This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin told a group of veteran advocates that he was cutting funding to a program that addresses veteran homelessness, according to a Dec. 6 report from Politico.


The conversation reportedly happened over the phone, with “advocates for veterans, state officials, and even officials from HUD” reacting to the news from Shulkin in outright anger.

The program, co-sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), allocates $460 million a year to housing homeless veterans. It seems to have been working, too, as veteran homelessness is down 46 percent from 2010.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
First, La Crosse. Next, the country? (Photo from Tomah VA Medical Center)

Nevertheless, Shulkin determined that nearly $1 billion should be moved from “specific purpose” funds to “general purpose” funds. This means moving all of the funding used specifically to ameliorate veterans homelessness.

According to a Sept. 2 memo, the VA believes that money designated to specific programs, like addressing veteran homelessness, transplant programs, amputation care, and women’s health, would be better used in a general fund, leaving veterans hospitals to decide for themselves how to use the money. The memo states that the move is designed to support “the Secretary’s five priorities” and could be used for administrative things, like hiring more VA employees.

The memo does not state how each individual hospital must use its newfound funds. Rather, it simply notes that network directors will have control over how much (if any) to give to specific programs.

Also Read: This city ended veteran homelessness in just 100 days

The Senate Committee on Appropriations responded to Shulkin’s plans to move the funds with a bipartisan, strongly worded letter signed by every member. In it, the committee reminded the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that his department had previously been extended the privilege of flexibility to move money without review because of its willingness to be transparent. That transparency, the letter argued, would all but disappear should Shulkin divert the specific purpose funds.

The letter closed with what seemed like a warning in the form of a suggestion: Stop, think, and before you do anything, submit to us a detailed “funding allocation plan” in the future.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

It didn’t take long for Shulkin to shift gears and reverse his earlier statements. “There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless programs,” Shulkin wrote in a statement released Dec. 6.

However, Shulkin added, “we will not be shifting any homeless program money to the Choice program.” It is not immediately clear whether the Choice program is where Shulkin suggested the funds would go in his Dec. 1 phone call.

Upon further review of the VA’s budget brief, the department does, in fact, plan to cut funding from “certain Veterans’ benefit programs” to offset the cost of money borrowed from the nearly bankrupt Veterans Choice Program, a program designed to offer veterans medical care closer to where they reside.

The brief does not specify which programs will be cut.

MIGHTY TRENDING

See these Afghan Black Hawks fly their first mission

The Afghan Air Force has been making major changes in its inventory lately. Once a user of primarily Russian aircraft, the Afghans are switching to American systems — and they’re buying a lot of them.

At present, the Afghan National Air Force is operating four Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters, 40 Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters, 12 A-29 Super Tucanos, 10 UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters, 24 MD530 attack helicopters, and four UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters. This is already a varied force, with more on the way.


This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

An Afghan Air Force member inspects a UH-60 Black Hawk as air crews prepare for their first Afghan-led operational mission on this aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Erin Recanzone)

The Afghan Air Force has 154 MD530s on order along with 155 UH-60As. This gives them a lot of rotary-wing capability for taking on the Taliban and is a level of force the country hasn’t seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. What few planes and helicopters remained flyable after Soviet support evaporated with the end of the Cold War were taken out by the United States of America. Rebuilding that lost capability has been a long process.

The UH-60A, the baseline version of the highly versatile H-60 airframe, has a crew of three and can haul 11 troops or up to 8,000 pounds of cargo. It entered service in 1979 and has been used internationally ever since. By comparison, the Mi-8/Mi-17 entered service in 1967, has a crew of three, and can hold 26 passengers or up to 8,800 pounds of cargo.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

A graduate from UH-60 Mission Qualification Training proudly holds his certificate of training at a graduation ceremony the day before the Afghan Air Force launched its first operational mission with the UH-60A Blckhawk.

(U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Erin Recanzone)

One step on that long road to restoring a national force was recently taken when three Afghan Air Force UH-60s took part in a mission to support provincial elections in Afghanistan. The mission took place the day after Mission Qualification Training for the Afghan personnel.

The United States has been fighting the Taliban for almost 17 years, but this mission is a clear sign that the Afghan government is starting to bring more power to the fight.

