Russia is making a rival to HBO's 'Chernobyl' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

Russia is working on its own TV show about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster — but this version focuses on a conspiracy theory that a CIA agent sabotaged the reactor.

The Russian show, whose release date is not yet known, comes at the heels of HBO’s successful miniseries, “Chernobyl.”

The HBO show attributes the 1986 nuclear disaster to a combination of reckless decisions made by senior plant staff and Soviet state censorship, which resulted in the government hiding dangerous problems at the plant from the public, as well as other scientists and plant staff.


This portrayal is considered highly accurate. Many former Soviet, however, slammed it as inaccurate and slanderous of the Soviet Union.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

Donald Sumpter on HBO’s “Chernobyl” miniseries.

(HBO)

The nuclear disaster propelled radioactive particles over 1,000 square miles of Ukraine and Belarus. The death toll remains unknown, but some studies say tens of thousands of people died as a result of the leak.

Moscow’s version of “Chernobyl” — which is produced by NTV, an arm of Russia’s majority state-owned Gazprom Media — is premised on the theory that CIA agents sabotaged the nuclear reactor, which ultimately led to the accident, NTV said in April 2018.

Specifically, the plot will follow a Russian KGB agent in the town of Pripyat, near the plant, as he tries to track down US spies before they trigger the disaster, director Alexei Muradov told The Moscow Times on June 4, 2019.

Russia’s ministry of culture gave NTV 30 million rubles (2,000) to produce the Russian version of “Chernobyl,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The idea for Russia’s version of “Chernobyl” is based from a popular conspiracy theory in the country, Muradov told The Moscow Times.

“One theory holds that Americans had infiltrated the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and many historians do not deny that, on the day of the explosion, an agent of the enemy’s intelligence services was present at the station,” he said.

The US and Soviet Union were in the midst of the Cold War at the time of the explosion, and espionage and mutual mistrust were high.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

Digitalization of Chernobyl disaster.

Journalists from former Soviet countries have taken issue with HBO’s adaptation of the nuclear disaster.

One writer from Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia’s most popular paper, said last month the series was designed to slander Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear energy company.

The same newspaper also ran the headline on a separate story, which said according to The Guardian: “Chernobyl did not show the most important part — our victory.”

Another journalist wrote in Kosovo’s Express Gazeta that HBO had wrongly depicted “ignobility, carelessness and petty tyranny.”

HBO’s “Chernobyl” is the highest-rated TV series of all time, Esquire cited IMDB as saying.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia wants its flag to be raised at a consulate it doesn’t run

The Russian Embassy in Washington has demanded that a flag removed from the now-closed Russian Consulate in Seattle be put back.

The embassy claims that the U.S. removal of the flag “under the cloak of night” in late April 2018, violated international law and was “unacceptable treatment” of the Russian national symbol.


But U.S. State Department officials countered on May 2, 2018, that the Russian flag was lowered “respectfully” from the Seattle consul-general’s residence after it was vacated in April 2018, under orders from the department.

While the Russian Embassy said the mansion is still its property and the flag should still be flying there, the department countered that the house was built on U.S. government-owned land.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’
The building that housed the Russian Consulate in Seattle.

The State Department said it asked Russian consulate personnel to take the flag down themselves before they vacated the premises.

U.S. officials say that U.S. diplomats took down an American flag flying at the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg with a brief ceremony when they were similarly ordered to leave by Moscow.

“Since the Russians chose not to treat their own flag with such respect, we have done so for them,” the department said, adding that it will return the flag removed in Seattle to the Russian Embassy.

The Seattle Consulate was shut down in response to allegations that the Russian government poisoned a former Russian spy living in the United Kingdom with a nerve-agent in March 2018.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Active duty women are being denied birth control while deployed

Military leaders say that General Order 1, which limits alcohol consumption and cohabitation for troops deployed to war zones, reinforces good order and discipline. Advocates and troops say it’s an antiquated “ban on sex” — and may in reality be harming women’s health.

Women troops said in some cases that their doctors cited this controversial order to deny them access to birth control while deployed, a fact that was revealed in a survey conducted by the Service Women’s Action Network advocacy group.


In their survey of nearly 800 women serving or who have served in the US military, SWAN found that 26% of active-duty women do not have access to birth control while deployed. That number jumps even higher for other communities: 41% of women veterans reported limited access during their time in uniform.

While several reasons were provided to account for these numbers, including the inability to refill prescriptions far enough in advance, advocates were shocked to find that a limitation on sexual activity would be used to deny access to birth control.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

A U.S. Army Pvt. pulls her way to the top of the slide to victory obstacle during the confidence course phase of basic combat training at Fort Jackson.

