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IAVA Daily News Brief – January 21, 2015

Today’s Top Stories

State of the Union offers few new military, vet proposals
President Obama praised the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan and vowed to continue “to hunt down terrorists” but offered no new military or veterans proposals in his annual State of the Union speech Tuesday. | Military Times >>

Guests bring focus on issues to Obama speech
At Tuesday’s State of the Union address, two San Diego County congressmen brought guests to draw attention to issues. Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, invited the parents of a military veteran who committed suicide following service in Iraq. | U-T San Diego >>

Supreme Court allows lawsuits over burn pits, electrocutions
The Supreme Court is allowing lawsuits involving open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and a soldier’s electrocution in a base shower to move forward against two of the largest American military contractors, according to wire reports. | Stars and Stripes >>

Afghanistan

Young girls in Afghanistan are empowering themselves through an unexpected sport: skateboarding. Non-profit organization Skateistan is cruising through the country’s streets, getting fascinated children to sign up for their skateboarding lessons followed up with educational time in classrooms — and it’s all for free. | ABC News >>

Federal auditors tasked with keeping tabs on the U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan rarely have good news to report. | The Fiscal Times >>

Western leaders have declared an end to their war in Afghanistan, but for hundreds of thousands of Afghan security forces and their remaining foreign advisers, the fighting is far from over. | Stars and Stripes >>

Iraq

Islamic State extremists have carried out scores of execution-style killings in Iraq this month, the United Nations said on Tuesday, reporting “cruel and inhuman” punishment of men, women and children in areas under their control. | New York Times >>

The U.S. has said it won’t be sending soldiers to fight ISIS but some Americans have found their own way there. | TIME >>

American troops in Iraq appear to be more cautious than Canadians. A Canadian general revealed Monday that his special operations troops in Iraq are now routinely going out with Iraqi soldiers “to the forward-most Iraqi fighting positions” and providing “eyes on” to help coalition airstrikes by “marking the target with a laser.” | Military Times >>

Military Affairs

Comedian and actress Joy Behar joins Morning Joe to discuss the upcoming State of the Union address, “American Sniper” and why Mike Huckabee isn’t presidential material. | MSNBC’s Morning Joe >>

Of all the Best Picture Oscar candidates, “American Sniper” is the biggest box office hit, making $90 million during its first weekend in wide release. But some critics say the movie packs a message that should not be rewarded at the Oscars. John Blackstone reports. | CBS News >>

Two years ago, no ROTC cadets listed nuclear and missile operations among their top three career choices. Last year, however, 65 cadets did. And 174 cadets listed the 13N career field among their top six. | Air Force Times >>

Soldiers who are feeling the heat of the drawdown should check out the latest version of the Reclassification In/Out Calls, a career planning tool that can be used to plot job changes. | Army Times >>

New Greatest Generation

An Air Force veteran who served in Kuwait found a note on her car Friday criticizing her for parking in a veterans-only parking spot in Wilmington. | WNCN >>

Hays is an Afghan war veteran, having been over there with the Army for about a year. Since he’s been back, his dog, Tags has played an important role in his life. “Be here honestly. I mean it’s just a best friend you have no matter where you go,” said Hayes. | KWWL Fox 28 >>

After Jared Monti was killed in Afghanistan in 2006, his father Paul Monti started driving his son’s old truck. When a songwriter in Nashville heard Paul talking about that on Here & Now, she co-wrote a song that eventually won Song of the Year at the Country Music Awards. | Here and Now >>

Standing at a podium before New Orleans’s bigwigs was an unusual place for a homeless veteran — or as he corrected the presenter at the press conference, “a former homeless vet.” Now living in permanent housing, he thanked the audience “for possibly saving my life, cus I don’t know if I could have survived another night on the street. … On behalf of all homeless veterans, I want to thank you. | Nation Swell >>

Inside Washington

Troops and veterans will be largely missing from the President and First Lady Michelle Obama’s guest list for the annual State of the Union address Tuesday night, at least in the House chamber. | Military Times >>

A Marine veteran freed from Mexico after more than seven months in jail will attend Tuesday night’s State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol. | Marine Corps Times >>

When the media, investigators and Congress exposed the Department of Veterans Affairs’ broken and dishonest health-care system last year, VA officials were forced to postpone publication of a $400,000-plus history book that glowingly portrays the agency’s achievements. | The Arizona Republic >>

Bit by bit, examples of the disreputable treatment of Department of Veterans Affairs whistleblowers continue to drop. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the independent agency that protects whistleblowers, says it has secured “over 25 corrective actions for whistleblowers who have disclosed wrongdoing at the VA” since April. | Washington Post >>

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