Legal jockeying is continuing between a top Russian opposition leader and the chief of the country’s national guard, disappointing everyone who was hoping they would settle their differences in martial combat after the head of the National Guard really, actually, apparently sincerely challenged the opposition politician to an old-fashioned duel.
Alexei Navalny, the head of the Russia of the Future Party and the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, received a duel challenge from the head of the country’s national guard. The general in command said he was going to beat this beautiful face into mincemeat.
(MItya Aleshkovskiy, CC BY-SA 3.0)
In Post-Soviet Russia, military defends itself (and, allegedly, its tens of millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains).
If you haven’t heard about the quarrel, it all started when Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russia of the Future Party, noticed that the head of the Russian National Guard seemed to be living well beyond his apparent means while the government was paying exorbitant prices for supplies for the armed services.
Navalny tends to get arrested anytime he accuses someone too senior of corruption — arrests which the European Human Rights Court view as politically motivated in every case they’ve reviewed about Navalny — and he was subsequently arrested soon after making the accusations against Zolotov.
Putin’s ex bodyguard says he can make mincemeat out of Alexei Navalny
(It’s important to note that, even assuming that the August 2018 arrest was political, it could’ve been for other political reasons than the accusations against Zolotov. Navalny is always angering Putin by pointing out corrupt practices, and there are usually four or five political reasons for the Kremlin to jail him at any time.)
In September, while Navalny was in prison, Zolotov challenged his accuser to a duel at any place. While our sources say that trial by combat isn’t a thing anymore, even in Russia, admit that you would pay to watch a possibly-corrupt general fight his political opponent. Zolotov reportedly said that he would beat Navalny into mincemeat within minutes.
Fortunately for pedants and unfortunately for blood-seekers, Navalny accepted but specified that the weapons would be words.
Yeah, he answered a challenge of a duel by accepting it as a debate. Dangit, Navalny, you may be a social-media savvy anti-corruption activist, but you have no idea how to entertain the crowd at a coliseum. We want blood.
U.S. Marine Corps pilots are trained to operate advanced aircraft in often dangerous situations. These pilots are the only aviators in the U.S. military who are taught the basics of infantry tactics prior to flight school. This ensures every Marine is a rifleman. Though the chances of an aviator leading a platoon of infantry Marines are slim to none, there are cases where pilots are embedded in infantry units.
Capt. David “Tuck” Miller, a CH-53 Super Stallion pilot, is one of those pilots. Miller, a native of Queenstown, Maryland, is a Forward Air Controller with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, “Lava Dogs.”
“As a CH-53 pilot, I always have the opportunity to transport grunts in the back of my aircraft so this is just one more way where I can work closely with them and support them,” said Miller.
As the FAC, Miller is in charge of directing close air support and other offensive air operations. FACs are pilots who are tasked out from the aviation field to directly support ground combat units. The FACs are typically senior aviators who have spent at least two years in a fleet squadron, according to Miller. The prospects are sent to Tactical Air Control Party School to learn the fundamentals of close air support and how to call for fire. This allows the pilot to be a valuable asset when finally attached to an infantry unit.
“He speaks from the air side of the house and he knows what the pilots are saying and what they are looking for from us infantry guys, so he’s able to bridge that gap between the two communities,” said 1st Lt. Harry Walker, the fire support team leader.
Once the pilots touch base with the infantry units, they are indoctrinated into a completely different culture for almost two years.
“Coming from the air wing and going head first into an infantry battalion, it’s a little bit of a culture shock just because you do have all those hikes and spend a lot time in the field,” said Miller. “After I graduated from [The Basic School], I don’t think I spent one night in the field and then the first night I was out with the battalion I slept under the stars, but it’s still good to be here.”
The FAC billet is a not only beneficial for the infantry units but also great for the pilot executing the position, according to Miller.
“For them it’s all about the mission,” said Miller. “So as an aviator, it pushes me to be more studious and when I get back to the cockpit, I’ll be a better aviator.”
The Lava Dogs are currently forward-deployed for six months to Okinawa, Japan as part of the Unit Deployment Program. The battalion is tasked to provide a forward-deployed combat ready unit for in support of theater requirements.
This post originally appeared on WATM in November 2017. We just thought it was so good you might want to read it again.
In 2010, after a trip to South Sudan, George Clooney and Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast had a revelation: they could monitor warlord activity via satellite and take action to help save lives.
Within a year, they had launched the Satellite Sentinel Project, which “combines commercial satellite imagery, academic analysis, and advocacy to promote human rights in Sudan and South Sudan and serve as an early warning system for impending crisis.”
Since 1956, military regimes favoring Islamic-oriented governments have dominated war-torn Sudan. Two civil wars mark the country’s recent history, and though South Sudan became independent in July 2011, Sudan and South Sudan remain in a conflict resulting in a humanitarian crisis that affects more than one million people.
Though violence between government forces has lessened, inter-tribal violence continues — which is where Clooney and his partners step in.
George Clooney Witnesses War Crimes in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains
WARNING: This video contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.
The project works like this: DigitalGlobe satellites passing over Sudan and South Sudan capture imagery of possible threats to civilians, detect bombed and razed villages, or note other evidence of pending mass violence. Experts at DigitalGlobe work with the Enough Project to analyze imagery and information from sources on the ground to produce reports. The Enough Project then releases to the press and policymakers and sounds the alarm by notifying major news organizations and a mobile network of activists on Twitter and Facebook.
In 2012, Clooney returned to South Sudan to meet with survivors, policy-makers, and militants.
“The worst-case scenario is rapidly unfolding: political and personal disputes are escalating into an all-out civil war in which certain ethnic groups are increasingly targeted by the others’ forces and the rebels take over the oilfields,” wrote Clooney and Prendergast for The Daily Beast.
But Clooney maintains that there is an opportunity for the international community to help the South Sudanese leaders prevent Sudan from becoming the next Syria.
Which is where the Satellite Sentinel Project comes in. The Enough Project gathers HUMINT (Human Intelligence) on the ground, provides field reports and policy analysis, and coordinates the communications strategy to sound the alarm.
Meanwhile, DigitalGlobe’s constellation of satellites capture imagery of Sudan and South Sudan, allowing for analytic support, identification of mass graves, evidence of forced displacement, and early warning against attacks.
Two days before millions of Americans were expected to feast on turkey for Thanksgiving, a flock of birds is theorized to have been responsible for the White House lockdown in the early hours of the morning on Nov. 26, 2019.
The White House was placed on lockdown between 8:30 and 9:15 a.m. because of an unauthorized aircraft flying in restricted airspace, according to reporters on the scene.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, the US and Canada’s first responder to an aerial threat, scrambled US Coast Guard helicopters to investigate the scene. No military fighter jets were dispatched, the US military spokesman Maj. Andrew Hennessy told The Washington Post.
By the time the lockdown was lifted, it was unclear what prompted the warning.
“Upon further investigation, we found there was no aircraft,” Hennessy said, according to WRC-TV.
The WJLA reporter Sam Sweeney said the scare may have been because of a flock of birds. Birds are known to migrate south by way of the US Capitol in late October, according to The Washingtonian.
In an unrelated event several hours later, President Donald Trump pardoned one of two turkeys named Bread and Butter. The White House tradition dates back to President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Trump ended up pardoning Butter, and Bread will also live the rest of its short life at “Gobblers Rest” on the Virginia Tech campus.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A new data-driven video produced by Neil Halloran illustrates the massive number of fatalities of Second World War like never before.
The video, which was released on Memorial Day, “uses cinematic data visualization techniques to explore the human cost of the second World War, and it sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including recent conflicts,” according to a press release. “Although it paints a harrowing picture of the war, the documentary highlights encouraging trends in post-war battle statistics.”
The video features a number of eye-opening insights, such as the relatively small number of German losses during the initial invasions, or the huge numbers lost — both civilian and military — by the Soviet Union during the war. At one point, the chart showing Soviet deaths continues to grow higher, leaving the viewer to wonder when it will ever stop.
“As the Soviet losses climbed, I thought my browser had frozen. Surely the top of the column must have been reached by now, I thought,” a commenter wrote on Halloran’s fallen.io website.
The Fallen of World War II is an interactive documentary that examines the human cost of the second World War and the decline in battle deaths in the years since the war. The 15-minute data visualization uses cinematic storytelling techniques to provide viewers with a fresh and dramatic perspective of a pivotal moment in history.
The film follows a linear narration, but it allows viewers to pause during key moments to interact with the charts and dig deeper into the numbers.
China claims to have successfully tested a new sea plane, purportedly the largest in the world, and while its primary purposes are firefighting and water rescue, this new aircraft could be used to advance the country’s ambitions in the disputed South China Sea.