Watch the Afghan Black Hawks leave for their first mission in the video below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This convoy system staffed mostly by African Americans kept the invasion of Europe rolling

The night is dark and cold in the French countryside. The sky is moonless and your headlights are dimmed to hide you from enemy planes. You’ve never driven this route before, but the troops at the front desperately need the supplies you’re carrying, so you hurtle down the bumpy dirt road at 60 mph in your 2.5-ton truck. As the sounds of battle ahead grow louder, you realize you’re nearing your destination; and greater danger.

Overhead, the thunderous roar of airplane engines add to the cacophony of gunfire. You pray that the planes are friendly and that you won’t be strafed or bombed, and drive on into the night.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c6/Red_Ball_Express_Regulating_Point.jpg/310px-Red_Ball_Express_Regulating_Point.jpg

Red Ball Express trucks move through a Regulating Point (U.S. Army photo)

To streamline the flow of supplies, two one-way routes were utilized between the port at Cherbourg to the forward logistics base at Chartres, near Paris. The northern route brought supplies to the front while the southern route was used by returning trucks. These roads were closed to civilian vehicles and both the trucks and the route were marked with red balls. Outside of the designated route, the red balls also gave the trucks priority on regular roads.

THE RED BALL EXPRESS (61 K)

An MP waves on a Red Ball Express convoy next to a sign marking the route (Photo from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

At the height of its operation, the Red Ball Express consisted of 5,958 vehicles carrying about 12,500 tons of supplies a day. In order to staff this massive logistical effort, soldiers were drawn from other support units and trained as long-haul drivers. For some, it was their first experience behind the wheel. A majority of these men came from the Quartermaster Corps and 75% of Red Ball Express drivers were African-American.

African American members of the World War II Red Ball Express repair a 2.5-ton truck while a crewman at a machine gun keeps watch for the enemy. Photo courtesy Army Transportation Museum.

Soldiers of the Red Ball Express make quick repairs to their deuce-and-a-half truck (U.S. Army photo)

One such driver was James Rookard who was just a teenager when he was assigned as a Red Ball Express driver. “I’ve driven when I couldn’t hardly see, just by instinct. You sort of feel the road,” Rookard recalled. “There were dead bodies and dead horses on the highways after bombs dropped. I was scared, but I did my job, hoping for the best.” In the midst of all the danger, Rookard and other drivers endured a 54-hour long round trip to the front and back with very little rest between trips.

James Rookard, 84, of Maple Heights, flanked by a display case of medals and mementos from his service as a truck driver during World War II, remembers the grueling pace of the Red Ball Express as a great experience but hopes

Rookard with a display case of his medals and mementos from the war (Photo by Brian Albrecht)

To increase their efficiency, drivers often removed the governors from their carburetors which normally restricted their speed to 56 mph. Some drivers even learned to switch seats with their relief driver on the move. “When General Patton said for you to be there, you were there if you had to drive all night,” Rookard attested. The drivers of the Red Ball Express had an important job to do and they got it done.

Members of C Company, 514th Truck Regiment. From left, James H. Bailey, Clarence Bainsford, Jack R. Blackwell, and John R. Houston. John Houston is the father of the late singer/actress Whitney Houston, and runs a company created by her. (Courtesy of the U.S. Army Transportation Museum)Soldiers of C Company, 514th Truck Regiment. From left, James H. Bailey, Clarence Bainsford, Jack R. Blackwell, and John R. Houston, father of late singer/actress Whitney Houston (Photo from U.S. Army Transportation Museum)

Their exemplary performance drew the attention and respect of Allied commanders. “Few who saw them will ever forget the enthusiasm of the Negro drivers, hell-bent whatever the risk, to get Patton his supplies,” one British brigade commander wrote. Even Hollywood took notice, and in 1952, the film Red Ball Express was released. However, the film was not without controversy.

Poster of the movie Red Ball Express.jpg

Promotional poster for the film (Universal Pictures)

During production, the Department of Defense sent a letter to director Budd Boetticher and Universal insisting that the presentation of race relations be modified and “that the positive angle be emphasized.” Boetticher was displeased with the interference.

In 1979, Boetticher explained, “The Army wouldn’t let us tell the truth about the black troops because the government figured they were expendable. Our government didn’t want to admit they were kamikaze pilots. They figured if one out of ten trucks got through, they’d save Patton and his tanks.”

