The Taliban says it has appointed five militants who spent more than a decade in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay to be members of its political office in Qatar, where they will take part in any future Afghanistan peace talks.
The five former Taliban commanders — Mohammad Fazl, Mohammed Nabi, Khairullah Khairkhwa, Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Noorullah Noori — were settled in Qatar following their release from the U.S. detention center in Cuba in 2014, but until now had not been directly involved in political activities, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Oct. 31, 2018.
The men were released as part of a prisoner exchange in return for former Taliban captive, U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl.
The Taliban announcement came amid gathering momentum for talks to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.
Qatar has emerged as a principal contact point between the Taliban and the U.S. government. In October 2018, Taliban officials met the recently appointed U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in the Qatari capital, Doha, where the militants have a political office that serves as a de facto embassy.
Recently appointed U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.
They met there in 2018 with U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells.
Taliban officials said the five Taliban commanders were close to the militant group’s late founder, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and are also close to its current leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada.
One Taliban official told Reuters that as former Guantanamo prisoners, they had been subject to restrictions on their movements, but they are now free to travel and attend peace negotiations.
The appointments follow the release by Pakistan in October 2018 of senior Taliban figure Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
A Taliban official told AFP the group had requested the release of Baradar and several others at the meeting with Khalilzad.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union had a problem. Well, to be honest, they had over a dozen problems: United States Navy carrier battle groups. Each American aircraft carrier was able to bring in five squadrons of tactical jets to take down targets on land, and the Soviets got a good look at what carrier air wings could do in the Vietnam War.
The Soviet’s Tupolev Tu-16 Badger simply could not be counted on to counter this massive threat and survive, so they started looking for better options. The first effort to replace the Badger, the Tu-22 Blinder, was a disappointment. It had high speed, making it harder for opposing fighters to intercept, but it wasn’t the easiest plane to fly. So, Tupolev tried to field a new replacement.
What emerged was a plane that would dominate the nightmares of American admirals. The Tu-22M Backfire had high performance and wouldn’t struggle with any of the many issues that plagued the Blinder.
There are some key differences between the Tu-22 Blinder and the Tu-22M Backfire. One of the biggest changes was the addition of a fourth crew member to the three-man crew of the Blinder. The primary armament also changed. Unlike its predecessors, which made heavy use of gravity bombs, the Backfire is primarily a missile shooter. Its main weapon was the AS-4 Kitchen, a missile with a range of 310 miles that carries either a 350-kiloton nuclear warhead or a one-ton conventional warhead. The AS-4 can hit targets on land or ships at sea.
The Backfire entered service in 1972. It has a top speed of 1,243 miles per hour and is capable of mid-air refueling. The capability was reportedly deleted after the START treaty, but Russia’s compliance with arms control treaties has been dubious in recent years.
Learn more about this lethal bomber in the video below:
The invasion of Iwo Jima was one of the most costly battles in the Pacific in World War II, largely because the aerial bombings and naval artillery bombardments that preceded the invasion failed to do serious damage to the 22,000 Japanese troops or their network of 1,500 bunkers and reinforced rooms carved into the island.
The Marines were forced to fight bitterly for nearly every yard of the island, and Japanese defenders emerged from hidden caves and bunkers at night to kidnap, torture, and kill American invaders.
Modern Marines would enjoy two big advantages that their predecessors lacked — night vision devices, including thermal and infrared technologies and bunker-busting weapons like thermobaric warheads. Other modern advances like counter-fire radar would play a role as well.
When the invasions first hit the beaches in 1945, the Japanese defenders refused to heavily contest the landings. Instead, they huddled in their miles of tunnels and waited for the Marines to come to them across minefields or to group up where mortars and artillery could kill many Americans in one hit.
Harriers and Hornets launching from amphibious assault ships could then hit these positions with guided bombs. Destroying the weapons would require accurate hits, but that’s sort of the point of precision weapons. And, if the Marine pilots brought along their F-35Bs, they could potentially carry the high velocity penetrating weapon, a bunker buster small enough to be carried on a smaller jet.
Meanwhile, the infantry Marines would find themselves with more options than their World War II counterparts. While the flamethrower — which was so important at Iwo Jima — is now a thing of the past, thermobaric rounds for the SMAW and other missiles would make up the difference.
