A U.S. Huey helicopter sprays Agent Orange over Vietnam. The U.S. military used at least 11 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam from 1961 to 1972. (Wikimedia Commons)
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.
In January 2007, a group of Royal Marines devised a risky and unorthodox mission to rescue one of their own who was trapped inside an enemy compound. To get him back, four Marines strapped themselves to the outside of Apache helicopters and rode into harm’s way.
It happened after an attack on Jugroom Fort went sour quickly. The Brits assaulted in armored vehicles with artillery and Apache support, and the insurgents returned heavy fire . Poor communication during the raid led to a friendly fire incident and another miscommunication led to the Marines withdrawing without Lance Cpl. Mathew Ford.
After rallying back up, the Marines quickly realized Ford was missing, and one of the two Apaches on the battlefield used an infrared sensor to spot what appeared to be a human silhouette just inside the compound. The Royal Marines quickly devised a plan to strap two Marines each to two Apaches and have them land just outside the compound.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said on April 22 that it launched a military satellite into orbit, after months of failed attempts.
State television and the Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, reported the launch on April 22, calling it “successful.”
The United States, Israel, and other countries did not immediately confirm the satellite reached orbit, but their criticism suggested they believed the launch happened.
Analysts said it raised concerns about whether the technology used could help Iran develop intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“Iran’s first military satellite, Noor (light), was launched this morning from central Iran in two stages. The launch was successful and the satellite reached orbit,” state TV said.
The IRGC on its official website said the satellite reached an orbit of 425 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
The multistage satellite launch used a Ghased, or “messenger,” satellite carrier to put the device into space — a previously unheard-of system, according to the paramilitary group.
Tasnim added that the operation was carried from a launchpad in Dasht-e Kavir, a large desert in central Iran.
Iran has suffered several failed satellite launches in recent months. The United States and Israel have said that such launches advance Iran’s ballistic missile program.
Following Iran’s latest launch, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “Iran needs to be held accountable for what they’ve done.”
“We view this as further evidence of Iran’s behavior that is threatening in the region,” Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist told a Pentagon briefing.
General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the launched vehicle “went a very long way” but that it was too early to say whether it successfully placed a satellite in orbit.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry described the launch as a “facade for Iran’s continuous development of advanced missile technology,” while German Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger warned that “the Iranian rocket program has a destabilizing effect on the region.”
The launch comes amid increased tensions between Iran and the United States over the latter’s withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal and after a U.S. drone strike killed top IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani in January.
It also may signal that Iran is more willing to take chances during the current global coronavirus crisis, which has slashed oil prices to historic lows and forced many countries into an economic recession.
“This is big,” said Fabian Hinz, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California.
“Big question now is what tech the first stage used. Solid propellant? Liquid using old Shahab 3 tech? Liquid using more sophisticated motors/fuels? This is key to establishing how worrisome the launch is from a security perspective,” he added.
After that delightful reveal in Chapter One, the second episode of The Mandalorian takes its time and remains on-planet, following just Mando our Mandalorian, Nick Nolte aka the Ugnaught aka Kuiil, and the cutest little bounty in the galaxy. Let’s get right to it.
Here’s your spoiler warning.
MELINDA SUE GORDON/LUCASFILM LTD
It seems that when we open, our Mandalorian is still intent on returning “The Asset” to “The Client” (see what creator Jon Favreau is doing there? The Mandalorian…The Client…The Bounty…The Asset….it’s a cute naming device for the series).
Side note: we already know he’s not actually going to give the Yoda Baby to The Client, right? I guess unless he pulls some a Lando Calrissian and turns in the bounty but then goes and rescues the bounty?
Anyway, our Mandalorian is attacked by a team of Trandoshans with a tracking fob, which gives a nice sense of urgency for our hero: other bounty hunters are looking for this asset and more will be on their way.
Honestly how has Mando not pinched the crap out of those little cheeks?
The Mandalorian, Disney+
That night, we get the first inkling that the Yoda Baby is Force-sensitive when (I don’t want to make any gender assumptions here…so I’m just going to continue to adamantly avoid third-person pronouns) the child attempts to help mend our Mandalorian’s armor. The child climbs out of it’s floating bassinet a number of times, reaching the cutest little hand ever out to summon the Force, only to be interrupted by the impatient Mandalorian.
When they do finally return to his ship the next day, our Mandalorian catches Jawas scavenging the Razer Crest for parts. He blasts a number of them (like, he’s not even trying to limit the amount of violence he exposes the baby to?) and pursues the rest as they flee in their Sandcrawler. Surprisingly, they get the best of him, zapping him off the top and leaving him unconscious in their dust.
That’s totally going to leave a stain.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Reuniting with his buddy Kuiil, our Mandalorian seeks a trade with the Jawas. Also, the Yoda Baby ate a space frog alive and I guess I’ll just repress that information and work through it on my own time.
The Jawas are interested in our Mandalorian’s armor, but he refuses to trade, as it is part of his “religion.” A bit of nerdy context here for you: the Mandalorians are a warrior culture who were once devoted to a god of war and destruction. As time passed, they abandoned the fanatic worship of war in favor of a philosophical pursuit of the manda, a collective consciousness that can be reached in the afterlife by those who follow the tenets of Mandalorian culture.
Instead, the Jawas demand “the egg” and set our Mandalorian on a quest.
The egg, it turns out, is protected by a space-rhinoceros, who kicks our Mandalorian’s ass and nearly finishes him…until the Yoda Baby summons the Force and restrains the beast, levitating her in the air and finally dropping her, allowing our Mandalorian to finish her off with his dagger.
This use of the Force summons all of the energy of the Yoda Baby, who falls unconscious after the incident.
Our Mandalorian returns to the muddy cave, uncovers the disgusting hairy egg, and delivers it to the Jawas.
I think I’m going to be sick.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Satisfied with their thick space yolk (shudder), the Jawas return the Razer Crest parts to our Mandalorian, allowing him and Kuiil to repair the ship. Our Mandalorian offers Kuiil money and a job aboard his ship, but the Ugnaught is content to have peace in his valley and he bids the bounty hunter adieu.
Our Mandalorian sets off into the stars, presumably to deliver his bounty.
Thousands of cryptocurrency enthusiasts are taking part in an international scavenger hunt to find clues that promise to lead the winners to a prize of $1 million in bitcoin.
It’s called Satoshi’s Treasure, and it’s a game that’s part logic puzzle and part scavenger hunt, with clues found in both the digital and physical worlds. Each clue will reveal a fragment of the digital key used to access the game’s bitcoin wallet, and the winner will be the first person or team to put together at least 400 of these fragments to be able to claim the $1 million worth of bitcoin, according to cryptocurrency news site CoinDesk.
Nearly 60,000 people have signed up on the Satoshi’s Treasure website to receive notifications about new clues and game updates, CoinDesk reported May 12, 2019.
The game is being run and funded by a group of crypto investors. One of the co-creators of Satoshi’s Treasure, crypto investor Eric Meltzer, told CoinDesk that no single person knows all the locations of the clues or all of the key fragments.
“There are so many unknowns in this game that we kind of just want to see what happens,” said Meltzer, founding partner of crypto investment firm Primitive Ventures. “Part of the meta game that I think people are going to like is trying to figure out who is behind this.”
Game organizers say that since the first clues were released on April 16, 2019, many teams have been formed to work together toward finding key fragments and solving the game. A team organizing tool called Ordo has already been created, which will help to properly credit those who solve clues, and fairly divide up the id=”listicle-2637018554″ million prize at the end for the winning team.
According to the Satoshi’s Treasure website, the hunt is intended to “test the mettle of anyone who wishes to add some excitement to their lives.” The game has a simple set of rules that revolve around the tenant of “do no harm” — keys will not be hidden on private properties, no clues will require any destruction, and participants need to “always show respect” for fellow hunters.
CoinDesk reports that teams comprise of not only veteran crypto users, but also those new to bitcoin and those who are in it for the thrill of the hunt. The game’s creators say Satoshi’s Treasure prioritizes accessibility to anyone who wants to participate. For example, the latest clue was found on physical business cards distributed at the Magical Crypto Conference this weekend in New York.
“I’d say Satoshi’s Treasure is so exciting because it’s the pure joy of a treasure hunt,” crypto investor Nic Carter told CoinDesk. “It’s global and anyone can participate.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon’s emerging “Arsenal Plane” or “flying bomb truck” is likely to be a modified, high-tech adaptation of the iconic B-52 bomber designed to fire air-to-air weapons, release swarms of mini-drones and provide additional fire-power to 5th generation stealth fighters such as the F-35 and F-22, Pentagon officials and analysts said.
Using a B-52, which is already being modernized with new radios and an expanded internal weapons bay, would provide an existing “militarized” platform already engineered with electronic warfare ability and countermeasures designed to thwart enemy air defenses.
“You are using a jet that already has a military capability. The B-52 is a military asset, whereas all the alternatives would have to be created. It has already been weaponized and has less of a radar cross-section compared to a large Air Force cargo plane. It is not a penetrating bomber, but it does have some kind of jamming and countermeasures meant to cope with enemy air defenses. It is wired for a combat mission,” said Richard Aboulafia, Vice President of analysis at the Teal Group, a Virginia-based consultancy.
Flying as a large, non-stealthy bomber airplane, a B-52 would still present a large target to potential adversaries; however, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said part of the rationale for the “Arsenal Plane” would be to work closely with stealthy fighter jets such as an F-22 and F-35, with increased networking technology designed to increase their firepower and weapons load.
Such a scenario would likely rely upon now-in-development manned-unmanned teaming wherein emerging algorithms and computer technology enable fighter jets to control the sensor payload and weapons capability of nearby drones from the cockpit of the aircraft. This would enable Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to more quickly relay strategic or targeting information between fighter jets, drones and “Arsenal Planes.”
Aboulafia explained that air fighters being developed by potential adversaries, such as the Chinese J-20 and other fighters, could exist in larger numbers than a U.S. force, underscoring the current U.S. strategy to maintain a technological edge even if their conventional forces are smaller. An “Arsenal Plane” could extend range and lethality for U.S. fighters, in the event they were facing an enemy force with more sheer numbers of assets.
“There is a concern about numbers of potential enemies and range. When you are dealing with a potential adversary with thousands of jets and you’ve got limited assets with limited weapons payloads, you have got to be concerned about the numbers,” he said.
An effort to be more high-tech, if smaller in terms of sheer numbers, than rival militaries is a key part of the current Pentagon force modernization strategy.
“In practice, the “Arsenal Plane” will function as a very large airborne magazine, networked to fifth generation aircraft that act as forward sensor and targeting nodes, essentially combining different systems already in our inventory to create wholly new capabilities,” Carter told reporters. Aboulafia added that an idea for an “Arsenal Plane” emerged in the 1980s as a Cold War strategy designed to have large jets carry missiles able to attack Soviet targets.
Carter unveiled the “Arsenal Plane” concept during a recent 2017 budget drop discussion at the Pentagon wherein he, for the first time, revealed the existence of a “Strategic Capabilities Office” aimed at connecting and leveraging emerging weapons and technology with existing platforms. This effort is aimed at saving money, increasing the military’s high-tech lethality and bringing new assets to the force faster than the many years it would take to engineer entirely new technologies.
“I created the SCO (Strategic Capabilities Office) in 2012, when I was Deputy Secretary of defense to help us to re-imagine existing DOD and intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities to confound potential enemies — the emphasis here was on rapidity of fielding, not 10 and 15-year programs,” he said.
Carter said “Arsenal Plane” development would be funded through a $71 billion research and development 2017 budget request.
While Carter did not specify a B-52 during his public discussion of the new asset now in-development, he did say it would likely be an “older” aircraft designed to function as a “flying launchpad.”
“The last project I want to highlight is one that we’re calling the “Arsenal Plane,” which takes one of our oldest aircraft platforms and turns it into a flying launchpad for all sorts of different conventional payloads,” Carter added.
The Air Force is already surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.
Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.
The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies
Aboulafia said the new B-52 “Arsenal Plane” could, for the first time, configure a primarily air-to-ground bomber as a platform able to fire air-to-air weapons as well – such as the Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile, or AMRAAM.
The integration of air-to-air weapons on the B-52 does not seem inconceivable given the weapons upgrades already underway with the aircraft. Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.
B-52s have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.
“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.
Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.
The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.
IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.
The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.
Communications, Avionics Upgrades
Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.
Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.
“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”
Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.
Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.
“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.
An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.
Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. | Photo: Master Sgt. Lance Cheung/U.S. Air Force
Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.
The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.
Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.
“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”
The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.
The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.
Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.
Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over Afghanistan in support of military actions there from a base in Guam.
The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said. “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.
In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.
Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.
FedEx flight 705 was scheduled for a routine flight from Memphis, Tenn. to San Jose, Calif. on a clear April day in 1994. Its captain, David Sanders, was an experienced ex-Naxy pilot. First Officer James Tucker was an ex-Navy flight combat instructor.
Calloway was flying for free with the shipment, a perk for FedEx employees, so it wasn’t strange when Calloway informed the officers he would be hitching a ride. What was strange was that the official Flight Engineer for 705, Andy Petersen, kept finding the circuit breaker for the plane’s cockpit voice recorder turned off. He kept an eye on it, pre-flight checks were cleared and the plane headed for San Jose.
At 19,000 feet, with a total of four passengers, Calloway pulled a hammer from his guitar case – it was well before the increased security introduced after 9/11 – and attacked Petersen with repeated blows to the head. Next, Calloway assaulted Tucker and readied to attack Captain Sanders.
Calloway and Sanders wrestled before Sanders took a blow to the head himself, but this gave time for the other crewmen to wake up. Calloway retreated to the back to grab a speargun and, with the new weapon in hand, ordered them to sit down.
Tucker pulled on the controls and pulled the DC-10 into a steep climb. The other three men were tossed out of the cockpit. Captain Sanders and Petersen were wrestling over the speargun with the uninjured Calloway. Petersen had a fractured skull, severed temporal artery, and profuse bleeding. Sanders was a little better off, but not by much. They wouldn’t last long.
The First Officer and ex-Naxy flight combat instructor took control of the fight by taking control of the helm. He took the plane on its side, then upside down. As Calloway hit Captain Sanders in the head again, Tucker took the plane into a steep dive. But Tucker’s own fractured skull was starting to cause motor problems in his body. He began to lose movement and sensation as the plane plummeted to Earth.
Back in the galley, Calloway hit the Captain in the head one last time, but the Captain had enough. He caught the hammer, forced it from the attacker’s hands and beat him with his own hammer until Calloway stopped moving. They informed the Memphis air traffic control of the situation, requested an ambulance and a SWAT team and headed back to Tennessee.
As the crew flew with the autopilot on, Tucker kept the speargun on Calloway. But the moment Tucker’s injuries caused the speargun to dip from his hands, Calloway attacked again.
They tried to pin him down, but their injuries restricted their movements. Once Sanders was able to help his fellow crew mates, Tucker beat Calloway with the hammer again.
By the time the captain got back to the cockpit, alarms were blaring. The fully-loaded and fully-fueled plane would not have enough room to stop on the runway provided. Even worse, Calloway was waking up again, so there was no time to do another pass. At the last second, Sanders hit another runway that had more room.
Just 300 feet off the ground, Calloway was struggling for the hammer one more time. The plane landed hard, barely stopping with just 900 feet of runway left. Petersen and Tucker were in critical condition. Luckily all three men survived. Though they received medals for their heroism, they were medically unfit to fly from then on.
It turns out Calloway was a martial arts expert and originally planned to be the official flight engineer. He would have only had to kill two people.
The assailant’s life had taken a turn in the past four years. He lost his wife and children and was on the verge of losing his job for forging flight documents. So after transferring large amounts of cash and securities to his wife, he planned to disable the cockpit recorder then crash a plane so his kids would get his life insurance settlement, ensuring they could go to school.
Instead, he got two life sentences without parole.
Senior Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees recently demonstrated to the public how innovations are advancing clinical care and outcomes for veterans. Innovations included a virtual reality application used as a revolutionary PTSD treatment and 3D printing used for everything from orthotics to pre-surgery procedures.
The innovations were presented at the 2nd Annual Tech Day on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC, by Dr. Beth Ripley, Senior Innovator Fellow, and Joshua Patterson, Acting Director of Strategic Initiatives with VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE). Tech Day is a way for federal agencies to share their cutting-edge, mission-enabling technologies with leaders, fellow federal workers, and the public.
VHA IE made a big impression with its virtual reality and 3D printing demonstrations as attendees experienced how these ever-expanding technologies are helping veterans every day.
Beth Ripley demonstrates 3D printing.
Patterson demonstrated StrongMind, VHA’s innovative PTSD treatment that offers patients therapeutic experiences that wouldn’t be possible without the use of virtual reality. By donning a virtual reality headset, attendees experienced how StrongMind works and why it’s appealing to a younger generation of veterans. They also experienced the personalized, forward-thinking care VA is delivering to veterans using innovative technology.
Ripley described how VHA’s 3D Printing Network is an integrated national effort that allows VA health care staff to share ideas and best practices, solve problems, and pool resources to improve veteran care.
These programs aren’t just on the showroom floor, however.
Veterans in the Puget Sound area have been the beneficiaries of 3D printing as VHA medical staff make model kidneys for veteran patients with renal cancer to aid in pre-surgical planning. At many other VHA facilities, veterans suffering from diabetes who lose feeling in their feet now have access to custom orthotics at the time of their visit, instead of waiting weeks to have them manufactured.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Marine Corps’ last Mounted Color Guard, housed at the Yermo Annex aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, launches into the year 2017 and its 50th year of service.
“In 1966, Lt. Col. Robert Lindsley came to MCLB Barstow (after serving in) Vietnam,” explained Sgt. Terry Barker, MCG stableman.
“At that time a lot of the dependent children from base would take horses from the stables and ride them out in town in parades. Rather than the kids riding in the parades, Lindsley decided that we needed to have the Marines riding with the horses, so in 1967 he stood up the official Marine Mounted Color Guard here.”
The stables were renamed to honor Lindsley as the founder of the MMCG during a ceremony held on base in April of 2010.
Lindsley, a native of Columbus, Ohio, was born into a military family then joined the Marine Corps as an enlisted Marine in December 1941, days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1950, he was commissioned and after several assignments, he was stationed at MCLB Barstow where he was assigned to the Center Stables Committee, which later became the Mounted Color Guard.
Though there were multiple MCGs initially, MCLB Barstow is now home to the last remaining MCG throughout the Marine Corps. They travel far and wide to participate in events from coast to coast.
“Depending on budget and scheduling, we might be in events from California to Louisiana, Florida to D.C., Tennessee to Oregon,” Barker said.
“We cover the four corners of this country.”
There are some events that they never miss, such as the Tournament of Roses Parade held in Pasadena, Calif. every January. In that event, the MMCG always leads the parade and is the only unit to hold the American Flag. As a recruiting tool, the MCG reaches areas of the country where the Marine Corps is not otherwise represented.
“We have big bases in California, North Carolina and Okinawa,” Barker said. “There are states in the mid-west where there are no Marine Corps bases, active or reserve. So, when we participate in rodeos, parades, or monument dedications, we are quite possibly the only Marines in the entire state. Everybody sees Marines on television, or in the news, but they rarely get to stand next to them, shake their hand and talk to them. That’s what we get to do.”
The horses and Marines train together daily, and always travel together.
“We have a truck and trailer, and wherever they go, we go,” Barker said. The Marines often go so far as to sleep in the truck and trailer, rather than reserving hotel rooms, in order to save money and stay as close as they can to the horses to ensure safety.
“Another benefit is we can get them ready earlier,” said Sgt. Jacob Cummins, MCG Stableman. “Also we have to stay with our horses if they are not in a stables area.”
All of the travel can be difficult, but Cummins said it’s nothing like a deployment.
“For me, my wife is pretty conditioned to it,” he said. “It’s the kids that make it hard sometimes. They don’t know why you have to go.”
It helps to come back and get into a regular routine with family, as well as the horses.
“Our daily regimen (at the stables) depends on what’s going on, as far as events,” Barker explained. “We get here at 7 a.m. and feed and water the horses, and muck the stalls out. As Marines, we still have jobs to do as well, plus ground work, saddle training, and ranch maintenance.”
“For our maintenance training and farrier work we have Terry Holliday, a contractor,” said Sgt. Jacob Cummins, MCG stableman. “Each Marine is assigned to two horses to work with daily, and if any Marines are out, we cover their horses, too.”
Much has changed over the years, to include the procurement and initial training practices for the horses. In the early stages, Lindsley went to Utah with $600 to purchase horses for use with the MCG Marines.
“The horses we use today are all obtained through the Horse and Burro Program out of Carson City, Nevada,” explained Barker. “From there, they go through an inmate rehabilitation program, where the inmates get the horses to where they are green-broke, which means you can approach them, touch them, and touch their feet and so forth.”
Some of the Marines assigned to the MCG, such as Barker and Cummins, as well as two other riders, Sgt. Monica Hilpisch, and Lance Cpl. Alicia Frost, have prior experience riding and working with horses. However, most of the riders assigned to the MCG, such as Sgt. Moises Machuca and Sgt. Miguel Felix who are both currently with the team, did not have any experience with horses prior to their arrival. It is Holliday’s task to train the Marines to ride the horses effectively. The Marines learn basics first, such as the use of saddles, rein work, the various types of bridles and their functions, as well as how to make contact with the animals.
“They may come to the MCG without experience, but these are Marines and they’re the best of the best, so they do this like they do everything else,” said Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Atkinson, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Mounted Color Guard. “They work hard and become the best. It’s an honor to represent the Marine Corps in such a manner.”
During a recent Army exercise, a prototype laser shot down so many drones that its operator started losing count. “I took down, I want to say, twelve?” Staff Sgt. Eric Davis told reporters. “It was extremely effective.”
The Army has made air defense an urgent priority, especially against drones. Once icons of American technological supremacy, unmanned aircraft have proliferated to adversaries around the world. The Islamic State uses them for ad hoc bombing attacks; the Russian army to spot Ukrainian units for artillery barrages.
So last month’s Maneuver Fires Integrated Experiment threw 14 different types of drones against a slate of counter-UAS technologies, from a .50 caliber machine gun loaded with special drone-killing rounds, to acoustic sensors that listened for incoming drones, to jammers mounted on rugged, air-droppable Polaris 4x4s.
But the laser was the star.
The Army wants to arm the versatile Stryker combat vehicle with high-energy lasers to defeat a variety of threats — including drones. (Photo: US Army)
“We had a lot of fun with the Stryker vehicle this time,” said John Haithcock, the civilian director of the Fires Battle Lab at Fort Sill, which hosts the exercise. The Stryker is a moderately armored eight-wheel-drive vehicle, lighter than an M1 tank or M2 Bradley but much heavier and more robust than a Humvee or MRAP, and its boxy hull has proved adaptable to a host of variants.
Earlier MFIX exercises had tested a counter-drone Stryker, with radar and optical sensors to detect drones, plus jammers to scramble drones’ datalinks, causing them to lose contact with their operators and even crash. Two prototypes of this CMIC vehicle (Counter-UAS Mobile Integrated Capability) are now in Europe with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the unit on the cutting edge of testing new technology to counter the Russians.
But there’s still space and electrical power to spare on the CMIC Stryker, so for April’s MFIX the Army added the 5 kilowatt laser, derived from the Boeing-General Dynamics MEHEL 2-kw prototype. For November’s MFIX, they plan to double the power, 10 kilowatts, which will let it kill drones faster — since the beam delivers more energy per second — and further away. If November’s tests go equally well, Haithcock said, the 10 kw laser Stryker will graduate to an Army-led Joint Warfighting Assessment at Fort Bliss, Texas, where soldiers will test it in all-out mock battle.
Not that the MFIX exercise was easy: Soldiers operating the laser Stryker had to contend with real drones and simulated artillery barrages. Just managing the Stryker’s complex capabilities — laser, radar, jammers, sensors — was challenging. In fact, a big part of the experiment was assessing whether the soldiers’ suffered “task saturation,” a polite way of saying “overloaded.”
“The crew on the Stryker had never worked together….We didn’t know each other,” Staff Sgt. Davis said. “(But) all the systems were pretty easy to use, and after 15-20 minutes, I was able to program all the different types of equipment.”
Once the shooting started, he managed to multi-task, Davis said: “I was able to troubleshoot the radar while I was using the laser.” The artillerymen manning the laser Stryker were even able to continue acting as forward observers, spotting targets for artillery attack, at the same time they defended the force against incoming drones.
A Stryker-mounted 10 kw laser should be far more maneuverable and survivable on the front lines than the Army’s early experiment, a 10 kw weapon on an unarmored heavy truck. (The truck’s still in play as a platform for a 60 kw long-range laser to kill artillery rockets). But a Stryker is too much hardware for the Army’s light infantry brigades, which mostly move on foot with a smattering of Humvees and other offroad vehicles.
For those forces, this MFIX experimented with splitting the CMIC kit of sensors and jammers across two Polaris MRZR 4x4s. The Army also tested a heavy-duty jammer called the Anti-UAV Defense System (AUDS), currently mounted on a cargo pallet in the back of a medium truck but potentially Polaris-transportable as well. No word whether they can make a laser that compact — at least, not yet.
Country leaders, some of them from authoritarian regimes, are being accused of using the coronavirus pandemic to consolidate power and crack down on dissenters.
In March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency that shut down the courts — including his own corruption trial — and allowed Shin Bet security forces to start tracking quarantine violators using their cellphones.
Later in the month, Hungary’s parliament voted to cancel elections, suspend its own legislative power, and grant Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the right to rule by decree indefinitely, all under the premise of fighting COVID-19. It also introduced five-year jail sentences for anyone spreading “fake news” about the virus.
Last week, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev authorized a rapid and strict military draft that the Defense Ministry said would ensure “the effective and complete protection of the health of our people.” Recruits are being charged with disinfecting spaces and patrolling streets during the lockdown.
Emin Abbasov, a human rights attorney in Azerbaijan, said emergency measures can threaten civil liberties anywhere. But the risk is greatest in countries with dictatorships and weak democracies.
“The restrictive measures imposed on civil liberties take place outside the accountability of those who exercise them — without effective parliamentary control and an independent judiciary,” Abbasov told Business Insider.
In many places, the situation is exacerbated by the absence of a free press.
“In the absence of such guarantees, people do not have the opportunity to assess the necessity, adequacy, and appropriateness of measures taken in the event of a pandemic,” Abbasov said.
Azerbaijan’s leader threatens to root out the country’s ‘enemies’
In his 16-year tenure as president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev has faced numerous accusations of corruption, including vote-rigging, human rights abuses, and involvement in a massive billion bribery scheme to whitewash the country’s image abroad. As COVID-19 spread in March, Aliyev warned the pandemic might require him to purge the nation of “enemies.”
“Where do these provocations come from? From the very fifth column, from the enemies who are among us,” he said during a March 19 speech to mark Nowruz, the Persian New Year. “The elements calling themselves opposition, the traitors who receive money from abroad. Their main goal is to destroy Azerbaijan.”
Aliyev added that he was considering a state of emergency and that, during the crisis, “the rules of completely new relationships will apply.”
“The Azerbaijani government has a longstanding pattern of pursuing trumped-up charges against government critics in order to silence them,” HRW’s Giorgi Gogia said in a statement. “The case against Yagublu falls squarely in that pattern.”
“President Aliyev clearly said that the new reality of the coronavirus does not tolerate the existence of an opposition,” Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova told Business Insider.
Ismayilova said others are being summoned to the police and threatened with arrest for writing social media posts about the coronavirus.
In El Salvador, swift action spurs accusations of a ‘political emergency’
A full week before El Salvador reported its first novel coronavirus infection, the National Congress approved President Nayib Bukele’s request for emergency powers — including closing schools and limiting free speech, assembly, and travel — to contain the disease. He implemented a nationwide lockdown on March 21, the same day the country reported its first COVID-19 patient.
“Looking at the measures that the president has taken, I think this is more of a political emergency than a public health emergency,” Mariana Moisa, an anthropologist in San Salvador and member of the Uncomfortable Feminist Collective, told Business Insider.
“At this moment when there’s a public health problem, they are putting more emphasis on the militarization of society than they are investing in the healthcare system. There’s no guarantee that our rights will be respected.”
Bukele promised a 0 stipend to day laborers struggling during the lockdown, but after aid centers became too crowded, he closed them and told citizens to go online or call a toll-free number. On March 30, police in San Salvador used pepper spray to disperse thousands of street vendors and others gathering to demand financial help.
In a televised address on Monday, Bukele warned that security forces would be cracking down further on quarantine violators: “The restrictions are the same, but we are going to be much tougher in enforcing them.”
Those who defy the order could have their cars confiscated or be taken to “containment centers” for 30 days, he said, according to Reuters. Bukele added that the lockdown was being extended for 15 days, and he outlined a plan to track virus carriers.
A 14-year-old is among those arrested in Cambodia for talking about the pandemic
Cambodia reported 109 confirmed coronavirus cases on March 31, the same day its parliament submitted state-of-emergency legislation that would allow Prime Minister Hun Sen to order unfettered surveillance of telecommunications and censorship of media reports on COVID-19.
But civil rights activists worry that the measure, expected to pass on Friday, will grant Hun Sen far-reaching authority with little accountability.
“Instead of introducing a hasty and problematic law, the government should focus on enacting measures within their current powers in order to manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cambodian Center for Human Rights director Chak Sopeaph said.
“Now is a time for action, considered measures, and precautions — not a time for pushing a vague law through parliament that does not include any protections for human rights.”
Since the start of the year, at least 17 people have been arrested in the country for sharing information about COVID-19, Al Jazeera reported, including members of the defunct opposition group Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Most were released after signing pledges to not “spread fake news,” but those still in pretrial detention face charges of incitement, conspiracy, and spreading false information.
Police also arrested a 14-year-old girl who posted on social media that she was worried about rumors of a coronavirus outbreak at her school.
“The Cambodian government is misusing the COVID-19 outbreak to lock up opposition activists and others expressing concern about the virus and the government’s response,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
Uganda is using the coronavirus to fuel homophobia, activists warn
On April 1, police raided a shelter for LGBT people in the town of Kyengera, detaining 20 people for failing to follow social distancing. But Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said those charges were only added later.
“A search was conducted in the shelter in order to find evidence of ‘homosexuality,'” Mugisha told Business Insider. “The mayor personally beat up at least two of those arrested as he questioned them about their homosexuality.”
President Yoweri Museveni closed schools, churches, and mosques before any COVID-19 cases were reported in Uganda. He also banned public rallies, elections, political gatherings, and weddings for 32 days, and instituted a broad travel ban.
“You have seen how airports were clogged with people. That crowding is the perfect ground for new infections,” he said in a March 18 address. “Let us, therefore, move early to avoid the stampede.”
Movie theaters, nightclubs, and bars were all shuttered for a month. “These are very dangerous gathering points with the virus around,” Museveni added. “Drunkards sit close to one another. They speak with saliva coming out of their mouth. They are a danger to themselves.”
There’s always at least one in every unit. That one idiot who ruins everything for the rest of us. In the military, these clowns are given the moniker of “Blue Falcon.” Essentially, it’s a more professional way of calling someone a “buddy f*cker.”
But, no matter how much of a screw-up they are, you’re going to be stuck with them until they ETS or PCS out of the unit, so it’s best if you just learn how to deal with them in one way or another.
