Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

Purple Heart recipients will soon take priority in the queue for Department of Veterans Affairs claims adjudication, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announced Feb. 26, 2019.

In a hearing before the House Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee, Wilkie said veterans who have earned the Purple Heart will be placed “at the front of the line when it comes to claims before the department.”


According to Wilkie, the change is in “recognition of wounds taken in battle.”

He didn’t provide details on how the change will be implemented but said it is among the many improvements the department is making as part of the claims and appeals modernization effort.

The VA launched a new process for handling compensation claims appeals Feb. 19, 2019, with a goal of reducing the wait time for a final decision from three to seven years to roughly four months.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The new process, created under the Appeals Modernization Act, gives veterans three choices for appealing their claim, including providing new evidence to the original reviewer; having a more senior adjudicator review the decision; and appealing to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Wilkie described the change as part of a 21st-century transformation at the department.

The VA appeals backlog, which will be handled by the legacy system of appealing decisions to the board, stands at roughly 402,000 cases.

The new system will not only be used for disability compensation claims decisions, it will tackle decisions on education and insurance applications, vocational rehabilitation, caregiver benefits and claims with the National Cemetery Administration, according to the VA.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Mighty Moments

Watch this Marine get pinned by his 3-year-old son

Being promoted within the US military’s noncommissioned officer rank is a special occasion in a service member’s career, after which they are entrusted by their commanders to lead junior enlisted service members and are assigned more responsibilities.


One Marine marked the special occasion with what appeared to be his 3-year-old son.

Also read: 80 famous military brats

In a video posted online last year, a newly minted Marine sergeant marches to the front of a formation for his promotion ceremony, standing at attention as a senior Marine reads out a commander’s order outlining his new responsibilities.

“As a sergeant of Marines, you must set the example for others to emulate,” the senior Marine says. “You are responsible for the accomplishment of your assigned mission, and for the safety, professional development, and well-being of the Marines of your charge.”

After the order was read out, a child approaches the formation and says, quietly, “good afternoon, gentlemen,” before the promoted Marine kneels so the child can remove his chevrons and pin on the emblems of his new rank.

The two share an embrace before the son scurries away.

Watch the clip:

 

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

U.S. watchdog warns of pending coronavirus disaster in Afghanistan

A watchdog report to the U.S. Congress has warned that Afghanistan is likely to face a health disaster in the coming months brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The April 30 report by the U.S. Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has heightened concerns that the pandemic could derail stalled peace efforts brokered by the United States.


The spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has significantly impacted Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan’s numerous and, in some cases, unique vulnerabilities — a weak health-care system, widespread malnutrition, porous borders, massive internal displacement, contiguity with Iran, and ongoing conflict — make it likely the country will confront a health disaster in the coming months,” the report concludes.

The pandemic has forced the closure of border crossings, disrupting commercial and humanitarian deliveries.

SIGAR, which monitors billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan by the United States, warns that rising food prices are likely to worsen as the crisis continues.

Afghanistan has confirmed nearly 2,200 coronavirus cases and 64 deaths, according to local news reports quoting the Afghan Health Ministry.

Taliban militants fighting U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan signed a deal with Washington in February — raising hopes that formal peace talks between the militants and Afghanistan’s central government could start soon.

The Taliban committed to severing ties with terrorists and preventing terrorists from using territory under its control to launch attacks against the United States or its allies, including the Afghan government.

In exchange for those guarantees, the United States agreed to withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by July 2021.

Since signing the deal, Taliban militants have escalated attacks on Afghan security forces.

Last week, the Taliban rejected a proposal by the Afghan government for a cease-fire during the holy month of Ramadan.

The latest SIGAR report said the international coalition has declined to make data available for public release about the number of Taliban attacks launched during the first three months of 2020.

It was the first time publication of the data has been held back since 2018 when SIGAR began using the information to track levels and locations of violence, the report said.

SIGAR said the coalition justified holding back the information because it is now part of internal U.S. government deliberations on negotiations with the Taliban.

Peace talks are supposed to begin after the Afghan government releases some 5,000 Taliban prisoners from custody.

In return, the Taliban also is supposed to release about 1,000 Afghan troops and civilian government employees it is holding.

As of April 27, the Afghan government had freed nearly 500 Taliban prisoners, while the militant group had released about 60 of its captives.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

CIA director doesn’t trust Taliban during peace talks

In a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Jan. 29, 2019, CIA Director Gina Haspel was asked point blank if she trusts the Taliban to uphold promises they made to work with the Afghan government and never allow the country to again be a safe haven for terrorists.

