China reportedly wants to extend its surveillance state to the South China Sea by launching satellites to watch “every reef and ship” in the contested sea.
Beginning in 2019, China will begin launching satellites to monitor the region, as well as enforce “national sovereignty,” the South China Morning Post reported Aug. 16, 2018, citing China’s state-run China News Service. Six optical satellites, two hyerspectral satellites and two radar satellites will form the Hainan satellite constellation system, creating a real-time “CCTV network in space” controlled by operators in Hainan.
“Each reef and island as well as each vessel in the South China Sea will be under the watch of the ‘space eyes,'” Yang Tianliang, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Sanya Institute of Remote Sensing, told SCMP. “The system will [reinforce] national sovereignty, protection of fisheries, and marine search and rescue.”
The ten new surveillance satellites will allow China to keep a close watch on disputed territories, as well as the foreign ships entering the area. The project is expected to be completed by 2021, with three optical satellites going up in the second half of 2019.
The northeastern portion of the South China Sea.
The satellites, according to Asia Times, would be able to scan the entire 3.5-million-square-kilometer waterway and create an up-to-date satellite image database within a matter of days. Beijing has apparently promised transparency, stressing that it will share information with other countries.
Beijing’s efforts to alleviate the concerns of other claimant states are unlikely to result in a sign of relief, as China has been significantly increasing its military presence in the region this year by deploying point-defense systems, jamming technology, anti-ship cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles to Chinese occupied territories. China’s militarization of the South China Sea resulted in the country’s expulsion from the latest iteration of the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises by the Pentagon.
In recent weeks, China has come under fire for issuing threats and warnings to foreign ships and planes operating in the South China Sea, an area largely upheld as international waters in a 2016 rebuke to China. “Philippine military aircraft, I’m warning you again: Leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences,” a Chinese voice shouted over the radio recently when a Philippine aircraft flew past the Spratlys. China issued a similar warning to a US Navy plane on Aug. 10, 2018.
The incidents came just a few months after Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis accused China of “intimidation and coercion” at a security forum in Singapore.
“China has a right to take necessary steps to respond to foreign aircraft and ships that deliberately get close to or make incursions into the air and waters near China’s relevant islands and provocative actions that threaten the security of Chinese personnel stationed there,” the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Reuters on the matter.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Theresa May will hold a crunch Cabinet meeting on April 12, 2018, in which she and her ministers will decide whether to join military action in Syria.
The prime minister will seek her Cabinet’s approval to join with Donald Trump’s US in launching airstrikes against the Syrian regime led by Bashar al-Assad, the war-torn country’s disgraced president.
May wants to launch airstrikes without first securing parliamentary approval, the BBC reports, in a move which would be opposed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and numerous other opposition MP across the House of Commons.
This means Britain is on the cusp of joining the US in another military foray in the Middle east. Here’s how we got here.
“Abhorrent” chemical attack shocks the world
The West is preparing to respond to a chemical attack which left at least forty people dead and hundreds more receiving treatment in the Syrian city of Douma on April 7, 2018. Douma is just a few miles outside the country’s capital, Damascus, and is controlled by rebels who want to overthrow President Assad.
The attack was the latest chapter in a civil war which has ravaged Syria since 2011. The conflict has left over 500,000 Syrians dead and around 6.1 million displaced, according to UN and Syrian Observatory for Human Rights data.
Prime Minister May, President Trump, and other western leaders believe Assad is almost certainly behind the attack. May described the attack as a “shocking, barbaric act” which cannot go “unchallenged” by Britain and its allies. The Assad regime denies being responsible for the attack.
British submarines are reportedly being moved within “missile range” of Syria with military action set to begin as early as April 12, 2018, if May secures the backing of her government ministers.
Doesn’t May need the permission of MPs?
Contrary to what many believe, the UK prime minister is not legally obliged to seek parliamentary approval before launching military action. In fact, they don’t even need to inform them.
The root of this misconception is the 2003 Iraq invasion. The then-prime minister Tony Blair asked Parliament to vote in favour of invading Iraq. This created an informal convention which was followed by David Cameron, who a decade later decided against taking action in Syria after MPs voted it down. Prime ministers may decide to look for parliamentary support to give their military action political authority. After all, going to war is one of the riskiest and most controversial decisions a prime minister can make.
However, this is nothing more than a convention. In 2011, for example, MPs didn’t get to vote on intervening in Libya until after the intervention had already got underway, meaning it was too late to vote it down anyway.
Does the public want another war?
If May does intend on ignoring convention, it will not be with the broad support of the British public. A YouGov poll released April 12, 2018, finds that just 22% of Brits support military action in Syria, while 43% oppose it.
Labour leader Corbyn previously told the BBC he supported a parliamentary vote before any action. It “should always be given a say on any military action,” Corbyn said. “We don’t want bombardment which leads to escalation and a hot war between the US and Russia over the skies of Syria.”
Speaking today, Corbyn questioned how airstrikes would improve the situation in Syria. “More bombing, more killing, more war will not save life,” he told reporters.
