Time for another round of memes. This week we’re doing something a little different by highlighting the infamous urinalysis. That’s right, the pee test. They say it’s necessary for a sober military, but it’s really more like a creepy invasion of privacy. What, they don’t trust us?
Urinalysis is the fastest way to get everyone on pins and needles.
You know it’s going to be a long day when it starts like this …
That reaction to urinalysis raises suspicions.
Meanwhile, across the room, there’s downer Dave with a lot on his mind.
And why are urinalysis observers people you rarely see in your unit?
Oh yea, that’s why.
There’s a fine balance between going on demand and holding it.
World War II was so large and all-encompassing that one could spend a lifetime researching and barely scratch the surface of stories to tell. James Shipman, Amazon best-selling author of several historical fiction books, knows this and has a knack for picking interesting stories from this timeframe.
His latest book, Task Force Baum, is no exception as it tells a not very well-known story from the waning days of the war. I conducted an interview with the author of the book so he can talk about his latest offering.
This interview has been lightly edited for formatting and presentation purposes.
Hi, James! Thanks for taking time to talk to us today. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello. It is such an honor to be able to contribute to this site dedicated to our military and families. I’m a historical fiction author published by Kensington Publishing. I have five historical novels. My most recent title, Task Force Baum, is the subject of this interview. This book was published on November 26, 2019, and is available on Amazon.com, Barnes Noble, and other book sites. Hudson Booksellers, with stores in most of the airports in the United States, has a special paperback edition that is part of their great reads program.
As for me, I’m an attorney and mediator. I live in the Pacific Northwest, north of Seattle, with my wife and our blended family of seven (yes, that’s seven) kids. Most of them are away at college. I’m a lifelong student of history and the military. My books have covered the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the American Civil War, and my last three books have all taken place during World War II.
Given your occupation as a lawyer, what prompted you to choose historical fiction over mysteries and/or legal thrillers?
I have a degree in history. I constantly read history, particularly military history, and that’s what I have a passion for. When I write, I’m able to dig much deeper into the thoughts and experiences of the people I’m writing about. It’s a delightful process, and I love doing it. The last thing I want to do is write about the legal world. That would feel like I’m working twenty-four hours a day!
Could you briefly tell our readers a bit about the historical ‘Task Force Baum’ and what happened?
Task Force Baum was an unauthorized raid ordered by General Patton late in World War II. He sent three hundred men and a handful of tanks fifty miles behind enemy lines to liberate an officer’s POW camp. LTC Abrams wanted to send an entire Combat Command, but Patton overruled him. The raid was thrown together with no air support and limited intelligence concerning enemy strength, roads and bridges available, and the location and number of prisoners at the POW camp.
Coming close to the end of the war, this seemed like a rather obscure military action. When did you first hear of it, and what drew you to tell a dramatic version of this story?
I came across this reading, John Toland’s The Last 100 Days. I’d never heard of this raid before and decided I had to write a book about it. I was in the middle of another project, and I set that aside and wrote this book instead.
Reading this book, it really did not feel like a ‘war’ book as much as it felt like a book about the people fighting this war. Was this your intent?
Yes. I think the one advantage of historical fiction over narrative non-fiction is the chance to see and feel the events as they unfold, rather than just reporting them. I also like to place imperfect people into the story and see how they act and react as the story moves along. I do not take liberties with real people. For example, Major Alexander Stiller and Captain Abraham Baum are depicted as the brave and hard-working men they were in reality.
One thing I was surprised about was I came away thinking this book was as much about Hauptmann Richard Koehl of the Wehrmacht fighting the Americans as it was about the rescue mission. What were your thoughts on giving his story as much attention as you did?
I like to dig into the Germans as people. I think it’s a mistake to paint the Nazis as simple two-dimensional monsters. People are so much more complex than that. Some people are merely doing their duty. Others are acting one way and intending to do something entirely different. I’m sure members of your site who served overseas in wartime experienced that very thing when interacting with the communities and even the enemies they had to deal with.
What was one historical detail you learned in your research about Task Force Baum that surprised you?
