Few have served their country and community at the level of Floyd Carter, Sr. His service began in 1944 when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as a 2nd Lt. Bombardier. He was among the first African-Americans to complete pilot training. At the time, the 1,000 black pilots of the Tuskegee Airmen were just a drop in the bucket of those fighting World War II.
After the war and after the creation of the United States Air Force in 1947, Carter joined the Air Force Reserve. He was a part of the massive flow of moral and material support for West Berlin that would come to be called the Berlin Airlift.
If you’re doing the math, that’s already 24 years of service.
As an Air Force Reservist, he needed a civilian job. In that, he continued to serve, joining the New York Police Department in 1953. Within three years, he was promoted to detective and spent 27 years serving the people of New York in some of the most trying, crime-ridden times in the city’s history.
He retired from the Air Force in 1974 and the NYPD in 1980.
Carter was presented with a Congressional Gold Medal from then-President George W. Bush in 2007. He and other Tuskegee Airmen were also invited to President Barack Obama’s 2009 Inauguration ceremony as well as the premiere of George Lucas’ 2012 film about the Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tails.
Costumes, candy, Halloween parties, and trick or treating are common ways to celebrate All Hallows Eve. Another way some choose to take part in is by going to a “haunted house.”
For some, haunted houses are all too real.
Many Team Shaw members have heard rumors of some buildings on base that are supposedly haunted, but few have actually had experiences with the paranormal. The following stories have been told by Shaw housing residents who claim to have had encounters.
“The old base housing was very haunted so I’d say yes it’s possible the new ones are too,” said a Team Shaw spouse. “We had so many creepy experiences in the old housing. My oldest would scream bloody murder and just point at something in his room and refuse to go in there. At night, we’d lay in bed and could hear something downstairs slamming cabinets closed.”
Others said they have seen floating orbs of light on camera, had home devices turn on by themselves and heard doors open and close or bangs in their home.
Another member said she is “creeped out” but has come to terms with the entity in her home. Whenever she decides to turn in for the night, she now says, “Alright haunts. I’m going to bed. It’s time for you to go on home.”
In August of 2015, Heather Ingle, Team Shaw spouse, moved to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, with her active duty husband and two young daughters.
“When we came here, (the girls) were refusing to sleep in their room,” Ingle said of her new home. “(My youngest daughter) was still pretty young, and she wouldn’t even go in there,”
“They just would not go in the room,” said Ingle. “(My eldest daughter) kept saying, ‘There is a scary lady in there.’ I told her, ‘There is nobody in this house. There’s nobody in here.’ We would just battle night after night after night that they wanted to sleep in bed with me, both of them.”
During this time in her life, Ingle was working in Columbia, South Carolina, and would get home late, while her daughters would stay at a friend’s home until she was able to pick them up and take them home.
Ingle stated one night she and her daughters got home around midnight after a long day of work. Her children were exhausted, but still argued to sleep with her in her bedroom.
She, then, went into their bedroom, closed the door, and screamed at whatever entity was there to go away, saying it wasn’t welcome here. Then, Ingle shouted out a blessing she was told to use by a friend.
According to Ingle, ever since that night, there have been no experiences. The girls do not see the ‘scary lady’ anymore.
So, if Team Shaw members hear someone shout “Boo!” while enjoying a “haunted house” this Halloween, look around. There may not be anyone there.
This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDSHub on Twitter.
The Navy is finalizing plans to build its fourth Ford-Class aircraft carrier in the mid-2020s as a substantial step in a long-term plan to extend surface warfare power projection for the next 100 years — all the way into the 2100s
This fourth carrier, called CVN 81, will continue the Navy’s ongoing process to acquire a new class of next-generation carriers designed to sustain its ability to launch air attacks from the ocean in increasingly more dangerous modern threat environments.
“Procurement of CVN 81 is currently being planned for inclusion in the 2023 budget,” William Couch, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
While Couch emphasized that funding will require Congressional approval, he did specify key elements of the Navy’s Ford-Class strategy.
The first one, the USS Ford, is now complete and preparing for operational service. The second Ford-Class carrier, the USS Kennedy, is more than 80-percent built and the third Ford-class carrier will be called the USS Enterprise.
