Tag Archives: military

Has U.S. Foreign Policy Created The Migrant Crisis in Honduras?

A crowd of nearly 7,000 migrants are moving from Honduras, currently in Mexico and on their way to the U.S. border.

President Trump says he will not allow them in and the situation is once again becoming a huge political debate over immigration.

But immigration is only a symptom of the actual problem. Reality Check, if you want to debate the actual problem then you have to talk about u.s. foreign policy in Honduras and Central American countries for over the last 100 years that has led to this migrant crisis.
Other media is going to ignore it but we’re not.

Lets give it a reality check.

Reports of Military Sexual Assault, Retaliation Increase

(IVN) A report released last month by the Pentagon found that reports of sexual harassment in the military increased from fiscal year 2016, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.

The report also found that reports of retaliation against those making reports increased as well, proving that there is still much work to be done to combat the epidemic of sexual violence in the nation’s military.

The report, compiled by a bi-annual survey, found that there was an approximate 10 percent increase in the number of sexual assault cases reported. For fiscal year 2017, which ended on September 30, there were a total of 6,769 cases reported across all military branches.

This is up from the 6,172 cases reported in FY2016. It is the largest increase since 2015. Of those, 1,200 were outside of the military’s jurisdiction.

Among those surveyed, fewer than 15,000 people described themselves as being victims of unwanted sexual contact. This is a dramatic drop from the 26,000 people when the military sexual assault crisis first made headlines in 2012.

According to the report, the Marine Corps saw the biggest increase in reported incidences of sexual assault. In FY2016 there were 870 reported cases reported. In FY2017, this number increased to 998.

For fiscal year 2017, which ended on September 30, there were a total of 6,769 cases reported across all military branches.

But this isn’t the only trouble the Marines found itself in. In early 2017, the Marine Corps was embarrassed by a nude photo sharing scandal across social media.

The Facebook page Marines United had thousands of images of female marines, marine veterans and wives of marines in various stages of undress and compromising and sexual positions. Accompanying the photos were degrading and threatening comments.

After a lengthy investigation, it was found that the majority of the material was voluntary, however a handful of those marines still on active duty and found to be responsible were disciplined.

The Navy saw a nine percent increase in reports. In FY2017 there were 1585 reports of sexual assault. This is up from the 1450 reports in FY2016. The Air Force also saw an increase of nine percent.  The Army saw an increase of eight percent.

While it may seem to some that an increase in reports of sexual assault would signal a worsening problem, according to the DOD, this isn’t the case.

In fact, increased reporting is a good thing. This means that service members are more comfortable coming forward and reporting incidence and have more confidence that the system will get them justice because sexual assault is such a sensitive, highly under-reported crime.

The data from the DOD showed that while reports increased, the incidents of reports sent to the courts for punishment actually decreased. Of all the cases reported in the previous fiscal year, 2,218 were referred for disciplinary action. 774 went through the court martial process.

This is down from 790 the previous year.

This doesn’t mean that perpetrators aren’t being punished. They are just being punished outside the military’s court system.

“It is very, very challenging to go through the court-martial process and testify. Victims may opt not to testify and commanders are now left with administrative actions and discharges to hold people appropriately accountable,” said Nathan Galbreath, the deputy director of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

Because fewer victims are testifying, military commanders are using administrative actions, discharges, or non-judicial punishment. There were 378 cases referred for administrative action or discharge in FY2017, up from the 260 cases in FY2016.

In addition, another 294 faced non-judicial punishment. This can include a wide variety of punishments including loss of pay, loss of rank, and even the end of someone’s military career.

In a disturbing twist, however, the reports of retaliatory behavior have gone up remarkably as well. The same DOD report found that 40 percent of those who reported sexual assault experienced some kind of retaliation.

“The department has made progress in combating sexual assault in the military,” said Rear Adm. Ann Burkhardt, the director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. “But we know that there is more work to be done.”

Written by Wendy Innes

 

 

This article was republished with permission from IVN.

Phoenix Support Camp for Homeless Veterans Faces Eviction

A group of volunteers calling themselves the Camp Alpha Project have been camped around Phoenix, Arizona for the last six weeks. The group says its goal is to “help homeless Veterans and Civilians in Phoenix by utilizing available resources.”

Fox 10 reported last month that Camp Alpha “started in October and keeps growing as it reaches out to get the vets off the streets one step at a time,” and that “the community and other veteran organizations have stepped up and dropped off tents, food, clothing, and supplies.”

Following complaints from neighbors, the city of Phoenix investigated the encampment and is pursuing a solution to relocate the camp. The Phoenix Neighborhood Services Department met with the organizers of Camp Alpha and has told the organizers they cannot stay at their current location.

“Those are complaints. That’s the challenge we’re up against. People in the neighborhood don’t know what we’re all about,” Camp Alpha’s Eric Smaltz told Fox10 in Phoenix. “They just see the encampment growing and wonder what’s going on and they apply a negative connotation to homeless people and encampments.”

12 News in Phoenix reported that city leaders say the “tent city” is violating city code. Aaron Pomrenke, who founded the camp back in October, told 12 News that the city had not communicated anything about a violation. Pomrenke previously told 12 News he started Camp Alpha as a way to give homeless veterans a safe place to sleep while also connecting them with much-needed services.

