How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon's first-ever audit - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

In 2018, the Pentagon underwent its first audit in the history of the institution – and failed miserably. It will probably surprise no one that the organization which pays hundreds of dollars for coffee cups and thousands for a toilet seat has trouble tracking its spending. But the issues are much deeper than that. The Pentagon’s accounting issues could take years to fix, according to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.


“We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it,” Shanahan told reporters at a briefing. “We never thought we were going to pass an audit, everyone was betting against us that we wouldn’t even do the audit.”

The Pentagon famously did the audit with the non-partisan, nonprofit think tank Truth In Accounting. In July 2019, Truth in Accounting released its report card for the branches of service and their reporting agencies.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

Anyone who interacts with a military finance office already has feelings about this right now.

Before ranking the branches, military members should know that the best performers in the audit were the Military Retirement Fund, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. So we at least know your retirement accounts are exactly what they tell you they are.

Unfortunately, the four of the five lowest-scoring entities were the four major military branches.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

U.S. Marine Corps

The Marines topped the list as least worst among the branches, probably because they need to scrape together anything they can to train and fight while keeping their equipment in working order. Since the Corps also has the smallest budget, there’s like less room for error but remember: it’s still the top of the bottom of the list.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

U.S. Army and U.S. Navy

Tied for second in terrible accounting practices is the Army and Navy, which kind of makes sense – they have a lot of men, vehicles, purchases, organizations, and more to account for. But if we have to put them at numbers two and three, it would be more accurate to rank the Army higher – its budget is usually twice that of the Navy.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

U.S. Air Force

It’s not really a surprise that the Air Force has the worst accounting practices of all the branches of the military. This is the branch that uses high-tech, expensive equipment, one-time use bombs, and all the fuel it can handle while still giving airmen a quality of life that seems unbelievable to the other branches. If ever you could accuse an organization of voodoo economics, the smart money is on the Air Force – who would probably lose it immediately.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Korean leader rides personal train to China for birthday

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traveled on his personal armored train to China to spend his birthday with President Xi Jinping.

Kim arrived in Beijing on Jan 8, 2019, which is his 35th birthday.

North Korean state media aired footage of Kim walking along a long red carpet to board his family’s train, which is is bulletproof, and has white conference rooms and pink leather chairs.

He waved to the dozens of government officials and army officers who had lined up to send him off.


He was accompanied by his wife, former singer Ri Sol Ju, and at least eight other officials.

Watch clips of his departure below, as published by BBC Monitoring:

CNN reporter Matt Rivers on Jan. 8, 2019, also published video of Kim’s motorcade — at least four black cars and at least 16 motorbikes — traveling along Chang’An Avenue, a busy boulevard in central Beijing that appeared to have been cleared for Kim’s visit.

Kim and Xi are due to meet on Jan. 8, Jan. 9, and Jan. 10, 2019, Rivers said.

Kim’s trip to China — his fourth in less than a year — comes amid rumors of a second summit with US President Donald Trump.

China is North Korea’s most important trading partner, and a buffer against pressure from the US.

Trump said In early January 2019 that he is “negotiating a location” for his next meeting with Kim. White House officials have been considering Bangkok, Hanoi, and Hawaii, according to CNN.

Trump and Kim last met in Singapore in June 2018, where they agreed to work toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. However, they did not mention a timeline or provide further details on how they would work toward it.

There has also been little real progress in terms of nuclear disarmament, which is the stated aim of US engagement with North Korea.

The US wants North Korea to provide detailed accounts of its nuclear arsenal, while Pyongyang says it has done enough and now wants Washington to ease economic sanctions.

The US president said in early January 2019 that his administration has “a very good dialogue” with its North Korean counterparts, but said that sanctions will remain until they see “very positive” results.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The F-22 conducted its first ever airstrike in Afghanistan

The Lockheed F-22 Raptor has seen some action over Syria – but now it can also add Afghanistan to the places where it has fought. The fifth-generation fighter made its combat debut against the Taliban on Nov. 20.


