It looks like Washington just rescued the VA's private-sector care program — for now - We Are The Mighty
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It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a $3.9 billion emergency spending package to fill a shortfall in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ program of private-sector care, seeking to avert a disruption to medical care for thousands of veterans.


The deal includes additional money for core VA health programs, as well. Veterans’ groups insisted this money be included.

The compromise plan sets aside $2.1 billion over six months to continue funding the Choice program, which provides federally paid medical care outside the VA and is a priority of President Donald Trump. VA Secretary David Shulkin has warned that without legislative action, Choice would run out of money by mid-August, causing delays in health care.

The proposal also would devote $1.8 billion to authorize 28 leases for new VA medical facilities and establish programs to make it easier to hire health specialists. That cost would be paid for by trimming pensions for some Medicaid-eligible veterans and collecting fees for housing loans.

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now
VA Secretary David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

A House vote was planned July 28, before members were to begin a five-week recess. The Senate is finishing up business for two more weeks and would also need to approve the measure.

Major veterans’ groups had opposed the original House plan as an unacceptable step toward privatization, leading Democrats to block that bill on July 24. That plan would have trimmed VA benefits to pay for Choice without additional investments in VA infrastructure.

Put in place after a 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital, the Choice program allows veterans to receive care from outside doctors if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility.

Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told a hearing on July 27 that the six-month funding plan was urgently needed and would give Congress more time to debate broader issues over the future of the VA. He was joined by Rep. Tim Walz, the panel’s top Democrat.

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)

“We are glad that veterans will continue to have access to care without interruption and that the VA will be able to improve the delivery of care by addressing critical infrastructure and medical staffing needs,” Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement.

Shulkin praised the agreement and urged the House to act swiftly. The legislation “will greatly benefit veterans,” he said.

Still, while the agreement may avert a shutdown to Choice, the early disputes over funding may signal bigger political fights to come.

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now
Photo by Michael Vadon

During the 2016 campaign, Trump had criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, saying he would give veterans more options in seeing outside providers. At an event July 25 in Ohio, Trump said he would triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice” as part of an upcoming VA overhaul.

His comments followed a warning by the leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars against any Trump administration effort to “privatize” the VA. Speaking July 24 at its national convention in New Orleans, outgoing VFW National Commander Brian Duffy criticized the initial House plan as violating Trump’s campaign promise to VFW that it “would remain a public system, because it is a public trust.”

Shulkin announced the budget shortfall last month, citing unexpected demand from veterans for private care and poor budget planning. To slow spending, the department last month instructed VA medical centers to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors.

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Furey

“This situation underscores exactly why Congress needs to pass broader and more permanent Choice reforms. Even after they finish scrambling to fund this flawed program, too many veterans will still be trapped in a failing system and will be unable to seek care outside the VA when they want to or need to,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America.

Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 percent in 2014, as the VA’s more than 1,200 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care.

The VA has an annual budget of nearly $167 billion.

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Here are Hillary Clinton’s answers to 11 questions posed by the military community

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now


Editor’s note: Earlier this summer, Military One Click devised a military/veteran-centered questionnaire and sent it out to the Clinton, Johnson, Stein, and Trump campaigns as part of #militaryvotesmatter. As they receive responses from those campaigns, WATM will publish them, unedited and in their entirety.

This questionnaire was devised and compiled by Bianca Strzalkowski, a freelance writer and Marine Corps spouse. Follow her on twitter, @BiancaSki.

1. What key policy positions does your party hold that make you choose to be affiliated with it?

Though I have been a Democrat for decades, I grew up in a Republican household in Illinois. Regardless of who I vote for, many of my guiding principles have come from my Methodist faith—including the idea that you should “do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”

These values make me proud to be the Democratic nominee, and to fight for policies that will create good-paying jobs, economic security and fairness for working families, and equality for all Americans. We will raise the minimum wage, remove the barriers to higher education, ensure working families have paid family and medical leave, protect and expand health care—especially for our veterans—defend American workers, and encourage innovators and small businesses. We will ensure that our policies treat everyone with dignity and respect: in this election, those principles have evaded the Republican nominee for president. However, regardless of party affiliation, I believe we must also remember our country’s motto of

These values make me proud to be the Democratic nominee, and to fight for policies that will create good-paying jobs, economic security and fairness for working families, and equality for all Americans. We will raise the minimum wage, remove the barriers to higher education, ensure working families have paid family and medical leave, protect and expand health care—especially for our veterans—defend American workers, and encourage innovators and small businesses. We will ensure that our policies treat everyone with dignity and respect: in this election, those principles have evaded the Republican nominee for president. However, regardless of party affiliation, I believe we must also remember our country’s motto of

We will ensure that our policies treat everyone with dignity and respect: in this election, those principles have evaded the Republican nominee for president. However, regardless of party affiliation, I believe we must also remember our country’s motto of e Pluribus Unum: “out of many, we are one.” I believe that our country is stronger together, not divided by background—or by Democrat or Republican. Together, we will ensure that we uphold the basic bargain of this country—that if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. Every American deserves a healthy, happy, and productive life, and I am proud to fight for the policies that will make that a reality.

I believe that our country is stronger together, not divided by background—or by Democrat or Republican. Together, we will ensure that we uphold the basic bargain of this country—that if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. Every American deserves a healthy, happy, and productive life, and I am proud to fight for the policies that will make that a reality.

I believe that our country is stronger together, not divided by background—or by Democrat or Republican. Together, we will ensure that we uphold the basic bargain of this country—that if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. Every American deserves a healthy, happy, and productive life, and I am proud to fight for the policies that will make that a reality.

2. In your opinion, what do you think are the leading issues facing today’s military members?

My father was a World War II veteran, having served as a Navy chief petty officer. Growing up, I learned from his experiences, but I understand that our service members, veterans, and their families experience many different challenges today. The issues facing our service men and women are vast and varied, but we will take important steps to ensure that our country is aligning the demands of a military career with the realities facing 21st-century families. We must not only recognize the sacrifices that our service men and women make but how their efforts keep us safe and allow us to prosper at home.

In an era of uncertain budgets, we need to ensure our military has the resources and support they need to cope with the nearly two decades of conflict they have faced. While I am all for making sure we are stretching our dollars and cutting the fat out of budgets, we cannot impose arbitrary limits on something as important as our military. We will work to end the sequester and get a budget deal that supports our military, our families, and our country.

We need to ensure we are modernizing all branches of service and investing in new technologies, so that we remain an agile force, ready to meet all challenges be they land, air, space, or cyber.

We must ensure that we are not only caring for our service men and women physically but that they have access to the mental health care they needed. I will ensure we enhance Defense Department programs to help remove the stigma of mental health issues. With this expansion in services, we must also provide our veterans the support they need when it comes to battling homelessness and addiction, and the far too many instances of veterans attempting and committing suicide.

