A video of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crying about his country’s terrible economy while surveying its coast is said to be making the rounds among the country’s leadership — and it could be a sign he’s ready to cave in to President Donald Trump in negotiations.
The defector reportedly said the video surfaced in April 2018, and high-ranking members of North Korea’s ruling party viewed it, possibly in an official message from Kim to the party.
In April 2018, North Korea had already offered the US a meeting with Kim and was in the midst of a diplomatic charm offensive in which it offered up the prospect of denuclearization to China, South Korea, and the US.
The defector speculated that the video was meant to prepare the country for possible changes after the summit with Trump.
Really strange video
In North Korea, Kim is essentially worshipped as a god-like figure with an impossible mythology surrounding his bloodline. Kim is meant to be all powerful, so footage showing him crying at his own inability to improve his country’s economics would be a shock.
Kim’s core policy as a leader had been to pursue both economic and nuclear development, but around the turn of 2018, he declared his country’s nuclear-weapon program completed.
Experts assess with near unanimity that Kim doesn’t really want to give up his country’s nuclear weapons, as he went to the trouble of writing the possession of nuclear weapons into North Korea’s constitution.
Instead, a new report from the CIA says Kim simply wants US businesses, perhaps a burger joint, to open within the country as a gesture of goodwill and an economic carrot, CNBC reports.
Big if true
Trump has made North Korea a top priority during his presidency and has spearheaded the toughest sanctions ever on Pyongyang. In particular, Trump has been credited with getting China, North Korea’s biggest ally and trading partner, to participate in the sanctions.
Russia state-owned media outlet RT tweeted an odd video on Dec. 8, 2018, of Russia’s elite Spetsnaz operators drop-kicking the windshields of cars.
The video starts with Spetsnaz military police operators riding on and jumping off the top of an armored personnel carrier with text on screen reading “ROUTINE TRAINING OF RUSSIA’S SPETSNAZ” before it cuts to one operator doing a martial arts kip up and then kicking another operator in the chest.
It then shows Spetsnaz operators storming a car as another operator jumps over the hood, drop-kicking the windshield.
More acrobatic maneuvers are displayed in the video before another Spetsnaz operator again jumps over the hood of a car and drop-kicks the windshield before firing his side arm into the car.
It’s rather unclear what sort of tactical advantage is achieved by drop kicking a car windshield.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Psychological operations is known mostly for their leaflets and posters designed to demoralize the enemy or convince local populations to stay away from combat areas. But sometimes, those troops go full “spook” and complete crazy missions — like when they became vampires and ghosts to scare America’s enemies.
The vampire mission was led by Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale. He was sent to the Philippines in September 1950 to help dislodge Communist rebels in the area. The rebels, known as Huks, were known to be superstitious so Lansdale had his men study their local legends.
After an early mission to convince locals they would be cursed if they supported the communists helped force the surrender of some Huk units, Lansdale knew he was in business. He then turned his attention to a local vampire legend, the “asuang.”
Lansdale and his men circulated a rumor in a village that an asuang vampire lived in the hills nearby. They waited for the rumor to make its way up the hill, and then swooped into action. A covert team snuck into the hills and waited for a patrol. When it was nearly past them, they snatched up the last man, poked two holes in his neck, and drained him of his blood. Seriously.
They then put the body back on the trail. When the Huks found it, they believed the rumors of the asuang and fled from the area, allowing government forces to take the region.
Soldiers tried a similar trick in Vietnam by capitalizing on the belief that the souls of dead people not buried are forced to wander the world. Soldiers made a series of “Ghost Tapes” that were commonly called “Wandering Soul.”
The audio tapes began with Buddhist funeral music followed by a girl’s cries for her father. A wandering ghost then responds, crying with regret that he chose to die on a far off battlefield rather than staying with his family.
Soldiers with backpacks, ships, and aircraft all broadcasted the message at different times. There is little evidence that anyone believed they were hearing actual ghosts and the tapes seemed to have mixed effects.
While there were reports of Communist forces surrendering or deserting after hearing the tapes, sailors and soldiers who broadcast the messages reported coming under increased fire when they started playing the tapes.
Friendly forces used this hatred to their advantage. After a C-47 came under extreme fire while broadcasting the tape, the commanding officer of the plane swore he’d never play it again. He was sent back the next night to play it anyway, but this time with an AC-130 flying in support, targeting everything that fired at the C-47. One of the more widely known versions of the tape, “Ghost Tape Number 10,” can be heard here.
Russia’s lower parliament house has scheduled the first reading of a bill on retaliatory sanctions against the United States for May 15, 2018, meaning the first of three State Duma votes on the legislation could be held that day.
Senior lawmakers met on April 16, 2018, to discuss plans to hit back against Washington, which 10 days earlier imposed asset freezes and financial restrictions on tycoons, security officials, politicians, and companies seen to have close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
The U.S. treasury secretary said the sanctions were a response to Russia’s “malign activity around the globe,” alluding among other things to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain and Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
The Russian bill on countering “unfriendly actions by the United States and other foreign states,” introduced on April 13, 2018, would authorize Putin’s government to ban or restrict the import of a raft of U.S. goods and services.
Among goods that could be banned or subjected to restrictions are medicines, alcohol, tobacco, agricultural and industrial products, technological equipment and computer software — though individual Russians would be allowed to bring many of the items into the country for personal use. In addition, individual Americans could be added to existing lists of those barred from entering Russia.
Auditing, legal, and consulting services by U.S. companies could also be subject to bans or restrictions, and curbs could be imposed on U.S. citizens working in Russia. In addition, individual Americans could be added to existing lists of those barred from entering Russia.
Duma deputy speaker Aleksandr Zhukov said on April 16, 2018, that a group of lawmakers and experts will discuss the bill on May 3, 2018.
Russia has sharply criticized the new U.S. sanctions. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, contended on April 16, 2018, that they are “nothing more than an international asset grab” and an effort to give U.S. companies a competitive edge over Russian firms — allegations that U.S. officials say are untrue.
Russia is quarantining thousands of troops who had been rehearsing for a large military parade in Moscow that was called off only a few days ago due to the global coronavirus outbreak.
The country had planned to hold its Victory Day parade, on May 9, and as many as 15,000 Russian service members were expected to participate. Even as the coronavirus spread around the world, Russian troops continued to prepare for the big event, a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
“All the members of the rehearsals are burning with desire to participate in this historic event and are training their hearts out,” a Russian defense ministry spokesman said in early April, according to The Guardian.
Last Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called off the parade, explaining that the “risks associated with the epidemic, whose peak has not passed yet, are extremely high.”
The military personnel that had been rehearsing for the parade “have been ordered to return to home bases in accordance with the decision to postpone the military parade on Red Square,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said Monday, according to Russian state media.
“Upon arrival, all military personnel who took part in rehearsals will be placed in two-week quarantine,” the ministry said, adding that all military vehicles and equipment will be disinfected.