(U.S. Army photo)

“Isn’t that ridiculous,” Ellen Haring, chief executive of SWAN, told Business Insider. “It astounds me that people would be denied for that reason.”

It’s astounding, Haring said, because birth control is not just used as a contraceptive. One of the survey’s respondents said she was dismayed when she could not get enough refills to last through her deployments because she primarily used birth control to regulate, and even skip, her menstrual cycle.

Along with safely skipping a period, Planned Parenthood lists a range of medical benefits to using birth control — from reduction of acne to prevention of endometrial or ovarian cancers.

These benefits are not being ignored by the Department of Defense, which said it would be a violation of service members’ privacy if their commander denied them access to birth control.

“Birth control … is not just indicated for pregnancy prevention, it is also indicated for menstrual regulation, including menstrual suppression,” Jessica Maxwell, spokeswoman for the Defense Department, said in an emailed statement to Business Insider.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Twila Stone readies her weapon during a Memorial Day ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko)

It would be a privacy violation for a commander to deny birth control, Maxwell wrote, because taking birth control would not limit a woman’s ability to perform her duties. But she could not publicly comment whether a doctor’s refusal to prescribe the medication would trigger a violation of any military regulation or whether the Pentagon was investigating any reports of this occurring.

Her statement emphasized that emergency contraception, which can be obtained over-the-counter, is readily available even for service members in deployed locations.

But emergency contraceptives are singular in their purpose; these remedies do not satisfy the host of alternate uses filled by prescription birth control.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

popular

A carpet layer beat the entire SAS in the Great Australian Camel Race

In 1988, a wealthy Australian decided to celebrate Australia’s bicentennial by holding a 2,000-mile plus camel race through the Australian Outback. Endurance racers from around the world trained for more than a year to finish the charity race and win a $40,000 prize.

It might be the most stereotypically Australian story ever told. The world’s longest animal endurance race won by carpet fitter Gordon O’Connell, and the race wasn’t even close. O’Connell was having a beer at a pub when he learned he’d won.

The Great Australian Camel Race was a six-leg journey that began at Uluru, also known as Ayres Rock, one of the most sacred sites of Australia’s Aboriginal people and end at Queensland’s Gold Coast. Competitors were timed on how long it took to complete each leg over the course of three months. 

The 69 entrants brought with them teams made up of extra camels, support staff, and follow cars, just like any other high-endurance race. Teams came from elements of the Australian Army, the Australian Special Air Service Regiment, and even a handful of Americans. All brought their teams and special gear to survive the grueling race. 

camel race
Camel races like this one were surprisingly strenuous. Just not for carpet layers, apparently.

Then there was Gordon O’Connell. O’Connell was more than a carpet fitter. He was a man who knew how to train Australia’s farm animal population and often worked in local farms training horses. He even trained his own Camel, named Carla, for the effort. 

Australia is full of feral dromedary camels, herds of them descended from camels imported from the Middle East to Afghanistan to build Australia in its early days. Carla was well-suited for the journey, so even though O’Connell began every day in the rear of the group, it wouldn’t be long before he would trot past his competitors, clad in cutoff jean shorts and flip-flops.

He and Carla were so fast, in fact, that racers thought he was injured or lost, when in reality he’d already have finished that leg of the journey. They would be flying planes searching for his remains, but in reality, he was at the finish line. He finished more than a full day ahead of his nearest competitors, the Australian special forces.

“I was stopping off at the pub and I still won the fourth leg. I had won the first three legs and was taking it easy as I was already 32 hours ahead of the SASR,” O’Connell said. “I had no idea whatsoever that I’d won it and I didn’t try. And that’s the truth.”

O’Connell had a small team following him, but nothing like what the other competitors had. His win wasn’t totally without hardship, despite his trip to the pub at the end of the race. He was hospitalized with kidney failure from a bacterial infection during the second leg of the race.

O’Connell was a product of his environment. He knew how to survive in the harsh environment. Most importantly, he knew animals and he trained his own just for the race. By the time he retired, he was raising camels of his own.  Camel races are still a thing, but it’s not quite as intense as it used to be.

MIGHTY HISTORY

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part four

The Central Highlands of Vietnam

Leaving the sights and sounds of modern day Saigon, we began our journey to the Central Highlands of Vietnam. As we left the city that I had come to feel comfortable in and approached the outlying rural areas, I felt a heightened sense of awareness.

Even though I knew this was 2017 and the war was far behind, my head was on a swivel and my eyes were constantly searching for threats. Intellectually, I understood that the jungles and hills of Vietnam held no threats, but my emotional side equally felt the need to be aware.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

The pungent smells of the countryside – logs and vegetation burning to clear land, outdoor cooking alongside the road, and unrestricted vehicle exhaust were the same smells I had encountered years before and brought back a familiar feeling and sense of nostalgia. The remembered rubber plantations from my previous years in Vietnam have given way to rolling fields of coffee, but the same farmers living at the edges of the fields are the same people, just doing what needs to be done to provide for their families.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

The brown soil of the areas around Saigon turned to red clay as we moved into the plateaus of the Central Highlands and the lowland farmers begin to turn in to descendants of the Montagnard tribes that I had worked with years ago.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

Passing through Gia Nghia I think of an old friend, Martha Raye – comedienne, nurse, Army Reserve Officer and teammate of many Green Berets.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

Stopping at a truck stop for a lunch of Pho, Jason’s favorite dish, I can look west across a valley and in the distance can see what I’m pretty sure is Cambodia. I spent a lot of time there and it feels surreal to see it in such a serene setting.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

Driving into the lowering night and through a heavy rain storm, I feel my gut tightening as we approach the city of Buon Ma Thuot. It’s almost a physical action to push down the emotions that are starting to well up inside me as we get closer and closer to the city.

To be continued in Buon Ma Thuot

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Corrosion is actually the US military’s most effective enemy

In 2009, the Department of Defense acquisition chief John J. Young, Jr. issued a mandate requiring the military departments to find new ways to reduce their use of hexavalent chromium (also known as hex-chrome or Cr6+). Hex chrome, which became infamous in the eyes of the public after the release of the film, Erin Brockovich, is a carcinogen that is harmful to humans and the environment. DoD maintenance facilities go to painstaking lengths to reduce the level of exposure sustained by their maintenance technicians due to hex chrome.


Hex chrome offers important corrosion prevention and control qualities in organic pre-treatments and primers used to coat a variety of military aircraft. For example, most coatings and primers used on legacy fighter and cargo aircraft such as the Navy’s F/A-18 and F-14, the Air Force’s C-130, C-5, and F-16 contain hex chrome, and the Army’s H-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

Chromate-based corrosion inhibitors are widely recognized as the best inhibitors available to the DoD. Their high level of performance means that they are still used prolifically as a coating for all types of military aircraft.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’
An F-16 Fighting Falcon.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Kleinholz)

The Delicate Balance of Finding Alternatives to Hex Chrome

Complicating the issue of finding alternatives to hex chrome is the drastic cost of corrosion faced by the U.S. military. According to a study released by the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, the DoD spent nearly $20 billion on corrective corrosion actions in fiscal year 2016. That expenditure amounts to nearly 20 percent of the entire DoD maintenance budget.

Moreover, corrosion experienced by Navy and Marine Corps aircraft costs approximately $3.43 billion annually and accounts for almost 28 percent of all maintenance costs. Corrosion-related maintenance prevents active aircraft from being ready for mission tasking for approximately 57 days each year.

The high cost of corrosion within the DoD persists despite its prolific use of carcinogenic, but best-in-class, chromate primers.

Navy experts who attack the problem of chromates walk a delicate line between finding an environmentally benign inhibitor and refusing to sacrifice so much performance that the DoD maintenance budget swells even further. Since 2009, the search by DoD and industry for a non-chromate primer has persisted alongside the expectation of finding an alternative that performs just as well as current chromate-based primers. Among DoD officials and engineers, this expectation has become known as the “as good as” requirement.

In response to Young’s 2009 mandate, experts at the Materials Engineering Division of the Naval Air Warfare Command – Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) in Patuxent River, MD, re-energized their internal primer research and development efforts in an effort to push the performance of non-chromated primers closer to that of chromated primers, since the products qualified at the time were the best available, but still not good enough for many naval aviation applications

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’
While the Naval Air Warfare Command’s Al-Rich primer already has been applied to an Army H-60 helicopter, a NASA C-130 cargo plane, and various pieces of Navy support equipment, Navy engineers are preparing to test it on other DoD aircraft and equipment.
(U.S. Army photo)

To address this shortcoming, NAWCAD materials engineer Craig Matzdorf and chemical engineer William Nickerson, now with the Office of Naval Research, have invented their own solution to the problem. Their patented Active Aluminum-Rich (“Al-Rich”) technology is a powerful anti-corrosion chemical composition created for use in coating systems. The Al-Rich primer is a metalized, sacrificial, chromate-free, high-performance, anti-corrosion primer for use in all situations where a chromated primer is currently used.

“Al-Rich is superior to existing coatings based on the novel aluminum pigment that actively overcomes corrosion by electrochemical means,” said Matzdorf. “Current coatings rely on chemical inhibitors like chromate, which are less effective at fighting galvanic corrosion. We anticipate that the Al-Rich primer will reduce galvanic and other types of corrosion and its effect on the Navy’s cost and availability.”

Key Technology Components in Al-Rich Primer

Although metal-rich primers have existed for quite some time, there were some underlying problems. First, the most traditional metal-rich coatings, such as zinc-rich coatings, are far too heavy for aviation applications and are not effective on aluminum. Second, other metal-rich coatings did not have the longevity of performance in harsh operating environments. “The Al-Rich primer employs two unique approaches to alleviate these key issues and to provide corrosion protection at the level of chromate primers,” according to Matzdorf.

The first key component of the technology is the use of a specialty aluminum alloy as the pigment inside the primer. The alloy composition of this pigment is specifically chosen for its high efficiency. In turn, this high efficiency, in combination with the low density of aluminum, allows the coating to be applied at normal aviation thicknesses, thus eliminating weight concerns.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’
NASA C-130
(NASA photo)

The technology’s second key component is a proprietary surface treatment applied to the pigment. By subjecting the primer’s pigment to a surface treatment, both the pigment’s overall level of performance and the primer’s overall length of performance are increased. A surface-treated particle boosts the performance of this metal-rich primer to meet the “as good as” requirement.

According to Matzdorf, these two key technology components combine to create a truly novel approach to non-chromated and high-performance primers. One area of Al-Rich primer’s performance excellence is its ability to reduce fastener-induced corrosion. Each time a titanium or stainless steel fastener is punched into the aluminum body of an aircraft, a potent corrosion cell is created. These corrosion cells cause prolific and expensive corrosion damage. For reasons that are likely to stem from its ability to protect aluminum electrochemically, the Al-Rich primer excels at preventing fastener-induced corrosion as well as filiform corrosion. In many scenarios, the Al-Rich primer outperforms its chromated counterparts at preventing these rampant corrosion problems.

Applications and Future Testing

Thus far, the Al-Rich primer has been applied to an Army H-60 helicopter, a NASA C-130 cargo plane, two Coast Guard H-60 tail sections, and various pieces of Navy support equipment. Engineers at NAWCAD have extensive lab data on this product and are now looking to test it extensively on a variety of DoD applications. However, to do so, the Navy needs to procure large batch sizes of the new primer. Because the Navy is not in the business of manufacturing commercial quantities of chemicals, it has begun licensing this Al-Rich primer technology to equipped and capable businesses.

Through funding sponsored by the Office of Naval Research over the next few years, the Navy plans to apply the new Al-Rich primer to larger and larger portions of its assets. Successful field demonstrations will allow the Navy to comply with the DoD mandate regarding hex chrome. According to officials at NAWCAD and the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, Al-Rich primers represent an exciting new entry into the non-chromated anti-corrosion primer market.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Space Force just got its first leader

Vice President Mike Pence swore in Air Force Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond as the highest-ranking military leader of the newly created U.S. Space Force in a ceremony that recognized the arrival of the nation’s newest military branch.

Raymond was formally designated the first chief of space operations in a formal ceremony sponsored by the White House and held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. It came less than a month after the Space Force, by law, became the sixth independent branch of the U.S. military, marking the first time since 1947 that a new military branch had been created.


“The first decision the president made after establishing the Space Force was deciding who should be its first leader,” Pence said. “I was around when the President made that decision and I can tell you, he never hesitated. He knew right away there was no one more qualified or more prepared from a lifetime of service than General Jay Raymond to serve as the first leader of the Space Force.”

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond addresses the audience in the Executive Eisenhower Office Building Washington after being sworn in as the first chief of space operations by Vice President Mike Pence, Jan 14, 2020.

(Photo by Andy Morataya, Air Force)

The Space Force was established Dec. 20 when President Donald J. Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act. He also appointed Raymond to lead the Space Force. Although directed by its own military leadership, the Space Force is nested within the Department of the Air Force.

Raymond noted the historic nature of the moment. “Not only is this historical; it’s critical,” he said. “That is not lost on me or the outstanding Americans who serve with me.”

The Space Force’s overarching responsibility is training, equipping and organizing a cadre of space professionals who protect U.S. and allied interests in space while also providing space capabilities to the joint force. The Space Force’s mandate includes developing military space professionals, acquiring military space systems, refining military doctrine for space power, and organizing space forces for use by combatant commands.

A major reason for creating the Space Force is the importance of space for both national security and everyday life. It is the backbone that allows for instant communication worldwide, precision navigation and global commerce. The U.S. Space Force will ensure the country’s continued leadership in space, Raymond said. Equally important, he added, is avoiding conflict in space.

“We want to deter that conflict from happening,” he said. “The best way I know how to do that is through a position of strength.”

Among those attending the ceremony were Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper, Deputy Defense Secretary of Defense David L. Norquist, Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as Adm. Charles Ray, vice commandant of the Coast Guard; Navy Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations; and Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

Faculty members and cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy wait to receive “first contact” from the cadet-designed FalconSAT-6 satellite after its successful launch into space, Dec. 3, 2018.

(Photo by Joshua Armstrong, Air Force)

“We are moving forward with alacrity and in accordance with presidential direction, the law, and DOD guidance,” Barrett said about the establishment of the new U.S. Space Force. “Directing this effort is the incomparably qualified leader, General ‘Jay’ Raymond. As a career space officer, he’s the perfect person to guide this lean, agile, vital Space Force.”

Raymond was the natural choice for the job. He is the commander of the U.S. Space Command; the nation’s unified command for space.

Before his new role, Raymond was the commander of Air Force Space Command, which carried the nation’s primary military focus on space, managing a constellation of satellites, developing policy and programs and training frontline space operators. Air Force Space Command was redesignated as the U.S. Space Force under the recently passed NDAA.

More broadly, the Space Force is responsible for maintaining the United States’ space superiority, even as space becomes more crowded and contested. The NDAA, which created the Space Force, also directs that the Space Force “shall provide the freedom of operation in, from, and to space, while providing prompt and sustained space operations.”

(Charles Pope is assigned to the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Public Affairs. Air Force Maj. Will Russell contributed to this report.)

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense.

Articles

This Iraq War vet’s debut novel is provocative and right

While deployed to Iraq in 2007, the U.S. Army’s then-Captain Matt Gallagher started a blog called Kaboom that quickly became very popular … and controversial — so controversial, in fact, that the Army shut it down.


After he separated from the military, Gallagher compiled the best of the blog into his 2010 memoir, “Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War.”  He has since written for the New York Times, The Atlantic, The Daily Beast, and Boston Review, among others. Now, with an Master’s degree from Columbia, he’s writing fiction. This week saw the debut of his first work of fiction, “Youngblood: A Novel.”

Russia is making a rival to HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’

The U.S. military is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, and newly-minted lieutenant Jack Porter struggles to accept how it’s happening—through alliances with warlords who have Arab and American blood on their hands. Day after day, Jack tries to assert his leadership in the sweltering, dreary atmosphere of Ashuriyah. But his world is disrupted by the arrival of veteran Sgt. Daniel Chambers, whose aggressive style threatens to undermine the fragile peace that the troops have worked hard to establish.

Irreverent but dedicated like a modern day Candide, Jack struggles with his place in Iraq War history. He soon discovers a connection between Sgt. Chambers and and a recently killed soldier. The more the lieutenant digs into the matter, the more questions arise. The soldier and Rana, a local sheikh’s daughter, appeared to have been in love and what Jack finds implicates the increasingly popular Chambers.What follows finds Jack defying his command as Iraq falls further into chaos.

Gallagher’s storytelling is compelling and his characters are vibrant. “Youngblood” immediately immerses the reader into the Iraq War, defying genre and perspective. We equally see the war from the soldiers who fought there and the Iraqis who lived it, while Gallagher weaves a narrative that is engaging, thoughtful, and thought provoking.

Youngblood: A Novel” is on sale now.

Editor’s note: Catch Matt Gallagher’s Reddit AMA or read his recent opinion piece in the New York Times welcoming us to the “Age of Commando,” where he describes the public fascination with special operations forces in the military today.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The rise and fall of USPS


Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Every year, the United States Postal Service takes and delivers 142 billion mailed items. If it needs to go from point A to point B anywhere in the US, the post office can do it. It survived the Civil War, two world wars, the Great Depression, and the upheaval brought by the internet and email.

But it’s currently more than 0 billion in debt, and it’s telling Congress it will run out of cash by September and needs a billion infusion. How did this happen?

The US Postal Service has been delivering mail since before the Declaration of Independence was even signed. In 1775, Benjamin Franklin was appointed postmaster general, and it was Franklin who handled the distribution of letters from Congress to its armies during the Revolutionary War. President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, which authorized Congress to create the US Postal Service. This established routes and made it illegal to open anyone’s mail.

Clip: What matter if it took two weeks to go from New York to Atlanta, over a month to St. Louis? If the letter from Uncle Ben arrived a day or so later, nobody fussed.

Narrator: In 1823, it started using waterways to deliver mail, then began using railroads. 1847 saw the first issued stamps. And then the famed Pony Express debuted in 1860. In 1896, it began delivering to some rural addresses, meaning residents no longer had to go to the town post office to get their mail. By 1923, all houses were required to have a mail slot. And in 1963, zip codes made their debut.

Clip: What a system! As you can plainly see, just five little numbers, quick as can be.

Narrator: But what really transformed the post office into what we know today? That happened a few years later.

Clip: The post office stands to be swamped, overwhelmed, drowned in a sea of mail. Where do we go from here?

Narrator: In 1967, the postmaster general testified before Congress that the post office was in “a race with catastrophe.” There were all sorts of backlogs, and sorting-room floors were bursting with unsorted mail. Combined with a postal worker strike in March of 1970, led to the Postal Reorganization Act and established the United States Postal Service as we know it today.

Clip: The Post Office Department is leading the search for better ways to process and dispatch mail in the shortest time possible.

Narrator: The act eliminated the post office from the president’s cabinet and made the post office its own federal agency. It was set up more like a corporation than a government agency and had an official monopoly on the delivery of letter mail in the US. It also set up the elimination of the post office’s direct government subsidies, which were completely phased out in 1982. The post office has been operating without any taxpayer money since.

Competition from UPS and FedEx made the post office innovate on its offerings, like introducing express mail. But since its most lucrative service was first-class mail, the USPS didn’t have to worry too much about competing with other companies. In fact, the post office has partnered with both companies in the past, like when it signed a deal in 2000 that contracted its air delivery of first-class, priority, and express mail to FedEx.

So, basically, the USPS was fine. First-class mail volume peaked in 2001 at 103.6 billion pieces of mail. It operated at a loss in the first couple years of the 21st century, but by 2003, it was back to operating at a profit. In fact, from 2003 through 2006, USPS recorded a total .3 billion profit. That all changed at the end of 2006.

Clip: HR 6407, a bill to reform the postal laws of the United States.

Narrator: Enter the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. Up until this point, the post office added to and removed from its retiree pension and healthcare accounts on an ongoing basis, putting money in as needed, based on its current retirees. This model is similar to the way many other companies and corporations fund their own healthcare pensions. This act changed all that.

It required the post office to calculate all of its retiree pension and healthcare costs for the next 75 years, including for people it hadn’t even hired yet, and put away enough over the next 10 years to cover them. To put this in perspective, that’d be like you only working from age 18 to 28 and then expecting to live on that income until you were 103 years old.

The timing for this was not ideal, either. Email, texting, and online payments had begun to chip away at the post office’s main business, first-class mail, which had slowly been declining since its 2001 peak. But even that decline wouldn’t put the post office in the negative.

If not for the 75-year pension and healthcare obligation, the USPS would have reported operating profits for the last six years. Once the bill was enacted, USPS had to contribute about .6 billion a year for people who had not yet retired, in addition to the normal amount for current retirees. In 2006, prior to the new bill, this was id=”listicle-2646188290″.6 billion for those who were already retired. In 2007, USPS had to put away 625% more, about billion, to cover both current and future retirees. This gave the post office an annual loss of more than billion for the year.

Additionally, the new bill restricted the post office’s ability to set prices. First-class mail, marketing mail, and other products the post office does not have a large competition for were all tied to the consumer price index, meaning it couldn’t increase rates for those products above the rate of inflation. This has caused various problems, like in 2009, when prices couldn’t be raised at all on those products, because there was no inflation.

The rule has created an environment where packages are the post office’s only profitable area. By 2010, the post office’s overall debt, which was just over billion in 2006, had climbed to billion. It sounded the alarm to Congress multiple times and was also the subject of a 2018 Trump administration report saying the pension obligation should be restructured. But nothing changed. In its most recent annual report, the post office said it had incurred almost billion in losses from 2007 to 2019. It couldn’t afford to make any payments into the fund from 2012 to 2016 and now owes about billion related to its future pension and health benefit obligations.

Which brings us to today. As with many other industries, the coronavirus has taken its toll on the post office. First-class and marketing mail have plummeted, and the post office expects a billion decline in revenue. The postmaster general has told Congress she expects the USPS to be completely out of cash by September. This would make it unable to pay its employees and could quickly cause disaster in mail delivery across the country, especially in rural areas not serviced by UPS and FedEx. So, can it be saved?

The post office is now asking Congress for a billion cash infusion along with a billion loan. The initial bailout bill Congress passed in March provided billion for the post office, far less than the billion the organization was seeking in the bill. However, President Trump threatened to veto any bill that bailed out the post office, so the bill was changed before signing to a billion loan, 13% of the billion it had originally asked for and another billion to add to its debt.

And then, in early May, Trump appointed Louis DeJoy the new postmaster general, and he will take the reins of the organization on June 15. Unlike the last three postmaster generals, DeJoy is not a career employee; he is a large GOP donor and the former CEO of a logistics company. Democrats and ethics watchdogs see the appointment as purely political, not just because of Trump’s desire to reshape the post office, but also because millions of Americans may be forced to vote by mail this year, which means the future of the post office is likely to become a political issue this spring and summer, especially if its cash flow starts running dry.

And those at risk? The 497,000 Americans who rely on the USPS for their jobs, and the 329 million Americans who rely on it for paying bills, medication, and everything else the USPS delivers through rain, sleet, snow, and even pandemics.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Coast Guard loosens its tattoo policy to bring in new recruits

For the second time in two years, the Coast Guard is relaxing its policy on tattoos in what officials say is an effort to widen the pool of eligible service recruits.

According to a new policy document released Oct. 3, 2019, Coast Guard recruits and current service members may now sport chest tattoos as long as they are not visible above the collar of the Coast Guard operational dress uniform’s crew-neck T-shirt.

The new policy also allows a wider range of finger tattoos. One finger tattoo per hand is now authorized, although the location of the tattoo is still restricted. It must appear between the first and second knuckle. And ring tattoos, which were the only kind of finger tattoo previously authorized, will be counted as a hand’s finger tattoo, according to the new guidance. Thumb tattoos are still off-limits.


Finally, in a change from previous guidance, hand tattoos are also allowed. While palm tattoos remain out of bounds, Coasties and recruits can sport a tattoo on the back of the hand as long as it is no more than one inch in any dimension. One finger and one hand tattoo are allowed on each hand, according to the new policy.

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The Coast Guard released a graphic to explain its new tattoo regulations.

“I am pleased to see the Coast Guard’s new tattoo policy reinforces a professional appearance to the public while adopting some of the very same tattoo standards that are now acceptable among the public,” Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason Vanderhaden said in a statement. “The new tattoo policy will expand our recruiting candidate pool and provide those already serving in the Coast Guard with a few new options.”

The Coast Guard last updated its tattoo policy in 2017 with rule tweaks that offered a little more leniency. Chest tattoos were allowed to creep up to one inch above the V-neck undershirt, where previously they had to remain hidden; ring tattoos were authorized.

Unlike some other services, the Coast Guard has not restricted tattoo size of percentage of body coverage on tattooable areas, but the 2017 policy stated that brands could be no larger than four by four inches and could not be located on the head, face or neck.

The most recent policies serve to relax strict regulations handed down in 2005 to address overabundant body ink.

“The 1940s, party-hard sailor is not the image we’re going for,” Chief Petty Officer Keith Alholm, a spokesman in the Coast Guard’s Seattle-based 13th District, told the Kitsap Sun at the time.

The 2005 rules — the first update to the Coast Guard’s tattoo policy in three decades — limited Coasties to tattooing no more than 25% of an exposed limb, among other restrictions.

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(Photo by Andrew Leu)

The other military services have all issued updates in recent years to address concerns in the active force and current trends in the recruitable population.

In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned that services’ tattoo policies could be preventing otherwise eligible young people from serving. As the percentage of prospective recruits who can meet fitness, education and background standards shrinks, the service branches have even greater incentive to remove secondary barriers to service.

The Army loosened its tattoo policy in 2015, saying society’s view of body ink was changing; the Navy thrilled sailors with a significantly more lenient set of rules in 2016. The Marine Corps also released a relaxed 2016 tattoo update, and the Air Force did a 2017 about-face, allowing airmen to sport coveted sleeves.

Military officials have said they’re working to find the line between professionalism and practicality when it comes to tattoos.

“This is not an episode of [History Channel show] Vikings, where we’re tattooing our face. We’re not a biker gang, we’re not a rock and roll band. We’re not [Maroon 5 lead singer] Adam Levine,” then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com in 2017. “You can get 70 percent of your body covered with ink and still be a Marine. Is that enough?”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Rise of Skywalker’ creators are ‘not screwing around’ with ending

The guy who created Cloverfield and directed The Force Awakens wants everyone to know he’s trying really hard to not mess up the ending of the Star Wars saga as we know it. On Oct. 18, 2019, Entertainment Weekly reported that J.J. Abrams said outright that “we are not screwing around” when it comes to creating a legit ending for the nine-part “Skywalker saga” in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Do we trust him? Do we have a choice?

According to EW, J.J. Abrams knew how hard it was going to be to write The Rise of Skywalker (along with Justice League writer Chris Terrio) because “Endings are the thing that scare me the most.” The director and co-writer of the movie also doesn’t really think The Rise of Skywalker is supposed to be the ending to the existing new trilogy which started in 2015 with The Force Awakens, but instead, he views it as the end of a nine-part story, which begins with The Phantom Menace and goes all way through the classic movies everyone loves.


“This is about bringing this thing to a close… if years from now, someone’s watching these movies, all nine of them, they’re watching a story that is as cohesive as possible.”

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J.J. Abrams

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Whether or not Abrams pulls that off remains to be seen, of course. If you were a fan of Lost, now is probably not the time to remind yourself that Abrams was involved with the ending of that series, too. Then again, maybe because Abrams has dealt with so many controversial endings of big pop-culture properties, that he’s the perfect guy to tackle the ending of Star Wars.

Or then again, maybe that’s wishful thinking. Let’s keep a little optimism here! Right?

In any case, we’ve now got J.J. Abrams’s promise: he’s not screwing around. Hopefully, the Force is listening.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

The Punisher revealed its episodes via Morse Code

On Twitter this morning, the official twitter handle for the upcoming “Punisher” series on Netflix released a series of cryptic tweets.


Quick translation into the regular alphabet gives you: “3am, two dead men, and Kandahar.” Kandahar, Afghanistan, is more than likely where Frank Castle was deployed, since he mentioned to an old Marine veteran back in Daredevil Season 2 that he was in Afghanistan.

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…and definitely where this scene takes place, given the headgear (Screengrab via Marvel)

The name of all of the episodes are:

  1. “3 AM”
  2. “Two Dead Men”
  3. “Kandahar”
  4. “Resupply”
  5. “Gunner”
  6. “The Judas Goat”
  7. “Crosshairs”
  8. “Cold Steel”
  9. “Front Toward Enemy”
  10. “Virtue of the Vicious”
  11. “Danger Close”
  12. “Home”
  13. “Memento Mori”

Following the standard 13 episode format for all of the series, this seems to make sense. The series of tweets ends with a very cryptic video meant to invoke the feeling of something being classified by the military.

The video ends with an ambiguous date in 2017. However, I have my own personal theory on this.

One of the directors on The Punisher accidentally revealed the show’s premiere month. The director said Netflix was planning to release his episode in November. Knowing the structure of every Netflix’s television show, this basically means that every episode drops with the whole season for maximum binging results. Netflix also releases a lot of their shows on a Friday, once again for maximum binging results.

If Marvel and Netflix were to drop it on any Friday to get the best results, it would be over Veteran’s Day weekend. The day before Veteran’s Day is also the Marine Corps’ Birthday. What better way to celebrate the anniversary of the Corps than by having its favorite fictional son’s television show released on the same day?

I’m open to criticism if I’m wrong, but if I’m right this could be one of the best birthday gifts ever.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s the blistering effect American World War II ammo had on the enemy

We’re all familiar with the weapons the GIs carried during World War II, but a gun just ain’t much use without the ammo. The GIs, as Star Trek‘s Scotty once famously admonished, needed the right bullets for the right job.


The ammo that the GIs used ranged from the famous .45 ACP to powerful artillery rounds. In a training film, released in 1943 and linked below, the Army took the time to show what the more common rounds could do.

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Army psychological operations soldiers train with the M1911 pistol in 1945. (Photo from U.S. Army)

For most WWII-era artillery, the effective range was quite short. Anti-tank guns, for instance, were rarely impactful against targets more than a thousand yards away. Today, anti-tank missiles, like the BGM-71 tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missile, reach out about two and a half miles or more. The bazooka, potent at 200 yards, has its modern counterpart in the FGM-148 Javelin, which kills tanks over 2,000 yards away.

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A GI displays proper use of the M-1 Bazooka in a U.S. Army training photo. (Photo from U.S. Army)

It’s also interesting to note that the ammo and weapons are quite versatile. The Browning BAR, primarily known as an automatic rifle intended to send hot lead downrange at enemy troops, was also an effective option against enemy aircraft. The 37mm and 57mm anti-tank guns weren’t exclusively useful against enemy tanks, but also against pillboxes and other fortifications. The M2 .50-caliber machine gun was devastating against aircraft and troops alike.

In a sense, today’s ammunition is just as versatile. For example, the AGM-114 Hellfire was originally intended to kill tanks, but has also been used turn high-ranking terrorists into “good” terrorists.

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A 37mm anti-tank gun is used against Japanese fortifications. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

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