A male cicada infected by massospora, a parasitic fungus (in white). WVU Photo/Angie Macias
A parasitic fungus can control the minds of cicadas, leading them to act like the undead.
Researchers at West Virginia University first discovered these “zombie cicadas” last summer. They found that the bugs douse other cicadas with spores that cause the same infection, so the scientists nicknamed the cicadas “flying salt shakers of death.” But they didn’t fully understand how the psychedelic fungus — named massospora — tricks cicadas into spreading the disease to so many healthy counterparts.
The possessed cicadas reemerged in West Virginia in June, giving the researchers a chance to answer that question.
In a recent study, scientists describe how massospora manipulates male cicadas into flicking their wings in a pattern that imitates females’ mating invitations. That sham siren call then lures in unsuspecting healthy males.
When the healthy males wander over and try to mate to with their infected brethren, the parasite gains a new victim.
The fungus tweaks cicadas’ behavior against its best interest
A swarm of cicadas take over a bush near Trenton, Ohio. Pat Auckerman/The Journal/AP
The most sinister aspect of massospora is that the fungus eats away at infected cicadas genitals, butts, and abdomens, replacing them with fungal spores.
The insects’ bodies “wear away like an eraser on a pencil,” Brian Lovett, a coauthor of the new study, said in a press release.
Lovett and his team found that even though infected cicadas can lose up to one-third of their bodies to the fungus, they continue to roam, fly, and fornicate as if nothing’s wrong. That maximizes the parasite’s spread.
To make matters worse, the infection causes cicadas’ libido to skyrocket — they “try to mate with everything they encounter,” the researchers said.
“It’s very clear that the pathogen is pulling the behavioral levers of the cicada to cause it to do things which are not in the interest of the cicada, but is very much in the interest of the pathogen,” Lovett said.
He added that this type of behavioral tweak is similar to how the rabies virus modifies its hosts’ behavior.
“When you’re infected with rabies, you become aggressive, you become afraid of water and you don’t swallow,” Lovett said. “The virus is passed through saliva and all of those symptoms essentially turn you into a rabies-spreading machine where you’re more likely to bite people.”
Zombie cicadas aren’t dangerous to people
The study also pinpointed when during their life cycle the cicadas may get infected.
Baby cicadas — called nymphs — spend the first 17 years of their lives underground, feeding on plant roots. According to Matt Kasson, another study author, some nymphs could encounter the fungus as they dig their burrows.
Brian Lovett holds up a cicada infected by massospora, a parasitic fungus. WVU Photo/Angie Macias
“The fungus could more or less lay in wait inside its host for the next 17 years until something awakens it, perhaps a hormone cue,” Kasson said in the release.
Alternatively, the nymphs might also get infected in their 17th year, on their way up to the surface.Either way, these infected cicadas are harmless to humans.
“They’re very docile,” Lovett said. “You can walk right up to one, pick it up to see if it has the fungus (a white to yellowish plug on its back end) and set it back down. They’re not a major pest in any way.”
Leadership is paramount to the success of any army. Leaders not only make life and death decisions but directly control the climate and quality of life of their subordinates.
But what is the real definition of leadership? Field Manual 6-22, Leader Development, defines leadership as “the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.”
We will discuss 12 fundamental leadership principles, as well as several educational and inspirational historical examples. Experienced leaders should already practice these principles; however, I have learned through personal experience never to assume anything. Therefore, we will start the series by examining the first four leadership principles — lead from the front, self-confidence vs. egotism, moral courage, and physical courage.
1. Lead from the front
Taught to lead by example, leaders inspire their soldiers to perform deeds of heroism and sacrifice, which often requires suppression of natural feelings such as fear. Leaders do not encourage their soldiers by saying, “onward,” but rather, “follow me,” the very apropos motto of the U.S. Army Infantry School.
To inspire troops, leaders must instill a pervasive attitude to motivate their troops to advance under withering fire or hold a seemingly untenable position. To accomplish this, leaders must be present at the forward edge of the battle area so their soldiers will follow their example and respect their judgment, leadership ability, and tactical knowledge.
2. Have self-confidence, not egoism
“As I gain in experience, I do not think more of myself but less of others.” -Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
While a platoon of soldiers is wary of going into action with an inexperienced leader, a smart platoon leader can mitigate this problem by seeking instruction and mentorship from the platoon sergeant, a role that noncommissioned officers have embraced since the rise of professional armies.
Any leader worth his stuff has confidence, but excessive egotism is usually indicative of a lack of assurance. A show of bravado in advance of a mission or the face of the enemy is acceptable; however, an abundance of cockiness is liable to portend a horrible day for all concerned. Below are examples of egotism that not only affected the leaders but their troops as well.
Gen. George S. Patton
-Gen. George S. Patton knew a thing or two about projecting confidence. He could change at will and put on his “war face,” followed by a speech, filled with “blood and guts,” to motivate his men.
Patton believed he was the most distinguished soldier who ever lived. He convinced himself that he would never falter through doubt. This faith in himself encouraged his men of the Second American Corps in Africa, and the Third Army in France, to believe they could achieve ultimate victory under his leadership.
3. Moral courage
“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”
Doing the right thing, regardless of the consequences, is moral courage. An outstanding example is Gen. George Washington, whose legacy as the commander of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States remains among the greatest in American history.
Washington was one of the most experienced military leaders in the Thirteen Colonies, having served with the English during the French and Indian War in 1755.
Selected as a delegate to the Continental Congress, he was selected as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in 1775. Although Washington lost most of the battles during the Revolutionary War, he kept the Army together and built a strong coalition with the French when they intervened in the war.
According to historian Gordon Wood, Washington’s most significant act was his resignation as commander of the armies — an act that stunned aristocratic Europe. Many believed Washington could have been a dictator if he had chosen so.