The Victory Day parade rehearsals involved thousands of Russian service members training in close proximity to one another at a training area outside Moscow, Reuters reported, citing television footage of the preparations.
There was reportedly no evidence of social distancing, and no one shown was wearing a mask.
The NBA and China are locked in an escalating feud sparked by a tweet that voiced support for protests in Hong Kong.
For over 18 weeks, millions of people in Hong Kong have taken to the streets for increasingly violent protests. Initially, protests centered around a proposed bill that would have allowed for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to China to face trial. Now, demonstrations have ballooned into a fight against police brutality and Chinese encroachment on the semi-autonomous city.
Though the bill has since been withdrawn, protests continue and have recently seen a spike in violent clashes between police and protesters as China marked its 70th anniversary on Oct. 1, 2019. The topic of Hong Kong protests remains a sensitive issue for China, and China has been known to take harsh action against companies that so much as reference its domestic affairs or appear to threaten its authority.
As described by The New York Times, basketball is China’s most popular sport, with a market representing hundreds of millions of fans. According to CNBC, more than 640 million people in China watched the 2017-2018 NBA season.
On Oct. 11, 2019, Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted out an image which voiced support for protests in Hong Kong. In the days following, Chinese leagues, streaming services, sponsors, and partners, have cut ties with the Rockets and the NBA.
Here’s everything you need to know about the feud, from the initial tweet to the escalating backlash.
On Oct. 4, 2019, Morey tweeted out an image that voiced support for a protest group in Hong Kong.
In the since-deleted tweet, Morey posted the symbol of Stand With Hong Kong, an activist group that has been behind calls for foreign government intervention in Hong Kong.
The tweet immediately prompted backlash from Chinese social-media users, who targeted his account with angry messages and calls for his firing.
In response to the backlash, Tilman Fertitta, the owner of the Rockets, addressed the controversy on Oct. 5, 2019.
Seeking to do damage control, Fertitta distanced the team and its shareholders from Morey’s statement.
“Listen….@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets,” he wrote.
He later defended Morey on ESPN, saying that he had “best general manager in the league” but that Rockets had “no political position.”
On Oct. 6, 2019, the Chinese Basketball Association, which represents China in the International Basketball Federation, announced it was halting cooperation with the Rockets in response to the tweet.
The CBA’s president is Yao Ming, the former NBA All-Star who played for the Rockets from 2002 to 2011.
“The Chinese Basketball Association strongly disagrees with the improper remarks by Daryl Morey, and has decided to suspend exchanges and cooperation with the team,” the CBA said in a statement on its official account on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.
Several of the Rocket’s sponsors and partners announced that they would no longer broadcast games.
State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) and the livestreaming platform Tencent Sports, announced on Sunday that they would no longer broadcast Rockets games.
The Chinese consulate in Houston said in a statement that it was “deeply shocked” by what it described as Morey’s “erroneous comments on Hong Kong.”
“We have lodged representations and expressed strong dissatisfaction with the Houston Rockets, and urged the latter to correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact,” the statement said.
On Sunday evening, the NBA responded and called the tweet “regrettable.”
Morey on Sunday responded to the firestorm on Twitter, saying his views did not necessarily reflect those of the NBA or the Rockets.
The NBA also issued a statement:
“While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league supports individuals educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them,” the statement read.
On Oct. 7, 2019, Democrat and Republican lawmakers hit back over the NBA’s ‘shameful’ response to Chinese backlash.
Some lawmakers came out in support of Morey and criticized the NBA for distancing themselves from the league manager.
“As a lifelong @HoustonRockets fan, I was proud to see @dmorey call out the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive treatment of protesters in Hong Kong,” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said on Twitter on Monday.
“Now, in pursuit of $, the @NBA is shamefully retreating.”
Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski of New Jersey slammed the NBA for “apologizing” to China.
“And the #NBA, which (correctly) has no problem with players/employees criticizing our govt, is now apologizing for criticizing the Chinese gov’t,” Malinowski tweeted. “This is shameful and cannot stand.”
The NBA issued another statement on Oct. 8, 2019. This time, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would not “censor” players or team owners.
“The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say,” Silver said in a statement. “We simply could not operate that way.”
“I do know there are consequences from freedom of speech; we will have to live with those consequences,” he added. “For those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business.”
Following Morey’s statement, Chinese broadcasters said they would stop broadcasting NBA games.
“Any speech challenging a country’s national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech,” CCTV said in its announcement that it would be halting all broadcasts of NBA preseason games.
Tencent Sports followed the measure and issued a statement saying that it would temporarily stop showing all NBA preseason games.
Fans have since weighed in on the controversy. On Tuesday, fans began showing up to games with T-shirts and signs voicing support for Hong Kong.
At the Philadelphia 76ers exhibition game against the Guangzhou Loong-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday, two fans were escorted out of the arena after holding up signs and cheering in support of the protests.
The 76ers responded in a statement, saying the protesters caused a “disruption” and were at the center of “multiple complaints from guests.” Wells Fargo Center said the two were given “three separate warnings” for “disrupting the live event experience.”
On Wednesday, some NBA fans at the Washington Wizards vs. Guangzhou Loong-Lions game in Washington wore “Free Hong Kong” T-shirts and holding protest signs said their signs were confiscated.
On Oct. 9, 2019, all of the NBA’s official Chinese partners cut ties.
All of the companies on the NBA’s list of wholly-owned Chinese sponsors had suspended ties with the league as of Wednesday, according to CNN Business. Those businesses included CTrip, China’s biggest online travel website, and the Chinese fast-food chain Dicos.
On Wednesday, promotional material for a preseason game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers was removed from buildings across Shanghai.
On Oct. 10, 2019, a reporter for CNN was cut off from asking a question to NBA athletes about the conflict.
Christina Macfarlane, a sports correspondent for CNN, was shut down during a media event with Rockets players James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
She asked the players if they would “feel differently” about voicing their thoughts on political and social affairs in light of the controversy.
“Excuse me, we’re taking basketball questions only,” a team representative responded.
The NBA later issued an apology, saying that the representative “inappropriately interjected” and that the response was “inconsistent to how the NBA conducts media events.”
And Nike, a major partner of the NBA that provides the league with team apparel, pulled Houston Rockets gear from several stores in China.
Managers at five Nike stores in Shanghai and Beijing told Reuters on Thursday that they had been told in a company memo from management to pull all Rockets merchandise from shelves.
Three stores in Shenzhen, a Chinese city which borders Hong Kong, took down all Rockets merchandise along with NBA merchandise. Three stores in Chengdu, the capital of the Chinese province of Sichuan, also removed Rockets gear.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A group of Mossad agents were tasked with smuggling thousands of Jewish refugees in Ethiopia, known as Beta Israelis, from Ethiopia to Israel in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Thousands of Ethiopian Jews were stranded in Sudan, a Muslim-majority nation hostile to Israel. The agents had to smuggle the refugees across Sudan, then sailed across the Red Sea or airlifted to Israel.