According to a report by the Aviationist, the Raptors took part in strikes against Taliban-operated drug labs that produced opium. Opium can then be refined into heroin, which is worth $200 a gram in the United States.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
A F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker on their way to Iraq, Jan. 30 2015. The F-22s are supporting the U.S. lead coalition against Da’esh. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/Released)

A release by Operation Resolute Support headquarters noted that the F-22s were selected due to their ability to use the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, or SDB. The release noted that the reduction of collateral damage was a consideration in the selection of the F-22 to carry out the attack.

According to Designation-Systems.net, the GBU-39 comes in at 285 pounds, has a 250-pound blast-fragmentation warhead, and a range of over 60 nautical miles. A F-22 Raptor can carry up to eight in its internal weapons bays. Improved versions, like the GBU-40 and GBU-53 add multi-mode seekers to engage moving targets.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Staff Sgt. Randy Broome signals a jammer operator to move a Bomb Rack Unit 61 forward, while loading it onto an F-15E Strike Eagle at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on Aug. 1. The NCO is an aircraft weapons specialist with the 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

The F-22 strikes come in the wake of President Trump’s new strategy on Afghanistan. As part of the new strategy, rules of engagement were loosened. Prior to the announcement of the new strategy, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb made its combat debut when it was used against a tunnel system.

The war in Afghanistan has also seen the employment of a very old aircraft. During Operation Enduring Freedom, NASA used a version of the B-57 Canberra over the combat theater.

Humor

5 of the sneakiest ways people try to fool the front gate MPs

We, the military community, generally operate between the lines. We have our sh*t together and it’s all standardized — it’s not only part of our culture, but in combat, this can save a life.


We are still people, however, and sometimes that means we may need to get a little creative in certain situations…like trying to get past the MPs at the gate.

Now, why you don’t have ID, is neither here nor there — these are five of the best ways to get through the gate in a pinch.

Related: 6 signs that you might be a veteran

Disclaimer: This post is purely for entertainment purposes. We Are The Mighty fully supports the law and would never recommend breaking rules…

5. Forgot your ID? Bring the MPs food.

It is extremely easy to leave your CAC in a card reader at work or the pair of pants from yesterday.

This isn’t a horribly difficult fix; just bring the cop some food. By food, I mean an actual meal of some sort. There is a really good chance that cop hasn’t had a good meal, and if they have, that meal is either hours to the rear or to the front of them. It doesn’t have to be extravagant — a pizza will do the trick.

Sidenote: Bringing donuts could actually turn your day into a sh*tshow, so be careful.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Actual authorized alternate form of ID.

Alternative: Show an alternate form of ID. That, together with a polite demeanor and some personal recognition should also work.

4. Trying to bring a visitor on base, after hours? Try the trunk.

Many bases have a curfew and/or prohibit overnight civilian overnight guests. This makes bringing home any friends you make during a night out on the town literally against regulation.

Another simple fix: have your friend rest in the trunk as you enter the base. For compounding points, bring the cop a Monster or Red Bull.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Mission: Success.

Alternative(s): Stop being cheap and get a room. Date someone with their own place. Promote yourself out of base housing.

3. Had a few drinks? Roll down the windows and pop Altoids.

Coming on base just a little bit drunk is a reality for a lot of service members (this actually is really dangerous and stupid so don’t do it JUST DON’T DO IT).

Great. You did it. Your next problem is that the MPs are just itching for anything to happen.

Chug water, roll down the windows a few miles out from the gate, and fill up on Altoids.

Also, make sure you turn off your headlights a reasonable distance from the gate, drive as straight as possible, and drive an appropriate speed.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Billy zigged when he should’ve zagged

Alternative: Don’t drink and drive, d*ck!

2. Hanging out with someone’s drunk spouse?

No matter the circumstance, the optics on this will never favor you, and if you are made by the MPs you very well may have started the end of your time in uniform. Cops know all the gossip on post simply by nature of being first responders in a micro-community.

