The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?

Okay, if that headline has you scratching your head, know that you’re not alone. When we first heard about this reboot, that’s exactly what we did too … until we unpacked it a little and decided that maybe, there might be something to this.

According to reports, Bear Grylls’ production company, The Natural Studios, is in talks with producers Ben Grass and Christophe Charlier to remake the classic novel.

Yeah, we’re talking about that Bear Grylls – former British soldier turned survivalist and television personality.


And yep, we’re talking about that classic novel written by Alexander Dumas and published in installments from 1844-1846.

If you’re not seeing the connection between SF soldiers, Afghanistan and the Count, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But if you put all the pieces together, it actually makes sense.

You might recall that Dumas’ book is all about revenge, but in case you skipped that week in high school English class, here’s a quick refresher. The book coincides with some important historical moments – the Hundred Days period when Napoleon returned to power after exile being one of them. Thematically, the Count of Monte Cristo is all about hope, justice, vengeance, forgiveness and mercy. It centers on a man who’s been wrongfully imprisoned, manages to escape from jail and amass a fortune, all with the plan of getting revenge on those who did him dirty.

Now we’re not quite sure what Grylls is planning to do to make this work for two SF soldiers, but we can definitely see how the premise lends itself well to a remake. What we do know is that the script focuses on the blossoming friendship and eventual rivalry between two SF soldiers who deployed together in Afghanistan.

One of the many challenges Grylls and his team will have to address is the sheer length of the book and how to best adapt that to the screen. Tom Williams will be writing the script, and while he’s no stranger to other military-themed productions, this is a huge undertaking, and not just because of the size of the novel.

The complexity (and some argue, the genius) of The Count of Monte Cristo is due in part to the slow burn of the novel. It develops and builds, and the pacing is slow, to the novel’s advantage — it helps us understand the main character and his motivations, and makes his revenge that much sweeter. But adapting that to film and too short attention spans might be challenging. One solution could be to cut some of the original version’s tangential plotlines, but Williams might find that leads to serious plot holes.

And in a three-act film, how much friendship can we genuinely develop between these two SF soldiers? That’s a serious point of contention and something that Williams and his team are going to have to explore closely. Speaking of characters, the original version features many characters – in part because Edmond Dantes has so many aliases and so many alternate lives. It will be interesting to see how this is approached in the film since it’s less than likely that SF soldiers have alternate identities. Equally interesting will see how the remake explores Dantes’ allies, the Danglars family, and the Villefort family – or if the team will simply omit these large family structures.

But, we’re sure Williams is up to the challenge, considering his script skills on display in Kilo Two Bravo. After all, that unflinching portrayal of a British unit’s deployment is what some argue to be one of the most authentic representations of deployment in the current film era.

Of course, Grylls isn’t the first to remake Dumas’ classic literary masterpiece. reinterpretations of the book have found their way to the screen for over 100 years. But, it’s been a few decades since we’ve seen a remake. The most recent film reboot is from 2002, directed by Kevin Reynolds, starring Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce.

Either way, we’re looking forward to actor selection for this film and seeing it enter the production phase.

Articles

98-year-old grandmother wrote 7,000 letters to troops

Alleen Cooper’s son Larry was serving in Vietnam during that war — and, like many mothers who children have served in wartime, she set him letters. Her son returned from the war, and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, but she hasn’t stopped writing.


In fact, according to WHNT.com, her son was not the first serviceman overseas to get a letter. She began writing troops during World War II.

“A lot of soldiers don’t get any mail at all,” Larry Cooper told WHNT.com, adding that Mrs. Cooper’s mission is personal.

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?
Air Force Staff Sgt. Beatriz Baum works alongside Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Misty Parker during a scramble to unload more than 5,000 lbs. of mail slated for delivery to service members deployed to Joint Task Force Horn of Africa at the postal center at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. (U.S. Air Force photo/Daren Reehl)

According to WGNTV.com, since she started keeping count six years ago, Mrs. Cooper, a 98-year-old grandmother from California, has written over 7,000 letters by hand, and all of them have been unique and at least four pages long. And let’s just repeat the fact that she’s been doing this since World War II, folks.

Just prior to Memorial Day weekend, she connected with one of the servicemen she had written, Marine Staff Sgt. Chris Cantos. When Cantos deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, his unit had no internet access. Their only lifeline was what gets derisively called “snail mail.”

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?
One of the many certificates Mrs. Cooper has received from troops she has written to. (Video screenshot from WGNTV.com)

“She would always send us clippings and jokes. She would tell us about her day,” Cantos told WHNT.com.

One of the other troops who received a letter was a wounded soldier in the hospital. He had lost an ear, and needed to get a new one.

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?
A poster from the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the VFW, urging people to write to servicemen. (National Archives)

“All of the time I think of these people and their families at home,” Mrs. Cooper told WHNT.com.

These days, she will admit her hands are getting tired. But she will keep writing the troops for as long as she can.

Articles

Oldest American WWII veteran dies at 110

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?
(Photo: USA Today)


Frank Levingston, the oldest living World War II veteran, died on May 3 in Bossier Parish, Louisiana. He was 110 years old, which also made him the oldest living man in the United States.

According to his wikipedia page, he was born on November 13, 1905 in North Carolina, one of seven children. Levingston enlisted in the US Army in 1942. He served as private during the war in the Allied invasion of Italy which lasted from September 1943 to January 1944. After receiving an honorable discharge in 1945, he became a union worked specializing in cement finishing. He never married.

On August 16, 2015, he became the oldest recognized living military veteran in the United States, following the death of Emma Didlake.

“I’ve been through so many dangerous things and I’m still here. I’m thankful to the almighty God for it,” Levingston said in an interview with WTVR marking his 110th birthday. “I think I’m one of the blessed ones.”

Pamela Gobert, one of Levingston’s good friends, said in that interview: “He’s always got a kind word and he lets me know that sometimes it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” said Gobert. “One time we were at Memorial and a young lady asked him ‘Mr. Frank how old are you going to live?’ and he said ‘110.’”  He was right.

In December of 2015, he went on an honor flight to Washington, D.C. – it was his first time to ever visit the nation’s capital and war monuments. He helped to mark Pearl Harbor Day by taking part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the World War II Monument.  He was unable to meet the President but did meet representatives of his state.

(Watch footage of his visit here.)

Levingston, a member of the Greatest Generation who had little formal education, gave his most valuable lesson in life: “Be honest. That’s about all I can tell you.”

Articles

US special operators are quietly avenging the attacks in Paris and Brussels

ISIS spends a lot of time celebrating their attacks on foreign soil, making them seem like overwhelming victories in their global campaign of fear. Meanwhile U.S. special operations forces in Iraq and Syria have killed 40 ISIS fighters responsible for those attacks.


Officials from the Department of Defense told Kim Dozier of The Daily Beast that U.S. special forces have killed those “external operations leaders, planners, and facilitators” who were part of those attacks outside the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?

The use of special forces in kill or capture raids (though the capture part tends to happen much less frequently) is a major part of the U.S. counterterrorism plan against ISIS. Those 40 are less than half of the high-value targets that coalition forces have taken out. The U.S. mission also includes curtailing the terror group’s ability to recruit abroad and inhibit their ability to carry out Paris-style attacks. President Obama has ordered 250 more special operators to Iraq to support these operations.

According to Dozier’s report, the effort is seeing results. Those same defense officials estimated that ISIS’ overall fighting force is down to 19,000 – 25,000 fighters, from 33,000 in 2015. Moreover, the influx of new recruits coming into the region is down 90 percent from last year.

Dozier also reports that the Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper warned this week that ISIS cells are already in place throughout Europe. ISIS’ external operations have killed 1,000 people across 21 countries since 2015. But the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is using a mixture of special operators from many, varied disciplines. Their units include Navy SEALs, Delta Force, and Green Berets integrated in all aspects of the JSOC mission. This ensures the highest performers are on kill-capture raids, and have experience in hostage rescue and working with local opposition forces.

This may be a product of battlefield lessons learned. These days, the CENTCOM AOR is run by Gen. Joseph Votel, who once commanded both U.S. Special Operations Command and JSOC. Lt. Gen. Austin S. Miller, the current JSOC commander, ran special operations in Afghanistan, where he used the mixed special forces tactics with great success.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s what we know about China’s dangerous ‘carrier killer’ missile

China offered an unprecedented look at its new DF-26 “carrier killer” missile in a video seen by military experts as a direct warning to US aircraft carriers that they’re in danger of being sunk.

The footage of the DF-26 broke with norms in several ways. China strictly controls its media, and any data on a its ballistic missiles or supporting infrastructure amounts to military intelligence for the US, which considers China a leading rival.


And a close look at the video reveals a capable weapon with several strengths and features that seriously threaten the US Navy’s entire operating concept.

Analysts who spoke with the South China Morning Post about the video concluded that the video sought to strike fear into the US by showing a fully functional, confident Chinese rocket brigade loading and firing the missile that the country said can sink US Navy ships as far away as Guam.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZMvtqtHVf4
Tension High: China Tests DF 26 Carrier-Killer Missile, Shoulde Navy Be Worrie

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China has increasing its threats against the US Navy for sailing in international waters near its territory, with a rear admiral even calling for China to sink US aircraft carriers.

Many in the US dismissed the Chinese naval academic’s talk as bluster, but China went through with deploying the missiles and showed them off in the video.

“This is the first time, to my knowledge, the DF-26 has really been materially visible in any video,” Scott LaFoy, an open-source missile analyst at ArmsControlWonk.com tweeted in response to the video. “This sort of imagery wasn’t released for literally decades with the DF-21!” he continued, referencing China’s earlier, shorter-range “carrier killer” missile type.

