Seventy-five years ago yesterday, troops crossed the English Channel and disembarked onto the shores of Normandy to send the Nazis scum back to where they came from. Countless American, British, and Canadian lives were lost within moments of landing and many more died to secure the beach. It was a feat few higher-up believed would work, but they did the impossible.
This week, many troops gathered on this hallowed ground to pay respects to those lost and ceremonies were held in their honor. They were beautiful and heart-warming, seeing the younger troops helping the older WWII vets.
Now, logically speaking, all of the troops and veterans should still be in the area before going back to their respective bases or homes. I’m just saying, the ceremonies were fantastic. But veterans never change, and the WWII vets could still probably out-drink most of us. If you’re a young soldier in the area, buy the older gents a beer. They deserve it!
The ceremonies may have one, more polite, version of how it went down. Get them a round, and you’ll learn that the fire in them is still burning seventy-five years later.
An active-duty US Marine captain wrote a stinging op-ed for the Marine Corps Gazette, going through all the problems he sees with the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps in addition to recent failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The biggest problem, according to Capt. Joshua Waddell, is “self-delusion.”
“Let us first begin with the fundamental underpinnings of this delusion: our measures of performance and effectiveness in recent wars,” he wrote. “It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The active-duty infantry officer, who served with and lost Marines under his command with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, in Afghanistan, didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. He said it took several years for him to accept that, with the goal of improving the system.
A case in point, he says, is a comparison of the US military with other adversaries.
The Pentagon’s budget dwarfs the combined defense spending of the next 10 countries. The Army and Marine Corps are arguably the best-trained fighting forces in the world. The Air Force has the most high-tech aircraft and weaponry, while the Navy maintains nearly 20 aircraft carriers — far more than adversaries like Russia and China that have only one each.
These stats should mean the US military is unstoppable, but the budget, talk of being the best in the world, and other claims it makes don’t square with measures of effectiveness, Waddell writes.
“How, then, have we been bested by malnourished and undereducated men with antiquated and improvised weaponry whilst spending trillions of dollars in national treasure and costing the lives of thousands of servicemen and hundreds of thousands of civilians?” he wrote.
“For example, a multibillion-dollar aircraft carrier that can be bested by a few million dollars in the form of a swarming missile barrage or a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capable of rendering its flight deck unusable does not retain its dollar value in real terms. Neither does the M1A1 tank, which is defeated by $20 worth of household items and scrap metal rendered into an explosively-formed projectile.
“The Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization has a library full of examples like these, and that is without touching the weaponized return on investment in terms of industrial output and capability development currently being employed by our conventional adversaries.”
His article isn’t just a critique; Waddell offers several solutions to get the military out of the “business-as-usual” mindset that looks good in PowerPoint briefs but doesn’t translate to success on the ground.
While military leaders typically complain to Congress that constrained budgets have a “crippling” effect on the military, Waddell says the military should work more efficiently with the money it has. He gives an example of a nation already doing this: Russia.
Moscow’s military budget is about $52 billion, versus Washington’s proposed defense budget of $583 billion. Yet with far less money, Russia has been a consistent thorn in the US’s side in Syria, Ukraine, and now Afghanistan. That’s not to mention Moscow’s success in cyberwarfare.
“This is the same Russian military whom the RAND Corporation has estimated would be unstoppable in an initial conventional conflict in the Baltic states, even against the combined might of the NATO forces stationed there,” Waddell wrote. “Given the generous funding the American people have bequeathed us to provide for the common defense, is it so unreasonable to seek an efficient frontier of that resource’s utility?”
Waddell’s critique includes a call to fix inefficiencies between the Defense Department getting gear to war fighters, as some have to buy things they need because they don’t get there before they deploy. Waddell also calls for an audit of the Marines to see whether there are redundant efforts among contractors.
“There is no reason we should be paying twice for the same work or, as is often the case, paying government personnel for work that they have instead outsourced to more capable contractors for tasks within the government worker’s job description,” he wrote. “I would be willing to bet that a savvy staff officer with access to these position and billet descriptions as well as contracting line items could save the Marine Corps millions of dollars by simply hitting Control+F (find all) on his keyboard, querying key tasks, and counting redundancies.”
It’s unclear how much of an effect this op-ed would have on any changes. The Marine Corps Gazette is read mostly by senior Marine leadership, but whether that translates to taking this captain’s advice in an institution that is resistant to change is an open question.
“I have watched Marines charge headlong into enemy fire and breach enemy defenses with the enemy’s own captured IEDs in order to engage in close combat,” Waddell wrote. “This same fighting spirit from which we draw so much pride must be replicated by our senior leaders in leading comprehensive reform of our Corps’ capabilities and in creating a supporting establishment truly capable of fostering innovation.”
The short segments (each one is about five minutes) star characters from some of the year’s most popular children’s shows, like Super Monsters and Boss Baby, and end with a countdown to 2019.
And this year, Netflix is offering an even greater variety of countdowns for parents to choose from, including options for older kids and tweens. In 2018, there were only nine New Year’s specials, five fewer than this year’s record-high of 14.
Netflix’s annual tradition is backed by recent research, too. According to a statement made by the streaming service, “77% of U.S. parents actually prefer to stay in than go out for the biggest bash of the year.” The company added that over the last five years, an average of five million people watch the New Year’s Eve countdown shows each year.
To find the popular holiday specials, which are usually available through the first week of January, parents can simply enter “countdowns” in the Netflix search bar.
Russia’s political-military leadership frequently criticizes the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for its enlargement and for staging military exercises close to Russian borders. This pattern has intensified since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014 and the subsequent downturn in its relations with the United States and its allies.
Surprisingly, therefore, Moscow’s official reaction has been somewhat muted during the current run up to the active phases of NATO’s largest exercise in Europe in 25 years—though some Russian military experts have been making critical comments to the media.
