How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history

It’s not very often we Americans want to cheer for the Internal Revenue Service. This is the organization that takes a significant chunk of our paychecks every week, after all. But trust me, by the end of this, you’re going to give this particular law enforcement agency its due. So while they irk us for the money it takes, the IRS also busts tax cheats and will reach out to taxpayers to inform them bout how to pay and pay the right way.

Oh, and they helped bring down one of the largest child pornography websites ever, netting hundreds of pedophiles worldwide, people who thought they’d never get caught. It became an international, inter-agency success story.


It’s a well-known fact that almost anything, no matter how illicit, is available on the dark web, a section of the Internet that isn’t indexed by search engines and is protected by layers and layers of encryption that can only be accessed using Tor, a special browser. An estimated 57 percent of dark web activities are illegal in nature, including the sale of stolen bank accounts, drugs, and child pornography. Because of the anonymity of the dark web, blockchain technology, and the bitcoin used to purchase much of these items, predators, hackers, and drug dealers think it’s a reasonably safe marketplace. Now the IRS can tick off its first score against these illicit practices.

An informant revealed the existence of a child pornography website to federal agents, one that appeared because other sites were shut down by authorities. This site, called “Welcome to Video,” accepted bitcoin as payment, a further way to guarantee the users’ anonymity. But the IRS doesn’t normally cover this ground. So they turned to Homeland Security for help in following the money.

The investigators weren’t able to trace the source of the server hosting the imagery, but through a defect in the website, they were able to trace individual elements of the site. Meanwhile, IRS agents sent bitcoin to addresses associated with the Welcome to Video site. The addresses, they found, were going to addresses given to them by a criminal informant. The feds were able to trace the blockchain ledgers of bitcoin transactions within Tor, a supposedly anonymous browser. Then they divided their resources, one would find the users of the site, and another would find its host.

Federal agents copied one of the confirmed users’ mobile phones and laptops when it was confiscated at an international airport. From there, they traced its bitcoin transactions to South Korea and the United States. They confirmed payments to the Welcome to Video site but also found the website operator’s bitcoin transactions. That’s when they hit the jackpot – the operator of the website opened his U.S. exchange account with a selfie – holding his South Korean passport.

Authorities in Seoul raided the home of a 22-year-old living with his parents, who hosted a “mammoth” child porn site. They took down the site but didn’t alert its users. They were next. Instead, they uploaded a page in broken English about updates being made to the site.

Now that they had the server, authorities in the U.S., South Korea, and London had access to all of “Welcome to Video’s” users. This information led to the arrest of some 300 people in 12 countries – including DHS Agents and other Americans in Georgia, Texas, and Kansas. The Wall Street Journal reports that as a result of the server’s seizure, 23 minors were rescued, all being held and abused by users of the website.

Most of the arrested individuals have since pled guilty or are already serving time. One of the alleged users jumped from his balcony, killing himself.

For the whole story and more details about the amazing work of the IRS, check out the full story in the Wall Street Journal… and try to remember this on April 15th.

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9 Must-Watch Post-9/11 Documentaries

DoD’s embed program and other mechanisms have given journalists and filmmakers substantial access to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so it’s no surprise that those conflicts have been some of the best documented in history. Here is WATM’s list of 11 post 9-11 documentaries that did the best at capturing what really happened:


The Hornet’s Nest

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBt-GTfgLh4

A father-son journalism team embedded on what was supposed to be a three-day raid but ended up being nine days of intense fighting by the 101st Airborne.

Restrepo

A group of paratroopers is deployed to the Korengal Valley, one of the most dangerous spots in Afghanistan, for 15 months. During that time, they fight smugglers and insurgents, attempt to win over the locals, and try to save themselves. A camera crew followa them for much of the deployment, documenting their interactions with Afghans and the deep love the men have for each other.

Armadillo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta5tT0d86A8

A group of Danish cavalry soldiers deploy on a six-month tour of Helmand and a Danish filmmaker goes with them. The film includes a lot of the tedium of a soldier’s life as well as a raid where the soldiers find themselves within a few meters of a Taliban machine gun team.

