Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills - We Are The Mighty
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Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills

The territory controlled by the ISIS is vast and spreads across wide areas of Iraq and Syria. To date ISIS has proved resilient in the face of American airstrikes, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Iranian-backed Shia militias, battle-hardened Syrian rebels, Asad regime forces, and even other jihadist groups.


Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills
Institute for the Study of War

In 2014, ISIS surprised the world with a string of military victories in Iraq, even threatening the central government in Baghdad before American and Kurdish intervention. The swath of territory under their control has not shrunk by much since then.

So how can a paramilitary organization with no recognized trading partners maintain an economy, infrastructure, and sustained military campaigns on multiple fronts? By any means necessary, it appears. Some bloggers suggest Turkey is funding them, or the U.S. government, or even payday lenders. The reality is much more simple and ISIS remains one of the most well-funded paramilitary terrorist organizations ever, with an estimated net worth of $2 billion.

Here are ISIS’ 10 main sources of funding:

1. Oil Smuggling

ISIS captured oil wells all over Iraq and in Northern Syria in 2014. With refined gasoline running near $7.50 per gallon across the border in Turkey, any relief from those kinds of prices is a welcome relief, even if that cheap oil comes from a group like ISIS. The terror group controls 80,000 of Iraq’s total 3 million daily barrels of oil, but the area of oil fields under their control is the size of the UK. In Syria, ISIS controls sixty percent of total production capacity and is selling oil at a rock-bottom $25 per barrel. As of October 2015, the market price of oil was $43. Cross-border smuggling of cheap crude oil earns ISIS and estimated $1.5-3.6 million each day, maybe as high as $800 million each year.

Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills

2. Donations from Angel Investors

ISIS is a fundamentalist Sunni Islamist group. Their ideology is close to the Wahhabi brand of Islam espoused by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It shouldn’t come as a surprise there are wealthy oil magnates in the Gulf’s Sunni monarchies, like Qatar, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates who share ISIS’ core beliefs and are willing to send money to help them. Experts believe angel investors in Qatar are sending the largest portion of individual investments. Their interests may lie more in the overthrow of the regime of Bashar al-Asad, whose government supported Shia muslims in Syria. This income source comes to the tune of $40 million over the past two years.

Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills

3. Organized Crime

Calling ISIS “thugs” isn’t just a way of demeaning those who fight, work for, or otherwise support the group. As the only form of law enforcement in the areas under its control, ISIS has a “massive” organized crime operation. It demands large sums of money from those in its territory. Anyone who wants to start a business, withdraw from their bank account, or just be alive are taxed on almost every aspect of daily life. These taxes also extend to dams, granaries, and even oil fields. These taxes can be as high as ten percent per transaction. They’ve even been known to take necklaces and earrings off of women.

Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills
It’s really weird that they pose like this.

4. Looting Banks and Museums

When ISIS captured Mosul in 2014, it famously looted the central bank, cashing in on a large amount of money. It also loots smaller banks as it swarms through new territory under its control. In Mosul alone, ISIS took over 12 branches. All told, experts believe $1.5 billion was captured by the terror group in the past two years.  Bank robbery plays a part, but the terror organization will also loot museums and sell valuable artifacts through towns on the Turkish border with Syria. 1/3 of Iraqi archeological sites are under ISIS control and the looting of these sites for artifacts to sell on the black market is the group’s second largest income source.

5. Hostages and Kidnapping

Capturing Westerners and other foreigners is a major source of income for ISIS. Knowing full well the group will fulfill its word to brutally murder those it captures, hostages for profit earns ISIS an estimated $12 million per month, and at least $20 million in 2014. American journalists Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff were held by ISIS for ransom, but because ransoming the men would have been illegal, their families didn’t pay and the two were beheaded. France is known to have paid $14 million for four captured journalists. For locals, the price is $500 to $200,000.

Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills

6. Illegal Drugs Sex Trafficking

An Iraqi in Qatar told Newsweek nearly 4,000 women and girls from the Yazidi minority in Iraqi were forced into marriage or sold for sex. There are many more women from other minorities. Girls as young as 14 are forced to either convert to Islam and be wives or be sold into slavery. Reports of cocaine and methamphetamine use are rampant, but more reliable reports indicate ISIS grows marijuana on the outskirts of major cities for sale in Turkey. ISIS is also known to smuggle cigarettes and alcohol, all of which is strictly forbidden under their brand of Islam.

7. Bitcoin

Bitcoin is not a regulated currency, and Israeli intelligence agencies acknowledged they know ISIS is using the currency for fundraising efforts in the United States.

Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills

8. Fake Foreign Aid

Unregistered charities worldwide provide ISIS with a method of laundering money from various sources and donors, turning the money into “humanitarian aid.” Fighters will coordinate dropoffs of the aid payments through international data messaging services like Kik and WhatsApp. $11 million of fake aid came to ISIS through Qatar since the start of Syrian Civil War in 2011.

9. Internet Cafes

In Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS territory, there were less than 20 internet cafes in the city before the rise of ISIS. Since then, the number has grown to more than 500. According to Syrian activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently the city is now dependent on expensive satellite internet connections controlled by the militants.

10. Fines for Breaking Sharia Law (al-Hisbah)

The terror organization charges steep fines for breaking strict Islamic laws, for everything from smoking tobacco to arriving late to the mosque for prayers. As brutal as the group’s methods are, people living under ISIS rule can now pay fines to avoid torture or execution. Even actual crimes like theft and fraud can be mitigated with payments in Syrian currency.

Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills

ISIS burns through cash, spending on military hardware, equipment, infrastructure, safe houses, mass transportation, food, and its own high-quality media center, al-Hayat (the life) and a magazine called Dabiq, not to mention tens of thousands of fighters operating in the fieldNo matter how much the group spends, it makes an estimated $6 million from these sources every day. There may be no limit to how much the group can expend in its effort to further its ideology.

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Reagan taught US pilots how to recognize the Zero

Ronald Reagan probably helped save a number of lives on the front lines — and not because he was a big hero. In fact, Reagan’s eyesight was so bad, they kept him in the United States. But despite not being fit for front-line duty, Reagan still played his role for Uncle Sam.


While Reagan’s eyesight made him next to useless for combat, he did end up being involved in doing training films, one of which involved recognizing the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Friendly fire has long been a problem — ask Stonewall Jackson.

And yes, friendly fire was a problem in World War II. The P-38 was hamstrung because someone mistook a C-54 for a Fw 200.

Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills
A6M2 Zero fighters prepare to launch from Akagi as part of the second wave during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In this training film, “Recognition of the Japanese Zero,” Reagan portrayed a young pilot who had just arrived in the Far East. The recognition angle is hammered home, and not just because of the friendly-fire problem.

Reagan’s character studies silhouettes drawn by a wounded pilot who hesitated too long — and found out he was dealing with a Zero the hard way.

Even with the study, Reagan’s character later accidentally fires at a P-40 he misidentifies, greatly angering the other American pilot. However, when he returns, he takes his lumps, but all turns out okay when the other pilots realizes there is a Zero in Reagan’s sights from the gun camera footage.

Reagan’s character explains that he stumbled across the Zero, then after a dogfight (not the proper tactic against the Zero, it should be noted), Reagan’s character shoots down the Zero.

There’s a happy ending as the earlier near-miss is forgotten and the kill is celebrated.

Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills
Colin Powell briefing President Ronald Reagan in 1988. (Photo from Reagan Presidential Library)

The film is also notable in that it revealed to American pilots that the United States had acquired a Zero that had crashed in the Aleutians. The so-called Akutan Zero was considered one of the great intelligence coups in the Pacific Theater, arguably second only to the American code-breaking effort.

So, see a future President of the United States help teach American pilots how to recognize the Zero in the video below.

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The ‘Chosin Few’ gather to dedicate a monument to Korean War battle

It’s a measure of the men who are the “Chosin Few” that they all stood when the Marine Corps color guard trooped in with the American flag.


Now all well into their 80’s, as young Marines and soldiers they fought in one of the toughest and most iconic battles in American history — the Chosin Reservoir Battle in North Korea in 1950.

There was a row of wheelchairs and walkers for these men as they gathered to dedicate the Chosin Few Battle Monument in the new Medal of Honor Theater in the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Yet, when the flag trooped in, they struggled out of their chairs and steadied themselves on their walkers in respect to the flag. Not one remained seated.

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford speaks to South Korean media before the dedication of the Chosin Few Battle Monument at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., May 4, 2017. (DoD photo by Jim Garamone)

‘The Toughest Terrain’

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke of that dedication in his remarks. Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford knows the story of the battle, as all Marines do. The 1st Marine Division, two battalions of the Army’s 31st Infantry Regiment and British Royal Marines from 41 (Independent) Commando were attacking north, chasing a defeated North Korean Army up to the Yalu River, when an estimated 120,000 Chinese Communist troops attacked and surrounded the force around the Chosin Reservoir.

Also read: These 7 Korean War atrocities show how brutal the fighting really was

It was a battle “fought over the toughest terrain and under the harshest weather conditions imaginable,” Dunford said, and Marines since that time have been living up to the example the Chosin Few set in 1950.

“It is no exaggeration to say that I am a United States Marine because of the Marines who served at Chosin,” Dunford said. “In all sincerity, any success I have had as a Marine has been as a result of attempting to follow in their very large footsteps.”

One set of footprints belonged to Joseph F. Dunford, Sr. who celebrated his 20th birthday while carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle with the Baker Bandits of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in the ridges over the reservoir Nov. 27, 1950.

Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills
This blown bridge at Funchilin Pass blocked the only way out for U.S. and British forces withdrawing from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea during the Korean War. Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcars dropped portable bridge sections to span the chasm in December 1950, allowing men and equipment to reach safety. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“He spent the night in close combat as three regiments of the Chinese 79th Division attempted to annihilate the 5th and 7th Marines,” the general said.

Growing up, Dunford’s father never discussed how he spent his 20th birthday. “He never spoke of the horrors of close combat or the frostbite that he and many Marines suffered on their march to the sea,” he said. “I was in the Marine Corps for seven years before we had a serious conversation about his experiences in the Korean War.”

The Legacy of Chosin

Still, even as a youngster, the general knew what pride his father felt in being a Marine and a member of the Chosin Few and vowed to join the force. “I am still trying to get over the bar that he set many, many years ago,” Dunford said.

So, his father was his reason for joining the Marine Corps, but it was another Chosin veteran that was responsible for him making the Corps a career.

Also read: 14 amazing yet little-known facts about the Korean War

Dunford served as the aide to Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Stephen Olmstead on Okinawa, Japan, in the early 1980s. Olmstead was a private first class rifleman at Chosin in G Company 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. “I would say that to a young lieutenant, there was something very different about General Olmstead — his character, his sense of calm, a father’s concern for his Marines, a focus on assuring they were well-trained, well-led, and ready for combat. He knew what they might have to experience.”

Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills
Marines at Hagaru perimeter watch Corsairs drop napalm on Chinese as Item Company 31/7 moves around high ground at left to attack enemy position. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

Olmstead’s example was a powerful one for young Lieutenant Dunford, and he started to think about making the Marine Corps a career. “I wanted to serve long enough to be a leader with the competence, compassion, and influence of General Olmstead,” he said.

The Chosin Few have this effect on the Marine Corps as a whole, Dunford said. Their real legacy is an example of valor, self-sacrifice, and camaraderie that units hand down as part of their DNA, he said.

The battle was a costly one, with U.S. forces suffering more than 12,000 casualties — including more than 3,000 killed in action. The nation awarded 17 Medals of Honor, 64 Navy Crosses, and 14 Distinguished Service Crosses to Marines and soldiers for heroism in that battle. 41 Commando received the same Presidential Unit Citation as the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

Young Marines all learn about the battle, from recruits in boot camp to those striving to be officers at Quantico.

Now they have a monument to visit.

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The history of Army Rangers from 1775 to now

The U.S. Army Ranger history predates the Revolutionary War. In the mid 1700s, Capt. Benjamin Church and Maj. Robert Rogers both formed Ranger units to fight during the King Phillips War and the French and Indian War. Rogers wrote the 19 standing orders that are still in use today.


Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills
An interpretive portrait of Maj. Robert Rogers by Johann Martin Will. Portrait: Public Domain via Wikipedia

In 1775, the Continental Congress formed eight companies of expert riflemen to fight in the Revolutionary War. Later, during 1777, this force of hardy frontiersmen, commanded by Dan Morgan, was known as the Corps of Rangers. Francis Marion, “The Swamp Fox,” organized another famous Revolutionary War Ranger element, known as Marion’s Partisans.

During the War of 1812, companies of U.S. Rangers were raised from among the frontier settlers as part of the regular army. Throughout the war, they patrolled the frontier from Ohio to western Illinois on horseback and by boat. They participated in many skirmishes and battles with the British and their Indian allies. Many famous men belonged to Ranger units during the 18th and 19th centuries, including Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln.

The Civil War included Rangers such as John Singleton Mosby, who was the most famous Confederate Ranger. His raids on Union camps and bases were so effective – part of North-Central Virginia soon became known as Mosby’s Confederacy.

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Some of Mosby’s Rangers. Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

After the Civil War, more than half a century passed without military Ranger units in America. However, during World War II, from 1941-1945, the United States, using British Commando standards, activated six Ranger infantry battalions.

Then-Maj. William O. Darby, who was later a brigadier general, organized and activated the 1st Ranger Battalion at Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, June 19, 1942. The 1st Ranger Battalion participated in the North African landing at Arzeu, Algeria, the Tunisian Battles, and the critical Battle of El Guettar.

The 3rd and 4th Ranger Battalions were activated and trained by Col. Darby in Africa near the end of the Tunisian Campaign. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th Battalions formed the Ranger force. They began the tradition of wearing the scroll shoulder sleeve insignia, which has been officially adopted for today’s Ranger battalions.

The 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions participated in the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach, Normandy, June 6, 1944. It was during the bitter fighting along the beaches that the Rangers gained their motto, “Rangers, lead the way!” They conducted daring missions to include scaling the cliffs of Pointe Du Hoc, overlooking Omaha Beach, to destroy German gun emplacements trained on the beachhead.

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World War II Rangers demonstrate the ladders they used to scale Point du Hoc. Photo: US Army

The 6th Ranger Battalion operated in the Philippines and formed the rescue force that liberated American prisoners of war, or POWs, from a Japanese POW camp at Cabanatuan in January 1945. The 6th Battalion destroyed the Japanese POW camp and evacuated more than 500 prisoners.

The 75th Infantry Regiment was first organized in the China-Burma-India Theater as Task Force Galahad, on Oct. 3, 1943. It was during the campaigns in the China-Burma-India Theater that the regiment became known as Merrill’s Marauders after its commander, Maj. Gen. Frank D. Merrill. The Ranger battalions were deactivated at the end of World War II.

The outbreak of hostilities in Korea, June 1950, again signaled the need for Rangers. Fifteen Ranger companies were formed during the Korean War. The Rangers went to battle throughout the winter of 1950 and the spring of 1951. They were nomadic warriors, attached first to one regiment and then to another. They performed “out front” work – scouting, patrolling, raids, ambushes, spearheading assaults, and as counterattack forces, to regain lost positions.

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3rd Ranger Company soldiers check their gear before a patrol in Korea. Photo: Public Domain via Wikipedia

Rangers were again called to serve their country during the Vietnam War. The 75th Infantry was reorganized once more, Jan. 1, 1969, as a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System. Fifteen separate Ranger companies were formed from this reorganization. Thirteen served proudly in Vietnam until inactivation, Aug. 15, 1972.

In January 1974, Gen. Creighton Abrams, Army chief of staff, directed the formation of a Ranger battalion. The 1st Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry, was activated and parachuted into Fort Stewart, Ga., July 1, 1974. The 2nd Battalion (Ranger), 75th Infantry, followed with activation, Oct. 1, 1974. The 3rd Battalion, 75th Infantry (Ranger), and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 75th Infantry (Ranger), received their colors on Fort Benning, Ga., Oct. 3, 1984. The 75th Ranger Regiment was designated during February 1986.

