A group of 177 cybersecurity experts have signed a joint open letter calling on the UK government voicing concerns about the NHS’ plan to roll out a contact tracing app designed to tell people when they’ve come into contact with suspected coronavirus patients.
NHSX, the NHS’ digital experimental arm, says the app will be rolled out in Britain in the next two to three weeks. The way it works is when people sign up to the app, their phone sends out Bluetooth signals to determine what other phones are in its vicinity. If a user develops symptoms they’ll be able to report themselves in the app, and their phone will then send out an alert to all the phones it’s been nearby over the previous two weeks.
The UK has taken the decision to eschew the contact tracing API being built by Apple and Google for use by governments. This decision is partly down to the fact that the UK has decided it wants to centralize users’ data on an external server, making it easier to analyze, rather than keeping processing limited to people’s devices. Apple and Google’s API stipulates that apps use the decentralized method, which is more privacy-conscious.
“It has been reported that NHSX is discussing an approach which records centrally the de-anonymized ID of someone who is infected and also the IDs of all those with whom the infected person has been in contact,” the joint letter reads. The experts argue that this data hoard could facilitate “mission creep,” i.e. the government could later use the data for purposes other than tracking COVID-19.
“It is vital that, when we come out of the current crisis, we have not created a tool that enables data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of society, for surveillance.”
They noted that “invasive information” about users could be exploited.
“Such invasive information can include the ‘social graph’ of who someone has physically met over a period of time. With access to the social graph, a bad actor (state, private sector, or hacker) could spy on citizens’ real-world activities. We are particularly unnerved by a declaration that such a social graph is indeed aimed for by NHSX,” the experts write.
The experts ask in their letter that NHSX minimize the data it extracts from users to build trust in the app so it can be effectively deployed. Experts say 80% of smartphone users the UK would need to install the app for it to be effective in combatting the spread of coronavirus, and privacy concerns could mean falling short of that percentage.
They also ask that NHSX not build databases that could de-anonymize users, and that they lay out how the app will be phased out after the coronavirus crisis subsides.
National Wreaths Across America Day has become such a big tradition that it’s hard to believe it began from just one personal tribute.
How it Happened
The Worcester family of Harrington, Maine, owns their own tree farm. In 1992, they had a surplus of wreaths during the holiday season, so the family patriarch, Morrill — who had long felt indebted to our fallen veterans — got help from a Maine politician to have those spare wreaths placed beside graves in Arlington National Cemetery in areas that received fewer visitors each year.
Several volunteers stepped up to help, including veterans from American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and a truck company owner who transported the wreaths to Arlington, Virginia, where a small ceremony was held at the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This remained a small yearly tradition for nearly 15 years until a photo taken at the 2005 ceremony went viral. Almost immediately, thousands of people wanted to know how to help or how they could begin a similar tradition in their states.
Christmas wreaths adorn headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., in December 2005.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)
By the next year — with the help of some civic organizations and volunteers, including in the trucking industry — there were 150 simultaneous ceremonies held across the country. By 2008, the movement to remember, honor and teach had grown so much that Congress had declared the third Saturday in September National Wreaths Across America Day.
By 2014, the now-nonprofit Wreaths Across America had reached its goal of placing a wreath at all 226,525 graves in the cemetery.
Navy personnel from the Navy International Programs Office, Washington, distribute wreaths to volunteers during the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 15, 2012.
(Photo by Chief Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca)
Wreaths Across America today
The event continues to grow. In 2018, the organization shipped a staggering 1.75 MILLION wreaths to 1,640 locations that held ceremonies across the U.S. A few dozen locations overseas also participated. According to the organization, this was the first year it was granted permission to place wreaths at Normandy to honor those who died during World War II’s D-Day invasion.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Charles C. Orf salutes a headstone at Fort Richardson National Cemetery during the annual Wreaths Across America Day at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 16, 2017.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)
Veterans and Gold Star families are many of the roughly 2 million volunteers who prepared the wreaths, shipped them across the country, and put them on graves.
The first batch of 4,000 experimental Ebola vaccines to combat an outbreak suspected of killing 23 people arrived in Congo’s capital Kinshasa on May 16, 2018.
The Health Ministry said vaccinations would start at the weekend, the first time the vaccine would come into use since it was developed two years ago.
