Warning: Contains spoilers from the series finale of Game of Thrones
In the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen unleashed her weapon of mass destruction dragon on the army of her enemy — as well as thousands of civilians in King’s Landing. She deliberately and extensively burned thousands of innocent women, children, and elderly civilians alive.
In the series finale, she justified her actions by saying that Cersei Lannister had intended to use those innocent lives as a shield. Instead, Daenerys Stormborn turned that shield to ash.
And then…all was well in the realm?
A few people closest to Daenerys decided not that she must be held accountable for her actions, but that she must actually be put down for them — so Jon Snow murdered her. We could spend a lot of time discussing the merits to bringing a war criminal to trial, but let’s just accept that Jon felt the only way he could truly end Dany’s war was to literally stab her in the heart after telling her he’d be loyal and kissing her and how could you do that to Khaleesi Jon she needed a therapist.
And then…it really was done.
Everyone left standing was so weary of bloodshed that they calmly gathered together, laid down their arms, and invented a new form of government.
Which, honestly, is the only way men actually end their wars (maybe not the new government part — although…sometimes that works too — and actually while we’re here can we re-examine Plato’s philosopher king theory it could be cool maybe?).
“Democracy is nothing more than mob rule.”
In war, we butcher the enemy until someone can’t take it anymore. It is unimaginable to comprehend the casualties from conflicts like the World Wars (in World War I alone, the estimate is around 40 million civilian and military personnel injured or killed — 40 million). In World War II, the estimate is double.
Millions and millions (and millions) of people were dying horrific deaths and yet the fighting continued.
The United States dropped an atomic bomb on a city of innocents and yet the fighting continued.
It wasn’t until the U.S. dropped a second bomb that Japan finally surrendered.
Eventually, men do lose their taste for war, which is the only way it can truly end. Unfortunately, humanity’s collective threshold for egregious harm, torture, and suffering is so high that it takes something like two atomic bombs — or a metaphorical dragon — to put an end to it all.
Which could explain why, after 17+ years, the United States is still fiddle f***ing around in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a mercy that no one is going nuclear in those AORs, but unfortunately, our own wheel keeps turning, delivering death by a thousand cuts.
Catholics know the Pope as God’s representative on Earth. Most other people know him as a generally fine world leader who usually wears unique and cool hats. But, from 1503 to 1513, the papal chair was sat by Pope Julius II, the “Warrior Pope,” who was known to be a shrewd politician and skilled conqueror.
Pope Julius II began life in 1443 as Giuliano della Rovere, a member of a poor noble family. His uncle had enough money to fund his way up the Catholic ranks and, eventually, became Pope Sixtus IV in 1471. Della Rovere was soon made a cardinal and continued to maneuver for his own gain.
Pope Sixtus IV, uncle of future Pope Julius II, The Warrior Pope
(Painting by Melozzo da Forlì)
In 1474, della Rovere went to war in Umbria, a Papal State. He led 3,500 infantry in initial fighting and captured a town on his way to Citta di Castello, where the leading rebel against Rome lived. Della Rovere had lost control of some of his men on the way to the town and his siege weapons were having little effect on the city walls. Della Rovere was forced to request reinforcements from Rome.
Once his reinforcements arrived, della Rovere was at the head of 2,000 infantrymen and 28 cavalry squadrons.
There is some question about whether it was della Rovere’s force or political pressure that led to the capitulation of forces at Citta di Castello. Either way, della Rovere was able to head home a conquering hero.
After the death of Pope Sixtus IV, della Rovere was forced to work outside of Rome while rivals took the papal seat. But, in 1503, a resurgent della Rovere used bribes and political pressures to see himself voted into the Papacy. He adopted the name Pope Julius II.
As pope, Julius fought multiple battles — an unheard of activity for a pope, though his uncle, Pope Sixtus IV, was rumored to have considered it at one point.
The city of Mirandola was relatively weak compared to other targets of the Warrior Pope, which is why the drawn-out siege was so disappointing.
(Image by unknown artist, suspected to be Lorenzo Penni)
His first battles were against Venice, which held lands taken from the Papal States. This led to a 1508 alliance with France, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire, known as the League of Cambrai. Once the Venetians were sufficiently beaten and cowed, Julius II actually flipped his alliances and joined the Holy League, which worked to push French troops out of Italy in 1512.
It was during this campaign that, in 1511, he took to the battlefield and performed actions that offended observers.
The pope had himself carried to the front where his troops were fighting at Mirandola, a town in northern Italy. He routinely cursed his generals and made jokes at their expense, personally directed military operations, and reviewed the assembled troops. When the city continued to hold out, he ordered that they be threatened with pillage (ignoring the protests of his generals and advisers).
But he impressed his troops once again when he came under repeated cannon attack but remained at the front. The first cannonball struck his headquarters, so the Pope moved to his personal quarters. When those were also hit, he returned to his headquarters and ordered that the damage be repaired while he waited.
Pope Julius II, the Warrior Pope, at the Siege of Mirandola
For these consequences, Julius II blamed one of his nephews, the Duke of Urbino, while praising a cardinal who had led forces in the same battles.
As the scapegoated Duke was leaving a tongue-lashing from the Pope and the cardinal was heading to the papal apartments to receive praise, the two men passed each other in the street. The duke leaped from his horse and savagely beat the cardinal before allowing his attendants to murder him.
Julius II was able to form a new alliance with Spain and England that eventually expelled the French, but allowed the Spanish to take hold of much of the same territory. Julius II was forming a new alliance against the Spanish when he died in 1513.
