For the more than 19 million veterans currently living in the United States, where you live can be essential to your access to healthcare, good employment, and a strong quality of life.
WalletHub recently conducted a report of the best US cities for veterans, analyzing 20 key indicators of livability, affordability, and veteran-friendliness. The study then provided rankings — out of 100 — for each category.
Employment rankings took into account the number of veteran-owned businesses per veteran population and opportunities for job growth, as well as the availability of jobs that utilize military-learned skills. Economy rankings considered factors such as the median veteran income and veteran homelessness rates, while quality of life was determined by analyzing veteran population, restaurants with military discounts, and more.
The study found that Tampa, Florida, triumphed as the best major US city for veterans, earning a total score of 72.44 out of a possible 100. Boston, Massachusetts, despite ranking at No. 68 overall, earned the highest ranking for veteran employment.
Keep reading to find out the top 25 best US cities for veterans.
President Trump has officially signed the order to begin the process of developing the Space Force. The logical side of all of our brains is telling us that it’s just going to be an upgraded version of what the Navy and Air Force’s respective Space Commands currently do… but deep down, we all want to sign up.
I mean, who wouldn’t immediately sign an indefinite contract to be a space shuttle door gunner? It represents that tiny glimmer of hope in all of us that says we, one day, can live out every epic space fantasy we’ve ever dreamed up.
The sad truth is that the first couple decades (if not centuries) of the Space Force will involve dealing with boring human problems, not fighting intergalactic aliens bent on destroying our solar system. Oh well.
Hey, while you wait for the army of Space Bugs to start invading, kill some time with these memes.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, WATM brings you breaking news to remind you to to feel especially grateful: North Korea is the worst. Sure, America might have super high COVID rates and a little election chaos, but at least you don’t feel the need to defect by vaulting a 12′ barbed wire fence to your freedom. That’s right, a North Korean gymnast mustered all of his talent and courage combined with a healthy amount of desperation and hope, and vaulted a border wall into South Korea to seek asylum.
According to the Chosun Ilibo, the 20-something man climbed an iron pole and used the height to jump over the border fence. He was then spotted about a mile south of the border by South Korean forces using a thermal observation device. The man was promptly detained, identified himself as a former gymnast and reportedly requested political asylum.
Officials were so taken aback by his feat that they asked him to demonstrate twice how he was able to jump over the three-meter fence, according to the BBC’s Seoul correspondent. Authorities vowed to investigate why hi-tech security systems did not work.
According to the London Telegraph, “the audacious defection sparked alarm that the high security demilitarized zone, separating North from South, had been successfully crossed. The four-kilometre-wide, 250-kilometre-long strip is fortified by fences, minefields and armed sentry posts. Few defectors take the dangerous option of trying to break through, with most of the 33,000 who have fled North Korea since the ’90s opting for risky but more achievable routes through China.”
China, the world’s leader in both population (over 1.3 billion) and military size (2.3 million), has a military that employs about 0.18% of the population.
North Korea’s military, on the other hand, employs about 4.7% of the total population.
2. Rollerblading is hugely popular, especially in Pyongyang
According to National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder, rollerblading is popular “all over the country.” He reported that he couldn’t “count the number of rollerblading locations there are in the capital city [Pyongyang],” in particular.
3. Drugs are common and largely unregulated
Drug use in North Korea is largely unregulated and quite common, with an estimated 30% of North Koreans using drugs, UPI reports. Known locally as yeoksam, marijuana is grown in such quantity that smugglers sneak it across the border into China for foreign sale, according to Radio Free Asia.
Public Radio International reports that methamphetamines, and specifically highly potent crystal meth, are also common in the DPRK, and though these drugs are not as openly permitted as pot, their use is widespread. Meth is often used less for recreational purposes and more as an appetite suppressant and to help workers toiling away for long hours at farms, factories, and in other trades.
4. North Korea is home to the world’s largest stadium
Not only is the DPRK home to the biggest stadium in the world in terms of seating capacity, but it holds that distinction by a massive margin. The Rungrado 1st of May Stadium (also known as May Day Stadium) has a total capacity of 150,000 people.
It dwarfs the next largest stadium, which is Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium, which accommodates 107,600 people. The venue is used for occasional sporting events, but its primary purpose is to host the annual Arirang Festival, a massive affair held each August and September that celebrates North Korean history, culture, and achievements.
5. North Korea holds political elections every five years
Strange as it might seem for a dictatorship to hold elections, North Korean citizens go to the polls every five years. However, the ballots they receive only list one candidate name, for the office of Supreme People’s Assembly deputy in their district, according to The Economist.
The only decision the voters have to make is whether to vote for the sole candidate listed or to vote against them, which involves placing their ballot in a separate box from the positive votes and having their identity noted, which could be considered an act of treason, The Economist reports.
6. North Korea exists in its own time zone
As of August 15th, 2015, North Korea exists in its very own time zone, shifted at least a half-hour apart from any other place on earth, CNN reports. Pyongyang time is GMT+08:30, to be precise, and was adopted in an apparent return to the time the nation used prior to twentieth-century Japanese colonization.
7. For some North Koreans, life is improving
To be clear, for many North Koreans almost every day is a struggle where food shortages, horrid work conditions, and government oppression define life. But for some DPRK citizens, everyday life bears some similarities to the rest of the world, NPR reports.
More and more North Koreans have access to mobile phones, DVD players, and other devices that were virtually unknown less than a generation ago, according to NPR. Recreational opportunities including movie theaters, amusement and water parks, and more are common in Pyongyang and a handful of other population centers, and influence from the wider world increases more with each passing year, NPR reports.
Early reports suggest National Security Advisor John Bolton presented a plan that called for 120,000 U.S. troops to counter Iran, just in case the Islamic Republic ups the ante by attacking American forces or starts building nuclear weapons again.
