Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators - We Are The Mighty
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Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators

Last week rapper Nicki Minaj performed a concert in Angola, which is not necessarily a big deal except she reportedly received $2 million dollars for the show from Unitel, a mobile phone company owned by the family of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. Dos Santos has been in power in Angola for 36 years and is widely considered a dictator.


Minaj posted photos of herself with the President’s daughter Isabel dos Santos on her Instagram, saying:

“Oh no big deal…she’s just the 8th richest woman in the world. (At least that’s what I was told by someone b4 we took this photo) Lol. Yikes!!!!! GIRL POWER!!!!! This motivates me soooooooooo much!!!!”

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators

According to an open letter to Minaj from the The Human Rights Foundation, the Dos Santos family make their money through “exploiting Angola’s diamond and oil wealth to amass an illegitimate fortune while maintaining control over all branches of the government, the military, and civil society … it his policy to harass, imprison, or kill politicians, journalists, and activists who protest his rule.” Minaj performed the show anyway, which she has a right to do. There are no limitations for visiting or working in Angola.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
. . . unless you’re an Angolan diamond miner. Then you’re not allowed to stop working.

There is still the stigma of legitimizing what is one of the top most corrupt governments in the world (the most in southern Africa). But Nicki Minaj is not the first star to perform for a questionable government. Here’s a rundown of a few other A-listers who’ve been willing to make despot’s toes tap:

1. Jennifer Lopez -Berdymukhamedov’s Turkmenistan

“We wish you the very, very, happiest birthday,” Lopez said to Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov before singing to him at a huge celebration in his central Asian country.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
Sparkly outfits are par for the course when serenading someone who built a gold statue of himself.

Human Rights Watch calls the Berdymukhamedov regime “one of the most repressive in the world, marked by new levels of repression.” Berdymukhamedov seized power in 2007 after the only person more mad than he is, Saparmurat Niyazov, died. (Niyazov changed his language’s word for bread to his mother’s name, renamed the month of September after the book he wrote, and once tried to build a permanent structure made out of ice in the middle of the desert). Berdymukhamedov proceeded to honor himself with a giant bronze and gold statue of his likeness in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat.

2. Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Usher, Bon Jovi and 50 Cent – Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya

Leaked diplomatic cables confirm Queen Bey and Company performed gigs at parties thrown by Qaddafi’s sons Hannibal and Mutassim in Italy and St. Barths. All four claim they donated their fees to earthquake relief in Haiti. Also, Lindsay Lohan was there.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
It was that kind of party.

Hannibal escaped Libya during the civil war that ousted his father. He was briefly taken captive in Lebanon this month but was set free soon after. Mutassim got his around the same time as his father, when he was captured by Libyan rebels outside of Sirte. The rebels stabbed him in the throat.

3. Nelly Furtado – Also Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya

Around the same time as Beyoncé’s work with the Qaddafi family came out, Furtado self-identified on Twitter. She was paid $1 million to perform for the family at an Italian hotel in 2007. (Which seems remarkable because few can name two Nelly Furtado songs without googling her, and the Qaddafis liked her enough to buy an entire concert.) Still, Furtado wasn’t Colonel Qaddafi’s true love. We all know who that was:

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
Hint: It’s not the Cleveland Browns.

The singer promised to give the money away to an unnamed charity. In 2012, she released a song called Arab Spring.

4. Michael Jackson – King Hamad’s Bahrain

It’s hard to call a U.S. ally a dictatorship, but while half their bicameral legislature features elected officials, the other half is appointed by the King who can rule by decree. When the late King of Pop fled there in 2005 after being acquitted of child molestation charges, the Khalifa family provided for him in exchange for a private show and a recorded album.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
While we’re on the subject, can we talk about why some pop stars start dressing like dictators?

While the singer took the money from the dictator, he never made good on the promise of a performance or a recorded album, so maybe Jackson was performing a service by swindling the monarch.

5. Sting – Karimov’s Uzbekistan

In 2009, Sting performed for a man who’s best known for boiling his enemies alive. Islam Karimov’s rule was celebrated via a festival funded and planned by his daughter, Gulnara Karimova, the “Uzbek Princess.”

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
Uzbek dictator Islam Karim shaking hands with one of the few guys on the planet who scare him.

The Uzbek regime is the dictatorship likened closest to North Korea. Karimov is so power mad, he sees his daughter’s popularity as a threat, jailing her and her family in her home. Sting accepted a $2 million payment for his performance. Sting refused to apologize, saying he believed that boycotts only isolate dictator-ruled countries. Karimov banned Sting’s music shortly afterward because the Police alum called him a dictator.

6. Lionel Richie – Qaddafi’s Libya. Again.

Richie was the first to perform for the dictator’s family inside Libyan borders, though it was a celebration of Qaddafi surviving a U.S. attack on his compound in Tripoli, in front of the bombed-out compound which Qaddafi never rebuilt. The singer has never spoken about the performance.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

7. James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers – Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire

Sese Seko put on a festival celebrating his rule in what he called Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1974. The dictator, who would go on to embezzle $5 billion, put up the cost of the Zaire 74 Festival, which was promoted by famed boxing promoter Don King as part of the build up to the Mohammed ali-George Foreman fight (dubbed the “Rumble in the Jungle”).

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators

8. Kanye West – Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan

The rapper was hired to perform at the wedding of Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev’s grandson. The former Russian Soviet Republic is sharply criticized by human rights organizations for its serious violations and deteriorating situation.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
If there’s any pop star who actually has a personality cult like a dictator, it’s probably Kanye.

Yeezy was paid a reported $3 million for his appearance, which was recorded on Twitter and Instagram. Kanye West was able to express himself at the mic, unlike the rest of Kazakhstan, a nation suffering a harsh and unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression and political plurality with the imprisonment of outspoken opposition and civil society activists.

9. Mariah Carey – José Eduardo dos Santos’ Angola

Yeah, same dictator, same place. Carey performed in Angola in 2013 at the behest of her manager, Jermaine Dupri, whom she would fire the next year.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators

This wasn’t the first time Carey performed for a dictator. In 2010, she publicly apologized for a 2008 New Year’s celebration performance, which is a nice segue to . . .

10. Mariah Carey – Qaddafi’s Libya

She was paid an undisclosed sum for performing for the Qaddafi family at a private residence in St. Barth’s. As part of  her penance, she reminded everyone how much money she regularly gives to charity even as she pocketed her payment and released a statement:

“I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for, I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess. Going forward, this is a lesson for all artists to learn from. We need to be more aware and take more responsibility regardless of who books our shows. Ultimately we as artists are to be held accountable.”

Indeed.

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Senator McCain and General Welsh scuffle over the A-10’s fate

As Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 3, controversy erupted when he mentioned the service’s plans to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known to troops as the “Warthog” and largely regarded as the most effective close air support aircraft in the inventory today.


Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
Airman Brandon Kempf, 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated A-10 Thunderbolt II crew chief, watches as an aircraft taxis into position after landing May 9, 2013, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)

For years, the USAF fought with congressional leaders about the fate of the Warthog.  Congress laid down the law in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, requiring that the Air Force find a viable replacement for the airframe’s close-air support role before they would be allowed to retire it.

Originally, the Air Force tried to wedge the F-35 program into the CAS requirement, but Congress flat-out rejected it as an option. Thus, the A-10 was given a stay of execution until a congressionally-mandated, independent study determined the Air Force has such a suitable replacement.

In his recent testimony, Gen. Welsh told the Senate the USAF will use the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-15E Strike Eagle to fly close air support missions; however, those options didn’t work for the SASC, especially not the chairman, Senator John McCain, a former Navy attack pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam and spent six years as a POW in Hanoi.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
Col. Mark Anderson (Tail No. 188), 188th Fighter Wing commander; Maj. Doug Davis (Tail No. 639), 188th Detachment 1 commander; Col. Brian Burger (Tail No. 613), 188th Operations Group commander; and Capt. Wade Hendrickson (Tail No. 638) conduct a training mission Dec. 30, 2013, over Razorback Range. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch)

“You have nothing to replace [the A-10] with, General,” McCain shot back. “Otherwise you would be using F-15s and the F-16s of which you have plenty of, but you’re using the A-10 because it’s the most effective weapons system. This is really, unfortunately disingenuous.”

As well as being the most tailored for the CAS mission, the A-10 also has the lowest cost per flight hour at $19,051 compared to the F-35 at $67,550, the F-16 at $22,470, and the F-15E at $41,921.

