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.
This video of a soldier letting his squadmate shoot him with an AK-47 is about as nuts as it gets.
“This is about the dumbest thing you can do,” the video description says. “But I filmed this one day when my friends were bored in Syria. War gets boring sometimes.”
The YouTube channel – which has other videos featuring Western volunteer troops in Syria – belongs to Robert Alleva, who is a volunteer fighter himself, according to the video description.
This body armor test could have gone wrong in so many ways, especially considering that the weapon was on automatic mode. The video below shows what happens when things don’t go as expected. The Russian separatist takes one in the gut while testing his body armor with a pistol.
Nazi Germany produced some of the nastiest people the world has ever seen.
The atrocities they committed remain hard to believe. Mega thugs like Gerhard Sommer allegedly helped massacre 560 civilians, Alfred Stark executed 117 Italian prisoners of war, and Oskar Groening was charged with 300,000 counts of accessory to murder as the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz.”
Movies have portrayed some Nazi bad guys, as well, and here are 10 of the most memorable:
The boys at “Terminal Boots” published a hilarious YouTube video that was deemed too risky by the higher-ups in their chain of command.
In simple Terminal Boots speak, they went “too gangster.”
In true Marine fashion, they improvised, adapted, and overcame by taking down the original and re-releasing a friendlier safe-for-work version. The end result is a funny video that serves as a navigation guide for Marines confused about the rules of the Corps. You can even say it’s educational.
Back in 2013, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the federal government was collecting our personal data. Ever since, Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are used to encrypt a person’s activity on the internet. The sophistication of these companies has improved and usage of the software is as easy as turning on a light switch. Everyone has that one friend that spews out conspiracy theories that are just flat out wrong. Keep in mind, even a broken clock is right twice a day, this time the government is watching you.
Most VPN services log your activities
VPN logs are the data that providers keep regarding usage of their service. When it comes to what they could store, you have to remember that your provider has access to all of your internet activity. So everything your ISP would normally see is technically now accessible by your VPN provider. Of course, if providers actually logged and stored all of that data, they wouldn’t be offering a very attractive service, and would no doubt lose a lot of customers. Instead, the lack of logs is one of the main selling features broadcast by many providers in a bid to win over consumers.
AIMEE O’DRISCOLL VPN AND CYBERSECURITY EXPERT
Having a VPN that keeps logs of your activity defeats the purpose of a VPN in the first place. All U.S. based VPN providers have to hand over logs to the federal government when ordered to do so. In fact, they’re strictly prohibited on directly telling you if they have been subpoenaed by the feds. A Warrant Canary is one workaround. It is a webpage that they update once a month stating that no secret government subpoenas have been issued. If you use a US based VPN with a Warrant Canary and an outdated page, the canary is dead. So is your privacy.
Foreign based VPNS also cooperate with federal agencies
You may not have heard of 5 Eyes and 14 Eyes countries and that is by design. The 5 Eyes alliance (FVEY) is an agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They collect telephone calls, texts, emails, signals to weapon systems or radars and share that information. The FVEY is also a convenient workaround to spying on US citizens by having an ally do the dirty work and handing the information over.
The alliance expanded to Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Norway and became the 9 Eyes alliance. We now have the 14 Eyes alliance with Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden. The FBI and other agencies can see you if your VPN service is headquartered in any of these countries.
The intention of this alliance is to form a united front against state sponsored intelligence attacks by China, Russia, Iran, and other enemies of the west. What does that have to do with you? Your activity does not have anything to do with national security so it does not apply, right? Wrong. On, March 11, 2020 the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6172, here is the executive summary provided by senate.gov.
The USA FREEDOM Reauthorization Act of 2020 prohibits the government from using FISA authority to collect call details records on an ongoing basis and prohibits the use of tangible business records to obtain cell site location and global positioning system location, with exception. This act extends the authorization for the reformed expiring FISA authorities, along with the “roving wiretap” authorities and “lone wolf” provision to December 1, 2023. It also requires the attorney general to approve a FISA application to surveil any elected federal officials and candidates for federal office and increases the penalty for making false statements to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court from five to eight years imprisonment. Provisions in the legislation also require extensive reporting on FISA applications, FISC and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review decisions, and investigative techniques used by the federal government.
All an agency has to do is slap a national security label on the subpoena and slap a lone wolf label on you. You do not have to fix in the box, they build it to order around you.
I understand the need to protect our national security and the FBI’s defense against foreign intelligence attacks. I applaud their fervor and dedication to capturing child predators as well. What I do not agree with is the violation of our rights as citizens of the United States. If the federal government wants to hunt down the scum of the earth, by all means do it. They should do it without jeopardizing the confidence of The People.
You can never fully hide on the internet
One of my favorite quotes from The Social Network is by Erica Albright denying Facebook’s founders apology for writing nasty blogs after they broke up. ‘It didn’t stop you from writing it. As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared. The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink.’
So, why does it matter if the government has your information or not? Using a VPN to protect your passwords, banking information, transfer of sensitive documents, etcetera, is a good reason to protect yourself on the internet. Using encryption technology to protect yourself from identity theft is what it is there for. Government websites and commercial websites, like Google, can and will be hacked by foreign adversaries. No one is invulnerable on the internet, not even Uncle Sam. Doxing is when an individual obtains information available on the internet about you and makes it public with malicious intent. If an incel on the internet can find information about you, then a highly trained federal agent can too.
The United States closest geopolitical rival is Russia, but when it comes to the way their militaries operate, that’s where the two countries’ similarities end. Nowhere is this more apparent than in their command and control structures for launching nuclear weapons.
It’s a well-known fact that the President of the United States has a military officer who follows his every move while carrying the nuclear “football.” This is essentially a suitcase filled with everything necessary for the president to authorize and launch a nuclear strike while he’s not in a designated command and control area, such as the White House.
In the United States, one person, the President of the United States, has sole authority to launch a nuclear strike, either an offensive strike or in retaliation. In the Russian Federation, the president’s power is checked by the military when it comes to a nuclear launch.
The Russian Federation’s military has three of these nuclear footballs, which follow around three very important Russian defense officials. This system is known as a “triple key” system. The first football follows the President of Russia, who is currently Vladimir Putin. The Russian president’s football doesn’t contain an actual nuclear key, but instead a system of launch codes.
But Vladimir Putin can’t initiate a nuclear strike by himself, on his own authority. It’s probably the one thing he can’t do in Russia. Instead, in a time of need, the president’s codes must be sent to the Russian Defense Minister, currently Russian army Gen. Sergey Shoygu, who has held the position since 2012.
Once the Minister of Defense receives an order and launch codes from the president, he sends his codes and the president’s codes to the Chief of the General Staff, currently Gen. Valery Gerasimov. Once the Chief of the General Staff has all three sets of codes, then he can make the launch orders to the missile crews.
It’s estimated that the entire process, once initiated, should take about 20 minutes. This process was considered a highly-guarded state secret in the days of the Soviet Union, and a lot of misinformation still exists surrounding it. The three-step process is generally known to be true.
One unconfirmed rumor states that the defense minister and the Chief of the General Staff must transmit their codes separately to limit unauthorized access from renegade military personnel. Another rumor says that the Chief of the General Staff actually has the president’s codes as well. This structure, it’s believed, prevents a power grab from the defense minister’s office, nipping any conspiracy against the president in the bud.
There is also no system of transferring launch authority in place in case one of these three men suddenly becomes unable to perform their duties. The first and only time a Russian leader has ever publicly legalized a line of succession in case he was unable to act came from Boris Yeltsin shortly after the end of the Soviet Union.
After the 1993 coup against Yeltsin, the Russian constitution codified the presidential line of succession, putting the president’s power in the hands of the Russian Prime Minister. But it does not list the line of succession if the prime minister were to be disabled or killed.
Russia’s system of positive control of its nuclear launch capabilities is one that it came by through a number of trials and errors. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet commander in Cuba had the authority to launch a nuclear strike without Moscow’s permission, for example. Nothing was guaranteed.
These days, that power rests firmly in hands of three longtime officeholders, with a rudimentary system of checks and balances to keep one from overriding the others. Probably for the best.
The CBU-105 cluster bomb is a devasting tank-killer. One bomb can carpet an area of 1,500 by 500 feet, roughly 15-acres.
But unlike traditional cluster bombs, the CBU-105 is considered a “smart bomb.” The weapon can destroy multiple moving or stationary threats with minimal collateral damage while leaving no hazardous unexploded ordnance on the battlefield.
Its BLU-108 submunition cylinders use infrared and laser sensors to seek and destroy targets by pattern-matching. If it fails to find a target, the skeet warhead within the bomb self-destructs. And if the self-destruct system fails, a backup timer disables the skeet. The disabled skeets that make it to the ground also have an inert feature, which make it resistant to exploding via tampering, according to Textron.
