On the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, U.S. diplomatic facilities in a newly Qaddafi-free Libya were hit by a coordinated assault by an Islamic militant group. The attack killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and two special operations veterans who responded to the attack as part of a volunteer CIA quick reaction force. The special operations community got their revenge, capturing ringleader Ahmed Abu Khattala in Libya in 2014.
Khattala was accused of being the leader of an extremist militia and directing the Benghazi attacks. Prosecutors alleged Khattala was responsible for the deaths of the four Americans, but could not find any evidence of the extremist leader actually holding a weapon.
He was caught on camera driving fighters to the attack site and his mobile phone records proved he was communicating with the attackers. Among the witnesses testifying against him were the FBI plant who got close to Khattala and helped the FBI arrange his capture by U.S. Army Special Forces.
The attack on the compound that killed Ambassador Stevens was the first that resulted in the death of such a high-profile diplomat since the 1979 killing of U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Adolph Dubs during a botched kidnapping attempt in 1979. Also killed was State Department Information Officer Sean Patrick Smith, along with former Navy SEALs Glen “Bub” Doherty and Tyrone “Rone” Woods, who both served with valor in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After CIA contractors who responded to an attack on the consulate compound removed Smith’s body and aided survivors (they were unable to find the ambassador), the attacking forces moved on to the CIA’s annex, where the defenders took cover. Doherty and Woods died in defense of the annex.
Though there have been many investigations in the events surrounding the Benghazi attacks and an exact timeline isn’t clear to this day, what is clear is that it was a coordinated assault by members of the militant group Ansar al-Sharia, a group formed to fight the government forces of Muammar Qaddafi – and the Abu Khattala was involved.
Khattala was convicted on four charges, including providing material support for terrorism, but was cleared of 14 others including the four deaths of Americans on the ground in Benghazi that night.
How do you get 38,000-plus World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the country’s memorial to their service? Fly them, of course. That’s roughly how many vets and caretakers are on the Honor Flight Network’s waiting list. But United Airlines, American Airlines, and most others aren’t just giving away free seats for veterans. That’s where Honor Flight comes in, but it can’t do it alone. Like any other non-profit, it needs to raise money.
Good thing Honor Flight has the NFL’s most dominant defender at their side. The Houston Texans’ JJ Watt is putting his legendary fundraising skills to work for the 348 World War II veterans who die every day.
On Veterans Day 2019, JJ Watt launched a new shoe line with Reebok, calling it “Valor 2.” The shoe is dedicated to the memory of his late grandfather, who fought in Korea, including at Pork Chop Hill. Most importantly, the proceeds that would normally go to Watt for his work on the shoe will instead go to the Honor Flight Network, along with an additional ,000 kicker from Reebok.
Watt is no stranger to lending his name and time to support great causes. He raised an incredible .6 million to help rebuild Houston after it was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Now he’s using his clout and his status to make another miraculous save. This time the beneficiary is the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit whose mission is to take war veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to their respective wars giving priority to World War II vets.
As he mentions in the above video, the Valor shoe Watt produced with Reebok in 2018 was a massive success, benefitting the Navy SEAL Foundation. The shoe sold out three times and Reebok restocked it three times. This shoe, along with the same camouflage pattern, also features the Korean War stripe on the back along with his name tape and unit, right up to the division level. Watt’s younger brother TJ Watt, an outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, wore the shoes during the Steelers’ Nov. 10 game against the Los Angeles Rams.
The JJ III, as it’s called on Reebok’s JJ Watt website, retails for 0 for men’s sizes and for boys. If you’re in the market for a new pair, pick up the JJ III and help a World War II or Korean War veteran see the monument to the work he or she did overseas.
The leading candidate to take the helm of the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan was killed in a US air-strike on August 10, US forces Afghanistan announced August 13.
Abdul Rahman and three other senior ISIS militants were killed in the strike marking the latest in a series of decapitation strikes by the US on the terrorist group in Afghanistan. The location of the strike reveals that ISIS “appears to be relocating some of its senior leadership from the eastern province of Nangarhar to the rugged, mountainous northeastern province of Kunar,” Long War Journal fellow Bill Roggio noted August 14.
ISIS’s previous leader in Afghanistan, Abu Sayed, was killed in Kunar in a July 11 drone strike. Sayed was only at the helm of the terrorist group for 6 weeks before being killed and was the third head of the group in Afghanistan killed by the US.
ISIS in Afghanistan has morphed from a nascent band of militants in 2015 to a full-fledged threat in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The group controls a relatively small amount of territory but has used it to launch multiple complex attacks on the capital city of Kabul, killing hundreds with its brutal tactics.
“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of ISIS. We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem,” Pentagon Chief Spokesman Dana White declared in a recent interview with Voice of America.
Roggio concurred with White’s assessment saying ISIS “has far fewer resources and personnel, and a smaller base a of support than the Taliban and its allies – has weathered a concerted US and Afghan military offensive in Nangarhar and the persistent targeting of its leaders for nearly two years.”
While many a news outlet regularly reports when Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates flip-flop as to who is the richest person in the world, with Bernard Arnault and Warren Buffet nipping at their heals, as we previously noted in our article on the richest people in history, Bezos and Gates’ combined wealth barely matches that of the known fortune of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi who ruled over that oil rich country for over three decades before being ousted and then killed in 2011. So how wealthy was Gaddafi? In the years since his death, so far nearly $200 billion dollars have been found in secret accounts, real estate holdings, and other investments directly belonging to him. No matter whether he acquired it ethically or not, assets are assets, and Gaddafi had the most of any known person so far this century by a huge margin.
Another individual who has more or less ruled a petroleum-rich nation for about two decades now is likewise rumored to secretly have a net worth in excess of $200 billion. We are, of course, talking about Vladimir Putin. But is Putin actually the richest person in the world, or are these just rumors?
To begin with, as you might imagine being born in the Soviet Union in 1952, Putin didn’t exactly start out life in the lap of luxury. In a bit of 1950s-era role reversal, his father was a cook and his mother a factory worker. Putin himself would grow up to join the KGB in 1975 working a variety of positions with that institution over the years. While you might envision Hollywood spy type scenarios were his daily life, in fact, according to journalist and biographer Masha Gessen, “Putin and his colleagues were reduced mainly to collecting press clippings, thus contributing to the mountains of useless information produced by the KGB.”
Putin in the KGB.
The first rumor that Putin was using a government position to stash away quite a lot of money for his own personal gain came in the early 1990s when he, in his then position as head of the Committee for External Relations at the Mayor’s Office in St. Petersburg, allegedly helped broker a million deal to acquire various food supplies for the city. In a nutshell, various companies were granted permits that would allow them to supply a huge amount of materials to foreign entities, and in exchange would be given an equivalent value back in foodstuffs to then be used within the famished city. The thing was, as far as anyone can tell, while the companies did send out the materials, no foodstuffs came back in return. The matter was ultimately investigated by one Marina Salye at the behest of the city council, with Salye in turn claiming Putin’s signature could be found authorizing the deals.