When Welsh tried to press the issue, McCain called his testimony “embarrassing.”

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
Capt. Richard Olson, 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 pilot, prepares to take flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2011. A-10s can survive direct hits from armor-piecing and high explosive projectiles up to 23mm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“Every Air Force pilot that I know will tell you that the most effective close air support system is the A-10,” McCain said.

 

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5 videos that show how the F-22 Raptor is an awesome dogfighting machine

The F-22 is the world’s only fifth-generation fighter currently in service, and the Air Force has been showing off its super-maneuverability at this summer’s air shows. Here are some videos of the Raptor demonstrating what it can do:


1. Near-vertical climb immediately after a ridiculously short takeoff

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=totzfPN4hWQ

The F-22 show starts as soon as the jet leaves the ground. Following a short takeoff the airplane goes straight into the vertical.

BONUS: Flashing the crowd

It’s not an advanced maneuver, but the F-22 generally uses it’s first or second pass along the show line to “flash” the crowd, opening its weapon bay doors to let the crowd see where the missiles and bombs are carried.

2. J-Turn (Herbst maneuver)

The J-Turn is a way of slowing down fast by putting the jet into a controlled stall. The maneuver requires vectored thrust for the pilot to control the pitch of the plane after it stalls. A NASA graphic explains the maneuver step-by-step.

3. Mongo flip

The mongo flip is basically a glorified backflip. Air show aficionados may notice it’s similarity to a “Kulbit maneuver.” The Kulbit is basically the same except the Kulbit is using inertia, gravity, and the flow of air to tumble the plane while the Mongo is a flip controlled by vectored thrust from the F-22s engines. The Mongo Flip is tighter than the Kulbit due to this extra control. If you can’t tell exactly what’s going on in the mongo flip, check out this newspaper graphic that illustrates the mongo flip and the cobra, shown below.

4. Cobra maneuver

The Cobra Maneuver is a classic air combat move made even more effective by the Raptor’s vectored thrust. A pilot being pursued would draw the enemy in close, execute the Cobra and spit the bandit out in front of him, kind of like Maverick’s move in ‘Top Gun’. The F-22 is capable of executing the maneuver to 140 degrees, nearly laying on its back,but always in control courtesy of vectored thrust.

5. Here’s the full show . . .

This video shows a full demonstration of the F-22, showing how demo pilot puts everything together.

What to see it in person? Then check out the F-22 Demonstration Team schedule.

NOW: This stunning video shows why flying an F-16 fighter jet is pure joy

OR: 5 differences between Navy and Air Force fighter pilots

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China is close to entering the ‘war on terror’ — and they won’t be on our side

By now, everyone who follows the fight against terrorism will know that there was an unsuccessful VBIED attack on Aug. 30 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in which a suicide bomber attempted to ram the embassy gates before detonating. This attack only managed to kill one person – the bomber – though it wounded several others. In the past year, Kyrgyzstan’s authorities have successfully foiled multiple alleged plots and an estimated 500 of its citizens are believed to be in territory controlled by ISIL. Whether or not ISIL eventually claims credit for this attack, it will likely have been carried out by ethnically Uighur separatists from Western China – a population that not only has a presence in ISIL’s ranks, but also is actively being trained for attacks on Chinese targets by Dutch jihadi Israfil Yilmaz.


The ongoing conflict between East Turkestan separatists/Uighur jihadists and the Chinese government has been at a low-broil for decades. Strict movement controls, an intense intelligence collection apparatus with an emphasis on big data analysis, and a heavy occupying presence in Muslim majority areas of China will largely continue to prevent successful mass casualty attacks against prestige targets. However, small-scale incidents, such as stabbings and rudimentary IED attacks, continue to affect cities in Western China from time to time – probably more than is possible to independently verify, given the inability of Western journalists to report in these areas.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
An anti-China, pro-Uighur protest outside the White House. Photo from Flickr user Malcolm Brown.

In the meantime, at risk of sounding cliché, China is rising. President Xi Jinping has embarked on a well-known effort to modernize China’s oversized, lumbering, corrupt, Cold War-era military into an efficient, combat-ready force ready for contingencies wherever they occur – from the South China Sea to the transportation infrastructure in its Western near-abroad known as the New Silk Road. This “Silk Road” seeks to modernize the ancient trade route of the same name and will undoubtedly re-orient Central Asian economies towards China.

