When you’re on deployment in the middle of nowhere, calling friends and family can be challenging. The satellite phones might be down for various reasons — or since you’re probably in different time zones — the person you’re trying to reach has been in bed for hours.
Get used to it because you have six more months until you rotate home.
As more and more people use social media these days versus talking on the phone, new problems will surface for our deployment service members — all because of freakin’ social media.
Military retirees, those who receive disability or other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal retirees, and social security recipients will see a 2.8 percent pay raise in their monthly checks in 2019.
Thanks to the increase, the average military retirement check for an E-7 with 20 years of service will go up by a month, while an O-5 with the same time in uniform will see a 6 monthly increase.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Heather L. Rodgers)
Retirees who entered military service on or after Aug. 1, 1986 and opted in for the Career Status Bonus (CSB/Redux retirement plan), have any COLA increases reduced by 1 percent, so they will see a 2019 increase of 1.8 percent or monthly for an E-7 with 20 years of service, or each month for an O-5 with 20 years of service.
VA disability increase
Disabled veterans will also get a bump. The average VA disability check will go up about per month for those with a 10 percent rating, and for those rated at 100 percent.
Other federal retirees and beneficiaries
Military retirees and VA beneficiaries aren’t the only ones who benefit from the COLA increase. Civil Service retirees, and Social Security recipients will also see the 2.8 percent jump in their monthly checks as well.
For Social Security recipients, the monthly increase will mean an extra per month for the average beneficiary.
Largest COLA bump in years
This annual COLA is determined by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is a measurement of a broad sampling of the cost of consumer goods and expenses. The CPI is compared to the previous year, if there is an increase there is a COLA. If there is no increase, there is no COLA.
The COLA affects about one in every five Americans, including Social Security recipients, disabled veterans, federal retirees, and retired military members.
In 2017, the COLA increase was 2.0 percent; in 2017, retirees saw a 0.3 percent increase.
Keep up with military pay updates
Military pay benefits are changing all the time — make sure you’re up to date with everything you’ve earned. Join Military.com for free to receive updates on all your military benefits, delivered directly to your inbox.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Help! My service member needs to lose weight to stay In…how do I help?
This is a question that all of us have either heard or asked ourselves at least once during our trials and tribulations as a military family.
Commit to holding them accountable while they’re in the process of dropping the weight. Participate WITH them. As a spouse, it’s crucial that we actively help them pursue their goals. When our loved one needs to lose weight, with that territory comes dedication to doing whatever is needed to help them succeed – their career is on the line!
This means removing processed foods from your shopping list, learning what “clean” ingredients to buy instead, encouraging them to be more physically active (any activity is better than none), and even sending them silly text messages or emails daily with emojis reminding them to drink more water.
Back in early 2016, my husband and I learned first-hand how important this is. It truly made a massive difference when we committed to getting healthy TOGETHER. I was much better at staying on schedule as we learned to eat more frequent meals and had to constantly stay on him at first to make sure he was remembering to eat. He was excellent at staying focused and not eating a bite of this or a taste of that. He really kept me in line when I appeared close to straying. Tiny bites off the kids plates can truly throw you off course!
2. Workout smarter, not harder
Most people actually perform their workouts in the wrong order! Maximize your time in the gym by always doing your HIIT and strength training (yoga included) BEFORE fat-burning cardio.
3. Encourage sleep
Support them in getting to bed earlier. Make sure they aren’t using their snooze button, instead just set the alarm 30 minutes later if that is what time they really intend to get up.
4. Remove inflammatory ingredients from cupboards
Cut out salt, gluten, cheese yogurt, soy protein, grains, artificial sweeteners, processed sugars, soda, alcohol, coffee caffeinated tea for a week. A simple 7 day detox from these ingredients, eating real food around the clock, throwing in natural detoxifying herbs, upping your water intake, and halting all workouts yields an average of 7-12 pounds of weight shed!!
5. Avoid Quick fixes
Keto, Whole 30, Intermittent Fasting, Juice Cleanses. They ALL work for a very brief moment in time, but the moment you reintroduce your old eating habits the weight comes back and even MORE will follow. Repeated “yo-yo dieting” actually slows the metabolism and causes our bodies to take a longer time losing the weight go-round…and there is always a next time, especially in a world where part of your job description is to meet weight standard requirements every six months.
