Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing - We Are The Mighty
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Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

Military advocates are rallying to stop a proposal in the U.S. Senate to reduce military housing allowances.


The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy and spending targets for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, would curb the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH, for new entrants beginning in 2018 by only covering what they actually pay in rent. It would also reduce the combined value of the benefit received by military couples or roommates.

“We’re not in favor of the language in there,” Michael Barron, deputy director of government relations at the Military Officers Association of America, an advocacy group based in Arlington, Virginia, told Military.com. “We’ve got some major concerns with it.”

The Senate panel led by Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, wants the monthly BAH — which varies by paygrade, dependent status and region in the U.S. — to be more like the Overseas Housing Allowance — which covers only housing expenses.

Section 604 of the Bill S.2943 is titled, “Reform of Basic Allowance for Housing.”

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the legislation would set the allowance for new entrants at “the actual monthly cost of housing” or an amount “based on the costs of adequate housing” for each military housing area, according to a copy of the legislation. It also states two or more service members occupying the same housing would split the allowance.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., listen as retired Gen. David Petraeus testifies at a hearing in Washington, Sept. 22, 2015.

It’s unclear whether the full chamber will approve the language when it votes on the defense authorization bill at a later date. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine have already introduced amendments to strike the provision. The House didn’t include similar language in its version of the bill and the Defense Department hasn’t requested the change.

In addition, Congress is already supporting a Pentagon plan to slow the growth of Basic Allowance for Housing over five years so service members on average pay 2 percent of their housing costs this year, 3 percent in 2017, 4 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019 and thereafter. Troops won’t see a modification in the allowance until they change duty stations.

Senators argue the housing allowance has become “bloated and ripe for abuse” and note the change could save an estimated $200 million, according to an article by Leo Shane III, a reporter for the Military Times newspapers who first reported the proposal.

Barron said the allowance is part of regular military compensation designed to retain and recruit talented people into the military. He also noted in the 1990s troops paid roughly 15 percent of their housing allowance out of pocket and that lawmakers in Congress had “done a lot of work” over the past decade to reduce that expense.

“We really don’t think they should be trying to make these reductions for new entrants coming in. We just don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

“You’re already asking a service member to pay more for retirement savings,” he added, referring to the recent overhaul of the military retirement system that incorporated a 401(k)-style plan. “You’re asking them also now to pay more for housing.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Four-legged smoke eaters: How dalmatians became official mascots of the fire service

One of the oldest traditions still honored in US fire departments is having a Dalmatian in the firehouse. Today, the black-spotted pups serve strictly as mascots, station dogs, and fire safety dogs. But the Dalmatian’s firefighting origin story is far more heroic than most people know.

The Dalmatian breed earned a reputation in Britain beginning in the 17th century for their role as coach and carriage dogs. The wealthy used Dalmatians both as society dogs and as guardians against thieves for their horse-drawn carriages. Stagecoach drivers also relied on the big dogs to guard horses and luggage. Great companions for horses, they formed strong bonds with their much larger animal friends. They were trained to run long distances beside them and would scare off aggressive street dogs that attempted to attack.

The leap into the fire service came with the emergence of the horse-drawn fire apparatus. The Dalmatian’s bark warned passersby they were responding to a fire. 

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
The Wrazej family trained JT over the summer of 2020. JT is named after James Trainor, an FDNY firefighter who retired after 39 years of service and died in 2018. Photo courtesy of the westsiderag.com.

“When a station call comes into an engine house the dog is out the instant the doors are thrown open, barking and prancing about, seemingly at least with the purpose of clearing the sidewalk,” a New York City newspaper called The Sun reported in March 1912. “They tell of one case in which the fire dog tugged at the dress of a little child that had remained standing in front of the door; and of another case in which the dog barked at the heels of a gentleman who hadn’t moved away quickly enough.”

Traditionally, when they arrived at the chaotic scene, the dog would keep the horses company to calm their anxiety. The presence of the Dalmatian prevented others from potentially stealing any of the valuable firefighting equipment on the rig. In some instances, they joined in on the action.

“They are in danger at fires,” The Sun writes, “for some dogs are great smoke eaters, and go right into the building with the firemen.”

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

Their low center of gravity made them ideal for running under the smoke into burning buildings to locate and rescue children and other people trapped in a fire. 

Sometimes they were known for their antics just like other beloved pets. “Jack the Bum” was one Dalmatian that worked with Truck 9 from the station on Elizabeth Street. This pesky pooch had memorized the eating schedules of all the firefighters, and when he got hungry he’d beg for the crumbs. He’d even go as far as trotting past the entrance of Lyon’s restaurant and around back to the kitchen to eat the scraps. 

The Dalmatians were heralded by the local communities they served. In 1910, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show developed a category specifically for Fire Department Dalmatians. Mike from New York’s Engine Company 8 on 51st Street came in first place, while another Dalmatian named Smoke II of Engine Company 68 on Jay Street in Brooklyn took second.

Interestingly enough, The Sun posed the question as to what would happen to Dalmatians once the motor-driven hose wagons replaced the horse-drawn carriages. “Of course nobody knows for sure just what will happen in that day, but the general opinion among the firemen is that though the horses may go the dogs will stay.”

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
JT the fire dog is the official mascot of FDNY’s Company 74. Before JT, there was Yogi, Sparky, Buddy, and Chloe. Photo courtesy of @jt_thefiredog/Instagram.

Their predictions were right, except the Dalmatians took on more of a mascot role than as working fire dogs. Yogi, an FDNY Dalmatian who died at the age of 15 in January 2020, enjoyed hitching a ride on the fire truck. He was also a really good boy who brought happiness to the men in the firehouse. Yogi took his name from Ruben Correa, a firefighter for Company 74 on the Upper West Side who was killed while helping people escape the Marriott Hotel at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He earned the nickname Yogi playing softball with his firehouse teammates.

When Patti Trainor-Wrazej learned of Yogi the fire dog’s passing, she immediately began training JT for Company 74. JT was a quick learner and soon joined his human counterparts on fire runs.

“We built a small bed frame that attaches on and off [the rig] when we need to remove it,” senior firefighter John Keaveny said. “It fits him perfectly so he can lay down during runs and be comfortable.”

JT has become so popular he even has his own Instagram page, @jt_firedog.  

Articles

This is how researchers are trying to stop sand from killing aircraft engines

If you’ve ever seen some of the DOD videos – or photos, for that matter – from Iraq or Afghanistan, they’re often accompanied by huge clouds of dust as helicopters come in for a landing.


But here’s what you don’t see; the damage the sand and dust does on the engines of those helicopters.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
A Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter comes into land at Camp Bastion, Helmand, Afghanistan following a mission. Note the huge cloud of dust. (UK MoD photo via Wikimedia Commons)

That matters – because the engines of helicopters and jets have one naturally-occurring enemy: FOD, which stands for “foreign object debris.” According to an FAA fact sheet, FOD was responsible for the June 2000 crash of an Air France Concorde that killed 113 people.

What the fact sheet doesn’t mention is that sand and dust are also foreign objects to an engine. What they do isn’t as spectacular as what happened in Paris almost 17 years ago, but it can be just as lethal.

Worse, while regular FOD walks can handle the larger objects, you can never quite get all the sand and dust away from an air base in Afghanistan or Iraq. So, there is a need to figure out how to keep the sand and dust from damaging engine components.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
A UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter lands as U.S. Army paratroopers secure the area in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, July 23, 2012. The soldiers are assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team and the helicopter crew is assigned to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. The soldiers evacuated a wounded insurgent. (US Army photo)

The Department of Defense recently released a video about efforts to address this. For instance, one of the researchers in this video one component in the T-700 engine is supposed to last 6,000 hours, but sand and dust reduce that to 400 hours – 1/15 of the planned operating life.

The price tag for the component in question? $30,000. That is a minor inconvenience. When a helo goes down, things get even uglier.

So check out the new ways researchers are attacking the problem of sand-damaged engines.

Articles

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

Experts have been warning for a while now that Al Qaeda is still very much a presence as a jihadist group, posing perhaps an even bigger long-term threat than ISIS.


And now, Al Qaeda is planning to challenge ISIS in its stronghold — Syria.

American and European officials told The New York Times recently that Al Qaeda has started moving veteran operatives to Syria as the group plans to escalate its fight with ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh), which operated under the Al Qaeda umbrella until the two groups split off and became rivals.