Called the “TEC Torch,” the compact, handheld thermal breaching tool is made up of a handle and cartridge which weigh less than a pound each. The incredibly powerful flame produced by the torch reaches temperatures around 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat which can rip through steel in less than a second.
The TEC Torch was developed after Special Operations Forces (SOF) operating in war-zone environments requested a compact, lightweight, and hand-held tool which would allow them to cut through locks, bars, and other barriers, according to Air Force.
Unlike the lightsabers used by Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, this blade flame burns out after two seconds.
This new ground vehicle concept is way outside the box.
For over 100 years, protection for ground vehicles has always meant adding more armor, but that’s not the case with DARPA’s new concept vehicle. While the practice of adding armor yields more mass, cost, and protection, this vehicle’s approach is to be much faster and utilize interesting technology to stop potential threats.
Meanwhile, modern weapons have significantly outpaced armor improvements. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to break the “more armor equals more protection” cycle by introducing the Ground X-Vehicle Technology (GXV-T) program.
According to DARPA, the program’s mission is to:
Reduce vehicle size and weight by 50 percent
Reduce onboard crew needed to operate vehicle by 50 percent
Increase vehicle speed by 100 percent
Access 95 percent of terrain
Reduce signatures that enable adversaries to detect and engage vehicles
To accomplish these goals, DARPA will develop advanced technologies in the following areas:
Stealth – Reducing all traces that a vehicle is present. This includes visibility and other detection methods such as infrared and electromagnetic traces.
Augmentation – This technology is what pilots have been using in cockpits for decades. It overlays graphics over their line of sight to enhance situation awareness. Augmentation technology has also found its way to cell phones and tablets, here and example of augmented reality in mobile devices.
Agility – Naturally, anything that’s lighter can move faster. But, DARPA plans to take it a step further by implementing technologies that will deploy without driver assistance, such as active repositioning of armor (0:30 of video) and dodging maneuvers (0:35 of video).
Enhanced Mobility – The ability to navigate through rough terrain.
The following video of DARPA’s concept vehicle focuses on agility rather than armor and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Check it out:
One of the least impressive wars in American history is the Toledo War. In 1835, a time after Ohio gained statehood and when Michigan was still a territory, war broke out between the two over who controlled Toledo. Two separate maps were drawn on either side, each claiming the highly profitable city of Toledo. Ohio and Michigan mustered their respective militias and prepared for war.
Luckily, or sadly, if you’re the type who enjoys violence, nothing happened. Instead, everyone got drunk and just shot their guns into the air. Only one person was actually injured, Sheriff Joseph Wood of Michigan, but he was stabbed in a bar fight. Additionally, Michiganders also managed to kill one Ohioan’s pig. Tensions were so high that President Andrew Jackson had to step in and sort things out. Toledo went to Ohio, while Michigan laid claim to the Upper Peninsula. In the long run, the forests and mines of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan turned out to be far more beneficial than the pretty-neat Toledo Zoo.
Today, the “war” is a funny footnote in American history that everyone from Michigan and Ohio will remind you of when it’s time for one the state’s sports teams to play the other’s. Out of pure speculation, let’s pretend that the two states prepared for a second Toledo War. For this scenario to play out, each state would act as their own country, not using any forces outside of already-established bases and National Guards, one half of the number of troops each state gives towards active duty as loyalists, and 2.5% of the state’s GDP (slightly above the world average for military expenditure).
Guard Troops: 14,934.
Additional troops from Active: 1,044.
Military expenditure: $13.2 Billion.
Two things would make Michigan a formidable foe: Detroit Arsenal and the large lakes secured by a sizable Coast Guard. The Detroit Armory produced many of the U.S. Armed Forces’ tanks from 1940 until its transfer to civilian use in 2001. Michigan is a large hub for the Coast Guard with two stations, one in Detroit and the other in Traverse City. Michigan is also home to two Air National Guard Bases, Battle Creek ANGB and Selfridge ANGB. They also have Camp Grayling, the largest National Guard training center in the USA, both by physical size and number of troops trained.
Despite these benefits, Michigan is the underdog in nearly every statistic. The fact that it also has no sizable Active Duty installation outside of the Coast Guard puts Michigan at another disadvantage.
Guard Troops: 27,208.
Additional troops from Active: 3,397.
Military expenditure: $16.87 Billion.
