If December is the season for consumerist gluttony, and full-fat eggnog, then January is the time for carrot sticks, running on the treadmill, and staring blankly at a scale that says you’ve only lost two pounds since the new year. If you, like me, found yourself in that happy place between despondency and full-on despair, you may need a smart scale to ever so gently nudge you along.
We’ve all felt that intense, cloying sense of dread when stepping on the scale. They’re generally the square, bulky things you willfully sidestep when you walk in to take a leak. Enter the Qardio’s QardioBase2. It makes getting into shape … intriguing. It’s a WiFi- or Bluetooth-connected circular scale that hooks up with the corresponding app and works on any surface, and it’s designed to be your kinder and gentler weight loss and fitness coach.
Fitness resolutions may center on pounds and ounces, but Qardio’s QardioBase2 smart scale focuses its feedback on direction rather than specific, hard-core goals. If you’re looking for something that offers its readout in more general, encouraging terms rather than the bark of a drill instructor, this is the bathroom scale for you.
Rather than spitting out a single weight, the QardioBase2 provides feedback on your body mass index, tracking it over time and rewarding you with one of three faces: smiling for weight loss, a neutral face for negligible results, and a frown when you’ve indulged a little too much.
Granted, for some its smiley-centric feedback is a bit too twee, and for those who need black-and-white reports, it also reads weight, along with muscle mass, fat percentage, bone, and water composition, allowing you to drill down as far as you want. All stats are recorded via its app to you can track progress over time. It weights just under seven pounds, is 13 inches in diameter, and works with iOS 10.0 or later, Kindle, Android 5 or later, and the Apple Watch.
Beyond the emoji feedback, which may be a tad precious, there’s a lot more to love. Its sleek design and tempered glass top in either black or white is less than an inch thick and adds class to even the most humble bathroom.
For those who want options for the whole family, it automatically detects individual users, recording data separately as such. It also has a pregnancy mode to track weight gain and progress as your partner gets further and further along in her pregnancy. Plus, she can add pictures to her numbers, so she can look back and remember what she looked like when the baby was the size of a walnut.
With the QardioBase2, I had a healthy alternative to the dreaded decimal point. Its feedback is less judgy that others in its class, but the various functions and multi-user ease makes this a scale I’m happy to use all year. Instead of dreading weighing myself, I was actually … well, excited is too strong a word. But heavily invested.
An artist’s illustration of the Parker Solar Probe approaching the sun.
NASA’s record-breaking solar probe has discovered new, mysterious phenomena at the edge of the sun.
Since it launched in August 2018, the Parker Solar Probe has rocketed around the sun three times, getting closer than any spacecraft before it and traveling faster than any other human-made object in history.
The research revealed never-before-seen activity in the plasma and energy at the edges of the sun’s atmosphere, including reversals of the sun’s magnetic field and “bursts” in its stream of electrically charged particles, called solar wind.
A sunrise near the International Space Station on December 25, 2017.
‘Bursty’ solar wind bends the sun’s magnetic field
This wind surges into space and washes over Earth, so studying its source could help scientists figure out how to protect astronauts and Earth’s electric grid from unpredictable, violent solar explosions.
By sending the Parker probe to the sun, NASA is studying this dangerous wind in more detail than scientists could from Earth.
“Imagine that we live halfway down a waterfall, and the water is always flowing past us. It’s very turbulent, chaotic, unstructured, and we want to know what is the source of the waterfall up at the top,” Stuart Bale, a physicist who leads the team that investigates the probe’s solar-wind data, said in a press call. “It’s very hard to tell from halfway down.”
The Parker Solar Probe observed a slow solar wind flowing out from the small coronal hole — the long, thin black spot seen on the left side of the sun in this image captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory — on October 27, 2018.
NASA scientists are seeking answers to two major questions about the sun: What causes solar wind to accelerate as it shoots out into space? And why is the sun’s outer layer, called the corona, up to 500 times as hot as its inner layers?
The new data offers some initial clues. For the first time, Parker identified a clear source of a stream of slow, steady wind flowing out from the sun. It came from a hole in the corona — a spot where the gas is cooler and less dense.
Scientists knew that wind coming from the sun’s poles moves faster, but this was the first time they detected an origin point for the slow wind coming from its equator.
The Parker probe also detected rogue waves of magnetic energy rushing through the solar wind. As those magnetic waves washed over the spacecraft, the probe detected huge spikes in the speed of the solar wind — sometimes it jumped over 300,000 mph in seconds. Then just as quickly, the rapid winds were gone.
“We see that the solar wind is very bursty,” Bale said. “It’s bubbly. It’s unstable. And this is not how it is near Earth.”
The bursts could explain why the corona is so hot.
“We think it tells us, possibly, a path towards understanding how energy is getting from the sun into the atmosphere and heating it,” Justin Kasper, another physicist who studied Parker’s observations of solar wind, said in the call.
Scientists had never observed these bursts and bubbles before, but they seem to be common; the Parker spacecraft observed about 1,000 of them in 11 days.
The rogue spikes of energy also delivered an additional surprise: The bursts were so strong that they flipped the sun’s magnetic field.
The scientists call these events “switchbacks” because in the affected area the sun’s magnetic field whips backward so that it’s almost pointing directly at the sun.
The switchbacks seem to occur only close to the sun (within Mercury’s orbit), so scientists could never have observed them without the Parker probe.
“These are great clues, and now we can go look at the surface of the sun and figure out what’s causing those [bursts] and launching them up into space,” Kasper said.
An illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe as it flies toward the sun.
Parker confirmed that there’s a dust-free zone around the sun
Scientists have long suspected that the sun is surrounded by an area without cosmic dust, the tiny crumbs of planets and asteroids that float through space and fall into stars’ orbits. That’s because the sun’s heat should vaporize any solid dust that gets too close.
For the first time, Parker flew close enough to the sun to provide evidence that such a dust-free zone exists. It observed that the dust did indeed get thinner closer to the sun.
