Fortnite, the wildly popular (and highly addictive) video game of 2018, is back — with a new line of themed toys just in time for summer 2019. Hasbro revealed that it’s teaming up with the gaming brand on eight different Nerf dart blasters and super soakers that will be released on March 22, 2019.
Announced at the New York Toy Fair 2019, the Fortnite x Nerf line is inspired by the same weapons used by the characters in Fortnite, imitating the same style and color scheme. There are five types of dart blasters and three types of super soakers that kids and parents can choose from.
In terms of dart blasters, there are some smaller versions that shoot micro-darts and another one that’s shaped like the Loot Llama. However, the real highlight is likely the AR-L Elite Dart Blaster. Equipped with a motorized shooting system and a 10-dart clip, it retails for .99, the most expensive of the bunch.
As for the water guns, you can select the standard super soaker, the pump action model, or the colorful rocket launcher. Of the three, the TS-R Super Soaker Water Blaster Pump Action is the largest, holding up to 36 fluid ounces (1 liter) of water.
A top Ford executive implied on Nov. 25, 2019, that Tesla’s video showing its new Cybertruck beating an F-150 in a tug-of-war might not have been completely fair.
“Hey @elonmusk send us a Cybertruck and we will do the apples to apples test for you,” Sunny Madra, who leads Ford X, the automaker’s mobility-ventures lab, said on Twitter. Not long after, Tesla’s billionaire CEO accepted the challenge, saying “bring it on.”
On Nov. 21, 2019, as part of a laser-filled reveal that didn’t always go to plan, Tesla CEO Elon Musk went out of his way to take shots at Ford and other automakers.
“You want a truck that’s really tough, not fake tough,” he said.
Ford was quick to fight back.
“We’ve always focused on serving our truck customers regardless of what others say or do,” a Ford representative told Business Insider.
Madra’s tweet appears to be the first time since the Tesla reveal that a Ford executive has publicly discussed the Cybertruck. Musk responded to the Ford executive’s challenge on Nov. 25, 2019: “Bring it on,” he said.
For its part, Ford has big plans for its own electric-truck fleet.
Earlier this year, Ford showed off an electric F-150 prototype that handily towed 1 million pounds of train cars for 1,000 feet. (For context, a properly configured Ford F-150 pickup truck can tow 13,200 pounds.)
It’s not clear whether Tesla will take Madra up on the offer of a test, which could be the first of its kind for the nascent electric-vehicle industry — and certainly a treat for automotive fans.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp was recently seen sailing in the South China Sea on its way to the Philippines with an unusually heavy configuration of F-35s.
The Wasp was carrying at least 10 F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters, more than the usual load of six of these hard-hitting fifth-generation jet fighters, The National Interest first reported, adding that the warship may be testing the “light carrier” warfighting concept known as the “Lightning carrier.”
Sailors on the Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
The amphibious assault ship is participating in the Balikatan exercises, during which “US and Philippine forces will conduct amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, and counterterrorism response,” the US Navy said in a statement over the weekend announcing the Wasp’s arrival.
The annual exercises prepare troops for crises in the Indo-Pacific region. 2019’s exercises are focused on maritime security, a growing concern as China strives to achieve dominance over strategic waterways.
It’s the first time the Wasp and its Marine Corps F-35B fighters have participated in the Balikatan exercises.
The ship and its fighters “represent an increase in military capability committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the Navy said, using rhetoric consistent with US military freedom-of-navigation operations and bomber flights in the South China Sea, intended to check China.
The F-35B is the Marine Corps’ variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force and Navy are also fielding versions of the fighter, the F-35A and the F-35C, the latter of which is designed to operate on full-size carriers.
The F-35B, which was declared combat-ready in 2015, can perform short takeoffs and vertical landings and is suited for operating on amphibious assault ships.
In addition to at least 10 F-35s, the configuration on the Wasp reportedly included four MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters. Typically, there would be fewer fighters and more rotor aircraft, The War Zone reported.
Deploying with more F-35s than usual could be a first step toward fielding of light carriers, an approach that could theoretically boost not only the size of the carrier force but its firepower.
Marine Corps F-35Bs and MV-22 Ospreys on the flight deck of the Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
The concept is not without precedent. During the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, amphibious assault ships sailed with up to 20 AV-8B Harriers, becoming “Harrier carriers.”
The concept has been rebranded as the “Lightning carrier,” a reference to the fifth-generation fighters the warships would carry into battle.
