Ah, the American shopping mall — filled with department stores, gag gifts, and five or six pretzel shops per floor. It’s hard to imagine a United States that isn’t anchored around these retail utopias.
But the shopping mall is only 60 years old, and — while they were partially envisioned as a way to get people to stay near stores and spend money — they were designed to spread the American population away from industrial centers and provide shelter in case of nuclear war.
The first was Southdale Mall near Minneapolis, Minnesota. Southdale and many of the malls that followed were designed by Victor Gruen, an Austrian immigrant who fled Nazi Germany in 1938.
Gruen’s main goal when designing malls was that they should act as self-contained downtown areas. All the best parts of 1950 cities without any of the cars, crime, and unrest that he loathed. Climate-controlled to an eternal spring, his designs featured green space and were surrounded by apartments and office centers.
When Gruen began proposing his indoor malls to civic and business leaders, he packaged it as a civil defense measure. It was to be a perfect cornerstone of the “life belts” around major cities.
The idea for “life belts” had been gaining traction since 1950. It called for a circle of civil defense infrastructure, like shelters and hospitals, to be built just far enough from city centers that they would survive a nuclear bomb strike on the city.
When plans were made for Southdale Mall, civic leaders asked for it to be built at a location 10 miles from Minneapolis’s city center, two miles from the edge of an expected blast. It was nestled between two highways so people could arrive quickly during an attack.
It was constructed of steel and reinforced concrete. A large fallout shelter and a 10,000-kilowatt generator sat underground in case they were needed for an emergency. Plans were drawn to turn shops into food production centers during a crisis.
Other malls, like Randhurst Mall near Chicago and Park Lane Mall in Reno, incorporated shelters and other aspects of Gruens’s designs. But the shopping center as fallout shelter concept didn’t really catch on.
Everyone gets Facebook friend requests from strangers. We used to worry about them being identity thieves. Nowadays, those strangers might be spooks.
Many experts agree cyberspace is the battleground of the future, and for good reason. We see that future playing out in many ways, even now. There are real cybersecurity threats out there, as the recent hacking of the Office of Personnel Management demonstrates. Experts estimate the cost of information lost to hackers could be as high as $4.6 billion.
This isn’t The Pirate Bay sharing films and music via free torrent downloads. This is actual damage from ideological foes like ISIS and North Korea. China alone accounts for 70% of intellectual property theft. One Air Force counter strategy took a play from Russia’s playbook: create an online army of trolls.
Russian trolls pump out 135 comments, 50 news article posts, and maintain 6-10 Facebook and Twitter accounts per 12-hour shift. But Russia uses actual humans to do this work, while the Air Force commissioned software to allow one service member to control the same number of online identities, accounts known as “sock puppets,” toward purposes not specified.
In 2010, Air Force contractors took bids for developing this software on FedBizOps (which is a real government website, despite sounding like a subsidiary of Cash4Gold) as legally required for potential contractor opportunities. According to the contract synopsis the Air Force wanted:
“50 User Licenses, 10 Personas per user. Software will allow 10 personas per user, replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent. Individual applications will enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms. The service includes a user friendly application environment to maximize the user’s situational awareness by displaying real-time local information.”
That’s 500 people spreading disinformation and propaganda, much more than the mass emails your parents send to all their friends.
The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) has the same technology. It might even be better than the Air Force’s request, as CENTCOM’s can fool geolocating services, allowing for misinformation and propaganda (or anything else the software could provide) from anywhere in the world.
“This contract supports classified social media activities outside the U.S., intended to counter violent extremist ideology and enemy propaganda,” said Commander Bill Speaks, the chief media officer of CENTCOM’s digital engagement team.
In contrast, the Air Force’s guidelines for actual humans posting on blogs and social media is actually pretty well constructed.
One of the original bidders for the software was the now-defunct HBGary, whose CEO infamously bragged he was able to take down hacker collective Anonymous, the same collective who subsequently dumped HBGary’s secret documents onto the Internet, where it was found HBGary had developed similar software as a part of the U.S. government’s ongoing not-so-secret supervillain plan to destroy the Wikileaks website.
Whatever the persona technology was for, it was launched in March 2011, presumably in support of Operation Earnest Voice. For the record, it would be illegal for the Air Force or CENTCOM to use “sock puppet” accounts against American citizens.