The modern Ranger battalions were first called upon in 1980. Elements of 1st Battalion, 75th Infantry (Ranger), participated in the Iranian hostage rescue attempts.

In October 1983, 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalions spearheaded Operation Urgent Fury by conducting a daring low-level parachute assault to seize Point Salines Airfield and rescue American citizens at True Blue Medical Campus.

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Army Rangers parachute into Grenada during Operation Urgent Fury Photo: US Army

The entire 75th Ranger Regiment participated in Operation Just Cause. Rangers spearheaded the action by conducting two important operations. Simultaneous parachute assaults were conducted onto Torrijos/Tocumen International Airport, Rio Hato Airfield and Gen. Manuel Noriega’s beach house, to neutralize Panamanian Defense Forces. The Rangers captured 1,014 enemy prisoners of war and more than 18,000 arms of various types.

Elements of Company B, and 1st Platoon Company A, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, deployed to Saudi Arabia, Feb. 12, 1991 to April 15, 1991, in support of Operation Desert Storm.

In August 1993, elements of 3rd Battalion and 75th Ranger Regiment, deployed to Somalia to assist United Nations forces in bringing order to a desperately chaotic and starving nation. The Rangers conducted a daring daylight raid with 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, Oct. 3, 1993. For nearly 18 hours, the Rangers delivered devastating firepower, killing an estimated 600 Somalis in what many have called the fiercest ground combat since Vietnam.

The 75th Ranger Regiment deployed Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment, Team 2, and a command and control element to Kosovo in support of Task Force Falcon, Nov. 24, 2000.

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Army Rangers fire a 120mm mortar system during training. Photo: Pfc. Nahaniel Newkirk/US Army

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Rangers were called upon to lead the way in the Global War on Terrorism. The 3rd Battalion and 75th Ranger Regiment spearheaded ground forces by conducting an airborne assault to seize Objective Rhino in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Oct. 19, 2001. The 3rd Battalion employed the first airborne assault in Iraq to seize Objective Serpent in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 28, 2003.

Due to the changing nature of warfare and the need for an agile and sustainable Ranger force, the Regimental Special Troops Battalion, or RSTB, was activated, July 17, 2006. The RSTB conducts sustainment, intelligence, reconnaissance and maintenance missions, which were previously accomplished by small detachments assigned to the regimental headquarters and then attached within each of the three Ranger battalions. The activation of the RSTB signifies a major waypoint in the transformation of the Ranger force from a unit designed for short-term “contingency missions” to continuous combat operations without loss in lethality or flexibility.

Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills
Photo: US Army Edward N. Johnson

Today, Rangers from all four of its current battalions continue to lead the way in overseas contingency operations. The 75th Ranger Regiment is conducting sustained combat operations in multiple countries deploying from various locations in the United States, a task that is unprecedented for the regiment. Rangers continue to conduct combat operations with almost every deployed special operations, conventional and coalition force in support of both Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The Ranger Regiment is executing a wide range of diverse operations that include airborne and air assaults into Afghanistan and Iraq, mounted infiltrations behind enemy lines, complex urban raids and rescue operations.

In addition to conducting missions in support of overseas contingency operations, the 75th Ranger Regiment continues to train in the United States and overseas to prepare for future no-notice worldwide combat deployments. The regiment also continues to recruit, assess and train the next generation of Rangers and Ranger leadership.

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9 Movies Every Marine Needs To Watch

Whether it kept them entertained in the barracks or inspired them to enlist, there are certain films that every Marine knows and loves.


Just about every Marine can quote Gunnery Sgt. Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket.” The same can be said of the intense courtroom scene in “A Few Good Men” that has Col. Jessup proclaiming, “You can’t handle the truth!”

Super quotable lines, great stories, or intense combat scenes are just some of the reasons why we picked the following nine films as “must-watch” for Marines. But whether you are in the Corps or a civilian, these movies shed some light on the U.S. military’s smallest service.

Here are our picks:

Taking Chance (2009)

Plot: Based on real-life events, Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer, accompanies the body of 19-year-old Marine Chance Phelps back to his hometown of Dubois, Wyoming.

Reason to watch: While most military movies focus on battle scenes, “Taking Chance” focuses on the part often overlooked: What happens when troops lose their lives in combat. As people in the military know, the belongings are packed and shipped, the body is taken to Dover, and an escort brings them to their final resting place. Actor Kevin Bacon does a superb job of depicting the real-life story of one such escort duty, for Pfc. Chance Phelps.

Jarhead (2005)

Plot: Based on former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling 2003 book about his pre-Desert Storm experiences in Saudi Arabia and about his experiences fighting in Kuwait.

Reason to watch: While the main character is a less-than-stellar Marine who often gets in trouble, this film shines in realistically depicting infantry life. The camaraderie, the dumb games, and the sheer boredom grunts experience when they are in a combat zone but not seeing combat is what makes this worth watching.

Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

Plot: A dramatization of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.

Reason to watch: It has John Wayne. Really, that should be enough. But seriously, it’s a classic war film that shows Marines battling it out on Tarawa and Iwo Jima — site of the famous flag raising in 1945 — which also includes cameos by the three Marines who raised the flag over the island that was captured in the iconic Joe Rosenthal photo.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Plot: A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.

Reason to watch: “Full Metal Jacket” is really two films in one, with act one depicting a realistic look at Vietnam-era boot camp, and act two showing life for Marines in the battle of Hue City. The performance Marines love — and can perfectly quote — comes from R. Lee Ermey, who plays Drill Instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman, a seemingly never ending source of great zingers.