Sir Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, signaled he supports military action against Assad but said it would require the support of MPs with “some strong conditions around it.”
The SNP’s defence spokesperson, Stewart McDonald, has warned that airstrikes “will not provide the long-term solutions needed to end the war.”
What would the ramifications be?
The Syrian conflict is one of the greatest challenges facing the world, not least because it is so fiendishly complex.
President Assad may be opposed by Britain, the US, France and other western nations, but is supported by Iran and Vladimir Putin’s Russia. This means Syria has effectively become a proxy battleground for tensions between the West and Russia, which have been at the worst since the height of the Cold War.
A war of words is already underway. On April 11, 2018, President Trump told Putin to “get ready” for US missiles.
“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!'”Trump tweeted April 11, 2018. “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
Russia had warned the US that any missiles fired into Syria would be shot down and its launch sites targeted.
Worryingly for Britain, one of the launch sites pinpointed by Russia could be a British military base in Cyprus, The Times reports. Eight cruise missile-armed Tornado fighter-bombers located at RAF Akrotiri, on the southern coast of Cyprus. These bombers are set to contribute to airstrikes and could be at risk of Russian retaliation.
Russia has already moved war vessels from to a base on the Mediterranean coast, within range of a US warship, according to satellite imagery of the region.
What is clear is that risk of war between nuclear-armed states is now at its highest for a generation. The decisions May’s government makes in next few days could be among the most important made by any UK government.
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.
VA and the U.S. Digital Service announced their launch of an improved Appeals Status tool to increase transparency and enable veterans to track the progress of their benefits claims appeals.
“It’s important that our Veterans have the opportunity to track their appeals process in a timely and efficient manner,” said VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin. “For the first time ever, Veterans can see their place on the Board of Veterans’ Appeals’ docket, including the number of appeals that are ahead of them.”
The tool, which went live March 21, 2018, on VA’s Vets.gov website, will allow Veterans to access detailed information about the status of their benefits appeals and will include alerts about needed actions, as well as estimates of how long each step of the process takes.
Some Veterans who have previewed the new tool said it had given them hope and helped them understand that the process might take longer than expected.
March 16, 2006 started like most days for the soldiers of Alpha Company, 2/87 Infantry, 10th Mountain Division. A small patrol received their mission briefing and headed out to meet the elders of a remote village in Paktika Province, Afghanistan. The weather was warming up, signaling the start of the fighting season, and the soldiers knew it. But they didn’t know one of them would soon be hit by an RPG.
“There was definitely a sense of uneasiness,” Lt. Billy Mariani told ABC News. “There was an air about them of, you know, maybe something was going to happen.”
There was no way for the soldiers to know just how intense that something was going to be.
After four hours of driving, the patrol approached the village. They were ambushed by Taliban fighters using small arms and RPGs. As the convoy fought its way out of the kill zone, one of the vehicles, carrying Staff Sgt. Eric Wynn, Pvt. Channing Moss, and the platoon medic Spc. Jarod Angell, was struck by three RPGs.
One of the rounds pierced the front windshield of the vehicle, nearly taking off Sgt. Wynn’s face in the process, and struck Moss, who was in the gunner’s turret, in the left hip. The impact threw him against the vehicle while the round shattered his pelvis, tore through his abdominal region, and lodged in his right thigh. The tailfin was still sticking out the other side. Moss was still alive and still conscious.
“I smelled something smoking and looked down,” Moss said. “And I was smoking.”
Moss was lucky Doc Angell was seated below him in the Humvee. The medic got right to work dressing the wound. He bandaged Moss and secured the unexploded ordinance protruding from Moss to keep it from exploding. Lt. Mariani received the wounded report from Sgt. Wynn and called for a MEDEVAC, but he left out one crucial detail: one of his wounded was a potentially ticking bomb.
As the firefight died down, the MEDEVAC came in to evacuate the wounded but immediately noticed the RPG tailfin sticking out of Moss. The Army has a policy against transporting patients in Moss’ condition as they pose a risk for a catastrophic event that could bring down the helicopter. Fortunately for Moss, these brave souls had no intention of leaving a wounded soldier to die. After a quick conferral, the crew decided to load and evacuate him.
The helicopter landed safely at the aid station at Orgun-E where Moss was handed over to a surgical team. Going against protocol once again the surgical team, assisted by an EOD technician on the base, began the process of removing the live round from Moss’ abdomen.
Army policy states that soldiers wounded with unexploded ordinance are to be put in a blast secure area and treated as expectant (that is to say they aren’t going to make it) but Maj. John Oh and Maj. Kevin Kirk just simply could not do that.
To determine just how dangerous this surgery would be, the team first had to x-ray Moss to see what they were dealing with. They were fortunate, the main explosive of the warhead had come off before entering moss. However, there was still enough explosive and propellant remaining to kill Moss and maim anyone working on him.
After an intense surgery that required them to wear body armor to protect themselves, they were able to remove the unexploded round from Moss and save his life. The trauma to Moss’ internal organs was intense and a significant portion of his large intestine had to be removed.
