So many North Koreans have disappeared from fishing villages along the Hermit Kingdom’s east coast that the villages dotting the coastline are becoming known as “widow’s villages.”
Where do their husbands go?
They end up dead on boats adrift in the Sea of Japan. Their ships and bodies wash ashore on Japan or are picked up by the Japanese Coast Guard. Last year alone, 50 or more North Koreans were found on Japanese beaches.
For years, the phenomenon of these fishing boats full of dead men was a mystery. But now a few anonymous complaints to the United Nations may explain the “Ghost Boats” phenomenon. China has been poaching fish in North Korean waters, according to an investigation by the Irish Times.
In March 2020, two countries reported that 800 Chinese fishing vessels violated the sanctions placed on North Korean fishing waters. The sanctions were intended to prevent the North from selling the rights to fish in those waters. The area is a heavily-contested and poorly watched region of the ocean as it is but Chinese fleets compound the issue by switching off their location transponders.
Two countries provided the UN with satellite imagery that prove China is operating fishing fleets in the areas. External watchdogs estimate the Chinese have depleted the waters of stocks by up to 70 percent for some species.
The flotilla of Chinese fishing boats has also allegedly forced smaller, less well-equipped North Korean fishermen to pursue waters further from their villages, further from shore and further than their victualing can reasonably accommodate the crews of those ships. Once too far from shore, the North Korean peasants’ boats are susceptible to engine failures and storms – but don’t have the supplies to survive being adrift for very long periods.
Once the engines fail, the boats are likely caught up in the Tsushima current that runs up the west coast of the Japanese home islands. These flat-bottomed boats, filled only with fishing supplies and a few jugs of water, are usually found with tattered North Korean flags, and heavily decomposed bodies, if any remains are found at all.
The fishermen chase squid populations and end up with dead engines in the middle of the ocean, where they will probably spend the rest of their days, dying of thirst or exposure.
Some hucksters will have you believe that in order for you to get the best results from your training you need to be taking some combination of pills and powders daily.
That’s not true. There are very few supplements that are worth the plastic tubs that they’re stored in. I’m here to tell you which supplements are worth it and which aren’t.
In order to keep things relatively uncomplicated, the supplements that I talk about here are only those that you don’t require to survive. The vitamins and minerals that we require for life are just that, necessary to survive. Obviously, if you are deficient in one of those, you should be supplementing or changing your diet around.
What I’m talking about are those supplements that are completely unnecessary for human life that you’re potentially spending greater than 10% of your monthly income on… I’m talking to you Cpl Jones.
I went to bodybuilding.com and searched their top 50 most selling supplements. I’m sure this list is very similar to the sales in your closest Exchange on base, so I’ll just use it as a proxy. Out of those top 50 selling supplements, all fall into the following categories:
I don’t fully accept that protein powder is a supplement…because it’s a macronutrient. You need protein. If you aren’t getting enough in your diet from foods, It’s perfectly acceptable to buy and use some form of protein powder.
When should you have it? Literally whenever. There is no significantly important anabolic window. If you are eating somewhere in the ballpark of .8-1.3 grams of protein per lb of body weight per day, then you’re fine. For more on nutrition timing, check this out.
NOW, not all protein powders are created the same. There are generally three factors that you should keep in perspective when you go to buy some protein powder. Here they are in order of importance:
Leucine Content: If a protein powder has less than 11% leucine or if it doesn’t list the exact proportions of amino acids, it’s sh!t protein with useless fillers. You don’t get an adequate muscle protein synthesis response with any dose of protein that has less than 2.5 grams of leucine in it. 11% leucine puts you at just over 2.5g of leucine for a typical serving scoop of powder of 25 grams of protein. This may seem more complicated than it actually is… read more on it here or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll gladly explain it to you in detail.
Ingredients: If you’re supplementing with additional protein, then supplement with protein, not a ‘proprietary blend.’ If there are other ingredients in your preferred brand, the chances are that they are simply trying to distract you from the fact that there’s an inadequate amount of leucine per serving.
Sourcing: This one is simply based on your preferences. If you’re vegan or dairy doesn’t sit well in your stomach, then you’ll want to avoid proteins like whey and casein. Typically worthwhile vegan proteins will be a blend in order to get you the required amount of leucine. That being said if it doesn’t tell you what the blend is or again how much leucine there is per serving then it’s bullshit hippie nonsense made by someone just trying to take advantage of you or that’s too stupid to understand how protein supplementation works; either way, they don’t deserve your money.
How I make my own Pre-Workout to be both more effective and save $$$$$
This category is pretty large, mostly I’m talking about those dumb supplements with names like Gnar Pump, NitraFlex, Pre-Kaged, NeuroCore, and Pump Mode. Chances are that if it has a dumb name, it’s a waste of your money.
You’ll see, though, my umbrella recommendation is pretty consistent. If the supplement you’re considering contains any trademarked or patented blend/mix of supplements instead of individually listing the supplements, don’t buy it.
There are plenty of pre-workout supplements that have been shown to help increase performance. Recommendations are varied depending on what type of training session you are walking into and what the rest of your diet looks like.
