The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) reportedly took on the US Navy in a South China Sea showdown on Sept. 30, 2018, during a freedom-of-navigation operation involving the USS Decatur.
A Chinese Luyang-class destroyer steered within 45 yards of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer near the Spratly Islands this in a confrontational exchange that US officials deemed “unsafe,” CNN first reported. The US Navy ship was forced to maneuver to prevent a collision.
The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” engaging in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for the Decatur to depart,” Pacific Fleet said in a statement.
“US Navy ships and aircraft operate throughout the Indo-Pacific routinely, including in the South China Sea,” the US military explained, adding, “As we have for decades, our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
The incident comes as tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing over a wide range of issues, including, trade, Taiwan, sanctions, and increased American military activity in an area Beijing perceives being its sphere of influence.
US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers flewthrough both the East and South China Sea late September 2018. Beijing called the flights “provocative” and warned that it would take “necessary measures” to defend its national interests.
A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.
China conducted “live-fire shooting drills” in the South China Sea over the weekend in a show of force in the contested region.
The recent showdown between the Chinese military and a US warship follows a similarly tense incident in the South China Sea involving a British warship.
The UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albionchallenged China’s excessive claims to the contested waterway by sailing near the Paracel Islands. In response, the Chinese PLAN dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to confront the British ship.
The Chinese military has also repeatedly issued warnings to US and other foreign aircraft that venture to close to its territorial holdings in the region, many of which have been armed with anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, among other weapons systems.
China has canceled two high-level security meetings with US defense officials in late September 2018 as tensions between the US and China rise.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the United States, hospitals are facing shortages of medical grade masks, and have taken to social media to ask seamstresses nationwide if they can sew masks for them.
When Sarah Mainwaring, a military spouse and community advocate at Robins AFB heard about the plight of local hospitals, she devised a plan to fulfill the needs of both the military community and healthcare workers due to the (very) limited availability of medical masks. She enlisted the help of her neighbors and fellow military spouses, and they began gathering materials to begin sewing masks. They decided to take their movement public by involving the military community, and thus, Milspo Mask Makers was born.
Milspo Mask Makers is a growing community movement of active duty, guard, reservists, and military spouses that are dedicated to filling the needs of healthcare workers, the surrounding community, and the immunocompromised by sewing masks to help them protect themselves against COVID-19. These masks can be used by healthcare workers in the event of a shortage, or to prolong the life of their medical mask to be able to use it longer.
Through their efforts, the ladies at Milspo Mask Makers were able to come together and sew over 100 masks in their first 24 hours. They have since been joined by other spouses in their local community, and have distributed over 200 masks to date. Sarah has challenged the military community to sew 10,000 masks worldwide and distribute them to those in need. If you or someone you know is making masks, let Milspo Mask Maker know! Use the hashtag #MilspoMaskMaker when you post photos to social media.
Also, be sure to like their page on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their efforts, view tutorials on making masks, and to find out other ways you can contribute to the cause!
In 2003, the town of Erie, Pennsylvania made national news when an unassuming pizza delivery man walked into a local bank and demanded a quarter of a million dollars from the vault. What happened next would baffle authorities for years and see the crime become one of the most intriguing ever committed in the United States. So what happened?
At roughly 2:30 PM on August 28, 2003, a 46 year old man by the name of Brian Wells walked into the Erie branch of PNC Bank and handed the teller a note that read, “Gather employees with access codes to vault and work fast to fill bag with $250,000. You have only 15 minutes.”
As the teller read the note, Wells informed them that he had a live explosive around his neck that would detonate if the demand wasn’t met. He then pulled down his shirt to reveal a crude, but threatening-looking metal collar with two pipe bombs attached. Wells was also holding a custom made cane that doubled as a shotgun.
Showing a remarkable amount of professionalism, the bank workers informed Wells that it wouldn’t be possible to retrieve that sum of money in such a short amount of time due to the various safeguards to limit access to the vault.
Wells then simply asked for whatever they had available, taking time to grab a lollipop from the counter, which he began to idly suck on whilst waiting for his money.
All-in-all Wells would leave the bank about 12 minutes later with ,702 in cash. He then went to McDonald’s next door for a bit, as you do, after which he headed back to his car.
As you might imagine, hanging around in the parking lot next door to the bank you just robbed isn’t a great way to not get caught. And so it was that Wells found himself tackled by police as he was walking to his vehicle.
Whilst being cuffed, Wells helpfully informed the troopers of the bomb around his neck and that three black men had put it there. He further stated that, as far as he was aware, it would go off any minute.
Naturally, the officers all very abruptly backed away from Wells, no doubt mumbling to themselves that they were “too old for this shit”, if movies from that era have taught me anything. After getting a safe distance away, they called the bomb squad.
As for Wells, for 20 agonizing minutes he sat alone on the concrete, occasionally shouting to officers to check if they’d called his boss to inform him why Wells hadn’t come back to work after the delivery, and inquiring when the bomb squad was going to show up.
Unfortunately for Wells, just a few minutes before said explosives experts arrived, the collar around his neck began beeping- never a good sign. Wells’ calm demeanor disappeared completely at this point and he frantically wiggled backwards in a futile attempt to get away from the bomb. Approximately ten seconds after the beeping started, the collar exploded, killing him.
After the bomb squad checked the collar to ensure all explosives had detonated, the gathered law enforcement began slowly sifting through Wells’ belongings, beginning what would soon become one of the most unusual cases in the annals of law enforcement history.
