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Missouri Senator plans to introduce new Bill in support of World War II Veterans

Around 60,000 Army and Navy troops were part of Mustard Gas experiment . This experiment sought to prepare US Military to face the mustard gas in the battlefield

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Senator Claire McCaskill speaking at the conference. Image source: Wikimedia commons
  • To help veterans who participated in mustard gas experiments, Senate of missouri plans to introduce new bill 
  • An investigation revealed only 40 living veterans are currently getting benefits
  • According to McCaskill’s investigation, 90% of applicants claims have been denied by the US Department of Veteran Affairs

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri is pushing to introduce a new bill which aims help World War II veterans exposed lethal mustard gas.

The US military conducted a classified experiment in which veterans were used and sworn to secrecy about their participation in the experiment.

It is said that around 60,000 Army and Navy troops were part of this experiment. The Mustard Gas experiment sought to prepare US Military to face the gas in the battlefield. Those veterans were sworn to secrecy until 1991.

Many Serious Illnesses like leukemia, skin cancer and chronic breathing problems can be caused by the exposure of mustard gas.

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A person exposed to Mustard gas. Image Source: Wikipedia

This bill will be named after Arla Harrel, a man who is said to be the last surviving Missourian participated in the mustard gas experiment. At the age 89 Harrell lives in a nursing home and his claims for compensation have been repeatedly denied by The U.S department of Veteran Affairs (VA).

McCaskill’s office launched its own investigation and  has found out that only 40 living veterans are currently getting benefits and the rest still have not received any compensation. According to the investigation a couple hundred veterans who took part in the experiment are still alive.

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Arla Harrel Act calls for establishment of a new policy for processing claims of the test subjects of this experiment and to reconsider all previously denied claims.

VA officials told NPR that McCaskill’s report is being reviewed by the agency and that it “greatly appreciates the service and sacrifices of every World War II Veteran, and any veteran who may have been injured in mustard gas testing.”

On Tuesday, McCaskill said that 90 percent of the claims by applicants have been denied by Veteran Affairs. Some even have struggled to get compensation for health issued caused due to the exposure. She said her bill will help the veterans but it is unclear that how many will get benefitted.

-by Bhaskar Raghavendran

Bhaskar is a graduate in Journalism and mass communication and a reporter at NewsGram. Twitter handle: bhaskar_ragha

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Displaced Villagers Return to Old Mosul Only to Find Destruction, Danger and Dead Bodies; Returnees Claim ‘Even Soldiers Stay Indoors After Dark’

The wreckage from a few of the destroyed homes has been cleared away as a handful villagers visit their homes in Old Mosul, which has been completely destroyed following a battle against the ISIS

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Old Mosul
Abd Elaam is one of the only people living in the Old Mosul in Iraq, where the destruction has been compared to World War II Dresden, Aug. 27, 2017.
  • Old Mosul has been completely shattered in the battle to recapture the city from Islamic State militants
  • About 900,000 people have been displaced by the battle for Mosul, and many neighborhoods have been completely destroyed by war
  • Areas around the village are slowly being re-populated, but many places are entirely without services like trash collection, electricity, and running water

Mosul, September 5, 2017 : “All you can hear at night is the sound of broken doors flapping in the wind,” says Abd Elaam, a 50-year-old furniture maker. “Even soldiers stay indoors after dark.”

Elaam is currently one of the very few civilians living in Old Mosul, an ancient neighborhood shattered by the battle to recapture the city from Islamic State militants. Like many families that survived IS rule, he says, his resources are completely exhausted by the war and he has nowhere else to go.

Other families trickle in by day, looking to repair their broken homes or recover the bodies of their dead loved ones. But even during daylight hours, the neighborhood is dangerous, riddled with bombs and an unknown number of militants hiding out in the vast network of tunnels under the tightly-packed buildings and piles of rubble. The level of destruction has been compared to World War II Dresden.

 

Old Mosul
About 900,000 people have been displaced by the battle for Mosul, and many neighborhoods like Mosul’s Old City have been completely destroyed by the war, July 9, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

“A IS militant came out of one those houses two weeks ago,” Elaam says, gesturing towards another dusty, broken street. “He blew himself up near two families. They were all injured and the bomber was cut in half.”