Caffeine taken with theanine are pretty much always a safe idea to supplement with 30 minutes prior to training. That is my blanket recommendation for pre-workout. I failed to find any pre-workouts on the top 50 purchased supplements on bodybuilding.com that contained solely caffeine and theanine. They pretty much all have nonsense and bullsh!t in them.
If you’re a constant experiment, which you are, and you want to find out what actually impacts your performance, which you do, how can you figure that out if you’re taking a supplement that has 60 ingredients? There’s no way to know what’s working, what’s fluff, and what’s contributing to the tingling side-effect.
If you’ve already Pavlov’s-dogged yourself into needing that tingling sensation in order to get a good workout have no fear, it’s not something dangerous.
It’s probably beta-alanine that your favorite blend uses to achieve that feeling, which isn’t harmful and can actually aid in physical efforts over a minute.
In part 2 I’ll cover BCAAs, Post Workout Supplements, Intra Workout Supplements, and Multivitamins. That’s when things get interesting.
As I mentioned multiple times throughout this article, if you have any questions or alternative opinions on my take on these types of supplements, do not hesitate to email me at email@example.com.
As always, when it comes to nutrition, your number one solution to any dietary need or hack should be to alter your diet of real foods to get adequate quantities and proportions of macro and micronutrients. Only after you have that dialed-in like I very explicitly outline in The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide should you bother walking down the supplement aisle.
If you made it this far in the article, you clearly care about your health and fitness. Why then have you not joined the Mighty Fit FB group? If you are in the group post in there which category of sports supplements that I covered in this article that you are the most disappointed by.
While troops are in uniform, the only thing that matters is if it’s correct. Uniform is tidy and presentable. Boots are clean (and polished, for you older cats.) Hair is cut on a weekly basis. Things like that.
But when troops are off-duty and in garrison, they’re allowed to wear whatever.
Normally, troops just wear something comfortable and occasionally trendy. When you’re off-duty, you’re on your own time (until someone in the unit messes up).
But then there are the young, dumb boots who make it so painfully obvious that they don’t have any real clothes in their barracks room.
Shy of some major exceptions for clothing unbecoming of a service member, there are no guidelines for wearing civilian clothes out of uniform. But it’s like boots haven’t figured out that being “out of uniform” isn’t meant to be the unofficial boot uniform. You can spot them immediately when they wear these.
I feel like this dude’s NCO failed him by not immediately taking him to the barber.
Barracks haircut without a hat
It really doesn’t matter if you’ve got a stupid haircut in formation. You’ll be mocked relentlessly by your squad but it doesn’t matter. You’re at least in regulations.
If you don’t hide your shame with a hat when you’re in civvies, however, your buddies might get the impression that you don’t realize it’s an awful haircut. And that you’re a boot. And that you should be mocked even harder.
But hey. It technically counts as civilian wear.
Uniform undershirt with basketball shorts
When you’re done for the day, normal troops get out of their uniform as fast as they can. Boots tend to stop half way through just so they can go to the chow hall and get away with being in civvies.
They just stop at the blouse and pants and toss on a cheapo pair of basketball shorts. If they’re really lazy, they’ll even wear the military-issued socks with the same cheap Nike sandals.
Can we all agree that the bedazzled butt cross should have never been a fad?
Combat boots tucked into embroidered jeans
Combat boots aren’t really worn for comfort. They’re practical as hell (which is why the military uses them) but they’re not comfortable. Especially when they need to be bloused over the uniform pants. It would make sense that you’d not want to do this with regular clothes…right?
Nope. Boots never got that memo. And it’s never the same jeans any regular American would wear. It’s always the trashiest embroidered jeans that look like they weren’t even cool back in early 2000’s.
One of my favorite things when someone is wearing a shirt for a fighter is to press them for details about fighter’s record.
It’s one thing if a new troop wears their basic training shirt. It’s one of the few shirts they have and completing basid is something to be proud of. No qualms with that.
If a boot rotates wearing one of seven Tapout or Affliction shirts and they’ve only ever taken Army Combatives Level One — yeah, no.
Just like with the goofy embroidered jeans, these shirts also look like they were constantly sprinkled in glitter.
Just please take them off. This just looks dumb.
Oakleys worn on the back of the head (or under the chin)
Think of how literally every single person does with their sunglasses when they’re not using them. You’d assume they’d take them off or flip them up to the top of their head if it’s for a quick moment, right?
Not boots. They flip them around so they’re worn in a stupid manner. Nothing against Oakleys either — but if they’re more expensive than everything else combined in their wardrobe, it’s a problem.
“You’re welcome for my service.”
Dog tags outside a shirt
Dog tags serve a purpose for identifying troops in combat and treated as an inspectable item while in uniform. It is unheard of in any current branch of service to wear dog tags outside of the uniform.
And yet, boots will wear their dog tags on the outside of their Tapout shirt to let everyone know that they’re in the military and didn’t just buy their dog tags online.
But seriously. Where did they get these from?
ID card holder armbands
If troops are in a top secret area, they may need to wear identification outside of their uniform (and even then, it’s probably a separate badge). While on a deployment, troops may need to wear an ID card armband if they’re in PTs. Shy of those two very specific moments, there is literally no reason to store your CAC outside your wallet.