And because Sudan and Israel were enemies, both the Ethiopian Jews and Mossad agents had to keep their identifies hidden.
An unidentified senior agent involved in the mission told the BBC:
“A couple of Mossad guys went down to Sudan looking for possible landing beaches. They just stumbled across this deserted village on the coast, in the middle of nowhere.
“For us it was a godsend. If we could get hold of this place and do it up, we could say we’re running a diving village, which would give us a reason for being in Sudan and furthermore for roaming around near the beach.”
Arous tourist village, located on the Sudan’s east coast, consisted of 15 bungalows, a kitchen, and dining room that opened out to a beach and the Red Sea.
The Sudanese International Tourist Corporation built the site in 1972 but never opened it because there was no electricity, water supply, or a road nearby.
Posing as employees of a Swiss company, Mossad agents rented the site for $320,000 (£225,000) in the late 1970s. They secured deals for water and fuel, and smuggled air-conditioning units and water sports gear into Sudan to build the diving resort.
An undated brochure of the resort boasted of “attractive, air-conditioned bungalows with fully-equipped bathrooms,” “fine meals,” and a variety of water sports gear available to rent.
Mossad agents posed as the resort’s managers, and female agents were put in charge of day-to-day operations to make the hotel look less suspicious. They also hired 15 local staff — none of whom knew the true identities of their managers and colleagues.
Hotel guests included Egyptian soldiers, British SAS troops, foreign diplomats, and Sudanese government officials — none of whom, too, knew of the true identity of their hosts.
Gad Shimron, a Mossad agent who worked at the resort, told the BBC: “We introduced windsurfing to Sudan. The first board was brought in — I knew how to windsurf, so I taught the guests. Other Mossad agents posed as professional diving instructors.”
He added: “By comparison to the rest of Sudan, we offered Hilton-like standards, and it was such a beautiful place, it really looked like something out of the Arabian Nights. It was unbelievable.”
The diving storeroom, which was out of bounds, contained hidden radios that the agents used to keep in contact with their headquarters in Tel Aviv.
The Mossad agents would leave at night for their rescue operations from time to time, telling local staff that they’d be out of town for a few days.
They would then drive to a refugee camp hundreds of miles away where Beta Israelis were waiting, and bring them back to a beach near Arous. They then transferred the refugees to Israeli SEAL teams, who took them to a waiting navy ship, and on to Israeli territory.
After one of the operations almost got busted, Israel decided to send jets to covertly airlift the Ethiopians to Israel instead.
The agents abandoned the resort in 1985 after years of running it. The military junta in charge of country at the time started scouring the country for Israeli spies, and Mossad’s head in Israel ordered the agents to leave.
The Mossad agents evacuated the resort in a hurry, while guests were still staying at the hotel, an unidentified agent told the BBC.
“They would have woken up and found themselves alone in the desert,” they said. “The local staff were there, but no-one else — the diving instructor, the lady manager and so on, all the Caucasians had disappeared.”
The agents transferred at least 7,000 Ethiopians to Israel over the course of their operations at Arous.
Travel writer Paul Clammer wrote in his his 2005 guide to Sudan: “Arous Resort was closed when I visited… Though the colourful, relatively fresh paint gave them a cheerful look, the whole place was in disarray: Beach bungalows had toppled roofs, quads were rusty and jet skis left unattended, all suggesting the place was abandoned in a hurry.”
Arous’ website, referenced in some travel guides, is now defunct. Business Insider tried calling two phone numbers linked to the resort on April 19, 2018, but the lines were dead.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An Israel-based company will unveil its new line of highly mobile Mantis armored vehicles at Eurosatory 2018 in Paris.
The Mantis family of tactical armored vehicles will feature four variants that can be customized to seat three, five or eight passengers, according to a recent press release from Carmor Integrated Vehicle Solutions, which has been equipping the Israel Defense Force, NATO and United Nations forces with vehicles since 1947.
The Mantis vehicle concept differs from any other known vehicle on the market, according to the release. The driver of the vehicle is seated in a cockpit-like position, allowing for an enhanced field of vision and optimal control of the various digitally displayed systems in the cabin.
“The development of the Mantis Family answers the global demand for lightweight vehicles with improved capabilities in the field,” Eitan Zait, Carmor’s CEO, said in the release. “These new vehicles provide a range of solutions and capabilities together with a unique ergonomic design that do not exist in any other lightweight armored vehicle.”
(Carmor Integrated Vehicle Solutions)
Carmor will show off the new Mantis line of vehicles at Eurosatory June 11-15, 2018.
The Mantis vehicles will be equipped with “multi-layered protection” against kinetic, blast, and nuclear, biological and chemical threats, the release states. They also will include dynamic thermal and visible camouflage options.
Carmor’s vehicles undergo “rigorous ballistic testing against mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and meet international standards,” the release states.
The new family of vehicles can be upgraded with night vision and surveillance systems and provide options for mounting foldable weapon station systems, missile launchers, mortar and turrets, the release states.
“Due to their lightweight design and superb ergonomics, the vehicles deliver a combination of survivability, agility and lethality, presenting optimum automotive performance and multi-mission readiness for any field requirements,” according to the release.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
A Puerto Rico National Guard member takes the temperature of an incoming traveler at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Staff Sgt. Marimar Rivera.
A deadly pandemic, a Category 5 hurricane and two earthquakes. While this sounds like cataclysms from the Old Testament — it’s not. Puerto Rico has been dealing with a range of natural disasters for the past three years.
In the center of them all is the Puerto Rico National Guard, stepping up to the challenges each provides.
“It’s certainly showing that the Puerto Rico National Guard is a flexible and adaptable force,” Maj. Gen. José Reyes, adjutant general, said.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the lives of just about every American. The mantra of elected officials has been, “Flatten the curve,” meaning stop the spread of the virus. PRNG is doing its part to accomplish that by conducting medical evaluations of everyone entering Puerto Rico.
Earlier this year, PRNG and other federal and state agencies started screening incoming passengers at the international airport in San Juan by installing 11 infrared cameras that measure a person’s body temperature.
If a passenger has a temperature of 100.3° or over, they are immediately taken to a triage area and tested for COVID-19.
This is a 24/7 operation with about 260 PRNG members participating — roughly 60 are assigned to each six-hour shift.
Laiza Rivera, a medical student at Central Caribbean University, took the oath of office to become a 2nd Lt. in the Puerto Rico National Guard on April 2. Here she signs her enlistment contract as Gen. José Reyes looks on. Photo by First Sgt. Luis E. Orengo.
In addition to military personnel, 150 students from Puerto Rico’s four medical schools have volunteered for this mission as well.
This actually worked as an unintentional recruitment campaign when four of them decided to join the PRNG. One of them is 2nd Lt. Laiza Rivera.
