The feds crack down on fake veteran charities - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

You may have seen them standing outside convenience stores, those guys dressed in camo that vaguely resembles a uniform. They have signs saying claiming they are charities that help veterans. Are they legit?

Well, not all of them are.


The Federal Trade Commission, along with law enforcement officials and regulators from offices in every state, DC, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico, announced more than 100 actions and a consumer education initiative in “Operation Donate with Honor”.

The action was a crackdown on fraudulent charities that con consumers by falsely promising their donations will help veterans and service members.

“Americans are grateful for the sacrifices made by those who serve in the U.S. armed forces,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “Sadly, some con artists prey on that gratitude, using lies and deception to line their own pockets. In the process, they harm not only well-meaning donors, but also the many legitimate charities that actually do great work on behalf of veterans and service members.”

Two charities face federal charges

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(Flickr photo by Keith Cooper)

Help the Vets

Neil G. “Paul” Paulson, Sr. and Help the Vets, Inc., (HTV) will be banned from soliciting charitable contributions under settlements with the FTC and the states of Florida, California, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio and Oregon, for falsely promising donors their contributions would help wounded and disabled veterans.

The defendants were charged with violating federal and state laws related to their actions. According to the FTC’s complaint, HTV did not help disabled veterans, and 95 percent of every donation was spent on fundraising, administrative expenses, and Paulson’s salary and benefits.

Operating under names such as American Disabled Veterans Foundation, Military Families of America, Veterans Emergency Blood Bank, Vets Fighting Breast Cancer, and Veterans Fighting Breast Cancer, HTV falsely claimed to fund medical care, a suicide prevention program, retreats for veterans recuperating from stress, and veterans fighting breast cancer.

In addition to the ban on soliciting charitable contributions, the proposed settlement order bans Paulson from charity management and oversight of charitable assets. To ensure that donors to HTV are not victimized again, HTV and Paulson must destroy all donor lists and notify their fundraisers to do so.

The order imposes a judgment of .4 million, which represents consumers’ donations from 2014 through 2017, when HTV stopped operating. The judgment will be partially suspended when the defendants have paid a charitable contribution to one or more legitimate veterans charities recommended by the states and approved by the court. Paulson must pay id=”listicle-2591219370″.75 million – more than double what he was paid by HTV – and HTV must pay all of its remaining funds, ,000.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(Photo by Steven L. Shepard)

Veterans of America

The FTC charged Travis Deloy Peterson with using fake veterans’ charities and illegal robocalls to get people to donate cars, boats and other things of value, which he then sold for his own benefit.

The scheme used various names, including Veterans of America, Vehicles for Veterans LLC, Saving Our Soldiers, Donate Your Car, Donate That Car LLC, Act of Valor, and Medal of Honor. Peterson allegedly made millions of robocalls asking people to donate automobiles, watercraft, real estate, and timeshares, falsely claiming that donations would go to veterans charities and were tax deductible.

In fact, none of the names used in the robocalls is a real charity with tax exempt status. Peterson is charged with violating the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.

At the FTC’s request, a federal court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Peterson from making unlawful robocalls or engaging in misrepresentations about charitable donations while the FTC’s enforcement action is proceeding.

State enforcement actions

States also identified and charged several charities and fundraisers who sought donations online and via telemarketing, direct mail, door-to-door contacts, and at retail stores. These groups falsely promised to help homeless and disabled veterans, to provide veterans with employment counseling, mental health counseling or other assistance, and to send care packages to deployed service members.

Some actions charged veterans charities with using deceptive prize promotion solicitations. Others targeted non-charities that falsely claimed that donations would be tax deductible. Some cases focused on veterans charities engaged in flagrant self-dealing to benefit individuals running the charity, and some alleged that fundraisers made misrepresentations on behalf of veterans charities or stole money solicited for a veterans charity.

Nationwide education campaign

As a result of these actions, the FTC and its state partners are launching an education campaign to help consumers avoid charity scams and donate wisely.

The FTC has new educational materials, including a video on how to research charities, and two new infographics. Donors and business owners can find information to help them donate wisely and make their donations count at FTC.gov/Charity.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Last surviving Doolittle Raider turns 102

The last of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of World War II celebrated his 102nd birthday on Thursday.


Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. “Dick” Cole has remained active, attending commemorative events in recent years including April ceremonies for the raid’s 75th anniversary at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

“I’m holding together,” Cole said Thursday by telephone, adding with a chuckle: “The only thing is I need a lot of WD-40.”

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities
Chief of the Staff of the Air Force, Gen. David L. Goldfein, talks to Lt. Col. (Ret.) Richard E. Cole, the sole surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders (right) during the 75th Anniversary of the Doolittle Raid Memorial Ceremony at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, April 18, 2017. Also attending was Jeff Thatcher (left), the son of Doolittle Raider Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, who passed in June 2016. (U.S. Air Force Photo/ Wesley Farnsworth)

President Donald Trump called the Ohio native in July as Cole was recovering from a fall, to check on him and thank him for his service.

