their strength had dwindled to 32 by the end of the fighting.

Following the war, McCloughan taught sociology and psychology at South Haven High School in Michigan, and coached football, baseball, and wrestling for 38 years.

McCloughan was joined at the White House ceremony by members of his family, eight other Medal of Honor recipients, and 10 Soldiers who served with him during that epic battle, five of whom McCloughan personally saved.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Captain Gary M. Rose. (Compiled photos from U.S. Army.)

More than 47 years after his heroic actions in the nation of Laos, during the Vietnam War, Capt. Gary Michael “Mike” Rose was recognized with the Medal of Honor by President Trump at the White House on Oct. 23.

During the Vietnam War, Rose served as a combat medic with the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group, part of Special Forces. He was recognized for actions during a four-day period that spanned Sept. 11 through 14, 1970, in Laos. The mission he was part of, called “Operation Tailwind,” had for many years been classified.

Operation Tailwind was meant to prevent the North Vietnamese Army from funneling weapons to their own forces through Laos, along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The operation inserted 136 men by helicopter, including 16 American Soldiers, deep inside Laos.

“Once they landed in the clearing, they rushed to the jungle for much needed cover,” Trump said. “Soon, another man was shot outside their defensive perimeter. Mike immediately rushed to his injured comrade, firing at the enemy as he ran. In the middle of the clearing, under the machine gun fire, Mike treated the wounded Soldier. He shielded the man with his own body and carried him back to safety.”

That was just the start of the four-day mission, Trump said. There was much more to come.

As the unit moved deeper and deeper through the dense jungle, dodging bullets and explosives, Rose continued to tend the wounded during the four-day mission, even at the risk of extreme danger to himself.

Also Read: This Medal of Honor recipient saved 18 Marines from an enemy minefield

Rose was himself injured, Trump said. On the second day, Rose was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, which left shrapnel in his back, and a hole in his foot.

“For the next 48 excruciating hours, he used a branch as a crutch and went on rescuing the wounded,” Trump said. “Mike did not stop to eat, to sleep, or even to care for his own serious injury as he saved the lives of his fellow Soldiers.”

When the unit evacuated by helicopter on the fourth day, Rose’s helicopter crashed due to a failed engine. After being thrown from the helicopter, Rose rushed back to the scene to pull his fellow Soldiers out of the burning wreckage.

At the conclusion of Operation Tailwind, thanks to the efforts of Mike Rose, all 16 American Soldiers were able to return home.

During those four days in Laos, “Mike treated an astounding 60 to 70 men,” Trump said. And of the mission, which proved to be a success, “their company disrupted the enemy’s continual resupply of weapons, saving countless of additional American lives.”

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Retired Army Capt. Gary M. Rose and his wife, Margaret, prepare to attend a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House, Oct. 23, 2017. (Army photo by Spc. Tammy Nooner)

In addition to members of his family, 10 of Rose’s brothers-in-arms from the operation also attended the ceremony.

“To Mike and all the service members who fought in the battle: You’ve earned the eternal gratitude of the entire American nation,” Trump said. “You faced down the evils of communism, you defended our flag, and you showed the world the unbreakable resolve of the American armed forces. Thank you. And thank you very much.”

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


AIR FORCE:

Staff Sgt. Brian Alfano, a survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructor with the 103rd Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing, demonstrates an overt method for marking a drop zone during a bundle drop training flight at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 19, 2016.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
U.S. Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Muncy

First Lt. Matthew Sanders, a 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilot, prepares for a combat sortie in an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jan. 17, 2016. Airmen assigned to the 421st EFS, known as the “Black Widows,” are deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support missions.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys

ARMY:

A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), completes a routine safety measure in preparation for a static line jump from a Ch-47 Chinook helicopter assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, on to St. Mere Eglise Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 6, 2016.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
U.S. Army photo

Soldiers, assigned to the US Army Golden Knights parachute demonstration team, conduct a training jump over Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Jan. 19, 2016.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Muncy, The National Guard

Soldiers assigned to 2d Cavalry Regiment, United States Army Europe – USAREUR, conducts convoy operations with Stryker armored combat vehicles during Exercise Allied Spirit IV at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Hohenfels, Germany, Jan. 20, 2016.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William A. Tanner

NAVY:

CHANGI, Singapore (Jan. 13, 2016) Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class James Strotler secures a bolt in place for the retractable bit for towing aboard USS Fort Worth (LCS 3). Currently on a rotational deployment in support of the Asia-Pacific Rebalance, Fort Worth is a fast and agile warship tailor-made to patrol the region’s littorals and work hull-to-hull with partner navies, providing 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Antonio Turretto Ramos

GULF OF OMAN (Jan. 14, 2016) Marines and sailors aboard the USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) unload boxes during a replenishment at sea in the Gulf of Oman. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit is embarked on the Kearsarge Amphibious Readiness Group and is deployed to maintain regional security in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough

MARINE CORPS:

U.S. Marines with Maritime Raid Force, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct a deck shoot during Sustainment Exercise aboard the USS Boxer, January 18, 2016. SUSTEX is designed to reinforce and refine the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group/MEU’s execution of mission essential tasks in preparation for their upcoming deployment.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Hector de Jesus

Marines with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose MAGTF – CR – CC, recover a simulated casualty as part of a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise at an Undisclosed Location in Southwest Asia Jan. 12, 2016. SPMAGTF-CR-CC is ready to respond to any crisis response mission in theater to include the employment of a TRAP force.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Akeel Austin

COAST GUARD:

The HC144 Ocean Sentry prepares for an evening training flight at Air Station Cape Cod. Frequent night flights like this one allow crews to remain proficient and ready to respond no matter the time of day or night.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
USCG Photo

Air Station Cape Cod is the only airfield whose maintenance and operation is entirely run by the Coast Guard. As a result, planes and helicopters aren’t the only heavy machinery that we get to manage!

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
USCG photo

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon wants AI on fighters to predict mechanical failures

The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) is working with industry to implement AI, automation and machine-learning technology into aircraft as a way to anticipate and predict potential maintenance failures, service and industry officials said.


In a collaborative effort with DOD and the Air Force, C3 IoT is working on a deal to integrate AI-driven software into an F-16 and an E-3 Sentry AWACS surveillance aircraft, industry developers explained.

Developers say the new software should be operational on the aircraft within six months.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter visits Defense Innovation Unit Experimental at Moffett Field, Calif., to deliver remarks at DIUx May 11, 2016. (Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

The plan is to gather and analyze data, such as operationally relevant maintenance information during or after missions so that crews and service engineers can utilize predictive maintenance.

“F-16s will benefit from predictive maintenance as a way to inform pilots of which aircraft are at the highest risk in terms of being unreliable. We pinpoint systems such as engines and subsystems such as the propulsion,”  said Ed Abbo, president and CTO of C3 IoT.

The C3 IoT Platform enables the DOD to aggregate and keep current enormous volumes of disparate data, including both structured and unstructured datasets, in a unified cloud-based data image, running on Amazon Web Services, company statements said.

Also Read: F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

AI can draw upon all available information and assess on-board systems to know when a given component might fail or need to be replaced, bringing logistical advantages as well as cost-savings and safety improvements.

“If a machine fails during a desert landing, then algorithms can recognize that from analyzing other failure cases. We are looking at different properties and looking at prior failure cases so algorithms can determine when something like a propulsion system is likely to fail,” Abbo said.

Depending upon the kind of avionics in an aircraft, on-board sensors can collect essential maintenance data and either download telemetry upon landing or process information right on the aircraft, Abbo explained.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet in preparation of a barnstorming performance for reporters, Feb. 1, 2017, in Houston. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)

“LINK 16 can transmit data coming directly from on-board sensors, allowing information to be analyzed in real-time during flights by using machine learning and analytics,” Abbo said.

Some aircraft, for instance, have newer sensors able to perform on-board analytics and, in some instances, even record a pilot’s voice as a way to process language information.

This initiative is entirely consistent with a broad service-wide Air Force effort to extend data security beyond IT and apply AI, automation and machine learning to larger platforms.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy identifies Sailor Killed in Manbij, Syria attack

A Sailor assigned to Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66 (CWA 66), based at Ft. George G. Meade, Md., was killed while deployed in Manbij, Syria, Jan. 16, 2019.

Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, was killed while supporting Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve.


“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and teammates of Chief Petty Officer Kent during this extremely difficult time. She was a rockstar, an outstanding Chief Petty Officer, and leader to many in the Navy Information Warfare Community,” said Cmdr. Joseph Harrison, Commanding Officer, CWA-66.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

Personal photo provided by the family of Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent.

Kent, who hailed from upstate New York, enlisted in the Navy Dec. 11, 2003, and graduated from boot camp at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Ill., in February 2004. Her other military assignments included Navy Information Operations Command, Fort Gordon, Ga.; Navy Special Warfare Support Activity 2, Norfolk, Va.; Personnel Resource Development Office, Washington, D.C.; Navy Information Operations Command, Fort Meade, Md.; and Cryptologic Warfare Group 6, Fort Meade, Md. Kent reported to CWA 66 after the command was established on Aug. 10, 2018.

“Chief Kent’s drive, determination and tenacity were infectious. Although she has left us way too soon, she will not be forgotten, and her legacy will live on with us,” said CWA 66 Command Senior Enlisted Leader, Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Collections) Denise Vola.

Kent’s awards and decorations include the Joint Service Commendation Medal (2), Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Rifle Marksmanship Ribbon, and Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

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This is what Game of Thrones can teach you about situational awareness

I think this should go without saying, but, here’s your obligatory Spoiler Warning.


If you saw Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 6 (or you don’t really care about spoilers) then read on. If you haven’t watched the episode but you’re reading articles about the show…here’s an article we did about cats.

Still around? Cool. Let’s get into it.

