11 critical questions about the coronavirus that remain unanswered, 6 months after the first cases were reported - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

11 critical questions about the coronavirus that remain unanswered, 6 months after the first cases were reported

In the realm of medicine, what you don’t know can indeed kill you.

Six months have passed since China reported the first coronavirus cases to the World Health Organization. But even now, what experts are still trying to understand sometimes seems to outweigh what they can say for certain.


That is little surprise to any infectious-disease researcher: Highly contagious diseases can move through communities much more quickly than the methodical pace of science can produce vital answers.

What we do know is that the coronavirus seems to have emerged in China as early as mid-November and has now reached 188 countries, infected more than 10.4 million people, and killed around 510,000. Population-level studies using new testing could boost case numbers about 10-fold in the US and perhaps elsewhere as well.

As hospitals around the world care for COVID-19 patients with blood clots, strokes, and long-lasting respiratory failure, scientists are racing to study the coronavirus, spread life-saving information, and combat dangerous misunderstandings.

Here are 11 of the biggest questions surrounding the coronavirus and COVID-19, and why answering each one is critically important.

How did the new coronavirus get into people?

The first coronavirus infections was thought to have emerged in a wet market in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. But newer research suggests the market may simply have been a major spreading site.

Researchers are fairly certain that the virus — a spiky ball roughly the size of a smoke particle — developed in bats. Lab tests show that it shares roughly 80% of its 30,000-letter genome with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a virus that also came from bats and triggered an epidemic in 2002 and 2003. It also shares about 96% of its genome with other coronaviruses in bats.

Mounting evidence continues to undercut the conspiracy theory that the virus came from a Chinese laboratory.

Still, researchers still aren’t sure how the coronavirus made the jump from bats to humans. In the case of SARS, the weasel-like civet became an intermediate animal host. Researchers have suggested that civets, pigs, snakes, or possibly pangolins — scaly nocturnal mammals often poached for the keratin in their scales — were an intermediary host for the new coronavirus. But it could also be that the virus jumped straight from bats to humans.

A May study suggested that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus’ clinical name) may be a hybrid of bat and pangolin viruses.

Why it matters: Understanding how novel zoonotic diseases evolve and spread could lead to improved tracing of and treatments for new emerging diseases.

How many people have actually gotten COVID-19?

Global tallies of cases, deaths, recoveries, and active infections reflect only the confirmed numbers — researchers suspect the actual number of cases is far, far larger.

For every person who tests positive for the novel coronavirus, there may be about 10 undetected cases. This is because testing capacity lags behind the pace of the disease, and many governments, including in the US, failed to implement widespread testing early on.

New estimates from MIT suggest the world had already seen 249 million coronavirus cases and 1.75 million deaths by June 18. That would make the global case total 12 times higher than official reports, and the global death toll 1.5 times higher.

Other similar research estimated that the US alone may have seen 8.7 million coronavirus cases from March 8 to 28. US researchers also suggested in May that the nation’s official death count may “substantially understate” the actual number of coronavirus fatalities.

Meanwhile, Italian studies suggest that Italy’s coronavirus deaths could be twice as high as the official tally.

Why it matters: An accurate assessment is critical in helping researchers better understand the coronavirus’ spread, COVID-19’s mortality rate, the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers, and other factors. It would also give scientists a more accurate picture of the effects of social distancing, lockdowns, contact tracing, and quarantining.

What makes the coronavirus so good at spreading?

Viruses are small, streamlined particles that have evolved to make many, many copies of themselves by hijacking living cells of a host.

The measurement of a virus’ ability to spread from one person to another is called R0, or R-naught. The higher the value, the greater the contagiousness — though it varies by region and setting. The novel coronavirus’ average R0 is roughly 2.2, meaning one infected person, on average, spreads it to 2.2 people. But it had a whopping R0 of 5.7 in some densely populated regions early in the pandemic.

The seasonal flu, by contrast, has an R0 of about 1.3.

A person’s ability to transmit the virus depends partly on their viral load: the amount of virus particles they release into the environment. Coronavirus patients tend to have high viral loads in the throat, nasal cavity, and upper respiratory tract, which makes the virus highly contagious. Research indicates that there’s little difference in the viral loads between coronavirus patients who show symptoms and those who don’t.

Coughing — a signature symptom of COVID-19 — helps spread viruses in tiny droplets, especially in confined spaces. But the virus can also spread through singing, normal breathing, or even loud conversation.

Just one minute of loud speech can produce over 1,000 coronavirus-containing droplets that linger in the air for eight minutes or longer, according to research from the National Institutes of Health. Studies have shown that just a few hundred copies of a respiratory virus are enough to infect another person.

There’s also evidence the virus may be spread by feces, but that seems to pose less of a transmission threat.

Why it matters: Knowing how a virus gets around can help everyone better prevent its spread. Getting a handle on its behavior may also spur governments to act sooner to contain future outbreaks of this or other similar diseases.

What drives mortality in people infected by the coronavirus?

Studies have outlined a step-by-step path for how the coronavirus kills patients.

First, the virus’ spiky proteins latch onto cell receptors in the lungs called ACE2. Our immune system then senses a threat and responds by activating white blood cells. Among patients who develop severe outcomes, immune systems can overreact by producing a “cytokine storm” — a release of chemical signals that instruct the body to attack its own cells.

