An assistant patrol leader with Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, applies camouflage paint to his face.
Most people don’t think about evil. The force of evil is certainly out there, but it’s on a different street, a different city or across the ocean. Evil is something we see as a plot in Hollywood, in movies like Joker. It isn’t something most people give much thought to.
But for veterans, it’s different.
I sat at a table with a veteran friend of mine, sipping coffee in a local cafe. He looked around as we talked about where we’d been and things we’d done. “They’ll never know,” he said. “I mean, how could they?” Our fellow patrons were having conversations a million miles away from ours, talking about things like kids, yoga and groceries, not darkness or things that haunt us. “I suppose it’s better that way,” he added.
Maybe it is, I thought, but maybe not.
The recent depiction of The Joker has become the highest grossing R-rated release in box office history. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is now an Oscar front-runner for his personal dive into villainy. For a society that doesn’t understand or talk about evil, The Joker has clearly found an audience. Phoenix’s rendition of Arthur is not the villainous story you might guess though, instead, it’s a man driven by his quest for love and entertainment; he hardly seems like a villain.
Phoenix said he prepared for this role by identifying with “his struggle to find happiness and to feel connected. To have warmth and love.” It’s an interesting juxtaposition: how does one end up being evil if all they want is love? This is the question and the genius of Joker. The same question haunts many veterans today. What is the difference between the pursuit of love and evildoing? Seems obvious, right? Maybe not, if evil never seems to be the aim. Yet, somehow people end up there – doing things that destroy the world around them. Even Hitler, a real life villain, once said, “I can fight only for something that I love.”
People want to believe that evil is something they can spot, as if it wears an enemy’s uniform and is clearly recognizable as “the bad guy.” The reality is, evil isn’t just lurking in a dark alley, waiting to sneak up on you when you least expect it. For some veterans, evil isn’t only external, although it certainly may have started that way. Evil isn’t something in a far-off land for us. It’s something we’ve carried home and something with which we have to deal. Carl Jung once said, “Knowing your own darkness is the best method of dealing with the darkness of other people.” What most veterans don’t know, but soon find out, is that facing evil out there means facing it inside of ourselves, too.
I have witnessed this realization many times in veterans, sitting next to them as they struggle with how the world could be this way. How could it be? Where is the good? As a chaplain and a social worker, I have seen, even been part of, people losing their hold on a world that they can picture themselves living in. The feelings of helplessness and sadness are overwhelming when facing a world with all its deficiencies.
It can be horrifying to think that we have something in common, even sharing the air, with the Jokers of the world. The genius of Phoenix’s performance is that most of us can see parts of ourselves in his character. This is what makes coming back from war so difficult; there is no shutting your eyes. Facing the realities of evil post-war is harder in a society that also wants nothing to do with it.
Service in the military shocked my own naiveté, forcing me to grasp with my own encounters with evil around me, even in me. War, more than any other environment, is the great tester. It reveals all of the little cracks and strengths. It is the great kiln of life. Perhaps facing these demons is a reason for the stubborn rising suicide rate and extreme isolation we see in veterans post-war. It also explains why veterans so often take roles in protecting people from it — serving in law enforcement and security.
For those who haven’t served, who has not felt the pain of betrayal, neglect or helplessness at an abuse of power? Allowing ourselves to experience the abyss of evil is “fearless”, as one critic said of Phoenix’s performance. Who has not found themselves filled with thoughts of revenge? Perhaps a better question then is: Why aren’t all of us Jokers? Why don’t we all go mad? Maybe we are. Maybe there’s a little villain in all of us.
Not all veterans can face their demons. Not facing the villain, outside and in, leads to a space you can’t share, a place where you join the Jokers of the world. This would explain why some veterans think of suicide as an honorable thing, saving the world from the Joker they have become. Some just drive faster, drink more, turn up the music and close their eyes when these evils start to appear.
There is good reason to avoid looking – we might not be prepared to fight the evil we see. Heath Ledger’s plunge into the character of evil may have led him to places that he could not find his way out from. Encountering true evil and the thin veil that separates us leads most to question our own capacity to overcome it.
Evil hides in omission — our lack of doing as much as our acts of doing. Stopping evil does not mean that we weaken or blind ourselves. Instead, as many veterans do, they choose to see the enemy, even if it’s within, rather than hide. The confrontation is fraught; not just with evil’s existence but in the failure to do good when they can. Veterans who find their way back home learn this. Veterans like Chase Millsap who saw local nationals murdered after working with U.S. soldiers and created a way for them to be safe withnooneleft.org. Veterans like Noel Lipana, who couldn’t make sense of his actions and has found a way to tell his story and shape others through an art performance piece. They could not omit. They decided that the way back is to do good. To exert agency over their helplessness in the face of evil. Is this not the only way? To do good, in the face of evil.
The last decade has brought new thinking on this as well, rethinking post-traumatic stress disorder toward a term called Moral Injury because it tracks better to veterans’ experience of war — that evil, sometimes our own, shocks our worldview. To see evil and the ugliness of humankind can shake you to your core and leave you with lingering questions. An abbreviated definition of Moral Injury refers to the lasting impacts of actions that violate a service member’s core moral values and expectations of self or others. Perhaps another definition is that Moral Injury is the impact of coming face to face with evil, even if it’s our own. Facing evil in the world can leave you with more questions than answers. Fortunately, these questions aren’t new, they just aren’t often talked about. Maybe that’s why evil and veil are just letters rearranged differently; both are thinly seen.
The story of the Joker is the story that veterans know all too well. Today’s society leaves most willfully blind to the struggles and evils in the world, leaving many veterans grasping for answers to questions that their neighbors are not asking. At first glance, it does seem easier to omit them, but closing our eyes to them will not save us. Perhaps the reason the Joker has garnered so much international attention is because it’s telling a story we all know, but don’t like to look at. A story that needs to be told.
