The Pentagon Investigates Possible Friendly Fire Deaths In Afghanistan

Soldiers transfer the remains of Army Sgt. Joshua Rodgers, 22, of Bloomington, Ill., at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Rodgers and Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas, 23, of Kettering, Ohio, were killed during a raid in Afghanistan.

Cliff Owen/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Cliff Owen/AP

The Defense Department says it is looking into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of two U.S. service members killed in a raid on ISIS leaders in eastern Afghanistan this week.

According to a statement released by the headquarters of United States Forces—Afghanistan, “USFOR-A is investigating the possibility that the two Rangers were accidentally killed by friendly fire during the more than three-hour fight. We have informed both of their families of this possibility and we have appointed a team to investigate the Soldiers’ deaths.”

Preliminary details of the raid against ISIS-Khorasan were reported in the Two-Way yesterday.

The statement added, “We investigate all combat deaths of U.S. service members, and because we believe that there is a possibility of friendly fire in this case, it is appropriate to notify the families. Once the investigation is complete, USFOR-A will provide the results to our chain of command.”

The slain soldiers were identified in a subsequent statement issued by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

“The families and fellow Rangers of Sgt. Joshua “Josh” Rodgers and Sgt. Cameron Thomas have my respect and sympathies. Fighting alongside their Afghan partners, Josh and Cameron proved themselves willing to go into danger and impose a brutal cost on enemies in their path. They carried out their operation against ISIS-K in Afghanistan before making the ultimate sacrifice to defend our nation and our freedoms. Our nation owes them an irredeemable debt, and we give our deepest condolences to their families.”

The Mattis statement makes no mention of the friendly fire investigation.

The raid targeted an ISIS-K leader named Emir, Abdul Hasib. The USFOR-A statement said two Army Ranger platoons and an equivalent number of Afghan Special Security Forces were dropped by helicopter into the Mohamand Valley in Nangahar Province. They killed several high-level ISIS-K leaders and more than 35 fighters. But the statement says the death of Emir has not yet been confirmed.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Nationwide Strike Clogs Brazil's Big Cities, Grinding Daily Activity To A Halt

A protester harangues a line of military police in riot gear in front of a Rio de Janeiro bus terminal during the nationwide strike Friday.

Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Halfway into a 24-hour worker strike, Brazil’s biggest cities have partially shut down — with many major thoroughfares clogged and businesses shuttered for the day. The nationwide strike mounted by unions aims to unravel a set of measures supported by President Michel Temer, legislation that would loosen labor laws and roll back pension regulations.

“It is going to be the biggest strike in the history of Brazil,” Paulo Pereira da Silva, the president of trade union group Forca Sindical, told Reuters at the outset of the work stoppage.

And while it’s unclear whether that claim has come true, NPR’s Philip Reeves reports that the strikers’ efforts did have an obvious effect in Brazil’s streets:

“Public transport’s badly disrupted, especially in Brazil’s largest city São Paulo. Many schools, banks and businesses are closed around the country. And in Rio de Janeiro, there have been skirmishes between protesters, who are blocking roads, and the riot police trying to clear them.”

Roadblocks of burning tires and other improvised barricades have shut down popular routes not simply in Sao Paulo and Rio, but in Belo Horizonte and the capital Brasilia, too. There are so few people on the streets of Sao Paulo, the BBC’s Daniel Gallas reports the empty urban areas have taken on the atmosphere of a holiday.

People march on Friday at the Esplanade of the Ministries in Brasilia during a nationwide strike called by unions opposing austerity reforms.

Andressa Anholete/AFP/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Andressa Anholete/AFP/Getty Images

But it is not a celebration that inspired the strike. Rather, unions are protesting legislation now working its way through Congress, one bill that would weaken labor laws and the other that would overhaul the pension system, bumping back the eligibility age to 65 for men and 62 for women.

Temer — who came to power after his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached on corruption charges — remains deeply unpopular in Brazil, but he still enjoys significant support from lawmakers. Both measures have had little difficulty progressing in the Legislature.

The president argues these changes are necessary to save an economy that has been flailing recently, suffering what the BBC calls the country’s worst recession in more than a century.

