The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is notorious for its cruel treatment of women, subjecting female citizens to stringent dress codes, curfews, and corporal punishment.
Women who live under ISIS-enforced Sharia law cannot wear makeup, color or travel without a male chaperone. Burqas are also required, and refusal to conform to dress code can result in torture for both the woman in question and her husband.
When ISIS seized large swathes of territory in Iraq last year, the United Nations reported that the group “attacked and killed female doctors, lawyers, among other professionals.” Women doctors who weren’t killed were told to abide by the strict dress code while working, and were threatened with the destruction of their homes when they went on strike. The U.N. also received reports of female politicians and community leaders subjected to abduction, torture and murder.
Despite the terrorist organization’s heinous violence towards females, however, many women are flocking to serve alongside their husbands under ISIL by monitoring and punishing other women under Sharia law.
In Frontline’s recently released documentary, “Escaping ISIS,” women who formerly upheld the jihad recount their duties as agents of ISIL.
“The first thing we’d do is take her and whip her,” Umm Abaid, a former female ISIL fighter, told Frontline. “Then we’d take her clothes and replace them with clothes required by Sharia law. Then we would take her husband’s money to pay for the clothes. Then we’d whip him as well.”
The documentary focuses on both the women who rally behind ISIL’s cause and those who were forced into the organization as wives or slaves of terrorist leaders — using undercover footage and victim testimony to paint a haunting picture of what life “behind the veil” is truly like.
“Escaping ISIS” premieres Tuesday, July 14, at 10 p.m. EST both on-air and on FRONTLINE’s website.
America is hooked on true crime stories. One of the most engrossing among those true crime stories is “Forensic Files,” the true stories of murder and intrigue solved by scientific professionals who think of creative ways to link a crime with its perpetrator.
For decades, forensic investigators have used everything from DNA analysis to gas chromatography to determine who killed who and where and with what – like a giant, real-world game of Clue.
Military scientists have been at the same game for around the same amount of time. The only trouble is that these scientists know who killed the dead men and how they died. In the military, they don’t know who the dead men are. For Americans and the U.S. military, that’s the most important puzzle to solve.
In the days of wars past, the quest to identify America’s honored dead was limited by the technology of the times. This is why the United States has Unknown Soldiers from World War I, World War II and Korea. Only the Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam War could be identified.
But new forensic technology offers hope to scientists who spend their days trying to identify soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, despite the lack of evidence.
Advanced forensic technology used to catch serial killers along with the rise of publicly available DNA ancestry databases has given them new methods of finding clues that could lead to more positive identifications – even if the dead were killed 70 years ago.
As the New York Times reported in April of 2021, traditional methods used by the POW/MIA Accounting Agency usually use DNA samples from found remains and try to match them with a known relative. But if there are no known relatives from which to draw a sample, the case quickly runs cold. The agency can’t even exhume remains of unknown war dead unless there is a 50% chance of identification.
This means they have to have a known relative to compare the sample. IF there is no known relative, the remains are unlikely to ever be identified.
So some analysts believe all the remains should be exhumed, DNA samples taken, and run through every available DNA database, including those used by the public for ancestry identification.
While this sounds like a good idea, it could also be a massive invasion of privacy. Genetic testing open to the public has done a lot of good, such as finding the true identity of the Golden State Killer. It has also led to the inadvertent discovery of deeply hidden family secrets, such as extra-marital affairs, children who didn’t know they were adopted, and so on.
In World War II alone, more than 73,000 American service members were unaccounted for by the end of the war. An estimated 41,000 of those are considered to be lost at sea. In the years since, researchers at the POW/MIA Accounting Agency have been able to find and identify 280,000 of the 400,000 who died during World War II.
There are also more than 7,800 missing from the Korean War, 1,626 missing from the Vietnam War, 126 from the Cold War and six from conflicts fought since 1991. As technology advances, so does the likelihood of finding and identifying the remains of the missing, but there’s still more work to do for those who gave their lives in the great power conflicts of America’s past.
Infantry Marines get specialized training to operate specific weapons, but that could change as the service experiments with a model to create generalists who can use several different systems in combat.
Three infantry battalions are spending two years testing new models that could revolutionize the Marine Corps‘ ground combat element. The effort is part of a 10-year plan to reshape the service as it prepares for possible conflict with near-peer threats — mainly China.
The model that could perhaps lead to the most dramatic changes to the Marine infantry battalion is called the “arms room concept,” which Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, head of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, describes as “an armory of many different systems.”
“Your Marines would be trained in all of them, and then you pick the weapons suited to the mission,” Watson said. “… It’s producing a more mature, sort of multidimensional utility infielder as an infantryman.”Advertisement
Commandant Gen. David Berger released his annual update on Force Design 2030, a directive for sweeping servicewide changes he says are necessary to prep the force for its next fight. Those plans call for a redesigned infantry battalion.
“I am not confident that we have adequately assessed all of the implications of the future operating environment on the proposed structure of our future infantry battalion,” Berger wrote in March 2020. Now, he has directed a battalion in each of the three Marine Corps divisions to begin experimentation.
The “arms room” concept was the model originally proposed to redesign the infantry battalion, Watson said. One of the battalions is experimenting with that model, while the others are testing out a modified version and an alternative.
The concept, officials said, could eventually eliminate infantry battalions’ weapons companies, shifting those weapons — 81mm mortars and the Javelin portable anti-tank missile, for example — into headquarters or rifle companies.
But infantry Marines need different training to employ those weapons.
Grunts traditionally attend basic infantry training before they’re given specialized instruction on a specific weapon system. Now, as part of the experimentation, the Schools of Infantry that train enlisted grunts on both coasts are running 14-week test courses — 50% longer than the current nine-week course.
During the longer course, Watson said, Marines are learning how to operate a host of weapons rather than specializing in one.
“What this would do is increase the duration of the entry-level infantry training pipeline [and] train the infantry Marine in a variety of crew-served weapon systems, such that they are capable of operating more than just one,” he said. “Then, the unit would make the decision — based on the mission they’re assigned, based on the threat, etc. — what weapons systems they’d want to assign to their Marines.”
Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant of Combat Development and Integration, said they recognize there are critics of the “arms room” concept. He said he points those who say it won’t work to the infantry automatic rifle with improved optic.
“You have basically trained Marines hitting targets all day long at 500, 700, 800 meters that used to be the range of school-trained snipers,” Smith said. “[They’re] hitting them all day long because the weapon system and its heavier barrel and the optic that goes with it means basically trained Marines can pick it up and pop individual targets out at ranges that used to be the sole domain of a sniper.”
Similarly, with the new Organic Precision Fires-Infantry loitering munitions, or OPR-I, Smith said Marines can strike targets “well beyond what a 60mm or 81mm mortar can do.”
“You may not need that mortarman to do that,” he said. “… So I would tell the [‘arms room’] naysayers, ‘Hey, give it a minute.'”
The change could ultimately lead to a single military occupational specialty for all infantry personnel. Military.com reported in December that the Marine Corps was considering merging its infantry specialties — which include riflemen, reconnaissance Marines, machine gunners, mortarmen, snipers, anti-tank missile gunners and light-armor vehicle Marines — into a single MOS.
Leaders stressed this week that no decision has been finalized about how the infantry battalion will be organized.
“We’ll come out of this [experimentation] with a recommendation to the commandant on what the future will look like,” Watson said.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the identification of the person quoted.
Hosted by Katie Pavlich, “Safe Haven: Gun Free Zones in America” features interviews with a number of experts on self-defense, victims of gun violence, and educators to shine a light on why so-called “gun-free” zones don’t always stay that way.
“It appears that [criminals] are seeking a spot that will keep them from being prevented in accomplishing their mission,” J. Eric Deitz, a homeland security researcher at Purdue University’s College of Technology, says in the documentary. “And if their mission is mass casualties, they’re going to want to be undisturbed in that process until they’ve completed it.”
Deitz provides a computer model that shows the use of armed resource officers along with some citizens with concealed-carry firearms, can often result in fewer people being killed by an active shooter. As others mention in the film, the researcher talks about police response time not being fast enough to stop a shooting in progress.
It’s not just a pool of pro-gun advocates, however. There are some interviewees who think arming people in schools may not be the best approach. Via Guns.com:
The problem with hiring more guards in schools across the country is that “you’re starting to look another $15 billion a year,” said Steven Strauss, a Weinberg/Goldman Sachs visiting professor of public policy at Princeton University.
Strauss said that the amount of school shootings is so small thatthe probability someone’s child will be killed over the course of a year is one in several million.
“Shooting incidents at schools is so low that you run into a real risk that the cure is going to be worse than the disease,” Strauss said.
Although a large part of the documentary focuses on high-profile mass shootings such as in Newtown, Conn. and Aurora, Colo., it also features a heartbreaking interview with Amanda Collins, who recounts being raped while she walked to her car after class at the University of Nevada-Reno.
“My story is not that uncommon,” Colins says. “I could have defended myself.”
Grabbed from behind in a parking garage less than 100 yards from the classroom she just left, Collins didn’t have her licensed firearm at the time because her university was a gun-free zone. She was worried about expulsion from school and jail time, she says, but her rapist did have a gun.
“I’m not saying I could have prevented the rape from starting with the way that I was grabbed,” she says. “But I know that I would have been able to stop it.”
The most famous photograph of World War II was taken 70 years ago at the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Just five days into a battle that would last a total of 35 days, Marines scaled Mount Suribachi and planted the American flag. Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal was there to capture it on Feb. 23, 1945.
It might be hard today to comprehend how a single image can become iconic, exposed as we are to streams of photographs and videos every day from our news and social media feeds. But Rosenthal’s image resonated with all who saw it and was swiftly reproduced on U.S. government stamps and posters, in sandstone (on Iwo Jima, by the Seabee Waldron T. Rich) and most famously in bronze, as the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington. The photograph won a Pulitzer Prize in 1945 and is considered one of the most famous images of all time.
Rosenthal’s image was the second raising of the flag on Suribachi that day. A few hours before the famous image was captured, a Marine photographer captured the first flag raising, which saw much less fanfare. The first, and smaller flag, was taken down and replaced since a U.S. commander thought it was not large enough to be seen at a distance, reports CNN.
According to the The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, American military planners thought the battle would only be a few days. Instead, it dragged on for five weeks, at a cost of more than 6,800 American lives. The Japanese lost more than 18,000.
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.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to have dramatically reshuffled his senior leadership after expressing frustration with the negligence and irresponsible actions of some senior officials, offenses that have purportedly resulted in a “great crisis.”
Kim recently took a photo with top officials that confirmed suspicions a shake-up had taken place at the highest levels.
In the photo, Ri Pyong Chol, a top military official who held the rank of marshal and oversaw aspects of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, is seen standing not in the front row but a few rows back and was dressed in civilian clothing, according to NK News.
It appears that Ri is no longer a member of the Politburo Presidium.
Pak Jong Chon, another top military official, seems to have been demoted from marshal to vice marshal, and another officer, Kim Jong Gwan, looked to have lost his vice marshal status.
Photos also suggest that Choe Sang Gon, a science and education official, has lost his standing within the politburo, Reuters reported, noting that two other officials appear to have been promoted.
The apparent reshuffling of senior leadership follows a meeting in late June in which Kim chastised top officials for unspecified failings apparently linked to the COVID-19 situation.
North Korean state media reported that Kim said “senior officials in charge of important state affairs neglected the implementation of important decisions of the [Worker’s Party of Korea] on taking organizational, institutional, material, scientific and technological measures as required by the prolonged state emergency epidemic prevention campaign associated with the worldwide health crisis.”
He said their “lack of ability and irresponsibility” created “a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people.”
What that crisis may be is unclear, but there are indications that North Korea is facing a food shortage, economic challenges, and possibly COVID-19 outbreaks domestically.
The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling worker’s party, wrote recently that while some mistakes are forgivable, “causing critical harm to our party, country and people due to irresponsibility and negligence of duty is never acceptable,” The Daily Beast reported.
North Korea has always been very hard to read, and expert opinions on the subject tend to vary from person to person.
Bruce Bechtol, a former Pentagon intelligence analyst and an expert on North Korea, told The Daily Beast recent developments indicate “the country is in big trouble right now,” with other experts suggesting that more purges may follow.
The Secret Service Counter Assault Team — CAT for short — is charged with fighting back if the president ever comes under attack. While the president’s protective detail would be jumping in front of him and quickly getting him to safety, CAT is supposed to turn outward and “lay down an unbelievable amount of suppressive fire,” an agent told The Washington Post.
CAT members are currently outfitted with the Knight’s Armament SR-16 rifle, a variant of the military’s standard issue M-4, according to the book “In The President’s Secret Service.”
Agents who are a members of CAT have to work their way up through the ranks of Secret Service before they ever got a shot in the agency’s equivalent of special ops. There is a grueling training process, which includes many weeks of training that are both physically and mentally demanding.
“Moving to Israel was like lighting a fire under (his) drive,” Raskin said. “He wanted to squeeze every last drop out of every minute out of every hour out of every day.”
He joined the Israel Defense Forces in his early 20s and tried out for the Sayeret Matkal, the secretive unit known for the famed 1976 rescue raid on Uganda’s Entebbe Airport. Later he used his love of algorithms and formulas to found Akamai, a tech company that played a big part in making the Internet faster.
Lewin rode the ups and downs of the early days of the Internet’s boom and bust, and on 9/11 he was headed to Los Angeles to sit down with other Akamai execs to discuss ways to cut costs. He was seated in 9B, which put him near the front, in the area where the terrorists were seated. Before the airplane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, flight attendants were able to relay that he’d been the first passenger stabbed to death. That fact makes it plausible, based on his understanding of Arabic and his self-defense training, that he was fighting two of the terrorists when he was attacked from behind by a third terrorist he didn’t realize was there.
As Todd Leopold writes at CNN, “Friends have always pondered the what-ifs. Lewin may have finished his Ph.D., something that always nagged at him. Friends thought he could have entered Israeli politics. Or he could have become a high-tech household name, like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.”
“Those who knew him feel like the world was robbed,” says Raskin. “He was always searching for something greater.”
Here’s a video about Lewin’s short but productive and rewarding life:
Brig. Gen. Viet X. Luong, who now oversees the training of Afghan forces, was only 9 when his father, a major in the South Vietnamese Marines, told the family that Saigon would soon fall to the North Vietnamese and they must escape.
A reporter friend was able to get them papers to evacuate through Tân Sơn Nhứt Airport.
Arriving just as it came under artillery and rocket bombardment, Luong recalls laying on the ground, listening to the groans of the wounded and praying for salvation. U.S. Marines flew the family to the USS Hancock where, as Saigon fell, Luong decided to join the U.S. military.
Vladimir Putin may be the wild card in world affairs right now, but he didn’t gain that influence overnight.
The Russian President’s ascension to power is filled with spies, armed conflicts, oligarchs, oil and (of course) judo.
So here’s how a onetime “nobody” climbed up the ranks to become the “World’s Most Powerful Person.”
Vladimir Putin was born in Leningrad on Oct. 7, 1952.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is the only child of a decorated war veteran and factory worker in the slums of Leningrad. He grew up in a Soviet Union styled communal apartment with two other families — as was typical at the time.
As a teen Putin worked at his school’s radio station, where he reportedly played music by the Beatles and other Western rock bands.
The photographer Platon — who took Putin’s infamous Time Magazine cover in 2007 — said that Paul is Putin’s favorite Beatle, and “Yesterday” is his favorite song.
However, “by [Putin’s] own account, his favorite songs are Soviet standards, not Western rock. He has been deeply conservative his whole life,” Karen Dawisha wrote in her new book, “Putin’s Kleptocracy.”
Early on in life, Putin got into judo. He was his university’s judo champion in 1974.
Former deputy finance minister and first deputy chairman of the Central Bank Sergey Alaksashenko believes that Putin’s love of judo says something about his foreign policy.
“Unlike chess, a judo fighter should not wait for the opponent’s move. His strategy is to wait until he gets a chance to execute a single quick move — and then take a step back. Successful judo fighters must anticipate their opponents’ actions, make a decisive, preemptive move and try to disable them,” he wrote in the Moscow Times.
He also really loved spy novels and TV shows — especially one about a Soviet double agent.
Putin reportedly loved the popular 1960s book series turned TV series “17 Moments of Spring” starring the Soviet double-agent Max Otto von Stierlitz (né Vsevolod Vladimirovich Vladimirov) who rose up the ranks into Nazi elite during World War II.
Putin said about the series: “What amazed me most of all was how one man’s effort could achieve what whole armies could not.”
And in a moment of life imitating art, in 1985 the KGB sent Putin to Dresden, East Germany where he lived undercover as a “Mr. Adamov.”
Reportedly, Putin mastered the German language so well that he could imitate regional dialects. Unlike most KGB agents, Putin liked hanging out with Germans. He was particularly fond of the “German discipline.”
But how exactly Putin spent his time in East Germany is relatively unknown. According to the Kremlin, he was awarded the bronze medal “For Faithful Service to the National People’s Army.”
Additionally, Putin was once investigated for “allegations of favoritism in granting import and export licenses.”
… but the case was dismissed pretty quickly “due to lack of evidence.”
Back in the early 1990s, Putin was in charge of a deal where $100 million worth of raw materials would be exported in exchange for food for the citizens of St. Petersburg. Although the materials were exported, the St. Petersburg citizens never got the food.
Reportedly, Putin was the one who signed off on the deal — but the Kremlin denies this.
When Sobchak lost the re-election for mayor, the victor offered Putin a job. However, Putin turned it down saying: “It’s better to be hanged for loyalty than be rewarded for betrayal.”
Putin was the campaign manager for Sobchak’s re-election. Vladimir Yakovlev, who had the support of the powerful Moscow mayor, ran against Sobchak and won. He offered Putin a gig in his office, but Putin declined it.
And then — seemingly out of nowhere — Yelstin stepped down as president and named Putin the acting president on New Year’s in 1999.
Many people believed that Yeltsin propelled Putin to presidency in order to protect himself: The war in Chechnya was starting to curdle, and his ratings were starting to drop.
Interestingly, one of Putin’s first moves was to pardon Yeltsin “immunity from criminal or administrative investigations, including protection of his papers, residence and other possessions from search and seizure.”
In his first speech as acting president, Putin promised freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of the press, the right to private property …
The exact quote from his speech is:
“I want to warn that by any attempts to go beyond the Russian laws, beyond the Constitution of Russia, will be strongly suppressed. Freedom of speech. Freedom of conscience. Freedom of mass media. Property rights. These basic principles of the civilized society will be safe under the protection of the state.”
Putin recognized that the Yeltsin-era oligarchs had the potential to be more powerful than him … so he struck a deal with them.
“In July of , Putin told the oligarchs that he would not interfere with their businesses or renationalize state resources as long as they stayed out of politics — that is, as long as they did not challenge or criticize the president,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
And then Putin established his reputation as a “man of action” with his handling of the Second Chechen War.
In 2002, a Moscow theatre was seized by 40 Chechen militants, who were led by the warlord Movsar Barayev, and 129 out of the 912 hostages died during this three-day ordeal.
This was a critical moment for Putin, and many expected his domestic approval to plummet. But his “ruthless handling of the siege and his refusal to negotiate with the hostage-takers further shored up his reputation as a man of action.”
His approval rating was up at 83% after it was all over.
In 2004, Putin was re-elected for a second term. He continued to focus on domestic affairs, but drew major criticisms for his crackdowns on the media.
Journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in her apartment lobby after she wrote about corruption in the Russian army with respect to Chechnya. Many in the Western media criticized Putin for failing to protect the media.
Those accused of the murder “testified that Akhmed Zakayev and Boris Berezovksy (one of the Yeltsin-era oligarchs) could be the clients, who ordered the murder of Anna Politkovskaya,” according to TASS.
In 2008, Dmitry Medvedev was elected president. One day later, he made Putin the new Prime Minister … And then Russia got clobbered by the financial crisis.
When the global financial crisis hit, things got really got bad. The Russian economy was slammed particularly hard because it relied heavily on Western investment.
Additionally, the financial crisis really showed just how dependent the Russian economy is on oil and gas, and how intertwined the industry was with the country’s political economy, according to the Brookings Institute.
In that same year, Russia got involved in a five-day international conflict — the Russo-Georgian War.
The Russo-Georgia conflict involving Russia, Georgia, and the two regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The two regions have been trying to get formal independence since the 1990s — Russia recognizes the independence, which has been condemned by Western nations.
“After the 2008 conflict, Moscow declared that it would formally recognize the independence of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia’s allies Nicaragua and Venezuela followed suit, as did a number of small Pacific island states,” according to the BBC.
Two years later, in March 2014, Putin annexed Crimea in one of the most complicated and controversial geopolitical moves of the year.
The ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych “sent a letter to” Putin “requesting that he use Russia’s military to restore law and order in Ukraine.”
The Russian Parliament granted Putin “broad authority to use military force in response to the political upheaval in Ukraine that dislodged a Kremlin ally and installed a new, staunchly pro-Western government, the Ukrainian government in Kiev threatened war if Russia sent troops further into Ukraine,” reported The New York Times.
On March 2, Russia took complete control of Crimea, and on March 16, an “overwhelming majority” of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.
No one’s quite sure what Putin’s next move will be, but since he’s considering a fourth term, we may be seeing much more from him until at least 2024 …
Back when Putin was a deputy mayor in St. Petersburg, his inner circle cronies referred to him as “Boss.” Today, they refer to him as “Tsar,” and Forbes just named him the most powerful person in 2014.
And there’s no telling what people will call him next.