Still, this zone wasn’t quite what scientists expected.
“What was a bit of a surprise is that the dust decrease is very smooth,” Russell Howard, another astrophysicist working with the probe, said in the call. “We don’t see any sudden decreases indicating that some material has evaporated.”
That will be another mystery to prod as the spacecraft gets closer to the sun.
6 more years and 21 more flybys
More knowledge about solar wind and the sun’s magnetic field could help scientists better protect astronauts and spacecraft from two types of violent space weather: energetic-particle storms and coronal mass ejections.
In energetic-particle storms, events on the sun send out floods of the ions and electrons that make up solar wind. These particles travel almost at the speed of light, which makes them nearly impossible to foresee. They can reach Earth in under half an hour and damage spacecraft electronics. This can be especially dangerous to astronauts traveling far from Earth.
In a coronal mass ejection, the sun sends billions of tons of coronal material hurtling into space. Such an explosion could massively damage Earth’s power grids and pipelines.
Over the next six years, Parker is set to approach the sun 21 more times, getting closer and closer. In its final pass, it should fly within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface.
During each flyby, the probe will gather more data that could answer physicists’ questions about the sun’s corona and solar wind.
“As we get closer, we’ll be right in the sources of the heat, the sources of the acceleration of particles, and of course those amazing eruptions,” Nicola Fox, NASA’s director of heliophysics, said in the call. “Even with what we have now, we already know that we will need to adjust the model used to understand the sun.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Christopher Woody: As mentioned in the title of your book, there have been several battles for the Atlantic, namely during World War I and II and the Cold War. How does the present situation resemble those battles and how does it differ?
Coast guardsmen aboard the US Coast Guard cutter Spencer watch the explosion of a depth charge, blasting a German submarine attempting to break into the center of a large US convoy in the Atlantic, April 17, 1943.
Magnus Nordenman: During each great conflict in Europe during the 20th century the Atlantic has served as the crucial bridge that allowed the flow of war-winning supplies and reinforcements from America to Europe.
If a conflict between Russia and NATO erupted in the coming years, the Atlantic would serve that role again.
But it would not be a re-run of previous battles for the Atlantic. Changes in technology, a new-style Russian navy, and the context of global great-power competition would all help shape a future battle for the Atlantic.
Woody: Russia has made an effort to rebuild its navy in recent years. What capabilities does that force, its submarines in particular, have now that it didn’t have in the years after the end of the Cold War?
Nordenman: Unlike during Cold War days, the Russian navy is going for quality rather than quantity. And given that it has relatively limited resources it must focus its investments where they can make the biggest difference, and that is with its submarine force.
Russia has also focused on giving its navy a long-range strike capability with Kalibr missiles, which have been used to great effect in Syria. The use of long-range strike missiles from submarines was nearly an exclusive US domain until relatively recently.
Russia fires six Kalibr missiles at IS targets in Syria’s Hama
All this suggests that Russia would not try to halt shipping coming across the Atlantic from the US but would instead seek to attack command-and-control centers and ports and airfields in Northern Europe to disrupt US efforts to come to the aid of its European allies.
Woody: On the Center for a New American Security podcast in August, you mentioned that when it comes to dealing with Russia, you think there’s less an “Arctic problem” and more of a “Kola Peninsula problem.” Can you elaborate on the difference between the two and what that distinction means for NATO?
Nordenman: Arctic security is a growing theme, but I think it often confuses the debate rather than enlightens it.
The North American, European, and Russian Arctics are three very different places in terms of politics, accessibility, operating environment, and international relations. To place it all under the rubric “Arctic security” is not always helpful.
In the case of NATO and its mission to provide deterrence on behalf of its member states it comes down to the Kola Peninsula, where Russia’s northern fleet is based.
Woody: The Arctic remains a challenging region for navies to operate in, but climate change is altering the environment there. What changes do you expect naval forces to have to make in order to keep operating there effectively?
Nordenman: NATO member navies need to get familiar again with operating in the broader North Atlantic.
The last two decades have seen those navies primarily operate in places such as the Mediterranean, the [Persian] Gulf, and Indian Ocean. Those are very different domains in comparison to the Atlantic. And while the far North Atlantic is warming, it is not a hospitable place. It still remains very remote.
In terms of climate change, there are, for example, indications that warmer waters are changing the patterns of sound propagation in the far North Atlantic, which means that they must be measured and catalogued anew in order to conduct effective anti-submarine warfare.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Care packages are how troops stay connected with the ones they love back home. Most troops will have their family send them little trinkets or mama-made cookies to make things better while troops without families have their day brightened by a sweet, heartfelt thank-you card sent by a grade schooler.
These packages are the one constant that every troop, regardless of where or when they served, can depend on. But on January 21st, 2018, the shipping costs for postage to and from all APO/FPO/DPO addresses increased substantially. Thankfully, this increase can be reverted and the rate for shipping can be permanently fixed, benefiting the troops.
Nothing can bring joy to troops like a care package from home.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)
The increases in shipping costs to APO/FPO/DPO addresses were part of an overall increase in the price for all mailing services, across the board. Rates for APO/FPO/DPO mailing addresses were hit hardest — almost doubled. In the defense of the United States Postal Service, the APO/FPO flat-rate box was only increased by five cents and they’ve always supported the troops, but a recently proposed bill can take that support further.
If there were a separate, fixed rate for all postage going to and from troops at APO/FPO addresses, it would be classified as Zone 1/2 postage from any CONUS location. Meaning, that if you were to ship a big ol’ care package not in a APO/FPO flat-rate box, it would cost the same as sending a letter to a soldier stationed in Germany.
But mainly, you don’t want to screw over the nice people who just want to help support the troops.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot)
In addition to offering a single, fixed rate for those who want to send a care package abroad that might not fit within a fixed-rate box, this could also open up companies to more readily offer online shopping opportunities to deployed troops.