Two young men stand outside a Rio bank branch that has its windows covered with protective planks to prevent possible vandalism during the strike Friday.

Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

The New York Times breaks down some of the issues at hand:

“Indeed, some problems are glaring. The pension system allows many Brazilians to retire in their 50s, causing deficits to balloon and depleting resources for basic services like education and health care. And some economists contend that byzantine labor laws stymie competitiveness and prevent companies from hiring more workers.”

Yet Brazil’s unions are less than inclined to trust Temer, who is facing massive bribery allegations of his own.

“Temer hates working people,” Marco Basaglia, a bank employee in São Paulo, told the Times. “This is the worst government Brazil has ever had.”

Still, Temer remains undeterred by the unrest that unraveled many of the major cities’ services Friday, asserting that Brazil’s plight is a product of the administration that came before him.

“The inheritance of that was 13 million unemployed,” Temer’s spokesperson Marcio de Freitas said, according to Al Jazeera. “The government is carrying out reforms to change this situation, to create jobs and economic growth.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Time To Consult Congress Over Use Of Force Against ISIS, Lawmakers Say

Servicemen put on a military demonstration during the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Meeting in July 2016 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Cliff Owen/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Cliff Owen/AP

To legally justify its military actions against the Islamic State, the U.S. has relied on a piece of 2001 legislation, written years before the extremist group came into existence.

Now 46 representatives from both parties say in a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan that it’s time for Congress to “immediately begin a serious debate” on authorization for the use military force against the Islamic State.

“The U.S. has steadily escalated its role and military presence against the Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq, including additional deployments over the past two months,” the lawmakers write. “It is past time for the House to debate and vote on an [Authorization for Use of Military Force] that defines the purpose, nature and limits of U.S. military engagement against the Islamic State.”

The debate over the role of Congress in authorizing military action reemerged earlier this month, after the Trump administration authorized missile strikes against a Syrian military airfield.

“The U.S. has now carried out its first direct military action against the Syrian regime since the country’s civil war began six years ago, again without any authorization by Congress,” the letter states.

Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern and Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole lead the effort. The majority of signatories are Democrats, though six Republicans are also included.

The discussion itself is not a new one. As The Two-Way has noted, the Obama administration authorized strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq “relying on an Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, passed in 2001, after the Sept. 11 attacks, and another one passed in 2002, which began the war against Iraq.”

The 2001 AUMF authorized the U.S. to use force against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. Some critics see its applicability against ISIS as a stretch, because the group did not exist at the time of the attacks, played no role in them, and its leadership is at odds with that of al-Qaida, which actually carried them out.

The Obama administration argued “that its position [was] legitimate because the Islamic State used to be a Qaeda affiliate in Iraq during the Iraq war,” The New York Times has reported.

The Trump administration’s strikes this month prompted new calls in Congress for a clear Syria strategy, as NPR’s Susan Davis and Geoff Bennett reported, adding that “lawmakers are split over whether [the 2001 AUMF] covers attacks against the Assad government.”

Ryan did not immediately respond to today’s letter. He has previously called the recent strikes against the Syrian military “appropriate and just,” as NPR reported, but he added: “I look forward to the administration further engaging Congress in this effort.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Episode 553: The Dollar At The Center Of The World

English economist John Maynard Keynes attends the United Nations International Monetary and Financial Conference at the Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Note: This episode originally ran in 2014.

As World War II was ending, world leaders realized they had a problem. Countries no longer knew how to trade with each other. Their economies were devastated. So representatives from 44 nations gathered in the small town of Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to come up with the solution.

It came down to two different plans put forward by two very different men. One was the most famous economist in the world. A British aristocrat. The other was an American that no one remembers. But it was the American that won the day and put the U.S. dollar right in the middle of world trade.

Today on the show, how the US won. The story involves a carefully laid trap, late night dancing and copious amounts of alcohol.

Music: “Cool Down” and “Je Suis Juste Un Bad Boy.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Subscribe to our show on iTunes or PocketCast.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

NSA To Limit Some Collection Of Internet Communication

The National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md.

Patrick Semansky/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Patrick Semansky/AP

The National Security Agency is scaling back the way it spies on some communications over the Internet.

The NSA says it discovered what it called “lapses” in compliance with U.S. law.

They’re called “about” communications: The NSA not only watches messages traveling to and from a foreign target, but those that mention one.

That can mean the NSA sometimes sweeps up data from Americans without a warrant. In the past, officials said the spy agency was still mindful of citizens’ privacy.

But now NSA says it has discovered “several inadvertent compliance lapses,” which it reported to Congress and a secret court that oversees intelligence gathering.

There aren’t many more details, but the NSA now says it will, quote, “stop the practice to reduce the chance that it would acquire communications of U.S. persons or others who are not in direct contact with a foreign intelligence target.”

Here’s the full statement from the NSA:

NSA Stops Certain Foreign Intelligence Collection Activities Under Section 702

The National Security Agency is instituting several changes in the way it collects information under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Section 702, set to expire at the end of this year, allows the Intelligence Community to conduct surveillance on only specific foreign targets located outside the United States to collect foreign intelligence, including intelligence needed in the fight against international terrorism and cyber threats.

NSA will no longer collect certain internet communications that merely mention a foreign intelligence target. This information is referred to in the Intelligence Community as “about” communications in Section 702 “upstream” internet surveillance. Instead, NSA will limit such collection to internet communications that are sent directly to or from a foreign target.

Even though NSA does not have the ability at this time to stop collecting “about” information without losing some other important data, the Agency will stop the practice to reduce the chance that it would acquire communications of U.S. persons or others who are not in direct contact with a foreign intelligence target.

Finally, even though the Agency was legally allowed to retain such “about” information previously collected under Section 702, the NSA will delete the vast majority of its upstream internet data to further protect the privacy of U.S. person communications.

The changes in policy followed an in-house review of Section 702 activities in which NSA discovered several inadvertent compliance lapses.

NSA self-reported the incidents to both Congress and the FISC, as it is required to do. Following these reports, the FISC issued two extensions as NSA worked to fix the problems before the government submitted a new application for continued Section 702 certification. The FISC recently approved the changes after an extensive review.

The Agency’s efforts are part of its commitment to continuous improvement as we work to keep the nation safe. NSA has a solemn responsibility and duty to do our work exactly right while carrying out our critical mission.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

U.S. Supply Of Yellow Fever Vaccine Will Run Out By Midsummer

U.S. authorities are working on an emergency deal to import the yellow fever vaccine Stamaril, which is not currently licensed in the U.S.

BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

hide caption

toggle caption

BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

Come July, the yellow fever vaccine could be tough to find.

So, if you’re traveling this summer to a place with the disease, you probably want to schedule a trip to a clinic sooner rather than later, the Centers for Diseases for Control and Prevention tells NPR.

“Take heed of our warning: Plan ahead,” says CDC spokesperson Tom Skinner. “It may be difficult to get this vaccine. And if you can’t get it, then you should postpone your trip.”

The U.S. supply of the yellow fever vaccine will run out by about midsummer, the CDC reported Friday in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Officials are working on an emergency importation of an alternative vaccine, which is already licensed Europe, but is not currently licensed in the U.S. Even then, there will be a limited number of doses, available at only a small number of clinics, Skinner says.

“We’re going from the yellow fever vaccine being available in 4,000 clinics across the country to only 250 clinics,” he says.

Yellow fever is surging around the world. Last year, a large outbreak in Angola and Democratic Republic of the Congo triggered a massive immunization campaign, in which 30 million people received the vaccine.

That outbreak depleted the global supply of the yellow fever vaccine several times and forced the World Health Organization to give fractional doses of the shot.

Now, a growing outbreak in Brazil has health officials stretching the global supply once again. Health officials are concerned that outbreak could spread across South America and even into the U.S.

“Right now, we don’t have enough vaccine for everyone in Brazil,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. “We’re going to have to make more vaccine. And that will take time.”

There is currently only one yellow fever vaccine licensed in the U.S. The pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur manufactures it. It’s called YF-VAX.