Other than higher numbers, a key strength Ohio has over Michigan is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This probably contributes to the 5,358 airmen who enlisted active duty out of the total 6,793 Ohioans who serve. Those numbers would definitely be able to manage the five other Air National Guard bases scattered throughout Ohio.
In this fight, there’s no doubt about who controls the air — but that’s about it. In a full-scale war against Michigan, Ohio would greatly lack in ground and naval troops.
Winner: Depends on how long the war goes.
Ohio’s vastly superior Air Force would overpower Michigan in a heartbeat, but that’s about all they’ve got going on. Michigan has the means of production and self-sustainability to counter Ohio’s lack of ground and naval capabilities if the war drags on.
Who do you think would win in this fictional fight? What other states would you like to see duke it out in a fictional war? Let us know in the comments!
Encounters far from home in April underscored the US Coast Guard’s growing overseas role, which is set to expand as more attention and resources are dedicated to countering China.
On April 2, an Iranian ship repeatedly sailed in front of Coast Guard patrol boats Wrangell and Monomoy at “an unnecessarily close range” as they operated in the Persian Gulf, which the US deemed “unsafe and unprofessional.”
Three weeks later, Iranian vessels again approached US ships — Navy patrol boat Firebolt and Coast Guard patrol boat Baranof — in the Gulf. After verbal warnings to the Iranian ships went unheeded, Firebolt fired warning shots.
Wrangell, Monomoy, and Baranof are all based in Bahrain as part of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, the Coast Guard’s largest unit outside the US, which was set up in 2002 to support operations in the Middle East.
Hamilton had escorted two cutters sailing from the US to join Patrol Forces Southwest Asia but remained in Europe, sailing into the Black Sea on April 27. Russia’s Defense Ministry said that day that its Black Sea Fleet was monitoring Hamilton’s “actions.”
Hamilton is the first Coast Guard vessel to enter the Black Sea since 2008 and is “emblematic of our presence in the Black Sea,” Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, said in response to a question from Insider at an Atlantic Council event on April 29.
The Coast Guard is part of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Defense Department, but it often works with other branches of the US military and with foreign militaries.
“We particularly appreciate the Coast Guard’s ability to cooperate with other equivalent services … around the world, but in this case in the Black Sea,” Cooper said.
Cooper echoed Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, who said in March that while the service hadn’t operated in Europe “in a good number of years,” the deployment suited its ability to cooperate and compete.
“I think the Coast Guard brings access. The Coast Guard brings a different look. The Coast Guard brings some unique, complimentary capabilities,” Schultz told reporters after his annual address to the service.
‘We’re going to push them out’
The Coast Guard often ventures long distances to enforce US laws and help other countries assert their own.
Coast Guard ships patrol the eastern Pacific Ocean to intercept drug smugglers. Cutters were deployed to Africa’s Atlantic coast to assist countries there in 2019 and 2020 for the first time in nearly a decade. In late 2020, a cutter was deployed on a South Atlantic patrol for the first time “in recent memory.”
The Coast Guard’s presence in the western Pacific Ocean is also increasing amid broader competition with China.
Since mid-2020, the service has stationed three new fast-response cutters in Guam, a US territory. Those ships have “about a 10,000-mile reach,” Schultz said in March.
“We’re going to push them out to some of the outer reaches of Oceania. We’re going to team them up with national security cutters on occasion,” Schultz added, referring to the service’s largest cutters, which include Hamilton.
Many recent Coast Guard operations have focused on countering illegal fishing, a growing source of friction with China. In December, a Coast Guard cutter helped Palau apprehend a Chinese vessel suspected of illegal fishing.
Coast Guard ships also work with the US Navy in the region. In May 2019, a Coast Guard cutter transited the Taiwan Strait for the first time, sailing alongside a Navy destroyer.
“I just think those lines are going to thicken,” Schultz said of Navy-Coast Guard cooperation.
The Navy’s operational tempo “has been very high for a considerable period … so it’s not surprising that they’d reach out and try to supplement” with the Coast Guard, said Michael Desch, a professor and international-security expert at Notre Dame.
But the Coast Guard’s more overt role comes as the US military’s service branches balance resources between current missions and modernization.
While the Coast Guard is very capable and often better suited than the Navy to work with foreign forces, the growing workload should raise questions about the scope of US commitments, Desch said.
The recent encounters “seem to be indicative of the fact that we’re being stretched by all the things that we’re doing,” Desch told Insider. “Rather than throwing everything we’ve got but the kitchen sink at some of these missions, we ought to ask ourselves, are these missions really essential?”