Gunfire sounds in the background. In an adjacent alleyway, Islamic State snipers keep watch for movement. On the roof above our heads the Iraqi Security Forces are pouring fire into buildings occupied by the terrorists.
Five members of the Iraqi Federal Police sit on chairs and boxes in a street, sheltered from the battle. One of their colleagues is busy trying to pry open a box of .50 caliber ammo, as another man feeds a belt of bullets into the squad’s machine gun. It’s the sixth month of the battle to re-take Mosul and coming up on the third anniversary of Iraq’s war against ISIS.
In the battle for Mosul, the Iraqi Army has deployed a variety of its best units, including the 9th Armored Division, the black-clad Special Operations Forces, and the Federal Police.
The name may conjure up traffic stops and men rescuing kittens from trees, but in the Iraqi context “federal police” is a mechanized infantry unit: thousands of men in dark blue camouflage with Humvees and machine guns. Accompanying them is another elite unit called the ERD, or Emergency Response Division.
Together they have done the heavy lifting since January, when the operation to liberate West Mosul began. Street-by-street they have fought to dislodge what remains of the “caliphate.” There are fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters left, according to the Iraqis and their American-led coalition allies. But these are the hard core — many of them foreign fighters, such as the Chechen snipers who have been dealing death on this front for months.
ISIS has burrowed into the Old City of Mosul, into buildings that date back hundreds of years. Here they are making one of their last stands around the Nuri Mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his so-called caliphate in 2014.
They’ll fight to the death in the basement of the mosque, an Iraqi officer thinks.
Lieutenant Col. John Hawbaker, commander of a combat team of the 82nd Airborne Division, which is advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, served in Iraq during the surge of 2005-2006, when America was fighting the Iraqi insurgency. He says the contrast today is extraordinary.
Ten years ago the Iraqi Army was more limited than today.
“The Federal Police are extremely professional and disciplined and capable, and that’s one of the biggest differences from 10 years ago,” he declares. The U.S.-led coalition that is helping to defeat ISIS stresses that the Iraqis are fully in charge of the operation and they are the ones leading it.
Jared Kushner and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford were in Baghdad on April 3 to illustrate the high priority the U.S. puts on Iraq’s efforts to crush ISIS.
That’s obvious on the ground. Although the coalition provides artillery and air support, there is no visible presence of coalition forces at the front. It is Iraqis carrying the fight.
The older Iraqi officers have been fighting ISIS in Fallujah, Ramadi, and other cities for the last two years. They say the battle for Mosul is difficult, because ISIS cannot retreat there and has to fight to the last man. But they’ve seen more serious battles in 2015 when ISIS was stronger.
Their men have been forged in this war. As we crawled through holes smashed in the walls of houses to make our way to the roof of one position, soldiers were in each room. One team was looking out for snipers, another preparing RPGs, and others catching a bit of rest on cots. On the roof, soldiers are unlimbering an SPG-9, a kind of long-barreled cannon on a tripod that fires RPGs through a small hole cut in the wall.
“The ISF have victory in hand — it is inevitable; they know it and ISIS knows it. Everyone can see and knows they will win,” says Hawbaker.
ISIS was like a shot in the arm for Baghdad; it provided the existential threat that has led to the creation of an increasingly professional, stronger army that is more self-assured than it was before 2014. The next years will reveal if Iraq can build on that success.
The comments came just a day after an off-the-record meeting the President-elect had with media executives and on-air personalities, in which he said “he believes it is time to have someone from the military as secretary of defense,” according to Politico.
If Trump were to stick with that view, then that means the field of potential candidates has gotten much thinner.
There were a number of names initially floated, including retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.). Both Flynn and Sessions have accepted other positions within the administration, while Talent is apparently still in the running, according to The Washington Post.
Trump met with Mattis on Saturday for about an hour to discuss the position. Not much is known about what they talked about, but Trump did ask the general about the use of waterboarding and was surprised that Mattis was against it.
Afterward, Trump tweeted that Mattis was “very impressive” and called him a “true General’s General.”
Besides receiving praise from Trump himself, Mattis has been receiving near-universal praise in national security circles and among some of the DC elite. Syndicated radio host Laura Ingraham, a Trump backer who spoke at the Republican Convention, said on Twitter that he was the “best candidate.”
And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, offered a ringing endorsement of Mattis on Monday.
“General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops,” McCain wrote in his statement. “I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again.”