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today awarded approximately $300 million more in grants under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program to help thousands of very low-income Veteran families around the nation who are permanently housed or transitioning to permanent housing. The SSVF grant program provides access to crucial services to prevent homelessness for Veterans and their families.
SSVF funding, which supports outreach, case management and other flexible assistance to prevent Veteran homelessness or rapidly re-house Veterans who become homeless, has been awarded to 275 non-profit organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These grants, key elements of VA’s implementation of the Housing First Strategy, enable vulnerable Veterans to secure or remain in permanent housing. A list of SSVF grantees is located at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp.
“Since 2010, the Housing First Strategy has helped cut Veteran Homelessness nearly in half,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “Housing First is why 360,000 Veterans and family members have been housed, rehoused or prevented from falling into homelessness over the last five years. SSVF helps homeless Veterans quickly find stable housing and access the supportive services they – and their families – need.”
Grantees will continue to provide eligible Veteran families with outreach, case management, and assistance obtaining VA and other benefits, which may include health care, income support services, financial planning, child care, legal services, transportation, housing counseling, among other services.
Grantees are expected to leverage supportive services grant funds to enhance the housing stability of very low-income Veteran families who are occupying permanent housing. In doing so, grantees are required to establish relationships with local community resources.
In fiscal year (FY) 2015, SSVF served more than 157,000 participants and is on track to exceed that number in FY 2016. As a result of these and other efforts, Veteran homelessness is down 47 percent since the launch of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness in 2010. Also since 2010, more than 360,000 Veterans and their family members have been permanently housed, rapidly re-housed, or prevented from falling into homelessness by VA’s homelessness programs and targeted housing vouchers provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Today’s grant recipients successfully competed for grants under a January 15, 2016, Notice of Fund Availability. Applications were due February 5, 2016. The funding will support SSVF services in FY 2017, which starts October 1, 2016, and ends September 30, 2017.
No matter how advanced smart bombs get, and no matter how stealthy and quick an aircraft can become, the A-10 has one factor that guarantees it can never truly be replaced: its gun.
These days, pretty much any warplane can drop guided munitions with pinpoint accuracy, but what makes the A-10 so special is one of the only weapons used by the US Air Force that isn’t precision-guided: the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger gun with 1,150 incendiary rounds.
In a recent press release, Air Force Col. Sean McCarthy, the 447th Air Expeditionary Group’s commander, explained in a US Department of Defense release exactly why the A-10 can do missions no other plane can.
McCarthy, who commands 550 airmen operating out of Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, revealed that deliberate targeting of ISIS assets in Syria accounts for only about 10% of airstrikes carried out from the base.
The other 90% are dynamic strikes, or strikes where troops on the ground call in for airstrikes. This is where the Warthog shines.
“A troops-in-contact [report] pops up or a target pops up at short notice, and we respond. It generally doesn’t involve an integrated effort with the coalition. It’s just usually a two-ship of A-10s that show up overhead and we conduct our mission,” McCarthy said of the A-10’s operation out of Incirlik.
The A-10 actually operates in the field as an even more precise weapon than even the most advanced smart bombs.
“The No. 1 thing when it comes to strikes is making sure we do as little damage as possible, especially killing civilians. We try very hard to keep that from happening,” McCarthy said.
So when there is any reason to believe that civilians may be in the area, the A-10 is the best tool for the job. In a murky situation, where “there’s no way to know whether they’re civilian noncombatants or not, we don’t take the chance” of using a bomb, McCarthy said.
“That’s a type of target we’ll go after with the gun,” he added. “It’s a low-collateral-damage weapon, pinpoint accurate, and we employ high-explosive incendiary rounds so nothing’s walking away from that if they get hit.”
Watch the A-10 rip its 30mm gun with pinpoint accuracy, and hear the legendary ‘BRRRT’ in the video below:
A dramatic rescue of a little girl trapped by ISIS gunfire was captured Friday on video.
David Eubank, a former Special Forces soldier-turned-aid worker, was filmed as he ran out in the open amid ISIS sniper fire to rescue the girl as two other men covered him with rifle fire.
“I thought, ‘If I die doing this, my wife and kids would understand,” Eubank told the Los Angeles Times.
