Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Country leaders, some of them from authoritarian regimes, are being accused of using the coronavirus pandemic to consolidate power and crack down on dissenters.

In March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency that shut down the courts — including his own corruption trial — and allowed Shin Bet security forces to start tracking quarantine violators using their cellphones.


Later in the month, Hungary’s parliament voted to cancel elections, suspend its own legislative power, and grant Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the right to rule by decree indefinitely, all under the premise of fighting COVID-19. It also introduced five-year jail sentences for anyone spreading “fake news” about the virus.

Last week, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev authorized a rapid and strict military draft that the Defense Ministry said would ensure “the effective and complete protection of the health of our people.” Recruits are being charged with disinfecting spaces and patrolling streets during the lockdown.

Emin Abbasov, a human rights attorney in Azerbaijan, said emergency measures can threaten civil liberties anywhere. But the risk is greatest in countries with dictatorships and weak democracies.

“The restrictive measures imposed on civil liberties take place outside the accountability of those who exercise them — without effective parliamentary control and an independent judiciary,” Abbasov told Business Insider.

In many places, the situation is exacerbated by the absence of a free press.

“In the absence of such guarantees, people do not have the opportunity to assess the necessity, adequacy, and appropriateness of measures taken in the event of a pandemic,” Abbasov said.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Azerbaijan’s leader threatens to root out the country’s ‘enemies’

In his 16-year tenure as president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev has faced numerous accusations of corruption, including vote-rigging, human rights abuses, and involvement in a massive billion bribery scheme to whitewash the country’s image abroad. As COVID-19 spread in March, Aliyev warned the pandemic might require him to purge the nation of “enemies.”

“Where do these provocations come from? From the very fifth column, from the enemies who are among us,” he said during a March 19 speech to mark Nowruz, the Persian New Year. “The elements calling themselves opposition, the traitors who receive money from abroad. Their main goal is to destroy Azerbaijan.”

Aliyev added that he was considering a state of emergency and that, during the crisis, “the rules of completely new relationships will apply.”

Less than a week later, on March 25, police arrested opposition leader Tofig Yagublu on hooliganism charges that Human Rights Watch called “spurious.”

“The Azerbaijani government has a longstanding pattern of pursuing trumped-up charges against government critics in order to silence them,” HRW’s Giorgi Gogia said in a statement. “The case against Yagublu falls squarely in that pattern.”

That same month, police closed the offices of the opposition group D18 in Baku, saying activists could not “gather en masse,” even though only four members were present. Several days later, the group was evicted without explanation.

“President Aliyev clearly said that the new reality of the coronavirus does not tolerate the existence of an opposition,” Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova told Business Insider.

Ismayilova said others are being summoned to the police and threatened with arrest for writing social media posts about the coronavirus.

In El Salvador, swift action spurs accusations of a ‘political emergency’

A full week before El Salvador reported its first novel coronavirus infection, the National Congress approved President Nayib Bukele’s request for emergency powers — including closing schools and limiting free speech, assembly, and travel — to contain the disease. He implemented a nationwide lockdown on March 21, the same day the country reported its first COVID-19 patient.

“Looking at the measures that the president has taken, I think this is more of a political emergency than a public health emergency,” Mariana Moisa, an anthropologist in San Salvador and member of the Uncomfortable Feminist Collective, told Business Insider.

“At this moment when there’s a public health problem, they are putting more emphasis on the militarization of society than they are investing in the healthcare system. There’s no guarantee that our rights will be respected.”

Bukele promised a 0 stipend to day laborers struggling during the lockdown, but after aid centers became too crowded, he closed them and told citizens to go online or call a toll-free number. On March 30, police in San Salvador used pepper spray to disperse thousands of street vendors and others gathering to demand financial help.

In a televised address on Monday, Bukele warned that security forces would be cracking down further on quarantine violators: “The restrictions are the same, but we are going to be much tougher in enforcing them.”

Those who defy the order could have their cars confiscated or be taken to “containment centers” for 30 days, he said, according to Reuters. Bukele added that the lockdown was being extended for 15 days, and he outlined a plan to track virus carriers.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

A 14-year-old is among those arrested in Cambodia for talking about the pandemic

Cambodia reported 109 confirmed coronavirus cases on March 31, the same day its parliament submitted state-of-emergency legislation that would allow Prime Minister Hun Sen to order unfettered surveillance of telecommunications and censorship of media reports on COVID-19.

But civil rights activists worry that the measure, expected to pass on Friday, will grant Hun Sen far-reaching authority with little accountability.

“Instead of introducing a hasty and problematic law, the government should focus on enacting measures within their current powers in order to manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cambodian Center for Human Rights director Chak Sopeaph said.

“Now is a time for action, considered measures, and precautions — not a time for pushing a vague law through parliament that does not include any protections for human rights.”

Since the start of the year, at least 17 people have been arrested in the country for sharing information about COVID-19, Al Jazeera reported, including members of the defunct opposition group Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Most were released after signing pledges to not “spread fake news,” but those still in pretrial detention face charges of incitement, conspiracy, and spreading false information.

Police also arrested a 14-year-old girl who posted on social media that she was worried about rumors of a coronavirus outbreak at her school.

“The Cambodian government is misusing the COVID-19 outbreak to lock up opposition activists and others expressing concern about the virus and the government’s response,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Uganda is using the coronavirus to fuel homophobia, activists warn

In Uganda, where lawmakers once passed a bill punishing homosexuality with life in prison, the government is accused of using concerns about the virus to fuel homophobia.

On April 1, police raided a shelter for LGBT people in the town of Kyengera, detaining 20 people for failing to follow social distancing. But Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said those charges were only added later.

“A search was conducted in the shelter in order to find evidence of ‘homosexuality,'” Mugisha told Business Insider. “The mayor personally beat up at least two of those arrested as he questioned them about their homosexuality.”

President Yoweri Museveni closed schools, churches, and mosques before any COVID-19 cases were reported in Uganda. He also banned public rallies, elections, political gatherings, and weddings for 32 days, and instituted a broad travel ban.

“You have seen how airports were clogged with people. That crowding is the perfect ground for new infections,” he said in a March 18 address. “Let us, therefore, move early to avoid the stampede.”

