American Legion Baseball in Arizona!

The American Legion Department of Arizona, American Legion Baseball State Tournament Championship, today at Vista Grande High School. Two games today, maybe one more tomorrow as the Post 8 Casa Grande Spartans vs. Post 36 Sabino Saber Cats vie for this year’s title! Department Commander Ken Queen throw out the first pitch!

There’s plenty of time to make to tonight’s game at 7pm. It’s best of three games so tonight might be the last! Otherwise, the last game if needed is tomorrow morning at 8:30AM at Vista Grande High School, 1556 N. Arizola Rd, Casa Grande, AZ

9 July, 2019 06:39

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Tuesday, July 9, 2019 which is Call of the Horizon Day, Cow Appreciation Day, National Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Omelet Day, and National No Bra Day.
This Day in Legion History:

  • July 9, 1954: The American Legion Child Welfare Foundation, Inc., is established as a separate non-profit corporation to benefit young people with physical, mental or environmental challenges.

This Day in History:

  • 1947: In a ceremony held at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, General Dwight D. Eisenhower appoints Florence Blanchfield to be a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, making her the first woman in U.S. history to hold permanent military rank.
  • 1971: Four miles south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), about 500 U.S. troops of the 1st Brigade, 5th Mechanized Division turn over Fire Base Charlie 2 to Saigon troops, completing the transfer of defense responsibilities for the border area. On the previous day, nearby Fire Base Alpha 4 had been turned over to the South Vietnamese. This was part of President Richard Nixon’s Vietnamization policy, which had been announced at a June 1969 conference at Midway Island. Under this program, the United States initiated a comprehensive effort to increase the combat capabilities of the South Vietnamese armed forces. As the South Vietnamese became more capable, responsibility for the fighting was gradually transferred from U.S. forces. Concurrent with this effort, there was a gradual withdrawal of U.S. forces.
  • On this day in 1850, after only 16 months in office, President Zachary Taylor dies after a brief illness. The exact cause of his death is still disputed by some historians.


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VA: VA MISSION Act: Answers to the top five questions about urgent care

Posted on Wednesday, July 3, 2019 8:00 am

Urgent care is one of the new benefits offered as part of the VA MISSION Act that gives Veterans greater choice in their health care. The benefit is offered in addition to the opportunity to receive care from a VA provider, as VA also offers same-day services. We are working to ensure Veterans understand how to use the new urgent care benefit as part of VA’s comprehensive benefits package. In this article, we answer some common questions about the new urgent care benefit.

  1. What is urgent care? Urgent care is a type of walk-in health care for situations where you need help but don’t have an emergency, such as colds, ear infections, minor injuries, pink eye, skin infections, and strep throat.
  2. Why are there different urgent care locations? There are two types of urgent care network locations: Retail and Urgent.
  • Retail locations such as CVS or Walgreens are places where you can get care for minor ailments like a sore throat or earache.
  • Urgent locations provide more comprehensive walk-in care for illnesses or injuries that are not life-threatening, like splinting, casting, lacerations, or wound treatment.

Both retail and urgent locations are staffed with healthcare professionals who are licensed and credentialed.

  1. Are there urgent care providers near me? VA launched the urgent care benefit on June 6, 2019, and we are working to expand our network of urgent care providers, adding more every week. Urgent care providers are vetted and must meet strict standards of care and other requirements before they are added to VA’s network. To find a location, use the VA facility locator at Select the link entitled “Find VA approved urgent care locations and pharmacies near you”. If you arrive at an urgent care network location and have difficulty receiving care, call 866-620-2071for assistance. More information.
  2. How do I get prescription medication with the urgent care benefit? You can get up to a 14-day supply of prescription medication through VA, a VA-contracted pharmacy, or a non-contracted pharmacy. If you choose to fill an urgent care prescription at a non-contracted pharmacy, you will be required to pay for the prescription when you pick it up and then file a claim for reimbursement at your local VA medical facility. Prescription medication for longer than a 14-day supply must be filled by a VA pharmacy. More information.
  3. Do I have to make copayments for urgent care? Copayments for urgent care depend on your assigned priority group and the number of times you visit any urgent care provider in a calendar year. Urgent care copayments are not charged when you receive care from an urgent care provider, but are billed separately by VA. More information.