(U.S. Navy photo illustration courtesy of Newport News Shipbuilding)
The USS Kennedy will replace the USS Nimitz which is due to retire by 2027; the Ford-class carriers are slated to replace the existing Nimitz-class carriers on a one-to-one basis in an incremental fashion over the next 50 or more years.
As a result, the Navy is making a specific effort to expedite the acquisition of its Ford-class carrier by exploring the possibility of buying the third and fourth Ford-class carriers at the same time.
“The Navy released a CVN 80/81 two-ship buy Request for Proposal to Huntington Ingalls Industries — to further define the cost savings achievable with a potential two-ship buy. The Navy received HII response May 1, 2018, and will consider it in its procurement planning for both ships,” Couch said.
Streamlining acquisition of the Ford-class also naturally brings the advantage of potentially speeding up construction and delivery of the new ships as well, something of significance to the Navy’s fast-tracked effort to reach a 355-ship fleet.
Part of this strategy is articulated in the Navy’s recent 2019 30-year shipbuilding plan, called the “Report to Congress on the Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2019.”
The plan says the Navy is working on “setting the conditions for an enduring industrial base as the top priority, so that the Navy is postured to respond to more aggressive investment in any year.”
Efforts to control carrier costs has been a long-standing challenge for the Navy. Several years ago, the Navy received substantial criticism from lawmakers and government watchdog groups during the construction of the USS Ford for rising costs. Construction costs for the USS Ford wound up being several billion above early cost estimates. Cost overruns with the construction wound up leading Congress to impose a $12.9 billion cost-cap on the ship.
(U.S. Navy photo)
At the time, Navy officials pointed out that integrating new technologies brings challenges and that at least $3 billion of the Ford’s costs were due to what’s described as non-recurring engineering costs for a first-in-class ship such as this.
For instance, Ford-class carriers are built with a larger flight deck able to increase the sortie-generation rate by 33-percent, an electromagnetic catapult to replace the current steam system and much greater levels of automation or computer controls throughout the ship. The ship is also engineered to accommodate new sensors, software, weapons, and combat systems as they emerge, Navy officials have said.
The USS Ford is built with four 26-megawatt generators, bringing a total of 104 megawatts to the ship. This helps support the ship’s developing systems such as its Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, and provides power for future systems such as lasers and rail-guns, many Navy senior leaders have explained.
HII ship developers have been making an aggressive effort to lower costs of the USS Kennedy. Officials have said that the cost of the USS Kennedy will be well over $1.5 billion less than the costs to build the first Ford-Class ship.
One of the construction techniques for Kennedy construction has included efforts to assemble compartments and parts of the ship together before moving them to the dock — this expedites construction by allowing builders to integrate larger parts of the ship more quickly.
This technique, referred to by Huntington Ingalls developers as “modular construction,” was also used when building the Ford; the process welds smaller sections of the ship together into larger structural “superlift” units before being lifted into the dry dock, HII statements explained.
Construction begins with the bottom of the ship and works up with inner-bottoms and side shells before moving to box units, he explained. The bottom third of the ship gets built first. Also, some of the design methods now used for the Kennedy include efforts to fabricate or forge some parts of the ship — instead of casting them because it makes the process less expensive, builders explained.
Also, Newport News Shipbuilding — a division of HII — was able to buy larger quantities of parts earlier in the construction process with the Kennedy because, unlike the circumstance during the building of the USS Ford, the Kennedy’s ship design was complete before construction begins.
As for the design, the Kennedy will be largely similar to the design of the USS Ford, with a few minor alterations. The Kennedy will receive a new radar and its aircraft elevators will use electric motors instead of a hydraulic system to lower costs.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The ship made famous in the book and subsequent film “The Perfect Storm” has been intentionally sunk off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts so it can become part of an artificial reef.
The sinking of the Tamaroa, a 205-foot (62-meter) Coast Guard vessel, took place May 10. The sinking initially was scheduled to occur several months ago, but was repeatedly delayed by rough seas and other related issues.
The vessel was sent down about 33 nautical miles (61 kilometers) off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey. It was deployed in water more than 120 feet (36.5 meters) deep after patches were removed from holes that were pre-cut into its hull, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The pre-cut holes were part of the extensive work that had to be done before the ship could be sunk, including the removal of interior paneling and insulation as well as emptying and cleaning the vessel of all fuel and fluids.
