Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat - We Are The Mighty
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Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked officials to give him options for removing the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said April 9.


As a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the Korean Peninsula to send a message to North Korea, McMaster told Fox News, “This is a rogue regime that is now a nuclear-capable regime…so the president has asked us to be prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat to the American people and our allies and partners in that region.”

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on Feb. 13, 2017. (KCNA/Handout)

McMaster described the U.S. decision to send the Carl Vinson Strike Group to safeguard U.S. interests in the Western Pacific as “prudent.” He said that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at their summit in Florida early April that Pyongyang’s “provocative behavior” developing nuclear weapons was unacceptable.

“Presidents before and President Trump agreed this is unacceptable, that what must happen is the denuclearization of the peninsula,” McMaster said.

A South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said April 10 the deployment of the Carl Vinson to the Western Pacific region was in response to the “serious situation on the Korean Peninsula.”

Moon Sang-gyun said it is understandable that the U.S. and South Korea are “fully preparing for possible provocations by North Korea, considering that possibilities of Pyongyang’s strategic provocations, including nuclear and missile tests, are increasing.”

North Korea has been trying to develop a long-range missile carrying a nuclear warhead that is capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, a distance of about 8,000 kilometers. It has staged five nuclear tests so far and could be preparing a sixth.

North Korea recently conducted a ballistic missile test in spite of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning such launches.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, without directly naming North Korea, told ABC News, “If you violate international agreements, if you fail to live up to commitments, if you become a threat to others, at some point a response is likely to be undertaken.”

The Carl Vinson Strike Group was making a port call in Singapore and was scheduled to sail for Australia when the U.S. Pacific Command ordered the ships to sail north instead.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
An SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 15 flies past the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans)

“Third Fleet ships operate forward with a purpose: to safeguard U.S. interests in the Western Pacific,” Commander Dave Benham, Director of Media Operations for the U.S. Pacific Command Third Fleet, told Voice of America.

“The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible, and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” Benham said.

The strike group includes its namesake aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, as well as three guided-missile destroyers.

Pyongyang’s reaction

Pyongyang has repeatedly defied international warnings about conducting missile launches and testing nuclear devices.

On April 9, a North Korean Foreign Ministry official was quoted on state-run media as vowing to step up the country’s defenses to protect itself from airstrikes like the U.S. carried out against Syria on April 6.

The unidentified official told the Korean Central New Agency the airstrikes were “absolutely unpardonable,” and proves Pyongyang is justified in having nuclear weapons.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
North Korea continues to develop missiles that could potentially strike America. (Photo: The Heritage Foundation: 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength)

While Trump has not set out a clear strategy for dealing with the isolated nation, he has criticized the administration of former President Barack Obama for its policy of “strategic patience,” in the face of North Korea’s ongoing efforts to develop long-range nuclear strike capability.

Trump has also called on China, North Korea’s strongest ally, to take stronger action to curb those nuclear ambitions.

Unilateral action?

Earlier in April, Trump suggested the U.S. might take action unilaterally if China wasn’t willing to do more.

“If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will,” Trump told The Financial Times on April 2. ” China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won’t. If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.”

Tillerson said that Xi, at his summit with Trump, signaled a willingness to do more to rein in North Korea.

“They have indicated that they will and I think we need to allow them time to take actions,” Tillerson said of China.

Voice of America Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.

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This daring commando raid’s only injury was from a negligent discharge

In March 1941, over 500 British and Allied commandos, sappers, and sailors launched a daring four-pronged raid against Norwegian towns occupied by the German Army. Despite the German forces spotting the commandos 24 hours before the attack, the British suffered only one casualty.


An officer accidentally shot himself in the thigh.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

Operation Claymore, as it was known, was a commando raid targeting fish oil factories in the Lofoten Islands. The fish oil was a prime source of glycerin which is a crucial propellant for most types of weapons ammunition in World War II.