I was surprised at how fiercely the Germans were still fighting on the Western Front in late March 1945. The narrative so often is that after the Bulge and particularly after we moved over the Rhein, German opposition collapsed, and the enemy focused on trying to hold back the Russians while surrendering to the English and the Americans.
I noticed two of your previous works were set in World War II. Is there something about that era which speaks to you specifically as a writer?
World War II is fascinating because it is so easy to see this as an epic battle of survival between right and wrong. Germany in World War II was fighting a war of aggression and perpetuating a massive genocide. This also was the only modern war we’ve fought where our own nation was in significant jeopardy (although more from the Japanese than the Germans).
If there were one era of time and/or specific event you would like to write about, what is it? Why?
I’d like to interview some Vietnam veterans and write either a historical novel or a narrative non-fiction book about that conflict. There is some great work out there already about the Vietnam war, but compared to World War II, I think there is so much that hasn’t been covered.
Looking forward, could you share with us anything about your next project?
My next book, which will come out in December 2020, is about Irena Sendler. Irena Sendler was a social worker living in Warsaw, Poland, during World War II. She was the leader of a cell that smuggled 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto and hid them with Polish families during the Holocaust. Almost all of these children survived the war while their families were killed at Treblinka and Auschwitz.
Task Force Baum is now available for purchase with book retailers everywhere.
Russian strategic bombers on July 5 struck the Islamic State group in Syria with cruise missiles, the military said.
The Defense Ministry said that Tu-95 bombers launched Kh-101 cruise missiles on IS facilities in the area along the boundary between the Syrian provinces of Hama and Homs. The ministry said three ammunition depots and a command facility near the town of Aqirbat were destroyed.
It said the bombers flew from their base in southwestern Russia and launched the missiles at a distance of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the target.
Russia has waged an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad since September 2015. The Russian military has used the campaign to test its latest weapons, including long-range cruise missiles, in combat for the first time.
Meanwhile, a two-day round of Syria cease-fire talks in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, ended without conclusive results. The Syrian government and the opposition blamed each other for the failure to reach agreement.
The negotiations, brokered by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, were to finalize specifics related to so-called de-escalation zones, including their boundaries and monitoring mechanisms. But the talks failed to produce a deal, with the parties agreeing only to set up a working group to continue discussions.
“We so far have failed to agree on de-escalation zones, but we will continue efforts to achieve that goal,” Russian envoy Alexander Lavrentyev said after the talks, according to Russian news reports.
Lavrentyev said that Russia plans to deploy its military police to help monitor de-escalation zones and called on Kazakhstan and other ex-Soviet nations to also send monitors. He said police will have light arms to protect themselves.
Lavrentyev also noted that the involvement of the United States and Jordan would be essential for setting up a de-escalation zone in southern Syria near the border with Jordan.
Syria’s warring sides have held four previous rounds of talks in Kazakhstan since January, in parallel to the UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva. Neither process has made much progress. A cease-fire declared in May, has been repeatedly violated.
“We’re trying to beat ISIL — and there are complications,” the official told the Times. “We have a partner who is collapsing in Yemen and we’re trying to support that. And we’re trying to get a nuclear deal with Iran. Is this all part of some grand strategy? Unfortunately, the world gets a vote.”
This quote may warrant some unpacking: just what are these “complications” the official refers to? And who is this partner that’s “collapsing” in Yemen? After all, the state is essentially defunct, and the country’s recognized president just fled the country by boat. Is this a part of a grand strategy, and what is the “this” the official refers to? Both questions are pointedly left unanswered.
The official is right about one thing: the rest of the world does “get a vote.” That’s true at all times, and the challenge for the US relates to what it can and should do in light of its lack of total control regarding areas that impact vital security and economic interests.
Based on this quote, that’s a question the Obama administration is still struggling to answer.
Although a different anonymous official who spoke with Politico had one possible route to US strategic clarity: a nuclear deal with Iran.
“The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region,” an unnamed official told Politico on March 26.
People like to talk about the best tanks, rifles, and tactical gear. It’s a great discussion — there are many sophisticated pieces of tech in the military world, each with various strengths and weaknesses. That said, we rarely talk about the flip side of this coin: What are some of the worst pieces of gear out there?