“If there were an eventual peace agreement, a very robust monitoring regime would be critical,” she responded. “We would still need the capability to act in our national interest if we needed to.”


The peace talks, which began Jan. 21, 2019, are focused on settling the terms for a complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has said that significant progress has been made during the negotiations, according to the Associated Press.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

Zalmay Khalilzad.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

On Jan. 30, 2019, the Taliban said in a recorded statement to AP that it had no intentions of creating a monopoly on Afghan institutions.

“After the end of the occupation, Afghans should forget their past and tolerate one another and start life like brothers,” Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman said in the statement.

Other major concessions to the US include promises that the group would not allow terrorist groups to plan attacks from Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But Haspel’s comments Jan. 29, 2019, reflect a troubling concern that a complete withdrawal of the 22,000 troops in the US-led coalition will allow the Taliban to regain control — a concern shared by former US ambassador Ryan Crocker.

“You will simply see the Taliban move in and retake the country,” Crocker told Foreign Policy. Even as the peace talks began, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a devastating attack against Afghan forces, giving credence to the concerns over the group’s sincerity.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Marines sailed through the Strait of Hormuz ready for an Iran fight

US Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer recently sailed through the Strait of Hormuz with an armored vehicle strapped to the flight deck, ready to fight off drones and Iranian gunboats.

A light armored vehicle belonging to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit can be seen on the flight deck as an AH-1Z Viper lifts off in a recently released Marine Corps photo, NPR’s Phil Ewing first noted.

The Marine Corps LAV-25 has a high-end targeting system that directs its 25 mm chain guns and M240 7.62 mm machine gun. The Boxer is armed with counter-air missiles, as well as various close-in weapon systems, among other weapons. The Vipers carry two air-to-air missiles, rocket pods, a handful of air-to-surface missiles, and a 20 mm Gatling cannon.


The Marine Corps began experimenting last year with strapping LAVs to the decks of the amphibs — flattops capable of carrying helicopters and vertical take-off and landing jets, as well as transporting Marines — to make the ships more lethal.

In September 2018, the 31st MEU embarked aboard the USS Wasp, another amphibious assault ship, for an exercise in the South China Sea with a LAV parked on the flight deck, training to fend off the types of threats Marines might face in hostile waterways.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

The AH-1Z Viper taking off from the Boxer.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dalton S. Swanbeck)

“This was the first time,” Capt. George McArthur, a 31st MEU spokesman, told Military Times, “that an LAV-25 platoon with the 31st MEU performed this level of integrated targeting and live-fire from the flight deck of a ship such as the Wasp with combined arms.”

He added: “Weapons Company assets improved the integrated defensive posture aboard the Wasp.”

The Boxer was harassed by Iranian unmanned aerial assets in the Strait of Hormuz in July 2019, and the US says the warship downed one, if not two, of the drones with a new electronic jamming system. Another potential threat in this region is Iranian gunboats, which have targeted commercial shipping in recent months.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

Marines with Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, on a Light Armored Vehicle atop the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. E. V. Hagewood)

Commenting on why the Marines experimented with using armored vehicles on the flight decks of the amphibs, Marine Maj. Gen. David Coffman, the director of expeditionary warfare for the chief of naval operations, said in November 2019 that he “watched a MEU commander strap an LAV to the front of a flight deck because it had better sensors than the ship did to find small boats.”

That the Boxer was sailing through the Strait of Hormuz with an LAV out on the flight deck suggests that the ship was ready for a confrontation.

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

Articles

These Brits debunk the deadly M1 Garand ‘ping’ myth

The beloved M1 Garand Rifle carried the deadly end of American foreign policy from U.S. shores into Europe and the Pacific in World War II and into the forests of Korea the following decade.


But the iconic rifle is typically discussed alongside its “fatal flaw” — it emitted a distinctive ping when the clip, usually an eight-round strip, was ejected with the final cartridge it held. As the theory goes, that ping told the enemy that a rifle was empty, giving them a chance to leap up and kill the now defenseless American.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines
Military legend R. Lee Ermey discusses the M1 Garand. (Photo: YouTube)

But as YouTuber “Bloke on the Range” shows in the video below, it’s actually very unlikely that the enemy would gain any real advantage from the M1 Garand’s sound.

