Army equipment officials have issued a reminder to soldiers that the service’s authorized protective eyewear list is being updated regularly with high-tech options like lenses that adjust to changing light in the blink of an eye.
The Transition Combat Eye Protection lens features sensors with much greater sensitivity than commercial transitional lenses because they are designed to respond to visible light instead of UV rays, according to a recent Army press release.
“It’s a one-second button,” Capt. Michael McCown, assistant product manager of Head Protection at Program Executive Office Soldier, said in the release. “It’s not like your transition lenses that you get from your doctor that change as you go in and outdoors … it’s electronic.”
The authorized protective eyewear list, or APEL, is updated about every two years and offers a wide range of brands and styles of protective sunglasses and goggles which feature the APEL logo. All of the 27 types of eyewear on the list have been through rigorous ballistic and non-ballistic testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, according to the release.
(U.S. Army photo)
Soldiers who chose to buy non-authorized eyewear run the risk of suffering irreversible injuries, Lt. Col. Ginger Whitehead, the product manager for protective equipment at PEO Soldier, said in the release.
“We have seen some really horrific injuries with roadside bombs,” Whitehead said.
Facial injuries will still occur with authorized eyewear, but there is a chance the soldier’s eyes will be protected, she said in the release.
“The soldier’s face is all chewed up,” Whitehead said. “But when they pull his glasses off, where the skin is intact around their eyes, where you know without a doubt that eyewear saved their eyes.”
Soldiers can check out the Army’s APEL online and buy approved eyewear at most Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The tank was introduced in World War I when Britain unveiled the then-secret weapon against German forces and were able to run these rolling fortresses right over German barbed wire and trenches, firing cannons and machine guns into German fortifications. Now, armored columns are a commander’s fist, punching holes in enemy lines and then rushing through them to annihilate enemy formations.
1. British Centurion
Originally designed to give British tankers and edge against German Panthers and Tigers, the Centurion arrived months after the end of World War II and ended up being the greatest Cold War tank instead. It had plate armor while cast armor was still the norm, and its 105mm gun was beefy for the time.
The Panzer Mark II was, to say the least, not a “Tanker’s tank.” It was a stopgap design to hold the line in the 1930s until the Panzer Mk. III and IV were ready. It was a light tank with limited range, an only 20mm gun, and thin armor.
But it made this list because it did perform well on the battlefield and changed future tank design for one reason: It had a dedicated gunner and a dedicated tank commander. Many tank designs, especially smaller ones with smaller crews, combined these two roles, forcing the commander to ignore the larger battlefield for crucial moments while firing. The Mark II broke from that tradition and essentially all modern tank designs have a commander and dedicated gunner.
By 1945, this resulted in a Panzer IV with a longer 75mm gun, widened tracks, and thicker armor than most medium tanks. It even had armored skirts to protect against infantry anti-armored weapons. This allowed it to tackle the Allies most numerous tanks—such as the Sherman and the T-34—with relative ease. But larger tanks were able to shred it, hence Germany’s growing reliance on the late-arriving Panther as those made it to the front.
5. Char B1
France’s tanks saw limited fighting in World War II since, you know, France fell so early in the war. But a couple of French tanks made a real impact, including the Char B1 with its sloped armor, two large guns, and decent speed. Its smaller, 47mm gun could kill many tanks while its 75mm could slaughter nearly anything available in 1939.
But, you know, France still fell, so that part sucked.
6. British Mk. I
Look, to be honest, we’re including this little fellow because, for a while, it was the only deployed tank in the world. The British Mk. I was the first tank, dreamed into existence by British Royal Navy engineers under the “Landship” concept that would see America’s new tractors developed into weapons of war.
Ah, the legendary Tiger, the tank so powerful that it immediately became the focus of any battle in which it fought. Its thick armor could shrug off 75mm rounds from most guns at 50 yards. But its 88mm gun could open most Allied tanks like a can opener.
