Top podcasts for the commuting veteran - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

The popularity of podcasts is soaring exponentially. It is a radio renaissance. With over 500,000 podcasts on just the Apple store alone, it’s obvious that with rising popularity comes oversaturation. But have no fear—We Are The Mighty is here—to help clear the mist and show you the best podcasts for anyone with a military background. Whether you’re a veteran with a long morning commute, an on-base active serviceman with duty that could use some spicing up, or simply a prospective enlistee, at least one of these podcasts will be just right for you.


Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

SOFREP Radio

This podcast flat out kicks ass. The host, Jack Murphy (Army Ranger/Green Beret) talk with experts across every aspect of military life. He’s straight, to the point, no bulls**t. The podcast focuses on ways of cultivating mental and physical toughness with respect to special operations. With over 400 episodes already out, there is plenty to dive in and catch up on. This is the premier military podcast.

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

War College

War College explores weapons, tech, and various military stories related to the instruments of war that soldiers need to be familiar with. One week they’ll talk about Navy pilots experiencing UFOs, and the next they’ll break down the Air Forces’ new “Frozen Chicken Gun.” Highly informative.

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

The Joe Rogan Experience

The Joe Rogan Podcast has become a cultural phenomenon. The premise for one of the most popular podcasts of all-time is simple: Joe Rogan sits across from a guest and has an intelligent back and forth conversation for about 3 hours. His guests range massively in scope: Elon Musk, UFC fighters, fellow comedians, scientists, psychologists, authors, and more. Joe Rogan’s centrist sweep highly appeals to people in the military sphere, and the topics covered on here would be interesting to anybody. It’s not just an internet meme, it’s a great listen.

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

American Military History Podcast

For all the military history buffs out there—look no further. This podcast goes deeper than the surface facts we usually associate with historical events. I found myself surprised to learn contextual facts about historical battles I thought I knew. The key aspect of this podcast that sets it apart from other military history podcasts is the context. It gives perspective and crafts interesting narratives out of that context.

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

Mind of the Warrior

In this podcast, Dr. Mike Simpson (former Special Forces Operator and highly regarded expert on both combat trauma and combat sports medicine), delves into the psychology of what it takes to be a modern day “warrior.” He talks with top-ranking policemen, to combat veterans, to MMA experts, and many more—all in pursuit of talking about combat and the common threads that loom warriors to the same fabric.

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

This Past Weekend with Theo Von

Every military service member needs some laughter in their life, too. Theo Von and his hilarious podcast “This Past Weekend” have just the right flavor for a military background listener. In case you don’t know, Theo Von is a rising comedic voice and one of the absolute funniest dudes in the country. His Louisiana drawl contrasts his bizarre shoehorning of the English language and, when combined with some downright brilliant joke writing, becomes a really easy recipe for some deep belly laughs on your commute. The only downside is you can’t see his glorious mullet through your headphones.

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

War on the Rocks

Ryan Evans swills some drinks and talks policy, life, and security on this well-produced podcast. The issues span from diplomacy to economic to domestic. Ryan has a really contagious charisma which makes for a lot of vehement nodding in agreement while listening. A must listen for anyone interested in geopolitics.

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast

And finally, we have the legendary Bill Burr, in one of the longest-running comedic podcasts out there. If you have served in the military, and you haven’t heard of Bill Burr, just listen to a single episode. All of your internal frustrations will be hilariously articulated right before your eyes as Bill Burr rants to himself (and a 1,000,000+ listeners) about issues small and large. His clear cut, no-nonsense approach is really sobering and refreshing. His east-coast Boston accent layers his precisely supported rants with an authentic edginess. Feels kinda like an audio shot of whisky on your way to work.

MIGHTY MONEY

Apple just announced a game-changing new credit card

At an event on March 25, 2019, at its Cupertino, California, headquarters, Apple announced the next stage in the evolution of Apple Pay: a rumored Apple rewards credit card.

The card, issued by Goldman Sachs called “Apple Card,” will offer cash rewards and various features and integrations with Apple’s Wallet and Apple Pay apps.

The card will earn “Daily Cash,” Apple’s version of cash back. Daily Cash is issued to the user’s Apple Pay Cash balance each day. From there, it can be spent on purchases using Apple Pay, applied as a credit toward the user’s Apple Card balance, or transferred to contacts through Apple’s peer payment feature in iMessage.


It was not immediately clear whether Daily Cash could be withdrawn to an external bank account, including Goldman Sachs accounts.

The card will earn 3% Daily Cash back on purchases made with Apple, 2% cash back on purchases made with Apple Pay, and 1% Daily Cash on purchases made with the physical card, or online without Apple Pay. It was not immediately clear if purchases made online through Apple Pay would qualify for the 2% back.

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

(Apple)

According to Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey, who presented at the event, the new card is “designed for iPhone.” People can apply directly on the iPhone, and start using the digital card immediately upon approval. Cardholders can update information and review transactions through iMessage as the card uses machine learning to recognize transactions.

iPhone users can view their balances and transactions within the Wallet app, including automated breakdowns of spending by category and merchant.

The card will have no annual fee, late payment, or foreign transaction fees. The Apple Card features in Wallet will show various payment options, and help users calculate “the interest cost on different payment amounts in real time,” according to a news release. The Card app will also offer automated suggestions to pay down any carried balances sooner.

The card has several built-in security features, including some that are native to Apple Pay, and offers various privacy features. While users will get a physical card to use at point-of-sale terminals that do not accept Apple Pay, it won’t have a printed number, expiration date, or security code. For online purchases, that information can be accessed in the Wallet app, with Touch or Face ID used to authenticate the user.

The card runs on MasterCard’s payment network and will be available summer 2019.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

One year and one week later: where military families stand following the housing crisis

As military spouses, we are all too familiar with the phrase “hurry up and wait.” When it comes to the health and safety of our families in our homes, enough is enough.


When we heard from our network that families were struggling with the safety and deterioration of their military homes, we mobilized the Military Family Advisory Network’s research process so that we could learn more. Our goal was simple: understand what is happening through scientific data. Good data can be powerful and hard to ignore.

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

We created a survey that allowed us to take a deep dive into the issue, and we shared what we learned with the Department of Defense, Congress, and the general public. We made sure our data was actionable, because our priority is shortening the time between the identification of an issue and the deployment of a solution.

Sadly, it has been one year and one week since we released findings from our Privatized Military Housing Survey, and families are still struggling. It should not have taken a survey with nearly 17,000 military families sharing their experiences with us – many of which were severe – to drive change. The entire country heard about what was happening in military housing in the nightly news, in the paper, and on social media. Despite the overwhelming number of heartbreaking stories, the brave testimonies from military spouses, the news coverage, and the compelling data, families are still struggling.

Based on what we hear, we believe that those who are entrusted with fixing this issue are on the right path, but we also know that there is a long way to go. We understand that for the military families who have spent months in temporary housing or hotels, who have thrown away thousands of dollars’ worth of furniture due to water damage, have lived with pests, and worst of all, who are struggled with the health-implications that can be associated with mold or lead, actions speak louder than words. We understand that the trust between military families and housing offices (and those charged with oversight) continues to erode as families wait for a Tenant Bill of Rights and increased accountability.

We commit to keeping the pressure up and continuing to learn from families who share their experiences with us, and we commit to doing so in collaboration with everyone who has a vested interest in supporting our community. That is why MFAN created the Military Housing Roundtable. During our first meeting, we took a step back to answer a few key questions: What is happening that is causing families to choose to live in military housing? Do military families have other safe and affordable options? Or, do they feel stuck? Based on these questions, here’s what we know:

We need to bring together public and private agencies to ensure that military families have a central hub where they can get the information they need.

We need to explore what is happening in housing and rental markets near installations.

We need to educate families on the Service Member Civil Relief act, so they know their rights when they are signing a lease or need to move.

We need to teach families the dangers of mold and lead, show them where to look, how to safely navigate these hazards, and where to turn for help if they discover them in their homes.

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

Most importantly, we need to elevate the voices of military families, because as the last year has shown us, their experiences matter. MFAN is proud to have provided the microphone for these families through our research. We are honored to be able to create collaborative solutions with Roundtable attendees – which included nonprofits, military and veteran service organizations, subject matter experts on environmental risks, the Department of Defense, the military services, and businesses with a mission of supporting military families.

We are committed to rallying together to fix this because we all know one thing for certain: military families deserve a safe place to live, raise their families, and call home.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China looks to Russia for help with inexperienced troops

The Russian and Chinese armed forces are putting their military might on display on land, in the air, and at sea in a massive exercise in Russia’s far east, where China is learning lessons from Russia’s warfighting experience in Syria and other global hotspots.

Chinese troops, as well as helicopters and tanks, are participating in Vostok 2018, reportedly the largest drills in the history of the Russian army, and while the Chinese and Russian militaries have held drills together in the past, this year’s exercise is different.

“In the past decade, China-Russia military drills mainly focused on anti-terrorism and other non-traditional threats,” Major Li Jinpeng, the battalion commander for a Chinese artillery battalion, told Chinese state-run broadcaster CGTN, noting that these exercises appear focused on classical battle campaigns.


A military researcher told Chinese media that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army could learn from Russia how to “fight in cities, in deserts, and in mountains.”

In the age of renewed great power competition, China is pushing to build a modern fighting force that can win on the battlefield, whether that be the defense of the mainland, a fight over Taiwan, or an armed conflict in disputed waters. During the drills, Russia shared its wartime experiences with China, which has not fought in a conflict in decades.

“The Russian military is interested in seeing and assessing China’s progress in the military field,” Mikhail Barabanov, editor-in-chief of the Moscow Defence Brief, told the Financial Times recently, “I believe that for China the opportunity to get acquainted with the Russian armed forces is much more interesting since the Russian army has in recent years a great deal of combat experience in Ukraine, Syria, etc while China’s armed forces are completely deprived of modern combat experience and have not fought since 1979.”

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Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation.

(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

A recent article in the Global Times explained that one of the reasons for the ongoing exercises is to learn from the Russian military. “The Russian forces that performed operations in Syria are among the participants of the military exercise. Undoubtedly, joining in such a military exercise with them is helpful for the PLA to become familiar with actual combat,” the article said. This particular point was driven home by Chinese state media as well.

“Almost all the Russian helicopter pilots in this drill have participated in the Syria conflict, so they have very rich real combat experience,” Senior Colonel Li Xincheng, a commander and veteran Chinese helicopter pilot, told CGTN, adding, “Their equipment has been tested in the real battlefield, which we can learn from.”

He added that the Chinese and Russian troops practiced complex strikes not commonly seen in Chinese military exercises. “Unlike the many drills before, this time from the top to the bottom, we have fighter-bombers, helicopters and tanks firing shells at the same time in a three-dimensional attacking system,” Li explained.

Russian state media confirmed by way of a commander that “generalized Syrian experience was used in the drills – from limited objective attacks by landing forces down to firing and reconnaissance rules.” Newsweek, citing the South China Morning Post, reported that Russia is compiling a textbook focused on its Syrian war experience and plans to share it with China.

Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

Vostok 2018.

China’s military is undergoing an extensive military modernization program designed to build a lethal force that is able to fight and win wars by the middle of this century. This effort has involved leadership changes, new recruitment standards, and enhanced training with an emphasis on actual live-fire combat exercises for war rather than the rough equivalent of a military parade, even though that still occurs.

“One of my soldiers told me that he fired so many shells in these drills that it is almost equivalent to his total over the past five years,” Captain Zhang Lei, whose armored vehicle battalion participated in the Vostok exercises, told Chinese state media in a commentary on the expenditure of ammunition during the drills.

Both Moscow and Beijing have stressed that the exercises are not aimed at any third party, but both countries have bonded over their mutual interest in challenging US hegemony. The Pentagon said that while the US respects Russia and China’s right to hold military drills, just as the US does with its allies and international partners, the US will be watching closely.

Featured image: Chinese military vehicles through a field during the Vostok 2018 exercises in Russia.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What’s made the Abrams tank so lethal for 40 years

The legendary M1 Abrams tank has been on the testing ranges and battlefields for 40 years, saving dozens or even hundreds of crews who were able to unleash hellish fury on their enemies while surviving dozens of blows from enemy tanks’ main guns.

It’s all thanks to American and British engineering that has stood the test of time.


Top podcasts for the commuting veteran

An MBT-70 fires an anti-tank missile in testing.

(Mark Holloway, CC BY 2.0)

That’s right, British engineering was a key ingredient in creating this dominant war machine.

The need for the M1 program came about because of the failure of the MBT-70 program, a joint U.S.-German program to develop a replacement for the M-60 Patton, a capable but aging tank that wouldn’t be able to hold the line against Soviet armor forever.

The MBT-70 would have had a low profile, good armor, and a massive 152mm main gun that could fire anti-tank missiles. It was fast, hitting 43 mph in testing, which would’ve made it the fastest tank in the world at the time. And it had a weird feature where the driver’s seat was located in the turret but automatically rotated to always face the direction of travel.

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An MBT-70 prototype at the United States Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

(Mark Pellegrini, CC BY-SA 2.5)

But for all its bells and whistles, the MBT-70 had a lot of problems. It was too heavy to use most of the armored infrastructure then available in Europe, including recovery vehicles and bridges. It cost more than originally planned, too. But worst of all, its caseless ammo had a tendency to swell, making it unusable in combat and potentially even starting fires inside the vehicle.

The project was ultimately canceled due to costs, but some of the technical specs and designs were carried over into the XM1 project, which would churn out its first M1 Abrams in 1978. The M1 shared the low-profile of the MBT-70 as well as blowout compartments for ammunition and a shallow turret.

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An M1 Abrams taking part in Getica Saber 17.

(U.S. Army Spc. Kelsey M VanFleet)

The Abrams was even faster than its speedy predecessor. On paper, it was slated to peak at 45mph, but in capable tankers’ hands, it was a little faster. Originally, its gun was shrunk down to 105mm, but later models were upgraded to 120mm — still a far cry from the 152mm of the MBT-70. But with sabot rounds controversially made from depleted uranium, it still had enough power to punch through nearly anything. Even modern explosive reactive armor has trouble with sabot.

But the the most revolutionary upgrades that the Abrams brought to the table are in the armor and engines. The armor is Chobham armor that Britain quietly revealed to the U.S. while it was developing the Abrams. It is, essentially, a layered sandwich of reactive plates encased in metal with elastic layers underneath. It provides great protection against high-explosive rounds, kinetic energy penetrators, and armor-piercing rounds.

The initial Abrams was so popular with tankers that they gave rave reviews in 1982 to a visiting writer and bragged that the tank would “remain contemporary” for at least 10 years. 30 years after that article was published, the notion seems cute.

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An M1 Abrams tank fires in Strong Europe Tank Challenge 2018.

(U.S. Army Christoph Koppers)

But the Abrams hasn’t survived for so long because it was awesome rolling off the line. The tank has been upgraded every few years since its debut. It has received not only a new gun, but improved optics and a better powertrain. And those are just the upgrades implemented before the 1990 Gulf War.

Since then, everything from the ammo to the armor to the electronics have been upgraded. It can power its computers without running the high-consumption turbines, its formerly vulnerable gas tanks are now better protected and it has defenses against IEDs and large anti-tank mines.

