The Greek town of Vrontados on the island of Chios has an Easter tradition they call Rouketopolemos, which literally means Rocket War.
This annual event pits two rival parishes against each other by firing tens of thousands of home-made rockets at the opposing side’s bell tower. The next day, both congregations count the direct hits to determine the winner, but no matter the results, each parish claims victory. Since both sides end in disagreement, they agree to settle the score next year, thus perpetuating the rivalry.
The origins of this tradition are unclear, but one popular story states that it was born from the Turkish occupation of Greece. People from the island were prohibited from celebrating Easter the way they used to. So, the Christians from the churches of San Maria and San Marco decided to have a fake war with rockets to keep the Turkish away. Frightened by the sudden violence, the Turkish kept their distance. In the meantime, the communities celebrated Easter they way they were accustomed to, according to Rocketwar.
The midnight rocket war is truly a spectacle, the action begins at 3:40 of this video:
Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939. Yes, seriously.
There was nothing peaceful about this brutal tyrant. Under his leadership, the Nazi regime was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews and millions of other people who were deemed “sub-human.” Ironically, his first love was a Jewish girl. As if this weren’t weird enough, here are eight other jaw-dropping facts you didn’t know about Hitler:
Richard Moore hasn’t been the head of the United Kingdom’s Secret Intelligence Service (also known as MI6) for very long, but he has learned one important thing, something he recently divulged to the British people through the London Times Radio.
It’s the first time any MI6 chief has ever given a radio interview and the only one whose identity was ever made public.
While discussing the recent allegations that Russia’s GRU intelligence service destroyed a Czech arms factory, he began talking about recent tensions between Russia and NATO due to the Russian buildup of troops along its border with Ukraine.
“When you get that pattern of reckless behavior, of course you then look at what is happening around Ukraine and of course it worries us,” Moore told the Times.
Russia has since withdrawn 10,000 of the total 30,000 troops in the area in an effort to de-escalate the situation. Moore says the United States and the United Kingdom warned President Vladimir Putin about the damage a Russian invasion of Ukraine would cause, despite it not being a member of the NATO alliance.
He then went on to say that Russian influence and power is in decline.
“Russia is an objectively declining power economically and demographically,” he said. “It is an extremely challenged place. And clearly the treatment of Alexei Navalny, as we saw with the thousands of protesters on the streets of … a number of cities, shows that there is a deal of disaffection with Mr. Putin.”
Alexei Navalny is the most prominent critic of Putin and the Kremlin. The lawyer and anti-corruption activist has been described as “the man Vladimir Putin fears most.” He has been in the custody of Russian officials since returning to Russia after recovering from a poisoning attempt in Germany by the Russian internal security service.
Navalny recently ended a hunger strike in prison to protest his treatment by prison officials. He has widespread support inside Russia.
In response to the Russian buildup, Britain moved two of its ships into the Black Sea area off the coast of both Russia and Ukraine, along with two American ships that made the same move. Both are said to be public displays of support for Kiev by the two NATO allies.
A recent UK defense review order by Prime Minister Boris Johnson listed Russia as Britain’s top security concern. The periodic defense reviews decide how the country will structure its defense posture and how it will allocate money and resources to meet those needs.
The most recent review, finished in March 2021, promoted an intelligence-driven military that could compete with Russian capabilities in warfare that isn’t necessarily conducted on a physical battlefield – also known as “gray zone warfare.” the review also called for the construction of new ships designed to protect underwater communications cables from Russian interference.
This also means that physical battlefield hardware will have to be reduced, including armored infantry fighting vehicles and the vaunted Challenger 2 tank as the British military focuses on data-driven combat.
While the reduction in force alarmed some American military officials, it made sense to many high-ranking officers in Britain. While MI6 believes Russia is a power in decline, recent events show that a large movement of Russian troops shows that the Russian Bear still has plenty of teeth left for the time being. The British simply believe where, when, and how it chooses to use its remaining power won’t necessarily be on the battlefields of Eastern Europe.
He doesn’t know who you are, but he has a particular set of skills that will help him play one of the Army’s most famous generals.
That’s right: Actor Liam Neeson of “Taken” fame is set to play Gen. Douglas MacArthur in an upcoming film about the Korean war Battle of Incheon called “Operation Chromite,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur was one of the Army’s few five-star generals, perhaps best known for commanding troops in defense of the Philippines during World War II, for which he received the Medal of Honor. A controversial figure, MacArthur was later removed from command by President Truman during the Korean war after a very public dispute, according to History.com.
