Aliens have had a constant home in the minds of sci-fi enthusiasts and space nerds. The concept of extraterrestrial contact has been the centerpiece of many great movies, books, and games. Inevitably, if you’re talking about the arrival of an alien life form, the conversation turns itself toward a single question: How would Earth defend against an alien invasion?
Yes, Earth is home to the United States Marines, but we certainly can’t rely on a fighting force using broken, outdated equipment to take on a technologically superior race that has figured out faster-than-light travel. But just because we’re outgunned doesn’t mean we’ll ultimately fail.
That’s where The Infographics Show comes in. Not only have they created a solid defense strategy, they’ve also broken it down into three phases — a whole two phases shy of your brand new lieutenant’s plan to raid a single compound. The best part is, their plan revolves around something we’ve learned from history — if you don’t have the tech to fight even, just fight dirty.
Here’s how they break it down:
Would you believe that these expensive pieces of technology can be destroyed by an object as small as a paint chip?
Phase 1 — Using space debris
Essentially, a piece of space debris as small as a screw could destroy non-shielded spacecraft just coming out of light-speed to enter Earth’s orbit. We could send missiles to destroy our own satellites to create a shield of debris around the planet, which will either destroy a large amount of alien spacecraft or, at the very least, hinder their ability to enter orbit, which would buy us enough time to prepare for the second phase.
Give ’em the ol’ razzle dazzle.
Phase 2 — Attack during entry
When a shuttle re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it experiences heat of up to 21,140 degrees Fahrenheit due to friction with the air. The extreme heat and thermal energy disrupts many communications devices and on-board sensors.
If an alien spacecraft experiences those same effects, the moment of entry into our atmosphere would be a great time to use a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, intercepting incoming spacecraft that, without sensors, would be difficult to see coming.
Then, we prepare for phase three.
This wouldn’t be our first choice if our aim is to survive.
(U.S. Department of Defense)
Phase 3, Option 1 — Nukes
If the invading aliens are anything like us, they’re probably coming to Earth to colonize it. In that case, we could prepare all of our nuclear weapons and hold our own planet hostage.
If these aliens are, in fact, hostile and wish to cleanse the planet of our filthiness, then we threaten to detonate the nukes, which would render the planet uninhabitable and many of our resources unusable.
If our invaders are coming from a distant planet, light years away, their continued siege might prove very costly. After all, interstellar logistics are probably pretty complex. So, humans could resort to making life on Earth as nightmarish as possible by operating as small, guerrilla outfits.
It’d be something like the Vietnam War. Over time, the cost of war may eclipse any potential rewards, and the aliens will withdraw… hopefully.
President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on April 3, 2018, that he would dispatch US troops to the US-Mexico border.
“Until we can have a wall and proper security we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” he said, according to Reuters correspondent Phil Stewart. “That’s a big step.”
Trump said he had spoken with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about “guarding our border with the military … until we have a wall,” according to David Nakamura of The Washington Post. “We really haven’t done that before, or certainly so much before.”
Trump’s comments come after several days of comments about an annual “caravan” of mostly Central American migrants started a trip from the southwest corner of Mexico aiming to reach the US border, where many would seek asylum.
Trump inveighed against the group, against what he perceived as Mexico’s failure to stop them, and against what he sees as weak US immigration policy that has led to such migration. Mexican immigration officials moved to break up the group on April 2, 2018, but Trump again commented on the caravan’s movement on April 3, 2018.
“If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic … it’s like we have no border,” Trump said on April 3, 2018. “They did it because you really have to do it,” he added, referring to Mexico’s decision to halt the movement.
(Photo by Sgt. Jim Greenhill)
“The caravan doesn’t irritate me,” Trump said. “The caravan makes me very sad that this could happen to the United States.”
“President Obama made changes that basically created no border,” he said.
Trump has reference the military in discussions of border security and immigration enforcement before.
A few weeks after taking office, Trump described the removal of authorized immigration by his administration as “a military operation,” a comment that contrasted with other officials in his administration, who stressed that deportations would not be pursued en masse or in the style of a military operation. Sean Spicer, then the White House press secretary, later clarified that Trump was using the term “as an adjective.”
In late March 2018, Trump floated the idea of redirecting funds from the defense budget toward funding the wall he has promised to build on the frontier. The project is currently under the purview of the Homeland Security Department.
The Pentagon said Trump had discussed the matter with Mattis, however Pentagon and Congressional officials both said it would take an act of Congress to shift those funds. During a trip to Mexico in September 2017, Mattis highlighted the US and Mexico’s close cooperation and mutual concerns, and, when asked about the border wall, said the US military had no role in enforcing the border.
A Pentagon official was not immediately available to comment on Trump’s latest remarks.
J. D. Pardo and Vincent Vargas in ‘Mayans M.C.’ (FX)
Lockdown measures have meant that almost everyone is spending nearly all their time on Twitter. Those familiar with the social media platform would know that every new day during these difficult times sees a new celebrity being canceled. One of those celebrities was Adam Driver, for his supposed Islamophobic sentiments for enlisting.