For additional information about the VA MISSION Act, visit
Defense News: Congress returns to budget stalemate
By:Joe Gould   12 hours ago
WASHINGTON ― Lawmakers returning to Washington, D.C., this week are in a race against the clock to reach a budget deal to ease statutory spending caps and avoid a government shutdown starting Oct. 1.
While the Democratic-led House has passed 10 of its 12 appropriations bills, Senate appropriators have not yet scheduled a markup on any of theirs. Meanwhile, White House officials have floated the idea of a one-year stopgap funding bill, which would freeze the 2020 federal budget at the 2019 level.
Both chambers of Congress are only in session three more weeks before the August recess.
Talks have dragged on between congressional leaders and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and acting Budget Director Russ Vought. Vought has reportedly indicated the White House is leaning toward a continuing resolution instead of a broader deal.
But that’s a no-go with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who told reporters before the July 4 recess it would be “unacceptable … from a defense point of view,” as would the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.
The president’s request was for $750 billion for national defense, and the House-passed bill contained $733 billion. However, a “clean” CR would provide $716 billion. However, since the budget cap for defense is $576 billion for 2020, the CR would violate the budget caps by approximately $71 billion and trigger a sequester of that amount in January 2020.
Amid divisions within the Democratic caucus, House leaders did not take up spending bills for the legislative branch and for Homeland Security, which was at the heart of last year’s 35-day government shutdown.
Following opposition from left-leaning Democrats turned off by military spending increases, House Democrats scuttled a non-binding budget resolution in April that would have supported increasing military and domestic spending by more than $350 billion over the next two years. They instead “deemed” the House’s budget numbers.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., had floated a similar move for the GOP-controlled Senate, but McConnell shot that down last month, telling reporters the goal should be an agreement between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to find the top-line numbers.
Asked Monday whether there had been progress, Shelby said, "I thought we were close two weeks ago … but there hasn’t been any movement yet.
“This is high time for a serious conversation, the sooner the better, between the [House] speaker and the secretary of the Treasury,” Shelby said, adding: “I’ve said I thought we could deem the numbers. [McConnell] wants to do something that’s more certain. That’s what I’d prefer to do.”
Beyond McConnell, defense hawks are making their voices heard in opposition to the idea of a long-term CR. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe and SASC Seapower Subcommittee Chairman David Perdue, R-Ga., along with 14 other Senate Republicans, wrote to White House budget negotiators in opposition.
"Simply put, our adversaries do not handcuff their militaries with funding gimmicks like continuing resolutions—nor should we,” the letter reads, adding a yearlong CR would create “draconian conditions” for the military.
The lawmakers said a year-long CR would derail implementation of the National Defense Strategy, derail a pay raise for troops and erode both readiness and lethality.
“Military training and equipment would all be significantly reduced, resulting in a less lethal fighting force,” the letter reads. “Additionally, our military depots would be prevented from hiring and retaining the highly trained workforce necessary to maintain our existing vehicles, tanks, ships, and aircraft.”
On Monday, Perdue said he would like to see Shelby and his counterpart, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., quickly find agreement bills for the Pentagon and the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, which would demonstrate bipartisan support for 70 percent of the overall budget. (Arriving back in town after the recess, he may not have known McConnell had rejected that plan.)
“If we get agreement on the dollar amounts between Labor-HHS and defense ― and we’re right there according to Leahy and Shelby ― I think that shows we can get bipartisan support to get this done, if you cut out the partisan politics,” Perdue said. “I think we can get those bill done, and if we don’t get them done, I don’t know how we go home in August.”
Pentagon leaders have spent months saying the best outcome would be a budget deal that avoids both sequestration and a year-long CR.
At a hearing in May, former Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said sequestration would force cuts to military end-strength and modernization ― particularly in emerging areas like artificial intelligence and hypersonic weapons.
“A continuing resolution would hamstring the department. Under a CR we cannot start new initiatives including increased investments and cyber, space, nuclear modernization and missile defense,” Shanahan said. “Second, our funding will be in the wrong accounts and third, we would lose buying power."
At a hearing in April, then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said the service would take a $29 billion cut she presented in terms of cuts to aviation platforms.
“That would be no F-35s, cut all of the KC-46s, stop the B-21 program, no ground-based strategic deterrent, no research, development, test and evaluation for any space system, most of the fourth- and fifth-generation [fighter jet] modifications, and all of science and technology,” she said.
“Or, $29 billion means all of weapons systems sustainment, all flying hours, all base operations and airfield support, and all munitions, together, make $29 billion.”

Stripes: Lecturer at US-aided Afghan university arrested, accused of recruiting for ISIS
KABUL, Afghanistan — A lecturer at a partially U.S.-funded university in Afghanistan’s capital was arrested on suspicion of recruiting students to join Islamic State, the country’s top intelligence agency said Monday.
Three of his suspected recruits, who were accused by authorities of organizing several deadly ISIS attacks in Kabul, also were arrested, the National Directorate of Security said in a statement.
Two of the suspected recruits were students at the university. The third was related to one of the students.
U.S. and Afghan forces have been unable to eliminate ISIS’s local affiliate, known as Islamic State-Khorasan Province, which first emerged in 2014 and says it aspires to carry out attacks on U.S. soil.
Known as ISIS-K, the militant group has recruited fighters actively from among Afghan university students, for whom obtaining visas to travel abroad is thought to be easier.
ISIS-K has recruited “many students” from Kabul University and sent them to its stronghold in eastern Nangarhar province for training, said one of the students who was arrested, Ahmad Farouq, in a recorded confession released by the NDS.
Farouq named the professor who was arrested as Mubasher Muslimyar, an Islamic studies lecturer. He said Muslimyar attempted to convert students to Salafism, a fundamentalist branch of Sunni Islam, before encouraging them to join ISIS-K.
The U.S. government and public universities have aided multiple projects at Kabul University over the years. In 2011, a renewable energy laboratory paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development opened on campus.
The head of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, has described ISIS-K as a “very worrisome” threat to the U.S. and said counterterrorism efforts against the group must continue.
“ISIS in Afghanistan certainly has aspiration to attack the United States,” McKenzie said in June, according to The Associated Press. “It is our clear judgment that as long as we maintain pressure on them, it will be hard for them to do that.”
U.S. negotiators who are holding peace talks with the Taliban have said one of their key goals is to get a commitment from the Taliban that it will not let groups like ISIS-K use Afghanistan to launch attacks against the U.S. and its allies. Meanwhile, the Taliban wants the U.S. to spell out a time frame for withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan.
While the Taliban opposes ISIS-K, some experts say U.S. counterterrorism efforts in the country must continue if the ISIS affiliate is to be prevented from growing.
U.S. Forces-Afghanistan recently put the number of ISIS-K fighters in Afghanistan at fewer than 2,000, while earlier this year, the United Nations said the number could be as many as 4,000. Pentagon Delays Big Changes to Post-9/11 GI Bill Transfer Rules

8 Jul 2019 | By Patricia Kime
The Pentagon is delaying implementation of a new restriction that limits which service members can transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouses or children, according to a letter from the Pentagon to a member of Congress.
The change, which was set to go into effect Friday, will discontinue the transfer benefit for troops who have served more than 16 years. But that has been delayed until Jan. 12, 2020, giving service members with more than 16 years six more months to start the transfer process.
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Connecticut, has pressed the Pentagon to drop the change altogether. Last month, he introduced an amendment to the House defense policy bill that, if it becomes law, would prevent the Secretary of Defense from implementing the change.
With that bill under still under consideration, Courtney sent a letter to Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper June 25 asking him for a delay in implementing the policy. The Pentagon responded on Wednesday, saying the department has put the change off until next year.
Courtney said he believes his letter "sent a strong message" that DoD give Congress time to decide the outcome of the bill.
"This is a welcome decision by the department to slow down implementation of a policy that will unfairly affect some of our most seasoned service members," Courtney said July 5 in a release.
Currently, troops who serve a minimum of six years and commit to serving another four years can transfer their education benefits to dependents.
Those who agree to four additional years but who are unable to complete them because of injury or a medical discharge, or receive a waiver, can also keep their transfer benefits.
The new policy is designed to bolster retention, Pentagon officials said when it was announced in 2018.
They have maintained that the transfer benefit is a retention tool, not an automatic benefit.
"Transferability is neither an entitlement nor a transition or readjustment benefit," notes the policy. "The military departments will not automatically approve a service member’s request to elect to transfer benefits."
"This change continues to allow career service members that earned this benefit to share it with their family members while they continue to serve," said Stephanie Miller, director of accessions policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, at the time of the announcement.
Whether Courtney’s proposed amendment to completely abolish the pending regulation will make it into law remains to be seen. The House of Representatives is set to vote on its version of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act this week. The bill will then need to be reconciled with the Senate’s version before it can become law.
Military Times: ‘Blue water’ veterans’ claims delayed until next year
By:Leo Shane III   22 hours ago
Thousands of veterans already waiting for years for their disability benefits will have to wait a few months longer after Veterans Affairs officials announced they won’t start processing “blue water” Vietnam veterans claims until next year.
In an announcement late last week, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the delay is designed to “ensure that we have the proper resources in place to meet the needs of our Blue Water Veteran community and minimize the impact on all veterans filing for disability compensation.”
But some advocates call the move another disappointing delay for aging, infirm veterans who have already waited decades for the benefits they believe they deserve.
“Time is of the essence in this matter. Blue Water Navy Veterans are dying every day,” John Wells, retired Navy commander and the executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy, wrote in a letter to Wilkie Monday morning. “These veterans have waited long enough.”
At issue is a new law signed by President Donald Trump last month (and passed without objection by the House and Senate) which awarded presumptive benefits status to Navy veterans who served in the waters off Vietnam during the war there five decades ago. Trump touted the bill in a call with veterans last month as a major victory for the veterans community and the country.
Under previous VA rules, service members who were stationed on the ground or on ships near the coast were presumed to have had exposure to Agent Orange and other carcinogenic herbicides, and given simplified filing status for their disability claims later in life.
But because of scientific disputes over the level of exposure to those toxic chemicals in the seas around Vietnam, the so-called “blue water” veterans were not granted the same preferential status by VA, and were required to provide specific proof that their illnesses later in life were related to their military service.
Many veterans said that created an impossible standard, since little water monitoring was done at the time. The different standards meant that Vietnam veterans with identical illnesses linked to Agent Orange exposure — ailments like prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease and serious respiratory illnesses — could receive starkly different disability benefits.
In January, a federal appeals court ruled against VA, saying the department had interpreted the existing statue incorrectly and must start awarding the presumptive benefits status to the “blue water” veterans.
Lawmakers responded by codifying the decision in legislation that also awarded certain presumptive benefits to troops who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone and to children of herbicide-exposed Thailand veterans born with spina bifida.
But the legislation contained language allowing the department to delay payouts until next January, even though officials have begun processing some in the wake of the court decision. House and Senate officials said they are reviewing the VA decision last week to ensure the move isn’t designed to delay payouts unnecessarily.
VA officials have insisted as many as 560,000 veterans could qualify for the benefits, and the cost in benefits and processing work could total nearly $6 billion over the next decade.
But advocates, including Wells, have disputed that number, accusing the department of inflating numbers to make the issue appear overwhelming. They estimate the real total is closer to 90,000 individuals, at a cost of about $1 billion over the next 10 years.
Wells, whose organization brought the lawsuit that forced the “blue water” benefits changes earlier this year, said he is considering additional legislation to force VA to move quicker on the awards.
But in a statement, VA officials said they are “complying with the law that Congress wrote and passed.”
Veterans who served in the seas around Vietnam and were previously denied claims related to Agent Orange exposure (and eligible survivors of those veterans) can file new claims under the rules change. VA officials said veterans over age 85 or with life-threatening illnesses will have priority in claims processing.
The department has set up an information web site for veterans and family members to explain the changes and provide information on how to apply.

Stripes: Department of Veterans Affairs facilities to be smoke-free by October
By NIKKI WENTLING | Stars and Stripes | Published: July 8, 2019

WASHINGTON — A smoking ban is set to go into effect at Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities across the country starting Oct. 1 — more than 25 years after such bans became the norm at other American hospitals.
The smoke-free policy applies to patients, visitors, volunteers, contractors and vendors at VA facilities, and it prohibits cigarettes, cigars, pipes, vape pens and e-cigarettes. The VA announced the change earlier in the summer citing “growing evidence” that smoking, as well as secondhand and thirdhand smoke, is a medical and safety risk.
Anyone caught violating the policy could be subject to a $50 fine.
“This policy change coincides with additional… efforts to help us become the provider of choice for veterans and the reason why veterans will choose VA,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement.
Smoking has remained permissible at VA facilities because of the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992, a federal mandate requiring the VA to establish designated smoking areas. When other hospitals began implementing smoking bans in the early 1990s – and when other federal facilities shuttered their designated smoking areas in 2009 – the Veterans Health Care Act was cited as a reason the VA couldn’t do the same.
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2013 contends the tobacco industry manipulated veterans organizations and Congress to create the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992 after the first VA secretary, Ed Derwinski, announced in 1990 his intentions to prohibit smoking inside VA facilities.
Numerous VA officials have attempted for years to rally congressional support against the policy outlined in the Veterans Health Care Act.
The most recent effort came in 2017, when Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, led a failed attempt to pass legislation that would immediately ban smoking inside VA facilities and gradually eliminate outdoor smoking areas. The House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs unanimously agreed to advance the bill, but it never went for a vote on the House floor.
The authority for Wilkie to change the policy without an act of Congress comes from the agency’s “core health mission,” according to the VA. In a directive about the new smoke-free policy, Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, notes a federal law that states the basic purpose of the VA hospital system is to “provide a complete medical and hospital service for the medical care and treatment of veterans."
The new policy calls for all designated smoking areas to be dismantled. At the latest count, there were nearly 1,000 outdoor smoking areas at VA hospitals, clinics and nursing homes nationwide, as well as 15 indoor smoking areas.
In 2017, when lawmakers discussed Wenstrup’s bill, The American Legion said the measure could be government overreach – a way to “legislate personal choices.”
At the time, the Veterans of Foreign Wars argued veterans might not seek treatment at VA facilities if they couldn’t smoke there. The VFW and other veterans groups also warned of unintended consequences, such as forcing a lifestyle change and eliminating a form of stress relief and social interaction for veteran patients.
Wilkie’s decision to prohibit smoking hasn’t elicited the same kind of pushback.
On Monday, VFW spokesman Joe Davis said: “Any decision that promotes the health and wellbeing of all veterans is a good decision.”

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William Bloys Post 2 Annual Ringing of The Freedom Bell

Enshrined at the Post 2 front entrance, the Freedom Bell, named since it’s memorialization is in fact, the bell used by the German Army POW Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp complex in Austria. The bell signaled to POWs nearly every aspect of the daily routine for those held captive. Today, the bell is only rung in memoriam, on The Fourth of July each year. The bell’s song rings only The United States Independence Day. The young man highlighted, Squadron 41 member, Abraham Juarez, helped to begin the morning’s ceremony along with Post 2 members and guests from around The Arizona American Legion Family. With a prayer and a resounding HAPPY BIRTHDAY, the festivities are under way!