Most pertinent to the topic at hand, while searching through Wells’ beat up old Geo Metro, they stumbled across several pages of handwritten instructions ominously addressed simply to the “Bomb Hostage”. These instructions, evidently meant for Wells, included several explicit warnings against deviating from them in anyway and were littered with threats of harsh and instantaneous reprisal should they be ignored, including remote detonation of the bomb. Further, on one page it stated, “This powerful, booby-trapped bomb can be removed only by following our instructions… ACT NOW, THINK LATER OR YOU WILL DIE!”
Later analysis would conclude that these threats were baseless as there was no way to detonate the collar remotely, despite a cell phone seeming to be connected to the bomb; in fact, it was just a realistic looking toy phone.
As for what the instructions were telling Wells to do, beyond of course instructing him to rob the bank, what followed was a twisted scavenger hunt to find several keys which the instructions claimed would delay the timer on the bomb and, eventually, disarm it completely. At that point, they stated he would be able to safely remove it without setting it off. However, it turns out, along with the cell phone being fake, the various key holes weren’t wired or linked to anything.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, experts analysing the collar would later conclude that although the device “looked” dangerous and sophisticated, including a lot of wires that seemed to be connected in significant ways, the guts of the bomb actually had the complexity of, to quote one of the investigators, a “child’s toy“- more or less just two pretty run of the mill pipe bombs connected to two electronic kitchen timers with nothing complicated about any of it. Cut the wires to the timers, no boom.
Further, it turns out even that wasn’t necessary to save Wells’ life, as had he simply reached up and tugged the mechanism to allow it to open and taken it off, this too wouldn’t have triggered the bomb. He could have even simply added time to the timers manually or turned them off if he wanted to leave the collar on without risk.
So what devil made this dastard device of destruction?
Investigators tried to follow the trail laid out in the instructions, traveling several miles to a nearby wood to find another note which in turn directed them to a seemingly random road sign miles in the other direction. The trail went cold at the road sign when a jar that was supposed to contain yet another clue turned up empty. Investigators would later surmise that the killer or killers had learned of Wells’ death and abandoned their plans to continue placing clues for him. Either that, or they’d simply assumed he’d not have had time to get to that point before the bomb would detonate so didn’t bother leaving another message.
With nothing else to go on, investigators turned to looking more into Wells. To begin with, upon initially being arrested, Wells, as noted, had alleged that the collar had been forcibly placed upon him by a group of large black men during a routine pizza delivery. Looking into it, indeed Wells had been working at the still existing and exceptionally well reviewed Mama Mia’s Pizzeria when a call came in from what turned out to be from a payphone at around 1:30p on that day of August 28, 2003. The original person who answered the pizzeria phone couldn’t understand the speaker, so passed it over to Wells, who then took the order and ultimately went out to deliver the pizzas.
Following the trail, investigators went to the site of that last delivery- a TV transmission tower at the end of a dirt road- and found nothing of significance other than a neighbor had stated he’d heard a gunshot at approximately the time Wells would have been there delivering the pizzas.
Local law enforcement and later the FBI further found nothing that would give Wells motive to commit such a bizarre crime had he been the one to instigate it. Wells had no apparent significant outstanding debts or commitments, and was noted as being a model employee and a man of good moral standing. People who knew him described him as a simple man, but also a very nice, and seemingly happy person.
In short, the authorities were at a complete loss. In fact, it’s possible this bizarre crime would have remained a mystery forever had the police not received a phone call a few weeks later from a man called Bill Rothstein.
You see, Rothstein lived near the TV transmission tower Wells had made his final delivery to and had even been interviewed by the FBI who combed his property for clues, finding nothing. This changed, however, when Rothstein inexplicably confessed to having a human body in his freezer.
After being arrested, Rothstein identified the body as being that of Jim Roden, the lover of one of his ex girlfriends, then 54 year old Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. Rothstein insisted that he had nothing to do with Roden’s death and that his ex had shot and killed Roden during an argument. Not wanting to incur his ex’s vengeful wrath, Rothstein had hidden the body at her insistence and even helped dispose of the murder weapon. However, when Diehl-Armstrong told him to grind up the body and bury it, Rothstein decided enough was enough and confessed.
Now, initially the FBI wrote the whole location of the two crimes off as a bizarre coincidence. That is, until Rothstein told local police that he was so wracked with guilt about the whole ordeal that he’d contemplated killing himself.
Why is this important, you ask?
Well, to prove this, Rothstein directed police to a suicide note he’d stashed away in a drawer. Along with containing a confession about the murder of Roden and his remorse over his involvement, it also for some reason contained the sentence -“This has nothing to do with the Wells case.”
Naturally, this led to some follow up questions about why he’d written that. While Rothstein and Diehl-Armstrong initially flatly denied having anything to do with the collar bomb plot, once again leaving authorities with nothing solid, over the course of many years of investigation that followed, this trail did lead somewhere and things slowly became reasonably clear.
To begin with, it’s important to note that while in her younger years Diehl-Armstrong had been a straight-A student type and ultimately even earned a Master’s degree in college, she also had mental health problems that only got worse with age. On that note, previous to murdering Roden, it came to light that she had shot and killed one Robert Thomas in 1984. As to why she wasn’t in prison for it, she was acquitted as it was deemed self-defense, despite that he’d been apparently just sitting on their couch at the time and she shot him not once, not twice, not thrice, not what we’re going to call frice and, I don’t know, fwivce- but six times.
Further, eight years later in 1992, her husband, Richard Armstrong, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. While we can only hope that was naturally induced, it is noteworthy that she managed to finagle a rather sizable legal settlement with the hospital involved over it. She also allegedly had a couple other men in her life who likewise met rather untimely deaths at ages where men not acquainted with Diehl-Armstrong didn’t normally find themselves failing to continue breathing.