There are some weapon systems out there whose sole purpose in existence is to act as an example of what not to do. So, let’s dive in, without restraint, and take a look at the very worst the world has to offer across several gear categories.
U.S. Army soldiers train with the G36, which had a lot of problems in hot weather — or after firing a lot of rounds.
Worst Rifle: Heckler and Koch G36
Heckler and Koch usually makes good guns. The MP5 is a classic submachine gun that’s still in service around the world. The G3 rifle was second only to the FN FAL. But then there’s the G36.
Intended to replace the G3, the G36 was to be Germany’s new service rifle in the 5.56mm NATO caliber. Well, the gun had many problems. First and most importantly, the gun was horribly inaccurate when hot. In temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit or after firing many rounds, the gun was liable to miss a target 500 meters away by as many as 6 meters. Spray and pray is not a tactic known to successfully defeat an enemy.
It would help if the MG5 could hit the broad side of the barn…
(Heckler and Koch)
Worst Machine Gun: Heckler and Koch MG5
Heckler and Koch has the dubious distinction of owning two items on this list. HK made the under-appreciated G8, which could serve as anything from a designated marksman rifle to a light machine gun in 7.62 NATO. The company’s MG4 is a solid 5.56mm belt-fed machine gun — again, the company knows how to make good weapons. Unfortunately, they also made the MG5.
This is a gun that can’t shoot straight. Granted, when you’re using a machine gun, the task usually involves laying down suppressive fire, but it’d probably help to hit the bad guys occasionally.
The crew of this T-72 was smart and abandoned it rather than try to face the United States.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Mace M. Gratz)
Worst Tank: T-72
Two words: Desert Storm. This tank’s poor performance speaks volumes. When it fired its main gun at a M1A1 Abrams tank from 400 yards, the round bounced off. Read that again: The. Round. Bounced. Off.
You can’t get worse than that. In general, the best anti-tank weapon is another tank, but the T-72 is simply useless. Any crew you send out in this vehicle should be immediately considered lost.
The Koksan self-propelled howitzer has long range, but that may be its only virtue.
(USMC photo by Albert F. Hunt)
Worst Artillery: Koksan self-propelled howitzer
This thing has a long range (it hits targets up to 37 miles away) but, for everything other than that, this gun is impractical. The rate of fire is not measured in rounds per minute, but rather by minutes per round — to be precise, two and half minutes per round.
Yes, it is self-propelled, but it has a very slow top speed (25 miles per hour) and it doesn’t carry much in the way of ammo.
It’s had a good career, but the AAV-7 is not able to handle modern threats.
(DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel E. Smith)
Worst APC/IFV: AAV-7
First, let’s talk about the good of this vehicle: it can carry a lot of troops (21 grunts and a crew of three) and it has some amphibious capability. Unfortunately, those benefits are outweighed by the huge size, relatively puny armament (a .50-caliber machine gun and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher), and light armor.
The design is 45 years old and ready for retirement yesterday.
Inspired by his favorite hero Audie Murphy, Pfc. John Baker, an assistant machine gunner, found himself getting ready to battle enemy forces in the Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam, in the fall of 1966.
Assigned to Company A of the 27th Army infantry, Baker’s unit was sent out on a mission to help support a sister company trapped by an aggressive and well-supplied Viet Cong force.
Shortly after Baker and his unit arrived at the combat zone in the early morning, intel reports suggested that the enemy had grown to nearly 3,000.
Without regard for their own lives, 257 allied troops loaded their weapons and proceeded into the heart of the jungle.
“The jungle itself was so thick, it looked like going into a wooded area at night,” Baker recalls.
As the sun began to rise, enemy gunfire rang out in multiple directions. Baker removed his gear and used his 5-foot 2-inch build to crawl approximately 20-yards undetected, where he discovered several enemy bunkers. Baker quickly returned to brief his CO.
Enemy gunfire was again broke out, temporarily trapping Baker and his squad.
“The only way we could get out was fight our way out,” Baker proudly states.
As the chaos mounted, Baker bravely took the left flank and blew up a few enemy bunkers. Then he spotted several wounded soldiers and carried him to the rear for medical treatment.