It has even gotten reactive armor with the TUSK — the Tank Urban Survival Kit. This is basically a bunch of bombs strapped to the outside of the tank that deflect enemy blasts and penetrators.

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Iraqi soldiers practice M1 Abrams night driving.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Paul Sale)

The newest Abrams variant, the M1A2 SEP V3, actually improves the tank so much that it’s still at the top of a lot of “Best Tank” lists, even among experts, mostly thanks to sustainability and reliability upgrades, but also thanks to a new round designed to defeat enemy reactive armor.

But the planned SEP V4 will introduce more upgrades including a new, multi-purpose round with a laser rangefinder and the ability to be programmed for different targets just before it’s fired.

The Army is looking at finally, possibly, moving on from the M1 Abrams after the SEP V4 upgrades. The argument is that there are new tank designs, like the Russian T-14 or Chinese Type 99, that the Abrams cannot stay ahead of, and so a new design from the ground up should be fielded. If so, let’s hope that design is good enough to last over 40 years, too.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Marine Corps tech looks like it’s from ‘Star Wars’

The Marine Corps is integrating new technologies into an existing handheld GPS targeting system that helps Marines locate adversaries on the battlefield.

Fielded in 2017, the Common Laser Range Finder-Integrated Capability is a handheld target location system that uses an eye-safe laser range finder and algorithms to determine a target’s location. It then transmits that location to the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System or another fire support system.

Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems began an in-production engineering change proposal — or ECP — process to integrate an enhanced digital magnetic capability into the CLRF-IC. The configuration change will reduce the amount of time and movement required by Marines when using the system.


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A U.S. Marine with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, uses a Common Laser Range Finder-Integrated Capability system to locate notional targets during a close-air-support training event with the British Royal Air Force at Holbeach Range, England, Feb. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

“Previously, the magnetic effects of an environment would cause the operator to go through a series of sitting and standing, stepping to the left and to the right in order to calibrate the system,” said Jeff Nebel, MCSC’s Fire Support Coordination team lead. “What we’re integrating is a new digital magnetic compass so the operator can calibrate the system basically the same way you do your cellphone — just rotate it left to right, and up and down a few times.”

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A U.S. Marine with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, uses a Common Laser Range Finder-Integrated Capability system to locate notional targets during a close-air-support training event with the British Royal Air Force at Holbeach Range, England, Feb. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

MCSC is also integrating a capability to export video or still-pictures from the CLRF-IC to a target handoff system, enabling Marines to transmit photographs of targets to Marine Corps headquarters, which could help identify enemies.

“We did an in-production ECP, and we’ll begin fielding the enhanced CLRF-IC system in the next couple of months,” said Nebel.

The first enhanced CLRF-IC devices are slated to field later this year, and Nebel projects the system will reach Full Operational Capability by early 2021.

“We took a short pause from our fielding so we could incorporate the in-production ECP, and that pushed back our FOC,” said Nebel. “But now we’re going to be able to get a more capable system out to Marines.”

​CLRF-IC popular among Marines

The original CLRF system fielded in 2012. Back then, the system incorporated the common laser range finder and a thermal laser spot imager. Five years later, an updated, lightweight version — the CLRF-IC — was introduced to Marines.

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U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, locate simulated enemy positions during a close-air-support training event with the British Royal Air Force at Holbeach Range, England, Feb. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

Feedback on the CLRF-IC from Marines has been positive, Nebel said.

“Most of the Marines like how light the system is,” said Nebel. “It’s significantly lighter than the previous system.”

Paul Knight, lead systems engineer for the CLRF-IC, echoed Nebel’s sentiments. A lighter system reduces the amount of weight the Marine Air-Ground Task Force must carry on the battlefield, Knight said, which allows them to haul additional gear if necessary.

“If you’re subtracting weight in one place, that means Marines can carry extra gear that previously would have overburdened them,” said Knight. “The CLRF-IC reduces that weight significantly.”

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U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.1 and Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.1, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, practice calling-for-fire during a close-air-support training event with the British Royal Air Force at Holbeach Range, England, Feb. 20, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Katelyn Hunter)

The CLRF-IC also transmits information faster than the original version, said Knight. It features day and night cameras, a rangefinder and celestial positioning precision so Marines can use the system in various weather conditions.

MCSC also created an application that contains the system’s technical and operator manuals, so joint fires observers and joint terminal attack controllers can access information electronically instead of carrying printed manuals to the field.

“Marines can use this application for troubleshooting, operator maintenance or training,” said Nebel. “We’ve done a lot of things to make the system more effective.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

4 of the ways the ‘Sons of Anarchy’ are like your infantry squad

The brotherhood of an infantry squad is hard to match. No matter where you go after you leave, you’ll struggle to find that same type of camaraderie. Sure, there are civilian jobs out there that offer something similar, but let’s face it — nothing will ever rival getting sh*tfaced in the barracks on the weekend with your best buds after a long week of putting up with your command’s bullsh*t.

That’s why we love watching shows like Sons of Anarchy.

The fictional motorcycle club happens to embody a lot of the things we loved about “being with the homies” in our squads. The way they interact with each other and their overall lifestyle runs eerily parallel to the way grunts conduct themselves.


If you’ve watched the show, this won’t come as a surprise but, in case you haven’t, these are the ways Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original are a lot like your infantry squad:

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Nothing else compares…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg)

Brotherhood

SAMCRO is all about the brotherhood. They’re always looking out for each other and going to extreme lengths to help one another. It’s not just about your duty, it’s about the love you have for the people with whom you serve. Being in an infantry squad helps you develop this mentality.

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And sh*t like this will suck less.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William Chockey)

Loyalty

Oftentimes, you won’t have to be asked to do things because you’ll want to do them without being asked. You know that your actions are for the betterment of the squad. The guys to your left and right depend on you and you them. This loyalty will be a driving desire in everything you do.

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Even working out is something that benefits your squad mates.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. A. J. Van Fredenberg)

You go beyond “for the club”

After you get used to your squad and you’ve established your loyalty and brotherhood, you’ll begin to go beyond what’s required of you to help out the squad. You might even start taking MarineNet courses you’re interested in to help boost your squad’s effectiveness.

At the end of the day, SAMCRO members make choices and do things because of their love and loyalty to the club.

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You’ll do anything for your squad.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Dedication to one another

When one of your brothers is going through a rough time, you’ll feel a drive to do whatever you can to help them out. If someone hurts your squad mate in one way or another, no matter what it is, you’ll be out for blood. This is honestly one of the things that makes the Sons of Anarchy such an interesting group of people to watch.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top US Marine says young troops should not be blamed for using TikTok

Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, suggested the concerns surrounding a service members’ use of questionable Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military’s leadership, rather than the individual troops.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday morning, Berger said the younger generation of troops had a “clearer view” of the technology “than most people give them credit for.”

“That said, I’d give us a ‘C-minus’ or a ‘D’ in educating the force on the threat of even technology,” Berger said. “Because they view it as two pieces of gear, ‘I don’t see what the big deal is.'”


“That’s not their fault. That’s on us,” Berger added. “Once they begin to understand the risks, what the impact to them is tactically … then it becomes clear. I don’t blame them for that. This is a training and education that we have to do.”

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Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps Gen. David Berger speaks with Marines during a town hall gathering at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, July 31, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Micha Pierce)

Foreign-owned apps like TikTok have prompted concern from lawmakers and the military in recent months. TikTok, the viral video-sharing app from China, was investigated by intelligence agencies and the military for concerns on the “operational security risks posed … and other China-owned social media platforms that can access massive amounts of US users’ personal data,” according to a letter by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in November.