And many veterans of World War II interviewed after the wars said they actually preferred to have the sound as a useful reminder to reload.

To get a grip on the controversy, imagine being a young G.I. in combat in World War II. You’re moving up on a suspected Japanese position with a fully loaded M1 Garand. You catch a bit of movement and realize the small mounds on the ground in front of you are actually enemy helmets poking up from a trench.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines
U.S. Army troops fighting in the streets of Seoul, Korea. Sept. 20, 1950. (Photo: Public Domain)

You drop into a good firing position and start throwing rounds down range. With seven shots, you kill one and wound another. Your eighth shot reinforces the man’s headache, but it also causes the ping, telling the attentive third Japanese soldier that you’re completely out of ammo.

The theory states that that’s when the third soldier jumps up and kills you. But there are a couple issues with the theory.

First, in the chaos of combat, it would be uncommon for an enemy to hear the clip ejecting over the sound of the fight. Second, soldiers typically fight as a group, so the G.I. in the hypothetical should actually have five to nine other soldiers with him, and it’s unlikely that more than one or two of them would be out of ammo at the same time.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines
Pictured: A bunch of Marines on Iwo Jima not fighting on their own. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

Third, as the Bloke demonstrates, it doesn’t take long for the shooter to reload, putting them back in the fight and ready to kill any enemy soldiers running to take advantage of the ammo gap.

ArmamentResearch.com found a 1952 Technical Memorandum where researchers asked veterans who carried the rifle what they thought of the ping. Out of 315 responders, 85 thought that the ping was helpful to the enemy, but a whopping 187 thought it was more useful to the shooter by acting as a useful signal to reload.

An article by a Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles D. Petrie after he reportedly spoke to German veterans of D-Day who found the idea of attacking after a ping laughable. They reported that, in most engagements, they couldn’t hear the ping at all, and the rest of the time they were too aware of the rest of the American squad to try to take advantage of it.

See the full video from Bloke on the Range Below:

YouTube, Bloke on the Range

MIGHTY SPORTS

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

Terry Hunt, a blind veteran who receives health care at the Kernersville VA Health Care Center (HCC), mentioned several years ago that he wished he could participate in water sports.

Around the same time, Terri Everett, a Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist at the HCC, became a chapter coordinator for the national kayaking organization Team River Runner.

Team River Runner helps veterans and their families find health, healing, community purpose, and new challenges through adventure and adaptive paddle sports. It is funded through VA grants.


All Hunt needed to say was, “Let’s get on the water!” and Everett was ready to go. Shortly after they connected, Hunt began regular kayaking with the Triad Chapter of Team River Runner. He has been doing so for the past five years. Everett or other volunteers guide him on the water.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

(Photo by Nil Castellví)

Guides use voice commands and music

Guides use several methods to help blind people kayak, including voice commands, music and tethering, if necessary.

Hunt purchased his own kayak last year. He also participated in the 2018 High Rock Lake Dragon Boat Race, where he placed first in one of the races. He will compete in the Dragon Boat Race again this year as one of the lead rowers.

Everett has worked in blind rehabilitation for 38 years. She has participated in adaptive sports for disabled veterans for most of that time. She is a certified, level 2 American Canoe Association kayak instructor with adaptive endorsement.

Hunt has been kayaking for five years and loves every minute of it.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

(Photo by Murat Bahar)

New remote guiding system with sensors in vests

This past summer, Team River Runner and Hunt took kayaking to a new level for visually impaired and blind kayakers. They used a new, remote guiding system, developed and engineered by Team River Runner Chapter Coordinator Jim Riley.

The veteran wears a vest with sensors and Everett uses a paddle with a switch, guiding him based on where he feels the sensors. The vibrating sensation of sensors on his sides, chest and back let him know where he needs to concentrate effort.

It was an incredible success. On that day, they paddled four miles, in and out of coves, under bridges, in and around piers and then back to the dock. The guiding system will be featured at the VA Summer sports clinic in San Diego in September.

Reflecting on his experience, Hunt jubilantly declared, “This life vest, having pulsating areas at the right, left, front and back, to let the visual impaired person know which way you want them to go, was awesome!”

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

(Photo by McKayla Crump)

“How awesome to feel independent!”

“This is incredible because it gave me a sense of greater independence,” Hunt said. He continued, “I feel this life vest is a breakthrough for help in enjoying the kayak trip for the visual impaired person.

