US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

The Justice Department on Thursday indicted two alleged Russian hackers who work for a Russian-backed cybercriminal group called Evil Corp.

Maksim Yakubets is accused of being involved in international computer hacking and bank fraud schemes spanning from May 2009 to the present. He is also alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence.

Igor Turashev was indicted for his alleged role in the “Bugat” malware conspiracy. According to the FBI, Bugat is a “multifunction malware package that automates the theft of confidential personal and financial information … from infected computers through the use of keystroke logging and web injects.”


The State Department, in conjunction with the FBI, offered a reward of up to million for information on both men’s whereabouts. That figure is the highest reward for the arrest and conviction of an alleged cybercriminal to date.

The Treasury Department also sanctioned Evil Corp. on Thursday for its role in using malware to steal more than 0 million from banks and financial institutions.

Russian hacking group “Evil Corp” accused of targeting American businesses

www.youtube.com

“Maksim Yakubets allegedly has engaged in a decade-long cybercrime spree that deployed two of the most damaging pieces of financial malware ever used and resulted in tens of millions of dollars of losses to victims worldwide,” Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said in a press release.

“For over a decade, Maksim Yakubets and Igor Turashev led one of the most sophisticated transnational cybercrime syndicates in the world,” said US Attorney Scott Brady, who represents the Western District of Pennsylvania, which was particularly hard hit by the Bugat malware.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

(Photo by Philipp Katzenberger)

A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh brought a 10-count indictment against Yakubets and Turashev. The document charged the two Russians with conspiracy, computer hacking, bank fraud, and wire fraud in connection with Bugat.

The indictment also accused Yakubets and Turashev of using individuals, known as “money mules,” to take their stolen funds and smuggle them overseas.

Ultimately, the indictment said, the two defendants were able to steal “millions of dollars” and the scheme was active as recently as March of this year.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Don’t miss out on these 6 veteran education opportunities

While every veteran probably knows about the GI Bill, there are a number of other education benefits offered that they might be unaware of. Here are a few of them:


1. VA Work-study Programs

These work-study positions are part-time jobs, up to 25 hours a week, for students-veterans usually at local VA facilities (i.e. hospitals, Vet Centers, etc.) that allow veterans to earn extra money and gain experience while in school. The job may only pay minimum wage but since it is considered an education benefit it is tax free. To utilize this benefit a veteran must be enrolled at least three-quarters of the time and are using veteran education benefits, such as the GI Bill.

Bonus:

If you are a veteran working for the VA, a company, or non-profit that is dedicated to serving veterans you can apply to host a work-study program and employ your own student veterans.

2. Vocational Rehabilitation

vocational rehab

Also known as Voc Rehab this is a benefit provided by the VA to assist veterans with service connected disabilities to obtain education or training in a new field. This can be particularly useful for veterans who have exhausted their GI Bill but wish to continue their education.

3. Veterans Upward Bound

A pre-college program designed to help veterans reintegrate into higher education after their service. Unfortunately there are only 49 programs nationwide, but they cover most states and many major universities. Check to see if there is a program in your area.

4. Veterans Success Program at your school

Much like the Veterans Upward Bound program, many colleges and universities have implemented their own in-house programs to assist veterans with the transition to college. The nationally recognized program at the University of Arizona offers specialized classes to help transitioning veterans and also has a VETS Center on campus.

5. State Veteran Education Benefits

Many states have enacted their own benefits for veterans, such as the Hazelwood Act in Texas, which pays the tuition of Texas veterans after they have exhausted their GI Bill. Other states have varying types of veteran assistance, check with the Veterans Services Representative at your school for more information.

6. Veteran Scholarships

Many veteran and unit organizations (i.e. the 82nd Airborne Division Association) offer scholarships to their members. A quick search for your unit’s association (or just asking your buddies) should get you started.

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 ways armies have sent ‘FU’ messages to their enemies

As far back as documented history goes, war has crushed civilizations and built new empires. Regardless of era, military leaders and warlords have long sent visual (or “FU”) messages to their enemies in hopes that emotions, not tactics, take over the battlefield.


Related: 7 badass nicknames enemies have given the American military

With both sides desperate for a victory, the art of mind manipulation can trigger a response that just might reduce the enemy’s will to fight.

1. Tossed in a gutter

ISIS controls many areas in Iraq, but that doesn’t stop members of the Iraqi forces from showing their own progress. 

According to Fox News, Iraqis toss the dead bodies of ISIS members in the street gutters as a form of intimidation to ISIS sleeper cells and their supporters.

2. Drawn and Quartered

Most of us are familiar with William Wallace’s legacy, especially if you’ve seen Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. What the award-winning filmmaker didn’t show was what King Edward did after the end credits rolled.

According to duhaime.org, the King of England ordered his soldiers to cut Wallace’s body into four pieces and post them at the four corners of Britain. Wallace’s head was stabbed with a spike and set on London Bridge for an epic “screw you” message.

 

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million
William Wallace statue stands tall in Scotland.

 

3. Capture the flag of your enemies

Those who have had the opportunity to fight in a Taliban-infected area probably noticed the white flags flapping in the wind over extremist strongholds.

Marines love flags, too — especially their own, which wave high above American positions. They also enjoy taking the Taliban flags and putting them on display for the bad guys to see.

 

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million
Infantrymen from 3rd Battalion 5th Marines Lima Company 2nd Platoon enjoy a moment after capturing a Taliban flag. #wegotyoursh*t

4. A good slicing

Around 500 B.C., a war between the State of Yue and the State of Wu in China broke out.

Gou Jian, the King of Yue, was unsure of his victory over the Wu. To try to gain an element of surprise, Jian ordered 300 of his men to stand in front of the enemy, remove their swords and cut their own throats before the battle began.

The Wu were so completely stunned, Jian was able to send in his attack on the unsuspecting army and defeat them.

(We actually don’t recommend this tactic…)

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hypersonic weapons to be fast-tracked by the Air Force

The Air Force is finishing engineering details on an aggressive plan to prototype, test, and deploy hypersonic weapons on an expedited schedule — to speed up an ability to launch high-impact, high-speed attacks at five times the speed of sound.

Recent thinking from senior Air Force weapons developers had held that US hypersonic weapons might first be deployable by the early 2020s. Hypersonic drones for attack or ISR missions, by extension, were thought to be on track to emerge in the 2030s and 2040s, senior service officials have told Warrior Maven.


Now, an aggressive new Air Force hypersonic weapons prototyping and demonstration effort is expected to change this time frame in a substantial way.

“I am working with the team on acceleration and I am very confident that a significant acceleration is possible,” said Dr. Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.”

The effort involves two separate trajectories, including the Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon and a Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon.

“The Air Force is using prototyping to explore the art-of-the-possible and to advance these technologies to a capability as quickly as possible. We continue to partner with DARPA on two science and technology flight demonstration programs: Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept and Tactical Boost Glide,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

A “boost glide” hypersonic weapon is one that flies on an upward trajectory up into the earth’s atmosphere before using the speed of its descent to hit and destroy targets, senior officials said.

The Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon effort involves using mature technologies which have not yet been integrated for air-launched delivery, Grabowski added.

“The ARRW effort will “push the art-of-the-possible” by leveraging the technical base established by the Air Force/DARPA partnership,” she said. “The two systems have different flight profiles, payload sizes, and provide complementary offensive capabilities.”

The Air Force recently took a major step forward in the process by awarding an HCSW prototyping deal to Lockheed Martin.

As the most senior Air Force acquisition leader who works closely with the services’ Chief of Staff, Roper was clear not to pinpoint an as-of-yet undetermined timeline. He did, however, praise the hypersonic weapons development team and say the particulars of the acceleration plan would emerge soon. Roper talked about speeding up hypersonic weapons within the larger context of ongoing Air Force efforts to streamline and expedite weapons acquisition overall.

Roper explained the rationale for not waiting many more years for a “100-percent” solution if a highly impactful “90-percent” solution can be available much sooner. Often referred to as “agile acquisition” by Air Force senior leaders, to include service Secretary Heather Wilson, fast-tracked procurement efforts seek quicker turn around of new software enhancements, innovations, and promising combat technologies likely to have a substantial near-term impact. While multi-year developmental programs are by no means disappearing, the idea is to circumvent some of the more bureaucratic and cumbersome elements of the acquisition process.

The Air Force, and Pentagon, need hypersonic weapons very quickly, officials explain, and there is broad consensus that the need for hypersonic weapons is, at the moment, taking on a new urgency.

A weapon traveling at hypersonic speeds, naturally, would better enable offensive missile strikes to destroy targets such and enemy ships, buildings, air defenses and even drones and fixed-wing or rotary aircraft depending upon the guidance technology available.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million
Artist concept of the Boeing X-51 Waverider.

A key component of this is the fact that weapons traveling at hypersonic speeds would present serious complications for targets hoping to defend against them – they would have only seconds with which to respond or defend against an approaching or incoming attack.

Along these lines, the advent of hypersonic weapons is a key reason why some are questioning the future survivability of large platforms such as aircraft carriers. How are ship-based sensors, radar and layered defenses expected to succeed in detecting tracking and intercepting or destroying an approaching hypersonic weapon traveling at five-times the speed of sound.

Hypersonic weapons will quite likely be engineered as “kinetic energy” strike weapons, meaning they will not use explosives but rather rely upon sheer speed and the force of impact to destroy targets.

A super high-speed drone or ISR platform would better enable air vehicles to rapidly enter and exit enemy territory and send back relevant imagery without being detected by enemy radar or shot down.

Although potential defensive uses for hypersonic weapons, interceptors or vehicles are by no means beyond the realm of consideration, the principle effort at the moment is to engineer offensive weapons able to quickly destroy enemy targets at great distances.

Some hypersonic vehicles could be developed with what senior Air Force leaders called “boost glide” technology, meaning they fire up into the sky above the earth’s atmosphere and then utilize the speed of descent to strike targets as a re-entry vehicle.

The speed of sound can vary, depending upon the altitude; at the ground level it is roughly 1,100 feet per second. Accordingly, if a weapon is engineered with 2,000 seconds worth of fuel – it can travel up to 2,000 miles to a target, senior weapons developers have told Warrior.

While Roper did not address any specific threats, he did indicate that the acceleration is taking place within a high-threat global environment. Both Russia and China have been visibly conducting hypersonic weapons tests, leading some to raise the question as to whether the US could be behind key rivals in this area.

“We are not the only ones interested in hypersonics,” Roper told reporters.

A report cited in The National Interest cites a report from The Diplomat outlining Chinese DF-17 hypersonic missile tests in November 2017.

During the tests – “a hypersonic glide vehicle detached from the missile during the reentry phase and flew approximately 1,400 kilometers to a target,” The Diplomat report states.

Also, Pentagon is fast-tracking sensor and command and control technology development to improve defenses against fast-emerging energy hypersonic weapons threats from major rivals, US Missile Defense Agency officials said in early 2018.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

VA health care foiled again by sudden money shortage

The Department of Veterans Affairs warned June 14 it was unexpectedly running out of money for a program that offers veterans private-sector health care, forcing it to hold back on some services that lawmakers worry could cause delays in medical treatment.


It is making an urgent request to Congress to allow it to shift money from other programs to fill the sudden budget gap.

VA Secretary David Shulkin made the surprising revelation at a Senate hearing. He cited a shortfall of more than $1 billion in the Choice program due to increased demand from veterans for federally-paid medical care outside the VA. The VA had previously assured Congress that funding for Choice would last until early next year.

“We need your help on the best solution to get more money into the Choice account,” Shulkin told the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “If there is no action at all by Congress, then the Choice program will dry up by mid-August.”

The department began instructing VA medical centers late last week to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors so it can slow spending in the Choice account. Some veterans were being sent to Defence Department hospitals, VA facilities located farther away, or other alternative locations “when care is not offered in VA,” according to a June 7 internal VA memorandum.

The VA is also scrambling to tap other parts of its budget, including about $620 million in carry-over money that it had set aside for use in the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. It was asking field offices to hold off on spending for certain medical equipment to help cover costs, according to a call the department held with several congressional committees June 13.

It did not rule out taking money from VA hospitals.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million
David Shulkin (Photo by Robert Turtil, Department of Veterans Affairs)

Shulkin on June 14 insisted that veterans will not see an impact in their health care. He blamed in part the department’s excessive use of an exception in the Choice program that allowed veterans to go to private doctors if they faced an “excessive burden” in traveling to a VA facility. Typically, Choice restricts use of private doctors only when veterans must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility.

Medical centers were now being asked to hew more closely to Choice’s restrictions before sending veterans to private doctors, Shulkin said.

He described the shortfall in the Choice program as mostly logistical, amounting to different checking accounts within the VA that needed to be combined to meet various payments.

Some senators were in disbelief.

They noted that VA had failed to anticipate or fix budget problems many times before. Two years ago, the VA endured sharp criticism from Congress when it was forced to seek emergency help to cover a $2.5 billion budget shortfall due in part to expensive hepatitis C treatments, or face closing some VA hospitals.Congress allowed VA to shift money from its Choice account.

“I am deeply concerned,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D- Wash., explaining that VA should have “seen this coming.” She said veterans in her state were already reporting delays in care and being asked to travel to VA facilities more than 4 hours away.

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the panel, expressed impatience.

“For months we’ve been asking about the Choice spend rate and we were never provided those answers to make an informed decision,” he said. “No one wants to delay care for veterans — no one — so we will act appropriately. For that to happen this late in the game is frustrating to me.”

Major veterans’ organizations said they worried the shortfall was the latest sign of poor budget planning.

Carl Blake, an associate executive director at Paralyzed Veterans of America, said the VA has yet to address how it intends to address a growing appeals backlog as well as increased demands for care. “The VA could be staring at a huge hole in its budget for 2018,” he said. “It’s not enough to say we have enough money, that we can move it around. That is simply not true.”

The shortfall surfaced just weeks after lawmakers were still being assured the Choice program was under budget, with $1.1 billion estimated to be left over in the account on Aug. 7, when the program was originally set to expire. That VA estimate prompted Congress to pass legislation last March to extend the program until the Choice money ran out.

Shulkin said he learned about the shortfall June 8.

Currently, more than 30 per cent of VA appointments are made in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 per cent in 2014, as the VA’s 1,700 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care. During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, pledging to give veterans more choice in seeing outside providers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The historic US-North Korea summit to be held in Singapore in June

US President Donald Trump has announced the place and time for his historic summit with Kim Jong Un.

The meeting, the highest-level contact ever between the US and North Korea, is set to take place in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

Trump announced the details in a tweet on May 10, 2018:



The meeting will be the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.

The specifics of the meeting were finalized in the past few days by Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who returned in the early hours of May 10, 2018, from a face-to-face meeting with Kim.

It has been accompanied by a flurry of diplomatic activity. Pompeo brought back with him three US citizens who had been detained in North Korea, but were released at Trump’s request.

That visit to North Korea was Pompeo’s second in a month, which in itself represents a drastic step up in the level of official contact between the North Korean and US governments.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million
Mike Pompeo and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Kim has repeatedly proposed talks with world leaders about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which was a US precondition for talks. Kim has asked for few concessions in return for his promise to denuclearize.

Trump’s administration has laid out a number of ambitious goals for the negotiations, which include permanent, irreversible, verifiable denuclearization of North Korea before sanctions are lifted.

Singapore had not been widely suggested in advance as a likely location for the summit.

But a number of factors make it a logical choice: It has diplomatic relations with both countries, hosts a North Korean embassy, has a good position in Southeast Asia, and can play the part of a neutral third party.

Other candidates had been Mongolia, also a neutral country, and the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

On May 9, 2018, Trump reportedly said that the DMZ was no longer being considered, even though he had suggested it himself only a few weeks ago.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force wants new, high-tech helmets for flight crews

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Human Systems Division working with members of the Advanced Tactical Acquisition Corps or ATAC, one of the center’s premier leadership development programs, are in the early stages of acquiring the next generation helmet for aircrews in fixed-wing aircraft with the exception of the F-35.

Recently, with recommendations from ATAC, the Human Systems Division awarded $600,000 in grants via AFWERX Vegas to three companies to develop and present prototypes for the helmet by the end of May 2019.


The team worked closely with AFWERX Vegas, an Air Force innovation hub specializing in engaging entrepreneurs and private sector vendors, to identify the pool of companies that could potentially develop the new helmet faster, more efficiently and with cutting edge technology.

Replacing legacy helmets on fixed-wing aircraft has become a priority in part because over time new requirements have added sub-systems, and devices, that the helmets were not originally designed for.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

A helmet sits turned on at a booth during AFWERX Helmet Challenge at the Enclave Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan T. Guthrie)

“It (legacy helmet) is a 1980’s designed helmet that was not made to withstand and balance everything — technology — that we are putting on them,” said 1st Lt. Naomi Harper, a program manager with the Human Systems Division. “If the weight is off, the center of gravity is completely off, which can cause neck issues and pain. Our goal is to find a helmet that is lighter, has more stability and is compatible fixed-winged aircraft and equipment.”

Michael DeRespinis, program manager with the Human Systems Division said that working with AFWERX has been beneficial in that it has helped increase competition to replace the helmet and is facilitating the rapid delivery of prototypes.

DeRespinis also said that the division would like to select one of the prototypes and put that company on contract by Sept. 2019 for further development activity and future production.

Because of AFWERX Vegas, a process that in the past would have taken years to complete, will now only take months, which in turn will allow the Human Systems Division to field the helmets to aircrews faster.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

An Airman and an attendee of the AFWERX Helmet Challenge discuss new helmets at the Enclave Las Vegas, Nev., Nov. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan T. Guthrie)

The ATAC team comprised of a group of competitively selected mid-level military and civilian acquisition professionals from across AFLCMC, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Space and Missile Systems Center, are focused not only on supporting the Human Systems Division during this process, but also on figuring out the best way to transition technology.

“Innovation hubs like AFWERX are starting to spin up around the Air Force,” said Adam Vencill, a member of ATAC and a program manager by trade. “A challenge the Air Force has is getting products on contract that comes out of these hubs. We (ATAC members) were tasked to create a business model that helps that transition process.”

Nicole Barnes, ATAC contract specialist and member said that working with AFWERX, the Human Systems Division and being part of a rapid acquisition process has been rewarding. She added that the ATAC program is an example of leadership’s commitment to the workforce and to positive change.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Air Force lab in charge of processing COVID-19 samples from military facilities around the world

(Editor’s Note – The following is an updated repost of a story on the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine Epidemiology Reference Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, which was originally published on March 27, 2018. It contains new information on the lab’s mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

For the latest Air Force information and guidance on COVID-19 go to https://www.af.mil/News/Coronavirus-Disease-2019/

UPDATE – COVID-19 AND THE USAFSAM EPI LAB

The United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s epidemiology laboratory is the Air Force’s sole clinical reference laboratory, and as such, is testing and processing samples of COVID-19 sent from military treatment facilities around the world.


EPILAB

vimeo.com

The lab was authorized by the Defense Health Agency to test samples from Department of Defense beneficiaries for COVID-19 in early March, and received its test kit from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shortly after.

“The USAFSAM Epi Lab is currently working long hours, testing and processing samples of COVID-19 that are coming in from MTFs globally,” said Col. Theresa Goodman, USAFSAM commander. “If you ask anyone on this team how they’re doing, they’ll tell you they’re fine–that they’re just doing their jobs. But I couldn’t be more proud of them right now — their selfless and tireless dedication to this mission. COVID-19 testing is our primary mission right now and the members of the Epi Lab are my front line to this fight.”

USAFSAM’s epidemiology laboratory, nested in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing, has a long history of testing and identifying various infectious respiratory diseases, including those that occur on a regular basis like influenza, and the ones similar to COVID-19 that become a public health issue, spreading globally. Because of this, the team works closely with the CDC and other agencies.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

Col. Theresa Goodman

“We have been in operation for approximately 30 years, and therefore involved with many other infectious disease outbreaks, for example SARS,” said Col. Dana Dane, USAFSAM Public Health Department chair.

This laboratory is only authorized to test samples coming in from DoD beneficiaries, but those outside this demographic have the support of their state public health departments for testing purposes. USAFSAM is working closely with public health professionals across the DoD, as well as with the CDC as the situation evolves. Per CDC guidelines, reference laboratories are no longer required to submit samples to the CDC for further testing and final confirmation. If the tests do show as positive, the USAFSAM Epi Lab marks the sample “confirmed positive.”

USAFSAM’s laboratory is not participating in vaccine development. It also is not the type of laboratory where people go to get blood drawn, nasal swabs, etc., like a CompuNet or clinic at a doctor’s office or in a hospital. USAFSAM’s clinical reference lab is set up to receive these samples from military treatment facilities. They run the tests on those samples and log the data.

“We’re all sensitive to those around the world who are grieving losses due to this awful virus as well as to others who are just downright scared. Our hearts go out to you,” said Goodman. “But just know that our epidemiology laboratory here in USAFSAM is waiting at the door 24/7 for any and all samples that come in from our DoD family.

Goodman also stated that the team is lockstep with public health personnel around the world as well as with our partners at the CDC.

“We truly are all in this together,” she said. “Fighting this virus will take all of us doing our part–from those staying at home washing their hands a little more often and checking on neighbors to USAFSAM’s public health team testing samples and getting the data where it needs to go.”

THE DISEASE DETECTIVES (ORIGINAL POST – MARCH 27, 2018 )

After slowly using a blade to cut through thick tape, a technician in a protective gown and glasses opens the flaps of a cardboard box revealing a polystyrene container. As her gloved hands cautiously remove the lid, a wisp of vapor rolls slowly over the edge of the box, clinging to its surface as it descends onto the tabletop.

The technician gingerly reaches through the fog and removes a plastic bag filled with clear vials from the container. This process is repeated over a hundred times each morning as carts filled with boxes of clinical patient specimens arrive at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s Epidemiology Laboratory Service at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Created in 1990, the Epi Lab, as it is referred to at USAFSAM, focuses on clinical diagnostic, public health testing and force health screening, performing 5,000 to 8,000 tests six days a week (or about 2.1 million tests a year) for clinics and hospitals treating active duty service members, reservists and National Guard members and their dependents and beneficiaries.

The data collected from these tests not only enables the analysis of disease within the joint force, but is shared with civilian public health agencies contributing to the tracking of diseases, such as influenza and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as well as supporting disease prevention efforts, such as the formulation of vaccines.

While the lab receives most of its medical samples from Air Force bases around the world, it also tests specimens sent by Navy and Army hospitals and clinics, totaling more than 200 military medical facilities around the globe.

The Epi Lab’s workload is a result of its efficiency and economics, according to Elizabeth Macias, Ph.D., a clinical microbiologist, and director of the Epi Lab.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

Elizabeth Macias, Ph.D., is a clinical microbiologist, and director of the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. The lab, which receives between 5,000 and 8,000 samples, six days a week, for analysis, routinely reports results to Department of Defense hospitals and clinics around the world within 48 hours of a sample being shipped to the lab.

PHOTO BY J.M. EDDINS JR.

“A lot of the testing is very specialized, and in some cases can be very expensive. Many of our Air Force clinics and laboratories are small and don’t have the personnel to do that kind of thing or the funding to get all the specialized instruments that we have,” Macias said. “Our personnel are comprised of military, government civilians and contractor civilians, so we have the expertise and the personnel to handle the workload.”

Nearly 30 people work throughout the morning, removing samples packed in dry ice from their boxes, ensuring the patient information on the specimen tubes and paperwork match the orders on the computer system and then re-labeling them for the lab’s computer system before sending the samples to the appropriate testing departments.

“The laboratory consists of three branches; Customer Support, Immunodiagnostics and Microbiology. Immunodiagnostics and Microbiology perform testing, such as immune status and screening for STDs, like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis and some other serology assays,” said Tech. Sgt. Maryann Caso, noncommissioned officer in charge of the immunodiagnostic section of the Epi Lab.

Just over a year ago, the Epi Lab adopted fourth-generation HIV testing, which enables the lab to detect an HIV infection two weeks sooner after a patient is exposed. This newer technology allows patients to receive treatment and counseling sooner.

There is a constant flow of samples requiring STD screening and immune status testing, as these are gathered as part of the in-processing screening for each new service member. The tests help screen for potentially infectious diseases as well as establish a baseline of antibody types and levels for each new recruit to precisely target which vaccines they need.

“For example, all the new recruits are tested for measles, mumps, and rubella. So if they have antibodies to those diseases then they’re not vaccinated again. This saves the Department of Defense because they don’t waste manpower and money to vaccinate somebody that is already protected against those diseases,” Macias said.

The lab has become more efficient and safer for laboratory technicians after the installation of an automated testing system last year.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

Laboratory technicians unpack and log in blood serum, fecal, urine or respiratory samples which arrive from U.S. Air Force hospitals and clinics around the world, as well as some other Department of Defense facilities Jan. 30, 2018. The Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, receives 100-150 boxes a day, six days a week. The lab, which tests between 5,000 and 8,000 samples daily, is a Department of Defense reference laboratory offering clinical diagnostic, public health, and force health screening and testing.

PHOTO // J.M. EDDINS JR.

“The samples come in now and are put on an automated line. It will actually uncap the sample, spin it down, aliquot it (divide the sample into smaller portions for multiple tests) and sort it to whatever section and analyzer it needs for a particular test,” Caso said.

“Before, our techs had to manually uncap the tubes, aliquot the samples and sort them. When you have thousands of samples that you have to uncap and then recap by hand, you get repetitive-motion injuries to the wrist – such as carpal tunnel. The whole idea is to have automated processes and to eliminate or mitigate pre-analytical errors, such as specimen contamination.”

Once tested, the results are automatically returned to the submitting hospital or clinic via computer, unless the system notifies a technician to intervene and manually certify the test result.

“Specimens are collected at hospitals and clinics around the world and sent to us,” Macias said. “We receive the boxes within 24 hours and most of the results are completed within 24 hours… So, generally, we get those results back to the submitting clinic within 48 hours from when they are shipped to us, so the docs can then treat their patients appropriately and with a good turnaround time.”

In addition to the immunology testing that is performed in the lab, the Microbiology branch performs testing on bacterial cultures, examines fecal samples for parasites that cause intestinal disease, and performs influenza testing.

The Air Force began an influenza surveillance program in 1976 to collect data about disease and its spread in response to an outbreak of what was called “Bootcamp Flu.” In the close quarters of basic training, the virus spread through many barracks, according to Donald Minnich, technical supervisor for the Virology and manual testing section at the Epi Lab.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

Donald Minnich, technical supervisor for the manual testing section, oversees the influenza surveillance program at the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.The lab identifies and sequences the genome of influenza samples received from U.S. Air Force hospitals and clinics around the world, as well as other Department of Defense facilities. The data collected on active flu strains contributes about 25 percent of the total data used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to formulate its yearly influenza vaccine.

PHOTO // J.M. EDDINS JR.

To combat illness, recruits needed to be regularly monitored, giving birth to Operation Gargle, in which recruits gargled with a solution and spit it back into a specimen cup which was then tested for influenza and other respiratory pathogens.

The Air Force program is now part of the Defense Health Agency’s Global, Laboratory-Based Respiratory Pathogen program which grows, sequences and collects data on influenza, parainfluenza, adenovirus and the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV.

The flu surveillance program at the Epi Lab has approximately 95 submitting laboratories scattered across the continental United States and the globe, from deployed areas to Europe, Japan and Guam.

In a typical flu season, the surveillance program receives between 5,000 and 6,000 specimens. This year, the Epi Lab has received 5,000 specimens in just the first few months of the flu season, according to Minnich.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This was the Marine exercise in Syria to deter Russian attacks

Over 100 US Marines sent a “strong message” to Russia with a live-fire exercise in Syria after the Russians threatened to conduct strikes near a key US-led coalition base. US Central Command has released several combat photos of that message to a rival power.


US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jorge Castrosamaniego, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, learns how to utilize an 84 mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

Russia told the US it wanted to launch strikes near a key US-led coalition base, but the US Marines demonstrated that it would be better for Russia to keep out.

Russia warned the US twice in early September 2018 that Russian, Syrian, and pro-regime forces planned to conduct operations and launch strikes in the deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, accusing the US and its coalition partners of failing to adequately combat terrorists in the area. The US military, together with its regional partners, responded by holding a live-fire exercise reportedly involving air assets, artillery, and other heavy weaponry meant to send the clear message that it is more than capable of taking on any and all threats.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Carter Sampson, an anti-tank missile gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires a FGM-148 Javelin, a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile, at his target during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown told Business Insider, adding, “Coalition partners are in the At Tanf deconfliction zone for the fight to destroy ISIS. Any claim that the US is harboring or assisting ISIS is grossly inaccurate.”

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dave Lawless, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, instructs others how to utilize the Mk 153 shoulder-launch multipurpose assault weapon during operations near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

A U.S. Marine with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at a target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

The US military informed the Russians that it is not looking for a fight, but it is more than ready should anyone come looking for one.

“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” Brown previously told BI in an emailed statement.

“However,” he added, “the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition or partner forces, as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Fabian Castro (right), an infantry rifleman with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

The At Tanf garrison in Syria serves as a base for US operations against the Islamic State, as well as an obstacle for broader Russian, Syrian, and Iranian interests in the region.

Russia’s interest in the deconfliction zone has little to nothing to do with combating terrorism in the region, a US defense official told BI. The At Tanf deconfliction zone sits in the middle of a major connection between Tehran and Damascus.

Moscow remains critical of the US military presence in Syria. Nonetheless, Russia agreed to a 55-kilometer deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, and the US military continues to expect the Russians to continue to abide by this agreement.

The US military has previously engaged foreign forces that attempted to enter the deconfliction zone. For instance, last summer, coalition troops “destroyed” pro-regime forces that “advanced inside the well-established deconfliction zone,” CENTCOM said in a statement.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. James Gordon, a machine gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at his target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Philip Russell, a machine gun squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million

U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, prepare to board an MV-22 Osprey on to a site near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Lopez)

The exercise came as Russia gathered its naval forces in the Mediterranean to assist Syrian and pro-regime troops as they began a major assault on Idlib, the last stronghold of the Syrian rebels.

The United Nations has stressed that a full-scale assault on Idlib would result in a humanitarian catastrophe. Tens of thousands of people have already begun fleeing the area.

The US has warned the Syrian regime led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that any use of chemical weapons will be met with a strong, swift response. “The president expects us to have military options in the event that chemical weapons are used,’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said over the weekend, adding, “We have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.”

US strikes on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons run contrary to Russian interests and have resulted in criticism from Moscow.

Tensions between the US and Russia, however, extend beyond the Syrian battlegrounds

Russia is currently holding major war games with China in the eastern part of the country, and these exercises are expected to be held on a “regular basis” going forward. The Pentagon is watching closely as the two US rivals strive to strengthen military ties.

During the drills, Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers escorted by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets were intercepted by F-22 stealth fighters near Alaska. It was the second time this month that American military aircraft have intercepted Russian bombers near the state.

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

Articles

The fledgling Afghan Air Force is training to take on Al Qaeda and the Taliban

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million
An Afghan air force A-29 Super Tucano aircraft flies over Afghanistan during a training mission April 6, 2016. NATO Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air worked daily with the Afghan air force to help build a professional, sustainable and capable air force. | U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Eydie Sakura


It was just a few months ago that the first A-29 Super Tucanos touched down in Afghanistan, and a new video of live fire drills gives us a rare look at the Afghan pilot’s progress since then.

As part of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support to provide support and security to the Afghan National Government in the face resurgent terrorist groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the US has provided A-29 light air support planes to the fledgling Afghan Air Force.

Throughout the video, you can hear US Air Force trainers instructing the Afghan pilots.

The A-29s in the video are firing off rockets, as well as the .50 calibre guns.

The A-29s sent to Afghanistan are US made, designed specifically for counter insurgency and are super versatile.

The planes have five hardpoints on each wing and can carry up to 3,300 pounds of additional ordinance, like AIM-9X missiles, rocket pods, 20 mm cannons, smart freefall bombs, and even air-to-air missiles, according to IHS Jane’s.

Watch the full video below (the firing starts at around the 3:10 mark):

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain is no longer a ‘tier one’ military power

Theresa May asked Britain’s defence secretary to justify the UK’s role as a “tier one” military power, causing dismay in the Ministry of Defence. Underlying the statement is a realisation that the UK can no longer economically compete with top powers, defence experts told Business Insider.

“It’s a reflection of our economic status — times are tough,” said Tim Ripley, a defence analyst, adding: “It’s all about money… if you don’t have money you can’t spend it.”

The Prime Minister questioned defence secretary Gavin Williamson on whether money for the military should be reallocated to areas like cyber, and if Britain needed to maintain a Navy, Army, Air Force and nuclear deterrent all at once.


Ripley called it a retreat from “grand ambitions.”


“No matter how we dress it up, this new fangled cyber stuff is just an excuse for running away from funding hard power,” Ripley said. “If you don’t pony up the money and the hard power you don’t get a seat at the top table. No matter how flash your cyber warfare is, people take notice of ships, tanks and planes.”

There is a strong correlation between military power and economic status. The major powers including the US, China and Russia all demonstrate their strength through military posturing, and countries that don’t have enough resources for defence often pool with others.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million
Portrait of British Prime Minister Theresa May

Dr Jan Honig, a senior lecturer in war studies at King’s College London, said that shared defence can be disrupted in times of nationalism, and called it “highly ironic” that Brexit could mean the UK can longer fund its military.

“You can’t really do it by yourself even if you spent a lot more on defence which is not going to happen in this country with this measly economic growth and the uncertainty about international trade details,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s comments, which were first reported by the Financial Times, come in the context of her recent pledge of a fresh £20 billion for the National Health Service (NHS) and debate about where the money will come from.

“You do want to ensure that government policy has support from the people, so to say we’re going to pour a lot of money into defense just in case something happens … is a far more difficult thing to sell than funding the NHS and social care, welfare that is an immediate issue,” said Honig, adding that populations are also more switched on to the horrors of war.

But Julian Lewis, Chair of the UK’s defence committee told Business Insider that he’s now concerned about whether May will be able to properly fund the military after the NHS pledge.

“I am not won over … by this jargon of calling it a ‘tier one’ military power… What I’m much more concerned about is whether Theresa May will be able to give defence the money it needs,” he said, citing a “whole” of over £4.2 billion in the defence budget.

May’s comments will not lead to definitive action to pair down the military, but are a clear sign of the direction of travel said Ripley.

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

Articles

Beijing tests the waters by reinforcing missile sites in South China Sea

New satellite photography from the South China Sea confirms a nightmare for the U.S. and champions of free navigation everywhere — Beijing has reinforced surface-to-air missiles sites in the Spratly Islands.


For years now, China has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea and militarizing them with radar outposts and missiles.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million
Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division.. (Dept. of Defense photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

The latest move seems to have been months in the making, so it’s not in response to any particular U.S. provocation, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies‘ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

China previously deployed close-in weapons systems, which often serve on ships as a last line of defense against incoming missiles, and have toggled on and off between positioning surface-to-air missiles on Woody island in the Paracel Islands chain. But this time it’s different, according to CSIS’ Bonnie Glasser, director of the China Power Project.

Related: China says it will fine U.S. ships that don’t comply with its new rules in South China Sea

China has not yet deployed the actual launchers, but Satellite imagery shows the new surface-to-air missile sites are buildings with retractable roofs, meaning Beijing can hide launchers, and that they’ll be protected from small arms fire.

“This will provide them with more capability to defend the island itself and the installations on them,” said Glaser.

Nations in the region have taken notice. Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told reporters that foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) unanimously expressed concern over China’s land grab in a resource-rich shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in commerce annually.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million
The HQ-9 is a Chinese medium- to long-range, active radar homing surface-to-air missile.

The move is “very unsettlingly, that China has installed weapons ­systems in these facilities that they have established, and they have expressed strong concern about this,” Yasay said, according to the South China Morning Post.

But Chinese media and officials disputed the consensus at ASEAN that their militarization had raised alarm, and according to Glaser, without a clear policy position from the Trump administration, nobody will stand up to China.

Currently, the U.S. has an aircraft carrier strike group patrolling the South China Sea, but that clearly hasn’t stopped or slowed Beijing’s militarization of the region, nor has it meaningfully emboldened US allies to speak out against China.

“Most countries do not want to be confrontational towards China … they don’t want an adversarial relationship,” said Glaser, citing the economic benefits countries like Laos and Cambodia get from cooperating with Beijing, the world’s third largest economy and a growing regional power.

Instead, U.S. allies in the Pacific are taking a “wait and see” approach to dealing with the South China Sea as Beijing continues to cement its dominance in the region and establish “facts in the water” that even the U.S.’s most advanced ships and planes would struggle to overcome.

The HQ-9 missile systems placed in the South China Sea resemble Russia’s S-300 missile defense system, which can heavily contest airspace for about 100 miles.

According to Glaser, China has everything it needs to declare an air defense and identification zone — essentially dictate who gets to fly and sail in the South China Sea — except for the Scarborough Shoal.

US sanctions Russian hacking group for stealing more than $100 million
Territorial claims in the South China Sea. (Public Domain | Voice of America)

“I think from a military perspective, now because they have radars in the Paracels and the Spartlys,” China has radar coverage “so they can see what’s going on in the South China Sea with the exception of the northeastern quarter,” said Glaser. “The reason many have posited that the Chinese would dredge” the Scarborough Shoal “is because they need radar coverage there.”

The Scarborough Shoal remains untouched by Chinese dredging vessels, but developing it would put them a mere 160 miles from a major U.S. Navy base at the Subic Bay in the Phillippines.

Also read: China’s second aircraft carrier may be custom made to counter the U.S. in the South China Sea

Installing similar air defenses there, or even radar sites, could effectively lock out the U.S. or anyone else pursuing free navigation in open seas and skies.

While U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly floated the idea of being tougher on China, a lack of clear policy has allowed Beijing to continue on its path of militarizing the region where six nations claim territory.

“For the most part, we are improving our relationships. All but one,” Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of U.S. 7th Fleet, said at a military conference on Tuesday.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy updates its CBD product regulations

CBD is everywhere. From Target to grocery stores, it’s having a moment that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean the military is following this latest wellness trend. In fact, the Navy recently made it super clear that no one affiliated with the branch is allowed to use CBD products.

CBD was declared safe back in 2018 by the World Health Organization, but that hasn’t softened the Navy’s stance on the product. An updated Navy release bans lotion, shampoos, lip balms, and other topical products that contain CBD. This comes after the initial ban of CBD products in 2019 that didn’t explicitly apply to topical lotions and balms.


The Navy claims that sailor exposure to CBD products might negatively impact mission readiness and disqualify a sailor from service. Officials cited the potential for CBD mislabeling and the lack of regulation as reasons for the updated ban.

The FDA has no regulation guidelines created regarding CBD, and since it’s an unregulated market, there’s really no telling what a person is buying when they purchase a lotion or a salve. In order to be legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD has to have less than 0. 3 percent THC. Hemp that contains less than 0.3 percent THC is currently legal in fifty states. But that doesn’t mean that what a person buys actually contains only the legal amount of CBD. There are no checks or safeguards in place, putting service members at risk.

Research is ongoing to explore whether or not the benefits can be scientifically proven or if they’re largely anecdotal. Amid the veteran population, the use of CBD is definitely growing. But since most CBD products are sold in the form of teas, oils, and salves, there’s no federal jurisdiction about the purity of the product. That means that an unsuspecting sailor might purchase a CBD product for its purported benefits and end up failing a drug test because the product contained more than the legal amount of THC.

THC is the active ingredient in marijuana that makes it a psychoactive substance. Advocates for CBD claim that because there’s little to no THC, it has no psychoactive effects on the brain. But the Navy isn’t so sure.

The recent policy update includes language relating to sailors who currently hold a valid prescription for FDA-approved CBD products. These are still permissible, as are clothing products made from hemp. But sailors who test positive for THC or other banned substances for which they have no valid prescription will be administratively separated and face an “Other than Honorable” discharge.

The latest Navy update follows the House of Representatives’ approval on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would allow service members to use legalized CBD products. The amendment passed by a vote 336-71. It stipulates that the SecDef can’t prohibit based on a product containing hemp or any ingredient derived from help, the possession, use, and consumption of the product by a member of the military. That’s as long as the product meets the federal definition of hemp. It’s a step in the right direction for CBD advocates, but there’s still a long way to go.

Advocates for CBD are pushing for its inclusion in the military, and there’s no stronger voice than from the veteran community. Veteran owned CBD companies are cropping up all over the country, in part because of its lucrative business model and in part because CBD really does seem to be working. Specifically, for veterans who are suffering from combat stress, PTSD, or MST related mental health issues, CBD advocates think that it offers a non-pharmaceutical approach to treatment and wellness.

Of course, as with all things, the military is going to take its time in making a final decision about the legality of CBD products. But with backing from big-name veteran organizations like the IAVA, maybe there’s a chance that CBD will be coming to a commissary near you.

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