Army veterans return to Standing Rock to form a human shield against police

A growing group of military veterans are willing to set their bodies between Native American activists and the police trying to remove them

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Trump threatens ‘military option’ in Venezuela as crisis escalates

In a surprise intervention, Donald Trump said he would not rule in employing military force as the country descends further into civil unrest

Donald Trump threatened a US military intervention in Venezuela on Friday, a dramatic escalation in his administrations stance toward the Latin American country which is descending into political chaos.

Trump stimulated the statements in response to questions from reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Asked what options were available for the US in dealing with Venezuela, which has descended into civil unrest under the direction of chairwoman Nichols Maduro, Trump responded by explicitly not ruling out military force.

We have many options for Venezuela and by the way, Im not going to rule out a military alternative, he said.

We have many options for Venezuela, this is our neighbour, Trump added. Were all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very very far away, Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and succumbing. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military alternative if necessary.

Vladimir Padrino, Venezuelas defence minister, said on Friday night that Trumps threat was an act of craziness and supreme extremism.

General Vladimir Padrino, a close ally of Maduro, said: With this radical upper-class thats in charge in the US, who knows what will happen to the world?

Jose Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for Human Rights Watch, tweeted: Perhaps since[ Hugo] Chvez named him his successor , no one had helped Maduro as much as Trump and this nonsense he said today.

The White House released a statement saying it had repudiated a request from Maduro to speak by phone with Trump. The statement said: Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as republic is restored in that country.

The surprise intervention caps a week of increasingly bellicose rhetoric directed at North Korea.

Venezuela has appeared to slide toward a more volatile stage of unrest in recent days, with anti-government forces-out looting weapons from the military after the installation of an all-powerful new legislative body.

Donald
Donald Trump speaks to the press from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Photograph: Jim Watson/ AFP/ Getty Images

When a reporter followed up to ask Trump if this military alternative would be US led, the president responded: We dont talking here it. A military operation, a military option is surely something that we could pursue.

The remarks come as Maduro has convened a constituent assembly, in an electoral widely denounced by international observers, to amend the countrys constitution to cement his grip on power. Maduro has also forced the countrys chief prosecutor from office, while the United Nation has condemned the governmental forces employ of excessive force against protestors.

Although Venezuela has the worlds largest proven oil reserves, its economy has collapsed in recent years as the country led first by the late Hugo Chvez and then by his successor, Maduro, has resorted to increasingly authoritarian measures to consolidate power.

Peru expelled Venezuelas ambassador on Friday as regional pressure built on Maduros government. Venezuela retaliated by ordering the head of Perus embassy in Caracas to leave and called Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski an enemy of Venezuela and of Latin American unity.

Trumps remarks come in the shadow of a 2002 coup try against Chvez that he blamed on the US. The coup was launched after a violent showdown between marchers in support of a general strike clashed with government forces.

Associated Press contributed to this report .

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UK defence contractor billed US more than $50m in expenses

Expenses included luxury cars and wages paid to significant others of companys top executives, according to Pentagon

A British company hired to help train Afghan intelligence officers billed the US government for more than $50 m( 38.4 m) in expenditures that included luxury cars and salaries paid to the significant others of the companys top executives, according to a Pentagon audit.

New Century Consulting( NCC) also expended $42,000 on automatic weapons, using cash to get around a prohibition in the contract on purchasing the pistols and showered other personnel with hefty pay and bonuses. Missouri senator Claire McCaskill summarised the audits major findings in a letter to the US defence secretary, Jim Mattis, which she released on Wednesday.

McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the homeland security and governmental affairs committee, is demanding to know which Defence Department office was responsible for supervising the work, what steps are being taken to recover the millions of dollars in disputed payments and whether the US government has considered prohibiting NCC from obtaining federal contracts in future. Whoever decided to approve this spending should be fired its a slap in the face to Missouri taxpayers and the entire contracting process, McCaskill said in a statement.

Michael Grunberg, chief executive officer of NCC, said the company strives to follow federal acquisition rules and other relevant obligations. He said it is most unfair and is significantly inaccurate that the executive heads deputies were paid inappropriate wages.