The islands are 100 miles into the Arctic Circle and guarded by a force of over 200 German troops. The commandos expected potentially heavy resistance and spent about a week in the Orkney Islands rehearsing their assault plan.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

On March 1, they began a three-day journey through rough seas to the targets. Two days later, they were spotted by a German aircraft but pressed forward, risking the possibility of hitting beaches with prepared and dug-in Nazi defenders.

When the British arrived, ice had formed further out than expected and the commandos were forced to get out of the boats early before running across it to hit the towns. All four groups managed to cross the ice and hit their targeted towns without facing any real resistance.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
(Photo: Royal Navy Lt. R. G. G. Coote, Imperial War Museum)

In fact, the local Norwegians watched the British coming at them like it was a small show, and the commandos made it into the buildings before they even began to see German uniforms. With many of the defenders separated or still asleep, the attackers were able to quell resistance with few shots fired.

They captured 225 prisoners while taking every one of their objectives. Despite the attack force having been spotted by the German plane, none of the defenders were ready.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

The grateful locals brought out coffee and treats for the attackers, the sappers planted charges against the fish oil tanks, and the Norwegians started recruiting the citizens into the Free Norwegian Forces.

There was an additional lucky break for the commandos. They hit a German-held trawler and killed 14 of the defenders.

The ship commander managed to throw the Enigma machine over the side but the British still captured technical documents and spare parts for the machine, giving code breakers in Bletchley Park near London a leg up.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
(Photo: Royal Navy Lt. R. G. G. Coote, Imperial War Museum)

The mission was a huge success, but as mentioned above, the British did suffer a single casualty when an officer accidentally shot himself in his thigh with a revolver.

The British knew how well the mission had gone, and got a bit cocky about it.

One group sent a telegraph to Hitler with the captured communication gear asking him where his vaunted German soldiers were. Another group hit a nearby seaplane base and took all their weapons, just for additional giggles.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
(Photo: War Office Capt. Tennyson d’Eyncourt, Imperial War Museum)

The German commander, who probably should’ve been grateful that he and his men weren’t added to the 225 prisoners the British had captured, later complained to his fuhrer that the commandos had displayed “unwarlike” behavior.

(Pretty sure the dudes captured without a shot fired were the “unwarlike” fellows, but whatever.)

When the commandos finally left, they blew the fish oil tanks, sending huge fireballs into the sky. They also sank some ships vital to the fish oil production including the most advanced fish factory-ship of the time.

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The Air Force had giant robots in the 1960s

The Air Force has been holding out on us. Over 50 years ago they developed a functional robot that stood over 26 feet high, could carry 2,000 pound loads, and punched right through concrete walls.


So why, 50 years later, does warfare not look like this?

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
GIF: Youtube/GerritE82

Besides the obvious answer (the Air Force hates fun), it’s because the “Beetle” was designed for just a few missions, all of which were eliminated before it was completed.

The 85-ton robot was ordered by the Air Force to provide a maintenance capability for their nuclear-powered bombers. The Beetle would have been used to change out nuclear materials, payloads, and irradiated parts on the bombers in situations where a normal mechanic or ordnance worker would be irradiated.

The cab of the Beetle housed a single driver behind one-foot-thick walls of lead lined with 1/2-inch steel plates. The materials cut the radioactive exposure of the driver to a 3,000th of ambient levels.

The bomber program was canceled. But the Beetle was undergoing its final stages of construction, so the Air Force finished and tested it.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Historians agree the tests looked nothing like this. GIF: Youtube/Cellidor .

It did alright in testing, accomplishing all of its major goals despite throwing a track during a pivot test and suffering problems with the air conditioner/filtration system.

The test report also notes the high level of maintenance required to keep the robot working, something a 1962 Popular Mechanics article also highlighted. The system was prone to leaks and short circuits, among other issues.