She states, “The raw materials were shipped abroad but the food didn’t materialise. There’s 100% proof that in this Putin was to blame. As a result in 1992 – when there was no food at all – the city was left with nothing. The evidence I have is as solid as it gets…. Putin – well, his committee – made bartering contacts to get food for the city. He issued licenses. And commodities – wood, metal, cotton, heating oil, and oil – flew out of the country.”
That said, while she states Putin was to blame and, at least according to her, she had definitive proof, she did not find any evidence that Putin had received anything in return for the apparently botched deals. As for Putin, he claimed the companies that had been given the export permits in the deal were to blame for foodstuffs not coming back as they were supposed to have- implying that Putin had no knowledge the deals wouldn’t be completed as originally brokered when he issued the licenses.
The city council would move forward with further investigation, but ultimately Mayor Anatoly Sobchak put a stop to it and the matter was dropped. While you’ll read in many outlets reporting this story that Salye would die of so-called natural causes mere weeks after she made these accusations and the investigation was killed, in truth she would go on to help found the Free Democratic Party of Russia and more or less continually rail against Putin to anyone in the media and public who would listen, until eventually giving up in 2000 after the election and moving to the countryside. There she lived until her death at the age of 77 in 2012, though she did give a handful of interviews during that span, still unabashedly anti-Putin.
A portrait of Marina Salye during the 2012 Protests after the 2011 Russian elections.
As for Putin, from that 1992 political position, he worked his way up to becoming one of a trio of Deputy Prime Ministers, and was known to be Boris Yeltsin’s preferred successor, despite before this being a relative unknown among the wider public. Ultimately he did indeed become president in 2000 after winning the majority vote.
Once elected, Putin, like his predecessor, reported his finances and holdings publicly, including his salary and exact amount in his many bank accounts. He has continued to do so since. The result? Over the years while his salary has changed regularly from year to year, he has made approximately 0K-0K annually in that span, for example in 2018 reporting an income of 5K. Today between his wife’s and his own accounts, the couple seem to have a little over a half a million in cash in various bank accounts, though why he isn’t investing this is rather curious given his apparent lack of any other investments and almost complete lack of actually needing any cash for his day to day life given the government foots the bill for most everything. Of this, Putin states, “Honestly speaking, I don’t even know what my salary is. They deliver it to me, I take it, put it my bank account and don’t even count it…”
As for his other assets, he also owns a studio sized apartment in Saint Petersburg, a slightly larger apartment in Moscow, owns a small garage, a couple cars, a small plot of land outside of Moscow, and otherwise has various minor assets of no great worth.
Of course, over the years people can’t help but notice that Putin has a collection of watches he wears very publicly whose purchase price combined is around that of his reported entire net worth, ringing in at about 0,000-0,000 if various reports are to be believed. For reference, the highest valued watch he has been spotted wearing costs around 0,000- a Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar watch.
On top of that, the clothing he can often be seen wearing is likewise extremely expensive, such as his 00+ tailored suits from outlets like Kiton and Brioni. Not just expensive suits, in one photo of him working out, Putin can be seen wearing sweatpants that cost over id=”listicle-2641610333″,400 a pair, apparently made from silk, cashmere and the tears of impoverished children, along with a similarly priced top.
On top of that, among other mansions, he is long rumored to own an estate known as “Putin’s Palace” near Praskoveevka, widely reported to be worth id=”listicle-2641610333″ billion by media outlets. However, this was actually sold in 2011 to one Alexander Ponomarenko, a former associate of Putin’s, for somewhere around 0 million. (Note, the exact amount has not been publicly disclosed, but Ponomarenko has indicated it’s in the ballpark of that widely reported figure.)
Ponomarenko purchased the estate from a group led by businessman Nikolai Shamalov. Ponomarenko claims he decided to buy the company behind the estate project, and thus the mansion, as it was a steal of a deal owing to the project being stalled from lack of funds to complete the estate and the business group wanting to cut their losses on it rather than complete it.
That said, Russian businessman Sergei Kolesnikov, who is exiled from Russia, claims the palace was built specifically for Putin’s use. He claims Putin was able to afford its construction in part thanks to a gift given him by the aforementioned Nikolai Shamalov in the form of 94% of the shares in a company called Lirus Holding. Among other personal knowledge of the development of the palace, Kolesnikov claims Shamalov himself told him this and, to quote him, “I have no reason not to believe (him).”
However, no documents concerning any ownership connected to the project seem to indicate Putin, or any holdings of Putin’s, ever were directly involved with this estate. That said, some contract documents concerning its construction allegedly have the signature of one Vladimir Kozhin, one of Putin’s inner circle of confidants. Of course, this still doesn’t definitively indicate whether Putin actually owned the palace or even was behind its building at all- simply, allegedly someone he is close to was involved in some capacity and later someone else he is close to bought it- a bit of a theme for a lot of these rumors.
Putin himself denies he had anything to do with the palace being built. Nevertheless, Putin allegedly frequents the palace and Federal Protective Service guards have been seen at the mansion, along with locals reporting seeing Putin in the area regularly.
Of course, among the extremely wealthy with such mansions, it’s not uncommon at all to allow friends to guest in one’s estates whenever they please, so Putin would not have to actually own the thing to stay there, nor would it be a big ask to do so- more or less par for the course among the exorbitantly wealthy.
That said, on top of all this estate, Putin has been connected to causing to have had built or secretly owning several other mansions, yachts, planes, etc.
Whether he actually owns any of these or, like Putin’s Palace, seemingly is just using them when he pleases, his flashing of extreme wealth in the case of his watches and other such items, along with an awful lot of not implausible allegations of widespread corruption within his government connected to him, has led to the belief that he has boatloads of money secretly stashed away in accounts throughout the world.
Others speculate Putin is simply using the government coffers to finance all these extravagances. For many items, this would not actually be that uncommon for a major world leader, if a lot more excessive than most. For example, the replacement Air Force One planes the U.S. President will soon have at his disposal has a budget of over billion. The U.S. President also gets a pretty posh mansion (The White House) and vacations spots to go to at their leisure with the tax payer footing the bill for quite a lot of such perks with few batting an eye at this.
But, of course, the U.S. government isn’t funding 0,000 watches for the President (though bullet proof tailored suits occasionally worn by the president are presumably paid for by the U.S. taxpayer. To attempt to clarify these items, requests have been made to the Russian government asking if, for example, Putin’s watches are actually his or property of the state that he is just wearing, but no answer to this question has been given that we could find.
Whatever the case, yet others claim Putin is simply enriching many people around him and it is they who are then happy to provide Putin with anything and everything his Judo-master heart can desire.
Yet others claim it is all three- Putin is enriching himself through shady means and using government funds and people he is helping make wealthy to get whatever he wants while he’s in office.
But the question of the hour is not whether Putin’s net worth is more than he is letting on- that is very apparently true by his watch collection alone, whether he purchased them or they were gifted. The question of the hour is whether he is secretly the richest person in the world with a net worth in excess of 0 billion as so many claim.
So what does the man himself say about all these rumors? “I am the wealthiest man, not just in Europe but in the whole world…”
Case closed, right? He admitted it! Well, in truth, he wasn’t finished talking. He goes on, “I collect emotions. I am wealthy in that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with the leadership of a great nation such as Russia. I believe that is my greatest wealth.”
Of course, whether he collects emotions or not doesn’t inherently negate the first part of that statement, simply that he considers that a greater wealth than whatever he has possession-wise.
Argue amongst yourselves whether this was Putin cleverly admitting to being the wealthiest person in the world while making it seem like he was saying he wasn’t, and also simultaneously admitting he’s a Lizard Person given a hallmark of these creatures is apparently feeding on human emotions…
For a more direct answer to the question about the rumors of his extreme wealth, he clarifies, “It’s just chitchat, nonsense, nothing to discuss… They picked it out of their noses and smeared it on their pieces of paper.”
The Press and Information Office of the President of the Russian Federation’s also asserts of these rumors, “This information has no substance. As you may know, the declarations of Mr. Putin’s income and property are published annually… We recommend you to use only reliable sources henceforward and not to believe fake news in 2018.”
Naturally, nobody seems satisfied with these assertions given his apparent and frequent flashing of wealth far beyond what anyone with his salary should be able to afford.
So what do others who might know a little more say? First, we have political analyst and noted critic of Putin Stanislav Belkovsky who claimed to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2012 that Putin had net worth of approximately billion, though how he came up with this figure isn’t exactly definitive nor inspiring confidence in his hard knowledge here. In his own words, “The figure of billion emerged in 2007. That figure could now have changed, I believe at the level of -70 billion…. Maximum we cannot know. I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about.”
Mildly more concrete, at least in terms of given something more specific, he also claims much of this wealth is because of Putin’s alleged 4.5% stake in Gazprom, 37% stake in Surgutneftegas, and allegedly 50% ownership of Gunvor. How he knows this, however, isn’t fully clear. Belkovsky simply states he got this information through sources he has within the companies. It’s also noted that for a time Gunvor was co-owned by a friend of Putin’s, billionaire Gennady Timchenko.
So what do the three companies say? For whatever it’s worth, Corporate Affairs Director of the Swiss-based Gunvor Group, Seth Thomas Pietras, states, “President Putin has never had any interest in, investment in, or involvement with Gunvor Group either directly or indirectly… Mr. Belkovsky’s claims are based on absolutely nothing and are fundamentally ridiculous. And the U.S. government, despite its statement has never sanctioned Gunvor in any capacity, nor has it provided any evidence of its own.”
Moving on to Surgutneftegas, they likewise deny Putin owns any shares.
Gazprom, which is majority owned by the Russian government itself, with the rest of the stock publicly traded, likewise shows no records of Putin owning any shares.
Belkovsky counters these denials by the companies and lack of records stating Putin has a rather elaborate network of off-shore companies and funds that own the shares, which all ultimately mask that he himself actually owns, or at least, controls them.
Moving on to the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, Bill Browder, he is the one that seems to have started the widespread rumor that Putin’s personal wealth is in excess of 0 billion, stating before a Senate Judiciary Committee
I believe he is worth 0 billion. The purpose of the Putin regime has been to commit terrible crimes in order to get that money…He keeps his money in the West and all of his money in the West is potentially exposed to asset freezes and confiscation. Therefore, he has a significant and very personal interest in finding a way to get rid of the Magnitsky sanctions.
On this latter note, one of Browder’s former associates, Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, was investigating corruption within the Russian government and allegedly found evidence of various Russian officials taking part in a near quarter of a billion dollar tax fraud scheme. Magnitsky himself was then arrested for allegedly being the mastermind behind the tax fraud, and died while in jail before his trial. At the partial encouragement of Browder, the U.S. then passed the Magnitsky Act in 2009. In an oversimplified nutshell, this allows the U.S. government to sanction various individuals thought to be human rights offenders, ban them from entering the U.S., and more importantly freeze their assets where the government is able. The bill was essentially meant to allow the government to legally hold somewhat accountable those thought to have been involved in Magnitsky’s death.
As for hard data, however, Browder offers little.
Next up, noted economist Anders Aslund, author of the book Russia’s Crony Capitalism: The Path from Market Economy to Kleptocracy, states, “I would estimate that Putin is worth around 0-160 billion. We can see that Putin and his friends have taken -15 billion from Gazprom every year since 2004. That’s just Gazprom. There are large numbers of transactions being made… What’s much more difficult is to see where the money goes. It’s typically Cyprus, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Willmington, Delaware…”
As to how he came up with these figures, he states, “My assessment is that since Putin’s circle got its looting fully organized around 2006, they have extracted -25 billion a year, reaching a total of 5-325 billion, a large share of the Russian private offshore wealth. Presuming that half of this wealth belongs to Putin, his net wealth would amount to 0-160 billion. Naturally, Putin and his cronies cannot enjoy their wealth. It is all about power. If they are not the wealthiest, they fear they will lose power.”
Why he assumes Putin would get half of these alleged amounts instead of some other percentage isn’t fully clear.
On that note, like so many before, nobody seems to be able to actually offer hard evidence that Putin has any money stashed away anywhere not publicly known, which when talking sums of allegedly 0 billion, is a pretty neat trick for someone who has been so highly scrutinized, including by the U.S. Senate, who presumably if they wanted could just ask the CIA or other entities good at collecting such data to look into it. Given, instead, they are asking the likes of Browder, it has been presumed and widely claimed, that the CIA and other such government entities have no definitive intelligence on this either.
From this lack of a paper trail directly linking money or assets to Putin, yet his clearly lavish lifestyle indicating he does indeed have access to an awful lot of money, this has led many to conclude that Putin himself doesn’t actually officially own most or all of the wealth attributed to him, but rather he is leveraging his position and connections to enrich those close to him who, in their gratitude, are then more than happy to provide Putin with any money or items he wants, from access to mansion to yachts to sweatpants that keep his Judo-jubblies ultra comfortable when working out.
As alleged evidence for this, we turn to 11.5 million documents from the Panama Mossack Fonseca law firm made public in 2016, dealing in off-shore holdings by over 200,000 entities. While Putin himself is not listed in any of them, the documents do reveal three close associates of Putin’s among those having off-shore holdings partially managed by the law firm, with a combined amount of around billion between the trio.
Despite not owning these assets, there are many claims by various individuals that Putin uses some of these like his “personal bank account”, most notably the holdings of a man claimed by many in the media as Putin’s best friend- famed Russian musician and conductor Sergei Roldugin. Not just a friend, Roldugin is also the godfather to one of Putin’s children and was the man who introduced Putin to Putin’s wife.
As for where Roldugin supposedly got his extreme wealth, beyond his noted music career, starting in the 1990s Roldugin began investing in various oil and other business entities, to great success. Beyond all of this, in 2019, Roldugin also was accused of being involved in a massive multi-billion dollar money laundering scheme in conjunction with Sberbank CIB, which allegedly profited him greatly.
That said, for those using these records as proof of Putin having money elsewhere via his associates, it should be again noted these are the records of well over 200,000 entities throughout the world. And the vast majority who are using the firm are doing so completely legitimately, including actor Jackie Chan who reportedly had six perfectly above board off-shore companies the law firm helped manage various facets of. So that three among Putin’s numerous friends who are exorbitantly wealthy should be included isn’t necessarily proof of anything other than they wanted to have some assets outside of Russia, which isn’t uncommon among the wealthy in Russia. As some formerly close to Putin who have had their assets stripped and forced to flee the country demonstrate, having some off-short holdings is probably a good security blanket of sorts, just in case.
On this note, political scientist professor and author of Putin’s Kleptocracy, Karen Dawisha, stated before her death from lung cancer in 2018, “Why is it that 0 billion left the country last year? Because they believe that their wealth can only be secured in the long term outside their own country.”
Coming back to the posed question of whether Putin is secretly the richest person in the world, whether these funds are being held for him or not, this is still not Putin’s money, not just technically, but we’re guessing regardless of the amount of good-will Putin has built up with these various businessmen and women, should he no longer be in power, they might quickly find themselves less than willing to continue to support his lifestyle, if that is what has been happening as is widely believed. And some speculate he might even find himself in a rather unsafe circumstance in that case.
For example, one-time billionaire and the man formerly known as “Putin’s banker”, but now exiled from Russia, Sergei Pugachev, says “Everything that belongs to the territory of the Russian Federation Putin considers to be his. Everything – Gazprom, Rosneft, private companies. Any attempt to calculate it won’t succeed. He’s the richest person in the world until he leaves power.”
As for leaving power, he goes on that Putin chose not to leave office after his first term and beyond, not because of a desire for continued power, but rather because he feared for his own safety should he no longer be in that position. Even today, Pugachev claims, “I don’t see any guarantees for him [if he steps down]. Putin doesn’t see them either,” which is why he finds it unlikely that Putin will ever willingly leave office. Though it should be noted that Putin himself has stated he will not be running for president at the end of his current term in 2024.
Also for whatever it’s worth, Pugachev, despite having billions stripped from himself by the Russian government, being currently in fear for his life, and in exile, states, in his opinion, Putin himself is not evil, nor did Putin originally plan to setup a corrupt government when he took power, simply that, “He surrounded himself with like-minded people whom he didn’t know very well and who had served with him in the KGB. They immediately began enriching themselves….Putin wanted to get rich, too. He was a pragmatic person. We talked about this. He didn’t want to leave office poor.”
As for the Russian government’s position with regards to Pugachev, it is claimed that Pugachev defrauded the government of hundreds of millions of dollars which is why the one-time bosom-buddy of Putin originally had to go on the run.
Pugachev counters, “The state steals something then has to defend its theft. In my case the scale is huge, but in other respects this is a normal contemporary practice in Russia.” This has all left the one-time billionaire with, by his own account, only about million to his name which he kept in off-shore holdings. It must be rough…
In truth, this amount is unfortunate for him because Pugachev allegedly was offered a deal from a Russian official that if he paid 0 million to certain entities, his legal issues in Russia would be made to be resolved to his benefit and he could return to Russia.
Further siding in the camp that Putin doesn’t have hundreds of billions stashed away he officially owns, the aforementioned Karen Dawisha, who perhaps gives some of the best account and most concrete details of the alleged corruption within the Russian government in her Putin’s Kleptocracy book, states that Putin’s real wealth comes from his position. “He takes what he wants, When you are the president of Russia you don’t need a written contract. You are the law.”
Again backing up this position, financial investigator L. Burke Files, states, “Putin controls wealth through proxies.” He then makes up examples to illustrate, “Sergey owes his fortune to Putin, so when Putin asks Sergey a favor, the favor must be honored. A luxury cruise, use of a private dacha, expensive consumer goods, etc….Ivan owns a shipping company and owes his wealth to Putin, so when Putin requests a favor, Ivan— like Sergey—honors the request.”
So, is Putin the richest person in the world? While, as Gaddafi demonstrated, it is possible to squirrel away 0 billion secretly, given the level of scrutiny thrown Putin’s way by governments the world over looking into the matter, with nobody seemingly able to come up with any hard evidence, most think this figure grossly inflated, though it is generally accepted that he probably does have at least some significant amount stashed away somewhere.
For most, however, the explanation for his rather luxurious lifestyle is more reasonably explained by the simple fact that he can pretty much have the Russian government foot the bill for anything he wants without much uproar or oversight. And it does seem like an awful lot of his compatriots have gotten exceedingly wealthy during his tenure at least in part thanks to their connections with Putin and him leveraging his position to help facilitate their enrichment. Thus, if that is what has happened, it’s reasonable enough that many of those are happy to scratch his back whenever he feels the need for a new yacht or the like, without Putin needing to have anything in his name to avoid the backlash that would result should he be discovered to have such.
But as to answering the question of Putin’s own wealth, as the consensus seems to be that most of his wealth is tied up in his position and associates, rather than funds he directly has, it seems a bit of a stretch to call him the richest man in the world, though not a stretch at all if talking the money he currently has strong influence over. His position as President of Russia alone would be enough for that.
And as to the idea that he really does have 0 billion simply being held in other people’s names, as alluded to, we’re guessing even if many of these individuals are actually holding money for Putin, that should he step down from power and ask for that money be given to him en masse, or even remain in power and ask for a combined sum of 0 billion, that shortly thereafter memorials and monuments would be being built for the former Russian leader who sadly died in his sleep of natural causes…
Thus, to sum up, while given his lifestyle and various possessions, Putin most definitely does have access to quite a lot of wealth between the Russian government and a lot of friends in high and wealthy places, when talking his own assets, there simply isn’t any real hard data to date backing up the claim that he is the wealthiest person in the world. And, while not impossible certainly, it would be quite the hat trick to squirrel away a couple hundred billion without any world governments able to find hard evidence that he owns a dime of it. Of course, while some might argue access to vast sums should still count- access is not ownership, even if one can benefit from it on some level.
In the end, unless he really is one of the Lizard People, he’s probably not immortal, so at some point in the next few decades he will shuffle off this mortal coil and, perhaps then, like Gaddafi, more definitive data will be revealed. Or perhaps sooner when he no longer has the protection of his position in 2024, as he is constitutionally unable to run for the presidency that year. Although, of course he could always do as he did in 2008 and take a different position while remaining in power.
Whatever the case, for now, at least, while it is technically possible he does have 0 billion in secret, and even probable that he has drastically more than he is letting on publicly, which isn’t difficult given his paltry public assets for a man in his position, given the current data at hand, the needle is seemingly tilted more towards Gates and Bezos being wealthier than Putin, at least in terms of money and assets they officially own.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Descendants of Soldiers and other veterans of World War I will soon be able to visit a national memorial in the nation’s capital that commemorates the sacrifices of their great-grandfathers who fought in “the Great War.”
An array of politicians, military leaders, veterans, and officials from the World War I Centennial Commission officially broke ground for the National World War I Memorial, Nov. 9, at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of U.S. involvement in World War I. It was April 6, 1917, when the United States declared war on Germany. The first American Soldiers would make their way across the Atlantic in June of that year.
The new memorial to those who served in World War I will share a space with an existing memorial dedicated to General of the Armies John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing, who served as commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. The site is a short walk east of the White House.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley attended the groundbreaking as one of more than a dozen officials. He told those in attendance that World War I provided many lessons learned. Along with lessons in strategy, operations, and tactics, the world also learned lessons in politics and government, he said.
“But if there is one lesson most of all to learn, it is the lesson to vow to never let it happen again,” Milley said. “The way to prevent war is to maintain your preparedness for war, in the words of George Washington, our first president.”
Milley said the pre-WWI Army was made up of fewer than 200,000 Soldiers who were spread across the nation in mostly law enforcement-type roles. To accommodate the needs of conflict in Europe, the Army grew quickly to some 4 million Soldiers. Still, the United States military was unprepared for that conflict.
“A state of unpreparedness led to many casualties in the battles of the Argonne and many others,” Milley said. “So if there is one lesson for us to learn as a nation, it is to be prepared. If you want to sustain the peace, then have large, ready, credible military forces that can do whatever the nation asks it to do in order to ensure this experiment in liberty is passed on to the next generation and the generation after that.”
Milley said the new WWI memorial will help Americans today fulfill their duty to remember what has happened in the past, and to honor those who sacrificed.
“As the chief of staff of the U.S. Army, it is my deep honor to be here today and honor those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines that perished in the first world war,” Milley said. “It is our duty to remember what they fought for, and why they fought. It is our duty to carry on that legacy and ensure the peace goes on into the future.”
A MEMORIAL THAT RESONATES
Seated next to Milley at the ground-breaking event was Joe Weishaar, the now 27-year-old architect, who at just 25 was chosen to design the memorial.
“For the last two years it has been my privilege and honor to be a part of what I consider one of the most noble undertakings today, and certainly in my own life,” Weishaar said. “Rather than design a landmark that is pompous, ostentatious, or bombastic, we find ourselves here, in a small park, on America’s main street, tasked with the creation of a memorial to a group of men and women who gave themselves in service and sacrifice without the thought of how or why or when they would be remembered.”
It will be Weishaar’s architectural design, and the artistry of sculptor Sabin Howard, that will finally provide a memorial to give those WWI veterans the recognition they earned, but never asked for.
“It may be long overdue, but today marks another point in the journey of making sure they are not forgotten,” Weishaar said.
Weishaar said it was back in June 2015 that he first saw a notice advertising a design competition for a national WWI memorial to be based in Washington, D.C.
At the time, he’d never been to the nation’s capital, he said, and had just assumed such a memorial already existed there.
“We had memorials to the other notable three wars of the 20th century,” he said.
After reading that notice announcing the design competition, he said he went online to research WWI, including photos from the war that he found through the National Archives.
“The thing that pulled me in were the faces and the names and the stories of the young men I was looking at,” he said. “As somebody who grew up in a quiet corner of Arkansas, I felt these people were kindred spirts. We came from small towns, we were roughly 25 years of age, some even five or six years younger, and we were experiencing the larger world for the first time in our lives. The fact that these were men and women who boldly stepped out into the world to defend countless others only cemented my admiration for them. Deciding to submit a design was one of the easiest choices I’ve ever had to make in my life.”
The centerpiece of the new memorial will feature a large bas relief bronze sculpture that follows a single Soldier through his own personal WWI experience, beginning with that Soldier leaving home, and his daughter handing him his helmet. Other scenes depict the Soldier marching off to war, fighting, and eventually returning home.
Other elements in the memorial will include a pool and green space.
“I wanted to create something that would resonate with people the same way it did when I looked at those photographs,” Weishaar said. “That somehow you could reach across time and touch the people of a generation past. Those people were real, they were courageous, and they sacrificed everything for a better future. To everybody who has ever served to protect this nation and to everybody who will visit this memorial, there will now be a new place to be reminded of the past and a new place to say thank you.”
Remember back when they first announced that the 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade would be a thing and everyone lost their collective sh*ts because they’re conventional troops that wear berets like special operations, rock a unit patch that looks like special operations, and even share their first two initials (SF) with special forces?
Yeah. Well, they’re currently deployed doing grunt things with the Green Berets while your ass is setting up a Powerpoint presentation on how to teach drill and ceremony.
Funny how that works out, huh? Anyways, have some memes before you get too butthurt.
China is pumping millions of dollars into the World Health Organization, an action one expert describes as a political move meant “to boost its superficial credentials” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as the US pulls its own WHO funding.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, told a Thursday news briefing that the country would be injecting an extra $30 million into the agency “in support of global efforts to fight COVID-19 and the construction of public health systems in developing countries.”
China also lapped praise on WHO and its leadership, saying the agency “had actively fulfilled its duties with objective, science-based and fair position.”
Last month, China already pledged million to the organization, a move it said was meant to “help small and medium-sized countries with weak public health systems in particular to bolster their epidemic preparedness.”
China’s latest cash injection comes a week after the US announced plans to freeze 0 million in payments to WHO. Until then, the US was the largest financial contributor to WHO.
According to publicly available data, as of the end of 2019, China contributed million to WHO — .8 million in assessed contributions and .2 million in voluntary contributions — while the US gave 3 million — 6 million in assessed contributions and 6 million in voluntary contributions.
It’s not clear whether the US will cut from the assessed or voluntary contributions. Other nongovernmental groups, like the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, gave WHO 1 million in voluntary contributions in 2019.
President Donald Trump told a coronavirus press briefing last week that the organization had “failed to adequately obtain and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.”
Trump and other critics have accused WHO of assisting China in efforts to suppress information on the coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
‘Chinese officials and their propaganda machinery are in high gear worldwide’
Experts told Business Insider that China’s contributions to WHO were not goodwill gestures but rather a series of political power moves to boost its global image.
“Beijing sees an opportunity to boost its superficial credentials as a global contributor to the pandemic following the US decision to halt funding to WHO,” said John Lee, who served as a national security adviser to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop from 2016 to 2018.
Lee now works as a senior fellow at the United States Studies Center in Sydney and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.
He said China’s other altruistic measures, like sending medical teams and protective equipment to countries battling the coronavirus, were also tools meant to give China a political boost in the global arena.
Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, previously told Business Insider’s Alexandra Ma that China was trying to craft an image for itself as a global leader in the coronavirus fight rather than the country from which the virus originated.
“Chinese officials and their propaganda machinery are in high gear worldwide trying to paint the Chinese government as the solution to the problem, rather than one of the sources of it,” Richardson said.
WHO leaders ‘captured’ by China
Lee said that while science and health experts at WHO “do wonderful work on the ground in all parts of the world,” the agency’s leadership had become “captured by countries such as China,” putting its credibility to the test.
“When [WHO] leadership is called to make decisions of global health concern such as with the current pandemic, such decisions tend to be overly influenced by political rather than health priorities,” Lee said.
“In this context, Dr. Tedros is deeply compromised and his credibility is heavily damaged,” he added.
WHO officials have hit back at accusations of the organization being “China-centric,” saying its close relationship with China is “essential” in understanding the origins of the outbreak.
“It was absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible, to get on the ground and work with the Chinese to understand this,” Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to Tedros, told reporters earlier this month.
Tedros has also dismissed accusations of associating too closely with China, saying the agency was “close to every nation.” “We are color-blind,” he told reporters on April 8.
On the scenic Thai island of Koh Sumai, tucked away in the Wat Khunaram temple is the mummified body of one of Thailand’s most famous monks- Luang Pho Daeng. Remarkably well preserved, Luang Pho Daeng’s body was put on display sometime in the 1970s and is still there today, virtually unchanged from the day he passed away, with the notable exception of a giant pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses that were added later. So how does his body stay so naturally well preserved and why is he wearing Ray-Bans?
Born sometime in 1894 on Koh Sumai, Luang Pho Daeng first became ordained as a Buddhist monk in his twenties. However, he only remained a monk for a few months before he decided to abandon the pursuit to raise a family and live an otherwise normal life. That said, his brief time as a monk had a profound impact on Luang Pho Daeng’s life and guided his actions throughout the ensuing decades. For example, during WW2, Pho Daeng, who was a financially successful businessman during his adult life, donated large amounts of money as well as clothing and medicine to those in need and otherwise placed high value on all life.
(Photo by Per Meistrup)
It was also around this time, in 1944 at the age of about 50 years old that he, apparently with the support of his wife and six now grown children, decided to once again become a monk.
After being ordained, Luang Pho Daeng threw himself into studying Buddhist texts and became fascinated with various meditation techniques, soon becoming a master meditator, in particular of Vipassana meditation, which literally translates to “seeing clearly”.
His skill at meditation was such that he could reportedly meditate for upwards of 15 days at a time, during which period he’d neither move nor consume food or drink. Although the man himself claimed that he needed no nourishment during his marathon meditation sessions, he was frequently warned by physicians that he was causing severe harm to his body through his regular extended bouts of no fluid or food intake.
As you might imagine, during these sessions, he lost a great deal of weight through muscle, fat, and fluid loss and was often so weakened by his meditation that he needed to nursed back to health via fluid resuscitation and the like, before ultimately he would once again resume meditating.
The true extent of the damage Luang Pho Daeng did to his body while meditating was largely lost on his followers thanks to the decidedly monk-like stoicism with which he was able to endure the withering effects of severe dehydration and hunger. As a result, Luang Pho Daeng became something of a celebrity amongst the residents of Koh Sumai and many travelled to Wat Khunaram temple to learn from him.
In addition to his impressive meditative abilities, Pho Daeng was known for his strict adherence to a simplistic lifestyle, on a normal day eating only one, simple meal and apparently always eating from the same bowl.
According to the monks of Wat Khunaram where Luang Pho Daeng served as an abbot, shortly after his 79th birthday in 1973, Luang Pho Daeng foresaw his own death and made it known that he would mummify himself, which is totally possible if excruciating and an extremely time consuming process that, given the time of his eventual death, meant he must have started the process long before he made this announcement.
In preparation for his anticipated success at this, he requested that his disciples build him an “upright coffin” made of glass in which his body should be put on display if he was successful in his goal of achieving self-mummification. His ultimate aim being that his remains would serve as an eternal testament to the Buddhist belief in the transience of human existence if he was successful.
Unfortunately for those of us who like the details, exactly how he prepared himself for self-mummification was never recorded by the monks of his temple. That said, one known method used by certain types of Buddhist monks was a total of a nine year process, about six of which the monk would be alive for.
The monks would begin by ceasing eating any food except various nuts and seeds, with some accounts stating that they were also allowed to eat fruits and berries. They would also begin a regimented program of heavy physical exercise, which they would continue throughout this first period that lasted one thousand days.
During the next one thousand days, the monks would further restrict their diet by only eating bark and various roots, again with some accounts stating that they were also allowed to eat a limited amount of fruits and berries. Near the end of this period, they would drink a concoction made from the sap of the Urushi tree. This tree’s sap is mildly poisonous and is normally used as a natural lacquer. Ingesting the drink caused the person consuming it to vomit frequently, further restricting the body’s ability to obtain nutrients from the sparse diet they ate. They would also rapidly lose bodily fluids due to vomiting. As a side effect, this sap also worked as a preservative in their bodies.
In the final stage of self-mummification, the monk’s body would be little more than skin and bones. If the monk survived to this point, he would lock himself into a stone tomb that was just large enough for him to fit in, sitting in the lotus position, which is a position he would not move from until he died. The tomb itself contained an air tube, so that the monk could live for a time after being entombed. It also contained a bell, which the monk would ring on a daily basis to let those outside the tomb know he was still alive.
While in the tomb, the monk would sit in the lotus position and meditate until death. Once the monk died and, thus, no longer rang the bell each day, the breathing tube would be removed and the tomb sealed for the final thousand day period of the ritual. At the end of this period, the tomb would be opened to see if the monk was successful in mummifying himself. If he was, the preserved body would be put on display in the temple. Having successfully demonstrated mastery over the physical, the priest would also then be declared a Buddha.
Whether some semblance of this was what Pho Daeng did or not isn’t known. Whatever the case, after his preparations were complete on an unknown date in 1973, he sat down and meditated for the final time of that particular life.
When his followers discovered that he’d passed away while meditating, they hastily constructed the upright coffin he’d requested and placed his body inside to wait and see if it would decompose or not. If it did decompose, he left instructions that his remains were to be cremated. If it didn’t, as mentioned, he requested they be put it on display.
In keeping with his final wishes, when his body failed to decompose normally, he was then put on display in Wat Khunaram.
Nearly three decades later, in 2002, his remains were still externally in remarkably good shape, spurring researchers at the Bioanthropology Research Institute to study the corpse. In the process, among other things, they performed a radiographic analyses on it.
Amazingly his organs, including brain, are all still remarkably well preserved, more or less having shrunk from dehydration, but otherwise still there and intact. In fact, one of the only parts of Luang Pho Daeng’s body that actually rotted away were his eyes, which sunk into his skull shortly after his death.
This became something of an issue for the monks of the temple wanting to display Luang Pho Daeng’s corpse as per his final wishes, because children who visited the temple were understandably terrified of his eyeless visage, rather than in awe of his self-mummification.
After contemplating the issue for some time, the monks of the temple came up with the rather novel solution of simply covering Luang Pho Daeng’s eye sockets with a pair of Ray-Bans, which would not just mask the eye sockets, but also make him look rather stylish.
Luang Pho Daeng has rocked this look ever since. And as a result of both his startlingly well-preserved state and timeless fashion sense, his former body has become the temple’s most famous attraction.
Incidentally, one other interesting thing the study by the Bioanthropology Research Institute discovered in examining the body was that at some point a Gecko or Geckos managed to lay eggs in his eye sockets and skull, as well as in his mouth and throat…
Moving swiftly on, the monks of Wat Khunaram don’t mind visitors taking pictures or even recording videos of Luang Pho Daeng body (so long as they do so in a respectful manner) and the temple is free to the public, meaning images of this fashion conscious mummy are plentiful for those who can’t make the trip.
The Afghan Air Force is scheduled to receive 150 new MD530 F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters by 2022.
By this, the total number of MD530 Fs operated by the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces will rise to almost 180.
The US Department of Defense announced on Sept. 5 that it has issued a $1.38 billion contract to MD Helicopters “for procurement of an estimated quantity of 150 MD 530F aircraft and required production support services to include program management, delivery support, pilot training and maintenance,” the Diplomat reported.
The estimated completion date of the contract is 2022.
According to a MD Helicopters press release, the first deliveries under the contract will be 30 MD 530Fs for an estimated $177 million. The first part of the order is expected to be completed by September 2019.
“Mission Equipment for these aircraft will include a ballistic crash worthy fuel system, consisting of a main fuel tank and a 38-gallon Auxiliary Fuel Tank, high capacity landing gear, FN Herstal Weapons Management System, DillonAero Mission Configurable Armament System weapons plank and Fixed-Forward Sighting System, Rohde and Schwarz M3AR Tactical Mission Radio, and FN Herstal .50 caliber HMP 400 Machine Gun Pods and M260 7-shot rocket pods,” MD Helicopters noted in a press statement released on Sept. 13.
Earlier this week, Gen. Phillip A. Stewart, commander of Train, Advise, Assist Command said in an interview with TOLOnews that $7 billion will be spent on the Afghan Air Force over the next four years.
“We expect the Afghan Air Force to be fully professional, sustainable, and capable and independent and that’s our whole goal here,” he said.
Under the new aid package, the number of aircraft owned by the AAF will be doubled in the next four years.
This comes after Major General Abdul Raziq Sherzai, the commander of Kandahar Air Brigade, last week said more military aircraft should be delivered to the hard-pressed Afghan security forces who have been battling insurgent groups in their traditional heartlands in Kandahar and Helmand provinces for weeks.
He said that the Kandahar Air Brigade, despite having inadequate facilities on hand, continue to back the ground forces in their campaign against the militants in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where in recent months violence dramatically increased following the Taliban’s new attempt to seize control of the strategic province of Helmand in the south and infiltrate neighboring provinces.
The Kandahar Air Brigade that operates under the command of 205 Atal Army Corps has about 20 different types of aircrafts – a figure security officials claim is nothing near what they need to deal with the current scale of security issues that have undermined large swaths of land in the south.
By now, there’s a playbook for capitalizing on gamer nostalgia. Take a classic console — the original Nintendo, the Super NES, the first PlayStation, the Atari VCS — and make a miniaturized, modern version with HDMI output and preloaded games. Then, sell it at a price much lower than that of the latest generation of consoles. For long-suffering Sega fans, the wait is finally coming to an end, as the company is finally borrowing the playbook and releasing an updated version of its classic console, the Sega Genesis.
The Sega Genesis Mini, as the new device is known looks, like a shrunk-down version of the original, beloved console. It will come with two wired controllers with a standard D-pad on the left and Genesis-standard three-button control pad on the right.
The Genesis Mini is an HDMI-equipped version of the classic console that comes preloaded with 40 different games. (Buy now)
The system comes preloaded with 40 different games, a generous number that means it won’t be easy to get bored with this thing. The included titles are being announced in four waves of ten, and the first batch has us excited. Sonic the Hedgehog is thankfully included because there wouldn’t be much point to a Genesis reboot without it.
Other titles include the Dracula-themed platformer Castlevania: Bloodlines, groundbreaking independent title Gunstar Heroes, the bizarre and captivating Toe Jam Earl, as far as we know the only funk-themed video game out there. There’s a ton of variety in this wave, and we’re excited to see the rest of the titles as they’re released between now and Sept. 29, 2019, when the console hits the market.
At the height of the Korean War, Air Force pilot A.J. D’Amario was on his first solo flight since arriving in country. Luckily for him, it wasn’t a combat mission, he was just on a routine sortie to “have fun boring holes in the sky.” Things got a lot more interesting for D’Amario immediately upon taking off. He would have to put a few rounds from his sidearm in the plane before he could bring it down.
D’Amario’s P-80 Shooting Star jet fighter wasn’t the latest and greatest plane, but it was still a good fighter to have. He would have to get used to it. The MiG-15 was tearing through P-80 Fighters, but there weren’t yet enough F-86 Sabres to go around. Still, the P-80 held its own: the first American jet-to-jet kill was made behind the stick of a Shooting Star. None of that was on D’Amario’s mind as he shot up into the wild blue yonder. He was more concerned about his left fuel tank. It felt heavy – it wasn’t feeding fuel to the engine.
He wanted to land immediately, but that much fuel was a no-go for the Korean War-era U.S. Air Force. The tower at Suwan, Korea, wasn’t about to have a melted runway if that much jet fuel caught fire on the flightline. They told him to dump his tanks at a bomb range and then come back.
D’Amario retired from the Air Force as a Lt. Col.
(U.S. Air Force)
The young pilot flew over to the range, and as soon as he came upon his target area, he flipped the switches for the bomb release. Unfortunately, nothing happened. D’Amario’s P-80 Shooting Star was still carrying the heavy tanks of dangerous fuel and had no way of dumping the tanks, feeding the engine, or landing. He did what anyone who’s felt enough frustration with malfunctioning equipment wanted to do: he shot it.
But that wasn’t his first reaction. He made a few bombing runs, trying to release the left tank at every turn. He even once hit the plane’s “panic button” – the button that released everything attached to the fuselage. It did dump everything, everything except his errant fuel tank, full of fiery death. The tower told him he was cleared to bail out. The only problem with that is that bailing out comes with its own potential consequences. The loss of the aircraft is a definite consequence.
“… pilots really hate to punch out of a perfectly flyable airplane,” D’Amario later wrote, “And I figured I still had one option worth trying.”
U.S. Air Force P-80 Shooting Stars with drop tanks.
That’s when the pilot opened the canopy of his jet aircraft (which he did slow down to 220 miles per hour) and pulled out his issued sidearm, a Colt M1911, and fired at the very full, very malfunctioning fuel tank.
“… liquid fuel will not burn,” D’Amario writes. “At least not like vapors, so I aimed for the part of the tank I was sure would be full of liquid.”
D’Amario fired four shots at the tank. The first shot was to understand just where to shoot to hit the tank while flying at 220 miles per hour. The next three rounds punctured the tank and went through the other side. It worked: the P-80 was still flying, and liquid fuel was pouring out of the left tank. Best of all, D’Amario and his Shooting Star did not become a real-life burning streak across the sky.
He was able to drain the tank and make a “routine” landing a half-hour later, convinced he was the only USAF pilot to shoot his own plane when it malfunctioned.
Thirty percent of the current veteran population is suffering from some level of post traumatic stress, according to VA statistics. Treatments vary, but researchers and doctors are aggressively responding to the crisis.
As marijuana begins to gain traction in treating veteran PTS (the Veterans Administration maintains its position that marijuana has only an “anecdotal effect” on veteran post-traumatic stress) researchers are examining other recreational drugs to treating the unseen wounds of war. And the newest drug under scrutiny is methylene-dioxy-meth-amphetamine, better known as “MDMA,” “Molly,” or “ecstasy.”
Pure MDMA is of interest to neuroscientists because of its effect on human empathy, fear, and defensiveness. In a recent Popular Science article, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Mithoefer said that 83 percent of his treatment resistant patients not only responded positively to MDMA treatment, they soon showed no symptoms at all.
Other reports show the drug works in treating end-of-life anxiety and alcoholism. Rick Doblin, who runs the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, thinks the FDA could allow the use of MDMA as a viable treatment option as early as 2021.
In studies published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, MDMA was found to be addictive in “rare cases.” One being a veteran self-medicating with MDMA to treat his own post-traumatic stress. Clearly, more study is needed.
Since his fellow cadets stormed Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium three years ago after Army ended Navy’s 14-game winning streak, Ryan Velez had waited for his chance to play in the storied Army-Navy game.
Velez, now a senior safety from Fountain Hills, Arizona, finally saw action on special teams during last year’s 17-10 Army triumph in Philadelphia.
On Dec. 14, 2019, Velez can help the 5-7 Black Knights defeat Navy for the fourth straight time, and cement the 2020 senior class as one of the greatest in West Point’s history. Army takes on the No. 23 Midshipmen (9-2) at the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field at 3 p.m. EST.
“This is like a season of its own,” Velez said of the Army-Navy Game. “That’s unlike any other games in college football … the opportunity to win a trophy and go to the White House. That’s something special. It’s surreal and something I’ll be able to take with me for the rest of my life.”
Army Black Knights football coach Jeff Monken leads the team onto the field for the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
A high school tailback, Velez moved to defense at West Point and played mostly on the scout team his freshman year. After switching to safety his sophomore year, he still couldn’t get on the field, but finally contributed to Army’s 11-2 campaign as a junior, seeing action in 11 of 13 games.
Velez worked harder in practice and studied diligently to learn the intricacies of both strong and free safety, earning the trust of his coaches.
This fall, Velez has become a leader on defense, recording 40 solo tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a sack in 12 games. Not bad for a player who spent most of his first two seasons on the bench.
“During that time it was hard,” he said. “Obviously taking a backseat, having a secondary role, that was one of those challenges I’ve had to overcome — fight through and I’m glad I did. It’s been a ride; it’s been a journey. I’m just very appreciative to be where I’m at right now.”
A 5-7 mark could seem disappointing for the Army football team after cruising to an 11-2 record last fall and the program’s best finish since 1958.
Records can be deceiving.
Army has proven it can still compete with the nation’s best. Despite the final scores, the results on the field have shown competitiveness.
In each of those seven losses, the Black Knights remained within striking distance, including a near-upset of No. 17 Michigan in Ann Arbor. Army forced overtime against the Wolverines before falling 24-21.
The Black Knights narrowly lost to service rival Air Force 17-13 in Colorado Springs Nov. 2, when the No. 25 Falcons stopped Army at the goal line with less than a minute in regulation.
During a 52-31 offensive shootout at Hawaii Nov. 30, Army trailed only 38-31 with seven minutes remaining in the game. The Black Knights’ drive stalled after driving to the Hawaii 35-yard line and the Warriors scored the final two touchdowns.
“We played a really tough schedule, some really great competition,” Velez said. “All that stuff that happened in the past, that’s gut-wrenching. We can’t focus on that right now. We just got to focus on Navy, finishing out the season strong.”
Army quarterback Kelvin Hopkins, center, scores the final touchdown of the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Army’s senior class, which has not lost in the annual rivalry game, hopes to complete a four-year sweep. Senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins (706 rushing yards, seven TDs) and senior running back Connor Slompka (637 yards, eight TDs) lead Army’s No. 2 rushing attack. Hopkins has also thrown for 570 yards and four touchdowns, but his time on the field has been limited by injuries.
Since head coach Jeff Monken took over, Army bounced back from a 2-10 mark in 2015, to go 21-5 in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
That run includes a 70-14 trouncing of Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl and finishing at No. 19 in the college football rankings during the 2018 season.
“We had a great senior class my freshman year,” Velez said. “We were able to end the streak. That was something that the whole Army itself was looking forward to, just ending that streak, being able to say we finally beat Navy. That senior class kind of gave us the ground rules for continuing that streak the past couple of years, giving us the formula to beat Navy so they set the example and … we hope to continue that this coming Saturday.”
The contest holds special significance for Velez, as his younger brother Ross, a freshman at the Naval Academy, will be pulling for the Midshipmen from the stands. Velez, whose great uncles served as enlisted troops in the Korean War and World War II, will become the first officer in his family when he graduates from West Point next spring. He said his parents, Roger and Evangeline Velez, will have torn allegiances when they attend this year’s game.
Army faces a No. 23-ranked Navy squad that handed Air Force one of its only two losses this season. Last season Army’s football team won a defensive struggle in frigid winter conditions. In 2018, Army carried a No. 22 ranking and 9-2 record heading into the game while Navy had weathered its worst season since 2002 at 2-9.
This fall, Navy enters the game as the favorite as Army failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2015.
Navy bounced back from its worst campaign to finish second in the American Athletic Conference and earn a bid to play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl vs. Kansas State Dec. 31.
This season’s Army-Navy game features a matchup of the nation’s top two rushing offenses. The Midshipmen’s high-powered offense ranks No. 9 in the nation.
Navy quarterback Garret Lewis is sacked during the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Senior QB Malcolm Perry leads Navy’s top-ranked rushing attack, as he has rushed for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns and thrown for another 1,027 yards and six touchdowns.
While standing only 5-9, the elusive Perry has quickly become one of the nation’s most potent offensive weapons and will test the Black Knights’ No. 30-ranked defense, which has struggled with consistency. Perry ranks No. 6 in the nation in rushing yards.
Sophomore fullback Jamale Carothers has made big play after big play for the Midshipmen, rushing for 637 yards on only 76 carries (8.4 yards per carry) and has 741 yards from scrimmage and 14 total touchdowns. Carothers scored five of those touchdowns in a 56-41 triumph over Houston Nov. 30, one shy of the conference record.
Velez said the Army defense carries a swagger, built from three consecutive victories and weathering a brutal schedule.
“We just have a calmness going into it, we know how to win,” Velez said. “It’s just a blood bath when we go out there. I think going in we have some confidence, we have some swagger. We know what it takes to win. At the end of the day, we just got to line up, be a tougher team and out-physical them.”
Navy still holds a 60-52-7 all-time lead in the contest, though Army has won the last three matchups.
While Army’s defense had been a stalwart force the previous two seasons, it has struggled at times this season. In 2018, the Black Knights boasted the nation’s 10th best defense, allowing only 17.7 points a game and 295.3 yards of total offense per contest.
This fall those numbers jumped to 337.8 yards allowed and the Black Knights fell to No. 30 in total yards allowed, and No. 33 in points allowed.
Senior cornerback Elijah Riley leads Army in interceptions (three), forced fumbles (three), sacks (four) and ranks second on the squad with 73 tackles.
(West Point Athletics Department)
Honoring the past
Army will pay tribute to the 1st Cavalry Division, the first full unit of its kind to deploy to Vietnam. The division pioneered a new battle concept which used helicopters to mobilize large masses of soldiers.
The Black Knights will don green helmets that display the golden sabers to honor the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry regiment.
The Midshipmen will wear a throwback classic 1960s-era uniform with gold shoulder stripes and a special paint design that resembles football helmets of the past.