According to the Times, Eubank’s dramatic rescue played out on a street in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where ISIS snipers were firing at civilians that were attempting to flee. Wearing only a t-shirt, bulletproof vest, and helmet, Eubank is seen running out into the street approximately 150 yards where he picks up the girl and brings her back safely behind a tank.
Eubank, 56, served for a decade with the US Army Special Forces. After leaving the military, he founded an aid group called the Free Burma Rangers, which seeks to bring “hope and love to people in the conflict zones of Burma, Iraq, and Sudan,” according to its website.
The Navy has announced the first carriers that will operate the MQ-25A Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle. The carriers will be receiving data links and control stations in order to operate the UAVs.
According to a report by USNI News, the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) have been selected to be the first to be upgraded to operate the MQ-25A. The George H. W. Bush served as a testbed for the X-47 experimental aerial vehicle in 2013.
The addition of the MQ-25 could happen as early as 2019. The Navy is eager to get the Stingray on carriers in order to take over the aerial refueling mission and to free up F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for combat missions. As many as 30 percent of Super Hornet sorties are used for tanker missions, a huge source of virtual attrition.
The changing role of the MQ-25 Stingray has been in the public eye. Under the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program, the Stingray had been designated RAQ-25, to reflect a reconnaissance and strike role. A 2016 report from USNI News noted that the Navy was going to seek the tanker version in order to try to address a growing strike-fighter shortage.
Later versions of the MQ-25 could be used for the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance mission or for strike missions. The X-47 was equipped with weapons bays capable of holding about 4,500 pounds of bombs.
The Navy had been short of aerial refueling assets since the retirement of the S-3 Viking and the KA-6D Intruder. Other options for the aerial refueling role, including bringing back the S-3 or developing a version of the V-22 Osprey, were discarded in favor of the MQ-25.
A US military commander said on Aug. 31 that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is probably still alive and hiding in the Euphrates River valley between Iraq and Syria.
“We’re looking for him every day. I don’t think he’s dead,” Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of the counter-IS coalition, said in a conference call with reporters.
Townsend said he didn’t “have a clue” where Baghdadi is precisely, but he believes the reclusive extremist leader may have fled with other IS militants to the river valley region after IS lost control of its former bastions in Mosul, Tal Afar, and parts of Raqqa.
US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve commanding general, speaks with Airmen, Marines, and coalition personnel thanking them for the many contributions in support of OIR during an all-call. USAF photo by Tech Sgt. Andy M. Kin.
“The last stand of ISIS will be in the Middle Euphrates River Valley,” Townsend said, using another well-known acronym for the extremist group. “When we find him, I think we’ll just try to kill him first. It’s probably not worth all the trouble to try and capture him.”
“I’ve seen no convincing evidence, intelligence, or open-source or other rumor or otherwise that he’s dead,” said Townsend. “There are also some indicators in intelligence channels that he’s still alive.”
Typically, once recruits meet their DIs, they will receive a barrage of easy-to-follow instructions under extreme stress, which causes them to have “brain farts” and screw up.
“I wanted to go home,” a former Marine joked, recalling that first meeting.
Once a recruit gets through the receiving phase of boot camp to Black Friday, it’s easier to make it all the way through the intense training and earn the title of Marine (versus getting sent back home on request).
For many drill instructors, the experience is just as intense, but their training incentive is to produce the best possible Marines before sending them off to their units.
“Here goes another 90-days,” former Marine DI Mark Hamett recalls. “Let’s do this!”
Typically, after the physically demanding introduction, the drill instructors will use their outside voices inside to introduce themselves and inform the recruits, as a whole, what exactly will be expected from them.
What was supposed to be a tough but short battle where the Marines would quickly win became some of the bloodiest 76 hours in American history as obstacles on the approach and determined Japanese defenders made the Marines bleed for every bit of sand.
The idea behind capturing Betio Island in the Tarawa Atoll was that it would serve as the opening blow in a new front across the Japanese and give the Navy and Marine Corps a corridor through the Central Pacific to Japan.
Over the weekend, real-estate mogul and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said he did not like “losers,” like US Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), in reference to McCain’s 2008 presidential election loss to President Barack Obama.
“I never liked him after that, because I don’t like losers,” Trump said.
He then dug into McCain’s military career. Trump said the US Navy veteran imprisoned for nearly six years in Vietnam was not a “war hero.” He quickly caveated that statement.
“He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured,” Trump said.
Amid the backlash, Trump has accused the media of taking his remarks about McCain’s military record out of context in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show.