We must do more to support military families as they prepare for deployment or care for a wounded warrior. That is why I am committed to extending paid family and medical leave policies. For families that have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country—our Gold Star Families—we must also ensure that they have ongoing access to benefits, and enhanced gratuity payments for surviving spouses.

3. What experience, if any, do you have with the military and veteran communities?

In addition to my experience being raised by a proud veteran, I have had the privilege of working with and on behalf of our military members, veterans, and their families throughout my career in public service.

As First Lady, I fought to have Gulf War Syndrome recognized, to ensure our service members received the care they required.

As a senator, I served on the Armed Services Committee, which allowed me to opportunity to continue those efforts to improve care and expanding military health benefits. During my tenure, I fought to make affordable health insurance available to more National Guard and Reserve members and their families and to expand services for post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries . I worked across the aisle to expand benefits for our service members, increase survivor benefits and pass the post-9/11 G.I. bill. I worked with Senator McCain to raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. These funds were critical in building the Center for the Intrepid, a state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation facility in San Antonio.

I also lead a successful effort to block the Department of Defense’s plan to close schools on military bases in the middle of wartime. I continued to fight for our bases and the military communities they supported. I fought to protect Fort Drum, securing continued funding and support for its community. In 2005, the base was supporting over 110,000 people and, given the human and economic impact, I knew the people of New York could not afford to lose this important resource.

Finally, as Secretary of State, I worked alongside President Obama, offering advice and support as he made decisions regarding our military personnel. I had the privilege of meeting and working alongside service members in our embassies and bases around the world.

4. In 2014, it came to light that veterans were facing dire issues in trying to navigate the Veterans Administration’s system, to include long wait lists to access healthcare. What actions would you take to find solutions to these problems?

I was outraged by the scandals at the Veterans Administration. Our veterans have made tremendous sacrifices for our country, and we must ensure they have access to a system that puts their needs first. We must reform veterans’ health care to ensure that all our veterans have access to care that is both timely and high quality. The Veterans Health Administration must be a veteran-centric provider of service-connected care. We must ensure our veterans receive care from providers who understand the unique challenges they face. This includes improving care for our female veterans and expanding care for our Native Veterans, many of whom live far away from existing medical centers. We must tackle the epidemic of veteran suicide, and expand services for mental health issues. Far too many former servicemen and women face addiction and homelessness. I will encourage states to require licensed prescribers to have a minimum amount of training so that our veterans can benefit from better prescriber practices.

As president, I will also ensure that we streamline efforts between the Department of Defense and the VA when it comes to coordinating inpatient services across federal health delivery programs, synchronizing procurement, and ending the delay in developing a fully functioning electronic health record system.

We must take these important steps to improve care, while blocking the efforts to privatize the VA. Privatization will not solve the problems facing the VHA, and our veterans deserve better. Health care is only part of the reforms we must make across the federal government to modernize our veterans’ benefits. We must improve the processing of disability claims, secure veterans’ educational benefits, and strengthen tax credits and programs that help veterans transition into new careers. Finally, we must provide the VA with the budgetary certainty it needs to provide consistent and quality care for our veterans, and encourage a culture of accountability.

5. Unemployment among military spouses continues to be a financial readiness issue for service members’ families with reported jobless rates being between 12-26 percent. What resources would you devote to lowering those numbers?

While we fight to ensure no person should have to choose between serving their country and preserving their family, military families often make amazing sacrifices alongside their service members. In addition to the impact moves have on the careers of military spouses, military children often face numerous moves throughout their school careers.

The unemployment and underemployment of military spouses is not good for our country and costs our economy up to $1 billion per year. To help support military families, I will promote policies that help break down the difficult state credentialing processes that often serve as barriers to job opportunities for military spouses.

I will also work with states to standardize licensing requirements and reduce barriers for those looking to work across state borders. I will fight to expand public hiring preferences and engage industries to favor spousal hiring, as they have done with our effort to hire veterans. We must also devote resources to help expand work-from-home positions. We will promote financial readiness by expanding consumer protection and prohibiting bill collectors from contracts that service federal loans. We will also expand financial training initiatives targeted at military spouses to ensure they have tools to prepare for their future and the future of their families.

Further, for those families with two service members, we will work to reform the assignment process, not only increasing tandem assignments but ensuring that we are allowing these partners to continue to progress in their careers. All Americans deserve a good-paying job, and the opportunity to succeed in their careers—our military spouses and service members are no exception.

6. Many veterans choose entrepreneurship as a post-military career option because of the skills they learn in leadership. How will your administration support small business ownership for this population?

Small businesses across the country are growing and hiring, creating nearly two-thirds of new American jobs. As president, my administration will take steps to ensure it is easier to start a business and make that business profitable. For businesses that safeguard public health and safety, I will dedicate federal funding to support innovative programs and offset forgone licensing revenue. I will expand the efforts of the Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development to ensure that we are providing entrepreneurship training, counseling, and small business loan guarantees for our veterans.

I will ensure that entrepreneurs in our underserved communities have access to training and mentorship programs, partnering with local business leaders, community colleges, and minority-serving institutions. I will fight to streamline regulation and cut red tape for our community banks and credit unions to ensure our veterans have the capital they need to start their business. Far too many dreams die in the parking lots of American banks. We will also expand and streamline the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Investment Company program—providing lenders the low-cost capital they need to invest in small businesses in their communities.

We will also make it cheaper and easier to file taxes and pay for tax relief, allowing small business owners to focus on growing their company instead of spending large amounts of time on paperwork. We will make it easier for these entrepreneurs to work with the federal government by guaranteeing faster response time when they inquire about federal regulations, help them loan support, and increase federal contracting opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses. We need to encourage our veterans to harness the skills they learned in leadership and apply them to civilian life. These reforms are only the start of ensuring we are providing them the tools they need to succeed following their service.

7. Military kids move on average every 2-3 years, and the average child may relocate 6-9 times during an academic career, according to DODEA. In turn, they face issues such as losing credits upon transfer or transitioning into a curriculum that varies from their previous schools. What policies could your administration explore to help military children have a more successful foundation for their education?

I strongly believe that when our families are strong, America is strong—and when military families are strong, our military is strong. To ensure we have strong military families, we must take steps to remove any barriers to a good education for our children. I will ensure that Defense Department schools are strong and focused, that we are candidly assessing where we need to improve these schools, and that we take the concrete steps to correct any problems. For those attending public schools, we will fight to enhance their experience—elevating public schools with high numbers of military children. As president, I will direct the Departments of Education and Defense to ensure that we are tracking and continually striving to improve education for children of military families across the country. We must also ensure service men and women with exceptional needs children are receiving the support and accommodations they need both personally and professionally.

