Monday, November 19, 2018

One In Five Army Generals Could Not Deploy In 2016 For Medical Reasons

Wikipedia

Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY: One in five Army generals could not deploy for medical reasons in 2016, data show

WASHINGTON – One in five Army generals could not deploy in 2016 for medical reasons, according to data obtained by USA TODAY, a troubling trend in the military's readiness to fight that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has vowed to fix.

Overdue medical and dental exams were the primary reasons for what the Army refers to as medical readiness in 2016. The medical readiness rate for generals has improved to nearly 85 percent, according to Brig. Gen. Omar Jones, the Army's top spokesman. Almost all generals, 97.4 percent, can now deploy after taking care of minor issues such as having updated blood tests and dental exams.

"The Army's top priority is readiness and soldiers are expected to be world-wide deployable to ensure our Army is ready to fight today and in the future," Jones said. "The data from 2016 does not reflect recent improvements in medical readiness for the Army as a whole and for the general officer corps specifically."

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The rates have improved since 2016. But if you cannot deploy .... you better have a very good reason.

Many Expecting A Political Battle Over Next Year's U.S. Defense Budget

The Hill: Trump and Congress on collision course with military spending

The House, Senate and President Trump are heading toward a collision over next year’s defense budget.

A recent report ordered by Congress found that the U.S. military is facing a "grave" erosion in superiority.

Senate Republicans see the report as evidence of the need for a $733 billion defense budget in the next fiscal year.

But Democrats who will control the House starting in January want to cut defense spending. And Trump has already ordered his administration to trim the defense budget to $700 billion for next year.

All that combines for what is likely to be a fiery and lengthy debate in the coming budget season.

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WNU Editor:In the past I would say that nothing would come out of it. Concessions will be made, and the defense budget will be bigger than the year before. But President Trump appears to want cuts, and many incoming Democrat Progressives are not interesting in compromising. Bottom line .... it is going to be an interesting 6 months.

President Trump Regrets Not Visiting Arlington National Cemetery On Veterans Day



Military Times: Trump expresses regret for not visiting Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day

WASHINGTON — In an interview being aired Sunday, President Donald Trump expresses regret for not visiting Arlington National Cemetery over Veterans’ Day weekend but said that he was prevented from doing so because he was “extremely busy on calls for the country.”

The comments — part of wide-ranging discussion with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace — come after extensive criticism of Trump’s handling of ceremonial duties during the holiday weekend.

Last week, Trump traveled to France to take part in events marking the 100th anniversary of World War I, but courted controversy when he skipped a ceremony at Aisne Marne American Cemetery on Saturday because of inclement weather.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is going to be a serious problem if President Trump continues to skip these events. I understand if he is tired or preoccupied with other issues, but this is where his staff must step in and make sure that he takes the time. The Presidency is about a lot of things, and optics is one of them.

U.S. Admiral: China Has Built ‘Great Wall Of SAMs’ In Pacific

China’s new airstrip built over Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea (CSIS image)

Breaking Defense: China Has Built ‘Great Wall of SAMs’ In Pacific: US Adm. Davidson

From militarized atolls in the South China Sea to a growing Chinese navy looking increasingly aggressive, the head of the Indo-Pacom command lays out his needs and concerns.

HALIFAX: By turning reefs and atolls in the disputed South China Sea into fortified artificial islands, complete with anti-aircraft Surface-to-Air Missiles, China has transformed “what was a great wall of sand just three years ago [into] a great wall of SAMs,” the US commander in the Pacific said here today.

The militarization of the vital waterway for commercial shipping has been a major concern of Washington and its Asian neighbors for the past several years. But China’s increasingly aggressive challenges of American naval vessels operating in what the US and its allies consider international waters — including a near collision of two ships in September — raises the specter of a deadly accident that might escalate into war. And if a war breaks out, the island bases become a strategic southward extension of China’s land-based defense against US ships and planes, known in the trade as Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD).

