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The dark origins of Bikini Bottom

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
Wikimedia Commons


Have you ever sat around wondering how Spongebob learned to tie a Windsor knot, how Squidward acquired his affinity for the arts, or how Plankton became perceptive enough to develop a Napoleon complex? Well, here’s a theory that should simultaneously quell your curiosity while fulfilling the core function of the internet: robbing you of your childhood innocence.

Basically, this unique aquatic society was the result of U.S. nuclear testing in the South Pacific Ocean, and that all of your childhood pals, from Mr. Krabs to Mrs. Puff, are radioactively mutated fish.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
Our thoughts exactly

History seems to support this claim. The nuclear testing site that the theory refers to is Bikini Atoll, a group of islands in Micronesia. After World War II, the U.S. military detonated 23 nuclear devices on the islands as it geared up for an arms race with the Soviet Union. Remember that island that appears at the beginning of every SpongeBob episode? Well, that’s what remains of Bikini Atoll. The creators of the show left other clues to this radioactive origin story, such as Squidward’s Easter Island head residence (a hint of the town’s South Pacific locale), the popular Bikini Bottom magazine Toxic Waste Monthly, and the mushroom cloud that seems to rise from every explosion in the show.

So, it seems likely that the bombing of Bikini Atoll created Bikini Bottom, a nightmarish seascape where a sponge is economically extorted by a crab, who somehow fathered a sperm whale. But maybe it was all for the best. Bikini Bottom seems like a pleasant enough city, and the residents certainly have less mundane lives than your average fish or sponge. All’s well that ends well, right?

Maybe not. Because before U.S. nukes created one of America’s most beloved children’s shows, there were real, non-animated people living on Bikini Atoll: 167 to be exact. Bikini Atoll is part of the Marshall Islands, which has its own distinctive language, culture, and society. Leading a subsistence based lifestyle, Bikinians were a subset of this society.

In 1946 the people of Bikini Atoll were compelled to “temporarily relocate” by the United States, who wanted to begin nuclear testing on the islands. They were told they had to leave “for the good of mankind” and were subsequently sent to Rongerik Atoll, an uninhabited group of islands one-sixth the size of Bikini that lacked adequate sources of food and water. The U.S. navy dropped them on the shore with several weeks of food supplies and left. Soon, the Bikinians had a serious malnutrition problem, with most living on the brink of starvation. Within two months of relocation, they were begging the U.S. to allow them to return to Bikini, not knowing about the nuclear devastation being brought down upon their home. Their calls were ignored, and they were left on the island for two years. “We were dying, but they didn’t listen to us,” commented one of the inhabitants of Rongerik.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom

Eventually, the government began the process of moving the Bikinians to Ujelang Atoll. A handful Bikinians were sent to Ujelang to begin construction of their new society. But two months later, the plans fell through. The U.S. had chosen a second location for nuclear testing, Enewetak Atoll, and decided that the Enewetak people, instead of the Bikinians, would be relocated to Ujelang.

In 1948, The Bikini natives were finally liberated from Rongerik and sent to Kwajalein Atoll, where they lived in tents next to a concrete military airstrip. Six months later they were relocated once again to Kili Island, a .36-square-mile island where most Bikinians still live today. The island greatly differed from the Atolls they were accustomed to, making their traditional methods of fishing and food cultivation far less effective. Starvation once again became a daily concern and the Bikinians had to rely on USDA rice and canned goods to survive. The island was also prone to flooding, making them vulnerable to hurricanes and typhoons. They soon began referring to Kili as “Prison Island.”

Meanwhile, nuclear tests continued on Bikini Atoll, culminating in the 1954 “Castle Bravo” test, which detonated a nuclear weapon 1,000-times more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The blast was larger than the U.S. government expected and the resulting radioactive fallout spread throughout the Marshall Islands, blanketing inhabited islands and contaminating their residents. The subsequent health effects still plague Marshall Islanders today.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
Mushroom cloud at Castle Bravo

Decades passed, and in 1969, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the now 540 Bikinians would be able to resettle their home islands. The Atomic Energy Commission issued a statement saying “There’s virtually no radiation left and we can find no discernible effect on either plant or animal life.” Feeling confident in these assurances, Bikinians began to resettle in 1972. But in 1978, tests by U.S. physicians revealed that the radiation levels in the 139 people on Bikini Atoll were well above the permissible level. They were evacuated.

Today, the native inhabitants of Bikini Atoll continue to seek compensation from the U.S. government for the devastation of their home. Many demand that the U.S. clean up the mess they made in Bikini so they might return home. Some have more modest claims, like Simon Jamore, who wants access to better healthcare for four of his family members who have developed cancer. The islands remain almost entirely uninhabited, excluding the marine citizens of Bikini Bottom. For now, the only thing fit to live in Bikini Atoll is a radioactive fry-cook sponge.

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A look at President Reagan’s Star Wars program, 33 years later

 


The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
Graphic of how SDI would work.

Thirty-three years ago, the Star Wars program was easily the most elaborate and complex defense system ever conceived.