Baker replenished his ammo and ran back into the fight killing a few VC snipers along the way.
Then, it happened. Boom!
An enemy grenade detonated nearby causing Baker to sustain multiple fragmentation injuries. He dusted himself off and got right back into the fight. At the end of the intense firefight, Baker was credited for killing 10 enemy troops, destroying six enemy bunkers and saving eight allied troops.
After Baker returned from Vietnam, he worked as a drill sergeant in Fort Jackson in South Carolina. During his time there, he was informed by his company commander that President Johnson was to award him with the Medal of Honor for his bravery.
Every country’s military has their own version of Special Forces. However, none of them are quite like the 14th Intelligence Detachment, ‘The Det,’ which was formed as part of the British Army Special Forces during a time known as The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The Det was tasked with mounting surveillance and intelligence gathering operations against the Irish Republican Army and their allies.
They worked in the shadows. No one knew who they were or what they did. They received no acknowledgement or fanfare. The world will never know who they were. But, this dedicated force of highly-trained plain-clothes operatives worked to gather the intelligence needed for the British Army and others to maintain their peacekeeping role between the IRA and the unionist paramilitary forces.
The Det was formed after the British Army’s intelligence unit, the Military Reaction Force, was compromised. The MRF was compromised when IRA double-agents were discovered and then interrogated. They spilled details about a covert MRF operation out of Four Squares laundry in Belfast. This led to an IRA ambush of a MRF laundry van, which killed one undercover soldier.
With the MRF compromised, the Det was set up in 1973. The Det was open to all members of the armed services and to both genders. For the first time, women were allowed to be a part of the UK Special Forces. Each candidate had to pass a rigorous selection process. Members of the Det were expected to have excellent observational abilities, stamina and the ability to think under stress, as well as a sense of self-confidence and self-reliance as the majority of surveillance and intelligence gathering operations were solo missions.
The IRA treated the conflict like guerilla warfare for national independence. They used street fighting, sensational bombings and sniper attacks, which led to the British government classifying their aggressions as terrorism. The Det’s main focus during this time was utilizing their unique talents and training to gather information on the members of the IRA so that the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary could then intervene.
The skills and training of the members of the Det included the disciplines of surveillance, planting bugs and covert video cameras, and close quarters combat. They were also experts in the use of pistols, sub machine guns, carbines and assault rifles. They were also trained in unarmed combat, as well as techniques to disarm and neutralize knife or gun-wielding assailants. It was important for each member to be adept in these skills in order to be able to protect themselves while undercover.
Along with this specialized training, the Det was also equipped with unique equipment much of which could be considered ahead of its time. This included a fleet of ordinary looking saloon cars called ‘Q’ cars. These vehicles were specially equipped with covert radios, video and still cameras, concealed weapons packs, brake lights which could be switched on and off, and engine cut off switches to prevent hijacking. All of these worked to aid in the surveillance missions of the operators. The Det also had their own flight of Army Air Corps Gazelles, which were referred to as ‘The Bat Flight.’ The Gazelles carried sophisticated surveillance gear which was uniquely suited to the operations of ‘The Det.’
From the time of its inception until the end of The Troubles the Det performed numerous operations, mostly following and observing suspected terrorists. These painstakingly planned intelligence operations often led to the arrest of the suspected terrorists and/or the discovery of weapons caches. Occasionally the members of the Det would find themselves in a firefight with terrorists, this was usually due to their cover being blown. Unfortunately, several Det operators tragically lost their lives in Northern Ireland.
The highly-trained members of the Det did not do what they did for glory. They didn’t do it for the accolades, as there were none offered. These elite members put themselves in danger because they believed in what they were working for. They wanted to do their part to protect their country and those they loved. They believed in justice. They believed in the greater good. They knew going into it that no one would ever know what they did or the sacrifices they made in the name of Queen and country. But, they went in anyway. They didn’t see themselves as heroic. But, the elite members of the Det can truly be considered the unsung heroes of The Troubles.
The Det has now been absorbed into the British Army’s Special Reconnaissance Regiment, with a mission to fight the global war on terrorism.
