The Trump administration has hit China with tariffs on $250 billion in consumer and industrial goods in 2018, and now sanctions tied to Beijing’s arms deals with Russia are being added to the mix.
On Sept. 20, 2018, the State Department said it would impose sanctions on China’s Equipment Development Department and its director, Li Shangfu, for “significant transactions” with Russia’s main weapons exporter, Rosoboronexport.
The Equipment Development Department oversees procurement of China’s defense technology.
The Chinese entities will be added a sanctions list established under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA, which was passed in August 2017 and went into effect in January 2018.
The law is meant to punish Russia for actions that include meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. Countries trading with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors — including US allies — can face secondary sanctions, though a waiver process was included in the legislation. (The US added 33 other people and entities to the list on Sept. 20, 2018.)
“Both transactions resulted from pre-Aug. 2, 2017, deals negotiated between EDD and Rosoboronexport,” the State Department said.
“Since China has now gone ahead and, in fact, done what is clearly a significant transaction … we feel it necessary and indeed we are required by the law [to] take this step today,” a senior administration official said.
This is the first time the US has sanctioned a buyer of Russian weapons under the law. While the sanctions were imposed on China, the State Department official said the move was directed at Moscow.
“The ultimate target of these sanctions is Russia. CAATSA sanctions in this context are not intended to undermine the defense capabilities of any particular country,” the official said. “They are instead aimed at imposing costs upon Russia in response to its malign activities.”
China and Russia have both lashed out at the sanctions.
Russia dismissed the measures as an “unfair” measure meant to undermine Russia’s position as a major arms exporter. (The US and Russia are the world’s two biggest weapons suppliers.)
Those subject to the sanctions are blocked from foreign-exchange transactions subject to US jurisdictions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Sept. 21, 2018, that Moscow was doing what it could to not depend on the international financial system over which the US has influence.
“We are doing all that is necessary not to depend on the countries that act in this way regarding their international partners,” Lavrov said, according to state-controlled media.
China also bristled at the sanctions. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing was “strongly outraged by this unreasonable action” and that China “strongly urged the US to immediately correct its mistakes and revoke the so-called sanctions. Otherwise it must take all consequences.”
India, a major US partner, similarly plans to buy the S-400, and it and other US partner countries are also major buyers of Russian weapons.
U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo flanked by U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman delivers closing remarks at the 2+2 Dialogue, in New Delhi, India, Sept. 6, 2018.
While the legislation was under discussion, US defense officials requested exceptions be made for those countries that worked with the US but still needed to buy Russian arms.
At the end of August 2018, the Pentagon’s top Asia official said the “impression that we are going to completely … insulate India from any fallout” related to the sanctions was “a bit misleading.”
But as of early September 2018, when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met their Indian counterparts in New Delhi, Pompeo said there had been no decision on action over India’s purchase of the S-400.
The sanctions will ban the Chinese company from export licenses and from foreign-exchange transactions that take place under US jurisdiction and block the firm from the US financial system and its property and interests in the US.
Li, the director, will be barred from the US financial system and financial transactions, have any property and interests blocked, and be barred from having a US visa.
“Today’s actions further demonstrate the Department of State’s continuing commitment to fully implement CAATSA section 231, which has already deterred billions of dollars-worth of potential arms exports from Russia,” the agency said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Three Phase-1 human clinical trials evaluating an Army-developed Zika purified inactivated virus vaccine, known as a ZPIV, have shown it was safe and well-tolerated in healthy adults and induced a robust immune response. Initial findings from the trials were published early in December in the medical journal “The Lancet.”
Each of the three studies included in the paper was designed to address a unique question about background immunity, vaccine dose or vaccination schedule. A fourth trial with ZPIV is still underway in Puerto Rico, where the population has natural exposure to other viruses in the same family as Zika (flaviviruses), such as dengue.
“It is imperative to develop a vaccine that prevents severe birth defects and other neurologic complications in babies caused by Zika virus infection during pregnancy,” said Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, WRAIR’s Director for Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Zika program co-lead and the article’s lead author. “These results give us hope that a safe and effective vaccine will be achievable.”
Across the three trials, a total of 67 healthy adult volunteers (55 vaccine, 12 placebo) received two vaccine injections, four weeks apart. Researchers measured the immune response by monitoring levels of Zika virus-neutralizing antibodies in the blood. More than 90% of volunteers who received the vaccine developed an immune response against Zika.
“Not only is the development of a Zika vaccine a global public health priority, but it is also necessary to protect Service Members and their families,” said Col. Nelson Michael, director of WRAIR’s Military HIV Research Program and Zika program co-lead.
The ZPIV vaccine candidate was developed as part of the U.S. Department of Defense response to the 2015 outbreak of Zika virus in the Americas. WRAIR researchers conceived the ZPIV vaccine in February 2016 and were able to advance the candidate to a Phase 1 human trial by November of the same year.
“WRAIR has previously steered to licensure a similar vaccine for Japanese encephalitis, a flavivirus in the same family as Zika, which helped speed our vaccine development effort,” said Dr. Leyi Lin, who led one of the trials at WRAIR.
In the volunteers who received the vaccine, neutralizing antibody levels peaked two weeks after they completed the 2-dose vaccine series, and exceeded the threshold established in an earlier study needed to protect monkeys against a Zika virus challenge. Researchers also found that antibodies from vaccinated volunteers protected mice from a Zika virus challenge, providing insight into how this vaccine might prevent Zika infection.
Next steps include evaluating how long vaccine-induced immunity lasts, and the impact of dose, schedule and background immunity. Michael added that, “Army researchers are part of integrated, strategic US Government effort to develop a vaccine to protect against Zika.”