The War Zone said an America-class amphibious assault ship — successors to the Wasp class — could carry 16 to 20 F-35s in a light-carrier configuration.
F-35Bs chocked and chained on the flight deck of the Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin F. Davella III)
Paratroopers are a force to be reckoned with. They can slip far behind enemy lines and wreak havoc against an enemy’s support units, making life easier for those in the main assault and striking fear into those who assumed they were safely behind defenses. What’s worse (for the enemy), after the initial airborne assault, you’re left with the famous “little groups of paratroopers” — small pockets of young men brave enough to jump out of an airplane, all armed to the teeth, ready to defend themselves, and devoid of supervision.
But for as daring and lethal as paratroopers are, they’re still, essentially, light infantry once they hit the ground. Light infantry can do a lot of things, but when they’re tasked with hitting prepared positions or facing off against enemy tanks, they tend to take heavy casualties.
So, how do you reinforce troops that drop from the sky? You drop armor out of the sky, too.
The BMD-1 was the Soviets’ answer to the question of bringing armored support to their paratroopers.
In 1965, the Russians began designing an infantry fighting vehicle that could be air-dropped. Eventually, this came to be known as the BMD-1. BMD stands for Boyevaya Mashina Desanta or, in English, “airborne combat vehicle.”
The BMD-1 packs some impressive firepower: it uses the same turret as the BMP-1, packing a 73mm gun, a launcher for the AT-3 Sagger missile, a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun, and a bow-mounted 7.62mm machine gun. This vehicle has a crew of two and carries five infantry. It has a top speed of 40 miles per hour and can go a little over 370 miles on a tank of gas.
The BMD-1 was widely exported. Saddam Hussein’s regime was one of the purchasers.
(USMC photo by LCPL Andrew P. Roufs)
Unlike its American contemporary, the M551 Sheridan, a vehicle designed to support American paratroopers in similar ways, the BMD was exported to a number of Soviet clients. The BMD saw action in the Angolan Civil War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, Desert Storm, and fought in the Second Chechen War and the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.
Learn more about this 7.5-ton hunk of metal that’s designed to be dropped from the sky in the video below!
The fate of some 5,000 Taliban prisoners jailed in Afghanistan is threatening to turn into a major stumbling block in efforts to end the 19-year war in the country.
The Taliban is demanding the release of the detainees before the launch of direct negotiations between Afghans and the Taliban over a permanent cease-fire and a future power-sharing arrangement.
Those intra-Afghan talks, slated for mid-March, will begin after the United States and the Taliban sign a historic peace deal that will trigger the phased withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Experts said the issue of Taliban prisoners could be a key obstacle in launching the country’s peace talks or, conversely, be used as a bargaining chip to exact concessions from the militants.
There are fears that the release of thousands of Taliban fighters could deprive the Kabul government of a key amount of leverage and undercut the peace process by strengthening the Taliban’s position on the battlefield.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan on February 26 that Kabul will free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for the release of 1,000 members of the Afghan security forces held by the militants.
Shaheen said the “trust-building measure” was a prerequisite for the launch of the intra-Afghan talks.
He added that the prisoner release was part of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, although Afghanistan is not a signatory to that bilateral agreement.
But the Taliban and the United States have not yet disclosed the contents of the deal.
The Kabul government has ruled out releasing the prisoners before the start of talks.
“When we, as the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, enter into negotiations with the Taliban and they demand the release of their prisoners, it will naturally be discussed, and will take into account the laws and interests of our people and [our decision] will be based on the consensus that will arise at that stage,” said Sediq Sediqqi, President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman, on February 20.
‘Quid Pro Quo’
Omar Samad, a former Afghan diplomat who is now a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, said the issue could be used as a “political stumbling block or a bargaining chip.”
“Bargaining chip can mean quid pro quo,” he said.
Michael Kugelman, South Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, said the Afghan government could offer the Taliban a major concession before intra-Afghan talks with the expectation that the militants will reciprocate.
Kugelman said that could mean the insurgents agreeing to reduce violence during the negotiations, which analysts expect to be complicated and protracted.
The United States and the Taliban agreed to a weeklong reduction of violence across Afghanistan before the signing of the peace deal. The partial truce has largely held, with a dramatic decrease in Taliban attacks from around 75 per day down to under 15.
The militants contest or control nearly half of the country.
