DUSHANBE — The sole survivor of a group of attackers who killed four Western cyclists in Tajikistan in 2018 has died in a prison in the capital, Dushanbe.
Mansurjon Umarov, chief of the Main Directorate at the Tajik Justice Ministry’s Penitentiary Service, told RFE/RL on March 3 that prosecutors were investigating the cause of death of Hussein Abdusamadov, who was serving a life sentence for his role in the killing of the foreign cyclists on the Dushanbe-Danghara highway in July 2018.
“Abdusamadov’s body has been sent for an autopsy to exclude torture or violence as his cause of death,” Umarov said, stressing that Abdusamadov “was a dangerous terrorist.”
Abdusamadov’s relatives confirmed the report, telling RFE/RL that they received his body on March 2.
Four cyclists — an American woman and man, a Dutchman, and a Swiss man — were killed on July 29, 2018, when attackers plowed their vehicle into the group on a road and then stabbed some of them.
Two other foreign cyclists survived the attack, which occurred about 150 kilometers south of Dushanbe.
Four suspects in the attack, Zafarjon Safarov, Asomuddin Majidov, Jafariddin Yusupov, and Asliddin Yusupov, were killed by Tajik security forces.
Abdusamadov, who was named the group’s leader, survived, was found guilty of murder in November 2018.
The extremist group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack shortly after it occurred and released a video showing five men — at least some of whom appeared to resemble those identified by Tajik officials as suspects killed in a confrontation with security forces — pledging allegiance to the leader of IS.
The Tajik government, however, rejected the claim and instead blamed followers of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), a political party that was banned by authoritarian President Emomali Rahmon’s government in 2015.
The leadership of the IRPT — which served for several years in the Tajik government — has denied involvement and called the authorities’ claims “shameless and illogical slander.”
In the wake of the United States protesting a close encounter between a Su-27 Flanker and a Lockheed EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance aircraft operated by the United States Navy, the Russians have a response: They’re not apologizing.
According to a report from USA Today, Russia has instead decided to trash-talk the United States Navy after the buzzing incident late last month. Over the space of two hours and forty minutes, the Flanker made at least one pass in front of the EP-3E, coming as close as five feet from the surveillance plane.
“The Aerospace Force will continue to maintain reliable protection of Russia’s airspace,” the Russian news agency TASS reported the Defense Ministry as saying. “If the awareness of this is a reason for U.S. air pilots to feel depression or succumb to phobias, we advise the U.S. side to exclude the routes of such flights near Russian borders in the future or return to the negotiating table and agree on their rules.”
The Russians also claimed that the Flanker pilot’s actions were safe, legal, and standard operating procedure. They also claimed that NATO planes made “similar maneuvers” near Russian planes over the Norwegian, North, Baltic, and Barents seas.
On Dec. 9, 2018, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand went to the floor of the Senate to ask her colleagues for unanimous consent to pass H.R. 299, known as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.
The act, which passed in the House of Representatives with a unanimous vote, would extend Veterans Affairs benefits to veterans who served in warships off the coast of Vietnam and were exposed to toxic Agent Orange.
If successful, Gillibrand’s request would have expedited the bill’s passage — but one senator, Republican Mike Enzi of Wyoming, objected, according to Stars Stripes.
“On this bill, many of us have been made aware of the potential cost growth and the budgetary and operational pressures that would happen at the VA,” he said. “They’re having a lot of problems, anyway.”
Leaking Agent Orange barrels circa 1973.
The VA has estimated that the bill would cost the bureau .5 million over the course of 10 years. But the Congressional Budget Office has previously estimated it would cost a fraction of that amount — id=”listicle-2623193782″.1 million. Regardless of cost, some senators, backed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, view the bill as an obligation.
“If we can afford to send veterans to war, it’s unacceptable that we can’t afford to take care of them when they return home wounded,” B.J. Lawrence, national commander of the VFW, said in a statement.
Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking Democrat on the Senate veterans affairs committee, agreed.
“It is our obligation to meet the needs of the folks who have sacrificed for our country,” he said on the Senate floor.
Sens. Gillibrand and Tester held a press conference on Dec. 11, 2018, calling for more support for the struggling bill.
“Shame on the VA for trying to muddy the waters and say ‘but we don’t have enough money for these veterans,'” Gillibrand said in the press conference. “Is their sacrifice no less?”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Army officials say they’re racing to find and start issuing new jungle boots to combat soldiers by late next year.
The service just released a request for information from companies as part of a “directed requirement” for a new model of Jungle Combat Boot for infantry soldiers to wear in the hot, tropical terrain of the Pacific theater.
“It’s a challenge to industry to say, ‘What can you do based on here are the requirements that we need and how fast can you deliver it to meet these specifications,’ ” Col. Dean Hoffman IV, who manages Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, said Wednesday at theAssociation of the United States Army’s annual meeting.
The Army’s formal requirement for a new type of Jungle Combat Boot will continue to go through the normal acquisitions process, but equipment officials plan to award contracts for new jungle boots next year to meet a recent directive from Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley that two brigade combat teams in Hawaii be equipped “ASAP,” Hoffman said.
“We are going to use this request for information to see what industry can do really fast because what we would like to do is get a BCT out by March of 2017,” he said.
Equipment officials hope to have a second BCT fielded with new jungle boots by September 2017,” according to the Oct. 3 document posted on FedBizOpps.gov.
The Army and the Marine Corps retired the popular, Vietnam War-era jungle boots in the early 2000s when both services transitioned to a desert-style combat boot for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since then, Army equipment development has been geared toward the Middle East, Hoffman said.
“We have kind of neglected the extreme weather environments, whether it be jungle or cold weather,” Hoffman said. “Looking at the way the world is shaping, those are areas that we might have to go.”
The Army recently conducted limited user evaluations of several commercial-off-the-shelf, or COTS, jungle boots in Hawaii.
“We put them on soldiers, let them wear them for a couple of weeks and got feedback,” Hoffman said. “What that showed at that time was there was no COTS solution.”
The Army is looking for lightweight materials and better insole and midsole construction, he said.
The problem with the old jungle boots was they had a metal shim in the sole for puncture protection that made the boots get too hot or too cold depending on the outside temperature, Hoffman said.
There are new fabrics that could offer some puncture protection for insoles as well as help push water out of the boot through drain holes, equipment officials say.
The two drain holes on the old jungle boots often became clogged with mud, Hoffman said, adding that newer designs that feature several smaller drain holes tend to be more effective.
The new jungle boots will likely be made of rough-out leather, which tends to dry out quickly and doesn’t need to be shined, he said.
To outfit two brigades, the Army plans to buy 36,000 pairs of new jungle boots, but contracts may be awarded to multiple vendors, Hoffman said.
“If six vendors meet the requirements, we might just award six contracts because, at the end of the day, we want to meet the requirements,” he said.
Han and Luke may be gone but the Star Wars film franchise remains alive and well, as Disney’s updated theatrical release schedule revealed that three Star Wars films are slated to hit theaters over the next few years. The currently untitled movies are scheduled to be released Dec. 16, 2022, Dec. 12, 2024, and Dec. 18, 2026.
As of now, we know virtually nothing about these movies outside of their release dates, which is pretty par for the course for the tight-lipped franchise. But based on reports, the upcoming movies will look a lot different from what viewers have come to expect from a Star Wars film-going experience. After all, Skywalkers have always been at the center of the cinematic universe but these new films seem to represent a shift that will allow filmmakers to explore the rest of the Galaxy far, far away. December 2019, Rise of the Skywalker will bring a definitive end to the epic nine-picture saga about the titular family.
While the Obi-Wan and Boba Fett spin-offs may have been force-choked into oblivion, Disney has made it clear that fans can expect a lot more Star Wars movies. The Last Jedidirector Rian Johnson is getting his own trilogy entirely “separate from the episodic Skywalker saga” and Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are also penning their own Star Wars trilogy that will not involve Anakin, Luke, Leia, or Kylo.
“We are looking at the next saga. We are not just looking at another trilogy, we’re really looking at the next 10 years or more,” Kennedy told The Hollywood Reporter.
As far as what all this means, right now, even searching the Force might not provide answers.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
For the first time, the graduating class of the Air Force Academy will have a contingent of cadets who have committed to serve in the newest branch of the military — U.S. Space Force.
“We’re going to commission  Air Force Academy cadets directly into the Space Force” from the graduating class of about 1,000, Gen. Jay Raymond, who serves as the first chief of space operations, said Thursday.
“They will take the oath of office and they will be commissioned into the Space Force, so we are really excited to get those cadets onto the team,” Raymond said.
Saturday’s graduation ceremony has been drastically scaled back because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Vice President Mike Pence is set to address the graduating class in person at the academy’s Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but no family members, spectators or visitors will be allowed to attend. The ceremony has been shortened to 30 minutes, according to academy officials.
Space Force, which was formally created only four months ago, is facing enormous personnel challenges ahead with decisions to be made during the pandemic.
However, “this is a historic opportunity” and “we get to start from scratch,” Raymond said Thursday in a Facebook town hall with Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman, his senior enlisted adviser.
“There is no checklist on how to set up an independent service,” Raymond said, adding he wants to make sure “we don’t have a huge bureaucracy” that would stifle innovation.
Raymond and Towberman said they are sticking with the timetable of a 30-day window, to start May 1, for current Air Force personnel to decide whether they want to switch to Space Force.
“I understand it’s a life-changing decision” and some may need more time, Towberman said. “If you just aren’t sure, I want you to understand we’ve got a service we’ve got to plan for.”
Those from other services can also apply to join the Space Force.
“If you’re interested, we’d love to have you,” Raymond said.
But Towberman cautioned that service members from other branches should check first with their leadership before volunteering.
In the rush to set up the new force, Raymond and Towberman said some of the fundamentals expected by the traditions of service and the culture of the U.S. military have yet to be decided for the Space Force.
Raymond said it’s yet to be decided what a Space Force honor guard would look like, and Towberman said no decisions have been made on what the rank insignia will look like for enlisted personnel, or even what the ranks will be called.
Over the past several months, the entirety of Germany’s submarine fleet has gone out of action, the Bundeswehr, its armed forces, has outsourced helicopter training to a private company because its own helicopters are in need of repair, and more than half of the Bundeswehr’s Leopard 2 tanks, its most common model, were out of order, with just 95 of 244 in service.
Those are only the latest reports of German military deficiencies.
In spring 2017, the Bundeswehr contingent deployed to a peacekeeping mission in Mali was left hamstrung when heat, dust, and rough terrain knocked half its vehicles out of commission. In early 2016, it was reported that German reconnaissance jets taking part in the fight against ISIS couldn’t fly at night because their cockpit lighting was too bright for pilots.
In early 2015, as Berlin was preparing to send fighter jets to Syria, a military report emerged saying that only 66 of the air force’s 93 commissioned fighters were operational — and only 29 were combat-ready. In 2014, German troops tried to disguise a shortage of weapons by replacing machine guns with broomsticks during a NATO exercise.
Germany has high standards for its military equipment, experts say, and it’s believed that the country could mobilize much of its equipment in a short period if needed. Berlin also drew down its forces in 2011 in order to focus on asymmetrical warfare. It reversed course years later in light of Russian action in Ukraine and renewed concerns about conventional warfare, but much of that equipment has to be reacquired.
Those shortages of gear may hinder recruiting efforts, as the German military transitions from a conscripted force to an all-volunteer one. (The Bundeswehr’s recruitment drive has been criticized for targeting 16- and 17-year-olds.)
But the German military’s shortcomings have added to the country’s internal political debates, and Germany’s contribution to Europe’s collective defense is also facing scrutiny.
Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary commissioner for Germany’s armed forces, has said while more limited operations may still be possible, the country’s military is not prepared for a larger conflict.
“The hard currency, which should be used to measure the success of the minister, is the Bundeswehr’s readiness for action,” Bartels told The Washington Post of Germany’s defense capacity, referring to Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. “And this readiness has not improved over the last four years but has only gotten worse.”
Germany’s center-left Social Democratic Party, of which Bartels is a member, was part of a governing coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, of which von der Leyen is also a member, but the SDP moved into the official parliamentary opposition after a disappointing showing in the September elections.
The SDP and CDU agree that Germany’s military — with 178,000 personnel and much-outdated equipment — needs improvement, but the SDP has balked at the CDU’s push to increase the defense budget to 2% of GDP by 2024. Industry estimates put 2017 defense spending at about 1.13% of GDP.
Such an increase would require Germany to grow military spending from 37 billion euros in 2017 to more than 70 billion euros by 2024, according to Deutsche Welle.
The two parties reached a preliminary agreement in early January that would boost defense expenditures to 42.4 billion euros in 2021, but the projected expansion of Germany’s economy would mean that sum would still only be a little over 1% of GDP. (The agreement did not specifically mention NATO members’ agreed-upon defense-spending target of 2% of GDP.)
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, an SDP member, has called expanding defense spending t0 2% of GDP a “pretty crazy idea,” and the SDP is not the only party resisting such an increase. The legacy of World War II and the Cold War have made some in Germany wary of military expansion, and others have argued the German military doesn’t have enough uses for such a rapid influx of defense funds.
Spending 2% of GDP on defense would bring Germany to the level agreed upon by NATO member countries, but the country’s political parties disagree on whether that agreement is actually binding.
President Donald Trump publicly scolded NATO members for “not paying what they should be paying” in 2017 and admonished Germany for owing the U.S. “vast sums of money” in March that year. Berlin dismissed that assertion, but the U.S. and other officials have continued to push Germany over its defense spending.
François Hollande (left), President of France, and Angela Dorothea Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, have a talk during the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and Government at the NATO Summit 2014, Newport, Wales, The United Kingdom. (NATO photo by Edouard Bocquet)
Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and Germany’s former envoy to Washington, echoed accusations that Germany wasn’t contributing its fair share, saying it was “undignified” for Germany’s only contribution to the fight against ISIS to be reconnaissance flights.
“The biggest European Union state is all for victory over Islamic State in Syria and Iraq; we take photos, but we leave the dirty business of shooting to others,” he told Reuters in late January.
“We should not develop the reputation of being one of the world’s best freeloaders,” he added.
The debate has not been limited to German voices.
During a visit to Germany at the end of January, U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper, a former Raytheon executive, said he would take the German government at its word that it would increase defense spending to the 2% target, but he cautioned against falling short.
“It’s important for all of our NATO allies to live up to their commitments,” Esper said. “If not, it weakens the alliance, clearly, and Germany is such a critical member of NATO.”
Lieutenants never get much respect. What do you expect, though? You send a 22-year-old new college grad to officer candidates school for a few weeks and expect him to be in charge of a platoon of grizzled combat veterans… What could possibly go wrong? It’s the brain-damaged leading the blind. Every rank has some major archetypes, and lieutenants are no different. Here are six types you’re probably already familiar with.
1. Lt. Clueless
Quote: “If that’s not how we’re supposed to use a compass, then why did they teach it at The Basic School?”
The conventional view is that ALL lieutenants are clueless, but that can’t really be the case, or else the service would be even more screwed than it already is. All LTs take a while to get up to speed, but Lt. Clueless seems to be coming more undone every day, not less.
He’s smart enough to graduate college in basketweaving, phys ed, criminal justice, or some similar bullsh*t degree, but not smart enough to keep track of his own rifle. The upside is that stealing his firing pin will be easier.
Everyone under Clueless is counting the hours until the company commander finally figures out that one of his platoon commanders spends his free time chewing crayons. They just hope it comes before deployment, when some of them might have to patrol with him.
Quote: “I got this kickass rig online at Brigade Quartermaster. Yeah, it’s Kydex.”
One of the best things about the military is that it lets you play with cool toys. Don’t tell Lt. Tacticool that the gear he’s issued is really all he needs, because that’s not the point. The point is to be just a little better equipped than anyone else. He spends his entire paycheck shopping online for the same gear used by Delta Force. Lt. Tacticool works in admin or in logistics or as a pilot. That doesn’t stop him from needing dumbass items, like a drop holster that can’t be worn on a walk longer than 100 meters but looks absolutely badass.
If the gun doesn’t work, though, he’s got three concealed punch knives as backup. Don’t worry. He’ll make up for all the extra weight with $200 custom gel boot inserts.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t Tacticools in the infantry, but the laughter of their fellow lieutenants usually shames them into relative normalcy before too many enlisted grunts join in on the ribbing. These LTs live in closeted gear-queerness, wasting their paychecks in more subtle ways, like snatching up $1,000 GPS altimeter watches.
3. Lt. Beast
Quote: “I can’t believe they pay me to do this sh*t! Hells yeah!“
The Beast, on the other hand, does reside disproportionately in the combat arms. It’s just as well because if he were in logistics, all his troops would be hiding under their desks by the end of the day. Everyone else groans when a unit hump is announced. The Beast adds extra weight to his pack. He says, “If it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’!” unironically.
The Beast honestly can’t figure why others don’t enjoy it when things suck. He thinks “embrace the suck” is a religion, not a sarcastic comment. He’s into Crossfit because of course he is. He’s also signed up for Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and some obscure event involving dragging one’s testicles through broken glass for 26.2 miles in the Sierra Nevadas.
The Beast is absolutely the perfect individual to have around in the middle of a close-quarters battle. Unfortunately, he’s also the last individual you want anywhere that isn’t in the middle of an active firefight.
Quote: “My paper on military organization based on fractal principles is getting published in Joint Forces Quarterly next month!”
Lt. Nerd is, on paper, the perfect military officer. He went to a good school and was near the top of his class in all of his training. He’s read the Professional Military Education reading list through colonel. He’s working on his master’s degree. He’s even starting a new podcast next week, called Tactics Talk, so he can share his hard-earned wisdom with upwards of half a dozen people.