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter has earned eight platinum records in a music career that started in the 1960s, and he has received numerous security clearances and contracting jobs since the 1980s as a self-taught expert on missile-defense and counterterrorism.
Baxter was one of many luminaries at the White House on Oct. 11, 2018, to watch President Donald Trump sign the Music Modernization Act, which reforms copyright laws.
Baxter dropped out of college in Boston in 1969 to join a short-lived psychedelic-rock band. After that, he moved to California and become one of the original six members of Steely Dan, which he left in 1974 to join the Doobie Brothers, which he left in 1979.
Baxter has said he “fell into his second profession almost by accident.”
While living in California in the 1970s, Baxter helped a neighbor dig out their house after a mudslide.
“Afterward, he invited me into his study and I saw all these pictures of airplanes and missiles on the wall — it turned out he was one of the guys who had invented the Sidewinder missile,” Baxter said in a 2013 interview. “As a gift for helping him clean out his house he gave me a subscription to Aviation Week and to Jane’s Defense. It was amazing.”
Baxter found the technical aspects of music and of defense, particularly missile defense, coincided.
“Technology is really neutral. It’s just a question of application,” he told MTV in 2001. “For instance, if TRW came up with a new data compression algorithms for their spy satellites, I could use that same information and apply it for a musical instrument or a hard disc recording unit. So it was just a natural progression.”
He immersed himself in technical journals and defense publications during the 1980s.
“The good news is that I live in America and am something of a, I guess the term is an “autodidact,” he said in 2013, when asked about his formal education. “There’s so much information available. The opportunity for self-education in this country is enormous.”
The big shift came in 1994.
Inspired by a friend’s work on an op-ed about NATO, Baxter sat down and punched out a five-page paper on the Aegis ship-based antiaircraft missile system, arguing it could be converted to a missile-defense system.
“One day, I don’t know what happened. I sat down at my Tandy 200 and wrote this paper about how to convert the Aegis weapon system,” he said in a 2016 speech. “I have no idea. I just did it.”
Baxter, who had recently retired as a reserve police officer in Los Angeles, was already in touch with California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as an adviser. Baxter gave his paper to Rohrabacher.
“Skunk really blew my mind with that report,” Rohrabacher told The Wall Street Journal in 2005. “He was talking over my head half the time, and the fact that he was a rock star who had basically learned it all on his own was mind-boggling.”
Rohrabacher gave the paper to Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked, “Is this guy from Raytheon or Boeing?” according to Baxter.
Rohrabacher replied, “No, he’s a guitar player for the Doobie Brothers.”
Like Rohrabacher, Weldon was struck by Baxter’s prowess. In 1995, he nominated Baxter to chair the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense, a congressional panel.
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper, equipped with the Aegis integrated weapons system, launches a missile during an exercise in the Pacific Ocean, July 30, 2009.
(Department of Defense Photo)
“The next thing I knew, I was up to my teeth in national security, mostly in missile defense, but because the pointy end of the missile sometimes is not just nuclear, but chemical, biological or volumetric, I got involved in the terrorism side of things,” Baxter told MTV in 2001.
The appointment to the panel “sort of opened up a door for me to end up working in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), which then morphed into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which then morphed into the Missile Defense Agency (MDA),” Baxter said in 2013.
He’s also worked with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and contractors like Northrup Grumman.
“We did some pretty cool stuff,” Baxter said in 2016 of his work on SDI, which President Ronald Reagan first proposed in 1983. “Reagan’s plan was a bit much. It was a plan to drive the Russians nuts, and it worked. They believed what we were doing was real and spent lots of money trying to counter it.”
He was also a hit at the Pentagon.
“Some of these people who are generals now were listening to my music when they were lieutenant colonels or lieutenant commanders, so there was a bond there,” Baxter said in 2001. “But what they realized is that they’re looking for people who think out of the box, who approach a problem with a very different point of view because we’re talking about asymmetrical warfare here.”
Military leaders brought him in to consult, regularly asking him to play the role of the enemy during war games.
“I’m told I make a very good bad guy,” Baxter said in 2005. People who worked with him also told The Journal he could be a self-promoter.
Baxter has kept up his musical work. He became a sought-after session guitarist, working with acts like Dolly Parton, Rod Stewart, and Eric Clapton.
In 2004 he flew 230,000 miles to reach all his gigs. That year he also made more money from his defense work than from music.
For his part, Baxter has pointed to his creativity as his biggest asset.
“We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles,” he said in 2005.
“My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Super Bowl commercials that honor military veterans aren’t new, and odds are they’re not going anywhere because dammit they’re effective.
The 2017 Hyundai Super Bowl commercial is no exception. Troops stationed in Poland were treated to a surprise when Hyundai gave them a special Super Bowl screening experience. What they didn’t know was that a few of their family members were also getting a treat.
While the service members watched the game in fully immersive, 360-degree live streaming pods, their families joined them via a Super Bowl LI box suite, complete with huggable high-tech teddy bears (wearing the uniform of the day) and cameras that allowed the family members to livestream with their heroes.
Hyundai teamed up with director Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) to shoot, edit, and broadcast the event.
“I’m honored to have worked on this project with the troops and [Hyundai] for the Super Bowl. Thank you for your service, and thank you for letting me be part of this,” Berg said.
Built in the early 1930s, the 165-foot “B”-Class cutters were often referred to as the Thetis-Class. The Thetis-class cutters proved good sea boats becoming the backbone of the Coast Guard’s coastal patrol and convoy force during World War II.