The vaccine, developed by Merck and sent from Europe by the World Health Organization, is still not licensed but proved effective during limited trials in West Africa in the biggest ever outbreak of Ebola, which killed 11,300 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from 2014-2016.
Health officials hope they can use it to contain the latest outbreak in northwest Democratic Republic of Congo.
8,000 doses needed
Peter Salama, WHO’s deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response, said the current number of cases stood at 42, with 23 deaths attributed to the outbreak.
“Our current estimate is we need to vaccinate around 8,000 people, so we are sending 8,000 doses in two lots,” he told Reuters in Geneva.
“Over the next few days we will be reassessing the projected numbers of cases that we might have and then if we need to bring in more vaccine we will do so in a very short notice.”
Health workers have recorded confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in three health zones of Congo’s Equateur province, and have identified 432 people who may have had contact with the disease.
(Photo by Martine Perret)
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said the supplies sent to Congo included more than 300 body bags for safe burials in affected communities. The vaccine will be reserved for people suspected of coming into contact with the disease, as well as health workers.
“In our experience, for each confirmed case of Ebola there are about 100-150 contacts and contacts of contacts eligible for vaccination,” Jasarevic said. “So it means this first shipment would be probably enough for around 25-26 rings — each around one confirmed case.”
The vaccine is complicated to use, requiring storage at a temperature between -60 and -80 degrees Celsius.
“It is extremely difficult to do that as you can imagine in a country with very poor infrastructures,” Salama said.
“The other issue is, we are now tracing more than 4,000 contacts of patients and they have spread out all over the region of northwest Congo, so they have to be followed up and the only way to reach them is motorcycles.”
The outbreak was first spotted in the Bikoro zone, which has 31 of the cases and 274 contacts. There have also been eight cases and 115 contacts in Iboko health zone.
The WHO is worried about the disease reaching the city of Mbandaka with a population of about 1 million people, which would make the outbreak far harder to tackle. Two brothers in Mbandaka who recently stayed in Bikoro for funerals are probable cases, with samples awaiting laboratory confirmation.
The WHO report said 1,500 sets of personal protective equipment and an emergency sanitary kit sufficient for 10,000 people for three months were being put in place.
Russia’s defense ministry claimed on Sept. 17, 2018, it had new evidence that the missile that downed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) in 2014 was fired by Ukrainian forces.
The Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight was shot down by a soviet-made missile over the rebel-held eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. All 298 people on board, including 27 Australians, were killed.
Remnants of the Boeing 777 aircraft that crashed outside the city of Donetsk in Ukraine have been analyzed extensively, and investigators are still trying to determine with certainty where the missile emanated from.
In May 2018, international investigators concluded that a Russian-made Buk surface-to-air missile supplied by Russian separatists in Kursk were responsible for the downing of MH17.
“The Buk that was used came from the Russian army, the 53rd brigade,” Chief Dutch Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke told Reuters. “We know that was used, but the people in charge of this Buk, we don’t know.”
The investigating team has referenced images and video showing a white Volvo truck with markings unique to the 53rd brigade carrying the missile from Russia to the Ukraine. The Netherlands and Australia have directly blamed Russia for the attack, and have called on Moscow to admit responsibility and cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation.
Russia’s Defense Ministry purported to show a “logbook” indicating that the Buk missile had been delivered to a unit in the Ukraine in 1986.
On Sept. 17, 2018, Russia’s defense ministry claimed it had “newly discovered evidence” which potentially pins the attack on Ukraine.
According to the Defense Ministry, the serial number found on debris from the Buk missile was cross-referenced with a log book purporting to show it was produced in 1986. The missile was then delivered by rail to a military unit in Western Ukraine and to their knowledge had since not left Ukraine.
The ministry also claimed some of the video provided to investigators showing the Buk system being transported from Russia were manipulated. The ministry cast doubt on its authenticity.
The ministry also claimed to have audio recordings of Ukrainian airspace officials discussing shooting down aircrafts which flew over its restricted airspace, specifically calling out the targeting of Malaysian Boeings.
Russia also claimed that video provided to investigators used doctored footage of the Buk missile being transported on a white truck.
