The commander of U.S. Pacific Command said Feb. 14, 2018 he believes North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pursuing nuclear weapons to eventually reunify the Korean Peninsula under his brutal communist regime.
The U.S. should take that long view into account when dealing with Kim’s quest for nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching U.S. cities, Adm. Harry Harris said in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.
“I do think that there is a prevailing view that KJU [Kim Jong Un] is doing the things that he is doing to safeguard his regime. I don’t ascribe to that view,” Harris said. “I do think that he is after reunification under a single communist system, so he is after what his grandfather failed to do and his father failed to do.”
North Korea conducted ICBM and nuclear tests in 2017 and has defiantly continued to pursue the weapons despite U.S. and international condemnation and economic sanctions. Recent testing and U.S. intelligence estimates show the regime is close to completing the missiles.
“It puts him in a position to blackmail the South and other countries in the region and us,” as Kim pursues what he sees as the regime’s “natural place” controlling the entire Korean Peninsula, Harris said.
“I think we are self-limiting if we view North Korea’s nuclear ambitions as solely as a means to safeguard his regime.”
An armistice between the North and the United States has been in place since the Korean War ended in stalemate more than six decades ago. Since then, three generations of Kims have ruled the North and turned it into one of the most isolated and repressive regimes in the world.
The Trump administration is now struggling with the youngest Kim’s nuclear aspirations, which have put the regime on the verge of becoming the world’s latest nuclear power to acquire ICBMs.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the House Armed Services chairman, cited an article by former Ambassador James Jeffrey and speculated that current thinking on the North may be wrong.
“The dominant view is he wants missiles and nuclear weapons in order to safeguard his regime,” Thornberry said. “To think anything else is so unpleasant that we don’t let ourselves think that maybe he wants these nuclear weapons to hold U.S. cities hostage so that he can have his way and finish what his grandfather started on the peninsula.”
But North Korea is notoriously insular and U.S. intelligence is scant on its internal workings.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, questioned whether Harris could be so certain about Kim’s motivations.
“I think the real answer is there is no way to know. We can guess what he is trying to do,” Smith said. “I think anyone who confidently asserts that all Kim Jong Un wants to do is protect his regime is just as wrong as anyone who confidently asserts that he definitely wants to unify the peninsula.”
A Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) operative, Yanjun Xu, aka Qu Hui, aka Zhang Hui, has been arrested and charged with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and steal trade secrets from multiple U.S. aviation and aerospace companies. Xu was extradited to the United States yesterday.
The charges were announced today by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin C. Glassman, Assistant Director Bill Priestap of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, and Special Agent in Charge Angela L. Byers of the FBI’s Cincinnati Division.
Eyebrows were raised when the designs for the Chinese J-31 surfaced and it looked a lot like the American F-35 Lightning II (pictured above)
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas)
“This indictment alleges that a Chinese intelligence officer sought to steal trade secrets and other sensitive information from an American company that leads the way in aerospace,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “This case is not an isolated incident. It is part of an overall economic policy of developing China at American expense. We cannot tolerate a nation’s stealing our firepower and the fruits of our brainpower. We will not tolerate a nation that reaps what it does not sow.”
“Innovation in aviation has been a hallmark of life and industry in the United States since the Wright brothers first designed gliders in Dayton more than a century ago,” said U.S. Attorney Glassman. “U.S. aerospace companies invest decades of time and billions of dollars in research. This is the American way. In contrast, according to the indictment, a Chinese intelligence officer tried to acquire that same, hard-earned innovation through theft. This case shows that federal law enforcement authorities can not only detect and disrupt such espionage, but can also catch its perpetrators. The defendant will now face trial in federal court in Cincinnati.”
“This unprecedented extradition of a Chinese intelligence officer exposes the Chinese government’s direct oversight of economic espionage against the United States,” said Assistant Director Priestap.
