On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council voted for $6.4 million in funding to increase the size of the city police department. Police officials requested the extra funding eight days earlier, explaining the force had effectively lost more than 200 officers in the months since the death of George Floyd caused protests across the city.
Former officer Derek Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death and is scheduled for trial March 8. Three other former officers will face trial in August for aiding and abetting Chauvin.
Currently 638 officers are available to work in the city of Minneapolis, despite the department’s having 817 officers on payroll. Sixty officers have retired or resigned since the beginning of 2020, and more than 150 are on extended leave for a variety of reasons, including post-traumatic stress following the unrest last summer.
The plan was approved unanimously, despite some members of the City Council previously pushing for large-scale structural changes in the police department.
In late January, three City Council members — Phillipe Cunningham, Steve Fletcher, and Jeremy Schroeder — introduced the Transforming Public Safety Charter Amendment. This would create a Department of Public Safety and eliminate the police department, replacing it with a Division of Law Enforcement made up of “licensed peace officers” within the new department.
In response to these public safety concerns, the police department will update its hiring application with questions about city residency, advanced degrees in fields such as criminology and social work, and volunteer activities. The city will post these newly funded openings this week and hopes to have new officers starting this summer.
On Saturday, a demonstration took place near the former location of the police department’s 3rd Precinct, which was burned by violent protesters in May 2020. Organized by Yes 4 Minneapolis, a coalition of local groups who support replacing the police department entirely with a Department of Public Safety, the activists were collecting petition signatures for the plan in hopes of getting it on the election ballot this fall.
Former Cold War rivals Russia and Pakistan are moving forward with their first-ever joint military exercises, an event that signals the two nations are working more closely together to combat terrorism in their respective countries.
The exercise is small in size – only 70 Russian soldiers and officers joining 130 Pakistani counterparts. But the implications are huge.
Called Friendship 2016, the Russian troops arrived in Rawalpindi on Friday aboard an Ilyushin Il-76 military transport plane, according to Radio Pakistan. The exercise will continue through October 10.
“It is planned that the Russian and Pakistani military servicemen will share their experience and employ teamwork in fighting in mountainous areas, particularly destroying illegal armed groups,” the Russian news service TASS reported.
TASS also reported that personnel from a mechanized infantry unit of the Russian Southern Military Command’s Mountain Mobile Brigade are part of the exercise.
“The Southern Military Command’s mechanized infantry servicemen are fully equipped and have their mountain gear with them, as well as ammunition for their standard weapons,” TASS stated, quoting the military command’s media service.
The exercise’s name is symbolic, indicating a lessening of tensions between Moscow and Islamabad that started last year when Russia lifted its arms ban against Pakistan.
The result was the sale of four MiG Mi-35 attack helicopters – the first sale of its kind between the two countries – to help replace Pakistan’s aging fleet of U.S.-made AH-1 Cobras. In addition, Pakistani army, navy, and air force representatives visited Russia during the last year to consult with their opposite numbers.
This is in stark contrast from the days when Pakistan under the leadership Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq was an ally of the United States that helped transport arms and men into the fight against Soviet forces after the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. In recent years, the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan cooled after Washington accused Islamabad of turning a blind eye to Taliban fighters using Pakistan as a refuge.
Pakistan denies that it is sheltering the Taliban. In the meantime, the United States improved ties with India, Pakistan’s bitter enemy.
At first, the location of at least some of the war games was both in doubt and controversial. Initial reports indicated that the exercises would be held in what the United Nation’s calls Pakistan-administered Kashmir, an area on the border between India and Pakistan marked by tension since 1947.
Pakistan calls the area Azad Kashmir; India refers to the area as Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
According to a clarification issued by the Russians, “The Russia-Pakistan anti-terror exercise is not being held and will not be held in any point of so-called ‘Azad Kashmir’ or in any other sensitive or problematic areas like Gilgit and Baltistan. The only venue of the exercise is Cherat.”
Cherat is about 34 miles southeast of Peshawar and located at about 4,500 feet in the Khattak Range. It serves as a base for the Special Services Group, the primary special operations force of the Pakistan Army.
Meanwhile, Russia is still moving forward with long-standing joint exercises with India called Indra 2016, hosting more than 500 Indian soldiers in Vladivostok. Russia and India have held the counterterrorism exercises together since 2003.
In the next 18 months or so, the Army expects to field two new systems to dismounted Soldiers that will allow for more rapid acquisition of targets, even those hidden by darkness, smoke, or fog.
First out of the gate will be the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle III, expected to be fielded sometime between April and June of 2018. Shortly after, the Army hopes to field the Family of Weapons Sights – Individual, between January and March of 2019.
The FWS-I and ENVG III are unique in that the FWS-I, which would be mounted on a Soldier’s weapon, wirelessly transmits its sight picture to the ENVG III, which a Soldier wears on his helmet.
Additionally, the ENVG combines thermal imaging with more common night vision image intensification technology, which is recognizable by the green image it creates.
Under starlight, targets may blend in with the background. But with the thermal capability overlaid on night vision, targets can’t hide in smoke or fog. They “really pop out with that contrast,” said Dean Kissinger, an electronics engineer who is currently assigned to Program Product Manger Soldier Maneuver Sensors at Program Executive Office Soldier.
Lt. Col. Anthony Douglas, who serves as product manager for Soldier Maneuver Sensors at PEO Soldier, said the two sensors have benefits beyond helping dismounted Soldiers better visualize targets. By paring the two systems wirelessly — allowing what the weapon-mounted sight is seeing to be beamed directly to the Soldier’s eye — these systems also help the Soldier acquire a target faster.