In response, the joint investigative team said they would “meticulously study” the new information as soon as the documents were made available, noting that previous information provided from Russia had been misleading on several fronts.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak on Sept. 17, 2018, dismissed Russia’s claims as an “absolute lie” and “another fake story.” Also on Sept. 17, 2018, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree ending a bilateral friendship treaty with Russia amid deteriorating ties.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh and U.S. Seventh Fleet dropped everything to search for the presumed “man-overboard” Petty Officer 3rd Class Peter Mims on June 8. For three days, the search continued until it was called off and he was labelled lost-at-sea. By the 15th, they were planning the memorial service in his honor…until he was found alive and hiding. He faces court martial and admits to the charges of abandoning watch and dereliction.
As new details come to light into the Mims investigation, it becomes clear that Mims was not mentally well. Bear in mind: For a list of all the details released to the public, an exclusive on the Navy Times goes in greater detail.
Prior to being missing, Seventh Fleet wasn’t known for it’s high morale. Fat Leonard scandals, several collisions, and historically low morale just scratch the surface. Sailors of the Shiloh and Mims’ engineering department were no different. After the USS Antietam ran aground in Tokyo, the missions of the Shiloh were reportedly multiplied and sailors were reporting three hours of sleep a night as normal.
As for GSM3 Mims, his mother was sick with cancer and was asking his chain of command about leaving the Navy early to care for her. Caring for his family and being indebted to the Navy left his pay checks bone dry at $40 to $60. To top all of this off, shipmates claim that he believed in some wild ideas, like being able to shut down the engine room with his body’s electricity or shoot fireballs out of his hands, that he’d been to space, and that other sailors were going to poison him with needles.
He was seen at 6PM, prior to his watch shift, but failed to show up at 8PM. It was over 30 minutes before he was logged as missing. He was, however, seen during his hiding, but the unnamed sailor in the galley didn’t realize it was Mims at the time. It was later discovered that Mims squirreled away large amount of Pop Tarts and granola bars.
He was seen again, covered in rust and carrying a 34-gallon plastic bag filled with water. Mims told the sailor who spotted him that people were trying to kill him and that there were hidden messages in the movie titles listed in the plan of the day. Terrified by how erratic Mims was, this sailor also did not report it immediately. The crew later searched his last spotted locations. The entire ship had been cleared top to bottom except for the Main Engine room 2 catacombs, which was ignored because of the extreme heat and overwhelmingly putrid scent — believed to be fuel and oil, they later realized it was actually human waste.
He was found covered in feces and urine, carrying a camelback, a multi-tool, a box of Peeps, and an empty peanut butter jar. His fellow sailors talked him into leaving the tight hiding spot and turning himself in. He was escorted to the command master chief’s cabin. Mims said that he had no plans of being caught, plans to reveal himself, or even plans to escape. He would be taken into custody at the USS Reagan.
A group of six German shepherds gave a final salute August 28 in honor of a fellow canine who served three tours of duty as a military working dog for the US Marine Corps and died on July 27 at age 10 after a weeks’ long battle with bone cancer.
The German shepherds, which are part of the K-9 Salute Team, were trained to kneel and howl on command in honor of Cena, a black lab who was euthanized in July and whose remains were interred August 28 at the Michigan War Dog Memorial in Lyon Township.
The memorial site, which hosted the public service and private interment, has about 10 military dogs buried beside 2,150 pets interred at the historic pet cemetery, according to memorial president and director Phil Weitlauf.
DeYoung and Cena. Photo from American Humane via NewsEdge.
Cena, a bomb-sniffing dog, belonged to Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jeffrey DeYoung, 27, of Muskegon, who said he adopted the black lab in June 2014 after Cena underwent a year of rehabilitation therapy. DeYoung said that he and Cena served together on a seven-month tour of duty in Afghanistan that began in October 2009.
Cena also served with Jon North, a Marine sergeant from Osage, Iowa, who was present at the ceremony, and one other soldier who was not able to be there.
DeYoung said in a eulogy at the memorial service that Cena endured various injuries on his tours of duty, and that he and Cena encountered three improvised explosive devices together. Cena was officially an IED detection dog with the Marine Corps. The dogs walk ahead of patrols and pick up the scent of the explosives in the area and sit down near the explosive before a bomb-disarming unit comes, Weitlauf said.
“In every aspect of Cena, he has shed blood, pain, sweat, and tears for this country,” DeYoung said.
North, 28, who served one year with Cena in Afghanistan from 2010 to 2011 didn’t speak at the service, but told the Free Press that Cena was known for being “a slow, old man” and that he was “just kind of a goofy old dog.”
