This week marked the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the beginning of the longest war in American history. Chances are, you’ve probably had the same conversation with your comrades, coworkers, friends, or whomever about where you were when you heard about the attacks.
Now that it’s been 18 years, that means that if you’re still in the military, you could now have that same conversation with a young private/airman/seaman and be greeted with the response of, “Oh, I wasn’t even born yet!”
Man — now I feel old when I tell people I was skipping some middle school class to play Pokemon on my Gameboy in the bathroom and came back to everyone watching the news. I can honestly say that I’ve never skipped class since that day.
Don’t worry. I get it. You’re now probably thinking about how old you are because you were doing something much more mature than I was seven years before I could enlist. Just wait for a few weeks when kids who were just sent off to Basic/Boot Camp on their 18th birthday graduate. There’s going to be some serious dog and pony shows for them and I bet it’ll be all over the news. Then you’ll really feel old!
Anyways, now that I’ve given you some existential dread about your own aging — here are some memes!
Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, the Trump administration said July 19 in a new report that also noted a decline in the number of terrorist attacks globally between 2015 and 2016.
In its annual “Country Reports on Terrorism,” released July 19, the State Department said Iran was the planet’s “foremost” state sponsor of terrorism in 2016, a dubious distinction the country has held for many years.
It said Iran was firm in its backing of anti-Israel groups as well as proxies that have destabilized already devastating conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. It also said Iran continued to recruit in Afghanistan and Pakistan for Shiite militia members to fight in Syria and Iraq. And, it said Iranian support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement was unchanged.
In terms of non-state actors, the report said the Islamic State group was responsible for more attacks and deaths than any other group in 2016, and was seeking to widen its operations particularly as it lost territory in Iraq and Syria. It carried out 20 percent more attacks in Iraq in 2016 compared with 2015, and its affiliates struck in more than 20 countries, according to the report.
Iran has been designated a “state sponsor of terrorism” by the State Department and is subjected to a variety of US sanctions since 1984, and many of the activities outlined in the report are identical to those detailed in previous reports. But, this year’s finding comes as the Trump administration moves to toughen its stance against Iran. The administration is expected to complete a full review of its policy on Iran next month.
President Donald Trump has been particularly critical of the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration and only reluctantly certified early this week that Iran remained entitled to some sanctions relief under its provisions.
“Iran remained the foremost state sponsor of terrorism in 2016 as groups supported by Iran maintained their capability to threaten US interests and allies,” said the report, the Trump administration’s first, which was released just a day after the administration slapped new sanctions on Iran for ballistic missile activity.
Some of those sanctions were imposed on people and companies affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the report said continues to play “a destabilizing role in military conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.”
Iran used a unit of the IRGC, the Qods Force, “to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East,” the report said. It added that Iran has publicly acknowledged its involvement in Syria and Iraq.
Hezbollah worked closely with Iran to support the attempt by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government to maintain and control territory, according to the report. And with Iranian support, Hezbollah continued to develop “long-term attack capabilities and infrastructure around the world,” it said.
The report also accused Iran of supplying weapons, money, and training to militant Shia groups in Bahrain, maintaining a “robust” cyber-terrorism program, and refusing to identify or prosecute senior members of the al-Qaeda network that it has detained.
As in previous reports, Sudan and Syria were also identified as “state sponsors of terrorism.”
In its final days, the Obama administration suspended some sanctions against Sudan in recognition of that country’s improved counter-terrorism record. In early July, the Trump administration extended those suspensions by three months. Countries can be removed from the list at any time following a formal review process, but the report offered no explanation for why Sudan remains on it.
In fact, it said counter-terrorism is now a national priority for the Khartoum government and that Sudan “is a cooperative partner of the United States on counter-terrorism, despite its continued presence on the state sponsors of terrorism list.”
Despite the activities of Iran and groups like the Islamic State in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria, and Boko Haram and al-Shabab in Africa, the total number of terrorist attacks in 2016 decreased by 9 percent from 11,774 in 2015 to 11,072, according to statistics compiled for the report by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.
That reduction was accompanied by a 13 percent decrease in deaths — from 28,328 to 25,621 — from such attacks over the same period. Of those killed in 2016, 16 were American citizens, including seven in high-profile attacks in Brussels in March and Nice, France, in July. Seventeen Americans were injured in the Brussels attack and three in Nice, the report said.
The report attributed the drops to fewer terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen. At the same time, the report said attacks in the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, and Turkey increased between 2015 and 2016.
With just over 5,000 employees, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is one of the smaller federal law enforcement agencies.
However, that doesn’t mean they don’t deal with their share of vicious individuals, groups, and threats. In fact, the ATF goes after some of the most violent criminals: those who want to shoot others or blow something or someone up. Naturally, being an ATF field agent requires a great deal of mental toughness.
Carlos Baixauli, or “Box” as his friends call him, joined the ATF in 1986. He was recruited after doing undercover work for Florida’s state version of the ATF and for the Miami-Dade Police Department; his 30-year career included working on the Medellín Cartel, headed by the infamous Pablo Escobar.
Baixauli in the field as an ATF agent.
(Photo courtesy of Carlos Baixauli)
His first experience as a new agent was witnessing an atrocity on New Year’s Eve at the Du Pont Plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“The plaza was set on fire by angry union workers,” Baixauli recalled. “They wanted to send a message, and in doing so, killed 98 people and injured over 100 others.”
Baixauli was tasked with walking through the crime scene to investigate.
“People were burned into place,” he said. The scene was like something out of a nightmare. “One thing that’s always stuck with me — they were busting out of a window, and this lady was getting ready to jump. Then a burst of air came out, feeding the fire, and a giant fireball came across, and it was like everyone had been turned into the ruins of Pompeii. They were all ash.”
It didn’t take long for Baixauli to be assigned more undercover operations that put him in harm’s way, dealing with armed home invaders. With home invasions, the crime often goes unreported.
“We started coming up on homes and there would be five or six dead Colombians, Venezuelans, or some other South American nationality in the house,” Baixauli said. “The house was empty. I’m talking big homes, five, six bedrooms. But there was no furniture or accessories. These are homes that the drug cartels would set up in Florida. They are guarded by their thugs, and they are stash houses. They would start delivering drugs from these locations to other locations. The reason they would find the people dead inside is that home invaders would go rip off the dope dealers.”
His undercover role was that of a disgruntled employee of the drug cartel. Baixauli would tell the criminals that he wasn’t making enough money, that there were millions of dollars worth of drugs in these houses, and that he needed his fair share.
“They would talk to me about how they can come and rip the place off,” Baixauli said. “They would take the drugs and the money.”
An ATF Special Response Teams searches an exterior of a building in Baltimore, Md.
According to Baixauli, they were usually either a stash house or a drug house. He would meet with them four to five times before taking them to a house the ATF was in control of already.
“The violent nature of these guys,” he said, “they knew they were going into a gunfight. We were just lucky that we won.”
Sometimes his meetings as an undercover agent resulted in a brush with death.
Later in his career, Baixauli found himself amongst a rough crowd at a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant in South Beach.
“I’m sitting there, and a guy puts a gun into my side. My team is wired up and they’re outside. I had to let them know I’m at gunpoint but they needed to wait for the code word because I needed to talk my way out of the situation I was in,” Baixauli said. “The guy with the gun says, ‘Tell me where the stash house is.'”
Instead, he made a comment about the gun. “Why do you have that .45 in my side? Somebody is going to see it outside or from the bar. We have a good deal going here, and now we aren’t going to make any money.”
Baixauli kept his cool and didn’t even signal that the gun concerned him.
“If you’re going to keep the gun on me, put it in my back,” he said. “Nobody can see it then.”
He recalled the event as if reliving it. “We are moving. My team is listening. They are making a move towards the front door. ‘The cashier is going to see the gun,’ I tell the guy. The whole time I’m giving a play by play to my crew outside. Walking towards the front door, I see the cover team. Soon as I go through the door, this guy comes behind him, and he’s taken down easily.”
Baixauli with .7 million in recovered cash.
(Photo courtesy of Carlos Baixauli)
One way the ATF differentiates from other law enforcement agencies is that they try not use confidential or criminal informants (CIs).
“ATF doesn’t deal with CIs. CI always brings baggage. The best hand-to-hand is between a good guy and a bad guy. If I need a CI to introduce me to a bad guy, and we do a deal with the CI, we throw that deal away. We don’t want to deal with the baggage from the CI. As soon as we could cut the CI out, we would,” Baixauli said.
While he’s been out of the ATF since 2016, Baixauli is still concerned about current threats; he sees groups like MS-13 as a bigger threat to the U.S than even Pablo Escobar’s cartel.
“MS-13 is 10 times worse. Drugs, extortion, brutal murders, prostitution, terrorizing people — and as far as law enforcement is concerned, they are animals who have no feeling for life.” In 2017, it was reported that the group stabbed a victim 100 times, beheaded him, and ripped out his heart.
Despite the danger, Baixauli loved his job with the ATF so much that he can’t remember a day he didn’t look forward to work. “I loved it,” he said. “I just loved it.”
At the beginning of 2017, after Dutch fighter pilots deployed to Lithuania on a Baltic Air Policing rotation called home using their own phones, their families started getting sinister phone calls.
The men on the calls, made with pre-paid sim cards, spoke English with Russian accents, according to reports in Dutch media, and would ask the recipients questions like “Do you know what your partner is doing there?” and “Wouldn’t it be better if he left?”
Later that summer, after US Army Lt. Col. Christopher L’Heureux took command of a NATO base in Poland, he returned to his truck after a drill to find someone had breached his personal iPhone, turning on lost mode and trying to get around a second password using Russian IP address.
“It had a little Apple map, and in the center of the map was Moscow,” L’Heureux, who was stationed not far from a major Russian military base, told The Wall Street Journal in 2017. “It said, ‘Somebody is trying to access your iPhone.'”
US Army armored units in Poland.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Eaddy)
Those incidents and others like them reflect ongoing efforts by Russians to misinform and intimidate civilians and troops in Europe and abroad.
“Malign influence is of great concern, specifically in the information domain,” US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, told reports at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.
“A comprehensive defense involves air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace, which are the five domains that we recognize in NATO,” Wolters added.
But on the fringes of those domains, he said, is hybrid activity, “and part of hybrid activity happens to be information operations … and from a malign influence standpoint we see that often from Russia.”
Learning and building resistance
Several soldiers under L’Heureux’s command had their phones or social-media accounts hacked, according to The Journal.
Wolters, who took over European Command in May 2019, said US personnel and families under his command hadn’t been targeted with that kind of harassment — spokesmen for British and French contingents deployed to the Baltics have recently said the same of their troops — but they have encountered “misinformation” put out by Russia media, including state-backed television channel RT TV.
“If … they’re part of US EUCOM, and they’re in Europe, and they happen to see RT TV, this is a classic example of misinformation,” Wolters said.
“Probably not to the severity” of those 2017 incidents, he added, “but it is another example of exposure of misinformation and from a malign influence perspective on behalf of Russia in the info ops sphere against citizens” in Europe.
Misinformation campaigns are central to Russia’s strategy on and off the battlefield as the 2016 US election interference showed, and not limited to whoever happens to be watching RT.
In Lithuania in 2017, officials warned of propaganda efforts seeking to undermine Lithuanian territorial claims and set the stage for “kinetic operations” by Moscow, a persistent concern among Russia’s smaller Baltic neighbors. Russia is also suspected of orchestrating a broader disinformation campaign to smear NATO’s reputation in Lithuania.
Farther north, Finland has dealt with Russian misinformation throughout the century since it declared independence from its larger neighbor, with which it shares a long border and a contentious history.
Helsinki launched an initiative to build media literacy and counter fake news among its citizens in 2014. The Finnish capital is also home to the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, set up in 2017 by a dozen members of the EU and NATO.
Former US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis praised the Hybrid CoE, as it’s known, for allowing democracies involved to research shared concerns and threats — “each of us learning from the other and building resistance to those with malign intent toward our democracies.”
US Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters speaks with airmen during a visit to RAF Mildenhall in England, June 22, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)
‘Willing to deter in all domains’
While Wolters said personnel under his command haven’t experienced the kind of electronic interference seen in 2017, it’s something they should expect and prepare for, according to Ken Giles, senior consulting fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the British think tank Chatham House, who called those 2017 incidents “unprecedented in recent times.”
“NATO forces should by now be training and exercising with the assumption that they will be under not only electronic and cyberattack, but also individual and personalized information attack, including exploitation of personal data harvested from any connected device brought into an operational area,” Giles wrote in August.
Wolters said his command and its European partners are working together to prepare troops to face and thwart that kind of assault.
“To have a good, comprehensive defense you have to be willing to deter in all domains, to include the information domain, so we have ongoing activities … that involve what we do in US EUCOM with the NATO nations and what we do in US EUCOM with all the partner nations,” Wolters said Tuesday.
Polish soldiers use an anti-aircraft cannon’s sights to simulate engaging enemy aircraft during exercise Saber Strike 18 at Bemowo Piskie Training Area in Poland, June 14, 2018.
(Michigan Army National Guard photo by Spc. Alan Prince)
At the Supreme Headquarters for Allied Powers in Europe, or SHAPE, Wolters said, “we have information operations, deterrence activities that take place with the 29 [NATO members]” and with NATO partner nations, including Finland, Ukraine, and Georgia.
Most reports of harassment and intimidation of NATO personnel date to the years immediately after the 2014 Russian incursion in Ukraine, when NATO increased activity along its eastern flank, Giles noted in an interview with Military.com in September.
That may just mean the campaign has changed form rather than stopped, Giles said, adding that such incidents could be reduced, though not prevented, by speaking more openly about the threat and by strengthening information security among NATO personnel.
Wolters said his command does have ongoing information-operations training.
“For an infantry soldier that’s part of the battalion-size battle group that’s currently operating in Poland, they receive information-ops training, and they know that that info-ops training is just as important as the training to shoot a 9 mm pistol,” he said Tuesday. “From that standpoint we ensure that we counter with the facts, and we don’t hesitate to call out when truths are not being told in public with respect to the activities that are taking place in NATO and … in Europe.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
With each passing day, tensions flare anew on the Korean Peninsula. By now, we all know that North Korea’s been hard at work dong what they do best: Launching test missiles and fiery rhetoric.
On Dec. 4, the U.S. and South Korea kicked off their largest joint air exercise yet, dubbed Vigilant Ace 18, involving hundreds of aircraft and tends of thousands of troops on the ground. As you might expect, Pyongyang wasn’t too happy about the drills, going as far as saying Dec. 2 that Trump’s Administration is “begging for nuclear war.”
While we’re at a point now where North Korean threats are as routine as the sunrise, China has sent an aggressive message in passive support of the belligerent state that warrants more serious attention.
People’s Liberation Army Air Force Spokesman Shen Jinke announced Dec. 4 (the same day as Vigilant Ace 18 kicked off) that China would be running drills through “routes and areas it has never flown before.” These new routes are expected to cover airspace over the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. The exercises will involve all variety of aircraft, from reconnaissance planes to fighter jets, in joint operation with surface-to-air missiles. Simultaneously, China launched drills Dec. 2 that involve sending new Shaanxi Y-9 transport aircraft over the South China Sea, simulating an airdrop over an island in contested waters.
Though Chinese military officials will likely claim that the new drills are not in direct response to U.S. and South Korean actions, military experts agree that this show of force warns against the continued provocation of North Korea.
The U.S. and China have a rocky history, but are far from going to blows. That being said, should conflict erupt on the Korea Peninsula, we’ll quickly see how the chips fall.
The moment Otto Catalan had waited almost two decades for had finally arrived. Sitting in a small office, surrounded by his doctors and other medical staff, the blind U.S. Navy Veteran could only hope for one thing: to see the face of his teenage son for the first time.
“I see a lot of flashes, and they’re getting brighter,” he said. “Wow. It’s amazing.”
He turned his head to the right and saw bright flashes of light reflecting off the white coat of Miami VA Chief of Ophthalmology Dr. Ninel Gregori. When he turned to the left to talk with his son, he paused and began to cry. Gregori hugged him.
“Thank you very much, guys,” he said. “I’ll work hard, so I can see. It’s been 19 years, and I have been able to see my son. Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Catalan is keeping true to his word and continuing to work hard to learn how to use his new Argus® II prosthesis or “bionic eye.” Even though he struggled for years to come to terms with the loss of his sight, Catalan now feels optimistic about moving forward and beginning a new life.
“I’m learning something new everyday,” he said. “This prosthetic will help me be more successful in life. It’s already helping me be more mobile at home, and it’s going to make a big difference for me at work.”
Catalan’s struggles with vision loss began in 1989, when he was serving as a ship serviceman in the U.S. Navy. While he was on guard duty aboard a ship in the middle of the Persian Gulf, everything suddenly went dark.
“It felt like I was walking in the dark,” he said. “I told my superior officer, and he sent me to a doctor, but they couldn’t find out what it was. We went back to Virginia. They did extensive tests, and that’s when they found out I had retinitis pigmentosa.”
Catalan was scared when he heard the diagnosis. He never heard of retinitis pigmentosa and didn’t know what it would mean for his future. He was immediately removed from the ship and sent to rehab, and would eventually be medically separated from the military.
What is retinitis pigmentosa?
“Retinitis pigmentosa is one of the most common inherited diseases we see in ophthalmology,” Gregori said. “For people with this condition and certainly in Mr. Catalan’s case, the retina becomes very thin, and the photoreceptors, which convert light into electrical signals, gradually die off over time. Initially, peripheral vision, or the side vision, goes away, and then finally the central vision disappears.”
Catalan’s eyesight continued to deteriorate. Still needing to make money, he took a job as a cook. As his conditioned worsened, he struggled to tell if food was cooked and even burned himself multiple times. It was at this point that Catalan knew he needed help, so he went to the Northport VA Medical Center in New York.
“My doctors told me I needed to start preparing because I was going to be permanently blind soon,” he said. “After I heard that, I remember crying all the time. I couldn’t even hear someone say the word ‘see’ because I would burst into tears.”
The Northport VAMC referred Catalan to the VA Connecticut Healthcare System to participate in its Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Service’s three-month training program. While sitting through the training sessions and listening to the instructors and other Veterans, Catalan unexpectedly learned a valuable life lesson.
“Once I met other blind Vietnam Veterans at VA Connecticut and saw how well they were dealing with their situation, I never cried about my own condition again,” he said.
Throughout the program, he also learned to perform everyday tasks, such as shave his face, eat with utensils, identify clothing and walk with a cane. He stayed an additional two months to learn to use a computer and screen-reader technology.
Moving to Florida
In 2005, Catalan heard about ophthalmology research being conducted at the Miami VA Healthcare System and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which serves as the ophthalmology department of the University of Miami Health System. He moved his family to Cutler Bay, Florida and transferred his care to the then Miami VA Medical Center—where he worked with Roberta Goldstein, now retired Miami VA visual impairment services team coordinator.
“Roberta was great,” he said. “She referred me to the prosthetics department at the West Palm Beach VAMC, so I could get equipment to help me go back to work. She’s the best.”
Shortly after receiving his prosthetics equipment, Catalan landed a job as a resource specialist with Marriott Hotels—where he still works today. He says Marriott has been accommodating to his condition, and he hopes to be considered for promotion one day.
In March 2015, he received a phone call that would help his chances of getting that long-awaited promotion and also change his life.
One of my hopes was to see my son’s face for the first time
When he heard about the “bionic eye,” Catalan requested an evaluation for the device at the Miami VA Eye Clinic. With the help of the low vision Miami VA team, Gregori selected him for the Argus II® screening evaluation and personally called his home to ask if he was still interested.
“He was a perfect candidate,” Gregori said. “His personality was extremely important. With artificial vision, the patient must have the patience to learn to interpret the lights and images he or she is seeing. Learning to use the Argus II is like learning a new language, so individuals with both an optimistic personality and a strong willingness to work hard are the best candidates for the technology.”
Dr. Gregori is the Miami VA chief of ophthalmology and an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. In 2004, she was part of the surgical team that implanted the first Argus II® retinal prosthesis in a Florida patient, a non-Veteran from Tampa. She was eager to bring the new technology to the Miami VA, where she proudly serves South Florida Veterans and has lead the ophthalmology department for the past 10 years.
“Miami VA Medical Center Director Paul Russo and Chief of Surgery Dr. Seth Spector both enthusiastically welcomed the idea of making the bionic eye available to our Veterans. It would not have been possible without their support,” Gregori said.
It felt like I had just given somebody the best Christmas present
Catalan underwent surgery to implant the Argus® II, a new prosthesis approved in 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration to treat people with end-stages of retinitis pigmentosa, at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute on Nov. 24, 2015. Catalan’s bionic eye was activated Dec. 11 by the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s biomedical engineers, under the supervision of Miami VA’s Dr. Ninel Gregori. Even though Gregori and her team had already been through the experience of turning on the prosthesis with a previous patient, Catalan’s moment was emotional nonetheless.
“When it was turned on, Mr. Catalan started crying, and it brought tears to my eyes,” Gregori said. “It felt like I just gave somebody the best Christmas present I had ever given to anybody in my life. That’s why I went into ophthalmology.”
“After 19 years, the first thing I saw was my son’s face,” Catalan said. “I could also see Dr. Gregori, and when we walked around the hall, I was able to tell where the door and window frames were for the first time. That might not mean a lot to other people, but it meant so much to me.”
Catalan continues to work with the Miami VA Blind Rehabilitation Team, lead by optometrist Dr. Kasey Zann, to learn how to use the Argus II® in his everyday life. Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist Linh Pham visits his home and trains him to use the device in his home environment and in public. He also works regularly with Gregori and her team at the Miami VA Eye Clinic.
“The Miami VA Healthcare System has amazing low vision and blind rehabilitation resources for Veterans. It is an ideal setting for rehabilitation after Argus II implantation,” Gregori said.
At home, Catalan now sees objects and walls, and can even see lights and motion on his television for the first time. His next goal is to learn to use his new computer at work. After his training, he will be able to see shapes, the different windows and letters on his computer screen.
During an outing with his family in early 2015, Catalan was surprised to see a sight he had not seen in years.
“On New Year’s Eve, I was able to see the fireworks outside for the first time in 19 years. My mouth stayed open for a while,” he said. “Now, when I’m walking on the grass, I can see the lines where the grass is versus where the sidewalk is. The fact that I’m walking outside and can see the lights makes it all worth it.”
About the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System
The Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System—made by Second Sight Medical Products, Inc.—is an artificial retina, or bionic eye, that converts images into light and uses a miniature video camera that is mounted on a pair of glasses, said Gregori. Once the images are converted, they are wirelessly transmitted to a surgically implanted prosthesis located in the patient’s eye. The implant then stimulates the retina to produce an image that is sent to the brain for interpretation.
Despite President Donald Trump’s national-security advisers’ note reminding him “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” Russian President Vladimir Putin on his election victory during their call on March 20, 2018, Trump did anyway.
When asked whether Trump thought Putin’s election victory was free and fair during a press briefing that day, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders demurred.
“We’re focused on our elections,” she said. “We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate.”
During another press briefing in February 2018, Sanders argued Trump had been “tougher on Russia in the first year than [former President Barack] Obama was in eight years combined.”
This argument has become a frequent line of defense Trump officials have used when pressed about the administration’s complicated relationship with Russia.
Trump, whose response to the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russia meddled in the 2016 US election has been lukewarm at best, is often perceived as being hesitant to confront the Kremlin’s aggression.
But the Trump administration has actually taken some concrete actions against Russia. Here are five examples:
Trump originally signed the sanctions bill — officially called the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act — August 2017, albeit begrudgingly.
The sanctions bill also imposes a wide range of sanctions on North Korea and Iran.
2. Closing of diplomatic facilities
After Congress approved Russia-related sanctions summer 2017, Russia expelled 755 American diplomats from the country.
In response, the Trump administration ordered Russia to close three of its diplomatic facilities in the US, including its consulate in San Francisco and two annexes in Washington, DC and New York City.
3. Arms sale to Ukraine
In December 2017, Trump announced his support for the sale of lethal munitions to the Ukrainian government in its fight against Russian-backed separatists in the country’s Donbas region, a move that angered Russia, which has been engaged in a hybrid war in the region for the past four years.
The State Department officially approved $47 million weapons sale in early March 2018. It included Javelin launchers and anti-tank missiles.
The US, the UK, France, and Germany all blamed Russia for the attack.
Although Trump initially failed to deliver a forceful condemnation of Russia for the attack, other officials in his administration picked up the slack.
“Over the past four years, Russia has engaged in a campaign of coercion and violence, targeting anyone opposed to its attempted annexation,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“We stand behind those courageous individuals who continue to speak out about these abuses and we call on Russia to cease its attempts to quell fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and religion or belief.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the attack “clearly came from Russia” and US Ambassador to the US Nikki Haley said the US stood in “absolute solidarity” with the UK after the attack.
A full day after the UK blamed Russia, Trump told reporters that “as soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.” Referring to the UK’s findings, he added, “It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia, and I would certainly take that finding as fact.”
National-security experts were baffled and alarmed by Trump’s delayed reaction to the chemical attack.
Trump then joined a statement with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreeing that there was “no plausible alternative explanation” than that Russia was to blame for the attack.
5. Trump officials repeatedly criticize Moscow
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley have been particularly critical of Russia.
On March 7, 2018, Nauert condemned Russia in a tweet, saying that it ignored a UN ceasefire agreement in Syria by bombing civilians in Damascus and Eastern Ghouta.
Her criticism elicited a direct response from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), which told Nauert to “calm down.”
“Your propaganda machine is out of control — you’re spamming all of us,” the MFA added.
In January 2018, Nauert condemned Russia for supporting separatists in the country of Georgia. Trump recently promoted her to undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.
Haley has also been critical of Russia over a variety of issues, including Moscow’s support for Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine.
Do you love beer? Do you love money? Are you a military veteran who owns a business? Would you like to improve your business strategy and learn from experts through mentoring in essential business disciplines, such as social media, sales and distribution, marketing, and package design?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then listen up. The StreetShares Foundation is teaming up with Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream to provide the military and veteran-community with access to capital and mentoring through StreetShares’ Veteran Small Business Awards.
The StreetShares’ Veteran Small Business Award will provide $100,000 in business grants to the chosen recipient in addition to educational resources and support. By connecting you with experts and hosting speed-coaching events all across the country, StreetShares gets to help you, a veteran and entrepreneur, succeed!
To apply, submit a video pitch and short application to the StreetShares Foundation website. In your application, be sure to include a business idea, how you’d use reward funds, how your product or service fits your target market, team and company history, and how your business impacts the military and veteran community.
The StreetShares Foundation was launched on Veterans Day, 2016, with the goal of educating, inspiring, and supporting veteran business owners across America. The Foundation is run by veterans and is based just outside of our nation’s capital.
“Research shows military veterans give back to their communities in powerful ways. But studies also show this special breed of entrepreneurs need coaching and better mentor networks,” said StreetShares Foundation Board Member, Mark L. Rockefeller. “Our partnership with Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream addresses these needs head-on. Together, we’ll provide community-impact veteran business owners with free coaching, mentoring, and grants to put their dreams in motion.”
Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream is a philanthropic program that embodies Sam Adams’ pursuit for greatness by providing food and beverage startups with real-world business advice. Since 2008, they’ve provided coaching and loans to over 40 breweries across the country totaling more than id=”listicle-2557006807″ million.
Margaret Thatcher considered an SAS-style raid to resupply Britain’s besieged embassy in Iraqi-occupied Kuwait, which was running out of water, food, and fuel in the run-up to the Gulf War in September 1990, newly released Downing Street papers reveal.
After his shock invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, Saddam Hussein had given the diplomats three weeks to transfer their operations to Baghdad but the British along with other embassies refused to leave.
Percy Cradock, Thatcher’s veteran foreign affairs adviser, was asked to investigate the possibility of using military special forces to resupply the embassy, where four remaining diplomats, including the ambassador, were living behind 3-4-meter (10-12ft) high walls topped with barbed wire.
“Outside, the embassy is under the surveillance of guards. Kuwait City itself is dense with Iraqi infantry. The occupants reckon they have supplies to last 50 days (about the end of October with reduced communications activity). After that they will need water, food, and fuel,” Cradock reported back to Thatcher.
“We looked at the possibility of resupplying of our embassy by means of a military operation. This has been carefully examined in the Ministry of Defense and the military view is that the hazards in relation to benefits would be excessive. Kuwait and its approaches are heavily defended. There are mines on the beaches and plentiful air defense. The sea approaches are patrolled by Iraqi fast boats. We have no available submarine and a sea approach would involve bringing a destroyer or frigate dangerously close to shore,” he said.
A parachute drop was ruled out as impractical and while they could get a helicopter in it was unlikely to get out again, simply adding to the number of people to be fed and exposing the helicopter crew to probably fatal reprisals by the Iraqis.
Another idea considered was asking the Kuwaiti resistance to get local people to drop small quantities of supplies over the walls at night but an initial response indicates this was considered difficult and dangerous.
Nevertheless, the British remained along with the Americans, Germans, and French, who were also cut off from utilities. Nearly two months later a telegram dated 3 November 1990 appeared in the Downing Street file with a note: “From our man in Kuwait.” Signed “Burton,” it reported “regrettably there is little ‘haute’ about my cuisine, at least in these circumstances.
“We have one meal a day, consisting of rice and pasta alternately. We still have quite a lot of tins of tuna and a few of frankfurters, plus a lot of spices, mostly taken from the servants’ quarters.
“Unfortunately we are very short of onions, though we do have garlic, and have only a few tins of tomatoes and tomato paste. We have a little powdered milk left and ‘gram’ powder made from chickpeas, I think, so I can make white sauces. We have used up all our ordinary flour, which means I can no longer make bread, as I did in the early days.”
The besieged diplomat reported that curried tuna and tuna lasagna were both popular, and so was crab in cheese sauce: “Curried frankfurter is rather less so, though ‘sausage chasseur’ is accepted.”
In the event the British embassy held on until 16 December before making its way to Baghdad. The US-led coalition assault, known as Operation Desert Storm, started the following month, in January 1991, to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait.
But he is also a strong supporter of the military, especially veterans.
At the Pro-Am, Rodgers participated in a Hole-in-One challenge where various celebrities tried to get a hole-in-one or as close to the pin as possible.
Rodgers finished second behind country star Jake Owen but ahead of the likes of Peyton Manning, Steve Young, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, and Larry Fitzgerald. His performance earned him ,000, and Rodgers picked the Wounded Warrior Project as the charity for his donation.
Here you can see him in action—his qualifying shot.
Aaron’s support for the military extends beyond this single act.
Rodgers’ military ties start with his family. His grandfather was a WWII pilot that was a POW. Rodgers recounts his college days playing for Cal and visiting a military hospital in San Diego in the lead up to the Holiday Bowl.
“I obviously admired them for their courage and sacrifice. But what really struck me was that despite their injuries, some of them couldn’t wait to get back to active duty. They were pleading with their doctors to help them so they could rejoin their units and continue fighting.”
Rodgers talks about his interactions with wounded vets, the effect their fighting spirit has on him, and how important it is to care for them.
“To me, when it comes to taking care of our veterans and helping them not just assimilate back into society, but to actually thrive, I don’t think there’s any limit to what we can and should do.“
Ever since the F-35 Lighting II program started experiencing cost overruns – a nice way of saying it was hemorrhaging cash – much has been made of its excessive cost in both time and money. But the F-35 is hardly the most expensive Pentagon weapons system in the history of the Big Green Machine, it’s just that the F-35 is the first one to get the scrutiny that an internet-gifted public can give a Pentagon weapons program.
With the B-21 Raider bomber coming into production soon, it might be a good idea to look back and see the most expensive airframes ever created by the U.S. Air Force. For reference, although the development of the F-35 topped $1.5 trillion, the cost per plane is a relatively minuscule $115 million.
The only caveat to this list are the Presidential planes, commonly referred to as Air Force One. Each of those cost $600 million apiece and would sit at number two on this list, but since they’re a specialty item with only two models in service I opted to make room for others.
Northrop Grumman’s tactical airborne early warning airframe has been in service since the Navy of the 1960s. An upgraded version, the Advanced Hawkeye, flies with the same mission but upgraded avionics, comms, and sensors. This advanced version comes with an advanced price tag, 2 million apiece.
The Kestrel is the only helicopter on this list and is actually no longer in service. At 1 million apiece, it was intended to replace the Marines’ Marine One helicopter for moving the President around (among other missions), but the cost of developing it ballooned out of control quickly and the program was canceled. The models were all sold to Canada for spare parts.
This anti-submarine aircraft is just ten years old and comes with the capability to support early warning systems and surface warfare as well. It can even defend itself in air combat when necessary. All those bells and whistles come at a price though – 6 million.
C-17 Globemaster III
The Globemaster III is Boeing’s air cargo masterpiece. At almost 25 years old, there is no more reliable and maintenance friendly airframe in the Air Force that is also capable of the kind of heavy lifting the U.S. military asks of it. Over the course of its life, a single C-17 will run upwards of 8 million.
Second only in technological advancement to its younger sibling, the F-35, the F-22 Raptor still manages to edge the Lightning II out in many areas, including price tag. At 0 million per aircraft, its radar cross section is that of a steel marble. The F-22 didn’t really need to go out of production (some will even argue the U.S. should restart the program), it’s just that the F-35 is a more versatile, fifth-generation fighter.
At the time of its production, it was estimated to cost 7 million apiece, which would already have made it the most expensive aircraft ever built. But tacking on its much-needed upgrades and refits less than a decade later puts the per unit cost of a B-2 bomber at a whopping .1 billion each.
“Don’t come here, it’s too dangerous!” my sister texted my mother a few weeks ago. “If you were to become infected with coronavirus, I would never forgive myself.”
My parents live in Naples, southern Italy, where I was born and raised before becoming an American citizen in 2018. My sister is in graduate school to become an anesthesiologist and she works in one of the most affected hospitals in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, one of the first areas to be designated as a red zone in the country.
The Costagliola family on vacation at Disney World.
My parents, who are both over 65 years of age, were supposed to go visit my sister up north before coming to visit my family and I in New York, something they do at least once a year. We had it all planned out: they would join us in Syracuse — where we are currently stationed — and after a week, we were going to take a road trip all the way down to Florida, stopping at the most iconic landmarks on the East Coast, taking plenty of photos for my two children to look back on one day and reminisce on the precious moments they spent with their grandparents.
My 8-year-old son was counting down the days until the arrival of his Nanna and Babba, who had promised to bring an entire suitcase filled with presents for him and his 4-year-old sister — something they do every time they come visit. “Mamma, only 30 days left!” he shouted with excitement as he stepped off the school bus one afternoon. “Baby, I have to tell you something…” I said as I invited him to sit on the couch next to me. The words that came out of my mouth during that conversation sounded like something out of a script of an Apocalyptic science fiction movie.
Tiziana Costagliola at work at one of the most affected hospitals in the Lombardy region.
Only a few hours earlier, I had spoken to my parents via Skype and my mother, a primary care provider, told me with tears in her eyes, “I love you, and that’s why I won’t come visit you guys.”
I couldn’t believe it.
The coronavirus had started spreading in Italy, but it was mostly contained in the red zone. It wasn’t even in southern Italy yet. Borders were open, flights were departing as scheduled, cruise ships were taking excited passengers to the most exotic corners of the world, and theme parks were still selling way too much candy to children running toward their favorite ride.
Yet, my parents had decided to cancel their trips. They would not be going to visit my sister nor would they be coming to visit us in the United States of America. “It’s going to get much worse before it gets better, sweetheart.” My mother explained, “And I would never forgive myself if I unknowingly brought the virus to you all.”
It’s going to get much worse. That thought kept haunting my mind, day and night. It sounded like a prophecy.
“We were just told to choose which patients to save…” my sister wrote a few days later in a family group chat on WhatsApp. “We are to pick younger patients over older ones, as they have better chances of surviving the coronavirus.”
Meanwhile, life in the United States of America was proceeding as usual. Children off to school, grocery shopping done, and manuscripts edited. But the headlines in the news began mirroring what I was hearing from my mother and sister back home. Not enough hospital rooms. Virus spreads to southern Italy as well. Italy struggles to contain outbreak. Italian hospitals out of ICU beds. Airlines have canceled their flights to and from Italy.
It was a nightmare. What was happening to my home country? What was happening to my family and friends?
But then, Italy took a deep breath, looked in the mirror and reminded herself of who she is. The land of art, eternal love, good food, genuine smiles, warm sun and glittering Mediterranean waters. An entire red zone with 60 million people in quarantine, Italians stepped outside their balconies, playing instruments, singing, dancing and keeping each other company.
Coronavirus: quarantined Italians sing from balconies to lift spirits
At the end of their impromptu concerts and shows, they could be heard yelling, “Andrà tutto bene!”
Everything’s going to be alright.
And now that we are also facing the reality of the outbreak here in the United States of America, let’s remind ourselves that, if we all do our part, everything will be alright.
As for that vacation, we were planning on taking; it wasn’t canceled, just postponed to when we are allowed to finally hug each other again. And if my children have it their way, it’ll be even bigger and better than the one we had originally planned.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on March 26, 2019, to protect the US from electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) that could have a “debilitating” effect on critical US infrastructure.
Trump instructed federal agencies to identify EMP threats to vital US systems and determine ways to guard against them, Bloomberg first reported. A potentially harmful EMP event can be caused by a natural occurrence or the detonation of a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere.
The threat of an EMP attack against the US reportedly drove the president to issue March 26, 2019’s order. Multiple federal agencies, as well as the White House National Security Council, have been instructed to make this a priority.
“Today’s executive order — the first ever to establish a comprehensive policy to improve resilience to EMPs — is one more example of how the administration is keeping its promise to always be vigilant against present dangers and future threats,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement, according to The Hill.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
With the release of the White House National Security Strategy in 2017, Trump became the first president to highlight the need to protect to the US electrical grid.
“Critical infrastructure keeps our food fresh, our houses warm, our trade flowing, and our citizens productive and safe,” the document said.
“The vulnerability of U.S. critical infrastructure to cyber, physical, and electromagnetic attacks means that adversaries could disrupt military command and control, banking and financial operations, the electrical grid, and means of communication.”
Senior US officials warned that the US needs to take steps to safeguard the electrical grid and other important infrastructure against EMP attacks, The Washington Free Beacon reported on March 26, 2019. “We need to reduce the uncertainty in this space” and “mitigate potential impact” of an EMP attack, one senior administration official said.
“We are taking concrete steps to address this threat,” the official added. “The steps that we are taking are designed to protect key systems, networks and assets that are most at risk from EMP events.” Federal agencies are being tasked with bolstering the resiliency of critical infrastructure.
Members and supporters of the decommissioned US Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse have long warned of the possibility of an EMP attack, with some individuals, such as Peter Pry, who previously led the congressional EMP commission, asserting that an EMP attack on America could kill off 90% of the US population.
Those seeking to raise awareness have pointed to the threat from solar flares, as well as nuclear-armed adversarial powers.
Others, including Jeffrey Lewis, a renowned nuclear-weapons expert, have said that the EMP threat is a conspiracy. Lewis previously wrote that it seemed “like the sort of overcomplicated plot dreamed up by a Bond villain, one that only works in the movies. Bad movies.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.