A similar truce during intra-Afghan talks has been mooted, although the Taliban has not commented on the possibility.
But analysts warned that there was a risk in the government giving away one of its primary bargaining chips at such an early stage of the peace process.
“The Taliban has ample leverage because it’s in no hurry to conclude a peace deal,” said Kugelman. “If it receives a major concession it may hold out and demand more before giving something up in return.”
10,000 Taliban Prisoners
There are an estimated 10,000 Taliban prisoners being held in Afghanistan. But the militants have said that some of those detained were accused of being sympathizers or members of the group, often to settle old scores, and are not actually combatants.
There have been several high-profile prisoner swaps and releases of insurgents since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that toppled the Taliban regime.
In November 2019, two Western hostages were released from Taliban custody in exchange for three senior Taliban prisoners, including Anas Haqqani, the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction.
The prisoner swap was seen as an attempt to kick-start U.S.-Taliban peace negotiations after U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly ended the talks over rising Taliban attacks.
In 2014, five senior Taliban members were released from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for a captured U.S. soldier, Bowe Bergdahl.
All five former Guantanamo Bay detainees are based in Qatar, where they have taken part in negotiations with U.S. officials.
In 2013, former President Hamid Karzai controversially released scores of Taliban prisoners from a formerly U.S.-run prison near Kabul as an attempt to convince the militants to open direct talks with Kabul.
The move failed to convince the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. Analysts said some of those freed returned to the Taliban, bolstered their ranks, and increased the insurgency’s efficacy on the battlefield.
On Dec. 9, 2018, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand went to the floor of the Senate to ask her colleagues for unanimous consent to pass H.R. 299, known as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act.
The act, which passed in the House of Representatives with a unanimous vote, would extend Veterans Affairs benefits to veterans who served in warships off the coast of Vietnam and were exposed to toxic Agent Orange.
If successful, Gillibrand’s request would have expedited the bill’s passage — but one senator, Republican Mike Enzi of Wyoming, objected, according to Stars Stripes.
“On this bill, many of us have been made aware of the potential cost growth and the budgetary and operational pressures that would happen at the VA,” he said. “They’re having a lot of problems, anyway.”
Leaking Agent Orange barrels circa 1973.
The VA has estimated that the bill would cost the bureau .5 million over the course of 10 years. But the Congressional Budget Office has previously estimated it would cost a fraction of that amount — id=”listicle-2623193782″.1 million. Regardless of cost, some senators, backed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, view the bill as an obligation.
“If we can afford to send veterans to war, it’s unacceptable that we can’t afford to take care of them when they return home wounded,” B.J. Lawrence, national commander of the VFW, said in a statement.
Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking Democrat on the Senate veterans affairs committee, agreed.
“It is our obligation to meet the needs of the folks who have sacrificed for our country,” he said on the Senate floor.
Sens. Gillibrand and Tester held a press conference on Dec. 11, 2018, calling for more support for the struggling bill.
“Shame on the VA for trying to muddy the waters and say ‘but we don’t have enough money for these veterans,'” Gillibrand said in the press conference. “Is their sacrifice no less?”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
So, after sitting through weeks of military transition classes, you’ve decided, “screw it! I’ll just turn to a life of crime!” Congrats! You’re joining a long tradition — a tradition mostly limited to privateers in the 17th and 18th centuries, sure, but a tradition nonetheless.
So, how about piracy? It’s glamorous, it’s profitable, and it’s exciting (also brutal, uncomfortable, and morally repugnant — but don’t get wound around the axle). Here are seven awesome pirates and their crews who turned their seafaring skills into fun, usually short careers in sea vessel re-appropriation:
The face of a blacksmith who will absolutely start a crime syndicate and use it to topple an empire.
French Pirate King and American hero Jean Lafitte
Jean Lafitte was a French blacksmith who expanded his business into smuggling and piracy until he, his brother, and their men controlled a fleet in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, that was stronger than anything the U.S. Navy had in the area. During the War of 1812, Great Britain decided that it would be way easier to buy their way into New Orleans through him than fight for it.
So they offered him ,000 and a captaincy to help them, but he apparently loved America and told Louisiana instead. Authorities didn’t believe him and imprisoned him until then-Gen. Andrew Jackson pointed out that the British would totally do that. Lafitte and his men fought on Jackson’s side during the Battle of New Orleans and were granted full pardons. They later returned to piracy, focusing on Spanish ships because screw those guys.