After testing, the Air Force allowed the Beetle and one of its support vehicles to be transferred to the Atomic Energy Commission and NASA to aid with a nuclear rocket program. But, that program was also canceled as scientists found better ways of creating chemical propellants for rockets and missiles.

So the Beetle found itself without a job and just disappeared. The Air Force has never said what happened to the giant robot. So while no one can prove they started a robot fighting league in the desert, no one can prove they didn’t.

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US apologizes for leaflet drop that shows a dog carrying a Taliban flag

 


On Sept. 6, a US commander apologized for dropping leaflets in Afghanistan that were deemed offensive to Islam.

The leaflets dropped Sept. 4, which encouraged Afghans to cooperate with security forces, included an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, said Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province, north of Kabul. The flag has Islamic verses inscribed on it and dogs are seen as unclean in much of the Muslim world.

“Local people are very upset with this incident, and they want the perpetrators brought to justice,” Shahid said, adding that demonstrations were expected across the province.

Maj. Gen. James Linder apologized, acknowledging in a statement that “the design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam.” He offered his “sincerest apologies for this error.”

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
US Army Maj. Gen. James B. Linder. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar.

Throughout the 16-year Afghan war, US forces have struggled to convince ordinary Afghans to help them defeat the Taliban. Afghanistan is a deeply conservative country and alleged blasphemy has sparked riots.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, two civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in the eastern Laghman province on Wednesday, according to Sarhadi Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents are active in the province.

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Experts dispute what really killed Stonewall Jackson

Did friendly fire really kill Confederate Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, or is this just a myth of the Civil War?


We all know the story (or should).

On May 2, 1863, Jackson was conducting a reconnaissance mission in the last stages of the Battle of Chancellorsville when he was accidentally shot by Confederate troops. He would die eight days later, after an operation to amputate his left arm.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

Today, were someone to be wounded in the left arm and right hand, combat medics would rapidly be working on him to stabilize his condition. Once that was done, a MEDEVAC flight would get him to a combat hospital for further evaluation. Surgery on the arm might not even take place in a combat hospital – Jackson would likely have been transported to a place like Walter Reed for the actual surgery.

He might not lose the arm. He probably would not have died.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Army medics unload a mock casualty from a UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter during a training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center. | U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

But this was 1863, and Jackson died. Why? According to one coroner in a History Channel video, the wounds Jackson received when he was accidentally shot by Confederate sentries while on a reconnaissance mission during the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863, were not the direct cause of his death.

Instead, the blame may very well fall on the poor medical treatment he received after his wounds. The methods used to keep General Jackson under while his arm was amputated using the techniques of the time triggered the pneumonia that killed him, the coroner claims.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

Is he right? Watch the video for yourself and let us know what you think!

History, YouTube

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Mattis’ ISIS plan could mean more US troops in Syria and Iraq

U.S. troop increases in Syria and Iraq could be part of the plan for speeding up the campaign against ISIS that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will present to the White House next week, military officials said Wednesday.


Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him in the Mideast, “It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves” in supporting a combined Syrian Arab and Syrian Kurdish force closing on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria. “That’s an option.”

It was less clear whether Mattis would consider a U.S. troop increase in Iraq.

Also read: Here’s how McMaster differs from Flynn on Russia

Last week, during a visit by the new defense secretary to Iraq to assess the situation, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said, “I have all the authorities I need to prosecute our fight, and I am confident that if I were to need more that my leadership would provide those.”

However, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a task force spokesman, said in a video briefing Wednesday to the Pentagon, “I don’t want to speculate on what we’re going to ask for” in presentations to Mattis. “We’ve provided our input to General Votel” and that input is working its way through the chain of command.”

He added, “We’re awaiting decisions.”

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Mattis spoke to the possibility of “accelerating” the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. On Jan. 27, President Donald Trump directed him to draw up a plan within 30 days.

Trump has spoken favorably on the creation of safe zones for refugees in Syria, which would potentially require major increases in the U.S. troop presence to police and protect them. The president renewed his support for safe zones at what was billed as a campaign rally in Florida last week, and said that the Gulf states would pay for them.

“We’re going to have the Gulf states pay for those safe zones,” Trump said. “They have nothing but money.”

Mattis is prepared to submit the ISIS plan to Trump next week, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday. “It will address ISIS globally, and it is not just a DoD plan,” he said. “We’re charged with leading the development of the plan, but it absolutely calls upon the capabilities of other departments.

“We have been working diligently with our interagency partners to develop it with the intelligence community, our military commanders on the ground, the Joint Staff and our policy team here, and it represents the input of a number of other departments,” Davis said.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. | US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis

On the ground in the Mideast, Votel told reporters, “I am very concerned about maintaining momentum” in the simultaneous campaigns to take Raqqa and liberate the western sector of Mosul in northwestern Iraq.

Currently, the U.S. has about 500 troops, mostly Special Forces, in Syria and more than 5,000 in Iraq in train, assist and advisory roles. In the coming fight for Raqqa, Votel said, “We want to bring the right capabilities forward.”

“Not all of those are necessarily resident in the special operations community. If we need additional artillery or things like that, I want to be able to bring those forward to augment our operations,” Votel said, according to The New York Times.

“We might bring potentially more of our assets to bear if we need to, as opposed to relying on our partners” under the umbrella group called the Syrian Democratic Forces, he said. “That’s an option.”

In his statements last week, Townsend said U.S. troops in advisory roles are moving closer to the front lines with the Iraqi Security Forces as the battle for Mosul intensifies. “It is true that we are operating closer and deeper into the Iraqi formation,” he said. “We adjusted our posture during the east Mosul fight and embedded advisers a bit further down into the formation.”

The result has been that U.S. troops serving as Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to guide airstrikes and in other advisory capacities have increasingly come under fire, Dorrian said in his briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon.

“When someone is shooting at you, that is combat. Yes. That has happened,” Dorrian said. “They have come under fire at different times, [and] they have returned fire at different times in and around Mosul.”

There have been no recent reports of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq, and Dorrian declined to say whether any U.S. troops had been wounded in the fighting in and around Mosul.

He said the U.S. military in Iraq and Syria does not immediately report on the number of wounded troops, if any, to avoid giving intelligence to the enemy. Casualty figures would be compiled at a later date by the Defense Department, he said.

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19 pictures of troops braving the cold that will make you thankful to be indoors

 


Troops don’t wait for perfect conditions to get things done, and combat ops and mission training don’t get canceled by winter weather.

Here are 19 pictures that will make you thankful to be indoors.

This picture of Air Force C-130s landing on an icy runway to deliver troops:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: U.S. Army

These soldiers digging out a vehicle stuck in the snow in Zabul province, Afghanistan:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: U.S. Navy

These soldiers scaling a cliff with spiked boots and climbing gear:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

This soldier pitching a tent in sub-zero temperatures:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: U.S. Air Force

 … and his brothers who keep him company:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

… while a few pull sentry duty:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: USMC

These flight deck sailors waiting on jets to return:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: U.S. Navy

… while others huddle around the catapult steam to keep warm:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

This Army rifleman providing security in the snow:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: U.S. Army

These Marines braving a snow storm on patrol:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: DVIDSHUB

Or this soldier standing guard in the village of Marzak, Afghanistan:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: U.S. Army

These Marine Corps officer candidates marching through a snow storm while carrying close to their equivalent in weight:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: USMC

This airman at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan working on a C-130 during snow fall:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: DVIDSHUB

… while this soldier on the other side of the base clears the snow from a Chinook:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: DVIDSHUB

This sailor clearing the snow from the pier to make it easier to get in and out of his home — the USS Missouri:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: U.S. Navy

This sailor directing an E/F-18 Growler in the middle of a heavy snow storm:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: U.S. Navy

