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IAVA Daily News Brief – July 10, 2015

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The Air Force is training military dogs to sniff out explosives and drugs and to bite on command for deployment purposes. Staff Sgt. Chad Bunda works with his 2-year-old German Shepard, Bastas, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. | Military Times >>

 

Today’s Top Stories

Researchers say we need to know more about how burn pits might be affecting veterans
Especially in the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers burned their waste in big, open-air pits. They burned everything from tires, batteries, and plastic to human and medical waste. Curtis Gibson is an Air Force veteran. He served in Afghanistan in late 2011. “I’d see things floating in the air — burned papers — you see them floating through the air so you know you’re taking something in,” Gibson says. | Interlochen Public Radio >>

Chronic illness focus of studies based on veteran health data
Genetic and health data will play a large role in new studies by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to better understand some of the most pressing chronic illnesses veterans face. | Fierce Health IT >>

Vet Center offers retreat, free help without red tape
Quietly, without much fanfare, or fees, or bureaucratic red tape, the Las Cruces center has become a lifeline for many veterans and their loved ones. Services are offered through their outreach efforts at festivals and community gatherings and at epicenters of crises, such as shootings or assaults involving veterans, and at their nondescript downtown building. | Miami Herald >>

Afghanistan

Two senior Pakistani militants who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State were among at least 24 people killed in an American drone strike in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, Pakistani and Afghan security officials said Thursday. | New York Times >>

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Representative in Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom have welcomed direct talks held between Afghan Government and Taliban representatives in Islamabad, Pakistan – urging both parties to move towards reconciliation and peace. | UN News Centre >>

House lawmakers criticized the State Department on Thursday for lengthy delays and ballooning budgets at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan that they say leaves American diplomats at risk and wastes taxpayers’ money. | The Hill >>

Iraq

Their common enemy is Islamic State, but Iraq’s Kurds are preoccupied by a struggle within their autonomous region, where political parties are jousting over the presidency and their supporters are invoking an old civil war. | Reuters >>

For a candidate launching a longshot bid for the Republican nomination, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sure spends a lot of time telling people not to vote for him. Graham says some 20,000 U.S. troops are needed in Iraq and Syria, alongside a regional army from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, to defeat the Islamic State. Take it or leave it. | Defense One >>

Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) reportedly killed four children this week when they destroyed an ancient Christian church in the Iraqi city of Mosul. | The Telegraph >>

Military Affairs

The Army said Thursday that six domestic bases will lose 1,200 or more soldiers as part of a cost-saving plan to reduce the active-duty force by 40,000 troops over the coming two years. If Congress and the White House cannot avert another round of budget cuts this year, even deeper troop reductions would result, Army officials said. | Associated Press >>

Navy helicopters crews, medics and rescue swimmers were all part of a harrowing rescue of a mother and her 18-month old little girl who clung to debris while drifting in the ocean after being lost at sea off the coast of Papua New Guinea. | Military.com >>

The Air Force award of a contract for the long-range strike bomber, originally expected last spring, could take up to three more months, Air Force officials said. | Air Force Times >>

#VetsRising

An Iraq veteran who had just finished a Boston Marathon ruck march with the National Guard when the bombs went off at the finish line in 2013 was awarded the Soldier’s Medal yesterday for his actions that day. | Boston Herald >>

Just a week ago, K9s for Warriors operated out of a four-bedroom house in Ponte Vedra Beach. Sunday, it opened the doors of a new 17,000-square-foot facility six miles away, complete with five fenced-in dog parks, 27 climate-controlled kennels and a bone-shaped pool with a fire hydrant fountain. | The Florida Times-Union >>

Beginning in October, Leon County Judge Augustus Aikens will preside over Veteran’s Court. The retired Army colonel hopes to spend more of his time coordinating services than handing down sentences. The idea is to treat the mental health and addiction problems that keep veterans tied to the streets. | WFSU >>

Inside Washington

Lawmakers on Wednesday sharply criticized long-announced U.S. Army plans to cut nearly 60,000 soldiers and civilian personnel due to tight budgets, warning it was risky and short-sighted at a time of Middle East conflict and rising tensions with Russia. | Reuters >>

Two House Democrats are proposing legislation that would ban the Confederate flag from cemeteries operated by the Veterans Affairs Department. The bill was introduced by Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) just hours after House GOP leadership pulled an Interior Department spending bill off the floor because of a fight over allowing graves in federal cemeteries to be decorated with the Confederate flag. | The Hill >>

Like most Coloradans, the Congressional delegation was shocked and appalled in March when the Department of Veterans Affairs first informed us the VA replacement medical center in Aurora would cost a staggering $1.73 billion. The delegation had worked together to support an $800 million facility and helped authorize funds accordingly. These cost overruns and the VA’s mismanagement of taxpayer dollars are unacceptable. | The Colorado Statesman >>

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