A new study was recently released by the VA that monitored the effects of drinking alcohol heavily on a daily basis. In case you weren’t yet aware, regularly binge drinking is bad for you.
So, instead of joining in with the rest of society and bashing the VA for studying the painfully obvious, I’m actually going to take their side. Tracking. Sure, it’s still a gigantic waste of time and money, but it’s clever as f*ck if you think about it. Imagine being a doctor on that study. You’ve got nothing to do for a few months but drink free booze, you’re still getting paid a doctor’s salary, and the answer is clear as day well before you’re done? F*ck yeah! Sign my ass up!
Shout-out to J.D. Simkins at the Military Times for making an actually funny, sarcastic rebuttal to this gigantic waste of time and money.
Although we commemorate Memorial Day each year, the holiday’s origins are rarely discussed. Many countries, especially those that were involved in World War II, have their own iteration of the monument to the soldiers who dedicated their lives to their country’s cause. From its earliest version as Decoration Day, Memorial Day has been a part of an important, reflective moment in the United States. Trace the history of the holiday from its earliest incarnation to the major occasion it is today with these little-known Memorial Day facts.
1. Memorial Day began as a day honoring Union soldiers killed during the Civil War.
After the end of the Civil War, General John A. Logan became the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a group of Union veterans. Logan issued a General Order declaring May 30 as Memorial Day for fallen Union soldiers. For the first years of celebration, Memorial Day and Decoration Day were used interchangeably to refer to the day.
2. Some Southern states still have a separate day of remembrance for Confederate soldiers.
Not long after the Grand Army of the Republic established Memorial Day, Confederate groups organized to create their own commemorative holiday. Although a number of women’s groups, primarily the Ladies Memorial Association, had started to organize day outings to tidy graves and leave flowers, a larger movement began in 1868. By 1890, there was a specific focus on commemorating the Confederacy as well as the soldiers lost. Today, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina continue to celebrate a separate day for the fallen soldiers of the Confederacy.
3. The original date of ‘Decoration Day’ was May 30, chosen because it was not associated with any particular battle.
General Logan chose the date of the original Memorial Day with great care. May 30 was chosen precisely because no major battle occurred on that day. Afraid that choosing a date associated with a major battle like Gettysburg would be perceived as casting soldiers in that battle as more important than other comrades, May 30 was a neutral date that would honor all soldiers equally.
4. The tradition of red poppies honoring fallen soldiers comes from a Canadian poem written during WWI.
Although the wearing of red poppies to honor fallen soldiers is more popular in the United Kingdom and throughout the former British empire, poppies are also associated with Memorial Day in the United States. This tradition was started after Moina Michael, a young poet, was inspired by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”. The opening lines read, “In Flanders field the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row”. The imagery moved Moina, and she decided to wear a red poppy as a symbol of her continued remembrance of those who fought in World War I.
5. The Vietnam War was responsible for Memorial Day becoming a national holiday.
Memorial Day was celebrated regularly across the United States from the mid-1800s on—while it nearly ceased in the early 20th century, the world wars made its commemoration important once more. Yet Memorial Day was not federally recognized until the height of the Vietnam War. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved a number of holidays to a Monday rather than their original day, including Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Veterans Day. In 1971, the Act took effect, making each holiday federally recognized and giving workers additional three-day weekend—in part thanks to the lobbying efforts of the travel industry.
6. Rolling Thunder, a nonprofit that brings attention to prisoners of war and those who remain missing in action, holds a rally every Memorial Day.
In 1987, a group of veterans visited the Vietnam Memorial in D.C. While there, they realized just how pervasive the issue of missing Vietnam soldiers was. The status of over 1,000 soldiers remains unknown to this day. In the ’80s, as many as 2,700 soldiers’ fates were unknown. The men decided to organize a motorcycle rally the day before Memorial Day, hoping to create enough noise—both literal and figurative—that political groups would be forced to pay attention. Since the outset of their rally, an additional 1,100 unknown soldiers have been identified or discovered.
7. Although many towns claim to have been the birthplace of Memorial Day, Waterloo, New York is officially recognized as the first to commemorate the day.
General Logan may have made the first call for a national Memorial Day, but, as discussed earlier, it was far from the only day of remembrance. As early as 1866, people throughout the North and South gathered to memorialize fallen soldiers. Waterloo, New York was one of many towns to have a city-wide commemoration of those lost in the war. And while over two dozen towns and cities claim to be the first to have celebrated this day of remembrance, in 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared Waterloo, New York the official birthplace of Memorial Day—in part because it was the only town to have consistently memorialized the day since its inception.
