A huge battle featuring the Battletoads, Ninja Turtles, Ultraman, Mechagodzilla, a team of Spartans from Halo, and about a thousand other beloved pop-culture and childhood icons is something we sadly had to leave behind once all our action figures were cleaned up and mom called us down to dinner.
Kinda like that — but not at all.
Well, not anymore.
Hundreds of pop culture references from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and recent years are featured heavily in Steven Speilberg’s new film, Ready Player One. It’s a film the director says was three years in the making and required the coordination of hundreds of artists and creatives the world over — including author Ernest Cline. Cline’s 2011 sci-fi novel of the same name was also filled with these great easter eggs.
The film is about the quest for such an “easter egg,” which, for the unfamiliar, is an inside joke, hidden message, or secret feature created by the designer of a work. Watching or reading Ready Player One is a lot like trying to get to the center of the world’s largest Matryoshka nesting doll of easter eggs.
Set in a poor area of Columbus, Ohio in the year 2045, film centers around Wade Watts, a young gamer inside the Oasis, an open, massively multiplayer, online world – essentially, it’s a video game that has supplanted the real world in popularity. The Oasis is populated primarily by other gamers and almost everyone has a customized avatar. Wade’s avatar is called “Parzival” and, in the Oasis, he’s on the quest for the greatest easter egg in history.
The Oasis’ late creator, James Halliday, left a series of clues to help people find hidden keys. Once all three keys are collected, the winner can claim the easter egg – Halliday’s fortune and ownership of the Oasis. Watts, in his quest, stumbles upon another gunter (or “egg hunter”), Samantha (also known as Art3mis) and three gamers he knows only through the Oasis: Aech (pronounced “H“), a samurai called Daito, and a ninja called Sho.
Together, as they unlock the secrets to finding the keys, they have to contend with billionaire businessman Nolan Sorrento, CEO of Innovative Online Industries. IOI’s corporate villain has seemingly unlimited resources, unlimited lives, and a vast army of digital slaves helping him wrest ownership of and monetize the Oasis, an idea anathema to the god-like Halliday’s vision.
By the time we get to the Battle of Castle Anorak (Anorak being the name of the late Halliday’s avatar), Parzival has rallied the entire Oasis – the entire world – to fight to keep their digital world pure. Rolling in the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future, wielding crowd-pleasing weaponry, like Monty Python’s holy hand grenade, and fighting alongside horror movie legend, Chucky, Parzival and friends take on IOI’s respawning army of employees.
I know, it seems like a lot — even if you’ve already read the book. But look: If you’re a fan of the pop culture of the 1980s, this is the movie for you (listen up, Gen-Xers). The film loves the 1980s as much as you do. More than that, Ready Player One is a throwback to the popcorn-peddling, fun, thrill-ride of movies from the 80s.
Even if you don’t love video games or cheeky 80s references, there’s still something for everyone to love in Ready Player One. This is a movie for your inner pop-culture fan.
Just make sure you’ve seen The Shining before you go.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected accusations made by the Dutch authorities against suspected Russian spies.
In early October 2018, authorities in Netherlands said that four agents of Russian GRU military intelligence tried and failed to hack into the world’s chemical-weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose headquarters are in The Hague.
Commenting on the Dutch allegations, Lavrov said the four Russians were on a “routine” trip to The Hague in April 2018 when they were arrested and deported by Dutch authorities.
“There was nothing secret in the Russian specialists’ trip to The Hague in April,” Lavrov said at a briefing in Moscow on Oct. 8, 2018, after talks with Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“They weren’t hiding from anyone when they arrived at the airport, settled in a hotel and visited our embassy. They were detained without any explanations, denied a chance to contact our embassy in the Netherlands and then asked to leave. It all looked like a misunderstanding.”
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it handed a note on Oct. 8, 2018, to the Netherlands’ ambassador protesting the detention and expulsion of Russian citizens, calling the incident a provocation.
Dutch defense officials released photos and a timeline of the GRU agents’ botched attempt to break into the OPCW.
The OPCW was investigating a nerve-agent attack on a former GRU spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, England; Britain has blamed it on the Russian government. Moscow vehemently denies involvement.
Featured image: Four Russian citizens who allegedly attempted to hack the OPCW in The Hague are seen in this handout picture released on Oct. 4, 2018.
French President Emmanuel Macron said that he was the mastermind behind Donald Trump’s airstrike on Syria, and has persuaded him to station troops in the country for the long term.