Hell and Back Again

Nominated for a Best Documentary Feature Academy Award, this film tells the story of a Marine injured in Afghanistan who, after returning to the states, struggles with his post traumatic stress disorder and a badly broken leg. “Hell and Back Again” gives a visceral look at how hard it can be for wounded troops to return to civilian life.

Drone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i43vSC-dTC0

This is a very critical look at the American drone program. Drone explains the factors that make drones so popular with troops while also looking at the moral burdens on drone operators and emotional pain of those who’ve lost family members to drone strikes.

The War Tapes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32L-yuqpEqEw=560h=315

Directed by Deborah Scranton and shot by National Guard soldiers over the course of their training and deployment to Iraq, the documentary focuses on three men with very different views on the war and their commander in chief. This film is arguably the best in terms of capturing the burdens on the modern-day citizen soldier.

Taxi to the Dark Side

An in-depth look at torture during the opening years of the War on Terror, including the decisions made by the Bush administration. It covers Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the leadership (or absence of it) that governed actions in two prisons. Made by the son of a former Navy interrogator, the film went on to win an Academy Award.

No End In Sight

Although “No End In Sight” was released in 2007, the film concentrates on Iraq in the first year after the invasion. It features interviews with White House and State Department officials who were frustrated with missteps that fueled the growing insurgency and caused extra misery for both Iraqi citizens and the U.S. troops assigned to police them.

The Ground Truth

“The Ground Truth” follows a group of Marines and soldiers from the point they’re recruited and then on to their experiences in war. Troops tell their stories in their own words from their initial training through deployments and struggles once they get home.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea said to be completely nuclear capable in 6 months

North Korea could launch a full-blown nuclear strike on the US as early as July 23, 2018, according to a prediction from Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

A government minister gave the assessment to a parliamentary committee in early 2018 as part of its efforts to assess Kim Jong Un’s ability to precipitate a nuclear war.


Lord Howe, a British defense minister, told parliament’s Defense Committee that the Defense Ministry thought North Korea would be fully nuclear-capable within “six to 18 months.”

The statements, made at a Jan. 23 hearing, were published April 5, 2018, in a committee report on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The earliest possible date for a strike in Howe’s time frame is July 23, 2018; the far estimate is the same date in 2019.

The Defense Ministry on April 5, 2018, told Business Insider it stood by the dates.

“We judge that they are now certainly capable of reaching targets in the short range, by which I mean Japan, South Korea — obviously — and adjoining territories,” Howe told MPs. “Our judgment is that it will probably be six to 18 months before they have an ICBM capability that is capable of reaching the coast of the United States or indeed ourselves.”

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
North Korea’s Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, which the country claims can reach the US.
(Photo from KCNA)

North Korea tested multiple nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017. Based on the tests, experts said North Korea could probably get a missile to hit the US mainland — but still lacked the technology to carry a heavy nuclear warhead that far.

The Defense Ministry believes the country is now working on that technology; attaching a nuclear weapon to an ICBM would allow North Korea to carry out a nuclear strike in most of the world.

“A nuclear strike capability depends on marrying up the ballistic missile with the warhead, and that is, we judge, work in progress,” Howe said.

The Defense Ministry confirmed Howe’s assessment on April 5, 2018.

“We stand by our defense minister’s comments,” a spokesman told Business Insider.

Though there appears to be a growing rapprochement between North Korea and the US, Pyongyang appears to be preparing a satellite launch that could ruin the coming discussions with US President Donald Trump.

North Korea has scuppered multiple talks about disarmament by launching satellites in the past.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force stands up new F-35 fighter squadron in Europe

The 308th Fighter Squadron was reactivated in a ceremony at Luke Air Force Base, Nov. 30, 2018. The squadron will house the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s and the Royal Danish Air Force’s F-35A Lightning IIs, in a training partnership.

With Lt. Col. Robert Miller assuming command, the fighter squadron is scheduled to begin operations in December 2018.

“It’s bittersweet to leave the 62nd FS, but fortunately I’ll continue to fly and instruct at the 308th FS,” Miller said.