4. Physical courage
“There were all kinds of things I was afraid of at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean’ horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid, I gradually ceased to be afraid.” -President Theodore Roosevelt
Because the life of a soldier is fraught with danger, courage is a requirement for every military leader. soldiers, who do their duty regardless of fear and risk to life or limb, perform bravery on the battlefield. As a result, there are numerous examples of the American soldiers’ courage.
For instance, during World War II, 2nd Lt. Audie L. Murphy became (at the time) the most decorated soldier in American history. Ironically, he had been turned down for enlistment by the Marines, Navy, and Army paratroopers because of his physique.
On January 26, 1945, at Holtzwihr, Germany, Murphy ordered his men to withdraw from an attack of enemy tanks and infantry. During the withdrawal, he mounted a burning tank destroyer and fired its .50 caliber machine gun for more than an hour, killing 50 Germans, stalling the attack, and forcing the enemy to withdraw. Although wounded, he led his men in a counterattack and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
As role models, leaders must lead from the front and display courage to motivate their soldiers. However, it is important to maintain an acceptable level of confidence without it turning into excessive egotism. There is no “I” in team and success comes as a result of the soldiers’ trust in their leader and their ability to work together.
5. Foster teamwork
“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” -President Harry S. Truman
When accomplishing the mission, teamwork is more important than personal recognition, thus the famous quote, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” Today’s military often functions in joint operations, which consist of other branches as well as coalition partners. Therefore, an experienced leader cannot favor individuals but must foster cooperation with all team members.
An excellent example of such leadership is General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, who despite the challenges of making multiple countries’ militaries work together during World War II, built a coalition of U.S., British, French, and Canadian forces.
“I could never face a body of officers without emphasizing one word — teamwork,” he said.
6. Have fitness and energy
“Utterly fearless, full of drive and energy, he was always up front where the battle was fiercest. If his opponent made a mistake, Rommel was on it like a flash.” -Lt. Gen. Sir Brian Horrocks
If leaders follow the principle of leading from the front, then they must be physically fit and energetic to meet the demands of leadership on the battlefield. Leaders who possess such endurance can lead a platoon of hard chargers to fix bayonets and take the high ground.
Former Olympic athlete Gen. George S. Patton advocated for fitness long before it became a standard requirement for the modern day soldier. Assuming command of the I Armored Corps on January 15, 1942, Patton laid out his expectations.
“As officers, we must give leadership in becoming tough, physically and mentally,” he said. “Every man in this command must be able to run a mile in fifteen minutes with a full military pack.”
When an overweight senior officer guffawed, Patton angrily resumed, “I mean every man. Every officer and enlisted man, staff and command, every man will run a mile! We will start in exactly thirty minutes! I will lead!”
7. Be aggressive and bold
“An army of deer led by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lions led by a deer.” -Phillip of Macedonia
A leader must be bold and aggressive. Many of history’s most triumphant generals, such as Frederick the Great and Adm. Horatio Nelson, to name a few, embodied these qualities.
-Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great built his army into the one of the most formidable in history. He was a bold general and used his infantry’s swift maneuvering to confound and crush his enemies. This was the case at three of his most significant victories: the Battle of Hohenfriedberg in 1745 and the battles of Rossbach and Leuthen in 1757.
The Battle of Prague (1757), in which Frederick invaded Bohemia during the Third Silesian War (Seven Years’ War) is a prime example of his audacity. With England as his only ally, he faced Austrian, French, Russian, Saxon, and Swedish forces, and though he came close to defeat many times, he finally won the war.
-Adm. Horatio Nelson
Considered one of the most historically audacious naval leaders, Nelson faced the “Armed Neutrality,” made up of the Russian, Prussian, Danish, and Swedish fleets, at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801.
The battle started badly for the British and the fleet commander, Adm. Sir Hyde Parker, ordered Nelson to withdraw. Nelson was informed of the signal by one of his officers and angrily responded, “I told you to look out on the Danish Commodore and let me know when he surrendered. Keep your eyes fixed on him.” He then turned to his flag captain, and said, “You know, Foley, I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes.” He raised the telescope to his blind eye and said, “I really do not see the signal.”
In the end, the British fleet won, thus making the Battle of Copenhagen one of Nelson’s greatest victories.
8. Take care of your soldiers
“The badge of rank that an officer wears on his coat is really a symbol of servitude to his men.” -Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor
A competent leader preserves combat power by putting his soldiers first and doing the most to improve their situation. You will gain soldiers’ trust by making sure they are well equipped, fed, and rested. Beyond meeting their basic needs, it is also essential to be an advocate and ensure they receive proper recognition for their achievements. The U.S. Army prioritizes this as “the mission, the men, and me.”
One of Alexander the Great’s leadership qualities was the ability to place his men first.
After covering more than 400 miles in 11 days, Alexander and his soldiers were nearly dead from thirst. Some Macedonians had brought back a few bags of water from a distant river, and they offered Alexander a helmet-full. Although his mouth was so dry that he was nearly choking, he gave back the helmet with his thanks and explained that there was not enough for everyone, and if he drank, then the others would faint. When his men saw this, they spurred their horses forward and shouted for him to lead them. With such a king, they said, they would defy any hardships.
Training and caring for your soldiers ultimately leads to unit success. It is crucial to remember there is no “I” in team and even the most well-known leaders, such as Eisenhower, needed to foster teamwork and unit cohesion to accomplish goals that would have been impossible to achieve otherwise. However, to create unity, leaders must have the determination and decisiveness to overcome challenges they and their units experience.
The General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.
(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Brett Walker)
9. Be a student of the past
“The only right way of learning the science of war is to read and reread the campaigns of the great captains.” -Napoleon
History offers a wealth of information to those who have the foresight to examine it. In addition to obtaining vital technical and tactical knowledge, soldiers can learn by studying how past leaders performed in the fog of war.
