Israel has begun construction on a massive underwater barrier with the Gaza Strip which it is calling “impenetrable.”
Israel and the Gaza Strip are both located along the Mediterranean Sea, and are separated by several land borders. But no barrier has ever been erected at sea.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that building of the “impenetrable” barrier has begun at Gaza’s northern border, along the beach of a small agricultural community, or kibbutz, called Zikim. The barrier is designed to withstand harsh sea conditions for many years, according to the ministry.
A defense official said the massive barrier will consist of three security layers, which include a layer below sea level, a layer of armored stone, and a top layer of barbed wire. An additional fence will surround the entire area.
Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the “one-of-a-kind” security project will “effectively block any possibility of infiltrating Israel by sea.”
Leiberman added that the barrier serves to limit militant group Hamas’ strategic capabilities as tensions continue to flare along the border. At least 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 injured during violent clashes with Israeli soldiers early May 2018. On May 29, 2018, more than 27 rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza into Israel.
The decision to build the barrier was prompted by a thwarted attack by Hamas militants at sea in July 2014, during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Four Hamas naval operatives, referred to as frogmen, swam ashore at Zikim beach and attempted to cross into Israeli territory. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the men were armed with automatic weapons and explosives, and sought to carry out a terror attack. The four men were later killed in combined sea, air, and land attacks by the IDF.
The IDF posted aerial footage of the thwarted attack:
As a child, Maj. Scotty Autin loved reading Marvel comic books. One of his favorite characters was Gambit, a fictional quick-handed, card-playing thief from New Orleans.
“Considering I’m from Louisiana, I was always drawn to Gambit,” said Autin, deputy commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District. “I read all the comics that featured him and watched the X-Men animated series just to see him. I remember as a 10-year-old, I would practice throwing playing cards just to be like him.”
So when Autin was invited to participate in “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” Jan. 30, 2019, at The Creative Life, or TCL, Chinese Theatre, formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, in Hollywood, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Prior and active-duty military service members with the Veterans in Media and Entertainment, Los Angeles; 311th Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Reserves, Los Angeles; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District; the 300th Army Band, Los Angeles; American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, California; and American Legion Post No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, pose for a picture prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
The event was a memorial tribute to Lee, the legendary writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics, who died in November 2018.
But it wasn’t just because Autin grew up reading Marvel comic books that made participating in the ceremony so important to him; it also was a way to honor Lee’s service to the nation as a fellow Army veteran.
Crowds start to gather Jan. 30, 2019, in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
Lee was a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. While in the service, he started out as a lineman, before the Army realized his writing skills and moved him into technical writing for training manuals, films and posters with a group that included the likes of Oscar-winner Frank Capra and Pulitzer-winner William Saroyan. After the war, Lee returned to Timely Comics, later renamed Marvel, where he served as the editor and co-creator for decades.
He was proud of his military service, said Lee’s longtime friend, Karen Kraft, an award-winning television producer, Army veteran and the chairwoman of the Veterans in Media and Entertainment, or VME, Board of Directors.
An artist sketches a drawing of Marvel Comic creator Stan Lee with actor, producer and director Kevin Smith during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
“He was very proud to have enlisted and was hoping to serve overseas, but his skill set was quickly discovered as a writer, illustrator and storyteller,” Kraft said.
Lee’s appreciation for his military service carried over to his civilian role at Marvel Comics, where it can be seen in the patriotic themes of “Captain America,” she said.
Paul Lilley, an Army veteran, actor, producer and member of Veterans in Media and Entertainment, center, helps fold a flag to present to “Agents of Mayhem” “Legion M” and “POW! Entertainment!” during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
Organizers of the event, which included VME, wanted to ensure that piece of Lee’s life wasn’t lost during the tribute ceremony. So they organized a color guard. A bugler was brought in to play, “Taps.” An Army band was asked to perform. Autin brought American flags he had flown in Iraq on Veterans Day to present to Lee’s daughter, J.C., and the sponsors of the event. American Legion’s Post No. 43, Hollywood, and Post No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, got on board to help with a wreath-laying ceremony.
First encounter with Lee
Growing up in Rochester, New York, Kraft was drawn to the comic book creations of Lee.
She and her older brothers would go to the comic book store once a month, where she soon fell in love with Marvel Comics — the artwork, the words, the lettering, the coloring.
Jimmy Weldon, World War II veteran and a member of the American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, takes in all of the activities prior to the start of “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
“No two comic books are the same,” she said. “It so captivates you that you don’t realize you’re reading a comic book. Your mind is filling in the gaps between the boxes and the pages because you’re so enthralled by it. That’s a power; that’s a storytelling magic.”
Kraft first met Lee at a comic book convention when she was young. After the convention and at the recommendation of her mother, Kraft wrote Lee a “thank you” letter, and he wrote a “thank you” letter back. From there, the two kept in touch, she said.
Later, when Kraft worked for the Discovery Channel, she interviewed Lee and other comic book talents for the documentary, “Marvel Superheroes Guide to New York City.” The documentary entailed traveling around New York City to the locations that inspired Lee and other comic book artists.