Whatever the case with any of that, she was ultimately convicted of the murder of Roden. At the same time, police were still trying to figure out if they could connect her and Rothstein more concretely to the Wells case, but coming up empty…
That is, until Diehl-Armstrong herself became tired of the high security prison life at Muncy Correctional Institution about a year and a half after Wells’ death. She thus requested to be transferred to a minimum-security prison. In exchange for granting her request, she would tell the authorities anything and everything they wanted to know about the Wells’ case, which she subsequently did.
A further break was had getting another side of the story not long after when one Kenneth Barnes’ brother-in-law decided to call the police to let them know Mr. Barnes, a retired individual who’d taken up drug dealing for some extra money, had bragged to him about his own involvement in the pizza collar bomber case. As for Barnes, he was easy for police to find as he was sitting in a prison cell at the time after being arrested for his little side job as a crack dealer. Once confronted, Barnes too had a story of his own to tell the police.
Naturally, the confessions of those involved should be met with some degree of skepticism on the finer points, particularly as they all pointed the finger at someone else being the mastermind behind the whole thing. That caveat out of the way, combining all the evidence and the stories, the generally accepted tale the investigators cobbled together is as follows.
It would seem leading up to the bank robbery, Diehl-Armstrong approached Barnes to see if he wouldn’t mind killing her father. As to why, she believed, whether accurately or not isn’t clear, that his net worth was approximately million (about .7 million today). Notably, in his waning years, he’d begun donating this small fortune to various charities. To ensure she got the bulk sum, she apparently figured it would be best not to wait for him to die naturally, but just kill him immediately.
The problem was when she asked Barnes to take him out, Barnes asked for a sum of 0,000- not exactly something she had lying around, and he was unwilling to do the job with only the promise of money after the inheritance was acquired.
So how to come up with the 0,000 to get M? Well, robbing a bank apparently seemed like the easy solution if one could think of a way to ensure there was no chance of getting caught.
At some point in here, it’s not clear when, Rothstein became involved, with Diehl-Armstrong herself claiming he was the mastermind behind the whole thing in the first place, though most authorities think it likely that it was, in fact, her. And for whatever it’s worth, Barnes claims Diehl-Armstrong herself first asked him if he knew how to make a bomb for the plot, but he did not, and thus Rothstein, who was a bit of a closet genius and worked as a handy-man and shop teacher, did.
Whatever the case, plan developed, they now needed someone to actually go rob the bank and function as the fall-guy should things go wrong.
Enter prostitute Jessica Hoopsick, who was an acquaintance of Barnes through his drug dealing business, including using his house as a bit of a home base to entertain clients, as apparently several prostitutes in the area did.
While elements of Hoopsick’s story, as with all the others involved, are considered somewhat suspect, she claims she was asked by Barnes for someone who might be easily pressured into committing a crime, though she stated she had no knowledge at the time of what the crime would be. In exchange for drugs and money, she thus gave them the name of one of her frequent clients, Wells, as an ideal candidate given he was, to quote her, a “pushover”. Hoopsick also claims that, at least as far as she was aware, Wells had no prior knowledge of the plot before his fateful pizza delivery on the day of his death.
This brings us to Wells’ role in the plan. While there is still some debate on this point, it would actually seem that Wells had known the plan going into the delivery, though had been pressured into agreeing to it in the first place. Whether that is actually true or not, it would appear on the day of the event, he decided to back out.
You might now be thinking, “If he decided to back out, why did he go deliver the pizzas?” Well, it would appear his reticence to remain involved was squarely centered around the fact that in the planning stage, he had been told the bomb would be fake. But upon arriving on the day in question, he discovered they’d lied to him and Rothstein had, in fact, made a real bomb. Thus, when they tried to put the collar on him, he attempted to flee, resulting in a gun being fired as a warning shot, as heard by the neighbor. Further, according to Barnes, he had to punch Wells in the face to get him to allow the collar to be put on.
From there, it is speculated that Wells probably was under the impression he needed to follow the steps as laid out to get the collar off, which would go a long way in explaining why he chose to go get the paper with the next step at the McDonald’s next door, rather than, you know, fleeing the scene of the crime immediately after committing it. Unless of course he simply wanted to get caught, which would have been a massive risk, but perhaps one he felt was better than returning to his compatriots.
Of course, as the bomb put a hole in his chest, we’ll never know what he was thinking at the time. But given that there was no way for Wells to complete the steps the notes required of him in the time allotted, it’s thought by the authorities the conspirators had always planned for him to die. The steps were simply to lead him out of town where the bomb would detonate and they could go collect the cash. Making sure he felt he needed to follow them just ensured he wouldn’t lead police right back to them.
Had they left him alive, even if he wasn’t initially caught, there was little chance Wells wouldn’t be identified and arrested. And on the flip-side, should he be caught before the bomb went off, well, the limited time on the device gave good odds Wells wouldn’t have time to spill the beans. Thus, aside from the mistake of having Wells go to the McDonald’s next to the bank, this was a pretty ingenious plan overall. Had Wells made it out of town, it is likely they would have gotten the cash, with no further leads for the police other than Wells’ body.
This all brings us back to Roden’s death which foiled the whole plan. According to a fellow inmate of Diehl-Armstrong’s, she allegedly told said unnamed inmate that the argument the couple had was over the scheme. Allegedly, Roden told her if she didn’t call off the plot, he was going to tell the police. Rather than nix the plan, she simply decided to kill him and then handed the body over to Rothstein. From there, she allegedly threatened him to keep his mouth shut or he’d get the same.
Whatever the truth of that, in the end, Rothstein died of lymphoma in 2004 at the age of 60, years before any of this would become known, and thus the only one of the primary conspirators to avoid jail time; Diehl-Armstrong met her maker thanks to breast cancer, dying in prison on April 4, 2017. As for Barnes, he joined the pair in the afterlife in June of 2019 at the age of 65 from complications due to diabetes.