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?

The DF-26 warhead revealed.

(CCTV / YouTube)

What we know about the missile

The DF-26 has a known range of 1,860 to 3,500 miles, putting much of China’s near periphery in range, along with much of the US military’s Pacific basing and infrastructure.

With at least a 2,500-pound throw weight, China can use the missile to carry conventional, nuclear, or anti-ship warheads.

First off, the missile is road-mobile, meaning that if the US sought to kill the missiles before they’re fired, they’d likely be able to run and hide.

Second, the missile is solid-fueled. This means the missile has fuel already inside it. When North Korea launched its intercontinental-ballistic-missile prototypes in 2017, it used liquid fuels.

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?

The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.

(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)

Liquid-fueled missiles must take fuel before the launch, which for road-mobile missiles, requires a large team of fueling and support trucks. The long convoy makes the mobile missiles easier to track and would give the US about 30 minutes to hunt the missile down.

Third, the missile is cold-launched, according to LaFoy. This makes a minor difference, but essentially allows the missile to maximize its range by relying on compressed gas to eject it from the tube to get it going, rather than a powerful blast of fuel.

Submarines, for example, shoot cold-launched missiles near the surface before letting their engines rip.

Finally, according to LaFoy’s close analysis of the launch, the DF-26 may carry field reloads, or essentially get close to rapid fire — which could allow China’s batteries to overwhelm a carrier’s robust defensive systems.

If the DF-26 units carry with them additional rounds and operate as portrayed in the video, China may truly have a weapon that they can confidently show off knowing the US can scrutinize it but likely not defeat it.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This awesome anti-tank missile is getting mounted on drones

You ever imagine the guts it takes to be an infantryman trying to kill a tank? Sure, we develop a new missile to make the job easier every few decades, but that still leaves a dude in 35 pounds of body armor going up against a 41-ton tank. And the infantryman often has to get within 2.5 miles of a tank that can kill him from 5.5 miles away. Luckily, Raytheon has a new plan for that.


The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?

(Raytheon)

Unsurprisingly, that plan includes buying lots of Raytheon’s Javelin missiles. But if you can forgive us some enthusiasm, we’re willing to give them a pass if it means America is getting remote-controlled tank killers.

Basically, Raytheon put its missile into a Kongsberg remote launcher and mounted that on the Titan unmanned ground vehicle. The advantage would be clear. Infantrymen who need to kill a tank would no longer need to expose themselves to enemy fire.

Instead, they can send out the Titan, line up on the tank, and fire the missile. And since it’s a Javelin, they don’t even need line of sight on the enemy to kill the tank. Javelins, as the name implies, can fire up into the sky and then dive back down onto their target.

And the Javelin is “fire-and-forget.” So once the missile is launched, the firer can start re-positioning the drone. And if the tank or another enemy combatant manages to get a shot at the drone before it gets hidden away again, that’s still way better than the current situation where that counter fire would hit a U.S. Marine or soldier.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia throws new fit over peace process with Japan

Russia has summoned the Japanese ambassador and accused Tokyo of deliberately ramping up tensions ahead of a planned visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for talks with President Vladimir Putin on formally ending World War II hostilities.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Jan. 9, 2019, said it “invited” Japanese Ambassador Toyohisa Kozuki to the ministry over comments made from Tokyo about the possible return to Japan of a disputed Pacific island chain.


The dispute over the chain — which Russia refers to as the Southern Kuriles and Japan calls the Northern Territories — has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from a signing of a formal peace treaty to end World War II.

Soviet forces seized the islands at the end of the war, and Russia continues to occupy and administer the territory, although it has allowed visits by former Japanese residents and family members in recent years.

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said recent Japanese government statements represented an apparent attempt to “artificially incite the atmosphere regarding the peace-treaty problem and try to enforce its own scenario of settling the issue.”

The ministry cited Tokyo’s remarks about the need to prepare island residents for a return of the chain to Japan and about dropping demands for Moscow to pay compensation to former Japanese residents of the islands. It also took issue with Abe’s comments that 2019 would see a breakthrough in the negotiations.

“Such statements flagrantly distort the essence of the agreements between Japanese and Russian leaders to accelerate the talks’ progress” and “disorientate” members of the public in both countries, the Russian ministry said.

It said Japan was attempting to “force its own scenario” on Russia over the talks.

Following Kozuki’s meetings at the Russian ministry, Japan’s Foreign Ministry was quoted by Russian state-run TASS news agency as saying Tokyo would continue negotiations with Russia on a peace treaty “in [a] calm atmosphere.”

The Japanese ministry said Kozuki explained Tokyo’s position on the matter to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, but it did not provide details.

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.

“The Japanese government will continue the negotiations process in the framework of its main position — to resolve the territorial dispute and then signing a peace treaty,” the ministry added.

