Along with Flash Gordon, Joseph Campbell, and about a million other things, George Lucas was inspired by The Searchers when he created Star Wars. The director even slid a few subtle references to the film into A New Hope.
The star of The Searchers, of course, is John Wayne, so it’s cool in a full-circle kind of way that his grandson is now officially part of the Star Wars universe.
Brendan Wayne got his start in the family business in a 2001 episode of Angel, and since then he’s appeared in a lot of movies and TV shows, from Fast Furious to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Sons of Anarchy.
In The Mandalorian, the younger Wayne appears in episodes three through six as one of the doubles for the titular character. The Wayne family is now officially part of a blockbuster world their paterfamilias helped inspire.
All in all, this is very cool, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention another less cool way the Wayne family inadvertently altered the course of Star Wars history in a way that many fans did not appreciate.
George Lucas specifically cited John Wayne in the thought process behind altering the Han-Greedo standoff in A New Hope so that Han shoots second.
Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, “Should he be a cold-blooded killer?” Because I was thinking mythologically — should he be a cowboy, should he be John Wayne? And I said, “Yeah, he should be John Wayne.” And when you’re John Wayne, you don’t shoot people [first] — you let them have the first shot. It’s a mythological reality that we hope our society pays attention to.
John Wayne was such an influential actor that he was synonymous with a certain rugged moral masculinity, something many fans would argue led Lucas astray when he altered A New Hope to make Solo more Wayne-like. Lucas tinkered with the scene yet again, it became one of the biggest stories on Disney+ launch day, though you could hardly blame John Wayne for either kerfuffle.
You also can’t blame Brendan Wayne, whose presence in episodes 3 through 6 of The Mandalorian is the kind of cool trivia that will make fans happy, not angry.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
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.
In a foreign policy world full of different carrots and sticks, the CIA used an interesting incentive to dangle from a pole of enticements: Viagra.
Where money and guns have been the traditional tools of clandestine diplomacy, the New York Times’ CIA sources say the big blue pill was renowned by aging Afghan warlords who have multiple wives to satisfy.
Running money to informants is difficult for the Agency. To keep their assets in place (that is to say, to keep them alive and feeding information) money isn’t always the best motivator. According to the New York Times’ CIA source, the informant will run out and buy conspicuous items with his new funds.
It won’t be hard to figure out where he got those funds.
Guns are another troublesome carrot for potential informants. The CIA has to assume that – in the Afghan world of fluid allegiances – any arms given to today’s ally could be used against American troops by tomorrow’s enemy.
So a magic blue pill that revitalizes an aging man’s libido while invigorating the same man’s ego is a perfect way to cement an uneasy alliance. The nature of the gift keeps the reward from being too obvious or flashy while at the same time, not being something potentially dangerous to U.S. troops in the country.
While Viagra is relatively well-known in Afghanistan (and reportedly sold in markets in the country), CIA officers operating in remote areas have to earn the trust of tribal leaders and be careful not to offend their religious sensibilities when making the initial pitch.
They also have to be careful not to offend anyone’s ego when explaining just what the pill does.
No word on whether Cialis is planning an expansion into the Afghan marketplace.
Two Russian military planes loaded with troops landed in Venezuela amid an escalating national crisis in the country, according to a Mar. 24, 2019, Reuters report. The planes departed from a Russian military airport and landed in Caracas just months after the two countries conducted military exercises in Venezuela.
The exercises also included troops from Cuba and China and were conducted along the Venezuelan border with Colombia. The planes were filled with at least 100 Russian troops that some say are a message to the Trump Administration, but will likely be helping the Venezuelan military settle the crisis there.
One of the planes carried the troops while another brought tons of military supplies and equipment. Venezuela’s military is the critical component to holding power there. President Nicolas Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power because of the military, along with armed groups of militiamen whose role is to keep civilians in line. Those militias can be seen primarily along the Venezuelan border and are being used to keep American aid out of the country.
Challenging Maduro’s legitimacy is opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself the legitimate President of Venezuela, with the backing of the United States. At least 50 other countries have recognized Guaido’s claim to power.
While the Chinese interest in Venezuela is primarily seen as a financial one – it has a lot invested in Venezuela’s neglected oil sector – Russian interest is believed to be an attempted check on American interventionism worldwide. Russian President Vladimir Putin may even establish a permanent Russian military presence in the country as a way to show the United States it means business.
Another indication that Russia is serious about bolstering the Maduro regime is that the planes allegedly carried Russian General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, the Chief of Staff of the Russian ground forces, with the rest of the Russian troops.