Each branch of the United States Armed Forces has their own elite troop, proficient in using a sniper rifle — and the Coast Guard is no different. Surprised? You’re not alone. One of the only times troops sing their praises is when they “come out of nowhere” and beat most branches’ snipers in competition, year after year.
Sure, it’s always hilarious to poke fun at our tiniest brother branch for being puddle pirates, but when it comes down to it, mission after mission, the Coast Guard has continuously proven themselves as cut from the same cloth. Okay, maybe just the MSRT guys — but still.
Everyone wants to mock the coasties until they realize what the coasties actually do…
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Daniel Lavinder)
The Coast Guard equivalent to special operations is the Maritime Security Response Team, or MSRT. They’re the front line troops shouldering the burden of the War on Drugs. And they’re not just busting college frat boys who’re smoking a bit of weed on their daddy’s yacht either. These guys are constantly going toe-to-toe with some of the deadliest cartels in the world. These are the guys that are bringing billion-dollar criminal enterprises to their knees.
When the Coast Guard goes out to stomp narcoterrorists, they send the MSRT to interdict them. Among them are the often-forgotten snipers.
Snipers across the Department of Defense focus their training on several factors, depending on the role they play. A Marine recon sniper, for example, must train in camouflaging themselves and moving without being seen — often through miles of difficult terrain for weeks at a time. Coast Guard snipers don’t worry about because that’s not in their area of operations — there’s no hiding on the open ocean.
There’s very little technological assistance — that’s all skill from the sniper.
(U.S. Coast Guard)
Instead, they focus their entire training on balancing the perfect shot — often from a helicopter or vessel, compensating for the ebb and flow of the waves, into another speeding vessel. It is an art form that they’ve definitely mastered.
Another key difference between Department of Defense snipers and the coasties is that they’re rarely aiming for individual enemies. They are armed with a Robar RC-50 anti-material rifle and their goal is to disable the engines of speeding boats. They need to capture and imprison the drug traffickers, after all.
When the engine is disabled, the interdiction team boards, and the enemy fights back, well, the rifle is meant to disintegrate reinforced steel. Even criminals aren’t dumb enough to keep fighting when they see what it can do to a comparatively squishy human being.
Last year, the snipers of the Coast Guard’s HITRON (Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron), successfully made their 500th interdiction (or drug bust) since their founding in 1998. Check out the video below that celebrates hitting this milestone.
The “Batwoman” premiere didn’t keep fans waiting long to learn the identity of the villainess Kate Kane is up against is actually her sister, Beth, who was believed to be killed in a horrific accident when the two were young.
Instead of dragging the reveal out for a few weeks, showrunner Caroline Dries told Insider they decided to reveal Alice’s real identity in the pilot for a couple of reasons.
“One is that, for a shock value, for those of us who knew from reading the comics that they were sisters,” Dries said of staying ahead of fans who are familiar with the characters.
“I wanted to just put it out there because if people did watch the show and had known about the comics, I was worried that it would be spoiled anyway and that everyone would just be waiting for the reveal. We would be playing catch up as opposed to keeping the audience guessing,” she added.
As Dries told Insider, if you’re familiar with the comics then you know who Alice is and you’re just waiting for the big reveal.
Beyond staying ahead of the audience and keeping them on their toes, Dries wanted to make it clear from the get-go that Alice has as much of a bond to Batwoman as the famed Batman and Joker relationship.
“The real reason [to reveal Alice’s identity] is because that relationship is what’s, to me, the most unique part of the show,” said Dries.
We’ll see this family relationship continue to play out over the first season.
“[Kate’s] greatest enemy is a woman that she wants to save,” she continued. “It’s somebody that she cannot kill. It’s somebody that she has to keep others from killing. It’s her twin sister. It’s her other half of her basically.”
As the series progresses, Dries is interested in exploring how Kate’s relationship with her sister played into the character’s growth throughout the series.
“I was really intrigued by an emotional journey for Kate that is all about, ‘How do I get my sister back? Even though she seems so lost right now, how do I find her again and at what cost?” said Dries.
Beth and Alice have a lot to work out.
Alice won’t be the only villain who Kate Kane will face on the show’s first season. Dries said popular “Batman” villain Hush will appear on episode three.
“Batwoman” airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on “The CW.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Gamers have all experienced this before — you’re trying to get from Point A to Point B when, suddenly, you’re gunned down by a player who’s been hiding, motionless, for minutes, just waiting for you to run by. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sniper in an open field or some jerk hiding around the corner with a shotgun — it pisses you off and, of course, it’s never your fault.
The practice of posting up in a spot and waiting for players to enter your field of view is called ‘camping,’ and if you’ve played an online shooter, this tactic has definitely boiled your blood. Probably because we all, on some level, recognize an undeniable truth: there’s nothing technically wrong with the strategy.
If you’ve just come off a losing round of CS:GO, this is probably the point in the article where you ragequit and go back to scrolling through Facebook, but if you’ve served, then you know ‘camping’ is a legitimate strategy — one that’s used in every area of military tactics, both defensive and offensive.
Next time, before you yell at that camper, consider these real-life examples:
This is prime camping. Absolutely top notch.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
If you know anything about being a sniper, then you’ll know exactly why this is at the top of the list. Snipers are the kings of real-life camping. Their entire job revolves around sitting in a spot, waiting to clap someone on the other side of the “map.”
The entire point is to camp and wait until some enemies show up.
(U.S. Marine Corps)
A successful ambush leverages the element of surprise against your enemy. It’s when you and your entire squad hide in some bushes and wait for enemies to roll down a road so you can punch their time card.