Flags of our Fathers (2006)

Plot: The life stories of the six men who raised the flag at The Battle of Iwo Jima, a turning point in WWII.

Reason to watch: While most people have seen the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo from the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima, many don’t know the flag raising happened just days into the battle, when it was not yet clear when the Japanese would be defeated. Three of the six flag raisers would be killed later in the battle, while the remaining three would be brought back to the U.S. to help raise war bonds. This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells that story. (You should also check out Eastwood’s telling of the Japanese side, in “Letters from Iwo Jima”).

Heartbreak Ridge (1986)

Plot: A hard-nosed, hard-living Marine gunnery sergeant clashes with his superiors and his ex-wife as he takes command of a spoiled recon platoon with a bad attitude.

Reason to watch: In the main character of Gunny Highway, Marines will see the one staple of just about every unit: The crusty old-timer who doesn’t take any crap from anyone. Clint Eastwood plays Highway, delivering such classic lines as “Be advised. I’m mean, nasty and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round in a flea’s ass at 200 meters,” and “if I were half as ugly as you, Sergeant Major, I’d be a poster boy for a prophylactic.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8i2P2VzoPL0

Rules of Engagement (2000)

Plot: An attorney defends an officer on trial for ordering his troops to fire on civilians after they stormed a U.S. embassy in a third world country.

Reason to watch: Starting in Vietnam with two Marine lieutenants — played by Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson — a firefight sets them on separate career paths that ultimately see them coming back together after an embassy evacuation in Yemen goes terribly wrong. Col. Childers (played by Jackson) gives the order to fire into the crowd — which he says is armed — and he’s later charged with murder. Besides the intense courtroom drama, the movie shows the strong brotherhood among Marines, with Jones and Jackson picking up right where they left off many years before in the jungles of Vietnam.

Flying Leathernecks (1951)

Plot: Major Kirby leads The Wildcats squadron into the historic WWII battle of Guadalcanal.

Reason to watch: Again, John Wayne. Another classic from the fifties, this film gives a look at Marine air power in World War II, with Wayne playing Maj. Kirby, a gruff commander who takes over a squadron of fliers before they head into combat at Guadalcanal.

A Few Good Men (1992)

Plot: Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.

Reason to watch: It’s a great courtroom drama which explores the question of what is a legal order. When two junior Marines are told to carry out a hazing ritual by their commander, should they have followed it? That’s what a court-martial is to decide, which ultimately ends in an epic shouting match between Navy Lt. Kaffee and Col. Jessup (played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson).

BONUS: Generation Kill / The Pacific

While they aren’t movies, these two HBO miniseries show Marines in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom and the island-hopping campaigns of World War II, respectively. In “Generation Kill,” viewers follow along with the men of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion as they battle their way into Iraq in 2003, while “The Pacific” melds together narratives from Marines who took part in the Pacific campaign to tell their story.

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5 tips for coming up with a good nickname for your fellow troops

Nicknames and the military are a tradition as old as war itself. Many military legends have nicknames such as General “Mad Dog” Mattis because of his fearlessness. Others such as Lt. General Lewis “Chesty” Puller had his nickname because of his posture and large chest. Nicknames can be cool or they can be aggravating to the bestowed. Regardless, they’re a tradition that isn’t going anywhere. So, one may as well come up with good ones. Here are some tips for coming up with good nicknames for your fellow troops.

They can’t like it

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Story time: When I was a junior Marine and hit the fleet, one of my seniors was sitting around waiting for our turn to shoot on the range. He said “We need to give you a nickname,” and in true Marine Corps fashion, everyone threw in their two cents. “Mexi-Cano” (I’m not Mexican) and some variations of the first part of my last name were tossed around. They didn’t quite fit.

Then he simply asked how to say “The Kid” in Spanish. I replied, “Niño” without thinking, and I could see it click on everyone’s face.

No, please, not that one.

“That’s the one. Niño.” I hated it at first and they could tell, which is why it stuck. I knew if they knew how much it really bothered me it would definitely be my name for my entire career. Everyone liked it but me, so, there was nothing I could do. I was the “Niño.”

Fast forward two deployments and a workup later, I was the Niño no more. New unit, new me. It was bittersweet because I knew I finally shook it off but the ones who called me that were no longer around. Some got out, some others passed away. Once in a blue moon, I’ll talk to my old platoon and I’ll hear my old moniker. In hindsight, I ended up liking it because it was like being called “Billy the Kid,” the most famous outlaw to have lived.

Not “Alphabet”

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Some people have long last names. Although the pronunciation may be simple, some people just can’t deal. At some point when someone reaches E6, they just stop trying. The nickname ‘Alphabet’ is one that is thrown out there for those with a long last name. When dealing with a large list of people, let’s say the rifle range, you are bound to run into many people’s last names that will be hard to say. So, steer clear from this one because it will get confusing and no one is going to respond to it anyway.

We had a troop named Rzonca, pretty simple to say. However, for reasons unbeknownst to me, E6s and above couldn’t say it. He was nicknamed ‘Bazooka’ instead. Which turned out to be a cool name since he also had an M203 grenade launcher on his issued weapon. Anything is better than calling someone “alphabet.”

Shorten their name with a twist

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Marzbanian, my former machine gunner on my first deployment, ended up with nickname “Mars.” The letter Z must be SNCO repellent because they would always pull some sort of nickname for people with one. Then there was Humphreys who had “Hump” or “J Hump.” Shortening a troop’s name is the quick get of jail card because everyone will know who you’re talking about. It’s not much but it’s a good place holder until you come up with something else.