The activity can be completely innocent but it will never look innocent. Before you can get into work on the next duty day, the word around town could easily be that you came through the gate engaged in all-out sex in the backseat and only stopped to give your ID to the MP.

The very best thing to do in this situation is be in a mixed group as much as possible.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
How it looks driving someone’s drunk wife home.

Alternative: Don’t hang out with drunk married people.

1. Are you a chaplain driving around with empty beer cans and four scantily clad women?

Give the gate guard a fist bump and say the outreach program is working great.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

MIGHTY HISTORY

Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose was actually a marvel of engineering

It was a cool California November afternoon in 1947 when the HK-4 Hercules, also known as the Spruce Goose, finally flew. It was supposed to be a simple taxi test, nothing more than motoring through the water of Long Beach Harbor to show off its speed and test out the plane in open water. But having endured years of people mocking the project and himself for trying to build a plane so massive it had no hope of flying, Howard Hughes decided to take the opportunity to extend his middle finger at them all in the most poignant way he could.

No doubt with a twinkle in his eye as the Hercules cruised through the water, Hughes turned to the 30 year old hydraulic engineer, David Grant, who he had chosen as his co-pilot that day despite him not actually being a pilot, and unexpectedly told him to “lower the flaps to 15 degrees” — the take off position.


Not long after, the massive, few hundred thousand pound (250K lb / 113K kg empty, 400K lb / 181K kg gross), 218 ft (67 m) long aircraft with a still record holding wingspan of just shy of 321 feet (98 m) was out of the water. It was airborne for under a minute, went less than a mile, and only about 70 feet in the air, but it had done the impossible — the Spruce Goose flew.

Given the rather innovative use of a hydraulic system, landing was a bit abnormal for planes of the age in that the plane had to be landed under power, as Grant would instruct Hughes to “fly it into the water.”

When it finally settled back down in the water, Grant stated, “It was ecstasy all the way. It was like walking on air. It wasn’t underpowered at all, and it performed exactly like it was designed to.”

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Internal view of the Hughes H-4 Hercules fuselage.

As to why Hughes didn’t fly it further, besides elements of the aircraft still needing tweaked and the potential danger of taking media aboard a test flight in which even the pilot wasn’t quite sure how the plane would handle, they’d been taxiing around for some time at this point and the plane hadn’t been fueled much to begin with. As such, Hughes didn’t want to risk running out of fuel in open ocean before he’d have a chance to circle back around and land.

Now, the original plan for this aircraft was a lot more grandiose than a brief publicity flight. In 1942, the United States — along with much of the rest of the world — was in the midst of WWII. Being across an ocean from where the fighting was taking place was a problem when transporting supplies, weapons, and soldiers en masse.

At the time, efforts on this front weren’t going well. German U-boats were patrolling Atlantic waters and torpedoing anything that was perceived to be helping the Allied war effort. According to one estimate, between January 1942 and August 1942 alone, German U-boats had sunk 233 ships and killed more than 5,000 Americans. It was clear that a better way was needed for transporting things safely across the Big Blue.

It was Henry J. Kaiser who first proposed an idea of an airboat. Running one of the most important construction companies in modern American history, Kaiser was responsible for building quite a lot of the infrastructure of the American west at the time (including the Hoover Dam). He also created a system for fast, high-quality shipbuilding during World War II that became world renownd.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Henry J. Kaiser

Kaiser thought that a massive airboat packed to the gills with supplies and troops that could fly over German U-boats was the answer to the problem. However, he was a shipbuilder and not an expert on airplanes… But he knew someone who was.

By 1942, Hughes was already a famed figure in America. Exceedingly wealthy, he first gained widespread fame as a Hollywood producer who was most prominently known for producing and directing Hell’s Angels, a World War I epic about aerial combat that was (at the time) the most expensive movie ever made.