Among these cutters was the Argo, which escorted Nazi Germany’s last surrendered U-boats into captivity and the Thetis, one of 11 Coast Guard cutters credited with sinking a U-boat. However, the most honored of these cutters was Icarus, which sank U-352 and captured its crew at the beginning of World War II.
Icarus and its sister cutters were designed for Prohibition enforcement, specifically tracking down rum running ships outside U.S. territorial waters. These cutters required excellent sea-keeping qualities, long-term accommodations for crew, and greater fuel capacity. Icarus was built by Bath Iron Works in Maine and commissioned on April 1, 1932.
The cutter reported for duty at Stapleton, New York, on Staten Island, and served as part of the New York Division’s Special Patrol Force, which conducted law enforcement patrols in support of Prohibition regulations. After passage of the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition, Icarus continued sailing out of Stapleton on law enforcement and search and rescue patrols.
After war erupted in Europe in 1939, the Coast Guard assigned Icarus to Neutrality Patrols protecting merchant vessels from attacks by European combatants. With the 1941 U.S. entry into World War II, Icarus joined its sister cutters in escorting coastal convoys and anti-submarine patrols in American waters.
On the morning of Friday, May 8, 1942, Icarus departed Staten Island for Key West, Florida. On Saturday at about 4:20 p.m., while off the coast of North Carolina, Icarus’s sonar operator picked up a “mushy” contact 2,000 yards off its port bow. The cutter’s crew went to general quarters and assumed battle stations.
Ten minutes after the first sonar contact, an explosion believed to be a torpedo rocked the cutter about 200 yards off the port side. Reversing course, Icarus sped toward the contact, which was heading toward the spot where the explosion had occurred. The underwater contact sharpened and, for the first time, propeller sounds were heard by the sonarman. The contact was lost at 180 yards but, after a calculated interval, Icarus dropped five depth charges in a diamond shape with one charge in the center.
The sonar operator next determined that the contact was slowly moving west, so the cutter altered course to intercept it. Two more charges were dropped in a “V” pattern at a point leading the contact’s underwater track and, as roiling water from the explosions subsided, large bubbles were observed on the surface. Icarus reversed course again and dropped a single charge on the spot where the air bubbles had surfaced. Six minutes later, the cutter dropped a second charge in the same location.
At 10 minutes past 5:00 p.m., shortly after the last charge had been dropped, a U-boat broke the surface 1,000 yards from Icarus. The heavily armed sub emerged bow first and down by the stern. The cutter’s crew was ready, opening fire with all machine guns that could bear on the sub. Meanwhile, the U-boat’s crew began abandoning ship. Icarus’s commanding officer, Lt. Maurice Jester, altered course to ram and the cutter’s 3-inch main battery was brought to bear on the submarine. The first 3-inch round fell short ricocheting off the water and through the conning tower. The second round overshot the sub, but the next 12 rounds hit the U-boat or came close, with seven of them hitting home. Minutes later, the damaged U-boat began to subside into the sea.
As the submarine sank, Icarus ceased firing, but the cutter circled the spot where the U-boat had disappeared. Icarus re-established sonar contact with the submerged sub and the cutter’s sonarman heard propeller noises again. Taking no chances, Jester ordered one last depth charge dropped over the U-boat, which brought a large air bubble to the surface. No further noises were heard from sub; the vessel had finally been vanquished. Meanwhile, 35 Germans were struggling on the surface to avoid the cutter’s path and its deadly depth charges. Expecting to be machine-gunned in the water, many yelled, “Don’t shoot us!”
At 5:50 p.m., the Icarus crew began rescue operations and retrieved Germans from the water. Except for the wounded survivors, the prisoners were placed under guard in the cutter’s forward crew compartment. The U-boat’s commanding officer, Kapitänleutnant Helmut Rathke, was among the survivors. At this point, it was learned that the submarine was U-352, carrying a complement of 48 men. Seven of the crew went down with the U-boat while others died in the water after abandoning ship. By 6:05, 33 survivors had been rescued and the cutter proceeded to Charleston Navy Yard as ordered.
The German prisoners exhibited good discipline and were surprised by the fine treatment they received on board Icarus. Several of the U-boat’s crew spoke English and talked freely on personal matters, but disclosed no military information. Three of Icarus’s crew also spoke German and conversed with the prisoners. The prisoners wished to know how much money the Coast Guard crew would receive for sinking a submarine and if crewmembers received promotions for doing so. The Germans related that they received medals and bonuses for sinking ships, the amount depending on the size and tonnage of their victims. Four of the prisoners also mentioned they had relatives living in the U.S.
On Sunday morning, Icarus arrived at the Navy Yard. There, the cutter delivered 32 prisoners and one prisoner who died of his wounds en route to Charleston. To keep the enemy in doubt about the U-boat’s fate, naval authorities did not disclose the sinking of U-352 until almost a year later, on May 1, 1943. For the remainder of the war, Icarus continued its convoy escort work, search and rescue duties and anti-submarine patrols. In the fall of 1946, the ship was placed in reserve status and stored at Staten Island. The Coast Guard decommissioned Icarus in 1948 and sold it to the Southeastern Terminal and Steamship Company.
Icarus was the second American warship to sink a U-boat and the first to capture German combatants. For his command of Icarus in the attack and sinking of U-352, Jester received one of only six Navy Cross Medals awarded to Coast Guardsmen during the war. Icarus was one of numerous combat cutters that served the heroic Coast Guardsmen of the long blue line during World War II.
During Bethesda’s E3 Showcase, game director Todd Howard offhandedly mentioned that West Virginia is the perfect setting for a
Fallout game because it’s where actual nuclear secrets are kept. If you do a little digging into the history behind the featured locations they’ve unveiled so far, you’ll quickly see that he’s telling the truth.
Just like in the game, one of America’s most secure nuclear fallout shelters is located outside of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. It’s called The Greenbrier Resort.
First built in 1858 as a resort for Northerners and Southerners alike, it was re-purposed in WWII as a relocation center for Axis diplomats before being retooled again during the Cold War to become a nuclear fallout shelter for diplomats nearby in Washington D.C.
As part of a project code named ”
Greek Island,” Greenbrier was modified to be able to support every member of congress and their families beneath two feet of reinforced concrete. The bunker was kept secret throughout the Cold War before being finally revealed in a 1992 Washington Post article.
The most interesting tidbit of West-Virginian nuclear history is that Morgantown, the third most populous city in West Virginia, was also home to part of the
P-9 Project, an essential piece of the larger Manhattan Project. Although the construction of the nuclear bomb took place all over the United States in secret, it was in Morgantown that progress was made in developing “heavy water.”
Heavy water, or water that contains higher amounts of the stable hydrogen isotope deuterium, is needed to modulate nuclear reactors. It’s no coincidence that Morgantown became home to the Morgantown Ordnance Works, an ammunition manufacturing facility responsible for (among other things) producing much of the TNT used during World War II.
A second ordnance works located nearby in Point Pleasant called the West Virginia Ordnance Works also seems like it’ll be interesting to see in-game. The presence of it’s explosive secrets with the volatility of massive-scale arms production combined to form the basis of local myths that state a mutated Mothman lives nearby — which you can be damned sure will make an appearance in Fallout 76.
(Bethesda Game Studios)
But these tidbits of nuclear history just scratch the surface. Parts of
Operation Plowshare, in which the U.S. government was testing the use of nuclear weapons in mining operations, was also conducted in the West Virginian counties of Logan and Boone.This, and all of the other nuclear blasts that would have occurred in-game, may also help reshape the map (since the obviously Point Pleasant is closer to the smaller but real-world Mason, WV.) Even the above map hints at where rivers may have once been.
The mountains in West Virginia are also home to the
seventh largest uranium deposit, which you’ll likely be able to explore on your post-apocalyptic romp. Pretty much everything you need to create a nuclear bomb is right there in West Virginia — and it’ll be up to you to explore it all.
Brandon Friedman wants you to know that just because coffee has the reputation of being the military’s beverage of choice, tea isn’t reserved for Brits in silly hats enjoying crumpets. For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, their wars have centered mostly around having tea. After all, foreign fighters and tribal leaders hold court over tea, not coffee. Friedman thought it was strange that tea isn’t more associated with the military experience. He founded Rakkasan Tea Company with that in mind.
Friedman was commissioned as an Army infantry officer in 2000 and was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division — known as the “Rakkasans,” the old Japanese word for “parachute.” By March, 2002, he and his unit were in an air assault into Afghanistan’s Shah-e-Kot Valley as part of Operation Anaconda. In 2003, he was part of the initial invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and eventually became part of the force that held Tal Afar and Mosul.
By 2004, he was out of the Army and taking his career in a different direction. His now-business partner in Rakkasan Tea was then-Pfc. Terrence “TK” Kamauf, whom Friedman met in his unit. Kamauf was a machine gunner then, but stayed in long after Friedman left. Kamauf went on to become a Green Beret and was in another six or seven years. Now, the two import tea together.
Friedman’s partner in Rakkasan Tea, Terrence “TK” Kamauf (left), in Iraq.
(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)
But Friedman’s love for the leaf began in Iraq. As many veterans can attest, all business was conducted over tea. It was an introduction to what Friedman calls the “social experience of tea.”
“It’s hard to find that in the U.S. because this is such a coffee country and coffee is really a solitary drink,” He says. “Tea brings people together and we think the U.S. is ready for that. I know we won’t convert everyone, but the veteran community should certainly give tea a serious look.”
Friedman with his platoon of Rakkasans in Iraq.
But where Rakkasan Tea Company gets its tea is central to its ongoing mission. The company imports solely from post-conflict countries as a way to promote peace and economic development.
“As a veteran-owned and veteran-staffed company, we understand what conflict does to communities,” Friedman says. “And we want to get as many veterans into this business as we can. So, we often describe our mission as being one that helps communities recover from war at home AND abroad.”
Rakkasan Tea comes from places like Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Laos. With the exception of Sri Lanka, these are difficult to find on American shelves. The tea imported from Laos is significant because it comes from one of the areas most devastated by American bombing during the Vietnam War — more ordnance was dropped on Laos than in the entirety of Europe during World War II.
One of Rakkasan Tea Company’s Vietnamese tea pickers.
(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)
The latest effort in Laos centers on small farms in the mountainous Xiengkhouang Province and on the Bolaven Plateau in southern Champasak Province. The teas come from some of the oldest trees in the world and you won’t find this quality at Starbucks or Whole Foods.
To Friedman, tea is like wine: its character, flavor, and aroma are all greatly influenced by its environment. That might be why he sells tea both by the type of tea and its place of origin.
“Rainfall, altitude, soil content, processing techniques, and more all factor into the taste and quality,” Friedman says. “So when we say we have premium tea grown in Rwanda’s volcanic soil or tea grown on northern Vietnam’s 400-year-old tea trees, that’s of interest to tea enthusiasts. Because it’s really good.”
He wants you to know how good it is and he wants you to be a repeat customer. He obsesses over the returns from his customers. Their feedback really does have an influence on the direction of the company.
“First, I hope we’re living up to the Rakkasan ideal of honor, justice, and commitment,” he says. “But meeting people who enjoy our product is best part of doing this.”
State and federal officials believe the Woolsey Fire, which forced the entire city of Malibu to evacuate, has not caused any radioactive materials to be released from the research facility. But some activists say toxic chemicals from Santa Susana likely contaminated the surrounding smoke and ash.
In the 1940s, the US government began using Santa Susana to test nuclear weapons and rockets. The facility spans more than 2,800 acres on the border of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. A partial nuclear meltdown in 1959 caused radioactive material and carcinogens to contaminate the surrounding soil and groundwater, and some reports say the meltdown released more radioactive material than any other nuclear accident in US history.
In a statement, the Department of Toxic Substances Control said its scientists and toxicologists “reviewed information about the fire’s location and do not believe the fire has caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke.”
Aerial view of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in the Simi Hills. The Energy Technology Engineering Center site is in the lower left, with the Rocket Test Field Laboratory sites in the hills at the center.
A follow-up statement released Nov. 13, 2018, said staff members had tested the site over the weekend and did not find elevated levels of radiation. The department said it would conduct more air and soil testing over the next several days.
A group of physicians says the damage to Santa Susana could affect residents’ health
Some activists are concerned that the area surrounding Santa Susana may not be not safe for residents. Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, a group that advocates for the elimination of nuclear and environmental threats, says the fire likely released toxins into the air.
“We know what substances are on the site and how hazardous they are,” Dr. Robert Dodge, the organization’s president, said in a statement. “These toxic materials are in SSFL’s soil and vegetation, and when it burns and becomes airborne in smoke and ash, there is real possibility of heightened exposure for area residents.”
A 1997 study found that workers at the Santa Susana site had elevated rates of cancer in connection with nuclear activity at the complex. If radioactive particles were released into the air, it is possible that similar health effects could be observed among nearby residents.
However, Kai Vetter, a professor of nuclear engineering at University of California Berkeley, told the Los Angeles Times that the health effects of smoke inhalation are greater than any potential danger from radioactive particles in the air.
“Although there is a possibility that radioactive materials — accounted for or not — could be dispersed through the fire and the smoke plume, the risk for health effects due to radiation is expected to be small,” Vitter said.
The physicians’ group also criticized the California Department of Toxic Substances Control for having “no public confidence,” and pointed out that state lawmakers commissioned an independent review panel in 2015 to monitor the department’s public outreach, fiscal management, and enforcement of hazardous-waste laws.
The clean-up process at Santa Susana has faced delays
Most of the Santa Susana site is owned by Boeing, though NASA oversees one area and the US Department of Energy leases a portion as well. A Boeing spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that more than 50% of the company’s property at Santa Susana burned.
Satellite image of the Woolsey Fire. The majority of western Malibu is engulfed by smoke and fire at the time of this image.
A 2007 order instructed the three parties to finish cleaning up the site by 2017, but those clean-up efforts have repeatedly hit delays. In August 2018, the Ventura County Star reported another delay: an action plan that was supposed to come out in the first half of 2019 is now behind schedule.
These delays have drawn backlash from local community members. In 2017, a group of parents called for tougher clean-up standards, claiming their children’s cancer diagnoses were linked to the nuclear research site. The group delivered a petition with more than 17,000 signatures to state officials.
Investigators have not yet determined what caused the Woolsey Fire. However, utility company Southern California Edison told state regulators that an outage was reported at one of its substations a few minutes before the fire began. The outage was in the same area where Woolsey broke out; in fact, the substation is located within the Santa Susana complex
Southern California Edison spokesman Steve Conroy told the Los Angeles Times that the company is required to file a report whenever an incident may be connected to another event.
“The report is preliminary,” Conroy said. “We have no other information other than a line went out of service and we don’t know why.”
The Woolsey Fire has killed two people and burned through more than 150 square miles.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Taliban last week released a 70-minute propaganda video, titled “Caravan of Heroes #13,” in which they imitated US special forces, the Military Times first reported.
While much of the video shows how the Taliban conducts ambushes and assaults, the first 10 minutes of it shows militants replete with tactical garb and weapons, and employing their tactics.
The video is unusual, since most Taliban videos show their fighters wearing turbans and beards, the Military Times reported.
Screengrab from released Taliban video
“The Taliban want to show their supporters and potential recruits that they are a professional force capable of defeating the Afghan government and the coalition,” Bill Roggio, editor of FDD’s Long War Journal, told the Military Times.
“The Taliban has touted its “special forces” in the past, in previous videos, however this video definitely kicks it up a notch,” Roggio said.
The 2019 Blue Star Families lifestyle survey just dropped, and according to the results, most of us shouldn’t be shocked. With numbers well into 40 or 50 percent feeling the effects of displacement and isolation across several categories, you’re not the only one thinking there’s no one to ask a favor of. Why are we staying silent with our struggles? What is stopping us from living this life to the fullest?
Examining the “why” behind the results is what we’re after here. Lighting the path forward, one foot in front of the other is how change takes place. Whether you have something to give, or in the season of receiving, this is a fight you can help win.
Of over 11,000 survey participants, 40 percent feel they don’t belong within the local community, and 47 percent feel the local community lacks in understanding, support, respect or appreciation. Let’s take these connected issues one layer at a time.
Where do military families “belong?” Examining the physical geography of our “where” is one indicator as to why a separation of town and base is palpable. Life within guarded gates has a purpose, but it’s vital that we all absorb the mindset of becoming the area’s “newest locals” seriously. When the community participates exclusively in life inside the gates, our cultures, our talents, and our connections fail to dissipate into the local community. We become invisible citizens.
Everything from work to happy childhoods to wringing every drop of opportunity a nomadic life has to offer hinges on our ability to acclimate and do it well. When we become less determined to replicate the same life repeatedly, and more open to new experiences or chapters, it becomes much easier to find a place to be.
“I jump right into a routine, it’s awkward at first, but is a must for my sanity, this is the brave part of living this life,” says Laurie Boarts, Army spouse laying roots even with a short 14-month assignment.
39 percent of participants feel as if they have no one to talk to.
The military world is incredibly connected-virtually. Face to face connection is dying a slow death in all generations following the “boomers” making this issue something civilians and military have in common.
Making new friends (as an adult), trying new things, and putting yourself out there are all high-ranking fears for anyone. Yet, they are all critical components of a successful military life.
“I don’t expect the local community to understand the nuances of military life, I just focus on being myself and communicating openly,” says Boarts, who utilizes her busy schedule as a mom to find common ground in the crowd.
Is your calendar full of new local groups to try out? Have you walked into your kid’s first hockey practice openly admitting you have no idea where all those pads go and laughingly asked for help? The results of this survey gave us something to rely on- the person next to you is likely looking for a friend…so say hello. If collectively, every military community member decided they were fed up with not knowing their “neighbor,” we’d all be better for it.
63 percent within this community are experiencing stress due to finances.
Life is expensive, and with over 77 percent of spouses stating they are underemployed in salary, hours or employment in general, it’s no wonder why we feel the squeeze. There is, however, one perk that a free work calendar does allow for- participating in the community.
Did we just go full circle? Yes, we did. Tired of cooking meals but don’t have the budget for a restaurant? Invite your neighbors, or those lonely eyed acquaintances from library storytime over for a potluck barbeque on Saturday. Not only is a fruit platter less than a steak dinner, but it’s also real-life humans to talk to, to check in with and bond over the results of this survey with.
When her duty day is over, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Owen often wonders if she did enough to help identify fallen service members.
As the noncommissioned officer in charge of the morgue at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which is tasked to account for more than 82,000 Americans missing from past conflicts, she analyzes human remains and personal effects in hopes to close a cold case.
“At the end of the day, I have to be able to look in the mirror and say I’ve done my best,” she said. “And when I get up in the morning, I say I’m going to do better, because these families have been waiting years and years.”
Owens is one of about 100 service members and civilians who work at the agency’s laboratories here and at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Each year, the labs identify the remains of around 200 Americans that are then reunited with families.
On Aug. 1, more than 50 cases containing remains believed to be those of American service members were provided to DPAA by North Korea.
The remains are now undergoing further analysis and identification at the labs.
The painstaking work, which can take months to years to complete, is Owen’s passion. Whenever a positive identification comes in, she said, it is as if the service member’s name is given back.
An honor guard provided by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command conducts an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2018. Carry teams will move 55 flag-draped transfer cases, containing what are believed to be the remains of American service members lost in the Korean War, to the DPAA laboratory at JBPH-H for identification.
(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)
‘These Are All Heroes’
“What drives me the most is that these are heroes,” she said, looking across a lab holding hundreds of unknown remains. “These are all heroes [who] have a name and a family.”
Each year, DPAA conducts up to 80 investigation and recovery team missions throughout the world to pinpoint last known locations of missing Americans and to attempt to excavate their remains.
“The work is complex, the work is difficult, and it takes that dedication, that passion … to be able to perform this solemn obligation that we make to the nation and to the families,” said Kelly McKeague, the agency’s director.
The joint agency, which employs many service members and veterans, has agreements with nearly 50 nations that assist in its missions, he added.
Most of the missing fell at World War II battle sites in the Pacific region. There are also almost 7,700 service members unaccounted for from the Korean War, with the majority believed to be in North Korea.
DPAA teams were allowed to conduct missions in North Korea from 1996 to 2005, but operations were halted as diplomatic relations deteriorated in the region. Agency officials hope these missions could soon start up again.
Before he became the agency’s lab director, John Byrd had the opportunity to help recover Americans who fought in North Korea at the Battle of Unsan. The 1950 battle pitted Chinese forces against American and South Korean troops.
When remains are identified by his staff it is always a testament to good field and lab work that solved the decades-old case, Byrd said.
“It’s extremely gratifying,” he said, “and it kind of keeps you grounded where you know why you’re here and why you’re doing this work.”
Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Owen, a morgue noncommissioned officer for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, examines a personal effect that may have belonged to a fallen service member in a laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, March 12, 2018.
(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
A majority of DPAA cases involve some type of DNA testing. Samples are taken from the remains and sent to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab in Delaware.
To help this process, family members who have a missing loved one are encouraged to provide a DNA sample that will serve as a comparison.
If no reference samples are on file, a battalion of professional genealogists working for service casualty offices will try to locate family members.
Many times their starting point is the service member’s home address from the 1940s, if they served in World War II. This makes it extremely difficult to track down a living family member as the years pass on.
“It’s one of the greatest challenges of all. How do you find close family members of a missing serviceman from 1944?” Byrd asked. “It’s not easy. Some [cases] we run into dead-ends and we can’t find anybody.”
The Defense Department has kept dental records of troops dating back to World War I that can be used to help in the identification process.
In 2005, the agency also discovered another method that has proved successful. Many troops who served in early conflicts had to get chest X-rays as part of a tuberculosis screening when they first signed up.
Like the dental records, these radiographs were stored in a warehouse by the DoD. DPAA later obtained thousands of copies of them. Lab personnel use them as a comparison tool, since the shape of each person’s chest is different.
“The process of comparing this induction chest x-ray to an x-ray we take from the remains is analogous to doing fingerprint comparison,” Byrd said. “It’s a very similar kind of mindset that you take when you look at the two side-by-side; you’re looking for commonalities and differences.”
When a service member is identified, family members often come to the lab so they can participate in escorting the remains back home, he said. For those who work at the lab, those family member visits make the months or years of work seem worthwhile.
“When you have a family member come in and the staff who actually worked on the case get to meet them, they get to see the tangible results of their hard work,” Byrd said. “It’s definitely a boost to their morale.”
Members of the 647th Force Support Squadron search and recovery team tag and mark simulated remains during the search and recovery team’s training event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Oct. 27, 2017. The search and recovery team is tasked with recovering human remains from accident sites.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman)
In the Field
Before that sort of closure can start for families, recovery teams spend weeks at a time doing the grunt work of excavating sites.
Army Capt. Brandon Lucas, who serves as a team leader, recalled his team digging nearly 20 feet into the ground in Laos in search of an F-4 Phantom fighter pilot who vanished during the Vietnam War.
While no remains were found on that mission, they were still able to confidently close the site and shift efforts elsewhere.
Then there was another mission in Slovenia, where the tail gunner of a bomber aircraft from World War II went missing.
When his plane crashed, the gunner was the only one in his aircrew killed. Residents later buried him next to a church.
As Lucas’ team arrived at the site, the townspeople still knew about the crash and the gunner. Residents regularly visited his team, often bringing Lucas and the others food and drinks. An elderly woman even told him that for decades she would clean the grave site once a week.
When his team recovered the remains, a somber tone spread through the community.
“A lot of them actually shed tears when we found the remains,” Lucas said. “It was special to them and it was special to me.”
The poignant moment, along with others he has experienced during missions, galvanized the meaning of the mission for him.
“I’m potentially bringing back a fallen comrade,” Lucas said. “I would want to know that if it was me lost out there somebody is trying to recover me and give my family closure.”
Recovery missions also extend out into the sea, where many service members have disappeared as a result of aircraft crashes or ships sunk.
While she served as commander of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Army Maj. Gen. Susan A. Davidson was an advocate for her unit to support the solemn mission.
The unit regularly supplies DPAA with highly-trained Army divers from the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment, who often work on the sea floor with no visibility and use a suction hose to remove loose sediment from recovery sites.
On a barge, team members then sift through the sediment for the remains or personal effects of those missing.
When divers returned to Hawaii, she encouraged them to share their experiences and what they got out of the mission with others in the unit.
“They come back a different person and they have a different respect for our Army and for what we do,” Davidson said.
Back at the lab, Owen and others strive to identity those heroes who have been found.
“I feel that I am part of something so much bigger that I can contribute to,” she said.
The Stinger missile is America’s premier short-range air defense weapon, featuring in-flight guidance and an almost 7-pound warhead that sends shrapnel ripping through planes, helicopters, and pretty much anything else flying low. It can even be shot against ground vehicles when necessary.
Recently, the missile’s manufacturer has created a new proximity fuse for the weapon — and it just passed qualification testing with flying colors.
U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Aaron Kiser, assigned to the USS Bataan (LHD 5), practices target tracking with a Stinger missile training system aboard the Bataan, May 8, 2014.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Austin Hazard)
The Stinger is a hit-to-kill weapon, meaning it always tries to physically impact the enemy target before it goes off. That turns the skin of the targeted aircraft into shrapnel that rips through the rest of the aircraft, maximizing damage to engines, fuel tanks, and even the pilots. It usually ends up near the engine, since the weapon uses heat to track targets.
But making contact with the target isn’t always necessary, as the missile itself creates some shrapnel that will tear through the target’s skin. So, if it were to explode nearby its target, it’s still likely to damage or destroy the craft.
Now, the missile is being outfitted with a better proximity fuse that achieved a 100-percent hit rate during testing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
That’s great news for Stinger missile shooters. The weapon can be carried by ground troops or mounted on ground vehicles or helicopters, but firing the weapon is risky, especially against ground-support jets or helicopters.
If the Stinger crew fires the weapon and misses, whether because of a malfunction, shooter error, or the target’s defenses, they’re potentially in for a world of hurt. That’s because it always takes time to fire a second missile, especially for ground troops firing the MANPADS, which is a tube with a single missile in it.
That means a very pissed off and scared pilot is going to turn around and follow the smoke plume back it its source, and the pilot is likely going to hit the missile source with everything they have available to drop and fire.
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joshua L. Field, a low altitude air defense (LAAD) gunner, with 2nd LAAD Battalion fires an FIM- 92 Stinger missile during a live fire training exercise on Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Oct. 10, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cody J. Ohira)
But with a proximity fuse, a missile that would otherwise be a near-miss will still go off, generating as much damage and shrapnel as it can. That means the helicopter that would be pivoting to attack is now suffering from damage. Hopefully, the damage is in the cockpit, control surfaces, or engine. A proximity detonation might even still be enough to destroy the target outright.
If not, then at least the crew on the ground has some breathing room as the air crew tries to get an idea of how damaged they are. This could be enough time for troops on the ground to get under cover or concealment or even to get off another shot.
This is especially useful against drones which typically don’t require as much damage to be completely destroyed. And, considering just how much more prevalent drones are becoming, that could be key for future air defenders trying to maintain an air defense umbrella as Chinese or Russian forces test their defenses. All four Department of Defense branches carry the missile in combat.
Col. David Shank, commander of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, speaks with Avenger team leader, Army Sgt. Jesse Thomas, and Avenger team member Army Spc. Dillion Whitlock with Charlie Battery, 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armored Regiment, South Carolina National Guard, during an air-defense live-fire exercise in Shabla, Bulgaria, July 18, 2017.
(U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Ben Flores)
Currently, the weapon is most widely deployed in single-shot missile tubes and carried by air defense squads on the ground. There’s even an Army air defense battery that can jump these tubes into combat with other airborne troops. There’s also the Avenger system, a modified Humvee with eight missiles mounted on it.
NASA’s Voyager 2 probe exited our solar system nearly a year ago, becoming the second spacecraft to ever enter interstellar space.
It followed six years behind its sister spacecraft, Voyager 1, which reached the limits of the solar system in 2012. But a plasma-measuring instrument on Voyager 1 had been damaged, so that probe could not gather crucial data about the transition from our solar system into interstellar space.
Voyager 2, which left the solar system with its instruments intact, completed the set of data. Scientists shared their findings for the first time on Oct. 4, 2019, via five papers published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
The analyses indicate that there are mysterious extra layers between our solar system’s bubble and interstellar space. Voyager 2 detected solar winds — flows of charged gas particles that come from the sun — leaking from the solar system. Just beyond the solar system’s edge, these solar winds interact with interstellar winds: gas, dust, and charged particles flowing through space from supernova explosions millions of years ago.
“Material from the solar bubble was leaking outside, upstream into the galaxy at distances up to a billion miles,” Tom Krimigis, a physicist who authored one of the papers, said in a call with reporters.
The new boundary layers suggest there are stages in the transition from our solar bubble to the space beyond that scientists did not previously understand.
An image of Uranus taken by Voyager 2 on January 14, 1986, from a distance of approximately 7.8 million miles.
The place where solar and interstellar winds interact
On Nov. 5, 2018, Voyager 2 left what’s known as the “heliosphere,” a giant bubble of charged particles flowing out from the sun that sheathes our solar system. In doing so, the probe crossed a boundary area called the “heliopause.” In that area, the edge of our solar system’s bubble, solar winds meet a flow of interstellar wind and fold back on themselves.
It took both spacecraft less than a day to travel through the entire heliopause. The twin probes are now speeding through a region known as the “bow shock,” where the plasma of interstellar space flows around the heliosphere, much like water flowing around the bow of a moving ship.
This illustration shows the position of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes outside the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the sun.
Both Voyager probes measured changes in the intensity of cosmic rays as they crossed the heliopause, along with the transition between magnetic fields inside and outside the bubble.
But because so much of the transition from our solar system to the space beyond is marked by changes in plasma (a hot ionized gas that’s the most abundant state of matter in the universe), Voyager 1’s damaged instrument had difficulty measuring it.
Now the new measurements from Voyager 2 indicate that the boundaries between our solar system and interstellar space may not be as simple as scientists once thought.
The data indicates that there’s a previously unknown boundary layer just beyond the heliopause. In that area, solar winds leak into space and interact with interstellar winds. The intensity of cosmic rays there was just 90% of their intensity farther out.
“There appears to be a region just outside the heliopause where we’re still connected — there’s still some connection back to the inside,” Edward Stone, a physicist who has worked on the Voyager missions since 1972, said in the call.
An illustration of a Voyager probe leaving the solar system.
Other results from the new analyses also show a complicated the relationship between interstellar space and our solar system at its edges.
The scientists found that beyond the mysterious, newly identified layer, there’s another, much thicker boundary layer where interstellar plasma flows over the heliopause. There, the density of the plasma jumps up by a factor of 20 or more for a region spanning billions of miles. This suggests that something is compressing the plasma outside the heliosphere, but scientists don’t know what.
“That currently represents a puzzle,” Don Gurnett, an astrophysicist who authored one of the five papers, said in the call.
What’s more, the new results also showed that compared with Voyager 1, Voyager 2 experienced a much smoother transition from the heliopause to a strong new magnetic field beyond the solar system.
“That remains a puzzle,” Krimigis said.
The scientists hope to continue studying these boundaries over the next five years before the Voyager probes run out of fuel.
“The heliopause is an obstacle to the interstellar flow,” Stone added. “We want to understand that complex interaction on the largest scale as we can.”
The Voyager 2 spacecraft launches from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on August 20, 1977.
NASA launched the Voyager probes in 1977. Voyager 2 launched two weeks ahead of Voyager 1 on a special course to explore Uranus and Neptune. It is still the only spacecraft to have visited those planets.
The detour meant that Voyager 2 reached interstellar space six years after Voyager 1. It is now NASA’s longest-running mission.
“When the two Voyagers were launched, the Space Age was only 20 years old, so it was hard to know at that time that anything could last over 40 years,” Krimigis said.
Now, he said, scientists expect to get about five more years of data from the probes as they press on into interstellar space. The team hopes the Voyagers will reach the distant point where space is undisturbed by the heliosphere before they run out of fuel.
After the spacecraft die, they’ll continue drifting through space. In case aliens ever find them, each Voyager probe contains a golden record encoded with sounds, images, and other information about life on Earth.
In the future, the researchers want to send more probes in different directions toward the edges of our solar system to study these boundary layers in more detail.
“We absolutely need more data. Here’s an entire bubble, and we only crossed at two points,” Krimigis said. “Two examples are not enough.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.