The AG600 Kunlong, a domestically-built Chinese aircraft roughly the size of a Boeing 737, recently completed several on-water tests on a lake in central China, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, citing China Aviation News, reported Sept. 9, 2018. It can reportedly even land in choppy seas with its hull-like fuselage.
During the testing in Hubei province, the aircraft was put through a series of water maneuvering and low-speed flight tests, according to the Associated Press.
The aircraft made its maiden flight in December 2017 Military experts reportedly believe that the latest tests indicate the plane could soon be ready for service.
The AG600 Kunlong, powered by four turboprop engines, has a significant carrying capacity. In a rescue situation, it could carry up to 50 people, and were it to be deployed for firefighting purposes, it could carry around a dozen metric tons of water.
Experts suggest that it could be used to move troops and equipment into the disputed South China Sea, where China has built militarized outposts armed with various point defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. China even landed a heavy bomber at an outpost in early 2018.
“The AG600 would be suitable for the quick transport of troops and materials, and could also provide other support such as evacuating garrisons in the South China Sea or even out to the Spratlys,” Collin Koh, a research fellow in Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University’s Maritime Security Program, told SCMP.
“Beijing will also use it to justify any further build-up in the region, saying the aircraft can be used for the common good, such as providing support to foreign vessels in the area and for search and rescue,” he added.
A Beijing-based military expert suggested that the the AG600 Kunlong, the work of China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co., can link countless islands in the South China Sea and play a big role in law enforcement, emergency rescue, and even reconnaissance.” Ching Chang, a research fellow at Taiwan’s ROC Society for Strategic Studies, argued three years ago that the aircraft could play a role in “all the government functions that may signify its substantial governance in the South China Sea,” thus bolstering its previously discredited claims to the highly-contested region.
The South China Sea, which briefly took a back seat to the nuclear war crisis on the Korean Peninsula, has once again emerged as a hot-button issue. Not only has the Chinese military been threatening foreign ships and planes that venture too close to Chinese-occupied territories, but the Chinese military recently got into a standoff with a British amphibious assault ship that approached its South China Sea holdings.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Air Force will soon need to make a decision on whether its plan to grow to 386 operational squadrons should focus on procuring top-of-the-line equipment and aircraft, or stretching the legs of some of its oldest warplanes even longer, experts say.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in September 2018 that the service wants at least 74 additional squadrons over the next decade. What service brass don’t yet know is what could fill those squadrons.
Some say the Air Force will have to choose between quantity — building up strength for additional missions around the globe — or quality, including investment in better and newer equipment and warfighting capabilities. It’s not likely the service will get the resources to pursue both.
“It’s quite a big bite of the elephant, so to speak,” said John “JV” Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.
Wilson’s Sept. 17, 2018 announcement mapped out a 25 percent increase in Air Force operational squadrons, with the bulk of the growth taking place in those that conduct command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and tanker refueling operations.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with members of the workforce during a town hall at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 5, 2018.
An additional 14 airlift squadrons using C-17s could cost roughly billion; five bomber squadrons of fifth-generation B-21 Raider bombers would cost roughly billion; and seven additional fighter squadrons of either F-22 Raptors or F-35s would be .5 billion, Venable said, citing his own research.
“Tanker aircraft, that was the biggest increase in squadron size, a significant amount of aircraft [that it would take for 14 squadrons] … comes out to .81 billion,” he said.
By Venable’s estimates, it would require a mix of nearly 500 new fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft to fill the additional units. That doesn’t include the purchase new helicopters for the combat-search-and-rescue mission, nor remotely piloted aircraft for the additional drone squadron the service wants.
And because the Air Force wants to build 386 squadrons in a 10-year stretch, new aircraft would require expedited production. For example, Boeing Co. would need to churn out 20 KC-46 tankers a year, up from the 15 per year the Air Force currently plans to buy, Venable said.
The Air Force thus would be spending closer to billion per year on these components of its 386-squadron plan, he said.
New vs. old
In light of recent Defense Department spending fiascos such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which cost billions more than estimated and faced unanticipated delays, some think the Air Force should focus on extending the life of its current aircraft, rather than buying new inventory.
The Air Force will not be able to afford such a buildup of scale along with the modernization programs it already has in the pipeline for some of its oldest fighters, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Harrison was first to estimate it would cost roughly billion a year to execute a 74-squadron buildup, tweeting the figure shortly after Wilson’s announcement.