Tonight, when the sun begins to set over Galveston, TX, one veteran will stop traffic at a downtown intersection and face a balcony from which another veteran will step out and play “Taps.” This tribute has been a daily occurrence – for the past four years. For a very touching reason.
Guy Taylor, 83, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. One of his best friends, Cpl David Champagne, served in the Korean War with him and was killed in action. Years later, Taylor visited his friend’s grave in Maine. It was there that he vowed to play ‘Taps’ every day in Champagne’s honor and in honor of all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Constable Clint Wayne Brown, a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve, heard Taylor’s very first tribute. To his dismay, no one else besides him was paying attention. “I thought, ‘No, that’s not how this works,” Brown said in an interview with CBS News. He pulled his patrol car out in front of traffic to make people stop, watch, and listen. Every day since then Brown has been silencing local traffic for a moment while Taylor plays “Taps.”
On March 18th, Karla Burton Smith and her husband were eating dinner at a restaurant that is across the street from Taylor’s balcony. She took a video of that moment and shared it on her Facebook page. It has been shared over 123,000 times. “I think that hearing “Taps” — that final farewell song — struck a chord with everybody,” Smith said in an interview with Wide Open Country. “Every generation, whether you’re younger or older, is impacted by someone in our country’s involvement in the military combat.”
Due to the exposure from the viral video of Taylor’s “Taps” performance, hundreds of veterans around the country have stood on 21st and Post Office Street in downtown Galveston at sunset in solidarity to honor their fallen brothers. What started as one veteran who humbly committed never forget his fallen friend in such a unique way now encourages many Americans to remember those who have paid for our freedom with their lives.
“I hope it lets people realize that this matters,” Smith said. “We need to give respect to our veterans; they have all sacrificed so much.”
Maj. Jim Capers fought valiantly in Vietnam, was severely wounded, and literally became a recruiting poster Marine.
But for more than 40 years, Capers and his supporters have been fighting for an award they believe he was wrongfully denied: The Medal of Honor.
“He was always the last man on the chopper,” former Sgt. Ron Yerman told Marine public affairs in 2010. “I was the second to last man. I’d get aboard and I’d nod. If I didn’t nod, he’d know that all the men weren’t there, and we wouldn’t leave.”
Now Capers’ case is receiving more attention after the publication of the story “The Hero Who Never Was” by former Marine journalist Ethan Rocke in Maxim Magazine. In the story and accompanying video, Rocke gives an excellent account of a Marine who took part in some of the most secretive and dangerous missions of the Vietnam war.
Within minutes, the dog alerted again, and Capers noticed three NVA soldiers just a few feet away. He opened up on full automatic, dropping all three in a single stroke. Capers’ M16 jammed, but Team Broadminded had already initiated its well-rehearsed contact drill, unleashing a barrage of grenades and bullets as the enemy platoon scrambled. Capers, struggling to unjam his rifle, saw two more NVA soldiers emerge, full tilt in a desperate counterattack. He drew his 9 mm and gunned them down. Then he ordered his men to finish off what remained of the enemy platoon. When the battle was over, at least 20 NVA soldiers lay dead, their corpses obscured beneath a haze of gunpowder and smoke. From the surrounding vegetation, the screams of the wounded rang out.
On the chopper back to Khe Sanh, the team was subdued. “There was no backslapping,” Capers recalls. “For us, death and killing had become business as usual.” They’d be back in the jungle in just a few days.
That was just one story among many. Team Broadminded engaged in numerous combat engagements throughout its time in Vietnam, culminating in the vicious fight that would ultimately earn Capers the Silver Star.
On April 3, 1967 near Phu Lac, a large enemy force ambushed Capers’ nine-man patrol with claymore mines and small arms. They were immediately pinned down, and every member was wounded — including Capers, who took more than a dozen pieces of shrapnel to his abdomen and legs.
“Despite his wounds, Capers directed his team to lay down suppressive fire to gain fire superiority and set up a hasty defense,” reads a Marine Corps news release. “He called for mortar and artillery strikes against the enemy, directed the treatment of the wounded and called for the team’s evacuation, ensuring all his men made it out alive.”