They can be built upon

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That’s not a free pass to start calling people NJP-able nicknames. Part of the joke with mine is that I am short and Latino, thus “el Niño.” It’s right on the line without crossing it. It’s racial without being racist, it’s fun to say, and most importantly, it pissed me off. To be on the safe side, avoid race-based names. Peacetime is a lot more politically correct than during the Surge. Once on post duty in Afghanistan, the Corporal of the Guard was looking for someone and asked for specifics on the radio. “Second tent on the left when you’re looking at the generators. His rack is five Niños up on the right hand side.” Apparently, I had also become a unit of measurement. It also became an inside joke for our platoon — until the lieutenant used it… and killed it.

Lieutenants are not in on the joke

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Nicknames are for the guys, not the leadership. That is until that leader has earned everyone’s trust. It just sounds weird to have superiors and subordinates referring to each other by their nicknames when they’re not even on a first name basis yet. It’s a two way street, and no matter what direction the traffic is going, it’s going to sound unprofessional.

A year a half later, we had a new lieutenant who, as is usually the case for a butter bar, was disliked. He called me by my nickname once and everybody gave him a “Dude… no,” look. I didn’t know it at the moment, but it really touched a nerve with a lot people. When I asked why it bothered them more than it did me, my friends and seniors replied, “He’s not one of us. Only we f*** with us.” If you want to kill a nickname have your leadership use it. It’s a like a boomer saying “woke.” Gross.

Feature image:  U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class China M. Shock

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An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history

Sure, you can think of history as the grand narrative of human progress—but the past is also full of examples of really dumb ideas. Here’s one we can’t get over: the rigid airship, better known as the Zeppelin after a particularly successful design. Invented in Germany in the late 19th century, Zeppelins were hailed as a milestone of air travel. They were also completely ridiculous. Here’s why.


You could travel faster in your car

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Wikipedia

Why do people subject themselves to air travel at all? Simple: planes get us where we need to go as quickly as possible. You might think that there was a similar rationale behind Zeppelins and other rigid airships—but you’d be dead wrong. The max speed of the classic Graf Zeppelin? a staggering 80 miles per hour. The famous Hindenburg was a bit better—at 84 MPH. Sure, the fact that it could cross the Atlantic in two and a half days was impressive compared with the five days required for an ocean liner trip, but, as I hope my next two points will make clear, that’s still way too long to allow yourself to be inside a Zeppelin.

They were filled with (extremely) flammable gas

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Wikipedia

You’ve heard about the 1937 Hindenburg disaster (pictured above), but that was scarcely the only time an airship burst into flames. Some, like the Imperial German Navy L 10, exploded after being struck by lightning. Others went up in flames, killing all crew and passengers, for no apparent reason. And let’s not forget that Zeppelins were a staple method of military transport, including air raids, during WWI, meaning they were prime targets for enemy fire: slow-moving, enormous, and a single spark could take the whole thing down.

A gust of wind could flip a stationary Zeppelin upright

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Wikipedia

This 1927 photograph of the USS Los Angeles shows one of the many hazards of Zeppelin travel: while docked, a gust of wind caused the airship’s tail to rise straight up in the air, a “sudden increase in lift which was not controllable.” If that’s not scary enough on its own, check out the interior of a passenger cabin, which (unsurprisingly for the 1920s) had nary a seatbelt in sight. Ouch.

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Wikipedia

Winds could really mess with a Zeppelin even when they didn’t turn them on end: many of history’s airship disasters involved a Zeppelin simply floating away uncontrollably, with or without people inside.

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Why you should be using your VA Loan for investment properties

Have you ever had one of those lightbulb moments that flips your perspective upside down? I had one of those exactly five years ago while training to be a copilot on the mighty CH-53E at MCAS New River, NC. I still remember talking to my dad on the phone after the oncoming duty-stander reported late at night and turned over the watch with me. “I don’t care if the market crashes!” I proclaimed into the phone.

That was a powerful statement to say out loud and it felt especially good saying it to my dad, who was very conservative financially. Our family lived like royalty when my family lived in Ukraine for the better part of two decades, but coming back to the United States created all sorts of financial turmoil.

Of course, the somewhat hot-headed remark begged the question, “Well, why the hell don’t you?”

”Because we’ve been thinking about real estate investing all wrong,” I continued. “We shouldn’t rely on an unpredictable market to control our return on investment. I don’t care about appreciation anymore, I care about monthly income, or cash flow. From now on, we are going to look for properties that put money in our pockets every dang month.

You could almost hear the audible click over the phone line. A light bulb had just gone off.

The phone conversation continued for another hour or so before we finally hung up and decided to talk about real estate some more the next day.

Let me take a quick step back and make sure we are all on the same page here. The epiphany moment I had five years ago – I was so passionately trying to pass on to my dad over the phone – was simple, yet incredibly powerful. What I realized was what my family valued more even than a large heap of cash in my savings account was a consistent stream of income. To put it bluntly, I wanted to create streams of mini pensions through multiple rental properties to pay for all our regular expenses and then some. I wanted this because I wanted to be financially free.

Why did I ever think that buying a house and waiting for it to appreciate was the right way to invest? If that was the case, another 2008 real estate crash would surely ruin everything.

Realizing there was a different way to invest in real estate was almost nauseating because of how mad it made me for not understanding or learning about it earlier in life. My next thought was, “Why doesn’t EVERY eligible service member use their VA Loan then?” After all, as long as the rent was high enough to cover the mortgage, a dependable property manager, reasonable maintenance expenses, some reserves and still have some cash to spare (read: cash flow), this should be a no brainer. Right?!