The ship turned on its side as it slowly went down in the calm water, then turned straight up as the bulk of the vessel went under water. It then disappeared from view as a person on board a neighboring vessel thanked the Tamaroa for its long service.
A tugboat had started hauling the Tamaroa from a Norfolk, Virginia, shipyard on Monday afternoon and it slowly made its way up the Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday without any issues.
The Tamaroa was first commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1934 under the name Zuni and saw action during World War II when it helped tow damaged vessels across the war-torn Pacific Ocean. It was transferred to the Coast Guard and renamed in 1946, then continued to serve until it eventually was decommissioned in 1994.
The vessel’s most notable mission came in October 1991, when three strong storm systems came together off the New England coast, generating 40-foot (12-meter) waves and wind gusts of more than 70 mph.
The Tamaroa’s crew helped save three people aboard a sailboat that was caught in the storm. They also rescued four of five crewmen of an Air National Guard helicopter that ran out of fuel during a similar rescue mission and had to be ditched in the ocean.
Both events were documented in Sebastian Junger’s 1997 book, “The Perfect Storm,” and a movie of the same name starring George Clooney.
It’s been decades since the United States Army attacked a ship on the high seas. The last time it happened was when an AH-6 “Little Bird” with what eventually became the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (better known as “the Nightstalkers”) caught an Iranian vessel, the Iran Ajr, laying mines in the Persian Gulf in 1987.
Well, the Army has now sunk another vessel — with an assist from the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force. This took place during RIMPAC 2018, when both forces fired ground-based, anti-ship missiles during a SINKEX, an exercise in which a decommissioned ship is towed to a designated location and then hit by live anti-ship missiles, gunfire, and torpedoes.
The Army fired a truck-mounted version of the Kongsberg NSM.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary D. Bell)
Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force has also been using truck-mounted, anti-ship missiles for a while. Their mainstay in this department is the Type 88, also known as the SSM-1. A slightly modified version of this missile is widely used by Japanese ships, called the Type 90.
The Type 88 has a range of just under 112 miles. The Type 90’s range is a little over 93 miles. The service is soon introducing the new Type 12 truck-launched missile, which will replace both the Type 88 and the Type 90 and has a range of 124 miles.
Japan’s latest truck-mounted anti-ship missile is the Type 12, with a range of 124 miles.
(Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force)
During RIMPAC 2018, these militaries tested their missiles on a decommissioned Newport-class tank-landing ship. Their target, the USS Racine (LST 1191), could carry 29 tanks and 400 troops, was 522 feet long, and displaced almost 8,800 tons. A total of 20 Newport-class ships were built, all of which served at least 20 years with the United States Navy.
Watch the U.S. Army and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force launch their missiles in the video below!
China’s military has been increasing the strength and number of its forces along its 880-mile border with North Korea as Pyongyang’s military provocations cause the US and its allies to think long and hard about military action against the rogue regime.
A report from The Wall Street Journal says that China has established a new border-defense brigade, implemented 24-hour video surveillance of the border, and constructed bunkers to protect from possible nuclear or chemical attacks.
China conducted a live-fire drill in June and July with helicopter gunships and armored infantry units, including a simulated battle with artillery, tanks, and helicopters, according to The Journal. The nature of these military exercises goes beyond securing a border, and they mimic fighting a nuclear-armed adversary.
While China and North Korea exist on paper as allies, Sim Tack, an expert on North Korea at Stratfor, a geopolitical-analysis firm, previously told Business Insider that China would not likely defend Pyongyang from a US-led attack and instead try to prevent or dissuade the US from taking such a step.
Still, a US-led attack on North Korea remains unlikely. South Korea’s new liberal government has sought to pursue engagement with its neighbor, and the US would ultimately need its support for such a campaign. From a purely military point of view, North Korea’s artillery and nuclear arms hold too many civilians in Seoul at risk.
In June, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis described possible conflict with North Korea as “a serious, a catastrophic war, especially for innocent people in some of our allied countries, to include Japan most likely.”
Even short of war, China now has reason to view North Korea as a liability.