In 1934, he formed the Hughes Aircraft Company. A year later, he helped design and build the H-1, or as he liked to call it, the “Racer.” In September 1935, he broke the world land speed record in it with an average of 352.322 mph. In sort of a precursor of the future, during the flight the plane ran out of gas — something Hughes didn’t anticipate — forcing him to crash in a beet field, narrowly avoiding serious injury.

He broke another land speed record when he flew to New York from Los Angeles in a mere 7 hours, 28 minutes, and 25 seconds (averaging 332 mph). In 1938, he shattered the world record for quickest time flying around the globe, needing just 3 days, 19 hours, 14 minutes, and 10 seconds, almost 4 days quicker than the previous world record set in 1933 by Wiley Post.

His prowess as an aviation engineer and pilot quickly earned him a reputation as one of the most innovative aviators in the world- someone that Kaiser thought would help the Allies win the war.

Together, Kaiser and Hughes convinced the War Production Board to finance the construction of 500 flying boats, a project that was deemed in the press as the “most ambitious flying aviation program in the history of the world.”

For months, the old-school industrialist and the new-age aviator worked together to put together plans that would wow.

In late August, they submitted to the government blueprints for a seaplane with eight engines, a wingspan longer than a football field, and a hull taller than a five-story building.

Beyond being the largest plane ever built by far at the time, it would be able to transport 750 troops or two M2 Sherman tanks. It had a gross weight of about two hundred tons, which was nearly three times heavier than any other airplane ever built. And, due to wartime metal restrictions, it was to be built nearly entirely of wood. Hughes and Kaiser called it the HK-1, naturally named after themselves.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

While hesitant at first, the federal government gave the pair $18 million (about $250 million today) to develop and build a prototype.

It didn’t go well from the very beginning. The Hughes Aircraft Company was not a big company in 1942 and struggled with staffing, expenses, and deadlines. Hughes himself was unfocused, taking on too many projects while underestimating how much attention was needed to build a plane that would eclipse anything anyone had ever attempted to make fly. Four months in and the best thing that could be said was that they built a 750-foot long hanger, also made out of wood.

By mid-1943, construction had begun on the plane itself, but it was incredibly slow-moving. Working with wood proved to be an enormous issue, presenting a variety of challenges that had to be overcome to make a reliable sea-plane. Beyond the aforementioned then innovative hydraulic system for manipulating the control surfaces, each piece of wood (which was mostly birch, not spruce, owing to birch being quite resistant to dry rot) had to be weighed and analyzed for quality assurance before being used.

In addition, each sheet had to be laminated with a waterproof glue in order to prevent it from being damaged by water, heat, and fungus. Along the way, besides needing to purchase the rights to the Duramold laminating process, which in a nutshell involved stacking shapable ultra-thin strips of wood and applying a glue, Hughes and his teem also had to develop a variation of the process for their particular application.

As late 1943 approached, the first prototype was due to the government but it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. What’s more, they had spent nearly half of the budget on “engineering re-tooling” and rumors were swirling that the first plane wasn’t going to be done until 1945. It turned out to be much worse than that.

At this point, Kaiser had had enough and bailed out of the project. Several times, the feds threatened to shut the whole thing down, willing to cut their losses. The contract that had originally been given to Hughes and Kaiser went from 500 planes to 3 planes to, finally, just one for the original $18 million.

By 1944, $13 million of that money was spent and, yet, the plane was less than half done. Then the war ended and any hope that the now-called H-4 Hercules (renamed after Kaiser left the project) was ever going to help the war effort was gone.

The contract with the federal government was swiftly canceled, but Hughes was determined to finish the plane. As he stated before the Senate War Investigating Committee in 1947 during an inquiry on whether he’d mismanaged tax payer dollars during the project,

The Hercules was a monumental undertaking. It is the largest aircraft ever built. It is over five stories tall with a wingspan longer than a football field. That’s more than a city block. Now, I put the sweat of my life into this thing. I have my reputation all rolled up in it and I have stated several times that if it’s a failure, I’ll probably leave this country and never come back. And I mean it.