On January 23, the US Department of Defense confirmed that a redeployment of United States military personnel had commenced, transferring forces from the homeland to Europe as part of the NATO exercise Defender Europe 2020. The wide-spanning maneuvers will focus on the Baltic States, Poland and Georgia, involving more than 36,000 personnel from 11 countries (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020).
Russian news outlets have highlighted that this year’s Defender Europe exercise scenario is based on a war breaking out on the continent in 2028, between NATO and an enemy close to its borders. Additional reports stressed the scale of the exercise, with 28,000 U.S. military personnel participating, including the deployment of 20,000 from the United States. Referring to the magnitude of the drills, Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Russian Academy of Military Sciences, compared them to the 1983 Able Archer, which resulted in Soviet forces being placed on alert.
Despite the scale of Defender Europe 2020 not even coming close to Able Archer 1983, a number of the upcoming exercise’s features may well cause concern for the Russian defense establishment (Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020). Kozyulin asserted, “Such large-scale exercises will seriously aggravate the situation. Moreover, the main events will be held in Poland, Georgia and the Baltic countries, which not only border Russia, but also [exhibit] an unfriendly attitude toward our country” (Km.ru, January 27).
These reports also stressed a number of aspects of the exercise that may help explain the lack of an official response from Moscow thus far. Defender Europe will become an annual NATO exercise with a large-scale iteration planned for even-numbered years and smaller versions occurring in between. US military personnel will constitute the bulk of the force this year, with European allies collectively providing only 8,000 personnel.
As Russian analysts expect, moving the forces, equipment and hardware will prove quite challenging to the North Atlantic Alliance forces. Moreover, Defender Europe 2020 is the first exercise of its kind, which may have persuaded Russia’s defense leadership to cautiously study the exercise in all its various elements before responding to it (Km.ru, January 27, 2020; Lenta.ru, January 26, 2020; Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
In a detailed commentary in Izvestia, the Moscow-based military analyst Anton Lavrov assesses the implications of the exercise, and identifies areas that will be closely monitored by Russia. Lavrov notes that Defender Europe will work out how the Alliance will fight a “war of the future” by testing an experimental strategy and some of its latest military equipment, adding, “Almost 500 American tanks, self-propelled guns and heavy infantry fighting vehicles, hundreds of aircraft, [as well as] tens of thousands of wheeled vehicles will take part in the exercises.”
The force buildup for the maneuvers will continue until April, and then NATO will conduct a series of drills forming part of the overall exercise. Crucially, this will provide an opportunity for the US to road-test its latest doctrinal development, namely “multi-domain battle,” which adds space and cyberspace to the traditional domains of land, sea and air. Lavrov states, “The concept will be tested in a series of command and staff exercises of the allied forces” (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
The exercise divides into three related elements: transferring 20,000 US troops from the homeland to Europe and back again, moving US personnel based in Europe, and conducting a series of smaller exercises alongside allied forces.
Lavrov also points to the fact that Defender Europe 2020 will rehearse both defensive and offensive operations. One feature of the offensive operational aspects relates to US airborne forces conducting three joint airborne assault landings. In each case, the leading role is assigned to US forces. In the drop into Latvia, they will be joined by forces from Spain and Italy; in Lithuania, they are aided by personnel from Poland; and an additional multilateral airdrop is planned for Georgia (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
As noted, one key challenge relates to the logistical tasks of moving troops and equipment over such vast distances. US military personnel and equipment will land at airports across Europe and seaports in Antwerp (Belgium), Vlissingen (Netherlands), Bremerhaven (Germany) and Paldiski (Estonia).
Russian military expert Vyacheslav Shurygin explained the nature of the challenge: “The transport infrastructure of Europe has not encountered such large-scale movements of military equipment for a long time.” Indeed, the redeployment of forces and hardware involved cannot be compared to standard US battle group rotations (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
Clearly, one of the objectives of the exercise is to assess the efficiency of these deployments into a potential theater of military operations. Lavrov adds, “Even for the modern US Army, the transfer of heavy tank and infantry divisions from continent to continent is a difficult, lengthy and expensive task. Twenty thousand units of equipment that the Americans will use in the maneuvers will arrive from the US, and another 13,000 will be received by the military from storage bases on the spot.
In Europe, there are now four large storages of American military equipment. Each one has everything, from tanks and artillery to trucks and medical vehicles, to equip a tank brigade. Another similar base is being built in Poland and will be commissioned in 2021″ (Izvestia, January 26, 2020).
One commentary in the Russian media stressed not only that NATO was deploying forces for exercises close to Russia’s borders but pointedly also referenced Belarus, which fits with Moscow’s scenario planning for its Zapad series of strategic military exercises: “However, the fact that such a powerful group of US and NATO forces is practicing deployments near the borders of Belarus and Russia, against the background of a growing American military presence in Poland and the Baltic countries, is a matter of concern” (Rusvesna.su, January 25, 2020).
It remains to be seen whether Russia’s political-military leadership will continue to be cautious about Defender Europe, restricting its criticism to public rhetoric, or if it will ultimately try to engage the Alliance in political or information warfare on this front.
There’s a certain relationship between students and teachers. After you’ve been teaching someone for long enough, they’ll feel like family to you. While that usually means stepping up for them when they’re being pulled, Professor Charlotta Turner at Sweden’s Lund University went the extra mile when one of her doctoral students was being held up by ISIS fighters in Northern Iraq.
She hired a band of mercenaries to save her student and his family and bring them home. Meanwhile, my college professors had to be pestered into posting my grades for the semester.
This was the factory where Jumaah and his family had to hide.
(Photo by Firas Jumaah)
It was in August 2014 when Professor Turner, a kindly professor of analytical chemistry at one of Sweden’s most prestigious universities, received a text message saying that her student, Firas Jumaah, had to save his wife in Iraq. Jumaah’s family had gone back for a wedding when ISIS attacked the city of Sinjar.
The terrorists were massacring and enslaving the Yazidi people, the religious minority of which Jumaah and his wife belonged. So he hopped on the first flight back to Iraq and rescued his family, however, they were forced to hide in an old abandoned bleach factory to avoid further persecution.