And though ISIS has been grabbing most headlines with its gruesome propaganda machine and bold proclamations about building a “caliphate” that will take over the world, Al Qaeda has been quietly focusing on its strategy to be the last group standing when the dust settles.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters carry their weapons on the back of a pickup truck during the release of Lebanese soldiers and policemen in Arsal, eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. | YouTube

Al Qaeda is now “taking an opportunity off of what ISIS did” to make itself a main focus of the West’s fight against terror, Ali Soufan, the CEO of strategic-security firm The Soufan Group, said earlier this month at a national-security conference at Fordham University in New York.

“What ISIS did made so many people in the Muslim world think, ‘Al Qaeda are the good guys. ISIS are the bad guys,'” said Soufan, a former FBI special agent who has investigated high-profile terror cases.

“Even when you hear some people testifying on Capitol Hill that, ‘It’s OK. Let’s support al-Nusra or let’s support Ahrar al-Sham because they probably will fight ISIS’ — well al-Nusra is … an official affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria,” he continued, referencing the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is fighting ISIS for control of territory in Syria.

While ISIS has made a show of its excessive violence — through beheading videos and other propaganda distributed online in several languages — Al Qaeda has been more cautious. The group holds the same brutal ideology to which ISIS subscribes, but it’s been more patient with winning over the Syrian population.

“You can see Al Qaeda taking advantage thinking strategically,” Soufan said. “ISIS is not thinking strategically. ISIS is just doing crazy stuff, a lot of violence, trying to bring a lot of people in.”

And while ISIS has lured thousands to its territory with its violent advertising and declaration of the “caliphate,” or pseudo-state ruled by a strict interpretation of Islamic law, recent reports indicate that fighter defections within the group are increasing and the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS territory has slowed. On top of that, the group has been losing territory without gaining much new land.

“ISIS is becoming like a smoke screen. We’re all looking at ISIS all the time. ‘Oh, look, ISIS, they did a video, or they put out another thing of Dabiq,'” Soufan said, referring to the group’s English-language online propaganda magazine.

He added: “They are technically more advanced than Al Qaeda, but I think Al Qaeda is looking into the long term.”

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
ISIS fighters in Syria | YouTube

Al Qaeda’s strategy seems to be predicated on waiting for Syrians to slowly come around to the idea of Islamic rule. That lowers the chance of a successful uprising if Jabhat al-Nusra is able to establish Syria as an Islamic “emirate” — land that would be controlled by the group and run under strict Islamic law, similar to ISIS’ so-called caliphate.

Charles Lister, a fellow at the Middle East Institute who has written a book on the insurgency in Syria, said at a recent event in Washington, DC, that Al Qaeda has sought to grow not just acceptance of its rule in Syria, but also support from the general population. He also assessed that Al Qaeda is playing a long game.

“This is an organization that has spent the last five years growing durable, deep roots in Syrian opposition and revolutionary society,” Lister said. “ISIS, on the other hand, has shallow roots. It hasn’t deigned to acquire popular support — it controls populations.”

Al Qaeda’s emirate might now come sooner rather than later — The Times reported that the Al Qaeda operatives being funneled into Syria have been told to start creating a headquarters in Syria and to lay the groundwork for establishing an emirate. The emirate would be in direct competition with ISIS.

Eric Schmitt wrote in The Times that Al Qaeda establishing an emirate in Syria would mark a “significant shift.” Al Qaeda has so far resisted declaring an emirate — it’s part of the group’s long-term strategy to avoid acting too hastily before leaders feel confident that fighters could hold the territory they seize.

Syrians on the ground seem to have been expecting this for a while.

Ahmad al-Soud, the commander and founder of the Syrian rebel group Division 13, told Business Insider earlier this year that “Nusra’s stated goal throughout all of Syria from when they first started until today is to turn Syria into an Islamic emirate.”

“They don’t want any other armed group in Syria except for them, and they want to turn it into kind of what Afghanistan was under the Taliban,” al-Soud said. “Once they … get rid of all the other groups, [Jabhat al-Nusra] can finally duke it out between them and ISIS for who’s the worst.”

Schmitt notes in The Times that “establishing a more enduring presence in Syria would present the group with an invaluable opportunity” because it would “not only be within closer striking distance of Europe but also benefit from the recruiting and logistical support of fighters from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.”

With the collapse of the ceasefire in Syria, the timing might be good for Al Qaeda to increase its presence there. The ceasefire — between the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebels who oppose his rule — never applied to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, but it allowed the Syrian government and its allies to focus its fire on jihadists rather than moderate rebels.

Additionally, the West seems to have focused mostly on hitting ISIS in Syria — US officials are emphasizing operations to drive ISIS out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq and deprive them of more territory.

The dysfunction in Syria provides the perfect vacuum for Al Qaeda to move in and exploit.

Soufan explained:

Al Qaeda’s position is, “Let’s create a lot of these vacuums where there is no strong government, and let’s operate under a different name.” Bin Laden actually, before he died, in his letters, he was telling Al Qaeda, “Do not use Al Qaeda’s name. I do not want anyone to use Al Qaeda’s name, because the moment you use Al Qaeda’s name, the West and the locals are going to come and they’re going to beat you up.”

Al Qaeda has done this in Syria with Jabhat al-Nusra, which is always referred to as such rather than simply “Al Qaeda.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump wants a more American paint job for Air Force One

Donald Trump reportedly wants to redesign his official presidential planes, because the current ones don’t look American enough.

The president thinks the current light-blue-and-white color scheme on the jets do not sufficiently represent the US, Axios reported on July 12, 2018, quoting an unidentified source.

The US Air Force maintains two identical Boeing 747 planes, which take on the “Air Force One” call sign when the president is onboard. One of them is always ready to go at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.


The White House and Boeing struck a .9 billion deal in February 2018 for two new Air Force One planes, and Trump has requested that they be ready by 2021.

Trump now wants a redesign that “looks more American,” Axios reported, adding that he wants to make it red, white, and blue.

The president’s two Air Force One jets are currently light blue — “luminous ultramarine blue”, technically — and white, with a light brown and white lining, with the words “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” emblazoned on it. It also has the official presidential seal near the stairs the president typically uses to disembark the plane.

Trump also wants to make his bed aboard the planes bigger and more comfortable, like the one on his personal plane, Axios reported. During the presidential campaign, Trump used his personal plane — a Boeing 757 airliner-turned-private-jet— to travel around the country. It reportedly cost 0 million.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

Donald Trump’s personal plane.

(Photo by Tomás Del Coro)

The White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

While Trump has the power to redesign the jet, the US Air Force might take issue with it. Some senior officers like the current look as it is “known around the world,” Axios said, quoting its source.

Former President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy designed Air Force One’s current color scheme. Before that, presidents traveled on a rather plain Boeing C-137 Stratoliner. Axios reported that Trump had wanted the new planes to move away from the “Jackie Kennedy color.”

President Kennedy and renowned French industrial designer Raymond Loewy sat on the floor of the Oval Office in 1962 with colored paper and crayons to sketch out that paint scheme, according to a book about the history of the jet, titled “Air Force One: The Aircraft that Shaped the Modern Presidency.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

12 things NOT to say to a military spouse during the holidays

1. Well, at least you don’t have to get him/her a gift right away.

I’m sorry, what? I will more than likely still get my spouse a gift and squirrel it away until they get home, but also why is that the one thing you think I am thinking about the most? Our gift to each other will be a phone call or a quick Skype call. That is better than any other gift either one of us could get each other.


2. Well, you signed up for this, why are you surprised?

I may shank the next person that says that. Just saying. I fell in love with a human not their occupation. Their occupation is a small part of who they are and we adjust to the situation. We are simply making it each day at a time.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

(Photo by Alexander Dummer)

3. Wait, the military won’t send him/her home for the holidays?!

You realize that the military does not care what day of the week it is let alone a holiday. Stop with the silliness. The service members are on a deployment, field exercise, staff duty, etc. they cannot come home.

4. Why are you staying here? Why aren’t you just moving home?

Well, I have a whole life and network system I have established at the base that I can’t just abandon. Yes, I miss my family and will come home to visit them, but it isn’t possible for me to move home while my spouse is away.

5. He’s only in overseas why don’t you just go visit him/her?

Are you planning on paying for the ticket or…? We are living on a budget and don’t have the luxury of always going to visit each other. The idea is great but not practical. Also, do you know what a war zone is?

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. displays some holiday spirit as he speaks to the soldiers of 1st Armored Division in Germany.

(US Army photo)

6. At least you don’t have kids, it would be so much worse.

Thank you? It is still hard to be apart from my spouse even though we don’t have kids. Can someone just hand me a bottle of wine the next time someone tries to comfort me with that.

7. Well at least the kids are young, they won’t remember.

The kids will still miss their parent. The kids will still ask where they are first thing in the morning. Looking around the house, seeing if their dad/mom will surprise them or waiting patiently by the phone to hear their voice. No it won’t be easy no matter the age of our kids, but we make it work.

8. Isn’t it nice to have your own space? I love when my husband isn’t home.

Well, I much prefer when he is home, but that is just me. We have spent enough time apart I am ready to be together again. Sure a nice weekend apart spent with family or my girlfriends is nice, but after a few months I am more than ready for him/her to be home.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

Lancer Brigade soldier makes it home for the holidays.

(US Army photo)

9. Ask when is he coming home and immediately respond with, “Well, that isn’t too far away.”

One day is too far away. Yes, my countdown app has helped me stay focused and able to remember we are one day closer, but somedays (most days) it is far too many days away. Minutes feel like days, days feel like weeks, weeks feel like months, and so forth. It is a long and frustrating experience I would not wish on my worst enemy.

10. Why are you visiting his side of the family? He’s not even home.

They are still family. No matter if my spouse is home or not I am going to see my in-laws at holidays. They are as special to me as my own family and I want to see them. It is silly to think that just because my spouse isn’t home I would not go see that side of the family.

11. Aren’t you scared he’s going to get lonely being so far away?

Well, yes he may get lonely, but so will I. Yes, we will have struggles, but we also have each other. We also have our phones, Skype, Facebook messenger, various apps that will get us through the time apart. We also have our friends that will help us deal with the frustrations that come with time spent apart.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

Soldiers gather together during a Christmas service at Combat Outpost Shur Andam, Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Joshua Edwards)

12. Well, one year my spouse had to go out of town for an extended weekend so I completely understand what you are going through.

Seriously, if anyone comes to me with this this holiday season you better be handing me a bottle of chardonnay with that comment. Yes, some couples go through time apart from their loved one, but no one understands the separation like other military significant others. It is a different, it is an everyday struggle, a daunting task that only can be dealt with by fellow military spouses that understand the hardships that will happen and that are happening.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

North Korea says its ICBM test ends ‘blackmail’ from US

A state television announcement said the missile, which landed in the Sea of Japan on July 4, could hit targets anywhere in the world.


But the US and Russia said the missile had a medium range and presented no threat to either country.

North Korea has increased the frequency of its missile tests, in defiance of a ban by the UN Security Council.

China and Russia called on Pyongyang to freeze its missile and nuclear activities.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The announcement on North Korea state television said the Hwasong-14 missile test was overseen by leader Kim Jong-un.

It said the projectile had reached an altitude of 2,802km (1,731 miles) and flew 933km for 39 minutes before hitting a target in the sea.

North Korea, it said, was now “a full-fledged nuclear power that has been possessed of the most powerful inter-continental ballistic rocket capable of hitting any part of the world.”

It would enable the country to “put an end to the US nuclear war threat and blackmail” and defend the Korean peninsula, it said.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
North Korean Missile.(Associated Press image via NewsEdge)

While Pyongyang appears to have made progress, experts believe North Korea does not have the capability to accurately hit a target with an ICBM, or miniaturize a nuclear warhead that can fit onto such a missile.

Other nuclear powers have also cast doubt on North Korea’s assessment, with Russia saying the missile only reached an altitude of 535km and flew about 510km.

How far could this missile travel?

The big question is what range it has, says the BBC’s Steven Evans in Seoul. Could it hit the United States?

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
Photo from North Korean State Media.

David Wright, a physicist with the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists, says that if the reports are correct, this missile could “reach a maximum range of roughly 6,700km on a standard trajectory”.

That range would allow it to reach Alaska, but not the large islands of Hawaii or the other 48 US states, he says.

It is not just a missile that North Korea would need, our correspondent adds. It must also have the ability to protect a warhead as it re-enters the atmosphere, and it is not clear if North Korea can do that.

Once again North Korea has defied the odds and thumbed its nose at the world in a single missile launch. With the test of the Hwasong-14, it has shown that it can likely reach intercontinental ballistic missile ranges including putting Alaska at risk.

Kim Jong-un has long expressed his desire for such a test, and to have it on the 4 July holiday in the US is just the icing on his very large cake.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

Despite this technical achievement, however, it is likely many outside North Korea will continue to be skeptical of North Korea’s missile. They will ask for proof of working guidance, re-entry vehicle, and even a nuclear warhead.

From a technical perspective, though, their engines have demonstrated ICBM ranges, and this would be the first of several paths North Korea has to an ICBM with even greater range.

Are neighbors and nuclear powers concerned?

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has called on the UN Security Council to take steps against North Korea.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
President Moon Jae-in. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Japan described “repeated provocations like this are absolutely unacceptable” and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his country would “unite strongly” with the US and South Korea to put pressure on Pyongyang.

Russia and China said the launch was “unacceptable”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Moscow, where he held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The two leaders urged Pyongyang to suspend all its tests. They also asked the US and South Korea to not hold joint military exercises.

US President Donald Trump also responded swiftly on July 4.

On his Twitter account he made apparent reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying: “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?”

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
Photo by Michael Vadon

“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

President Trump has repeatedly called on China, Pyongyang’s closest economic ally, to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programs.

On the prospect of North Korea being able to strike the US, he tweeted in January: “It won’t happen”. However experts say it might – within five years or less.

Beijing called for “restraint” following the latest test on July 4.

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was opposed to North Korea going against clear UN Security Council resolutions on its missile launches.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said the UK “stood alongside the US and our allies to confront the threat North Korea poses to international security”.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian military formally linked to Malaysia Airlines crash

International investigators have said Russia’s military was involved in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine in 2014.

Flight MH17 crashed in a field in war-torn eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, after being hit by a Russian-made Buk missile on a flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia. All 298 people aboard the aircraft were killed.


The MH17 Joint Investigation Team issued an interim report Thursday. At a press conference, the team said the missile came from the Russian military’s 53rd antiaircraft missile brigade, based in Kursk, near Russia’s border with Ukraine.

The team cited distinctive identifying marks on recovered missile fragments that it says ties it directly to the 53rd brigade, which is based close to the Ukrainian border.

“All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces,” Wilbert Paulissen, a senior investigator with the Dutch National Police, told the conference.

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The Joint Investigation Team examined the markings on the on the recovered missile fragments.
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

The statement is the closest yet investigators have come to blaming Russia for the attack. The investigators also brought to the conference part of the Buk missile they say caused the crash:

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
(Dutch National Police / YouTube)

Of the passengers and crew members aboard the Boeing 777 plane, 196 were Dutch and about 40 were Malaysian, with others from Australia, Indonesia, and the UK.

Investigators have not named any suspects and have called on people involved in the attack to come forward for questioning.

The Dutch government announced in 2017, that anyone believed to have brought down the jet would be tried in the Netherlands.

Open-source investigators at Bellingcat came to the same conclusion as the Joint Investigative Team three years ago, but the JIT had different legal requirements and thresholds for evidence and therefore needed more time.

Russia has continually denied involvement in the downing of the jet.

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

Articles

Senators seek pension hike for Medal of Honor recipients

The country’s 72 living Medal of Honor recipients could see a huge bump in their pensions should legislation proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators pass.


According to a report by MilitaryTimes.com, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a retired Air Force Reserve colonel who made multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, introduced the legislation in order to not only more than double the pensions, but to also provide a travel stipend to allow recipients to tell their stories. Congress.gov notes that the legislation, S. 1209, was introduced on May 23, 2017, but no text was available.

In a May 25, 2017 release, Senator Graham noted that his legislation would increase the pension from $1,303.15 per month to $3,000 per month. These pensions are in addition to other military benefits that these servicemen have earned.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

“Medal of Honor recipients represent the best among us. These heroes have served our country with distinction, and this modest increase is the least we can do to convey our gratitude for their sacrifices. I urge my colleagues to support this bill so that we can do right by our Medal of Honor recipients,” Graham said in the statement.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), an Iraq War veteran and an original co-sponsor of S.1209, added, “We can never repay our Medal of Honor recipients for everything they’ve done for our country. But we can and should support them on behalf of a grateful nation.”

Many of the Medal of Honor recipients have often traveled to tell their stories at their own expense. The last stipend increase was passed in 2002, according to the release issued by Senator Graham’s office.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
Col. Lindsey Graham, a Senior Senator from South Carolina, chats with Command Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Narofsky, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Command Chief, during a briefing int the wing conference room April 9, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Ian Carrier)

S. 1209 is expected to cost about $1.5 million per year over the next ten years, according to Senator Graham’s office, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are also original cosponsors of the legislation. Blumenthal was caught up in a stolen valor controversy during his 2010 campaign for the Senate after his claims of service in the Vietnam War were disproven. The controversy re-surfaced this past February.

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This sub sank because its commander couldn’t flush his toilet

In April 1945, being a German submariner was a dangerous prospect. Allied sub hunters had become much more effective and German u-boats were being sunk faster than they could be built. Technical breakthroughs like radar and new weapons like the homing torpedo were sinking the Germans left and right.


For the crew of U-1206, the greatest threat was actually lurking in their commander’s bowels. German Navy Capt. Karl-Adolf Schlitt was on his first patrol as a commander when he felt the call of nature and headed to the vessel’s state-of-the-art toilet.

While Allied subs had toilets that flushed into a small internal tank that took up needed space in the submarine, the Germans had developed a compact system that expelled waste into the sea. The high-tech system even worked while the sub was deep underwater.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
The Kriegsmarine was running out of things to be excited about, so this was kind of big (Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, the toilet was very complex. By doctrine, there was a toilet-flushing specialist on every sub that operated the necessary valves. The captain, either too prideful or too impatient to search out the specialist, attempted to flush it himself. When it didn’t properly flush, he finally called the specialist.

The specialist attempted to rectify the situation, but opened the exterior valve while the interior valve was still open. The ocean quickly began flooding in, covering the floor in a layer of sewage and seawater. The specialist got the valves closed, but it was too late.

The toilet was positioned above the battery bank. As the saltwater cascaded onto the batteries, it created chlorine gas that rapidly spread through the sub and threatened to kill the crew. Schlitt ordered the sub to surface.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
[Insert joke here about the captain’s own torpedo sinking his ship] U.S. Navy photo by Photographers Mate 1st Class Brien Aho

The sub reached the surface about 10 miles from the Scottish coast and was quickly spotted by British planes. One sailor was killed as the sub was attacked. The order was given to scuttle the ship and escape. Three more sailors drowned attempting to make it to shore. The other 37 sailors aboard the U-1206 were quickly captured and became prisoners of war.

Luckily for them, the war was nearly over. The sub sank April 14, 1945. Hitler killed himself April 30 and Germany surrendered May 8.

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This is why it’s actually illegal to shoot at pilots who’ve bailed out

Okay, you’re relieving some stress by playing some video games and you just downed an enemy plane.


The pilot bails out.

You’ve got him in your sights — one less bad guy to deal with later, right?

Wrong.

According to the law of war, it is a crime to gun down a pilot who’s bailed out of his plane. While the video game world might give some allowances on this, in the real world it’s a major no-no.

Field Manual 27-10, “The Law Of Land Warfare,” says that a pilot who has bailed out of his plane is a non-combatant. That’s different from a paratrooper who’s notionally armed on his way down and is technically engaged in combat while under canopy.

 

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
Don’t do it Fritz! (Photo from Wikimedia Commons).

 

Here is the exact quote: “The law of war does not prohibit firing upon paratroops or other persons who are or appear to be bound upon hostile missions while such persons are descending by parachute. Persons other than those mentioned in the preceding sentence who are descending by parachute from disabled aircraft may not be fired upon.”

This was formalized in 1977, in Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions.

But even before all that legalese was codified in the Geneva Conventions, some militaries had already adopted a similar code of conduct. During World War II, the Nazis — whose crimes against humanity were legion — generally forbade its pilots from shooting downed enemy airmen.

One German commander, famously told his pilots, “You are fighter pilots first, last, always. If I ever hear of any of you shooting at someone in a parachute, I’ll shoot you myself.” Even Hermann Goering found potential orders from Hitler to carry out such acts as distasteful, approving of Adolf Galland’s characterization of such an act as “murder.”

On the American side, General Dwight D. Eisenhower issued orders that shooting at enemy aircrew who had bailed out as forbidden.

 

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
These guys are fair game. (Photo by Elena Baladelli/US Army)

Pilots on the Japanese side had no such hesitation, partially stemming from a code that viewed surrender as dishonorable. Many Allied airmen in the Pacific found that bailing out from a crippled plane was sometimes like going from the frying pan into the fire.

One airman, though, was able to shoot a Japanese pilot trying to machine gun him with his M1911!