“How awesome to feel independent on this day! I think this not only shows Team River Runners’ commitment to visual impaired persons, but also shows VA’s willingness to help our visual impaired community in ways not just connected to health care.

“It is a great feeling to do things you never thought you would ever do again.”

Hunt will continue his kayaking adventures with Team River Runner and beyond. He will attend the VA Summer Sports Clinic in September 2020. There, he will have the opportunity to kayak, sail, ride a tandem bike and participate in other activities. Kudos to Mr. Hunt for the positive example he is setting for other disabled veterans!

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military families call for the right to withhold rent in privatized housing disputes

Army Col. Scott Gerber said he had to pay out-of-pocket for an independent inspector to verify mold infestation and water damage in his home in an effort to get the attention of the private company running base housing at Fort Meade, Maryland.


Military spouse Linda Gherdovich said she had similar problems with mold at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.

“The only reason we knew [it was there] was because our kids were getting sick,” she said.

Gherdovich said she had to pay ,700 to an outside inspector to verify her claims, and she’s still fighting to get reimbursement.

In testimony Tuesday before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Gerber and Gherdovich echoed the demands of other military families for an expansion of the recently approved Tenant Bill of Rights to let them withhold rent in disputes over repairs and maintenance of privatized military housing.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

And in a following panel the same day, representatives from four military housing companies said that they supported giving that right to military families.

They also expressed varying levels of regret for the military housing problems that have been detailed in numerous reports and hearings, including mold and pest infestation, poor performance on fulfilling work orders, and negligence in responding to tenants’ complaints.

In his prepared statement, Richard Taylor, president of Balfour Beatty Communities, said, “I would like to begin by saying that we sincerely apologize for having fallen short of the high standards our nation’s military families deserve.

“We fully accept that we must make improvements, and we are determined to regain the trust and confidence of our residents and our military partners,” he added.

On Feb. 25, the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the secretaries of the service branches had signed the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights, which was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

There were 15 provisions in the bill, including “the right to a written lease with clearly defined rental terms” and “the right to reside in a housing unit and a community that meets applicable health and environmental standards.”

The Pentagon’s announcement acknowledged that three rights were missing from the list — access for tenants to a maintenance history of their units, a detailed process for dispute resolution, and the withholding of rent until disputes are resolved.

The military will work with the private companies and Congress to get those three provisions added to the list, the Pentagon said at the time.

At the hearing, Gerber said the right to withhold rent is vital to leveling the playing field with the private companies.

He said he and his wife, Sandy, “lived through two mold-infested homes,” adding “our situation wasn’t unique.”

Military families need “the ability to hold that contractor accountable. We need an easy mechanism to stop that [Basic Allowance for Housing]” from going to the private companies during disputes, Gerber said.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

In a separate panel at the hearing, representatives of four companies managing private housing on military bases said they are in favor of adding the ability to withhold rent and the other two missing provisions to the Tenant Bill of Rights.

Denis Hickey, chief executive officer of Lendlease Americas, said under questioning, “We realize we can and must do more” to improve conditions.

“Obviously, some of our families feel our company has come up short,” said Jeff Guild, vice president of Lincoln Military Housing. The company is resolved to “repairing a culture of trust with our residents,” he added.

Heath Burleson, a senior vice president at Corvias Group, said the company had gotten away in the past from the “basic blocking and tackling” needed to keep homes in good repair. “I believe we’re on the right path, but we’re not done,” he said.

After listening to the company representatives, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, the subcommittee’s chair, said, “all of your testimony is very nice now, [but] the system was set up as a gravy train for your companies.” There’s no accountability to military families, she added.

“It is outrageous,” she said.

The military contributed to the failures of the system through inattention and poor oversight of the performance of the private companies involved in military housing, said Pete Potochney, the acting assistant secretary of defense for sustainment.

“The fact that we’re having this hearing and others like it is saddening,” Potchney said. “We simply took our eye off the ball” over the years in oversight of military housing.

“We sure as hell didn’t do a great job,” he added.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

You have to hear Muhammed Ali’s take on North Korea

Dennis Rodman wasn’t the first professional athlete to visit North Korea. He probably won’t be the last either. In 1995, Japanese pro wrestler – as in, WWE-level sports entertainment pro wrestler – invited fellow wrestling superstar Ric Flair and boxing legend Muhammed Ali to visit the Hermit Kingdom with him on a goodwill tour.

It didn’t take long for “The Louisville Lip” to speak his mind, even in the middle of the most repressive country on Earth.


Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

This is what happens when you get on the wrong side of Muhammed Ali.

Ali was never one to keep his thoughts to himself – and he always accepted the consequences. In 1967, he was stripped of his title, sentenced to five years in prison, and fined ,000 for not obeying his call to be drafted saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.”

While Ali did not end up going to prison, his stance left him nearly broke and destitute, exiled from boxing for years. The experience didn’t curb his mouth one bit. He has always put his money where his mouth is, even when his voice was ravaged by Parkinson’s Disease.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

But even a debilitating degenerative disease couldn’t stop him from lighting the Olympic torch in 1996.

So when The People’s Champion was invited to visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 1995, it should have been a surprise to no one that he would still speak his mind. Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki invited Ali and fellow wrestler Ric Flair on a goodwill tour of the country in 1995. The group was part of the DPRK’s International Sports and Cultural Festival for Peace. Also coming with the group was Rick and Scott Steiner, Road Warrior Hawk, Scott Norton, Too Cold Scorpio, Sonny Onoo, Eric Bischoff, and Canadian Chris Benoit.

Flair and Inoki would headline two main events from Pyongyang’s May Day Stadium in front of more than 150,000 North Koreans. Muhammed Ali was just a wrestling fan. But when they arrived in the North Korean capital, things immediately got weird for the athletes.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

Inoki, Flair, and Ali in Pyongyang 1995.

Their passports were confiscated, and they were assigned a “cultural attache” who followed their every movement and marked their every word. They were not left alone, even for a moment, even as they discussed the show they would put on later that night. One night, the group was sitting at a large table eating dinner with North Korean bigwigs, when one of the officials began some big talk about how North Korea could take out Japan and/or the United States whenever they wanted.

In his biography Ric Flair described Ali speaking up, his voice clear and loud as if his Parkinson’s Disease didn’t exist, saying:

“No wonder we hate these motherf*ckers.”
Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

Antonio Inoki and Muhammed Ali in Pyongyang for the 1995 International Sports and Cultural Festival for Peace.

When they were ready to go, Ric Flair was asked to say a few words about how great North Korea is and how much the United States paled in comparison. Flair demurred, instead thanking the North Koreans for their hospitality and complimenting them on their capital city.

Muhammed Ali was not asked to say anything before leaving.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis applauds NATO’s latest moves to protect allied countries

NATO defense ministers agreed to continue projecting stability beyond its borders and will continue to build capabilities within the alliance, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said in Brussels Feb. 15, 2018.


“In a world awash in change, NATO stands firm as an island of stability in a turbulent sea,” Mattis said during a news conference at the conclusion of the meeting.

Projecting stability requires the alliance’s political stance to be backed by military forces that are fit to fight, the secretary said. This will reduce the chance of miscalculation by any adversary.

(Department of Defense | YouTube)

Adapting to changing times

NATO, he added, must continue to adapt to the changing times and changing capabilities of any adversaries.

Also read: How Mattis is the stabilizing force of the Trump White House

During the ministerial, the defense leaders discussed the recently published U.S. Nuclear Posture Review. Mattis said that many allies had been consulted on the study.

“The review was very well received across the alliance.” the secretary said. “The U.S. approach to nuclear deterrence embraces two co-equal principles: First, ensuring a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, and second, working wherever possible for nuclear non-proliferation and arms control.”

Mattis was pleased on discussions about burden-sharing in the alliance. He noted that alliance nations have increased defense spending and are working on improving “the culture of readiness.” This will provide ready forces that will be responsive to NATO’s political direction.

Related: Mattis calls North Korea a ‘threat to the entire world’

The alliance must make political decisions faster, adapt the command structure, and accelerate military mobility in conjunction with the European Union, the secretary said.

NATO spending increases

A total of eight NATO nations will meet the target of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense and 15 nations will hit that mark by 2024. Mattis noted that France is forecasting hitting that level in 2025.

(Department of Defense | YouTube)

 

“Year-on-year across the alliance, 2017 saw the largest growth … as a percentage of GDP, and the largest real growth in a quarter century,” he said. This has added $46 billion to defense across the alliance.

NATO is a member of the global coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and defense ministers agreed to remain committed to the immediate and longer-term missions in Iraq.

“NATO will sustain its investment in Iraq to project stability into the geopolitical heart of the Middle East,” Mattis said. “America supports NATO’s initiative for a NATO training mission in Iraq.”