There’s an explanation for everything else on this list: boots think it looks cool and makes them feel like even more in the military. But boots who wear their CAC on their sleeve just paint a big ol’ target on themselves.
We don’t know when and where it was filmed, but the following video surely shows a pretty weird accident occurred to a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter. Indeed, the short clip shows the heavy Marine chopper (whose empty weight is more than 10 tons – 23,628 lb) with folded tail boom being towed aboard a ship using a “system” made of a tug towing another tug coupled to a tow bar attached to the Super Stallion’s nose landing gear.
At a certain point, the tow bar disconnects from the helicopter that starts to slide backwards towards the pier. The end of the story is that no one seems to be hurt by the giant chopper that comes to a stop when the folded tail hits the ramp that was being used to board it.
Here’s the video, shared by the always interesting Air Force amn/nco/snco FB page:
Many have criticized the way used to board the helicopter, saying that the one shown in the footage is not a standard procedure. Others have highlighted the fact that no one was in the cockpit riding the brakes during the operation. We don’t know what the procedure called for in this case, whatever, based on the footage, it is safe to say that the ending could have been worse: despite a significant risk for all those involved or observing the boarding, perhaps the Super Stallion got (minor?) damages and an unscheduled inspection…
Thanks to its impressive lift capacity the Super Stallion is able to carry a 26,000-pound Light Armored Vehicle, 16 tons of cargo 50 miles and back, or enough Marines to lead and assault or humanitarian operation. For this reason it is used for a wide variety of tasks.
The latest version of the iconic CH-53, designed CH-53K King Stallion, will replace the current E variant in the coming years and will feature a lift capacity three times that of the Super Stallion retaining the same size of its predecessor.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Over the last month, the United States (and parts of the world) erupted in protests after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmuad Abery. While their deaths drew the ire of many Americans, they set off an angry and passionate reaction to the bigger problem of police brutality and systemic racism.
Unfortunately, protests can be marred by people taking advantage and the marches that have occurred in all 50 states have seen some people take to rioting and looting. While the vast majority of protests have been peaceful, the magnitude of people on the street and looting caused some states to activate their respective National Guard units.
Director and Army Veteran Robert Ham was able to link up with National Guard Chaplain Major Nathan Graeser who was part of a California National Guard Unit that was assigned to downtown Los Angeles. With the noise of protestors in the background demanding reform of police and the end of the systemic racism that plagues this country, Graeser talked about why the National Guard was there and the mood of the troops. When asked about the atmosphere in the area Graeser said, “Seeing this today, I kept thinking to myself… this is what makes America great.”
In addition to being an Army Chaplain in the California National Guard, Nathan is also a social worker. He is an expert on programs and policies that support service members transitioning out of the military. Nathan is an advocate for veterans and leads multiple veteran initiatives in Los Angeles. He has spent thousands of hours counseling veterans and their families to deal with the challenges of service and returning home.
Graeser talks about the disconnections we have with one another, exacerbated by COVID-19 and how those disconnections flared up in the wake of these deaths. He knows, because he sees the same disconnection with his soldiers and with veterans as they themselves struggle to connect to the community they took an oath to serve.
But, Graeser said he sees the similarities between the young soldiers and young protesters, “These 19 year olds,” referring to the guardsmen, he said, “They are thoughtful, they are kind, even their interaction with the looters is as gentle as can possibly be.”
While the riots have been waning, the cries for action have not. What does the future hold for the rest of 2020 and beyond? We can only guess at this time.
But there is hope in what Graeser sees.
“We are out here to see what the next chapter is,” he shared. “One thing I know is wherever we go, we are going to need everybody.”
China’s “insatiable appetite” for seafood is straining the limited abilities of South American countries to enforce their maritime boundaries, according to a Dec. 13, 2018 article in Dialogo, a website run by US Southern Command.
Countries on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts have been affected, and most of the illicit fishing activity in those areas is done by Chinese vessels.
Juan Carlos Sueiro, fisheries director for Peru at the ocean conservation and advocacy organization Oceana, told Dialogo that Peru and Argentina saw “the largest congregation of these vessels in the world.”
“It’s not that they can’t fish in international waters, but their close presence generates controversy. For example, Oceana already identified vessels entering into Peruvian waters without a license or with duplicated ID,” Sueiro said.
Chinese vessel RUNDA 608 was detained on Oct. 6, 2018, in Peruvian territorial waters while fishing illegally.
“Refrigerated fishing vessels can be found in international waters to transfer their captures, fuel, and supplies,” he said, adding that transshipment activity, which can launder profits from illegal fishing, had also been detected.
Officials and experts have said rising demand for fish and increased competition over dwindling stocks could spark new conflicts. Many of them have pointed specifically to China.
Fishing stocks around China have shrunken dramatically. But Beijing has expanded its distant-ocean fishing fleet, and those vessels have been involved in disputes as far afield as Argentina — where the coast guard has fired at and sunk them — and in Africa, where Chinese firms are building fish-processing facilities.