“National security experts have raised concerns about TikTok’s collection and handling of user data, including user content and communications, IP addresses, location-related data, metadata, and other sensitive personal information,” Schumer added in the letter.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

To “err on the side of caution,” US Army cadets throughout high school and university were banned from using TikTok while in uniform to represent the military, a spokeswoman said in November. The act does not ban them from using it for personal use.

The app, which was formerly Musical.ly, exploded in popularity and boasted 1 billion monthly active users earlier this year. TikTok and its owner, Beijing ByteDance Technology, claims that American user data is not stored in China, nor is it politically influenced by the country.

“Let us be very clear: TikTok does not remove content based on sensitivities related to China,” the company said in a statement in October. “We have never been asked by the Chinese government to remove any content and we would not do so if asked. Period.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard is patrolling deeper and has $500 million in cocaine

While scouring the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean over the past several months, the crew of the US Coast Guard cutter James seized 19,000 pounds of cocaine.

The James’s haul was about half of the 38,00o pounds of cocaine its crew offloaded on Nov. 15, 2018, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Those drugs were seized in 19 interdictions at sea carried about by six US Coast Guard ships — nine of which were conducted by the James.

The total haul had an estimated wholesale value of about $500 million.


“Operating in the dark of night, often under challenging conditions, these outstanding Coast Guard men and women … driving our boats, flying our armed helicopter swiftly interdicted drug smugglers operating in a variety of vessels used to move these tons of narcotics, from the simple outboard panga to commercial fishing vessels to low-profile high-speed vessels and even semi-submersibles designed to evade detection,” Capt. Jeffrey Randall, the commander of the James, said Nov. 15, 2018.

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A pallet of interdicted cocaine being offloaded from the Coast Guard Cutter James by crane in Port Everglades, Florida, Nov.15, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

The drugs were unloaded just a few weeks after the end of fiscal year 2018 on Sept. 30, 2018. During that fiscal year, the Coast Guard intercepted just over 458,000 pounds of cocaine — the second highest total ever. Fiscal year 2017 set the record with 493,000 pounds seized, topping the previous record of 443,000 pounds set in fiscal year 2016.

The increase in seizures comes amid growing cocaine production in Colombia, the world’s largest producer of the drug and the main supplier to the US market. Production of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, has steadily risen since hitting a low in 2012.

Colombia is the only South American country that borders both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, but most of the cocaine it sends to the US takes a westerly route.

“In 2017, at least 84 percent of the documented cocaine departing South America transited the Eastern Pacific,” the US Drug Enforcement Administration said in its most recent National Drug Threat Assessment.

“Shipments around the Galapagos Islands increased to 17 percent of overall flow in 2017, up from four percent in 2016 and one percent in 2015,” the DEA report found. “In 2017, 16 percent of cocaine moved through the Caribbean, nine percent traveling through the Western Caribbean and seven percent through the Eastern Caribbean.”

The Coast Guard’s activity in the eastern Pacific, where it works with other US agencies and international partners, is meant to stanch the drug flow at its largest and most vulnerable point: at sea.

“The Coast Guard’s interdiction efforts really employ what I call a push-out-the-border strategy. We’re pushing our land border 1,500 miles deep into the ocean here a little bit, and that’s where we find the success taking large loads of cocaine down at sea,” Adm. Karl Shultz, the commandant of the Coast Guard, said Nov. 15, 2018, during the offload.

“When we take down drugs at sea it reduces the violence. It maximizes the impact. When these loads land in Mexico, in Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, they get distributed into very small loads, very hard to detect, and there’s associated violence, corruption, instability,” Shultz added. “It’s just very hard to govern in that space when there’s that much associated disarray here that surrounds these drugs, so we’re really proud of the ability to push that border out.”

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The Coast Guard Cutter James crew, Claire M. Grady, acting Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary, Adm. Karl Schultz, Coast Guard Commandant, Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Rear Adm. Peter Brown, commander of Coast Guard 7th District with 18.5 tons of interdicted cocaine on deck Nov. 15, 2018 in Port Everglades, Florida.

(Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally)

Coast Guard officials have said after having success against self-propelled semi-submersibles, which are like subs but typically can’t fully submerge, the service has seen an uptick in the use of low-profile vessels, which look similar to speedboats but sit lower in the water, often with their decks right at water level.

“The low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz told Business Insider in a 2018 interview. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes,” he said, adding that the increase “reflects the adaptability” of traffickers.

Asked on Nov. 15, 2018, about smuggling trends the Coast Guard has observed above and below the water, Schultz said again pointed to increased use of low-profile vessels.

“We’re seeing these low-profile vessels now, which is a similar construct [to semi-submersibles] but with outboard engines,” Schultz told reporters. “They paint them seafoam green, blue. They’re hard to detect … from the air.”

Semi-submersibles and low-profile vessels are pricey, running id=”listicle-2620650428″ million to million each. But the multiton cargoes they carry can fetch hundreds of millions of dollars, making the sophisticated vessels an expense traffickers can afford.

Schultz and Randall both touted the Coast Guard’s work with its US and foreign partners.

Claire Grady, third in command at the Homeland Security Department, put the service’s high-seas interdictions squarely within the government’s broader efforts to go after drugs and the smugglers bringing them north.

“We must take actions abroad in addition to our actions at home. This merging of the home game and the away game represents the layered defense that we employ to keep the drugs off our streets and dismantle the criminal organizations that wreak violence and instability,” Grady said aboard the James on Nov. 15, 2018.

“The Coast Guard is critical to this effort, and the seized narcotics that you see behind me represents a major victory.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Is Putin the richest person in the world?

While many a news outlet regularly reports when Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates flip-flop as to who is the richest person in the world, with Bernard Arnault and Warren Buffet nipping at their heals, as we previously noted in our article on the richest people in history, Bezos and Gates’ combined wealth barely matches that of the known fortune of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who ruled over that oil rich country for over three decades before being ousted and then killed in 2011. So how wealthy was Gaddafi? In the years since his death, so far nearly $200 billion dollars have been found in secret accounts, real estate holdings, and other investments directly belonging to him. No matter whether he acquired it ethically or not, assets are assets, and Gaddafi had the most of any known person so far this century by a huge margin.

Another individual who has more or less ruled a petroleum-rich nation for about two decades now is likewise rumored to secretly have a net worth in excess of $200 billion. We are, of course, talking about Vladimir Putin. But is Putin actually the richest person in the world, or are these just rumors?


To begin with, as you might imagine being born in the Soviet Union in 1952, Putin didn’t exactly start out life in the lap of luxury. In a bit of 1950s-era role reversal, his father was a cook and his mother a factory worker. Putin himself would grow up to join the KGB in 1975 working a variety of positions with that institution over the years. While you might envision Hollywood spy type scenarios were his daily life, in fact, according to journalist and biographer Masha Gessen, “Putin and his colleagues were reduced mainly to collecting press clippings, thus contributing to the mountains of useless information produced by the KGB.”

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Putin in the KGB.

The first rumor that Putin was using a government position to stash away quite a lot of money for his own personal gain came in the early 1990s when he, in his then position as head of the Committee for External Relations at the Mayor’s Office in St. Petersburg, allegedly helped broker a million deal to acquire various food supplies for the city. In a nutshell, various companies were granted permits that would allow them to supply a huge amount of materials to foreign entities, and in exchange would be given an equivalent value back in foodstuffs to then be used within the famished city. The thing was, as far as anyone can tell, while the companies did send out the materials, no foodstuffs came back in return. The matter was ultimately investigated by one Marina Salye at the behest of the city council, with Salye in turn claiming Putin’s signature could be found authorizing the deals.

