You'll want to keep your eye on the Korean peninsula for the next few days. It's time for those annual military exercises with our ally South Korea, and the North is none too pleased. The bloviating dictator has promised to turn the South into "a heap of ashes"
if there is the slightest provocation during the event.
Washington (CNN)The US and South Korean militaries started a massive joint annual exercise Monday, a drill that has drawn North Korean threats of nuclear retaliation.
North Korea will "turn the stronghold of provocation into a heap of ashes through Korean-style pre-emptive nuclear strike" if the US and South Korea "show the slightest sign of aggression" during the drill, a spokesman for North Korea's military was quoted as saying by the country's state media.
North Korean forces are "ready to mount a pre-emptive retaliatory strike at all enemy attack groups involved in Ulchi Freedom Guardian," he said, referring to the exercise by its official name.
The exercise takes place almost exactly one year after North Korean troops shelled South Korean territory and only days after South Korea welcomed the highest-ranking North Korean official defector in decades.
That defection, of Pyongyang's deputy ambassador to the UK, caused North Korea to issue a statement calling the diplomat a criminal, with South Korean officials expressing concerns that North Korea might dispatch assassination squads to eliminate potential defectors abroad.
The annual drill will include 25,000 US troops, the bulk of which are already stationed in Korea, according to a statement by US Forces Korea. The purpose of the exercise is to "enhance Alliance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula," the statement said.
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye responded to Pyongyang's threats by saying, "The North Korean regime has been continuously suppressing its people by its reign of terror while ignoring the livelihood of its people."
She added that the South would "prepare" for any possible North Korean provocations, in comments at a National Security Council meeting on Monday.
North Korea's threats come amid new concerns over the increased sophistication of that country's nuclear and missile programs.
"North Korea's nuclear and missile threats are direct and realistic," Park added.
Maybe the threats are real and maybe they're not. We tend to ignore them, as North Korea is all sound and fury, signifying nothing. But just consider these two words next time: President Trump.
Moving on, every now and again we report on an equipment issue here at AAV. Military technology is always evolving, and the United States usually has the best and most advanced of any technology that's out there. You'd think something as simple as a helmet would be something we could get right without too much trouble. As it turns out, helmets are not made by "normal" contractors. Perhaps because of that, they've been faulty and under-standard for a while. You'll be surprised to learn who actually makes them.
Contractors sold the U.S. Army and Marine Corps thousands of ballistic helmets made by prison inmates containing numerous defects including "serious ballistic failures," according to a new Defense Department Office of Inspector General report.
The IG launched two joint investigations with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, supported by elements of the U.S. Army, regarding allegations that Federal Prison Industries and ArmorSource LLC manufactured and sold Advanced Combat Helmets, or ACH, and Lightweight Marine Corps Helmets, or LMCH, to the military that failed to meet contract specifications and were ultimately defective, according to the report released Wednesday.
From 2006 to 2009, ArmorSource and FPI, as its subcontractor, produced 126,052 helmets, for which ArmorSource received $30,336,461.
In May 2008, FPI was awarded contract to manufacture LMCH helmets for an initial cost of $23,019,629. The FPI produced approximately 23,000 helmets at its facility in Beaumont, Texas, of which 3,000 were sold and delivered to the DOD.
"However, the FPI did not receive payment for these 3,000 helmets because more than half of them were subsequently determined to be defective, and all 23,000 helmets were ultimately quarantined," according to the report.
"The investigations further disclosed that the ACH helmets produced by FPI were also defective, and that both the ACH and LMCH helmets posed a potential safety risk to the user."
These investigations "did not develop any information to indicate military personnel sustained injury or death as a result of the defective ACH helmets," according to the report. However, 126,052 ACH helmets were recalled, and monetary losses and costs to the government totaled more than $19,083,959.
Both investigations determined that FPI had endemic manufacturing problems at FCI Beaumont, and that both the ACH and LMCH were defective and not manufactured in accordance with contract specifications, according to the report.
The investigations found that the ACH and LMCH had numerous defects, including serious ballistic failures, blisters and improper mounting-hole placement and dimensions, as well as helmets being repressed, the report states.
"Helmets were manufacturing with degraded or unauthorized ballistic materials, used expired paint (on LMCH) and unauthorized manufacturing methods. Helmets also had other defects such as deformities and the investigations found that rejected helmets were sold to the DOD," according to the report.
The FPI also pre-selected helmets for inspection, even though the DOD and ACH contract required helmets to be selected randomly, and substituted helmets to pass testing, according to the report.
And finally today, a brief story on weed. Despite the growing evidence of the multiple benefits of the plant, there's still plenty of resistance to it. I suppose if Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline came up with a synthetic that cost $1900 per dose, it would be the new "wonder drug".
Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West, the Army Surgeon General, on Thursday was wary of endorsing the first trials approved by the government for using marijuana to treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
West noted she was an Army officer and the military still considers marijuana an illegal substance despite growing public support for its decriminalization. If service members test positive for marijuana, they can be subject to a "wide range of actions," she said.
In addition, research has found "that using marijuana has a lot of adverse health effects," West said at a breakfast with defense reporters.
Marijuana "is more dangerous, with some of the carcinogens that are in it, than tobacco," West said. "The impact that it has long-term on certain areas of the brain, especially young people developing, that's been proven -- irreversible damage to the hippocampus and things like that that can really have impacts on individuals long-term," she said.
However, the surgeon general, who succeeded Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho in the position last December, said she would look at the results of the government-approved trials of marijuana for PTSD treatment "so long as it's evidence-based."
She said some chemical components of marijuana short of a full dose might prove useful in treating PTSD. "I'm for looking at that," she said. "We're looking at all modalities," but "I don't know if we need to have the full spectrum of what's in marijuana as it's typically administered -- if that's necessary," she said.
"We should always, at least, have an open mind to look at things in an evidence-based way for something that could be useful for our soldiers," West said. Currently, the various therapies available in the military have proven to be about 80 percent effective in easing the symptoms of PTSD, she said.
In April, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration, approved the first-ever clinical trials backed by the government of marijuana as a treatment for PTSD in veterans.