If an enemy squad hears you approaching in PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, they’re going to hit the deck and wait until you come into view. It’s fair play and you getting upset about it won’t diminish its usefulness.
We recommend this tactic for movements as well.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael Petersheim)
Whether you’re in a city, in a desert, or in a jungle, if you’re kneeling down waiting for enemies, then you’re definitely camping. You’d be stupid not to keep an eye out for the enemy in real life — so why’s it a sin in gaming?
Even vehicles do some camping from time to time.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carson Gramley)
Sitting in a defense
Defensive postures are mostly meant for resting after a large-scale attack, but while you’re sitting in your fighting hole, you’re watching for enemies.
This is, essentially, 300+ people camping together in real-life.
Similar to holding security but for buildings and bases.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan)
The entire purpose of being on post is, no matter where you’re at, to watch for enemies and forcefully remove their soul from their body should they come around. Sometimes, you’ll wait for hours and nothing happens but, either way, camping is used to maintain security in large perimeters.
So, next time someone says they “hate campers,” remind them that it’s not only fair — but tactically sound.
When Brittany Boccher was approached by retired Major General Kendall Penn and the Arkansas Secretary of State Military and Veterans Liaison Kevin Steele to help get proposed legislation passed to protect the retirement pay of military retirees, Boccher jumped at the opportunity to serve her current community.
Boccher, a mother of two and the spouse of a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, began the task by hosting the General and the Military and Veteran’s Liaison at one of the Little Rock Spouses’ Club meetings, where the men presented the proposed legislation to the local military spouses.
The proposal specifically addressed the taxation of pay for military retirees. While active duty personnel in Arkansas do not pay a state tax, retired veterans’ pay is taxed.
That tax didn’t sit well with Governor Asa Hutchinson and Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, who have seen their state ranked at 48 in attracting and retaining working age military retirees and veterans.
“A lot of them will retire really young in their 40s, 50s, 60s. And what do they do? They have that steady income and start other businesses or they go work a new job,” Griffin said.
Hutchinson agreed, saying, “I believe it will help us to bring more military retirees here, welcome them back to Arkansas.”
Boccher committed to calling or emailing every state senate committee member directly to discuss his or her support for Hutchinson’s proposed tax initiative. Then she set out to round up military families that would benefit the most from the initiative in order to testify before the state house and senate committees.
Boccher, a business owner in Arkansas herself, told We Are the Mighty that her family reflected the target audience the state was hoping to attract with the proposed tax break.
“They were seeking a young family close to retirement to showcase that they would have a second career after the military. We are a 17 year military family, we’re young, and with two small children. We want to stay in Arkansas and we own a business in Arkansas.”
Boccher said her family “checked all the boxes” for what Steele and Penn wanted to present as the ideal family the state was trying to attract.
Penn asked Boccher to testify before the state house and senate committees.
As a result of her hard work and commitment to the legislation, Boccher and her family were invited to the bill signing ceremony earlier this month.
On February 7, Hutchinson released a statement that read, in part, “…beginning in January [Arkansas] will also exempt military retirement pay. This initiative will make Arkansas a more military friendly retirement destination and will encourage veterans to start their second careers or open a business right here in the Natural State.”
For her part, Boccher is proud of what she’s accomplished for veterans while simultaneously running an apparel company, a photography company, and a non-profit organization, the Down Syndrome Advancement Coalition.
Additionally, Boccher is the president of the Little Rock Air Force Base Spouses’ Club and the 2016 and 2017 Little Rock Air Force Base Spouse of the Year.
Boccher had this to say about her work, “The military community is resilient, adaptable, dedicated, independent, supportive, and resourceful, but most of all they can make a difference, their voice can be heard, and they can and will make change happen!”
A situation that started with students protesting the government evolved into a failed coup d’etat and, consequently, the decimation of a once-thriving tourism industry. Protesters, feeling powerless in the face of violence, turned to the dark side for help, accepting aid from narco-terrorists sponsored by oligarchs.
The Sandinista Government, also known as the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), is a revolutionary ideology and organization that was created on July 19, 1961, to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship. From an outside perspective, it looks like the government has come full circle in becoming what it was created to destroy.
U.S. Sanctions have influenced the Sandinista Government to change their strategy in restoring law and order to what was once known as the “safest country in Latin America.” Disregarding warnings from the embassy, I boarded a plane leaving the U.S. to Nicaragua to see it for myself.
No sh*t, there I was…
Did someone say, “communism?”
A History of Distrust
Historically, Nicaragua and the United States have not have an outstanding relationship due several political scandals, including the Iran-Contra affair. Long story short: We sold weapons to Iran through Israel in order to negotiate the release of U.S. hostages. The funds from the weapons sale were going to benefit the Contras, a guerrilla terrorist organization that opposed the Sandinistas. Needless to say, they weren’t so thrilled about it.
Today, the people of Nicaragua don’t treat U.S. citizens negatively because of our nations’ histories, but they do harbor a general distrust of American diplomats and government officials — this is especially true among the top brass.
It is important to note these specific examples of the past because there are similar accusations heading our way once again.
Not your best pitch, Don.
The Reason for the Sanctions
In Nicaragua, a country that has served as a physical barrier in our ongoing War On Drugs in Central America, was developing all the telltale signs of an impending coup.
Local police responded with extreme force against what they believed was a new arm of the criminal underground created to overthrow the government. Their aggressive pushback was interpreted by outside news outlets as a wanton wave of human rights violations. The ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach backfired — as it tends to.
Jacinto Saurez, the International Secretary of the FSLN, told the Havana Times of a conspiracy theory of a U.S.-sponsored coup. Oldtimers were quick to believe this because of our nations’ turbulent recent history.
As capitalists, we would never take a metaphorical cow producing milk behind a barn and shoot it, so the idea of a U.S. coup doesn’t hold water against facts.