Moss was transferred through the usual evacuee route going through hospitals in Afghanistan and Germany before arriving at Walter Reed. He would need several more surgeries and a great deal of physical therapy, but he would eventually recover to the point of being able to walk with a cane.
After being discharged from the Army, Moss returned to Georgia to attend college and raise his family.
Helicopter-borne U.S. forces have recovered the remains of the crew killed when a military aircraft went down in a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan’s Ghazni Province, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.
The Bombardier E-11A, used for military communications, went down in a snowy part of eastern Afghanistan on January 27.
Ghazni police chief Khaled Wardak said U.S. choppers landed at the site in the late afternoon and were reinforced by Afghan security forces on the ground during the operation. Earlier in the day, Afghan forces trying to reach the wreckage clashed with militants.
“Following the removal of the bodies, our forces have moved back to their bases. We don’t know where the foreigners have taken the bodies,” Wardak said.
Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, the head of the provincial council in Ghazni, confirmed the operation, saying the Americans took at least two bodies from the scene.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the remains of individuals from the aircraft had been recovered and said the military was in the process of identifying the remains. The Pentagon declined to comment.
The Pentagon only confirmed the aircraft belonged to U.S. forces, but dismissed Taliban claims it had been shot down. The military did not say how many people were aboard or if there were any casualties.
Earlier on January 28, coalition forces flew sorties over the site of the crashed jet with one aircraft firing flares as a crowd gathered nearby, according to witness reports.
Wardak said after the plane went down Afghan security forces tried to reach the wreckage late on January 27 when they were ambushed by the Taliban and pushed back.
Ghazni police spokesman Ahmad Khan Sirat confirmed the incident, adding that at least one person was killed in the fighting between Taliban and Afghan forces.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said Afghan forces backed by U.S. military support tried to capture the area around the wreckage.
He said Taliban fighters on the ground counted six bodies at the site of the crash.
Unidentified U.S. officials were quoted as saying the plane was carrying fewer than five people when it crashed.
The crash comes as the Taliban and United States have been in talks on ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan.
The two sides had been negotiating the deal for a year and were on the brink of an announcement in September 2019 when U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly declared the process “dead,” citing Taliban violence.
This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.
Russia says it has received the genome of the coronavirus from China and is working jointly with its neighbor to develop a vaccine against the illness as the number of deaths and confirmed cases continues to jump.
Chinese authorities said on January 29 that there are 5,974 confirmed cases nationwide in the country, from which 132 people have died.
Another 9,239 suspected cases of the respiratory illness are being monitored, the government’s National Health Commission said on January 29.
Dozens of cases have been confirmed outside mainland China as well, including in Europe, North America, the Middle East, and elsewhere in Asia, prompting Russia, which has no confirmed cases, to join the race to stop the illness.
“Russian and Chinese experts have begun developing a vaccine,” the Russian consulate in China’s Guangzhou Province said in a statement on its website.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it believes China is able to contain the coronavirus, but mounting concern over the jump in cases has prompted hundreds of foreign nationals to leave the provincial capital, Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
The total number of confirmed cases now surpasses that of SARS, another respiratory illness that killed more than 600 people worldwide in 2002-2003.
Symptoms of the new kind of coronavirus include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Authorities have sealed off access to 17 cities in Hubei Province, where the pathogen is believed to have originated and was first reported in December.
Australia plans to quarantine its 600 returning citizens for two weeks on Christmas Island, some 2,000 kilometers from the mainland.
Growing up on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, Chester Nez endured many indignities at the hands of the U.S. government.
During the Great Depression, the federal government slaughtered his family’s sheep herd, destroying their livelihood. Shipped off to Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools at the age of eight, he wasn’t even allowed to keep his Navajo name — administrators assigned him the name Chester in honor of President Chester A. Arthur. If teachers caught him speaking his native language, they beat him or washed his mouth out with a bar of soap.
Yet when U.S. Marine Corps recruiters arrived in Tuba City, Arizona in the spring of 1942, looking for young men fluent in Navajo and English, Nez volunteered for duty. It was less than six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the Navy had suffered a string of defeats in the South Pacific.
“I thought about how my people were mistreated,” he later said. “But then I thought this would be my chance to do something for my country.”
Chester Nez during World War II
Nez’s amazing sense of patriotic duty was a perfect fit for the secret program he was about to enter. The program was the brainchild of Philip Johnston, a 50-year-old civil engineer and World War I veteran who had read about the military’s need for a fast and secure means of encoding battlefield communications. As a member of the American Expeditionary Force in France during WWI, Johnston knew that Native American soldiers had transmitted messages in their tribal languages by telephone. The dialects, including Choctaw, Comanche, and Cherokee, were completely unknown to any Germans who might be listening in, giving the army a crucial advantage. Choctaw soldiers even developed a code based on their language for extra security, although it was never used in battle.
Johnston believed that Navajo represented an even greater opportunity to develop an indecipherable code — especially since the Germans had studied Choctaw in the interwar period. The son of missionaries, Johnston had grown up on the Navajo reservation and was fluent in the language, whose syntax and tonality make it incredibly complex. Depending on inflection and pronunciation, a single word can have as many as four distinct meanings. At the time, there was no Navajo alphabet — it remained an unwritten language spoken only on the reservation. While German anthropologists and journalists, including the Nazi propagandist Dr. Colin Ross, had studied other Native American tribes in the years after WWI, they did not make a subject of the Navajo. Johnston estimated that less than thirty people outside of the tribe had any familiarity with the dialect.
A group of code talkers who took part in 1943’s Bougainville campaign
In February 1942, Johnston traveled to Camp Elliott in San Diego, California to present his idea to Lieutenant Colonel James E. Jones of the Signal Corps. Initially Jones was skeptical, but he gave Johnston the go-ahead to stage a demonstration for Major General Clayton B. Vogel, commander of the First Marine Division, Amphibious Corps of the Pacific Fleet. Johnston recruited four Navajos from the Los Angeles shipyards and brought them to San Diego for the test. They were divided into teams of two, sent to opposite ends of the building, and given six messages to encode and transmit via field telephones. After some quick word substitutions — “dive bomber” became “chicken hawk” (gini) — the Navajos were able to accurately translate the messages from English into Navajo and back again within seconds. Using standard cryptographic equipment of the day, the same task would have taken 30 minutes to complete.
Impressed by the demonstration, Vogel submitted a request to the Commandant of the Marine Corps to recruit and train 200 Navajos as communications specialists. The first 29 enlistees, Chester Nez among them, arrived at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot in May, 1942. Most had never been off the reservation before, and some had never even taken a bus or a train. Many had lied about their ages in order to sign up. After completing basic training, the members of 382nd Platoon, nicknamed “The Navajo School,” were sent to Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California, and tasked with developing a code that was simple, fast, and reliable enough to be used in battlefield conditions.
The code they developed with the help of Signal Corps officers had two parts. First, hundreds of common military terms wereassigned Navajo synonyms. “Submarine” became “iron fish” (besh-lo). “Colonel” became “silver eagle” (atsah-besh-le-gai). “Battleship” was “whale” (lo-tso); “fighter plane” was “hummingbird” (da-he-tih-hi); “America” was “our mother” (ne-he-mah); and so on. Next, each letter of the Roman alphabet was given up to three corresponding Navajo words. For example, “A” could be encoded as wol-la-chee (“ant”), be-la-sana (“apple”), or tse-nill (“axe”). “N” was tsah (“needle”) or a-chin (“nose”). Using this system, the Navajos could spell any English word while minimizing the repetitions that might allow enemy listeners to break the code.
In August 1942, the first group of Navajo code talkers completed their training and reported for duty at Guadalcanal. They were assigned to combat units and given field telephones and radios to transmit bombing coordinates, tactical orders, troop movements, etc. Messages written in English were encrypted by a code talker and radioed to a compatriot who had committed the entire code to memory. He would render the message back into English and pass it along; the written copies were destroyed immediately. In his memoir, Code Talker, Chester Nez recounted his first transmission: Beh-na-ali-tsosie a-knah-as-donih ah-toh nish-na-jih-goh dah-di-kad ah-deel-tahi (“Enemy machine gun nest on your right flank. Destroy”).
Three of the original code talkers being honored by President George Bush in 2001
All told, more than 400 Navajo code talkers served in WWII. They played key roles in every major Marine engagement in the Pacific, including Okinawa, Tarawa, Bougainville, Saipan, Guam, and Peleliu. At Iwo Jima, six code talkers worked round the clock for the first two days of the battle, relaying more than 800 messages without error. According to Major Howard Connor, a signal officer in the 5th Marine Division, “were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima.”
The Japanese were skilled code breakers, yet they never managed to decipher the Navajo code. Even a Navajo soldier captured at Bataan (who was untrained as a code talker) could make neither heads nor tails of the encrypted messages he was forced to listen to–the strings of unrelated words sounded like gibberish to him. After the war, he told his Navajo comrades, “I never figured out what you guys who got me into all that trouble were saying.”
In addition to storming beaches, hunkering down in foxholes, and enduring the stifling heat and humidity of jungle combat, the code talkers faced an unexpected danger: U.S. soldiers who mistook them for the enemy. At Guadalcanal, a Navajo named William McCabe was in a chow line when someone yelled, “Halt, or I’m gonna shoot!” and dragged him off to be interrogated. Chester Nez was “captured” by US troops on the island of Anguar. They put a .45 pistol to his head and accused him of being a Japanese soldier impersonating a Marine. A superior officer had to step in to defuse the situation.
Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton hosts a commemoration ceremony for the Navajo Code Talkers at 1st Marine Division Headquarters, Sept. 28, 2015.
(USMC photo by Cpl. Asia J. Sorenson)
After the war, Nez and his fellow code talkers returned to face the hardships of life on the reservation. New Mexico did not grant Navajos the right to vote until 1948. Jobs were scarce, and although the G.I. Bill provided veterans with financing for a home loan, many banks refused to grant loans to Navajos because they held reservation land parcels in trust and had no proof of title. When he went to a federal building in his USMC uniform to register for an identity card, Nez was told that he wasn’t a “full citizen” of the United States. To make matters even more difficult, the Navajo code was so valuable that the program remained classified for more than two decades after the war. The code talkers weren’t allowed to discuss the details of their service, and their incredible skill and bravery went unrecognized.
Thankfully, all that changed in 1968, when the code program was finally declassified. In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon presented the code talkers with a certificate of appreciation for their “patriotism, courage, and resourcefulness.” In 2001, the original members of The Navajo School were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. Theirs is one of the most incredible stories of WWII: As boys, they were forbidden to speak their native language. As young men, they used that same language to save thousands of American lives, help to turn the tide of the war in the Pacific, and create one of the only unbroken codes in the history of modern warfare.
China’s leaders are increasingly on edge as US Navy warships have begun transiting the tense Taiwan Strait on a regular basis.
The US Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer and a fleet oiler through the strait Jan. 24, 2019, the third time in four months the US has sent warships through the closely-watched waterway.
“We urge the US to tread lightly,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded Jan. 25, 2019. She compared the Taiwan Strait to a family home with a yard divided by a road, stressing that while it is reasonable for pedestrians to pass through, it is a different scenario if someone is there to make trouble by engaging in “provocative behavior” and “threatening the safety” of the family.
She noted that China has already raised the issue with the US, adding that China has asked the US to approach Taiwan cautiously so as to avoid damaging US-China relations.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald.
China displeasure stems from not only from concerns that US military activity around the island will empower Taiwan’s pro-independence forces but also frustration with the US Navy’s refusal to ask permission before transiting the international strait between China and Taiwan, a democratic island it views as a rogue province.
The US has long insisted it doesn’t need permission. “We don’t need China’s permission to go through the Taiwan Strait, it is international waters. We will exercise our free right of passage whenever and wherever we choose, as we have done repeatedly in the past, and will do in the future,” retired Adm. Timothy Keating, former head of US Pacific Command (now Indo-Pacific Command), explained in 2007, when the US Navy sailed the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk through the strait.
Beijing, however, considers these transits to be purposeful provocations.
“The purpose of US warships is to flex their geopolitical muscle,” the nationalist Global Times, a hawkish Chinese state-affiliated tabloid, wrote in an editorial Jan. 25, 2019, asserting, “China will find the US action irritating, but such actions can never deter China.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.
“The US Navy “should refrain from staging military provocation in China’s coastal areas,” the paper argued, suggesting that failure to do so could result in a clash.
US Pacific Fleet said that Jan. 24, 2019’s passage demonstrated “the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” as well as US determination to “fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.” The US uses similar rhetoric to characterize its freedom-of-navigation operations and bomber overflights.
The US insists that it is simply re-reinforcing the rules of the road, so to speak, as they pertain to activities in international waters, and Navy leadership has made it clear that the US will continue to transit the Taiwan Strait.
“We see the Taiwan Straits as international waters, and that’s why we do the transits through the straits,” Adm. John Richardson, chief of US naval operations, said recently, adding that the Navy is “just exercising the right to pass through those waters in accordance with international law.”
The admiral suggested that the US could send a carrier through those waters if it wanted to, something the Navy hasn’t done in more than a decade.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
1. Well, at least you don’t have to get him/her a gift right away.
I’m sorry, what? I will more than likely still get my spouse a gift and squirrel it away until they get home, but also why is that the one thing you think I am thinking about the most? Our gift to each other will be a phone call or a quick Skype call. That is better than any other gift either one of us could get each other.
2. Well, you signed up for this, why are you surprised?
I may shank the next person that says that. Just saying. I fell in love with a human not their occupation. Their occupation is a small part of who they are and we adjust to the situation. We are simply making it each day at a time.
3. Wait, the military won’t send him/her home for the holidays?!
You realize that the military does not care what day of the week it is let alone a holiday. Stop with the silliness. The service members are on a deployment, field exercise, staff duty, etc. they cannot come home.
4. Why are you staying here? Why aren’t you just moving home?
Well, I have a whole life and network system I have established at the base that I can’t just abandon. Yes, I miss my family and will come home to visit them, but it isn’t possible for me to move home while my spouse is away.
5. He’s only in overseas why don’t you just go visit him/her?
Are you planning on paying for the ticket or…? We are living on a budget and don’t have the luxury of always going to visit each other. The idea is great but not practical. Also, do you know what a war zone is?
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. displays some holiday spirit as he speaks to the soldiers of 1st Armored Division in Germany.
(US Army photo)
6. At least you don’t have kids, it would be so much worse.
Thank you? It is still hard to be apart from my spouse even though we don’t have kids. Can someone just hand me a bottle of wine the next time someone tries to comfort me with that.
7. Well at least the kids are young, they won’t remember.
The kids will still miss their parent. The kids will still ask where they are first thing in the morning. Looking around the house, seeing if their dad/mom will surprise them or waiting patiently by the phone to hear their voice. No it won’t be easy no matter the age of our kids, but we make it work.
8. Isn’t it nice to have your own space? I love when my husband isn’t home.
Well, I much prefer when he is home, but that is just me. We have spent enough time apart I am ready to be together again. Sure a nice weekend apart spent with family or my girlfriends is nice, but after a few months I am more than ready for him/her to be home.
Lancer Brigade soldier makes it home for the holidays.
(US Army photo)
9. Ask when is he coming home and immediately respond with, “Well, that isn’t too far away.”
One day is too far away. Yes, my countdown app has helped me stay focused and able to remember we are one day closer, but somedays (most days) it is far too many days away. Minutes feel like days, days feel like weeks, weeks feel like months, and so forth. It is a long and frustrating experience I would not wish on my worst enemy.
10. Why are you visiting his side of the family? He’s not even home.
They are still family. No matter if my spouse is home or not I am going to see my in-laws at holidays. They are as special to me as my own family and I want to see them. It is silly to think that just because my spouse isn’t home I would not go see that side of the family.
11. Aren’t you scared he’s going to get lonely being so far away?
Well, yes he may get lonely, but so will I. Yes, we will have struggles, but we also have each other. We also have our phones, Skype, Facebook messenger, various apps that will get us through the time apart. We also have our friends that will help us deal with the frustrations that come with time spent apart.
Soldiers gather together during a Christmas service at Combat Outpost Shur Andam, Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Joshua Edwards)
12. Well, one year my spouse had to go out of town for an extended weekend so I completely understand what you are going through.
Seriously, if anyone comes to me with this this holiday season you better be handing me a bottle of chardonnay with that comment. Yes, some couples go through time apart from their loved one, but no one understands the separation like other military significant others. It is a different, it is an everyday struggle, a daunting task that only can be dealt with by fellow military spouses that understand the hardships that will happen and that are happening.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
Chapter 5: The Gunslinger takes our Mandalorian to a familiar planet and introduces some fun guest star characters and a little mystery. Equally exciting is that it opens with an actual star war! Pew pew!
Let’s get right to the recap. Here’s your spoiler warning for episode five of The Mandalorian.
“I’ll hit the brakes. He’ll fly right by.”
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The Gunslinger opens with a bounty hunter dogfight that ends with our Mandalorian pulling a Maverick and killing his would-be captor. Not terribly original, but hey, the sound design of Star Wars space battles is always a nostalgically good time. Our Mandalorian decides to take his damaged Razor Crest down to…wait for it…Tatooine for repairs.
Two glorious things happen right off the bat: first of all, the Yoda Baby giggled — swoon — and second of all, we get Amy Sedaris in Star Wars canon.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Our Mandalorian shuts the Yoda Baby up in a little closet (presumably for safe-keeping…but…no) and pays mechanic Peli Motto (played by the delightful Amy Sedaris) to work on that leaky fuel pump. But for heaven’s sake! No droids!
Why? Why no droids? I thought it was because he didn’t want anyone finding out about the Yoda Baby but about two seconds later the baby toddles out of the ship. I guess he can open mechanical doors.
You are a wanted man, Yoda Baby. Hide your damn self???
“Last one there is a womp rat because we use ‘womp rat’ every chance we get I guess.”
The Mandalorian, Disney+
Our Mandalorian searches for work in the Mos Eisley Cantina where he runs into Toro Calican (played by Nurse Jackie’s Jake Cannavale), a kid who just wants to be a bounty hunter. “I don’t care about the money!” he insists. Many times.
At first I was like, “Ooooo is he sexy?” and then I was like, “Oh dear. No. No he’s a bit obnoxious,” and then I was like, “Ugh he needs to die.” Calican makes an offer to our Mandalorian: help him capture a Hutt-protected bounty and Mando can keep the money while Calican can get in the Bounty Hunter Guild.
That bounty is revealed to be Fennec Shand, played by Ming-Na Wen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D), who never disappoints.
Shand is hiding out across the sands of Tatooine, lands in the territory of Tusken Raiders. Luckily, our Mandalorian knows Tusken Raider Sign Language and is able to barter Calican’s “binocs” (aka binoculars) for passage across.
The Mandalorian, Disney+
The pair wait for the cover of nightfall to attack Shand, who holds the higher ground. In a fun though short-lived attack, they manage to capture her but lose a speeder, forcing our Mandalorian to go round up a blurrg to ride back on. While gone, Shand takes a “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach and tries to convince Calican to free her so they can both take down Mando and return him — and the Yoda Baby — to the Guild.
Calican thinks this is a pretty good idea except for the whole teaming up part. He shoots Shand and leaves her in his dust as he heads back to the hangar. (Once more I have to ask: why did Mando even let another bounty hunter see the baby??
When our Mandalorian returns to find Shand’s dead body, he rushes back to the hangar, shoots Calican while he’s holding the baby, pays Amy Sedaris, and heads off on his merry way.