He is doing great, at least in his own mind. Unfortunately, the military is basically high school. The jocks run the school. Even though he has bars on his collar, the Nerd gets no respect.
5. Lt. Mustang
Quote: “Gunny, really? What. The. F*ck.”
The prior-enlisted officer, or “Mustang,” is definitely a little different than the typical lieutenant, not least because he’s nearly a decade years older than most of his peers. He has a few more tattoos than them, too.
Knowing the ropes is his superpower. PT, usually not so much. He’s gained a few pounds and lost a few steps compared to his new, young friends in the officer corps.
Most of the enlisted think it’s great that their lieutenant was once one of them. The platoon sergeant isn’t necessarily so thrilled. He’s pleased to get a lieutenant that he doesn’t need to hide sharp objects from. On the other hand, he can’t get rid of his lieutenant for a whole day by asking him to pick up a box of grid squares.
Military life naturally attracts those with attention to detail and a desire for order. Unfortunately, there can always be too much of a good thing.
You can generally find Lt. Niedermeyer in the parking lot, trolling for salutes — or, rather, for those missing salutes — so he can joyfully berate them. Of course, a true Niedermeyer counsels like a drill instructor — loudly, yet sans profanity, because profanity would be contrary to regulations. Doggone it, Devil Dog!
The good thing about Niedermeyer is that he always follows the rules. The bad thing about Niedermeyer is that he always follows the rules. The worst thing is that if you want to know who your commanding general will be in 20 years or so, look no further because Niedermeyer is going places.
When we first enter the gym, we’re usually greeted by a vast inventory of supplies and supplements, all up for sale. After all, gyms are businesses, and if they want to keep their doors open, they need to find many sources of revenue.
Sure, every once in a while, you might find yourself in a bind and have to buy a product or two from their shelves, like a pre-game drink or some amino acids, but these products can be fairly expensive and it’s a known fact that enlisted troops don’t make a whole lot of cash. Pinching pennies where you can will improve your financial situation in the long haul.
If you’re looking to save more than just a few pennies, make sure to keep the following list of things in your gym bag so you’re not forced to overpay for them later.
Gyms make some money on your membership, but they also earn cash by selling you pre-made protein drinks. These tasty, high-protein drinks can cost you anywhere between to — which might not seem too costly at the time, but here’s some quick math for you:
You typically enjoy a drink after every workout. If you hit the gym at least four times a week, that tallies around to per month. Now, if you were to buy a 74-serving jug of protein for , that’s only 81 cents per scoop. At one scoop per drink, for the same number of drinks, you’re looking at .96 — just sayin’.
Weight belts support your back, protecting your spine as you lift. It’s a gym-bag essential because once you slip a disc in your vertebrae, the doctor bills will skyrocket as you embark on your road to recovery.
Invest in a weight belt now and save thousands in potential medical expenses later.
Most gyms do their best to keep clean. Unfortunately, despite all the hard work the cleaning staff puts into maintaining a sanitary gym, they rarely clean the fibers of the extension ropes attached to cable machines. This means that by using a cable, you’re coming in contact with nasty bacteria, which could lead to contracting an infection.
To make matters worse, gym-goers often use their hands to wipe the sweat from their faces. If you’ve been touching a germ-infested rope and then smear your hands across your face, you run the risk of catching a bad cold. Buying an extension rope and storing it in your gym bag will help you limit your exposure to germs, keeping you healthier and saving you money on visits to the doctor.
Walk into any gym and you’ll probably find an assortment of energy bars for sale. While the price of the individual bars will vary based on their nutritional values, you’ll always save money if you purchase them in bulk. Buy some at a health food store and pack one in your gym bag. Just as with protein powder, the savings add up over time.
What’s the difference between a weight belt and a dip belt?
That’s simple. A weight belt is used to protect the lower back from an injury while this specialized belt is worn to add weight to your workout at the dip or pull-up station.
Some gyms provide this easy-to-use piece of equipment, but, like anything, the chains and buckles can break over time. If you’re using a gym-owned dip belt and it finally reaches its breaking point, you’ll end up paying the full retail price to replace the item. It’s cheaper if you bring your own.
Like they say, “you break it, you buy it.”
An extra pair of clean gym pants or shorts
You’re probably wondering, “how the hell does bringing an extra pair of pants save me money?” Well, the ugly truth of the matter is that when we lift heavy weights, we put a lot of strain on our lower bowels. In fact, the added pressure is usually more powerful than the strain you put on yourself while using the bathroom.