The SMAW-Novel Explosive warhead is fired through an opening or thin wall of a a cave, building, or bunker and disperses a metal cloud that is then ignited, causing a large explosion that overpressurizes the area, killing or severely wounding everyone inside.
And other missiles like the TOW and Javelin are no slouches against bunkers.
With the Marines capable of destroying bunkers anytime the Japanese compromise their camouflage by firing from them, the defenders would fall back to their other major tactic on Iwo Jima, creeping out under cover of night to hit the Americans.
But this would go even worse for them. While night vision was in its infancy in 1945, modern systems can amplify ambient light (what’s typically happening in green-tinted night devices), detect infrared energy (black and white night vision), or provide a detailed thermal map (blue, green, orange, yellow, and red vision). Any of these night optics would be able to see Japanese troops.
Aviation assets with infrared and light-amplifying devices could watch any defenders crawling from their bunkers and either hit them or report their locations to infantry and artillery units. The infantrymen could strongpoint their camps with vehicle and tripod mounted machine guns and missile systems with night optics.
Between the two, the Marines would enjoy a massive advantage in night fighting. Even if the defenders had their own systems, the 2017 Marines would be in a better position than their 1945 counterparts since in 1945 the Japanese were able to own the night. In 2017, they would be evenly matched at worst.
With the shift in power with modern technology, the Marines might even take Iwo Jima while inflicting greater casualties than they suffered. As it was, the Iwo Jima invasion was the only major engagement in World War II where they didn’t inflict more casualties than they suffered.
Iran’s supreme leader has restricted the range of ballistic missiles manufactured in the country to 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles), the head of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said Oct. 31, which limits their reach to only regional Mideast targets.
The comments by Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari to reporters mark the first acknowledgement that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has imposed limits on the country’s ballistic missile program.
It also appears to be an effort by Iranian authorities to contrast its program, which they often describe as for defensive purposes, against those of countries like North Korea, which now uses its arsenal to threaten the United States.
“It is a political decision,” said Michael Elleman, the senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington. “I think with the supreme leader saying it, it takes on a little more significance.”
The range of 2,000 kilometers encompasses much of the Middle East, including Israel and American military bases in the region. That’s caused concern for the US and its allies, even as Iran’s ballistic missile program was not included as part of the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran struck with world powers.
Speaking on the sidelines of a conference in Tehran, Jafari told journalists that the capability of Iran’s ballistic missiles is “enough for now.” The Guard runs Iran’s missile program, answering only to Khamenei.
“Today, the range of our missiles, as the policies of the Iran’s supreme leader dictate, are limited to 2,000 kilometers, even though we are capable of increasing this range,” he said. “Americans, their forces, and their interests are situated within a 2,000-kilometer radius around us and we are able to respond to any possible desperate attack by them.”
However, Jafari said he didn’t believe there would be any war between Iran and the US.
“They know that if they begin a war between Iran and the United States, they will definitely be the main losers and their victory will by no means be guaranteed,” he said. “Therefore, they won’t start a war.”
While keeping with the anti-American tone common in his speeches, Jafari’s comments seemed to be timed to calm tension over Iran’s missile program.
By limiting their range, Iran can contrast itself against threatening countries like North Korea, as Pyongyang has tested developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the US mainland and conducted its most powerful nuclear test to date. Pyongyang also flew two powerful new midrange missiles over Japan, between threats to fire the same weapons toward Guam, a US Pacific territory and military hub.
The Trump administration already sanctioned Iran for test-firing a ballistic missile in February, with then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn warning Tehran that Iran was “on notice.” President Donald Trump’s recent refusal to re-certify the nuclear accord has sent the matter to the US Congress. On Oct. 26, the US House of Representatives voted to put new sanctions on Iran for its pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles, without derailing the deal.
Iran long has insisted its ballistic missiles are for defensive purposes. It suffered a barrage of Scud missiles fired by Iraq after dictator Saddam Hussein launched an eight-year war with his neighbor in the 1980s that killed 1 million people. To build its own program, Tehran purchased North Korean missiles and technology, providing much-needed cash to heavily sanctioned Pyongyang.
Iran today likely has the capability to go beyond 2,000 kilometers with its Khorramshahr ballistic missile, though it chose to limit its range by putting a heavier warhead on it in testing, Elleman said.
“It will be interesting to see how Iran reconciles this Khorramshahr missile with the supreme leader’s dictate,” he said. “Iran may say, ‘Well, we’re fitting it with this big warhead so we’re not exceeding this limitation,’ but the modification is very simple.”
The Gulf Arab nations surrounding Iran, while hosting American military bases, also fly sophisticated US fighter jets that Iranian forces can’t match. The ballistic missiles provide leverage against them, as well as the US-made anti-missile batteries their neighbors have bought, according to Tytti Erasto, a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
“Iran’s pattern of missile testing — which has sought to address the long-standing problem of poor accuracy — is consistent with the program’s stated purpose as a regional deterrent,” Erasto wrote Oct. 30. “It also reinforces the argument that Iran’s missiles are designed to be conventional, not nuclear.”
Still, Iran could use the missiles as “a tool of coercion and intimidation,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, the senior Iran analyst at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which takes a hard line on Tehran and is skeptical of the nuclear deal.
“A secure Islamic Republic that does not fear kinetic reprisal is more likely to engage in low-level proxy wars and foreign adventurism, much like we see today,” he said.
Meanwhile on Oct. 31, Iran broke ground at its Bushehr nuclear power plant for two more atomic reactors to generate electricity. State television quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying the first new reactor would go online in seven years, while a third would be active in nine years.
Russia will provide assistance in building the new reactors as Moscow helped bring Bushehr online in 2011. It marks the first expansion of Iran’s nuclear power industry since the atomic accord.
Ask the Federal Communications Commission’s Patrick Webre when he last received a robocall, and he’ll quickly tell you: yesterday. “I don’t think I’ve received any today,” he says, “but it’s a pretty regular occurrence for me.”
This, of course, only illustrates the extent of America’s problem with automated phone calls. If the chief of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, which oversees rule making efforts regarding issues including robocalls, is himself a repeated victim, are any of us safe from the annoyance?
The stats back it up: In 2017, there were around 30.7 billion robocalls made. The following year? Almost 48 billion. If you were to do the math, the average American would receive a machine-operated call approximately every other day. But some end up receiving way more. One Florida woman received thousands of calls from Wells Fargo bank, with as many as 23 per day. The state you live in can also have an effect. Living in Georgia; Washington, D.C.; or Louisiana? They’re the three states with area codes that receive the greatest number of robocalls per person, with an average of 55 per day, according to a recent report. “We get more robocalls during the day than we do real phone calls,” one resident said. With the number of calls the average American receives coming fast and furious, the machines seem to be winning.
“There’s no silver bullet here,” Webre says, “so we’re taking a multi-pronged approach.”
In the last two years, the FCC has been going hard at these companies, levying over 0 million in fines to businesses found in breach of existing regulations. “It’s not only our top consumer complaint, but it’s also our top consumer protection priority,” Webre adds.
Fatherly spoke Webre on a particularly good day (any day without robocalls is a good day) and he recommended measures everyone can take to reduce the presence of robocalls in their life.
1. Do not pick up
When you receive a call from an unknown number, do not answer it. “Our first guidance is, if you don’t recognize the phone number, you should let it go voicemail,” Webre says. The reason for this is simple: Human interaction can be detected by the computer monitoring on the other line, even if you just hang up after a few seconds. This, however, can start a chain reaction in which your number can be marked for increased calling. By screening for unknown numbers, in the system you’re just another no-response.
2. Check with Your Phone Provider
“Phone companies are providing blocking tools for consumers both on the landline and on the wireless side,” Webre says. Does your provider have these? Best give them a call and ask. In March 2019, Verizon rolled out free services to its wireless customers, simply requiring a signup. ATT and T-Mobile introduced these services two years ago gratis, while Sprint offers a service for an added monthly fee. To activate, you’ll need to contact your carrier to opt in while also having a device that can shoulder the workload. Still, for many, this should be the first line of defense.
Third-party app makers have jumped into the game with both feet, and they’re providing more and more sophisticated tools to prevent unwanted contact. The FCC even has a handy list here. While each of these apps has its own special sauce, generally speaking, each scans a mega-database of all reported robocall numbers. What it does from there varies. One blocks calls en masse. Another allows you to automatically send calls to voicemail so that you may manually report them to the FCC at a later date. One even allows you to record your own pre-recorded gibberish to was these companies’ time in a cathartic action of schadenfreude.
4. Add yourself to the “Do Not Call” list
Of course, the preexisting “Do Not Call” list continues to grow, and legitimate telemarketers are required to check it and abide by your decision or face stiff fines. After navigating its multi-step verification process, your information is recorded, which should cut your number of unwanted calls. Furthermore, you can also report additional harassing numbers. But one word of caution for those to whom it seems like a catchall panacea: “Unfortunately it doesn’t work well when you have a scammer trying to reach consumers,” Webre says. “They’re not going to check the ‘Do Not Call’ list.”
5. Report every ring
Finally, report any number guilty of harassment, unwanted phone calls, or texts directly to the FCC. Webre says it’s Pai’s most important priority right now, and he’s bringing down a multi-stranded hammer, which includes working with carriers to eliminate the scourge of robocalls from the public experience: “If your phone doesn’t ring, you’re not frustrated, you’re not getting an unwanted call, and we’re all better off for that.”
Most people in the U.S. will be exposed to the coronavirus, according to the National Institutes of Health. But not everyone with COVID-19 develops a cough and fever. For every infected person who shows symptoms, five to ten others are asymptomatic, meaning they look and feel just fine for the duration of having the virus, but are spreading the virus fast. This is what social distancing is all about: Stay home, wash your hands often, clean your space and hopefully you’ll be able to avoid the asymptomatic spread. But when someone in your house is showing symptoms or simply knows that they’ve come into contact with someone who has been tested and found to have the virus a different kind of quarantine is required. You need a quarantine within a quarantine. The infected need to isolate within your own home.
In these situations, the goal is to isolate the sick person from the world, and the members of their household, for two weeks. It isn’t easy, but there are steps to take that can give those not infected a fighting chance. Here’s how to proceed.
This Is the Time for a Mask
While there has been much controversy over masks — primarily aimed at those healthy folks hoarding them while hospitals run out — if you have someone sick at home, they should be wearing one while around others in the house. If they don’t own one, you can try making your own out of household materials or cover your mouth with a bandana. “In this critical time we’re having, anything is better than nothing,” says Sophia Thomas, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Leave Them Alone
Designate a room in your house where those who are sick can spend the next two weeks, and stay out of it as much as possible. If you don’t have a bedroom they can hole up in alone, keep your distance. “The most important thing is to try to stay six feet away from one another,” says Georges Benjamin, director of the American Public Health Association. Don’t let visitors into the home, especially those at high risk, such as grandparents.
If the sick person does have a room of their own, check up on them several times per day. Ask how they’re doing through the door or give them a video call if they aren’t too ill. If the infected person has more serious symptoms, you may have to venture inside, but take precautions including distance and gloves. If the person feels well enough to bend down, leave their meals outside the door.
Of course, sending a five-year-old to their room for two weeks is basically impossible. Don’t panic. “You do the best you can,” Benjamin says. Reduce your risk of infection by cleaning surfaces kids touch frequently, such as toys. Pay attention to your own cleanliness, too. “The most practical thing for most parents is to simply wash their hands as often as they can,” Benjamin says.
If a surface is visibly dirty, first clean it with a detergent and water. Then, disinfect it with a product that can kill viruses, such as bleach. Even if they look clean, wipe down high-touch surfaces with detergent and water often, including doorknobs, counters, tables, light switches, remote controls, cabinet handles, and sink handles. “The more frequently, the better,” Thomas says, but at least once daily. Use disposable gloves while cleaning, and don’t reuse them.
Appoint a bathroom for those who are ill, or, if you only have one, make sure it has good airflow. If the whole family must share a bathroom, immediately clean and disinfect after the sick person uses it.
Family members should not clean the room of someone who is ill, though the sick person may clean their own room if they’re up to the task. The sick person should use their own lined trash can, and family members should wear disposable gloves while disposing of the bag. Household members should also use gloves while doing the sick person’s laundry and washing their dishes.
Holy Crap, Is It Ever Time to Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands often, for at least twenty seconds after using the bathroom, before eating, and after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose. Don’t share towels to dry your hands on. In fact, don’t share anything, including unwashed dishes and eating utensils. Avoid touching your face and wash laundry thoroughly, particularly if it is soiled by bodily fluids.
Hopefully Your Dog’s Loyalty Lies With the Quarantined
“We want to keep all of our family members healthy, and that includes our furry family members,” Thomas says. Though there are no cases of pets contracting COVID-19, sick family members should avoid petting their cats and dogs and should ask a different household member to care for them. If the sick person must pet a pup, they should wash their hands before and after contact and wear a facemask while interacting. They should also avoid sharing a bed with their fur baby.
How to Feed Yourself
If you’re anything like the rest of the country, you probably have a sufficient stockpile of snacks. If you do run out of food, don’t go to the grocery store. Stock up your pantry using an online grocery service or order delivery from a restaurant. Pay online beforehand and ask the deliverer to leave the package outside your front door. You can also ask a neighbor or relative to deliver a care package to your door.
5 Signs You Need to Go to the Emergency Room
Before you go to the ER, call ahead. Let them know if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and any other symptoms you may be experiencing.
Difficulty breathing: If breathing is painful or hard to do, seek immediate help.
Blue around the lips: A blue tint to the lips, tongue, and skin of the face means you may not be getting enough blood flow to your head.
Fever that won’t come down: If medications such as Tylenol can’t bring down your fever, seek help.
Chest pain: Though many people with COVID-19 may feel chest pain, significant pain deserves an emergency call.
Worsening of other conditions: The virus can exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as asthma.
He was injured while serving as an Infantry Officer during Vietnam, and after months of surgeries and recovery, he extended his commitment to teach counterinsurgency tactics before finally separating.
Deep down, Smallwood is a soulful artist. An actor, writer, singer, and musician, he has made a career for himself in theater and on-screen, but it’s his writing and his music that really makes him stand out.
We Are The Mighty sat down with him to talk about his relationship with music.
“I can hear some music and know the setting behind it, and it just goes straight to my part that feels.”
He couldn’t speak when he woke up in the hospital in Vietnam, but rest assured, his voice healed and transformed into something rich and soothing.
Check out his video, not only for the Battle Mix that makes him think of his time in service, but for a performance with his acoustic guitar that will leave you wanting more:
The three Americans who thwarted a terrorist attack on a train bound for Paris will be playing themselves in the upcoming film “The 15:17 to Paris,” directed by Clint Eastwood.
According to a report by the Hollywood Reporter, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone will be acting alongside Jenna Fischer (The Office), Judy Greer, and Ray Croasini in the film. Eastwood, whose films Sully and American Sniper both garnered Academy Award nominations, is producing the film with Tim Moore, Kristina Rivera and Jessica Meier. According to Variety.com, filming of the project began on Tuesday.
TheTrackingBoard.com had reported that Eastwood had initially wanted to cast Kyle Gallner, Jeremie Harris and Alexander Ludwig as the three heroes in the film, which is based on a book by Sadler, Skarlatos, and Stone.
On August 21, 2015, Skarlatos, an Oregon National Guard soldier, Stone, an Airman assigned to the 65th Air Base Group, and Sadler, a high school classmate who was attending college, thwarted an attack being carried out by a “lone wolf” terrorist who had an AKM assault rifle. Skarlatos, Stone, and Sadler tackled the gunman, whose rifle had jammed, then Stone, a medic, treated a passenger who had been shot in the neck by the jihadist, despite being wounded himself. Skarlatos received the Soldier’s Medal for his actions that day, while Stone received the Airman’s Medal and Purple Heart. Sadler was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal of Valor.
Master Sgt. Tanya Hubbard, 60th Medical Group, left, and Staff Sgt. Roberto Davila, 60th Medical Group, right, tack staff sergeant stripes on to Spencer Stone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken Wright)
The casting of Skarlatos, Stone, and Sadler is not the first time a military hero portrayed himself. In 1955, Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy portrayed himself in “To Hell and Back,” based on his 1949 memoirs. It should also be noted that in 2012, the movie Act of Valor starred Navy SEALs as themselves, but in a fictional scenario. The SEALs were not formally credited in the movie directed by Scott Waugh and “Mouse” McCoy.
Pugh was working as a commercial airplane mechanic in Kuwait, but was fired in December 2014. The next month, authorities say he purchased a one-way ticket to Istanbul through Cairo, where Pugh refused to let Turkish authorities search his laptop. The Turks sent him packing back to Egypt. Once back in Egypt, security officers found a number of damaged electronics. The Egyptians deported Pugh back to the United States.
Once there, Pugh told an undercover law enforcement agent he was indeed trying to join the terrorist group. Prosecutors say his laptop had Islamist propaganda videos on it, along with a letter to a woman he married in Egypt in 2014, where he vowed to “defend the ISIS.”
The FBI says Pugh converted to Islam in 1998 while living and working Texas. Former co-workers say he became radicalized, openly sympathizing with Osama bin Laden.
He was indicted by a grand jury in Brooklyn on two charges, including attempting to provide material support to a terror organization. Twenty-three Americans have been charged for trying to fight for ISIS. Pugh pled not guilty.
We like to make fun of the Golden Globes. With awards given out by a voting body of around 90 people, it’s easy to take shots when it comes to its relevancy during award season. But one thing we can’t dispute is the award show can be a huge marketing tool, and that was evident this weekend with “1917.”
Universal’s World War I drama from director Sam Mendes (“Skyfall”), that is told in stle that resembles the look of having continuous shot (in reality there were multiple shots), won the Globes’ top prize, best motion picture — drama, and that catapulted it to must-see-status this weekend.
The result: “1917” dethroned “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” from the number one spot at the domestic box office with its estimated .5 million take.
Mendes’ movie had been in limited release since Christmas (to date, “1917” has brought in .39 million, worldwide), building awareness as well as award season buzz, but this weekend was its coming out party. Clearly moviegoers wanted to catch a glimpse of the movie that beat out the likes of “The Irishman” and “Joker” at the Golden Globes (Mendes also won the best director Globe). They also wanted to see for themselves how in the world Mendes and the movie’s cinematographer, Roger Deakins, pulled off the one-shot look of the movie.
We’ll find out Monday morning how “1917” will be received by Academy voters, as Oscar nominations are announced then. But for now, you have to tip your hat to Universal for how it has released its latest original title.
That’s the other element of this box office win. Universal has cracked the code when it comes to getting top dollar out of its non IP/sequel titles. In 2019 it did better than any other studio by having three original titles top the box office their opening weekends (“Us,” “Good Boys,” and “Abominable”), and it’s continuing that in the new year.
There are only so many weekend slots on the calendar that are not gobbled up by big tentpole titles, but recently Universal has been the king of finding those spots where its original titles can shine. And in the case of “1917,” with its big Golden Globes night, that just amplified things. Its .5 million take tops its early projections of million to million, andupdated projection of million.
Disney’s “Rise of Skywalker” came in second place with .1 million. The movie’s global cume to date is just under id=”listicle-2644736909″ billion, 9.6 million. But Disney also had to deal with a dud this weekend, too, with its release of Fox’s “Underwater.” The thriller starring Kristen Stewart only took in million on over 2,700 screens.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Video games are known for over-the-top weaponry. In the universe of games, a seemingly tiny blonde dude can easily swing around the giant Buster Sword (see: Final Fantasy VII) and a kid with a mask is given free reign to swing around a ridiculously shaped, dual-bladed sword (see: The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask).
In real life, getting your hands on these incredible weapons is a much more painstaking endeavor than simply showing up at a store and dropping a few rupees or a couple hundred gil. Tony Swatton of Burbank, California’s Sword and Stone and the crew over at Baltimore Knife and Sword take pride in forging authentic, legitimate versions of pop-culture’s finest weaponry. Together, they formed the web series, Man at Arms: Reforged, which you can find on YouTube.
Let’s set the bar extremely high right off the bat with a look at their work on a Warhammer 40K Chainsword:
Swatton is a self-taught blacksmith who got his start working on Steven Spielberg’s Hook and has been creating weapons and armor for film and television ever since. His work can also be seen on the official World of Warcraft channel in a series called Azeroth Armory.
The show expanded to Maryland and added Baltimore’s Knife and Sword crew at the start of the second season. Since then, the channel has achieved internet stardom by bringing the viewers along for the ride as they create some of the most interesting weapons from film, television, and gaming. Behind each weapon is a very long, methodical process. Each weapon takes as long as 200 hours to forge, which is distilled down into a single 10-minute video segment.