“It was a nice surprise,” Cole recounted. “He was very polite and cheerful. It was very upbeat.”

Cole is originally from Dayton, and now lives in Comfort, Texas. He has a daughter who lives nearby and two sons.

He said in April he hadn’t expected to be the last Doolittle Raider survivor because he was older than most on the mission. Cole attributed his longevity to being an optimist and living a life of “moderation.”

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities
160418-N-HI816-001 WASHINGTON (April 18, 2016) This infographic shares the history of the Doolittle Raid – how America struck back after Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy graphic by Annalisa Underwood/Released)

He was mission commander Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the bombing attack less than five months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The bold raid is credited with lifting U.S. spirits and helping change the tide of the war in the Pacific.

Three Raiders died trying to reach China after the attack, and eight were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed, and a fourth died in captivity. Cole parachuted and he and other Raiders were helped to safety by Chinese partisans.

popular

Here is how the Navy feels about finders keepers

The Navy tends to be very strict when people recover items from sunken wrecks. In fact, when an Enigma machine was taken from the wreck of U-85, the Navy intervened. They even tried to grab a plane they left lying around in a North Carolina swamp for over 40 years.


The feds crack down on fake veteran charities
A U.S. Marine Corps F3A-1 aircraft of Marine Air Group 91 commanded by LCol Joseph M. Renner. (U.S. Navy photo)

 

According to a 2004 AP report, the plane in question was very valuable. It was the only known surviving Brewster F3A “Corsair.” Well, let’s be honest here. The F3A can best be described as a Corsair In Name Only, or CINO. Brewster’s Corsairs had problems — so much so that in July, 1944, the Navy cancelled the contract and Brewster went out of business less than a month after D-Day.

Brewster was also responsible for the F2A Buffalo, a piece of crap that got a lot of Marine pilots killed during the Battle of Midway.

According to that AP report, the story began with a fatal accident on Dec. 19, 1944, which killed Lt. Robin C. Pennington, who was flying a training mission in the F3A. The Navy recovered Pennington’s body and some gear from the Corsair, then left the wreck. Eventually, the plane was recovered by Lex Cralley in 1990, who began trying to restore the plane. A simple case of “finders keepers, losers weepers,” right?

 

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities
U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation 

Nope. The Navy sued Cralley in 2004 to get the plane back. After the report appeared, comments were…not exactly favorable towards the Navy at one normally pro-military forum.

Eventually, then-Representative Walter Jones (R-NC) got involved. According to a May 28, 2004 report by Hearst News Service, Jones eventually authored an amendment that settled the lawsuit by having the Navy turn the F3A over to Cralley.

The Navy usually has been very assertive with regards to wrecks. According to admiraltylawguide.com, in 2000, the Navy won a ruling in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal preventing Doug Champlin from salvaging a TBD Devastator that had survived both the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New report says Afghan opium production has plummeted

Opium production in Afghanistan dropped by 29 percent in 2017, the United Nations anti-drug agency reported, a decrease attributed mainly to a severe drought.

The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual report released Nov. 19, 2018, that the drop — from 9,000 tons to 6,400 tons — coincided with a decrease in the amount of land area being used for cultivating the crop.

The Afghanistan Opium Survey, which is jointly compiled by the UN agency and the Afghan Ministry of Counternarcotics, said a total of 263,000 hectares of land was used for opium cultivation, representing a decline of 20 percent compared to 2017.


“Despite the decreases, the overall area under opium-poppy cultivation is the second-highest ever recorded. This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond,” said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

Afghan National Police officers, along with U.S. Special Operations Soldiers, discovered 600 pounds of opium May 7, 2009, during a cordon and search operation of a known Taliban safe house, collection center and trauma center in Babaji Village, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

(Photo by Cpl. Sean K. Harp)

The report said the farm-gate prices of dry opium — which fell for the second consecutive year to an average of per kilogram, the lowest level since 2004 — may have contributed to less cultivation of opium poppy.

Eradication of opium poppy has also dropped by 46 percent in 2018 to 406 hectares, compared to 750 hectares last year.

Ten of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are considered poppy free, unchanged from 2017.

Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium and international donors have spent billions of dollars on counternarcotics efforts in the country over the past decade, including initiatives aimed at encouraging farmers to switch to other crops.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy prepares for healthy Thanksgiving feast

As Thanksgiving approaches, Navy Culinary Specialists (CS) around the world are preparing to serve sailors a healthy variety of traditional fare.