She states, “The raw materials were shipped abroad but the food didn’t materialise. There’s 100% proof that in this Putin was to blame. As a result in 1992 – when there was no food at all – the city was left with nothing. The evidence I have is as solid as it gets…. Putin – well, his committee – made bartering contacts to get food for the city. He issued licenses. And commodities – wood, metal, cotton, heating oil, and oil – flew out of the country.”

That said, while she states Putin was to blame and, at least according to her, she had definitive proof, she did not find any evidence that Putin had received anything in return for the apparently botched deals. As for Putin, he claimed the companies that had been given the export permits in the deal were to blame for foodstuffs not coming back as they were supposed to have- implying that Putin had no knowledge the deals wouldn’t be completed as originally brokered when he issued the licenses.

The city council would move forward with further investigation, but ultimately Mayor Anatoly Sobchak put a stop to it and the matter was dropped. While you’ll read in many outlets reporting this story that Salye would die of so-called natural causes mere weeks after she made these accusations and the investigation was killed, in truth she would go on to help found the Free Democratic Party of Russia and more or less continually rail against Putin to anyone in the media and public who would listen, until eventually giving up in 2000 after the election and moving to the countryside. There she lived until her death at the age of 77 in 2012, though she did give a handful of interviews during that span, still unabashedly anti-Putin.

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A portrait of Marina Salye during the 2012 Protests after the 2011 Russian elections.

As for Putin, from that 1992 political position, he worked his way up to becoming one of a trio of Deputy Prime Ministers, and was known to be Boris Yeltsin’s preferred successor, despite before this being a relative unknown among the wider public. Ultimately he did indeed become president in 2000 after winning the majority vote.

Once elected, Putin, like his predecessor, reported his finances and holdings publicly, including his salary and exact amount in his many bank accounts. He has continued to do so since. The result? Over the years while his salary has changed regularly from year to year, he has made approximately 0K-0K annually in that span, for example in 2018 reporting an income of 5K. Today between his wife’s and his own accounts, the couple seem to have a little over a half a million in cash in various bank accounts, though why he isn’t investing this is rather curious given his apparent lack of any other investments and almost complete lack of actually needing any cash for his day to day life given the government foots the bill for most everything. Of this, Putin states, “Honestly speaking, I don’t even know what my salary is. They deliver it to me, I take it, put it my bank account and don’t even count it…”

As for his other assets, he also owns a studio sized apartment in Saint Petersburg, a slightly larger apartment in Moscow, owns a small garage, a couple cars, a small plot of land outside of Moscow, and otherwise has various minor assets of no great worth.

Of course, over the years people can’t help but notice that Putin has a collection of watches he wears very publicly whose purchase price combined is around that of his reported entire net worth, ringing in at about 0,000-0,000 if various reports are to be believed. For reference, the highest valued watch he has been spotted wearing costs around 0,000- a Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar watch.

On top of that, the clothing he can often be seen wearing is likewise extremely expensive, such as his 00+ tailored suits from outlets like Kiton and Brioni. Not just expensive suits, in one photo of him working out, Putin can be seen wearing sweatpants that cost over id=”listicle-2641610333″,400 a pair, apparently made from silk, cashmere and the tears of impoverished children, along with a similarly priced top.

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Giphy

On top of that, among other mansions, he is long rumored to own an estate known as “Putin’s Palace” near Praskoveevka, widely reported to be worth id=”listicle-2641610333″ billion by media outlets. However, this was actually sold in 2011 to one Alexander Ponomarenko, a former associate of Putin’s, for somewhere around 0 million. (Note, the exact amount has not been publicly disclosed, but Ponomarenko has indicated it’s in the ballpark of that widely reported figure.)

Ponomarenko purchased the estate from a group led by businessman Nikolai Shamalov. Ponomarenko claims he decided to buy the company behind the estate project, and thus the mansion, as it was a steal of a deal owing to the project being stalled from lack of funds to complete the estate and the business group wanting to cut their losses on it rather than complete it.

That said, Russian businessman Sergei Kolesnikov, who is exiled from Russia, claims the palace was built specifically for Putin’s use. He claims Putin was able to afford its construction in part thanks to a gift given him by the aforementioned Nikolai Shamalov in the form of 94% of the shares in a company called Lirus Holding. Among other personal knowledge of the development of the palace, Kolesnikov claims Shamalov himself told him this and, to quote him, “I have no reason not to believe (him).”

However, no documents concerning any ownership connected to the project seem to indicate Putin, or any holdings of Putin’s, ever were directly involved with this estate. That said, some contract documents concerning its construction allegedly have the signature of one Vladimir Kozhin, one of Putin’s inner circle of confidants. Of course, this still doesn’t definitively indicate whether Putin actually owned the palace or even was behind its building at all- simply, allegedly someone he is close to was involved in some capacity and later someone else he is close to bought it- a bit of a theme for a lot of these rumors.

Putin himself denies he had anything to do with the palace being built. Nevertheless, Putin allegedly frequents the palace and Federal Protective Service guards have been seen at the mansion, along with locals reporting seeing Putin in the area regularly.

Of course, among the extremely wealthy with such mansions, it’s not uncommon at all to allow friends to guest in one’s estates whenever they please, so Putin would not have to actually own the thing to stay there, nor would it be a big ask to do so- more or less par for the course among the exorbitantly wealthy.

That said, on top of all this estate, Putin has been connected to causing to have had built or secretly owning several other mansions, yachts, planes, etc.

Whether he actually owns any of these or, like Putin’s Palace, seemingly is just using them when he pleases, his flashing of extreme wealth in the case of his watches and other such items, along with an awful lot of not implausible allegations of widespread corruption within his government connected to him, has led to the belief that he has boatloads of money secretly stashed away in accounts throughout the world.

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Giphy

Others speculate Putin is simply using the government coffers to finance all these extravagances. For many items, this would not actually be that uncommon for a major world leader, if a lot more excessive than most. For example, the replacement Air Force One planes the U.S. President will soon have at his disposal has a budget of over billion. The U.S. President also gets a pretty posh mansion (The White House) and vacations spots to go to at their leisure with the tax payer footing the bill for quite a lot of such perks with few batting an eye at this.

But, of course, the U.S. government isn’t funding 0,000 watches for the President (though bullet proof tailored suits occasionally worn by the president are presumably paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. To attempt to clarify these items, requests have been made to the Russian government asking if, for example, Putin’s watches are actually his or property of the state that he is just wearing, but no answer to this question has been given that we could find.

Whatever the case, yet others claim Putin is simply enriching many people around him and it is they who are then happy to provide Putin with anything and everything his Judo-master heart can desire.

Yet others claim it is all three- Putin is enriching himself through shady means and using government funds and people he is helping make wealthy to get whatever he wants while he’s in office.

But the question of the hour is not whether Putin’s net worth is more than he is letting on- that is very apparently true by his watch collection alone, whether he purchased them or they were gifted. The question of the hour is whether he is secretly the richest person in the world with a net worth in excess of 0 billion as so many claim.

So what does the man himself say about all these rumors? “I am the wealthiest man, not just in Europe but in the whole world…”

Case closed, right? He admitted it! Well, in truth, he wasn’t finished talking. He goes on, “I collect emotions. I am wealthy in that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with the leadership of a great nation such as Russia. I believe that is my greatest wealth.”

Of course, whether he collects emotions or not doesn’t inherently negate the first part of that statement, simply that he considers that a greater wealth than whatever he has possession-wise.

Argue amongst yourselves whether this was Putin cleverly admitting to being the wealthiest person in the world while making it seem like he was saying he wasn’t, and also simultaneously admitting he’s a Lizard Person given a hallmark of these creatures is apparently feeding on human emotions… ?

For a more direct answer to the question about the rumors of his extreme wealth, he clarifies, “It’s just chitchat, nonsense, nothing to discuss… They picked it out of their noses and smeared it on their pieces of paper.”