The ZPIV program is led by Col. Michael and Dr. Modjarrad. The principal investigators at each of the study sites were Dr. Leyi Lin at WRAIR, Dr. Sarah L. George at SLU and Dr. Kathryn E. Stephenson at BIDMC. The sponsor of the investigational new drug application for two of the studies (WRAIR and SLU) is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health. The BIDMC study is investigator-sponsored by Dr. Kathryn Stephenson.
Mary A. asks: How did someone get the job of an executioner in medieval times?
Few occupations from history are as maligned as that of Medieval-era executioner. Popularly painted as gleeful dispensers of death and torture, the truth seems to be that many executioners throughout this period usually treated the occupation with a certain reverence and exhibited an extreme dedication to duty. Beyond trying to minimize the suffering of those slated to be executed, this was, among other reasons we’ll get into, because it would often mean the life of the executioner if they ever botched an execution or otherwise weren’t extremely professional in carrying out their job.
So, moving beyond any Hollywood depictions, what was it actually like to be an executioner in the ballpark of Medieval times and how did someone get the job in the first place?
A thing to note before we continue is that the duties expected of and performed by executioners, as well as what life was like for specific executioners, has varied wildly across time and regions. For example, as we’ve talked before, those condemned to death in the Ottoman empire during the 18th century could potentially get off scot-free by challenging the executioner to a footrace. In this case, in addition to doling out lethal justice with their bare hands, executioners also worked as both bodyguards and gardeners.
That caveat out of the way, how did one become an executioner in the first place? It turns out that many European Medieval executioners were former criminals themselves. You see, for reasons we’ll get into shortly, the role of executioner was so unpopular that finding someone to do the job often required either forcing someone into the profession or offering the gig to someone who was slated to be executed themselves.
Scandinavian countries were known to make extensive use of this novel hiring practice, with a little twist thrown in- they’d maim executioners by cutting off one or both of their ears so that they could be easily identified by the public. It also wasn’t uncommon for people made executioners in this way to be branded somewhere on their head, once again for the purpose of their new profession being, in this case literally, written all over their face. For example, as noted in Hugo Mathiessen’s Boddel og Galgefugl,
“In the year 1470, a poor thief stood at the foot of the gallows in the Swedish town Arboga and was waiting to be hanged. The public attending the spectacle had pity on the sinner and when he, to save his neck, offered to become executioner in the town, it was agreed. He was pardoned and the red-hot iron was used to brand his body with both thief and executioner mark.”
This all brings us around to why so many avoided the profession like the plague. To begin with, the general consensus among most was that in taking such a job, one was then sure to be damned in the afterlife. This was despite the fact that in some regions, such as France, executioners were by official church decree absolved of the sins committed while performing their duties.
This still didn’t stop the general public from considering executioners unclean, leading to the more practical problem with the job- nearly being completely ostracized from society. Coming back to those condemned to die instead becoming an executioner, people seem to have been perfectly fine with this as the criminal’s life would still be forfeit, just in a more metaphorical sense.
For example, throughout Medieval Europe executioners were often forced to live in houses outside of the city or town they plied their trade in. In cases where this wasn’t possible, they tended to live near things like public latrines, lepertoriums, or brothels. Executioners were similarly often denied citizenship to the towns and cities they served (and thus had few rights in the town) and were largely barred from holding office or even entering churches, pubs, bathhouses, etc- basically most public establishments were off limits to the executioner.
Thus, despite executioners being deemed critical for a society to remain civilised, they were paradoxically generally forced to live apart from that civilised society.
In fact, some places across Europe went as far to institute laws specifically targeting executioners and what they could and could not do in their day to day lives. For example, the Bavarian town of Memmingen enacted an ordinance in 1528 that forbade members of the general public dining with an executioner.
Such laws and just general attitudes effectively limited the people an executioner could interact with in their day to day lives to their own family and those from the criminal underworld who simply didn’t care that the executioner was unclean. On top of this, an executioner’s children and spouse were likewise similarly shunned by anyone but the underbelly of society.
This, combined with the fact that the children of executioners could usually only find mates with children of other executioners, understandably led to the role of executioner becoming a macabre family trade that resulted in executioner dynasties that spanned centuries.
Beyond being ostrosised and damning your progeny to a similar life, as well as an afterlife full of hellfire, while there were potentially ways for an executioner to make a killing within the profession, it turns out for most there simply weren’t enough executions themselves to make ends meet. Alternate work was limited to jobs nobody else wanted. This included all manner of things, from disposal of corpses (animal and human), emptying cesspools, collecting taxes from the diseased and prostitutes, etc.
Oddly, at least from a modern perspective, another common profession for a well trained executioner was that of a doctor and surgeon. You see, beyond executing people, another thing executioners were often called to do was torture people for various reasons. These two things, combined with the close-knit community of executioners sharing their knowledge amongst themselves, resulted in lifelong executioners generally having exceptional knowledge of human anatomy, and thus they were commonly called on to treat various medical maladies.
In fact, one rather famous 17th century German executioner, Frantz Schmidt, noted in his journal that over the course of his near five decade career he had over 15,000 people he treated as a doctor, while executing only 394 and disfiguring or otherwise torturing or flogging roughly the same number- meaning most of the time he functioned as a doctor, despite society at the time considering him an executioner.
Schmidt was one of those thrust into the profession as his father was strong-armed into becoming an executioner, condemning Schmidt to the same life once he came of age, though Schmidt’s story has something of a happy ending.
Like many executioners, Schmidt was given a wide berth by the public in his day-to-day life, but the incredible professionalism with which he conducted his grisly duties earned him the begrudging respect of both the general public and those in power. In his later years, Schmidt was able to parlay this into a meeting with Nuremberg authorities and then was able to appeal to Emperor Ferdinand II himself, with the goal of restoring his family honor.
Swayed by not just Schmidt’s words, but also letters from city council members and other notable people extolling Schmidt’s character and dedication to his duty, the then 70 year old executioner was granted both Nuremberg citizenship and had his family name cleared, allowing his progeny to escape the bloody spectre of his work.
Of course, being ultra-professional with the profession was something of a necessity for Schmidt as, at the time in Germany, there was a law stipulating that any executioner tasked with doling out death by the sword (a form of execution largely reserved for especially important individuals) who took more than three swings to behead a victim would be condemned to die themselves.
Even where such laws didn’t exist, the job of an executioner was extremely dangerous as executioners were also at risk of being killed either by vengeful relatives or the crowd witnessing an execution. In regards to the latter, if an executioner was especially cruel in their meting out of punishment, simply incompetent to the point that they caused undue suffering, or just otherwise acted in an unprofessional manner in performing their duties, it wasn’t unheard of for a crowd to retaliate by killing the executioner on the spot, generally with no consequence to anyone in the mob.
This constant danger of the job was something Schmidt himself talked about several times in his journal, though he only notes one instance where the crowd turned into a mob. This occurred during a flogging he was performing, with the person being beaten ultimately stoned to death by the crowd.
As you might imagine from this, in cases like Schmidt who was trained from childhood to take over the job from his father, a rather lengthy apprenticeship was called for, including a robust education from one’s parent, followed by assisting in executions and torture from a young age. Schmidt also notes that he practiced executions extensively on various animals before being allowed to actually execute a human himself. The end goal of all of this was to make sure he wouldn’t screw up, as raucous mobs didn’t really care if it was someone’s first day on the job or not.
Now, although being an executioner came with some massive downsides, it wasn’t all bad. Enterprising executioners could actually earn a fairly decent living doling out torture and capital punishment on command if they were smart about it. For example, especially skilled executioners who didn’t mind traveling could take advantage of the scarcity of people willing to do their job by plying their trade across whichever country they happened to live in, rather than just staying local.
Executioners also frequently earned extra money in the form of bribes from the condemned or their families, invariably given in the hopes that the executioner would ensure death was as swift and painless as possible, or otherwise allow the condemned extra comforts leading up to the execution. This might include, for example, slipping them extra alcohol or the like to make the execution a little easier to handle.
On top of this, throughout much of Medieval Europe a perk of being an executioner is that it was customary for whatever property was worn at the time of death to be granted to the executioner.
Additionally, executioners in Germany were frequently tasked with things like arbitrating disputes between prostitutes and driving lepers out of town, among other such jobs, all of which they could charge a premium for because nobody else was willing to do the job.
Executioners were also sometimes not just given the job of disposing of animal carcasses, but also in some regions the explicit right to all stray animal carcasses found in a town. Depending on the animal, this could mean the rights to valuable hides, teeth, etc.
An even greater benefit for certain executioners, this time in France, was the idea of droit de havage. In a nutshell, because executioners were so ostracized and couldn’t in some regions, for example, just go down to the market and shop freely, under droit de havage, executioners were more or less allowed to tax those who sold various food and drink items. This came in the form of being able to demand goods for free.
Finally, there’s the money an executioner would be paid for performing an execution, flogging, or the like. Although it’s hard to say exactly how much an executioner could earn per hanging or beheading in today’s currency due to the inherent difficulty of gauging the value of historic currencies, it’s evident that it was a good amount, at least relative to the generally low social standing of executioners.
For example, according to information gleaned from an old statute dated to a small German town in 1276 an executioner could earn the equivalent of 5 shillings per execution. This is an amount roughly equal to the amount of money a skilled tradesmen could earn in about 25 days at the time. Likewise, an executioner operating in England some two centuries later in the 1400s could reportedly earn a fee of 10 shillings per execution, or roughly 16 times the amount a skilled tradesmen could earn in a single day.
Granted, as you might have deduced from the aforementioned case of Frantz Schmidt only executing about 400 people and flogging a similar number in his near five decades on the job, nobody was getting rich doing this by itself, it at least wasn’t bad pay per hour of work.
Finally, we’d be remiss in any discussion of Medieval executioners to not point out that the idea of executioners wearing masks to hide who they were does not appear to have actually been much of a thing. Beyond, as mentioned, in many regions being literally branded as executioners, even large cities for much of history weren’t actually that large; so people knew who the executioner in a given region was, if not directly, by being marked such. Thus, wearing a mask would have been pointless.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Across southern Ukraine, US special operations forces trained with Ukrainian special operators and conventional US and Ukrainian naval forces during Sea Breeze 2017, July 10-21.
An annual fixture in the Black Sea region since 1997, Sea Breeze is a US and Ukrainian co-hosted multinational maritime exercise.
This year, Ukraine invited US special operations forces to participate, and US Special Operations Command Europe’s Naval Special Warfare Command operators were eager to sign up for the mission.
This is the first time that special operations forces have operated at Sea Breeze, said US Navy Capt. Michael Villegas, the exercise’s director. “[Their] capabilities are extremely valued by the Ukrainians and extremely valuable to the US.”
Naval Special Warfare Command operators were completely integrated into the various air, land, and sea missions that required their unique warfighting skill set. Exercise Sea Breeze is a perfect fit for special operations forces to train and exercise their capabilities, the exercise’s lead special operations forces planner said. “With the support of the [Air Force’s] 352nd Special Operations Wing, we saw a prime opportunity to support [special operations] mission-essential training with our Ukrainian allies,” he said.
He added that naval special warfare units bring a host of unique capabilities into the exercise scenario, such as rigid-hull inflatable boats; visit, board, search, and seizure expertise; and the strongest direct action capabilities available. However, Villegas noted, capability is only one piece of the puzzle when training alongside a partner nation with shared objectives to assure, deter, and defend in an increasingly complex environment.
“In the spirit of Sea Breeze, we come not to impose what we know or how we operate,” he said. “Here, we come to exchange ideas, train towards interoperability and learn to operate side by side should a conflict arise that would require that.”
Achieving interoperability with partner nations and interservice partners is a common objective at exercises like Sea Breeze. But here, the US special operations forces capitalized on it. “Interoperability is our ability to conduct combined planning, problem solving, and mission execution efficiently to achieve a mutually-defined end state,” Villegas said.
Achieving this end state, he added, hinged on US-Ukrainian integration at the tactical level within the special operations platoons, and at the special operations maritime task group level.
“We have combined with our Ukrainian colleagues to integrate their experience and capabilities within our key positions,” he said. “Starting in the command team and further within our operations, communications, logistics, and intelligence departments, we were fully partnered.”
Down at the platoon level, operators fast-roped from hovering US Air Force CV-22 Osprey aircraft assigned to US Special Operations Command Europe, conducted personnel recovery training and boarded vessels at sea.
“Whether it was on the range, in the field, or on the water, these men were a pleasure to work with,” said a US special operations forces platoon commander. “The Ukrainians’ attitudes made this exercise a great opportunity to exchange training and create a strong relationship.”
As with any exercise of this size and scope, there were challenges to overcome to make the exercise a success while identifying tactical and technical gaps in partner capabilities. “The first major obstacle we had, but were prepared for, was the language barrier,” the platoon commander said. “Another was that our mission sets differed slightly from our counterparts’.” To remedy this, he said, he found ways to incorporate the skill sets of each unit in ways to accomplish the mission while building relationships to forge a stronger partnership. As the operators returned from a long day, mutual trust emerged through combined hard work, long hours, and mutual respect for each unit’s professionalism.
“You always want to work with a partner force who is motivated, wants to train, and wants to get better, and the Ukrainian [special operations forces] are all of these,” the platoon commander said.
On the pier here, overlooking the Black Sea, Villegas expressed the Navy’s gratitude to Ukraine for inviting US special operations forces to participate in this year’s exercise.
“[Special operations] participation at Sea Breeze is so important for Ukraine and the US Navy and all the other units participating,” he said. “Our hosts have been incredibly friendly, committed, and dedicated. Their hard work has ensured Sea Breeze 17 was a success, and we are truly very thankful for that.”
You could be turning your passion into profit by teaching like-minded Thrones fans the language of Essos.
That’s according to leading local services marketplace Bark.com who say that tutors can earn upwards of £40 ($53) per hour teaching High Valyrian, the language spoken by Daenerys Targaryen and Lord Varys.
The tuition service is available for fans across the US and UK, who can either sign up to be a tutor here or to hire tutors here.
Bark.com says those who sign up to be High Valyrian tutor will be required to provide proof of their knowledge of the language.
The role will involve creating a variety of reading, writing and speaking exercises for students, alongside role-playing scenarios to enhance the learning experience.
Daenerys Targaryen is a High Valyrian speaker.
Kai Feller, co-founder of Bark.com, said: “Game of Thrones is more than another hit show — it’s become a worldwide sensation! And with the highly anticipated final season fast approaching, the show is more popular than it has ever been. That’s why we’ve launched our latest service — High Valyrian tuition.
“At Bark.com, we love giving people different ways to earn and this is the latest service we’ve launched to do that. High Valyrian is a complex language and this is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who has worked hard to become fluent to share their knowledge — not to mention it would be a fantastic string to any fan’s bow!”
Though the High Valyrian dialect appears occasionally in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of fantasy novels, the author did not develop it beyond a few words and phrases. The actual language, which now comprises of around 2,000 words, was created for the HBO TV adaption by linguist David J. Peterson, who also fleshed out the language of the Dothraki.
Tyrion Speaking Valyrian and Banter with Jorah, Grey Worm
The Economist called Peterson’s take on Dothraki and Valyrian “the most convincing fictional tongues since Elvish,” which was created by J.R.R. Tolkien himself for Middle Earth.
New learners of the language will have to deal with verb conjugation and possessives but, fortunately, not a different writing system, which Peterson said might look something like “Egyptian’s system of hieroglyphs — not in style, necessarily, but in their functionality.”
Those wishing to get a head start on the competition can start learning High Valyrian in bite-sized lessons on Duolingo, taking courses which Peterson himself contributed to.
Those taking on the challenge of learning the fictional language will have to try harder than Tyrion Lannister, whose Valyrian was “a bit nostril” by his own admission.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The general overseeing fitness for the U.S. Army hopes to see the proposed Army Combat Readiness Test approved next spring and, in time, become the service’s standard physical fitness test of record that all soldiers must pass.
The service is in the middle of the Army Combat Readiness Test, or ACRT, pilot, exposing soldiers to the six-event fitness test designed to better prepare them for the rigors of combat than the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT.
The ACRT was developed, at the request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, to better prepare soldiers for the physical challenges of the service’s Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to survive in combat.
“As we look at physical fitness, we now know in order to be physically fit in support of the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — what we know we need to do for combat readiness — we have to be physically fit across five fitness domains,” said Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, who oversees the ARCT as commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training.
Only two of those domains — cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance — are supported by the current APFT, which consist of push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run, Frost said.
“There are three domains of physical fitness that are not addressed by that test but are nonetheless necessary … and those are muscular strength, explosive power, and speed and agility,” he said.
‘We Aren’t Where We Want to Be’
“We have world-class equipment … but do we have world-class soldiers that are world-class athletes at world-class level fitness? The answer is probably not one that we would want, meaning if you look at a lot of indicators from an individual physical readiness fitness standpoint, we aren’t where we want to be,” Frost said.
In 2016, the Army had 43,000 soldiers who were non-deployable, he said, adding that in fiscal terms, that equates to a loss of about $3 billion.
“Another staggering figure,” Frost said, is that about 78,000 soldiers were above a body-mass index of 30 percent.
“Musculoskeletal injuries about 500,000 a year; 10 million limited-duty days per year — that’s nearly $1 billion,” Frost said.
“To put it in fiscal terms is fine, but more importantly it is the lack of readiness due to some sort of physical fitness or readiness aspect — whether it’s injury, whether it’s being overweight or whether it is being non-deployable for a medical reason,” he said.
The ACRT is made up of six events:
This muscular strength test mimics movements required to safely and effectively lift heavy loads from the ground, then jump, bound and tolerate landing. The exercise is a strong predictor of a soldier’s ability to lift and carry a casualty on a litter and to lift and move personnel and equipment.
Standing Power Throw:
Soldiers toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test muscular explosive power that may be needed to lift themselves or a fellow soldier over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.
In this event, soldiers start in the prone position and do a traditional push-up but, when at the down position, they move their arms outward and then back in to do another push-up. It is a test of soldier’s ability to push an opponent away during man-to-man contact, push a vehicle when it is stuck, and push up from cover or off the ground during evade and maneuver.
As they dash 25 meters five times up and down a lane, soldiers will perform sprints, drag a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then hand-carry two 40-pound kettle bell weights. This can simulate pulling a battle buddy out of harm’s way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.
Similar to a pull-up, soldiers lift their legs up and down to touch their knees or thighs to their elbows as many times as they can. This exercise strengthens the core muscles since it doubles the amount of force required compared to a traditional sit-up.
This is the same running event as on the current APFT. In the ACRT, run scores are expected to be a bit slower due to all the other strenuous activity.
Part of the ACRT pilot, which is expected to continue into 2018, is working out how leaders will administer the six-event tests.
“Part of the challenge is if we are going to do six events, there is a scope and scale challenge to this — you can’t take a week to test a battalion,” Frost said. “You have got to be able to move a company through at the same pace you move a company through to do the APFT.”
There is also the challenge of figuring out the correct sequence to the events, he said.
“We have been able to test 50 soldiers in 75 minutes using 10 lanes, so this is doable; it’s executable with the right equipment,” Frost said.
The plan, he said, is to present the data collected so far in the pilot to Milley “in the next couple of months” and hopefully get a decision to move forward.
If approved, program officials will finalize the test protocol and other details before going back to Milley sometime next spring for final approval to start rolling the ACRT out in 2019 so soldiers can start training for it, Frost said.
“There has got to be a transition period,” Frost said. “You have to give them time to ramp up to it.”
Soldier Performance Training Centers
As a simultaneous effort, he said, the Army will launch a pilot program next year to develop “soldier performance training centers,” which feature the right equipment and resources to help soldiers prepare for the ACRT.
The plan is to put these centers in gyms at three installations and staff them with experts such as trainers, physical therapists and nutrition counselors. Eventually, centers would be established all over the Army, Frost said.
The centers will also need equipment for soldiers to train for the ACRT — pull-up bars, sleds for dragging weight, deadlift bars, weights and medicine balls.
A battalion set of this equipment to create 10 test lanes retails for about $12,000, but the Army will likely be able to get equipment for less, Frost said.
“If we buy this at scale, it will be much, much, much less, and a lot of this equipment is already out there so we have to kind of inventory what we have and then figure out what the need is,” he said.
“And that doesn’t mean every battalion is going to get it,” Frost said. “You may have a brigade set and every battalion is not going to take the ACRT on the same day, so there are a lot of things we can look at.”
But there has to be a transition period before the ACRT can replace the APFT as the test of record, Frost said.
“Whether it is one year or two years, you train on one test — the other test is a test of record; maybe there is a transition period where both of them can be a test of record,” he said. “And eventually, you fade the APFT out — kind of like you did the gray PT uniform — and then the ACRT is the enduring test of record.”
There also has to be time for the Army to figure out the policy, legal and administrative factors involved with instituting a new test of record since there will be punitive and administrative measures that occur for soldiers who are not able to pass it.
“We are going to need feedback from the field, but my gut tells me before it becomes the test of record, it’s probably two years — so one year to train for it. Another year, maybe it could be a test of record maybe as an option with the APFT,” Frost said. “Then at the end of two years, the APFT is faded away, and the ACRT is the only test of record.”
On June 20th, at the Paris Air Show, executives with Lockheed Martin Corp. presented the C-130JSOF, a variant of the C-130J Super Hercules built for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, armed overwatch, and on-demand forward aerial refueling, among other features.
Painted a stealthy black, the aircraft is depicted in promotional materials targeting tanks from the air, dropping parajumpers, and swooping low for exfiltration operations.
Tony Frese, vice president of business development for Air Mobility and Maritime Missions for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said the concept for the aircraft variant is built on experience and feedback from customers on how they use the Super Hercules.
“It is in the world of special operations and special missions the true versatility of the C-130J is on display, accrued day after day in life and death situations,” he said. “In more than 50 years, the C-130 has been synonymous with special operations and special missions.”
The United States already uses the C-130 for special operations, with purpose-built American configurations including the MC-130E/H Combat Talon, flown by the Air Force and used for airdrop, special ops helicopter in-flight refueling, and psychological operations, and the MC-130J Commando II, flown by Air Force Special Operations Command.
The new SOF aircraft is the first time a purpose-built configuration has been made available for the international market, Frese said.
Lockheed expects interest from nations in the Pacific and Middle East, he said, and anticipates building 100 to 200 of the aircraft for international buyers. As is standard practice, all international sales of the aircraft would have to be approved by the US government.
While standard configurations of the C-130J sell for roughly $70 million, Frese said this aircraft would likely start in the mid-$80 million range, with more for additional modifications.
“We understand the world we live in today is increasingly unpredictable,” he said. “Our operators, current and potential, tell us they need to support their special ops forces with a solution that is reliable, affordable and effective and, in this case, proven to support special operations in the sky and on the ground.”
It’s an idea as old as nuclear weapons themselves: If you could slip a nuke into a city and detonate it, the enemy would never know it was coming. No missiles detected, no early warning radar, just one day: BOOM. In Cold War lore, these man-portable devices were usually envisioned as suitcase bombs. But the U.S. Army doesn’t do suitcases.
They used to though. They used to do suitcases really well.
No, the Army’s man-portable nuclear weapon was, of course, a duffel bag of sorts – and it was designed to be carried by a paratrooper, Green Light Team, or Atomic Demolition Munitions Specialists in case of World War III. NATO knew if the Soviets invaded with a traditional, conventional force, it would take time to mount any kind of meaningful resistance or counterattack. So in the 1960s, the Army came up with the brilliant idea to pack nukes on the backs of individual troops and drop them into strategic places to deny their use to the enemy.
One single paratrooper could cut off communications, destroy crops, and demolish key infrastructure in both the Soviet Union and in recently-captured, Soviet-held territory. There’s just one problem with this plan that the Army didn’t really see as much of a problem, apparently.
Humans can run faster than nuclear blasts?
Humans can’t run faster than nuclear blasts. In theory, the idea would be that the troop in question would either set a timer and secure the location before hoofing it out of there, with plenty of time to spare. But let’s be real: is the U.S. Army going to leave that much to chance? What if the enemy found it, disarmed it, secured it and then was able to reproduce it or use that weapon against NATO forces? They wouldn’t because Big Army isn’t that dumb.
Even if it were possible to outrun the timer on the bomb and/or the bomb yield was small enough for the munitions crew to escape, there’s no way the team would be recoverable due to the fallout or the alarm raised by such a weapon – or more likely because the use of a nuclear weapon triggered a full nuclear exchange.
No analogy better describes life in the military than being on a sports team. From the obvious comparisons (you’re operating in a team environment) to the more nuanced (there’s always some kind of competition going on within that team), there’s no denying a strong correlation between the two lifestyles.
As anyone who’s part of the military community knows, there’s an eternal inter-service rivalry running between the branches of the US Armed Forces. This competition is played out in hypotheticals shared between bored troops because, truthfully, there’s no real way to determine which single branch ‘better’ than the rest.
At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of taste, much like choosing a favorite sports league to follow. Well, don’t worry, sports fans, we’ve selected a league for each branch so you don’t have to.
US Army = Major League Baseball
In a lot of ways, this is the easiest parallel to draw. The Army is the oldest of all the armed services, founded in June, 1775, which makes it less than a hundred years older than Major League Baseball, which was founded in 1869.
The Army is also the first branch that comes to mind when most people think of the US Armed Forces. All of us service members, current and prior, have been viewed as a “Soldier” by uninformed friends, family, or weal-meaning passersby. And if you’ve traveled abroad, you also know that most people assume every American loves baseball.
In many ways, the Army is “America’s service” in the same way that baseball is “America’s pastime.”
(U.S Air Force Photo by Zachary Perras)
US Navy = National Hockey League
There are some abundantly clear parallels here, as well. The most literal of these connections is that the the Navy is known for its astonishing power on the seas and NHL players are known for being immense forces on ice — frozen water.
The Navy was founded second, in the fall of 1775, and the National Hockey league, founded in 1917, is America’s second-oldest league.
Furthermore, there’s a lot more to the Navy than most people realize, but everyone knows about their elite, the Navy SEALs. Hockey has a long, storied history, filled with amazing athletes — many of which are unknown by most, but everyone knows of Wayne Gretzky.
(National Football League)
US Marines = National Football League
This one truly is the easiest to see. First, they both have the coolest uniforms. The much-worshipped Marine Dress Blues is, without a doubt, the most iconic uniform in the American military — and there’s nothing that says “American sports” quite like an NFL helmet.
Both require peak physical conditioning. If you’ve ever seen a NFL player in person, you knew right away that they’re capable of some abnormally amazing physical feats. The same is true for most Marines; their physical appearance announces their membership before they open their mouths.
The last and most prominent similarity is their popularity. The USMC is respected and recognized all over America. If their body, posture, or uniform doesn’t give them away, their conduct will. Though the public perception of the NFL is currently suffering, there’s no denying that, historically, football has held a firm foothold in American hearts.
The general public cheering on the Air Force but calling in the Army
US Air Force = National Basketball Association
Simply put, the USAF is the youngest and most fly.
The NBA gets a lot of greats that would’ve likely played football or baseball in generations past. They constantly get the newest uniform and technological updates — and it’s the hardest league to get into (by percentage. There are 494 total NBA players and 1,696 NFL players).
US Coast Guard = Major League Soccer
Look, we know you’re important and there are tons of fans out there, but the American public just hasn’t caught on yet. I mean, soccer didn’t even make the cover photo of this article, so…
A man who lost his wife in Iran’s January 8 downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet says he fled the country after being pressured by authorities for criticizing the way the government handled the tragedy.
Javad Soleimani’s wife, Elnaz Nabiyi, was among 176 people killed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) missile attack against the civilian airliner.
“I decided to leave the country as soon as possible because I wasn’t the person to go to their office and apologize for my criticism, so I decided to leave Iran immediately and be the voice of the victims and their families,” Soleimani said in a January 30 interview with Canada’s CBC News Network.
Soleimani, a postgraduate student at the Alberta School of Business in Canada, says Iranian authorities also interfered in his wife’s funeral to prevent potential protests.
“They didn’t let us have our own funeral. They controlled everything because they were afraid of any protest against the government,” Soleimani said, adding that his family tolerated the pressure “because our first priority was to bury my wife.”
The IRGC admitted three days after the tragedy that it had shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, saying the incident was the result of a “human mistake.” Iran says an investigation has been launched and that arrests have been made.
But so far, no official has resigned over the tragedy — which occurred just hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq as retaliation for the January 3 assassination of the IRGC’s Quds Force commander, Qasem Soleimani, in a U.S. air strike.
Tehran’s admission after three days of persistent denials spawned protests in the Iranian capital and other cities, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Javad Soleimani says senior officials, including Khamenei, should be held responsible for the crash. He says many Iranians were upset that Khamenei did not personally apologize for the loss of innocent lives.
“When you kill someone intentionally or unintentionally, the first thing to do is to say, ‘I apologize.’ But [Khamenei] didn’t say it, and he made people in Iran angry and more upset,” Soleimani told CBC News.
He says he also was upset that Iranian authorities referred to his wife as a “martyr.”
“They said the victims are martyrs and they wrote down congratulations,” he complained. “It was terrible.”
“We would not accept it if [authorities] find an individual and say he mistakenly pushed the button” in order to end the case, Ghandchi said in a January 10 interview with the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.
“It’s my right to know [who was responsible] and ask for them to be put on trial,” Ghandchi said.
Ghandchi said regime agents were present at his family’s funeral at Tehran’s Behesht Zahra Cemetery.
He said authorities have neither pressured his family nor provided any support.
“The government didn’t give us any support, except for using the term ‘martyr’ and creating somewhat better conditions for us during the burial. That is all,” he said.
Ghandchi said the term “martyr,” which is used in Iran to describe soldiers killed during the 1980-88 war with Iraq, should not be used when referring to the victims of the plane downing.
“The term martyr is used for people who are [killed] in a war in conditions when there’s an enemy. But it’s not correct to use it when referring to my children, who were returning [to Canada] from their trip,” he said.
Hamed Esmaeilion, who lost his wife and daughter in the plane crash, said officials at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport harassed the relatives of victims when they left Iran to attend memorial services in Canada.
“Let the family members leave to attend the funerals with ease. It is none of your business if Canada has easily issued entry visas within hours for the relatives,” Esmaeilion said on Facebook on January 27.
Esmaeilion did not provide more details about why he thinks relatives of the victims are being harassed.
Other reports suggest some relatives of victims were told by authorities not to speak to Farsi-language media based outside the country but were encouraged to speak to Iran’s tightly controlled media.
“They said, ‘Come and talk to our own media, not to the anti-regime media,'” one mother who lost her son in the tragedy told the news site Iranwire.com on January 15.
“I said, ‘You want me to say that it was America’s fault? You will never hear me whitewash [this for] you’.”
Khamenei on January 17 accused Iran’s “enemies” of using the Ukrainian airline tragedy to question the Islamic republic and the IRGC, which he said “maintained the security” of Iran.
In his first public remarks about the incident, Khamenei said on January 17 that the downing of the Ukrainian plane was a “bitter accident” that “burned through our heart.”
The United States military is a brotherhood and sisterhood like no other. Those who serve together form a common sense of purpose and devotion to duty. It’s a level of trust not commonly found in civilian life. Those military friendships last forever. But as life moves, and when people leave the military, they often lose touch with those friends, some of whom they would have given their life for.
Tracking down old friends, particularly if you have been out of the service many years, is not always easy. But there is one company that can help. Together We Served (TWS) is a veteran-only website, launched in 2003. It provides veterans a highly-effective means to reconnect with old service-friends by simply entering their service history on their TWS Military Service Page.
TWS built an individual website for each branch of service and, with over 1.9 million veteran members, the chances of finding people you served with is high.
The secret behind TWS’s ability to connect more veterans is the depth of its databases. Over the past 16 years, TWS has built one of the most comprehensive databases of U.S. Military training and operating units in existence. Its databases span from WW2 to present day.
Military Service Page.
Sample Together We Served Military Service Page
By creating your Military Service Page on Together We Served, you can not only find veterans who went to the same basic training as you, or served in the same units or duty stations, but also those who participated in the same combat or non-combat operations. TWS’s search engine automatically matches the service information you enter on your Military Service Page with the service information on the Military Service Pages of all other TWS members. Those members, whose entries could match yours, get listed on your Service Page. That is what enables you to make contact with those you may know. This powerful feature helps veterans remember forgotten names.
Finding key people on TWS can be very helpful, especially if you need or can provide witness account to support a potential VA claim.
Take this opportunity to reconnect with the servicemen and women you shared some of the most important times of your life with. In recognition of your service, Together We Served provides all VA veterans with a FREE one year premium membership, providing unlimited people searches, when you join TWS via the following link:
Two U.S. lawmakers on March 4, 2019, introduced legislation to pay veterans bonuses for serving in America’s longest war.
Sens. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, introduced the bipartisan American Forces Going Home After Noble (AFGHAN) Service Act to “honor the volunteers who bravely serve our nation by providing bonuses to those who have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, and redirect the savings from ending nation-building in Afghanistan to America’s needs at home,” according to an announcement.
If passed, the AFGHAN Service Act would also permanently end America’s involvement in Afghanistan and overturn the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, said the lawmakers, who serve on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“It is time to declare the victory we achieved long ago, bring them home, and put America’s needs first,” Paul said.
A machine gun crew with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, sets up an overwatch position during a foot patrol May 8, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)
“Soon, U.S. service members will begin deploying to Afghanistan to fight in a war that began before they were born,” Udall said. “It is Congress that has failed to conduct the proper oversight of this nearly 18-year war. Now, we must step up, and listen to the American people — who rightly question the wisdom of such endless wars.”
The bill would order the government to pay any and all members of the military who have served in the Global War on Terrorism a ,500 bonus within one year of the legislation passing, according to the AFGHAN Service Act.
“Since 2001, more than 3,002,635 men and women of the United States Armed Forces have deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism, with more than 1,400,000 of them deploying more than once,” the bill states.
“This would be a one-time cost of approximately billion and an immediate savings of over 83 percent when compared to the current yearly costs. The billion a year can be redirected to domestic priorities.”
The lawmakers argue that the numbers alone give reason to step away from the conflict.
Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division patrol a small village during an air assault mission in eastern Afghanistan, Nov. 4, 2008.
(Photo by Spc. Mary L. Gonzalez)
“Over 2,300 military members have sacrificed their lives in the war, with another 20,000 wounded in action. In addition, the Afghanistan war has cost the United States trillion, with the war currently costing over billion a year,” they said.
The end to the war would come as peace negotiations with the Taliban are ongoing, and al-Qaida’s footprint in the country is shrinking, they added.
“The masterminds of the [Sept. 11] attack are no longer capable of carrying out such an attack from Afghanistan,” they said. “Osama bin Laden was killed in 2011, and [al-Qaida] has been all but eliminated from Afghanistan.”
If enacted, the legislation gives Pentagon and State Department leaders, among others, 45 days to formulate a plan for an orderly withdrawal and turnover of facilities to the Afghan government.
The goal is to remove all U.S. forces from Afghanistan within one year of the bill’s passage.
Soldiers of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment move into position to support the Afghan National Police.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael L. Casteel)
Common Defense, a grassroots group comprised of veterans and military families that stood up after the 2016 election, has secured sponsorship from lawmakers and presidential hopefuls such as Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.
Both initiatives mirror President Donald Trump’s vision to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan and instead focus on counterterrorism and peace negotiations with a smaller footprint in the region.
“These are dangerous times. Godzilla is out there hurting people and we don’t know why,” announces Coach Taylor Kyle Chandler. While both Godzilla and King Kong are normally good guys (albeit dangerous and destructive good guys), we’re going to see what has prompted The Zill to attack in the latest trailer.
“There’s something provoking him that we’re not seeing here,” observes Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown. When two heroes clash, there’s always a reason. The trailer hints at a war while lore suggests an ancient evil. Check it out to get your first glimpse at the latest monster-clash.
These are hard times. Watch the Godzilla vs. Kong trailer. Treat yourself.
“Legends collide in Godzilla vs. Kong as these mythic adversaries meet in a spectacular battle for the ages, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Kong and his protectors undertake a perilous journey to find his true home, and with them is Jia, a young orphaned girl with whom he has formed a unique and powerful bond. But they unexpectedly find themselves in the path of an enraged Godzilla, cutting a swath of destruction across the globe. The epic clash between the two titans—instigated by unseen forces—is only the beginning of the mystery that lies deep within the core of the Earth.”
– Warner Bros. Pictures official statement
In 2017, we saw an adolescent Kong in Kong: Skull Island where he was about 104 feet — his largest height to date. Now, he’s Godzilla-sized (almost 400 feet) and ready to throw some punches.
Remember, Skull Island took place in the 70s. According to producer Mary Parent (a producer in both the Kong and Pacific Rim franchises), Kong has had time to grow. “Kong’s god on the island, but the devils live below us,” said John C. Reilly’s Skull Island character. “You don’t want to wake up the big one.”
“There was a war and they’re the last ones standing,”
If you need a refresher, here’s a quick one-liner since the 2014 Godzilla reboot (spoilers for recent Godzilla and Kong films ahead):
Godzilla (2014 film): Godzilla, a prehistoric alpha predator, battles a nuclear-reactor fed MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) and its mate, a bigger wingless MUTO. After defeating them, Godzilla returns to the sea.
Kong: Skull Island (2017 film): In 1973, a U.S. government-operated mission to search for primeval creatures on Skull Island reveals Kong, the last of his kind, who protects the island from predators including T-Rex and Skullcrawlers, subterranean reptilian creatures. The team dissolves when one faction tries to kill Kong while the other recognizes his intelligence and good nature. A Skullcrawler awakens, but Kong destroys him while the survivors flee, leaving Kong behind.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019 film): Terrorists awaken “Titans” like Rodan and the three-headed “Monster Zero” in order to destroy humans and heal the earth from their destruction. “Monster Zero” turns out to be King Ghidorah, a prehistoric alien seeking to terraform Earth. He awakens other Titans around the planet. Meanwhile, Mothra — one of Godzilla’s traditional allies — emerges and helps Godzilla defeat Ghidorah through her sacrifice. The remaining Titans then bow to Godzilla, while the end credits show the Titans helping to heal the planet and ancient cave paintings of Godzilla and Kong in battle.
The next chapter will debut in theaters and on HBO Max on March 26, 2021. The trailer makes it pretty hard not to watch.