The trial of 'El Chapo' is even more crazy than we thought - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

Among many revelations during the trial of Mexican cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman are some that shed light on his daring escapes.

Late January 2019, Damaso Lopez Nuñez took the stand. Like Guzman, Lopez is from Sinaloa state. The son of a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ran Mexico for most of the 20th century, Lopez was first a security official in Sinaloa before he became deputy security director at Puente Grande prison in southwest Mexico.


On Jan. 23, 2019, Lopez told the court he met Guzman at Puente Grande in 1999. He said he resigned in late 2000, deciding to leave when the government launched a corruption probe at the prison. Guzman contacted him soon after, Lopez said, seeking help to maintain the privileges he had gotten through bribery and other inducements.

It long been suspected that Lopez aided the escape, and it is widely believed that Guzman was snuck out in a laundry cart, though others dispute that account. On the stand, Lopez denied involvement in the January 2001 escape but said a laundry cart was involved.

Senior “Chapo” Guzman lieutenant Damaso Lopez arrested in Mexico

www.youtube.com

Guzman “told me the only person responsible for that escape had been Chito, who was employed in the laundry,” Lopez testified, according to Vice reporter Keegan Hamilton.

Chito, a laundry room worker at the prison, “had taken [Guzman] inside a laundry cart that was picking up dirty laundry and transported him to the parking lot … he put him in the trunk of his car,” Lopez said.

Lopez said that Guzman revealed more about the escape months later, in the mountains of Nayarit, a state near Sinaloa in northwest Mexico.

“He told me that really the plan for his escape was spontaneous,” Lopez testified, according to Hamilton. “This was because some of his friends in the federal government had notified him that an extradition order had been issued.”

After that, Guzman offered Lopez a job, and over the next decade and a half Lopez became deeply involved in the cartel’s operations — including efforts to spring Guzman from prison in 2015.

Lopez said he met with Guzman’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, and his sons in mid-2014, just a few months after Guzman was recaptured.

During that meeting, he said, they discussed buying land near the high-security Altiplano federal penitentiary, west of the capital in Mexico state, where Guzman was held and that Coronel told Lopez that Guzman had asked for him to buy weapons and an armored vehicle to use in the breakout.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

Emma Coronel Aispuro

(Telemundo)

It took months to dig a mile-long tunnel under the prison, and Guzman could reportedly hear the excavation in his cell — so loud that other inmates complained. (Footage from Guzman’s cell the night of the escape also picked up sounds of his henchmen smashing through the floor of his shower.)

During that time, Coronel was a major player in the plot, Lopez said, carrying messages to and from Guzman.

Coronel has never been charged with a crime, but her role as intermediary for Guzman and his associates during the 2015 escape may explain the tight restrictions the US has put on her contact with her husband while he’s been in US custody. In November 2018, as the trial was starting, the judge in the case denied a request to allow Guzman to hug her.

The audacious escape through a mile-long, ventilated tunnel on a motorcycle rigged on rails garnered international attention. Lopez added more detail to the account, saying that one of Coronel’s brothers was driving the motorcycle, which had been towed through the tunnel.

Upon exiting the tunnel, Guzman was spirited to a warehouse and then boarded a plane that flew him to neighboring Queretaro state and then to his hometown of La Tuna, in western Sinaloa state.

Lopez said that, like the 2001 escape, his involvement was limited. “I never knew, not even about one shovel of earth that was removed there,” he said. “His sons were doing that.”

In early 2016, Mexican newspaper Reforma reported that Mexican officials allowed a private company to connect a geolocation-monitoring bracelet to Guzman while he was at Altiplano, but Reforma was unable to find definitive answers about who authorized the device, rising concern it was part of the kingpin’s escape plan.

“Some high officials in the federal government consider that, because of the grade of precision in the digging and the excavation,” Reforma reported at the time, “the tunnel through which ‘El Chapo’ escaped could not have been constructed without the help of geolocation device.”

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

President Enrique Peña Nieto, accompanied by Cabinet members, holds a press conference in the Palacio Nacional announcing the capture of Joaquín Guzmán.

Lopez said the excavation was in fact aided by a GPS watch smuggled into the prison for Guzman to wear. (A Mexican official who talked to Guzman after he was recaptured in 2016 said Guzman told investigators that his henchmen dug two tunnels under the prison, the second coming after they arrived at the wrong cell.)

Guzman remained on the run for 13 years after his 2001 jailbreak, but his freedom after the second escape was short-lived. Mexican authorities caught up with him in northwest Sinaloa state in January 2016.

After his capture he was returned to Altiplano, which holds many high-profile criminals. While there, Guzman sent a message through his wife that he wanted to mount an escape again, Lopez said. To carry that out, Lopez said the Sinaloa cartel paid a million bribe to the head of Mexico’s prison system.

But that escape never came to fruition. Guzman was transferred to a prison near Ciudad Juarez in May 2016, where he was held until his extradition to the US in January 2017.

Lopez’s freedom after Guzman’s recapture was also brief.

After the kingpin’s arrest in January 2016, a factional struggle emerged within the cartel, pitting Lopez and his son, Damaso Lopez Serrano, against Guzman’s sons, who were allied with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a cartel figure on the same level as Guzman and who Guzman’s lawyers have tried to cast as the true leader of the cartel. (Guzman’s brother Aureliano was also believed to be vying for control of the organization at that time.)

The Lopezes were on the losing side, however. The elder Lopez, 52, was arrested in Mexico City in May 2017; two months later, his son crossed the border into California and surrendered to US authorities in Calexico.

Lopez Nuñez is now serving a life sentence in the US for drug trafficking; he has said he’s cooperating with US prosecutors in hope of getting a lighter sentence.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What happens in a fight between French and Russian carriers

While the Nimitz- and Ford-class nuclear-powered supercarriers operated by the United States Navy tend to grab everyone’s attention, there are other carriers out there. France, India, China, and Russia, for example, all operate aircraft carriers — though only France’s uses the same catapult-launch system as the Americans’. France’s carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is also the only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in service outside the United States Navy.


The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65 ), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the smaller French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaul (R 91), in the Mediterranean Sea. (US Navy photo)

As tensions flare, it’s fun to hypothesize how some of these vessels would perform against one another. So, how would the Charles de Gaulle fare against Russia’s Kuznetsov?

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought
The 55,000-ton Admiral Kuznetsov. But size doesn’t matter in a carrier battle, the air wing does. (Russian Ministry of Defense photo)

The Charles de Gaulle, which entered service in 2001, weighs in at 37,600 tons. This carrier has a top speed of just over 25 knots and can carry 32 Dassault Rafale M multi-role fighters, along with three E-2C Hawkeyes and four helicopters.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought
A French F-2 Rafale fighter lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) during combined French and American carrier qualifications. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew DeWitt)

Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov is larger, weighing 55,000 tons. It doesn’t have nuclear power and, while it can reach a speed of 29 knots, her boiler-based propulsion system isn’t the most reliable. The carrier has a host of other problems, too. The carrier reportedly can carry 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums, four Su-25 Frogfoot trainers, 15 Ka-27 Helix anti-submarine helicopters, and two Ka-31RLD Helix airborne early warning helicopters. She also packs 12 SS-N-19 Shipwreck long-range anti-ship missiles.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought
A Sukhoi Su-33, arguably Russia’s best carrier fighter, isn’t quite good enough to beat a Rafale. (Kremlin photo)

While both carriers have surface-to-air missiles, this fight would ultimately be determined by who has the better air wing — that’d be the de Gaulle. Not only is the Rafale slightly more advanced than the Su-33 Flanker and MiG-29K, the de Gaulle operates 32 of them. The Kuznetsov’s Flankers will fall to a barrage of Mica air-to-air missiles. Then, the Rafales will switch to carrying AM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles.

It would take waves of attacks, but the Kuznetsov would, eventually, be put on the bottom.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Hirohito was tormented by Japanese conduct in World War II

When Hirohito assumed the role of Emperor of Japan, the country was at the top of its game. A great world power, fresh off a victory over the Russian Empire, Japan enjoyed a booming economy, the third-largest navy, and a permanent seat at the head of the League of Nations. It soon began to unravel.


A swath of assassinations of government officials, attempts on the Emperor’s life, and a failed coup by a faction of the Japanese military may have left Hirohito suspicious and paranoid. He did little to stem to the rising tide of militarism in the Japanese government and did nothing to stop the military from ending civilian oversight of the Imperial Japanese Military. Most of us know what happened in the years that followed.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

Hirohito toward the end of his life.

After World War II, much of Japan was able to move forward. Hirohito was not deposed but remained Emperor. Just how much control he was able to exercise over the governing of the empire is still a subject of debate in Japan to this very day. He claimed he was little more than a figurehead but many believe his god-like status in Japanese society could have done more. Only he, and perhaps those around him, knew for sure.

One of those around him published a book about his time with the Emperor.

Hirohito, now known as Emperor Showa in Japan, lived until 1989, just shy of his 88th birthday. A recently-published diary penned by Shinobu Kobayashi, then one of the Emperor’s chamberlains, one of the men who managed the Imperial household functions, says the Emperor was by no means happy about Japan’s entry in the war or how it was conducted in his name.

It is true that once many in the military government of Japan learned that the Emperor would broadcast a surrender order via the use of his voice recorded on vinyl, they attempted to depose Hirohito and destroy the record. The conspirators were thwarted by the layout of the Imperial Palace and the record was smuggled out by a laundry woman and broadcast the next day. But over the years, evidence and other memoirs have been published that paint a contradictory view of the man, who was certainly one of the 20th Century’s most important, controversial figures.

Kobayashi says the Emperor felt “anguish” over Japan’s entry into World War II, and feared that as his life continued, he would only attract more blame for his country’s actions. When the royal household attempted to reduce his workload after the death of his brother Prince Takamatsu, Hirohito was dismissive.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

Hirohito next to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the days following Japan’s surrender. Many Japanese were offended by this photo, given the General’s casual stance in the face of the Emperor’s formality.

(U.S. Army photo)

“There is no point in living a longer life by reducing my workload,” the then-86-year-old Emperor said. “It would only increase my chances of seeing or hearing things that are agonizing.” Kobayashi tried to console the emperor by pointing to Japan’s miraculous postwar recovery in the intervening decades.

“It’s a page in history,” he wrote. “You do not have to worry.”

Hirohito managed to avoid being tried as a war criminal because Gen. Douglas MacArthur trusted that even the Emperor’s most fervent believers would adopt democracy after the war – with the Emperor’s blessing. Hirohito’s continued presence on the Chrysanthemum Throne became a unifying symbol of postwar Japan.

After Hirohito’s death in 1989, his son, Akihito, assumed the throne as the 125th Emperor of Japan. The line of monarchs can be traced back to 680 BC, with varying degrees of power and responsibility.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Watch F-22 pilot fly 10 incredible maneuvers in just 2 minutes

If you thought the ” Top Gun: Maverick” trailer was full of death-defying stunts, it’s got nothing on this hyperlapse video, taken from the cockpit of an F-22 Raptor during a performance at the Fort Lauderdale Air Show in May 2019.

In just two and a half minutes, the pilot performs ten astounding maneuvers, including a Power Loop, a Cobra, and a Tail Slide, where the pilot skims the clear turquoise water of the Atlantic, then launches suddenly into the sky before drifting back down toward the waves.


The barrel rolls, loops, and turns are astounding enough when viewed from the ground, but watching them from inside the cockpit is almost stomach-churning.

While the Raptor demonstration team doesn’t fly in combat, airshows like the one in May show civilians what the F-22 aircraft are capable of — whether cruising over Fort Lauderdale, or over enemy territory.

The F-22 Raptors demonstration team debuted in 2007 and is based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Virginia. The team has flown in over 250 demonstrations since 2007, including one in August 2019 with the Royal Air Force Red Arrows in New York City.

The F-22 Raptor performs both air-to air missions and air-to-ground missions in combat, and combines features like stealth and supercruising to be one of the world’s foremost air superiority fighters.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marine Corps looking at new artillery round that can successfully hit moving targets

Raytheon Co. just announced that its new laser-guided Excalibur S 155mm artillery round scored direct hits on a moving target in a secret, live-fire test for the Marine Corps last spring.


The Excalibur is a combat-proven, precision artillery round capable of hitting within a few feet of a target at ranges out to 40 kilometers, the company said.

The new Excalibur S uses the same GPS technology as the Excalibur 1B variant but adds a semi-active laser seeker to engage both moving land and maritime targets.

“The seeker technology will recognize that the target is no longer there, and it will pick up the laser energy from where the target is and redirect itself to that,” Trevor Dunwell, director of Raytheon’s Excalibur Portfolio, told Military.com.

In a U.S. Navy test, Raytheon fired two projectiles from an M777 155mm Howitzer at a moving target at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and scored two direct hits, he said.

“This happened in April of last year; we had to keep it close-hold working with the Navy … more specifically for the Marines,” Dunwell said. “We set the round for a specific location, we fired it off and, as soon as the round got fired, then the target started moving. It realized the target wasn’t there and realized that it had moved somewhere else and … it switched from GPS to laser designation and then engaged the target.”

The Marine Corps is interested in the Excalibur S round but “has not currently placed an order,” he said.

The next step is to conduct more tests this year. Dunwell would not reveal when they will occur, nor would he divulge which service will sponsor the next test.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

The soldiers of 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, conduct dry-fire exercises, Dec. 5, at Oro Grand Range Complex, N.M., before firing the previous version of the Excalibur. This mission was the first time that a FORSCOM unit has fired the Excalibur outside of the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. and combat.

(U.S. Army photograph by Sgt. Sean Harriman, 2nd BCT, 1st AD, Public Affairs)

If the Marine Corps or the Army decides to purchase the new Excalibur S round, Dunwell said it would not be priced dramatically higher than the current Excalibur 1B, which costs roughly ,000 per round.

The new technology would be effective for use in counter-fire artillery missions, he said.

“If you think about it, it is critically important because you are going to have to engage moving targets … especially if you are doing counter-fires,” Dunwell said. So, if it’s a fire-and-move, now on the counter fire you should be able to engage that moving target.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Veterans’ GI Bill benefits to continue during COVID-19 pandemic

Student Veterans will continue to receive their GI Bill benefits under S. 3503, which President Trump signed into law March 21.


The law enables VA to continue providing the same level of education benefits to students having to take courses online due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

The law gives VA temporary authority to continue GI Bill payments uninterrupted in the event of national emergencies. This allows for continued payment of benefits even if the program has changed from resident training to online training.

Thanks to the law, GI Bill students will continue receiving the same monthly housing allowance (MHA) payments they received for resident training until Dec. 21, or until the school resumes in-person classes.

In the wake of COVID-19, thousands of students nationwide have been converted to distance learning as many educational institutions are transitioning to technology-based lesson delivery.

“I commend President Trump and Congress for their work on this important law,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It will give Veteran students certainty as they continue their education.”

Students receiving GI Bill benefits are not required to take any action. Benefits will continue automatically. VA will work closely with schools to ensure accurately certified enrollments and timely processing. Updates will be provided to students via direct email campaigns and social media regarding VA’s effort to implement these new changes.

Students with specific questions can contact the Education Call Center at: 888-442-4551 between 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday-Friday.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia may finally scrap its only aircraft carrier

Russia is admitting it may be forced to scrap its only aircraft carrier as the troubled flagship suffered a catastrophic shipyard accident in 2018.

The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s sole aircraft carrier which was built during the Soviet-era, was severely damaged October 2018 when the massive Swedish-built PD-50 dry dock at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Roslyakovo sank with the carrier on board.

The carrier was undergoing an extensive overhaul at the time of the incident.

While the ship was able to pull away from the sinking dry dock, it did not escape unscathed. A heavy crane fell on the vessel, punching a large gash in the hull and deck.


By Russia’s own admission, the dry dock was the only one suitable for maintenance on the Kuznetsov, and the sudden loss of this facility “creates certain inconveniences.”

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

A view shows the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov at a shipyard.

(Flickr photo by Christopher Michel)

“We have alternatives actually for all the ships except for [the aircraft carrier] Admiral Kuznetsov,” Alexei Rakhmanov, head of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, told the state-run TASS news agency in November 2018.

At that time, observers began to seriously question whether or not it was worth attempting to salvage the carrier given its history of breakdowns and poor performance. As is, the Kuznetsov is almost always accompanied by tug boats, preparation for practically inevitable problems.

The ship is rarely seen at sea. Between 1991 and 2015, the Kuznetsov, sometimes described as one of the worst carriers in the world, set sail on patrol only six times, and on a 2016 mission in Syria, the carrier saw the loss of two onboard fighter jets in just three weeks.

Now Russian media is discussing the possibility of scrapping the Kuznetsov, putting a Soviet vessel plagued by many different problems out of its misery once and for all, The National Interest reported April 7, 2019, citing Russian media reports revealing that the carrier “may be written off.”

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.

“Not everyone considers the continuation of repair to be appropriate,” one military source told Izvestia, a well-known Russian media outlet. “There are different opinions,” the source added, explaining that it might be better to invest the money in frigates and nuclear submarines, a discussion also happening in the US Navy, which is pushing a plan to retire an aircraft carrier decades early.

Another source revealed that even if the ship does return, it may simply serve as a training vessel rather than a warship. Whether or not it will return is a big if given the almost insurmountable challenges of recovery.

The Kuznetsov currently sits along the wall of the 35th Repair Plant in Kola Bay.

Rather than attempt to salvage a ship that offers limited capabilities to the Russian navy, Russia could instead invest more in smaller, potentially more capable vessels that can be maintained more easily than a carrier that has been problematic since it was first commissioned in 1990.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is Europe’s largest US Civil War reenactment

The last place anyone would expect to watch the Blue fight the Gray in Civil War combat is the fields of Western Europe. After all, they have centuries full of historical battles of their own to re-enact for the delight of families, students, and amateur historians alike. Yet, Civil War re-enactors bring those historical battles to life again and again.


Hundreds of re-enactors come from Poland, Italy, France, and Canada to take part in the spectacle. Like any good re-enactor in the United States, the actors are sure to keep all of their clothing, gear, and weapons in good shape – and to make sure they’re historically authentic (as authentic as they can be, fighting the American Civil War in Europe). After all, no one wants to be known as a “Farb” around these dedicated troopers.

Related: Civil War re-enactors have their own POG-level slang

After all, re-enactors are a dedicated group. The more historically accurate they are in movement, fighting, and dress, the more enjoyment everyone gets from the actor recreating the event. Onlookers learn more about history as well.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

Union troops advance on a Confederate position.

The Europeans who are enthusiastic about the battles are no less dedicated than any American re-enactor. They’ve been to the U.S., they’ve visited the battle sites, they’ve seen the uniforms up close. Many of these soldiers have every detail accurate, right down to the last button.

In the recreation in the video above, the 1864 Battle of Bethesda Church, the Europeans are recreating a real European battalion, recruited from immigrants to the United States. But the battle they’re recreating isn’t the only one they do year after year. Every year they come to recreate a different battle, often from a different year of the war. The battles last for days, and the field commanders often determine the outcomes.

Unlike in the actual Civil War, however, these days end with beer and sausages shared between the two groups.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US debunks India’s claim of shooting down F-16

India proudly claimed that one of its Russian-designed MiG-21 fighters shot down one of Pakistan’s US-made F-16s before being downed by a Pakistani missile in a dogfight in February 2019, but a US inventory of Pakistan’s fighters found nothing missing, Foreign Policy reported on April 4, 2019, citing two senior US defense officials.

Tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals hit levels not seen in decades in February 2019 after militants based in Pakistan killed 40 Indian paramilitary police in a suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir.


In response, India conducted airstrikes on what it said was a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, which is said to have retaliated by sending fighter jets into Indian airspace, forcing India to scramble its own fighters and igniting an aerial battle.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

An Indian MiG-21 Bison.

Pakistan shot down and captured Indian Wing Cmdr. Abhinandan Varthaman, who the Indian air force said had scored a critical hit on a Pakistani F-16 before his MiG-21 Bison was taken out by an enemy missile.

The air raid already appeared to be an embarrassing failure. India claimed that it killed about 300 terrorists with a surprise strike that saw 2,000-pound bombs devastate the training center, but satellite imagery indicated India’s aim was off.

“It does appear there was a strike in the vicinity of the camp, but it looks like it largely missed,” Omar Lamrani, a military analyst at the geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider in March 2019.

Now it looks as though India’s assertions that it shot down a Pakistani F-16 are also incorrect.

A senior US official told Foreign Policy’s Lara Seligman that Pakistan invited the US to inspect its F-16 inventory after the fight with India.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

A Pakistan Air Force crew chief performs a post flight inspection on an F-16 Falcon.

The process took several weeks, but when it was completed, “all aircraft were present and accounted for,” the official said. Foreign Policy cited another senior US defense official as saying those findings were confirmed by the US.

“As details come out, it looks worse and worse for the Indians,” Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT, told Foreign Policy.

Pakistan has consistently argued that India’s claims about the battle are inaccurate. On April 5, 2019, Pakistan demanded that India come forward with the truth about what happened in February 2019.

“This is what Pakistan has been saying all along, the truth,” said Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, a Pakistani military representative, according to Al Jazeera, adding that “it’s time for India to come up” with the truth.

India’s air force has rejected the conclusions in the Foreign Policy article. Dinakar Peri, a defense correspondent for The Hindu, said it had argued that Indian forces confirmed sighting ejections in two places, separated by 8 to 10 kilometers, on that day. It said, according to Peri, that one was its MiG-21 Bison and the other was a Pakistani F-16, indicated by electronic signatures.

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

Articles

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

President Donald Trump signed a bill April 19 to temporarily extend a program that lets some veterans seek medical care in the private sector, part of an effort by the president to deliver on a campaign promise.


The extension will give Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin time to develop a more comprehensive plan to allow veterans to more easily go outside the VA health system for care. Under the bill Trump signed into law, the VA will be allowed to continue operating its Choice Program until the funding runs out, which is expected early 2018.

The program was scheduled to expire on Aug. 7 with nearly $1 billion left over.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought
(Photo: VA)

Trump said veterans have “not been taken care of properly” and that the program will continue to be able to see “the doctor of their choice.”

“You got it? The doctor of their choice,” he repeated for emphasis.

Shulkin, who attended the bill signing, has said the money is needed to pay for stopgap services while he works on the longer-term plan. He said April 19 that the plan is due in the fall. Congress would have to approve any changes to the VA health system.

Shulkin said the extension is important because it gives veterans another avenue for care.

“It’s this approach where veterans can get care wherever they need it that really is the way that we’re going to address all the needs and honor our commitments to our veterans,” he said after Trump signed the bill.

The Choice Program was put in place after a 2014 scandal in which as many as 40 veterans died while waiting months to be scheduled for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.

The program is intended to provide more timely care by allowing veterans to go outside the VA network only in cases where they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Yet the program itself often encountered long wait times of its own.

Also read: The VA might actually be getting its act together

The new law also calls for changes to alleviate some problems by speeding up VA payments and promoting greater sharing of medical records.

Major veterans’ organizations and Democrats support a temporary extension of the Choice Program, but are closely watching the coming VA revamp of the program for signs that the Trump administration may seek greater privatization. Those groups generally oppose privatization as a threat to the viability of VA medical centers.

Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to give veterans freedom to seek care “at a private service provider of their own choice.”

Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, commended Trump for upholding a campaign promise to make veterans a priority, but said more needed to be done. Lucas said the Choice Program was a well-intentioned “quick fix” to the Phoenix scandal, but that it remains flawed and has forced too many veterans to seek care at what he termed failing VA facilities.

“Congress now has some time to work with Secretary Shulkin on broader, more permanent choice reforms that will truly put the veteran at the center of their health care and remove VA bureaucrats as the middlemen,” Lucas said. “We look forward to supporting legislation that will let veterans go outside the VA for care when they want or need to.”

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., said more than 1 million veterans have made 7 million appointments with health care providers in their communities under the Choice Program. He said those appointments would have otherwise “lagged” in the VA scheduling system.

More than 1 million out of 9 million veterans in the VA system use some Choice care, with agency data pointing to even greater use this year.

McCain, a Navy veteran, said the extension “sends an important message that we will not send our veterans back to the status quo of unending wait-times for appointments and substandard care.” He said more work is needed, but called the legislation “an important first step.”

Shulkin has said he would like to expand veterans’ access to private care by eliminating the Choice Program’s current 30-day, 40-mile restrictions. At the same time, he wants the VA to work in partnership by handling all the scheduling and “customer service,” something that congressional auditors say could be unwieldy and expensive.

Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The USO’s new tool can empower veterans in a big way

With more than 200 USO locations throughout the world, their mission never ends, connecting American’s troops to their friends and families back home.


For more than seven decades, the USO — or United Service Organizations — has thrived on boosting the morale of service members stationed around the globe with various musical performances and celebrity appearances.

Famous for entertaining the troops, the USO has established a program that will continue to support service members as they transition back into civilian life called Pathfinder.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought
Cpt. Jason Pak takes time with his interpreter for a quick photo op during his Afghanistan deployment.

The USO Pathfinder transition program offers personalized and hands-on services to those exiting from their military obligation.

USO Pathfinder services are co-located with USO centers at 13 locations across the U.S. for one-on-one support.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought
USO Pathfinder unique’s one-on-one veteran support.

This Pathfinder program connects service members and military spouses to the resources that are best fit for them across a variety of focus areas, including employment, education, financial readiness, veteran’s benefits, housing, legal family strength wellness, and volunteerism.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian assassins are probably sleeper agents hiding in the UK

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal left the hospital in May 2018, after recovering from an assassination attempt. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent at his home in Salisbury in March 2018, by Russian spies, British counter-terror authorities have said.

One creepy prospect for the Skripals is that the would-be assassins may still be in the UK, living undercover as normal people, Russian espionage experts say. It’s easy to smuggle people out of Britain. For those of us not in the espionage business, it seems surprising that the attackers would stay in the country rather than escape immediately.


But Russia probably left its agents in place for an extended period after the attack.

Russia probably has more “sleeper” agents living as ordinary British people in the UK right now that during the Cold war, according to Victor Madeira, a senior fellow at The Institute for Statecraft, who testified to Parliament about Russian covert interference in Britain. Russia’s “illegals” program places agents in Western countries where they live apparently normal lives for years, all the while quietly collecting influential contacts. Russia might activate an illegal for a special mission like an assassination. Fifteen people are suspected to have been killed by Russian spies in Britain since 2003. The most recent was Nikolay Glushkov, a vocal Putin critic who predicted his own murder.

The trial of ‘El Chapo’ is even more crazy than we thought
Nikolay Glushkov

Madeira told Business Insider that if a sleeper agent was used in the attempt on Skripal’s life, he or she probably remained in Britain after the attack rather than trying to immediately escape back to Russia.

“Why leave someone here, at risk of detection, after such a high-profile attack?” he told Business Insider. “I can only think of two scenarios where that might happen:
  • “An actual ‘illegal’ with an existing, years-long ‘legend’ would attract attention by going missing all of a sudden – i.e. friends, co-workers or neighbours might report a missing person to police, who might then put two and two together and tie that person to the Skripal attack. Better to keep him/her in place, living a mundane life again, their role in this operation now concluded.”
  • “Someone who isn’t an ‘illegal’ in the strictest sense of the word, but for now having to stay in hiding in the UK until things settle down a bit. Perhaps with a new set of ID papers, s(he) can eventually look to exit the country via a quieter, lower-profile exit point.”

Obviously, we cannot know exactly what the operative did after the attack. The Mirror reported in April 2018, that one suspect has flown back to Russia. Earlier that month, the Mirror’s source speculated that the sleeper agent would still be in the UK, ready for another mission. “Unless it were an absolute emergency and the operative had to chance a ‘crash escape’, this exit point would normally be carefully picked based on e.g. the set of ID papers available, the person’s appearance and overall profile, history in the UK if checked by the Border Force, how tight border controls were assessed to be at that exit point, etc.,” Madeira told Business Insider.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Army is ditching ‘Army Strong’ to reach a younger generation

The US Army is not so strong anymore on its recruiting slogan —”Army Strong.”

The largest of the US military branches is struggling to find new recruits, especially those between the ages of 18 and 24, and is coming to the conclusion that the Army’s brand isn’t resonating with millennials.

“Army Strong” has been the Army’s slogan for a little over a decade, but it began to be fazed out of recruiting ads back in 2015.


The Army— which has nearly 1 million soldiers in the active-duty and reserve forces, and the Army National Guard— is now looking for a slogan that tells more of a story, Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey recently told reporters.

“I think we have to change our marketing strategy as an Army, and we are looking at that right now,” Dailey said.

“Army Strong” has also been the frequent butt of jokes and memes, often used with photos of overweight soldiers.

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“One of the major responses we get when we survey folks who don’t have experience with military service is strength, so we know the ‘Army Strong’ resonates…but I don’t think it tells the story, the full story of being a soldier,” Dailey added.

“‘Army Strong’ is a good, I think, bumper sticker, ad campaign, but it doesn’t tell the story, so I think that we’ve got to do a better job telling the story of being a soldier,” he said.

In this sense, the Army wants a slogan that’s closer to “Be All You Can Be,” which it had great success with in the 1980s and 1990s. Dailey said people continue to tell him they remember the “Be All You Can Be” slogan to this day.

“‘Be All You Can Be’ was a national identity to the Army … it is still today,” Dailey said. “I can say, ‘Be All You Can Be’ and people just — it was the national identity to the Army.”

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Dailey said other Army slogans like “Army of One” have struggled and they want something that not only appeals to young people but also influencers in their lives like parents and other family members.

When parents show enthusiasm for the military their children are more likely to enlist, according to research.

The US Navy has also struggled to find a recruiting slogan that captures the attention of millennials and their influencers. They recently retired their last slogan, “A Global Force For Good,” in favor of, “Forged By The Sea.”

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