MightyScopes for the week of February 27th - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

MightyScopes for the week of February 27th

Hey Noadamus, how did you get so wise? Were you always so enlightened? If I study at the feet of the master, can I hope to become as wise as you one day? Should I take up a musical instrument? What sort of stocks should I day trade in?

You ask a lot of damn questions. What are you, Congress?


Enough of that noise; let’s jump into what’s important here: your future.

Pisces

Life is even better than you can imagine and the best part is that it’s only getting better. But alas, nothing is simply all good or all bad, and this time of growth and prosperity will wane. Don’t waste it, because what goes up must also come down. Even though you might have some struggles today, they are minor and tomorrow looks better and brighter.

Maybe do this privately. In front of your mirror. Not on the corner at rush hour.

Aries

It is rather difficult to picture how things could get better than they are right now, and if that is your viewpoint then it will be true, but if you can open your mind to the possibility of even greater improvement, you will experience it. Just try not to rub your perfect life in everyone’s face — that’s just rude.

Taurus

You should practice finding peace in chaos because you are about to experience a sh*tload of it. I mean, so much effin’ chaos and discord that it will challenge your deepest well of calm. Best course of action? Remember there are things outside of your control and let them go. The only thing you can control are your choices.

So, you can choose to develop an even deeper well of calm or choose to erupt when angered or annoyed by the almost-unlimited stressors in your life. This week, regardless of what you choose, you will be incredibly successful either way. So, choose wisely.

Gemini

You know what I like about you? When you have something to say, you always say it. Hell, even when you don’t have something to say, you say that, too. You should really try not saying something, and instead, try listening. In fact, you should try to speak less overall this week, you may find yourself revealing things which are completely inappropriate. This is not just a possible embarrassment, but an incredibly damaging event which could ruin your career. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your grandmother or the chaplain, don’t say it at all this week.

We get it. You’re sad. Move on.

Cancer

You may find yourself filled with nostalgia for a person or situation from your past. You may even fool yourself into believing that you want this person or situation back in your life, but you need ask yourself this very important question: Do you truly want this back in your life because you miss it from your life or is your current situation not going the way you hoped and are wishing for better times gone by? You may find yourself rethinking the wisdom of returning to someone or something which you have already let go.

Leo

What is a captain without the crew? A star without fans? If the captain neglects the crew, he or she may find himself walking the plank. And a star without fans is a star no more. While you may believe yourself completely independent of others, this is a falsehood to the extreme. Don’t forget about the little people, you depend on them far more than they depend on you. Be extra kind to folks this week, you’ll thank me for it later.

Virgo

My Virgo brothers and sisters, just because you are stressed doesn’t mean you should tear yourself apart for every tiny little flaw. You’re only human. Allow yourself some grace and try talking nicely to yourself once in a while. Financial problems at home cause conflicts with your career. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want the unit EO rep to overhear because this week, everyone will be repeating any dirt you speak aloud.

We’re all just as sick of your indecision as you are.

Libra

OMG. It’s hard to be so tall, and attractive, and successful, and, on top of that, you have two incredible opportunities to select from and you can’t decide. You know if you pick one the other option is not possible. Please stop trying to make everyone feel sorry for your dilemma. It’s beneath you. Just shut the F up and make a decision already.

Scorpio

I’m not one to judge people for their deviant behavior, but recently you have been a tad bit out of control. Instead of snowballing, this current pattern of behavior into something worse, you can pull the breaks and save yourself from doing something that will leave a serious lasting mark. Have you ever seen that movie where that dude doesn’t touch himself or anyone else below the belt for 40 days? Try it, but let’s start small and aim for a week. You can do it, I believe in you.

Sagittarius

Seriously, do your effin’ laundry, Private. Just because you fall in a pile of sh*t and think you smell like roses, doesn’t mean you really do. In fact, it means you’re covered in crap. So this week, clean yourself up, hit the laundromat, and try drinking something other than booze. Like, I don’t know, water maybe? Just a thought.

Yeah, we see you on your way to ruin everyone else’s lives.

Capricorn

It’s hard to be you, seeing how things should be done and wondering why you have yet to be promoted to Sergeant Major of the Universe so you could implement your plans, but such is life here on earth. Your genius will continue to be unrecognized this week, but you will probably continue to be a terrible human to everyone you meet as the chaos of life overwhelms you. So take a deep breath and try not to such a prick; things will improve, at some point. Okay, that last part about things improving is a lie, but… I got nothing, good luck with that.

Aquarius

Wow, I want to lie say I’m not impressed, but the bylaws of the intrawebs and my contract with the big guy forbids it. So, good job skating through the nonsense of your life relativity unscathed. It is impressive, inspiring even. However, just because your lack of planning and your tendency to wing it has been successful in the recent past, this doesn’t mean that method will hold up this week. Even your luck has limits – don’t test ’em, not this week, at least.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Has anyone seen the Turkmen president lately?

The big news from Turkmenistan in the last few weeks has been that the country’s mercurial president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has been absent from the news for large periods of time.

That’s unusual because he normally dominates the state-run broadcasts.

And the few times Berdymukhammedov has been on television since going on vacation nearly one month ago, his appearances have raised more doubts than offered evidence of his well-being.

While officially on vacation, that has never stopped Turkmen state media from following Berdymukhammedov around in previous years.


But his absence from nightly Turkmen television newscasts and daily reports in state print media have some people seriously considering rumors that Berdymukhammedov is in poor health or possibly even dead.

Berdymukhammedov had already been officially on vacation for almost one week when Aslan Rubaev, identified as the director of the Center for Monitoring Eurasian Problems, told the Russian radio station and Internet news site Govoritmoskva.ru that Berdymukhammedov had died of acute renal failure on July 20, 2019.

There was no explanation in the July 24, 2019 report as to why the president chose to suspend his vacation for one day to occupy himself with the mundane matter of urban renewal plans in Ashgabat.

(Turkmenistan.gov)

The news spread like wildfire across Russian-language media and it was only after a few hours later that the Turkmen embassies in Russia and Kyrgyzstan issued statements rejecting stories that the Turkmen president had died.

Before the end of the day, Rubaev was making a public apology for his remarks, saying they were unfounded.

But Berdymukhammedov had still not been seen and the rumors persisted.

Finally, on July 24, 2019, there were reports Berdymukhammedov had spoken by telephone with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev to wish him a happy birthday.

Later that evening, Turkmen television news aired footage of Berdymukhammedov inspecting plans for a new district in the capital, Ashgabat, without explaining why the president had decided to break away from his vacation to look at drawings of new bus stops.

And then Berdymukhammedov vanished from local news again.

His next appearance in state media was not until Aug. 4, 2019, when state television showed a series of clips of Berdymukhammedov riding a bicycle, exercising, firing a rifle, bowling, riding a horse, working on a new book, composing a new song, and driving an SUV through the desert to the Gates of Hell — a perpetually burning crater that resulted from an attempt to flare gas there in the early 1970s.

He also appeared on state television on Aug. 5, 2019, holding a video conference call with officials.

On Aug. 3, 2019, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s office released a statement about Medvedev’s impending trip to Turkmenistan to attend the Caspian Economic Forum in the Turkmen Caspian resort of Avaza, adding that he planned to meet there with Berdymukhammedov.

Turkmenistan’s Singer, Race-car Driver, Jockey, Autocrat

www.youtube.com

Not very convincing

That is the proof that has been offered to show Berdymukhammedov is alive and well.

But there are still many reasons to think that something is wrong with him.

Berdymukhammedov’s appearances on state television on July 24 and Aug. 4-5, 2019, were not entirely convincing.

As mentioned, there was no explanation in the July 24, 2019 report as to why Berdymukhammedov chose to suspend his vacation for one day to occupy himself with the mundane matter of urban renewal plans in Ashgabat.

And RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, noted that Berdymukhammedov was wearing exactly the same suit and tie as he wore in a May 10 broadcast on state television, which is strange because he never wears the same suit — or even the same clothes — twice in his television appearances.

Berdymukhammedov did not speak in the footage aired on July 24, 2019, for example, to say he had just spoken with the Uzbek president, as was reported.

The Turkmen president also did not speak in the Aug. 4, 2019 footage aired on Turkmen TV, and the clips seem to be a compilation of his usual bizarre antics that are regularly shown on the evening news, and of which there is almost certainly an abundance of archive material from the cutting-room floor.

His hair is gray in the recent appearances, but that only narrows down the time frame to anytime during the last year or so, when he stopped dying it black.

The headlines of the reports seemed aimed at quieting rumors of ill health or worse.

Turkmenistan Aug. 6, 2019’s headline said, “Turkmenistan’s President Dedicates His Vacation To A Creative And Active Life,” and the Golden Age website’s headline read “The Turkmen Leader’s Vacation: Active Leisure, Literary And Musical Creativity.”

The Aug. 5, 2019 footage showed Berdymukhammedov discussing the country’s economic performance, agriculture, preparations for the Aug. 11-12, 2019 Caspian Economic Forum and the Muslim holiday Kurban Bayramy.

Image of Berdimuhamedow, on display outside the national horse-racing ground in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

But again, Berdymukhammedov did not refer to any recent event that would have proven the footage was from sometime during the last two or three weeks. The conversations could have taken place several weeks or months ago.

Absent from the video conference was any criticism of officials’ work, or reprimands for shortcomings, which are typical of these video conferences. It was also unclear why he again interrupted his vacation to hold the video conference.

Similarly, state print media had an unusual gap in reports featuring Berdymukhammedov.

News about the Turkmen president has always dominated state media coverage, going back to the early days of first Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov.

A July 25, 2019 report about Berdymukhammedov congratulating new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the last news about Berdymukhammedov for more than one week on the Altyn Asyr (Golden Age) state website until a report appeared on Aug. 4, 2019, about the footage shown on state television. The same was true on state website Turkmenistan Today.

The last reports featuring Berdymukhammedov on the Russian-based pro-government website Turkmenistan.ru are from July 25, 2019; one congratulating Johnson and another about birthday wishes for Mirziyoev.

Even stranger, Turkmenistan.ru on Aug. 1, 2019 reported about the CEO of the Malaysian company Petronas, Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, visiting Avaza and meeting with Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and gas-and-oil-sector chief Yashigeldy Kakaev.

Berdymukhammedov’s name is not even mentioned in the report.

Petronas has been doing business in Turkmenistan since 1996. Petronas developed and is still working Block 1 in Turkmenistan’s sector of the Caspian Sea, “the first PSA to be awarded by the government of Turkmenistan.”

Petronas has invested more than billion in Turkmenistan and was a sponsor of the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games that Turkmenistan hosted. When Berdymukhammedov visited Malaysia in November 2016, he made a point of meeting with Ariffin, as he had met with previous Petronas head Dato Shamsul Azhar in Kuala Lumpur in December 2011. Berdymukhammedov also met with Azhar’s predecessor, Hassan Marican, in Ashgabat in May 2009.

Despite the history of close ties to the heads of Petronas, Berdymukhammedov could not find even a few minutes to meet with Ariffin at a resort area in Turkmenistan.

On July 25, 2019, Afghanistan completed the Aqina-Andkhoi segment of a railway line that is to link Turkmenistan to Tajikistan via northern Afghanistan.

Turkmenistan has been facing hard economic times since 2015 and this should have been good news for the country. Turkmenistan sent a delegation to a ceremony launching the new line that was reported on by Turkmen media. But there was not a word attributed to Berdymukhammedov about the accomplishment and what it could mean for Turkmenistan.

Where is he?

The immediate denials of Berdymukhammedov’s death came, as mentioned, from Turkmenistan’s embassies in Moscow and Bishkek.

But how would they know? Both embassies reacted rather quickly, almost automatically, rejecting reports of bad news about Turkmenistan as they usually do.

The Turkmen Foreign Ministry has not issued any statements denying the rumors Berdymukhammedov is ill or dead. In fact, while Berdymukhammedov has been on vacation it is not clear who exactly is running the country, though it does appear Foreign Minister Meredov is acting as the host to visitors.

And even Berdymukhammedov’s vacation is unusual this year.

Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov cut the ribbon to open an exhibition.

As the Hronika Turkmenistana website pointed out, he usually only takes two weeks of summer vacation. This year, his vacation is from July 15 to August 15.

Berdymukhammedov has in the past often taken his ministers, or many of them, along with him on vacation. Some of the ministers were at Avaza playing various sports at the end of July, but Berdymukhammedov was never shown among them, which is very unusual, as he customarily is on TV instructing his ministers how to exercise properly.

Again, the media is not following Berdymukhammedov around and showing footage of him frolicking on the Caspian shores or inspecting Turkmenistan’s naval vessels or merchant fleet.

There was some footage at the very start of his vacation of him playing with his grandchildren and some kittens.

Turkmenistan has always been a unique, some would say bizarre, place, but in the last few weeks there is a feeling that things are not right. Established patterns of behavior are being ruptured without any credible explanation as to why.

It seems Berdymukhammedov has suffered some sort of problem, otherwise it would have been easy enough for him to appear on state television and say something — anything — about current events. On the other hand, Turkmen media is now devoting a great deal of effort to convince people that their president of the last 12 years is alive and healthy.

Although the first Caspian Economic Forum should be the focus of attention when it opens in Avaza on August 11, everyone will now be concentrating on whether Berdymukhammedov will make an appearance and, if he does, if he shows any signs of having suffered some illness or physical setback.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine Corps denies using Bumble to recruit for the Corps

The US Marine Corps is denying it uses dating apps to recruit after a screenshot of an apparent Bumble conversation depicting such efforts turned up on Reddit.

The screenshot shows a message that says, “Hey! My name is Kaitlin Robertson and I am with the Marine Corps. I would love to have one of my recruiters sit down and talk with you about your options within the Marine Corps including education, financial stability, hundreds of job opportunities, and free health/dental insurance, just to name a few. I would love to make you part of our Marine Corps family!!”


An quick-witted, unnamed young man responded, “You’re not even going to bribe me with crayons?”

But Marine Corps Recruiting Command spokesman Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg told Stars and Stripes the Marine Corps is not employing popular dating apps to draw in young, able-bodied recruits. He also claimed the Bumble message was not written by a recruiter.

Recruits from Kilo Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bridget M. Keane)

“We don’t condone use of dating apps for business purposes and no, that Bumble post was not written by a recruiter,” Kronenberg said.

The US military has struggled to recruit in recent years, and all of the branches have sought to find innovative ways to bolster their ranks. The US Army, for example, is on the hunt for a new slogan and is scrapping “Army Strong” in an apparent effort to increase its appeal to young folks.

But it seems that dating apps, however effective they might be, are not going to be included in the military’s recruitment efforts anytime in the near future.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

What happens if you try to touch the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The United States government was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. That being said, if the U.S. could select a single holy site and have everyone in America agree that it was not to be trifled with, the frontrunner would be the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier — the monument to those who fought and died for the U.S. but remain unidentified.


Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded 24 hours a day, seven days a week by the tomb sentinels of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, The Old Guard. And these guys do not mess around. When it comes to discipline, The Old Guard have such firm bearing that they can get stabbed in the foot with a bayonet and keep standing guard.

Related: Watch this guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns get stabbed and carry on

They will guard the tomb during hurricanes. They will stay at their post during epic snowstorms. There is nothing they won’t do to maintain a watchful eye on what might be America’s holiest of holies.

So, it should come as no surprise that when tourists are around the tomb, these sentinels don’t tolerate anything short of solemnity and adherence to the rules that govern such hallowed ground. In the past, numerous videos have shown how the Old Guard responds to those who try to get a closer look at the tomb by crossing barrier obviously in place to keep onlookers away.

Now: Watch this Sentinel destroy a trespasser at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

And that’s just what they do when you try to cross the barrier for a photo (to fast-forward, the sentinel admonishes a woman for crossing the line at 1:00 into the video). Imagine what happens if someone suddenly tries to reach out and touch the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier itself.

Aside from getting manhandled (and probably tazed) by the Arlington Police, the Tomb Sentinels are carrying fully functional weapons. Whether they’re loaded weapons or if the sentinels have ammunition remains unknown (many sources say they don’t), but that’s not a reason to go testing the theory. What is known, however, is the sentinels will move much faster than we’re used to seeing them in order to stop you.

Quora user Chris Leonard, who used to be a part of the Old Guard, reminds us that maintenance work is done on the aging tomb all the time, but workers are expected to show the same reverence in touching the tomb for repairs that the sentinels themselves would observe — and the sentinels are watching them every second they’re at work.

Leonard recalled a moment where a maintainer touched the tomb in a manner inconsistent with the respect called for by the monument — he was leaning on it. The sentinel yelled at the man to stop as he quickly approached. The sentinel then “cross checked” the maintenance worker.

The maintenance worker later apologized to the sentinels.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

All flights from Ireland’s Shannon Airport were suspended on Aug. 15, 2019, after a plane carrying US troops was evacuated because of a fire, Irish news outlets reported.

Shannon Airport said an Omni Air International Boeing 763 was halted as it taxied on the runway at 6:20 a.m. local time (1 a.m. ET).

There had been reports of fire and smoke coming from the landing gear.

Air-traffic controllers instructed the crew to evacuate the aircraft as a fire on the left landing gear became visible, the Irish newspaper The Journal reported.

The Irish Independent reported that the fire was thought to have been caused by punctured tires.


Shannon Airport tweeted on Aug. 15, 2019: “We can confirm that an incident has occurred at Shannon Airport involving a Boeing 763 aircraft.”

“Emergency services are in attendance,” it said. “All passengers and crew have disembarked. Airport operations temporarily suspended.”

Irish news outlets reported that the Omni Air International, a US charter airline flying out of Tulsa International Airport in Oklahoma, was a private charter carrying US military personnel.

Omni Air International tweeted: “We are investigating reports of an incident involving Omni Air International flight 531 at Shannon Airport, Ireland. The Omni Boeing 767-300 aircraft rejected takeoff and was safely evacuated. Initial reports indicate no serious injuries to passengers or crew.”

Shannon Airport said in a later tweet: “We are currently working to remove the aircraft from the scene of the incident so we can resume safe operations on the runway. This may take some time.”

In the wake of the incident, several flights from the airport were canceled.

Shannon Airport is the focus of an antiwar campaign demanding that the Irish government stop letting the US use the airport as a de facto military base. Campaigners say that over 3 million US troops have passed through the airport since 2003.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 reasons it’s hard to tell how violent the ‘most violent’ cities in the world are

The most recent ranking of the world’s most violent cities by the Mexican research group Security, Justice, and Peace again drew attention to Latin America, home to 42 of the 50 cities on the list.

Latin America is indeed the most violent region, accounting for about 8% of the global population but tallying roughly one-third of the world’s intentional homicides.

While homicide is not the only kind of violent crime, it is generally considered the best measure of it.


“Of all the different types of crime, homicide is probably the easiest to track because there’s nothing more biologically evident than a dead body,” Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention, told Business Insider.

In most places, there are also legal procedures that authorities are supposed to follow when dealing with homicides.

Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention.

(YouTube)

“So unlike, say, assault or robbery or sexual violence or domestic abuse, homicide is one of those variables that across time and space is relatively straightforward to capture,” Muggah said, adding that researchers can draw on a panoply of sources — law enforcement, public-health agencies, nongovernmental groups, the press, and the public — to tabulate and track homicides over time.

But, as Latin America illustrates, there are a number of recurrent challenges that arise when collecting homicide data that complicate efforts to make comparisons and compile rankings.

Where did it happen?

“Are we looking at national data, state data, city data, and if we are looking at city data, in this case, how are we defining a city?” Muggah said.

A city’s geographic limits can be defined in a number of ways. The UN has three: the city proper, delineated by administrative boundaries; the urban agglomeration, comprising a contiguous urban area; and the metropolitan area, the boundaries of which are based on social or economic connections.

The populations of each of those areas can vary enormously, as can the number of homicides.

“It turns out cities are surprisingly difficult to define. There is no unified or uniform definition of a city, and this has been a source of some consternation for geographers for over a century,” Muggah said.

The Igarapé Institute eschews homicide rankings but does maintain a Homicide Monitor that compiles data on killings, using the urban-agglomeration definition for cities, Muggah said.

The Mexican group adheres to some set of criteria, requiring minimum population of 300,000 people and excluding places with active conflicts, such as Ukraine or Syria.

But the group says in its methodology that whenever possible it includes all the municipalities that it assesses as part of a city — “localities that form a unique urban system, clearly distinguishable from others, independent of the geographic-administrative divisions inside the countries.”

Muggah and his colleagues noted issues with this method in relation to the 2015 ranking, which found Caracas, Venezuela, to be the most violent city. That year, others also said the group based its tally on the homicide total for the metropolitan area of Cali, in southwest Colombia, and, in their view, overstated the number of homicides.

The group’s ranking for 2018, its most recent, put Tijuana, Mexico, at the top of the list, with a homicide rate of 138.26 per 100,000.

Tijuana has seen a precipitous rise in deadly violence, but the city’s public-security secretary disputed its rank, citing the inclusion of the nearby city of Rosarito, Mexico, in the homicide count and the failure to account for Tijuana’s migrant population.

Security, Justice, and Peace rejected the criticism, saying that it based its population count on official numbers and that excluding Rosarito would have actually raised the homicide rate. (Though it did not say why it assessed Tijuana’s metropolitan area and not those of other cities.)

What’s a homicide?

“It turns out there are many kinds of homicide,” Muggah said. “We have homicide that’s intentional. We have homicide that’s unintentional, which we also call manslaughter. We have homicide committed by police, which sometimes isn’t included in the formal homicide statistics.”

Mexico has experienced an alarming increase in homicides, setting records in 2017 and 2018.

Mexico’s official crime data includes two categories for homicide: “homicidio doloso,” which refers to intentional homicides, and “homicidio culposo,” which refers to manslaughter or unintentional homicides.

The most recent tallies for intentional homicides in Mexico in 2017 and 2018 are 28,868 and 33,369, respectively. The totals for all homicides are 46,640 in 2017 and 50,373 in 2018.

Missing persons in Mexico.

While official government tabulations distinguish between unintentional and intentional homicides as they are legally defined in those countries, counts by nongovernmental groups, the media, and the public can elide that distinction, grouping different kinds of lethal violence together.

“And that matters,” Muggah said, “because in some countries, including Mexico and Brazil, when you include police lethality, police killings, which fall under a different category, that can actually significantly augment the overall count.”

In many cases, Muggah added, “those deaths are not what you describe as illegal.”

In 2017, Brazil had 63,880 homicides — 175 killings a day — up 3% from 2016 and a record. (Homicides were trending downward through the first nine months of 2018, but full-year data for 2018 is not yet available.)

In 2017, there was also an increase in the number of people killed by Brazil’s police, rising 20% from 2016 to 5,144 people, or 14 a day. Authorities in Rio de Janeiro state have attracted special scrutiny for their lethality, drawing accusations of extrajudicial executions.

Not only where and how you measure, but also when?

Even when homicide data for a full calendar year is available — which is not always the case; Security, Justice, and Peace list in some cases extrapolates from partial-year data — it may change over time.

“In many cases, there are outstanding trials and judicial processes that are ongoing to determine … what in fact that lethal outcome was, and that can take months. It can take years,” Muggah said. “Typically though, there’s a delay when governments produce data to issue this information because they’re still dealing with many of the legalities around sorting out homicide.”

Full-year 2017 crime data for Mexico, released in January 2018, put the number of homicide victims at 29,168.

The most recent data for that year, updated in March 2019, indicates there were 28,868 homicide victims. (The Mexican government changed its methodology at the beginning of 2018 and updated previous tallies to reflect that.)

Police on the street in the high crime area of Iztapalapa, Mexico City.

There are also 26,000 unidentified bodies in Mexico’s forensic system, and the government estimates that more than 40,000 people are missing. Hidden graves full of unidentified bodies are frequently found all around Mexico.

All of that — coupled with issues such as a lack of prosecution and suspicions about officials manipulating crime data — means Mexico’s homicide totals are subject to change for the foreseeable future.

“In many countries, Latin America, in particular, there are huge impunity rates and a great gap in processing some of these cases, precisely because of the volume but also the lack of capacity to go through all of these cases, and so there’s a reason” for a delay, Muggah said.

It’s necessary to reflect on violence and trends in crime, but, Muggah added, “the challenge is that many governments are operating at different speeds.”

Relaying on data for only part of a year, or drawing on only certain sources that are readily available can often “unintentionally bias our sample,” Muggah said.

Know what you don’t know.

A challenge for “all of us who are in the business of monitoring and tracking and building systems to better understand criminality is that there are many places or instances where crime, including lethal violence, is not particularly well reported, or if it is reported it’s reported very badly,” Muggah said.

Latin American countries release crime data fairly regularly, but closer examination reveals “great gaps in the data,” especially in parts of Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil, Muggah said.

“There’ll be reports that … don’t accurately capture the cause of death, and therefore you get misattribution. There’ll be a situation where they just can’t store the bodies because there’s insufficient space, and so you get undercounts,” he said. “There’ll be places where the governments themselves, police in particular, have no incentive to report on lethal violence and therefore will skew the figures.”

Outside the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a 36-member group that includes most of North America and Europe, available information about crime is also lacking, Muggah said.

“If you go to Africa, with the exception of a few countries, it’s … a knowledge gap around homicide,” he added. That’s also the case in parts of Asia, “where governments just don’t want to report overall statistics on crime, citing it as a national-security issue.”

Incentivizing cities.

In the methodology included in its most recent report, Security, Justice, and Peace said that it compiles the ranking with the objective of “calling attention to violence in cities, particularly in Latin America, so that the leaders are pressured to fulfill their duty to protect the governed to guarantee their right to public security.”

“What we are also looking for is that no one … wants their city or cities to appear in this ranking, and that if their city or cities are [on it] already, they make the maximum effort so they leave it as soon as possible,” the group added.

Brazilian Federal Highway Police.

There are positive and negative potential effects of inclusion on such a list, Muggah said.

“One hopes that as a positive outcome, [inclusion] would incentivize city leaders, business leaders in cities, civic activists, and common citizens to be alert to the many risks that are there and also to seek and strive to find ways to get themselves off that list,” he said.

Stigmatizing cities.

But there can be negative consequences. Reducing a complicated issue such as personal security to a single metric risks sensationalizing the problem and can skew public perceptions, potentially empowering leaders who push hardline punitive responses, Muggah said.

In some cases, it can “stigmatize cities,” Muggah said, affecting foreign and domestic investment, credit ratings, and business decisions. It can also have a particular effect on local economies, especially for tourism, on which many parts of Latin America rely.

“The hope is that by shining a light … on these challenges that somehow this will provoke” a constructive response from the city, its residents, and its leaders, rallying them around a common goal, such as reducing insecurity and getting off that list, Muggah said.

“It’s not clear yet if that in fact has ever happened, whether these lists have contributed positively to social change, and that might be asking too much of a list,” Muggah said.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This dominating F-16 pilot ruled the skies over Desert Storm

Operation Desert Storm was a milestone — the first major conflict America fought in the 20th century without producing a fighter ace. The top-scoring pilots during the conflict were Thomas Dietz and Bob Hehemann, Air Force F-15C Eagle pilots with three kills each, according to a list maintained by Robin Lee. There was, however, one very highly-decorated pilot forged during this conflict.


William F. Andrews was a captain in the United States Air Force during Operation Desert Storm. Flying the General Dynamics F-16C Fighting Falcon, Andrews would prove to be a true badass fighter pilot, earning numerous medals for valor. One of those awards happens to be one of just two Air Force Crosses awarded during Desert Storm.

Colonel William F. Andrews. (USAF photo)

On Jan. 23, 1991, Andrews led a strike against a Scud assembly plant in Fallujah. Despite heavy enemy ground fire, which included at least six surface-to-air missiles, the strike inflicted heavy damage on the target, making it harder for Saddam Hussein’s regime to fire Scuds at Israel and Saudi Arabia. For his actions, Andrews received the Distinguished Flying Cross with a Combat Distinguishing Device.

One month later, on Feb. 24, Andrews was leading a flight of F-16s on a mission when they were diverted to aid some Green Berets deep behind enemy lines. Operational Detachment Alpha 525’s hide site had been discovered by local children. Silencing the kids was not an option, so, the commander of that detachment, Chief Warrant Officer Richard Balwanz, made the call to evacuate.

Almost immediately after making the call, Balwanz’s team found itself in a firefight. Thankfully, air support was just moments away. Andrews pressed his attack, dropping bombs as enemy forces came within 200 yards of Balwanz and his men. He received his second award of the Distinguished Flying Cross for saving eight Green Berets.

Operational Detachment Alpha – 525, led by Chief Warrant Officer Richard Balwanz. Andrews received his second Distinguished Flying Cross for providing close-air support that enabled the unit’s safe return. (US Army photo)

Three days after that, Andrews was hit while attacking enemy armor. He ejected from his stricken F-16 and broke a leg upon landing. Despite being under fire and out in the open, Andrews provided warnings that saved his wingman and an A-10 pilot from being hit by enemy surface-to-air missiles. He was quickly captured by Saddam’s thugs, but would still attempt an escape despite his broken leg. He received the Air Force Cross for his actions.

After Desert Storm, Andrews continued to serve for another 19 years, seeing combat action in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom. Unfortunately, Andrew was soon faced with a different kind of battle. He died of brain cancer on June 8, 2015, but his valorous acts will always be remembered.

Articles

These 3 snipers had more kills than Carlos Hathcock in Vietnam

While Carlos Hathcock is perhaps the most famous sniper of the Vietnam War, he actually ranks fourth in the number of confirmed kills.


Yeah, that’s right. Hathcock was out-scored by three other snipers during that conflict. So, who are the guys who bested Hathcock’s 93 confirmed sniper kills? Let’s take a look at them.

Carlos Hathcock | Photo: Marine Corps Archives

3rd place: Eric R. England – 98 confirmed kills

The Union County Historical Society reports that Eric England had his service in Vietnam cut short at seven months.

England also had a lengthy track record of success in competitive shooting, including winning the Leech Cup — the oldest competitive shooting trophy in the United States.

England rates as perhaps the most obscure of the snipers who out-shot Hathcock. Aside from some photos taken during the 2011 Memorial Day Parade in Union County, Georgia, few, if any, photos of this legend are publicly available.

Second Place: Chuck Mawhinney – 103 confirmed kills

Chuck Mawhinney served from 1967-1970 in the Marine Corps. According to a 2000 Los Angeles Times article, he spent 16 months in Vietnam. After leaving the Marine Corps, he worked in the United States Forest Service.

Mawhinney’s youth was spent hunting, and he chose the Marines because they allowed him to delay his entry until after deer season. Some Marine recruiter did his country a service with that call.

Mawhinney noted that every one of his kills had a weapon — with one notable exception: A North Vietnamese Army paymaster who he took out from 900 yards away.

Today, Mawhinney is talking about what he has done, seeking to dispel the many stereotypes of snipers that are in people’s minds.

This is the M40 sniper rifle used by Chuck Mawhinney during the Vietnam War. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

1st Place: Adelbert Waldron — 109 confirmed kills

America’s top sniper of the Vietnam War wasn’t a Marine. He served with the 9th Infantry Division of the United States Army. Yeah, you read that right. Marines got all the press and the glory, but an Army guy was the top sniper shot of the Vietnam War.

Waldron had served in the United States Navy for 12 years before going to civilian life. In 1968, he enlisted in the Army. SniperCentral.com noted that Waldron spent 16 months in Vietnam. Waldron primarily used the M21 Sniper Weapon System, a modified M14.

Waldron was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross twice. He also was awarded the Silver Star and three Bronze Stars. Still, he never talked about his service with the media, and died in 1995. His total would be the top score for an American sniper until Chris Kyle totaled 160 during the Global War on Terror.

Adelbert Waldron, America’s top sniper of the Vietnam War.

So, when it comes to Vietnam War snipers, the legendary “White Feather” ranks at number four.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Air Force vet reunites with daughter for the first time in 36 years

Pamela Foley was 17 and pregnant in 1982 when her parents said she wasn’t welcome in their house, and wasn’t keeping her baby.

She searched and wondered for decades what happened to the child she gave up for adoption before the two reconnected in January 2019. They met again for the first time in 36 years at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Foley, an Air Force veteran, who uses a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis, pushed up from her chair July 9, 2019, as the two embraced and held each other tight.

“Let me look at your face!” Foley sobbed as she held her daughter’s face in her hands. “My baby!”


The two have since been inseparable at 2019’s Games, with her daughter, Carrie Knutsen, cheering on her birth mom, laughing and finishing each other’s sentences. While the two have filled each other in on the last 36 years, they cemented the reunion with matching tattoos of two hearts and a double helix DNA that Carrie designed.

Pamela Foley competed in bowling, 9-ball and slalom at this year’s Wheelchair Games, but will most remember her reunion with the daughter she was forced to give up for adoption 36 years ago.

Foley never stopped hoping this day would come, always marking Carrie’s birthday on her calendar. Carrie, based on what little information she had, would sometimes see a face in the crowd and wonder if they were related.

When Pamela told her parents she was pregnant 36 years ago, she wasn’t surprised at their reaction.

“They said, ‘You’re going to live with your sister in Virginia.’ They’re the type they always have to impress people, and if anybody had found out their daughter was pregnant, they couldn’t have that.”

Pamela got to spend time with her baby after giving birth April 29, 1983, in Roanoke, which made it even harder.

“That was the emotional pain,” she said. “They let me have her while I was there, feeding and clothing her. I saw and held her and was a blithering idiot. I had 30 days after signing the paperwork to change my mind. So I called my mom, crying in the hospital.”

“What would happen if I kept her?” Pamela asked.

“Oh, don’t come home,” her mom replied.

“And I’m crying more as I’m thinking of changing my mind. Then I thought about it. I was 17. I didn’t have a job, I had no resources. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have any skills.”

Carrie interjects with a laugh: “I mean, you gave birth, that’s a pretty good skill. Just saying.”

“It just happens,” Pamela deadpans. “You just do it. It was going to happen regardless.”

Catholic Charities told Pamela the adoption records would be sealed for 18 years, then she could find information about her baby.

Although she was named Lisa Marie on the birth certificate, her adoptive parents — Casey and Marie — took parts of their name and changed her name to Carrie.

“It was a huge blessing for them, and they are amazing people,” Carrie said. “They changed my name because they wanted to give me a piece of them. I never wanted for anything. I went to college, I finished grad school. I don’t have any memory of not knowing I was adopted. They told me when I was young.

Mom and daughter got matching tattoos of two hearts and double helix DNA to commemorate the reunion. Carrie, who is a graphic artist, designed the artwork.

“I always wondered if she was a movie star and occasionally wondered why they gave me away. I knew I was born in Roanoke, so anytime we were there, I’d look at faces in the crowd and wondered if they resembled me or were family.”

Pamela moved back home after giving birth and graduated from high school. She joined the Air Force in 1985, married and had another daughter, Samantha, in 1986. She was diagnosed a year later with multiple sclerosis and separated from the military. She divorced her first husband, remarried and had a son, Sean, in 1991. Tragedy struck in 1993 when Samantha died after she fell through a glass table while playing.

“It was the worst thing in the world,” Pamela said. “It was worse than giving my baby away.”

Pamela and her husband, Michael, had another daughter, Megan, in 1994.

And in 2001 — 18 years after giving birth to Carrie — Pamela asked to see the adoption records.

“They were so rude. ‘Nooooo, these are sealed records. You have to get a lawyer and petition the court.’

“I let it drop,” she said. “We didn’t have that kind of money, and at that time, there was no internet like there is today. I did find an adoption registry and filled out all the information, what I knew. I never heard anything.”

Carrie filled out a similar registry around the same time.

“I thought, ‘What the hell? Maybe?’ I never heard and forgot all about it.”

She married in 2011, and tried to find more about her family’s health history, but hit the same road block with sealed records.

Another 17 years passed while Pamela watched a show about reuniting lost family members. There was a phone number for a private investigation company at the end of the program, and she gave them a call. For id=”listicle-2639220262″,000, she was told, they could probably find her daughter. Pamela reached out to the birth father and they split the cost.

In December 2018, the investigation firm sent Carrie a letter she almost didn’t open.

“I just stuck it in my purse, and when I opened it later, they said they had a client who was looking for me,” she said. “I thought it was probably my mother, but it might be a scam. I got in touch with them, and on January 2 told them they could use my e-mail. I’m sitting at work and 10 minutes later, I get an e-mail from Pam.”


Reunion at the Games . . .

www.facebook.com

This’ll get ya. Pamela Shears Foley was forced to give up her baby, Carrie Knutsen, at 17. They found each other in January and met for the first time in…

Pam wrote: “Hi my name is Pamela Foley … You might be the child I gave up 35 years ago. I would like get to know and possibly meet you sometime in the future … I know this a lot to take in, but I’m hopeful we can stay in contact.”

Carrie wrote back: “Hi, Pam! What a way to start a new year! You’re right, it is a lot to take in — but in an exciting way! For 30 years, since I first found out I was adopted at the ripe old age of 5, I have wondered everything about my birth family. I am thankful for my parents who have given me everything — the best life I could have ever imagined. But I’ve always had those thoughts in the back of my mind — who are they, where are they, what do they like, what do they look like, and so on. This is a fascinating new journey!”

The two e-mailed back and forth all day.

Does the rest of your family “know about me? If so, when did you tell them?” Carrie asked.

“Everybody in my life knows about you and has for many years,” Pam replied. “I don’t hide my past from my children, so they know about you and that we are in contact. They are also very excited!

Carrie said that made the difference in their new relationship.

“The biggest part for me was finding out I was nobody’s secret,” she said. “I was wanted.”

They are making plans to visit one another after the Games, and Carrie hopes to get to the 2020 event in Portland. She has since been in touch with her birth father and is finding other family members, too.

“We use social media a lot, and I’m getting all these friend requests from cousins, aunts, a grandma on my birth father’s side … my grandparents died in 2014 and now I get another grandma,” Carrie said as she dabbed a tear from her eye. “I’m finding out that I’ve had, like, 30,000 family members I never knew I had who had been praying for me my whole life. It’s wonderful.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia’s only carrier would fight an American carrier

It wasn’t so long ago that the British and Russians exchanged trash talk over carriers. That all started when the then-Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, called the Admiral Kuznetsov “dilapidated.” The Russians responded by calling the first of the Royal Navy’s new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, “a large, convenient target” and warned the Brits to keep their distance.


Now, both carriers have had their problems. If you’re a loyal WATM reader, you have followed the Kuznetsov Follies. We are talking a first deployment that featured two splash landings, needing to operate planes from land bases, not to mention the fact that the new fighter is a possible dud and the carrier is a floating hell for the crew.

HMS Queen Elizabeth has a problem of her own, though. No planes. In fact, she may have to operate F-35Bs from the United States Marine Corps, which will require some adjustments. Any fight here would be tough to call, but give the Brits the edge. Once the F-35s clear out the Kuznetsov’s air wing (largely because they are far more advanced than MiG-29s and Su-33s), the Kuznetsov will only have 12 SS-N-19 Shipwreck missiles to use. No problem for the Queen Elizabeth’s escorts.

Related video:

But how well would the Kuznetsov fare against an American carrier? If anything, it’s even more of a slaughter. According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Kuznetsov can carry 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums, four Su-25 Frogfoot trainers, 15 Ka-27 Helix ASW helicopters, and two Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning choppers.

By comparison, it should be noted that a typical American carrier air wing has four strike-fighter squadrons of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or F/A-18C Hornets, each with a dozen multi-role fighters. So, the Russians are fighting at the wrong end of eight-to-three odds. The American carrier’s air wing, by the way, does offer electronic-warfare assets as well.

Once the Kuznetsov’s fighters are gone, the American carrier can then either launch an alpha strike to sink the Kuznetsov, or support an attack by B-1B Lancers carrying LRASMs. Either way, the Kuznetsov is going down. Heck, even an old Midway-class carrier could take the Kuznetsov.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of April 27th

I know the sh*t has hit the proverbial fan and the world is going through a fairly sh*t time at the moment… But hold the presses because it came to light, via Business Insider, that Gen. James Mattis (Ret.) did some modelling work for a veteran-owned leather jacket company in between his time in the service to his appointment as Secretary of Defense.

Just when you thought the Patron Saint of Chaos could not get any more badass, he can apparently pull off a leather jacket far better than any of us ever could.

After reading that, I just don’t know what to do anymore. Anyway, here’s some memes while I contemplate whether dropping my stimulus check on that $1,300 jacket would be worth the ire of my wife…


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(Meme via Army as F*ck)

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(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

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(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

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(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

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(Meme via Call for Fire)

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(Meme via Not CID)

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(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FKgjrVcjv2YLD5aWNs6o4NQqIzc66qUf4GjEhUBkWBieP7u8ZRsH-EIvlYzFgA1tHDU8r2Ghm9Bc1t9dVc8wLTNtmHNUpEr9OwGhBIYtwIpiv2TuroABREQWnrY7c6LJzYYNPEG6EcHGNo3THjA&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh6.googleusercontent.com&s=268&h=72345d59f02eb84705af1ddd14199161d7b58e2c92f203db0ed52fa55a7e3f3e&size=980x&c=1301376167 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FKgjrVcjv2YLD5aWNs6o4NQqIzc66qUf4GjEhUBkWBieP7u8ZRsH-EIvlYzFgA1tHDU8r2Ghm9Bc1t9dVc8wLTNtmHNUpEr9OwGhBIYtwIpiv2TuroABREQWnrY7c6LJzYYNPEG6EcHGNo3THjA%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh6.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D268%26h%3D72345d59f02eb84705af1ddd14199161d7b58e2c92f203db0ed52fa55a7e3f3e%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1301376167%22%7D” expand=1]

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

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(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

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(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

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(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

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(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

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(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US Army is tripling the power on its combat laser cannon

The US Army is turning up the power on its plans for a high-energy laser to shoot down everything from rockets and mortars to even “more stressing threats,” the service recently revealed.

The Army plans to field a 50-kilowatt laser on Stryker armored combat vehicles within the next few years to defend troops against enemy unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery, and mortars. The Army has previously practiced shooting down drones with 5-kilowatt lasers.

The next step for the Army was to develop and deploy more powerful 100-kilowatt combat lasers on heavy trucks, but the Army has since changed its plans, deciding to instead pursue a 250-300 kilowatt laser, Breaking Defense reports.


Rather than develop the 100-kilowatt High Energy Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL-TVD), the Army will instead work on developing the more powerful directed energy weapon to support the Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC) aimed at countering cruise missiles.

United States Tomahawk cruise missile.

(U.S. Navy)

The Army declined to clarify whether or not “more stressing threats” included cruise missiles, a growing threat facing American warfighters, but experts told Breaking Defense that 300 kilowatts was the threshold for shooting down cruise missiles.

The Strykers armed with 50-kilowatt lasers are expected to be fielded in 2022, and the more powerful HEL-IFPC is likely to be in the hands of US soldiers by 2024.

Directed-energy weapons are cost-effective alternatives to traditional air-and-missile defense capabilities.

“The advantage of the laser is that we have the ability to have an unlimited magazine when it comes to unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery, mortars,” Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski, the principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said in July 2019.

A Stryker Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser.

(U.S. Army photo)

“Where before we were shooting 0,000 missiles at ,000 [Unmanned Aerial Systems]. This puts us in a position where we’re not spending that kind of money to do that. We’re taking those targets down in a much more rapid fashion and a much cheaper fashion.”

And, the Army isn’t the only service trying to develop combat lasers.

The Navy is planning to equip its Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with the 60-kilowatt High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system designed to target small attack boats and drones, and the Air Force is working on the Self-Protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program to develop a weapon to counter surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

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

popular

How Navajo code talkers saved Marines in WWII

Growing up on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, Chester Nez endured many indignities at the hands of the U.S. government.


During the Great Depression, the federal government slaughtered his family’s sheep herd, destroying their livelihood. Shipped off to Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools at the age of eight, he wasn’t even allowed to keep his Navajo name — administrators assigned him the name Chester in honor of President Chester A. Arthur. If teachers caught him speaking his native language, they beat him or washed his mouth out with a bar of soap.

Yet when U.S. Marine Corps recruiters arrived in Tuba City, Arizona in the spring of 1942, looking for young men fluent in Navajo and English, Nez volunteered for duty. It was less than six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Navy had suffered a string of defeats in the South Pacific.

“I thought about how my people were mistreated,” he later said. “But then I thought this would be my chance to do something for my country.”

Chester Nez during World War II

Nez’s amazing sense of patriotic duty was a perfect fit for the secret program he was about to enter. The program was the brainchild of Philip Johnston, a 50-year-old civil engineer and World War I veteran who had read about the military’s need for a fast and secure means of encoding battlefield communications. As a member of the American Expeditionary Force in France during WWI, Johnston knew that Native American soldiers had transmitted messages in their tribal languages by telephone. The dialects, including Choctaw, Comanche, and Cherokee, were completely unknown to any Germans who might be listening in, giving the army a crucial advantage. Choctaw soldiers even developed a code based on their language for extra security, although it was never used in battle.

Johnston believed that Navajo represented an even greater opportunity to develop an indecipherable code — especially since the Germans had studied Choctaw in the interwar period. The son of missionaries, Johnston had grown up on the Navajo reservation and was fluent in the language, whose syntax and tonality make it incredibly complex. Depending on inflection and pronunciation, a single word can have as many as four distinct meanings. At the time, there was no Navajo alphabet — it remained an unwritten language spoken only on the reservation. While German anthropologists and journalists, including the Nazi propagandist Dr. Colin Ross, had studied other Native American tribes in the years after WWI, they did not make a subject of the Navajo. Johnston estimated that less than thirty people outside of the tribe had any familiarity with the dialect.

A group of code talkers who took part in 1943’s Bougainville campaign

(USMC)

In February 1942, Johnston traveled to Camp Elliott in San Diego, California to present his idea to Lieutenant Colonel James E. Jones of the Signal Corps. Initially Jones was skeptical, but he gave Johnston the go-ahead to stage a demonstration for Major General Clayton B. Vogel, commander of the First Marine Division, Amphibious Corps of the Pacific Fleet. Johnston recruited four Navajos from the Los Angeles shipyards and brought them to San Diego for the test. They were divided into teams of two, sent to opposite ends of the building, and given six messages to encode and transmit via field telephones. After some quick word substitutions — “dive bomber” became “chicken hawk” (gini) — the Navajos were able to accurately translate the messages from English into Navajo and back again within seconds. Using standard cryptographic equipment of the day, the same task would have taken 30 minutes to complete.

Impressed by the demonstration, Vogel submitted a request to the Commandant of the Marine Corps to recruit and train 200 Navajos as communications specialists. The first 29 enlistees, Chester Nez among them, arrived at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot in May, 1942. Most had never been off the reservation before, and some had never even taken a bus or a train. Many had lied about their ages in order to sign up. After completing basic training, the members of 382nd Platoon, nicknamed “The Navajo School,” were sent to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California, and tasked with developing a code that was simple, fast, and reliable enough to be used in battlefield conditions.

The code they developed with the help of Signal Corps officers had two parts. First, hundreds of common military terms were assigned Navajo synonyms. “Submarine” became “iron fish” (besh-lo). “Colonel” became “silver eagle” (atsah-besh-le-gai). “Battleship” was “whale” (lo-tso); “fighter plane” was “hummingbird” (da-he-tih-hi); “America” was “our mother” (ne-he-mah); and so on. Next, each letter of the Roman alphabet was given up to three corresponding Navajo words. For example, “A” could be encoded as wol-la-chee (“ant”), be-la-sana (“apple”), or tse-nill (“axe”). “N” was tsah (“needle”) or a-chin (“nose”). Using this system, the Navajos could spell any English word while minimizing the repetitions that might allow enemy listeners to break the code.

In August 1942, the first group of Navajo code talkers completed their training and reported for duty at Guadalcanal. They were assigned to combat units and given field telephones and radios to transmit bombing coordinates, tactical orders, troop movements, etc. Messages written in English were encrypted by a code talker and radioed to a compatriot who had committed the entire code to memory. He would render the message back into English and pass it along; the written copies were destroyed immediately. In his memoir, Code Talker, Chester Nez recounted his first transmission: Beh-na-ali-tsosie a-knah-as-donih ah-toh nish-na-jih-goh dah-di-kad ah-deel-tahi (“Enemy machine gun nest on your right flank. Destroy”).

Three of the original code talkers being honored by President George Bush in 2001

All told, more than 400 Navajo code talkers served in WWII. They played key roles in every major Marine engagement in the Pacific, including Okinawa, Tarawa, Bougainville, Saipan, Guam, and Peleliu. At Iwo Jima, six code talkers worked round the clock for the first two days of the battle, relaying more than 800 messages without error. According to Major Howard Connor, a signal officer in the 5th Marine Division, “were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”

The Japanese were skilled code breakers, yet they never managed to decipher the Navajo code. Even a Navajo soldier captured at Bataan (who was untrained as a code talker) could make neither heads nor tails of the encrypted messages he was forced to listen to–the strings of unrelated words sounded like gibberish to him. After the war, he told his Navajo comrades, “I never figured out what you guys who got me into all that trouble were saying.”

In addition to storming beaches, hunkering down in foxholes, and enduring the stifling heat and humidity of jungle combat, the code talkers faced an unexpected danger: U.S. soldiers who mistook them for the enemy. At Guadalcanal, a Navajo named William McCabe was in a chow line when someone yelled, “Halt, or I’m gonna shoot!” and dragged him off to be interrogated. Chester Nez was “captured” by US troops on the island of Anguar. They put a .45 pistol to his head and accused him of being a Japanese soldier impersonating a Marine. A superior officer had to step in to defuse the situation.

Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton hosts a commemoration ceremony for the Navajo Code Talkers at 1st Marine Division Headquarters, Sept. 28, 2015.

(USMC photo by Cpl. Asia J. Sorenson)

After the war, Nez and his fellow code talkers returned to face the hardships of life on the reservation. New Mexico did not grant Navajos the right to vote until 1948. Jobs were scarce, and although the G.I. Bill provided veterans with financing for a home loan, many banks refused to grant loans to Navajos because they held reservation land parcels in trust and had no proof of title. When he went to a federal building in his USMC uniform to register for an identity card, Nez was told that he wasn’t a “full citizen” of the United States. To make matters even more difficult, the Navajo code was so valuable that the program remained classified for more than two decades after the war. The code talkers weren’t allowed to discuss the details of their service, and their incredible skill and bravery went unrecognized.

Thankfully, all that changed in 1968, when the code program was finally declassified. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon presented the code talkers with a certificate of appreciation for their “patriotism, courage, and resourcefulness.” In 2001, the original members of The Navajo School were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. Theirs is one of the most incredible stories of WWII: As boys, they were forbidden to speak their native language. As young men, they used that same language to save thousands of American lives, help to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific, and create one of the only unbroken codes in the history of modern warfare.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.