In a September 2017 article, retired US Navy Adm. James Stavridis and a coauthor said that Beijing was spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to subsidize its long-range fishing fleet and that its coast guard often escorts those ships while they fish illegally.
“As such, the Chinese government is directly enabling and militarizing the worldwide robbing of ocean resources,” they said.
In September 2018, US Coast Guard Cmdr. Kate Higgins-Bloom wrote that “the odds that a squabble over fishing rights could turn into a major armed conflict are rising.”
Countries overplaying their hands with fishing and fisheries enforcement in contested waters and increasingly aggressive responses to illegal fishing are two ways that conflict could develop, Higgins-Bloom wrote. She added that “political leaders of rising powers will feel enormous pressure to secure the resources their citizens demand — even if it means violating international norms and rules.”
Indonesia has blown up boats caught fishing illegally, including a Chinese vessel, and the country’s fisheries minister has said what Chinese fishing boats “are doing is not fishing. It is transnational organized crime.”
“There’s no need to worry [about conflicts with other nations] as we have government vessels protecting us,” a Chinese fisherman said in September 2017, after the expiration of a fishing ban in the South China Sea.
Chinese icebreaker Xue Long conducts operations at an ice-flow camp in the Arctic.
The Arctic, where retreating ice has increased interest in commercial shipping and resource extraction, could also become a venue for that competition.
“I think the Chinese are very interested in the potential protein sources, the fishing stocks,” in the Arctic, Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider in late 2018.
Nine countries, including China, and the EU signed an agreement in late 2017 prohibiting commercial fishing in the central Arctic for 16 years to allow study of the region — a deal meant to ensure there’s sufficient information to fish manageably “when these decisions have to be reached,” Conley said.
“We’re seeing anecdotal evidence of fishing stocks traveling north to get to cooler waters,” Conley added. “China certainly wants to ensure that … they’re not excluded from” those fishing grounds.
‘Confronting the Chinese voracity’
US Coast Guard officials have said they are on good terms with their Chinese counterparts when it comes to fisheries enforcement, though they are paying attention to what’s going on in the northern Pacific Ocean.
Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz told Business Insider in October 2018 that the Coast Guard has “a good, functional working relationship” with China, describing an incident when the two services cooperated to stop a high-seas drift-netter, which uses massive nets to scoop up fish without regard to limits on what species can be caught.
“We identified that ship and responded with a Coast Guard cutter. It was a few hundred miles off the nearest mainland in that part of the world. The Chinese came out. It was a Chinese flagship, very cooperative,” Schultz said. “We had a Chinese ship-rider on our Coast Guard ship. We turned that ship over to the Chinese for prosecution.”
In South America, however, “the fight is not easy,” even with cooperation among countries in the region, Dialogo cautioned in the Dec. 13, 2018 article.
“China clearly intends to exploit regional seas, and many species already suffer the consequences,” the article adds. “Confronting the Chinese voracity for marine resources requires a regional commitment that can’t wait.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
While scouring the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean over the past several months, the crew of the US Coast Guard cutter James seized 19,000 pounds of cocaine.
The James’s haul was about half of the 38,00o pounds of cocaine its crew offloaded on Nov. 15, 2018, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Those drugs were seized in 19 interdictions at sea carried about by six US Coast Guard ships — nine of which were conducted by the James.
The total haul had an estimated wholesale value of about $500 million.
“Operating in the dark of night, often under challenging conditions, these outstanding Coast Guard men and women … driving our boats, flying our armed helicopter swiftly interdicted drug smugglers operating in a variety of vessels used to move these tons of narcotics, from the simple outboard panga to commercial fishing vessels to low-profile high-speed vessels and even semi-submersibles designed to evade detection,” Capt. Jeffrey Randall, the commander of the James, said Nov. 15, 2018.
A pallet of interdicted cocaine being offloaded from the Coast Guard Cutter James by crane in Port Everglades, Florida, Nov.15, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)
The drugs were unloaded just a few weeks after the end of fiscal year 2018 on Sept. 30, 2018. During that fiscal year, the Coast Guard intercepted just over 458,000 pounds of cocaine — the second highest total ever. Fiscal year 2017 set the record with 493,000 pounds seized, topping the previous record of 443,000 pounds set in fiscal year 2016.
The increase in seizures comes amid growing cocaine production in Colombia, the world’s largest producer of the drug and the main supplier to the US market. Production of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, has steadily risen since hitting a low in 2012.
Colombia is the only South American country that borders both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, but most of the cocaine it sends to the US takes a westerly route.
“In 2017, at least 84 percent of the documented cocaine departing South America transited the Eastern Pacific,” the US Drug Enforcement Administration said in its most recent National Drug Threat Assessment.
“Shipments around the Galapagos Islands increased to 17 percent of overall flow in 2017, up from four percent in 2016 and one percent in 2015,” the DEA report found. “In 2017, 16 percent of cocaine moved through the Caribbean, nine percent traveling through the Western Caribbean and seven percent through the Eastern Caribbean.”
The Coast Guard’s activity in the eastern Pacific, where it works with other US agencies and international partners, is meant to stanch the drug flow at its largest and most vulnerable point: at sea.
“The Coast Guard’s interdiction efforts really employ what I call a push-out-the-border strategy. We’re pushing our land border 1,500 miles deep into the ocean here a little bit, and that’s where we find the success taking large loads of cocaine down at sea,” Adm. Karl Shultz, the commandant of the Coast Guard, said Nov. 15, 2018, during the offload.
“When we take down drugs at sea it reduces the violence. It maximizes the impact. When these loads land in Mexico, in Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, they get distributed into very small loads, very hard to detect, and there’s associated violence, corruption, instability,” Shultz added. “It’s just very hard to govern in that space when there’s that much associated disarray here that surrounds these drugs, so we’re really proud of the ability to push that border out.”
The Coast Guard Cutter James crew, Claire M. Grady, acting Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary, Adm. Karl Schultz, Coast Guard Commandant, Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Rear Adm. Peter Brown, commander of Coast Guard 7th District with 18.5 tons of interdicted cocaine on deck Nov. 15, 2018 in Port Everglades, Florida.
(Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally)
Coast Guard officials have said after having success against self-propelled semi-submersibles, which are like subs but typically can’t fully submerge, the service has seen an uptick in the use of low-profile vessels, which look similar to speedboats but sit lower in the water, often with their decks right at water level.
“The low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz told Business Insider in a 2018 interview. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes,” he said, adding that the increase “reflects the adaptability” of traffickers.
Asked on Nov. 15, 2018, about smuggling trends the Coast Guard has observed above and below the water, Schultz said again pointed to increased use of low-profile vessels.
“We’re seeing these low-profile vessels now, which is a similar construct [to semi-submersibles] but with outboard engines,” Schultz told reporters. “They paint them seafoam green, blue. They’re hard to detect … from the air.”
Schultz and Randall both touted the Coast Guard’s work with its US and foreign partners.
Claire Grady, third in command at the Homeland Security Department, put the service’s high-seas interdictions squarely within the government’s broader efforts to go after drugs and the smugglers bringing them north.
“We must take actions abroad in addition to our actions at home. This merging of the home game and the away game represents the layered defense that we employ to keep the drugs off our streets and dismantle the criminal organizations that wreak violence and instability,” Grady said aboard the James on Nov. 15, 2018.
“The Coast Guard is critical to this effort, and the seized narcotics that you see behind me represents a major victory.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
North Korea’s 25 million citizens live under an oppressive, totalitarian government that freely detains or even puts to death citizens that stray from official messaging in any way. Simply listening to outside media not sanctioned by the state can result in death.
But the small survey, which gives a voice to those living under unimaginable scrutiny, reveals what many in the international community believe to be true — North Koreans are unhappy with their state and risk severe punishments to cope with it in their personal lives.
“This is the first time we’re hearing directly from people inside the country,” Dr. Victor Cha, head of Korea studies at CSIS, told The Washington Post.
Beyond Parallel carried out the survey so that it would present minimal risk to those involved. Ultimately, they wound up with a small sample size that nonetheless conveyed a sentiment with near unanimity: North Koreans know that their government does not work, and they criticize it privately at extreme personal peril.
Out of the 36, only one said they do not joke in private about the government.
While it may not seem like a big deal to those in the West who enjoy free speech and can readily make jokes about their government, consider this 2014 finding from the United Nations on the state of free speech in North Korea:
State surveillance permeates the private lives of all citizens to ensure that virtually no expression critical of the political system or of its leadership goes undetected. Citizens are punished for any “anti-State” activities or expressions of dissent. They are rewarded for reporting on fellow citizens suspected of committing such “crimes”.
Beyond Parallel reports that formal state-organized neighborhood watches “regularly monitor their members” and report any behavior that deviates from what the state deems appropriate.
The picture painted by Beyond Parallel’s research paints a picture starkly in contrast with the images we see flowing out of North Korea’s state media, which usually feature Kim Jong Un smiling broadly while touring military or commercial facilities.
Kyiv says Russia has “partially” unblocked Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, allowing Ukrainian ships to pass through the Kerch Strait for the first time since Nov. 25, 2018, when Russian forces seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels and detained 24 crewmen.
“Berdyansk and Mariupol are partially unlocked,” Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said on Dec. 4, 2018, as NATO reiterated its call on Russia to allow “unhindered access” to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.
“Vessels make their way to the entrance and exit through the Kerch Strait toward Ukrainian ports,” Omelyan said.
The minister said that ships navigating through the Kerch Strait to and from Ukrainian ports “are stopped and inspected by Russia as before, but the traffic has been partially restored.”
Ukraine’s Agriculture Ministry later said that the country had resumed grain shipments from the Sea of Azov.
“Passage of vessels with agricultural products through ports in the Sea of Azov has been unlocked,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The loading of grain to vessels through the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk is restored and carried out in regular mode,” it added.
Captured BK-02 Berdyansk with a hole in the pilothouse.
The naval confrontation between Russia and Ukraine topped the agenda of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting with their Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, in Brussels.
After the talks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the 29 members of the alliance called on Russia to “immediately release the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized.”
“Russia must allow freedom of navigation and allow unhindered access to Ukrainian ports,” he added.