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WNU Editor: This Chinese missile build-up has been ongoing for a long time .... China's missiles in the South China Sea put the United States and Australia in a difficult position (Anne Barker, ABC News Online).

Maldives To Pull Out Of China Free Trade Deal. New President Claims State Coffers Have Been Looted

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih is the Maldives' seventh president [Mohamed Sharuhaan/ Al Jazeera]

Reuters: Exclusive: Maldives set to pull out of China free trade deal, says senior lawmaker

MALE (Reuters) - The Maldives’ new government will pull out of a free trade agreement (FTA) with China because it was a mistake for the tiny nation to strike such a pact with the world’s second biggest economy, the head of the largest party in the ruling alliance said.

It is the latest sign of a backlash against China in the Maldives, best-known for its luxury resorts on palm-fringed coral islands.

“The trade imbalance between China and the Maldives is so huge that nobody would think of an FTA between such parties,” said Mohamed Nasheed, the chief of the Maldivian Democratic Party, which leads the ruling federal alliance. “China is not buying anything from us. It is a one-way treaty.”

On Saturday, as he took office, the new President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih declared the state coffers have been “looted” and warned that the country was in financial difficulty after racking up debt with Chinese lenders.

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WNU Editor: Maldives is becoming the poster-child on why countries should avoid free trade deals with China, and accepting Chinese loans.

Update: Tonga has also been caught-up in the Chinese debt trap .... Tonga gets five years' grace on Chinese loan as Pacific nation joins Belt and Road initiative (ABC News Online).

U.S. - Taliban Peace Talks (Updated)

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad reportedly wants to reach a settlement in six months.

Reuters: Taliban say no pact struck with U.S. over deadline to end Afghan war

KABUL (Reuters) - A three-day meeting between the Taliban and the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan to pave the way for peace talks ended with no agreement, the militant group said a day after the diplomat declared a deadline of April 2019 to end a 17-year-long war.

Afghanistan’s security situation has worsened since NATO formally ended combat operations in 2014, as Taliban insurgents battle to reimpose strict Islamic law following their overthrow in 2001 at the hands of U.S.-led troops.

Leaders of the hardline Islamist group met U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad at their political headquarters in Qatar last week for the second time in the past month, said spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.

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WNU Editor: I concur with Bill Roggio on where these talks are going to lead .... Peace with the Taliban will not be peaceful (Bill Roggio, Long War Journal).

More News On Current U.S. - Taliban Peace Talks

Taliban says 'no agreement' reached with US on Afghan war ending -- The Hill
Taliban Hold 'Marathon' Talks with US Envoy in Qatar -- Military.com/AP
US special envoy hoping for peace deal with Taliban by April: report -- The Hill
Khalilzad ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About Peace Talks -- TOLO News

United Nations Report: Afghan Opium Cultivation Is Down 20 Percent Due To Drought



VOA: UN: Afghan Opium Cultivation Down 20 Percent

ISLAMABAD — A new United Nations survey finds that opium cultivation in Afghanistan has decreased by 20 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, citing a severe drought and falling prices of dry opium at the national level.

The total opium-poppy cultivation area decreased to 263,000 hectares, from 328,000 hectares estimated in 2017, but it was
still the second highest measurement for Afghanistan since the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) began monitoring in 1994.

The potential opium production decreased by 29 percent to 6,400 tons from an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017.

Read more ....

Update #1: Afghan opium producers hit hard by drought in 2018 (AFP)
Update #2: UN Survey Reveals Sharp Drop in Poppy Cultivation (TOLO News)

WNU Editor: Opium cultivation may be down, but it is still the second highest total since records were kept. The UN report is here .... Afghanistan Opium Survey 2018 (UNODC)

This Is How Fast Israel Responds To A Hamas Motar Attack


WNU Editor: The odd thing about the above video is that it was filmed by a stationary camera only 50 - 100 feet away, and it quickly found its way onto social media. Just a gut feeling, but it looks too perfect to me.

