After weeks of speculation about North Korea’s leader Kim Jung Un’s health, Reuters reported a medical team was dispatched to North Korea to care for Kim. And yesterday, a senior executive of a Beijing-backed satellite tv station in China said Kim is dead.
The only thing we really ever know about North Korea is that we can’t ever be sure about what’s happening there, but rumors about Kim’s grave health and possible passing have been circulating for weeks.
When Kim failed to make an appearance on April 15 for the country’s most important holiday which honors the founder of the country (Kim’s late grandfather Kim II Sung), suspicion started building that Kim was sick. April 25 is another major holiday – the 88th anniversary of their armed forces, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. As night falls in North Korea, the leader again failed to appear, bringing more people to believe that there may be some truth to the rumors that Kim is dead.
As of this writing, the White House and senior officials in the United States government remain tight-lipped about his health and are giving no credence to the rumors.
“While the US continues to monitor reports surrounding the health of the North Korean Supreme Leader, at this time, there is no confirmation from official channels that Kim Jong-un is deceased,” a senior Pentagon official not authorized to speak on the record told Newsweek yesterday. “North Korean military readiness remains within historical norms and there is no further evidence to suggest a significant change in defensive posturing or national level leadership changes.”
Earlier in the week, President Trump sent Kim Jong Un his well wishes. “I’ve had a very good relationship with him. I wouldn’t — I can only say this, I wish him well, because if he is in the kind of condition that the reports say, that’s a very serious condition, as you know,” Trump said on Tuesday during a White House press briefing. “But I wish him well.”
But on Thursday, when asked about Kim Jong Un’s condition, the president said, “I think the report was incorrect, let me just put it that way. I hear the report was an incorrect report. I hope it was an incorrect report,” he added, without providing further details.
Although the US remains somewhat quiet about Kim’s health, a Hong Kong Satellite TV executive told her 15 million followers on Weibo that she had a source saying Kim was dead. While we’re not sure if she named her source, her uncle is a Chinese foreign minister.
Photos of Kim appearing to lie in state have also been circulating social media, but they look suspiciously a lot like Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il’s final resting photos. We’re guessing photoshop is far more likely than a leaked photograph.
What happens if Kim dies? Likely, another Kim would take over. The possibility of his sister, Kim Yo Jong, being named leader is “more than 90%,” said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, as reported by the Associated Press. He noted she has “royal blood,” and “North Korea is like a dynasty.” Kim’s sister has accompanied him on various high-profile meetings in recent years, prompting many to speculate she’s next in line.
Is Kim Jong Un dead? We’re not sure. But as soon as we know more, we’ll tell you.
There’s just something about the non-payday weekend after that sweet holiday break. Last weekend, everyone had some grandiose plans about getting out of town or spending three full days in a drunken haze. This weekend is different.
Sure, it’s another two days of having little expected of you — with the exception of what your first sergeant tells you at the obligatory safety brief. But it doesn’t feel like you’re getting some awesome time off compared to last week. So, I guess it’s time to actually do all that stuff you told yourself you’d do with your extra free time last weekend…
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Take a break from your chores or those SSD classes you keep telling your supervisor you’ll eventually do and enjoy some memes.
The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 230,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.
The death toll from the coronavirus in Iran continues to rise as the worst-affected country in the Middle East prepares for scaled-down celebrations of Norouz, the Persian New Year.
“With 149 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus has reached 1,284,” Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said on state television on March 19.
“Unfortunately, we have had 1,046 new cases of infection since yesterday,” Raisi added.
Iran has the third-highest number of registered cases after China and Italy.
With the country reeling from the outbreak, officials have recommended that Iranians stay home during the March 20 holiday, a time when hundreds of thousands usually travel to be with friends and relatives.
The government has closed schools at all levels, banned sports and cultural events, and curtailed religious activities to try and slow the spread of the virus.
Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the Health Ministry’s public relations and information center , noted on March 19 that the data on the outbreak means an Iranian dies every 10 minutes from COVID-19, while 50 infections occur each hour of the day.
“With respect to this information, people must make a conscious decision about travel, traffic, transportation, and sightseeing,” he added.
Despite the dire circumstances, many Iranians were angered by the temporary closure of Shi’ite sites, prompting some earlier this week to storm into the courtyards of two major shrines — Mashhad’s Imam Reza shrine and Qom’s Fatima Masumeh shrine.
Crowds typically pray there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, touching and kissing the shrine. That’s worried health officials, who for weeks ordered Iran’s Shi’ite clergy to close them.
Earlier on March 19, officials announced that the country wouldn’t mark its annual day celebrating its nuclear program because of the outbreak.
The Georgian government has ordered the closure of shops except grocery stores and pharmacies beginning March 20 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The measure, announced on March 19, also exempts gas stations, post offices, and bank branches. The South Caucasus country has so far reported 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and no deaths.
Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on March 19 said he would declare a state of emergency, as many countries in Europe already have, if health authorities advise him to do so.
“As of today, I would like to emphasize that there is no need for this. However, in agreement with the president, we have decided, as soon as that need arises, that we will be able to make this decision within a few hours,” he said.
