Whether you believe Okinawa is a realdeployment or not, it’s a great place to get sent for six months. We get it; a lot of us infantry Marines who joined in the post-9/11 era did so for one thing — to see some action — and getting sent to Okinawa means we aren’t going to. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a Debbie Downer about it.
Okinawa, Japan, is a key piece of real estate for the United States Military, which is why we saw it necessary to fight over it back in 1945. It’s close to places like the Korean peninsula, and offers us an easy launching point if things ever get hot. But aside from the strategy, it’s actually a great place to spend six months of your life — if your command will allow you to enjoy it, that is.
Here’s why Okinawa is a great deployment.
There’s a lot to do
The United States has had a military presence on the island for a long time now, which means one thing: plenty of tattoo parlors and local watering holes for one to enjoy on the weekends. Aside from that, you can go diving, fishing; hell, you can even play tourist for a day and check out some of the local attractions.
Remember the battle that took place on the island back in 1945? Well, you might get the opportunity to tour some of the major points of friction and see where your Marine ancestors spilled some blood. If you’re into history, which you should be, this is an awesome thing to do.
The mess halls are awesome
If there’s one thing you’ll remember about Okinawa, it’ll probably be that the on-base dining facilities were fantastic. There are people who are stationed there long-term, and having great food available helps keep everyone happy.
You’re being paid to be there
Wait — you’re complaining that you’re on an all-expenses-paid trip to an island in Asia? Seriously? Your command straight-up told you that you’re going there because the DOD saw it fit to send you there. This means that tons of taxpayer money went into paying for your plane (or boat) ride, your lodging, and your food.
Oh, yeah, and you’re still getting paid while you’re there.
You’re not stuck stateside
There are Marines in the Corps who spend their entire career without ever leaving the country. Who joins to do that? Would you rather be doing that? Probably not.
Sure, it’s not Afghanistan or Iraq, but it’s better than never getting out.
Anybody that spends even the slightest bit of time on social media today is woefully aware of internet trolls. If, by some miracle of a chance, you haven’t had a run in with one of these anger facilitators on platforms like Facebook or Twitter, you’ve still almost certainly seen their kind surfacing in the comments sections under news articles and YouTube videos as though these digital outlets are little more than the sharpie-laden door of a bathroom stall.
They strike without warning, offering nonsense arguments without context or citation, caps-lock tirades, or insulting one-liners that someone, somewhere apparently thinks is funny while the rest of us are stuck scratching our heads or shaking our fists. In the societal hierarchy of the digital domain, internet trolls rank somewhere just below trantrum-throwing toddlers in terms of discourse, but their presence has become such an expected bit of online life that most of us log into our social media platforms of choice with our eyes already rolling in anticipation.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? That was clearly on Lt. Gen. Ted Martin’s mind this week. The deputy commanding general of Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) released a hilarious video on Twitter Wednesday showing exactly how he’d like to handle the masses of keyboard warriors.
“I got another snarky comment,” Martin tells a member of his staff after calling him into his office. “Can you get ahold of [Army Cyber]? I need to find out about @jackwagon. I don’t know who that is.”
Not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need. (US Army photo)
Obviously, war fighting is serious business, as is training for the same–but it’s nice to see someone at the 3-Star level exercising his sense of humor in what has otherwise been one brutal year.
Unfortunately, we probably won’t be able to get the 10-digit grid coordinates of every snarky jackwagon with a black belt in keyboard-fu, but at least we know we’re not the only ones that wish we could send a tank platoon and some Rangers after them.
While many a news outlet regularly reports when Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates flip-flop as to who is the richest person in the world, with Bernard Arnault and Warren Buffet nipping at their heals, as we previously noted in our article on the richest people in history, Bezos and Gates’ combined wealth barely matches that of the known fortune of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who ruled over that oil rich country for over three decades before being ousted and then killed in 2011. So how wealthy was Gaddafi? In the years since his death, so far nearly $200 billion dollars have been found in secret accounts, real estate holdings, and other investments directly belonging to him. No matter whether he acquired it ethically or not, assets are assets, and Gaddafi had the most of any known person so far this century by a huge margin.
Another individual who has more or less ruled a petroleum-rich nation for about two decades now is likewise rumored to secretly have a net worth in excess of $200 billion. We are, of course, talking about Vladimir Putin. But is Putin actually the richest person in the world, or are these just rumors?
To begin with, as you might imagine being born in the Soviet Union in 1952, Putin didn’t exactly start out life in the lap of luxury. In a bit of 1950s-era role reversal, his father was a cook and his mother a factory worker. Putin himself would grow up to join the KGB in 1975 working a variety of positions with that institution over the years. While you might envision Hollywood spy type scenarios were his daily life, in fact, according to journalist and biographer Masha Gessen, “Putin and his colleagues were reduced mainly to collecting press clippings, thus contributing to the mountains of useless information produced by the KGB.”
Putin in the KGB.
The first rumor that Putin was using a government position to stash away quite a lot of money for his own personal gain came in the early 1990s when he, in his then position as head of the Committee for External Relations at the Mayor’s Office in St. Petersburg, allegedly helped broker a million deal to acquire various food supplies for the city. In a nutshell, various companies were granted permits that would allow them to supply a huge amount of materials to foreign entities, and in exchange would be given an equivalent value back in foodstuffs to then be used within the famished city. The thing was, as far as anyone can tell, while the companies did send out the materials, no foodstuffs came back in return. The matter was ultimately investigated by one Marina Salye at the behest of the city council, with Salye in turn claiming Putin’s signature could be found authorizing the deals.
She states, “The raw materials were shipped abroad but the food didn’t materialise. There’s 100% proof that in this Putin was to blame. As a result in 1992 – when there was no food at all – the city was left with nothing. The evidence I have is as solid as it gets…. Putin – well, his committee – made bartering contacts to get food for the city. He issued licenses. And commodities – wood, metal, cotton, heating oil, and oil – flew out of the country.”
That said, while she states Putin was to blame and, at least according to her, she had definitive proof, she did not find any evidence that Putin had received anything in return for the apparently botched deals. As for Putin, he claimed the companies that had been given the export permits in the deal were to blame for foodstuffs not coming back as they were supposed to have- implying that Putin had no knowledge the deals wouldn’t be completed as originally brokered when he issued the licenses.
The city council would move forward with further investigation, but ultimately Mayor Anatoly Sobchak put a stop to it and the matter was dropped. While you’ll read in many outlets reporting this story that Salye would die of so-called natural causes mere weeks after she made these accusations and the investigation was killed, in truth she would go on to help found the Free Democratic Party of Russia and more or less continually rail against Putin to anyone in the media and public who would listen, until eventually giving up in 2000 after the election and moving to the countryside. There she lived until her death at the age of 77 in 2012, though she did give a handful of interviews during that span, still unabashedly anti-Putin.
A portrait of Marina Salye during the 2012 Protests after the 2011 Russian elections.
As for Putin, from that 1992 political position, he worked his way up to becoming one of a trio of Deputy Prime Ministers, and was known to be Boris Yeltsin’s preferred successor, despite before this being a relative unknown among the wider public. Ultimately he did indeed become president in 2000 after winning the majority vote.
