Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned

German doctors treating Pyotr Verzilov have said that the anti-Kremlin activist was probably poisoned, and a Moscow newspaper reports a possible connection with the killing of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) in July 2018.

The developments on Sept. 18, 2018, deepened the mystery surrounding the sudden illness of Verzilov, a member of the punk protest band Pussy Riot and the dissident art troupe Voina who was flown to Berlin for treatment three days earlier.

“The impression and the findings that we now have, as well as those provided by colleagues from Moscow, suggest that it was highly plausible that it was a case of poisoning,” Kai-Uwe Eckardt, a doctor at Charite hospital in Berlin, told a news conference.


Eckhart’s colleague, Karl Max Einhaeupl, said that there was so far no other explanation for Verzilov’s condition and no evidence that the activist, who was initially hospitalized in Moscow, was suffering from a long-term illness.

Eckardt said Verzilov’s condition was not life-threatening. He said the symptoms indicated a disruption of the part of Verzilov’s nervous system that regulates the internal organs, but that the substance responsible for the poisoning hadn’t yet been determined.

Verzilov, 30, fell ill on Sept. 11, 2018, after a court hearing in Moscow, and later suffered seizures while being taken to a hospital in an ambulance. Friends said he began losing his sight, speech, and mobility.

The Reuters news agency quoted Jaka Bizilj, the managing director of the Berlin-based Cinema for Peace human rights group, as saying his group had paid for Verzilov’s flight to Berlin and that Russia had been “cooperative.”

Bizilj said that Verzilov suffered seizures while being taken to a Moscow hospital by ambulance.

Verzilov’s ex-wife, Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, told the German newspaper Bild he believed he was “poisoned intentionally, and that it was an attempt to intimidate him or kill him.”

Footage posted by Tolokonnikova showed Verzilov sitting up in the plane on the tarmac in Berlin and he appeared to be alert.

In a Sept. 18, 2018 report the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta said that on the day he was hospitalized, Verzilov was to have received a report from “foreign specialists” investigating the killings in C.A.R.

Russian journalists Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko, were killed on July 30, 2018, in C.A.R., where they were working on a documentary about the possible activities there of a shadowy Russian paramilitary group with alleged Kremlin ties.

The Novaya Gazeta report, which cited sources it did not name, said that Verzilov was a close friend of Rastorguyev and had himself been planning to travel to C.A.R. with the trio but decided to remain in Russia to support jailed Kremlin opponents.

Verzilov is a co-founder of the website Mediazona, which reports on the trials of Russian activists, prison conditions, and other aspects of the Russian justice system. He has both Russian and Canadian citizenship.

In July 2018, he was sentenced along with other Pussy Riot members to 15 days in jail for briefly interrupting the July 15, 2018 World Cup final in Moscow between France and Croatia by running onto the field wearing fake police uniforms.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned

Pyotr Verzilov and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

Verzilov became known as a member of the Voina (War) art troupe in the late 2000s.

He performed with then-wife Tolokonnikova, who went on to form Pussy Riot with Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova founded Mediazona in 2014, with Verzilov becoming publisher.

Kremlin critics accuse the Russian authorities of poisoning several journalists, Kremlin foes, and others who have died or fallen mysteriously ill since President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.

Verzilov’s sudden illness came against the backdrop of outrage over what British authorities say was the poisoning by Russian military intelligence officers of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent in England in March 2018, and the death of a woman police say was exposed to the substance after the alleged attackers discarded it.

Featured image: Pyotr Verzilov.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Afghan air force is about to get all spec ops with these new helicopters

The Afghan Air Force is scheduled to receive 150 new MD530 F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters by 2022.


By this, the total number of MD530 Fs operated by the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces will rise to almost 180.

The US Department of Defense announced on Sept. 5 that it has issued a $1.38 billion contract to MD Helicopters “for procurement of an estimated quantity of 150 MD 530F aircraft and required production support services to include program management, delivery support, pilot training and maintenance,” the Diplomat reported.

The estimated completion date of the contract is 2022.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
Two new MD-530 Cayuse Warrior helicopters, still with protective wrap on them. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando.

According to a MD Helicopters press release, the first deliveries under the contract will be 30 MD 530Fs for an estimated $177 million. The first part of the order is expected to be completed by September 2019.

“Mission Equipment for these aircraft will include a ballistic crash worthy fuel system, consisting of a main fuel tank and a 38-gallon Auxiliary Fuel Tank, high capacity landing gear, FN Herstal Weapons Management System, DillonAero Mission Configurable Armament System weapons plank and Fixed-Forward Sighting System, Rohde and Schwarz M3AR Tactical Mission Radio, and FN Herstal .50 caliber HMP 400 Machine Gun Pods and M260 7-shot rocket pods,” MD Helicopters noted in a press statement released on Sept. 13.

Earlier this week, Gen. Phillip A. Stewart, commander of Train, Advise, Assist Command said in an interview with TOLOnews that $7 billion will be spent on the Afghan Air Force over the next four years.

“We expect the Afghan Air Force to be fully professional, sustainable, and capable and independent and that’s our whole goal here,” he said.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
Afghan Air Force MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopter fires its two FN M3P .50 Cal machine guns. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston.