Meanwhile, a pair of mysterious boots walk up to Shand’s (maybe not dead??) body. Entertainment Weekly has a fan theory that the boots belong to Boba Fett. Leave a comment and weigh in on that one, will ya?
The Mandalorian, Disney+
All in all, I’m enjoying The Mandalorian but I am not riveted by it. Our hero keeps making goofy mistakes that land him in preventable pickles that he easily overcomes and we’re not unraveling any major Star Wars mysteries. The show, while beautifully produced, doesn’t carry much weight to it.
While I find myself very invested in the fate of the Yoda Baby, it’s just too simple for someone else to take the baby — I want to know who he is, where he came from, and why he’s so important. I actually want to know those things about our Mandalorian as well. There haven’t been many major emotional revelations since the twist at the end of the first episode, but I’m still holding out that we’ll get some.
Working hard on my “The Mandalorian” spec script…pic.twitter.com/IggrqjhkxK
It has been 25 years since the culmination of the so-called Russian constitutional crisis, when the country’s president, Boris Yeltsin, sought to dissolve the parliament and then ordered the military to crush opposition led by the vice president at the time, Aleksandr Rutskoi, and the chairman of parliament, Ruslan Khasbulatov.
I was working in Central Asia when the crisis broke out in September 1993, and heard bits and pieces from Radio Mayak every now and again from the Uzbek village I was working in at the time.
I traveled regularly to Moscow for my job — heading a Central Asian sociology project for the University of Manchester and the Soros International Fund for Cultural Initiative — to hand over material from our Central Asian colleagues, pick up their salaries, and restock my own household supplies for the next period of village life.
By chance, I arrived in the Russian capital on October 1. Friends there explained the rapidly changing situation. (I was more interested in the party that some friends told me was set for the Penta Hotel on Saturday night, October 2.)
I had my first look at the Russian parliament building, known as the White House, on the way to the Penta. It was surrounded by trucks, the Soviet-era tanker trucks that had big letters on the sides showing they carried moloko (milk) or voda (water), or something. There was also barbed wire around the building. Small groups of people were milling about on both sides of the barricade.
Sunday, October 3, was shopping day for me. There were always too many people at the Irish store on the Arbat on the weekend, but there was another Irish store on the Ring Road. There was a smaller selection but I was only looking for basic products, like toilet paper.
‘Some snap drill’
Just before I reached the store, a convoy of Russian military trucks full of soldiers drove by. They were moving rather fast. I didn’t think too much of it. I’d seen military convoys drive through cities before, especially in Moscow. “Some snap drill,” I thought.
I hadn’t been back at my accommodation long when the phone rang. It was an Italian friend, Ferrante. He was doing business in Russia and lived not far from the flat I stayed in when I was in Moscow. We knew each other from parties and had seen each other at the Penta on Saturday night.
Our conversation went something like this:
“Are you watching this?” he asked.
“Watching what? I just got back,” I replied, “What’s going on?”
“There’s shooting at Ostankino,” Ferrante said in reference to the TV tower. “It’s on CNN. Come over.”
Now I knew what the military trucks were doing. I hurried over to Ferrante’s place and sat down to watch.
“Here,” Ferrante said, handing me a shot of vodka.
We both downed the shot and watched, then downed another shot, and watched.
We were also listening to a local radio station, and Ferrante was getting calls from people around Moscow. It was clear Ostankino was not the only place where serious events were unfolding.
Ferrante poured us both another shot. We downed it and Ferrante started speaking.
“You know,” and he paused. It seemed like a long pause, then he said exactly what I was thinking: “I always wished I was here in 1991,” a reference to the events that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union. “Something big is happening. Let’s go out and see.”
Ferrante called his Russian driver to come over and get us, and we headed to the parliament building just as the sun was setting.
And then it got weird
We had trouble reaching the area. Some streets were blocked off. Once, our car turned a corner and there was a group of around 50 men marching toward us carrying sticks and crowbars. “Go back,” Ferrante yelled, though the driver was already trying.
We parked by the Hotel Ukraina, across the Moscow River from the parliament building. The bridge across the river was barricaded on the side near the parliament building but pedestrians could pass easily enough. We walked around watching apparent supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov turn over those tanker trucks, light fires, and rearrange the barbed wire.
There was lots of drinking everywhere.
The crowd was growing. Men in military uniforms had arrived carrying a Soviet flag, and they were trying to form a column of several hundred of the seemingly hard-drinking supporters of Rutskoi and Khasbulatov. It was clear things were about to get ugly.
We noticed and were already talking, in English, about departing. I lit a cigarette, and a Russian man who had obviously had a few shots of vodka himself approached me and asked for a light. After I lit his cigarette, he stared at us and said, “Well guys, are we going, or are we going to sit here taking a piss?”
“Sit here taking a piss,” I replied immediately. “Sorry, we’re foreigners and this isn’t our fight.”
That was enough for him, and he left.
So did we. Back across the river to the Metro, which, amazingly, was working. It was packed, but we were easily able to make it to Tverskoi Boulevard, where the pro-Yeltsin side was assembling. They were drinking, too, but there were places where the atmosphere was more party than political upheaval. I remember a truck lay overturned and there was a guy on top of it playing the accordion and singing with a voice like iconic balladeer Vladimir Vysotsky. A lot of people were just sitting around on the street, drinking and talking.
I got back to my apartment at about 3:00 a.m. “What would daylight bring?” I wondered.
The phone woke me up on Monday, October 4. It was Ferrante again.
“I just got back from the center. I was on the bridge when the tank fired at parliament,” he said quickly.
A lot to digest
It was a lot for me to digest, first thing out of bed. There was an assault on the parliament building, a lot of shooting, people killed…
As I sat at the table drinking tea, more calls came in from friends. Did I know what happened? Had I heard? What had I heard? They told me what they heard.
Several people called just to see where I was, since they knew I was in Moscow but I had not answered the phone all Sunday night.
I remember best the call from my friend Samuel. “Where were you last night?”
When I told him I had been out roaming around in both camps, he screamed, “Are you totally stupid? People are getting killed out there.”
The call ended with me promising I wouldn’t leave my apartment. And I would have kept that promise if I had not run out of sugar for my tea.
I figured the odds of finding someone selling sugar were probably not so good in such times, but I don’t like tea without sugar, so I headed out and got on the subway, which was still running, and went to the Arbat stop.
There was no traffic on the road. I tried walking to where the Irish store on the Arbat was located, but that side of the street was blocked off. On the other side of the street, there was a long line of people behind metal barriers, so I crossed to see. The crowd stretched all the way down the road in the direction of the Moscow River until the about the last 100 meters from the intersection where the Aeroflot globe was. The other side of the intersection was the road that sloped down to the parliament building.
There were several thousand people behind this barrier, and I made my way toward the intersection, where eventually I could see four armored vehicles parked in the center of the road.
I made it to where Dom Knigi (House of Books) used to be. Across the street was that massive block of stores that included, at the time, the Irish store, the Yupiter furniture and appliance store, the Aeroflot office, and dozens of other businesses. Some of the windows were shot out. On top of the building, in plain sight, were OMON, the elite Interior Ministry troops, in their black uniforms gazing down at the streets. There were a lot of police and OMON troops on the other side of the road, at street level also.
Snipers, tracer rounds
But behind the waist-high metal barricades on my side of the street it was a carnival atmosphere. People were talking about snipers where the intersection was, but no one seemed particularly concerned. At least until a sniper finally did take a shot at the armored vehicles.
One of the armored vehicles turned in the direction of a building on the cross street and unloaded. The tracer rounds could be seen flying toward it and dust was kicked up off the side of the building from the bullets.
The crowd roared like it was a sporting event. “Give it to them!” people yelled.
The shooting stopped, the crowd calmed, and then a thoroughly inebriated, shirtless young man jumped over the metal barrier and danced around with his arms outstretched.
Burned facade of the Russian White House after the storming.
Two OMON troops jumped over the barrier on the other side of street, ran to the drunken dancer, and beat him with their clubs, each grabbing one of the now-unconscious drunk’s ankles and dragging him over the curb to their side of the street.
Another shot at the armored vehicles, another volley of return fire, and more cheering from the spectators on my side of the street.
About that time, I was thinking this was too bizarre and decided to leave. But just as I was making my way back, a roar went up from the direction I was headed and the ground started rumbling. A column of armored vehicles, including many tanks, was making its way up the road toward the intersection.
People were calling to the soldiers: “Be careful!” and “There are snipers there.”
I took one last look at the intersection. Two of the armored vehicles were peppering a building with bullets.
The Metro train I took was on a line that briefly emerged from underground to cross a bridge, and everyone looked out the window at the White House, whose upper floors were on fire.
I got my sugar, went home, and had tea. I went to Ferrante’s place that evening to drink more vodka. There were many people there, some with spent shell casings they had gathered after the raid on the parliament building. Everyone had a story to tell.
I packed my bags the next day and by October 6 I was safely back in Central Asia.
Richard Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer for the George W. Bush administration, blasted the prospect of former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton replacing General H. R. McMaster as President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor.
“John Bolton was, by far, the most dangerous man we had in the entire eight years of the Bush Administration,” Painter tweeted on March 16, 2018. “Hiring him as the president’s top national security advisor is an invitation to war, perhaps nuclear war.”
Painter ended his post with a blunt and stark sentence: “this must be stopped at all costs.” He also linked to an article in the Atlantic titled “Hiring John Bolton Would Be a Betrayal of Donald Trump’s Base.”
“The people who say, ‘Oh, things would have been much better if you didn’t overthrow Saddam,’ miss the point that today’s Middle East does not flow totally and unchangeably from the decision to overthrow Saddam alone.”
Bolton has also been very hawkish on Iran, writing an article for the National Review titled “How to Get Out of the Iran Nuclear Deal.” The article was, according to Bolton, originally a gameplan for Trump that Bolton had drawn up and given to former White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon.