TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. America loves to take sides in regional conflicts. In Yemen, we shouldn’t.

By Paul R. Pillar in the National Interest

2. Here’s why Congress should drop the ban on federal funds for needle exchanges. (It’s because they work.)

By Kevin Robert Frost at CNN

3. Cheap coal is a lie.

By Al Gore and David Blood in the Guardian

4. How small-batch distilling could save family farms.

By Andrew Amelinckx in Modern Farmer

5. Can you fix city management with data? Mike Bloomberg is betting $42 million you can.

By Jim Tankersley at the Washington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Military

Less Than Half of America’s Troops Are ‘Satisfied With Work’

Chris Anderson—Getty Images/Aurora

Morale in the armed forces is low

At least half of America’s 770,000 troops are unhappy at work and report pessimistic feelings about their career. That’s according to mandatory online questionnaires soldiers fill out each year seen by USA Today.

Job satisfaction remains low, USA Today reports, with 48% of service personnel not feeling committed or satisfied with work. And 52% of troops marked yes to statements like “I rarely count on good things happening to me.”

Physical health did not score well either, with 86% of soldiers saying they are not receiving proper rest or nutrition.

Read more at USA Today

TIME Veterans

Pearl Harbor’s ‘Unknown’ Dead to Be Exhumed and Identified Using DNA

This Dec. 5, 2012 photo at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu shows a gravestone of 7 unknowns from the USS Oklahoma
Audrey McAvoy—AP This Dec. 5, 2012 photo at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu shows a gravestone of 7 unknowns from the USS Oklahoma

"We will do so with dignity, respect and care”

The Pentagon said Tuesday that the bodies of up to 388 troops killed during the Pearl Harbor attacks, who are buried in “unknown” graves in Hawaii, will be disinterred and identified using the latest DNA technology.

Japanese torpedoes sank the U.S.S. Oklahoma, killing 429 servicemen, during the infamous offensive of December 1941. The sailors and Marines are entombed in Hawaii’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, but will be examined at the Hawaii laboratory of the Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Accounting Agency after families were notified Tuesday morning.

The Pentagon is optimistic it can identify the dead with forensic evidence from DNA samples and medical or dental records furnished by relatives. It has already identified 41 servicemen postmortem.

“The Secretary of Defense and I will work tirelessly to ensure your loved ones’ remains will be recovered, identified and returned to you as expeditiously as possible, and we will do so with dignity, respect and care,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work.

All identified remains will receive military funeral honors upon return to families.

MONEY Estate Planning

Military Families: Does the Government Owe You a Bunch of Money?

father in military holding baby
Ariel Skelley—Getty Images

Surviving spouses or children of deceased military members could be owed benefits.

After a veteran dies, he or she technically no longer has a claim to disability benefits. However, there are certain circumstances in which a widow, widower or surviving child may be entitled to accrued benefits — or money — from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If you’re not sure whether you’re eligible, it’s worth looking into.

If you’re a surviving spouse or child, here are the circumstances in which you would be eligible to file for benefits:

1. There was a disability claim pending at the time of the veteran’s death. If the VA failed in its duty to assist the veteran in developing the claim, an accrued benefits claim should be filed. For example: The VA failed to send out a letter requesting medical evidence to support the veteran’s claim.

2. A previously denied claim had new medical evidence in the VA claims file before the veteran died. For example, let’s say the VA did not “rate” the veteran’s medical report. The rating is a formal legal document that is used to assess the claim and contains the following: the benefit being claimed, the evidence in support of the claim, the decision (either a grant or denial), and the reasons and bases justifying the decision. You have one year after the date of notice of a grant or denial of the claim to file an appeal – or, a notice of disagreement. In that time, the claim is still considered pending.

3. A claim of clear and unmistakable error (CUE) was pending at the time of the veteran’s death. For example, the veteran may claim the VA made an error in the decision to deny benefits. Specifically, he or she may contend that VA overlooked an important medical report.

4. A veteran’s appeal on a denied disability claim was pending at death. In this case, you may be eligible for those benefits.

5. The claim must be filed within one year after the veteran died. A claim sent to the Social Security Administration for survivor benefits for the widow or veteran’s children is also considered a claim for VA survivor benefits.

