The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

You’re throwing a football around in the yard with your neighbors. While stretching out as far as you can to catch the pass, you slam your head hard against a pole going for the ball. Seeing stars and feeling confused, you take a seat. Wouldn’t it be nice if a test could say whether you have a brain injury?


Brain injury can happen from a fall, while in combat, or during training exercises. Thanks in part to research funded by the Dept. of Defense and the U.S. Army, Banyan Biomarkers has created the first-ever brain trauma blood test. On Feb. 14, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration cleared marketing of the Banyan Biomarkers’ Brain Trauma Indicator, or BTI™.

Also read: Major advances occurring in traumatic brain injury care for veterans

The BTI can identify two brain-specific protein markers, called UCH-L1 (Ubiquitin Carboxy-terminal Hydrolase-L1) and GFAP (Glial Fibrilliary Acidic Protein). These proteins rapidly appear in the blood and are elevated 12 hours following an incident where a head injury occurs and can signify if there is bleeding in the brain. The two protein markers won’t be elevated if your brain is uninjured or if you have a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), otherwise known as a concussion.

“When these proteins are elevated, there may be blood in the brain,” said Kathy Helmick, acting director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC). “A hematoma, or blood in the brain, may indicate a more serious brain injury has occurred, which could require rapid evacuation for neurosurgery to remove a clot in the brain.”

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

The first thing a doctor tries to rule out with suspected brain injury is the potential for serious complications, like losing consciousness, going into a coma, or death. According to the research results and FDA clearance, the blood test can help medical professionals determine the need for computed tomography (CT) scans in patients suspected of having a concussion. It also can help prevent unnecessary radiation exposure for patients.

Related: Here’s how this Marine learned to cope with traumatic brain injury

Prior to discovering these biological protein markers, medical professionals had to rely on symptom reporting and other more subjective means to evaluate patients with few signals of more serious head injury.

“This technology helps us identify red flags after you suspect a head injury so that you can get the person to definitive care,” Helmick explained. “Most times, the blood test will be negative and the medical provider will continue with a concussion evaluation.”

Lt. Col. Kara Schmid said U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command will “begin limited user testing with the device in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019.” Schmid is a project manager for the Neurotrauma and Psychological Health Project Management Office at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity. “Improvements could make the device more supportable by the military health system.”

The Department of Defense has been seeking a method for diagnosing and evaluating TBI in service members for over a decade. According to DVBIC, over 375,000 service members have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000. Approximately 82 percent of those TBI cases are classified as a concussion.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
More than 294,000 military service members have suffered from traumatic brain injury. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

According to Kelley Brix, MD – who is a branch chief for interagency research and development at the Defense Health Agency – the need for diagnosing milder forms of brain injury sparked research questions that were funded as part of a greater TBI research portfolio.

“The research question became centered on if the brain releases anything detectable into the blood stream when there is damage,” said Brix. “The answer is yes. This is a big project with a successful outcome. But, it’s only part of our large portfolio looking at improved ways to diagnose and treat TBI.”

Helmick says knowing whether blood, swelling, or bruising on the brain has taken place helps with understanding the severity of the TBI.

More: Helmets just got new technology to protect your brains

“These two proteins give us a window of insight into what is going on in the brain,” said Helmick. “We have lacked objective devices and data in TBI, especially with concussion. The reason biological markers are so important is because they are accurate, sensitive, and objective.”

Making the machine required to run the blood test smaller and more portable is a work in progress, as currently it’s intended for use in a laboratory. Logistical constraints of the BTI device make deployment to the force a challenge.

“There is active work going on to reduce the 3-4 hour timeframe for getting test results, which could make it even more usable for austere environments,” Helmick said. “This blood test is an example of a significant public-private success and a huge advancement in the field of TBI.”

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

CDC director: We can control virus in 4 to 8 weeks if everyone in the US wears a mask

Now is the time for everyone to wear masks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield and his colleagues wrote in an editorial published Tuesday in the journal JAMA.

While the organization has been slow to warm up to broad mask-wearing recommendations — first advising, but not requiring, healthy members of the general public on April 3 to cover their faces when out and about — Redfield and his colleagues now say mask wearing should be universal because “there is ample evidence” asymptomatic people may be what’s keeping the pandemic alive.


“The data is clearly there that masking works,” Redfield told Dr. Howard Bauchner, JAMA’s editor in chief, during an interview Tuesday that corresponded with the editorial’s release. “If we can get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really do think in the next four, six, eight weeks … we can get this epidemic under control.”

One model projects universal masking could save 45,000 lives by November 

In the paper, Redfield, with his CDC colleagues Dr. John Brooks and Dr. Jay Butler, pointed to research demonstrating the effectiveness of masks.

One study of the largest healthcare system in Massachusetts showed how universal masking of healthcare workers and patients reversed the infection’s trajectory among its employees.

They also pointed to the Missouri hairstylists who were infected with COVID-19 but did not infect any of their 140 clients, presumably because of the salon’s universal masking policy.

A CDC report also released Tuesday detailed this case, concluding “consistent and correct use of face coverings, when appropriate, is an important tool for minimizing spread of SARS-CoV-2 from presymptomatic, asymptomatic, and symptomatic persons.”

Meanwhile, a modeling program from the University of Washington projected universal masking could save 45,000 lives by November.

“Mask mandates delay the need for re-imposing closures of businesses and have huge economic benefits,” Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Director Dr. Christopher Murray said in a statement, MarketWatch reported. “Moreover, those who refuse masks are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.”

Not wearing a mask is like opting to undergo surgery by a team without face coverings

The JAMA paper also highlighted the two key reasons masking works: It protects both the wearer and the people they come in contact with.