This also means that troops would be more able to ship things from deployed environments back to the States. So, a deployed parent could pick up souvenirs at a local bazaar for their kid while crafty troops could ship certain personal belongings home before they return stateside so don’t need to wait for the connex to return months later.
The bill would apply to all troops everywhere, even if they’re sailing in the middle of nowhere.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lorenzo J. Burleson)
The bill that includes this fixed cost, H.R.6231 – Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018, has been introduced to Congress by Rep. Thomas MacArthur. It would permanently establish a single rate for mail and packages being sent to and from at APO/FPO/DPO addresses.
Congressman MacArthur has championed veteran issues since his assignment to the Armed Services Committee and its two subcommittees, the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces and the Subcommittee on Military Personnel. He also introduced the Veterans’ Mental Health Care Access Act, which would have allowed veterans to access any mental health care facility and eligible for reimbursement — but it failed to garner approval.
To help make sure that this bill makes it through Congress, contact your representative and let them know how you feel. Let them know that this bill will greatly benefit the morale of our fighting men and women. According to Skopos Labs, the bill only has a 3 percent chance of being enacted, so if you feel passionately about it, don’t wait; act.
If you’re unsure of who your representative is, you can use this tool right here and let them know you support H.R.6231 — the Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018.
A U.S. Army sniper takes aim while wearing a ghillie suit (U.S. Army photo/Released)
The two men crawl stealthily through the Panamanian jungle. Their faces are painted with hues of black, brown and green. Their bodies are covered by the burlap strands and interwoven foliage of their ghillie suits. The sniper and his spotter reach a vantage point overlooking the village and search for their target, a Panamanian rebel leader. Camouflaged against the jungle by their ghillie suits, the two men spot their target. As the rebel leader bites into his apple, a single shot pierces the stillness of the jungle and a 7.62x51mm NATO round pierces his heart.
One shot, one kill.
Alerted to the threat, the rebels frantically spray the jungle with automatic fire. Unable to see their enemy, they fire their weapons haphazardly and pray not to be the sniper’s next victim. Invisible to the rebels, the sniper ejects the spent cartridge from his M40A1 rifle and hands it to his spotter. As civilians in the village take cover, the rebels continue to pour gunfire into the jungle with no specific target. When no shots return from the trees, they cease fire. Still unseen, the sniper and his spotter melt back into the jungle and disappear. The only evidence of them having been there is the dead body of the rebel leader, a single hole through his heart.
Sniper and spotter take up an overwatch position (Credit TriStar Pictures)
The 1993 film Sniper, starring Tom Berenger as the titular and aforementioned sniper, introduced many viewers to the ghillie suit. An integral part of a sniper’s kit, the ghillie suit allows the sniper to blend in with their surroundings and evade detection. This is key to accomplishing their mission since a sniper’s primary functions on the battlefield are conducting covert reconnaissance and delivering precision fires.
A ghillie suit is typically made of a net or cloth garment and covered in burlap strips, cloth, or twine. It has an irregular shape which breaks up a sniper’s outline and makes them more difficult to spot. Additionally, snipers can weave local flora into their ghillie suit in order to better blend with their surroundings. If done properly, this additional camouflage will even sway in the wind to match the environment it is replicating. Today, ghillie suits are used by snipers all around the world in foliage, sand, and even snow. Their origin, however, can be traced back to the game attendants and folklore of the Scottish Highlands.
Scottish ghillies in Highland Perthshire. (Photo from tour-scotland-photographs.blogspot.com)
Derived from the Scottish Gaelic word “gille,” meaning lad or servant, a ghillie (the English misspelling) is a man or boy who serves as a game attendant and specializes in fishing, stalking, and hunting. In Scottish folklore, the Gille Dubh was a timid but wild male fairy who roamed the Highlands. Like the suit that bears his name, the Gille Dubh was clothed in leaves and other vegetation which allowed him to camouflage in the Highlands and evade capture.
Lovat Scouts wear two variations of the ghillie suit. (Photo from the Imperial War Museum)
Scottish ghillies created the ghillie suit in the turn of the 20th century as a wearable hunting blind that would allow them to more stealthily stalk and hunt their game on the Highlands. These first ghillie suits were made primarily of burlap which were irregularly torn and cut to break up the ghillie’s silhouette. Almost immediately, the ghillie suit saw military application with the British Army during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). The Lovat Scouts, the British Army’s first sniper unit, were initially recruited from Scottish Highland estate workers. This included the ghillies who brought their burlap camouflage suits with them.
Two British snipers during a demonstration for Their Majesties in May 1944. (Photo from captainstevens.com)
The ghillie suit went to war again in WWI where other nations took notice of its effectiveness and adopted it for themselves. As a concept, the ghillie suit has remained largely unchanged since its inception. One notable upgrade came in June 2003 when the U.S. Army introduced a new ghillie suit made of a lightweight, fire-resistant, and self-extinguishing fabric instead of the heavier and flammable burlap.
A U.S. Army sniper wears the Flame Resistant Ghillie System. (U.S. Army photo/Released)
Today, snipers around the world continue to carefully craft their ghillie suits in order to camouflage themselves and evade detection by the enemy. Meanwhile, in the Scottish Highlands, professional ghillies continue to preserve their legacy as gamekeepers. They cull game herds and lead hunting expeditions, sometimes with the added camouflage of their iconic burlap suit.
A Chinese destroyer used a weapons-grade laser to target a US Navy P-8A surveillance aircraft flying above the Pacific last week, US Pacific Fleet said Thursday.
In a statement, the US accused the People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer of “unsafe and unprofessional” actions over the incident, said to have occurred about 380 miles from Guam, where the US has a significant military presence.
The laser appeared to be part of the destroyer’s close-in weapon system, a Pacific Fleet spokeswoman told Insider.
“The laser, which was not visible to the naked eye, was captured by a sensor onboard the P-8A,” Pacific Fleet said. “Weapons-grade lasers could potentially cause serious harm to aircrew and mariners, as well as ship and aircraft systems.”
The Chinese destroyer, hull No. 161, appears to have been the Type 052D Luyang III-class destroyer Hohot.