A truck driver fills a tire with air along the Red Ball Express highway during World War II. Photo courtesy Army Transportation Museum.

A soldier fills a tire with air alongside the Red Ball Express highway (Photo from the U.S. Army Transportation Museum)

By November 1944, the port facilities at Antwerp, Belgium were open and enough French rail lines were repaired that the Red Ball Express was no longer required. After shifting 412,193 tons of supplies, the Red Ball Express was shut down on November 16, 1944.

The men of the Red Ball Express were given an enormous task. Only through their enthusiasm, determination, and many sleepless nights were they able to bring their comrades at the front what they needed to fight. The next time you watch Patton, remember the brave men who brought him the supplies to keep his tanks rolling. After all, bullets don’t fly without supply.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey just had its own ‘Black Hawk Down’ moment in Syria

It is the new battlefield, the great equalizer, delivered at the speed of light and impervious to bullets, missiles and armor. It is social media. Increasingly social media is being used as a weapons delivery platform in the information war. It is an equalizer between conventional militaries and insurgent forces, providing a sometimes-terrifying mouthpiece for guerillas and freedom fighters.


Weaponized Social Media (WSM for short) is also a source of misinformation and deception, one wielded effectively whether you are showing video of a U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bomber strike, or an ISIL insurgent IED suicide attack. Every combatant on the YouTube battlefield is the same size, 800 x 600. For only a few thousand dollars an insurgency can terrorize the world via YouTube. It is the textbook manifestation of Sun Tzu’s axiom on terrorism in his masterwork, “The Art of War”. Sun Tzu wrote, “Kill one, terrorize a thousand”. The damage radius is limited only by the speed of your internet connection and the size of your monitor.

But there are at least two sides to every story, and often many more. During the last 24 hours, a fascinating textbook example of using Weaponized Social Media surfaced on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Also Read: Terrorists are creating their own social media platforms

The country of Turkey is in conflict with the covertly U.S.-backed Kurdish People Protection Units, known as the “YPG”. There is also spill-over tacit U.S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, the free-Syrians not under Bashar al-Assad. Bashar al-Assad, as you know, is the Syrian President backed by Russia. As with most relationships played out on social media, it’s complicated.

The gray-area support from the U.S. government of the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG) started during the administration of former President Barack Obama, and continues under President Donald Trump. Trump is a rough-talking gangster of a politician to Obama’s polished attorney voice.

Under Trump’s administration the SDF forces are now 50,000 strong according to reports- they fight Assad’s regular army Syrian units for control and in combat with their common enemy, ISIL. The authoritative publication “Foreign Policy” described the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and their same-side alliance with the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG) as, “The most capable anti-Islamic State force in northern Syria.” While Russia may not agree with that assessment, there is no doubt the SDF and YPG guerilla forces amount to more than a series of acronyms formed by a Scrabble game gone wrong.

Get out your notebook because it gets more complicated. Enter the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by several states and organizations including NATO. The short story is, SDF and YPG are aligned with the PKK in the fight against ISIL, but not liked by the TAF, the Turkish Armed Forces. You can also call the TAF the “Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri, or “TSK” if you prefer. The TAF, or TSK if you prefer, are the military forces of the Republic of Turkey. So, the PKK, the SDF and the YPG, backed by the USA, are at odds with the TAF, or TSK if you like.

Before you ask, “WTF?”, just think of it this way for our purposes; The guys in the Blackhawk helicopter in these photos and videos are fighting the guys who launch the rocket at them from the bottom of the mountain.

One video shows the rocket launch from the perspective of the guys firing it. It seems to weave and bob the way rockets do, on its way to the top of the ridge, where a Turkish S-70A helicopter appears. The Turkish Blackhawk dips below the ridge just as the PKK ATGM explodes. The inference is that the guys firing the ATGM hit the Blackhawk.

 

Click over to the video of the guys up on the ridge with the Blackhawk, being resupplied, it would appear. The wire-guided missile fired from the bottom of the ridge by the first guys videoing, explodes over the heads of the guys on top of the ridge, also videoing. An instant after the rocket explodes the Blackhawk successfully escapes. The point? The one video from the bottom of the ridge suggests the S-70A was hit, a huge victory for those lads. The other video shows the Turkish helicopter flying away, “proof” that it is not a victory, just a near miss and one for the highlight reel on YouTube.