Once elected, Putin, like his predecessor, reported his finances and holdings publicly, including his salary and exact amount in his many bank accounts. He has continued to do so since. The result? Over the years while his salary has changed regularly from year to year, he has made approximately 0K-0K annually in that span, for example in 2018 reporting an income of 5K. Today between his wife’s and his own accounts, the couple seem to have a little over a half a million in cash in various bank accounts, though why he isn’t investing this is rather curious given his apparent lack of any other investments and almost complete lack of actually needing any cash for his day to day life given the government foots the bill for most everything. Of this, Putin states, “Honestly speaking, I don’t even know what my salary is. They deliver it to me, I take it, put it my bank account and don’t even count it…”
As for his other assets, he also owns a studio sized apartment in Saint Petersburg, a slightly larger apartment in Moscow, owns a small garage, a couple cars, a small plot of land outside of Moscow, and otherwise has various minor assets of no great worth.
Of course, over the years people can’t help but notice that Putin has a collection of watches he wears very publicly whose purchase price combined is around that of his reported entire net worth, ringing in at about 0,000-0,000 if various reports are to be believed. For reference, the highest valued watch he has been spotted wearing costs around 0,000- a Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar watch.
On top of that, the clothing he can often be seen wearing is likewise extremely expensive, such as his 00+ tailored suits from outlets like Kiton and Brioni. Not just expensive suits, in one photo of him working out, Putin can be seen wearing sweatpants that cost over id=”listicle-2641610333″,400 a pair, apparently made from silk, cashmere and the tears of impoverished children, along with a similarly priced top.
On top of that, among other mansions, he is long rumored to own an estate known as “Putin’s Palace” near Praskoveevka, widely reported to be worth id=”listicle-2641610333″ billion by media outlets. However, this was actually sold in 2011 to one Alexander Ponomarenko, a former associate of Putin’s, for somewhere around 0 million. (Note, the exact amount has not been publicly disclosed, but Ponomarenko has indicated it’s in the ballpark of that widely reported figure.)
Ponomarenko purchased the estate from a group led by businessman Nikolai Shamalov. Ponomarenko claims he decided to buy the company behind the estate project, and thus the mansion, as it was a steal of a deal owing to the project being stalled from lack of funds to complete the estate and the business group wanting to cut their losses on it rather than complete it.
That said, Russian businessman Sergei Kolesnikov, who is exiled from Russia, claims the palace was built specifically for Putin’s use. He claims Putin was able to afford its construction in part thanks to a gift given him by the aforementioned Nikolai Shamalov in the form of 94% of the shares in a company called Lirus Holding. Among other personal knowledge of the development of the palace, Kolesnikov claims Shamalov himself told him this and, to quote him, “I have no reason not to believe (him).”
However, no documents concerning any ownership connected to the project seem to indicate Putin, or any holdings of Putin’s, ever were directly involved with this estate. That said, some contract documents concerning its construction allegedly have the signature of one Vladimir Kozhin, one of Putin’s inner circle of confidants. Of course, this still doesn’t definitively indicate whether Putin actually owned the palace or even was behind its building at all- simply, allegedly someone he is close to was involved in some capacity and later someone else he is close to bought it- a bit of a theme for a lot of these rumors.
Putin himself denies he had anything to do with the palace being built. Nevertheless, Putin allegedly frequents the palace and Federal Protective Service guards have been seen at the mansion, along with locals reporting seeing Putin in the area regularly.
Of course, among the extremely wealthy with such mansions, it’s not uncommon at all to allow friends to guest in one’s estates whenever they please, so Putin would not have to actually own the thing to stay there, nor would it be a big ask to do so- more or less par for the course among the exorbitantly wealthy.
That said, on top of all this estate, Putin has been connected to causing to have had built or secretly owning several other mansions, yachts, planes, etc.
Whether he actually owns any of these or, like Putin’s Palace, seemingly is just using them when he pleases, his flashing of extreme wealth in the case of his watches and other such items, along with an awful lot of not implausible allegations of widespread corruption within his government connected to him, has led to the belief that he has boatloads of money secretly stashed away in accounts throughout the world.
Others speculate Putin is simply using the government coffers to finance all these extravagances. For many items, this would not actually be that uncommon for a major world leader, if a lot more excessive than most. For example, the replacement Air Force One planes the U.S. President will soon have at his disposal has a budget of over billion. The U.S. President also gets a pretty posh mansion (The White House) and vacations spots to go to at their leisure with the tax payer footing the bill for quite a lot of such perks with few batting an eye at this.
But, of course, the U.S. government isn’t funding 0,000 watches for the President (though bullet proof tailored suits occasionally worn by the president are presumably paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. To attempt to clarify these items, requests have been made to the Russian government asking if, for example, Putin’s watches are actually his or property of the state that he is just wearing, but no answer to this question has been given that we could find.
Whatever the case, yet others claim Putin is simply enriching many people around him and it is they who are then happy to provide Putin with anything and everything his Judo-master heart can desire.
Yet others claim it is all three- Putin is enriching himself through shady means and using government funds and people he is helping make wealthy to get whatever he wants while he’s in office.
But the question of the hour is not whether Putin’s net worth is more than he is letting on- that is very apparently true by his watch collection alone, whether he purchased them or they were gifted. The question of the hour is whether he is secretly the richest person in the world with a net worth in excess of 0 billion as so many claim.
So what does the man himself say about all these rumors? “I am the wealthiest man, not just in Europe but in the whole world…”
Case closed, right? He admitted it! Well, in truth, he wasn’t finished talking. He goes on, “I collect emotions. I am wealthy in that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with the leadership of a great nation such as Russia. I believe that is my greatest wealth.”
Of course, whether he collects emotions or not doesn’t inherently negate the first part of that statement, simply that he considers that a greater wealth than whatever he has possession-wise.
Argue amongst yourselves whether this was Putin cleverly admitting to being the wealthiest person in the world while making it seem like he was saying he wasn’t, and also simultaneously admitting he’s a Lizard Person given a hallmark of these creatures is apparently feeding on human emotions…
For a more direct answer to the question about the rumors of his extreme wealth, he clarifies, “It’s just chitchat, nonsense, nothing to discuss… They picked it out of their noses and smeared it on their pieces of paper.”
The Press and Information Office of the President of the Russian Federation’s also asserts of these rumors, “This information has no substance. As you may know, the declarations of Mr. Putin’s income and property are published annually… We recommend you to use only reliable sources henceforward and not to believe fake news in 2018.”
Naturally, nobody seems satisfied with these assertions given his apparent and frequent flashing of wealth far beyond what anyone with his salary should be able to afford.
So what do others who might know a little more say? First, we have political analyst and noted critic of Putin Stanislav Belkovsky who claimed to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2012 that Putin had net worth of approximately billion, though how he came up with this figure isn’t exactly definitive nor inspiring confidence in his hard knowledge here. In his own words, “The figure of billion emerged in 2007. That figure could now have changed, I believe at the level of -70 billion…. Maximum we cannot know. I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about.”
Mildly more concrete, at least in terms of given something more specific, he also claims much of this wealth is because of Putin’s alleged 4.5% stake in Gazprom, 37% stake in Surgutneftegas, and allegedly 50% ownership of Gunvor. How he knows this, however, isn’t fully clear. Belkovsky simply states he got this information through sources he has within the companies. It’s also noted that for a time Gunvor was co-owned by a friend of Putin’s, billionaire Gennady Timchenko.
So what do the three companies say? For whatever it’s worth, Corporate Affairs Director of the Swiss-based Gunvor Group, Seth Thomas Pietras, states, “President Putin has never had any interest in, investment in, or involvement with Gunvor Group either directly or indirectly… Mr. Belkovsky’s claims are based on absolutely nothing and are fundamentally ridiculous. And the U.S. government, despite its statement has never sanctioned Gunvor in any capacity, nor has it provided any evidence of its own.”
