North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a rare, revealing admission when discussing the state of his country with South Korean President Moon Jae-in: He’s “embarrassed” by his country’s infrastructure.
As Kim and Moon held a historic summit on April 27, 2018, the South Korean president told North Korea’s supreme leader he’d like to visit his country in order to climb Mount Paektu, a mountain that plays a significant role in Korean folklore. Kim then said, “I feel embarrassed about the poor transit infrastructure,” BBC reports.
This was an out-of-character moment for Kim, as North Korean leaders have long been well-known for boasting about their country (and themselves) in an exaggerated fashion.
Relatedly, in December 2017, North Korean state media reported Kim had climbed Mount Paektu and seemed to suggest he has the power to control “nature” given the good weather at the time. Images of the alleged climb also showed Kim in dress shoes and slacks, with no mountaineering equipment.
North Korea is notoriously impoverished. When a North Korean soldier defected to South Korea in 2017, doctors removed an 11 inch parasitic worm from his stomach and also discovered he’d consumed corn kernels, offering a glimpse into how difficult life can be in North Korea. Correspondingly, Chinese tourists have been known to visit the reclusive country almost solely to see how poor North Koreans truly are.
At April 27, 2018’s summit, Kim and Moon made a joint announcement the Korean Peninsula would be completely rid of nuclear weapons and also pledged to work toward formally ending the Korean War, which has technically been ongoing since fighting ceased via an armistice in 1953.
Later in the day, as President Donald Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington DC, Trump sounded cautiously optimistic about his impending meeting with Kim. But he said the US would continue its campaign of “maximum pressure” until the Korean Peninsula is completely denuclearized.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The forecast for America is changing. The country has been dominated by a pandemic with no end in sight. However, the future for the military is looking bright. What does this mean for military families?
Why Members Serve
Surveys show most Americans believe military members serve for patriotic reasons. How do these views compare to the actual reasons why military members serve? Recent studies indicate many members are motivated to serve by the salary and benefits associated with the military. Recruits also express job stability and training opportunities as occupational motives for joining the service.
At the beginning of 2020, military recruiters were facing an uphill battle. The branches of the service were all competing for recruits as the economy and job market were excellent, and the pool of qualified candidates was small. The military was not only competing with itself, but with colleges, and the strong civilian job market.
Fast forward to the present day and consider the short and long-term effects of COVID-19 on the Department of Defense and Homeland Security. The pandemic is challenging all branches of the service in their ability to recruit and train personnel. Due to stay-at-home orders and quarantines, military recruitment and training has slowed in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The stall in recruitment is presenting a challenge no one could have predicted.
However, there is a silver lining. Current unemployment rates and the economic outlook are somewhat dismal. The occupational motives for serving are perhaps more important now than ever. The military provides job and financial security when few civilian jobs exist. Could the economic downfall of COVID-19 be the answer to the recruitment woes of the military? The future of military recruiting is looking bright.
Separation, Retirement, Retention
Some military members serve their initial commitment and separate from the service once the obligation is complete. Others make the military a career serving 20 years or more. The military experiences a high rate of turnover and retention is an on-going battle.
Military aviation serves as an excellent example. All branches of the service are familiar with the pilot shortages seen in recent years. Pilot retention found itself in a downward spiral due to the lucrative pay, flexible schedules, increased control over home life, and benefits affiliated with employment in the commercial sector. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the airline and travel industries are facing unforeseen turbulence. Could the effects of COVID-19 on these two industries be the answer to the military’s pilot retention woes?
COVID-19 is presenting complications for every armed service to maintain a mission-ready workforce. Most branches are currently implementing programs to keep members in the ranks. The Navy recently loosened some retirement restrictions for sailors and officers. The Coast Guard has introduced a new campaign to retain personnel. The Army has made recent promotion and retention policy changes as well. The bottom line is the military needs to keep people from separating. Could the short and long-term effects of COVID-19 in America be the answer to the military’s retention woes?
Impact on Military Families
Military families often express a desire to plant roots and have more control over their lives. Some long for a more “normal” life and discuss the right time to end their military service. Now more than ever, the discussion topic is: How long can we remain in the military? Luckily, military families are always prepared to expect the unexpected.
Perhaps military families need to put the retirement and separation plans on hold. It may seem ironic, but an extended active-duty military career is starting to look like a first-class ticket to stability. Given the current unemployment rates in the United States, the future for military families is looking extremely bright.
Some interesting implications are on the line with the success of new military robots. The U.S. Army has been experimenting with robots in hopes of creating a more competent unmanned instrument for battle. The robots took on a variety of complex tasks, each associated with a real-world battlefield application—like sorting through minefields and clearing anti-tank trenches. Not only were the robots successful, but they actually began to complete the tasks faster with each successive attempt. The exercises took place at Yakima Air Base (WA).
Some military robots have mundane uses like these LS3 “robot mules” designed to carry heavy gear and cargo.
The Yakima Air Base exercises were spearheaded by Lt. Col. Jonathan Fursman and Capt. Nichole Rotte of the 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion. The team was tasked with creating complicated breach obstacles (within the context of “a realistic and plausible scenario”) for the robots to overcome.
According to Defense News, these breaches included: anti-tank trenches, minefields, and razor wire. The robots also had to breach all of the obstacles while under fire while paving the way for a counterattack into enemy lines.
The exercise was also monitored by a quadcopter, deployed under the watch of the Alabama National Guard, to monitor the use of any chemical, nuclear, or biological agents used. Another separate unit, using an unmanned Polaris MRZR vehicle, shrouded the breach with a smokescreen that clouded the field and heavily impaired (human) vision.
A “battlefield extraction assist” bot prototype designed to transport wounded soldiers.
At the very start of the breach, the U.S. Army robots used two NGCVs to lay down clear lines of suppression fire at the “enemy.” In a bizarre backward glimpse into the future of warfare, a humvee controlling yet another humvee—was equipped with a 7.62mm gun. This robot-meta suppression fire humvee (I’m sure the Army will come up with another alphabet soup acronym for these in the coming years) was accompanied by an M113 armored personnel carrier (actually controlled by a human).
While the “enemy” was hunkered down by suppression fire, two ABVs (assault breacher vehicles) took on the actual obstacles laid out by Fursman and Rotte. These ABVs were controlled by the Marines Corps (as it is quickly becoming apparent that manned robots should be clarified).
The initial ABV led the way and cleared a safe path through the minefield—leaving stakes in the ground to highlight a path of safety through the exercise for the other ABV.
Could we see robot infantry within the decade?
The second ABV used a blade to fill a tank trench and, once filled, led a clean path for allied forces to form an assault on the “enemy.”
According to Defense News, via Rotte, the initial breach exercise took “two and a half hours,” but the subsequent attempt took only two hours. The second, faster, attempt matches the same time frame it would take human soldiers to complete the same task. This leads us to the important question: are we on the brink of seeing robotic warfare replace boots on the ground?
The answer lies only in how quickly these machines can begin to operate efficiently and be productive on a mass scale. There were some hangups in the exercise, such as latency issues (lag, as gamers would call it), camera feed problems, and other hiccups. Reports indicate that none of these posed too much of an issue.
The unmanned machines were easy to control. Finding human soldiers to operate the machines isn’t necessarily a problem, as the machines in this exercise were all operated with a standard Xbox One controller—seeing as most members of the armed forces have trained themselves with the intricacies of an Xbox controller in their spare time.
So as unmanned operations become simultaneously more efficient logistically, and more simple practically—the idea of taking boots off the ground in place of robots isn’t a matter of if but a matter of when. If these exercises are any indication of the nearing of that all-important when—then we are well on our way to seeing a new era of battle in which casualties will be measured in gears and bolts.
While different states have different laws, the process is pretty similar no matter where you live.