These guys shoveling snow off the flight deck:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: U.S. Navy

… while this Air Boss tries to get a snowball fight going:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: U.S. Navy

… and these Marines showing how moto they are with a little shirtless winter wonderland PT:

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Photo: Daily Mail

NOW: The crazy time when soldiers stopped fighting each other in WWI to celebrate Christmas together

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How the Mosul assault crushed the ISIS chemical weapons capability

The siege of Mosul and targeted killings of chemical weapons experts in US-led coalition airstrikes have significantly degraded the Islamic State’s production capability, although the group likely retains expertise to produce small batches of sulfur mustard and chlorine agents, a London-based analysis group said on June 13th.


In a new report, IHS Markit said there has been a major reduction in IS’ use of chemical weapons outside the northern Iraqi city. It has recorded one alleged use of chemical weapons by the group in Syria this year, as opposed to 13 allegations in the previous six months. All other recorded allegations of IS using chemical agents in 2017 have been in Iraq — nine of them inside Mosul and one in Diyala province, it said.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro/released

“The operation to isolate and recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul coincides with a massive reduction in Islamic State chemical weapons use in Syria,” said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit.

“This suggests that the group has not established any further chemical weapons production sites outside Mosul, although it is likely that some specialists were evacuated to Syria and retain the expertise.”

IS has lost more than half the territory it once controlled in Iraq. It’s now fighting to defend a cluster of western neighborhoods in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. Mosul is the last major urban area held by the group in Iraq, and is believed to be at the heart of its efforts to produce chemical weapons.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Andrew D. Pendracki

IHS Markit says the militant group has been accused of using chemical weapons at least 71 times since July 2014 in Iraq and Syria. Most of these involved either the use of chlorine or sulfur mustard agents, delivered with mortars, rockets, and IEDs.

The report released June 13th says the continuing chemical weapons attacks in Mosul most likely draw on remaining stockpiles in the city.

It warned, however, that the extremist group likely retains the capability to produce small batches of low quality chlorine and sulfur mustard agents elsewhere. It could use such agents to enhance the psychological impact of suicide car bombings in urban areas or in terrorist attacks abroad.

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7 thoughts a fighter pilot has during a dogfight

Requirements officers at the Pentagon and defense companies like to tout the “beyond visual range” capabilities of modern aircraft. On paper, these days a pilot could earn ace status and never see his or her opponents.


However, air wars aren’t fought on paper, and history has shown that in spite of all the sensors and early warning platforms chances are very high that a bad guy or two will make it into the visual arena. At that point it’s down to a good old-fashioned dogfight, mano-a-mano.

Here are the main thoughts that go through a fighter pilot’s mind in that dynamic environment:

1. “What kind of bandit am I fighting?”

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

This is where homework comes in. A fighter pilot needs to be able to recognize what kind of airplane he’s up against at the longest possible range and any aspect, and he needs to know what the capabilities of that airplane are including aerodynamic characteristics and weapons performance. This kind of recognition determines what kind of fight a pilot should attempt.

2. “What’s my weapons loadout?”

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

Fighter pilots have a saying:  “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” So it’s best to bring a gun to a knife fight . . . or at least bring a long, sharp knife to a knife fight. A pilot has to know what weapons he has on the jet at all times and be ready to select the right one and pull the trigger in an instant. Few things as wasteful as committing a missile outside of the acceptable envelope, especially in a multi-bandit environment.

3. “Where’s my wingman?”

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

Not only does a pilot need to keep track of where the bad guys are around him, he also needs to know where his wingman is. In the chaotic world of high-G this demands a lot of physical exertion and very clear, concise comms over the radio.

4. “What’s my airspeed?”

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

Depending on the type of fight, faster isn’t always better. If a pilot wants to out-turn a bandit he needs to have the jet flying at the optimum airspeed to carve max angles, not zorching around supersonic.

5. “What’s my altitude?”