Top 5 Amazing F-35 Fighter Jet Facts

www.youtube.com

Throughout the next two years, the Dutch and the Danish air forces will be sending their jets to populate the squadron and help Luke AFB’s mission of training the world’s greatest fighter pilots.

“The 308th FS is the fourth F-35 squadron at Luke, but the most important part of this activation is that we will be with two partner nations,” said Miller. “In a few weeks, the Dutch will start their F-35 training followed by the Danes.”

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history

Col. Mathew Renbarger, 56th Operations Group commander, passes the 308th Fighter Squadron guidon to Lt. Col. Robert Miller, 308th FS commander, during an assumption of command ceremony, Nov. 30, 2018, at Luke Air Force Base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid)

Before final arrangements were made, Lt. Gen. Dennis Luyt, Royal Netherlands Air Force commander, paid Luke AFB a visit. During the visit he was given a tour of the base and of the Academic Training Center where all of the F-35 pilots learn how to fly.

After thorough examination of the training facilities, Dutch air force members were given a walk-through of the new fighter squadron building.

Under Miller’s watch, the 308th FS’s goal is to train as efficiently as the rest of Luke AFB’s fighter squadrons.

“As we stand up the 308th FS we will emulate the 62nd FS nation to the best of our ability,” said Miller. “In time, we’ll challenge to be the best F-35 organization.”

Miller said challenging the status quo is the mindset at Luke AFB.

“The trust that we build at Luke with our partners is critical to our success on the battle field. The opportunity to train, learn and be together is unparalleled elsewhere,” said Miller. “We are changing the way our Air Force and other nations prepare for war.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to protect a ship’s crew from a weapon of mass destruction

Ships at sea have long had to contend with efforts to sink them. Traditionally, this was done by busting holes in the hull to let water in. Another way of putting a ship on the bottom of the ocean floor is to set the ship on fire (which would often cause explosions, blowing holes in the hull).

The two act in combination at times — just look at the saga of USS Liscome Bay (CVE 56) for one such case.


These days, however, threats to ships have become much more diverse and, in a sense, non-conventional. Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons have emerged as threats to seafaring vessels.

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history

Marines train for a chemical weapons attack on civilians. While chemical weapons have often been used on land, they can also be used against ships.

(DoD photo by Senior Airman Daniel Owen, U.S. Air Force)

Nuclear weapons are obvious threats. If a ship is in very close proximity to the detonation of such a weapon, it’d quickly be reduced to radioactive dust. Further out, the blast wave and extreme heat would cause fires and do serious damage. Don’t take my word for it, check out Operation Crossroads. In a test, two nuclear blasts sank a number of retired ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato and the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga (CV 3) that had survived many battles in World War II.

Chemical, biological, and radiological threats, though, are a bit more insidious. They don’t do direct damage to the warship, but can kill or incapacitate the crew. A warship without a crew faces some serious trouble. Thankfully, there’s a way to detect and mitigate such threats.

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history

The Baker shot from Operation Crossroads — with the Japanese battleship Nagato on the left.

(US Navy)

Currently, a Finnish company known as Environics is developing gear that monitors for CBRN threats. Once the alarms sound, the ship’s crew can then seal off the ship into a citadel. Afterwards, the decontamination process can begin.

While the use of chemical and biological weapons has been banned by international treaties, recent events in Syria show that, sometimes, political agreements don’t hold weight. Thankfully, systems like those from Environics will crews potentially in danger a way to protect themselves.

Articles

Why Johnny Cash was the first Westerner to learn Stalin was dead

While he’s more famous for being “The Man In Black,” Johnny Cash served in the U.S. Air Force during the Cold War and was the first man outside of the Soviet Union to learn of Premier Joseph Stalin’s death.


Cash was born J.R. Cash and was raised in a hardscrabble family in Arkansas. He was forced to begin working at the age of 5 and he began playing and writing his own songs at the age of 12 after one of his brothers was killed in a farming accident.

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
(Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Gary Rice)

At the age of 18 in 1950, J.R. Cash joined the Air Force and was forced to change his name to John. He rose through the ranks and served as a Morse code operator. He spent much of his time quickly decoding communications between Soviet officials.