On April 20, the hashtag #adamdriverisoverparty started trending on Twitter after a 2019 interview of the actor resurfaced. In the interview, Driver spoke about how he joined the Marines after 9/11 because he felt a deep desire for retribution against an invisible and unknown enemy.
“It wasn’t against Muslims,” he said. “It was: We were attacked. I want to fight for my country against whoever that is.”
What followed was a horde of Twitter users using Driver’s comments to accuse him of being Islamophobic and launching the hashtag. “#AdamDriverIsOverParty forget that ugly Islamophobic troll stream my amy adams fancam,” said one.
‘Mayans M.C.’ actor Vincent Vargas spoke to MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) on what he thought about Driver being subjected to the cancel culture. He said, “I think right now, people are completely polarized and completely divided on opinions on everything in the world. I believe they took Adam Driver’s quotes on what he talked about, why he wanted to serve our country and turned it against him as if he [were] an Islamophobe.”
He added, “I just didn’t think it was fair to someone who [served] our country, someone who decided to join for whatever reasons that might be and then to turn around and try and damage his career because of unpopular opinions of other people. It’s a small demographic of individuals that use social media to essentially bully someone on their own opinion.”
Vargas also said that Driver’s 2019 interview might have resurfaced as people are bored of being on quarantine and stuck indoors. He added that Driver is “a brilliant actor,” and that he did not think “any kind of assumption of his character is going to ruin his career.” Vargas said, “Whatever they took out of context, that’s on them.”
He said, “For it to kind of blow-up again was kind of weird. I was almost amazed by it and kind of blown away that someone who serves in America, who [makes] the kind of entertainment that we enjoy that is mostly made in America — the land of opportunity that actors from other countries come to — was [bashed].”
Vargas believes that it’s “honorable and commendable” that Driver chose to serve in the war, whether “people believe in the [purpose of the] war or not.” He said, “[Driver] was trying to serve a greater purpose than himself.”
Vargas himself is a veteran. The actor enlisted for the military and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2007 and did three tours. At the time, Vargas enlisted partly for financial reasons. He had a child he needed to support, but also because he wanted to do his part to help. He said, “I wanted to try and do it the right way and try and do special operations.”
The actor was part of both Operation Iraqi Freedom (the United States’ invasion of Iraq from 2003 to 2011) and Operation Enduring Freedom (what the Global War on Terrorism was called by the United States government).
Vargas was sent to learn Pashtu for several months so he could communicate with the Afghani population in the hills. He said he would check on them to see how things were going as well as to establish that “we’re here looking for terrorist fighters.”
Vargas said there was an interesting dynamic between the soldiers and the civilians of those countries. He told MEAWW, “Are we there for the right reasons? That’s a question to answer, but I’m here to do [the] job that has been asked of me by the military.”
On being asked his opinions on the civilian casualties during the United States’ operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vargas said, “I think we all know and [have] seen that there are civilian casualties in war all the time and it’s a super unfortunate thing to happen.”
He added, “It’s obviously not something I condone or support but I also know that there’s this crazy thing that happens in the fog of war and it’s unfortunate. It’s unfortunate that a lot of terrorist acts happened in our country and some civilians, innocent people, and bystanders get hurt in those as well. When you have a country at war, those things are to be expected and it’s not a good thing. It’s not something to be proud of, but it is something that we have to acknowledge exists.”
Vargas plays the role of Gilberto “Gilly” Lopez on FX’s ‘Mayans M.C.’. Crucially, he also serves as a technical advisor on the show. Vargas tells us that it is just him and Tyler Grey (of ‘SEAL Team’) who are veterans who served in active combat duty who work as actors on mainstream television today.
Vargas said, “I believe it’s kind of my place to make sure that veterans are represented in the right light and not to be bashed on for serving our country. Think about Hollywood. In the 50s and 60s, it was [run] by veterans who served in Vietnam and before that in World War 2.”
As the technical advisor, Vargas helps make sure that everything done on the show regarding law enforcement, military, and border patrol are authentic. When the writers want to include material on those aspects, Vargas, makes sure that it is something that is correct and “valid toward the truth.”
While it may seem that veteran representation in Hollywood is aplenty, veterans often lament that their on-screen counterparts are often portrayed in extremes. Veteran Chris Marvin told the New York Times that veterans were being stereotyped by what he believes has become the dominant image on television and in Hollywood today: the “broken hero,” as he puts it, “who once did incredible things but is now forever damaged and in need of help.”
“The truth is, 99 percent of us are neither heroic nor broken,” Marvin said. “We are people — people the public has invested in who have a lot of potential. And it’s time to get over the pity party.”
Marvin believed that the portrayals may color the public’s perceptions, causing people to think that veterans are more likely to be unemployed and to commit suicide than their civilian peers, which he insisted is not true.
The U.S. Army began fielding M17 and M18 Modular Handgun Systems to the Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood in December 2018 to replace the force’s aging Beretta M9, a weapon that has been in use since the mid-1980s and is quickly reaching its serviceability limits.
Sporting an integrated rail system, a polymer grip module and self-illuminating sights, the modernized 9 mm pistol produced by Sig Sauer couldn’t have come at a better time, according to Mark Farley, USAMPS deputy commandant.
“The (Beretta M9s) we currently have are breaking more often, which causes readiness issues,” Farley said. He explained that the school’s M9s have fired on average about 20,000 to 30,000 rounds when a typical handgun will last through only about 10,000 before they start to have significant issues.
Gary Homer, USAMPS instructor, added, “With these 17 and 18s, you won’t get degradation of the barrel until after 25,000 rounds. The new MHS has an exponentially longer lifespan or life expectancy.”
Sig Sauer M18 Modular Handgun Systems
Homer said every MHS is test fired before leaving the factory with 13 rounds — three to break in the weapon and 10 to test accuracy. He said each one must hit 10 out of 10 at 25 meters in a smaller than 3-inch group attesting to the gun’s accuracy level.
Both Farley and Homer agree one of the biggest selling points of the new MHS is the modular grips, which come in small, medium and large that allow for the pistol to be modified to the individual shooter.
“The Military Police Corps, is about 16 percent female soldiers, so this is a big deal when you’re talking about soldier lethality and accuracy,” Farley said. “For all soldiers to be able to hold that weapon with a proper grip and use the right fundamentals of firing — it’s very important in order for them to be able to engage the target and thereafter. One size does not fit all.”
In addition to being able to add lights to the guns with the rail system, John Scarbrough, USAMPS instructor/writer, said another thing he likes about the modernized weapons is the consistent trigger. He said this will help the MP students coming through the school’s many courses.
“There is a more consistent trigger so you don’t have to get used to 12 and then a 4 1/2 or 5 1/2 pound trigger,” Scarbrough said. “Your first shot is the same as your 17th shot.”
He said the trigger pull in conjunction with the modular grips will improve overall accuracy.
“We have had students before who had to use two fingers to pull the trigger due to strength because of their hand position, or they’re holding the gun in an awkward position so it’s not managing recoil,” Scarbrough said. “Those are the two biggest things that I think will help out whomever is shooting them.”
Farley agreed and said it’s not just the equipment that’s being modernized. He said USAMPS recently changed their qualification tables as well.
“It came at the right time where we were trying to make training a little more stringent and harder. This gun won’t make it easier, but it will ease some of the transition on this new qualification table that is just now being exposed to soldiers in the field,” Farley said. “It wasn’t coordinated but it worked out well.”
Farley said they are excited about the new gun, adding that it’s long overdue. “The sooner we can get it fully fielded to the operational units and the full training base then operational readiness will be enhanced.”
So far the school has only received a few hundred of these systems, but is expecting to receive approximately 1,400.
Combat medics courageously fought to save lives as the war raged around them in Vietnam. Helicopters became virtual hospitals in the air, buying the combat medic valuable time to heal the wounded. When lives were on the line, it was a combat medic’s quick thinking that determined the fate of their fellow troop.
Max Cleland, who would later go on to be a US Senator, was saved by such courageous men after losing three limbs to an explosion. This is his story:
You might be wondering — what did these brave ‘docs’ carry with them on a daily basis? They played a vital role in operations, but you just might be surprised by the scarcity of their toolkit. Here’s what they were expected to carry on patrol.
Hospital Corpsman James Kirkpatrick (my handsome dad, on the right) gearing up to head out on patrol in Vietnam, 1968.
No such luck.
For the most part, the ground-pounders wore t-shirts, flak jackets, and many donned WW2-style helmets due to a lack of budget.
The helmets weren’t bullet-proof and were only intended to protect the troop from flying shrapnel — sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
Primary weapon system
Just like today, the docs of Vietnam served as riflemen until one of their brothers was injured. Most Corpsmen and medics carried M16A1 rifles with 10-14 magazines of 18 rounds. Their magazines could carry up to 20 rounds, but the majority of the grunts didn’t fill them to capacity in order to avoid a weapons malfunction.
The average doc carried a .45 caliber pistol with five to seven magazines of seven rounds each.
Medics SP4 Gerald Levy and Pfc. Andrew J. Brown with a wounded soldier and a paratrooper of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Bien Hoa, Vietnam.
(Photo by Horst Faas)
Docs also carried three to five hands grenades, which were worn either on the flak jacket or stuffed into cargo pockets, two to five flares to properly mark landing zones, and a “woobie” or poncho to stay as dry as possible.
And, of course, you couldn’t go on patrol without bringing enough packs of smokes to last you the duration. In the Vietnam era, patrols could last up to several days, depending on the mission.
Also, just like good docs today, they didn’t forget to stash away plenty of dry pairs of socks.
An unmarked med-bag
These green pouches were stuffed to the brim with abdominal dressings (large bandages), battle dressings (medium-sized dressings), four to five rolls of gauze, and five to ten morphine syrettes.
Today, morphine syrettes are considered serialized gear and a medic can be punished for losing one in the field.
Some corpsmen and medics carried an I.V. solution — if they could manage to hustle a bag or two away from the local medical aid station. In some cases, medevac helicopters would transport them to the on-ground medical personnel instead, as needed.
The newest “Star Wars” story has arrived on Disney Plus, and with it comes a whole new cast of interesting characters from around the galaxy. There is the unnamed title character, “The Mandalorian” himself, plus several others played by Carl Weathers, Werner Herzog, and more.
Keep reading for a list of all the major characters on “The Mandalorian” you should know. We’ll be updating this list with each new episode as new faces join the protagonist bounty hunter.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for “The Mandalorian” episode one.
Pedro Pascal as the bounty hunter in “The Mandalorian.”
The main character in “The Mandalorian” is an unnamed bounty hunter.
Known simply as the Mandalorian, not much was revealed about this guy other than his prowess for fighting and connection to the warriors of the planet called Mandalore. The Mandalorian says he was a “foundling” once, but has now become part of the Mandalorian troop. So far this mystery man hasn’t shown his face.
We know underneath is the face of actor Pedro Pascal, best known for his role as Oberyn Martell on “Game of Thrones” and Netflix’s “Narcos.”
Carl Weathers as Greef Carga on “The Mandalorian.”
Greef Carga is the man who gets the Mandalorian bounty assignments.
Greef Carga is the name of the man who the Mandalorian delivers his bounty assets to. Carga pays the Mandalorian, and then gives him info about an off-the-books job with a new client who has deep pockets.
Werner Herzog as the Client on “The Mandalorian.”
The Client is a mysterious man who commissions the Mandalorian for a new bounty hunt.
Similar to the Mandalorian, very little information about the “Client” is given on the first episode.
We know he has access to the rare metal called Beskar, and he wears an Imperial insignia — which means he’s still loyal to the fallen Empire. This was made clear thanks to his Stormtrooper bodyguards, too.
Omid Abtahi as Doctor Pershing on “The Mandalorian.”
Doctor Pershing appears to be working with the Client to try and acquire the Yoda-like baby.
When the Mandalorian gets his new assignment from the Client, a man named Doctor Pershing appears. This doctor seems to greatly prefer that the “asset” (aka the little baby Yoda-like being) is acquired alive.
The Client tells the Mandalorian he’ll pay out half of the bounty fee if the asset is killed, as long as the bounty hunter can confirm its death.
Nick Nolte is the voice of Kuill on “The Mandalorian.”
Kuill is an Ugnaught (a type of alien species) who helps the Mandalorian.
The Mandalorian follows the Client’s information to a new planet, where he’s quickly attacked by two Blurrgs. Kuill saves the bounty hunter, and helps him get to the building where the asset is being held.
Taika Waititi as IG-11 on “The Mandalorian.”
IG-11 is a bounty droid who was also commissioned to find the Yoda-like baby.
The Mandalorian encounters the IG-11 droid (voiced by “Thor: Ragnorok” director Taika Waititi) when he arrives to the compound. Together they kill the guards, but the Mandalorian soon learns that this droid’s orders are to terminate the asset.
The Mandalorian “kills” IG-11 to protect the baby. It’s possible we’ll see IG-11 again, since he can theoretically be repaired and restored to working order.
Gina Carano as Cara Dune on “The Mandalorian.”
Cara Dune is another outcast fighter we’ll meet later on the show.
On Sunday, we all sat in a bar, transfixed, as fans of other teams. There wasn’t a single Cleveland Browns jersey in sight, but the whole bar was whisper-quiet as we watched the Cleveland Browns kicker line up for a (almost literally) last-second field goal against the once-Cleveland based Baltimore Ravens. The kick wasn’t pretty, but it was good.
The entire room (and other sports bars in the area) erupted with thunderous cheer. The Cleveland Browns fought their AFC North rival for sixty minutes of game time and won only their second game of the 2018 season. For a brief moment, the Packers fans who watched the Lions stymie Aaron Rogers all day, Broncos fans who watched their team struggle for the second time in the same week, and even deflated Falcons fans had a reason to cheer. The NFL’s perennial underdogs managed to avoid another loss and everyone outside of Baltimore loved them for it.
And Jimmy Haslam hasn’t even paid me to say that.
And probably Eli Manning, too.
The ‘Factory of Sadness’ is closed
Much like the rest of the history of manufacturing in the Great Lakes area of the United States, this factory has closed and moved away from the area. Instead of Mexico, that factory has moved its production to the Meadowlands. Sorry, New Yorkers. But hey, at least you have the Yankees forever.
While two wins may not excite anyone from other franchises (the Lions are so 2008), for Cleveland fans and the team’s admirers, many of whom came from watching the 2018 season of HBO’s Hard Knocks, another notch in the W column means more than just a win over the team who stole the Cleveland franchise from a loyal city and fanbase — it means making the most of a bad situation.
The Browns’ constant struggle stretches way beyond the last few years. Frustrated Browns fans have been consistently disappointed in their hometown team for almost two decades after the Browns were reborn as an expansion team in 1999 – with the exception of a Wild Card Playoff appearance in 2002. The team’s lackluster gameplay in all but two seasons in that span made for a lot of very disgruntled fans.
But the days of shouting at an empty stadium are over. After the winless 2017 season — and actually going 1-31 over two seasons — fans of the Browns began to embrace their ever-present struggle. Instead of constantly berating the seemingly-hapless leadership who drafted QB after QB, always making way for the next flash-in-the-pan, fans began to hope for the best, even if “the best” meant a single win here and there.
They were going to laugh along — but let the Browns know they were fed up.
After the end of the 2017 season, fans held a Perfect Season Parade, attended by thousands and marked with a pickup truck sponsored by a Funeral Home, complete with a casket on the back and headstones of every Browns quarterback since 1999. The parade drove around FirstEnergy Stadium, a message to owner Jimmy Haslam.
Browns Fan Chris McNeil organized the parade. And the city of Cleveland was happy to oblige him.
Even if Haslam didn’t get the message, the rest of the country sure did. At the start of the 2018 season, Bud Light set up “Victory Fridges” around Cleveland, connected to Wifi, set to open via electromagnets when Cleveland won their first game since Week 16, 2016. Each fridge contained 200 cans of Bud Light that would be free to any Browns fan. Their Week 1 tie against the Steelers wasn’t enough.
The fridges opened after the Browns’ 21-17 upset win (at home!) against the New York Jets, complete with by a touchdown catch from Browns QB Baker Mayfield and a — probably the only interesting Thursday Night Football (TNF is boring and I’m not alone in thinking so) game we’ll see all year long. And while Carlos Hyde’s touchdown run was critical to the Browns’ win, I watched in amazement as a bar in Los Angeles erupted in cheers for Joe Schoebert’s game-winning interception.
And I wasn’t even at a sports bar. The Victory Fridges opened, the spell was broken, and the Browns suddenly became “America’s Team.” Sorry, Jerry Jones.
Cleveland Browns fans’ newest trend is the “Rally Possum,” referring to an actual possum roaming around FirstEnergy Stadium, caught by a Browns fan during their win against the Jets. A possum was sighted again before the Browns played the Ravens in Cleveland.
Infantry have long been looking for a way to deal with tanks. Today, missiles like the FGM-148 Javelin and BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) can give even the lightest of infantry forces the ability to give an armored unit a bloody nose.
In World War II, those lethal tank-killers weren’t around, but the need for a tank-killer a grunt could carry was obvious. After all, the Nazis used the blitzkrieg tactic across Europe to great effect. The Americans had an decent anti-tank grenade, but it was so heavy that the effective range made using it like a grenade suicidal.
Then someone had the bright idea to make the grenade a rocket. The M1 bazooka entered service in 1942. According to modernfirearms.net, the M1 fired a 60mm M6 anti-tank rocket that had an effective range of about 300 yards. It could do a number on a Nazi tank – and many Nazi tank crews were unavailable for comment about the bazooka’s effectiveness.
Like the modern FGM-148 Javelin, the bazooka had a two-man crew. But while the Javelin has a range of just over one and half miles, the bazooka couldn’t even reach one-fifth of a mile. Still, though, it was a major improvement over nothing.
The crews had to be well-trained to handle this weapon. Part of the problem was that for a simple-looking weapon, the bazooka was complex. Among things crews had to be careful of were broken wires (the weapon fired electically), drained batteries (the ones shown in the film seem to be AA batteries like you’d use in a remote), or a dirty trigger mechanism.
The bazooka served in World War II and the Korean War. By the end of World War II, it had shifted from a tank-killer to being used as a light infantry support weapon, largely because tanks like the German Tiger and the Russian T-34 were shrugging off the rockets.
The way the leader of tightly controlled Turkmenistan sees it, there’s an ancient remedy for warding off the coronavirus: burning a wild herb known as hamala.
Belarus’s authoritarian president had similarly folksy advice for cabinet ministers and his fellow countrymen: go out and work in the fields. And ride a tractor.
Global leaders and medical experts are struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, imposing quarantines, shutting down borders, mandating mask use, and bolstering the capabilities of infectious disease-fighting medical workers. Scientists, meanwhile, are rushing to find a vaccine and a cure for the disease that has killed more than 7,500 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Many officials are also struggling to prevent the spread of half-truths, misinformation, and unscientific remedies — something that is even harder in the era of social media and instantaneous communication — and even propaganda.
The coronavirus “outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ — an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” the WHO said in a report issued in early February.
Garlic, vitamin C, steroids, essential oils? Despite what you might read on Facebook or VK, the Russian social network, there’s no scientific evidence any of these things will combat the coronavirus.
With a view to highlighting the problem of misinformation, and nudging people toward reliable, authoritative sources, here’s a look at some of the more outlandish remedies that some leaders have – wrongly – suggested would help fight the coronavirus.
In Turkmenistan, one of the most oppressive societies in the world, the country has been ruled for years by authoritarian leaders with a penchant for quixotic quirks and health recommendations.
Before his death in 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov, who called himself the Father Of All Turkmen, routinely dispensed spiritual guidance, not to mention public-health advice, to the country, messaging that was widely disseminated by state TV and newspapers. In 2005, the country’s physicians were ordered to spurn the Hippocratic Oath — the ancient pledge used worldwide by medical workers — and instead swear an oath to Niyazov, an electrical engineer by training.
His successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, is a dentist by training. But that hasn’t stopped him from building a personality cult similar to Niyazov’s — or from offering unfounded medical advice, most recently on March 13, when he chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the looming dangers of the coronavirus.
“Over the millennia, our ancestors have developed proven national methods of combating addictions and preventing various infectious diseases,” he said.
He went on to suggest that burning an herb known as hamala, or wild rue, would destroy viruses “that are invisible to the naked eye.”
In fact, this is not true.
In December, Turkmen state TV featured a program discussing veterinary remedies for farmers coping with an outbreak of disease among cattle. Among the remedies being offered were those featured in a book authored by Berdymukhammedov.
A year earlier, the Health Ministry offered medical advice to Turkmen dealing with summer respiratory ailments. Among the tips: “use medicinal teas scientifically described in the book of … Berdymukhammedov’s Plants of Turkmenistan.”
As of March 18, Turkmenistan had reported no confirmed cases of infection.
Reap What You Sow
Over more than two decades of ruling Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has also routinely dispensed folksy wisdom to his countrymen.
Prior to the presidency, Lukashenka headed a Soviet-style collective farm operation, which is where he has drawn his suggestions and medicinal folklore from in the past.
On March 16, he hosted a meeting of cabinet officials in Minsk, where he sought to head off mounting concerns about the coronavirus in the country. As of March 17, it had 17 confirmed cases.
At the meeting, which was televised on state TV, he told officials “we have lived through other viruses. We’ll live through this one,” he said.
“You just have to work, especially now, in a village,” Lukashenka said. “In the countryside, people are working in the fields, on tractors, no one is talking about the virus.”
“There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone,” he said.
Lukashenka wished his ministers good health and offered this other piece of health advice: Go have a good sweat in a dry sauna; the coronavirus, according to Lukashenka, dies at 60 degrees Celsius.
In fact, there’s no evidence that tractors, saunas, or fieldwork have any effect on the coronavirus.
As of March 18, Serbia had 83 confirmed cases of the virus.
Three weeks prior, as officials across the world were beginning to take concerns about the coronavirus’s spread seriously, President Aleksandar Vucic met with health specialists to discuss the measures being taken by his government.
He joked that alcohol — ingested — might very well be a useful salve.
“After they told me — and now I see that Americans insist it’s true — that the coronavirus doesn’t grow wherever you put alcohol, I’ve now found myself an additional reason to drink one glass a day,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with that alcohol [liquor], I just made that up for you to know.”
It didn’t help matters that, earlier on, Vucic’s foreign minister, had gone on Serbian TV to suggest that the virus was a foreign plot targeting the Chinese economy.
Belarus’s Lukashenka, meanwhile, echoed Vucic’s quip about vodka himself earlier this week.
“I’m a nondrinker, but recently I’ve been jokingly saying that you should not only wash your hands with vodka, but that probably 40-50 grams of pure alcohol will poison this virus,” Lukashenka said.
In fact, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure the coronavirus, or any other virus inside the body. Alcohol can, in fact, help kill germs and viruses externally, but washing your hands with vodka will not.
Holy Water, Holy Virus
While political leaders have been confusing people with unhelpful medicinal folklore, they aren’t the only leaders to do so.
Some clerics in a number of Orthodox countries — Russia included — have spurned medical guidance that has warned the coronavirus can be transmitted via close physical contact, or bodily fluids, such as droplets in the air, or saliva on utensils.
Metropolitan Ilarion, a top official in the Russian Orthodox Church, told state media that the church will not be closing parishes for services during the period leading up to Easter, which is to be celebrated on April 19.
Ilarion also told Rossia-24 TV that church leaders do not believe that any “virus or disease can be transmitted through communion” — the religious rite of eating bread and sipping wine during a church service.
Still, he indicated that the church would consider changes to things like the use of a communion spoon, used to give blessed wine to parishioners.
“But if it comes to bans or recommendations that we are obliged to follow, then in some cases single-use [disposable] spoons will be used,” he said.
On March 17, he went further.
“This does not mean that the church underestimates the threat. If the virus spreads and the number of infected grows, if new orders from the authorities appear regarding the fight against the coronavirus, the church will respond to them,” he was quoted as telling Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
He said church leaders were taking other unusual steps, including the use of disposable cups, disposable rubber gloves, and a suspension of the practice of kissing the cross or religious icons — a common practice in Orthodox tradition.
Two days earlier, however, at least one Orthodox parish, in the Volga River city of Kazan, was using a reusable “holy spoon” to administer communion wine.
As of March 18, Russia had 114 confirmed cases.
Meanwhile, in Georgia (38 confirmed cases), Orthodox priests were reportedly continuing to use a common spoon to ladle communion into the drinking cups of worshippers who chose that option. And the Greek Orthodox Church also echoed Ilarion’s unfounded insistence that viruses could not spread via Communion.
Other Georgian Orthodox priests, meanwhile, took to the roads this week to try and curtail, or cure, the coronavirus, driving around Tbilisi sprinkling holy water on cars and drivers alike.
There’s a certain relationship between students and teachers. After you’ve been teaching someone for long enough, they’ll feel like family to you. While that usually means stepping up for them when they’re being pulled, Professor Charlotta Turner at Sweden’s Lund University went the extra mile when one of her doctoral students was being held up by ISIS fighters in Northern Iraq.
She hired a band of mercenaries to save her student and his family and bring them home. Meanwhile, my college professors had to be pestered into posting my grades for the semester.
This was the factory where Jumaah and his family had to hide.
(Photo by Firas Jumaah)
It was in August 2014 when Professor Turner, a kindly professor of analytical chemistry at one of Sweden’s most prestigious universities, received a text message saying that her student, Firas Jumaah, had to save his wife in Iraq. Jumaah’s family had gone back for a wedding when ISIS attacked the city of Sinjar.
The terrorists were massacring and enslaving the Yazidi people, the religious minority of which Jumaah and his wife belonged. So he hopped on the first flight back to Iraq and rescued his family, however, they were forced to hide in an old abandoned bleach factory to avoid further persecution.
He sent a message saying that if he wasn’t home within a week, to assume that the worst had happened, and to remove him from his doctoral program. Turner knew what needed to happen.
She said in an interview with the Lund University Magazine : “Those who can, do. Those who cannot, hire mercenaries to get Jumaah the hell out of there.” She continued “What was happening was completely unacceptable. I got so angry that IS was pushing itself into our world, exposing my doctoral student and his family to this, and disrupting the research.”
She went to the Dean at the Faculty of Science who was puzzled but ultimately signed off on her request. Next, she went to the University’s security director, Per-Johan Gustafson, who coincidentally was also moonlighting as the CEO of a private security company. Gustafson rallied his men, and they were sent out to Northern Iraq – all while ISIS was closing in on Jumaah.
Within days, the Swedish mercenaries had made it to the bleach factory. They were armed and ready. They supplied Jumaah, his wife and two kids, each with bullet-proof vests and helmets. They met little resistance but were forced to take the long route to safety to avoid ISIS checkpoints along the way.
They successfully made it to the Erbil Airport and were soon on their way back to Sweden to be reunited with his professor. Firas Jumaah has since been given permanent resident status in Sweden and started his own pharmaceutical company. Turner still works at Lund University.
A documentary was recently made to show the world the kindness of this exceptional chemistry professor.
According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.
Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.
Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.
“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”
In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.
Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.
“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”
The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”
The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”
Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.
Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.
“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.
“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”
The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.
Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.
Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.
“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.
“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”
Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.
“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.
“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”
Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.
“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.
Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.
“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”
As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.
In 1862, the Union Army was in striking distance of Richmond and the Union commander hoped to wrap up the entire war with just a few more engagements, but surprising aggression by the Army of Northern Virginia’s new commander would cause a Union defeat, leading to two more years of warfare.
Union Gen. George B. McClellan had been making his way towards Richmond as part of the Peninsula Campaign in 1862, but Gen. Robert E. Lee attacked and managed to turn the skittish McClellan south.
(James F. Gibson, Library of Congress)
In May 1862, the Union’s top officer was Gen. George B. McClellan, a railroad man turned military officer. While he had many drawbacks, his organizational skills were top notch and he had managed to fight way into position just miles east of Richmond, the political and industrial heart of the Confederacy. If he could capture the city, the Confederacy would fall apart or be forced to withdraw south to Atlanta or another city while losing massive amounts of manufacturing power.
And, the Confederacy had just fought a stalemate at the Battle of Seven Pines. Both sides claimed victory, but the Confederate commander was wounded and the Southern president promoted Gen. Robert E. Lee to the position. Lee was known for caution at this point in the war, and McClellan decided to take time to wait for good weather and reinforcements before pressing his attack home.
It was a hallmark of McClellan’s actions during the war, and it gave Lee time to order a large network of trenches dug, allowing him to defend the city with a small force while preparing the larger portion of his army for a much more aggressive move. Lee didn’t want to just defend Richmond, he wanted to attack the Union force’s supply lines, forcing a retreat.