Grunberg said the audit questioned exclusively the use and depreciation treatment of vehicles and that NCC accounted for no more than three vehicles across the entire business at any one time.

Grunberg also said the purchase of the weapons was done properly and at the direction of the US-led command overseeing the training and equipping of the Afghan security forces.

Asked to respond to the allegations by the Guardian, Grunberg said it would be inappropriate for us make a few comments on an ongoing matter.

McCaskills disclosure of the audits key findings is a rare glimpse into the opaque world of battlefield contracting. Contractors are indispensable in Afghanistan, handling security, transportation, construction and more. Yet the Defence Department has faced widespread criticism that it often fails to perform rigorous oversight of the efforts and how exactly US dollars are spent.

The report is published during a tense debate inside the Trump administration over its future in Afghanistan. Two of Trumps most senior consultants, chief strategist Steve Bannon and son-in-law Jared Kushner, have been advocating a plan that would have military contractors fight the war there instead of American forces.

The Defense Contract Audit Agency investigated NCCs invoices between fiscal years 2008 and 2013, when it was a subcontractor to another company, Imperatis Corporation. Among the costs passed on to US taxpayers were expenditures for seven high-end vehicles Porsches, Alfa Romeos, a Bentley, an Aston Martin and a Land Rover according to McCaskills letter to Mattis. The actual cost of the vehicles is not specified.

NCC claimed that the vehicles were available to all employees but the vehicles actually were used exclusively by the chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer and the significant others of the CEO and CFO, McCaskill told Mattis. Her letter doesnt identify who the significant others are.

These significant other also were employed by NCC as executive assistants and had an average salary in 2012 of close to $420,000 each even when they ran from home and never travelled to customer places, according to McCaskills letter. She said the company was unable to show that these individuals actually performed any work.

The audit also challenged millions of dollars in compensation for other employees, including the consultants that the company sent to Afghanistan to train the forces there. McCaskill said the consultants were supposed to be paid at a 100% rate when deployed overseas but merely at 60% when on leave. But NCC gave its consultants the full rate irrespective of where they were.

These excessive payments expense taxpayers over $15 m, she wrote.

NCC also gave its consultants more than $3.3 m in bonuses that they either didnt earn or that werent required by their contracts, according to the senator.

McCaskill said the audit, completed last year, was conducted partly in response to fears she and Senator Rob Portman( Republican, Ohio) had raised after the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction identified a litany of problems with Imperatiss billing and record-keeping practises. The Defense Contract Audit Agency does not publicly release its audits.

Imperatis had a contract dating back to 2007 for intelligence trained in Iraq. The work shifted to Afghanistan in 2010. Three years later the Army Contracting Command( ACC) awarded NCC a contract of its own to professionalise the intelligence divisions within the Afghan ministries of defence and interior.

The two companies were paid $522.4 m overall, according to contract data compiled by the special inspector general. ACC did not respond to a request for comment.

Imperatis went out of business last year.

Additional reporting by Hannah Summers

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USS Fitzgerald collision: American sailors ‘probably to blame’ for fatal cargo ship crash

Unnamed defence official says the crew would be held accountable for the accident off Japan, which left seven US sailors dead

The crew of a Navy destroyer that collided with a Philippine-flagged cargo ship will certainly be held accountable for the crash that killed seven American sailors, a US defense official has said.

The way it seems now, it seems that the crew on the( USS) Fitzgerald is going to be at fault, the official said on condition of anonymity.

US navy retrieves bodies from boat after collision off Japan

They are certainly going to be held accountable in some way for their actions, the official added.

This is something we take very seriously. There are seven sailors that lost their lives.

Senior spokeswoman rear admiral Dawn Cutler stressed the investigation was still in its early stages and said it was too soon to release any definitive information.

It is premature to speculate on causation or any other issues, Cutler said in a statement.

The defense official said the probe would likely be released in about a month.

The sailors were killed in a 17 June predawn collision between the USS Fitzgerald and the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal in a busy shipping channels off Japans coast.

Aged 19 to 37, the seamen were found by divers in inundated sleep berths a day after the collision tore a huge gash in the side of the USS Fitzgerald.

There have been around 30 ship collisions over the past decade in the busy shipping area, including a 2013 incident in which six Japanese crew members died, according to the Japan Coast Guard.

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Transgender recruitment in US military delayed by six months

Defense secretary Jim Mattis dedicates armed forces until December to assess consequences on military readiness and repudiates calls for two-year deferral

Defense secretary Jim Mattis is giving the military another six months to conduct a review to determine if allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the armed services will affect its readiness and lethality.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told Mattis attained government decisions on Friday. The delay in allowing the enlistment of new recruits does not affect transgender troops who are already serving openly in the military.

Mattis said in a memo obtained by The Associated Press: After consulting with the service chiefs and secretaries, I have determined that it is necessary to defer the start of accessions for six months. We will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality.

In the memo, Mattis said he believed the department must measure each policy decision against one standard whether it affects the readiness of the military to defend the nation.

Mattiss decision formally endorses an agreement hammered out last week by the leaders of the four military services, which repudiated army and air force requests for a two-year wait. And it reflects the broader worry that a longer lag would trigger criticism on Capitol Hill, officials familiar with the talks said.

The request for a postpone is delivered to Mattis for a final decision last week.

Mattis said the review by the services must be completed by 1 December, and he noted that his approval of a postpone does not presuppose the outcome of the review. He said the additional day would ensure he had the benefit of the views of the military leadership and of the senior civilian officials who are now arriving in the department.

Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former defense secretary Ash Carter ended the ban, proclaiming it the right thing to do. Since 1 October, transgender troops have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identity in the Pentagons personnel system.

But Carter also dedicated the services until 1 July to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to join the military, if they meet physical, medical and other standards, and have been stable in their identified gender for 18 months.

The military chiefs have argued they need more time to study the issue and its effects on the readiness of the force before taking that step.

According to officials familiar with the internal deliberations, the chiefs believe the extra six months would give the four military services time to gauge if currently serving transgender troops are facing both problems and what necessary changes military bases might have to make.

They told navy officials were ready to begin enlistment in July but asked for a one-year postpone, largely to accommodate a request from the Marine Corps for more day. The navy secretary also oversees the Marine Corps. The army and us air force wanted a two-year delay to further study the issue, they said.

Already, there are up 250 service members in the process of changing their gender identity or who have been approved to formally change gender within the Pentagons personnels system, according to several defense officials.

Officials said there was a broad recognition that allowing transgender individuals to enlist affected each service differently. They described the biggest challenge as the infantry. They said the discussions were aimed at a solution that would devote recruits the best opportunity of succeeding, while ensuring the services maintained the best the criteria for entry into the military.

A Rand Corp study found that there were between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members in the active-duty military, and the other 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.

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US sending almost 4,000 extra forces to Afghanistan, Trump official says

A defibrillator-carrying drone could react more quickly than traditional emergency response divisions .
Image: Andreas Claesson

In the perhaps not-so-distant future, dronings could be first responders.

That’s the conclusion from a report published Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association( JAMA) following a simulated examine involving dronings carrying defibrillators in Sweden.

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SEE ALSO: Scientists are creating drones that fly in sync with one another

Researchers for such studies equipped an eight-rotor drone from the Swedish Transportation Agency with a GPS system, a camera and a defibrillator for several out-of-sight test flights in October 2016.

Their aim: to be determined if life-saving equipment like the defibrillator could be dispatched to a person in cardiac arrest outside a hospital more quickly with a droning than with a traditional emergency response unit. They made some hopeful discoveries.

Though the study admits that “whether[ drones] reduce response times in a real-life situation is unknown, ” the researchers tested simulated emergency response times of both dronings and typical emergency medical services and determined the dronings to be much faster.

First, the drones were much quicker to get going. It took dispatchers an average of three seconds to send a drone into the sky, whereas it took dispatchers an average of three minutes to get an EMS team out the door.

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Check This Out: Delivery of an Automated External Defibrillator Employing a Drone! https :// t.co/ wbfEEH7G 2L pic.twitter.com/ ouT4 2SXX5I

JAMA (@ JAMA_current) June 13, 2017