For last week’s episode, check out – This is what Game of Thrones can teach you about squad composition

Situational awareness isn’t a skill a warfighter picks up overnight. It’s the concept of living your life with your head on a swivel. It’s why so many veterans and active duty troops keep their back to a wall and an eye on the door like they’re Jason Bourne.

This is what Jeff Cooper described in his book “Principles of Personal Defense” as “living in Condition: Yellow.”

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
(Scale by Jeff Cooper via Principles of Personal Defense)

White is being blissfully ignorant and Orange being hyper-vigilant to the point of paranoia. Yellow is the perfect middle ground of quietly observing. It’s also referred to as “relaxed alert.”

Red, Gray, and Black are the states of action with varying degrees of how one reacts in confrontation to a threat. Red or “primed for action” is the desired state when sh*t hits the fan. Grey is a state of chaos and Black is total panic, both causing the war fighter to ignore or forget their surroundings.

We can break down the reactions of how the team of Westeros’ greatest fighters devised a strategy to capture and extract a wight (the reanimated skeletons that fight for the Night King.)

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Deep in conversation, they’re still watch their surroundings (Photo via Army.mil Screen grab via HBO Go)

As the team of badasses move through the frozen north, they generally maintain Condition: Yellow. Tormund may be joking about his three best ways to keep warm, but he’s still eyeing his surroundings.

It’s only Gendry, the fighter with the least experience, who is in Orange. He’s uneasy about his “squad mates.” He’s never been beyond the wall, or even acclimated to the snow. He’s nervous and it shows.

When the group comes to the open field shrouded in snowfall, the group loses their control of situational awareness. And this is common in every battle.

The Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz said of this: “War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.”

This has since been called the “fog of war.” Same concept as in video games, but our heroes also have to contend with a literal fog that hide their enemies as well as allies. With the probable threat nearby, they form up and prepare to engage.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Note the 360° Perimeter (Photo via Wikimedia Screen grab via HBO Go)

The squad isn’t able to spot the zombie bear in time and after it caught on fire, Sandor Clegane is terrified. He is a prime example of how even the greatest of war fighters can still lose their composure. He’s in Condition: Gray.

They find their stray wight with a white walker and his soldiers. The rest of the steps in maintaining situational awareness are further explained in fighter pilot and military strategist John Boyd’s OODA Loop, which is the constant cycle of Observing, Orienting, Deciding, and Acting.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
(Chart via Wikicommons)

Through the OODA Loop, they observe the valley and have a count how many enemies there are. They orient themselves to position themselves to push through with the exit to their front. They decide who is attacking whom, with John (the only one with a Valerian Steel sword) attacking the leader.

And in action, it works flawlessly. They capture and bind the enemy. But not before it calls for reinforcements.

They send Gendry as a runner to get the message back to Daenerys. Keeping higher command aware of what’s going on in the field is paramount for operation success. But Gendry has another critical mission: to call in air support.

As the undead horde swarms the squad, they come across a lake with thin ice and an island with a high observation point. They use this perfectly to their advantage. The ice shatters, creating a moat-like barrier around their island. They can hold the island long enough for extraction.

If it looks stupid but works — it ain’t stupid.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
A good fighting position makes all the world. (Photo via Army.mil Screen grab via HBO Go)

Operationally, everything has been relatively smooth. Only one character with a name has died so far. It’s cold, but they have eyes on every target, including the enemy leaders — who’s elimination would end their magically undead army. You can point out everything thus far as prime examples of things you should do before and after first contact.

Now comes the example of what happens when you march into battle with no situational awareness, no understanding of your enemy, very little experience, and way too much confidence.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
If everyone is waiting on you…move. (Photo via Defense.mil Screen grab via HBO Go)

Air Extraction has touched down on the landing zone and air support is (literally) lighting up the enemy. Daenerys and her dragons have arrived. Minutes before, she didn’t believe the enemy existed and now she’s fighting the massive army of the dead.

Her dragons have been injured before; Drogon has taken spears from Sons of the Harpy and the Lannister’s Scorpion and he survived. And in battle, we all think we are invincible…until we’re not.

Viserion, the golden dragon of Daenerys, is slain after the Night King impales him with an ice spear.

It was the lack of situational awareness that kept the group from identifying not one but two ice spears. Jon Snow, with all of his experience in combat, really is a slow-learner as far as battle tactics go. He spots the second spear in time to send off a warning, but is left stranded on the battlefield with plan.

Sure, he’s alright and thanks to plot armor he makes it out of there alive, but really Jon, it’s time to start studying combat strategy. It’s almost as if he forgot everything he had learned about situational awareness up until this point…

MIGHTY TRENDING

Destroyer pierces Chinese claims in Pacific waters

In what a Chinese official deemed a “provocation,” the US sent one of its guided-missile destroyers through Chinese claimed waters on Jan. 7, 2019, as the two nations kicked off trade talks in Beijing.