World News Briefs -- November 19, 2018



ABC News Online: APEC 2018: US-China clash at regional meeting leads to historic summit failure

Deep divisions between the United States and China have derailed the APEC meeting in Port Moresby, with regional leaders failing to agree on a final communique for the first time in the summit's history.

The two regional powers clashed repeatedly over the language on trade in the final document, with Beijing angrily rejecting paragraphs that called for an overhaul of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and warned against unfair trade tactics.

Read more ....

MIDDLE EAST

Syria civil war: US-led air strikes kill at least 40 people in Islamic State-held area, state media reports.

US-led coalition denies reports airstrikes killed dozens of civilians in Syria.

Yemen Houthis seek truce with Saudi coalition. Houthis ready for ceasefire if Saudi-UAE alliance wants 'peace'.

Iran confident nuclear deal can be salvaged as Britain stresses commitment.

Official: UAE complying with Iran sanctions 'as it is published by the United States'.

CIA says the Saudi Crown Prince ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist: Reports. State Department says reports about ‘final conclusion’ on Khashoggi ‘are inaccurate’.

Trump says he declined to listen to recording of 'vicious' Khashoggi killing.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham: 'Impossible to believe' Saudi Crown Prince was unaware of Khashoggi killing.

Israel's Netanyahu survives early poll threat. Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition safe as education minister relieves pressure.

ASIA

U.S.-China tensions heightened as Pence ends Asia trip.

United States ‘won’t give in to China’ on Taiwan or South China Sea.

Ibrahim Mohamed Solih sworn in as new Maldives president.

Ousted Sri Lankan Prime Minister's party asks Facebook to protect its supporters.

Exclusive: Rohingya repatriation, relocation plans set to be pushed back to 2019 - government official.

North Korea defector: next generation have no loyalty to Kim Jong-un – report.

Afghan opium producers hit hard by drought in 2018.

AFRICA

UN mission in Mali tries to bring aid despite al-Qaeda attacks.

Russia to increase military presence in Central African Republic.

Zimbabwe 'state agents' tried to cover up post-election violence, say doctors.

Tonga gets five years' grace on Chinese loan as Pacific nation joins Belt and Road initiative.

Barricaded refugees 'ready to die' than return to Libya detention.

S.Africa graft probe at risk of subversion: minister.

Ethiopia ranked worst country for lack of toilets.

EUROPE

No better Brexit deal available, EU ministers tell Britain.

Theresa May defends Brexit deal ahead of crucial week of talks.

Emmanuel Macron calls for unified Europe in Bundestag address.

French protesters rail against Macron’s fuel taxes with road blocks. Macron's popularity dips as French fuel tax revolt simmers.

Prague rallies against embattled Czech PM.

Germany plans to fast-track deportations of failed asylum-seekers.

Interpol meets to select new president after China's arrest.

Malta police identify suspected journalist murder masterminds: report.

Lawyer for WikiLeaks' Assange says he would fight charges.

AMERICAS

Victims mourned as toll hits 77 in California wildfire.

US Customs stops traffic into country at key border point of entry.

Tijuana residents greet migrant caravans with violence.

New Salvadoran migrant caravan forms; hundreds wait at U.S.-Mexico border.

White House threatens to suspend CNN reporter's pass again when order expires.

Haiti: Six killed in anti-corruption protests.

Murder rate soars in Venezuela, forcing population to take extreme precautions to stay alive amid food and medicine shortages.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Taliban hold talks with US envoy in Qatar.

Taliban says 'no agreement' reached with US on Afghan war ending.

Dozens of Indonesian mosques attended by government workers are preaching jihad and calling for attacks on non-Muslims, the country's intelligence agency reveals.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Goldman Sachs believes the US economy will slow to a crawl next year.

Facebook is on track to post its longest losing streak ever, and some say there’s more pain ahead.

To end the trade war, ‘China must deliver on its promises to reform and open up’.

Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn arrested over financial misconduct.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- November 19, 2018



Daily Mail: Pictured: Crushed wreckage of Argentine submarine lying on the seabed a year after it sank due to a leak and imploded under water pressure in the Atlantic ocean with 44 crew on board

* Pictures show fragmented pieces of the submarine including the crushed hull
* The remains of the ARA San Juan submarine were found in the Atlantic on Friday
* Argentine navy lost contact with the submarine on November 15 last year
* Families of the 44 crew members who perished in the accident were informed

The crushed and imploded wreckage of an Argentine submarine that disappeared has been pictured lying on the seabed almost exactly a year after it went missing.

The ARA San Juan submarine was located in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday at a depth of 2,600 feet, crushing the last hopes for relatives of the 44 crew.

Pictures taken by an underwater robot show a propeller, the sub's bow with torpedo-launching tubes and an upper section of the vessel lying on the ocean floor.

Read more ....

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- November 19, 2018

Haunting photos show Argentine submarine wreck in its Atlantic grave 800 metres deep -- SCMP/AP

US Army Says New War-Ready M17 Pistol Will Change Modern Combat -- Warrior Maven

Shrinking US Navy submarine fleet threatens national security, defense report says -- Navy Times

All F-22s Have Now Left Tyndall, Air Force Secretary Says -- Defense Tech

Did an F-22 and F-35 Really Get Into a Dogfight? -- National Interest

"First Look, First Shot, First Kill": How the F-22 Raptor Could Fly Until 2060 -- National Interest

US military chief says tech giants should work with Pentagon -- FOX News/AP

Pentagon Frustrated By Silicon Valley Rejection: Joint Chiefs Chairman -- Breaking Defense

DARPA, Army Select These Three Companies For Hypersonic Missile Propulsion -- Zero Hedge

US Services to deliver proposed budgets Monday. What will they cut? -- Defense News

Defense team: Navy brass made it impossible for former Fitzgerald skipper to get fair trial -- Navy Times

Fathers of 3 Green Berets Killed in Jordan File Lawsuit Alleging Cover-Up -- Military.com

NATO official warns EU force would be ‘unwise’ -- Defense News

UK to double F-35 fleet with 17-jet order, Defence Secretary announces -- Gov.uk

NATO To ‘Integrate’ Offensive Cyber By Members -- Breaking Defense

Russian vets seek to bring the Kremlin's mercenaries in from the cold -- CNN

North Korea's new 'tactical' weapon test highlights military modernization -- Reuters

Kim’s tactical weapon test detonates global media bomb -- Asia Times

China’s J-20 Stealth Fighter to Pursue Targets at Greater Distances – Reports -- Sputnik

Key Chinese nuclear weapons developer dies aged 100 -- Merco Press

The Chinese vessel we encountered during a fuelling drill: Yomiuri Shimbun writer -- Straits Times

‘No foreign troops on Cambodian soil’: Prime Minister Hun Sen insists no China naval base being built -- SCMP

U.S.-Made Drones Add Muscle to Australia’s Military Buildup -- The Wall Street Journal

SIPRI report: More transparency in sub-Saharan military spending -- DW

How the Soyuz rocket compares with the rest -- Zulfikar Abbany, DW

How the Generals Are Routing the Policy Wonks at the Pentagon -- Lara Seligman, Foreign Policy

DARPA Pushes ‘Mosaic Warfare’ Concept -- National Defense

How the military’s tribalism erodes readiness — count the ways -- Jeffrey Phillips, The Hill

Aircraft Carrier Watch: 5 New Carriers Being Built Right Now You Need to Check Out -- National Interest

Are Aircraft Carriers Still Relevant? -- Ben Ho Wan Beng, The Diplomat

On This Day In History (November 19)



History.com: Lincoln delivers Gettysburg Address

On November 19, 1863, at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln delivers one of the most memorable speeches in American history. In just 272 words, Lincoln brilliantly and movingly reminded a war-weary public why the Union had to fight, and win, the Civil War.

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought some four months earlier, was the single bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Over the course of three days, more than 45,000 men were killed, injured, captured or went missing. The battle also proved to be the turning point of the war: General Robert E. Lee’s defeat and retreat from Gettysburg marked the last Confederate invasion of Northern territory and the beginning of the Southern army’s ultimate decline.

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WNU Editor: You can download and read U.S. President Lincoln's Gettysburg address here .... Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln.

Is The U.S. Military In Serious Trouble?

U.S. soldiers attend the inauguration ceremony of bilateral military training between U.S. and Polish troops in Zagan, Poland, January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Thomas Spoehr, National Interest: Why the U.S. Military Is In Serious Trouble

"The report notes that the United States now faces five rising challenges—China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and transnational terrorism—yet has fewer military forces than at any time since the end of World War II."

The report of the National Defense Strategy Commission, released Wednesday, reaches conclusions with profound implications for U.S. national security. The report itself is a rarity for Washington, presenting bipartisan consensus that reflects hard-hitting views rather than watered-down, lowest-common-denominator mush.

In sixty-four pages of plain language, the commission paints an extraordinarily troubling picture of the state of U.S. national defenses, calling our present situation a “grave crisis” demanding “extraordinary urgency.” It’s a call we should heed.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The argument is that the U.S. military does not have the funds and resources to meet current mission priorities and objectives. My issue .... and one that I have been voicing since the start of this blog almost 11 years ago .... is that the U.S. needs to have a debate on what are America's priorities and objectives, and then outline the funds and resources that it will need to meet them. Currently .... I see the U.S. being involved in too many regions and conflicts that are not vital to U.S. national security and long term interests, but an involvement that is costing the U.S. an enormous amount of money and resources and with no end in sight. This .... to put it bluntly .... cannot continue. Fortunately .... some are now starting this debate .... 2 Reports On The U.S. Military, 2 Different Messages (NPR).

U.S.-China Tensions Heightened With The End Of U.S. Vice President Pence's Trip To Asia



NBC: U.S.-China tensions heightened as Pence ends Asia trip

Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Peter O'Neill, said that "the entire world is worried" about tensions between China and the U.S.

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea — Vice President Mike Pence ended a week-long trip to the Indo-Pacific region on Sunday amid heightened tension between the U.S. and China and just two weeks before President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to hold formal talks amid the superpowers’ trade war.

On Sunday, the 21 member nations at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit left Papua New Guinea without agreeing on a final communique. A U.S. official involved in negotiations said China was the only nation to hold out on voting in favor of the proposed text.

“It’s a little concerning that it appears that China didn’t really have any intention in the end of reaching consensus,” the U.S. official said, rejecting reports that the breakdown in the meeting was centered on a rift between the U.S. and China.

“It was between 20 countries and China — not the United States and China,” the official added.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Western media was focused on U.S. - Chinese tensions during the APEC summit, but it is more than that. Many APEC nations are not pleased with China .... from Chinese territorial/boundary demands, to having much of the Chinese market closed to foreign imports while demanding free trade to .... that most APEC members now have their own issues with China that is raising Asian tensions.

This RAF Base Once House The U.K.'s Nuclear Arsenal


Daily Mail: Former nuclear weapon's storage base dubbed one of Britain's most secret places is revealed amongst the autumn leaves in stunning aerial photographs

* RAF Barnham is hidden away in west Suffolk and once held half the country's nuclear arsenal during Cold War
* The former site was built for maintenance of the Blue Danube, Britain's first free falling nuclear atomic bomb
* Some 200 personnel, ranging from scientists to military guards, were based at the isolated storage spot
* In present day, the disused watchtowers stand derelict and decaying overlooking a forest of autumn trees

Hidden between autumnal trees in an isolated location lies derelict buildings in what was one of Britain's most secret - and deadly - places.

Stunning aerial photos reveal a former nuclear weapons storage site once home to dozens of atomic bombs kept during the Cold War.

RAF Barnham is hidden away in a quiet corner of west Suffolk, where half of the country's nuclear arsenal was kept in the 1950s.

Nestled among foliage and at the end of a branch of footpaths are the entrances to the former storage facilities, known as hutches, for the fissile core of the nuclear weapons.

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WNU Editor: From the above photo the nuclear storage site that once housed half of the U.K.'s nuclear arsenal looks very small.

This Former RAF Pilot Dropped Two Nuclear Bombs In His Career

Alan Pringle: ‘My feeling was, it was a weapon of war.’ Photograph: Fabio De Paola for the Guardian

The Guardian: Experience: I dropped two nuclear bombs

The sky lit up; 10,000ft above our eye level was a writhing molten mass. I was in awe.

I became aware of Operation Grapple in July 1956. There wasn’t a big Top Secret stamp on it. Everyone in the country had an idea that Britain was trying to become a nuclear power. I was a 22-year-old co-pilot in the RAF, just happy to be chosen for the mission.

My main role was to monitor the flight instruments to make sure the captain was flying correctly. We practised dummy drops for months, flying Valiant bombers from Wittering airbase on the Cambridgeshire/Northamptonshire border to a range over Orford Ness.

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WNU Editor:  Yup .... there was a time when they tested these devices by dropping them from the air.

U.S. Air Force Has A Plan If The F-35 Doesn't Work Out


Michael Peck, National Interest: The Air Force Has a Plan if the F-35 Doesn't Work Out As Planned

That could be part of the impetus behind the Pentagon's long-range plan for U.S. airpower, according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Is the Pentagon planning to refurbish F-15Es, F-16s and F-18s just in case the F-35 doesn't work out as planned?

That could be part of the impetus behind the Pentagon's long-range plan for U.S. airpower, according to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Every year the Department of Defense puts out a thirty-year plan outlining its vision for the future course of American airpower. Usually it's a vague document.

But not this time. "The most recent 30-year aviation plan released in April 2018 is full of details on specific programs, including cancellations, life extensions, and new starts," writes Congressional Research Service analyst Jeremiah Gertler. "Some are explicit; others, between the lines."

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WNU Editor: To me it makes sense to refurbish and modernize F-15Es, F-16s, F-18s, and other support aircraft. Not all conflicts will need to involve the F-35, and more importantly, these planes support aircraft are cheaper to maintain and operate.

U.S. Navy Hospital Ship Deployed To Assist Venezuelan Refugees

The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) is anchored near Port-au-Prince supporting Continuing Promise 2009, a humanitarian and civic assistance mission to Latin America and the Caribbean. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Landon Stephenson/Released)

The Guardian: US navy hospital ship stokes tensions by giving Venezuelan refugees free care

USNS Comfort, moored off Colombia, will help patients as pressure builds on relationship between Washington and Caracas

A US navy hospital ship moored off Colombia has started giving free medical care to Venezuelan refugees, in a move likely to rile officials in Caracas who deny the existence of a humanitarian crisis in their own country – and have long been suspicious of the close relationship between Colombia and the US.

As well as treating Colombians, US medical teams aboard the USNS Comfort will attend to Venezuelan refugees, particularly at the ship’s next stop in Riohacha, a city near the border between the two countries.

Some 3 million Venezuelans have fled political turmoil and economic hardship at home, including 1 million who have taken shelter in Colombia, which has struggled to deal with the exodus.

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WNU Editor: Three million Venezuelans have fled their country. And while the Venezuelan government is claiming that there is no crisis, I am sure there are many among those who have fled who need medical attention, and the deployment of the USNS Comfort is welcomed relief.

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