The entire episode is proof of another Sun Tzu principle from “The Art of War”:

“All warfare is based on deception.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Georgia is ready to commit to be a NATO ally

Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili has told RFE/RL that his country can “commit to joining [NATO] today,” saying that his country has “fulfilled basically every requirement” needed to become a member of the alliance.

Speaking on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12, 2018, where the leaders had a first-ever meeting at the level of heads of government with Georgia, Margvelashvili said his country was “ready” to join and added, “We are standing here [ready] to become NATO members so the question [if we can join the alliance] is to [be answered by] the NATO member countries.”


The leaders of the 29-member alliance adopted a declaration at the end of the summit stating, “we reiterate the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest [NATO] summit that Georgia will become a member of the alliance.”

The declaration added, “we recognize the significant progress on reforms which Georgia has made and must continue to make, which are helping Georgia, an aspirant country, progress in its preparations towards membership.”

However, there was no mention of when Georgia can join NATO or when the alliance will offer Tbilisi a Membership Action Plan (MAP).

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

2018 NATO summit in Brussels.

A MAP is a multistage process of political dialogue and military reform to bring a country in line with NATO standards and to eventual membership. The process can take several years.

Like at previous summits, some European countries were hesitant to open the door to Georgia now, prompting Margvelashvili to note, “we have to reach that consensus because this is not only a security organization but it is a democratic organization and you need the support of each country.

“So we have to convince them that NATO, Europe and the United States will be safer and better when Georgia becomes a NATO member.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

That time a soldier grappled a suicide-bomber and lived

During Operation Enduring Freedom, American troops weren’t just tackling the Taliban and al-Qaeda. A number of them were part of Provincial Reconstruction Teams. The term was a bit of a misnomer – in some cases, they weren’t reconstructing things, they were building things in one of the poorest countries in the world.


One of those troops in a provincial reconstruction team, or PRT, was Staff Sergeant Jason Fetty of the United States Army Reserve who was a pharmacy technician in West Virginia before he was called up and deployed to Khost province. According to a 2007 American Forces Press Service release, he had spent ten months working to build a new emergency room when he would have a fateful confrontation on Feb. 20 of that year.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Staff Sgt Jason Fetty (Defense Video Imagery Distribution System)

“We build roads, build bridges, improve health care. The Afghan government doesn’t really have the means to fix itself by itself,” Fetty explained about the PRT’s mission.

Fetty had gotten to know many of the medical professionals at the time, and while on guard duty that day for the opening of the emergency room, he noticed an unfamiliar face. And that person “definitely didn’t look right,” Fetty later said.

“Every Soldier who has been in combat or been downrange knows when something is not right,” he later explained to reporter Donna Miles. “You can feel it. You can see it. It’s a general sinking feeling that things are not going to go right. You feel it in your gut.”

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Members of a Provincial Reconstruction Team deliver school supplies. (Photo: U.S. Navy HMC Josh Ives)

Fetty attempted to use verbal commands to force the intruder away, but the man grabbed his rifle by the barrel. At that point, Fetty began to maneuver the would-be murder-suicide bomber away, while others evacuated the assembled VIPs, including the governor of the province.

“It was either going to be me or 20 other people back there. …suicide bombers are next to impossible to stop. All you can do is limit the damage that they can do,” Fetty said. But after he got the would-be killer around the corner, things escalated. Accounts differed as to whether Fetty tackled the bomber or struck him with the end of his rifle, but there was a violent encounter that included Fetty shooting the terrorist in the lower legs.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Army Spc. Joseph Sullivan, security force team member assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, provides security. Staff Sgt, Fetty was on security duty when he went eyeball-to-eyeball with a murder-suicide bomber. (US Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Josh Ives)

Other troops soon started firing, and eventually, Fetty took three steps away and then made what he would call “a Hollywood dive” as the bomber’s explosives detonated. Fetty was peppered with shrapnel, as were some other American troops, but the bomber had been kept from his primary target – as well as the doctors who would staff the new emergency room.