Yanjun Xu is a Deputy Division Director with the MSS’s Jiangsu State Security Department, Sixth Bureau. The MSS is the intelligence and security agency for China and is responsible for counter-intelligence, foreign intelligence, and political security. MSS has broad powers in China to conduct espionage both domestically and abroad.
Xu was arrested in Belgium on April 1, pursuant to a federal complaint, and then indicted by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Ohio. The government unsealed the charges today, following his extradition to the United States. The four-count indictment charges Xu with conspiring and attempting to commit economic espionage and theft of trade secrets.
According to the indictment:
Beginning in at least December 2013 and continuing until his arrest, Xu targeted certain companies inside and outside the United States that are recognized as leaders in the aviation field. This included GE Aviation. He identified experts who worked for these companies and recruited them to travel to China, often initially under the guise of asking them to deliver a university presentation. Xu and others paid the experts’ travel costs and provided stipends.
A gavel sits on display in a military courtroom Jan. 29, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base.
(USAF photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson)
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.
The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy and attempt to commit economic espionage is 15 years of incarceration. The maximum for conspiracy and attempt to commit theft of trade secrets is 10 years. The charges also carry potential financial penalties. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes. If convicted of any offense, a defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Cincinnati Division, and substantial support was provided by the FBI Legal Attaché’s Office in Brussels. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in obtaining and coordinating the extradition of Xu, and Belgian authorities provided significant assistance in securing the arrest and facilitating the surrender of Xu from Belgium.
Assistant Attorney General Demers and U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by the FBI and the assistance of the Belgian authorities in the arrest and extradition of Xu. Mr. Demers and Mr. Glassman also commended the cooperation of GE Aviation throughout this investigation. The cooperation and GE Aviation’s internal controls protected GE Aviation’s proprietary information.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy S. Mangan and Emily N. Glatfelter of the Southern District of Ohio, and Trial Attorneys Thea D. R. Kendler and Amy E. Larson of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
The Department of Veteran Affairs has just released the draft master plan for how the agency intends to improve the campus of its West Los Angeles facility after years of encroachment, misuse, and neglect. The plan follows a landmark legal ruling last year following a lawsuit that alleged that VA was violating the covenant of an 1888 deed whereby the United States acquired title to the West LA Campus by misusing parts of it for commercial purposes in lieu of caring for and serving veterans.
The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. Vets Advocacy and We Are The Mighty have joined forces in a grassroots campaign to assist the veteran community in voicing how they’d like to see VA services provided at the West LA VA campus.
“With the proper veteran input, the West LA VA redevelopment plan has the potential to serve as a 21st Century blueprint for VA campuses nationwide,” said Jonathan Sherin, a psychiatrist and veteran advocate who has been a key facilitator of the planning effort.
The new master plan for the West LA Campus will help VA determine and implement the most effective use of the campus for veterans, particularly for homeless veterans, including underserved populations such as female veterans, aging veterans, and those who are severely physically or mentally disabled. Focus areas include considerations surrounding vet housing (both temporary and permanent), vet services, and historic preservation.
The draft plan divides the campus into four zones labeled (1-4 respectively) “Healthcare Excellence,” “Coordinated Care,” “Veteran Housing,” and “Recreation.” Details of each zone can be found in the document.
“This draft master plan provides the VA with a stronger foundation to build a 21st century healthcare campus and vibrant community for veterans,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said in a statement. “It also helps to ensure we will have the housing and healthcare resources needed to sustain the mission of ending veteran homelessness.”
Now that the draft master plan has been published, veterans have 45 days to review it and provide inputs, thereby helping to ensure the plan meets the needs of those it is designed to assist. The master plan can be viewed and downloaded and comments can be submitted at #VATHERIGHTWAY.
The sunny side of planet Earth had all of its GPS communications temporarily knocked out Sept. 6 after the sun emitted two massive solar flares, showering the planet with radiation storms.
Both events were X-Class solar flares, the most severe classification, and one of them was the most powerful since 2005, Engadget reported. When solar flares like these are directed at Earth, the resulting radiation storm can easily impede radio and GPS communications. These resulted in heavy communications interference for a full hour Sept. 6.