Under the new aid package, the number of aircraft owned by the AAF will be doubled in the next four years.

This comes after Major General Abdul Raziq Sherzai, the commander of Kandahar Air Brigade, last week said more military aircraft should be delivered to the hard-pressed Afghan security forces who have been battling insurgent groups in their traditional heartlands in Kandahar and Helmand provinces for weeks.

He said that the Kandahar Air Brigade, despite having inadequate facilities on hand, continue to back the ground forces in their campaign against the militants in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where in recent months violence dramatically increased following the Taliban’s new attempt to seize control of the strategic province of Helmand in the south and infiltrate neighboring provinces.

The Kandahar Air Brigade that operates under the command of 205 Atal Army Corps has about 20 different types of aircrafts – a figure security officials claim is nothing near what they need to deal with the current scale of security issues that have undermined large swaths of land in the south.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This airborne sergeant re-enacts World War I

U.S. Army Sgt. Dustin McGraw is stationed with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the culmination of a life-long dream of being a paratrooper like the heroes of World War II movies that he watched as a child. But as he made his way up, he discovered a love of World War I that has led to him re-enacting battles in France.


His re-enactment group spends a lot of time at a park in Tennessee a few hours from Fort Campbell, allowing McGraw to indulge his passion while maintaining his active duty career. (That park is named for famed Doughboy and Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Alvin C. York, making it a pretty appropriate place to host re-enactments.)

And there is more crossover between the passion and the job than one might initially assume. While re-enactors, obviously, do not face the dangers and many of the hardships endured by soldiers in combat, they do work hard to portray their chosen period accurately. That means that they have to get uniforms, tactics, weapons, and other details right.

And it’s hard to steep yourself that deeply in military history without learning an appreciation for the discipline and perseverance that it takes to succeed in combat. As McGraw points out in the video, maintaining your cool in wool uniforms and metal helmets in the broiling sun isn’t always easy. And, practicing World War I tactics can still help reinforce an understanding of modern warfare. After all, machine guns and rifles haven’t changed all that much.

But that leads to another benefit for McGraw and other soldiers who choose to re-enact past periods of military history: They learn a deep appreciation of modern systems, from weapons to logistics to medicine to gear.

Where modern troops have GPS, Kevlar, lightweight automatic weapons, aid bags, and helicopters, World War I Doughboys had to make do with maps, cotton, rifles of wood and steel, field bandages, and horses. So, while it’s easy to complain when your helicopters are late to the LZ, most people would be more appreciative of the challenges if they spent their weekends trying to simulate logistics with horses.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President sees promising signs for accord with Taliban by month’s end

U.S. President Donald Trump says there are promising signs that the United States would reach a peace deal with the Taliban by the end of this month.


Chances are “good” for the agreement to be sealed, Trump said on a February 13 podcast broadcast on iHeart Radio.

When asked if a tentative deal had been reached, Trump said: “I think we’re very close…. I think there’s a good chance that we’ll have a deal…. We’re going to know over the next two weeks.”

The president’s comments are the latest indication of progress being made in talks between the United States and the Taliban that have been taking place since December in Qatar, where the militants have a political office.

Earlier in the day, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told journalists in Brussels that both sides had negotiated a “proposal” for a week-long scaling-down in violence.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned

President Donald Trump speaks to Fort Drum Soldiers and personnel during a signing ceremony for the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, Aug. 13, 2018.

He said a drawdown of troops and further negotiations with the militants would be “conditions-based” and begin after a decline in violence.

“We’ve said all along that the best…solution in Afghanistan is a political agreement,” he added. “It will be a continual evaluative process as we go forward — if we go forward.”

Progress toward reducing violence could usher in direct peace talks between the militants and the Afghan government to end the nearly two-decade war.

AP reported that if violence subsided, it would lead to an agreement being signed between the United States and the Taliban, followed by, within 10 days, all-Afghan negotiations to establish a road map for the political future of a postwar Afghanistan.

There has been a “pretty important breakthrough” over the past few days, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on February 13 about peace negotiations. He did not elaborate.

President Donald Trump would still have to formally approve the agreement and finalization of details is expected at this week’s Munich Security Conference, where Esper and Pompeo will meet with Afghan President Ashaf Ghani.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg the day before reiterated that the alliance “fully supports the U.S.-led peace efforts, which can pave the way for intra-Afghan talks.”

Speaking at the same NATO summit in Brussels attended by Esper, the secretary-general said the militants “need to demonstrate that they are both willing and capable to deliver a reduction of violence and contribute to peace in good faith.”

He said the militant fighters have to “understand that they will never win on the battlefield. They have to make real compromises around the negotiating table.”

The prospective deal would see the U.S. pull thousands of troops from Afghanistan, while the Taliban would provide security guarantees and launch eventual talks with the Western-backed government in Kabul.

There are some 12,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as well as thousands of European forces participating in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers unveiled legislation on Oct. 4 that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.


The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Oct. 5, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the US government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.

The legislation, written by the House Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on December 31.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
US Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Kayla Rorick.

Senior US intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

Foreign suspects

It allows US intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including those with targets living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
Edward Snowden speaks to a crowd via video conference. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.

That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counterespionage.

The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Colin

Renewal for six years

The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.