Thirty-six states and four territories have chosen to flout the United States government’s prohibition on cannabis by legalizing the sale and consumption of marijuana for medical purposes. The FDA has only approved one marijuana-derived drug to treat two rare forms of epilepsy, but there is promising evidence that medical marijuana can also help those suffering from conditions including chronic pain, cancer, glaucoma, PTSD, and Parkinson’s Disease. Who’s ready to join the more than 4.3 million Americans who already have a medical marijuana card?
Not so fast. The lack of a federal framework means there are 40 separate sets of rules governing medical marijuana certification and so your path to a medical marijuana card includes some bureaucratic hoop-jumping. While some specifics vary from state to state, the general procedure for obtaining a medical marijuana card follows a pretty similar and clear path. Here’s what you need to know.
Qualifying conditions for a medical marijuana card.
Qualifying diagnosable medical conditions that medical marijuana can be recommended to treat differ for each state, but there are a number of overlapping conditions. The most common (according to online cannabis marketplace Leafly) are epilepsy and seizure disorders, cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, neurodegenerative diseases, cachexia, and PTSD. Nausea and pain are also common qualifying conditions, but some states only classify “severe” or “intractable” examples of the two as qualifying conditions.
Some states, like Florida, also include “medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to those listed,” which gives physicians the discretion to recommend medical marijuana for serious conditions that explicitly included on the list of qualifying conditions.
Medical recommendations for a medical marijuana card.
If you think your condition is a qualifying condition, the next step is to find a medical professional who will recommend cannabis. Prescribing the drug, a schedule 1 substance under federal law, is a big no-no, but recommending is inbounds.
Some states will require an in-person visit to a doctor’s office and some allow for telemedicine visits, particularly during the pandemic. Your general practitioner might be willing to provide a recommendation, but in most states, there are clinics that market themselves (with varying degrees of subtlety) as places to get medical marijuana recommendations.
Register for a medical marijuana card with your state.
Once you have a recommendation, you can provide it to your state as part of the application process. Some states provide a temporary card that, when presented with a state ID card or driver’s license, can be used at a dispensary. Others will make you wait until you receive the card in the mail.
Some states will also allow you to register one or two caregivers as part of your application. They’ll need to complete some paperwork themselves, but once approved they can buy medical marijuana for the patient, something that’s particularly useful for people whose conditions make it difficult for them to leave the house.
What to do once you have a medical marijuana card.
A medical marijuana card will allow you to purchase medical marijuana products in limited quantities from licensed dispensaries in your state, some of which offer home delivery. Some states allow you to grow limited quantities of your own while eleven states and Washington, DC, allow purchases in their dispensaries from holders of out-of-state medical marijuana cards, a nice perk if you find yourself in need while away from home.
Among the prohibitions that are universal across states are giving medical marijuana to someone else and purchasing it from anywhere but a licensed dispensary. Additionally, the federal government still has legal authority over interstate commerce, so transporting marijuana across state lines—even if both have legalized it—is illegal under federal law.
Budtenders — employees of dispensaries — are good sources of information, as being well-versed in the laws of their state is a condition of their employment. Otherwise, the best way to look at the laws that govern marijuana in your state is probably to Google “[state name] medical marijuana qualifying conditions.” Avoid the 420.biz-style results you’ll also find and click on the official state website (e.g. ny.gov or mn.us) for the real dope.
The internet is a giant dumpster fire but it is made slightly redeemable based on pop-culture content shared by your favorite Air Force vet random and completely unnecessary but much-needed gems like the reviews of the Three Wolf Moon shirt or everything surrounding the Storm Area 51 event.
The internet also gives us access to hot takes we never knew we needed, like Sean Kelly’s deepest, most pure thoughts on Star Trek transporters.Twitter
In the Star Trek franchise, a matter transportation device — or “transporter” — dematerializes matter (humanoids, objects, etc) and sends their constituent particles in the form of energy to another location before reconverting them back to their original form.
It’s cool futuristic technology, but it also makes for convenient story-telling. Need to get your characters down to that strange alien ship? Energize away! Need to rescue them in the knick of time before a singularity in a planetary core destroys them all? Beam them up, Scotty, and don’t be a b**** about it!
But, as Kelly points out, there are some missed opportunities for the inhabitants of the many Star Trek worlds when it comes to transporter capabilities. Why? Well, because television is only entertaining when the characters have obstacles to overcome.Twitter
Still, thanks to Kelly, we can debate the implications of transporter potential to our little hearts’ content. From medicinal achievements to murder, those transporters could do some crazy sh** if Star Trek writers wanted them to.
Not to mention the Ship of Theseus Paradox, which fans of The Prestige might be familiar with. The paradox poses the philosophical question about whether a ship that has systematically had all of its parts replaced is actually the same ship at the end of the journey. In other words, if a person’s matter is dematerialized, will that actual person rematerialize on the other end — or have they essentially died while their copy continues to live?
Senior Airman Adan Solis, 921st Contingency Response Squadron aircraft maintainer, marshals a C-130 Hercules aircraft during the Joint Readiness Training Center exercise, April 9, 2018, at the Alexandria International Airport, La. Contingency Response Airmen conducted joint training with Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, providing direct air-land support for safe and efficient airfield operations.
Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Civil Engineer Squadron hone their skills on Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, April 11, 2018. The firefighters practice dousing a simulated aircraft fire in a realistic, but controlled environment.
Soldiers from across 25th Infantry Division continued to strive for the title of Best Warrior by participating in an eight-mile ruck march, preparing a weapon for close combat, and draftingan essay about what it means to be a leader and how to prevent sexual harassment and assault with in the military. The Tropic Lightning Best Warrior Competition is a week-long event that will test Soldiers competing on the overall physical fitness, warrior tasks and battle drill, and professional knowledge.
Bearing the weight of heavy combat loads, paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade move to the flight line to board US Air Force C130 Hercules turboprop aircraft for an joint forcible entry into northern Italy.
Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Michael DeCesare, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 4, Det. Guam, fires an M2 machine gun aboard a Mark VI patrol boat during a crew-served weapons qualification in the Philippine Sea, April 12, 2018. CRS-4, Det. Guam, assigned to Costal Riverine Group 1, Det. Guam, is capable of conducting maritime security operations across the full spectrum of naval, joint and combined operations. Further, it provides additional capabilities of port security, embarked security, and theater security cooperation around the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Granito)
Capt. Gregory Newkirk, deputy commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, prepares to take off in an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson Strike Group is currently operating in the Pacific as part of a regularly scheduled deployment.
MV-22B Ospreys attached to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One conduct an aerial refuel during a Long Range Raid simulation in conjunction with Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-18 in Tuscon, Ariz., April 11. WTI is a seven-week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force and provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.
U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Thomas Johnson, an assaultman with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, bear crawls on Fort Hase beach during a scout sniper indoctrination course, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 11, 2018. The overall goal of the course is to familiarize students with the main aspects of sniper skills so that when they go to the Scout Sniper Basic School, they will continue to improve and successfully complete it.
(U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christin Solomon)
Sunset falls on an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bear during a three-month deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The Bear is scheduled to return to homeport April 12, 2018, in Portsmouth, Virginia. During the patrol, the Bear’s crew performed counter-narcotic operations, search and rescue, and maritime law enforcement.
The Army plans to issue a new World War II-style uniform starting the summer of 2020, as senior leaders look to sharpen the professional appearance of soldiers and inspire others to join them.
The Army Greens uniform, a version of the uniform once worn by the Greatest Generation, will now be worn by today’s generation as they lead the service into the future.
“As I go around and talk to soldiers… they’re very excited about it,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey. “They’re excited for the same reasons why we wanted to do this. This uniform is very much still in the minds of many Americans.”