Mattis did have some competition from another retired general — Army. Gen. Jack Keane — who was apparently offered the job, but Keane declined it for personal reasons, according to NPR. When asked who Trump should choose instead, Keane gave two names: David Petraeus and James Mattis.
While both would seem a good fit for Defense Secretary, picking Petraeus would likely be a much harder one to get confirmed. Congress seems likely to grant Mattis a waiver of the requirement of a seven-year gap between military service and the civilian defense job, but Petraeus would bring plenty of baggage to a confirmation hearing. That would include a sex scandal and charges of sharing classified information, for which he received a $100,000 fine and two years of probation.
According to people familiar with Trump’s deliberations who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, Mattis is the most likely candidate.
Mattis, 66, is something of a legendary figure in the US military. Looked at as a warrior among Marines and well-respected by members of other services, he’s been at the forefront of a number of engagements.
The former four-star general retired in 2013 after leading Marines for 44 years. His last post was with US Central Command, the Tampa, Florida-based unified command tasked with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than two-dozen other countries.
He led his battalion of Marines in the assault during the first Gulf war in 1991 and commanded the task force charging into Afghanistan in 2001. In 2003, as a Major General, he once again took up the task of motivating his young Marines to go into battle, penning a must-read letterto his troops before they crossed the border into Iraq.
A number of defense secretaries who served under President Barack Obama have criticized him for his supposed “micromanagement.” Even Mattis himself was reportedly forced into early retirement by the Obama administration due to his hawkish views on Iran, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy.
Whoever is ultimately picked, the next head of the Pentagon will oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel and face myriad challenges, from the ongoing fight against ISIS and China’s moves in the South China Sea to the ongoing stress on the military imposed by sequestration.
The next defense secretary may also end up dealing with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and Russia is very likely to test limits in eastern Europe. The secretary will also need to reinvigorate a military plagued by low morale.
Mattis did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
As the summer months come rolling around, families all over the nation will get together and begin planning trips. From hitting sunny beaches to visiting majestic national parks, there are tons of great places to visit this summer. After compiling a list of exciting locations, the next most important part aspect of a vacation is to consider the company you’ll keep.
When coming up with a list of potential vacationers, you’ll need to make sure you well mesh with everyone invited. For the best trip, you’ll want to bring people with a wide variety of characteristics and talents. Here’s a quirky idea: Make sure you invite one of your buddies who served in the military.
Veterans love to drink; it’s no secret. Some of us are beer drinkers while others like to pound a glass of whiskey. While you might have to bribe a veteran to get them to try a new type of food, you can simply put a tasty drink in front of them and watch that f*cker disappear.
It’s like a magic trick — but better.
They’ll have plan ‘b’ through ‘z’ in mind — just in case
Troops are trained to always have contingency plans and that characteristic invariably follows them when they reenter civilian life. Even if you and your buddies are simply visiting a new pub or restaurant, the veteran is going to first locate the exits and identify any potential threats — just in case.
Who doesn’t like saving money? Having a veteran in the group could knock a few dollars off the bill at the end of the night. If you’re okay with paying full price for everything, then we don’t want to go on vacation with you.
They don’t have a problem waiting in lines
In the military, we often do this crappy thing called, “hurry up and wait.” It’s a sh*tty aspect of military service, sure, but it’s a realistic one. If your group wants to get into a club, the veteran among you is the best candidate for waiting out the long line.
Don’t exclusively use your veteran for waiting in lines, though — that’s just plain mean. But it is plus to have a vet who is willing to wait it out for the good of the group.
Tech. Sgt. John Chapman ran out of a bunker on the Takur Ghar mountaintop for the second time, intentionally risking fire from heavily armed enemy fighters.
Shot several times already, Chapman attempted to halt the al-Qaida forces’ assault on an incoming MH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying U.S. special operators.
He no longer had the cover of night, and exposed himself to the enemy as he ran. Dashing out to the ridge line in five-foot-deep snow, Chapman fired at the enemy fighters who were loading rocket-propelled grenades, helping additional American forces to enter the landing zone.
It would be his final bold act before two shots from a large-caliber machine gun cut through his torso, one destroying his aorta and killing him instantly.
But this, Chapman’s final fight, occurred well after the special tactics airman had already been presumed dead.