President Klaus Iohannis has urged Romanians working abroad to refrain from traveling home for the Orthodox Easter amid fears of a worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Romania has been under a 30-day state of emergency since March 16.
Iohannis made the appeal in a televised speech on March 19 as thousands of workers returning from Western Europe were slowly crossing into Romania after having clogged Hungary’s borders both to the west and the east for two days in a row.
Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.
The bottlenecks were worsened by Hungary’s decision to close its borders on very short notice from March 17 at midnight — a measure relaxed by Budapest after consultations with the Romanian government.
“Romanians from abroad are dear to us, and we long to be with them for Easter,” Iohannis said. “However, that won’t be possible this year…. We must tell them with sadness but also with sincerity not to come home for the holidays,” he added.
Some 12,500 mostly Romanian travelers had crossed into Romania in 4,600 vehicles as of the morning of March 19, Romanian border police said.
They said 180 people were immediately quarantined, while some 10,000 were ordered into self-isolation once they reached their destinations.
The rest were mostly travelers in transit toward Moldova and Bulgaria, according to the police.
Romania has confirmed 277 coronavirus cases.
One of the patients is in serious condition in intensive care, while 25 people have recovered, according to health authorities.
No deaths have been reported so far.
However, authorities are concerned that the massive number of Romanians returning, mostly from Italy and Spain — the European countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic — will lead to a spike in infections in the run-up to Orthodox Easter on April 19.
The Romanian military has started building an emergency hospital in Bucharest amid fears that the country’s crumbling health-care system will not be able to cope with the outbreak.
Some 900 Ukrainians are embarking on March 19 on a train journey from Prague to Kyiv as part of an evacuation plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The train is set to travel through the Czech Republic and Poland, where it will make a stop at Przemysl, before heading to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and the capital.
Yevhen Perebiynis, the Ukrainian ambassador to Prague, tweeted that more than 3,000 Ukrainians residing in the Czech Republic had asked to be evacuated.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Zhytomyr, Serhiy Sukhomlyn, said the city located 140 kilometers west of Kyiv recorded its first coronavirus infection.
Sukhomlyn said the patient, aged 56, had recently returned from Austria.
As of March 19, there were 21 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in six regions and the capital, Kyiv, the Health Ministry said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine recorded its third death linked to COVID-19 in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.
An elderly woman died one day after visiting a hospital with severe flu-like symptoms, according to the Health Ministry.
Russian officials have reported the country’s first death connected to the coronavirus outbreak, but quickly backtracked, saying an elderly woman perished due to a detached blood clot.
The Moscow health department said on March 19 that the 79-year-old, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died in a Moscow hospital from pneumonia related to the virus.
Svetlana Krasnova, head doctor at Moscow’s hospital No. 2 for infectious diseases, said in a statement that the woman had been admitted with “a host of chronic diseases,” including type 2 diabetes and heart problems.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin then confirmed the coronavirus-releated death, saying on Twitter, “Unfortunately, we have the first loss from the coronavirus infection.”
Hours later, however, health officials put out another statement saying an autopsy had confirmed the woman had died of a blood clot.
A subsequent official tally of the number of official coronavirus cases in Russia showed 199 confirmed infections but no deaths.
It was not clear whether the woman’s death would eventually be counted as a result of the virus.
Though President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that the situation was “generally under control,” many Russians have shown a distrust for official claims over the virus, and fear the true situation is much worse than they are being told.
Amid a recent rise in the number of cases, officials have temporarily barred entry to foreigners and imposed restrictions on flights and public gatherings.
The national health watchdog on March 19 tightened restrictions for all travellers from abroad with a decree requiring “all individuals arriving to Russia” to be isolated, either at home or elsewhere.
Serbia has closed its main airport for all passenger flights and said it will shut its borders for all but freight traffic in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The government banned commercial flights to and from the Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade on March 19.
However, the airport will remain open to humanitarian and cargo flights, according to the Ministry of Construction, Traffic, and Infrastructure.
Later in the day, President Aleksandar Vucic said that as of March 20, Serbia’s border crossings will be closed for all passenger road and rail transport.
“Nothing but trucks will be allowed to enter,” Vucic said. “From noon tomorrow we will also halt commercial passenger transport inside the country.”
The move comes after some 70,000 Serbs working in Western Europe and their families returned to Serbia in the last few days despite appeals by authorities not to do so.
Serbia currently has 103 confirmed coronavirus cases, with no fatalities.
The Balkan country had already imposed a state of emergency, introduced a night curfew for all citizens, and ordered the elderly to stay indoors.
Authorities in Pakistan have closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere while access to museums, archaeological, and tourist sites have been banned as confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 301, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.
Two Pakistanis who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became the country’s first victims when they died on March 18 in the northwest.
Schools have already been shut in Pakistan.
Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been placed into quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in the country’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst affected countries.
Pakistani authorities on March 19 plan to quarantine hundreds more pilgrims who returned from Iran. These pilgrims will be kept at isolated buildings in central Pakistan for 14 days.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s influential son-in-law says police have identified individuals who allegedly published the names of Uzbek nationals who tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Otabek Umarov, who is also the deputy head of the president’s personal security, said on Instagram that officials are now trying to determine the legality of the perpetrators’ actions.