Maybe it is because a lot of veterans are really turned off by the thought of a VA Loan — they think it’s a huge liability or just a boring thing to talk about, but nine times out of 10 it typically boils down to access to education and trusted professionals to help someone get their foot in the door. The reality is, it’s not just a few veterans . . . There are millions of veterans who have yet to use this incredible wealth-building benefit. In the military, we get used to working in fire teams and squads and it just makes sense for us to want a trusted team of Real Estate agents and Lenders that are all investment-minded and have a military background to work with. The secret weapon that a lot of these investment-minded agents and lenders have, is the understanding of what to look for when it comes to Military House Hacking (check this book out to learn more) and how to run the numbers quickly and efficiently when trying to filter out the homes with no future cashflow potential. Remember, the objective isn’t potential appreciation (that’s just a cherry on top!). The objective is to create a stream of income when it’s time to rent out your home.

Find an agent or lender here

About a year after that phone call with my dad, I partnered on my first rental home and first apartment complex. My life and the lives of my parents and siblings had changed forever. We were on track to create financial freedom and legacy wealth for generations to come WITHOUT worrying about the market crashing down on us. Sure, everything has its risks, but there was a particular comfort that came with the more education I immersed myself into. It seemed as though real estate was more transparent and without the smoke and mirrors. Still, it was a lot of information and not necessarily easy, but it felt so real and doable that I knew I was hooked for life. It was around that time, that I decided I had to start sharing these principles and little-known strategies with other military members and their families.

Register to watch the Military Real Estate Investing Masterclass

This article originally appeared on Active Duty Passive Income. Follow them on Facebook.

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This aerial dogfight was like a life-sized version of a bee swarm

Israeli Col. Giora Epstein, one of the world’s greatest fighter aces of the jet era, was leading a flight of four planes during the Yom Kippur War when his team spotted two Egyptian MiG-21s. Epstein pursued the pair and quickly shot down the trail plane.


But that’s when the Israelis got a surprise. The pair of MiG-21s were bait. While the four Israeli planes were pursuing the surviving MiG they could see, approximately 20 more MiG-21s suddenly hit them with an ambush.

What followed was one of the most lopsided victories in modern aerial combat. The four Israeli Neshers fought the approximately 21 MiGs, calling out to each other to help them avoid Egyptian MiGs or to chase down vulnerable enemies.

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The Israeli Air Force’s Nesher was a highly-capable delta-wing fighter based on the French Mirage. (Photo: brewbrooks CC BY-SA 2.0)

During the fight, Epstein’s partner shot down a MiG but got missile exhaust into his own engine, causing a stall. Epstein walked him through a restart and sent him home. Another Israeli pilot chased a MiG out of the battle area, and the third headed home due to a lack of fuel.

Epstein found himself alone with 11 enemy MiGs. What followed was minutes of insane aerial combat as Epstein’s main target pulled off a maneuver thought impossible in a MiG-21: a split S at approximately 3,000 feet. It’s a move that should have caused him to crash into the ground.

But the MiG succeeded, barely. It got so close to the ground that it created a cloud of dust against the desert ground, but then escaped the cloud and flew back toward the sky. Epstein managed to get a burst of machine gun fire out before the MiG could escape, destroying the Egyptian jet. Epstein was left in the fight with 10 MiG-21s out for vengeance for their lost comrades.

The MiGs flew in pairs against Epstein, firing bursts of machine gun fire and missiles at the Israeli ace. Epstein outmaneuvered them, killing two with 30mm cannon fire and forcing the rest to bug out.

The entire battle had taken 10 minutes. See how Epstein did it in the video below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-IQgubLIWU
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The new SECARMY is killing it with sea turtles, pushups, and Nicki Minaj

Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning has a lot of work ahead of him. Keeping the Army strong enough to counter threats from Russia, China, and international terrorism while facing constant budget questions is tough.


Only time will tell if he can rise to the challenge. If nothing else, though, he will definitely leave his mark on the Twittersphere because he is already killing it there.

Fanning was confirmed on May 17, 2016. Since then, he’s Tweeted a Star Wars GIF to show love for baseball:

… and an “Across the Universe” GIF to talk about Fort Jackson drill sergeants turning citizens into Soldiers:

Of course, it’s not all movies with the new SECARMY. He was scheduled to visit soldiers training in Anakonda 16 during the 241st Army Birthday and tweeted a clip of Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video to let them know he was coming to Torun, Poland to make sure they were working out:

That turned into a Twitter exchange where he challenged a German general to one-handed pushups (via a GIF of “Kung Fu Panda,” because of course he used “Kung Fu Panda”) and 16th Sustainment Brigade soldiers responded with a video of 0-handed pushups:

While he was in Poland, he visited those same troops and worked out with them, then tweeted a photo of it:

Finally, while Fanning was working out with the troops, the Secretary of the Navy tweeted a happy birthday message to America’s oldest military branch. The Fanning responded with an awesome sea turtle, giving a nod to the sea service and “The Little Mermaid” in the process:

Fanning is going to face a lot of leadership challenges during his tenure as secretary. He’s already had to offer leadership and condolences as Fort Hood lost nine soldiers killed when their truck overturned in floodwaters and the Army Reserve lost a captain in the attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

But while he can’t be physically present every time a soldier is in danger or needs comfort, he can help keep morale up by ensuring troops know that someone smart and capable has their back in Washington D.C. If he can run the beltway half as well as he runs his Twitter feed, then the Army should be okay.