The 27–year-old says she was going stir-crazy being home all day because of the lockdown so she decided to volunteer at the airport. Rivera, whose major is ophthalmology, was already in the process of joining but inspired the other three student-volunteers to join as well.
PRNG has similar operations at other ports of entry.
PRNG’s ability to adapt is illustrated in its revised plan for annual training. Ordinarily, large groups of personnel would attend exercises at the national training center in California, as well as another location in Louisiana. Not this year. In an effort to practice social distancing, those exercises will be modified to be conducted in smaller groups at Camp Santiago in Puerto Rico.
Additionally, classes that would normally be held in a conference room have switched to video conferencing.
In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.
Under Reyes’ command, the island’s combined military forces provided its residents with just about everything they needed.
They provided MPs to the local police departments to maintain law and order; engineers cleared hundreds of miles of debris from roadways; and they conducted search and rescue operations in flooded communities and evacuated stranded citizens. The Army aviation unit conducted countless flights to and from the center of the island (its most rural and isolated area) to deliver food, water and emergency supplies.
Puerto Rico still hasn’t fully recovered from the hurricane and the 56 year-old general predicts that won’t happen for another 10 to 12 years.
If the hurricane wasn’t bad enough, Puerto Rico was shaken by two major earthquakes in January. There were 10,000 people who either partially or completely lost their homes.
Reyes, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, presented a plan to Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced to relocate these refugees. PRNG then established five major camps, each with a capacity of about 1,700. In partnership with FEMA and other agencies, they relocated over 10,000 people in 56 days.
While no one can predict when an earthquake will occur, there is an established hurricane season for the Caribbean and it’s happening now.
Under Homeland Security Presidential Directives Nos. 8 and 9, states and territories are required to conduct preparatory training in response to the threats that pose the greatest risk to national security, including natural disasters.
PRNG is on it conducting emergency management exercises for hurricanes, earthquakes, pandemics and even tsunamis with all 78 municipalities on the island. Until last year, exercises were only for Category 5 hurricanes. The new exercises anticipate all these disasters happening concurrently.
Puerto Rico has had a lot thrown at it over the past three years and, in theory, it all could happen again. PRNG will be ready if it does.
Additionally, Reyes knows Guard units from other states, as well as additional DOD personnel, has Puerto Rico’s back and will be there to support him.
Reyes came out of retirement to take on this command and he’s glad he did.
“It’s a tremendous honor to command the Puerto Rico National Guard, eight-five hundred strong, fully committed men and women with an unbreakable sense of service towards the people of Puerto Rico and our nation,” he said. “I’m very proud of each one of them.”
Nintendo’s new version of the Nintendo Switch costs just $200, and it’s scheduled to arrive on Sep. 20, 2019.
The Nintendo Switch Lite, which was revealed on July 10, 2019, after months of rumors, is similar to the flagship $300 Nintendo Switch in many ways — and crucially different in a few ways.
Outside of price, here’s how the two Nintendo Switch versions stack up:
1. The Nintendo Switch Lite costs 0 less because it’s a portable-only console.
The Nintendo Switch is named as such for its ability to switchbetween form factors.
You can take it on-the-go, as a handheld console! You can dock it at home and play games on your TV, as a home console! You can even prop it up on its built-in kickstand, detach the two gamepads, and play multiplayer games with a friend, as a standalone screen/console! Madness!
The Nintendo Switch Lite, however, isn’t quite so verstatile. It’s intended for one thing: Handheld gaming.
Like the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS before it, the Nintendo Switch Lite is a portable game console. It runs the same games as the Nintendo Switch, but it can only be used as a portable game console.
2. The Nintendo Switch Lite is smaller than the flagship Nintendo Switch, in both its body and screen sizes.
On the standard, 0 Nintendo Switch console, the touch screen is 6.2 inches. On the new Nintendo Switch Lite, the touch screen comes in at 5.5 inches.
Similarly, as seen above, the overall size of the Switch Lite’s body is shorter and skinnier than the standard Switch console.
3. The Joy-Con gamepads don’t detach from the Switch Lite.
Another major selling point of the original Nintendo Switch console was its removable gamepads — the so-called “Joy-Con” controllers. A single Nintendo Switch console, with Joy-Cons, is a two-player standalone gaming system! Pretty incredible!
But the Nintendo Switch Lite is a handheld console, intended for a single person to use it as a handheld console. Thus, the Joy-Cons are built directly into the hardware.
Notably, you can pair various other Switch controllers to the Switch Lite — the Joy-Cons, for instance, or the Switch Pro Controller — which is handy if you still want to play multiplayer games like “Mario Kart 8 Deluxe” on the itty-bitty screen.
4. The d-pad is an actual d-pad now.
For many, the version of a d-pad on the left Joy-Con was an abomination. Four directional buttons? Instead of a connected d-pad? What?!
The Nintendo Switch Lite solves that issue by putting in a standard d-pad.
5. The battery life is a little better on the Switch Lite.
Are you looking for a whopping half hour increase in battery life? You’ve come to the right place: The Switch Lite is exactly that. Instead of a maximum of 6.5 hours (like the original Switch), the Nintendo Switch Lite has a maximum of 7 hours.
As always, though, battery life will differ based on the game you’re playing: Games with intense graphical needs will chew through your battery faster, as will playing games online. So if you’re playing “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” online with the brightness up, your mileage will very likely vary.
6. The Switch Lite comes in three colors: Yellow, Grey, and Turquoise.
The standard Nintendo Switch has a few different color options based primarily around swapping Joy-Cons of various colors, but the Nintendo Switch Lite is going all-in on color choice.
In addition to the three seen above — the standard colors that the Switch Lite will be offfered in — expect special editions, like the “Pokémon” one that arrives this November with the new game “Pokémon Sword Shield.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Two Russian Tupolev/United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Tu-160M1 supersonic bombers, NATO codename “Blackjack”, arrived in Venezuela on Dec. 10, 2018, amid speculation about rising tensions between Russia and the U.S. along with continued questions about the status of Venezuela’s government. It’s the third deployment after those in 2003 and 2008.
The two massive Tu-160 “White Swan” bombers arrived at Simón Bolívar International Airport outside Caracas following a 10,000-kilometer (6,200-mile) flight across the Atlantic from Engels 2 Air Base, 14 kilometers (8.7 mi) east of Saratov, Russia. The aircraft belong to Russia’s elite 121st Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Regiment, the only unit to operate the approximately 11 operational Tu-160 aircraft of 17 reported total airframes from 6950th Air Force Base.
A Russian Tupolev Tu-160 supersonic heavy bomber arrives in Venezuela
(Russian Ministry of Defense)
The two Tu-160s were supported on the deployment by an accompanying Antonov An-124 Ruslan heavy lift cargo aircraft for support equipment and spares and a retro-looking Ilyushin Il-62 passenger aircraft carrying support, diplomatic and media personnel to accompany the deployment.