The Saudi-led coalition began striking the Shiite Muslim Houthis in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis overthrew the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi from the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in 2014.
The Saudi-led coalition has since been accused of conducting unlawful and indiscriminate airstrikes in Yemen, as well as blocking food, fuel, and medicine into the country. Images of emaciated Yemeni adults and children have abounded, and at least eight million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine and one million children are infected with cholera, according to Human Rights Watch.
In a recent strike, the Saudi-led coalition hit a wedding in a village in northwestern Yemen, killing at least 20 civilians and wounding 45 more. The bride in the wedding was among those killed, and the groom was also wounded.
A Pentagon spokesperson, Major Rankine-Galloway, previously told Business Insider that the US sells weapons to countries in the Saudi-led coalition, as well as provides “limited intelligence sharing,” aerial refueling for coalition jets, and training to make coalition airstrikes more precise.
Rankine-Galloway told Business Insider on May 3, 2018, that he could not confirm the Times report “about the deployment of special operations forces,” but provided the following statement:
“The U.S. military has had a mil-to-mil relationship with Saudi Arabia for decades which includes military personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Special Operation Forces providing training, advising, and assisting in a variety of mission areas. The DOD’s limited non-combat support, such as intelligence sharing, focuses on assisting our partners in securing their borders from cross-border attacks from the Houthis and improving coalition processes and procedures, especially regarding compliance with the law of armed conflict and best practices for reducing the risk of civilian casualties. Due to operational security, we cannot comment further on the makeup of forward-deployed forces.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In keeping with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ recent initiatives aimed at pushing gender integration as far as possible across the entire fleet, the U.S. Naval Academy’s Commandant of Midshipmen announced a few nights ago that this year’s female graduates will wear trousers to the graduation ceremony instead of the traditional skirts.
This decision comes on the heels of Mabus ordering a review of job titles across the Navy with an eye on eliminating those that use the word “man” in them. He has also told the Navy SEALs to prepare to accept female candidates into the rigorous training program.
USNA spokesman Cmdr. John Schofield told The Baltimore Sun that the new dress policy will reinforce the idea of “shipmate before self.”
“The graduation and commissioning ceremony at the US Naval Academy is not about individuals,” he said. “It’s about the academy writ large. It’s about the brigade writ large.”
Mabus introduced his gender-neutral uniform initiative during an address at Annapolis last year.
“Rather than highlighting differences in our ranks, we will incorporate everyone as full participants,” he told the Brigade of Midshipmen. “In the Navy and in the Marine Corps, we are trending towards uniforms that don’t divide us as male or female, but rather unite us as sailors or Marines.”
Female cadets at the Air Force Academy are allowed to choose whether to wear trousers or a skirt to graduation, and the entire Corps of Cadets at West Point has worn trousers to the ceremony for years.
The Memphis Belle has received a lot of attention over the years. In 1944, this Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber was the subject of a documentary, entitled Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, that followed an aircrew as they completed their 25th and final mission. Today, we now know that the Memphis Belle was actually the second choice for that documentary — the first was shot down in battle.
Nonetheless, the Memphis Belle was thrust into notoriety and had a place in the public eye. Then, in 1990, that documentary was dramatized and turned into a film, titled Memphis Belle, starring Harry Connick Jr.
Now, you can see the famous bomber itself at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The bomber’s display was formally opened on May 17, 2018, which marked the 75th anniversary of the plane’s 25th mission. But this B-17 bomber endured a long journey before finally arriving at the museum.
The Memphis Belle being restored at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. In the background is Swoose, another historic B-17.
Still, 55,000 hours is a long restoration period — what took so long? Well, the experts weren’t interested in plastering on a pretty paint job and calling it done. Instead, they wanted this iconic plane to look exactly as it did when she flew that famous 25th mission. That was no easy task. One of the hardest parts was finding authentic parts for the plane, or at least period-accurate parts.
The Memphis Belle as she appeared during World War II.
The Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, was able to carry as many as 17,600 pounds’ worth of bombs and was equipped with as many as 13 M2 .50-caliber machine guns as well as a single .30-caliber machine gun. It had a crew of ten, a top speed of 325 miles per hour, and a maximum range of 4,420 miles.
Of the over 3,400 B-17Fs built, only three survive today — the Memphis Belle is one of those.
Military spouses get a bad rap. One need only mention that he or she is a military spouse and the dependa accusations start to flow, especially on social media. But that oft-maligned stereotype is far from the full picture. For every walking caricature, there are hundreds of hard-working, goal getters – pushing past those PCSes, deployments, and solo parenting struggles to blaze their own trails and grab those brass rings. Here are five butt-kicking milspouses who make us all proud.
Brianna Keilar is a CNN anchor, a senior political analyst … and the wife of Army LTC Fernando Lujan. They met when Lujan was working on the National Security Council at the White House and Keilar was CNN’s Senior Washington Correspondent. Though Keilar is better known, by far, for her very public day job, she’s hardly a closeted milspouse. She hosted events for Blue Star Families in 2018 and 2019 and wrote this essay about covering the news with a husband deployed.
Cadets in SS394: Financial Statements Analysis learned from Cracker Barrel Old Country Store CEO Sandy Cochran and Dollar General Chairman of the Board Mike Calbert.
(Image via West Point SOSH Facebook page)
2. The CEO
Sandy Cochran is pretty much who we all want to be when we grow up. The former Army brat doesn’t know how to fail. She was a member of the National Honor Society, the tennis team, captain of the cheerleading squad, and president of her class at Stuttgart American High School. She went to college on an ROTC scholarship and was honor grad of her Ordnance Officer Basic Course. She qualified as a paratrooper and served in the 9th Infantry Division first as a Missile Maintenance Officer in the 1st Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery, and then on the Division Staff, while attending night school to earn her MBA.
Cochran left the Army in 1985 (but not the Army lifestyle) and began working her way up the corporate ladder, while married to Donald Cochran, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and in Army Special Forces as a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) parachute team leader. Fast forward through a couple of decades’ worth of both of the Cochrans’ amazing accomplishments (Seriously. They. Have. Done. So. Much.) and in 2009, Sandy was hired as the CFO of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. Two years later, she moved into the CEO job, where she has spent nearly a decade successfully leading the company and its 73,000 employees.
It’s a tale as old as time…Pattie Millett already had an impressive legal career when she met and fell in love with a sailor. Like so many other military spouses, Pattie decided to figure out a way to make it work. She and her husband Bob got married, had two children, and when he deployed, Pattie did the job of two parents raising their children … while also managing her heavy caseload as a lawyer in the United States Solicitor General’s office.
And this is where her story is a tad different.
She argued a case before the Supreme Court and briefed five more while her husband was deployed. Then, in August 2013, Pattie became Judge Millett when she was confirmed by Congress to serve as a United States Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to the seat vacated by Judge (ahem, now Justice) John Roberts, who was elevated to the United States Supreme Court — where our Pattie had already argued 32 cases. In fact, Pattie’s name even made it on the shortlist for a SCOTUS nomination — and we wouldn’t be surprised if she gets considered for that auspicious position again.
Oh, and did we mention that Pattie also has a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do? She earned it during all her free time.
(Image via Facebook)
4. The Olympian
When she’s all dressed up for her organization’s annual gala, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Sally Roberts for a fairy tale princess. But looks can be deceiving. Sally is hardly the type to sit around waiting to be rescued.
Not only is she a two-time Olympic Bronze Medal-winning wrestler and three-time National Women’s Wrestling Champion, she’s the founder and executive director of Wrestle Like a Girl, a national non-profit organization that is largely responsible for making girls’ wrestling a sanctioned high school sport in a growing number of states, bringing women’s wrestling into the NCAA, and for girls’ wrestling currently being the fastest growing sport in the nation.
Sally, an Army Special Operations veteran and the wife of a recently retired Army Special Forces soldier, started the organization not only to introduce more girls to the sport, but also to show girls that they can do anything.
We can’t imagine a better example of that than Sally.
Anna Chlumsky’s character Amy Brookheimer on the television series “Veep” is unflappable, the kind of woman who can handle absolutely anything. The actor, however, admits that being a military spouse can make her a little … flappable.
Anna and her husband, Shaun So, met when they were both college students at the University of Chicago. He enlisted in the Army Reserves and deployed to Afghanistan while they were dating. Anna wrote about her experiences for Glamour magazine, saying, “Being a family member … of a serviceman or -woman is a lonely experience. Every military spouse or loved one has, at one time or another, felt as if no one understands what they’re going through.”
She said her friends were supportive, but they didn’t always understand. “The concept of war was so foreign in our cosmopolitan world,” Chlumsky wrote. “Either people didn’t pay attention at all, or they read too much. I’d meet strangers who, upon discovering my boyfriend was in the Army, would look at me like I was living out some eighties romantic comedy, dating a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.”
Lieutenant Viktor Belenko decided he had had enough. Despite being considered an expert fighter pilot with one of the Soviet Union’s elite squadrons, with all the perks that went with it, Belenko was tired of the shortages and propaganda that defined much of life in the USSR. He feared that reports of plenty in the U.S. were also exaggerated, but he decided to take a chance. On September 6, 1976 during a routine training mission, he switched off his radio and bolted to Hakodate airport in Japan. After nearly running out of fuel, barely avoiding a civilian jetliner, and overshooting the runway, he set down in Japan with only a busted landing gear. It turned out to be one of the great intelligence coups of the Cold War.
Given this gift, including a flight manual that Belenko had helpfully brought along, Western intelligence agencies proceeded to tear the plane to bits analyzing the fighter whose capabilities up until now were only an assumption. When the Soviet Union demanded its return, Japan agreed on the condition that they recoup shipping costs. The plane showed up at a docked Soviet vessel in dozens of crates, and when the Soviets realized at least 20 key components were missing, they demanded $10 million in compensation. As befitted the Cold War, neither ever paid.
The MiG-25 “Foxbat” was the newest and most advanced fighter the Soviet Union possessed. The United States and its allied NATO countries were genuinely concerned over its capabilities, and it was generally assumed to be an advanced fighter bomber that could outfly anything NATO had. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Mig-25 was very cutting edge in its way. It was one of the fastest fighters ever produced, with a theoretical top speed of mach 3.2 at the risk of engine damage, putting it near the vaunted U.S. SR-71 spy plane. It’s radar was one of the most powerful ever put on a plane of its size.
But those strengths were where it ended. The MiG-25 was built around its extremely heavy engines, and it showed. It had a ridiculously short combat range, and even its unarmed cruising range was too short, as Belenko’s journey could attest. It was so specialized in high-altitude interception that flying it at low altitude and speed could be very difficult. It could not carry weapons for ground attack, did not have a integral cannon, and the large wings NATO interpreted as making it a formidable dogfighter were simply meant to keep its heavy airframe in the air. In reality, it was maneuverable and would be mincemeat in a conventional dogfight once it closed to short range. Its electronics were still vacuum tube technology, and its airframe would literally bend itself out of shape if the pilot was not careful. It was made to be a high speed missile carrier targeting bombers or U.S. high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft like the U-2 inside Soviet airspace, and not much more.
Despite its flaws, the Soviet Union built over a thousand of them, and it was widely exported to a number of countries, where its combat record in several wars was mixed at best. An updated version called the MiG-31 was later built that shared aspects with the original, including many of its shortcomings.
Belkov, for all his doubts, received a welcome beyond his skeptical hopes. In an old saw that applied to many Soviet visitors, he was flabbergasted by his first visit to an American supermarket, and wondered if it was a CIA hoax. He was granted citizenship by an act of Congress in 1980, and he co-wrote an autobiography called MiG Pilot that had some success. He reportedly works as an aerospace engineer to this day. His daring escape still stands as one of the defining moments of the Cold War.
We shouldn’t have to say this, but starting a war on the Korean Peninsula is a bad idea. I am not the first person to make the case that a war on the Korean peninsula would be bad for America —and for South Korea and probably for Japan. Recently, professor Barry Posen laid out just how difficult it would be to conduct a successful pre-emptive attack against North Korea. He further presented how terrible a conflict on the peninsula would be in terms of lives lost — North Korean, South Korean and American. Professor Posen’s piece, however did not go far enough in explaining how a pre-emptive attack — and then war — on the Korean peninsula would damage U.S. interests.
With the administration’s statements leaving the door open to a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, it is a good time to catalogue why such a concept is a bad idea—regardless of one’s view of the threats posed by the North Korean regime and its nuclear and missile programs. Professor Posen captures the likely human toll of a second Korean war well. The costs of the conflict and its aftermath would leave the United States and its allies poorer. And ultimately, the United States would likely be less secure than it is today.
Difficulty of Escalation Control
North Korea has signaled, for decades, that any attack against it would be met with swift retribution. For much of the post-Korean War era, this meant massive artillery bombardment of Seoul. Now that North Korea possesses missiles with intercontinental range, that retribution could be against targets as far away as New York or Washington. The idea that the United States could conduct strikes against limited targets—such as North Korea’s missile facilities or nuclear weapons complexes—with little to no North Korean response is gambling with millions of lives at stake. Were North Korea to follow through on its repeated statements of retaliation, and a U.S. or allied territory to be struck, it would likely result in activation of one or more of the U.S. mutual defense treaties, and the commitment of significant U.S. forces to a conflict on the Korean peninsula. At that point, what was presented as a limited strike will have become a full-blown war.
It is therefore critical to recognize the limits of escalation control when dealing with military options against North Korea. And Professor Posen makes a clear and compelling argument about the likely catastrophic human consequences of such a conflict. One must also consider additional strategic consequences for the United States, specifically the financial toll and effect on regional alliances.
North Korea’s active-duty military is estimated to number over 1 million personnel. South Korea maintains a 650,000-person army. Even if the combined U.S.-South Korean force is better trained and equipped than its North Korean adversary, North Korea has spent nearly 70 years developing hardened shelters and stowage points for its personnel and artillery pieces. The four kilometer-wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) is also the most heavily mined area on the planet, limiting the ability of ground forces to move through it easily.
North Korea is believed to have developed tunnels across the DMZ to move its army or special forces rapidly into South Korean territory — and to bypass the mines laid along the DMZ. Even assuming U.S. and South Korean ground forces can quickly move through the DMZ to the North, the mountainous terrain would make rapid ground movement difficult—especially with heavy tanks or artillery. All of this is before considering the impact of North Korea’s nuclear weapons or its stockpiles of chemical weapons and biological weaponswould have on the conflict.
The sum of these factors suggest that prosecuting a war in North Korea has the potential to be more expensive than the $1.5 trillion spent so far on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Winning the war would be only a small portion of the total costs, however. The real costs to the United States—and South Korea—would come from the needed investments to develop North Korea’s economy and rebuild its society after a successful military campaign, and to rebuild the portions of South Korea destroyed in a war.
By way of comparison, 20 years after the reunification of Germany, Germany’s Finance Minister stated that the annual cost of reunification was approximately 100 billion euros per year—or nearly 2 trillion euros. East Germany’s per capita GDP was, at the time of reunification, approximately one half of West Germany’s. North Korea’s GDP today is only 3 percent of South Korea’s.
The Regional Security Consequences
Even if it wins, the United States could find itself less secure in Northeast Asia after a war with North Korea.
China has long been concerned about U.S. military presence in Korea, believing U.S. forces there could pose a threat to China’s sovereignty and security. Should the U.S.-ROK force prevail against North Korea in a war, the long-standing basis for keeping U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula — to defend South Korea from North Korean invasion — would be moot. China would likely push the South Korean government (especially if it were the de facto government of the entire Korean peninsula) to change its relationship with the United States and reduce or eliminate U.S. forces from the peninsula.
Should U.S. forces leave the Korean peninsula, China would likely use the withdrawal to build a narrative that the United States is retreating from Asia, that it is not a reliable security partner, or both. Consequently, the United States would have less diplomatic credibility, less military capability, and less influence with allies in the region.
A potentially more dangerous — and more likely — scenario is that the United States could find itself with troops dangerously-close to China’s border. It was Chinese fear of U.S. encroachment on its border that led Mao Zedong to intervene in the Korean War on North Korea’s behalf in 1950. With U.S. and Chinese troops mere miles apart, the risk of a U.S.-China stand-off escalating quickly from a skirmish to a major exchange would increase.
From China’s perspective, the continued existence of North Korea as a separate country provides a buffer between its own borders and U.S. forces. A unified Korean peninsula, with U.S. troops still present, would be perceived as negatively impacting China’s security.
The likely result of fighting a war against North Korea to eliminate the threat that it would use its nuclear weapons against the United States or its allies is that the United States would instead increase the likelihood of conflict with far more potent nuclear-armed adversaries in China.
Deterrence: A Better Deal
With war on the Korean peninsula too costly, from human, economic, and security perspectives, what options remain? Fortunately for the United States and our allies in Asia, managing new nuclear powers is something the United States has experience with, and it is called deterrence.
The window to remove North Korea’s nuclear weapons by force has passed. Instead, the United States will need to work with allies and partners to ensure North Korea understands the consequences of its continued reliance on those weapons, and the implications for North Korea’s future if those weapons are used. Additionally, the United States will need to continue working with South Korea and Japan to maintain a unified approach toward North Korea.
All three allies will also have to work closely to pressure China and Russia to deter North Korea’s continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons program, and especially toward using those weapons in the future.
The number of countries that have closed their embassies in North Korea and who have shown a willingness to work with the United States to limit North Korea’s access to financing and materiel speaks highly of the potential for focused and patient diplomacy. Ensuring the United States and South Korea remain positioned to respond to North Korean aggression, should it happen, is essential. Maintaining the diplomatic pressure that has begun to bear fruit will also be essential if the United States is to avoid a situation where through impatience it turns a strategically difficult situation into a strategic setback.
It’s a well-known fact that Marine recruits east of the Mississippi go to the flat lands of Parris Island for basic training while those from the west head to sunny San Diego.
What many don’t know is there is a huge rivalry between “Island” and “Hollywood” Marines, and it all boils down to who had it tougher. Although the competitive nature between the two is all in good fun, Marines are known for fighting both big and small battles.
Since the curriculum at both of the training camps is the same, there are a few differences that separate the two.
“I think the sand fleas give you that discipline because you’re standing in formation and you got them biting on the back of your neck,” Capt. Robert Brooks states during an interview, fueling the rivalry in support of Parris Island.
Capt. Joseph Reney, however, jokes in favor of California:
“San Diego has hills and hiking is hard. I would say San Diego makes tougher Marines.”
Regardless of the training location, both boot camps produce the same product — a patriotic Marine.
Whenever you look through a substance, whether it’s the water in a pool or a pane of old, rippled glass, the objects you see look distorted. For centuries, astronomers have been mapping the sky through the distortions caused by our atmosphere, however, in recent years, they’ve developed techniques to counter these effects, clearing our view of the stars. If we turn to look at the Earth instead of the skies, distorted visuals are a challenge too: Earth scientists who want to map the oceans or study underwater features struggle to see through the distortions caused by waves at the surface.
Researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley, are focused on solving this problem with fluid lensing, a technique for imaging through the ocean’s surface. While we’ve mapped the surfaces of the Moon and Mars in great detail, only 4% of the ocean floor is currently mapped. Getting accurate depth measurements and clear images is difficult in part, due to how light is absorbed and intensified by the water and distorted by its surface. By running complex calculations, the algorithm at the heart of fluid lensing technology is largely able to correct for these troublesome effects.
You’ve probably noticed these distortions between light and water before. When you look down at your body in a swimming pool, it appears at odd angles and different sizes because you’re looking at it through the water’s surface. When light passes through that surface, it also creates bright bands of light, in an almost web-like structure that you see at the bottom of the pool called caustics. When caustics, are combined with the other distortions caused by water, they make imaging the ocean floor a difficult process. Caustics on the ocean floor are so bright that sometimes they are even brighter than sunlight at the surface!
Researchers at the Laboratory for Advanced Sensing at NASA Ames are developing two technologies to image through the ocean surface using fluid lensing: FluidCam and MiDAR, the Multispectral Imaging, Detection, and Active Reflectance instrument.
A researcher testing the FluidCam instrument while on deployment in Puerto Rico.
A lens to the sea
The FluidCam instrument is essentially a high-performance digital camera. It’s small and sturdy enough to collect images while mounted on a drone flying above a body of water. Eventually, this technology will be mounted on a small satellite, or CubeSat, and sent into orbit around the Earth. Once images of the sea floor are captured, the fluid lensing software takes that imagery and undoes the distortion created by the ocean surface. This includes accounting for the way an object can look magnified or appear smaller than usual, depending on the shape of the wave passing over it, and for the increased brightness caused by caustics.
While FluidCam is passive, meaning it takes in light like a traditional camera and then processes those images, MiDAR will be active, collecting data by transmitting light that gets bounced back to the instrument, similar to how radar functions. It also operates in a wider spectrum of light, meaning it can detect features invisible to the human eye, and even collect data in darkness. It’s also able to see deeper into the ocean, using the magnification caused by the water’s surface to its advantage, leading to higher resolution images. MiDAR could even make it possible for a satellite in orbit to explore a coral reef on the centimeter scale.
Both technologies bring us closer to mapping the ocean floor with a level of detail previously only possible when teams of divers were sent under water to take photographs. By using fluid lensing on satellites in orbit, the oceans can be observed at the same level of detail across the globe.
Citizen science to help save coral
But why does mapping the ocean matter? Besides being the Earth’s largest ecosystem, it’s also home to one of the planet’s most unique organisms: coral. Coral is one of the oldest life forms on the planet, and one of the few that is visible from space. This irreplaceable member of the ocean world is dying at an unprecedented rate and, without proper tracking, it’s unclear exactly how fast or how best to stop its deterioration. With fluid lensing technology, the ability to track changes to coral reefs around the world is within reach.
A screenshot from the NeMO-Net game.
A program called NeMO-Net aims to do just this, with some help from machine learning technologies and the general public. A citizen science game by the same name, soon to be released to the public, allows users to interact with real NASA data of the ocean floor, and highlight coral found in these images. This will train an algorithm to look through the rest of the data for more coral, creating a system that can accurately identify coral in any imagery that it processes.
Tracking coral allows scientists to better pinpoint the causes of its deterioration and come up with solutions to limit damaging human impact on this life form that hosts more biodiversity than the Amazon rainforest.
By using techniques originally designed to study the stars, fluid lensing will allow us to learn more about one of the greatest mysteries right here on our own planet: the ocean and all the multitudes of life within it. That alien world holds just as many mysteries as the cosmos, and with technologies like fluid lensing, discovering those enigmas is within our grasp.
Researchers flying the FluidCam instrument during a field deployment in Puerto Rico.
March 2019: In collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico, a research crew from NASA Ames will be deploying FluidCam and MiDAR to study the shallow reefs of Puerto Rico. Field sites include the La Gata and Caracoles Reefs, Enrique Reef, San Cristobal Reef, and Media Luna Reef.
May 2019: Another deployment of the MiDAR instrument will take place in Guam, with the goal of testing while diving and in the air.
Fall 2019: Fluid Lensing instruments will be deployed to the Great Barrier Reef.
The Laboratory for Advanced Sensing is supported by the NASA Biological Diversity Program, Advanced Information Systems Technology Program and Earth Science Technology Office.
The Brimstone missile is Europe’s equivalent of the Hellfire missile. Like the Hellfire, it’s designed to take out tanks and other armored targets, it can be fired with different seeker and warheads, and it’s battle-tested, especially in the Middle East. Now, its manufacturer has packed an insane number of them into small, all-terrain drones that could break apart Russian armor formations.
First, a quick background on the threat. While the U.S. is torn between competing threats in the Middle East, China, and Russia, Europe has a clear top priority in Russia. Europe gets a ton of energy from Russia, but the relationship is tense.
Russia has already invaded Ukraine twice, and it’s still supporting separatists in the Donbas region of that country. It has also allegedly violated the territorial sovereignty of Estonia by kidnapping an intelligence officer. (Russia claims the capture happened on their side of the border, Estonia disagrees, and U.S. and NATO intelligence backs Estonia.)
Russia still has the largest fleet of armored land vehicles in the world, with an estimated 22,000 combat tanks, according to GlobalFirepower.com. The largest European armored fleet in NATO comes from Turkey with about 3,200 tanks, and it’s moving into a Russian orbit. The total tank force of European NATO countries only totals a little over 11,000. Adding the U.S. and Canadian armored fleets only gets NATO to about 18,000 tanks.
So, yeah, Russia’s massive armored forces could cause legitimate heartburn in the rest of Europe. No one wants to be the next Ukraine or the next Georgia. (Russia successfully annexed a portion of Georgia in a 2008 invasion.)
But how do you brush back Russia without an armored corps, a massive attack helicopter fleet, or some other costly investment?
Well, if you need to intimidate an armored corps and can’t afford hundreds of attack helicopters with air-to-ground anti-tank missiles, maybe you could just put those missiles on a small drone on the ground.
“This cassette magazine, with its high weapon loadout, is optimised to counter mass armour,” said Andy Allen, MBDA U.K. Head of Land Domain Sales and Business Development. “Pairing the combat-proven MBDA Brimstone missile with a flexible and mission deployed UGV such as the Milrem Robotics’ THeMIS provides the tactical commander with the capability to rapidly and remotely deliver high volumes of precision anti-armour effects, importantly in all weathers, against all known DAS and at extended ranges.”
At least that’s the logic behind the pairing of the Brimstone missile and the MILREM Robotics THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle. The resulting product looks a bit like WALL-E if you switched out the cute eyes and body for a six-pack of abs missiles.
The THeMIS UGV is an unmanned infantry support vehicle, and MILREM Robotics sells it in a number of configurations, from transport to remote weapon platform to explosive ordnance disposal. But the most robust anti-tank version on MILREM’s website has a single Javelin missile. MBDA’s proposal would pack six Brimstones instead.
This could be especially potent when MILREM finishes the “swarming” control protocol that’s currently in development.
And Europe might invest in the solution. Europe is already heavily invested in Brimstone, and some countries already own a few THeMIS, so a paired solution shouldn’t be an insanely hard sell. So, hey, next time you head to Europe for an exercise, you might see a European soldier with a loyal attack robot following him. An attack robot with six tank-killing missiles.
Peggy Harris was married for six weeks when her husband went missing in action over France during World War II. No one ever tried to tell her about her husband’s fate. A fighter pilot, Billie Harris’ last mission came in July 1944. That’s when the confusion started, a confusion that is much more circuitous than the regular fog of war.
Billie Harris was listed as Missing in Action when he failed to come home from a mission over northern France that day in 1944. Then, the Army Air Forces informed his wife that he was alive and coming home. They then rescinded that as well. To her horror, he was killed and buried in a cemetery in France. And then they told her he was in a different cemetery. Then she was informed by the War Department that they weren’t even sure if the remains they had were Billie’s.
His devoted wife waited and waited, for years and decades, waiting for news about her husband. Until she finally decided to write her Congressman about the issue. Over and over for decades she waited and wrote to members of Congress – all the way through 2005.
In 2005, she got an answer from the Representative from the Texas panhandle, Mac Thornberry. His office informed Peggy that Billie was still listed as MIA, according to the National Archives and Records Administration. Billie’s cousin took it upon himself to look for Billie’s remains personally, to give Peggy some peace. His first stop was requesting the service and medical records for his missing cousin. The records that came back actually revealed his final resting place: Normandy.
First Lieutenant Billie D. Harris died July 17, 1944, the day he went missing. His headstone is one of the hundreds of bright white crosses that adorn the grounds of Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. So what happened? A CBS report found that Thornberry’s office never searched for the record. When CBS did the search, they found Harris listed as KIA.
Thornberry would later send Peggy an apology for bungling the search.
Ever since discovering her husband’s final resting place, she sent his grave a bouquet of flowers ten times a year. Cemetery officials say Peggy Harris is the last widow of World War II’s killed in action who still visits the grave of her departed husband. But that’s not the only news the family discovered in their investigation.
His plane was shot down over Les Ventes, a small French town and he was a legend among the locals of the town – Billie D. Harris managed to avoid crashing into the village and instead went down in the nearby woods. The villagers buried him in their local cemetery, so grateful for his sacrifice. Ever since, the residents of the small town have walked down the main street of Les Ventes every year – a street called Place Billie D. Harris – to remember his sacrifice.
Ever since Peggy discovered her husband’s final hours and gravesite, she’s visited the cemetery and Les Ventes every year to celebrate her husband’s life and talk to the people who remember Billie D. Harris as a fallen hero.
Military life brings enough stress. How you’re going to put food on the table shouldn’t be one of them.
Today’s military is a much more diverse population and also more likely to be married, unlike those who served a generation or two ago. According to a 2018 White House report, 74% of military families have children, and 42% of those children are between the ages of 0 and 5 years old.
According to a 2018 study completed by the Military Family Advisory Network, 13% of military families experience food insecurity. That same study reported that as many as 24% of military families skip meals or buy cheaper, less healthy meals to make do.
Currently, many junior military families do not qualify for food assistance even though they are in desperate need of it.
The United States Department of Agriculture did a survey that same year, which found that only 11.1% of American homes were experiencing food insecurity. This could indicate that junior military families may be experiencing higher rates of food insecurity than the average American family.
Lack of Cost of Living Allowances (COLA) in notoriously high-cost areas is another issue affecting the financial wellness of military families. The Department of Defense released its rates for 2020, with a decrease of id=”listicle-2645192734″.9 million dollars. With such high rates of financial insecurity affecting military families, it is unknown why the DOD made the decision to implement a reduction.
Reports have shown different numbers; some say one in four military families are utilizing food banks; others showcase that million in SNAP benefits aren’t really accounted for.
While the image of our uniformed service members in line at a food bank or using SNAP benefits is an uncomfortable one, it is a reality for many military families.
In 2017, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to address their food assistance needs, but it was never brought to a vote. A second bill named the Military Family Basic Needs Allowance, made it through the House but was never called for a vote in the Senate.
How could the needs of those who would sacrifice their lives for this country be ignored?
The National Military Family Association is a non-profit organization that has championed bills like the Military Family Basic Needs Allowance, which they fought to have included in the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act. Despite it not being included, their website indicates that they will continue advocating for military families and ensuring they receive what they need to serve this country without fear of food insecurity.
The Department of Defense objected to the second bill, with part of their reasoning being that the service member receives a basic allowance for subsistence (BAS). However, it can be argued that BAS is only intended for the service member. It does not account for the military spouse and children that service member most likely has. This leaves families couponing, utilizing food banks, and seeking financial support services through faith-based agencies.
Blue Star Families conducted a survey in 2018, and 70% of military families reported that having two incomes as being something vital for well-being. With well-documented rates of high unemployment for military spouses and a lack of quality childcare, it demonstrates why two-thirds of military families report stress due to their current financial situations. This was the first time the Blue Star Family annual survey had financial insecurity as a top stressor.
There are many pieces of recent legislation that have been signed and are aimed at increasing gainful employment opportunities for military spouses, leading to less financial stress on the military family. While this appears to be a step in the right direction for increasing rates of employment among military spouses, it doesn’t address the many other barriers.
The United States is approaching twenty years at war, its longest in recorded history. Without a current end in sight, operational tempo remains high, and with that comes additional stressors placed on our military. With higher than average rates of suicide and a 65% increase of mental health issues affecting our military – they are paying the high price for this war.
Our servicemen and women willingly carry unavoidable stressors because of their commitment to serve this country. It’s time that we take being able to feed their families off their shoulders.