Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army 'brought the epidemic to Wuhan' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

A Chinese government spokesman said on Thursday that the US Army may have “brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” fueling a coronavirus conspiracy theory.


Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called attention to a comment on Wednesday from Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledging that some Americans who were said to have died from influenza may have actually died from COVID-19.

“When did patient zero begin in US? How many people are infected?” Zhao wrote on Twitter. “What are the names of the hospitals? It might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe us an explanation!”

In a short thread on Twitter — a social media platform that’s inaccessible in China — Zhao demanded to know how many of the millions of infections and thousands of deaths during the latest flu season were actually related to COVID-19.

The US State Department summoned Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai Friday to protest the spokesman’s comments, Reuters reported, and the Pentagon sharply criticized Zhao’s remarks, calling them “false and absurd.”

The coronavirus first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, and since then, the pandemic has claimed the lives of thousands of people, mostly in China.

As China has faced criticism, Chinese authorities have pushed back, suggesting that the virus may have originated somewhere else. Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a leading Chinese epidemiologist, said in late February that “though the COVID-19 was first discovered in China, it does not mean that it originated from China.”

Zhao stressed the same point in a recent press briefing.

“No conclusion has been reached yet on the origin of the virus,” he told reporters, adding that “what we are experiencing now is a global phenomenon with its source still undetermined.”

One popular coronavirus conspiracy theory that has emerged in China is that US military athletes participating in the Military World Games in Wuhan last year may have brought the virus into China. There is, however, no evidence to support this accusation.

The Trump administration has laid the blame firmly at China’s feet. “Unfortunately, rather than using best practices, this outbreak in Wuhan was covered up,” the White House national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, told reporters on Wednesday.

“It probably cost the world community two months to respond,” he added.

Geng Shuang, another Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said O’Brien’s “immoral and irresponsible” comments denigrated China’s efforts to fight the virus. He added that the US should focus on “international cooperation instead of trying to shift the blame.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

No, being a grunt won’t doom you after you get out

So, you’re nearing the end of your glorious time in the military, but you spent it all as a door-kicking, window-licking, crayon-eating grunt. Your command is breathing down your neck about your “plan” for when you get out. You realized two years ago that there aren’t any civilian jobs where you’re training to sling lead and reap souls all the while refining your elite janitorial skills. What are you going to do?

A lot of us grunts wondered this before getting out. But, the idea that you didn’t learn any real, valuable skills in the infantry is a huge misconception. You actually learned quite a bit that civilian employers might find extremely useful for their businesses. Aside from security, you can take a lot of what you learned as a grunt and use it to make yourself an asset in the civilian workforce.

Here is why you’re not doomed:


Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

Put those leadership skills to good use.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Michelle C. Lawrence)

Your skill set is unique

If you’re getting out after just four years, you’re probably around the age of 22 or 23. At that age, you’ve already been in charge of at least four other people or even more in some cases. You have skills like leadership and communication that will place you above others in your age range.

Even if you’re not feeling like you have all the experience you need:

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

How it feels on that first day of using the G.I. Bill.

You can go back to school

That’s right. You earned your G.I. Bill with all those endless nights of sweat and CLP, cleaning your rifle at the armory because your company had nothing better to do. Why not use it? You don’t even need to use it on college necessarily, use it on trade school to get back out there faster.

The point is this: you have (mostly) free money that will allow you to earn a degree or certification to be able to add that extra line on your resume.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

You’ve worked with people from all over the world in all sorts of scenarios. Use that experience.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

You have tons of experience

You do. You traveled the world in some capacity, right? Sure, Okinawa might not be a real deployment but what did you do? You were involved in foreign relations. You were an American ambassador. How many 22-year-olds can say that?

Aside from that, you learned how to plan, execute, and work with several different moving pieces of a unit to accomplish a single goal with success and you learned to lead other people. These are things that are extremely useful for the civilian workforce.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

You have all the tools, maybe even more!

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tia Dufour)

With all of these things in consideration, who says you can’t get a job when you get out? Well, there are plenty of people, but they’ll feel really dumb when they see you succeed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Canadian Forces will lead the NATO mission in Iraq

In the days leading up to the latest NATO summit, President Donald Trump was harshly critical of the contributions made by other NATO members, especially in comparison to the United States. But when called on to start a new mission in post-ISIS Iraq focused on civil-military planning, vehicle maintenance, and explosives disposal, NATO stood up.