F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight.
If the Air Force wants to increase squadrons quickly, buying new isn’t the way to go, Harrison told Military.com. The quickest way to grow the force the service wants would be to stop retiring the planes it already has, he said.
“I’m not advocating for this, but … as you acquire new aircraft and add to the inventory, don’t retire the planes you were supposed to be replacing,” said Harrison.
“That doesn’t necessarily give you the capabilities that you’re looking for,” he added, saying the service might have to forego investment in more fifth-generation power as a result.
By holding onto legacy aircraft, the Air Force might be able to achieve increased operational capacity while saving on upfront costs the delays associated with a new acquisition process, Harrison said.
The cost of sustaining older aircraft, or even a service-life extension program “is still going to be much less than the cost of buying brand-new, current-generation aircraft,” he said.
Just don’t throw hybrid versions or advanced versions of legacy aircraft into the mix.
“That would just complicate the situation even more,” Harrison said.
“Why would you ever invest that much money and get a fourth-generation platform when you could up the volume and money into the F-35 pot?” Venable said.
Boeing is proposing a new version of its F-15 Eagle, the F-15X.
Running the numbers
Focusing on squadron numbers as a measure of capability may not be the right move for the Air Force, Harrison said.
The Navy announced a similar strategy in 2016, calling for a fleet of 355 ships by the 2030s. But counting ships and counting squadrons are two different matters, he said.
“While it’s an imperfect metric, you can at least count ships,” Harrison said. “A squadron is not a distinct object. It’s an organization construct and [each] varies significantly, even within the same type of aircraft.”
Still less clear, he said, is what the Air Force will need in terms of logistics and support for its planned buildup.
Harrison estimates that the aircraft increase could be even more than anticipated, once support and backup is factored in.
For example, if it’s assumed the squadrons will stay about the same size they are today, with between 10 and 24 aircraft, “you’re looking at an increase [in] total inventory of about 1,100 to 1,200” planes when keeping test and backup aircraft in mind, he said.
A squadron typically has 500 to 600 personnel, including not just pilots, but also support members needed to execute the unit’s designated mission, he said. Add in all those jobs, and it’s easy to reach the 40,000 personnel the Air Force wants to add by the 2030 timeframe.
“It’s difficult to say what is achievable here, or what the Air Force’s real endstate is,” said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian who has written two books: “The Air Force Way of War” and “Architect of Air Power.”
“[But] I also think the senior leaders look at the current administration and see a time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak,” Laslie told Military.com. “Bottom line: there are not enough squadrons across the board to execute all the missions … [and] for the first time in decades, the time might be right to ask for more in future budgets.”
The way forward
Air Force leaders are having ongoing meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of a full report, due to Congress in 2019, about the service’s strategy for growth.
So far, they seem to be gaining slow and steady backing.
Following the service’s announcement of plans for a plus-up to 386 operational squadrons, members of the Senate’s Air Force Caucus signaled their support.
“The Air Force believes this future force will enable them to deter aggression in three regions (Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East), degrade terrorist and Weapons of Mass Destruction threats, defeat aggression by a major power, and deter attacks on the homeland,” the caucus said in a letter authored by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “We are encouraged by the Air Force’s clear articulation of its vision to best posture the service to execute our National Defense Strategy.”
For Air Force leadership, the impact of the pace of operations on current and future airmen must also be taken into account.
The secretary said the new plan is not intended to influence the fiscal 2020 budget, but instead to offer “more of a long-term view” on how airmen are going to meet future threats.
“I think we’ve all known this for some time. The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking it to do. The Air Force has declined significantly in size … and it’s driving the difficulty in retention of aircrew,” Wilson said.
There will be much to consider in the months ahead as the Air Force draws up its blueprint for growth, Laslie said.
“I think the Air Force looks at several things with regard to the operations side of the house: contingency operations, training requirements, and other deployments — F-22s in Poland, for example — and there is just not enough aircraft and aircrews to do all that is required,” Laslie said. “When you couple this with the demands that are placed on existing global plans, there is just not enough to go around.”
It’s clear, Laslie said, that the Air Force does need to expand in order to respond to current global threats and demands. The question that remains, though, is how best to go about that expansion.