“Operation Chromite” is set for release in June 2016 and is directed by Korean director John H. Lee. The film will go into production later this year in South Korea, notes Variety. The title of the film is the codename of the landing operation that began on Sep. 15, 1950, when U.N. forces launched a massive amphibious invasion that led to the recapture of Seoul.
“Operation Chromite” focuses on the heroic Korean troopers who carried out the covert “X-ray” operation that preceded the Incheon landing operation in the Yellow Sea. The landing shifted the momentum of the Korean War.
UFC fighter Tim Kennedy was a Ranger, sniper, and Green Beret during his time in the Army. Like so many, he was motivated to join the military after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on 9/11.
“Watching that second plane hit the building, I wanted to do something, I wanted to be on a plane the next day,” Tim says in the Fox Sports video below. “Me and about 5,000 other people were lined down the street waiting to talk to a recruiter.”
Tim deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom multiple times. He earned numerous awards, including the Army’s Bronze Star with a “V” device for valor under fire. This video shows Tim’s journey from civilian to soldier to UFC fighter (he’s also still a reserve Special Forces soldier):
However, patients enrolled in VA care will get priority. About half of all 18 million living U.S. veterans are enrolled in VA care, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“This new law expands options for where veterans and their families can receive the COVID-19 vaccine, ensuring that every veteran, spouse, and caregiver will have access to the protection they need from VA,” Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill follows through on our shared goal of getting more shots into the arms of as many veterans as possible.”Advertisement
As of Wednesday, the VA has fully vaccinated more than 1.5 million people, including veterans and employees. Previously, only veterans enrolled in VA could get vaccinated.
The bill’s signing comes during a massive concerted effort from the Biden administration to give vaccine access to as many Americans as possible, with the goal of the country starting to return to relative normalcy by Independence Day.
“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on all American including veterans and their families,” Veterans of Foreign Wars National Legislative Director Pat Murray said in a statement. “The end may be near, but we will not come out of this until everybody possible has vaccinations.”
The U.S. Navy Research team published a video on Wednesday showing off the capabilities of its new “Laser Weapon System” or LaWS, and it’s terrifying. It shoots a 30 kilowatt blast within 2 nanometers of its target according to Defense One.
Simply put, it’s an oversized laser pointer on steroids.
The video starts with a time lapse of the weapon aboard a Navy ship while a boat appears over the horizon. It quickly cuts to an operator housed somewhere within the vessel. He’s standing in front of several screens holding what looks like a glorified X-Box controller. A blast is fired but there’s no bang, no smoke, no projectile, and no tracer, all you see is an explosion.
The video switches to a camera aboard the approaching boat for a close-up of the target. It’s a small stack of shells next to a cut-out of a human. The stack is precisely destroyed without damaging the wooden dummy.
Maybe I’ve seen too many comic book movies, but this is like X-Men’s Cyclops with an invisible laser beam.
Defense One reported that this is the Navy’s answer to drone attacks. Drones are becoming cheaper and more accessible, we’ve had them for years, but now American adversaries have begun to roll out their own versions. The LaWS will hopefully help the Navy keep drones at bay.
According to the Office of Naval Research, this isn’t the final version of the weapon. A more powerful 150-kilowatt version is scheduled for testing in 2016.
Armed forces across the planet and throughout history have used leaflets for any number of reasons, from psychological operations to warning civilians about an upcoming attack. For most of this time, this kind of messaging has come in the form of slips of paper dropped in enemy territory from the air for the widest possible dissemination.
But times are changing, and the technology of psychological operations, along with the way humans can communicate to mass audiences are changing with it. These days, the kinds of propaganda we use can be sent between audiences who aren’t even technically at war with each other.
One side of this communication may not even know they’re using propaganda. That’s where a new study from the University of Maryland says internet memes are being used as a psychological Trojan horse. Author Joshua Troy Nieubuurt says the meme is the latest in the evolution of leaflet propaganda. It’s easy to get a message across, easy to spread that message and plays into existing biases.
Memes are an easy way to share an idea, a fast way to convey a message and, in some cases, a way for the idea to propagate itself and spread in a viral way, whether the idea or message has any real basis in reality.
They are also readily accepted by those with existing cognitive biases. Humans embrace information that already confirms their view of the world, a phenomenon known as confirmation bias. When someone sees a meme with a message that shares their views, they are more apt to share it.
People are also more likely to accept ideas shared by official sources and famous people, a phenomenon known as popularity bias. In general terms, everyone wants to be associated with a popular idea, and internet memes are no different.
Nieubuurt argues that internet memes and their easy shareability are an ideal tool for disseminating ideas to a wide audience across various social media platforms. Since they can be created, used, disseminated and remixed by anyone with internet access, state actors will naturally have an interest in using memes as part of any psy-op plan.
But perhaps the best reason for using memes as a tool of propaganda is the relative anonymity of its creator. The more viral a meme gets, the further and further away it gets from its origin. So whether or not the information in the meme is true or if its source lacks credibility, it soon becomes so far removed from the creator, that the sources become almost irrelevant.
In these ways, memes can be used to create and reinforce the legitimacy of certain ideas or policies to the benefit or detriment of political or geopolitical friends and enemies. Whether it aids a political candidate or undermines the government’s coronavirus response, there is always an intended goal in mind for any psychological operations campaign. Memes are just a cheap, easy way to reach those goals.
So the next time you’re considering sharing that viral meme, consider that you might be aiding a foreign intelligence service – and wonder what their goal could be.
How does a runner on second know when he should steal third? Does a batter automatically know when to bunt? When does a quarterback call an audible – and how can he communicate that play without the other team knowing just what he saw in their defense? Hand signals and codes are simple ciphers designed to communicate a simple message. It’s no different from what intelligence agents have been doing since days of Julius Caesar.
Sports teams have been using encrypted signals since before World War I. Most famously, the 1951 Giants put a man with a telescope in center field to read the opposing teams calls and signals. The Giants overcame an almost 14-game deficit that year to force a playoff with the Brooklyn Dodgers. From the Giants’ center field manager’s office, coach Herman Franks relayed the opposite teams’ signs to the bullpen using an electric buzzer system. The catcher’s call would then be relayed to the batter.
The scheme was simple intelligence tradecraft.
“These are simple messages being sent,” says Dr. Vince Houghton, the curator and historian of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. “They take a basic step of encryption, the way an army encrypts tactical plans to attack or defend. You can let the enemy know what you’re going to do next, so you can’t send these messages in the clear.”
The reason the ’51 Giants encrypted their signals was the same reason they climbed back into the playoffs: unencrypted messages were easy to intercept, which made it so their hitters knew what the pitcher would do, giving them a huge advantage.
The relationship between sports cryptography and the military can go the other way, too. In Vietnam, Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton was shot down in an EB-66 near the North-South Vietnam Demilitarized Zone. This was literally the worst situation for military intelligence. Hambleton not only had the intelligence vital to the Vietnam War, but the U.S. military’s entire Cold War-World War III contingency plans. If he was captured by the North Vietnamese, they would be able to give the Soviets the entire Strategic Air Command war plans.
Hambleton survived and the NVA knew exactly how valuable he was. While looking for extraction, he had to evade the NVA patrols looking for him while making his way to the rescue area. The problem was he had to be told how to get there over the radio – and an unencrypted radio was all he had.
Knowing Hambleton was crazy about golf – perhaps the best in the U.S. Air Force – the military fed him the info he needed to move using a simple substitution cypher. It took Hambleton a half-hour to figure out what they were doing.
“Instead of telling him to move south 100 meters, they would tell him to walk the first hole on Pebble Beach,” says Dr. Houghton. “He was tracked by using descriptions of golf course holes he knew well.”
Other codes included playing 18 holes, starting on No. 1 at Tucson National.
“They were giving me distance and direction,” Hambleton later explained. “No. 1 at Tucson National is 408 yards running southeast. They wanted me to move southeast 400 yards. The ‘course’ would lead me to water.”
Unlike using a radio, sports code has to be done in plain sight — that’s where the hand signals come in to play.
For tickets to visit the exhibits and see the largest collection of espionage-related artifacts ever placed on public display, visit https://www.spymuseum.org/tickets/. Also, there’s a $6.00 military discount!
Joy Lofthouse was one of the women who pushed the envelope of what women did in World War II. She was a pilot for the British Air Transport Auxiliary, shuttling fighters between air bases, factories, and maintenance facilities.
Now, 70 years after she last flew a Spitfire, she’s back in the cockpit. Check out the video below:
The Biden administration told lawmakers Wednesday the US will soon start to evacuate thousands of Afghans who have assisted American troops for nearly two decades to other countries in an attempt to keep them safe while they apply for entry to the United States, The New York Times reported.
As the drawdown in Afghanistan enters its final stages, many veterans and some legislators have warned of a looming humanitarian crisis for the locals who have helped American forces during the past 20 years of war.