A military service member salutes the U.S. flag during the playing of “Taps” at “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
After she left Discovery Channel, Kraft worked with Lee on various projects. Their initial chance encounter and continued correspondence developed into a decades-long friendship.
In Kraft’s eyes, Lee had his own superpower — the ability to connect with people.
“Stan was marvelous in the use of his vocabulary and the way he created these characters you can relate to,” she said. “He created this entire world with all of these different artists … Every character he created is a co-creation. That’s also pretty stunning — including all of these people and inspiring all of that creativity from artists and writers.”
Jere Romano, post commander of the American Legion No. 283, Pacific Palisades, California, left, along with his wife, Martha, place a wreath by a cement plaque of Marvel Comic book creator Stan Lee’s signature.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
Lee was known for a process called the “Marvel Method,” a creative assembly-line style he used in comic book-making. Lee would write in the captions, another artist would sketch the scene, another would color it and a different artist would finish the lettering. Some credit Lee’s process to his Army experience, where everyone had a job, or Military Occupational Specialty.
Throughout the years, Kraft said, Lee always opened his home and office to her and allowed her to bring veterans over to visit, where he would share his World War II stories. The two both joined the American Legion Post No. 43, Hollywood, together and Lee became an advisory board member of VME.
Members of the Veterans in Media and Entertainment present a U.S. flag to a Legion M representative during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
“He would talk to veterans about his military service … he loved to share his story,” she said. “His superpower is people. He’s extremely generous, very open with his time, very kind, very funny and very positive. And, he was very proud of his military service. We bonded over that.”
Crowds of people gather in the TCL Chinese Theatre Courtyard in Hollywood during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
Kraft recalled one time when Lee spoke to about 300 military veterans with VME.
“I remember in the last meeting, he was very emotional when he said to the veterans in the audience, ‘You’re the real heroes in my world,'” she said. “It was very, very touching.”
A legion of fans
The tribute to Lee at the TCL Chinese Theatre was nothing short of honoring his legacy of bringing very diverse groups together. Directors, producers, military service members and veterans, artists, writers, comic book fans and celebrities packed the theatre courtyard on the day of the event.
The diversity of the crowd didn’t surprise Kraft, who said Lee made everyone feel like they were a part of his family.
A cosplayer dressed as Spiderman holds a single red rose while listening to friends and fellow colleagues of Marvel Comic book creator Stan Lee pay tribute to him during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
On a small stage on the left-hand side of the courtyard, a military color guard posted the flags, while a bugler played “Taps” in the background. Army band members played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes. Those who worked closely with Lee approached the microphone one-by-one to give testimonials of how he impacted their careers and their lives, including actor, director and producer Kevin Smith. A wreath was placed near a stone plaque engraved with Lee’s signature. Folded flags encased in wooden boxes were presented to the sponsors of the event, which included Agents of Mayhem, Legion M and POW! Entertainment. A flag was later presented to Lee’s daughter on the Red Carpet.
Following the courtyard tribute, celebrities, military members and others walked the Red Carpet leading inside the theatre, where celebrity panelists and others also paid tribute to Lee.
Actor, producer, writer and director Kevin Smith addresses the crowd to pay tribute to his friend, Stan Lee, during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
The diversity of the crowd, the presenters and the celebrities at the event spoke to Lee’s impact and reach across not only generations, but ethnic and social lines, Autin said.
“During the ceremony, I stood next to a gentleman who was about my age,” he said. “I was in my military dress uniform, and he was dressed as Mr. Fantastic (of the Fantastic Four). To the outside observer, that had no context of the situation, the sight would have looked like it was straight from a Marvel movie script. However, to us, we were both there to honor a man in our own way. The man that had an impact on us individually, as well as our entire generation.”
Lee loved a crowd and would have loved the ceremony and all of the military representation, Kraft said. He would have snapped off a smart salute to all of the men and women in their dress blues, said a quick-witted phrase, and there would be lots of hugging and smiles.
From left to right, actors Titus Welliver, Wesley Snipes, Laurence Fishburne and Bill Duke, along with a guest, pose for a picture on the Red Carpet during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
“I’m proud that he touched so many lives and inspired so many people to come together,” Kraft said. “People with very different passions, but yet they all share this passion for super heroes — people pushing themselves beyond what they think possible to do what’s right and to be good in this world.”
For Kraft, looking up into the Hollywood Hills, it’s hard to imagine Lee not being there anymore, but she finds solace in his legacy and what he taught her — the power and importance of storytelling to human nature.
Maj. Scotty Autin, deputy commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, reflects in the background of a wreath honoring the late Marvel Comic legend Stan Lee during “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible and Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
(Photo by Dena ODell)
“Every culture cherishes its legends, its myths, it’s identity through storytelling,” she said. “Storytelling done truly well really uplifts you … It helps carry you through tough times; it pushes you to do bigger and bolder things. His signature was ‘Excelsior,’ which in Latin means ‘upward to greater glory.’ It means keep pushing yourself, keep moving on, keep trying.”
“I think that’s the power of these superheroes that Stan Lee created,” Autin added. “They each speak to us directly for different reasons, they each show us that it’s OK to be flawed or struggling, but also push us to lean on our strengths and help others.”