The reaction may cause milder coronavirus symptoms like fever, fatigue, muscle aches, or swollen toes. But it can also lead to severe symptoms including blood clots, excessive leaking in the blood vessels, fluid in the lungs, depleted oxygen in the blood, and low blood pressure.

Doctors have linked blood clots to the increased prevalence of strokes among coronavirus patients. An aggressive immune response can also damage the heart, kidneys, intestines, and liver. But most coronavirus deaths are due to respiratory failure, meaning the lungs aren’t supplying enough oxygen to the blood.

The pattern of critical cases is alarming to clinicians, and something they’re still trying to grasp: It’s not just people with apparent risk factors like smoking and chronic illnesses who get severely ill — it’s also some young and seemingly healthy people.

Why it matters: Understanding how the coronavirus does so much harm could lead to more effective treatments in hospitals and make for promising drug targets.

What percent of people infected by the coronavirus die?

Death rates for COVID-19 are not one-size-fits-all. Many factors are at work.

Age is a big one. Older people are more likely to die as a result of lung failure, strokes, heart attacks, and other problems triggered by coronavirus infections, while younger individuals are much less likely to do so. However, people of all ages, including children, have experienced severe symptoms and sometimes death.

Government action matters greatly, too. In places that did not respond forcefully and early to the outbreak, emergency rooms and intensive-care units have been crushed with patients who require care. That can outstrip resources and force doctors to make life-or-death triage decisions.

Recent estimates suggest that the global fatality rate for the coronavirus is about 1%, but may range from 0.4% to 3.6%.

Experts still aren’t sure why some coronavirus patients develop severe symptoms that could lead to death, while other people have mild, if any, symptoms.

One hypothesis is that the answer lies in an individual’s genetic code. People whose genes tell their bodies to make more ACE2 receptors — which the coronavirus uses to invade our cells — could get hit harder.

Why it matters: Variations in death rates help researchers expose flaws in government responses, supply chains, patient care, and more, ideally leading to fixes. Being able to identify the people at higher risk of severe symptoms and treati them accordingly could also lower death rates. However, the early data is clear enough: The coronavirus has the capacity to kill millions of people in a relatively short time.

Why do young people face the least risk of dying?

On a per-capita basis, young people are the most resilient to the coronavirus. But they do get infected and suffer from it. Even blood clots and strokes have emerged among some younger patients.

Between January 22 and May 30, people in their 20s and 30s made up 30% of confirmed cases in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those age categories represented 10% of hospitalizations and 9% of ICU admissions, but less than 2% of confirmed deaths.

Typically, young kids and older people are in the same risk category for diseases like the flu. But it’s not so with COVID-19: About 70% of US deaths have been people 70 and older. Children, meanwhile, represent less than 2% of confirmed coronavirus infections in China, Spain, Korea, Italy, and the US.

It’s not clear yet whether kids are less likely to contract the virus in the first place, or whether many of their cases are simply being missed because they are often mild or asymptomatic.

The CDC’s largest study of children with the coronavirus to date found that 18% of those studied tested positive but didn’t report symptoms. The report, however, only included kids with confirmed cases, so the breakdown is likely skewed.

Out of more than 2,500 pediatric cases in the CDC study, only three patients died. The study concluded that “most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe.”

One reason for this could be that children have less mature ACE2 receptors — the enzymes that serve as ports of entry for the coronavirus — which could make it more difficult for the virus to infect a child’s cells.

The immune system also becomes more dysregulated as a person ages. So the pediatric immune system may simply be better at battling the coronavirus than the adult immune system.

Why it matters: Understanding why kids don’t often show signs of the disease — either because they’re not as prone to infection or because they more often experience very mild, cold-like symptoms — could have huge ramifications for vaccine development and understanding how the disease spreads.

Can you get reinfected?

The body almost certainly develops short-term immunity in the form of antibodies, and immune-system researchers are reasonably confident that the body will recognize and fight the coronavirus in the future.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah in March that he’d be “willing to bet anything that people who recover are really protected against reinfection.”

There have been a small number of cases in which people tested positive for the coronavirus, were later found to be free of the virus, then tested positive again after that. But these cases are mostly the result of false positives and misinterpretations of test results, since some diagnostic tests can detect leftover pieces of dead virus in the body.

Still, no one is certain about the prospects for long-term immunity. For other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, antibodies seemed to peak within months of an infection and last for a year or more. But a June study found that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may only last two to three months after infection. Asymptomatic individuals also demonstrated a weaker immune response to the virus, meaning they could be less likely to test positive for antibodies.

Researchers also don’t know the specific levels of antibodies required for a person to be fully immune.

A May study from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York showed that most people with confirmed coronavirus cases tested positive for antibodies — but longer or more severe cases didn’t necessarily produce more antibodies than mild ones. Instead, the amount of antibodies a person produces may be related to innate differences in people’s immune responses.

Why it matters: Understanding whether long-term immunity is the norm would have major ramifications for controlling the pandemic and could enable officials to lift social-distancing restrictions for people who have already gotten sick.

How seasonal is the coronavirus?

Warmer temperatures and lower humidity may hinder the virus’ spread, according to research published in June. That could explain why New York City had a higher growth rate of new infections compared to Singapore in March, though other factors like testing and contact tracing likely played a role as well.