Movie theaters, nightclubs, and bars were all shuttered for a month. “These are very dangerous gathering points with the virus around,” Museveni added. “Drunkards sit close to one another. They speak with saliva coming out of their mouth. They are a danger to themselves.”

After the first infection was confirmed, Museveni closed all of Uganda’s borders and police began impounding vehicles of residents trying to leave Kampala.

The question becomes: Will these leaders lift the harsh measures they implemented once the pandemic subsides?

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Image shows pair of black holes stuck in a collision between galaxies

It takes more than a billion years for a pair of galaxies to merge.

But in the constellation of Ophiuchus, about 400 million light-years from Earth, two galaxies are almost ready to become one.

The galaxies are in the process of violently crashing into one another. Astronomers estimate it will take them another 10 to 20 million years to fuse completely; at that point, they’ll form a new galaxy called NGC 6240.


Both galaxies contain a supermassive black hole in their center, and those are expected to merge as well.

This whole process is difficult to capture on camera, however. Black holes’ gravity is so strong that nothing can escape — not even light — so astronomers attempting to see them have to rely on light from the matter that gets sucked in (before it disappears). The first-ever photograph of a supermassive black hole was published in April 2019.

But an international team of astronomers recently captured a sharp photo that shows how two supermassive black holes are caught in the galactic collision that’s forming the NGC 6240 galaxy.

The astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a powerful telescope funded in part by the US National Science Foundation, to assemble the image. They presented their research at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday.

The black holes themselves aren’t visible in the photo, but you can see the glowing gas that surrounds them (the blue stuff in the images below).

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

NGC 6240 as seen with ALMA (top right) and the Hubble Space Telescope (bottom right).

(ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), E. Treister; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA/ESA Hubble)

That gas is located within the black holes’ “sphere of influence” — the innermost region of a galaxy where the black hole is the dominant force of gravity. The two black holes are feeding on the gas, which causes them to grow bigger as the galaxies merge. Previous images weren’t able to capture this gas in such detail.

‘A chaotic stream of gas’

Ezequiel Treister, an associate astronomy professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile, told the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) that the gas doesn’t form a rotating disk, as some scientists anticipated.

“We don’t find any evidence for that,” he said. “Instead, we see a chaotic stream of gas with filaments and bubbles between the black holes. Some of this gas is ejected outwards with speeds up to 500 kilometers per second. We don’t know yet what causes these outflows.”

Gas that isn’t ejected from the sphere of influence will likely get sucked into the black hole.

Revolve Around a Black Hole Accretion Disk in Amazing Visualization

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The black holes are less massive than researchers expected

The image also challenges astronomers’ ideas about the masses of these particular black holes. By observing the photo, the team found that a lot of the gas was stuck in the spheres of influence instead of the black holes themselves. That means the black holes are much less massive than anticipated.

Until recently, astronomers believed that the supermassive black holes in the NGC 6240 galaxy had a mass equivalent to about 1 billion suns. The new photo suggests, however, that the black holes are about as massive as a few hundred million suns.

The finding suggests black holes involved in other galaxy collisions could also be smaller than expected.

“This galaxy is so complex that we could never know what is going on inside it without these detailed radio images,” Loreto Barcos-Muñoz, a researcher at the NRAO, said in a statement. “We now have a better idea of the 3D structure of the galaxy, which gives us the opportunity to understand how galaxies evolve during the latest stages of an ongoing merger.”

Our own Milky Way galaxy is expected to merge with the nearby Andromeda galaxy in about 4 billion years.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 reasons why peacetime training actually matters

It’s easy to complain about training for a sh*t deployment to Okinawa, Japan, when there’s an active war going on that you would rather be fighting in. Realistically, training exists for a reason. If there wasn’t a solid reason for it, you’d go straight from boot camp graduation to combat, but, after centuries of warfare all over the world, we’ve learned a thing or two.

We get it. You didn’t join the military in the post-9/11 era just to be sent to some stable country in East Asia, but you knew the deal when you signed the contract: Where you go and what you do when you get there is officially no longer your choice after you set foot on those yellow footprints.

But just because there’s a war going on doesn’t mean your “peacetime” training is pointless or worthless. Here’s why:


Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Just cause you use fake rifles now doesn’t mean you’ll be doing it that way forever.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brendan Mullin)

So you don’t get complacent

It’s been famously said — complacency kills. If you get too used to training against a fictional enemy to the point of no longer putting forth effort, you’re just going to start performing that way. If you’re slacking when real bullets are flying, there’s a good chance you’ll f**k things up.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

You don’t want to be the unit that goes to combat only to get whooped by the enemy.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal)

So you’re prepared for the next real mission

You don’t train like you fight, you fight like you train. If you train like sh*t, you’re going to fight like sh*t. If you take every training event as seriously as real combat, your unit will be better off for it.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Depending on where you’re at and what you’re doing, chances are a mistake in training won’t get someone killed.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Christian Ayers)

So you can learn from your mistakes the easy way

If you step on a simulated IED, you won’t lose your limbs — but you’ll sure-as-hell remember the mistakes you made that led you there. This is a little bit easier than waking up in a hospital room wondering what you could’ve done differently.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Train your boots like their life depends on it.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dylan Chagnon)

So you can prepare the next generation 

Even if you never go to combat while you’re in, you’ll still be responsible for training the FNGs as they fill the ranks. But here’s the thing — they’re going to stick around long after you’re gone and they’re going to train the guys after them. This cycle continues until, eventually, someone goes to war — and they’ll have generations of experience at their backs.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Those Korean Marines just might experience some real sh*t after you leave.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

So you can prepare other countries

If you get the opportunity to train with another country, keep in mind that they might be using the knowledge they gain from you on a combat mission in the near future. You can teach them to be just as lethal on the battlefield as you are and they’ll get the chance to prove it.

Articles

Air Force seeks swarms of versatile Mini-Drones

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
Naval Research Labs


Air Force scientists and weapons developers are making progress developing swarms of mini-drones engineered with algorithms which enable them to coordinate with one another and avoid collisions.

Senior Air Force officials have said that the precise roles and missions for this type of technology are still in the process of being determined; however, experts and analyst are already discussing numerous potential applications for the technology.