Russian crews often preferred the Sherman to the T-34, and they had good reason. The tank was easy to maintain and spare parts were almost always available, leading to an 80 percent rate of damaged Shermans returning to combat. In fights, the Sherman was able to kill Mk. IIs and Mk. IVs, but could only attack Tigers in desperation and Panthers in strength. It was a “commander’s tank,” great strategically but few tankers wanted to face a heavy tank in one.
The Germans were forced to call on any weapon they thought could pierce the armor, deploying anti-aircraft guns and infantrymen carrying shaped charges to try and take the T-34 down. It was a leading factor in the Russian victory at the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history, and it eventually became the most-produced tank of the war.
Long ago, ancient Greeks told the tale of the titan, Atlas, who once tried to defy Zeus. He failed spectacularly and, for his hubris, was doomed to carry the sky for eternity as punishment. Later, Atlas tried to defy the gods once more by attempting to trick Hercules into taking on his punishment. He was fooled by the intrepid demigod and wound up shouldering the heavens all over. In short, he gambled with the gods and he lost.
It was only fitting that the largest ship of its time, the Olympic-class liner, RMS Titanic, whose name was rich with Classical symbolism, would suffer such a grim ending after spitting in the face of fate. A shipwright once famously said, “God himself couldn’t sink this ship!” Unfortunately for the shipwright (and all those aboard), the powers that be (perhaps those atop Mt. Olympus) were ready to call his bluff.
Just like Atlas, Sisyphus, Midas, Arachne, and Icarus all learned, it’s really not a good idea to keep trying to tempt fate. Blue Star Line Pty. Ltd, an Australian passenger and cargo shipping company, disagrees. They’re currently in the process of building the Titanic II, a near-identical replica of the famous, doomed Olympic-class liner, as their new flagship.
Logically speaking, you’d think that if they model it after a ship that sank due to striking an iceberg, they’d have a few safety precautions in place for when they sail directly through an area full of them.
(“Sinking of the Titanic,” Willy Stower, 1912)
To be entirely fair, the latest iteration will feature some serious 21st-century upgrades: The hull will be welded instead of riveted, a diesel-electric engine will replace the steam engine, and wooden panels will be replaced with a veneer to keep up with modern fire regulations while maintaining an authentic appearance. Oh, and, of course, it’ll have the proper amount of lifeboats.
As one of its first voyages, the Titanic II will travel the same waterways as did the RMS Titanic, cruising along a route from Southampton to New York City. The path will still go through an area thick with icebergs, but given that it isn’t 1912, they’ll have better technology to spot and avoid them. Icebergs will, at most, probably just inspire tourists to take drunken selfies.
You can only do the “I’m flying, Jack!” once before realizing the bow of the ship is friggin’ cold.
(National Park Services)
With the threat of icebergs (hopefully) neutralized, there are three main areas in which things could go wrong for the ship.
The first (and most obvious) threat is financial. The project has been the longtime dream of South African businessman, Sarel Gous. He first announced his venture back in 1998, around the time the Academy Award-winning film, Titanic, hit theaters.
Since then, the project has been on and off. There have been reports that the Titanic II would finally set sail in 2001, then again in 2008, 2012, 2016, 2018, and now, finally, in 2022. It’s been a repeating cycle: They’ll find an investment company willing to foot the bill, that company realizes it’s a pipe dream, and then they abandon the project.
Why are investors backing out? Well, since the new Titanic II will sport the same number of passengers as the original vessel, tickets for the maiden voyage will need to be insanely expensive — from around K to id=”listicle-2614623238″.2 million each — just to dream of making a profit. And, after the initial “cool factor” of being on the Titanic II fades, you’re left with the average, cruise-going crowd who won’t be able to afford tickets.
The headlines would just write themselves if the Titanic II were to sink immediately upon hitting the water.
The next threat to second unsinkable will come the moment the ship is first released into the water. The shipyard constructing the Titanic II, the state-owned CSC Jinling, has no drydock. They intend to side launch the 269m-long, 56,000 gross tonnage vessel directly into the Yangtze River.
This will make it the largest side-launched ship in history by an astronomical margin. When side-launching a vessel, extra care is taken to prevent it from capsizing the very moment it touches water. Weights are added to the ship to make its entry as gentle as possible. It’s fine for more balanced ships, but the Titanic II is extremely top-heavy.
