Everyone loves a good deal, and military veterans are no different. Plus, cable is expensive these days. So for veterans and the military, Comcast offers a $100 prepaid card back to its vet customers, along with a $25 Xfinity coupon. For a lot of companies, the discount would be as far as it needed to go. But the love Comcast has for vets is real – after all, the company was founded by a World War II-era Navy veteran.
Navy veteran and Comcast founder Ralph J. Roberts.
In the early 1960s, Navy vet Ralph J. Roberts purchased a Mississippi-based 1,200-subscriber cable company with his two business partners. The World War II veteran had come a long way from selling golf clubs and suspenders. He first became interested in the proliferation of TV broadcasting after using the proceeds of his suspenders business to buy over-the-air TV antennas which broadcast television to rural areas. Roberts eventually grew what started as a half-million-dollar investment into America’s largest cable company, Comcast.
These days, Comcast still remembers its founder’s Navy roots. The company is actively working to provide internet access to low-income veterans, hire a record number of veterans and their spouses in all areas of its operations, and support veteran-related initiatives in many, many areas.
In 2015, Comcast vowed to hire 21,000 members of the military-veteran community by 2021. This includes the spouses of servicemembers and veterans of all eras, not just the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their dedication extends to members of the reserve and the National Guard, who, as Comcast employees, get more benefits when activated than what the laws of the United States demand. Comcast, while acknowledging it can’t hire every veteran, also helps other companies to hire more – by teaching them how to hire more vets.
The cable provider funds the Veterans at Work Certificate Program, a certification program for human resources professionals that teaches hiring managers why veterans make better employees and instructs them on how to find vets that fit their needs, all at no cost.
To further help veterans find work, Comcast has invested in bridging a digital divide by provide low-income veteran households with high-speed internet access, along with providing more than 100,000 home computers, and providing digital skills training to ensure their beneficiaries can properly utilize both. Since 2011, more than eight million people have benefitted from the generosity of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and a further 9.5 million people have been reached through Comcast’s literacy training efforts.
But Comcast doesn’t stop there. While Comcast works in the world of digital internet and television, there are many, many areas where it doesn’t have a beachhead. To serve those areas, the company provides funding for special, military-related nonprofits to reach it for them. Since 2001, Comcast has given million in cash and in-kind donations to more than 265 veterans organizations whose missions are essential to the wellbeing and increased livelihoods of the military-veteran community.
The Military Influencer Conference brings veteran-oriented organizations together.
One of those organizations is the Military Influencer Conference, an annual event that brings together important and emerging entrepreneurs, influencers, creatives, executives, and leaders who are connected to the military community. the three-day conference focuses on delivering actionable insights from the stories of others and fostering an environment where people of diverse backgrounds and skill sets are motivated to forge legitimate relationships through conversation that lead to powerful collaborations.
A Chinese warship threatened a US Navy destroyer during a tense showdown in the South China Sea in late September 2018, according to new details of the encounter.
A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 052C Luyang II-class destroyer challenged the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese warship sailed within 45 yards of the American vessel, nearly colliding with the US destroyer.
The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to change course to avoid a collision.
A transcript of the radio exchange between the two naval vessels obtained by the South China Morning Post from the British Ministry of Defense shows that the Chinese ship threatened the Decatur, warning that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not move.
“You are on [a] dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio. “If you don’t change course, [you] will suffer consequences.”
“We are conducting innocent passage,” the Decatur reportedly replied.
In a video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying that the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”
The video is a little unclear, but there appear to be ship fenders deployed off deck, Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, noted on Twitter. He explained that “fenders are designed to mitigate the kinetic impact of a collision,” adding that the deployment is “clearly an indication of preparedness for such an eventuality.”
Ankit Panda, a foreign-policy expert who is a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”
Unsafe or unprofessional encounters between the US Navy and the Chinese military are, however, not particularly uncommon. “We have found records of 19 unsafe and/or unprofessional interactions with China and Russia since 2016 (18 with China and one with Russia),” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, recently told CNN.
A number of these incidents involved dangerous Chinese intercepts of US Navy aircraft. In August 2018, the Chinese military sent a total of six warnings to a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, warning it to “leave immediately and keep out.”
It is potentially noteworthy that the details of the showdown between the US and Chinese warships in the South China Sea came from the British Ministry of Defense, as a British naval vessel also found itself in a standoff with the Chinese military in the South China Sea not too long ago.
In early September 2018, China dispatched a frigate to to take on the UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion when it sailed too close to Chinese outposts in the Paracel Islands. China called the incident a provocation and warned that it would “take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”
The US Navy is apparently expecting incidents like this to occur more frequently going foward. The US and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas,” Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Oct. 30, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Most of the discoveries have been gruesome — in multiple cases, Japanese authorities have said they found skulls and decaying corpses.
Not a new phenomenon
North Korean vessels have been showing up in Japan for years.
Eighty such ships drifted ashore in Japan in 2013, 65 in 2014, 45 in 2015, and 66 in 2016, said Satoru Miyamoto, a professor of political science and economics at Japan’s Seigakuin University, citing Japan Coast Guard statistics.
But at least 76 vessels have shown up on Japanese shores since the beginning of this year, and 28 in November alone, The New York Times reported.