The US Air Force completed a first-of-its-kind training exercise involving the stealthiest aircraft in the world in a massive show of force meant to demonstrate the US’s commitment to bucking down a rising China in the Pacific.
B-2 Spirit stealth bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri took the long flight out to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii for the first time ever starting in September 2018.
And while the B-2s familiarized themselves with their new home, they took off for training missions with ultra stealth F-22 Raptor fighter jets from the Hawaii Air National Guard.
“The B-2 Spirits’ first deployment to [Pearl Harbor] highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, US Air Force director of air and cyberspace operations in the Pacific, said in a statement.
“The B-2s conducted routine air operations and integrated capabilities with key regional partners, which helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said Williams. “The U.S. routinely and visibly demonstrates commitment to our allies and partners through global employment and integration of our military forces.”
A US Air Force B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)
The US recently started calling the Pacific the “Indo-Pacific” in what was widely seen as a slight against China. Addressing “free and open” travel there seems to needle Beijing over its ambitions to determine who can sail or fly in the international waters of the South China Sea.
But beyond the rhetorical messages, flying B-2s and F-22s together sends a clear military message — you can’t hit what you can’t see.
The US doesn’t have any bigger guns — this is the real deal
Despite the B-2’s massive size, its stealth design and lack of vertical stabilizers make it almost invisible to radars. The F-22 also benefits from all-aspect stealth and a marble-sized footprint on radar screens. Together, the nuclear-capable B-2 and the world-beating F-22 fighter jet represent a force that can go anywhere in the world, beat any defenses, drop nuclear or conventional heavy payloads, and get out of harm’s way.
China has sought to defend the South China Sea with surface-to-air missiles and large radar installations, but the B-2 and F-22 have specific tactics and features to defeat those.
An Air Force F-22 Raptor aircraft banks away after being refueled by a KC-10 Extender aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean, July 15, 2017.
(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)
Additionally, the Air Force tweaked the old tactics used by the Cold-War era stealth airframes to show a new look entirely.
Instead of simply taking off and landing from Pearl Harbor, a known base and likely target for Chinese missiles in the opening salvo of a conflict, a B-2 trained on something called “hot reloading” from a smaller base on a coral limestone atoll in the mid-Pacific called Wake Island.
There, specialists refueled the B-2 and reloaded its bomb bays while the engines still ran, enabling a lightning-quick turnaround thousands of miles out from Pearl Harbor and into the Pacific.
“We flew to a forward operating location that the B-2 had never operated out of and overcame numerous challenges,” Lt. Col. Nicholas Adcock, Air Force Global Strike 393rd Bomber Squadron’s commander, said in the statement.
While Beijing increasingly takes a militaristic line towards the US, which is trying to preserve freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, the US Air Force made the purpose of its new training regime explicit.
The mission sought to “to ensure free, open Indo-Pacific” with stealth nuclear bombers and fighter jets purpose-built to counter Beijing’s South China Sea fortress.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) successfully completed a Live Fire With A Purpose (LFWAP) exercise, Dec 6, 2018.
LFWAP is a reinvigorated missile exercise program conducted by the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), designed to increase the proficiency of the Combat Direction Center watch team by allowing them to tactically react to a simulated real-world threat.
SMWDC, a supporting command to strike groups and other surface ships in the Navy, is responsible for training commands and creating battle tactics on the unit level to handle sea combat, Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), amphibious warfare and mine warfare. SMWDC is a subordinate command of Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Its headquarters are located at Naval Base San Diego, with four divisions in Virginia and California.
Two IAMD Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) led teams aboard Abraham Lincoln through LFWAP. They’ve spent the last month working closely with Combat Systems Department to plan a simulated threat, train them on response tactics and execute a safe live fire.
“The most challenging aspect of these exercises is getting the ship’s mindset to shift from basic unit-level operations to integrated, advanced tactical operations,” said Lt. Cmdr Tim Barry, an IAMD WTI instructor aboard Abraham Lincoln. “On the opposite side of that, the best feeling is seeing the watch team work together, developing confidence in themselves and their combat systems.”
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln fires a RIM-116 test rolling airframe missile during Combat System Ship Qualification Trials.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kyler Sam)
LFWAP is an important evolution that departs from scripted events to focus more on scenario-driven events. Watch teams have the opportunity to use their pre-planned responses and the commanding officer’s orders to defend the ship from dangers that mirror potential threats on deployment.
“This isn’t a pass or fail event; it’s a validation — a means for sailors to develop confidence prior to deployment,” said Lt. Lisa Malone, the IAMD WTI execution lead from SMWDC. “This is the ‘Battle Stations’ for Combat Systems. We want them to come out of this with a new sense of teamwork, a feeling of preparedness and an excitement for what the future will bring.”
LFWAP allowed Abraham Lincoln to react to a sea-skimming drone in real time. The lead for this evolution was Abraham Lincoln’s Fire Control Officer, Ens. Ezekiel Ramirez.
“To show everyone we’re ready to defend the ship and our shipmates is best feeling ever,” said Ramirez. “Today, we put the ‘combat’ in Combat Systems.”
After detecting the target using radar, Combat Systems used the ship’s Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) to engage it.
A Close-in Weapons System fires during a pre-action Aim Calibration fire evolution aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremiah Bartelt)
“This training has really brought us all together and made us work more cohesively; we feel like a real unit now,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Matthew Miller, who fired the RAM that brought down the drone. “We’ve worked hard this last month and had this scenario down-pat, and to see that drone finally go up in an explosion was the perfect payoff.”
LFWAP is another example of how Abraham Lincoln is elevating Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12’s operational readiness and maritime capabilities to answer the nation’s call.
The components of CSG-12 embody a “team-of-teams” concept, combining advanced surface, air and systems assets to create and sustain operational capability. This enables them to prepare for and conduct global operations, have effective and lasting command and control, and demonstrate dedication and commitment to become the strongest warfighting force for the Navy and the nation.
The Abraham Lincoln CSG is comprised of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 2, associated guided-missile destroyers, flagship Abraham Lincoln, and the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55).
The global economy has taken yet another unprecedented hit after coronavirus lockdowns around the world triggered a historic plunge in U.S. crude oil prices on April 20.
Stock markets across the world were reeling in volatility after some traders who had bought U.S. oil futures contracts were actually paying others to take the deliveries off their hands.
That left the U.S.-produced oil with a listed price of for the first time in history.
The price of both Brent Crude and Russian-produced Urals oil also declined markedly after the negative oil prices seen in the United States.
Here are answers to some of the main questions caused by the historic crash of U.S. oil prices.
What is the cause of the historic fall of global oil prices?
The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global demand for oil, creating a supply glut and filling oil-storage facilities around the world to near capacity.
Due to the basic market forces of supply and demand, traders now have difficulty finding buyers willing to purchase futures contracts for crude oil deliveries in May or June.
That has sent the price of oil futures contracts spiraling downwards.
The benchmark price for North Sea Brent Crude on April 21 fell by nearly per barrel overnight for June deliveries, selling at an 18-year low of just per barrel.
That is a fall of more than 60 percent from January’s peak this year.
Brent Crude is easier and cheaper to transport than its U.S. counterpart because Brent Crude is extracted directly from the North Sea.
The West Texas Intermediary (WTI) price, the U.S. benchmark for light crude, fell well into negative territory for the first time in history on April 20 — with May futures selling as low as minus per barrel.
The WTI price recovered slightly on April 21 but was negative mainly before trading at about id=”listicle-2645815893″ per barrel in late afternoon trading.
In a nutshell, there is an enormous global surplus in oil supplies with little demand for it, and oil companies are running out of places to store it.
Thus, some traders on April 20 essentially began paying buyers to take extra oil off their hands.
What is an oil futures contract?
An oil futures contract is a legal agreement by traders to buy or sell oil for a set price at a specified date in the future.
Those who enter a futures contract are obliged to carry out the deal at the specified price and date.
That means traders are essentially making a bet on what the price of oil will be in the future.
They hope to profit from the difference between the price specified in their futures contract and the actual price of oil on the date that the futures contract comes due.
“This has never happened before, not even close,” says Tim Bray, a portfolio manager at GuideStone Capital Management in Dallas, Texas. “We’ve never seen a negative price on a futures contract for oil.”
The WTI’s negative price suggests it is traders who’d bought May oil futures who are offering to pay somebody else to deal with the oil due to be delivered next month.
But many analysts describe the negative oil price as technical, saying it is related to the way futures contracts are written.
They note that most buyers are purchasing oil for delivery in June, not May.
Energy strategist Ryan Fitzmaurice of the Dutch-based Rabobank says negative oil prices are “more technical in nature and related to the futures contract expiration.”
“We could see isolated incidents where oil companies pay people to take their oil away as storage and pipeline capacity become scarce but that is unlikely on a sustained basis,” Fitzmaurice says.
Why hasn’t Moscow’s deal with Saudi Arabia to cut oil production protected the Russian economy from falling oil prices?
The impact of coronavirus restrictions on global oil prices has been devastating for Russia’s petrostate economy — which depends upon revenues from oil and natural-gas exports.
The price of Russia’s Urals variant of oil is determined by the global price index for Brent Crude.
Generally, Urals oil costs a few dollars less per barrel than Brent Crude.
Tumbling WTI and Brent Crude benchmarks mean dramatic declines for the price of Russian oil as well.
Meanwhile, many traders fear that an April 12 OPEC+ oil-production agreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia does not go far enough to compensate for the historic fall in global demand.
That deal calls for 23 oil-producing countries, including Russia and Saudi Arabia, to reduce their total output by 9.7 million barrels per day for May and June, cutting about 10 percent of the global supply.
What knock-on effects do falling oil prices have on Russia’s economy?
The oil markets have shown a cautious response of traders to the OPEC+ deal.
Now Russia’s stock market indices and the value of the Russian ruble also are falling.
Of course, oil shares have been the biggest losers on Russia’s stock market indices.
In early trading on April 21, the RTS Index lost 4.3 percent of its value while the MOEX Index was down by 1.8 percent.
On foreign-currency exchanges, Russia’s ruble early on April 21 had fallen about 2 percent from its value just 24 hours earlier. It fell even further later in the day.
“Taking into account the mood in the oil market, the risks for the Russian currency temporarily point towards further weakening,” Nordea analyst Grigory Zhirnov says.
The US Senate on June 13 narrowly averted a bid by a bipartisan group of senators to block President Donald Trump’s $500m sale of guided, air-to-ground bombs for use in Yemen by Saudi Arabia’s Royal Air Force.
The vote was 53-47 to defeat a resolution of disapproval that had been offered by Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, and Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat. Senate Republicans were joined by five Democrats to defeat the measure. Four Republicans joined most Democrats to vote against the arms sale.
“We are fueling an arms race in the Middle East,” Paul said in remarks during Senate debate, citing the famine and Cholera outbreak in Yemen and Saudi domestic rights abuses as reasons not to support Trump’s munitions sale.
“What is happening today in Yemen is a humanitarian crisis,” Murphy said in floor remarks. “The United States supports the Saudi-led bombing campaign that has had the effect of causing a humanitarian nightmare to play out in that country.”
At issue are JDAMs, or Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which are guidance systems to be used with 230kg bombs and bunker busters on Saudi F-15 fighter jets.
President Barack Obama withheld sale of the guidance systems in 2016 out of concern the Saudis were deliberately attacking civilians and critical infrastructure in Yemen, already one of the world’s poorest nations before the war.
Speaking for majority Republicans, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina blamed military threats posed by Iran.
“The Iranian theocracy is the most destabilizing force in the Mideast,” Graham said. “They have aggressively pursued military action through proxies and directly been involved in military action in Syria. Iran’s efforts to dominate Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and now Yemen have to be pushed back.”
More than 4,125 civilians have been killed and more than 7,200 civilians have been wounded in Yemen since the Saudi-led air campaign started in March 2015, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch. Most of those casualties resulted from Saudi coalition air strikes.
The June 13 Senate vote was close enough and the outcome sufficiently uncertain that Vice President Mike Pence was briefly called to the chamber to break a tie had there been one, a rare occurrence. Republicans hold a 52-48 advantage in the Senate.
Though largely symbolic, the close vote signals a potential shift in congressional willingness to support Saudi Arabia’s ongoing campaign in Yemen. By comparison, a similar resolution last year attempting to block tank sales by Obama failed by a 71-27 margin.
The disputed sale of guided missiles is a small part of a major, $110B package of arms, including M1 tanks, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters – arranged by Trump on his May 20 visit to Riyadh. There’s been no real move in Congress to challenge that larger transfer, begun under Obama following the Iran-United Nations nuclear deal.
Under the Arms Control Act of 1976, Congress requires presidents to notify it of any pending arms sale, and in the case of sales to the Middle East to certify that any shipments would not adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military advantage over its regional neighbors. Congress can block any arms sale simply by passing a resolution of disapproval.
As you are aware, much of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, remains unfunded, and it is not clear when this lapse in appropriations will end. In the coming days, our service will begin to pass critical military and civilian pay-processing milestones necessary to meet regular pay cycles. Unfortunately, without an appropriation, a continuing resolution, or another legislative measure, the Coast Guard will not be able to meet the next payroll.
Let me assure you your leadership continues to do everything possible, both internal and external to the service, to ensure we can process your pay as soon as we receive an appropriation; however, I do not know when that will occur. Moreover, many of you may be aware of proposed congressional legislation that separately provides pay for the Coast Guard. I cannot predict what course that legislation may take.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Matthew Masaschi)
I know you have many questions during this difficult time. As the commandant mentioned, please do not hesitate to reach out to your chain of command, the chief’s mess, the ombudsmen network, our chaplains, as well as other resources. In addition, I encourage you to visit the Coast Guard’s website that has the most up-to-date resource links and frequently asked questions at https://www.dcms.uscg.mil/budget/. I encourage you to frequently revisit this website as it will be updated as new information is learned and additional FAQs are developed.
I can announce the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance board just approved an increase to interest-free loans with a focus on the junior workforce. Now, E-5 and below, GS-6 and below, and wage grade equivalents are eligible for a loan up to a maximum of id=”listicle-2625970578″,000 for those with dependents and 0 for those without dependents. Personnel in other paygrades may also qualify if dire circumstances exist. If you require this assistance, please check with your CGMA representative to apply.
Please know that your entire senior leadership team is pursuing every possible avenue to mitigate the effects that this unprecedented event is having on you and your families. In similar fashion, I implore each of you to take an active role in caring for your fellow shipmates and their loved ones. Thank you for your continued dedicated service to our nation.
Semper Paratus, Adm. Charles W. Ray Vice Commandant
Samuel J. Seymour was away from his home for the first time at just five years old. He was with his father on a business trip to Washington, D.C., a city filled to the brim with soldiers and other men with guns. He was nervous and scared at the sight of so many firearms. To put him at ease, his nurse decided to take him to a play, and President Lincoln himself would be there.
It was an event he would never forget, as he recounted it to a TV audience and celebrity contestants Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, and Lucille Ball some 90-plus years later.
“It wasn’t a pleasant thing,” Seymour told Meadows when describing his night at Ford’s Theater on a 1956 episode of I’ve Got A Secret. “I was scared to death.”
When Lincoln arrived, he smiled and greeted the crowd from a flag-draped booth in the balcony. The President’s smile and the mood of the theater relaxed the young boy. Until a shot rang out. Strangely, the five-year-old Seymour was very concerned about the man who appeared to have fallen from the balcony of the theater in the middle of the performance. He had no idea someone had been shot, let alone that it was President Lincoln.
“Pandemonium” then swept through the theater, Seymour recalled, as his nurse hurried the boy out of the theater. He heard calls of “Lincoln’s shot! The President is dead!”
Seymour died two months after his TV appearance.
The man, of course, was Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Booth waited until the play’s funniest line when the shot would be masked by the sound of laughter. Booth calmly walked into the President’s booth, barred the door, and fired a single shot into the President, who was laughing at the line. Union Army Maj. Henry Rathbone, who accompanied Lincoln that night with their wives, fought Booth for his single-shot derringer and was stabbed for his effort. His constant wrangling with Booth caused the assassin’s boot spur to get tangled in the flag as he jumped from the President’s box. This is why Booth landed awkwardly on his leg.
Many in the crowd were confused. Not everyone heard the shot, and many thought it was still part of the play. Little Samuel Seymour didn’t understand it either.
“I saw Lincoln slumped forward in his seat,” the old man said. “That night I was shot 50 times, at least, in my dreams – and I sometimes relive the horror of Lincoln’s assassination, dozing in my rocker as an old codger like me is bound to do.”
No, I’m going to be honest because the truth needs to be said. The lack of childcare and the extensive regulations preventing effectively running centers is unsuitable to the needs of those it serves.
Military families cannot maintain financial security without stable employment, and they cannot maintain stable employment without adequate childcare. From extensive waitlists to limited hours, military families are often left scrambling to find child care. This leads to families using uncertified daycare facilities, over capacitated in-home care, and other, sometimes unsafe options for child care.
Did you know that military child care facilities service over 200k children? According to the latest Congressional Research Service report, there are about 23 thousand employed at military child care facilities around the world. These facilities bring in 400 million dollars in fees alone. This number does not include additional funding provided by Non-Appropriated Funds (NAF) or other entities. It’s no surprise that the Army receives the bulk of financial support from Operation and Maintenance Funds. However, what is intriguing is that they have the least amount of allocated child care slots for military sponsors than any other branch. Why is that? Another military mystery.
Before obtaining child care at an on-post military installation, you must register your child. Some installations offer walk-in registrations for child care, while others require appointments to be made. You are required to produce medical documents, including physicals and shot records for all children. This is a standard operating procedure as child care facilities on and off-post want to ensure the health and well being of your child.
However, If your child has special needs like he/she takes daily medications, has an IEP, or allergies, buckle up because it’s going to be a bumpy process. I have both a child with special developmental needs and a child with food allergies. You can imagine how long and arduous the registration process can be—collecting documentation from doctors, meeting with the SNAP team, waiting for approval, all painstakingly redundant. Once you’ve made it past the registration process, you have crossed over to the waitlist realm, where weeks turn into months, and even years.
So tell me, what’s the longest you’ve waited for military child care?
The longest I’ve waited was six months. I honestly checked my child’s status every day for at least two of those months. The explanations for the long waitlists were: limited staff and lack of space within child care facilities to accommodate families in need.
The Military Child Care Act was originally created in 1989 because of concern for the conditions of off post child care facilities. However, the DOD’s evolution of caring for diverse military families has been slow to accommodate the needs of the 21st Century military family. With that being said, many strides have been made. Some installations offer date night care once a month allowing parents after-hours care, up to date academic curriculum to help prepare children for school, and FCC’s to help with overflow.
The staff members I’ve personally encountered are kind, loving, and have genuinely cared for my children. But many of them were overworked and often expected to excel with limited resources. Despite this, there is a way you can help positively impact military child care facilities.
What You Can Do
Speak up about insufficient care at your local installation.
Volunteer at the CDC. Jobs like planning activities, cutting projects, and other office work does not require you be an employee and allows the center’s employees to man more childcare rooms.
Together, we can help make our military child care facilities accessible and adequate for everyone. Holding our leadership accountable and asking them to fight for our families isn’t wrong, accepting sub-par care is.
It leads the United States’ war against ISIS and with 75 aircraft on its deck has the ability to carry out numerous combat sorties a day. On July 3, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the USS George H. W. Bush docked opposite the Haifa Port and became the first sitting head of state to visit America’s largest and most lethal floating war machine.
The docking of the ship on July 1 marked the first time an aircraft carrier visited Israel in 17 years.
“The visit of the USS George H.W. Bush speaks to the enduring commitment to our shared interests and a commitment to fight against our common enemies,” Commanding Officer Capt. Will Pennington told reporters during a visit to the ship. According to a statement by the US European Command, the ship’s visit is meant “to enhance US-Israel relations as the two nations reaffirm their continued commitment to the collective security of the European and Middle East Regions.”
According to Pennington, the crew is constantly engaged in cooperation with Israel, including sharing intelligence.
“There is a tremendous network of shared intelligence. As you are aware the airspace in the region is very, very, busy with lots of different actors so the need to deconflict that and make sure that everyone understands their missions is very important,” he said.
Visiting the ship with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Netanyahu recalled his visit to another aircraft carrier 20 years ago.
“So much has changed since the first time I visited… our ties have gotten stronger and deeper,” he said. “It is a floating island of America. It is a symbol of freedom and strength and victory.”
The USS George H.W. Bush was in the region to participate in the fight against ISIS, carrying out its last operational mission on June 30. With 20-25 sorties per day, aircraft aboard the ship have carried out 1,600 sorties over both Syria and Iraq, striking targets in Mosul and in the vicinity of Raqqa on missions that can last seven to nine hours.
The targets which are directed by the coalition ground commander, are sometimes known prior to take-off and pilots have sometimes also received targets while in the air.
According to Carrier Air Wing 8 Captain James A. McCall, one of the real-time targets was the Syrian jet that was downed on June 18 in southern Raqqa province by one of the jets stationed on the aircraft carrier.
“The jet came within visual distance” McCall said, stating that US jets “warned the Syrian aircraft that they were approaching coalition friendlies. They (the Syrian regime jet) ignored the warning and even dropped bombs on the friendlies,” he said referring to the Syrian Democratic Force who are supported by the coalition.
Towards the end of its seven-month deployment, the USS George H.W. Bush arrived in Haifa after a 40 day voyage from Dubai.
While the ship will not be taking part in any joint exercises with the Israeli Navy, Israel provided security as it pulled into the Haifa Bay allowing the ship’s strike group to continue to other missions and port calls.
“We are very tightly linked with our colleagues and partners and allies from the IDF and have been for very many years,” Pennington said.
Speaking at a ceremony aboard the carrier, Admiral Michelle J. Howard, commander of the US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, stated that the visit marks “a special moment” between Israel and the United States which “has had long standing military to military engagements with Israel.”
“In this visit to Israel, the ship’s might is a metaphor for the strength of the bonds between our countries. I’d like to thank the Israeli people for hosting us and for taking care of our Sailors,” she added.
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, who visited the ship on Sunday stated that it was “a timely show of American power projection and deterrence capability.”
“Its support for the countries fighting Islamic extremism and terror and Iran is very important, especially now when Iran is working to create facts on the ground in Syria, including a port on the Mediterranean, and Hezbollah continues to build its arsenal with more advanced and precise missiles.”
French-made anti-tank weapons supplied to the Kurds and U.S. versions given to the Iraqi Security Forces have been blunting a main method of attack by the Islamic State, according to Kurdish and U.S. Central Command officials.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces used the MILAN (Missile d’Infanterie Leger Antichar, or light infantry anti-tank missile) to stop ISIS counter-attacks using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in the successful push to take the northwestern Iraqi town of Sinjar last week, according to the Kurdish Security Council and Western reporters traveling with the Kurds.
The MILANs were used to defend against at least 16 vehicle-borne IED suicide attacks by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, in the initial stages of Operation Free Sinjar, according to Kurdish commanders cited by Rudaw, the Kurdish news agency.
The U.S. has also been supplying hundreds of AT-4s — a shoulder-fired, Swedish-made recoilless weapon — to the ISF. The AT-4s have been appearing on Iraqi Security Forces frontlines in the long-stalled effort to retake Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.
In addition, Syrian fighters backed by the U.S. have been using U.S. BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically- tracked, Wire-guided, or TOW, anti-armor missiles supplied by the CIA against the armored columns of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to Syrian activist groups.
The MILANs, portable medium-range, anti-tank weapons manufactured by Euromissile in Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, have become standard weapons for NATO allies and other countries. The system was initially developed for the French and German armies.
Germany began supplying the MILANs and other weapons directly to the Kurds last year to avoid the chokepoint that can develop by shipping arms through Baghdad. The Germans have also taken Kurdish officers back to Germany for training in the use of the MILANS.
Rudaw quoted Gen. Araz Abdulkadir, commander of the Kurdish 9th Brigade, as saying, “The MILANs are very important” in offensives in stopping ISIS suicide attacks with vehicle-borne IEDs. “They greatly improve the morale of the Peshmerga. The troops know it is a very clever weapon, which can stop any car bomb.”
ISIS used the weapons to devastating effect in shattering Iraqi defenses in taking Ramadi last May in a major setback for the campaign to degrade and defeat the terrorist group. Iraqi forces fled the city, leaving behind much of their equipment.
Following the fall of Ramadi, a senior State department official, speaking on background, said that ISIS used a coordinated series of at least 30 suicide car and truck bombs to take out “entire city blocks” as the ISF fell back.
Since the capture of Ramadi, the U.S. has launched airstrikes specifically targeting sites where ISIS was believed to be manufacturing vehicle-borne IEDs.
In an August briefing to the Pentagon, Marine Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea said that airstrikes had destroyed a facility near the north-central Iraqi town of Makhmur where ISIS was making vehicle-borne IEDs.
“These strikes, conducted in coordination with the government of Iraq, will help reduce the ability of Daesh to utilize their weapon of choice – VBIEDs,” Killea said, using an Arabic term for ISIS.
In several briefings to the Pentagon from Baghdad, Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for Centcom’s Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, has described the supply of AT-4s to the ISF and the training by U.S. troops of the Iraqi Security Forces in their use.
Warren said ISIS uses the vehicle-borne IEDs “almost like a guided missile” in the offense to break Iraqi Security Forces lines and allow advances.
In Afghanistan’s turbulent Helmand province, US Marines are rekindling old relationships and identifying weaknesses in the Afghan forces that the Trump administration hopes to address with a new strategy and the targeted infusion of several thousand American forces.
Returning to Afghanistan’s south after five years, Marine Brig. Gen. Roger Turner already knows where he could use some additional US troops. And while he agrees that the fight against the Taliban in Helmand is at a difficult stalemate, he said he is seeing improvements in the local forces as his Marines settle into their roles advising the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps.
Turner’s report on the fight in Helmand will be part of a broader assessment that Gen. Joseph Dunford will collect this week from his senior military commanders in Afghanistan.
Dunford landed in Kabul Monday with a mission to pull together the final elements of a military strategy that will include sending nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops into the country. He will be meeting with Afghan officials as well as US and coalition military leaders and troops.
The expected deployment of more Americans will be specifically molded to bolster the Afghan forces in critical areas so they can eventually take greater control over the security of their own nation.
The Taliban have slowly resurged, following the decision to end the combat role of US and international forces at the end of 2014. The NATO coalition switched to a support and advisory role, while the US has also focused on counter-terrorism missions.
Recognizing the continued Taliban threat and the growing Islamic State presence in the county, the Obama administration slowed its plan to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of last year. There are now about 8,400 there.
But commanders have complained that the sharp drawdown hurt their ability to adequately train and advise the Afghans while also increasing the counter-terror fight. As a result, the Trump administration is completing a new military, diplomatic, and economic strategy for the war, and is poised to send the additional US troops, likely bolstered by some added international forces.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will be in Brussels later this week and is expected to talk with allies about their ongoing support for the war.
While Turner said he has already seen improvements in the Afghan’s 215th Corps, he said adding more advisers would allow him to pinpoint problems at the lower command levels, including more brigades.
“The level and number of advisers you have really gives you the ability to view the chain on all the functional areas. The more areas you can see — you can have a greater impact on the overall capability of the force,” he told the Associated Press in an interview from Helmand Province. “If we had more capacity in the force we would be able to address more problems, faster.”
He said that although the Afghan forces have improved their ability to fight, they still need help at some of the key underpinnings of a combat force, such as getting spare parts to troops with broken equipment.
The seemingly simple task of efficiently ordering and receiving parts — something American forces do routinely — requires a working supply chain from the warehouse to the unit on the battlefield.
And Turner said that’s an issue that could be improved with additional advisers.
Other improvements, he said, include increasing the size of Afghanistan’s special operations forces and building the capacity and capabilities of its nascent air force.
The Afghan ground forces in Helmand, he said, have been able to launch offensive operations against the Taliban, including a recent battle in Marjah.
“I don’t think last year they could have taken the fight to Marjah like they just did,” he said. “They’re in a much better position that they were a year ago.”
But they are facing a resilient Taliban, whose fighters are newly financed, now that the poppy harvest is over.
“Once they draw their finances, they start operations,” said Turner. “What we’ve seen so far since the end of May, when they made that transition, is a steady grind of activity across a number of places in the province.”
What has helped a lot, Turner said, is his Marines’ ability to renew old relationships with Afghan tribal elders, provincial ministers, and military commanders they worked with six or seven years ago.
Battalion officers they knew then are now commanders, and many government leaders are still in place.
“We obviously have a long commitment here in Helmand. It’s been good for the Marines to come back here,” he said. “This is a really meaningful mission. I think people realize that we don’t want to get into a situation where the kinds of pre-9/11 conditions exist again.”
A U.S. Navy pilot was shot down after making bombing runs over the tiny island of Chichijima during WWII. He and nine fellow naval aviators had to evade their Japanese enemy. Only one managed to successfully avoid capture — and even then, it was all by luck.
For his book Flyboys, James Bradley tracked down and researched official files and records from war crimes tribunals after the war. The fate of the other eight pilots, as he discovered, was absolutely horrifying.
Bush and his wingmen encountered intense anti-aircraft fire over their targets. Bush’s airplane was hit by flak before catching fire. He dropped his bomb load over the target, but was forced to abandon his Avenger Torpedo Bomber.
Like many prisoners of the Japanese, the captured men were tortured and killed using sharpened bamboo or bayonets. Many were beheaded. Unlike many prisoners of the Japanese, however, four of the Navy pilots were slaughtered by their captors, who then had surgeons cut out their livers and thigh muscles — and then prepare the meat for Japanese officers.
Surgeons removed a four-inch by 12-inch piece of thigh, weighing six pounds. According to those Japanese survivors who were on the island, it was prepared with soy sauce and vegetables, then washed down with hot sake.
The future President Bush was further from the island when he bailed out of his aircraft. Floating in the water for four hours, he was protected from Japanese boats by American planes before being rescued by the USS Finback, a submarine that surfaced right in front of him.
While aboard the Finback, he assisted in the rescue of other downed pilots. He was aboard for a month before returning to his berthing on the USS San Jacinto. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation during his WWII service.
Bush, now 93, is the longest-living ex-President of the United States ever.