A VA disability rating prepared prior to the veteran’s death can be used, but only for accrued purposes. In other words, the rating decision is necessary to establish the veteran’s rate of benefits for the month of death for payment to the surviving spouse.

To apply for accrued benefits, a surviving spouse should file VA Form 21-534 [(Application for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Death Pension and Accrued Benefits by a Surviving Spouse or Child (Including Death Compensation if Applicable)]. If the only benefit claimed is an accrued amount, VA Form 21-601, Application for Accrued Amounts Due a Deceased Beneficiary, may be used.

Just because a veteran dies, the claim does not necessarily die with them. A veteran’s beneficiary should file a VA Form 21-534 or VA Form 21-601 to make a determination of accrued benefits. It costs you nothing to see if you are entitled to any money.

If you feel the VA denied your claim unfairly, you should file what is called a notice of disagreement. This is the first stage of the appeals process. From here, you can go it alone, or ask a service representative (with the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans Charity, etc.) to assist you with the paperwork.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.


Bridging the Civilian-Military Divide With Stories

army man
Getty Images

Stories can bridge the civil-military divide

Twenty years ago, military reporter Thomas E. Ricks followed a platoon of young Marine recruits through their first year in the Corps. Watching them transition back home after boot camp, he was stunned to see how alienated many of them felt from their previous lives. Realizing that he was seeing their personal experience of the widening gap between military and civilian America, he was inspired to write an article for The Atlantic describing this divide. “The United States may be in danger of drifting into a situation in which the military is neither well understood nor well used,” Ricks cautioned. That was July of 1997.

Flash forward nearly 20 years, and Ricks’ observations not only proved prescient, but remain exceedingly relevant.

In January 2015, James Fallows wrote a separate piece for The Atlantic, in which he pointed out that the “distance between today’s stateside America and its always-at-war expeditionary troops” in the Iraq-Afghanistan era of war “is extraordinary.”

Fourteen years after 9/11, “I think the divide has gotten much wider,” said Ricks at a recent New America discussion about the civil-military gap. “We have a society that has war is being waged in its name, yet doesn’t seem to be aware that it’s going on.”

Several veterans who joined Ricks in discussion along with Catherine Cheney, a journalist and military spouse, echoed his sentiments.

“When I came back, I realized that most of my countrymen did not really know that women were in the military, certainly didn’t know we were at war, and had no sense of what we were doing at war,” said Kayla Williams, a former U.S. Army Sergeant in Iraq and author of Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army. “Some people asked me if I had been allowed to carry a gun, ‘because I’m just a girl.’”

Williams experienced first-hand another dimension of the civil-military disconnect while helping her husband – also a service member – navigate his recovery from a penetrating traumatic brain injury and subsequent PTSD. “It’s almost like while troops are in the military, they’re heroes,” she said. “But as soon as we get out of the military, people think we’re broken.” Williams pointed out that a majority of veterans go on to lead fulfilling lives as contributing members of society. But headlines portray veterans as “ticking time bombs” and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

Between journalism that fails to provide adequate context and a public that is often weary of war stories after 14 years of conflict, it isn’t surprising that the U.S. military and the American civilian population have trouble connecting with each other.

“The biggest problem in civil-military relations,” said Ricks, “is a failure for civilian and military leaders to listen to each other seriously,” which results in situations where the president is “not hearing the truth” from generals, who “don’t know how to tell the truth.” The media and storytellers can intervene productively by speaking truth to power and the public.

Panelist Adrian Bonenberger, a former U.S. Army Infantry Officer who is now a freelance journalist himself, feels fortunate to have witnessed what he called “the best” of this kind of storytelling. On his first deployment, journalist Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington — who produced and directed the 2010 documentary film Restrepo — followed a sister battalion. On his second deployment, reporter James Dao and photographer Damon Winter of the New York Times embedded with his battalion. Bonenberger described both teams as “very sensitive to military issues” and characterized their military reporting — especially the New York Times’ blog, A Year at War (edited by Dao) — as “superior.”

But the responsibility to bridge the civil-military divide extends in both directions. Williams acknowledged that she and fellow veterans say “you can’t imagine what it’s like” or “you can’t know if you weren’t there” as much as civilians say “I can’t understand being in the military” or “I just can’t imagine going to war.”