Reuters reported Jan. 3, 2019, that the talks, held between trade representatives from both countries, are meant to begin “positive and constructive discussions,” ultimately aiming to ease an ongoing and increasingly devastating trade war.

But just as the talks began Jan. 7, 2019, guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell sailed by the Paracel Islands, one of several hotly contested chains in the South China Sea, according to Reuters.


The same day, Chinese media aired a clip depicting a Chinese air force pilot issuing a warning to an unidentified aircraft in the air defense zone they imposed, although it is unclear when the encounter occurred.

Both encounters took place in areas where China has made sovereignty claims that are not internationally recognized. Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines have all made competing claims in the South China Sea; the air defense zone was claimed in 2013 in an attempt to justify China’s grasp for control of the East China Sea, which has been disputed by Japan, according to the South China Morning Post.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals

A still image from footage of a Chinese fighter jet engaging a foreign aircraft over the East China Sea.

(China Central Television/YouTube)

Lu Kang, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Jan. 7, 2019, that China had sent warships and aircraft in response, calling the McCampbell’s transit a violation of international law.

“We urge the United States to immediately cease this kind of provocation,” he said.

In a statement emailed to Reuters, Rachel McMarr, spokeswoman for the US Pacific Fleet, said the operation was not meant as a political statement or directed at any one country, but designed to “challenge excessive maritime claims.”

Known as “freedom of navigation” operations, ships and aircraft challenging excessive claims is not a new concept, nor one exclusively practiced by the US. In August 2018, a British amphibious ship sailed close to the Paracels, sparking a confrontation by a Chinese frigate and two aircraft. That same month, the US Defense Department published a map showing instances of Chinese vessels operating in established economic zones of other countries.

While US officials said there is no connection between the transit and the trade talks, Chinese spokesman Kang took a different approach.

“Both sides have a responsibility to create the necessary positive atmosphere for this,” he told state media, according to Reuters.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Daring Navy SEAL dies in CA skydiving accident

A highly-decorated Navy SEAL was killed in a skydiving accident on Sept. 30.


The SEAL, Cmdr. Seth Stone, died after jumping out of a hot air balloon in Perris in Riverside County. The Federal Aviation Administration said his parachute failed to open properly and the agency is investigating.

Stone, 41, of Texas, was most recently assigned to Special Operations Command Pacific in Hawaii, a unit that receives Navy personnel from the Naval Special Warfare Command in San Diego.

“The Naval Special Warfare community is deeply saddened and mourns the tragic loss of one of our best. Seth’s absence will be sorely felt across the staff, command, and the entire special operations community. NSW is a close-knit family and our primary focus is to provide care and support for Cmdr. Stone’s family,” said Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
Navy SEAL Lt. Cmdr. Seth Stone speaks to the media about Master-At-Arms 2nd Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Michelle L. Kapica.

Stone earned two silver Silver Stars, the military’s fifth-highest commendation, including one for a well-known firefight in Ramadi, Iraq. On Sept. 29, 2006, Stone and the group of SEALs under his charge were attacked with small arms fire and rockets while they were protecting another unit.

“The mortar fire, machine gun fire randomly sprayed the patrol, who were contacted by the enemy about 75 percent of the time,” Stone told National Public Radio in 2008.

According to the citation for the medal, Stone led them through the firefight to wounded SEALs, and helped evacuate the wounded.

One SEAL under Stone, Petty Officer Second-Class Michael Monsoor, was killed after he threw himself on top of an enemy grenade. He was credited with saving several lives and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Drug theft rises at VA hospitals
In an undated file photo provided by the US Navy, Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael A. Monsoor participates in a patrol in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Monsoor has been awarded the Medal of Honor.

“He recognized immediately the threat, yelled grenade, and due to the fact that two other SEAL snipers, our brothers, could not possibly escape the blast, he chose to smother it with his body and absorb the impact and save the guys to his left,” Stone told NPR.

Stone, who died one day after the tenth anniversary of Monsoor’s death, was on an adjacent rooftop during that battle and later said the petty officer’s bravery inspired him to re-enlist after the end of that deployment.

Besides the two Silver Stars, Stone also received a Bronze Star with a “V” insignia for valor, and the Navy Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Commissioned through the Naval Academy in 1999, he was a surface warfare officer and was assigned to a cruiser before he trained to become a SEAL.

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The FAA said it typically looks into whether parachutes were properly packed when it investigates accidents that occur during skydiving. The accident is being investigated by civilian authorities since it occurred off-duty.

According to the Naval Safety Center, a command that tracks on- and off-duty accidents involving sailors and Marines, the last fatal skydiving accident involving a member of the Navy outside of training or a mission was in June 2010 when a petty officer first class died after he attempted to jump from a cell phone tower in southeast Virgina.

Regulations require that the main parachute must be packed within 180 days by a certified parachute rigger, a person under the supervision of a parachute rigger, or the person making the jump. The reserve parachute must have been packed by a certified rigger within 180 days if it’s made of synthetic materials.

