With the news that the stealth destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), under the command of United States Navy Capt. James A. Kirk (we won’t know for another two centuries if he is related to James T. Kirk), is potentially deploying off the North Korean coast.
The question many will ask is: “What can the Zumwalt do against the North Korean Navy?”
The short answer is: “A lot.”
Let’s take a look at the firepower the Zumwalt carries. According to a US Navy fact sheet, the USS Zumwalt packs two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, two 30mm “Close-In Guns,” 80 Advanced Vertical-Launch System cells, and two M-60R helicopters capable of carrying torpedoes and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
The 80 missile cells can carry BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missiles, and RIM-174 SM-6 Extended Range Active Missiles.
This is a very powerful weapons suite.
To compare, let’s look at the North Korean navy’s most powerful ship, which is known as 823 — the only Soho-class frigate in service. According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” that ship has four single SS-N-2 launchers; a single 100mm gun; two twin 37mm guns; two twin 30mm guns; and two twin 25mm guns.
“Combat Fleets” notes that the North Korean Navy also has at least one Najin-class light frigate, and 15 missile boats, all armed with at least two SS-N-2A missiles.
How does the Zumwalt fare against this swarm? The good news is that the helicopters on board will likely be able to pick off a number of the missile boats before they can launch their missiles.
Since each MH-60 carries four Hellfires, we can assume that the fifteen missile boats will be cut down some. Zumwalt will probably empty her Tomahawks at North Korean targets as well.
Lil’ Kim ain’t gonna like how that ends up.
The survivors may launch their missiles at the Zumwalt but the SS-N-2A is a much less advanced missile than the Noor anti-ship missiles launched at USS Mason (DDG 87) on multipleoccasions of the coast of Yemen in October. Zumwalt, with the ability to use the same missiles as the Mason did, will likely be able to shoot them down or decoy them using chaff.
At this point, the Zumwalt will use her 155mm guns to take out any North Korean surface vessels that try to approach. What rounds they will fire is up in the air due to the cancellation of the Long-Range Land Attack Projectiles, but there are a number of options that she can use aside from spitballs.
Once she dispatches the surface force, the Zumwalt will then make sail away from the coast to evade North Korea’s sizable force of old electric (and quiet) submarines. Any that are close will likely get a torpedo from a MH-60.
In short, the Zumwalt can trash the North Korean Navy’s surface fleet. Her Tomahawks will trash their bases. Then, she will reload and come back to hit land targets with her weapons.
Yes, the movie has uniform errors and some technical mistakes. But, for a film about space aliens and government conspiracies, “Independence Day” actually represents the modern American military pretty accurately.
1. (1:00) America’s next great enemy begins its attack by waltzing past former U.S. military positions unopposed.
Seriously, the moon used to be America’s playground, then we abandoned it. If we had just left a residual force on the moon, we could’ve caught the alien menace and rooted it out before it got a foothold. Thanks, Obama.
2. (7:15) America’s problems start with the enemy attacking satellites.
Whether it’s China shooting a satellite with a missile or the aliens crashing into satellites, America suddenly faces some serious competition in orbit.
3. (9:25) U.S. communications equipment is quietly sabotaged.
China steals data, the aliens quietly broadcast data to control a countdown. It’s different sides of the same coin.
4. (12:20) Washington splits into Hawks and Doves before anyone has any idea what’s going on. Marine general rolls his eyes.
One civilian: Let’s just ignore it.
Another civilian: Lets kill it with missiles!
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs: You’re all idiots.
5. (14:53) The U.S. has no clue what is happening in Russia until it shows up on the news.
Guy: Mr. President! You might want to see this!
Cut to T.V. screen showing spaceship over Moscow.
Guy: There are aliens over Moscow?
Um, did you not know those spaceships were there before? They’re kilometers wide and you watched them enter earth’s atmosphere, headed that direction. And you didn’t realize where they went until it showed up on the news? You have spies and embassies and stuff right?
6. (17:30) Plan for the alien threat is “God help us” until someone can think of something better. No need to put together a working group or anything.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs: And what happens if the aliens do become hostile?
President: Then god help us.
Chairman: Oh, well. It’ll just be IEDs all over again, then. A huge threat that we just hope will go away until a few thousand people or more are dead.
7. (24:30) Marine assumes everyone around him is running because they’re cowards. Doesn’t even entertain the thought that they may know something he doesn’t.
8. (35:43) The Marine’s girlfriend is a stripper.
9. (53:00) Marines are too busy cutting jokes to pay attention to the mission briefing.
This is despite the fact that the enemy has already destroyed three cities and the Marines are about to fight an enemy that neither they nor any other human has ever faced.
10. (1:09:00) The Air Force and CIA were collecting intelligence on aliens for decades but didn’t share information with any decision makers when aliens showed up.
11. (1:44:00) All the other world militaries have consolidated their forces into mobile, international strike groups that can hide from alien incursions. America has kept their troops segregated from foreign forces and consolidated on fixed military installations.
12. (1:44:15) Other militaries of the world let America take the lead. Because, ‘Murica and apple pie.
O.K., this scene is obviously super ‘Murica. But it seems like at least one or two of the other countries would have doubted the American plan or been reluctant to follow the U.S. into a questionable scheme. And they certainly would have been working on their own plans that may be better than, “We’ll use a human computer to infect an alien computer because we don’t know how computer code works.”
13. (1:51:04) Combat pilot won’t start the world-saving mission until he gets his cigars, fulfilling his superstitions.
14. (2:12:30) Americans celebrate their victory without reservation, ignoring the fact that it came at the cost of dozens of American pilots’ lives. They also conveniently forget that there could be smaller alien ships still flying around the world. Those fighters you just parked would probably be useful in presence patrols to protect the very limited number of survivors.
Happy Independence Day, folks. Now watch one of the most motivating speeches in military movie history:
MOSCOW — Last week, Russians of a certain age saw a familiar face return to their screens. Anatoly Kashpirovsky, a self-styled psychic healer who entranced TV audiences as the Soviet Union was coming apart three decades ago, is back as an octogenarian YouTuber offering solace as the coronavirus spreads.
And some are taking what he has to offer, apparently, helping revive the career of a man who had become an almost forgotten symbol of a time when desperation ran high.
Almost 250,000 viewers have watched Healing Seance, a video posted on April 9 to Kashpirovsky’s channel on YouTube:
Кашпировский: Оздоровительный сеанс. Прямой эфир из Москвы. 09.04.2020г.
He sits immobile against a background of beige wallpaper and asks viewers to cover their eyes with their hands — not normally advisable as a pandemic rages.
“Over the coming days,” he says toward the end of what is essentially an hourlong monologue, “comments will keep coming in from people who have been cured.”
Kashpirovsky, now 80, achieved celebrity status in the Soviet Union through a series of televised sessions beginning in 1989 — two years before the country ceased to exist. Fixing his steely gaze on viewers who sat at home, some transfixed, he claimed powers to cure the sick and heal a nation that was hurting from the effects of economic decline.
At the peak of his celebrity in the early 1990s, Kashpirovsky was traveling the country to appear before packed halls and placed second only to President Boris Yeltsin in surveys of Russia’s most popular public figures.
In the waning days of the U.S.S.R. and the early years after its collapse, millions of people looking for meaning amid the chaos of change and stark economic challenges turned for relief to people like Kashpirovsky, who years earlier might have risked being sent by the Soviet state to a psychiatric hospital but now found a prominent place on prime-time television.
Early Morning Psychics
Kashpirovsky was not alone. Hundreds of thousands watched Allan Chumak, his main rival, as he flailed his arms in a “healing” ritual on his early morning TV slot. Viewers would place water bottles or tubs of cream in front of their TV sets to “charge” them with Chumak’s energy, which the mystic claimed was enough to heal ailments if drunk or smeared on the skin.
Kashpirovsky’s most famous stunt came in March 1989, when he appeared on a screen inside an operating room in Tbilisi, Georgia, via video link from Ukraine, and proceeded to guide a woman who could not use anesthesia through open abdominal surgery.
“Now everyone who watched me can go to the dentist and have their tooth pulled,” he told viewers afterward. “There will be no pain at all.”
The woman, Lesya Yershova, said in an interview several months later that she had felt “terrible pain” throughout the operation, which required a 40-centimeter incision, and had only cooperated because she didn’t want to let Kashpirovsky down. She agreed to forego anesthesia because Kashpirovsky had promised to make her thinner and bring her along to his shows around the world as an example of his healing powers, she told the newspaper Literaturnaya Gazeta.
He didn’t keep his promise, she said.
Kashpirovsky’s claims of supernatural powers soon drew comparisons with the 20th-century healer Rasputin, whose malign influence on the family of Tsar Nicholas II sparked accusations that he was meddling in affairs of state and contributed to the collapse of Russia’s war effort in 1917 and the ultimate downfall of its monarchy. Rasputin was said to ease the pain of the tsar’s hemophiliac son simply by talking to him.
A former weightlifter and a trained psychologist, Kashpirovsky has largely retreated from the spotlight since the 1990s. In 2009, with Russia reeling from the effects of the global financial crisis, he sought to stage a comeback of sorts by launching a TV show devoted to “paranormal investigations.” But in a country where there’s no shortage of such offerings — a show called Battle Of The Psychics is now in its 20th season — his star soon faded again.
In 2010, shortly after he announced that comeback, Kashpirovsky — who did not immediately respond to RFE/RL’s request for comment — launched his YouTube channel. Since then he has posted videos from auditorium shows performed in various countries, where he meets with locals and members of Russian emigre communities who pay money in hopes of being healed. The videos are posted with titles like Instantaneous Cure For A Slipped Disc and Salvation From Pain.
In a video he posted last August, an elderly man who appears to have a heavily curved spine walks across a stage in Taraz, Kazakhstan, to meet Kashpirovsky, before disappearing backstage. Minutes later he runs back onstage, waving his arms in triumph to rapturous applause from the audience, his back seemingly healed.
Кашпировский. Мгновенное избавление от спинно-мозговой грыжи.
The coronavirus pandemic appears to have drawn new attention to Kashpirovsky as it spreads in Russia, where the numbers of confirmed cases have risen sharply in recent days and President Vladimir Putin said on April 13 that the situation was “changing for the worse.”
Viewership of Kashpirovsky’s YouTube channel has risen substantially in recent weeks: His March 25 monologue — titled Coronavirus. Its Pluses And Minuses — has almost half a million views.
As he spoke during his “healing seance” on April 9, a scrolling text chat displayed comments from viewers.
“My tinnitus has completely gone,” one woman wrote. Another reported that a chronic neck pain had passed within three minutes. “I’ve believed in you since 1989,” wrote a third — though it was unclear whether in earnest or in jest.
After 53 minutes, Kashpirovsky signed off with a message to gullible viewers.
“Our meeting will naturally provoke in you an explosion in your immune system, which will protect you,” he said. “I crave that from the bottom of my soul.”
(This story was provided courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division)
Mother’s Day 1943 was not a day of celebration in the Sullivan house in Waterloo, Iowa. Just four months earlier, Alleta Sullivan along with her husband Tom, her daughter Genevieve, and her grandson James received official word that all five of her sons had been lost after the ship on which they all served, USS Juneau, was sunk Nov. 13, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal.
News spread across the country of the enormous sacrifice made by the Sullivans and honors were heaped onto Alleta and her family including posters honoring the brothers’ sacrifice, extensive media coverage and even a 1944 motion picture based on their story.
Alleta became an important figure in the war effort. She volunteered at the United Serviceman’s Organization (USO) to help make life easier for troops stateside and abroad. With her husband and daughter, Alleta visited more than 200 manufacturing plants and shipyards offering encouragement to employees in the hopes their efforts would bring the war to an end sooner. By January 1944, Alleta and her family had spoken to more than a million workers in 65 cities and reached millions of others over the radio.
The second ship to be called The Sullivans (DDG 68) was commissioned April 19, 1997, and was sponsored by Kelly Sullivan Loughren, Alleta’s great granddaughter. The ship’s motto is “We Stick Together.” Today the ship, which returned home from a six month deployment just in time for the holidays on Dec. 22, 2013, is based at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
Kelly obviously admires her great-grandmother’s courage and continued service to the nation in the face of the most devastating loss a mother can suffer. But the story that sticks with her the most is that long after the war, after the movie, the media and the ceremonies had faded, Alleta would receive house calls from Sailors that either knew her sons or who just wanted to stop by and extend their condolences. Kelly said her great-grandmother would often cook them a hot meal and offer them a place to stay for the evening or the weekend.
On this Mother’s Day, America’s Navy salutes the quintessential Navy Mom – Alleta Sullivan, as well as all the mothers who have served, or who have stood on the shore as their sons and daughters went down to the sea in ships.
This week marked the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the beginning of the longest war in American history. Chances are, you’ve probably had the same conversation with your comrades, coworkers, friends, or whomever about where you were when you heard about the attacks.
Now that it’s been 18 years, that means that if you’re still in the military, you could now have that same conversation with a young private/airman/seaman and be greeted with the response of, “Oh, I wasn’t even born yet!”
Man — now I feel old when I tell people I was skipping some middle school class to play Pokemon on my Gameboy in the bathroom and came back to everyone watching the news. I can honestly say that I’ve never skipped class since that day.
Don’t worry. I get it. You’re now probably thinking about how old you are because you were doing something much more mature than I was seven years before I could enlist. Just wait for a few weeks when kids who were just sent off to Basic/Boot Camp on their 18th birthday graduate. There’s going to be some serious dog and pony shows for them and I bet it’ll be all over the news. Then you’ll really feel old!
Anyways, now that I’ve given you some existential dread about your own aging — here are some memes!
“A paraglider flies at a low altitude without making a sound. It could be useful for making a surprise attack, like a drone,” a South Korean defense official told Yonhap.
“I believe that North Korean special forces are adopting amazing methods of infiltration with limited resources,” the official said.
The US and South Korea, in response, conducted their own short-range air-defense drills, known as SHORAD, in late September to thwart “low altitude cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems and air breathing threats,” Newsweek reported, citing a US Army press release.
The joint drills were aimed at defending “a critical location, de-conflicting engagements of enemy aircraft based on sector of fire, and utilizing secondary means of targeting enemy aircraft when their primary weapon system becomes combat ineffective,” the US Army said, adding that the drills included “scout helicopters and a perimeter attack by ROK Special Forces.”
South Korean Gin Gliders, one of the world’s largest producers of paragliders, used to operate in the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is a collaborative economic area between the North and South. Seoul closed the complex in early 2016 in response to North Korea’s missile tests.
Pyongyang, however, reopened the plant last week despite Seoul’s objections, according to Newsweek.
The US Army said it will continue the SHORAD drills in the coming months.
A force of 55,000 Marines and sailors, fighting with a Canadian army brigade, went ashore to bolster a U.S. ally threatened by an invading neighbor and criminal unrest.
And when the dust settled, the Marine Corps-led forces won, succeeding in helping unseat the well-equipped invaders and restoring a semblance of peace and security for its ally.
But it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park — and that was by design.
During Large-Scale Exercise 2016 that wrapped up Aug. 22, more than 3,000 troops across three southern California bases and a larger “virtual” force faced off against a conventional enemy whose military, cyber and communications capabilities matched or were better than those of the U.S. and its allies.
The exercise, the largest MEF-level command battle drill since 2001, involved Marines and sailors with Camp Pendleton, California-based I Marine Expeditionary Force and a contingent of Canadian soldiers at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms. It marks a shift from the heavy metal conventional threat of the Cold War era to the 21st century hybrid warfare, where military troops face formidable cyber and electronic warfare threats from highly-capable enemies and state actors across the warfare spectrum.
“For years, we have been able to physically outmatch our opponents on the battlefield. As we look forward, we see potential adversaries out there that we will not be able to physically outmatch,” Col. Doug Glasgow, director of I MEF’s information operations cell, said in an Aug. 21 interview at a tent complex at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station that served as the MEF’s command post.
“We have to think harder about how we are going to conduct the maneuver warfare that our doctrinal publication told us we would have to do against these potential adversaries that match the strength and the technology and that have been watching us for years,” he said.
That doctrinal pub, Warfighting, dubbed “MCDP 1,” includes a section addressing the mental and moral effects of warfare.
“The true thing I think we’re after is to potentially reduce the amount of resources — whether that’s time, blood or money — involved in defeating the enemy and in getting after the enemy commander’s will and want to fight,” Glasgow said. “Rather than brute force applications where you hit the enemy head on, we want to present the enemy with dilemmas.”
Such large scale exercises train MEF commanders and staff to plan and deploy units to operate and fight as a Marine air-ground task force, likely with coalition forces. Each MEF does the senior-level command exercise about every two years. I MEF, the Corps’ largest operational command, hadn’t trained to fight a conventional war against a peer-type opponent since 2001, even though it’s directed to prepare for the full range of military operations, with the focus on the highest end of major combat operations.
The exercise also evaluates how I MEF commands and operates with its subordinate command headquarters, including the 23,000-member 1st Marine Division.
The exercise, coordinated and overseen by the MAGTF Staff Training Program at Quantico, Virginia, put I MEF through the ringer and incorporated forces and threats including a sizable cyber component, both offensive and defensive.
“It was a struggle for dominance in the network, which our guys were successfully able to prosecute against a pretty effective, well-trained ‘red team,’ ” said Col. Matthew L. Jones, I MEF chief of staff.
Near the end, the MEF purposefully shifted into a scenario of lost comms and data, forcing Marines to use voice and single-channel radios entirely, “which is actually the first time we’ve done this in a MEFEX in the last three years,” Jones said. “They’ll just have to find different ways to pass their information.”
Surprise, confusion and disruption are key warfighting tools. In a high-tech battlefield, that could involve killing or interfering with communication, computer networks and satellites so the enemy can’t talk with superiors or coordinate subordinates.
Deception remains a tactic, too, using modern technologies that could even include social media. Officials don’t want to talk specifics; a good portion of what they’re doing remains under wraps.
“We want to leave him in a state where to continue the war is not to his best [interest],” Glasgow said. “We are trying to get to his will quicker than just trying to destroy all of his formations where he’s got nothing left in formations to fight.”
But that won’t mean heavy tanks, mortars and missiles will be shelved.
“We will continue to be very kinetic, and the Marine Corps will continue to be very lethal,” he added.
Glasgow heads the G-39, a newly-formed experimental cell under the MEF’s operations office that one officer described as “sort of like IO on steroids.” Information ops used to be an arm of the MEF’s fires-and-effects coordination center working lethal and non-lethal fires, but it wasn’t always fully staffed, Glasgow said. The prior MEF commander, Lt. Gen. David Berger, who’s slated to lead Marine Corps Forces Pacific in Hawaii, established the new cell — the first in the Marine Corps and in line with “J/G-39” offices at The Joint Staff and at combatant commanders.
The staff of 14 Marines are expert in areas including electronic warfare, military information support operations (formerly psychological operations) and offensive cyber ops.
“Most of those authorities are held at the national level, so we try to coordinate to have effects that will help the MAGTF,” said Glasgow. “We are not actually the executors, but we bring the expertise of what’s available and how to get that hopefully pushed down to the MEF.”
The cell also coordinates related capabilities including civil affairs, public affairs, military deception and physical security and seeks to measure the impact of the human dimension. With no longer a clear physical force advantage, in some cases, “how do we go after the will of a near-peer enemy?” Glasgow said. “So we’ve been thinking about it. We don’t have the answers. … But we’re exercising it. We are learning a lot of lessons.”
He partnered with Ford to unveil the 2018 Ford Mustang, and he decided to take it one step further by giving the car to combat Army veteran Marlene Rodriguez, who earned the Purple Heart for injuries received from an RPG while serving in Mosul.
Her reaction was stunned as she said, “I don’t deserve all this.” Johnson replied with, “You deserve more,” and we all lost our sh**.
His Instagram caption of the reveal was perfect (including the emojis–we’ve kept them intact for you):
This one felt good. Very good. ?? Our Ford partners asked me to unveil the never seen before, brand new 2018 FORD MUSTANG to the world. As their Ambassador, I’m happy to do.
With a twist.
Myself and Ford compiled a big list of US veterans and from that list, I chose Army combat vet Purple Heart recipient, Marlene Rodriguez to surprise and give it away to her.
It was such a cool moment that all of us in the room will never forget.
When Marlene, stopped and just looked at me and asked “Why?”, well that’s when I may or may not have gotten a lil’ emotional with my answer – in a bad ass manly way of course.
Why? Because of the boundless gratitude and respect I have for you, Marlene and all our men and women who’ve served our country. Just a small way of myself and the good people of FORD of saying THANK YOU.
A HUGE thank you to FORD, our SEVEN BUCKS PRODUCTIONS and everyone who was involved in making this awesome surprise come true.
Finally, thank you FORD for making the new 2018 Mustang straight ?, completely customizable for the world to enjoy. Thanks also for making sure I fit in it as well.
Marlene, fits better. ?. Enjoy your ride mama. Enjoy that Dodger game. You deserve it.
It’s okay if you get a little misty-eyed over this one. We did.
Well, the Red Flag exercise slated for August 15-26, Red Flag 16-4, is going to be very… well, take your pick. Interesting in that a number of foreign air forces are going to be at Nellis Air Force Base to participate. But it could also be awkward given some of those air forces who are among the visitors.
First, a quick rundown on what Red Flag is. During the Vietnam War, the Air Force had learned that most of the losses had been pilots who were in their first ten missions. After ten missions, a pilot’s chance of survival increased. Held at Nellis Air Force Base since 1975, the purpose of Red Flag is very simple: To provide Air Force, Navy, Marine, Army, and allied pilots an experience as close to combat as possible – without using live ordnance.
Of particular interest is that Israel is taking part in this upcoming Red Flag. To say that Israel and Islamic-majority countries are not friendly in general is pretty much an understatement. Israel has fought major wars against Arab nations that were Islamic in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2006. Pakistan has not been Arab, but the country has been known to house a number of Islamic extremists. The United Arab Emirates is relatively moderate when compared to other Arab countries, but the Arab-Israeli issues are still present. There may be awkward moments at the O-Club and the debriefs.
However, it may also be interesting to see those three countries at the upcoming Red Flag. All three use the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter – but their Falcons are very different. In fact, this Red Flag provides a rough guide to the evolution of the F-16.
Pakistan’s F-16s mostly come in the F-16A variety. The F-16A/Bs were the first versions to really see service. The original design for the F-16 was to be a low-cost lightweight fighter for daytime operations. It was exactly that at first. The plane, though, has now become a deadly all-weather fighter, starting with the F-16A/B Air Defense Fighter. Mid-Life Upgrades and Operational Capability Upgrades have made these early Falcons capable all-weather fighters. Some of the earliest F-16A/B models are now becoming target drones.
Israel’s F-16s are mostly the F-16C/D versions. These were designed from the outset to be all-weather fighters capable of using missiles like the AIM-120 AMRAAM in beyond-visual-range engagements. The F-16C/Ds are arguably the backbone of the United States Air Force’s inventory of combat aircraft – and the latest versions include the capability to fire the AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM). These planes have served in a number of other air forces, too. Israel also has an enhanced F-16 known as the F-16I, which is a custom version that operates with a two-man crew.
The United Arab Emirates has the only F-16Es in existence. Perhaps the ultimate F-16 in service today, the F-16Es add conformal fuel tanks for longer range, and it also comes with more modern electronics, including an active electronically scanned array radar. These birds probably give the F-16I a close run for their money.
Japan will be missing this Red Flag – meaning its version of the F-16, the Mitsubishi F-2, will not be present. The F-2 can best be described as an F-16 that went to BALCO or Biogenesis and received steroids or Viper Growth Hormone. It has top of the line electronics and can carry a larger bomb load than most F-16s.
In short, Red Flag 16-4 will be very interesting. Not only for the many countries there but also to see how the F-16 has evolved since it entered service in 1978.
Vladimir Putin has coasted to a fourth term as Russia’s president, scoring a landslide victory in an election Kremlin opponents said was marred by fraud and international observers said gave voters no “real choice.”
A nearly complete ballot count showed Putin winning 76.7 percent of the vote, Central Election Commission chief Ella Pamfilova said on March 19, 2018 — more than he received in any of his three previous elections and the highest percentage handed to any post-Soviet Russian leader.
Voter turnout was over 67 percent and the other seven candidates were far behind, she said.
While tainted by allegations of fraud — in some cases backed by webcam footage appearing to show blatant ballot-box stuffing — the resounding win sets Moscow’s longest-ruling leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin up for six more years in office amid severely strained ties with the West.
Putin’s government-stoked popularity and the Kremlin’s sway over politics nationwide after years of steps to sideline challengers made Putin’s victory a foregone conclusion.
“Choice without real competition, as we have seen here, is not real choice,” Michael Georg Link, special coordinator and leader of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) short-term observer mission, told reporters in Moscow.
“But where the legal framework restricts many fundamental freedoms and the outcome is not in doubt, elections almost lose their purpose — empowering people to choose their leaders,” he added.
Pamfilova said voting results had been annulled in five districts amid reports of ballot-stuffing, but she denied any incidents of observers being attacked or blocked from polling stations, despite apparent video evidence posted online.
She asserted that were “at least two times fewer” violations than in the 2012 presidential vote, which put Putin back in the Kremlin after four years as prime minister.
The OSCE, which had more than 500 observers in Russia for the vote, said that while legal and technical aspects of the election were well administered, “the extensive coverage in most media of the incumbent as president resulted in an uneven playing field.”
Among the first leaders to congratulate Putin was Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has just been handed a second term himself and appeared to be positioned for indefinite rule after presidential term limits were lifted last week.
Other authoritarian leaders — incuding Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Nazarbaev, Belarus’s Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro — were also quick to congratulate Putin.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has received crucial Russian backing in a devastating civil conflict that has led to war crimes accusations, congratulated Putin on a result he called the “natural outcome of your outstanding… performance.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Aleksandar Vucic, the president of traditional Russian ally Serbia, also congratulated Putin.
But amid worsening tensions between the West and Russia after the poisoning of a former spy with a potent nerve agent — an attack Britain blames on Moscow — many leaders chose their words cautiously when they spoke to Putin.
In a phone call, French President Emmanuel Macron wished Putin “success for the political, democratic, economic, and social modernization” of Russia, and urged him to shed light on the “unacceptable” poisoning, the Elysee Palace said.
Angela Merkel’s spokesman said at midday on March 19, 2018, that the German chancellor would send Putin a congratulatory telegram “very soon,” but also pointed to tension in relations with Moscow.
“We have differences of opinion with Russia and we very clearly criticize Russia’s policies on some issues — Ukraine, Syria,” Steffen Seibert said, adding that it was nonetheless important to maintain contact with the Russian leadership.
Heiko Maas, Germany’s new foreign minister, questioned the fairness of the election and said Moscow will remain “a difficult partner,” although he added that the European Union must be able to continue to talk to Russia.
“The result of the election in Russia was as unsurprising to us as the circumstances of the election. We can’t talk about a fair political competition in all respects as we would understand it,” he said in Brussels ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
“Russia will remain a difficult partner. But Russia will also be needed for solutions to the big international conflicts and so we want to remain in dialogue,” Maas said.
Putin: ‘No new arms race’
The United States on March 15, 2018, imposed another round of sanctions on Russian entities and individuals over what Washington says was Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Amid severely strained ties, Putin said on March 19, 2018, that Russia wanted to build “constructive” relations with other countries but that “not everything depends on us.”
Russia will not “instigate some arms race” and “will spare no effort to settle all disputes with our partners by political and diplomatic means,” Putin said, adding that Moscow will always defend its own national interests.
The editor in chief of state-funded network RT, meanwhile, asserted that Western policies and attitudes had prompted Russians to unite around Putin and made him stronger than ever. She seemed to suggest he could remain in power indefinitely.
Railing against the West and praising Putin in a tirade on Twitter, Margarita Simonyan said that “as soon as you declared him the enemy, you united us” around Putin.
“Before, he was just our president and he could have been replaced. But now he is our chief,” she wrote, using a noun — “vozhd” — that is often associated with Stalin. “And we will not let [you] replace him.”
Putin and the seven dwarves
Putin’s comments about foreign ties came during a meeting with the other candidates, whom he called on to cooperate and “be guided by the long-term interests of Russia and the Russian people, always putting group or party preferences on the back burner.”
Putin’s record-high official result put him miles ahead of the seven others on the ballot, who Kremlin critics have said were window-dressing to create the illusion of competition.
The election commission said Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin was second with almost 12 percent, followed by flamboyant ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with almost 6 percent and TV personality Ksenia Sobchak with about 1.7 percent.
The four other candidates — liberal Grigory Yavlinsky, nationalist Sergei Baburin, Communists of Russia candidate Maksim Suraikin, and centrist Boris Titov — had 1 percent apiece or less.
Speaking to reporters after a late-night rally on voting day, Putin suggested that he would not seek the presidency again in 2030 –when he would next be eligible because of a limit of two consecutive terms.
But he left the door open to a potential move to change the constitution in order to maintain power past 2024 in some capacity, saying only that he is “not planning any constitutional reforms for now.”
Reports of fraud
With help from state media, Putin is riding a wave of popularity on the fourth anniversary of Moscow’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region and in the wake of a military intervention in Syria that has been played up on Russian television as a patriotic success.
But reports of fraud dogged the election. Independent monitor Golos received reports of nearly 3,000 alleged violations.
Sergei Shpilkin, a physicist and data analyst who has studied fraud in previous Russian elections, suggested that nearly 10 million “extra” votes — apparently all for Putin — may have been added through falsified turnout figures.
Voters were bussed to the polls in many places, according to supporters of Aleksei Navalny, the opposition leader barred from running in the election.
They also reported hundreds of cases of alleged voter fraud, notably in Moscow and St. Petersburg, two areas where Putin has relatively low support.
Some voters in various regions said they had been pressured by their employers or teachers to vote and take a photograph of themselves at the polling station as evidence of their participation.
While official turnout was robust even in Moscow, where it has often been lower than in the provinces, there was palpable apathy at some polling stations.
Some Russians said they felt powerless to influence politics in a country dominated by Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999.
“There is no real choice,” said 20-year-old Yevgeny Kiva, who was paid by a local election committee to wear a clown suit and dance with children at a polling station in Moscow.
Navalny, who has organized large street protests and alleged extravagant corruption among the ruling elite, was barred from the ballot because of a conviction on embezzlement charges he contends were fabricated by the Kremlin.
The company who won the contentious contest to build America’s next military handgun is throwing its hat in the ring to provide a potential replacement for a weapon used by the country’s most elite counterterrorism units since the 1970s.
In March, U.S. Special Operation Command posted a notice to industry to come up with a new so-called “personal defense weapon” that had nearly impossible specs to achieve. The weapon had to be no longer than 26 inches with the stock extended, had to collapse to less than 17 inches AND be able to fire from the collapsed configuration.
And oh, the weapon had to be made to fire both .300 Blackout cartridges and 5.56 rounds.
These rifles would replace the MP5 variants in special operations stocks — 9mm submachine guns that are both aging and offer significantly less effective range than more modern calibers compatible with subgun-length barrels.
Well, Sig Sauer, makers of the Army’s new M17 and M18 handgun, stepped up to the MP5 replacement plate with its new MCX “Rattler.”
“We had groups coming to us and saying the situations [they] were being put into with 9mm subguns, the caliber is not appropriate,” Sig Sauer officials said during a live event releasing the Rattler to the public.
The Heckler Koch MP5 submachine gun of U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Samuel Caines, assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe Security Detachment, ejects a bullet casing at the Training Support Center Benelux 25-meter indoor range in Chièvres, Belgium, Oct. 22, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Pierre-Etienne Courtejoie)
They wanted, “an escape gun that is going to have the firepower that [they] need.”
Based roughly on Sig’s MCX design, the Rattler has a 5.5-inch barrel and with its folding stock collapsed, the entire gun is just 16 inches long.
And it can fire in that configuration.
“The PDW stock allows you to function the gun when it’s folded,” Sig officials told RECOIL magazine. “It is the shortest rifle that’s on the market today.”
In fact, the Rattler comes in at just 3.5 inches longer than the ultimate CQB weapon — the MP5K.
“We wanted to give these guys a gun in a subgun size but that had the firepower to shoot out to 200-plus yards and effectively do what they needed to do,” Sig said.
The Rattler can fire suppressed in the 300 BLK configuration, but Sig says the barrel is too short for operating 5.56 cartridges with a can.
The Rattler upper is swappable with any standard M4 or AR-15-style lower, checking the box for the SOCOM PDW request to have the gun be able to change caliber in less than three minutes.
The stark vision of the Four Chaplains with linked arms praying while their ship sank 78 years ago lives on. Today, we honor their courage, devotion and ultimate sacrifice.
It was two years after the United States entered into World War II. The Four Chaplains – who would leave an extraordinary legacy – boarded the SS Dorchester, all coming from completely different backgrounds but completely united in a commitment to bring spiritual comfort to their men.
Chaplain George Fox was a veteran of World War I, having served as a medic. He was highly decorated, having received the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service. Fox had lied about his age and was just 17 years old when he left for war. When he returned, he finished high school and went to college. He was eventually ordained a Methodist minister in 1934. When war came calling, he volunteered to become an Army Chaplain. On the day he commissioned, his son enlisted in the Marine Corps.
Chaplain and Rabbi Alexander Goode earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1940, while finishing his studies to become a Rabbi – like his father before him. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he applied to the Army to become a Chaplain. In 1942, he was selected for Chaplains School at Harvard.
Chaplain Clark Poling was the son of a minister and was ordained as one for the Reformed Church in the late 1930s. After war broke out, he was called to serve. His own father had served as a Chaplain during World War I. He headed to Army Chaplains School at Harvard.
Chaplain John Washington was ordained as a Catholic Priest in 1935, having served the church all his life in some form or another. When the war began, he received his appointment as an Army Chaplain.
All four men from different corners of the country and varied faiths, met at Harvard in 1942 and became friends. A year later they’d be on a ship together, all ready to serve.
On February 3, 1943, the civilian liner SS Dorchester, which had been converted for military service, was en route to Greenland with 902 military members, merchant marines and civilian workers. It was being escorted by Coast Guard Cutters Tampa, Escanaba and Comanche. It was a chilly morning as the new day began and the water temperature was hovering around 34 degrees with an air temperature of 36 degrees.
The Coast Guard alerted the captain of the Dorchester that U-Boats had been sighted and he ordered the crew to sleep in their clothes and life jackets. Most of them ignored it though, because it was either so hot down below or they couldn’t sleep well with the life jackets on.
At 12:55am, a German torpedo struck their ship.
A large number of men were killed instantly from the blast and many more critically injured. It knocked their power and communications out, leaving them unable to radio the other ships for support. By some miracle, the CGC Comanche saw the flash of light from the explosion and headed their way to help. They had radioed the Escanaba for added support, while the Tampa continued its escort of the fleet.
According to records, panic and chaos had quickly set in. Men began throwing rafts over and overcrowding soon set in, causing capsizing into the frigid waters. But four Chaplains became a light in the dark for the terrified men. They spread out throughout the ship comforting the soldiers and civilians, bringing order to the frenzy. As the life jackets were being passed out, they ran out.
The Four Chaplains took theirs off, giving them to the men.
Engineer Grady Clark witnessed the whole thing. Each Chaplain was of a different faith, but worked in unison to serve and save the men.
Despite their orderly work, the ship continued to sink. They helped as many men as they could. When it was obvious the ship was going down, the Chaplains linked arms and began praying together. It was said that the crew in the waters below could hear hymns being sung. Survivors would later report hearing a mix of Hebrew and Latin prayers, melding together in a beautiful harmony as they went under, giving their lives to save the rest.
Of the 902 men, only 230 survived.
Before boarding the ship and leaving to serve, Chaplain Poling asked his father to pray for him. The words were poignant and a deep insight to the character of the man he was and those he died alongside. He asked his father to pray “Not for my safe return, that wouldn’t be fair. Just pray that I shall do my duty…never be a coward…and have the strength, courage and understanding of men. Just pray that I shall be adequate.”
Although many fought for these brave men to receive the Medal of Honor for their bravery and heroism, the stringent requirements prevented it from happening. They all received the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross. In 1961, Congress created the Special Medal for Heroism, The Four Chaplains Medal. It was given to them and them only, never to be awarded again.
For Dr. Stephen Gau, an emergency medicine physician at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loma Linda Healthcare System, a recent encounter with a veteran confirmed a key benefit of his choice of a VA career: the ability to spend more time with patients.
Despite recently documented progress in reducing wait times since the Phoenix controversy erupted in 2014, Dr. Gau said his patients often voice concerns about VA care. One of Dr. Gau’s patients, frustrated and frightened after a diagnosis of metastatic cancer, even asked, “Is this going to be another Phoenix?”
Dr. Gau said VA Loma Linda’s relatively low doctor-patient ratio allowed him the time to thoroughly review the veteran’s medical record. He confirmed that follow-up appointments were scheduled and specialty care was coordinated. Dr. Gau discussed the cancer care process and answered the veteran’s many questions.
It was sea change compared with Dr. Gau’s experience in the private sector, and an eye-opener for the patient. “I don’t know if I would have had that kind of time in the community (hospital) — to really talk to a patient and really explain what was going on and relieve his fear,” he said.
Wait times are down, study shows
This anecdote shines a light on how VA’s effort to reduce patient wait times in primary care and other specialty care services — in part through increased access to care — can manifest at the patient level.
Broader data from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirm that service improvements are happening VA-wide. The study, released Jan. 18, 2019, found that, in 2017, VA physicians, including primary care doctors and cardiologists, saw patients 12 days sooner than their private-sector counterparts.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the study results confirm that systematic changes are working. “Since 2014, VA has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care,” he said in a statement.
The study, “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and United States Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” looked at VA and private-sector hospital wait-time data across 15 major metropolitan areas. In 2017, average wait times were significantly shorter for VA compared with private hospitals, in primary care, cardiology and dermatology. (Orthopedic wait times were longer for VA in both 2014 and 2017, although they were down during the study period.)
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
The study affirmed additional progress in cutting wait times since 2014 cited by Wilkie in December 2018 testimony before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs’ committees.
“The average time it took to complete an urgent referral to a VA specialist has decreased from 19.3 days in FY 2014 to 3.2 days in FY 2017 and less than 2 days in FY 2018,” Wilkie testified.
Choose VA to prioritize patient care
Wilkie also credited VA’s workforce for improving services across the board and committed to using the tools of the VA MISSION Act to recruit and retain talented healthcare providers, including additional hiring resources and incentives.
Dr. Gau, who moved to VA from a private sector hospital, said it was the veteran-centric mission and the sizable benefits that ultimately lured him to government service. More time with patients has been an added benefit.
It’s a career choice he doesn’t regret. “I tell you what, it’s been a really positive experience for me,” he said.
Choose VA today
Physicians like Dr. Gau find that choosing a VA career means being able to deliver the highest quality healthcare in a time frame that works for veterans and providers. See if a VA career as a physician is the right choice for you, too.