5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse - We Are The Mighty
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5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse

The fighting in Syria is not as simple as a schismatic civil war. And there is more to the religiosity of the conflict than just Sunni vs. Shia. Theologists and other influencers, including U.S. lawmakers, see the coming “end of days” prophesies via religious texts, visions of the Apocalypse, and other theories that they claim support the notion of our living in a time when the curtain falls for good.


1. Isaiah 17

This message came to me concerning Damascus: ‘Look, Damascus will disappear! It will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer will be deserted. Sheep will graze in the streets and lie down unafraid. There will be no one to chase them away. The fortified cities of Israel will also be destroyed, and the power of Damascus will end. The few left in Aram will share the fate of Israel’s departed glory,’ says the Lord Almighty Isaiah

The Bible warns a series of horrible events will take place in Israel and Syria. Central to this vision of the apocalypse is the destruction of Damascus as one of the finest cities in the world.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
So… that happened.

Joel Rosenberg is a Christian author, an expert on Christian “end times” discussions. He told MotherJones unidentified members of the U.S. Congress called him to Washington to consult on the biblical end of days. Yes. Congress is concerned about the End of Days, as if they could just pass the “No to End of Days” Act and go on with life. Other legislators interested in this verse include Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Texas Representative Louie Gohmert.

Hal Lindsey is an influential evangelist, something that should be an oxymoron but isn’t, who believes the Russians will lead a “Gog-Magog Alliance” foretold by the prophet Ezekiel, which means this bit is in the Torah, the Bible, and Koran as well. Gog and Magog could be individuals, a person and his homeland, or basically whatever suits the theory you’re peddling. In Revelations, Gog and Magog join Satan in the final battle.

Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the Earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle.

Guess who a lot of people think Gog may be.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
u mad bro?

2. Islam’s ‘Grand Battle’

Many fighters in Syria (on all sides) believe was a large battle was foretold 1,400 years ago in the hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed and anecdotes about things he said and did from his closest followers.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
The “No sh*t, there I was” collection of Islamic religious stories.

Some Sunni jihadis and other militias aren’t really even there to fight Asad. They’re there for a Grand Battle the prophet talked about in the 7th century CE. According to Muhammed, two huge Islamic armies are destined to meet near Damascus, coming from the North and West of the area. Fighters are pouring in to various sides from all over the world because Mohammed promised this would happen. The goal is to establish an Islamic state.

In the hadith, Mohammed also said Syria is God’s favored land and if not Syria, the faithful should go to Yemen, which is also not the first place anyone would associate with the phrase “God’s favored land,” as it is currently experiencing a civil war exacerbated by external aggression. Bringing the U.S. and NATO (especially Turkey) to Syria made some believe the U.S. aggression was deliberately planned by you-know-who to bring about the Grand Battle.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Thanks, Obama.

3. The Return of the Mahdi

What sounds like the worst Star Wars movie ever (or a new hymn by Mark Morrison) is actually also prediction mentioned in hadith. Shia Muslims believe the Syrian war is paving the way for the Imam Mahdi, a descendant of Mohammed’s who disappeared a thousand years ago but is going to resurface to re-establish Islamic rule during a time of war, shortly before the end of the world. To them, the Islamic state foretold by the hadith was established during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the Syrian Civil War is the war in question.

The hadith says fighters with yellow flags (see Hezbollah) join to fight anti-Shi’ites (read: Sunnis) in Damascus as a prelude to the coming of the Mahdi. Fighters believe if they are killed during the war, they will be reborn when the Mahdi comes, so they can join his army. This also works for Christians, because the return of the Mahdi coincides with second coming of Jesus. Christian religious scholars in the U.S. believe a document labeled the “Arak Codex #190001” in a museum in Tehran, says the Imam is already here, and it contains a description of the Mahdi. Guess who he supposedly looks like.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse

4. Nostradamus predicted ISIS

Believers in the 16th century French prophet Nostradamus believe he wrote poems which predicted the future, and he was eerily accurate about events even 500 years later. They believe he predicted Napoleon and Hitler, who were two of three “antichrists” whose rise foretold the end of the world.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse

500 years ago, Nostradamus wrote:

He will enter wicked, unpleasant, infamous,

Tyrannizing over Mesopotamia:

All friends made by the adulterous lady,

Land dreadful and black of aspect.

In the original French, it rhymed. Just saying. Anyway, adherents to Nostradamus translate this passage to mean ISIS’ rise to prominence in Iraq and Syria, the black referring to ISIS’ uniforms and flags. There’s also a bunch of math involved which makes Common Core look reasonable. But who knows, there are so many tyrants to choose from in the Middle East, especially in recent history, “He” could be anyone. The adulterous lady could mean any coalition or Syria itself, no matter who might be in charge there. The verses devolve into a description of World War III, endless war, and the end of the world. More racist looks at the writings of Nostradamus predict the end of the world will be brought by someone special…

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse

5. The Book of Revelation

Shortly before Russia intervened in Syria, there was a very large blood moon, visible in most of the world. John of Patmos (aka”The Revelator,” aka “the Greek” aka “Bad Host from Patmos.” [I made the last two up]) wrote in the Book of Revelation that the blood moon would appear when the sixth of seven seals are opened and then some bowls are poured, some trumpets sound, a bunch of other stuff happens. This theory doesn’t really jive with Isaiah 17, because this is where Gog and Magog gather everyone from the four corners for battle at the holy city… after a thousand years. So, unless the bowls and trumpets and the seals did this 1,000 years ago, we don’t have to worry about Gog and Magog.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Gog and Magog have new SEALs to worry about.