Madame Cheng was known for her *ahem* humble roots and her ability to cut your fleet to shreds, fool.
The prostitute pirate Madame Cheng
Cheng was a pirate king looking for love when he fell in with a prostitute and married her. She took the name Cheng I Sao and, when her husband died in 1807, turned his pirate fleet from a successful operation into possibly the largest pirate fleet in history. She overhauled the command structure and rule of law in the fleet, captured vessel after vessel, and made enemies of every European power in China at the time.
Captain Bart Roberts captured 400 ships, including one filled with the Portuguese king’s personal jewels from the middle of a 44-ship fleet.
Black Bart’s buccaneers on the Royal Fortune
Black Bart was born John Roberts (and likely was never called Black Bart while he was still alive). He was forced into piracy in 1719, but was so good at navigation and assessing enemy ships strengths that he was elected commander only six weeks later when the captain was killed.
His flagship was generally named Royal Fortune, and the crews of his ships did very well for themselves when they weren’t attempting to mutiny. Bart’s crews once stole the best ship out of the Portuguese treasure fleet of 44 ships, including two man-of-wars. Onboard were 40,000 gold coins and a cross covered in diamonds destined for the King of Portugal. Black Bart and his men stole another 400 ships during their short career from 1719 to 1722.
Unfortunately, Bart pushed it too far, constantly pushing off his retirement until a British man-of-war forced the issue with grapeshot through his neck.
Benjamin Hornigold was known for his antics as well as his fuzzy features and thin ankles.
Blackbeard’s mentor, Benjamin Hornigold
Benjamin Hornigold began his pirate career in 1713 as the head of a small gang of men in canoes, but he quickly built up a fortune and a fleet, eventually leading 350 men in the 30-gun Ranger, possibly the most heavily armed ship in the Bahamas in 1717. In one awesome incident, they stopped a merchant ship and boarded it. Instead of stealing the cargo and ship, though, they said that they had all lost their hats the night before and needed to take the crew’s.
But his men were annoyed that Hornigold never allowed them to attack British ships, so they mutinied. Hornigold fled to Jamaica and received the king’s pardon for his piracy, then became a pirate hunter. No honor among thieves.
Henry Every stands on shore while his ship fights an enemy vessel. Not sure why Every is waving his sword around while hundreds of meters from any action, but whatever.
Henry Every and the Fancy’s successful retirement
Henry Every began his life at sea as a boy and, by 1693, he was an experienced seaman. He took a slot as first mate on a privateer vessel named Charles II. But the vessel sat in port for months and the crew went without pay, so Every stole that ship and renamed it the Fancy.
Capt. Jack Rackham got his nickname, “Calico Jack,” for his wardrobe. You’d think the fact that he helped a woman escape from prison and potentially got her pregnant while she was on his crew would be what he was known for, but nope. Calico.
(George S. Harris Sons)
Calico Jack Rackham
John Rackham was known for his calico clothing and for stealing the Ranger from then-Captain Charles Vane. He used the Ranger to plunder a series of merchant vessels, but then took the King’s pardon for a seemingly peaceful life. A peaceful life that involved an affair with the wife of a pirate informant. And then he voided his pardon to break said wife out of jail, and they started a new pirate crew and ship.
Rackham had another few months of successful piracy but then partied a little too hard. Capt. Jonathan Barnet was sent to capture Rackham and found him and most of his crew too drunk to defend themselves. Rackham was executed, but the two women in his crew, the aforementioned informant wife, Anne Bonny, and another woman, Mary Read, were pregnant and allowed to live.
William Kidd, pimp and traitor
William Kidd and his motley traitors
William Kidd was commissioned as a privateer, and he and his men were sent to the West Indies in 1696 where it didn’t go well. They couldn’t find good targets, so, in 1697, they went to Madagascar and started preying on Indian vessels. Then, in 1698, they spotted the Quedagh Merchant, a 500-ton ship loaded with treasures.
Kidd and his crew stole it, making off with a massive boatload of gold, silk, spices, and other goods. Unfortunately for them, one of the owners of the ship was a senior member of the Indian government and put pressure on the English government to turn Kidd over. Kidd tried to escape to America, but he was caught, bundled to England, and hanged on May 23, 1701.
