U.S. citizen Michael White, pictured here with his mother, Joanne, had been detained in Iran since 2018. (Free Michael White Campaign)
U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who has been detained in Iran for nearly two years, is returning home as part of a prisoner swap between Washington and Tehran.
White’s release on June 4 is part of a back-channel deal involving the release of an American-Iranian doctor prosecuted in the United States, U.S. and Iranian officials said.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter he had spoken by phone with White, who took a Swiss plane to Zurich on his way to the United States.
“Thank you to Iran, it shows a deal is possible!” Trump wrote, in an apparent olive branch to Iran.
White was sentenced to 13 years in prison last year for allegedly insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posting private information online.
In March, he was temporarily released on medical grounds amid the coronavirus pandemic to the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran.
The navy veteran was detained in July 2018 while he was visiting a woman he had met online and fallen in love with.
White’s mother, Joanne White, said in a statement that “the nightmare is over, and my son is safely in American custody and on his way home.”
The AP news agency quoted U.S. officials as saying his release was part of an agreement involving Majid Taheri, an Iranian-American physician prosecuted by the Justice Department.
Taheri served 16 months for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and on June 4 a federal judge released him to go see family in Iran.
The developments follow the deportation to Iran this week of Sirios Asgari, an Iranian scientist detained in the United States.
U.S. and Iranian officials have denied that Asgari’s release was part of a prisoner swap.
Switzerland, the intermediary between the U.S. and Iranian governments, has facilitated months of quiet negotiations over prisoners, reports said. Qatar, which has good relations with both the United States and Iran, reportedly also facilitated the prisoner swap.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter he was pleased the two Iranians and White will join their families.
“This can happen for all prisoners. No need for cherry picking. Iranian hostages held in — and on behalf of — the U.S. should come home,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iranian authorities had been “constructive” on freeing White but urged the release of three other U.S. citizens, all of Iranian descent, who are detained in Iran.
Observers have speculated that prisoner swaps can offer a rare opportunity for back-channel diplomacy between the two adversaries to start official dialogue, but few see any serious progress before the U.S. election in November.
Relations between Washington and Tehran have become increasingly hostile since 2018, when Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
One thing that has happened a number of times this year are close encounters. Or, to put it bluntly, times where the U.S. military got buzzed. Three countries were major offenders: Russia, China, and Iran. Here’s a breakdown of the incidents by country.
There were at least four major incidents where Russia buzzed American forces. On Feb. 10, an Ilyushin Il-38 “May” maritime patrol aircraft and three Sukhoi Su-24 Fencers carried out multiple passes on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78). In May, a Su-27 Flanker came within 20 feet of a P-8 Poseidon. The following month, an Air Force RC-135 was buzzed by another Flanker. In November, another P-8 Poseidon had a Russian fighter come within 50 feet.
The Chinese have been major offenders in unsafe encounters. In 2001, one of their fighter pilots collided with a Lockheed EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane. The crew of the EP-3E made it, but the Chinese pilot was killed. In May, there were two incidents, starting with a Su-30 doing a Top Gun stunt. About a week after that, two Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters buzzed a P-3. In July, there was a near-collision between a J-10 and an EP-3E.
The Iranians have had their history of unsafe interactions and picking fights. These are not just limited to aerial incidents, either. In January and April, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) was harassed by Iranian “fast attack craft” in the Straits of Hormuz. A third incident involving the Mahan took place in May.
In June, an Iranian vessel aimed a laser at a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion. July saw the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) forced to fire warning shots at Iranian speedboats. August saw two incidents where Iranian drones buzzed a carrier. The first incident, on August 8, nearly caused a mid-air collision with a F/A-18E Super Hornet. An Aug. 15 incident saw a close pass on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
Hopefully, 2018 will not see more of these passes, but these three countries do seem to make it a habit.
Just one day after Nate Boyer entered the Guinness World Record book for the longest football long snap, former Texas Longhorn, Seattle Seahawk, and U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer embarks on a mission to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with disabled veteran Blake Watson to help 10,000 people gain access to clean water.