These Central Asian countries, run by aging autocrats, are universally known as some of the least free nations in the world and are potential tinderboxes. They clamp down heavily on religion (the local religion is largely Sunni Islam). They rely on trade with Russia and high energy prices – and energy prices have been low for a while now. They have restive and young populations. Saudi Wahhabis fund unemployed youths’ spiritual journeys, and some of these very youths are already trained and combat-experienced from battlefields in Syria, Iraq, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Expect more attacks against Chinese targets where and when possible.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
Soldiers with the People’s Liberation Army at Shenyang training base in China, March 24, 2007. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, US Air Force.

So what does this imply for the United States? Several things, but it does not mean a straightforward area of potential military and diplomatic cooperation. China will likely reluctantly find itself more combat-experienced than it currently is (it last fought a war in 1979 against Vietnam – it did not go well for China). It will bring China to the world stage like never before as it picks up the slack it previously left for the US alone. However, China has signaled strongly that is not aligned with US counter-terrorism policy. When the heartbreaking video of wounded Syrian child Omran Daqneesh emerged, Chinese state-media ridiculed it as faked, saying that he was “eligible for an Oscar.” The People’s Liberation Army has instituted a training mission for Syrian forces (taking place safely in Mainland China). In other words, China is stepping up – and will continue to step up – but it will do so in a manner more aligned with Russia and Iran than with the United States and NATO.

Many Western analysts believe that for a country of its size, China really ought to do more to stabilize the world. Given what we know about the Chinese government and Xi’s modus operandus, and given the pressure China will be under from its nationalist netizens should a more successful attack against Chinese interests occur, we should be careful what we wish for. China stepping up will not mean closer partnership with the United States.

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This French general escaped an ‘inescapable’ Nazi prison

When the Nazi forces captured French Gen. Henri Giraud in World War II, they knew they had to put him somewhere truly secure. So they took him to Konigstein Castle, a prison they were sure was completely inescapable. He broke out in two years. In broad daylight. Wearing a comical hat and glasses as a disguise. On Hitler’s birthday weekend.


Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
Gen. Henri Giraud conducts his daily walk while a prisoner of the Third Reich. Photo: National Archives and Record Administration

Giraud was a popular general when World War II broke out. He was a hero of World War I for leading a bayonet charge against machine guns at the Battle of St. Quentin in Aug. 1914. He was wounded in the battle and left for dead before being captured by the Germans. It only took the severely wounded officer two months to escape that time, a feat he pulled off by acting like he was a laborer in a traveling circus.

Between the wars, he upped his notoriety factor by earning France’s Legion de Honneur in combat with Moroccan rebels and holding a series of high-profile military positions through the French empire.

In World War II, he fought the Nazis in a string of battles in an attempt to keep his country free. In May 1940, he led a reconnaissance patrol in Northeastern France and was captured at a machine gun nest after a heavy exchange with German artillery.

The Nazis knew they had a problem. Capturing a general is great, but then you have to hold him, and this general was famous for being a hero in two wars and had already escaped a German prison camp once. So they took him to Konigstein Castle, a prison with on a high hill that featured tall walls, few windows, and constant nighttime patrols. The Germans called it inescapable.

Festung-Konigstein-castle-prison Konigstein Castle looms over the surrounding countryside. Photo: Creative Commons/Fritz-Gerald Schröder

In the castle, Giraud quickly began a long-term plan to escape. He learned German by convincing the prison to offer classes. Then he stole a map and began studying potential routes and pitfalls. He also figured out a method of communicating with his wife and others through coded messages that would get past the censors. For an entire year, he slowly built a rope out of twine.

The Germans had good reason to believe that Konigstein was inescapable. Between the high walls and the fact that the prison was built on a hill, Giraud would need to descend 150 feet of wall and cliff face before reaching the ground. The twine was to help with that.

Because the prison was patrolled at night and not during the day, he descended hand-under-hand to the ground in broad daylight on Apr. 17, 1942, and jumped onto a passing train. He put on some glasses and a hat he acquired and shaved his mustache.

For those who don’t know, Hitler’s birthday is Apr. 20 and he was not happy that his weekend was spoiled by Giraud’s escape. He immediately ordered that Giraud be recaptured and assassinated.