This year, the Navy plans to serve an estimated 105,000 pounds of roast turkey, 24,000 pounds of stuffing, 54,000 pounds of mashed potatoes, 20,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, 5,000 pounds of cranberry sauce, and 4,500 gallons of gravy.


In support of the Navy’s ongoing Go for Green nutrition awareness program, the food offered in shore and ship galleys during Thanksgiving will be labeled to encourage healthy food choices; green (eat often), yellow (eat occasionally), and red (eat rarely), along with a salt shaker graphic to measure sodium content. The food classification is based on calories, total fat, cholesterol, and sodium content. Go for Green encourages healthier food and beverage selections to support peak physical and cognitive performance of sailors. The Navy food service team takes professional pride in their quality service and important contributions to fleet health and readiness.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

The combined leadership of Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, and U.S. Embassy Djibouti staff, serve a Thanksgiving meal to forward-deployed service members, civilians, and contractors, Nov. 22, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon D. Barnwell)

About 7,000 Culinary Specialists serve in our Navy today. They receive extensive training in culinary arts, hotel management and other hospitality industry areas. Culinary Specialists provide food service, catering and hospitality services for sailors, senior government executives, and within the White House Mess for the President of the United States.

They are responsible for all aspects of the shipboard mess decks and shore duty living areas, and are vital to maintaining high crew morale on ships, construction battalions and shore bases.

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

Lists

Here are the best military photos for the week of April 6th

Life in the military is unpredictable and something new happens every single day. It can be hard to keep up but, luckily, there are plenty of talented photographers standing by, ready to capture the most poignant moments.

Here are this week’s best photos from across the military:


The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(U.S. Air Force photo by Naoto Anazawa)

Air Force:

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Carlos Howard, 18th Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler, and his MWD, Kitkat, rest before conducting detection training at the Kadena Teen Center April 5, 2018, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Howard and Kitkat trained together to strengthen their bond.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan)

Staff Sgt. James Baker, left, and Master Sgt. Jeff Nieding, both 71st Rescue Squadron loadmasters, sit on the ramp in the rear of an HC-130J Combat King II, March 30, 2018, in the skies over Florida. As loadmasters, they are responsible for calculating aircraft weight and balance records, maintaining the cargo manifest, conducting cargo and personnel airdrops, and troubleshooting in-flight problems.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)

Army:

The colors are held high as a paratrooper from the 173rd Airborne Brigade leads his company in a 2.2 mile full combat equipment run around the Del Din Base in Italy.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Tyson Friar)

The 2-501st General Support Aviation Battalion, 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade conducted a Field Training Exercise which began when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter simulating an air-assault was shot down, April 3, 2018. The pilots and flight crews spent the following two days sharpening their ‘Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape’ skills as they evade the operational forces. This realistic, readiness-building exercise prepares these Soldiers in the event they experience such a scenario in combat, where these lifesaving skills will be vital.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David A. Brandenburg/Released)

Navy:

Sailors assigned to the Black Aces of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 conduct maintenance on an F/A-18E Super Hornet in the hangar bay aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is underway conducting training in preparation for its next scheduled deployment.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan M. Breeden/Released)

Cpl. Joaquin Barrios mans a GAU-17 mini-gun while overlooking the Essex Amphibious Ready Group during a simulated force protection exercise.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Drake Nickels)

Marine Corps:

U.S. Marines with 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Fox Battery, carryout training on the lightweight 155mm howitzer on Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 5, 2018. The Marines conducted the training to maintain proficiency and mission readiness.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ashley McLaughlin/Released)

U.S. Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron (MAWTS) 1 prepare for an aviation ordnance disposal and close air support exercise in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor course 2-18 at Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Ariz., April 3. WTI is a seven-week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force and provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Hunter Medley)

Coast Guard:

Crewmembers from Coast Guard Cutter Hawser and Coast Guard Cutter Wire, homeported in Bayonne, NJ, take part in emergency signaling device training Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2018. Flares are lifesaving visual signaling devices that can be used day or night to alert emergency responders and fellow boaters to an emergency.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The pros and cons of a separate bank account from your spouse

Mina and Jason Burbridge have been married for two years. She’s 47. He’s 48, and they’ve always maintained separate bank accounts. It gives the Boston couple some freedom to act unilaterally. As Mina says, “If he wants to buy something that’s dumb, he can do it. And so can I.”

They also set up a joint account early on in order to pay for big household expenses, although another motivation came right before their October 2015 wedding. Mina’s account was hacked into and had to be frozen for two weeks as the situation was rectified. The incident made them realize the benefit of two things: spreading their money around and having some always be mutually accessible, she says.


But the separate accounts have continued to show their worth. Mina is a psychologist and clinical trainer. Jason works from home, building a business buying and selling baseball cards. It’s all online, much of it on eBay, and having distinct accounts provides another layer of protection, as he could be doing 20 transactions a day, Jason says.

