For most people, surviving the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Europe would be the defining moment of their lives. Men like Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow aren’t most people. The Lithuanian-born Shachnow survived a forced labor camp and went on to join the U.S. Army, serve in Vietnam, and lead the Army Special Forces’ ultra-secret World War III would-be suicide mission in Berlin during the Cold War.
He was only in his mid-50s when the Berlin Wall came down. After almost 40 years in the U.S. Army, he was inducted in the Infantry Officer’s Hall of Fame and is still regarded as a Special Forces legend. He passed away in his North Carolina home at age 83 on Sept. 18, 2018. His life and service are so legendary, inside and out of the Special Forces community, that it’s worth another look.
Shachnow was born in Soviet Lithuania in 1934. In 1941, an invasion from Nazi Germany overran the Red Army in the opening stages of Operation Barbarossa. Initially greeted as liberators, the Nazis soon began their policy of Lebensraum – “living space” – to create room for German settlers to populate areas of Eastern Europe that Hitler believed should be reserved for the greater German Reich.
This meant the people already living in those areas, which included Shachnow’s native Lithuania, would have to be removed — either through physically removing them or extermination. The young Shachnow was not only a native Lithuanian, he was also from a Jewish family. He spent three years in the Kovno concentration camp. He survived where most of his extended family did not. When the Red Army liberated the camp, Shachnow fled West.
“After I finished that experience, I was very cynical about people,″ he told the Fayetteville Observer. “I didn’t trust people. I thought that there is a dark side to people. If you leave things to people, they’ll probably screw things up.″
He escaped his past life on foot, traveling across Europe, headed west across the then-burgeoning Iron Curtain, and eventually found himself in U.S.-occupied Nuremberg. There, he worked selling rare goods on the black market until he was able to get a visa to the United States.
By 1950, the young man obtained his visa and moved to the United States, eventually settling in Salem, Mass. to go to school. He was ultimately unsuccessful there because he could hardly speak English. The place he did find acceptance was in the U.S. Army. He enlisted and worked to receive his high school education as he quickly gained rank. After he made Sergeant First Class in the 4th Armored Division in 1960, he earned a commission as an Army infantry officer. In 1962, he joined the outfit where he would spend the next 32 years: The U.S. Army’s Special Forces.
He put on his Green Beret just in time to serve in the Vietnam War. Assigned to Detachment A-121, he was at An Long on Vietnam’s Mekong River border with Cambodia. He served two tours in the country, earning a Silver Star and, after being wounded in an action against Communist troops, the Purple Heart.
While fighting in Vietnam, then-Capt. Shachnow was shot in the leg and arm. According to biographers, these both happened in a single action. He applied tourniquets to both wounds and continued fighting, trying to ensure all his men were well-led and came out alive. As he recovered from his wounds, he was sent home from his first tour, only to come down with both tuberculosis and Typhoid Fever. He recovered from those illnesses along with a few others.
After recovering from his wounds and illnesses, he returned to the United States, where he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska and a promotion to Major. He was sent back to Vietnam, this time with the 101st Airborne, with whom he earned a second Silver Star.
In Vietnam he felt the very real heat of the Cold War against Communism but it would be his next assignment – on the front line of the Cold War – that would be his most memorable, most defining, most secret, and certainly the craziest. He was sent to a divided Berlin to command Detachment A, Berlin Brigade.
The unit’s orders were to prepare to disrupt the Soviet Bloc forces from deep inside enemy territory in the event of World War III. It was a suicide mission and they all knew it. To a man, they carried out these orders anyway.
For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for years on end, the men of Special Forces Detachment A Berlin squared off against foreign militaries, East German and Russian intelligence agencies, and other diplomatic issues. They wore civilian clothes and carried no real identification — the very definition of a “spook.”
These men trained and prepared for global war every day of their service in Berlin. Capture meant torture and death, even in the daily routine of their regular jobs, and Sidney Shachnow was their leader. He was so successful that the reality of Det-A’s mission didn’t come to light until relatively recently in American history. When the Berlin Wall fell, he was the overall commander of all American forces in Berlin.
He was in command of the city at the heart of the country responsible for the deaths of his family members.
After the Cold War, Shachnow went on to earn degrees from Shippenburg State College and Harvard as well as the rank of Major General. He commanded the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, Army Special Forces Command, and became Chief of Staff, 1st Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, among other assignments. He was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment in 2007. His autobiography, Hope Honor, was published in 2004.
He died in the care of his wife Arlene at age 83 in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Gone, but not forgotten.
Cybersecurity firms have found clues that last weekend’s global “ransomware” attack, which infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries, could be linked to North Korea.
The security companies Sympantec and Kaspersky Lab said on May 15 that portions of the “WannaCry” ransomware used in the attacks have the same code as malware previously distributed by Lazarus, a group behind the 2014 Sony hack blamed on North Korea.
“This is the best clue we have seen to date as to the origins of WannaCry,” Kaspersky researchers said.
But it’s possible the code was simply copied from the Lazarus malware without any other direct connection, the companies said.
Symantec said the similarities between WannaCry and Lazarus tools “so far only represent weak connections. We are continuing to investigate for stronger connections.”
Israeli security firm Intezer Labs said it agreed that North Korea might be behind the attack.
Vital Systems Paralyzed
The WannaCry virus over the weekend paralyzed vital computer systems around the world that run factories, banks, government agencies, and transport systems in some 150 countries.
The virus mainly hit computers running older versions of Microsoft Windows software that had not been recently updated.
But by May 15, the fast-spreading extortion scheme was waning. The only new outbreaks reported were in China, where traffic police and schools said they had been targeted, but there were no major disruptions.
The link to North Korea found by the security firms will be closely followed by law-enforcement agencies around the world, including Washington.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser said on May 15 that both foreign nations and cybercriminals were possible culprits.
Symantec and Kaspersky said they need to study the code more and asked for others to help with the analysis. Hackers reuse code from other operations at times, so even copied lines fall well short of proof.
U.S. and European security officials told the Reuters news agency that it was still too early to say who might be behind the attacks, but they did not rule out North Korea as a suspect.
The Lazarus hackers, acting for impoverished North Korea, have been more brazen in pursuit of financial gain than some other hackers, and have been blamed for the theft of $81 million from a Bangladesh bank.
Moreover, North Korea might have motives to launch such a large-scale, global attack as its economy is crumbling under some of the stiffest-ever UN economic sanctions imposed over its repeated testing of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles.
The United Nations Security Council on May 15 condemned Pyongyang’s latest missile test the previous day, and vowed to take further measures, including possible new sanctions, in response to its “highly destabilizing behavior and flagrant and provocative defiance” of existing prohibitions against such tests.
Whoever is responsible, the perpetrators of the massive weekend attacks have raised very little money thus far — less than $70,000 from users looking to regain access to their computers, according to Trump’s homeland security adviser Tom Bossert.
Some private sector cybersecurity experts do not believe the motive of the attacks was primarily to make money, given the apparently meager revenues that were raised by the unprecedented large operation. They said that wreaking havoc likely was the primary goal.
The countries most affected by WannaCry were Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine, and India, according to Czech security firm Avast.