Moises Gallegos with Phoenix’s Human Services Department told Fox that the city cannot allow the camp to exist because “there are rules that say it’s not okay, it’s not legal. There are many others that would say if we’re going to let this be, why can’t we have tents and camps on every vacant lot, corner, anyplace people would want to do that.”

The city also told 12 News they support Camp Alpha’s goals “but it is an obvious code violation to set up a tent encampment in a vacant lot.” The city says they do not have a building for Camp Alpha but hopes they can “develop a plan for a solution.”

Interestingly enough, in early 2014 Phoenix was declared the first city to “end chronic homelessness among military veterans.” At the time, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton spoke with USA Today and said “the city went from 220 vets on the streets a couple of years ago to virtually none today.”

Despite Phoenix’s declaration of eliminating homelessness among veterans, there remains a multitude of veterans in need of support. Camp Alpha serves as a reminder of the unfortunate reality that the men and women who fight in the United States military often return home battling a number of ailments and are faced with failed bureaucracy and apathy.

New Report: ‘Human, Technical Error’ Led to Afghanistan Hospital Bombing

On Wednesday, U.S. military officials announced that several American military soldiers and airmen responsible for killing and injuring civilians inside a hospital in Afghanistan violated the rules of engagement and will face disciplinary action.

[RELATED: Doctors Without Borders Leaving Afghan City After U.S.-Led Coalition Bombs Hospital]

In early October, a hospital in northern Afghanistan operated by the organization Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF, suffered an attack from U.S.-led coalition forces. Thirty-one people were killed in the bombing, including 12 hospital staffers. Three of the deaths were children in the intensive care unit.

The bombing, which took place at a hospital in the city of Kunduz, was originally reported as a request from Afghan military officers who were under fire from Taliban forces. The investigations prove that story to be false. Shortly after the bombing, it was reported that Doctors Without Borders would be leaving the city of Kunduz as a result of the bombing.

Gen. John Campbell, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner told reporters the bombing was the result of several human and technical failures. The officials declined to say how many soldiers were suspended.

[RELATED: Doctors Without Borders Hospital Raided By Afghan Forces Months Before US Airstrike]

“We made a terrible mistake that resulted in unnecessary deaths,” Brig. Shoffner said. The officials stated that the crew of an AC-130 gunship was sent to attack a Taliban command center in a different building, but problems with targeting sensors caused the crew to fire on the hospital despite a lack of hostile activity.

Campbell and Shoffner did not address previous claims by military officials that the Taliban had taken over the hospital, but the Associated Press reports that a summary of one of the investigations states there is no evidence to support the claim.

The reports detail a chaotic 25-minute period where planes fired 211 shells at the hospital before commanders realized a mistake had been made. The report also says 31 civilians were killed and 28 others were injured. These numbers are higher than previously reported and the investigators claim that additional civilians were likely killed or injured in the attacks.

One of the investigations is officially known as a combined civilian casualty assessment and was tasked with determining the facts of the bombing, but not assigning blame. U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Richard Kim led the investigation with a team representatives of NATO and the Afghan government. A second investigation conducted by the U.S. military looked into the issue of accountability.

Gen. Kim’s investigation found that U.S. Special Forces were planning a raid of a National Directorate of Security compound in Kunduz on the night of the bombing. “The (U.S. Special Forces commander) did not label the MSF compound (Doctors Without Borders’ French acronym) as containing a medical facility, and that the MSF medical facility was not marked so as to distinguish it as a protected medical establishment,” the report said.

As a result of this mistake, people running from the hospital were shot by gunfire, including one patient trying to escape in a wheelchair who was killed by shrapnel. The report says it is unclear if the commander on the ground who gave the authorization had the coordinates for the hospital when he ordered the attack.

A copy of the casualty assessment report was obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday but has not been released publicly.

New Study Finds Children of Returning Vets Face Higher Risk of Abuse

According to a new study published on Friday, the babies and toddlers of soldiers returning from deployment are at higher risk of abuse for the first six months after the parent returns home. That risk increases with more frequent deployment of the parents.

USA Today reported the study was conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and published in the American Journal of Public Health. The researchers examined the families of more than 112,000 soldiers who had children 2 years old or younger between 2001 and 2007, during the height of the Iraq War. The team looked at reports of abuse by a soldier or a caregiver which had been confirmed by the Department of Defense, as well as medical diagnoses from the military.

Of the 4,367 victims from the families of 3,635 soldiers, the researchers found that abuse and neglect doubled during the second deployment when compared with the first. The study also found that when soldiers deployed twice the rate of abuse and neglect was the highest and usually came from a caregiver other than the soldier.

David Rubin, co-director of the hospital’s PolicyLab and the report’s senior author, told USA Today the study was the first to “reveal an increased risk when soldiers with young children return home from deployment.” Rubin said the study shows the “potentially devastating consequences for some military families.”