Rapid Target Acquisition
“The capability gap that we were tasked with [closing] by developing this was the rapid target acquisition capability,” Douglas said. “We are allowing the Soldier to actually see what is on their weapons sight, saving them time from having to bring the weapon to his eye.”
Master Sgt. Lashon Wilson, the senior enlisted advisor for product manager Soldier Maneuver Sensors, explained how the system will work and make it easier for a Soldier to acquire a target.
“This weapon-mounted system talks wirelessly to the smart battery pack that is on the Soldier’s head, that then transmits a signal to the ENVG III, which now displays a reticle onto the Soldier’s optic,” Wilson explained. “So now what this does is, while the Soldier is on patrol and he has his ENVG III on and he is looking, he has a greater field of view of what is going on in the battlefield.”
Soldiers wearing the ENVG III, which is mounted on their helmet, can choose to see both night-vision imagery and thermal imaging as well in their goggle. But they can also choose to see the image coming off the FWS-I that is mounted on their rifle.
A variety of modes allows Soldiers to see in their goggles only the image from the ENVG III itself, only the image from the FWS-I, or a combination of the two. Using a “picture-in-picture” mode, for instance, the image from their FWS-I is displayed at the bottom right of the image that is coming from the goggle.
In another mode, however, if the FWS-I on the rifle and the ENVG III on the Soldier’s helmet are both pointed in the same direction and seeing essentially the same thing, then the image from the FWS-I can project a reticle into the goggle. The Soldier can see the full image of what his goggle normally sees, but a circle representing the reticle from the FWS-I is overlaid onto that image, letting the Soldier know where his rifle is pointed. What this means is the Soldier doesn’t need to actually shoulder his weapon to acquire a target. That saves time for the Soldier in acquiring that target.
“We are saving him three to five seconds, and increasing their situational awareness on the battlefield,” Douglas said.
Additionally, because the reticle is projected onto what the Soldier is already seeing in his goggle — a much wider view of his environment than what he would see if he looked through his rifle scope — he is able to acquire a target while maintaining situational awareness of what else is going on around him.
Steep Learning Curve
At Fort Belvoir, members of the press were allowed to shoot an M-4 rifle that was equipped with the FWS-I, while wearing a helmet equipped with the ENVG III.
Several man-shaped targets were spaced out in the firing lane, each equipped with thermal blankets to simulate body heat. A pair of fog machines simulated battlefield smoke to make it difficult to acquire those targets using only day optics. Using night vision goggles alone, some of the targets could not be seen. But when combined with the thermal imaging capabilities built into the ENVG III and FWS-I, those targets were easily visible.
Using the system proved a bit challenging, however. When looking through the goggle, which was at one point displaying the image transmitted from the rifle-mounted FWS-I, it was hard to tell if it was the helmet that was crooked, the ENVG III that was crooked, or the shooter’s own head that wasn’t on quite straight.
“The gun is tilted,” Wilson confirmed. He served as a trainer for members of the press who were allowed to shoot.
Maj. Kevin Smith, who serves as the assistant product manager for FWS-I, said there is a “steep learning curve,” for the system.
“We just got through with the tests with the 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado, back in June,” he said. “We only spent about 40 hours of in-classroom training. But we also spent about a week on the range or so. That’s where the Soldiers were really starting to get it and understand it and feel it, on the range.”
Smith said one such training event was held at Fort Carson, and two were held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
“Once they get comfortable with it, they really love it,” Smith said. “One Soldier, a noncommissioned officer who didn’t like it at first, later on during the last test we did, asked me when are we getting this fielded. He said he wanted it now. They want to take them to war and they want to use them.”
A Family of Sights
The soon-to-field FWS-I is meant for the M4 and M16 rifles, and can mount on those rifles in front of day sights that have already been bore-sighted, Kissinger said. What this means is that Soldiers can pop the FWS-I onto and off of their rifle without having to remove their day sights first.
The FWS-I will also work with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, the M141 Bunker Defeat Munition, and the M136 AT4 Light Anti-Tank Weapon.
Kissinger said the FWS-I actually provides capability to both light and medium weapons. In the past, there had been sights fielded for both types of weapons. Now that FWS-I provides capability to both, he said, there will be less variations in weapons sights, and a smaller logistics trail.
More capability is also coming to this “family” of weapons sights, Douglas said. There will be a crew-served variant and a sniper variant as well. Both are still under development, he said.
Both the FWS-I and the ENVG III are currently in low-rate initial production. The Army hopes to buy 36,000 of the FWS-I, and about 64,000 of the ENVG III, Smith said. He also said that the new gear is targeted squarely at dismounted Soldiers with infantry brigade combat teams and special operations forces.
For now, he said, he expects it will be squad leaders and two team leaders within a squad that might first see the FWS-I.
“This is a day or night capability,” Douglas said. “We’re talking about dismounted Soldiers who would use this. For our mounted soldiers, those on the Stryker or Bradleys … they do not operate without their thermal on all the time. So we are giving the dismounted Soldier the same capability the mounted Soldiers have.”
Networking, while not a new concept, has become a significant component of modern life. Commonly associated with career advancement, the evolution of online social platforms has extended networking far beyond just opportunities to further one’s career.
While networking can be important and beneficial to anyone, it may be even more so for military members, Veterans and their spouses.
Former service members are aware of the difficulties that can come from adjusting to life outside of the military. Whether it’s acclimating to a new job title and company or understanding the inner workings of today’s corporate culture, Veterans often face obstacles not well-understood by those without similar experiences.
Given this reality, it makes sense for any Veteran to start forming connections and building relationships with those who understand their unique point of view.
Here are several ways joining a Veteran network can help a service member, Veteran or their spouses.
It’s where your battle buddies hang out.
Every service member knows that there will be a transition to civilian life, but it impacts everyone differently. Your experiences while in the military, how long you served, where you served, your circumstance upon returning to civilian life – these all come together to form a unique set of circumstances.
For some Veterans, leaving the military means leaving a way of life and community behind. Their housing or homes may have been on base or provided by the military. Their food, alcohol, home furnishings, jewelry, or even their car shopping might have been on base, as well as their place of work, socializing and recreational events. The support network is built into each military installation.
There’s also a substantial difference in which attitudes and behaviors are appreciated and sought after in the military versus in the civilian community. The more conversations a member can have with those who have been through or are going through a similar situation, the more they can learn what behaviors from the military should be kept and what should be shed, what’s to be amplified and what’s to be silenced.
Humans are social, relational creatures, meaning the friendships and personal connections we create and foster matter. The difficulty transitioning to civilian life is an all-too-common story. But through the empathy and shared experiences of other Veterans in your network, this challenging transition can be made smoother.
You’ll get a better understanding of the civilian work culture.
There aren’t any first shirts, no XOs, no squad leaders, no platoon guides, or section chiefs outside the military. The daily language is practically a foreign language in corporate America and one that’s not easily understood. No one’s reporting at o’dark thirty for required PT, let alone in cadence while double timing. Instead, there’s an entire new lexicon and lingo in the civilian workplace, and mastering it soonest means connecting with new colleagues, with your new tribe, in valuable ways.
Trying to make the switch from the military to a role in a company can be one of the greatest and most critical challenges a Veteran will face. With a network of fellow Vets who have been through comparable situations, it’s likely someone has directly applicable words of wisdom or experiences to offer.
You’ll find a place to build your community and network.
Many service members spend years training and mastering their skills, and even longer using them throughout the world. Their next job and career might not take advantage of those skills. The earlier a member can connect with their future community and learn the culture, terminology and ways of dress and business practice, the better.
Within a wide network, there will be plenty of firsthand advice specific to your new role. Beyond the commonalities of military service and transition, a refined network of individuals in the same position and industry offers a valuable resource that you likely won’t find on the job.
They have access to resources and information.
Where a military member is from, where they served, and where they’re going after the military may all be different places. Building an online network means developing real relationships and local knowledge for your next chapter of life – wherever it may take you.
Having a vast network of peers available to connect with makes it easier to gain firsthand knowledge about a community that might be a potential next home. It can also provide you with actual connections in that very community, offering an invaluable support system upon arrival.
You get the opportunity to make an impact.
Joining a Veteran’s network isn’t only about gaining advice and knowledge. It’s also about giving it. You never know how your experiences might be helpful to someone else. As an advisor or mentor, or potentially even as just an acquaintance or connection, you could be an excellent guide for how someone can best succeed within a new company, school district, soccer league, church, or even a homeowner’s association.
The bonds you make during military service are unique. The unity, camaraderie and shared experience can extend beyond your service and play a role in helping yourself and fellow Veterans make the most of life outside of military duty. It just takes a little networking.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said the Defense Department spent $94 million on a proprietary camouflage pattern — known as HyperStealth Spec4ce Forest — for Afghan army forces “without determining the pattern’s effectiveness in Afghanistan compared to other available patterns.”
The effort resulted in $28 million in excess costs to the US taxpayer and, if unmodified, Sopko said, this procurement “will needlessly cost the taxpayer an additional $72 million over the next 10 years.”
Sopko’s investigation also found that the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, or CSTC-A, could not identify the total amount of direct assistance spent on Afghan uniforms — nor could it account for the total amount of uniforms actually purchased due to poor oversight and poor recordkeeping.
“These problems, Madam Chairwoman, are serious. They are so serious that we started a criminal investigation related to the procurement of the [Afghan National Army] uniforms,” Sopko told the committee.
As a result of the investigation, he added, “I am going to announce today that we believe it is prudent to review all of CSTC-A’s contracts related to the procurement of organizational clothing and individual equipment in Afghanistan.”
The investigation’s embarrassing findings recently prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to scold the Pentagon bureaucracy, describing the episode as emblematic of an attitude in the Pentagon that allows poor spending decisions to be excused, overlooked, or minimized.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler, the Missouri Republican chairwoman for the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, asked how the forest camouflage pattern was selected over other more economical patterns that are owned by the Defense Department.
Sopko said Afghanistan’s minister of defense was never shown any Defense Department-owned camouflage patterns.
“He was basically shown only the patterns owned by one company,” Sopko said. “The only options we gave the minister of defense were the proprietary patterns. The bigger problem is no one ever did an assessment as to what type of camouflage is best in Afghanistan.
“Basically, what we were told by CSTC-A, and we are researching this right now, is the minister of defense liked this color, so he picked it,” he said.
Peter Velz, director for Afghanistan Resources and Transition for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, agreed with Sopko’s report, saying that a “DoD organization with expertise in military uniforms should conduct an analysis of whether there might be a more cost-effective uniform design and camouflage pattern that meets operational requirements.”
“We believe this is the best way to determine the merits of the report’s claim that DoD may have spent as much as $28 million over 10 years on uniforms that may be inappropriate for Afghanistan’s operational environment,” Velz said.
The appropriate Pentagon experts have begun developing a plan for the study, which is expected to begin in the coming weeks, he added.
It’s unclear if Velz’ office is aware that the US Army conducted an exhaustive camouflage study, which featured an operational evaluation of multiple camouflage patterns — including HyperStealth, in Afghanistan. The effort resulted in the Army selecting Crye Precision’s MultiCam pattern in 2010 as the service’s official pattern for Afghanistan.
Since then, the Army has adopted its new Operational Camouflage Pattern, a government-owned pattern that closely resembles MultiCam.
Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., asked what else the subcommittee can do to help prevent these types of mishandled contracts.
Sopko said that holding these types of hearing is important, but so is making sure “tough, hard questions are asked.”
“One question you could ask, and I think the full committee should ask, is how many people identified by my office, by the DoD office, or by [the Government Accountability Office] have actually lost their jobs because of wasting taxpayers’ dollars,” Sopko said.
“Send that letter to the Department of Defense … I bet you no one. We identify these problems; no one is held accountable,” he said.
CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Republican National Convention started here Monday tapping into the ill-ease of the American public in the wake of terrorist attacks across the globe and domestic unrest. The theme for the first of four days was “Make America Safe Again,” a play on Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” tagline that he’s used from the beginning of his current run for president.
The prime time slate of speakers who took the stage at the Quicken Loans Arena started with Willie Robertson, one of the stars of the “Duck Dynasty” reality show, and television actor Scott Biao. They were followed by the first veteran in the lineup, former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor.
Luttrell started his remarks by stating that he was born into a patriotic family that taught him “to die for any woman and to fight beside any man.” He said his father, who served in Vietnam, was “shamed out of his uniform” but instilled in his sons to “love this country and its people more than we loved ourselves.”
Luttrell was followed by Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the four Americans killed during the attack on the consulate in Benghazi in 2012. “For all of this loss, for all of this grief, for all of the cynicism the tragedy in Benghazi has wrought upon America, I blame Hillary Clinton,” she said, which elicited a passionate response from the delegates on the convention floor, many of whom launched into a “lock her up” chant.
The topic of Clinton’s responsibility for the failure and tragedy of Benghazi continued with Mark Geist and John Teigen, two security contractors who fought off the attacks that night. The two men, who helped write 13 Hours, a book criticizing the State Department’s response to the attacks that was made into a Michael Bay movie last year, offered the crowd a lengthy, machismo-infused version of their experiences that night and left no doubt that they believe the lives of their comrades were lost because of the inaction of then-Sec. Clinton.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a U.S. Army veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division, jabbed at President Obama’s unwillingness to use the term “fundamentalist Islamic terrorist” when referring to ISIS and the associated network of lone wolves, saying that if Donald Trump was made commander-in-chief he would “call the enemy by its name.”
The energy in the building shifted into the next gear as former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani took the stage and proclaimed that “the vast majority of Americans today do not feel safe. They fear for their children; they fear for themselves; they fear for our police officers who are being targeted, with a target on their back.”
Giuliani also hit Obama for his apparent reticence around labeling the terrorist threat in religious terms, saying, “Failing to identify them properly maligns all those good Muslims around the world who are being killed by them. They are killing more Muslims than anyone else.”
The lights faded to black as Giuliani left the stage, and the classic Queen hit “We are the Champions” boomed through the PA system. Donald Trump appeared as a backlit silhouette, and when the lights came back on he stepped to the podium and announced, “We are going to win so big,” and then introduced his wife Melania, who was the keynote speaker for the evening.
Mrs. Trump’s remarks, delivered with her heavy Eastern European accent, hit a number of general themes, including the fact that she was an immigrant who went through the naturalization process and became a citizen in 2006 and that her husband wasn’t one to give up on anything in life. (Media pundits were quick to point out that parts of her speech mirrored one given by First Lady Michelle Obama at the DNC in Denver in 2008, an accusation that Trump allies dismissed. “There’s no way that Melania Trump was plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech,” New Jersey Gov. and Trump proxy Chris Christie said.)
Donald Trump retook the stage at the end of his wife’s speech, and the two walked off to raucous applause from the delegates and other faithful in attendance. And, in what has to be viewed as a case of bad showmanship planning by either the RNC or the Trump team, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and a vocal critic of the Obama administration in spite of the fact that he’s a registered Democrat, walked to the podium to speak as a large majority of the audience streamed for the exits, assuming they’d seen the most important part of the program.
“The destructive pattern of putting the interests of other nations ahead of our own will end when Donald Trump is president,” Flynn said. “From this day forward, we must stand tougher and stronger together, with an unrelenting goal to not draw red lines and then retreat and to never be satisfied with reckless rhetoric from an Obama clone like Hillary Clinton.”
Flynn was followed Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, another Army veteran, who told the dwindling crowd, “Our allies see us shrinking from our place as a leader in the world as we have failed time and again to address threats. They are looking for American leaders who are willing to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.'”
And by the time Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick brought the first day’s proceedings to a close, Quicken Loans Arena was nearly empty.
President Donald Trump’s administration for the second time ordered a military strike on the Syrian government without asking for permission from Congress, and it could indicate the legislature has lost its ability to stop the US president from going to war.
The US Constitution, in Article I, Section 8, clearly states that the power to declare war lies with Congress, but since 2001 successive US presidents have used military force in conflicts around the world with increasingly tenuous legality.
Today, the US backs up most of its military activity using broad congressional legislation known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force. The joint resolution, which Congress passed in 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, allows the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”
This has essentially become a carte blanche for the US president to fight terrorism wherever it rears its head.
But on April 13, 2018, the Trump administration attacked Syrian targets in retaliation for an attack on a Damascus suburb the US says involved chemical weapons. Trump ordered a similar punitive strike a year ago, in April 2017.
At Harvard’s Lawfare blog, the law professors Jack Goldsmith and Oona A. Hathaway summed up all of the Trump administration’s possible arguments for the legality of the Syria strikes in an article titled “Bad Legal Arguments for the Syria Airstrikes.”
The article concludes that the US’s stated legal justification, that Article II of the Constitution allows the US to protect itself from attacks, falls short and that other legal arguments are a stretch at best.
Rep. John Garamendi, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee who spoke with Secretary of Defense James Mattis hours before the strike, told Business Insider the strikes were probably illegal.
“The bottom line is I do not believe he has legal authority to conduct those strikes,” Garamendi said.
Congress ‘derelict in its duty’ as Trump doesn’t even try to get approval
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kallysta Castillo)
Trump “could have and should have come to Congress and said these facilities and the use of poisonous gas is horrific, it is illegal based upon the international conventions, and I want to take military action,” Garamendi said, adding that he thought “a limited authorization to do that would have passed Congress in one day” if it had been written in a concise, limited way.
But Trump did not ask for permission, and it shows the incredible power of today’s US presidents to start wars.
“I think that Congress was derelict in its duty,” Garamendi said. “Congress clearly has abdicated one of its most crucial functions, and that is the power to take the US into a war. The Constitution is absolutely clear, and it’s for a very important reason.”
Fred Hof, a former US ambassador to Syria who is now at the Atlantic Council, said that while there was some reason for Congress to allow the president leverage in where and when he strikes, the two branches of government still needed to coordinate.
“Most, maybe all, in Congress would concede there are circumstances in which the commander-in-chief must act quickly and unilaterally,” Hof wrote to Business Insider. “But there are reasons why the Constitution enumerates the duties of the Congress in Article One, as opposed to subsequent Articles. I really do believe it’s incumbent on the executive branch to consult fully with the Congress and take the initiative in getting on the same page with the people’s representatives.”
Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain who is an expert on maritime law, told Business Insider “the last declaration of war was in the course of World War II,” adding that Congress had “absolutely” given the president increased powers to wage war unilaterally.
Possibly illegal strikes create a ‘window’ for the US’s adversaries
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
The US missile attack had questionable legality, but it wasn’t even Trump’s first time ordering strikes against Syria’s government, as a salvo of 59 cruise missiles targeted a Syrian air base in April 2017.
Before that, the US attacked Libya’s government forces in 2011. The US is also using the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force as justification for attacking Islamist militants in the Philippines, among other countries.
Garamendi said that by neglecting to request congressional approval, Trump had “given Syria, Russia, and Iran an argument that never should have happened.” He said by opening an internal US argument over whether the strike was legal, Trump had committed a “very serious error” and “opened a diplomatic attack that could easily have been avoided.”
Trump certainly did not start the trend of presidents ordering military action without congressional approval, and he has enjoyed wide support for his actions against chemical weapons use, but the move indicates a jarring reality — that the US president can go to war with thin legal justification and without even bothering to ask Congress.
Who knew the word to be used most often in 2020 would be quarantine? With travel being restricted, social isolation being encouraged – plus states closing down schools and offices; it’s leaving many feeling anxious about the uncertainty of the days ahead. Freud suggested that humor is one of the highest forms of defense and he knows a thing or two about the human mind.
So, without further ado – let’s dive into the 10 most epic songs to make you laugh through your quarantine.
Destiny’s Child – Survivor (Official Music Video) ft. Da Brat
As the world is increasingly self-quarantining or “socially isolating” to prevent community spread; the lyrics to this one are epically funny: “Now that you’re outta my life, I’m so much better, You thought that I’d be weak without ya, but I’m stronger.” This one is sure to be a fun anthem for your whole family. Especially with words like: “Long as I’m still breathin’, not leavin’ for no reason.”
Elvis Presley – Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Official Audio)
This amazing classic is the perfect anthem as you continue to stress over the increasingly chaotic world. “I will survive. Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive,” let these lyrics calm your nervousness, you got this. Pandemic-smandemic.
Slightly dramatic, but still epic just the same. “I’m locked up; they won’t let me out. No, they won’t let me out” should give you a chuckle. No, none of us are really locked up in our homes, but it’s sure going to feel that way over the coming weeks. Take a breath, fire this one up, and know it could be worse. You could literally be in jail. Their food is terrible, and I bet they actually run out of toilet paper.
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) [Official Video]
Press play on this powerhouse of a song and feel that endorphin rush! Lyrics like: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stronger; Just me, myself and I” should empower you! Embrace the suck of social isolating with this one.
In the mood to sing moodily into your hairbrush? This is the perfect quarantine ballad for you. The lyrics will speak to your socially isolated heart:
Oceans apart day after day And I slowly go insane I hear your voice on the line But it doesn’t stop the pain If I see you next to never How can we say forever Wherever you go Whatever you do I will be right here waiting for you
If this one doesn’t make you almost spit your quarantini drink in laughter, you need a better sense of humor. With lyrics like: “I told you homeboy u can’t touch this, yeah that’s how we’re livin’,” how can you not laugh? Never mind that the chorus being epically perfect for this pandemic: “You can’t touch this”! Go ahead, laugh. You know you want to!
Politicians — we love to hate them. But occasionally we come across one that we want to know more about. Michigan Democrat Sen. Gary Peters is one of those politicians.
We Are the Mighty caught up with the senator last week to chat about his work for and with veterans, and we came away with five things we think everyone should know about him:
1. Peters is working on veteran issues
Peters served in the Navy from 1993 to 2005. He left the Navy Reserve in 2000, only to return to duty just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Not only has Peters had a heavy hand in incredibly pro-veteran legislation in the two years since he took office, he is actively looking for more ways he can contribute to the veteran community. Case in point: education.
The senator said that he was bothered that service members can spend entire careers in the military doing a specific job, and then find themselves in the civilian world and having to start completely over — either in college or in some sort of training for the very jobs they’ve just spent years doing.
“There should be some sort of translation,” Peters told WATM.
One of the career fields he specifically mentioned was that of EMTs and other first responders. After extensive military training in medical fields, service members find that, upon their return to the civilian world, they are required to do all of that training again in civilian schools.
His idea is to find a way to make sure that those veterans are getting legitimate credit for their experience, rather than as as electives credits.
Bottom line: Peters wants to look at the issues facing veterans and put into action actual solutions to solve them.
2. He knows his stuff
The Michigan Democrat holds four degrees, including two masters, and a law degree.
At 22 and fresh out of college, Peters was named the assistant vice-president of Merrill Lynch — a position he held for nine years. That was followed by a four year stint as the vice-president of Paine Webber (a stock broker firm acquired by Swiss Bank UBS in 2000) before he joined the Navy.
During his time in the Navy, Peters served as an assistant supply manager and achieved the rank of lieutenant commander. His deployments include the Persian Gulf and various locations immediately after 9/11.
Peters served as a Michigan representative to the U.S. Congress from 2009 to 2015.
Bottom line: Peters has spent time both as a veteran and a politician learning the ins and outs of veteran issues.
3. Peters is working on keeping jobs in America
We asked Peters about the Outsourcing Accountability Act, which serves to gather accurate information from American companies on whether they outsource work to other countries, where exactly that work is going, and how many American jobs are being lost to outsourcing.
The bill has wide bi-partisan support.
The question was, did the Peters believe that his bill as introduced to the House would help or hinder veterans who were trying to get jobs?
“The idea is to create more jobs stateside,” Peters told WATM. “This will, in turn, create more jobs for veterans stateside.”
Bottom line: Peters is working to make sure that veterans have better access to American jobs.
4. He’s working on PTSD and other mental and physical health issues veterans face
Veterans who receive less-than-honorable discharges lose all of their benefits, and Peters says he strongly believes that those who received those discharges as a result of subsequently diagnosed PTSD should get an opportunity to have them reviewed.
Bottom line: Peters shows a determination to get as much work done as possible while he serves his constituents.
5. Peters has a sense of humor
Peters was extremely limited in the amount of time he had to chat with We Are the Mighty, but when it was time for him to move into his next appointment, there was still one burning question that had been rolling around the office for days.
Given a choice, would the senator rather go into battle with one horse-sized duck or 1,000 duck-sized horses?
“Absolutely, 1,000 duck sized horses. I like to overwhelm my enemies with sheer numbers.”
Bottom line: He’s familiar with the sense of humor here at We Are the Mighty, and he digs it.
Over 6,500 soldiers are already hoping to be part of a new Army esports team that will compete in video game tournaments nationwide in an effort to attract potential recruits.
“It’s essentially connecting America to its Army through the passion of the gaming community,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, NCO-in-charge of the budding team.
About 30 soldiers are expected to be picked for the team and some of the first positions could be filled summer 2019. Only active-duty and Reserve soldiers are currently allowed to apply.
Those chosen will be assigned to the Marketing and Engagement Brigade for three years at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where the Army Recruiting Command is headquartered.
More than 6,500 Soldiers have already applied to join the Army esports team, which was created to boost recruiting efforts in the gaming community.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Meaux)
While they will not become recruiters, team members will receive a crash course on Army enlistment programs to answer questions from those interested in learning about the service.
Once built up, the team will fall under an outreach company that will also include an Army rock band and a functional fitness team.
Not everyone on the team will compete. Those who will may train up to six hours per day on video games, Jones said, adding that gameplay sessions would be live streamed or recorded for spectators to watch.
Esports has ballooned in popularity in recent years with millions of followers.
In August 2018, the Washington Post reported that esports could generate about 5 million in revenue this year in North America. In 2017, a major esports tournament in China also drew a peak of more than 106 million viewers — roughly the same number of those who watched 2018’s Super Bowl.
“It’s something really new and it’s been gaining a lot of steam,” Jones said.
While on the team, soldiers will still conduct physical training, weapons qualifications and other responsibilities that come with being a soldier. They will also have to maintain certifications in their military occupational specialty.
“Outside of that, there will be esports training,” Jones said. “So whatever game they’re playing in, they’ll not only be playing it, but be coached in it to get better.”
The team, he said, shares a similar concept to that of other Army competitive teams that continually train, such as the Golden Knights parachute team, World Class Athlete Program and Army Marksmanship Unit.
“Esports is like traditional sports,” he said. “Nobody can just walk in and expect to play at a competitive level.”
The Army, he said, already has talented gamers out there who can compete in events.
in January 2019, a few soldiers competed at PAX South in San Antonio as a way to introduce Army esports to the greater gamer community.
A few Soldiers competed at PAX South in San Antonio as a way to introduce Army esports to the greater gamer community Jan. 18-20, 2019.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Meaux)
In one of the events, a Street Fighter V tournament, two soldiers placed first and second.
“This is the perfect opportunity to showcase not only to the Army, but to the civilian populace and the esports industry that we also have what it takes,” Jones said of the events.
Recruiters from the San Antonio Recruiting Battalion also joined them and were able to generate some leads with potential recruits, he added.
There are plans to do the same at the PAX East exposition in Boston in late March 2019.
As a gamer and a recruiter himself, Jones said the team can help bridge the civilian-military gap by breaking down misconceptions some young people may have about the Army.
Being able to play their favorite video games with others who share the same passion is also a bonus.
“For a lot of soldiers, to include myself, it’s like a dream come true,” Jones said. “This is just one of those ways we can start the conversation.”
“I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family.”
These words constitute the Spartan Pledge, a solemn oath meant to reverse the disturbing trend of suicide among veterans of the U.S. military and active duty personnel.
According the 2018 Annual Suicide Report released by the U.S. Department of Defense, 541 service members died by suicide in 2018, including 325 active duty troops. The data collected for this report show the suicide rate is 24.8 per 100,000 service members, up from 21.9 in 2017 and 18.7 in 2013. These 2018 numbers represent a six-year high.
Similarly, the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report published by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is bleak as well: 6,139 U.S. veterans took their own lives in 2017 — 16.8 per day, up from 5.9 in 2005. This rate is one and a half times that of the general (non-veteran) population.
Boone Cutler on deployment when he was a member of the U.S. Army.
(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler’s Facebook page.)
In 2010, retired U.S. Army paratrooper Boone Cutler decided it was time to do something about these tragic statistics. Cutler came from a family with a long-standing tradition of military service. His father served in Vietnam, his grandfather in World War II. “My grandpa was actually the longest held POW in World War II,” Cutler said. “We take a lot of pride in that and give him a lot of respect. He was captured the day after the Pearl Harbor attack and was held from December 8 until the end of the war.”
Cutler was inspired to join the Army after learning about the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. “I remember the headline,” he said. “The 82nd Airborne Division had just jumped into Panama. I left home at 17 and joined the Army Airborne Infantry when I was 18. He later reclassed his military occupational specialty (MOS) and joined the psychological operations (PSYOP) community. Cutler deployed to Sadr City, Iraq, in 2005 as a PSYOP Team Sergeant. Serious orthopedic and traumatic brain injuries sent him to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for two years. While there, doctors told him he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a diagnosis he had no intention of accepting at the time.
The years that followed were difficult. Cutler was on several prescription drugs, and he grappled with violent outbursts and suicidal thoughts. In 2010, he was shocked to learn that he wasn’t alone. In a conversation with his closest “battle buddy” from Iraq, Cutler asked his friend if he’d ever considered suicide. “Every day,” his buddy answered.
Holy fuck, thought Cutler. How could guys be so close on active duty — literally covering each others’ backs in a kinetic environment, know everything about each other, every hiccup, every burp, every fart … literally everything … and we don’t know this about each other after we come home?
Shortly thereafter, he called another friend who had been on his team. He discovered that teammate was struggling, too. He had been contemplating taking his own life and hadn’t left his home in two years. This was the genesis of the Spartan Pledge — a battle drill that, in Cutler’s words, helps warfighters “know what to do when they don’t know what to do.”
“We made an agreement,” Cutler said. “We knew we couldn’t actually stop each other from killing ourselves, but it was kind of a respect thing — if you’re going to do that, I can’t stop you. But don’t leave me spinning around on this planet for the rest of my life, wondering what happened and if there was something I could have done. Now [the pledge] is two sentences, but it literally started out as, ‘Motherfucker, you’d better call me.'”
Around this same time, Cutler learned about GallantFew, a then-new organization with a mission to help veterans in transition. GallantFew executive director Karl Monger soon became a close friend and mentor to Cutler. While talking on the phone, the topic of veteran suicide came up, and Cutler mentioned how he and his buddies were dealing with it. Monger stopped him mid-sentence. “Boone,” he said. “I think you’ve really got something there. This is something we should promote.” GallantFew began to introduce the pledge through its network, during one-on-one meetings with veterans in crisis. From there, it took root around the country and continued to grow organically.
A 2017 video, aptly titled “The Spartan Pledge,” featured commentary by Cutler and conversations with others who were inspired to “pay the pledge forward” in unique ways. Army veteran and Redcon-1 music artist Soldier Hard shared his idea to incorporate the pledge into his concerts. “Every warfighter knows about taking an oath,” he said. “We take oaths very seriously. Why not invite warfighters in the audience to come up on stage and take the Spartan Pledge?”
The video also featured U.S. Navy veteran and New York City firefighter Danny Prince, who told Cutler he wanted to honor the victims of 9/11 — those who died in the attacks, as well as our fallen military in the Global War on Terrorism. Prince had collected some steel from the World Trade Center wreckage. He and former U.S. Marine and commercial airline pilot Steve “Luker” Danyluk proposed to forge that steel into a commemorative sword. Two months later, the project was complete.
U.S. Navy veteran and New York City firefighter Danny Prince used steel collected from the wreckage of the World Trade Center to forge this commemorative sword.
(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler.)
“Every warfighter who joined in this current era is there because of what happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 9/11,” Cutler said. “So we’ve come full circle now by creating a sword out of that tragic event that inspires people to live. That’s humbling. That’s something that touches your heart. When people touch that sword, it’s like connecting with all the souls that were lost.”
In 2011, Cutler launched a weekly talk radio show in the Reno, Nevada, area, called “Tipping Point with Boone Cutler,” which served as a platform for the former paratrooper’s raw, no-holds-barred style. That show aired through 2016. These days, Cutler spends his time spreading the word about the Spartan Pledge and connecting with his brothers and sisters in arms, both active duty and retired. “We’ve built a solid network from all walks of life,” he said. “We put our differences aside to save lives. It’s an amazing unifier.”
Cutler was a featured guest at the 2019 VetXpo conference in Dallas in October, which was sponsored by the GallantFew. His presentation, one of the many highlights of the weekend, was a spot-on snapshot of the state of the veteran community, the civilian world’s perception of warfighters, and why warfighters have such a challenging time with transition.
A dog tag stamped with the Spartan Pledge.
(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler.)
He shared his observation that, after Vietnam, Hollywood and the media habitually portrayed warfighters as “crazy vets.” As late as 2010, nearly half of all human resources managers said it was “difficult to hire” veterans due to PTSD — but they didn’t have a real understanding of PTSD. Cutler concluded that it was “PTSD phobia” that made it difficult to hire veterans, not PTSD itself. If PTSD was truly the problem, he continued, a woman who was raped or a person who lived through a natural disaster or a car wreck would also be difficult to hire. Yet, strangely, that did not seem to be the case — only veterans with PTSD posed this difficulty. Fortunately, due to advancements in mental health and organizations like GallantFew, the civilian population is beginning to understand PTSD, those affected by PTSD are talking about it more openly, and the associated phobias are fading.
As critical as he was of the civilian population, Cutler made it a point to hold his fellow warfighters accountable, too. He acknowledged that the transition to the civilian world is difficult, calling it a “different set of rules.” In the military, it is understood that everything can change and adjustments must be made. “If we’ve adjusted to those environments,” Cutler challenged the audience, “why are we so stubborn to adjust to this one?”
His answer was startlingly simple: At a time when most young people are learning to become independent — starting families, getting careers and making their own decisions — those who join the military are entering an authoritarian environment, in which they rely upon someone else, a squad leader, to tell them what to do and when to do it. The upshot? Warfighters have to develop their own “inner squad leader.”
(Photo courtesy of Boone Cutler.)
“My squad leader talks to me all the time,” he admitted. “I’m gonna do some stupid shit. BAM! Squad leader talks to me: ‘Don’t do that.’ Every one of us needs to build that squad leader [into your brain] who tells you what to do. You’re not doing your PT? Squad leader ought to have a knee up your ass pretty quick!” As you can imagine, Cutler’s presentation was peppered by frequent, self-deprecating laughter.
However, the humorous tone quickly turned somber when he invited Annette, a Gold Star mother, to join him at the front of the room. Cutler shared Annette’s story with the audience, recounting how her son had tragically ended his own life after transitioning out of the military. He then asked everyone to come forward, circle around, and lay hands on Annette while he led the group in the Spartan Pledge.
“I authored it,” he said later about the pledge, “but it doesn’t belong to me. It’s important to me that your readers know [the Spartan Pledge] is hallowed ground. There’s a fiefdom everywhere in our community these days, so I don’t want to attach my personality to this thing. To be clear, I legally own it, but that’s just to make sure no one pulls any bullshit.”
The Spartan Pledge has been featured on a NASCAR vehicle, inked on the bodies of warfighters, and incorporated into special ceremonies across the country. In the final minutes of Cutler’s 2017 Spartan Pledge video, he said that people frequently ask what he plans to do with it next.
“I’m just the author,” he said, laughing. “I’m not doing anything with the Spartan Pledge because it belongs to the community. The question is: What are you going to do with it?”
Buy a Bag, Give a Bag: Our first donated bags arrive to deployed troops in Iraq
The Cold War ended in 1991, taking the threat of global nuclear annihilation with it. For over 45 years, America and Russia endured a stalemate that spawned the arms race, the space race, land grabs, proxy wars around the globe and more.
But like a bad eighties movie remade for today’s audience, the same elements that shaped the first one are defining the Cold War part two. So far it’s the same plot. For starters, there’s the Russian land grab of Crimea, the forces placed near the Russian border and the proxy war shaping up in Syria.
In Cold War 2.0, VICE does an incredible job making sense of the events leading up to this undeclared conflict. VICE founder Shane Smith meets with Kremlin officials and American leaders, including President Obama, to figure out what’s driving the new standoff.
You can view Cold War 2.0 in its entirety on VICE.com or YouTube. Here is a quick four-minute debrief about the report.
The comprehensive construction and upgrade of new airfields in the high Arctic has been practically completed and we are flying there and back, says Major General Igor Kozhin, leader of the Russian Naval Air Force.
Russia has over the last years invested heavily in military bases all over its wide-stretched Arctic, and there are now potent forces deployed all the way from the westernmost archipelago of Franz Josef Land to the Wrangle Island near the Bering Strait.
In addition comes the bases on Novaya Zemlya, Severnaya Zemlya and the New Siberian Island. New bases and air fields are also located on the Arctic mainland, from the Kola Peninsula to Cape Shmidt in the Chukotka Peninsula. The new base in Tiksi, was started in fall 2018 and is planned to be completed already in the course of the first half-year of 2019.
Upgrades are also in the making at the airfields of Vorkuta, Tiksi, Anadyr and Alykel.
Russian Border Guards Antonov An-72P taking off from Tiksi Airport.
The Navy’s northernmost air force is located in the Franz Josef Land where the Nagurskoye base offers pilots a 2,500 meter long landing and takeoff strip.
In east Arctic archipelago of New Siberian Island, the Temp airbase is about 1,800 meters long.
According to Igor Kozhin, most of the new air fields will over the next few years be operational all though the year and capable of handling all kinds of aircraft.
“We have prepared the air force command structures and established a force than is capable of resolving its appointed tasks,” Kozhin says to Krasnaya Zvezda, the newspaper owned and run by the country’s Armed Forces.
Furthermore, the Air Force has not only boosted its strength and hardware in the region, but also significantly improved its tactical capabilities, the major general underlines.
That not only includes the regional air space, but also the situation under the Arctic ice.
“We are not only talking about the air space, we are also working on breaking up the situation under the ice,” Kozhin says. “We are pretty seriously working with this. That means that the pilot, when in the air, must be able to have a full control over the situation.”
Surveillance capabilities have been improved.
“In the course of the last years we have on the request of the General Staff conducted several experiments on the development of a unified and real-time system on information-battle in the naval air force space,” the military representative says.
“This allows us to discover and eliminate threats before damage is made, the reaction time is significantly reduced and we get the possibility to neutralize the danger in its early stage.”
According to Kozhin, the Armed Forces have also managed to develop a new hard cover for airstrips that can be more efficiently applied in Arctic conditions. The new technology, that can be put on the ground in temperatures down to minus 30 degrees centigrade, has reportedly already successfully been tested in one of the Arctic airfields.
“This new material has proved itself excellent and opens a range of new opportunities that allows us to in short time restore restore the capability of the takeoff and land strip and extend its usage and heighten flight security.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.