Bossert denied charges by Russian President Vladimir Putin and others that the attacks originated in the United States, and came from a hacking tool developed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that was later leaked online.
“This was not a tool developed by the NSA to hold ransom data. This was a tool developed by culpable parties, potentially criminals or foreign nation-states, that were put together in such a way as to deliver phishing e-mails, put it into embedded documents, and cause infection, encryption, and locking,” Bossert said.
British media were hailing as a hero a 22-year-old computer security expert who appeared to have helped stop the attack from spreading by discovering a “kill switch” — an Internet address which halted the virus when activated.
Fearing the US could drag it into a shooting war with China in the South China Sea, the Philippines is questioning its alliance with the US and pushing for a review of its decades-old defense treaty with Washington.
The nation’s top defense official said on March 5, 2019, that the government should review the mutual defense pact signed nearly seven decades ago, adding that the regional security environment has become “much more complex,” The New York Times reported on March 5, 2019.
“The Philippines is not in a conflict with anyone and will not be at war with anyone in the future,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, adding that the US is much more likely to get involved in a war in the region than the Philippines is.
“The United States, with the increased and frequent passage of its naval vessels in the West Philippine Sea, is more likely to be involved in a shooting war … [and] the Philippines will be automatically involved,” Lorenzana said, referring to the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
The US Navy routinely conducts freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, sailing warships past Chinese-occupied features in a challenge to Beijing’s discredited claims. These operations, which have already occurred twice this year, infuriate Beijing and have led to confrontation.
The Philippine defense chief suggested, as his country has before, that the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty needs to be reexamined and in many places clarified.
“I do not believe that ambiguity or vagueness of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty will serve as a deterrent. In fact, it will cause confusion and chaos during a crisis,” Lorenzana said.
On March 1, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to reassure a nervous US ally, stressing that the US would defend the Philippines in the event of armed conflict, but Manila, the Philippine capital, has its doubts.
“America said, ‘We will protect you. We will — your backs are covered, I’m sure.’ I said, ‘It’s okay,'” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said March 3, 2019, according to the Philippine Star. “But the problem here is … any declaration of war will pass Congress. You know how b—s— America’s Congress is.”
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Speaking on March 5, 2019, Lorenzana called attention to America’s failure to prevent the Chinese seizure and occupation of disputed territories in the South China Sea. “The US did not stop it,” he said.
But the biggest concern remains the possibility that the US could pull the Philippines into a war with China, something the country is determined to avoid.
“It is not the lack of reassurance that worries me,” Lorenzana said. “It is being involved in a war that we do not seek and do not want.” Manila has maintained a conciliatory stance toward China since Duterte took office in 2016, with the president repeatedly remarking that he is not interested in a war with China, as that is a war his country cannot win.
The country, however, continues to press Beijing on Chinese encroachment into areas considered Philippine territory.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Navy plans to test-fire a deadly high-tech, long-range electromagnetic weapon against a floating target at sea later this year – as part of the fast-paced development of its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun.
The rail gun uses an electromagnetic current to fire a kinetic energy warhead up to 100 miles at speeds greater than 5,000 miles an hour, a speed at least three times as fast as existing weapons.
In the upcoming test, the kinetic energy projectile will seek to hit, destroy or explode an at sea target from on-board the USNS Trenton, a Joint High Speed Vessel, service officials said.
The test shots, which will be the first of its kind for the developmental, next-generation weapon, will take place at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
During the test, the rail gun will fire a series of GPS-guided hypervelocity projectiles at a barge floating on the ocean about 25 to 50 nautical miles away,
The weapon will be fired against a floating target, in an effort to test the rail gun’s ability to destroy targets that are beyond-the-horizon, Navy officials said.
The Navy is developing the rail gun weapon for a wide range of at-sea and possible land-based applications, service officials added.
The weapon’s range, which can fire guided, high-speed projectiles more than 100 miles, makes it suitable for cruise missile defense, ballistic missile defense and various kinds of surface warfare applications.
The railgun uses electrical energy to create a magnetic field and propel a kinetic energy projectile at Mach 7.5 toward a wide range of targets, such as enemy vehicles, or cruise and ballistic missiles.
The weapon works when electrical power charges up a pulse-forming network. That pulse-forming network is made up of capacitors able to release very large amounts of energy in a very short period of time.
The weapon releases a current on the order of 3 to 5 million amps — that’s 1,200 volts released in a ten millisecond timeframe, experts have said. That is enough to accelerate a mass of approximately 45 pounds from zero to five thousand miles per hour in one one-hundredth of a second, Navy officials added at a briefing last Spring.
Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary. The hyper velocity projectile can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute, developers explained at last years’ briefing.
A kinetic energy hypervelocity warhead also lowers the cost and the logistics burden of the weapon, they explained.
Although it has the ability to intercept cruise missiles, the hypervelocity projectile can be stored in large numbers on ships. Unlike other larger missile systems designed for similar missions, the hypervelocity projectile costs only $25,000 per round.
The railgun can draw its power from an onboard electrical system or large battery, Navy officials said. The system consists of five parts, including a launcher, energy storage system, a pulse-forming network, hypervelocity projectile and gun mount.
While the weapon is currently configured to guide the projectile against fixed or static targets using GPS technology, it is possible that in the future the rail gun could be configured to destroy moving targets as well, Navy officials have explained over the years.
Possible Rail Gun Deployment on Navy Destroyers
Also, the Navy is evaluating whether to mount its new Electromagnetic Rail Gun weapon from the high-tech DDG 1000 destroyer by the mid-2020s, service officials said.
The DDG 1000’s Integrated Power System provides a large amount of on board electricity sufficient to accommodate the weapon, Navy developers have explained.
The first of three planned DDG 1000 destroyers was christened in April of last year.
Navy leaders believe the DDG 1000 is the right ship to house the rail gun but that additional study was necessary to examine the risks.
Also, with a displacement of 15,482 tons, the DDG 1000 is 65-percent larger than existing 9,500- ton Aegis cruisers and destroyers.
The DDG 1,000 integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate up to 58 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to the possibility of firing a rail gun.
It is also possible that the weapon could someday be configured to fire from DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Something of that size is necessary, given the technological requirements of the weapon.
For example, the Electro-magnetic gun would most likely not work as a weapon for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.
David Shulkin, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, showed up to what he thought would be a routine Senate oversight hearing in January 2018, only to discover it was an ambush.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., was the sole holdout among members of the veterans affairs committee on a bill that would shape the future of the agency. The bipartisan bill had the support of 26 service groups representing millions of veterans. But Moran was pushing a rival piece of legislation, and it had the support of a White House aide who wields significant clout on veterans policy. Neither proposal could advance as long as there was any doubt about which President Donald Trump wanted to sign.
Moran blamed Shulkin for the impasse. “In every instance, you led me to believe that you and I were on the same page,” Moran said at the hearing. “Our inability to reach an agreement is in significant part related to your ability to speak out of both sides of your mouth: double talk.”
There were gasps in the hearing room. It was an astounding rebuke for a Trump appointee to receive from a Republican senator, especially for Shulkin, who was confirmed by the Senate unanimously.