An April study found a similar link between the virus’ lifespan and the surrounding temperature. At 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), the coronavirus lasted up to two weeks in a test tube. When the temperature was turned up to 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit), that lifespan dropped to one day.

But warmer temperatures haven’t done much to quell the US outbreak. The nation’s surge in new daily cases has surpassed its prior peak in April.

Why it matters: Knowing how much — if at all — the coronavirus is affected by changing seasons would help governments around the world better deploy resources to stop its spread.

Are there any safe and effective drugs to treat COVID-19?

There is, as of yet, no slam-dunk treatment for the coronavirus or its symptoms. However, 17 leading treatments are being tested.

President Trump has promoted and sought stockpiles of hydroxychloroquine: a relatively inexpensive drug typically used to kill malarial parasites and treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. But it was found to have no significant benefits for COVID-19 patients. The Food and Drug Administration revoked the drug’s emergency use authorization on June 15, noting “serious” heart issues and other side effects in patients taking the medication.

A more promising drug is remdesivir, an experimental antiviral chemical that the FDA approved for emergency use on May 1. Data from the National Institutes of Health suggests that remdesivir helped hospitalized coronavirus patients recover more quickly. Thousands of patients have been treated with the drug through clinical trials and expanded access programs.

Clinical trials have also shown that dexamethasone, a common, cheap, steroid, can reduce deaths in severely ill COVID-19 patients.

Why it matters: Having tools to slow infections or perhaps even stop the coronavirus from harming people could curtail its spread, reduce suffering, ease the burdens on healthcare systems, and save lives.

Will there be a vaccine for the coronavirus, and when?

More than 140 coronavirus vaccines are in development. At least 30 are expected to start human testing in 2020, and 16 leading candidates are already being tested on humans in clinical trials.

Arguably the most promising vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine developed by biotech company Moderna. The company was the first to publish early results in humans after starting its first trial on March 16. It aims to start a late-stage efficacy trial with 30,000 people in July.

Other promising candidates include “vector vaccines” — which use live viruses to teach the immune system how to fight off pathogens — developed by the University of Oxford and Johnson Johnson. The Oxford vaccine is spearheaded by British pharma company AstraZeneca, which will start its own efficacy trial in August. Johnson Johnson aims to enroll more than 1,000 healthy volunteers in a clinical trial in July.

The US government hopes to have hundreds of millions doses of a vaccine ready by January 2021 — a record timeline. But some vaccinologists and industry analysts doubt a vaccine will be ready before 2022 or 2023.

Why it matters: Developing a vaccine would help the world put an end to the pandemic.

What are the long-term consequences for those who survive COVID-19?

It’s not yet clear what the long-term consequences of weathering a severe bout of COVID-19 might be. In severe cases, the virus may cause permanent damage to the lungs and other organs, resulting in chronic, lifelong issues.

Patients who experience blood clots also face a risk of longer-term damage, pain, and loss of function, especially in organs.

While some people’s symptoms seem to clear up after two weeks, even those with milder cases have reported symptoms lasting for several months — including fatigue, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and loss of taste and smell. These symptoms may be the result of lingering inflammation rather than an active infection.

“The symptoms are probably coming from an immune reaction,” Dr. Ramzi Asfour, an infectious-disease doctor in the San Francisco Bay Area, told Business Insider.

“You have to separate the damage from the disease,” he added. “It’s going to be difficult to tell for now what subset is active, ongoing infection and what subset is really just pure immune dysfunction.”

Why it matters: Knowing the extent of lasting damage due to the coronavirus can help governments prepare for long-term strain on healthcare systems, impacts to the workforce, and slower economic recoveries. Governments can also push for more research into the underlying causes of lingering symptoms and effective treatments for them.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch CIA Chief of Disguise break down iconic spy scenes

Joanna Mendez, former Central Intelligence Agency Chief of Disguise, watched spy scenes from a variety of films and television shows in order to break down how accurate they really are. From Jason Bourne finding his cache of passports and foreign currency to Carrie Mathison’s (Homeland) half-assed “disguise” through airport security, Mendez doesn’t hold back in her opinions and expertise.

During her 27-year career, her position in the CIA’s Office of Technical Service involved providing operational disguises and alias training in hostile theaters of the Cold War from Moscow to Havana. Her duties included clandestine photography and preparing CIA assets with the use of intelligence-collecting equipment like spy cameras, as well as processing the information brought in.

Think “Q” — James Bond Q, not Star Trek…

Now retired, Mendez continues to consult with the U.S. Intelligence community as well as lecture with her husband Antonio Mendez, also a retired intelligence officer, with whom she has published several books about their covert experience including Spy Dust, which reveals “the tools and operations that helped win the Cold War,” and Argo, which would become an Academy Award-winning film of the same name that told the story of “the most audacious rescue in history.”

In the video below, Mendez lets her critiques fly. Check it out:


Former CIA Chief of Disguise Breaks Down 30 Spy Scenes From Film & TV | WIRED

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“Carrie’s disguise, which basically consisted of dying her hair…was absolutely ineffective. She’s still Carrie…but with dark hair. She could have cut her hair and restyled it. She could have changed her makeup. She could have put on sunglasses to hide that crazy-eyed look she has…” claps Mendez.

She then jumped to a scene from Alias where Jennifer Garner nails her disguise. “She didn’t just dye her hair — she dyed it outrageously red and then adopted the whole persona to go with it. We could have used that as a training film!” she laughed.