It’s important to take a few moments to learn the reason for following a system that can be implemented and sustainable for life. Protein, Fats, and Carbs (PFC) are necessary macronutrients, and eating them together every 3 hours is ideal (a balanced shake will work when on the go) in order to create and maintain homeostasis within the body. It will release stored fat much faster this way! Be as strict or as relaxed as needed, but follow the guideline of PFC/3 as best you can year-round for better health and stable blood sugar.
For FREE downloadable recipes, sample meal plans, and step-by-step guides and supplement recommendations to assist with weight loss visit zp8withmary.com From there you may also reach out through email if interested in a FREE 30 minute health evaluation with Mary, a Certified Nutrition Coach through the International Board of Nutrition Fitness Coaching (IBNFC). Her nutrition programs, based on blood-sugar stabilization and macro-nutrient balance, are designed to permanently end dieting.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
By the time the Army of the Ohio joined General William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign in 1864, it had already repelled Confederate attacks on Ohio and marched South through Tennessee, chasing John Bell Hood through the Battles of Knoxville and Nashville. After burning Atlanta, the Union XXIII Corps, which made up the bulk of the Army of the Ohio, stopped to create a historical wonder: the world’s best battle trophy.
It turns out that Civil War combat isn’t very kind to the remnants of battle flags, especially those of the losing side. And after years of constant fighting, and a whole lot of winning, the XXIII Corps had a lot of captured Confederate flags.
I don’t know if you see where this is going.
With all the wear and tear on their own battle flag, the Army of the Ohio decided they required a new flag to fly as they might soon be helping General Sherman March to the Sea. You don’t want to burn Savannah without looking your best. It’s a good thing Confederate battle flags decided to use the exact same colors the XXIII Corps required for its flag.
Using the best pieces of the captured enemy flags they had, the Corps decided to form a new battle flag of their own, made entirely from the shredded, battle-scarred remains of their defeated enemies’ banners. They even happened upon more of the cloth after capturing Macon, Ga. The finished product was actually made for them by the 98th Illinois Regiment.
Technically swearing is prohibited in the military. But should it be? Maybe not!
Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits “indecent language” or that which can offend a person’s decency, modesty, or propriety or is morally shocking because of its filthy, vulgar, or disgusting nature or tendency to create lustful thoughts. Any language that can corrupt morals is subject to the offense.
Service members can actually get a bad conduct discharge and even forfeiture of allowances and even some confinement.
But here’s the thing. The military swears all the d*mn time. There’s a phrase “curse like a sailor” — troops are literally known for it. And that actually might not be a bad thing.
We all served with someone like this.
An article in National Geographic even suggested that swearing is f**king good for you. Emma Byrne, author of the book, Swearing is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language, revealed that swearing promotes trust and teamwork and even increases our tolerance to pain.
Oh except for women. For women it’s un-f**king-feminine — but it wasn’t always. In 1673, a man named Richard Allestree published a book called The Ladies Calling where he said swearing was unladylike and that women who did it would begin to take on masculine characteristics, like growing facial hair.
People actually believed him and still carry a prejudice about women who swear today. Women are judged more harshly when they swear. According to Byrne, women who swear can actually lose friends and social status while men who swear bond more closely with their peers.
Researchers from Stanford and Cambridge published a study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science that suggested that people who curse more tend to be more honest. Swearing provides more nuance and thus allows people to express emotions more truthfully.
In an interesting turn of events, a study from Lancaster University and Cambridge University Press found that women are now more likely to swear than men. The female use of the f-word grew 500% in the past two decades, while men cut their use nearly in half.
I’m less curious about the habits of men and women and more curious about which branches of the military are more likely to swear. I haven’t been able to find any research on it so let me know in the comments what your experience was. It also might vary from job-to-job. I know that when I worked with pilots, they cussed all the time. Then when I PCS’d and was talking to a bunch of spooks, I was reprimanded for saying that something was sh*tty.
They were trying to deploy a guy who was expecting his first child and I wanted to swap his band with a guy eager to volunteer for his first deployment and they wouldn’t let me swap them and it was sh*tty.
As Russia’s government pulled out all the stops on May 9, 2018, to celebrate the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany and to remember the estimated 25 million Soviets who died during the war, historian Konstantin Bogoslavsky was working to shed light on the fate of Soviet POWs “abandoned” by their own government.
The savagery of Hitler’s war on the Soviet Union is widely documented, but many details remain elusive about the plight of Red Army prisoners.
