How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business

The hardest part about starting a business is finding the seed capital to get the ball rolling. Like the first step of a thousand-mile journey, it’s the hardest and most important. For many veterans, owning their own business is the way to financial freedom. There’s a reason entrepreneurs call seed capital “friends and family money.” Now veterans don’t need to go around asking loved ones for the money – one bank is willing to jump start your idea.


To find out why, just take a look a the PenFed Foundation’s Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program. Besides the fact that PenFed serves the military-veteran community as a consumer base, it just makes sense for the PenFed Foundation to support veterans who are looking to start their own businesses. The numbers speak for themselves. While the number of vets who actually pursue entrepreneurship is relatively small compared to the number of separating military members, that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of interest, it might just mean there’s a lack of capital to get started.

Simply put, veterans need money and knowhow. They already have the work ethic. The numbers back that fact up too.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business

Medal of Honor Recipient Florent Groberg will speak at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference.

Entrepreneurs who are business owners tend to out-earn entrepreneurs who are not veterans. Vets are also a much more diverse subgroup of Americans in terms of age, ethnicity, disability, and experience. There’s nothing a vet can’t do when faced with a big job full of hard work. But like many entrepreneurs, veterans or not, many lack the startup funds to get the ball rolling. That’s where the PenFed Foundation’s VEIP comes in.

The VEIP aims to develop and grow vet-owned startups with seed capital for all the reasons listed above but the most important reason to support these entrepreneurs is because vets become knowledge bases for other vets looking to start their own businesses. Not only that, veterans who own businesses are 30 percent more likely to hire veterans themselves.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business

Charlynda Scales, vet and founder of Mutt’s Sauce is speaking at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference.

The PenFed Foundation is a national nonprofit organization founded in 2001 that is committed to helping members of our military community secure their financial future. Its mission is to provide service members, veterans, and their families and support networks with the skills and resources they need to build a strong financial future.The Foundation changes lives through financial education.

If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Minneapolis increases funding by $6.4M to hire more police officers

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council voted for $6.4 million in funding to increase the size of the city police department. Police officials requested the extra funding eight days earlier, explaining the force had effectively lost more than 200 officers in the months since the death of George Floyd caused protests across the city. 

Former officer Derek Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death and is scheduled for trial March 8. Three other former officers will face trial in August for aiding and abetting Chauvin.

Currently 638 officers are available to work in the city of Minneapolis, despite the department’s having 817 officers on payroll. Sixty officers have retired or resigned since the beginning of 2020, and more than 150 are on extended leave for a variety of reasons, including post-traumatic stress following the unrest last summer.

The plan was approved unanimously, despite some members of the City Council previously pushing for large-scale structural changes in the police department. 

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business
Minneapolis Police Department officers protect a fire truck near the 3rd Precinct from rioters after the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Photo by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die Magazine.

In late January, three City Council members — Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher, and Jeremy Schroeder — introduced the Transforming Public Safety Charter Amendment. This would create a Department of Public Safety and eliminate the police department, replacing it with a Division of Law Enforcement made up of “licensed peace officers” within the new department.

In response to these public safety concerns, the police department will update its hiring application with questions about city residency, advanced degrees in fields such as criminology and social work, and volunteer activities. The city will post these newly funded openings this week and hopes to have new officers starting this summer.

On Saturday, a demonstration took place near the former location of the police department’s 3rd Precinct, which was burned by violent protesters in May 2020. Organized by Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of local groups who support replacing the police department entirely with a Department of Public Safety, the activists were collecting petition signatures for the plan in hopes of getting it on the election ballot this fall.

“We’re hoping to change the culture, we’re hoping to change the structure,” demonstrator Julia Johnson told KTSP Eyewitness News.

According to Yes 4 Minneapolis spokesperson Corenia Smith, the organization has received a $500,000 grant from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.

Articles

Iran commands a secret 25,000-man ‘foreign legion’ in Syria

Iran commands a 25,000-man army fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to the head of Israel’s foreign affairs and defense committees.


Avi Dichter, who formerly served as Israel’s domestic intelligence chief, warned visiting Swiss parliamentary members that the massive army is purposely targeting the Syrian rebel opposition, as opposed to the Islamic State.

Also read: US General thinks Iran is behind the missile attacks on US Navy near Yemen

“This is a foreign legion of some 25,000 militants, most of whom have come from Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Dichter told the delegation Wednesday, as reported by Reuters. “They are fighting in Syria only against the rebels and not against ISIS.”

Dichter did not disclose his sources, but he does receive regular intelligence briefings in his role.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business
The Iranian army marches in parade | Wiki Commons

Iran’s role in the Syrian conflict is as substantial as Russia’s, albeit much more covert. In lieu of massive bombing campaigns, Iran has recruited a large army comprised of mostly Afghan refugees.

The Hazara community is a small Shia Muslim sect in Afghanistan’s predominantly Sunni population. ISIS and Taliban attacks against the Hazaras forced many to flee to Iran, which also practices Shia Islam. Instead of welcoming the Hazaras, Iran converted them into an army, known as the Fatemiyoun division.

Typically, the Qods Force, a branch within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is responsible for foreign cover operations. Iran’s government recognized at the start of the Syrian conflict that a war in Syria would likely be unpopular. The Hazaras served as a convenient proxy.

Iran also utilizes Lebanon’s Hezbollah terrorist militias as a proxy for Assad. The Iran-Hezbollah relationship goes back decades, and the terrorist group is far better suited for counter-insurgency operations in Syria than the more conventional Iranian forces.

“The Iranians enlisted Hezbollah … to fight in Syria because the Iranian army is better suited to fight as an army against another army, while the Hezbollah militants are adept at fighting against terror groups,” said Dichter.

Dichter noted approximately 1,600 Hezbollah fighters have been killed fighting in Syria. The terrorist group is an arch-enemy of Israel, but that does not mean he is happy to see them dying on the battlefield.

“The fighting had made [Hezbollah] a better fighting force and more adept in conventional military warfare,” said Dichter.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines get a tank-killer upgrade just in time for Christmas

Let’s face it, when the Army bought the Stryker, in one sense, they were really just catching up with the Marines, who were making an 8×8 wheeled, armored vehicle work for quite a while. Now, though, the Marines are getting a new system for one variant of their Light Armored Vehicles, the LAV-AT, which will make them even deadlier and easier to maintain.


According to a release by Marine Corps Systems Command, the LAV-ATM project gives this version of the LAV a new turret. The LAV will still be firing the BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile.

Don’t be surprised that the TOW is still around – the BGM-71’s latest versions could be lethal against Russia’s Armata main battle tank.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business
A Light Armored Vehicle Anti-Tank Modernization A2 model sits under an awning at Production Plant Barstow, Marine Depot Maintenance Command, aboard the Yermo Annex of Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., June 15. The turret atop the LAV-ATM is a Modified Target Acquisition System, MTAS, containing a state of the art rocket launcher designed to be more quickly deployed on target with fewer mechanical parts. The MTAS replaces the more than 30 year old Emerson 901 turret. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“Compared to the legacy version, the new turret is unmanned, it fires both wire-guided and radio frequency TOW missiles, and it can acquire targets while on-the-move with an improved thermal sight,” said Jim Forkin, Program Manager’s Office LAV-ATM team lead.

“The turret is important because it protects Marines and gives them an enhanced capability that they didn’t have before,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael S. Lovell, Ordinance Vehicle Maintenance officer, PM LAV team, explained.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business
A Marine tests the enhanced vision capability—part of an upgrade to the Light Armored Vehicle’s Anti-Tank Weapon System—during new equipment training Sept. 18-29, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Marine Corps Systems Command completed its first fielding of four upgraded ATWS in September. (United States Marine Corps photo)

The new LAV also makes maintenance easier with an on-board trouble-shooting system that allows operators and maintenance personnel conduct checks on the systems involved with the vehicle and turret. Learning how to use the new turret takes about one week each for operators and maintainers. The Marines have also acquired 3D computer technology to enhance the training on the new LAV-AT.

But the real benefit of the turret is that “Marines who serve as anti-tank gunners will be able to do their job better,” according to Chief Warrant Officer Lovell. “We’re providing a product that gives Marines an enhanced anti-tank capability improving their forward reconnaissance and combined arms fire power on the battlefield.”

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business
3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Marines operate a Light-Armored Vehicle equipped with a new Anti-Tank weapons system to their next objective during testing at range 500 aboard the Combat Center, Feb. 16, 2015. The testing of the new system began Feb. 9 and is scheduled to end March 8. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo)

Enemy tanks will hopefully be unavailable for comment on these enhancements.

MIGHTY TRENDING

We still don’t know how many Raptors were damaged in hurricane

The U.S. Air Force is not ready to say just how many F-22 Raptors left behind at Tyndall Air Force Base sit damaged or crippled following Hurricane Michael’s catastrophic incursion on the Florida installation.

A service spokeswoman told Military.com on Oct. 15, 2018, that officials are still assessing the damage and cannot comment on the issue until the evaluation is complete.

Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright were briefed by base officials as they toured Tyndall facilities on Oct. 14, 2018. The leaders concurred there was severe damage, but were hopeful that air operations on base may one day resume.


“Our maintenance professionals will do a detailed assessment of the F-22 Raptors and other aircraft before we can say with certainty that damaged aircraft can be repaired and sent back into the skies,” the service leaders said in a joint statement. “However, damage was less than we feared and preliminary indications are promising.”

Officials have yet to describe what kind of maintenance was taking place on the stealth jets that led officials to leave them at Tyndall instead of moving them to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where the other F-22s from the 325th Fighter Wing were evacuated to.

It is rumored that anywhere from seven to 17 aircraft may have been damaged by the Category 4 storm. Photos of F-22s left behind in shredded hangars that have surfaced on social media have some in the aviation community theorizing that a significant chunk of the F-22 fleet — roughly 10 percent — may be left stagnant for good.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business

John W. Henderson, left, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy, and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, right, look at the aftermath left from Hurricane Michael from a CV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft assigned to the 8th Special Operations Squadron above northwest Florida, Oct. 14, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Joseph Pick)

The Air Force has not confirmed any of these numbers.

In the meantime, the unspecified number of F-22s that were able to escape the storm to Wright-Patterson have now been moved to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, Air Combat Command said Oct. 15, 2018. Officials have not said how long the aircraft will remain there.

Experts say this is a perfect argument for why the Air Force should have invested more heavily in its greatest “insurance policy” in an air-to-air fight.

“This storm shows they should have purchased more,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president and analyst at the Teal Group, told Military.com in a phone call Oct. 15, 2018. “If history ever does resume, and a near-peer fight is in our future, you need to keep the skies clean.”

While some aircraft have been moved out of active status for testing purposes, the Air Force has 183 of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-22s in its inventory today. More than 160 belong to active-duty units; the remainder are with Air National Guard elements. Four aircraft were lost or severely damaged between 2004 and 2012.

Production was cut short in 2009, with original plans to buy 381 fighters scaled down to a buy of just 187.

As with any small fleet, the limited number of F-22s has presented its own challenges over the years.

According to Defense News’ fiscal 2017 statistics, F-22s had a 49.01 percent mission-capable rate, meaning less than half were flyable at any given time. In 2014, more than three-quarters of F-22s were deemed mission capable.

The Pentagon wants to increase readiness rates for the F-22, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-35 Lightning II and F/A-18 Hornet to 80 percent by September 2019 — a 31 percent bump for the Raptor alone.

In July 2018, the Government Accountability Office found that the F-22 is frequently underutilized, mainly due to maintenance challenges and fewer opportunities for pilot training, as well as the fleet’s inefficient organizational structure.

But the recent misfortune does not mean the F-22 is no longer valuable. In fact, it may be the opposite, experts say.

So far, the U.S. has not seen what the F-22 is truly capable of, one defense analyst told Military.com on Oct. 15, 2018. It remains, like intercontinental ballistic missiles, a capability for assurance and deterrence. And that’s reason enough for it to be prized for any fleet.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business

Airmen build shelters at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Oct. 15, 2018, during reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

“Remember the example of the B-36 [Peacemaker], the bomber that was supposed to be so intimidating, no one would mess with us,” said the Washington, D.C.-based defense analyst, referencing the Air Force’s largest wing spanned strategic bomber with intercontinental range, used between 1948 to 1959.

“It was solely intended for strategic conflict, and so never flew an operational mission. Was that a success? Was it worth its money? The same kind of question can apply to the ICBM fleet,” the defense analyst, who spoke on background, said.

The analyst continued, “F-22 has yet to be in the fight it was designed for. So there’s no way to say if it’s a good value or not. You certainly don’t need it to blow up drug labs….[But] you don’t ever want to use them” for what they’re intended because that means you’re in a high-scale war.

“Until such time that it gets to perform its intended function, value is hard to evaluate. [But] that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a bad investment,” the analyst added.

Aboulafia agreed, but added now that there may be even fewer Raptors, the clock is ticking down for the next best thing. And it may not be the Pentagon’s other fifth-generation fighter, the F-35.

“I would tell the Air Force to…cut back on F-35 [Joint Strike Fighter] purchases and move forward with [Next-Generation Air Dominance],” Aboulafia said.

The service in 2016 debuted its Air Superiority 2030 roadmap, which includes the sustainment of old fighters and new jets such as the F-22 and F-35, but also outlines next-gen air dominance, defined as the use of advanced fighter aircraft, sensors or weapons — or all of the above — in a growing and unpredictable threat environment.

Officials say the Air Force’s next-generation platform may defy traditional categorization, with service leaders opting for a “family of systems” approach, but the aviation community remains eager for news of an advanced fighter.

“Either an all-new air vehicle or a hybrid,” Aboulafia said of what he’d expect from a potential sixth-generation fighter.

His reasoning? Because the F-35 may not be able to step up to the F-22’s designated role.

“The F-35 is great for situational awareness, great for ground attack. Is it the best for air-to-air [combat]? Far from it,” Aboulafia said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This paratrooper just took his first jump in 31 years

It is uncertain what the record is for the time between Army parachute jumps, but Lt. Col. John Hall may hold it at 30 years and six months.


When Hall parachuted from a military aircraft January 2018, it was the first time he had done so in over thirty years. Hall, a 53-year-old school teacher at Kearsley High School in Flint, Michigan, is serving a one-year tour of duty in Vicenza, Italy, as the public affairs officer for the storied 173rd Airborne Brigade, the contingency response force for U.S. Army Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

I first worked with the 173rd Airborne when I was put on active duty with the Michigan National Guard in 2014 and sent to the Baltic Countries of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve and in support of Latvia, our State Partnership Nation,” Hall said. “The 173rd Airborne Public Affairs leaders and I developed a close working relationship, so last summer, when they needed an experienced public affairs officer to lead their team, I was selected and put on orders.

The 173rd Brigade commander sent word to Hall that he would be expected to jump from aircraft as a part of his duties.

“I was really excited and completely terrified at the same time. I graduated from ‘Jump School’ when I was 19 years old and last jumped when I was 22, so I knew what to do,” Hall said with a laugh.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business
Army Lt. Col. John Hall, a paratrooper and public affairs officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade, poses for a photo in Vicenza, Italy, Jan. 31, 2018. Hall is a Michigan National Guard soldier currently on active-duty orders with the 173rd. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander C. Henninger )

The 173rd put Hall through a one-day airborne refresher course, he said. This training included parachute landing, actions in the aircraft, and emergency procedures, followed by multiple jumps from a 34-foot tower in which his technique was assessed.

The next day, Hall reported to Aviano Air Base in northern Italy, donned his parachute with a couple of hundred other Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, climbed aboard an Air Force C-17 aircraft and, when 1,200 feet over the Juliet Drop Zone, exited the door and tested his training.

Perfect landing

“The jet blast spun me in the air so when my ‘chute deployed it was pretty twisted and did not have a full canopy,” Hall said. “I was surprised that I automatically reached up, pulled the ‘risers’ apart and worked the parachute fully open. Good training takes over and we automatically do the right thing. I then checked my position in the sky and prepared to land. It was all over in less than a minute. I took up a good parachute landing fall position and the landing was perfect.”

Hall has served in the Army since graduating from LakeVille High School in the Flint area where he was an All-State wrestler, president of the school’s student council, and where he began dating his eventual wife, Laura.

“I enlisted as a combat medic when I was 19 years old and served in the 82nd Airborne Division in the mid-1980s, where we conducted frequent parachute operations as a part of our combat training,” Hall said. “After leaving the 82nd, I didn’t think I would ever jump from a military aircraft ever again.”

Also Read: That time a dangling paratrooper was rescued by open-top biplane

Since leaving active duty with the 82nd, Hall has served in the Army Reserve, the Florida and Michigan National Guard, and has been called back to active duty — to include combat duty in Iraq — on multiple occasions, but he has not been assigned to a unit with an airborne mission until now.

He was initially commissioned as a cavalry officer following officer candidate school and served as a Scout Platoon Leader in E Troop, 153rd Cavalry Regiment in Ocala, Florida. His later assignments include company commander in the 1-125th Infantry in Flint, Michigan, as well as executive officer and commander of the 126th Press Camp Headquarters at Fort Custer, Michigan. It was in the 126th PCH that Hall served a combat tour in Baghdad.

Service in Iraq

Coincidentally enough, while serving as a press officer for Multinational Forces Iraq, Hall was serving in a combat zone at the same time as his daughter, Savannah, who had recently been commissioned as an officer through the University of Michigan ROTC program.

“My daughter, Savannah, grew up around the Army and has seen me in uniform since I was in the 82nd Airborne,” Hall said. “She decided when she went to college that she wanted to enroll in ROTC, serve in the Army, and be a paratrooper. It was indeed a proud moment when I pinned her ‘Jump Wings’ on her at Fort Benning, Georgia. And now my youngest daughter, Samantha, is shipping off to Army basic training later this spring. It remains to be seen if she, too, will become a paratrooper.”

Hall has been working in Vicenza, Italy, on the senior staff of the 173rd Airborne Brigade since August 2017. In this short time, he has supported airborne combat training in Latvia, Germany, Slovenia, a historic mission to Serbia, mountaineering training with the Italian Alpini Brigade, and next week will travel to Toulouse, France, to support 173rd Airborne combined engineering operations with French paratroopers.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business
Hundreds of 173rd Airborne Brigade paratroopers conduct a tactical airborne insertion exercise onto Juliet Drop Zone in northern Italy, Jan. 24, 2018. (Photo Credit: Army photo by Lt. Col. John Hall )

High operational tempo

“The operational tempo here at the 173rd Airborne is intense. We continually have combat training going on with our NATO allies throughout Europe,” Hall said. “Our command philosophy is that we are always ‘preparing our soldiers for the unforgiving crucible of ground combat.'”

A significant part of this, in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, is conducting airborne operations, so Hall will complete several more jumps from military aircraft in the coming months.

As far as teaching is concerned, Hall intends to return to the classroom teaching English, history, and theater for the fall 2018 semester. It is certain that the dynamic training and real-world experiences contribute to his classes and his students’ enthusiasm.

Until then, Hall is an Army paratrooper and he said he’s proud of the Soldiers he works with.

Hall added, “It is truly an honor to be able to serve with the ‘Sky Soldiers’ of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. To be able to begin my military career with the 82nd Airborne Division and end it with the 173rd Airborne Brigade is remarkable. I am humbled every day by the discipline, determination, and dedication of these young Americans forward stationed and always prepared to defend their country.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump says Germany is a Russian puppet

President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appear headed for a one-on-one confrontation on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels after Trump slammed Germany as being controlled by Russia.

Trump and Merkel are expected to have a “pull aside” meeting in which Trump will bring up his contention that Russia, through its supply of oil and gas to Germany, controls the country’s politics, The New York Times’ White House correspondent Julia Davis reported on July 11, 2018.


“Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they will be getting from 60-70% of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline,” Trump said at a working breakfast with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“You tell me if that’s appropriate, because I think it’s not, and I think it’s a very bad thing for NATO, and I don’t think it should have happened,” Trump said. “And I think we have to talk to Germany about it.”

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Donald Trump.

(White House photo)

A Reuters review of Germany’s official data shows that 35.3% of German imports of oil and gas come from Russia, but the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline project is expected to increase such energy trade.

Trump went on to bash Germany’s defense spending, which stands at 1.24% of its gross domestic product. The country has committed to reaching 2% by 2024, but Trump has pushed it to get there sooner.

“I think it’s very unfair to our country,” Trump said. “These countries have to step it up not over a 10-year period — have to step it up immediately. Germany is a rich country. They talk about they’re going to increase it a tiny bit by 2030. Well, they could increase it immediately.”

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business

Merkel with Trump during the G7 Leaders Summit in Canada on June 9.

(German Federal Government)

Merkel fires back

Just hours after Trump’s comments, Merkel fired back, saying she lived in East Germany under Soviet control and that things are different now.

“I am very happy that today we are united in freedom, the Federal Republic of Germany,” she said. “Because of that we can say that we can make our independent policies and make independent decisions. That is very good, especially for people in eastern Germany.”

Merkel also defended Germany’s role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, pointing out that German troops were still fighting for US interests in Afghanistan after the US invoked NATO’s mutual-defense clause following the September 11, 2001, attacks.

“Germany is the second-largest provider of troops — the largest part of our military capacity is offered to NATO and until today we have a strong engagement toward Afghanistan,” she said. “In that we also defend the interests of the United States.”

Trump found Merkel’s weak spot, and he’s hammering it

Merkel faces serious difficulties in meeting Germany’s defense-spending commitments to NATO. They are unpopular domestically, and she is already struggling to stay atop a shaky coalition government.

At the same time, Germany’s military is in a poor state, and the country’s own defense minister has criticized a lack of readiness and defense spending. In May 2018, the German news outlet Der Spiegel reported that only four of Germany’s 128 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets were ready to fly combat missions.

While the US has moved to increase its troop presence in Germany and Eastern Europe as a counter to Russia, Merkel’s government has sought to increase some energy purchases from Russia, the very force NATO seeks to defend against.

But as Mark D. Simakovsky, an Atlantic Council expert who previously served as the Europe/NATO chief of staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, told Business Insider, Trump is unpopular in Europe, and that could make upping defense spending even harder for Merkel.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China holds surprisingly short opening of massive bridge

After 10 years and 420,000 tons of steel, and at a devastating cost in lives and renminbi, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is officially open — and the announcement came by a strangely curt Chinese President Xi Jinping in the port city of Zhuhai.

The opening ceremony was shrouded in some of the trademark confusion that has dogged the megaproject since its inception in 2009, with the big day having only just been announced in late October 2018.

In an unexpected and breathtaking display of brevity, Xi declared the world’s longest sea crossing — a 35-mile (55-kilometer) bridge and underwater tunnel connecting Hong Kong, Macau, and the mainland Chinese port city of Zhuhai — as open with an abrupt two-second speech that, it is fair to say, was not what everyone was expecting.


“I announce the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is officially open,” Xi said.

With those accurate, though perhaps less-than-memorable words, China’s strongest leader since Mao Zedong caught the 700-strong audience, which included media members and dignitaries, on the hop.

It was an exercise in concision from a president who, almost a year ago to the day, opened the Communist Party congress in Beijing with a granular 3-hour, 23-minute speech summarizing his thoughts on a new era in socialism with Chinese characteristics.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Instead, before an audience of top officials including Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng and Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, Xi said his piece at the strategically located port of Zhuhai and left the podium as electronic fireworks flailed about on a television in the background.

Reporters on the ground, including Bloomberg’s Fion Li, were quick to express their surprise and disappointment.

Rhetorical revelry is a party tradition

Chinese leaders have a proud tradition of ponying up when history calls for it.

Deng Xiaoping, who while diminutive in stature was a political juggernaut in the 1980s, made a career with pithy insights that Chinese speakers around the world still quote and reexamine.

And while Mao Zedong may have presided over some of the least poetic policies of the 20th century, the Great Helmsman could turn a phrase when he had to, like this brutal and blunt firecracker from 1957.

As president, general secretary of the Central Committee of China’s Communist Party, and chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi has quickly and effectively concentrated influence into his sphere.

And Oct. 23, 2018’s event seemed tailor-made for a long-winded reflection on China’s increasingly successful exercise of soft power, its sheer engineering audacity, and the political genius of building a 55-kilometer crossing that continues to grow the mainland’s security apparatus and authority on both the semiautonomous gambling enclave of Macau and the city-state financial powerhouse of Hong Kong.

But in the end, the president perhaps decided to let the massive, looming achievement speak for itself.

It’s all part of the plan

The bridge is part of China’s ambitious “Greater Bay Area Master Plan” to integrate Hong Kong, Macau, and the manufacturing powerhouse Guangdong province’s nine biggest cities to create a combined id=”listicle-2614804819″.5 trillion tech and science hub intended to rival even Silicon Valley.

The 55-kilometer megastructure is a typically intimidating, awe-inspiring, and slightly pointless statement of state authority and universal purpose. It rises from the Sun and Moon Bay in the Zhuhai port like some giant, disoriented concrete serpent, snaking off mercurially into the distance.

The air is very thick too, with southern Chinese humidity and the ever-present eerie gray-brown pollution that wafts in blooms from heavy manufacturing out of the Pearl River Delta — the factory floor of the world — ensuring the megabridge in all its glory will be largely obscured from view year-round.

What it does provide, however, is direct access to both potentially wayward semiautonomous regions, binding the gambling enclave and the city-state tighter to the breast of the motherland. Indeed, it may be the angst of an ever-encroaching China that has tilted the president to such a rare and unexpected pithiness.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business

Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge Site under construction in 2015.

Commentators have been quick to describe the project as a white elephant, noting that the lightly traveled crossing can hardly be a push for convenience but rather another covert expansion by Beijing as it extends its reach back into the supposedly autonomous enclaves of Hong Kong and Macau.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge is the second major infrastructure project binding Hong Kong to the mainland opened in just a few weeks, following a new high-speed rail connection that opened in September 2018 — the first time Chinese security were stationed on and bestowed authority in Hong Kong territory.

Certainly, there is anxiety in Hong Kong, with critics fearing the increasing inroads into the special administrative region’s territory by an ever-assertive mainland, while some local media has suggested that drivers on the bridge will be closely scrutinized by cameras that examine even their physical condition and how fatigued a driver is becoming.

The issues of territoriality may dominate the project for years to come; most of the bridge is considered mainland territory and Hong Kong vehicles and drivers, already hit by restricted access, will be traveling under the laws of the mainland, Hong Kong’s transportation department has warned.

“The Hong Kong government is always out of the picture and is under the control of the Chinese government,” the Hongkonger lawmaker Tanya Chan told AFP last week. Construction of the bridge began in 2009 and was targeted for completion two years ago.

According to the South China Morning Post, 10 workers died and 600 were injured in the construction of the typhoon-proof, two-way, six-lane expressway bridge that the government expects to carry 29,100 vehicles and 126,000 single-day passenger trips by 2030.

But for now, the bridge is open to some traffic, including certain buses, freight, and selected permit-holding passenger vehicles.

It’s also a gorgeous trip by ferry.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK and France will also challenge China in the South China Sea

Both France and the United Kingdom will challenge Beijing by sailing through “territorial waters” in the South China Sea in early June 2018.

French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly and British Secretary of State for Defense Gavin Williamson made the announcement while speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 3, 2018. While neither official mentioned China in regards to the exercise, which will involve a French maritime task group and UK ships, the language they used was pointed.


“We have to make it clear that nations need to play by the rules, and there are consequences for not doing so,” Williamson said, adding that the UK will send three ships to the South China Sea in 2018 to enforce rules-based order.

Parly also gave further details of how a challenge will play out.

“At some point a stern voice intrudes into the transponder and tells us to sail away from supposedly ‘territorial waters,'” Parly said. “But our commander then calmly replies that he will sail forth, because these, under international law, are indeed international waters.”

“By exercising our freedom of navigation, we also place ourselves in the position of a persistent objector to the creation of any claim to de facto sovereignty on the islands,” Parly added.

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Florence Parly, France’s minister of defense.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

The South China Sea is a highly contentious area in which China, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines have competing claims.

But China has drawn increasing ire for the militarization of its islands, and the US recently disinvited the PLA Navy from an international military exercise because of Beijing’s “continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea” which “only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region.”

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reiterated this stance on June 2, 2018, at the Singapore meeting, saying that the placement of weapons on South China Sea islands “is tied directly to military use for the purpose of intimidation and coercion.”

“There will be consequences to China ignoring the international community,” Mattis said.

“I believe there are much larger consequences in the future when nations lose the rapport of their neighbors… eventually these [actions] do not pay off,” he said.

Several hours later, China’s Lieutenant General He Le slammed “irresponsible comments from other countries.”

“Certain countries, under the guise of so-called ‘freedom of navigation’ and ‘freedom of aviation,’ have sent military vessels and aircraft to the waters and airspace near China’s territory, even sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese waters,” He said.

“This has jeopardized China’s security and challenged China’s sovereignty,” He said, highlighting that such acts “are the true root of the militarization of the South China Sea.”

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

Articles

Dozens dead after 3 suicide bombings rock Istanbul’s international airport

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Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey | Yazar Mertborak/Wikimedia Commons


Dozens were killed after three suicide bombers blew themselves up at Turkey’s largest airport, Istanbul Ataturk, on Tuesday.

The Associated Press, citing senior Turkish officials, said that nearly 50 people have died.

The attack, which occurred at around 10 p.m. local time and appeared to be coordinated, left at least 60 others injured, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

The “vast majority” of victims were Turkish nationals, Reuters reported, but foreigners were also among the casualties, the wire service said, citing an official on Wednesday.

The Associated Press said that initial indications suggest that ISIS is responsible for the attack.

“The assessments show that three suicide bombers carried out the attacks in three different spots at the airport,” Vasip Şahin, Istanbul Province’s governor, said.

The suspects apparently detonated the explosives at the security check-in at the entrance to the airport’s international terminal as they exchanged gunfire with police, a Turkish official told Reuters.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that at least one of the attackers opened fire on the crowd using a Kalashnikov rifle before detonating himself.

It is still unconfirmed who is responsible for the attack, but ISIS and Kurdish groups have claimed multiple attacks in Turkey in the last year. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is waging an insurgency against the Turkish government, but primarily targets military and security personnel in the country’s southeast.

The Ataturk attack “fits the ISIS profile, not PKK,” a counterterrorism official told CNN, adding that the PKK doesn’t usually go after international targets.

Some flights to the airport have been diverted, an airport official told Reuters.

Ataturk is the 11th-busiest airport in the world, with at least 61 million travelers passing through in 2015. Many have noted that Turkey had assigned extra security to the entrance of Ataturk in the wake of numerous ISIS-linked terrorist attacks in Istanbul in the past several months.

Airport-security workers recorded the surveillance-camera footage of the moment the explosion ripped through the airport:

Footage has emerged of panicked travelers running away from the scene of the explosions:

Lisa Monaco, assistant to the US president for homeland security and counterterrorism, has briefed US President Barack Obama on the attack, according to a White House official.

All scheduled flights in both directions between the US and Istanbul have been temporarily suspended, a senior US official told ABC. The airport will be closed until 8 p.m. on Wednesday local time.

The US State Department renewed its three-month-old travel warning for Turkey on Monday, noting that “Foreign and US tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organizations,” in a warning posted on the department’s website.

The US consulate is working to determine if US citizens are among the airport attack’s victims, the State Department tweeted.

Many passengers are now stranded outside of the airport:

ISIS has claimed responsibility for multiple terrorist attacks on Turkish soil since mid-2015.

In January, 13 people were killed and 14 injured in a suicide bombing in a popular central square in Istanbul. The perpetrator was identified as Nabil Fadli, an ISIS follower from Syria.

Last July, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in southeastern Turkey that killed 33 young activists. Three months later, a n ISIS-linked suicide bombing at a peace rally in Ankara killed over 100 people.

Michael Weiss, co-author of “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” noted on Twitter that ISIS has a “lot of motives for attacking Ataturk airport, including the imminent loss of Manbij [in Syria], Turkish shelling of ISIS, and of course Turkish-Israel rapprochement.”

The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons — a breakaway faction of the PKK — claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Ankara in February that killed 29 people and another in March that killed 37. A car bomb claimed by Kurdish separatists ripped through a police bus in central Istanbul on June 7 during the morning rush hour, killing 11 people and wounding 36 near the main tourist district, a major university, and the mayor’s office.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 of the most annoying misconceptions about Marine boot camp

If you’ve learned everything you know about Marine Corps boot camp from watching films like Full Metal Jacket or Jarhead, then you’ve got a skewed idea of what goes down. In fact, before we even hop into the list of misconceptions, let’s squash one here and now: your senior drill instructor does not train you the whole time. If anything, he or she is more like a ghost, only appearing when it’s time to pass out mail or if your platoon really f*cks up.

Sincerely, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as a boot is telling people tales of your training. Why? If you’re telling someone who hasn’t experienced boot camp for themselves, you’ll have to constantly stop and break down all of their existing misconceptions. If you’re telling someone who has gone through it, then they don’t want to hear a bunch of crap they’ve already heard from every boot before you.

So, to save you some time, my young boot, go ahead and share this article with your friends before you regale them with tales of your triumph over boot camp. These preconceived notions are all wrong:


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They’re usually pretty cool. Just don’t piss them off. (U.S. Marine Corps photos by Sgt. Dana Beesley)

Your drill instructor trains you to shoot

Drill instructors have a role during your basic rifle training, but you get most of your training from a primary marksmanship instructor. Being a PMI is the only other way to be able to wear a campaign hat, the infamous “Smokey Bear” as some refer to it. Your drill instructor takes you to class and you’re trained by someone with a more even temper.

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You do learn tactics at combat training, however. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shane Manson)

You learn infantry tactics

This one’s easy — you don’t. Not extensively, anyways. Not to a degree where you could be dropped off on a battlefield the day of graduation and expect to survive, at least.

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Usually the morning. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl Vivien Alstad)

All you do is PT

There’s a lot of physical training done during Marine boot camp, like, a lot. But it’s not the only thing you do. If you’re a total sh*t bag and no one likes you, yeah, that’s all you’ll do because you’re going to live in the freaking sand pit. Generally, though, PT only accounts for a portion of your day.

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Don’t piss them off when you get these moments.(Photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)

Your drill instructors never stop being mean

At first, yeah. Every time you see a Marine in a campaign cover it sends a chill down your spine and you die a little bit on the inside, but after a while, your drill instructors will treat you just a little bit better. You may even have some cool sit-downs where one lectures about their personal experiences as a teaching tool.

But, if you take that kindness for weakness — you’ll pay.

How one bank is investing heavily in vet-owned business
It’s not all about crawling under barbed wire. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by WO1 Bobby Yarbrough)

Marine Corps boot camp is extremely difficult

While some believe it’s the most difficult of all the branches, that’s irrelevant. The truth is that Marine Corps boot camp — or any other basic training — isn’t as hard as you’ll make it out to be in your mind.

If you can adapt, you can survive. That’s essentially what you learn in boot camp, because that’s what it means to be a Marine.


-Feature image: USMC photo by LCpl Jose Gonzalez

MIGHTY TACTICAL

There was a real-life John Rambo who ran amuk in Pennsylvania

A single man earned the nickname “wilderness ninja” after he successfully evaded more than 1,000 uniformed police officers, helicopters, and vehicles in Pennsylvania – not unlike the character of John Rambo in the movie First Blood. Unlike Rambo, however, Eric Frein wasn’t just minding his own business. He’s a convicted terrorist and murderer who killed a state trooper and wounded another before he was apprehended.


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Frein was a war re-enactor who loved the Balkan Conflict.

There’s no mistaken identity in this case. In 2017, Eric Frein was convicted of murdering a Pennsylvania state trooper while wounding another. He was sentenced to die in a decision that was upheld three times. Frein was an avid war re-enactor, self-taught survivalist, and expert marksman who had extensive firsthand knowledge of the Poconos, where he eluded law enforcement officers. He even managed to avoid being tracked with heat-sensitive cameras. The war gamer was driven by his beef with law enforcement, who called in every available agent to assist in the hunt.

U.S. Marshals, the ATF, FBI, and state and local police scoured county after county for the man they say spent years planning the murder of police officers as well as his escape into the forests and hills. Many survival specialists told the media that Rein seemed to be an expert-level survivalist who was likely hiding in caves and below dense underbrush to hide his movement.

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U.S. Marshals injured Frein’s face during his apprehension.

But Frein was no genius. On Sept. 12, 2014, he opened up on the Pennsylvania State Troopers Barracks in Blooming Grove, Pa. with a .308-caliber rifle, killing Cpl. Byron Dickson III and wounding Trooper Alex Douglass. He was living in his parents’ home at this time and driving his parents’ Jeep. While speeding away from the scene, he lost control of the vehicle and drove it into a nearby swamp. He escaped and walked home, leaving his Social Security Card and shell casings from the incident inside the Jeep. It was discovered by a man walking his dog three days later.

By then, Frein was long gone.

The shooter escaped into the Poconos of Northern Pennsylvania for nearly two full months, evading capture, leaving booby traps and pipe bombs, and using the terrain to his advantage. He was almost caught on a few occasions, including a visit to his old high school. He managed to stay free until Oct. 30, 2014, when U.S. Marshals chased him down in a field near an abandoned airport.

Frein was arrested with the handcuffs of Byron Dickson, the officer he killed.

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Eric Frein, of course, pled not guilty to all the charges slapped on him, including first-degree murder and attempted murder. It didn’t matter though, but after some legal wrangling, Frein was convicted of all charges, including two counts of weapons of mass destruction in April 2017. He was sentenced to die by lethal injection and awaits his sentence to this day.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 things to know about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic

The three Russian journalists who were killed in the Central African Republic (CAR) had arrived in the war-torn country to investigate the reported presence there of a shadowy Russian paramilitary force whose units are said to have fought in Ukraine and Syria.

Colleagues of Orkhan Dzhemal, Aleksandr Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko say the trio were making a documentary about the private Russian military company Vagner, which French and Russian media reports had previously reported to be operating in the CAR.

CAR officials say the journalists were ambushed and killed by unidentified assailants.


The Russian government has never officially confirmed the presence of Vagner employees in the African country and denies that the firm’s contractors act on Moscow’s orders. The private military firm is reportedly controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a longtime associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, though Prigozhin has previously denied that he is linked to the company.

Here are five things you need to know about Russian military contractors working in the CAR.

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Anti-Balaka militia in Gbaguili.

1. Why are Russian contractors there?

The Central African Republic, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been subjected to a UN Security Council arms embargo since 2013, when an armed, mainly Muslim coalition known as Seleka seized power. Christian armed formations fought back, and the violence saw thousands killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee their homes.

In 2016, Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected president of the CAR, but much of the country remains controlled by various armed formations, primarily ex-Seleka fighters and the Christian alliance known as Anti-balaka. The UN established a peacekeeping mission in the CAR in 2014.

In December 2017, Russia secured an exemption to the Security Council arms embargo, allowing Moscow to deliver arms and training for what a UN panel of experts describes as part of a multinational effort — including the European Union Military Training Mission — to boost the capabilities of the CAR’s military and security forces.

“Our only request was that the Russian delegation submit additional information on the serial numbers of the weapons…so that we can track weapons going into CAR,” AFP cited an unidentified U.S. official as saying at the time.

2. How many are there, and what are they doing?

In December 2017, Russia notified the Security Council committee overseeing the CAR arms embargo of the involvement of 175 Russian “instructors” in a training mission, according to a report by a UN panel of experts issued in July 2018. Of those personnel, 170 were identified as civilian instructors, while the remaining five were from the Russian military, the report says.

According to the panel, Russian instructors have been involved in a range of tasks, including: escorting convoys of building materials for hospitals; providing security for hospitals donated by Russia; and training police officers as a requirement for equipping them with Russian weapons.

The panel also said that a Russian national had been appointed as a national security adviser to Touadera and that the Russian is “engaging with armed groups” to discuss issues including “disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, national reconciliation,” and the sharing of revenue derived from the exploitation of natural resources.

In June 2018, two government soldiers and one Russian instructor were wounded in an attack by militia fighters while traveling to the south of the country, the panel said.

3. Why is Vagner said to be operating in the CAR?

Several media reports over the past year have indicated that Vagner contractors may be working in the CAR. In March 2018, a reporter for the Russian news site Znak.com visited a facility reportedly operated by Vagner outside the southern Russian city of Krasnodar. The reporter cited a military veteran who lives in the town where the facility is located as saying that Vagner mercenaries were set to be sent “to Africa” for a “training” mission.

Two weeks later, the Russian Foreign Ministry publicly discussed the 175 Russian “instructors,” saying they had been sent to the CAR in “late January-early February,” but without indicating whether the civilian personnel were employees of Vagner or another military contractor.

The Russian investigative journalism news site The Bell in June 2018 cited an unidentified source as saying that Vagner employees were training CAR forces. And in July 2018, Yevgeny Shabayev, a leader of a Cossack organization who says he visited Vagner fighters injured in a deadly February 2018 clash with U.S. forces in Syria, published a letter stating that private Russian military contractors have operated in the CAR and “an array of other African and Arab countries.”*

An editor at the Investigation Control Center, the outlet funded by billionaire Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky that financed the investigation conducted by the three journalists killed in the CAR, said on August 1, 2018 that the team had reached the facility where they believed Vagner operatives were stationed but were told they needed accreditation from the country’s Defense Ministry.

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The president of the Central African Republic, Faustin-Archange Touadera.

4. What is Russia’s interest?

Russia says it is seeking to restore peace in the CAR with the provision of arms and training to government forces.

“Russia’s assistance is carried out as part of the common efforts of the international community to strengthen the national security units of CAR,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Artyom Kozhin said in a March 22, 2018 statement.

But Moscow has also made no secret of its economic interests in the country’s natural resources.

“Russia is exploring the possibilities of the mutually beneficial development of Central African natural resources,” Kozhin said. “The prospecting-mining exploration concessions began in 2018. We believe these projects will help stabilize the economic situation in CAR, promote the construction of the infrastructure, and serve as a basis for drawing additional investment to the country’s economy.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Touadera in the Russian city of Sochi in October 2017, with the ministry saying that the officials “reaffirmed their countries’ resolve” to bolster bilateral ties “and pointed to the considerable potential for partnership in mineral resources exploration” and energy.

Putin met Touadera in St. Petersburg in May 2018, with the Russian leader saying that Moscow “will be happy to consider various plans to boost our relations, first of all in the economic and humanitarian fields.”

5. What impact is Russian presence having?

While Russia touts its weapons shipments and training efforts in the CAR as an effort to stabilize the country, the report by the UN panel of experts released in July 2018 said that new weapons obtained by government forces have motivated rebel militias to boost their own stockpiles.

“The recent acquisition of weaponry by the Government has created an incentive for the active rearmament of ex-Selaka factions,” the report said.

The panel added that armed militia representatives had told them that “since the government had opted for the military option (training, rearming, and attacking) instead of the political process, armed groups needed to be prepared.”

The experts’ report noted a worsening of the security situation in Bangui and Bambari, citing “serious outbreaks of violence, including in areas where the situation had previously improved.”

*Correction: This article has been amended to clarify that Yevgeny Shabayev’s letter stated that private Russian military contractors, not necessarily Vagner, have operated in the Central African Republic.

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

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