The most recent ranking of the world’s most violent cities by the Mexican research group Security, Justice, and Peace again drew attention to Latin America, home to 42 of the 50 cities on the list.
Latin America is indeed the most violent region, accounting for about 8% of the global population but tallying roughly one-third of the world’s intentional homicides.
While homicide is not the only kind of violent crime, it is generally considered the best measure of it.
“Of all the different types of crime, homicide is probably the easiest to track because there’s nothing more biologically evident than a dead body,” Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention, told Business Insider.
In most places, there are also legal procedures that authorities are supposed to follow when dealing with homicides.
Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention.
“So unlike, say, assault or robbery or sexual violence or domestic abuse, homicide is one of those variables that across time and space is relatively straightforward to capture,” Muggah said, adding that researchers can draw on a panoply of sources — law enforcement, public-health agencies, nongovernmental groups, the press, and the public — to tabulate and track homicides over time.
But, as Latin America illustrates, there are a number of recurrent challenges that arise when collecting homicide data that complicate efforts to make comparisons and compile rankings.
Where did it happen?
“Are we looking at national data, state data, city data, and if we are looking at city data, in this case, how are we defining a city?” Muggah said.
A city’s geographic limits can be defined in a number of ways. The UN has three: the city proper, delineated by administrative boundaries; the urban agglomeration, comprising a contiguous urban area; and the metropolitan area, the boundaries of which are based on social or economic connections.
The populations of each of those areas can vary enormously, as can the number of homicides.
“It turns out cities are surprisingly difficult to define. There is no unified or uniform definition of a city, and this has been a source of some consternation for geographers for over a century,” Muggah said.
The Igarapé Institute eschews homicide rankings but does maintain a Homicide Monitor that compiles data on killings, using the urban-agglomeration definition for cities, Muggah said.
The Mexican group adheres to some set of criteria, requiring minimum population of 300,000 people and excluding places with active conflicts, such as Ukraine or Syria.
But the group says in its methodology that whenever possible it includes all the municipalities that it assesses as part of a city — “localities that form a unique urban system, clearly distinguishable from others, independent of the geographic-administrative divisions inside the countries.”
Security, Justice, and Peace rejected the criticism, saying that it based its population count on official numbers and that excluding Rosarito would have actually raised the homicide rate. (Though it did not say why it assessed Tijuana’s metropolitan area and not those of other cities.)
What’s a homicide?
“It turns out there are many kinds of homicide,” Muggah said. “We have homicide that’s intentional. We have homicide that’s unintentional, which we also call manslaughter. We have homicide committed by police, which sometimes isn’t included in the formal homicide statistics.”
Mexico has experienced an alarming increase in homicides, setting records in 2017 and 2018.
Mexico’s official crime data includes two categories for homicide: “homicidio doloso,” which refers to intentional homicides, and “homicidio culposo,” which refers to manslaughter or unintentional homicides.
The most recent tallies for intentional homicides in Mexico in 2017 and 2018 are 28,868 and 33,369, respectively. The totals for all homicides are 46,640 in 2017 and 50,373 in 2018.
Missing persons in Mexico.
While official government tabulations distinguish between unintentional and intentional homicides as they are legally defined in those countries, counts by nongovernmental groups, the media, and the public can elide that distinction, grouping different kinds of lethal violence together.
“And that matters,” Muggah said, “because in some countries, including Mexico and Brazil, when you include police lethality, police killings, which fall under a different category, that can actually significantly augment the overall count.”
In many cases, Muggah added, “those deaths are not what you describe as illegal.”
In 2017, Brazil had 63,880 homicides — 175 killings a day — up 3% from 2016 and a record. (Homicides were trending downward through the first nine months of 2018, but full-year data for 2018 is not yet available.)
In 2017, there was also an increase in the number of people killed by Brazil’s police, rising 20% from 2016 to 5,144 people, or 14 a day. Authorities in Rio de Janeiro state have attracted special scrutiny for their lethality, drawing accusations of extrajudicial executions.
Not only where and how you measure, but also when?
Even when homicide data for a full calendar year is available — which is not always the case; Security, Justice, and Peace list in some cases extrapolates from partial-year data — it may change over time.
“In many cases, there are outstanding trials and judicial processes that are ongoing to determine … what in fact that lethal outcome was, and that can take months. It can take years,” Muggah said. “Typically though, there’s a delay when governments produce data to issue this information because they’re still dealing with many of the legalities around sorting out homicide.”
Full-year 2017 crime data for Mexico, released in January 2018, put the number of homicide victims at 29,168.
The most recent data for that year, updated in March 2019, indicates there were 28,868 homicide victims. (The Mexican government changed its methodology at the beginning of 2018 and updated previous tallies to reflect that.)
Police on the street in the high crime area of Iztapalapa, Mexico City.
There are also 26,000 unidentified bodies in Mexico’s forensic system, and the government estimates that more than 40,000 people are missing. Hidden graves full of unidentified bodies are frequently found all around Mexico.
“In many countries, Latin America, in particular, there are huge impunity rates and a great gap in processing some of these cases, precisely because of the volume but also the lack of capacity to go through all of these cases, and so there’s a reason” for a delay, Muggah said.
It’s necessary to reflect on violence and trends in crime, but, Muggah added, “the challenge is that many governments are operating at different speeds.”
Relaying on data for only part of a year, or drawing on only certain sources that are readily available can often “unintentionally bias our sample,” Muggah said.
Know what you don’t know.
A challenge for “all of us who are in the business of monitoring and tracking and building systems to better understand criminality is that there are many places or instances where crime, including lethal violence, is not particularly well reported, or if it is reported it’s reported very badly,” Muggah said.
Latin American countries release crime data fairly regularly, but closer examination reveals “great gaps in the data,” especially in parts of Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil, Muggah said.
“There’ll be reports that … don’t accurately capture the cause of death, and therefore you get misattribution. There’ll be a situation where they just can’t store the bodies because there’s insufficient space, and so you get undercounts,” he said. “There’ll be places where the governments themselves, police in particular, have no incentive to report on lethal violence and therefore will skew the figures.”
Outside the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a 36-member group that includes most of North America and Europe, available information about crime is also lacking, Muggah said.
“If you go to Africa, with the exception of a few countries, it’s … a knowledge gap around homicide,” he added. That’s also the case in parts of Asia, “where governments just don’t want to report overall statistics on crime, citing it as a national-security issue.”
In the methodology included in its most recent report, Security, Justice, and Peace said that it compiles the ranking with the objective of “calling attention to violence in cities, particularly in Latin America, so that the leaders are pressured to fulfill their duty to protect the governed to guarantee their right to public security.”
“What we are also looking for is that no one … wants their city or cities to appear in this ranking, and that if their city or cities are [on it] already, they make the maximum effort so they leave it as soon as possible,” the group added.
Brazilian Federal Highway Police.
There are positive and negative potential effects of inclusion on such a list, Muggah said.
“One hopes that as a positive outcome, [inclusion] would incentivize city leaders, business leaders in cities, civic activists, and common citizens to be alert to the many risks that are there and also to seek and strive to find ways to get themselves off that list,” he said.
But there can be negative consequences. Reducing a complicated issue such as personal security to a single metric risks sensationalizing the problem and can skew public perceptions, potentially empowering leaders who push hardline punitive responses, Muggah said.
In some cases, it can “stigmatize cities,” Muggah said, affecting foreign and domestic investment, credit ratings, and business decisions. It can also have a particular effect on local economies, especially for tourism, on which many parts of Latin America rely.
“The hope is that by shining a light … on these challenges that somehow this will provoke” a constructive response from the city, its residents, and its leaders, rallying them around a common goal, such as reducing insecurity and getting off that list, Muggah said.
“It’s not clear yet if that in fact has ever happened, whether these lists have contributed positively to social change, and that might be asking too much of a list,” Muggah said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China “is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to strike regional and global targets,” the report reads. “Stealth technology continues to play a key role in the development of these new bombers, which probably will reach initial operational capability no sooner than 2025,” it continued.
Today, China holds perhaps the world’s most passive nuclear arsenal with nuclear warheads that never arm missiles and nominally “nuclear-capable” bombers that have never flown missions with nuclear warheads on board.
China’s only current bomber is the H-6K, an updated, licensed knock off of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16, which entered into service in 1954 and was retired by Moscow in 1993.
Plans and some potential images have leaked for the H-20, a long-range replacement for the H-6K, but until now the second Chinese stealth bomber has remained a rumor and a mystery.
Could China combine the stealth of the B-2 with the fighter prowess of an F-22?
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester)
Experts who spoke to Business Insider about China’s H-20 described the bomber as likely looking a lot like the US’s B-2, a big, flat, flying wing type design.
But the DIA hinted at something a bit more sporty in its report for the second mystery bomber.
“These new bombers will have additional capabilities, with full-spectrum upgrades compared with current operational bomber fleets, and will employ many fifth-generation fighter technologies in their design,” the report said.
While a long-range flying wing type bomber like the H-20 has little use for fighter maneuvers, a medium-range fighter/bomber aircraft could easily make use of the avionics and tactics China gained in developing its stealth fighter, the J-20.
The DIA in a table later in the report refers to the second bomber as a “tactical bomber” and with a fighter/bomber mission, an advanced radar and long-range air-to-air missiles.
The Drive points out that a bomber like the one described by the DIA would have increased endurance and wouldn’t rely so heavily on refueling tankers, thought to be a weak link with US combat aircraft.
Image shows the unnamed Chinese long range missile that could be a big problem for the US.
China has long been developing a massive, 19-foot long very long range air-to-air missile that experts say could pose a direct challenge to top US fighters like the F-35, F-22, and all legacy aircraft.
But the J-20 likely can’t carry this long missile. A stealthy platform with a large internal weapons bay, like the fighter/bomber describe by the DIA, in theory, could handle this weapon.
With both an air-to-air and an air-to-ground mission, the mysterious new bomber may represent a missing link in China’s emerging vision of air supremacy against the US.
“The best solution to this problem I can figure out is to send a super-maneuverable fighter jet with very long-range missiles to destroy those high-value targets, which are the ‘eyes’ of enemy jets,” Air force researcher Fu Qianshao told Chinese media of its new long-range missile.
(Times Asi / Flickr)
Super-maneuverability is one of the fifth-generation fighter characteristics that China may employ on its new bomber, according to the DIA.
But China, by following through on a medium range fighter bomber with long range missiles, may have cracked the code of how to dominate the skies of the Pacific while the US pours money into short range fighters like the F-35 or long-range bombers like the B-21.
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A former interpreter who helped US troops in Afghanistan before fleeing the country with his family was detained at the international airport in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 11, 2019, upon their arrival from Kabul, according to a Texas-based immigration advocacy group.
Mohasif Motawakil, 48, was detained by Customs and Border Protection along with his wife and five children, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) told The Washington Post. Though his wife and children have since been released, Motawakil is still being held by authorities.
RAICES said Motawakil served alongside US troops as an interpreter from 2012 to 2013, later working as a US contractor in his home country.
He and his family were reportedly traveling to the US on Special Immigrant Visas, which are hard to come by and granted to those whose lives are in danger as a result of their service with the US military.
Special Immigrant Visas take years to obtain, and tightened immigration controls have apparently made the process even more difficult for applicants.
“The father remains detained and his wife and children were allowed into the US pending the outcome of his proceedings,” CBP told The Hill, further explaining that “due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, US Customs and Border Protection does not discuss the details of individual cases.”
The temporary release of the mother and the children was attributed to the efforts made by four Texas Democrats working on behalf of the family.
Texas Reps. Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro called CBP while Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee supported the family at the airport.
Nonetheless, the family is is “confused and traumatized” by the situation, RAICES spokesman William Fitzgeral told The Post. Motawakil’s wife and children spent Jan. 11, 2019 at the Afghan Cultural Center in Houston.
The reason for the detention is murky, but Fitzgerald told The Post the family was threatened with deportation after someone — potentially a relative — opened sealed medical records, leading authorities to question the authenticity of the family’s documentation.
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