He sent a message saying that if he wasn’t home within a week, to assume that the worst had happened, and to remove him from his doctoral program. Turner knew what needed to happen.
She said in an interview with the Lund University Magazine : “Those who can, do. Those who cannot, hire mercenaries to get Jumaah the hell out of there.” She continued “What was happening was completely unacceptable. I got so angry that IS was pushing itself into our world, exposing my doctoral student and his family to this, and disrupting the research.”
She went to the Dean at the Faculty of Science who was puzzled but ultimately signed off on her request. Next, she went to the University’s security director, Per-Johan Gustafson, who coincidentally was also moonlighting as the CEO of a private security company. Gustafson rallied his men, and they were sent out to Northern Iraq – all while ISIS was closing in on Jumaah.
Within days, the Swedish mercenaries had made it to the bleach factory. They were armed and ready. They supplied Jumaah, his wife and two kids, each with bullet-proof vests and helmets. They met little resistance but were forced to take the long route to safety to avoid ISIS checkpoints along the way.
They successfully made it to the Erbil Airport and were soon on their way back to Sweden to be reunited with his professor. Firas Jumaah has since been given permanent resident status in Sweden and started his own pharmaceutical company. Turner still works at Lund University.
A documentary was recently made to show the world the kindness of this exceptional chemistry professor.
(Photo Credit: Hollywood Reporter via Lou Pitt. Used with permission.)
Manager/producer and former Agent at ICM Lou Pitt shares about his life and experiences in the entertainment industry. His current clients include Oscar winning actor Christopher Plummer, New York Times best-selling authors Brad Meltzer, Lorenzo Carcaterra. Tilar Mazzeo, A.J. Hartley, Visual Effect Oscar winner John Bruno and Director Jason Ensler.
Former clients include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gale Anne Hurd, Dudley Moore, Bruce Lee, Rod Serling, Nick Nolte, Blake Edwards, Howie Mandel, Paul W.S. Anderson and Jessica Lange.
WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
Pitt: I was born in Brooklyn, NY, where I spent the first six years, but my growing up years were in Miami Beach and Sarasota, Florida, until I moved to Los Angeles the summer of 1957. At 14, my single working mother wanted me to go to Kentucky Military Academy (KMI) which had its winter quarters in Venice, Florida, some 18 miles south of Sarasota. The Fall/Spring terms were in Lyndon, Kentucky, adjacent to Louisville. I spent all four years there. One of my roommates went on to West Point and retired as a Lt. Colonel after serving two tours in Vietnam. All the regimentation was on preparing teens for the military with a full ROTC program recognized by the Army with dedicated instruction by active military officers. Upon my initial arrival at KMI as a freshman, I found that my best friend from Sarasota, Jay Lundstrom had also committed to going there. We had become great friends and played Little League and Pony League together. In fact, it was really because of him that got me on my first team after badgering one of the coaches that I should be selected. Nobody should be left out, he reasoned. A classy gesture from a 9-year-old that became a life lesson about friendship in its purest form. We roomed together for most of the 4 years we were there and have remained good friends to this day. When I was chosen to be Captain of the KMI baseball team in my senior year, I said, “not without Jay.” We served as co-captains of the team.
Lou (left) with his buddy Jay (right) on the KMI baseball team where they were both co-captains.
WATM: Were you involved in any sports?
Pitt: I loved baseball and played shortstop. I continued playing throughout my years at KMI and beyond. My mother and I moved to California at the end of my junior year and returned to KY for my senior year in ’58. My dream was to play professional baseball where I was invited for a tryout with the Dodgers during the Christmas period 1957. It apparently went well with follow ups meant to happen following graduation. However, the rubber met road once in college following a pre-season workout with the start of season, a week away. The truth was, I came to the realization that I didn’t want to live out of a suitcase in pursuit of a dream. Went cold turkey and never picked up a baseball again until I played in a few Hollywood Stars games at Dodger Stadium thanks to my friend Jack Gilardi. I wanted to stay rooted in one place which had been absent most of my life. It was a decision I never looked back on or regretted. I went to Cal State Northridge and graduated in 1962 with a degree in theatre and a minor in English.
Fun fact: Famous actors Jim Bacchus (Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Magoo, Rebel Without a Cause), Fred Willard (Best in Show, Modern Family, Spinal Tap), and Vic Mature (Kiss of Death, The Robe, My Darling Clementine) attended and/or graduated from KMI as well.
Lou as a senior cadet at KMI in 1958.
WATM: Did you serve in the military?
Pitt: Yes, I was actually drafted into the Army but was fortunate to find a Reserve unit in Van Nuys in the nick of time. I was against the war and fortunate this option materialized given the dramatic escalation of the war. I did my Army Basic at Fort Ord and MOS school at Fort Gordon, GA. My MOS was a Military Policeman (MP).
While at Fort Gordon, a high security post at the time, I auditioned for a play that was being done on the base. I figured this would keep me out of trouble and away from the “lifers” (career EM’s and Officers). The play was “Look Homeward, Angel” and starred Army personnel and people from off-base. It was a great escape and I made a lot of friends from the local town along the way. One of them turned out to be Lt. Col. David Warfield who, as it turned out, was not one of the city folk, but the Adjutant General of Fort Gordon, the second man in charge of the base.
At the time, I didn’t know who he was as we were in “civvies” during rehearsals. He said if I ever needed anything, to let him know and gave me his card. Covered! The night of the first tech rehearsal, our barracks was subjected to a surprise inspection for drugs and each soldier was required to be sequestered by their bunks for however long it took. I knew I’d never make it to the theatre. Unexpectedly, he showed up at my barracks looking for me. His big black car rolled up outside of our building and heard determined footsteps that got louder and louder with each step. I was called out to the front of the barracks and he opened the car door himself. I had never seen a car that big in my whole life. The Col. said, ‘We can’t be doing this all the time, but hop in. I assume you’re not hiding drugs.’. I thought I was living in a Neil Simon play and it wasn’t going to end well after the final curtain.