Interestingly, some flight tracking data posted to social media show that the mission initially included three Tu-160 heavy bombers, or, two Tu-160s and an aerial tanker. The navigational track shows one aircraft orbiting over the central Atlantic at mid-route from their departure base in central Russia on the way to the southern Caribbean. This third aircraft may have been the routine use of a back-up aircraft or for midair refueling. The third aircraft, depicted in the tracking graphic as an additional White Swan, reversed course over the Atlantic at mid-course and returned to their base.
Tu-160 flight crews presented a Venezuelan officer with a model of their aircraft upon arrival in Venezuela
Popular news media hyped the mission by sensationalizing the nuclear capability of the Tu-160 and the potential threat it could pose to the U.S. mainland from the Caribbean. It is a certainty that the aircraft dispatched by Russia are not armed with nuclear weapons or likely any strike weapons at all. The likelihood is the Tu-160 mission is largely a diplomatic show of resolve in the wake of U.S. remarks that, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quoted in a Dec. 9, 2018 Washington Post article, “The United States will no longer ‘bury its head in the sand’ about Russia’s violation of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987.”
Diplomatic sabre rattling aside, photos from the mission had the feel of an airshow display more than a strategic nuclear weapons deployment. Bands and dignitaries greeted the aircraft in Maiquetia airport outside Caracas under brilliant Caribbean sun. Photos and video shows a member of the Black Jack aircrew giving a model Tu-160 to a Venezuelan officer as a remarkable keepsake of the mission. Venezuelan press ran a graphic depicting how the aircraft could strike the continental U.S. from the Caribbean.
12/10/18: Russian Tu-160 “White Swan” Bombers Arrive in Venezuela.
The Tu-160 is a noteworthy aircraft because of its size, speed and rarity. While the U.S. cancelled its ambitious XB-70 Valkyrie super bomber program in 1969 and later developed the B-1 and low-observable B-2 along with the upcoming B-21 Raider, Russia has begun a program of updating avionics, engines and weapons systems on the Tu-160 and starting production of the upgraded bombers again. The first of the “Tu-160M2” upgrades, essentially a new aircraft built on the old planform, flew earlier this year with operational capability planned for 2023. The new Tu-160M2s will not be rebuilt, upgraded existing Tu-160s, but rather new production aircraft coming from the Tupolev plant. Russia says it will build “50” of the aircraft.
On May 30, 2018, during a change-of-command ceremony for US Pacific Command, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced that the command will change its name to US Indo-Pacific Command to better reflect what he described as linkages and values in the region.
“Relationships with our Pacific and Indian Ocean allies and partners have proven critical to maintaining regional stability,” Mattis said in prepared remarks during the ceremony, which marked Adm. Phil Davidson’s assumption of command from Adm. Harry Harris, who will take over as US ambassador to South Korea.
“We stand by our partners and support their sovereign decisions, because all nations large and small are essential to the region if we’re to sustain stability in ocean areas critical to global peace,” Mattis added. “Further, in recognition of increasing stability [between] the Indian and Pacific Oceans, today we rename the US Pacific Command to US Indo-Pacific Command. Over many decades this command has repeated adapted to changing circumstance, and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west.”
US Pacific Command has about 375,000 civilian and military personnel assigned to it. It covers more of the world than any of the five over geographic combatant commands and shares a border with each of its counterparts.
The renaming does not mean more resources will be assigned to the command, and Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under President Barack Obama, said the change would be “ultimately a symbolic act” unless the US pursues more investment and initiatives in the region.
(U.S. Defense Department)
The change is meant to underscore the US’s growing military relationship with India, with whom the US has worked to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.
Davidson, the incoming head of the command, said during his confirmation hearing in April 2018, that the US-India relationship “is potentially the most historic opportunity we have in the 21st century, and I intend to pursue that quite rigorously.”
The phrase “Indo-Pacific” is not new in US foreign-policy discussions, but it has been embraced by President Donald Trump as a way to dilute China’s primacy by expanding the conception of the region.
“I don’t think that’s just a ploy by the US and others. I think it’s a reflection of reality,” Rory Medcalf, the head of the national security college at Australian National University who has written about the term, told Politico in 2017.
Some countries in Asia have grown concerned about Trump, believing his stated policy goals could mean a reduced US presence in the region at a time when China is seeking to expand its influence. (Some have sought alternatives to partnering with the US for defense.)
The US, for its part, has continued to try to counter Beijing. During his hearing in April 2018, Davidson told senators that China has a particular focus on undersea warfare and was “stealing [US] technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage.”
China has also used its One Belt, One Road initiative to grow its sway in Asia and across the Pacific, offering loans and financing for an array of infrastructure and other development programs. Beijing has been criticized for using those economic relationships to gain leverage over smaller countries.
US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said in March 2018, that China was “weaponizing capital” around the globe.
“Americans’ vision is shared by most nations in the region, where every state’s sovereignty is respected, no matter its size, and it’s a region open to investment in free, fair, and reciprocal trade not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion,” Mattis said May 30, 2018. “For the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Left: Bob Gunton. Right: Bob in Vietnam as an RTO. Photo credit Bob Gunton.
Bob Gunton is a prolific stage actor known for his roles in Evita and Sweeney Todd on Broadway where his most well-known film role is as Warden Norton in The Shawshank Redemption. He served with distinction in the Vietnam War in the last great multi-unit battle of the conflict, The Siege of Firebase Ripcord. This is his story.
Special Note: “Bob Gunton has just completed a memoir entitled “…OR AM I BEING OBTUSE?…”
WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
My mom and dad met at a USO dance on Santa Monica pier and within two weeks they were married. I am the oldest of six children, three boys and three girls. My parents were from the coal country; my father being from Pennsylvania (Anthracite-hard coal) and my mother being from the coal country of Montana (Bituminous-soft coal), so I have the hard and soft coal running through my blood.
I had been influenced by many folk singers in high school where I was affected by the ethos of folk music through such acts as The Kingston Trio, The Limeliters, The Brothers Four, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. I put together a trio called The Deacons. We went around to coffee houses to perform, like the Mon Ami in Orange, CA. Around the same time as we performed at Mon Ami, Steve Martin was on the marquee as well since he grew up in Orange County.
I went to the seminary of Paulist Fathers — St. Peter’s College in Baltimore, Maryland for a few years from 1963 to 1966. I had started out as a supporter of the Vietnam War in 1963. I’d even made a speech at my high school for a Toastmasters Speech Contest about the “domino theory,” but then my views changed rather dramatically after the seminary. My opinion shifted especially after Senator Eugene McCarthy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy moved away from the Democratic party line supporting the Vietnam War.
A friend and fellow seminarian classmate arranged for me to audition for his father, Paul Crabtree, who was a successful Broadway actor, writer and director. He’d written a musical called TENNESSEE, USA! for the new theatre he had founded — The Cumberland County Playhouse — in Crossville, Tennessee. It was going to run during the summer between seminary and Novitiate. I had done a couple of operettas in high school. when my thoughts were of making a difference as a priest. After that wonderful summer I recognized that I was gifted far more in music, acting and performing than in what was required to be a good priest. I left the seminary and had gone to UC Irvine to study theater when I dropped out for a semester to do Carousel in Tennessee. I knew I was chancing being. drafted. And when I returned to California, I was.