Of course, there are varying degrees of buddy f*cking. So, think of the following guidelines as an escalation of force for handling douchebags.
Learning the art of “NMFP,” or “Not My F*cking Problem,” will take you far.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)
1. Walk away
Nine times out of ten, it’s best to just move on. It’s not worth the time nor the effort to deal with some people. That’s not to say you should quickly forgive and forget (if it was a case of accidental Blue Falconing, maybe), but, in general, you should just brush it off and carry on with your day.
There’s literally ten thousand other things to worry about in the military. Don’t worry about what some jerk is doing — let their NCO handle it.
How polite that conversation is depends on you.
(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Virginia Lang)
2. Talk it out
Rarely do troops actually try to be a Blue Falcon. Screwing over the people who’re supposed to have your back in combat is never a good idea. If someone you’ve known for years starts dabbling in Falconry, settle it like adults. Talk to them and find out what’s really going on — and why they f*cked you over.
You’ll find that, most times, it’s unintentional and being the bigger person in the situation will help everyone move on.
Demonstrate your salt by leaving them high and dry during a working party.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis B. Betances)
3. Shun them
This level of punishment is reserved for the perpetual Blue Falcon. The dude who has proved time and time again that they just can’t get right. The dude who’s still living the “Army of One” mentality. The dude who’s constantly complaining like it’d have any kind of effect on the level of suck that’s in store. Ignore them at every corner.
Psychologically speaking, people can’t stand being ignored and shunning them, as passive as it may seem, is actually a good way to instill social norms. When they get right, you can welcome them back into the fold. Until then, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life or the unit.
You can enjoy it, but don’t take it too far and Blue Falcon someone else in the process.
(National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jimmy McGuire, JTF-DC)
4. Play their game
“Two can play at that game.” If they haven’t been doing anything that is strictly forbidden by the UCMJ but is still annoying or inconvenient, give ’em a taste of their own medicine.
If they want to rat on you for swinging by the gas station before going to motor pool, get them when they do the same. If they want to show up 10 minutes late for a working party and you have to pick up the slack, put about ten minutes of your time on their plate.
Then again, this only works if they’re actually breaking any rules.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Hughes)
5. Administrative action
Not ratting on your boys is one thing — but this dude isn’t your boy. The first handful of cases, keep it in house, but if they continually demonstrate behaviors detrimental to the unit, you could face UCMJ action for not speaking up.
Don’t get caught up in whatever sh*tstorm avalanche is about to hit them. Toss that responsibility up the chain of command at least one level to save your own skin when that moment inevitably comes.
Whether you actually get your NCO’s approval before putting that sucker in an armbar is on you…
(U.S Army photo by Sgt. Leo Jenkins)
6. Feed them their teeth
Do this in an appropriate manner, of course — it’d be irresponsible for us to advocate the ass kicking of anyone, no matter how much they deserve it. Just because someone could desperately use a swift, stern reminder of how to act, you shouldn’t face administrative actions to make it happen.
For obvious reasons, this one should be a final resort.
Convince an NCO to set up a combatives or MCMAP class for PT and take your frustrations out on that buddy f*cker. If you’re going this far, there’ll probably even be a line…
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law that can jail citizens for insulting government officials — including him.
People who show “blatant disrespect” for the state, the government, the Russian flag, or the constitution can be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($1,550) under the new law, which Putin signed on March 18, 2019, Reuters reported.
Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 days under the new law.
Punishments became more severe as the bill moved through Russia’s government. Earlier drafts of the law had proposed fining people 1,000 or 5,000 rubles, a fraction of the final figure.
Putin also signed that a law that mandates fine for people who spread what authorities deem to be “fake news.”
People can be fined up to 400,000 rubles (,100) for spreading false information online that leads to a “mass violation of public order.”
Authorities can also block websites that do not remove information which the state says is not accurate, according to Reuters.
Russian lawmakers say the law is necessary to fight fake news reports and abusive online comments, Reuters reported.
But critics say the law amounts to state censorship.
Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin.
British human rights organization Article 19, which focuses on issues of freedom of expression, said: “Allowing public officials to decide what counts as truth is tantamount to accepting that the forces in power have a right to silence views they don’t agree with, or beliefs they don’t hold.”
Sarah Clarke, the group’s head of Europe and central Asia, said before Putin signed the bill that it will be “another tool of repression to stifle public interest reporting on government misconduct and the expression of critical opinions, including the speech of the political opposition.”
Ilya Yashin, an opposition politician, told Reuters in January 2019, before the bills were signed, that these are both “crazy laws.”
“These are crazy bills. How can they prohibit people from criticising the authorities?” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.