Gen. George Patton was a consummate warrior, known for studying history and acquiring an impressive library of professional military books during his lifetime. At an early age, he chose to become a soldier. His father nurtured him in the classics, as well as the lore of the Patton family, which was composed of military leaders, including two uncles who were Confederate officers killed in battle.
Unfortunately, Patton had dyslexia, a learning disability not well known or diagnosed at the time. He realized, however, that with determination and constant effort, he could pursue military studies and achieve his goal of becoming a great leader.
He understood the military profession required immense technical competence, knowledge of weapons and equipment, tactics and operations, and maneuvers and logistics. Therefore, he expended vast amounts of time and energy in reading and making copious notes in the pages of his books, making him not only familiar with the field and technical manuals of his time, but also knowledgeable about history.
10. Be decisive
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -President Theodore Roosevelt
In war, lack of decisiveness can have fatal consequences. Once you make up your mind, stick to your decision. Never show yourself to be indecisive.
When Julius Caesar refused to lay down his military command and return to Rome at the end of Gallic Wars, he said, “The die is cast,” thus making it clear that his choice was irrevocable.
In 1805, during the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon’s empire was threatened by England, Russia, and Austria. During this period, Napoleon was able to compel the Austrian army to surrender without firing a shot through rapid marching and maneuvers.
As a final example, in 1862, at the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War, Confederate mines blocked Union Adm. David Farragut’s path during an attempt to attack a Confederate Navy squadron to seize three forts guarding the bay entrance. In a decisive statement, Farragut said, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”
11. Show determination
“You are never beaten until you admit it.” -Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
A leader must show determination even when others do not. This “never say die” attitude is necessary for your soldiers to be tirelessly persistent during desperate, bleak, or challenging situations.
Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, is an excellent example. In December 1944, at Bastogne, Belgium, the Germans sent a demand for his surrender. He responded by saying, “Nuts.”
To articulate the resolve and determination of his countrymen, Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, gave a number of inspiring speeches during World War II:
-Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat
“I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs — victory in spite of all terror — victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, there is no survival.”
-We Shall Fight on the Beaches
“We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
-Their Finest Hour
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”
12. Be strong of character
“Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.” -Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Gen. of the Army Douglas MacArthur was a historical leader who embodied the definition of strong character. He was a renowned general who won many battles against numerically superior and better-equipped foes and was awarded the Medal of Honor for defending the Philippines during World War II.
MacArthur did not accept anything but the best, even during times of peace, which was evident when he trained the 1927 American Olympic team. With his commanding presence, he pulled together a strong team, retorting, “Americans never quit,” in response to the U.S. boxing team manager who wanted to withdraw from the competition due to an unfair decision.
In his acceptance speech for the Sylvanus Thayer Award, one of the most eloquent expressions of leadership principles ever delivered, MacArthur’s words speak to today’s soldiers, especially NCOs who are “warrior-leaders of strong character”:
“Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be … They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the Nation’s defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.”
It is a tremendous honor, as an NCO, to lead soldiers and along with this honor comes the responsibility to do it well. An ideal Army NCO has a sharp intellect, physical presence, professional competence, high moral character, and serves as a role model. He or she is willing to act decisively, within the intent and purpose of those appointed over them and in the best interest of the organization. They recognize organizations built on mutual trust and confidence accomplish peacetime and wartime missions.
An NCO, who is proficient in some of these 12 principles, but deficient in others, will have a detrimental effect on mission success, morale, and the efficacy of leadership. It is therefore imperative that all leaders build competency in all principles and become well rounded.
The men and women of the U.S. military have made countless sacrifices in the service of our great nation. They deserve the best leadership that we can offer, and it is our sacred duty to give it to them.
Logically speaking, there’s almost always a valid explanation for those bumps in the night — but there’s a sense of adventure that comes along with investigating the unexplained. The thrill of finding an explanation for the unexplainable (even if that explanation is otherworldly) is what brings together paranormal enthusiasts in the hunt for answers.
Veterans tend to be strong-willed people who have long immersed themselves in a culture in which death is never far from the mind. From battlefields to bases, many locales in the military world are home to the world’s most ghostly tales — and if you’ve ever been on an installation at night, you know there’s something undeniably eerie at work.
These veterans banded together over their love of the paranormal and have decided to look into the many oft-ignored (and never explained) supernatural military mysteries.
Yep. Still looks exactly like pretty much every S-6 shop in the Army.
(Courtesy of Military Veterans Paranormal)
The Military Veterans Paranormal (or MVP) are based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The group came together over a shared love for all things spooky and, today, have a legitimate operation going on. They catch word of possible paranormal activity, plan an investigation as if it were a conventional military operation, and then head out to find answers.
But to them, it’s far more than just the pursuit of ghosts — it’s also about the camaraderie that comes with operating as a unit. Founding member of the Military Veterans Paranormal, Mellanie Ramsey, told We Are The Mighty,
“We hope to show other veterans that there are other ways we can deal with PTSD and that just because you’re no longer in the military, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. Find a hobby, the more unique the better. We found a hobby that enables us to use the tools and skills we learned in the military and apply it to paranormal investigation. You can still have a mission, though it may no longer be combat related. We still matter and as long as we stick together to support one another, we can work to reduce the number of veteran suicides while still helping others and having fun. We’re proof the mission doesn’t have to be over just because you get out of service. It just changed.”
(Courtesy of Military Veterans Paranormal)
One of their recent investigations brought them to “The Birdcage” at Fort Campbell. It’s a part of the base that’s been abandoned since the Cold War — and if you believe the rumors, it’s the Army’s equivalent to Area 51. Of course, they don’t do anything without getting proper permission from the authorities and they do plenty of historical research ahead of time.
On record, The Birdcage was where the Army stored nuclear warheads — but countless paranormal sightings have been reported in the area. Everything from ghosts to aliens to magical forces have been attributed to this site. Naturally, the paranormal investigators had to check it out.