NATO is also a stalwart part of the mission to Afghanistan and the ministers committed to filling critical shortfalls in the staffs.

More Mattis: 4 ways to actually impress Secretary Mattis

“It is the collective dedication of the 29 nations, and working together creates the collective strength as we fight the threats from the east and the south to defend our values,” he said. “There is much that needs to be done, but NATO is on the right trajectory.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s looking more like Kim Jong-un’s half brother was done in by VX

A government chemist testified Oct. 5 he found traces of the banned VX nerve agent on two women being tried in Malaysia on charges of murdering the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader.


The testimony was the first evidence linking VX to Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, who are accused of smearing the nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a brazen assassination inside a crowded airport terminal inKuala Lumpur on Feb. 13.

Raja Subramaniam, who heads the government’s Center of Chemical Weapon Analysis, said he found VX in its pure form and VX precursors on Huong’s white jumper and found a degraded product of VX on Huong’s fingernails.

Huong was seen on airport surveillance videos wearing a white jumper emblazoned with the big black letters “LOL,” the acronym for “laughing out loud.”

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines
Screengrab from Malaysia’s The Star Online.

The chemist, who is the only Malaysian with a doctorate in chemical weapons analysis, said laboratory tests also detected VX acid, a degraded product of the nerve agent, on Aisyah’s sleeveless T-shirt.

He said VX will degrade once it is exposed to the atmosphere, and even faster when it is in contact with water, leaving degraded products of VX.

“The presence of VX precursors and VX degradation products confirms the presence of VX itself,” he told the court.

Raja also confirmed that he found VX on Kim’s face, eyes, clothing, and in his blood and urine.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines
Kim Jong Nam. Photo from The Asahi Shimbun.

Aisyah and Huong have pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, which could bring a death penalty if they are convicted. They have not testified but their defense has said the women were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera TV show.

Raja earlier described VX as the “deadliest nerve agent created” and literature showed that 10 milligrams could be fatal. He said VX is oily and difficult to detect because it is colorless and odorless, and can be easily transported in a water bottle. He said Malaysia’s airports do not have the special equipment needed to detect VX.

Raja also said rubbing VX on the eyes and neck would be the fastest way to kill a person, compared to splashing or spraying the chemical. He said VX doesn’t evaporate quickly, making it a strategic choice because a person could be targeted without affecting the surroundings. It takes six days for a drop of VX to evaporate, he said.

He agreed with the prosecutors’ assertion that Kim didn’t inhale VX because no nerve agent was detected on a nasal swab.

 

 

The trial is to resume Oct. 9, with the judge, lawyers and the two suspects visiting Raja’s laboratory to see VX-tainted samples from the two women before they are formally submitted as evidence. This came after Raja told the court it would be safer to view the samples in the lab because the VX may still be active.

Gooi Soon Seong, lawyer for Siti, told reporters that detection of VX on the women was not enough to convict them.

“If I have the knife, it doesn’t mean I killed the person. They must have other stronger evidence,” he said.

He also said Raja was inconsistent and shouldn’t be afraid to open the VX-tainted samples since he testified VX could easily be washed off and doesn’t evaporate quickly.

Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, Huong’s lawyer, said the defense has another explanation of why VX was present on the Vietnamese and would reveal this later.

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines
Suspects Doan Thi Huong (left) and Siti Aisyah. Images via gov’t handout.

The VX-tainted evidence from Kim’s body and clothing was presented in court Oct. 4 in sealed plastic bags, and the lawyers and court officials wore surgical masks and gloves as they viewed it.

Earlier witnesses have testified Kim quickly suffered symptoms of chemical poisoning and died from acute VX poisoning within two hours of the attack.

VX is banned by an international treaty as a weapon of mass destruction but is believed to be part of North Korea’s chemical weapons arsenal. Kim was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea’s dynastic rulers but was believed to have been cast out by his father and had lived abroad for years. He reportedly never met current leader Kim Jong Un, who is widely believed to have perceived his older sibling as a threat and targeted him for assassination.

The trial is being closely watched by the Indonesian and Vietnamese governments, which hired the defense lawyers for both women.

Articles

This is how officials are reacting to White House ban on transgender troops

President Donald Trump is barring transgender people from serving in the military “in any capacity.” He’s citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”


Trump’s announcement on the morning of July 26 on Twitter did not say what would happen to transgender people already in the military.