It is — as U.S Marine veteran Phil Klay, author of the National Book Award-winning Redeployment, writes — a “failure of imagination” that goes both ways.

As it turns out, good storytelling is crucial on both sides. As Williams observed, it’s important for vets to “invite people in” to their world and to be “willing to open up and share our experiences.” When Williams looked around for representations of military women, most of what she saw were memoirs written by white men who had served in the Army or the Marine Corps, and usually in the infantry. “It’s their ‘becoming men’ stories. It’s ‘how I went to war and became a man,’” said Williams, “And that narrative is not there for women. You don’t join the army to ‘become a woman.’” That led Williams to write her own memoir to provide a richer exploration of what she had experienced.

For Bonenberger, who has also written about his military experiences, it was less about describing “becoming a man” and more about how combat impacted him as a person, including dealing with PTSD. Bonenberger chronicled his experiences in epistolary form, basing his memoir Afghan Post on letters and emails that he sent and received while he was in the military.

Beyond traditional reporting, other forms of storytelling can also play a role as in bridging the civil-military divide. Williams reminded the audience that photojournalism continues to play an important role in current conflicts as it did in wars past, capturing moments and connecting with people.

Bonenberger added that fiction — in the tradition of Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell A True War Story” — can allow readers to access deeper truths about war. “In fiction,” he said, “it’s possible to consider things that wouldn’t be permissible in journalism.”

Lest civilians and reporters feel that they necessarily have to be in and of the military in order to write about it effectively, Ricks assured, “You don’t have to be a vet to cover the military, but there are vets who cover the military beautifully.” As for how to do the job, Ricks advises: “Get the facts, get the story, be fair and seek comment. That’s all you really need to do.” But he added, “Don’t expect anyone to thank you for it.”

Jenny Lu Mallamo is a Media Relations Associate at New America. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME portfolio

These Teenagers Are Israel’s Future Soldiers

They learn how to assemble an AK-47 assault rifle and how to react in an urban, house-to-house fighting situation

In a country where military service is mandatory (three years for men and two for women) groups of young Israeli teenagers are increasingly joining advance-training programs to prepare – physically and mentally – for duty.

“In Israel, once you join the army, you become a grown-up,” says Oded Balilty, an Associated Press photographer based in Tel Aviv. “One day, you’re a teenager, the next you’re a soldier with a gun. And so, some of them want to prepare themselves and feel more comfortable with the idea of being a soldier.”

For Israelis, conflict has become a fact of life — Israeli reservists can be called into active duty during times of crisis. “Yet, most kids will often only hear about it in the news; they don’t really live it,” says Balilty. “Of course, during wartime, they go down to shelters if necessary, but they mostly hear about it from their parents and friends around the dining table. Teenagers care about different stuff. They care about dating girls; they care about parties; they care about their iPhones and their iPads.”

For most of them, war only becomes a reality when they start their military service, and end up on the front lines.

Balilty spent six days following 400 students taking part in military combat fitness-training programs organized by Excellent Training, an independent company founded by Nir Cohen, a former Israeli paratrooper. Students meet three times a week, over a year, and are put through grueling exercises designed to strengthen them ahead of their military service. “For example, those who train to join the Navy are sent in the water when it’s cold weather,” says Balilty. “They go in and out, and at the same time the instructors are asking them questions about the history of Israel to see if they’re focused and if they are mentally stable. It’s very intense. [The instructors] want to simulate the tension and stress that soldiers are under in the military.”

The students also learn how to assemble an AK-47 assault rifle, and how to react in an urban, house-to-house fighting situation.

Excellent Training is just one of the many companies, founded by former members of the Israeli military, that have been offering these training programs in the last decade. “There are many others in each large city [in Israel],” says Balilty, who has followed several of these groups in recent months.

In the end, says Balilty, “these teenagers are definitely more ready than most of the teenagers that go straight into the army. I’ve seen 16 and 17-year-old kids that were really mature. Other kids tend to be more scared about joining the army. They can break mentally. So I think this [sort of training] is really helping them.”

Oded Balilty is an Associated Press photographer based in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Mikko Takkunen, who edited this photo essay, is an Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME Pakistan

Pakistan Says Saudi-Led Coalition in Yemen Wants Troops

Pakistani students rally to support the Saudi Arabian government in Islamabad, Pakistan, April 2, 2015.
B.K. Bangash—AP Pakistani students rally to support the Saudi Arabian government in Islamabad on April 2, 2015

Saudi Arabia has asked Pakistan to contribute troops in its efforts against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen

(ISLAMABAD) — A Saudi-led coalition targeting Shiite rebels in Yemen has asked Pakistan to contribute soldiers, Pakistan’s defense minister said Monday, raising the possibility of a ground offensive in the country.

Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif made the comments as Pakistan’s parliament debates whether to contribute militarily to the campaign against the rebels, known as Houthis. Pakistan previously offered its verbal support for the mission, but hasn’t offered any military support.

Days of Saudi-led airstrikes have yet to halt the Houthi advance across Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, fuelling speculation that there could be a ground operation launched in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and other coalition members have not ruled it out.

Saudi Arabia also asked for aircraft and naval ships to aid in the campaign, Asif said. He said Saudi officials made the request during his visit to Jeddah last week.

“I want to reiterate that this is Pakistan’s pledge to protect Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity,” Asif said. “If there’s a need be, God willing, Pakistan will honor its commitment.”

The Saudi-led campaign entered its 12th day Monday, targeting the rebels who took over the capital, Sanaa, in September and eventually forced President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee. The rebels and allied forces are now making a push for Yemen’s second-largest city, Aden, declared a temporary capital by Hadi before he fled abroad.

Muslim-majority Pakistan has close ties to Saudi Arabia, which is home to Islam’s two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina. Pakistan also has a sizeable Shiite minority, complicating the debate over engagement in a conflict that is increasingly pitting Sunnis against Shiites.

The debate in parliament will aim to decide whether their country can afford to join the conflict in Yemen when it is already at war with Islamic and sectarian militants allied with groups like al-Qaida and Islamic State. Pakistan already has nearly 300 troops in Saudi Arabia taking part in joint exercises and most Pakistanis back the idea of protecting Islam’s holiest sites from attack.

The Houthis have been backed by security forces loyal to Yemen’s ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh — whose loyalists control elite forces and large combat units in the country’s military.

Yemen-based Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, considered among the most active and dangerous branch of global militant organization, has benefited from the crisis. The chaos also has disrupted a U.S.-led drone strike program targeting suspected militants there.

TIME Military

Chelsea Manning Starts Tweeting from Prison

Military Judge Sentences Bradley Manning
T.J. Kirkpatrick—Getty Images Protesters demonstrate in support of Bradley Manning on August 21, 2013 in front of the White House in Washington, DC.

“It will be hard, but I don’t want this Twitter feed to be a one-way street/conversation,” she tweeted.

Chelsea Manning, who is serving a 35-year sentence in a Kansas military prison for leaking classified government documents to WikiLeaks, appears to be on Twitter.

A Twitter handle with her name sent a series of tweets beginning mid-day Friday that called for an online conversation. By Friday evening, the account had more than 18,000 followers.

Manning, formerly Bradley Manning, was sentenced to jail in 2013 for passing hundreds of thousands of classified government documents to Wikileaks. Since being jailed, the soldier has transitioned to female. In February, she was approved for hormone therapy.

She is not allowed Internet access, according to the Guardian, and in her tweets she notes the difficulties of tweeting from prison. She says she is dictating them by phone and that the Twitter handle is run by Fitzgibbon Media, a communications firm.

Manning also says that she plans to tweet daily or weekly, and activists supporting her told the Guardian that her Tweets will be “her own candid thoughts and comments.”

TIME Military

How the U.S. Would Destroy Iran’s Nuclear Program

DoD The Massive Ordnance Penetrator hits a test target.

'Massive Ordnance Penetrator' would be tapped for mission

The U.S. military has been getting ready to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities to smithereens even longer than Secretary of State John Kerry has been trying to negotiate them away. And while Thursday’s “framework” between Tehran and the U.S. and five other nations could lead to a peaceful accord this summer, the Pentagon is ready if it doesn’t.