Lou on stage in his role as Ben Gant in the stage production of “Look Homeward, Angel”
A newspaper clipping from the play “Look Homeward, Angel”. Lou is at the top.
WATM: How did you get involved in the entertainment industry?
Pitt: With an introduction by a friend’s dad, I secured my first job at Creative Management Agency (CMA) mailroom in 1964 predecessor of ICM Partners. At the time, it was the “Tiffany” of agencies with no more than 60 clients at the time and all of them big stars. The size of the mailroom was the average size of a closet. I was in the mailroom for about six months and then went to train on the desk of Alan Ladd Jr (Producer/Studio Executive; Star Wars, Blade Runner and Braveheart). Alan was my mentor along with Marty Elfand (Agent/Producer; Dog Day Afternoon, An Officer and a Gentleman).
While the agency was primarily motion picture focused, they sold variety shows and packaged Gilligan’s Island which made more for the agency than any star they represented. In the mid to late 60’s, I went to the Arthur Kennard Agency who represented TV stars (Raymond Burr-Perry Mason) and many stars of horror films like Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney, Christopher Lee, and Richard Kiley who was starring on Broadway in “Man of La Mancha.” It was there, I signed Bruce Lee who was in the series, Green Hornet. At nights, he taught classes in martial arts. Bruce introduced me to Kung Fu. Among his clients were Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Mike Ovitz (CAA), Marvin Josephson (CEO International Famous Agency) and Tom Tannenbaum (Universal TV Studio Executive;) and many other Hollywood luminaries.
Bruce charged a minimum of 0 an hour, which was a lot of money in those days. The Silent Flute (later produced in 1978 as the Circle of Iron) was a script that Bruce wanted desperately to put together but couldn’t get anybody in Hollywood to take an interest. Coburn did his best to bring it to life in LA. We were together for about two or three years when Bruce said, “I will never be a star here, and the only way I will get this made is in Hong Kong.” Off he went. The rest is history as they say. Bruce died before making the film where the produced 1978 version starred David Carradine. In 1971, I went to work at IFA who, in 1975 merged with CMA to become ICM and remained there until 1998.
A picture of a friend, James Coburn, Chuck Norris, and Bruce Lee.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army and military school into Hollywood?
Pitt: KMI’s motto was, “Character makes the man.” That to me, defined the traits which mattered most to me in life. Responsibility, honesty, discipline and keeping one’s word. Promises made and promises kept. The centerpiece at KMI was always about the team effort and found it so applicable in a business so dependent on others for success.
Graduation Day 1958 from KMI.
WATM: What are some of your favorite memories with your clients both past or present?
Pitt: Meeting Princess Diana a few years after she married Prince Charles, that came about when I represented Dudley Moore. He did a film in 1985, “Santa Clause, the Movie,” that had a Royal Premiere during the Christmas holidays in London. Dudley’s girlfriend, my wife Berta and I met the Royal Family before the screen presentation. The filmmakers were positioned in a circle for the prince and princess’ arrival. When introduced, they walked inside the circle and greeted everyone individually moving from one to the other. Princess Diana spent a lot of time with each person and was interested in chatting about the movie. She asked a lot of questions and was truly engaged. In truth, Princess Diana weakened my knees. She was extraordinary, as anyone who ever met her could attest. I remember she was still in conversation with the first person while Prince Charles was pretty much done with the group…while encouraging her to “move it along.”
The other that comes to mind was the July 4 holiday opening weekend of “Terminator 2.” At the time, it earned a box office record million over the five day holiday. Having put all the pieces of the film together that included the rights, which were overly complicated as they were jointly held by Gale and Hemdale (who needed to be bought out if it was to ever work), the financing (Carolco) with three high-profile stars; Arnold, Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron, each with their own schedules that needed to marry organically. It took four and a half years to put that film together and its success was a career game changer for everyone involved.
Lou with Arnold in Budapest, Hungary.
WATM: What was/is it like to represent Rod Serling, Gale Anne Hurd, Bruce Lee, Christopher Plummer, Gena Rowlands and Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Pitt: Rod was my first writer client and I was working with him during the latter part of his career. It was after the Twilight Zone and the Night Gallery series. Rod was a straight-forward, clear headed thinker and smoked a lot. He was a great storyteller with a distinctive voice and an incredible mind. Someone you could listen to for hours. Rod was a WWII veteran as well. He walked the walk.
Bruce was intense and serious but couldn’t have been more grounded at the same time. But mostly, self- assured about his career and looking to break new ground. I can still see Bruce’s smile. His frustration was that he couldn’t get the buyers in Hollywood to take the martial arts action genre seriously enough. By the late 70s it was obvious Bruce was ahead of his time and the martial art films exploded. I never doubted Bruce’s eventual success because he was so centered and full of confidence, talented and focused. It was not a question of if, it was a question of when and how. I really liked him and can tell you he was not that character portrayed in Quentin Tarantino’s movie.
Christopher is simply a very classy man grounded in empathy…especially among other actors regardless of their profile and standing in the business. A man of mischief when it’s playtime but utter discipline when it’s time to prepare and go to work…in fact, obsessively so in a good way. He literally and figuratively never walks in front of you, always behind whether on the red carpet or to a restaurant. “What can I get you” precedes “Hello.” Maybe the greatest storyteller I’ve ever met. He is dedicated to his work and truly loves his profession. Chris inhales the work and the most prepared person I’ve ever met. He has old fashioned manners in a good way. Prefers writing letters then sending emails. Behavior matters and thoughtfulness matters. He’s the first to the set and the first to be “off the book”. We’ve worked together for 45 years and he is a truly special friend.
Love Gale! Her first agent. Smart and I always felt like a partner in “how do we make this work”. She has such a strength, determination and intelligence about her that’s inspiring. She was like a teammate and that we were on an adventure together. There was great trust between us and an unusual giver of herself for others. She’s a “get it done” person that was always open to ideas. A wonderful inner sensitivity that was never far below the surface. We created a “no frills” concept for film budgets that were below a certain level in addition to films she made with or without Jim as a way to introduce new talent or stories that needed special handling.