Moving on to Surgutneftegas, they likewise deny Putin owns any shares.
Gazprom, which is majority owned by the Russian government itself, with the rest of the stock publicly traded, likewise shows no records of Putin owning any shares.
Belkovsky counters these denials by the companies and lack of records stating Putin has a rather elaborate network of off-shore companies and funds that own the shares, which all ultimately mask that he himself actually owns, or at least, controls them.
Moving on to the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, Bill Browder, he is the one that seems to have started the widespread rumor that Putin’s personal wealth is in excess of 0 billion, stating before a Senate Judiciary Committee
I believe he is worth 0 billion. The purpose of the Putin regime has been to commit terrible crimes in order to get that money…He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation. Therefore, he has a significant and very personal interest in finding a way to get rid of the Magnitsky sanctions.
On this latter note, one of Browder’s former associates, Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, was investigating corruption within the Russian government and allegedly found evidence of various Russian officials taking part in a near quarter of a billion dollar tax fraud scheme. Magnitsky himself was then arrested for allegedly being the mastermind behind the tax fraud, and died while in jail before his trial. At the partial encouragement of Browder, the U.S. then passed the Magnitsky Act in 2009. In an oversimplified nutshell, this allows the U.S. government to sanction various individuals thought to be human rights offenders, ban them from entering the U.S., and more importantly freeze their assets where the government is able. The bill was essentially meant to allow the government to legally hold somewhat accountable those thought to have been involved in Magnitsky’s death.
As for hard data, however, Browder offers little.
Next up, noted economist Anders Aslund, author of the book Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy, states, “I would estimate that Putin is worth around 0-160 billion. We can see that Putin and his friends have taken -15 billion from Gazprom every year since 2004. That’s just Gazprom. There are large numbers of transactions being made… What’s much more difficult is to see where the money goes. It’s typically Cyprus, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Willmington, Delaware…”
As to how he came up with these figures, he states, “My assessment is that since Putin’s circle got its looting fully organized around 2006, they have extracted -25 billion a year, reaching a total of 5-325 billion, a large share of the Russian private offshore wealth. Presuming that half of this wealth belongs to Putin, his net wealth would amount to 0-160 billion. Naturally, Putin and his cronies cannot enjoy their wealth. It is all about power. If they are not the wealthiest, they fear they will lose power.”
Why he assumes Putin would get half of these alleged amounts instead of some other percentage isn’t fully clear.
On that note, like so many before, nobody seems to be able to actually offer hard evidence that Putin has any money stashed away anywhere not publicly known, which when talking sums of allegedly 0 billion, is a pretty neat trick for someone who has been so highly scrutinized, including by the U.S. Senate, who presumably if they wanted could just ask the CIA or other entities good at collecting such data to look into it. Given, instead, they are asking the likes of Browder, it has been presumed and widely claimed, that the CIA and other such government entities have no definitive intelligence on this either.
From this lack of a paper trail directly linking money or assets to Putin, yet his clearly lavish lifestyle indicating he does indeed have access to an awful lot of money, this has led many to conclude that Putin himself doesn’t actually officially own most or all of the wealth attributed to him, but rather he is leveraging his position and connections to enrich those close to him who, in their gratitude, are then more than happy to provide Putin with any money or items he wants, from access to mansion to yachts to sweatpants that keep his Judo-jubblies ultra comfortable when working out.
As alleged evidence for this, we turn to 11.5 million documents from the Panama Mossack Fonseca law firm made public in 2016, dealing in off-shore holdings by over 200,000 entities. While Putin himself is not listed in any of them, the documents do reveal three close associates of Putin’s among those having off-shore holdings partially managed by the law firm, with a combined amount of around billion between the trio.
Despite not owning these assets, there are many claims by various individuals that Putin uses some of these like his “personal bank account”, most notably the holdings of a man claimed by many in the media as Putin’s best friend- famed Russian musician and conductor Sergei Roldugin. Not just a friend, Roldugin is also the godfather to one of Putin’s children and was the man who introduced Putin to Putin’s wife.
As for where Roldugin supposedly got his extreme wealth, beyond his noted music career, starting in the 1990s Roldugin began investing in various oil and other business entities, to great success. Beyond all of this, in 2019, Roldugin also was accused of being involved in a massive multi-billion dollar money laundering scheme in conjunction with Sberbank CIB, which allegedly profited him greatly.
That said, for those using these records as proof of Putin having money elsewhere via his associates, it should be again noted these are the records of well over 200,000 entities throughout the world. And the vast majority who are using the firm are doing so completely legitimately, including actor Jackie Chan who reportedly had six perfectly above board off-shore companies the law firm helped manage various facets of. So that three among Putin’s numerous friends who are exorbitantly wealthy should be included isn’t necessarily proof of anything other than they wanted to have some assets outside of Russia, which isn’t uncommon among the wealthy in Russia. As some formerly close to Putin who have had their assets stripped and forced to flee the country demonstrate, having some off-short holdings is probably a good security blanket of sorts, just in case.
On this note, political scientist professor and author of Putin’s Kleptocracy, Karen Dawisha, stated before her death from lung cancer in 2018, “Why is it that 0 billion left the country last year? Because they believe that their wealth can only be secured in the long term outside their own country.”
Coming back to the posed question of whether Putin is secretly the richest person in the world, whether these funds are being held for him or not, this is still not Putin’s money, not just technically, but we’re guessing regardless of the amount of good-will Putin has built up with these various businessmen and women, should he no longer be in power, they might quickly find themselves less than willing to continue to support his lifestyle, if that is what has been happening as is widely believed. And some speculate he might even find himself in a rather unsafe circumstance in that case.
For example, one-time billionaire and the man formerly known as “Putin’s banker”, but now exiled from Russia, Sergei Pugachev, says “Everything that belongs to the territory of the Russian Federation Putin considers to be his. Everything – Gazprom, Rosneft, private companies. Any attempt to calculate it won’t succeed. He’s the richest person in the world until he leaves power.”
As for leaving power, he goes on that Putin chose not to leave office after his first term and beyond, not because of a desire for continued power, but rather because he feared for his own safety should he no longer be in that position. Even today, Pugachev claims, “I don’t see any guarantees for him [if he steps down]. Putin doesn’t see them either,” which is why he finds it unlikely that Putin will ever willingly leave office. Though it should be noted that Putin himself has stated he will not be running for president at the end of his current term in 2024.
Also for whatever it’s worth, Pugachev, despite having billions stripped from himself by the Russian government, being currently in fear for his life, and in exile, states, in his opinion, Putin himself is not evil, nor did Putin originally plan to setup a corrupt government when he took power, simply that, “He surrounded himself with like-minded people whom he didn’t know very well and who had served with him in the KGB. They immediately began enriching themselves….Putin wanted to get rich, too. He was a pragmatic person. We talked about this. He didn’t want to leave office poor.”
As for the Russian government’s position with regards to Pugachev, it is claimed that Pugachev defrauded the government of hundreds of millions of dollars which is why the one-time bosom-buddy of Putin originally had to go on the run.
Pugachev counters, “The state steals something then has to defend its theft. In my case the scale is huge, but in other respects this is a normal contemporary practice in Russia.” This has all left the one-time billionaire with, by his own account, only about million to his name which he kept in off-shore holdings. It must be rough…
In truth, this amount is unfortunate for him because Pugachev allegedly was offered a deal from a Russian official that if he paid 0 million to certain entities, his legal issues in Russia would be made to be resolved to his benefit and he could return to Russia.
