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IAVA Daily News Brief – February 19, 2015

Today’s Top Stories
“Disturbing” Waste in Afghanistan: How The U.S. Trashed Troops’ Health and Squandered Millions
When the United States military began leaving Afghanistan, they left a nasty surprise for departing American soldiers: health risks from open-air burn pits. A damning report released late last week by SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, says the incinerators and burn pits were “indefensible” and led to thousands of troops, contractors, and Afghan civilians unnecessarily inhaling toxic fumes. | Fast Company >>

Lawmakers press Ashton Carter to address sexual assault in the military
As Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter takes over a department plagued by budget cuts and increased threats to national security, lawmakers are urging him not to forget about the battle to end sexual assault within the military. | Washington Times >>

New rules on narcotic painkillers cause grief for veterans and VA
New federal rules that make it harder to get narcotic painkillers are taking an unexpected toll on thousands of veterans who depend on these prescription drugs to treat a wide variety of ailments, such as missing limbs and post-traumatic stress. | Washington Post >>

Afghanistan

Last year was the deadliest for civilians caught up in Afghanistan’s war since the United Nations began keeping records in 2009, the world body said Wednesday — a harbinger of the new dynamic of the conflict, in which insurgents and Afghan forces increasingly engage in face-to-face battles. | New York Times >>

Eight years after first visiting Afghanistan to draw British soldiers in their camps, George Butler returned, this time to portray day to day life in the country | The Guardian >>

A Saudi Arabian man was so pivotal to al-Qaeda he was listed as Number 9 on a secret membership roster recovered on the battlefields of Afghanistan, a federal prosecutor told a Manhattan jury. | Bloomberg >>

Iraq

After hours of heavy fighting, Kurdish fighters in Iraq have repelled an assault by ISIS fighters southwest of Irbil, Kurdish officials said. | CNN >>

The local official drew a line on a map slicing through farmland and desert southwest of Baghdad whose Sunni Muslim residents have been displaced by fighting, and then pointed just south to the site of the most revered Shi’ite shrine. | Reuters >>

ISIS launches a new assault but gets pushed back. Libya makes a plea for help. U.S. President Barack Obama speaks out about extremism. And new signs of the group’s brutality emerge: claims that ISIS is harvesting organs from slain civilians, and reports that ISIS fighters have burned up to 40 people alive in Iraq. Here’s the latest on the terror group ISIS and the global efforts to stop it: | CNN >>

Military Affairs

Rear Adm. John Kirby is stepping down as Pentagon press secretary at the behest of Ashton Carter, the new secretary of defense who was sworn in Tuesday. | Stars and Stripes >>

Four US warships designed to fight in coastal areas similar to south-east Asian waters will operate out of Singapore by 2018, a senior US Navy official said Tuesday, further underscoring Washington’s military tilt to Asia. | Agency France-Presse >>

The U.S. military is launching its annual training exercise with armies from across Africa this week in Chad, as the countries of the region battle a growing threat from the Nigerian Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. | Associated Press >>

New Greatest Generation

When Nadine Noky, an Iraq War veteran, returned to civilian life, she could not find any apparel for women veterans. T-shirts were large, unfitted, and the designs all had giant eagles on the front. So Noky learned how to screen print and in 2014 launched Lady Brigade, which she believes is the first and only female veterans clothing line. | AOL Jobs >>

When Sammy Vasquez fights on Showtime this Friday night, he will be boxing for a lot more than the fans in attendance and that network’s television audience. For the second time, Showtime will share the broadcast of Vasquez’s fight with the Armed Forces Network, affording more than one million service members a chance to watch. Vasquez served two tours of duty in Iraq. | Newsday >>

Among the candidates vying for an Oscar on Sunday night is a powerful film that highlights the persistent and troubling trend of lives devastated by war – to the point of suicide. No, not American Sniper, the box-office smash based on a true story about a Navy SEAL who piled up record kills while developing emotional trauma. | USA Today >>

Inside Washington

The Department of Veterans Affairs this month unveiled plans to end veterans homelessness in Los Angeles by 2016. The move came as the agency is racing to meet its goal of eliminating the same problem across the country by the start of next year. | Washington Post >>

The Veterans Affairs Department on Tuesday backed away from a claim made by its chief executive on Sunday that 60 employees who falsified patient data have been fired since he took over the agency in late July. | Military.com >>

A much-heralded program aimed at speeding up access to medical treatment by allowing some patients to obtain care outside the Department of Veterans Affairs system has gotten off to a slow start. In the San Diego region, only about 5 percent of the qualifying veterans have used the Choice Card option since it became available in November. | U-T San Diego >>

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