Veterans returning home from war have long been the victim of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a consequence of the horrors of war. In the past few years, the American public has become all too aware of the trauma inflicted upon men and women who believe they are fighting for freedom. While the government’s own statistics state that 22 veterans commit suicide everyday, the reality is the number is closer to 30.

Earlier this year a study published in the Annals of Epidemiology examined all 1,282,074 veterans who served in active-duty units between 2001 and 2007. The L.A. Times reported:

“The analysis matched military records with the National Death Index, which collects data on every U.S. death. It tracked the veterans after service until the end of the 2009, finding a total of 1,868 suicides.

That equates to an annual suicide rate of 29.5 per 100,000 veterans, or roughly 50% higher than the rate among other civilians with similar demographic characteristics.”

Both of these studies highlight an unfortunate side of war that is becoming increasingly difficult for Americans to ignore. Not only are the endless wars of aggression causing blowback leading to a rise in anti-American sentiment, but the actions of the U.S. government are hurting our own people who believe they are fighting for something just and moral.

LOTFI: Dear Neocons, Rand Paul Is Right On Military Spending

During the recent Fox Business News – Wall Street Journal Republican Primary debate, United States senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had what was probably one of the most meaningful exchanges so far in the race to decide the party’s nominee for president.

Paul and Rubio traded jabs over military spending, an issue that has divided many in the Republican party, and there’s little consensus on who won the exchange. That being said, the neoconservatives like Rubio are wrong when it comes to military spending and it’s time the Republican party, as a whole, realize it.

Let’s be clear about something. When Paul says you’re not a serious conservative if you’re willing to spend another $1 trillion, on loan from China, on the Department of Defense (DOD), he says so because the DOD is rife with fraud and waste.

For example, the DOD spent $2 million dollars for every one Syrian rebel they trained. Guess what? The majority of them never showed up to fight on our behalf after being trained. That’s right, $2 million to train one person that never showed up. The DOD also spent $43 million to build one single gas station in Afghanistan, which will never be used. If that wasn’t enough, Congress recently pushed $436 million on weapons that military experts explicitly said are not needed.

Yes, managing our military is one of the few roles the federal government performs today with actual constitutional authority to do so, but does that mean they should continue to receive blank checks?

The DOD clearly has money to flush down the toilet, and the American taxpayers are ultimately responsible for that money.

How is it that conservatives trust no wing of government to operate efficiently, but believe the DOD is infallible? If you’re serious about cutting the deficit and tackling our national debt, then understand this simple fact—government, by design, creates waste. The DOD isn’t exempt from this fact.

Neocons need to stop pretending defense spending is untouchable in order to pacify the multi-billion dollar defense contractors that lobby them for tax-dollars that are not needed to secure our well-being. Even the United States Army agrees.

You’re either serious and principled about cutting waste, or you’re not. And when you’re not, liberal Democrats then get to say, “Well, you spent money we didn’t have on this, so we want more welfare.” The same goes for the Constitution. When Republicans ignore the 4th Amendment and push the NSA, Democrats get to ignore the 10th Amendment and push the EPA. In Washington, I think they call this “bipartisanship.”

FOLLOW MICHAEL LOTFI ON Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn.

At Least 15K Government Officials Among Ashley Madison Data Dump

August 19, 2015– On Tuesday, hackers made good on a promise that has left untold numbers of cheaters sweating bullets for weeks. The data of at least 32 million users of AshleyMadison.com, whose slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.“, has been published.

Among the entries from the Ashley Madison published data, more than 15,000 of the email addresses appear to be hosted on American government and military servers using the (.gov) and (.mil) top-level domains.

Last month, hackers who self-identify as The Impact Team successfully hacked into databases owned by Avid Life Media, a Canadian company that owns multiple dating sites including Ashley Madison, Cougar Life, and Established Men. Hackers claim they took action because Avid Life Media was lying to their customers about a “full delete service” that required a $19 fee to be paid in order to completely scrub a users data from the site. Hackers say Avid Life Media took the money, but still retained the data.

Shortly after gaining access to the databases last month, hackers fired the warning shot:

“Avid Life Media has been instructed to take Ashley Madison and Established Men offline permanently in all forms, or we will release all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails. The other websites may stay online.”

Several data security experts have confirmed that the dumped data is indeed authentic. In fact, a journalist working at The Guardian who set up an Ashley Madison account as part of an investigation found his data in the dump.

Although it has been published, your garden variety internet user will have a difficult time accessing the data. The file is almost 10 gigabytes in size and can be viewed on the dark web using an Onion address accessible only through the Tor browser.

Image shows how Impact Team hackers released Ashley Madison data dump.
Image shows how Impact Team hackers released Ashley Madison data dump.

“Avid Life Media has failed to take down Ashley Madison and Established Men,” hackers wrote in a statement accompanying Tuesday’s data dump. “We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data…. Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See ashley madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95% of actual users are male. Chances are your man signed up on the world’s biggest affair site, but never had one. He just tried to. If that distinction matters.”

It should be noted that emails are not required to be validated to have an account on the website. The only way of validating whether or not the government email addresses were indeed real accounts would be to cross reference them with the credit cards on file.

Follow Michael Lotfi on Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn.