The Press and Information Office of the President of the Russian Federation’s also asserts of these rumors, “This information has no substance. As you may know, the declarations of Mr. Putin’s income and property are published annually… We recommend you to use only reliable sources henceforward and not to believe fake news in 2018.”

Naturally, nobody seems satisfied with these assertions given his apparent and frequent flashing of wealth far beyond what anyone with his salary should be able to afford.

So what do others who might know a little more say? First, we have political analyst and noted critic of Putin Stanislav Belkovsky who claimed to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2012 that Putin had net worth of approximately billion, though how he came up with this figure isn’t exactly definitive nor inspiring confidence in his hard knowledge here. In his own words, “The figure of billion emerged in 2007. That figure could now have changed, I believe at the level of -70 billion…. Maximum we cannot know. I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about.”

Mildly more concrete, at least in terms of given something more specific, he also claims much of this wealth is because of Putin’s alleged 4.5% stake in Gazprom, 37% stake in Surgutneftegas, and allegedly 50% ownership of Gunvor. How he knows this, however, isn’t fully clear. Belkovsky simply states he got this information through sources he has within the companies. It’s also noted that for a time Gunvor was co-owned by a friend of Putin’s, billionaire Gennady Timchenko.

So what do the three companies say? For whatever it’s worth, Corporate Affairs Director of the Swiss-based Gunvor Group, Seth Thomas Pietras, states, “President Putin has never had any interest in, investment in, or involvement with Gunvor Group either directly or indirectly… Mr. Belkovsky’s claims are based on absolutely nothing and are fundamentally ridiculous. And the U.S. government, despite its statement has never sanctioned Gunvor in any capacity, nor has it provided any evidence of its own.”

Moving on to Surgutneftegas, they likewise deny Putin owns any shares.

Gazprom, which is majority owned by the Russian government itself, with the rest of the stock publicly traded, likewise shows no records of Putin owning any shares.

Belkovsky counters these denials by the companies and lack of records stating Putin has a rather elaborate network of off-shore companies and funds that own the shares, which all ultimately mask that he himself actually owns, or at least, controls them.

Moving on to the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, Bill Browder, he is the one that seems to have started the widespread rumor that Putin’s personal wealth is in excess of 0 billion, stating before a Senate Judiciary Committee

I believe he is worth 0 billion. The purpose of the Putin regime has been to commit terrible crimes in order to get that money…He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation. Therefore, he has a significant and very personal interest in finding a way to get rid of the Magnitsky sanctions.

On this latter note, one of Browder’s former associates, Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, was investigating corruption within the Russian government and allegedly found evidence of various Russian officials taking part in a near quarter of a billion dollar tax fraud scheme. Magnitsky himself was then arrested for allegedly being the mastermind behind the tax fraud, and died while in jail before his trial. At the partial encouragement of Browder, the U.S. then passed the Magnitsky Act in 2009. In an oversimplified nutshell, this allows the U.S. government to sanction various individuals thought to be human rights offenders, ban them from entering the U.S., and more importantly freeze their assets where the government is able. The bill was essentially meant to allow the government to legally hold somewhat accountable those thought to have been involved in Magnitsky’s death.

As for hard data, however, Browder offers little.

Next up, noted economist Anders Aslund, author of the book Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy, states, “I would estimate that Putin is worth around 0-160 billion. We can see that Putin and his friends have taken -15 billion from Gazprom every year since 2004. That’s just Gazprom. There are large numbers of transactions being made… What’s much more difficult is to see where the money goes. It’s typically Cyprus, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Willmington, Delaware…”

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(Kremlin.ru)

As to how he came up with these figures, he states, “My assessment is that since Putin’s circle got its looting fully organized around 2006, they have extracted -25 billion a year, reaching a total of 5-325 billion, a large share of the Russian private offshore wealth. Presuming that half of this wealth belongs to Putin, his net wealth would amount to 0-160 billion. Naturally, Putin and his cronies cannot enjoy their wealth. It is all about power. If they are not the wealthiest, they fear they will lose power.”

Why he assumes Putin would get half of these alleged amounts instead of some other percentage isn’t fully clear.

On that note, like so many before, nobody seems to be able to actually offer hard evidence that Putin has any money stashed away anywhere not publicly known, which when talking sums of allegedly 0 billion, is a pretty neat trick for someone who has been so highly scrutinized, including by the U.S. Senate, who presumably if they wanted could just ask the CIA or other entities good at collecting such data to look into it. Given, instead, they are asking the likes of Browder, it has been presumed and widely claimed, that the CIA and other such government entities have no definitive intelligence on this either.

From this lack of a paper trail directly linking money or assets to Putin, yet his clearly lavish lifestyle indicating he does indeed have access to an awful lot of money, this has led many to conclude that Putin himself doesn’t actually officially own most or all of the wealth attributed to him, but rather he is leveraging his position and connections to enrich those close to him who, in their gratitude, are then more than happy to provide Putin with any money or items he wants, from access to mansion to yachts to sweatpants that keep his Judo-jubblies ultra comfortable when working out.

As alleged evidence for this, we turn to 11.5 million documents from the Panama Mossack Fonseca law firm made public in 2016, dealing in off-shore holdings by over 200,000 entities. While Putin himself is not listed in any of them, the documents do reveal three close associates of Putin’s among those having off-shore holdings partially managed by the law firm, with a combined amount of around billion between the trio.

Despite not owning these assets, there are many claims by various individuals that Putin uses some of these like his “personal bank account”, most notably the holdings of a man claimed by many in the media as Putin’s best friend- famed Russian musician and conductor Sergei Roldugin. Not just a friend, Roldugin is also the godfather to one of Putin’s children and was the man who introduced Putin to Putin’s wife.

As for where Roldugin supposedly got his extreme wealth, beyond his noted music career, starting in the 1990s Roldugin began investing in various oil and other business entities, to great success. Beyond all of this, in 2019, Roldugin also was accused of being involved in a massive multi-billion dollar money laundering scheme in conjunction with Sberbank CIB, which allegedly profited him greatly.

That said, for those using these records as proof of Putin having money elsewhere via his associates, it should be again noted these are the records of well over 200,000 entities throughout the world. And the vast majority who are using the firm are doing so completely legitimately, including actor Jackie Chan who reportedly had six perfectly above board off-shore companies the law firm helped manage various facets of. So that three among Putin’s numerous friends who are exorbitantly wealthy should be included isn’t necessarily proof of anything other than they wanted to have some assets outside of Russia, which isn’t uncommon among the wealthy in Russia. As some formerly close to Putin who have had their assets stripped and forced to flee the country demonstrate, having some off-short holdings is probably a good security blanket of sorts, just in case.

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Giphy

On this note, political scientist professor and author of Putin’s Kleptocracy, Karen Dawisha, stated before her death from lung cancer in 2018, “Why is it that 0 billion left the country last year? Because they believe that their wealth can only be secured in the long term outside their own country.”

Coming back to the posed question of whether Putin is secretly the richest person in the world, whether these funds are being held for him or not, this is still not Putin’s money, not just technically, but we’re guessing regardless of the amount of good-will Putin has built up with these various businessmen and women, should he no longer be in power, they might quickly find themselves less than willing to continue to support his lifestyle, if that is what has been happening as is widely believed. And some speculate he might even find himself in a rather unsafe circumstance in that case.

For example, one-time billionaire and the man formerly known as “Putin’s banker”, but now exiled from Russia, Sergei Pugachev, says “Everything that belongs to the territory of the Russian Federation Putin considers to be his. Everything – Gazprom, Rosneft, private companies. Any attempt to calculate it won’t succeed. He’s the richest person in the world until he leaves power.”