A joint working group set up by the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General’s Office has also identified 33 social media accounts involved in “disseminating false information that provokes panic among people,” Umarov wrote.
He called the accounts a “betrayal” of the country and a matter of “national security.”
Umarov’s comments come amid a campaign by the Uzbek government to crack down on information that incites panic and fear among the public amid the coronavirus crisis.
On March 16, the country’s Justice Ministry said that, according to Uzbek law, those involved in preparing materials with the intention of inciting panic — and those storing such materials with the intent to distribute them — will face up to ,400 in fines or up to three years in prison.
Those who spread such information through media and the Internet face up to eight years in prison, the ministry added.
The statement came a day after the Central Asian nation announced its first confirmed coronavirus infection, which prompted the government to introduce sweeping measures to contain the outbreak, including closing its borders, suspending international flights, closing schools, and banning public gatherings.
The number of infections had risen to 23 as of the morning of March 19, the Health Ministry said.
The ministry said that the 23 individuals are all Uzbek nationals who had returned home from Europe, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Health Ministry regularly updates its social media accounts with information on the outbreak in Uzbekistan. Posts are frequently accompanied by the hashtag “quarantine without panic” in both Uzbek and Russian.
The Kazakh national currency, the tenge, has continued to weaken sharply as the number of coronavirus cases in the oil-rich Central Asian nation reached 44.
Many exchange points in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and the former Soviet republic’s largest city, Almaty, did not sell U.S. dollars or euros on March 19, while some offered 471 tenges for id=”listicle-2645571641″, more than 25 percent weaker than in early March when the rate was around 375 tenges.
The tenge has plunged to all-time lows in recent days following an abrupt fall in oil prices and chaos in the world’s stock markets caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The Kazakh Health Ministry said on March 19 that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country had increased by seven to 44.
In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, three people, who returned home from Saudi Arabia several days ago, tested positive for the virus, which led to three villages being sealed off in the southern Jalal-Abad region.
In two other Central Asian nations, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, no coronavirus cases have been officially recorded to date.
A relative of an Armenian woman blamed for spreading the coronavirus in the South Caucasus country alleges that criminal offenses have been committed against members of their family.
It emerged last week that the woman had traveled from Italy before attending a family gathering with dozens of guests in the city of Echmiadzin, disregarding health warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.
The woman, whose name was not released, later tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized. Dozens of other people who attended the gathering were placed under a 14-day quarantine.
Armenia has reported a total of 122 cases so far, including dozens in Echmiadzin. It has not yet reported any deaths.
Echmiadzin was locked down and a nationwide state of emergency has been announced in a bid to slow the spread of infection in Armenia.
Many on social media in Armenia expressed anger over what they said was irresponsible behavior by the woman.
Some ridiculed the woman and used offensive language against her. A photo of her also was posted online.
The woman’s lawyer, Gohar Hovhannisian, said that one of her relatives who lives abroad filed a complaint with the public prosecutor on March 17.
The complaint alleges that personal information about infected people was illegally obtained and published by the press and social media along with insults and photographs.
“It affects the mental state of a person. Imagine that a person is sick and such language is used against her or him and her or his personal data are published,” Hovhannisian said.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office forwarded the report to police to investigate the case.
Human rights activist Zaruhi Hovhannisian, who is not related to the lawyer, noted that the protection of personal data is enshrined in Armenia’s law. He said that disclosure of personal data in this case made it possible to identify the infected woman.
“Moreover, under the law on medical care and public services it is forbidden to disclose medical secrets, talk about people’s medical examinations and the course of their treatment as well as to pass these data to third parties,” the activist said.
Earlier this week, a shop owner in Yerevan filed a complaint with police alleging that he had been attacked by three relatives of the woman in question for posting a joke about her on Facebook.
Police said they had identified and questioned three people over that complaint. But the authorities did not reveal their identities.
The Azerbaijani capital, Baku, has been sealed off to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the South Caucasus state.
According to a government decision, as of March 19 entrance to Baku, the nearby city of Sumqayit, and the Abseron district has been banned for all cars, except ambulances, cargo trucks, and vehicles carrying rescue teams and road accident brigades. The measure will run until at least March 29.
All railway links between Baku, Sumqayit and the Abseron district, and the rest of the country were also suspended.
Azerbaijan has reported 34 confirmed coronavirus cases, with one fatality.
In neighboring Armenia, where authorities announced a state of emergency until April 16, the number of coronavirus cases is 115.
Elsewhere in the South Caucasus, Georgia, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 40.
The United States is temporarily suspending the movement of new soldiers into Afghanistan as a way of protecting them from the coronavirus outbreak.
U.S. Army General Scott Miller said in a March 19 statement that the move could mean that some of the troops already on the ground in Afghanistan may have their deployments extended to ensure that the NATO-led Resolute Support mission continues.
“To preserve our currently healthy force, Resolute Support is making the necessary adjustments to temporarily pause personnel movement into the theater,” he said.
“We are closely monitoring, continually assessing and adjusting our operations so we can continue to protect the national interests of the NATO allies and partners here in Afghanistan,” he added.