US Pacific Fleet accused the Chinese warship of violating international rules and regulations, including agreements on conduct at sea, by targeting the aircraft, which was operating in airspace above international waters, with a laser.
The latest incident is not the first time the US military has accused the Chinese military of using lasers against US assets and personnel.
In 2018, the Department of Defense accused the Chinese military, specifically personnel stationed at the country’s first overseas military base, in Djibouti, of using lasers to target US aircraft operating nearby, CNN reported at the time.
A notice to airmen issued at the time urged pilots “to exercise caution when flying in certain areas in Djibouti,” saying the call for caution was “due to lasers being directed at US aircraft.”
“During one incident, there were two minor eye injuries of aircrew flying in a C-130 that resulted from exposure to military-grade laser beams, which were reported to have originated from the nearby Chinese base,” the notice said.
The Pentagon said the activity posed “a true threat to our airmen.”
A defining trait among the military community is the ability to completely insult someone one minute and drink with them the next.
Troops can get down right heartless by civilian standards. But what keeps troops and veterans from being just pure assholes is that no one is mocking their brother out of hate. It’s just part of the culture — besides, our buddies are firing their own shots right back.
You’re a piece of sh*t if you say they’re the lowest of the low. But if you say they eat crayons, well, that’s our joke.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
The stereotypes are usually that Marines are dumb, airmen are primadonnas, soldiers are fat and lazy, sailors are gay, and Coasties don’t actually exist. Obviously, these aren’t 100% true. They’re jokes even if you have come across a handful dumb Marines or fat soldiers.
Want to know what happens to a civilian if they jump in and call Marines dumb? Ask that former teacher in Pico Rivera, California.
Soon, you f*cking squids. Soon….
(Meme via /r/Military)
You’ll see some outright “hatred” for the other branches, especially when it comes to our Academies playing each other in football. If your service loses the game, your entire formation is screaming, “Oh man! F*ck the [other branch]! At least we don’t focus on playing some stupid game!”
And that’s at it’s most savage. Generally, it’s kept at “Go Army, beat Navy!” and vice-versa. An attack on one branch by an outsider is treated as an attack on all branches.
And that’s only because Jodie is the most hated fictional person in the military.
(Meme via /r/Military)
Deeply personal jabs
If you’ve spent nearly every waking second with the same people for god knows how long, you learn every detail about their personal life. Nothing remains a secret and nothing stays off-limits.
What better cure is there for a terrible personal tragedy, like an unfaithful spouse, than having your best bros mock you for crying?
This is honestly one of the hardest parts about leaving the service. Letting all of our creative swear words go to waste.
(Meme via the Salty Soldier)
Expletive-filled (yet creative) rants
Expletives in conversation are like adding a bit of spice to a meal. It’s how you add some extra “uhmph” to a statement. “I don’t like you” has far less sting than “f*ck you” and it’s a sure way to get your point across to most people. Except vets and troops.
Obscenities lose their magic after you’ve been desensitized to them throughout you’re entire career. Telling your peer to “eat sh*t” just becomes a substitute for “hello!”
The age-old “we all bleed red” saying is known best by the troops. And we wouldn’t want anyone else by our side than our brothers.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Dan Yarnall)
Politically incorrect jokes
Once you’ve spent years in training, months in combat, and nearly a life time of brotherhood with someone, it’s only then can troops tell a joke to each other that would shock the average civilian.
The only reason these kinds of (crass, insensitive, and hilarious) jokes are kept between the two is because there isn’t a shred of hatred in there. Not saying it’s right or even justifiable — only saying that if it’s between two people who’ve been to hell and back, it’s meant with the best of intentions. After what we’ve seen, gallows humor is the perfect coping mechanism.
Lines get blurred on the battlefield. The only thing that clearly gives one side the moral high ground is their ability to follow the rules of law. Sure, it may make troops fight with one hand tied behind their back, but it is a line that should never be crossed.
While the overarching themes may be self-evident, there are many laws in place to prevent a sort of domino effect from happening — one that would eventually cause unnecessary harm or death. We’ve discussed a few of the more obscure laws in a previous article, but there are still plenty to discuss.
Even if the phrase is spoken in jest by someone with authority over another, it’s a war crime.
Because anything said by a commander or a leader is to be taken as a direct order, even just uttering the phrase, “no quarter given” is against the laws of war — regardless of the circumstance.
Quarter, or the act of taking prisoners of war, should always be a top priority if any combatant has surrendered or has lost the ability to fight. This is such a big deal that it is clearly given its own rule.
It’s one or the other. Not both.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Holden)
Using CS gas on combatants (Chemical Weapons Convention Art I (5))
The use of riot control gas is a gray area. It is deployed in moments of civil unrest, but it cannot be used in addition to deadly force.
Meaning, against a large crowd of aggressive (but not violent) protesters, non-lethal CS gas may be used to accomplish dispersion. The reason such gas is banned from war, however, is because it removes combatants from a fight and causes unnecessary suffering. If the goal is to detain the combatant, it’s fine. The moment someone opens fire on an incapacitated individual, however, it’s a war crime.
Besides, light blue isn’t really a choice camouflage pattern in most environments.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Maximiliano Rosas)
Using light blue headgear in combat (Geneva Convention Prot. I Art. 85)
There aren’t too many wrong answers in designing a combat uniform. As long as it follows the general color palette of a given area, it’s usually fair game and used by nearly everyone. The only color that is strictly off-limits is the shade of blue used by UN peacekeepers.
The use of light blue on headgear may misrepresent a combatant’s intentions. The light blue headgear is officially recognized because it can be seen from a distance. UN Peacekeepers have their own guidelines, which include never initiating combat unless absolutely necessary. And attacking a UN peacekeeper opens up an entirely different can of worms.
Those who are not with the UN are forbidden from using this color.
Their focus is healing the injured and wounded. Anything that prevents them from saving any life should be avoided.
