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IAVA Daily News Brief – December 11, 2014

Today’s Top Stories

Service members to get annual suicide screenings
Service members will soon be screened annually to assess their risk of suicide because of a new provision included in the annual defense policy bill. Sen. Joe Donnelly, Indiana Democrat, pushed for the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act to be part of this year’s bill, which has already passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate this week. | Washington Times >>

House to probe VA contracting scandals
The chairman of a House investigative subcommittee overseeing the Veterans Affairs Department says lawmakers are planning a series of hearings in the new Congress next year to investigate ongoing VA contracting scandals. | Washington Times >>

Casualties of war and bureaucracy
Paul Rieckhoff writes a blog for The Hill: The vast majority of my brothers and sisters who have returned from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have successfully reintegrated back into civilian life. Right now, millions of them are learning in college classrooms, pursuing their careers, raising their children and generally living their lives. But there’s a tragic public health crisis happening behind the scenes that few outside the veteran community know about: 22 veterans are dying by suicide every day. | The Hill >>

Afghanistan

The United States closed the Bagram detention facility on Dec. 10 and no longer has custody of any detainees in Afghanistan, the U.S. Defense Department said, closing a controversial chapter of Washington’s long “war on terror”. | Reuters >>

Floating over the tightly clustered homes and streets buzzing with rickshaws is the most visible symbol of the fading Western legacy in this onetime fortress of Taliban rule: a giant white balloon, bristling with photo lenses and listening equipment. | New York Times >>

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani vowed on Wednesday to investigate CIA abuse at a detention center in his country, saying torture described in a U.S. Senate report “violates all accepted norms of human rights in the world”. | Newsweek >>

Iraq

A series of attacks in and near Baghdad on Wednesday, including one involving a suicide bomber driving a tanker truck, killed at least 15 people, Iraqi officials said. | Associated Press >>

The United States launched 20 airstrikes against Islamic State militants in recent days, military officials said in a statement on Wednesday. | Reuters >>

Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday complained that the White House’s response to the Islamic State has been lackluster and peppered an Obama administration official with questions about why moderate forces were not being trained more quickly to stem the extremist militants’ march across Iraq and Syria. | Associated Press >>

Military Affairs

As the U.S. presence in Afghanistan shrinks to some 10,000 troops after more than a decade of major counterinsurgency operations, the U.S. Army needs to get back to training for major conventional warfare, the Army’s outgoing top enlisted leader said on Tuesday. | Stars and Stripes >>

For decades, the Pentagon has been saying that laser weapons are just around the corner. Thursday, the U.S. military finally turned that corner. The Navy announced that it had deployed and fired a laser weapon this fall aboard a warship in the Persian Gulf. During a series of test shots, the laser hit and destroyed targets mounted atop a small boat, blasted a six-foot drone from the sky, and destroyed other moving targets. | Time >>

Now that the U.S. military has opened more jobs to women and allowed gay men and lesbians to serve openly, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says the ban on transgender troops is likely to be reassessed and should be lifted. | USA Today >>

New Greatest Generation

From the hero of Army’s 2001 victory to the standouts behind Navy’s long win streak, from elite academic performers to NFL hopefuls, here’s a look at life after the last big game for some academy football players-turned-officers: | Military Times >>

Can you spot Josh Carlile’s students? The Manteno Middle School science teacher’s class might be hiding in the shrubs outside in camouflage to demonstrate how animals hide themselves from predators. | The Daily Journal >>

“I actually really liked sailing today,” the drenched U.S. Marine Corps veteran said later. “It’s pretty fun. You can find your limits.” Evans is one of scores of disabled veterans and others with handicaps who have sailed with Team Paradise over the past nine years. Launched in 2005 by 2000 Olympic gold medalist Magnus Liljedahl of Miami, the non-profit, mostly-volunteer organization provides training, coaching and accessible sailboats free of charge out of Shake-A-Leg Miami and, since June, the U.S. Sailing Center. | Miami Herald >>

Inside Washington

Talk about a power couple. Indiana state Sen. Jim Banks has found the perfect match to fill in for him in the state legislature while he serves in Afghanistan as part of his Navy Reserves unit – his wife. | Fox News >>

The contractor building a new Veterans Affairs hospital in Aurora said it will walk away from the troubled project after a federal board of appeals decision Tuesday that the VA breached its contract. | Denver Post >>

For three years, the Miami VA Healthcare System has recruited volunteers for a national project to build a genetic database to help research how genes affect health and develop new treatments for both veterans and non-veterans. | Miami Herald >>

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