The second storm was an X9.3, the strongest since 2005 and severe enough to cause the sun to spew out plasma from its surface in a coronal mass ejection. Radio emissions collected by the US Space Weather Prediction Center indicate that the storm caused a “wide area of blackouts” on the sunlit side of Earth, according to Space.com.
If you’re a suburban mom in Iowa, your PT is a Cruiser.
And this is what your husband does to unwind. Check out his award-winning ride. (Photo via Flickr,
Rex Gray, CC BY 2.0)
If you’re a tumbler in the circus, your PT is a Barnum.
And if you’re an aspiring Industrial Age robber baron played by Daniel Day Lewis, your PT is an Anderson.
But if you served in the military, your PT is an acronym, meaning Physical Training. And your PT comes with a silent F, which might officially stand for “fitness,” but back on testing days, probably stood for an f-word you used frequently to grumble and bitch.
In the service, PT sucks. That goes without saying. And yet, as a civilian, you’re still doing it. Nowadays, you do PT voluntarily and brag about your preferred brand to anyone who will listen. You pay $100/month for a nice, clean place (close to work!) to do it in. You pay someone extra to play your drill instructor, someone who’s motivational but not too mean. Let’s face it. You have become
enmired in hypocrisy
And there’s only one man who can pull you free.
Max doesn’t do PT, he is PT. He’s Physically Titanic, Proactively Tactical, Pyrotechnically Triumphant, and Proudly Terse. He’s a Prehensile Tyrannosaurus with Possible Telekinesis and a full Power Train warranty. Also, he will Put a Trace on your phone if you try to weasel out of this workout.
In this episode, Max is sending you back to PT. No frills. No gym. No equipment. No excuses. Just minute after minute of good old fashioned body weight conditioning drills stacked up in supersets for you to grovel and bitch your way through .
Welcome back to Performance Testing, Puddy Tat.
Watch as Max casually bats aside your nonsense, in the video embedded at the top.
At one time, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria controlled a self-proclaimed caliphate that stretched from Syria to Iraq, but now that force in Iraq has been degraded so much that the remnants are hiding in caves, deep wadis, and tunnels in the desert and hills of western Iraq’s austere terrain, the commander of Task Force Rifles told Pentagon reporters Dec. 11, 2018.
Army Col. Jonathan C. Byrom, who also serves as deputy director of Joint Operations Command Iraq, spoke via video teleconference from Baghdad.
Kurdish peshmerga and Iraqi security forces are conducting continuous clearance operations against these small pockets, the colonel said.
Checkpoints along the Iraq-Syria border have now been reopened, and Iraq’s border guard and security forces are operating along that border to prevent ISIS from crossing, he said. That includes “intense cross-border fires” by Iraqi and coalition forces in consultation and coordination with Syrian Democratic Forces, he added.
U.S. Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command fire 120mm mortars in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve operations Sept. 18, 2018. CJTF-OIR is the military arm of the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS in designated parts of Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Gabino Perez)
Iraqi security forces are large-scale clearance operations and are hunting ISIS leadership and trying to take out the terrorist group’s media, propaganda, and financial capabilities, Byrom said.
Assistance from U.S., coalition forces
U.S. and coalition forces are advising, assisting, and enabling Iraqi forces, he said, support that includes providing them with joint fires, intelligence, aerial surveillance, and training, along with some equipment. “It’s a good partnership” that’s preventing a resurgence of ISIS and continues to degrade their numbers and effectiveness, the colonel said.
Byrom emphasized that the Iraqis are conducting their own missions and making the decisions. “They are effectively targeting ISIS and regularly conducting operations that disrupt ISIS and preventing their resurgence,” he said.
Asked how many ISIS fighters remain in Iraq, Byrom said he doesn’t focus on the number. “What we’re really focused on is the capability and whether they can translate this capability into destabilizing or resurging,” he explained.