As for leaving power, he goes on that Putin chose not to leave office after his first term and beyond, not because of a desire for continued power, but rather because he feared for his own safety should he no longer be in that position. Even today, Pugachev claims, “I don’t see any guarantees for him [if he steps down]. Putin doesn’t see them either,” which is why he finds it unlikely that Putin will ever willingly leave office. Though it should be noted that Putin himself has stated he will not be running for president at the end of his current term in 2024.

Also for whatever it’s worth, Pugachev, despite having billions stripped from himself by the Russian government, being currently in fear for his life, and in exile, states, in his opinion, Putin himself is not evil, nor did Putin originally plan to setup a corrupt government when he took power, simply that, “He surrounded himself with like-minded people whom he didn’t know very well and who had served with him in the KGB. They immediately began enriching themselves….Putin wanted to get rich, too. He was a pragmatic person. We talked about this. He didn’t want to leave office poor.”

As for the Russian government’s position with regards to Pugachev, it is claimed that Pugachev defrauded the government of hundreds of millions of dollars which is why the one-time bosom-buddy of Putin originally had to go on the run.

Pugachev counters, “The state steals something then has to defend its theft. In my case the scale is huge, but in other respects this is a normal contemporary practice in Russia.” This has all left the one-time billionaire with, by his own account, only about million to his name which he kept in off-shore holdings. It must be rough…

In truth, this amount is unfortunate for him because Pugachev allegedly was offered a deal from a Russian official that if he paid 0 million to certain entities, his legal issues in Russia would be made to be resolved to his benefit and he could return to Russia.

Further siding in the camp that Putin doesn’t have hundreds of billions stashed away he officially owns, the aforementioned Karen Dawisha, who perhaps gives some of the best account and most concrete details of the alleged corruption within the Russian government in her Putin’s Kleptocracy book, states that Putin’s real wealth comes from his position. “He takes what he wants, When you are the president of Russia you don’t need a written contract. You are the law.”

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Again backing up this position, financial investigator L. Burke Files, states, “Putin controls wealth through proxies.” He then makes up examples to illustrate, “Sergey owes his fortune to Putin, so when Putin asks Sergey a favor, the favor must be honored. A luxury cruise, use of a private dacha, expensive consumer goods, etc….Ivan owns a shipping company and owes his wealth to Putin, so when Putin requests a favor, Ivan— like Sergey—honors the request.”

So, is Putin the richest person in the world? While, as Gaddafi demonstrated, it is possible to squirrel away 0 billion secretly, given the level of scrutiny thrown Putin’s way by governments the world over looking into the matter, with nobody seemingly able to come up with any hard evidence, most think this figure grossly inflated, though it is generally accepted that he probably does have at least some significant amount stashed away somewhere.

For most, however, the explanation for his rather luxurious lifestyle is more reasonably explained by the simple fact that he can pretty much have the Russian government foot the bill for anything he wants without much uproar or oversight. And it does seem like an awful lot of his compatriots have gotten exceedingly wealthy during his tenure at least in part thanks to their connections with Putin and him leveraging his position to help facilitate their enrichment. Thus, if that is what has happened, it’s reasonable enough that many of those are happy to scratch his back whenever he feels the need for a new yacht or the like, without Putin needing to have anything in his name to avoid the backlash that would result should he be discovered to have such.

But as to answering the question of Putin’s own wealth, as the consensus seems to be that most of his wealth is tied up in his position and associates, rather than funds he directly has, it seems a bit of a stretch to call him the richest man in the world, though not a stretch at all if talking the money he currently has strong influence over. His position as President of Russia alone would be enough for that.

And as to the idea that he really does have 0 billion simply being held in other people’s names, as alluded to, we’re guessing even if many of these individuals are actually holding money for Putin, that should he step down from power and ask for that money be given to him en masse, or even remain in power and ask for a combined sum of 0 billion, that shortly thereafter memorials and monuments would be being built for the former Russian leader who sadly died in his sleep of natural causes…

Thus, to sum up, while given his lifestyle and various possessions, Putin most definitely does have access to quite a lot of wealth between the Russian government and a lot of friends in high and wealthy places, when talking his own assets, there simply isn’t any real hard data to date backing up the claim that he is the wealthiest person in the world. And, while not impossible certainly, it would be quite the hat trick to squirrel away a couple hundred billion without any world governments able to find hard evidence that he owns a dime of it. Of course, while some might argue access to vast sums should still count- access is not ownership, even if one can benefit from it on some level.

In the end, unless he really is one of the Lizard People, he’s probably not immortal, so at some point in the next few decades he will shuffle off this mortal coil and, perhaps then, like Gaddafi, more definitive data will be revealed. Or perhaps sooner when he no longer has the protection of his position in 2024, as he is constitutionally unable to run for the presidency that year. Although, of course he could always do as he did in 2008 and take a different position while remaining in power.

Whatever the case, for now, at least, while it is technically possible he does have 0 billion in secret, and even probable that he has drastically more than he is letting on publicly, which isn’t difficult given his paltry public assets for a man in his position, given the current data at hand, the needle is seemingly tilted more towards Gates and Bezos being wealthier than Putin, at least in terms of money and assets they officially own.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Why soldiers can now pretty much say goodbye to counter-insurgency training

An increased emphasis on large-scale ground combat and a greater focus on cybersecurity during combat operations are among key changes in the Army’s updated Field Manual 3-0, Operations, released Oct. 6.


America’s potential enemies now have capabilities greater than what Soldiers faced from insurgents in the Middle East. Threats from near-peer adversaries today include the infiltration of communication networks and cybersecurity compromise during combat.

“They have the ability to reach out and touch you — to interrupt your networks, to amass long-range artillery fires on your formations,” said Col. Rich Creed, director of the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. “How to consider protection is different… (they) force you to dig in, or stay mobile and to consider air defense of your key assets … those are the kinds of challenges we’re talking about.”

The changes, directed by Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, mark the first updates to the manual since 2011, when the Army moved from the AirLand Battle concept to unified land operations focusing on the joint force. To revise the guidance, the CADD worked closely since last fall with Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy at the Combined Arms Center and Gen. David Perkins at the Training and Doctrine Command.

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General Mark Milley. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Marisol Walker.

The updates highlight a shift in readiness from counter-insurgency and stability operations to large-scale combat. Three chapters of the new manual will heavily focus on large unit tactics during large scale ground combat, addressing both the offense and the defense during operations. The emphasis on large-scale combat stems from the perception that conflict with a peer adversary is more likely now than any time since the end of the Cold War. Conflict with a nation state able to field modern capabilities approaching our own is quite different than facing insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, Creed said.

“Those adversaries have modernized,” Creed said. “They represent a type of capability that would be more challenging in many ways than what we’ve been doing. That type of warfare — large-scale ground combat — is a very different environment.”

Creed said CAC researchers examined which countries had the most dangerous conventional capabilities that were proliferated around the world so that doctrine could take a more threat-based approach to operations.

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Photo under Creative Commons license.

While the Army has focused resources on cybersecurity for years, Creed said the new manual will help account for cyberspace threats during combat and large-scale operations.

“There’s always been hackers,” Creed said. “We didn’t generally worry about that during military operations because the people that we were fighting couldn’t really do a whole lot to affect our operations. However (China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea) are very active in cyberspace and have significant capabilities in cyberspace that extend into the military realm. So there’s no separation of cyberspace between civilian and military; you have to be aware of it all the time.”

Other areas addressed by the manual include consolidation after tactical victories, one of the Army’s strategic roles. Creed said after US forces seized Baghdad during the Iraq invasion of 2003, after the quick strike, the enemy was allowed to extend the war.

“(We) gave the enemy the opportunity to reorganize and protract the conflict for a long time,” Creed said. “Because we didn’t account for the different possibilities that they could continue resistance … There’s a lot of other things you need to do after the initial battles to secure an area and make those gains enduring.”