Still others believe John foretold of a 200 million-man army. Since the entire world’s number of active duty uniformed personnel add up to about 20.2 million (and don’t all necessarily get along), it’s unlikely this army would be a conventional army. Enter ISIS. Some Christian groups see the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as a potential source of manpower for the apocalyptic 200 million man army. Just 10-15% of the worlds Islamic people gives said army a potential strength of 160-240 million.

Good luck getting them all to fight together.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
L’chaim.

 

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It looks like Washington just rescued the VA’s private-sector care program — for now

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a $3.9 billion emergency spending package to fill a shortfall in the Department of Veterans Affairs’ program of private-sector care, seeking to avert a disruption to medical care for thousands of veterans.


The deal includes additional money for core VA health programs, as well. Veterans’ groups insisted this money be included.

The compromise plan sets aside $2.1 billion over six months to continue funding the Choice program, which provides federally paid medical care outside the VA and is a priority of President Donald Trump. VA Secretary David Shulkin has warned that without legislative action, Choice would run out of money by mid-August, causing delays in health care.

The proposal also would devote $1.8 billion to authorize 28 leases for new VA medical facilities and establish programs to make it easier to hire health specialists. That cost would be paid for by trimming pensions for some Medicaid-eligible veterans and collecting fees for housing loans.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
VA Secretary David Shulkin. Photo courtesy of VA.

A House vote was planned July 28, before members were to begin a five-week recess. The Senate is finishing up business for two more weeks and would also need to approve the measure.

Major veterans’ groups had opposed the original House plan as an unacceptable step toward privatization, leading Democrats to block that bill on July 24. That plan would have trimmed VA benefits to pay for Choice without additional investments in VA infrastructure.

Put in place after a 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA hospital, the Choice program allows veterans to receive care from outside doctors if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility.

Rep. Phil Roe of Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, told a hearing on July 27 that the six-month funding plan was urgently needed and would give Congress more time to debate broader issues over the future of the VA. He was joined by Rep. Tim Walz, the panel’s top Democrat.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., (left) and Jon Tester, D-Mont (right)

“We are glad that veterans will continue to have access to care without interruption and that the VA will be able to improve the delivery of care by addressing critical infrastructure and medical staffing needs,” Sens. Johnny Isakson, R- Ga., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in a statement.

Shulkin praised the agreement and urged the House to act swiftly. The legislation “will greatly benefit veterans,” he said.

Still, while the agreement may avert a shutdown to Choice, the early disputes over funding may signal bigger political fights to come.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Photo by Michael Vadon

During the 2016 campaign, Trump had criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, saying he would give veterans more options in seeing outside providers. At an event July 25 in Ohio, Trump said he would triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice” as part of an upcoming VA overhaul.

His comments followed a warning by the leader of the Veterans of Foreign Wars against any Trump administration effort to “privatize” the VA. Speaking July 24 at its national convention in New Orleans, outgoing VFW National Commander Brian Duffy criticized the initial House plan as violating Trump’s campaign promise to VFW that it “would remain a public system, because it is a public trust.”

Shulkin announced the budget shortfall last month, citing unexpected demand from veterans for private care and poor budget planning. To slow spending, the department last month instructed VA medical centers to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sean Furey

“This situation underscores exactly why Congress needs to pass broader and more permanent Choice reforms. Even after they finish scrambling to fund this flawed program, too many veterans will still be trapped in a failing system and will be unable to seek care outside the VA when they want to or need to,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America.

Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 percent in 2014, as the VA’s more than 1,200 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care.

The VA has an annual budget of nearly $167 billion.

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This congressman wants to change the title of Department of Navy

As US Rep. Walter Jones continues a 15-year effort in Washington to re-designate the title of the Department of Navy, not everyone in his North Carolina home and military community sees the need.


Retired Marine Col. Pete Grimes of Hubert refers to the adage “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” when asked about Jones’ fight to re-name the Department of Navy the Department of Navy and Marine Corps.

Beyond the surface of the name change, Grimes doesn’t see any benefit to the organization by disrupting the status quo.

“Why change the name? What does it achieve? At the end, I can’t think of anything that would improve the stature of the Marine Corps,” Grimes.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Emblems courtesy of US Navy and USMC

Jones has seen things differently.

He first introduced a proposal to change the title of the department to Department of the Navy and Marine Corps in 2001 and has stuck to his belief that the two separate services deserve equal recognition.

The House Armed Services Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018. As a member of the committee, Jones was involved in drafting the defense bill and has several measures attached, including the re-designation of the Department of Navy title.

“The Marine Corps is an equal member of this department, and therefore, deserves equal recognition in its title,” Jones said in remarks on getting the language included in the defense bill.

Jones said the defense bill is expected to go to the House floor for a vote in July. If successful, NDAA will then go to the Senate.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joe Kane

Retired Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Ball of Jacksonville, who served 23 years in the Marine Corps, said whatever name is used is a matter of perception and will vary by a person’s point of view. Regardless of the name, Ball said the operations of the two services are separate and should stay that way.

He said the organization as it is now has been working well.

“Leave it the way it is,” Ball said.