Arnold is simply one of a kind. 24/7 was not just a descriptive phrase, it was a lifestyle. He defined the word, “commitment” and made a believer that anything is possible. The challenges were exciting because he broke ground that was transformative that defined a movie culture for the 80’s and 90’s. He defied gravity.
Gena Rowlands –What an extraordinary, graceful person she is. Never one to “work the room”, read the trades or lay judgement on anyone’s work in idle chatting. In the 45 years together, she never asked me what she was up for or when she was going to work. She figured if I had something to say, I’d let her know. As warm on screen as she was in her living room. Legendary and an elegant person that’s simply comfortable to just be around whether on a set or in the kitchen. Her career with John was a family centric of gifted actors that spilled into a comfort zone for others that followed. She and John rolled the dice on how to make movies that didn’t have any rules. She just makes you feel you want to kick off your shoes and just chat about stuff.
Lou, Berta, Dudley Moore, Brogan Lane, Peter Sarah Bellwood in Bora, Bora
WATM: What was it like working your way up in the industry in the 60s and 70s?
Pitt: The 60s broke the ground for what the system is today. No longer exclusive contract players, writers, directors, make-up, casting, etc. that could be controlled, and contracted out to other studios or disciplined for whatever infraction the studio bosses captiously inflicted on their talent. The emergence of stars making films away from the studio system and putting together the films they wanted to make as Producers. The emergence of Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck and others opened the door to an independent way of thinking, putting movies together and taking them to studios became the new norm…a new freedom with new rules to play by.
Mr. Plummer as Kaiser Wilhelm – “The Exception” which Lou produced.
WATM: What are words that you live by?
Pitt: “There are no bad meetings”
Character Makes The Man
Respect for all no matter the rank or position
Mark Twain’s quote about, “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said.”
I remember when I was learning to type, there was a sentence designed for a speed test that stuck with me. “Do all that you can do as quickly and as quietly as when you were told to do it.” For me it was about “get it done” and don’t waste a lot of time getting there. Keep your eye on the ball.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Pitt: I have a remarkable family who’ve been loving, emotionally supportive and inclusive. I’m immensely proud to work in a business that I really love. To have worked with so many extraordinary gifted clients and colleagues who challenged the world every day with their ideas, their talent and trust, has been inspiring and exhilarating. Everyone has been a gift to me.
For hundreds of years, military cadences have been used as an iconic tool to keep service members upright during formation runs and marches.
Structurally designed to keep each man or woman properly covered and aligned, a cadence helps a formation of troops in PT land each step at the exact same time as everyone else, preventing a massive falling domino effect.
Military cadence is a preparatory song performed by the leader of the formation during the marches or organized runs. Many parts of these running songs are so catchy, they will be forever embedded into our heavy left feet.
Take a listen and let yourself be transported back to the good ol’ days of the little yellow bird and the days of sitting in the back of your truck with Josephine.
1. “Down By The River”
2. “Pin My Medals Upon My Chest”3. “C-130 Rolling Down The Strip”4. “Hey, Hey Whiskey Jack”5. “How’d Ya Earn Your Living?” Cadences tend to cross-breed through the different branches and change words to make them service-specific. We salute everyone for their originality.
2020 sure hasn’t been the most relaxing year, now has it? If you’re anything like me then you’re over everything.
You don’t even want to scroll social media anymore because it makes your blood pressure rise. I have always been able to fall down the Instagram rabbit hole into trashy reality TV star drama to zone out for a bit, but now even that isn’t possible because they are on hiatus due to quarantine too! So, what am I doing to try and rid myself of some of the negative energy surrounding me these days? How do I disconnect after hearing the newest updates on what it will be like to teach for the 2020-2021 school year? Well, sometimes whiskey. But more recently I’ve been looking into healthier ways to deal with my stress and try to zone out for a bit.
First up is yoga.
Now, I am hardly the lithe yogi you see in the movies. I used to laugh at the idea of doing yoga to relax. Mainly because I would get so in my own head about not being bendy enough to traditional-looking enough to be in a yoga class. But now I find that it is actually a great way to get out of my head. While I’m still glad no one can see me doing downward dog from the comfort of my living room, I like the soothing music, the calm tone of the yoga instructors, and the 30 minuets a day I carve out for just my own well-being. If you aren’t sure where to start with a yoga routine head to YouTube, one of my favorites is MadFit. She is just very encouraging and calming, even laughing at herself when she falls out of a pose.
I have a friend that turns to meditation when the stress levels are getting too high.
He told me a quote once that stuck with me. “Meditate 20 minutes every day. And if you don’t have the time, then do 40.” It took me a moment to realize what he was saying. It means that you NEED to make time for the things that will help you be healthy, physically and mentally. While I am not big on meditation myself, I can find a few moments to do some deep breathing when yet another news update rolls across my screen.
You can also turn into your grandma to relax.
Don’t laugh! There has been a huge upswing in 20- 30-year old’s learning to crochet and knit these days! Maybe yarn crafts aren’t your thing, but you get creative in some other way. Painting, writing, coloring curse words in an adult coloring book. Any of those things help you focus on the task at hand and get you out of your head and your problems for a while. I know that when I wasn’t focused on the scarves I was knitting on deployment (I’ve been an 80 year old woman in a 30 year old body for a long time), I’d end up having to take the whole thing apart and start over. While I never quite mastered anything bigger than a baby blanket, just having something to keep my hands busy that wasn’t my cell phone seemed to calm me.
There is also the option to go get some fresh air.