Mendez moves on to Matthew Rhys’ character in The Americans. “He was never trying to look good. He came really close to projecting ‘the little gray man’ that we would talk about at the CIA. You wanted to be forgettable,” she commended.

Mendez then moves on to a “quick change,” the name for a move where an agent clandestinely changes his appearance in 37 seconds. She commented on Mission Impossible III, and in particular discusses why Tom Cruise’s “priest” would have been ethically off-limits.

From Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver, Mendez breaks down the “quick change” further — and also warns against stealing.

The video covers blending in with the crowd in James Bond — and CIA inventions that helps its agents remain discrete; being assigned a new identity in Spy; cultural customs in Inglorious Bastards; and life-like masks that cover the entire face in order to give the appearance of a completely different face.

The video is highly entertaining, not just because it grabs clips from iconic pop culture favorites (Austin Powers and Sherlock Holmes make appearances) but also because Joanna Mendez has a great, wry humor (“we never tried to disguise ourselves as furniture at the CIA…”).

Watch the full video above and find out what the CIA really thinks about black cat suits and seducing the enemy!
MIGHTY HISTORY

How this Civil War spy became a legendary lawman in the Wild West

Pop culture always tells the stories of the outlaws of the Wild West. Lying, cheating, drinking, robbing banks, holding up train cars, getting into shootouts at high noon — these are all objectively cool things that make for great tales, but they’re often overplayed for the sake of storytelling.

In reality, the Wild West was much tamer than most storytellers make it out to be. You were much more likely to die of some mundane and awful illness, like dysentery, than be gunned down in the streets as part of a duel. This is because the lawmen of the time were experts at what they did. And that’s all thanks to one former spy: Allan Pinkerton.


Sometimes, it pays to help out a small-time lawyer with big aspirations.

(National Archives)

Allan Pinkerton first got into detective work before the Civil War. He was living in Chicago when he developed a grudge with the Banditti of the Prairie Gang. They suspected his home was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad, so they sacked it. In response, Pinkerton trailed the Banditti of the Prairie Gang, infiltrated their hideout, and observed their activities. He compiled a detailed report, handed it over to the Chicago Police Department, and they successfully took down the gang.

For his actions, he was given the title of Detective and went on to found the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. His first jobs mostly consisted of protecting abolitionist meetings, aiding John Brown during his raid of Harpers Ferry, and investigating a series of train robberies on the Illinois Central Railroad. His contact for the railroad gig was the company’s lawyer, a man by the name of Abraham Lincoln.

If you look at the guy’s track record, pretty much all detective, security, and bodyguard work in America can all be tracked to Pinkerton. He was kinda like the real life Sherlock Holmes.

(White House photo by Chuck Patch)

Detective Pinkerton was the first man the then-President-elect Lincoln called when he caught wind of an assassination attempt on his life. The killers planned on striking when Lincoln was en route to his inauguration. But when he successfully made it there in one piece (albeit a bit late), Pinkerton’s skills got national recognition.

He was given command over the Union Intelligence Service, a predecessor of the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Command. Despite his high authority, he would often go out on spy missions in the deep South himself. Eventually, Pinkerton handed the reins to Lafayette Baker, who’d later also head the Secret Service (a Pinkerton product, as well).

Pinkerton was probably the last man on Earth criminals would want to piss off.

(Library of Congress)

When the war came to an end, Pinkerton went right back to working with the Pinkerton Detective Agency and set his eyes on the Western Frontier. Together with his agency, Pinkerton tracked down the Reno Gang, the Wild Bunch (which included Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), and the James-Younger Gang, the outfit of the legendary outlaw, Jesse James.

One day, the James-Younger Gang robbed the Adams Express Company, a railroad fund out of Baltimore, and the Pinkertons were hired to recover what was stolen. The gang eluded the Pinkertons for a while, until Allan Pinkerton sent two of his best agents to infiltrate their hideout. Both of Pinkerton’s men were killed in a shootout with the outlaws, but not before taking a few of the Younger brothers with them.

The Pinkerton Detective Agency is still active today, it’s just rebranded as “Securitas AB.”

(Securitas AB)

The railroad fund pulled the contract, but by that point, it had become a personal vendetta for Pinkerton. He personally led a raid in January, 1875, with nearly every agent at his disposal. They surrounded the homestead hideout and torched it when the gang started opening fire. They captured the gang members who were there, but Jesse James himself was missing.

The raid left the gang in such a terrible state that they were all but disbanded after they tried to recoup their losses with a failed bank robbery. Jesse James’ life as an outlaw was effectively ended with Allan Pinkerton’s raid. From then on, he’d live in hiding, sneaking out for the occasional robbery, until his eventual death at the hands of Robert Ford.

Articles

Why we’re excited about the upcoming Battlefield V

The Battlefield series has always been known for its breathtaking graphics and in-depth storytelling about real-life conflicts involving troops. These popular features seem to be continuing with their latest installment, Battlefield V, coming Oct. 19.


The new game will be set in World War 2 and have several modes. The single-player “War Stories” will be brought back from Battlefield 1, which gave each chapter of the story to a different soldier fighting in the war. This opened up many storytelling possibilities that could give each region and troop the respect they deserve.

