MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

Three members of the U.S.-Russian crew have returned to Earth after spending several months at the International Space Station (ISS).

Russia’s Roskosmos space agency said the Soyuz MS-15 capsule carrying the crew chief, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan landed safely on April 17 in Kazakhstan.

Skripochka and Meir spent 205 days in orbit, while Morgan’s time in space lasted 272 days.


Expedition 62 crew portrait with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.

NASA

The crew was replaced by U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who docked with the ISS on April 10.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, instead of being brought to the city of Qaraghandy in central Kazakhstan for traditional welcome ceremonies, the crew members were taken straight to the Baikonur space complex near the city of Qyzylorda.

The U.S. astronauts will fly aboard a NASA plane directly from Qyzylorda to Houston, while the crew’s commander Skripochka will fly back to Russia.

The ISS, which orbits about 400 kilometers above Earth, is tasked with conducting scientific experiments.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Communist China started building its third carrier

With a second carrier already launched and currently being prepared for entry into the People’s Liberation Army Navy, it’s clear that Communist China isn’t resting on its laurels. In fact, China has already started building the first in a new class of aircraft carriers.


According to a report by the South China Morning Post, the first Type 002 carrier, which so far is being called CV-18, was started last year in Shanghai. This is China’s first indigenously-designed class of aircraft carriers. The Type 001 class, which consists of the Liaoning and the larger Shandong, is based on the Russian Navy’s Admiral Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier.

The Liaoning. (JMSDF photo)

GlobalSecurity.org notes that this carrier is intended to be a counterpart to retired, conventionally-fueled aircraft carriers. The last such carrier in United States Navy service was USS Kittyhawk (CV 63), which was decommissioned in 2009. It will be equipped with catapults to launch aircraft as opposed to the ski-jump used on the Liaoning and Shandong.

CV-18, at 85,000 tons, is reportedly able to hold up to 85 aircraft. This puts it close to the aircraft capacity of the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarriers that currently form the main striking power of the United States Navy. The Chinese Communists plan to build a second Type 002 carrier.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to participate Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010 exercises. RIMPAC is a biennial, multinational exercise designed to strengthen regional partnerships and improve multinational interoperability. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shawn D. Torgerson)

While the oldest Nimitz-class carrier, USS Nimitz (CVN 68), turns 43 years old this year, it operates not only fighters and helicopters, but also airborne, early-warning aircraft and electronic-warfare planes. GlobalSecurity.org notes that China, at the present time, has neither a carrier-borne airborne radar plane nor an electronic warfare plane in service.

The Chinese also are planning to build two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, known as the Type 003. These vessels would potentially be able to match the Gerald R. Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and would displace 110,000 tons. The first Type 003 is slated to enter service by 2028.

USS Gerald R. Ford underway, propelled by two A1B reactors. (US Navy photo)

By that time, the United States Navy will have three Ford-class carriers in service, USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), USS John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), and USS Enterprise (CVN 80). A fourth carrier, known only as CVN 81, will be in service in 2030. That said, China will be able to give the Navy a tough fight.

Articles

Russia just tested this ultra-fast ship-killing missile

Russia carried out the latest test of a new high-speed cruise missile last week as part of a program that is raising concerns in the Pentagon about the threat the missile poses to American warships.


The test of the Zircon hypersonic missile was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies, according to a senior defense official familiar with reports of the test. No other details of the test were available.

However, state-run Russian news reports say the Zircon can reach speeds of between Mach 6 and Mach 8, or between 4,600 and 6,100 miles per hour — enough to outpace any current missile defense interceptors.

Such high speeds pose dangers for Navy destroyers, cruisers, and aircraft carriers currently outfitted with anti-missile defenses but that are not capable of countering the missile.

The USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrolling the eastern Pacific Ocean. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.

Defense analysts said the test was probably carried out from a ground-based launcher near an area of the White Sea in northern Russia around May 30 — the date that Russian authorities issued an air closure notification for the region.

The Zircon has been billed by the Russians as an anti-ship cruise missile that media have said will be deployed on Moscow’s nuclear-powered missile cruisers. Production is expected to begin this year.

Vladimir Tuchkov, a military analyst, told the state-run Sputnik website that Zircon missiles will be deployed between 2018 and 2020.

“The Russian development of hypersonic weapons is clearly a very serious threat,” said Mark B. Schneider, a senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy and a former senior Pentagon official. The missile’s estimated range of up to 620 miles “would give it very great capability against defenses,” he added.

Hypersonic Missile | Lockheed Martin

Mr. Schneider said the Pentagon is “clearly well behind” in the race for developing hypersonic weapons, and that the problem is not technology but a lack of funding. China also is developing a hypersonic missile called the DF-ZF.

The Pentagon is planning a test this year of a missile called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon as part of its Conventional Prompt Strike program. That program until recently was dubbed the Conventional Prompt Global Strike and is seeking weapons capable of striking any location on Earth within minutes.