Russia’s position on the Kuriles remains unchanged, that Japan must accept the outcome of World War II, including Russia’s sovereignty over the disputed islands, the Russian ministry stressed.

Russia has military bases on the archipelago and has deployed missile systems on the islands.

Abe is tentatively scheduled to visit Russia on Jan. 21, 2019, for talks with Putin on the peace treaty, Russian news agencies have reported.

The two leaders met in November 2018 and agreed to accelerate talks to formally end World War II.

In an interview published on Dec. 17, 2018, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda that Moscow could hand Japan the two smaller islands, Shikotan and a group of islets called Habomai, if Tokyo “recognizes the results” of World War II — something he said Tokyo was “not ready for yet.”

Recognition of the results, in Russia’s eyes, means that Japan would have to accept Russian possession of the disputed islands as legal, potentially ruling out any further dispute or claims by Tokyo on the two larger, more populated islands, Iturup and Kunashir.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

7 ways to mentor a military girlfriend and renew confidence in yourself at the same time

There are so many resources for military spouses and service members, but the military girlfriends and boyfriends are often forgotten. In military dating life, the best resources possible are the men and women who have been there, done that.


After mentoring a young military girlfriend, I realized after the fact that the experience may have done me just as much good as it did her. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own journey as a milspouse/girlfriend and see the many obstacles I’ve overcome in the process.

My husband and I dated for nearly five years before we got married, which included living together for three and a half years. To be honest, this felt like forever, especially since we moved from the East Coast to Alaska during that time. We never experienced the carefree dating experience that some do, as I was a single mom already when we met. I moved to be closer to him within months of the start of our relationship and knew no one in town. I had a minor emergency one day and called him in a panic. He couldn’t physically help me at the moment, but he remembered that one of his coworkers happened to live in my neighborhood, so he connected me with the spouse of said service member. Long story short, she saved my day!

I will never forget my first encounter (as a military girlfriend) with a military spouse. She dropped what she was doing to help out a stranger in need. She told me afterward if I ever needed anything to never hesitate to reach out, and she meant it. She sprinkled snippets of wisdom over me during the next two years whenever our paths crossed. She was brutally honest about the things that frustrated her about military life, but she always did it with a laugh and a follow-up of something she loved about that same life. Fifteen years and many cross-country duty stations later, she is still there on the other end of the line (or Facebook messenger) whenever I need her. Both of us are more “seasoned” now than we were all those years ago, but the truth is we still have value to bring to each other’s lives and military journey. I will be forever grateful for her influence in my life, and I truly feel it set the pace for how I’ve approached every military spouse or girlfriend ever since.

Here are seven ways to mentor a military girlfriend:

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?

media.defense.gov

Remember that girlfriends matter too.

We’ve all been there; just some spent much longer unwed than others. Give them hope. Share your pride in your journey. All these new trials are temporary. Some will resurface again from time to time in your military journey (hello PCS), but let her know that with each experience, she will grow and be better prepared to handle it next time. Whatever she’s stressing about, it’s likely you’ve been there. You’ll find yourself after this counseling session with a renewed appreciation for your own experiences.

Pay it forward. 

Someone at some point in your journey held your hand and gave you strength or advice when you needed it most. There’s no one better than a seasoned military spouse to do this as long as you’re mindful and empathetic, not condescending. Sometimes a military girlfriend needs to be reminded that ALL military spouses have been the outsider at some point…no one gets married before spending some amount of time first dating that lucky hero. A good deed like mentoring will always leave you feeling full of gratitude for all who mentored you along the way.

Know that you’re both worth it. 

Simply by giving your time, you are rescuing another from loneliness in some form or another. YOUR soul will benefit from that quality time with her as well. Valuable life lessons you’ve experienced are worth talking about. You never know when your story may help someone down the road. We often have no clue what battles others are facing or when they will arise, so when you take the time to share your personal challenges and victories, you are offering value whether you realize it or not.

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?

Good vibes.

Teach her to focus on the positive while still being aware of the potential negative. Don’t allow stress to cloud all judgement. Release the weight of what you can’t control, and not only will your life outlook change, but so will your LIFE. Hello? We all need this reminder!

Share your strength.

Unpredictability may be totally new to her. Help her see the perks and seize the opportunities that come her way. No better excuse to “just do it” than knowing that the chance to do so may not last long. Military life offers the perfect time to see just how brave you can be, and in the end, it’s totally empowering!

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?

Give her resources.

You’ll find yourself digging through your internal toolkit and will be amazed at what you pull out of there for her! Links, groups, and ideas will all be helpful, and you’ll likely run across a few you forgot existed but quickly realize how handy they will be in your own life again now that they’ve resurfaced.

Show her love.

Teach her about military spouse bonds and how vital it is to build relationships within the community. It’s okay that she isn’t yet married, many of the issues she’s facing don’t discriminate between married/unmarried couples. Show her that she’s never alone and remind yourself of the same while you’re at it. Sometimes we allow ourselves to forget that one, and it’s one of the most important lessons of all.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Asad regime threatens to attack US forces in Syria

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has raised the possibility of conflict between his army and U.S. forces in Syria if they do not withdraw from the country soon — prompting a warning from the Pentagon.

In an interview with Russia’s RT television on May 31, 2018, Assad asserted that he is willing to negotiate with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are allied with and embedded with U.S. forces and currently hold about one-quarter of Syria’s territory.

But he said he will reclaim their territory by force, if necessary.

“The only problem left in Syria is the SDF,” Assad told RT, adding he sees “two options” for solving the “problem.”

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?
U.S. armored vehicle inu00a0northeastern Syria.

“The first one: We started now opening doors for negotiations. Because the majority of them are Syrians, supposedly they like their country. They don’t like to be puppets to any foreigners,” Assad said in English.

“We have one option: to live with each other as Syrians. If not, we’re going to resort…to liberating those areas by force.”

Assad added that “the Americans should leave.” He said Washington should learn a “lesson” from its experience in Iraq.

“People will not accept foreigners in this region anymore,” he said.

Assad’s threat to use force against U.S. allies in Syria and about 2,000 American troops providing them with air support and training prompted a warning from the Pentagon.


“Any interested party in Syria should understand that attacking U.S. forces or our coalition partners will be a bad policy,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff, said at a press conference in Washington on May 31, 2018.

The U.S. State Department also said that while Washington is not seeking conflict with Syria, it would use “necessary and proportionate force” to defend U.S. and partner forces, which have teamed up to fight Islamic State militants in the region.

In the RT interview, Assad responded sharply to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent description of him as an “animal,” saying, “What you say is what you are.”

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?
President Donald Trump

Backed by Russian air power and Iranian and Hizbullah militias on the ground, Assad’s forces have gained significant ground in recent months in the seven-year civil war that has killed an estimated half a million people and driven another 5 million abroad as refugees.

After regaining control of Syria’s two largest cities — Aleppo and Damascus — Assad this spring set his sights on areas in the country that remain outside his control and in rebel hands.

The Kurdish militia group SDF that is backed by the United States holds the largest area of Syrian territory outside government control, but it has tried to avoid direct clashes with the government during the multisided war.

Kino Gabriel, a spokesman for the SDF, said in response to Assad’s comments that a military solution would “lead to more losses and destruction and difficulties for the Syrian people.”

The SDF wants a “democratic system based on diversity, equality, freedom, and justice” for all the country’s ethnic and religious groups, he said in a voice message to Reuters.

Assad in the RT interview also sought to minimize the extent of Iran’s presence in Syria. Israel, which is alarmed by what it claims is a growing Iranian military presence in Syria, has recently destroyed dozens of military sites that it claimed were occupied and used by Iranian forces and Hizbullah militias.

But Assad said Iran’s presence in Syria has been limited to officers assisting the army. Apparently referring to a May 10, 2018 air strike by Israel, Assad said: “We had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian casualty.”

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent Britain-based war-monitoring group, has said at least 68 Iranians and pro-Iranian forces have been killed in Israeli air strikes since April 2018.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Trevor Noah, John Oliver dive into missing leader’s ‘silly-dictator antics’

Before his sudden reemergence at the Caspian Economic Forum, speculation had recently been swirling in Turkmenistan after the country’s strongman president disappeared from public view for more than a month.

Considering that Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov regularly dominates the airwaves in the tightly controlled state, his abrupt absence did not go unnoticed, prompting speculation that he was in poor health or even dead.

This obviously posed a problem for the Turkmen authorities, who have spent years cultivating an elaborate cult of personality aimed at boosting the totalitarian leader’s power and prestige.
Turkmenistan’s Singer, Race-car Driver, Jockey, Autocrat

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When ubiquitous dictators suddenly evaporate into thin air, it can have a destabilizing effect on their regimes.

Perhaps hoping to avoid the crippling uncertainty that gripped the Soviet Union immediately following the demise of Stalin or the rampant rumors that accompanied the long-drawn-out announcement of Islam Karimov’s death in neighboring Uzbekistan in 2016, the Turkmen authorities went into overdrive to assure the populace, and the world at large, that their glorious leader was alive and well.

This all culminated in state TV broadcasting an Aug. 4, 2019 highlights package showing a 35-minute montage of clips of what Turkmenistan’s all-singing, all-dancing president had been doing on his “holidays,” including riding a bicycle, firing an automatic weapon in combat gear, bowling with astonishing accuracy, riding a horse, working on a new book, composing a new song, and driving an SUV through the desert to the Gates of Hell — a perpetually burning crater that resulted from a Soviet attempt to flare gas there in the early 1970s.

Watan Habarlary 04.08.2019

www.youtube.com

Not surprisingly, such blatant silly-dictator antics have been gleefully seized upon by many detractors, including the U.S.-based satirists Trevor Noah and John Oliver.

Turkmenistan’s Leader Wants Everyone to Know He’s Alive | The Daily Show

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In a five-minute segment on The Daily Show, Noah used the opportunity to reprise some of the video “highlights” of Berdymukhammedov’s bizarre reign, including the South African comedian’s own personal favorite, which shows the Turkmen leader rocking out with his grandson.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnWE19Y1ABo
Президент Туркменистана спел по-немецки

www.youtube.com

Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver went even further, devoting a full 20-minute segment to documenting the sheer “weirdness” of the Berdymukhammedov regime.

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

www.youtube.com

Among other things, Oliver took great delight in dissecting the Turkmen president’s fascination with horses, which RFE/RL has also covered in the past.

The British-born comic paid particular attention to the time when Berdymukhammedov had an embarrassing fall while riding a beloved steed, a story that the Turkmen authorities did their best to try and bury.

Turkmen president falls during horse race

www.youtube.com

Besides mining the subject for laughs, however, both also made sure to draw attention to the dark side of life in Turkmenistan, particularly its abysmal human rights record.

According to its latest World Report, Human Rights Watch singled out the country for particular criticism, calling it “one of the world’s most isolated and oppressively governed” states, where “all forms of religious and political expression not approved by the government are brutally punished.”

With this in mind, Oliver also took the time to take a swipe at Guinness World Records for actually sending verifiers to validate what he described as Berdymukhammedov’s “bizarre obsession” with setting global firsts (something he shares with some Central Asian counterparts).

The Count of Monte Cristo reboot: Featuring SF Soldiers in Afghanistan?

John Oliver repeatedly cited RFE/RL reporting in his Berdymukhammedov segment.

(Last Week Tonight/YouTube)

In Oliver’s view, enabling Berdymukhammedov to register such Turkmen records as having “the most buildings with marble cladding” or the “world’s largest indoor Ferris wheel” only serves to “reinforce a cult of personality and confer a sense of legitimacy on a global stage.”

Typically, Oliver was to have one last laugh at the Turkmen leader’s expense, however.

Taking a leaf out of Berdymukhammedov’s book, the Last Week Tonight ended the show by attempting to break another record, making what Oliver described as the “world’s largest marbled cake” — a 55-square-meter confectionery decorated with a huge picture of the Turkmen president infamously falling off his horse.

It’s probably safe to assume that this is probably not a record achievement Turkmen state TV is going to be trumpeting anytime soon.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine makes miraculous recovery after brain injury

Olivia Nord doesn’t remember much from Marine Corps boot camp, or the car accident that killed her three friends, and almost killed her and her mother.

Her mom, Jennifer, doesn’t remember anything either. But as she looks at her daughter, says she knows one thing for sure.

“She’s my miracle. She’s my absolute miracle.”

The two were returning home Dec. 2, 2016, for Olivia’s first leave after she graduated from basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina.

“I don’t have any memory of that,” Jennifer says. “The last memory I have is waiting at the airport in South Carolina.”

“I don’t even remember basic training,” she adds. “I remember running and shooting. That’s it.”


Olivia’s boyfriend, Austin, joined the Marines six weeks ahead of her. His family — mother, Dawn; sister, Dylan; and Dylan’s 2-year-old son, Payton–met them at the Minneapolis Airport. As they drove onto the interstate, another driver having an epileptic seizure slammed head first into their car.

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Olivia Nord is all smiles after graduating from Marine Corps basic training. Hours later, she would be in a coma from a head-on car crash.

Dawn, Dylan and Payton were killed.

“I was broke in half,” Jennifer says. “My pelvis was crushed. I have a moderate brain injury and a rod in my back, with four screws holding it together.”

First responders didn’t have much hope for Olivia. Paramedics first took her to Hennepin County Medical, a level-1 trauma center, before she was transferred to Walter Reed in Maryland, and finally, to the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Jan. 12, 2019. She had a severe brain injury and was in a coma, along with a shattered femur, torn aorta and lacerated liver. She had a tracheotomy, and was kept alive with artificial respiration.

Coming out of the coma

The Minneapolis VA is one of five major polytrauma centers in the entire Department of Veterans Affairs. It offers an array of integrated services for those in inpatient, transition and outpatient care. Brain-injury runs the gamut from someone with a concussion or stroke, or in Olivia’s case, all the way to a coma — one of their most severe cases.

“She was in our ‘Emerging Consciousness’ program, but wasn’t very responsive,” said Christie Spevacek, a nurse who oversees some of the most acute polytrauma cases. “We had to wean her from the vent, and she was in a very minimal state. Wasn’t talking, wasn’t doing anything.

“You see that, and you say, ‘Let’s get to work.’

“In the next month or so, she started waking up, but she’d maybe have five minutes, and then would be down again,” Spevacek said. “We had to bring up her endurance.”

Olivia shares photos from that time. Tubes and wires run everywhere. In another, she hugs her mom with a vacant stare in her eyes.

“She was awake, but she wasn’t awake,” Jennifer said. “She wasn’t aware of what was happening and didn’t know she was hurt. We had to keep reminding her.”

At one point, Olivia woke up and it didn’t know where she was at.

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Olivia Nord suffered a severe brain injury, torn aorta, lacerated liver and crushed femur. She was in a coma for more than a month.

“I didn’t know I was hurt or why I was there,” she said. “I didn’t know my one leg didn’t work. I started to get up and fell down. The nurse came in to get me.”

Doctors, nurses, and therapists continued working with her. They’d take her out of the room. The goal was to make her feel normal again. They painted her fingernails and gave her lipstick. She worked on walking, talking, remembering, and all those things taken for granted.

“It was amazing to see her flourish,” said Kristin Powell, a recreation therapist who worked with her on the acute side, and now as an outpatient. “We were able to take her on outings. She was able to take what she learned in physical therapy and use those skill and flourish in the community.”

Not every outcome is as good as Olivia’s, which makes the recovery even more remarkable,” Powell said. “You see them come in here at their worst, in acute care, with tubes going in and out, and that was Olivia. And look at her now.”

Olivia is training to ride the recumbent bike at the upcoming VA Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego. She works as a grocery cashier and has plans to go back to school for elementary education.


No one expected 18-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Private Olivia Nord to survive …

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Patrick Hayes, the man who caused the crash, was not even supposed to be driving. He was sentenced April 9, 2019, to 100 months in prison. Olivia and her mom both gave victim statements at the sentencing.

“I feel like we are a flicker of a flame, and you caused three of those flickers to burn completely out,” Olivia sobbed in court.

The car crash is still a blank for mom and daughter.

“In one way, it’s a blessing,” Jennifer says. “But there is a part of us that wants to remember, just so we can grieve.”

“It’s just like they were here one moment, and now they’re gone,” Olivia adds.

She and her boyfriend are no longer together.

“We don’t talk,” Olivia says. “He was back home for his birthday and I sent him a ‘Happy birthday’ text.”

“We know it’s hard for him, too,” Jennifer says. “He lost his mom. He lost his family.”

Recovery beyond the Minneapolis VA

Today, in a lot of ways, Olivia is like any 21-year-old. She laughs, tells jokes and likes to cuss like… well, like a Marine.

Jennifer and Olivia help each other remember dates and even the right words that sometimes get lost or garbled.

“She’ll help me and I’ll help her,” Jennifer says. “The other day, I said, ‘I’m going out to vacuum the lawn.'”

“I said, ‘No, you’re going to mow the lawn,'” Olivia added.

Olivia uses a leg brace to walk, and also participates in Wounded Warrior events in the community. But sometimes it’s hard not to get angry.

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Jennifer and Olivia Nord lost their three friends, and were both nearly killed in a head-on collision. Today, mom and daughter are thriving despite brain injuries.

“I’m still not the best,” she says. “I see how far I’ve come. My gosh, I’m out of the hospital. At some point, I don’t want any injuries. I can’t run. I can’t use my left arm. But I’m getting better. My thinking process is better. I’m always thinking.

“My friends think I’m crippled,” she adds. “I’m not crippled.”

Mom and daughter have tattoos that show their love for one another — and those they’ve lost.

Both sport a red fox tattoo on their ankles. Jennifer’s says, “Love you, bebè.” Olivia’s says, “Love you, mamá.” She also has another, larger tattoo on her waist. It’s an American flag shaped like the United States, a cross and three dog tags bearing three names Dawn, Dylan and Payton. She has another on her inside right arm — four different colored roses for family members, and a tiny cross on a chain that says, “Faith.”

“For me, the faith is not always what you believe in. It’s what you do to get better,” Olivia says. “I have faith in myself that I will get better.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Navy’s best sub-hunting aircraft has some persisting problems

The P-8A Poseidon, introduced in 2013 to replace the P-3 Orion, has quickly become one of the most highly regarded maritime-patrol aircraft in service, fielded by the Navy and sought after by partner countries all over the world.

But the P-8A is dealing with some lingering issues that could affect the force as a whole, according to the fiscal year 2018 annual report produced by the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation.


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US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon.

(US Navy photo)

The Poseidon’s capabilities now include receiver air refueling, employment of the AGM-84D Harpoon Block I anti-ship missile, and several upgrades to its communications systems.

But, the report said, “despite significant efforts to improve P-8A intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors, overall P-8A ISR mission capabilities remain limited by sensor performance shortfalls.”

Moreover, the report found, data from the operational testing and evaluation of the P-8A’s latest software engineering upgrade as well as metrics from the Navy “show consistently negative trends in fleet-wide aircraft operational availability due to a shortage of spare parts and increased maintenance requirements.”

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A Boeing and a Raytheon employee complete installation of an APY-10 radar antenna on P-8A Poseidon test aircraft T2.

(Boeing)

Forward-deployed P-8A units have reported “relatively high mission capable rates” when they have access to enough spare parts, sufficient logistic supply support, and priority maintenance.

However, the report said, focusing on supporting forward-deployed units “frequently reduces aircraft availability and increases part cannibalization rates at other fleet operating locations.”

Shortages in spare parts for the Poseidon are exacerbated by the nature of the contracting and delivery system for the P-8A, according to the report.

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Naval aircrewman (Operator) 2nd Class Karl Shinn unloads a sonobuoy on a P-8A Poseidon.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Comm. Specialist Keith DeVinney)

The use of engineering model predictions rather than reliability data from the fleet itself, “ensures that some mission critical spare part contracts lag actual fleet needs,” lengthening the already long six- to nine-month contracting process.

These delays are exacerbated by consumable-item processes at the Defense Logistics Agency, which requires depleting stocks and back orders before starting to procure new items, according to the report.

“These delays are a major contributing factor to the observed increases in aircraft downtime awaiting parts and higher part cannibalization,” it added, saying that the P-8A program is working with Naval Supply Systems Command to procure parts on a more flexible and proactive basis and to start basing procurement on fleet-reliability data.

Keeping an eye on things

More than 60 P-8As are in service for the US Navy. The plane is based on Boeing’s 737 airliner but built to withstand more stress and outfitted with a suite of electronic gear to allow it to detect and track ships and subs — even just their periscopes — across wide swaths of ocean, as well as to conduct surveillance of ports and coastlines.

“I went up on a training flight, and basically … they could read the insignia on a sailor’s hat from thousands of feet above,” Michael Fabey, author of the 2017 book “Crashback,” about China-US tensions in the Pacific, told Business Insider in early 2018. “It’s not the aircraft itself of course,” he added, but “all the goodies they put in there.”

The Navy plans to improve the aircraft’s capability going forward by adding the Advanced Airborne Sensor radar and by integrating the AGM-84 Harpoon Block II+ missile and the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability MK 54 torpedo.

Interest in the P-8A continues to grow.

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US Navy aircrew members on a P-8A Poseidon.

(US Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney)

India has bought 12 of the P-8I variant, and the country’s navy chief has said it’s looking to buy more. Australia is buying eight and has an option for four more.

Other countries in the Asian-Pacific region are looking to buy, too, including South Korea, to which the US State Department approved the sale of six in 2018.

NATO countries are also looking to reinvigorate their airborne anti-submarine-warfare capabilities, including the UK and Norway, which are adjacent to the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, a chokepoint for submarines traveling between the Atlantic and the Arctic, where Russia’s Northern Fleet and nuclear forces are based. The US recently sent P-8As back to the Keflavik airbase in Iceland, though it does not plan to reestablish a permanent presence.

At the end of January 2019, Boeing was awarded a .46 billion modification to an existing contract for the production and delivery of 19 P-8A Poseidons — 10 for the US Navy, four for the UK, and five for Norway.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President gets closer to his enormous military parade

Republicans are attempting to ensure that President Donald Trump will get the massive military parade through the streets of Washington that he has long desired, according to a summary of the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act.

The annual defense bill, slated for release on May 7, 2018, will include language that will provide for a parade “to honor and celebrate 100 years of patriotic sacrifice in a way that expresses appreciation and admiration for our men and women in uniform, including a parade in the nation’s capital and a national celebration for that purpose,” according to a summary released by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry.


Republicans are billing the parade as a grand homage to America’s veterans and servicemembers, but also one that would double as a show of force to adversarial countries like Russia.

Thornberry “thinks at this point in history — 100 years after the Armistice when the world order that has been built largely by the service and sacrifice of veterans of past wars is under pressure from countries like Russia and China — this is an appropriate moment to acknowledge their service,” a Republican aide told Business Insider.

But what kind of equipment will be paraded through the capital is unclear. Under the framework outlined in the bill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will have authority to prohibit the use of “operational units or equipment” if he deems it at all a burden that would threaten military readiness.

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Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis
(DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“It talks a little about stuff that’s traditionally used in parades,” the aide said. “But as for anything more, [Thornberry] leaves it to the secretary’s discretion to make sure that readiness restoration remains the department’s priority.”

The GOP aide added that the Department of Defense regularly uses funds for ceremonies and similar events, making them “well-versed in these functions.”

“What the chairman is comfortable with is veterans. Of course you’re gonna see a 21-gun salute, you’re gonna see firing of cannons, and things like that — that’s OK — that’s traditional ceremonial function,” the aide said. “What we don’t wanna see are tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Trump has been fascinated by the idea of a large US military parade ever since his trip to Paris, where French President Emmanuel Macron hosted him for Bastille Day celebrations.

Trump remarked to the New York Times in an interview that “it was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave.”

If the annual NDAA makes its way through, Trump may get most of what he has hoped for in terms of a grand military display in Washington.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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