Going on a hike or a bike ride or even just walking the dog are all socially-distanced approved activities still. Get out of the house and get your sweat on. Remind yourself from a beautiful mountain top that there is more to this world than the four walls you may feel trapped in these days. Daily I take my dog on a walk that should take us about 10 minutes. However, he likes to stop and smell EVERYTHING. His pace forces me to slow down and enjoy the feeling of the sun on my face. If you live somewhere coastal, you can drive on down to the water and let the sound of the waves calm you the same way. Just get out of the house. Stretch your legs. Breathe deeply and return home refreshed.
Are these things too tame for you?
Because not everyone is looking to get their Zen on, and I understand that. If that’s the case, see if you can’t swap the yoga videos for some kickboxing instead. And maybe instead of wandering the beach you can see if your local shooting range is practicing safe social distancing standards. I’ll admit that as much as I love relaxing with a good book, there is a serious adrenaline rush that makes me calm down just as much when I have torn apart a target or two on the range. Plus, it makes me feel better knowing my aim isn’t getting rusty…
So, whatever it is that makes you feel a little less frazzled, make time for it. Make it a priority the same way you do your job, your family, your faith. You schedule everything else that is important to you, why not schedule in some time to make sure your mental health can be kept on track with some relaxation too?
Four spouses and two fiancées of veterans eligible for the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ family caregiver program have filed a lawsuit against the VA for denying or improperly revoking their benefits.
In a suit filed Jan. 22, 2018, in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the plaintiffs, led by Florida resident Zamantha Tapia, fiancée of Army veteran Cesar Silva, allege that the VA did not follow the laws and regulations governing the department’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program, which provides compensation and health benefits to those who provide care for seriously injured post-9/11 veterans.
According to the suit, Silva and Tapia’s application was denied, and the benefits of the other plaintiffs were inappropriately downgraded or terminated without proper investigation or determination.
In 2017, veterans and their caregivers enrolled in the program began seeing their benefits curtailed or terminated — often with no reason given, other than that their VA providers determined they no longer needed help with their daily activities.
In August 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General found that across the VA, facilities didn’t adequately manage the program, failing to provide consistent access to it, improperly accepting ineligible veterans and declining to monitor the health statuses of nearly half the veterans it discharged from the program.
The IG also learned that the department paid out .8 million to caregivers of veterans who weren’t eligible for the program, and the VA “failed to manage the program effectively because it did not establish governance that promoted accountability for program management,” staff members wrote in the report.
In 2015, plaintiff Jennifer Wilmot and her husband George Wilmot, an Army National Guard veteran who served from October 2007 to May 2013, were booted from the program.
The Wilmots were accepted into the caregiver program in 2013 but should have received the highest level of compensation rather than the level they were awarded, according to attorneys Jason Perry and Luke Miller.
Then came the dismissal.
“After completing a comprehensive review of your medical records, it appears that you have met the intention of the program and your participation will be discontinued,” VA officials wrote to the Wilmots.
The lawsuit calls the termination “arbitrary and capricious.”
Silva was deployed to Iraq from November 2003 to August 2004, sustaining shrapnel injuries in an attack. According to the lawsuit, he received a VA disability rating of 70 percent in 2009 for rotator cuff strain and impingement and suffers from chronic headaches, degenerative joint disease, back pain and neuropathy. He also has PTSD, TBI, memory loss, depression and irritable bowel syndrome.
Tapia and Silva applied for the family caregiver program in 2014 but were denied. According to the suit, the VA found that Silva did not need assistance for physical injuries and said his mental health conditions were not service-connected. They reapplied in 2017, but following a phone assessment, VA officials said that Silva was not “receiving medical treatment” — an error, the lawsuit alleges — and that Tapia was “an enabler.”
According to Perry, an attorney in Wellington, Florida, and Miller, of Military Disability Lawyer LLC in Salem, Oregon, the plaintiffs have asked the court to certify the suit as a class action, meaning that other affected caregivers could sign on if it is approved.
They estimate that the VA received more than 100,000 applications for the family caregiver program between May 2011 and September 2018 and, therefore, thousands may be able to sign on to the possible class action.
The plaintiffs also are requesting that the VA stop what they perceive as arbitrary dismissals from the program and are seeking monetary compensation in an amount “to be determined at trial,” according to the suit.
The federal government has until March 25, 2019, to file a response in the case, and a status conference is scheduled for March 29, 2019, according to court documents.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A new breakaway Afghan Taliban faction that has close ties to neighboring Iran and opposes efforts aimed at ending the 18-year insurgency in Afghanistan has emerged.
The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami, or Party of Islamic Guardianship, is believed to have split from the mainstream Taliban soon after the United States and the militant group signed a landmark peace agreement in February.
The formation of the splinter group underlines the possible divisions within the Taliban, which has seen bitter leadership transitions and growing internal dissent in recent years.
It is unclear whether the new splinter group will rally broad support but its emergence could pose a new hurdle for the U.S.-Taliban deal, which has been undermined by violence, disputes, and delays.
Under that agreement, international forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by July 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Afghan government.
‘Early Stages Of Forming’
Antonio Giustozzi, a Taliban expert with the Royal United Services Institute in London, said it appears the new splinter group is based in Iran, which shares a 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan and has a sizeable Afghan population.
“It’s still in the early stages of forming,” said Giustozzi, adding that the military strength and the leadership of the faction is unknown.
An Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that the new splinter group has not been “officially announced.” The official said members of the group included radical Taliban commanders and members of small Taliban offshoots.
A new report by a United Nations monitoring team made public on June 1 said that “at least one group of senior Taliban” had “formed a new group in opposition to any possible peace agreement.”
The breakaway faction was “composed mainly of dissident senior Taliban members residing outside Afghanistan,” said the report, which was based on information provided by Afghan and foreign intelligence and security services, think tanks, experts, and interlocutors.
Iran Building Taliban ‘Combat Capabilities’
The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami joins a growing list of Taliban factions that support continued fighting against Afghan and international troops.
“There are several Taliban leaders, fronts, and commanders who oppose peace and are linked to Iran,” said Giustozzi.
Among them, he added, is Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban and the head of the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction that is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
That is despite Haqqani’s op-ed in February in The New York Times, in which he voiced support for the peace deal with the United States.
Haqqani, who is the Taliban’s operational chief, has a million U.S. bounty on his head. He is the son of the late radical Islamist leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Al-Qaeda-linked network blamed for some of Afghanistan’s deadliest suicide attacks.
The Haqqani network has strong ties to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. But Giustozzi said the network is “getting closer” to Iran as Islamabad and Riyadh cut funding to it.
Other Iran-linked Taliban leaders who oppose peace efforts include Mullah Qayum Zakir, a powerful battlefield commander and the former military chief of the Taliban until 2014. A former inmate in the infamous U.S. prison at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, Mullah Zakir has the backing of hard-line field commanders.
Mullah Zakir leads a conservative Taliban faction along with Ibrahim Sadr, the Taliban’s former military commission chief. In October 2018, Sadr was among eight Taliban members designated global terrorists by the U.S. Treasury Department.
“Iranian officials agreed to provide Ibrahim with monetary support and individualized training in order to prevent a possible tracing back to Iran,” the Treasury Department said, adding that “Iranian trainers would help build Taliban tactical and combat capabilities.”
An Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the new splinter group included the followers of Sadr.
The officials said the new group also includes members of the Feday-e Mahaz (Suicide Brigade) a small, hard-core offshoot of the mainstream Taliban.
The group is believed to be led by Haji Najibullah, a loyalist to radical Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, who was killed in a U.S.-led attack in Helmand Province in 2007.
Iran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, when the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan. Tehran also provided help to U.S. forces as they toppled the Taliban regime. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.
Tehran has confirmed it has contacts with the Taliban but insists that it is aimed at ensuring the safety of Iranian citizens in Afghanistan and encouraging the Taliban to join peace talks.
But U.S. officials have accused Tehran of providing material support to the Taliban, an allegation it denies.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in January accused Tehran of “actively working” to undermine the peace process in Afghanistan, adding that Iran was supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network.
In a report released in November, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said Iran provides financial, political, training, and material support to the Taliban.
“Tehran does not seek to return the Taliban to power but aims to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in the event that the Taliban gains a role in a future Afghan government,” the report said, adding that Iran’s support enabled it to advance its interests in Afghanistan and attain “strategic depth” in the country.
Taliban Divided Over Peace
The emergence of the Taliban splinter group has exposed serious divisions within the militant group.
The Taliban is believed to be divided over a peace settlement.
Its political leadership based in Pakistan is believed to be more open to a peace deal but hard-line military commanders on the battlefield in Afghanistan demand the restoration of the Taliban regime that ruled from 1996 to 2001.
Internal Taliban divisions have intensified after the death of founder and spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose death was revealed in 2015, more than two years after he had died in Pakistan.
Some Taliban commanders accused his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, of covering up Mullah Omar’s death and assuming leadership of the extremist group without proper approval.
Mullah Mansur struggled to quell the internal dissent and reconcile feuding factions, with some commanders splitting from the group and challenging his leadership.
Mullah Mansur was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016.
The succession of Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, a low-key Islamic scholar who was Mullah Mansur’s deputy, was also opposed.
But experts said the Taliban has overcome the succession crises, has fended off competition from the global appeal of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and has remained a relatively coherent fighting force despite a deadly war against foreign and Afghan forces.
Borhan Osman, an independent analyst and a leading expert on Islamic extremism and the militant networks operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, said divisions within the Taliban are not yet visible.
“So far the Taliban has been successful in spinning the agreement with the United States as an outright victory,” he said.
Osman said the Taliban’s unity will be tested during intra-Afghan talks, when Afghan and Taliban negotiators will discuss a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing deal.
The negotiations were scheduled to start in March but were delayed by disputes over the release of Taliban prisoners by the government and escalating militant attacks.
“The Taliban will be forced to come up with specific positions on issues and present their vision for a future Afghanistan,” said Osman.
The Taliban has been ambiguous on key issues, including women’s rights, the future distribution of power, and changes to the Afghan Constitution, reflecting the divisions within the group.
Many expect intra-Afghan negotiations to be complex and protracted, considering the gulf between the sides on policy and the sharing of power between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Internal rifts and rivalries have led to the emergence of various Taliban offshoots over the years, although many lack the military strength and support to pose a threat to the mainstream group.
The High Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — led by Mullah Mohammad Rasul — has been engaged in deadly clashes with fighters from the mainstream Taliban in southern and western Afghanistan since 2015, leaving scores dead on both sides.
The clashes have left the offshoot severely weakened, experts said, with many considering the group to be militarily irrelevant.
Mullah Rasul is believed to receive arms and support from Afghan intelligence in an attempt to divide the militant group.
China’s growing influence in the Asia-Pacific region has made some of its neighbors uneasy, and many are making political and military efforts to counter what they see as a potential threat.
An unofficial report from the Five Eyes intelligence partnership, made up of the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, recently warned about what it saw as “a concerted foreign interference campaign” from China against New Zealand.
The current government in Wellington has denied any tension with its Five Eyes partners, and its latest Strategic Defense Policy statement, released in July 2018 by Defense Minister Ron Mark, puts the perceived challenges posed by Beijing in clear language.
“New Zealand is navigating an increasingly complex and dynamic international security environment, and will also face compounding challenges of a scope and magnitude not previously seen in our neighbourhood,” the document says.
New Zealand’s leaders have in the past shied away from directly naming China when discussing tensions in the region, but the statement makes explicit criticisms of China, saying that even as Beijing has benefited from the international rules-based order and sought greater economic interconnectedness, “it has not consistently adopted the governance and values championed by the [international] order’s traditional leaders.”
China, it says, “holds views on human rights and freedom of information that stand in contrast to those that prevail in New Zealand.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping
Beijing wants to “restore claimed historical levels of influence in its periphery” and take “an enhanced global leadership role,” it adds. In Asia, “China’s more confident assertion of its interests has at times raised tensions with neighbouring states and with the United States.”