The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.

Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and intelligence agencies.

But that effort is expected to face major resistance in the House, where an influential conservative bloc of Republicans earlier this year said it opposed renewal unless major changes were made, reflecting disagreement within the majority party.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. Photo from Senator Feinstein’s website.

Separately, Senators John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California are working on Section 702 legislation that may also be introduced this week and include fewer reforms.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky are also planning to introduce a bill that would require a warrant for any query of Section 702 involving data belonging to an American.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the hero Soldier that stopped an active shooter with his truck: MSG David Royer

On Wednesday, an active duty U.S. Army soldier brought an active shooter situation in Kansas to an abrupt end by ramming the suspect with his vehicle. By the time police officers had arrived on the scene, multiple vehicles had been hit by small arms fire, and one other Soldier had been wounded, but the suspect was safely pinned beneath a vehicle.

Now, the heroic soldier whose quick action likely saved a number of lives has been identified as Master Sgt. David Royer, a corrections noncommissioned officer with the 705th Military Police Battalion (Detention).


Royer was traveling eastbound when he arrived at the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth, where he found stopped traffic. MSG Royer was talking to his fiancée on speakerphone when he noticed an armed man exiting another vehicle. Without hesitation, Royer instructed his wife to call 911 as the suspect opened fire at nearby vehicles.

“I assessed the situation very quickly, looked around and just took the only action possible that I felt I could take,” Royer said. “I accelerated my truck as quickly as possible and struck the active shooter and pinned him underneath my truck.”

Law enforcement arrived only minutes later, where they found Royer had already assessed that the shooter was no longer a threat, and he’d already begun providing first aid to another Soldier who had been driving in a different car, and had been wounded in the initial volley of small arms fire. According to police, the suspect was armed with a pistol and a semi-automatic rifle.

Royer, who has served in the Army for the past 15 years, received training on how to handle these sorts of situations throughout his career, including Military Police Special Reaction Team Training (Military SWAT Team), Air Assault School, and a Military Police Investigator Course. While many see Royer’s action as heroic, he’s quick to credit the training he’s received in service for his handling of the situation.

“I was shocked that it was happening, but the adrenaline took over and with the military training that I’ve received, I took appropriate action and took out the threat as fast as possible,” Royer said. “I didn’t imagine (an active shooter situation) would happen in traffic, but it was always in the back of my mind because of how crazy things are in the world today.

Despite Royer’s reluctance to take the credit for his actions, Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens made a point to address the bravery and skill Royer demonstrated on Wednesday.

“He won’t call himself a hero, but I will,” said Kitchens in a press conference. “He saved countless lives. … His actions were extraordinary, and he should be commended for that. We’re grateful … on behalf of the entire Leavenworth community.”

Despite the accolades of local law enforcement and his command, Royer believes many people would respond in the same way if faced with the same circumstances. The career Soldier’s selflessness in the face of danger echoes similar sentiments offered by other heroic service members over the years, as he pointed out that while his life has value, he would be willing to sacrifice it for the safety and security of his fellow countrymen.

“My life is worth something, but there are also many other lives out there, too,” he said, “so if I can sacrifice myself for the majority, that is my motive.”

Col. Caroline Smith, 15th Military Police Brigade commander, also issued a statement honoring Royer’s quick action, bravery, and level headedness.

“I think many people will sit back and wonder what would they do at a time of adversity like that and would they have the confidence and the courage to act when necessary,” Smith said. “I think Master Sergeant Royer did exactly what needed to happen in order to neutralize the threat. He had a split second to decide and he made the decision and he made the right decision.
“He acted with courage and conviction. Because of that, I have no doubt that he saved many people’s lives,” she said. “We’ll never know how many lives he saved, but I can say I’m super proud of the actions he took and who he is as an NCO and a soldier in the Army.”

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran tries to blame U.S. for horrible terror attack

Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley rebuked comments from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that blamed US support for a terror attack on a military parade Sept. 22, 2018, that killed 25 people and wounded 60.

Haley waved off Rouhani’s condemnation of America, and said in the aftermath of the attack, “he needs to look at his own home base.”

“The Iranian people are protesting,” Haley said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sept. 23, 2018. “Every ounce of money that goes into Iran goes to his military. He has oppressed his people for a long time.”


Haley continued: “He can blame us all he wants, but the thing he’s got to do is look in the mirror.”

Rouhani lashed out at America’s support for mercenary countries in the Persian Gulf, saying it helps to “instigate them and provide them with necessary means to commit these crimes.”

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and re-impose relevant sanctions crippled the economy and drew ire from leadership, Haley said.

“They don’t like the fact that we’ve called them out,” Haley said. “We have called them out for ballistic missile testing. We’ve called them out for their support of terrorism. We’ve called them out for their arms sales. And they don’t like it.”

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Despite the tensions, Haley contradicted Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani‘s claims from a day earlier the US was seeking a regime change and promised Trump would remain strict with Iranian leadership.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted immediately after the attack Sept. 23, 2018, to blame regional countries and their “US masters,” calling the gunmen “terrorists recruited, trained armed and paid” by foreign powers, raising tensions in the region amid the unclear future of Tehran’s nuclear deal.

“Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives,” Zarif wrote on Twitter Sept. 23, 2018.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to “Fox News Sunday” before Rouhani’s statement, calling Zarif’s comments “an enormous mistake.”

“The loss of innocent life is tragic, and I wish Zarif would focus on keeping his own people secure rather than causing insecurity around the world,” Pompeo said.

Haley said the September 2018 United Nations General Assembly would be a chance for countries to sort out tension, but Trump isn’t planning on a meeting with Iranian leadership, as Rouhani “has to stop all of his bad behavior before the president’s going to think he’s serious about wanting to talk.”

Haley added: “There is no love for Iran here in the United States, and there’s no love for the United States in Iran.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Is the crisis in Venezuela a test of the Monroe Doctrine?

The threats that failing governments and foreign influence pose to the United States have not been the norm in the Western hemisphere. Since the institution of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the United States has opposed efforts by European and other powers to meddle in the United States’ backyard, keeping a watchful eye on its neighbors. There has been much turmoil the last fifty years — Pinochet’s reign in Chile, the civil war in El Salvador, drug-fueled gang violence in Colombia, and others, are all conflicts that divided nations, destabilized the region, and engrossed the world.


Despite the violence and attention, Latin American conflicts have generated, the United States was largely successful in limiting influence from foreign nations and overseas organizations seeking to exploit these conflicts and undermine the integrity and influence of the United States. Now, the Monroe Doctrine faces perhaps its most challenging test yet: recent unrest in Venezuela. The growing discontent in the country has reached a boiling point, with the specter of civil war looming and national security concerns that threaten the safety of the United States.

What To Know About The Attempted Coup In Venezuela (HBO)

www.youtube.com

To blame for this recent disorder is the resurgent cancer of socialism and communism, not new to the Western Hemisphere. One need not look further than 90 miles south of Florida to see Cuba: a state whose current complexion was born of communist revolution, nurtured barbarous dictators and violent revolutionaries, and welcomed as a military ally by the Soviets, nearly triggering a nuclear war. When Hugo Chavez tightened his grip over Venezuela at the turn of the 21st century, history knew how this story would end. But the predictable rise and fall of socialism in oil-rich Venezuela now creates a danger we have not seen in our hemisphere since the Cold War.

The proud people of Venezuela have witnessed what socialism provides to a country: empty promises, rampant poverty, widespread corruption, and hopelessness. Their cries for freedom were silenced by bribes and force at the hands of Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. Free elections were touted but marred in such overt corruption that would be laughable if the consequences were not so dire.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned

Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

On Jan. 23, 2019, the hope of the nation turned to Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, who took the oath of office as Interim President of Venezuela. This peaceful, constitutionally-valid shift of power has flipped the suffering nation on its head. Since then, President Trump and allies across the world have pledged support for Guaido and have left all options on the table with respect to lending aid and military intervention in the country to ensure his security and authority as leader.

Freedom, however, is not easy to gain or preserve, as Americans discovered during our war for independence some 244 years ago. On the ground in Venezuela, violence, and unrest have intensified as many military leaders remain loyal to President Maduro. Local government institutions have been paralyzed, and a people already crushed by a centrally-planned, corrupt economy have nowhere to turn for help. As if to say, “Let them eat cake!” Maduro’s forces have barricaded major highways to stop the flow of relief from neighboring countries.

Most troubling however may be dueling threats from major geopolitical adversaries that put the safety of our hemisphere in jeopardy. Russia has sent bombers to Venezuela in support of the Maduro regime – a provocative show of force that harkens back to the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As global support for Guaido grows, so does Russian resolve to prop up a failed despot.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned

Nicolas Maduro.

Further testing American dominance of the Western Hemisphere is another sinister force lurking in the shadows: radical Islamic terrorism. For years, reports of burgeoning terror cells popping up in Latin America have made their way into newspaper headlines, with the most recent example involving the growing presence of Iran-linked terror organization, Hezbollah, in Latin America. The ever increasing instability within Venezuela offers fertile grounds for these terror networks to take root and grow amid a nation made susceptible to radical proposals offered by fanatical organizations in the face of social and economic collapse. Consider: there remains air travel between Caracas and Tehran, and American intelligence has little way of knowing who all are on those flights. Should bad actors from the Middle East’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism with intentions of harming the United States make their way to Venezuela, what will that mean for the United States and the continent at large?

If terror organizations find safe-haven on the streets of a failed state in South America, the threats to our homeland become incalculable. Crossing into the United States via our southern border, once difficult, has been made easier by assistance from international non-profits, failure to enforce and reform current immigration law in the United States, and “Coyotes” – individuals guide those seeking entry into America across the border for a fee. This has already been made manifest in the formation of migrant caravans comprised of hundreds if not thousands from all over Latin America seeking asylum in the United States in mass numbers, regardless of the validity of their claims. The political class’ failure to seriously address this immigration problem is a dream come true for international terrorists, drug smugglers, and other criminals seeking to cross our borders — with smuggled arms, drugs, diseases, and more — to then harm the American people.

So where do we go from here? First, we must recommit to the Monroe Doctrine and assure Interim President Guaido that we, as well as our partners and allies in the region, have his back. This means potentially mobilizing both naval forces and ground troops in areas of strategic importance to signify not just our support for the Guaido presidency, but also to send the message that foreign interference in our hemisphere will not be toleration. Our aim is not to violently provoke but to firmly warn.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned

Juan Guaido.

(Flickr photo by Senado Federal)

Second, we must finally secure our borders. On top of violent drug trades and human trafficking that pose a risk to people throughout the American continents, our border is now facing an even graver security threat considering recent developments in Latin America. Our southern neighbors have proven incapable of controlling migration across their borders, unable to filter out narcotics and criminals in an acceptable manner before they invariably arrive at ours. Every day that passes where our border is left unsecured while tensions mount in Latin America, American workers and their families face an ever-imminent threat to their work, their communities and their way of life.

The current situation in Venezuela is a new and evolving crisis for the Americas the likes of which have not been seen since when John F. Kennedy was president. The success or failure of the Guaido presidency will depend on the shared ability of the U.S. and our allies to pressure Maduro to leave office and cede power to Guaido. If we do not take care of our nation’s homeland security in the meantime, the fallout from potential catastrophe in Venezuela in the near-future will spell disaster for the entirety of Latin America and significantly harm the United States. The time to act is now, and I believe these recent developments give ample justification to do just that.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

The Coast Guard is using this drone to nab drug smugglers

ABOARD THE COAST GUARD CUTTER STRATTON, in the eastern Pacific Ocean — The drone is loaded onto a catapult on the flight deck. From a control room, a technician revs the motor until the go-ahead is given to press the red button. Then the ScanEagle lifts off with a whoosh and, true to its lofty name, soars majestically over the wide blue sea.


The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton is steaming more than 500 miles south of the Guatemala-El Salvador border, along the biggest narcotics smuggling corridor in the world.

Its mission: intercept vessels hauling cocaine bound for America’s cities.

It is a monumental task that has grown even larger in the past few years because of a boom in coca production in Colombia. But the Coast Guard is bringing more intelligence and technology to bear.

Deep within the 418-foot Stratton, which is based in Alameda, California, specialists crunch data from radar, infrared video, helicopter sorties and now the Boeing-made ScanEagle, which was deployed aboard the Coast Guard cutter for the first time during this three-month mission.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
PACIFIC OCEAN — Petty Officer 3rd Class John Cartwright, a Coast Guard Cutter Stratton crewmember, releases the Unmanned Aerial Surveillance aircraft Scan Eagle during a demonstration approximately 150 miles off the Pacific Coast, Aug. 12, 2012. The Scan Eagle is being tested for capabilities that will create a reliable reconnaissance system for all 11 Coast Guard missions. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Clayton.

“In the earlier days, when you wouldn’t see or catch anything, we used to pat ourselves on our back and say we must’ve deterred them,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, with more than four decades at sea. “Now rarely 72 hours go by when you don’t have an event or we send a ship down there that doesn’t come back with multiple interdictions.”

The Associated Press spent two weeks in February and March aboard the Stratton, the most advanced ship in the Coast Guard fleet, as 100-plus crew members patrolled the eastern Pacific, through which about 70 percent of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. passes.

With three to five Coast Guard cutters covering 6 million square miles — from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to the eastern Pacific Ocean — it’s like having a few police cars watch over the entire lower 48 states.

Just after lunch on the second day of deployment, the Stratton’s PA system starts piping out acronyms. A TOI, or target of interest, has been detected by the ScanEagle with the support of aircraft radar, and a go-fast boat slides down a rear ramp into the blue waters to begin the chase.

In just a few minutes it catches up with a fishing boat, called a panga, with two outboard motors.

Sometimes smugglers frantically dump their cargo over the side or try to make a run for it, forcing their pursuers to fire warning shots or shoot out their engines. But this time, the boat’s crewmen, some of them barefoot, offer no resistance.

The four suspected smugglers sit handcuffed as a Coast Guardsman takes out some vials to conduct a chemical test. The results come back positive for cocaine, and the two Colombians and two Ecuadoreans are put aboard the cutter.

Hidden in the bales of cocaine is a GPS tracking device in a condom, a sure sign the drug bosses behind the shipment knew right away it didn’t reach its destination.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
PACIFIC OCEAN — The Unmanned Aerial Surveillance aircraft Scan Eagle watches the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton from afar during a demonstration approximately 150 miles off the Pacific Coast, Aug. 12, 2012. The Scan Eagle is being tested for capabilities that will create a reliable reconnaissance system for all 11 Coast Guard missions. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

At sunset, the Stratton’s crew proudly poses for a picture with the haul while a black plume rises above the sea where the boat was set ablaze by the Coast Guard. A few hours later, the Stratton fires its cannon and sinks the vessel.

The next morning the ever-rising Narcometer in the on-board newsletter reflects the size of the bust: 700 kilograms (over 1,500 pounds) of pure cocaine with a wholesale value of $21 million. On the streets in the U.S., it could be worth more than five times that.

The Stratton’s biggest bust — a Coast Guard record — came in 2015, when it found more than 16,000 pounds of cocaine worth $225 million before the smuggling craft, a hard-to-detect semi-submersible vessel, sank with some of its cargo still aboard.

As good as the Coast Guard gets, its victories seem doomed to be short-lived. That’s because hundreds of miles to the south, in the jungles of Colombia, there’s a bumper harvest taking place. And Colombia is virtually the only source of cocaine smuggled by sea in small vessels.

That, along with better technology, may help explain why the Coast Guard has been coming back with ever-larger hauls. It set a record in 2016, seizing more than 240 tons of cocaine with a wholesale value of $5.9 billion and arresting 585 smugglers.

Last year, the amount of land devoted to coca cultivation in Colombia climbed 18 percent to an estimated 188,000 hectares (465,000 acres), according to a White House report. That is more coca production than at any time since the U.S. in 1999 began investing billions in an anti-narcotics strategy known as Plan Colombia.

“What we know here out at sea is that the business has been really good in the last couple of years,” said Capt. Nathan Moore, the Stratton’s skipper.

The surge is being driven in part by Colombia’s decision in 2015 to suspend aerial spraying of crop-destroying herbicides because of health concerns.

At the same time, there was a rush among peasant farmers to start growing coca so they could take advantage of generous payments to switch to legal crops being offered as part of a peace deal between the government and Colombia’s rebels.

Thus far, 55,000 families have signed pledges to rip up 48,000 hectares of coca in exchange for as much as $12,000 over two years. The government is also expanding manual eradication of coca, a slower and far more dangerous task, with the goal of destroying 50,000 hectares this year alone.

But many experts are skeptical that poor farmers will renounce coca growing, especially as criminal gangs fill the void left by the retreating rebels. Also, a successful drug run can net each smuggler a small fortune that makes it well worth the risk of a long prison sentence for many.

Such dynamics help explain why, despite the Coast Guard’s technological superiority, four drug-running boats are thought to get through for every one caught, Zukunft said.

Those taken into custody for smuggling are put in white hazmat suits, given health exams and then led into a converted helicopter hangar aboard the Stratton, where they are shackled to the floor and issued a wool blanket, toiletries and a cot or a foam mat. Eventually they are flown to the U.S. and prosecuted at American expense.

The alternative would be to seek prosecution in Central American countries such as Honduras, where the vast majority of crimes go unpunished.

More than a dozen nations in Central and South America have essentially outsourced their drug-interdiction efforts to the U.S.

“Imagine you’re out at Ocean City, Maryland, and then out of nowhere comes this foreign helicopter and it starts peppering a U.S. recreational boat with automatic machine gun fire and sniper fire. We would say it’s an act of war,” Zukunft said.

“But that’s the faith and confidence these countries have in the U.S. and our Coast Guard.”

Articles

There’s a new space race heating up, and the military’s being left behind

For the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, NASA says it may soon have the capability to send astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.


Critical milestones are on the horizon for Boeing and SpaceX, the space agency’s commercial crew partners: Flight tests of their spacecraft, including crewed missions, are planned for 2018.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
The 45th Space Wing supported SpaceX’s launch of the twelfth Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-12) from Launch Complex 39A Aug. 14, 2017, at 12:31 p.m. EDT. (Courtesy photo by SpaceX)

That’s launched something of a “new space race” at the Kennedy Space Center, officials said.

“We have invested a lot as a center, as a nation into Kennedy Space Center to ready us for that next 50 years of spaceflight and beyond,” saidTom Engler, the center’s director of planning and development. “You see the dividends of that now, these commercial companies buying into what we’re doing.”

The public-private partnership is transforming Kennedy Space Center into a multiuser spaceport. NASA is developing the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft for missions to deep space, including to Mars, leaving private companies to send people to low Earth orbit.

Boeing is building the CST-100 Starliner, a spacecraft that will send astronauts to the space station, in a hangar once used to prepare space shuttles for flight. Three Starliners are in production, including one that will fly astronauts next year.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
The 45th Space Wing supported SpaceX’s successful launch of a Falcon 9 Dragon spacecraft headed to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station April 8 at 4:43 p.m. ET. This is the seventh major launch operation for the Eastern Range this year, and this launch is the eighth contracted mission by SpaceX under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. (Courtesy photo by SpaceX)

“If Mars is the pinnacle of Mount Everest, low Earth orbit is base camp. The commercial companies are the sherpas that haul things there,” saidChris Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut and director of crew and mission operations at Boeing. “It opens up a whole new world of business.”

SpaceX, which flies cargo missions to the space station with its Dragon spacecraft, has modified an old shuttle launch pad for its Falcon 9 rockets, which the company has successfully reused. It plans to use Dragon 2, a new version of the spacecraft, to send astronauts to the space station.

Blue Origin, founded by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, is building a rocket factory; it also plans to launch its rockets from Cape Canaveral.

Boeing and United Launch Alliance built a crew access tower so astronauts can board the Starliner. The Atlas V, one of the world’s most reliable rockets, will launch the spacecraft and its astronauts.

“This is really the Apollo era for the next generation,” said Shannon Coggin, a production integration specialist at United Launch Alliance. “This is inspiring this next generation to fall in love with space again, to really test their boundaries and us paving their way for the future of commercial space exploration.”