In short, if you’re even playing a video game and you’re tempted to shoot at the folks who bailed out, don’t do it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Strait of Hormuz is so important, in just 10 minutes

There’s a single waterway in the world that pops up in the news every year or so and, right now, is popping up every week or more: The Strait of Hormuz. When I was deployed with Army Central, we received a brief from senior leaders that was all about the importance of this single strip of water. If you’re still a little fuzzy on how Iran can pressure the rest of the world through such a small bit of water, here’s a great primer.


Why the US and Iran are fighting over this tiny waterway

www.youtube.com

The video above is from Vox. We’re going to highlight some details below, but you can understand the broad strokes just by watching that for 9.5 minutes.

The most important thing to understand is that one of the things that makes the strait so important is how small it is. There simply isn’t another economical way to ship most of the oil out of the gulf region, and the strait is so small that even a small navy like Iran’s can inflict serious pain.

It’s sort of like the “Hot Gates” from the story of the Spartans at Thermopylae. But America is Xerxes and Iran gets to play King Leonidas.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing

A map shows the network of oil pipelines that carries gas and oil from Russia to the rest of Europe.

(Samuel Bailey, CC BY 3.0)

And oil is, even more than most other commodities, a resource that is extremely price sensitive and the markets are so fluid (no pun intended) that reducing supply anywhere increases price everywhere. Oil coming through the strait is destined for markets around the world, especially the Pacific and Europe.

So, take Europe for a moment. Now, it can get oil from a lot of places. Rigs in the North Sea provide plenty of energy, and pipelines from Russia pump fuel as far west as Germany, Italy, and even England. But all of those markets count on the Russian oil, the North Sea oil, and oil from the Strait of Hormuz. If the oil from the gulf is threatened in the strait, then buyers start competing harder for Russian and North Sea oil and that drives up prices quickly.

And that drives up the price of everything. Petroleum drives cars, heating oil warms homes, lubricants are needed for everything from vehicles to ice cream makers to door hinges. An interruption of oil in the strait threatens 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, making everything more expensive and risking thousands of homes going cold.

But why is Iran willing to do this? After all, they are risking a new war by attacking tankers flagged by gulf and European countries.

Well, Iran needs sanctions relief, and right now that’s primarily a problem between them and the U.S. Sure, Europe has a longer trading relationship with Iran, and it has protested losing access to Iranian markets and oil during periods of American-led sanctions. But Europe has proven time and again that in a power struggle between the U.S. and Iran, Europe is willing to step aside.

Targeting oil in the strait allows Iran to spread the pain to other countries. Europe is forced off the sidelines as its access to energy markets is thrown into disarray. China, India, Japan, and South Korea are all top-five oil importers, and America—at number two—is the final member of the big 5. All of them feel the crunch when oil prices climb.

But there’s, obviously, a big risk for Iran. While China and Russia might side with Iran if only to counter American power, the rest of the world could easily decide that it’s easier to back the U.S. in a power play against Iran than to endure Iranian agitation.

Articles

The Abrams is getting an invisibility cloak against missiles

The U.S. Army is making progress on a modular system for blinding and tricking incoming missiles, thereby protecting vehicles, tanks, and soldiers.


Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
A system under development by the U.S. Army would make tanks like this one impossible for anti-tank missiles to pin down. (Photo: U.S. Army)

The Modular Active Protection System employs a “soft-kill” method for defeating tank killers. It only works on weapons that use sensors, and it tricks those sensors into losing track of the tank or by offering it fake tank signatures to chase.

So, it’s a combination: equal parts invisibility cloak, smoke screen, and decoy system. And it can work in conjunction with a hard-kill system that literally shoots down the incoming rounds if they aren’t tricked or blinded.

Advocates rally to stop Senate plan to cut Basic Allowance for Housing
Hard-kill systems are generally cooler looking than the soft kill ones. (Photo: Raytheon Company)

The hard kill is necessary even if the soft kill system is perfect because many weapons, like most rocket-propelled grenades, don’t have any sensors to spoof. But the system would work against most modern anti-tank missiles which are led to their target by a laser or follow the tanks infrared or electronic signatures.

Russia’s T-14 Armata Main Battle Tank is protected by its own active protection systems, according to Russian state media. The Armata’s protections are allegedly even strong enough to intercept depleted uranium sabot shells fired from the M1 Abrams and other NATO tanks.

If U.S. Abrams and other vehicles don’t get their own protections, they could find themselves outmatched in future armored conflict even if they aren’t outgunned. The Modular Active Protection System could put American crews on equal footing.

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