Tech. Sgt. John Chapman.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
A 30-month investigation involving eyewitness testimony from nearby Army and Air Force service members and drone targeteers, intelligence reports and aircraft video feed proved that Chapman not only lived after he was initially hit and knocked unconscious early in the mission, but that he at one point engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat, fighting for about 70 harrowing minutes on the ground alone. In August 2018, officials who investigated the circumstances surrounding his death spoke publicly for the first time about their findings.
Chapman, a combat controller assigned to the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of his Air Force Cross, for his actions on March 4, 2002, during a ceremony at the White House on Aug. 22, 2018. He will become the first U.S. airman to receive the military’s highest award since the Vietnam War.
“John was the only American that was alive on [that] mountain top, and there was somebody fighting for an hour,” said an Air Force special tactics officer who was part of the investigation team.
Speaking on background during a briefing at the Pentagon on Aug. 16, 2018, the officer explained how the Air Force Special Operations investigative team and the Pentagon concluded that Chapman had lived and continued to fight after his presumed death.
“When you watch [these videos], heroism jumps right off the page at you,” the officer said. “It chokes you up, and it makes you realize the incredible sacrifice.”
He added, “You don’t have to do 30 months of analysis to see that.”
In all, Chapman sustained nine wounds, seven of which were nonfatal, according to his autopsy report. A medical examiner concluded he lived and fought through gunshot wounds to his thigh, heel, calf and torso, which pierced his liver. He had a broken nose and other facial wounds, suggesting he engaged in hand-to-hand combat in close quarters. The final fatal shots likely came from a PKM machine gun, officials said.
John Chapman holding a child in Afghanistan.
The night infiltration began March 3. The reconnaissance team aboard the Chinook, call sign Razor 03, was unaware of the hornet’s nest of al-Qaida forces they were about to encounter. Their overall mission was to establish a reconnaissance position in the Shah-i-Kot Valley in southeastern Afghanistan.
After the assault began, a Navy SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, fell out of the helicopter, which then crash-landed about four miles away.
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Britt K. Slabinski led the SEAL Team 6 unit, known as Mako 30, to which Chapman was assigned back up the ridge on another helicopter, designated as Razor 04. Chapman began calling in airstrikes from AC-130 gunships circling overhead before returning with Slabinski and five other members around 4:27 a.m. local time.
The team’s new objective was to rescue Roberts on the mountainside, which would become known as “Roberts Ridge.” Roberts did not survive.
Chapman ran ahead of his teammates, taking fire from multiple directions. He dug himself into a World War II-style pillbox that was chest-deep and hardened, designated as Bunker 01, officials said. He was 10 meters from a second bunker, but left cover to engage the al-Qaida forces.
At 4:42 a.m., U.S. forces with night-vision goggles observed Chapman falling in battle.
Statements from a nearby Army and Air Force reconnaissance team helped investigators prove that a U.S. service member was on the ridge alone, fighting from a bunker position — Bunker 01.
The second, five-member reconnaissance team was three miles away, listening to Chapman’s radio calls.
“I am absolutely positive [it] was John’s voice. I have no doubt whatsoever,” said one unnamed witness quoted in the months-long investigation, as cited by the Air Force.
“They saw somebody fighting against the enemy from that bunker position for an extended period of time,” the special tactics officer said. “They heard the enemy talking about the American on the mountaintop … And the enemy was talking excitedly — ‘An American! An American! An American!’ — and they were actually planning their assault.”
Meanwhile, another special tactics airman on the same radio frequency heard Chapman transmitting his call sign — MAKO 30C.
Two AC-130 gunships, dubbed “Grim 33” and “Grim 32,” were circling overhead alongside an MQ-1 Predator drone. The three were capturing different angles of the firefight below, although gaps in coverage existed for technical reasons or repositioning.
Grim 32 used a low-light TV sensor that could see various infrared markers, such as reflective tape on Chapman’s body armor as well as strobes from his scope.
Tech. Sgt. John Chapman.
“I continued to observe glint tape, strobe lights, muzzle flashes, and [Infrared Illuminator] laser movement after [4:42] from Bunker 1,” one AC-130 crew member said in his testimony.
The AC-130 pilots and navigator continued to reference Chapman’s position, but the gunships needed to leave the airspace as they had expended their fuel and the enemy could see them overhead.
By overlapping the AC-130 feed and eyewitness testimony alongside the MQ-1 drone feed and the reconnaissance team’s audio observation, “we took seven different subject matter experts that all looked at this independently from an intel perspective and then layered those conclusions in,” the special tactics officer said.