No matter how many times we play it in every WW2 game or movie, the Battle of Normandy is always one of the most hardcore scenes in every medium.
(EA Dice)

The multiplayer is also looking just as in-depth. The series is known for its massive 64 versus 64 player matches and it’s being teased that those matches may be even bigger. This even branches off into the “Last Stand” mode where a player is given only one life and that’s it.

Another much welcomed return to video gaming is an extremely interesting co-op mode called “Combined Arms.” In it, a squad of four players will be paratroopers given a mission to sneak behind enemy lines to complete their objective. The squad-based multiplayer is the game’s focus, just as it was in the phenomenal Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Everything in the game is destructible and players can interact with everything and even build their own fortifications. Not only is being able to clear out buildings standing between you and your opponent coming back, but there’s a return of minor details that make the game feel more realistic. A key example is grabbing a health pack; players have to actually apply it to heal (instead of the gaming norm of just walking over it and magically healing.)

Even tiny things like each weapon having a certain unpredictability makes things so much more realistic.
(EA Dice)

This offers a much more difficult level of game play that is unparalleled — and very welcomed from gamers.

Another popular perk of the game is their discontinuation of a premium or season pass. Every bit of post-launch content will be free to all players. In similar fashion, EA Dice has filled previous content with enough things to do that nearly doubles the game-play content in a matter of months.

Check out the video below to watch the official trailer.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch SWCC operators jump out of a C-17 with their boats

The Pentagon has released footage of Special Warfare Combat-craft Crewmen jumping out of a C-17 Globemaster III heavy transportation aircraft.

The video shows 11 SWCCs from Special Boat Team 20 jump out of the C-17 after two boats are dropped using the Low Velocity Airdrop Delivery System.


SWCCs are part of the Navy Special Warfare Command, and are tasked with expertly driving high-speed boats that are armed to the teeth — usually with GAU-17 miniguns, M2HB .50 caliber heavy machine guns, M240B light machine guns, and sometimes even Mk 19 grenade launchers.

SWCCs often work alongside Navy SEALs, providing them fire support and transportation via a number of different watercraft. They also can assist in the interdiction of naval vessels. The boats dropped in the video are Combat Craft Assault boats.

The CCAs are known for having a small radar and infrared signature, and have become a favorite amongst SWCC for their speed and ability to be reconfigured for different operations.

Check out the video of the training exercise here:

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 75 years, D-Day veteran is reunited with his long-lost French love

An American D-Day veteran was reunited with his French love, 75 years after they first parted, USA Today reports.

K.T. Robbins kept a photo of the girl he met in the village of Briey in 1944. Jeannine Pierson, then Ganaye, was 18 when she met the Army veteran, who was 24 at the time.

“I think she loved me,” Robbins, now in his late nineties, told television station France 2 during an interview. Travelling to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Robbins said he hoped to track down Pierson’s family, the BBC reports. “For sure, I won’t ever get to see her. She’s probably gone now.”


Robbins left Pierson when he was transferred east. “I told her, ‘Maybe I’ll come back and take you some time,'” he said. “But it didn’t happen.” After the war, Robbins returned to the US, got married, and started a family. Pierson, too, married, and had five children.

After Robbins showed the photo of the young Pierson to France 2 journalists, they tracked her down — she was still alive, now 92, and living just 40 miles from the village where they had originally met.

75 years later, D-Day veteran meets long-lost French love

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Robbins reunited with his wartime love at Sainte Famille, her retirement home in the town of Montigny-les-Metz.

“I’ve always thought of him, thinking maybe he’ll come,” Pierson said. And, 75 years later, he did.

“I’ve always loved you. I’ve always loved you. You never got out of my heart,” Robbins told Pierson upon their reunion.

The two sat together and told reporters about the time they spend together so many years ago.

“When he left in the truck I cried, of course, I was very sad,” Pierson told reporters. “I wish, after the war, he hadn’t returned to America.” She also started to learn English after World War II, in hopes Robbins would return.

“I was wondering, ‘Where is he? Will he come back?’ I always wondered,” Pierson said.

“You know, when you get married, after that you can’t do it anymore,” Robbins said about returning to find Peirson earlier. Robbins’ wife, Lillian, died in 2015.

While the two had to part again — Robbins left for Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion — they promised to meet again soon.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 tips to make your next military ball a disaster

With your next military ball around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about how you can ruin the whole event. With a few ill-timed drinks and a flare for the dramatic, your entire night can go up in flames, so long as you try hard enough!


Jot down these disastrous effects for a quick way to turn any military ball terrible.

Talk smack!

That one guy who made everyone mad? Or the investigation that’s ongoing and hush-hush? Now is the PERFECT time to bring it up. Loudly. Ask for all the juiciest gossip and pass it along to the high ups. Be sure to sprinkle your own opinions and conspiracy theories for maximum effect.

Who’s calling JAG? Get the press involved. WTF Moments will be in the know if you have anything to say about it!

Wear the wrong kind of undergarments

We’re talking a too-small strapless bra that cuts off circulation, layers of Spanx that require you to get completely naked for a bathroom break. Maybe one of those pasties that comes unstuck right in the middle of your main course. Get creative! The worse the fit and function, the rockier your night will fare! Dresses with heavy sequins or glitter that trails your every move are also among top contenders.

Shots are ALWAYS a good idea. Always.