We don’t say things we should. We don’t look at injustice if we can avoid it. We avoid confrontation when possible. We choose to close our eyes, rather than see.
The Joker invites all of us, not just veterans, to manage our own shadows by doing the good we know to do. Veterans don’t have the market cornered on this, most just signed up for it and are learning how to live with the evil around us.
Developed over the course of decades, GPS has become far more ubiquitous than most people realize. Not just for navigation, its extreme accuracy in time keeping (+/- 10 billionths of a second) has been used by countless businesses the world over for everything from aiding in power grid management to helping manage stock market and other banking transactions. The GPS system essentially allows for companies to have near atomic clock level precision in their systems, including easy time synchronization across the globe, without actually needing to have an atomic clock or come up with their own systems for global synchronization. The problem is that, owing to a quirk of the original specifications, on April 6, 2019 many GPS receivers are about to stop working correctly unless the firmware for them is updated promptly. So what’s going on here, how exactly does the GPS system work, and who first got the idea for such a system?
On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. As you might imagine, this tiny satellite, along with subsequent satellites in the line, were closely monitored by scientists the world over. Most pertinent to the topic at hand today were two physicists at Johns Hopkins University named William Guier and George Weiffenbach.
As they studied the orbits and signals coming from the Sputnik satellites the pair realized that, thanks to how fast the satellites were going and the nature of their broadcasts, they could use the Doppler shift of the signal to very accurately determine the satellite’s position.
A replica of Sputnik 1.
Not long after, one Frank McClure, also of Johns Hopkins University, asked the pair to study whether it would be possible to do this the other way around. They soon found that, indeed, using the satellite’s known orbit and studying the signal from it as it moved, the observer on the ground could in a relatively short time span determine their own location.
This got the wheels turning.
Various systems were proposed and, in some cases, developed. Most notable to the eventual evolution of GPS was the Navy’s Navigation Satellite System (also known as the Navy Transit Program), which was up and running fully by 1964. This system could, in theory, tell a submarine or ship crew where they were within about 25 meters, though location could only be updated about once per hour and took about 10-15 minutes to acquire. Further, if the ship was moving, the precision would be off by about one nautical mile per 5 knots of speed.
Another critical system to the ultimate development of GPS was known as Timation, which initially used quartz clocks synchronized on the ground and on the satellites as a key component of how the system determined where the ground observer was located. However, with such relatively imprecise clocks, the first tests resulted in an accuracy of only about 0.3 nautical miles and took about 15 minutes of receiving data to nail down that location. Subsequent advancements in Timation improved things, even testing using an atomic clock for increased accuracy. But Timation was about to go the way of the Dodo.
By the early 1970s, the Navigation System Using Timing and Ranging (Navstar, eventually Navstar-GPS) was proposed, essentially combining elements from systems like Transit, Timation, and a few other similar systems in an attempt to make a better system from what was learned in those projects.
Fast-forward to 1983 and while the U.S. didn’t yet have a fully operational GPS system, the first prototype satellites were up and the system was being slowly tested and implemented. It was at this point that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which originally departed from New York, refueled and took off from Anchorage, Alaska, bound for Seoul, South Korea.
What does this have to do with ubiquitous GPS as we know it today?
On its way, the pilots had an unnoticed autopilot issue, resulting in them unknowingly straying into Soviet airspace.
Convinced the passenger plane was actually a spy plane, the Soviets launched Su-15 jets to intercept the (apparently) most poorly crafted spy plane in history — the old “It’s so overt, it’s covert” approach to spying.
A Soviet Sukhoi Su-15 interceptor.
Warning shots were fired, though the pilot who did it stated in a later interview, “I fired four bursts, more than 200 rounds. For all the good it did. After all, I was loaded with armor piercing shells, not incendiary shells. It’s doubtful whether anyone could see them.”
Not long after, the pilots of Korean Air 007 called Tokyo Area Control Center, requesting to climb to Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet) from Flight Level 330 (33,000 feet). This resulted in the aircraft slowing below the speed the tracking high speed interceptors normally operated at, and thus, them blowing right by the plane. This was interpreted as an evasive maneuver, even though it was actually just done for fuel economy reasons.
A heated debate among the Soviet brass ensued over whether more time should be taken to identify the plane in case it was simply a passenger airliner as it appeared. But as it was about to fly into international waters, and may in fact already have been at that point, the decision was made to shoot first and ask questions later.
The attacking pilot described what happened next:
“Destroy the target…!” That was easy to say. But how? With shells? I had already expended 243 rounds. Ram it? I had always thought of that as poor taste. Ramming is the last resort. Just in case, I had already completed my turn and was coming down on top of him. Then, I had an idea. I dropped below him about two thousand metres… afterburners. Switched on the missiles and brought the nose up sharply. Success! I have a lock on.
Two missiles were fired and exploded near the Boeing plane causing significant damage, though in a testament to how safe commercial airplanes typically are, the pilots were able to regain control over the aircraft, even for a time able to maintain level and stable flight. However, they eventually found themselves in a slow spiral which ended in a crash killing all 269 aboard.
As a direct result of this tragedy, President Ronald Reagan announced on Sept. 16, 1983, that the GPS system that had previously been intended for U.S. military use only would now be made available for everyone to use, with the initial idea being the numerous safety benefits such a system would have in civil aviation over using then available navigation tools.
This brings us to how exactly the GPS system works in the first place. Amazingly complex on some levels, the actual nuts and bolts of the system are relatively straightforward to understand.
To begin with, consider what happens if you’re standing in an unknown location and you ask someone where you are. They reply simply — “You are 212 miles from Seattle, Washington.”
You now can draw a circle on a map with radius 212 miles from Seattle. Assuming the person giving you that information is correct, you know you’re somewhere along that circular line.
