Our family is discovering a new adventure as the pandemic continues and a normal school year is not on the horizon. I never, ever planned to be a homeschool mom. But when the pandemic hit and my boys were home each day, I realized how much I enjoyed their company and oddly how much I missed them each day they went to school. And while it requires a lot of flexibility to continue running my business, I know that homeschooling is the best option for our family. As a family, we have learned a lot about the advantages of homeschooling. And I’m quickly realizing my past life as an Air Force Officer is playing into my strengths when it comes to homeschooling. Here are a few ways the military prepared me to be a homeschool mom.
Moving forward with confidence
The military teaches you to make a choice and move forward. When our school district came out with the options for the upcoming school year, the options laid forward by the district didn’t feel like the right choice for our family. So, my husband and I decided to start looking into homeschooling. The more research we did the more confident we were in the choice to homeschool. Now that school is starting all over the country, I realize homeschooling was the best option for our family and I am thankful we made this choice months ago. I did the research, made a choice and am now moving forward with confidence. Just like the military trained me to do.
Know the Objectives, Create a Mission Plan
When people hear I am homeschooling they often ask what curriculum I am using. My answer: I’m not. I have done enough research on the standards that my boys need to meet by the end of the school year and am working to create tools we need to get there. I guess I have always been part of the unschooled philosophy and find lesson plans too restrictive. We have a schedule and a plan for each week, the military trained me for that too, but I also know where we need to go and don’t need any one person to tell me how to get there. My military background has me focused on the mission and I even have created waypoints throughout the school year to help access where we are, where we are going and I am ready to make adjustments along the way.
Delegate when necessary
While I’m really excited about teaching math and science, oddly enough, even though my job is to write, I don’t feel confident in teaching my son how to read. He is entering second grade and is behind in reading. Most of the homework around reading last year was filled with frustration on both my son’s and my part. So, my husband and I decided to delegate this responsibility. My husband and I did our research and we have started using the Easy Read System. It is a program that helps my son while I work along with him. It is a team effort and the best part? There is no yelling or frustration. It is actually fun, for both of us. He is making progress with reading and writing with this tool and I am excited to see what he learns over the next few months.
We also have been long time subscribers to Kiwi Co Science Crates. Each month we get a new Kiwi Crate for both my seven and four year olds. In the past, we focused on the activity and often didn’t dive into the extra resources provided. But now we are planning to not only enjoy the project that comes each month, but use the additional resources for science learning.
We are also relying on our Disney+ subscription, but not to watch Mickey Mouse. Both our boys also have a love of animals so we have been using Disney+ Natural Geographic Channel to learn about different animals each week. We also are big fans of PBS Kids, Khan Academy Kids and Sesame Street’s Alphabet Kitchen.
Think outside the box
I’m also planning lessons throughout the year for things I have always wanted to do and never have had the time to do. We are planning to use Truth in the Tinsel’s Advent calendar and crafts for the Christmas season. We already planted pumpkins in the Spring and have been using them to learn about how things grow throughout the summer. And we are planning to plant a garden in the Spring. We use the kitchen to expand our classroom by creating yummy treats like Taffy and Blueberry Pie.
Almost every question my boys ask can turn into a classroom adventure. And as long as we stay focused on the standards set by the school, we are finding a lot of flexibility in our home classroom.
Yes, the military training even applies to homeschooling and oddly enough it isn’t as rigid as I expected. What does your school year plan look like? What tools from your life experience are you using to help get through this unsettling time?
What would it mean to aircraft carrier power projection and attack capability if its fighters could double the range at which they hold enemy targets at risk? Could such a prospect substantially extend the envelope of offensive attack operations, while allowing carriers themselves to operate at safer distances?
Perhaps enemy targets 1,000 miles away, at sea or deep inland, could successfully be destroyed by carrier-launched fighters operating with a vastly expanded combat radius. Wouldn’t this be of crucial importance in a world of quickly evolving high-tech missile and aircraft threats from potential adversaries such as near-peer rivals? Perhaps of equal or greater relevance, what if the re-fueler were a drone, able to operate in forward high-risk locations to support fighter jets – all while not placing a large manned tanker aircraft within range of enemy fire?
While some of these questions may, upon initial examination, seem rhetorical or rather obvious — they are at the heart of a now very critical Navy effort to engineer a new carrier-launched re-fueler by the early to mid 2020s. The drone aircraft, it appears, could bring the promise of more than doubling the strike range of an F/A-18 or F-35C.
With this end in mind, the Navy has recently released a draft Request For Proposal asking industry for design ideas, technologies and a full range of potential offerings or solutions which might meet the aforementioned criteria.
The concept of the effort, called the MQ-25 Stingray, is to fortify the Carrier Air Wing with a hack-proof unmanned refueler able to massively extend the strike and mission range of its on-board aircraft.
“MQ-25 is the next step in Navy’s integration of UAS into carrier strike group. The primary mission is a robust organic fueling capability to make better use of Navy combat strike fighters. The program has identified two KPPs for program: carrier suitability and mission tanking.” Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, Program Executive Officer, Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, told Scout Warrior in a statement several months ago.
A draft request for proposal will solicit input from industry developers regarding range, shape, speed, performance, avionics and sub-components – as part of a broader to find a synthesis between requirements envisioned for the aircraft and what is technically achievable within the desired time frame. The input will then be analyzed by the Navy in preparation for a formal Request For Proposal to advance industry competition.
The service previously awarded four development deals for the MQ-25 to prior to this draft proposal to industry by sometime this. Deals went to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Atomics and Northrop Grumman.
The process thus far has been geared toward MQ-25A Stingray technical and task analysis efforts spanning air vehicle capabilities, carrier suitability and integration, missions systems and software — including cybersecurity.
A birthday celebration was held at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Oct. 2, 2018, for retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. A man with bright eyes and heartwarming laughter, 95 years old never looked so youthful.
Williams watched as his brothers were drafted into the U.S. Army and decided he wanted to become a U.S. Marine. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1943 and retired after approximately 17 years of service.
“I joined the Marine Corps primarily because I knew nothing about the Marine Corps,” Williams said. “I was totally uneducated about the armed forces. The Marines were always very sharp, neat, polite, treated women very respectfully, and it caught my eye.”
Williams joined the Corps with the ambition to protect the country he called home. Little did he know, he would end up on enemy territory fighting for the freedom he loved so dearly.
“I thought that we would stay right here in the United States of America to protect our country and our freedom, so nobody could take this country away from us,” Williams said. “In boot camp, I was being trained by individuals who had been in combat. They were teaching us that if we were going to win, if we were going to survive, we had to fight a war.”
Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commanding general of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, reads a letter written by Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, addressing retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)
A boy from West Virginia working on a farm, Williams underwent the same honorable transformation endured by those before him and those after him; becoming a U.S. Marine headed overseas to enemy territory to defend his country.
“In boot camp, a person’s life completely changes,” Williams said. “From the time they arrive to the time they graduate, they become a new person. There is a spirit created within us that I cannot explain. It makes you so proud to be a Marine.”
Every Marine a rifleman, Williams had another asset that made him valuable to the Marine Corps and the war effort. He was selected to carry and use a flamethrower during World War II.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, explains the importance behind the Gold Star Flag and the Blue Star Flag to the attendees of his 95th birthday party at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018. Williams established the “Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation” in 2010. The foundation encourages the establishment of Gold Star family Memorial Monuments.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tessa D. Watts)
“Naturally, we were all trained to be a rifleman first,” Williams said. “I was selected to be in a special weapons unit with a demolition flamethrower. Flamethrowers were being used a lot in the Pacific because of caves, and on Iwo Jima there were many reinforced concrete pillboxes that bazookas, artillery, and mortars couldn’t affect.”
Little did he know, his actions with that flamethrower would earn him the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“At that point in time, I did not understand what I was receiving,” Williams said. “I had never heard of the Medal of Honor. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. As far as I was concerned, I was just doing what I was trained to do at Iwo Jima. That was my job. It wasn’t anything special.”
After receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C., Williams was called upon to speak to the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alexander Archer Vandegrift. A conversation of a lifetime, something very specific stuck with Williams despite the fear of speaking to a man known to never crack a smile.
The Victory Belles, a vocal trio, sing the Marines’ Hymn during the 95th birthday party of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the Battle of Iwo Jima, at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)
“When the commandant spoke to me, much of what he said I do not recall because I was too scared,” Williams said as he laughed. “One of the things he did say that registered and has never escaped me is ‘that medal does not belong to you. It belongs to all of those Marines that never got to come home. Don’t ever do anything that would tarnish that medal.’ I remember those words very well.”
Williams joined the Marine Corps with a pure heart, dedicated to perform his duty to his country. Those duties ended up being significant enough to earn himself the Medal of Honor. A hero in the eyes of many, when he looks in the mirror he sees a man who was simply doing his job and caring for the fellow Marines around him.
With the distant gaze of a mind recalling nostalgic memories, “We were just Marines looking out for each other,” Williams said.
As North Korea and South Korea pledged to end hostilities and work toward denuclearization, some people have suggested US President Donald Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged in a historic summit on April 27, 2018, to end the Korean War — which has technically been ongoing since 1950 because it ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty — and to work toward a “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Many people think the credit should go to Trump — so much so that he should win the next Nobel Peace Prize.
Trump has discussed with the leaders of key nations in East Asia, including South Korea and China, his goal to denuclearize North Korea. The US has also drafted multiple rounds of UN and Treasury sanctions to punish North Korea for its nuclear program.
Hours before Kim and Moon’s announcement on April 27, 2018, Daniel McCarthy, editor-at-large of The American Conservative, wrote in The Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald, Trump “will have defused the most dangerous crisis the world faces at present.”
“To make peace demands a new approach, and President Trump has found one,” McCarthy wrote.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham also told Fox News before the Koreas’ announcement: “Donald Trump convinced North Korea and China he was serious about bringing about change. We’re not there yet, but if this happens, President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, also tweeted that Trump, Kim, Moon, and China’s Xi Jinping deserved to jointly win the Nobel Peace Prize.
“I’ve been critical of Trump foreign policy missteps in past year,” Bremmer said in a separate tweet. “But today’s historic North/South Korea breakthrough does not happen without priority & pressure from US President. Trump deserves full credit.”
In Seoul, pro-unification activists were photographed by Getty Images holding placards saying: “Trump, you’ll be winner of 2018 Nobel Prize!”
British betting site Coral also set the odds to Trump and Kim jointly winning the 2018 Nobel Prize at 2/1 — the highest on the list.
In late April 2018, he also gave the two Koreas his “blessing to discuss the end of the war.”
Trump and Kim have gone from exchanging heated barbs — from “rocket man” to “mentally deranged US dotard” — to agreeing to meet in person for the first time, which is expected to take place in May 2018.
A few years ago a team of journalists from Syracuse University traveled to rural Washington state to tell the stories of hundreds of veterans living there, some off-the-grid, away from the country for which they fought.
The project includes the story of Chad Olsen, a Marine who killed his wife and himself in 2009, and the stories of those who knew him. It features the stories of Ryn Rollins and Adam Howerton, who (at the time) were 18 and enlisting in the Army. The project also shows how one Marine veteran who struggles with post-traumatic stress and returning to everyday life after three tours in Iraq.
The project also follows “trip-wire veterans,” a small group of vets who escaped their lives into the wilds of American back country because they were unable to face their war memories and were provided little help when they returned. The term “trip-wire” comes from the Vietnam War, where the Viet Cong would booby trap trails used by U.S. servicemen to injure and maim troops outside their bases.
The term was first coined in the early 1980’s, when around 85 people were documented living in the Washington wilds. It was not known then how many were out there. One former trip-wire vet was Mike McWatters. He lived in New York’s Adirondack Mountains for two years after seeing heavy combat in Vietnam. In 1983, he started work to reach out to these veterans to encourage them to seek treatment.
“I know one vet who went into the woods naked,” McWatters said. “He came out in full leather clothing, having gained 40 pounds, carrying weapons he’d made.”
When these veterans were first discovered, the media often inaccurately portrayed them as criminals and drunks or worse. In June, 1988, Dan Rather and CBS News interviewed six “Vietnam veterans” who admitted to killing civilians or seeing friends killed in action, and had since become homeless, suicidal drug users after the war. Later investigations showed none of it was true.
The reality is not so black and white. The project hit important topics beyond PTSD – women, race (specifically Native Americans) and the wives and children veterans leave behind, all from the rural town of Republic, Washington.
This team did more than just tell tales of the people living there. They provided thoroughly researched background information on veteran suicide, the steps to getting a VA disability claim, and an infographic on U.S. wars from 1900 (current as of 2010) and those who fought them.
The Royal Navy has spent a lot of money on the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, which will enter service this year, and HMS Prince of Wales, slated to enter service in 2020. But these vessels, with the billions of pounds spent on their construction, may have a serious flaw that could have fatal consequences.
Let’s acknowledge some basic Aircraft Carrier 101: The primary weapon of an aircraft carrier is the aircraft on board. For the Queen Elizabeth class, this will likely be at least two dozen V/STOL version of the Joint Strike Fighter, what America calls the F-35B, along with Merlin HM.2 helicopters. This is a very potent air wing, arguably the most potent the Royal Navy has deployed on a carrier.
But take a look at America’s newest entry in that class: The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Yes, it has an air wing with four squadrons of multi-role fighters, plus others of helicopters, electronic warfare planes, and airborne radars. But it also has self-defense systems.
The Sixteenth Edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World reports that the Ford has RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles, and Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems. This provides three layers of defense against incoming missiles that the escorts don’t shoot down first.
The Queen Elizabeth-class carriers will be equipped with three Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems. There are four 30mm autocannon for use against small boats. That’s it. Only one layer of defense – and that one layer isn’t quite the state of the art. Naval-Technology.com reports that the Queen Elizabeth is fitted for the ASTER 15 missile (now called the Sea Viper), but actual installation depends on finds being made available.
This is a glaring omission. The United Kingdom lost eight aircraft carriers in World War II. Unless this armament issue is resolved, HMS Queen Elizabeth could be the ninth. You can see more about this potential Achilles Heel in the video below.
Susan Ward had only served five weeks in the military when she was medically discharged after an injury — but that didn’t change the fact that she wanted a life in service.
“From that moment when I got out, I was devastated,” she tells NationSwell. “That was my life goal and plan. I didn’t know what to do. I love helping and serving people, doing what I can for people.”
That feeling isn’t uncommon for thousands of military veterans who have a hard time transitioning to civilian life. Though unemployment among veterans who have served since 2001 has gone down, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 370,000 veterans who were still unemployed in 2018.
Numerous transition programs exist to help vets bridge that gap, but for Ward, finding a gig — or even volunteer work — that was service-oriented was necessary for her happiness. She eventually became a firefighter in Alaska, but after 10 years a different injury forced Ward to leave yet another job she loved. She fell into a deep depression, she says, and struggled to find another role that allowed her to fulfill her passion for public service.
“I was on Facebook one day and just saw this post about Team Rubicon, and I had this moment of, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to do this,'” she says.
Team Rubicon began as a volunteer mission in 2010 after the earthquake that devastated Haiti. The organization offered disaster relief by utilizing the help of former service workers from the military and civilian sectors.
(Team Rubicon photo)
It has since evolved into an organization fueled by 80,000 volunteers. The majority are veterans who assist with everything from clearing trees and debris in tornado-ravaged towns to gutting homes that have been destroyed by floods. The teams, which are deployed as units, also work alongside other disaster-relief organizations, such as the Red Cross.
Similar to Ward, Tyler Bradley, a Clay Hunt fellow for Team Rubicon who organizes and develops volunteers, battled depression after he had to leave the Army due to a genetic health problem.
“After I found [Team Rubicon], I was out doing lots of volunteer work. My girlfriend noticed and said she would see the old Tyler come back,” Bradley says. “Team Rubicon turned my life around.”
“There’s one guy who says that just because the uniform comes off doesn’t mean service ends,” says Zachary Brooks-Miller, director of field operations for Team Rubicon. He adds that the narrative around the value of veterans has to change. “We don’t take the approach that our vets are broken; we see vets as a strength within our community.”
In addition to Team Rubicon’s disaster-relief efforts, the organization also helps to empower veterans and ease their transition into the civilian world, according to Christopher Perkins, managing director at Citi and a member of the company’s Citi Salutes Affinity Steering Committee. By collaborating with Citi, Team Rubicon was able to scale up its contributions, allowing service workers to provide widespread relief last year in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Those efforts were five times larger than anything the organization had previously done and brought even more veterans into the Team Rubicon family.
“Being around my brothers and sisters in arms whom I missed so much, it was so clear to me the impact Team Rubicon would have not only in communities impacted by disaster, but also among veterans,” says Perkins, a former captain in the Marines. “Every single American should know about this organization.”
Although Team Rubicon doesn’t brand itself as a veterans’ organization, it does view former members of the military as the backbone of its efforts. And many veterans see the team-building and camaraderie as a kind of therapy for service-related trauma.
“There are so many people who have [post-traumatic stress disorder] from different things, and when you’re with family you have to pretend that you’re OK,” says Ward, who deals with PTSD from her time as a soldier and firefighter. “But when you’re with your Team Rubicon family, it’s a tribe.”
Marine Corps System Command today gave defense industry representatives a glimpse of the service’s new equipment wish list that includes lighter, more flexible body armor, more comfortable individual equipment and rifle barrels with built-in suppressors.
Col. Michael Manning, who oversees weapons and equipment programs for MCSC, told industry that Marine equipment is still not integrated as much as it could be.
It used to be that the Marine Corps selected weapons, accessories and equipment and just expected Marines to carry it, Manning told an audience at Modern Day Marine 2017.
“We said ‘you know what, if it adds 10 more pounds, so be it. Get over it,'” Manning said. “It’s time for all of you to help me stop getting over it. Ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain.
“When you can throw it on top of an already 70- ton tank, then that is one thing. When you throw it on top of a 200 pound marine, it’s completely another.”
The U.S. Military has come a long way in the development of individual body armor in the past 20 years, Manning said.
“We have come a long way in the past five years, when it comes to technologies that can defeat multiple rounds,” he said.
But ceramic rifle plates have not changed that much, Manning said.
“We have dropped ounces off of everything we carry, but we haven’t dropped weight on ceramic plates,” Manning said. “There are other technologies out there. Maybe we don’t have to defeat threat whatever multiple times. Maybe it’s only a one or two hit in this caliber.”
Ceramic plates are also too rigid, Manning said.
“Our current plates — you can’t shape them; you can’t mold them to the individual Marine and we all know that,” Manning said. “Let’s get to the next step. Let’s figure out how to mold them.”
The Marine Corps also wants better knee and elbow pads, Manning said.
“The issue is not that we don’t have them out there; the issue is Marines won’t wear it if it’s not comfortable or it falls off or it’s a pain to get over top of everything they are already wearing,” Manning said.
“They fall off, they slide around, so we tear ourselves apart.”
Marines are also working on a Squad Common Optic.
“In the last 10 years we have done a lot of technology improvements, but what we haven’t done is merge all of those improvements into singular optics,” Manning said.
“So now we have infantry squads that are carrying multiple optics. We need to merge thermal, we need to merge I-squared, we need to merge all those technologies together” without adding extra weight.
The current technology for individual weapon suppressors also needs improving, Manning said, explaining that Marines need built-in suppressors.
“Get rid of the suppressor on the end of the barrel … so now when we have a 14.5 inch barrel or a 16 inch barrel, you just added four or five inches and I am right back to 20 inches,” Manning said.
“There are a couple out there now that integrate with the weapons themselves, that is really where we want to go.”
Fake news — or at least global discussion of the phenomenon — continued to flourish in 2017, so much so that Collins Dictionary named the term its Word of the Year.
Defined by Collins as “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting,” fake news also reverberated across the Russian media and political landscape in 2017.
From a purported Western plot to “collapse” Russia to a New York restaurant’s alleged campaign honoring President Vladimir Putin with a massive hamburger, some of these reports — including outright hoaxes — were treated with credulity by prominent Russian media outlets, public figures, and audiences alike.
Some of them originated in Russia — which Western governments have accused of deploying fake news and disinformation as part of its foreign policy. (Moscow has repeatedly rejected such criticism, including accusations that it was behind a flood of fake news aimed at influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election.) Others began elsewhere and were then perpetuated by both Russian state-controlled television and privately owned media outlets — and, in some cases, by senior officials.
Here’s a look at some of the fake-news and other dubious reports that resonated across Russia in 2017.
7. ‘Collapsing Russia’
In August, a website confusingly similar in appearance to that of the British newspaper The Guardian published a fake story attributing quotes to a former head of British intelligence about a purported Western plot to dismantle Russia.
The fake interview quoted ex-MI6 head John Scarlett as saying — in clunky English — that Britain and the United States planned to use the pro-Western former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, and a “fictitious quarrel between Ukraine and Russia” in order to bring about Russia’s “re-disintegration.”
“I must admit that the two Georgian and Crimean wars, the most strategic plan of the U.S. and Britain over the past several years for collapsing Russia, ended with failure,” Scarlett was quoted as saying in the fabricated story.
The ruse was quickly debunked, including in an investigation by BuzzFeed, and The Guardian itself noted that it was a “a fake story…on a fake site purporting to be The Guardian.”
Several Russian media outlets picked up the story, however, including the national television network REN-TV. Days after the false report had been debunked, prominent Russian television personality Vladimir Solovyov appeared to give credence to the hoax on his popular political talk show on state TV, though he added the qualifier, “Some say it’s true, some say it’s not.”
6. Putin Burger
On October 7 — Putin’s 65th birthday — Russian state television and news agencies reported that a New York restaurant was serving a special five-patty burger in honor of the man in the Kremlin. The reports were based on a video produced by Ruptly, a news agency owned by the Russian government-backed TV network RT. Ruptly interviewed an employee at Lucy’s Cantina Royale in New York City who said the restaurant had created a burger weighing 1,952 grams — a reference to the year of Putin’s birth — and featured a small leaflet bearing Putin’s image as evidence of the alleged special menu item.
“It’s not only foreign leaders who are wishing Russia’s president a happy birthday, but ordinary citizens as well. What’s more, they’re doing it in extremely original ways,” an anchor for the state-run Rossia-24 network said in a segment–based on the Ruptly report.
But Russian journalist Aleksei Kovalyov, who regularly debunks canards circulating in the Russian media, quickly dug in to the reports about the special burger, which proceeded to fall apart under scrutiny. The restaurant denied honoring Putin with a burger and said “the employees responsible for this hoax have been suspended pending an investigation.” A bartender at the restaurant later said the “Putin burger” was her idea and that she had lost her job. The employee filmed in the Ruptly video was also reportedly fired.
Ruptly later deleted the video, saying in a statement that the story “did not meet [its] editorial standards.”
Kovalyov has long accused state-controlled Russian media of fabricating or twisting news from abroad in order to produce stories for domestic consumption that are aimed at reinforcing Kremlin messaging. “The Putin burger was a particularly egregious example of virtual reality,” he told RFE/RL.
5. Nobel Winner Alexievich ‘Dead’
In May, a Twitter account purporting to be that of French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen tweeted out that Belarusian author and Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich had died. Nyssen had previously headed the Actes Sud publishing house, which her father founded and had published Alexievich’s writing in French, which appeared to lend credibility to the death claim.
Numerous Russian media outlets — including the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta and state news agency RIA Novosti — quickly ran with the report, as did the website of Current Time TV, a project of RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. European outlets also circulated the report, including the French newspaper Le Figaro and popular Portuguese daily Diario de Noticias.
It was, in fact, a hoax. Alexievich, 69, spoke with RFE/RL’s Belarus Service from Seoul, South Korea, with the reports swirling, saying, “Someone’s impatient.”
Shortly after the original tweet, Italian journalist Tommaso Debenedetti — who had previously published fake interviews with famous writers — claimed he was behind the hoax.
4. Another Sketchy MH17 Claim
On October 6, the official television network of the Russian Defense Ministry published a claim from a man it said was a defector from the Ukrainian Air Force. The man, identified as Yury Baturin, claimed that the Ukrainian Air Force had moved a Buk missile system to within firing range of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shortly before it was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board.
The report by the Zvezda network clearly suggested that Ukraine may have shot down the plane amid its war with Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine, though Baturin did not specifically say that Ukrainian forces fired on MH17 with the Buk. The location in question, Baturin said, was the one previously identified by Russian weapons maker Almaz-Antey: a spot near the Ukrainian village of Zaroshchenske.
The Zaroshchenske claim is one of a range of uncorroborated theories that the Russian government and its proxies have proposed about the downing of MH17, including that it was brought down by a Ukrainian fighter jet.
An international investigation has concluded that the plane was brought down by a Russian-made Buk missile system fired from territory controlled by the separatists near the Ukrainian village of Snizhne. The Dutch Safety Board and the Dutch-led international investigation have both dismissed the Zaroshchenske theory, citing a broad range of evidence that includes forensic tests, eyewitnesses, and an intercepted phone call between separatist fighters.
The Buk system was brought in from Russia and smuggled back shortly after the shoot-down, the international investigation has concluded. Critics have accused Moscow of trying to muddy the waters of the investigation in order to deflect possible culpability from the separatists and itself.
The Zvezda report was picked up by numerous Russian media outlets, including the state-run TASS news agency and state-run television. But the man’s claims have yet to be corroborated by any other media outlets, leaving Zvezda as the only source. And within 24 hours of the original publication, Zvezda deleted — without explanation — its reports based on the interview.
But in early December, Baturin’s story was again published by Zvezda, this time in a slightly different interview format. Zvezda told the Russian news site Meduza that the original report was deleted because it wanted to give a more thorough treatment to his story.
As in the original story, Zvezda and Baturin strongly imply that a Ukrainian Buk shot down MH17 but note that the former Ukrainian soldier was unable to detect the launch of a missile from near Kharkiv, where he claimed to have been stationed at the time. The Ukrainian military confirmed to Meduza that Baturin had served in its air force but quit in 2016 due to “family circumstances.”
3. Syrian War (Video) Games
The Russian Defense Ministry in November accused the United States of cooperating with Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria, alleging that Washington was providing cover to the extremist group as Russian and Syrian government forces were targeting IS fighters.
It was an incendiary claim, one that came shortly after an explosive BBC reportalleging that forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition struck a deal that ultimately allowed hundreds of IS militants to leave the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa. (The coalition did not confirm the deal but conceded that IS fighters may have left the city along with a convoy of civilians.)
But the Russian military’s accusation, which it posted on Facebook and Twitter, included curious images that it described as “irrefutable evidence” of alleged U.S. help for IS militants. The images purported to show an IS convoy heading for the Syrian-Iraqi border.
But it didn’t take long for social-media users and investigative groups to discover that one of the images was actually a still from a 2015 promotional video for a video game called AC-130 Gunship Simulator: Special Ops Squadron. The other images were taken from videos released by the Iraqi Defense Ministry in 2016 about anti-IS operations near Fallujah, online investigators found.
The fake images triggered a wave of ridicule, with some on social media mocking the ministry with footage from other video games, like the famous 1980s game Frogger.
The Russian military subsequently scrubbed the images and published new photos it claimed were “irrefutable evidence” of its accusation. The ministry concededthat the original photographs were fake and said a civilian employee was facing a probe in connection with the matter.
2. Bin Laden In the White House
The video-game hijinks weren’t the only time a Russian ministry perpetuated a hoax in 2017.
Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s often-caustic spokeswoman, claimed during a political talk show on state TV in November that the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had once visited the White House.
Zakharova made the claim during a discussion about lobbying in the United States and the U.S. investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election and potential collusion between Moscow and Donald Trump’s campaign staff.
“Recall these fantastic, mind-boggling photographs of Bin Laden being hosted in the White House. This is classic lobbying in the true sense of the word,” Zakharova said.
The Saudi-born Bin Laden, who was killed in a 2011 U.S. raid in Pakistan, never visited the White House. Zakharova did not specify during the program which “photographs” she had in mind, though some Russian media outlets speculated she was referring to a photoshopped image appearing to show former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shaking hands with the Al-Qaeda leader.
That image, which has circulated online for years, is a fake. Bin Laden’s head in the photo, which was taken in May 2004, was superimposed over that of musician Shubhashish Mukherjee. The firebrand conservative site Tsargrad.tv cited Zakharova’s claim without noting that Bin Laden had never been to the White House.
Days later, Zakharova took to Facebook to say she didn’t mean to suggest that Bin Laden “personally” had visited the White House but rather “his colleagues, his advisers, so to speak.” She cited what she called her “favorite photograph” of U.S. President Ronald Reagan “hosting a Taliban delegation in the White House.”
The photograph in question, which Zakharova attached to her post, shows Reagan meeting with Afghan rebel leaders to discuss the fight against invading Soviet forces. The United States funded Afghan mujahedin fighting — alongside Bin Laden and other Arab fighters — against the Soviets; but the photograph in question of Reagan and the Afghans was taken in February 1983 — nine years before the Taliban was founded.
In October, a columnist writing for the state-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti published an angry screed decrying what he called “propaganda horror stories” about Russia that are regularly published in the Dutch media. The column, titled Muscovites Eat Rat: Who In Europe Is Writing Fake News About Russia, focused on a short November 2016 article in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant about a Moscow restaurateur who serves nutria — a large rodent also known as a river rat.
The columnist, Vladimir Kornilov, delivered a highly skewed and, at times, outright false version of the original article to his readers. He incorrectly suggested that the article claimed Muscovites had started eating rat meat because they were “starving” due to Western sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“Nonsense, you say? You are correct. But the thing is, such nonsense about Russia is periodically published in the leading newspapers in the Netherlands — a country that is regularly presented as a leader in global media-freedoms ratings,” Kornilov wrote.
He also called the De Volkskrant article “enormous,” when in fact it clocked in at fewer than 400 words.
Kornilov’s column was picked up by several prominent Russian media outlets.
The original article — one of several published in the Western media at the time about Moscow restaurateur Takhir Kholikberdiyev and his nutria-based delicacies — said nothing about Russians going hungry due to sanctions, though it noted that the punitive measures have prompted restaurants to seek alternative and domestically produced ingredients.
“It remains a mystery why, almost a year after an entirely friendly article was published, a RIA Novosti columnist needed to distort its content,” the opposition-minded Russian news site The Insider wrote.
Kovalyov, the Russian media critic, debunked the false characterizations in the RIA Novosti column in a post on his website, Noodle Remover, with the headline: If The ‘Western Media’ Didn’t Lie, No Problem, We’ll Lie For Them And Then Expose Them!
“You are attributing words to the author of the article that he didn’t write,” Kovalyov wrote, addressing Kornilov, “and on the basis of these inventions are accusing ‘the Western media’ of creating fake news about Russia!”
The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship will be armed and operational with deck-launched HELLFIRE missiles by 2020, a key step in a sweeping strategic move to expand the attack envelope across the entire fleet of surface ships, senior service officials said.
Current HELLFIRE LCS testing and development, described as an integral part of the ship’s Surface-to-Surface Missile Module, has resulted in 20 successful hits out of 24 total attempted missile shots, Capt. Ted Zobel, Program Manager, PEO LCS, said recently at the Surface Navy Association symposium.
Testing and integration, which embarked upon LCS 5 in August of 2017, is slated to continue this year as a lead into to formal production; The complete procurement of SSMMs will complete in 2023, Zobel said.
Integrating the HELLFIRE onto the LCS is a significant strategic and tactical step for the Navy as it accelerates its combat posture transition toward the prospect of near-peer warfare.
This kind of confrontation, naturally could span a wide envelope of mission requirements for the LCS, calling upon littoral, coastal patrol, surveillance and countermine mission technologies as well as anti-submarine operations and a fortified ability to wage “blue” or open water maritime warfare with longer-range strike weapons.
While not quite the scope of the now-in-development over-the-horizon missile currently being fast-tracked for the emerging Frigate and, quite possibly, the LCS – a HELLFIRE offers a much wider offensive attack range to include enemy aircraft, helicopters, drones, small boats and even some surface ships.
Furthermore, the HELLFIRE, drawing upon Army-Navy collaboration, is engineered with different variants to widen potential attack methods. These range from blast-frag warheads to high-explosive rounds or even missiles with an augmented metal sleeve for extra fragmentation.
While the LCS does not have Vertical Launch Systems, Navy officials tell Warrior Maven that the HELLFIRE fires from canisters beneath the surface of the ship.
Often fired from helicopters, drones and even ground-based Army Multi-Mission Launchers, the Longbow HELLFIRE can use Fire-and-Forget millimeter wave radar with inertial guidance; millimeter wave seeker technology enables adverse weather targeting. Many HELLFIREs also use semi-active laser homing targeting.
It is accurate to call it a short-to-medium-range weapon which can reach relevant combat distances beyond the most close-in threats – while stopping short of being an over-the-horizon weapon.
Its targeting options open up various airborne interoperability options, meaning an MH-60R ship-based helicopter – or even a drone – could function as a laser designator for the weapon should it seek to target enemy ships on-the-move.
The Navy has made particular efforts, in fact, to integrate HELLFIRE technology, sensors and fire control with other assets woven into the LCS. Not only could an MH-60R offer a laser spot for the ship launched weapon, but the helicopter can of course fire the HELLFIRE itself.
A ship launched variant, however, would need to further integrate with ship-based layered defense technologies to optimize its attack options against enemy aircraft and ships, particularly in a maritime combat environment potentially more difficult for helicopters to operate in.
LCS-launched HELLFIREs are engineered to operate as part of a broader ship-wide technical system connecting things like variable-depth sonar, deck guns, vertical take-off drones such as the Fire Scout and small boat mission capabilities such
as 11-meter Rigid Inflatable Boats, or RIBs.
As part of this, the LCS is equipped with a 57mm gun, .50-cal Machine Guns and a defensive interceptor missile called SeaRAM.
Arming the LCS to a much greater extent is also likely to bear upon the longstanding discussion regarding the ship’s survivability. While many advocates for the LCS champion its 40-knot speed and technical attributes such as its integrated mission packages, adding more substantial weapons clearly impacts the debate by massively increasing the ship’s survivability and combat capability.
The anti-submarine mission package includes an MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter, light weight towed torpedo decoy system, Multi-Function Towed Array and several kinds of submarine-hunting sonar. The LCS utilizes waterjet propulsion and a combined diesel and gas turbine engine.
Some of the features and technologies now being developed for the Navy’s new Frigate could be back-fitted onto the existing LCS fleet as well; these include an over-the-horizon offensive missile as well as a survivability-enhancing technique called “space armor,” which better allows the ship to function if it is hit by enemy firepower.
A strengthened LCS, as well as the new Frigate of course, offer a key component of the Navy’s widely discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, which aims to better arm the fleet with offensive firepower and position the force to be able to defeat technologically-advanced near-peer adversaries.
This includes an emphasis upon open or “blue” water combat and a shift from some of the key mission areas engaged in during
the last decade of ground wars such as Visit Board Search and Seizure, counter-piracy and counter-terrorism.
Many LCS are already in service, and the platform is cherished by the Navy for its 40-knot speed, maneuverability and technological versatility.
U.S. Army infantry platoons will soon have the 84mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle, a devastating anti-armor system, as a permanently assigned weapon.
Service officials completed a so-called conditional material release authorization late last year, making the M3 Multi-Role Anti-Armor Anti-Personnel Weapon System an organic weapon system within each infantry platoon, IHS Jane’s 360 recently reported.
The service is also working on an effort to achieve Full Material Release of the M3 later this year.
Army light infantry units began using the M3 in Afghanistan in 2011, but only when commanders submitted operational needs statements for the weapon.
The breech-loading M3, made by Saab North America, can reach out and hit enemy targets up to 1,000 meters away. The M3 offers the units various types of ammunition, ranging from armor penetration and anti-personnel, to ammunition for built-up areas, as well as special features like smoke and illumination.
Special operations forces such as the 75th Ranger Regiment have been using the 84mm weapon system since the early 1990s. The M3 became an official, program of record in the conventional Army in 2014.
The M3 has enjoyed success with units such as the 25th Infantry, 10th Mountain and 82nd Airborne divisions in Afghanistan.
The launcher weighs approximately 22 pounds, with each round of ammunition weighing just under 10 pounds. By comparison, the AT4 weighs about 15 pounds and the Javelin‘s launcher with missile and reusable command launch unit weigh roughly 50 pounds.
The CMR allowed the system to be quickly fielded to operational units before the more exhaustive full materiel release process is completed, Jack Seymour, marketing director for Saab North America, told IHS Jane’s.
The current plan is to equip all brigade combat teams with one M3 launcher per platoon.
Prison time is hard time. Depending on where an inmate is locked up, they can spend anywhere from 21-23 hours a day in their cells, regardless of the severity of their crimes. Wherever possible, inmates who really want to get out are making the most of that time. But it turns out there is one job that is perfectly suited to someone with that much time on their hands: training service dogs for wounded veterans.
America’s VetDogs employs inmates like Tyrell Sinclair, an inmate at Connecticut’s Enfield Correctional Facility, to train service dogs destined for wounded veterans – and the dogs work wonders for the inmates as well. For Sinclair, it gives him something to do, something to look forward to every day. More than that, the increased attention the inmates are able to give the trainee dogs cuts the training time down to just one year instead of two to five years.
“After committing a crime, being in here, you just sit around and think about how bad things are, how bad a person I am for being in this predicament,” said Sinclair. “Once I got the dog and got into the program, things were better. It’s like a whole different outlook.”
Sinclair says he was amazed at the abilities the dogs have once they are subject to the proper training and skills.
“It amazed me,” he said.
But it’s not just the constant companionship of man’s best friend that helps inmates like Sinclair through their jail time. The inmates know the dogs will not be with them for very long if all goes according to plan. It’s knowing that the dogs they train are destined to help someone who served their country that gives the inmates the boost in confidence.
“It almost makes me feel like a proud dad.”
Mark Tyler, who oversees the Enfield program for America’s VetDogs, believes the prisoner’s inclination toward the dogs (and vice versa) is a natural one and the program is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The numbers support that belief. Around 85 percent of Enfield inmates will end up back in Enfield after their release, for the same crime or another crime. For inmates who train dogs, that number drops to 25 percent.
“They know all too well the crime they committed will likely become an extension of who they are,” Tyler said of the prisoners. “The dog doesn’t care what that person did in the past, he cares about who they are today.”
The Defense Department will deploy more than 5,000 active-duty personnel to aid the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection “to harden the southern border,” said Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Command.
“Border security is national security,” the general said at a news conference at the Ronald Reagan Building Oct. 29, 2018. He briefed the press alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan.
The active-duty troops will be participating in Operation Faithful Patriot, the general said.
“As we sit here today, we have about 800 soldiers who are on their way to Texas,” the general said. The troops are coming from Fort Campbell and Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“By the end of this week we will deploy over 5,200 soldiers to the Southwest border,” he said. “That is just the start of this operation. We will continue to adjust the numbers and inform you of those.”
The active duty soldiers will join 2,092 National Guardsmen participating in Operation Guardian Support. The deployment “fully adheres to our current authorities and governed by law and policy,” the general said. The troops that deploy with weapons will carry them, the general said.
Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, discusses the Defense Department deployment to the Southwest border during a joint news conference in Washington, Oct. 29, 2018.
The troops will be in support of law enforcement with Customs and Border Protection, McAleenan said. The agency is facing something new. “What is new and challenging about this caravan phenomenon is the formation of multiple large groups, which present unique safety and border security threats,” he said at the news conference. “Due to the large size of the potential caravans that may arrive at the border, however, the Department of Homeland Security has further requested the support of the Department of Defense.”
The agency has requested aid in air and ground transportation, and logistics support, to move CBP personnel where needed. Officials also asked for engineering capabilities and equipment to secure legal crossings, and medical support units. CBP also asked for housing for deployed Border Protection personnel and extensive planning support.
The commissioner said there are two caravans that the agency is watching. One has already made illegal entry across two international borders, and the second – still in Guatemala – “has deployed violent and dangerous tactics against Guatemalan and Mexican border security teams,” he said. “Accordingly, we are preparing for the contingency of a large group of arriving persons intending to enter the United States in the next several weeks.
Operation Faithful Patriot will harden the U.S. border with Mexico. “In a macro sense, our concept of operations is to flow in our military assets with a priority to build up Southern Texas then Arizona and then California,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We will reinforce along priority points of entry to enhance CBPs ability to harden and secure the border.”
Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will bring their experience to the border, the general said. They will be joined by three combat engineer battalions with expertise in building temporary barriers and fencing. The battalions will bring their heavy equipment “which as we speak is long hauling toward Texas,” the general said.
Military planning teams are already engaged with CBP counterparts.
The military is also providing three medium lift helicopter companies and military police units. There are already three C-130 Hercules and one C-17 Globemaster III aircraft standing by to provide strategic airlift for CBP.