The Coast Guard has been involved in other shows in the past, but this one is different. Viewers will see multiple areas of responsibility and various unique Coast Guard missions throughout its six episodes. The average day in the life of a coastie includes search and rescue operations, drug interdictions, law enforcement, security boardings, and more. The show gives a glimpse into what it’s like.
According to Commander Steven Youde, who currently serves in the Coast Guard Motion Picture and Television office, the executive producer had been wanting to create this show for years.
“I think he has had this planned all along. He wanted to go a little further and make it more diverse by including not just one location but make it Coast Guard wide,” he shared.
“A doc-series like this is really great exposure to what happens behind the scenes in the Coast Guard,” Youde explained.
He added that big drug interdictions and counter narcotic missions aren’t witnessed just for the simple fact that they happen so far out at sea. Thanks to this show, the public will get to see how it all goes down.
Photo credit: Credit Rumline Productions
Maritime Enforcement Specialist Second Class Michael Bashe is currently a part of the Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET) in Miami. These detachments are highly specialized and deployable law enforcement teams. Their mission is to conduct and support maritime law enforcement, interdiction, or security operations. He was deployed to the Coast Guard Cutter Munro in the Pacific to assist with drug interdictions and the film crew came along for the ride.
“My dad was a police officer for 25 years and was a prior Marine. He told me, ‘Coast Guard is where it’s at.’ The ME rating just came out and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. The different missions that we do as ME’s and leadership responsibilities and roles that we have is incredible,” Bashe shared.
He’s spent his entire career on ships focusing on counter narcotics. Bashe has also been deployed overseas with Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) in Bahrain to support the U.S. Navy. When Bashe returned stateside his number one pick was TACLET South in Miami.
“The rewarding feeling that you get when you have a successful interdiction is indescribable,” Bashe said.
He appears in the first three episodes when he and another TACLET member safely and successfully apprehend suspected drug smugglers. Bashe says he loves that the public gets to see this important aspect of what the Coast Guard does, but that there’s so much more.
“I like that they get to see what we do at TACLET, but I really like that they were able to integrate the small boat stations and air stations. They are such crucial parts of any coastal city,” he said.
BM2 Hillary Burtnett. Photo credit: MK2 David Wiegman
The Coast Guard has small boat and air stations all over the country. US Coast Guard Station Marathon is located in the Florida keys and the film crew spent almost four months following coasties on their missions there. Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Hillary Burtnett was a part of the show and although she found it cumbersome to have the camera crew underfoot, she’s glad the public will get to see some of what they do.
As a female BM, Burtnett is definitely part of a heavily male dominated rate or job.
“It’s different, but the guys are very respectful. We are all a team, we are out there to get it done and work together,” she said.
Although her shipmates treat her equally, it doesn’t always happen everywhere she goes. Burtnett shared that in one of the episodes, a man they rescued became very inappropriate onboard with her.
“There was a whole bunch of stuff that they didn’t show. It was tough because I was just out there trying to do my job and he was borderline harassing me but I maintained professionalism,” Burtnett shared.
She doesn’t let it get to her though and instead chooses to focus on the mission.
Burtnett recently left US Coast Guard Station Marathon for a new adventure. She’ll be on a national security cutter headed to Bahrain. She is excited to head to a big boat again, explaining that there’s nothing like the comradery of being on one. Another aspect of the service that isn’t typically known by the public or other branches of the service: you can find coasties serving all over the world.
This show gives the public a rare, honest glimpse into the Coast Guard. Cork Friedman, Executive Producer of Rumline Productions, wants to show you even more.
“Quite honestly, most folks don’t know a fraction of what the US Coast Guard does, so my passion for creating this series is directed by three principle objectives, to show the world the diversity of missions that the Coast Guard performs each and every day, to deliver the most robust, accurate docuseries ever produced featuring the real life stories of our United States Coast Guard, and to capture the intrinsic character possessed by the men and women who wear the US Coast Guard uniform,” Friedman said.
Coast Guard: Mission Critical airs on the History channel every Saturday at 6 am or on demand through the app. It can also be viewed Sundays at 5 pm on FYI.
If you think it’s hard getting tickets to a summer blockbuster on opening night, try getting into Kennedy Space Center these days to see a Space Shuttle launch.
After two and a half years of anticipation, people around the world want to see NASA boost back into action and the show sells out quick. Thinking about slipping in through the back door?
Along with the formidable force of standard security at Kennedy, a highly trained and specialized group of guardians protect the Center from would-be troublemakers. They are the members of the Kennedy Space Center Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and they mean business.
“We’re here 24-7,” said SWAT commander David Fernandez. “There’s never a point when SWAT is not here, so we’re ready to respond to something if needed at a moment’s notice.”
NASA contracts the 29-member team from Space Gateway Support (SGS) to protect Kennedy’s employees, visitors, and national assets like the Space Shuttle from any potential threat. The SWAT team carefully prepares for special events like launch day and the arrival of astronauts and VIPs, but it also stands ready every day for possible problems that may arise.
Additionally, the SWAT team provides support to Kennedy security when special expertise may be needed to diffuse a dangerous situation. Skills like rappelling, defensive tactics, or marksmanship may be used to help keep the peace.
To stay sharp and fit for their job, members of the team have to pass annual physical fitness tests and maintain updated certifications for using their weapons.
“The training that we do out here is very intense sometimes,” Fernandez said. “But that’s because we’re at a stage which could be considered by some to be advanced. The training has to be more intense and challenging.”
As a part of staying in shape, members of the Kennedy Space Center SWAT team participate in competitions with the most elite teams around the world. SWAT officers hone their skills in events testing their speed and accuracy with special weapons and equipment. In 2019, the team from Kennedy placed 10th out of 55 teams at the annual SWAT Roundup in Orlando, Fla.
SWAT team logo Members of the SWAT team admit that one of the best parts of their job is getting the “big-boy toys.” But senior officer Eric Munsterman said there is also a rewarding bond they share with one another.
“In the civilian world, outside of police work or fire work, I don’t see where you’re going to find [camaraderie] as strongly as we develop it,” Munsterman said.
They may have their differences during the week, but when they suit up and go to work, that all goes away, Munsterman said.
Through a strong commitment to each other, members of the SWAT team ensure things at Kennedy stay safe. If you plan to come see a Space Shuttle launch, make sure you have a ticket.
“If anybody means harm to the astronauts or anyone else that works out here, they’re not getting past us,” Munsterman said.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it has “no credible” evidence Iran was working on developing a nuclear “explosive device” after 2009 and that the UN’s nuclear watchdog considered the issue “closed” after it was presented in a report in December 2015.
The 2015 report “stated that the agency had no credible indications of activities in Iran relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device after 2009. Based on the director-general’s report, the board of governors declared that its consideration of this issue was closed,” the IAEA said in a statement on May 1, 2018.
“In line with standard IAEA practice, the IAEA evaluates all safeguards-relevant information available to it. However, it is not the practice of the IAEA to publicly discuss issues related to any such information,” it added.
The IAEA statement comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on April 30, 2018, that Israel had documents that showed new “proof” of an Iranian nuclear-weapons plan that could be activated at any time.
Under an agreement in 2015 with world leaders, Iran curbed its enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel to ease concerns it could be put to use in developing bomb material. In return, Tehran won relief from most international sanctions.
Since then, UN nuclear inspectors have repeatedly reported that Iran is heeding the terms of the deal.
European states have dismissed the significance of documents, while the United States welcomed them as evidence of Iranian “lies.”
Iran has accused Netanyahu of being an “infamous liar” over the allegations, which come as the United States is considering whether to pull out of an atomic accord with Tehran, which has always rejected allegations that it sought a nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic program was solely for civilian purposes.
“The documents show that Iran had a secret nuclear-weapons program for years” while it was denying it was pursuing such weapons, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late on April 30, 2018, as he returned to Washington from a trip to Europe and the Middle East.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“What this means is [Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers] was not constructed on a foundation of good faith or transparency. It was built on Iran’s lies,” Pompeo said, adding that the trove of documents Israel said it obtained on Iran’s so-called Project Amad to develop nuclear weapons before 2004 contain “new information.”
“The Iranians have consistently taken the position that they’ve never had a program like this. This will belie any notion that there wasn’t a program,” Pompeo said.
Netanyahu made his dramatic announcement less than two weeks before the May 12, 2018 deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide whether he will withdraw from the deal, which requires Iran to curb some of its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
Reuters reported on May 1, 2018, that according to a senior Israeli official, Netanyahu informed Trump about the evidence during a meeting in Washington on March 5, 2018, and that the U.S. president agreed Israel would publish the information before the May 12, 2018 deadline.
The White House on May 1, 2018, said the United States “certainly supported” efforts by Netanyahu to release intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program.
In a May 1, 2018 interview with CNN, Netanyahu said he did not seek war with Iran, but it was Tehran “that’s changing the rules in the region.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said in a statement on May 1, 2018, that accusations Tehran lied about its nuclear ambitions were “worn-out, useless, and shameful” and came from a “broke and infamous liar who has had nothing to offer except lies and deceits.”
“How convenient. Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter, adding that the Israeli claims were “ridiculous” and “a rehash of old allegations.”
(Photo by Carlos Rodríguez)
‘This shows why deal needed’
European powers also said they were not impressed by the nearly 55,000 documents that Netanyahu claimed would prove that Iran once planned to develop the equivalent of “five Hiroshima bombs to be put on ballistic missiles.”
“We have never been naive about Iran and its nuclear intentions,” a British government spokesman said, adding that that was why the nuclear agreement contained a regime to inspect suspected Iranian nuclear sites that is “one of the most extensive and robust in the history of international nuclear accords.”
“It remains a vitally important way of independently verifying that Iran is adhering to the deal and that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful,” the British spokesman said.
Britain, France, and Germany are the three European powers that signed the deal, along with Russia, China, and the United States.
European officials said the documents provided by Israel contained no evidence that Iran continued to develop nuclear weapons after the 2015 deal was signed, so they indirectly confirm that Iran is complying with the deal.
France’s Foreign Ministry said on May 1, 2018, that the Israeli information could be a basis for long-term monitoring of Tehran’s nuclear activities, as the information proved the need to ensure the nuclear deal and UN inspections remained.
A German government spokesman said Berlin will analyze the materials provided by Israel, but added that the documents demonstrate why the nuclear deal with its mandatory inspections must be maintained.
“It is clear that the international community had doubts that Iran was carrying out an exclusively peaceful nuclear program,” the spokesman said. “It was for this reason the nuclear accord was signed in 2015.”
Netanyahu also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 30, 2018, who afterward said in a statement issued by the Kremlin that the nuclear deal remains of “paramount importance to international stability and security, and must be strictly observed by all its signatories,” the Russian state-run news agency TASS reported.
The White House welcomed the Israeli announcement, saying that Tel Aviv had uncovered “new and compelling details” about Tehran’s efforts to develop “missile-deliverable nuclear weapons.”
“The United States has long known Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear-weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people,” the White House said.
The jousting over the Israeli announcement came as Trump repeated his strong opposition to the deal, which he called a “horrible agreement.”
“In seven years, that deal will have expired and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons,” Trump said at the White House. “That is not acceptable.”
Many observers have concluded that Trump will move to withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal on May 12, 2018.
Trump did not say on April 30, 2018, what he will do, but he rejected a suggestion that walking away from the Iran deal would send a bad signal to North Korea as it negotiates with Washington over the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
“I think it sends the right message” to Pyongyang, Trump said.
NATO is gearing up for its “biggest exercises in many years,” the alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg revealed Oct. 2, 2018, according to multiple reports.
Around 45,000 troops will take part in the Trident Juncture exercises in Norway in late October and early November 2018, the secretary said, according to AFP. The “fictitious but realistic” drills, reportedly the largest since the end of the Cold War, come on the heels of the massive Vostok 2018 joint military exercises involving tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Russian and Chinese troops that were held in September 2018.
In addition to troops, the 29 NATO allies and their partners will send 150 aircraft, 60 ships, and 10,000 vehicles to the training grounds.
The drills come amid heightened tensions with Russia. For instance, US Envoy to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson called Russia out on Oct. 2, 2018, accusing it of violating the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty. Warning Russia that Moscow is “on notice,” she said that the US might “take out the missiles” before they can be deployed if Russia refuses to change course.
Western allies have bolstered their military presence in the years following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Trident Juncture 2018 is designed to increase interoperability among allied and partner forces to respond quickly and effectively to an external threat, such as Russian aggression.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“It will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one ally. And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic,” Stoltenberg explained Oct. 2, 2018. The aim is preparation for “large-scale military operations” under trying conditions, the Norwegian Armed Forces previously introduced, adding, “Exercises like this make NATO better prepared to counter any aggression, if necessary. “
In an effort to maintain transparency, NATO has invited Russia to monitor the joint military exercises. “All members of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, including Russia, have been invited to send observers,” the secretary said, according to Russian state media.