“By the end of your time together, he’s more like a brother, more like a kid. It’s hard to let him go,” North said.
Together, DeYoung and North carried an urn containing Cena’s ashes in a funeral procession that included bagpipers and a military color guard.
Weitlauf said that three separate Jeep convoys — including one from Muskegon with DeYoung escorting Cena’s remains — traversed different parts of the state to make it to the service, linking up at different locations including Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and New Hudson. He said that about 80 Jeeps participated in the convoys, and that about 600 people attended the funeral service — nearly double the 350 attendees the services normally get.
DeYoung, who is a professional public speaker, said that after adopting Cena in 2014, their job wasn’t yet over. They spent the next several years journeying across the country together to places such as President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and the US Congress, where DeYoung discussed the need to bring home all war dogs prior to retirement “so that what happened in Vietnam with the euthanasia will never happen again.”
At the end of that war, troops were ordered to leave their dogs in Vietnam out of fear of a logistical nightmare and concerns of disease being brought back, Weitlauf said. They had the option to give the dogs over to the South Vietnamese army or to euthanize them, he said. Over 4,000 were left behind, and only 204 made it back home, Weitlauf said.
Tom Strempka, 69, of Bloomfield Hills was deployed to Vietnam in 1971 at the age of 23, where he served a six-month tour of duty and suffered injuries. He said the funeral gave him closure.
Strempka said that war dogs in Vietnam once saved his platoon of 30 men from an ambush.
“I’m out here for every funeral because it’s long overdue for everyone to recognize the importance of dogs as being part of the unit and not a piece of equipment, the way the government treated them in Vietnam,” Strempka said. “And it’s a glorious day, and I guess that it gives me a little more peace of mind.”
For DeYoung, laying Cena to rest at what he described as the ” Arlington of dogs” also provided some closure.
“Cena’s journey in my life is done. Our work is not, so I will continue doing so in his honor,” DeYoung said to reporters before the ceremony.
The Army is now engineering a far-superior M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond –designed to be more lethal, faster, lighter weight, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.
Advanced networking technology with next-generation sights, sensors, targeting systems and digital networking technology — are all key elements of an ongoing upgrade to position the platform to successfully engage in combat against rapidly emerging threats, such as the prospect of confronting a Russian T-14 Armata or Chinese 3rd generation Type 99 tank.
The SEP v4 variant, slated to begin testing in 2021, will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
While Army officials explain that many of the details of the next-gen systems for the future tanks are not available for security reasons, Basset did explain that the lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.
The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Bassett said.
“A combination of mid-wave and long-wave sensors allow for better target identification at long ranges and better resolution at shorter ranges,” Bassett explained. Higher-definition sensors allow Army crews to, for instance, better distinguish an enemy fighter or militant carrying an AK 47.
Improved FLIR technologies also help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles. This enhancement provides an additional asset to a tank commander’s independent thermal viewer.
Rear view sensors and laser detection systems are part of these upgrades as well. Also, newly configured meteorological sensors will better enable Abrams tanks to anticipate and adapt to changing weather or combat conditions more quickly, Bassett explained.
“You do not have to manually put meteorological variables into the fire control system. It will detect the density of the air, relative humidity and wind speed and integrate it directly into the platform,” Basset explained.
The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single vehicle. Also, some of the current electronics, called Line Replaceable Units, will be replaced with new Line Replaceable Modules including a commander’s display unit, driver’s control panel, gunner’s control panel, turret control unit and a common high-resolution display, information from General Dynamics Land Systems states.
Advanced Multi-Purpose Round
The M1A2 SEP v4 will carry Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition round able to combine a variety of different rounds into a single tank round.
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
The latter round was introduced in 1993 to engage and defeat enemy helicopters, specifically the Russian Hind helicopter, Army developers explained. The MPAT round has a two-position fuse, ground and air, that must be manually set, an Army statement said.
The M1028 Canister round is the third tank round being replaced. The Canister round was first introduced in 2005 by the Army to engage and defeat dismounted Infantry, specifically to defeat close-in human-wave assaults. Canister rounds disperse a wide-range of scattering small projectiles to increase anti-personnel lethality and, for example, destroy groups of individual enemy fighters.
The M908, Obstacle Reduction round, is the fourth that the AMP round will replace; it was designed to assist in destroying large obstacles positioned on roads by the enemy to block advancing mounted forces, Army statements report.