On March 3, 1953, he was a staff sergeant manning his post in Landsberg, Germany, when a surprising message beeped into his ears. Soviet Premier Josef Stalin, who had suffered from ill health for years, had died.

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
(Photo: U.S. Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Gary Rice)

The leader of Russia had suffered a massive heart attack that day and died quickly.

The Man In Black passed the message up the chain and returned to work. Cash’s job already required that he have limited off-post privileges and contact with locals. Still, he couldn’t discuss what happened with even his close friends.

The rest of the world would soon learn of Stalin’s death and the ascent of Georgy Malenkov.

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
Johnny Cash as a newly signed musician at Sun Records in 1955. (Photo: Sun Records. Public Domain)

Cash, meanwhile, would leave the service honorably just over a year later and return to Texas where he had trained. He married his first wife the same year and signed with Sun Records in 1955.

He played the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time the same year.

Over the following 48 years, Cash wrote thousands of songs and released dozens of albums before his death in September 2003 at the age of 71.

popular

This is the only country in South America to send troops to the Korean War

While the Korean War Battles of Old Baldy, Triangle Hill, and Geumseong may not be the first battles that come to mind when we think of the Korean Conflict, for Colombia, they were certainly important. Like their Brazilian neighbors in World War II, the Colombians saw the importance of stemming the advance of an aggressor as essential to the world’s collective security. Three Colombian frigates along with more than 5,000 troops saw action alongside their U.N. allies there.


A Colombian veteran returns home from the Korean War.

 

While the country’s then-President, Laureano Gomez, was also looking for economic support from the West, the Colombians were also eager to remove the pro-German brush that had painted them during the Second World War. By 1951, for the first time in 127 years, Colombia was fully engaged in the fighting on the Korean Peninsula, attached to the U.S. 7th and 24th Infantry Divisions.

Over the course of the rest of the war, Colombia would send battalion after battalion over to fight, numbering more than a thousand men each. They were eager to prove Colombia’s bravery to the rest of the world, like the Turkish and Ethiopians before them. They were unlike any Colombian soldiers who came before them, but when returning home, they found a cold indifferent world.

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford meets a Colombian Korean War veteran at the Korean War Memorial, Headquarters of the Military Forces of Colombia. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Their service went largely unnoticed when they returned home. Colombians rejected many of the ideals the Korean War veterans held as they fought to earn their respect in the halls of the U.N.. They suffered the way many veterans the world over suffer after their wars end. While abroad and fighting, they found themselves honored and beloved by veterans from every nation they fought. When they came home, they found it was hard to win over their own nation.

They received no benefits, no pension. Many wounded veterans would come home and one day die without so much as a thank you from the nation for which they were willing to give their lives.

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
Colombian Army veterans.

Eventually, the Colombian government would relent and offer a pension to Korean War veterans who could prove they were indigent. By then, many of those fighting men were well into their 60s and 70s. Some of those veterans were never recovered and remain in Korea to this day. The unit also suffered 213 dead and 567 wounded. They were the last force to arrive but the 9th largest to join in the effort to keep the South free. Still, the men who fought there don’t hold regrets about going.

“It was a really extraordinary experience,” said General Álvaro Valencia Tovar. “I never regretted going, despite the hardships suffered during war, the bitter winter we lived through there…resisting subzero temperatures, but that was all part of a chapter in my life that I’ve always regarded with great sympathy and with pleasant memories.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is why the US doesn’t export the F-22

Lockheed Martin, the leading manufacturer of stealth aircraft in the world, proposed a new hybrid between the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning on April 22, 2018, for Japan to purchase, and it could easily outclass the US Air Force.

Japan has, for decades, wanted in on the US Air Force’s F-22, a long-range, high-capacity stealth fighter that perfectly suits its defense needs, except for one problem — the US won’t sell it.


While completing the F-22, the US ruled out its sale to allies as the technology involved in the plane was too advanced for export. But this decision took place 11 years ago in 2007.

