16 January, 2019 07:12

Good morning, Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, January 16, 2019, which is International Hot and Spicy Food Day, National Fig Newton Day, National Nothing Day, and Religious Freedom Day.

Today in History:

  • The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes,” is ratified on this day in 1919 and becomes the law of the land.
  • 1991: At midnight in Iraq, the United Nations deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait expires, and the Pentagon prepares to commence offensive operations to forcibly eject Iraq from its five-month occupation of its oil-rich neighbor. At 4:30 p.m. EST, the first fighter aircraft were launched from Saudi Arabia and off U.S. and British aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf on bombing missions over Iraq. All evening, aircraft from the U.S.-led military coalition pounded targets in and around Baghdad as the world watched the events transpire in television footage transmitted live via satellite from Baghdad and elsewhere. At 7:00 p.m., Operation Desert Storm, the code-name for the massive U.S.-led offensive against Iraq, was formally announced at the White House.
  • On January 16, 1970, the seven-time Golden Glove-winning center fielder Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals files suit in a New York federal court against Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, the presidents of the American and National Leagues and all 24 teams in the Major League Baseball (MLB) organization. After the Cardinals traded Flood to the Philadelphia Phillies in October 1969, Flood wrote a letter to Kuhn in late December, protesting the league’s player reserve clause, which prevented players from moving to another team unless they were traded. Kuhn denied Flood’s request to be made a free agent, and Flood decided to sue


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USA Today: Six veterans’ groups unite, rip shutdown: ‘Get your act together’
Donovan Slack, USA TODAY
Published 1:19 p.m. ET Jan. 15, 2019 | Updated 5:50 p.m. ET Jan. 15, 2019

WASHINGTON – Several prominent veterans’ groups held a rare, joint press conference Tuesday calling for an end to the government shutdown, saying tens of thousands of veterans in the federal workforce are facing increasingly difficult financial hardships as they continue to go without pay.
The agencies affected by the shutdown employ at least 150,000 veterans, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget.
"We ask the president and the Congress to get together, get your act together and get this situation resolved," said Regis "Rege" Riley, national commander of American Veterans, or AMVETS.
The national commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vincent "B.J." Lawrence, highlighted the story of one veteran who came to his organization for help – a single mother of three, furloughed on unpaid leave, who now can’t afford to pay for childcare or rent.
"She had approached a landlord and asked for some consideration during the partial government shutdown on her rent being due, and she was denied that consideration," Lawrence said. "So she was reaching out to family members, to move in with a family member, to help take care of her family."
Randy Reese, executive director of Disabled American Veterans, said it is "well past time" to end the standoff so veteran employees can collect their missing pay.
"Who would have thought that we’d be in the state that we are, with those who served their nation, served honorably, got discharged after doing their duty, went to work, waving the flag, working for the United States of America and find themselves in a state where the government of the United States shuts down," he said.
They are part of the group known as the “big six” – The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Veterans, and Disabled American Veterans – which represent nearly 5 million members and wield considerable clout in Washington.
Veterans also have been a key constituency for President Donald Trump. They voted for him by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 in 2016, according to exit polls. In an Associated Press poll last month, more than half of veterans surveyed – 56 percent – said they approve of the job he is doing and 62 percent approved of his handling of border security.
The Big Six groups were joined by other veteran organizations, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which have already condemned the impasse since the shutdown started Dec. 22.
The shutdown became the longest in history on Saturday when it entered its 22nd day, breaking the previous 21-day record set in the 1990s during the Clinton administration. On Friday, some 800,000 federal workers missed their first paycheck since it began. The employees have been out on unpaid leave or forced to keep working without pay.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides medical care and benefits to millions of veterans, is not one of the agencies affected by the partial shutdown. But that’s not the case for the U.S. Coast Guard, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The American Legion, which was not part of Tuesday’s press conference, is doling out grants of up to $1,500 each to help Coast Guard employees facing financial hardship during the shutdown. The Legion’s national commander, Brett Reistad, earlier this month called on the administration and Congress to make an exception for the guard so its workers can collect pay during the shutdown.
“As a nonprofit, The American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll,” Reistad said.
But so far that hasn’t happened. The commandant of the guard, Adm. Karl Schultz, noted in a statement that active duty guard members would not be receiving paychecks as scheduled Tuesday, even as they are deployed around the world, including in the Middle East, Antarctica and off the coasts of Central and South America.
“I recognize the anxiety and uncertainty this situation places on you and your family,” Schultz wrote. He said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen "remains fully engaged" and he would provide updates as the shutdown drags on.
“The strength of our Service has, and always will be, our people," he wrote. "You have proven time and again the ability to rise above adversity. Stay the course, stand the watch, and serve with pride. You are not, and will not, be forgotten.”
Here’s the breakdown of veterans employed at DHS and other departments and agencies affected by the shutdown, according to 2016 data from the Office of Management and Budget:

  • Department of Homeland Security: 53,126
  • Department of Justice: 29,246
  • Department of Transportation: 20,249
  • Department of Agriculture: 12,480
  • Department of the Interior: 12,127
  • Department of the Treasury: 10,203
  • Department of Commerce: 5,636
  • Department of State: 2,743
  • NASA: 2,078
  • Environmental Protection Agency: 1,364
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development: 1,272
  • Small Business Administration: 720

Military.com: Here’s Everything the Coast Guard Did Without a Paycheck This Month
15 Jan 2019 | Military.com | By Hope Hodge Seck
As a partial government shutdown continues into its 24th day, members of the Coast Guard saw their first missed paycheck Tuesday.
The service, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, was able to pay Coasties through the end of the year thanks to a last-minute determination based on legal analysis. But until a budget agreement is reached or another appropriation made, Coast Guardsmen will go without pay, despite continuing to execute their duties around the globe.
"I recognize that there is anxiety and uncertainty about the status of your pay this evening," Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz posted to his official social media accounts Monday evening. "Your senior leadership team continues to work on your behalf. We will provide an additional update by 1200 EST tomorrow. Continue standing the watch — I am proud of your unwavering devotion to duty."
Photos, videos and news stories released by the Coast Guard this month reveal just how much the service has done without the promise of pay. Here’s a small sampling of what it has accomplished:
Medevacced ill fisherman
Members of U.S. Coast Guard District 14 Hawaii Pacific rescued a 37-year-old man from a tuna longliner about 80 miles north of Kauai on Jan. 13, according to a release. The man, who had been ill for several days and was getting worse, was hoisted from his boat by an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and transferred safely to Lihue airport, where he received medical care. Oh, and winds of up to 20 miles per hour were causing sea swells of 8 to 12 feet at the time of the rescue.
Salvaged downed aircraft
Coast Guard District 14, which had a busy month, also oversaw recovery of parts of a Hawker Hunter aircraft Jan. 9, which went down in December off Honolulu.
"Using a blend of local salvage assets, remote engineering guidance, and advanced sensing technology sourced from the mainland, the locally based salvage company Parker Marine Corporation has completed the next stage of the aircraft salvage," Chief Warrant Officer Russ Strathern, a marine safety specialist and response officer at Sector Honolulu, said in a statement. "The main section of the fuselage containing residual oil and potentially hazardous substances has been salvaged and transported to a staging location for the ongoing National Transportation Safety Board-led investigation."
The Coast Guard was also involved last month in the rescue of the aircraft’s pilot, who ejected safely.
Rescued Chinese fishing crew
In yet another mission for District 14, Coast Guardsmen assisted in the rescue of 24 mariners Jan. 2 from the Ou Ya Leng No. 6, a 308-foot Chinese-flagged fishing vessel that ran aground on Taka Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
The district dispatched a HC-130 Hercules crew to support the rescue and keep any of the mariners from being swept out to sea. All were rescued safely.
Interdicted migrants near Puerto Rico
In a period of 72 hours, the Coast Guard interdicted 66 migrants who were attempting to illegally enter the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands this month. Migrant interdiction makes up a significant part of the Coast Guard mission; since October, the service has interdicted 708 migrants in the region of Puerto Rico alone.
Seized illegal drugs
Crew members of the Coast Guard Sentinel-class cutter Bernard C. Webber made a drug seizure Jan. 7, interdicting a sport fisher boat carrying a suspected smuggler, a pair of migrants, and 7 kilograms of cocaine east of Dania Beach, Florida. It’s a relatively small haul for the Coast Guard, which has seized more than 15,000 pounds of cocaine, 11 pounds of heroin and 225 milliliters of fentanyl in the region of Puerto Rico alone since October.
Assisted grounded cargo ship
When the cargo ship JSW Salem ran aground east of Virginia Beach on Jan. 10, the Coast Guard was on hand to help. The service dispatched a 45-foot response boat-medium crew from Station Little Creek, according to released information, along with an MH-60 Jayhawk crew from Air Station Elizabeth City. They assisted the crew of the tanker as it got clear and eventually anchored itself.
Patrolled Antarctica
Crew of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star are working to "clear a path through multi-year ice" to support Operation Deep Freeze, a training exercise organized by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Schultz said in a statement this month. The Polar Star is America’s only operational heavy icebreaker, and the Coast Guard is the only service with ice-breaking capabilities, which are increasingly in demand.
"While our Coast Guard workforce is deployed, there are loved ones at home reviewing family finances, researching how to get support, and weighing child care options — they are holding down the fort," Schultz said in a Jan. 13 message. "Please know that we are doing everything we can to support and advocate for you while your loved one stands the watch. You have not, and will not, be forgotten."

Military Times: Report: Pregnant spouses of deployed service members at higher risk of depression
By: Natalie Gross | 13 hours ago
Pregnant military spouses whose partners are deployed are at a higher risk for developing postpartum depression and mental health issues during pregnancy, according to a new report in the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps.
On top of the “relatively unique circumstances” military families encounter, including frequent forced moves away from family and friends, researchers write that the fear and anxiety of a deployment are linked to increased depression during the perinatal period, defined in the study as the time between conception and one year after giving birth.
The report by researchers at the Anglia Ruskin University Veterans and Families Institute in the U.K. evaluated 13 U.S. studies on women whose spouses served across all five branches of the military.
One particular study the researchers looked at focused specifically on 397 Army spouses at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. About 16 percent of women whose partners were deployed during their entire pregnancy struggled with postpartum depression, compared to 6 percent of women whose partners were not deployed. Those women were also more likely to give birth before they reached full term, a risk of anxiety and stress during pregnancy, researchers write.
The American Pregnancy Association defines depression during pregnancy as a mood disorder, or biological illness that involves changes in brain chemistry, similar to clinical depression. Hormone changes, exacerbated by difficult life situations, can cause expectant mothers to be depressed.
Left untreated, this can lead to poor nutrition, suicidal and other negative behaviors, which can cause premature birth and developmental problems.
In analyzing the American studies, the Veterans and Families Institute researchers found that in addition to depression, deployment also increased the pregnant spouse’s chances of anxiety, sleep disorders and adjustment disorders.
“The evidence suggests that social support is an important protective factor for military spouses during the perinatal period,” they write. “Support tailored to the needs of military spouses rather than generic perinatal support may be advantageous.”

Defense News: New defense intelligence assessment warns China nears critical military milestone
By: Tara Copp and Aaron Mehta | 14 hours ago
WASHINGTON — In recent years, top defense officials and internal Pentagon reports alike have cautioned about the rise of China as a military power, in large part due to its investments in high-end technologies like hypersonics and its development of indigenous capabilities like stealth fighters and aircraft carriers.
But it’s not a piece of hardware that’s most worrisome for American interests, according to a new assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Instead, it’s the worry that the Chinese service members behind each system have reached a critical point of confidence where they now feel that in combat, the People’s Liberation Army can match competitors.
In the long term, that could be bad news for America — and especially for Taiwan.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday ahead of the new DIA 2019 “China Military Power” report, a senior defense intelligence official called the idea that Beijing might soon trust its military capabilities well enough to invade Taiwan “the most concerning” conclusion from the report.
“The biggest concern is that they are getting to a point where the PLA leadership may actually tell [President Xi Jinping] they are confident in their capabilities. We know in the past they have considered themselves a developing, weaker power,” the official said.
“As a lot of these technologies mature, as their reorganization of their military comes into effect, as they become more proficient with these capabilities, the concern is we’ll reach a point where internally in their decision-making they will decide that using military force for regional conflict is something that is more imminent,” the official added.
The report is the first public analysis of Chinese military power released by the DIA, and the official said there is no classified version of this production. The Pentagon annually issues a report to Congress on the issue through a different, publicly released document.
It is being released just days after Patrick Shanahan, the acting secretary of defense, used his first staff meeting to emphasize the Pentagon’s prime focus must remain on “China, China, China.”
Based on its assessment of Chinese official papers and statements, the DIA concluded that Chinese military modernization was not undertaken with a major global war in mind, but rather in preparation for further challenges to its regional efforts, potentially leading to a local war.
“Within the context of Beijing’s ‘period of strategic opportunity,’ as [China] continues to grow in strength and confidence, [U.S.] leaders will face a China insistent on having a greater voice in global interactions, which at times may be antithetical to U.S. interests,” the agency reported.
The reclamation of Taiwan is a long-standing goal for Chinese leadership, and Xi has made no secret of that desire. The DIA notes that much of China’s military modernization has been focused on Taiwan, including the emphasis on short-range missile technology that would largely be useless in any other theater of combat.
Keeping Taiwan safe at the moment is a belief inside the PLA that the armed service doesn’t have the training, doctrine and readiness levels needed for a full-scale invasion of the island. But should that change, the military has the technology and numbers at hand to make such a move possible.
“We don’t have a real strong grasp on when they will think that they are confident in that capability,” the official said. “They could order them to go today, but I don’t think they are particularly confident in that capability.”
Taiwan is not the only potential flashpoint identified by the DIA. While China is unlikely to seek out an active conflict near its territory, the official said, China’s construction of man-made, militarized islands in the South China Sea as well as its assertion of rights to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea could become points of tension.
But so, too, could China’s expanded interests around the world, the official warned, citing the PLA’s permanent base in Djibouti and willingness to sail ships farther abroad.
“We now have to be able to look for a Chinese military that is active everywhere,” the official said. “I’m not saying they are a threat or about to take military action everywhere, but they are present in a lot of places, and we will have to interact with them, engage with them, deal with them, monitor them more broadly than we had to before when they were very regionally focused near their own shores.”
Technological upgrades
While doctrine may lag behind, China’s investments in new technologies are starting to bear fruit.
In the more than 100-page assessment on China, the agency noted China’s continued modernization efforts of almost every aspect of its ground, sea, air and space forces.
The vast modernization effort — which includes the launch of its first independently developed aircraft carrier in 2019, the continued development of the Hong-20 nuclear-capable bomber and the emphasis it has placed in recent years on professionalizing its ground forces — has produced “a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region,” the DIA found.
Getting near par to American capabilities is one thing, but there are some areas where China threatens to surpass America — and may have already done so.
The first is with hypersonic weaponry — delivery vehicles capable of going Mach 5 or faster. In the last two years, the Pentagon has been increasingly vocal about the need to invest more in its hypersonic capabilities, both offensive and defensive, largely because of how much China has put toward the new weaponry.
“They are on the leading edge of technology in that area [and are] getting to the point where they are going to field this system,” the official said about hypersonic weapons, singling out hypersonic glide vehicles for ballistic missiles as the area in which Beijing has heavily invested.
More broadly, China remains a leader in precision-strike capabilities, especially with medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles — something the official partly blamed on the fact the U.S. and Russia were barred from developing such systems under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
China is also excelling at developing anti-satellite capabilities.
“In addition to the research and possible development of satellite jammers and directed-energy weapons, China has probably made progress on kinetic energy weapons, including the anti-satellite missile system tested in July 2014,” the report reads. “China is employing more sophisticated satellite operations and probably is testing on-orbit dual-use technologies that could be applied to counterspace missions.”
Said the official: “They’ve clearly been pushing forward on trying to build this comprehensive capability that can threaten U.S. and other satellites in all orbits, to build capability to threaten all these systems. … They think it’s a potential vulnerability for us and allied forces, although they themselves are becoming more reliant on space-based capabilities.”

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