Further siding in the camp that Putin doesn’t have hundreds of billions stashed away he officially owns, the aforementioned Karen Dawisha, who perhaps gives some of the best account and most concrete details of the alleged corruption within the Russian government in her Putin’s Kleptocracy book, states that Putin’s real wealth comes from his position. “He takes what he wants, When you are the president of Russia you don’t need a written contract. You are the law.”
Again backing up this position, financial investigator L. Burke Files, states, “Putin controls wealth through proxies.” He then makes up examples to illustrate, “Sergey owes his fortune to Putin, so when Putin asks Sergey a favor, the favor must be honored. A luxury cruise, use of a private dacha, expensive consumer goods, etc….Ivan owns a shipping company and owes his wealth to Putin, so when Putin requests a favor, Ivan— like Sergey—honors the request.”
So, is Putin the richest person in the world? While, as Gaddafi demonstrated, it is possible to squirrel away 0 billion secretly, given the level of scrutiny thrown Putin’s way by governments the world over looking into the matter, with nobody seemingly able to come up with any hard evidence, most think this figure grossly inflated, though it is generally accepted that he probably does have at least some significant amount stashed away somewhere.
For most, however, the explanation for his rather luxurious lifestyle is more reasonably explained by the simple fact that he can pretty much have the Russian government foot the bill for anything he wants without much uproar or oversight. And it does seem like an awful lot of his compatriots have gotten exceedingly wealthy during his tenure at least in part thanks to their connections with Putin and him leveraging his position to help facilitate their enrichment. Thus, if that is what has happened, it’s reasonable enough that many of those are happy to scratch his back whenever he feels the need for a new yacht or the like, without Putin needing to have anything in his name to avoid the backlash that would result should he be discovered to have such.
But as to answering the question of Putin’s own wealth, as the consensus seems to be that most of his wealth is tied up in his position and associates, rather than funds he directly has, it seems a bit of a stretch to call him the richest man in the world, though not a stretch at all if talking the money he currently has strong influence over. His position as President of Russia alone would be enough for that.
And as to the idea that he really does have 0 billion simply being held in other people’s names, as alluded to, we’re guessing even if many of these individuals are actually holding money for Putin, that should he step down from power and ask for that money be given to him en masse, or even remain in power and ask for a combined sum of 0 billion, that shortly thereafter memorials and monuments would be being built for the former Russian leader who sadly died in his sleep of natural causes…
Thus, to sum up, while given his lifestyle and various possessions, Putin most definitely does have access to quite a lot of wealth between the Russian government and a lot of friends in high and wealthy places, when talking his own assets, there simply isn’t any real hard data to date backing up the claim that he is the wealthiest person in the world. And, while not impossible certainly, it would be quite the hat trick to squirrel away a couple hundred billion without any world governments able to find hard evidence that he owns a dime of it. Of course, while some might argue access to vast sums should still count- access is not ownership, even if one can benefit from it on some level.
In the end, unless he really is one of the Lizard People, he’s probably not immortal, so at some point in the next few decades he will shuffle off this mortal coil and, perhaps then, like Gaddafi, more definitive data will be revealed. Or perhaps sooner when he no longer has the protection of his position in 2024, as he is constitutionally unable to run for the presidency that year. Although, of course he could always do as he did in 2008 and take a different position while remaining in power.
Whatever the case, for now, at least, while it is technically possible he does have 0 billion in secret, and even probable that he has drastically more than he is letting on publicly, which isn’t difficult given his paltry public assets for a man in his position, given the current data at hand, the needle is seemingly tilted more towards Gates and Bezos being wealthier than Putin, at least in terms of money and assets they officially own.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Amphibious warfare is the cornerstone of how the Marine Corps trains and fights. For Assault Amphibious Vehicle crewmen or Amtrackers as they are often identified, the role is critical and contributes immensely to the Marine Corps warfighting capability. “AAV crewman are the tip of the spear when it comes to amphibious operations,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command.
At AAS the curriculum is focused on training Marines in the military occupational field of an AAV crewmen, which entails learning the base knowledge of how to operate, fix and tactically employ an AAV.
U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Sarah Brewster, left, student, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, instructs the operator of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 with hand-and-arm signals during ground guidance drills at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
The AAV crewmen course is 55 training days long. In the first phase of the course, Marines are taught how to drive an AAV on land. The second phase teaches the basics for water driving and the third phase teaches employment of the vehicle’s two weapon systems; the MK19 40 mm grenade launcher and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. In the final portion of the course, students learn how the AAV compliments non-motorized infantry forces, and advanced amphibious assault tactics.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, (center) platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, calls his students into a school circle at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
“We teach the students everything from starting the vehicle to all the components on the vehicle and what they are called,” said Storman. “We also teach them how to drive the AAV on land and on in the water. Finally, how to shoot the vehicle weapons and how to employ them tactically.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Matthew Carstensen, amphibious assault vehicle instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, inspects an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 prior to a ground guidance drill at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
Amphibious assault school’s instructors are hand-picked for being the best in their community, and because they possess increased levels of experience. The greatest advantage of this selection process is that it ensures their knowledge and expertise is passed to new students, and that the probability of continued success on the battlefield improves.
“Amtraking isn’t just about what you learn in the classroom, it’s about what you can come up with on the fly,” said Storman. “As an amtraker you have to be able to think on your feet. Come up with the best solution for the situation that is going to help you to complete the overall mission.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Storman, platform instructor, Assault Amphibian School Battalion, Training Command, teaches a class on the basic operations of an amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) P7/A1 to pipeline student attending AAS at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan Bustos)
AAVs transport Marines from ship to shore and can move inland up to 200 miles supporting the infantry along the way with fire power and supply.
“The amtrak community is very prideful in what we do,” said Storman. “We are what makes the Marine Corps amphibious, and we believe that to the core of our soul. We take what we do very seriously and we are some of the hardest working Marines you will find.”
Storman said it is important to continue to pass AAV skills down to new Marines to keep the Marine Corps alive and fighting hard. Adding that the “ball needs to keep rolling,” and AAV crewman must keep applying their knowledge and skills now and with future amphibious vehicle technologies.
Before his flight left from Charlotte, Norvel Turner Jr. heard a fellow passenger yell for help.
After running to catch the flight heading to Columbia, South Carolina, a 59-year-old man had collapsed in the aisle a few rows behind Turner.
Not sure what had happened, Turner, a former Army Ranger instructor, watched as another passenger rushed over and started to do chest compressions.
Turner’s military training then kicked in. He went over and noticed the man, Mark Thurston, was not moving and his skin had turned purple and mouth was frozen shut.
Turner, currently the safety director at Army Central Command, grabbed a mouth-to-mouth resuscitation device from a nearby first aid kit and pried open Thurston’s mouth.
“I was able to get his mouth open, get the tube in there and then blow into his chest while the other guy did compressions,” Turner said in a recent interview.
Long before he found himself on this flight, Turner had spent over 30 years in the Army.
He retired in 2004 after serving as an 82nd Airborne Division command sergeant major in Afghanistan. He now travels throughout the Middle East to help reduce risks across ARCENT’s area of operations.
On June 27, 2019, he was flying home from a work trip in Florida where he attended safety meetings at the U.S. Central Command headquarters.
Safety has been paramount throughout Turner’s life.