In a major interview broadcast April 15, 2018, on BFMTV, Macron took the credit for the strike in Syria, which Trump has characterized as a personal success.
Macron said he thrashed out a list of targets with Trump, and persuaded him to limit action to chemical weapons facilities, rather than a broader strike on Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
He also claimed to have convinced Trump to ditch an idea to pull troops out of Syria, and instead commit to staying.
Macron told the cameras:
“Ten days ago President Trump said the US wanted to disengage in Syria. We convinced him, we convinced him that it was necessary to stay there.
“I think that on the diplomatic plan there that took place, the three strikes were one element that was for me not the most essential, I reassure you, we convinced him that he had to stay there for the long term.
“The second thing that we were successful in convincing him was to limit the strikes on chemical weapon [sites] after things got carried away over tweets.”
Here’s a video of his comment (in French):
Macron and Trump have made much of their close personal relationship, which Business Insider has previously characterized as a bromance.
The French leader invited his US counterpart to Paris in 2017, to celebrate Bastille Day, where Trump witnessed a grand military parade that inspired plans to do something similar in Washington, D.C.
In return, Macron is the first world leader whom Trump has invited to make a full state visit.
Trump has not responded directly to Macron’s claims. However, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemed to downplay Macron’s influence, and said “the US mission has not changed.”
On the most basic level, havening means hugging or caressing yourself, sometimes while voicing positive affirmations. On a more technical level, it’s using self-soothing to induce “amygdala depotentiation,” which essentially means reining in and retraining the emotional part of the brain that kicks us into fight-or-flight mode and causes anxiety. There’s not denying it’s touchy-feely stuff. But it’s got the backing of real science and enthusiastic experts. Here’s why.
The Brain on Anxiety
To get what havening is and how it works, it helps to first understand what’s happening in the brain when we experience anxiety. Because whatever the root cause of anxiety — whether a phobia, childhood trauma, generalized anxiety disorder, or fear of contracting COVID-19 — scientists theorize that what’s going on in our heads is essentially the same.
Each of us has an “emotional brain” and a “thinking brain.” The emotional brain, ruled by the amygdala, is primal; it exists to gauge threats and react quickly to avoid danger. “The amygdala is designed to keep us safe,” says Kate Truitt, Ph.D., a psychologist and certified practitioner of the Havening Techniques. “It’s not very bright — it doesn’t think; it just operates on ‘safe’ or ‘not safe.'” When sensing a real threat, the amygdala activates the sympathetic nervous system, better known as fight-or-flight mode. Whenever we’re in this state, we feel unnerved and anxious.
Fortunately, the thinking brain also kicks into gear upon perceiving a threat, albeit four times more slowly than the emotional brain, says Truitt. It introduces reason, allowing us to react more intelligently and appropriately, which might mean not reacting at all.
“We’ve all experienced some version of walking down the road, seeing a hose or a stick, and doing a stutter step,” Truitt says. “The brain is saying ‘is that a snake?’ because we are biologically designed to look for snakes because we know they can kill us. In a healthy system, the amygdala goes, oh, that’s just a stick, and the thinking brain says, cool; we’re OK then.”
Trouble is, many people’s brains are not so healthy, especially right now. In that case — as experts believe is the case for people with generalized anxiety, phobias, or post-traumatic stress disorder — the amygdala hijacks the thinking brain and runs the show, trapping us fight-or-flight mode, even when there’s no threat present. The result: persistent, sometimes crippling, anxiety.
“Attacking or running is what we do acutely in extreme situations, but otherwise, we’re not supposed to be in sympathetic mode,” says Julie Holland, M.D., a psychiatrist in New York City. “We should be in our parasympathetic nervous system, where we stay calm, present, and open to connection. This is the only time where the body rests, digests [information], and repairs, so parasympathetic is where we want to be.” Many of us, though, are stuck in sympathetic.
Interestingly, as Holland writes in her new book Good Chemistry (Harper Wave, 2020), feeling disconnected, isolated, or lonely also activates the sympathetic nervous system. “Humans have to be social to survive, so anytime we are cut off from society or feel isolated, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode,” she says, adding that this response traces back to our early ancestors. “On the savannah, if you strayed from the tribe, you wouldn’t get help building shelter, gathering food, or finding mates. Isolation, literally, meant death. We still carry that genetic code today—we are hardwired to feel unsafe when we are alone.”