 

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

3 things Veterans should know about VA’s new electronic health record

VA is implementing its new electronic health record (EHR) system on Oct. 24 at initial sites in the Pacific Northwest. The implementation improves how clinicians store and manage patient information, including visits, test results, prescriptions and more. This will also mean some changes to how Veterans access their own health data online if their VA facility has changed to the new EHR.

Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane, Washington, and its community-based outpatient clinics in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, Idaho; Libby, Montana; and Wenatchee, Washington, will be the first in the nation to use VA’s new electronic health record and patient portal, My VA Health. As a complementary tool to VA’s existing My HealtheVet patient portal, My VA Health will allow Veterans to manage their appointments, prescription refills, medical records and communication with health care providers online.


Since full implementation of VA’s new EHR is expected to occur over a 10-year period ending in 2028, most Veterans will not see immediate changes to how they view their medical records online. VA will continue to support its current EHR systems, including My HealtheVet, throughout the transition period to ensure there is no interruption to the accessibility and delivery of care. Veterans can expect to learn more as their local facilities prepare to migrate to the new EHR.

In the meantime, here are three key things Veterans should know about VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) program and My VA Health.

What is VA’s Electronic Health Record Modernization program, and how does it impact Veterans?

EHRM is an effort to unite VA, the Department of Defense (DOD), the U.S. Coast Guard and community care providers on a single interoperable health information platform. This modernized system will allow VA to continue providing a world-class health care experience for Veterans across all VA facilities.

The new system will replace the department’s current electronic health record, known as the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), with a commercial, off-the-shelf solution developed by Cerner Corp.

The new EHR will create a paperless transition from receiving care as a service member through DOD to receiving care as a Veteran through VA. It will also support providers’ clinical decision-making by increasing their ability to make connections between a Veteran’s time on active duty and potential health issues later in life.

When will Veterans start using My VA Health?

Veterans will begin using the new My VA Health capabilities, accessible via VA.gov or My HealtheVet, when their local VA medical center or clinic transitions to the new EHR. Until then, Veterans will use only the existing My HealtheVet portal, which is also accessible via VA.gov. Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its clinics are the first facilities introducing My VA Health to their patients.

Once My VA Health launches at a site, Veterans will be able use their current credentials to sign in to either My VA Health or My HealtheVet. This will ensure Veterans who have received care at more than one VA site have access to all of their records. For example, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its four clinics will use My VA Health to manage their care from those sites and My HealtheVet to manage their health care from other VA and community sites. Historical records, including prior secure messages, will remain available on My HealtheVet.

Meanwhile, VA is working to make VA.gov the single place where Veterans can go for their health needs, so navigation between the two portals is not necessary. VA will provide resources to walk Veterans through these changes as EHRM deployment reaches their facilities.

How will Veterans at Mann-Grandstaff and its associated clinics access the patient portal?

Veterans will sign in as they do today, either through My HealtheVet or VA.gov, using any of the following accounts:

  • Premium DS Logon account
  • Premium My HealtheVet account
  • Verifiedme account

Once logged in, Veterans will be directed to My VA Health regarding care received at Mann-Grandstaff and its clinics and to My HealtheVet regarding care received at other VA locations. Veterans with basic or advanced My HealtheVet accounts can upgrade to a premium account using this guide.

Additionally, Veterans who receive care at Mann-Grandstaff VAMC and its associated clinics can visit this page for more information on My VA Health ahead of its introduction Oct. 24.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A negative oil price? What in the world is happening?

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.

storage.needpix.com

How can the price of oil be negative?

“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.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Army veteran is world-champion hoop dancer

The grassy hill surrounding the arena is packed full of spectators and family members. The emcee calls out a dancer’s name; there’s movement in the crowd. The competitor makes it into the arena, throws out his hoops for his sequence.

Upon the dancer’s cue, the drum starts singing. Bells on his ankles sing in time with each beat of the drum and each step he makes.

He has five minutes to convey a story, using small hoops as his medium to paint each scene, as part of the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest held in Phoenix in 2018.


“The competition opens everyone’s eyes to the Native American culture,” said Timothy Clouser, the museum’s facilities director and a Navy veteran. “I find it very fascinating how each dancer puts their own artistic expression in their dance and story they are trying to convey. Not one dance is the same.”

Brian Hammill, an Army veteran of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and a previous World Hoop Dance champion, competed in Phoenix. He uses his dancing to help bridge the cultural gap between Native Americans and non-natives, sharing his culture everywhere he goes.

“As native people, we don’t give gifts of objects because an object goes away, but we give the gift of a song, or a dance,” Hammill said. “When you do that, if you give somebody a song, and you tell them, ‘Every time you sing this song, you tell the story,’ or ‘Every time you do this dance, you tell the story and you give it away,’ that dance will last forever. That’s how this hoop dance carries on; it’s given from one person to the next.”

Army veteran Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation applies face paint before grand entry at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, Feb. 10, 2018.

(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)

The hoop dance is different than other Native American dances, such as powwow dancing. Powwows are inter-tribal celebrations of Native American culture. Tribal affiliation doesn’t matter, nor does what region someone is from. It doesn’t even matter if someone is native or non-native.

Powwow dancing consists of at least six categories. Men’s categories include the fancy dance, grass dance and traditional dance. Women’s categories are the fancy dance, jingle dress and traditional dance.

The hoop dance regalia is minimal compared to that of the powwow dances. Typically, a hoop dancer will wear a shirt, breechcloth, side drops, sheep skin, bells (or deer hooves) and moccasins. The colors and designs are specific to each person. The hoops are small and vary in size, typically depending on the height of the dancer. Sometimes they have designs on them, again, specific to each dancer.

“Traditionally, the hoops were made out of willow, depending on where the tribe was located,” Hammill said. “I make mine out of a very exotic wood called plastic.”

The hoop dance has different origin stories with a common thread that it originated in the Southwest. To some native nations, the hoop dance is a healing dance, Hammill said. A hoop would traditionally be passed over an afflicted person, then the dancer would break that hoop and never use it again.

“Basically, it was a way of taking away all that pain or sickness away,” Hammill said. “That’s not done in public. There is also a story of the children, the Taos Pueblo children. It is said that the children saw this ceremony taking place and began to emulate what they saw. Instead of telling the kids, ‘No, you can’t do this,’ the adults encouraged them. They began to sing songs for them. They took what was a prayer and made it something the kids could do. So, basically, the dance changed, it evolved.

“In the north, it tells of a warrior’s journey,” he continued. “As you see these hoops come together, they start to make formations. You’ll see the eagle, the butterfly, the warrior on the battlefield defending his family, the clouds in the sky.”

Each person, he explained, will see that dance in a different way, interpret the story differently. There are hundreds of hoop dance stories, but each one revolves around the sacred circle of life.

“The significance of the hoops is that it represents the circle of life. There’s no beginning and no ending,” Hammill said. “We are taught that each and every one of us — doesn’t matter who we are, where we come from, the color of our skin — we are all created equal in that sacred hoop.”

Another part of Hammill’s culture that he lives every day is the tradition of service.

“The way I was always taught is, as a native person, we are always here to serve the people,” he said.

U.S. Army veteran, Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation, competes at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona on Feb. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)

“We serve them by cooking and providing food for them. We teach them, or protect them. One of the greatest things I was always taught that we do, is we put ourselves in harm’s way to protect our families and our identity. It was something I’ve always wanted to do, I felt I needed to do.”

Hammill enlisted in the Army while still in high school. He went to basic training during the summer between his junior and senior years, and went on active duty after graduation.

“It’s just something that we do,” he said. “You’ll find that throughout the United States, there are a higher percentage of native veterans per capita than any other race.”

While he was stationed in South Korea, one of his first sergeants learned that he had danced while growing up, and asked Hammill to share his culture with everyone. He performed the men’s fancy dance for his fellow soldiers.

“A lot of these soldiers weren’t exposed to different cultures, so he had me do one of my first presentations there,” he said. “I called my dad in Wisconsin, and he shipped all of my dance regalia to me. I started doing presentations for the people I was stationed with, and in different areas throughout the Korean theater. That’s where I really got the passion to share the story, and I found out how important it is.”

Hammill was introduced to the hoop dance prior to his transition out of the military in 1994. Back then, he would travel about 120 miles from Fort Polk, Louisiana, to Livingston, Texas, where he performed and danced with the Alabama-Coushatta tribe.

“A good friend of mine, Gillman Abbey, basically gave me this hoop dance,” he said. “He told me the story. He told me every time I dance, to always make sure I share the story, and give the dance.”

He said the hoop dance helped him heal from his time in service. Still brand new to hoop dancing, Hammill actually competed in the World Hoop Dance Championship for the first time about six months after he got out of the military.

“I was 24, in the adult division,” he said. “I remember I was scared because this is a huge competition. Some of the dancers I’m still dancing with today pulled me aside, said to me, ‘Hey, you’re doing good. Let me show you some different moves. Let me help you.’ I’ll never forget that because that’s what really kept me coming back. Being here, feeling that hoop and how it affects people, it keeps me coming back. It took me a long time, about 15 years, until I won my first world title. I moved to the senior division and won four more. But it’s a family. It really is something we all have in common.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

NASCAR’s Jesse Iwuji is having the best week ever

We Are The Mighty wants to wish a very Happy Birthday to our favorite racecar driver. Jesse Iwuji turns 33 today, and we are wishing him the happiest of days. While his birthday is no doubt a special day, this year’s celebration is a bit more sweeter.

As many of you know, Jesse is unique among NASCAR drivers. He is a Naval Officer who is following his dreams of becoming a racecar driver. That dream took a big step up this week.

Jesse was recently promoted into NASCAR’s Xfinity Series where he will be driving the No. 13 Toyota Supra for MBM Motorsports. He will continue to also race the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado for Reaume Brothers Racing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.


In addition to the promotion in NASCAR, Jesse also was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy – talk about having an amazing month.

Here are some of Jesse’s friends, family, superior officers, fellow drivers and colleagues wishing him a happy birthday. You can tell the impact a man has from the company he keeps, and this collection of amazing people shows just how awesome Jesse is and why WATM is such a big fan:

Jesse Iwuji NASCAR Xfinity Series Debut at Road America | US Navy | Military | Congratulations

youtu.be

Jesse was born on August 12, 1987, the son of Nigerian immigrants. Born and raised in Texas, he was an athlete in high school and excelled in both sports and school. That excellence landed him at the United States Naval Academy. Jesse played for the Midshipman while learning to be a Surface Warfare Officer. In addition to playing safety, Iwuji also ran track for the Naval Academy.

He graduated in 2009 and went into the Fleet, first working on mine countermeasures which included a deployment to the Persian Gulf in 2012. He later served on the USS Comstock before moving into the Naval Reserves in 2017.

Then his pursuit of his dream took off.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Road America – Jesse Iwuji

www.youtube.com

Moving into NASCAR is no easy feat. But with his belief in honor, courage and commitment, Iwuji pushed forward through all the obstacles. He first thought about becoming a racecar driver during a Navy football event at the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Throughout his active duty career, he balanced his duties and deployments with his pursuit of his passion. Upon entering the Reserves, he started accelerating his career with stints in the NASCAR KN Pro Series East and West which are regional proving grounds for drivers looking to prove themselves on the stockyard circuit.

From there, he moved into the truck series where he has competed for the last three years. His recent promotion to the Xfinity Series puts him one step closer to the NASCAR Cup Series which is, for those of you who don’t know, the highest echelon of stock car racing in the world.

Jesse’s debut on the Xfinity circuit was at the Henry 180 where he finished the race in the 26th spot. His next race should be at the legendary Watkins Glen road course this weekend.

Hopefully soon, we will see him racing in the Cup Series at places like Daytona, Talladega, Martinsville, Dover and Bristol.

Happy Birthday Jesse and congratulations on both your promotions!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian hackers almost caused massive blackouts in 2017

Hackers working for Russia claimed “hundreds of victims” in 2017 in a major, long-running campaign that enabled them to gain control over some U.S. electric utilities, where they could have caused blackouts, the Wall Street Journal is reporting.

Citing officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Journal reported on July 23, 2018 that the Russian hacking campaign has likely continued in 2018 and involves a state-sponsored group known as Dragonfly or Energetic Bear.


The hackers broke into supposedly secure networks owned by utilities with relative ease by first penetrating the networks of vendors who had trusted relationships with the power companies, the Journal reported.

“They got to the point where they could have thrown switches” and disrupted power flows, Jonathan Homer, a department analyst, told the Journal.

‘Hundreds’ of victims

The department has been warning utility executives with security clearances about the Russian threat to critical infrastructure since 2014.

But on July 23, 2018, the department gave out detailed information about the intrusions publicly for the first time at an unclassified briefing for the industry. It did not provide the names of alleged victims, but said there were “hundreds.”

It also said some companies still may not know they were compromised, because the attacks used credentials of actual employees to get inside utility networks, potentially making the intrusions more difficult to detect.

“They’ve been intruding into our networks and are positioning themselves for a limited or widespread attack,” Michael Carpenter, former deputy assistant secretary of defense, who is now a senior director at the Penn Biden Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Journal. “They are waging a covert war on the West.”

Russia has denied targeting critical infrastructure.

Homer told the Journal that the long-running cyberattack, which surfaced in the spring of 2016 and continued throughout 2017, exploited relationships that utilities have with vendors who have special access to update software, run diagnostics on equipment, and perform other services that are needed to keep millions of pieces of gear in working order.

He said the attackers began by using conventional tools — spear phishing e-mails and watering-hole attacks, which trick victims into entering their passwords on malware-infected websites — to compromise the corporate networks of suppliers, many of whom were small companies without big budgets for cybersecurity.

Automated attacks?

Once inside the vendor networks, they pivoted to their real focus: the utilities, officials told the Journal. They said it was a relatively easy process, in many cases, for the intruders to steal credentials from vendors and gain direct access to utility networks.

Then they began stealing confidential information. For example, the hackers vacuumed up information showing how utility networks were configured, what equipment was in use and how it was controlled.

The hackers also familiarized themselves with how the facilities were supposed to work, because attackers “have to learn how to take the normal and make it abnormal” to cause disruptions, Homer told the Journal.

The department said it plans three more industry briefings and hopes to determine whether there are any new network infections, and whether the hackers have figured out ways to defeat security enhancements like multifactor authentication.

In addition, the department is looking for evidence that the Russian hackers are automating their attacks, which investigators worry could presage a large increase in hacking efforts.

It isn’t yet clear whether the hackers used their access to prepare for some future, devastating blow to the U.S. electric grid, investigators told the Journal.

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

Articles

The US is about to revolutionize naval combat

Members of the visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team operate a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) alongside guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Pasquale Sena


After more than a decade of research and development, the US Navy stands on the edge of a paradigm shift.

A recent report from the Congressional Research Service puts these technologies in perspective:

“Any one of these new weapon technologies, if successfully developed and deployed, might be regarded as a “game changer’ for defending Navy surface ships against enemy missiles. If two or three of them are successfully developed and deployed, the result might be considered not just a game changer, but a revolution.”

In the slides below, see where the US Navy is at in fielding these revolutionary technologies, and how they will change the future of naval warfare.

The US Navy’s defense dilemma

Already, the onboard defenses on US Navy ships are some of the best in the world, but with growing threats from ever-advancing anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles from China and Russia, the US Navy is left with some bleak options.

1. Avoid operating in waters within range of advanced anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles (the South China, the Black, and Baltic Seas to name a few).

2. Change the entire fleet structure to rely on smaller surface ships and submarines, and less so on large platforms like aircraft carriers.

3. Improve onboard missile defenses to effectively counter even the most advanced anti-ship missiles.

With the US’s global network of allies and interests, the first option is unthinkable. The second option would vastly change the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, dull the power-projection capabilities provided by US aircraft carriers and amphibious assault vessels, and cost a fortune.

Source: Congressional Research Service

The problem with traditional guns and defenses

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Levi Horn observes as Operations Specialist 3rd Class Monica Ruiz fires a 50-caliber machine gun during a live-fire qualification aboard amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brian Caracci

“Powder guns have been matured to the point where you are going to get the most out of them. Railguns are just beginning,” Tom Boucher, the railgun program manager for Office of Naval Research, said to AFP.

There are two problems with the Navy’s current onboard missile defenses.

Firstly, traditional naval missile defenses rely on ammunition. So no matter how effective surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) or close-in-weapons systems (CIWS) are, they have a finite amount of rounds that can be depleted.

Secondly, “Navy SAMs range from about $900,000 per missile to several million dollars per missile, depending on the type.”

Since SAMs protect the lives of US Navy sailors, these costs are acceptable, but still unsustainable throughout a prolonged conflict. Simply put, the missiles and rounds used to defend navy ships hugely tax an already strained defense budget.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Solid State Lasers

The Afloat Forward Staging Base USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. | US Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released

Solid State Lasers, (SSLs) spectacularly overcome the limitations of traditional defenses, while introducing a few limitations of their own.

Right now, naval planners are developing SSLs to provide defense against small boats and UAVs within the range of one to a few miles, “and potentially in the future for countering ASCMs and ASBMs as well.”

The laser system offers brilliant advantages over traditional rounds both in depth of magazine and cost per shot.

An SSL can fire continuously until the ship supporting it runs out of fuel to generate electricity, which would take a long, long time. Additionally, the cost of firing an SSL is comparable to running a heavy duty appliance. The Navy cites the cost per shot of an SSL at around $1 per.

But SSLs rely on line of sight, and are therefore not all-weather weapons. Clouds, rain squalls, even particles in the atmosphere can sap effectiveness from the laser system. Additionally, it poses a threat to human targets, as it could blind them, and blinding weapons are prohibited by the Geneva convention.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Electromagnetic Railgun (EMRG)

One of two electromagnetic railgun prototypes on display aboard joint high speed vessel USS Millinocket (JHSV 3) in port at Naval Base San Diego on July 8, 2014. | US Navy photo

The EMRG uses magnetic fields created by extremely high electrical currents to “accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at [speeds of] 4,500 mph to 5,600 mph,” 30 or roughly Mach 5.9 to Mach 7.4.”

The projectile, traveling at a mind-boggling 1.5 miles per second, rips through the atmosphere with such speed that the atmosphere around it, as well as the tungsten of the projectile itself, erupt into an awesome fireball despite the fact that no explosives are used.

With a range of up to 100 miles (in just a few seconds) the EMRG can take out distant targets as well as incoming threats.

Unlike the SSL, the EMRG fires physical rounds, and therefore has a much more limited magazine depth. However, the cost per shot of the inert rounds is a very small fraction of what today’s guided missiles cost.

Source: Congressional Research Service

Hyper Velocity Projectiles (HVPs)

Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, shows off a Hypervelocity Projectile (HVP) to CBS News reporter David Martin during an interview held at the Naval Research Laboratory’s materials testing facility. | US Navy photo by John F. Williams

In developing the revolutionary EMRG, the Navy realized they needed an equally revolutionary projectile— enter the HVP, a streamlined, percision guided round.

Though it was designed for railguns, the aerodynamic design of the HVP lends itself to other, existing applications. For instance, when fired out of the Navy’s 5 inch or 155 mm guns, the HVP reaches speeds of around Mach 3— about twice as fast as a normal round, but about half as fast as the EMRG fires it.

The HVP has GPS coordinates entered into it, and once fired, the fins on the rear of the round guide the projectile towards it’s target in any weather conditions.

HVPs are much more expensive than the normal rounds a Navy gun fires, but their speed means they can intercept missiles, which makes them a much cheaper alternative to guided missiles. Plus, as they are backwards-compatible with existing Navy platforms, HVPs could be deployed tomorrow if need be.

Source: Congressional Research Service

An affordable revolution in defense

Slide 5 from Navy briefing entitled “Electromagnetic Railgun,” NDIA Joint Armaments Forum, Exhibition Technology Demonstration, May 14, 2014, LCDR Jason Fox, USN, Assistant PM [Program Manager], Railgun Ship Integration, Distribution. | NAVSEA GraphicThis graphic shows how the US Navy can leverage HVPs and EMRGs to maintain their asymmetrical advantage over rising powers for years to come, without relying on million-dollar missiles.

Source: Congressional Research Service

MIGHTY MOVIES

If only every vet could get a ‘Queer Eye’ episode

I wish every veteran could get a makeover from the Queer Eye Fab Five — and before you reach for your beers and bullets, hear me out: the military teaches us to suck it up and prepares us for the worst conditions on earth…and that gruffness becomes the standard of living even after we get out.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Not for us. Not for our families.

Just ask Brandonn Mixon, U.S. Army veteran and co-founder of Veterans Community Project, an organization that provides housing and walk-in services for service members in order to end veteran homelessness. Mixon literally builds houses for homeless vets.

The Queer Eye team decided to return the favor, helping Mixon finish his own home, upgrade his professional look, and learn to process his service-connected Traumatic Brain Injury. In spite of all the good Mixon does for his brothers and sisters in arms, Mixon confided to Karamo Brown that he feels like he’s failing in life.

“Who told you that you’re failing?” Brown pressed.

“I did.”

He’s not the only vet who feels this way.


MIGHTY TRENDING

Army National Guard helping in Hawaii as volcano erupts

Joint Task Force 5-0 in Hawaii is helping authorities handle evacuations, provide security, and monitor air quality as Mount Kilauea spews out clouds of toxic gas and lava destroys homes in its path.

About 2,000 residents have been forced to evacuate their homes so far on the big island of Hawaii, but the majority are staying with friends and family, said Lt. Col. Charles Anthony, state public affairs officer. Only a few hundred are in temporary community shelters, he said.


More than 150 National Guard troops have volunteered for active duty to help with evacuations and to man checkpoints in front of the lava flow. Other troops are standing by in case more mass evacuations are needed.

Black Hawk helicopters are conducting aerial surveys to monitor the lava and check on fissures, Anthony said. At least 17 fissures in the Puna district are currently emitting lava and toxic gasses. One lava flow is approaching the Puna Geothermal Plant and Anthony said that situation is being watched closely.

Spc. Donavan Wills, Bravo Co., 227th Brigade Engineer Battalion, directs traffic May 12, 2018 in response to the volcano eruption, at Leilani Estates, Pahoa, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

Members of the 93rd Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team are monitoring air quality to ensure dangerous gasses do not encroach on populated areas.

In May 2018, Army National Guard Soldiers went door to door in neighborhoods such as the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens to warn residents of the danger and advise them to evacuate in front of the approaching lava flow. Anthony said some residents waited until the last minute.

A member of the Hawaii National Guard observes three lava fissures May 15, 2018, at Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions, Pahoa, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)



“I have no idea how anybody could stay inside that evacuation zone for days on end,” Anthony said. “The amount of gas and smoke and steam … sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid and all is incredibly nasty stuff.”

A lava fissure erupts May 18, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The troops of JTF 5-0 are staged in the town of Hilo, about 15 miles north of the evacuation zone. They go into the evacuation zone for about four hours at a time to conduct roving patrols and help police man checkpoints, Anthony said.

Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Joint Task Force 5-0 commander, and Hawaii Governor David Ige examine an area in Leilani Estates where lava over ran the road, May 08, 2018, Pahoa Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Jackson)

Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara is the task force commander. He is the deputy adjutant general of Hawaii. Some active force officers and Soldiers from the island of Oahu have joined him on the JTF staff, Anthony said. They are planning for contingencies in case the volcano eruption worsens.

Despite the troubles with Mount Kilauea, across most of the island, business continues as usual, Anthony said.

Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Hawaii National Guard deputy adjutant general, and Hawaii Governor David Ige (center), look at an earthquake damaged roadway in Leilani Estates, May 08, 2018, Pahoa Hawaii.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andrew Jackson)

“It’s just a beautiful, picture-perfect day on a Hawaiian beach,” he said. Then he contrasted it with the situation inside the evacuation zone where toxic fumes kill foliage and hot lava obliterates structures.

“It’s a mix of paradise and a freaking hellscape,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines, soldiers, and sailors participate in joint training exercise

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics participated in exercise Resolute Sun from June 11-19, 2019.

The exercise allowed Marines to increase combat operational readiness in amphibious and prepositioning operations while conducting joint training with the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy during a joint logistics over-the-shore (JLOTS) scenario.

JLOTS provides operational movement capabilities in places where access to and from an area is not accessible. It is meant to strengthen interoperability between service branches so they can quickly build an improvised port and get equipment to and from wherever it is needed.


The Marines started the exercise on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. and convoyed down to Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, more than 250 miles away.

“We don’t get an opportunity to conduct long-range convoys like that all the time; it takes a lot of discipline to accomplish something of this scale,” said 1st Sgt. Brent Sheets, company first sergeant of Alpha Company, 2nd TSB. “The Marines got to see that there is more behind their job then the routine mission they do every day in garrison.”

U.S. Army Soldiers with 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Regiment prepare for a landing craft, utility to dock on a trident pier during exercise Resolute Sun at Fort Story, Virginia, June 18, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

After the convoy, the Marines embarked 38 vehicles onto the USNS Watkins (T-AKR-315), once they reached Joint Base Charleston.

The USNS Watkins is part of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command 19 Large, Medium-Speed Roll-on/Roll-off Ships. The ship is used for prepositioning of ground vehicles and is designed to carry vehicles which are driven on and off the ship.

After the ship was embarked with all cargo, it set sail for Fort Story, Virginia. There, the equipment was offloaded utilizing a trident pier built by the U.S. Army’s 331st Transportation Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th transportation Regiment. Simultaneously, Amphibious Construction Battalion 2, Naval Beach Group 2 conducted a beach landing utilizing the improved navy lighterage system.

U.S. Marine Corps logistics vehicles system replacements from 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, load onto the USNS Watkins during an on load port operation as part of exercise Resolute Sun at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“We’ve worked smoothly with the Marines during this exercise. They are our main counterparts,” said Construction Mechanic First Class Mark Paystrup, with Beach Master Unit 2, Battalion Cargo Group 10. “Because we work with them often, we are familiar with each other’s roles. What is more of an adjustment, is working with the Army. It is always good to practice that interoperability between the Services.”

The Navy-Marine Corps team works together all over the world, regulatory conducting beach landing operations together. The Army only has a few ship-to-shore assets, and sailors and Marines make sure to capitalize on training with soldiers to improve functionality between them.

“What we are doing today is exactly how we’re going to fight when we need too,” said Lt. Col Jonathan Baker, the Commanding Officer of 2nd TSB. “We’ll never go to war alone. We’ll go as a coalition. It’s important to understand how to do this jointly.”

Another benefit to the joint training environment is the ability to stay fiscally responsible while conducting such a large exercise. Working together with the Army and Navy, the price can be spread out amongst the branches, with each unit only being held responsible for paying for the gear and supplies they need.

U.S. Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, load an M970 semitrailer refueling truck onto the USNS Watkins during an on load port operation during exercise Resolute Sun at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, June 12, 2019.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Scott Jenkins)

“Doing a joint training exercise such as this one, allows for all branches to get connected and get the same amount of training,” said Baker. “This is training that they have to do, so if we can get connected to that, it provides us with cost-saving opportunity and unique training situations that we would normally get through warfare.”

All 38 vehicles from 2nd TSB were able to be offloaded and redeployed via convoy 220 miles back to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. within two days of the USNS Watkins arriving in Virginia.

“It takes a lot of individual actions to make something like this happen. That’s the individual Marine knowing his job and doing it effectively,” said Capt. Bryan Hassett, company commander of Alpha Company, 2nd TSB. “109 Marines worked together seamlessly as a unit to accomplish the mission, and that is something that needs to happen every time we go out, no matter where we are anywhere in the world.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

The way the leader of tightly controlled Turkmenistan sees it, there’s an ancient remedy for warding off the coronavirus: burning a wild herb known as hamala.


Belarus’s authoritarian president had similarly folksy advice for cabinet ministers and his fellow countrymen: go out and work in the fields. And ride a tractor.

Global leaders and medical experts are struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, imposing quarantines, shutting down borders, mandating mask use, and bolstering the capabilities of infectious disease-fighting medical workers. Scientists, meanwhile, are rushing to find a vaccine and a cure for the disease that has killed more than 7,500 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many officials are also struggling to prevent the spread of half-truths, misinformation, and unscientific remedies — something that is even harder in the era of social media and instantaneous communication — and even propaganda.

The coronavirus “outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ — an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” the WHO said in a report issued in early February.

Garlic, vitamin C, steroids, essential oils? Despite what you might read on Facebook or VK, the Russian social network, there’s no scientific evidence any of these things will combat the coronavirus.

With a view to highlighting the problem of misinformation, and nudging people toward reliable, authoritative sources, here’s a look at some of the more outlandish remedies that some leaders have – wrongly – suggested would help fight the coronavirus.

Turkmen Fumigation​

In Turkmenistan, one of the most oppressive societies in the world, the country has been ruled for years by authoritarian leaders with a penchant for quixotic quirks and health recommendations.

Before his death in 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov, who called himself the Father Of All Turkmen, routinely dispensed spiritual guidance, not to mention public-health advice, to the country, messaging that was widely disseminated by state TV and newspapers. In 2005, the country’s physicians were ordered to spurn the Hippocratic Oath — the ancient pledge used worldwide by medical workers — and instead swear an oath to Niyazov, an electrical engineer by training.

His successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, is a dentist by training. But that hasn’t stopped him from building a personality cult similar to Niyazov’s — or from offering unfounded medical advice, most recently on March 13, when he chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the looming dangers of the coronavirus.

“Over the millennia, our ancestors have developed proven national methods of combating addictions and preventing various infectious diseases,” he said.

He went on to suggest that burning an herb known as hamala, or wild rue, would destroy viruses “that are invisible to the naked eye.”

In fact, this is not true.

In December, Turkmen state TV featured a program discussing veterinary remedies for farmers coping with an outbreak of disease among cattle. Among the remedies being offered were those featured in a book authored by Berdymukhammedov.

A year earlier, the Health Ministry offered medical advice to Turkmen dealing with summer respiratory ailments. Among the tips: “use medicinal teas scientifically described in the book of … Berdymukhammedov’s Plants of Turkmenistan.”

As of March 18, Turkmenistan had reported no confirmed cases of infection.

Reap What You Sow

Over more than two decades of ruling Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has also routinely dispensed folksy wisdom to his countrymen.

Prior to the presidency, Lukashenka headed a Soviet-style collective farm operation, which is where he has drawn his suggestions and medicinal folklore from in the past.

On March 16, he hosted a meeting of cabinet officials in Minsk, where he sought to head off mounting concerns about the coronavirus in the country. As of March 17, it had 17 confirmed cases.

At the meeting, which was televised on state TV, he told officials “we have lived through other viruses. We’ll live through this one,” he said.

“You just have to work, especially now, in a village,” Lukashenka said. “In the countryside, people are working in the fields, on tractors, no one is talking about the virus.”

“There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone,” he said.

Lukashenka wished his ministers good health and offered this other piece of health advice: Go have a good sweat in a dry sauna; the coronavirus, according to Lukashenka, dies at 60 degrees Celsius.

In fact, there’s no evidence that tractors, saunas, or fieldwork have any effect on the coronavirus.

Vodka Elixir

As of March 18, Serbia had 83 confirmed cases of the virus.

Three weeks prior, as officials across the world were beginning to take concerns about the coronavirus’s spread seriously, President Aleksandar Vucic met with health specialists to discuss the measures being taken by his government.

He joked that alcohol — ingested — might very well be a useful salve.

“After they told me — and now I see that Americans insist it’s true — that the coronavirus doesn’t grow wherever you put alcohol, I’ve now found myself an additional reason to drink one glass a day,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with that alcohol [liquor], I just made that up for you to know.”

It didn’t help matters that, earlier on, Vucic’s foreign minister, had gone on Serbian TV to suggest that the virus was a foreign plot targeting the Chinese economy.

Belarus’s Lukashenka, meanwhile, echoed Vucic’s quip about vodka himself earlier this week.

“I’m a nondrinker, but recently I’ve been jokingly saying that you should not only wash your hands with vodka, but that probably 40-50 grams of pure alcohol will poison this virus,” Lukashenka said.

In fact, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure the coronavirus, or any other virus inside the body. Alcohol can, in fact, help kill germs and viruses externally, but washing your hands with vodka will not.

Holy Water, Holy Virus

While political leaders have been confusing people with unhelpful medicinal folklore, they aren’t the only leaders to do so.

Some clerics in a number of Orthodox countries — Russia included — have spurned medical guidance that has warned the coronavirus can be transmitted via close physical contact, or bodily fluids, such as droplets in the air, or saliva on utensils.

Metropolitan Ilarion, a top official in the Russian Orthodox Church, told state media that the church will not be closing parishes for services during the period leading up to Easter, which is to be celebrated on April 19.

Ilarion also told Rossia-24 TV that church leaders do not believe that any “virus or disease can be transmitted through communion” — the religious rite of eating bread and sipping wine during a church service.

Still, he indicated that the church would consider changes to things like the use of a communion spoon, used to give blessed wine to parishioners.

“But if it comes to bans or recommendations that we are obliged to follow, then in some cases single-use [disposable] spoons will be used,” he said.

On March 17, he went further.

“This does not mean that the church underestimates the threat. If the virus spreads and the number of infected grows, if new orders from the authorities appear regarding the fight against the coronavirus, the church will respond to them,” he was quoted as telling Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

He said church leaders were taking other unusual steps, including the use of disposable cups, disposable rubber gloves, and a suspension of the practice of kissing the cross or religious icons — a common practice in Orthodox tradition.

Two days earlier, however, at least one Orthodox parish, in the Volga River city of Kazan, was using a reusable “holy spoon” to administer communion wine.

As of March 18, Russia had 114 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, in Georgia (38 confirmed cases), Orthodox priests were reportedly continuing to use a common spoon to ladle communion into the drinking cups of worshippers who chose that option. And the Greek Orthodox Church also echoed Ilarion’s unfounded insistence that viruses could not spread via Communion.

Other Georgian Orthodox priests, meanwhile, took to the roads this week to try and curtail, or cure, the coronavirus, driving around Tbilisi sprinkling holy water on cars and drivers alike.

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