AMP also provides two additional capabilities: defeat of enemy dismounts, especially enemy anti-tank guided missile, or ATMG, teams at a distance, and breaching walls in support of dismounted Infantry operations.
Bassett explained that a new ammunition data link will help tank crews determine which round is best suited for a particular given attack.
“Rather than having to carry different rounds, you can communicate with the round before firing it,” Bassett explained.
Engineering Change Proposal 1
Some of the upgrades woven into the lethality enhancement for the M1A2 SEP v4 have their origins in a prior upgrades now underway for the platform.
Accordingly, the lethality upgrade is designed to follow on to a current mobility and power upgrade referred to as an earlier or initial ECP. Among other things, this upgrade adds a stronger auxiliary power unit for fuel efficiency and on-board electrical systems, improved armor materials, upgraded engines and transmission and a 28-volt upgraded drive system. This first ECP, slated to begin production by 2017, is called the M1A2 SEP v3 variant.
This ECP 1 effort also initiates the integration of upgraded ammunition data links and electronic warfare devices such as the Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device – Electronic Warfare – CREW. An increased AMPs alternator is also part of this upgrade, along with Ethernet cables designed to better network vehicle sensors together.
The Abrams is also expected to get an advanced force-tracking system which uses GPS technology to rapidly update digital moving map displays with icons showing friendly and enemy force positions.
The system, called Joint Battle Command Platform, uses an extremely fast Blue Force Tracker 2 Satcom network able to reduce latency and massively shorten refresh time. Having rapid force-position updates in a fast-moving combat circumstance, quite naturally, could bring decisive advantages in both mechanized and counterinsurgency warfare.
Active Protection Systems
The Army is fast-tracking an emerging technology for Abrams tanks designed to give combat vehicles an opportunity to identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.
Called Active Protection Systems, or APS, the technology uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs. Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly test and develop APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks.
The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program, an Army official told Scout Warrior.
General Dynamics Land Systems, maker of Abrams tanks, is working with the Army to better integrate APS into the subsystems of the Abrams tank, as opposed to merely using an applique system, Mike Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Peck said General Dynamics plans to test an APS system called Trophy on the Abrams tank next year.
Using a 360-degree radar, processor and on-board computer, Trophy is designed to locate, track and destroy approaching fire coming from a range of weapons such as Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles, or ATGMs, or Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs.
The interceptor consists of a series of small, shaped charges attached to a gimbal on top of the vehicle. The small explosives are sent to a precise point in space to intercept and destroy the approaching round, he added.
Radar scans the entire perimeter of the platform out to a known range. When a threat penetrates that range, the system then detects and classifies that threat and tells the on-board computer which determines the optical kill point in space, a DRS official said.
Along with Rafael’s Trophy system, the Army is also looking at Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain, Israeli Military Industry’s Iron Fist, and UBT/Rheinmetall’s ADS system, among others.
Overall, these lethality and mobility upgrades represent the best effort by the Army to maximize effectiveness and lethality of its current Abrams tank platform. The idea is to leverage the best possible modernization upgrades able to integrate into the existing vehicle. Early conceptual discussion and planning is already underway to build models for a new future tank platform to emerge by the 2030s – stay with Scout Warrior for an upcoming report on this effort.
The US fired in retaliation to previous incidents where missiles fired from Iranian-backed Houthi territory had threatened US Navy ships: the destroyers USS Mason and USS Nitze, and the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.
After more than two decades of peaceful service, this was likely the first time the US fired these defensive missiles in combat.
“These strikes are not connected to the broader conflict in Yemen,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. “Our actions overnight were a response to hostile action.”
But instead of responding to the attack with the full force of two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the Navy’s response was measured, limited, and in self-defense.
Jonathan Schanzer, an expert on Yemen and Iran at the Foundation for Defending Democracies, said the US’s response fell “far short of what an appropriate response would be.”
“Basically, the US took out part of the system that would allow for targeting, protecting themselves but not going after those who fired upon them,” Schanzer told Business Insider.
Even the limited strike places the US in a tricky situation internationally and legally. TheObama administration has desperately tried to preserve relations with Iran since negotiating and implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to ensure Iran doesn’t become a nuclear state.
But the pivot toward Iran, a Shia power, has ruffled feathers in Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally and the premier Sunni power in the Middle East.
By taking direct military action against the Houthi rebels, a Shia group battling the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi, the US has entered into — even in a limited capacity — another war in the Middle East with no end in sight.