Norvel Turner Jr., left, safety director for Army Central Command, poses for a photograph with Mark Thurston, the man he helped save June 27, 2019, while on a commercial jet awaiting to depart from Charlotte.
In the military, he attended several CPR and combat lifesaver courses like many other soldiers do. He was also a Ranger instructor, responsible for his students who sometimes got hurt or passed out from the grueling tasks.
“If someone goes down, you got to be able to administer basic lifesaving skills,” he said.
Turner recalled that while he and other soldiers were in Rhode Island for paratrooper training in 1980 they came across a car that had just crashed into a tree on a nearby road.
They stopped, got out and saw two teenagers pinned inside the vehicle.
Turner attended to the driver, a girl whose chest was pressed up against the steering wheel. After he pulled her out, he performed CPR on her until emergency crews arrived.
About a month later on Thanksgiving Day, Turner received a heartfelt letter in the mail.
“I received a letter from the mother thanking me for saving her daughter’s life,” he said, “and as a result of that she was able to spend Thanksgiving with her daughter.”
Flight to Columbia
After a short time performing CPR, Turner began to feel a faint pulse from Thurston.
“Every once in a while we would get a pulse, but then it would go out,” he said.
Turner continued giving lifesaving breaths to Thurston as the other passenger did the chest compressions. He also tilted Thurston’s head back to open up his airway.
About 15 minutes later, emergency medical technicians arrived and used a defibrillator to electrically shock Thurston to life. His pulse grew steady, he took breathes on his own and he was rushed to the hospital.
The diagnosis: a massive heart attack.
That hit close to home for Turner. In 2012, Turner’s wife convinced him to get a thorough physical. Once the stress test and other data came back, the doctor told him he had three blocked arteries.
At first, Turner said he couldn’t believe it since he was an avid runner and ate healthy. He later discovered his collateral blood vessels near his arteries had grown to compensate the blood flow.
“So I had no problems,” he said, “but in order to fix it they had to go in and do a triple bypass on me.”
Thurston, now back from the hospital, called Turner and invited him to his home near Columbia on Tuesday so he could thank him in person.
“He wanted to give me a hug and sit down and talk to me,” said Turner, who considers himself a quiet professional who sought no gratitude for what he did. “At first, it was very emotional that one would do that.”
A little more than a month after his heart attack, Thurston said he is now walking, driving and expected to make a full recovery.
If it wasn’t for the quick action of Turner and the others on the plane, Thurston said it would have been a different story.
“I was told later on by the doctors that had they not started CPR when they did, that would have been it. I would not have survived,” Thurston said. “They seriously saved my life.”
Turner said he just reacted instinctively, using what he had learned as a soldier.
“All those skills and training that I had just kicked in automatically,” he said. “That was amazing to me. I never really thought about it until it was over. We were able to save this gentleman’s life and there were no previous rehearsals or anything.”
When Chad Hennings won the top award for College Football’s best inside lineman in 1987, it significantly raised his stock for the NFL draft. He would need it. Despite being the best in the game in his day, he still wasn’t drafted until the 11th round. The reason is that Hennings played football at the Air Force Academy, and would have to serve four years in the military before he could pursue his NFL dreams.
He wouldn’t have to do that today. Defense Secretary Mark Esper just signed a new memo, laying out the guidelines newly-graduated academy athletes need to pursue professional sports careers instead of entering the military.
Hennings spent four years as a pilot and would actually get his last four years waived by the Air Force. By the time he got to the Dallas Cowboys, he was already 27 years old – almost elderly by NFL standards. Luckily for Hennings, he really was one of the best linemen ever to play the game. After his first start in 1992, he went on to win three Super Bowls and snag 27.5 sacks before retiring after the 2000 season. But other athletes weren’t so lucky.
The issue of letting service members who can play at a professional level attempt that dream has been hotly debated by both pro sports fans and policymakers in Washington. The NCAA is big business now, and the NFL is even bigger, generating 5 million and .1 billion in annual revenues, respectively. The pressure to maintain popular talent is definitely on, but the service academies mean more than just big bucks for big-time athletes. They’re supposed to, anyway. There are many who are against the idea.
One in particular.
Before the Obama Administration, academy athletes were required to fulfill their service obligations. The Obama Administration allowed academy athletes to defer their service if they were good enough to be drafted by the NFL. Shortly after Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds was allowed to be drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, the Pentagon rescinded that policy. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis believed the academies “exist to develop future officers,” and those trained officers should fulfill the expectations of their education.
President Trump stepped in in June 2019, saying there was such a short window of talent between their college career and potential professional sports careers, that academy athletes should be allowed to try and take advantage. On Nov. 15, 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a memo that dictates what the athletes must do to try and take advantage – which includes getting permission from the SECDEF and either serving their commitment or paying the government back for their education.
These days, academy grads usually owe the military five years of service after graduation. Under the new athletics policy, once permission is obtained from the Secretary of Defense, the athlete must agree to return to the military and serve those five years. The waiver is then reviewed by the DoD every year while the athlete is in his pro sports position. If they can’t pass the medical standards when they get to the military, they’ll serve five years in a civilian job. If they don’t do either of those, they’ll be charged for their education.
It’s not impossible for service academy grads to serve first and then join the NFL. In addition to the Cowboys’ Chad Hennings, Navy’s Roger Staubach, Mike Wahle, and Phil McConkey as well Army’s Glenn Davis and Alejandro Villanueva all had successful NFL careers after serving their obligations.
As a fighter pilot, one of the most common questions I get is: How do you go to the bathroom in an F-16 or F-35? Let me start off by describing the cockpit.
A cockpit in a modern fighter is an engineering masterpiece. An incredible amount of effort goes into allowing us to interface with the aircraft. In fact, as pilots, we don’t say we’re climbing into the jet; rather, we call it strapping the jet on our back, because it feels like you and the aircraft become one entity. All the buttons and controls surround your body, allowing you to quickly react to an adversary.
Data is displayed throughout our field-of-view starting in the helmet with true augmented reality, then extending to screens in front of us, and finally to an instrument console between our legs. We have an unprecedented amount of situational awareness, however, the tradeoff is there’s no room for a bathroom.
Now, typically in training, our flights are less than an hour and a half. As long as you don’t drink too much coffee before a flight, it’s generally not a problem. However, in combat, I’ve flown missions as long as 8 hours; crossing the Atlantic, I was airborne for over 10 hours. For these missions, I used what we as pilots affectionately call, piddle-packs.
Piddle-packs are the ultimate long road trip solution. They are specially shaped bags with absorbent beads in them. If we have to relieve ourselves, we’ll unzip the flight suit—which is designed to unzip from the top as well as the bottom—unroll the piddle pack, and then pee into it. Once done, we’ll seal the top, while the absorbent beads turn it into a gel that won’t leak during hard maneuvering.
While the concept is simple, it takes time to become proficient at it. Imagine driving a car while unwrapping a bag and peeing into it while staying in your lane and avoiding traffic. Now take that and amplify it in a 3-dimensional world while flying just under the speed of sound with an enemy that’s potentially trying to shoot you down.
The key is to anticipate times when you’ll have a few minutes of straight and level flight. While in Afghanistan, I would typically use the time it took to travel to the tanker. This allowed me to finish up before I got to the tanker, refuel, and then gather situational awareness while I was returning to the fight.
Because it’s a task-saturating event and difficult to maintain formation or answer radio calls, we’ll use the brevity term “racehorse” to let our wingmen know we’re busy for the next few minutes. This allows them to pick up the slack and minimize extraneous talking until we’re done.