About 1,500 troops and civilians who recently arrived in Afghanistan have been quarantined, Miller said, stressing that this was purely a precautionary measure and “not because they are sick.”
Earlier this month, the United States began reducing its troop presence in Afghanistan as part of a peace deal signed in February with the Taliban.
The agreement sees an initial reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 soldiers.
Miller did not mention the agreement in his statement.
So far, 21 U.S. and coalition staff exhibiting flu-like symptoms are in isolation and receiving medical care, Miller’s statement said.
Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems are inspiring a U.S. Army research project to improve military armor.
By mimicking the outer coating of pearls (nacre, or as it’s more commonly known, mother of pearl), researchers at University at Buffalo, funded by the Army Research Office (ARO), created a lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel and ideal for absorbing the impact of bullets and other projectiles.
ARO is an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory.
The research findings are published in the journal ACS Applied Polymer Materials, and its earlier publication in J. Phys. Chem. Lett. (see related links below)
“The material is stiff, strong and tough,” said Dr. Shenqiang Ren, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a member of University at Buffalo’s RENEW Institute, and the paper’s lead author. “It could be applicable to vests, helmets and other types of body armor, as well as protective armor for ships, helicopters and other vehicles.”
Round, smooth and iridescent, pearls are among the world’s most exquisite jewels; now, these gems inspire U.S. Army researchers looking to improve military armor.
The bulk of the material is a souped-up version of polyethylene (the most common plastic) called ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene, or UHMWPE, which is used to make products like artificial hips and guitar picks.
When designing the UHMWPE, the researchers studied mother of pearl, which mollusks create by arranging a form of calcium carbonate into a structure that resembles interlocking bricks. Like mother of pearl, the researchers designed the material to have an extremely tough outer shell with a more flexible inner backing that’s capable of deforming and absorbing projectiles.
“Professor Ren’s work designing UHMWPE to dramatically improve impact strength may lead to new generations of lightweight armor that provide both protection and mobility for soldiers,” said Dr. Evan Runnerstrom, program manager, materials design, ARO. “In contrast to steel or ceramic armor, UHMWPE could also be easier to cast or mold into complex shapes, providing versatile protection for soldiers, vehicles, and other Army assets.”
A new lightweight plastic that is 14 times stronger and eight times lighter (less dense) than steel may lead to next-generation military armor.
(University at Buffalo)
This is what’s known as soft armor, in which soft yet tightly woven materials create what is essentially a very strong net capable of stopping bullets. KEVLAR is a well-known example.
The material the research team developed also has high thermal conductivity. This ability to rapidly dissipate heat further helps it to absorb the energy of bullets and other projectiles.
The team further experimented with the UHMWPE by adding silica nanoparticles, finding that tiny bits of the chemical could enhance the material’s properties and potentially create stronger armor.
“This work demonstrates that the right materials design approaches have the potential to make big impacts for Army technologies,” Runnerstrom said.
US Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Raina Hockenberry
On August 5, 2014, Master Chief Raina Hockenberry, 41, was a senior chief midway through a deployment in Afghanistan. She was helping train Afghan forces. While leaving an Afghan military camp in Kabul, a rogue Afghan gunman opened fire. Hockenberry sustained bullet wounds in her stomach, groin, and tibia. This is where the story could’ve ended Hockenberry’s military career. But Hockenberry’s running life theme is never giving up.
Hockenberry celebrates after winning gold in the 50 meter freestyle at the 2018 DoD Warrior Games.
(Master Sgt. Stephen D. Schester)
According to The Navy Times, while she recovered at Walter Reed medical center she immediately asked for a laptop so she could continue to contribute.
“Being in the hospital, you’re a patient and you lose who you are. That laptop was huge. It gave me my identity back. It gave me something to focus on. I was useful again.” Hockenberry said, “My identity was Senior Chief Hockenberry.”
Hockenberry doesn’t take all the credit for staying engaged during the early stages of her recovery process. She extended her gratitude to the junior enlisted service members surrounding her at Walter Reed, “Every time I wanted to quit, there always seemed to be some junior sailor popping in saying, ‘Hey senior, you going to PT?”
One of the injuries sustained by Hockenberry.
(Dennis Oda/The Star)
Despite the complications from her injuries sustained in battle, Hockenberry takes part (and kicks ass) in multiple athletic competitions. Such as the Invictus Games, or the Warrior Games (a competition for wounded, sick, or injured troops). Just last year she set 4 new swimming records en route to 8 gold medals in the latter.
She will be returning with high hopes again this year.
Hockenberry receiving the George Van Cleave Military Leadership Award at 53rd USO Armed Forces Gala.
(Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Lewis)
Nowadays, when Hockenberry isn’t dominating the Warrior Games, she serves on board of the USS Port Royal, in Hawaii—and she’s grateful to be back.
“Today, I’m just another sailor,” She added, “Granted, I’m a master chief and that’s awesome, but I do drill, I do general quarters, I’m up and down ladder wells. I do what every other sailor does.”
Hockenberry serves as a beacon for other service-members who are battling injuries every single day. Hockenberry’s advice is simple, “You’ve got to fight for what you want,” she said. “If you really want it, there’s so many in the Navy who will help you, you just have to ask.”