In response to North Korea’s missile tests and military provocations, the US based its powerful THAAD missile-defense battery in South Korea, frightening Chinese military analysts who think the Thaad’s powerful radar could one day effectively neuter China’s ability to engage in a nuclear exchange with the US.
Beijing, which could play a role in handling a refugee crisis, should the North Korean regime collapse, has now assembled forces sufficient to shape the outcome of any conflict between the West and Pyongyang.
In 1963, the youngest B-52 was less than a year old. The ABC network soap opera “General Hospital” started airing. The nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher (SSN 593) sank in an accident.
One other thing happened: a young man from Emporia, Virginia, by the name of Frederick Grant enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
“I had stopped going to school. I was looking for excitement and the Marine Corps recruiter really impressed me. He told me I would be able to trust the Marines beside me, and he was right. I also joined to see the world,” Grant said during a Marine Corps interview. “When I first came in, I was a normal infantry guy and then I became a communicator.”
Grant would end up spending 38 years in the Marine Corps, eventually becoming first a warrant officer, then a commissioned officer. He retired on Sept. 1, 2001 as a lieutenant colonel. His service included at least one tour in Vietnam.
“It was a small-unit war full of patrolling. Most of the time, I was in pretty safe areas,” he said. “I’m reluctant to talk too much on it because there were so many that had it so much worse than I did. It was just very hard to describe.”
After retiring from the Marine Corps, Grant got a job running the Tactical Exercise Control Group, which handled the simulations for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa. He did so for 16 years, until his retirement in January.
“I never thought of it as a job. I never consider myself going to work,” he said. “Obviously there are dangerous times; there are exciting times; there are fun times, and I just feel very fortunate. The environment was great; it still is.”
He added that life as a civilian contractor was different than life as a Marine.
“I don’t have to do a Physical Fitness Test anymore although I’m always willing to work out with the Marines,” he said. “There isn’t much difference, and that’s because I choose it to be so. I could take the easy way out, but I don’t want to take that path.”
And after 54 years of service, what does Lt. Col. Grant intend to do?
“I’m going to relax. I mean, it has been 50 some years, so I’m going to golf or something. I’m a big runner, so I’ll run in the Southern California sunshine,” he said. “I guess the primary goal will be to reciprocate to my family all the support they’ve shown me throughout the years.”
Guam’s first line of defense from an incoming North Korean ballistic missile could very well be MQ-9 Reaper drones. This sounds very counter-intuitive, since ballistic missiles go very fast, and the normal cruising speed of the MQ-9 Reaper is 230 miles per hour.
But according to a report from DefenseOne.com, the secret was not in what the drones could shoot or drop, but instead in what the drones could see. In a June 2016 multi-lateral exercise involving Japan, the United States, and South Korea, two MQ-9 Reapers equipped with Raytheon Multi-Spectral Targeting System C were able to give Aegis ships armed with SM-3s more precise targeting data on the ballistic missile.
The Missile Defense Agency is hoping to reduce the number of drones needed by adding a targeting laser to the Reaper.
According to the Raytheon web site, the Multi-Spectral Targeting System, or MTS, is a combined electro-optical/infra-red system that also adds a laser designator. Various versions of the MTS have been used on platforms ranging from the C-130 Hercules cargo plane to the MQ-9 Reaper. The United States military has two general versions, the AN/AAS-52, or the MTS-A, and the AN/DAS-1, the MTS-B. The Air Force is also buying another Raytheon MTS system, designating it the AN/DAS-4.
One possibility to improve these airborne eyes could center around a jet-powered version of the Reaper called the Avenger. According to the General Atomics web site, the Avengr has a top speed of 400 nautical miles per hour, and can stay airborne for as many as 20 hours, depending on the version.
The Avenger could have the option of not just watching a launch, but maybe even hitting an enemy missile. According to a 2015 report from BreakingDefense.com, the Avenger could also carry the HELLADS, a high-energy laser system. Earlier this year, the Army tested a high-energy laser on the AH-64 Apache, combined with Raytheon’s MTS.
