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IAVA Daily News Brief – December 16, 2014

Today’s Top Stories 

Coburn blocks bill on veterans’ suicide prevention
Veterans groups blasted Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn Monday for blocking a bill intended to reduce a suicide epidemic that claims the lives of 22 military veterans every day. “This is why people hate Washington,” said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an advocacy group. | Associated Press >>

Defense spending bill would put mental-health experts on discharge boards
Military personnel facing less-than-honorable discharge would have their cases reviewed by at least one mental-health professional under the defense-spending bill that Congress sent to President Obama late last week. | Washington Post >>

Critics Say Progress on Military Sex Assaults an Illusion
In its latest report of sexual assaults, the Pentagon says it has made progress in reducing the problem, but figures from an independent survey of troops raised questions about the improvements, particularly in the Marine Corps. | San Antonio Express-News >>

Afghanistan

A Mesa resident was one of two soldiers killed during a military operation in Afghanistan on Friday, according to the Department of Defense. | The Arizona Republic >>

Marking what he called a “turning point” for the U.S. military, President Barack Obama on Monday saluted troops returning from Afghanistan and declared the United States is moving past the time for large deployments aimed at nation building. | Associated Press >>

The Afghanistan war, the longest overseas conflict in American history, has cost the US taxpayer nearly $1tn and will require spending several hundred billion dollars more after it officially ends this month, according to Financial Times calculations and independent researchers. | CNBC >>

Iraq

More than a dozen Navy F/A-18 warplanes roar off this aircraft carrier every day to attack Islamic State targets in support of Iraqi troops battling to regain ground lost to the militants in June. | New York Times >>

A former CIA spy has written a commentary for Politico in which she slams the agency for being dysfunctional and lying to the public about the war in Iraq. | Business Insider >>

Residents of Mosul have been banned from leaving by Isis, which has cut the phone lines and locked down the Iraqi city in preparation for an expected assault by government forces, it has been reported. | Associated Press >>

Military Affairs

The Army Black Knights jumped out to a 7-0 lead against Navy in Baltimore, and are looking to end Navy’s 12-game winning streak. The CBS broadcast happened to cut to the Army band in the first quarter, and the conductor was dressed for the occasion in a ghillie suit and facepaint. A tuba player was also in full camo for the occasion. | USA Today >>

A new military occupational specialty for infantry squad leaders will refine training and education for enlisted Marines in the key leadership positions, officials announced today. | Marine Corps Times >>

The remains of 18-year-old Pfc. Anthony La Rossa of Brooklyn were only recently identified after he vanished during an attack by Chinese forces in South Korea in 1951. He was laid to rest Monday, with full military honors, beside his mother. | Associated Press >>

New Greatest Generation

Troops heading home for the holidays this December will get a special treat courtesy of country singer Craig Morgan, who helped ship 35,000 MoonPies to USO centers across the United States. A U.S. Army veteran, Morgan assisted the sugary company with a six-month social media campaign in which consumers donated the pies to those currently serving overseas. | Music Times >>

Glenda Baca has plenty of help caring for her three children during her husband’s absence, but she smiled and thanked Jeffrey Hollett Friday when the Army veteran handed her a book that could have been written about Baca’s life. | The Daily Item >>

An Army combat veteran, who is an author, Rhodes Scholar, former White House fellow and host of a PBS show about returning veterans, will present “The Other Wes Moore” at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. dinner in January. | Wilmington Pantagraph >>

Inside Washington

President Barack Obama offered a bullish assessment of his war on Islamic terrorists in Syria and Iraq on Monday, even as he acknowledged small gains by ISIS would mean the U.S. engagement there will be prolonged. | CNN >>

Senate GOP leaders announced assignments to the powerful Armed Services Committee in the next Congress, filling the panel with five freshman senators, many with military service. | The Hill >>

Ruben Gallego writes a blog for Huffington Post: Last week we saw a perfect example of how screwed up priorities have gotten in Congress. When the financial sector demanded a provision weakening regulations on risky derivative trading, Congress obliged. When veterans asked for $22 million over five years for a suicide prevention program, Senator Tom Coburn blocked the entire bill. | Huffington Post >>

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