McCain has talked and written extensively about his service and his experience as a prisoner of war.
On October 26, 1967, then-US Navy Lieutenant Commander John McCain’s A-4 Skyhawk was shot down over Vietnam.
“I reacted automatically the moment I took the hit and saw my wing was gone. I radioed, ‘I’m hit,’ reached up, and pulled the ejection seat handle. I struck part of the airplane, breaking my left arm, my right arm in three places, and my right knee, and I was briefly knocked unconscious by the force of the ejection.”
Writing in 2000 memoir “Faith Of My Fathers,” this is how McCain describes the moment he became a prisoner of war for nearly six years. He continues:
“I landed in the middle of the lake (Truc Bach Lake), in the middle of the city, in the middle of the day. An escape attempt would have been challenging.”
Wearing approximately 50 pounds of gear and not being able to use either of his broken arms to deploy his life vest, McCain sank to the bottom of the shallow lake. He managed to inflate his life vest by pulling the plastic toggle with his teeth and shot to the surface. Floating in the lake, McCain fell in and out of consciousness until a group of Vietnamese villagers pulled him out of the water.
McCain being pulled from Trúc Bạch Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“Several hundred Vietnamese gathered around me, shouting wildly, stripping my clothes off, spitting on me, kicking and striking me repeatedly. When they had finished removing my gear and clothes, I felt a sharp pain in my right knee. I looked down and saw that my right foot was resting next to my left knee, at a 90-degree angle … Someone smashed a rifle butt into my shoulder, breaking it. Someone else stuck a bayonet in my ankle and groin.”
Before the angry mob could do more harm, Vietnamese soldiers arrived and transported McCain to Hoa Lo, a French-built prison.
“As the massive steel doors loudly clanked shut behind me, I felt a deeper dread than I have ever felt since … for the next few days I drifted in and out of consciousness. When awake, I was periodically taken to another room for interrogation. “
McCain was accused of being a war criminal and tortured until he shared classified military information in exchange for medical attention. As he refused to reveal more than his name, rank, and date of birth, his condition steadily worsened.
“For four days I was taken back and forth to different rooms. Unable to use my arms, I was fed twice a day by a guard. I vomited after the meals, unable to hold down anything but a little tea. I remember being desperately thirsty all the time, but I could drink only when the guard was present for my twice-daily feedings.”
McCain, who was forced to lay in a puddle of his own vomit and other bodily wastes, became feverish and lost consciousness frequently and for longer periods of time.
One day the camp officer, who the PO Ws called Bug and who McCain referred to as “a mean son of b—-,” entered his filthy cell to examine his injuries.
“Are you going to take me to the hospital? I asked.
“No,” he replied. “It’s too late.”
“Take me to the hospital and I’ll get well.”
“It’s too late,” he repeated.
Hopeless, McCain assumed we would die and began mentally prepping himself of his approaching death; but a few hours later, Bug rushed into his cell and shouted: “Your father is a big admiral. Now we take you to the hospital.”
“A couple of days later I found myself lying in a filthy room about twenty by twenty feet, lousy with mosquitoes and rats. Every time it rained, an inch of mud and water would pool on the floor … I received no treatment for my injuries. No one even bothered to wash the grime off me.”
Meanwhile, McCain’s interrogators continued to pressure him for more information and threatened to terminate his medical treatment if he did not cooperate.
“I gave them the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line, and said they were members of my squadron. When asked to identify future targets, I simply recited the names of a number of North Vietnamese cities that had already been bombed.”
Since McCain could not feed himself, a young boy was assigned to feeding him. The boy forced three spoonfuls of food down McCain’s throat twice a day. There were usually leftovers, which the boy helped himself to in front of McCain.
Two months into his captivity, McCain underwent an operation on his leg.
“The Vietnamese filmed the operation, I haven’t a clue why. Regrettably, the operation wasn’t much of a success. The doctors severed all the ligaments on one side of my knee, which has never fully recovered.”
Shortly after his surgery, McCain was moved into a cell with two other American Air Force POWs. They took care of each other and McCain notes that his condition improved.
The darkest moments of his capture occur when guards place him in solitary.
“It’s an awful thing, solitary. It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.”
A year later, several guards brought a resistant McCain to the camp commander in order to formally charge him of his war crimes.