While early recommendations focused on masking’s benefit to those around you, Redfield and colleagues emphasized the benefit to the wearer as well.

They likened not wearing a mask with choosing to be operated on by a team without any face coverings — an “absurd” option because it’s known the clinicians’ conversations and breathing would generate microbes that could infect an open wound.

“Face coverings do the same in blocking transmission of SARS-CoV-2,” the doctors wrote.

Proper social distancing and handwashing are equally important measures, though, when fighting the virus, Redfield told Bauchner.

People are coming around to mask wearing, but there’s still resistance 

More people are coming around to mask wearing, with a separate CDC report, also out Tuesday, showing the rates of mask wearing in public increased from 61.9% to 76.4% between April and May.

Redfield told Bauchner he was “heartened” to see President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence setting that example.

But there’s still resistance, and the issue remains politicized — something Redfield and his coauthors hope their editorial will cut through.

“At this critical juncture when COVID-19 is resurging, broad adoption of cloth face coverings is a civic duty, a small sacrifice reliant on a highly effective low-tech solution that can help turn the tide favorably in national and global efforts against COVID-19,” they wrote.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army developed new high-tech fabric for fighting in the Arctic

Soldiers can’t achieve peak performance when they’re chilled to the bone. So in winter weather, some soldiers may don up to seven layers of clothing. That much fabric can weigh them down. Later, soldiers might find themselves overdressed, now getting hot and sweaty. That sweat, in turn, can turn to ice if the weather is super cold. But it doesn’t have to. Researchers have just come up with a way to lighten a winter warrior’s load and fight the threat of frozen sweat.


They’ve designed a new high-performance fabric. It could become the basis of underwear for troops deployed in places blasted by Arctic cold. Scientists unveiled it here, last August, at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Paola D’Angelo is a bioengineer. She uses principles of biology to solve problems. Elizabeth Hirst is a chemist. Both work at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center in Massachusetts. Their team got the initial idea for this innovation from some earlier work by a group at Stanford University in California. Their new fabric improves on that earlier research. It also adds an important new twist.

Chemist Elizabeth Hirst (left) and bioengineer Paola D'Angelo (right) are working on new winter fabrics for soldiers' uniforms. The fabric swatch on the board D'Angelo is holding carries an electrical current, which could heat the fabric. (Photo by Kathiann Kowalski) Chemist Elizabeth Hirst (left) and bioengineer Paola D’Angelo (right) are working on new winter fabrics for soldiers’ uniforms. The fabric swatch on the board D’Angelo is holding carries an electrical current, which could heat the fabric. (Photo by Kathiann Kowalski)

Hot stuff

Yi Cui and Po-Chun Hsu are materials scientists at Stanford University. Their team already had been using metal nanowires to create see-through electrical conductors. Such materials could be handy for things such as thinner smartphones, displays on car windshields and more. Teeny, tiny nanowires have diameters at the scale of billionths of a meter.

At Cui’s suggestion, the Stanford team set out to use conductive nanowires in a fabric. It would be “warm, lightweight and breathable,” explains Hsu. That way, it could help reduce the energy needed for indoor heating.

The team got itty bitty wires of silver to form a mesh across cotton fabric. The silvery metal can reflect body heat back to someone’s skin. The treated fabric also can carry an electrical current. So, batteries could deliver extra heat when needed.

Now the Army’s team has been tweaking that idea to work not just with cotton, but also with high-performance fabrics. Athletes, soldiers and others often turn to such fabrics when they’re doing things that call for lots of physical activity or that expose them to extreme conditions.

Also Read: Spiders will help produce the newest military uniforms

Examples of these special fabrics include polyester, nylon and other synthetic fabrics. Their fibers are engineered by people, instead of coming from natural materials, such as plant fibers or animal hair. The Army uses synthetic fabrics (or blends that include synthetics) for gloves, socks and a soldier’s base layer. That’s the “underwear” that sits closest to the skin. And it’s for that layer that this team has been building upon the Stanford group’s work.

Besides getting the concept to work with other fabrics, the Army researchers tested the ability of such fabrics to hold up through repeated washings. And their fabric indeed performed well.

In addition, the Army team packed more fibers onto each area of fabric than the Stanford team had. That denser wire mesh can carry more current and provide more warmth. Three volts of electricity is enough to warm a test swatch that’s 6.45 square centimeters (1-square-inch) in one minute by 56 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), D’Angelo reports. A typical watch battery is all that’s needed to provide those 3 volts.

Soldiers won’t want their underwear that hot. But the fabric could provide quick heat in a hurry. With the right controls, soldiers could even customize how warm their clothes get.

Super soakers for sweat

That material would still not be a perfect solution for working in cold weather, however. Even if it were used under with the Army’s current winter wear, soldiers can get sweaty as they hike, climb or carry out other tasks. That’s because the synthetic fabric of the base layer is not good at wicking away moisture, Hirst explains. Instead, sweat soaks into the fabric. As water in the sweat cools, it can ice up. That’s “obviously very uncomfortable,” she adds.

To deal with this, her team is working with hydrogel beads. A hydrogel is a type of “super soaker” material that can absorb a lot of water. In this case, the beads can sop up as much as 40 times their weight in water, Hirst says. The molecules of the beads are made from polymers. These are long chains of identical repeating units. A part of each unit in the hydrogel has a segment that attracts water.

Researchers could tweak the hydrogel to act differently at different temperatures, Hirst points out. As a soldier sweats, the fabric would warm. That warming could lead the hydrogel to soak up any sweat, moving moisture away from the skin. Later, when the soldier took off the underwear, it would cool down. Moisture in the hydrogel beads could then evaporate into the air. Now the fabric would be ready to wear again.