They’re also not afraid to take on historical recreations, such as a 400-year old Chinese Dandao:
Each project requires a unique approach but, in general, they employ plasma cutting to get the desired shape out of steel, mold the intricate details out of clay for a bronze cast, spend days perfecting every minute detail, and then finally assemble, sharpen, and test their new weapon.
They create content based off of YouTube comments, so if you can think of an awesome weapon that isn’t in their nearly 150-video-long catalog, leave a suggestion!
A senior Army modernization official today said that the service’s new Squad Designated Marksman Rifle will be the 7.62mm Heckler Koch G28.
The Army selected the G28 as its new Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System in 2016 to replace its M110 Semi-automatic Sniper System — a move that will provide snipers with a shorter rifle that doesn’t stick out to the enemy as a sniper weapon.
Now, the Army plans to start fielding the G28 in 2018 to infantry squads as the service’s standard SDMR, Lt. Gen. John Murray, deputy chief of staff for Army G8, told Military.com.
The Army has money in the fiscal 2018 budget earmarked for the SDMR program, said Murray, who did not have the exact figure listed in the budget.
Equipping squads with a new 7.62mm SDMR is the first step in a two-phase effort to ensure units have the capability to penetrate enemy body armor.
May 2017, Gen. Mark Milley testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the service’s current M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round will not defeat enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.
The revelation launched an ad hoc effort to acquire new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle, mainly for infantry units, but the idea quickly lost momentum.
Then, in early February 2018, Murray told members of Congress that the new SDMR is a phase one; phase two would be to field a more powerful replacement to the M249 squad automatic weapon, which is chambered for 5.56mm.
The presence of a 7.62mm rifle in the squad formation is nothing new, but units currently have to turn in their SDMRs at the end of a combat deployment.
Since 2009, the Army’s SBR has been the Enhanced Battle Rifle 14, a modernized M14 equipped with a Sage International adjustable aluminum stock with pistol grip, a Leupold 3.5×10 power scope and Harris bipod legs.
The Army adopted the EBR concept, first used in 2004 by Navy SEALs, in response to the growing need of infantry squads operating in Afghanistan to engage enemy fighters at longer ranges.
In 1096, Pope Urban II took a good hard look at this new “crossbow” thing and gave it all of the nopes. No Christians were to use it in any battle against a fellow Christian on the punishment of excommunication and eternal damnation of the soul. But the weapon that would act as the precursor to the rifle was simply too valuable to leave on a shelf.
A figure depicting a crossbowman who helped execute Saint Sebastian in the later 15th Century.
(Gun Powder Ma, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Crossbows were already an old weapon when European knights first ran into them in the 900s. Ancient Europeans had used similar weapons, but crossbow-like designs had fallen out of favor in Europe by the year 500 A.D., and few Europeans would’ve recognized them before their resurgence in the late 900s and 1000s.
But French use, as well as use by Eastern nations who had never stopped using the weapon, brought it back into the lexicon of European warfare.
And Western knights did not like it. Their armor protected them from most weapons they would face with the exception of the longbow, a weapon that took years to learn and decades to master. But crossbows could slice right through the armor at greater range than even a longbow, and shooters could be trained in hours or days.
The French were the ones who brought the crossbow back into European warfare. The English had a huge advantage when it came to bowmen, especially longbowmen, and France and England fought often. But while crossbow shooters could fire at greater ranges and with less training than soldiers equipped with a longbow, the weapon did have disadvantages.
Crossbows fire only two rounds per minute while good archers with longbows could fire 10. And crossbow units needed supporting staff and spare parts that weren’t necessary with traditional archers. They were also more susceptible to weather damage because it was harder to remove and replace their sensitive strings.
Saint Sebastian was martyred by archers, reportedly at least one of which was using a crossbow.
(Hans Baldung, public domain)
But it couldn’t last. Kings used the weapons against pagans and Muslims, but then had to leave the men behind while fighting against each other in Europe. By the early 1200s, they were once again common in European combat. Crossbowmen played a crucial role for Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1238.
In fact, just a year later, Pope Gregory IV used mounted crossbowmen against the Lombard League, an alliance of European kingdoms that were all Christian. Yeah, the allure of crossbow power was so strong that a pope employed them against Christian forces.