Since I’ve been in the Air Force, a number of devices have been developed to make the process easier—particularly for women. I’ve never flown with any of them, but they usually involve an undergarment with a jockstrap that is attached to a vacuum. When the pilot needs to pee, they turn on the vacuum and relieve themselves without having to unzip. While the process is simpler, for me, the upfront preparation, along with the added weight and complexity of a vacuum, have made the cost greater than the benefit.
As for your follow-up question, how do you go number 2? The answer is, you don’t.
In 1937, a young Chicago woman named Aida Garaffa lived across the street from a young man named Gerald “Jerry” Bonsonto.
A trip to a local shop would join the two hearts together in love.
“My sister and I were walking to the corner of Throop Street. There was a grocery store where we bought ice cream. When we came out of the store we saw Jerry,” explained Aida Bonsonto who recalled that first meeting with her future husband.
“He asked me if I wanted to go to the movies with him. He wasn’t a big fellow. He was about five-feet four-inches but he was handsome,” she said.
But world events, specifically World War II, would interrupt their courtship.
“The war was going on. He was drafted,” explained the youthful 97-year-old. “He was inducted on Dec. 12, 1942. We were engaged and then he left for training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.”
Aida Bonsonto with her husband Gerald “Jerry” Bonsonto pose for a photo, circa 1946.
Bonsonto trained as a medic and paratrooper and was assigned to the 307th medics of the 82nd Airborne Division.
“He landed in Africa first,” explained Bonsonto. “And he also served in Sicily, Italy, Ireland, England, France, Holland, and Germany. He was in the Battle of the Bulge.”
It was there where bullets fired by a German sniper found their mark hitting Pfc. Bonsonto. When she found out, she went to Holy Family Church in Chicago. The same church where the couple would be married later on June 8, 1946.
“When we found out he was wounded, I crawled from the door to the altar of Holy Family Church. I asked God to spare his life,” she said.
“They didn’t know if he was going to live,” she said. “He was badly wounded.”
But Jerry lived.
He was evacuated and sent to hospitals in England and Capri, Italy before he was discharged and sent home to the United States.
“He was never the same after that. He had a lot of pain,” she said.
Before he came home he sent the woman who would become his wife two boxes containing a parachute. Rationing was in effect, even after the war ended, and fabric was expensive. But a parachute made of silk and nylon provided Bonsonto with the material she needed for her wedding dress.
Aida Bonsonto wears a wedding dress, circa 1946, made from a parachute, that was sent home to her by Army medic Gerald “Jerry” Bonsonto who served with the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II.
“I told the seamstress I wanted a sweetheart neckline with long sleeves,” said she said. “And the bridesmaids dresses were all made in Chiffon.”
“An Italian woman made the wedding dress and the bridesmaid gowns out of the parachute,” explained Bonsonto.
It turned out the wedding dress was not the only thing she owned that was made from a parachute.
“While he (Jerry) was in Normandy, he had a French lady make me a nightgown out of a parachute. It was all made by hand,” she said.
And the cost was not what one might expect.
“It cost him two packages of cigarettes. That’s all she asked for it”, said Bonsonto.
Bonsonto shared that she still keeps the nightgown.
“I only wore it when I got married,” said Bonsonto. “I kept it as a souvenir with the wedding dress. She also stitched my name on the nightgown. It’s very pretty.”
While she waited for Jerry to return home, life went on in her neighborhood in Chicago.
“We used to sit outside at night and have coffee and pastries. We slept near the fire hydrant when it was hot at night,” explained Bonsonto. “My brother put a loudspeaker on our parlor window and we would have a street dance.”
The family of Aida Bonsonto pauses for a photo with Brig. Gen. Kris A. Belanger, Commanding General, 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command and a wedding dress made from a World War II parachute that her husband sent home.
(Photo by Sgt. David Lietz)
But the party to end all parties was when World War II ended Sept. 2, 1945.
“It was remarkable how people celebrated. I think people celebrated at least three days on this block. People danced in the streets. It was like a festival,” she said.
When Jerry returned home he started working for his dad driving a truck and never talked about his wartime experiences, according to Bonsonto.
“He wore his combat boots every day working on the truck to remind him of what he went through,” said Bonsonto. “He wore them until he couldn’t wear them anymore when they fell apart.”
Her beloved Jerry passed away in 1980.
“Everybody liked him. He was funny. He minded his business, he worked and came home,” recalled Bonsonto.
Now Bonsonto has stated that she will loan the parachute wedding dress she wore on her wedding day to the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Her next concern was how to get the wedding dress to the museum.
On Memorial Day of 2019, Brig. Gen. Kris A. Belanger, South Carolina native and commanding general of the Chicago-based 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command, traveled to suburban Orland Park to meet with Bonsonto and her family and pick up the dress.
A religious card taped into a scrapbook compiled by Aida Bonsonto showcases her husband’s military service during World War II.
“My mom has wanted to (loan) this parachute wedding dress for years,” explained her daughter-in-law, Caroline Bonsonto. “She has been contacting different museums for years. This is something she has been pursuing.”
“There’s lots of stories about these parachute wedding dresses but not a lot of actual dresses in museums,” explained John Aarsen, museum director for the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum. “We love them. It helps tell the stories about the families.”
The museum currently has one parachute wedding dress on display.
“By having this parachute wedding dress we can rotate them for display,” according to Aarsen who also serves as a U.S. Army Reserve brigadier general at the 451st Expeditionary Sustainment Command in Wichita, Kansas.
At the end of the evening, completed by a hearty meal and good fellowship, Bonsonto turned the dress over to Belanger.
Belanger is scheduled to bring it to the 82nd Airborne Division War Museum where a wedding dress made from a parachute will help tell future generations about the love story of a soldier named Jerry and his bride Aida.
“I thought it was quite an honor to be a part of taking a piece of history and making it public,” said Belanger. “Making history in such a way that it means so much to a family. It was an honor they trusted me to take a historic family heirloom and then display it for all to see. It is really incredible.”
Combat, violence and death cause pain and suffering in the human spirit. Many veterans struggle when they come home — they carry the burdens of war, they endure injuries seen and unseen, they are haunted by the fallen and feelings of guilt, they struggle to find community and purpose. The list of symptoms goes on.
“People think that SEALs are automatons, impervious to the stressors of combat. Unfortunately, no human is impervious to the physiological effects of war.”
Mikal A. Vega on Combat Related Stress
The good news is that there is healing to be found.
More and more, veterans like Navy SEAL Mikal Vega are sharing their stories and showing a way forward for their brothers and sisters in arms. Most recently, Vega created a short film called Message in a Bottle “in an effort to encapsulate the ‘why’ we serve, the ‘what’ is possible and the ‘how’ to get there.”
WATCH THE FILM:
Written and directed by Vega, a 22-year Navy SEAL veteran who can be seen in TV/Film projects such as can be seen in Transformers 3, S.W.A.T., Mayans M.C., and much more, the film was inspired by his own life story. That story may seem familiar to many veterans and it was depicted in this film in order to help others dealing with PTSD find non-pharmaceutical modalities for long-term healing.
In conjunction with Vital Warrior, Vega’s conscious action program designed to serve veterans and empower them with the ability to apply their military training to a healing lifestyle, Message in a Bottle shares Vega’s powerful message. Vital Warrior provides veterans with mental disciplines within the warrior ethos, teaching abilities specifically designed to tap into dormant creative aspects of self to offset and subsequently balance the cumulative destructive physiological effects culminated during a lifetime of service and/or war.