Not super helpful at this point by itself, you then ask someone else, and they say, “You are 150 miles from Vancouver BC.” Now you’re getting somewhere. When you draw that circle on the map, you’ll see it intersects at two points. You are standing on one of those two points. Noticing that you are not, in fact, floating in the ocean, you could at this point deduce which point you are on, but work with us here people.
Instead of making such an assumption, you decide your senses are never to be trusted and, after all, Jesus stood on water, so why not you? Thus, you ask a third person — they say, “You are 500 miles from Boise, Idaho.” That circle drawn, you now know exactly where you are in two dimensional space. Near Kamloops, Canada, as it turns out.
This is more or less what’s happening with GPS, except in the case of GPS you need to think in terms of 3D spheres instead of 2D circles. Further, how the system tells you your exact distance from a reference point, in this case each of the satellites, is via transmitting the satellites’ exact locations in orbit and a timestamp of the exact time when said transmission was sent. This time is synchronized across the various satellites in the GPS constellation.
The receiver then subtracts the current known time upon receiving the data from that transmission time to determine the time it took for that signal to be transmitted from the satellites to its location.
Combining that with the known satellite locations and the known speed of light with which the radio signal was propagated, it can then crunch the numbers to determine with remarkable accuracy its location, with margins of error owing to things like the ionosphere interfering with the propagation of the signal, and various other real world factors such as this potentially throwing things off a little.
Even with these potential issues, however, the latest generation of the GPS system can, in theory, pinpoint your location within about a foot or about 30 centimeters.
You may have spotted a problem here, however. While the GPS satellites are using extremely precise and synchronized atomic clocks, the GPS system in your car, for example, has no such synchronized atomic clock. So how does it accurately determine how long it took for the signal to get from the satellite to itself?
It simply uses at least four, instead of three, satellites, giving it the extra data point it needs to solve the necessary equations to get the appropriate missing time variable. In a nutshell, there is only one point in time that will match the edge of all four spheres intersecting in one point in space on Earth. Thus, once the variables are solved for, the receiver can adjust its own time keeping appropriately to be almost perfectly synchronized, at least momentarily, with the much more precise GPS atomic clocks. In some sense, this makes GPS something of a 4D system, in that, with it, you can know your precise point in not only space, but time.
By continually updating its own internal clock in this way, the receiver on the ground ends up being nearly as accurate as an atomic clock and is a time keeping device that is then almost perfectly synchronized with other such receivers across the globe, all for almost no cost at all to the end users because the U.S. government is footing the bill for all the expensive bits of the system and maintaining it.
Speaking of that maintanence, another problem you may have spotted is that various factors can, and do, continually move the GPS satellites off their original orbits. So how is this accounted for?
Tracking stations on Earth continually monitor the exact orbits of the various GPS satellites, with this information, along with any needed time corrections to account for things like Relatively, frequently updated in the GPS almanac and ephemeris. These two data sets are used for holding satellite status and positional information and are regularly broadcast to receivers, which is how said receivers know exact positions of the satellites in the first place.
The satellites themselves can also have their orbits adjusted if necessary, with this process simply being to mark the satellite as “unhealthy” so receivers will ignore it, then move it to its new position, track that orbit, and once that is accurately known, update the almanac and ephemeris and mark the satellite as “healthy” again.
So that’s more or less how GPS came to be and how it works at a high level. What about the part where we said many GPS devices may potentially stop working very soon if not updated?
Near the turn of the century something happened that had never happened before in the GPS world — dubbed a “dress rehearsal for the Y2K bug”. You see, as a part of the time stamp sent by the GPS satellites, there is something known as the Week Number — literally just the number of weeks that have passed since an epoch, originally set to Jan. 6, 1980. Along with this Week Number the number of seconds since midnight on the previous Saturday evening is sent, thus allowing the GPS receiver to calculate the exact date.
Artist’s conception of GPS Block II-F satellite in Earth orbit.
So what’s the problem with this? It turns out every 1024 weeks (about every 19 years and 8 months) from the epoch, the number rolls back to 0 owing to this integer information being in 10 bit format.
Thus, when this happens, any GPS receiver that doesn’t account for the Week Number Rollover, will likely stop functioning correctly, though the nature of the malfunction varies from vendor to vendor and device, depending on how said vendor implemented their system.
For some, the bug might manifest as a simple benign date reporting error. For others, such a date reporting error might mean everything from incorrect positioning to even a full system crash.
If you’ve done the math, you’ve probably deduced that this issue first popped up in August of 1999, only about four years after the GPS system itself was fully operational.
At this point, of course, GPS wasn’t something that was so ubiquitously depended on as it is today, with only 10-15 million GPS receivers in use worldwide in 1999 according to a 1999 report by the the United States Department of Commerce’s Office of Telecommunications. Today, of course, that number is in the billions of devices.
Thankfully, when the next Week Number Rollover event happens on April 6, 2019, it would seem most companies that rely on GPS for critical systems, like airlines, banking institutions, cell networks, power grids, etc., have already taken the necessary steps to account for the problem.
The more realistic problems with this second Week Number Rollover event will probably mostly occur at the consumer level, as most people simply are not aware of the issue at all.
Thankfully, if you’ve updated your firmware on your GPS device recently or simply own a GPS device purchased in the last few years, you’re probably going to be fine here.
However, should you own a GPS device that is several years old, that may not be the case and you’ll most definitely want to go to the manufacturer’s website and download any relevant updates before the second GPS epoch.
That public service announcement out of the way, if you’re now wondering why somebody doesn’t just change the specification altogether to stop using a 10 bit Week Number, well, you’re not the first to think of this. Under the latest GPS interface specifications, a 13 bit Week Number is now used, meaning in newer devices that support this, the issue won’t come up again for about a century and a half. As the machines are bound to rise up and enslave humanity long before that occurs, that’s really their issue to solve at that point.