Drink ’til you drop

Chug a lug! Nothing screams “disaster” quite like throwing up after on your spouse’s boss. Extra points if you can get a few of them with your booze-soaked contents. Where’s the general at, anyway? Take shots — the louder you are about it, the better. Shots! Shots! Shots! Don’t forget to make your way up to the grog, either. Your night will not be complete without it, obviously.

Rub ALL the pregnant bellies

See those sober ladies watching you with wide eyes? It’s because they want you to rub their growing bellies for good luck. They won’t say it, but it’s all they can think about. Talking to each in-utero babe will bring added wonder to your night of joy. Unsure if it’s a baby in there? Better rub that belly anyway! How else would the night remain as one of the worst of all time?!

Help yourself to the desserts

Did you know that when you arrive, dessert is already on the table? Get there first, and you can have your pick of the lot. Or better yet, you can just have it ALL! Be sure to stack up dirty dishes and to discuss — loudly — how good it was to finish dessert for the table. Leave the napkin for later, though; chocolate on the face will help complete your overall vibe.

Ready to have your worst military ball yet? Best of luck to all who stand in your path — in fact, it’s best to push them out of the way — especially as you run to the stage for an impromptu speech. Stiff arms out and spirit in your heart.

Godspeed on this terrible endeavor.

And as always, ‘Merica!

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why Chaplains offer so much more than just religious services

Chaplains are some of the most misunderstood troops in the formation. Everyone knows that they have their own office in the battalion building and troops are generally aware that their door is intentionally left open, figuratively and often literally, but that’s about the extent of most troops’ interactions with them.

While it is true that one of their primary purposes is to provide religious aid to their troops, they offer the troops of their battalion much more.


Chaplains also provide services for the fallen, in whatever faith the troop held in life.

As odd as it may sound for troops who sport religious symbols on their uniforms, chaplains aren’t supposed to prioritize their own faith over any other. Simply put, a chaplain who is of a particular denomination must be well-versed in many religions so they can provide support to those of other faiths. For example, it’s not uncommon for a Christian chaplain to be knowledgeable on how to welcome a Shabbat for troops of Jewish faith.

Chaplains can accommodate the religious needs of troops but they aren’t allowed to proselytize (attempt to convert) any troop. When it comes to getting troops to attend services, they’re not allowed to do much outside of making a service schedule known. These restrictions on converting are essential to maintaining trust between troops and chaplain. A trust that must exist for chaplains to perform their other role: being the battalion’s first stop for mental, emotional, and moral support.

Entirely from personal experience, chaplains (or more likely, their assistants) seem to be the only ones in the unit who know how to make a decent cup of coffee. But if that’s what it takes to get someone who needs to talk in the door, it’s a good thing.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carolyn Herrick)

Just as with a civilian religious leader, the unit’s chaplain is covered under clergy-penitent privilege. This means that anything that a troop tells the chaplain will be kept in confidence between the two (unless the information exchanged presents a clear and immediate danger). Chaplains are also not allowed to turn anyone away, so a troop could, theoretically, step into a chaplain’s office and rant to their heart’s content — and the chaplain will listen to every word.

Chaplains are there to assist with crises of faith, relationship issues, problems at work, and even things that could be legally held against them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. More recently, chaplains have played an essential role in suicide prevention, too.

But if you wanted to talk religion with them, they’ll definitely have some advice for you.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Sadie Colbert)

No matter how bad things get, the chaplain will always be there. In fact, they aren’t allowed to stop you from talking to them, even if you’re going on for hours. They can offer aid and support for many matters, but they aren’t allowed to openly discuss your issues with anyone — no matter the circumstances. And they can quietly steer the troop toward proper help, if a troop so desires.

They offer this to every troop in the unit, all without a mention of religion.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

Purple Heart recipients will soon take priority in the queue for Department of Veterans Affairs claims adjudication, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announced Feb. 26, 2019.

In a hearing before the House Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee, Wilkie said veterans who have earned the Purple Heart will be placed “at the front of the line when it comes to claims before the department.”


According to Wilkie, the change is in “recognition of wounds taken in battle.”

He didn’t provide details on how the change will be implemented but said it is among the many improvements the department is making as part of the claims and appeals modernization effort.

The VA launched a new process for handling compensation claims appeals Feb. 19, 2019, with a goal of reducing the wait time for a final decision from three to seven years to roughly four months.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The new process, created under the Appeals Modernization Act, gives veterans three choices for appealing their claim, including providing new evidence to the original reviewer; having a more senior adjudicator review the decision; and appealing to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Wilkie described the change as part of a 21st-century transformation at the department.

The VA appeals backlog, which will be handled by the legacy system of appealing decisions to the board, stands at roughly 402,000 cases.

The new system will not only be used for disability compensation claims decisions, it will tackle decisions on education and insurance applications, vocational rehabilitation, caregiver benefits and claims with the National Cemetery Administration, according to the VA.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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6 reasons you can never trust recruits in boot camp

Sometimes, the greatest source of frustration is your fellow recruits. They tend to do stupid sh*t and the great lengths they go to keep their own hands clean may result in everyone else’s getting dirty.


Boot camp is absolute hell when you first arrive and, by the time you leave, you’ll think the whole thing was a joke. After graduation, you’ll be so overwhelmed with joy due to the fact that you’re leaving your drill instructors behind that you may forget about the bullsh*t you had to endure because of fellow recruits.

Consider this a reminder.