Additionally, the National Geospatial Agency worked with the Air Force to survey the terrain to measure correct distances, height and trajectory of the firefight.
The videos and testimony substantiated what Air Force officials had believed all along, providing the additional clarity needed to piece together the series of events.
“No one thing would tell [Chapman’s] story in its totality. It was bits and pieces combined,” the special tactics officer said.
The final fight
The mission was part of Operation Anaconda, a large-scale attempt to clear the Shah-i-Kot Valley of al-Qaida forces. Chapman died after fighting off al-Qaida forces for roughly two hours, but his efforts allowed the special ops teams that followed to advance their position on the mountainside.
Along with Chapman and Roberts, Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, Army Sgt. Bradley Crose, Army Sgt. Phillip Svitak, Army Spc. Marc Anderson and Army Cpl. Matthew Commons also died during the mission.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made the recommendation to upgrade Chapman’s Air Force Cross earlier this year. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and then-acting Defense Secretary Robert Work were also involved in the recommendation process as the investigation advanced.
Sharon Weinberger, a journalist and military contracting expert, says that the group, which called itself the Synergy Strike Force, had an unique payment system for the bar where they gathered. A sign on the door said, “If you supply data, you will get beer,” Weinberger writes in her book, an excerpt of which was published Wednesday in Foreign Policy.
“Patrons could contribute any sort of data — maps, PowerPoint slides, videos, or photographs” in exchange for beer, Weinberger said. Synergy Strike Force mostly wanted to help Afghanistan by gathering data on the country, much like how Amazon tracks customer purchases. The group distributed technology, created small internet hotspots for communities, and even used crowdsourcing to help identify and locate election fraud.
The methods eventually attracted the attention of the DARPA, the Pentagon agency responsible for developing cutting-edge technologies, e.g. the internet, and more recently, smart drones.
DARPA hadn’t been actively engaged in combat theater since the Vietnam war, and was ready to be useful. The agency launched a massive data-mining project in Afghanistan in 2009 to gather intelligence for the military and hired several contractor companies to assist.
What sort of data was DARPA interested in? One area of data collection in which the agency was most interested involved “costs of transportation and exotic vegetables, to make predictions about insurgencies in Afghanistan.” The military wanted to find out if they could predict what town the Taliban would target next, based solely on the price of potatoes.
DARPA already had contractors collecting data in Afghanistan, but the Synergy Strike Force had special appeal. One of DARPA’s subcontractors, More Eyes, connected with the loose association of artists and “do-gooders” to help the Pentagon’s efforts.
The Synergy Strike Force’s beer-for-data program was never officially part of DARPA, but the group “happily offered the one-terabyte hard drive to the Pentagon.”
The odd pairing of DARPA contractor More Eyes and humanitarian technology activists paid off. The group gave do-it-yourself internet devices to local Afghans and even delivered a laptop to a provincial governor. “Was the More Eyes program successful?” one scientist, defending the program, asked rhetorically. “Well, let’s see. I just put a foreign electronic sensor into the governor’s bedroom.”
The problem was, not a lot of the country had internet, and data collection was difficult. The contract with More Eyes wasn’t renewed in 2011, and by 2013, DARPA withdrew from the country. “Afghans lived and fought much as they had for more than 1,000 years,” Weinberg explained.
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Negotiators are working toward a June 30 deadline for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.
Should the negotiations ultimately fail and the talks fall apart, the Obama administration and any future US president will have what Michael Crowley of Politico describes as an awe-inspiring “plan B” — the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP).
According to Crowley, the US has practiced at least three attack runs over the New Mexico desert. These runs have been flown by B-2 bombers and are meant to test the US’ trump card against any attempt to procure a nuclear weapon, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator.
MOP, which is 20 feet long and weighs 15 tons, “boggles the mind,” according to a former Pentagon official who spoke to Politico after watching footage of the tests.
There’s no publicly available footage of the tests, but this footage of a BLU-109 in action gives an idea of how the MOP works. Bunker-buster munitions burst through a target’s defensive layering before the warhead detonates:
The MOP is the world’s largest nonnuclear weapon. Designed to hit hardened targets, bunkers, and locations deep under ground, the MOP hits the ground at supersonic speed after being released from a B-2 bomber. After impact, the bomb can burrow through 200 feet of earth and 60 feet of concrete before detonating.