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7 things NCOs have done but will never admit

We all secretly know that non-commissioned officer, AKA NCOs, are the ones who really run the military and command the grunt work.


The military has its fair share of good NCOs and bad ones, but you don’t have to be a bad one to occasionally bend the rules to your benefit.

Although NCOs have a lot of power — sometimes like to brag about it — there are a few things most will never admit to.

Related: 22 things every boot has done but will never, ever admit

So, check out these seven things that NCOs have done but will never admit:

1. Leading from the rear

The truth is, many NCOs have no idea how to get a group of people to work together or follow their lead — but they pretend they do.

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2. Showing off in front of their spouses

Everyone wants to look important and if that means telling a boot worthless information to look cool, then so be it.

3.  Gundecking important paperwork

Gundecking is mainly a Navy term which means, “reporting fraudulent information for personal gain, satisfaction, or to cut corners.”

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4. Renting out government space or equipment to make extra cash

If you have the keys to a large, party-friendly space or have access to a cool satellite system to watch football, what better way to make extra cash than to rent that sucker out?

5. Singling out troops that don’t like to stand duty

Some service members think standing duty is more of a punishment than it is their duty. We hear you — it can totally feel like a punishment.

6. Keeping their troops late even when they don’t need to

Some NCOs just want to feel powerful after their higher-ups belittle them, so they take it out on their troops.

Also Read: 6 reasons why you need a sense of humor in the infantry

7. Getting a boot to snitch on another boot

Some call it good leadership while others calling it just plain old snitching. Most NCOs are not on the side of their junior enlisted troops.

Can you think of any others? Comment below.

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This WWI Navy vet stole the 1920 Olympic flag

Haig Prieste was born in 1896 in Fresno, California. His parents were Armenian immigrants who gave up their original surname of Keshishian. Prieste changed his birth name, a traditional Armenian name, to Harry and later Hal.

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Prieste at the 1920 Olympics (Public Domain)

Upon America’s entry into WWI, Prieste joined the Navy. It was during his service that he discovered his natural ability for swimming and diving. A shipmate reportedly teased Prieste that he should try out for the Olympics. So… he did.

After he left the Navy, Prieste attended the Olympic tryouts in Alameda, California. There, he came first in diving, beating out national champion Clyde Swendsen. From there, Prieste went to New York to prepare for the Olympics.

At the 1920 Antwerp games, Prieste was part of the U.S. diving team. After three compulsory dives at 16 feet, Prieste was in last place. However, things changed with the 32-foot dive.

“They let you do whatever you wanted. You could get more points by doing harder dives,” Prieste recalled. “I did the hardest because I wanted to get the most points.” With this, Prieste came back from last place and took home a bronze medal for the USA.

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Kahanamoku at the 1920 Olympics (IOC)

Prieste became good friends with surf legend and fellow Olympic medal winner Duke Kahanamoku. The Hawaiian swimmer dared Prieste to steal the Olympic flag before they left the games. Not one to back down from a challenge, Prieste took the dare. Near the end of the games, he climbed the 15-foot flagpole and retrieved the Irish linen flag. Along with his medal, Prieste brought the flag home with him to Los Angeles.

It wasn’t until 1997 that the stolen flag resurfaced. That year, the U.S. Olympic Committee hosted a banquet which Prieste attended. A reporter brought up the missing flag and wondered where it had been for nearly 80 years. “I can help you with that,” Prieste told the reporter. “It’s in my suitcase.” Prieste did not realize the importance of the 1920 flag, the first to bear the now iconic five Olympic rings.

In fact, he would often show it to his guests as a souvenir of his Olympic experience and a great story with the Duke. “I had it a long time,” Prieste said. “A lot of my friends have seen it. You can’t be selfish about these things. It’s no good to me. I can’t hang it in my room. People will think more of me by giving it away than by keeping it.” And that’s exactly what he did.

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Prieste returns the 1920 Olympic flag (IOC)

At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Prieste returned the flag to the International Olympic Committee. In return, the IOC honored Prieste, the oldest living Olympic medalist at the time, with a commemorative Olympic medal. Today, Prieste’s flag is on display at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Prieste passed away the next year at the age of 104. He is the first known Olympian whose lifespan covered three centuries from 1896 to 2001.

Feature image: IOC

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US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

A US patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf July 25 after it came startlingly close to to the vessel.


The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone class patrol ship, was forced to fire warning shots from its .50 caliber machine gun after the Iranian boat closed to 150 yards, ignoring radio calls and warning flares along the way, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson.

The Thunderbolt fired five short bursts into the water due to concerns that there may be a collision, according to a CNN report. The ship ceased its actions but stayed in the area for several hours.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are believed to have operated the vessel. The IRGC is Iran’s paramilitary wing that is known to have close ties to the country’s extremist, conservative theocratic leadership. It is primarily responsible for Iran’s operation in the Persian Gulf area and is known to act with hostility toward US forces.

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Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution commandos and missile boats in the Strait of Hormuz. Wikimedia Commons photo by Sayyed Shahab-o-din Vajedi

Encounters with Iranian vessels have become commonplace for US forces patrolling in the Persian Gulf.

“Unfortunately, par for the course with Iran,” said Michael Singh, former senior director at the National Security Council and current managing director at the Washington Institute, in a tweet July 25.

Similar close encounters with Iranian vessels have taken an upswing in recent months, but the July 25 confrontation was one of the closer calls.

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