To meet NASA’s requirements, Boeing and SpaceX must demonstrate their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station.SpaceX’s first flight test is scheduled for February. Boeing’s is scheduled for June.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Jim Nabors, the original Private Gomer Pyle, dies at 87

Jim Nabors made good on his last name when he brought Gomer Pyle to “The Andy Griffith Show.” His big-hearted, ever-cheery gas-pump jockey was a neighborly fit in the easygoing town of Mayberry.


But when Gomer enlisted in the Marines for five TV seasons, he truly blossomed. So did the actor who portrayed him.

Nabors, who died Nov. 30 at 87, made Pvt. Gomer Pyle a perfect foil for the immovable object of Marines boot camp: Grinning, gentle Gomer was the irresistible force.

On Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., a spin-off from The Andy Griffith Show that premiered in 1964, Gomer arrived in the fictional Camp Henderson with a happy attitude and eager innocence that flew in the face of everything he found awaiting him there, especially irascible Sgt. Vince Carter, played by Frank Sutton.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
Publicity photo of Jim Nabors (left) and Frank Sutton from the television program ‘Gomer Pyle USMC,’ May 3, 1968.

It’s a measure of Nabors’ skill in inhabiting the anything-but-militaristic Gomer that this character was widely beloved, and the show a Top 10 hit, during an era when the Vietnam War was dividing America. His trademark “Shazam,” ″Gollllll-lee,” and “Surprise, surprise, surprise” were parroted by millions.

But Nabors had another character to offer his fans: himself, a booming baritone. In appearances on TV variety programs, he stunned viewers with the contrast between his twangy, homespun humor (“The tornado was so bad a hen laid the same egg twice”) and his full-throated vocals.

He was a double threat, as he demonstrated for two seasons starting in 1969 on “The Jim Nabors Hour,” a variety series where he joshed with guest stars, did sketches with Sutton and fellow Gomer veteran Ronnie Schell, and sang country and opera.

Offstage and off-camera, Nabors retained some of the awed innocence of Gomer. At the height of his fame in 1969, he admitted, “I still find it difficult to believe this kind of acceptance. I still don’t trust it.”

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
Jim Nabors’ headshot for a USO performance. (Image from USMC)

After his variety show, Nabors continued earning high salaries in Las Vegas showrooms and in concert theaters across the country. He recorded more than two dozen albums and sang with the Dallas and St. Louis symphony orchestras.

During the 1970s, he moved to Hawaii, buying a 500-acre macadamia ranch. He still did occasional TV work, and in the late 1970s, he appeared 10 months annually at Hilton hotels in Hawaii. The pace gave him an ulcer.

Read Also: The 12 most iconic roles in military movie history

“I was completely burned out,” he later recalled. “I’d had it with the bright lights.”

In the early 1980s, his longtime friendship with Burt Reynolds led to roles in “Stroker Ace,” ″Cannonball II,” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

He returned to concert and nightclub performances in 1985, though at a less intensive pace. Among his regular gigs was singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the Indianapolis 500 each year, which he first did in 1972. That first time, he wrote the lyrics on his hand so he wouldn’t forget.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
Honorary Marine Cpl. Jim Nabors sings ‘Silent Night’ during the Second Annual Na Mele o na Keiki, ‘Music for the Children’ Dec. 9 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center, Dec. 9, 2009. (Photo by Sgt. Scott Whittington)

“I’ve never thought of (the audience reaction) as relating to me,” Nabors said. “It is applauding for the tradition of the race and the excitement.”

Illness forced him to cancel his appearance in 2007, the first one he had missed in more than 20 years. But he was back performing at Indy in 2008, saying, “It’s always the main part of my year. It just thrills you to your bones.”

In 1991, Nabors was thrilled to get a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. He was joined for the ceremony by pals Carol Burnett, Loni Anderson, Phyllis Diller, and Florence Henderson. His reaction? “Gollllll-lee!”

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
Publicity photo of guest star Molly Picon and Jim Nabors from the television program Gomer Pyle USMC. (Image from CBS)

Nabors, who had undergone a liver transplant in 1994 after contracting hepatitis B, died at his home in Hawaii after his health had declined for the past year, said his husband, Stan Cadwallader, who was by his side.

“Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that’s all we can say about him. He’s going to be dearly missed,” Cadwallader said.

The couple married in early 2013 in Washington state, where gay marriage had recently been made legal. Nabors’ friends had known for years that he was gay, but he had never said anything to the media.

“It’s pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something,” Nabors told Hawaii News Now at the time. “And at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.”

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
Jim Nabors (right), honorary Marine sergeant who played Gomer Pyle in a television show laughs while his biography is read during a conference room dedication ceremony at Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii, June 9, 2015. Nabors laughed when his biography stated he was given the rank of private for 37 years before being awarded honorary lance corporal. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Anderson)

An authentic, small-town, Southern boy, he was born James Thurston Nabors in Sylacauga, Alabama, in 1930, the son of a police officer. Boyhood attacks of asthma required long periods of rest, during which he learned to entertain his playmates with vocal tricks.

After graduating from the University of Alabama, he worked in New York City for a time, and later, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he was an assistant film editor and occasional singer at a TV station.

He moved on to Hollywood with hopes of using his voice. While cutting film at NBC in the daytime, he sang at night at a Santa Monica club.

“I was up there on the stage the night that Andy Griffith came in,” Nabors recalled in 1965. “He said to me afterward, ‘You know somethin,’ boy? You’re good. I’m going to bring my manager around to see you.'”

Nabors soon landed a guest shot on Griffith’s sitcom as Gomer Pyle. That grew into a regular role as Gomer proved a kindred spirit with other Mayberry locals. By then, he had proved he was also a kindred spirit with millions of viewers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Inside one of Iran’s insane assassination plots

On June 30, 2018, Rudy Giuliani was set to speak at an annual conference in France, organized by Iranian expatriates, opposed to the regime in Tehran. Intelligence agents from the Islamic Republic were planning to blow up part of that conference.

European security agencies were tipped off on the June 30th plot by the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service. They managed to thwart the attack just in time.


France and other European countries are trying to salvage their parts of the U.S.-scrapped Iranian Nuclear Agreement. The discovery of an Iranian terror plot on French soil might upend the whole effort, according to the Wall Street Journal, in a week that saw another foiled Iranian plot against expatriate dissidents, this time in Denmark.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned

The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Iran is targeting a group known as MEK, Mujahedin-e Khalq, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. The group’s stated goal is the overthrowing of the Islamic regime in Iran and the establishment of its own form of government. The MEK has been an active political player in Iran since 1965 but fled during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, like others who were vying for power after the abdication of the Shah.

The group has promoted the ouster of the Ayatollah and the regime in Iran ever since. This gets MEK a lot of attention from Iranian intelligence services.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned

“Daniel” aka Assadollah Assadi.

(RFE/RL)

Amir Saadouni left Iran some ten years ago and was granted asylum in Belgium as a member of MEK. Shortly after arriving, he met Nasimeh Naami, the woman that would soon be his wife. It wasn’t long before Assdouni was approached by a man calling himself “Daniel,” who worked for Iranian intelligence.

“Daniel” was really Assadollah Assadi, Third Counselor at the Iranian embassy in Vienna. His agency took orders directly from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and he wanted Saadouni to spy on MEK for Iran. Assadi offered thousands of Euros for the information he wanted — he also promised to make life hard for Saadouni’s family in Iran if he didn’t help.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned

Amir Saadouni, 38 years old, waving the Iranian flag of the MEK.

Saadouni agreed, of course. For years, he attended MEK meetings around Europe and reported his findings back to “Daniel.” Assadi would grill Saadouni about the meetings, even revealing information that he could only get from having other spies in the MEK. But the money was good and Saadouni’s family was safe. That’s when things took a turn.

The Iranian agent ordered Saadouni and his wife to become regular visitors at MEK meetings outside Paris, ones who regularly hosted anti-Iranian speakers. One day, “Daniel” wanted more than information. He wanted Saadouni’s wife to carry a makeup pouch containing explosives to one of the meetings and set it off there.

Investigators told the press the explosive was little more than a firecracker. It would make a loud noise but was unlikely to hurt anyone. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called it a false flag attack designed to end cooperation between Iran and Europe.

Saadouni and his wife were arrested in Brussels, along with Assadollah Assadi and one other, noted as an accomplice to Assadi. This is the first instance of an Iranian diplomat being directly linked to any kind of attack in Europe. Two Iranian dissidents were killed in 2015 in the Netherlands which resulted in the expulsion of two Iranian diplomats, but Dutch authorities have yet to charge anyone.

Assadi was recently extradited to Belgium to face potential charges related to the bombing plot.

MIGHTY TRENDING

N. Korea reopens suspended communication with S. Korea

North Korea will reopen a communications channel with South Korea, it announced on Jan. 3.


A North Korean official said on state television that the country will reopen the suspended inter-Korean communication line Jan. 3, at approximately 6:30 a.m. GMT.

The official was Ri Son-kwon, the head of North Korea’s agency that handles inter-Korean affairs. He said Kim Jong Un had made the request to allow for discussions about sending a delegation to February’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Doctors confirm that Russian activist likely poisoned
Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

There are reports that the statement also touched on creating close ties with South Korea.

The dialogue channel will be reactivated at the Panmunjeom, the “truce village” where South Korea offered to hold talks between the two countries on Jan. 9.

The press secretary for South Korea’s president indicated this is a move towards regular contact between the two countries.

“I believe it signals a move toward an environment where communication will be possible at all times,” Yoon Young-chan told press, reported Yonhap.

According to Korea’s flagship public international broadcaster KBS, South Korea’s Unification Ministry attempted to contact North Korea at 9 a.m. on Jan. 2 via the hotline at Panmunjom, but got no response.

Also Read: North Korea may stop launching missiles for the winter

The channel between the two countries was cut by North Korea in February 2016, after Seoul closed a joint commercial project in response to the North’s rocket launches.

The announcement comes two days after Kim Jong Un said he would be open to discussions with South Korea about the Olympics.

News also emerged Jan. 3 that Kim’s announcement came just a month after repeated contact attempts by South Korea. Among a small number of meetings last month, officials from both countries had a two hour discussion about the Olympics on the sideline of a football competition in China last month.

During that speech, Kim also said he had a “nuclear button” on his desk. Today, U.S. President Donald Trump responded by saying he also had a nuclear button that is “bigger and more powerful.”

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