The Army Service Uniform will revert to a dress uniform for more formal events, while the Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform will still be used as a duty uniform.
The Army does not plan to get rid of the ASU or have soldiers wear the Army Greens uniform in the motor pool, Dailey said Nov. 19, 2018, during a media roundtable at the Pentagon.
“The intent is to not replace the duty uniform,” he said. “You’re still going to have a time and place to wear the duty uniform every day.”
A pair of soldier demonstrators wear prototypes of the Army Greens uniform.
(US Army photo by Ron Lee)
Ultimately, it will be up to the unit commander what soldiers will wear.
“It’s going to be a commander’s call,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, who is in charge of PEO Soldier, the lead developer of the uniform. “Each commander out there will have the opportunity to determine what the uniform is going to be.”
The Greens uniform, Potts said, will provide a better option to soldiers who work in an office or in public areas.
“What we found is that the ASU itself doesn’t really dress down well to a service uniform with a white shirt and stripes on the pants,” the general said Friday in a separate interview.
In the summer of 2020, fielding is expected to start with soldiers arriving to their first duty assignments. The uniform will also be available for soldiers to purchase at that time. The mandatory wear date for all soldiers is set for 2028.
The new uniform will be cost-neutral for enlisted soldiers, who will be able to purchase it with their clothing allowance.
Before any of that, the Greens uniform will begin a limited user evaluation within 90 days to help finalize the design of the uniform.
The first uniforms will go out to about 200 soldiers, mainly recruiters, who interact with the public on a daily basis.
“Every time you design a new uniform, the devil is in the details,” Potts said.
PEO Soldier teams will then go out and conduct surveys and analysis with those wearing the uniform.
“What that does is that helps us fix or correct any of the design patterns that need to be corrected,” he said, “or any potential quality problems you might see with some of the first runs of new materials.”
PEO Soldier worked with design teams at the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center to modernize the WWII-era uniform. Some of the updates make the uniform more durable and comfortable, he said.
“There will be differences,” Potts said. “Differences in materials, slight differences in design, but keeping the authentic feel of that time period and that original uniform.”
The Army Uniform Board, part of the Army G-4 office, also sought and addressed feedback from the service’s first all-female uniform board.
One approved change the female board recommended was the slacks and low-quarter dress shoes instead of the skirt and pumps for female soldiers.
“It was a more comfortable uniform for them during the day,” Potts said of what he had heard from female demonstrators who have worn the uniform. “And they really felt like it was a very sharp uniform that they were proud to wear.”
While the uniform is issued with an all-weather coat, there will be optional jackets for soldiers to purchase and wear.
An Eisenhower or “Ike” waist-length jacket will be available as well as a green-colored tanker jacket and a leather bomber jacket.
Options for headgear will include the garrison cap and the beret, both of which will be issued. Soldiers will also have the option to purchase a service cap.
For soldiers who do wear the uniform, they will help honor those who came before them.
“This nation came together during World War II and fought and won a great war,” Dailey said. “And that’s what the secretary and the chief want to do, is capitalize on that Greatest Generation, because there’s another great generation that is serving today and that’s the soldiers who serve in the United States Army.”
Ask a Green Beret or Navy SEAL about the most powerful weapon in their arsenal, and they’ll probably give you an answer you didn’t expect: the brain. These special operators know that the mind is a lethal tool and that the outcome of many battles is often decided well before the shooting even starts.
In fact, the first of principle of Special Operations is that “humans are more important than hardware.”
But New Yorkers already know this principle. They live it everyday. The Big Apple is a hard city and its citizens have survived brutal winters, hurricanes, British occupation, and multiple terrorist attacks. And yet, the city endures and continues to thrive because New Yorkers know that with resiliency, they can survive whatever comes next. Just try it, King Kong.
New York has always supported the U.S. military by hosting parades, fleet week, and, ultimately, throwing out the British, but now some New Yorkers are doing something a little different. They’re running for 12 hours straight around Manhattan as part of the Relay For Heroes.
The host of this crazy endeavor is the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (IFHF), a non-profit organization that supports U.S. military personnel experiencing the invisible wounds of war: traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress (PTS). Like the military, citizens of New York know that a strong mind can be a lethal tool, so they’re pitching in to combat ailments that plague it. Headquartered out of the Intrepid Aircraft Carrier in New York Harbor, teams of four to six runners will run five mile legs all day long, from 8am to 8pm.
Winston Fisher is a member of Team Extreme who raise funds for Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund
One of these runners is Winston Fisher, a proud New Yorker and board member of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, who is running as a part of Team Extreme, a group of dedicated athletes who use extreme supports to raise funds for the military and veterans. Winston described his efforts to We Are The Mighty,
“Our team has participated in some of the most recognized and, in many instances, the most challenging events in the world, including major world marathons, Ironman, and the toughest ultra-distance events on the planet. Relay for Heroes is Team Extreme’s signature running event.”
As a lifelong athlete, fitness has always been part of Winston’s world, but in 2012, he fully committed himself to endurance sports by starting with a Tough Mudder and then progressing to half- and full Ironman events. Since then, Winston has completed the Kona Ironman (an event that will humble even the fittest Green Beret) and finished the grueling World Marathon Challenge — 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continent. Winston, who personally raised over 0,000 during the 2017 Relay for Heroes, has another special reason for running;
“The race was, first and foremost, for my children. I wanted them to know they can accomplish anything they put their minds to. Life is not easy, it requires sacrifice, but success is theirs if they work for it. Lead by example. Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.”
Intrepid Spirit Centers combine the latest technology in physical and mental health to combat TBI and PTS.
This year, Winston, Team Extreme, and the rest of the runners are definitely doing more than walking the walk. They are putting themselves through a 12-hour gauntlet for a very important mission: To help IFHF raise funds to build a series of specially designed treatment facilities, named Intrepid Spirit Centers, at military bases across the country.
If you’re on active duty, you may have seen these centers in places like Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Each facility is state-of-the-art-campus designed to help active members overcome the effects of TBI and PTS with experts in neurology, physical therapy, and even nutrition all on site. These centers are literally on-base gyms for the brain.
Matthew Schumacher, a petty officer stationed aboard the USS Taylor from 1992 through 1996, is running in the Relay for Heroes because he remembers a time when TBI and PTS were left untreated for many of his fellow sailors. Matthew explained to We Are The Mighty why he’s running this year:
“I’ve seen personally the day-to-day effects [these ailments] have on fellow service members, both current and retired. To get others to realize, the small amount of pain I’ll go through in this relay is minimal compared to those suffering daily with TBI and PTS.”
With the new Intrepid Spirit Centers, the military has the tools needed to help the wounded recover from the invisible wounds of war and return to the battlefield, ready to fight. Since its inception in 2016, the Relay for Heroes has dedicated 100% of all funds raised in the race to build Intrepid Spirit Centers and this year is no different. Donations from this year’s’ race will go towards three additional centers that still need to be built, including centers at Fort Carson in Colorado, Fort Bliss in Texas, and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
For runners like Winston Fisher, the payoff of 12 hours of pain is simple:
“Traumatic brain injury is a silent killer if untreated. Fallen Heroes Fund is the front line of medical treatment. Our troops do so much for us, the least I can do is help them heal.”
The tiny mountainous country of Switzerland has been in a state of “perpetual neutrality” since the major European powers of the time declared it as such during the Congress of Vienna after the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815.
Why did they do this?
The French conquered Switzerland in 1798, establishing the Helvetic Republic in attempt to make Switzerland something of a strategically positioned French satellite state. Not long after, Austrian and Russian forces invaded the country in their war against France. The Swiss, rather than fighting alongside their French overlords, largely refused. This ultimately led to the Act of Mediation, giving the Swiss back much of their former independence. Twelve years later, they got the rest thanks to the aforementioned Congress of Vienna in which their neutrality in the wars of their neighbors was officially recognised.