The United States Parachute Association held the National Skydiving Championship in Perris over the last two weeks, but the accident was not related to that event, the organization said. The Army’s skydiving team, the Black Knights, participated in the competition.

MIGHTY CULTURE

British Army is swapping English breakfasts for avocado toast

The British Army diet is getting a millennial makeover.

While full English breakfasts have long been a staple for troops, this could soon be replaced by everyone’s favorite brunch: avocado on toast.

Alongside a healthy smoothie, the new millennial-friendly breakfast option is being introduced in a bid to tackle obesity amongst troops, the Express reported.

Indeed, Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Watts was recently quoted as saying that 57% of soldiers are overweight and 12% fall into the obese category — however, it’s worth noting that BMI tests often class extremely muscular people as overweight as well.


Watts even said that the growing rate of obesity in the army is a “national security threat” because fewer troops are fit to be sent into battle.

And so the healthier “warrior breakfast” options are reportedly being trialed with units of 4 Infantry Brigade at Catterick in North Yorkshire.

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It’s been devised by defense contractor Aramark in collaboration with HQ Regional Command, the Express reported, and will see soldiers offered a light pre-breakfast of yogurt, fruit, and smoothies to start their day, and then avocado on toast as a refuel meal after their morning training sessions.

A spokesperson for the army explained to INSIDER that they take a “holistic approach” to wellbeing, educating recruits in nutrition, diet, and exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight. Troops have to pass regular fitness tests too.

The new breakfast forms part of a “Healthy Living Pilot,” which aims to lead to improvements in the areas of nutrition, alcohol, smoking, work-life balance, and mental health, with the ultimate goal of increasing retention of personnel in the military.

But what will the soldiers make of the changes?

A source who spent time as a reserve soldier in the British Army told INSIDER: “Smoothies and avocado would be a pretty drastic turn from army breakfasts as I knew them, which were mostly focused on filling you up — and not costing too much.

“My first breakfast on a British Army base was: sausage, bacon, bread, hash browns, beans, and porridge. There were apples and bananas, but it is fair to say the troops were not that enthusiastic about them.”

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(Photo by Chris Tweten)

Another source from inside the army, who wished to remain anonymous, agreed that the new menu likely wouldn’t go down well with all the recruits.

“It’s an interesting thought and would certainly be welcome in the Officers’ Mess, not so sure about the soldiers though!” he said.

He also explained that one reason obesity is an issue in the army is that the food provided isn’t particularly appealing, which means troops often end up purchasing more delicious — but less nutritious — options.

“One of the main reasons for poor health and obesity is the government’s decision to outsource chefs and cooking to contractors like Aramark,” he said.

“The ‘core meal,’ which they are obliged by the MoD [Ministry of Defence] to provide is a balanced meal but is deliberately bland and uninspiring.

“Soldiers can opt for the more expensive alternative options which are more appetizing but are regularly unhealthy, such as burgers, pizzas, chips, baked beans, etc.”

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Soldiers are able to order more appetizing but less nutritious meals such as pizza.

(Photo by ivan Torres)

The army spokesperson added that caterers are required to provide food to suit a wide range of dietary requirements, including healthy options.

There’s also been a change in how food is paid for.

“Soldiers now have to pay for their food as well,” our source continued. “The old system had it deducted at source from pay.

“Many soldiers are bad at managing their finances and then end up with no money to pay for food so have to eat rations, which are designed to dump loads of calories into your system to keep you going for high-intensity exercises!”

Breakfast is a little different though — for the “core option,” soldiers can currently eat a cooked breakfast comprising six items including two proteins, but cereal and milk are also deemed one of the six. This means that even if you only want a bowl of cereal, you’re wasting money by not getting a fried egg, a sausage, and beans on fried bread alongside it, according to our source.

He also explained that many of the soldiers and officers choose not to go to breakfast at all because they’d rather sleep longer and they don’t actually want to eat a big meal before doing a high-intensity exercise circuit as part of their physical training.

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Would soldiers be more likely to go to breakfast if it was a light smoothie?

(Flickr/Nomadic Lass)

“Officers used to be able to order soldiers to have breakfast but we cannot order people to spend their own money.”

Perhaps with lighter options on offer to start their day, more soldiers would decide to eat before training.

Rhiannon Lambert, a registered nutritionist and founder of Rhitrition clinic on London’s Harley Street, said she welcomes the healthier changes to the army diet.

“Regardless of the growing rates of obesity, the army deserves to have a nourishing and fulfilling breakfast that’s going to aid them in their productivity and overall health,” Lambert told INSIDER.

“Focusing on changing their dietary plan owed to obesity is something that should be seen as a positive thing in helping the health of our troops rather than focusing on the question of weight and numbers.”

However, Lambert pointed out that avocado toast isn’t actually the perfect healthy meal many people believe it to be.

“Avocado on toast isn’t actually that balanced as it doesn’t have enough protein in,” Lambert explained. “I would recommend adding a protein source on the top such as nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, or hummus.