Don’t expect to see the new fabric on soldiers just yet. “We are in the basic research stages,” Hirst says. Among other things, her team will play with different ways to attach the hydrogel beads to the wired fabric. Her group also wants to work on a protective coating for the nanowires. That would help the silver resist tarnishing, which could reduce its reflectiveness.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
This sketch shows how a new fabric might work for gloves. Silver nanowires (labelled AgNW on the bottom layer) would reflect body heat and could carry an electric current to warm fingers even more. At the same time, hydrogel beads in the fabric would pull sweat away from the skin toward the outer edge (shown on top in green).(Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center)

“We look forward to seeing their cloth combining silver nanowire and hydrogel together,” says Hsu. In his view, it makes good sense to combine features that would provide both heating and cooling as needed. “In the future stages of this research,” he suspects, “there might be some trade-off between the total amount of heating and cooling that the cloth can provide versus its compactness and weight.”

In addition to developing better winter underwear, the Army team hopes the new fabric might lead to warmer gloves and socks. After lots and lots of field testing by soldiers, the fabric might find its way into civilian clothes, too. Then anyone could wear it for skiing, winter walks, snowboarding or other cold-weather fun.

The outdoor temperature topped 32º C (90º F) when the researchers unveiled their new fabric in Washington, D.C. Few folks at the meeting were ready for winter. Later, however, many might appreciate that some scientists and engineers had been thinking ahead.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President gets closer to his enormous military parade

Republicans are attempting to ensure that President Donald Trump will get the massive military parade through the streets of Washington that he has long desired, according to a summary of the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act.

The annual defense bill, slated for release on May 7, 2018, will include language that will provide for a parade “to honor and celebrate 100 years of patriotic sacrifice in a way that expresses appreciation and admiration for our men and women in uniform, including a parade in the nation’s capital and a national celebration for that purpose,” according to a summary released by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry.


Republicans are billing the parade as a grand homage to America’s veterans and servicemembers, but also one that would double as a show of force to adversarial countries like Russia.

Thornberry “thinks at this point in history — 100 years after the Armistice when the world order that has been built largely by the service and sacrifice of veterans of past wars is under pressure from countries like Russia and China — this is an appropriate moment to acknowledge their service,” a Republican aide told Business Insider.

But what kind of equipment will be paraded through the capital is unclear. Under the framework outlined in the bill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will have authority to prohibit the use of “operational units or equipment” if he deems it at all a burden that would threaten military readiness.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis
(DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“It talks a little about stuff that’s traditionally used in parades,” the aide said. “But as for anything more, [Thornberry] leaves it to the secretary’s discretion to make sure that readiness restoration remains the department’s priority.”

The GOP aide added that the Department of Defense regularly uses funds for ceremonies and similar events, making them “well-versed in these functions.”

“What the chairman is comfortable with is veterans. Of course you’re gonna see a 21-gun salute, you’re gonna see firing of cannons, and things like that — that’s OK — that’s traditional ceremonial function,” the aide said. “What we don’t wanna see are tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Trump has been fascinated by the idea of a large US military parade ever since his trip to Paris, where French President Emmanuel Macron hosted him for Bastille Day celebrations.

Trump remarked to the New York Times in an interview that “it was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave.”

If the annual NDAA makes its way through, Trump may get most of what he has hoped for in terms of a grand military display in Washington.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22 Raptors intercept two Russian bombers in Alaska

Two U.S. fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace off the coast of Alaska on May 11, 2018.

The two Russian TU-95 Bear bombers flew into a so-called Air Defense Identification Zone located about 300 kilometers off Alaska’s west coast, according to a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command in a statement to CNN on May 12, 2018.


Two F-22 fighter jets intercepted and visually identified the Russian bombers until they left the zone. The Russian aircraft never entered U.S. airspace, CNN reported, citing the statement.

Russian bombers were escorted by two F-22 fighter jets in international airspace for 40 minutes, the RIA Novosti news agency cited the Russian Defense Ministry as saying on May 12, 2018.

The U.S. fighter jets did not get closer than 100 meters to the Russian bombers, the Russian military was quoted as saying.

Encounters between Russian and U.S. as well as NATO warplanes have increased as Moscow has demonstrated its resurgent military might.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
F-22 Raptor
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

Russia also has increased its naval presence in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and other areas.

In January 2018, a Russian Su-27 came within 1.5 meters of a U.S. Navy surveillance plane while it was flying in international airspace over the Black Sea.

Russia has increased its military presence in the area since it annexed Crimea in 2014.

There have also been interactions between the United States and Russia in the skies above Syria, where the nations support differing sides in the ongoing civil war.

In December 2017, two U.S. F-33 Stealth fighter jets fired warning flares after Russian Su-25 jets entered an agreed deconfliction area in Syrian airspace.

Such incidents have added tension to Russia’s relationship with the West, which has been severely strained by Moscow’s takeover of Crimea, its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and its alleged meddling in the U.S. election in 2016, among other things.

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

Articles

The day an 11 year-old veteran supporter became a soldier

Many kids want to be a soldier when they grow up. Michael Kelsey, an 11-year-old from Marshfield, Missouri, is one of them.


But he’s a little different since he suffers from a brain tumor.

But recently, Kelsey got to live his dream for one action-packed day.

According to a release from Fort Leonard Wood, Kelsey has not allowed his health problem to keep him from trying to support who he views as real heroes. Kelsey collected various toiletry items to donate to troops. When his mother contacted the local USO to arrange the donation, the topic turned to the 11-year-old’s health.