“When that last soldier goes wheels up out of Afghanistan, it is a death sentence for our local allies, the Taliban have made that clear in their words and in their actions as they hunt these people down right now as we speak,” Rep. Michael Waltz, a Florida Republican and former Green Beret, said last week.
More than 18,000 interpreters, security guards, fixers, embassy clerks, and engineers have applied for the Special Immigrant Visa, which takes more than two years on average to obtain. The Times reports that those applicants have 53,000 family members. A senior administration official told the Times family members would also be evacuated to another country to await visa processing.
Calls for the Biden administration to swiftly evacuate Afghan contractors have grown in recent months, with advocates fearing the Taliban could go “house to house” after Western forces leave, targeting interpreters and their families. The Taliban, meanwhile, said earlier this month that Afghans who helped foreign forces have nothing to fear as long as they “show remorse for their past actions” and don’t engage in future “treason against Islam and the country.”
Interpreters don’t trust that promise. The Taliban has tortured and killed dozens of Afghan translators during the past two decades, the news agency AFP reported.
“The Taliban will not pardon us. They will kill us and they will behead us,” Omid Mahmoodi, an interpreter who worked with US forces between 2018 and 2020, told AFP.
It’s not clear yet where Afghans will wait, or whether third countries have agreed to the plan. In a June 12, 2021, letter to President Joe Biden, Guam’s governor Lourdes Aflague Leon Guerrero asked that the island be a landing point for those in need, like it was in 1975 when the US evacuated approximately 130,000 Vietnamese refugees.
According to a document from the Truman Center obtained by Coffee or Die Magazine, the cost of flying Afghan allies to Guam would be relatively low. The Truman Center’s Matthew Zeller estimates the average price would be $9,981.65 per person, for a total cost of about $699 million for 70,000 evacuees.
“It sounds like a lot of money until you realize it’s an additional 8.3 hours of the DOD budget. But it’s a hell of a down payment in keeping Americans alive in future wars. Because this is how we’re going to show people that we keep our word,” Zeller said.
The year 2020 was a good year for almost no one, especially anyone in North Korea. Despite overtures from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, reconciliation between North and South Korea never materialized. Rapprochement with the U.S. never fully took hold, either.
Then the global COVID-19 pandemic hit. North Korea needed help, and for a country like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, there’s only one game in town: China.
According to the Korean Central News Agency, the DPRK’s state-run and only media outlet, North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un marked the 60th Anniversary of its mutual defense treaty with a warm message.
He told Chinese Leader Xi Jinping that his government is taking a “fixed stand” to “ceaselessly develop the friendly and cooperative relations” between his government and that of China, according to KCNA.
The Chinese president responded like anyone who’s dealing with a stage-5 clinger, acknowledging that his country and North Korea have “always supported each other,” according to Chinese state-run media agency Xinhua.
“The world has recently seen accelerating changes unprecedented over the past century… I wish to lead bilateral relations to unceasingly rise to new levels to the benefit of the two countries and their peoples.”
Translation: “We have always supported North Korea for whatever reason and we like their money, so we’ll keep on until they collapse under their own weight.”
For North Korea, its relationship with China is essentially a lifeline in times of crisis. Despite claims of self-sufficiency, the DPRK relies heavily on Chinese aid and support. North Korea has been hit particularly hard in recent years by crippling U.S. sanctions.
Although the country has released no information on how hard it was hit by the coronavirus, experts believe the pandemic only exacerbated the desperation inside the world’s last Stalinist communist state.
Relations between the two communist countries date back to the 1930s and the mutual war against Japanese occupation. After World War II, the North was bisected from the South by the Soviet Union. When the People’s Republic of China was finally established in 1949, the two officially established diplomatic relations.
Western Allies occupied South Korea. During the Korean War, Chinese soldiers intervened on the side of North Korea in order to maintain the North’s presence as a buffer against western aggression on its Yalu River border. Keeping western troops from having a foothold on its doorstep is China’s primary national security concern with North Korea.
Although the United States maintains a deterrent presence in South Korea, especially along the demilitarized border with North Korea, China does not deploy troops to North Korea.
In 1961, the two countries signed the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, promising to again go to war together in case either one was attacked from the outside. North Korea was not always the worldwide pariah state it is today. Under the protection and aid of the Soviet Union, the North flourished. When the USSR collapsed in the early 1990s, North Korea’s decline began in full.
The North has suffered from food shortages, widespread famine and crippling sanctions since 1994. With the rise of its nuclear weapons program, those sanctions have only increased and its reliance on China has become more important than ever.