Beyond the Swiss themselves having long tried to stay out of the conflicts of Europe (since the early 16th century after a devastating loss at the Battle of Marignano), part of the reason Switzerland was granted neutrality in perpetuity in 1815 is because the European powers of the time deemed that the country was ideally located to function as a “a valuable buffer zone between France and Austria.” Thus, granting their neutrality in wars, so long as they continued to stay out of them, would “contribute to stability in the region.”
Since that time, with a few minor exceptions, Switzerland has steadfastly refused to compromise its neutrality for any reason, though on the war-front they did suffer an exceptionally brief civil war in the mid-19th century resulting in only a handful of casualties. While minor in its scale, this civil war drastically changed the political landscape of the Swiss government, including the establishment of a constitution partially borrowing from the then less than a century old United States constitution.
Swiss officer barracks in the Umbrail Pass during World War I.
In any event, as for those aforementioned “minor exceptions”, Switzerland has occasionally taken part in some global peacekeeping missions and prior to 1860 Swiss troops did sometimes take part in various skirmishes, despite their neutrality.
In more modern times, Switzerland needed to defend its borders from both Allied and Axis (see: How Did the Axis and Allies Get Their Names) air incursions during WW2. For instance, they shot down nearly a dozen German planes in the spring of 1940 alone, as well as shot down some American bombers and forced down countless others on both sides. This included grounding and detaining the crews of over a hundred Allied bombers that tried to fly over the country. When Hitler tried to counter Swiss measures at keeping the Luftwaffe from their skies by sending a sabotage team to destroy Swiss airfields, the Swiss successfully captured the saboteurs before they could carry out any bombings.
You might think it a bit silly for the Swiss to risk war with both sides by shooting or forcing down foreign aircraft from their skies, but on several occasions Allied bombers accidentally attacked Swiss cities, mistaking them for German ones. For instance, on April 1, 1944, American bombers, thinking they were bombing Ludwigshafen am Rhein, bombed Schaffhausen, killing 40 Swiss citizens and destroying over fifty buildings. This was not an isolated incident.
So how exactly did Switzerland, surrounded on all sides by Axis (or Central in WW1) and Allied powers during the wars to end all wars, manage to keep enemy troops at bay without much in the way of any fighting?
Officially Switzerland maintains a policy of “Aggressive Neutrality” meaning that although it actively avoids taking part in conflicts, as evidenced by their air-force activities during WW2, it will defend its own interests with vigour. How vigorous? To ensure other countries respect its neutral stance, Switzerland has long put itself into a terrifyingly over prepared position to fight, and made sure every country around them was, and is, well aware of this fact.
As for specifics, to begin with, a common misconception about Switzerland is that because it doesn’t actively take part in global military conflicts, that it doesn’t have a strong or well prepared military. In reality the Swiss military is a highly trained and competent fighting force, and due to the country’s policy of compulsory conscription of males (today women may volunteer for any position in the military, but are not required to serve) is surprisingly large for a country of only around eight million people.
Swiss border patrol in the Alps during World War II.
In fact, approximately two-thirds of all males are ultimately deemed mentally and physically fit enough to serve in the Swiss military, meaning a huge percentage of their population is ultimately military trained. (Those who are not, and aren’t exempt because of a disability, are required to pay additional taxes until they are 30 to make up for not serving.)
As for what fighting force is actively maintained, the Swiss military today is only around 140,000 men strong and just this year it has been voted to reduce that to 100,000. This is a major downsize from just two decades ago when it was estimated the Swiss military had some 750,000 soldiers. For reference, this latter total is about half the size of the United States military today, despite Switzerland having only about eight million people vs. the United States’ three hundred million.
In addition to this, Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world and many Swiss people are highly competent in handling said firearms due to both compulsory military service and a strong culture of recreational shooting (half a million Swiss children are said to be part of a gun club of some kind).
This said, in recent years the rate of gun ownership has declined somewhat after a series of gun related incidents, such as one where a man shot his estranged wife with his old military issued rifle. Prior to the shooting, military conscripts would take their rifle home with them after their service ended and were expected to keep it ready for use in defending the country should the need arise.
After these incidents, the military curbed this and implemented a new policy stating that any conscript wishing to keep their gun after service must buy it and apply for a permit. As part of this new policy, the Swiss military also no longer provides ammunition with the guns, instead keeping it in secure locations that citizens must get to in the event of an emergency.
Speaking of emergencies, generally speaking, Switzerland is prepared for near any global catastrophe from nuclear fallout to a surprise invasion from an enemy force thanks to a defensive plan it has been implementing since 1880, but which was doubled-down upon during WW2 and later during the Cold War.
Dubbed the Swiss National Redoubt, in a nutshell Switzerland has taken advantage of it unique natural geography, which includes mountains that surround it on nearly all sides, to build countless bunkers, fortifications and warehouses across the country that can be accessed at a moment’s notice. The full scale of the fortifications is a closely guarded secret, but some of them are kept in plain view as part of a comprehensive campaign of deterrence.
Initially the National Redoubt consisted of tunnels bored into the many mountains of Switzerland in key strategic positions for retreating troops and citizens to take shelter in, but over the years these have evolved to encompass a host of ingenious defensive and offensive structures. Along with tunnels and bunkers (which are fully stocked and contain everything from bakeries and hospitals to dormitories), the mountains of Switzerland also hide countless tanks, aircraft, and hidden artillery guns (some of which are pointed directly at Switzerland’s own roads to destroy them in the event of invasion).
Oddly for a landlocked country, Switzerland does maintain an active navy of sorts, though they don’t store any boats in its mountains as far as we could find. The naval branch of the Swiss forces’ primary role is in patrolling the country’s lakes on the border and providing aid in search and rescue operations.
As for more specifically how they kept themselves out of the world wars, during WW1, the Swiss military, under freshly appointed General Ulrich Wille, mobilised well over 200,000 Swiss soldiers and deployed them across its major entry points to deter any outside forces from considering waging war on the country. After it became apparent that Switzerland’s neutrality would be recognised by all powers in the first Great War, the vast majority of the Swiss troops were sent home. (In fact, in the final year of the war, the Swiss military had shrunk its numbers to just 12,000.) Nothing further was required to keep the Swiss out of WW1.
WW2 was a different beast altogether with Switzerland not banking on Hitler respecting their long-held neutral stance in European conflicts. Thus, newly appointed Swiss General Henri Guisan was given the unenviable task of trying to figure out a way to defend the small country from their neighbors, Hitler and his allies, despite that said powers drastically outmatched the Swiss army in a variety of ways.
Towards this end, leading up to the war, the Swiss withdrew from the League of Nations to help ensure their neutrality, began to re-build their military (bringing the number up to 430,000 combat troops within three days of the start of the war), and strongly encouraged its citizens to keep at minimum two months’ worth of supplies on hand at any given time. On top of that, they also began secret negotiations with France to join forces against Germany, should Germany attack Switzerland (a risky move that was discovered by the Germans after France fell to them).
But even with all that, knowing the Swiss couldn’t win if Hitler really wanted to invade, Guisan and co. made the decision to drastically ramp up their WW1 era strategy of making invading Switzerland as unsavory an option as possible. Guisan noted that by utilizing Switzerland’s harsh terrain, a comparatively small amount of Swiss soldiers in a secure defensive position could fight off a massive fighting force if the need ever arose. So the plan was essentially to perpetually defend and retreat to some fortified position over and over again, ultimately conceding the less defensible populated areas of the country once the government and citizens had managed a retreat into secret fortified positions in the Alps. They’d then use the Alps as a base from which to both launch guerrilla attacks to make life miserable for any successful invasion force and to use highly defensible positions there to keep crucial supply lines from the invaders.
More controversially, Switzerland continued to trade with Nazi Germany during the war in order to further de-incentivise Hitler from invading. (There is some speculation that some of the Allies’ “accidental” attacks on Switzerland were really not accidents at all, given that some of the buildings that were blown up were factories supplying the Axis powers.)
The multi-pronged plan worked and, while Hitler did have a detailed plan in place to invade Switzerland eventually, the cost of doing so was always too high given the Axis power’s troubles both on the Eastern and Western fronts. Thus, Switzerland was largely ignored by both Allies and the Axis throughout WW2, despite its amazingly well placed location right next to Germany, Italy, France, and Austria.
Switzerland stepped up their level of defence during the Cold War, again mostly out of a desire to deter any potential invaders. This time, however, the focus was on “aggressively” defending Switzerland’s borders instead of defending them only long enough to cover a retreat into the well fortified mountains.
Towards this end, Switzerland’s roads, bridges and train lines were rigged with explosives that could be detonated at any time. In many cases, the engineers who designed the bridges were required to come up with the most efficient way, using explosives, to ensure the complete destruction of those same bridges. Once the destruction plan was developed, hidden explosives were installed at the appropriate locations in the bridges. On top of that, the military also lined hundreds of mountains flanking major roads with explosives to create artificial rockslides. All total, over three thousand points of demolition are publicly known to have been implemented throughout the small country.
Large-scale construction of hangers were conducted by the Swiss military in the 1950s.
With ground attacks covered, the Swiss looked to the skies. Unfortunately for them, attack by air is much harder to defend against for a country so small that enemy air forces could penetrate anywhere within its borders before an adequate defence could be mustered to defend its cities. To protect against this, the Swiss government constructed thousands of bomb shelters in homes, towns and cities to such a degree that it’s estimated that anywhere between 80 to 120 percent of the country’s population could hide in them for extended periods. Many of these shelters also included small hospitals and the necessary equipment to set up independent command centers. In fact, homes built after WW2 were often made with over 40 cm (16 in.) thick concrete ceilings to help them survive aerial bombings. If your home didn’t accommodate such a shelter, you had to pay a tax to support places that did.
It’s also rumoured that much of Switzerland’s gold supply as well as vast supplies of food stores have been similarly squirreled away somewhere in the Alps, which comprise just over half of the country’s total land area.
As a further example of how ridiculously well prepared the Swiss are for any and all threats, there are things like hidden hydroelectric dams built inside of unmarked mountains so that in the event of mass bombings, they’ll still have electricity from these secret facilities. And, remember, these are the things the Swiss government has let us know about. It is thought that there are probably more fortifications and hidden goodies scattered about the country’s landscape.
Since the end of the Cold War (see How Did the Cold War Start and End), similar to how the Swiss government has been slowly disarming its population and reducing its standing army, decommissioning some of these fortifications has begun in order to reduce government spending. The Swiss government is somewhat coy about the extent of this disarming, but it has been reported that many of the more extreme defenses, such as the explosives that used to be hidden inside the country’s bridges and along its road and railways, have been removed. As for the bunkers, unfortunately, simply abandoning many of these facilities is not an option, and it’s fairly expensive to decommission them.
As such, as the head of security policy for the federal Department of Defense, Christian Catrina, said “…in most cases we’d be glad if someone would take them off our hands for no price”.
In some cases, this has resulted in companies using the ridiculously well protected and secure mountain facilities as data repositories and server farms. In one such converted bunker, the servers inside are even completely protected from outside electromagnetic impulses that result from nuclear explosions.
In another, detailed instructions on how to build devices for reading all known data storage formats, even older formats like floppy disks, are kept, so that if that knowledge is otherwise lost, future generations can still decode our data storage devices to access the data within correctly. Essentially, the researchers involved in this particular project have attempted to create a “Rosetta Stone” of data formats and are using a ridiculously secure Swiss bunker as the storage point for that knowledge.
As a result of military downsizing, the fate of the rest of the fortifications is unclear and there are calls to decommission all of them, despite the estimated billion dollar price tag to do so. There is even a growing minority of the Swiss population who would like to see the entire military disbanded, including ceasing mandatory conscription.
But for now, at least, any country that wishes to ignore Switzerland’s long-held neutrality in military conflicts will find the tiny country an exceptionally difficult one to conquer and occupy. And presumably if war ever again threatens Swiss’ borders, regardless of how small they make their military today, they’ll likely keep themselves in a position to rapidly ramp back up their defences as they did for WW1 and WW2.
Shortly before WW2, Switzerland passed the Swiss Banking Act, which allowed bank accounts to be created anonymously, in no small part to allow German Jews to squirrel their liquid assets away into accounts that the Third Reich would have difficulty finding out about or getting access to.
The term “Swiss Army Knife” was coined by United States soldiers after WWII. The soldiers had trouble pronouncing the original name of “Schweizer Offiziersmesser” (Swiss Officer’s Knife) and thus began calling the multi-tool a “Swiss Army Knife”. The company that makes Swiss Army Knives is Victorinox, named after the founder, Karl Elsener’s, deceased mother, Victoria. The “nox” part comes from the fact that stainless steel is also known as “inox”, which is short for the French term “inoxydable”.
Karl Elsener himself was originally the owner of a surgical equipment company. He later took over production of the original Modell 1890 knives, which were previously made in Germany. He moved the production to Switzerland and greatly improved the design of the original multi-tool. His big breakthrough came when he figured out a way to put blades on both sides of the handle using the same spring to hold both sides in place. This allowed him to put twice as many features into the multi-tool as was previously possible.
There has been a “fact” floating around that Switzerland has the highest number of guns per citizen and the lowest rate of people killed by firearms per year, but this isn’t correct. Switzerland is actually 4th in number of guns per 100 people (at 45.7 guns per 100), though does maintain a relatively low number of deaths per year due to firearms at just 3.84 per 100,000, which is good enough for 19th place overall. However, it should also be noted that 3.15 of those deaths per 100,000 are suicide. Their homicide rate (.52 per 100,000) is good enough for 31st place, with the rest of deaths from firearms (.17 per 100,000) being either accidental or undetermined.
While the United States has by far the most guns per capita at 94.3 guns per 100 residents, it is only 12th in firearm related deaths per capita at 10.3 per 100,000 people. 6.3 of those 10.3 firearm related deaths are suicides. This equates to the U.S. being in 14th place on the number of firearm related homicides per 100,000 and overall 103rd as far as total murders per 100,000 at 4.8. For reference, that’s four times the murders per 100,000 than the United Kingdom, which sits in 169th place in murders per 100,000.
Number 1 by far in firearm related deaths per 100,000 is Honduras with 64.8 deaths per 100,000 from firearms. Surprisingly, Honduras only has 6.2 guns for every 100 people in the country. Honduras also has the highest rate of murders per 100,000 overall at 91.6.
On average, more people commit crimes in Switzerland who aren’t Swiss citizens than who are every year, which has very recently led to harsher deportation laws. In fact, of the top 25 nationalities to commit crimes in Switzerland, 21 of them commit more crimes than the Swiss while on Swiss soil, with the average of all those immigrants being 390% more crimes than are committed by Swiss citizens. Immigrants specifically from Austria, France, and Germany to Switzerland, however, commit an average of only 70% of the crimes the Swiss do on Swiss soil.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
The Navy announced updates to uniform policy, grooming standards, uniform item availability and mandatory possession dates for new uniform items in NAVADMIN 075/19, released March 25, 2019.
A command/unit logo shoulder patch is now an option for wear on the left shoulder pocket of the Navy Working Uniform (NWU) Type II and III in place of the Don’t Tread On Me shoulder patch.
Black leather and non-leather gloves can be worn with the black NWU parka fleece liner.
NWU Type III O-6 rank insignia will be available for purchase and optional wear in silver thread starting June 1, 2019, for easier visual recognition and distinction from the E-4 insignia.
Effective June 1, 2019, all enlisted sailors with 12 years of cumulative service in active or drilling reserve time in the Navy or Marine Corps may wear gold rating badges and gold service stripes on dress uniforms in lieu of red rating badges and stripes.
The gold rank insignia of a Boatswain Mate Chief Petty Officer.
Women have the option to wear smooth or synthetic leather flat shoes (flats) in service and service dress uniforms.
Nursing T-shirts may be worn with service uniforms, NWU Type I, II and III and flight suits.
The message provides clarification on the definition and manner of wear for ponytail hairstyles.
Effective immediately, sailors who are assigned to Joint/Unified Commands are authorized to wear the command’s identification badge only during the period of assignment.
Navy Exchange (NEXCOM) uniform stores will provide a free replacement collar if needed to improve the fit of the officer and chief petty officer (CPO) service dress white coat (choker) effective March 1, 2019.
The NAVADMIN announces the completion of the testing and evaluation of the improved female officer and CPO slacks and skirts.
It also provides the schedule for when the NEXCOM Customer Contact Center and Uniform Centers will have slacks and skirts, the Improved Safety Boot (I-Boot 4) and the optional physical training uniform available for purchase.
The dates for when sailors must possess new uniforms and uniform components are listed in the NAVADMIN.
Sailors can ask questions and provide feedback and recommendations on Navy uniforms via the “Ask the Chiefs” email, on the Navy Uniform Matters Office (UMO) website, through MyNavy Portal at https://www.mnp.navy.mil/. Select Professional Resources, U.S. Navy Uniforms and “Ask the Chiefs”. Sailors can also contact UMO via the Navy Uniform App that can be downloaded at the Navy App Locker https://www.applocker.navy.mil/ and the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores.
Read NAVADMIN 075/19 in its entirety for details and complete information on all of the announced uniform changes, updates and guidelines at www.npc.navy.mil.
It was arguably worse than any 37 minutes of any other U.S. Navy defeat, including Pearl Harbor. At the Battle of Savo Island, Japan sank three American ships and killed over 1,000 U.S. sailors in addition to dooming an Australian ship and killing 84 Australian sailors while suffering 129 killed of their own.
The Australian HMAS Canberra burns off Guadalcanal after the Battle of Savo Island.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
While more people, 2,403, were killed in the Pearl Harbor attack, those losses were inflicted over about 2 hours and 27 minutes. And three ships were permanently lost at Pearl Harbor while four would be lost as a result of Savo Island. It would later earn the battle and the area the nickname “Ironbottom Sound.”
On Aug. 7, 1942, the U.S. fleet was guarding landing forces at Guadalcanal. Australian Coastwatchers spotted Japanese planes bearing down on the landing forces, and the Navy redeployed its screening ships and carrier aircraft to meet the Japanese threat. The landings were saved, and U.S. Adm. William Halsey later said, “The Coastwatchers saved Guadalcanal and Guadalcanal saved the Pacific.”
The next day, August 8, Japanese ships hid near Bougainville Island and launched reconnaissance planes which quickly spotted the American fleet at the Solomons. The American fleet was split into three locations, and the Japanese commander, Vice Adm. Gunichi Mikawa, was hopeful that he could destroy one group before the other two could assist it. He targeted the ships at Savo Island.
Now, it should be said that the American fleet had received some warning that Japanese ships were still in the area. A submarine and reconnaissance planes caught sight of the Japanese fleet, but their warnings came late and were misunderstood in the larger intelligence picture. Worse, when the commander of the screening force took his ship to report to his boss, he didn’t leave anyone officially in charge in his stead.
The fleet was ill-positioned to respond to an attack, and it was bearing down on them.
The USS Quincy is illuminated by Japanese searchlights during the Battle of Savo Island on August 9, 1942.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
The Japanese attack began at 1:42 a.m. The lookouts in the Japanese masts had already found and fixed a number of ships and fed the data to their fire control stations. Just as the first Japanese flares were about to burst into light, the American destroyer Patterson spotted them and sounded the alarm, “Warning! Warning! Strange ships entering harbor.” The Patterson pursued the Japanese column, getting some hits but failing to launch its torpedoes.
But the Japanese guns were already trained on their targets, and the fleet had made it past the outer pickets, allowing it to attack from vectors and spots America hadn’t anticipated. Japanese ships pumped rounds into American vessels from just a few thousand yards. They dropped torpedoes in the water, hitting American and Australian ships before the ships’ crews could even make it to their guns.
The captain of the Australian HMS Canberra was killed in this first salvo, and his ship was rendered dead in the water.
The USS Chicago was hit with a torpedo, losing nearly its entire bow while the gunners continued to send disciplined fire at two targets in the dark, one of which might have been a Japanese ship.
The Japanese ships began to pull away from this fight at 1:44, just two minutes after they had opened fire. They had suffered no serious hits or damage and had crippled two cruisers and damaged a destroyer. The fight so far had been hidden from the rest of the American fleet, and Japan turned itself toward the Northern Force.
The turn was ill-managed, and the rest of the fleet now knew a fight was happening, if not the details. So Japan could not count on the same success it had managed in the opening five minutes. But the Northern Force still didn’t know the details of the fight, and had no idea that the Japanese were now in two columns about to attack.
The USS Vincennes charged bravely into the Battle of Savo Island, but it was quickly targeted by Japanese forces and pummeled by two columns of assailants.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
The disorganized Japanese turn still left them well-positioned to launch their torpedoes and fire their guns.
The USS Vincennes, a heavy cruiser, sailed into the fray looking for a fight, finding it about 1:50. Remember, this is still only eight minutes after Japan fired its first rounds and torpedoes. And it did not go well for the Vincennes. It was still hard to tell which ships were friendly and which were foe. A gun team asked permission to fire on a Japanese searchlight, but the brass thought it might be an American ship.
Japanese cruisers slammed the Vincennes‘ port side with shells, breaking through the hull, setting an aircraft on fire, and creating fires belowdecks that interrupted firefighting equipment and threatened to set off the ship’s supply of depth charges, bombs, and other ordnance. More shells hit the bridge and main ship, and then torpedoes ripped through the port side followed just minutes later by a hit to starboard.
By 2:03, the ship was in flames and going down. The crew fled to the sea.
Around the same time Vincennes was bravely entering the fray, the cruiser USS Astoria spotted a Japanese ship and ordered its men to general quarters. But the first Japanese shells were already flying toward it, exploding as the men were still rushing to stations.
The Astoria commander made it to the bridge and was worried that his men were in an accidental fight with friendly forces. He ordered his ship to cease firing for vital minutes. It didn’t resume firing until 1:54.
The Japanese heavy cruiser Chokai kept sending rounds at the Astoria until the fifth salvo hit home, piercing the Astoria’s superstructure, midships, and then the bridge itself. The Astoria would hit the Chokai once before it was too damaged to keep fighting.
Meanwhile, the heavy cruiser USS Quincy was also under fire and would get the worst of it. Its commander also worried that it was suffering friendly fire, and the commander ordered his guns silent, and the ship lit up to identify itself. Japanese shells tore through an aircraft hanger and set a plane on fire. It was too hot for the crew to push overboard, and Japanese ships leaped on the chance to fire on a lit up target.
The Japanese heavy cruiser Kako in 1926. It was the only Japanese ship lost as a result of the raid on Savo Island, sank on August 10 as the Japanese fleet left the engagement area.
(U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command)
Shells landed just short of the Quincy, then just long, and then began raining down on it. Japanese torpedoes set off the forward magazine. The ship’s captain, Capt. Samuel Moore, ordered the surviving gunners to “Give ’em Hell,” just moments before the bridge was hit by an exploding shell. As he lay dying, Moore ordered the ship beached, but another officer realized it was already lost and ordered it abandoned.
As the Quincy, Vincennes, and Astoria began sinking, the Japanese fleet called off the attack, beginning its withdrawal at 2:15. It had suffered no serious damage, could see that at least three U.S. ships were sinking, had rendered the Australian ship Canberra dead in the water (it would be scuttled the next morning), and had ensured the deaths of just over 1,000 American and Australian sailors.
America did achieve on a parting shot, though. While the Japanese fleet was able to avoid the air screen sent to find it August 9-10, the U.S. submarine S-38 spotted them on August 10, and managed to bring down the Japanese Kako with a torpedo.
ScrobTheFancyTurtle asks: Love your video on what happens when people are accidentally declared dead. But it got me wondering, what happens if you make a will, go missing, so your will is executed, then turn up alive later? Do you get your stuff back?
As we discussed in our article on what happens to a person who is accidentally declared dead and the process in getting declared alive again, tens of thousands of people die each year across the globe by a simple clerical error, at least as far as their respective governments are concerned. However, what we didn’t mention is that many thousands more people are more purposefully declared “dead in absentia” each year.
As you’ve probably surmised from the term used to describe these deaths, being declared dead in absentia occurs after a person goes missing. When this happens, their will is probated and estate settled. But what happens if they aren’t dead at all and turn up later, perhaps after helping a tempestuous, but lovable bunch of vertically challenged individuals reclaim their homeland from the clutches of the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities? How do they go about getting their stuff back, or do they even have any rights to it at all anymore?
To begin with, how does one go about getting declared “dead in absentia” in the first place? After all, in most countries adults are perfectly within their rights to uproot and go start a new life somewhere else without telling anyone, or even go on a lengthy adventure with a wizened grey wanderer.
Before we jump into the meat of all this, just a quick note, as this particular topic deals with estate distribution and the like, we’ll focus primarily on adults who disappear, though many elements of what we’re about to cover does also technically apply to children.
As with many things, there’s no uniform, worldwide policy concerning what exact set of circumstances need occur or even how long a person needs to be missing to be declared dead in absentia, though there are many similarities in the process from country to country.
In general, the courts will have to be directly involved in these cases and they will almost always err towards presuming the person is actually alive. However, if the person has been missing for a specific length of time, with no one who would otherwise normally hear from them having contact, and a diligent (unsuccessful) search has been conducted to find them, the courts will ultimately determine that the person indeed must be deceased, even if there is no direct, hard evidence that they are, in fact, dead.
As to the search, to dispel a popular notion frequently perpetuated by Hollywood, a person does not have to be missing for more than 24 hours before authorities in most countries will act. In fact, while almost all missing person cases are resolved of their own accord in relatively short order, in rare more legitimate missing person cases, every hour that passes reduces the probability that said missing person will be found and nobody is more aware of this than the authorities who deal with this stuff every day. Thus, they often actually recommend reporting missing people as soon as the person is determined to be missing.
That said, given there is only so much manpower available at any given time and, again, most missing person cases resolve themselves of their own accord rather quickly, the appropriate authorities do have to prioritize what cases they take on immediately. Thus, rather than strictly going by how much time has passed before an investigation is opened, they’ll weight a number of factors including the probability that the person is truly missing, and not just off doing something without telling anyone. If the disappearance is highly unusual given the person’s normal daily habits and no good explanation can be thought up for the disappearance, this will bump the case up in the priority list as a potential legitimate missing person case. Just as important in getting the authorities to look into the matter immediately is the probability that the person missing might be in some sort of peril given the known facts of the case.
Once an investigation is started, if nobody in the person’s life seems to have heard from them or knows where they are, authorities usually resort to monitoring the person’s digitally trackable life, for example where applicable monitoring financial accounts, cell phone, email, social media accounts, etc., as well as checking if the person has attempted to go through any border check points. As you might imagine, disappearing without a trace in the modern world has become increasingly difficult, meaning these days authorities are much more frequently able to locate the person if they are indeed still alive, compared to even just a few decades ago.
It also helps that many people who are choosing to disappear from their previous lives are not trying to hide from authorities, so the use of personal bank accounts and the like tends to continue.
If they are found, the authorities will typically respect the person’s right to disappear from a former life, unless there are legal reasons not to, such as someone running from financial obligations or the like. As Miranda Napier of the Missing Persons Bureau notes,
If someone has elected to leave their friends and family… and we find them and they express this wish, then we would close the missing report and advise those making it that they were safe and well, but we would not be able to tell them where they were.
Speaking of financial obligations, when trying to decide if some missing person might actually be dead, authorities will also analyze whether the person missing might have had motive to go missing in the first place. For example, if they were having extreme financial difficulties, were in legal trouble, having relationship or family problems, etc.
As they move along in the process, authorities will also usually check with local coroners to see if any unidentified bodies have been found that match the description of the missing person.
But what about if all of this turns up nothing? Next, it becomes a waiting game. In regards to the length of time needed, as noted, this varies, but a commonly observed rule of thumb is that the person has to have been missing for at least 7 years, unless circumstances of their disappearance seem to indicate imminent peril, thus a high probability that the person is, in fact, deceased.
For example, many bodies couldn’t be identified or recovered when the World Trade Center towers collapsed on 9/11, so people who worked there who went missing directly after would have an extremely high probability of being declared dead in absentia almost immediately should their loved ones request such of the courts.
The World Trade Center towers.
Few cases are so cut and dry, however, and in all cases you generally need to get a judge to agree with you, with the burden of proof lying with the people trying to get someone declared dead earlier than the required number of years. The judge in these cases will then determine if, given the evidence, the probability has shifted from presuming the person is alive to it being reasonable to presume they are dead, again usually erring on the side of assuming the person is still alive.
As former assistant attorney general of Illinois, Floyd Perkins notes, “Before seven years, anyone who wants you declared legally dead has to offer evidence that you’re not alive. But after you’ve been missing seven years, anyone who wants you declared alive has to offer evidence that you’re not dead.”
As for more specifics, in the United States the authority to declare someone dead in absentia falls to the states themselves, each of which have their own specific rules. For example, while most states go with the seven year general rule, states like Georgia and Minnesota instead go with four years.
Moving around to the other side of the world, in Italy, it actually takes 20 years for someone to be declared dead in absentia, barring compelling evidence to decree this sooner. In Poland, the time span is 10 years. In Russia, it’s 5. Like in many states in the U.S. and many other parts of the world, in the UK, there is a 7 year waiting period before the authorities can make this call.
It should be noted here that until the authorities declare the person dead, the missing person’s financial affairs are basically in a state of bureaucratic limbo. To illustrate the issues here, consider the case of Vicki Derrick, a woman whose husband Vinny went missing in 2003. After an investigation to locate Vinny turned up nothing, he was presumed missing by the police.
The problem was that in the eyes of the law Vicki’s husband was still alive and, thus, she was still married to him with all obligations that implies, still shared a mortgage on a house she could no longer afford with just a single income, but could also not sell because her husband wasn’t around to put his signature on the necessary paperwork to sell it.
Furthermore, Vickie couldn’t claim her husband’s life insurance policy nor access his personal accounts to settle his various financial obligations until the courts finally decided enough time had passed to declared him dead in 2011.
In a bizarre twist, Vinny’s body was found just two months after he was finally declared dead in absentia. As Vicki would later recount,
There was a huge sense of relief, which I felt guilty about. But at the same time I had already grieved. Deep down I think I knew the day he disappeared he wasn’t coming back. It was so out of character that something terrible must have happened for him not to come home.
It turns out that in the UK alone, while about 98% of the 250,000 or so people that go missing each year turn up within a week of their disappearance, about 1% of these people go missing for at least a year. In a little over half of these 1% cases, the person is ultimately either found dead or eventually declared dead in absentia, but the other half, over 1,000 missing people annually, turn up alive in the end.
As a direct result of cases like these, the government passed the Guardianship (Missing Persons) Act in 2017 which, 90 days after the disappearance of the individual, allows the loved ones of a missing person to assume some degree of control over their affairs. Thanks to this, many of the problems people like Vickie faced can be avoided, mitigating the potential damage to a missing person’s financial situation as well as providing a degree of help in cutting through a lot of red tape for their loved ones during a tumultuous time.
No such nationwide laws exist in the United States and, thus, for example if any benefits would otherwise have been paid, the beneficiaries involved usually simply have to wait the required period for the death in absentia to be declared before they can begin receiving them, assuming they can’t offer a sufficient body of evidence to get the person declared dead early.
Alright, so that’s how you could potentially be declared dead and have your estate pass to others without actually being dead. So let’s now talk about your stuff.
In a nutshell, a person declared dead in absentia is, by the letter of the law, dead.
Shocker, I know.
As such, the actual process of probating their will is functionally identical to a more straightforward death in most countries. Likewise, death benefits will similarly be paid out in a timely manner, though some insurers may require a person making a claim in these cases to jump through a few additional hoops, such as providing evidence a good faith effort was made to locate the person before death in absentia was declared. With this information being necessary to declare a person dead in absentia anyway in most cases, this usually is a pretty easy hurdle to jump over at that stage of the game.
But let’s say after all this happens the “dead” person turns up very much alive and wants all their stuff back from the clutches of the Sackville Baggins. What happens then? This is a far more thorny legal issue and there’s little universal precedent in law to say what exactly should happen, though in the vast majority the court cases we could found, the heirs typically weren’t required to give anything back.
In the US especially what happens in this unlikely scenario varies slightly from state to state, with some dictating that the person has no right to any of their stuff back and others adding caveats, including Pennsylvania who deals with the matter perhaps most sensibly of any region we looked at.
Another example of a state with a caveat is Nevada, where a missing person has up to a year after legal proceedings to divide up the estate have begun to veto the whole thing and get their money and property back, despite having been previously declared dead in absentia. If a missing person turns up after this grace period, they will no longer have any claim to their former assets.
To give the missing person as much of a chance as possible to prevent this from happening if they are indeed still alive, a person laying claim to the estate to the missing person in this case must “give notice by publication”. This mostly just means doing something like putting an ad in a local paper or the like that they are going to make a claim on the estate, which is sure to be read by no one but the intern who processed the notice, but at least gives the appearance of accomplishing something, so is a bureaucrat’s dream law.
Moving on to Pennsylvania, the state law very sensibly requires anyone laying claim to a person’s estate who has been declared dead in absentia to secure a refunding bond before assets will be distributed. As Pennsylvania-based attorney Patti Spencer states, “The person entitled, a spouse or kid, has to post a refunding bond, before the property is distributed. If the person comes back… and someone else has her property, they have to give it back, and if they can’t, then this bonding company has to make it right.”
This is something that happened relatively recently as 2013 when a woman named Brenda Heist returned after her presumed death in 2003. She’d actually been living on the street for the last decade and hadn’t even been aware she had been declared dead.
UK law, as with many other countries we looked at, seems to more or less handle things about the same as the general U.S. court systems. If the person has been declared dead in absentia and sufficient time has passed, which is usually needed to get declared dead in absentia in the first place, the courts will usually rule that the heirs aren’t required to give anything back, though, of course, any heirs are free to do so at their own discretion. The courts simply usually won’t require them to do so if a lawsuit is raised over the matter, though, as with all things in life, their are exceptions.
But what about life insurance and various death benefits? As you might imagine, the insurance companies will almost always seek to get their money back, unless the cost to do so exceeds the amount paid out. But from whom do they try to get the money back from? While, as with so much of what we’ve just discussed it’s not universally true, if a missing person’s loved ones have them declared dead in absentia and then claim against their life insurance policy in good faith (and thus aren’t involved in any fraud here), they won’t generally be sued for the money back, or, even if they are, the courts are unlikely to side with the insurance company in these cases.
The life insurance companies tend to have much better luck going after the person who was incorrectly declared dead in absentia. After all, the missing person knows they are still alive and usually went missing on purpose, setting off the chain of events that required the insurance company to eventually pay out on a policy when they otherwise shouldn’t have been obligated if the missing person had just told someone they weren’t dead.
For example, consider the case of John Burney who disappeared, in this case in a way that made it seem very likely he was dead, in 1976 after getting in some rather hot water owing to mismanagement of his company, causing it to go bankrupt. About six years later, in 1982, he was found to be alive when he decided to return home to visit his father who had been seriously injured. Although Burney’s insurance company initially filed suit against the beneficiaries of his life insurance policy – specifically his wife and business partners – the courts ruled that they didn’t have to return the money. Burney, however, who didn’t receive a dime of that insurance money, did, to the tune of 0,000 (about id=”listicle-2632878398″.2 million today).
Thus, unfortunately for the owner of a certain estate along Bagshot Row, given his disappearance most definitely was out of the ordinary for his normal behavioral patterns and, beyond that, he was last seen, at least in the film adaptation, noting he was “going on an adventure” (always a dodgy business), in either case those seeking his estate seem perfectly within their rights to have had him declared dead in absentia. Assuming Shire law did not have a grace period for legal right to recover an estate after such a declaration, like Nevada, it seems likely all property already auctioned off would not have been obligated to have been returned.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Hundreds of North Korean nationals in Europe and Russia are forced to undertake manual labour without breaks, sleep at their workplace, and send their earnings to prop up Kim Jong Un’s lavish lifestyle, BBC Panorama has reported following an undercover investigation.
An unidentified North Korean worker in Vladivostok, Russia, told the programme: “You’re treated like a dog here. You have to eat trash. You have to give up being human.”
He added that he and his fellow workers had to hand over most of their earnings back to North Korea via an intermediary, known as a “captain.”
“Some call it ‘Party Duty.’ Others call it ‘Revolutionary Duty.’ Those who can’t pay it cannot stay here,” he said. “Ten years ago it was about 15,000 Robles ($242/£170) a month, but now it’s twice as much.”
These wages, combined, can generate as much as $2 billion (£1.4 billion) a year, The Washington Post reported.
It is then used to finance Kim Jong Un’s lavish lifestyle and nuclear development programme, North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to the UK said.
Thae Yong Ho, who defected from the regime in 2016, told the BBC: “It financed the private luxury of the Kim family, the nuclear programme, and the army. That’s a fact.”
The North Korean leader recently travelled to China in a bulletproof train containing flat screen TVs and Apple products — a great show of luxury while millions of his citizens remain undernourished or lack basic access to healthcare. He also tested multiple short-range, medium-range, and intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017.
North Korean slaves in Poland, are also forced to live where they work and aren’t allowed to take any breaks, the BBC reported.
A North Korean supervisor in charge of foreign workers at Szczecin, northwestern Poland, told the programme:
“Our guys are stationed in Poland only to work. They only take unpaid holidays. When there are deadlines, we work without breaks. Not like the Polish. They work eight hours a day and then go home.
“We don’t. We work as long as we have to.”
There are about 150,000 North Koreans foreign workers worldwide, many of whom are in Russia, China, and Poland. About 800 are in Poland, mostly working as welders and manual laborers.
The UN in December 2017, ordered countries to stop authorizing visas to North Korean workers and to send them home within two years.
Poland said it stopped issuing visas to North Korean workers, but that doesn’t mean the activity has stopped.
A Polish manager secretly filmed by the BBC acknowledged that he continued to employ North Korean workers, but complained that it was getting harder to get permits for them.