“We made this film with no budget other than what was absolutely required to bring this story to light. My story,” shared Vega on Instagram.
His goal in making the film is to not only help veterans and active duty service members, but anyone dealing with any significant trauma or stress to find inspiration through this film.
“Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan has been, and continues to be, the most difficult and rewarding thing I have done in my life. Naturally, it is the core of Vital Warrior and allows our clients to develop the awareness to learn the subconscious landscape, remove obstacles and choose a positive projection in their day to day thought patterns.”
I’ve taken Vega’s classes before and they were harder than anything I’ve done in a Crossfit or body-building program. The man’s mental discipline and fortitude are impressive and inspiring. I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a mental and physical shift.
Watch his film in the link above and pass it along. The message may reach someone who needs it most and by streaming it, you help support Vital Warrior and The CAMEO Theatre.
Black Friday is upon us once again. You know what this means, right? Time to break out that old Army Riot Control Training to help you navigate the malls.
What’s that? You think I’m being hyperbolic? If you remove all mentions of weaponry, it’s still fairly consistent. Avoid major hubs of civil unrest at all costs. Ensure your unit never breaks eye contact with each other. Don’t engage if taunted by locals as it’ll escalate the situation further. Utilize “Hearts and Minds” with non-participants caught in the chaos, in this case retail clerks, in an effort to more easily achieve your stated goal. You know, basic stuff that most troops should know.
And there’s even a bit in FM 3-19.15 about using video recordings to prove that you were in the right if a situation escalates. All I’m saying is remember to hold your phone horizontally if someone tries to pick a fight over that Baby Yoda doll, which is what we all truly want for Christmas this year.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Freedom Hard)
(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)
(Meme via On The Minute Memes)
(Meme via Team Non-Rec)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Not CID)
I had a guy in my company get into some dumb sh*t Off-post and was arrested on a Sunday night. Didn’t inform anyone in the unit until early Monday morning until right before PT. First Sergeant, who was typically very hands-on with PT, had to zonk all of us to go handle that dude along with his platoon sergeant.
Come to find out in the smoke pit later, he knew he was in deep sh*t no matter what happened. So he waited until the last second to also try to use his time in lock-up to get out of PT. It worked. It worked so well we all got PT off.
He was normally a complete ate-up piece of hot garbage and no one could stand his ass, but for one glorious moment… He was a true hero.
Phishing, when successful, tricks the user into unwittingly handing over their passwords to the scammer, often through professional-looking emails purporting to be from trustworthy businesses. The endgame is generally acquisition of personal information, like credit card and social security numbers.
Recently, phishing has been weaponized to varying degrees of sophistication with a key technique: impersonation.
The trick was enough to convince one employee at Gimlet Media, which runs the everything-internet podcast “Reply All,” to open an email from his “coworker.” Except the sender was not his coworker, but a hacker attempting a work-sanctioned phishing test on the company’s employees.
Familiarity fraud is an online tactic people have to be especially wary of on social media, where friends’ pictures and handles are rife for imitation. Duplicate accounts fish for personal information under the guise of intimacy.
2. The Nigerian prince scam is one of the oldest on the internet.
The Nigerian prince scam is one of the oldest scams on the internet.
The scam rose to prominence in the 1990s, and is referred to by the FBI as “Nigerian Letter” or “419” fraud.
The premise is simple: You get an email, and within the message, a Nigerian prince (or investor, or government official) offers you an opportunity for lucrative financial gain.
The catch? Pay a small portion of the amount up front, or hand over bank account information and other identifying information so that the transfer can be made. Of course, you lose that “seed money,” never receiving a dime in return.
“It’s malware and phishing combined with clever social engineering and account takeovers,” James Bettke, a counter threat unit researcher at the security firm Secureworks, told Wired reporter Lily Hay Newman in 2018.
“They’re not very technically sophisticated, they can’t code, they don’t do a lot of automation,” he added. “But their strengths are social engineering and creating agile scams. They spend months sifting through inboxes. They’re quiet and methodical.”
3. Ticket fraud leads to consumers buying fake sports and music tickets.
Another popular online scam is ticket fraud, in which consumers are tricked into buying fake tickets for sporting events, concerts, and other events.
Scammers usually target high-profile events that are likely to sell out so they can take advantage of increased demand. Often, the tickets they send customers have forged bar codes or are duplicate copies of legitimate tickets. Other times, consumers won’t receive any ticket at all after they pay up.
“If you have gotten a message from me or any other creator on YouTube that looks something like this, that is very likely someone trying to scam you,” DeFranco said in a video posted to his channel.
The faux DeFranco slid into targets’ Youtube messages, promising “gifts” via the click of a hyperlink. The scammer’s real endgame: identity theft for financial gain through a classic online phishing scheme.
“We’re aware and in the process of implementing additional measures to fight impersonation,” a YouTube employee wrote in response to complaints of scam. “In the meantime, we’ve removed accounts identified as spam.”
And angry mobs incensed by the fiasco that was Fyre Festival — an event so botched it warranted not one, but two documentaries — directed much of their ire at the event’s celebrity influencers.
The defrauded cited a lack of transparency as to what the influencers were paid to hawk the festival to their millions of followers online, although not everyone agreed they deserved the blame to begin with.
6. But sometimes the influencers themselves can get scammed.
One variety of online grift victimizes the influencers themselves with identity-fraud tactics common to phishing.
Earlier this year, a scammer posing as entrepreneur and investor Wendi Murdoch used email handles and other techniques so convincing, social media stars were tricked into buying their own flights to Indonesia and paying for fake photography permits as part of the scam.
The victims, influencers and travel photographers among them, got bilked out of thousands of dollars in the process.
The FBI and New York Police Department opened investigations into the scam in 2018, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Also assisting is the corporate investigations firm K2 Intelligence, which tracked the scam’s pivot from celebrities to influencers.
“For a long time, they were going after people in Hollywood. [Now, they’re] routinely targeting influencers — Instagram stars, travel photographers, people who do stuff that involves them travelling all over the world,” Nicoletta Kotsianas, a director at K2 Intelligence, told INSIDER in January.
“It’s about convincing some people that there’s someone else, and manipulating them, being into that, and world-building around the whole thing,” she added. “They’re making some money off it, but it’s really about the ride along the way.”
A screenshot shows a WannaCry ransomware demand, provided by cyber security firm Symantec.
7. Ransomware held a whole city hostage in 2018.
Some of the most insidious online scams involve ransomware.
In a ransomware attack, hackers install malware onto a computer or system of computers that restricts a victim’s access to their files. Payment, often in the form of bitcoin, is demanded to undo it.
The hackers behind the scheme “deliberately engaged in an extreme form of 21st-century digital blackmail, attacking and extorting vulnerable victims like hospitals and schools, victims they knew would be willing and able to pay,” Brian Benczkowski, the head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, said in November.
The cam-hacking claim, which is bolstered by parroting the user’s password in the email, is means for blackmail: Send us bitcoin, or we send all your contacts the footage.
The reality? Pure manipulation. The scammers don’t have dossiers of footage. They never even hacked you. How? Because the password they flaunted wasn’t hacked, but harvested, gleaned from publicly available databases of leaked passwords and emails.
So there’s no need to cover your laptop’s camera. For now.
9. GoFundMe fake-outs take advantage of people’s generosity.
Another thriving online grift is the GoFundMe sob story fake-out.