For his actions, Fetty became the first Army Reserve soldier serving in Afghanistan to receive the Silver Star.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

6 best video apps for staying connected during quarantine

As more and more states issue mandatory lockdowns and stay-the-f@$% home orders in the wake of COVID-19, people are finding any and every app they can to try and stay connected. While we’re all wishing we would have bought stock in these services in December, we’re just grateful they exist so we can have a beer with a buddy via a screen. Here are our favorite 6 apps for video chatting.


Eastern Virginia Medical School

www.facebook.com

1. Zoom

If you’ve all of a sudden found yourself homeschooling or working from home (bottoms up if it’s both!), then you’re probably already familiar with Zoom. Used for meetings, webinars and group conferencing, Zoom has a lot of great built in features for everything from the online classroom to an office happy hour. Share your screen, raise your virtual hand to be called upon and even customize your background so it looks like you’re sitting on a beach instead of hiding in your laundry room. Or, better yet, fancy yourself on the set of Top Gun: Maverick, which premieres this summer.

www.facebook.com

Zoom can host up to 100 people within a standard meeting and up to 500 with the large digital ad on.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

upload.wikimedia.org

2. Facetime

This is a no brainer if everyone has an iPhone. With a quick press of the button you can easily video chat with up to 31 other fellow Apple-loving users. But, let’s be honest: we all have that one friend or family member who insists that their Android takes better pictures. Fine Susan, we’ll all download a new app just so you can be included.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

3. Houseparty

Houseparty is where it’s at. Simple to use with a visually pleasing layout of your fellow party goers (have up to eight in your party at a time), there are even fun little games to play while you’re using the app if you want to for the ultimate social distancing game night. When one of our neighbors had a birthday, we poured a glass of champagne and toasted our friend on Houseparty.

It’s easy to create groups and notifications so that you’ll always know when your party people are “in the house” and you can see what party they’re in. This is either super convenient or the most FOMO-inducing feature we’ve ever seen on the interwebs.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

c1.staticflickr.com

4. Skype

Yes, Skype is still around! We know you might have flashbacks to a frozen screen circa 2005 while you were downrange, but the technology and ease has made vast improvements since Skype’s early days. Chat with up to 50 people at a time, leave voicemails, share pictures and you can even still use that same screen name that you had back in the day.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Google Hangouts/Meet

5. Google Hangouts

Whether you want to livestream your Crossfit WOD in solitude or have 250 friends in a chat (COVID-19 wedding, anyone?), Google Hangouts is making it possible. With interactive features like posting statuses, GIFs, emojis, stickers and more, Google Hangouts is being widely praised for extending their premium capabilities to all users for freeeeeeee.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

p0.pikrepo.com

6. Snapchat

Who knew that everyone’s favorite filter app had video chat capability? Well, apparently kids these days. This popular app allows you to connect 15 users at a time and still has the fun filters for which it’s known. Which is extra helpful in the era of not knowing what day it is or how many days since you’ve washed your hair.

No matter what app you turn to, stay connected while keeping your social distance.

Articles

Test shows that A-10 can obliterate Iran’s small boat swarms with ease

About 35 local boat captains simulated swarming attack maneuvers in fishing boats rigged with machine guns while fighter jets, attack helicopters, and the A-10 “Warthog” simulated attacks from above in the Choctawatchee Bay, Florida.


The Air Force at Eglin Air Force Base organized the simulation, called Combat Hammer, to address one of the more pressing threats to the US navy — attacks from swarming fast-attack craft.

Also read: The ‘Chopper Popper’ scored the A-10’s first air-to-air kill…against an Iraqi helicopter

In the Persian Gulf, Iran has repeatedly used small, agile attack craft to harass US Navy ships in dangerous encounters that could lead to a broader conflict in a moment’s notice.

US Navy ships have had to go as far as firing warning shots at approaching vessels, but that was before Iranian-backed Houthi militants used a suicide boat laden with explosives to kill two aboard a Saudi Arabian Navy vessel off the coast of Yemen.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
An A-10 Thunderbolt IIs with the 74th Fighter Squadron from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., flies over the Gulf of Mexico Feb. 7 during Combat Hammer. The 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron’s Combat Hammer is a weapons system evaluation program at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. | US Air Force photo by Ilka Cole

The Navy was already aware of the threat posed to their large, multi-million dollar ships by small, cheap ships — but the January Houthi attack demonstrated the threat was even more acute.

