The FY15 cost per flying hour for Air Force One (VC-25A) includes “fuel, flight consumables, depot level repairables, aircraft overhaul, and engine overhaul,” according to the letter from the Department of the Air Force Headquarters Air Mobility Command to Judicial Watch.
According to the National Taxpayer Union Foundation, President Barack Obama has traveled internationally more than any other president, and he has done it on the “most expensive-to-operate Air Force One to date.”
• Flights for Obama’s 2014 Labor Day weekend fundraising trips to Westchester, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island, cost taxpayers $527,192.50
• Transportation for Obama’s round-trip flight from Washington, D.C., to Westchester, New York, to attend a wedding cost taxpayers $358,490.90
• The flight for Obama’s trip to Milwaukee to speak at “Laborfest 2014” cost taxpayers $653,718.70
• Obama’s June 17-19, 2013, trip to Belfast, Ireland, including a Dublin sightseeing side trip by Michelle Obama, her daughters, and her entourage, cost taxpayers $7,921,638.66
Within the US, Obama has visited all but three states during his presidency. According to The Washington Post, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush were the only two presidents to visit all 50 states in the past 38 years.
The three-leveled “flying Oval Office” has 4,000 square feet of interior floor space and boasts a conference room, a dining room, a private quarters for the president, offices for senior staff members, a medical operating room (a doctor flies on every flight), a press area, two food-preparation galleys that can provide 100 meals, and multifrequency radios for air-to-air and air-to-ground communication, according to the aircraft manufacturer Boeing.
According to the White House, the retrofitted Boeing 747 can fly 6,205 miles from Washington, D.C., to Baghdad without stopping for fuel. The plane can also be refueled while in flight in case of an emergency, The Post reports.
The U.S. Army celebrated 240 years of existence last month, and the Independent Journal Review put together a cool video of how its uniforms have evolved over that time.
From the Revolutionary War all the way up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers have gone through numerous changes to their uniforms and gear. In fact, just this month the Army began its transition to its new Operational Camouflage Pattern, Army Times reports.
This video shows what soldiers wore into battle since 1775.
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!
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.
The crisis in Ukraine, centered on Russia’s annexation of Crimea and their backing of separatists in Ukraine’s east, is a complicated mess. The U.S. and NATO tell one story while Russia tells another. Numerous international incidents have already occurred including the downing of a civilian jetliner, confrontations between Navy ships and Russian jets, and a surge in military exercises by both NATO and Russia, usually near shared borders.
On the season finale of Vice, co-founder Shane Smith and correspondent Simon Ostrovsky lay out the growing crisis in a clear and organized manner, making it easier to get a handle on what’s going on. They talk to experts on both sides of the conflict and in a range of positions, from a separatist commander in Eastern Ukraine to President Obama to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the Russian military and its current expansion.
The documentary covers all the arenas where the conflict is playing out including economic sanctions, active fighting in Eastern Ukraine, information wars across the internet, and military build-ups. Most importantly, it makes these developments and the follow-on consequences easy to understand.
The episode premiers tonight on HBO at 11 p.m. A sneak peek is below, and a preview is on Vice’s website.
The world of espionage requires two equally important things: access to information and a means of getting that information back to the other side. Modified DNA might make that a little easier.
Throughout history, spies have concocted many different means of secret communication. In the earliest days of modern spycraft, ink and paper had to be concealed from prying eyes. Spies wrote with anything that could be used as a kind of invisible ink, everything from lemon juice to semen. Hey, sometimes spycraft is just stressful.
As technology advances, using biology to enhance the ability to send covert messages is only increasing, but in a very different way.
Transmitting secret messages via radio or morse code carries risks. Israeli spy Eli Cohen ascended to a high rank in the Syrian Defense Ministry over four years by befriending important people in the Syrian government. The entire time he was transmitting information back to the Mossad through radio. He was caught red-handed during a transmission.
Being able to deliver information will always be the most secure means of communication. Over time, complex cyphers, micro-dots that can hold thousands of documents on a mark the size of a period, and dead drops of actual documents were solid means of getting that information back to handlers. Spy agencies developed incredible technology to obtain information.
A new biological means is taking that technology a step further, using specially-modified strands of DNA to imprint messages on a molecular level.
Though the process is complex for the layman (at the moment, don’t sleep on the CIA’s technological engineers) anyone looking to send a secret message can create a strand of DNA with the coded message. Only the receiver will be able to decode it, and possibly even know it’s there.
Like the microdot, the hidden DNA message can be pasted on a dot in a standard letter and simply mail it to whomever is intended to receive it.
According to the New York Times, the procedure was developed by a civilian, Dr. Carter Bancroft, professor of physiology and biophysics at New York City’s Mount Sinai Hospital.
The idea is to arrange the four nucleotides that comprise DNA into a simple encryption cypher using the letters that denote the nucleotides: A,C, G, and T, then marking them with “primer” DNA. It would be mixed with human DNA and sent off. The receiver would have the key to the cypher.
DNA manipulation can be a useful way to send messages because of the complexity of human DNA. It can be “chopped up” into 30 million different strands.
The Mount Sinai researchers then hid the DNA onto a microdot in a regular letter and mailed it through the U.S. Postal Service.
Once received, a spy agency would then use techniques common in DNA laboratories to replicate the strand containing the hidden message, so long as they know the “primer” sequence. If an intercepting agency suspects a DNA microdot but doesn’t know that sequence will have 30 million possibilities to sift through.
Until the Alan Turing of DNA cyphers is born, that is. To get the general idea of how it works, watch the video below.
Like any genre or series, over the years the Army-Navy game “Spirit Spot” videos have run the gamut in terms of production values, imagination, and humor. This one gets the WATM vote for best one produced this year:
Watch the 2014 Army-Navy game live from MT Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland on CBS at 3 PM EST.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis wants Post 9/11 veterans to know their wartime service strengthens their character through what he has coined “post-traumatic growth.”
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, the former Centcom commander adapted a speech he gave recently in San Francisco that is a must-read for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. In it, he writes of how veterans should reject a “victimhood” mentality and ask for nothing more than a level playing field after they return home.
For whatever trauma came with service in tough circumstances, we should take what we learned—take our post-traumatic growth—and, like past generations coming home, bring our sharpened strengths to bear, bring our attitude of gratitude to bear. And, most important, we should deny cynicism a role in our view of the world.
We know that in tough times cynicism is just another way to give up, and in the military we consider cynicism or giving up simply as forms of cowardice. No matter how bad any situation, cynicism has no positive impact. Watching the news, you might notice that cynicism and victimhood often seem to go hand-in-hand, but not for veterans. People who have faced no harsh trials seem to fall into that mode, unaware of what it indicates when taking refuge from responsibility for their actions. This is an area where your example can help our society rediscover its courage and its optimism.
Well-known and especially beloved by Marines, the 64-year-old general retired from the service in 2013 after 41 years in uniform. Since then, he has been teaching at Dartmouth and Stanford University, offered testimony to Congress, and started work on a book on leadership and strategy.
“I am reminded of Gen. William Sherman’s words when bidding farewell to his army in 1865: ‘As in war you have been good soldiers, so in peace you will make good citizens,'” Mattis wrote.
Going to war is not about the ideologies of the left or the right, it’s about becoming a man.
“I’m a journalist,” said Sebastian Junger – Oscar-nominated documentarian and best-selling author – in an interview with War is Boring. “I don’t put any political agenda into my work. I think the right wing tends to idolize soldiers – you can’t talk about them critically in any way. The left wing went from vilifying them in Vietnam to seeing them as victims of a military-industrial complex.”
For young men, however, war is much simpler than a political agenda. Modern society doesn’t describe what manhood is and much less, what it requires. Joining the military fills that void by finding a peer group and purpose to their lives, according to War is Boring.
This generation has a track record for delaying the rituals of adulthood. They’re taking longer to finish school, achieve financial independence, marry and have children, compared with their parent’s generation, according to a New York Times article about millennials. Perhaps it’s a financial decision as the article explains, after all, we did just go through the great recession, or it’s young men devising their own rites of passage.
Junger tells War is Boring that tribal societies have clear rituals and expectations of adulthood:
There’s a lot of initiation rites for young men around the world that involve torturing young men,” he explains. “So that young man can then demonstrate that he’s willing to undergo an enormous amount of pain in order to achieve adult status.
They could actually live untested lives, if left to their own devices,” Junger says. But “they don’t want 30-year-old males wondering about their manhood.”
But initiation rites help define the line between childhood and the adult world, and they define what manhood is. “We don’t have anything like that,” Junger says. “But I think it’s wired in us. It’s certainly wired into our language when we talk about, ‘C’mon, be a man about it,’ or ‘Man up.'”
The way Junger sees it, young men choose to fight, “Okay, if I go to war, surely I’ll come back a man.” When he asked why they joined, the common response was the terrorist attacks on 9/11, military family tradition, and the thought of becoming a man. Check out the full article on War is Boring.
Sebastian Junger is famous for his award-winning chronicle of the war in Afghanistan in the documentary films Restrepo
(2014), and his book WarWAR
(2010). Here’s the official trailer for Korengal:
A new short film created by the U.S. Air Force has been nominated for an Emmy Award.
Produced by Airman Magazine, the two-minute video captures the harrowing challenges airmen face during SERE training. “The Perfect Edge” compares the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape program that airmen undergo to the process of forging a survival knife, and the parallel is visually striking.
It features real footage of participants engaging in the intense wilderness survival and physical training exercises at SERE, along with narration by Senior Airman Joseph Collett, an instructor at the school.
From “Top Gun” to “Commando” to “Navy SEALs” and everything in between, the 1980s had a plenty of classic military movies. There were so many to love, but more often than not, cheesy special effects, “unlimited ammo,” and technical errors made these also quite funny for real service-members to watch.
In a video put together by BuzzFeed Video, Ranger Up‘s Nick Palmisciano and Article 15 Clothing‘s Mat Best and Jarred Taylor watched some military movies and offered colorful commentary. As you would expect, it’s pretty hilarious.
While the original anti-tank technology was meant to have a one-off use, the modern RPG is a reloadable weapon, with a shaped-charge explosive used by militias and official military forces alike.
“The Russians were extremely impressed by the panzerfaust,” said Will Fowler, an explosives expert, in the video below. “It was the basis for their RPG-2 program which went on to the now-famous RPG-7.”
When an RPG is fired, it leaves the barrel at 383 feet per second. An additional rocket fires and deploys stabilizing fins as the shell spins toward a target.
The RPG’s cone shape forms a jet of explosive energy outward when the shell strikes its target. That’s where the weapons gets its armor-penetrating power.
The RPG is a simple, cheap, and efficient system that can completely destroy a soft-skinned vehicle and can cause grievous harm to some up-armored ones.
Troops who encounter an RPG round in combat are lucky to survive to tell the tale.
“When I was in Iraq, the RPG was a deadly weapon,” Staff Sgt. Matthew Bertles, a U.S. Army M240 gunner, told the show Weaponology. “An RPG struck my 240, blew me back, destroyed our vehicle, and injured me.”