The train took Giraud to the border between France and Germany and he was able to get in touch with resistance forces. Since Germany had held France for nearly two years at this point, Giraud had to stay one step ahead of Vichy officials who were eager to hand him over to the Nazis.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
Gen. Henri Giraud hangs out with President Franklin D. Roosevelt after his successful escape. Photo: Roosevelt Library

Wearing women’s garb, he escaped Vichy France to the southern coast where a submarine was waiting for him. Because Giraud really hated the British, he had demanded an American sub.

Since there were no American subs nearby, the British had loaned the U.S. the HMS Seraph, redubbed the USS Seraph. An American officer temporarily took command and the crew faked American accents.

The general quickly saw through the ruse but allowed himself to be taken to North Africa anyway. As a five-star general, he had hoped to take over all French and possibly all Allied forces but accepted command of a division of Free French Forces instead. He fought on the side of the allies until retiring to private life after the liberation of France in 1944.

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DARPA’s new robot can jump hurdles, chase you down, and haunt your dreams

With backing by DARPA, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a robot that can run 13 mph and jump over obstacles without guidance from a human. A video of it in action was released yesterday, though it doesn’t appear to be running at full speed.


Looks like it’s time to start training. “Terminator” robots are going to be way faster than we ever imagined.

Some of the technology is explained in the video available below.

For more information on the robot, check out the full article on it over at Wired.

NOW: The 8 most iconic Marine Corps recruiting slogans

AND: Marines Improvise an awesome waterslide during a rainstorm

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Revolutionary War history gets complicated in Season Two of ‘Turn’

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
(Photo: AMC)


Author and historian Alex Rose knows that choosing the American Revolution as subject matter comes with a level of risk in that most people’s knowledge of that period of history begins and ends with what they were taught at a very young age.

“We generally think of George Washington as chopping down a cherry tree and not lying about it and being above it all,” Rose said.  “But the truth is he was a complicated man.  And he did lose a lot of battles.”

AMC adapted Rose’s book Washington’s Spies to create the series “Turn,” now in its second season. The network asked Rose to act as a historical consultant, and he was more than happy to come aboard to help the show’s writers get the details correct.

“We’re very conscious that we’re dealing with the touchstones of American history,” Rose said. “But the problem with touchstones is they can become petrified and set in stone.”

Season One of “Turn” introduced viewers to Abe, a simple man who wants any threat of war to go away so he can enjoy a simple life as a cabbage farmer. But the late 18th Century was anything but a simple time in America.

“People had to make choices,” Rose said. “And if you got caught on the wrong side you could be hanged.”

Further Rose pointed out that most American’s “default position” was that of loyalist and not rebel. “Over time loyalists have been portrayed as cowards,” he said. “There’s a lot more to it than that. We think that politics are complicated these days, but they were more so back then.”

The arc of the shows across the first season followed Abe’s transition from average American, son of a Tory loyalist, to the leader of the nation’s first spy ring.

“Season One was the genesis of the spy ring,” Rose said.  “People were learning the ropes.  In Season Two the ring is coming together, which brings its own challenges.”

In Season Two Abe is totally set on being a spy. “He’s going to do whatever it takes, even if it causes collateral damage,” Rose said.

Season Two also features an infamous figure: Benedict Arnold, commonly thought of as America’s greatest traitor.

“He enters the show in his prime,” Rose explained. “He was one of the great war heroes, the best generals they had.  We have to see him in that light.  He didn’t start off as a bad guy.”

Rose said that overall the goal of “Turn” – along with entertaining – is to show that the period of the American Revolution was a “magnificent time” and not just what he calls a “goodie versus baddie narrative.”

“Remember, they don’t know what we know,” Rose added. “They don’t know who wins in the end.”

For more about Season Two of “Turn” go to the official show site here.

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Athlete dedicates Invictus medals to soldier who saved his life

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators


As the Florida sun beat down mercilessly on the adaptive athletes, medically retired Army Sgt. Aaron Stewart competed in cycling and swimming at the 2016 Invictus Games here not for medals, but for a fellow fallen soldier.

Stewart dedicated his athletic performances to Leonard Sear, a fellow soldier who saved his life. Stewart, who is transgender, competed in the female category.

Competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, Stewart earned silver medals in the time trial and criterium in cycling.  And in swimming, he earned silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle and a bronze medal in the 50-meter backstroke in his disability category.