Brian Kramer, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, said the unique Navy-Marine Corps relationship is an exceptional one within the Department of Defense that should not be changed. He questions whether a name change now could lead to larger, negative changes later.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Tim D. Godbee

“I am a traditionalist, and on this issue I think the longstanding relationship between the Navy and the Marine Corps should remain unchanged. This relationship has served both services exceptionally well over the centuries. We ( Marines) are called ‘Soldiers of the Sea’ for a reason,” Kramer said. “Our roots are with the Navy, and I see the short-term ‘feel-good’ benefit of a name change having possible long-term negative consequences. Might this be a first step to the Corps being a separate service? I am not certain we want to go there.”

Retired Navy Capt. Rick Welton of Swansboro doesn’t have a particular opinion on the proposed change the Department of Navy’s title but agreed that the two services have long had a history of working together.

“We’ve been working as a team from the beginning,” Welton said. “We have depended on each other, worked with each other, and done outstanding things together.”

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CENTCOM dusts off Vietnam-era aircraft to fight ISIS

Don’t call it a comeback. Last year, CENTCOM deployed two Vietnam-era aircraft in a three-month trial run against ISIS. Based on that success, the U.S. military is considering reviving the dual-propeller OV-10 Bronco’s combat role.


5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse

The aged airframe flew 132 sorties in 2015, 120 of those were combat missions, with a 99 percent completion rate. Its counterinsurgency role would be a bridge between fighters and helicopters. Its slower speed makes it more maneuverable than fast-moving jets while its short takeoff and landing needs allowed it to operate from remote or unprepared airstrips. It can carry troops, wounded, and up to 3,200 pounds of supplies.

Check out WATM’s podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss what the OV-10 Bronco means in the fight against ISIS. 

It’s a battle-tested, inexpensive, and reliable platform for moving small teams and for reconnaissance. It also provides a cheap close air support option with a 20mm cannon or its four internal 7.62mm machine guns to give Iraqis the same support U.S. troops have in ground combat. The Bronco has seven hardpoints that could be updated and adapted for GPS and laser-guided munitions and Griffon or Hellfire missiles.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
And it takes off from carriers too.

The planes deployed “to a location in Southwest Asia,” according to Capt. Bryant Davis, a CENTCOM spokesman. CENTCOM was trying to determine if the Broncos “increased effectiveness of airpower in a counterinsurgency… while reducing cost and preserving high-end special aviation resources performing similar missions.”

The OV-10 first served in Vietnam, deploying in 1968 with U.S. Marines. It provided forward air control (FAC), helicopter escort, ground attack, observation,light logistics duties, and waterway patrols in the Mekong Delta. The last OV-10 was retired by the Marine Corps in 1995, after serving in Operation Desert Storm.

Catch the Bronco in action:

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The 5 most heavily-mined countries in the world

Landmines are a great tool during a war. They are easy to emplace, hard to defeat, and limit an enemy’s ability to maneuver.


But nations have signed treaties banning their use for a good reason. They present a near-permanent hazard for civilians who have to live and work near former conflict zones. Here are 5 countries where minefields are a deadly fact of life:

1. Afghanistan

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Photo: International Security Assistance Forces

After decades of war, Afghanistan faces some of the largest concentrations of mines and IEDs in the world. It also is home to the highest casualty rates from these weapons with 383 people killed and 665 injured in 2013. It’s estimated that there are up to 10 million landmines in the country.

2. Iraq

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Photo: US Army Pfc. Elizabeth Erste

Iraq was suspected to be one of the most heavily mined countries in the world in 2014, and the situation has only gotten worse since. Demining efforts are limited because of the continuing conflicts and ISIS uses mines to slow armies that are pushing them back.

3. Bosnia and Herzegovina

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Photo: Wikipedia/Werner Anderson of Norsk Folkehjelp Norwegian Peoples Aid

At the end of 2013, Bosnia and Herzegovina had a reported 1,216 square kilometers contaminated with mines, mostly from the 1992-1995 breakup of Yugoslavia. Removal efforts there have been hampered by a 2014 flood that shifted many mines to areas that had already been cleared.

4. Cambodia

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Neil Rickards

Cambodia contains what may still be the densest concentration of mines in the world, the K5 mine belt on the border with Thailand. The nation saw 22 people killed and 89 injured by mines and unexploded ordnance in 2013 despite improvements in their demining operations.

5. Turkey

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Turkish soldiers assigned to NATO’s Kosovo Force in 2010. Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hagburg

Turkish forces laid a number of mines during conflicts from the 1970s to 1990s. Today, most of Turkey’s estimated one million mines are on the border with Syria and the government has suspended demining operations because of ISIS militants operating on the border.

WATCH: ‘Kilo Two Bravo’ tells the harrowing true story of soldiers trapped in an Afghan minefield

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This former top-secret missile base is being slowly exposed

Camp Century, a top-secret, subterranean, experimental missile base established in Greenland during the Cold War, may be exposed in the coming years due to accelerating climate change.


The camp was originally built in 1959, and the U.S. told the Danish government — who administered Greenland at the time — that the experimental base would be constructed to test the feasibility of a nuclear-powered base built under the ice. America also removed ice core samples to collect atmospheric and climate data from throughout the planet’s history.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
A drill that ran under the ice at Camp Century. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But, unbeknownst to the people of Greenland or the Danish government, America also tested a concept dubbed Project Iceworm. Iceworm called for hundreds of ballistic missiles to be moved underneath the Arctic ice on subterranean trains.

These missiles would have been some of the only ones capable of reaching the Soviet Union at that time.

According to The Guardian, Century was:

Powered, remarkably, by the world’s first mobile nuclear generator and known as “the city under the ice”, the camp’s three-kilometre network of tunnels, eight metres beneath the ice, housed laboratories, a shop, a hospital, a cinema, a chapel and accommodation for as many as 200 soldiers.

The project was eventually scrapped because the ice in the area was moving at a faster than anticipated rate, potentially causing tunnels to collapse and railroads to break and twist.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
One of Camp Century’s subterranean tunnels. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Advances in missile design and new diplomatic agreements made the project largely moot. Weapons based in places like Turkey gave the U.S. the ability to threaten the Soviet Union directly with nuclear attack.

But America still had to decide how to decommission the top-secret base. It did so by removing the nuclear reactor and essential equipment. Then it left the rest of the base to be swallowed up by the ice.

Camp Century received more snowfall nearly every year than was able to melt off in the warm months. That would have caused the radioactive waste from the reactor as well as the poisons in pools of septic and industrial discharge relatively safe to bury. As long as the contaminants remain frozen under meters of ice, there would be no threat to anyone or the ecosystem.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
The entrances to Camp Century’s nuclear reactor. (Photo: U.S. Army)

But rising temperatures now reduce the surplus snowfall every year. The good news is that scientists don’t think that melting snow and ice will outpace falling snow until 2090, and it could take as much as another 100 years for Century to emerge from its tomb once again.

When that happens, everyone is going to get a good look at America’s dirty laundry as well as literal pools of soldier poop.

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These two ironclad ships almost allowed the South to win the Civil War

Birkenhead, England, is an odd place for a discussion of the U.S. Civil War, but two ships built in the Laird and Sons Shipyard there nearly provided the seapower necessary for the South to break the blockade, get recognized as a sovereign nation, and win their war for independence.


5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
The HMS Wivern was originally commissioned by the Confederate Navy and was expected to tip the Civil War for the Confederacy. (Photo: U.S. Naval Historical Center)

All that stood in the South’s way was a group of dedicated diplomats and spies who managed to get the ships seized, guaranteeing Union naval superiority and helping end the war.

The Laird shipyards had a strong preference for Confederates during the war and had constructed a number of ships ordered through Confederate Comdr. James D. Bulloch, an uncle to future-President Theodore Roosevelt.

The most famous Laird ship ordered by Bulloch for the Confederacy was the CSS Alabama. The Alabama was technically ordered as a British merchant ship but was outfitted with a Confederate crew and weapons after launch. It went on to destroy 67 Union vessels — mostly merchant ships — before it was sunk.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Confederate officers aboard the CSS Alabama, 1863.

But Bulloch and the Laird company had plans for two even more ambitious and imposing ships. The “El Tousson” and “El Monassir” were, on paper, destined for Egypt but were actually commissioned by Bulloch for the Confederacy.

The two ships are often described as the most powerful in the world at that time and they were custom-built for breaking the Union blockade of the South and with it the Union’s grand “Anaconda Plan” for the war. The Anaconda Plan rested entirely upon Union control of the seas and rivers.

The “Laird Rams” — as they were known — were nearly identical copies of one another. Each ship was 242 feet long and equipped with a seven-foot ram at the front that would allow them to punch holes in enemy ships below the waterline. Each ship also boasted iron armor and two turrets carrying 220-pounder Armstrong cannons.

For those unfamiliar with naval armaments, “220-pounder” doesn’t refer to the weight of the gun, it refers to the weight of each shell. And each gun was “rapidly firing” for the time.

And that iron armor was a game changer in the Civil War. Sufficient iron armor made a ship nearly invulnerable, as the navies learned after the first battle between ironclads took place in 1862. The three-hour battle on March 9, 1862, ended as a tie because neither ship could sufficiently damage the other.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
(Painting: J.O. Davidson)

The “Laird Rams” were so imposing that Assistant Secretary of the Navy G. V. Fox wrote to John M. Forbes, an American sent to England to either get the rams for the Union or else stop the delivery to the Confederates:

You must stop them at all hazards, as we have no defense against them … As to guns, we have not one in the whole country fit to fire at an ironclad…it is a question of life and death.

Early indications were that the British would allow the rams to launch and eventually join the Confederate cause, but diplomats pressuring Great Britain to follow its neutrality obligations slowly made headway.

At the start of the war, the British position was that it couldn’t allow its shipbuilders to sell any warships to a belligerent in war, but that they could sell unarmed merchant ships to anyone without concern as to whether the ship would be later outfitted with weapons.

This was how the Confederacy received many of its early ships. But the Union State Department pressured the English government to start blocking the launches of ships that were destined for wartime duty by basically threatening war if they didn’t.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
The HMS Scorpion was originally ordered by the Confederate Navy. (Engraving: U.S. Naval Historical Center)

But the British required a high threshold of proof that a ship was destined for the war before they would seize it from the shipyards. American consuls and spies in England gathered information on every ship as fast as they could.

Their first major target, the CSS Florida, was still able to reach the water because the evidence against the ship was improperly collected and documented and therefore inadmissible. The consuls and spies tried again with the Alabama and were successful, but not in time. The Alabama launched just before British forces could arrive to seize her.

When it came to the two Laird rams, though, the U.S. pulled out all the stops. They bribed dock officials, recruited spies and informants, and even promised a young mechanic help getting a job in America if he first worked in the Laird shipyards and collected information for them.

The mechanic agreed but was just a boy. When the child’s mother learned of the plan, she threatened to expose the spy operation and the U.S. backed off.

The first ram, the El Tousson, was launched into the water and was being equipped for sea while its sister ship was receiving final touches in the shipyard in October 1863. The U.S. made its final, last-ditch case to the British that the ships were destined for the Confederate war effort.

To add to the pressure, the U.S. ambassador promised war if the ships were allowed to launch, and the English government gave in.

The British Royal Navy deployed two warships, the HMS Liverpool and the HMS Goshawk, to prevent the rams leaving the docks. British sailors were deployed aboard each ship to ensure that no Confederate or allied crew could steal them from the docks. The ships were eventually purchased by the British as the HMS Scorpion and HMS Wivern.

This likely saved the war for the Union. While other Confederate ships made their names sailing the high seas and attacking Union merchant ships, the rams were designed to break the back of the Union ships enforcing the blockade.

Two nearly indestructible ships capable of sinking almost any ship in the blockade would have allowed the Confederacy to sweep it away, re-opening the smuggling trade that helped finance the land war early on. The Union Army would have been hard pressed to win with the two rams erasing the Union’s naval dominance.

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Here are the US troops that are fighting on the ground (and in the air) for Mosul

Iraqi security forces began the effort to liberate the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Oct. 17, with a combined force of Kurdish Peshmerga to the east aided by coalition troops from Germany, Canada and the U.S.


Obama Administration officials have admitted that American troops are “in harm’s way” despite being in “support” roles. So, which units are actually there?

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
A Marine assigned to Task Force Taqaddum (TF TQ) escorts Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones, Command Sgt. Maj. of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, during his visit to Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq, September 2016. The mission of Operation Inherent Resolve is to defeat Da’esh in Iraq and Syria by supporting the Government of Iraq with trainers, advisors and fire support, to include aerial strikes and artillery fire. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson/Released)

Perhaps the most obvious are the Air Force, Navy, and Marine aviation units flying missions against ISIS. One notable unit taking part is the Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group. The carrier’s air wing includes two squadrons of F/A-18E Super Hornets (VFA-86 “Sidewinders” and VFA-105 “Gunslingers”), one of F/A-18C Hornets (VFA-131 “Wildcats”), and one of F/A-18F Super Hornets (VFA-32 “Swordsmen”).

Other aircraft have taken part, including the A-10 Thunderbolt (courtesy of the 190th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 124th Fighter Wing), the B-52H Stratofortress (From the 96th Expeditionary Bomber Squadron), and the F-15E Strike Eagle (from the 4th Fighter Wing).

On the ground, the major United States forces have been the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, usually consisting of a medium tilt-rotor squadron with MV-22 Ospreys and a company of Marines. These units also can have attached air assets, including the V-22 Osprey, the AV-8B+ Harrier, and the AH-1Z Viper.

A battalion from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the Screaming Eagles, is also on the ground, slated to be replaced by troops from the 1st Infantry Division. The United States Army has also sent AH-64 Apache gunships to the theater.

Naturally, there are also special operations forces, including the Green Berets, SEALs and British SAS. It can also be safely assumed that Air Force Combat Controllers are also on the scene.

The Green Berets will likely be helping Iraqi security forces, advising Peshmerga troops and helping direct coalition air support. These units have in the past also carried out direct action missions. In 2015, one such mission, a prison break, lead to one of three American KIAs — a member of the United States Army’s Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as Delta Force, Master Sergeant Joseph Wheeler.

The other two American KIAs are Special Warfare Operator First Class Charles Keating IV, who was killed in a firefight with ISIS thugs, and Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, who was killed in a rocket attack on a base used by coalition forces.

The fight for Mosul is continuing, with the word at this writing indicating that the Iraqi advance has slowed.

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Yemen reportedly bans US special-operation ground missions after botched raid

After the US-led raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and several civilians, Yemen is reportedly barring the US from further special-operation ground missions against terrorists in the region.


The New York Times on Tuesday night cited US officials who said the reaction among Yemenis was strong after the operation left some women and children dead.

Also read: Air Force keeping the beloved A-10 around for at least a few more years

The officials said the suspension would not apply to drone attacks or the US military advisers who are already providing intelligence support to the Yemenis.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Navy SEALs retreat after a training exercise. | US Navy photo

The January raid against Al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, known as AQAP — which was approved by President Donald Trump after a postponement from the Obama administration, which was waiting for a moonless night — unfolded with a 50-minute firefight in which a team of SEALs was met with fierce resistance.

Chief Petty Officer William Owens was killed in the battle.

Though the White House has received some criticism over the raid, the Trump administration has called it a success, saying US forces gathered valuable intelligence.

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How a Navy pilot-turned-Superbowl winner made it on Wall Street

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Phil McConkey is not your average Wall Streeter.


His father worked three jobs to put him through private school. He served in the US Navy as a nuclear weapons transshipment pilot, before winning a National Football League Superbowl title with the New York Giants.

He is now president at Academy Securities, a broker-dealer founded in 2009 that employs veterans and service-disabled veterans in areas like investment banking and trading.

McConkey sat down with Skiddy von Stade, CEO of finance career services company OneWire, to talk about his background, and Academy Securities.

During that conversation, he laid out why experience with the military is valuable for those who want to break into the cutthroat financial services industry.

Military culture is honesty, integrity, loyalty, teamwork and by the way, service. We’re in a service industry. Who knows more about those qualities than military veterans? When those qualities and experiences come into helping our clients, it really resonates.