Media Will Not Have Access To Jade Helm 15 Military Exercise

One week before the controversial Jade Helm 15 military exercise is scheduled to begin, U.S. military officials announced that journalists will not be allowed to embed with the military. Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria, a spokesman for Army Special Operations Command, told The Washington Post that embedded journalists will not be allowed but later in the summer the Army might allow “a small number of journalists to view selected portions of the exercise.”

In late March Truth In Media’s Barry Donegan reported on Jade Helm:

“Throughout July and September of this year, the US Army’s Special Operations Command will conduct Operation Jade Helm, a covert warfare training exercise set to take place on civilian territory amid 17 Texas cities. The Houston Chronicle notes that Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Air Force and Marines special operators will be taking part in the program and will attempt to blend in with civilians to test their covert warfare capabilities.

Newsmax pointed out the fact that Texas’ own Alex Jones published a US map purported to be part of Operation Jade Helm’s documentation, which lists Texas and Utah as hostile territory, along with a part of Southern California which appears to be listed as an “insurgent pocket.” Jones characterized the effort as an invasion of Texas and claimed that the program is an attempt to prepare for the implementation of martial law in places like Texas and Utah where large numbers of citizens associate with right-leaning groups like the Tea Party. Operation Jade Helm’s documents also refer to coordination between the military and law enforcement, raising concerns that some elements of the training exercise might run afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act, which bans the military from participating in law enforcement activities on US soil.”

The exercise is scheduled to run from July 15 through September 15.

Martial Law Map

“All requests from the media for interviews and coverage of U.S. Army Special Operations Command personnel, organizations and events are assessed for feasibility and granted when and where possible,” Lt. Col. Lastoria told The Post on Wednesday. “We are dedicated to communicating with the public, while balancing that against the application of operations security and other factors.”

Lastoria also said it would not be possible to allow a journalist to travel with Special Operations forces in the field. Despite this, The Post reports that media has previously been granted access to Special Ops for reports and books, including the 2011 book “The Wrong War,” by Bing West, and the 2013 work “One Hundred Victories,” by Linda Robinson.

Lt. Col. Lastoria claims that Jade Helm will not be as large as initially described in training materials. The exercise will include around 200 Special Operations forces and 300 additional support personnel. The length of the exercise, number of personnel and labeling of areas as “hostile” has stoked the flames of Americans’ distrust in government.

In late April Texas Governor Greg Abbot sent a letter to Major General Gerald Betty of the Texas State Guard, ordering the Texas military to monitor the federal troops throughout the two month exercise.

[quote_box_center]“DURING THE TRAINING OPERATION, IT IS IMPORTANT THAT TEXANS KNOW THEIR SAFETY, CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHT AND CIVIL LIBERTIES WILL NOT BE INFRINGED. I AM DIRECTING THE TEXAS STATE GUARD TO MONITOR OPERATION JADE HELM 15.” – TEXAS GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT[/quote_box_center]

Despite Abbot’s actions many Texans still seem to doubt that Jade Helm is a standard training exercise. Speaking in Bastrop, Texas (one of the sites of Jade Helm exercises), Lt. Col. Lastoria attempted to quell the fears of the community. The Post reports that Lastoria stressed that the scenario was fictional.

[quote_box_center]”Jade Helm is intended to simulate U.S. Special Forces helping resistance fighters restore democracy in an imaginary country. The operation’s logo, which features a Dutch wooden shoe, is meant to represent anti-Nazi resistance in World War II Europe.”[/quote_box_center]

Only 60 of the 1,200 troops are scheduled to be in Bastrop for the training, the majority said to be at Camp Swift, a large Army National Guard base in Bastrop, as well as private property.

In April the Houston Chronicle reported that two Texas counties, Victoria and Goliad, cancelled their portions of the exercise without explanation.

Whether or not Operation Jade Helm ends up being a hostile takeover or simply overblown fears, there does exist a precedent for the U.S. government targeting its own citizens. Documents like the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) report and other documents from the Department of Homeland Security have many Americans asking why everyday, constitutionally protected behavior and thought is becoming criminalized. Many 2nd Amendment supporters and libertarian activists see the federal government as a grave danger to personal liberties.

What are your thoughts? Is Jade Helm a concern or just another conspiracy theory lacking evidence? Leave your thoughts below.

Derrick Broze will be in Bastrop, Texas reporting on the beginning of the Jade Helm exercise. For updates follow him on twitter: @DBrozeLiveFree

ISIS Seized 2,300 U.S. Armored Humvees, Possibly Worth 1 Billion Dollars

Mosul, Iraq- When ISIS fighters seized the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014, with the city came over 2,300 U.S. military armored humvees.  That, according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

In an interview with state run Al Iraqiya television, the Prime Minister admitted “In the collapse of Mosul, we lost a lot of weapons… We lost 2,300 Humvees in Mosul alone.”

This issue is nothing new to Truth in Media.  Months ago in our Origins of ISIS report, we explained how thousands of armored military vehicles left by the U.S. military in Iraq, had been seized by ISIS fighters.