In the 2014 Invictus Games, before he began hormone treatments, Stewart earned two gold medals in cycling in the time trial and criterium. At the Warrior Games in 2014, he earned seven medals in swimming, air pistol and the air rifle.

Having served in flight operations for eight years, Stewart has injuries to his back, spinal stenosis and sciatica, shoulder issues and also has post-traumatic stress from military sexual trauma. He said he met Sear while they were serving in a wounded warrior transition battalion in 2012.

Lifesaver

“They did recovery things there where we got together in groups and did yoga, rock climbing and things like that to help mentally bring us together,” Stewart said. “We were in the same unit. I attempted suicide about six months after we became friends, and he found me and saved my life. And then five months to the day after I attempted suicide, he died, so it’s a huge loss — someone that close to me to be gone.”

Thanks to Sear, support from friends like Army Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, and adaptive sports, Stewart said, he’s still here and doesn’t have suicidal thoughts any more. “”He saved my life, but adaptive sports have kept me alive since.”

Stewart recommends adaptive sports to any disabled service members or veterans who may need help in their recovery.

“When I first got injured, I was extremely depressed. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew my military career was over at that point,” he said. “Sports gave me something to look forward to. It gave me an objective and something to focus on. It got me out of that depression. It essentially saved my life. It’s kept me going.”

He said anyone thinking about taking up an adaptive sport should get out there and try it.

“You’re not accomplishing anything sitting where you are,” he said. “You’re not going to feel any worse getting out there. It was a life-changer for me, so I would definitely recommend getting out there and trying it. You gain a whole new family, a huge support group, and it’s a lifesaver, really.”

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Russia just tested this ultra-fast ship-killing missile

Russia carried out the latest test of a new high-speed cruise missile last week as part of a program that is raising concerns in the Pentagon about the threat the missile poses to American warships.


The test of the Zircon hypersonic missile was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies, according to a senior defense official familiar with reports of the test. No other details of the test were available.

However, state-run Russian news reports say the Zircon can reach speeds of between Mach 6 and Mach 8, or between 4,600 and 6,100 miles per hour — enough to outpace any current missile defense interceptors.

Such high speeds pose dangers for Navy destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers currently outfitted with anti-missile defenses but that are not capable of countering the missile.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
The USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrolling the eastern Pacific Ocean. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

Defense analysts said the test was probably carried out from a ground-based launcher near an area of the White Sea in northern Russia around May 30 — the date that Russian authorities issued an air closure notification for the region.

The Zircon has been billed by the Russians as an anti-ship cruise missile that media have said will be deployed on Moscow’s nuclear-powered missile cruisers. Production is expected to begin this year.

Vladimir Tuchkov, a military analyst, told the state-run Sputnik website that Zircon missiles will be deployed between 2018 and 2020.

“The Russian development of hypersonic weapons is clearly a very serious threat,” said Mark B. Schneider, a senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy and a former senior Pentagon official. The missile’s estimated range of up to 620 miles “would give it very great capability against defenses,” he added.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
Hypersonic Missile | Lockheed Martin

Mr. Schneider said the Pentagon is “clearly well behind” in the race for developing hypersonic weapons, and that the problem is not technology but a lack of funding. China also is developing a hypersonic missile called the DF-ZF.

The Pentagon is planning a test this year of a missile called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon as part of its Conventional Prompt Strike program. That program until recently was dubbed the Conventional Prompt Global Strike and is seeking weapons capable of striking any location on Earth within minutes.

 

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Navy bans e-cigarettes on all ships and subs

The US Navy is banning vaping aboard ships, submarines, aircraft, boats, craft and heavy equipment.


The Navy announced April 14 that it is suspending the use, possession, storage and charging of so-called “Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems” aboard navy craft following continued reports of explosions of ENDS due to the overheating of lithium-ion batteries.

The prohibition applies to sailors, Marines, Military Sealift Command civilians and any personnel working on or visiting those units.

The Navy said it implemented this policy to protect the safety and welfare of sailors and to protect the ships, submarines, aircraft and equipment. Multiple sailors have suffered serious injuries from these devices, to include first- and second-degree burns and facial disfigurement. In these cases, injuries resulted from battery explosions during ENDS use, charging, replacement or inadvertent contact with a metal object while transporting.

Nicki Minaj joins the dubious list of A-list pop stars who are cool with performing for dictators
(Photo via Department of Defense)

The prohibition will be effective 30 days from the release of the policy May 14, and will remain in effect until a final determination can be made following a thorough analysis.

Deployed units may request extensions on device removal until their next port visit. Supervisors should ensure that removable lithium-ion batteries are removed from the units and stored according to the ENDS manufacturer instructions, in plastic wrap, in a plastic bag or any other non-conductive storage container.

Sailors on shore will still be allowed to use ENDS on base, but must do so in designated smoking areas ashore while on military installations.

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This World War I battle footage lets you go ‘over the top’

The 1916 Battle of the Ancre was a weeklong British offensive against German positions on the Ancre River in France. It was part of the first Battle of the Somme, and it was one of the first times a tank was filmed in battle.


That’s because the Battle of the Ancre from Nov. 13-19, 1916, was one of the better-documented fights in the war. A film crew was on hand for much of the fighting and put together an over hour-long movie of their footage.

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The filmmakers captured everything from a tank crew taking their cat mascot into the steel belly with them to horses drawing artillery into position to men going over the top to attack enemy trenches.

This footage later made it into theaters around the world, allowing Americans to see conditions on the front months before the U.S. entry into the war in 1917.

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Unfortunately for the film crew and worse for the British soldiers, the rainy conditions made the terrain too muddy for the tanks and slowed down assaults by infantry, giving a huge advantage to the German defenders.

The British and French troops were able to inflict heavy losses on the Germans, but they failed to take their terrain objectives before Winter weather forced the end to the offensive on Nov. 19.

An excerpt from the film is available below. Amazon Prime members can watch a 62-minute version of the film here.

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That time three Coasties walked a thousand miles in the snow to rescue trapped sailors

As the newly reunited States began to recover from the Civil War, expansion westward returned with a new fervor. While the eyes of those who lead the government looked towards California and the Pacific Coast, the eyes of the Revenue Cutter Service, the nascent Coast Guard, looked at the 6,640 miles of coastline that laid along the newly purchased Alaska territory.


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Semper Paratus!

Secretary of State William Seward negotiated its purchase in 1867 and turned to the U.S. Army to help police the territory that largely consisted of native populations and a few Russian settlers that did not leave after the purchase. The Army did not have the ability to police the coastline where the vast majority of the population was and failed to secure by the beginning of the Nez Perce War of 1877, abandoning the territory altogether. President Ulysses S. Grant put the responsibility on the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, who would time and time again prove they had Alaska’s best interest in mind, even when it seemed that the rest of the government did not.

Ask any fisherman in Alaska what the most unpredictable thing about life is, and his answer will be the weather in Northern Alaska. The winter of 1897 came early and the early ice trapped eight whaling ships, along with 265 men, with few supplies and little food. In an appeal to President William McKinley, the ship’s owners begged for the government to help save the men, who they believed would starve if they were not saved.

Captain Francis Tuttle had recently taken command of the USRCS Bear from Capt. Michael Healy, who was temporarily relieved of duty for drunk and disorderly conduct in front of his crew. Tuttle had just returned from his first grueling Bering Sea Patrol when on November 15, 1897, Tuttle received an urgent letter from Secretary of the Treasury Lyman Gage. It was a letter of instruction to save 265 people who were surrounded by ice near Point Barrow, Alaska.

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While normally a vessel would simply sail to help distressed whalers, the “advanced season of the year” closed the Bering Straits, so the Bear would be unable to even attempt it. The expedition had to be done over land. The letter left little for interpretation: there were to be two commissioned officers and one petty officer sent on the expedition. The exact course to be taken by dogsled, reindeer-pulled sled, snowshoes, and skis was outlined, from Unalaska to Cape Nome. Communications were to be done through W.T. Lopp, superintendent of the Teller Reindeer Station. Food was to be taken to the whalers in the form of a herd of reindeer from Port Rodney and Cape Prince of Wales.

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The USRCS Bear in its natural habitat.

After the USRCS Bear sailed from Seattle to Unalaska, today known as Dutch Harbor, 1st Lt. David Jarvis, 2nd Lt. Ellsworth Bertholf, and ship’s surgeon Samuel Call led the expedition. While walking, skiing, and dog-sledding over 1,500 miles in 104 days, they did not ignore the issues that they saw along the way. Jarvis, Bertholf, and Call would all attend to the natives that they met along the way, with Call taking care of childbirths, injuries, and illnesses along the way, including Jarvis’s chronic tonsillitis. The men also dealt with blizzards and temperatures as low as negative forty-five degrees, and often continued on through days of blinding snow.

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To be fair, these would kill your grandma if she were run over by them.

Jarvis’ journal recalled the intense trials they underwent through the months of harsh Alaska winter but on the day they arrived, he wrote, “March 29 was a beautiful, clear morning… with a cloudless sky and little or no wind… it seemed as if nature was trying to make amends for the hard trial she had given us…” The expedition reached the whalers with an underweight and exhausted herd of reindeer, but sixty-six men would be lost by Summer 1898, the majority to disease.

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In case you needed an idea of the weather in Barrow.

Jarvis, Bertholf, and Call received Congressional Gold Medals for their work in 1899. Call and Bertholf went on to make their names, even more heroic, in the Revenue Cutter Service and Coast Guard. Call would become one of the most well-known doctors in the Alaska territory, an expert on native medicine and medicine men. Bertholf became the first Commandant of the Coast Guard, leading the service through World War I. Jarvis, though, would suffer a tragic fate at his own hands. After his time in the Revenue Cutter Service, he twice turned down the governorship of Alaska and instead worked for a salmon cannery and the development of a railroad and copper mines in Alaska. After being accused of corruption and bribery during the development, he committed suicide in June 1911.

Alaska has long been seen as the “Final Frontier” of the American west but the settlement of the largest state in the union did not come without great trial and consequence to settlers. Following the legacy of the US Revenue Cutter Service, US Coast Guard, assures that the fishermen and residents of Alaska live and work safely in an environment that is as unpredictable as life itself.

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The odds of dying in an American war (applying the Lt. Dan scale)

The honor of making the ultimate sacrifice is timeless. But casualty counts in the United States’ current conflicts are relatively low relative to previous wars.


Of course, no competent warfighter signs on to die for his (or her) country (because as we all know by now (and as General George S. Patton famously said during World War II), the whole point of war is to make the other poor bastard die for his (or her) country).

But what if you lived in another time? Would you have survived the Civil War or World War I?

In the movie “Forrest Gump” Forrest notes that Lt. Dan “was from a long, great military tradition — somebody from his family had fought and died in every single American war.”

So what do the Lt. Dan family’s odds look like on paper? WATM has the answer:

The American Revolution

1 in 50 – 2 percent

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Lieutenant Dan’s ancestor wasn’t so lucky, but these are relatively good odds considering the conditions at the time and the nature of how the Revolutionary War was fought. Back then FOBs meant New York, Boston, and Saratoga Springs. Orders to Valley Forge? Get ready for cold and a diet of nothing but bread.

Civil War

1 in 15 – 6.7 percent

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Tough luck, Lieutenant Dan . . . and everyone else. If you add the Union and Confederate Army casualties vs. the best assumed total number of troops, the rate of killed and injured is a staggering 43 percent. As of 2013, the government was still paying veterans benefits related to the Civil War (and those people were probably waiting in line since 1962).

World War One

1 in 89 – 1.1 percent

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This is where the combat starts to look more familiar, except for the whole “running at a machine gun” thing. It’s surprising the numbers aren’t much, much higher since human wave attacks were standard operating procedure. A cool twenty bucks (which went much further in 1917) says Lieutenant Dan’s ancestor in “The Great War” was suffering from trench foot and Jerry just put him out of his misery, which is probably why his standing order in Vietnam was to change socks at every stop.

World War Two

1 in 56 – 1.8 percent

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Lieutenant Dan’s surprised look probably stems from the low number for this one too. Keep in mind, this is just the rate for the American Army. The Soviet Union lost 26 million people, significantly more than the losses suffered by the army that actually lost. (That would be the German Army for you history buffs.)

Vietnam War

1 in 185 – .5 percent

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Lieutenant Dan lives (severely wounded in his case, but alive). Of all America’s major wars, Vietnam offered best odds of survival. It also had (arguably) the highest quality of life in the field (very much dependent of where you served in-country), and the best food. (There might be a correlation between those things.)