For those attending public schools, we will fight to enhance their experience—elevating public schools with high numbers of military children. As president, I will direct the Departments of Education and Defense to ensure that we are tracking and continually striving to improve education for children of military families across the country. We must also ensure service men and women with exceptional needs children are receiving the support and accommodations they need both personally and professionally.

For military families looking to pursue higher education, I will ensure that we are protecting the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, especially the provision that allows these educational benefits to be transferred to spouses and children of military personnel. I will also continue efforts to crack down on for-profit schools that have exploited tens of thousands of students, including our veterans.

8. What in your professional experience has prepared you to take on the role as Commander-in-Chief?

I have held a variety of roles that gave me important insight into the role of Commander-in-Chief. As a Senator from New York, I served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which allowed me to develop relationships and work alongside leaders in our military. I also stood with the people of my state as we reeled from the tragedy of the September 11 terror attacks and worked to rebuild. While these experiences were vital, my understanding was truly shaped by my experience as Secretary of State. During my tenure under President Obama, I was at the table in the Situation Room, providing advice on the gravest decisions he would make as Commander-in-Chief—the decisions to send our military personnel into harm’s way and to go after Osama bin Laden. Though I do not believe one can ever be fully prepared for these difficult decisions, the insight I have gained from both my time in the Senate and the Senate Department have prepared me for the tough choices a Commander-in-Chief must face.

While these experiences were vital, my understanding was truly shaped by my experience as Secretary of State. During my tenure under President Obama, I was at the table in the Situation Room, providing advice on the gravest decisions he would make as Commander-in-Chief—the decisions to send our military personnel into harm’s way and to go after Osama bin Laden. Though I do not believe one can ever be fully prepared for these difficult decisions, the insight I have gained from both my time in the Senate and the Senate Department have prepared me for the tough choices a Commander-in-Chief must face.

9. Military families entrust the Commander-in-Chief to make critical decisions that dictate the fate of their service member. What do you want them to know about what kind of leader you will be for their service member?

The responsibilities of Commander-in-Chief are not ones I take lightly. I want military families across the country to know that if elected, I will ensure that our country honors and respects them throughout their service, and beyond. As president, I would make a solemn oath to ensure our military is the best trained, best equipped, most capable fighting force in the world. Through the Republican presidential candidate may be saying otherwise, we have the world’s strongest military—one that is prepared to defend our country’s vital interests. I also understand that we must not only provide our military the resources they need—including a stable and predictable defense budget—but that I will ensure we are providing

Through the Republican presidential candidate may be saying otherwise, we have the world’s strongest military—one that is prepared to defend our country’s vital interests. I also understand that we must not only provide our military the resources they need—including a stable and predictable defense budget—but that I will ensure we are providing high-quality care for our veterans.

Most importantly, I want our military families to know that I will listen. I will not only listen to your needs, and the needs of your service members—I will also listen to my advisors and the military leadership with whom I will work closely. The decisions of a Commander-in-Chief must be made with careful consideration, and I promise to be thoughtful and deliberate in all my efforts—especially those that impact our military personnel and their families.

10. Under the Obama Administration, the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden started Joining Forces—an initiative focused on the employment, education, and wellness of service members and their families. If elected, will your administration continue this program? Why or why not?

As president, I will make Joining Forces a permanent part of the Executive Office of the President. This initiative has done too much good work—building partnerships across sectors to better support our military and veterans—to allow it to discontinue. The Obama Administration has made great strides to lift up and support military families, and I will ensure that if elected, my administration continues and builds upon this important work.

These efforts will include creating a standing President’s Council on Service Members, Veterans, and Military Families. I will also direct White House and Defense Department leadership to conduct town hall meetings across the country—allowing us to hear directly from a diverse set of military families about their needs and where our government can better serve them. Based on these town halls, I will ensure we develop an implementation plan to focus on the areas they have highlighted as needed for improvement. By engaging federal, state, and private sector resources, we will ensure that we are best meeting the needs of our military families.

11. What is the most effective way for voters to get to know you before Election Day?

I have had the immense privilege of spending many years of my life serving the American people. I have traveled across the country and around the world from my time as First Lady of Arkansas, to First Lady of the United States, to Senator, to Secretary of State, and now as the Democratic Nominee for President. On these trips, people have allowed me into their homes and introduced me to their families. It is important for me to listen to these stories, and I draw my motivation and understanding from what is going on in people’s lives.

And I have tried to share my life in return. Before anything else, I am Chelsea’s mother and Aidan and Charlotte’s grandmother. Though I have dedicated my career to the American people, my family will always remain my priority and greatest accomplishment.

Articles

The NFL partners with military analysts for a draft day mission

Weeks prior to the 2017 NFL draft, service members from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, were given the chance of a lifetime to undergo a surprise mission as part of the “Salute to Service” program.


Hosted by USAA, these unexpected military analysts from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, received the opportunity to team up with NFL broadcasters Ron Jaworski and Sal Paolantonio (US Navy vet) for a chance of a lifetime and partake in a draft strategy session.

Related: To Kick-Off USAA’s “Salute to Service,” Charles ‘Peanut’ Tillman jumped out of plane with the SOCOM Para-Commandos

The team comes to together and discusses how the military has influences the NFL.

Check out below to how our nation’s heroes handled their day as NFL draft analysts.

(USAA, YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about the MLK Memorial, the Mall’s newest monument

Adjacent to the FDR Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial sits on a four-acre site along the National Mall’s Tidal Basin. It shares a direct site line between the Lincoln and the Jefferson memorials. 

The MLK memorial is one of the few at the Mall to have an official address. Its address is 1964 Independence Avenue, SW, in honor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. He became an iconic figure because of his use of nonviolent resistance and powerfully moving speeches. King led the March on Washington in 1963, where he gave his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech on the Lincoln Memorial’s steps. The bas-relief statue is intended to give the impression that King overlooks the Tidal Basin toward the horizon. Cherry trees that are at the site bloom every year during the anniversary of King’s death. 

The memorial opened in 2011 after more than twenty years of planning, fundraising, and construction, making it the newest at the National Mall. It’s the fourth in Washington, DC, to honor a non-president and the first to honor a man of color. The site is designed to be a lasting tribute to Dr. King’s legacy. This isn’t the first memorial to a person of color in Washington DC, but it is the first memorial of a person of color o or near the National Mall. Dr. King’s memorial is the fourth non-president to be memorialized in such a way. 

The centerpiece of the memorial is a 30-foot statue of Dr. King. His likeness is carved into the Stone of Hope and emerges from two large boulders, the “Mountains of Despair.” Text from the “I Have a Dream” speech is cut into the rock of the Stone. “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” A 450-foot long inscription wall includes excerpts from King’s sermons and speeches. On the crescent-shaped wall, fourteen of King’s quotes are inscribed, the earliest from the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama and the last from his final sermon in 1968, delivered at the National Cathedral in Washington DC, just four days before his assassination. 