The president tweeted that after consulting with “generals and military experts,” the government “will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military.”

A Rand Corp. study estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active duty and an additional 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.

Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban.

The Pentagon seems to have been unaware that President Donald Trump has decided to bar transgender people from the military.

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Photo by Gage Skidmore

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, refused to answer questions about what Trump’s tweeted announcement means for the current policy, including whether transgender people already serving in the military will be kicked out.

“Call the White House,” he said.

The White House press office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is slamming President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military as “vile and hateful.”

In a statement, Pelosi pointed out Trump’s decision came on the same day in 1948 that President Harry S. Truman signed the executive order desegregating the military.

The California Democrat called Trump’s action “a cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate transgender Americans who stepped forward to serve our country.”

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Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi

She said a study commissioned by the department found the cost of providing medically necessary transition-related care would be $2 million to $8 million a year, a small amount from what the Pentagon spends on military care.

She said the “disgusting ban” will weaken the military and the nation it defends. She said Trump’s conduct is not driven by “honor, decency, or national security, but by raw prejudice.”

The Pentagon, which appeared to be caught off-guard by Trump’s tweets barring transgender people from the military, is referring all questions about them to the White House.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said in a brief written statement that the Pentagon is working with the White House to “address” what he calls “the new guidance” from the president on transgender individuals serving in the military.

Davis said the Pentagon will provide revised guidance to Defense Department officials “in the near future.”

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee is calling President Donald Trump’s newly announced ban on transgender military service “an unwarranted and disgraceful attack.”

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Washington State Representative Adam Smith (left) and former United States Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter (right). DoD photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington says preventing transgender people from joining the military and pushing out “those who have devoted their lives to this country would be ugly and discriminatory in the extreme.”

Smith also is challenging the estimates cited by conservative lawmakers that show the Pentagon end up spending hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade to pay for gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies.

He says those figures “have no basis in fact” and likely were “cooked up by right-wing advocacy organizations whose real interest is not to support military readiness but to further discrimination.”

Ash Carter, who as secretary of defense last year ended the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, is criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to ban their service.

Carter issued a statement July 26 saying that the important thing for choosing who is allowed to serve is whether they are best qualified.

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Former United States Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter.

“To choose service members on other grounds than military qualification,” he said, “is social policy and has no place in our military.”

Carter added that transgender individuals already are serving capably and honorably in the military.

A national LGBTQ advocacy group says President Donald Trump’s decision to bar transgender people from military service is an “all-out assault” on these individuals.

Stephen Peters, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, tells The Associated Press that Trump’s decision was “alarming” because it comes after a decade of progress toward inclusion in the military. Peters says the decision is “morally reprehensible,” ”patently unpatriotic,” and dangerous because it “puts a target on the backs of thousands of service members.”

Trump announced on Twitter that he is barring transgender people from service in the military “in any capacity.” He cited “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

Peters says the decision doesn’t appear to have factored in the effect on military morale and readiness.

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Tammy Duckworth (right) is sworn in as assistant secretary of veterans affairs for public and intergovernmental affairs by Judge John J. Farley on May 20, 2009. Photo from Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a double amputee veteran of the Iraq War, is slamming President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Duckworth said in a statement July 26 that when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down, she didn’t care “if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, or anything else. All that mattered was they didn’t leave me behind.”

The Illinois senator said anyone willing to risk their lives for their country should be able to serve no matter gender or sexual orientation or race.

She said, “Anything else is discriminatory and counterproductive to our national security.”

 

Articles

A retired Navy SEAL commander explains 12 traits all effective leaders must have

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Retired Navy SEAL Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink. Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin


Jocko Willink is the retired commander of the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War: US Navy SEAL Team Three Task Unit Bruiser, which served in the 2006 Battle of Ramadi.

In his new book “Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win,” co-written with his former platoon commander Leif Babin, he and Babin explain the lessons learned in combat that they’ve taught to corporate clients for the past four years in their leadership consultancy firm Echelon Front.

During his 20 years as a SEAL, Willink writes that he realized that, “Just as discipline and freedom are opposing forces that must be balanced, leadership requires finding the equilibrium in the dichotomy of many seemingly contradictory qualities between one extreme and another.” By being aware of these seeming contradictions, a leader can “more easily balance the opposing forces and lead with maximum effectiveness.”

Here are the 12 main dichotomies of leadership Willink identifies as traits every effective leader should have.

‘A leader must lead but also be ready to follow.’