In that report we explain, “One of the most important facts that mainstream media ignores time and time again is that ISIS was able to grow so fast, because of all the U.S. military equipment they were able to seize – equipment that our military left in Iraq,” said Swann. “Truckloads of Humvees, tanks and weaponry that instead of taking or destroying, the U.S. government simply decided to leave behind.

On Monday, a Humvee was used in an IS suicide bombing on a military base north of Fallujah that killed 42, a military source told Al Jazeera.

The value of the lost vehicles is unknown. But in December 2014, the US State Department approved a possible sale of 1,000 Humvees armed with machine guns, and grenade launchers to Iraq at an estimated cost of $579 million.

Watch the full Origins of ISIS report here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6kdi1UXxhY

Related:
US-Trained Foreign Special Forces Commander Joins ISIS
Ron Paul: New Evidence US Backed ISIS
Confirmed Secret Pentagon Report Reveals US “Created” ISIS As A “Tool” in a Proxy War Against Assad

 

Texas Governor to Send Troops to Monitor ‘Jade Helm’ Military Exercise

In response to online conspiracy theories and outrage over a planned military exercise known as “Operation Jade Helm 15”, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has stated that members of the Texas State Guard will monitor federal troops in Texas.

In late March Barry Donegan reported on the exercise for BenSwann.com:

“Throughout July and September of this year, the US Army’s Special Operations Command will conduct Operation Jade Helm, a covert warfare training exercise set to take place on civilian territory amid 17 Texas cities. The Houston Chronicle notes that Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Air Force and Marines special operators will be taking part in the program and will attempt to blend in with civilians to test their covert warfare capabilities.

Newsmax pointed out the fact that Texas’ own Alex Jones published a US map purported to be part of Operation Jade Helm’s documentation, which lists Texas and Utah as hostile territory, along with a part of Southern California which appears to be listed as an “insurgent pocket.” Jones characterized the effort as an invasion of Texas and claimed that the program is an attempt to prepare for the implementation of martial law in places like Texas and Utah where large numbers of citizens associate with right-leaning groups like the Tea Party. Operation Jade Helm’s documents also refer to coordination between the military and law enforcement, raising concerns that some elements of the training exercise might run afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act, which bans the military from participating in law enforcement activities on US soil.”

Abbot sent a letter to Major General Gerald Betty of the Texas State Guard, ordering the Texas military to monitor the federal troops throughout the two month exercise.

“During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property right and civil liberties will not be infringed. I am directing the Texas State Guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15.” – Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Martial Law Map

The Houston Chronicle reports that two Texas counties, Victoria and Goliad, have already had their portions of the exercise cancelled without explanation.

Army Special Operations Spokesman Mark Lastoria said troops would practice “emerging concepts in special operations warfare.” The soldiers efforts to blend in among civilian populations has stoked fears of a hidden take over of the state.

Whether or not Operation Jade Helm ends up being a hostile takeover or simply overblown fears, there does exist a precedent for the U.S. government targeting its own citizens. Documents like the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) report and other documents from the Department of Homeland Security have many Americans asking why everyday, constitutionally protected behavior and thought is becoming criminalized. Many 2nd Amendment supporters and libertarian activists see the federal government as a grave danger to personal liberties. 

What are your thoughts? Is Jade Helm a concern or just another conspiracy theory lacking evidence?

Russia Launches Military Exercises Around Nation

The Russian military is conducting military exercises involving more than 45,000 troops, war planes and submarines. The exercises come after the United States and other  North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations conducted similar exercises near Russia’s borders. 

Reuters reports that President Vladimir Putin made his first public appearance since March 5 on Monday morning as he met with Kyrgyz Republic President Almazbek Atambayev at the Constantine Palace outside Russia’s second city of St. Petersburg. Monday marks the first anniversary of Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and annexation by the Russian Federation.

Putin ordered the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet to full combat readiness during exercises in the Arctic North. The exercises are aimed at challenging recent drills by Norway. Five thousands troops in Russia’s eastern military district participated in drills, as did five hundred troops from Chechnya. Russian authorities stated that the drills were also meant to focus on fighting Islamic extremists.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told RIA news,  “New challenges and threats to military security require the armed forces to further boost their military capabilities. Special attention must be paid to newly created strategic formations in the north.” Shoigu said Putin plans to spend more than $340 billion rebuilding Russia’s military.

The Russian military exercises follow a warning from former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Kissinger told the United States and Russia to consider diplomatic resolutions to the conflict in Ukraine or a return to Cold War conditions is imminent. Speaking to the BBC’s World this Weekend, Kissinger also stated that limits on North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) nations should be lifted if they are to develop an adequate defense against Russia.

“NATO has to develop military  capacities that are relevant to dangers that they foresee. If they are determined to resist further Russian military moves it means that defense limitations should be lifted. It is inevitable that we are in a cold war strategy with Russia.”

He blamed less than cordial diplomacy between NATO and Russia for the current state of Ukraine. “I think it is essential that both Russia and NATO take a serious look at their diplomatic solutions because if they fail then I think a return to Cold war conditions is very likely.”

Just last week the United States sent tanks and armored vehicles to Latvia as part of NATO military exercises known as Operation Atlantic Resolve.  RT reported that more than 120 armored tanks and vehicles were sent to Latvia. Latvian Minister of Defense Raymond Vejonis called the exercise and equipment, “a confirmation of solidarity and security in the region.”

Operation Atlantic Resolve involved Canadian and American soldiers working with Latvian soldiers.

Russian Deputy defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said NATO is using the situation in Ukraine as cover for getting closer to Russia’s border.

“Instead of uniting forces to fight evil, the worst of which is terrorism, Western nations are drawing new divisive lines, trying to realize containment schemes against unwelcome states. Today, Russia has been chosen as the target,”
– Russian Deputy defense Minister Anatoly Antonov

In late 2014, I asked Is America Preparing for War with Russia?I suggest a reading of that article to understand the build up between the two nations. The United States continues to push Russia with sanctions yet Russia seems undeterred.

One of the most troubling actions from either country came in the last days of 2014.  On December 26 President Putin approved an updated war doctrine for Russia. The doctrine makes it clear that Russia will use military force to protect its citizens. The doctrine also stated that the US and NATO allied countries pose a military threat to the existence of Russia as a sovereign free nation.

Putin said Washington is to blame for the changes, with it’s own war doctrine of pre-emptive attacks, deployment of anti-ballistic missiles, and buildup of NATO forces on Russia’s border. Russia also acknowledged attempts at regime change through “actions aimed at violent change of the Russian constitutional order, destabilization of the political and social environment, and disorganization of the functioning of governmental bodies, crucial civilian and military facilities and informational infrastructure of Russia.”

Exclusive Audio: As POTUS, Sen. Graham Vows U.S. Military Force Against Non-Compliant Congress

Among the crowded field of potential Presidential candidates vying for the GOP’s nomination, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is the latest to stump in New Hampshire.

While visiting the Concord City Republican Committee on March 7th at the “Politics and Pies” forum, the 59-year-old Senator asserted that American ground troops would be necessary to defeat ISIS. In addition, he advocated for the reversal of defense spending cuts and, as President of the United States, Graham would restrict the movement of lawmakers until those cuts are reversed.

Exclusive audio here:

In a chilling statement, Graham said he would not allow Congress to leave D.C. until his demands are met, declaring he would use United States military force to keep them there.

“…and here is the first thing I would do if I were President of the United States, I wouldn’t let Congress leave town until we fix this. I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to.”

New Hampshire GOP leaders were unable to speak on behalf of the candidate.

Graham’s South Carolina U.S. Senate primary opponent, State Senator Lee Bright, had this to say:

“If Graham is not being serious he should choose his words with more thought. If he is being serious those actions would be a threat to the republic.”

Graham’s office responded to a clarification inquiry with:

“Due to the large volume of mail I receive, I regret that I am only able to respond personally to inquiries from South Carolinians.”

 

Follow up: Were Lindsey Graham’s Military Remarks Intended To Be Humorous?

North Korea fires missiles into the sea as drills begin

As South Korea and the United States were about to begin their annual military exercises in the area, North Korea protested the drills, once again, by firing two missiles into the sea on Monday.

According to Reuters, the two missiles were fired from a military base on the western coast of North Korea near Nampo City. The missiles reportedly traveled about 305 miles to the east, landing in the Sea of Japan.

The missiles were fired hours before the joint U.S. and South Korean military drills, known as Foal Eagle and Key Reserve according to CNN, were set to begin. North Korea has always been angered by the drills, saying they are nothing but a “smokescreen” used by the U.S. and South Korea so the two countries can invade their country.

North Korea’s state-run news outlet, KCNA, said, “The situation on the Korean peninsula is again inching close to the brink of a war.” They also noted how the North Korean military will not remain “passive” forever.

However, as many people know, this is not the first time North Korea has fired missiles in protest to the U.S. and South Korean military exercises.

The 2013 drills, in particular, led to the North Korean government threatening nuclear strikes over the drills, according to the BBC. The drills went on as planned and no retaliatory strikes were ever carried out by North Korea.

Kim Min-seok, the South Korean Defense Ministry spokesperson, said at a briefing Monday, “North Korea in the past did fire (projectiles) in a very similar manner… On several occasions, they fired (projectiles) from the west coast to sea off east of the Korean Peninsula.” Kim also said the drills were simply a warning against any “reckless” or “provocative” act the North Korean military may carry out.

KCNA however, said these drills are acts of “aggression” and they will be met with “merciless strikes.”

The South Korean Defense Ministry believes the missiles were either Scud-C or Scud-D missiles.

New Hampshire bill would end military-grade weapons in police hands

Many police departments have received military-grade weapons and hardware from the Pentagon and other government programs, but a New Hampshire bill would ban any police departments within the state from receiving these weapons.

Bill 407 states only the “state guard… with the approval of the governor and council,” has the ability to receive military-grade weapons from the government. The bill continues by saying, “no state agency or political subdivision of this state shall acquire, purchase, or otherwise accept for use any military-equipped vehicle or military grade hardware…”

Any weapons or equipment which are readily available to the public however will still be able to be used by the affected government agencies and departments.

Bill 407 would therefore make the Defense Department’s Program 1033 null within the state. Program 1033 allows the Department of Defense to transfer any excess of hardware in possession by the department to be transferred and distributed to law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

According to the Law Enforcement Support Office, since the inception of the program in 1997, about $5.1 billion worth of hardware has been given to police agencies across the country. In 2013 alone, about $450 million worth of equipment was given out to agencies.

The bill has already received wide-spread support within the state of New Hampshire as state representatives Michael Sylvia, Edmond Gionet, Bart Fromuth, and many more have co-sponsored the bill, according to the Tenth Amendment Center. Support for the bill within New Hampshire stretches across party lines as both Democrats and Republicans have co-sponsored the bill.

One prisoner exchanged for Sgt. Bergdahl has made suspicious communications

One of the five prisoners exchanged for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in May 2014, is reportedly being investigated for making suspicious phone calls to Afghanistan over the past few months.

According to CNN, this is the first known time one of the five detainees who were released has been suspected of attempted to make contact with any militant groups in the Middle East, but this one instance has raised the question of whether the other four will follow suit.

All five former detainees are said to be in Qatar, where their communications have been monitored by a U.S. intelligence program for months. The program in question is saying they have evidence showing the former detainee in question had “reached out” to militant groups and encouraged further militant activity.

However, one official told NBC News the former detainee had called family members in Afghanistan and there is no evidence showing the phone calls were to members of any militant group in the area. This official also added the content of the phone calls contained no “threatening activity or planning.”

No matter what the content of the suspected phone calls, the governments of Qatar and the U.S. are working together on this new issue.

Rear Admiral John Kirby had an interview on the show ‘Erin Burnett Out Front,’ where he said, “We have a strong security partnership with Qatar, and are in constant dialogue with Qatari government officials about these five detainees and we are confident that we would be able to mitigate any threat of re-engagement by any of these members.”

The Pentagon released a statement saying they would not comment on cases involving the detainees. The statement also said, according to the Daily Mail, “we take any incidence of re-engagement very seriously, and we work in close coordination through military, intelligence, law enforcement and diplomatic channels to mitigate re-engagement and to take follow-on action when necessary.”

New sanctions to be placed on North Korean organizations

While the origins of the Sony hack is still a point of contention, with some people claiming it was a company insider named Linda and many claiming it was North Korea, President Obama has put up new sanctions against three North Korean organizations as well as 10 individuals.

These sanctions, according to the BBC,  are believed to be the first time the U.S. has punished a country over cyber-attacks against a company based in the U.S.

While all the new sanctions are believed to not be against those directly involved with the Sony hack, White House officials are saying the sanctions are meant to isolate North Korea’s defense industry to prevent future cyber-attacks.

“This is really an example of where you’ve had a country really cross a threshold in terms of its attack due to its destructive and coercive nature,” said an official according to Politico.

The sanctions are mostly centered on North Korea’s military intelligence agencies, while the 10 individuals who are affected by the sanctions are, according to Reuters, involved in the sale and proliferation of weapons.

In a letter written by President Obama to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the president wrote, according to ABC News, “The order is not targeted at the people of North Korea, but rather is aimed at the Government of North Korea and its activities that threaten the United States and others.”

Whether or not these sanctions will have the desired results the White House hopes for is still unknown. However, given the U.S. placed sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear program in 2008, 2010, and 2011, all of which North Korea ignored, one can assume these sanctions will not be taken seriously by the government of North Korea.

Pentagon Cuts Benefits for Troops in 2016 Budget

As the Pentagon prepares to submit its 2016 budget, one of the cuts being made is the amount of benefits the United States military will receive. This decrease adds to a series of cuts that have progressed since 2011.

The Hill reported that the Pentagon is “planning another push to whittle down benefits for troops when it submits its 2016 budget to the White House in February,” despite the fact that this decision has been met with “fierce opposition” from military groups.

According to the Daily Caller, the Pentagon’s budget, which will span from 2016 to 2020, has left many Military members feeling “betrayed and frustrated,” as they conclude the “longest war in the nation’s history.”

The President of the Military Officers Association of America, retired Navy Adm. Norb Ryan, told The Hill that while the rate of growth of compensation did increase greatly between 2000 and 2010, due to the surge of forces to Iraq and Afghanistan, it has decreased drastically since 2011.

Not only has the rate of growth for personnel compensation growth slowed,” said Ryan. “It has gone negative for the last three years, from 2011 on.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned of the upcoming benefit cuts on December 7, when he said that spending too much money on benefits and pay would take it away from being prepared for combat.

Adjustments are going to have to be made because if they’re not made down into the future then we will essentially end up with a hollow force,” said Hagel. “We will have a lot of benefits and pay, but there’ll be no money for readiness.”

The Daily Caller reported that although the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act included an increase in pay of one percent, pharmaceutical co-pays also increased, while housing allowances dropped by five percent.

According to The Hill, while pay and benefits for troops dropped from $185 billion in 2011, to $177 billion in 2014, Pentagon officials argue that benefits “still eat up too much of the budget.”

On Monday, Defense Department spokesman Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban said that the budget for troops benefits would only continue to decrease.

We have and will continue to look at ways to slow the growth of compensation,” said Urban. “I would expect these efforts to continue to some degree in the 2016 Defense budget.”

Vice President’s Son Discharged from Navy for Cocaine Use, Keeps License to Practice Law

On Thursday, it was revealed that Vice President Joe Biden’s youngest son, 44-year-old Hunter Biden, was released from the Navy in February, after he tested positive for cocaine use.

In a statement from Hunter Biden’s lawyer, he said:

It was the honor of my life to serve in the U.S. Navy and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge. I respect the navy’s decision. With the love and support of my family I’m moving forward.

Hunter Biden graduated from Yale with a law degree, and he currently works in Washington as the private equity executive and board director of an international energy firm, in addition to practicing law in Connecticut.

Yahoo News reported that Biden, “faces no automatic review of his law license in Connecticut following his discharge from the U.S. Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine use.

According to Connecticut’s Statewide Bar Counselor, Michael P. Bowler, lawyers in Connecticut face automatic review of their bar admission only when they have been convicted of a crime.

At this point, I’m not aware that Mr. Biden has been arrested for anything, and certainly not convicted,” Bowler said.

According to Business Insider, Biden was “commissioned as a Navy ensign May 7, 2013 and assigned as a public affairs officer at a reserve unit” in Norfolk, Virginia. However, one month after he checked into his new unit, he failed a regular drug test, and was discharged in February.

USA Today reported that, according to the commander of the Navy Public Affairs Support Element based in Norfolk, Capt. Jack Hanzlik, “There should have been no question in Hunter Biden’s mind about the possibility of a random drug test.”

All sailors would be advised of the zero-tolerance policies when reporting aboard,” said Hanzlik. “And they would be advised of the testing practices of the organization, as well.”

Regarding the fact that Biden tested positive for cocaine in June 2013, but was not discharged until February 2014, Hanzlik said, “Until an issue like that is adjudicated, the member continues to serve.”

Drug tests are given to both active and reserve members, at least once a year, scanning for everything from marijuana to heroin to cocaine.

Although Hanzlik said it was a random process, he explained that for members of the military, “The expectation, always, is that you need to be ready. Because you could have to give a sample today, you might have to give a sample again tomorrow. And two weeks from now, you might have to give a sample.

We have this kind of conversation with our sailors all the time — about expectations for performance,” said Hanzlik. “Expectations for standards. Reliability on one another.

President Poroshenko asks the US for more aid against Russia

Speaking to Congress Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked for America to provide support to Ukraine to help quell the Russian-backed insurgency in the country, in the form of lethal equipment and continuing the economic sanctions against Russia.

While, according to Al-Jazeera, the US government agreed to provide $46 million in new security assistance to Ukraine’s military forces, Poroshenko made a comment saying, “Blankets and night-vision goggles are important, but one cannot win a war with a blanket.”  The Ukrainian president asked the US to give the embattled country “special security and defense status.”

Poroshenko also requested further assistance from the US in the form of “lethal and non-lethal” military equipment to aid in physical confrontations against the insurgents.

The Obama administration has said they would help the Ukrainian government in the form of financial aid and material support such as bullet-proof vests and combat helmets, but according to RT, President Obama has previously pledged non-lethal support to the country, which they plan on maintaining.

Poroshenko also made a list of evidence to support his claim of Russia’s “imperialistic mindset,” which he says threatens, not only Ukraine, but the West and the global order.  Some of the evidence included Russian troops occupying South Ossetia in 2008 and Transnistria in a similar fashion in 1992, as well as the occupation of Crimea earlier this year.

“The security assurances that were extended to Ukraine then have failed to work, proving that no agreements or treaties can secure world order,” said Poroshenko according to USA Today.  “Therefore, I urge you not to let Ukraine stand alone in the face of this aggression.”

Some members of Congress are agreeing with giving lethal aid to Ukraine after hearing Poroshenko’s speech.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., both said various weapons should be given to Ukraine to help in their defense but they differ on the timing of providing such support.  While Hollen wants to wait to assess what is happening on the ground and within negotiations, Corker has said the US should have provided such support “when the Russians had 40,000 troops on the border…”

Shooter at Virginia Army base injures self, no others

Early Monday morning, Fort Lee in Virginia went on lockdown as a single shot was heard from inside the Combined Arms Support Command Headquarters.

Fort Lee, an Army base about 130 miles south of Washington DC, went on lockdown at about 9 a.m. but after 50 minutes, the “all clear” was given.

Upon investigation from first responders inside the base, a female soldier turned a gun on herself, fired the single shot, and injured only herself.  According to a post from the Fort Lee Facebook page, “Special Agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command are on scene and investigating the incident.”

One official, according to FOX News, described the shooter as “disgruntled,” however, the identity of the shooter has yet to be released.

This shooting comes only four months following the most recent shooting at Fort Hood, and new protocols for active shooters were announced only days ago at Fort Lee in response to the Fort Hood shooting.  According to ABC News, it is unclear at this time whether or not these new protocols were used in this event.

As of right now, Army officials are investigating the shooting, while the shooter has been transported to the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.  Her condition is unknown as of now.

Army officials are expected to give a statement on the shooting later in the day.