The good news story, he said, is that ISIS attacks “are not having that much of an impact on the population.”
A Japanese warship, using a US ship-based anti-missile system, successfully intercepted and destroyed an incoming ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean on Sept. 11, 2018, the Missile Defense Agency revealed in an official statement.
An upgraded Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Atago-class guided-missile destroyer detected and tracked a simple, separating ballistic missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. Responding to the threat, the ship’s onboard Aegis Weapon System tracked it and launched a Standard Missile-3 Block IB Threat Upgrade missile that intercepted it mid-flight.
“This success provides confidence in the future capability for Japan to defeat the developing threats in the region,” Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said in a statement apparently referencing Beijing’s arsenal of ballistic missiles and Pyongyang’s program, which the regime suspended after the Trump-Kim talks and which has involved test-firing ballistic missiles over Japan.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force “is developing and testing several new variants of missiles and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses,” the Pentagon explained in its 2018 report on Chinese military power.
U.S. President Donald Trump met with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un on June 12, 2018, in Singapore.
“We are committed to assisting the government of Japan in upgrading its national missile defense capability against emerging threats,” Greaves said, according to Reuters.
The latest intercept will enhance the overall capabilities of Japan’s Atago-class destroyers, which have been limited to air defense while the Kongo-class guided-missile destroyers have employed ballistic missile defense systems, Tom Karako, a missile defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote on Twitter after news of the successful test.
The US and Japan are jointly developing another interceptor missile — the SM-3 Block IIA, but testing has been a little hit or miss lately. The system has been tested three times since the start of 2017, and it has only had one successful intercept.
The Missile Defense Agency called Sept. 10, 2018’s test a “significant milestone in the growing cooperation between Japan and the U.S. in the area of missile defense.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The idea of turning “swords into ploughshares” — that is to say, converting military technology and/or equipment into materials with a peaceful civilian purpose — is a very old concept. The phrase comes from the Bible’s Book of Isaiah 2:3-4:
And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
This is where Sword Plough draws its name. The company sells unique designer handbags and accessories made from discarded military surplus items. Co-founded by the daughters of a 30-year U.S. Army veteran, Col. (ret.) Joseph Núñez, Sword Plough is a veteran-owned-and-operated business, dedicated to hiring and supporting veterans.
One daughter, Emily Núñez Cavness, is SP’s CEO, and is also an active duty Army 1st. Lt. serving with the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Emily co-founded Sword Plough with her sister Betsy Núñez, who is the Chief Operations Officer.
“We have received such an incredibly positive and supportive response from our community,” Núñez Cavness says. “We’re still a young company, but we’re growing fast and we have a lot happening in the new year. In addition to expanding our product line, we have a number of exciting brand partnerships in the works and we’re planning to grow our wholesale business to brick and mortar shops throughout the country.”
“What sets Sword Plough apart is our commitment to a quadruple bottom line,” she continues. “People, Purpose, Planet, Profit. This means that we are simultaneously focused on improving veteran employment and supporting American jobs, bridging the civilian-military gap, repurposing surplus material, and donating 10% of our profits back to veteran organizations.”
One of their biggest passions is supporting veteran entrepreneurship.
“Betsy and I grew up on Army posts across the country and we couldn’t be more excited to be able to give back to the military and veteran community,” Núñez Cavness says. “One of the most rewarding parts of both serving in the Army and leading Sword Plough is the ability I have to bring the knowledge of starting a business to the veteran community. Many soldiers and veterans approach me with exciting ideas and ask for advice on how to start. Mentoring aspiring veteran entrepreneurs is one of my favorite things to do. Veterans already have so many of the leadership and management skills necessary to be successful in entrepreneurship or business. It is such an energizing experience to help chart realistic pathways to bring their ideas to reality.”
Since launching in 2013, Sword Plough repurposed over 35,000 pounds of military surplus, supported 38 veteran jobs, donated 10 percent of profits annually, and shipped over 10,000 products globally. Not a bad startup period.