“And of course, everyone is completely unique, and lifestyle and activity levels should dictate the diet.”

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

This mine-sniffing rat received an award for his life-saving work

Unless their name is Remy and they’re adept at preparing French cuisine in an animated Disney movie, rats are often viewed negatively by humans. Despite this, rats have served humans as medical and scientific test subjects including cancer research and space travel. However, one rat has gone above and beyond in his service to the human race.

Magawa is a seven-year-old male African giant pouched rat working in Cambodia where he employs a very special skill. Trained by the Belgian-registered APOPO charity, Magawa has the ability to detect landmines and alert his human handlers to their presence. APOPO specializes in training rats to detect both landmines in the earth and tuberculosis in human sputum samples. The rats are referred to as HeroRATs and are certified for their specialized task after a year of training.


The HeroRATs are trained to detect specific chemical compounds found in explosives. This means that they are not distracted or confused by scrap metal and are more efficient at locating buried landmines. When they do find a landmine, the rats are trained to scratch the earth in order to alert their human handlers. The HeroRATs “significantly speed up land mine detection using their amazing sense of smell and excellent memory,” said APOPO’s chief executive Christophe Cox. “This not only saves lives, but returns much-needed safe land back to the communities as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.” According to the HALO Trust, the world’s largest landmine clearance charity, landmines and other unexploded ordnance in Cambodia have resulted in over 64,000 injuries and 25,000 recorded amputations since 1979.

Magawa was born and raised in Tanzania, weighs 2.6 pounds and measures 28 inches long. Though he and his African giant pouched rat brethren are significantly larger than other species of rat, they are small and light enough to step on the landmines that they are seeking without detonating them. Magawa is capable of clearing a tennis court-sized field in just 20 minutes. APOPO says that the same field would require up to four days for a human to clear with a traditional metal detector. Magawa has sniffed out 39 landmines and 28 unexploded munitions and cleared over 1.5 million square feet of land in his four-year career.

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Magawa sniffs for explosives (PDSA)

For his incredible accomplishments and service, Magawa was recognized by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a British animal charity founded in 1917 during WWI. The PDSA presented Magawa with their Gold Medal on September 25, 2020. The medal bears the inscription “For animal gallantry or devotion to duty” and has been awarded to 30 animals, of which Magawa is the first rat. “Magawa’s work directly saves and changes the lives of men, women, and children who are impacted by these landmines,” said PDSA Director General Jan McLoughlin. “Every discovery he makes reduces the risk of injury or death for local people.”

Although he is the most successful mine-detecting HeroRAT, Magawa works just one half hour in the mornings. “He is very quick and decisive,” said Malen, Magawa’s main handler, “but he is also the first one to take a nap during a break.” Malen’s last name has been withheld for privacy. In his downtime, Magawa enjoys running on his wheel and is partial to snacks of bananas, peanuts, and watermelons. “He is very special to me,” Malen said of Magawa. The two have been working together for four years.

As HeroRATs generally have a field career of four to five years, Magawa is nearing retirement. APOPO says that once they enter retirement, they are given plenty of play and exercise. In the meantime, a PDSA spokesperson expects that Magawa will receive a more practical reward in addition to his medal. “I hear he’s partial to bananas and peanuts,” Emily Malcolm said, “so I’m sure he will be getting a few extra treats.”


Articles

11 little-known facts about the National Guard

America’s oldest fighting force was founded officially on December 13th, 1636, when the first Militia fighting forces gathered in Massachusetts. 382 years later, here are some of the lesser-known facts about the US National Guard:


1. The very first national guard consisted of militia forces that were divided into three regiments (these units were the first “minutemen,” known for their quick response times).

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Minutemen at Bunker Hill. | Weaponsandwarfare.com

2. Today, the descendants of those regiments are the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Infantry, the 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard. They are the oldest units in the entire U.S. military.

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The Coat of Arms for the 181st Infantry

3. Two U.S. presidents have served in the National Guard – Harry S. Truman, and George W. Bush

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Harry S. Truman in his World War I Army uniform, 1917 Source: trumanlibrary.com

4. President Kennedy once used national guard troops to enforce integration legislature after governor George Wallace blocked the doorway of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa to prevent integration.

5. National Guard soldiers have fought in every single war since their founding.

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6. 50,000 members took on missions during the 9/11 attacks.

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New York Army National Guard Spc. Christian Miller from Company C, 1st Battalion, 105th Infantry, surveys ground zero devastation Sept. 13, 2001, two days after the 9/11 terror attacks. | Photo Credit: Col. Richard Goldenberg, New York Army National Guard

7. There have been 780,000 mobilizations of National Guard units since September 11, 2001. They provided about half of the troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.

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Soldiers from the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conduct a formal pass and review ceremony March 27 at Fort Hood, Texas. The National Guard brigade, headquartered in Ohio and comprised of troops from Ohio and Michigan, spent nearly three months training at the Texas post and now head for Kuwait for the remainder of a yearlong deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. | Ohio National Guard photo by SFC Kimberly D. Snow

8.) The National Guard is second only to the U.S. Army in terms of members.