“There is a recognition amongst senior leaders that ‘Do more with less’ has reached its limit, and the only way to do more … is with more,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The title of “influencer” is almost cringe-worthy these days. From entitled social media personalities who complain when they have to pay full price at a restaurant, to the viral hot takes from people who are pandering to their audience, there’s definitely plenty of “cringe” to go around.
But what about the veteran social media personalities who are out making a positive difference, or at least making your day a little brighter? You know, the ones who aren’t thriving on division or ego, but rather on their own talent to entertain and inspire.
This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran influencers that we think you should really be paying attention to. From modest followings to millions of followers, these are the service members who turned their trigger fingers into Twitter fingers … who went from dropping bombs to dropping dope memes … who went from … sorry, I’ll stop. Just make sure you check them out!
Justin Lascek | @justin.lascek
Recently severely wounded. Green Beret Medic.
Justin is a relative newcomer to the social media scene, but with just a single photo, he inspired millions of people and established himself as someone worth following.
On Sept. 6, 2019, he posted a photo to Instagram from his hospital bed. Wearing his green beret, a pair of sunglasses, and an epic beard, he flexed for the camera while almost completely naked, covered in fresh scars, and missing his lower legs. The caption read:
“Six months ago, give or take a day, my life was changed. Chaos. Pain. Survival. Scared. I’m going to die. Tell her I love her. Wish I had been better. Everyone do your job. In 2018 I wanted to die. I figured my luck would run out after the close calls on the first trip. And it did. But brothers and sisters, known and unknown, kept me here.
And I’m alive. And since the blast, I have never wanted to die. I was strapped into the Skedco during a hellish movement for the boys. The sun was in our faces. I gripped their hand and knew I didn’t want to die.
And I’m alive. It can be surreal when the reality hits. But my soul isn’t in turmoil. There was so much uncertainty last year, but now it’s clear without wavering or uncertainty.
Because I’m alive. Cheating death and myself gives an understanding of how special life is. Not just for me, but everyone. Especially you, the one who hurts, the one who thinks death will end the pain. I see you. Stay with us a little longer.
And be alive.”
It’s hard to read that and not be inspired, and we have a hunch that his 39,000 followers on Instagram agree with us. The post ripped through timelines and news feeds like a lightning bolt, and he has continued to publish even more motivational posts since then. He might still be recovering from his wounds, but this Special Forces medic continues to be ‘Doc’ by inspiring the masses.
Astin Muse | @amuse31 & @ArmyAmuse
Former Drill Sergeant. Current Army Recruiter. Entertainer.
If Astin Muse weren’t still in uniform, she’d probably be a star on Saturday Night Live. This U.S. Army drill sergeant turned recruiter has made herself military-famous with hilarious sketch comedy that she films herself and posts on the internet. The sketches range from sarcastic observations about life as an NCO, to hilarious reenactments of basic training buffoonery.
The military hasn’t always made it easy for her to pursue laughs though. Muse has had to go to battle with military leadership trying to shut her down, citing obscure military regulations as a way to clamp down on her social media profiles. Fortunately, she’s been able to continue the comedy with a few compromises that really hasn’t affected the quality of her sketches. With 128,000 followers on Facebook and 29,000 followers on Instagram, there are plenty of people who appreciate her brand of comedy either way.
The best part? She frequently offers actual career advice to her active duty followers who need an objective outside opinion. Afterall, she’s a non-commissioned officer in the greatest Army in the world first, comedian second!
Jack Mandaville | @JackMandaville
Writer. Entertainer. Vietnam veteran. Best friends with Scott Stapp. Single mom. Compulsive liar.
We seriously don’t understand how Jack Mandaville isn’t an A-list comedian celebrity yet. With only 33,000 followers on Instagram, this former Marine and Iraq war veteran is a once-in-a-generation talent that, so far, the veteran community has been able to keep to ourselves.
He started off as one of the founding writers behind the infamous DuffelBlog satire website, before going on to work at RangerUp where he and fellow funnyman Pat Baker cooked up hilarious internet videos on the regular. After stealing the show as one of the supporting cast in the feature film “Range 15”, Jack has gone on to produce near-daily internet marketing videos for companies like StrikeForce Energy, Black Ops Grooming, and Black Rifle Coffee Company by day, and headline Vet TV’s “Checkpoint Charlie” series by night.
If you like to laugh, if you appreciate brutally honest humor that takes no prisoners, or you’re just entertained by a man that clearly has no shame, then Jack Mandaville is a must-follow.