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Each of the manual’s chapters aligns with the Army’s strategic roles of shaping operational environments, preventing conflict, prevailing in large-scale ground combat, and consolidating gains.

The manual will also emphasize the roles of echelons above brigade. Creed said building around brigades won’t be enough in large-scale combat and that divisions, corps and theater armies take increased importance in large-scale operations. Finally, CAC made adjustments to the operational framework, the model commanders use to plan and conduct ground operations.

Creed said the revisions in the FM 3-0 will help deploying units continually prepare for future conflicts as the Army remains wary of threats from these nation states.

“We needed to make sure from a doctrine perspective that we had adequate doctrine to address those kinds of conflicts — the high-intensity type of conflicts,” Creed said. “If you are engaged in large-scale combat with a nation-state adversary with modern capabilities, you’ve got a different problem set to deal with. So that’s the underlying reason for what we’ve done.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Wife kept dead husband’s body in freezer for 10 years

When the police arrived at a retirement community in Utah to conduct a welfare check last month, they were disturbed to find not only the body of the elderly woman who lived there, but a man’s corpse tucked inside a deep freezer in her utility room.

That man was eventually identified as Paul Mathers, who was 58 years old when he was last seen in 2009. He was the husband of the 75-year-old woman also found in the home, Jeanne Souron-Mathers.

“I’ve been here 13 years — this is one of the strangest cases,” Tooele City Police Department Sgt. Jeremy Hansen told news outlets, adding, “We’ve never had anything like this.”


He said police officers had opened Souron-Mathers’ fridge and freezer hoping to find food that would indicate “some type of a timeline” for when she died. But when a detective opened a deep freezer in the utility room, he “immediately finds an unidentified deceased adult male in the freezer,” Hansen said.

The police made the discovery on November 22 and initially called the incident “very suspicious.”

But after several weeks of investigating, the police announced on Monday that they’d found several equally bizarre clues that might help explain the incident.

Video: Police investigate body found in freezer during welfare check

www.youtube.com

Hansen said investigators searching through Souron-Mathers’ home found a notarized letter from December 2008 that appeared to be from Mathers, declaring that he was not killed by his wife.

“We believe he had a terminal illness,” Hansen told KSTU, adding that Mathers likely died sometime between February 4, 2009 — the date of his last appointment at a Veterans Affairs hospital — and March 8, 2009.

Hansen also told The Salt Lake Tribune that experts had not yet verified whether the signature on the letter truly belonged to Mathers. He added that the woman who notarized the letter in 2008 told the police she never read the document before stamping and signing it.

Investigators also discovered that Souron-Mathers had collected roughly 7,000 in Veterans Affairs benefits after her husband’s death and are still looking into whether she continued to receive Mathers’ Social Security benefits, Hansen said.

Hansen told The Tribune that they were still awaiting an autopsy report to confirm the cause of Mathers’ death but that detectives were “wrapping up” their investigation.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Here are a few ways the ‘storming of Area 51’ could end

If you’ve been on the internet at all for the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen news regarding the Facebook event “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” It started out mostly as a joke – if you couldn’t tell by the name of the group that’s hosting it being called “Sh*tposting cause im in shambles” and the only actual plan set forward is to “Naruto run faster than their bullets.” Even the date of September 20th is a reference to the anniversary of Leeroy Jenkins storming Upper Blackrock Spire by himself in World of Warcraft.

That was until, at the time of writing this article, 1.6 million people clicked “Going,” another 1.2 million are “Interested,” and a four-star general at the Pentagon had to be debriefed by some poor lower-enlisted soldier about the intricacies of a 1997 Japanese manga series about a teenage ninja with a fox demon inside him.

Which begs the question: “But what if it wasn’t a joke?” Well. It’s really circumstantial.


Something tells me that this place will probably undo most of the plans to storm Area 51.

(Screengrab via YouTube)

Absolutely nothing happens

Anyone who’s ever thrown a party using Facebook’s Event page can tell you that not all people are going to show up. Of the supposedly millions that said they’d be willing to attend, I can safely say that it will be nowhere near that number in reality.

In case there are those people that ordered a plane ticket to Nevada and are too stubborn to cancel, it doesn’t look likely either. It’s still going to be a logistical nightmare. The meet-up location at the Area 51 Tourist Attraction is still 72.4 miles from the actual “Area 51.” Unless you drove there or are renting a car, there’s no way in hell anyone is willing to walk that distance in the Nevada desert for a joke.

Everyone gets there, makes a few videos for YouTube, and goes their merry way and this all becomes a funny joke that we reference every now and then. For reference on where this meet up is supposed to happen, the video below is where “millions” of people are supposedly going to congregate. Good luck with that.

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Imagine wanting to raid Area 51 to see all the futuristic alien tech just to come face-to-face with a row of these…

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Lauren Main)

They can, in fact, stop all of them

This possibility is also semi-broken down into ways that it would end in complete failure. The only difference is where the raid is stopped.

My personal guess for most likely scenario on this list is that local law enforcement would probably break up the unlawful gathering outside of a middle-of-nowhere gift shop/brothel long before anyone made a move to storm the actual installation. Given the potential crowd gathering with the sole intent on committing a federal crime, the police will probably be on scene with riot gear ready.

If, by some stretch of the imagination, the raid manages to not get stopped somewhere in the desert or single road onto the installation, they’ll be greeted by armed guards along the way. The defense contractors currently guarding the site would probably have their numbers bolstered from troops at nearby Nellis Air Force Base, Creech Air Force Base, and more.

The same rules of engagement that govern military operations would still likely apply. Violently engaging with a crowd of American citizens would be the absolute final resort if this line in the sand had to be reached. The “cammo dudes” today normally shoo away would-be onlookers without the use of deadly force. Anyone who’s made it this far would more than likely be detained without trouble.

But, you know, the use of deadly force IS authorized for just such an occasion…

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Face it. The Fermi Paradox is real. If intergalactic aliens exist out there, they wouldn’t give a flying f*ck about stopping by Earth. Would you care about stopping by an anthill lifetimes out of your way?

(Image Credit: NASA)

Full and official disclosure (of how boring Groom Lake actually is)

Okay. Let’s finally get this out of the way because the mystery surrounding Area 51 is so enticing that it’s spawned countless conspiracy theories about what actually happens over there. Here goes…

There’s no way in hell that this could work as advertised. No amount of Kyles to punch the drywall out of the fence or Karens to speak to the managers will get you a Banshee from the Halo series. And I hate to break it to the other anime fans out there, but even by the show’s standards, if they’re still are able to casually have a conversation with each other while running at top speeds – they haven’t broken the sound barrier (at 1,125 ft/s.) Most calibers of ammunition probably used by any guard are still much faster.

That doesn’t mean this could all be a waste. Even by some strange miracle they actually do manage not to get turned into paste on first sight, they’d probably be in the exact same boat as if one of the many Freedom of Information Act requests got approved. They’d learn that it’s not that interesting.

It’s officially known as Groom Lake, and it’s just a testing ground far enough away from any civilian interference for top-secret aircraft like the U-2 spy plane and the precursor to the SR-71 Blackbird. Logically speaking, the timelines match up with “suspected” UFO sightings. Through the use of Google Satellite, you can also see countless craters in the ground still leftover from missile testing. The only reason they’re out there is because it’s one of the most remote locations in the continental U.S.The U.S. military is still developing new top-secret aircraft and missiles, and the area is still marked off for that reason. CIA documents released in 2013 showed this.

However, the large crowd outside their gates (or the possibility of a large crowd) could be enough for the government to go on record to say that there’s nothing extraterrestrial going on.