Their father commanded Army forces at the company and battalion level, taught political science at West Point, and deployed to Haiti in 1994 in support of Operations Restore Democracy and Uphold Democracy. Their uncle, Kenneth Cameron, served in the Marine Corps. Cameron is a retired Colonel and was an aviator, test pilot, engineer, and NASA astronaut who piloted three missions to outer space.
Being from such a strong military family, Emily Núñez Cavness is herself an ROTC graduate of Middlebury College. She recalls her introduction to the civilian-military divide, which happened as she walked to a military science class one morning.
“I was abruptly stopped when an upperclassman walked out of the fine arts building,” she says. “He meandered toward me and asked, ‘Hi there, What play are you in?! I’ve never seen you around here.’ I didn’t have a lot of time to talk since I’d be late for my class, so I quickly explained that my uniform was not in fact a costume, but my actual government issued uniform for Army ROTC.”
This would be the first of many instances to leave an impression on her. They would come to help influence Sword Plough’s mission to empower veteran employment and bridge that divide in any way they can. But it doesn’t stop there. The summer after her sophomore year at Middlebury, Núñez Cavness found herself at the U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“Even though I grew up in a military family on several Army Posts, this was the first time I was training next to Soldiers as a fellow service member rather than as a military kid,” she recalls. “We would spend almost every day quickly running from place to place in our helmets and boots, only to wait for hours under the hot sun until it was our turn to practice the parachute landing fall or how to properly pull a slip.”
1st Lt. Emily Núñez Cavness
“It didn’t take long for these periods of downtime to become some of my favorite moments of the course because it was then that the students to my left and right would open up to me about their past experiences in the Army and their goals and hopes for the future. Some expressed an interest in leaving the military in the near future but were seriously worried about their job prospects after talking to veteran friends who had been unemployed for a long time after leaving military service. At the time, I didn’t always know what to say, but I never forgot those conversations. It seemed like such an injustice to me that a group of people who had sacrificed so much and become such proven leaders would face this type of adversity.”
Fast forward one and a half years and Núñez Cavness is listening to Jacqueline Novogratz, the founder and CEO of Acumen, give her keynote speech during Middlebury’s first Social Entrepreneurship Symposium. She was talking about a business which incorporated recycling into its business model. The talk had young Núñez Cavness’ mind running 100 miles per hour.
“The way she described it immediately made me reflect on my own life,” Núñez Cavness said. “I asked myself, ‘what in my life is wasted on daily basis that could be harnessed and made into something beautiful?’ Having grown up on Army posts, I immediately thought back to the huge piles of military surplus I used to see that were going to be buried in a landfill or burned. As I looked around the audience, I noticed that every student had a backpack or bag of some kind propped up next to them. And then… it clicked! Why don’t I take the military surplus that would otherwise be discarded and turn it into stylish bags?”
Their newer Wool Handbag and Wool Crossbody are also very popular items.
As part of its dedication to giving back to veterans, Sword Plough makes financial contributions to veteran-focused organizations like Rocky Mountain Human Services, Feeding Our Vets, and Got Your 6. They support charitable organizations by donating their products for fundraisers.
These donations have helped recipients raise thousands of dollars through blind and live auctions. They also donate products to events which can raise general public awareness about veterans’ issues and the civil-military divide. To date, they have made more than $10,000 worth of product donations to organizations like the Navy SEAL Foundation, the 3rd and Goal Foundation, the Headstrong Project, and more.
Núñez Cavness designed the first three bags herself, but Sword Plough now has a creative director to design products. They also have a number of products designed by veterans.
“The military relies on cutting edge gear and technology to carry out its missions,” Núñez Cavness says. “This relationship with their equipment has definitely influenced the way we think about design and fashion. We repurpose military surplus equipment not only for the environmental benefits and vintage appeal, but also for its durability. Our team draws inspiration from cities that we live in, the people that we interact with, the feedback from the SP community of supporters, the history of the materials we use, and we try to honor tradition by constantly innovating and keeping functionality in mind.”