And so it was that he paid for the project’s completion himself. The H-4 Hercules was finally finished in June of 1946 with $22 million of the government’s money and, while figures vary from otherwise reputable sources, according to Boeing, $18 million of Hughes own personal wealth chipped in, for a grand total of $40 million (about $450 million today). It should also be noted here that, subtracting initial research and development costs, had they decided to build a second plane, it probably would have only cost about $2.5 million (about $28 million today).

It took a little over a year more for Hughes to it fly. At this point given the massive scale of the plane, the incredible weight, the fact that it was made of wood, and the perpetual delays, the media had taken to mocking the plane, calling it the Spruce Goose — a nickname that Hughes and his team hated owing to it demeaning what was otherwise a marvel of engineering.

But on that fateful November day, the Hercules finally did what it was intended, proving many a critic wrong.

In the aftermath, there was some wrangling over who actually owned the plane given how much money Hughes himself had sunk into the project. But the U.S. government eventually gave up its rights to it in exchange for the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum getting the Hughes’ H-1 Racer plane and a portion of the Spruce Goose’s wing, as well as in exchange for a relatively small payment of $700,000 (about $3 million today).

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
Howard Hughes

For years afterward, Hughes, now moving on to other projects, kept the plane in the hanger he built specifically for it, seemingly originally with the intent of eventually flying it again. In fact, he kept a full-time crew of, at its peak, hundreds of people on hand to make sure the plane was ready to fly at any given moment, costing him millions of dollars over the years to do that.

Howard Hughes died in 1976 and the Spruce Goose immediately was under threat of being dismantled owing to the cost of maintaining it in its massive hanger. But the Aero Club of Southern California acquired the legendary plane in 1980 and put it in their own hanger next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, right near where the plane did its maiden and final voyage.

The Walt Disney Company bought the property in 1988 and, after a few tense years, given Disney wanted the plane gone, the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon won the right to acquire the Spruce Goose.

For the last 26 years, that’s where it has remained, meticulously maintained. In fact, it’s generally thought that the maintenance over the years has been so good that, with some upgrades, particularly to the wiring and electronic components as well as going through the engines, it could possibly fly just fine today. Of course, because of its historical significance, nobody has seriously suggested anyone make those upgrades and try.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MUSIC

This 101-year-old singer performed in WWII and dropped an album in 2017

Dropping an album on iTunes in 2017 is a far cry from releasing a single on vinyl in 1936, but at least one person has done both. Vera Lynn, the acclaimed singer of pop standards, from “We’ll Meet Again” to “The White Cliffs of Dover,” entertained Allied troops from England to Burma, but also sang at the Diamond Jubilee anniversary celebration of Victory in Europe Day in 2005.

Her long, storied career began with her being dubbed “The Forces’ Sweetheart” and is still ongoing, as Vera Lynn also is the oldest living musical artist to make it to number one on the British music charts. And while she may be more of a big deal in the UK, American military aficionados have most definitely heard her voice.


How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

Lynn supporting British troops in World War II.

During World War II, Lynn had her own BBC music show, Sincerely Yours. As the Forces’ Sweetheart, it was an instant hit with Britain’s fighting men. Lynn, determined to do her duty as the rest of Britain was doing in WWII, deployed to support the troops in places like Egypt, India, and Burma.

Like many of the greatest generation, she took the deployment with a stiff upper lip, recalling that she stayed in dirt and grass huts, using a bucket of water to clean herself in those remote locations. She never charged the government a dime for her effort. She even criticized former Spice Girl, Geri Halliwell, who performed for UK troops in Oman in 2001. Halliwell demanded a fridge full of soy milk for her performance and was paid “tens of thousands of pounds” by the Ministry of Defence.

“She’s lucky to be somewhere there is a fridge,” Lynn told The Guardian. “If she can’t give up her time free for troops who are there to defend her and her way of life, that is very sad.”

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

Jenkins supporting British troops in Iraq.

Of course, even the most striking rendition of “The White Cliffs of Dover” isn’t going to draw a crowd of 18-25 year old service members these days. Dame Vera Lynn spent her postwar career still supporting the troops, lending her voice to the 1970s documentary, The World at War.

At the 60th Anniversary of VE Day, Lynn passed the mantle of “Forces’ Sweetheart” to Welsh Singer Katherine Jenkins, who was singing a rendition of “We’ll Meet Again” when she pulled Lynn onstage to duet for a few bars. Jenkins promised to go entertain British troops deployed to Iraq — and Jenkins did the very next year.

Dame Vera Lynn is 101 years old as of 2018, but she just released two albums the last year, and is the only centenarian to have an album top the charts. She beat out Bob Dylan as the oldest artist to chart in the UK and beat both the Arctic Monkeys and the Beatles in the pop charts that year.

Vera Lynn 100 and Her Greatest From Abbey Road were released in 2017, the latter containing previously unreleased recordings of Lynn in her prime.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s ongoing abuse of Muslim minority is coming under pressure

More and more countries are standing up to China over its oppression of the Uighurs, the country’s majority-Muslim ethnic minority.

Beijing is accused of interning up to 1 million Uighurs in prison-like detention camps, forcing them to renounce their religion and native language, and even pushing them into forced labor with little to no pay.


Activists have found evidence of Chinese authorities tracking Uighurs’ cellphone activity in their home region of Xinjiang, also known as East Turkestan.

Others say Beijing has demanded the Uighur diaspora hand over personal information, and threatened their families if they do not.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

Footage purportedly of a re-education camp for China’s Uighur Muslims in Yingye’er, Xinjiang, taken in August 2018.

(Bitter Winter / YouTube)

Chinese authorities say the policies are a counterterrorism strategy, and that placing Uighurs in internment camps is “free vocational training.”

Until now, countries from the Muslim world have largely avoided bringing up China’s Uighur crackdown.

Experts say this was because countries feared economic retribution from China, or because many Arab states didn’t want to draw attention to their own poor human rights records.

But the tide is turning.

The crumbling wall of silence

In September 2018, the federal minister for religion in Pakistan — China’s closest economic ally in the Muslim world — openly criticized Beijing’s regulation of Uighur activity, saying that the crackdown actually “increases the chances of an extremist viewpoint growing in reaction.”

A month later, Malaysia — another major economic ally, and home to many ethnic Chinese — ignored Beijing’s requests to deport a group of Uighurs imprisoned in the country.

Most prominently, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — a consortium of 57 countries which calls itself “the collective voice of the Muslim world” — noted in December 2018 “disturbing reports” of China’s Muslim crackdown.

It said it hoped China “would address the legitimate concerns of Muslims around the world.”

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

Pakistan’s federal minister for religion, Noorul Haq Qadri, in 2017.

(FLBN / YouTube)

In countries where world leaders haven’t stood up to China, there are prominent protests.

Prominent politicians and religious figures in Indonesia — the country with the highest proportion of Muslims in the world — are urging the government to speak up. It has so far refused to do so,saying it that it didn’t “want to intervene in the domestic affairs of another country.”

Muslim groups in India, Bangladesh, and Kazakhstan also staged multiple protests over the Uighur detentions in 2018.

People have been particularly vocal in Kazakhstan, as many ethnic Kazakhs are said to be imprisoned in the China’s camps. The government in June 2018 said “an urgent request was expressed” over the welfare of Kazakhs detained in China, but there have not been any significant updates.

Western powers like the US, UK, and UN have criticised Beijing over its actions in Xinjiang in the past.

But the criticism of Muslim nations shows a turning tide in the world’s attitude to China, said Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch’s China director.

China has long batted away Western criticism, with state-run Global Times tabloid describing Western critics as “a condescending judge” in 2018. China’s foreign ministry said a reported investigation by western diplomats into the Uighur issue was “very rude.”

Richardson said: “When governments like Indonesia or Malaysia … or organizations like the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation speak up, China can no longer dismiss concerns about Xinjiang being some kind of Western conspiracy.”