One notable example came in a feel-good story from 2017 about a couple raising 0,000 for a homeless veteran who had lent them his last . As prosecutors discovered, the trio had concocted the entire story, and not only do they face a mix of federal and state charges, but GoFundMe refunded the donations of all 14,000 contributors.
Another example of strategic storytelling in the art of crowdsourced scamming: A black college student who raised money from Republicans on GoFundMe after claiming her parents disowned her for supporting Trump.
The narrative was suspiciously convenient — because it was a hoax. Although she quickly returned the money she raised, she also exposed how easily you can take advantage of people’s generosity.
10. Pump-and-dump schemes can artificially inflate the value of a currency.
Cryptocurrency is often the form of payment in online scams, but in one scheme, the crypto itself is the fraud.
Investment schemes were always destined to flourish online. By using the web to mass target would-be investors, a schemer can commit the Securities and Exchange Commission no-no of artificially “pumping” up the value of stock to the masses in order to then “dump” the stock on a falsely inflated return.
“[The] ethos is simple: Buy low, sell high. The implication is that investors outside the pump group will see the rapidly rising price and rush to buy in, anxious not to miss the next Bitcoin-style gold rush,” Paris Martineau of The Outline wrote.
“There are frankly a lot of groups that have now centered around misinformation,” Laz Alberto, a cryptocurrency investor and editor of the newsletter Blockchain Report, told BuzzFeed reporters Ryan Mac and Jane Lytvynenko in 2018. “It’s obviously illegal, but there’s no regulation and they’ve gotten away with it.”
A cryptocurrency founder was even himself the target of a fake news hoax in 2017, when news spread that Vitalik Buterin, cofounder of the cryptocurrency Ethereum, had died in a car crash.
The fake reports of Buterin’s death caused Ethereum’s valuation to plummet in the market — and later rebound — when the very-much-alive Buterin debunked the rumor himself.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The success of Operation Overlord, the Battle of Normandy that established a bridgehead on the continent for the Allies, required everyone to do their part. Even the people of occupied France had a role to play, and theirs was as significant as the men who landed on the beaches.
One Special Forces officer, Cpt. Joseph Ivanov, wants to help their stories live on for the next generation by erecting a monument to them.
The idea came to him after watching a documentary about the dedication of a monument to Operation Neptune in 2012. Neptune was the code name of the seaborne invasion of Normandy that began on Jun. 6, 1944. As a member of Special Forces, Ivanov sees the French Resistance as an essential part of special warfare’s history and development. He was surprised to find no memorial existed in their home country to commemorate their role in Operation Overlord.
“It’s like 67 years later, they put a monument at Utah Beach to commemorate Operation Neptune, what the Navy did,” he told journalist Jeff Stoller. “How did we go so long without paying a tribute to these men and women?”
French Resistance fighters were also known as the French Forces of the Interior or the Maquis, depending on where you sat in the Allied chain of command. They were resistance cells and guerrilla fighters made up of men, women and even children who actively worked against occupying German troops and Vichy French collaborators.
They were everything the Nazis hated, from academics to Communists, French Nationalists to Catholics, Protestants, even Jews. To facilitate the D-Day landings that closed out WWII, the Resistance conducted intelligence gathering on German troop movements and fortifications as well as sabotage raids on critical infrastructure.
To pay homage to those who fought in the Resistance during Operation Overlord, Ivanov first contacted Steven Spears, who created the Operation Neptune memorial at Utah Beach. The artist excitedly designed a monument that features three figures around a bicycle, each representing an aspect of the resistance, the guerrillas, the auxiliary, and the underground.
In the design is a middle-aged man with a rifle, who represents the guerrillas. Next to him is a boy on the bicycle who represents the auxiliary. The third figure is a woman handing out a communication, representing the underground.
Once the scale model design was carved, the two reached out to Operation Democracy, a nonprofit whose goal is to strengthen the historic and necessary bonds of friendship between France and the United States through significant educational projects. Operation Democracy offered its organization as a means for the effort to take tax-free donations toward the construction of the monument.
Ivanov paid for the work himself up to this point, and hopes to raise enough money to finish a full-scale construction and ship it to Normandy in time for it to be dedicated on the 77th anniversary of the D-Day landings in June 2021.
The internet has been aflutter with memes about a million-person strong raiding party headed for the U.S. government’s top secret military installation commonly referred to as Area 51 for weeks now. Sure, the whole thing started as a joke, and some portions of the media lack the cultural fluency to appreciate that… but the internet hasn’t, and if there’s one thing the internet is good for, it’s running with a joke that confuses and befuddles the older generation.
It seems like a sure thing that some poor fools that clicked “attend” on the Facebook page devoted to the Area 51 raid will actually make their way out to the extremely remote Rachel, Nevada (the closest town to Area 51) in September. It’s just about certain that the media will be present as well, eager to capture shots of the turnout (or lack thereof). Whether or not anybody actually tries to make a break for the remote airstrip is yet to be seen, but it’s a safe bet that no one that does will actually make it anywhere near the isolated structures. Instead, they’ll likely find themselves in jail.
The reality of this fad, then, may be a bit of a bummer — but we’re still months away from the gloomy truth killing off lonesome teenager’s dreams of alien girlfriends just waiting to be liberated from Uncle Sam’s clutches. So let’s just appreciate the memes in the meantime.
The timestamp checks out.
I’ll be honest, this one wouldn’t have been a contender if it weren’t for the generic “College Student” account name associated with this meme. This whole Area 51 Raid fad started somewhere in the internet’s nether regions (most of us call it Reddit), and this meme perfectly represents the demographic that brought this concept to the forefront of America’s attention.
Put simply, this meme perfectly represents the entire subject… a bunch of college students that would much rather plan a hypothetical raid on a secret military installation than study for whatever their next exam is. Maybe this is telling about us writers too… a bunch of internet journalists that would rather write about college students planning a raid on Area 51 than focus on ongoing conflicts in the… eh, never mind.
Just don’t cheat and look at my screen.
This one may just be a generational thing, but I can’t be the only guy that remembers playing Halo on the original Xbox in both the dorms as a college student and in barracks as a junior Marine. The Halo franchise is legendary for a number of reasons, including how much fun it used to be to stay up all night murdering your friends with weird weapons like the Needler shown here.
All I’m saying is… if I went through all the trouble to invade Area 51, I’d hope to get a plasma cannon or two out of the deal.
Didn’t we all, man.
No meme more accurately conveys the ironic humor of the entire Area 51 story than this one, starring Twitter comedian Rob Delaney in his super-ordinary looking Deadpool 2 garb. An unassuming and ordinary dude that chuckled under his breath as he came across a Facebook post about raiding Area 51 is really what this whole thing is all about… until the media came along and tried its best to turn this whole thing into a real news story.
This one is my absolute favorite, because, despite my allegiance to the internet’s tomfoolery (it is, after all, how I make a living), I’m still every bit the salty old platoon sergeant I once was, deep beneath my softening midsection. As I’ve seen this meme fad develop into a news story, and that story mobilize people into thinking an actual raid is possible, part of me sort of wants to see a mob of entitled young adults storming across the dry sands of Groom Lake.
Why? Not because they’d accomplish anything, but because half of them would go down from dehydration a half mile into the march and the rest would succumb to fear after an organized force of security officers began threatening them with non-lethal weapons.
Watching a few hundred millennials get a spanking in the desert? That’s worth the memes any day.