Their exact number will never be known for sure, but estimates of Soviet Red Army soldiers taken prisoner during World War II range from 4 million to 6 million. About two-thirds of those captured by the Germans — more than 3 million troops — had died by the time their comrades captured Berlin in May 1945.
The archives of the Soviet People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs were recently digitized, and Bogoslavsky has been studying the wartime correspondence between the Soviet government and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Geneva-based international organization that tried to aid prisoners, the wounded, and refugees during the war.
“Already on June 23, 1941, the Red Cross sent a telegram to [Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav] Molotov offering its assistance to the Soviet Union during the war,” Bogoslavsky told RFE/RL. “Molotov confirmed his interest.”
In the first weeks of the conflict, Germany and the Soviet Union both confirmed they would adhere to international conventions on the treatment of prisoners. However, it quickly became clear that neither side intended to keep its commitment.
In the first six months of the war, as the Germans raced across the Soviet Union to the outskirts of Moscow, more than 3 million Red Army soldiers were taken prisoner, often as a result of encirclement as Soviet officials refused to allow them to retreat or failed even to issue orders.
According to the archival materials, Bogoslavsky said, the Axis powers offered to exchange lists of prisoners with the Soviets in December 1941. Molotov’s deputy, Andrei Vyshinsky, wrote to his boss that a list of German prisoners had been compiled and advised that it be released to prevent harm to the Soviet Union’s reputation.
“But Molotov wrote on the message, ‘…don’t send the lists (the Germans are violating legal and other norms),'” Bogoslavsky said. “After that, almost all the letters and telegrams received from the Red Cross…were marked by Molotov as ‘Do Not Respond.'”
The Soviet government adopted this policy as a result of a cold-blooded calculus.
“By the end of 1941, more than 3 million people had been taken prisoner, and one of the Soviet leadership’s goals was to control this avalanche,” Bogoslavsky said. “A Soviet soldier had to understand that if he was captured, he wouldn’t be getting any food parcels from the Red Cross and he wouldn’t be sending any postcards to his loved ones. He had to know that the only thing awaiting him there was inevitable death.”
One Soviet document issued under Stalin’s signature, the historian noted, asserted that “the panic-monger, the coward, and the deserter are worse than the enemy.”
In addition, the Soviet government refused to allow any Red Cross representatives into its own notorious prison camps, where they might stumble on secrets of Stalin’s prewar repressions.
“The distribution of food and medicine to prisoners was carried out by representatives of the Red Cross, and that would have meant allowing them access to camps in the Soviet Union,” Bogoslavsky said. “The Soviet leadership was categorically opposed to that. Despite numerous requests, Red Cross representatives were never given visas to travel to the Soviet Union.”
“Of course, the entire responsibility for the mass deaths of Soviet prisoners must fall on the leadership of the Third Reich,” he added. “But Stalin’s government, in my opinion, was guilty of not giving moral support or material assistance to its own soldiers, who were simply abandoned.”
In March 1943, Molotov wrote a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union William Standley, who had forwarded an offer from the Vatican to facilitate an exchange of information about Soviet prisoners being held by the Germans.
“I have the honor of reporting that at the present time this matter does not interest the Soviet government,” Molotov wrote. “Conveying to the government of the United States our gratitude for its attention to Soviet prisoners, I ask you to accept my assurances of my most profound respect for you, Mr. Ambassador.”
During the course of the war, the Soviet government also refused to cooperate with the governments of German allies Finland and Romania on the prisoners issue. Soviet prisoners in Finland did receive Red Cross packages that were organized by a charity in Switzerland and distributed in Finland on a unilateral basis.
In 1942, Romania offered to release 1,018 of the worst-off Soviet prisoners in exchange for a list of Romanians being held by the Soviet Union.
“The Soviet leadership simply ignored that offer,” Bogoslavsky said.
“The Soviet Union was the only country that refused to cooperate with the Red Cross and did not even allow Red Cross delegations onto its territory,” he added. “Germany did not work with the Red Cross in connection with Soviet prisoners, but it did cooperate concerning those of its Western enemies — the Americans, the British, and the French.”
The misfortunes of many Soviet POWs did not end when the guns fell silent.
“It is a myth that all those who returned from POW camps were sent to the gulag,” Bogoslavsky said. “The NKVD (Soviet secret police) set up special camps for checking and filtering returning prisoners. According to historian [Viktor] Zemskov, about 1.5 million former prisoners passed through the filtration process. Of them, about 245,000 were repressed.”
The M2 .50 caliber machine gun has been in production longer than any other, and it’s easy to see why troops love it.
Since the 1930s, “Ma Deuce” has been serving troops on the ground, in vehicles, and in aircraft, and with its effectiveness and reliability, it doesn’t look like this weapon is going out of style any time soon. Originally developed during World War I by John Browning, the weapon is now in the hands of U.S. troops and a number of NATO allies.
The M2 .50 cal has served troops well in Iraq and Afghanistan as a fearsome automatic weapon usually mounted to vehicles.
But it was just as deadly in Normandy in 1944 …
… As it is overlooking remote bases in Afghanistan today.
With a belt-fed .50 BMG round, it packs serious punch that can effectively hit targets out to 1,800 meters.
The weapon can fire a variety of ammunition types, such as standard ball, blanks, armor-piercing (AP), armor-piercing incendiary (API), armor-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) …
… And the crowd favorite: Saboted Light Armor Penetrator (SLAP), which can bust through steel.
Troops can find the .50 cal everywhere from the perimeter of the forward operating base …
Once it’s ready to go, soldiers place the rounds on the feed tray, make sure the cover is closed, and pull the bolt to the rear to load the weapon.
Then it’s ready to rock and roll. The .50 can fire in single shot or fully automatic mode.
At the rear, soldiers grab the “spade” handle and fire it using a butterfly trigger. They need to be careful however: There’s no safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge (Some variants have been fielded which feature a positive safety selector).
While it’s most often mounted to vehicles in a rotating turret …
… Ma Deuce can also be found on the side of helicopters.
And with the use of a tripod, it can also be fired very effectively from the ground.
Correction: This post was updated with new information to reflect the fielding of the M2A1 variant and other versions, which feature safety selectors, and don’t require the need for adjustments to headspace and timing.
A couple individuals from the enraptured masses soaking in pure ecstasy.
The year is 2016. “Love Yourself” by Justin Beiber echoes through the streets. People are wearing choker necklaces again, for some reason. And millions of people are walking around, neck craned to their screens, trying to catch Pokémon.
The massive 2016 explosion of “Pokémon GO” sparked national hysteria. Multitudes of people took to the streets, surroundings be damned. Videos of novice Pokémon trainers falling prey to otherwise pedestrian obstacles (like the one below) went viral overnight.
According to a 2017 analysis, Pokémon GO usage contributed to 150,000 traffic accidents, 256 deaths, and a -7.3 billion economic price tag in the first six months of its launch.
The hysteria was present across the border of our northern ally, as well. The enraptured masses unsuspectingly wandered through Canadian military installations, in search of the powerful pocket monsters.
The Canadian military responded to this invasion with a geopolitical-move as old as time; they issued a firm warning. “It has been discovered that several locations within DND/CAF establishments are host to game landmarks (PokeStops and Gyms) and its mythical digital creatures (Pokémon).”
The enraptured Pokémon masses pressed forward, iPhones in hand, in spite of the vague threat of consequence, while the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation detailed the entire battle with a full after-action report on the situation.
According to the CBC’s report, the Canadian military brass was dumbfounded by their new enemy.
The enraptured masses.
Maj. Jeff Monaghan issued a base-wide memo at Fort Frontenac, letting his men know that many locations on the military base were being used as “both a Pokémon Gym and Pokèmon Stop.” The CBC contacted Maj. Monaghan to follow up his memo with insider knowledge, “I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.” The war ravaged on.
While an assortment of Canadian stripes dripped sweat over a war table, moving pieces to chokehold Pikachu and his cohorts, security expert David Levenick verbalized his frustration, “We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this.” However, the enemy was resolute in their affiliation.
The base took to the offensive and armed a handful of MPs with iPhones and iPads to conduct an inside look into the enemy’s formation. The offensive move paid off, and the inside information led to the upgrading of an on-base museum from a “Pokéstop” to a “Pokémon Gym.”
In the end, however, the war ended as all things do: with a gradual decay. 45 million in the Poké-army became 20. And then 10. Then 5. Much like the Great Roman Empire, the enraptured masses slowly collapsed inward. Some sought refuge in “8 Ball Pool” some in “Super Mario Run” and a few brave souls transferred to a different battlefield altogether— “Bumble.”
Even the rapid hysteria of Pokémon GO was no match for the great equalizers of entropy and new apps, but the great flag of Canada waves on, swiping left to right through the end of time.
For three centuries, the Vikinger (or Vikings) of the countries of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden aggressively expanded their reach into Europe. The Viking Age started in 793 A.D. with the pillaging of the wealthy yet unprotected monastery in Lindisfarne, England. Christendom was officially under attack by heathen hordes of pagan murderers. These heretics fought with a deliberate recklessness that struck fear into the hearts of men.
Like many warrior cultures, the Norse believed the best seats in the afterlife were reserved for those who fell in battle. But they did not go to heaven — instead, they went to Valhalla, where they dined with the creator, fought to the death daily, and partied harder than a Marine infantry battalion the weekend before a deployment. That is, until it was time to fulfill their true purpose.
Lance Corporal: What is my future, oh wise one?
Mimir: Your leave will be denied and you’ll have duty.
To understand Valhalla, one must first understand its ruler: Odin. Odin is the central figure in Norse mythology. He goes by over 200 different names, but is most famously known as The Allfather.
The world of the Norse was created from two elemental realms: Muspelheim, a realm of fire, and Niflheim, made of icy mist. The intertwining of these primordial ingredients created two beings: Ymir, the giant, and Auðumbla, an equally massive cow. The cow nourished itself with salt from rime-stones in nearby ice. The cow licked until a man named Búri was freed from the ice. Not much is known about Búri other than the fact that he had a son, Bor. Bor married Bestla and, together, they had three sons. The eldest of these sons was Odin.
Odin had two ravens who traveled the world, providing him information as the world took shape. He sought wisdom wherever he could find it and his quest lead him to the World Tree, called Yggdrasil. He hung himself from its branches, stabbed himself with his spear, and fasted for nine days to learn the secrets of powerful runes — but this was not enough to satiate a God’s curiosity.
Odin’s thirst for knowledge turned literal when he heard a giant was protecting the actual well of knowledge. Mimir the giant drank deeply from the well, growing wiser with each passing day. Odin wanted a drink — and, thankfully, he had something Mimir was after. The Allfather was omniscient — he could see all. So, a trade deal was stuck: Mimir would happily trade a drink for an all-seeing eye. Without hesitation, Odin plucked out his eye, gave it the giant, and then drank from the well — because that’s just the kind of guy Odin was.
Legend has it NJP’d Marines are also welcomed in Valhalla.
(William T. Maud)
Valkyries carry the chosen to the afterlife
Valkyries are warrior maidens who assist Odin in transporting his chosen slain to Valhalla. These noble maidens were said to be unbelievably beautiful and have love affairs with brave men. The Valkyrie also had the task of aiding Odin in selecting half of the dead to admit into Valhalla. The others went with the goddess Freyja to enjoy a simple, relaxed afterlife.
It was because of this selection process that the Norse welcomed (and often sought) the chance to die a death worthy of Odin’s recognition.
Some say you can literally feel Chesty Puller’s knife hand cut the sound barrier from here.
Odin’s hall is in Asgard
Valhalla is in Asgard, the land of the Gods, which rests high above the realm of man. It is made from the weapons dawned by warriors: The roof is made of golden shields, the rafters are of spears, and coats of mail hang over the benches where the warriors feast.
Valhalla has a golden tree (called Glasir) planted in front of the hall overlooking a rainbow bridge. The stag Eikþyrnir and the goat Heiðrún live on top of the roof, chewing on the leaves of the World Tree. The chosen warriors drink their fill of liquor, harvested from the utters of the goat. Meat for the feasts comes from a boar that regenerates its meat daily so it may be slain again and again. Odin sustains himself on wine alone.
Every day, the chosen warriors fight each other, training for the end of days. After their ferocious training, they become whole again and dine in the great hall like old friends.
Odin’s horse doesn’t seem to share his enthusiasm.
The true purpose of feasting and fighting in Valhalla
The warriors of Valhalla train tirelessly, day after day, until the time comes to fight by Odin’s side against a massive wolf, named Fenrir, during Ragnarök (the Norse apocalypse). Daniel McCoy, author of The Viking Spirit: An Introduction to Norse Mythology and Religion, writes
Odin will fight Fenrir, and by his side will be the einherjar, the host of his chosen human warriors whom he has kept in Valhalla for just this moment. Odin and the champions of men will fight more valiantly than anyone has ever fought before. But it will not be enough. Fenrir will swallow Odin and his men. Then, one of Odin’s sons, Vidar, burning with rage, will charge the beast to avenge his father. On one of his feet will be the shoe that has been crafted for this very purpose; it has been made from all the scraps of leather that human shoemakers have ever discarded, and with it Vidar will hold open the monster’s mouth. Then he will stab his sword through the wolf’s throat, killing him.
The greatest warriors train in Valhalla to fight alongside their creator in the apocalypse and are destined to die a permanent death.
In the Air Force fighter community, there is a coveted and rare marker painted near the cockpit of certain planes, just beneath the pilot’s name, rank, and call sign. It’s 6-inch green star with a 1/2-inch black border that signifies that the aircraft has emerged victorious against an enemy jet in aerial combat.
A U.S. P-51 with the decals showing aerial victories of Nazi, Italian, Japanese, and U.S. planes.
(Pima Air and Space Museum)
The Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force have allowed pilots to mark their victories on their fuselages for decades, but the height of the tradition was during World War II when the frequent aerial combat combined with the sheer numbers of planes in the air at once led to dozens of pilots having to kill or be killed on any given day.
In that era of fierce fighting, the U.S. Army Air Corps allowed most pilots to mark their aerial victories with a small replica of the enemy pilot’s flag, placed beneath the pilot’s name on the fuselage. This was typically either a decal or a bit of paint from applied by the ground crew. There were also some cases of fighter groups painting the silhouettes of the planes they had shot down.
But, eventually, the use of flags, silhouettes, and some other markings fell out of favor when it came to aerial victories, though the Air Force does still allow bomber crews to use bomb silhouettes to mark their missions.
F-15E Strike Eagle #89-0487, the only F-15E to achieve an air-to-air kill, sports the green star on its fuselage while parked at Bagram Air Field in 2008.
“Aerial Victory Marking. Fighter aircraft awarded a verified aerial victory are authorized to display a 6-inch green star with a 1/2 inch black border located just below and centered on the pilot’s name block. The type of aircraft shot down shall be stenciled inside the star in 1/2 inch white lettering. For aircraft with multiple aerial victories, a star is authorized for each aircraft shot down. No other victory markings are authorized.”
Modern aerial victories are rare, not because the U.S. loses but because the Air Force dominates enemy air space so hard and fast that typically only a handful of pilots will actually engage the enemy in the air before the U.S. owns the airspace outright. In Desert Storm, about 30 U.S. pilots achieved aerial kills in about 30 aircraft. At least two of those aircraft, the F-14s, have since retired.
Meanwhile, there are almost 2,000 fighter aircraft in the U.S. inventory. So, yes, the green stars are very rare. So rare, the air wings occasionally brag about the green-star aircraft that are still in their units.
For anyone wondering about how we invaded two countries at the start of this century without shooting down any enemy aircraft, Iraq lost most of its aircraft during Desert Storm and the following year while Afghanistan had no real air force to speak of in 2001. Most aircraft destroyed in Syria were killed on the ground.
Hundreds of North Korean nationals in Europe and Russia are forced to undertake manual labour without breaks, sleep at their workplace, and send their earnings to prop up Kim Jong Un’s lavish lifestyle, BBC Panorama has reported following an undercover investigation.
An unidentified North Korean worker in Vladivostok, Russia, told the programme: “You’re treated like a dog here. You have to eat trash. You have to give up being human.”
He added that he and his fellow workers had to hand over most of their earnings back to North Korea via an intermediary, known as a “captain.”
“Some call it ‘Party Duty.’ Others call it ‘Revolutionary Duty.’ Those who can’t pay it cannot stay here,” he said. “Ten years ago it was about 15,000 Robles ($242/£170) a month, but now it’s twice as much.”
These wages, combined, can generate as much as $2 billion (£1.4 billion) a year, The Washington Post reported.
It is then used to finance Kim Jong Un’s lavish lifestyle and nuclear development programme, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to the UK said.
Thae Yong Ho, who defected from the regime in 2016, told the BBC: “It financed the private luxury of the Kim family, the nuclear programme, and the army. That’s a fact.”
The North Korean leader recently travelled to China in a bulletproof train containing flat screen TVs and Apple products — a great show of luxury while millions of his citizens remain undernourished or lack basic access to healthcare. He also tested multiple short-range, medium-range, and intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017.
North Korean slaves in Poland, are also forced to live where they work and aren’t allowed to take any breaks, the BBC reported.
A North Korean supervisor in charge of foreign workers at Szczecin, northwestern Poland, told the programme:
“Our guys are stationed in Poland only to work. They only take unpaid holidays. When there are deadlines, we work without breaks. Not like the Polish. They work eight hours a day and then go home.
“We don’t. We work as long as we have to.”
There are about 150,000 North Koreans foreign workers worldwide, many of whom are in Russia, China, and Poland. About 800 are in Poland, mostly working as welders and manual laborers.
The UN in December 2017, ordered countries to stop authorizing visas to North Korean workers and to send them home within two years.
Poland said it stopped issuing visas to North Korean workers, but that doesn’t mean the activity has stopped.
A Polish manager secretly filmed by the BBC acknowledged that he continued to employ North Korean workers, but complained that it was getting harder to get permits for them.
Congressman John Lewis lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2020. He was an icon for the civil rights movement but more than that, he was a continuous beacon of hope for peace and social justice.
On Lewis’ passing, President Donald Trump ordered flags to be flown half-staff. In a White House proclamation, the president stated, “As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service of Representative John Lewis, of Georgia, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions through July 18, 2020. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half‑staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”
Born in 1940 to sharecroppers in rural Alabama, Lewis would go on to become a prominent and iconic figure in the fight for equality. He was one of the speakers at the March on Washington during Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders during this time. He was beaten and arrested multiple times during these nonviolent protests.
Lewis marched with King from Selma to Montgomery, on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis and others were assaulted with nightsticks by Alabama State Troopers while the protestors were kneeling and praying. Lewis’ skull was fractured from the beating. This incident is what pushed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to come to pass. Lewis was a witness when it was signed into law.
Lewis bore the scars from all of these events for the remainder of his life.
After the civil rights movement, Lewis became a congressman and served Georgia for over 30 years. He fought for the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., which took 15 years. President Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 for his life’s work.
In December of 2019, he announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He released a statement, saying, “I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now…So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross.”
Lewis’ passing comes just a year after the U.S. Navy celebrated his legacy by naming one of their newest fleet of ships after him. He was a humble man and in one interview, shared his disbelief that the honor was being bestowed upon him. While attending the ceremony to celebrate one of the new ships Lewis said, “We need great ships, like this one, to carry our men and women in our continued work for peace, because we are one world.”
In those words, hope resonates. Following his passing, the spirit of his legacy will continue to live on and the world will remember this icon by continuing his work for justice – and peace.
A Democratic senator and veteran is demanding an explanation from President Donald Trump’s defense secretary of the “disgraceful situation” that saw a key impeachment witness retire from the military in response to what his lawyer described as presidential “bullying,” and she will block over 1,000 senior military promotions until she gets it.
Vindman, an Iraq War veteran and Purple Heart recipient who served on the National Security Council as a Ukraine expert, testified against Trump in House impeachment hearings, characterizing some of his actions as “improper.”
Vindman, who has served in the armed forces for more than two decades, remained in the military after he was removed from the NSC, and Pentagon leaders said he would not be subject to retaliation.
But in recent weeks, questions have been raised about his future in the military and his expected promotion to colonel.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper approved Vindman’s promotion after a Pentagon inspector general inquiry looking at Vindman and allegations of “inappropriate behavior”— conducted at the request of the White House — did not find any reason to block his promotion, Politico reported Wednesday.
“Lt. Col. Vindman’s decision to retire puts the spotlight on Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s failure to protect a decorated combat veteran against a vindictive Commander in Chief,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a US Army veteran who lost her legs because of injuries she sustained during the Iraq War, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
She said: “Secretary Esper’s failure to protect his troops sets a new, dark precedent that any Commander in Chief can interfere with routine merit-based military promotions to carry out personal vendettas and retaliation against military officers who follow duly-authorized subpoenas while upholding their oath of office and core principles of service.”
Last Thursday, the Illinois senator tried to shield Vindman’s promotion from retaliation by blocking 1,123 senior military promotions until she received a written assurance from Esper saying that he would not block Vindman’s promotion to colonel, which she said she still has not received.
The senator said in statement Wednesday that she would continue to put a hold on these promotions until Esper provides a “transparent accounting” of what her office described as a “disgraceful situation.”
While Vindman confirmed that he was retiring from the military, he has not personally explained the reasons for his departure. His lawyer, however, said Vindman “did what the law compelled him to do; and for that he was bullied by the President and his proxies.”
He added: “Vindman’s patriotism has cost him his career.”