Experiencing a suddenly bowel movement while lifting happens more often than you’d think. Keeping an extra pair of shorts or pants in your gym bag will save you some money — otherwise, you’ll need to purchase one at the gym at a premium price.
The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 110,000 with almost 1.8 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.
Russia on April 12 reported the largest daily increase of coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak, as the authorities announced restrictions on Easter church services in and around Moscow to contain the spread of the disease.
The Russian Orthodox Church, which will observe Easter this year on April 19, ordered churches to close their doors to large groups during the holy week leading up to the holiday.
Meanwhile, Russia’s coronavirus crisis task force reported 2,186 new coronavirus cases in the country, raising the total number to 15,770.
The number of coronavirus-related deaths rose by 24 to 130, it said.
The official tally has been doubted by critics in Russia and abroad, who suspect the number is being undercounted by health authorities.
Moscow and many other regions have been in lockdown for nearly two weeks, but Russian officials on April 11 warned of a “huge influx” of new coronavirus infections and said that hospitals in the Moscow area were quickly nearing capacity.
“We are seeing hospitals in Moscow working extremely intensely, in heroic, emergency mode,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a television interview.
Peskov described the situation in both Moscow and St. Petersburg as “quite tense because the number of sick people is growing.”
Authorities and doctors in Bulgaria are urging citizens to stay home and pray in their homes for traditional Palm Sunday and Easter services.
Churches have remained open in Bulgaria despite the coronavirus outbreak. Services at major churches are due to be broadcast live for worshippers.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said on April 11 that churches will remain open, saying many people were desperate and in low spirits. He, however, urged Bulgarians to stay home.
“A difficult decision but I am ready to bear the reproaches,” Borisov told reporters.
“The bishops told me that there are many people who are in low spirits, desperate. So I just cannot issue such an order [to close churches],” he added.
Thousands attend Easter church services in the Balkan country.
Bulgaria has been in a state of emergency since March 13. Schools and most shops are closed and there are restrictions on intercity travel and access to parks. All domestic and foreign vacation trips are banned.
The country has so far reported 669 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 28 deaths.
Iran’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen by 117 in the past day to 4,474, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on April 12.
The country has recorded 71,686 cases of the coronavirus that causes the disease, Jahanpur added. Some 1,657 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the past 24 hours, he said.
Iran has been the country hardest hit by the pandemic in the Middle East. Many Iranian and international experts think Iran’s government, which has been criticized for a slow initial response, is intentionally reducing its tally of the pandemic.
Ten thousand graves have been dug in a new section of the Behesht Zahra cemetery south of the Iranian capital to deal with coronavirus deaths, an official with Tehran’s municipality was quoted as saying by the official government news agency IRNA on April 12.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that restrictions on travel between cities within each province in the country have been lifted.
He said restrictions on travel between provinces will be lifted on April 20.
In the past days, Tehran has reopened some “low-risk” businesses in most parts of the country with the exception of the capital, Tehran, where they will reopen from April 18, official media have reported.
Iranian authorities have called on citizens to respect health protocols and social-distancing measures as the country struggles to curb the deadly outbreak.
The government is concerned that measures to shut down businesses and halt economic activities to contain the outbreak could wreck an already sanctions-battered economy.
The United States has offered humanitarian aid to Iran, but the country’s leaders have rejected it and demanded that sanctions be lifted.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has appealed to international stakeholders for urgent debt relief for Pakistan and other developing countries to help them deal more effectively with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
In a video message released by the Foreign Ministry on April 12, Khan said that “highly indebted countries” lack “fiscal space” to spend both on the fight against the virus and on health and social support.
He said he appealed to world leaders, the heads of financial institutions, and the secretary-general of the United Nations to get together to announce a debt relief initiative for developing countries.
Pakistan has recorded 5,232 coronavirus cases, with 91 deaths.
The South Asian nation’s already struggling economy has been hit hard by nationwide lockdowns that have brought economic activity to a halt.
Pakistan is more than 0 billion in debt to foreign lenders and spends the largest chunk of its budget on servicing its debt.
In his Easter sermon, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II, urged Armenians to display “national unity” in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
Leading the Mass at an empty St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan on April 12, Garegin called on “the sons and daughters of our nation in the homeland and in the diaspora to give a helping hand to our government authorities in their efforts to overcome the difficult situation created by the pandemic.”
He also called for global solidarity to contain the spread of the virus and what he described as even greater “evils,” including “materialism,” poverty, and armed conflicts.
The Mass, broadcast live on national television, was attended by only two dozen clergymen and a smaller-than-usual choir.
