In 1985, Soviet filmmaker Elem Klimov made a movie about the Nazi occupation of what was then the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. The film, called “Come and See,” is renowned as a gritty, realistic masterpiece.
Be warned, the film is heart-wrenching. Told from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy who joins a Soviet partisan cell, you watch the child age as the movie goes on, and he experiences the reality of Nazi occupation.
Even more harrowing is that the story is based on real events, and parts of the film come from accounts of genocide survivors. The German army intended to wipe out the population of Belarus to fulfill Hitler’s promise of lebensraum, or “living space” for the German people. The film depicts this horrifying reality.
Klimov was only 9-years-old when his family fled Stalingrad in 1942. The writer of the film, Ales Adamovich, actually aided partisan fighters in Belorussia. To add to the realism of the film, they shot it in Belarus, hired villagers as extras, used actual Nazi uniforms instead of costumes, and fired real bullets over the actors’ heads.
“Come and See” shows a rarely remembered area of Nazi war crimes during WWII. Often overlooked by history, the German occupation of Belarus was just as brutal as the film depicts. The Nazis intended to kill three quarters of the Belorussian population, and allow the other quarter to live as slaves.
According to a site funded by the Belorussian government, they were successful in annihilating more than 600 villages, destroying more than 5,000 Belorussian settlements, and killing more than 2.2 million civilians. The entire Jewish population of the country was eradicated, shot by the Nazis.
Unlike most war movies, “Come and See” has no battle scenes, no heroism, and no great sacrifice for the good of the unit. This film shows what happens when war comes to your front yard.
The film was a critical and box office success in the Soviet Union and is still hailed as one of Russia’s greatest war films.
An about-face from the Department of Defense appears to have been a factor in Navy losing a top player.
Safety Alohi Gilman announced he was transferring from Annapolis, Md., earlier this month on Twitter.
“We wish Alohi the best in his pursuit of his childhood dream to play in the NFL,” Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo told the Capital Gazette, which reported Gilman’s departure.
A direct path to the NFL was possible when Gilman entered Navy this past summer after spending a year at its prep school. But during the NFL draft in late April, the Department of Defense shifted its policy to again require service academy graduates to serve two years on active duty before applying for a shift in status to pursue professional sport. That two-year requirement had been removed in the summer of 2016.
The shift was felt heavily at Air Force, where baseball player Griffin Jax had given up eligibility as a senior after last year’s MLB draft and several players had NFL aspirations. Most notable among them was receiver Jalen Robinette, who expected to be a mid-round draft selection. Robinette was not drafted and after spending time in mini-camps with the Bills and Patriots his future is further clouded by what his representatives call an ongoing discipline situation at the academy that prevented him from graduating with his class.
Gilman didn’t specifically cite the policy change in his social media post announcing his intentions to leave Navy.
“Presently, I find that my goals and passions are not the best fit with the Naval Academy,” he wrote.
Gilman was an honorable mention all- American Athletic Conference pick as a freshman this past season after finishing second at Navy with 76 tackles. He made six stops, including three solo, in a 28-14 loss at Air Force on Oct. 1.
It is not unique for players to leave service academies during their first two years before their commitment becomes binding. And it can be even more tempting for players who have enjoyed on-field success immediately to consider boosting their stock in less-restrictive environments.
Air Force basketball, for example, has lost standout players Tre’ Coggins and Matt Mooney in recent years as they transferred after excelling early. Coggins left for Cal-State Fullerton after averaging 16 points as a sophomore in 2013-14. Mooney transferred to South Dakota after his freshman campaign in 2014-15.
So, while Gilman’s path isn’t new, its timing is certainly noteworthy in that it came a month after the DOD reversed course on an athletic-friendly policy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
The President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte doesn’t do anything subtly. In early September he called President Obama a “son of a whore” in an official statement. And his ongoing drug war on the island nation has killed more than 2,500 people, many allegedly without due process.
Now his dramatic shifts in policy may have the former American protectorate looking more toward to Beijing for its arms and security.
On Sept. 12, Duterte ordered all U.S. forces out of the southern Philippines — specificaly Mindanao Island, where they’ve been fighting Muslim extremists for years. American advisors have trained Philippine forces to fight groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who are fighting for an independent Muslim state in the islands. Duterte believes the U.S. is partly to blame for the insurgency there.
Al-Jazeera reported that Duterte wanted to “reorient” his country’s foreign policy to be more independent.
“For as long as we stay with America, we will never have peace in that land [Mindanao]. We might as well give it up,” he said in a speech. “So, those [American] special forces, they have to go.”