They’re likely addressing this issue behind closed doors, but for the moment, it feels a lot like we’re looking at imminent disaster.
Finally, the Titanic could end in disaster (again) during its maiden voyage — but not due to icebergs. The trip recreating the original route from England to the US is actually the second voyage planned for the Titanic II. The maiden voyage will go from Dubai, UAE, to Southampton, UK, sailing directly through the Horn of Africa.
This is a Somali pirate’s wildest dream. Thousands of millionaires and billionaires are going to sail right through their backyard. You can bring security alongside the vessel while sailing through the region, but that won’t stop pirates from trying to take what’s not theirs.
Obviously, it’d be fantastic if the Titanic II actually manages to set sail and prove naysayers wrong. But unless they’re keeping a lot of solutions secret, it doesn’t seem likely. At the same time, people are genuinely excited for the chance to sail on the Titanic II.
I think most people want to go to enjoy a sense of danger — they may be disappointed when things go well.
Early March 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense asked people to choose between names for what it described as a new breed of hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile:
На официальном сайте Минобороны РФ запущен специальный сервис, предназначенный для выбора наименований новейших образцов российского оружия. С сегодняшнего дня любой посетитель официального сайта Минобороны России с помощью простого и понятного сервиса https://t.co/Fg0eglezqTpic.twitter.com/ozDnpNScCk
The results have since been announced, and they decided that the new missile should be called Burevestnik, a type of bird. It narrowly beat Palmyra, a site of clashes in Syria between Russia and the Islamic State terrorist group, and Surprise.
It also reflects a broader tendency for Russian diplomatic channels to joke about international relations.
After Russia was accused of being behind the poisoning of a Russian former spy on British soil, the action that prompted the US to expel the Russian diplomats, Russia’s embassy in the UK tweeted that Agatha Christie’s fictional detective Hercule Poirot should be sent to figure out the truth.
Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is common among soldiers returning from war and cannot always be treated with medication or talk therapy, causing some organizations to turn to service dogs to provide support and emotional relief.
Jordan Covin, founder of The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans, has a husband and brother that served in the U.S. Army. Neither one of her family members suffers from service-related illnesses, but she says that her proximity to them gives her a unique sense of empathy, which she uses to help others.
“We are a coalition of nonprofits that only work with military veterans and focus on meeting their specific needs with service dogs,” Covin said Thursday on Capitol Hill. “But it’s not only about the dog. The dog is just a tool. What we actually provide is a place where veterans can gather to share their feelings of isolation and alienation. We help create a sense of community and purpose, by bringing the right people together.”
Covin said that groups within her organization have become a network — sharing information and resources instead of competing against one another. She hopes to continue expanding the association, adding more groups who share her vision and goal.
In fact, the idea of using a service dog for psychiatric or emotional reasons is relatively new. Service dogs were originally tasked to perform physical functions for those were incapacitated, such as a seeing eye dog. Covin said that’s all changing now, thanks to a demand for more alternative treatments to address PTSD.
“We all know about dogs for blindness and injuries, but using dogs as a psychiatric tool is very new. It’s an alternative treatment program and that presents challenges. But the niche group that looks only at this and is specializing in this, we can push this into mainstream. It’s not alternative anymore. That is how we want to be seen,” she said.
Eighty-two percent of voters from military households where at least one member is active support the use of marijuana to treat PTSD, according to a 2016 Quinnipiac University poll. These numbers show that once-taboo treatment methods are beginning to find their way into the mainstream. Covin hopes this will continue happening with service dogs.
“We hope to bring in some grant money for research — bring together a group of experts, and help refine a programmatic model for these veterans that serves their needs best, and maximizes the efficiency of their service dog,” she said.
The Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans held a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday with several lawmakers that supported passing the PAWS (Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members) Act. The bill has bipartisan support and, if passed, would allocate grant money to eligible organizations that pair service dogs with soldiers suffering from PTSD.
“Veterans have given enough and need to be treated with dignity, respect and honor — that’s what our association ensures,” Covin said.
As you walk out of a late movie with your date, a shady character steps into your path about ten feet in front of you. He produces a switchblade and demands your wallet. You know that in order to reach your wallet, your hand will swipe right past the concealed carry holster your trusty Glock 19 is nestled into, but could you level the weapon and fire before the assailant pokes you full of holes?
Chances are, you couldn’t.
There’s always room for debate within the tactical training community, as experienced (and often inexperienced) gunslingers develop their own unique approaches to engaging armed opponents. While many opinionated enthusiasts will subscribe to the idea that there’s only one right way to train or fight, the truth is that the right approach is often dictated by the user’s ability, training, and nerves.
Military and law enforcement train frequently to ensure they can act quickly in life-or-death situations.
(US Air Force)
Put simply, two different people could be put into the same set of circumstances and may use the same approach to try to get themselves back out of it, but because of the innumerable variables at play in any fight (whether we’re talking fists or nuclear missiles), placing bets on a winner can be a crapshoot. That’s why, when it comes to training to survive a fight for your life, it’s often better to operate within training guidelines rather than the rules you may see published by those who assume it’s their way or the highway (to hell).
One such rule that is really more of a guideline is the often-debated “21-foot rule.” This rule was first posited by Salt Lake City police officer Dennis Tueller in an article he wrote entitled, “How Close is too Close?” Put simply, Tueller determined that an assailant armed with a knife or club could cover 21 feet in about 1.5 seconds, which is faster than most police officers could draw, aim, and fire their weapons from their hip holsters. This assessment produced two important tactical norms in the minds of many: the first is that a person may be justified in shooting an opponent armed with a knife or club within that distance, because there may not be time to adequately react if they chose to attack. The second is that once you’re inside that 21-foot radius, your approach to survival will need to shift.
This dude probably should have drawn his pistol a while ago.
In the years since Tueller’s article was published back in 1983, this rule has been debated, “debunked,” re-debated, and incorporated into many training regimens… but it’s important not to get too caught up in the figures. That 21-foot figure was really meant to be a rule of thumb, rather than a hard-and-fast rule, because shooters of different skill levels respond at different rates of speed, opponents aren’t all the same speed either, and countless variables regarding the officer’s equipment and the environment the altercation takes place in can all affect how quickly and accurately a shooter can respond with deadly force.
Likewise, for those of us that aren’t members of law enforcement, relying on the idea that the rule is 21 feet can be pretty dangerous. Most casual shooters don’t have the same training and experience with their firearms as police officers tend to, and it often takes longer to draw a weapon from a concealed holster than it does from the open-carry hip holster position employed by most police officers.
So does that mean the rule is bunk? Absolutely not — it just means you need to use a bit of common sense in the way you employ it.
If you pride yourself on your Wild West quick-draw skills, your safe engagement distance might be notably shorter than 21 feet. If you do most of your shooting at a relaxed pace inside your local gun range with a stationary sheet of paper standing in as your opponent, your safe distance may actually be quite a bit greater than 21 feet.
Casual range shooters are rarely as quick on the draw as trained police officers.
The exact distance isn’t as important as the understanding that a gun isn’t a guarantee of victory against knife-wielding attackers. In fact, inside the distance it takes to get a first down playing football, a knife can often be the deadlier option.
That information can help inform your approach to dangerous situations — like just handing over your wallet to that mugger that was inside of ten feet of you and your date. It can also help you prioritize targets in a multiple assailant situation.
If you want to know what your own equivalent of the “21-foot rule” is, it’s simple: have a friend time you the next time you’re training for rapid deployment of your firearm from its holster (in a safe and controlled environment). Slower than 1.5 seconds? Then your rule is further than 21 feet.
This week, the Pentagon made good on a policy it’s been developing to guarantee the operational readiness of the US military’s 2.1 million service members. The new message, aimed at personnel listed as non-deployable for 12 months or more, is simple: either get ready or get out.
Since the closing months of 2017, as the current administration has struggled to create a working budget and to fund the government through a series of congressional stop-gap agreements, Defense Secretary James Mattis has been fighting a singular crusade: to make the U.S. military “more lethal.”
Having succeeded in securing $700 billion for the DoD in 2018 — a 4.5% increase over President Trump’s proposed $668 billion defense budget — the Pentagon is now turning its attention to increasing operational readiness across all branches.
That includes the much-anticipated policy, released Feb. 14 in a DoD memo, that will begin assessments of and, in many cases, separation procedures for service members who have been non-deployable for the last 12 months or more.
According to Robert Wilke, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, “about 13 to 14 percent of the force is medically unable to deploy” at any given time. That comes out to about 286,000 of the 2.1 million personnel serving across all branches of the military — active duty, reserves, and National Guard. Some of that number, an estimated 20,000, is sidelined due to pregnancy and over 100,000 are recovering from injury or addressing illness.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Robbins, of the Provincial Reconstruction Team from forward operating base Kalagush, conducts a patrol through the village of Kowtalay in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan June 12, 2007. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Bracken)
But 34 percent of those medically unavailable, some 99,000 personnel are currently non-deployable for administrative reasons, like failing to stay up to date with immunizations or falling delinquent with required medical exams. And that subset of the force is now officially on notice from the Pentagon that they can get ready for deployment or get ready to discharge.
Waivers will be made available on a case-by-case basis, but the DoD seems to expect swift implementation. In the official language of the memo,
Military Services will have until October 1, 2018, to begin mandatory processing of non-deployable Service members for administrative or disability separation under this policy, but they may begin such processing immediately.
It may not make for polite conversation, but most runners at one time or another have dealt with unpleasant intestinal rumblings, sometimes called runner’s stomach, or faced other gastrointestinal running emergencies while running recreationally or competitively. The Army Public Health Center’s resident nutrition experts offer a few strategies to help runners avoid unfortunate GI issues.
“It is difficult to connect the cause and effect of this unfortunate situation, but some plausible culprits are dehydration and heat exposure,” said Joanna Reagan, registered dietitian at the Army Public Health Center. “Contributing factors likely include the physical jostling of the organs, decreased blood flow to the intestines, changes in intestinal hormone secretion, increased amount or introduction of a new food, and pre-race anxiety and stress.”
Reagan offers a few suggestions to help runners avoid runner’s stomach while running or training.
“If you have problems with gas, bloating or occasional diarrhea, then limit high fiber foods the day before you race,” said Reagan. “Intestinal bacteria produces gas and it breaks down on fibrous foods. So avoid foods such as beans, whole grains, broccoli or other cruciferous vegetables. Lactose intolerance may also be something to consider, so avoid dairy products, but yogurt or kefir are usually tolerated.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kissta DiGregorio, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)
APHC Nutrition Lead Army Maj. Tamara Osgood recommends avoiding sweeteners and sugar alcohols, which can cause a ‘laxative effect’ and are commonly found in sugar free gum and candies.
“Also, limit alcohol before run days, and try to eat at least 60-90 minutes before a run or consume smaller more frequent meals on long run days,” said Osgood.
So broccoli and cauliflower are out. Are there any “good” foods to eat before a planned run?
“In the morning the stress hormone, cortisol, is high,” said Reagan. “To change the body from a muscle-breakdown mode to a muscle building mode eat a small breakfast or snack of 200 to 400 calories within an hour of the event. This depends on your personal tolerance and type of activity.”
Reagan says some quick food choices are two slices of toast, a bagel or English muffin with peanut butter; banana (with peanut butter); oatmeal, a smoothie, Fig Newtons, or granola bar.
“These food choices will also help provide energy and prevent low blood glucose levels,” said Reagan.
(DoD photo by Benjamin Faske)
Although energy bars and gels are popular, runners who haven’t trained with these products may experience diarrhea because of the carbohydrate concentration, said Reagan. A carbohydrate content of more than 10 percent can irritate the stomach. Sport-specific drinks are formulated to be in the optimal range of 5 to 8 percent carbohydrate, and are usually safe for consumption leading up to and during a long run.
Reagan advises staying well hydrated before and during the run and consider getting up earlier than usual to give the GI tract time to “wake up” before the race. For those in race “urges” it’s wise to know the race route and where the portable restrooms are located.
Osgood says runners should train like they race to learn how their bodies tolerate different foods.
“Training is the time to understand how your body tolerates the types of food or hydration you are fueling with,” said Osgood. “Everyone is different when it comes to long runs regarding the type of foods or best timing to eat for you to avoid GI intolerance. Find out what works for you while you train.”
Osgood also recommends refueling following the run. Most studies suggest 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio within 30 minutes post run.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hinted that the United States still had military options left for dealing with North Korea, but did not elaborate when asked for details Monday.
Most experts believe that a military strike on North Korea would invite a devastating response from Pyongyang. The city of Seoul, South Korea, home to 25 million, is well within artillery range of the North, which would likely use conventional artillery munitions and chemical weapons.
But, according to Mattis, the Pentagon has a few tricks up its sleeve that wouldn’t involve the decimation of Seoul.
When asked, “is there any military option the U.S. can take with North Korea that would not put Seoul at grave risk?” on Monday, Mattis responded, “Yes, there are, but I will not go into details.”
Previously, Mattis said a war with North Korea would “involve the massive shelling of an ally’s capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth,” in reference to Seoul.
It’s difficult to understand what the Pentagon could do to stop a North Korean nuclear program, or take out its leader Kim Jong-un, while preventing Pyongyang from fighting back. Artillery, rockets, missiles, and other munitions are scattered throughout the North — many in secret locations — and the Kim regime maintains an ironclad hold on power.
And with every known military option — from launching Tomahawk cruise missiles to air strikes — its likely that North Korea would interpret any strike, however limited, “as a prelude to invading or overthrowing the government, even if the United States insists otherwise,” Daryl Press, a scholar of nuclear deterrence at Dartmouth College, told The Atlantic.
So what does Mattis have in mind? He wouldn’t say, but he did let slip one interesting comment.
“Just to clarify, you said that there were possible military options that would not create a grave risk to Seoul. Are we talking kinetic options as well?” a reporter asked in a follow-up.
“Yes, I don’t want to go into that,” Mattis said, agreeing that his closely-held military option involved kinetic action, a euphemism to describe lethal military force.
President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” in a speech to the United Nations On Tuesday.
“It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict,” Trump said, adding that if Pyongyang didn’t back down, the US would “have no choice than to totally destroy North Korea.”
On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper released a memo to the troops reminding them that it’s against the Uniform Code of Military Justice for active-duty troops to participate in anything political while in uniform. Obviously, it’s not saying that troops can’t hold political opinions or that they can’t participate in anything while in civilian clothes.
It’s just saying while in uniform as it gives the impression all troops support one candidate/policy/movement. Why? I’m so glad you asked my rhetorical question. Because civilians (and I’m taking the politically neutral stance by mocking both sides of the aisle on this one) tend not to know any better. They look at Private Snuffy in his dress blues, and they just see his uniform and assume he’s some official envoy from the military because that’s apparently the Pentagon giving their seal of approval – which they’re obviously not.
It’s like how civilians all assume every troop knows every aspect of how WWIII is going to play out. Private Snuffy is clearly fifty levels too low on the totem pole for that kind of stuff, but the civilians wouldn’t know. I’m just saying. Even top generals appointed by a sitting president can’t even clap during their State of the Union because of this rule, so even they are obviously not going to officially back any politician.
But who am I kidding? We all know troops aren’t going to listen, and there’s going to be at least one ASVAB-waiver this political cycle who’d rather be the poster boy for social media likes than follow the rules. Here are some memes.
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.
Russia’s latest space launch failures have prompted authorities to take a closer look into the nation’s struggling space industry, the Kremlin said Dec. 28.
A Russian weather satellite and nearly 20 micro-satellites from other nations were lost following a failed launch from Russia’s new cosmodrome in the Far East on Nov. 28. And in another blow to the Russian space industry, communications with a Russian-built communications satellite for Angola, the African nation’s first space vehicle, were lost following its launch on Dec. 26.
Asked about the failures, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Dec. 28 that authorities warrant a thorough analysis of the situation in the space industry.
Amid the failures, Russian officials have engaged in a round of finger-pointing.
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees Russia’s military industrial complex and space industries, said in a television interview that the Nov. 28 launch from the new Vostochny launch pad in Russia’s Far East failed because the rocket had been programmed to blastoff from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan instead of Vostochny. He accused the Russian space agency Roscosmos of “systemic management mistakes.”
Roscosmos fired back, dismissing Rogozin’s claim of the flawed programming. It did acknowledge some shortcomings that led to the launch failure and said a number of officials were reprimanded.
Rogozin quickly riposted on Facebook, charging that Roscosmos was “trying to prove that failures occur not because of mistakes in management but just due to some ‘circumstances.'”
The cause of the failure of the Angolan satellite hasn’t been determined yet. Communications with the satellite, which was built by the Russian RKK Energia company, a leading spacecraft manufacturer, were lost after it entered a designated orbit.
Russia has continued to rely on Soviet-designed booster rockets to launching commercial satellites, as well as crews and cargo to the International Space Station. A trio of astronauts from Russia, Japan and the United States arrived at the space outpost last week following their launch from Baikonur.
While Russian rockets have established a stellar reputation for their reliability, a string of failed launches in recent years has called into question Russia’s ability to maintain the same high standards for manufacturing space equipment.
Glitches found in Russia’s Proton and Soyuz rockets in 2016 were traced to manufacturing flaws at the plant in Voronezh. Roscosmos sent more than 70 rocket engines back to production lines to replace faulty components, a move that resulted in a yearlong break in Proton launches.
The suspension badly dented the nation’s niche in the global market for commercial satellite launches. Last year, Russia for the first time fell behind both the U.S. and China in the number of launches.
While Russia plans to continue to use Baikonur for most of its space launches, it has poured billions of dollars in to build the new Vostochny launch pad. A launch pad for Soyuz finally opened in 2016, but another one for the heavier Angara rockets is only set to be completed in late 2021 and its future remains unclear, drawing questions about the feasibility of the expensive project.
Work at Vostochny also has been dogged by scandals involving protests by unpaid workers and the arrests of construction officials accused of embezzlement.
Little is known about day-to-day life there, even among people who study the country. According to one defector, government propaganda in North Korea is pervasive, and even self-proclaimed North Korean experts often don’t realize how much.
In 1997, North Korean defector Kim Young-il escaped while the country was experiencing a four-year-long famine and economic crisis that some estimates suggest claimed the lives of between 240,000 and 3.5 million North Koreans, out of a population of 22 million — despite the government claiming it was a prosperous time with plenty of food.
Even though Kim escaped the dictatorship, he told Business Insider in a recent interview that life remains the same in North Korea: Citizens are lied to and have to accept it. Within Korea, people major in North Korean studies in school, which Kim finds “silly.” He says these experts research North Korea and send information to the South Korean government, like reports that several factions are competing for power in North Korea, which could lead to the country’s downfall.
But Kim says this is false. “There is no difference between factions. There is only the family and the people. Kim Jong Un has total power. None of these factions are important. They just have a name. They have no power.” Kim continued: “Experts say there are two different factions that control North Korea, but it is only the dictator and his family that controls everything.”
Powerful people in South Korea are able to employ people who are loyal to them, but that’s not an option in North Korea because the highest levels of government choose who works where, said Kim.
“People in North Korea have no idea if the person working underneath them is a spy who is checking up on him or her. They have no idea who is trustworthy. People can’t form factions because everyone is spying on everyone else. Everyone distrusts each other,” Kim said.
And as a defector, Kim said experts discount his experience. “These experts don’t see any value in the testimony of defectors,” he said. “They want to focus on the official documents of the North Korean government.” But Kim says these documents and official announcements “are not true. It’s propaganda.”
“The official announcements of North Korea is all false,” Kim said. “I experienced 20 years of North Korea and whenever there was a season of drought, the news would say there is a season of prosperity. What they officially say is all lies.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.