Ever notice that your cell phone tends to lock on to your GPS position extremely quickly, even after having been powered off for a long time? How does it do this when other GPS devices must wait to potentially receive a fresh copy of the almanac and ephemeris? It turns out cell phones tend to use something called Assisted GPS, where rather than wait to receive that data from the currently orbiting GPS satellites, they will instead get it from a central server somewhere. The phone may also simply use its position in the cell phone network (using signals from towers around) to get an approximate location to start while it waits to acquire the signal from the GPS satellites, partially masking further delay there. Of course, assisted GPS doesn’t work if you don’t have a cell signal, and if you try to use your GPS on your phone in such a scenario you’ll find that if you turn off the GPS for a while and then later turn it back on, it will take a while to acquire a signal like any other GPS device.
Starting just before the first Gulf War, the military degraded the GPS signal for civilian use in order to keep the full accuracy of the system as a U.S. military advantage. However, in May of 2000, this policy was reversed by President Bill Clinton and civilian GPS got approximately ten times more accurate basically overnight.
The military also created the ability to selectively stop others from using GPS at all, as India discovered thanks to the Kargil conflict with Pakistan in 1999. During the conflict, the U.S. blocked access to the GPS system from India owing to, at the time, better longstanding relations between the U.S. and Pakistan than the U.S. had with India. Thus, the U.S. didn’t want to seem like it was helping India in the war.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Exhaustion is the great equalizer. There comes a point for everyone when your body demands sleep, and if you aren’t willing to give it what it wants, things start to get rough. It doesn’t matter if you’re a soldier on post in a combat zone or a new mom trying to make it through the day after a sleepless night of diaper changes and bottle-boiling, the sandman comes for us all.
If you’re desperate for sleep, the best thing you can do is rack out and get some. If that’s not an option, however, here are some of the ways service members stay alert long after exhaustion has set in. They’re not always the healthiest options, but hey, if we were that worried about our health, we’d be getting some rest.
Instant coffee works best when you can chew it.
Ah, caffeine–the old standby. Whenever anyone’s tired, the first thing they think to do is pour themselves a nice hot cup of joe. Of course, in the field, that’s not always an option, but there are plenty of other ways to get your fix. Aside from the service-member favorite energy drinks, the most common field-sources of caffeine come in MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Some even now come with sticks of caffeinated gum.
If you’ve got the time and the hot water, the small packets of instant coffee that come in MREs can make for a passable cup, but plenty of guys simply pour the pouches into their lips like a pinch of chewing tobacco. Might not be delicious, but it’ll help keep you up. Of course, too much caffeine poses a number of problems, including dehydration and nausea, so there are limits to what a lipper of coffee can do for you.
Not just for smoke breaks, nicotine can also go far in helping to keep you conscious and alert during long nights on post or in the campus library. A lot of service members pick up cigarette or chewing tobacco habits during their time in uniform, in part because it offers something to do during long stretches of downtime, and in part because of the kick of energy you can get from a properly timed smoke break.
Of course, nicotine comes with a whole host of negative side effects, so choose your weapons wisely when waging war against your own exhaustion.
Many service members stumble across this tactic on post: you and another person are stuck in one place for a while with nothing to do but look at the horizon, so you spark up a bit of conversation. Before you know it, you’re arguing about whether or not Darkwing Duck was a better show than Duck Tales and you’ve both managed to kill two hours of your shift… so powerful is the magic of useless debate.
It’s important not to let friendly debate boil over into a full-fledged fight, however, which can be a real challenge sometimes when you’re operating on little sleep.
Long after caffeine has failed you and nicotine is just giving you the shakes, there’s one more thing you can do to help you overcome the heaviest of eyelids: get up and get moving. Something as simple as hopping off your chair for a set of push-ups can get your blood pumping again. Go for a walk around the office or your house, karate chop some old boards in your garage, or haze yourself with a few sets of burpees.
And as an added bonus, you can meet the criteria for “getting physical” by getting into a fist fight with your buddy once your Ducktales debate gets out of hand.
When your friends are counting on you, you do what you’ve got to do.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)
Just ride it out
Eventually, if you ride out your exhaustion well into the next day, some of the worse symptoms will begin to subside. You’ll feel strange, hazy, and detached… but conscious nonetheless. The human body is capable of playing dirty to get you to do the things you need to do (like sleep), but it’s also good at letting you stay in the fight when it becomes clear the things you need to do aren’t in the cards.
Just like hunger pains will subside after a time, so too will the horrible weight of exhaustion… at least, for a few hours. Once that second wind subsides, you’ll be hurting worse than ever. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to rack out by then.
It wasn’t so long ago that the British and Russians exchanged trash talk over carriers. That all started when the then-Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, called the Admiral Kuznetsov “dilapidated.” The Russians responded by calling the first of the Royal Navy’s new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, “a large, convenient target” and warned the Brits to keep their distance.
HMS Queen Elizabeth has a problem of her own, though. No planes. In fact, she may have to operate F-35Bs from the United States Marine Corps, which will require some adjustments. Any fight here would be tough to call, but give the Brits the edge. Once the F-35s clear out the Kuznetsov’s air wing (largely because they are far more advanced than MiG-29s and Su-33s), the Kuznetsov will only have 12 SS-N-19 Shipwreck missiles to use. No problem for the Queen Elizabeth’s escorts.
But how well would the Kuznetsov fare against an American carrier? If anything, it’s even more of a slaughter. According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Kuznetsov can carry 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums, four Su-25 Frogfoot trainers, 15 Ka-27 Helix ASW helicopters, and two Ka-31 Helix airborne early warning choppers.
By comparison, it should be noted that a typical American carrier air wing has four strike-fighter squadrons of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets or F/A-18C Hornets, each with a dozen multi-role fighters. So, the Russians are fighting at the wrong end of eight-to-three odds. The American carrier’s air wing, by the way, does offer electronic-warfare assets as well.
Once the Kuznetsov’s fighters are gone, the American carrier can then either launch an alpha strike to sink the Kuznetsov, or support an attack by B-1B Lancers carrying LRASMs. Either way, the Kuznetsov is going down. Heck, even an old Midway-class carrier could take the Kuznetsov.
You’ve covered the kids, your spouse, neighbors, your in-laws, and even snagged a little something for the mailman and school principal. As you’re making your list and checking it twice this holiday, don’t forget a favorite military pet!
The best gifts for pets are useful and practical items that might also benefit the pet owner in some way (think: hours of entertainment for an energetic pup or frisky feline). Here are the best gifts for pets this year:
This top-rated toy uses a cat’s natural hunting instincts to captivate their attention using a feather. Battery powered, the device mimics prey and mixes it up to keep pets engaged and anti-skid feet help to keep the gadget in place for any cat owners who might be worried about forceful felines.
Make fetch more fun with this LED light-up ball that promises hours of fun for your dog, even after the sun goes down. One bounce activates the color-changing toy and an easy-to-replace battery ensures playtime longevity.
As it turns out, your pet can also be a military member….sort of. Crown Paw allows users to submit a headshot of their pet and then customize it into a regal portrait. All pets are welcome and users can choose from canvas themes like “The Admiral” or “The Colonel.” More than one animal in your house? Multi-pet themes like “The Officers” make gifting easy.
4. Rawhide-free chews
Skip the rawhide for your pup this year and pick up some SmartBones, which are made from whole ingredients like vegetables and chicken. Enriched with vitamins and minerals, these treats not only taste delicious to a dog, but the natural motion of chewing helps to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
5. Stylish beds
Help your pet get the best sleep of their lives without sacrificing your interior design style. These woven beds (and specialty pods for feline friends) are made from natural Elephant Grass and are handcrafted using traditional Ghanian craft techniques. Each basket comes with a fitted cushion and are available in a range of sizes.
The whole family will enjoy this wifi-enabled camera that allows you to drop in your pet when you aren’t home. Using an HD, wide-angle lens, the device allows users to see, talk to, and even dole out treats, to pets using an app on their phone. The bonus? A built-in sensor alerts pet parents to animal and human movement, so you’ll never wonder what your pet is up to all day again.
Alright, this one might be a gift for the pet parents and not the pet, but 10,000+ reviews speak to the power of this enzyme-powered stain and odor remover. Created to work for both cats and dogs, this formula is chlorine-free, color safe and promises to work or you’ll get a full refund. You will never stress about pets and rental carpets again!
Still at a loss on what to gift your favorite military pet? Quality time still ranks pretty high on their list — and maybe a few extra treats, too.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The Royal Marines piled into helicopters and boats and inserted into Estonian territory, hitting positions on the mainland and on an isolated island, doing their best to inflict maximum casualties on the Estonian Volunteer Defence Force during an exercise designed to see whether that countries tiny military can adequately defend itself against a top-tier foe.
And make no mistake about it, the Royal Marines are true commandos and are top-tier. But the local forces defending the island of Saaremaa included many members who had grown up on the island, and they fought the British to what referees called an Estonian victory. The Royal Marines called it a draw, according to an article in the British publication Plymouth Herald.
Also, in the Royal Marines’ defense, the Estonians were backed up by British Apaches and likely would have lost their key position, and maybe the whole ball game, without that crucial air support.
The Marines successfully landed reconnaissance teams unseen, and those teams were able to operate for 24 hours undetected. Then, dummy raids on one side of the island drew off defenders before the Royal Marines launched their main assault on the opposite side, allowing them to reach their main objective with little contact.
So each side did well. The Royal Marines were able to hit their objective almost undetected, and the Estonians were able to defend it anyway, and that’s good for both sides because, realistically, Estonia and Britain would more than likely fight on the same side in a war.
And the people Britain would liberate Saaremaa from would not be Estonian locals, they would be Russian commandos.
Under the surface of all European war games of the last few years sits the certainty that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine only faded because it became too costly. If former Soviet Bloc countries who want to remain democratic and free are to do so, they have to be ready to fend off a Russian “grey-zone” attack at any time.
Grey Zone describes hostilities across cyberspace and physical terrain that fall just short of war. The successful Russian seizure of Crimea and the attacks into the Donbas region were both grey-zone operations.
Netflix dropped its latest British TV series on March 29, a spy thriller set at the end of World World II.
“Traitors” is streaming globally exclusively on Netflix outside of the UK and Ireland, and airs on the UK’s Channel 4 network. It stars “Call Me by Your Name” actor Michael Stuhlbarg, Emma Appleton, and Keeley Hawes.
Netflix describes the series like this: “As World War II ends, a young English woman agrees to help an enigmatic American agent root out Russian infiltration of the British government.”
Netflix has built a library of British shows in its effort to draw worldwide audiences, many of which are co-productions with UK networks. The strategy benefits both Netflix and British TV networks like the BBC, as the shows reach a wider audience and can reel in potential subscribers.
Other British shows Netflix has acquired include “The Last Kingdom,” which wasn’t a hit in the UK but found a worldwide audience; “The End of the F—ing World,” which Netflix renewed for a second season; and “Bodyguard,” which was nominated for the best drama series Golden Globe this year and won the Globe for best actor in a drama series for star Richard Madden.
From left to right: Luke Treadaway, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emma Appleton, Keeley Hawes, Brandon P. Bell.
(‘Traitors’ on Netflix)
Critics are mixed on “Traitors” but leaning positive. “Traitors” has a 71% Rotten Tomatoes critic score. Den of Geek called it a “satisfyingly grown-up spy thriller,” but others criticized how it takes historical liberties.