“Knowing that I was in serious trouble and that nothing I did or said would make matters any worse, I replied: ‘F— you.'”
McCain was beat up, tied up for a night, and then dragged to an empty room for 4 days.
“At two-to-three intervals, the guards returned to administer beatings … still I felt they were being careful not to kill or permanently injure me.”
The worst beating came on the third night.
“I lay in my own blood and waste, so tired and hurt that I could not move…he slammed his fist into my face and knocked me across the room towards the waste bucket. I fell on the bucket, hitting it with my left arm, and breaking it again. They left me lying on the floor, moaning from the stabbing pain in my refractured arm.”
It was after this night, that McCain tried to commit suicide twice. He was stopped by the guards and received more beatings. Shortly after, he confessed to whatever war crimes he was accused of and was left alone in his cell for 2 weeks.
“They were the worst two weeks of my life … I was ashamed … I shook, as if my disgrace were a fever.”
This was 2 years into McCain’s almost 6 year imprisonment. He was released as a POW in March of 1973.
SureFire has released a number of shiny shining products recently, and one of them is the Maximus Headlamp. The Maximus (not to be confused with any of the brutal killers from Ridley Scott’s Gladiator or a concert in São Paulo) pushes out one thousand (1,000) lumens of light from an organic lithium-ion battery. It also features a “long-running” SOS beacon for exigent circumstances. (“Long-Running” was SureFire’s phrase; we’re not sure how many hours that actually is).
It’s rechargeable and directional with a variable-outfit LED headlamp. This will allow you to go full potato like Gort, or to dial it back down to just enough lumens sufficient to navigate a campsite or shady bordello…or any level in between. This will also of course affect the runtime, though it’s important to note this thing comes with a gas gauge (which we reckon is a welcome feature). Its readout gives you the battery charge status.
The Maxiumus features a large, knurled dial to make those adjustments, which you can do with one hand. This should help you get it where you want it under stress, in inclement weather, or when wearing gloves. You can also aim it with one hand, as the light assembly rotates up and down 90 degrees.
The LED is backed by one of SureFire’s proprietary reflectors, which enables it to throw out a wide, diffused beam they describe as “optimized for your natural field of vision.”
As for what it does to your noggin, SureFire says this:
“Built from tough, lightweight magnesium, the SureFire Maximus thrives in harsh conditions. It’s also comfortable to wear, thanks to its no-chafe fine-weave headband and moisture-wicking Breathe-O-Prene forehead pad.”
Be forewarened, the MSRP is $275. SureFire lights ain’t cheap, and neither is their performance. If you want a task light you can afford to lose in a drunken stupor or something to just look around your tent with, this might not be for you. If you’re doing serious work where serious gear is important, the Maximums might be worth a look.
Here are the specs:
Virtually indestructible LED emitter regulated to maximize output and runtime
One-hand output adjustment from 1 to 1,000 lumens
Precision reflector produces a wide, smooth beam optimized for your field of vision
Light assembly rotates up and down 90 degrees
Built-in SOS beacon can run for days on end
Tough, lightweight magnesium body with durable black finish
Comfortable no-chafe headband with moisture-wicking Breath-O-Prene® forehead pad
Includes long-life lithium-ion rechargeable battery with wall (AC) and car (DC) chargers
About the Author: We Are The Mighty contributor Richard “Swingin’ Dick” Kilgore comes to us from our partners at BreachBangClear.com (@breachbangclear). He is one half of the most storied celebrity action figure team in the world. He believes in American Exceptionalism, holding the door for any woman, and the idea that you should be held accountable for every word that comes out of your mouth. He may also be one of two nom de plumes for a veritable farrago of CAGs and FAGs (Current Action Guys and Former Action Guys). You can learn more about Swingin’ Dick right here.
On January 17, 1991, seven months after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded and tried to annex neighboring Kuwait, the world decided it had enough. Operation Desert Storm was launched that day, and Saddam was smacked down by a coalition of 39 countries.
Conducting this epic assault required bringing in Western airpower to destroy Hussein’s formidable armored corps of over 4,000 tanks. To open the way for other planes and choppers, eight Apaches and two Pave Low helicopters flew to Iraqi air defense sites and unleashed dozens of Hellfire missiles.
The sites and their operators were destroyed by the onslaught. See actual footage from the raid in this video from the Smithsonian Channel.