Back in 2015, Sanofi Pasteur began updating its manufacturing facility for YF-VAX. And it stopped production of the vaccine. The company planned to have enough doses to cover U.S. demand until the new facility opens in 2018, but “manufacturing complications resulted in the loss of a large number of doses,” the company writes in the MMWR.

The supply will run out in a few months, so the FDA has given Sanofi Pasteur emergency approval to import a second vaccine, called Stamaril. It has a similar safety profile and effectiveness as YF-VAX. It’s already approved in 70 countries.

It’s rare for the FDA to grant emergency approval to import an unlicensed vaccine. The last time that occurred was in 2013 when a meningitis B outbreak hit Princeton University.

“The yellow fever vaccine is really important,” Skinner says. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure people who need it can still get it.”

If you’re taking an international trip soon, check to see if the CDC recommends a yellow fever vaccine for your destination. And, if it does, go get it now, Skinner says.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Tutu Protests And Parties Break Out In Wyoming Over Senator's Remark

University of Wyoming student Tyler Wolfgang poses in front of the university building that bears Sen. Mike Enzi’s name.

Courtesy of Tyler Wolfgang

hide caption

toggle caption

Courtesy of Tyler Wolfgang

A week after Sen. Mike Enzi told high school students that a man who wears a tutu to a bar “kind of asks for” a fight, his constituents in Wyoming are wearing tutus to school and work — and, yes, to bars — on Friday. Enzi has apologized for his “poor choice of words.”

Protest parties are also scheduled through the weekend, and on Friday, people have been using the #LiveandLetTutu hashtag to share images of themselves wearing tutus. One image posted today showed University of Wyoming student Tyler Wolfgang wearing a suit and a tutu, posing at a campus building that bears Enzi’s name.

“Our hope with the state-wide [efforts] is that even in small communities we’ll get a handful of people to share a photo of themselves in the bar wearing a tutu,” one organizer, Patrick Harrington of Laramie, tells member station Wyoming Public Media, “so we can show Senator Enzi that he really is representing a large group of people and a really diverse group of people in Wyoming.”

Those efforts include a “tutu family game night” at a church in Cheyenne. Pub crawls are planned in Laramie, Pinedale, and Sheridan; bars are offering discounts to anyone in a tutu, and at least one establishment is also contributing part of its proceeds to gay pride events.

Who wears a tutu? You do. Do what? Wear a tutu in Wyoming. #LiveandLetTutupic.twitter.com/ojOdDt8V2l

— Siobhan Muir (@SiobhanMuir) April 28, 2017

Enzi has apologized for the remarks he made at Greybull High School, in which he told an unusual anecdote in response to a question about how he sees the LGBTQ community in Wyoming. As recounted by the Greybull Standard newspaper, Enzi said:

“I know a guy who wears a tutu and goes to bars on Friday night and is always surprised that he gets in fights. Well, he kind of asks for it. That’s the way that he winds up with that kind of problem.”

At the time, Enzi said his anecdote illustrated the need for civility and mutual respect, citing Wyoming’s “live and let live mantra,” as WPM reported. But he was quickly criticized for not succeeding in making that point — and for doing so in an inappropriate setting.

Wyoming Democrats Chairman Joe M. Barbuto said Enzi’s comment “was ugly and indicative of a kind of backwards thinking that has no place in today’s society.”

On Tuesday, Enzi, 73, issued an apology, saying, “I regret a poor choice of words during part of my presentation.”

He added, “None of us is infallible and I apologize to anyone who has taken offense. No offense was intended. Quite the opposite in fact, and so I ask for your understanding as well.”

The plan for a tutu protest was met with enthusiasm in Wyoming, even prompting a tutorial on making one’s own tutu in Laramie Thursday night.

Demonstrators were also urged to keep the issues of bullying and civil rights in mind, with Eliza Hanson urging her fellow protesters, “Wear your tutu’s this weekend but please take it seriously. Some of us ‘wear tutus’ on a daily basis and I would really appreciate it if you didn’t try and make a joke out of yourself while wearing one.”

Hanson continued, “Respect the cause, respect the oppressed. Stand up for something, but be aware of yourself, and be aware of the image you will be branding us all as having. Most importantly, be safe. Much love to everyone.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)