We sent our “Vet On The Street,” U.S. Marine Corps veteran and comic James P. Connolly, to Santa Monica, CA. to find out if people could name the official title of the Afghanistan War. Check out the result here:
While officials did not specify the type of nerve agent used, a well-placed source told the BBC it was likely to be extremely rare.
Nerve agents are extremely toxic chemicals that effectively shut down communication between the brain and muscles — in other words, they stop the body from working. They are also very hard to make.
Here’s what you need to know about the deadly substances.
What are nerve agents?
Nerve agents can take the form of gas, aerosol, or liquid, and enter the body through inhalation, the skin, or the consumption of liquid or food contaminated with them, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.
Symptoms include restlessness, loss of consciousness, wheezing, and a running nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Depending on the amount and method of administration, symptoms can take minutes or hours to occur, Sky News science correspondent Thomas Moore said. When administered in high doses, nerve agents can suffocate victims to death within a couple of minutes, the OPCW said.
It’s not clear when the Skripals were exposed to the chemicals and how much was administered to them.
A witness at Zizzi, the restaurant where the Skripals were eating before they collapsed, told the BBC that the elder Skripal “seemed to lose his temper” and “just started screaming at the top of his voice, he wanted his bill and he wanted to go.”
Another witness who saw the stricken Skripals later on said Yulia “looked like she had passed out” and Sergei “was doing some strange hand movements, looking up to the sky.”
What was used on the Skripals?
The type of nerve agent used on the Skripals remains unclear. Investigators have identified it but are not making it public at this point, the BBC reported.
A source close to the investigation told the BBC the nerve agent was likely rarer than sarin gas, which is believed to have been used in the Syrian war and used to kill 13 people in a Tokyo subway in 1995.
The Sun previously reported military scientists on the case as saying the pair might have been poisoned with a “hybrid” kind of thallium, a hard-to-trace heavy metal commonly found in rat poison and insecticides. Detectives originally thought former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with thallium in London in 2006.
How easy is it to make nerve agents?
The raw materials for nerve agents are relatively inexpensive and easy to procure, the OPCW said. However, the chemical weapon itself is difficult to make.
Victor Madeira, a senior fellow at The Institute for Statecraft who testified to Parliament about Russian covert interference in Britain, told Business Insider: “Nerve agents are rare, tightly-controlled synthetic substances that do require specialised knowledge to manufacture, store and use safely.
“However, that knowledge isn’t beyond someone with a good Master’s degree in Organic Chemistry, say, and access to a good laboratory. Very difficult, but not impossible.”
Chemical weapons expert Richard Guthrie similarly told The Guardian that manufacturing nerve agents require “fairly complicated chemistry,” and were “essentially impossible” to make at home.
“Nerve agents, such as sarin or VX, require some fairly complicated chemistry using certain highly reactive chemicals,” Guthrie said. “Small quantities could be made in a well-equipped laboratory with an experienced analytical chemist. To carry out the reactions in a domestic kitchen would be essentially impossible.”
Does this point to Russia?
Experts appear to differ over whether Russia was responsible.
Matt Tait, a former GCHQ officer, said the method of attack seemed “designed to project that this is a nation-state that’s doing it.”
He told The Atlantic: “This is a very extreme form of killing in a way that is designed to project that this is a nation-state that’s doing it. Nobody can be under any sort of illusions that this is some sort of run-of-the-mill killing. […]
“The clear message that they’re sending to both people who currently work for their intelligence agencies and also people who used to work for their intelligence agencies … they will make an example of you.”
Madeira disagreed. Just because nerve agents are rare doesn’t necessarily mean a state actor did it, he said.
“Simply using a ‘very rare’ nerve agent against Col. Skripal wouldn’t necessarily indicate Kremlin (or Russian) involvement,” he told BI. “This is why DSTL Porton Down [the UK Ministry of Defence’s science lab] and partner agencies are racing to ‘fingerprint’ the agent used, which will then allow them to narrow the list of potential sources right down.”
Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol, told CNN that attacking an ex-spy with a nerve agent in Britain was an “outrageous affront to our security in Europe and our way of life.” He warned, however, that people should “exercise caution before jumping to any conclusions.”
The Kremlin has vehemently denied any involvement or knowledge of the case.
When it comes to the economics of adult entertainment, things are pretty similar to its Silver Screen counterpart. There’s a lot of money spent behind the scenes to make the films. Locations, production crews, and other associated costs can really make a dent in even the most well-prepared budget.
“It’s a process,” says adult actress Mercedes Carrera in an interview with We Are The Mighty. “And sometimes it’s not as fun as people think it is.”
Time is money. There’s no room for errors, no time for first-timers to start in the mainstream adult film world. And not just anyone can get their foot in the door.
So when Carrera tweeted to her fan base about the idea of casting average-joe veterans to co-star in her upcoming project, the response blew her away.
“I just threw a tweet out like two days ago,” Carrera recalls during a February 2017 interview. “It said ‘contact me, I’m gonna do this whole vet only thing. It’s gonna be its own site.’ ”
Carrera’s tweet was part of her plan to launch a new adult entertainment website that is veteran focused — including using vets as actors.
While some may question whether the star’s use of veteran “free talent” is taking advantage of former service members — even using words like “exploitation” — she insists that is both an oversimplification and simply untrue.
“I’m not going to be making money off of vets,” Carrera says. “The numbers just don’t work out for me in that. I still have to pay for some locations, I have to pay my production staff. This project will be a sub-site from my website, but I already know that no one is gonna buy 80 percent of these scenes.”
The tweet was picked up by one website and her inbox was soon flooded with a thousand emails. To say she’s a big deal among veterans is an understatement, in her eyes. She gets messages and emails all the time from servicemen and women, just to tell her that her work helped get them through a deployment, despite General Order Number One, which prohibits work like hers in the CENTCOM theater.
“It’s probably two thousand by now,” she adds. She gets three new emails every minute. And answering them has become a sort-of full-time job, one she says she truly enjoys.
Her outreach to the veteran community is nothing new. In 2016, she took Army Sgt. Anthony Berg to the Adult Video News Awards, one of her industry’s biggest nights.
To her, wasn’t a publicity stunt, she still keeps in touch with Berg and his wife, and both attended the awards with her.
The reasons for her devotion to vets is simple, she says. Carrera is a military brat — her father served in Vietnam and he, like many other returning Vietnam veterans, did not get the homecoming Iraq and Afghanistan veterans receive today.
People actually spit and hurled things at him as left the airport, she said.
“It was a different time, and he was getting out as the war was very unpopular,” Carrera recalls. “And he was coming back to Los Angeles at the time so you can imagine the social climate.”
Aside from her family connection to veterans, Carrera says she genuinely loves them and connects with the community. She has a lot of respect and admiration for a community who cares more about their friends than themselves, and that includes the vets who respond to her her contests.
“They take care of each other,” she says. “This happened when I took a date to AVN last year, too. These guys are, instead of submitting themselves, they’re submitting their buddies.”
Veterans interested in her veteran movie project will have to provide their own time and travel and pay for industry-standard disease screening. The adult film industry is one with inherent health risks and is regulated by state government.
“When I perform, I always pay my own travel expenses and for my own tests,” she said. “We all [in the adult industry] pay for our own tests all the time. That’s the nature of the industry.”
Carrera hasn’t always been an adult video actress. She began her career as an aerospace engineer. Though she still loves to “build sh*t,” Carrera recalls her move to the adult industry as a natural one for her.
While there are a few veterans who have transitioned from the military to the adult industry, there aren’t many. And though some may want to join the ranks of her world, Carrera can tell you that breaking in isn’t easy.
