Former NBA bad boy Dennis Rodman said Tuesday that he is “just trying to open a door” by going to North Korea in his first visit since President Donald Trump took office.
Rodman, who has made several trips to the country, sported a black T-shirt advertising a marijuana cybercurrency as he headed toward immigration at Beijing airport, from where he is expected to fly to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
Asked if he had spoken to Trump about his trip, he said, “Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.”
Rodman has received the red-carpet treatment on four past trips since 2013, but has been roundly criticized for visiting during a time of high tensions between the U.S. and North Korea over its weapons programs.
His entourage included Joseph Terwilliger, a professor who has accompanied Rodman on previous trips to North Korea.
Rodman said the issue of several Americans currently detained by North Korea is “not my purpose right now.”
In Tokyo, a visiting senior U.S. official said Rodman’s trip is as a private citizen.
“We are aware of his visit. We wish him well, but we have issued travel warnings to Americans suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety,” U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon told reporters after discussing the North Korean missile threat and other issues with Japanese counterparts.
In 2014, Rodman arranged a basketball game with other former NBA players and North Koreans and regaled leader Kim Jong Un with a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” On the same trip, he suggested that an American missionary was at fault for his own imprisonment in North Korea, remarks for which he later apologized.
A foreign ministry official who spoke to The Associated Press in Pyongyang confirmed that Rodman was expected to arrive Tuesday but could not provide details. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the ministry had not issued a formal statement.
Any visit to North Korea by a high-profile American is a political minefield, and Rodman has been criticized for failing to use his influence on leaders who are otherwise isolated diplomatically from the rest of the world.
Americans are regarded as enemies in North Korea because the two countries never signed a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. Thousands of U.S. troops are based in South Korea, and the Demilitarized Zone between the North and South is one of the most heavily fortified borders in the world.
A statement issued in New York by a Rodman publicist said the former NBA player is in the rare position of being friends with the leaders of both North Korea and the United States. Rodman was a cast member on two seasons of Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Rodman tweeted that his trip was being sponsored by Potcoin, one of a growing number of cybercurrencies used to buy and sell marijuana in state-regulated markets.
North Korea has been hailed by marijuana news outlets and British tabloids as a pothead paradise and maybe even the next Amsterdam of pot tourism. But the claim that marijuana is legal in North Korea is not true: The penal code lists it as a controlled substance in the same category as cocaine and heroin.
Americans have been sentenced to years in North Korean prisons for such seemingly minor offences as stealing a political banner and likely could not expect leniency if the country’s drug laws were violated.
Take off your tin-foil hats for a second, because sometimes an insane-sounding conspiracy theory actually turns out to be true. From the government making up an enemy attack to justify war to “mind control” experiments, some stories are hard to believe until declassified documents or investigations prove they actually happened.
Here are five of the wildest former conspiracy theories we found:
1. The US Navy fired on North Vietnamese torpedo boats that weren’t even there.
On the night of Aug. 4, 1965, the USS Maddox engaged against hostile North Vietnamese torpedo boats following an unprovoked attack. The only problem: there were no torpedo boats. Or attack. The Maddox fired at nothing, but the incident was used as a justification to further escalate the conflict in Vietnam.
Others who were present, including James Stockdale (a Navy pilot who would later receive the Medal of Honor), disputed the official account:
“I had the best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there … There was nothing there but black water and American fire power.”
Even LBJ wasn’t convinced: “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”
2. The FBI infiltrated, surveilled, and tried to discredit American political groups it deemed “subversive.”
When it wasn’t investigating crimes and trying to put people in jail, the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Director J. Edgar Hoover kept busy trying to suppress the spread of communism in the United States. Under a secret program called COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program), the FBI harassed numerous political groups and turned many of its members completely paranoid.
Though they could never be sure, many activists suspected the FBI was watching them. And the Bureau was able to mess with groups it didn’t like and influence what they did.
Under COINTELPRO, FBI agents infiltrated political groups and spread rumors that loyal members were the real infiltrators. They tried to get targets fired from their jobs, and they tried to break up the targets’ marriages. They published deliberately inflammatory literature in the names of the organizations they wanted to discredit, and they drove wedges between groups that might otherwise be allied. In Baltimore, the FBI’s operatives in the Black Panther Party were instructed to denounce Students for a Democratic Society as “a cowardly, honky group” who wanted to exploit the Panthers by giving them all the violent, dangerous “dirty work.” The operation was apparently successful: In August 1969, just five months after the initial instructions went out, the Baltimore FBI reported that the local Panther branch had ordered its members not to associate with SDS members or attend any SDS events.
It wasn’t only communist or left-leaning organizations. The FBI’s list of targets included the Civil Rights movement, and public enemy number one was Dr. Martin Luther King. Agents bugged his hotel rooms, followed him, tried to break up his marriage, and at one point, even sent him an anonymous letter trying to get him to commit suicide.
It would’ve been just a whacky conspiracy theory from a bunch of paranoid leftists that no one would’ve believed. But the conspiracy theorists — a group of eight anti-war activists — broke into an FBI field office in 1971 and found a trove of documents that exposed the program.
3. U.S. military leaders had a plan to kill innocent people and blame it all on Cuba.
Sitting just 90 miles from the Florida coast and considered a serious threat during Cold War, communist Cuba under its leader Fidel Castro was a problem for the United States. The U.S. tried to oust Castro with the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, but the operation failed. So the generals went back to the drawing board and came up with an unbelievable plan called Operation Northwoods.
The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.
“These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing,” Bamford told ABCNEWS.com.
What were the “embarrassing” plans? Well, there were ideas for lobbing mortars into Guantanamo naval base, in addition to blowing up some of the aircraft or ammunition there. Then there was another idea floated to blow up a ship in its harbor. But these were rather timid compared to other plans that came later in a top secret paper:
“We could develop a Communist Cuba terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington … We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated) … Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.”
The paper went on to describe in detail other plans for possibly hijacking or shooting down a “drone” airliner made to look like it was carrying civilian passengers, or faking a shoot-down of a U.S. Air Force jet over international waters to blame Cuba.
4. The CIA recruited top American journalists to spread propaganda in the media and gather intelligence.
Started in the 1950s amid the backdrop of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency approached leading American journalists in an attempt to influence public opinion and gather intelligence. The program, called Operation Mockingbird, went on for nearly three decades.
Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.
The Church Committee exposed much of the program, with a full report from Congress stating: “The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.”
5. The CIA conducted “mind control” experiments on unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens, some of which were lethal.
Perhaps one of the most shocking conspiracy theories that turned out to be true was a CIA program called MKUltra, which had the stated goal of developing biological and chemical weapons capability during the Cold War, according to Gizmodo. But it ballooned into a larger program that encompassed research (via Today I Found Out):
which will promote the intoxicating affect of alcohol;
which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness;
which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so called “brain-washing;”
which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use;
[which will produce] shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use; and
which will produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
During the program, the CIA established front companies to work with more than 80 institutions, such as hospitals, prisons, and universities. With these partnerships in place, the agency then ran experiments on subjects using drugs, hypnosis, and verbal and physical abuse. At least two American deaths can be attributed to this program, according to the Church Committee.
Though the Church Committee uncovered much of this shocking program, many of the top secret files were ordered to be destroyed in 1973 by CIA Director Richard Helms.
As of this writing, the deal between the United States and the Taliban for ending the war in Afghanistan is dead. Along with it is National Security Advisor John Bolton, one of the reluctant architects of the deal who (sources say) was never behind the deal to begin with. President Trump was supposed to secretly meet with senior Taliban officials at Camp David to hammer out the final terms of an agreement, but that was also squashed, the final nail in the coffin for such an agreement.
But the United States may still reduce the number of troops fighting its longest war.
As the Trump White House and the Taliban exchange blame for the collapse of peace talks, there are an estimated 13,000 to 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan. This is why Taliban leaders won’t engage with the Afghan government. They believe President Ashraf Ghani’s government is a Western puppet with no legitimacy. The Trump Administration wanted to force the Taliban to recognize Ghani’s legitimacy through a peace agreement with the U.S. but there were a number of outstanding events that would lead to the agreement’s downfall.
First, the United States wanted the Taliban to stop its attacks on U.S. troops in the country to build trust before the deal was made. Senior defense officials say the Taliban actually increased their attacks over the past few weeks, killing a U.S. service member, along with a Romanian service member and ten civilians in a car bomb attack in Kabul. That attack may have been the last straw for President Trump.
The deal is still a major sticking point for Trump, who vowed to bring home American troops from Afghanistan during his 2016 campaign. The peace agreement that was recently killed kept troop strength at 8,600, enough to combat terrorist attacks in the country and didn’t demand a cease-fire from the Taliban. It only asked the terror group to commit to reducing violence in Kabul and Parwan provinces – areas where the United States has a large military presence.
Negotiated by Afghan-American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, the deal would have required the U.S. to withdraw 5,000 troops within 135 days of signing. The Taliban would be required to reduce violence in those two areas while preventing the country from being a base for international terrorism, while renouncing its alignment with the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
After the Kabul bombing on Sep. 5, Khalilzad was recalled to Washington and is no longer talking to the Taliban.
For its part, the Taliban say the deal broke down because the group’s leadership wouldn’t sign any agreement that didn’t list the final end date for American troops leaving Afghanistan, which was supposedly November 2020 or January 2021. Secondly, the United States wanted the Ghani government to postpone Afghan Presidential elections set for Sep. 28, 2019. If Ghani won, anti-Ghani factions would undermine the Afghan President’s legitimacy further with the Taliban by protesting the election victory.
The most important reason the agreement failed, however, is trust. No one at the table and no one with an interest in the agreement actually trusted the Taliban to keep their word. In fact, intercepted communications from the Taliban show the terror organization’s negotiators believe they “fooled” the United States. Still, many in the United States believe the best way out of Afghanistan is through a political agreement.
Only no one yet knows what that agreement will look like.
Snipers are considered one of the most dangerous warfighters in the battlefield — taking out targets from concealed and undisclosed locations while homing in on prey that has no clue that they’re in the crosshairs.
During the Battle of Stalingrad, the massive damage the city suffered provided insufficient cover for ground troops, but it was perfect for sharpshooters who could hide in the crumbled buildings and wrack up kills.
Out of all the snipers that were most feared, none came close to Soviet Red Army sharpshooter Vasily Zaitsev.
Reportedly within 10 days of fighting in the streets of Stalingrad, Zaitsev’s body count reached about 40 kills. Once the Soviet press learned of the Siberian native’s incredible progress, they promoted it by releasing propaganda to anyone who would read it — even the Germans.
In response, the Germans sent their first-rate sniper, Maj. Erwin Konig into Stalingrad. Konig’s mission was to eliminate the Red Army’s most efficient marksmen and to display the Nazi’s superiority.
Word broke out that Konig was inbound after a German POW bragged to the Russian Army that it was only a matter of days before Zaitsev and the other snipers would be defeated. This news reached Zaitsev nearly immediately.
After a few days, there were no signs of Konig being in the area until three Russian snipers were wiped out within a small section of town. With a hunter’s caution, Zaitsev worked his way into the area where Konig claimed the three Russians lives for an epic duel.
On the second day of Zaitsev’s stalk, a political commissar joined him to report the news of the kill after it had occurred. But the political commissar soon saw something move down the street, and as he stood up to point it out to Zaitsev, Konig killed him with a single well-placed shot.
This kill helped Zaitsev zero in on Konig’s hide. He removed his glove from his hand and placed it on a stick. He then raised the glove up, and Konig accurately shot it — exposing his muzzle flash.
Zaitsev quickly aimed and fired scoring a direct kill shot. The story’s finale isn’t exactly what audiences saw in 2001’s feature film “Enemy at the Gates” starring Jude Law.
Check out Gun Crazy 81’s video below to hear how this epic duel between these historic snipers went down.
Over 100 US Marines sent a “strong message” to Russia with a live-fire exercise in Syria after the Russians threatened to conduct strikes near a key US-led coalition base. US Central Command has released several combat photos of that message to a rival power.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jorge Castrosamaniego, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, learns how to utilize an 84 mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.
Russia told the US it wanted to launch strikes near a key US-led coalition base, but the US Marines demonstrated that it would be better for Russia to keep out.
Russia warned the US twice in early September 2018 that Russian, Syrian, and pro-regime forces planned to conduct operations and launch strikes in the deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, accusing the US and its coalition partners of failing to adequately combat terrorists in the area. The US military, together with its regional partners, responded by holding a live-fire exercise reportedly involving air assets, artillery, and other heavy weaponry meant to send the clear message that it is more than capable of taking on any and all threats.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Carter Sampson, an anti-tank missile gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires a FGM-148 Javelin, a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile, at his target during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.
“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown told Business Insider, adding, “Coalition partners are in the At Tanf deconfliction zone for the fight to destroy ISIS. Any claim that the US is harboring or assisting ISIS is grossly inaccurate.”
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dave Lawless, an assault man with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, instructs others how to utilize the Mk 153 shoulder-launch multipurpose assault weapon during operations near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 9, 2018.
A U.S. Marine with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at a target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.
The US military informed the Russians that it is not looking for a fight, but it is more than ready should anyone come looking for one.
“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” Brown previously told BI in an emailed statement.
“However,” he added, “the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition or partner forces, as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”
U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Fabian Castro (right), an infantry rifleman with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At Tanf Garrison, Syria September 7, 2018.
The At Tanf garrison in Syria serves as a base for US operations against the Islamic State, as well as an obstacle for broader Russian, Syrian, and Iranian interests in the region.
Russia’s interest in the deconfliction zone has little to nothing to do with combating terrorism in the region, a US defense official told BI. The At Tanf deconfliction zone sits in the middle of a major connection between Tehran and Damascus.
Moscow remains critical of the US military presence in Syria. Nonetheless, Russia agreed to a 55-kilometer deconfliction zone around the At Tanf garrison, and the US military continues to expect the Russians to continue to abide by this agreement.
The US military has previously engaged foreign forces that attempted to enter the deconfliction zone. For instance, last summer, coalition troops “destroyed” pro-regime forces that “advanced inside the well-established deconfliction zone,” CENTCOM said in a statement.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. James Gordon, a machine gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires at his target with an M240B machine gun during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Philip Russell, a machine gun squad leader with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, provides security at a position near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria Sept. 7, 2018.
U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, prepare to board an MV-22 Osprey on to a site near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.
The exercise came as Russia gathered its naval forces in the Mediterranean to assist Syrian and pro-regime troops as they began a major assault on Idlib, the last stronghold of the Syrian rebels.
The United Nations has stressed that a full-scale assault on Idlib would result in a humanitarian catastrophe. Tens of thousands of people have already begun fleeing the area.
The US has warned the Syrian regime led by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that any use of chemical weapons will be met with a strong, swift response. “The president expects us to have military options in the event that chemical weapons are used,’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said over the weekend, adding, “We have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.”
US strikes on Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons run contrary to Russian interests and have resulted in criticism from Moscow.
Tensions between the US and Russia, however, extend beyond the Syrian battlegrounds
Russia is currently holding major war games with China in the eastern part of the country, and these exercises are expected to be held on a “regular basis” going forward. The Pentagon is watching closely as the two US rivals strive to strengthen military ties.
During the drills, Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers escorted by Su-35 Flanker fighter jets were intercepted by F-22 stealth fighters near Alaska. It was the second time this month that American military aircraft have intercepted Russian bombers near the state.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As haunting images from Italy of overcrowded emergency rooms and horror stories of Coronavirus flood social media, the Italian Air Force flew with a message of strength for her people. It was a reminder of pride for the country, unity in the face of grave danger and a prayer of resilience for a country beleaguered by an enemy we haven’t seen before: COVID-19.
Set to the backdrop of Giacomo Puccini’s ‘Nessum Dorma,’ performed by Luciano Pavarotti, the flyover is beautiful, chilling and more than anything … full of hope. Translated to English, the last lyrics of the song are, “I will prevail. I will prevail. I will prevail.” You will, Italy. And America will, too.
The Italian Renaissance had a pretty cutthroat political climate, but King Ferrante I of Naples carved out his own niche of crazy. Born the illegitimate son of Alfonso V of Aragon in 1423, Ferrante (“Ferdinand” in Italian) spent most of his life wrangling his Neapolitan realm into submission. The experience turned him into a real brute.
Ferrante didn’t let most of his enemies go free. Instead, he killed and mummified them—keeping their preserved corpses in the castle of Castelnuovo for his own enjoyment. He loved having them close by, according to nineteenth-century historian Jacob Burckhardt, “either in well-guarded prisons, or dead and embalmed, dressed in the costume which they wore in their lifetime.” A contemporary chronicler described them as “a frightful sight,” having been “pickled with herbs,” as a warning to future royal enemies.
Ferrante I as a bust, not a mummy
How did Ferrante get so twisted? King Alfonso didn’t have any legitimate male heirs of his own at the time, and he really wanted his not-so-secret love child to rule over at least part of his burgeoning empire. Thus, he gave Ferdinand the best education he could afford: tutoring by Rodrigo Borgia (later Ferrante’s mortal enemy when he became a cardinal, then Pope Alexander VI). Despite his legitimization, Ferrante struggled to hold on to his territory, facing opposition from numerous popes and the Frenchcandidate to his throne, Duke Jean II of Anjou.
Needless to say, Ferrante hated Jean and his French pals, even after he beat them, so he devised his own morbid revenge. After he dominated the French in 1465, Ferrante invited a bunch of his rebellious nobles and their families over to his castle for dinner. He ostensibly was showing his benevolence, and who wouldn’t want to make up over a meal? Unfortunately for his guests, Ferrante wasn’t in a forgiving mood. He fed some of them to the crocodiles in his moat and threw the rest in prison—keeping some of them there for the next thirty years. The King threw another enemy out the window (the Neapolitans loved defenestration). Some of these guys probably wound up in his mummy collection.
For years the news has been full of stories about the use of Predator drones to take out bad actors in hot spots around the globe, but how much do you really know about these unmanned aircraft? Take WATM’s quiz and find out if you’re ready to join the Air Force pros in a trailer near you.
In November 2018, I completed a grueling three-day training for journalists and aid workers heading into countries with tenuous security situations and war zones.
I learned a ton during the training — what worst-case scenarios look like, how to avoid them, and, perhaps most important, how I might act when it hits the fan. But the most important thing I picked up was an easy-to-learn tactic anyone could use.
Held at a nondescript warehouse in suburban Maryland, the training was led by Global Journalist Security, an organization founded in 2011 to help people going to dangerous places acquire what it calls the “physical, digital, and emotional aspects of self-protection.”
I had some vague idea of what I was getting myself into. I’m traveling to Egypt, Nigeria, and Ethiopia over the next couple of months, and fellow journalists had recommended the course as preparation for the worst-case scenarios: kidnappings, terrorist attacks, active-shooter situations, and war zones. How a three-day course in suburban Maryland could credibly do that was anybody’s guess.
Training prepares people not to freeze or panic in worst-case scenarios
The chief trainers Paul Burton and Shane Bell, a former British Army sergeant and a former Australian Armed Forces elite commando respectively, are experts at putting people in distressed mindsets. The two have accompanied journalists and aid workers in the world’s most dangerous places, been kidnapped, and negotiated kidnapping releases. They know what they’re talking about.
Female war correspondents during World War II.
Over the course of the training, Bell, Burton, and the rest of the GJS team thrust attendees — yours truly, included — into simulations designed to trigger your adrenaline.
“You want to give people skills to stay in the moment and not freeze or go into panic mode,” Smyth told Columbia Journalism Review in 2013. “Some people will forget to yell, ‘Hey, she’s being dragged away — we have to help her!’ [The training] plants seeds, things to remember.”
I had to save a fellow aid worker from an “arterial puncture wound” that was squirting a fountain of (very real-looking) “blood” from a gaping “flesh wound.” Hooded actors interrupted PowerPoint presentations firing blanks into the class as we scrambled to find cover and escape. There was a kidnapping during which I was told to “slither like the American snake that I am.” And finally we were put through a final course across fields and hiking trails designed to mimic a war zone with grenades thrown, artillery shelling, landmines, and snipers.
My 13-year-old self thought it was pretty wicked. My 28-year-old self was shook. By the end, I was praying I would never have to use any of it, particularly after I “died” in the first active-shooter scenario.
But that scenario came before I learned the most valuable skill Burton, Bell, and company imparted upon us: tactical breathing.
U.S. Army Spc. Chad Moore, a combat medic assigned to 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Dustin Biven)
Combat troops, police officers, and first responders are trained in tactical breathing
The idea behind it is simple: When you enter high-stress situations, your sympathetic nervous system throws your body into overdrive. Adrenaline kicks in, your body starts to shake, and your mind races to solve the problem.
It doesn’t just happen in war zones. If you hate public speaking, it’s likely to happen before you get onstage. If you’re nervous about an important exam, it may kick in as the timer starts.
What Burton and Bell hammered home is that you can’t prevent this response. It’s instinctual. Your brain’s three options are fight, flight, or freeze. And while you may know enough about yourself to know how you’ll react when you have to make the big speech, you probably have no idea what your reaction will be during an active-shooter situation or in a war zone.
Usually, in that state, you aren’t thinking logically, if you are thinking at all. Flubbing the speech may not be a big deal, but if you enter that state in a war zone, it could get you killed.
Tactical breathing overrides that stress response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing down your heart rate and calming you down so you can make a rational decision.
It works like this: Breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, and exhale for four seconds. Repeat as necessary until your heart rate slows and your mind calms. Yes, it is very similar to yogic meditation breathing.
Once your mind calms, you can make a rational decision about whether it is best to keep hiding or whether you need to run, rather than flailing in panic.
The Navy’s largest shipyard maintained a private, off-the-books, and illegal security force for more than a decade after the 9/11 terror attacks, costing taxpayers $21 million, the Navy inspector general reports.
The Norfolk ship yard in Portsmouth, VA established an unsanctioned security force with a glut of funding in the early 2000s, then purchased millions of dollars of high-tech security equipment and hid it from the Navy authorities for years, the IG said.
“These folks are not law enforcement, but they wanted to be, and all of their actions were done to become a law enforcement organization,” Peter Lintner, deputy director of investigations at Naval Sea Systems Command, told Federal News Radio. “The stunning thing is that this happened over the course of seven commanding officers, and not a single one of them put a stop to it or really even had any visibility on it. Everybody just thought, ‘Well, they’re the good guys. They’re the security department. They’re not going to do anything wrong.’ In actuality, they were doing everything wrong, and they knew it.”
The IG conducted the the investigation in 2014 after following a tip to the NAVSEA whistleblower hotline, but the report was only recently made available.
The security force acquired surplus equipment — including Berettas, ammunition, scopes, patrol boats, and vehicles — from the Defense Logistics Agency. Government Accountability Office investigators were able to purchase surplus military equipment for a fake law enforcement agency recently, proving that the process for purchasing military equipment is not very rigorous.
The IG estimates that the Navy spent $10.6 million on labor and payroll for the unsanctioned security force, and $10.4 million on the excess equipment.
The Norfolk security crews went to extreme lengths to keep their stockpile of equipment a secret. They created fake license plates for their vehicles, and would move their cache of weapons and tech off-base whenever the Navy’s asset manager came around to take inventory.
“They drove all the vehicles out, loaded everything on the flatbed and stashed it in one of the back parking lots on the local naval base,” Lintner said. “When the asset manager got there, it was literally an empty warehouse, but the day before it had been packed full of tools, vehicles, all types of material.”
When investigators confronted those in charge, “they admitted they hid it deliberately,” Lintner said. “That’s what they said every time: ‘If anybody found out what we had, they would have taken it away from us and we wanted to be ready for any contingency.’ Their motto was, ‘It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.'”
Ryan Parrott was a Navy SEAL on his first deployment during Operation Iraqi Freedom when the vehicle he was in hit an improvised explosive device. Parrott was launched out of the vehicle and suffered a mix of first-degree and second-degree burns – and he got the nickname “Birdman.”
Parrott would serve eight years with the SEALs, but when he left the military, an encounter would change his life’s direction. Parrott met an Army Ranger who had suffered third-degree burns while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was angered when the Ranger told him that things were as good as they would get after three dozen surgeries.
“I decided I could continue to serve my country away from the battlefield,” he told the online media outlet. Decided to channel his anger at the Ranger’s difficulty at getting treatment into action, Parrott founded Sons of the Flag, a non-profit organization intended to help fund research into burn treatments, and to also train doctors on how to treat patients suffering from burns.
Since it was founded in 2012, Sons of the Flag has connected over a thousand burn survivors to treatment. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what the charity does. It also has provided direct support to burn survivors and families, including rent assistance, utility assistance, travel costs, and assistance with special medication needs not covered by insurance.
Families of burn victims also receive “go bags” filled with essentials like water bottles, chargers for cell phones, snacks, toiletries, and a new blanket for while their loved one is being treated. The charity also steps in to help children and teenagers who suffer serious burns, providing items used for entertainment and rehabilitation as well as establishing pediatric “burn camps” for young survivors who may face bullying as a result of the lasting scars from serious burns.
In roughly five years, this charity has been making an impact, primarily in the Texas area. For more information on Sons of the Flag, go to https://sonsoftheflag.org/. One thing for sure – with this SEAL on a mission, survivors of serious burns have a much better chance at a good life.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says European members of the military alliance are unlikely to deploy new nuclear weapons on their soil in response to an alleged violation of a treaty between Washington and Moscow that bans medium-range missiles.
Speaking four days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States will withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Stoltenberg said on Octo. 24, 2018, that NATO is assessing the security implications of the alleged Russian breach.
“We will, of course, assess the implications for NATO allies for our security of the new Russian missiles and the Russian behavior,” Stoltenberg said. “But I don’t foresee that [NATO] allies will station more nuclear weapons in Europe as a response to the new Russian missile.”
The INF treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing, or deploying ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5,500 kilometers.
Nearly 2,700 missiles were eliminated by the Soviet Union and the United States — most of the latter in Europe — under the treaty.Trump said on Oct. 20, 2018, that the United States will pull out of the treaty.
He and White House national-security adviser John Bolton, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other top officials in Moscow on Oct. 22-23, 2018, cited U.S. concerns about what NATO allies say is a Russian missile that violates the pact and about weapons development by China, which is not a party to the treaty.
White House national-security adviser John Bolton.
European governments including those of NATO members France and Germany have voiced concern about Trump’s stated intention to withdraw from the INF, as has the European Union. Bolton said in Moscow that the United States has not yet made any decision to deploy missiles in Europe targeting Moscow.
Stoltenberg said that the INF is “a landmark treaty, but the problem is that no treaty can be effective — can work — if it’s only respected by one party.”
“All [NATO] allies agree that the United States is in full compliance…. The problem is Russian behavior,” he said.
He also expressed hope that Russia and the United States will agree to extend New START, a treaty that restricts long-range nuclear weapons and is due to expire in 2021.
Russia, meanwhile, repeated its criticism of the U.S. plan to withdraw from the INF.
Trump has suggested that the United States will develop missiles that the treaty prohibited once it withdraws, saying when he first announced the planned pullout: “We’ll have to develop those weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say, ‘Let’s really get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons.'”
President Donald J. Trump.
That is “an extremely dangerous intention,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on a conference call on Oct. 24, 2018.
Peskov also said that the Kremlin is “undoubtedly ready” to discuss the possibility of a summit in Washington in 2019 between Putin and Trump, but that there was “no concrete decision on this.”
Bolton has suggested that Trump and Putin, who held their first full-fledged summit in July 2018 in Helsinki, could have another such meeting in the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, Peskov said the Kremlin is preparing for a “possible meeting” between Trump and Putin at an event in Paris on Nov. 11, 2018, commemorating the centenary of the end of World War I.
At his talks with Bolton on Oct. 23, 2018, Putin mentioned the possibility of a Paris meeting on Nov. 11, 2018, and Bolton said that Trump would like to hold such a meeting.
On the 15th anniversary of the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, a startling new number was released: more than 1,000 first responders had died due to illnesses related to the ash and debris from the attack – and some 37,000 were sick at the time. Experts predicted that within five years from that 2016 milestone, more would have died from their illnesses than were killed at Ground Zero.
We are three years removed from that date, and the response from Congress has been woefully inadequate, as evidenced by the recent controversy in Congress sparked by Jon Stewart on behalf of 9/11 first responders. But even the response garnered by Stewart may not be enough for the tens of thousands of victims who could come forward in the next few years.
“Within the next five years we will be at the point where more people have died from World Trade Center-related illnesses than died from the immediate impact of the attacks,” said Dr. Jim Melius, a doctor at the New York State Laborers Union and health advisor to the Obama White House.
The attacks killed 2,977 people with 2,753 dying at the World Trade Center towers in Lower Manhattan. The debris of those towers contained asbestos, lead, glass, poisonous chemicals, heavy metal toxins, oil, and jet fuel. The resulting dust was a menagerie of toxicity that coated throats, mouths, and lungs. Resulting diseases have included cancers, lung disease, digestive disorders, and even cognitive impairment on par with Alzheimer’s Disease.
The federal World Trade Center Health Program has 75,000 registered members with 87 percent of those who worked on rescue and recovery efforts on the ground that day. New York City residents and workers make up the rest of the list. In 2016, the number of registered people on the list who died of related cancers was 1,140. By 2017, that number was more than 2,000. The rate of cancers among first responders to the attacks is up to 30 percent higher than in the general population.
As of Sept. 2018, the number of dead from related illnesses was due to outpace those killed in the attack by the end of 2020 – and the rate of new cancer diagnoses in 9/11 first responders continues to grow.