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now
(National Parks Service)

A ceremony dedicating the memorial was initially scheduled for Sunday, August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, but it was postponed until October 16, the 16th anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March. 

The memorial is the result of the early efforts of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. King was a member of that fraternity while he attended Boston University to complete his doctorate. King was heavily involved with the fraternity after he graduated. He delivered the keynote speech at the fraternity’s 50th-anniversary banquet in 1956. In 1968 after King’s assassination, Alpha Phi Alpha proposed erecting a memorial for Dr. King in Washington, DC. 

In 1996, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to allow Alpha Phi Alpha to create a memorial on the Department of Interior Lands in the District of Columbia. Congress gave the fraternity until 2003 to raise $100 million and break ground. Two years later, the Washington DC Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation, Inc was established to manage the memorial’s fundraising efforts and design. 

In 1999, the US Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission approved the memorial’s site location. 

ROMA Design Group was selected out of 900 candidates from 52 countries to create the memorial. On December 4, 2000, a marble and bronze plaque was laid by Alpha Phi Alpha members to dedicate the site. Shortly after, a full-time fundraising team began the promotional campaign for the memorial. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 13, 3006, in West Potomac Park.

By August 2008, leaders at the foundation estimated it would take an additional 20 months to construct the memorial with a final cost of $120 million. By December of that year, the foundation had raised about $108 million, including contributions from celebrities, large corporations, and other nonprofits, as well as the NBA, NFL, and filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. US Congress provided $10 million in matching funds as well.

Construction began in December 2009 and was completed two years later. As with all other memorials at the National Mall, the MLK memorial is free and open to the public. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

When the Coast Guard saved New York from a huge blast

In the early evening of April 24, 1943, Coast Guardsmen braved leaping flames and saved New York City from what could have been the largest man-made explosion in history to that point, a blast that would’ve wiped out sections of the harbor and, potentially, large swaths of the larger city and parts of New Jersey. Instead, just one ship was lost and zero lives.


It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

Painting of the El Estero fire by Austin Dwyer.

(Austin Dwyer via U.S. Coast Guard)

While all the other branches rib the Coast Guard for being a band of puddle pirates, it’s important when really looking at its history to remember that, first, they actually have conducted a ton of deepwater missions. And, more importantly for this discussion, the shallow waters of the world are home to vital and dangerous missions that the Coast Guard does well.

The Coast Guard often takes on a large role during conflicts to help to ensure that war materiel is safely moved from industrial powerhouses in the U.S. to theaters of war overseas. During World War II, this included loading many of the Liberty Ships and other vessels that plied the Atlantic and Pacific.

But logistic expediencies created real hazards. It made sense in terms of speed and efficiency to move all the munitions, vehicles, and other vital supplies to a handful of ports and load it on ships from there. But doing so meant that strings of railroad cars and ships filled with explosive materials would be stored right next to each other.

On Saturday, April 24, Coast Guardsmen working on explosive loading details finished loading 1,365 tons of ammo onto the Panamanian freighter El Estero. But before they could even get fully aweigh, smoke started to come up out of the ship’s passageways.

Investigations would later reveal that the boiler had likely been leaking fuel oil into bilge water in the compartment below it, and a boiler flashback ignited the pooled fuel and started a fire. But once the fire was going, it would be able to boil oil to give itself more fuel and heat up the ammo until it started to explode.

The engine room crew immediately started fighting the flames with handheld extinguishers, but it wasn’t enough, so officers went to the Coast Guard barracks for volunteers. Could someone, anyone, please climb onto the burning ship, descend into its belly, and fight flames in the hopes of it not blowing up?

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

A graphic tried to tackle the level of damage if the ship had exploded. This high traffic area would have made an explosion of the El Estero especially catastrophic.

(New York Daily News illustration via U.S. Coast Guard)

But the Coast Guardsmen knew what was at stake. The loading docks were always filled with ammo and fuel and, on April 24, there were two other nearly full ships nearby, there were railroad cars loaded with ammunition waiting to unload, and there was a fuel farm that served the departing ships. A detonation on the El Estero would likely trigger a chain reaction.

And explosions like this had happened before. Before the U.S. joined World War I, American firms sold arms to each side under equal terms, but British buyers were able to secure more credit while German ones were unlikely to even be able to get their purchases to the fighting thanks to a British blockade. So, German saboteurs blew up the shipping facilities at Black Tom Island in New Jersey, killing at least five people, destroying over million in property, and partially excavating the island.

Another World War I explosion, this one on a ship with 5,000 tons of TNT in Halifax Harbor in Canada, had killed 1,500 people leveling a large section of Halifax, Canada, in 1917. The combined loads of the El Estero and nearby ships and trains, somewhere around 5,000 total tons of explosives, dwarfed the size of the Halifax explosion. And an El Estero explosion would’ve been on the doorstep of New York City and could’ve flattened everything for five miles around.

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

Coast Guardsmen on a fireboat. Small vessels like these assisted in controlling the El Estero fire.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

And so 60 Coast Guardsmen, most of them in dress uniforms while awaiting their Easter Day liberty passes, rushed to the ship. New York firefighters arrived soon after with a firefighting ship, and they began passing hoses into the holds of the El Estero, but it was Coast Guardsmen who descended into the smoke and fire.

Survivors would describe a heat that overwhelmed them. The hot deck plates warmed and then burned their feet, paint peeled off the walls, and the heat continued to build. The Coast Guard officer in charge was Lt.j.g. Francis McCausland. It was his first day of work at the station.

But he was able to get tugboats to move the other ammo ships away and ordered Army soldiers to shift as many of the train cars out of range as they could move. By the time that additional fire trucks and Coast Guard fireboats arrived at 5:35, the fiercely burning El Estero was largely isolated, but still surrounded by the city, fuel stores, and warehouses of ammo.

The Coast Guard seemed to get the upper hand on the ship for a few minutes as the oily black smoke gave way to yellow and white streaks of flames, a signal that streams of water were hitting the major source of the fire. But the oily smoke returned, and the heat continued to rise.

About 40 volunteers were ordered off the ship, and a crew of 20 stayed onboard to try and keep the fire contained as long as possible while the ship was towed to a safe detonation point. Those 20 passed their personal effects to the men ordered off, some of whom wanted to stay and keep working. These included an engaged man who had to personally be ordered off the decks.

The further the ship was out of the harbor, the more lives would be saved in New York City and in the surrounding harbor from the pending explosion. Coast Guardsmen shoved anti-aircraft shells from the decks into the water and kept directing the water from the tugs onto the hot ammo as they traveled.

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

The El Estero rests mostly below the waves.

(Public Domain)

Miraculously, their work was enough, and the ship was towed out as the nearby cities prepared for an explosion that never came. Fuel barrels on the decks popped and boomed open, but the burnt and exhausted Coast Guardsmen onboard were eventually able to build up enough water in the ship to sink it.

(The ship was designed so that it could only be scuttled from one spot that was directly underneath the burning boilers, so the Coast Guardsmen could only sink it by flooding it.)

Once the hull of the ship was under the waves, the threat of a full ammo explosion was largely dissipated. Firefighters kept water pouring onto the still burning superstructure for hours until, finally, the threat was gone. No one had died in a crisis that was later found to have threatened as many as one million residents with death, injury, or extreme property damage.

All the Coast Guardsmen involved were given special medals for their efforts, and the U.S. government overhauled ammo-handling procedures to move dangerous operations away from population centers. This would save lives in June 1944, when an ammo ship with 4,600 tons of ammunition exploded northeast of San Francisco, killing 300 sailors on the ship and nearby, but leaving the city untouched.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hawaii’s big island volcano eruption can be seen from space

The ongoing volcanic eruptions from Hawaii have been so massive that astronauts can see them from space — and the pictures are incredible.

Ricky Arnold and AJ Feustel, US astronauts stationed on to the International Space Station, posted dramatic photos to Twitter of the ash plume emerging from the Kilauea volcano on the east of the Big Island.



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(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)

The volcano erupted on May 10, 2018, and is showing no signs of slowing down.

The crater is already emitting noxious fumes which can make breathing difficult for children and elderly people. The ash cloud has reached as high as 12,000 feet about sea level.

Feustal wrote: “It is easy to see the activity on Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano from the International Space Station. We hope those in the vicinity of the eruption can stay out of harm’s way.”

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)

Lava and molten rock bursting from the volcano’s fissures also destroyed at least 26 homes and four other buildings over the weekend, forcing 1,700 people to evacuate.

The US Geological Survey issued a rare “red alert” warning, which means a major volcanic eruptions is imminent or underway, and that the ash clouds could affect air traffic.

Here’s a shot of the volcano from a lot closer to the ground:

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A US Geological Survey photo of ash rising from the Puu Oo vent on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano.
(Kevan Kamibayashi / US Geological Survey)

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

Britain’s ‘Protector’ drone will rain Hellfire and Brimstone

The United Kingdom’s current drone fleet is made up primarily of aircraft purchased from the U.S.


But the country is now working on its own unmanned aerial vehicle dubbed “The Protector” which will feature specialized sensors and will be armed with Britain’s Brimstone missile, a low-collateral-damage version of America’s Hellfire missile.

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An illustration of the Protector drone carrying Brimstone missiles. (Illustration: MBDA Missile Systems)

The Protector drone is based on the Predator-B and is being created by the Predator’s manufacturer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

Britain owns 10 Reaper drones but was never able to fly them in European airspace. That’s because current drones don’t support certain devices required to fly in American and European civil airspace such as a detect-and-avoid system and an airborne “due regard” radar.

These upgrades would allow the drones to avoid collisions with other aircraft including human-piloted planes.

General Atomics is working on the required radar upgrades as part of the contract with the U.K., but the technology will also support U.S. projects like the MQ-4C, a surveillance UAS for the U.S. Navy.

Drones with collision avoidance systems would be able to legally fly in areas other unmanned aircraft can’t, such as the border regions between the rest of Europe and Russia.

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now
An illustration of the Protector drone under development for the United Kingdom. (Illustration: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.)

The Protector will also fly on longer wings that will increase its lift capacity as well as its maximum fuel and weapons payload. The design is a compromise which will lower the Protector’s maximum altitude — 45,000 feet versus 50,000 feet in the Predator B — and top speed — 200 knots versus 240 knots.

The other significant upgrade that the Protector will boast is the ability to carry Britain’s Brimstone missile.

The Hellfire is predominantly a laser-guided missile but one variant, the AGM-114L, features radar guidance instead of laser-guidance. Each Brimstone can be guided by either method, meaning pilots can determine the best targeting method in the air instead of having to decide when they load their weapons.

The Brimstone, manufactured by MBDA, is also designed to fly on fast jets and hit even fast-moving targets accurately.

It carries a 14-pound warhead that creates less collateral damage than the Hellfire’s 20-pound warhead, but that also limits its effectiveness against the main battle tanks the Hellfire was designed to kill.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This new tool shows what nukes would do to your home

Imagine a 150-kiloton nuclear bomb exploded in the city closest to you.


Do you know how the city, its surrounding region, and its inhabitants would be affected? If you can’t think of much more than “a lot of people would die,” you’re not alone.

“We live in a world where nuclear weapons issues are on the front pages of our newspapers on a regular basis, yet most people still have a very bad sense of what an exploding nuclear weapon can actually do,” Alex Wellerstein, a historian of science at Stevens Institute of Technology, wrote on his website, NuclearSecrecy.org.

To help the world understand what might happen if a nuclear weapon exploded, Wellerstein created an interactive browser app called Nukemap.

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This is what a ground detonation of a nuke like the one North Korea recently tested would look like in NYC, according to Nukemap. (Image Nukemap)

“Some people think they destroy everything in the world all that (sic) once, some people think they are not very different from conventional bombs,” he wrote. “The reality is somewhere in between.”

Also read: These Air Force ‘rods from god’ could hit with the force of a nuclear weapon

To illustrate that, Nukemap lets you build a hypothetical nuclear bomb and drop it anywhere on Earth. The software uses declassified equations and models about nuclear weapons and their effects — fireball size, air-blast radius, radiation zones, and more — to crunch the numbers, then renders the results as graphics inside Google Maps.

Preset options let you pick historic and recent blasts, including North Korea’s latest test explosion and Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated. The tool can even estimate fatalities and injuries for a given weapon yield, altitude, and location.

The first version of Wellerstein’s tool came out in February 2012, but he upgraded it to version 2.5 this month. Users thus far have set off more than 124 million explosions in Nukemap.

Nukemap 2.5’s new features let you see where a cloud of radioactive fallout might drift based on local weather conditions. Fallout refers to the dirt and debris that get sucked up by a nuclear blast, irradiated to dangerous levels, pushed into the atmosphere, and sprinkled over great distances. The updated tool also lets you export your scenarios, load them into mapping software like Google Earth, and explore them in 3D.

“I hope that people will come to understand what a nuclear weapon would do to places they are familiar with, and how the different sizes of nuclear weapons change the results,” Wellerstein wrote on his site.

Picking a bomb and a target

We decided to test Nukemap 2.5 using its preset for the North Korean government’s underground test blast on September 3.

Some experts think that device, perhaps a thermonuclear bomb, yielded an explosion of roughly 150 kilotons’ worth of TNT. This was the country’s most powerful nuclear explosion to date — about 10 times as strong as the Hiroshima bomb blast of 1945, which caused some 150,000 casualties.

We started with San Francisco, since according to Missilemap — Wellerstein’s companion tool to Nukemap — the city is within the estimated range of Hwasong-14, North Korea’s newest and farthest-reaching intercontinental ballistic missile.

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Nukemap shows the impact of an air detonation over San Francisco, CA. (Image Nukemap)

Blast effects

By default, Nukemap assumed a 150-kiloton-yield warhead would explode 1.03 miles above the city.

An aerial detonation maximizes a nuclear bomb’s destructive power by allowing the blast’s energy to spread. If a bomb were to detonate on the ground, the soil would absorb more of that energy.

More reading: How Ukraine punked North Korea’s nuclear missile scientists

The main effects of the nuclear blast display as four colored zones:

  • Fireball (0.56 miles wide): In the area closest to the bomb’s detonation site, flames incinerate most buildings, objects, and people.
  • Radiation (1.24 miles wide): A nuclear bomb’s gamma and other radiation are so intense in this zone that 50% or more of people die within “several hours to several weeks,” according to Nukemap.
  • Air blast (4.64 miles wide): This shows a blast area of 5 pounds per square inch, which is powerful enough to collapse most residential buildings and rupture eardrums. “Injuries are universal, fatalities are widespread,” Nukemap says.
  • Thermal radiation (6.54 miles wide): This region is flooded with skin-scorching ultraviolet light, burning anyone within view of the blast. “Third-degree burns extend throughout the layers of skin and are often painless because they destroy the pain nerves,” Nukemap says. “They can cause severe scarring or disablement, and can require amputation.”

Clicking the “radioactive fallout” option didn’t produce any exposure zones for this hypothetical explosion. A note toward the bottom of our Nukemap results explained: “Your choice of burst height is too high to produce significant local fallout.”

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Nukemap’s projection of the impact of a San Francisco ground detonation of a nuke like the one North Korea recently tested. (Image Nukemap)

Casualties and radioactive-fallout zones

When we switched the height to “surface burst,” a very different picture emerged: The thermal and air-blast zones shrank, but the fireball nearly doubled in area, and the radiation zone nearly tripled.

We also enabled the new radioactive-fallout settings based on local weather. And to see the human effects, we ticked the “casualties” option, too.

Luckily, local winds in this hypothetical scenario were moving west-southwest, blowing most radioactive fallout into the Pacific Ocean. If a person were to stand outside in a 100-rad-per-hour zone for four hours, they would get 400 rads of radiation exposure, which is enough to kill 50% of people by acute radiation syndrome.

According to Nukemap’s casualty estimator, however, this blast would still kill about 130,000 people and injure 280,000 over the next 24 hours. The tool says this does not include radioactive-fallout effects, among other caveats.

“Modeling casualties from a nuclear attack is difficult,” it says. “These numbers should be seen as evocative, not definitive.”

Google Earth’s view

We were eager to try the export feature, but it appears to need some work.

For example, the fallout zone appeared in an area different from the in-browser calculation — almost due south of San Francisco, instead of west-southwest.

But it was still useful — in a gut-wrenching way — to see the size of a nuclear fireball (the yellow half-dome in the image below) in 3D as it related to a major city, engulfing entire neighborhoods.

You can create your own nuclear-blast scenario and explore Nukemap 2.5’s options here.

Wellerstein and others at Stevens Institute of Technology — based in Hoboken, New Jersey — are working on a related project, called Reinventing Civil Defense, which aims to “develop new communication strategies regarding nuclear risk that have high potential to resonate with a public audience.” The project was awarded a $500,000 grant and is expected to debut in 2019.

Articles

These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars

 


“It was 2006, I was working in hotel management,” Gina Elise says. “There were all these stories about the Veterans Administration struggling to treat returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted to do something to support them and to support the hospitals who treated them.”

Gina Elise is the founder of Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit whose mission is based on producing WWII-style pinup calendars to support hospitalized veterans and deployed troops. After four years, she quit her job at the hotel to work with veterans full time. She has produced nine annual calendars since, but her efforts don’t stop at just calendars.  Elise and her unit of celebrities and women veterans are currently on a 50-state VA and military hospital tour. To date, the pinups visited 6,000 veterans at their bedside.

“Attitude is a huge part of recovery,” says Shannon Stacy, a former Marine Corps Flight Surgeon and the 2015 calendar’s Miss April. “I think its great that an organization like this can come in really make a difference in patients lives, on top of what the doctors and nurses do.” Stacy can appreciate how attitude affects recovery, as she is also currently an Emergency Medicine Physician.

“On the surface, we’re shooting a fun, artistic calendar,” Elise says. “Under that, we’re supporting a cause that should be important to all Americans: supporting our veterans.” Most importantly, Pin-Ups for Vets buys medical equipment for VA and military hospitals and sends morale-boosting care packages to deployed American troops around the world.  So far, Pin-Ups for Vets donated more than $50,000 of state-of-the-art rehabilitation equipment to VA military hospitals nationwide.

“My grandfather was a World War II veteran,” Elise recalls. “They used to paint this art on the nose of planes to boost morale for the guys going into battle to remind them of what they were fighting for.”

“When you think about the fact these soldiers painted these women on the sides of aircraft, and it gave them the confidence to go fight,” says Jovane Henry, a former Marine Corps Photojournalist and 2015’s Miss July. “What’s more empowering than that? I think it’s great. It’s a continuation of service for me. Serving was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I’m happy to be able to continue that service through Pin-Ups for Vets.”

The spirit of Pin-Ups For Vets also promotes volunteerism at Veterans Hospitals, supports homeless Veterans in shelters, and boosts morale for military wives and female Veterans with makeovers and clothing.

The recent launch party for the 2015 calendar, the first to feature 12 veterans, was held at the American Legion in Hollywood (Post 43) and featured a burlesque show headlined by an all-veteran pinup revue.  It was the first of its kind. Jennifer Campbell, who worked a .50 cal in a US Army transportation unit participated in the show, but saw it as a family event.

“It gave us a chance to jump into a different period of time,” Campbell recalls. “My great aunt was a WWII poster pin-up girl. It was fun seeing the transition from then to now.”

The burlesque troop, “The Dollface Dames,” performed a variety of numbers. It was a vintage burlesque show, true to its 1940’s heritage, complete with dancing, feather boas, hula-hoops, singing, even a shadow silhouette erotic dance.

“There’s no hard, fast rule that says I can’t be a hard-charging Marine and a lipstick-wearing pinup,” Henry states. “So I choose to be both.”

 

Learn more about Pin-Ups for Vets and purchase the calendar at PinUpsForVets.com.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

How earthquakes keep shaking up North Korea’s nuclear test site

South Korea said it detected an earthquake Oct. 13 near North Korea’s main nuclear test site, the fourth since the country’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test explosion last month. Some experts suggested the area is now too unstable to conduct more bomb tests.


The magnitude 2.7 quake occurred about 54 kilometers (34 miles) northwest of Kilju, the town where the test site is located in northeastern North Korea, according to officials at South Korea’s Korea Meteorological Administration. They said it wasn’t man-made and didn’t appear to cause any damage in the area.

The officials, who requested anonymity citing department rules, said they believe the four quakes probably happened because the underground nuclear test on Sept. 3 weakened or affected the tectonic plate structures in the area. The region isn’t one where earthquakes naturally occur and no quakes were detected after the five smaller nuclear tests North Korea has conducted since 2006.

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now
KCNA, the state run media out of North Korea, released a photo of what it claims is the launch of a surface-to-surface medium long range ballistic missile. (KCNA)

The officials declined to say how the recent quakes might have affected the area and the test site, where all of North Korea’s nuclear bomb tests have taken place. But some civilian experts said North Korea may stop using the site.

North Korea, which is accelerating its efforts to develop more powerful nuclear weapons and missiles, is unlikely to waste its limited nuclear materials by conducting tests that are weaker than its sixth. But a more powerful underground detonation at the current site could be “potentially suicidal,” not only because of the weakened ground, but also because of the threat of a volcanic eruption at Mount Paektu, which is about 100 kilometers (60 miles) away, according to Kune Yull Suh, a professor of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University.

Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies, previously expressed similar worries, saying he wondered whether North Korea would be able to carry out another nuclear test in the area. Other experts said the quakes might have been caused by landslides or the collapsing of test structures such as tunnels.

North Korea’s state media haven’t reported any of the four quakes detected by South Korea and other countries.

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Heaven Lake in the caldera atop Mt. Paektu. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Farm.

The North has vowed to bolster its nuclear and missile programs despite increasing US-led pressure on the country. Worries about a potential military clash between the US and North Korea have also intensified in South Korea and elsewhere, with President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un exchanging crude personal insults and warlike rhetoric.

At the height of the standoff between the countries last month, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters the country could conduct a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean. Suh said Ri’s comments might indicate the North is unable to carry out new explosions at its test site.

“It’s likely that North Korea will conduct its next nuclear test in the stratosphere, or about 100 to 300 kilometers (60 to 185 miles) from the ground, where it will be able to conduct more powerful detonations,” Suh said.

Articles

Air Force grounds F-35s after reports of serious oxygen deprivation

The Air Force has grounded 55 F-35s after several pilots reported serious oxygen deprivation during flights.


Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff released a statement Friday noting that in five cases pilots “reported physiological incidents while flying.” Luckily, a backup oxygen system on the F-35 kicked, which allowed pilots to land without further trouble, Defense One reports.

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U.S. Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw

The incidents occurred at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, marking the second time Air Force F-35s have been grounded in a year.

According to Graff, the fighter jets at Luke Air Force Base will likely be cleared to fly again Monday.

“Wing officials will educate U.S. and international pilots today on the situation and increase their awareness of hypoxia symptoms,” Graff said in a statement. “Pilots will also be briefed on all the incidents that have occurred and the successful actions taken by the pilots to safely recover their aircraft.”

In late March, Bloomberg reported that Navy pilots have suffered bouts of hypoxia because of a loss of cabin pressure, leading to oxygen deprivation. These issues have steadily increased every year since 2010 on all F-18 models, which includes the Super Hornet. Navy officials are still trying to get to the bottom of what they’re referring to as “physiological episodes.”

The Navy has also recently ground its T-45 Goshawk planes after pilots complained of headaches and oxygen deprivation. The problem was so dire that 100 instructor pilots flat-out refused to fly the planes, forcing the Navy to ground all 195 planes in the T-45 fleet.

Air Force F-35s on other bases like Hill Air Force Base and Eglin Air Force Base are still cleared for flying, and next week, a group of F-35s will fly to France for the Paris Air Show. Those F-35s will come from the Hill base.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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16 strange facts about the Kennedy family

Featured Image: Growing up Kennedy: Family portrait at Hyannis Port, 1931: (from left) Robert, John, Eunice, Jean on lap of Joseph P. Sr., Rose Fitzgerald behind Patricia, Kathleen, and Joseph P. Jr. behind Rosemary. (Photograph by Richard Sears courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

As one of the more prominent political families in the United States, the Kennedys have long since been recognized as public figures. Most notably, we remember John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) who served as president from 1961-1963, and his wife, the eventual Jackie O — short for Jackie Kennedy Onassis. His brother, Bobby, is also famous for running for president. And that’s only to name a few. But behind the public eye, behind the politics, this family had their own share of interesting events that took place.

Check out these 16 unique tales about this famous family. 

  1. The family immigrated from Ireland and soon became involved in politics. Patrick Joseph, or PJ, was the first Kennedy to run for office. He served in the Massachusetts state legislature for 11 years, from 1884-1895.
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P.J. Kennedy. Photo: Wikipedia
  • From 1947 until 2011, at least one Kennedy served in federal office — starting with JFK as a member of Massachusetts’ congress, and ending with PJ Kennedy’s great-grandson, also Patrick J. Kennedy, who retired from Congress as a member from Rhode Island.
    
  • JFK had serious health problems, most of which he kept as absolute secrets to the public. His medical records were even sealed for decades after his death. He came close to death a few times before taking office, suffering from scarlet fever, whooping cough, Addison’s disease (a very rare diagnosis that affects the body’s adrenal glands), and more famously, extreme back problems. He had spinal fusion surgery to correct the latter; it’s stated that he may have been more easily killed due to the back brace he wore, as it kept him upright during the assassination — and therefore a more sure target — after he slouched from initial shots.
    