(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Steve Smith)
Even slightly interfering with Red Cross workers (First Geneva Convention Art. 9)
Medical professionals with the International Red Cross are heavily protected by the laws of war. It’s fairly well known that harming them is a war crime and forcibly stopping them from giving aid is also a war crime. What you might not know is that “interfering with an aid worker” is loosely defined — and for good reason.
In the past, combatants would stop aid workers from leaving their area so that they only give aid to their troops. But Red Cross workers aren’t supposed to take sides. They need to be able to give equal and unbiased treatment to all wounded on the battlefield.
Anything more than a routine security check is off-limits.
Military necessity may require troops to engage the enemy on a farm and accidents, unfortunately, happen. But willfully attacking a civilian’s livestock is not necessary.
(Photo by Pfc. David Devich)
Anything involving fresh waterways or farms (Geneva Convention Prot. I Art. 51-54)
Intentionally damaging a drinking well is punishable by The Hague. Unintentionally doing so is treated just as harshly.
There is the caveat of “military necessity,” which would protect a combatant that is forced to fight on a farm or a river that is used as drinking water. Ideally, all fighting would take place where, without a shadow of a doubt, no food or water will be poisoned or damaged by conflict. Sometimes, however, you’re not given a choice.
In the mid ’80s, TheA-Team was a hit action-comedy television show about a crack commando unit sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escape from a maximum security stockade and find their way into the Los Angeles underground. Throughout the series, they survive as soldiers of fortune wanted by the government.
Over the course of five seasons, the A-Team turns to mercenary work and travels the world, stopping villains-of-the-week and trying to clear their names. Of course, throughout the 98-episode run of the series, plenty of unrealistic events get overlooked (i.e. “B.A.” gets shot with a .50 cal in the leg and walks it off later that episode).
That being said, let’s take a look at the major events that kicked off the entire awesome series with a more critical eye — there’re a few problems at play here.
The A-Team consists of Col. “Hannibal” Smith, Lt. “Faceman” Peck, Sgt. 1st Class “B.A.” Baracus, and Captain “Howling Mad” Murdock. The fictional Green Berets were told to rob the Bank of Hanoi to defund the NVA under military orders. They were successful in seizing the gold bullions, but the only person who knew they were on official duty was killed before they returned. They were stung and became the fall-guys for the theft. They’re sent to prison, escape, and become mercenaries before the pilot episode begins.
The often-mentioned, but detail foggy, event revolved around a covert mission to rob the bank under the command of one man, Col. Morrison. He was killed and everything pertaining to the mission was burnt to the ground. In reality, nearly every mission ever, no matter how covert, is known by more than five people and a mission this sensitive would have been scouted, mapped, and supported by a number of specialists. Somebody other than just Colonel Morrison would be available in court to testify that they were acting under orders.
Yet, the A-Team is still guilty. Every troop has the right and the duty to disobey an unlawful order. Sure, the Bank of Hanoi may have been bankrolling NVA forces, but they were also a civilian bank. Attacking a bank in a poor, war-torn country and stealing the money that may also belong to civilians is against many articles of the Geneva Convention.
Regardless of the context, pillaging is a war crime under both Fourth Geneva Convention; Articles 33-34 and Protocol II; Article 4 of the Geneva Convention. An attack on a civilian complex, despite allegiance to an enemy, goes against Protocol I; Articles 43-44 because the armed robbery was against non-combatants. And obviously, escape from prison is classified as a crime.
Surprisingly enough, many things they do as mercenaries (when they’re hired on for missions by a third party for both combat and bounty-hunting missions) and as vigilantes (when they act where law enforcement in its absence) are clear in the eyes of the law. Rocky start aside, The A-Team is an amazing show, who’s most popular prior-service character is actually prior service.
Whether you believe Okinawa is a real deployment or not, it’s a great place to get sent for six months. We get it; a lot of us infantry Marines who joined in the post-9/11 era did so for one thing — to see some action — and getting sent to Okinawa means we aren’t going to. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a Debbie Downer about it.
Okinawa, Japan, is a key piece of real estate for the United States Military, which is why we saw it necessary to fight over it back in 1945. It’s close to places like the Korean peninsula, and offers us an easy launching point if things ever get hot. But aside from the strategy, it’s actually a great place to spend six months of your life — if your command will allow you to enjoy it, that is.
But be cautious about how you act, since you’re essentially an ambassador. Put forward a positive image for the rest of us Americans.
(U.S. Marine Photo by Cpl. Natalie M. Rostran)
There’s a lot to do
The United States has had a military presence on the island for a long time now, which means one thing: plenty of tattoo parlors and local watering holes for one to enjoy on the weekends. Aside from that, you can go diving, fishing; hell, you can even play tourist for a day and check out some of the local attractions.
You might get to see where this photo was taken.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
Remember the battle that took place on the island back in 1945? Well, you might get the opportunity to tour some of the major points of friction and see where your Marine ancestors spilled some blood. If you’re into history, which you should be, this is an awesome thing to do.
These mess halls rival the ones stateside.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kelcey Seymour)
The mess halls are awesome
If there’s one thing you’ll remember about Okinawa, it’ll probably be that the on-base dining facilities were fantastic. There are people who are stationed there long-term, and having great food available helps keep everyone happy.
It’s basically a business trip.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul Peterson)
You’re being paid to be there
Wait — you’re complaining that you’re on an all-expenses-paid trip to an island in Asia? Seriously? Your command straight-up told you that you’re going there because the DOD saw it fit to send you there. This means that tons of taxpayer money went into paying for your plane (or boat) ride, your lodging, and your food.
Oh, yeah, and you’re still getting paid while you’re there.
Would you rather be this guy?
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nik S. Phongsisattanak)
You’re not stuck stateside
There are Marines in the Corps who spend their entire career without ever leaving the country. Who joins to do that? Would you rather be doing that? Probably not.
Sure, it’s not Afghanistan or Iraq, but it’s better than never getting out.