The 6th Marine Regiment color guard marches towards the parade field at Aisne-Marne American Memorial Cemetery in Belleau, France, May 29, 2016. The ceremony marks the 98th anniversary of the Battle of Belleau Wood and continues as a symbol of the everlasting brotherhood between the U.S. Marines and the French military. The cemetery, lined with epitaphs, marks hundreds of plots where military members from all around the world rest after giving the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Photo/Preston McDonald
I nearly died just days after arriving in Iraq. This was my first deployment and although I had never seen combat, I was a well-trained, physically fit, mentally prepared Marine. None of that mattered when a grenade landed near us. Luckily, we all walked away. That first patrol seemed like a blur at the time but years later the memory is still scarred into my brain, like a small burn on a child’s hand. It’s not about what happened that day but the reminder of what could have.
That reminder came just days after I returned home. One of my fellow Marines, a friend, was killed by a sniper’s bullet, then, another fell from a roof and died, and yet another lost his legs in an IED attack. I had survived months without a scratch but my friends who were just as well-trained were killed and injured within a week. My brain couldn’t understand the logic of what happened … because there is no logic in war.
You don’t get to pick where the bullet goes, you just have to face it. Since the founding of the United States, thousands of men and women have stared down our enemies. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice and are still buried on the battlefields where they said their last words.
Sunrise in Section 35 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 25, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser/ Arlington National Cemetery / released)
Today, the living reminder of the fallen remains in places like Gettysburg, Arlington National Cemetery and Aisne-Marne, France. Over 100 years before I stepped foot into Iraq, thousands of Marines patrolled the forests of Belleau Wood. They were all that stood to protect Paris, and the war effort, from a German assault. Outnumbered, isolated and low on ammunition, they fought and held the line. Their tenacity in battle earned them the name “Teufel Hunden” or “Devil Dogs” by the Germans. This is a name that Marines proudly still use today.
In battle, words matter. “Covering fire” has a completely different meaning than “take cover.” “Fix” is different from “flank” and so on. In peace, words matter even more. When we think of war in terms of winning and losing, we not only do ourselves the disservice of simplifying the chaos of battle but we negate the reminder that the fallen give us.
A Sailor assigned to Special Operations Task Force West folds an American flag during a memorial marking the anniversary of the death of Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Trahan, an explosive ordnance disposal technician. Trahan was killed in action April 30, 2009 in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. U.S. Navy photo/Aaron Burden
While war may have a clear victor, there are no winners on the battlefield. The gravestones, memorials and scars – both physical and invisible – that veterans carry are the reminders of that.
We are the land of the free because of the brave. Countless men and women have raised their hand to serve our country with nothing expected in return. As it’s said, “All gave some, some gave all.” The very least we can give those who paid the ultimate price is to honor their memory, acknowledge their unyielding patriotism and cherish their last great act with awe and humility, for they willingly gave their lives in service of our great nation.
Despite spending the past 20 years focused on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East, the US military still outmatches its Chinese and Russian competitors. The US is the only country that can effectively respond to a military contingency anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.
Understanding that they are conventionally overpowered, China and Russia have been using irregular warfare to achieve their goals without matching the US military’s might. And they have been quite successful.
In Africa, China has been handing out development aid and infrastructure loans like candy, with the dual purpose of securing geopolitical influence and resources for its growing economy. In Asia, Beijing has been bullying its neighbors on its way toward regional supremacy.
Russia has used social media to influence election outcomes in the US and Europe. Moscow has also been using private military companies, such as the infamous Wagner Group, to achieve strategic goals in Ukraine, Libya, and Syria, among other places.
Both countries understand that in an era of renewed great-power competition — a race between the US and Russia and China for geopolitical influence, economic advantages, and resources — irregular warfare is the ideal strategy against the US.
Now the US Department of Defense is trying to counter that threat by investing in and expanding its own irregular-warfare capabilities.
The Pentagon heralded this shift with its recent decisions to turn the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office into the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate and to release the irregular-warfare annex to the National Defense Strategy.
The creation of the directorate was included in a November memorandum signed by acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, which elevated the Pentagon’s civilian official overseeing special operations to the same level as a military service chief. The annex was released in October.
Struggle in the gray zone
The US military defines irregular warfare as a “violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s).”
Irregular warfare doesn’t necessarily mean open warfare, but it can take place in the gray zone between competition that’s below the level of armed conflict and a war that’s formally declared. It can affect all traditional and non-traditional realms of geopolitical struggle, such as the economic, diplomatic, military, intelligence, law enforcement, and cyber domains.
The difference between irregular warfare and counterterrorism is that the former is a strategy that aims to defend US global supremacy against state and non-actors, whereas the latter is a mix of activities and operations against terrorist groups and state-sponsored terrorism.
Same game, different name
Irregular warfare isn’t new to the US military. Indeed, the US campaign against terrorist organizations over the last two decades has included elements of it. But now, the irregular warfare “target deck” has been officially updated to include near-peer adversaries, such as Russia and China.
Irregular warfare against a near-peer adversary isn’t new either, but now the Pentagon recognizes that the strategy’s utility isn’t seasonal but enduring. Previously, the US would use irregular warfare against an adversary, such as the Soviets in Afghanistan, but would then let the capability and resources dedicated to it atrophy.
The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) already has potent irregular-warfare capabilities. Army special operations, in particular, take the lead on that front.
The Army’s Green Berets specialize in foreign internal defense, which means training local troops, and in unconventional warfare, which consists of creating and leading guerrilla campaigns. Both are squarely within the gray zone of irregular warfare.
Additionally, the Army’s Civil Affairs teams help create the necessary civil and political conditions for US diplomacy and political influence to be more effective. The Army’s Psychological Operations teams also help shape the geopolitical environment to favor the US.
Other special-operations units, such as the Marine Raiders or Navy SEALs, can contribute to an irregular-warfare campaign but perhaps not as effectively as their Army counterparts.
But to ensure a robust and effective irregular-warfare capability, US military has to understand and embrace it as a whole.
The conventional side of irregular warfare
Policymakers have relied on special-operations forces for almost everything for years, but conventional forces also play a big role in irregular warfare.
For example, if a US aircraft carrier cruises through the South China Sea, it sends a message to China by physically contradicting Beijing’s territorial claims in the disputed region.
Similarly, when an Army mechanized brigade deploys in Eastern Europe and trains with local forces, it sends a dual message: A psychological one to the US partners and allies about American commitment in the region, and a geopolitical one to Russia, illustrating the US’s reach and influence.
Ironically, it is the conventional might of the US military that encourages adversaries to invest more in their own ability to wage irregular warfare.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traveled on his personal armored train to China to spend his birthday with President Xi Jinping.
Kim arrived in Beijing on Jan 8, 2019, which is his 35th birthday.
North Korean state media aired footage of Kim walking along a long red carpet to board his family’s train, which is is bulletproof, and has white conference rooms and pink leather chairs.
He waved to the dozens of government officials and army officers who had lined up to send him off.
He was accompanied by his wife, former singer Ri Sol Ju, and at least eight other officials.
Watch clips of his departure below, as published by BBC Monitoring:
CNN reporter Matt Rivers on Jan. 8, 2019, also published video of Kim’s motorcade — at least four black cars and at least 16 motorbikes — traveling along Chang’An Avenue, a busy boulevard in central Beijing that appeared to have been cleared for Kim’s visit.
Kim and Xi are due to meet on Jan. 8, Jan. 9, and Jan. 10, 2019, Rivers said.
Kim’s trip to China — his fourth in less than a year — comes amid rumors of a second summit with US President Donald Trump.
China is North Korea’s most important trading partner, and a buffer against pressure from the US.
Trump said In early January 2019 that he is “negotiating a location” for his next meeting with Kim. White House officials have been considering Bangkok, Hanoi, and Hawaii, according to CNN.
Trump and Kim last met in Singapore in June 2018, where they agreed to work toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. However, they did not mention a timeline or provide further details on how they would work toward it.
There has also been little real progress in terms of nuclear disarmament, which is the stated aim of US engagement with North Korea.
The US wants North Korea to provide detailed accounts of its nuclear arsenal, while Pyongyang says it has done enough and now wants Washington to ease economic sanctions.
The US president said in early January 2019 that his administration has “a very good dialogue” with its North Korean counterparts, but said that sanctions will remain until they see “very positive” results.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law that can jail citizens for insulting government officials — including him.
