Metro-East News

Roger That: Traveling Vietnam Wall on display in St. Louis

News-Democrat

A traveling Vietnam Wall will be in St. Louis through Sunday. It will be open for visitors 24 hours a day from late Thursday afternoon until 3 p.m. Sunday. Address: Eternal Flame Park, 1401 Chestnut, St. Louis. The park is directly west of the Soldiers Memorial. The streets that border Eternal Flame Park are Pine Street (north), 14th Street (east), Chestnut Street (south), and 15th Street (west).

For more information, contact the Soldiers' Memorial at (314) 622-4550

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The scope of the Pentagon’s woes with misdirected shipments of anthrax samples continues to expand. The Defense Department revealed Wednesday that it might have accidentally shipped live anthrax samples to 51 labs in 17 states and the District of Columbia, as well as three foreign countries, Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work announced Wednesday, according to a story on the Cable News Network website.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Work said he expects the numbers of labs suspected of receiving live anthrax to go up as the Pentagon continues its investigation into the shipments, some of them made via FedEx. The good news is that the samples were not believed to contain live samples of the disease.

There have been “no suspected or confirmed cases of anthrax infections” as a result of the shipments, Work said, explaining that the samples that were sent out had very low concentrations of the deadly disease, which could not infect the "average healthy individual."

"We know of no risk to the general public from these samples," Work emphasized.

The four Defense Department laboratories that stockpile anthrax samples for research will test all previously "inactivated" samples to ensure that the anthrax is in fact dead. The department is testing over 400 batches, with live anthrax found so far in four of those batches.

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The Air Force wants to figure out why it is having a hard time retaining personnel in the remotely piloted aircraft community, according to a story in Military Times.

This summer it will begin a bottom-up, grassroots review similar to Air Force Global Strike Command's force improvement program, which began last year following issues of cheating and low morale throughout the ranks of nuclear missile officers and others in that community.

The Air Force RPA community has been a large focus of Air Force leadership's attention recently, with issues of undermanning and overworked operators continuing as operations have not waned following the drawdown in Afghanistan. The Air Force cannot currently train enough airmen to replace the operators who are leaving the community, leading to a stress among those who stay. The biggest focus is the lack of operators, but the RPA community is also feeling stresses in jobs such as maintenance, according to the Military Times story.

The drone pilot shortage has led the Air Force announce it plans to reduce the stress on drone pilots by reducing the number of missions they fly and adding more contractor support. Drone crews will now fly 60 missions per day instead of 65, a service spokesman said.

In addition, Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, is set to receive a recommendation in November on whether enlisted airmen may fly drones, according to theAir Force Times.

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Contradictory messages about the success of the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State are emerging from both Iraq and Washington, D.C.

Antony Blinken, the US deputy secretary of state, on Wednesday announced that more than 10,000 Islamic State fighters have been killed since coalition forces started their campaign against the militant group in Iraq and Syria nine months ago, according to a story in the Guardian newspaper of Great Britain.

Speaking after leaders from more than 20 countries met in Paris for discussions on how to combat Isis, Blinken said there had been a great deal of progress but the Islamists remained resilient and capable of taking the initiative. If Blinken’s body count is accurate, then it will mean that nearly one-third of the Islamic State’s entire military force in Syria and Iraq last year has been killed.

Even so, the Islamic State continues to control large sections of Syria and Iraq, while Iraqi security forces — despite years of training by the American military — have yet to demonstrate much success in driving out the jihadist fighters.

What’s more, since last month, when Islamic State fighters routed a numerically superior group of Iraqi military forces en route to capturing the strategically important city of Ramadi, Obama Administration officials have been speaking pessimistically about the prospects of defeating the Islamic State on the battlefield.

The Fiscal Times, based in Washington, D.C., reports that senior Obama Administration officials “have now issued two warnings over the past week that the war against ISIS is going badly and that President Obama’s initial vow to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ the murderous jihadist forces in Iraq and Syria may just be a pipe dream.’”

The first warning occurred when Defense Secretary Ashton Carter publicly berated Iraqi troops for lacking the “will to fight” the Islamic State and for retreating from a showdown in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province where scores of U.S. troops gave their lives during the Iraq war, the Fiscal Times reported.

The second warning occurred when CIA Director John Brennan stated on CBS’s Face the Nation that “I believe firmly that we’re not going to resolve this problem on the battlefield...We have to keep the pressure on them, but at the same time there has to be a viable political process that’s able to bring together the actors inside Iraq and Syria and for them to be able to decide how they are going to have a .peaceful future. So it’s a combination of military and political pressure that needs to be brought to bear.”

On Tuesday, the coalition of western and Arab states involved in air strikes on the Islamic State backed Iraq’s plan to retake territory, after being accused by the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, of not doing enough to help Baghdad push back the insurgents.

Coalition forces attacking the Islamic State have relied increasingly on drones to target and destroy key Islamic State targets, including its senior leadership. But drones alone can’t defeat IS, according to a commentary by Chris Biggers on the War Is Boring blog.

Contact reporter Mike Fitzgerald at mfitzgerald@bnd.com or 618-239-2533.

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