Canadian Forces will contribute half the required troops and take command of the joint effort.

Whether this development comes because of meetings among North American and European leaders at recent G7 and NATO summits is unclear. Coming away from June 2018’s G7 summit, President Trump criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as both “dishonest” and “weak.” At the most recent NATO meeting, Trump claimed Germany was a Russian client state due, primarily, to energy partnerships with Russian gas providers.


The 2018 NATO summit was focused primarily on how the alliance would foot the bills for its actions everywhere in the world. The United States demands the members of the alliance increase their contributions to an agreed-upon two percent of GDP, while the U.S. maintains its 3.5-percent contribution.

“Because of me, they’ve raised billion over the last year, so I think the Secretary General [of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg,] likes Trump,” the President of the United States said after the summit. “He may be the only one, but that’s okay with me.”

Another result of the summit was a British pledge to double the number of UK troops in Afghanistan. Canada will also contribute helicopters to the NATO mission in Iraq.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

Kandahar, Afghanistan. 12 February, 2002. For the first time since the end of the Korean War, Canadians relieve Americans in a combat zone.

(Photo by Sgt. Gerry Pilote, Canadian Armed Forces Combat Camera)

“We are proud to take a leadership role in Iraq, and work with our allies and the government of Iraq, to help this region of the Middle East transition to long-lasting peace and stability,” Trudeau said in a statement.

Canada currently spends 1.23 percent of its output on the alliance, but its commitment requires it to move up to two percent by 2024, an agreement signed by Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper. Canada’s special forces are also training and assisting Kurdish fighters still battling the Islamic State.

Articles

Possible Medal of Honor upgrade would be the first based on drone imagery

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’
Tech Sgt. John Chapman, USAF, in Afghanistan in 2002. (Photo: USAF)


Operation Anaconda was in progress on March 4, 2002. A number of special operations personnel (Army Rangers, Green Berets, SEALs, Air Force Special Tactics) joined by elements of the 10th Mountain Division and the 101st Air Assault Division, as well as components from various allied forces, took on the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The fight was a tough one – and things went wrong for the Americans.

Operation Anaconda is best known as the fight where Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts fell from a helicopter and fought the enemy for a while. A rescue team of SEALs along with Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, an Air Force combat controller, went after Roberts. According to a recent report by The New York Times, during the fighting, Chapman was knocked out – believed to be dead by SEALs, who were forced to fall back during the fighting. Their plan was to hammer the enemy with air strikes and then go back to retrieve Chapman’s body.

Footage from a RQ-1 Predator and AC-130 Spectre gunship, though, told a different story. Chapman was not only alive, he was fighting. In fact, in a cruel twist of irony, Chapman was apparently killed providing cover fire for the helicopter carrying a quick-response force.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’
Takur Ghar after the battle between Special Operations forces and Al Qaeda in March 2002. (Photo: DoD)

In 2003, Chapman received an Air Force Cross posthumously. Now, after a review of the seven Air Force Crosses awarded since 9/11, he is up for the Medal of Honor. The key evidence that could determine if Chapman’s award is upgraded could very well come from the video footage from the Predator and Spectre. If so, it would be the first Medal of Honor bestowed based on evidence from technology as opposed to eyewitnesses.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Su-35 pilot claims that he locked on to an F-22 in Syria

An Instagram account claiming to be of a retired Russian pilot of an Su-35, Russia’s top jet fighter, posted a picture purportedly of a US F-22 Raptor stealth jet flying above Syria, suggesting it was evidence that his older, bigger jet could outflank it.

The picture appears to show an F-22 in flight on what looks broadly like an image produced by an infrared search and track (IRST) system, which the Su-35 houses in its nose-cone area to look for heat, not radar cross section, potentially helping it find stealth aircraft at close ranges.


The author of the post claimed to have spotted the F-22, which has all-aspect stealth and is virtually invisible to traditional radars, during combat operations in Syria.

After describing at length how these encounters usually go — there are dedicated lines of communication used to avoid conflict between Russia and the US as they operate in close proximity over Syria — the author claimed to have locked onto the F-22.

A Business Insider translation of part of the caption reads: “F-22 was arrogant and was punished after a short air battle, for which of course it got f—ed.”

Russia has long mocked the US’s stealth jets and claimed an ability to defeat them in combat. But while Russia can spot US stealth jets by looking for heat and not radar signature, that’s very different from being able to shoot them down.

Even if the images are genuine, “it doesn’t alone suggest that the Su-35S is reliably capable of detecting and intercepting the F-22,” Justin Bronk, an air-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

“Furthermore, the F-22 will have been aware of the Su-35’s presence since the latter took off, so it isn’t really any indication of a diminishment of the F-22’s combat advantage,” he said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

The Raptor’s thermal signature is no secret.

(NPAS Filton)

“IRST systems can be used to detect and potentially track stealth aircraft under specific conditions,” Bronk said. But that “doesn’t mean that they are anything approaching a satisfactory solution to the problem of fighting against such targets, as they have limited range compared to radar and are vulnerable to environmental disruption and degradation,” he added.

In essence, he said, an F-22 would have seen the Su-35 long before the Russians saw the American, and the S-35 most likely spotted the F-22 only because it flew up close in the first place.

Bronk previously described looking for fifth-generation aircraft in the open skies with IRST as like “looking through a drinking straw.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Eric Pahon, told Business Insider that he was “unable to verify the claims made on Instagram” but that “Russia has been conducting a concentrated disinformation campaign in Syria to sow confusion and undercut US and allied efforts there.”

US pilots can tell when their jets have been targeted by enemy weapons, so they would know whether a Su-35 pilot established any “lock.”

Russian media has since picked up the story, running it with analysis that suggests the Su-35 may be able to defeat the F-22.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

After ‘Brexit,’ UK might need to move nukes from Scotland

As the rest of the world processes the fact that the U.K. is now leaving the European Union, there’s a real chance that Scotland might leave the U.K and take the base where the U.K. maintains an arsenal of 160 deployed nuclear warheads on 58 Trident missiles with them.


Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’
The ballistic missile submarine HMS ‘Vanguard’ alongside the ‘Type 45’ destroyer HMS ‘Dragon’ in 2010. Royal Navy photo

Many Scottish politicians supported leaving the U.K. in a 2014 referendum that was defeated in an approximately 45 percent vs. 55 percent vote. The “Yes” camp, which asked voters to say, “Yes, Scotland should be an independent country,” pledged to get rid of Britain’s nuclear submarines within the first term of a Scottish president. When the measure was defeated, it allowed the Royal Navy to breathe a sigh of relief. But the issue is coming around again.

While the U.K. as a whole narrowly voted to leave the EU on Jun. 23 in the “Brexit” referendum, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay. Every single council area in Scotland, roughly similar to a precinct in the U.S., voted in favor of the EU and 62 percent of the popular vote was for staying in. That has led Scottish politicians who backed the first Scottish independence referendum to call for a new vote.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

That will leave voters trying to decide whether to remain part of the EU, which 62 percent of the Scottish population supported, or to remain part of Britain, which only 55 percent of the population supported. While there’s no guarantee that Scotland would leave if a new referendum is held, it is likely that a “Yes” vote would force Britain to move all four of its nuclear submarines to a new base. And that would be a huge problem.

Estimates in 2014 said that it would take Britain 10 years and 3 billion pounds that it doesn’t have to relocate the base. So, the Royal Navy began looking at alternatives. The best and easiest for the U.K. would be if they could negotiate a deal to lease the base from Scotland, but that would likely fail since many members of the independence movement want all nuclear weapons off Scottish soil. The next best option would be for England to send all their warheads, their sub crews, and the submarines themselves to Georgia. Yes, that Georgia, the state just north of Florida.

American politicians promised support of the plan in 2014. If it came up again in 2017, there’s a decent chance Congress would go for it since the British nuclear deterrent is part of the NATO nuclear deterrent. Besides that, Britain has few options. France could be a possibility, assuming that the French people don’t take Brexit too personally. Britain’s strong status in NATO could potentially get it four parking spots in a Baltic port, but then it would have the constant headache of its submarines being within range of a Russian invasion.

It’s still too early to tell if Scotland will actually vote to leave, especially since its admittance into the EU would not be guaranteed. If it did leave the U.K. over Brexit though, the Royal Navy would be facing a list of bad options.

Articles

It’s the end of the road for the USS Enterprise

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) will be decommissioned on Feb. 3, marking the next step on her journey to the “Ship-Submarine Recycling Program” – what a 2012 National Review article dubbed a sanitized way of saying “the scrapyard.”


Her predecessor, the Yorktown-class carrier with the hull number CV 6, also was a victim of this alleged crime against naval history.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’
NORFOLK (Nov. 4, 2012) The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk. Enterprise’s return to Norfolk will be the 25th and final homecoming of her 51 years of distinguished service. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rafael Martie/Released)

According to a report from the Virginian-Pilot, this sendoff will be a relatively private one, with about 100 people present. The 2012 “inactivation” ceremony saw over 12,000 people attend, according to a Navy release. At that ceremony, it was announced that CVN 80 would be the ninth U.S. Navy vessel to carry the name Enterprise. A CNN report this past April notes that construction of the new Enterprise, a Gerald R. Ford-class carrier, will begin in 2018.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 23, 2012) An E-2C Hawkeye assigned to the Screwtops of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 123 flies past the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman/Released)

According to the Navy’s command history of the Enterprise (so long that it took nine entries in the Navy’s online Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships), the ship saw her first action during the Cuban Missile Crisis – less than a year after she was commissioned. She then did Operation Sea Orbit in 1964, a cruise that circumnavigated the globe.

In 1965, the ship carried out the first of six combat deployments to the Vietnam War, carrying two squadrons of F-4 Phantoms, four squadrons of A-4 Skyhawks and assorted support planes.

After the Vietnam War, the Enterprise was the first carrier to operate the F-14 Tomcat. In the 1980s, she would see combat by taking part in Operations El Dorado Canyon in Libya and Preying Mantis near Iran. The carrier missed Desert Storm due to receiving her complex overhaul and refueling, but she would have the honor of launching the first retaliatory strikes on al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’
The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) transits the Arabian Sea on her last deployment. Enterprise was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. Even at 51, she could still kick ass. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jared King/Released)

The carrier would make numerous deployments during the War on Terror, until the decision was made in 2009 to retire the ship early.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US trains with France and Australia on how to slaughter submarines

Maritime forces from France, Australia, and the United States participated in Ship Anti-Submarine Warfare Readiness and Evaluation Measurement (SHAREM) 195 exercise in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 14-18, 2018.

Participating ships included French navy F70AA-class air defense destroyer FS Cassard (D 614), and Royal Australian navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155), guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG 106) and USS Spruance (DDG 111), Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724), and Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4). Additionally, U.S. P-3C Orion aircraft and a French Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft supported the exercise from the air.


“SHAREM provides a great opportunity for realistic training, strengthening the maritime relationship between France, Australia, and the U.S. as our forces work together to refine and develop anti-submarine warfare tactics,” said Lt. Ryan Miller, lead exercise planner from U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 54. “We are stronger when we work together.”

The exercise put the ships through several structured events to collect data and train sailors against a known adversary. The ships then tested their offensive prowess by tracking and prosecuting the submarine in a “freeplay” event.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

The guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) and the fast attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) are underway in formation during the anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 18, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abigayle Lutz)

In the culminating event, the warships defended the supply ship, Richard E. Byrd, from a submerged threat with conducting replenishment operations.

The SHAREM program focuses on developing anti-submarine warfare in the surface community by reviewing performance and tactics and recommending solutions to warfighting gaps.

Task Forces 54 and 50 led segments of the exercise.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

The fast attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) surfaces during the anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 18, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abigayle Lutz)

TF 54 is the submarine force in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, and commands operations of U.S. submarine forces and coordinates theater-wide, anti-submarine warfare matters. Their mission covers all aspects of submarine operations from effective submarine employment to safety and logistics.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 approaches the flight deck of the guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) during the anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 16, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan D. McLearnon)

Stockdale and Spruance are both part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group, which serves as Task Force 50 while deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet. Their participation and SHAREM 195 is a part of the U.S. 5th Fleet’s theater security cooperation engagement plan to improve interoperability with partner nations, while ensuring maritime security.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111), left, the Royal Australian Navy Anzac-class frigate HMAS Ballarat (FFH 155), and the French navy F70AA-class air defense destroyer FS Cassard (D 614) are underway during anti-submarine warfare exercise SHAREM 195 in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 14, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abigayle Lutz)

U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse is comprised of 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The defense budget could cause a partial government shutdown

Congress is hurtling toward yet another government shutdown deadline on Jan. 19 and while the focus for this round of negotiations is on immigration, there is one key issue that will determine whether the deadline comes and goes without an agreement.


Congress must still decide exactly how much funding to provide for defense and non-defense functions of the government. So far this fiscal year, short-term funding bills passed before the few shutdown deadlines maintained last year’s spending levels for federal programs — but Congress wants to increase spending for the new year.

There are limitations on how large the funding increases can be because of the spending caps triggered in 2013 by the 2011 Budget Control Act. These caps on the amount the government can increase spending for defense and non-defense spending from year to year are much lower than lawmakers want.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’
The western front of the United States Capitol, the home of the U.S. Congress. (Photo: The Architect of the Capitol)

Both Democrats and Republicans want to come to an agreement in order to increase those levels beyond the current limits for next year. Going above the Budget Control Act’s limits can be done with a congressional action, but first Congress must get over the substantial disagreement on the size of the increases.

Republicans want a bulk of the spending increase to go to defense spending instead of non-defense spending. Democrats, on the other hand, want to increase defense and non-defense spending by an equal amount.

The initial offer from the GOP in December was to boost defense spending by $54 billion and non-defense spending by $37 billion for 2018 and 2019. Democrats rejected this, calling for parity between the two by raising both sides by $54 billion.

Despite being in the minority, Democrats have substantial influence on the issue because some Republicans concerned about government spending — such as Sen. Rand Paul — could vote against any bill that substantially increases spending above the caps.

Additionally, Democrats could filibuster any spending bill in the Senate that does not meet their demands.

Sen. John Cornyn, the second-highest ranking GOP senator, said that setting these caps has been difficult so far because Democrats are attempting to attach codification of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program, which prevents the deportation of undocumented immigrants that entered the country as minors, to the bill setting the caps.

Also Read: These are the 7 ways for Congress to deal with North Korea

Despite the complication of the DACA fight, Democrats have additional leverage on the spending cap issue since no party has had the government shut down while controlling both Congress and the White House since 1979.

The most likely scenario in the coming days, according to reports, is that Congress passes a short-term funding extension with new cap levels, giving appropriators — staffers who do technical budgetary work — time to hash out exactly where to spend the money.

“In our minds, the only question is the size of the deal — we had initially ball-parked a $300 billion deal over two years, though ~$200 billion over two years (equal amounts to defense and non-defense) now seems more likely,” said Chris Kreuger, a policy strategist at Cowen Washington Research Group. “The Republicans have offered $54 billion for defense and $37 billion for non-defense, though the Democrats are demanding 1:1 parity (which they are likely to get).”

MIGHTY TRENDING

New U.S. sanctions pressure network that uses child soldiers

The United States has slapped sanctions on a network of businesses that provide financial support to an Iranian paramilitary force that Washington says recruits and trains child soldiers for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The new sanctions, announced on Oct. 16, 2018, are part of the United States’ economic campaign to pressure Iran over what President Donald Trump’s administration describes as its “malign” role in the Middle East, including support for militant groups.

In announcing the sanctions, the Treasury Department said in a statement that a network of some 20 corporations and financial institutions known as the Bonyad Taavon Basij was financing the Basij force, a volunteer paramilitary organization linked to the IRGC.


“This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

The Basij is involved in violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses within Iran, the statement said.

The militia also recruits and trains fighters for the IRGC’s elite Quds Force, including Iranian children as young as 12, who then deploy to Syria to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, it added.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’

President Bashar al-Assad.

The New York-based organization Human Rights Watch has documented how the IRGC has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria alongside Assad’s forces.

Tehran has given Assad crucial support throughout the war in Syria, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011.

The Treasury said that the Bonyad Taavon Basij uses shell companies to mask its control over multibillion-dollar business interests in Iran’s automotive, mining, metals, and banking industries.

It sanctioned Bank Mellat, Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Mehr Eqtesad Iranian Investment Co., and five other investment firms, as well as other entities affiliated with the network.

These include Iran Tractor Manufacturing Co., the Middle East’s largest tractor manufacturer, and Mobarakeh Steel Co., the largest steelmaker in the Middle East and North Africa region, it said.

The sanctions prohibit U.S. citizens from doing business with the network or its affiliates and freeze assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the sad legacy of land mines continues to haunt the Balkans

It’s been more than two decades since the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina ended, but Plamenko Priganica knows the enemy still lurks in the Majevica hills near his home in Tuzla.


Priganica is one of the thousands to have become a victim of land mines planted during the 1992-95 conflict that tore the country — and the former Yugoslavia — apart at its ethnic seams.

“The killer is still waiting 25 years after the war,” the 57-year-old, who lost his left leg below the knee, told RFE/RL from his home.

The Bosnian government’s Mine Action Strategy for 2009-19 was supposed to put an end to the fears of Priganica and the half a million other Bosnians who live in or around areas where leftover mines remain. Instead, the fields and forests where many still scavenge for wild strawberries and mushrooms are still littered with explosives.

The 2019 target set out in the strategy for clearing all remaining ordnance will be missed by several years, according to the Bosnia-Herzegovina Mine Action Center (BHMAC), amid a funding shortfall and political inaction.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman pushes coronavirus conspiracy theory that the US Army ‘brought the epidemic to Wuhan’
Photo: Wikipedia/Werner Anderson of Norsk Folkehjelp Norwegian Peoples Aid

By 2013, the center estimates that less than half of the funding needed for projects was realized, a percentage that has fallen since then. While part of the problem, BHMAC says, is a decrease in donor funding, the greater issue is with government contributions to the program.

“In looking at the 2009-19 strategy, we are lagging behind by about four years. There is a new strategy and under this strategy Bosnia and Herzegovina will be clean from mines by 2025,” says Miodrag Gajic, an information officer at the center.

BHMAC estimates that while around 2,900 square kilometers of land have been cleared of explosive materials, just over 1,000 square kilometers of Bosnia — or about 2.2 percent of the country — is still polluted by mines. Nearly 600 people have been killed by mines or unexploded bombs since the war ended and more than 1,100 others have been injured, according to the center.

The highest-risk zones are often forests where the front lines that separated warring factions once ran. These include municipalities such as Velika Kladusa, Orasje, and Doboj.

In March, a farmer in Tulic, near the city of Tuzla, was dragging firewood from a forest when his tractor hit a mine. The blast killed the driver.

Nizam Cancar, a deminer who lost his leg to an explosive device in 1994 during the war, says it’s easy for such accidents to happen.

Years of harsh weather conditions have muddled what few maps authorities have of mined areas. Devices, he says, can shift under such conditions, making a dangerous situation even more treacherous.

“It’s very difficult to find them. If you put them in a particular place 20 years ago, they are no longer there. It could move a meter or two in any direction,” he says.

The problem of land mines in Bosnia once attracted international attention.

This past summer marked the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s visit to Bosnia as part of her crusade against land mines. In her last overseas trip before she died in a Paris car crash in 1997, Diana met with victims in the small village of Dobrnja, near Tuzla.

One of those Diana met was Mirzeta Gabeljic.

In 1997, Gabeljic was a 15-year-old schoolgirl returning home when she stepped on a land mine. The blast took her right leg below the knee.

Like many victims, she has struggled since her accident, given the limited resources available from the state for amputees, although now she is looking to start the country’s first sitting volleyball club for women.

According to Priganica, the provision of orthopedic supplies have not improved in the 25 years since the war.

“They can be purchased abroad, but they are very expensive,” he says.

Adding to the problem is that the large number of humanitarian organizations that worked here after the war have left, he claims, “because the focus of their interest has moved somewhere else.”

Bosnia emerged from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia as Europe’s poorest country, with gross domestic product per capita at 28 percent of the European average. Unemployment is high and corruption rampant, stunting the development of social services for large swaths of the country.

Considering the tough economic times Bosnia currently faces, BHMAC’s Gajic hopes that help from other countries will once again increase.

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Members of the Kosovo Police Bomb Squad prepare their ordnance for a demolition range in Orahovac, Kosovo, April 4. The demolition was part of the International Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action Day, this day represented the start of the humanitarian demining Season in Kosovo. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)

“Within our new strategy, we plan to have a donor conference in mid-November. This is a date where I hope we will have more bountiful donor funds,” he says.

Time is also of the essence for a task that is painstakingly slow.

Deminers try to work eight-hour shifts, but the task is so intense and angst-ridden that they must take breaks every 30 minutes to remain focused.

Squatting and searching the ground while wearing protective suits that can weigh up to 25 kilograms, deminers probe about 2,500 times just to check just 1 square meter of ground. On a good day, they will cover 50 square meters, according to Nail Hujic, a technical director at INTERSOS, a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization.

The deminers, he says, must constantly assess the type of munition they may have to deal with, how it is placed in the ground, and even the possibility of deliberate traps laid by whoever planted the land mine.

“The result of all this, as well as of inadequate equipment and mental and physical fatigue among deminers, is frequent accidents,” Hujic says. “Unfortunately, we have to say that accidents are common in this line of work. They usually leave deminers severely physically disabled, although fatalities are less frequent.”

Even if foreign donors pony up the funds needed to jump-start the clearing program, the money will come too late for Asim Kudra, who lost his uncle to a land mine when he returned home after the war to Zlatiste, near Sarajevo.

Kudra says the area was demined, but residents still live in fear.

“You cannot say that it is safe for certain, because it isn’t,” he says.

Articles

British Reaper drone halts ISIS execution

A Royal Air Force Reaper MQ9A remote piloted aircraft interrupted a planned public execution that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attempted to carry out earlier this month, giving the would-be victims of the terrorist group a chance to escape.


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An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft performs aerial maneuvers over Creech Air Force Base, Nev., June 25, 2015. The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cory D. Payne/Not Reviewed)

According to a May 19, 2017 British Ministry of Defence release, the Reaper was over the Syrian village of Abu Kamal on May 9 when it noticed ISIS fighters gathering civilians in the village. When the crew saw that the ISIS fighters were removing two prisoners from a van, they chose to act.

Unable to directly target the would-be executioners due to the British rules of engagement that require the minimization of civilian casualties, the Reaper crew instead fired a single AGM-114 Hellfire missile at the roof of a building where two other ISIS terrorists were acting as sentries. The missile killed one of the tangos outright, and sent both the crowd of civilians and ISIS scrambling for cover.

The ultimate fate of the would-be victims is not known.

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A line of ISIS soldiers.

AmericanMilitaryNews.com reports that such executions are becoming more common as ISIS loses ground to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. ISIS was known for a series of beheading videos released since 2014, including one earlier this month of an alleged spy for Russia. A British subject, Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihadi John” was one of the more notorious executioners until he was killed by a strike carried out by American and British UAVs.

According to the RAF’s web site, the British Reaper MQ9A, which is assigned to XIII Squadron, 39 Squadron, and 54 Squadron, is usually armed with four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and two GBU-12 laser-guided bombs. The MQ-9 is also used by the United States Air Force, the Italian Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, French Air Force, and United States Customs and Border Protection.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Slovakia grounds fleet of soviet-made jets after crash

The Slovak Defense Ministry says a Soviet-made MiG-29 military jet from the country’s air force has crashed during a training flight.

The ministry says the pilot ejected before the crash that occurred late on Sept. 28, 2019, near the city of Nitra, about 100 kilometers east of Bratislava.

The ministry said the pilot was hospitalized in a stable and not-life-threatening condition.


Slovakia has grounded its fleet of MiG-29s until an investigation into the cause of the crash is completed.

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Slovak Air Force MiG-29.

Slovakia signed a deal in 2018 to buy 14 F-16 military jets from the U.S.-based firm Lockheed Martin as it seeks to replace its aging Soviet-era jets.

The first of the F-16 warplanes are scheduled to be delivered to Slovakia by 2022.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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