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

Fighter pilots have another saying: “You can only tie the record for low flight.” True ‘dat! So it’s smart for a pilot to keep the scan going to stay aware of how high above the ground he is. Plus, different jets have different performance characteristics at high and low altitudes, so a pilot might want to take the fight higher or lower depending on what kind of airplane he’s up against.

6. “What’s my fuel state?”

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

Like flying into the ground, flaming out solves a bandit’s problem for him. It’s easy for a fighter pilot to get tangled up in the phone booth in max burner and drive himself way below his fuel ladder. “Tanker posit!”

7. “Which way is home?”

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

Killing all the bandits makes this problem less stressful, but short of that, a savvy fighter pilot needs to know the correct direction to bug out when the opportunity presents itself. Otherwise he’s going to have to fight his way back through the mess he just worked hard to get out of, and that’s a good way to get killed.

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The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

You’d think that employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs would be spending every bit of their time on the job helping America’s veterans. But that may not be case — some of them may instead be working on “union business.”


Worse, there may be no way to know how much time they have spent on their outside work for federal employee unions.

According to a report by Government Executive, the VA has no standardized method of tracking how much “official time” is spent by government employees on union activities like mediation. The Office of Personnel Management website defines “official time” as “paid time off from assigned Government duties to represent a union or its bargaining unit employees.”

The report noted that 350 of those employees are working full-time on union activities, and that almost 1.1 million man-hours were spent on official time in Fiscal Year 2012.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
The Tomah, Wisconsin VA hospital.

A 2015 Government Accountability Office report done at the request of House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) casts doubt on those reported figures.

The GAO said, “the data VA provided were not sufficiently reliable to determine the amount of official time used by VA employees and the purposes for which it was used for the period of our review.”

The biggest reason for the lack of reliability was due to the fact that the VA had no standardized means to track the amount of “official time” used by employees of that agency.

The report noted that the VA had arrangements with five unions: the National Association of Government Employees; the American Federation of Government Employees; National Nurses United; the National Federation of Federal Employees; and the Service Employees International Union.

Government Executive reported that the VA had agreed to resolve the time-tracking issues.

The VA has been hit with a number of scandals, including one case where a deceased veteran was left lying around for nine hours in a Florida VA facility and another case in a Wisconsin VA hospital where a dentist may have infected hundreds of veterans with HIV and hepatitis.

Those cases came on the heels of a VA hospital using “separate waiting lists” to conceal a backlog of cases, a practice that is believed to have lead to over 200 deaths.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Florida incident drew the wrath of Rep. Gus Biliakis (R-FL), who angrily noted that nobody had been fired over the improper treatment of a veteran’s corpse.

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South Korea wants North Korea to host some 2018 Winter Olympics events

South Korea’s sports minister, Do Jong-hwan, suggested that North Korea host some events at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic games in an attempt to engage Kim Jong Un and promote peace, the Guardian reports.


The idea reflects a larger effort by South Korea’s newly elected President Moon Jae-in, who seeks to revive the old “sunshine policy” whereby South Korea makes overtures of friendship and unity to the North to ease military tensions.

Moon has also pushed for both Koreas to host the 2030 World Cup, saying “if the neighboring countries in north-east Asia, including North and South Korea, can host the World Cup together, it would help to create peace.”

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

North Korean athletes have made limited appearances at global sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics, with two gold medals in Rio’s 2016 games. In soccer, the North Koreans haven’t fared as well.

Do said the Winter Games could go down as the “peace Olympics,” and help to “thaw lingering tensions” between the North and South, according to the Korea Herald.

But building stadiums and holding games in North Korea would raise two major questions: How sound is investment in a nation that continues to threaten its neighbors and enemies with an ever-evolving nuclear missile program, and would international travelers feel at ease visiting the country that just released a US detainee in a coma?

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The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all

For a number of centuries, the battleship and its predecessor, the ship of the line, ruled the oceans. They were big, heavily armed, and were able to take a lot of punishment. But battleships haven’t sailed on the high seas for nearly a quarter-century, since the 1992 retirement of USS Missouri (BB 63).


In fact, the only capital ship in active service (outside of aircraft carriers), the Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great), is in the Russian Navy.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
Russian battlecruiser Petr Velikiy in all her glory. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Officially, Russia refers to the Kirov-class battlecruisers as “heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers.” But at 24,500 tons, and with a top speed of 32 knots, these ships are powerful. The Soviets started five of these vessels, and in the 1980s, completed three of them before the fall of the Soviet Union.

Those three were named Kirov, Frunze, and Kalinin. The fourth vessel under construction, Yuri Andropov, and the planned fifth, October Revolution, were placed on hold.

The ships were renamed by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992 to Admiral Ushakov (ex-Kirov), Admiral Lazarev (ex-Frunze), Admiral Nakhimov (ex-Kalinin), Petr Yelikiy (ex-Yuri Andropov), and Admiral Kuznetsov (ex-October Revolution). The Admiral Kuznetsov was cancelled, and the name went to Russia’s troubled carrier. The Petr Velikiy was eventually put into service in 1998. But during that time, the Admiral Ushakov, the Admiral Lazarev, and the Admiral Nakhimov went into “operational reserve.”

So, let’s get to the good stuff: the firepower. Petr Velikiy can handle any threat in the wild blue yonder (that’s the sky, for those of you who don’t sing the Air Force song regularly). She carries 96 SA-N-6 “Grumble” surface-to-air missiles, 20 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” anti-ship missiles, 16 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 “Gauntlet” point-defense surface-to-air missile, six CADS-N-1 point-defense systems (each with eight SA-N-11 “Grison” surface-to-air missiles and two 30mm Gatling guns), a twin 130mm gun mount, and two quintuple 533mm (21-inch) torpedo tube mounts. The ship can also carry two Ka-27 “Helix” helicopters.

Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat
That’s a lotta weapons. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Russia is planning to bring at least one of the non-operational ships back into service. Currently Admiral Nakhimov is being upgraded with plans to return her to service in 2018. The Petr Velikiy would then receive a four-year modernization. Whether the Admiral Ushakov or Admiral Lazarev follow suit remains to be seen, with conflicting reports among those who follow the Russian Navy. Admiral Ushakov reportedly suffered a reactor accident in 1990 that was never repaired. Both ships are said to be in bad condition.

Technically, the United States Navy is required to be able to reactivate two of its Iowa-class battleships. USS Iowa (BB 61 ) and USS Wisconsin (BB 64) were designated as such under Section 1014 of the National Defense Authorization Act 2006. But barring a major national emergency for the United States, it looks as if the Petr Velikiy and the Admiral Nakhimov will remain the last of their kind.

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The Pentagon wants armed citizens to stop standing outside of recruiting centers

The Department of Defense is asking armed citizens to stop standing outside of military recruiting centers, USA Today reported Friday.


“We take the safety of our service members, our DoD civilians, and the families who support them very seriously, and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is currently reviewing recommendations from the services for making our installations and facilities safer — including our recruiting stations,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.

Some citizens have armed themselves and have stood outside recruiting centers in the wake of the July 16 shooting rampage by Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez in Chattanooga, Tennessee that resulted in the deaths of four U.S. Marines and one sailor.

But armed non-military personnel — some affiliated with militia groups — has gotten some military leaders worried, according to Stars Stripes.

“I’m sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior,” reads a letter from Army Recruiting Command, which urges recruiters to report the vigilantes to local law enforcement.

The Pentagon issued the statement after a man accidentally fired his AR-15 outside of a recruiting center in Lancaster, Ohio, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

“We felt it was prudent to issue this statement in order to help potentially prevent other incidents like this from occurring,” a defense official told The New York Times. “The absolute last thing we want is to see any other loss of life.”

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