She acknowledges the road to recovery is not linear, and that while injuries change how you interact with the world, they do not define the afflicted, “”You don’t have to be perfect. I don’t walk perfect, I sure don’t swim perfect. But that’s okay […] The four gentlemen I went with have all been through the gamut and now have productive lives. It’s just an injury. It’s not your life.”
Hockenberry set up “Operation Proper Exit” in 2016 as a way to bring soldiers wounded in action back to the place where they sustained their injuries, in order to give soldiers proper closure.
Hockenberry will be honored as the Sailor of the Year at the Service Members of the Year ceremony on July 10th.
The Christmas Day crash of a Tupelov Tu-154 off the coast of Sochi, a Black Sea resort town in Russia, killed all 92 people on board. Among the dead are 60 members of the Red Army Choir.
The Red Army Choir had a viral moment when they sang backup to a cover of “Sweet Home Alabama” done by the Leningrad Cowboys. One Youtube video is below:
The choir members killed were part of the Alexandrov Ensemble, according to a CNN report. The choir was slated to perform for Russian military personnel at the Khmeimim air base in Syria.
According to the choir’s iTunes page, the group took first place at the Paris International Exposition in 1937, and features a male chorus, with dancers and an orchestra.
The impact of this crash on Russia could be compared to the Feb. 3, 1959, plane crash that killed rock-and-roll artists Buddy Holly and Richie Valens, or the loss of band leader Glenn Miller in unexplained circumstances while en route to Europe on Dec, 15, 1944.
A 2009 photo of the Alexandrov Ensemble. (Photo from Wikiemdia Commons)
In a statement on Facebook, the director of the MVD’s Red Army Choir, Gen. Victor Eliseev, said, “Today we are in the shock of the catastrophe in which our colleges of the Alexandrov Choirs and Dances disappeared. Not only were they our colleagues, but a very important military art company, and I am shocked to learn of the disappearance of their leader, my fellow student and friend General Valery Khalilov, with whom we studied and professed together at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow. It is a terrible loss for Russian music and art.”
“All members of the Red Army Chorus MVD of the Russian National Guard join me in expressing their friendship to the families of the members of the Alexandrov Ensemble and the families of all the victims of this tragedy and to address our feelings to them more affectionate in this dramatic moment,” Eliseev added.
U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment are conducting a month-long military exchange program with Marines from the Indonesian Korps Marinir in Eastern Java, Indonesia, and Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Aug. 6-29, 2019.
The exchange program, designed to strengthen the partnership between the two militaries, involves each country sending a platoon of Marines to live and train together at the others’ military bases. Working closely though a rigorous training schedule focused around individual, team and squad level tactics, Marines from both nations are able to learn from each other and continue to improve their ability to work together.
“For basic tactics, we do the same thing for shooting and maneuver, but we have a different terrain and environment,” said 2nd Lt. Gilang Kanandha, a platoon commander with the KORMAR. “We can make our Marine Corps better by learning new things and [the U.S.] Marines can learn something new too.”
U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and Indonesian Marines patrol through the woods during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)
Not only do the Marines share tactics with each other, they also develop new leadership styles and establish relationships with their partner nation counterparts.
“We are able to train together and be aggressive when it’s time to do that,” said 1st. Lt Joseph Artis, a platoon commander with Co. A., 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Regiment. “But during our down time, we have the ability to just be Marines together.”
U.S. Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and Indonesian Marines eat together during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)
“Our relationship with our Indonesian counterparts is very strong,” said Staff Sgt. Nathanial Skousen, the company gunnery sergeant for Co. A., 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. He noted how naturally the Marines from both nations interacted with each other, “It’s as if the same type of people are drawn to serve their nation’s military,” said Skousen.
The KORMAR exchange enhances the capability of both services and displays their continued commitment to share information and increase the ability to respond to crises together across the Pacific.
A U.S. Marine with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment and an Indonesian Marine pose for a photo following training during Korps Marinir at Kahuku Training Area, Hawaii, Aug. 13, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Sasha Pierre-Louis)
“It causes us to open our eyes a little bit when we experience things with Marines from overseas,’ said Artis. “The fact that this is happening in different parts of the world, it gives us perspective that there is a global mission we are trying to achieve. It’s not just us in Hawaii trying to do this.”
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
A decorated US Marine Corps veteran, who a federal judge ruled was an American citizen, is facing deportation to Mexico in a case that has been criticized as a cruel and extraordinary application of immigration laws.
The US government’s ongoing effort to deport George Ybarra, who is currently locked up in an Arizona detention center, has shed light on the vulnerabilities of foreign-born Americans who have served in the military, along with the deportation threats that can plague even those who are deemed to be citizens and have deep ties to the country.
Ybarra, who was honorably discharged after serving in the Persian Gulf war and earning numerous badges and medals, is facing deportation due to a criminal history that his family says is tied to mental health struggles and post-traumatic stress disorder from his service. While there have been growing concerns about the removal of veterans and the harsh policies of deporting people for minor crimes, Ybarra’s case is particularly troubling to immigrant rights’ advocates given a judge’s acknowledgement that he is US citizen.
“George hopes he will be able to stay in the country he fought for,” Luis Parra, Ybarra’s attorney, told the Guardian. “He is a third-generation [US] citizen … It would be a very extreme hardship for George to have to relocate to Mexico.”
Ybarra, whose story was first reported in the Tucson Sentinel, has a complex immigration and citizenship battle dating back more than a decade, including deportation threats under Barack Obama’s administration.
Ybarra, also known as Jorge Ibarra-Lopez, was born in Nogales in Mexico, just south of the Arizona border, in 1964, according to his court filings. He moved to the US months after he was born, and his maternal grandfather was a US citizen, born in Bisbee, Arizona, his lawyers wrote. Ybarra has long argued that he has “derivative citizenship,” meaning he is a citizen by virtue of his mother’s status.
An immigration judge eventually agreed that there was “sufficient evidence” that the 52-year-old father of five should be considered a US citizen, but the US Department of Homeland Security challenged that decision in 2011 and has since continued to try to deport him, records show.
The deportation proceedings stem in part from a number of criminal offenses, including drug-related charges. He was also convicted of firing two rounds through the front door of his home in Phoenix in 2011 in the direction of two police officers, according to the Sentinel. The paper reported that no one was hurt and that Ybarra said he was suffering from a PTSD-induced episode of delusion at the time and believed federal authorities were coming to “take away” his family.
Ybarra ultimately served a seven-year sentence in state prison for aggravated assault, but instead of returning to his family after he completed his time, he was transferred into the custody of federal immigration authorities last month. Ybarra and his family now fear he could soon be deported.
Parra argued that Ybarra should be released while the ongoing dispute about his citizenship is resolved. US Citizenship and Immigration Services had previously denied his application for a certificate of citizenship, but there are numerous ways he can have his status formally recognized, according to Parra.
His family has argued that he should get treatment and other government support as a disabled veteran with PTSD.
“He basically has no family in Mexico,” said Parra, noting that Ybarra’s children and grandchildren and other relatives in Arizona are all US citizens. “He has a very supportive family living in the Phoenix area, including his mother, who depends on George.”
Ybarra is distraught and worried about his continued detention, Parra said. In a Sentinel interview last month in an Arizona state prison, Ybarra said, “I’ve got a lot of anger, a lot of anxiety over this. They know I’m a citizen, they know I’m a combat veteran. I don’t see where they’ve ever shown that they care.”
A spokeswoman for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to questions about Ybarra’s case, but said in a statement that the agency “does not knowingly place US citizens into removal proceedings”, adding, “ICE deportation officers arrest only those aliens for which the agency has probable cause to believe are amenable to removal from the United States.”
When ICE does detain US citizens, the statement said, it’s usually because there is a misunderstanding about their status.
“The job for ICE deportation officers is further complicated by some aliens who falsely assert US citizenship in order to evade deportation, which is not uncommon,” the statement continued.
A Northwestern University analysis of government data found that hundreds of US citizens have, in fact, been detained by immigration authorities.
Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney and expert on military cases, said the deportation of veterans has been an ongoing challenge under both Obama and Donald Trump, but that she has never seen a case like Ybarra where the government threatens to deport someone ruled a citizen by a judge.
“If you can deport this guy, you can also try to deport all kinds of other people,” she said.
The destroyer’s crew is credited with saving the vessel after that devastating accident. Now, Navy officials say the Fitz is marking “a significant step in her return to warfighting readiness.”
The ship has spent two years undergoing repairs at the Huntington Ingalls Industries-Ingalls Shipbuilding’s Pascagoula shipyard. It will now carry out a series of demonstrations at sea that will test the ship’s navigation, electrical, combat, communications and propulsions systems.
“The underway reflects nearly two years’ worth of effort in restoring and modernizing one of the Navy’s most capable warships after it was damaged during a collision in 2017 that claimed the lives of seven Sailors,” a Naval Sea Systems Command news release states.
Once the evaluations are done, the destroyer will head back to the shipyard for more training and crew certifications. The Fitzgerald is scheduled to return to the fleet in the spring.
“We are excited to take the next step to get Fitzgerald back out to sea where the ship belongs,” Cmdr. Scott Wilbur, Fitzgerald’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “My crew is looking forward to moving onboard the ship and continuing our training to ensure we are ready to return to the fleet.”
The Fitzgerald was one of two destroyers damaged in separate fatal 2017 collisions in the Pacific. Ten sailors died when guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain collided with a civilian tanker near Singapore about two months after the Fitzgerald accident.
The tragic accidents sparked a host of changes to the way the Navy trains personnel to operate on ships, as well as to sleep schedules and other policies. The accidents also led to fierce criticism after reports found Navy leaders had ignored a host of warning signs in the months and years leading up to the collisions.
Vice Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces Pacific Fleet, is scheduled to testify before members of the House this week on the state of Navy readiness in the Pacific.
US F-22 stealth fighters have returned to the Middle East to “defend American forces and interests” at a time of high tension with Iran, although it is unclear whether the advanced air superiority fighters have been deployed as part of the ongoing deterrence mission or for some other purpose.