Mina and Jason’s arrangement is not as atypical as it may seem. A Bank of America study found that Millennial couples have separate bank accounts more than twice as much as Generation X and Baby Boomers. At first glance, it could be seen as affirming their independence and pushing back against the idea that marriage has changed much in their lives. But it’s more than that, says Dr. Robyn Landow, a psychologist in New York City.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(Photo by Evan Forester)

Millennials are waiting to tie the knot. A Gallup poll showed that 27 percent of Millennials are married versus 36 percent of Gen Xers and 48 percent of Boomers at comparable ages. Couples often live together for longer and have separate accounts, and, when they do marry, they don’t change the setup. It’s part inertia, part lack of urgency, part, “If it ain’t broke,” Landow says.

Still, while said couples may not see a need, having a joint account carries symbolic and concrete weight. It’s an awareness that there’s now an “ours”, which one day might involve expenses for houses, children and extended family. There’s the above-mentioned minimizing risk and making money available for a worst case scenario. And on a more granular level, a check made out to both people – gift, joint tax return refund – is an easier deposit if both names are on the account, says Brian Haney, financial adviser in Silver Spring, Maryland.

But the type of account in and of itself doesn’t predict or guarantee marital success or failure. Trust, commitment, and love are still the must-haves, says Landow, adding “The truth is if someone wants to hide or withhold money, with enough planning, they could do it.”

Whatever the system, couples first need to understand each other’s financial type. It involves figuring out whether a person believes in enjoying life as it comes, or in being a hardcore saver, always wanting something in the bank in case of emergencies, which Haney says, are not theoretical occurrences but realities. When attitudes are talked about, decisions become less arbitrary. “It makes it easier to know where you’re coming from and easier to find common ground,” he says.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

(Flickr / reynermedia)

And if all that’s in place, responsible people can make individual accounts work – it just becomes a matter of assigning out the bills. But the setup loses the macro perspective of building something together. “You’re not roommates,” Haney says. In other words? Being married means sharing all parts of life – one house, one bed – and money is another component.

The joint account takes down barriers, because, especially when using a budgeting tool such as Mint, a couple can see all money coming in and going out. The information may be uncomfortable, but with everything out in the open, problems can be reconciled, plans can be tweaked, and spouses can make more informed decisions based on what they want.

“It reinforces stability in your relationship,” Haney says. “You’re a team, and when you keep things separate, it’s harder to be a team.”

That doesn’t mean individuals accounts don’t have a place, whether it’s for surprise gifts, the occasional indulgence, or something else. They just need to be another joint decision in what they’re going to look like and be used for. And to help get to the decision, Haney says to merely look at the monthly budget. The numbers will provide the answer to what’s needed for shared expenses, and then how much partners can donate to themselves. The approach is more detached, less emotional. “It takes the feelings out,” he says. The big thing is that it’s discussed and transparent to prevent suspicion, surprises and distrust.

“If you know it, you may not like it, but you can deal with it,” Haney says. “But if you don’t know, you automatically don’t like it. The unknown is always uncomfortable. It’s never comfortable.”

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

5 GI Bill rates that will increase this year

The Department of Veterans Affairs has announced the Post-9/11 GI Bill rates for the 2019-2020 school year. These rates will be effective on Aug. 1, 2019. The Montgomery GI Bill and Dependents’ Education Assistance programs will see a rate change on Oct. 1, 2019.

By law, the GI Bill rate increase is tied to the average cost increase of undergraduate tuition in the U.S. For the 2019-2020 school year, that increase will average 3.4%.

More than 80 percent of those taking advantage of their GI Bill benefits are doing so through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.


Private & foreign school GI Bill rates

Effective Aug. 1, 2019, those using the Post-9/11 GI Bill at a private or foreign school will see their maximum yearly GI Bill rate increase from ,671.94 to ,476.79.

Flight training

Those who are enrolled in flight schools will see their annual maximum GI Bill benefit increase from ,526.81 to ,986.72.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities

An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron returns to a training mission after refueling March 27, 2012, over the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth)

Licensing/certification/national testing

You can be reimbursed up to ,000 per test for licensing and certification tests. For national testing programs, there is no maximum amount of GI Bill reimbursement. Your entitlement will be charged one month for every ,042.06 spent; currently, that trigger point is id=”listicle-2634152786″,974.91.

Correspondence courses

You can be reimbursed the actual net costs, not to exceed ,888.70 annually. That’s up from ,497.78 currently.

Monthly housing allowance

The Monthly Housing Allowance is also scheduled to change on Aug. 1, 2019.

If you are attending classroom sessions, your housing allowance is based on the ZIP code of the campus location where you attend the majority of your classes.

If you are attending classes at a foreign school, not on a military base, your maximum housing allowance will be id=”listicle-2634152786″,789.00. This is prorated based on the length of your active-duty service and how many classes you are taking.

If you attend all your classes online, your maximum housing allowance will be 4.50. This is also prorated.

Keep up with your education benefits

Whether you need a guide on how to use your GI Bill, want to take advantage of tuition assistance and scholarships, or get the lowdown on education benefits available for your family, Military.com can help. Sign up for a free Military.com membership to have education tips and benefits updates delivered directly to your inbox.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

That Russian nerve agent is an old Cold War weapon

Novichok, the powerful nerve agent that British Prime Minister Theresa May says was used in the attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, means “newcomer” in Russian. But the military-grade chemical is anything but.


Developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, novichoks are a group of advanced nerve agents designed to circumvent chemical weapons treaties and penetrate protective gear used by NATO forces.

Also read: All about the chemical agent VX that allegedly killed Kim Jong Nam

They are made of two nontoxic components that become lethal only when mixed together, making them difficult to detect and relatively safe and easy to transport and store. Once mixed, however, they are believed to be five to eight times more potent than the notorious nerve agent VX.

Dan Kaszeta, a London-based expert in chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense (CBRN), said on Twitter that novichoks were “specifically developed to evade the West/NATO’s detection capabilities and foil intelligence collection efforts.”

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities
An example of a Novichok nerve agent.

Russia has vehemently denied any connection to the attack, which has left the 66-year-old Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter in a “critical but stable condition” at a Salisbury hospital after being exposed to the chemical on March 4, 2018.

‘Enough to kill tens of millions’

Novichoks gained notoriety in the early 1990s when Soviet scientist Vil Mirzayanov revealed that the country had secretly developed the powerful binary nerve gas that is believed to take effect rapidly by penetrating through the skin and respiratory system.

Mirzayanov, a chemist, told The New York Times in 1994 that the Russian stockpile of chemical weapons, some 60,000 tons, “would be enough to kill tens of millions.”

More: Chances are the hot model that added you to her social feed is a Russian spy

Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former head of Britain’s Chemical, Biological, Radiation, and Nuclear regiment, told the Daily Express that novichoks are “designed to be undetectable for any standard chemical security testing.”

“Skripal would only have needed to touch it, as he opened a parcel, for it to be absorbed into his bloodstream,” he said.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities
CCTV image showing Skripal buying groceries and scratch cards near his Salisbury home five days before he collapsed. (Photo by ITV News)

Despite the fact that novichoks were not developed in large quantities, de Bretton-Gordon said the Russians may have enough of them to kill several hundred thousand people.

Related: Ex-CIA agent and ‘Red Sparrow’ writer on Russian threats

He also warned that there could be hidden costs as well for those who come into contact with it such as “mutations in the next generation or future generations.”

The effects of novichoks are similar to other nerve agents.

It is believed that they attack muscles, especially around the heart and lungs, causing the collapse of body functions, including respiratory and cardiac arrest.

Articles

Pentagon reportedly considering sending ground troops into Syria

The Defense Department is considering recommending the US send ground troops into Syria to fight the terrorist group ISIS, according to a source who spoke to CNN.


“It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” a defense official told CNN.

There are currently hundreds of US troops in Syria offering training and assistance to US-backed local forces there. But conventional forces would likely be on the ground in larger numbers, according to CNN.

Related: General claims 60,000 ISIS fighters have been killed

CNN reported last month that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was taking control of a Pentagon review to determine which options the Defense Department would present to President Donald Trump on the fight against ISIS.

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado

The defense official CNN cites in Wednesday’s report stressed that any decision on Syria would ultimately be up to Trump.

Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and an expert on Syria, said he’s “not surprised” to see that the US is considering ground troops in Syria to fight ISIS.

“Fits Trump desire for a rapid victory + withdrawal,” he tweeted.

Articles

LA vets concerned history repeating itself as the VA negotiates stadium deal with UCLA

The feds crack down on fake veteran charities
VA Secretary Bob McDonald in Los Angeles. (Photo: VA blog)


On January 28 Secretary Bob McDonald put his name to the draft master plan for the future of the West Los Angeles VA campus, a year after the agency won a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought before the courts to reverse years of encroachment on the campus. In his remarks at a ceremony marking the signing, McDonald spoke about the accomplishments of those involved in crafting the plan, crediting the veterans who’d assisted along the way.

“We know this is a team sport,” McDonald said of the process.  “It has to be done collaboratively.”

The effort that gave McDonald confidence that the master plan he was signing incorporated enough input from local vets involved collaboration on a massive scale. Marine vet Mike Dowling, We Are The Mighty‘s director of outreach, and Anthony Allman of Vets Advocacy helped organize a number of veteran service organizations to get membership mobilized to create the focus of the draft master plan.

Under the guidance of Dowling and others, dozens of VSO reps met weekly after work for six months hammering out formal comments while carrying the message back to their membership to make sure the direction behind the plan was as comprehensive as possible.

Vets Advocacy, the organization formed to settle the litigation and implement the settlement agreement, created a website, www.vatherightway.org, as the primary tool to inform veterans and get their input. The site allowed veterans to learn the history of the campus and the associated encroachment issues, see the schedule of the 12 town hall events, and — most importantly — conduct a survey that asked veterans for their opinions about how the campus could better serve the veteran community. More than 1,000 vets commented and those recommendations were filed to the Federal Register, the official government record of the plan.

That result was no small feat. Veterans answered the call to see to their own well-being in the same way they might have tackled an objective during their time on active duty. It was hard work, and the vets were proud of the fact that they might actually make a difference and be part of the solution.

But during his speech McDonald also credited the leadership of UCLA for their part in making the campus better for veterans, which struck many of the veterans in attendance as odd.  The university was arguably the worst offender in terms of encroachment by virtue of the fact that Jackie Robinson Stadium — home to the Bruins’ baseball team — was illegally built on VA property. What those vets didn’t know at the time was that McDonald was about to sign a document that outlined the terms of an “enhanced use” land agreement that would allow UCLA to continue to use the stadium for another 10 years, at least.

Curiously, the VA remained mum while UCLA issued a press release that outlined several million dollars worth of veteran initiatives that the university intends to carry out in the years to come in return for keeping the stadium.

Some veterans who were active in the draft master planning process expressed concerns that history is in danger of repeating itself by allowing the VA to sign deals with third parties without oversight or veteran buy-in for reasons that have no bearing on the VA’s mission.

“It feels like the VA put the cart before the horse by agreeing to terms before the enabling legislation passes and before any vets saw the deal,” said Seth Smith, a UCLA alumnus and Navy vet. “That timing leaves a bad taste in vets’ mouths. It’s a step in the wrong direction in terms of regaining the Los Angeles community’s trust.”

Richard Valdez, a Marine veteran and chairman of the VSO coalition in Los Angeles, said concerns from vets like Smith are premature because the agreement between the VA and UCLA is not legally effective and requires passage of the Los Angeles Homeless Veterans Leasing Act, which is expected this spring.

“Veterans need to understand that what was just signed isn’t a contract,” Valdez said. “It’s merely an agreement in principle.”

That fact notwithstanding, vet advocates who put a lot of work into the draft master plan question the VA’s timing and wonder why they weren’t given a heads up that the signing of terms with UCLA was going to happen. But VA officials were unflinching when asked about the circumstances surrounding the arrangement.

“We do everything with veterans in mind,” said Vince Kane, the director of the VA’s National Homeless Center. “And we got a good deal for them.”

Veteran expectations about the magnitude of change on the campus may have also been shaped by the language in the federal court’s findings in the original lawsuit (Valentini v. McDonald), which stated that all of the enhanced use land agreements on the VA campus were illegal. That may have led veterans to believe that the agreements would be terminated indefinitely (and even that the stadium might be demolished) in favor of more pressing priorities. After all, where does a Division I baseball stadium fit among the needs of homeless veterans and patients?

Valdez thinks that those who thought that would happen were naive. “Enhanced use leases are a fact of life, and that’s not going to change,” Valdez said. “If we have an issue within that reality, that’s where the vet community needs to focus.”

Dr. Jon Sherin, a physician who ran mental health services for the West Los Angeles VA hospital and serves as a senior member of the Vets Advocacy team, recommended that veterans remain vigilant and not grow cynical. “The work isn’t over,” he said.

“The master plan itself is a monumental achievement on behalf of the vet community,” Dowling said.  “No matter what happens, vets in LA set an example for communities across the nation in coming together to take our future in our own hands.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The curious case of the Ray-Ban wearing Monk of Koh Sumai

On the scenic Thai island of Koh Sumai, tucked away in the Wat Khunaram temple is the mummified body of one of Thailand’s most famous monks- Luang Pho Daeng. Remarkably well preserved, Luang Pho Daeng’s body was put on display sometime in the 1970s and is still there today, virtually unchanged from the day he passed away, with the notable exception of a giant pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses that were added later. So how does his body stay so naturally well preserved and why is he wearing Ray-Bans?


Born sometime in 1894 on Koh Sumai, Luang Pho Daeng first became ordained as a Buddhist monk in his twenties. However, he only remained a monk for a few months before he decided to abandon the pursuit to raise a family and live an otherwise normal life. That said, his brief time as a monk had a profound impact on Luang Pho Daeng’s life and guided his actions throughout the ensuing decades. For example, during WW2, Pho Daeng, who was a financially successful businessman during his adult life, donated large amounts of money as well as clothing and medicine to those in need and otherwise placed high value on all life.

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(Photo by Per Meistrup)

It was also around this time, in 1944 at the age of about 50 years old that he, apparently with the support of his wife and six now grown children, decided to once again become a monk.

After being ordained, Luang Pho Daeng threw himself into studying Buddhist texts and became fascinated with various meditation techniques, soon becoming a master meditator, in particular of Vipassana meditation, which literally translates to “seeing clearly”.

His skill at meditation was such that he could reportedly meditate for upwards of 15 days at a time, during which period he’d neither move nor consume food or drink. Although the man himself claimed that he needed no nourishment during his marathon meditation sessions, he was frequently warned by physicians that he was causing severe harm to his body through his regular extended bouts of no fluid or food intake.

As you might imagine, during these sessions, he lost a great deal of weight through muscle, fat, and fluid loss and was often so weakened by his meditation that he needed to nursed back to health via fluid resuscitation and the like, before ultimately he would once again resume meditating.

The true extent of the damage Luang Pho Daeng did to his body while meditating was largely lost on his followers thanks to the decidedly monk-like stoicism with which he was able to endure the withering effects of severe dehydration and hunger. As a result, Luang Pho Daeng became something of a celebrity amongst the residents of Koh Sumai and many travelled to Wat Khunaram temple to learn from him.

In addition to his impressive meditative abilities, Pho Daeng was known for his strict adherence to a simplistic lifestyle, on a normal day eating only one, simple meal and apparently always eating from the same bowl.

The Mummified Monk Thailand Koh Samui

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According to the monks of Wat Khunaram where Luang Pho Daeng served as an abbot, shortly after his 79th birthday in 1973, Luang Pho Daeng foresaw his own death and made it known that he would mummify himself, which is totally possible if excruciating and an extremely time consuming process that, given the time of his eventual death, meant he must have started the process long before he made this announcement.

In preparation for his anticipated success at this, he requested that his disciples build him an “upright coffin” made of glass in which his body should be put on display if he was successful in his goal of achieving self-mummification. His ultimate aim being that his remains would serve as an eternal testament to the Buddhist belief in the transience of human existence if he was successful.

Unfortunately for those of us who like the details, exactly how he prepared himself for self-mummification was never recorded by the monks of his temple. That said, one known method used by certain types of Buddhist monks was a total of a nine year process, about six of which the monk would be alive for.

The monks would begin by ceasing eating any food except various nuts and seeds, with some accounts stating that they were also allowed to eat fruits and berries. They would also begin a regimented program of heavy physical exercise, which they would continue throughout this first period that lasted one thousand days.

During the next one thousand days, the monks would further restrict their diet by only eating bark and various roots, again with some accounts stating that they were also allowed to eat a limited amount of fruits and berries. Near the end of this period, they would drink a concoction made from the sap of the Urushi tree. This tree’s sap is mildly poisonous and is normally used as a natural lacquer. Ingesting the drink caused the person consuming it to vomit frequently, further restricting the body’s ability to obtain nutrients from the sparse diet they ate. They would also rapidly lose bodily fluids due to vomiting. As a side effect, this sap also worked as a preservative in their bodies.

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Urushi tree.

In the final stage of self-mummification, the monk’s body would be little more than skin and bones. If the monk survived to this point, he would lock himself into a stone tomb that was just large enough for him to fit in, sitting in the lotus position, which is a position he would not move from until he died. The tomb itself contained an air tube, so that the monk could live for a time after being entombed. It also contained a bell, which the monk would ring on a daily basis to let those outside the tomb know he was still alive.

While in the tomb, the monk would sit in the lotus position and meditate until death. Once the monk died and, thus, no longer rang the bell each day, the breathing tube would be removed and the tomb sealed for the final thousand day period of the ritual. At the end of this period, the tomb would be opened to see if the monk was successful in mummifying himself. If he was, the preserved body would be put on display in the temple. Having successfully demonstrated mastery over the physical, the priest would also then be declared a Buddha.

Whether some semblance of this was what Pho Daeng did or not isn’t known. Whatever the case, after his preparations were complete on an unknown date in 1973, he sat down and meditated for the final time of that particular life.

When his followers discovered that he’d passed away while meditating, they hastily constructed the upright coffin he’d requested and placed his body inside to wait and see if it would decompose or not. If it did decompose, he left instructions that his remains were to be cremated. If it didn’t, as mentioned, he requested they be put it on display.

In keeping with his final wishes, when his body failed to decompose normally, he was then put on display in Wat Khunaram.

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Wat Khunaram.

Nearly three decades later, in 2002, his remains were still externally in remarkably good shape, spurring researchers at the Bioanthropology Research Institute to study the corpse. In the process, among other things, they performed a radiographic analyses on it.

The results?

Amazingly his organs, including brain, are all still remarkably well preserved, more or less having shrunk from dehydration, but otherwise still there and intact. In fact, one of the only parts of Luang Pho Daeng’s body that actually rotted away were his eyes, which sunk into his skull shortly after his death.

This became something of an issue for the monks of the temple wanting to display Luang Pho Daeng’s corpse as per his final wishes, because children who visited the temple were understandably terrified of his eyeless visage, rather than in awe of his self-mummification.

After contemplating the issue for some time, the monks of the temple came up with the rather novel solution of simply covering Luang Pho Daeng’s eye sockets with a pair of Ray-Bans, which would not just mask the eye sockets, but also make him look rather stylish.

Luang Pho Daeng has rocked this look ever since. And as a result of both his startlingly well-preserved state and timeless fashion sense, his former body has become the temple’s most famous attraction.

Incidentally, one other interesting thing the study by the Bioanthropology Research Institute discovered in examining the body was that at some point a Gecko or Geckos managed to lay eggs in his eye sockets and skull, as well as in his mouth and throat…

Moving swiftly on, the monks of Wat Khunaram don’t mind visitors taking pictures or even recording videos of Luang Pho Daeng body (so long as they do so in a respectful manner) and the temple is free to the public, meaning images of this fashion conscious mummy are plentiful for those who can’t make the trip.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

Also read:

  • How the Dalai Lama is Chosen
  • Why Japan is Called the Land of the Rising Sun
  • From Sorcerer to Clergyman to Pirate to Admiral, the Remarkable Life of Eustace The Monk
  • Bonsai!
  • The Mystery of the Forest Swastika and the Origin of the Symbol
  • MIGHTY CULTURE

    6 reasons why you should never trust the barracks lawyer

    So, you messed up. That sucks. It’s time to absorb whatever punishment your command team is about to drop on you like an adult and carry on with your career. “But wait,” you hear from the corner of the smoke pit, “according to the regulations, you can’t get in trouble for that thing you did!”

    We’ve all seen this happen. That one troop — the one who thinks they know how to help you — is what we call a “barracks lawyer.” They’re not actual legal representation and they don’t have any formal training. More often than not, this troop catches wind of some “loophole” via the Private News Network or Lance Corporal Underground and they take this newfound fact as gospel.

    For whatever reason, people routinely make the mistake of believing these idiots and the nonsense that spews from their mouths. Here’s just a brief look at why you shouldn’t take their advice:


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    Think about it for more than half a second. If everyone knew all the stupid loopholes, there wouldn’t be a court martial system.

    (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen Polanco)

    They think they found a loophole… They didn’t.

    The actual rules and regulations have been finely tuned over the course of two hundred years. It’s very unlikely that some random troop just happened to be the only one to figure out some loophole. And, realistically, that’s not how the rules work. There’s a little thing known as “commander’s discretion” that supersedes all.

    If the commander says it, it will be so. It doesn’t matter how a given rule is worded.

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    What they’re suggesting isn’t real. Want to know what is? Troops breaking big rocks into smaller rocks in military prison.

    (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessica Collins)

    What they’re suggesting is often insubordination.

    Advice that these pseudo-lawyers offer often involves a line that often starts with, “you don’t have to follow that, because…” Here’s the thing: Unless a superior is asking you to do something that’s profoundly unsafe or illegal, you have to do it. That’s not just your immediate supervisor — that’s all superiors.

    The advice that they’re offering is a textbook definition of insubordination. Disregarding an order comes with a whole slew of other legal problems down the time.

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    If they’re on in the first sergeant’s office after every major three-day weekend, they’re probably full of sh*t.

    (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

    They’re usually not the best troops in the formation

    If they do know what they’re talking about, it’s for good reason. They probably got in trouble once, talked their way out of that trouble, and got let off the hook because the command stopped caring to argue.

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    It’s not like there’s an entire MOS field dedicated to solving such issues… oh… wait…

    (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton)

    They don’t know what the f*ck they’re talking about

    There are 134 articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice out there and countless other rules and regulations that pop up from time to time. There’s no way in Hell that some private in the barracks has spent the time required to study each and every one of them and how they interact with each other.

    If they have, by some miracle of time management, spent the effort required to learn all of this, then why the hell have they been squandering their profound talents in your unit rather than going over to JAG? Which leads us perfectly into…

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    If you live with a lower enlisted troop who’s in JAG, they’re still a barracks lawyer if their head is firmly up their own ass about how they can help you. Catch them on the clock.

    (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner)

    There are actual military lawyers who will advocate for you.

    They exist and aren’t that uncommon. They’re often found at the brigade-level or installation-level. It’s their job to take on your case and see how the military judicial system could work for you. Unlike your buddy in the barracks, these lawyers have spent years in military (and often civilian) legal training.

    Don’t waste your time placating the barracks lawyer. Actual military lawyers in JAG will take care of you.

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