Swarms of drones could cue one another and be able to blanket an area with sensors even if one or two get shot down. The technology could be designed for high threat areas building in strategic redundancy, Air Force Chief Scientist Gregory Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Groups of coordinated small drones could also be used to confuse enemy radar systems and overwhelm advanced enemy air defenses by providing so many targets that they cannot be dealt with all at once, he said.

Zacharias explained that perhaps one small drone can be programmed to function as a swarm leader, with others functioning as ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) platforms, munitions or communications devices. He also said there is great strategic and tactical value in operating a swarm of small drones which, when needed, can disperse.

“Do you want them to fly in formation for a while and then disaggregate to get through the radar and then reaggregate and go to a target? They can jam an enemy radar or not even be seen by them because they are too small. The idea is to dissagregate so as not to be large expensive targets. In this way if you lose one you still may have 100 more,” he explained.

An area of scientific inquiry now being explored for swarms of drones is called “bio-memetics,” an approach which looks at the swarming of actual live animals — such as flocks of birds or insects — as a way to develop algorithms for swarming mini-drone flight, Zacharias added.

“It turns out you can use incredibly simple rules for formation flight of a large flock. It really just takes a few simple rules. If you think of each bird or bee as an agent, it can do really simple things such as determine its position relative to the three nearest objects to it. It is very simple guidance and control stuff,” Zacharias said.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Also, small groups of drones operating together could function as munitions or weapons delivery technology.  A small class of mini-drone weapons already exist, such as AeroVironment’s Switchblade drone designed to deliver precision weapons effects.  The weapon, which can reach distances up to 10 kilometers, is engineered as a low-cost expendable munition loaded with sensors and munitions.

Air Force plans for new drones are part of a new service strategy to be explained in a paper released last year called “autonomous horizons.”  Air Force strategy also calls for greater manned-unmanned teaming between drones and manned aircraft such as F-35s. This kind of effort could help facilitate what Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said about mini-drones launching from a high-speed fighter jet.

In the future, fighter aircraft such as the F-35 or an F-22 may be able to control drones themselves from the cockpit to enhance missions by carrying extra payload, extending a surveillance area or delivering weapons, Air Force scientists have said.

Zacharias explained this in terms of developments within the field of artificial intelligence. This involves faster computer processing technology and algorithms which allow computers to increasingly organize and integrate information by themselves – without needing human intervention. Human will likely operate in a command and control capacity with computers picking the sensing, integration and organization of data, input and various kinds of material. As autonomy increases, the day when multiple drones can be controlled by a single aircraft, such as a fighter jet, is fast approaching.

Drones would deliver weapons, confront the risk of enemy air defenses or conduct ISR missions flying alongside manned aircraft, Zacharias explained.

Pentagon Effort

The Pentagon is in the early phases of developing swarms of mini-drones able launch attacks, jam enemy radar, confuse enemy air defenses and conduct wide-ranging surveillance missions, officials explained.

The effort, which would bring a new range of strategic and tactical advantages to the U.S. military, will be focused on as part of a special Pentagon unit called the Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO.

While the office has been in existence for some period of time, it was publically announced by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter during the recent 2017 budget proposal discussions. The new office will, among other things, both explore emerging technologies and also look at new ways of leveraging existing weapons and platforms.

Carter said swarming autonomous drones are a key part of this broader effort to adapt emerging technologies to existing and future warfighting needs.

“Another project uses swarming autonomous vehicles in all sorts of ways and in multiple domains.  In the air, they develop micro-drones that are really fast, really resistant.  They can fly through heavy winds and be kicked out the back of a fighter jet moving at Mach 0.9, like they did during an operational exercise in Alaska last year, or they can be thrown into the air by a soldier in the middle of the Iraqi desert,” Carter said. “And for the water, they’ve developed self-driving boats which can network together to do all kinds of missions, from fleet defense to close-in surveillance, without putting sailors at risk.  Each one of these leverages the wider world of technology.”

Navy Effort

Meanwhile, the Office of Naval Research is also working on drone-swarming technology through an ongoing effort called Low-Cost Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Swarming Technology, or LOCUST. This involves groups of small, tube-launched UAVs designed to swarm and overwhelm adversaries, Navy officials explained.

“Researchers continue to push the state-of-the-art in autonomy control and plan to launch 30 autonomous UAVs in 2016 in under a minute,” an ONR statement said last year.

A demonstration of the technology is planned from a ship called a Sea Fighter, a high-speed, shallow-water experimental ship developed by the ONR.

Army Defends Against Mini-Drones

While swarms of mini-drones clearly bring a wide range of tactical offensive and defensive advantages, there is also the realistic prospect that adversaries or potential adversaries could use drone swarms against the U.S.

This is a scenario the services, including the Army in particular, are exploring.

The Army launched swarms of mini-attack drones against battlefield units in mock-combat drills as a way to better understand potential threats expected in tomorrow’s conflicts, service officials said.

Pentagon threat assessment officials have for quite some time expressed concern that current and future enemies of the U.S. military might seek to use massive swarms of mini-drones to blanket an area with surveillance cameras, jam radar signals, deliver weapons or drop small bombs on military units.

As a result, the Army Test and Evaluation Command put these scenarios to the test in the desert as part of the service’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

The mini-drones used were inexpensive, off-the-shelf commercial systems likely to be acquired and used by potential adversaries in future conflict scenarios.

The drones were configured to carry special payloads for specific mission functions. Cameras, bomb simulators, expanded battery packs and other systems will be tested on the aircraft to develop and analyze potential capabilities of the drones, an Army statement said.

The mini-drones, which included $1000-dollar quadcopters made by 3-D Robotics, were placed in actual mock-combat scenarios and flown against Army units in test exercises.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

“Acting as a member of the opposing force, the drones will be used for short-range missions, and for flooding the airspace to generate disruptive radar signatures. They will also be used as a kind of spotter, using simple video cameras to try and locate Soldiers and units,” an Army statement from before the exercise said.

There were also plans to fit the drones with the ability to drop packets of flour, simulating the ability for the swarm to drop small bombs, allowing the drones to perform short-range strike missions, the Army statement said.

“Right now there’s hardly anyone doing swarms, most people are flying one, maybe two, but any time you can get more than one or two in the air at the same time, and control them by waypoint with one laptop, that’s important,” James Story, an engineer with the Targets Management Office, Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation, said in a statement last Fall. “You’re controlling all five of them, and all five of them are a threat.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet Julie Golob: Army veteran, professional shooter, NRA board member

When she was 8 years old, Julie Golob got an unexpected Christmas present from her grandfather — he had bought all his grandchildren life memberships to the National Rifle Association.

“He was an all-around Rush Limbaugh guy, World War II veteran, the guy back in the ’80s wearing the NRA cap when it wasn’t so popular. We weren’t exactly thrilled,” Golob said, laughing, “but I knew how much it meant to him, something he so believed in.”

Decades later, Golob is thankful for a gift that ended up reflecting so much of where life would take her.


Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Julie Golob is a decorated professional shooter for Team Smith Wesson.

(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)

Golob is now not only a recently seated member of the NRA’s Board of Directors, she is also a successful author and one of the most decorated female competitive shooters in America. She is the only woman to have won all seven divisions of the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) National Championships, as well as a multiple International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC) Ladies Classic title winner. In 2017, she won the gold in the Lady Classic division at the IPSC Handgun World Shoot.

Her career in competitive shooting began as a teenager in Seneca Falls, New York, where her dad taught her to shoot for fun and competition. She was recruited by the U.S. Army to join their shooting team after high school by enlisting to serve in the military police.

“The Army marksmanship unit was the cream of the crop,” Golob said, “so having a dedicated unit for shooters was definitely exciting. It was one of those things that I really needed to make the commitment for, signing up for five years to be a soldier in the Army.”

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

An AMU poster of Golob from 1999.

(Courtesy of Julie Golob)

But commitment is one thing Golob has never lacked when it comes to shooting. “Even as a kid,” Golob remembered, “I always wanted to be the best at something, and I was always frustrated that I couldn’t find out what that ‘best’ was. But when I found shooting, I realized that if I worked hard at it, I could set goals and I could meet them. And it’s that constant goal setting and achieving those goals that makes me feel very fulfilled. It gives me an empowered confidence.”

After her time in the Army, Golob took a break from shooting with the intention of becoming an English teacher — but she missed it.

“I missed the people in the sport the most,” Golob said. “I rediscovered all the reasons I enjoyed shooting from when I was a kid instead of doing it as a JOB job. I just did it for fun … and then it became a job again.”

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Golob is the only 7 Division USPSA Ladies National Champion; she also has over 140 major wins in state, regional, and international competitions and more than 50 national and world titles.

(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)

Golob also parlayed her shooting success into a second career as an author. Her first book, “Shoot: Your Guide to Shooting and Competition,” is a primer for anyone interested in learning more about the shooting sports.

Her second book grew out of the other most important role she plays: the mother of two young daughters. So she wrote “Toys, Tools, Guns, and Rules.”

“I was always finding resources that were for boys, dads and sons specifically,” Golob said. “And firearm safety is universal. It should be something every child learns. My husband is in law enforcement, so it’s a part of our lives. We always stop and answer the questions, they always know the rules, and it’s not anything that’s taboo.”

Her older daughter was 9 years old when they competed together in their first Empire Championship. “I love being a mom,” Golob said enthusiastically. “So being able to bring my daughter with me to a few competitions here and there is really icing on the cake.”

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

When not shooting, Golob participates in NRATV and posts tips and tricks to her own JulieG.TV YouTube channel. Golob also advocates for the Second Amendment as a guest on podcasts and TV shows.

(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)

As another platform to further the understanding of and support for the shooting sports, Golob ran for and was elected to the NRA’s Board of Directors. She hopes the position will allow her to advocate to increase participation in shooting sports.

“I never even realized how many wonderful programs we have until I became a director, but we really need to connect the dots between those programs and the people who might be interested in them,” Golob said. “It’s not an ad on social media and that sort of thing — we really need to get back to that grassroots level, help the local clubs connect and reach the people in their communities.”

Although approximately only 10 percent of gun owners belong to the NRA, Golob is bullish on their role as “the lead organization, fighting the fight at the highest levels.” When asked why some gun owners might be skeptical about joining, she mused, “I think it comes down to identifying with a specific group. I do understand — I don’t agree with absolutely every message we put out. But we have 5 million members. That’s a huge number of voices. As a collective group, we are very, very powerful.”

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

“I love the thrill of competing and testing my skills on a challenging course of fire,” Golob wrote on her website’s blog at the end of the 2018 shooting season.

(Photo courtesy of Julie Golob)

Golob also is sympathetic to people who do not view the Second Amendment in the same way that she and the rest of the NRA’s membership do. “At the end of the day we all want the same things,” Golob said. “We want people to be safe, we want people to feel the world is a good place to live in, and we don’t want horrible things to happen. It’s just the direction of how we get there. We need to maybe not head in the opposite direction but maybe just take a whole new direction.”

To Golob, that new direction involves open communication between dissenting groups. While she is uncompromising on her wholesale support for the Second Amendment, she recognizes that the NRA may need to work harder to spread their message to skeptics. “We need to do a better job of connecting with people who have that emotional reaction and let them know that we are all on the same side,” she sad. “But the challenge is getting in the room. We’ve got to get in the room.”

At an age where many professional athletes hit “the mark of the slow decline,” as Golob laughingly described it, she somehow finds a way to balance her responsibilities as a shooter, a mom, an author, and now an NRA board member.

“When I was in the military,” she said, “I went to 24 matches in a year. And I don’t know if I want to live that life right now.”

SHOT Show 2019!!! | JulieG.TV

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

Articles

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

Veterans are likely to play a significant part in what has been called “the Moon shot” in cancer research — the plan announced by President Barack Obama last week for a cancer fight effort to equal the country’s determination to put a man on the moon during the 1960s.


Fittingly, the veterans’ role in the cancer Moon shot, as well as in scores of other research projects into illnesses that impact vets and non-vets alike, will be doing something they were prepared to do back in their active duty days: shed some blood.

“When they realize that this could help other veterans most of them volunteer right away” when asked, VA Secretary Bob McDonald said during a visit to the VA Medical Center in Boston on Friday, when he toured the lab and growing biorepository.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Jeremy L. Grisham | U.S. Navy

The VA project, called the Million Veterans Program, predates the cancer Moon shot by six years. Its goal is to collect blood samples — and with it the DNA — of at least a million veterans, and use it to research illnesses, including at the genetic level.

“This is fascinating what they’re doing here,” McDonald said. “The whole role of genomics will be huge in, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted you to see this, because I think the work of the Million Veteran Project underscores the importance of genomics in the Moon Shot in eradicating cancer.”

It is veteran-centric, for sure, and already is being used in alpha and beta projects that focus on veteran issues, according to the VA.

The veterans’ blood samples, informed by medical health records that, depending on the veteran, may go back 20 or more years, could hold the key to understanding causes and discovering treatments and cures for myriad illnesses. The VA is looking at some 750,000 genetic markers that medical researchers believe could be linked to illnesses that plague veterans, ranging from cancers to heart disease, kidney disease to post-traumatic stress disorder.

To date, the effort has collected close to 445,000 vials of blood, each one spun in a centrifuge prior to storing to divide red cells, white cells and plasma. The vials are kept in an oversized refrigeration unit within a lab at the hospital.

Although the project name suggests it will store a million samples, it will continue to grow the biorepository as long as there is funding support and vets who volunteer.  There is storage space for several million samples. During a tour of the lab, McDonald climbed a ladder to look into the storage site, where a robotic arm, kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius, plucked newly deposited vials one at a time from small containers and moved them into trays that were then automatically transferred into the unit and stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius.

“When I do my recruiting speech to try to attract people to VA, this is exactly the issue — come be on the cutting edge, the tip of the spear [in medical research] that can make a difference in so many people’s lives,” McDonald said.

The department has spent about $130 million on the program since it began laying the foundation for it in 2010. Its nearly 445,000 samples have come from nearly 245,000 veterans. It currently is getting in about 100,000 samples per year, which means it will hit the million mark around 2022.

They hope the speed that up by opening the program to active-duty personnel. The VA estimates that would add an additional 25,000 samples a year to the collection and perhaps allow them to reach one million by 2020, said Dr. Mary Brophy, director of the biorepository.

Because the donations are for research purposes, neither the VA nor the Defense Department can simply request use of a veteran’s or service member’s blood for the project.

Donors — strictly veterans right now — may volunteer for the project at a number of VA sites across the country. In signing up, they are told their blood and medical information will be shared with researchers and that they may not benefit directly or immediately from any of the research.

But their identities are masked on the samples, so that researchers do not know whose blood or DNA they are working with. For its part, the VA does retain a link between the sample code and the veteran so that changes in health or long-term effects of drugs and medications can be incorporated into the veteran’s research profile.

While Britain began building its own biorepository before the U.S. and currently has more samples –about 500,000 — the VA is quickly catching up and will pass that number.

It’s not only because the veterans have volunteered in such large numbers, but because VA has been able to build the computing capacity to handle the data.

“It’s not just the samples, it’s the informatics platform. The reason VA can do that better than anyone … is that we have an electronic health record,” she said. “We have the health record already in a data base, and it’s been around for 20-30 years.”

The British Health System — it does not have a separate system for veterans – is largely decentralized, with many medical records still in paper form and residing in doctor’s offices across the country.

Not only has an existing data base of electronic records and a willing veteran population allowed VA to rapidly build its biorepository, it has already provided the VA enough samples and data to launch several research studies of benefit to veterans.

The projects include cardiovascular risk factors among African American and Hispanic Americans, to determine how genes influence obesity and lipid levels affect the heart; an examination of genetic risk from chronic use of alcohol, tobacco and opioids; and a study into how genes affect the risk and progression of kidney disease — a major risk factor for veterans, according to researchers.

The biorepository is essentially one-stop shopping for a specific patient cohort and control group for any research institution wanting to investigate an illness or try out a new drug, according to Brophy.

“If I want to do a study in Gulf War Illness, before I would have to go out and find all these patients with Gulf War Illness, do it myself, Then get the samples, store it and send it out” to research lab, she said. The biorepository eliminates those time-consuming steps, she said, by making VA the go-to place for medical researchers.

Now, she said, if a research lab needs 5,000 patients with Gulf War Illness, it can get that cohort from the VA, as well as a control group without Gulf War Illness.

“The infrastructure is there to do key PTSD research, Gulf War Illness research. The hard work of getting people together, knowing who has Gulf War Illness [is done],” she said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Shop these 6 veteran-owned businesses on Small Business Saturday

Whether you’re an avid leave-at-three-in-the-morning-and-stand-outside-Walmart-for-hours kind of shopper or more of the hell-no-I’m-not-leaving-my-couch kind, save your money on Black Friday and spend it all the next day: Small Business Saturday. Specifically, spend your money with these 6 veteran-owned businesses for everyone on your holiday shopping list:


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Death Before Decaf mug

Blue Angel Coffee

For the coffee lover:

Blue Angel not only has awesome coffee, but their merch is some of the best around. Who doesn’t need a mug that says “Coffee because crack is bad for you,” or “Death before decaf,” among other hilarious quips?

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The Lower 48 in Alder

Dark Horse Wood

For the patriot:

We know you love ‘Merica more than anyone and most of the people in your life do too. Nothing says pride like hanging The Lower 48 in Alder on your wall for all to see. Beautifully handmade by Dark Horse Wood, this gorgeous craftsmanship is a gift that will keep on giving.

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Rumi Spice Blend Gift Box

Rumi Spice

For the cook:

The best kind of presents are ones that you can feel good about gifting. Rumi Spice was founded by veterans to connect Afghan farmers with the global food market to lay down a foundation for peace, one flower at a time. “Spice for good” sounds like something we can get behind—and that we can use as stocking stuffers. With Afghan saffron, wild black cumin and spice blends, the artisan chef in your family will appreciate not just the spices, but the meaning behind them as well.

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USMC MRE T-shirt

Military Muscle

For the Marine:

Have that buddy you love to make fun of? Buy him this t-shirt from Military Muscle that has a box of crayons on it labeled USMC MRE (you’re welcome). Plus, you can feel good about it. For every t-shirt purchased, Military Muscle donates one to either someone deployed or a homeless vet.

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Leadslingers Bourbon Whiskey

Leadslingers Whiskey

For the bourbon lover:

If you’re looking for a smooth, tasty bourbon, look no further than Leadslingers to make your holiday spirits bright. With a light bourbon flavor born from its single barrel aging process, it’s double distilled and handcrafted in Moore, Oklahoma. It’s got top shelf flavor without the hefty price tag. It “melds sophistication and down home flavors, delivering hints of oak, toffee and vanilla; it’s sure to satisfy even the most distinguishing taster.”

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The Krypteia

Toor Knives

For the outdoorsman:

What’s better than knife hands? An actual knife. Toor Knives gives you mount, engraving and sheath options, allowing you to build a customized knife and a one-of-a-kind gift.

Whether you start your holiday shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving or would rather procrastinate until Christmas Eve, you do you… and do veteran-owned too.

Articles

This Air Force general could be the first female chief of staff

General Lori Robinson experienced a meteoric rise through the ranks of the U.S. Air Force. From 2012-2014, she added a star per year to her epaulets. She was the deputy commander of the USAF’s CENTCOM area of responsibility and the vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s global strike force. She became the first female to command USAF combat forces when she took over Pacific Air Forces, which controls Air Force operations from the United States to the east coast of Asia and from Antarctica to the Arctic Ocean.


Now, she’s poised to make history again in 2016.

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn
We assume she drops the mic at the end of her speeches. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Stewart/Released)

The current Air Force Chief of Staff (CSAF), General Mark Welsh III, is set to retire in the summer, and Robinson is on the short list to replace him.

She’s also in the running to head the U.S. Northern Command, which would make her the highest ranking combatant commander, tasked with defending the contiguous United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico.

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Robinson is also a unique choice because she would be the first non-pilot to be named CSAF. Her experience, however, includes more than 900 flight hours as a “senior battle manager” in the E-3B/C and E-8C aircraft.

“As far as the woman part of it all, I’m the commander at Pacific Air Forces,” Robinson recently said during an interview. “I’m a general of the United States Air Force; I’m an airman, and I happen to be a woman.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

America’s crazy flying aircraft carriers could have actually worked

As the United States shifts its posture away from ongoing counter-terror operations and back toward great power competition with nations like China, the U.S. is being forced to reassess it’s aircraft carrier force projection strategy. If U.S. carriers find themselves on the sideline for such a conflict, it may be worth revisiting the idea of a different kind of aircraft carrier: the flying kind.

China’s arsenal of hypersonic anti-ship missiles have created an area denial bubble that would prevent American carriers from sailing close enough to Chinese shores to launch sorties, effectively neutering America’s ability to conduct offensive operations against the Chinese mainland. Without the ability to leverage the U.S. Navy’s attack aircraft, combat operations in the Pacific would be extremely difficult. It is, however, possible (though potentially impractical) to develop and deploy flying aircraft carriers for such a conflict–the United States has even experimented with the concept a number of times in the past, and is continuing to pursue the idea today.

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Gremlins air vehicle during a flight test at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, November 2019 (DARPA)

DARPA’s Gremlins Program

The most recent iteration of a flying aircraft carrier comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and has seen testing successes as recently as January of this year.

In January, DARPA successfully launched a Dynetics’ X-61A Gremlin UAV from the bay of a Lockheed Martin C-130A cargo aircraft. The program is aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of low-cost combat-capable drones that can be both deployed and recovered from cargo planes. DARPA envisions using cargo planes like the C-130 to deploy these drones while still outside of enemy air defenses; allowing the drones to go on and engage targets before returning to the airspace around the “mother ship” to be recaptured and carried home for service or repairs.

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The test showed that a drone could be deployed by the C-130, but the drone itself was ultimately destroyed when its parachute failed to open after the completion of an hour-and-a-half flight. A subsequent test that would include drone capture was slated for the spring of this year, but has likely been delayed to due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Between the success of this test and other drone wingman programs like Skyborg, the concept of a flying aircraft carrier has seen a resurgence in recent years, and may potentially finally become a common facet of America’s air power.

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The plan to turn a Boeing 747 into a flying aircraft carrier

The Boeing 747 has already secured its place in the pantheon of great aircraft, from its immense success as a passenger plane to its varied governmental uses like being a taxi for the Space Shuttle or as a cargo aircraft. The 747 has proven itself to be an extremely capable aircraft for a wide variety of applications, so it seemed logical when, in the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force began experimenting with the idea of converting one of these large aircraft into a flying aircraft carrier full of “parasite” fighters that could be deployed, and even recovered, in mid-air.

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Boeing AAC design sketch

Initial plans called for using the massive cargo aircraft Lockeed C-5 Galaxy, but as Boeing pointed out at the time, the 747 actually offered superior range and endurance when flying with a full payload. According to Boeing’s proposal, the 747 could be properly equipped to carry as much as 883,000 pounds.

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Sketch of a micro fighter inside a 747 fuselage.

The idea behind the Boeing 747 AAC (Airborne Aircraft Carrier) was simple in theory, but incredibly complex in practice. Boeing would specially design and build fighter aircraft that were small enough to be housed within the 747, along with an apparatus that would allow the large plane to carry the fighters a long distance, drop them where they were needed to fight, and then recover them once again.

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This graphic from Boeing’s proposal shows different potential flying aircraft carrier platforms and their respective ranges. (Boeing)

Boeing’s 60-page proposal discusses the ways such a program could be executed, but lagging questions remained regarding the fuel range of a 747 carrying such a heavy payload and about how the fighters would fare in a combat environment. Previous flying aircraft carrier concepts showed that the immense turbulence from large aircraft (and their jet engines) made it extremely difficult to manage the fighters they would drop, especially as they attempted to return to the aircraft after a mission.

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Potential “micro-fighter” design (Boeing)

Further concerns revolved around how well these miniature “parasite” fighters would fare against the top-of-the-line Soviet fighters they would conceivable be squaring off with.

Ultimately, the proposal never made it off the page — but it did establish one important point for further discussion on this topic. According to the report, Boeing found the concept of a flying aircraft carrier to be “technically feasible” using early 1970’s technology. Technically feasible, it’s important to note, however, is not the same as financially feasible.

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(Concept illustration)

The insane Lockheed CL-1201: A massive, nuclear-powered flying aircraft carrier

The Skunkworks at Lockheed Martin have been responsible for some of the most incredible aircraft ever to take flight, from the high-flying U-2 Spy Plane to the fastest military jet ever, the SR-71. But even those incredible aircraft seem downright plain in comparison to Lockheed’s proposal to build an absolutely massive, nuclear powered, flying aircraft carrier–the CL-1201.

The proposal called for an aircraft that weighed 5,265 tons. In order to get that much weight aloft, the design included a 1,120 foot wingspan, with a fuselage that would measure 560 feet (or about two and a half times that of a 747). It would have been 153 feet high, making it stand as tall as a 14-story building. According to Lockheed, they could put this massive bird in the sky using just four huge turbofan engines which would be powered by regular jet fuel under 16,000 feet, where it would then switch to nuclear power courtesy of its on-board reactor. The flying aircraft carrier could then stay aloft without refueling for as long as 41 days, even while maintaining a high subsonic cruising speed of Mach 0.8 at around 30,000 feet.

The giant aircraft would carry a crew of 845 and would be able to deploy 22 multirole fighters from docking pylons installed on the wings. It also would maintain a small internal hangar bay for repairs and aircraft service while flying. Unsurprisingly, this design didn’t make it past the proposal stage, but the concept itself stands as a historical anomaly that continues to inspire renewed attention to this day.

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Convair GRB-36F in flight with Republic YRF-84F (S/N 49-2430). (U.S. Air Force photo)

The B-36 Peacemaker

This massive bomber weighed in at an astonishing 410,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel and ordnance (thanks to its large fuel reserves and 86,000 weapon capacity). Development of the B-36 began in 1941, thanks to a call for an aircraft that was capable of taking off from the U.S., bombing Berlin with conventional or atomic ordnance, and returning without having to refuel. By the time the B-36 made it into the air, however, World War II had already been over for more than a year.

The B-36 had a massive wingspan. At 230 feet, the wings of the Peacemaker dwarf even the B-52’s 185-foot wingspan. In its day, it was one of the largest aircraft ever to take to the sky. Despite it’s incredible capabilities, the B-36 never once flew an operational mission, but the massive size and range of the platform prompted the Air Force to consider its use as a flying aircraft carrier, using Republic YRF-84F Ficon “parasitic” fighters as the bomber’s payload.

The idea was similar to that of the later proposal from Boeing, carrying the fighters internally to extend their operational range and then deploying them via a lowering boom, where they could serve as protection for the bomber, reconnaissance assets, or even execute offensive operations of their own before returning to the B-36 for recovery.

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View of the YRF-84F from inside the B-36 — the pilot could enter and exit the cockpit from within the bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The U.S. Air Force ultimately did away with the concept thanks to the advent of mid-air refueling, which dramatically increased the operational range of all varieties of aircraft and made a flying aircraft carrier concept a less cost effective solution.

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Using rigid airships as flying aircraft carriers

Although we very rarely see rigid inflatable airships in service to national militaries today, things were much different in the early 20th century. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s airships (dubbed “Zeppelins”) were proving themselves to be a useful military platform thanks to their fuel efficiency, range, and heavy payload capabilities. These massive airships were not only cost-effective, their gargantuan size also offered an added military benefit: their vast looming presence could be extremely intimidating to the enemy.

However, as you may have already guessed, it was that vast presence that also created the rigid airship’s massive weakness: it was susceptible to being shot down by even the simplest of enemy aircraft. England was the first nation to try to offset this weakness by building an apparatus that could carry and deploy three Sopwith Camel biplanes beneath the ship’s hull. They ultimately built four of these 23-class Vickers rigid airships, but all were decommissioned by the 1920s. The U. S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics took notice of the concept, however, and set about construction on its own inflatable airships, with both the USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5) serving as flying aircraft carriers.

The airships were built with an apparatus that could not only deploy F9C-2 Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes, they could also recover them once again mid-flight. The airships and aircraft fell under the Navy’s banner, and the intent was to use the attached bi-planes for both reconnaissance (ship spotting) and defense, but not necessarily for offensive operations.

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USS Akron (ZRS-4) Launches a Consolidated N2Y-1 training plane (Bureau # A8604) during flight tests near Naval Air Station Lakehurst, New Jersey, 4 May 1932. (U.S. Navy)

The biplanes were stored in hangars on the airship that measured approximately 75′ long x 60′ wide x 16′ high — or big enough to service 5 biplanes internally.

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Sparrowhawk scout/fighter aircraft on its exterior rigging (U.S. Navy)

After lackluster performance in a series of Naval exercises, the Akron would crash on April 4, 1933, killing all 76 people on board. Just weeks later, on April 21, its sister ship, the USS Macon, would take its first flight. Two years later, it too would crash, though only two of its 83 crew members would die.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Huntsville, Alabama chosen to host US Space Command Headquarters

On January 13, 2021, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and U.S. Senator Richard Shelby announced that Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama was selected as the location for the United States Space Command Headquarters. “I couldn’t be more pleased to learn that Alabama will be the new home to the United States Space Command!” Governor Ivey said.

““This is outstanding news, not only for our state but also for the Air Force,” Shelby said. “This long-awaited decision by the Air Force is a true testament to all that Alabama has to offer. Huntsville is the right pick for a host of reasons – our skilled workforce, proximity to supporting space entities, cost-effectiveness, and quality of life, among other things. I am thrilled that the Air Force has chosen Redstone and look forward to the vast economic impact this will have on Alabama and the benefits this will bring to the Air Force.”

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Redstone Arsenal Gate 9 (U.S. Army)

Space Command was established in 2019 as a unified combatant command under the Department of Defense. The search for its headquarters’ location began in 2020. Potential sites were ranked based on room to grow, opportunity to add infrastructure, community support, cost to the DoD, and ability to support the command’s mission. 24 states initially competed to host the headquarters. In addition to Huntsville, finalist cities included Albuquerque, Bellevue, Cape Canaveral, Colorado Springs, and San Antonio.

The new command is expected to bring at least 1,600 new jobs to the local area, with more expected as its mission grows. Redstone Aresenal is already home to Army Materiel Command, Army Space and Missile Command, the Defense Intelligence Agency/Missile and Space Intelligence Center, and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. The FBI has also taken up residency at Redstone Arsenal as part of a strategic realignment of major assets including its cybersecurity operations. The bureau called Huntsville, “the Silicon Valley of the South.”

Historically, Huntsville has played a major role in America’s space presence since the 1950s. Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team of rocket scientists developed the Saturn V rocket that would take man to the moon in Huntsville. The space shuttle propulsion system was also developed there, and the city still hosts the U.S. Space and Rocket Center with its world-famous Space Camp.

Space Command is currently commanded by Army General James Dickinson and is located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. The command is expected to remain there for at least six years. The decision to move to Huntsville is still pending an environmental impact study. A final decision is expected to be made in spring 2023.

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USSPACECOM’s logo (U.S. Space Command)
MIGHTY TRENDING

How it feels for an airman to help rescue Thai kids from a cave

The Thai boys saved from a flooded cave endured dives in zero visibility lasting up to half an hour. In places, they were put into harnesses and high-lined across rocky caverns, said a leader of the U.S. contingent involved in the operation, calling it a “once in a lifetime rescue.”

Derek Anderson, a 32-year-old rescue specialist with the U.S. Air Force based in Okinawa, Japan, said the dozen boys, ranging in age from 11 to 16, and their coach, who were trapped for more than two weeks before being rescued, were “incredibly resilient.”

“What was really important was the coach and the boys all came together and discussed staying strong, having the will to live, having the will to survive,” Anderson told The Associated Press in an interview on July 11, 2018.


The scale of the challenge confronting rescuers from Thailand, Britain, Australia and other countries only truly dawned on the U.S. team after it arrived at the cave in the early hours of June 28, 2018, as rain poured down on the region in northern Thailand. The Thai government had requested U.S. assistance.

“The cave was dry when we arrived, and within an hour and half it had already filled up by 2 to 3 feet and we were being pushed out,” said Anderson, the son of missionaries, who was born in Syracuse, New York, and grew up in Ecuador.

“That was just in the very beginning of the cave and at that point we realized this problem is going to be much more complex than we thought,” he said.

Thailand’s decision to dive the boys out despite their weak condition and lack of diving experience was made when a window of opportunity was provided by relatively mild weather. A massive operation to pump water out also meant air pockets were created at crucial points of the cave, making a rescue possible.

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Falling oxygen levels, risk of sickness and the imminent prospect of more rain flooding the cave complex for months meant “the long-term survivability of the boys in the cave was becoming a less and less feasible option,” Anderson said.

Divers practiced their rescue techniques in a swimming pool with local children about the same height and weight as the members of the Wild Boars soccer team trapped in the cave.

The aim, Anderson said, was to make each of the boys “tightly packaged” so divers could keep control of them and adjust their air supply as needed. The process lasted hours for each boy, and involved them getting through long passageways barely bigger than an adult body.

Buoyancy compensators that establish neutral buoyancy underwater, hooded wetsuits, bungee cords and special face masks were carried by divers to the cramped patch of dry elevated ground where the boys were huddled.

The positive pressure masks were “really crucial,” Anderson said. Their use meant that even if a boy panicked — perhaps because of getting snagged in a narrow passage — and got water inside his mask, the pressure would expel it.

The complicated operation to bring the boys out of the cave began on July 8, 2018, when four were extracted. Four more were brought out on July 9, 2018, and the operation ended July 10, 2018, with the rescue of the last four boys and their 25-year-old coach.

The 18-day ordeal riveted much of the world — from the awful news that the 13 were missing, to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found by a pair of British divers nearly 10 days later.

The group had entered the sprawling Tham Luang cave to go exploring after soccer practice on June 23, 2018, but monsoon rains filled the tight passageways, blocking their escape, and pushing them deeper inside in search of a refuge.

Initial attempts to locate the boys were twice unsuccessful because the force of cold hypothermia-inducing floodwaters rushing into narrow passages made them unpassable. Even as conditions improved, and divers began laying life-saving rope guidelines through the cave, it was perilous.

“In this type of cave diving, you have to lay line, rope, that’s your lifeline. You have to ensure when you go in you have a way out,” Anderson said. “They were making progress, but it was very little progress and they were exhausting themselves spending maybe five or six hours and covering 40 or 50 meters (yards).”

There were about a hundred people inside the cave for each rescue operation, Anderson said, and each boy was handled by dozens of people as their perilous movement through a total of nine chambers unfolded.

In some phases they were guided by two divers. In some narrow passages they were connected to only one diver. In caverns with air pockets they were “floated” through with the support of four rescuers. Some sections were completely dry but treacherously rocky or deep.

“We had to set up rope systems and high-lines to be able to safely put them in a harness and bring them across large open areas so they wouldn’t have to go all the way down,” Anderson said.

Cylinders placed at locations throughout the cave for replenishing the boys’ air supply were “jammed” with 80 percent oxygen instead of regular air because “that would plus up their oxygen saturation levels and that would be really good for them, their mental state,” he said.

“The world just needs to know that what was accomplished was a once in a lifetime rescue that I think has never been done before,” Anderson said. “We were extremely fortunate that the outcome was the way it was. It’s important to realize how complex and how many pieces of this puzzle had to come together.”

“If you lose your cool in an environment like that, there is a lot of bad repercussions,” he said.

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

Intel

These are the veteran stars of the GI Film Festival

The GI Film Festival is an annual event that introduces new and established filmmakers that honor the stories of the American Armed Forces.


“From the very beginning, it has been about fostering a positive image for men and women in uniform,” said Brandon Millet, co-founder and director of the GI Film Festival. “We’ve expanded that image to also connecting service members to society given that only one percent serve. We want people to come to the event and be highly entertained and walk away with a greater sense of appreciation for what are men and women in uniform do for us on a daily basis and if we accomplish those two missions we’re happy.”

The GI Film Festival is open to filmmakers of every level, from first-timers to veteran directors and producers. Here’s a short video featuring some of the directors, actors, and producers at the GI Film Festival this year:

NOW: The 18 funniest moments from ‘Generation Kill’

OR: Brad Pitt is starring as Gen. Stanley McChrystal in ‘War Machine’

 

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