Tensions in the region are reaching a fever pitch as the United States sends more warships, including the USS Abraham Lincoln into the Persian Gulf and the Saudis accuse Iran of attacking oil tankers using armed drones. According to the New York Times, Bolton’s plan does not include a ground invasion force. But John Bolton is no moderate when it comes to regime change, and there’s no way his plan for the United States toppling the Iranian regime precludes a ground invasion.
The guy who openly admits he joined the National Guard because he didn’t want to die in a rice paddy in Vietnam has no problem sending your kids to die in Iran.
Bolton has openly advocated for the U.S. to use military power to foment regime change everywhere from Syria and Iran to North Korea and Venezuela. Bolton even backed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and still maintains it was a good idea, despite everyone else, from historians to President Bush himself, admitting it was a costly, bungled pipe dream. President Bush soon learned from his mistakes and Bolton’s career was wisely kicked back into the loony bin where it belongs.
But there’s a new President in office, one who has elevated Bolton and his hawkish sentiment to the post of National Security Advisor. While Bolton may have presented a plan without an invasion force, it’s very likely he has one somewhere that does include an invasion, and 120,000 troops will not be enough.
John Bolton is a mouth just begging for a sock.
The extra seapower is likely just the beginning of the overall plan to topple the Islamic Republic. A complete naval blockade in the Persian Gulf would be necessary to cut Iran off from outside supplies, help from the Revolutionary Guards Corps forces, and protect international shipping lanes. This sounds like it should be easy for the U.S. Navy, but Iran’s unconventional naval forces could prove difficult to subdue without American losses.
That would be a significant escalation, perhaps even enough to subdue the Iranian regime for the time being. But that’s not John Bolton’s style, as cyber attacks would work to cripple what military, economic, and physical infrastructure it could while U.S. troops deploy inside Iran. The Islamic Republic is firmly situation between Iraq and a hard place, both countries where American troops are deployed and have freedom to move.
The worldwide demand for white Toyota pickups is about to skyrocket. Or land rocket. Because of Javelins.
Then the ground game will begin. Tier one forces from the U.S. Special Operations command will conduct leadership strikes and capture or destroy command and control elements. Other special operators will have to engage Iranian special forces inside Iran and wherever else they’re deployed near U.S. troops, especially in Iraq and Syria. It’s likely that Army Special Forces would link up with anti-regime fighters inside Iran to foment an internal uprising against the regime.
Meanwhile, the main ground invasion force will have to contend with some 500,000 defenders, made up of Iran’s actual army, unconventional Quds Force troops, Shia militias like those seen in the Iraq War and the fight against ISIS, and potentially more unconventional forces and tactics.
Conventional American troops will seal the country off along its borders, especially the porous ones next to Iraq and Afghanistan, where significant numbers of American combat troops are already deployed. The combined squeeze of American troops from the East and West along with the naval blockade of the Persian Gulf would be akin to Winfield Scott’s Civil War-era Anaconda Plan, which crippled Confederate supply lines while strangling the South. American forces would move from the northern areas to southern Iran in a multi-pronged movement.
The first prong would be a thrust from the northwest into the southern oil fields and into the Strait of Hormuz, securing Iranian oil and shipping infrastructure. The second prong would move right into northern Iran, cutting it off from its northern neighbors. The final thrust would likely cut Tehran off from the outside while keeping an eye on the border with Pakistan.
Kinda like this except in the desert… and the Indians are very different.
While Iran’s borders with Iraq and Afghanistan make moving U.S. troops to the Iranian combat zone easier, it also leaves America’s supply lines vulnerable to attack. These would need to be reinforced and protected at every opportunity and are vulnerable to sympathetic forces that could be exploited by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Quds Forces, as all routes into Afghanistan pass through Iranian neighbors or their allies, which include Pakistan.
How long this would take is anyone’s guess, but the United States managed to build up its forces and topple Saddam Hussein’s Iranian regime in less than a year, though CIA operatives had been in-country with opposition forces for longer. If the CIA or American special operations troops are already inside Iran, then the invasion has already begun.
The big news from Turkmenistan in the last few weeks has been that the country’s mercurial president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has been absent from the news for large periods of time.
That’s unusual because he normally dominates the state-run broadcasts.
And the few times Berdymukhammedov has been on television since going on vacation nearly one month ago, his appearances have raised more doubts than offered evidence of his well-being.
While officially on vacation, that has never stopped Turkmen state media from following Berdymukhammedov around in previous years.
But his absence from nightly Turkmen television newscasts and daily reports in state print media have some people seriously considering rumors that Berdymukhammedov is in poor health or possibly even dead.
Berdymukhammedov had already been officially on vacation for almost one week when Aslan Rubaev, identified as the director of the Center for Monitoring Eurasian Problems, told the Russian radio station and Internet news site Govoritmoskva.ru that Berdymukhammedov had died of acute renal failure on July 20, 2019.
There was no explanation in the July 24, 2019 report as to why the president chose to suspend his vacation for one day to occupy himself with the mundane matter of urban renewal plans in Ashgabat.
The news spread like wildfire across Russian-language media and it was only after a few hours later that the Turkmen embassies in Russia and Kyrgyzstanissued statements rejecting stories that the Turkmen president had died.
Before the end of the day, Rubaev was making a public apology for his remarks, saying they were unfounded.
But Berdymukhammedov had still not been seen and the rumors persisted.
Finally, on July 24, 2019, there were reports Berdymukhammedov had spoken by telephone with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev to wish him a happy birthday.
Later that evening, Turkmen television news aired footage of Berdymukhammedov inspecting plans for a new district in the capital, Ashgabat, without explaining why the president had decided to break away from his vacation to look at drawings of new bus stops.
And then Berdymukhammedov vanished from local news again.
His next appearance in state media was not until Aug. 4, 2019, when state television showed a series of clips of Berdymukhammedov riding a bicycle, exercising, firing a rifle, bowling, riding a horse, working on a new book, composing a new song, and driving an SUV through the desert to the Gates of Hell — a perpetually burning crater that resulted from an attempt to flare gas there in the early 1970s.
He also appeared on state television on Aug. 5, 2019, holding a video conference call with officials.
On Aug. 3, 2019, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s office released a statement about Medvedev’s impending trip to Turkmenistan to attend the Caspian Economic Forum in the Turkmen Caspian resort of Avaza, adding that he planned to meet there with Berdymukhammedov.
That is the proof that has been offered to show Berdymukhammedov is alive and well.
But there are still many reasons to think that something is wrong with him.
Berdymukhammedov’s appearances on state television on July 24 and Aug. 4-5, 2019, were not entirely convincing.
As mentioned, there was no explanation in the July 24, 2019 report as to why Berdymukhammedov chose to suspend his vacation for one day to occupy himself with the mundane matter of urban renewal plans in Ashgabat.
And RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, noted that Berdymukhammedov was wearing exactly the same suit and tie as he wore in a May 10 broadcast on state television, which is strange because he never wears the same suit — or even the same clothes — twice in his television appearances.
Berdymukhammedov did not speak in the footage aired on July 24, 2019, for example, to say he had just spoken with the Uzbek president, as was reported.
The Turkmen president also did not speak in the Aug. 4, 2019 footage aired on Turkmen TV, and the clips seem to be a compilation of his usual bizarre antics that are regularly shown on the evening news, and of which there is almost certainly an abundance of archive material from the cutting-room floor.
His hair is gray in the recent appearances, but that only narrows down the time frame to anytime during the last year or so, when he stopped dying it black.
The headlines of the reports seemed aimed at quieting rumors of ill health or worse.
Turkmenistan Aug. 6, 2019’s headline said, “Turkmenistan’s President Dedicates His Vacation To A Creative And Active Life,” and the Golden Age website’s headline read “The Turkmen Leader’s Vacation: Active Leisure, Literary And Musical Creativity.”
The Aug. 5, 2019 footage showed Berdymukhammedov discussing the country’s economic performance, agriculture, preparations for the Aug. 11-12, 2019 Caspian Economic Forum and the Muslim holiday Kurban Bayramy.
Image of Berdimuhamedow, on display outside the national horse-racing ground in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
But again, Berdymukhammedov did not refer to any recent event that would have proven the footage was from sometime during the last two or three weeks. The conversations could have taken place several weeks or months ago.
Absent from the video conference was any criticism of officials’ work, or reprimands for shortcomings, which are typical of these video conferences. It was also unclear why he again interrupted his vacation to hold the video conference.
Similarly, state print media had an unusual gap in reports featuring Berdymukhammedov.
News about the Turkmen president has always dominated state media coverage, going back to the early days of first Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov.
A July 25, 2019 report about Berdymukhammedov congratulating new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the last news about Berdymukhammedov for more than one week on the Altyn Asyr (Golden Age) state website until a report appeared on Aug. 4, 2019, about the footage shown on state television. The same was true on state website Turkmenistan Today.
The last reports featuring Berdymukhammedov on the Russian-based pro-government website Turkmenistan.ru are from July 25, 2019; one congratulating Johnson and another about birthday wishes for Mirziyoev.
Even stranger, Turkmenistan.ru on Aug. 1, 2019 reported about the CEO of the Malaysian company Petronas, Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, visiting Avaza and meeting with Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and gas-and-oil-sector chief Yashigeldy Kakaev.
Berdymukhammedov’s name is not even mentioned in the report.
Petronas has been doing business in Turkmenistan since 1996. Petronas developed and is still working Block 1 in Turkmenistan’s sector of the Caspian Sea, “the first PSA to be awarded by the government of Turkmenistan.”
Petronas has invested more than billion in Turkmenistan and was a sponsor of the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games that Turkmenistan hosted. When Berdymukhammedov visited Malaysia in November 2016, he made a point of meeting with Ariffin, as he had met with previous Petronas head Dato Shamsul Azhar in Kuala Lumpur in December 2011. Berdymukhammedov also met with Azhar’s predecessor, Hassan Marican, in Ashgabat in May 2009.
Despite the history of close ties to the heads of Petronas, Berdymukhammedov could not find even a few minutes to meet with Ariffin at a resort area in Turkmenistan.
On July 25, 2019, Afghanistan completed the Aqina-Andkhoi segment of a railway line that is to link Turkmenistan to Tajikistan via northern Afghanistan.
Turkmenistan has been facing hard economic times since 2015 and this should have been good news for the country. Turkmenistan sent a delegation to a ceremony launching the new line that was reported on by Turkmen media. But there was not a word attributed to Berdymukhammedov about the accomplishment and what it could mean for Turkmenistan.
Where is he?
The immediate denials of Berdymukhammedov’s death came, as mentioned, from Turkmenistan’s embassies in Moscow and Bishkek.
But how would they know? Both embassies reacted rather quickly, almost automatically, rejecting reports of bad news about Turkmenistan as they usually do.
The Turkmen Foreign Ministry has not issued any statements denying the rumors Berdymukhammedov is ill or dead. In fact, while Berdymukhammedov has been on vacation it is not clear who exactly is running the country, though it does appear Foreign Minister Meredov is acting as the host to visitors.
And even Berdymukhammedov’s vacation is unusual this year.
Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov cut the ribbon to open an exhibition.
As the Hronika Turkmenistana website pointed out, he usually only takes two weeks of summer vacation. This year, his vacation is from July 15 to August 15.
Berdymukhammedov has in the past often taken his ministers, or many of them, along with him on vacation. Some of the ministers were at Avaza playing various sports at the end of July, but Berdymukhammedov was never shown among them, which is very unusual, as he customarily is on TV instructing his ministers how to exercise properly.
Again, the media is not following Berdymukhammedov around and showing footage of him frolicking on the Caspian shores or inspecting Turkmenistan’s naval vessels or merchant fleet.
There was some footage at the very start of his vacation of him playing with his grandchildren and some kittens.
Turkmenistan has always been a unique, some would say bizarre, place, but in the last few weeks there is a feeling that things are not right. Established patterns of behavior are being ruptured without any credible explanation as to why.
It seems Berdymukhammedov has suffered some sort of problem, otherwise it would have been easy enough for him to appear on state television and say something — anything — about current events. On the other hand, Turkmen media is now devoting a great deal of effort to convince people that their president of the last 12 years is alive and healthy.
Although the first Caspian Economic Forum should be the focus of attention when it opens in Avaza on August 11, everyone will now be concentrating on whether Berdymukhammedov will make an appearance and, if he does, if he shows any signs of having suffered some illness or physical setback.
World War I’s western front stretched from the English Channel to the Adriatic Sea and passed through the Italian Alps. The soldiers there were miserable and the conflict was characterized by long, bloody deadlock.
Life for soldiers of the Italian Army was no different. They were poorly equipped and trained, which was even worse horrible when combined with the incompetence of many high-ranking officers. This lack of leadership and equipment is a key reason Austro-Hungarian troops were able to invade the northeast part of Italy.
Soldiers on WWI’s Italian front fought enemies, frostbite, and avalanches.
In 1915, a sudden breakthrough came for the Italians in the form of a special operations unit. Some Italian officers and enlisted men volunteered to go behind enemy lines to gather information and create confusion among their enemies. These volunteers took the name of “Esploratori Arditi” – or “hardy explorers.”
These men were noted for their bravery and initiative and, by the end of the year, the first companies of Arditi were ready for action. Many of their fellow soldiers called them “Companies of the Death” because of the high number of casualties they both suffered and inflicted.
The Arditi led several attacks into the enemy trenches, quite often armed only with grenades and knives. One of their actions is described in the official records relative to the Silver Medal of Honor granted to Capt. Cristoforo Baseggio.
Arditi were issued unique equipment, like this diamond visor.
In 1916, Baseggio led an isolated column of 1500 men — about 200 Arditi and the rest mountain troopers. He ordered an attack on two enemy strongholds at Saint Osvaldo, one at an elevation of 1100 meters and the second at 1440. Even though it was April, there was still snow on the mountains. Soldiers climbed their way up, sliding and falling along the way. Their hands were covered in cuts etched in by frozen crags. Donkeys followed behind, pulling the artillery pieces.
Once they arrived, the soldiers spent the night digging trenches and foxholes. Between 5am and 9am, the Beech trees that hid the Austrians became a hell of flames and metal.
Two companies of mountain troops were sent to the right and to the left sides of the Austrian trenches. The Arditi were ready to attack the center just as soon as artillery blew away the barbed wires. They engaged the enemy in furious hand-to-hand combat, forcing the defenders to fall back, inward to the second line of trenches that encircled the mountain like a crown.
From their higher position, the Austrians managed to trap the Italians in the very trenches they conquered. The first two companies sent by Capt. Baseggio should have joined the action, attacking the enemy from the sides, but never showed up. The captain decided to go look for them himself. He ran through the snow, dodging bullets and hopping over corpses.
Soon, he found the two companies of Arditi pinned down by enemy fire. By all practical measures, his pincer maneuver had failed, so he decided to return to the central section with more of his men. While the reinforcements couldn’t get close enough to the Arditi, the sight of their captain gave the the Hardy Explorers strength enough to push forward again and recapture the trench
Fighting on the Italian Front was particularly brutal.
The two Austrian companies on higher up the hill managed to hold the attackers for a time, but without reinforcements, they were not able to hold it for very long. As was typical of World War I, the Italians gained and lost the trench several times — each advance cost them dearly. On a third attack, the Italians reached the second trench, fighting over piles of corpses made up of troops of both armies. From the nearby high ground, an Italian Lieutenant could see the battle. He wrote,
“The fight on the other side of the valley intensifies more and more, it will soon involve me and my men. I’m separated from my comrades by four hours of rough march. It has been 36 hours that we have not eaten, but we will join our brothers in arms.”
The shocking thunders of artillery were interspersed with moments of silence, during which the men fought each other with knives and bayonets. A mountain trooper named Turin used all of his grenades to clean a trench in the highest position. Then, he jumped in to find an Austrian who had stood his ground in face of the bombardment. Turin’s rifle jammed and the Austrian managed to rip off part of the Italian trooper’s skull.
His comrades arrived and killed the Austrian. Turin wanted to continue the attack, even with his face covered by a horrible mask of blood. He couldn’t stand properly because of the shock. Only the resolute order of his superior convinced him to retreat — but not before cursing the now-dead Austrian one last time.
Arditi became known for their knife-fighting skills.
Forced to step back, the Italians retreated downhill once more, the last of them was a Lt. Rabaioli, who ran back smiling — holding six rifles stolen from the enemy.
After two days of battle and with the reinforcements of Lt. Bongiovanni, Capt. Baseggio took the first of the two strongholds — and went immediately on to recon the second, which was defended by an Austrian battalion. He spent the entire next day attacking this position, using his advantage of artillery in higher position to rain hell on the enemy.
By the end of the day, only a quarter of his company of Arditi — about 50 men — were still able to fight. Exhausted, he gathered and aligned the remaining Arditi in the open and inspected the weapons. Then, they all started marching in a parade in front of the enemy, who, astonished, ceased the fire and abandoned the position.
An American D-Day veteran was reunited with his French love, 75 years after they first parted, USA Today reports.
K.T. Robbins kept a photo of the girl he met in the village of Briey in 1944. Jeannine Pierson, then Ganaye, was 18 when she met the Army veteran, who was 24 at the time.
“I think she loved me,” Robbins, now in his late nineties, told television station France 2 during an interview. Travelling to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Robbins said he hoped to track down Pierson’s family, the BBC reports. “For sure, I won’t ever get to see her. She’s probably gone now.”
Robbins left Pierson when he was transferred east. “I told her, ‘Maybe I’ll come back and take you some time,'” he said. “But it didn’t happen.” After the war, Robbins returned to the US, got married, and started a family. Pierson, too, married, and had five children.
After Robbins showed the photo of the young Pierson to France 2 journalists, they tracked her down — she was still alive, now 92, and living just 40 miles from the village where they had originally met.
75 years later, D-Day veteran meets long-lost French love
Robbins reunited with his wartime love at Sainte Famille, her retirement home in the town of Montigny-les-Metz.
“I’ve always thought of him, thinking maybe he’ll come,” Pierson said. And, 75 years later, he did.
“I’ve always loved you. I’ve always loved you. You never got out of my heart,” Robbins told Pierson upon their reunion.
The two sat together and told reporters about the time they spend together so many years ago.
“When he left in the truck I cried, of course, I was very sad,” Pierson told reporters. “I wish, after the war, he hadn’t returned to America.” She also started to learn English after World War II, in hopes Robbins would return.
“I was wondering, ‘Where is he? Will he come back?’ I always wondered,” Pierson said.
“You know, when you get married, after that you can’t do it anymore,” Robbins said about returning to find Peirson earlier. Robbins’ wife, Lillian, died in 2015.
While the two had to part again — Robbins left for Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion — they promised to meet again soon.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Mexican legislators proposed ending cooperation with the US on immigration, counterterrorism, and fighting organized crime “as long as President Donald Trump does not act with the respect that migrants deserve.”
The proposal was made on June 20, 2018, by the Mexican Congress’ Permanent Commission, which meets while Congress is in recess, and asks the executive branch to “consider the possibility of withdrawing from any bilateral cooperation scheme” with the US on those issues.
Mexican legislators called on their US counterparts to “end the inhumane and criminal action of separating migrant families, taking into account the best interests of the children and giving priority to the respect of human rights.”
It also called on the international community and human-rights defense groups to condemn the detention and separation of children and to end the policy and asked Mexican representatives to international bodies to use diplomatic means to halt the policy. (Trump rescinded the policy on June 20, 2018, in the face of domestic backlash.)
While announcing the proposal, Ernesto Cordero Arroyo, a senator for the conservative National Action Party, said the US “is a partner, allied in diverse causes and a friend that doesn’t deserve a government like that of Donald Trump,” adding that Mexico would not support a country that “systematically violates human rights and that doesn’t have respect for the life and dignity of people.”
Cordero said Trump “incentivizes and defends a discourse of hate inside and outside of his country,” encouraging racists groups and generating stereotypes of minorities, and that the US president has started a “trade war” through tariffs and rejected international cooperation, citing the US’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
Other Mexican officials have criticized Trump’s immigration policy. Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who has developed a close relationship with Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, condemned the separation policy as “cruel and inhumane” on June 19, 2018.
On June 20, 2018, Videgaray welcomed Trump’s decision to end the policy as “good news” but said the Mexican government would continue to provide consular protection to children in vulnerable situations.
Victor Manuel Giorgana — the president of the foreign-relations committee in Mexico’s lower house and a member of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party — said Trump had not done enough to protect migrant children and that Trump only backed down in order further his political agenda, namely securing funding for a border wall.
“The situation didn’t change in any way, except that [the children] are not separated,” he told newspaper Milenio, adding that those children would still be held in “inhumane” conditions.
The senate commission’s proposal is not the first of its kind.
In that resolution, senators urged Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to suspend bilateral cooperation with the US “on matters of migration and the fight against transnational organized crime as long as President Donald Trump does not conduct himself with the civility and the respect that the people of Mexico deserve.”
US officials have also warned of the deleterious effects Trump’s harsh comments and hardline policies would have on relations with countries in the region — specifically on security cooperation.
“In jeopardizing counternarcotics collaboration, President Trump risks cutting off his nose to spite his face,” Rebecca Bill Chavez, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Western Hemisphere affairs, said in February 2018.
“A deterioration in our defense cooperation, it threatens stability and security of our hemisphere in areas from illicit trafficking to migration and natural-disaster-related humanitarian crises to destabilizing crime and violence,” she added.
Mexican officials have expressed disdain for Trump and his policies, and the US president has been the target of protests around Mexico — though Trump has little influence on Mexican domestic politics, and many there are more critical of their own government for its failings.
The Mexican government has also worked to counter Trump through economic policy. Legislators have called on the government there to cut purchases of US corn, a $2.5 billion industry. More recently, in response to US tariffs on steel and aluminum, the Mexican government levied $3 billion in tariffs on US pork, steel, cheese, and other goods.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
U.S. Marines, attached to special operations forces in Syria, often found themselves in direct-fire gunfights with Islamic State fighters early 2018, according to the commander of the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response for Central Command.
The unit, designed with capability to launch combat forces within six hours anywhere in the CENTCOM theater, sent two rifle companies to support Special Operations Command units operating in Northern Syria between January and April 2018, Marine Col. Christopher Gideons, commander of the task force, said June 8, 2018, at the Potomac Institute.
“When Marines deploy, they want to get involved,” he said. “When there is a gunfight out there … they want to find that opportunity to feel like they are making a meaningful contribution. We did exactly that.”
Gideons initially deployed a platoon-size element that linked up with ArmySpecial Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) teams.
“They were integrated with [special operations forces], absolutely integrated. We were providing Marine infantry, we were providing indirect fires, and we were providing anti-tank fires,” he said.
The SOF elements would push forward, advising Syrian Democratic Forces, “the ones that were primarily engaged in the direct firefights with ISIS,” Gideons said.
“You would have Marines integrated with those ODAs … providing fires down at that lower tactical level,” he said.
During its 243-day deployment, the unit had to conduct several “rapid planning processes” to deploy forces on short notice, he added.
Over time, more support was needed in Syria, so Gideons deployed more Marines to grow the platoon-size element to “two infantry [companies minus]” that were located in two separate locations in Northern Syria.
“We anticipated that that requirement would grow with a need for Marine Corps capabilities, and it did,” he said.
Soon the fighting intensified.
“On a number of different occasions, there would be various engagements, some direct, some indirect,” Gideons said. “As the SDF would close in sometimes, they would outstretch particularly what our mortar fires could provide.
“We would displace out of our small [forward operating bases] we were operating out of, move closer in behind the SDF and then provide fires — a lot of times mortar fire … and of course as you were getting into an engagement, there is the potential for stuff to come back at you,” he said.
Marines operated in both mounted and dismounted roles. F/A-18s coming out of Bahrain provided close-air support when needed, Gideons said.
Despite the action Marines saw, there were no casualties.
“I am very happy and proud to say that we brought everybody home,” Gideons said.
He described the deployment as “dynamic.”
“What was unique on our watch is over our 243 days in theater … from our perspective, we were more distributed than any other SPMAGTF up until that point,” he said. “We had Marines operating in 10 different countries and 24 separate locations. I had Marines from Egypt to Afghanistan.
“I didn’t own missions in Iraq or Syria, but I had capabilities that could augment and support that mission’s successful accomplishment.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Straddling the border of Nepal and China stands the world’s highest mountain: Mount Everest. To the locals, it’s known as the “Goddess of the Sky,” and to intrepid adventurers, reaching its summit has long been seen as the ultimate test of human endurance and ability. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to make it to the top on May 29th, 1953, but in recent years, the “challenge” of climbing the mountain has lost its illustrious status.
Though it’s still a dangerous trek — seventeen people died in April, 2015, due to avalanches caused by an earthquake — thousands of people have reached the top. It’s even possible to take guided tours of the mountain and essentially buy your way to the summit.
But there’s no red carpet rolled out to “the top of the world.” You still have to earn it. Reaching the peak takes effort and you still need to climb, on foot, to the summit. Even with all the money in the world, there is no way in Hell any pilot would dare to fly you to the top just for a quick selfie.
That’s because it’s almost physically impossible for it to happen — save for one French test pilot under extremely calculated and ideal conditions.
There are several factors that limit a pilot’s ability to fly to the top of Mount Everest. For much of the year, the mountain is covered in hurricane-force winds and sub-freezing temperatures. The frequent snowstorms that hit the mountain are strong enough to launch an icicle so fast that it’ll shred metal.
The fiere weather only lets up for a few weeks per year, and that’s when the tourists flock to summit the mountain. Even when the conditions are more ideal, they’re far from perfect. During the “calm season,” the winds still reach blustery speeds of up to 75 mph, strong enough to classify as hurricane category 1 winds.
Even when conditions are perfect enough for flight from nearby Lukla, Nepal, to the summit, a single landing is enough to spark an avalanche that would kill everyone attempting the climb.
But if the weather doesn’t ground the aircraft, physics will. The further up Mount Everest you go, the less dense the air becomes. It’s possible for the human body to acclimate to the 50-percent drop in oxygen levels near Base Camp, Nepal, but not even the most skilled Sherpa can get used to the “Death Zone” — 8,000 meters above sea level where the oxygen levels are at 33 percent of those at sea level. And the summit is nearly 1,000 meters beyond that.
That drop in oxygen doesn’t just affect humans — if affects everything up there. The air is just too thin for most helicopters to generate enough lift to remain airborne. If the helicopter is equipped to reach that height, making the landing is still an incredibly delicate affair.
This all brings us to Didier Delsalle, the French test helicopter pilot who managed to pull this unbelievable stunt off on May 14th, 2005. After years of planning and weeks of waiting for the perfect conditions, he pulled off the impossible and landed on the summit.
To make weight, the helicopter needed to be stripped down — except for the extra-powerful engine. Then, once they were sure everyone was clear of the mountain, they made the attempt. It wasn’t pretty, but it counts. Check out the video below.
Women have been serving in the military in one capacity or another since the Revolutionary War; Molly Pitcher cooled down canons during that time. However, it wasn’t until World War II that women gained recognition as full-fledged members of the military. WWII was a turning point for women in military service. This was the time when we saw the Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASPs), Women’s Army Corps, and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.
WWII saw nearly half a million women in uniform in both theaters of conflict during that time. The valuable role women played during the war, along with President Truman’s determination to make changes within the military, led to the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. With this act, for the first time, women were recognized as full members of the Armed Services. This meant they could finally claim the same benefits as their male counterparts. This also made it so those women who chose to do so, could make a career in the Army or Navy.
During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, there were tens of thousands of women who volunteered for service. Many of them were nurses. However, they also made great strides among all of the military branches, donning both Marine and Air Force uniforms to serve alongside those already serving in the Army and Navy.
During the 1960s in Post-Vietnam America, great social changes were made throughout the nation. Many of those changes were driven and led by women. The Women’s Rights Movement not only fought for equality in the workplace, carved out places for women in the political arena, and opened up new opportunities in higher education, but it also led to changes for women in the military. One of the biggest changes in the treatment of women in the military during this time was giving them the opportunity to attend the service academies. Opening these academies to women was pivotal for the treatment of women in the military because, for the first time, they were allowed to obtain officer status in the ranks. This then placed them in positions of leadership and authority throughout all the branches.
The 1990s began with the Gulf War. During this time, female military members distinguished themselves. For the first time, women won the right to serve as combat pilots during the war. By the end of the decade, women were serving on combat ships and flying warplanes from carrier ships. However, in 1994, these female service members did suffer a bit of a setback when the Secretary of Defense refused to allow them to serve in units whose primary mission was ground combat.
With the 21st century, women saw even greater strides in their opportunities in service. Colonel Linda McTague became the first female commander of a fighter squadron, and women in the Army and Marines began to edge closer to being able to serve in full combat duty. In 2013 the ban on women in combat was finally lifted, and the branches were given two years to comply with full integration. By 2015 two women completed Army Ranger school, which led to the decree that all combat duties should be open to women as well.
The past few years have seen women gaining advancement to some of the highest levels of authority in the military. They have also been given the opportunity to complete elite training courses, along with Ranger school, women have been allowed to enter the ever difficult Navy SEAL officer training courses. One thing is for certain, women in the military have come a long way since World War II, and it is definite that they will continue to be seen and heard in their ever growing-roles in all of the branches of the U.S. military.
We live in a world full of uncertainty. This has always been the case. But when you have kids, that uncertainty becomes less abstract and action is required. It needs to be met with the understanding that it’s on you to take the proper precautions to protect your family when shit hits the fan. There’s truth in that saying “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” There’s also truth in the saying “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The act of preparing helps you feel a bit less worried about hurricanes, floods, super viruses, and other such events. You can’t control anything; but you can control how ready you are.
One way to ensure you’re ready: prepare an emergency kits or go-bag. Companies like Uncharted Supply Co., Echo-Sigma, and Emergency Zone have made small fortunes in recent years selling premade emergency kits for this very reason. Affordable, portable, and packed with short-term survival essentials, their sole purpose is to arm people with the gear they need to get out of town should a life-or-death situation unfold right before your eyes.
Emergency kits are also commonly known as bug-out bags. Borrowing military terminology, the moniker refers to when U.S. troops were directed to retreat (or “bug out”) with their vital survival gear during dire situations in the Korean War. Some other common nicknames used today include the battle box, 72-hour kit, go-bag, and INCH bag, the latter of which stands for “I’m Never Coming Home”.
Not necessarily intended for long-term survival, the modern-day bug-out bag emphasizes being ready to go with everything you would need should an unforeseen emergency evacuation arise. And while the concept of proactively preparing for a worst-case scenario can seem like a daunting task, it’s also incredibly important.
“Natural disasters and society disasters such as a loss of power are not going to stop happening — we all know there will be something happening again sooner or later,” says Stroud. “It takes such little effort to prepare, yet the payoff can be very profound, and even save lives.”
Stroud, true to his reputation, doesn’t believe in taking the easy way out and is not a fan of the one-size-fits-all, ready-made bug-out bag. Why? For the simple reason that the hands-on nature of putting one together yourself makes you aware of its contents. “People must become comfortable making their own bug-out bags through research and learning,” he says.
“There is no shortcut here, and there is no company that is going to put together a grab-and-go kit that is going to work for your own family’s individual needs,” Stroud adds. “Most people will purchase such a kit and never open it or go through the contents to make sure they all work well.”
So what does the proper bug-out bag contain? While an emergency kit for single guy in his 50’s will vary significantly from the contents of one prepared by parents evacuating with a newborn, there are certain items both need to contain..
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that you aren’t planning for a glamping vacation or a weekend family escape to the woods. These evacuation essentials are geared toward survival purposes. They’re intended to keep you covered during the first 72 hours after an emergency strikes. You’ll want to source items that are easy to carry, durable in unpredictable conditions, and most importantly, useful in keeping you and your family safe.
Here, with Stroud’s help, are some of non-negotiables that need to be included in a bug-out bag
What to Pack in a Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag
Water purification pump:The LifeStraw Mission, a gravity water purifier, weighs a little more than a pound but has the capacity to purify 12 liters of water per hour
There’s no shortage of online communities and websites completely dedicated to survivalism and preparedness. Popular digital destinations like The Ultimate Bug Out Bag Guide, The Prepared, and Ready To Go Survival are teeming with resources related to the topic, ranging from how-to-videos to in-depth gear reviews.
All of these sources keep updated master lists of everything you could possibly need in a bug-out bag. And a simple Google search for “bug-out bag essentials” will instantly return millions of results. But at the end of the day, only you can ultimately decide what needs to be included in your family’s survival kit. Personalization is paramount.
Stroud even brings it a step further, advising that every family member takes ownership of preparing for their specific needs.
“I recommend one bug-out bag per person,” he says. “Each family member, including all adults and any children capable of carrying, should have their own bug-out bag — personally designed — that they are familiar with.”
In addition to the general must-have survival elements, what should parents evacuating with kids in tow bring? Consider the below list a starting point. While there’s bound to be some crossover in the lists below, use your best judgement when curating each bag. Include any additional items that you feel would be absolutely necessary, and engage your kids in preparing their own bags so they’re familiar with the contents.
Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Babies
Diapers: Diapers are so lightweight, it’ll be easy to bring enough to last a 72-hour period. The absorbency of diapers also helps them come in handy as cold or hot packs when emergencies strikes.
Dry formula: Even if your baby is still breastfeeding, you’ll want to make sure to keep a healthy supply of dry formula packets on hand, just in case.
Bottle: Bring a bottle should you need to resort to using dry formula (plus, you can use the nipple as a pacifier, or store other items inside the bottle for extra protection).
Pacifier: Because a pacified baby beats a crying baby.
Antibacterial wipes While these can be used for the whole family, they’ll come in handy for a quick baby bath or other sanitation purposes.
Baby carrier You’ll want to be able to use your hands and carry your baby comfortably.
Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Essentials for Children Ages 3-6
Snacks: Food may be scarce, so be sure to bring some of your kid’s favorite snacks along. Bonus points if the snacks also pack a jolt of energy or nutrition.
Oral hygiene supplies: keeping to some routine habits, even in extreme situations, can help instill a sense of normalcy and independence―plus, healthy oral hygiene habits never hurt.
Multivitamins: your child’s diet can be severely challenged in an emergency, so stash a daily vitamin supplement in their bag.
Study walking shoes: terrain may be rough, so plan to pack a durable pair of walking shoes (that fit their ever-changing foot size) which can stand the conditions you may face.
Thermal blanket: A light, metal-coated space blanket is ultra-lightweight and designed to retain heat in colder temperatures. It can even be used as a make-shift shelter.
Ear plugs: depending on the scenario, ear plugs can help drown out frightening noises during the day and ensure a more sound sleep at night.
Bug-Out Bag Essentials for Children Ages 6+
Gum or hard candy: Whether they’re leveraged as an energy-booster or a pick-me-up when morale is low, you’ll be glad you brought a handful of sweets.
Pedialyte powder: Children aren’t the best at communicating when they’re thirsty, so avoid dehydration with a few packets of this electrolyte-infused powder.
Books: we’re not talking heavy, hard-cover books, but the mind can weaken faster than the body in times of stress―so keep a favorite paperback close by.
Other mind-occupiers: should boredom set in, it’s not a bad idea to have a deck of cards, coloring book, or other such extras on hand.
Emergency whistle: Kids six and older can let curiosity get the best of them, so arm them with an emergency whistle in case they get separated from the family.
Walkie-talkies: When whistles won’t cut it, or the family is planning to temporarily split up, a pair of walkie-talkies will definitely come in hand.
Additional Bug-Out Bag or Go-Bag Items to Keep in Mind
Power bank: pack a fully-charged power bank or two to keep cell phones and other necessary electronics charged. Ideally, you want a solar-powered bank that can be refueled via sunlight.
Document protection: during periods of uncertainty, it’s imperative to keep your family’s important documents (like birth certificates, social security cards, and passports) with you at all times, so invest in a waterproof document pouch for when you’re on the go.
Super Glue and duct tape: in an evacuation scenario, you never know when you’ll need to take a page from the MacGyver playbook (plus, Super Glue and duct tape can be used in a range of medical emergencies).
N99 masks: These face masks are effective at filtering out 99 percent of non-oil-based airborne particulate matter, including most pollution, bacteria, and viruses.
Extra money: In emergency situations, cash is king. Five-hundred dollars in small bills is a good amount.
Sunscreen: Because sun exposure is likely in emergency situations.
This covers the basics. The point here is to get you thinking about preparing and taking an active role in considering the worst. Luck, they say, is where preparation and opportunity meet. While it’s good to hope that the opportunity never arises in this case, you’ll be thankful to have prepared if it does.
Despite some reports to the contrary, the Army is still looking for a new rifle that uses a 7.62mm cartridge.
“The chief [U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley] wanted an interim combat rifle, or he was only going to fulfill a requirement to have a squad-designated marksman in each squad, called a squad-designated marksman rifle,” said the Army’s top gear guyer, Brig. Gen. Brian Cummings. “So, there are two efforts going on to get a 7.62 inside the squad.”
What are those two efforts? Cummings said that course of action No. 1 is to have one Soldier in a squad carrying the Squad-Designated Marksman Rifle, or SDMR. Course of action No. 2, he said, is to have multiple Soldiers in a squad with the Interim Combat Service Rifle, or ICSR. Both are 7.62mm weapons.
The SDMR is already a program of record for the Army, Cummings said, and there is a weapon already identified to fill that role: the M110A1 Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System, or CSASS. That weapon is undergoing testing now, Cumming said.
But the ICSR and the SDMR do not represent the future for what weapons will be issued to most Soldiers.
“Right now, many are focused on the ICSR or SDMR,” Cummings said. “But that’s not the long-term way ahead. The long-term way ahead is a brand new rifle for all of the Department of Defense called the Next Generation Squad Weapon.”
The Next Generation Squad Weapon, or NGSW, is actually two weapons, he said. It’ll include one rifle to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and then a carbine that replaces the M4. Both the M249 and the M4 use the 5.56mm cartridge. The NGSW will likely use a different caliber cartridge than 5.56mm.
“For the next-generation, we wanted to make one end-all solution,” Cummings said. “With the M4, when you look at it, it’s got all these things hanging on top of it. We keep evolving by putting on things. The next-generation is going to be kind of like what we did with the pistol, with the modular handgun system. It’ll be one complete system, with weapon, magazine, ammo and fire control on it and we will cut down on the load and integration issues associated with it.”
The general said the U.S. Marine Corps is “on board” with development of the NGSW, and the British are interested as well.
Cummings said the Army can expect to start seeing the Next Generation Squad Weapon by 2022, in about five years. That’ll include the weapon, magazine and bullet. Later, by 2025, he said, Soldiers can expect to see a fully-developed fire-control system.
Until then, Cummings said, the Army is working on an interim solution to get a larger-caliber rifle into the hands of at least some Soldiers. It’ll either be the SDMR in the hands of one Soldier, or the ICSR in the hands of some Soldiers. But, he said, “the final decision has not been made.”
Fielding the M17 pistol
Come November, the XM17 handgun, also called the “Modular Handgun System,” or MHS, will drop the “X,” which designates it as “experimental” and will instead be called the M17.
At that time, the Army is expected to reach a conditional material release for the MHS, and will issue some 2,000 of the pistols to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
The “Screaming Eagles” will be the first in a long line of units to receive the new 9mm pistol, which is meant as a replacement for the existing M9, which is quickly approaching the end of its useful service life.
Also among the first to receive the new pistol will be the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas, as well as one of the Army’s new security force assistance brigades.
All three units will have the new M17 handgun issued to them by the end of the year, Cummings said, who serves as Program Executive Officer Soldier at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
While the XM17 pistol is manufactured by Sig Sauer and is based on Sig Sauer’s existing P320 pistol, Cummings brushed off comparisons between the two weapons.
“It’s a different weapons system,” Cummings said.
As the Program Executive Officer Soldier, Cummings is responsible for managing those Army programs that provide most of the things Soldiers carry or wear. That includes, among other things, individual and crew-served weapons, protective gear, weapons sights and sensors, and uniform items.
The general said that both the M17, which is a full-sized version of the pistol, and the M18, which is a compact version, include different safety features than the P320 pistol, as well as different requirements for accuracy and reliability.
Cummings also said that the new pistol may see more action than its predecessor, the M9, which was primarily issued as a personal protection weapon.
“We’re looking at more than the traditional basis of issue, where we are doing a one-for-one replacement,” he said. The M17 and M18, he said, have also proven good for close-quarters combat, and so might be issued to some units and Soldiers to fill that role as well.