China’s growing military power raises the costs of acting against its interests, and Beijing also “has determined not to engage with an international tribunal ruling on the status of sovereignty claims,” the statement says, likely referring to a 2016 international-court ruling that rejected China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea.
The paper cites other challenges, such as illiberal approaches to the international order taken by countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia, internal concerns about national-security and political and demographic shifts in Western democracies, and global sources of disorder like terrorism, climate change, and cyber threats.
Uncertainty about the US’s future international role “has disruptive implications in itself,” the statement says. And amid increasing competition between world powers, “complex transnational threats will disrupt New Zealand’s neighbourhood in ways not previously seen.”
When presenting the document, Mark said it would not surprise China, which he said would respect New Zealand’s “forthrightness.” In the days since, however, Beijing has responded severely.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said July 9, 2018, that Beijing “lodged stern representations” with Wellington over the latter’s “wrong remarks.”
“We urge New Zealand to view the relevant issue in an objective way, correct its wrong words and deeds and contribute more to the mutual trust and cooperation between our two countries,” she said.
Winston Peters, New Zealand’s foreign minister, also said on July 9, 2018, that China had expressed concern over the paper through its ambassador in Wellington and to New Zealand’s ambassador in Beijing, but he downplayed the response and said his government would not change course.
“We’re not here to make people happy,” he said. “We’re here to be a responsible international citizen.”
“New Zealand’s position had firmed up,” Robert Alyson, a professor at Victoria University’s Center for Strategic Studies, told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s more willing to say things about China that are a bit critical.”
A P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft
New Zealand’s response to China’s growing presence is not been limited to words.
Days after announcing the new defense statement, the government there approved the nearly id=”listicle-2586055515″.5 billion purchase of four P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, which are made by Boeing and are in use by a number of allies, including Australia and the UK. South Korea also recently said it would purchase several Poseidons.
The purchase in Wellington’s biggest military buy in decades, and the planes will give the island nation enhanced patrol and intelligence-gathering capability — as well as an advanced sub hunter— at a time when China’s growing submarine fleet is worrying its neighbors.
Wellington got rid of its combat aircraft at the beginning of this century, and the fleet of aging P-3 Orion patrol aircraft that the Poseidons will replace have seen their maintenance costs spike over the past decade. The Defense Ministry has said the Orions would need to be replaced by the mid-2020s. The Poseidons are to start operations in 2023.
“This decision strengthens the coalition government’s Pacific reset by providing a maritime patrol capability with the significant range and endurance needed to assist our partners in the region,” Mark said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Tom Hanks is no stranger to producing incredible dramas that vividly revive battles and wars of the past.
From Saving Private Ryan to Band of Brothers and onward to the more-recent hit series, The Pacific, Hanks has outdone himself in bringing to light the gritty, true stories of combat throughout the Pacific and European theaters.
Now, Hanks, one of Hollywood’s best war-movie producers, will be teaming with another war-movie legend to tell the tale of the Allied airborne assault on Normandy in advance of the D-Day landings in June of 1944.
That’s right — Tom Hanks will be partnering up with retired U.S. Marine, author, and actor Dale Dye on his newest film project. Called No Better Place to Die, the movie tells the true story of a small group of paratroopers operating behind enemy lines during Mission Boston.
The actual mission itself, run by the U.S. Army’s 82nd “All American” Airborne Division, was later heralded as one of the most critical factors in ensuring the success of the D-Day amphibious landings.
“This is such an important and dramatic story that I’ve always wondered why no one has made a movie about it,” Dye remarks.
The defense of La Fiere Bridge, a vital part of the mission and the focus of the movie, was easily one of the most grueling engagements the 82nd’s All Americans would find themselves in throughout the war.
Listen to Dale Dye talk about the real story behind his movie and his plan to hire veterans to make it:
“I’m very glad to be teaming with Dale on this project,” Hanks said. He especially notes the importance of enhancing the discussion around D-Day and Operation Overlord with the 75th anniversary of the landings coming up later this year.
Hanks himself was a central character in Saving Private Ryan, playing Captain John Miller, an Army Ranger tasked with searching for and bringing home a paratrooper as part of the Sole Survivor policy, and his brothers were all killed in combat.
This won’t be the first time Hanks and Dye have worked together on a war drama. In 2001, Dye was featured in Hanks’ mini-series, Band of Brothers, playing Col. Robert Sink, commander of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Before that, Dye had a role in Saving Private Ryan as a War Department officer. The two also worked together on Forrest Gump in 1994.
In both Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, as well as Hanks’ recent series, The Pacific, Dye contributed his combat experiences and background as a Marine by advising the production team to ensure accuracy, and by leading actors through a conditioning boot camp to give them a brief yet necessary look into the military lives of the soldiers they would be portraying.
While these silver-screen hits do a lot to share the realities of war and the numerous untold stories of heroism and bravery with the general public, Dye and Hanks will be taking it a step further by actually hiring military veterans to play characters in the new movie. It doesn’t just tell the stories of combat veterans, it helps modern-day veterans, too.
Dye is no stranger to war, having served in combat in the jungles of Vietnam during the height of the war. Though a combat correspondent by trade, he wound up serving as an assistant machine gunner, volunteering to step outside the wire multiple times, even with a fresh injury from the Tet Offensive of 1968.
Retiring as a captain in 1984 after 20 years of service, both as an enlisted and a commissioned officer, Dye left the Marine Corps with a Bronze Star with a Combat V for his heroism in battle, earned while repeatedly exposing himself to withering enemy fire to rescue fallen comrades, and 3 Purple Hearts for wounds sustained in battle.
Given Dye’s track record with war movies, as both an advisor and an actor, and Hank’s history with WWII dramas, you can bet that No Better Place to Die will be an incredible must-watch when it makes its debut.
Tomahawks are flying, tensions are rising, and we’re just over here collecting memes and giggling. Here are 13 of our favorite funny military memes from this week, starting with a little shout out to the ships that conducted the strikes: