US military missing 1000s of weapons. Delta COVID variant doubles hospitalizations. Navy shows flag in Asia, stokes China tensions.
US military weapons going AWOL, winding up on the street
A ten-year investigation by the Associated Press has revealed that an alarmingly high number of military-grade weapons go missing every year from military bases and transports. AP found that at least 1900 weapons, including everything from sidearms to mortars and grenade launchers, have gone missing from US military depots in the past decade.
Since the military has millions of weapons at its disposal, the number may seem small. But it is surely a lowball estimate. This is because it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly how many weapons are currently missing. Pentagon records show many weapons that have ended up on the street as being “in transit” or otherwise accounted for.
The investigation found that the Pentagon’s notoriously poor and easily-manipulated record keeping and shockingly lax security in armories are to blame. Even when a weapon is reported missing, they are rarely recovered. It is even rarer to identify the culprits.
The Pentagon used to be required to report a tally of missing to Congress, but this hasn’t been the case for some years. Now, the Pentagon only reports on “significant” losses like Stinger missiles, but keeps losses of high-grade automatic weapons quiet. Rifles and handguns make up the highest percentage of missing weapons by far.
The AP uncovered at least 8 instances where stolen military weapons were used in violent crimes, although this is also surely an undercount.
Delta strain doubles hospitalizations, soon to dominate US
A new study published in The Lancet has found that infection with the COVID Delta strain doubles your risk of hospitalization versus the currently dominant Alpha strain. The Delta strain emerged recently in India while the Alpha strain was first identified in Britain some months ago. The study found that the Delta strain is much more transmissible than Alpha, carries a much higher viral load, and takes longer to leave the body.
This is already bad news as economies across the world struggle to reopen, but it gets worse. Even if you are already vaccinated, most vaccines offer much lower protection from the Delta strain than the Alpha strain. The Pfizer vaccine, for example, offers about 79% protection from the Delta strain versus 92% for the Alpha variant. AstraZeneca, which offers about 90% protection from the Alpha variant, scored only about 60% protection for the Delta variant.
Nevertheless, having any vaccine, even one dose, drastically reduces your chances of requiring hospitalization
After months of strict measures, the UK was due to relax some prohibitions this week. But the threat of the Delta variant has pushed the British government to extend the measures in hopes of allowing people more time to get vaccinated. The variant’s arrival is sure to wreak havoc in the US where vaccination rates are much lower.
US naval tensions with China on the rise
A US naval aircraft carrier, the USS Reagan has entered the South China Sea on what the military says is a ‘routine mission. The Reagan is being accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh and the guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey.
The heavy-duty craft are arriving at a moment when military tensions between the US and China are reaching an all-time high. China has long claimed the whole of the South China Sea for itself. In recent years, Beijing has carried out provocative naval maneuvers in the area to bolster these claims. These incidents have been on the rise in recent weeks. Chinese military and commercial vessels have repeatedly violated the territorial waters of neighboring countries, many of them US allies.
These waters have competing claims from the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia. Not only is the area rich in fishing resources, it is also a key commercial shipping route in the region.
For the last several weeks, dozens of large Chinese fishing vessels have been at anchor off the Philippines coast. The Philippines defense minister says that Chinese military personnel are manning the boats for espionage purposes. At no point has anyone seen the vessels do anything that looks like fishing.
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