“In response to Russia’s aggressive actions, NATO has substantially increased its presence in the Black Sea region over the past few years — at sea, in the air, and on the ground,” Stoltenberg also noted.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Russia continues to hold 24 Ukrainian sailors detained in the Nov. 25, 2018 incident, despite demands from NATO for their release from detention centers in Moscow.
Moscow Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Potyayeva was scheduled on Dec. 4, 2018, to visit three Ukrainian sailors who were injured in the Nov. 25, 2018 incident, when Russian forces rammed a Ukrainian Navy tugboat and fired on two other ships before seizing the vessels.
The clash has added to tension over Crimea, which Russia occupied and illegally annexed from Ukraine in March 2014.
It also has raised concerns of a possible flare-up in a simmering war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
The Russia-backed separatists hold parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, including a piece of shoreline that lies between the Russian border and the Ukrainian Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Dec. 3, 2018, said concerns that Moscow could seek to create a “land corridor” linking Russia to Crimea were “absurd.”
At their Brussels meeting, the foreign ministers “restated NATO’s solidarity with Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
“We recognize Ukraine’s aspirations to join the alliance, and progress has already been made on reforms. But challenges remain, so we encourage Ukraine to continue on this path of reform. This is crucial for prosperity and peace in Ukraine,” the NATO chief said.
In the November issue of the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine, Commander Daniel Thomassen of the Royal Norwegian Navy argued that Russia’s dream to build a blue water, or global, navy remains a “pipe dream.”
Russia’s navy has made headlines recently with high profile cruise missile strikes on Syria, and the deployment of the core of its northern fleet, including the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier, to the Mediterranean.
“Russia is capable of being a regional naval power in local theaters of choice. But large-scale efforts to develop an expensive expeditionary navy with aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships only would diminish Russia’s geographically overstretched homeland defense forces,” writes Thomassen.
Thomassen goes on to point out that strong navies have strong allies and healthy fleets. While Russia has been improving its fleet with some particularly good submarines, it lacks a big fleet that can build partnerships with allies around the world through bilateral exercises.
But the state of Russia’s navy now is only part of the picture. Russia has never been a major naval power, Thomassen points out. At times Moscow has established itself as a coastal naval power, but it never had a truly global reach on par with historic powers like England or Spain.
But that doesn’t seem to matter to Russian leadership, which has set “highly ambitious governmental guidelines for developing and using sea power over the next decades.”
In addition to its submarine fleet, Russia wants new frigates, cruisers, and even carriers. These prospects seem especially dubious because Russia’s Kuznetsov isn’t really a strike carrier like the US’s Nimitz-class carriers.
The Kuznetsov has never conducted a combat mission. Mechanical troubles plague the Kuznetsov, so much so that it often sails with a tugboat. Also, the Kuznetsov just isn’t built for the kind of mission it will undertake off Syria’s coast.
The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. | Creative Commons photo
“Since a major confrontation between NATO and Warsaw Pact would most likely take place in Europe, during the later Cold War Soviet planners focused on protecting the heavily defended ‘bastions’ shielding their ballistic missile submarines and not seaborne power projection.
In fact, Russia itself doesn’t have the makings of a global sea power. While it has both Pacific and Atlantic coasts, like the US, the population of Russia’s far east is about as sparse as you’ll find anywhere in the world.
But one powerful reason dictates why Russia’s leadership still marches towards this seemingly unattainable goal — prestige. Being seen as a credible alternative to Western naval power seems important to Russian leadership, and operating a carrier is one way to do that. Additionally, Moscow will spin its carrier deployment as propaganda, or a showcase for its military wares.
So while Russia has capable, credible naval forces to defend its homeland and near interests, it will likely never project power abroad like the US and other naval powers of the past have.
You might know that a guidon represents a unit and its commanding officer. And you might know that when the commander is inside the office or building, their guidon is displayed for everyone to see, and when the day is done, the guidon is retired for the evening.
Guidons are part of military culture, but you might be surprised to know the history of them. Let’s take a look at how guidons came to be part of our military and their storied history.
During change of responsibility ceremonies or change of command ceremonies, the passing of the guidon is an important step and key signifier that something significant is taking place. If you’ve spent any time on a military installation, chances are you’ve seen this ceremony (or something like it):
Four people stand in formation, with a guidon bearer at the front. The guidon bearer is usually the senior enlisted member or first sergeant of a unit, and that person generally stands behind three officers. At an appointed time, the guidon bearer hands the guidon to the outgoing commander who presents it to the presiding officer after saying something along the lines of, “Sir/Ma’am, I relinquish command.”
Then there’s a quick hustle and change of positions and the presiding officer passes the guidon to the incoming commander, who hands it back to the guidon bearer and says something like, “Sir/Ma’am, I accept command.”
Listening to this kind of ceremony will undoubtedly reveal this the passing of the guidon is a ceremony which goes back hundreds of years and that the guidon itself was once an essential part of a battlefield posture. Flags and guidons proclaiming unit colors and insignia date back hundreds of years. Today’s guidons used by our military trace their heritage to the small flags used by cavalry units in Europe during the late 1700s and early 1800s.