In a televised speech on Sept. 13, Duterte also announced the end of joint patrols with U.S. forces in the South China Sea. In that same speech, he said he would be receiving soft loans to buy military equipment from two unnamed countries. He then mentioned Philippine technical advisors would visit Russia and China to “see what’s best.”
An arms deal in the Philippines would be a double win for China. The Philippines ratcheted up its defense budget to around $524 million this year, so it has some money to spend. And the joint patrols with the U.S. were a measure designed to counter China’s claim to 80 percent of the South China Sea.
“China-Philippine relations are at a new turning point,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said in a statement obtained by Reuters. He hopes the Philippines “can meet China halfway, appropriately handle disputes and push relations back onto the track of dialogue, consultation, and friendly cooperation.”
Though President Barack Obama canceled his bilateral meeting with Duterte over the Philippine President’s tasteless remark, deputy National Security director Ben Rhodes told reporters the U.S-Philippine relations still “rock solid” and that “people should certainly expect that our very close working relationship with the Philippines is going to be enduring.”
Some of the world’s favorite cartoon characters are veterans of World War II. When America entered the war at the end of 1941, Walt Disney, Looney Tunes, and other companies sent their casts to war.
Here are the wartime biographies of 7 characters who answered the call:
1. Donald Duck the Paratrooper
Donald Duck served in a number of ways. He was a soldier in World War II who tried to become a pilot but was tricked into becoming a paratrooper by a sergeant who didn’t like him. He was decorated for serving behind enemy lines in commando missions and destroying a Japanese base single-handedly.
Decades later in 1987, he returned to service as a sailor in the Navy, but there is little evidence of what he accomplished there. He gave up care of three of his nephews to enlist.
Pluto was a military working dog before it was a thing. He served as an Army private who attempted to keep Army equipment safe from saboteurs and small rodents. He had trouble with the second mission, as the chipmunks Chip and Dale used Army howitzers to crack open acorns despite Pluto’s best efforts.
Bugs single-handedly captured an island from the Japanese Imperial forces after he washed up on it, and later disrupted the Nazi headquarters. It isn’t clear though that he was in a military force or acting on official orders at the time.
He used a combination of direct assault and subterfuge to achieve his objectives.
7. Porky Pig the doughboy
Porky Pig, famous for his stutter and shyness, became an unlikely presenter of American propaganda after enlisting in the U.S. Army. He served primarily on the homefront, selling war bonds and explaining the newest and best military technology for the benefit of the American people.
Many taxpayers plan their holiday shopping and other purchases around getting their tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service at the earliest possible date.
In 2017, that may no longer be the case.
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act, signed into law in December 2015, requires the IRS to hold tax refunds for people claiming Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit until at least Feb. 15, 2017.
Also, new identity theft and refund fraud safeguards by both the IRS and individual states may mean some tax returns and refunds face additional review.
Beginning in 2017, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. The IRS said the change helps ensure taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.
“This is an important change, as some of these taxpayers are used to getting an early refund,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We want people to be aware of the change for their planning purposes during the holidays. We don’t want anyone caught by surprise if they get their refund a few weeks later than in previous years.”
As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. All taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should submit returns as they normally do.
Although the IRS cannot issue refunds for some early filers until at least Feb. 15, it reminds taxpayers that most refunds will be issued within the normal timeframe: less than 21 days after being accepted for processing by the IRS.
Iraqi nationals who risked their lives to help American troops in wartime should not be subject to a recent executive order halting immigration from Iraq, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday.
The letter, a joint effort by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, asks Trump to grant the request of Defense Secretary James Mattis to exempt Iraqi military interpreters, aides and allies from the scope of the order. Both Hunter and Kinzinger are veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.
The letter was also signed by Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; and Peter Welch, D-Vermont. Stivers and Moulton are also veterans. Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, has publicly discussed bringing his own interpreter to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa.
“We made a promise to the men and women who served alongside us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no man behind,” Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement. “We urge the president to honor Secretary Mattis’ requests, and stand up for those who stood by our military and American personnel. For the safety of these courageous individuals and their families, and in the interest of our national security, it’s critical that we make this exception and do so swiftly.”
On his own, Moulton has taken an even stronger stance in full opposition to Trump’s executive order. In a statement, he warned that closing doors to immigration would fuel antipathy against the U.S. and help Islamic State radicals recruit new suicide bombers.
“His policies literally put our troops’ lives at risk — I’ve heard this loud and clear when I have visited them overseas,” he said. “They also prove he has zero understanding of our country’s values and no intention of defending our Constitution.”