The harsh reality is, sadly, that Nicaragua killed that cow themselves. The entire economy is reliant on the United States but old revolutionaries in power, blinded by pride, resent that the U.S. is essential to the country’s stability. The old, stubborn leadership resents any foreign influence — even if it is beneficial.
Taxes? No habla ingles.
U.S. sanctions aimed towards the Sandinista government have hit the tourism industry hard and they’ve hit the private sector even harder, yet the upper class has felt nothing. Investors have almost completely pulled out of the country and major corporations tied to the government have fired half their staff.
Mom-and-pop shops are running at max capacity to fill the void left behind by the departure of major department stores, restaurants, and franchises. Larger businesses have to raise their prices to keep up with taxes that the smaller businesses dodge. In short, we’re seeing a great dying of big business but an exploding entrepreneur market.
Small businesses are unaffected by the sanctions because they do not report their income. Hell, most small businesses down here don’t even have the proper licenses to operate legally.
The moment the new national strategy was implemented.
According to the Institute of Nicaraguan Tourism (Intur), U.S. tourism makes up a 24% market share in the country. A new national strategy has been implemented to try and regain American confidence and ensure visitors’ safety. They have increased police presence day and night, all barricades have been removed, and criminals have either been arrested or have fled the country. Regardless, I would highly recommend against traveling here without a guide or prior experience until the political situation improves.
Despite safety precautions, there are more ‘demonstrations’ planned for the near future that pose a security risk. It is unknown if the anti-government forces are going to return en masse.
A deflationary trend has developed for the Nicaraguan Cordoba (NIO) from 32.24 to 31.70 (at the time of writing). This may not seem like much at first glance, but it’s actually a pretty severe drop. The exchange rate is currently id=”listicle-2598140554″ USD to C.70 and, though the jump in U.S. buying power is good news for us, it has had devastating consequences for the local population.
Adam Hayes of Investopedia does a great job of explaining it:
“Deflation typically occurs in and after periods of economic crisis. When an economy experiences a severe recession or depression, economic output slows as demand for consumption and investment drop.
This leads to an overall decline in asset prices as producers are forced to liquidate inventories that people no longer want to buy. Consumers and investors alike begin holding onto liquid money reserves to cushion against further financial loss. As more money is saved, less money is spent, further decreasing aggregate demand.”
Normally, Nicaraguans are paid in U.S. dollars on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. The employees prefer to be paid this way because the dollar is less volatile. Corporations are lobbying for a new law that changes the payout to workers to Cordobas instead of dollars because of deflation. So, now that the local currency has deflated, the prices on everything have gone up. Unfortunately, corporations want to pay people “technically” the same amount — but by that logic, when the economy recovers, they’re “technically” paying people less.
These colors don’t run.
Americans living in Nicaragua
So, what’s the situation like for Americans in the country?
Many foreigners have left, but one thing is for certain among Americans who have remained: They will not be intimidated. Surprisingly, the Americans give no f*cks. They have stockpiled supplies, ammo, and alcohol. Those who have property out in the countryside have opted to weather the storm away from the cities. Those living within the cities have installed electric fences, cameras, and are even flying personal drones when things get hairy.
Nicaragua may be dangerous at the moment, but I can tell you that it’s no Afghanistan. Fortunes are made in times of chaos and it’s a buyers market. Right now, residential and commercial properties are practically being given away.
Americans aren’t turning tail. When I attended a bullfighting competition in the city of Juigalpa, a city saturated with Sandinista loyalists, I took a picture of this warrior:
Live-action roleplaying is popular among nerds the world over. But what they don’t realize is that the military hosts their own LARPing events to prepare for war.
While training for real-life combat, it’s important that the military runs simulations that get as close to the real thing as possible. But, when you start to really break it down, it becomes clear that the government is spending tons of money on opportunities for advanced LARPing — as they should be.
Here, we have a group of infantry LARPers attacking an enemy town.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Rachel K. Porter)
You’re just pretending you’re at war
Make no mistake, there’s plenty of purpose behind it but, at the end of the day, your life is in very little real danger. A lot of times, you’re shooting pretend bullets at pretend targets in a pretend country.
Even when you get real bullets, you’re still fighting a made-up military in a made-up country.
Here, we have a berserker class clearing the way for the warriors.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Rachel K. Porter)
You dress up as your selected class
Whether you chose to be a berserker (machine gunner), a warrior (rifleman), or a mage (mortarman), you get to dress up as your character and carry real equipment.
The bonus here is that the government spends tons of money training you in your selected class.
You get to fire real rockets!
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)
You use real weapons
This is actually pretty cool considering that most LARPers don’t get to use real weapons. The government will spend lots of money for you to get a real weapon to use in your roleplay events, like Integrated Training Exercise (ITX). Meanwhile, not every LARPer is into live steel.
They’re there to create the most authentic of experiences.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Hubert D. Delany III)
You get to ride in helicopters to make the scenarios even more realistic. Sometimes, you’ll even get support from jets and tanks to truly sell an authentic experience.
Okay, so these props might be a tad cooler than getting to drink your own, real-life “health potion” that is probably just Sprite and grenadine…
They’re out there to help you… or hurt you.
(U.S Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan A. Soto-Delgado)
Other roleplayers are involved
When you go to ITX, they’ll bring in a bunch of people to act as townspeople and enemies. This makes the experience a lot more authentic, which makes it a lot more interesting and fun.
You can talk with these NPCs for extra experience.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexis C. Schneider, 2d MARDIV Combat Camera)
There are non-player characters
The roleplayers that get brought in for the purpose of acting as the townspeople are very interactive NPCs. You’ll go on a patrol through the town and they’ll offer information or things to buy. Be careful, though, some might be working with the enemy!