The fear of getting smoked causes some recruits to be super snitches.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Aaron Bolser)

No one wants to get smoked

When you get to boot camp and you finally meet your drill instructors, they make it abundantly clear who is in charge, what the rules are, and what happens when someone breaks those rules. Their favorite method of disciplining recruits is to take them to a sandpit and make them do push-ups, mountain climbers, crunches, etc., until they (the drill instructors) get tired. The fear of such retribution can turn even the most stalwart into a snitch.

As a result, recruits will often avoid helping anyone except themselves unless forced to do otherwise.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Devon Burton)

Everyone is out for themselves

The fear of getting into any sort of trouble often causes recruits to be selfish. They don’t want to be associated with the turd in the platoon and can get smoked just for being friends with them.

Drill instructors can spot a lie from miles away.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Joseph Jacob)

Everyone is a liar

Recruits want to avoid the quarterdeck or an extra watch during the night, so they learn to lie their asses off. The sad part is that drill instructors will know you’re lying and you’ll be seeing the quarterdeck anyway.

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Chances are, you’ll get caught.

(via Giphy)

They want to get away with stuff

Even though the rules are very clearly laid out for every recruit, they still want to find ways around them. For this reason, they’ll sell someone out in order to achieve their goal — going as far as hiding their candy wrappers underneath your pillow.

They go to great lengths to escape things like this.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Vanessa Austin)

They want less work

The desire to skate starts in boot camp when a person realizes just how difficult it is to be in the military. In the search for less work, a recruit might take on certain jobs, such as scribe duties, to assign others watch at night and “accidentally” forget to put their name on the roster.

This is the moment you realize you just want to go home.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Carlin Warren)

They just want to go home

Let’s face it — everyone hates every second they spend at boot camp, away from their families and private toilets. So, some recruits will lose the motivation to finish training and start acting like idiots. Guess who’s ultimately punished for being their rack-mate?

At the end of the day, you’re all after the same goal of earning your place, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to take the honorable route to get there.

Hopefully, if the jokers do make it, they’ll learn how to do things the right way by the time they hit the Fleet Marine Force.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The stakes are high for American veterans fighting ISIS

People enlist in the military for a number of reasons, ranging from anywhere between the insane, “I love shooting stuff” to the more pragmatic, “I need the college money.” Many of us also join because it’s the right thing to do — at least, in our minds. Many who joined the U.S. military in the days following the September 11th attacks are looking down the barrel at their 20-year anniversary. Others joined because the rise of ISIS gave a clear picture of what evil looks like in this world.

Some needed a more direct route to the fight against ISIS. So, they traveled through Iraq or elsewhere to get to Syria, where they could join the Kurdish YPG, the People’s Protection Units, and the YPJ, the Women’s Protection Units, to form the front line against ISIS onslaught in Syria.

You can now actually watch the struggle to liberate the people of Iraq and Syria from the grips of the Islamic State. Hunting ISIS is on History every week on Tuesday at 11pm and it is a no-holds-barred look at the Westerners with the Kurds. Watch the pain and horror of those who suffer under ISIS as well as the elation of civilians and children as their homes are liberated.


The series follows a lot of vets around, but features primarily PJ, a Marine Corps veteran, and his team of Western volunteers as well as Pete, from New Jersey, who leads a team of medics supporting Peshmerga fighters in Iraq.

The lives of American combat veterans fighting ISIS in Syria was documented by camera crews who followed them through checkpoints and training and into their front-line lives in Syria. They came from all over America and all walks of life. Some picked up where they left off as veterans of the Iraq War and others simply wanted to stop the reign of terror, theft, rape, extortion, and violence that comes with ISIS occupation.


It takes a lot of ammo.
(History)

But they’re risking a whole lot more than their lives — they could be risking their own freedom.

United States law says anyone who “enlists or enters himself, or hires or retains another to enlist or enter himself, or to go beyond the jurisdiction of the United States with intent to be enlisted or entered in the service of any foreign prince, state, colony, district, or people as a soldier or as a marine or seaman … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

But that all depends on the interpretation. In the 1896 Supreme Court decision of Wiborg v. United States, the Court held that it was only illegal if the American was recruited into a foreign service. In the case of Wiborg, Americans armed themselves and made their way to Cuba to train and assist Cuban rebels fighting Spain while the U.S. was at peace with Spain.

The Kurds don’t actively recruit Western fighters, but they also don’t have a state. The Kurds are the world’s largest ethnic minority without a country of their own. Before the ISIS war, there were some 23 million Kurds in the region. But that all depends on how the Kurdish armed forces act on their own. The Peshmerga in Iraq is a pro-Western fighting force. But the Kurdish YPG in Syria – home of the International Brigades – is considered a terrorist organization by America’s NATO ally, Turkey.

(History)

You may remember the name John Walker Lindh, an American captured fighting with the Taliban in the days after 9/11. One of the key components to his defense was that he was in the armed forces of another state – the Taliban were the recognized government in Afghanistan – and that he personally didn’t attempt to join al-Qaeda or attack the United States.

The exact number of Americans and other western volunteers fighting ISIS isn’t known for sure, but the Kurds know most of them are military veterans. Though considered terrorists by Turkey, the United States considers all Kurdish forces to be an essential part of the fight against ISIS.