Jennifer Marshall | @Jenn13Jenn13
Private Investigator @deepsourceinvestigations. Host @thecw. Max’s Mom in Stranger Things 2. Actress. Patriot. Veteran. Volunteer for Pinups for Vets.
With acting credits on hits like Stranger Things, Hawaii Five-O, and NCIS, Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall is a serious talent making her way through Hollywood. But there’s more to the sailor-turned-actor than meets the eye: She volunteers for non-profit Pin-Ups for Vets, and before that, she spent time teaching in East Africa. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also a private investigator for Deep Source Investigations in California.
With 12,000 followers on Instagram, Marshall offers a peek behind the curtains of the many productions she has worked on, while simultaneously advocating for a variety of veterans issues that often go unresolved, or even worse — unnoticed. And if you like what she has to say on Instagram, then you’ll love her as a host on The CW’s “Mysteries Decoded”!
Vincent “Rocco” Vargas | @vincent.rocco.vargas
Army Ranger. Drill Sergeant. Border Patrol Officer. Actor on FX’s The Mayans. Author. Entrepreneur.
You may know him as Ranger Vargas if you served alongside him during his time at 2nd Ranger Battalion, or even Drill Sergeant Vargas if you had the pleasure of going through Basic Training with him at the helm. But most reading this probably know him as “Rocco” from his Article 15 Clothing days making satirical military comedy videos alongside Mat Best and Jarred Taylor.
But these days, he’s known for his role as “Gilly” on FX’s Sons of Anarchy spin-off Mayans M.C. Vargas did the near-impossible when he landed that role, as many Youtube sensations never quite make the jump into a traditional acting career. The show is in its third season, and promises to be just the start in what will likely be a long acting career for the combat veteran-turned-thespian.
If you’re one of his 146,000 followers on Instagram, then you also know that he keeps himself busy on and off the set. He’s published multiple books, hosts the Vinny Roc podcast, and founded Throwbacks Barber Company — now open and cutting hair in Utah. This is one veteran on the go, and is definitely worth keeping up with on social media!
In its journey to improve the lives of veterans through health care research and innovation, VA recently reached a major milestone with enrollment of its 750,000th veteran partner in the Million Veteran Program (MVP) — a national, voluntary research initiative that helps VA study how genes affect the health of veterans.
The milestone, which was reached April 18, 2019, is the result of years of outreach, recruitment and enrollment efforts to help to bring precision medicine to the forefront of VA health care.
“While having 750,000 Veteran partners is a momentous achievement, there is still much work to be done,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “MVP is on track to continue the march to 1 million veteran partners and beyond in the next few years.”
From its first enrollees in 2011, the program has successfully expanded into one of the largest, most robust research cohorts of its kind in the world. MVP was designed to help researchers understand how genes affect health and illness. Having a better knowledge of a person’s genetic makeup may help to prevent illness and improve treatment of disease.
The enrollment milestone is significant because as more participants enroll, researchers have a more representative sample of the entire veteran population to help improve health care for everyone. Enrollees in the program include veterans from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam. MVP also has the largest representation of minorities of any genomic cohort in the U.S.
Research using MVP data is already underway with several studies, including efforts focused on understanding the genetics of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), diabetes, heart disease, suicide prevention and other topics. Several significant research findings have already been published in high-impact scientific journals. The knowledge gained from research can eventually lead to better treatments and preventive measures for many common illnesses, especially those common among combat veterans, such as PTSD.
MVP will continue to grow its informatics infrastructure and expand its partner base, to include veterans beyond those enrolled in VA care. VA is also working on a collaboration with the Department of Defense (DoD) to make MVP enrollment available to DoD beneficiaries, including active-duty service members.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Islamic State group released a recording Sept. 28 of what it says is its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, calling on jihadists under pressure in Syria and Iraq to “resist” their enemies.
In his first alleged message in nearly a year, and following reports of his possible death, the elusive jihadist leader called on his supporters to target the “media centres” of countries fighting his group.
“The leaders of the Islamic State and its soldiers have realized that the path to… victory is to be patient and resist the infidels whatever their alliances,” the speaker said.
It was not clear when the message, released by the IS-affiliated Al-Furqan media group, was recorded.
In it, he lashed out at “infidel nations headed by America, Russia, and Iran” who, along with their allies, have inflicted losses on the jihadists during separate offensives against IS in Syria and Iraq.