History of the guidon and the Army Guidon
As we know it today, the guidon came to the military in 1834 with the first cavalry units called dragoons. The top half of the Hudson was red, and the bottom half was white with the letters “U.S.” stitched in white. The company letter was stitched in red.
Guidons remained unchanged for the U.S. military until 1862 during the Civil War. The shape of the cavalry guidon didn’t change, but the colors were altered to a stars and stripes pattern. This change stayed in place until 1885 when the guidon was changed back to the red over white design.
Just one year later, artillery companies were authorized use of guidons. Engineer units were allowed to carry guidons in 1904. Also, in 1904, the Army standardized the design and use of colors and branch insignia. For example, the scarlet background and yellow crossed cannons came to represent artillery, just like the semaphore flags on orange backgrounds represent Signal Corps.
Headquarters elements of Army commands, along with garrisons, centers, schools, and elsewhere are authorized guidons of specific design and color. These usually follow the design of the unit’s Organizational Flag.
Air Force Guidons
The first aviation guidon was authorized in 1916 for use by the 1st Aero Squadron while in service on the Mexican border. Since aviation was part of the Signal Corps, the first Air Force guidon was orange with the Signal Corps crossed flags stitched above an outstretched eagle. These two elements were used for early military aviator badges, and the design was officially announced in a special regulation change to the wartime uniform of WWI. A recommendation in 1919 was to make the Air Force guidon green piped in black with a wing propeller and the letters/numbers of the unit stitched in white. That change was rejected because it was feared the black flag might be associated with “piracy.” As we know it, the yellow eagle in use on Air Force guidons came into being in 1962 and has remained unchanged since.
Marine Corps Guidons
Marine Corps guidons are always rectangular with a scarlet field and gold lettering with an eagle, globe, and anchor centered in the middle. Recruit training units don’t have any branch of service indicated on their guidons. Boot camp platoons only display the platoon number. Fleet Marine Forces units have “FMF” about the Marine Corps emblem.
All non-infantry and artillery reserve units display “USMCR” on their guidons, while all infantry, artillery, and active units show “USMC” on their guidons. Regimental level numbers are displayed on the lower-left corner, unless a higher/lower command numeral provides better identification.
One of the only units authorized a second guidon is Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. C-Company 1/7 is authorized a white guidon with a skull and crossbones. Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines are authorized white markings on a black guidon, with a crossed rifle and shattered paddle and Ka-Bar inset behind a black heart logo.
Unlike the Army, no additional attachments are authorized, like streamers or bands.
Navy ships and squadrons are authorized a unit guidon while ashore that must be swallowtail shaped with a blue background and white text. The Navy guidon shows a fouled anchor within a diamond, which is the same insignia as the Naval Infantry Flag. Before WWII, the Navy used a red flag for artillery ships. OCS companies carry blue guidons with white lettering that shows a white bulldog.
When viewing flags in a military setting, the order is important. First is the national flag, next to the U.S. Army flag, the USMC flag, the Navy flag, then the Air Force flag, and finally the flag of the Coast Guard. However, when the Coast Guard is operating as part of the Navy (as in during war), the Coast Guard flag comes before the Air Force flag.
Guidons are an integral part of the military culture, not just because they represent the commander’s presence or were once used as a sight-point on the field. They represent the shared history of our military and our culture.
It’s been well over six months since Star Wars: The Last Jedi came out and audiences have gone through the full cycle of liking it on opening night and disliking it the longer they spend thinking about it. Now, it’s been released for viewing in homes across America and leaking potential spoilers is no longer a crime punishable by death.
That being said, this is your official spoiler alert. We are going to talk about Star Wars: The Last Jedi ahead.
And my personal question: If that was such an effective tactic, why not just attach hyperspace drives onto asteroids and use them to bombard enemies?
Still with us? Okay, here we go.
In the second act of the film, the First Order has the Resistance cornered. Vice Admiral Haldo orders her people to board the transport ships and evacuate to the nearby planet, Crait. She then pilots the Raddus and aims it right at the First Order fleet and their flagship, the Supremacy.
She floors the Raddus into near hyperspeed and smacks right into the bad guys in what was one of the coolest moments of the film. Pieces of the shattered Supremacy then domino-effect outward, into the other ships, destroying them as well.
As awesome as this moment was, it opens up many questions for the fans that could be better understood with some science. Like, is that even possible? What kind of force (not that kind) would be required to pull that off?
Everything always comes back to science.
The filmmakers behind the Star Wars universe have taken many creative liberties with the franchise, telling elaborate storiesat the expense of scientific reasoning— and that’s fine.The series is literally about magical space samurai that befriend countless alien species without translators and everyone seems to be just fine walking on random planets without wearing space suits.
In this one particular instance — the hyperspace Kamikaze move — everything seems to be perfectly in order. This all comes down to Albert Einstein’s famous mass-energy equivalency formula, otherwise known as E = mc2.
Even though many people see that formula and think it’s just some smart guy’s way of proving he’s smart, it’s actually the fundamentals of energy. It means, in basic terms, that energy and mass are interchangeable.
Cut the movie some slack. It’s far more interesting than reading science textbooks.
With a little algebra, however, this same formula can be rearranged to explain that achieving the speed of light would be nearly impossible because everything within the universe with mass would require a incalculable amount of energy to achieve such a speed. It’s challenging to send even a single atom at a fraction of light speed, let alone a massive frigate.
In the real world, achieving hyperspeed is near impossible for anything other than massless photons. But this is the universe with tiny green muppets teaching farmboys how to move rocks with their minds. Let’s pretend that the hyper-drives hand wave that all away and moving faster than the speed of light is possible and it can be achieved by things with mass.
It’s basically the idea behind the “Rod from God” that never happened.
Thankfully for the audience, the next scientific laws that apply to this scene are also very well-known: Newton’s First and Second Laws of Motion. The first says that every object in a state of uniform motion will remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. The second states that the rate of change of momentum of a body is directly proportional to the force applied, and this change in momentum takes place in the direction of the applied force.
In normal-people words, this means that since the Raddus was extremely massive and was working up to light speed (which meant that it still had mass at that point), it had an unfathomable amount of energy behind it’s punch that could, theoretically, shred through anything with ease.
This is a magnified version of a rail gun on planet Earth. You take something heavy, use magnets to send it extremely high speeds, and crash it into something. Boom. No more enemy.
Then again, this could also explain why two missiles could destroy a Death Star and a couple of laser blasts destroy the second one.
The real question is why don’t they use it more often in the Star Wars universe? We’ve accepted that, for the sake of storytelling, that hyper-drives really work, but this Kamikaze strategy hinges on how the fictional hyper-drive works. If achieves immense speeds by reducing a spacecraft’s mass to zero — similar to that of a photon — then the spacecraft couldn’t destroy something unless it was in the process of picking up speed. This version is more in line with the destruction we saw in the film.
The problem with this option is that if the ship doesn’t have enough speed, it’ll simply bump off the target’s shields. If it has too little mass, it’ll simply squash like a fly on a windshield. The conditions would have to be near perfect to make a serious impact.
The other way a hyper-drive could work is if it creates the insane amount of energy required to bring an object past light speed. If that’s the case, then the hyper-drive would be destroyed with the collision. For scale, the energy needed to send a Ford Mustang into hyper-speed would be more than a star going supernova. When a spacecraft containing an entire military crashes and the hyper-drive that powers it blows it, it’d let off enough energy to snuff out the entire galaxy in an instant. So, it probably wasn’t that.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for the eventual creation of a European army, echoing a suggestion by French President Emmanuel Macron that recently angered the U.S. president.
“What is really important, if we look at the developments of the past year, is that we have to work on a vision of one day creating a real, true European army,” Merkel said in a speech before the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Nov. 13, 2018.
“A common European army would show the world that there will never again be war between European countries,” she said.
Merkel said she envisioned a European army that would function in parallel with NATO and come under a European Security Council, centralizing the continent’s defense structure.
“Europe must take our fate into our own hands if we want to protect our community,” Merkel said.
Her comments came a week after Macron called for a European army that would give Europe greater independence from the United States as well as defend the continent against such possible aggressors as Russia and China.
His comments provoked an angry response from U.S. President Donald Trump and prompted Trump to step up calls on European countries to increase their contributions to NATO.
President Donald J. Trump visits Suresnes American Cemetery to honor the centennial of Armistice Day, Paris, France, Nov. 11, 2018.
(Photo by Cpl. Kevin Payne)
On Nov. 13, 2018, after returning from a visit to France where his clash with Macron featured prominently, Trump tweeted again on the subject.
“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China, and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!” Trump wrote.
Macron did not publicly respond to Trump’s latest tweet. But former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry noted that France helped the fledgling United States win its war of independence against Britain in the 18th century and criticized Trump for “insulting our oldest ally.”
“Stop tweeting! America needs some friends,” Kerry said.
The French and German proposals to create a European army are controversial within NATO and the EU, where many member states are reluctant to give up national sovereignty on defense issues.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said “more European efforts on defense is great, but it should never undermine the strength of the transatlantic bond.”
That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Nov. 13, 2018.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
“We see NATO as the cornerstone for the protection of Europe in the security realm and we fully support nations doing more to carry the load,” Mattis said.
France has proposed the initial launch of a European intervention force backed by a small group of member states to handle crises in regions such as Africa, which could later be expanded into a European army.
Germany is critical of that proposal, however, as Macron would like to establish the new force outside the EU framework so as to involve the soon-to-depart Britain, which is a defense heavyweight within NATO.
The EU already has so-called battle groups to respond in crisis situations, though they have never been deployed.
Merkel’s speech came days after she announced that she will step down as chancellor when her current term ends.
The EU stands at a critical juncture, with Britain preparing to leave the bloc in March while populist, anti-EU forces are on the rise.
As head of the EU’s largest economy, Merkel has wielded considerable influence in the bloc during her nearly 13 years as chancellor.
But political wrangling at home has diminished her powers. Following months of infighting in her three-way coalition government and two disastrous state elections, Merkel announced on Oct. 29, 2018, that her current term as chancellor would be her last.