After the service, Garegin blessed a small group of believers who had gathered outside Armenia’s largest cathedral.
Sunday services in all churches across Armenia have been held behind closed doors since the government on March 16 declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, which has officially infected 1,013 people in the South Caucasus country and killed 13.
The Armenian Apostolic Church has restricted church attendance on weekdays and instructed parish churches to live-stream liturgies online, when possible.
On Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, a U.S. airstrike in Iraq killed Quds Force Commander and Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani and Kata-ib Hezbollah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, sending a wave of uncertainty into an already volatile region.
According to NBC News, Soleimani was planning to attack U.S. targets in the Middle East. NBC spoke to a State Department official after the strike, who said that they had “very solid intelligence” that Soleimani would act. U.S. President Donald Trump would later call Soleimani the “No. 1” terrorist in the world.
In response to the strike, Iran‘s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that “forceful vengeance” awaits the criminals behind the attack.
Coffee or Die spoke to two veterans of the Iraq War who have experience fighting Iran’s proxy militias, and three Iranians, two of whom currently live in Iran. The Iranians were given aliases to protect their identities.
Former U.S. Army Ranger and Green Beret Travis Osborn on deployment.
(Photo courtesy of Travis Osborn.)
Travis Osborn is a former U.S. Army Ranger and Green Beret. He spent 20 years in the Army and has experience going rifle-to-rifle with Iran’s proxy fighters.
“He caused a lot of issues in Iraq with the Badr Brigades and supporting Muqtada Al Sadr’s Madhi Army,” he said, referring to a Shi’a militia that was involved in multiple clashes with U.S. troops. “It was a target of opportunity that could not be passed up.
“Why was [Soleimani] in Iraq?” Osborn continued. “It wasn’t just for vacation. In my estimation, they were planning their first opening moves against the U.S. and Iraqi government for a takeover/overthrow of the country. We have been in the business of asking Iran to be nice for too long. It is time they were taught it is in their best interest to not sponsor terrorism and genocide.”
He also had some insights for people who may be afraid of a war with Iran: “They forget Iraq beat Iran in a war. And we ran over Iraq when it had one of the largest militaries in the world.”
Army veteran Adam Schumann agrees that the death of Soleimani was a positive action. Schumann served three combat deployments in Iraq with the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, and his struggle with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was turned into the Hollywood movie “Thank You For Your Service.”
“I’m overjoyed with the news of Soleimani’s death! I was fortunate enough to spend three years in Iraq encompassing every campaign of the war except for operation New Dawn,” he said. “In 2007, the Mahdi militia were thick in New Baghdad — and clearly backed and equipped by Iran.”
Schumann doesn’t believe that the strike indicates the start of another war. “Some are saying this is the beginning of a new conflict. I think it’s finally the beginning of the end of one we’ve been invested in for 17 years,” he said. “Too many American service members fought and died at the hands of Iran’s influence in the region. I can only hope that the commander in chief keeps his foot on the gas and further aides Iraq to a free and sovereign country.”
The Iranians we spoke to about the issue aren’t mourning the death of Soleimani, either.
“He was the head of a terrorist Shia network. He has blood on his hands, including the blood of Americans, Israelis, Iraqis, Syrians, and, of course, Iranians,” Hossein said. “It’s a great loss for the Islamic Republic, especially Ali Khamenei. They are angry, desperate, and confused. As an Iranian, I’m so happy he is dead and that it was done in such a quick, intelligent way by U.S. forces.”
Firuz said that it was the happiest news he has heard all month. “Soleimani displaced and destroyed thousands of innocent people,” he added.
“To me, he was always a terrorist,” Kaveh said. “They all are — IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) members, I mean. One day he’s the general, and the day before that he was the guy torturing political prisoners. I see him as someone responsible for the death of many Iranians and Arabs from neighboring countries. Good riddance!”
What happens next depends on if Khamenei chooses to escalate the situation. Either way, tensions between America and Iran appear to be at an all-time high.
The Senate approved broad legislation June 6 to make firing employees easier for the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs, part of an accountability effort urged by President Donald Trump following years of high-profile problems.
The bipartisan measure passed by voice vote. It comes more than three years after a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments. VA employees created secret lists to cover up delays.
The bill would lower the burden of proof needed to fire employees — from a “preponderance” to “substantial evidence,” allowing a dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. But the measure was viewed as more in balance with workers’ rights than a version passed by the House in March, mostly along party lines. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House’s version — 180 days vs. 45 days — though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives also would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees.
The bill now goes back to the House, where the revisions are expected to be approved.
Trump praised the bill Tuesday night and urged the House to act quickly. ” Senate passed the VA Accountability Act,” he wrote on Twitter. ” The Houseshould get this bill to my desk ASAP! We can’t tolerate substandard care for our vets.”
The VA has been plagued by years of problems, and critics complain that too few employees are punished for malfeasance. The Associated Press reported last week that federal authorities were investigating dozens of new cases of possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at VA hospitals, even after theVA announced “zero tolerance” in February. Since 2009, in only about 3 percent of the reported cases of drug loss or theft have doctors, nurses or pharmacy employees been disciplined.
“The overwhelming majority of the people who work at the VA are good, hard-working employees who serve our veterans well,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “But it has become clear under the current law the VA is often unwilling or unable to hold individuals appropriately accountable for their actions and misdeeds.”
He was a lead sponsor of the bill along with Democrat Jon Tester of Montana and Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia.
“To shield employees from consequences brings down the entire department, it demoralizes the workforce and undermines the core mission of the VA,” Rubio said.
The Senate bill would codify into law a Trump campaign promise — a permanent VA accountability office, which was established in April by executive order. The legislation would give the head of the accountability office more independent authority and require regular updates to Congress. The office would also maintain a toll-free number and website to receive anonymous whistleblower disclosures.
In a “State of the VA” report released last week, VA Secretary David Shulkin described an employee accountability process that was “clearly broken.” He said the VA had about 1,500 disciplinary actions against employees on hold, citing a required waiting period of at least a month before taking action for misconduct.
Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America, hailed the bill’s passage as “long overdue.”
“The regular horror stories have made it clear that veterans deserve much better,” he said.
Despite problems at the VA, Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on a bill. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional. Last month, a federal appeals court temporarily overturned the VA firing of Phoenix VA hospital director Sharon Helman over the wait-time scandal.
In April 2004, a convoy of Marines came under small arms and RPG fire near Karabilah, Iraq. Marines from Camp Husaybah were dispatched to go in search of the attackers. While searching vehicles for weapons at a checkpoint, one Marine was assaulted by an unknown Iraqi holding a grenade. That Marine was Cpl. Jason Dunham.
The two fell to the ground. From the Iraqi’s hand came a live grenade. Dunham threw himself on top of it, covering the grenade with his kevlar helmet and his body. When it exploded, the grenade shredded his helmet and mortally wounded the 22-year-old Dunham. He died a few days later, on Apr. 22, 2004.
Jason Dunham did what he thought was the right thing to do: heroically throwing himself on a grenade to save others. The selfless act rightfully earned him the Medal of Honor, which was presented to his family by President George W. Bush in January 2007. A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer now bears his name (and his dress uniform, complete with Medal of Honor, on its quarterdeck).
Using the kevlar helmet did blunt the explosion, according to a Wall Street Journal reporter who followed Dunham’s story very closely. But the shrapnel pierced Dunham’s skull and he suffered heavy brain damage. No one else in the area received life-threatening injuries.
What makes the story even more remarkable is that Cpl. Dunham and his fellow Marines had been talking about the very same eventuality just a few days prior — what to do in case you have to respond to a grenade attack. One Marine advised kicking it away. Another said to drop and make yourself a small target for the fragments with your feet facing the grenade. Dunham’s response to the real-life situation was exactly what he said it should be: He covered it with his helmet.
Is that the best way to handle a grenade? No, but in the opinion of other infantry veterans, Dunham did the right thing. Anyone who covers a grenade with their kevlar is going to be severely wounded. And, chances are, Dunham would probably have been killed by the grenade regardless due to his proximity. But his helmet likely absorbed all of the grenade’s shrapnel and allowed his fellow Marines to come out relatively unscathed.
But what do you do if you don’t have a hero like a Jason Dunham to throw himself on a grenade and save you? Dan Rosenthal, an infantry veteran and three-time top Quora writer, has some advice for those who face a grenade without any cover to hide behind. First and foremost, don’t try to throw it back. You have about three to five seconds of reaction time, so running isn’t an option. Basically, expect to get hit – but minimize where and how much you’re hit to maximize your chances of survival.
If you didn’t dig your defensive fighting position with a grenade sump, the best thing you can do is get down on the ground with your kevlar pointed toward the blast. Helmets (and modern shoulder pads) were designed to protect from fragmentation.
Your second best bet is to put your feet toward the blast. This technique is most notable for civilians falling victim to a terrorist attack that uses grenades. Minimize exposure to the blast and make yourself a small target for the fragmentation.