In the event that negotiations fail, the US is in a position to launch a series of MOP strikes against Fordow, a once secret nuclear facility contained within a hollowed-out mountain and specially hardened against aerial attack. The centrifuges at Fordow are capable of enriching uranium, which could be used for a nuclear weapon.
Destroying Fordow would be a difficult endeavor despite the size and sheer force of the MOP. Politico notes that the total destruction of the facility would likely require multiple B-2s dropping MOPs at the same GPS-designated location to ensure that the bombs would be able to drill through both the side of the mountain and the facility’s hardened shell before detonating.
But the MOP is supposed to be used in exactly these kinds of coordinated strikes. According to The Wall Street Journal, the bomb is designed to be dropped in pairs. The first is meant to clear a path for the second hit, heightening the bombs’ potent penetration capabilities.
Unnamed officials told The Journal that the MOP’s devastation potential is unlike any nonnuclear weapon ever built.
The weapons have been designed by the US to destroy hardened facilities within North Korea and Iran.
Should the US decide to carry out bombing runs against Iranian nuclear sites, the US could run into substantial difficulties.
Russia has announced that it would be willing to sell the S-300 air-defense system, which can hit aircraft at high altitude from a 150-mile range, to Iran.
If Iran were to acquire the S-300s, Tehran would be able to set up a formidable ring of defense around its nuclear sites.
This would make Iranian air defenses much more difficult to overcome, raising the scale and the stakes of any US bombing run against the country’s nuclear facilities.
The MOP is unique for its ability to penetrate enemy defenses, but it is not the largest bomb the US has ever built. That title goes to the T-12 Cloudmaker, a World War II-era bomb that clocked in at over 40,000 pounds.
A longtime saying in war is that artillery is the king of the battlefield.
But some artillery are better than others, but the best are those that can drive themselves to battle.
For a long time, all artillery was towed. First the towing as done by horses, then by trucks or other vehicles. But there was a problem. The artillery took a while to set up, then, when the battery had to move — either because troops advanced or retreated – or the enemy found out where the artillery was located, it took time to do that.
Fighter pilots say, speed is life.” Artillerymen would not disagree. Towed artillery had another minus: It had a hard time keeping up with tanks and other armored fighting vehicles.
The way to cut the time down was to find a way a howitzer could propel itself. The advantage was that these guns not only could support tanks and other armored units, but these guns often had an easier time setting up to fire. They could also be ready to move much faster, as well.
This ability to “shoot and scoot” made them much harder to locate.
Most self-propelled howitzers fire either a 152mm round (usually from Russia and China, but also from former communist countries like Serbia) or a 155mm round (NATO and most other countries). Often these guns are tracked, but some have been mounted on truck chassis, gaining a higher top speed as a result.
Some of the world’s best self-propelled howitzers include the American-designed M109A6 Paladin, the Russian 2S19, the South Korean K9 Thunder, and the German PzH-2000.
You can see the full list of the ten deadliest self-propelled howitzers in the video below.
The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 110,000 with almost 1.8 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.
Russia on April 12 reported the largest daily increase of coronavirus cases since the start of the outbreak, as the authorities announced restrictions on Easter church services in and around Moscow to contain the spread of the disease.
The Russian Orthodox Church, which will observe Easter this year on April 19, ordered churches to close their doors to large groups during the holy week leading up to the holiday.
Meanwhile, Russia’s coronavirus crisis task force reported 2,186 new coronavirus cases in the country, raising the total number to 15,770.
The number of coronavirus-related deaths rose by 24 to 130, it said.
The official tally has been doubted by critics in Russia and abroad, who suspect the number is being undercounted by health authorities.
Moscow and many other regions have been in lockdown for nearly two weeks, but Russian officials on April 11 warned of a “huge influx” of new coronavirus infections and said that hospitals in the Moscow area were quickly nearing capacity.
“We are seeing hospitals in Moscow working extremely intensely, in heroic, emergency mode,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a television interview.
Peskov described the situation in both Moscow and St. Petersburg as “quite tense because the number of sick people is growing.”
Authorities and doctors in Bulgaria are urging citizens to stay home and pray in their homes for traditional Palm Sunday and Easter services.
Churches have remained open in Bulgaria despite the coronavirus outbreak. Services at major churches are due to be broadcast live for worshippers.
Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said on April 11 that churches will remain open, saying many people were desperate and in low spirits. He, however, urged Bulgarians to stay home.