The Air Force’s annual Combat Hammer exercise sought in part to answer the question of how the Navy would deal with a large mass of erratic attack craft — and that involved A-10 Warthogs firing inert 30-millimeter rounds at unmanned ships.

The exercise also included attack helicopters, multi-role fighter jets, and Canadian F-18s dropping simulated guided munitions.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Local boat captains and mariners operate fishing boats equipped with makeshift guns and weapons invaded the Choctawatchee Bay area Feb. 6 during the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron exercise, Combat Hammer. The boat swarms helped create a realistic environment to provide exercise participants an opportunity to train like they fight. | US Air Force photo by Ilka Cole

“We evaluate precision guided munitions against realistic targets with realistic enemy defenses,” said Lt. Col. Sean Neitzke, the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron commander in an Air Force statement. “There are plenty of places in the world where low-tech adversaries can mount 50-caliber machine guns and rocket launchers on small boats for use against us. They could also use other types of shoulder launched weapons, all of which could be a threat to American assets.”

Related: A-10 vs. F-35 flyoff may begin next year

The situation described by Neitzke bears eerily similarities to the situation with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy.

Patrick Megahan, an expert on Iran’s military with the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, told Business Insider that even without the Air Force, the US Navy has plenty of ways to counter the threat posed by Iranian-style swarm attacks.

“US Army Apache attack helicopters also frequently drill aboard US Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf for countering exactly this threat,” Megahan said of the swarming boats.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
An MH-60 Seahawk. | US Navy

“This doesn’t include the Navy’s own Hellfire-equipped Seahawk helicopters or the Marine Corps’s very capable attack helicopter squadrons that maintain an almost constant presence in the waters off the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. In fact, two fully-load American attack helicopters would likely wreak havoc on an Iranian small boat swarm.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers unveiled legislation on Oct. 4 that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.


The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Oct. 5, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the US government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.

The legislation, written by the House Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on December 31.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
US Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Kayla Rorick.

Senior US intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

Foreign suspects

It allows US intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including those with targets living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Edward Snowden speaks to a crowd via video conference. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.

That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counterespionage.

The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Colin

Renewal for six years

The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.

The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.

Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and intelligence agencies.

But that effort is expected to face major resistance in the House, where an influential conservative bloc of Republicans earlier this year said it opposed renewal unless major changes were made, reflecting disagreement within the majority party.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. Photo from Senator Feinstein’s website.

Separately, Senators John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California are working on Section 702 legislation that may also be introduced this week and include fewer reforms.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky are also planning to introduce a bill that would require a warrant for any query of Section 702 involving data belonging to an American.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wounded Marine vet Alex Minsky found a new life as an underwear model

Alex Minsky joined the Marine Corps with every intention of making a career out of it, but that plan was changed by an insurgent IED. Now he’s found a new life in the fast-paced world of male modeling.


Alex Minsky joined the Marine Corps right after high school, intending to stay in for the long haul. He’d spent most of his life as the troublemaker, but when that stopped at seventeen, he was left with little direction and no idea where to go from there.

When he entered, he had an inkling that he would be good at it. As infantry, he was deployed to Afghanistan with the intention of fighting the Taliban, but on his first deployment, his truck ran over an IED.

After time spent in a coma and losing his right leg, he woke up frustrated at the slowness of his recovery. He itched to get back into the fight, but doctors informed him that, due to severe brain trauma, that probably wasn’t an option. Without direction once again, he turned to alcohol.

After several DUIs, he was forced to get help. It was this period that showed him that when he was drinking, he was only running away—and he didn’t want to run away anymore.

He found that fitness was directly related to his sobriety, and his life only improved from there. He works as a fitness trainer and a male model, and since then he’s spent his career running toward things, instead of away.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Omaha veteran honored by France for WWII service

A World War II veteran who served with the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division in multiple campaigns, including Normandy where he landed on Omaha Beach with the second wave of troops on D-Day, was awarded the French Legion of Honor.

Edward H. “Ed” Morrissette, age 96, was presented the award by France’s Consul General from Chicago, Guillaume Lacroix, during a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center, surrounded by dozens of family, fellow veterans and distinguished guests.