Willink says a common misconception the public has about the military is that subordinates mindlessly follow every order they’re given. In certain situations, subordinates may have access to information their superiors don’t, or have an insight that would result in a more effective plan than the one their boss proposed.

“Good leaders must welcome this, putting aside ego and personal agendas to ensure that the team has the greatest chance of accomplishing its strategic goals,” Willink writes.

‘A leader must be aggressive but not overbearing.’

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Photo: Courtesy Ecehlon Front

As a SEAL officer, Willink needed to be aggressive (“Some may even accuse me of hyperagression,” he says) but he differentiated being a powerful presence to his SEAL team from being an intimidating figure.

He writes that, “I did my utmost to ensure that everyone below me in the chain of command felt comfortable approaching me with concerns, ideas, thoughts, and even disagreements.”

“That being said,” he adds, “my subordinates also knew that if they wanted to complain about the hard work and relentless push to accomplish the mission I expected of them, they best take those thoughts elsewhere.”

‘A leader must be calm but not robotic.’

Willink says that while leaders who lose their tempers lose respect, they also can’t establish a relationship with their team if they never expression anger, sadness, or frustration.

“People do not follow robots,” he writes.

‘A leader must be confident but never cocky.’

Leaders should behave with confidence and instill it in their team members.

“But when it goes too far, overconfidence causes complacency and arrogance, which ultimately set the team up for failure,” Willink writes.

‘A leader must be brave but not foolhardy.’

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Task Unit Bruiser SEALs look up at an Apache flying overhead Ramadi in 2006. Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Whoever’s in charge can’t waste time excessively contemplating a scenario without making a decision. But when it’s time to make that decision, all risk must be as mitigated as possible.

Willink and Babin both write about situations in Ramadi in which delaying an attack until every detail about a target was clarified, even when it frustrated other units they were working with, resulted in avoiding tragic friendly fire.

‘A leader must have a competitive spirit but also be a gracious loser.’

“They must drive competition and push themselves and their teams to perform at the highest level,” Willink writes. “But they must never put their own drive for personal success ahead of overall mission success for the greater team.”

This means that when something does not go according to plan, leaders must set aside their egos and take ownership of the failure before moving forward.

‘A leader must be attentive to details but not obsessed with them.’

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Navy SEALs on a roof overlook in Ramadi in 2006. (Faces have been blurred to protect identities.) Photo: Courtesy Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

The most effective leaders learn how to quickly determine which of their team’s tasks need to be monitored in order for them to progress smoothly, “but cannot get sucked into the details and lose track of the bigger picture,” Willink writes.

‘A leader must be strong but likewise have endurance, not only physically but mentally.’

Leaders need to push themselves and their teams while also recognizing their limits, in order to achieve a suitable pace and avoid burnout.

‘A leader must be humble but not passive; quiet but not silent.’

The best leaders keep their egos in check and their minds open to others, and admit when they’re wrong.

“But a leader must be able to speak up when it matters,” Willink writes. “They must be able to stand up for the team and respectfully push back against a decision, order, or direction that could negatively impact overall mission success.”

‘A leader must be close with subordinates but not too close.’

“The best leaders understand the motivations of their team members and know their people — their lives and their families,” Willink writes. “But a leader must never grow so close to subordinates that one member of the team becomes more important than another, or more important than the mission itself.”

“Leaders must never get so close that the team forgets who is in charge.”

‘A leader must exercise Extreme Ownership. Simultaneously, that leader must employ Decentralized Command.’

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Photo: Amazon

“Extreme Ownership” is the fundamental concept of Willink and Babin’s leadership philosophy. It means that for any team or organization, “all responsibility for success and failure rests with the leader,” Willink writes. Even when leaders are not directly responsible for all outcomes, it was their method of communication and guidance, or lack thereof, that led to the results.

That doesn’t mean, however, that leaders should micromanage. It’s why the concept of decentralized command that Willink and Babin used in the battlefield, in which they trusted that their junior officers were able to handle certain tasks without being monitored, translates so well to the business world.

‘A leader has nothing to prove but everything to prove.’

“Since the team understands that the leader is de facto in charge, in that respect, a leader has nothing to prove,” Willink writes. “But in another respect, a leader has everything to prove: Every member of the team must develop the trust and confidence that their leader will exercise good judgment, remain calm, and make the right decisions when it matters most.”

And the only way that can be achieved is through leading by example every day.

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