The Fort Leonard Wood USO then moved to make the sick child’s dream come true. Soon, Kelsey was invited to the installation, which not only conducts Basic Combat Training for new soldiers, but which also hosts the United States Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence. He arrived under the notion that he would be dropping off the items he had collected; however, once there, he was surprised.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Eleven year-old Michael Kelsey becomes a soldier for a day on Fort Leonard Wood. (Photo Credit: Dawn M Arden, Fort Leonard Wood)

Drill sergeants from C Company, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, issued Kelsey a uniform in the Operational Camouflage Pattern. Kelsey then got rides in military vehicles, drilled with troops, and, after a meal in the dining facility, met Brig. Gen. James Bonner, commandant of the Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School.

Kelsey visited a number of units at the installation, receiving goodie bags and learning soldier skills at each visit. Col. Tracy Lanier, the base commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Tyson Gooslby, though, provided the capstone event, naming the 11-year-old to the Honorable Order of “The Rough Riders” to salute his courage. Michael Kelsey is only the 11th individual to receive this honor.

“Thank you to all of the soldiers who helped make this happen,” Kelsey said. “Today was the best day of my life.”

While his future is uncertain due to the tumor, it is safe to say that for a day, the Army managed to win a fight against that medical condition.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia & Turkey could destroy the F-35 program

The US’s F-35, from the Joint Strike Fighter program, is the most expensive weapons system of all time and a fighter jet meant to revolutionize aerial combat, but Turkey, a US NATO ally, looks poised to let Russia destroy the program from within.

Turkey, a partner in the F-35 program, has long sought to operate the fighter jet and Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile-defense system at the same time.

But experts have told Business Insider that patching Russia through to NATO air defenses, and giving them a good look at the F-35, represents a shocking breakdown of military security.


As such, lawmakers have tried to get the US to stop selling F-35s to Turkey, but Turkey already has two of the fighter jets, and said the S-400 is a done deal.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

(Russian Defense Ministry)

Generals are sounding the alarm

On March 5, 2019, US Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the head of US forces in Europe, told a Senate Armed Services Committee that the idea was as bad as it sounds.

“My best military advice would be that we don’t then follow through with the F-35, flying it or working with an ally that’s working with Russian systems, particularly air-defense systems, with what I would say is probably one of most advanced technological capabilities,” Scaparrotti said.

“Anything that an S-400 can do that affords it the ability to better understand a capability like the F-35 is certainly not to the advantage of the coalition,” NATO Allied Air Commander Gen. Tod Wolters said in July 2018.

NATO worries about “how much, for how long, and how close” the F-35 would operate near the S-400s. “All those would have to be determined. We do know for right now it is a challenge,” he continued.

Retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider that NATO countries “don’t want to be networking in Russian systems into your air defenses” as it could lead to “technology transfer and possible compromises of F-35 advantages to the S-400.”

Russia wouldn’t just sell Turkey the radars, batteries, and missiles and then walk away, it would actively provide them support and training. Russian eyes could then gain access to NATO’s air defenses and also take a good look at the F-35.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The F-35’s fate in Turkey’s hands?

Because NATO is an alliance formed to counter Russia, allowing Russia to learn information about its air defense would defeat the purpose it and possibly blunt the military edge of the most expensive weapons system ever built.

But the US has little choice now. Turkey has pivoted away from democracy and has frequently feuded with its NATO allies since a 2016 attempted coup prompted the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to consolidate power.

Turkey holds millions of Syrian refugees and has helped stem the number of refugees entering Europe. Turkey has expressed fury at the White House for years over the US support of Kurds in Syria and Iraq during the fight against ISIS. Turkey brands the militant Kurdish units “terrorists.”

The F-35 holds advantages besides stealth, including a never-before-seen ability to network with other fighters, but the S-400 remains a leading threat to the fighters.

Russia, if it spotted an F-35 with its powerful counter-stealth radars, would still face a steep challenge in porting that data to a shooter somewhere that could track and fire on the F-35, but nobody in the US military wants to see Russia looped in to the F-35’s classified tactics and specifics.

Russia has failed to field a fifth-generation fighter jet to compete with the US’s F-22 and F-35 in any meaningful way, but if its missile-defense systems can get an inside look at the F-35, it may not need to.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the President can really launch a nuclear strike

President Donald Trump tweeted Jan. 2 that he had a “Nuclear Button” to launch a missile attack — but the process is much more complicated than the President made it seem.


Trump’s tweet was a direct response to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who recently warned that nowhere in the U.S. is safe from his country’s nuclear missiles. Despite warnings from the international community, Kim said, North Korea would produce as many missiles and nuclear weapons as possible.

“The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat,” Kim said during his New Year’s speech. “This year, we should focus on mass-producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment. These weapons will be used only if our society is threatened.”

Trump responded, tweeting, “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.'”

Read More: POTUS and North Korea exchange nuclear threats

“Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Trump tweeted.

 

 

The President does not have a nuclear button, and the process of launching a nuclear missile is not as simple as, for example, pressing a button on a desk.

“U.S. nuclear forces operate under strict civilian control,” retired Air Force general C. Robert Kehler, the former commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command as well as U.S. Strategic Command, recently said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on nuclear weapons authority.

“The President’s ability to exercise that ability and direction is ensured by people, processes, and capabilities that comprise the nuclear command and control system,” Kehler said. “This is a system controlled by human beings — nothing happens automatically.”

In short, there is no button.

Inside the ‘football’ and the ‘biscuit’

It would be more accurate to say that there is a phone, and a long line of advisors, both civilian and military, that present all the facts and all the options on the table.