“The failure rates for new men are 80-90 percent,” she says. “Producers don’t even want to audition new guys. It’s too much of a risk to the production cost. For those veterans who do want a break in the industry, I’m offering them a chance to see if they can do it.
She doesn’t see veterans as victims she can take advantage of, she just wants to give aspiring veterans the opportunity they may not have had otherwise.
In Mercedes Carrera’s mind, we all give back to our veterans in our own way. This project will be her way.
“I’m at a point in my career in the where my recommendations carry weight and I’ve earned that by earning my stripe in the industry,” she says. “Veterans have reached out to me for years asking me how to get started, and now I have the chance to help them.”
Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a bill to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire its employees, part of an accountability effort touted by President Donald Trump.
The deal being announced May 11 could smooth the way for final passage on an issue that had been largely stalled since the 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. As many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees created secret waiting lists and other falsehoods to cover up delays.
The Hill deal followed a fresh warning from the VA inspector general’s office of continuing patient safety problems at another facility, the VA medical center in Washington D.C. After warning of serious problems there last month, the IG’s “rapid response” team visited the facility again on Wednesday and found a patient prepped for vascular surgery in an operating room, under anesthesia, whose surgery was postponed because “the surgeon did not have a particular sterile instrument necessary to perform the surgery.”
The team also found “surgical instruments that had color stains of unknown origin in sterile packs,” according to the IG’s letter sent Wednesday to the VA. The IG again urged the department to take immediate action to ensure patients “are not placed at unnecessary risk.”
The new accountability measure, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., softens portions of a bill that had passed the House in March, which Democrats criticized as unfairly harsh on workers. Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the top Democrat and the Republican chair on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, agreed to back the new bill after modifications that would give VA employees added time to appeal disciplinary actions.
House Veterans Affairs’ Committee Chairman Phil Roe, sponsor of the House measure, said he would support the revisions.
“To fully reform the VA and provide our nation’s veterans with the quality care they were promised and deserve, we must ensure the department can efficiently dismiss employees who are not able or willing to do their jobs,” Rubio told The Associated Press.
It comes after Trump last month signed an executive order to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, with an aim of identifying “barriers” that make it difficult for the VA to fire or reassign bad managers or employees. VA Secretary David Shulkin had urged the Senate to act quickly to pass legislation.
The GOP-controlled House previously approved an accountability bill mostly along party lines. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., argued the House should embrace language instead from a bipartisan bill by Isakson from last year with added due process protections for workers.
The Senate bill to be introduced Thursday adopts several portions of that previous Isakson bill, including a longer appeal process than provided in the House bill — 180 days vs. 45 days, though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees for discipline. The Senate bill also codifies into law the VA accountability office created under Trump’s order, but with changes to give the head of the office more independent authority and require the office to submit regular updates to Congress.
Conservative groups praised the bill.
“These new measures will disincentivize bad behavior within the VA and further protect those who bravely expose wrongdoing,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America, pointing to a “toxic culture” at VA.
The agreement comes in a week in which Senate Democrats are standing apart from Trump on a separate issue affecting veterans, the GOP bill passed by the House to repeal and replace the nation’s health care law. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., warned the House measure would strip away explicit protections to ensure that as many as 8 million veterans who are eligible for VA care but opt to use private insurance would still receive tax credits.
Many veterans use a private insurer if they feel a VA facility is too far away, or if they don’t qualify for fuller VA coverage because they have higher incomes or ailments unrelated to their time in service, said Duckworth, a combat veteran who lost her legs and partial use of her right arm during the Iraq war. A group of GOP senators is working to craft their own health bill.
“Trumpcare threatens to rip health care out of their hands,” Duckworth said at a news briefing this week. “The question left is what will Senate Republicans do?”
Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on an accountability bill after the Phoenix VA scandal. 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.
Critics have since complained that few employees were fired for various VA malfeasance, including rising cases of opioid drug theft, first reported by the AP.