“It means a lot to be here in Omaha, Nebraska, with you 75 years after you landed on Omaha Beach,” Lacroix said. “Our gratitude, sir, is forever because you changed the destiny of France and the destiny of Europe forever.”

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Hon. Guillaume Lacroix, Consul General of France in Chicago, shakes the hand of WWII veteran Edward Morrissette after presenting him the French Legion of Honor medal Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

The medal pinned on his jacket, Morrissette walked slowly to the lectern, thanked everyone, and said he accepted the award for others who served and many who never returned home.

“I don’t know that I particularly deserved it, but I know that the men and women of the First Division that landed in Europe deserve it, especially those that are not back with us now,” Morrissette said. “I had some friends that didn’t make it off of that shore, and I miss them terribly. But I want to say one thing: I’m glad that we helped France… got them out from under the heels of Nazi boots.”

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

WWII veteran Edward Morrissette shares thoughts with the audience after receiving the French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

On June 6, 1944, Morrissette was a squad leader in charge of machine gun crews with the 16th Infantry Regiment headquarters. It was his third beach landing, having already landed and fought in North Africa and Sicily.

Speaking with reporters after the award ceremony, he shared a story of what happened as he and his men jumped out of the landing craft just short of French soil.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

A photo of Edward Morrissette is displayed at a ceremony in which he was presented the French Legion of Honor Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(US Army photo)

“It was difficult for our boat to get into shore, and when it did we jumped out into water up to our chest,” Morrissette said. He and another soldier were carrying a roll of telephone wire above their heads, in addition to their rifles, and as they realized the roll of wire was drawing the aim of enemy gunners they decided to jettison the extra load.

“If they need to communicate, I guess they’ll just have to holler,” Morrissette said, holding his arms above his head and reenacting the struggle to get ashore.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

WWII veteran Edward Morrissette tells a story of jumping out of landing craft into chest deep water off Omaha Beach while carrying a rifle and a roll of telephone wire above his head, speaking to reporters Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(Photo by Maj. Scott Ingalsbe)

On the beach he found cover behind a concrete block, and eventually crawled the rest of the way to higher ground.

By the time Germany surrendered in May 1945, Morrissette and the Big Red One fought their way through Northern France, the Ardennes, and were headed to Prague.

“This country should be proud of our soldiers,” he said. “They are remarkable people, and they can do remarkable things.”

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Nebraska Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division’s Main Command Post – Operational Detachment gather for a photo with Big Red One WWII veteran Edward Morrissette after he received the French Legion of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 30, 2019, at the Omaha Army Reserve Center.

(US Army photo)

Morrissette was nominated for France’s Legion of Honor by his family. Although the number of medals awarded each year is limited, most American veterans of World War I and II can be inducted. Past American recipients include Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and Adm. Michael Mullen.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Invictus Games to be featured in new Netflix documentary series

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will produce and create Heart of Invictus for Netflix through their newly formed Archwell Productions company in partnership with The Invictus Games Foundation. 

After leaving the United Kingdom and settling in the United States, the couple announced their newly formed nonprofit Archwell in 2020. Underneath its umbrella is the foundation itself, Archwell Productions and Archwell Audio. 

In 2013, the Duke of Sussex attended the Warrior Games in the United States. It was reportedly a transformative experience for him. The following year in 2014, he founded the Invictus Games, inviting wounded warriors from all over the world to compete. The goal was to harness the power of sports for recovery and healing.   

Prince Harry awards silver medals to the Netherlands for Wheelchair Basketball at the Mattamy Centre during the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto on September 30, 2017. The Invictus Games, established by Prince Harry in 2014, brings together wounded and injured veterans from 17 nations for 12 adaptive sporting events, including track and field, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, swimming, sitting volleyball, and new to the 2017 games, golf. (DoD photo by Roger L. Wollenberg)

“I joined the Army because, for a long time, I just wanted to be one of the guys. But what I learned through serving was that the extraordinary privileges of being a Prince gave me an extraordinary opportunity to help my military family. That’s why I had to create the Invictus Games – to build a platform for all those who have served to prove to the world what they have to offer,” The Duke of Sussex, speaking at the Invictus Games Orlando 2016.