The Coyotes even wear special items to specify they’re game masters.
(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz)
There’s usually a game master
In a lot of cases, there will be someone acting as the GM, there to make sure people aren’t cheating and everyone dies when they’re supposed to. They might come in the form of your company Gunny (or a Coyote in the case of ITX). They keep things fair and they’ll evaluate your performance after the event is over.
Here, we have two LARPers from different countries interacting in a dialogue.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tiffany Edwards)
You get to roleplay with other countries
On a peacetime deployment, you basically go to other countries to train with their military if your unit is trustworthy enough for that responsibility. This means that you travel and meet with other LARPers as you share an event together.
It’s dark. The air is heavy, filled with Afghanistan smoke and dust. On the flight line at Bagram Airfield, an Army CH-47F Chinook helicopter waits, beating thunder with its blades.
An 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Guardian Angel team, which consists of pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, runs out and boards the helicopter. As the Guardian Angels settle into their seats, the helicopter takes off against the night sky over the mountainous terrain.
During the ensuing flight, two Operation Freedom’s Sentinel teams will conduct a personnel recovery exercise, testing their capability to work together as they extricate simulated casualties from a downed aircraft. The Army and the Air Force are working together to execute personnel recovery.
‘Personnel recovery is a no-fail strategic mission’
“Personnel recovery is a no-fail strategic mission,” said Air Force Maj. Robert Wilson, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander. “The interoperability between the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, by way of the CH-47F, has enabled our Guardian Angel teams to effectively conduct a wide variety of personnel rescue operations in ways not previously attainable.”
Executing missions with CH-47Fs gives the seven-man Guardian Angel team unique advantages; such as an increased capacity to recover a larger number of isolated personnel and the ability to fly further and higher than previous platforms allowed.
“This partnership strengthens the resolve of those fighting on the ground and in the air to fight harder and longer, knowing that someone will always have their back,” Wilson said.
The Chinook is a twin-turbine, tandem-rotor, heavy-lift transport helicopter with a useful load of up to 25,000 pounds. With its high altitude and payload capability, the CH-47F is vital to overseas operations, such as in Afghanistan. Its capabilities include medical evacuation, aircraft recovery, parachute drops, disaster relief and combat search and rescue.
“I’ve been flying CH-47 models for 22 years,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shawn Miller, a CH-47F pilot with the South Carolina National Guard. “This is an unprecedented tasking. Never in its history has an Army unit been tasked to provide dedicated aviation assets and crew to conduct joint personnel recovery operations.”
Miller’s team is also joined by the Illinois Army National Guard.
The CH-47F model, with its enhanced capabilities, combined with the combat search and rescue mission set, allows the team to transport more personnel and essential equipment higher, further distances, and offer longer on the scene station times than ever before, Miller added.
Joint operations between services capitalize on the unique skillsets each branch brings to the fight.
For missions in Afghanistan, because of its high altitudes and current enemy threats, the benefits seem to outweigh the risks of using a different system. Especially in terms of the varied mission sets required of the personnel recovery enterprise.
The pararescue team also specializes in cold weather/avalanche or snow and ice rescue, collapsed structure/confined space extrication, or many different forms of jump operations in static-line or free-fall configuration.
Using the teams to their full capacity is all about strengthening the resolve of those fighting on the ground and in the air.
“Critical to the warfighter is knowing that a highly trained and capable PR force is standing ready at a moment’s notice, willingly placing themselves in harm’s way … so that others may live,” Wilson said.
One of the most oft-overlooked wars in American history, the War of 1812 is kind of like a bad sequel to a much more exciting movie. In this case, the original film is the American Revolution and the War of 1812 is really AmRev II: the Hubris. Since no one really won and the reasoning for the war was something that could have been avoided.
No one likes a stalemate.
When people refer to interesting things about the War of 1812, they usually mention the Star-Spangled Banner, Dolly Madison saving George Washington’s portrait from the torch, or the fact the Battle of New Orleans was the most New Orleans thing ever, and it happened after the war ended.
We’ll go a little deeper than that.
A cartoon lampooning opposition to the War of 1812.
(Oxford University Press)
New England almost seceded from the Union.
Secession from the Union was a concept that had been hanging around long before the South used it to trigger the Civil War. In this case, the New England states were so against the war that they considered seceding from the United States and forming their own country. When President Madison called up the Massachusetts militia, Governor Caleb Strong refused to send the troops, so Madison sent no troops to defend New England. New England even tried to negotiate a separate peace with the British.
Europeans don’t think of it as its own war.
While Canada may revel in the ass-kicking it gave Washington, D.C., and various states around the U.S. may revel in their own victories over the hated British, the actual British don’t call the War of 1812 by its American name. To the Europeans, the War of 1812 is just an extension of the Napoleonic Wars, a new theater in the fight against Imperial France.
The 1812 Overture is not about the War of 1812.
On that note, every July 4th, you can hear Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture blaring to the explosions of fireworks across the United States as Americans celebrate their independence. It makes for a pretty great spectacle. The only problem is that the legendary musical piece has nothing to do with the U.S. 1812 was the same year Napoleon marched his Grand Armeé on Moscow, and the Russians responded to the impending fall of their capital by burning it before the French arrived. In the overture, you can even hear parts of the La Marseillaise, the French national anthem.
The British deployed a 1st rate Ship of the Line on the Great Lakes.
Imagine a massive ship with three gun decks and 112 guns, carrying some 700 British sailors just floating around the Great Lakes. That’s what the British Admiralty launched in 1814 in an attempt to wrest control of the lakes away from the Americans. The HMS St. Lawrence was built on Lake Ontario in just a few months. Her presence on the lake was enough to secure dominance on the lake for the British for the rest of the war.