In early September 2018, Russian and Chinese forces, along with a small contingent of Mongolian troops, trained together in eastern Russia, leading to significant speculation about stronger Russian-Chinese ties as both Moscow and Beijing confront Washington.
Russia touted the exercises as unprecedented, claiming that the drills included hundreds of thousands of troops and tens of thousands of tanks and other military vehicles. Many suspect that the joint exercises were actually much smaller than stated.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Taliban militants have killed several Afghan security forces in fresh attacks on several security checkpoints in the northern Sar-e-Pul Province, according to officials.
In one of the Jan. 1, 2019 attacks in the Sayyad district of the province, local police chief Khalil Khan was killed along with four other officers, a source told RFE/RL.
The dpa news agency quoted provincial council member Mohammad Asif Sadiqi as saying a high-ranking provincial official with an Afghan spy agency and an army company commander were also killed in the attacks on two security posts, which it said left 23 Afghan security forces dead.
Gunbattles raged for several hours in the Sayyad district as heavy artillery fire by Afghan troops trying to beat back the insurgents sent locals fleeing for safety.
AP quoted Taliban spokesman Qari Yousof Ahmadi as claiming responsibility for both attacks.
Sar-e Pul Province in Afghanistan.
The violence comes a day after Iran said a Taliban delegation made a rare visit to Tehran for talks with a senior Iranian official on efforts to end Afghanistan’s 17-year-long war.
It also occurred just over a week after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of 7,000 American troops deployed in Afghanistan, about half of the U.S. contingent in the country.
Many observers warned that the partial withdrawal could further degrade security and jeopardize possible peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending its insurgency.
U.S. forces make up the bulk of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission that is training and advising Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban and Islamic State militants.
The U.S. military also has some 7,000 troops deployed in a separate U.S. counterterrorism mission.
The Pentagon wants a new style of sophisticated protective eyewear that features adjustable vision enhancement so Marines and soldiers can identify and sight in on targets more quickly than ever before.
The goal of Vision Enhancement for the Dismounted Soldier is to “enhance natural eyesight to aid in visual detection, identification, and acquisition of targets, friendlies, and other items of interest that would otherwise be obscured or difficult to see in military relevant environments with the unaided eye,” according to a Sept. 24, 2018 solicitation posted on the government website for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which is designed to encourage small businesses to engage in federal research and development.
The research effort is looking to defense firms to present designs that “take into consideration the pupil location of the individual wearer, as needed, to optimize performance and compatibility with weapon technologies,” the solicitation states.
“Hands-free activation (such as voice command) is also of interest, but not necessary for the purposes of this effort. In the event of power loss, imaging shall revert to an unaided mode for unobstructed vision,” the document states. “Ultimately, the objective of the effort is to increase lethality and survivability through enhanced vision, and faster target detection and identification times, of persons and items of interest in military environments, without limiting capabilities naturally afforded by unaided vision.”
Currently, soldiers and Marines rely on a combination of natural vision and optical aids such as scopes, binoculars, image intensifiers and thermal imagers to enhance combat vision.
Soldiers observe the impact zone during a howitzer live-fire exercise at the Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, Jan. 17, 2018.
(Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)
“Donning and doffing of individual visual aids takes time and are impractical in situations when seconds count,” according to the solicitation.
The effort, however, is not intended to duplicate or replace current weapons’ optics and other sensors, it states.
The program is searching for concepts that:
Reduce time needed to detect targets or friendly forces as compared to performance when relying on unaided vision.
Ensure natural vision is not degraded in the event of power failure.
Ensure performance is reasonably stable in different operating environments, such as temperatures, lighting conditions and humidity levels.
Minimize distracting or confusing images that may decrease situational awareness, such as unwanted reflections, glare, ghost images, erratic flickering and image distortion.
Companies wishing to participate have until Oct. 24, 2018, to submit proposals, the solicitation states.
The document does not provide a timeline, contract awards or fielding goals except to say that phase one deliverables shall include monthly reports and conceptual drawings and designs.
Phase two deliverables include schematics and 12 working prototypes of spectacles or goggles.
“End item cost shall be considered early on,” the solicitation states. “Target cost is 0 or less (with an ultimate goal of 0 or less once in production).”
The target weight of the entire system — including batteries — is less than 3 ounces if a “spectacle platform is chosen” and less than 6 ounces if a “goggle platform is chosen,” the solicitation states.
“The ability to enhance vision and increase lethality shall be validated through testing,” according to the solicitation.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.