“I don’t usually mind this kind of revisionism; can appreciate, revel in its freshness, its new eyes, but this is in mild danger of being slathered on with a trowel,” Observer’s Euan Ferguson wrote. “It’s always heartily good to keep an open mind. Maybe not so open that your brains fall out.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
#WWIII, #NoWarWithIran, and other trending Twitter hashtags from the past week reveal the anxiety people across the globe are feeling amid near-boiling-point tensions between the US and Iran.
The US is sending 3,500 Army paratroopers to the Middle East, reports Tuesday revealed, adding more uncertainty — especially for military families.
To add to that distress, those being deployed have been told to leave their cellphones at home.
Eighteen-year old Melissa Morales is one of those family members caught off guard. Her twin sister, Cristina, is scheduled to leave Wednesday, she said in an interview with CNN.
“As her twin sister, it kind of hurts. It stings,” she told the outlet.
Research shows deployment can have a very real psychological impact on family members, particularly military spouses and children.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sean Mathis)
Among a range of feelings, studies have shown that families of deployed military personnel experience a range of challenging emotions.
Learning of a spouse’s deployment can mean “emotional chaos.”
A qualitative study of 11 women married to deployed Army Reserve military members had a heart-wrenching finding.
Nearly all of the women described the moment they learned their husband would have to deploy fell into a category researchers call “emotional chaos,” or experiencing a range of emotions — like stress, disbelief, and sadness — all at once.
Partners of those deployed report higher levels of anxiety and stress.
One study of 130 US military spouses (68 spouses of non-deployed servicemen and 62 spouses of servicemen deployed to a combat zone) took a close look at stress.
Spouses of deployed servicemen had markedly higher stress scores than spouses of non-deployed service members, the study found. Additionally, anxiety levels were “significantly higher in spouses of deployed versus non deployed servicemen,” the researchers found.
Spouses are at an increased risk for substance abuse.
UK-based King’s Centre for Military Health Research collected data from 405 women in military families with at least one child.
Shared routines, rituals and set rules help keep members feeling stable and grounded.
These women reported higher rates of binge drinking than women in the general population, 9.7% compared to 8.9%, respectively. They also reported higher rates of depression, 7% compared to 3%.
For parents, there’s often no room for self-care.
When spouses deploy, many partners are left to take care of their families by themselves.
One 2018 study found that spouses report not having enough time to take care of themselves. As one participant said, when it comes to taking care of themselves, “Everything else comes first.” Time to go to the gym and money to buy healthy food is nonexistent, they said.
Children are at a higher risk for depression and other psychosocial issues.
Kids with a deployed parent show higher incidents of lashing out, sadness, worry, and depression, a meta analysis of several studies shows.
Toddlers of deployed parents can experience confusion and separation anxiety.
The American Academy of Pediatrics writes on its blog that toddlers “may not understand why mom or dad isn’t there for bedtime” and that school-aged children “may worry mom or dad will be hurt.”
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey
A 2014 research analysis supports this finding, with author Dr. Suzannah Creech, a research psychologist with Veterans Affairs and a professor at Brown University writing, “For children, deployment-separation can bring a sense of fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and absence.”
Trouble sleeping and poor academic performance can weigh on kids.
A 2009 study that looked at children ages 5-12 with a deployed parent found that 56% had trouble sleeping and 14% had school-related issues.
Social support and therapy are proven to help spouses and children.
While these findings paint a grim picture, there is help out there for military families.
Within military families individually, maintaining shared routines, rituals and set rules help keep members feeling stable and grounded. And regular family meetings before, during, and after deployment can be helpful, researchers report.
Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling, please call the US National Suicide Prevention Helpline anytime at 1-800-273-8255.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Before the FBI or any other federal law enforcement agency locked criminals behind bars in the United States, the most important crime fighting squad was the US Postal Inspection Service. From the 18th century to present day, surveyors, special agents, and inspectors investigated the nation’s most newsworthy crimes. They investigated mail train robberies committed by notorious outlaw “Billy the Kid,” were amongst the first federal law enforcement officers to carry the Thompson submachine gun (commonly known as the “Tommy Gun”) to fight 1920s mobsters, and even had an integral role in capturing Ted Kaczynski, sensationalized in the media as the “Unabomber,” bringing an end to one of the most sophisticated criminal manhunts in US history.
The US Postal Inspection Service is the most storied federal law enforcement agency in the country, and since widespread crime is often connected by mail, their jurisdiction to investigate any related crime from anywhere around the world is unrestricted. This freedom began from one of America’s Founding Fathers, and since its establishment, the agency has participated in the largest criminal investigations of each century.
After the American Civil War, “snake oil salesmen” and “scalp tonic salesmen” used the mail to con unsuspecting victims. Screengrab from YouTube.
In 1737, Benjamin Franklin, the newspaper printer known for historic contributions to the nation, was also appointed by the British Crown as postmaster of Philadelphia. In addition to his day job, he had duties and responsibilities to regulate and survey post offices and post roads. As the first Postmaster General under continental Congress, Franklin abolished the British practice that determined which newspapers traveled freely in the mail and established foundational mandates of the “surveyor” position to ensure the organization could grow beyond a one-man show.
Franklin recognized the task was too much to handle alone and appointed William Goddard as the first surveyor of the new American Postal Service. His first day in office — Aug. 7, 1775 — became known as the birth of the Postal Inspection Service. The surveyors investigated thefts of mail or postal funds committed by writers, innkeepers, and others with access to the mail or post offices. The frequency of mail crimes became such a nuisance, Congress approved the death penalty as a viable punishment to enforce the serious offenses.
At the turn of the 19th century, surveyors became known as special agents, and among the first three was Noah Webster, the man responsible for compiling the dictionary. During the War of 1812, special agents observed and reported activities of the British Fleet along the Potomac River, and during the 1840s and 1850s, their roles magnified to coexist with western expansion in the United States. Special agents were needed across Texas, Oregon, and California to ensure new postal services were completed, as well as to keep order amongst mail carriers on horseback, railroads, or traveling by steamboats or stagecoaches.
