A group of scientists called the “Ring of Five” has been scouring Europe’s atmosphere for elevated levels of radiation since the mid ’80s.
In July 2019, the group released a study detailing evidence of an undisclosed nuclear accident that may have taken place less than two years prior. The likely culprit, the scientists said, was the Mayak nuclear facility in Russia, which was once the center of the Soviet nuclear-weapons program.
At the time of the alleged accident in 2017, Russian officials said the facility wasn’t the source of the release, even though the nation showed elevated levels of a radioactive isotope called ruthenium-106. Instead, officials in Russia attributed the radiation to an artificial satellite that burned up in the atmosphere.
But the latest Ring of Five study contradicts that account. Their research traced the source to an area of Russia known as the Southern Urals. The scientists also figured out that the release came from a nuclear reprocessing facility, which separates plutonium and uranium from spent nuclear fuel.
Georg Steinhauser, a professor at the University of Hanover in Germany and one of the study’s lead authors, said Mayak is the most likely place of origin because it’s the largest nuclear reprocessing facility in the area. The facility was the site of the 1957 Kyshtym explosion, the world’s third-worst nuclear accident behind Fukushima and Chernobyl.
The city of Ozyorsk was built around the Mayak plant, where a nuclear disaster took place in 1957.
Scientists ‘were stunned’ to find evidence of a nuclear accident in Russia
After the Chernobyl disaster sent plumes of radioactive material spiraling across Europe in 1986 , the scientists in the Ring of Five — who hailed from Sweden, Germany, Finland, Norway, and Denmark — enlisted the help of other nations to expand their efforts. The group now includes researchers from 22 countries.
The team first detected what they called “an unprecedented release” of ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere in Europe and Asia in 2017. The discovery marked the first time that ruthenium-106 had been found in the atmosphere since Chernobyl. Even the 2011 nuclear meltdown at Fukushima didn’t release detectable levels of that isotope.
“We were stunned,” Steinhauser told Business Insider. “We are measuring the air 24/7, 365 days a year, and suddenly we came up with something unusual and unexpected.”
For almost two years, the scientists traced the pathway of the radioactive isotope back to its original source by modeling atmospheric conditions such as altitude, wind direction, and the shape of the plumes.
Ultimately, they determined that all evidence pointed to the Mayak facility. Russia hasn’t issued a response to the finding.
Nadezhda Kutepova | Life in Russia’s secret nuclear city | Talk to Al Jazeera
The ‘single greatest release from nuclear-fuel reprocessing’ ever
The scientists don’t consider the levels of radiation they detected to be an immediate threat to people’s health, but the long-term consequences are unknown. Last year, France’s Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety determined that the levels of ruthenium-106 in the atmosphere do not pose danger to human health or the environment.
The nuclear release was “nothing compared to Chernobyl,” Steinhauser said. But he noted that it was still the “single greatest release from nuclear-fuel reprocessing that has ever happened.”
One unanswered question, he said, is whether the population near the Mayak facility ingested any radiation in their lungs. Steinhauser also said there could be reason to monitor food safety if radiation leaked into the soil and water.
“I’m not blaming Russia, because certain types of accidents are difficult to spot,” he said. “For me, it is about the lessons to be learned.”
After Fukushima, he said, Japanese officials shared information about the accident that helped improve the world’s safety regulations for nuclear power. In the wake of that disaster, the European Union began to require “stress tests” to evaluate the stability of nuclear reactors.
Steinhauser said the Ring of Five was “hopeful that Russia would have come forward” in 2017 in the same way Japan did in 2011. By revealing the mistakes that lead to the accident, he said, Russia could help make nuclear power safer than it was before.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s always brought up as a fun fact that, at one point in history, Australia sent troops on an “all-out” assault against emus that were destroying the Western Australian Outback. A while later, it was decided that the humans wouldn’t win and the history books marked a big ‘L’ for the Aussies in the Great Emu War of 1932.
When it’s put like that, it’s funny and makes a great fun fact that can be brought up whenever Australia’s military might is in question. But the thing is, Australia’s military kicks ass — and saying, “Australia lost a war against a bunch of flightless birds,” while sort of true, doesn’t really do what actually happened justice.
If there’s anyone who could actually be blamed for the perceived failure of the Great Emu War, it’s this guy, Sir George Pearce. The man who decided to set up the Australian Army for a lifetime of jokes.
The Australian government didn’t just decide to go on a mass Emu-killing spree out of the blue. It was in response to the destruction of farms caused by emus in their search for food and water. After WWI, Australia rewarded its returning veterans with farmland to call their own. The only stipulation was that this farmland was basically barren Outback that was plagued with native animals. The terrible soil didn’t leave farmers with many options in terms of crops, but wheat grew fairly well given the conditions. Unfortunately, wheat also attracted emus.
Of the nearly 5000 veterans who participated in the program, very few were able to grow crops without having them destroyed by hungry birds. Even fewer could afford to build fences to keep the emus at bay. The government, not willing to address the problem of terrible land quality, decided that the emu was entirely at fault for crops not growing.
It was declared by Western Australian Senator, Sir George Pearce, that veterans and troops should tackle the problem head-on and hunt the birds.