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U.S. Army Spc. Josh Sadler, of Regimental Higher Headquarters Troop, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee Army National Guard participates in training in preparation for deployment to Iraq at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Dec. 12, 2009. This will be the unit’s second tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in five years. DoD photo by Russell Lee Klika, U.S. Army. (Released)

9. As each state has their own National Guard units, members must swear to uphold both Federal and State constitutions.

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More than 300 Soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard are sworn in as deputy officers by Lt. Kervin Johnson at the Washington, D.C., National Guard Armory, Jan. 18, 2013. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ian Caple

10. The National Guard name was not official until 1916, but it was first popularized by the Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. Lafayette went on to become the leader of his own National Guard in France.

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Lafayette as a lieutenant general, in 1791. Portrait by Joseph-Désiré Court

11. The National Guard was the first to create an African-American unit, 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, during the Civil War. One member of this unit, Sgt. Carney, was the first African-American to receive the Medal of Honor.

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William Harvey Carney Medal of Honor, 54th Massachusetts Image credit: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library

More from American Grit:

MIGHTY CULTURE

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Founded and led by military families, The Safe House Project (SHP) is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering victims of human trafficking by providing them a place to call home.

The group is focused on the development of safe houses for survivors of sex trafficking. Its 2030 mission is to eradicate child sex trafficking in America by strengthening networks.


Human trafficking is a global issue that affects roughly 40.3 million people and roughly 300,000 American children each year. Less than 1% of those victims will be rescued. And, if they are lucky enough to be rescued, what happens to them?

Thinking big

“In 2018, there were less than 100 beds in special care homes [in the U.S.],” Brittany Dunn, a Navy spouse and co-founder of SHP, said.

Without a place to go, many victims are turned over to the foster care system, juvenile detentions or mental institutions, with some even electing to return to their captors.

According to the US Department of Justice, finding adequate and appropriate emergency, transitional, and long-term housing is often the biggest service-related challenge that [human trafficking] task forces face.

Dunn, along with SHP co-founders and fellow Navy spouses Kristi Wells and Vicki Tinnel, began researching ways they could fill the gap. Rather than start a small non-profit organization focused on helping their local community, they thought big.

SHP accelerates safe house development through providing education, resources, funding and government contacts to local nonprofits who seek to establish safe houses within their local communities. These individual safe houses provide specialized counseling and resources to help victims get out of the cycle of abuse. By adopting a business-like organizational structure, SHP partners do not have to work in isolation to solve a problem. They are part of a larger network and better able to solve big-picture problems.

“What most people see as a disadvantage, moving around constantly, we’ve been able to use that to our advantage,” Dunn said. “A majority of our volunteers across the U.S. are military families. That creates networks that most people do not have as a natural resource.”

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Many survivors find art therapy to be an important part of processingtheir past. Art allows them to express their pain, while also helping them find their wings.

Why is this so hard?

Like other national problems, sex trafficking issues are often complicated by the division of power between local, state and federal government. If a victim is rescued in a state that does not have an active safe house, SHP will attempt to have them transferred to a neighboring state that can provide the resources they need.

While this is the ideal model, according to Dunn, some CPS [Child Protective Services] don’t want to see their dollars flow out of state.

“That is where education and awareness come in,” she said.

Victim reintegration from a stable treatment environment back into the “real world” must be strategic. Without proper planning, victims could easily run into former “johns” and reenter the cycle of abuse. The reason safe houses are so essential is because victims have specialized needs and many shelters do not have the resources or government mandate to help them.

“There is a need domestically for improved victim services, trauma-informed support, better data on the prevalence and trends of human trafficking,” Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C., said at a Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event held earlier this year. Hudson, a cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act, hopes this legislation will “provide stakeholders — from law enforcement to prosecutors to service providers to government officials — with the guidance and information they need to better serve victims of trafficking.”

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Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C. was a guest speaker at the Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event in January 2020 event held in the U.S. Capitol building. Hudson is also cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act

The victims

The majority of trafficked children are not victims of a snatch and grab.

“We live under a perception that our kids are safer because they are in a first world country, but they aren’t. It is the harsh reality,” Dunn said. “It just looks different. Instead of having a red-light district in Thailand, you have kids being recruited on Fortnite or being approached peer-to-peer in schools.”

Every time a child is exposed to sexually-explicit content in conversations, on television or online, underage sex becomes normalized. For some, abusive acts do not feel like the crimes and victims do not feel like they are being victimized.

“Child sex trafficking is a difficult subject to talk about but raising awareness and talking about it is the first step in solving it,” Ria Story, Tedx speaker, author and survivor leader, said.

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Safe House Project and Coffee Beanery are teaming up to raise awareness in coffee shops across America. Advocates also marked their hands in red to support the #EndItMovement.

See something. Say something. Do something.