  • Several other family members have had notable jobs and offices, including JFK’s sister, Eunice, who founded the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Special Olympics.
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Eunice, 1980. Photo: Wikipedia
  • Maria Shriver, Eunice’s daughter, is the former wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and through him, the former first lady of California.
  • Edward Moore Kennedy, AKA Ted and brother to JFK and Bobby, remains as having been the fourth-longest serving senator. His stint ended when he died of a brain tumor in 2011. Hailing from Massachusetts, Ted sat in office for nearly 47 years.
  • Jackie O dated the New Yorker cartoonist, Charles Addams, who is best known for creating the Addams Family. Yeah — what?!
  • Speaking of Jackie O, she also had a terrible smoking addiction. For more than four decades, she smoked three packs a day — that’s 60 individual cigarettes every. single. day. She finally quit once diagnosed with non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma.
  • TV and radio host Larry King had a car wreck with JFK. While visiting Miami, King allegedly hit the president’s parked vehicle in 1958.
  • John, Robert, Jackie O, and Ted, and older brother Joseph, who served in the Navy, are all buried in Arlington National Cemetery
  • Rose — JFK, Bobby, et all’s mother — implemented a “no crying” rule in her house. Other rules included strict diets, punishments for being late, and researching topics that had to be reported through dinner.
  • JFK’s family had an insane amount of pets while living in the White House. That was a total of 11 dogs (11! One was donated to Jackie by Nikita Khrushchev), five horses, two hamsters, three birds, a cat and rabbits.
  • While in office, JFK had recording devices installed throughout the White House. More than 300 hours were captured of meetings and phone calls, including some not-so-flattering comments from the president himself. 
  • Lore says the family may or may not be cursed, with Ted going as far as to announce it publicly. Some events that cause the comments of a curse include:
    • Rosemary Kennedy, sister to JFK, Bobby, etc. was born with brain damage (due to lack of oxygen during birth). She received a botched lobotomy, leaving her incapacitated. 
    • Joseph Jr., the eldest child of Rose and John Sr., died while serving in World War II after piloting a plane that exploded in the air. 
    • Sister Kathleen died in a plane crash just four years later. Ted survived a different plane crash in 1964 — just months after the death of his brother. JFK and Jackie O’s son, John Jr., his wife, and sister-in-law also died in a plane crash in 1999. (His parents allegedly predicted this and attempted to keep him out of the air.) 
    • Of Bobby’s 11 kids, two died young — one in 1984 from a drug overdose and another in 1997 from a skiing accident. And in 2020, is granddaughter and great-grandson went missing from a short canoe trip, with the bodies found days later.
    • And more — these are only to name a few.
  • Jackie was reportedly offered money — to the tune of $1 million — to stay married to JFK. The deal was made by her father-in-law, John Sr., due to troubles, including infidelities, before they made it to the White House. John Sr. believed JFK’s political career would be ruined with a divorce.
It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now
Official White House Portrait, Jackie Kennedy, wikipedia commons

They’ve had two family assassinations, happening five years apart. As the leading Democratic presidential nominee in the 1968 election, Robert Francis — also called RFK and Bobby — was assassinated by a 24-year old Palestinian, supposedly because of Kennedy’s support for Israel. This, and his brother’s assassination fed ongoing conspiracy theories, including those of political agendas against the family. Some theories say scapegoats were used in order to have the brothers killed. As to the actual culprit, theories range from politician figures — possibly the government — and the mob. Theories are fed by reports of overlooked evidence, witness intimidation (and death), evidence tampering, inconsistent reports, and more. More than 1,000 books have been written in correlation with JFK’s assassination alone.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines celebrate vet-owned business’ launch of new, more delicious crayons

When news broke that “Someone finally made edible crayons for Marines,” Leathernecks likely read the announcement with confusion: When have crayons ever been anything other than edible and delicious?

The colorful sticks of wax have been a dietary staple for members of America’s 911 Force ever since the internet gods gave us all the gift that keeps on giving: a near-perfect meme riffing on the “stereotype” of how we Jarheads are the dumbest of all service members — so dumb that we eat crayons and paste with the same vacant zeal of that mouth-breathing, short-bus rider from kindergarten whose mom dropped him on his head. Mmmmmmmm, crayons.


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Praise be to the meme lords who bless us with their bounty.

Having served on active duty for more than 10 years, Marine Corps veteran Tashina Coronel knows a little something about eating crayons. The 35-year-old mother of three in Waco, Texas, recently developed a line of novelty confections targeted toward the massive market of crayon-eating Devil Dogs.

“You throw a crayon at a Marine, and they’re going to eat it,” said the former administrator. “Yes, crayons have always been edible, but mine taste better.”

Coronel said she’s been in the dessert-making business for seven years. After leaving active duty in 2014, she attended the San Diego Culinary Institute. She now owns and operates Okashi by Shina. The name, which pays tribute to Coronel’s Japanese heritage, translates to “Sweets by Shina.”

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

Tashina Coronel on active duty. Photo courtesy of Tashina Coronel

Coronel’s packs of 10 Edible Crayons sell for on her website. She has received hundreds of orders and an overwhelmingly positive response since launching the colorfully named specialty chocolates.

“My website just went live two weeks ago, and it’s been surreal how many orders have come in,” she said. “I got 130 orders in two days.”

Each crayon is cleverly titled according to its corresponding color: Blood Of My Enemies, Glow Strap, Little Yellow Bird, Green Weenie, Blue Falcon, Hazing Incident, Zero-Dark Thirty, Tighty Whities, Silver Bullet, and Butter Bars.

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

Okashi by Shina’s set of chocolate “Edible Crayons.” Photo courtesy of Tashina Coronel

Okashi by Shina also offers a Crayon Glue MRE Set that includes an edible glue bottle filled with marshmallow cream.

Coronel said she used several Facebook groups for Marines to focus group her idea before launching the product.

“I didn’t really know if people were going to take it personally,” she said. “I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh, she’s jumping on the bandwagon to insult us; she sold out.'”

After designing her product and developing names for the crayons, Coronel shared her concept in the Marine Facebook groups.

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

“I loved the idea right away,” said Marisha Smith, a former Marine KC-130J crew chief who saw Coronel’s Facebook posts. “It’s an ongoing joke that we eat crayons, so we’ve just taken it and run with it. I plan to send some of the crayons to friends in November for the Marine Corps Birthday. I’m sure any Marine or service member in general would get a kick out of these. The fact they taste great too is just a plus.”

Coronel said before her website went live, most of her orders were coming from friends and family. Since getting some initial press coverage, fulfilling orders has become a full-time job.

“The majority of orders are actually coming from male Marines,” she said. “It means a lot that my brothers are looking out for and supporting me. With everything going on in the world right now, the coolest thing about this is I really enjoy being a morale booster and giving people a reason to laugh and have fun. I love being able to bring something to Marines that’s their own and share a little bit of our culture with others.”

It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

Prepping for quarantine like …

Coronel said her family and God are the main driving forces in her life. Her husband, who served as a Marine artilleryman, has stepped up to help fulfill orders and handle the increased demand.

“My family inspired me to start my own business, and my husband is really supportive,” she said.

Coronel said she hopes to open a brick-and-mortar location to expand her operations and eventually partner with military exchanges to sell her products on bases. She said she knows there are a lot of challenges ahead, but she’s ready to chase her dreams.

“As a Marine, I know if somebody calls us crazy, we’re just going to show them how crazy we are,” she said. “Nothing’s really an insult unless you call us soldier. Then it’s like, we’re fighting.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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