These appearances usually occur more frequently toward the end of the year, when bad weather proves most dangerous to seafarers using old boats and equipment, The Times said.
So, why is this happening?
Life in North Korea is ‘grim and desperate’
The rising number of ghost ships in Japan indicates the dire food scarcity facing North Korea, some experts say.
Jeffrey Kingston, the director of Asian studies at Temple University in Japan, told Business Insider that “the ghost ships are a barometer for the state of living conditions in North Korea — grim and desperate.”
“They signal both desperation and the limits of ‘juche,'” he added, using the word for an ideology developed by Kim Il Sung that justifies state policies despite famine and economic difficulties within the country.
To make matters worse, North Korea suffered a severe drought earlier this year that dramatically damaged the country’s food production and is likely to result in further food shortages, the United Nations said in July.
While the extent of the crop damage remains unclear, the UN said the areas accounting for two-thirds of North Korea’s cereal production had been severely affected.
Earlier this year, doctors treating a North Korean soldier shot while defecting to South Korea found that he had a large number of parasites in his stomach, suggesting a widespread health crisis in the North, The Washington Post reported.
Seo Yu-suk, a research manager at the North Korean Studies Institution in Seoul, told Reuters that “North Korea pushes so hard for its people to gather more fish so that they can make up their food shortages.”
Kingston added, “These rickety vessels are unsuitable for the rough seas of the Sea of Japan in autumn, and one imagines that far more are capsizing that we will never know about.”
Or are they a sign of a booming North Korean economy?
Not all experts agree with the above assessment, however.
Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an editor at North Korean Economy Watch, told Business Insider that it was “unclear to what degree it’s directly related to food shortages, per se.”
“If fishers are ordered out for longer periods of time, with bigger demands on the catch they bring back — and with less gasoline with them than they need, due to the sanctions and shortages — that is certainly a connection of sorts,” he said. He added,
It is also possible that to make the same level of revenue through selling seafood domestically — which seems to be the best option, given that they cannot export their products to China through formal ways due to current sanctions on seafood imports from North Korea — they would simply need to make bigger catches.
It’s unclear, however, how much the sanctions have affected North Korea’s food situation or economy.
“Though the economy overall is under pressure from sanctions, food prices have not gone up to the degree that some may have expected, which suggests that there isn’t any acute scarcity as of now,” Katzeff Silberstein said.
He added, “On the other hand, there have been anecdotal reports of food scarcity increasing, particularly in the northeastern parts of the country, near the border to China, where agriculture is not at all as widely spread as in the southern regions.”
Miyamoto, the Seigakuin University professor, said the rise in North Korean fishing vessels found in Japan was indicative of a booming North Korean economy — because seafood is a luxury item.
“Many North Korean vessels are in the Sea of Japan because North Korea has promoted fishery policy since 2013,” he told Business Insider.
“They are fishermen [trying] to earn money,” he added. “Now North Korean economics, which adopted free-market partly, have grown and generated a wealthy class. A wealthy class demands not caloric food, but healthy food. So seafood, which are healthy, is popular in North Korea.”
He continued, “It is evidence not that the North Korean economy is deteriorating, but that the North Korean economy is growing … Hungry people demand not seafood, which are low-calorie, but cereal and meat, which are high-calorie.”
He also told CNN the “ghost ship” phenomenon increased “after Kim Jong Un decided to expand the fisheries industry as a way of increasing revenue for the military.”
“They are using old boats manned by the military, by people who have no knowledge about fishing,” Miyamoto said. “It will continue.”
The increased appearance of the vessels has reignited fears among some Japanese citizens who remain haunted by the spate of kidnappings carried out by North Korea that occurred along Japan’s west coast in the 1970s and ’80s.
The Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb — known colloquially as the MOAB, or “Mother of All Bombs” — was born and raised at Eglin Air Force Base.
On April 6, the enormous weapon was used for the first time in combat, dropped in Afghanistan by an MC-130 from the Air Force Special Operations Command headquartered at Hurlburt Field. While the Air Force would not confirm if the aircraft was connected to Hurlburt, the bomb’s local roots run deep.
On March 11, 2003, the Air Research Laboratory at Eglin performed the first test detonation of a 21,000-pound MOAB over Range B-70 north of Wynnhaven Beach, Florida. Residents reported feeling shock waves and hearing loud noises miles away from the drop site.
“My dog shook for 15 minutes,” Santa Rosa County resident Stephanie McBride told the Daily News at the time. “The house, a little bit.”
With tensions with Iraq at a fever pitch (the United States would invade that country just nine days later) the military-friendly Emerald Coast embraced the concept — and the name — of the nation’s largest non-nuclear bomb.
The day of the blast, Nancy Benaquis and Greg Haymore at MannaTee’s Castle in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., designed a MOAB T-shirt complete with a mushroom cloud and the words, “We tested the big one!” At $9.98 each, the shirts sold briskly.
“We sold one to a man who told us he worked on the bomb,” Haymore told the Daily News in May 2003.
In 2005, local chef Chris Shrunk created a different kind of MOAB — the “Mother of All Burgers” — and in 2011 local gamers were excited to see the MOAB featured in that year’s version of the “Call of Duty” video game.
Eglin’s Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate developed the massive bomb in less than three months. The Prototype Munition Fabrication Facility produced the precision guided munitions, and the base’s 46th Test Wing tested them.