He added:

We’re a small company, growing. We’d like to be a bulge-bracket investment bank broker-dealer at some point. We don’t have the resources that the big banks have, but we’re nimble, we’re quick, and we have differentiated types of value that we add. We got nine senior-level retired generals and admirals, people who have fingers on the pulse of geopolitical macro world we live in. And that’s a value to customers if they’re in capital markets. If they’re managing money.

Watch the full interview with Phil McConkey here.

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Marines’ nude photo scandal is even worse than first realized

The scandal that prompted an investigation into hundreds of Marines who are accused of sharing naked photographs of their colleagues in a private Facebook group is much larger than has been reported, Business Insider has learned.


The practice of sharing such photos goes beyond the Marine Corps and one Facebook group. Hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch have been posted to an image-sharing message board that dates back to at least May 2016. A source informed Business Insider of the site’s existence on Tuesday.

The site, called AnonIB, has a dedicated board for military personnel that features dozens of threaded conversations of men, many of whom ask for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or by where they are currently stationed.

Related: Commandant on nude photo scandal: ‘Do you really want to be a Marine?’

The revelation comes on the heels of an explosive story published earlier this week by journalist Thomas Brennan. He reported on a Facebook group called “Marines United,” which was home to approximately 30,000 members that were sharing nude photos of colleagues, along with personal information and even encouragement of sexual assault.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tyler Main

The report led the Marine Corps to open an investigation, spurred widespread outrage in the media and in Congress, and prompted sharp condemnation from the Corps’ top leaders. According to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, investigators in that case are considering felony charges that could carry a maximum penalty of up to seven years in prison.

An official familiar with the matter told Business Insider the Marine Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, would be briefing members of the House Armed Services Committee on the scandal some time next week.

“We’re examining some of our policies to see if we can make them punitive in nature,” the official said, adding that the Corps was taking the issue very seriously.

Facebook group exodus leads to message board’s popularity

Brennan’s story also led to an apparent exodus of members from the private Facebook group, though some appeared to have found the publicly viewable message board soon after — with the express intent of finding the cache of nude images Marines in the Facebook group were sharing.

“Come on Marines share the wealth here before that site is nuked and all is lost,” wrote one anonymous user who posted on March 6, just two days after Brennan’s story was published. Follow-up replies offered a link to a Dropbox folder named “Girls of MU” with thousands of photographs inside.

Dropbox did not respond to a request for comment.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, is expected to brief Congress on scandal next week. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shawn Valosin

Members on the board often posted photos — seemingly stolen from female service members’ Instagram accounts — before asking others if they had nude pictures of a female service member.

For example, after posting the first name and photograph of a female soldier in uniform on January 21, one board member asked: “Army chick went to [redacted], ig is [redacted].” Another user, apparently frustrated no pictures had yet been found, posted a few days later: “BUMP. Let’s see them t——.”

On another thread, a member posted a photograph on May 30, 2016, of a female service member with her breasts exposed, asking, “She is in the navy down in san diego, anyone have any more wins?”

One user followed up on June 13, offering another nude photo of the purported female sailor.

Also Read: Chinese troops have been spotted in Afghanistan

“Keep them coming! She’s got them floating around someone [sic] and I’ve wanted to see this for a while,” another user wrote in response.

Some requested nude photographs by unit or location.

One user in September 2016 asked for photos of women in the Massachusetts National Guard, while another requested some from the Guard in Michigan. Other requests included nude pictures of any women stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, or Naval Medical Center in San Diego, along with many more US military installations around the world.

In statements to Business Insider, military branches universally denounced the message board and promised discipline for any service members who engaged in activities of misconduct.

“This alleged behavior is inconsistent with our values,” Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, spokesperson for the Department of Defense, told Business Insider.

Capt. Ryan Alvis, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps, told Business Insider the service expects that the discovery of the Marines United page will motivate others to come forward to report other pages like it.

“Marines will attack this problem head-on and continue to get better,” Alvis said.

Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, a spokesperson for the Army, told Business Insider: “The Army is a values-based organization where everyone is expected to be treated with dignity and respect. As members of the Army team, individuals’ interaction offline and online reflect on the Army and its values. Soldiers or civilian employees who participate in or condone misconduct, whether offline or online, may be subject to criminal, disciplinary, and/or administrative action.”

Air Force spokesperson Zachary Anderson told Business Insider: “We expect our Airmen to adhere to these values at all times and to treat their fellow service members with the highest degree of dignity and respect. Any conduct or participation in activities, whether online or offline, that does not adhere to these principles will not be tolerated.  Airmen or civilian employees who engage in activities of misconduct that demean or disrespect fellow service members will be appropriately disciplined.”

The Navy did not respond to a request for comment.

‘Hope we can find more on this gem’

The image board hosts disturbing conversations from what appears, in many cases, to be between active-duty personnel.

“Any wins of [redacted]?” read one request, which shared further details about a female Marine’s whereabouts, indicating the anonymous user likely worked with her in the past.

Another thread posted in November 2016, which saw dozens of follow-up comments as users acted as cyber-sleuths to track down the victim, started with a single photograph of a female Marine, fully clothed, taken from her Instagram account.

“Any wins?” that user asked, telling others the Marine’s first name and where she had been stationed.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink

One user hinted at her last name as others scoured her Instagram account, posting more photos that they had found. One photo of the victim and her friend prompted one user to ask for nude photos of the friend, as well: “Any of the dark haired girl in the green shirt and jeans next to her?”

The thread carried on for months.

“Amazing thread,” one user wrote. “Hope we can find more on this gem.”

In December, a nude photo was finally posted. “dudeee more,” one user wrote in response. Many others responded by “bumping” the thread to the top, so that others on the board would see it and potentially post more photos. Indeed, more photos soon appeared from the victim’s Instagram account, which was apparently made private or shut down numerous times.

On the board, users complained that her Instagram account kept disappearing, apparently due to the victim trying to thwart her harassers. But others quickly found her new accounts and told others, with the new Instagram account names being shared throughout the month of February.

“Oh god please someone have that p—-,” one user wrote.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Screenshot

The site that hosts the message board seems to have little moderation and few rules, though it does tell users: “Don’t be evil.” Its posting rules instruct members to not post personal details such as addresses, telephone numbers, links to social networks, or last names.

Still, large numbers of users on the board do not appear to follow those rules.

In one popular thread started on January 9, an anonymous user posted non-nude pictures of a female airman, teasing others with the caption: “Anyone know her or have anything else on her? I’ve got a lot more if there is interest. Would love for her friends and family to see these.”

The user, who suggested he was a jilted ex-boyfriend, judging by the accompanying captions, posted many more photos in the following hours and days.

“She knows how to end it all. If she does get in contact with me I won’t post anymore. So get it while it’s hot!” he wrote.

Later in the thread, the man even referred to the airman by name and told her to check her Instagram messages.

“Wow, she blocked me on Instagram!” he later wrote. “Stupid c— must want me to post her s— up. I gave her a choice, it didn’t have to be this way. I’m not a bad guy, she had a choice. Oh well, no point in holding back now. I want you all to share this everywhere you can, once I start seeing her more places I’ll post her video.”

Aside from those serving on active-duty, even some who identified themselves as cadets at some military service academies started their own threads to try to find nude photos of their female classmates.

In a thread dedicated to the US Military Academy at West Point, some purported cadets shared photos and class graduation years of their female classmates.

“What about the basketball locker room pics, I know someone has those,” one user asked, apparently in reference to photos taken surreptitiously in the women’s locker room. “I always wondered whether those made it out of the academy computer system,” another user responded.

In 2012, an Army sergeant who helped to train and mentor cadets was discovered to have secretly filmed more than a dozen women in the bathroom and shower areas at West Point. The soldier pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced in 2014 to 33 months in prison.

A spokesperson for West Point did not respond to a request for comment.

“Bumping all 3 service academies’ threads to see who can post the best wins in the next 7 days. Winning school gets the [commander’s cup],” one user wrote. “Go Army, Beat Everyone.”

‘This has to be treated harshly’

The existence of a site dedicated solely to sharing nude photographs of female service members is another black mark for the Pentagon, which has been criticized in the past for failing to deal with rampant sexual harassment and abuse within the ranks.

A 2014 Rand Corporation study found that more than 20,000 service members had been sexually assaulted in the previous year. Nearly six times that number reported being sexually harassed. In some cases even, the military has pushed out victims of sexual assault who have reported it, instead of the perpetrators.

“I’m kind of surprised. I’m still naive I think, on some level,” said Kate Hendricks Thomas, a former Marine Corps officer who is now an assistant professor at Charleston Southern University. “I am really disappointed to hear that the reach is broader than 30,000 and a couple of now-defunct websites.”

Thomas criticized past responses to the problem, in which some have indicated the issue is too difficult for the military to wrap its arms around.

“This renders us less mission-effective. It’s got to be a priority,” she said.

“These websites are not boys being boys,” she added. “This is a symptom of rape culture.”

The message board also presents a challenge for military leaders, who may face an uphill battle in trying to find, and potentially prosecute, active-duty service members who share photos on the site. Unlike the Marines United Facebook group, where many users posted under their real names, the newly-revealed message board’s user base is mostly anonymous, and the site itself is registered in the Bahamas, outside the jurisdiction of US law enforcement.

Brad Moss, a lawyer who specializes in national security issues, told Business Insider the military may have a hard time convincing the internet service provider to shut down the website. Instead, he explained, the victims themselves may have more legal standing when contacting the ISP in order to get photos removed.

Still, Moss believes the military could squash the behavior if it adopted a “zero-tolerance” posture.

“I think that absolutely 100% should be the policy. If they catch the main perpetrators who are sharing these photos around and essentially engaging in revenge porn,” Moss said. “They should have a zero-tolerance policy, and boot them from the military with a dishonorable discharge.”

“If they do anything less, it’s only going to incentivize this behavior in the future,” he added. “This has to be treated harshly.”

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That time the British developed a chicken heated nuclear bomb

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse


Imagine it’s 1957 and you’re a high-ranking official with the British Army, responsible for keeping the West free from Soviet aggression. At your disposal you have a great arsenal, both conventional and nuclear, as well as teams of brilliant scientists at the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment constantly proposing ideas for new, more effective weapons.

One of your areas of greatest strategic concern is the possibility that the Soviet Union might make inroads sufficiently into Western Europe to bring its advanced rockets and bombs within range of the British Isles. Recall that during World War II, Germany bombed the snot out of Britain with tens of thousands of bombs dropped from Luftwaffe aircraft, as well as more than 10,000 long-range V-1 and V-2 cruise and ballistic missiles shot from sites in France and the Netherlands.

Deciding that the best way to keep the Soviets from your doorstep is a scorched earth policy, to “deny occupation of the area to an enemy for an appreciable time,” you choose from all your options that blowing any invaded areas in West Germany to smithereens using nuclear weapons is the best alternative.  After all, this not only destroys enemy troops and denies them access to valuable infrastructure, but also makes the area around the explosion uninhabitable for some time after.

Not content to rely on gravity bombs or missiles, your crack team concludes that nuclear landmines (that could either be placed on the surface, buried or even submerged in rivers and lakes) are the way to go.

You settle on a 16,000 pound tub that resembles an enormous boiler from the outside, but inside hosts a large nuclear warhead and two firing units, with the design partially based on your country’s first operation nuke- the Blue Danube. With a predicted yield of ten kilotons, each bomb would create an estimated crater of 375 feet across for a surface blast and 640 feet if detonated 35 feet below ground. Versatile, the device could either be detonated by timer (capable of being set as far as eight days in advance), directly with a wire from up to 3 miles away, or simply detonated automatically if any of several anti-tampering devices were activated.

Sold!

This is exactly what happened. In July of 1957, the British Army Council order 10 of these so-called Blue Peacock nuclear landmines. However, the designers of the bomb foresaw a problem. The bomb’s sensitive components had to be kept at a certain temperature, far above the average of mid-Europe in winter. They also had to be kept at that temperature for potentially several days after an invasion and subsequent deployment of the nuclear mines.

At this point the boy-wonders floated a couple of options for warming the device. By far the most interesting proposal was to place a coop filled with chickens and seed inside the bomb before deploying it. The chickens could survive in such conditions for at least a week- plenty of time for enemy troops to approach after the nuke was deployed. And, critically, the chicken’s body heat would maintain the proper temperature, while the coop itself would (hopefully) keep them from pecking at the delicate equipment inside.

Perhaps realizing how absolutely ridiculous the chicken idea is (although not the only viable bird-brained bomb idea to come out of this era- see: WWII Files: Pigeon-Guided Missiles and Surprisingly Effective Bat Bombs), or, more likely, realizing the risks of nuclear fallout on neighboring, allied populations (and political fallout once West Germany realized what the British had done to their homeland, invaded or not), in February of 1958, the MoD Weapons Policy Committee scrapped the project.

However, two inert prototypes were retained, and one still exists today, although the public remained blissfully unaware of it until 2004, when Operation Blue Peacock was declassified and included in a National Archives exhibition. Given that the exhibit opened on April 1st and a critical suggested component of the nuclear mines was chickens, more than a few people thought that Blue Peacock was an elaborate joke – forcing the National Archives to put out an official statement that while “it does seem like an April Fool . . . it most certainly is not. The Civil Service does not do jokes.”

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The SR-71 Blackbird was almost the most versatile fighter plane ever

Have you ever looked at the old SR-71 Blackbird and wondered how awesome it would be as a fighter jet? So did the United States Air Force (for the most part). The SR-71 is based on the super-secret CIA’s A-12 reconnaissance plane. When the Air Force got a glimpse of the A-12 and its capabilities, their minds got to work. 

The first idea to come from the A-12 design was the YF-12, a single-seat interceptor aircraft that closely resembled the A-12 but came packing with guns and missiles instead of photographic and signals intelligence monitoring equipment. 

Lockheed’s YF-12 first took off in August 1963 and unlike its predecessor, the A-12, or its successor, the SR-71, there was nothing really secret about it. The President of the United States first revealed its existence but that might have been a strategic move. It covered up the CIA’s super-secret aircraft and provided enemies a window into the advancements Air Force fighters were making.

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
“Hey, you guys know that whole strapping some guys to some giant rockets and shooting them into space? What if we did that, but a fighter jet?” (U.S. Air Force photo by Don Popp)

The YF-12 was every bit as great as expected, and every bit as great as both the A-12 and the SR-71. It could fly at supersonic speeds of more than 2,000 miles per hour and at altitudes of more than 80,000 feet. It is still the largest and fastest interceptor aircraft ever built. 

It also had an advanced fire control radar system to operate the AIM-47 missiles that could be mounted under its wings. Unlike other missile systems at the time, the AIM-47 was much more accurate and reliable in air-to-air combat. This would have made the YF-12 the deadliest aircraft in the world at the time. 

The Air Force was understandably excited at the prospect of integrating such a fighter aircraft into its air defense network. After successfully testing the AIM-47 missile integration, the USAF placed an order for more than 90 of these flying behemoths, ready to implement them into the defense of the United States. It was a little war brewing in Vietnam that would be the program’s demise. 

As the intensity of the fighting in Southeast Asia increased, so did the American commitment to South Vietnam. Spending on the war increased along with it. Concerned about the cost of the YF-12 program, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara declined to support the interceptor program and it was ultimately cancelled in 1968. 

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
Buzzkill…
(Defense Intelligence Agency)

All was not lost for the unique airframe, however. Though there was no need for a supersonic, high-altitude interceptor for airspace defense in the U.S., there was a need for an ultra-fast, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft to fly over places other aircraft wouldn’t dare. The SR-71 Blackbird was born from this need. 

The Blackbird looks exactly like its predecessors but outperforms both of them. It has a greater operational range than the YF-12 and is still the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft ever built, a record set in 1976. 

5 signs the Syrian conflict is the start of the Apocalypse
U.S. Air Force

SR-71s were a brief view of what the YF-12 could have been: a fighter aircraft so accurate, it could hit a target on the ground while flying at three times the speed of sound. If another fighter or a surface-to-air missile came up at it, all the pilots had to do was hit the throttle and outrun it. The A-12s, YF-12s and SR-71s were titanium masterpieces of Cold War technology.

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