While there, they spotted a something in OD Green running. The description of their sighting exactly matches reports from a member of 5th Special Forces Group, who saw that very same something while running through the area. After a little more digging, MVP learned that a convicted soldier had died there while trying to escape the brig. During his escape, he accidentally crossed into The Birdcage, where a highly-electrified barricade ended his attempt — and his life.
Could the spirit of this convict still be roaming the area, long after his death? It’s hard to say for sure.
The group is very serious about their hobby, but they don’t pocket any of the money they raise through the investigations. To date, they’ve raised over ,000 for the Wounded Warrior Foundation.
If you’re interested in joining a paranormal investigation group — or if there’s something you think warrants checking out, visit Military Veterans Paranormal’s website.
“This is … how you say… the worst trade deal in the history of trade deals, maybe ever.”
America’s chief negotiator with the Taliban is Zalmay Khalilzad, who got torn a new one in the global press by Afghanistan’s national security advisor, Hamdullah Mohib. Mohib accused Khalilzad of trying to usurp power in the country by installing himself as a viceroy of a caretaker government. This caused the United States to demand an apology that never came.
Now Mohib, the only member of the Afghan government involved in talks with the Taliban, is being “frozen out.” Now that a draft agreement is in place, we know it’s an agreement that no Afghan official helped negotiate. Members of the Afghan government won’t even be allowed to sit at the table until they finalize this draft agreement.
Afghanistan is adorable.
For the internationally-recognized government of Afghanistan, the removal of American troops would be a disaster if done today. The Government only controls just under two-thirds of the population and just over half of the country’s administrative districts, according to a January 2019 report from the military’s Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.
In reply, the Pentagon sent out a statement refuting its own report: “Measures of population control are not indicative of effectiveness of the South Asia strategy or of progress toward security and stability in Afghanistan.”
Afghanistan’s army is losing soldiers at a rate of some 3,000 or more per month, due to desertions and ending reenlistments. It is currently at 87 percent strength and falling fast – because they get killed at an alarming rate.
Maybe China will do it better.
In exchange for the United States agreeing to a timetable withdrawal, the Taliban has agreed not to let Afghanistan become a hub for international terrorism, as it was in the days before the September 11th attacks on the United States. But the Taliban’s promises are problematic from the start – every leader of al-Qaeda has declared the leader of the Taliban to be the “Emir of the Faithful,” the mujaheddin equivalent of Caliph.
Osama bin Laden named Taliban founder Mullah Mohammed Omar the Emir. When those two died, their successors, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mullah Aktar Mansour, recognized each other’s leadership. Mansour died in an airstrike in 2016 and his replacement, Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, was named Emir by Zawahiri. You can’t really have one without the other.
According to a report by The Daily Beast, the information gathered in the aftermath of the raid — which resulted in the death Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator William Owens and injured several other troops — indicated that al-Qaeda had developed bombs that could fit inside laptop computers. An explosion on a Somali airliner last year was seen as a “proof of concept” for the new bombs, failing due to the low altitude of the plane.
The Daily Beast reported that the bombs must be manually triggered, prompting their ban from the aircraft cabins and carry-on luggage, but not from checked baggage. Wired.com reports that the American ban applies to inbound flights from eight predominately Muslim countries. The Daily Beast reported that the United Kingdom imposed a similar ban in the wake of the American one.
The Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for that airliner attack, which reportedly used PETN, the same explosive used by “shoe bomber” Richard Reid in 2002. As little as three and a haf ounces of PETN could bring down an airplane.
The Jan. 28 raid was controversial, not only for the death of Owens, but also due to civilian casualties, the unexpected heavy opposition, and the loss of a V-22 Osprey tiltrotor.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, labeled the operation a failure. President Donald Trump, though, called the operation a success, and also claimed that substantial intelligence had been gathered.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has targeted airliners in the past. In 2009, the terrorist group was involved in the plot to use an underwear bomb to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The device malfunctioned, injuring the terrorist.
The United States, France, and Britain are warning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad not to use chemical weapons as he launches a campaign to retake the last remaining rebel-held province in Syria.
In a joint statement issued late on Aug. 21, 2018, the three Western powers said “we remain resolved to act if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons again” as it embarks on a military offensive in Idlib Province after reasserting control over most other rebel-held areas of the country since 2017.
Assad’s forces have started heavily bombing and shelling Idlib, which lies next to the border with Turkey and where holdout rebels from all over the country were transported in recent months under Russian-brokered deals offering them safe passage to Idlib if they surrendered territory they once held around Damascus and other areas.
Assad’s assaults against major rebel strongholds in the country’s seven-year civil war have followed a pattern, with initial heavy bombing and artillery attacks followed by the alleged use of chemical weapons in an apparent attempt to intimidate rebels and force civilians to flee the area under siege.
In light of this pattern, the three Western powers stressed their “concern at the potential for further — and illegal — use of chemical weapons.”
The ruins of the 2018 American-led bombing of Damascus and Homs.
Britain, France, and the United States said that “our position on the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons is unchanged” since the three powers staged air raids in April 2018 to eliminate sites where chemical weapons allegedly were made, in response to an alleged chemical attack that occurred in Douma weeks earlier.
“As we have demonstrated, we will respond appropriately to any further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which has had such devastating humanitarian consequences for the Syrian population,” the three powers said.
Assad has denied using chemical weapons, and efforts by Western powers at the UN to rebuke Syria over alleged chemical attacks have been batted down by Syria’s biggest ally, Russia, in recent years.
The impasse at the United Nations is what led the United States, Britain, and France to act on their own in early 2018
The three allies released their warning to Syria on the anniversary of what they called a “horrific” sarin-gas attack in Ghouta outside Damascus that killed more than 300 people five years ago.
That attack, which the West blamed on Assad’s forces, led to a U.S.-Russian agreement to rid Syria of its chemical stockpile and its means to produce the deadly chemicals.