Today, the US is in the process of selling Japan the F-35 multi-role strike aircraft, but according to Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, the plane’s design makes it less than ideal for Tokyo.

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
An F-35 Lightning II
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joely Santiago)

“The F-35 is primarily a strike aircraft, intended to hit well defended targets on the ground, and is limited in air-to-air combat because of its size, its single engine, and way it was designed,” Bronk said.

But because Russian and Chinese jets constantly pester Japan’s airspace, Tokyo wants a more air-dominance focused jet.

The F-22 can cruise at 60,000 feet going about 1.5 times the speed of sound without igniting the afterburners, meaning it can maintain its stealth while covering incredible distances in short times. The F-35 is a capable fighter, but can’t touch those numbers.

“Along with a bigger missile load out, it’s a much much more capable for air superiority tasks,” Bronk said of the F-22. “The strike role that Japan really really cares about is not really the one that the F-35 is designed for.”

He added that Japan would love a jet that can fire anti-ship missiles, but that the F-35 is just too small to hold them inside its stealthy weapons bays.

Beast of both worlds

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
(U.S. Air Force photo)

President Donald Trump has moved to loosen up restrictions on foreign military sales, and could potentially revisit the decade-old ruling on selling the F-22, as the sensitive technology it uses has aged and become less cutting-edge, but that same advancement in technology has likely doomed the F-22’s restart.

Bronk said the costs of restarting F-22 production were “not trivial,” and even if Japan offered to pay, “a lot of the electronic components, computer chips and things, are not built anymore.” The F-22 had a decades-long development that started off with 1980s-era technology.

“If you were going to put the F-22 into production now, it’s hard to justify doing without updating the electronics,” Bronk said. Once the electronics become updated, and take up less space and throw off the balance of the jet, the flight software would need an update. Once the flight software starts getting updated, “it starts to look like a new fighter program,” Bronk said.

This would create a serious headache for the US Air Force

In the end, Lockheed’s proposal looks like an F-22 airframe jammed with F-35 era technology, essentially stripping the best part of each jet and combining them in a plane that would outclass either.

“If it can stomach the costs, then not only would Japan have a fantastic fighter on its hands, but perhaps problematically it would be more capable than anything the US Air Force is flying,” Bronk explained.

In the end, the US Air Force would end up in a very difficult position — having to live with Japan getting a better fighter, or spending money earmarked for F-35s, which the US sees as the future of its force, on another aircraft it didn’t come up with.

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

Articles

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

The moment Otto Catalan had waited almost two decades for had finally arrived. Sitting in a small office, surrounded by his doctors and other medical staff, the blind U.S. Navy Veteran could only hope for one thing: to see the face of his teenage son for the first time.


“I see a lot of flashes, and they’re getting brighter,” he said. “Wow. It’s amazing.”

He turned his head to the right and saw bright flashes of light reflecting off the white coat of Miami VA Chief of Ophthalmology Dr. Ninel Gregori. When he turned to the left to talk with his son, he paused and began to cry. Gregori hugged him.

“Thank you very much, guys,” he said. “I’ll work hard, so I can see. It’s been 19 years, and I have been able to see my son. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
VA photo

Catalan is keeping true to his word and continuing to work hard to learn how to use his new Argus® II prosthesis or “bionic eye.” Even though he struggled for years to come to terms with the loss of his sight, Catalan now feels optimistic about moving forward and beginning a new life.

“I’m learning something new everyday,” he said. “This prosthetic will help me be more successful in life. It’s already helping me be more mobile at home, and it’s going to make a big difference for me at work.”

Catalan’s struggles with vision loss began in 1989, when he was serving as a ship serviceman in the U.S. Navy. While he was on guard duty aboard a ship in the middle of the Persian Gulf, everything suddenly went dark.

“It felt like I was walking in the dark,” he said. “I told my superior officer, and he sent me to a doctor, but they couldn’t find out what it was. We went back to Virginia. They did extensive tests, and that’s when they found out I had retinitis pigmentosa.”

Catalan was scared when he heard the diagnosis. He never heard of retinitis pigmentosa and didn’t know what it would mean for his future. He was immediately removed from the ship and sent to rehab, and would eventually be medically separated from the military.

What is retinitis pigmentosa?

“Retinitis pigmentosa is one of the most common inherited diseases we see in ophthalmology,” Gregori said. “For people with this condition and certainly in Mr. Catalan’s case, the retina becomes very thin, and the photoreceptors, which convert light into electrical signals, gradually die off over time. Initially, peripheral vision, or the side vision, goes away, and then finally the central vision disappears.”

In 2014, the National Eye Institute generally estimated that the rare disorder affected roughly 1 in 4,000 people in the U.S. and worldwide.** This genetic condition results from a mutation in more than 100 genes and can present in individuals without family history of the disorder. It usually develops gradually either early or later in life and eventually causes significant visual impairment, according to Gregori. In severe cases, the disorder can cause a complete loss of vision, forcing people like Catalan to find ways to cope and emotionally adjust to life with the condition.

Catalan’s eyesight continued to deteriorate. Still needing to make money, he took a job as a cook. As his conditioned worsened, he struggled to tell if food was cooked and even burned himself multiple times. It was at this point that Catalan knew he needed help, so he went to the Northport VA Medical Center in New York.

“My doctors told me I needed to start preparing because I was going to be permanently blind soon,” he said. “After I heard that, I remember crying all the time. I couldn’t even hear someone say the word ‘see’ because I would burst into tears.”

The Northport VAMC referred Catalan to the VA Connecticut Healthcare System to participate in its Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Service’s three-month training program. While sitting through the training sessions and listening to the instructors and other Veterans, Catalan unexpectedly learned a valuable life lesson.

“Once I met other blind Vietnam Veterans at VA Connecticut and saw how well they were dealing with their situation, I never cried about my own condition again,” he said.

Throughout the program, he also learned to perform everyday tasks, such as shave his face, eat with utensils, identify clothing and walk with a cane. He stayed an additional two months to learn to use a computer and screen-reader technology.

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
VA photo

Moving to Florida

In 2005, Catalan heard about ophthalmology research being conducted at the Miami VA Healthcare System and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which serves as the ophthalmology department of the University of Miami Health System. He moved his family to Cutler Bay, Florida and transferred his care to the then Miami VA Medical Center—where he worked with Roberta Goldstein, now retired Miami VA visual impairment services team coordinator.

“Roberta was great,” he said. “She referred me to the prosthetics department at the West Palm Beach VAMC, so I could get equipment to help me go back to work. She’s the best.”

Shortly after receiving his prosthetics equipment, Catalan landed a job as a resource specialist with Marriott Hotels—where he still works today. He says Marriott has been accommodating to his condition, and he hopes to be considered for promotion one day.

In March 2015, he received a phone call that would help his chances of getting that long-awaited promotion and also change his life.

One of my hopes was to see my son’s face for the first time

When he heard about the “bionic eye,” Catalan requested an evaluation for the device at the Miami VA Eye Clinic. With the help of the low vision Miami VA team, Gregori selected him for the Argus II® screening evaluation and personally called his home to ask if he was still interested.

“He was a perfect candidate,” Gregori said. “His personality was extremely important. With artificial vision, the patient must have the patience to learn to interpret the lights and images he or she is seeing. Learning to use the Argus II is like learning a new language, so individuals with both an optimistic personality and a strong willingness to work hard are the best candidates for the technology.”

Dr. Gregori is the Miami VA chief of ophthalmology and an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. In 2004, she was part of the surgical team that implanted the first Argus II® retinal prosthesis in a Florida patient, a non-Veteran from Tampa. She was eager to bring the new technology to the Miami VA, where she proudly serves South Florida Veterans and has lead the ophthalmology department for the past 10 years.

“Miami VA Medical Center Director Paul Russo and Chief of Surgery Dr. Seth Spector both enthusiastically welcomed the idea of making the bionic eye available to our Veterans. It would not have been possible without their support,” Gregori said.

It felt like I had just given somebody the best Christmas present

Catalan underwent surgery to implant the Argus® II, a new prosthesis approved in 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration to treat people with end-stages of retinitis pigmentosa, at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute on Nov. 24, 2015. Catalan’s bionic eye was activated Dec. 11 by the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s biomedical engineers, under the supervision of Miami VA’s Dr. Ninel Gregori. Even though Gregori and her team had already been through the experience of turning on the prosthesis with a previous patient, Catalan’s moment was emotional nonetheless.

“When it was turned on, Mr. Catalan started crying, and it brought tears to my eyes,” Gregori said. “It felt like I just gave somebody the best Christmas present I had ever given to anybody in my life. That’s why I went into ophthalmology.”

“After 19 years, the first thing I saw was my son’s face,” Catalan said. “I could also see Dr. Gregori, and when we walked around the hall, I was able to tell where the door and window frames were for the first time. That might not mean a lot to other people, but it meant so much to me.”

Catalan’s progress

Catalan continues to work with the Miami VA Blind Rehabilitation Team, lead by optometrist Dr. Kasey Zann, to learn how to use the Argus II® in his everyday life. Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist Linh Pham visits his home and trains him to use the device in his home environment and in public. He also works regularly with Gregori and her team at the Miami VA Eye Clinic.

“The Miami VA Healthcare System has amazing low vision and blind rehabilitation resources for Veterans. It is an ideal setting for rehabilitation after Argus II implantation,” Gregori said.

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
VA photo

At home, Catalan now sees objects and walls, and can even see lights and motion on his television for the first time. His next goal is to learn to use his new computer at work. After his training, he will be able to see shapes, the different windows and letters on his computer screen.

During an outing with his family in early 2015, Catalan was surprised to see a sight he had not seen in years.

“On New Year’s Eve, I was able to see the fireworks outside for the first time in 19 years. My mouth stayed open for a while,” he said. “Now, when I’m walking on the grass, I can see the lines where the grass is versus where the sidewalk is. The fact that I’m walking outside and can see the lights makes it all worth it.”

About the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System

The Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System—made by Second Sight Medical Products, Inc.—is an artificial retina, or bionic eye, that converts images into light and uses a miniature video camera that is mounted on a pair of glasses, said Gregori. Once the images are converted, they are wirelessly transmitted to a surgically implanted prosthesis located in the patient’s eye. The implant then stimulates the retina to produce an image that is sent to the brain for interpretation.

According to the Second Sight website, more than 200 patients worldwide have now received the prosthesis. To learn more about the Argus II, visit the Second Sight Medical Products Inc. website.

Humor

11 hilarious Marine memes that are freaking spot on

Marine humor is super dark and most people outside of our community will never understand it.


But it’s all good — so long as we’ve got these memes, we know we’re not alone.

Related: 9 military photos that will make you do a double take

1. Maybe this is why Marines are so obsessed with pull-ups (via Marine Corps Memes).

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
And faster than a speeding bullet.

2. They must have been a 0311 Marine. But still saltier than a staff sergeant…

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history
And still gets more respect than any POG… ever.

3. When you’re so excited that you forget how to speak proper English.

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Yeah, what he said.

4. The main difference between a Marine and an Airman (via Pop Smoke).

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Killers vs. paper pushers.

Don’t Forget About: 11 memes that are way too real for every Corpsman

5. I can no longer see these rhyming pairs without hearing Taylor Swift… (via Military Memes).

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It’s all fun and games until gunny finds you skating this hard.

6. It’s the one injury prevention tip that isn’t endorsed by the safety NCO (via Military Memes).

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But hey, as long as that PFC lifts with his legs, he’ll probably be fine.

7. Becoming a Marine means you change forever.

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F*ck yeah, the change is forever! Semper Fi!

8. The Marine Corps Fashion show is very hit or miss.

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But you know you still want to bang one of them.

Also Read: 12 intense photos of the Army’s grueling sniper school

9. Don’t complain, boot.

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It’s better than using your toothbrush.

10. The legend has finally been proven.

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We never doubted it. We swear we didn’t.

11. Sgt. Pennywise was just named recruiter of the year. True story.

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Even his nameplate says Pennywise. That’s freakin’ classic!