Smyth confirmed to Business Insider the strong bond between Iran and the Houthi uprising working to overthrow the government in Yemen.
According to Smyth, in many cases Houthi leaders go to Iran for ideological and religious education, and Iranian and Hezbollah leaders have been spotted on the ground advising the Houthi troops.
These Iranian advisers are likely responsible for training the Houthis to use the type of sophisticated guided missiles fired at the US Navy.
For Iran, supporting the revolt in Yemen is “a good way to bleed the Saudis,” Iran’s regional and ideological rival. Essentially, Iran is backing the Houthis to fight against a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States fighting to maintain government control of Yemen.
“The Iranians are looking at this from a very, very strategic angle, not just bleeding Saudis and other Gulf States, but how can they expand their ideological and military influence,” Smyth said.
Yemen presents an extremely attractive goal for enterprising Iran. Yemen’s situation on the Bab-al-Mandab Strait means that control of that waterway — which they may have been trying to establish with the missile strikes — would give them control over the Red Sea, a massive waterway and choke point for commerce.
The risk of picking a side
The US officially became a combatant in Yemen on Wednesday night. In doing so, it has tacitly aligned with the Saudi-led coalition that has been tied to a brutal air blockade.
The Saudis stand accused of war crimes in connection with bombing schools, hospitals, markets, and even a packed funeral hall.
Internal communications show the US has been very concerned about entering into the conflict for fear that it may be considered “co-belligerents” and thereby liable for prosecution for war crimes, Reuters reported.
Lawrence Brennan, an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School and a US Navy veteran, told Business Insider the “limited context in which these strikes occurred was to protect freedom of navigation and neutral ships” and likely doesn’t “rise to the legal state of belligerence.”
Yet Russian and Shia sources are quick to lump the US and Saudi Arabia together, Smyth added. Just as the US and international community look to hold Russia and Syria accountable for the bombing of a humanitarian aid convoy in Syria, the indiscriminate Saudi air campaign in Yemen makes it “very easy to offer a response” to the cries of war crimes against them, he said.
Indeed, now Russian propagandists can offer up a narrative that suggests a dangerous quid pro quo narrative, suggesting that the US and Russia are trading war crimes in the region, and to “throw out chaff” and muddy the waters should the international community looks to prosecute Russia and Syria, Smyth added.
Gone too far — or not far enough?
So, while the US has now entered the murky waters of the conflict in Yemen — where 14 million people lack food and thousands of civilians have been murdered — Schanzer says the US may not have done enough.
The Navy “didn’t hit the people who struck them,” Schanzer said. “They’re not looking for caches of missiles, not looking for youth hideouts, not looking to engage directly.”
For Schanzer, this half-measure “seems like it’s not even mowing the lawn.”
But with the US already involved in bombing campaigns in six countries, it is “loathe” to get mired in another Middle Eastern conflict and equally concerned about fighting against Iran’s proxies, whom it sees as extensions of Iran’s own IRGC.
For now, the Pentagon remains committed to the idea that the strike on Houthi infrastructure was a “limited” strike, and that it’s strictly acting in self-defense, which Schanzer said is “not really the way to achieve victory.”
But with just three months left in President Obama’s second term, there is good reason to question if the US’s objective is to help the people of Yemen and end the war, or to simply sit out the festering conflict as it balances delicate regional alliances.
In the 121st iteration of their rivalry, the Black Knights will face off against the midshipmen next Saturday in the Army/Navy game brought to us by the great folks at USAA. The game marks the end of the regular college football season and is expected to be one of the year’s best. This year’s game will be played at Michie Stadium in West Point, New York. West Point isn’t an unusual location since most Army-Navy games are played in the northwest region of the country. The only two exceptions of the entire series are the 1926 game in Chicago and the 1983 game in Pasadena, California. This year’s game is the first time it’s been played on campus in several years, so expectations that the Black Knights win are high.
Even though the Black Knights will have a home-field advantage, the midshipmen have historically proven that they’re the superior team. Not only does the Navy hold the largest victory – 51-0 in the 1973 game, but the midshipmen also hold the longest winning streak, having successfully defended their title for 14 years in a row, from 2002 to 2015. Overall, the Navy leads the series with 61 leads, 52 losses, and just seven ties.
The Army/Navy rivalry dates back to 1890 when cadet Dennis Michie accepted a football challenge from the Naval Academy. The two football teams faced off at West Point for the first game on November 29, 1890, and have met every year since 1930.
But this interservice rivalry football game isn’t just about the game. It’s also about the uniforms and what they mean to the players who are wearing them.
Last weekend, the Army released the uniform the Black Knights will be wearing. The “Tropic Lightning” uniforms were constructed to honor the 25th Infantry Division and their efforts during the Korean War. The 25th ID was the second unit to arrive on the Korean Peninsula and participated in some of the Korean War’s most difficult battles. The Division is known as the Wolfhounds because it served with the American Expeditionary Force in Siberia during WWI.
The Army website says that the uniforms help embody the spirit of the soldiers from the 25th ID. “Among their division, the wolfhounds struck fear into their enemy with their ferocious fighting nature in combat.”
To celebrate the Navy’s 175th anniversary, the midshipmen’s uniforms were inspired by history. The Navy website says that the midshipmen will be wearing uniforms inspired by “historic architecture.” The uniforms have been crafted to highlight “the marble stone pattern featured in its landmark buildings: the Naval Academy Chapel and Bancroft Hall.” To be fair, the midshipmen will look like marble because of the “high contrast of the white veins on the navy stone,” an aesthetic effort that’s supposed to create the feeling of “whitecaps on the rough open seas.”
These Ocean Camo uniforms might not have the history of the 25th ID as their impetus, but they were designed with a nod to history in mind – especially to the Navy’s history. The blue and white pattern is supposed to reflect the Naval Academy grounds and is a subtle nod to both John Paul Jones and George Bancroft. Jones was a Naval Commander during the Revolutionary War, and Bancroft founded the Naval Academy.
No matter if you’re a Go Army, Beat Navy! family or if you’re staunchly flipped, the game is going to be worth watching, if only because it honors the tradition of this fantastic interservice rivalry. The game will be streamed on CBS at 3pm local time.
The “boat people,” as they came to be known, are an oft-forgotten footnote at the end of the Vietnam War. In the years following the U.S. withdrawal and the subsequent fall of South Vietnam to the Communist north, refugees packed ships leaving the southern half, bound for anywhere but there.
Between 1975 and 1995 some 800,000 people faced pirates, traffickers, and storms to escape the grip of Communism and make it to a new life in places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia, or elsewhere. Images of boat people adrift on any kind of ship routinely made the nightly news. Rescued refugees would be resettled anywhere they would be accepted, many of them ending up in the Western United States. One of those people was Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Asan Bui.
Vietnamese “Boat People” being rescued while adrift at sea.
Asan Bui was born on one of those vessels, adrift in the ocean, bound for nowhere, some 44 years ago. He was a citizen of no country. His father took his then-pregnant mother out of Vietnam because he had served in South Vietnam’s army as an artilleryman. Against all odds, he, his wife, and five children all escaped the iron curtain as it came crashing down.
Bui, like many who fought for anti-Communist South Vietnam, faced persecution and execution at the hands of the oncoming Communists in 1975. The fall of the southern capital at Saigon was imminent, and many were looking for a way to flee. Asan Bui’s father took his family by boat.
Air Force Reserve, Lt. Col. Asan Bui was born at sea 44 years ago while adrift in the ocean aboard a wooden boat.
(U.S. Air Force Reserve photo by Senior Airman Brandon Kalloo Sanes)
Bui’s family was just the tip of the iceberg. The fall of Saigon caused 1.6 million Vietnamese people to flee South Vietnam. The elder Bui was not happy to leave and wanted to fight the Communists every inch of the way. His sense soon got the better of him, though. If he were captured, he would likely have been tortured and killed.
“Anyone that fought alongside the United States would be killed or imprisoned in re-education camps,” Bui told the Air Force Reserve. “I have personally spoken with individuals that have gone through this brutal ordeal and survived. Some were not released for over a decade and still carry the traumatic scars.”
Lt. Col. Bui’s father, Chien Van Bui, calls in artillery fire during the Vietnam War.
(Photo provided by Lt. Col. Asan Bui)
If they did survive the capture and torture, Southern fighters could look forward to hard time in Communist labor camps, re-education centers, or worse. Instead of all that, Chien Van Bui fled with his family. When the family was rescued, they were taken to Camp Asan in Guam, naming their newborn child after the camp they called home.