Holland says feelings of isolation and loneliness were already super common pre-pandemic, thanks to our increasingly digitized world. But now that COVID-19 has closed schools, canceled social events, and forced us to work from home, these emotions — and therefore anxiety — have become rampant.
How Havening Helps
Havening (more specifically, the trademarked Havening Techniques) was developed by neuroscientist Ronald Ruden, Ph.D., about a decade ago as trauma therapy. It uses gentle touch of the upper arms, hands, and face, along with constructive messaging, to ‘depotentiate’ or rewire unhealthy neural pathways that have developed due to stressful experiences, putting healthier responses and emotions in their place.
But havening is also a powerful stress-busting technique that anyone can learn and practice at home on themselves or their kids. You basically cross your arms, place your palms on your shoulders, stroke your arms downward to your elbows, and repeat. While doing this, you can recite a simple mantra like “calm and relaxed” over and over, sing a song, or, as Truitt suggests, play a distracting brain game such as thinking of band names starting with letters A through Z. (Check out the official Havening Techniques website for lots of videos demonstrating applying havening to specific situations.)
On a neurological level, havening helps shift the brain into parasympathetic mode. It does this in part by boosting oxytocin, a hormone that is normally conjured up by human touch and bonding — something many of us are sorely lacking these days.
“Havening harnesses the brain’s ability to heal and build itself,” Truitt says. “Use this technique whenever your nervous system starts to feel dysregulated. As soon as you notice a stressful stimulus, such as text messages coming in or CNN popping up on your phone, do havening to bring the system back to a state of calm.” The more you do this, she notes, the more resilient your amygdala becomes and the more easily you can access this calming state in the future.
Havening can also help if you’re anxious about something specific, such as delivering a work presentation on Zoom. “Sit down and do self-havening and ask yourself how you would like to feel,” Truitt says. “If you’d like to feel confident, reflect on a time when you felt confident. Because you have that memory, you can imagine going into the speech with that confident energy instead.”
Parents can also use havening with their kids when they get anxious. “Parents are the nervous system for their children,” Truitt says. “When they regulate their nervous system, the child starts to regulate right along with them. For kids, we teach the ‘don’t worry massage.’ Kids apply touch and the whole family sings songs and applies touch together, which brings the family together.”
One of the reasons Prohibition failed in America is probably because America was founded on and was fueled by booze from the get-go. The Pilgrims stopped at Plymouth Rock because they ran out of beer. The U.S. Marine Corps was founded in a bar. There just isn’t a lot Americans won’t do to keep the party going a little longer. The best example of this is the legendary Revolutionary War leader Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys.
That face when you decide to take a British fort just because you can.
Vermont’s Green Mountain Boys were the first to deliver a crushing defeat to the British during the American Revolution. They captured the guns at Fort Ticonderoga, along with two other forts in the area. Ticonderoga was the key to Lake Champlain, which denied the British entry from that point and became the staging area for patriot incursions into Canada. More importantly, the cannons seized at the fort were moved to Boston, where the British occupied much of the city since April 1775. Despite inflicting heavy casualties on the redcoats at places like the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Continental Army needed the help.
In November 1775, Ethan Allen and his Vermonters moved the forts supplies and guns overland to Boston, where General George Washington and his artillery commander Henry Knox used them to force the British to withdraw from Boston after holding it for almost a full year.
This is the fort they wanted to take.
What prompts a gaggle of armed good-ol’ boys from Vermont to take on a heavily armed and fortified position of professional soldiers in the world’s largest, best-equipped, and seasoned army of veterans? Alcohol, of course. The night before Allen and the boys seized the fort, they all met at Remington’s Tavern in Castleton, Vermont. There, they sat down with Benedict Arnold who was sent by the Continental Congress to capture the fort and its guns. The Green Mountain Boys were there because they were going to take the fort anyway, sanctioned or not – so Arnold and his regulars might as well join in.
The liquid courage being poured at the tavern was what was common for the area during that time period: hard cider. Colonists planted apples in the new world primarily for the purpose of drinking it. The crop thrived here and kept people healthy, as it was often safer than the drinking water. In fact, cider was pretty much used as currency. But back then, drinking men needed more of a kick, so they added shots of rum to their cider, two shot of it to every pint of cider. They called the drink a “stone fence” because it felt like you were running down a hill into one.
After the ragtag group downed enough bravery, the two commanders led the crossing of Lake Champlain in the early morning hours, with 83 of the Green Mountain Boys. But dawn was coming fast, and Allen and Arnold worried that if they waited for the whole force, they might lose the element of surprise. So with just 83 Vermonters, they stormed Fort Ticonderoga, catching the garrison completely by surprise, capturing the guns for use elsewhere in the Revolution.
If they hadn’t captured them, the rebellion might have died in its cradle by diminishing hopes and expectations for the Continental Army’s chances. So down a few of these spiked ciders for Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, who might have just saved the future U.S., fueled by liquid courage.
It’s well known that in the American military, the green beret is the exclusive headdress of soldiers qualified as Army Special Forces. The only way to don one of these distinctive berets is to complete the arduous “Q Course” and be awarded a Special Forces tab.
In fact, Army Special Forces soldiers are often called “Green Berets” based on that specific Army green “Shade 297” cap.
But how America’s premier unconventional warfare force got that iconic headwear is as much a testament to the force’s tenacity as it is a tribute to the founding soldiers who challenged at Big Army’s authority.
The beret is said to be somewhat derived from America’s ties to the British Commandos of World War II, who wore a green beret as their standard-issue headdress beginning in 1941.
So it’s not surprising that according to the official history of the Army Special Forces Association, America’s green beret was first designed by SF major and OSS veteran Herbert Brucker about two years after the unit was formed, likely due to the close work between the OSS — the predecessor to the Special Forces — and Royal British Commandos during the war.
But that all changed in the early 1960s, when then-President John F. Kennedy adopted the Special Forces as America’s answer to the guerrilla wars that marked the first decades of the Cold War. Before a visit to Fort Bragg in 1961, Kennedy reportedly ordered then Special Warfare School commander Brig. Gen. William P. Yarborough to outfit his soldiers with the distinctive caps, arguing these unconventional warriors deserved headgear that set them apart from the rest of the Army.
In a twist of irony, just weeks before Kennedy’s visit, the Army officially adopted the green beret for Special Forces soldiers.
Kennedy was said to have asked Yarborough whether he liked the new berets, with the SF general telling him, “They’re fine, sir. We’ve wanted them for a long time.”
Later, Kennedy sent Yarborough a message thanking him for the visit to Bragg and remarking, “The challenge of this old but new form of operations is a real one, and I know that you and the members of your command will carry on for us and the free world in a manner which is both worthy and inspiring. I am sure that the Green Beret will be a mark of distinction in the trying times ahead.”
The bond between the late president and the Special Forces community are so strong that on Nov. 25, 1963, as Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, a Special Forces sergeant major placed his green beret on the grave of the fallen president. Silently, steadily 42 other Special Forces Soldiers laid their berets alongside, the Army says.
Since then, the SF lays a wreath at Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery on the anniversary of his death.
San Francisco’s housing shortage has gotten so dire that developers are increasingly eyeing old military sites.
For the last several years, the development company Lennar has been building a 12,000-home community at the Hunters Point Shipyard, the former site of a top-secret nuclear-testing facility operated by the US Navy. Across the bay, Lennar is also participating in a joint venture to add 8,000 residential units to Treasure Island, another former Naval base.
Now the company has set its sights on a naval weapons station in Concord, a city less than an hour from San Francisco. The land is scattered with dozens of empty bunkers that once housed World War II munitions, but Lennar wants to turn it into a full-fledged community with 13,000 homes.
2006 aerial view of the former San Francisco Naval Shipyard at Hunters Point.
The plans call for many of the bunkers to get torn down, but a few could be transformed into pop-up cafés or beer halls.
The idea is just a proposal for now, but here’s what the community could look like when it’s finished.
The Concord Naval Weapons Station spans 12,800 acres, but developers plan to renovate less than one-fifth of that land.
More than 7,600 acres are currently occupied by the US Army. Another 2,500 acres have been set aside for a regional park. Lennar intends to use around 2,300 acres for its planned community.
“In terms of the Bay Area, this is certainly one of the largest contiguous pieces of land that is available for this kind of planning,” Craig Hartman, the project’s lead architect, told Business Insider. Hartman’s firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, was hired by Lennar to create an architectural vision for the site.
The station is technically just north of Concord, but developers hope the new community would be an extension of the city.
Developers want to build a hiking trail that connects the community to Concord. Hartman said it would be the first time the two areas were physically linked since the Navy occupied the site.
But developers also don’t want to alter the land too much.
“It still has this beautiful rolling form of typography,” Hartman said. “That is a really, really important part of the history of the site.”
Most of the bunkers would need to get removed to make way for new development, but a few could be converted into neighborhood hangouts, like bars or cafés.
“Our intention is to examine them and, to the extent that some of them could be used, that will be the goal,” Hartman said. “We certainly would not be trying to save all of them.”
Developers already know that the structures are sturdy and that no more weapons are stored inside.
“They’re designed to actually withstand major blasts,” Hartman said.
But the bunkers will have to be inspected to see if they’re waterproof.
Once the structures are torn down, the concrete could be repurposed and used to build new roads.
The bunkers sit along 150 miles of defunct railroad tracks. Steel from these tracks could help finance some of the project.
The tracks were built by the Navy, but they’re no longer operational.
They were the site of a notable anti-war incident: In 1987, an Air Force veteran sat in the middle of the railroad to protest the United States’ participation in a war in Nicaragua. The train ran into him going 17 miles an hour, fracturing his skull and slicing both his legs. In solidarity, a group of anti-war protesters dismantled some of tracks.
The new community could have 13,000 homes, including apartments and single-family units.
A quarter of the residences would be affordably priced, according to the plan; that means the prices would be set so that lower-income families, veterans, teachers, and senior residents would spend less than 30% of their total income on housing.
The prices of the remaining units would range in order to cater to multiple income levels, Hartman said.
“This will not solve the Bay Area’s problems by a long shot, but the density and the mixture of housing is important,” he added.
Hartman expects that most of the residents who move in would be relatively young.
The development could also include a new sports complex and public schools.
The developers’ plan sets aside more than 6 million square feet for commercial space, including offices and retail stores. Another 2.3 million square feet would be for an academic campus that might eventually house a university or research and development center.
Separately, developers plan to build six public schools — or as many as the local school district requires.
Pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes would run through the community like a spine.
The neighborhood could also feature shuttles and buses that connect residents to a BART station (the Bay Area’s main public transportation system). Residents also have the option to walk to the North Concord BART station, which would be less than a quarter mile away from some of the development’s offices, shops, and homes.
“You could live in this place and, if you wish, not even own a car,” Hartman said.
But there are some environmental concerns to address before any residents could move in.
The naval station is a Superfund site — a label given to hazardous waste sites that pose a risk to human health or the environment.
In 1944, a load of munitions exploded at the station as the weapons were being loaded onto a cargo vessel. The Navy has been working to clean up the land since 1983, when it identified around 1,200 acres that had been contaminated. The soil at the site contains chromium, a radioactive isotope, and the groundwater contains industrial chemicals like trichloroethene and tetrachloroethylene.
The Environmental Protection Agency says the land doesn’t present a risk to human health, but levels of contamination in the groundwater still aren’t considered safe. Last year, Concord’s former mayor, Edi Birsan, said the land was “not suitable for public habitation.”
Construction could begin next year, but the entire project would likely take up to 35 years to complete.
Concord’s city council still needs to vote on the development plan, but the city already has a roadmap for how to move forward: Nearby sites like Treasure Island and Hunter’s Point were also cleared for development despite a legacy of Navy weapons tests in those areas.
If the new Concord community follows in their footsteps, it could soon offer new homes and a refurbished set of bunkers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Here we are, on quarantine day X-teenth, wondering when the world will once again open. Some states have already announced that certain businesses are open with restrictions, but for the overwhelming majority of the United States, we’re still operating from a distance. Kids are schooling from home, even parts of military training have been put on hold; soldiers are sheltering in place and working remotely.
Industry experts and politicians agree that the pandemic has been unprecedented, most notably by the fact that we don’t know when this thing will blow over.
Take a look at unpleasant events from the past, all of which were over in less time than the COVID-19 pandemic.
The category 5 hurricane that hit New Orleans back in 2005 was a devastating event. It’s one that had a particular effect on Marine forces in the area. Today, Katrina is being used as one of the biggest comparisons for economic turmoil, albeit still on a lesser scale.
The entire hurricane’s lifespan lasted eight days, while landfall lasted one, August 29of 2005. Hurricane Katrina was a deadly, horrific occurrence, but with an impact that was felt far longer than the disaster itself.
Another comparison of the effects of the pandemic are the months following 9-11. The dastardly terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers caused widespread loss and injury, as well as a trickling economic impact. But that’s not the only unfortunate similarity; New York City has become the epicenter for COVID-19, as were the 9-11 attacks.
The main events of September 2001 took place in less than two hours, while its horrific aftermath lasted far longer.
Another cruel attack that famously took place on U.S. soil is the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the day in 1941, which FDR famously said will live in infamy. Though it led to the United States joining World War II, the actual event, brought on in two waves by the Japanese, lasted a single morning.
The war itself, its heartache and gruesome side effects lasted far longer, including years of involvement by the United States.
San Francisco Earthquake
In 1906, the city of San Francisco was hit by one of the strongest earthquakes in modern history. Its location and magnitude, striking miles of the California coast, was grim for San Francisco in particular. The quake also caused massive fires to start and tear through the city, eventually destroying 80% of the entire town.
The quake itself was short lived, while the fires lasted for three days. Its devastation was felt for years following this single natural event.
The U.S. has seen its fair share of disasters. Together, we band and lift one another up to get through some truly awful times. Don’t forget all we’ve overcome in a time of pandemic and that as a country, we, again, can pull together and thrive.
Believe it or not, the Germans were not surprised that the Allies were ready to invade Fortress Europe as a means of bringing World War II to an end. As a matter of fact, in much of Europe, the Nazis were ready for whatever the Allied troops were going to throw their way. The Nazis knew about the military build-up in England, and even the lowest-ranking Wehrmacht trooper knew the invasion would come at some point.
Luckily, the Allied powers still had a few tricks up their sleeves.
The Pas-de-Calais defenses in 1944.
They didn’t think Normandy would be the target.
The ideal point of an invasion of Europe from England, Nazi planners determined, would come at Calais. There were many reasons for this, but the simplest explanation is that Calais is the closest landing point from England. The English Channel is a tough, choppy sea with inclement weather – a more distant location could put a substantial invasion force at risk, so the troops manning the Atlantic Wall were reasonably sure Normandy was safe.
U.S. troops of Japanese descent fighting in the 442d Regimental Combat Team, one of the most storied units of the war.
No one expected it in June 1944.
Most experienced German troops and planners believed the Allies would not open a second invasion of Europe from the West until the Invasion of Italy was complete. Most thought another invasion of Allied forces would come only after the Italian Campaign reached the Alps or even crossed over them. This, coupled with the fact they thought the landings would come at Calais meant the Germans manning defenses at Normandy were not the best troops for the job. Those troops were hundreds of miles away.
American troops fighting in the hedgerows of the French countryside.
The advance was much faster than expected
German troops marveled at the speed with which American, British, and Canadian forces were able to move their men and materiel, not only in crossing the English Channel on D-Day and the days after, but in the weeks following June 6. The formation of a firm beachhead and the rapid advance through the French countryside astonished the Germans, who had made the same lightning advance across the territory just a few years prior.
German sailors of the Kriegsmarine.
How much the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine failed them
During the D-Day landings, the presence of the German Air Force or Navy was minimal where it existed at all. The Wehrmacht was the only real resistance to the Allied landings. Were it not for the Channel’s infamous choppiness and bad weather, the landings would have made it across the water entirely unabated. With no air cover or protection from the water, the army was essentially left out to dry.
The coordination of the Maquis
The Germans largely despised the resistance movements in France and other occupied countries and looked down on them with disdain. In practice, however, the close coordination between French resistance cells and the Allied command created a situation where German troops, transports, and heavy weapons that might have thrown the Allies back into the English Channel were instead tied up and slowed down for hours, leaving only the defenses sitting on the Atlantic Wall to try and stem the tide.
Children love playing with toys. So, it makes sense that immature adults love playing with toys, too. A benefit of being in the military is that we can pretend like there’s actually a legitimate reason for playing along.
Somewhere along the line, a high-ranking officer saw that same immature troop accomplish some good through playing with toys and gave the following the seal of approval.
1. Nerf guns
Never underestimate the abilities of a bored infantry platoon looking for a way to let off steam. Stacking and clearing “glass houses” (which are really just white tape on the ground) and using your gun-shaped fingers as mock-weaponry gets kinda dull after a while.
What’s actually fun is when the platoons of hardened warfighters practice their battle drills in the barracks by kicking in doors and tagging each other with Nerf darts while they’re on the toilet.
2. Paintball guns
The rules of engagement are taken very seriously by troops who are deployed. First, you must establish a show of force, letting a potential enemy know you’re armed. Then, you shout, usually through an interpreter or in broken Farsi, to let the enemy know they should back the f*ck up. If they still don’t back away, you can physically “shove” them in the direction they should be going in. Finally, use of force is authorized.
Some troops find it easier to just cover their feet with colored paint than to bust out the real weapons.
3. Little, green Army men
Sand tables are used by commanders to show a rough overview of the mission. Many different things can be designated as a unit. This broken stick? The objective. And this pebble will flank in through the south — like this.
Commanders can clear away a bunch of the confusion by ordering a $5 bucket of plastic Army guys. Add a little bit of paint and you’ve got some distinct markers.
“Okay, first platoon. You’re going to wave your rifles in the air like an idiot. Second, you’re going to kneel with a radio.” (Photo by Sgt. Tracy McKithern)
4. Silly String
Trip wires are placed by the enemy on the paths through which troops will walk. When someone bumps into it, the attached explosives detonate. The solution? A cheap can of Silly String.
The string shoots out pretty far and is so soft and light that it won’t set off the wire. If troops spray it through a doorway, they’ll quickly discover a trap. Even if a wire is sensitive enough to be tripped by silly string, the surprisingly long range of the spray gives troops enough distance to mitigate some of the explosion.
The military has plans for everything, especially communication. Primarily, units depend on secured, frequency-hopping radios. Alternatively, troops can rely on a slightly less secure radio. In case of an absolute emergency, send a runner.
A cheap, effective, “ah-crap” plan is to use regular walkie-talkies instead of sending that runner to maintain unit integrity.
It takes more than a billion years for a pair of galaxies to merge.
But in the constellation of Ophiuchus, about 400 million light-years from Earth, two galaxies are almost ready to become one.
The galaxies are in the process of violently crashing into one another. Astronomers estimate it will take them another 10 to 20 million years to fuse completely; at that point, they’ll form a new galaxy called NGC 6240.
Both galaxies contain a supermassive black hole in their center, and those are expected to merge as well.
This whole process is difficult to capture on camera, however. Black holes’ gravity is so strong that nothing can escape — not even light — so astronomers attempting to see them have to rely on light from the matter that gets sucked in (before it disappears). The first-ever photograph of a supermassive black hole was published in April 2019.
But an international team of astronomers recently captured a sharp photo that shows how two supermassive black holes are caught in the galactic collision that’s forming the NGC 6240 galaxy.
The astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a powerful telescope funded in part by the US National Science Foundation, to assemble the image. They presented their research at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday.
The black holes themselves aren’t visible in the photo, but you can see the glowing gas that surrounds them (the blue stuff in the images below).
NGC 6240 as seen with ALMA (top right) and the Hubble Space Telescope (bottom right).
(ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), E. Treister; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA/ESA Hubble)
That gas is located within the black holes’ “sphere of influence” — the innermost region of a galaxy where the black hole is the dominant force of gravity. The two black holes are feeding on the gas, which causes them to grow bigger as the galaxies merge. Previous images weren’t able to capture this gas in such detail.
‘A chaotic stream of gas’
Ezequiel Treister, an associate astronomy professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile, told the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) that the gas doesn’t form a rotating disk, as some scientists anticipated.
“We don’t find any evidence for that,” he said. “Instead, we see a chaotic stream of gas with filaments and bubbles between the black holes. Some of this gas is ejected outwards with speeds up to 500 kilometers per second. We don’t know yet what causes these outflows.”
Gas that isn’t ejected from the sphere of influence will likely get sucked into the black hole.
Revolve Around a Black Hole Accretion Disk in Amazing Visualization
The black holes are less massive than researchers expected
The image also challenges astronomers’ ideas about the masses of these particular black holes. By observing the photo, the team found that a lot of the gas was stuck in the spheres of influence instead of the black holes themselves. That means the black holes are much less massive than anticipated.
Until recently, astronomers believed that the supermassive black holes in the NGC 6240 galaxy had a mass equivalent to about 1 billion suns. The new photo suggests, however, that the black holes are about as massive as a few hundred million suns.
The finding suggests black holes involved in other galaxy collisions could also be smaller than expected.
“This galaxy is so complex that we could never know what is going on inside it without these detailed radio images,” Loreto Barcos-Muñoz, a researcher at the NRAO, said in a statement. “We now have a better idea of the 3D structure of the galaxy, which gives us the opportunity to understand how galaxies evolve during the latest stages of an ongoing merger.”
Our own Milky Way galaxy is expected to merge with the nearby Andromeda galaxy in about 4 billion years.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It may surprise the younger counterterrorism buffs out there to know that France maintains one of the oldest and most experienced counterterror units in the world, the Group D’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale. If you don’t speak French, all you need to know is that they’re gendarmes, soldiers who can arrest you and – when asked – will come to find you outside of France to arrest you.
This is not something you want to happen to you, as some foolish terrorists found out when they seized the holiest site in Islam at gunpoint.
Islam’s version of the end of the world has a number of minor and major signs to look out for. The major part begins with the appearance of the Mahdi, Islam’s redeemer, who brings the world’s Muslim community back to the religion, helps kill the anti-Christ, and paves the way for the rule of Jesus (yes, Christianity’s Jesus, same guy) on Earth.
Over the years, many people have come forward claiming to be the Mahdi. There was Dia Abdul Zahra Kadim, the leader of an Iraqi insurgent group, killed near Najaf in 2003. The founder of the Nation of Islam, W. Fard Mohammed, claimed to be the Mahdi as many of the Nation’s followers do. Others have followers make the claim for them, like a leader of a Turkish sex cult.
“Listen, I never said I am the redeemer of Islam, I just didn’t say you were wrong to say I am.”
But no one in recent memory left quite the impression on history like Muhammad bin abd Allah al-Qahtani, who led his personal army, al-Ikhwan, to capture the Grand Mosque in Mecca at gunpoint. The Grand Mosque is home to the Kabaa, the holiest site in Islam and destination for all the world’s Islamic pilgrims, a voyage every Muslim must make once in their lifetime. There are a number of other important holy sites contained within.
And in 1979, Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani and an estimated 300-600 followers took it over, along with the tens of thousands of people inside. They actually let most of them go, but not before killing the poorly-armed security guards, cutting the phone lines, and sealing themselves in. They were well-armed, well-trained, and well-funded. The Saudis were going to need some help.
“I choose Pierre.”
That’s where GIGN comes in. While the truly ignorant can laugh about how “French commandos” sounds when the only history they know is from World War II, the rest of you need to know these guys wear ski masks and carry .357 Magnums as their sidearm. When the GIGN come to kill you, they want to make sure the job is done. Their training course has an astonishing 95 percent washout rate. While the US was toying with the idea of a special counterterrorism force, GIGN was probably retaking a cargo container ship somewhere.
Their job in Saudi Arabia would be no different, except they would also be training the Saudi and Pakistani special forces who would be going into the Grand Mosque with them.
Somewhere out there is a group of Pakistani commandos who pronounce “flashbang” with a little French accent. Fear those people.
The terrorists weren’t a bunch of desperate weirdos with a fundamentalist ideology. These guys were prepared to bring down the entire Saudi Kingdom while inciting other anti-Saud citizens to do the same. The terrorists immediately repelled the government’s counterattack and waited for whatever the King would throw at them next. GIGN is what came next. France sent three of their finest GIGN men who immediately began training their counterparts on how to effectively clear buildings of pesky terrorists. When the men were ready, they all prepared to storm the gates.
But there was a hitch. Muslim Saudi and Pakistani troops would be going in there alone because the Grand Mosque is forbidden to non-Muslims. Even when they’re trying to retake the mosque. Their GIGN mentors would have to sit back and wait to see how well they trained these men.
This photo of the captured militants doesn’t do justice to how well-trained they were.
Some 50 Pakistani SSG commandos and 10,000 Saudi National Guardsmen stormed the Grand Mosque after two weeks or so of being held by the terrorists. On Dec. 4, 1979, the militants were disbursed from the mosque and forced to hide about in the now-evacuated city of Mecca. The guardsmen and SSG men fared well against the terrorists, killing roughly 560 of them while others fled the scene into Mecca and the countryside, where most were captured.
After the Frenchmen left Saudi Arabia, the hubbub surrounding the Grand Mosque seizure didn’t die. Instead of crackdowns of unruly citizens, the King of Saudi Arabia opted instead to implement many the famous “sharia” laws Saudi Arabia suffered through for decades; the restrictions on women, powerful religious police, and more. Only in the 2010s has the kingdom seen a loosening of these religious laws.