The charity is called Waterboys. It was started by Chris Long, a former defensive end for the Rams who rallied NFL players to digging clean water wells in Tanzania,” Boyer says. “His initial goal was to find thirty-two players from thirty-two teams and to have thirty-two wells dug.”
The effort now has 21 NFL players involved, including the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, the Steelers’ Lawrence Timmons, and the Eagles’ Sam Bradford, who currently has raised the most money for the campaign.
“Chris went out there a couple years ago and did Kilimanjaro himself,” Boyer recalls. “But he was leaving and he felt like he wanted to do more for those people. They walk five miles a day for clean water for their villages; they can cook and drink water and try to live healthy.”
Tanzania is currently suffering from a devastating water crisis. In a country where one-third of the land is semi-arid, access to clean, sanitary water is a daily struggle. Many of the country’s current wells are dug near toxic drainage systems and are contaminated by runoff. Water-borne illnesses, such as malaria and cholera, account for over half of the diseases affecting the population.
“Long went out there last year and dedicated the first clean water well” says Boyer. “It’s pretty cool because the people, they come out of the woodwork for this thing. It’s a huge deal to them.”
That’s what brings Boyer to Kilimanjaro. When Long recruited him for the charity, Boyer was at the gym, working a stair climber machine, on the “Kilimanjaro” setting. Boyer spoke with Dave Vobora, who runs Dallas, Texas’ Performance Vault Inc., a sports performance training center for elite athletes and U.S. Special Forces.
“I told him I’m doing this climb and asked if he had anybody in mind that would be a good counterpart,” Boyer said. “I wanted to go with a guy who was going to spend the next four months working towards this goal and grinding. He’s like, ‘I got just the guy.'”
Vobora linked Boyer up with Marine veteran Blake Watson, a single leg amputee. During Watson’s first deployment he accidentally knelt down onto an IED. Watson lost his leg and his pulse rate went to zero on the helicopter during the flight to the hospital, but the medics were able to resuscitate him.
“I approached Blake and started explaining what we were doing, what I wanted to do with him and why,” Boyer remembers. “I talked about the clean water wells and before I could even finish my pitch he was like, ‘I’m in, dude. I’m in.’ He was excited about was not only the challenge and the climb and all that but what we would be doing for those people.”
Blake struggled for three years with dependency, depression, and thoughts of suicide. With the help of others and his Marine mindset, he pulled himself out of a rut, started training again, and got back in shape. Got involved at this gym called Adaptive Training Foundation in Dallas, also run by Vobora. A gym for adaptive athletes, many of them amputees. They all have a goal they’re pursuing.
“It’s not just, ‘I want to work out. I want to get in shape,'” Boyer says. “It’s like, ‘I want to go climb Kilimanjaro,’ or ‘I want to be on the Paralympic bobsled team.’
Those wounded warriors led Boyer to another goal. The clean water initiative is important, but for Nate Boyer and Blake Watson, it’s also about inspiring veterans and current service members who might be struggling back home.
“We’re people of service. Whether we joined because we had no other options or because we wanted to serve our country, at the end of the day, we became men and women of service. If we don’t have that element in our life moving forward, working towards a mission, something bigger than us, then it’s really easy to get lost and feel like you’re never going to do anything as important as what you did when you served. That’s the impetus behind this whole thing.”
To help Boyer and Watson raise money and awareness for the people of Tanzania and American wounded warriors donate here. Donations will go toward digging more clean water wells for the people of an important U.S. friend and ally.
The official announcement was expected to come later in the day the additional troops, who were expected to operate as trainers and enablers mostly out of the logistics hub for the offensive at the Qayyarah West airfield about 40 miles southeast of Mosul.
Army Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, also said that ISIS was attempting to turn Mosul into a “living hell” for the attacking force by setting out extensive fields of improvised explosive devices and even filling trenches with oil.
The troops would be in addition to the 4,647 currently authorized for Iraq by President Obama and were requested by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
In a statement, Abadi said “American President Barack Obama was consulted on a request from the Iraqi government for a final increase in the number of trainers and advisers under the umbrella of the international coalition in Iraq,” Reuters reported.