The United States criticized the move as Russian interference in the region. The planes were sighted at the airport in Caracas by a local journalist, who checked the planes against a flight tracking website. The site confirmed the Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 cargo plane departed Russia for Venezuela, after a brief stop in Syria.
Both Russia and Venezuela have not yet commented on what the troops will be doing there.
Military service isn’t for everyone. Many potential recruits are passionate about enlisting but can’t due to some limitation while others who would make perfect applicants have no interest. The Pentagon doesn’t sweat the loss of young adults who aren’t eligible or have no interest, however, because of the many able troops willing to raise their right hand and pick up the slack.
But, in more recent years, the number of eligible enlistees has been getting smaller and smaller.
According to recently released data from the Pentagon, only 10 million of the 34 million young Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 are eligible to serve in the military. This is the continuation of a trend observed in 2014. To properly sustain the ranks, recruiters need to find the U.S. Army 80,000 new troops, the Marine Corps needs 38,000, the Air Force needs 33,000, and the Navy needs 31,000 annually. This brings the total to 182,000 troops per year. To make those numbers, 1.82% of the total 18-24-year-old American population that can enlist must do so.
The military relies on a constant flow of new recruits to fill in the gaps left by troops who left the service that year. That number grows and shrinks with each passing year, but if a manpower shortage becomes too great, it could spark a national security emergency.
But that’s a long ways off.
There are many reasons for disqualifying potential recruits. In recent years, the biggest disqualifier has been obesity. Basic training isn’t designed to get unhealthy people into fighting shape — it’s about getting reasonably fit people combat-ready. It’s not uncommon for potential recruits to get fit before they even step in a recruiter’s office.
The recruits who spend work months slimming down often take their service much more seriously. The same goes for other disqualifying factors, like education (which can be fixed with studying for the ASVAB or earning a GED) and financial concerns (which can be overcome through aid and personal perseverance).
If they’ve worked to earn their spot on the team, they won’t take it for granted.
My grandparents valued our nation’s history, and they did everything they could to ensure they passed down their knowledge and understanding of that history to the next generation. So, each summer from 5th Grade through my freshman year of high school, they took my cousins and I on road trips across the United States. Every trip ranged from two weeks to a month, traveling everywhere from the old Civil War battlefields in North Carolina to the cobblestone roads of River Street in Savannah, Georgia.
Even though we were just kids, we soaked up every bit of information we could about our nation’s convoluted and conflicted history. We learned to value our past, and the men and women who made our nation what it is today. For me, those trips laid a foundation I wouldn’t come to fully appreciate until years later … riding shotgun through Afghanistan.
My Grandfather was born in September 1939, too young for World War II or Korea, and too old for Vietnam by the time it came around. Grandpa was a model American though, at least as far as I was concerned. He worked a 30-year career with the phone company, raised three beautiful children, and married his high school sweetheart. He was eventually diagnosed with throat cancer; within a few years of diagnosis they removed all the cancer cells as well as his voice box.
But that didn’t stop him from doing what he thought was right.
Speaking with a mechanized voice box, he told his kids — including my mom — that he wanted to take the grandkids on a road trip to travel and explore our nation that summer. That led to many days and late nights in the passenger seat of my grandparents’ motorhome holding a Rand McNally road atlas while listening to my grandpa speak about his family’s legacy of military service with genuine admiration.
Grandpa told us about his oldest brother — they called him C.F. — who was an Infantryman that stormed Normandy’s beaches on D-Day. His brother Byron drove a tank through Italy, France, and Germany before almost being sent to Okinawa after the war in Europe had ended.
Against all odds, they somehow stumbled across each other during the war. Bryon was sitting on his tank as C.F. walked by with his unit; they were shocked at the sight of each other and took a moment to shower each other with questions before saying their good-byes and good lucks. That story stayed with me for a long time.
And then there was grandpa’s brother-in-law, Curtis. He rode on horseback behind enemy lines to establish communication lines in France during the war.
My grandpa spoke briefly but highly of his father-in-law — my great-grandfather, saying he served in World War I as an artilleryman. He struggled with shell shock; we call that PTSD these days. He’s standing next to an artillery cannon in France in the only picture we have of him.
My mind was doused in imagination; these men … these giants were the igniter. I had known them as kind, old southern gentlemen my entire childhood; my grandfather’s stories forced me to re-envision them as gigantic, unstoppable figures who changed the course of the world. These men were my heroes.
I still cherish every moment we spent together on the road discussing how our robust nation came to fruition, how our 16th President is revered as one of the best Presidents given the circumstances, and how FDR handled one of the greatest conflicts the world has ever experienced. My grandfather spent the waning years of his life passing down this historical knowledge to my cousins and me, and for that he will always be my hero.