Once the decision is made, the President himself must authenticate that he is the one giving the order by calling the senior officer in the Pentagon. That officer will give the President a “challenge code” that requires a matching response, which the President or one of his aids carries at all time on a laminated card called the “biscuit.”

Once the order is confirmed by the highest ranking official, it works its way down the chain of command until it reaches those who are responsible for turning the keys and carrying out the action.

The missile could be launched from either the sea or from land. In both cases, multiple people need to authenticate the order even after it comes down from the Pentagon.

Bloomberg determined that the process could take anywhere from five to 15 minutes after the President’s order.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
The nuclear football (also known as the atomic football, the president’s emergency satchel, the button, the black box, or just the football) is a briefcase, the contents of which are to be used by the President of the United States to authorize a nuclear attack while away from fixed command centers, such as the White House Situation Room. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Even the famous “nuclear football” that is in reach of the President at all times does not contain a button.

Instead, it contains books with strike options, classified sites to shelter the President, instructions, codes, and likely some type of communication device.

Though the President has the authority to launch nuclear weapons, a press of a button on his desk will not send ICBMs hurling towards targets.

“The nuclear decision process includes assessment, review, and consultation between the president and key civilian and military leaders, followed by transmission and implementation of any presidential decision by the forces themselves” Kehler said.

“All activity surrounding nuclear weapons are characterized by layers of safeguards, tests, and reviews.”

Articles

ISIS attacked US forces in Syria in a complex and coordinated attack

U.S. forces in southern Syria came under attack by Islamic State militants around midnight local time on April 8, joining with local partner forces to repel the assault in an hours-long fight that required multiple airstrikes and left three U.S.-backed Syrian fighters dead.


U.S. special-operations advisers were on the ground near the al-Tanf border crossing when a force of 20 to 30 fighters with the Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL, attacked in what a U.S. Central Command spokesman called a “complex and coordinated” attempt to take the base from the coalition.

Also read: Here’s how the U.S. hit that Syrian airbase

“U.S. and coalition forces were on the ground in the area as they normally are, and participated in repulsing the attack,” said Air Force Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for Central Command, according to the Associated Press.

“There was close-air support that was provided, there was ground support that was provided, and there was med-evac that was supported by the coalition,” Thomas added. No Americans were killed or wounded.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Marines train for attacks like this. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph A. Prado)

“Clearly it was planned,” Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon. “The coalition and our partner forces had the resources to repulse that attack. A lot of them wound up being killed and the garrison remains controlled by the people in control before being attacked.”

“Ultimately the attackers were killed, defeated, or chased off,” Thomas said.

U.S. forces at al-Tanf, on Syria’s southern border with Jordan and Iraq, had initially withdrawn to avoid potential retaliatory action after the U.S. strike on an Assad regime airfield in western Syria.

The attack came from ISIS fighters disguised as U.S.-backed rebels, carrying M-16 rifles and using vehicles captured from U.S.-supported rebel groups. They struck first with a car bomb at the base entrance, which allowed some of the attackers to infiltrate the base. Many of the ISIS fighters were wearing suicide vests.

“Around 20 ISIS fighters attacked the base, and suicide bombers blew up the main gate, and clashes took place inside the base,” Tlass al-Salama, the commander of the Osoud al Sharqiya Army, part of the U.S.-backed moderate rebel alliance, told The Wall Street Journal.

Salama’s force sent reinforcements to the base, but they came under attack from other ISIS fighters.

Related: Mattis warns Syria against using chemical weapons again

U.S. special-operations forces and their Syrian partners who had moved out of the base quickly returned, and they initially repelled the attack on the ground in a firefight that lasted about three hours.

Coalition pilots also carried out multiple airstrikes amid the fighting, destroying ISIS vehicles and killing many of the terrorist group’s fighters.

“It was a serious fight,” a U.S. military official said April 10. “Whether or not it was a one-off, we will have to see.”

U.S. special-operations forces had been training vetted Syrian opposition troops at al-Tanf for more than a year. The Syrian opposition fighters in question were operating against ISIS in southern Syria and working with Jordan to maintain border security.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
A fighter with the US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces sits atop a vehicle before a battle. (Photo from SDF via Facebook)

The pullback from al-Tanf to safeguard against reprisals was just one step the coalition took in the aftermath of the U.S. strike on Shayrat airfield, which was believed to be the launching point for a chemical weapons attack on a Syrian village April 4.

The coalition also reduced the number of air missions it flew, out of concern Syrian or Russian forces would attempt to shoot down U.S. aircraft. The U.S. presence in Syria has increased in recent months, as Marines and other units arrive to aid U.S.-backed fighters.

ISIS may become more active in southern Syria as U.S.-backed forces close in on Raqqa, the terrorist group’s self-proclaimed capital located in northeast Syria. Top ISIS leaders have reportedly fled the city in recent months.

Articles

This Air Force officer is the reason dogs are being used to heal veterans’ PTSD

 


The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
(Photo: Molly Potter)

“Every kid has a dream to be an astronaut,” Air Force veteran Molly Potter said. “But by college, these dreams become less and less important for most. That was not so for me.”

Potter attended Embry-Riddle to major in Space Physics and Space Engineering. While there she tried to start a military career in Army ROTC, but soon found it was not for her. Many of her friends were in Air Force ROTC. She liked the mentality and decided it was the best way to get to where she wanted to be.

“I was a 13-Week Wonder,” Potter says. “I loved it and a quickly did my best to be come a stellar officer.”

She and her then-husband were “poster airmen” at Eglin Air Force Base. He was an AC-130 navigator who deployed all the time; she was a weapons specialist, awarded Company Grade Officer of the Year in her first year. By the time she was promoted to first lieutenant, she had caught SOCOM’s eye.