“I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete,” President Ronald Reagan said on March 23, 1983. The speech announced the creation of a new missile defense called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which quickly became known as Star Wars.

It envisaged a vast network of laser-armed satellites, air-based missiles, and ground-based interceptors missiles and electromagnetic railguns. These would be used to intercept incoming nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles from the Soviet Union and other enemies, all coordinated through advanced sensors linked to supercomputers, and protect the United States from direct nuclear attack. By being able to neutralize at least most of the incoming nuclear warheads, the U.S. hoped to show the Soviet Union that any potential nuclear confrontation was hopeless.

The United States and the Soviet Union had flirted with anti-ballistic missile systems in the past.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
Artist’s depiction of Star Wars in action.

The U.S. developed the Nike Zeus series of missiles in the early 1960s, which had some ABM capability, and the Soviet Union installed similar missiles around Moscow as protection against limited nuclear strikes. Neither could begin to effectively cope with large-scale nuclear attacks, and the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty of 1972 strictly limited the number of missile interceptors allowed. The U.S. closed its only missile defense system, called Safeguard, in 1976 after it had only been in operation for a few months and at enormous expense. But by the early 1980s, concerned with advancements in Soviet missiles, the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff revisited the idea, and presented it to Reagan. The idea of a defensive measure to nuclear war beyond simply building more nuclear warheads appealed to to the president.

The technical hurdles for a defense shield like Reagan proposed would be on a scale exceeding any defense project attempted before. The majority of the technology involved, such as weaponized lasers and electromagnetic railguns firing projectiles at extremely high speeds, did not even exist yet and might not be developed for decades. It entailed hundreds, if not thousands of advanced satellites and radars to even begin to aim all the weapons required to make a dent in the Soviet’s vast arsenal. Reagan himself admitted that SDI could easily take until the end of the century to be put into place.

The skepticism towards the program was intense from the beginning. Besides the clear violations of the ABM treaty such a system would represent, it would also extend the arms race even deeper into space.

Swarms of hunter-killer satellites and space-based lasers would be a frightening new frontier, and the Soviet Union would almost certainly try to respond in kind. The projected costs of the system ran into the hundreds of billions of dollars, and the inevitable cost overruns would balloon the program to a huge percentage of the U.S. military budget. In the event of an a nuclear attack, unproven technology would have be coordinated on an unprecedented scale and work perfectly the first time. The hurdles involved were well-nigh insurmountable. Nevertheless, by 1987 more than $3 billion was being appropriated annually by Congress to start developing the technology, roughly $6.5 billion in today’s dollars.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
There has been much debate about what sort of affect the Star Wars program had running up to the end of the Cold War, but there is little doubt that the Soviet Union took the program very seriously, and were genuinely concerned about an expanded arm’s race which had immense costs they could not begin to afford. But by the end of the Cold War, a missile-defense system on the scale of SDI was still a pipe-dream. In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the idea was scaled back to a much more limited system capable of defending against small-scale strikes.

The simple fact was that the program was never going to be feasible against as many weapons as an opponent like the Soviet Union could put into play. By 1986 the Soviet’s had over 40,000 nuclear warheads stockpiled, including nearly a thousand ICBM’s with up to 10 warheads a piece that could shower and overwhelm any target within 30 minutes of launch. Soviet submarine’s armed with nuclear missiles could get close enough to U.S. coasts that their payloads could strike hundreds of targets faster than any conceivable system could detect and intercept them. Even if SDI could stop 90 percent of the Soviet’s warheads, the 10 percent that made it through would leave the United States in radioactive ruin.

Though scaled back, development on weapons envisaged in Star Wars continued throughout the 1990s. Its legacy can be seen in today’s Missile Defense Agency. The MDA has cost more than $100 billion since 2002, and the test results of its missile interceptors have been decidedly mixed.

After more than three decades of advances in technology, however more modest our nuclear defense program is now, it still might not be any more realistic than its Cold War forebears.

 

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Chattanooga shooting victims to receive Purple Hearts

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
April Grimmett | Twitter


The four Marines and a sailor killed by a gunman during a July mass shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will each receive the Purple Heart medal, as will a Marine sergeant who was wounded.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced Wednesday that Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Squire D. “Skip” Wells, Sgt. DeMonte Cheeley and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith would all receive the award.

The announcement comes the same day the FBI announced that the Chattanooga shooter, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, was “inspired by a foreign terror organization.” It’s not clear what organization Abdulazeez, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Kuwait, might have been emulating.

“Following an extensive investigation, the FBI and NCIS have determined that this attack was inspired by a foreign terrorist group, the final criteria required for the awarding of the Purple Heart to this sailor and these Marines,” Mabus said in a statement, referring to Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

“This determination allows the Department of the Navy to move forward immediately with the award of the Purple Heart to the families of the five heroes who were victims of this terrorist attack, as well as to the surviving hero, Sgt. Cheeley,” he added.

On July 16, Abdulazeez first attacked a military recruiting office in a drive-by shooting, then traveled to a nearby Navy Reserve center, where he shot five Marines, a sailor and a police officer before he was killed by police.

Cheeley, the Marine recruiter who survived a gunshot to the back of the leg, returned to work the same month, Marine Corps Times reported.

The shocking and tragic attacks inspired a wave of concern over the security of military recruiting facilities and prompted Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to call for better training and “physical security enhancements” to protect the military personnel working at such facilities.

“Although the Purple Heart can never possibly replace this brave Sailor and these brave Marines, it is my hope that as their families and the entire Department of the Navy team continue to mourn their loss, these awards provide some small measure of solace,” Mabus said. “Their heroism and service to our nation will be remembered always.”

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Here’s a look at the “Davy Crockett bomb,” the world’s smallest nuke

Known as the “Davy Crockett bomb,” America’s smallest-ever nuclear weapon packed a relatively small punch when compared to its larger cousins — between a 10 and 250-kiloton yield.


But what it lacked in straight firepower, it made up for in ease of transport and delivery. It could be employed by a three-man team, and its launcher could be mounted directly on a Jeep.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
(Photo: Department of Defense)

Since it wasn’t actually a bomb, it was more properly labeled by its full name: the Davy Crockett Atomic Battle Group Delivery System. The weapon was a recoilless rifle that came in two calibers, 120mm and 155mm.

It could fire conventional warheads but its big draw was the ability to fire a W-54 warhead with a variable yield between 10 and 250 kilotons. This would have allowed American infantrymen in Eastern Europe to directly counter Soviet armored units if the Cold War went hot.

The immediate blast from the W54 would have killed tanks in the center while radiation poisoning would have killed most tank crews within a quarter mile of the epicenter.

Check out more about the weapon in the video below:

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Army Abrams to get robotic attack drones

The Army is preparing to configure Abrams tank prototypes able to control nearby “robotic” wing-man vehicles which fire weapons, carry ammunition and conduct reconnaissance missions for units on the move in combat, service officials said.


Although still in the early stages of discussion and conceptual development, the notion of manned-unmanned teaming for the Abrams continues to gain traction among Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers.

Algorithms are progressing to the point wherein they will be able to allow an Abrams tank crew to operate multiple nearby “wing-man” robotic vehicles in a command and control capacity while on the move in combat.

Also read: New Abrams protection system can detect, track and destroy enemy projectiles

Army researchers, engineers and weapons developers are preparing to prototype some of these possibilities for future Abrams tanks, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout warrior in an interview.

“As I look to the future and I think about game-changing technologies, manned-unmanned teaming is a big part of that. There’s a set of things that we think could be really transformational,” Bassett said.

This kind of dynamic could quickly change the nature of landwar.

Autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic vehicles flanking tanks in combat, quite naturally, could bring a wide range of combat-enhancing possibilities. Ammunition-carrying robotic vehicles could increase the fire-power of tanks while in combat more easily; unmanned platforms could also carry crucial Soldier and combat supplies, allowing an Abrams tank to carry a larger payload of key combat supplies.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
US Army photo

Also, perhaps of greatest significance, an unmanned vehicle controlled by an Abrams tank could fire weapons at an enemy while allowing the tank to operate at a safer, more risk-reducing stand-off range.

As unmanned vehicles, robotic platforms could be agile and much lighter weight than heavily armored vehicles designed to carry Soldiers into high-risk combat situations. By virtue of being able to operate without placing Soldiers at risk, tank-controlled ground drones could also be used to test and challenge enemy defenses, fire-power and formations. Furthermore, advanced sensors could be integrated into the ground drones to handle rugged terrain while beaming back video and data of enemy locations and movements.

“You don’t need armor on an auxiliary kit,” Michael Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Manned Abrams tanks, therefore, could make use of advanced thermal sights, aided by robotic sensors, to locate and destroy enemies at ranges keeping them safe from enemy tank fire. Sensor robots could locate enemy artillery and rocket positions, convoys and even some drones in the air in a manner that better alerts attacking ground forces.

Land drones could also help forces in combat breach obstacles, carry an expeditionary power supply, help with remote targeting and check route areas for IEDs, Army and General Dynamics statements said.

Some of the early prototyping is being explored at the Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, Warren, Mich.

Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley has consistently emphasized that manned-unmanned teaming and autonomy central to the Army’s preparations for the future, Bassett explained.

“The Chief has been really candid with us that what whatever we build for the future has that concept in mind that we are laying the architectures in that will support that,” he added.

Thus far in the Army, there are both tele-operated vehicles controlled by a human with a lap-top and joystick as well as platforms engineered with autonomous navigation systems able to increasingly perform more and more functions without needing human intervention.

For instance, TARDEC has developed leader-follower convoys wherein tactical trucks are engineered to autonomously follow vehicles in front of them. These applique kits, which can be installed on vehicles, include both tele-operated options as well as automated functions. The kits include GPS technology, radios, cameras and computer algorithms designed for autonomous navigation.

Also, the Army has already deployed airborne manned unmanned teaming, deploying Kiowa and Apache helicopters to Afghanistan with an ability to control the flight path and sensor payload of nearby drones in the air; in addition, this technology allows helicopter crews to view real-time live video-feeds from nearby drones identifying targets and conducting reconnaissance missions. Autonomy in the air, however, is much easier than ground autonomy as there are less emerging obstacles or rugged terrain.

Air Force Navy Robotics

The Army is by no means the only service currently exploring autonomy and manned-unmanned connectedness. The Air Force, for instance, is now developing algorithms designed to help fighters like the F-35 control a small fleet of nearby drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and carry ammunition.

In similar fashion, Navy engineers are working on an emerging fleet of Unmanned Surface Vehicles able to create swarms of attacks small boats, support amphibious operations by carrying supplies and weapons and enter high-risk areas without placing sailors at risk.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
Lockheed Martin photo

These developments represent the cutting edge of technological progress in an area known as “artificial intelligence.” Among other things, this involves the continued use of computers to perform an increasingly wider range of functions without needing human intervention. This can include gathering, organizing or transmitting information autonomously.

The technological ability for an autonomous weapons system to acquire, track and destroy a target on its own – is already here.

Pentagon doctrine is clear that, despite the pace at which autonomous weapons systems are within the realm of realistic combat possibilities, a human must always be in-the-loop regarding the potential use of lethal force. Nevertheless, there is mounting concern that potential adversaries will also acquire this technology without implementing the Pentagon’s ethical and safety regulations.

At the same time, despite the promise of this fast-emerging technology, algorithms able to match the processing power of a human brain are quite far away at the moment. Engineering a robotic land-vehicle able to quickly process, recognize, react and adjust in a dynamic, fast-changing combat environment in a manner comparable to human beings, is a long way off, scientist explain. Nonetheless, this does not mean there could not be reasonably short-term utility in the combat use of advanced autonomous vehicles controlled by a nearby Abrams tank crew.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 2018 VETTY Awards recognized exemplary service to the veteran community

In acknowledgement of veterans that have gone beyond their call of duty, the 3rd annual VETTY awards recognized marquee veterans that have exemplified ongoing public service and advocacy efforts, and who have demonstrated exceptional contribution and service to the veteran community in 2017.


Chief Washington Correspondent and CNN anchor journalist, Jake Tapper, hosted the event, held Jan. 20 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington DC.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
Seda Goff accepting the VETTY for Employment on behalf of Bunker Labs with Mark Rockefeller and Sofia Pernas.

Tapper is known for his vocal advocacy of the veteran community and his book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor debuted at number 10 on The New York Times Bestseller list.

His work reporting on veterans earned him the “Tex” McCrary Award for Excellence in Journalism from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.

Esteemed speakers and presenters for the red carpet event included Marine Corps and Navy veteran Montel Williams of The Montel Williams Show, and actress Anne Heche, series lead of the hit NBC military drama, The Brave .

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
Montel Williams gives a passionate speech to the VETTY audience.

During Williams speech, he recognized what an honor it is to be a United States military veteran.

“I get the opportunity to travel around this country on a daily basis—and there is nothing prouder in my life—or world—than to be able to step up and say that I am a veteran.”

Williams also empathized with his fellow veterans about where some Americans choose to share their loyalty.

“It bothers me… but… last week another awards show had 25 million people watching—but none of those people would have the right to get an award without the people sitting in this room.”

His comments were met by a roar of applause—but how fitting his comments considering the audience.

Winners Of The 3rd Annual VETTY Awards

Mental Health: Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc.

Education: Dustin Perkins | Director of Marketing | Student Veterans of America

Leadership: Sarah Verardo | Executive Director | The Independence Fund

Employment: Bunker Labs

Community: National Veterans Legal Services Program

Honorary VETTY: Steven D. Vincent | Senior Business Development Manager | tiag® (The Informatics Applications Group, Inc.)

Honorary VETTY: George A. Chewning, II | Director of Governmental Affairs | Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation

Among the VETTYs attendees were respected veterans and mil-spouse entrepreneurs that dedicate their lives to supporting a community—a community that is first to support our great nation—but reserved when is comes to applause.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
VETTY attendees dressed in their best for a night of recognizing incredible veterans.

Presenting at this year’s awards were not only celebrities like Emmy-winning actress Shohreh Aghdashloo and Mike Vogel of NBC’s The Brave , but also veterans such as Army veteran and former Seattle Seahawks long-snapper, Nate Boyer, and Air Force veteran and the CEO of Streetshares, Mark Rockefeller.

Another notable presenter was Navy SEAL, Shark Tank success story, and CEO of Bottle Breacher, Eli Crane—a man that has been vocal in his support of the United States and his veteran comrades through today’s troubling political environment.

Crane was seen with Marine Corps veteran Eric Mitchell of LifeFlip Media, Navy SEAL veteran Sal DeFranco and his wife Dana of Battle Grounds Coffee , and Marine Corps veteran Travis McVey of Heroes Vodka.

The Academy of United States Veterans (AUSV) established the annual VETTY awards in 2015 to recognize the most impactful entities that contribute to the well-being of the veteran community.

The AUSV was founded with one principle in mind: the importance of public service.

They inspire veterans who have found their purpose in serving their country—and hopes to encourage a culture where caring for one another is not considered a duty, but a joy.

In respects to their principals, the AUSV has pledged to donate a portion of the evening’s profits to helping restore the livelihoods of our fellow citizens who have been affected by the devastation of Hurricanes 2017.

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27 unsung WWII heroes most people have never heard of

Sadly, the heroes of World War 2 are leaving us every day. With the vast majority of war veterans past the age of 90, it won’t be long before only a few WW2 heroes and veterans are left to tell their stories of courage and triumph in the face of murderous odds. While some soldiers and important figures of the time are well known to the culture in general, most aren’t. Some didn’t survive, and many others simply never spoke about what they did. This list of World War 2 heroes will show the courage, bravery, and selflessness of many men you may not have heard of, but who made important contributions to the war nonetheless.


World War Two made heroes out of countless soldiers, scientists, officials, and even cooks and the World War 2 timeline is dotted with remarkable and heroic individuals. Whether fighting the Nazis on the European front or making a difference against the Japanese in the Pacific, these real life heroes helped the Allies win the war and helped make the world what it is today. Their sacrifices for their fellow fighters and even strangers they’d never feet were truly heroic.

This list features many World War 2 soldiers, pilots, and fighters who you should know something about. Some were officers and aces, others peasants and ordinary foot soldiers. They hailed from around the world, and some never even wore a uniform. But all of them took actions that saved lives, inflicted damage on the enemy, and collectively won World War II, the worst war in human history.

27 Unsung WWII Heroes You May Not Know About

 

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This article originally appeared at Ranker. Copyright 2015. Like Ranker on Facebook.

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ISIS uses weaponized drones for combat and surveillance

Much has been written about the threat of Islamic State militants’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, commonly known as drones, over the embattled city of Mosul.


IS was quick to weaponize UAVs with small improvised explosive devices.

On Jan. 24, they released a video showing up to 19 different aerial attacks by commercially purchased UAVs — the kind of drone you can buy in any shopping center. Iraqi forces have followed suit by attaching modified 40mm grenades with shuttlecock stabilizers onto their larger UAVs to drop on IS positions.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
Drones like this are easy to acquire but can be very lethal targeting tools. (Photo: Don McCullough, CC BY 2.0)

A crude inaccurate way of killing terrorists, its effectiveness is questionable. Weaponized IS UAVs have mainly been used to target Iraqi military commanders and troops congregating in the open near the front line.

It’s a low-end, low-altitude attack that can be thwarted by keeping in hard cover.

But both sides use the UAV’s more effectively as a means of providing Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, known as ISR.

Islamic State UAVs in the air, once identified, are the warning that something is about to happen — either mortar fire, which is typically one hastily fired inaccurate round — before coalition air superiority can locate and target the firing point.

Or, more devastatingly, the launching of a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device, an SVBIED.

Since the Battle for Mosul officially started on Oct. 16, 2016, hundreds of SVBIEDs have been launched.

Recently, Sky News’ Special Correspondent Alex Crawford and cameraman Garwen McLuckie faced a number of SVBIEDs during their reporting from West Mosul’s front line.

Each time a small UAV was hovering high above. One occasion two were spotted.

Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay, cameraman Nathan Hale and Producer Haider Kata were also targeted by a SVBIED. On this occasion the UAV filmed the SVBIED (an armored Fronting Loader) to its intended target, a tank.

Later, the video was posted on Islamic State websites.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
A captured ISIS drone on the battlefield. (Photo from Iraq Ministry of Defense)

Due to the built-up urban area and the ever-changing nature of the battle, IS drivers of the SVBIEDs are believed to be hiding in garages with their heavily armoured explosive-laden vehicles. Modified with armor at the front and cameras on the wing mirrors, they provide militants with a 360-degree view of the battlefield and are notoriously difficult to stop.

They wait as the Iraqi forces move slowly forward, seizing ground and minimizing the driving distance to strike.

If they launch too early, the SVBIED will be exposed to air strikes or anti-tank fire, the only two real ways of neutralizing the vehicle.

But hidden IS drivers may not know the exact location of the moving Iraqi forces or be familiar with the streets and or access routes to their targets.

This is where the UAV is the key component to the attack.

The operators of the UAV act as navigators for the suicide driver; guiding him by radio or cell phone through battle-worn streets, they can help deliver the driver to his intended target with greater efficiency and accuracy.

This is a deadly combination.

The coalition has attempted to blanket all of Mosul in a red no-fly zone for commercially purchased UAVs, but this has been thwarted by either smart software adjustments to the unit or by placing aluminum material over the GPS.

Other methods have included the Battelle Drone Defender gun (hand portable beam type weapon) and the Spynel infrared camera, which is used to locate incoming UAVs. Both have been very limited, as UAV use is usually confined within a few hundred meters at the very front of the fight where these systems are not always deployed.

If an IS UAV is sighted, the immediate response by Iraqi forces is to engage it with small and heavy weapons, a difficult shot when aiming at a high flying fast moving object of no more than a meter wide.

After the firing has stopped, all attention shifts to street level as experienced operators know the next thing coming will be more deadly.

Many harmless recreational drones have now become deadly tools of war.

The various developers of these off-the-shelf UAVs probably never envisaged that their products would be used in a lethal cat and mouse hunt through Mosul’s war-torn streets.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Allied’ is a captivating story of love and betrayal during WWII

The truest human vulnerability is that we fall in love.


There are many cliches that explore this strange tendency, but here’s one: “All’s fair in love and war.”

I’ve never really felt comfortable with this sentiment; after all, we have protocols like the Geneva Conventions to very specifically dictate what is NOT fair in war. As for matters of the heart, we have only our own moral constructs — and trust in others.

But what happens when that trust is shattered?

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
Brad Pitt plays Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard plays Marianne Beausejour in ‘Allied’ from Paramount Pictures.

From Oscar winner Robert Zemeckis, “Allied” begins with the perspective of actor Brad Pitt’s Max Vatan, a man trained by the British Special Operations Executive to infiltrate occupied Casablanca during World War II to assassinate the German ambassador.

To accomplish this mission, he is partnered with Marianne Beauséjour, a captivating and brilliant French resistance fighter played by the exquisite Marion Cotillard. True to history, their cover story was for the pair to pose as a married couple, bringing them together in intimate proximity, which ultimately leads to a very real romance — or so it seems.

” ‘Allied’ is absolutely a story of betrayal and that’s the universal theme of this film: how we react when we start to think someone we love isn’t who they say they are,” Zemeckis said.

The charisma of Cotillard’s performance is matched by the growing suspicion that she is keeping secrets, which, when set against the backdrop of World War II, literally could mean life or death for our heroes — and their countries.

The tension in this film is beautifully balanced by the sensual chemistry of its two leads, the eloquent cinematography, and the expert sound design (most notably demonstrated in a sandstorm during one of the best love scenes I have ever watched). Everything about this film was lovely, from the costume design to the sweeping set pieces to the dreamy color palette. Even the intense portrayal of the London Blitz was spectacular.

“Allied” is compelling and evocative, and though it has the high stakes of war, it is truly a story about love and trust. The tension builds slowly then erupts in an emotionally charged but satisfying ending.

It is surely an awards contender.

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Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator

In 1945, Sid Shafner, a member of the U.S. Army with the 42nd Infantry Division, liberated Marcel Levy from Dachau Concentration Camp in southern Germany. This month — just over seventy years later — the two met again.


Friends of the Israel Defense Forces sponsored the Denver, Colorado resident and his family on an eight-day trip to Israel and Poland as part of it’s “From Holocaust to Independence” delegation to Poland and Israel. The World War II veteran was honored at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony for his helping to set approximately 30,000 prisoners free. Marcel Levy was one of those who is alive today as a result of the Allied Forces’ heroic and compassionate efforts.

In an interview with ABC, Peter Weintraub, president of the organization who sponsored the trip, said the two men met for the first time when Shafner’s convoy was stopped near Marcel Levy who asked that Shafner and his men leave their route and help the prisoners – to which they agreed. The two men became friends.

On May, 10th at an Israeli military base, Levy, 90, who walks with a cane and Shafner, 94, who is in a wheelchair – had a reunion filled with tearful embraces that was captured on camera. Weintraub told ABC that Levy told Shafner, “Everything I have today, all of my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, is due to you, Sid.”

This was the first time the organization reunited a survivor with his or her liberator.

Watch:

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Here’s how ISIS tries to inspire ‘lone wolves’ like the Orlando shooter

ISIS is quickly losing ground in the Middle East thanks to American and Russian airstrikes and Kurdish, Iraqi, and Syrian ground forces. The so-called caliphate is on the ropes and it looks like it may actually fall. But even as its armies fall back under attacks from the Islamic coalition, adherents to ISIS’s violent philosophy have launched deadly attacks in western countries. The bloodiest was in Paris in 2015 where 130 were killed. More recently, 49 Americans were killed on June 11 during an attack on the patrons of an Orlando nightclub.


To carry out violent attacks across the world despite being surrounded at home, ISIS relies on two groups of potential terrorists. The first is ISIS members who fought in Iraq and Syria to launch attacks abroad, such as Mohamed Abrini and Najim Laachraoui. These two men were suspected members of ISIS who played key roles in the Brussels bombings in 2016. Intelligence agencies track people returning from Iraq and Syria and had flagged both men.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom

The second group ISIS relies on is harder to track, though usually less trained than veterans of the Iraq and Syria conflict. These are disenfranchised, unhappy Muslims or potential conflicts living in countries that ISIS would like to target. Rather than trying to send fighters to all the countries they would like to attack, ISIS sends its propaganda to those countries and tries to find potential terrorists who just need a few nudges into radicalization. Only a few will actually decide to become terrorists, but each of those is another potential terrorist like the San Bernadino or Orlando shooters.

And ISIS has some impressive propaganda with which to radicalize these future terrorists. First, it publishes a slickly-edited magazine that currently has 14 issues. “Dabiq” has a number of recurring pieces that are aimed at potential fighters.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom

First, there are tips for traveling to Iraq and Syria to fight and support the caliphate, something ISIS considers the duty of all Muslims. Muslims who refuse to do so are “apostate,” a status punishable by death. Next, Dabiq regularly features articles glorifying fighters who have died for ISIS, especially those who died in a terror attack. Finally, it routinely runs articles about how great it will be when the U.S. invades.

No joke. ISIS is actively campaigning for an open war with the West. The name Dabiq is actually the name of the land where ISIS thinks the “crusader” armies will burn. Every issue opens with this quote:

The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify — by Allah’s permission — until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
This as-hole was featured in a Dabiq magazine graphic. Photo: Dabiq magazine via the Clarion Project

This prophecy is detailed in issue four of the magazine and calls for an 80 countries to send 12,000 troops each from the West into Dabiq as a coalition against ISIS. According to the prophecy, the Arabs will defeat the coalition in the first stage of the apocalypse and then march victoriously into Constantinople (now Istanbul) and Rome.

The magazine is spread throughout the world and translated into Arabic, English, French, and German. These translations are expertly done. The English version reads like it was written by a native-born English speaker, and it might have been.

ISIS has adherents from around the world as well as hostages it can rely on to make sure its message is perfectly pitched to different countries. “Jihadi John,” the British-born ISIS executioner killed in a drone strike in 2015, was in charge of making sure propaganda aimed at English-speakers was effective. And ISIS can also lean on British journalist and hostage John Cantlie who was captured in 2012 with James Foley.

Cantlie is especially interesting since he often writes for Dabiq and sometimes hosts videos that spout ISIS propaganda. Former hostages who knew Cantlie in captivity have said that he is regularly beaten and starved off-camera, but his words seem authentic when he delivers them. This is thanks to the magic of editing.

But, while Cantlie is definitely edited, ISIS doesn’t do it the way you might imagine. They allow Cantlie to call them all terrorists and to write about ISIS fighters dying as long as he also condemns America for airstrikes and talks about government services offered by ISIS.

Issues of the magazine and other propaganda talking points are spread through the use of social media, pro-ISIS websites, and the dark web. The terrorist group’s Twitter game was legendary until the social media company and hackers began shutting down the accounts as fast as ISIS supporters could open them. While this leaves the total number of ISIS accounts about level, it reduces the number of followers each account can get before it is deleted, lowering the group’s reach.

Finally, ISIS directs many potential recruits to videos of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born imam who spent most of his formative years in Yemen. Al-Awlaki was known for spouting a particularly violent interpretation of Islam and was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom

Al-Awlaki had connections to some of the 9/11 hijackers, the 2009 Fort Hood shooter, and the attempted downing of a plane in 2009 by a bomber wearing explosive underwear. Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, was known to have watched al-Awlaki videos. While al-Awlaki is dead, many of his lectures are still available on YouTube and other outlets.

Add YouTube and Twitter accounts and other propaganda outlets, and it’s easy to see how potential terrorists are able to find ISIS’s messages and continue down the road to radicalization.

Articles

This is why the US is considering sending weapons to Ukraine

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said August 24 the Trump administration is considering supplying weapons to Ukraine after a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev.


Mattis said he would return to the United States and advise leaders on what he learned during his visit to Ukraine.

Mattis’ trip is the first by a US defense secretary to Ukraine in more than a decade.

The meeting comes after US Treasury Department in June announced it would add 38 more individuals and entities to the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s list of those sanctions due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
A Ukrainian soldier with the 1st Battalion, 28th Mechanized Infantry Brigade fires a modified DSHsK heavy machine gun to cover the advance of fellow 1-28 soldiers during a live-fire training exercise. Photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones

The move is an attempt to pressure Russia into following Minsk Protocol cease-fire agreement.

Mattis said the United States will continue to pressure Russia because it is “seeking to redraw international borders by force.” The Pentagon chief said the United States will continue to pressure Russia until Moscow changes its behavior.

“The US and our allies will continue to press Russia to honor its Minsk commitments and our sanctions will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered them,” Mattis said.

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These are the 5 Russian generals already fighting the new Cold War

The dark origins of Bikini Bottom
Photo: Wikimedia Commons


The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) has prepared a dossier laying out evidence for what it calls “Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

The report alleges there are some 9,000 Russian troops deployed in Ukraine, forming 15 battalion tactical groups. The force includes about 200 tanks, more than 500 armored fighting vehicles, and some 150 artillery systems, according to the dossier.

The SBU also identifies by name five Russian generals who it says are playing leading roles in commanding and coordinating the military forces of the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Speaking to Bloomberg, New York University professor and specialist in Russian security services Mark Galeotti said that by “embedding their senior officers,” the Russians are solidifying control over the separatist portions of Ukraine.

“Somewhere in Moscow they have made the decision this will be a long-term frozen conflict,” Galeotti told Bloomberg.

Russia has consistently denied any military involvement in the conflict there.

RFE/RL takes a closer look at the six officers who have been implicated:

Major General Oleg Tsekov

Tsekov graduated from a military institute in Chelyabinsk in 1988. He then served in various parts of the Soviet Union and Mongolia.

He graduated from the Academy of the General Staff in 2011. The same year, he was appointed commander of the 200th motorized special-forces brigade of the Northern Fleet. In September 2014, the volunteer information service InformNapalm published evidence that the unit had been mobilized from Murmansk Oblast to Rostov Oblast, together with evidence that service personnel from the 200th had been identified in Ukraine.

Tsekov was promoted to major general (equivalent of a U.S. two-star general) on February 21, 2015.

The latest SBU dossier charges that Tsekov commands the so-called 2nd brigade of the separatist forces near Donetsk.

Major General Valery Solodchuk

Born in Astrakhan, Solodchuk graduated from the paratroops institute in Ryazan in 1992. In 2012, he was named commander of the 7th guards air-assault division based in Novorossiisk. A media reference in 2014 identified Solodchuk as deputy commander of the 5th Army in the Far East.

Digital-forensic investigators have drawn attention to a soldier of the 7th guards air-assault division named Stanislav Ramensky. He posted on social media several photographs that seem to have been taken in Crimea in March 2014, when Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine. He also published a photograph of the medal and certificate he was given on April 14, 2014, “for the return of Crimea,” which was signed by Solodchuk.

In an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta in March, Solodchuk was asked if the 7th guards air-assault division is a designated rapid-reaction unit within the Russian military. He answered that there are no such units and that the entire military is in a state of constant combat readiness. Asked if that meant that his unit is prepared to be ordered into battle at any moment, Solodchuk answered, “Exactly.”

The SBU dossier charges that Solodchuk is the commander of so-called 1st Army Corps of Novorossia in the Donetsk area.

Major General Sergei Kuzovlev

Sergei Kuzovlev was born in 1967 and graduated from the paratroops institute in Ryazan in 1990. He also studied at the Academy of the General Staff. He was promoted to major general in February 2014. Since 2014, he has been chief of staff of the 58th Army based in Vladikavkaz.

In January, the Ukrainian SBU released an audio recording that it alleged showed Kuzovlev organizing the military forces of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine. The SBU says Kuzovlev goes by the pseudonyms “Tambov” and “Ignatov.”

Major General Aleksei Zavizion

Aleskei Zavizion was born in Narva, Estonia, in 1965 and graduated from a military institute in Chelyabinsk in 1986. He served in the Far East, in Chechnya, and as commander of Russian forces in Tajikistan.

In 2009, he began studies at the Academy of the General Staff.

In March, Ukraine’s SBU claimed Zavizion, using the nom de guerre Alagir, directed the shelling of Kramatorsk and Mariupol. Referring to Zavizion, SBU official Markiian Lubkivskyi wrote on Facebook that “a citizen of the Russian Federation…with the call sign Alagir is currently in Donetsk within the rotational assignment of running the Operational Headquarters since January 2015, coordinating military operations with the participation of representatives of illegal armed formations.”

“Alagir is the person in charge of the deployment of artillery, mobile rocket systems, and heavy equipment,” Lubkivskyi continued. “Major bloody attacks on Ukrainian cities, particularly on Kramatorsk and Mariupol, were carried out under his direct command and coordination.”

Lubkivskyi also wrote that Zavizion was scheduled to be replaced by Russian Major General Andrei Gurulyov.

Major General Roman Shadrin

Roman Shadrin was born in Rostov Oblast in 1967 and graduated from a military institute in Kazan. He served in the Soviet contingent in East Germany after graduating in 1988. In 1995, he was awarded the Hero of Russia medal for his service during the first war in Chechnya. After service in Armenia and the North Caucasus, Shadrin was named deputy commander of Interior Ministry troops in the Urals region. In 2008, he served during the conflict with Georgia in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, after which he was promoted to major general.

In September 2013, he was elected to the Yekaterinburg City Duma from the ruling United Russia Party.

The SBU dossier says Shadrin is the so-called minister of state security for the self-proclaimed “Luhansk Peoples Republic” (LNR) in eastern Ukraine. According to a media report on July 3, Shadrin denies the allegation, saying he has only traveled to Ukraine’s Donbas region “with a humanitarian mission.”

The Yekaterinburg-based Novy Den news agency reported the same day that Shadrin has “repeatedly traveled to eastern Ukraine with humanitarian missions.” It also noted that Shadrin resigned as chairman of the city legislature’s security committee in January and quoted an unidentified source in the Yekaterinburg Duma as saying Shadrin “holds one of the top positions in the security service of the LNR.”

The same source said it is not known when Shadrin will return to his duties in Yekaterinburg, but there have been no efforts to strip him of his mandate.

Also from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Copyright 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.