Good luck fighting an enemy too stupid to know it’s been shot four times with only enough ammo to take out half the population even if your aim is perfect.
The biggest misconception about the Emu War is that it was a massive assault staged by the Australian military. It wasn’t. It was literally just three men, a pick-up truck, two Lewis machine guns, and 10,000 rounds. There were veteran farmers who also took up arms, but only Major G.P.W. Meredith and his two gunners were officially at war.
That’s three men versus 20,000 massive birds.
Emus aren’t just large turkeys. They stand at an average height of six feet four inches, can run up to 31 mph, have the strongest legs of any animal, and can easily shred apart metal fences with their talons. As the three Aussie hunters found out, emus can take roughly five bullets before realizing they’ve been shot and ten rounds before they finally die.
Emus naturally flock in hordes of hundreds, which means that any time the hunters unloaded into the horde, the birds would quickly disperse into smaller mobs that scattered in different directions. With only so many guns, the hunters could only focus on those smaller mobs while the rest took off running.
If they aren’t in mobs, you’ll be searching for hours just to find one.
In that respect, the hunters were technically efficient. They managed to gun down a confirmed 986 emus over the span of a few weeks. Of the 9,900 rounds they used, they averaged out about one kill per ten or so rounds — the estimated number required to kill an emu. The three men also faced constant backlash from the news and local farmers during their hunt.
The media laughed at them for the absurdity of it all and dubbed it the “Great Emu War” to make light of the situation. It give readers a moment of levity during the otherwise-grim Great Depression. While the general population thought it was silly to send any troops after birds, the farmers were upset that the government sent only three guys to go solve a problem spanning an Australian state that’s twice the size of Alaska.
The hunters tried to give up several times because they knew how pointless it was — but each time, they were pushed back into hunting emus. Eventually, they gave up on December 9th, 1932, and everyone laughed at the three men for failing to do the impossible.
The only logical way to deal with the emus was what happened eventually. The government placed a bounty on the emus and let the farmers handle it — which they did very well. Over time, the farmers would collect a bounty on over 57,000 emus and the farms turned profitable again. It should also be noted that some farmers were smart enough to breed emus and collect a bounty on the birds they’d raised, but that was bound to happen.
All in all, the Aussies would eventually prevail over the emus. It just took more than three guys in a pick-up truck to do it.
The US has sent the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter into combat for the first time, CNN reported Sept. 27, 2018, citing defense officials.
A Marine Corps F-35B, launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, conducted an airstrike in support of ground clearance operations on a fixed Taliban target in Afghanistan Sept. 27, 2018, according to a statement from US Naval Forces Central Command. The Essex arrived in the Middle East in early September 2018, with the onboard F-35s being deployed for intelligence and surveillance operations in Somalia prior to operations in Afghanistan.
CNN’s Sept. 27, 2018 report follows an earlier post from Sept. 25, 2018, indicating that the F-35 could be deployed for combat within the next few days. In the aftermath of a US F-35’s first combat mission, the Marine Corps released a video on Twitter showing the plane taking off from and landing on the Essex.
“The F-35B is a significant enhancement in theater amphibious and air warfighting capability, operational flexibility, and tactical supremacy,” Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, said in a statement, “As part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, this platform supports operations on the ground from international waters, all while enabling maritime superiority that enhances stability and security.”
The most expensive weapons system in the history of the US military, the F-35 is a fifth-generation stealth fighter that has faced extensive criticism as numerous setbacks have hindered its deployment. The F-35B is designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, giving it the ability to be deployed from assault ships like the Essex, which is smaller than modern aircraft carriers.
The first reported F-35 combat mission was carried out by Israel in May 2018, when Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35A fighters participated in strikes on unspecified targets.
The Marine Corps variant — the F-35B — was the first to be declared combat ready. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni became the first overseas base to operate the F-35 in 2017.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Considering a new career? Good for you! As long as a mid-quarantine Breaking Bad binge didn’t give you any ideas. Besides being completely illegal, being a drug lord is harder than it looks. It’s nearly impossible, really. It’s obvious that you SHOULDN’T become a drug lord, but here’s a few reasons why you really can’t.
1. Real drug lords are generalists not specialists
Back in the days of Pablo Escobar if you were hitman, you were a hitman. A smuggler is dedicated to only smuggling. Modern Cartels need people who are good at a variety of things; brokering whole sale purchases for raw materials, cooking drugs, transporting, protecting the shipments, and murder. It’s very rare to find a kingpin who didn’t get an early start in the trade at an early age. Unless you’re 11 years old at the time of reading this article, you’re already too old to learn the trade and gain the connections necessary to thrive.
2. Most drug related professionals live below the poverty line
In fact, farmers sell 200 grams of raw unprocessed opium for $20 in Mexico. One can buy a garbage bag full of weed for $100 in Tijuana (allegedly). The profits are not there at entry level positions. There is a reason why only the dirt poor with no other prospects shake hands with organized crime. It’s that or starvation. You can rideshare or something legal.
3. Legit drug lords aren’t hiding from the virus
Mexican crime groups reportedly distributed aid packages to the local populace, branded with cartel insignia, and enforced COVID-19-related lockdown measures. Such activities, amplified on social media, appear to be intended to win the hearts and minds of local communities to support their criminal enterprises and attract recruits.
Mexican Drug Trafficking and Cartel Operations amid COVID-19 (IN11535)
If you refuse to put on a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19 then you will never be a drug lord.
4. They kill police and military sympathizers
Every 15 minutes there is a murder in Mexico. In 2020 alone, 464 police officers were killed.
5. Mexican politicians have perfected the game
Observers also are watching closely for further consequences resulting from the surprise U.S. arrest in October of former Mexican Secretary of Defense Salvador Cienfuegos on drug and money laundering charges. Responding to Mexican pressure, the United States agreed in November to drop the case and release Cienfuegos.
Mexican Drug Trafficking and Cartel Operations amid COVID-19 (IN11535)
So, not only is the world’s leading scumbags in villainy involved in every crime imaginable but they’re protected by the Mexican Government. This miscarriage of justice has been around for decades.
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Kiki Camarena was tortured and murdered in Mexico with the direct complicity of high-level Mexican officials.
Mexico is a cesspool from bottom up of corruption and filth. From the farmers to the politicians, there are many levels to the complacency in Mexico. Why anyone would want to be associated with cartel trash is ridiculous.
6. The super cartels are gone
Consequently, cartels operated like a drug trafficker union. They would set a standard price, divide operational costs, and split the profits. Now it’s just lawlessness and power struggles.
7. Marijuana is legal
In certain states, yes. Marijuana is legal and the country is moving toward federal legalization of the plant. You can legally make money in a gray area while the country makes the transition. There isn’t a need to risk your life when all you have to do is wait it out.
8. You’re not a main character in Netflix’s Narcos
Even Diego Luna didn’t want to meet Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, the antagonist he portrays in Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico. Narco’s style of mixing English and Spanish, fact and fiction, to portray the good guys and the bad guys is pretty cool. However, it’s just entertainment, not real life. Real narcos are a**holes.
He’s alive but I don’t want any connection to this man. The writing and documentaries are enough.
9. Drug lords are morons
In the clip, two cartel hitmen scope out a place as a recon element. Sometimes thieves pretend to be cartel members. This wannabe cartel member runs up to rob the pair of men but changes his mind at the last second. When he realizes he messed up and decides to retreat the real hitmen shoot at him. They wave their boss down that the coast is clear and then chase after the idiot.
10. Actual cartels traffic stolen oil
All that has changed over the past few years, as Mexico’s drug-trafficking cartels have moved to monopolize all forms of crime, including fuel theft, muscling out smaller operators with paramilitary tactics honed in the drug war. Black-market gasoline is now a billion-dollar economy, and free-standing gasoline mafias are gaining power in their own right, throwing a volatile accelerant onto the dirty mix of drugs and guns that has already killed some 200,000 Mexicans over the past decade.
Seth Harp, Rollingstone
Additionally, there are tons of documentaries on the diversification of the cartel portfolios. They treat their business like a corporation because the upper echelons are CEOs. It’s a monopoly and that’s why you’ll never be a drug lord.
Retired General David Petraeus shared lessons learned from over fifteen years of combatting terrorists and extremists in the Middle East and Afghanistan at a forum Sept. 13.
The takeaway: even with all the US’s military’s capabilities, you can’t “drone strike your way out of a problem.”
Speaking at the Intelligence Squared US debate at New York University with the Council on Foreign Relations’ Max Boot, Petraeus — who commanded US and NATO troops in Afghanistan and served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency under former President Barack Obama — discussed what he views as the five lessons the US should have learned from combatting Islamic extremism.
First, Petraeus said that “ungoverned spaces” in the Muslim world will be exploited by extremists. Second, Petraeus said you need to do something about it, because “Las Vegas rules don’t apply.”
“What happens there does not stay there,” Petraeus added.
Third, the US must lead the charge, Petraeus said, because the US has the assets and the expertise that is “proving revolutionary” even as the military has let other countries’ troops — like the Iraqi and Afghan armies — take the lead on the front lines.
“We are advising and assisting others, and enabling with this armada of unmanned aerial vehicles that a bunch of commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan and I very much sought more of,” Petraeus said, adding that it’s not just the hardware that gives the US an edge, but the manpower and technical knowledge of the people that deploy and operate it.
Fourth, Petraeus said, there’s a clear paradox at play when combating extremist movements — like the Islamic State or al-Qaeda — that are explicitly linked to ideology.
“You cannot counter terrorists like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda with just counterterrorist force operations,” Petraeus said. “You can’t just drone strike or Delta Force raid your way out of this problem. It takes a comprehensive approach.”
The comprehensive approach Petraeus advocated involves not only targeted raids and drone strikes, but a coordinated effort among military, diplomatic, and intelligence channels to change “hearts and minds,” impose the “rule of law,” and work towards reconciliation between opposing sides.
And fifth, Petraeus said, is understanding that these conflicts are “generational struggles,” and they’re not going to be solved in a year, or even a decade.
“It’s going to require a sustained commitment,” Petraeus said. “And in view of that, it has to be a sustainable sustained commitment.”
After Boot asked whether President Donald Trump’s administration was up to the task, Petraeus parried that the “generals” within the White House are highly experienced.
Specifically referring to H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, and Ricky Waddell, McMaster’s deputy, Petraeus said they understand the complexities of prosecuting the war against Islamic extremists.
“These generals know that every problem out there is not a nail, and you just can’t find a bigger hammer,” Petraeus said. “In fact, you generally need a stiletto.”
Petraeus did say that the state of the US’s diplomatic corps — with many crucial positions at the State Department still unfilled, or with acting leaders — is “definitely a big concern,” adding that it “carries much more weight” to have the Senate confirm people to those positions.
Ion Cristodulo, the political prisoner in charge of the casino restoration in the early 1950s, returning to the casino in Constanta in 1988.
BUCHAREST — When she was growing up in a small town in southern Romania, Laura Voicila was stigmatized by her father’s past.
In 1949, as the communists tightened their grip on the Eastern European country, Nicolaie Voicila, 17, was arrested and later sentenced to four years of hard labor for “plotting against the social order.”
His crime was joining a literary club at which members discussed the relatively new communist regime led by Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and hoped it would disappear.
The high school student was one of the thousands the communists incarcerated in prisons and labor camps after World War II, often simply because they had fallen afoul of the communist regime.
There are no universally accepted figures, but a 2006 presidential commission established to study the communist dictatorship said more than 600,000 Romanians were sentenced for political crimes between 1945 and 1989. Thousands died from beatings, illness, exhaustion, cold, or lack of food or medicine.
The secret note with political prisoners’ names written in charcoal that was found inside the casino wall.
Early Days Of Communism
Andrei Muraru, a historian and adviser to Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, told RFE/RL that in the early 1950s some 100,000 prisoners were sentenced to hard labor on a project called the Black Sea Canal, a 70-kilometer waterway connecting the Danube to the Black Sea. It was also known as the “Canal of Death.”
Voicila toiled there, transporting heavy loads of rock before he was sent to work restoring a casino, an architectural monument to art nouveau in the nearby port of Constanta that had been bombed by the Germans during the war.
He didn’t talk much about those experiences after his release — actually being forbidden from talking about his imprisonment — and his fear of discussing those hard times lingered even after communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was ousted and executed during the 1989 Romanian Revolution.
But he did tell family members that political prisoners had scribbled notes and buried them in the walls of the casino.
“When I was growing up, Dad told us: When they renovate the casino, go there and find the documents,” Laura Voicila told RFE/RL.
“Under communism, we discussed things very quietly and never in public,” she said. “Dad listened to Radio Free Europe and I would say ‘Dad, what are they saying in Germany (RFE was based in Munich from 1950-1995)? I even remember the jingle [that went with the news].”
Nicolaie Voicila in the 1960s after his release from prison.
At school in the town of Gorgota, Laura had top grades, but her father’s past meant she suffered discrimination.
“My teacher told me: ‘You should be the class leader, but we can’t make you one,” she said. “[My father] told me to study and to leave the country if I wanted a chance [in life].”
Laura kept the story about the hidden notes in the back of her mind, until one day in May this year.
Her mother called saying she had seen on the news that restorers had unearthed a scrap of paper hidden in a wall of the casino that was signed by political prisoners.
“When my mom heard a note had been found, she said ‘You have to go and see it.’ She was moved to tears. It was a moment of moral reparation for her [after nearly 70 years]. People saw [the note] was there and it was real,” she told RFE/RL.
In mid-May, after Romania lifted a state of emergency imposed to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Laura went with Apollon Cristodulo — the son of Ion Cristodulo, an architect and political prisoner in charge of restoring the casino — to Constanta to see the note firsthand.
The note — a scrap of paper torn from a cement sack with the names of 17 political prisoners written in charcoal and dated December 31, 1951 — is not much in itself, were it not for the dire circumstances that it was created under and its historical importance.
“It was found rolled up in a ball by a stained-glass window restorer. He was looking for some old shards of glass in the wall and he came across the paper. He felt there was something [special] about it,” Apollon Cristodulo said on July 23.
“It was miraculous that this note was found,” he said. “I wrote about the [hidden note at the] casino many years ago, but nobody believed it; they thought it was just a story, a legend…. But now everything I’ve written has come true.”
Cristodulo’s father died in 1991 aged 66, his health damaged by the harsh years of detention.
“His heart, liver, and lungs were all shot. He died after his fourth heart attack,” Cristodulo told RFE/RL.
Laura Voicila and Apollon Cristodulo outside the casino in Constanta on May 19.
Romania’s Political Prisons
Muraru, the former director of the governmental Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes, secured the first ever prosecutions of former prison commanders in Romania.
Alexandru Visinescu, who was in charge of the notorious Ramnicu Sarat prison, was sentenced in 2016 to 20 years in jail for the deaths of 12 prisoners at the institution. One year later, Ioan Ficior received the same term for crimes against humanity for his role in the deaths of 103 prisoners at the Periprava labor camp. Both have since died serving their sentences.
Muraru said the fact that the detainees managed to write the note was remarkable.
“This is a rare piece of testimony because prisoners didn’t have access to paper or pencils, but…there was less supervision and the presence of ordinary workers and more humane figures who could provide them with something to write with, and that made it possible for this scrap of paper to be secreted away and put [in the wall],” he told RFE/RL.
“It took decades for the traumatic memory of communism to finally settle,” he added.
Alexandra Toader, the current director of the institute said: “After 70 years, we have material confirmation of what happened [at the casino].”
She said the Securitate communist secret police conducted excavations at the casino in 1986 and may have found other documents which were archived, something Cristodulo also thinks is likely.
“We have 26 kilometers of Securitate archives, a sea of documents; but I’m not sure whether they are digitized or documented,” Toader told RFE/RL.
The institute will hold an exhibition at the casino “dedicated exclusively to this episode,” she said. “Hopefully we can obtain objects they used, letters they wrote to their families, their tools.”
Researchers are investigating the estimated 100 prisoners who worked on the casino, tracking down biographical information to try to find out what happened to them.
“Most prisoners were there for the flimsiest of reasons and they were there for years on end regardless of their age,” Toader said. “It was a pretext to get rid of the so-called ‘enemies of the people.'”
Cristodulo told RFE/RL that the documents about the Black Sea Canal are still classified by the secret service.
“There were 100,000 people who carried out forced labor…the documents need to be declassified,” he said.
Architect Radu Cornescu, Apollon Cristodulo, and Laura Voicila (left to right) at the shell wall inside the casino where the secret political prisoner note was found.
Nicolaie Voicila, who died in 1999 at the age of 66, dreamed of becoming an architect but the communists wouldn’t let him complete his education. He managed to qualify as a sub-engineer and became the manager of a cement site, forever inspired by the work he had done with the architects on the casino.
But he was traumatized his entire life by his past as a prisoner.
“He wasn’t allowed to speak or write down what happened and he thought they’d come and get him, so he had a lack of trust,” Laura Voicila said. “He didn’t trust people. He thought maybe a neighbor would find out about his past and he’d be in trouble.”
He did tell us that when he worked on the canal, prisoners were beaten “and others [were forced] to eat feces,” she said.
“Prisoners had to transport rocks and they’d walk along a 30-40 centimeter piece of wood over the canal with a wheelbarrow full of rubble. And if a prisoner fell off, nobody bothered to rescue him,” Laura Voicila said.
“There are many human bones buried in that canal,” she said. Muraru added that it is known as “the Romanian Siberia.”
The collapse of communism failed to bring the changes that Nicolaie Voicila and many others had hoped for.
“He realized the old communists had come to power and he lost hope he’d ever see real democracy,” the 42-year-old Laura Voicila, who runs a family fruit and vegetable supply business, said.
“He saw miners attacking anti-government protesters in 1990 and he said: ‘You see? People are being beaten and killed. It’s still the same old people.'”
It’s a sentiment shared by Paul Andreescu, the head of the Association of Former Political Prisoners in Constanta.
Andreescu was a political prisoner for five years because he joined a youth organization that wanted to “free Romania from the Russians and their demands, such as making Russian a mandatory language at school and learning the history of the Soviet Union,” he told RFE/RL.
“We are free, but far from what we dreamed of and what we had hoped for in 1989.”
As head of the Constanta branch, Andreescu said: “It’s very important we have this proof [of the note from the casino], even if there are just a few names. They show the ugly past of the Romanian people, when people had to perform forced labor under all kinds of conditions.”
He added: “They are witnesses, even if they are buried in a wall.”
Toader says it’s important that Romania knows its past.
“This subject is still largely unknown in schools and books, and detainees didn’t speak of their detention; even their memoirs are truncated out of fear or an attempt to forget,” she said.
“This is very relevant for the young generation, as some are nostalgic about communism,” she said in an interview at her Bucharest office.
“Extremes can’t be allowed, neither left nor right. The rule of law must prevail.”
Female sailors seem to be getting the hair regulations loosened to allow a more natural look. This (obviously) caused a gigantic backlash among male soldiers demanding the permitting of beards. Honestly, it doesn’t really make sense to disallow sailors to grow beards in the first place. After all, naval history tied to glorious beards, in both the U.S. Navy and around the world. As long as they keep their beards groomed, it’d be a boost to morale and it’d cut out the crappy rush to shave each morning.
But we’ll see. 7th Fleet will probably crash another ship into a civilian fishing vessel and blame it on sailors having beards instead of actually taking responsibility for it.
Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, sustained massive damage from a 70-ton crane falling on it after an accident at a shipyard, Russian media reports.
The Kuznetsov, a Soviet-era ship already known for having serious problems, now has a massive 214 square foot hole in its hull after a power supply issue flooded its dry dock and sent a crane crashing down against it.
Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Kuznetsov, is a floating hell for the crew
“The crane that fell left a hole 4 by 5 meters. But at the same time … these are structures that are repaired easily and quickly,” Alexei Rakhamnov, the head of Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation, told Russian media.
“Of course when a 70-tonne crane falls on deck, it will cause harm,” Rakhmanov continued, according to the BBC. “But according to our initial information, the damage from the falling crane and from the ship listing when the dock sank is not substantial.”
One of my NCOs gave me a copy of Joseph Heller’s satirical novel Catch-22 as a promotion gift when I became a captain.
It was an ironic gesture, given that he was probably the person I commiserated with the most about ridiculous military rules. Now, George Clooney has directed a six-episode adaptation of the book so you can relive the blood-boiling insanity of active duty all over again.
The series centers on Christopher Abbott’s Captain John Yossarian, a World War II bombardier going crazy trying to stay alive while his commanding officer, Colonel Cathcart (Kyle Chandler), tries to impress his superiors by continually increasing the number of missions his men must fly. Yossarian has already flown 50 and he wants out.
There’s a rule which allows pilots who are crazy to be grounded, but because being driven crazy by fear is fundamentally rational, he’s certified fit to fly. This is the titular catch-22 —and the reason everyone now knows the phrase.
In Heller’s words, “[He] would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”
The military’s response to logic.
Based on the jokes in the trailer, it looks like the series will attempt to capture Heller’s satirical commentary on the absurdity of war (especially when bureaucracies are involved) — and Heller wrote Catch-22 before the United States even became completely entrenched in asymmetrical war-fighting!
Any veteran, especially one who has served in combat or during wartime, can attest to the fact that military decision-making is often based on antiquated laws, procedures, and mindsets. While the United States has continued to maintain global military superiority thus far, we’re certainly not achieving our prime objectives so much as holding a defensive line — and we’re definitely not taking care of our service members the way we should (especially for the amount of money allotted in the defense budget).
Been there, buddy.
I have a feeling the series will capture what it feels like to serve in a system that expects its troops to “shut up and color,” rather than fostering innovation, mental health, and, oh I don’t know, watering the grass with water instead of blood blood blood?
The TV adaptation debuts on Hulu on May 17, 2019, and also stars Kyle Chandler, Hugh Laurie, Giancarlo Giannini, and Daniel David Stewart.
It was a cold February in 2014 when I was staying at a tiny U.S. Army installation right near the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea with the rest of my company. We hadn’t been there long before we got our first mail drop, right before Valentine’s Day. Some of us got care packages, but everyone in my platoon got a letter.
These letters were sent by elementary school kids back in the States — probably around third grade — and they were just as you’d expect: immaculate spelling, artwork that rivaled the classic greats, and fine calligraphy. Jokes aside, receiving that letter put me in an interesting head-space.
At that point, the war in Iraq had mostly died down. Marines were still being sent to Afghanistan, but just a handful of months prior, we were reflecting upon the 12th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks that kick-started the whole shebang.
1st platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in South Korea. C. 2014.
What I realized then and there is that, just a decade earlier, I was the elementary school kid writing a letter to some service member who was, at that time, fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, I was even younger than whoever penned my letter when I saw the events of that fateful September day repeated on the news. The kid who wrote the letter in my hands now wasn’t even around in 2001.
It never occurred to me, especially back at the turn of the century, that I would one day enlist to fight in the same war that started when I was a kid.
When I was growing up, you’d hear this left and right: “Don’t join the military, you’ll go to war and die.” I always dismissed it as ignorant. After all, my father fought in the war before this one and he came back, didn’t he? But, at the time, half of that statement was true. If you enlisted immediately after 9/11, there was a near guarantee you’d go to war.
That sentiment followed me through boot camp.
I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and I was still sure I’d go to war. But, with time comes change — and that’s exactly what happened. From the time I went to MEPS and had an old guy tell me to turn my head and cough to the time I walked across the parade deck at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, everyone said I would go to war. My recruiter, my drill instructors, everyone.
But once I got to the School of Infantry, things had mellowed out a bit.
I never went to war. In fact, a lot of people I served with never did. The crazy thing is that it was the reason we enlisted. We were kids when 9/11 happened and we grew up during the war that it spawned. We had time to grow angry about what had happened and we enlisted for a lot of the same reasons as our predecessors.
Marine Corps Ball in 2014. That’s me on the left.
What blows my mind the most, however, is that I completed my service over two years ago and that war is still going on, even if the Marine Corps infantry isn’t actively involved. Meanwhile, that kid who wrote me the letter is probably sitting in a high school classroom learning about 9/11 as a historical event — not as something that happened to them.
US Military Sealift Command cargo ship USNS Benavidez and US-flagged merchant vessels MV Resolve and MV Patriot set off across the Atlantic for Europe last month, escorted by guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf through a path made by the Eisenhower carrier strike group.
“We may not have been doing it for the last 35 years, but we have had … to conduct convoy operations around the planet,” Capt. Andrew Fitzpatrick, Vella Gulf’s commanding officer, told reporters last week. “So we’ve put some of those concepts and lessons learned into how we’re executing this particular operation.”
The convoy comes ahead of this spring’s Defender-Europe 20, a massive multinational exercise to which the US is shipping 20,000 troops and much of their gear — the largest deployment of US-based forces to Europe in 25 years.
Defender-Europe 20 will feature “a fictional near-peer competitor” in a future “post-Article V environment,” an Army planning official said last year, referring to NATO’s collective-defense provision.
Like the Navy’s convoy, the Army-led Defender-Europe 20 is about practicing old skills to confront new challenges.
Preparations for Defender-Europe 20 began in January, when US personnel loaded vehicles and equipment for rail transport to US ports.
The first combat power arrived on February 20, when US Army tanks and other vehicles rolled into the port of Bremerhaven in Germany. Participating countries will stage equipment at 14 air and seaports in eight European countries as the exercise gets underway.
Another 13,000 pieces of equipment will be drawn from Army Prepositioned Stocks in northwest Europe and deployed across 18 countries for training — ground convoys will cover some 2,500 miles to stage the exercise.
Defender-Europe 20 will end with US and partner forces cleaning training areas, returning equipment to those stocks, and for US troops, redeployment to the US.
Like crossing the Atlantic, getting around Europe isn’t new, but doing so now will test skills that haven’t been used much in the years after the Cold War, when the US presence in Europe dwindled and NATO’s ability to rapidly deploy atrophied.
“I’m concerned about the bandwidth to be able to accept this large force,” Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 25, when asked what challenges he expects the exercise to present.
“I’m also concerned about road and rail from the center portion of Germany … all the way to the eastern border,” Wolters said.
“Because we have the appropriate resources, we now possess a white-team capability to examine our speed of move from west to east, and we also have enough white-cell individuals to assess how safely we get stuff through Bremerhaven and to the next point,” Wolters added. “Bandwidth with respect to size and speed are my greatest concerns.”
This exercise “will allow us to see ourselves at all three levels — tactical, operational, strategic,” Gen. Gus Perna, head of US Army Material Command, which oversees installations, maintenance, and parts, told reporters in February.
“It will reinforce where we think we are tactically as far as material readiness,” Perna added. “Can we mobilize ourselves out of the barracks and the motor pools, move to the ports and the airfields, and then strategically project ourselves to some place across the ocean?”
“On the logistics side of the house, the environment in Europe has to be mature enough to be able to absorb 20,000 soldiers and get those soldiers to the right prepositioned locations to be able to grab the appropriate gear that they’re supposed to get to their foxhole and be able to execute,” Wolters said.
“What we want to do is count every second that it takes to get the soldier from the first point of entry all the way to his or her foxhole to be successful … and we anticipate that there will be some snags,” Wolters said.
Wolters credited the European Defense Initiative, started after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, with making Defender-Europe 20 possible.
EDI has “funded the rotational brigade combat teams that go to Poland, and that teaches all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines how to lift and shift larger quantities of forces across the Atlantic and to do so without any harm,” Wolters told the committee.
EDI also funded “our emergency contingency air operations sets for the Air Force, and our deployable air base systems for the Air Force,” Wolters said. “We’ve also been able to dramatically improve our airfield infrastructure and the reception infrastructure in the eastern part of Europe to where it is equipped today to safely receive those resources and effectively get those resources where they need to go.”
But EDI funding has been particularly important for the Army’s Prepositioned Stocks.
Two years ago, “we weren’t mature enough with respect to the prepositioned stockpiles to have a soldier show up at location X and be able to grab resources. Today, we can do that,” Wolters said. “We know the fitness of the resources, and now we’ll be able to examine the speed at which they can get to the foxhole and be able to execute.”
Those stocks keep heavy equipment like tanks and critical supplies like ammunition at forward locations so troops can deploy, equip, and move to the front line.
Perna, head of Army Material Command, said last month that his command was working on another prepositioned stock to be located where Wolters and the head of US Army Europe, Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, felt it was needed.
“I can envision where Defender 2020 might illuminate several things” about those stocks, Perna said. “Is it in the right place? Do we need to adjust? Do we want to set up alternate sites to keep everybody guessing about what we’re doing? Is there a better place to put things for better advantage?”
“I also think coming out of Defender 20 might be a thought process of, ‘Hey, we need more … or we need different from what we have,'” Perna added.
In his testimony, Wolters expressed concern about road and railways in eastern Germany, but transportation infrastructure throughout Eastern Europe has been a persistent worry.
In addition to a tangle of customs rules and transport regulations, railway sizes often vary between countries in that part of Europe, meaning delays as cargos cross borders. Roadways there are often narrow and, in some cases, can’t handle heavy vehicles — a particular problem for Eastern Europe’s many aging bridges.
All this would be complicated in wartime, as Russia, which used to control much of Eastern Europe, is familiar with the weak points. (Russia is “not overly pleased” with Defender-Europe 20, Wolters said.)
NATO and the European Union have also devoted resources to improving local infrastructure. NATO also set up two new commands to oversee movements like those underway for Defender-Europe 20. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, oversees operations in the Atlantic, while Joint Support and Enabling Command in Ulm, Germany, oversees allied armor and troop movements in Europe.
Limitations on civilian infrastructure, particularly in the Baltics and Poland, are “an issue that all of Europe was very, very aware of in the mid-’80s, and they are getting themselves reacquainted with it today,” Wolters said.
“They understand the imperative of making sure that we have bridging programs in the regions in the northeast and the southeast of Europe to ensure that we can shoot, move, and communicate fast.”
Dan Sherman joined the Air Force in 1982 to be what was then called Security Police (now known as Security Forces). While serving in Korea in 1984, he met another airman who told him about how great it was to be in Electronic Intelligence (ELINT). The man spoke about it so often, it convinced Sherman ELINT was where he wanted to be as well. Sherman was unhappy with being in Security and often told others if he couldn’t cross-train to the ELINT career field, he would get out entirely. His peers told him his job in security was a critically manned field and his chances of cross-training out were zero.
As luck would have in Sherman was approved to train into ELINT, analyzing electromagnetic energy for intelligence value. He went to tech school in 1990 and was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. While he liked the job, he wasn’t thrilled with Offutt. He wanted to get back to Korea, and told his peers as much, even going so far as to say he wouldn’t re-enlist if he didn’t get orders there. His luck held again. A month later, he had the orders in hand.
He was enjoying his new career field and in 1992 was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland to train in an intermediate-level ELINT course at the National Security Agency (NSA) building there. His first day in town, he was ordered to report to the NSA for what he thought would be a quick introduction. His life was about to change forever.
According to his book “Above Black: Project Preserve Destiny,” Sherman was indoctrinated into an above Top Secret-level program involving what the Air Force called “Greys.” Grey are purported to be extra-terrestrial beings first encountered by the United States in 1947. Since the early 1960’s, it was revealed to Sherman, the U.S. government had been working on a way to communicate with the Greys. That’s where he came in. His mother was “visited by aliens” before he was born. She was the subject of genetic manipulation, the result would be bearing a child who could be more receptive to the way the Greys communicate, receiving transmissions and passing them on.
The Air Force had been waiting for Sherman his entire life. He was part of a new communication plan just coming to fruition. His mother was not supposed to be able to have children. When she was pregnant, little Dan Sherman was not supposed to survive for long. All through his life, people had been telling him how great the Air Force life was, making that life seem to be his own destiny. Now, here Sherman sat, ready to be what the USAF called an “Intuitive Communicator.”
After his regular training courses at the NSA, Dan was taken to an unknown location in a blue Air Force van with blacked out windows. He was given two pills and instructed on how to move waves on electronic screens with his mind. Once he was proficient, he was released and given new orders, now as part of Project Preserve Destiny, or PPD.
His first PPD base established what his life would become. Though he no longer took the pills, he and another airman would sit in a communications van for their shift. Sherman would receive the communication, which included his identifier, 118, a five-digit code, and then what Sherman came to believe were latitude and longitude coordinates. His first handler was a Grey Sherman nicknamed “Spock.”
One day during communication, something startled Sherman and he reached a new “plane.” The alien asked Sherman if this was intentional. When Sherman said it wasn’t, the alien ended the conversation. Sherman would try for months to repeat the situation. Eventually, he was able to, and asked “Spock” some questions about their race and how they were communicating. Sherman’s command was apparently unable to monitor his communications with the Greys, so he was free to ask what he wanted. But after this second meeting, Spock never returned and Sherman was transferred to a new PPD base.
His role at this second base was very similar, but this time “Spock” was gone forever. His new counterpart (whom Sherman nicknamed “Bones”) was more conversational and forthcoming. Sherman asked about how the beings age, procreate, travel through space, and if they had souls. Here are a few more answers from the Greys to questions posed by Sherman:
“You question answers itself.”
They don’t travel through time but around time and from time to time.
“Any entity that realizes its existence has intellect and therefore must have a soul.”
4. Previous visits
They’ve been visiting Earth for a “very long time,” because its much easier to visit the past than it is today. They’ve contributed to the culture and technology of some civilizations.
Sherman believes they interbred with Humans (whom the Greys call “water vessels”), most likely the Basque people of the Pyrenees region of Spain, whose language is completely unrelated to any other and whose genetic makeup is different from most humans.
6. Other Aliens
There are many.
They do it, just different from the way humans do.
They do that too.
9. Life Span
They don’t see time the same way humans do, but they live approximately the same span.
Earth’s sun is unique and one day we will learn to use the same energy on a smaller scale.
When Sherman asked “Bones” about Project Preserve Destiny, the Grey abruptly ended their ongoing discussions. Shortly after that, the nature of the “comms” between the Air Force and the Greys changed. Sherman started receiving what he calls “abduction data,” complete with dates, geographic information, potential for recall (reabduction), and a 1-100 “pain scale.” Rememberign some of the coordinates, he traced some sites to the Florida panhandle, Upstate New York, and rural Wisconsin.
Increasingly isolated from the outside world, Sherman began to grow increasingly frustrated with his PPD work. He wanted to go back to ELINT or to get out entirely. The response from his command was that he could not only never go back to ELINT, but he could never separate from the Air Force now that he was part of PPD. He did the only thing he knew to do. In the book, Sherman says “the way I obtained my discharge is not a secret. Anyone can go back and see the reason emblazoned on my discharge papers. But certain self-incrimination legalities keep me from discussing it here.”
According an interview with Sherman on the website Exopolitics, which (*sigh*) studies the communications of aliens with humans, Sherman’s twelve years of Air Force service were exemplary. He earned an Air Force Commendation Medal, as well as three Air Force Achievement Medals and four Outstanding Unit Awards. he also served in the Persian Gulf War.
Sherman concluded his story with this:
I only wish I could have continued an otherwise wonderful career of which I was extremely proud. I miss serving my country and being part of the most sophisticated and well-trained military in the world.
And the holidays just makes it even more impactful and meaningful, which is why celebrities and talk shows often reach out and give back to troops during this time of year. Ellen is no different — but this “Greatest Night of Giveaways” just got better and better.
I watched the whole thing. With the sound on. I recommend you do the same:
Robert Downey Jr. and Ellen DeGeneres Give USMC’s Roy Gill and His Mom a New Car and House! (Part 2)