Trump’s executive order, published Jan. 27, put an immediate temporary halt to immigration from seven countries, including Iraq. The order caused immigrants currently in transit to be taken into custody, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had reportedly worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for more than a decade. Darweesh, who was granted a Special Immigrant Visa on Jan. 20, was ultimately released into the U.S. a full day later.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters Monday that the Defense Department is making a list of Iraqis who had worked to help U.S. troops for submission to the government agencies carrying out the executive order.
Special Immigrant Visas were created in 2008 for the express purpose of providing a special path for people from Iraq and Afghanistan who had assisted American troops to resettle in the United States, a recognition that these individuals and their families often faced greater danger because of their service.
“It is important that a special exception is made for the consideration of individuals who directly supported American personnel overseas,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “We respectfully ask that you take this action to ensure these individuals are not put in any further danger. Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives.”
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis warned on Sept. 3 of a “massive,” and “overwhelming” military response to North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs after a small group meeting with President Donald Trump in response to Pyongyang testing its sixth and largest-ever nuclear device.
Mattis was most likely referring to the US military’s roughly 28,000 troops located in South Korea and its massive presence in Japan and in the Pacific. At the time of Mattis’ speaking, the US does not have an increased naval or military presence in the region, though the US and South Korea did just complete a joint war-gaming exercise.
Earlier on Sept. 3, Trump floated the idea of cutting off trade with China, North Korea’s treaty ally and main trading partner, in response to North Korea’s greatly increased provocations. “The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea,” Trump wrote in a tweet.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said that “all options” are on the table in dealing with North Korea, and stressed military might represents a part of that package.
Historically, China has agreed to UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea following nuclear tests, but despite sanctions, loopholes remain that allow Pyongyang to finance its weapons programs.
The nuclear device tested by North Korea on Sept. 3 had a yield of hundreds of kilotons, meaning it was most likely a hydrogen or thermonuclear bomb, according to expert estimates and North Korea’s own statements.
The completion of an intercontinental ballistic missile and a thermonuclear warhead represent North Korea achieving its ultimate goal of building a credible deterrent against invasion and regime change. Experts assess that North Korea’s main goal in developing nuclear weapons is to secure its regime, and that it will not use the weapons offensively, unless provoked.
Two calls to 911 had reported a man firing shots, and a police-run listening system had located the sound of gunfire in Chicago’s West Douglas Boulevard, about 5 miles west of downtown. Within minutes, officers found a man matching caller descriptions in a nearby alleyway. As two officers followed the man, identified as 45-year-old Bruce Lua, on foot, Garcia and Nakayama pull into the alley ahead of him, cutting him off and leaving him surrounded.
Garcia and Lua are a few feet apart as they fire at each other, almost simultaneously. One frame from Garcia’s camera appears to capture the exact moment that he both fires his weapon and is hit by Lua’s shot. In the frame, a brass casing is ejecting from Garcia’s weapon as he fires, but his hand appears to be deflected by Lua’s bullet.
Following the shooting, Garcia can be seen with blood dripping down his right arm and hand. He then almost immediately switches his weapon from his right hand to his left, covering Lua.
This officer body camera video includes graphic images of three shootings including the shooting of two police officers.
Nakayama — who on his body camera footage can be heard telling other officers he is shot in the leg — falls but appears to fire at least one shot that strikes Lua, causing him to fall as well.
Garcia covers Lua until other officers arrive who disarm and cuff Lua and begin to treat Nakayama.
At one point, a fellow officer can be heard yelling, “Where the f*ck is that ambulance?”
Both officers and Lua were transported to the hospital and released. The CPD Case Incident Report lists the officers’ injuries as “serious,” with Garcia shot once and Nakayama shot twice. Lua is being held on $10 million bail and charged with two counts of attempted murder.
American television personality Montel Williams wants the Democratic presidential candidates to talk about a Marine veteran imprisoned in Iran, and he’s using his star power to make it happen.
In addition to questions asked by the moderators at Tuesday’s debate, CNN is soliciting questions from anyone via Facebook and Instagram, some of which will end up being asked by Don Lemon. In a video posted to his Facebook page, Williams — who served in the Marine Corps and Navy — asks about Amir Hekmati, a Marine veteran held in Iran for more than four years, the longest of any American held there.
“What will the candidates do to bring him home so that his father’s dying wish to see his son just one more time comes true?” Williams asks.
Born in Arizona to Iranian immigrants in 1983, Amir Hekmati served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps — mostly as a translator — and he was discharged in 2005 as a sergeant. In 2011, he decided to visit his extended family in Tehran, but soon after he arrived, he was arrested and sentenced to death by an Iranian court on charges of spying for the CIA, according to Al Jazeera America.