MOSCOW — When Trevor Reed traveled to Moscow last summer, it was to study Russian and spend time with his girlfriend Alina Tsybulnik, whom he hoped to marry in September.
But days before he was due to fly home to Texas, Tsybulnik’s co-workers hosted a party that would end with the 29-year-old American spending a night at a Russian police station and, ultimately, standing trial on charges of violently assaulting the police officers who brought him there.
On July 29, a Moscow court is expected to issue its verdict in a case that has shaken Reed’s family and prompted speculation that the former U.S. Marine has become a pawn in a geopolitical standoff between Russia and the United States.
Charged with the “use of violence dangerous to life and health against a representative of the authorities,” Reed has languished in detention since August 2019 and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. When the final hearing in his case wrapped up at Golovinsky District Court on July 27, he told RFE/RL that he had lost 20 kilograms and was tired “all the time.” He hoped the ordeal would end soon.
“Based on the evidence in my case, I think it’s clear what the outcome should be,” he said.
Reed claims to have no memory of what happened following the party on August 15, where he says he was encouraged to drink large quantities of vodka. But the events leading up to the police officers’ arrival are subject to little dispute.
According to Tsybulnik, in the early hours of August 16 she asked to share a ride with two of her co-workers. On the way, Reed felt nauseous and tried to get out of the vehicle. When the driver pulled up beside the busy road, Reed began drunkenly pacing in dangerous proximity to oncoming traffic. Tsybulnik’s co-worker called the police. She then drove off with another colleague, leaving Tsybulnik alone with Reed.
“I wouldn’t have called the police myself,” Tsybulnik, 22, said in an interview with RFE/RL. She suspects law enforcement took a special interest in Reed on account of his nationality. “After all, he’s an American, and we have a strange relationship with America right now.”
Inconsistencies And Retractions
Two police officers arrived and took Reed in to sober up, telling Tsybulnik to come back in a few hours and pick him up. When she arrived at the police station around 9 a.m., she said, he was being questioned, without a lawyer or interpreter present, by two men who introduced themselves as employees of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’s FBI equivalent. He was accused of endangering the lives of the policemen who brought him in, Tsybulnik was told, by yanking the driver’s arm and elbowing another officer who tried to intervene.
But from the outset, the case against Reed has been marred by inconsistencies. Video evidence reviewed in court appeared to show no evidence that the police vehicle swerved as a result of Reed’s actions, as alleged by the police officers. Speaking before the judge, the officers themselves have claimed to have no memory of key moments in the journey, have retracted parts of their statements on several occasions, and have failed to answer simple questions from Reed’s defense team.
“Let’s put it this way. Almost everything introduced in the trial, that’s in the case, has been fairly well disputed,” said Reed’s father, Joey Reed, who has attended every hearing in his son’s trial. “We understand the nature of the judicial system here — it works differently to what we’re used to. But even within this system, there just seems to be a lot of irregularities as to what’s going on.”
The elder Reed traveled from Texas last September to be near his son, renting an apartment and riding out the height of the coronavirus pandemic in the Russian capital. He has sought to drum up media coverage and regularly updates a website he created and dedicated to Reed’s case, where he points out flaws in the evidence and keeps a record of each court session. A clock on the home screen counts the time Reed has spent in a Russian jail.
Americans On Trial
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has sent a Russian-speaking representative to each court hearing, but Ambassador John Sullivan has made few public remarks about his case.
“The United States Embassy has not visited my son in five months,” Joey Reed said. “Their only contact with him was a two-minute phone call last month.”
The embassy declined, via its spokeswoman Rebecca Ross, to comment on Reed’s case.
Reed is among several Americans whom Russia has placed on trial in recent years on charges that their supporters, and in some cases the U.S. government, have said appear trumped-up. On April 22, speaking about Paul Whelan, another former U.S. Marine tried in Moscow this year, Sullivan said “he is foremost in my thoughts every day as I continue my service as ambassador, along with other Americans who have been detained — Michael Calvey and Trevor Reed.” Calvey, a Moscow-based investor, is under house arrest pending trial on fraud charges he disputes. Whelan was convicted of espionage, a charge he denies, and sentenced to 16 years in prison on June 15, in a ruling Sullivan called “a mockery of justice.”
In July 2019, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called on the United States to free Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving 20 years on a conviction of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine, and proposed a prisoner swap that would involve the release of a U.S. national held in Russia. Ryabkov did not specify whom he meant, but some took the comment as evidence that Moscow is using Americans like Reed as bargaining chips amid tensions with Washington. Viktor Bout, a Russian gunrunner whose arrest by U.S. authorities inspired the 2005 movie Lord Of War, is another Russian serving time in the United States whom Moscow has sought to repatriate.
The last major prisoner swap between the two countries was a decade ago, when Russia sent several prisoners including Sergei Skripal and the United States transferred 10 deep-cover agents operating in suburban America in a case that inspired the hit TV show The Americans.
Joey Reed plans to leave Russia if his son is sentenced to prison, and continue fighting for his release from the United States. “I’m sure the United States government will be involved,” he said. “And I will probably be spending a lot of time in Washington, D.C.”
Tsybulnik, a Moscow attorney specializing in criminal and international law, said Reed is ready to appeal a conviction before Russia’s Supreme Court. If he’s released, they will marry and seek to expedite her planned move to the United States.
The case against her partner of more than three years has changed her attitude not only to Russia’s legal system, she said, but to her country as a whole.
“There is no evidence of a crime here. This person is not guilty. But they’ve been trying him for a year — a year he’s spent in jail,” she said. “I no longer want to practice law in Russia. I’m ashamed. Ashamed for Russia’s reputation.”
No, we’re not talking about Pet Rocks. We’re talking about toys from the ’70s that defined play for countless kids with bell-bottoms and feathered haircuts, like Mego, G.I. Joe, and the Six Million Dollar Man. Maybe that’s you. Maybe that was one of your older brothers or sisters. Either way, if any of you stashed some of your prized playthings from the seventies in your folks’ basement when you moved out, you could be sitting on some serious cash.
While the seventies is remembered now as a fabulously dated era of toy gimmicks (stunt cycles, flashy paint, etc.), the decade also marked a cultural shift in how toys were marketed to kids. “It was the first time you saw advertisers go after kids instead of their parents,” says toy expert Mark Bellomo, who’s written books on Star Warsand other popular toy franchises including Transformers. Toy companies started to consider the voice of the kids rather than the voice of the parents, he adds. And while commercials included an appeal to parents to purchase the toy, for the first time they spoke directly to the child.
“Today, a lot of seventies toys are having a resurgence,” says Bellomo, who also works on Netflix‘s The Toys That Made Us.“Once a toy line reaches a decade-based anniversary, they start to gain traction on secondary markets.” And with toys from the early seventies fast approaching their 50th anniversary, demand is only likely to intensify. But which seventies toys specifically are taking off, or are poised to do so, in terms of value? We asked Bellomo for the top five toys from the seventies that are worth a lot of money today.
1. Mego Action Figures
For many collectors, Mego action figures and celebrity dolls were the ultimate toy line for kids growing up in the seventies. Not only were they incredibly adaptable ⏤ thanks to their brilliant use of an 8-inch tall stock body ⏤ but Mego had the foresight to cash in on licensing agreements to create toys for boys.
Mego created figures based on Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Chips, Buck Rogers, Action Jackson, The Dukes of Hazard, and so many more. “If you look at the amount of money that Mego paid to corporations to license their images, superheroes, TV stars, and movie stars,” Bellomo says, “It was a pittance to what’s being paid today.”
The holy grail Mego toy line for collectors, however, remains the World’s Greatest Super Heroes! based on both Marvel Comicsand DC Comic book characters. “The reason why that line was so successful was the scale,” Bellomo says. “A kid could put Spider-Man or Bo Duke in the Batmobile. For the company to hold Marvel and DC licenses at the same time — that made Mego a dominant force.” It sounds like an impossibility today to have Superman and Iron Man under the same umbrella, but it was the norm for years.
Surprisingly, Bellomo says the most sought-after superhero toys aren’t even full action figures ⏤ it’s the accessories to the toys kids already owned, the Secret Identity Outfits. “It was a head and the outfit and no body, and it was the only way for you to get Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Peter Parker, and Clark Kent,” he says. “There were such limited numbers manufactured, it’s like they don’t exist.” A Peter Parker Outfit recently sold on eBay for nearly id=”listicle-2629642946″,000.
While Bellomo says you can find original pieces if you’re patient ⏤ for example, Clark Kent’s eyeglasses are just a couple of hundred bucks ⏤ an entire set intact can put a kid through college. Then again, they’re very rare. “It’s like a Faberge egg,” he says. “They’re so absolutely, supremely rare that I don’t care if you come to the table with ,000.”
2. Six Million Dollar Man
Kenner is known for giving the world Star Wars toys in the late seventies, but their first big hit was the Six Million Dollar Man. Much like the sci-fi series, the toy line was a smash success and Bellomo credits that to a lack of superhero shows on TV at the time. “There was a void in live-action super heroic programming for kids. I don’t think the show was targeted to kids, but Kenner realized they couldn’t compete with Mego’s [expansive toy line] so they offered something different and unique.”
That offering included not only a 12-inch-tall Steve Austin toy with a litany of features (bionic eye, interchangeable limbs, bionic grip, just to name a few), but also some colorful secondary characters to match including Maskstron and Bionic Bigfoot. “The Six Million Dollar Man has ticked up the last few years. People love kitsch, and the line has a kitschiness that makes it more attractive. And they’re all so wonderfully dated,” says Bellomo. Most toys from the 40-year old line can sell for hundreds of dollars (as high as 0 on eBay) if it’s still in its original packaging and in mint condition.
3. Hot Wheels Redline
When Mattel debuted their new toy car line in 1968, it went toe-to-toe with the biggest car toy manufacturer at the time, Matchbox. And Hot Wheels nearly put the king out of business. Known as the “Redline” Series because the cars had a literal red line on every wheel, Mattel offered something new to kids by creating concept cars and muscle cars in a dynamic new paint treatment called Spectraflame.
“When Hot Wheels starting making those first 16, they were revolutionary,” says Bellomo. “Hot Wheels made Matchbox reconsider what they were doing. Mattel wasn’t using standard paint. It was like a lacquer that had a very realistic effect. The paint, the detailing, they just stood out.”
Of the original set, the least popular colors at the time are the most sought after by collectors today. Especially, pink. “That’s the one worth more money to collectors,” says Bellomo. “To get one of the original sweet 16 in mint condition, in pink… good luck.” Although any of the original Redline toys in the package can sell for thousands of dollars, Bellomo is quick to warn that if you’re going to seek out any original Redline, however, make sure you’re dealing with a reputable dealer. Novice buyers are known to shell out big bucks for what they think is an original, but is actually just a re-release.
4. Lord of the Rings Action Figures by Knickerbocker
Based off of the divisive animated film by Ralph Bakshi, the Lord of the Rings action figures are some of the hardest to find figures from the decade. According to Bellomo, the toys were on shelves for just weeks because of the criticism the film received. “They’ve always been relatively expensive because the devotees of Lord of the Rings are huge, even without the Peter Jackson films,” he says.
But for some time, they were the only toys for the franchise, and it was a tiny toy line of six figures. Time has only made these figures harder to find, especially after the lauded Peter Jackson films, and virtually all of the figures from the series sell for top dollar ⏤ even the accessories. “About a month ago, Frodo’s horse went for id=”listicle-2629642946″,200 and that wasn’t even an AFA graded sample. Gandalf mint on card goes for about 0. I saw a Ringwraith cape — just the cape — sell for .”
5. Evel Knievel
The stunt performer transcended American culture with his death-defying, and at times, bone-shattering performances on his motorcycle. So of course it made sense to create a toy that not only could recreate said stunts, but also be unbreakable. “The great irony of his action figure is that it’s a bendy toy,” Bellomo says. “It’s plastic over wire. The head is vinyl plastic, but the accessories and costumes made it an action figure that couldn’t break.”
Despite being a wildly popular toy, mostly due to the stunt cycle’s ability to totally rip, Knievel with a working, sealed bike could fetch a couple of big ones. “A factory sealed Stunt Cycle Set, depending on the condition of the box, can go for 0 or more,” says Bellomo.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Soviet propaganda poster which reads, “Our triumph in space is the hymn to Soviet country!”
In the decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, many Americans have taken to assuming that victory for the United States was assured. From our vantage point in the 21st century, we now know that the Soviet Union was, in many ways, a quagmire of oppression and economic infeasibility — but in the early days of mankind’s effort to reach the stars, it was the Soviets, not the Americans, who seemed destined for the top spot.
On October 4, 1957, it was the Soviet Union that first successfully placed a manmade object in orbit around the earth, with Sputnik. Less than a month later, the Soviets would capture another victory: Launching a stray dog named Laika into orbit. While the dog would die as it circled our planet, Laika’s mission seemed to prove (at least to some extent) that space travel was possible for living creatures. On September 14, 1959, the Soviet space probe Luna II would be the first manmade object to land on the moon, but the Soviet’s greatest victory was yet to come.
Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (WikiMedia Commons)
When the Soviets were winning the Space Race
On April 12, 1961, the Soviet Union once again affirmed to the world that they were the global leader in space technology, launching cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into orbit where he remained for 108 minutes before reentering the earth’s atmosphere.
To the Americans, these early victories in the Space Race were about far more than international prestige. Each victory for the Soviets not only represented a greater lead in securing “the ultimate high ground” for the Soviet military, they also served as proof of the validity of the Soviet Communist economic and political model — making the Soviet space program as much an ideological threat as it was a military one.
Despite assuming an underdog status in the early days of the Space Race, however, the U.S. leveraged its post-World War II industrial and economic might to begin closing the gap created by these early Soviet victories, launching their own satellite less than four months after Sputnik. America’s first astronaut in space, Alan Shepard, would follow behind the Soviet Gagarin by less than a month.
Buzz Aldrin on the moon (NASA)
America’s come-from-behind victory
By 1969, America’s technological prowess, coupled with a massive influx of spending, would secure victory for both the U.S. and, in the minds of many, its capitalist economic model. On July 20, 1969, two former fighter pilots, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, triumphantly landed on the moon.
Just like that, the Soviets went from leading the way in orbital space to lagging behind, and in the midst of an ongoing nuclear arms race, the Soviets saw this shift as a significant threat. Furthering their concern were reports of the American Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL) program, which was intended as an early space station from which crews could conduct orbital surveillance, or even mount operations against Soviet orbital bodies.
In response to the MOL program, the Soviets poured funding into Almaz, which was an early space station design of their own. Hidden behind a public-facing civilian space station effort, the program called for a number of military-specific space stations in orbit around the earth, each capable of conducting its own high-altitude reconnaissance. Although the Americans canceled their MOL program in 1969, the Soviet effort continued, reaching even further beyond America’s canceled program with plans to equip these space stations with the world’s first ever cannon in space.
The Soviet Space Cannon: R-23M Kartech
The Soviets were not mistaken when they considered America’s MOL program a threat. In fact, within the corridors of the Pentagon, a number of plans and strategies were being explored that would enable the Americans to spy on, capture, or otherwise destroy Soviet satellites.
It was with this in mind that the Soviet Union decided they’d need to equip their space stations for more than just taking pictures of the earth below. Instead, they wanted to be sure their orbital habitats could fight whatever the Americans threw their way.
Line drawing of the Russian Almaz space station (NASA)
The decision was made to base this new secret space cannon on the 23-millimeter gun utilized by their supersonic bomber, the Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder. For its new purpose as the world’s first true space cannon, the Soviet government looked to the Moscow-based KB Tochmash design bureau responsible for a number of successful aviation weapons platforms.
Soviet Tu-22PD tail turret equipped with a R-23M (WikiMedia Commons)
Engineer Aleksandr Nudelman and his team at KB Tochmash changed the design of the cannon to utilize smaller 14.5-millimeter rounds that could engage targets at distances of up to two miles with a blistering rate of fire of somewhere between 950 and 5,000 rounds per minute (depending on the source you read). According to reports made public after the fall of the Soviet Union, the cannon successfully punctured a metal gas can from over a mile away during ground testing.
The cannon was to be mounted in a fixed position on the underbelly of the Soviet Almaz space stations, forcing operators to move the entire 20-ton station to orient the barrel toward a target. The weapon system was first affixed to a modified Soyuz space capsule, which was then dubbed the “Salyut” space station, and launched in 1971. By the time the Salyut was in orbit, however, interest in these manned reconnaissance platforms was already beginning to wane inside the Kremlin, as unmanned reconnaissance satellites seemed more practical.
The only cannon ever fired in space
While American intelligence agencies were well aware of the Soviet plan to field military space stations, it was still extremely difficult to know exactly what was going on in the expanse of space above our heads. Under cover of extreme secrecy, the Soviet Union successfully completed a test firing of the R-23M on Jan. 24, 1975 in orbit above the earth. There was no crew onboard at the time, and the exact results of the test remain classified to this day. Uncomfirmed reports indicate that the weapon fired between one and three bursts, with a total of 20 shells expended. In order to offset the recoil of the fired rounds, the space station engaged its thrusters, but it stands to reason that the test may have been a failure.
Screen capture of the R-23M space cannon taken from Zvezda TV, per the Russian Ministry of Defence
In fact, any footage of the test firing of the weapon was lost when the Salyut 3 platform was de-orbited just hours later, burning up upon reentry into the earth’s atmosphere. When the Soviet Union designed an upgraded Almaz space station for future launches, they did away with cannons in favor of interceptor missiles — though the program was canceled before any such weapons would reach orbit.