The one thing that is clear is that they can expect no direct help from U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria. The military and State Department are not obligated to aid volunteers in the two countries (American volunteers have, in fact, been turned away by the U.S. military). If they were caught at the checkpoints on their way back, they would go straight to a local jail.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why this iconic torture device isn’t as ‘fictional’ as people think

When it comes to medieval torture devices, there’s always one particularly nasty tool that instantly comes to mind: the iron maiden. It’s brutal. It’s essentially a metal coffin with spikes on the inside. Once the door closes, the person trapped inside will have the spikes pressed into their flesh — in key positions, of course, to prolong the suffering.

By many, it’s been written off as a myth. They claim that any existing iron maiden devices are simply recreations, and that the originals were never really used. But what makes this device particularly peculiar is that it may have started out as a myth — a device so cruel that it found a place in local ghost stories — but eventually became a reality.


The Athenians had the “Brazen Bull” which was a hallowed metal bull that you’d stuff victims in before setting it on fire. The Greeks also didn’t f*ck around.

The first recorded use of a spiked contraption to crush enemies to death (yeah, historians record these sorts of things) was in Sparta, around 200 BC. Under the demand of the bloodthirsty tyrant, Nabis, the Spartans constructed a statue in the likeness of his wife, only the statue had what were essentially bear traps for arms. It was also said to have spikes on the inside of the hand, so nobody could escape her grasp. Sounds like he had a pretty high opinion of his betrothed, right?

Nabis could open the deadly device and toss into it anyone he pleased. He’d do this to either make political gains, punish anyone who didn’t pay his exorbitant taxes, or, simply, to alleviate his boredom. Given his preferred hobbies, it’s easy to see why his rule didn’t last long. He was the last free leader of Sparta — he quickly lost the support of his people and a war with Rome.

The iron maiden may not have been used back then, but it was cool enough to inspire a metal band in 1975 London.

Throughout the following ages, various torture techniques sprang up alongside new reasons to torture people — but they weren’t elaborate, wife-shaped, metal coffins filled with spikes. There are no historical records of an iron maiden being used as a torture device throughout the medieval ages. Now, that’s not to say that it wasn’t used — it just wasn’t written about.

The first written record of an iron maiden surfaced in the 18th century, when historian Johann Philipp Siebenkees wrote about a particularly cruel 1515 execution. Siebenkees’ works, however, were never seen as credible and, ultimately, it was treated as a hoax. But his work inspired his morbid, industrious readers. Many people created iron maidens after his so-called “historical accounts.”

The most famous of these more-modern maidens was the Nuremberg Virgin — a wooden iron maiden with the head of the Virgin Mary on it. Stories say it was used to “cleanse the pagans,” but it was actually made in 1800s Nuremberg — 300 years after Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation and long after the era of paganism.

But this didn’t stop one of modern history’s most vicious despots from creating one for himself. Uday Hussein, the sociopathic, murderous son of the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was said to have had his very own modern recreation of a functioning iron maiden in his compound.

When U.S. troops raided the compound, they found that the device was very much used. By the time it was discovered, many of its spikes had been worn down, the surrounding floors were stained with blood, and it was no secret that Uday had any Iraqi athlete that didn’t perform to his expectations tortured or executed. Now we know how.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is an iconic plane of World War II. The famous Memphis Belle, recently placed on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, was one of 12,677 B-17s built — but did you know the B-17 was close to never taking to the skies as a war plane?

During its second evaluation flight, the Model 299 (the prototype of the B-17) crashed. As a result, the Douglas B-18 Bolo was instead selected by the U.S. Armed Forces.


The B-18 was a variant of the successful DC-2 airliner. As a bomber, it wasn’t bad, either: It could haul 4,400 pounds of bombs and had a maximum range of 1,200 miles. The plane had a six-man crew, a top speed of 223 miles per hour, and was equipped with three .30-caliber machine guns for defense.

The problem was that everyone knew that the B-18, which Douglas originally called the DB-1, won by default. The B-17 prototype had clearly out-performed the B-18 in the trials before the fateful crash — and the service test versions, called Y1B-17s, were even better than the crashed prototype. They could haul 8,000 pounds of bombs up to 3,320 miles at a top speed of 256 miles per hour. Despite the crash, it was emerging as the preferred choice.

The B-18 was indeed cheaper and the technology within was proven and safe. As a result, the Army Air Corps bought 217 B-18s. Some of these planes were sent to the Philippines and Hawaii to hold the line — until the B-17 was ready.

Three B-18s fly in formation near Hawaii prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1941, most were destroyed on the ground.

(Photo by Harold Wahlberg)

Despite winning the developmental competition, most officials didn’t believe in these planes by 1940. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, the majority of America’s B-18s were destroyed on the ground. The surviving airframes were then relegated to secondary roles. Over 120 B-18s were later modified to become maritime patrol planes — they defeated two German U-boats.

The B-18 did see most of its action in secondary roles.

(USAF)

The B-18s made its most significant contributions as a test platform. Some were modified to try a 75mm howitzer as an aircraft armament. Although the B-18 wasn’t a suitable platform for the huge gun, the data collected helped make the weapon practical for the B-25G and B-25H, improved versions of the bomber that would later carry out the Doolittle Raid.

The United States Air Force has a B-18 at its national museum.

(USAF)

All in all, the B-18 had a much less storied career than the B-17, but it still had an honorable service career during World War II.

To see the plane that once beat the B-17 in action, watch the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tl2cqAP0TQ

www.youtube.com