Iran has been conducting much of its suspected nuclear-weapons work for years in underground labs and research facilities thought to be able to survive attacks by earlier generations of U.S. military bunker-busters.

So the Defense Department has spent just as much time procuring a bigger punch.

“In October 2014, the Air Force successfully completed one weapon drop from the B-2 aircraft on a representative target,” the Pentagon’s top weapons-tester reported in January. “The test, conducted at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, demonstrated weapon behavior after planned enhancements were incorporated.”

In late 2009, the Air Force quietly circulated a solicitation seeking a “Quick Reaction Capability” to “defeat a specific set of Hard and/or Deeply Buried Targets.” The weapon, the service said, would “maximize effects against Hard and/or Deeply Buried Targets (HDBTs), while minimizing time over target.” The Air Force said it needed the weapon to meet “Urgent Operational Needs requirements”—generally a plea from a battlefield commander who doesn’t think he has the weapons he needs to accomplish a mission assigned to him.

“The system will hold at risk those highest priority assets essential to the enemy’s war-fighting ability, which are heavily defended and protected,” the Air Force elaborated in February 2011 budget documents, “providing a critical global strike capability not currently met by inventory conventional weapons.”

The $15 million GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator weighs in at about 30,000 pounds, six times the heft of the existing GBU-28 bunker busters and nearly five tons heavier than the 22,600-pound GBU-43, once known as the “mother of all bombs.” The Pentagon has spent more than $300 million for 20 of GBU-57s.

Guided to its destination by GPS-guided lattice-type fins, the GBU-57’s alloy steel hull—some 80% of its weight—is designed to remain intact as it drills through rock or reinforced concrete before setting off its 5,300-pound warhead. Air Force officials have said it represents a “bridge” capability between existing bunker busters and nuclear weapons themselves.

After several upgrades, the Air Force has let it been known that there’s an operational stockpile of the world’s most powerful non-nuclear bombs at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. They’re not far from the B-2 bombers now ready to carry them 7,000 miles to Iran.

BoeingA mockup of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
TIME Military

American Sniper Chris Kyle’s Father Speaks Out on Son’s Murder and Legacy

Over the past two years, Wayne Kyle has endured the death of his son, the ensuing murder trial, and the national spotlight that accompanied the release of the blockbuster film American Sniper.

Now, with the trial behind him – and the media frenzy slowly subsiding – Chris Kyle’s father told NBC‘s Lester Holt on Thursday that he and his wife are simply “surviving.”

After serving four tours in Iraq as a Navy Seal – and earning the title of the military’s most deadly sniper – Chris was killed in 2013 at a Texas shooting range by Eddie Ray Routh, a troubled veteran whom Chris was attempting to help rehabilitate.

“It’s been the toughest two-plus years of our life,” his father told Holt with a heavy sigh.

On Feb. 24, Routh was found guilty of the murder of Chris and Chris’s friend Chad Littlefield and sentenced to life in prison.

Wayne described the trial as “gut-wrenching,” adding, “It’s just one of those deals where you just want to jump over the railing and kill [Routh] with your bare hands.”

Eerily, Wayne says he had warned his son about the dangers of life as a civilian.

“I said, ‘Son, I worry more about you as a civilian than when you were with the teams.’ ”

When Chris asked why, his father remembers answering him, “Because you were fully trained and highly skilled in what you did [in the military], but … there’s no training to be a civilian.’ ”

Between the trial and the added attention of a hit Hollywood movie, Wayne said he and his wife “never had any peace to try to grieve ourselves.”

But with his son’s killer finally behind bars, he told Holt, “It was like, ‘Okay, that chapter is closed.’ And it was a sense of relief.”

Wayne also expressed a sense of resentment towards the media for dubbing the trial “The American Sniper Trial,” which he felt took away from the fact that another veteran, Littlefield, also lost his life at the hands of Routh that day.

“That was so, so wrong,” he said. “The loss of Chris was no more of a tragedy than the loss of Chad Littlefield.”

The grieving father also touched on the bill introduced by Roger Williams, a Texas Congressman, who hoped to have Chris posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

“If you knew Chris you would know that he would never ever want that,” Wayne said, adding, “He never saw himself as a hero.”

This article originally appeared on PEOPLE.com

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