People who show “blatant disrespect” for the state, the government, the Russian flag, or the constitution can be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($1,550) under the new law, which Putin signed on March 18, 2019, Reuters reported.
Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 days under the new law.
Punishments became more severe as the bill moved through Russia’s government. Earlier drafts of the law had proposed fining people 1,000 or 5,000 rubles, a fraction of the final figure.
Putin also signed that a law that mandates fine for people who spread what authorities deem to be “fake news.”
People can be fined up to 400,000 rubles (,100) for spreading false information online that leads to a “mass violation of public order.”
Authorities can also block websites that do not remove information which the state says is not accurate, according to Reuters.
Russian lawmakers say the law is necessary to fight fake news reports and abusive online comments, Reuters reported.
But critics say the law amounts to state censorship.
Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin.
British human rights organization Article 19, which focuses on issues of freedom of expression, said: “Allowing public officials to decide what counts as truth is tantamount to accepting that the forces in power have a right to silence views they don’t agree with, or beliefs they don’t hold.”
Sarah Clarke, the group’s head of Europe and central Asia, said before Putin signed the bill that it will be “another tool of repression to stifle public interest reporting on government misconduct and the expression of critical opinions, including the speech of the political opposition.”
Ilya Yashin, an opposition politician, told Reuters in January 2019, before the bills were signed, that these are both “crazy laws.”
“These are crazy bills. How can they prohibit people from criticising the authorities?” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump signed a landmark bill on June 6, 2018, to replace the troubled Veterans Choice Program and expand private health care options amid a fight between the White House and Congress over how to pay for it.
The bill, the VA Mission Act, would also expand caregivers assistance to the families of disabled veterans and order an inventory of the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ more than 1,100 facilities with a long-term view to trimming excess.
“This is a very big day,” said Trump, who made veterans care one of the signature issues of his run for the White House. “All during the campaign, I’d say, ‘Why can’t they just go out and see a doctor instead of standing on line?’
“This is truly a historic moment, a historic time for our country,” he continued, before signing the bill at a White House Rose Garden ceremony. “We’re allowing our veterans to get access to the best medical care available, whether it’s at the VA or at a private provider.”
In his remarks, Trump did not mention that funds to pay for the bill have yet to be identified, or that the White House and Congress are at odds on funding mechanisms. The bill’s projected costs over five years are also in dispute.
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a key sponsor of the bill, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the committee, put the total costs at $55 billion, although other estimates have it at $52 billion.
Isakson acknowledged that the bill isn’t paid for but said he is working with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to add funding for the bill that would likely balloon the deficit. The White House has argued for funding the bill by cutting other programs.
A White House memo obtained by The Washington Post said that simply adding funding is “anathema to responsible spending” and would lead to “virtually unlimited increases” in spending on private health care for veterans.
Shelby said on June 5, 2018, that going along with the White House would result in cuts of $10 billion a year to existing programs, including some at the VA.
“If we don’t get on it, we’re going to have a hole of $10 billion in our [appropriations],” said Shelby, who predicted “some real trouble” in reaching agreement, according to a Washington Post report.
Critics of the bill have warned that over-reliance on private-care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, but Trump said, “If the VA can’t meet the needs of the veteran in a timely manner, that veteran will have the right to go right outside to a private doctor. It’s so simple and yet so complicated.”
In his remarks at the ceremony of less than 20 minutes, Trump also noted that it was the 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy when U.S. troops “stormed into hell.”
“They put everything on the line for us,” he said and, like all veterans, “when they come home, we must do everything that we can possibly do for them, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The issue of funding has plagued the existing Veterans Choice Program since it was enacted in response to the wait-times scandals of 2014 in which VA officials were caught doctoring records to show better performance.
The Choice program allowed veterans who lived more than 40 miles from a VA facility or had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment to have access to private care, but the program was time limited and Congress has struggled to come up with money for extensions.
The program was again due to run out of funding May 31, 2018, but the VA said there was enough money remaining to keep it in operation until Trump signed the VA Mission Act.
The new bill called for $5.2 billion in funding to keep the existing Choice program in operation for a year while the VA worked through reforms to consolidate the seven private-care options into one system while eliminating the 30-day, 40-mile restrictions.
The GAO said veterans could wait up to 70 days for private-care appointments under the Choice program because of poor communication between the VA and its facilities and “an insufficient number, mix, or geographic distribution of community providers.”
Trump touts ridding VA of corruption, poor performers
Ahead of the signing ceremony, the White House put out a statement citing Trump’s accomplishments in his first 500 days in office. Veterans programs topped the list.
Trump “worked with Congress to forge an overwhelming bipartisan vote of support” for the VA Mission Act, the statement said. The vote in the House was 347-70; the Senate vote was 92-5.
The VA Mission Act and other veterans legislation will “bring more accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs and provide our veterans with more choice in the care they receive,” the White House statement said.
In his remarks, Trump hailed passage of the VA Accountability Act, which is aimed at getting rid of poor performers, and lashed out at civil service unions for opposing reform.
“Four years ago, our entire nation was shocked and outraged by stories of the VA system plagued by neglect, abuse, fraud and mistreatment of our veterans,” he said in a reference to the wait-times scandals.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
“And there was nothing they could do about it. Good people that worked there, they couldn’t take care of the bad people — meaning ‘You’re fired, get the hell out of here,’ ” Trump said.
More accountability “made so much sense but it was hard,” he said. “You have civil service, you have unions. Of course, they’d never do anything to stop anything, but they had a very great deal of power.
“So we passed something that hasn’t been that recognized, and yet I would put it almost in the class with Choice. Almost in the class with Choice. VA Accountability — passed. And now, if people don’t do a great job, they can’t work with our vets anymore. They’re gone,” Trump said.
The VA has more than 360,000 employees serving the health care needs of about nine million veterans annually. Most of them are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, which opposed the VA Mission Act.
The AFGE said that the act amounts to “opening the door to privatization of the country’s largest health care system.”
The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) also initially feared privatization but came round to backing the VA Mission Act as a catalyst for improving care while preserving the VA’s role as the main provider of health care.
In a statement after the signing ceremony, Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said, “The VFW and other veterans service organizations worked closely with Congress and the White House to help create a carefully negotiated bipartisan deal with the fingerprints of veterans who rely on the VA all over it.”
Bill also addresses caregivers, excess VA facilities
In addition to expanding private-care options, the bill would also address long-time concerns of the VSOs on the restrictions in the current program to provide small stipends to family members who care for severely disabled veterans.
The program has been limited to post-9/11 veterans, but the bill was aimed at expanding caregivers assistance over two years to veterans of all eras.
Advocates had argued that caregivers assistance saves the VA money by allowing disabled veterans to remain at home rather than relying on more expensive in-patient treatment.
“The more veterans and their caregivers who are eligible for support, the closer we are to fulfilling our promise to care for those who’ve sacrificed so much on our behalf,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, a chief sponsor, said in a statement.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that more than 41,000 caregivers could be added to the rolls under the new bill over the next five years at a cost of nearly $7 billion.
In reference to the caregivers section of the bill, Trump said, “If you wore that uniform, if at some point you work that uniform, you deserve the absolute best and that’s what we’re doing.”
In a statement, Delphine Metcalf-Foster, national commander of the Disabled American Veterans and herself a former caregiver to her late husband, said in a statement:
“This new law will not only extend support to thousands more deserving family caregivers that severely injured veterans rely on, but also make a number of reforms and improvements to strengthen the VA health care system and improve veterans’ access to care.”
The bill also ordered up a VA asset review in which the president would set up a nine-member Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, with representatives from VSOs, the health care industry, and federal facility managers.
Opponents have likened the commission to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) at the Pentagon on the hot-button issue of base closings.
The panel would meet in 2022 and 2023 to issue recommendations on “the modernization or realignment of Veterans Health Administration facilities.”
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Carlos Fuentes, the VFW’s National Legislative Services director, said comparing AIR to BRAC is misleading.
“Under BRAC, DoD moves its assets, including service members and their families. VA can’t force veterans to move,” Fuentes said.
At a panel discussion last month in the House, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that the average age of a building at the VA is more than 50 years.
He said the VA has more than 6,000 buildings in its inventory, and about 1,100 “are not even utilized. So we’re paying millions of dollars to keep up empty buildings — makes no sense.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.