In the same statement, the CEO of The Invictus Games Foundation added his support and excitement by saying, “We’re very excited about the opportunity to shine the global spotlight of Netflix on the men and women that we work with, in order to ensure that even more people can be inspired by their determination and fortitude in working towards their recovery.”

The documentary series will follow competitors on their road to Invictus Games The Hauge 2020, rescheduled for 2022 due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. The series will feature Orlando von Einsiedel as its director and producer Joanna Natasegara, an Oscar-winning team. 

The Duke will find himself both in front of and behind the camera as an executive producer on this documentary series. “…This series will give communities around the world a window into the moving and uplifting stories of these competitors on their path to the Netherlands next year. As Archewell Productions’ first series with Netflix, in partnership with the Invictus Games Foundation, I couldn’t be more excited for the journey ahead or prouder of the Invictus community for continuously inspiring global healing, human potential and continued service,” he said in a statement on the Archwell website.

Two veterans competing in the last Invictus Games. (Invitus Games Foundation)

Netflix is also thrilled with the partnership and announcement of the new documentary series. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Archewell Productions team are building an ambitious slate that reflects the values and causes they hold dear,” Ted Sarandos, Co-CEO and Chief Content Officer, Netflix, said in the statement. “From the moment I met them, it’s been clear that the Invictus Games hold a very special place in their hearts, and I couldn’t be happier that their first series for Netflix will showcase that for the world in a way never seen before.”

No stranger to the impacts of war as a veteran himself, The Duke of Sussex recognized the need for something like the Invictus Games, which has impacted countless lives. It says a lot that the first project through his and his wife’s production company on Netflix will be highlighting the incredible warriors of the world. This is one series you won’t want to miss. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

Iran banned this most American of hairstyles

Forget business in the front, party in the rear. Iran is all business. There’s no party around back. At least, not for the most American of all possible hairstyles: the mullet. The mullet is so American, in fact, that it’s banned in Iran for precisely that reason. Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance said goodbye to the haircut for being “un-Islamic.”

The haircut was on a list of “decadent Western haircuts” that were banned, alongside ponytails, spiked hairstyles, and long hair in general in 2010.


The year was a difficult one for Iran, coming on the heels of the Green Movement, which protested the 2009 Presidential election and pushed for the removal of the Iran’s much-reviled (but reelected anyway) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The countrywide protests were the largest since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that saw Imperial Iran transformed into the Islamic Republic.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

“…from my cold, dead head.”

It’s fun to laugh at the idea of banning an American hairstyle that itself has been the butt of thousands of jokes for decades, but the reality is a little less funny. The hairstyle ban is part of a series of punishments from the anti-Western Cultural Ministry and part of the reprisals against the Iranian people for the Green Movement protests.

Raids, arrests, and human rights violations came immediately after the protests, but bans like the one on un-Islamic hairstyles are the enduring legacy of such knee-jerk reactions. Iranian police would start shutting down barber shops offering such hairstyles and fine the owners.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Causing Achy Breaky Hearts.

It’s a strange notion that the mullet is considered a part of the Western cultural invasion of Iran, considering it’s a hairstyle that may have emerged in the ancient Middle East anyway. At first glance, the look that made Billy Ray Cyrus a cultural icon (for the brief time he was) should seem ridiculous to Iranian Morality policemen, but it’s not the only Western cultural trend to endure in the country.

Iranian men forego beards (even as beards are very much in back in the United States) while embracing neckties and European designer brands. These trends are hard to ignore, but the mullet should hardly seem comparable to the appeal of Prada and Givenchy.

“The proposed styles are inspired by Iranians’ complexion, culture and religion, and Islamic law,” said Jaleh Khodayar, who is in charge of the Modesty and Veil Festival. It was there that acceptable hairstyles were revealed. Also out are things like eyebrow plucking for males and excessive hair gel.

Failure to comply with the new hair regulations for men would result in a forced, bad haircut, courtesy of Iran’s Morality Police. The clerics who run Iranian society believe the looks will ultimate cause their way of life to disappear. But they also believe that sexy, revealing clothing causes earthquakes.

This is what happened when the VA tried to slash money for homeless veterans

Earthquakes are definitely because of Niloofar Behboudi and Shabnam Molav and not the 1,500-km long fault line running through Iran.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information