A sketch and watercolors depiction of the Battle of White Oak Swamp, one of the Sevens Days Battles.
(Alfred Waud, Library of Congress)
The Union Army in the field was much larger than the Confederates’, 100,000 facing 65,000. But the Union Army was fighting far from home and needed over 600 tons of supplies per day, almost all of it shipped by rail and packtrain from northern cities.
Lee began his assault when the Union Army was sitting astride the Chickahominy River with a third of it on the northern side and two-thirds on the southern side. That meant that Lee could attack the northern side and potentially even destroy the railroad there before the rest of the Union forces could get into position to fight him.
On day two, Jackson once again ran into trouble and Union forces were able to regroup, forming a united front against the Confederate forces. But McClellan still didn’t press home his numerical advantage, withdrawing under the assumption that the aggressive Lee outnumbered him.
On June 28 and 29, the Confederate forces were able to launch successful attacks against the retreating Union forces, but they were unable to land a crippling blow. And so, McClellan was able to reach a great defensive position on July 1. From Malvern Hill, he could defend against any number of Confederate attacks.
In the end, the Confederacy lost approximately 20,000 men while the Union lost 15,000.
McClellan’s failure to capture Richmond in 1862 caused the Civil War to drag on for two more years.
(Kurz Allison, Library of Congress)
But while Lee had failed at his goal of landing a significant blow against Union forces, but he had succeeded in his larger goal. McClellan had been mere miles from Richmond and on the offensive, but one week later he was driven south, begging for more troops and supplies before he would attack again. Instead, he let Lee rebuild his forces and move north, achieving another victory at the Second Battle of Bull Run and opening the door for Lee’s first invasion of the North.
Lee, previously known for his caution, had gone on the offensive despite being outnumbered, and it had saved the capital and its industry. McClellan would later lose his command, partially because of the failure to attack Richmond and his failure to attack off of Malvern Hill.
Lincoln would have to go search for his own Lee, his own aggressive general to carry the attack against the enemy, to force the initiative. It took Lincoln another few years to get him into position, but this would eventually be Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, a man known at the time for his alcohol consumption and his butchery, but now possibly known best for receiving Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, propelling Grant to a successful 1868 presidential run.
China’s navy needs Maverick and Goose — and many, many more fighter jocks for its growing carrier force.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy is desperately searching for pilots to fill its carrier air wings as the country pushes to build a formidable carrier fleet.
The PLAN launched its 2019 pilot recruitment program Sept.15, 2018, with “the highlight of this year’s recruitment [being] the selection of future carrier-borne aircraft pilot cadets,” according to the Chinese military, which noted that as China’s armed forces shift from “shore-based” to “carrier-based” abilities, the PLAN intends to develop a pilot recruitment system “with Chinese naval characteristics that can adapt to carrier-borne requirements.”
The language appears to indicate a strategic shift from home defense to power projection on the high seas, thinking consistent with Chinese efforts to build an advanced blue water navy.
The lack of pilots trained for carrier-borne operations and combat has been a problem for China in recent years. “They don’t have a whole lot of pilots. Not a lot of capacity in that area,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained to Business Insider in August 2018.
By the end of 2016, there were only 25 pilots qualified to fly China’s carrier-based fighters, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported Sept. 18, 2018.
A J-15 fighter jet sits on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning.
(Photo by Zhang Lei)
Recruiters will travel across the country to 23 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions to find suitable navy aviators. “Some of the pilot cadets recruited in 2018 will receive the top and most systematic training as carrier-borne aircraft pilots,” a PLAN Pilot Recruitment Office official revealed.
Pilots selected and trained to fly carrier-based aircraft will fly the fourth-generation Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, the heaviest carrier-based fighter jet in operation today and the type of fighter that composes the carrier air wing for China’s only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
The ongoing recruitment program, according to SCMP, marks the first time the Chinese navy has directly recruited pilots for the J-15, a problematic derivative of a Soviet prototype which has been blamed for several fatal training accidents. In the past, aviators from the navy and air force who were trained to fly other types of aircraft were pulled to fly the J-15.
A J-15 ship-borne helicopter prepares to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning.
(Photo by Zhang Lei)
“Becoming a naval pilot is the best choice for those who want to become heroes of the sky and the sea,” the Chinese military stressed on Sept. 18, 2018, emphasizing the Chinese military’s interest in developing advanced power projection capabilities.
China is rapidly building an aircraft carrier fleet with one carrier already in service, another undergoing sea trials, and a third in development, but China is still very new to complex carrier operations. Chinese Navy pilots successfully completed their first nighttime takeoffs and landings in May 2018.
“An elite team among the pilots also has carried out night landings, widely considered the riskiest carrier-based action, and have become capable of performing round-the-clock, all-weather operations,” the China Daily reported Sept. 19, 2018.
In addition to a pilot shortage, China still struggles with power and propulsion, aircraft numbers and reliability, carrier launch systems, and a limited experience with carrier operations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.