Iran later released a videotaped confession of Hekmati, where he admitted to being recruited into companies affiliated with the CIA with the goal of infiltrating Iranian intelligence.
“Allegations that Mr. Hekmati either worked for or was sent to Iran by the CIA are simply untrue,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told CNN in 2012. “The Iranian regime has a history of falsely accusing people of being spies, of eliciting forced confessions, and of holding innocent Americans for political reasons.”
Hekmati’s death sentence was later repealed in March 2012 and a new trial was ordered, though that has yet to take place. He continues to be held in prison in Tehran with little contact with the outside world, though he was able smuggle a letter out of jail, according to The Guardian. In it, in which he addressed Secretary of State John Kerry, he wrote:
For over 2 years I have been held on false charges based solely on confessions obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement. This is part of a propaganda and hostage taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges. Iranian intelligence has suggested through my court-appointed lawyer Mr. Hussein Yazdi Samadi that I be released in exchange for 2 Iranians being held abroad. I had nothing to do with their arrest, committed no crime, and see no reason why the U.S. Government should entertain such a ridiculous proposition.
The Snow Leopard Commando Unit is the China’s most elite counter terrorism unit, similar to America’s SEAL Team 6. Surprisingly, the unit is a federal police unit and not part of China’s Army.
Tasked with protecting the capital of Beijing, their activities are largely secret. Still, the glimpses the world gets are pretty impressive.
The unit is reported to have been established soon after China’s capital was selected for the 2008 Olympics. From 2002 to 2007, they trained in secret under the name “Snow Wolf Commando Unit.”
In 2007, their existence was finally announced just before a ceremony that changed their name to “Snow Leopard Commando Unit.” That same year, SLCU conducted some flashy training with Russian police.
SLCU continued service after the Olympic’s closing ceremonies. The elite unit is rarely reported on, but they made news in 2013 and 2014 for winning top honors at the Warrior Competition, a sort of combat Olympics held in Jordan every year.
The Chinese police very rarely leave China, but the Snow Leopard Unit does, providing security for Chinese dignitaries. They’ve also been dispatched domestically to stamp out unrest in China’s West.
World War II has given the video game industry plenty of material, but a good World War I game is pretty hard to find.
Not anymore. A recently-released game set on the early 20th century battlefields puts players into the trenches, and it’s surprisingly good.
The first World War was a very different kind of war. Soldiers often served in long stalemates between trench lines, or “went over the top” to attack the enemy. It was often a battle for just inches of more ground, and not allowing game players to move very far seems a bit counterintuitive in a game.
With the game “Verdun,” the developers took an innovative approach to this problem, and made a World War I game actually worth playing. The developers went to great lengths to use historically accurate equipment, uniforms, and weapons, and they used reconnaissance photos — and in some cases walked the ground — to recreate the landscape of 1914-1918 France.
Still, a game that looks realistic could still turn out to be terrible. The gameplay is important, and “Verdun” excels in this area. While it’s a first-person shooter game, “Verdun” requires players to work along with their squad, much like they would if they really were in an infantry unit.
What makes Verdun so different from other first-person shooters is the way battles ebb and flow. Some players are instructed to assault individual enemy strongpoints, while others are told to defend. Anyone who disobeys an order by moving outside the engagement area is killed — effectively shot on the spot for cowardice.
“The maps are a composition,” Hoebe said. “This imagery can all be found through Google. There are large collections of postcards on Flickr, but also Belgian towns post their historical collections online. I pretty much went through the extent of what could be found … and compressed this into on overall image.
The gameplay is unlike your typical World War II shooter or, any modern shooter for that matter. If you enjoy running around blasting the bad guys in “Call of Duty” while enduring quite a few hits, the realism of this game will certainly be a surprise.
“If you’re going into Verdun with a mind to cut about the place, emptying hot lead into the faces of all and sundry with reckless abandon, then you can quite rightly expect to be put into the ground very quickly. And many, many times, too,” writes Game Watcher.
There are three game modes: Frontlines, Attrition and Rifle Deathmatch. Deathmatch is the multiplayer slugfest you’d come to expect from most first-person shooters, except this one features no rocket launchers (sorry Doom fans) and only bolt-action rifles.
Frontlines is the game’s “campaign mode,” where you team up with your squad, ordered to capture or defend your ground. Attrition is centered around a single battle, with each side’s manpower levels being depleted as the player is killed and re-spawns.
“If nothing else, Verdun‘s given me an excellent understanding of what a mess World War I was,” Hayden Dingman wrote at PCWorld. “The game doesn’t have the best graphics, the best sound, the best character models, or what have you—and yet few games have so consistently stressed me out like Verdun.”