Asan Bui joined the United States Air Force in his mid-twenties, now serving his 19th year for the country that took him in and allowed him to start a family of his own. Lt. Col. Asan Bui is the commander of the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick AFB, Fla. He is dedicated to continued service.
“I want to honor those (military and sponsors) that have sacrificed so much for my family and the Vietnamese refugees,” said Bui. “Especially the Vietnam veterans.”
Clifton Hoffler is an Army veteran and alumnus of the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) Comedy Bootcamp program. ASAP is an organization based in Virginia that builds communities for veterans, servicemembers, and military families through classes, performances, and partnerships in the arts. As part of their mission, ASAP offers a Comedy Bootcamp for veterans to explore and develop their comedic abilities.Clifton is a minister, chef, and Army veteran who served more than twenty years – including multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, with the help of ASAP’s Comedy Bootcamp program, he’s adding standup comedian to his resume. For Clif, getting up on stage is another opportunity to adapt and overcome. It’s an important form of therapy and a way to better his health, and he encourages other veterans to learn to laugh because laughter “is the best medicine that’s out there.”
Some uniform changes are welcome in the U.S. military (goodbye, ABUs!) and some are very much not. There are uniform features troops love because it actually makes their jobs easier. There are fabrics that are easier to wear, and there are styles that just became iconic over time. For instance, imagine if the Marine Corps suddenly changed their dress blues to an all-white uniform to match the Navy whites – there would be rioting from Lejeune to Pendleton.
That’s almost what happened when the Navy ditched the bell-bottoms on its dungarees.
That just does not look like a good work uniform.
The U.S. Navy had been sporting the flared cuffs on its work uniforms since 1817. The idea was that sailors who would be working on the topmost decks, who were presumably swabbing it or whatever sailors did up there back then, would want to roll their pants up to keep them from getting wet or dirty. Sailors were also able to get out of their uniforms faster in the event that they had to abandon ship for some reason.
When in the water, then-woolen pants even doubled as a life preserver. Now, that’s a utility uniform. In 1901, the fabric of the uniform was changed to denim, and the Navy’s dungarees were born. They still sported bell-bottom pants.
The Navy will still find ways to look absurd to the other branches, don’t you worry.
Bell-bottoms even appeared on the sailors’ dress uniform as far back as the early 19th century. The Navy got rid of the bell-bottom on its dungarees at the turn of the 21st Century, some 180 years later. In 1999, the Navy phased out the pants with flared 12-inch bottoms for a utility uniform that features straight-legged dark blue trousers. Sailors were not thrilled.
“They are trying too hard to make us look like the Coast Guard and the Air Force,” said Petty Officer Chad Heskett, a hospital corpsman on the frigate USS Crommelin. “It’s taking too much away from tradition. It will cost the Navy more to buy these new uniforms.”
By 2001, the bell-bottoms were gone.
Heskett wasn’t alone in his disdain for the new uniforms. The loss of “tradition” was echoed throughout the Navy, as is often the case with new uniforms. The Navy was adamant about the change, however, and the new utility uniforms were phased in on schedule. It turned out to be a good decision.
For tradition, the Navy will always have its crackerjacks.
The woman who unsuccessfully ran for vice president on the ticket of Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain in 2008 may soon be in charge of the agency tasked with taking care of America’s veterans.
Several news reports indicate former Alaska governor and Republican VP pick Sarah Palin has been in discussions with the Donald Trump transition team in recent days to become the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
A Palin aide told ABC News that the conservative firebrand had told Trump her “megaphone … can be used in a productive and positive way to help those desperately in need.”
The reports on Palin don’t come out of left field, as the former governor has made veterans’ issues a major subject of her speeches across the country. In 2015, Palin addressed the massive Conservative Political Action Conference with a 30-minute speech devoted entirely to military and veterans issues.
“This bureaucracy is killing our vets,” Palin said of the VA in her CPAC speech. “They wait for months, they wait for years to get treatment at the VA, and they’re losing hope. The VA’s mistakes and coverups have cost the lives of over 500 vets in the last four years — and that doesn’t account for those who took their own lives.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs is one of the largest U.S. government agencies, with over 300,000 employees and a 2017 budget of $187 million.
Palin’s oldest son Track served in the Army with a combat tour to Iraq and her daughter Bristol is married to Medal of Honor recipient and former Marine Dakota Meyer