Going from her desk job to deploying to Southwest Asia with the US Special Operations Command was far from Potter’s comfort zone.

“They gave me a gun and a backpack and basically told me to go,” Potter recalls. “I was essentially a one-person band out there with the Army and Marines. I didn’t realize what I was experiencing.”

And she experienced a lot, even for a munitions specialist.

“Afghanistan was the place I felt most respected on all levels,” Potter says. “The men in JSOC and SOCOM were utmost professionals. They only cared that I did my job, and they needed me to save their asses on occasion. I had the same respect they had for me.”

One night, as the sun went down, a rocket attack knocked Potter out. A cement barrier saved her life, protecting her from the frag.

Like many veterans of recent conflicts, the blast caused her traumatic brain injury.  Little was known then about the effects of blasts on the brain, and she was sent home without a diagnosis.

After her deployment, she was assigned as a flight test engineer with test pilots, the next step in her path to becoming what she wanted since childhood. She attempted to numb herself from the emotional turmoil.

Her role was quick-turnaround acquisitions for special operations missions. Watching the munitions she procured from the airplanes or from monitors and how they killed combatants on the ground, even seeing what she calls ‘the Faces of Death,’ coupled with seeing her own life flash before her eyes changed the way she saw her role in the war. Her whole life was dedicated to becoming an astronaut, but here she was engineering ways to make killing more efficient.

“They were supposed to be getting this star officer,” Potter remembers. “Instead, they got a struggling officer, fresh from Afghanistan, who wasn’t sleeping or eating, and whose marriage was falling apart.” She refused to take leave yet struggled with this difficult program, full of the world’s best pilots.

Her memory started to fade, and she couldn’t even get through a day’s work. It hit her one day when she was driving home from after flying military aircraft on military orders, but suddenly couldn’t remember how to get home.

“I realized then I needed help,” Potter says. “But I didn’t want to lose my clearance, my career. But my commanding officers started to notice there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t really there.” It all came crashing down in 2013, when a motorcyclist ran into her car in Las Vegas and Potter suffered a total mental breakdown. Her leadership realized what was happening.

“I was lucky my command realized I had a problem,” Potter says. “Instead of disciplining me, they told me ‘the Air Force broke you and the Air Force is going to put you back together.'” Recovery soon became her full time job.

“I was a high suicide risk,” Potter admits. “Therapy was very tough for me. Halfway through, I started to stall. I was having nightmares. Even with my mom there, things were not going well. I was suppressing all this awful shit and having horrible nightmares. That’s when I got Bella.”

Bella is Potter’s “100 percent American Mutt.” When Potter experienced intense Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and refused to leave the house, it was Bella who forced her to go outside. She had to be walked, after all. Bella also had to be fed, watered, petted, and cleaned. She became Molly Potter’s reason to get out of bed, to get out of the house.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Molly with Bella. (Photo: Molly Potter)

“She slowly started bringing my life back,” Potter says. “I started realizing she was waking me up in the middle of the night when I was having nightmares. She prevented my panic attacks and my night terrors. I started progressing with my therapy and becoming myself again.” Bella’s effect on Potter was so strong, her therapist suggested she train Bella as a service dog, and that’s exactly what she did.

In the meantime, the Air Force began to wonder what to do with Potter. She did lose her clearance and could no longer fly, but she didn’t have disciplinary issues, so her command wanted to work with her to help her find a new Air Force role or help her transition to the civilian world.

In her preparation to leave the service, she started to work at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center at Nellis Air Force Base, to help troubled Airmen and families or help those who were also transitioning. Bella would come with her, to keep her calm and bring her back in case of a panic attack or breakdown. The families visiting the AFRC loved her, but not everyone was a fan of Bella in the workplace.

“I got a lot of pushback for this service dog,” Potter says. “There was no regulation for service dogs and uniformed personnel.”

A potentially troubling situation took a turn for the best one evening, as Potter brought Bella to an Air Force Association Symposium in Washington, DC. She happened to run into Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh and then-Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning.

She told the senior leaders how great her therapy was and how the Air Force PTSD therapy helped her. Then she told them about her concern for regulations regarding service dogs and that one should be written. They both agreed. Now active duty Airmen and Soldiers on PTSD therapy can use working dogs to help them cope as an accepted practice.

“Bella saved my life,” Potter says. “She changed the tide of my therapy and gave me the confidence to be Captain Potter again.”

The CSAF and the SECAF gave their full support and attention to this issue and Potter now uses her story with Bella as a way to help promote getting help while in the military.

“It’s not the only way, but it was my way,” Potter remarked. “I was anorexic, divorced, and suicidal. Five month changed my life. I had horrible experience in Afghanistan, but by the time I left the military, I was happy, sleeping and had a support network to start a new life.”

Potter now lives and works in Austin, Texas. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Air Force Association and works to match service dogs to other veterans facing the struggles she once faced.

“I still think women on the battlefields is a positive thing,” she said. “War isn’t in the trenches anymore and women bring a more creative, sometimes necessary softer tone to the fight. In the future, critical thinking could be crucial to winning and I think women in these roles bring new solutions to the problems surrounding war.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s biggest military weakness is the US’ biggest strength

Before World War II, the U.S. military wasn’t much to look at. Even as the Roosevelt Administration began to prepare for the war, switching on the “arsenal of democracy” and instituting a peacetime draft, it wasn’t enough to deter the Japanese from hitting the United States at Pearl Harbor. When the Americans were battle-tested at the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia in 1943, they failed miserably.

China is facing a similar situation, with a large military slowly advancing in technology but lacking any real combat experience. But where will China face its Kasserine Pass?


Despite superior numbers and newer equipment, the Nazis handed the U.S. their butts, and combat experience made the difference. The Nazis had been fighting in North Africa for almost three years by then and the Americans hadn’t seen combat at all. The Americans were rigid and inflexible, while the Nazis already had time to work out all the kinks in their command and control.

At the time, it looked pretty bleak for us… but we all know Tunisia was just a warmup for what would come later.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

Your destruction has a last name, it’s P-A-T-T-O-N.

(U.S. Army)

The difference between Patton and the man he replaced was the same issue that troubled the Army as a whole. Where Patton’s predecessor made rank as a teacher and trainer and had no real combat experience, Patton had been leading troops in combat since 1916. For the Chinese, it’s been some 40 years since the Peoples Liberation Army fought a major combat operation – and that did not go well.

In 1979, China invaded neighboring Vietnam, a country that had just finished fighting its own civil war four years prior. So when the Vietnamese had to respond to Chinese aggression, they had almost 40 years of fighting under their collective belt by that time. Vietnam completely wiped the floor with the Chinese. China left Vietnam after just three weeks of fighting and has been largely inexperienced ever since.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

A Chinese tank destroyed in Cao Bang, Vietnam in1979.

(Vietnam News Agency)

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army of today is very different from the one who invaded Vietnam. China now has its own homegrown fighter planes, ships, and intercontinental ballistic missiles, among other weapons systems, but while the tech has been tested, the Army itself has largely not been. Meanwhile, the United States has experienced nearly uninterrupted combat opportunities in some form since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and at least 18 years of constant warfare in Afghanistan. But that doesn’t mean training doesn’t have benefits.

Units who train in conditions as close to actual combat as possible fare better when it comes to real-world operations, but any training will help a unit gain experience in its battlefield roles. Once the United States maintained a regular standing army in the postwar world, it was better able to sustain battlefield losses and withdraw from a loss while inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. Research shows that a well-trained unit under experienced commander suffer far fewer casualties when the bullets start flying.

So while China would like the world to tremble at the idea of an advanced, well-trained army and navy exerting its influence and power at will, until the Chinese actually demonstrate the capability to use that training in a real-world combat situation, they’ll always just be trying to push around their smaller neighbors while trying to ignore their real geopolitical rival – the one who’s operating with airbases and seasoned combat troops on their doorstep.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

The way the leader of tightly controlled Turkmenistan sees it, there’s an ancient remedy for warding off the coronavirus: burning a wild herb known as hamala.


Belarus’s authoritarian president had similarly folksy advice for cabinet ministers and his fellow countrymen: go out and work in the fields. And ride a tractor.

Global leaders and medical experts are struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, imposing quarantines, shutting down borders, mandating mask use, and bolstering the capabilities of infectious disease-fighting medical workers. Scientists, meanwhile, are rushing to find a vaccine and a cure for the disease that has killed more than 7,500 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many officials are also struggling to prevent the spread of half-truths, misinformation, and unscientific remedies — something that is even harder in the era of social media and instantaneous communication — and even propaganda.

The coronavirus “outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ — an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” the WHO said in a report issued in early February.

Garlic, vitamin C, steroids, essential oils? Despite what you might read on Facebook or VK, the Russian social network, there’s no scientific evidence any of these things will combat the coronavirus.

With a view to highlighting the problem of misinformation, and nudging people toward reliable, authoritative sources, here’s a look at some of the more outlandish remedies that some leaders have – wrongly – suggested would help fight the coronavirus.

Turkmen Fumigation​

In Turkmenistan, one of the most oppressive societies in the world, the country has been ruled for years by authoritarian leaders with a penchant for quixotic quirks and health recommendations.

Before his death in 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov, who called himself the Father Of All Turkmen, routinely dispensed spiritual guidance, not to mention public-health advice, to the country, messaging that was widely disseminated by state TV and newspapers. In 2005, the country’s physicians were ordered to spurn the Hippocratic Oath — the ancient pledge used worldwide by medical workers — and instead swear an oath to Niyazov, an electrical engineer by training.

His successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, is a dentist by training. But that hasn’t stopped him from building a personality cult similar to Niyazov’s — or from offering unfounded medical advice, most recently on March 13, when he chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the looming dangers of the coronavirus.

“Over the millennia, our ancestors have developed proven national methods of combating addictions and preventing various infectious diseases,” he said.

He went on to suggest that burning an herb known as hamala, or wild rue, would destroy viruses “that are invisible to the naked eye.”

In fact, this is not true.

In December, Turkmen state TV featured a program discussing veterinary remedies for farmers coping with an outbreak of disease among cattle. Among the remedies being offered were those featured in a book authored by Berdymukhammedov.

A year earlier, the Health Ministry offered medical advice to Turkmen dealing with summer respiratory ailments. Among the tips: “use medicinal teas scientifically described in the book of … Berdymukhammedov’s Plants of Turkmenistan.”

As of March 18, Turkmenistan had reported no confirmed cases of infection.

Reap What You Sow

Over more than two decades of ruling Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has also routinely dispensed folksy wisdom to his countrymen.

Prior to the presidency, Lukashenka headed a Soviet-style collective farm operation, which is where he has drawn his suggestions and medicinal folklore from in the past.

On March 16, he hosted a meeting of cabinet officials in Minsk, where he sought to head off mounting concerns about the coronavirus in the country. As of March 17, it had 17 confirmed cases.

At the meeting, which was televised on state TV, he told officials “we have lived through other viruses. We’ll live through this one,” he said.

“You just have to work, especially now, in a village,” Lukashenka said. “In the countryside, people are working in the fields, on tractors, no one is talking about the virus.”

“There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone,” he said.

Lukashenka wished his ministers good health and offered this other piece of health advice: Go have a good sweat in a dry sauna; the coronavirus, according to Lukashenka, dies at 60 degrees Celsius.

In fact, there’s no evidence that tractors, saunas, or fieldwork have any effect on the coronavirus.

Vodka Elixir

As of March 18, Serbia had 83 confirmed cases of the virus.

Three weeks prior, as officials across the world were beginning to take concerns about the coronavirus’s spread seriously, President Aleksandar Vucic met with health specialists to discuss the measures being taken by his government.

He joked that alcohol — ingested — might very well be a useful salve.

“After they told me — and now I see that Americans insist it’s true — that the coronavirus doesn’t grow wherever you put alcohol, I’ve now found myself an additional reason to drink one glass a day,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with that alcohol [liquor], I just made that up for you to know.”

It didn’t help matters that, earlier on, Vucic’s foreign minister, had gone on Serbian TV to suggest that the virus was a foreign plot targeting the Chinese economy.

Belarus’s Lukashenka, meanwhile, echoed Vucic’s quip about vodka himself earlier this week.

“I’m a nondrinker, but recently I’ve been jokingly saying that you should not only wash your hands with vodka, but that probably 40-50 grams of pure alcohol will poison this virus,” Lukashenka said.

In fact, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure the coronavirus, or any other virus inside the body. Alcohol can, in fact, help kill germs and viruses externally, but washing your hands with vodka will not.

Holy Water, Holy Virus

While political leaders have been confusing people with unhelpful medicinal folklore, they aren’t the only leaders to do so.

Some clerics in a number of Orthodox countries — Russia included — have spurned medical guidance that has warned the coronavirus can be transmitted via close physical contact, or bodily fluids, such as droplets in the air, or saliva on utensils.

Metropolitan Ilarion, a top official in the Russian Orthodox Church, told state media that the church will not be closing parishes for services during the period leading up to Easter, which is to be celebrated on April 19.

Ilarion also told Rossia-24 TV that church leaders do not believe that any “virus or disease can be transmitted through communion” — the religious rite of eating bread and sipping wine during a church service.

Still, he indicated that the church would consider changes to things like the use of a communion spoon, used to give blessed wine to parishioners.

“But if it comes to bans or recommendations that we are obliged to follow, then in some cases single-use [disposable] spoons will be used,” he said.

On March 17, he went further.

“This does not mean that the church underestimates the threat. If the virus spreads and the number of infected grows, if new orders from the authorities appear regarding the fight against the coronavirus, the church will respond to them,” he was quoted as telling Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

He said church leaders were taking other unusual steps, including the use of disposable cups, disposable rubber gloves, and a suspension of the practice of kissing the cross or religious icons — a common practice in Orthodox tradition.

Two days earlier, however, at least one Orthodox parish, in the Volga River city of Kazan, was using a reusable “holy spoon” to administer communion wine.

As of March 18, Russia had 114 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, in Georgia (38 confirmed cases), Orthodox priests were reportedly continuing to use a common spoon to ladle communion into the drinking cups of worshippers who chose that option. And the Greek Orthodox Church also echoed Ilarion’s unfounded insistence that viruses could not spread via Communion.

Other Georgian Orthodox priests, meanwhile, took to the roads this week to try and curtail, or cure, the coronavirus, driving around Tbilisi sprinkling holy water on cars and drivers alike.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

See how the Army evacuates wounded working dogs

Look, you all know what military working dogs are. Whether you’re here because they’re adorable, because they save lives, because they bite bad guys, or because they bite bad guys and save lives while being adorable, we all have reasons to love these good puppers. And the military protects these warriors, even evacuating them when necessary.


And so that brings us to the above video and photos below. Because, yes, these evacuations can take place on helicopters, and that requires a lot of training. Some of it is standard stuff. The dogs can ride on normal litters and in normal helicopters. But medics aren’t always ready for a canine patient, and the doggos have some special needs.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Military Working Dog Medical Care Training

(U.S. Army courtesy photo)

One of the most important needs particular to the dogs is managing their anxiety. While some humans get uncomfortable on a ride in the whirly bird (the technical name for a helicopter), it’s even worse for dogs who don’t quite understand why they’re suddenly hundreds of feet in the sky while standing on a shaking metal plate.

So the dogs benefit a lot just from helicopter familiarization training. And it’s also a big part of why handlers almost always leave the battlefield with their dogs. Their rifle might be useful on the ground even after their dog is wounded, but handlers have a unique value during the medical evacuation, treatment, and rehabilitation. If a dog is already hurt and scared when it gets on a helicopter, you really want it to have a familiar face comforting it during the flight.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Military Working Dog Medical Care Training

(U.S. Army courtesy photo)

But it’s not just about helping the dogs be more comfortable. It’s also about preparing the flight medics to take care of the dogs’ and handlers’ unique needs. Like in the video at the top. As the Air Force handlers are comforting and restraining the dogs, the helicopter crew is connecting handlers’ restraints because the handlers’ hands are needed for the dogs.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Military Working Dog Medical Care Training

(U.S. Army courtesy photo)

The personnel who take part in these missions, from the handlers to the pilots to the flight crews, all get trained on the differences before they take part in the training and, when possible, before any missions where they might need to evacuate a dog.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Yarborough)

Of course, ultimately, the dogs get care from medical and veterinarian teams. Don’t worry about this good dog. The photo comes from a routine root canal.

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