Clearly ruffled, Shulkin hesitated before answering. “I think it is grossly unfair to make the characterizations you have made of me, and I’m disappointed that you would do that,” he said. “What I am trying to do is give you my best advice about how this works.”
Moran dug in. “I chose my words intentionally,” he said. “I think you tell me one thing and you tell others something else. And that’s incompatible with our ability to reach an agreement and to work together.” Moran then left the hearing for another appointment.
The exchange exposed tensions that had been brewing for months behind closed doors. A battle for the future of the VA has been raging between the White House and veterans groups, with Shulkin caught in the middle. The conflict erupted into national headlines as a result of a seemingly unrelated development: the release of a lacerating report on Shulkin that found “serious derelictions” in a taxpayer-funded European business trip in which he and his wife enjoyed free tickets to Wimbledon and more.
The underlying disagreement at the VA has a different flavor than the overhauls at a number of federal agencies. Unlike some Trump appointees, who took the reins of agencies with track records of opposing the very mission of the organization, Shulkin is a technocratic Obama holdover. He not only participated in the past administration, but defends the VA’s much-maligned health care system. He seeks to keep the organization at the center of veterans’ health care. (An adviser to Shulkin said the White House isn’t permitting him to do interviews.)
But others in the administration want a much more drastic change: They seek to privatize vets’ health care. From perches in Congress, the White House, and the VA itself, they have battled Shulkin. In some instances, his own subordinates have openly defied him.
Multiple publications have explored the turmoil and conflict at the VA in the wake of the inspector general report. Yet a closer examination shows the roots of the fight stretch back to the presidential campaign and reveals how far the entropy of the Trump administration has spread. Much has been written on the “chaos presidency.” Every day seems to bring exposés of White House backstabbing and blood feuds. The fight over the VA shows not only that this problem afflicts federal agencies, too, but that friction and contradiction were inevitable: Trump appointed a VA secretary who wants to preserve the fundamental structure of government-provided health care; the president also installed a handful of senior aides who are committed to a dramatically different philosophy.
The blistering report may yet cost Shulkin his job. But the attention on his travel-related misbehavior is distracting from a much more significant issue: The administration’s infighting is imperiling a major legislative deal that could shape the future of the VA.
Taking better care of veterans was a constant refrain at Trump’s presidential campaign rallies. In the speech announcing his candidacy, he said, “We need a leader that can bring back our jobs, can bring back our manufacturing, can bring back our military, can take care of our vets. Our vets have been abandoned.” Ex-military people overwhelmingly supported him on Election Day and in office.
Trump’s original policy proposals on veterans health, unveiled in October 2015, largely consisted of tweaks to the current system. They called for increasing funding for mental health and helping vets find jobs; providing more women’s health services; modernizing infrastructure and setting up satellite clinics in rural areas.
The ideas drew derisive responses from the Koch brothers-backed group Concerned Veterans for America (CVA). Pete Hegseth, its then-CEO, called the proposal “painfully thin” and “unserious.”
Trump then took a sharp turn toward CVA’s positions after clinching the Republican nomination. In a July 2016 speech in Virginia Beach, he embraced a very different vision for the VA, emphasizing private-sector alternatives. “Veterans should be guaranteed the right to choose their doctor and clinics,” Trump said, “whether at a VA facility or at a private medical center.”
Trump’s new 10-point plan for veterans policy resembled the CVA’s priorities. In fact, six of the proposals drew directly on CVA ideas. Three of them aimed to make it easier to fire employees; a fourth advocated the creation of a reform commission; and two involved privatizing VA medical care.
Trump’s new direction, according to a campaign aide, was influenced by Jeff Miller, then the chairman of the House veterans committee. Miller, who retired from Congress in January 2017, was a close ally of CVA and a scathing critic of Obama’s VA.
Miller became one of the first congressmen to endorse Trump, in April 2016. He did so a few weeks after attending a meeting of the campaign’s national security advisers. (That meeting, and the photo Trump tweeted of it, would become famous because of the presence of George Papadopoulos, who is cooperating with investigators after pleading guilty to lying about Russian contacts. Miller is wearing the light gray jacket in the front right. Now a lobbyist with the law firm McDermott Will Emery, he didn’t reply to requests for comment.) Miller became Trump’s point man on veterans policy, the campaign aide said.
Miller and CVA portrayed the VA as the embodiment of “bureaucratic ineptitude and appalling dysfunction.” They were able to cite an ample supply of embarrassing scandals.
The scandals may come as less of a surprise than the fact that the VA actually enjoys widespread support among veterans. Most who use its health care report a positive experience. For example, 92 percent of veterans in a poll conducted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars reported that they would rather improve the VA system than dismantle it. Independent assessments have found that VA health care outperforms comparable private facilities. “The politicization of health care in the VA is frankly really unfair,” said Nancy Schlichting, the retired CEO of the Henry Ford Health System, who chaired an independent commission to study the VA under the Obama administration. “Noise gets out there based on very specific instances, but this is a very large system. If any health system in this country had the scrutiny the VA has, they’d have stories too.”
One piece of extreme noise was a scandal in 2014, which strengthened Miller and CVA’s hand and created crucial momentum toward privatization. In an April 2014 hearing, Miller revealed that officials at the VA hospital in Phoenix were effectively fudging records to cover up long delays in providing medical care to patients. He alleged that 40 veterans died while waiting to be seen. A week later, CVA organized a protest in Phoenix of 150 veterans demanding answers.
Miller’s dramatic claims did not hold up. A comprehensive IG investigation would eventually find 28 delays that were clinically significant; and though six of those patients died, the IG did not conclude that the delays caused those deaths. Later still, an independent assessment found that long waits were not widespread: More than 90 percent of existing patients got appointments within two weeks of their initial request.
But such statistics were lost in the furor. “Nobody stood up and said, ‘Wait a minute, time out, are we destroying this national resource because a small group of people made a mistake?'” a former senior congressional staffer said. “Even those who considered themselves to be friends of the VA were silent. It was a surreal period. The way it grew tentacles has had consequences nobody would have predicted.”
In the heat of the scandal, Miller and CVA pushed for a new program called Choice. It would allow veterans who have to wait more than 30 days for a doctor’s appointment or live more than 40 miles from a VA facility to get private-sector care. The VA has bought some private medical care for decades, but Choice represented a significant expansion, and Democrats were wary that it would open the door to privatizing VA health care on a much broader scale.
Still, the Phoenix scandal had made it hard for the Democrats to resist. The Choice bill passed with bipartisan support and President Obama signed it into law in August 2014.
By 2016, then-candidate Trump was demanding further changes. “The VA scandals that have occurred on this administration’s watch are widespread and inexcusable,” he said in the Virginia Beach speech. “Veterans should be guaranteed the right to choose their doctor and clinics, whether at a VA facility or at a private medical center. We must extend this right to all veterans.”
Trump’s contacts with CVA and its allies deepened during the transition. He met Hegseth, who left CVA to become a Fox News commentator, in Trump Tower. Trump picked Darin Selnick for the “landing team” that would supervise the transition at the VA. Selnick had directed CVA’s policy task force, which in 2015 recommended splitting the VA’s payer and provider functions and spinning off the latter into a government nonprofit corporation. Such an operation, organized along the lines of Amtrak, would be able to receive federal funding but also raise other revenue.
Trump’s consideration of Hegseth and Miller to lead the VA ran into fierce resistance from veterans groups, powerful institutions whose clout is boosted by the emotional power that comes with members’ having risked their lives for their country. At a meeting with the Trump transition in December 2016, officials from the major veterans groups held a firm line against privatizing the VA and any secretary intent on it.
Trump finally settled on Shulkin, 58, who ran the VA health system under Obama. Shulkin is a former chief of private hospital systems and a doctor — an internist, he still occasionally treats patients at the VA — who comes across more as a medical geek than the chief of a massive organization.
Trump heaps praise on Shulkin in public appearances and meets with him regularly in private. He was one of the first cabinet secretaries Trump consulted about the impact of the government shutdown on Jan. 21, 2018. They met at Camp David in December 2017 and lunched at the White House on Feb. 8, 2018. “You’re doing a great job,” Trump told Shulkin at a Jan. 9 signing ceremony for an executive order on veterans mental health services, handing Shulkin the executive pen. “We appreciate you.”
Trump may like Shulkin, but that didn’t stop his administration from appointing officials who opposed his philosophy. One of them, Jake Leinenkugel, a Marine Corps veteran and retired Wisconsin brewery owner, became the White House’s eyes and ears inside the agency. He works in an office next to Shulkin’s, but his title is senior White House adviser. Leinenkugel, 65, said he came out of retirement to take the position because he was “excited about taking POTUS’s agenda and advancing it.” As he put it, “I’m here to help veterans.”
He and Shulkin got along fine for a few months. But then, in May 2017, the two men clashed, as Shulkin accused Leinenkugel of undermining him. Shulkin wanted to nominate the VA’s acting under secretary for health, Poonam Alaigh, to take the position permanently, according to two people familiar with his thinking. But, the VA secretary charged, Leinenkugel told the White House to drop Alaigh. Shulkin confronted Leinenkugel, who denied any sabotage, according to an email Leinenkugel subsequently wrote. Alaigh stepped down in October and the position remains unfilled.
Shulkin has even been at odds with his own press secretary, Curt Cashour, who came from Miller’s House committee staff. January 2018, Shulkin assigned an official to send a letter to a veterans group that said the agency would update its motto, to be inclusive of servicewomen. (Adapted from Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, the original reads, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” The new version would read: “To care for those who shall have borne the battle and their families and survivors.”)
Cashour told The Washington Post the motto wouldn’t change. A few days later, the secretary’s strategic plan went out using the updated, gender-neutral motto. Cashour then denied the change a second time, telling the Post that was “not VA’s position.” A new document with the Lincoln quote restored subsequently appeared on the VA’s website. Shulkin was stunned at being disobeyed by his own spokesman, two people briefed on the incident said. (Cashour denied defying the VA secretary. “The premise of your inquiry is false,” he told ProPublica. Cashour said Shulkin never approved the letter regarding the updated motto and authorized the restoration of the original one.)
Then there was Selnick, who became the administration’s most effective proponent for privatization. He joined the VA as a “senior advisor to the secretary.” Though he reported to Shulkin, he quickly began developing his own policy proposals and conducted his own dealings with lawmakers, according to people with knowledge of the situation. In mid-2017 Shulkin pushed him out — sort of.
Selnick left the VA offices and took up roost in the White House’s Domestic Policy Council. There he started hosting VA-related policy meetings without informing Shulkin, according to people briefed on the meetings. At one such meeting of the “Veterans Policy Coordinating Committee,” Selnick floated merging the Choice program with military’s Tricare insurance plan, according to documents from the meeting obtained by ProPublica.
Veterans groups were furious. At a Nov. 17, 2017 meeting, Selnick boasted that Trump wouldn’t sign anything without Selnick’s endorsement, according to a person present. Shulkin would later tell a confidant that moving Selnick out of the VA was his “biggest mistake” because he did even more damage from the White House. (Selnick did not reply to a request for comment. A White House spokesman said some VA officials were aware of the policy meetings that Selnick hosted. The spokesman said Selnick does not brief the president or the chief of staff.)
Selnick, 57, is a retired Air Force captain from California who worked in the VA under the George W. Bush administration. At CVA, he not only ran the policy task force, he testified before Congress and appeared on TV. In 2015, House Speaker John Boehner appointed Selnick to the Commission on Care, an independent body created by a Congressional act to study the VA and make recommendations.
Selnick impressed his fellow commissioners with his preparation but sometimes irked them with what they viewed as his assumption that he was in charge, people who worked with him on the commission said. Selnick often brought up his experience at the VA. But some commissioners scoffed behind his back because his position, in charge of faith-based initiatives, had little relevance to health care. Whatever his credentials, Selnick had audacious ambitions: He wanted to reconceive the VA’s fundamental approach to medical care.
Selnick wanted to open up the VA so any veteran could see any doctor, an approach that would transform its role into something resembling an insurance company, albeit one with no restrictions on providers. Other commissioners worried that would cost the government more, impose fees and deductibles on veterans and serve them worse. “He was probably the most vocal of all of the members,” said David Gorman, the retired executive director of Disabled American Veterans who also served on the commission, “in a good and a bad way.”
The bad part, in the view of Nancy Schlichting, the chairwoman, emerged when Selnick tried to “hijack” the commission. Selnick and a minority of commissioners secretly drafted their own proposal, which went further than CVA’s. (The group included executives of large health systems that stood to gain more patients.) They wrote that the “the current VA health care system is seriously broken” with “no efficient path to repair it.” They proposed closing facilities, letting all veterans choose private care, and transitioning the rest to private care over two decades.
The draft was written in a way that seemed to speak for the commission as a whole, with phrases like “the Commission recommends.” The commission staff suggested labeling it a “straw man report,” implying it was meant to provoke discussion. Still, veterans organizations were angry, and Schlichting had to publicly disavow the draft. “Darin Selnick has never run a health system in his life and doesn’t understand the complexity of it,” Schlichting told ProPublica.
For his part, Shulkin publicly staked out his vision in a March 17, 2016 article in the New England Journal of Medicine. In it, he defended the VA’s quality of care and proposed reimagining the VA as an integrated system composed of its own core facilities, a network of vetted private-sector providers, and a third layer of private care for veterans in remote places. Shulkin also edited a book published last year trumpeting the VA’s successes, called “Best Care Everywhere.”
Almost four years after the Phoenix scandal, the emergency measure letting some veterans get care outside the VA is still limping along with temporary extensions, not to mention payment glitches and confusion about its rules. Key legislators grew tired of renewing emergency funding and wanted to find a long-term solution. In the House, negotiations broke down after Democrats boycotted a listening session featuring CVA. So fall 2017, focus turned to the Senate.
The crux of the debate was the extent to which the VA should rely on private care. The chairman and ranking member on the Senate veterans committee, respectively, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Jon Tester of Montana, drafted a bill to consolidate all of the VA’s programs that pay for private care and let doctors and patients decide where veterans would get care. The VA would buy private care when that makes the most sense but would still coordinate all veterans care in an integrated, comprehensive way. The bill garnered the support of 26 veterans organizations and every committee member except Moran.
Moran represents the Koch brothers’ home state; employees of Koch Industries are the second-largest source of campaign contributions in his career, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. With the support of CVA, Moran wanted to establish clear criteria making veterans eligible for private-sector care, like the 30 days/40 miles standard in the Choice program. It might sound like a subtle distinction, but it means the difference between keeping all veterans within the VA system versus ceding the direction of patient care to the private sector. When the committee rejected his amendment, Moran proposed his own bill and signed up Sen. John McCain as a co-sponsor.
Moran’s bill initially called for all veterans to be able to choose private care. When a McCain aide shared it with a lobbyist for the American Legion, the lobbyist was so enraged by what he viewed as a bid to undermine the VA that he torched a copy of the bill and sent the McCain aide a photo of the charred draft. (An American Legion spokesman declined to comment.) With the American Legion’s input, McCain’s and Moran’s staffs toned down the bill to the point that they got letters of support from the group, along with Amvets and CVA. But American Legion and Amvets were still working to get consensus on the Isakson-Tester bill.
Still, the Moran-McCain bill had a few key allies: Selnick and Leinenkugel. They had gained sway in part because of a White House vacuum. The president himself has been largely absent on veterans policy and there’s no senior point person. The portfolio has at times belonged to Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner and Omarosa Manigault, according to veterans groups and congressional officials. (A White House spokesman said those officials played a role in “veterans issues,” but not “veterans policy.” The latter, the spokesman said, is overseen by Selnick on the Domestic Policy Council.)
That has given Selnick and Leinenkugel wide latitude to shape White House positions on issues that don’t rise to Trump’s level. “Darin [Selnick] is pretty much in the ascendancy,” said Michael Blecker, the executive director of Swords to Plowshares, a San Francisco-based charity serving veterans.
As long as Moran had a competing claim to the Trump administration’s support, the Isakson-Tester bill was stuck. Republicans wouldn’t risk a floor vote on a bill the president might not sign. Shulkin supported the Isakson-Tester bill but he knew his rivals inside the White House were pushing for Moran’s proposal. So Shulkin hedged, awkwardly praising both bills. “We still don’t know which bill he wants,” Joe Chenelly, executive director of Amvets, said. “If the White House wants something different, then we need to know how to reconcile that.”
Amid the impasse, the Choice program was out of money again and needed an extension as part of the end-of-year spending deal. Tester vowed to make it the last one he’d agree to. He called on Shulkin to break the stalemate by publicly endorsing his and Isakson’s bill. “I would love to have the VA come out forcefully for this bill,” he said on the Senate floor in late December. “I think it would help get it passed.”
In a private meeting, Isakson and Tester chided Shulkin for withholding support for their bill, according to three people briefed on the meeting. Shulkin told them he was doing the best he could, but he had to fend off a competing agenda from the White House.
Unbeknown to Shulkin, there was already talk in the White House of easing him out. On Dec. 4, 2017, Leinenkugel wrote a memo, which ProPublica obtained, summarizing his disillusionment with Shulkin as well as with Shulkin’s deputy, Thomas Bowman, and chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson. (“I was asked to tell the truth and I gave it,” said Leinenkugel of his memo; he declined to say who requested it.)
Leinenkugel accused Bowman of disloyalty and opposing the “dynamic new Choice options requested by POTUS agenda.” The memo recommended that Bowman be fired — and replaced by Leinenkugel himself. It also asserted that Wright Simpson “was proud to tell me she is a Democrat who completely trusts the secretary and it’s her job to protect him.” Leinenkugel accused her of delaying the placement of Trump’s political appointees. Leinenkugel recommended replacing her, too.
As for Shulkin, Leinenkugel’s memo advocated he be “put on notice to leave after major legislation and key POTUS VA initiatives [are] in place.”
After the clash between Moran and Shulkin at the January hearing, Isakson said the White House would provide feedback on his bill to help the committee chart a way forward. “The president basically is pushing to get a unanimous vote out of committee,” said Rick Weidman, the top lobbyist for Vietnam Veterans of America. “The only reason why we didn’t get it before was there is one mid-level guy on the Domestic Policy Council who threw a monkey wrench into it by confusing people about what the administration’s position is.” That person, Weidman said, is Selnick.
The White House’s feedback on the Isakson-Tester bill, a copy of which was obtained by ProPublica, was the closest the administration has come to a unified position on veterans health care. It incorporated input from the VA and the Office of Management and Budget. Selnick told veterans groups he wrote the memo, leaving some miffed that Selnick seemingly had the final word instead of Shulkin. (A White House spokesman said Selnick was not the only author.)
Selnick requested changes that might look like minor tweaks but would have dramatic policy consequences. “It’s these very small differences in details that the public would never notice that change the character of the thing entirely,” said Phillip Longman, whose 2007 book, “Best Care Anywhere,” argued that the VA works better than private health care. (The title of the book Shulkin edited, “Best Care Everywhere,” was a nod at Longman’s book.)
Most important, the White House wanted clear criteria that make veterans eligible for private care. That was the main feature of Moran’s bill and the sticking point in the negotiations. The administration also asked to preserve a piece of the Choice program by grandfathering in veterans living more than 40 miles away from a VA facility. CVA praised the White House for nudging the bill in Moran’s direction. “We applaud President Trump for taking a firm stand in favor of more health care choice for veterans at the VA,” the group’s director, Daniel Caldwell, said in a statement dated Jan. 24, 2018.
The White House feedback also called for removing provisions that would regulate providers, such as requiring them to meet quality standards and limiting opioid prescriptions. And the administration objected to provisions in the bill that would require it to fill critical vacancies at the VA and report back to Congress.
Selnick got what he asked for, but it still might not be enough. Isakson and Tester agreed to most of the changes. But in a White House meeting with veterans groups on Feb. 5, 2018, Selnick continued to insist on open choice, suggesting that’s what Trump wants. Selnick visited Moran’s staff, a person with knowledge of the meeting said, and Moran indicated he wouldn’t support the modified version of the Isakson-Tester bill. (A White House spokesman said Isakson and Tester did not accept all the changes and negotiations continue. He denied that Selnick pushed for open choice.) Moran’s spokesman didn’t answer emailed questions by press time.)
The tensions spilled out publicly again on Feb. 8, 2018, when the Washington Post reported that the White House wanted to oust Bowman, Shulkin’s deputy. The article said the purpose was to chastise Shulkin for “freewheeling” — working with senators who don’t share the administration’s position. Isakson’s spokeswoman called it a “shameful attempt” to derail the negotiations. Isakson resolved to move ahead without Moran, the spokeswoman said, but it’s not clear when the bill will get time on the Senate floor (the Senate focused on immigration this week and then will take a recess). Moran could still place a “hold” on the bill or round up other senators to oppose it.
Shulkin determined that Selnick and Leinenkugel had to go, according to four people familiar with the secretary’s thinking. But Shulkin doesn’t appear to have the authority to fire them since they work for the White House. Plus, the attacks from the right were already taking a toll on Shulkin’s standing. “If leaders at Trump’s VA don’t support REAL CHOICE — why won’t they resign?” former CVA chief Hegseth tweeted on Feb. 13, 2018 tagging Shulkin in the post.
Veterans advocates responded by defending Shulkin against attacks they viewed as originating with Selnick and Leinenkugel. “They thought they could coopt David,” said Weidman, the lobbyist for Vietnam Veterans of America. “When he couldn’t be coopted, they decided to go after his character.”
The biggest blow came on Feb. 14, 2018 when the VA’s Inspector General released its report on Shulkin’s trip to Europe in April 2017. It concluded that Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets, misused a subordinate as a “personal travel concierge,” lied to reporters, and that his chief of staff doctored an email in such a way that would justify paying travel expenses for Shulkin’s wife.
Shulkin disputed the IG’s findings, but he again ran into trouble getting his message out from his own press office. A statement insisting he had “done nothing wrong” disappeared from the VA’s website, and Cashour replaced it with one saying “we look forward to reviewing the report and its recommendations in more detail before determining an appropriate response.” Cashour said the White House directed him to take down Shulkin’s statement and approved the new one.
Shulkin told Politico the IG report was spurred by internal opponents. “They are really killing me,” he said. By Feb. 16, 2018, his chief of staff had told colleagues Friday she would retire, USA Today reported.
The condemnation after the IG report was swift and widespread. House veterans committee member Mike Coffman, R-Colo., called on Shulkin to resign. Democrats, though generally sympathetic to Shulkin, couldn’t resist lumping the imbroglio in with other travel-expense tempests across Trump’s cabinet (involving Tom Price, Ryan Zinke, Scott Pruitt, and Steven Mnuchin). The chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate veterans committees said they were “disappointed” and want Shulkin to address the allegations, but acknowledged the politics at work and the stakes in a joint statement: “We need to continue progress we have made and not allow distractions to get in the way.”
The next day, Shulkin appeared before another routine oversight hearing, in this instance on the House side. He told the representatives he would reimburse the government for his wife’s travel and accept the IG’s recommendations. Shulkin thanked the chairman and ranking member for urging their colleagues not to let the scandal commandeer the hearing. “I do regret the decisions that have been made that have taken the focus off that important work,” he said.
Turning to the VA’s budget, Shulkin resumed his tightrope walk. He praised the VA’s services while acknowledging the need for some veterans to be treated outside the government’s system. By the time he left the hearing, two hours later, the Trump administration’s position on veterans health privatization remained a mystery.
The U.S. military hasn’t executed a prisoner since the 1961 hanging of Pvt. John Bennett at Fort Leavenworth. Prior to 1959, prisoners sent to the gallows by the U.S. military were afforded certain last rights demanded by regulations that included an escort, a chaplain, a last meal, unlimited letters to loved ones, and a military band.
Listeners might be familiar with aa few bars of legendary Polish composer Frederic Chopin’s Funeral March, either through military film or television – or through the WWE’s Undertaker entrance music. The Army’s regulations called for every execution (or series of executions) have a military band accompany the prisoner(s) to the gallows playing the classical tune.
The updated guidance for military executions as of 1959 did not call for the band, but still included the meal, letters, and religious paraphernalia. Only ten military members have been executed for crimes outside of wartime, and only two of those were executed after Apr. 7, 1959, and they did not walk to the gallows to the “Dead March.” Private Bennett and John E. Day, both convicted killers, were hanged in the boiler room of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth to no fanfare.
How Chopin’s “Funeral March” became the official U.S. military death march is another story. The song comes from the composer’s Sonata No. 2 in B Flat Minor. Chopin was celebrated for his piano miniatures, and the Funeral March (the sonata’s third movement) was written much earlier than any of his sonatas. Chopin is said to have penned the work commemorating the 1830-1831 November Uprising, where ethnic Poles attempted to shake off the yoke of the Russian Empire.
The hopeful uprising was soon put down by the Russian Army, and the Tsar tightened Russia’s grip on Poland. Chopin’s original manuscript featured the date of the uprising’s start, Nov. 28, 1830. The piece’s dark tone and minor keys immediately associated it with death and it was played at the composer’s funeral – as well as those of John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and even Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev.
The song would come to ingratiate itself in pop culture around the world as a song (rightly) associated with death and dying, from Saturday morning cartoons to Deadmau5.
The U.S. military’s (and many other armed forces around the world) bands, drums, and buglers all played an important battlefield communications function for centuries. Troops, unable to hear the orders of their officers over the din of fighting, would hear and could respond to general orders as played through songs.
In the years following Chopin’s Sonata No. 2, it became increasingly popular. The Funeral March was the most popular part of an already-popular musical hit. Soon after, the song’s popularity took on a life of its own and the song came full-circle from one of seriousness and piety toward the dead to one of parody. The music that called to mind death and the fragility of life was now being used to make fun of the same concepts.
The piece hasn’t always been just for executions. It accompanied the American Unknown Soldier from World War I as he made his way aboard ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean one night in Le Havre, France. It has been used for many a prominent U.S. official as they lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.
No matter how parodied it was or why it was used, the Funeral March would endure as a powerful piece of music, not just for the U.S. military, but for the world at large. Even to this day, it evokes the foreboding we associate with death and dying.
And that could be why it didn’t endure in military execution regulations. At this point, it just seems overly macabre and slightly cruel.
Soldiers from 9th Hospital Center, 1st Medical Brigade provided lifesaving medical intervention to casualties involved in an accident on July 10, 2019.
9th Hospital Center soldiers were conducting convoy operations along one of the post’s isolated training areas when they noticed a dark, brooding cloud of towering smoke from a rolled over truck.
As the convoy got closer to the smoke, they noticed an accident that involved two vehicles and one casualty on the road.
“When we got closer, we realized the extent of the accident,” said Cpt. Jillian Guy, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 11th Field Hospital. “Everyone quickly realized that we were the first responders. Our main priority was to move the first casualty away from the burning vehicle and save his life.”
The convoy made a hasty stop and the soldiers quickly approached the first casualty bystanders had removed from the burning vehicle.
“My thought running up to the scene was to get him away from the burning vehicle as soon as possible and to control the bleeding,” said Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Newell, acting first sergeant for 11th Field Hospital. “I was also thinking that we didn’t know if he had injured his spine, so I knew we needed to use cervical spine precautions as soon as we got to him before we could move him.”
Medics took the lead relocating the casualty further from the burning vehicle using cervical spine precautions. Shortly afterwards, the vehicle’s fuel compartment exploded.
Once the casualties were removed from immediate danger, medics began providing aid to the more severely injured casualty.
“Soldiers swiftly delivered care to the first casualty applying a tourniquet for open bilateral femur fractures,” Guy said. “I saw the second casualty walking around disoriented so I grabbed two medics to help treat him.”
Medics applied tourniquets to the first casualty proficiently to control the bleeding and provided airway management and trauma care. The second casualty suffered from a suspected traumatic brain injury and facial trauma. The medics treated and stabilized both casualties until the emergency medical services arrived.
Soldiers from 9th Hospital Center, 1st Medical Brigade provide lifesaving medical intervention to casualties involved in an accident on July 10, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Yaeri Green)
Even after the EMS arrived, Newell, Sgt. Eric Johnston, combat medic team leader and Sgt. Mariela Jones, platoon sergeant, remained and continued to provide help.
“We were starting fluids, bandaging the wounds and placing the casualty on a spin board,” Newell said. “Once he was on a spin board, Sergeant Jones moved to provide airway until he was placed on a helicopter.”
The intervention did not stop until the casualties were evacuated. The first casualty was air evacuated by Baylor Scott White, and the second was taken to Carl R. Darnell Army Medical Center by the EMS.
“The medics from three different companies quickly became one cohesive unit,” Guy said. “I have never been more proud of everyone on scene. Even the non-medical MOS soldiers did an amazing job with crowd control, driving vehicles safely to the scene and comforting others who had seen the trauma.”
When soldiers came across a situation that needed immediate aid, they reacted expeditiously and saved the lives of those casualties. Military police and EMS commended the Soldiers for their quick reaction, professionalism and proficient medical skill set.
9th Hospital Center soldiers are prepared to provide expert medical care at moment’s notice and they will continue to train in order to stay ready.
“Tragedy can happen at any time and you need to be prepared,” Johnson said. “It was an eye opening experience that nobody was expecting.”
Before 9/11, the last time American forces fought on horseback was on January 16, 1942 when the U.S. Army’s 26th Cavalry Regiment charged an advanced guard of the 14th Japanese Army as it advanced from Manila.
After the terror attacks of Sep. 11, 2001, the United States demanded the extradition of Osama bin Laden from the Taliban, then the recognized government of Afghanistan. When the Taliban didn’t cough him up, the U.S. military went to work.
Official combat operations started on Oct. 7, 2001 in the form of airstrikes and Tomahawk missile strikes against suspected al-Qaeda training sites near Kandahar, Kabul, and Herat. On Nov. 16, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced “we have had limited number of American forces on the ground for weeks.”
He was talking about the Horse Soldiers, U.S. Special Forces attempting to secure Northern Afghanistan with the Afghan Northern Alliance.
The elite troops were there to connect with and advise the Northern Alliance fighters who had been fighting the Taliban government since 1996. They were just in time. On Sep. 9, 2001, al-Qaeda operatives assassinated Ahmad Shah Massoud, the longtime resistance fighter who led wars against the Soviet Union and later, the Taliban (Massoud even tried to warn Western leaders about the 9/11 attacks). He rejected the Taliban’s strict interpretation of Islam and was the able political and military leader of the Northern Alliance. When the Americans arrived the Alliance fighters were ready to avenge Massoud. The only way to get around the country was on horseback.
For some of the American commandos, it was their first time on a horse. “It was like riding a bobcat,” Lt. Col. Max Bowers (Ret.) told CNN.
Sergeant 1st Class Joe Jung, the team’s medic and sniper, was thrown from his horse, broke his back, and continued with the mission. “I would not allow myself to be the weak link,” Jung said. “It’s not in my nature, and it’s not in any Green Beret’s nature.”
Bowers carried a piece of the World Trade Center during the entire mission and months later, buried it with full military honors at Mazar-e-Sharif.
The commandos’ horses were trained by the Northern Alliance warriors to run toward gunfire. Charges pitting Alliance forces against the Taliban were much like those centuries ago, but the fighters used AK-47s instead of sabers.
Air Force Combat Controller Master Sgt. Bart Decker used laser-guided airstrikes to support Alliance forces. Abdul Rashid Dostum, leader of Alliance forces, referred to one of the female navigators on an AC-130 gunship providing close air support as the “Angel of Death.”
During the Battle of Mazar-e-Sharif, Jung treated Taliban fighters. The special forces let one go, allowing him to tell other Taliban fighters he was treated humanely and they would be too. This led to mass surrender after the battle. After Mazar-e Sharif, Jung heard an odd accent among the wounded at a prison camp.
That voice came from John Walker Lindh, the infamous “American Taliban.” The Taliban POWs would later rise up against their captors, capturing the arsenal at Mazar-e Sharif, killing CIA operator Mike Spann, the first casualty of American operations in Afghanistan.
It took two months for the Allied forces to defeat the Taliban government.
Kentucky sculptor Douwe Blumberg created a monument of the horse soldiers in his studio in 2011, in honor of the entire military special operations community. That statue, the American Response Monument, is now at the World Trade Center site in New York.
The United States has approved a $330 million arms deal with China’s neighbor Taiwan, in a move set to further increase tensions between Beijing and Washington amidst the escalating trade war, The South China Morning Post reported.
The news comes as China said on Sept. 24, 2018, that it was impossible to hold trade talks with the US while Washington’s tariffs are like “a knife” to China’s neck, following a fresh $200 billion of tariffs on China, and US President Donald Trump’s threat of $267 billion more.
The proposed arms deal which was announced on Sept. 24, 2018, by the Pentagon and will be put before the US Congress would include parts for F16 and F5 fighter jets, C130 cargo planes, Taiwan’s Indigenous Defence Fighter, and other aircraft systems.
The sale will contribute to the “foreign policy and national security of the United States,” the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said, adding that Taiwan “continues to be an important force for political stability, military balance and economic progress in the region.”
Taiwan has welcomed the move, and said that the deal helps the independent nation off the coast of China strengthen its defenses and deal with the challenges from Beijing. A spokesperson for the presidential office of Taiwan said, it would boost confidence in the face of “severe” security challenges, adding “We greatly appreciate that the US government takes note of the national security of Taiwan.”
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
China sees Taiwan as its sovereign territory, and as a breakaway province that must be united with the mainland by force if necessary. China has previously warned the US not to sell weapons to the country or establish close military ties there, the South China Morning Post reported.
The sale which is not yet finalized is the second under Trump following a id=”listicle-2607841195″.4 billion sale in June 2017 that also prompted anger from Beijing.
Critics of the deal in Washington said it bows to the wishes of Chinese opposition including US defence secretary, Mike Pompeo who criticised the Obama administration for delaying weapons sales to the area.
Officials in Taipei and Washington say it is now likely that the Trump administration will resume regular weapons sales to Taiwan, the Financial Times reported.
The escalating tensions come in the context of China rejecting an invitation for official talks in Washington, with its vice commerce minister, Wang Shouwen saying, “Now that the US has adopted this type of large-scale trade restrictions, they’re holding a knife to someone’s throat. Under these circumstances, how can negotiations proceed?”
US military officials said On Sept. 23, 2018, that the Chinese government denied permission for a US Navy ship to do a port visit in Hong Kong in October 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported. The denial comes amid escalating tensions between the countries over both economic and military issues.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A military K-9 injured in a bomb explosion in Afghanistan along with his military police officer partner now has a lot of support after a photo of the dog wearing a Purple Heart Medal in a hospital in Germany has gone viral, the Killeen Daily Herald reports.
Spc. Andrew Brown, 22, and his military dog, Rocky, were searching a structure for explosive materials in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province Dec. 3 when the bomb exploded, the Texas newspaper reported Friday.
“They were working with Special Operations Forces in an effort to identify explosive materials,” Army spokesman Sgt. Michal Garrett told the paper.
Brown and Rocky survived the blast and were taken to a military hospital in Germany. There, a photo was taken of Rocky wearing the Purple Heart and posted on the Facebook page of Fort Hood’s 89th Military Police Brigade. Brown is assigned to the brigade.
The photo had more than 89,000 likes, 118,000 shares and more than 9,500 comments as of Sunday morning.
“The Army typically does not process awards for our working dogs the same way we do for our other soldiers,” Garrett told the Daily Herald. “The Purple Heart in the photo was placed on Rocky as a sign of respect and solidarity between him and Brown during their recovery.”
Two days ago the brigade posted another photo of Brown and Rocky in a hospital room on Facebook that said, “They are both very thankful for your thoughts and prayers and are in the process of heading back home.
The post said Brown had arrived earlier Friday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Hospital in Washington where he was met by his waiting family.
The Daily Herald reported that Brown, of Eliot, Maine, suffered non-life threatening injuries and will undergo a series of tests for traumatic brain injury. The tests are routine for soldiers injured by roadside bombs.
Rocky is expected to return to Fort Hood in the coming weeks. The canine suffered shrapnel wounds and a broken leg.
The oldest living veteran in the United States is asking for America’s help.
Army veteran Richard Overton is now in need of 24-hour home care that the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t provide. So his family started a GoFundMe campaign late last month to cover the cost of in-home care, which is being provided by Senior Helpers.
“Though my cousin is still sharp as a tack at 110-years-old, it’s been getting harder and harder for him to care for himself,” Volma Overton said in a statement. “It eases my mind to know he will have 24/7 care while living in the home he built for himself over 70 years ago.”
“He drives and walks without a cane. During a television interview in March, he told a reporter that he doesn’t take medicine, smokes cigars every day and takes whiskey in his morning coffee,” The Houston Chronicle wrote. “The key to living to his age, he said, is simply ‘staying out of trouble.'”
“I may drink a little in the evening too with some soda water, but that’s it,” Overton told Fox News. “Whiskey’s a good medicine. It keeps your muscles tender.”
In addition to his somewhat unorthodox habits, Overton said he stayed busy throughout the day by trimming trees and helping with horses, while noting that he never watches television, according to Fox.
Born May 11, 1906, he is believed to be the oldest living veteran in the US. He served in the South Pacific during World War II before selling furniture in Austin after discharge, and later worked in the state Treasurer’s Office.
As the campaign page notes, Overton has earned a number of accolades since he first hit the headlines. He met with President Obama in 2013, and in the years since, has appeared as the guest of honor at sporting events and been featured as “America’s Oldest Cigar Smoker” in Cigar Aficionado magazine.
“When you’re spiritually and emotionally fit, you’ll take care of yourself because you love yourself,” said Master Sgt. David Mundy, 35th Infantry Division chaplain assistant.
While sitting on a bench outside the main chapel at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Mundy made it clear that being spiritual is not necessarily the same as being religious, but that spiritual fitness has the ability to bring a peacefulness to anyone.
“Being spiritually, mentally, and emotionally fit will help lead to physical fitness and, ultimately, it all works toward the overall stability, fitness, and readiness of the individual Soldier,” said Mundy.
To build spiritual fitness, Mundy had a few key pieces of advice for Soldiers that he finds helpful whether at home or in a deployed environment.
“As an individual, accept pain for what it is — don’t keep it in,” Mundy said. “Once accepted, become transparent and work through the pain and analyze the situation that brought you to that point.”
This, in Mundy’s experience, helps an individual clarify the problem and work toward a healthy resolution.
In order to successfully work to resolve life’s problems and maintain our mental fitness, Mundy explained that there are four types of people we need to surround ourselves with.
“The first type are prophets — everyone needs a person who can hold their feet to the fire and make them own up to their mistakes,” said Mundy. “The next type of person is the cheerleader — we need to be surrounded by friends who can cheer us on regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves.”
“Teasers are the friends who won’t let us beat ourselves up and also make sure to show us a good time,” said Mundy. “Finally, we need encouragers. Encouragers help you find the good in your life and expand on that.”
After a Soldier establishes these friendships and recognizes the different types of people in their lives, Mundy suggests getting into a workout routine with someone who will help drive them.
“Once you find those people, work out with someone in better shape than yourself in order to push yourself to be better,” Mundy continued. “Everyone needs friends who are like-minded, who can encourage yet challenge.”
Like any military installation, there are plenty of avenues to work on physical fitness at Camp Arifjan. Options for workouts include anything from volleyball, basketball, swimming, and weightlifting to 5Ks, marathons, flag football, and soccer.
The key is maintaining a routine. Attaining spiritual fitness, according to Mundy, is no different.
“There are chapels and a mosque on Camp Arifjan if a person is looking for religious support,” said Mundy. “It’s all about finding and making the time to participate.”
If Soldiers are not necessarily religious in their beliefs, Mundy also encourages meeting with behavioral health support specialists to help lift or ease burdens.
“Both chaplains and behavioral health support will help you on your way to establishing spiritual and emotional fitness,” said Mundy. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to Soldier stability, but Soldiers should be aware that they have all the resources available to them to stay strong.”
It always struck me as odd when I read history books as a kid: cannons are pretty much giant shotguns — why didn’t they ever make double-barreled cannon pieces? Well, I wasn’t the only genius with the idea.
A Southerner from Athens, Ga. named Pvt. John Gilleland forged one in 1862. Gilleland’s idea was to connect the two three-inch barrels by firing chain shot connected by two six-pound balls. When fired, the designer’s idea was for the balls to be shot at different angles to allow the ten-foot chain to fully extend.
If you’re not sure what chain shot does to walking bags of meat (soldiers), the guys at MythBusters demonstrated this on a pig carcass – warning: it doesn’t end well for the pig carcass.
So imagine a ten-foot nunchuck weighing in at roughly 50 pounds flying into a massed formation of people at more than a thousand feet per second. That was Pvt. Gilleland’s great idea. Except it didn’t go quite as he would have liked.
His tests showed erratic and often dangerous results. Though the gun was designed for both barrels to be fired simultaneously, they often didn’t, meaning an intense veering in an unintended direction. When they did fire, the chain would sometimes break apart, with two end of chain led by a ball, each veering three degrees away from each other at more than a thousand feet per second.
Gilleland still declared it a success and sent it to be tested with the Confederate Army. The Confederates found the cannon “not usable due to unpredictable rates of powder burn and barrel friction which led to unpredictable performance.”
So the Confederate government sent the cannon back to Gilleland in Athens. The weapons was still used in combat in just one battle. As Union raiders approached Athens on July 27, 1863, the double-barrel cannon was used as a signal gun to rouse the population to arms.
Some 9,000 Union cavalry approached Athens as part of General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea.” Athens would be put to the torch, but not if the Georgia Home Guard Artillery could repel them.
At Barber’s Creek, just south of Athens, the cavalry hopped across the Confederate earthwork defenses. But before they could break the home guard completely, the city’s cannon and howitzers stole the initiative and fired a volley into the oncoming traffic. The yankees broke off the attack and Athens was spared.
Today the cannon is parked on Hancock and College Avenues in Athens.