When I was called up, I had to spend some time thinking if I was a Conscientious Objector (CO). My father had been in the Marine Corps during WWII in the Pacific and I had grown up steeped in WWII history. My father’s six brothers were all WWII veterans as well. By that time, I was opposed to The Vietnam War. I probably could have gotten a CO because of my divinity school experience. But although I was opposed to the Vietnam War, I was not opposed then to a just war in general. I didn’t feel I had the right to be a CO because of my political beliefs. I also had to ask myself if I could measure up to my father, he was a supporter of the war. My father and I had lots of very agitated and loud arguments about the war.
After my time in Vietnam and I had come home I discovered that my father had grown long hair, sideburns and had himself had come to oppose the war. My willingness to go fight may have affected him in some way. While I was in Nam I had been given the Bronze Star with a V (for Valor.) Our local paper had run a story on it. Many years later, when my father passed as the eldest son, I had to clean out his belongings etc. I found in his wallet a folded-up piece of plastic covered newspaper clipping about my Bronze Star award. He had carried it in his wallet for many years. All of this brought us much closer together than in the first twenty years of my life. I had earned his respect and we could speak to each other as not just father and son, but as survivors of conflict.
WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
Hmm…It’s a memory shared with me after Dad had died. While he was alive my father’s Marine Corps buddy, Robert Newtbaar, had borrowed my father’s dress blues and wanted to return them. When I came to pick them up, he told me a story about my father. When my father and he were on a troop ship heading to Hawaii, then on to the South Pacific, Newtbaar had become very depressed and anxious about what might happen to him. He decided he was going to jump overboard. Newtbaar made a move and was on his way over the rail, when my father dashed over and pulled him back onto ship amid a volley of curses. Newtbaar said very tearfully that my father had saved his life.
After they got back and were mustered out of the Corps, Newtbar, who was from a fairly wealthy family, came to my father with ,000. He loved to hear my father sing, especially Frankie Lane’s hit songs. like “Georgia,” “Jezebel” and “The Flying Dutchman.” Newtbaar told my father he had the most beautiful voice he had ever heard. He wanted my father to go to Hollywood and be a singer.
However, my father already had a wife and two kids and was working in a grocery store. He was in no position to give up his responsibilities for his family in order to pursue a singing career. He’d actually had to rejoin the USMC at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro just to find housing for our family. A few years later Dad suffered an injury in a grocery store in Santa Monica which resulted in a case of amnesia. He eventually recovered from his injury; however, he lost a lot of memories of WWII and the early post war period. We had some pictures from his time in the service. I also learned from his friends some of what my father had experienced. It was touching for Newtbar to share these stories with me and they impacted my life.
My family would occasionally in the summer and drive up to Montana to visit my grandmother and uncle on my mother’s side. Part of the journey up there was along a stretch of highway which was called the Grapevine which is now the I-5, which was full of steep switchbacks and rapid changes of elevation. My father was agoraphobic which I learned through my childhood. As an adult I took my parents NYC and then to Windows on the World, which was a restaurant overlooking the city in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on floors 106 and 107. My father stood at the back of the elevator once the doors opened to the restaurant, saw the tip-tops of skyscrapers. He barely was able to inch his way around with his back against the center walls. It was the most vulnerable I had ever seen him.
The WTC memory makes me flash back to those trips to Montana where my father would look out the window over the rocks and chasms below. After looking he would get anxious and sweaty. My mother would reach out and touch his shoulder. She’d start singing “Whispering Hope”, which is a gospel song, but also popular at the time. As she began singing, my father would join in. All of a sudden, we kids in the back seat, comforted by the sound of their soothing harmony. For us, their duet signified their love for us and their shared history together.
The grapevine highway. Photo credit SVC History.
A view from Windows on the World in the WTC’s North Tower. Photo credit Literary Hub.
WATM: What values were stressed at home?
Our Catholic Faith; our blue-collar status; my parents’ Depression-Era values, sense of responsibility. All of us had to pitch in. My father was self-taught and a great reader but was educated only through the seventh grade. My mother had been a schoolteacher in a one room schoolhouse in Montana. There was a strong expectation that all of us would work hard in school and be a good person. Basic, decent 1950’s values.
Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want painting. Photo credit artsy.com.
WATM: What influenced you to join the US Army, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?
I was drafted. Basic and Advanced Infantry training were tough physically in many ways since I was not particularly athletic. I was appointed cadence caller for our early morning five-mile runs probably because of my loud voice. One of my cadences calls was, “…we are the mighty, mighty mighty Charlie, everywhere we go people want to know who we are, so we tell them, we are Charlie, mighty mighty Charlie…” Classic. Although I sometimes ad libbed a couple, including: “If you got a half a buck….Call someone who gives a (bleep.)” I was sent to Nam near the end of the war during Vietnamization and was put into an S-1 shop for the 101st Airborne in Bien Hoa. What a relief! My thoughts were of a dry hooch, spit-shined boots, pressed combat fatigues, and weekends in Saigon. I lasted at the S-1 just one week. Because American grunts were being phased out of the war, the Division Commander wanted all soldiers with a combat MOS to be sent out into the field to get the ARVN up to speed. I was an 11B-20 –infantry, boonie rat, ground pounder — so off I went to “the bush.”
I was sent up to I Corps in Quang Tri province, in I Corps. I reported to the 2nd of the 501st Battalion Headquarters and then to their Charlie Company, Third Platoon. The platoon leader, SGT Yonashiru, took a look at me — being six feet tall and husky. the PL asked, “who’s the (effing) cherry?” He scoped me out. Given my height and apparent strength he ordered me to take the “gun” or the “radio”. The “gun” was the .50 caliber machine gun. I chose the radio, which seemed kind of “show business” to me. Apparently, some of the grunts initially thought I might be a Criminal Investigation Division (CID) narc because I showed up by myself to the unit with spit shined boots, crisp fatigues. I was also a few years older than the rest of the platoon. I was warned by a fellow soldier about being viewed as a narc and warned me about “fragging.” Fragging described when someone rolls a grenade under another soldier’s hooch to get rid of a “problem”. For the first time in Vietnam I was really scared.
I went into the company area and went up to a soul brother and asked for a doobie. I’d never smoked grass in my life. He handed me a joint. I stood there in the company area and toked up so anyone watching would see. I then went back to my hooch and passed out for like twelve hours. From then on, I was one of the guys and no longer a target of fragging. I was now “in” in the outfit.