The militant’s body, like other fallen IS fighters in Old Mosul, was shoved under the rubble to reduce the smell of rot in the 45 degree-plus weather. When Iraq declared victory over IS in early July, the bodies of dead militants lay scattered in buildings and on the streets of nearly every block. Authorities searched through giant piles of concrete, once homes, for the remains of civilian families. But, they said, the only government department responsible for the IS bodies was garbage collection.

 

Old Mosul
Bodies of IS fighters lie in the rubble of Old Mosul on nearly every block, while the bodies of families killed in airstrikes have to be dug out from under the demolished buildings in Mosul, Iraq, July 9, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

Old Mosul is far from re-establishing city services like trash pickup. There is no running water, electricity or businesses open. Yet other families are following Elaam’s lead, and plan to return to their homes as soon as possible.

“In a few days I will move back and bring my family,” says Ghanem Younis, 72, resting on a beige plastic chair in a sliver of shade. “If they provide electricity and water, everyone would come back.”

Younger men and children squat around Ghanem, recalling the isolation of the final months of the battle that began late last year. “We couldn’t go more than 50 meters from our front doors,” says Sufian, a 27-year-old unemployed construction worker. “We spent our time sitting right here with Uncle Ghanem.”

 

Old Mosul
Residents of Old Mosul say homes left standing after months of heavy fighting are often ransacked as soldiers search for bombs and IS fighters hiding in tunnels under the city. (VOA)

But it is not sentiment driving some families home despite the dangers, adds Elaam, as more neighbors join the conversation.

“People cannot stay with friends and relatives forever,” he says. Camps for those displaced are also crowded. “No one has anywhere else to go,” he adds.

Airstrike Damage

A few blocks away, outside the checkpoints that cut off the Old City, the Zanjelli neighborhood is slowly being repopulated.

Old Mosul
Areas around Old Mosul are slowly being re-populated, but many places are entirely without electricity, running water and other city services, like trash collection. (VOA)

 

Construction workers build a market to replace one destroyed in airstrikes, while the owners of what was once a shoe store paint the shelves, hoping to re-open in the coming weeks. The wreckage from a few of the destroyed homes has been cleared away, and the bodies of many of the dead are now buried in graveyards.

In less than five minutes of conversation, at least three people tell us about family members, including toddlers, killed in airstrikes in the last months of battle.

“There was an IS sniper firing from next to my house and the airstrike hit us,” says Youseff Hussain, 35. “Fifteen members of my family were killed.”

 

Old Mosul
Iraqi search parties looking for survivors and the remains of dead civilians in Old Mosul. (VOA)

Rebuilding the neighborhood, adds Hussain, is made doubly frustrating by the fact that it was Iraq’s allies, including the United States, who destroyed many of their homes as they battled IS from the air.

Many locals say the sacrifice of property and lives may have been necessary to prevent the city, then under siege, from total starvation. But after bearing the brunt of the war with IS, largely considered a global threat, residents say they thought the international community or the government would help them rebuild.

The only aid families here get right now, Zanjelli residents say, is Iraqi military rations, as soldiers share their food.

“There is nothing they can do to pay us back for what we have lost,” says Hussain. “But shouldn’t we at least get refunded for our property?” (VOA)

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A Massive Live Bomb Diffused In Germany’s Biggest Evacuation Since World War II

The massive bomb is believed to have been dropped by Britain's Royal Air Force during the 1939-45 war.

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World war II bomb
A German couple during an evacuation of more than 60 000 people in Frankfurt, Germany on Sept. 3, 2017. VOA
  • Large number of live bombs and munitions continue to be found in Germany even 70 years after the end of World War II
  • Bomb experts successfully defused a 1.4 ton British bomb in Germany
  • Largest evacuation carried out in Germany since the end of World War II

Frankfurt, September 4, 2017 : German bomb experts successfully defused a massive World War II bomb in the financial capital of Frankfurt on Sunday after nearly 65,000 people were evacuated to safety.

The 1.4 ton British bomb was found at a construction site last week.

Police on Sunday cordoned off a 1.5 kilometer radius around the bomb, leading to the largest evacuation in Germany since the end of World War II.

Helicopters with heat seeking devices scoured the area before the bomb experts began their work.

Among the evacuees were more than 100 patients from two hospitals, including people in intensive-care.

Experts had warned that if the bomb exploded, it would be powerful enough to flatten a whole street.

More than 2,000 tons of live bombs and munitions are discovered each year in Germany, more than 70 years after the end of the war. British and American warplanes pummeled the country with 1.5 million tons of bombs that killed 600,000 people.

German officials estimate that 15 percent of the bombs failed to explode. (VOA)

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US Space Company ‘NanoRacks’ Teams Up with Chinese Client to Make History

For a price, NanoRacks can help almost anyone, anywhere send an experiment or small satellite to the International Space Station in orbit around the Earth

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NanoRacks
Astronaut Jack Fischer on the International Space Station with the experiment from the Beijing Institute of Technology. VOA
  • NanoRack is a Space Company in Houston, United States
  • The company helps in sending other experiments to the International Space Center (ISC)
  • NanoRacks teamed up with a client from China who were the first from the country to send an experiment to ISC

Houston, August 25, 2017: Imagine a post office for space. That is the job of U.S. space company NanoRacks. Just down the street from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, NanoRacks is one of many companies benefiting from the U.S. space program’s support for a broader range of commercial interests.

“There has been a shift in federal funding into more of this commercial space transportation program,” said David Alexander, director of the Rice Space Institute and professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University in Houston.

“What that has allowed these companies to do is essentially have an anchor client, an anchor customer and then build up their manifest and build up their client base and think of lots of new ways of accessing space for many different purposes,” Alexander added.

The space business

For a price, NanoRacks can help almost anyone, anywhere send an experiment or small satellite to the International Space Station in orbit around the Earth. The company made history this summer with a client from China.

“We’re all about democratizing access to space. It’s really important to me that we involve as many nations as possible,” NanoRacks Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Manber said.

The company has helped deliver space experiments and satellites of customers from 30 countries, including academic institutions in Eastern Europe, Peru and Vietnam.

The Beijing Institute of Technology, one of NanoRacks’ latest customers, became the first from China to have an experiment brought onboard the International Space station.

“They’re doing an experiment on DNA and how it mutates in microgravity,” Michael Lewis, chief technology officer of NanoRacks, said.

The research operation in China did not respond to VOA’s request for an interview, but NanoRacks’ Manber said findings from the Chinese experiment could have groundbreaking implications.

“They’ve shown abnormal results when DNA is subjected to space. That could mean, we can’t travel to Mars,” Manber said.

Getting Chinese experiment to ISS

Getting the Chinese experiment to the International Space Station was complicated because U.S. federal law prohibits NASA from working directly with China because of fears the Chinese could steal U.S. technology.

“First we brought it to the Obama administration. They were very concerned there was no ties to the People’s Liberation Army,” Manber said.

After two years, NanoRacks received approval from U.S. lawmakers.

A statement from NASA said, “NASA complied with all legal requirements to notify the Congress of this activity, and all of the ISS (International Space Station) partners approved the inclusion of the experiment from the Beijing Institute of Technology.”

However, there was one stipulation.

“We had to make sure that there was no technology transfer. No IT connection to the space station,” Lewis said. “We had a creative solution. We said, ‘OK, we’ll make sure that we plug in the experiment, and it’s not even connected data wise,’” he added.

Lewis said the self-contained autonomous Chinese experiment flew to the International Space Station on the SpaceX CRS-11 Dragon spacecraft. The experiment received only power from the space station and spent about three weeks there before returning to Earth.

“On the science side, a lot of us scientists would welcome the partnerships. There are other issues we don’t think about. Much of the Chinese space program is done through the military and the technology development they have gone through in the last few years, again, have been very successful,” Alexander said.

Aside from national security concerns, scientists and businesses are pushing for more international collaboration in space.

“You can’t do deep space exploration alone. The American government cannot do it without the American private sector, and America cannot do it without international colleagues. It’s too expensive. It’s too long term,” Alexander said. (VOA)