3 July, 2019 08:02

Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, July 3, 2019 which is National Chocolate Wafer Day, National Fried Clams Day, National Compliment Your Mirror Day and American Redneck Day.
Tomorrow in Legion History:

  • July 4, 1919: Issue 1, No. 1 of The American Legion Weekly magazine is published. The introductory column is written by Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing. George A. White, one of the four officers who met with Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., in January to begin plans for the organization, is identified as founder of the publication. “The Legion is destined to be of tremendous value in fostering the ideals and purposes for which we fought,” Pershing writes in the original issue.

This Day in History:

  • 1863: On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s last attempt at breaking the Union line ends in disastrous failure, bringing the most decisive battle of the American Civil War to an end.
  • On this day in 1775, George Washington rides out in front of the American troops gathered at Cambridge common in Massachusetts and draws his sword, formally taking command of the Continental Army. Washington, a prominent Virginia planter and veteran of the French and Indian War, had been appointed commander in chief by the Continental Congress two weeks before. In agreeing to serve the American colonies in their war for independence, he declined to accept payment for his services beyond reimbursement of future expenses
  • Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones is found dead of an apparent accidental drowning on this day in 1969. Two years later to the day, in 1971, Jim Morrison dies of heart failure in a Paris bathtub.


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Navy Times: SEAL war crimes suspect not guilty on murder charge
By: Carl Prine   13 hours ago
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More than nine months after he was charged with murder, attempted murder and a string of other alleged war crimes tied to a 2017 deployment in Iraq, Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher strolled out of a Naval Base San Diego courtroom a free man, guilty only of appearing in an inappropriate photograph.
Military prosecutors had accused Gallagher, 40, of stabbing to death a seriously wounded Islamic State prisoner of war on May 3, 2017 in a SEAL compound near Mosul, but a military panel composed mostly of combat-tested Marine officers disagreed and acquitted the chief.
Several junior petty officers in Alpha Platoon, SEAL Team 7 also alleged that he had shot at least two civilians from a sniper perch and later tried to cover up his actions, but jurors tossed those charges, too.
Gallagher’s defense team had savaged the witnesses in court as liars bent on usurping a demanding chief they didn’t like and making sure he failed to receive a Silver Star commendation for battlefield heroism.
And in the end a panel of his peers agreed with Chief Gallagher, not a handful of junior SEALs.
Wearing broad smiles, Gallagher’s legal team led by Timothy Parlatore and Marc L. Mukasey emerged from the courthouse shortly after Navy Times learned of the verdict and announced their victory.
“The jury found him not guilty of the murder, not guilty of the stabbing, not guilty of the shootings, not guilty of all those things,” said Parlatore. “They did find him guilty of taking a photograph with a dead terrorist, which we admitted from the beginning he was in that photograph.”
Mukasey called it a “huge victory, a huge weight off the Gallaghers and a huge victory for justice.”
Officials at Navy Region Southwest, the convening authority for Gallagher’s court-martial, did not return messages seeking comment.
Sentencing is slated to resume Wednesday morningin San Diego.
On June 21, the prosecution suffered a blow when their star witness, SEAL medic Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Corey Scott, confessed on the stand that he, not Gallagher, ended the detainee’s life by plugging his breathing tube, a mercy killing so the fighter wouldn’t be tortured to death by Iraqi security forces.
A spotter for Gallagher when the chief was a sniper in Iraq — Special Operator 1st Class Joshua Graffam — also told jurors that a Father’s Day shooting in 2017 was a good kill, not a war crime.
Both petty officers were represented free of charge by Brian Ferguson, a Texas attorney and Air Force Reserve major.
“An impartial panel of seven senior service members had the opportunity to evaluate the credibility of the witnesses in the case and returned a verdict consistent with the truthful testimony provided by these two special operators.”
But in a second press conference after court recessed Tuesday evening, Gallagher’s attorney Parlatore traced the collapse of the prosecution’s case to earlier events.
He cited an “aggressive defense” that went directly at prosecutors and Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents for what he described as a botched case tainted by government misconduct.
“The prosecutors got sloppy,” said Parlatore, a former Navy surface warfare officer. “They committed misconduct. They spied on us. NCIS screwed up. And it was a continuous downhill spiral from there.”
On June 3, Navy judge Capt. Aaron Rugh booted lead prosecutor Cmdr. Christopher Czaplak from the case after he admitted to emailing 13 defense attorneys and paralegals — plus the editor of Navy Times — a tracking beacon in a warrantless search for those who were leaking information to the media.
Navy Times had uncovered records that suggested prosecutors and NCIS officials had not only withheld information that could have helped exonerate Gallagher but also hinted at how Scott truly recollected the detainee dying.
“In this case you had so many different things,” Parlatore said. “So many different firsts. I mean, how many times have we heard a forensic pathologist say, ‘I can’t determine cause of death?’ How many times have we had a witness say, ‘Oh, no. I did it.’ How many times have we had a judge find that the prosecutor spied on defense attorneys?
"This is a case of firsts.”
Parlatore called on Navy leaders, especially at Naval Special Warfare, the Office of the Judge Advocate General and NCIS to learn from the many mistakes made in a case he said never should’ve gone to trial.
The maximum jail sentence for posing for photographs with a dead war casualty is four months, nearly half the time he already served during pretrial confinement in San Diego’s Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar.
Citing the highly decorated Gallagher’s service to the nation, President Donald J. Trump ordered him released on March 30.
“President Trump should be working on getting him his Silver Star now,” said Jeremiah J. Sullivan III, the defense attorney representing Lt. Jacob X. “Jake” Portier, the officer in charge of Gallagher’s SEAL platoon.
Now that Gallagher has been cleared, the spotlight falls on Portier’s upcoming trial.
On the day Gallagher was acquitted on all but one minor charge, military prosecutors pressed forward on Portier’s case and obtained a trial date of Sept. 3.
Prosecutors accuse the lieutenant of helping his platoon chief cover up crimes that a jury said Tuesday weren’t committed.
“It defies logic and the plain meaning of justice,” said Sullivan. “They’re going to waste an abundance of taxpayer dollars. But we’ll be ready for trial. One acquittal at a time.”

AP: All-Afghan peace summit set for July, but on Taliban terms
By: Kathy Gannon, The Associated Press and Amir Shah, The Associated Press   10 hours ago
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ISLAMABAD — A surprise announcement by President Donald Trump seemed to accelerate the expected time frame for U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan ahead of an all-Afghan peace summit planned for July 7-8 in Qatar. The gathering apparently will be held on Taliban terms as there will be no official Afghan government representation.
Trump told Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight on Monday that nearly half of all American troops have already been pulled out.
That pullout was expected to be announced as part of a time frame being negotiated by Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is in the middle of talks with the Taliban in Qatar.
“I’ve wanted to pull them out. And you know, I have pulled a lot out. We were at 16,000. We’re down to about 9,000, which a lot of people don’t know,” Trump said, according to the transcript of the interview shared with The Associated Press. “So we’ve reduced the force very substantially in Afghanistan, which I don’t talk about very much, and that’s OK,” Trump added.
According to a senior U.S. defense official, however, there are still close to 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan — a number that has remained fairly steady for many months.
The Taliban’s spokesman in Doha, Suhail Shaheen, has said that talks with Khalilzad are focused on a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan. In a tweet on Monday, Shaheen had said talks would come with an announcement of a timetable for withdrawal of the estimated 20,000 service personnel, including American forces.
Trump’s comments Monday would seem to contradict a statement made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a visit to Kabul on June 25. Pompeo said then that Washington had made no decision on a timeframe for withdrawal.
Trump also said in the Monday TV interview that he wanted to leave a strong intelligence gathering force behind in Afghanistan.
“I’ll tell you the problem is, look, I would like to just get out. The problem is, (Afghanistan) just seems to be a lab for terrorists. It seems — I call it the Harvard of terrorists. … But I would leave very strong intelligence there,” he said, according to the transcript.
Meanwhile, on the upcoming all-Afghan dialogue, Germany’s special representative Ambassador Markus Potzel said Tuesday that those attending "will participate only in their personal capacity and on an equal footing."
The Taliban have flatly refused to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which they consider a U.S. puppet, while repeatedly offering talks with anyone who comes to the table as an ordinary Afghan. The Taliban have already twice met with prominent Afghans, including former president Hamid Karzai and even members of the government’s peace council as well as opposition politicians. Those meetings have both been held in Moscow.
The announced talks come a day after the Taliban claimed responsibility for a devastating attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul that killed at least six people and wounded more than 100 others, many of them children attending two schools in the area, according to the Education Ministry.
Ghani has not responded to the announcement of next week’s talks. He has previously demanded the Taliban talk directly with his government, some of whom have complained about their continuing exclusion from meetings between Taliban and the U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
Khalilzad, who is currently holding a seventh round of direct talks with the Taliban in Doha, already held a battery of meetings with the Afghan president in Kabul last month. In an overnight tweet, he welcomed the announced all-Afghan talks. He tweeted that "this dialogue is an essential element of the four-part peace framework & and important step in advancing the #AfghanPeaceProcess."
Germany will co-sponsor the talks with Qatar, according to the statement issued by Potzel, who is the German special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan.
An earlier intra-Afghan dialogue in Qatar was scuttled when the two sides couldn’t agree on participants. Potzel said the invitations this time have been jointly issued by Germany and Qatar.
"Afghanistan stands at a critical moment of opportunity for progress toward peace," Potzel said in the statement. "Only Afghans themselves can decide the future of their country." He said both Qatar and Germany are hoping the talks will create trust between the warring sides.
But for ordinary Afghans battered by relentless violence there is mostly frustration.
"Peace will never come to Afghanistan," said an angry Sawab Gul, who was waiting in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Tuesday to open his partially destroyed bedding store.
At age 40, Gul said he has never seen peace in his country and holds out little hope for the current attempts at finding an end to Afghanistan’s relentless wars.
"Every day people are dying. Afghanistan is like a hell for us Afghans," he said. "I don’t think I will ever see peace."

Foreign Policy: Fears Rise of an ISIS Comeback
The U.S. drawdown could provide a dangerous opening for the Islamic State to resurge.
By Lara Seligman
| July 2, 2019, 4:24 PM
With the United States continuing its drawdown in Syria, experts fear that the Islamic State could return stronger than ever unless other nations step in—but no replacement forces have yet been committed.
“Our expectation is the slack will be taken up by coalition forces — and we are getting a very encouraging response from them,” James Jeffrey, the top U.S. envoy to Syria and the counter-Islamic State coalition, said in an interview with Defense One in Brussels on Friday. He added that the U.S. withdrawal from Syria—promised in a December tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump, which prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis—was continuing on pace.
But so far, no partner forces have committed to sending additional forces to fill the gap when the majority of U.S. troops depart, potentially providing a dangerous opening for the terrorist group to resurge.
Without some level of American commitment, both political and in the form of funding for operations and stabilization, it’s unlikely key allies will step up to the plate, said Melissa Dalton, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“We really do serve as the political backbone of this operation and for those critical enabling partners,” Dalton said.
The first step toward getting partners, such as the British or the French, to shore up additional support is brokering an agreement between the Turks and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to secure the border, Dalton said.
The French, for example, have been very clear that they are there for counterterrorism and will not participate in a “border monitoring role,” said one U.K. official, who requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.
Jeffrey is in the midst of brokering such an agreement, but the delicate negotiations are vulnerable to outside events—an economic downturn in Turkey, a dispute between Washington and Ankara over a Russian missile system, and others.
The Turks want assurances that the SDF—predominantly made up of Kurdish fighters, which Turkey views as a terrorist group—won’t use northeastern Syria to launch attacks on southern Turkey, while the SDF fears that the Turks will invade the vulnerable border towns.
Without U.S. or allied support to sustain the security and stabilization gains the coalition has made, it’s likely that the Islamic State will “over time be able to prey upon local grievances,” as it did in the lead-up to the 2014 takeover, and eventually “reconstitute and be able to take territory,” Dalton stressed.
As of August 2018, the Islamic State had as many as 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria—far more than the 700-1,000 fighters its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, had in 2011, when the United States withdrew, according to a new report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) that warns of the risk for an Islamic State resurgence. During the gradual fall of the caliphate, the group quietly dispersed across both countries and is now waging a capable insurgency, boosted by a global financial network and sufficient supplies, including weapons, hidden in tunnel systems.
“ISIS began reconstituting key capabilities in late 2018 that will enable it to wage an even more aggressive insurgency in coming months,” according to the report, which noted that the group declared the start of a new global campaign called the “Battle of Attrition” on May 31.
The primary reason the insurgency will grow is that the territory it lost in Iraq and Syria is still “neither stable nor secure,” according to the report. The Islamic State is targeting government officials and village leaders in order to degrade governance structures and impede reconstruction efforts.
If the United States withdraws, the Islamic State will likely succeed in reestablishing territorial control in Iraq and Syria, the report concludes. Without an American presence, disparate SDF elements will fracture, vital intelligence and air operations will cease, and Turkey may invade northeastern Syria. A Turkish invasion would cause the SDF to pull forces away from the Middle Euphrates River Valley, “creating even more space in which ISIS could re-emerge.”
Despite the drawdown, the U.S. Defense Department insists that the U.S. military is committed to working with its regional partners in order to prevent the “significant threat” of an Islamic State resurgence.
“Ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS remains a vital U.S. national security interest,” said Michael Mulroy, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, during an event last week. “Even though the so-called caliphate is defeated, ISIS remains a significant threat.”
Mulroy said the United States is continuing to partner with local forces to build the security forces necessary to stabilize the region. The 5,200 U.S. forces currently operating in Iraq, along with the rest of the anti-Islamic State coalition, are helping to train and equip the 28 Iraqi brigades, comprising thousands of soldiers, that were on the front lines of the Islamic State fight, he said.
In Syria, the United States must support local partners, such as the SDF, to stabilize the areas that have been liberated from Islamic State control, Mulroy said. One focus is helping the SDF and its civilian counterparts to manage significant humanitarian and security challenges at Al-Hol and other camps for displaced people in northeastern Syria, he said. In addition, another challenge for the SDF is handling over 2,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 50 countries the group has detained. The United States must press partners to repatriate their citizens, Mulroy stressed.
Mulroy also highlighted the work of another coalition partner in Syria, the Maghawir al-Thawra, a force comprising Arab tribal members that continues to conduct daily patrols in the 34-mile deconfliction zone around the Tanf garrison in the south.
“The priority now is to ensure U.S. and coalition investments in the D-ISIS fight outlive the warfighting of the last five years,” Mulroy said, referring to the fight to destroy the Islamic State.
Mulroy also called the Jordanian armed forces a “crucial ally” in combating extremism.
But if Jeffrey is to be believed, the United States will soon reduce its footprint in the region, which could severely hamper the ability of local forces to defend against an Islamic State comeback.
“The U.S. is repeating a critical mistake by deprioritizing this effort at a pivotal moment when our gains are at their most fragile,” the ISW report warned. “The U.S. must take immediate steps to dampen ISIS’s resurgence in Iraq and Syria, including halting and reversing America’s ongoing withdrawal from Syria.”
Military Times: American Legion secured a 24-hour guard for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier 82 years ago today
By:Diana Stancy Correll 20 hours ago
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The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery has been constantly guarded for more than 80 years.
On July 2, 1937, approval was granted for 24-hour guarding of the tomb — even in situations of hazardous weather conditions. The change came following efforts from the American Legion for nonstop oversight.
The American Legion has played a significant role in the tomb’s history. When American Legion founder Hamilton Fish was elected in 1920 after World War I, he introduced legislation to remember an unknown soldier who was buried in France. Then-President Warren G. Harding dedicated the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1921 in the presence of Allied generals and American Legion members, according to the veterans group.
Incrementally, the tomb has received increased surveillance. For example, the American Legion won a victory when it secured overnight surveillance for the tomb in 1926.
The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, stationed at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, is responsible for guarding the tomb.

Stripes: VA delays decision to add more diseases to Agent Orange list

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs missed a self-imposed deadline at the end of June to decide whether to add conditions to the list of diseases presumed to be caused by Agent Orange exposure.

Researchers with the National Academy of Medicine released a report in November stating there was “suggestive” evidence that eight diseases — prostate cancer, bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, stroke, early-onset peripheral neuropathy, AL amyloidosis, ischemic heart disease and Parkinson-like syndromes — could be caused by Agent Orange, a chemical herbicide used during the Vietnam War. They also found “sufficient” evidence linking the tactical herbicide to hypertension.

Under questioning at a Senate hearing in March, Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, vowed to review the report and to decide this summer whether to add to the list of presumptive conditions. The list currently covers 14 diseases and gives veterans who suffer from them a fast track to disability compensation.

“We’re working our way through that right now, and it would be my hope that within the next 90 days, we’ll have some decisions made,” Stone said March 26.

More than three months later, the VA hasn’t made any decisions.
“VA has no announcements on Agent Orange presumptive conditions at this time,” a VA spokeswoman said Monday.

Army veteran Jerry Foreman of Montrose, Ark., heard Stone’s promise this spring and has been waiting for the VA’s decision.

Foreman, 72, served in Vietnam with the 5th Special Forces Group and retired from the Army as a captain after 21 years. In the past several years, he’s developed hypertension and Parkinson-like tremors.

He has a VA disability rating of 20% for tinnitus and diabetes, and gets about $280 in benefits each month. If hypertension and Parkinson-like syndromes were added to the presumptive list, he guesses he would receive a “significant” increase.

“The National Academy — they’ve recommended that all these be put forward, but it just doesn’t seem to be working,” Foreman said. “We’re on hold … it really makes you kind of angry. We need some kind of accountability in the VA.”

Foreman, as well as other veterans and families, has been tracking the slow progress on these conditions.

In 2017, former VA Secretary David Shulkin recommended to the Office of Management and Budget that several of the conditions be added to the presumptive list. The recommendation didn’t make it any further.

“They’re going to say it costs too much money,” said Rick Weidman, president of Vietnam Veterans of America. “Well, you should’ve thought about that before you put poisons on people.”
Martha Edgin, the wife of a Vietnam veteran with bladder cancer, has spent years researching and applying to the VA. Based in Norman, Okla., Edgin repeatedly has contacted the VA and the Office of Management and Budget, in addition to her congressional delegation and anyone else she believes might know something about when — or whether — bladder cancer would get approved for the list.

Edgin described the most recent delay as “shameful and unconscionable.” It creates a “lack of trust” for the VA among veterans and their families, she said.

“The saying that so many veterans believe is, ‘Deny, deny until they die,’ ” Edgin said. “In my opinion, Secretary [Robert] Wilkie needs to step up to the plate and say, ‘Enough,’ as should President [Donald] Trump. Immediately addressing this issue would go a long way in restoring a little faith in the system.”

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