According to Dunn, “any epidemic has two sides to eradication. Prevention and treatment.” She encourages everyone to look for the problems that may lie under the surface.

In addition to providing safe houses, SHP has trained over 6,000 military personnel to recognize and report instances of sex trafficking and hope to more than double this number by the end of 2020. And for those who cannot attend an official training, SHP offers online tools (https://www.safehouseproject.org/sex-trafficking-statistics).

For more information or to donate to SHP, visit: https://www.safehouseproject.org/donate

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A negative oil price? What in the world is happening?

The global economy has taken yet another unprecedented hit after coronavirus lockdowns around the world triggered a historic plunge in U.S. crude oil prices on April 20.

Stock markets across the world were reeling in volatility after some traders who had bought U.S. oil futures contracts were actually paying others to take the deliveries off their hands.


That left the U.S.-produced oil with a listed price of for the first time in history.

The price of both Brent Crude and Russian-produced Urals oil also declined markedly after the negative oil prices seen in the United States.

Here are answers to some of the main questions caused by the historic crash of U.S. oil prices.

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What is the cause of the historic fall of global oil prices?

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global demand for oil, creating a supply glut and filling oil-storage facilities around the world to near capacity.

Due to the basic market forces of supply and demand, traders now have difficulty finding buyers willing to purchase futures contracts for crude oil deliveries in May or June.

That has sent the price of oil futures contracts spiraling downwards.

The benchmark price for North Sea Brent Crude on April 21 fell by nearly per barrel overnight for June deliveries, selling at an 18-year low of just per barrel.

That is a fall of more than 60 percent from January’s peak this year.

Brent Crude is easier and cheaper to transport than its U.S. counterpart because Brent Crude is extracted directly from the North Sea.

The West Texas Intermediary (WTI) price, the U.S. benchmark for light crude, fell well into negative territory for the first time in history on April 20 — with May futures selling as low as minus per barrel.

The WTI price recovered slightly on April 21 but was negative mainly before trading at about id=”listicle-2645815893″ per barrel in late afternoon trading.

In a nutshell, there is an enormous global surplus in oil supplies with little demand for it, and oil companies are running out of places to store it.

Thus, some traders on April 20 essentially began paying buyers to take extra oil off their hands.

What is an oil futures contract?

An oil futures contract is a legal agreement by traders to buy or sell oil for a set price at a specified date in the future.

Those who enter a futures contract are obliged to carry out the deal at the specified price and date.

That means traders are essentially making a bet on what the price of oil will be in the future.

They hope to profit from the difference between the price specified in their futures contract and the actual price of oil on the date that the futures contract comes due.

storage.needpix.com

How can the price of oil be negative?

“This has never happened before, not even close,” says Tim Bray, a portfolio manager at GuideStone Capital Management in Dallas, Texas. “We’ve never seen a negative price on a futures contract for oil.”

The WTI’s negative price suggests it is traders who’d bought May oil futures who are offering to pay somebody else to deal with the oil due to be delivered next month.

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But many analysts describe the negative oil price as technical, saying it is related to the way futures contracts are written.

They note that most buyers are purchasing oil for delivery in June, not May.

Energy strategist Ryan Fitzmaurice of the Dutch-based Rabobank says negative oil prices are “more technical in nature and related to the futures contract expiration.”

“We could see isolated incidents where oil companies pay people to take their oil away as storage and pipeline capacity become scarce but that is unlikely on a sustained basis,” Fitzmaurice says.

Why hasn’t Moscow’s deal with Saudi Arabia to cut oil production protected the Russian economy from falling oil prices?

The impact of coronavirus restrictions on global oil prices has been devastating for Russia’s petrostate economy — which depends upon revenues from oil and natural-gas exports.

The price of Russia’s Urals variant of oil is determined by the global price index for Brent Crude.

Generally, Urals oil costs a few dollars less per barrel than Brent Crude.

Tumbling WTI and Brent Crude benchmarks mean dramatic declines for the price of Russian oil as well.

Meanwhile, many traders fear that an April 12 OPEC+ oil-production agreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia does not go far enough to compensate for the historic fall in global demand.

That deal calls for 23 oil-producing countries, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, to reduce their total output by 9.7 million barrels per day for May and June, cutting about 10 percent of the global supply.

What knock-on effects do falling oil prices have on Russia’s economy?

The oil markets have shown a cautious response of traders to the OPEC+ deal.

Now Russia’s stock market indices and the value of the Russian ruble also are falling.

Of course, oil shares have been the biggest losers on Russia’s stock market indices.

In early trading on April 21, the RTS Index lost 4.3 percent of its value while the MOEX Index was down by 1.8 percent.

On foreign-currency exchanges, Russia’s ruble early on April 21 had fallen about 2 percent from its value just 24 hours earlier. It fell even further later in the day.

“Taking into account the mood in the oil market, the risks for the Russian currency temporarily point towards further weakening,” Nordea analyst Grigory Zhirnov says.

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

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