“A difficult decision but I am ready to bear the reproaches,” Borisov told reporters.
“The bishops told me that there are many people who are in low spirits, desperate. So I just cannot issue such an order [to close churches],” he added.
Thousands attend Easter church services in the Balkan country.
Bulgaria has been in a state of emergency since March 13. Schools and most shops are closed and there are restrictions on intercity travel and access to parks. All domestic and foreign vacation trips are banned.
The country has so far reported 669 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 28 deaths.
Iran’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen by 117 in the past day to 4,474, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said on April 12.
The country has recorded 71,686 cases of the coronavirus that causes the disease, Jahanpur added. Some 1,657 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the past 24 hours, he said.
Iran has been the country hardest hit by the pandemic in the Middle East. Many Iranian and international experts think Iran’s government, which has been criticized for a slow initial response, is intentionally reducing its tally of the pandemic.
Ten thousand graves have been dug in a new section of the Behesht Zahra cemetery south of the Iranian capital to deal with coronavirus deaths, an official with Tehran’s municipality was quoted as saying by the official government news agency IRNA on April 12.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rohani said that restrictions on travel between cities within each province in the country have been lifted.
He said restrictions on travel between provinces will be lifted on April 20.
In the past days, Tehran has reopened some “low-risk” businesses in most parts of the country with the exception of the capital, Tehran, where they will reopen from April 18, official media have reported.
Iranian authorities have called on citizens to respect health protocols and social-distancing measures as the country struggles to curb the deadly outbreak.
The government is concerned that measures to shut down businesses and halt economic activities to contain the outbreak could wreck an already sanctions-battered economy.
The United States has offered humanitarian aid to Iran, but the country’s leaders have rejected it and demanded that sanctions be lifted.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has appealed to international stakeholders for urgent debt relief for Pakistan and other developing countries to help them deal more effectively with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
In a video message released by the Foreign Ministry on April 12, Khan said that “highly indebted countries” lack “fiscal space” to spend both on the fight against the virus and on health and social support.
He said he appealed to world leaders, the heads of financial institutions, and the secretary-general of the United Nations to get together to announce a debt relief initiative for developing countries.
Pakistan has recorded 5,232 coronavirus cases, with 91 deaths.
The South Asian nation’s already struggling economy has been hit hard by nationwide lockdowns that have brought economic activity to a halt.
Pakistan is more than 0 billion in debt to foreign lenders and spends the largest chunk of its budget on servicing its debt.
In his Easter sermon, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Garegin II, urged Armenians to display “national unity” in the face of the coronavirus crisis.
Leading the Mass at an empty St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan on April 12, Garegin called on “the sons and daughters of our nation in the homeland and in the diaspora to give a helping hand to our government authorities in their efforts to overcome the difficult situation created by the pandemic.”
He also called for global solidarity to contain the spread of the virus and what he described as even greater “evils,” including “materialism,” poverty, and armed conflicts.
The Mass, broadcast live on national television, was attended by only two dozen clergymen and a smaller-than-usual choir.
After the service, Garegin blessed a small group of believers who had gathered outside Armenia’s largest cathedral.
Sunday services in all churches across Armenia have been held behind closed doors since the government on March 16 declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, which has officially infected 1,013 people in the South Caucasus country and killed 13.
The Armenian Apostolic Church has restricted church attendance on weekdays and instructed parish churches to live-stream liturgies online, when possible.
The bomb North Korea tested earlier this month was a hydrogen bomb, according to the US military.
North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3, detonating a suspected staged thermonuclear device. In the aftermath, Pyongyang claimed it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb for its new Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, which can strike parts, if not most, of the continental US.
The seismic data indicates the bomb was significantly larger than anything the North has tested before. The blast was so powerful that it literally moved mountains.
Where as the bomb tested last September had an explosive yield of roughly 15 kilotons, the most recent test had an explosive yield potentially in excess of 300 kilotons.
“The size of the weapon shows that there clearly was a secondary explosion,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command, said Sept. 14 afternoon before being pulled away to deal with the latest North Korean missile test, according to Defense News.
“I saw the event, I saw the indications that came from that event,” he told reporters. “I saw the size, I saw the reports. and therefore, to me, I am assuming it was a hydrogen bomb.”
“The change from the original atomic bomb to the hydrogen bomb for the United States changed our entire deterrent relationship with the Soviet Union,” Hyten explained. “It changes the entire relationship because of the sheer destruction and damage you can use, you can create with a weapon that size.”
“That has the capability to destroy a city,” he stated.
Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrating (fill in the blank). No, seriously this is a quiz. We’re guessing you were likely too drunk to remember what one of your most loved holidays is actually about… aside from celebrating tequila and tacos with your favorite group of friends. This year, with Corona (not the beer) in the way, it’s looking more like “Cinco de solo”. But fear not, we’re here to ensure your celebration is just as awesome with these handy at home hacks.
Not all tacos are created equal. They come soft, hard, and even puffy (we’re being totally appropriate here). It’s time to step up your taco game and step out of your comfort zone. Considering the fact that there’s literally nothing else to spend your money on, go big and get multiple styles to create a taco spread that’ll make your homies seriously jealous.
Do the salsa
We’re not talking about the dance… although, why not? Another crucial component of your feast is getting the delicious dip just right. And you’ve got options. Tomatillo, poblano, ancho are all words you need to get familiar with if you’re going to go all in. Feeling fruity? (again, completely appropriate) Try going for a pineapple-mango combination. Whatever you do, don’t you dare cheap out on a jar of pre-made tomato sauce masquerading as salsa.
Should you cut the cheese?
Good question. Research has shown us that this is a highly debated topic that is actually dependent upon what you’re stuffing your taco with. Queso fresco, cotija, queso de Oaxaca, or your standard-issue cheddar all have variations of saltiness, creaminess, and melt factor. One could even go as bold to say “no cheese” and bank heavy on your flavor profile.
Friends don’t let friends…
Friends don’t let friends drink solo on Cinco de Mayo. Yes, this applies even to social distancing parties. In case you live under a rock, there are plenty of apps for you to connect virtually and make it work. Do us a solid and let us know how you got creative with distance drinking games.
Step up your game bro
The stocks may be down, but alcohol sales sure are solid. By now you’ve likely demolished that “emergency stash” and shifted way into the realm of stay-at-home-mom level drink making. Now is your time to shine cupcake. With your designated set of friends, take the time to get creative and conjure up some amazing cocktail recipes for everyone to tray and vote on this holiday. Try setting some ground rules and a pre-set shopping list for everyone to grab beforehand. Take turns making each other’s cocktails and vote on the best.
Make it weird
If it were normal again, this day would be full of crazy taco creations to try at restaurants all across the land. Doing something “weird” is even better when it’s in the privacy of your own home. Cue the next few suggestions: radishes, nopales, fruit, kimchi, and the dessert taco. What we’re saying is- make it a competition between friends and make your best “take”, then deliver one to each of your friends and facetime everyone at dinner time to vote on who did the best.
Whatever you do, do it with as much humor and delicious new methods as humanly possible. It’s a heavy world out there and at least for 24 glorious hours, we can all have a little fun celebrating the Mexican army’s victory over the French empire. Cheers.
As if 2020 couldn’t get any more bizarre, earlier today the Pentagon officially released unclassified, previously leaked footage of “unidentified aerial phenomena” aka unidentified flying objects aka UFOs aka ALIENS.
In September of last year, the Navy acknowledged the validity of the videos, but are officially releasing them “in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena. DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos. The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified.’
There are three videos showing separate incidents.
Gimbal: The First Official UAP Footage from the USG for Public Release
If social distancing’s got you down, just remember: We’re not alone. Is that threatening to national security? Here’s what UFO expert and former special agent Luis Elizondo, said in an interview with WATM:
Do I think they’re a threat? They could be if they wanted to be.
Let me give you a very succinct analogy: Let’s say at night you go to lock your front door, you don’t expect any problems, but you lock it anyways just to be extra safe. You lock your windows, and you turn on your alarm system, and you go to bed. You do this every morning, and let’s say one morning after you wake up, you’re walking downstairs, and you find muddy footprints in your living room.
Nothing has been taken, no one is hurt, but despite you locking the front doors, the windows, and turning on the alarm system — there are muddy footprints in your living room.
The question is: is that a threat?
Well, I don’t know, but it could be if it wanted to be.
With everyone hating on some ignorant teacher for sh*t-talking the troops or an Airman for making a horrible rant video, can’t we all just band back together and hate on the real enemy? Tom Brady. So we’ll mock him. Because he can take it.
13. There’s always one in every unit.
12. We’re also experts at drinking until 0500, sneaking guests past the gate in car trunks, and putting bullets in things.