“We will remain, we will resist and be patient… We will not give in,” he said, a day after Iraqi forces defeated IS fighters who had seized areas in a surprise offensive around Ramadi, west of Baghdad.
The apparent IS leader called on “soldiers of the caliphate” to pursue their “jihad,” or holy war, and attacks.
He urged his followers to “target the media centers of the infidels,” without providing further details.
A US intelligence community source said they were examining the audio message.
“We are aware of the audio tape purported to be of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and are taking steps to examine it,” the source said in a statement.
“While we have no reason to doubt its authenticity, we do not have verification at this point.”
The Sept. 28 audio message is the first said to be of Baghdadi since November 2016, when he spoke in a defiant tone in urging his supporters to defend the city of Mosul against a massive operation by Iraqi forces.
That recording, also released by Al-Furqan, was a rare sign of life from Baghdadi.
In July, Moscow said it was struggling to confirm if Baghdadi was dead or alive, a month after reporting his possible demise in a May air strike near the one-time IS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.
With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Iraq-born Baghdadi has successfully avoided an intense effort to seek him out for six years or more.
Rumours have abounded about Baghdadi’s health and movements, but his whereabouts have largely remained unclear.
MOSCOW — You might think governments seeking digital oversight of their citizens would avoid invoking the author who coined the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” and implanted the nightmare of total state surveillance in the imaginations of millions of readers.
Think again, because Russian officials appear to disagree.
According to the business daily Vedomosti, contracts exceeding 2 billion rubles ($29 million) have been signed for the procurement and installation in schools across Russia of surveillance cameras linked to a system that has facial-recognition capability and is called Orwell, after the British author of dystopian novels 1984 and Animal Farm.
The company tasked with executing the project on behalf of regional governments is the National Center of Informatization (NCI), a subsidiary of state defense and technology conglomerate Rostec, Vedomosti reported on June 15.
The video surveillance systems have been delivered to 1,608 schools across Russia, an unnamed representative of the company told the newspaper, adding that the equipment was intended to keep tabs on students’ comings and goings and identify strangers who attempt to enter school grounds, among other things.
Elvis-Neotech, a subsidiary of state nanotechnology company Rosnano, is responsible for preparing the systems for sale, according to Yevgeny Lapshev, a representative of that company. Lapshev told Vedomosti that the Orwell system will become a security feature in all of Russia’s schools in the coming years — more than 43,000 in all.
On June 16, the media outlet RBK cited an anonymous NCI representative who disputed aspects of the Vedomosti report, saying that the company had not signed contracts for the delivery of video equipment to 43,000 schools.
The representative told RBK that NCI had taken part in a pilot program to equip 1,600 Russian schools with video surveillance systems that were not equipped with facial recognition, and that a decision on expanding the program to all Russian schools was yet to be made.
The reported plans come after a rise in recent years in violent incidents at Russian schools, including a spate of stabbings in late 2017 and early 2018 that prompted renewed calls from lawmakers for increased security measures and strict monitoring of visitors.
“The requirements for training and certifying employees of private security organizations, especially those guarding schools and kindergartens, must be as strict as possible,” Vasily Piskarev, chairman of parliament’s Committee on Security and Corruption Control, said after a knife incident in October 2019.
But amid the push to expand monitoring capabilities and beef up security at schools, rights activists in Russia are warning that facial recognition and other surveillance technologies are being used much more widely and with minimal oversight, leading to a curtailment of freedom of speech and movement and ultimately toward a loss of data privacy.
Since March, when Russia’s coronavirus epidemic began, the authorities have used facial-recognition technology to identify and fine quarantine violators, deploying — in Moscow alone — a network of over 100,000 cameras that link to a central database accessible to thousands of law enforcement officials at any time.
In addition, a range of smartphone apps and digital passes unveiled since March — some of which remain mandatory for people with COVID-19 symptoms despite the lifting on June 9 of many lockdown restrictions — have prompted fears among data-privacy campaigners that those and other new digital tools may integrate into a ratcheted-up, post-pandemic surveillance apparatus.
Alyona Popova, an activist who launched a lawsuit in October 2019 against Moscow’s use of facial-recognition cameras, warned that “under the guise of fighting the coronavirus,” officials are working to implement “total surveillance.”
Last fall, Russia’s Education Ministry clarified the criteria under which facial recognition could be used in schools. All parties, including school employees and the parents of students, would have to give permission, the newspaper Izvestia quoted an official as saying.
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