An Altus AFB Commissary meat cutter places packaged meat in the main store, Jan. 24, 2014.
Citing supply chain strains and anticipated shortages as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the agency that manages military commissaries says some stores will start limiting how much fresh meat customers can purchase.
Starting May 1, commissaries within the 50 states and in Puerto Rico will limit purchases of fresh beef, poultry and pork, the Defense Commissary Agency announced Thursday evening. For fresh beef, pork, chicken and turkey, customers will be limited to purchasing two items per visit, according to the announcement.
“There may be some shortages of fresh protein products in the coming weeks,” Robert Bianchi, a retired Navy rear admiral and the Defense Department’s special assistant for commissary operations, said in a statement. “Enacting this policy now will help ensure that all of our customers have an opportunity to purchase these products on an equitable basis.”
Military commissaries, located on military bases around the world, operate on a nonprofit basis and offer food items at cost. Considered a military benefit, they are open to active-duty troops, dependents, retirees and some other special veteran categories.
Individual stores will have the ability to increase or decrease limits based on their inventory, DeCA officials added in the release. Some commissaries have already been posting quantity limits on high-demand items, such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
The move to limit meat purchases is a troubling one that comes on the heels of an announcement from Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat-processing companies in the nation, that it was being forced to close down plants due to the virus. Eventually, the company warned, the closures would lead to shortages in stores.
“The food supply chain is breaking,” company chairman John Tyson said in a full-page ad that appeared in the New York Times April 26.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order ordering Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to “take all appropriate action under that section to ensure that meat and poultry processors continue operations,” calling the plants “critical infrastructure for the nation.
To that end, the administration will purchase billion in excess dairy, produce and meat “to be distributed in order to assist Americans in need as well as producers with lost markets,” the White House said in an announcement accompanying the order.
In DeCA’s Thursday announcement, Bianchi said the supply chain for commissaries overseas remained strong.
“In addition, we continue to prioritize quantities for our overseas shipments, so we should be able to support the demand,” he said. “If we experience any unexpected major hiccups in the pipeline, we will look at expanding shopping limits to other locations.”
The release noted that purchase limits were also intended to head off the phenomenon of panic buying, which has led to bare shelves in supermarkets all over the country. As demand spiked, DeCA issued a March 14 directive allowing store managers to implement shopping limits as they saw fit to maintain stock availability. That directive remains in effect.
“We know this is a potentially stressful time for all concerned,” Bianchi said. “But together we will meet these challenges and support our service members and their families throughout the duration of this crisis wherever necessary.”
A news broadcaster affiliated with the terrorist group ISIS has released an Android app that teaches children the Arabic alphabet — and it’s full of references to weapons and jihad.
Al Bayan Radio, which broadcasts ISIS propaganda on radio waves in the Middle East and through its Android apps, made the app available to supporters on the encrypted messaging app Telegram and other platforms ISIS commonly uses. The app isn’t available on the Google Play store, but can be accessed through files shared online.
This app is the latest step in Al Bayan’s expansion — the radio network broadcasts on FM frequencies in the Middle East, but has also recently released other Android apps and Telegram channels that distribute its propaganda to a wider audience.
The app has games for memorizing and how to write the Arabic letters in addition to including a nasheed (a cappella Islamic songs) designed to help teach the alphabet. The lyrics in the nasheed are littered with jihadist terminology, while other games within the app also include militaristic vocabulary with more common, basic words. Words like ‘tank,’ ‘gun,’ and ‘rocket’ are among the first few taught within the application.
The site took posted these screenshots from the app:
The website noted that this is ISIS’ first app, however, aimed exclusively at children.
But it’s far from the only example of ISIS (which is also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) trying to indoctrinate children under the pretense of educating them.
The group has also released textbooks that teach various subjects using weapons and other terrorist motifs.
Children have also featured prominently in photos and videos that ISIS has distributed through its various propaganda networks. They are shown at training camps and in schools, leading experts to worry that children living in ISIS territory are being indoctrinated with terrorist ideology at a young age, which could be difficult to reverse whenever ISIS is defeated.
A year-round resolution that many people make is to have healthier eating habits. Whether that means eating more fruits and veggies or cutting down on portions, changing your eating habits is a good start to having a healthier lifestyle. One of the first steps you can take to help is to cut down the amount of sugar you intake on a daily.
Though it wasn’t easy at first, Paddy Spence, CEO of Zevia— a line of zero-calorie, naturally sweetened beverages — cut sugar out of his diet 18 years ago.
“My wife and I cut sugar out of our diets in an effort to improve the way we felt every day. Through that process, I realized that with all of the supposedly ‘healthy’ products I had incorporated into my routine – items like protein smoothies, energy bars, and juice-based spritzers – I had been consuming 250 grams per day of sugar, totaling approximately 1,000 calories per day.”
Though cutting sugar completely out of your diet may take a little time, here are eight ways that you can curb your cravings to set you off on the right track.
1. Start a sugar budget.
(Photo by Matthew Kang)
When you think of budgets, finances are the first things that probably come to mind. Spence told INSIDER though, that you can actually create a budget to watch your sugar intake.
“A sugar budget, much like a financial one, allows you to use numbers to track how much sugar you’re actually consuming, and can help you limit the amount you eat,” Spence said. “It would be almost impossible to have zero sugar in your diet, so we want to be realistic. I suggest keeping it to 50 grams a day. That counts for ALL sugars, too, not just added sugars. 50 grams comes to about 10% of your 2000 calorie-a-day diet (sugar has 4 calories per gram).”
2. Keep an eye on your cereal.
(Photo by wsilver / Flickr)
It’s always been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and according to Spence, it’s for more reasons than one.
“Most people these days know that colorful kids’ cereals are going to have a sizeable serving of sugar,” he said. “Other choices that may appear ‘healthy,’ however — like a granola-based cereal for instance — could also be packing major sugar content. Be diligent and don’t be fooled!”
Try having some fresh fruit and always remember to check your labels.
3. Watch your condiments.
Do you think of sugar when you add ketchup to your hotdog? Or how about when you drench your fries in it? Spence told INSIDER that sugar is in some of the most unexpected products.
“Many condiments, ketchup included, contain ‘hidden sugars.’ That’s why kids love ketchup so much,” he said. “Barbeque sauce is also a major culprit. One of the sneakiest sources of ‘hidden sugar,’ however, is salad dressing. Always keep an eye on the sugar content of your salad dressing. You’ll be glad you did.”
4. Check your labels.
Just because a product is marketed as being healthy, Paul Searles and Sean Kuechenmeister of NY Sports Science Lab told INSIDER that it may not always necessarily be true.
“Check the nutrition labels of the products you are consuming to see how much sugar is actually present in your products,” they said. “Even some health products have high-levels of sugar. You might be better off eating a Snickers bar chemically speaking because there are more nutritional benefits and less sugar in it.”
It may take a little extra time during your next trip to the store, but it will be worth it.
5. Get active after you eat.
(Photo by Dave Rosenblum)
It’s very easy for you to want to get comfy on the couch or head straight to bed after dinner every night, but Spence said the best way to keep the late-night sugar cravings at bay is to actually get active.
Ketogenic diets have become quite popular as of late and according to Searles and Kuechenmeister, that’s for a good reason.
“This diet is a low carb diet that lessens the amount of glucose and insulin your body is producing and doesn’t use glucose as the main form of the energy for the body.”
The diet isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be for you.
7. Create a culture of wellness at work.
Since we spend most of our time at work, ensuring that your work environment reflects your health choices can be a lot of help.
“Switch out the office candy jar for fresh fruit and think about catering office celebrations differently,” Nicole Feneli, director of wellness for FLIK Hospitality, told INSIDER. “Order ‘build your own’ salads instead of heavy sandwich platters or try frozen yogurt bars instead of cake. Start small until you create a culture of wellness in your office.”
It might take some time before you adjust, but once you do, you might be able to have a good influence on others around you.
8. Start questioning your motives.
(Photo by ccharmon)
According to physician nutrition specialist Dr. Nancy Rahnama, anyone looking to curb their sugar cravings should start questioning exactly why sugar is on their mind.
“Ask yourself why you are craving the carbohydrates. Most often carb cravings are emotional or stress-related,” she said. “You may want to ask yourself if you are craving carbs because of emotional reasons. If so, find something else to do — like go for a walk or talk to a friend.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A general assumption is that in order to lose weight, gain muscle, or get in better physical shape, you have to work more and work harder. While it’s true that the body must be put under stress in varying degrees for muscles to grow, what is sometimes overlooked is the importance of not working — the recovery process.
Anytime you deadlift, squat, bench press, or exceed the normal limits of daily activity, your muscles experience micro-tears. In response, your body releases inflammatory molecules called cytokines that activate the immune system to repair the muscle. Your body triggers delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) — that dull achy feeling you may experience 24 to 48 hours after the activity.
DOMS are local mechanical constraints. It’s your body telling you to stop using the muscle group and to start recovering the affected area.
(Photo courtesy of Katie Whelan.)
When deciding which recovery techniques to use, various factors must be considered, such as age, gender, physical fitness level, and the activity that was performed.
There are a growing number of techniques being used by athletes; however, proper sleep, nutrition, and hydration are key.
Sleep is a vital aspect of muscle repair and growth. While you sleep, your body goes into full repair mode. As you enter the N3 stage of non-REM sleep, your pituitary gland releases human growth hormone, which stimulates muscle growth and repair. Not only does sleep replenish the muscles, but it also recharges the brain — allowing for productive workouts the following day.
Exercise causes the depletion of glycogen stores and the breakdown of muscle protein. Consuming both carbohydrates and proteins within 30 minutes of your workout can improve recovery. Carbohydrates refuel your body, allowing you to restore lost energy sources, while proteins help repair and build new muscle cells. It is recommended that you consume .14 to .23 grams of protein per pound of body weight and .5 to .7 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight.
Proper hydration is imperative both during and after your workouts. During strenuous exercise, your body sweats to maintain temperature, causing fluid loss within your body. You can find your sweat rate by weighing yourself before and after exercise — then replenish your body by drink 80 to 100 percent of that loss.
Additional recovery techniques can be used in conjunction with the basics.
By reducing the weight and volume, weightlifting becomes active recovery.
(Photo courtesy of Katie Whelan.)
Active recovery is a way to flush out the by-products produced by exercise. To do this, choose an activity and lower the intensity to just above your resting heart rate. Some examples include brisk walking, jogging, cycling, yoga, and weightlifting at lower weights and volumes.
Hydrotherapy — such as cold water immersion (CWI), hot water immersion (HWI), and contrast water therapy (CWT) — is a common technique used by many athletes. Studies have shown that CWI is significantly better than others in reducing soreness and maintaining performance levels.
The easiest way to reap the benefits is to fill your tub with ice, run some cold water, and immerse your body for six to eight minutes. Ice baths can be painful at first, but they get easier with time.
U.S. Army 2nd Lt Chris Gabayan, left, and Air Force 2nd Lt. Rhett Spongberg talk about how they each pushed each other to conquer the course while they recover in an ice bath after the 2019 Alpha Warrior Inter-Service Battle at Retama Park, Selma, Texas, Sept. 14, 2019.
(Photo by Debbie Aragon/U.S. Air Force.)
The fascia is a thin connective tissue that covers our muscles. The purpose of myofascial relief is to break down the built-up adhesions and decrease muscle aches and stiffness.
If you’ve entered a gym in the last five years, chances are you’ve seen a foam roller — one of the most basic techniques to reduce muscle stiffness. In addition to foam rollers, sports massage and lacrosse balls have also been known to provide short-term increased range of motion and reduce soreness.
It’s easy to muster up an hour of motivation. Just turn up the music, scoop some pre-workout, and chalk up your hands. What’s not so glamorous is the time spent outside the gym — the 23 hours between training sessions. But it’s that time in between that determines your long-term results. Work hard — but recover harder.
Former Vice President Mike Pence once said in a statement at the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar that we will one day put American boots back on the Moon. It reaffirms his position he made at the Kennedy Space Center awhile back that Americans are going back to the moon at some point.
“We will return astronauts to the Moon — not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond,” said Vice President Mike Pence.
Before we get our hopes up about signing up as a Space Shuttle Door Gunner (99Z) in the beloved Space Corps, there a long road to go. But there’s hope! We went to the Moon back in ’69 and we’re a few years past landing probes on comets. Surely sending more people to the moon with 2017 technology shouldn’t be that difficult.
Except it still is. It’s still very costly (average of $450 million per mission) to send people to space, let alone to the Moon.
To be worth the money and risk, NASA has a very brief list of requirements in astronaut selection. At least a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, 3+ years of professional experience or 1,000+ hours of flight time, and the ability to pass the NASA physical. Seems easy enough, but NASA will only send the best of the freaking best to the Moon.
What better way to figure out what would make you stand out than by looking at those who’ve made the cut before?
At the time of writing this, 560 humans have been to space (according to the USAF’s definition) and only 12 have left their boot marks forever on the lunar surface. Of the 560 to go to space, 61.6% (337) have been American — including all twelve astronauts who’ve been to the Moon.
All twelve men were between the ages of 36 and 47. All from very prestigious universities, with seven of them having degrees in various military academies. And all but one, Harrison Schmitt, served in either the Air Force or Navy as well as ten being on active duty. Neil Armstrong was a veteran at the time of his flights.
Of the eleven military personnel, all were pilots. The least amount of flight time logged was by Neil Armstrong, who had over 2,400 hours. The standard just went up from there. John Young, the 9th person to walk on the moon, had 15,275 hours flying jets, props, helicopters, rocket jets; 9,200 hours in a T-38; and 835 hours in space.
You would need to also be fairly high in rank. Neil Armstrong, still the exception, was the lowest rank at Lieutenant Junior Grade — and a veteran, at that. Everyone else was an O-6, (Air Force Colonel or Navy Captain) and above.
If you want to walk on the Moon – you’re going to need to either be an aviation golden child, have a PhD from Harvard, or be veteran AF like Neil Armstrong.
When you stop and think about it for any length of time, it seems a miracle that the global economy spins on as well as it does. As the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19 has shown, any decent disruption to the global supply chain causes ripples from tourism to iPhone supply that cost billions. Nevertheless, there’s a level of resilience in the global economy, and even though predictions are sounding dire, there isn’t quite panic in the streets yet. So, if you really wanted to cause global havoc and cause your enemies to suffer, what would it cost? Billions? Trillions? Or maybe just the price of a second-hand car? Enter the sea mine.
More than 90% of global trade occurs by sea. This makes strategic maritime chokepoints, such as the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb in the Middle East, some of the most strategically important patches of water on earth. Close one or two of those down for any length of time, and we’ve got a serious problem on our hands. This fact is not lost on most major players—hence the military patrols, diplomatic negotiations and international conventions in place to try to mitigate risks to these vulnerable spots.
You’d think it would take something pretty expensive and sophisticated to circumvent these controls, but no. A sea mine is cheap, easy to use, and highly effective at blockading chokepoints. The simplest types of sea mines—variations on the classic spiky ball bobbing in the water—cost only a few thousand dollars but can stop shipping in its tracks.
Iran famously mined the Gulf during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s for that very reason, and appeared to be repeating similar tactics last year in both mine and torpedo attacks on tankers traversing the Strait of Hormuz as the sabre-rattling with the US heated up. The Houthis in Yemen are doing their own mining in the Red Sea, ostensibly to protect their ports from Saudi attack. However, in recent weeks, an Egyptian fishing boat in the Red Sea reportedly struck a Houthi mine, killing three of its six crew, and there are reports of Houthi-laid mines drifting off from their original sites and heading who knows where.
The effectiveness of sea mines as a strategic tool lies not just in their immediate threat to an individual ship, but in the time and cost that must go into clearing waters suspected of harbouring mines. Such operations, even in a relatively limited area, can take weeks, months or even years. Australian operations to support mine clearance in Kuwait after the first Gulf War in 1991, for example, stretched for almost five months, searched two square kilometres and dealt with 60 mines. For comparison, the Bab el Mandeb chokepoint is 29 kilometres across at its narrowest point and stretches down some 500 kilometres of Yemeni coastline. And the Houthis may have access to hundreds or even thousands of mines.
The Strait of Hormuz is a slightly roomier 39 kilometres across, but with exponentially higher volumes of oil and gas trade squeezing through its narrow waters. If the sea lines of communication of the Middle East were shut for any length of time, the results for the global supply chain could be catastrophic. To put it in perspective, the Kuwaiti mine-clearance operation of a couple of square kilometres took months; Australia’s current strategic oil reserves, which are heavily dependent on Middle Eastern supply via Singapore, would last around 28 days. Even if Australia reached internationally mandated minimum fuel reserves of 90 days, that’s still well short of the time the Kuwait operation took.
There isn’t even a lot of legal limitation on employing sea mines. Unlike with land mines, there are no treaties in place to ban the use of sea mines, or even a clear definition what counts as one. Given the ubiquity and longevity of mines, there’s plausible deniability in laying a few Soviet-era sea mines here and there.
But how likely is it really that someone will employ sea mines to stop the world? If you’re a state reliant on the global supply chain for your own existence, the answer is: not very. Moored or floating mines in the Strait of Hormuz would do as much (or more) damage to Iran’s economy and geopolitical standing as they would to anyone else’s, and Iran’s leadership is well aware of that. Most non-state actors that have access to such mines are hesitant to use them offensively for similar reasons.
But what about someone with nothing to lose, poor impulse control or a dangerous combination of both? An officer of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or a Houthi leader with a halfway-decent sense of strategy and self-preservation would probably baulk at more aggressive use of sea mines in high-profile locations. But IRGC Quds Force leader and key regional networker Qassem Soleimani is dead, US President Donald Trump is surrounded by advisers intent on backing Iran into a corner, and Iran’s Houthi partners are on the offensive and have a history of using cheap weaponry to great effect.
This isn’t the time to be watching the strategist who stockpiles a thousand mines; this is the time to be watching the zealot who only wants one.
Hilda Ray hid some photos in her attic shortly after her husband’s death. She was afraid the U.S. government would come looking for them. Her husband Bernard took those photos on his Kodak Kodachrome one day while working as a Geologist in the Roswell, New Mexico area. He and his team stumbled upon a cordoned-off area, but managed to snap off a few shots, despite being told to leave by U.S. Army personnel. Hilda hid these slides in the lining of a trunk in their Arizona home but after she died, they were found by people with a sharp eye for cash grabs historical importance.
As a rule, care must always be exercised when opening a random box. To wit:
But we digress . . .
On July 8, 1947 the U.S. military reported a crashed weather balloon on a local ranch. The object was recovered, but reported to be more of a flying disc. The military sent a plainclothes officer to the ranch to gather the pieces of the wreckage. The Air Force issued a press release, saying it was a downed weather balloon and its radar reflector and not at all a nuclear explosion detector or UFO.
Then the story went away forever and no one ever spoke of it again because we are a nation of rational individuals who seldom jump to conclusions, even for financial gain. We demand authenticity and evidence.
No, of course that’s not how it went. This is America. People in the Roswell area began to talk to each other – and to outsiders – about their experiences with the 1947 crash. This, coupled with documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (some say from the so-called Majestic 12), led people to conclude the obvious: an extraterrestrial craft crash landed that night and there may be alien life there, still living there to this day, probably bored as hell.
But evidence does help. The Roswell Incident is now known “the world’s most famous, most exhaustively investigated, and most thoroughly debunked UFO claim.” It spawned hundreds of books, movies, television tropes, Congressional investigations, and conspiracy theories about what happened that Summer. The official Air Force version stuck with the claim that it was a weather balloon.
After reviewing classified documents nearly 50 years later, historians have determined the craft was likely part of Operation Mogul, an effort to hook high-powered microphones to balloons to hear Soviet nuke tests or Operation HighDive where the Air Force used anatomically correct dummies to test high-altitude parachutes. (Somewhere there are hundreds of photos of the Air Force dumping mannequins into the wild blue yonder.)
The slides were verified real by Kodak representatives, and now they are also public. Roswell researcher Donald Schmitt showcased the photos in Mexico on May 5. Schmitt will also bring them to the Roswell UFO festival in July.
The reception in Mexico was much less enthusiastic than the promoters had hoped. (They had built it up quite a bit over the last few years.)
So, if you’re a loyal WATM reader, you’ve probably noticed that, when we’re talking Chinese or Russian aircraft, they’ve got some odd-sounding names. Fishbed, Flanker, Backfire, Bear, Badger… you may be wondering, “how the f*ck did they get that name?” Well, it’s a long story – and it goes back to World War II.
In 1942, Captain Frank McCoy of the Army Air Force was tasked with heading the materiel section of Army Air Force intelligence for the Southwest Pacific. Early on, he realized that pilots could get confused about enemy fighters. To address this potential confusion, the Tennessee native began giving them nicknames. Fighters got male names, bombers and other planes got female names, and transports were given names that started with the letter T. Training planes were named for trees and gliders for birds.
The idea was a good one – and it began to spread across the entire Pacific. All went well until a new Japanese Navy fighter got the nickname, ‘Hap.’ You see, that was also the nickname of the Army Air Force Commander, General Henry “Hap” Arnold. To say Arnold wasn’t happy is an understatement. McCoy was quickly called in to explain it.
When the Cold War started, and both the Soviet Union and Communist China became threats, the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization turned to a version of McCoy’s naming conventions. They adjusted the system. This time, code names for fighters started with the letter F, those for bombers started with B, transport planes start with the letter C, other planes start with M. If the name has one syllable, it’s a prop plane. If it has multiple syllables, it’s a jet. Helicopter names start with the letter H.
The ROTC Medal of Heroism was posthumously awarded to the family of Riley Howell during a private ceremony held at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, May 11, 2019, in recognition of his actions when a gunman opened fire on students at the school on April 30, 2019.
According to the award summary, “He protected his fellow classmates by tackling the suspect and using his body as a human shield. His actions that day left him mortally wounded, but he saved an undeterminable amount of lives. Mr. Howell demonstrated the values of the United States Army by showing a high level of integrity, honor, and selfless service on that fateful day.”
Even though Howell was taking ROTC courses, but was not contracted to become an Army officer, Lt. Col. Chunka Smith, Professor of Military Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said he always set a great example and would have made an excellent officer.
Riley Howell, UNC Charlotte student who died confronting gunman, awarded Civilian Medal of Valor
“Though our time with Riley was brief, I can tell you that he stood out. I make it a point to shake the hands of all 180 Cadets in our program. All of them are phenomenal men and women, but Riley stood out because of his strong, tall, athletic build and his overall calm presence,” he said. “He embodied everything we look for in future officers.
“At the end of each semester my cadre and I sit down to review line by line all of the students on path to contract and those who we want to recruit. Riley was one of those individuals I would have called into my office to recruit,” Smith said.
He went on to say Howell and his actions would not soon be forgotten.
“Each year 180 plus Army ROTC students will know the story of Riley Howell and the sacrifice he made. They will carry and spread the legacy of Riley Howell,” Smith said.
The ROTC Medal for Heroism is awarded to cadets who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism performed on or off campus. According to Cadet Command Regulation 672-5-1, “The achievement must result in an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly set the individual apart from fellow students or from other persons in similar circumstances,” and “the performance must involve the acceptance of danger or extraordinary responsibilities, exemplifying praiseworthy fortitude and courage.”