But despite the agreement, numerous chemical attacks have occurred since then, with most of them documented by the global chemical weapons watchdog and blamed on the Syrian government.
The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the situation in Syria in August 2018.
US senators have been advised not to use videoconferencing platform Zoom over security concerns, the Financial Times reports.
According to three people briefed on the matter, the Senate sergeant-at-arms — whose job it is to run law enforcement and security on the Capitol — told senators to find alternative methods for remote working, although he did not implement an outright ban.
With the coronavirus outbreak forcing millions to work from home, Zoom has seen a 1,900% increase in use between December and March to 200 million daily users. This has been accompanied by a string of bad press about its security and privacy practices, to the point where CEO Eric Yuan was forced to publicly apologize last week.
This week the company admitted to “mistakenly” routing data through China in a bid to secure more server space to deal with skyrocketing demand. “We failed to fully implement our usual geo-fencing best practices. As a result, it is possible certain meetings were allowed to connect to systems in China, where they should not have been able to connect,” Yuan said.
The news sparked outrage among some senators, and Senate Democrat Richard Blumenthal called for the FTC to launch an investigation into the company.
“As Zoom becomes embedded in Americans’ daily lives, we urgently need a full transparent investigation of its privacy and security,” the senator tweeted.
While the Senate has told its members to stay away from Zoom, the Pentagon told the FT that it would continue to allow its staff to use the platform. A memo sent to top cybersecurity officials from the Department of Homeland Security said that the company was being responsive when questioned about concerns over the security of its software, Reuters reported.
When it comes to things like air superiority, if you don’t have to think about it, you’re probably winning. The ground pounders in the Armed Forces of the United States have it pretty good in that regard. They can be reasonably sure that if they’re going into a combat situation, death will likely not be coming from above.
The Army and Marine Corps know they can count on airmen to have the best food and the worst PT tests, but as long as those airmen can lift bombs and bullets onto aircraft and get the stuff to the fight, everyone is blessed from on high. Everyone allied with the United States, that is.
But what happens to ground troops who can’t depend on US airpower to ensure “death from above” isn’t the last thing they hear? There are countries whose armed forces have to deal with things like that. Some countries go to war and send in ground forces without really thinking about an air force. If air power isn’t a priority, going to war in the 21st century is a terrible idea.
We’re not here to make fun of countries who don’t have an air force, especially if they aren’t going around rattling sabers all the time. You never hear about Costa Rica wanting to invade Belize for their strategic scuba gear caches. No, Costa Rica is too busy getting rich from Americans on yoga trips to worry about things like war. Meanwhile, Iran is constantly talking smack to Israel while rolling around in F-14 Tomcats that Israel can see from the the runways where their F-35s take off.
But just because something is a little old doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its uses. If it works and the country can maintain its effectiveness, then why get rid of it? If a country has antiquated equipment but is still rocking it after all these years, we won’t take points off. Some things are just timeless.
The reason a country’s air force makes the list is because they’re patched together with bubble gum and wishes and expected to fight a war with awful training, no funding, and little regard from the government for the lives of the people expected to keep their terrible air forces flying.
A Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet gives a shrug as it parks on the flight line at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Chase Cannon)
It’s still hard to see such a stalwart U.S. ally make the list, but here we are. In our last rundown of the world’s airborne worst, Canada was the least worst of those listed. Last time, we specifically mentioned how terrible the state of Canada’s Ch-124 Sea King fleet was. Just to get them airborne required something like 100 hours apiece.
Replacing them was just as laborious; it took more than 20 years of political wrangling to get to a point where they could first fly its replacement, the Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone. But the helicopter fun doesn’t stop there. The bulk of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s helicopter fleet is flying the Bell CH-146 Griffon, a bird known to cause constant, debilitating neck pain in most of the pilots who fly it.
Canada never learned from its own cautionary tale – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed the F/A-18 Super Hornet for Canada’s next-gen Strike Fighter to replace the aging CF-18s ordered by his father in the 1970s while the rest of its Western Allies are upgrading to the F-35.
Can you see this stealth fighter? So can everyone else’s radar.
Yeah, I know most of you are calling bullsh*t immediately, but hear me out. For all its talk, China isn’t currently capable of global reach, and isn’t expected to be until 2030. It has a relatively small number of early-warning aircraft and aerial tankers. Most of its aerial fleet are licenses or rip-offs of other, better fighting systems. And the vaunted Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighter was rushed into production with a less-than-adequate engine, which negates any stealth capabilities it has and weakens its performance as a fifth-gen fighter.
That’s a pretty embarrassing misstep for an air force that wants to strike fear in the hearts of the world’s second-largest air force: the U.S. Navy.
More than that, when was the last time China did anything with its air force other than attempt to intimidate weaker neighbors in the South China Sea? Historically, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force has a tendency to get in way over its head. It wasn’t a real factor in the Chinese wars with India and Vietnam (though you’d think an air force in the 20th century would be), but where it was a factor – the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait Crises, and the U.S.-Vietnam War – a lack of any air combat doctrine and investment in air power led to heavy losses and big lessons for the PLAAF.
It wasn’t until after the Gulf War of 1991 that Chinese leaders decided to really give air power another shot, both in terms of technology and investment. China still has a long way to go.
Greece, full of historical artifacts – like its air force.
There are a lot of training accidents in the Hellenic Air Force. After a Greek Mirage 2000 crashed into the Aegean Sea April 2018, a look back at the incidents reported to Greek officials found 125 people died in 81 crashes between 1990 and 2018. Two of those were Greek fighter pilots trying to intercept Turkish jets.
Since the Greek government debt crisis, the Greek military has to be incredibly cautious with the money it spends. Every time a Greek fighter has to scramble to intercept a Turkish fighter in their airspace, it bleeds Greece of Euros better spent elsewhere. That might be why Turkey does it more than a thousand times every year – and there’s nothing the Greeks can do about it except go up and meet them with antiquated equipment due to the steep budget cuts demanded by Greece’s creditors.
Turkey will soon be flying F-35s like most NATO allies, while Greece (also a NATO ally, but Turkey doesn’t care) will be “intercepting” them with F-16s at best, and maybe an F-4 Phantom at worst.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani not sitting in a museum piece, but an actual Iranian Air Force F5F fighter, first build in the 60s and still used in Iran.
(FARS News Agency)
The F-14s flown by Iran these days were first introduced under President Richard Nixon. Don’t get me wrong, Iran’s air force should be given props (see what I did there?) for keeping the aging fleet airborne. Iran’s F-14s were purchased by the Shah or Iran and, when he was overthrown, the U.S. wasn’t exactly keen on providing spare parts to the Islamic Republic. They were able to kick ass against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi air force in the Iran-Iraq War, but that was then and this is now.
Those things are held together with duct tape and wishes by now, with only seven operational Iranian Air Force F-14s. The Islamic Republic now has to use homegrown technology to replace certain avionics systems and weapons on its aging aircraft, even going to far as to claim an old American F-5F was an Iranian-built fourth-gen fighter in 2018 because it had a lot of Iranian-built components.
In fact, Iran is just using F-5s as a blueprint to Frankenstein “new” fighters from its old garbage – most of which is leftover from the Shah or was captured from the Iraqis. Even the IRIAF’s ejection seats can’t save its pilots.
This Ukrainian Su-25 isn’t landing… at least, not on purpose.
Ukraine has a definite Russia problem. Not content to simply let his divorce with Ukraine happen, Russia’s Vladimir Putin is out to give Ukraine headaches wherever possible and Ukraine can do little about it. Russia-backed separatists operate with near-impunity in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region and, when the Ukrainian Air Force is able to act, they often either kill civilians or get shot down on the way.
Its aircraft go down without enemy help, as seen in the 2018 Su-27 crash in Western Ukraine that killed Lt. Col. Seth ‘Jethro’ Nehring of the California Air National Guard. The Flanker went down as the pilot was familiarizing the American with its capabilities. In fact, other Su-27s have crashed, including one at an air show that killed 83 people. The National Interest said these crashes are either a result of poor maintenance, poor training, and/or daredevil flying. The truth is probably a combination of the three.
To top it all off, Ukraine’s air force is so old it was mostly handed down from the Soviet Union after the fall of Communism in the east. The old airframes are no match for the advanced surface-to-air missile being fired at them from the separatists. When Russia captured 45 planes from Ukraine’s Su-29 fleet in annexing Crimea, they probably did Ukraine a huge favor.
PAF: Caveat emptor.
On any global list of sh*t-talkers, Pakistan has historically rated very high, especially toward its longtime arch-nemesis, India (although new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seems more conciliatory). The Pakistanis see India as an existential threat, and are not likely to stop anytime soon.
So, after fighting four pitched wars against India and losing all of them, prioritizing air power would seem to be the way forward if Pakistan was still going to rattle the saber every so often. RAND Corporation studies still declare that the Indian Air Force would have air supremacy in any war against Pakistan. Only very recently has Pakistan decided it would be best to upgrade their fighter aircraft. So, in a joint venture with China, they created a bargain-basement version of the F-16, the JF-17 Thunder, which now makes up the bulk of the PAF.
To give you an idea of how (in)effective the Thunder is, China doesn’t fly it. Neither does anyone else. Immediately dubbed the “Junk Fighter-17 Blunder,” the aircraft is dangerous to fly at lower speeds, it can’t fly as fast as older Pakistani airframes (and certainly not as fast as India’s fighters), and it can’t use similar avionics and munitions as its other fighters, which was one of the missions in creating the fighter in the first place. If all they wanted to do was replace their old fleet, then mission accomplished. If they wanted to beat India in an air war, well, it doesn’t look good, but it remains to be tested.
Aside from the JF-17, the PAF lags behind India in terms of both numbers of combat aircraft and the actual serviceable aircraft fielded at any given moment. It also lags behind its rival in terms of training and ability. Even when facing superior Pakistani firepower, skilled Indian pilots still manage to best the Pakistanis.
It’s a good thing the two countries face a nuclear detente.
Mexico has been fighting a war against the cartels for over a decade now, and all it got them was an increase in violence that made them the “Syria of North America.” In all that time, not only did the Mexican government decide not to invest in its air forces, it actively allowed all of its fighter aircraft to retire. Mexico has zero fighters.
While fighter aircraft aren’t necessary as a deterrent for aggressive neighbors, the cartels the country is actively fighting regularly uses aircraft to violate Mexican airspace and move illegal substances that fund the ongoing fight against the Mexican government and rival cartels. The aircraft the FAM does fly cannot fly high or fast enough to intercept aircraft used by drug smugglers and their leadership.
The Mexican Air Force has gone full Afghanistan with its fleet, focusing on drones, light attack aircraft, and troop transports. This is particularly bothersome to its northern neighbors, especially the United States, who considers the defense of the hemisphere a multilateral issue. Without Mexican air power, the U.S. may have a soft underbelly. Moreover, the Mexican Air Force is not a separate entity from the Army and the Air Force commander is tucked away in some headquarters building somewhere, giving air power guidance to no one.
As far as external threats go, an Army War College study says that the Mexican Armed Forces, including the Air Force, are incapable of defending Mexico from an external threat.
The Royal Saudi Air Force: Missing more targets before 9am than most air forces do all day.
3. Saudi Arabia
Despite being at war in Afghanistan for over 17 years, the one thing the United States can be sure of is the superiority of its Air Force. In a prolonged conflict, a good Air Force positions its resources so that it has positive control over that battlespace. When Saudi Arabia fights a prolonged war, not so much. Welcome to 2019, where the Saudi-lead coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen is about ready to begin another year of abject failure.
Not only has the Saudi coalition turned Yemen into an ongoing humanitarian crisis, no amount of foreign training is making the situation any better. Moreover, it’s just making the United States look bad. The U.S. Congress may soon vote over whether or not American participation in the conflict can continue after the Saudis used an American-made bomb to hit a school bus of civilian children in Yemen, killing 40.
That’s not even the first incident of indiscriminate killing of civilians. In October, 2016, Saudi warplanes hit a civilian funeral in an attack that killed 155 Yemenis. The problem with the Royal Saudi Air Force isn’t that their planes are antiquated, the problem is their choice of “military” targets.
Get your sh*t together, Saudi Arabia.
North Korean MiG, complete with glorious people’s revolutionary crocheted ejection seat cover.
2. North Korea
Of course North Korea is going to be near the top of the list. The only reason the DPRK is not at the very top is because it’s not actively trying to fight a war right now. Usually Kim Jong-Un is talking some kind of smack about invading the South or nuking America, but, in 2018, he mostly just got praise for not doing all that stuff.
But Kim still holds on to power with use of the North Korean military. While the Korean People’s Army isn’t exactly considered a formidable fighting force, the tactic of holding hundreds of artillery guns to South Korea’s head works for him. Of all the things Kim Jong-Un has done to the South, using his Air Force is not one of them.
The reason for this is probably because his air force is still relatively similar to the ones used by his grandfather Kim Il-Sung and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army against UN forces in the last full-scale war fought on the Korean Peninsula – the 1950-1953 Korean War. As a result, the North Korean air force is widely acknowledged as the least threatening arm of the North Korean military.
I imagine that the purpose of the North Korean Air Force is to take the brunt of any initial counterattack from U.S. and allied air forces in the event of a war. Sure, it’s a large air force, but it won’t last long in a war.
Syrian MiGs doing what they do best.
It’s a really good thing the Syrians are being backed up in the air by Russians because, if they didn’t, the Syrian Civil War would last a lot longer than it already has. Almost every other power present in the region violates Syrian sovereignty on a near-daily basis. Israel, Turkey, and even Denmark have entered Syrian airspace, with Israel and Turkey both scoring air-to-air kills against Syrian Sukhoi fighters old enough to have fought against the U.S. in Vietnam.
It’s also not great to be an airman in the Syrian Air Force. Besides getting shot down by everyone (including a U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornet), Syrian fighter pilots face advanced surface-to-air missiles their airframes are not prepared to evade, they accidentally veer into neighboring countries (even getting shot down in Israeli airspace), and were the first target of President Trump’s retaliatory strike for the Syrian military’s use of chemical weapons.
Within 16 months of the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, a Syrian Air Force pilot flew his MiG-21 to Jordan, where he defected. The only surprise is that there aren’t more SAF defectors – as of 2015, Syrian pilots have spent as many as 100 days behind the sticks of their aircraft. At one point, security in Syria’s air force was so bad, they had to move their fighters within Iran’s borders so they wouldn’t be targets for other, better air forces.
David Burnett was a U.S. Army Special Operations Crew Chief with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. You might know it better as the “Night Stalkers.” He even wrote a book about his time with the Night Stalkers. His latest project isn’t about the Army, however. It’s for the Army, for the military. It’s an invention borne of necessity – as all great inventions are – and could save lives.
In short, David Burnett wants you out of his helicopter as soon as possible.
While he was in the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, troops would board his Chinook for the ride, normally hanging their go bags and other gear inside with carabiners and bungee cord. These are the usual, practical things with which American troops deploy to combat zones. While sitting in a brightly-lit flightline with the cabin lights on, this was no big deal. But U.S. troops, especially special operators, don’t fly to the enemy with the cabin lights on. They’re usually flying in at night, blacked out. It was in those situations David Burnett realized he and his Chinook were spending a lot more time on the ground than they wanted.
The good guys were having trouble releasing their stowed gear. It was still connected to the aircraft. All the old methods of fixing their gear didn’t offer quick-release functionality. David Burnett decided he was going to do something about that.
The Tac Clamp was born.
Burnett’s creation isn’t just a metal clamp. It can be hooked and fastened for quick release, or it can be placed on a tactical track for movement in a ready room, a hangar, arms room, or even the back of an aircraft. With the push of a button, the Tac Clamp will release its iron grip and let the special operator free to bring the fight to the enemy – and it works. It works really well. Burnett’s clamp has been submitted to aircrews at MacDill Air Force Base for review and is currently being field-tested by Navy Search and Rescue teams.
“I deployed with the 160th five times as a crew chief, and I saw this problem constantly on the aircraft and on vehicles too,” Burnett says. ” The reason was because all of these outdated methods they were using don’t offer quick release and is not very intuitive. This is something you clamp inside the aircraft but is not exclusive to the aircraft. If they were doing a ground assault and they can hook the Tac Clamp in their gear and just push a button to release it.”
Burnett even created a Tac Clamp for aerial photography.
Currently, Burnett is working on getting one of the military branches to accept the Tac Clamp for consideration for small-business contracting programs. He currently has two proposals submitted, one for the Air Force and two for the Army. It’s been a long road for Burnett, but he hasn’t given up. What he’s offering is something he’s seen a need for in the military, one that could potentially save American lives. He’s already getting feedback on his aluminum clamp from troops in the field.
“Troops tell me they need a small version, made of hard plastic, one they can attach to their kit,” says Burnett, who enjoys the innovation. “All branches of service, they’re realizing they can streamline innovation process by allowing small businesses to propose their technologies and get new products and innovative technologies fielded within 18 months.”
Humanity is fated to explore, colonize, and come up with new ways to assert dominance over the forces of nature. The timeline of recorded history is marked by inventions that have propelled us forward to achieve the impossible and expand our collective intelligence. The early explorers navigated the violence of the open ocean by using the stability of the heavenly bodies to guide them.
Before sailors could brave the blank spots on the map, they had to know where home was and how to find their place in the world. By charting the stars, keeping precise time, and using their honed senses, humanity was given the tools needed to explore ever outward.
The Vikings used known points
The vikings sailed far enough from shore to lose sight of landmasses in a time before there was a proven method of navigation. They passed down knowledge of stars, coasts, currents, navigational landmarks, and wildlife to create mental maps.
They would make notes of unique mountain formations and follow currents favored by pods of whales for feeding. They also used a plumb bob, an instrument used to determine water depth by tying a weight to a rope and plopping it into the ocean. Viking sailors navigated by using their senses: listening to the calls of seabirds, allowing them to estimate which region they were in. They’d verify their guess by tasting the water to gauge the amount of fresh water flowing into the sea.
Flóki Vilgerðarson, who appeared in HISTORY’s Vikings, was a real person who used caged ravens when traveling. When he thought land was near, he would release a raven. If it circled the boat, there was no land. If it flew away, the ship followed it towards land. This technique was adopted by other vikings who followed in the footsteps of this pioneer.
Vikings crossed the Atlantic Ocean to found colonies in Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland using these techniques and raided western Europe with impunity, without fear of sea.
Let me sing you the song of my people…
The Polynesians used songs
The Polynesians used songs to navigate the seas, an art passed down from master to apprentice over generations. They maintained guilds on each island that would identify sources of food and directed sailors towards them in times of famine and traded this knowledge for other resources. To identify where they were, they made close observations of sea signs, just as the vikings did, and recorded extremely detailed directions in the form of song lyrics.
The guilds also safeguarded the secrets of constructing outrigger canoes capable of making long voyages across the Pacific Ocean.
With this, I will make my own empire! With blackjack — and freedom!
The British invented the chronometer to identify latitude
Celestial navigation was turned into a science by the British. In 1714, the British government declared a prize of £20,000 be award to whomever could solve the problem of finding a ship’s current longitude position while out on the open ocean. John Harrison was clockmaker who believed the answer was in accurate timekeeping. He proved that one could find their latitude by calculating the position of the sun, moon, stars, or other celestial bodies in relations to the current time to find where you are on the globe.
Making a correct calculation required a timepiece that would not lose its accuracy due to storms, temperature changes, or manufacturing limitations. If one didn’t know the exact time, the almanacs and journals that outlined the location of celestial bodies were, basically, useless.
Harrison made the H4, a chronometer the size of a watch, and it was able to accurately keep GMS time in any clime and place, regardless of conditions. On its maiden voyage to Jamaica, it was only off by five seconds by the journey’s end.
“A U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27,” the Navy statement read.
“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes.”
The intercept is the latest in a string of “unsafe” intercepts that the Russian military has conducted.
In November 2017, a Russian Su-30 fighter flew as close as 50 feet before turning on its afterburners while intercepting a US Navy P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft over the same area, and in December 2017, two US Air Force F-22s were intercepted by Russian Su-25 and Su-35 jets.
The US Aircraft had to fire flares as warnings to the Russian jets, one of which “had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision.” Russia has denied the incident in Syria took place.
Check out the footage from the Jan. 29 intercept here:
If you’re a sheep farmer, dipping your sheep means you’re literally dipping sheep in a bath made to kill insects and fungus. It’s a good way to keep your flock healthy. If you’re in the military and about to be sheep dipped, it means your life is about to get a whole lot more interesting. It’s a term intelligence agencies use when they pretend to boot someone out of the military but secretly turn them into a covert operative.
Don’t worry, you still get your military retirement time. You just can’t tell anyone about it.
A reminder that the CIA has an undetectable heart attack gun.
While “sheep dipping” isn’t the official term for moving a troop from military service to the clandestine service, it’s the term the Agency uses to describe the process of taking a career soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine out of their branch of service on the surface. Instead of really removing the subject, the intelligence agency will just pull their official records, leaving behind their official record, the one which says the troop is retired, separated, or otherwise not in the military anymore.
The agency will take care of your real official record from there but there’s still work to be done on the service member’s part. They will be establishing an entirely new identity for themselves, after all. Their job is to make the move plausible, writing to friends and family telling them why they got out, what they’re going to do after leaving the military, and whatnot.
“And that’s why I decided to leave the Army and pursue my new life of definitely not being in the CIA.”
According to L. Fletcher Prouty, a retired Air Force Colonel who served as the chief of special operations in the Kennedy Administration, the practice started during the Vietnam War, when the Geneva Accords on the neutrality of Laos in 1962. This agreement prevented foreign combat troops from entering Laos. American troops, engaged in combat in neighboring Vietnam, were forced out of the country. The Nixon Administration, not known for honoring international borders when it came to prosecuting the war in Vietnam, decided they would need military support for intelligence agencies in Laos and opted to use “sheep dipping” as a means to get military members into the country.
If this seems implausible to you, remember we’re talking about the guy who decided to bug the Democratic National Committee and then cover it up, even though he was about to win in the country’s biggest landslide.
The North Vietnamese were secretly supporting Laotian Communists in their effort to topple the Lao government, so why shouldn’t the United States do the same thing in order to support the Laotians? Besides, the NVA was still using Laos as a staging point for attacking allied troops in South Vietnam. The United States military decided to sheep dip a number of specially-trained U.S. troops in order to conduct a clandestine war in Laos. Nixon even allowed the Air Force to provide air support for the Secret War in Laos.
The sheep-dipped soldiers of Vietnam were all provided with their full pay and benefits, not to mention regular promotions and their retirement. If a sheep dipped troop were to be killed in the line of fire, that would pose more of a problem. Their family would struggle to get the benefits befitting a widow – but the agency handled each case separately.