An unspecified number of US Air Force F-22 Raptors arrived in the US Central Command area of responsibility June 27, 2019, flying into Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) said in a statement June 28, 2019.
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor arrives at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 27, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)
This is the first time these fifth-generation fighters have flown into Qatar, as they have previously operated out of Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates, where a collection of US Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are currently deployed.
The Aviationist’s David Cenciotti, citing sources, reported that nine F-22s with the 192nd Fighter Wing, Virginia Air National Guard at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia have flown into the region with at least three more expected to follow at a later point in time.
Photos of the aircraft flying in formation showed at least five fighters.
F-22s flying in formation in the Middle East.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Gardner)
The US Air Force deployed F-15C Eagles to the Middle East in early 2019 to replace F-22s after years of regular deployments to the region.
“There are currently no F-22s deployed to AFCENT, but the United States Air Force has deployed F-15Cs to Southwest Asia,” AFCENT told Air Force Magazine in March. “US Air Force aircraft routinely rotate in and out of theater to fulfill operational requirements, maintain air superiority, and protect forces on the ground.”
But now these unmatched air assets are back in the region, and their arrival, likely part of a routine deployment, comes as US troops, weapons, and equipment are increasingly moving into the CENTCOM area of responsibility to deter possible Iranian aggression.
F-22s in Qatar.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)
As sanctions crippled the Iranian economy, intelligence reports pointing to the possibility of Iranian attacks led the US military to send the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to confront Iran.
Those assets were followed by more naval vessels, air-and-missile defense batteries, and thousands of additional troops.
In June 2019, Iranian forces shot down a US Navy drone, a serious escalation in the wake of a string of attacks on tankers, allegedly the work of Iranian forces.
F-22 in Qatar.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)
Although the US was prepared to retaliate with airstrikes on Iranian positions, President Donald Trump said he called off the attack at the last minute, arguing that taking life in response to an attack on an unmanned system would be a disproportionate.
But after Iranian leadership issued a statement insulting the White House, Trump changed his tune. “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,’ Trump tweeted.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Army is using its developmental Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) heads-up display, which was created to help soldiers better wage war on future battlefields, to combat the novel coronavirus, the service revealed.
The Army recently tweaked the software for a number of IVAS prototype goggles to allow the devices to detect fevers, and soldiers at Fort Benning, Georgia have been using them to scan hundreds of troops on base.
“That’s the genius of this system; we can use this technology today to fight the virus, even as we shape it into the combat system our Soldiers need tomorrow,” Brig. Gen. Tony Potts, who heads PEO Soldier, said in a statement.
The Army has been partnering with Microsoft to create a mixed-reality heads-up display for the dismounted soldier that offers a warfighter immediate access to dozens of valuable combat tools in digital space.
With this system, soldiers can see in the dark, shoot around corners, translate text, take photos and video, and track targets, among other things.
Based on Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, IVAS is the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team’s signature modernization effort, and the team has been pushing forward with its development even as the coronavirus continues to upend plans.
At the same time, the Army has figured out how to use its IVAS head-up display to help combat the virus.
The service is using the system to “rapidly assess the temperature of hundreds of Soldiers as they prepare for training” at Fort Benning, where thousands of soldiers go through a variety of different courses and training programs, the Army said in a statement.
One common symptom among individuals who have been infected by the coronavirus is a fever.
Last week, Tom Bowman, the director of IVAS Science Technology Special Project Office with C5ISR’s Night Vision Laboratory at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, realized that the HUD’s digital thermal sensors used to detect enemies in the dark could be repurposed to spot temperature spikes.
Modified IVAS heads-up displays were quickly sent to Fort Benning, Georgia. With these devices, which display scanned forehead and inner eye temperatures in the user’s goggles, soldiers were able to scan and process around 300 individuals in just 30 minutes.
The Army said that anyone who had a fever was sent to a nearby medical facility for evaluation.
Scanning was carried out indoors in a facility where commercial thermal referencing sources were used to calibrate the devices to room temperature.
“We’ve always planned for an agile software system and a digital platform that can be upgraded and adapted to use against emerging threats in the future. No one anticipated the next threat to emerge would be a virus, but that’s the enemy we face today,” Bowman said in a statement.
If everything goes according to plan, the Army intends to start fielding IVAS goggles to soldiers in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021, in summer of next year.
Experts may debate trajectories, payload weights, and re-entry shields, but North Korea’s claim that the entire United States is within range of its rapidly improving missiles just got a lot more credible.
The Nov. 29 launch of what the North called the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile demonstrated a greater range than other missiles it’s tested and showcased several capabilities the North must master if it were ever to actually try to unleash them at the United States.
Here is a quick look at the advancements made, the developments still to come, and the implications for the United States and its Asian allies:
The missile itself
According to North Korea’s announcements about the launch, the Hwasong-15 can be tipped with a “super-large heavy warhead” and is capable of striking anywhere in the U.S. mainland. The North claims it reached an altitude of 4,475 kilometers (2,780 miles) and flew 950 kilometers (600 miles) from its launch site just outside of Pyongyang. It was airborne for 53 minutes before splashing down in the Sea of Japan.
The launch data coincides with what foreign experts observed. U.S. scientist David Wright, a physicist who closely tracks North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs, estimates the Hwasong-15 has an estimated range of more than 13,000 kilometers (8,100 miles) if flown on a standard trajectory — putting it within reach of Washington, D.C.
Pyongyang claims the missile has significant tactical and technical improvements from the Hwasong-14 ICBM it tested in July and is the North’s “most powerful” to date. KCNA also said Kim Jong Un “declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”
The repeated claim in the announcement that North Korea has now completed its “rocket weaponry system development” is new and important. It could be bluster, but might also suggest a shift away from tests — at least of these kinds of missiles — toward production and deployment.
The North’s arsenal is still a far cry from the quality and quantity of what the United States can field. The Air Force’s development of the Minuteman ICBM goes back to the late 1950s. It now has about 400 of the latest version, the Minuteman III, which also has a maximum range of about 13,000 kilometers.
How it was launched
The timing and location are important. It was launched in the dead of night, most likely from a mobile launcher, near the capital. That indicates the North was trying to show it can launch whenever and wherever it pleases — a capability that makes it more difficult to take pre-emptive action. It’s impossible to blow up a North Korean missile on the launch pad if the missile can be moved and there isn’t any launch pad at all.
Interestingly, however, Japanese media reported on Nov. 28 their government had intercepted radio signals from the North suggesting a launch was imminent. It’s not clear if that was a first, since details on such intelligence are normally not made public. But it does suggest the North’s neighbors are having some success with surveillance efforts.
The trajectory of the launch is also significant. The missile was “lofted” at an extremely sharp angle and reached an altitude more than twice as high as satellites in low Earth orbit.
North Korea needs to launch toward the Pacific because it would otherwise be shooting its missiles at Russia or China — a very unwise proposition. And lofting avoids flying over Japan, which could prompt Tokyo or Japan-based U.S. missile-defense facilities to attempt an intercept, and hits open seas instead of other nations.
But lofting doesn’t closely simulate conditions of a real launch. Experts can roughly gauge the range of the missile from its lofted performance, but a missile on an attack trajectory would fly a lower, flatter pattern that presents some different challenges, particularly in the crucial re-entry stage of the nuclear payload.
So what now?
North Korea claimed, as it always does, that the test is part of its overall strategy to defend itself against Washington’s “nuclear blackmail” and that its development of missiles and nuclear weapons does not pose a threat to any country “as long as the interests of the DPRK are not infringed upon.” DPRK is short for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In an equally familiar manner, the move was immediately condemned in the strongest terms by Tokyo and Seoul. President Donald Trump said Washington “will handle it,” while giving no indication of how or what handling it actually would mean.
Clearly, however, the problem isn’t going away.
The launch broke a two-month lull in what has been a record pace of tests for the North. While some claimed that was the result of pressure from the United States and its allies, it’s common for the North to re-focus its energies to farming activities during the harvest season and for its military to shift into a lower-profile mode for its winter training cycle.
North Korea still needs to conduct further missile tests, particularly of its submarine-launched missile systems, to improve its overall arsenal. But having now demonstrated what it claims to be the primary missile it needs to deter attack from the United States, Pyongyang may turn to more testing of its nuclear weapons.
So far, five of its six nuclear tests have been conducted in a series of tunnels under Mount Mantap, a 2,205 meter (7,200 foot) tall granite peak in the northeast part of the country. But Pyongyang has hinted it might attempt an atmospheric test over the Pacific Ocean.
That would be a far more provocative move than the Nov. 29 missile test and might prompt a military response.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the country’s foreign minister ahead of a planned summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim in June 2018.
Lavrov’s May 31, 2018 visit — his first to North Korea since 2009 — was seen as an attempt by Moscow to ensure its voice is heard in Pyongyang’s diplomatic overtures with the United States and South Korea.
Lavrov met Kim in Pyongyang, Russia’s Foreign Ministry tweeted, and extended an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin for the North Korean leader to visit Russia.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to know whether there would be a Putin-Kim meeting in Russia.
Lavrov began his visit to North Korea by meeting with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.
“We welcome contacts between North and South Korea, as well as between North Korea and the United States,” Lavrov said on May 31, 2018, after meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.
The Russian minister called on “all the parties involved to fully realize their responsibility for preventing the failure of such an important but fragile process.”
Moscow is interested in implementing joint economic projects with Pyongyang and Seoul, including railway construction, Lavrov also said.
Russia and North Korea share a small border that is only a few kilometers from the Far East city of Vladivostok and they enjoy relatively cordial relations.
Lavrov’s trip to Pyongyang comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity to organize a historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Kim’s right-hand man, General Kim Yong Chol, in New York late on May 30 2018, to discuss the matter.
Kim Yong Chol, the most senior North Korean to visit the United States in nearly 20 years, dined with Pompeo and the two were due to meet again on May 31, 2018.
“Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight. Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu,” Pompeo tweeted.
Trump previously cancelled the summit scheduled for June 12, 2018, in Singapore, but both sides have since made fresh efforts to hold it as planned.
Washington is seeking the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for certain economic and security benefits for Pyongyang.