“What makes Eglin particularly valuable is that it can do research, development, and testing all in one place,” local economist David Goetsch said. “The base was able to turn around that bomb in a very short time frame because they had all three capabilities.”
On May 20, 2004, the 14th (and final) MOAB to be produced was put on display at the Air Force Armament Museum. On April 13, mere hours after the bomb detonated, visitors to the museum gathered around the exhibit to take photos and selfies in front of the famous weapon.
“Bombs, and the scientists and researchers who produce them, are an important part of our community’s economy,” Goetsch added. “Air Force leaders have a bias toward aircraft, but they’re just fancy airliners if they don’t have weapons.”
“At Eglin, we make weapons.”
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz weighed in on April 13 on the decision to use the MOAB.
“President Trump’s decision to drop the GBU-43 shows his deep commitment to eradicating ISIS worldwide,” said Gaetz, whose congressional district includes Eglin.
“This message was part of his campaign, and eliminating ISIS is critical to the long-term security of the United States. The president’s actions also send a clear message that we will no longer tolerate attacks on our troops — and that those who do so can expect a swift and strong response.”
“As Northwest Floridians, we are proud to train the most lethal warfighters and to test the most advanced weaponry in the world,” Gaetz added. “The president’s decision highlights our military’s need for expanded testing facilities — in particular, the Gulf Test Range south of Eglin Air Force Base.”
The Russian and Chinese armed forces are putting their military might on display on land, in the air, and at sea in a massive exercise in Russia’s far east, where China is learning lessons from Russia’s warfighting experience in Syria and other global hotspots.
Chinese troops, as well as helicopters and tanks, are participating in Vostok 2018, reportedly the largest drills in the history of the Russian army, and while the Chinese and Russian militaries have held drills together in the past, this year’s exercise is different.
“In the past decade, China-Russia military drills mainly focused on anti-terrorism and other non-traditional threats,” Major Li Jinpeng, the battalion commander for a Chinese artillery battalion, told Chinese state-run broadcaster CGTN, noting that these exercises appear focused on classical battle campaigns.
A military researcher told Chinese media that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army could learn from Russia how to “fight in cities, in deserts, and in mountains.”
In the age of renewed great power competition, China is pushing to build a modern fighting force that can win on the battlefield, whether that be the defense of the mainland, a fight over Taiwan, or an armed conflict in disputed waters. During the drills, Russia shared its wartime experiences with China, which has not fought in a conflict in decades.
“The Russian military is interested in seeing and assessing China’s progress in the military field,” Mikhail Barabanov, editor-in-chief of the Moscow Defence Brief, told the Financial Times recently, “I believe that for China the opportunity to get acquainted with the Russian armed forces is much more interesting since the Russian army has in recent years a great deal of combat experience in Ukraine, Syria, etc while China’s armed forces are completely deprived of modern combat experience and have not fought since 1979.”
Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation.
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)
A recent article in the Global Times explained that one of the reasons for the ongoing exercises is to learn from the Russian military. “The Russian forces that performed operations in Syria are among the participants of the military exercise. Undoubtedly, joining in such a military exercise with them is helpful for the PLA to become familiar with actual combat,” the article said. This particular point was driven home by Chinese state media as well.
“Almost all the Russian helicopter pilots in this drill have participated in the Syria conflict, so they have very rich real combat experience,” Senior Colonel Li Xincheng, a commander and veteran Chinese helicopter pilot, told CGTN, adding, “Their equipment has been tested in the real battlefield, which we can learn from.”
He added that the Chinese and Russian troops practiced complex strikes not commonly seen in Chinese military exercises. “Unlike the many drills before, this time from the top to the bottom, we have fighter-bombers, helicopters and tanks firing shells at the same time in a three-dimensional attacking system,” Li explained.
Russian state media confirmed by way of a commander that “generalized Syrian experience was used in the drills – from limited objective attacks by landing forces down to firing and reconnaissance rules.” Newsweek, citing the South China Morning Post, reported that Russia is compiling a textbook focused on its Syrian war experience and plans to share it with China.
China’s military is undergoing an extensive military modernization program designed to build a lethal force that is able to fight and win wars by the middle of this century. This effort has involved leadership changes, new recruitment standards, and enhanced training with an emphasis on actual live-fire combat exercises for war rather than the rough equivalent of a military parade, even though that still occurs.
“One of my soldiers told me that he fired so many shells in these drills that it is almost equivalent to his total over the past five years,” Captain Zhang Lei, whose armored vehicle battalion participated in the Vostok exercises, told Chinese state media in a commentary on the expenditure of ammunition during the drills.
Both Moscow and Beijing have stressed that the exercises are not aimed at any third party, but both countries have bonded over their mutual interest in challenging US hegemony. The Pentagon said that while the US respects Russia and China’s right to hold military drills, just as the US does with its allies and international partners, the US will be watching closely.
Featured image: Chinese military vehicles through a field during the Vostok 2018 exercises in Russia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Tolkien premieres today, a movie that looks at the horrors that legendary author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien endured in World War I and how it may have informed his writing of The Lord of the Rings and other fantasy novels. But while it’s easy to see some elements of World War I combat in the author’s novels, it’s pretty much certain that some elements won’t make it on to the big screen.
(Also, for what it’s worth, the Tolkien Estate has disavowed the movie ahead of its release, so go ahead and assume it’s not a terribly accurate picture of his life.)
Soldiers with the Royal Irish Rifles at Somme in 1916.
(Public domain, British Army)
Human waste overflowed and spread parasites
Yeah, Tolkien’s novels aren’t known for their graphic descriptions of waste management and disease prevention, so it’s unlikely the movie will have to address it much. But the sanitation challenges of trench warfare were overwhelming. Everyone poops, and millions of soldiers pooping in a line generates a lot of waste.
Soldiers in a shell hole receive a message from a dog in World War I.
(National Library of Scotland)
Buried under exploding dirt
Troops in the trenches were generally below the level of the surrounding terrain. (It’s the whole reason they dug those trenches.) That protected them from machine gun rounds and reduced the threat of artillery, but it also meant that large artillery shells could move tons of dirt onto them, burying soldiers.
World War I wounded leave the battlefield at Bernafay Wood in 1916.
(Ernest Brooks, Imperial War Museums)
Treating the wounded
Tolkien likely has the guts to show hospitals in World War I, but the author wasn’t a medic, and so there would be little reason to depict it. But World War I hospitals in the front were terrifying. They had rudimentary sanitation procedures in place and were often overwhelmed by the sheer number of casualties.
During major battles, like when Tolkien took part in the Battle of the Somme, medical personnel couldn’t keep up with the number of wounded. Harold Chapin was assigned night duty in May 1915, but as he described it, that had no real meaning. The medical personnel worked almost 24 hours a day and still couldn’t keep up. One bombardier described waiting three days to get the shrapnel in his leg treated, not an uncommon wait.
Mind-numbing boredom and spotty communications with home
That meant news of a sick relative in a letter might actually be already dead by the time the letter made it to the front. An overwhelmed lover lamenting the separation might have already written their Dear John follow up. And there was no guarantee that the soldier would be kept busy enough to prevent them from dwelling on potential catastrophes at home.
So, in addition to the horrors of battle, troops were left in a prison of their own mind, wondering what parts of their life back home survived.
A sergeant in a flooded out trench in World War I France. Floods like these spread disease.
(National Library of Scotland)
The movie might show a little water in the trenches, but most directors are happy with some wet ankles and splashes of mud. That is not what troops in World War I endured. No, they could be so wet for so long that their flesh rotted off. And the water could easily be a foot or more deep, too deep for soldiers to get dry just by dropping some wood into the trench or cutting a little shelf into the dirt walls.
Children love playing with toys. So, it makes sense that immature adults love playing with toys, too. A benefit of being in the military is that we can pretend like there’s actually a legitimate reason for playing along.
Somewhere along the line, a high-ranking officer saw that same immature troop accomplish some good through playing with toys and gave the following the seal of approval.
1. Nerf guns
Never underestimate the abilities of a bored infantry platoon looking for a way to let off steam. Stacking and clearing “glass houses” (which are really just white tape on the ground) and using your gun-shaped fingers as mock-weaponry gets kinda dull after a while.
What’s actually fun is when the platoons of hardened warfighters practice their battle drills in the barracks by kicking in doors and tagging each other with Nerf darts while they’re on the toilet.
2. Paintball guns
The rules of engagement are taken very seriously by troops who are deployed. First, you must establish a show of force, letting a potential enemy know you’re armed. Then, you shout, usually through an interpreter or in broken Farsi, to let the enemy know they should back the f*ck up. If they still don’t back away, you can physically “shove” them in the direction they should be going in. Finally, use of force is authorized.
Some troops find it easier to just cover their feet with colored paint than to bust out the real weapons.
3. Little, green Army men
Sand tables are used by commanders to show a rough overview of the mission. Many different things can be designated as a unit. This broken stick? The objective. And this pebble will flank in through the south — like this.
Commanders can clear away a bunch of the confusion by ordering a $5 bucket of plastic Army guys. Add a little bit of paint and you’ve got some distinct markers.
“Okay, first platoon. You’re going to wave your rifles in the air like an idiot. Second, you’re going to kneel with a radio.” (Photo by Sgt. Tracy McKithern)
4. Silly String
Trip wires are placed by the enemy on the paths through which troops will walk. When someone bumps into it, the attached explosives detonate. The solution? A cheap can of Silly String.
The string shoots out pretty far and is so soft and light that it won’t set off the wire. If troops spray it through a doorway, they’ll quickly discover a trap. Even if a wire is sensitive enough to be tripped by silly string, the surprisingly long range of the spray gives troops enough distance to mitigate some of the explosion.
The military has plans for everything, especially communication. Primarily, units depend on secured, frequency-hopping radios. Alternatively, troops can rely on a slightly less secure radio. In case of an absolute emergency, send a runner.
A cheap, effective, “ah-crap” plan is to use regular walkie-talkies instead of sending that runner to maintain unit integrity.
North Korea’s involvement in major hacking offensives appears to be growing.
The country has been linked to a recent attack on South Korean cryptocurrency exchanges, according to cybersecurity experts.
Researchers from the U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future say a new hacking campaign targeting South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Coinlink employed the same malware code used in the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures and last year’s global WannaCry attack.
Beginning in late 2017, hackers attempted to collect the passwords and emails of employees at Coinlink, but were unsuccessful.
Recorded Future released a full report on Jan. 16 analyzing the methods used in the recent Coinlink attack versus methods used in previous cyberattacks. The firm found what it called strong evidence that a cybercrime unit called the Lazarus group was behind the Coinlink attack, as well as several previous large-scale campaigns, based on the type of code they have used in previous attacks.
According to the report, the Lazarus group operates under a North Korean state-sponsored cyber unit.
The group has been conducting operations since at least 2009, when they launched an attack on US and South Korean websites by infecting them with a virus known as MyDoom, the report said. The group has mainly targeted South Korean, U.S. government, and financial entities, but has also been linked to the major attack on Sony Pictures in 2014.
In recent years, researchers noticed a change in North Korean cyber operations as they began to shift their focus to attacking financial institutions in order to steal money to fund Kim Jong Un’s regime, the report said.
In 2017, the group began targeting cryptocurrencies, and their first offensive was aimed at Bithumb, one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchanges. Lazarus hackers stole $7 million in the Bithumb heist at the time, according to the report.
The WannaCry attack in 2017, which affected computer systems at schools, hospitals, and businesses across 150 countries, also used malware code that was linked to Lazarus.
Additionally, a December attack on the South Korean bitcoin exchange YouBit reportedly mirrored previous North Korean offensives, leading experts to suggest that groups associated with the North were behind that attack as well.
Recorded Future’s report comes amid recent allegations that North Korea has begun mining and hacking cryptocurrencies in order to sidestep crippling economic sanctions.
“This is a continuation of their broader interest in cryptocurrency as a funding stream,” Priscilla Moriuchi, director of strategic-threat development at Recorded Future, told the Wall Street Journal this week.
The U.S. has released statements blaming North Korea for several recent attacks. North Korea still denies any involvement, despite mounting evidence.
On December 26, 1994, millions of shoppers across North America rushed to malls in an attempt to make the most of post-Christmas sales. Across the Atlantic Ocean, at an airport in Marseille, France, a small group of men decked out from head to toe in black garb were doing a different kind of rushing — clinging to the back of a mobile staircase while barreling at high speed (or at least as fast as the truck would go) down a runway.
These weren’t ordinary men. Their target was a hulking, cream-white Airbus A300 filled with more than 160 scared and bewildered passengers and flight crew, some of whom were now resigned to accepting an imminent death.
The men on the mobile stairs planned on taking the aircraft in front of them by force, even if it meant giving up their lives in the process. Success was the only acceptable outcome of this operation. Failure would result in the massacring of innocents. Hailing from the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (more popularly known as GIGN), these black-clad ninjas were counter-terrorists, the best France had to offer.
(The Aviation Intelligencer YouTube)
Today’s mission was a hijacked Air France airliner, wired with explosives and crammed with 166 innocent lives. A small group of hijackers, armed to the teeth, were identified as the targets of this mission. Negotiations had failed and the last-resort scenario was now in play.
Just a few days earlier, on Christmas Eve, that same aircraft sat at an airport in Algeria with flight attendants scurrying around, preparing the cabin for takeoff. The pilots and flight engineers chatted among themselves as they completed their pre-departure checklist. Labeled Air France Flight 8969, this plane would travel with 236 passengers and crew from Algiers to Paris.
Civilian airlines flying routes into Algeria were repeatedly warned, at the time, that their planes were under constant threat of missile attacks. As a result, Air France only allowed crews who volunteered for the Algiers route to fly it, as long as they knew the risks involved.
On December 24th, the threat didn’t come from a missile but rather from 4 members of the Armed Islamic Group — a Middle Eastern terrorist organization. Disguised as members of the Algerian presidential security force, they walked into the cabin of the Airbus without arousing any suspicion, though some found it quite odd that they visibly carried their weapons.
Outside the aircraft, airport personnel began to worry when the airliner sat on the apron, sealed and ready to depart for Paris, but didn’t move an inch. Already facing delay, the control tower tried to hail the cockpit — no response. Fears began to manifest and armed tactical response teams were deployed immediately.
It was hijacked.
Aboard Flight 8969, the hijackers began checking passports, likely to earmark targets for execution in the event that their demands weren’t met. Soon after, amidst terrified screams, the terrorists revealed their intention to take the aircraft and waved their guns in the air, demanding cooperation.
The hijackers wired explosives in the cockpit and the main cabin while forcing the pilots, at gunpoint, to exchange clothes with them. The airliner was surrounded outside by police and Algerian military personnel. Negotiations began, but would soon break down.
Within hours of the hijacking, two passengers were executed and their bodies were dumped outside the aircraft. Attempts to use the lead hijacker’s mother to get him to surrender peacefully further enraged the terrorist, causing a breakdown in communications. By the following day, Christmas, another passenger was executed. French government officials were outraged — the Algerian military had botched the situation and were losing innocent lives.
After releasing just over 60 passengers as a sign of good faith, the aircraft was eventually allowed to take off and continue to France, albeit to Marseille as it had burned through too much fuel to make it to Paris.
GIGN was notified and they diverted their aircraft to Marseille, which had already taken off for Spain — as close as they could get to Algeria without entering the country. Having familiarized themselves with the Air France A300 they were aboard — identical to Flight 8969 — they were ready to roll as soon as their plane touched down.
In the early hours of December 26, Flight 8969 landed and was ushered to a secluded spot at Marseille, Unbeknownst to the hijackers, they were now under surveillance by highly-trained and well-experienced GIGN snipers. Their new demands confirmed the rumors of an attack on Paris. They ordered 27 tons of fuel, instead of just the 9 they needed to make it to Paris.
They intended on turning the A300 into a flying, fuel-laden bomb, triggered using the explosives they had previously wired. When detonated over densely-populated Paris, it would kill all on the flight, scores on the ground, and wound and maim many more. GIGN wasn’t about to let this happen.
Tricking the hijackers into clearing a space in the front of the aircraft for a press conference (and forcing the passengers further towards the back of the jet), GIGN prepped the aircraft for a takedown. In the early evening of December 26, the raid began.
Airstairs (mobile staircases) began racing towards Flight 8969 loaded with GIGN commandos that were armed with submachine guns and pistols. They threw stun grenades and entered the fray.
In the chaos, one of the plane’s pilots jumped out of the cockpit window and hobbled to safety. Snipers began firing into the cockpit, aiming for a hijacker they knew had hunkered down in there. The teams that entered through the rear of the aircraft evacuated passengers. Three hijackers were immediately killed; a fourth remained in the cockpit for 20 minutes before meeting his end.
By the end of the engagement, all four hijackers were dead. 13 passengers and 3 crew were wounded. Aside from the 3 passengers who were executed, all survived. The majority of the Air France flight crew returned to the skies despite the trauma.
The Navy Credentials Program Office (CPO) completed its latest brief on the Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) program at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, April 18, 2019.
Navy COOL provides active duty and reserve sailors, whether forward-deployed, underway or ashore, with a way to map their Navy education, training, experience, and competencies to civilian credentials and occupations.
“The Navy COOL program reflects the Navy’s ongoing commitment to sailors and civilians in providing world class training, experience, and opportunities that will serve them well on active duty, Federal service, and post-service civilian careers,” said Keith Boring, Navy Credentialing, director.
The Navy Region Hawaii Career Information Center hosted the CPO team for this four-day visit. The team visited Marine Corps Base Hawaii K-Bay, Wahiawa NCTAMS, Joint Base Pearl Harbor and for the first time, Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands.
Thom Seith, program analyst, Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line program, front-right, speaks with Hawaii-based sailors about Navy credentialing opportunities during a Navy Credentials Program Office visit.
(U.S. Navy photo by David Adkins)
“This was a great opportunity to get the word out about the value of certification and licensure from the subject matter experts,” said Senior Chief Navy Counselor Robert Pagtakhan, Navy Region Hawaii career counselor. “The information presented enhanced Career Development Boards, advancement, and individual personal and professional goals. Discussions also emphasized the importance of the Learning and Development Roadmaps and United Services Military Apprenticeship Program.”
In addition to discussions on the importance of credentialing and licensing during and after a sailor’s Navy career, the CPO team also walked attendees through the Navy COOL website, the voucher submission process and credentialing eligibility requirements.
Upcoming Navy COOL briefing opportunities include:
On Jan. 29, 2019, attorney and retired Navy Cmdr. John B. Wells sat in the office of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), ready to meet with staff regarding Lee’s opposition to Blue Water Navy legislation, when his cell phone dinged and brought surprising news from the nearby U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
For Wells, the court’s ruling delightfully deflated the importance of his visit to try to persuade Lee not to again block legislation to extend disability compensation and Department of Veterans Affairs medical care to Navy veterans who deployed decades ago to territorial waters off Vietnam and now are ill, or dead, of ailments associated with Agent Orange and other defoliants used in the war.
Large stacks of 55-gallon drums filled with Agent Orange.
Unless the VA successfully petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision in Procopio v. Wilkie, Blue Water veterans have won a victory denied them for two decades, both in the courts and Congress.
Wells is executive director of Military-Veterans Advocacy of Slidell, La., a non-profit corporation that litigates and advocates for veterans. He said he looked for years for the right case to challenge an appeals court decision that kept Agent Orange benefits from sailors whose ships steamed off Vietnam during the war.
Alfred Procopio Jr., suffers from prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes, two conditions on the VA list of ailments associated with Agent Orange exposure and that trigger benefits if veterans served in Vietnam for a time between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, when U.S. involvement in the war officially ended.
Procopio was aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid when, in July 1966, ship logs confirm it deployed to territorial waters off South Vietnam. The VA declined in April 2009 to find service connection for his ailments diagnosed a few years earlier. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals also denied service connection, in March 2011 and in July 2015, because Procopio had not gone ashore.
In denying such appeals, boards and judges routinely cite the 2008 appeals court ruling in Haas v. Peake, which affirmed the VA’s interpretation of the Agent Orange Act to exclude veterans from benefits if they didn’t come ashore, even if their ships steamed through Vietnam’s territorial sea, defined as within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.
To prepare for Procopio’s appeal, Wells said he interviewed lawyers at three firms offering pro bono expertise on briefs and arguments before appellate courts. He chose Melanie Bostwick of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe LLP, in Washington, D.C., in part because of her plan to refine the challenge to Haas, focusing on what Congress meant in the Agent Orange Act by presuming exposure to defoliants if veterans served “in the Republic of Vietnam.”
Bostwick pushed the significance of the Act’s reference to the Republic of Vietnam “a step further than we had taken it and she was brilliant,” Wells said.
For Procopio, his lawyers didn’t argue that, given his ship’s location, he must have been exposed at some point to deadly defoliants just like veterans who served ashore. Instead they contended that Congress, in writing the law, intentionally used the formal name for the sovereign coastal nation. Under international law and based on the Act’s legislative history, they argued, “service in the Republic of Vietnam” must be read by the court to include naval service in its territorial waters.
Eight of 11 judges who heard the appeal accepted that argument. Another judge decided in favor of Procopio and Blue Water Navy veterans on other grounds. Two judges dissented.
With Procopio, the appeals court reversed its ruling in Haas. It disagreed that the Agent Orange law is ambiguous as to whether the list of presumptive diseases tied to defoliants should apply to sailors who supported the war from the sea.
Haas had let stand VA regulations that limited access to Agent Orange benefits to veterans who went ashore in Vietnam or patrolled its inland rivers and waterways. In Procopio, the court said what those judges missed a decade ago was the significance of the law granting presumption of service connection for certain diseases to veterans who “served in the Republic of Vietnam.” By using the formal name of that country, explained Judge Kimberly Ann Moore in writing the majority opinion, the Act extended benefit coverage to service in Vietnam’s territorial sea.
The court in Haas “went astray when it found ambiguity” in the plain language of the Act after reviewing “competing methods of defining the reaches of a sovereign nation,” wrote Moore. It should have recognized that Congress unambiguously defined the pool of veterans eligible for benefits as any veteran who had served anywhere in Vietnam, including the territorial sea.
“Congress has spoken directly to the question of whether those who served in the 12-nautical-mile territorial sea of the ‘Republic of Vietnam’ are entitled to [the Act’s] presumption if they meet [its] other requirements. They are. Because ‘the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter,’ ” Moore wrote, citing a 1984 Supreme Court decision that found a government agency must conform to clear legislative statements when interpreting and applying a law.
Defoliant spray run during the Vietnam War.
Judge Raymond T. Chen dissented in Procopio and was joined by Judge Thomas B. Dyk. Chen’s arguments are likely to be echoed by government attorneys if VA decides to seek Supreme Court review the case.
Chen wrote that, in his view, the Agent Orange Act is ambiguous as to whether benefits should apply to veterans who served offshore. The court majority, he said, “inappropriately pre-empts Congress’s role in determining whether the statute should apply in these circumstances — an issue which Congress is grappling with at this very time.”
By “repudiating a statutory interpretation from a 10-year old precedential opinion, without any evidence of changed circumstances,” Chen wrote, the majority “undermines the principle of stare decisis,” a doctrine that obligates courts to follow precedents set in previous decisions unless they can show clearly the previous decisions were wrongly decided.
Chen did “not find persuasive the majority’s conclusion that international law dictates its interpretation. The Haas court considered similar sources of evidence but still concluded that the statutory phrase was ambiguous,” he wrote.
Chen noted that Congress, in debating whether to extend Agent Orange benefits to Blue Water veterans, found it will require the allocation of id=”listicle-2627927786″.8 billion in fiscal 2019 and .7 billion over 10 years. With so much at stake and without “more compelling” evidence Haas got it wrong, he wrote, the court majority should have left the issue for Congress to settle.
“It is not for the Judiciary to step in and redirect such a significant budget item,” Chen wrote.
Wells said he expects the government to decide within a few weeks whether to petition the Supreme Court to review the case. Meanwhile, he said, “we are very happy with the way the case came out.”
Wells said the Haas case was ripe for reconsideration in part because “the court has been taking an increasingly jaundiced look at the VA and some of the stuff they’ve done” to deny benefits. Also, other cases had “drilled down” on weaknesses in the VA’s regulatory decisions excluding veterans from Agent Orange benefits.
“Frankly, when the VA stripped the benefit [from sailors] back in 2002, we believed that they had nobody in their general counsel’s office competent to understand” the Act and the legal definition of Republic of Vietnam, he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Ten years after Russia and Georgia went to war, the West on August 7 condemned Moscow’s continued military presence in the Caucasus country’s territory and reiterated support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Earlier, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued a stern warning to NATO that Georgia’s joining the Western military alliance could lead to a “horrible” new conflict.
Medvedev said in an interview with the Kommersant FM radio station on August 6 that NATO’s plans to eventually offer membership to Georgia are “absolutely irresponsible” and a “threat to peace.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev
Late on August 7, 2008, Georgian troops rolled into the Russia-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia in an attempt to reclaim the territory from what Tbilisi said was growing Russian militarization.
The conflict erupted into a five-day war in which Russian forces drove deep into Georgia before pulling back in the wake of a European Union-brokered peace agreement.
The conflict, which Tbilisi and Moscow accuse one another of starting, left hundreds dead and drove thousands from their homes.
After the war, Russia left thousands of troops in South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, and recognized both as independent countries.
Marking the 10th anniversary of the conflict, Georgia and the United States on August 7 condemned Russia’s continued “occupation” of Georgian territory.
“This is a war against Georgia, an aggression, an occupation, and a blatant violation of international law,” Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili said during a meeting attended by the foreign ministers of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and a Ukrainian deputy prime minister.
“The aggressor’s appetite has only increased after the invasion,” he added.
The “aggression” against Georgia did not start in August 2008, but much earlier, in 1991-1992, the Georgian president also said, when “Russia detached two regions from the Georgian central authorities by means of hybrid war.”
Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili
’Georgia’s Sovereign Choice’
In a joint statement, the Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Ukrainian ministers called on the international community to continue to demand that Russia “fully and without any further delay implements its international commitments and starts honoring international law and the right of sovereign neighboring states to choose their own destiny.”
They also expressed “strong support for Georgia’s sovereign choice to pursue the ultimate goal of membership in the EU and NATO.”
Last month, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, reiterated support for Georgia’s membership at a meeting in Brussels, but did not mention when that could happen.
Before the Russia-Georgia war, Russian officials had made clear that they vehemently opposed Georgia’s efforts to achieve NATO membership.
“Ten years of occupation is ten years too long,” the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi said in a statement.
“We will continue to work together with the Government and the people of Georgia and with our friends and allies to ensure the world’s continued support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,” it also said, adding, “Georgia, we are with you.”
The European Union praised the truce deal putting an end to the fighting and called the continuing Russian military presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a “violation of international law” and the agreement.
“The European Union reiterates its firm support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders,” a statement said.In an interview with Current Time TV on August 6, Mikheil Saakashvili, who was Georgia’s president at the time of the 2008 conflict, said that Russia’s motive in the war was to attack “Georgian statehood.”
Saakashvili said that Moscow was concerned because reforms had made the South Caucasus country a “role model” for others in the region.
Veterans Day isn’t just a day to pause and reflect on the great sacrifices that troops have made in the name of this great country. It’s also a day of celebration and a moment for troops and veterans to take in the gratitude of the American people.
So, businesses across the country offer some sort of deal to anyone with a military ID, uniform, or veteran apparel, like a campaign cap. Sure, a free order of chicken wings might not be a fair trade for all that veterans have done for us, but it’s greatly appreciated nonetheless.
To help you properly celebrate Tactical Thanksgiving, we’ve put together a little guide here to make sure you don’t miss a spot on your tour of appreciation. Put the following places on your list and get ready for deals — all for the low, low price of just the gas in your car.
This list highlights types of businesses you should check out. For a list of specific spots that have officially announced Veterans Day discounts or freebies ahead of time, look here. Keep in mind, this list isn’t comprehensive and discounts may be subject to availability, but it’s definitely worth a read.
Make sure to adjust your schedule to account for a free breakfast, lunch, dinner, second breakfast, supper, late-afternoon snack…
Restaurants all over the country offer Veterans Day discounts — and that’s amazing. Most places you’ll go to will have little ways of making their meals more patriotic, too, like Red, White, and Blue Pancakes at IHOP or a burger adorned with a little American flag toothpick.
While the more well-known, chain restaurants are often able to take the financial hit of offering free meals, they might be extremely crowded — like, 2-hour-wait-times crowded. Meanwhile, the smaller, locally-owned spots may offer something smaller, like a free side, but you’ll likely get better service and a more personal “thank you.”
If you’re not the type to enjoy small talk during a haircut, at least it’s better than giving yourself a free haircut.
Getting a really good haircut isn’t cheap. And the places that offer a cheap chop typically aren’t all that good. For one day of the year, at least for veterans, this decision is made much easier, as even the good places offer their services for extremely low prices — some even offer free cuts.
What’s nice about getting a free haircut — in contrast to most other things on this list — is that when you let your barber know that you’re a veteran, it actually initiates a conversation. It’s much more personal than a quick thanks and a line item on the receipt.
If you’re in the Chicago area, I highly encourage you to take a visit to the National Veterans Art Museum. Every exhibit in there is made by our brothers- and sister-in-arms.
(National Veterans Art Museum)
Plenty of museums are free for veterans year round. Those that aren’t, however, typically offer free admission on Veterans Day.
If you look through the pamphlet of most any history museum, you’ll likely find that warfare is a central theme. And when you look deeper into most of the paintings in art museums, you’ll see that many of the beautiful pieces, adored by critics and enthusiasts alike, were created by veterans.
What better way to honor a fellow veteran’s work than by spending the day admiring some of it?
They always put on an amazing show for the troops and veterans at Disneyland on Veterans Day.
(Screengrab via 1st Marine Division Band)
Amusement parks and casinos
Many amusement parks close their gates around Labor Day — but some use Veterans Day as their final celebration of the year. This is perfect for veterans with kids or grandkids as it’s a way for the kiddos to enjoy the benefits of their service.
Or, if you’re not excited by cartoon mascots dancing around, know that most casinos on Veterans Day offer free cash credits for veterans. If you play your cards right (literally), you can take that free money walk away. Or just play one or two games and walk out with the remainder. Whatever floats your boat.
Nothing says “thank you for your service” better than a free beer or five.
Your favorite bar
When the day comes to a close, there’s no better way to end a day of celebration than with a nice, hard drink. Head down to your local bar and you can probably get a free drink — either from the bartender or other patriotic patrons.
This one isn’t ever written down as an official thing, but it’s mostly agreed upon that bars will give veterans a free drink or two on Veterans Day.