During World War II, 247 US Postal Inspection Service inspectors established a mailing system that is still in use to this day. Photo courtesy of worldwarphotos.info.
Following the American Civil War, Congress imposed two new statutes still in use today. The first was the Mail Fraud Statute of 1872, which enforced a crackdown against swindles including the infamous “snake oil salesman” or the “scalp tonic salesman.” The second was the Postal Obscenity Statute of 1873, which made it illegal for anyone to “to sell, give away, or possess an obscene book, pamphlet, picture, drawing, or advertisement.” Special agents assumed the name of “Post Office Inspectors” in 1880 to differentiate from other special agents privately employed by railroad and stagecoach companies.
During the 20th century is when the US Postal Inspection Service earned its reputation for bringing down the hammer on gangs, mobsters, and armed robbers. The most scandalous criminal outfit was the organized secret society operating in New York City known as the Black Hand. They terrorized the public, the police force, and especially Italian immigrants, all frequent targets of murder, extortion, assassination, child kidnapping, and bombings. The bombing attacks were so frequent that the police referred to the Italian neighborhood as “The Bomb Zone.” Police reports indicated that there were more than 100 bombings in 1913 alone.
The Black Hand wrote menacing letters to their victims. “De Camilli, from one of our secret spies, we have learned that you have informed the police, contrary to our warnings,” Salvatore Lima, the Black Hand’s leader wrote. “Therefore, it is time to die. And on the first occasion, you will feel a bullet in your stomach, coward. You have willed it, and you will die like a dog. The terrible Black Hand.”
Post Office Inspector Frank Oldfield tracked 14 members of the Black Hand and nabbed and convicted the vicious and violent gang by targeting their paper trail through the mail. Elmer Irey, one of the great detectives of the 20th century and former post office inspector, used similar methods to nab Chicago Outfit’s Al Capone through tax fraud. Post office inspectors also captured and convicted Charles Ponzi — the mastermind and father behind the infamous pyramid “Ponzi Scheme” — and brought Gerald Chapman — America’s first “Public Enemy Number One” — to justice. After a three-year manhunt, forensic science put away the DeAutremont brothers, a trio who used dynamite to blow open mail train cars to scoop the cash inside.
Inspectors were also instrumental in the delivery and protection of over billion worth of gold transported along the “Yellow Brick Road” from New York City to Fort Knox, Kentucky, to establish the Fort Knox Bullion Depository in 1937. During World War II, 247 post office inspectors helped create Army Post Offices (APOs) and Fleet Post Offices (FPOs). Through their efforts, soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines could communicate with their loved ones back home. This system remains in effect to this day.
Later in the century, as their investigations adapted with the times, they received newer challenges through the security of commercial aircraft and the threats of mail package bombs aboard airplanes. In 1963, Postal Inspector Harry Holmes interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald to investigate the mail-order rifle he used to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. Only minutes after Oswald left Holmes’ office, he was gunned down — furthering the conspiracy theories of suspected involvement.
A laboratory technician holds the anthrax-laced letter addressed to Senator Patrick Leahy after safely opening it at the US Army’s Fort Detrick bio-medical research laboratory in November 2001. Photo courtesy of FBI.gov.
The Postal Inspection Service remains just as important today as when it was created, and with the increase in funding in other federal agencies, their prestige has emboldened their legacy as more than what was once perceived as “The Silent Service.” Days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Silent Service investigated the Anthrax biohazard letter attack — the worst biological attack in US history — and has since increased their efforts against illegal drug trafficking, suspicious mail, mail and package theft, money laundering, cybercrime, and child exploitation.
In the 1920s, Charles Ponzi scammed his investors out of an estimated million during his time as a conman and swindler — some 90 years later, just as the Postal Inspector Service had before, they nabbed Allen Stanford, a fraudster who convinced investors to buy certificates of deposit from his offshore Stanford International Bank with the promise of high returns. Stanford’s two-decade-long, billion Ponzi scheme was discovered through exhaustive investigations by a task force comprised of the IRS, the FBI, and the Silent Service. Stanford was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to serve 110 years in prison.
As long as there is mail to be delivered, there are inspectors who stand ready to ensure the safety of the American citizens.
During the launch of Operation Market Garden, a young Nelson Bryant and thousands of fellow paratroopers from the 82d Airborne parachuted into occupied Holland in an attempt to dislodge its Nazi occupiers. Bryant, wounded in a previous mission, took shrapnel to the leg as he fell to Earth. After landing, he began freeing himself from his harness. Under fire from nearby German positions, he was forced to cut it off.
Without thinking, he dropped his knife as he scrambled for cover. It seemed to be lost forever — but it was actually only 73 years.
“There were some Germans shooting at me from about 150 yards away, and they were getting damn close,” he told the local Martha’s Vineyard newspaper, the Vineyard Gazette. “As near as I can tell, what happened was I was pretty excited, and a little upset. I remember I cut some of my clothes I was so nervous. I cut out of the harness. What I think I did, I simply forgot my knife and left it there on the ground in its sheath.”
An American paratrooper makes a hard landing in a Dutch field during the airborne phase of Operation Market Garden, September, 1944.
More than 40,000 paratroopers from the 101st and 82d Airborne divisions were dropped into Holland to support Market Garden in 1944. The 82d was supposed to capture and defend the heights over Groesbeek, outside the city of Nijmegen. They were successful in taking the position, but were forced to defend the area from repeated, powerful German counterattacks.
The 82d was also tasked with dropping on either side of the Nijmegen Bridge to hit the bridge’s defenders from both sides and keep it operational for use by Allied forces. Unfortunately, as was the story with Market Garden, things did not go as planned. The entire strike force was dropped to the south of the bridge and would have to assault it from one side, during the day.
After D-Day in Normandy, in June, 1944, Nelson Bryant reluctantly strikes a pose.
The fighting men of the U.S. Army is the stuff of legend in Groesbeek. One day in 2017, 56-year-old André Duijghuisen was looking through his father’s attic when he came across a very different kind of knife. There was clearly something extraordinary about it. It was still in its sheath – and carved into that sheath was a name, “Bryant.”
Duijghuisen did some digging and found a Bryant registered with the 82d Airbone, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He found that this Bryant not only survived the war but later became a reporter, and even wrote for the New York Times. Most importantly, he was still alive.
Bryant almost didn’t make to Holland at all.
Nelson Bryant was a student at Dartmouth College in 1943. As a college man, he was exempt from the draft but seeing so many friends and peers go over to fight the Nazis inspired him. He volunteered to join the Army. Unhappy with his stateside supply job, he soon volunteered for the 82d Airborne. He arrived in England just in time to jump into Hitler’s Fortress Europe in the wee hours before the D-Day landings.
It was there, during a reconnaissance mission, that he was shot in the chest by a .50-caliber bullet.
“I heard machine gun fire, the next thing I know, bam,” said Mr. Bryant. “It went in the front, came out the back, 50 caliber. I thought, is this it? I could hear distant gunfire, I could hear cows mooing in the pasture.”
Bryant laid in a hedgerow for four days before making it back to a field hospital in Wales. He worked to recuperate there, first walking on his own, then running. When he found out the 82d was making another jump into occupied Europe, he asked doctors if he would be able to go with them. They thought he was nuts. He wasn’t crazy, he was just determined to finish what he started. Not even a hospital could hold him back.
“When no one was looking, I got my clothes and put them on, walked out of the hospital, and thumbed rides on U.S. military vehicles back to Nottingham, England, and got there a week before we made the jump into Holland,” he said.
Duijghuisen reached out to Bryant and told him that he had his “bayonet” and asked if he would like it returned.
“He said bayonet, and I knew something was wrong because I knew the gun I carried you couldn’t use a bayonet,” Bryant said of the exchange. “Then I realized I was talking to a civilian and he wouldn’t know a bayonet from a trench knife. When he said there was a leather sheath, that was a clue.”
At 56, Duijghusen wasn’t even born during World War II, but the legacy of the men who liberated Holland is still important to the people there.
“The name on the bayonet, it made, for me, something personal,” said Duijghuisen before making the visit to Martha’s Vineyard. “Because of what he did in 1944, and because we are now living in a free world. I think a lot about that. He fought in Holland for our freedom. I’m very excited about that, it will be nice to see him.”
Duijghuisen and his wife traveled to see Bryant in 2017, 73 years after the old veteran jumped into Holland, just to return the trench knife Bryant used to free himself while helping free the Netherlands.
On December 21, the two largest planets in our solar system will align more perfectly in the night sky than they have since 1623. No one saw that alignment thanks to the glare of the sun, so if you catch a glimpse of it this year you’ll actually be seeing something no person has beheld since March 4, 1226, nearly eight centuries ago.
This kind of alignment is known as a conjunction, and when it’s Saturn and Jupiter that appear to cross paths in the night sky. It’s known as the Great Conjunction.
Saturn and Jupiter are the slowest and second slowest moving planets in the solar system respectively, which means the Great Conjunction is the rarest of the bright-planet conjunctions. Every year, Saturn moves 12 degrees around the Sun while Jupiter makes it about 30 degrees. That means Jupiter makes up about 18 degrees each year — and that it takes 20 years for its orbit to catch up to Saturn’s — which is why there’s a Great Conjunction every 20 years.
This year’s conjunction, which happens to fall on the Winter Solstice, is remarkable because of just how close they will come. The two planets will be just 0.1 degrees apart, about one-fifth of the full moon’s diameter, at their closest. For us on Earth, it might look like they’re literally on top of each other.
To catch a glimpse of the so-called Double Planet yourself, you’ll need to point a telescope toward the southwestern sky at twilight. The planets will be low on the horizon, which isn’t ideal for viewing, but you should still be able to see it barring any clouds. Those living nearer the equator will have better views, as the planets will be higher in the night sky from their vantage point.
The next Great Conjunction will happen on Halloween of 2040, but the next time the two planets will appear this close will be March 15, 2080. So, it really might be your only chance — unless you plan on kicking it for another 60 years.
The Royal Australian Air Force often flies as part of the finale to the Brisbane Festival in Australia. But one of their greatest moments in their storied history was in 2018 when they set the internet on fire by piloting a C-17 just a few hundred feet above the ground of the large city, navigating between skyscrapers as excited onlookers shot footage with their smart phones.
RAAF C 17A Globemaster flypast at eye-level in Brisbane Sept 29 2018
The video starts slowly as the C-17 makes its approach. According to a statement from the RAAF, the plane flew about 330 feet above the ground at nearly 200 mph. This allowed lucky folks watching from nearby buildings to shoot photos and videos of the plane flying at eye level.
While the video may look harrowing, especially after the 1:00 mark, the plane was actually following a river for most of its route, and did have some wiggle room to shift a little left or right. And the plane conducted the flight twice, coming back around after the first pass.
For years, F-111 Aardvarks flew through the night sky just before the fireworks with a special nozzle fitted to spew jet fuel into the air near the engines, allowing afterburners to ignite it and creating a massive, flying fireball. The supersonic bomber put on quite the display.
F-111 final night Dump & Burn
The finale of the Brisbane Festival culminates in a great aerial display most years, but it pales in comparison to some other annual events. During summits like the Farnborough International Air Show, manufacturers send top crews and test pilots to show off the capabilities of their best aircraft to drum up additional sales.