From a very young age, I understood that our nation and livelihood was only attainable and sustained because of men like my relatives. Whether it was the moment Japan bombed Pearl Harbor or when Wilson brought us into WW1, these men answered the call willingly and selflessly. They understood what needed to be done to keep our nation’s virtues safe and guarded.
I was born in 1989, so a world-changing event like Pearl Harbor wouldn’t come into my life until a fall morning in 2001. I was in my 7th grade social studies class. Our teacher frantically rolled in the television and turned on the news. We sat as a class and watched one of the two towers burn in front of our eyes. A second plane came into frame, flying directly into the second tower. The gasps and cries in the room that day have never left my mind.
After about thirty minutes, the principal came over the intercom and cancelled classes for the day. I rushed to my bicycle, unlocked it, and pedaled home as fast as I could while images of the second plane crashing into the building devoured my thoughts. The front door of my house didn’t stand a chance; I unlocked it faster than I unlocked my bike, turned on the news and didn’t leave the living room until my mother got home from work.
She asked me if I’d been watching the tragic news all day. “Of course,” I told her. “If whatever happens is still happening when I turn eighteen, then I’m going to go and fight.” It was 2001 and 18 (the minimum age to go to war) was so far off in the distance that my mother didn’t argue. She knew I had a passionate love for this nation and respected the military tradition that our nation, and our family had cultivated.
Time went by. Days became months, months became years, and 2001 became 2005. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the same time my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. On October 31, 2007, Julean Hatcher, my beloved grandmother who was the rock for all of us, passed away.
My life had not amounted to anything by that point. I wasn’t actively trying to pursue college … or anything to better myself for that matter. I finally held myself accountable for the oath I made to my mother as a 7th grader in 2001 and signed a contract with the Marine Corps. On Mother’s Day 2008, I left for Parris Island, South Carolina to begin my journey toward becoming a U.S. Marine.
Over the course of recruit training we were told numerous times we weren’t going to go anywhere, that we would go to Iraq if we were lucky. Would I follow in Grandpa’s footsteps and miss the war?
The war in Iraq was nearing its end (or so we thought), but what no one saw coming was President Obama taking office and ordering 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. That changed my life and the course of hundreds of thousands of lives. From my great-uncles to my great-grandfather, to every single man and woman that ever served this nation prior to this moment, I could feel our history was about to be written.
In January 2010, I was sent to Afghanistan as a combat replacement to Route Clearance Platoon 2. I spent the next four months operating in and out of Marjah, Afghanistan looking for and disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Department of Defense
In April 2011, we deployed again to Helmand Province. But this time we were pushing into the now-infamous Sangin Valley, where we met heavy resistance. I spent so many days covered in a salt stained F.R.O.G. top wondering if my lineage would be proud of what we were doing, if they would be proud of the men and women who came after them to fight the good fight. I guess I’ll never truly know, but I’m confident they would be proud of every single one of us who raised our hands, recited that oath, and waved goodbye to family members as we loaded busses headed for war — just like they did.
I spent many days and late nights in the vehicle commander’s seat of a 4X4 MRAP truck building overlays on my map, marking the IED hits, SAF locations, and crater positions for hours on end. I sat there, navigating our platoon all throughout our area of operations, while reflecting on the times I spent with my grandfather learning about C.F. running through a curtain of steel while fighting his way up the Norman beaches. Thinking about Byron maneuvering his tank in just the right way to survive in the throes of battle. Imagining Curtis on horseback, evading the Nazis while setting up communications.
And my great-grandfather in France fighting against some of the worst evil the world had seen.
I couldn’t help but draw inspiration, motivation, and reasoning from my family’s history while fighting my generation’s war. They pushed me to excel and pursue becoming the type of American that might be somewhere … anywhere near the caliber of men they were.
I will always admire my grandfather for teaching me and captivating me with these stories of giant men and women who made a real impact on the world with their actions, all while leaving an impact that resonated to my core, shaped my thought process, and guided me to where I am today. We stand on the shoulders of giants, becoming giants for our children and their children to climb.
It’s probably common knowledge that when Old Glory is flying at half-staff (or half-mast), it indicates a period of mourning, but unless it’s Memorial Day or a president has just died, people might not know why the flag is at half-staff. Who gets to declare a period of mourning? How long does the period last?
Fear not, dear patriot. I will answer all these questions and more.
On March 1, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered a presidential proclamation codifying the display of the flag of the United States at half-staff. Here are the basics you need to know:
The American flag is flown at half-staff above the White House Sunday, Dec. 1, 2018, in memory of 41st President George H. W. Bush.
(Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber)
Death of the President: 30 Days
The flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions for the period indicated upon the death of the President or a former President for thirty days from the day of death.
The flag shall also be flown at half-staff for such period at all United States embassies, legations, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
Death of the VP, Chief Justice, retired Chief Justice, or Speaker of the House: 10 days
But for an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a member of the Cabinet, a former Vice President, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, or the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, the flag will fly at half-staff from the day of death until interment.
Honoring the seven astronauts who lost their lives aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003, the American flag was flown at half-staff over the White House Monday, Feb. 3. President George W. Bush has directed the government to fly the flag at half-staff through Wednesday, Feb. 5.
(White House photo by Paul Morse)
Other deaths “as appropriate”
For example, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia on the day of death and on the following day upon the death of a United States Senator, Representative, Territorial Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and it shall also be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the State, Congressional District, Territory, or Commonwealth of such Senator, Representative, Delegate, or Commissioner, respectively, from the day of death until interment.
In the event of the death of other officials, former officials, or foreign dignitaries, the flag of the United States shall be displayed at half-staff in accordance with such orders or instructions as may be issued by or at the direction of the President, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law.
Visitors on the USS Arizona Memorial as the flag flies at half-staff.
On Memorial Day and other notable dates
According to the VA, on Memorial Day the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of our nation’s fallen heroes.
There are other notable dates throughout the year that are honored with the half-staff display, such as September 11th (Patriot Day), December 7th in honor of the attacks at Pearl Harbor, or October 7th in honor of fallen firefighters.
The president is also authorized to order the flag to half-staff in response to tragedies, such as mass shootings or the Challenger tragedy.
Anyone who wishes to can receive notifications for when to fly their flag at half-staff, including nation-wide or state-wide alerts.
There have been times when officials have been confused about their authority with regards to “ordering” the American flag to half-staff. The National Flag Foundation gives the example of the late Attorney General Janet Reno ordering the flag to half-staff on all U.S. Department of Justice buildings after the deaths of several DEA agents. Though it was a well-intentioned gesture, legally Attorney General Reno did not have the authority to give such an order.
“NFF points out these ‘good-faith misunderstandings’ not to criticize or embarrass anyone, but rather to head off a growing trivialization of this memorial salute, and to preserve the dignity and significance of flying the U.S. flag at half-staff. To any readers who may think that NFF is insensitive for raising these breaches of etiquette, please be assured that our motives are pure. We grieve these human loses deeply; however, we believe proper respect for our flag must be maintained – no matter the circumstances. We owe that respect to our living, our dead, and our flag.”
“When Salvador Dalí died, it took months to get all the flagpoles sufficiently melted.”
(Image by xkcd)
One final note: proper etiquette dictates that the flag must not just be raised to half-staff. “The flag should be briskly run up to the top of the staff before being lowered slowly to the half-staff position.”
Mashal Saad al-Bostani of the Saudi Royal Air Forces, who was named by pro-government Turkish media as one of 15 suspects in the alleged murder of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi, has reportedly died in a car accident on return to the kingdom.
An article titled “Riyadh Silenced Someone” on Yeni Safak, a Turkish newspaper that strongly supports Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cited anonymous sources as saying Bostani died in a car crash, without giving a specific time or location.
Yeni Safak has proven a major voice in coverage of Khashoggi’s disappearance, with daily scoops from unnamed Turkish officials giving gory details to what they allege was a murder within the Saudi consulate on Oct. 2, 2018.
Saudi Arabia flatly denies any knowledge of Khashoggi’s whereabouts or disappearance, but US intelligence officials have started to echo the view that the prominent Saudi critic, who recently took residence in the US, was murdered.
In particular, Yeni Safak has reported having a audio tape of Khashoggi’s murder, but Turkish intelligence has not turned over the tape to the US. The US and Turkey are NATO allies with extensive intelligence-sharing agreements.
“We have asked for it, if it exists,” Trump said of the tape on Oct. 17, 2018. “I’m not sure yet that it exists, probably does, possibly does.”
Surveillance footage published by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet purports to show Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
“Let’s be honest,” Democrat Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut told Business Insider on Oct. 17, 2018, “the Turks have leaked some pretty serious allegations through the press that they have not been willing to make public. There are not a lot of clean hands.”
“We should acknowledge that most of what we know is through leaks from the Turkish government,” he continued. “At some point the Turks have to give us exactly what they have instead of leaking all of this to the press.”
The Daily Beast on Oct. 16, 2018, cited “sources familiar with the version of events circulating throughout diplomatic circles in Washington” as saying Saudi Arabia would try to pin the murder of Khashoggi on “a Saudi two-star general new to intelligence work.”
This holds with President Donald Trump’s suggestion that “rogue killers” took out Khashoggi, and not the Saudi monarchy itself.
CNN and The New York Times on Oct. 15, 2018, also reported that Saudi Arabia was preparing an alibi that would acknowledge Khashoggi was killed.
In December 2018, just before policymakers and pundits escaped their besieged bunkers for Christmas, the UK government published the long-awaited final report on its Modernising Defence Programme. This programme was meant to update the military commitments made in the last full-blown Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2015.
How far it has succeeded in that task is debatable, however. The report’s brevity and lack of detail left many lamenting a missed opportunity.
Revising 2015’s review became necessary thanks to a marked change in circumstances. Partly, those changes are strategic. Relations with Russia have deteriorated even further since 2015, Islamic State (IS) is much diminished, and new military technologies and tactics are advancing.
Mainly, however, those changes are economic. The lower growth trajectory induced by Brexit has reduced the resources available to the Ministry of Defence (MOD). (The UK Defence Budget is set at 2% of GDP, which means that if GDP is smaller than it might have been, so too is the budget available to the military.)
The pound’s depreciation since the Brexit vote in 2016 has also raised the real costs of buying defence equipment from abroad, such as the US-sourced F-35 combat jet. A broader rise in inflation has further added to cost pressures on a 2015 review that was already seen as financially optimistic.
F-35B Lightning II.
Taken together, these pressures have stretched the disconnect between intended military expenditures and available resources beyond the point that could reasonably be ignored. A political consequence of this has been the MOD —currently led by Gavin Williamson MP, a Defence Secretary unusually willing to provoke budgetary confrontations within Whitehall —demanding more government money to ensure that neither current nor planned military capabilities receive further cuts.
The Treasury, for its part, recognizes that Britain’s security environment has deteriorated to a worse condition than at any point since the Cold War. Yet it is still attempting to avoid major new spending commitments until the full fiscal shock of Brexit becomes clear. It has also long been skeptical of the MOD’s budgetary requests, viewing the department as a perennial financial black hole.
Political turmoil, strategic change
With a full cross-government spending review now scheduled for post-Brexit 2019, this Modernising Defence Programme report represents multiple levels of compromise. It has provided the government with a “good news” item, in the form of modest amounts of new funding to important areas such as high-technology research and “net assessment” of threats.
It also recognizes growing pressures in defence, such as the need to increase the usability of existing equipment if Britain is to pose a credible conventional deterrent against Russia (for example, by ensuring adequate numbers and varieties of munitions for ships and aircraft).
But the report has also dodged some of the hardest choices. For if more money is not eventually forthcoming from the Treasury to pay for equipment — and the people and infrastructure who turn such equipment from mere “stuff” into effective fighting capability — how will it be paid for or what will need to be cut?
These “micro” politics are all occurring against a backdrop of “macro” change in Britain’s strategic environment. The post-Cold War era of unrivaled American (and therefore Western) power is arguably coming to an end, with the rise of China and partial resurgence of Russia.
All of Britain’s closest alliances are simultaneously in flux. With the major European powers, this is due to Brexit. With the US, it is thanks to a combination of President Trump’s mercurial temperament and a longer standing requirement to pivot towards containment of China.
United States President Donald Trump.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anna Pol)
Yet even as Washington wants to focus on Beijing, European states face a hostile power in their own region, in the form of a Russia that sees good reasons to weaken and ideally break NATO.
Besides the Russia situation, political demands for UK military commitments in other regions also still remain — in the Middle East, Mediterranean, South Atlantic, and increasingly in East Asia too. This difficulty of juggling pressing regional defence needs with a desire for expansive global involvement reflects two competing sets of long-standing pressures in British strategy: the aspiration to play an influential role in the world versus the need to safeguard national security.
A combination of strained alliances and ever-expanding political demands explains the MOD’s determination to secure funds to rebuild UK military capability. After 20 years of preoccupation with counter-terrorism and humanitarian intervention, the current Defence Equipment Programme is now more focused on the heavier “state-on-state” capabilities required to deter a hostile major power in the North Atlantic region (warships, combat aircraft, mechanized ground forces, and so forth). And all of this must take place while still having enough left over to do a bit of all the other things that are asked of the armed forces.
The Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), HMS Sutherland (F81), and HMS Iron Duke (F234).
(UK Ministry of Defence photo)
Without the budget to fulfill recent ambitions, the MOD will not be confident that it can meet Britain’s defence needs. So rather than accept cuts today, this latest report plays for time. The hope is that the tougher security environment of tomorrow will ultimately persuade the Treasury to release more resources for defence, especially once Brexit has been and gone.
To that extent, December 2018’s report achieved its aims. A bit more funding for advanced technology research and net assessment is no bad thing. A recognition that Britain needs more robust stockpiles of fuel, spares, munitions, and expertise was long overdue. And the MOD has managed to delay its day of reckoning with the Treasury until after the initial fiscal shock of Brexit.
A delay is not a victory, however. There is no sign yet of the substantial uplift in funding or the cuts to planned capabilities necessary to place the armed forces on a sound budgetary footing. That hard day of financial reckoning could therefore still be to come.
China’s much-hyped but never-before-seen H-20 nuclear bomber has reportedly made “great progress” in its development recently and may even fly publicly in a 2019 military parade.
But while China bills the mysterious jet as a modern answer to the US’ airborne leg of its nuclear triad, a close read of Beijing’s military and nuclear posture reveals another mission much more likely to actually draw blood.
Though the jet remains an absolute unknown with only concept-art depictions in existence, let’s start with what we know. China describes the H-20 as a “new long-distance strategic bomber,” which recent imagery suggests will take a stealthy delta-wing design.
An Asia Times profile of the H-20 cited Chinese media as saying “the ultimate goal for the H-20” is an “operational range to 12,000 kilometers with 20 tons of payload.”
“A large flying wing design … is one of the only aerodynamic ways of achieving the broadband all-aspect stealth required for such a design,” Justin Bronk, an aerial combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.
Only one nation on earth operates a large stealth bomber, and that’s the US. But the B-2 has never launched a nuclear bomb, instead it’s been used as a stealthy bomb truck that can devastate hardened enemy targets with massive payloads on a nearly invisible platform.
A possible prototype image of China’s mysterious H-20 bomber.
According to Lawrence Trevethan, a researcher at the China Aerospace Studies Institute, which works with the US Air Force, that’s what China’s H-20 will likely do as well.
“I see the H-20 as a nearly exact replacement for the H-6 (China’s current theoretically nuclear-capable bomber),” Trevethan told Business Insider.
Ignore the nuclear mission
Trevethan, an expert on China’s nuclear posture, pointed out that the H-6 never trains with nuclear bombs. China’s nuclear-missile capable submarines have never had a verified nuclear deterrence patrol. China’s nuclear weapons are not kept mated atop missiles, unlike Russia and the US.
And there’s a simple reason why, according to Trevethan: Nuclear weapons are expensive and mutual nuclear war has never happened.
Instead, conventional war happens — and happens all the time.
Trevethan called the H-20 a bomber “that might actually contribute to a military victory in a war fought as its [nuclear] doctrine imagines. “
Bronk agreed, saying the “biggest impact of a B-2 style capability for the PLAAF [China’s air force] would be much greater vulnerability of bases such as Guam and Kadana to conventional precision strikes.”
Currently, the US has Aegis and THAAD missile defenses in Guam and its Japanese bases, which pose a threat to China’s fleet of missiles. But the US has no established defense against a stealth bomber, which China will likely seek to exploit with the H-20.
Throughout the 1960s, US B-52 nuclear-capable bombers stayed airborne and ready to launch nearly around the clock.
(US Air Force photo)
Not built for cold wars
Instead of a simple air-based nuclear deterrent, like the US and Russia maintain, spend tons of money on, and hope to never use, China’s H-20 looks more like a bomber that actually plans to fight wars. (The US’ bomber fleet, both nuclear and non-nuclear, fights in wars, but never in a nuclear capacity.)
China’s defensive nuclear posture also allows it more leeway in a shooting war. If the US and Russia got into a battle, and either side saw ballistic missiles heading for the other, it would have to assume they were nuclear missiles and retaliate before it faced utter destruction.
But with no missiles ready to go and a much smaller stockpile, China can fire missiles at US bases and ships without giving the impression of a full-on nuclear doomsday.
By fitting the H-20’s concept into China’s nuclear posture, it comes across as more of a credible conventional strike platform meant to beat the US back in the Pacific rather than a flying nuclear threat.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There are at least 11 NFL players that would be dead now had it not been for the lifesavers that came to their rescue. An ad set to air during Super Bowl LIII pays tribute to them and the many, many like them who risk their lives to save others.
“The Team That Wouldn’t Be Here” is comprised of 11 players and a coach who share their rescue stories as they came close to death in natural disasters, car accidents, and more. One iteration of the campaign aired during the NFC and AFC Championship games, but an all-new one is set to air during the big game.
included in the campaign is a microsite, AllOurThanks.com, that houses a dozen stories, told by the NFL players who were rescued, as they offer their thanks to the first responded who saved their lives and the lives of their loved ones. The stories were directed by Peter Berg, the Emmy-nominated director of Friday Night Lights and 2013’s Lone Survivor.
“The idea of acknowledging first responders is something I believe in,” Berg told USA Today. “It’s something that I don’t think ever gets old.”
Raiders Quarterback A.J. McCarron would be dead now after a jetski accident as a child. The Packers’ Clay Matthews wouldn’t be here because of a bicycle accident. For the Texans’ Carlos Watkins, it was a car accident. The videos also feature the players family and other loved ones – as well as some of the first responders who actually rescued these players.
The website, launched by Verizon, allows anyone to give thanks to a first responder by uploading a photo along with your first name and last initial. The beautiful, heartfelt thank-yous play on a rotating ticker at the bottom of the page as the ad reads “First responders answer the call. Our job is to make sure they can get it.”
None of this has anything to do with gender or anything as asinine as that. The fact is, Wonder Woman was the best superhero movie of 2017 (yeah, I know when Logan was released, and I stand by this statement). And Wonder Woman is easily the best part of the current DC cinematic universe. But this is history.
World War I is a lot more complex than when Steve Trevor tells Diana that he’s the good guy and the bad guys are the Germans wading ashore. It was nice of her to just take his word for it. These are my issues with this mostly-fantastic film.
Wonder Woman does not like doors.
Ok, this isn’t historical, it’s more of a stylistic criticism. Batman and Superman get to fly in or punch their way through a group of bad guys while Wonder Woman has to explode through the wall like an ancient, mythical Kool-Aid Man.
How did that guy not see this coming?
The Germans look completely incompetent.
They’re not just the traditional, evil villainous henchmen — they’re bad at it, too. Maybe that’s why they need to be directed by the God of War. After chasing Steve Rogers Steve Trevor onto the hidden island of Themyscira, they encounter a group of natives who seem technologically inferior… so, obviously they have to murder them all, right?
No. World War I Germans were not the Nazis. Historically, they were as much a victim of circumstance as any other combatant in the war. Germans were arguably the best at fighting World War I. That’s why they took a lot of heat in Versailles, and that’s why World War II happened — the Germans didn’t technically lose. A general staff, a standing professional army — these are all pioneering developments from 19th/20th-Century Germany, but you’d never know it watching Wonder Woman.
A very important lesson for Diana.
No one lives up to their established reputation.
Eventually, the Germans who land on Themyscira all get slaughtered, despite the warship off the island’s coast that never gets used. Despite their guns and grenades, they get creamed by an Amazonian army using swords and arrows, which begs another question: Why are these highly-trained professional soldiers just standing in the open as projectiles are fired at them?
Sure, the Amazonians have never fought rifles before, but with all their superhuman abilities, why can’t they see these as projectile weapons? And the Germans can definitely see all the well-aimed arrows raining death on them, but there they are, kneeling in the open sand, waiting for death.
Germans in Wonder Woman just seem incompetent or lazy or both. Only Steve, the American, has the good sense to take cover on the beach that day.
Remember: They did this to save the town.
Wonder Woman does not do stairs.
There’s a sniper in the bell tower! Luckily everyone has cover, and he’s the only enemy left, so we can just head to the church and use the stars, right? No. That would require going through a door — we talked about that, remember? Let’s just throw Wonder Woman at the building and see what happens.
In their shoes, you’d have shot at Wonder Woman. And probably would have had trench foot.
The Germans didn’t start World War I.
They weren’t really the “bad guys,” they just happened to not be on America’s side. These aren’t Nazis and not every German soldier was responsible for the Rape of Belgium. A lot of them were conscripted, just like the guys on the other side of No Man’s Land. When it came to chemical weapons, the Allies used them on the Central Powers just as much as the other way around, and the same goes for submarine warfare, forced civilian labor, machine guns, and every other horrible thing about World War I on the Western Front.
If anything, she should be taking down Serbia and Austria-Hungary.
Through the goddamned window.
It’s way different for junior enlisted people.
While watching Wonder Woman for the first time, I remembered what it was like to pull security details as an E-2 while deployed. When Diana liberated Veld from the Germans, I couldn’t help but think of the circumstances surrounding it. While it’s totally awesome to watch her clear a trench, the war was almost over, and everyone knew it. The armies around Veld had been there for a year, and not much progress was made to advance either way. This means that everyone was likely just hunkering down to wait out the end of the war, content not to kill or be killed.
So, imagine being a German private, coming to work in the headquarters building, dreaming of returning home to Munich or Trier or wherever to be with your family again in just a few weeks when, suddenly, a Greek Goddess bursts in and starts murdering all your friends during frühstück and kaffee.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have once again helped make history for SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, by docking to a football field-size laboratory above Earth.
After careening into space on Saturday atop a Falcon 9 rocket, the astronauts’ spaceship — a Crew Dragon capsule they later named “Endeavour” — disconnected from its launcher and entered orbit. The ship then completed a series of engine burns to catch up to the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits about 250 miles above the planet’s surface while traveling 17,500 mph.
On Sunday morning, Behnken and Hurley finally caught up to their target. Endeavour flew below the 0 billion orbiting laboratory, later pulling up to a stopping point about 220 meters in front of the space station.
“It flew just about like the [simulator], so my congratulations to the folks in Hawthorne. It flew really well, very really crisp,” Hurley said during a live webcast, adding that its handling was “a little sloppier” in an up-down direction, though as expected.
The ship’s docking mechanism connected to the node at 10:16 a.m. ET while flying over northern China and Mongolia. Latches on the ship then tightly sealed Endeavour to the ISS, allowing the crews to begin a roughly two-hour-long hatch-opening procedure.
The last time an American spaceship attached to the space station was July 2011 — the flight of space shuttle Atlantis, a mission that Hurley flew on.
“It’s been a real honor to be a super-small part of this nine-year endeavor, since the last time a United States spaceship has docked with the International Space Station,” Hurley said shortly after docking. “We have to congratulate the men and women of SpaceX at Hawthorne, McGregor, and at Kennedy Space Center. Their incredible efforts over the last several years to make this possible cannot go overstated.”
Hurley then thanked NASA’s staff, after which the ISS commander and astronaut Chris Cassidy rang a ceremonial bell while welcoming Behnken and Hurley.
NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where US mission control for the ISS is based, then chimed in with its own congratulations.
“Endeavour this is Houston. Bob and Doug, welcome to the International Space Station,” said Joshua Kutryk, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut in the control room, calling the crew’s flight a “historic ride” and a “magnificent moment in spaceflight history.”
“You have opened up a new chapter in human space exploration,” he added.
An historic 110-day test mission begins in earnest
After docking, the crews of Endeavour and the ISS prepared to open their hatches, which they did at 1:02 p.m. ET. After about 20 minutes of safety checks, Behnken and Hurley soared through Endeavour’s hatch and into the waiting arms of commander Cassidy, cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, and cosmonaut Ivan Vagner.
The crews then grabbed a mic to talk to mission control in Houston, where NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rep. Brian Babin of Texas awaited a chance to speak.
“The whole world saw this mission, and we are so, so proud of everything you have done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world,” Bridenstine said.
“It’s great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business,” Hurley responded. “We’re just really glad to be on board this magnificent complex.”
Bridenstine also asked if the two astronauts got any sleep: “We did get probably a good seven hours or so,” Behnken said.
Cruz asked about the handling of the Crew Dragon: “It flew just like it was supposed to,” Hurley said.
The junior senator also asked the astronauts what Americans could learn about coming together from their test mission, called Demo-2, during a “tough week” for the country — a reference to protests that have erupted across the US in response to a white police officer’s killing of George Floyd, a black man. Hurley spoke about SpaceX and NASA working together through years of sacrifice to restore the US’ ability to launch people into orbit.
“This is just one effort that we can show for the ages in this dark time that we’ve had over the past several months,” Hurley said.
Sen. Babin asked what it was like to rocket to orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
“We were surprised a little bit at how smooth things were off the pad. The space shuttle was a pretty rough ride heading into orbit with the solid rocket boosters,” Behnken said. But he noted the shuttle was “a lot smoother” after its boosters fell off than Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon was for the duration of that flight.
“Dragon was huffin’ and puffin’ all the way into orbit. We were definitely driving and riding a dragon all the way up. So it was not quite the same ride, the smooth ride, as the space shuttle was,” Behnken said, adding that SpaceX’s launch system was “a little bit more alive.”
The successful docking means Behnken and Hurley have a home in space for up to the next 110 days. When their stay ends, the astronauts will climb back into the Endeavour, disembark from the ISS, and careen back to Earth.
The overarching goal of the test mission is to show SpaceX’s ship is safe to fly people.
If NASA determines it is, then the agency can fully staff the space station with astronaut crews and maximize its ability to perform research.