Bob in a UH-1N high above Thua Thien Province, Vietnam 1970. Photo credit Bob Gunton
They made me the platoon, eventually company, and then battalion Radio Telephone Operator (RTO). Near the end of my year there in July 1970 our battalion was Op-Con to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st. They were seeking to take over a hilltop above the A Shau Valley where the US had been driven out a few years earlier during the “Hamburger Hill” period. Fire Support Base Ripcord was going to be emplaced during this two-brigade assault operation. At this time, I was just given the battalion RTO job and would be with the battalion CO, XO and the like on Ripcord itself. At the same time, my guys with Charlie company 2nd of the 501st were going to assault the area around FSB Ripcord with fellow companies of the 3rd Brigade. Bn Intel determined that thousands of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) were going to assault the FSB. A day or two after the Brigade-sized assault on the AO, my former unit was caught in a command detonated ambush followed by an early morning assault by the NVA. All during this time I had been talking on the radio to my guys, handling supply and normal stuff.
One of my best friends there was fellow soldier Joe Patterson, a funny guy and great audience for my shenanigans. The night before they were hit, we were talking on the Delta One radio which was scrambled so the enemy could not intercept our transmissions. He told me, “Gunton, I have a really bad feeling about this one.” There had been no contact yet, but he still felt bad about the operation. Sure enough when the unit was hit, Joey was gravely wounded. I called in the MEDEVAC for him and for our company commander. We had one KIA from Charlie’s Headquarters Company where this soldier had had to go out to replace someone’s weapon and had to stay overnight and was killed during the assault. It was a terribly fraught and frightening time.
Bob along the Song Bo River. Photo credit Bob Gunton.
There were many major encounters around Ripcord which turned out to be the biggest, final, multi-unit battle in Vietnam. There have been books and films about it. We went on like that for about a week or longer. In the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) we had three RTOs. The intel suggested that the firebase itself would soon be under attack. At one point the NVA got really lucky when they shot down a Chinook over the ammo dump as it was unloading ammo. All of the crew survived the crash, but the entire ammo dump started cooking off: phosphorus, artillery, HE and CS rounds. All of that CS gas started infiltrating into the bunkers where none of us had gas masks, so we had to take our t-shirts and wet them to put over our face so as not to be forced out of our bunkers.
At one point I had to urinate really badly. With the rounds cooking off and NVA mortars coming in, I wasn’t about to saunter outside to one of the “Piss tubes.” The bunkers were well constructed and had screen doors. I got to the door and decided I would open the door, step out halfway or so and then take a whiz. I was just about to finish when I heard, “TROOP!” right behind me. It was the brigade commander whose call sign was Black Spade. I stood to attention and zipped up. Other soldiers were in that part of the bunker when the Brigade Commander told me with cold anger:, “if you have to go take a piss, go find a piss tube. We are NOT animals in here.” It was a very embarrassing moment. I felt lower than snake shit. A few days later the Brigade Commander was evaluating positions outside when a mortar round landed directly on him. He and a fellow officer were killed immediately. The terrible irony of that sequence of events rocked me for a while.
Companies then started being extracted from around Ripcord and then it was our HQ’s time to leave. We knew Ripcord was going to be abandoned and the Army would blow up what they could, then carpet bomb it with B-52 strikes. We got back to LZ Sally and all of us in HQ company gets called together. A member of the battalion staff informed us about how two Delta One radios had been left behind in our TOC on Ripcord. The NVA could potentially use those radios against us. They needed two “volunteers” to go back and get them, which really meant the two who were least “short” would go. I was pretty damn short — but not short enough. I went with another younger RTO on a slick (Huey helicopter) to head back up there. On the way out, one of the pilots turned around in the chopper and made a hand dunking motion. Ripcord was taking incoming fire. We had to jump off the helicopter at about five or six feet off the ground as he was not going to land because of the incoming.
We found a hole to jump in and then found the Delta One radios. There were a lot of wounded soldiers that needed to be taken off the fire base before anyone else could go. We knew that no one could head back to base until all the wounded had been evacuated. So me and the other RTO jumped in and helped load the wounded onto slicks while the mortars and rockets continued falling. Just before the sun set over Laos we were able to get on a chopper to head back. I don’t think any of that involved any kind of valor much less heroism, but the battalion commander put us in for Bronze Stars, particularly for the MEDEVAC loading.
The questions of what is cowardice, what is heroism, what is self-preservation have been with me all my life. I’ve even used them in my acting. Everything is shades of gray, especially when it comes to combat and moral decisions that we make. Was I wrong not to go the piss tube with the self-preservation involved and the death of Black Spade as he followed his own advice and left the 3rd Brigade without leadership for a while. These experiences have definitely shaped my moral view of the universe. I have to accept that even the worst situations, the best remedies are going to be mixed. How we are trained, our wisdom, and education play their parts in our decisions and choices. But we are human, have mixed emotions, and inner conflicts. I have applied these in my life successfully and unsuccessfully.
MEDEVACs are miles ahead of what we had in Vietnam. There was an instance where a soldier from our recon platoon left the wire at night to take a crap. One of his buddies mistakenly set off a claymore on him and killed him. When the chopper came in to evac the body there were huge winds in the AO and they could not get a jungle penetrator through the triple canopy jungle to get the body out so they threw the soldiers a body bag. The soldiers then had to hump the corpse out for three or four days to get to a place where the chopper could get in.
I helped prevent a mutiny earlier that year where a loach (OH-6 Cayuse helicopter) had been shot down where I was a company RTO then. Our company was tasked to go down into this valley area to find the chopper to see if the pilot had survived. Our company commander was against the war and did all he could to stay out of it. He was one of the only officers I had met like that. The company commander wouldn’t lead down and the battalion commander call sign Driver had to fly out. The company commander was ordered to go down after being chewed out by the battalion CO and I told him, “we got a lawful order to go down and we needed to go otherwise this is bad stuff.” We did end up following orders to go down where we found the loach with the pilot dead. The pilot’s body was able to be sent back to Graves and Registration for eventual burial. I was against the war but found myself on the other side of the argument with the company commander. It was gray even then and was not cut and dried. Our mission was, for most of us, to save each other and our buddies got back.
Charlie company had its 50th reunion, almost 50 years to the day many were injured including Joey Patterson at the FSB Ripcord battle. Due to Covid-19 I was not able to fly out to Pennsylvania. However, I did do a Zoom call and got see them all and meet their wives. Joey and I caught up as well. It was a great virtual reunion due to the COVID pandemic. Keeping the threads of your life together along the way can give you a better sense of where you are from and going.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into acting and film?
When filming a movie, you are all in it together where everyone has their own duty. The expectation is that everyone knows exactly what they have to do and to do it as quickly and gracefully as they can. It includes keeping spirits up when waiting out a rainstorm to restart filming and when moving locations and loading up the trucks is like heading to another combat assault. So, I must have my shit together and know my lines cold. There is a lot that carries over from being in the military to working on a film production. You depend on each other and don’t want a weak link and sure as hell don’t want to be that weak link.
WATM: What is the most fulfilling stage and/or film role you have done?
Warden Norton from The Shawshank Redemption without a doubt is the best role I have ever had. It is the best movie I have ever been in. I have been back to many reunions and celebrations at the prison. People go to visit the prison and stay overnight. They even have a Shawshank trail where people get to see all the outside filming locations and then take a tour of the prison where it has artifacts from the movie. I have been to every continent except Antarctica and everywhere I go people come up to me to speak about The Shawshank Redemption. People come up to me in Europe, South America, Australia where to be a part of a movie that is such high quality and well-known across the board is truly a blessing.
I was invited to Akron for a special day celebrating Shawshank Redemption and by the local AA Akron baseball team the Rubber Ducks to throw out the first pitch. They also ordered from China a thousand bobble head Warden Nortons. The first thousand people to come in would get one where I would sign them. I have one for myself and have given a few away too.
*He shares some of the best quotes people request when he signs autographs from the film are, “Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me,” “Lord, it’s a miracle! The man up and vanished like a fart in the wind,” and “…or am I being obtuse.”
Mr. Gunton as Warden Samuel Norton of Shawshank State Prison. Photo credit to IMDB.com
Mr. Gunton in Akron with the Warden Norton bobble head. Photo credit Lake Highlands Advocate.
WATM: What was your experience like in working with such theatrical talents as Hal Prince, Patti LuPone, Theodore Mann, Susan H. Schulman, Beth Fowler and then with such film talents such as Oliver Stone, Tim Robbins, Frank Darabont, Clint Eastwood, Sly Stallone, Sandra Bullock and the like?
Hal Prince was a key person in my career and am grateful to him. Oliver Stone was interesting and challenging — a brilliant man. I enjoyed working with Robin Williams perhaps more than anyone else. Jim Carrey is a deep thinker as well as being very charming, well-read and generous. Jim was extremely funny as well. I have liked most everyone I have worked with.
I got to play a chaplain in a film with Stacey Keach named Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the USS Indianapolis. I enjoy playing priests and military personnel because I feel I can put a little spin on the ball and make them more interesting and factual. My chaplain character got eaten by a shark. I had to do some tricky timing with holding my breath for the scenes of being eaten by the shark. Two divers were holding my feet where they start shaking me and then pull me down really fast. If my timing wasn’t spot on in taking in breath, then having to hold it while they release a blood bag, to show his guy is really gone it can be problematic. It was tricky to film, but nothing like the crew from the Indianapolis though. Floating on a funky, tiny life-raft, off the coast of the Bahamas, with Stacy Keach and I laughing our butts off, was not a hardship assignment.
Working with Clint Eastwood was good. He has a fantastic crew. He was a gentlemen and one of the quietest directors I have ever worked for. He got that from doing so many Westerns where a director would yell “action” and people would get thrown off their horse when it bolted from the shouting. Instead of “action” Clint would just quietly say, “go ahead.”
I have maintained close ties with the Paulist Fathers even done work for Paulist Productions as well. In the film Judas shot in Morocco in 2004, on a huge set representing The Temple in Jerusalem, I played the High Priest Caiphas. Hotter than blazes in very authentic robes etc. But I really enjoyed it.
Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton and Clancy Brown in The Shawshank Redemption.
WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
After my service I went to NY hoping for a career in Theater. Many of my peers had gone to Yale or Julliard or Northwestern and other great schools. I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. It wasn’t about their not serving in the war, it was because I felt they had a two- or three-year head start on their careers. Establishing a career in theater means doing low paying jobs, children’s theater and dinner theater etc. out in the boondocks. Then, if you are fortunate you work your way up to Broadway. These guys had already networked with people from their professional schools and had jumped ahead of me. I felt I had missed out on that networking.
While on Broadway after finishing “Evita” my agent told me about a play I should look at doing off-off Broadway, with no pay. Having just come from a big Broadway musical hit it didn’t sound that appetizing it was entitled “How I Got That Story”. It was about Vietnam. There were only two actors. One of the roles was a journalist and the other role was every person in Vietnam that the journalist runs into while trying to get the story of why we were in Vietnam and what it all meant. 22 different characters! Because I had been there and seen and heard and lived with a wide range of people, both genders and three races, I knew who these people were, how they spoke, walked and behaved. The roster of characters included: a Madame Nhu character, a nun, a crazy photographer, a Viet Cong officer and, most surprisingly, a 16-year-old Vietnamese bar girl. The man who wrote this play had served as a CO medic in Vietnam. I told my agent: “I don’t care if I don’t get paid, I have to do this.”
We performed in a tiny rooftop theater behind the building where John Lennon had been killed. The play got excellent reviews and was covered by many journalists who’d gotten their start serving in Vietnam as reporters. It got a lot of ink in all the newspapers, especially in the New York Times. We eventually transferred to an actual Off-Broadway theater in the theater district and we ran for nine months or so. The main thing is everyone in town saw that show including casting directors, fellow actors, movie directors including Alan Pakula (To Kill a Mockingbird, All the President’s Men, Sophie’s Choice). Alan came backstage after a performance. He said he wanted me to play an Arab in the film Rollover. He asked to meet a couple of days later where we talked mostly about Vietnam and the movie. I never auditioned. I knew he was going to have me do it and he did! It was the largest salary I had ever had for acting up to that point and opened a myriad of doors for me.
“How I Got That Story” really kicked off my career as a dramatic actor and not just a song and dance guy. At the Opening Night Party we had among others, the founders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Also Ed Murphy, my seminarian buddy, who had served in Vietnam as well. This entire chapter was like karma where nothing is ever wasted; that there is always something that even terrible experiences can feed your soul or change your life. In a good way. If, of course, you survive it.
Vietnam was tough, sad, and frightening, although we also often laughed our asses off with our morbid humor in part to expel our anxiety. Vietnam served an important role in my character development as well as my work in theater and in films.
On a side note, Afghanistan is one of the few wars I can say, “yeah we belong there.” We need to be there to keep them from doing anything like what happened on 9/11 ever again. I’d sign up, but I don’t think that they would have me.
“How I Got That Story” featured in the NYT from the Feb 18th, 1982 paper. Photo credit nytimes.com.
WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood and stage arena?
We need to encourage veterans who have a story to tell them. We have had some good recent movies like American Sniper and The Hurt Locker. Most people who don’t have military experience hear our stories finding them exotic and dramatic. It is life and death with a cast of interesting characters. As an Army draftee I saw the full spectrum of humanity which makes for a lot of interesting stories.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Being a father to my daughter, Olivia. And happily married to a former high school classmate, Carey. Career-wise Shawshank and my last Broadway show, “Sweeney Todd”, which is the toughest stage role I had ever attempted and was well received. It felt like climbing Mount Everest to do it. It was my “swan song” to Broadway and am glad to have gone out on top. I am proud of my friendships from the seminary, Vietnam, theater and fellow film actors. I am also proud to have made it to this age and to still be working.