Oliver Hazard Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie.
It marked the first surrender of a British Naval squadron.
Despite the eventual British dominance on the Great Lakes, control of the massive bodies of water swung back and forth throughout the war, and was probably the theater where the Americans saw much of their success. Delivering blows to the vaunted Royal Navy was great for U.S. morale and terrible for British morale. American Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry constructed a fleet of ships just to challenge British dominance on the lakes. At the Battle of Lake Erie, he forced a British naval squadron to surrender for the first time in history.
His dispatch to Gen. William Henry Harrison contained the legendary line, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
We burned their capital first.
The British did manage to torch Washington, and the city was nearly abandoned after its destruction, but it wasn’t just a random idea the British had – Americans actually burned their center of government first. The capital of Upper Canada was at a place then-called York, but today is known as Toronto. Americans burned the provincial parliament and looted key sites, taking the mace of Canada’s parliament (which President Eisenhower later returned) and a British Imperial Lion (which the U.S. Naval Academy has not).
The U.S. was saved by a giant storm.
Everyone knows British troops marched on Washington and burned the major buildings of America’s young capital city, including the White House. What they may not know is that the fires that should have raged through the night were extinguished relatively quickly by a freak tornado – some thought it was a hurricane – that hit the area just hours after the British advance. The storm even forced a British withdrawal as the storm killed more British troops than the American defenders.
It was the first time Asian-Americans fought for the US.
Asian-Americans may have fought for the United States before the War of 1812, but the defense of New Orleans marked the first time any historian or chronicler mentioned Asians at arms during wartime. When the pirate Jean-Baptiste Lafitte famously came to the aid of Gen. Andrew Jackson and American troops in New Orleans, he enlisted several “Manilamen” – Filipinos – from nearby Saint Malo, Louisiana, the first Filipino community in the United States.
(Imperial War Museum)
It saw the largest emancipation of slaves until the Civil War.
One of the weaknesses of American society at the time was the institution of slavery, a weakness the British would attempt to exploit at every opportunity. The British Admiralty declared that any resident of the United States who wished to settle in His Majesty’s colonies would be welcome to do so, all they had to do was appear before the British Army or Navy. American slaveholders believed it was an attempt to incite a slave revolt, which it may have been. Nonetheless, the British transported thousands of former slaves back to Africa, the Caribbean, and even Canadian Nova Scotia.
Some even joined the British Colonial Marines, a fighting force of ex-slaves deployed by the British against the Americans.
(Muslims in America)
It also saw the largest slave uprising – against the invader.
While the British were rousing slaves to join the fight against their oppressors, other slaves were joining forces to fight the British for the Americans. One Muslim slave named Bilal Muhammed was the manager of a plantation of 500 slaves on Georgia’s Sapelo Island. When the British attempted to land on Sapelo, Muhammed and 80 other slaves fought them back into the sea.
Maine was almost given to Canada as “New Ireland.”
During the American Revolution, the area we know as Maine was a haven for colonists who wanted to remain loyal to the Crown. Their ambitions were, of course, supported by the British government in Canada, who sent a significant force to defend what was then New Ireland. The British gave up New Ireland after the American Revolution in order to cut the French Canadian provinces off from the coastal areas. By the time the War of 1812 rolled through, it was almost ceded again, but the Treaty of Ghent made no changes to the borders, and the British withdrew
The war brought about an unopposed political party.
Today we have Democrats and Republicans at each other’s throats, constantly fighting to some end. Back then, the parties were the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. Federalist opposition to the war, which ended with the view that America had won by not losing the second war for independence, pretty much ended the Federalist party, leaving just the Democratic-Republican Party as the sole party in a new “Era of Good Feelings.” After the election of 1824, that Era was over, and the party was split into two factions, depending on how much they liked Andrew Jackson’s policies.
The United States Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was authorized by Congress and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 30, 1942. Like their female counterparts servicing in other branches of the military, the primary function of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was to release men for combat duty. The jobs available to them were also very similar. Members served in occupations classified as professional, semi-professional, clerical, skilled trades, services, and sales. While over 200 job categories were made available to members of the Women’s Reserve, over half of members worked in clerical positions. Only Caucasian and Native American Women were accepted into service, the Marine Corps barred African American and Japanese American women from its ranks.
At its height, the Women’s Reserve had recruited more than 17,000 members. As was discussed in Part I, the military used a variety of tactics to recruit female members. Films such as Lady Marines, were used to provide a look at the life of a female military recruit in an effort to make new recruits more comfortable with the process. The film, shot at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, follows a class of recruits from their arrival, to graduation, highlighting their training and job opportunities.
The United States Navy also recognized the importance of allowing females to serve in their ranks. The United States Naval Reserve (WAVES), was established and signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on July 30, 1942, the same day the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. Women were accepted into the WAVES as commissioned officers as well as at the enlisted level in order to release men for sea duty. They served at 900 shore stations in the United States and included over 85,000 members. While primarily comprised of white women, 74 African-American women were allowed to serve during the program’s existence.
The color film, WAVES at Work, highlights the variety of jobs made available to members of the WAVES. Women wanting to serve in the medical, clerical, communication, and culinary fields were able to do so as a member of the WAVES. One of the most interesting jobs highlighted in the film is that of the Air Controlman. Those serving in this capacity would direct planes and ground crews from a control tower at naval air stations.
Both films, Lady Marines and WAVES at Work, touch on the values discussed in Part I femininity, benefits of joining the military, and the importance of the work needing done. These films also make it a point to highlight the opportunities made available to women in the military. Female recruits were provided with job training in non-traditional areas, training that was not widely available to their civilian counterparts . You can view both films in their entirety below.