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Civil War battalion was just college kids

During the Civil War, an entire battalion was formed by pulling the students of two colleges out of school, putting them under the command of their professors, and shipping them off to war. And these college kids really did fight, possibly firing some of the first and last shots of the war and earning battle streamers for seven different engagements before the war ended.


Citadel cadets recreate the firing on the Star of the West

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The college students were cadets at The Citadel and The Arsenal Academy, both establishments for training future military officers. So, when South Carolina seceded on Dec. 20, 1860, there was obviously a question of roles for these men who had already signaled an interest in military service.

Just a few weeks later, on Jan. 9, cadets were manning artillery emplacements in Charleston Harbor when a merchant ship, Star of the West, loaded with supplies and reinforcements for Fort Sumter, entered the harbor. The Citadel’s superintendent, Col. Peter Stevens, ordered gunners to fire on the ship in an attempt to turn it around.

A single warning shot across the bow failed to deter the ship, but a short volley a few minutes later caused multiple strikes against the ship’s hull and forced it to withdraw.

A later attack by Confederate forces on Fort Sumter in April 1861 is generally regarded as the first attack of the war, but the cadets were awarded a streamer for their January attack.

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An illustration of The Citadel during the Civil War.

(Alfred Rudolf Waud)

The next streamer for the academy came in November 1861, at Wappoo Cut, but they didn’t actually meet with Union forces. On Nov. 7, Union naval forces had shelled and seized two Confederate forts near the South Carolina capital, and political leaders worried that the Union would press forward. They called on the cadets to man defenses at Wappoo Cut, but the Union soldiers didn’t press the attack, and the cadets eventually returned to school.

Around the same time, Union forces landed on James and John’s islands, and Confederate counterattacks failed to re-take the beachheads, and on James Island, they were even forced back along a bridge. These were islands key to Charleston’s defense, and the cadets were sent again to hold the line. They brought eight light artillery pieces to James Island and manned them against Union attack.

At this point, though, The Citadel and The Arsenal were still functioning as military academies despite their students and faculty being called away from time to time to perform training, logistics, or even defensive duties. But by June 1862, there was a body of cadets that was ready to go to war without waiting for their commissions at graduation. At least 37 cadets resigned from the school and formed the “Cadet Rangers,” a cavalry unit.

This sort of pattern would continue for the next few years, with the cadets being called out to defend Charleston for a few days or weeks and then being sent back to the school to train, frustrating some of them. In early 1863, cadets manned guns in a defensive battery on a bridge between Charleston and James Island.

Union forces shelled the city during this period, and some of the cadets were sent to guard stores of weapons and supplies. But they returned to school again until the first half of 1864, when they were once again sent to defend James Island.

At the end of 1864, the cadets were called to a defense that would actually result in combat. Union Marines, soldiers, and sailors were sent to break the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and their attack surprised the infantrymen defending the position. The cadets, stationed a few miles away at the time, rushed to the fight at the double-time.

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Union Marines and other troops attacked cadets at the Battle of Tulifinny near Charleston, South Carolina, and the cadets earned praise for their disciplined fire and poise under attack.

(David Humphreys Miller)

During that first night, on Dec. 6, the cadets did little because they arrived as the Union troops were digging into their defensive positions while the Confederate attacks gave way.

But the next morning, the cadets were one of the key components of an attack on the Union positions. They came under rifle fire and responded with a bayonet charge, but were driven back. They secured their wounded and dropped back to their own defenses. In this role, they earned praise from nearby infantry units for their disciplined fire. They even pursued the Marines attacking them during the final Union retreat. During the fight, they suffered eight casualties.

The following year, in May 1865, cadets would once again engage in direct combat with Union forces. They were sent to guard infrastructure in Williamston, South Carolina, when Union forces attempted to reach a bridge over the Saluda River and burn it. The cadets beat back the attack successfully, saving the bridge.

Even as the Confederacy’s prospects in the war suffered under the Union Anaconda Plan, the cadets held their lines when ordered. They never surrendered and were one of the last forces to disband, not doing so until May 9, 1865, one month after Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia.

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