“That’s very encouraging.”

The world is paying attention

The rising tide of outrage against China comes as more and more of the country’s human rights record was brought to light in 2018.

In summer 2018 journalists, academics, and activists were taken aback by the disappearance of the Chinese “X-Men” actress Fan Bingbing, who Chinese authorities detained and kept from the public eye for three months over accusations that she evaded taxes.

Meng Hongwei, the Lyon-based president of Interpol, remains missing after being mysteriously detained in China in late September 2018. His wife thinks he could be dead.

The New York Times also featured a story about the Xinjiang detention camps on its front page for the first time in September 2018:

Richardson said: “Increasingly, governments are seeing the way in which China uses thuggish tactics at home and overseas on governments and citizens, and are starting to realize it’s time to push back against it.”

“Three months ago, if you were to tell me there would be critical language coming out of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, I would have suggested it was unlikely,” she said.

Next comes action

Muslim countries’ speaking up against China over the Uighurs is a significant first step, but is not likely to do much by itself.

Countries now need to take concrete action to punish or persuade China to end their crackdown on the Uighurs, Richardson said.

“The question now is what everybody is willing to do,” she said. “Talking and putting in consequential actions are two different things. That’s where the game shifts next.”

Countries will also have to be “mindful that China will fight it tooth and nail,” she added.

Members of the Muslim world could demand independent access into Xinjiang to investigate reports of the detention camps, for example.

The United Nations has already been doing this for months, but Beijing told it to back off.

Another form of punishment could come in the form of sanctions, or cancelling contracts.

Richardson, the Human Rights Watch director, noted that the latest spate of accusations against China came at a time when multiple Muslim countries started reassessing their economic ties with Beijing.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

Demonstration in Berlin for Uighur human rights.

Malaysia axed billion of Beijing-backed infrastructure projects August 2018. Egypt’s talks with a Chinese building company for a billion development also broke down this week, Bloomberg reported. Neither of those cancellations were over the Uighur issue.

A group of US bipartisan lawmakers in November 2018 introduced the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act (“Uyghur” is an alternative spelling). The act urges the White House to consider imposing sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the Uighur crackdown, as well as banning exports of US technology that could be used to oppress Uighurs.

Chinese cash could be hard to quit

Whether Muslim countries follow suit remains to be seen, however. China is the largest trading partner of 20 of the 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, according to Bloomberg.

Pakistan, whose religious minister criticized China’s Uighur crackdown in 2018 is also one of the largest recipients of Chinese aid and infrastructure contracts.

In December 2018 its foreign ministry rowed back the religious minister’s comments, accusing the media of “trying to sensationalize” the Xinjiang issue, Agence France-Presse reported.

Mohammad Faisal, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, also appeared to echo Beijing’s line on the detention camps, saying that some Pakistani citizens who were detained in Xinjiang were “undergoing voluntary training” instead.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This US firebase in Syria is a message to the Iranian military

The U.S. base near southern Syria’s al-Tanf border crossing was set up to train local Syrians to fight Islamic State militants, but it also serves as a counterweight to Iranian activities in the war-torn country, U.S. officials and experts tell VOA.

“Our mere presence there accomplishes that, whether it’s a goal or not,” Army Maj. Josh Jacques, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said.

The U.S. military’s primary focus across Syria has been the defeat of Islamic State fighters, and to serve that mission, U.S. soldiers at al-Tanf are training a Syrian group called Maghawir al-Thawra (MaT), Jaques said.


While the military is not directly focused on Iran in Syria, it can still indirectly impede Iran’s “destabilizing acts” in the country, according to CENTCOM commander U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel.

“There are opportunities for us to indirectly influence their [Iran’s] activities by our presence, by the pursuit of our ongoing operations, that I think disrupt and make it difficult for them to pursue their unilateral objectives,” Votel told reporters during a July 19, 2018 briefing.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

Land bridge

Jordan, Iraq, and Syria all meet in the area surrounding the U.S. base, a potential space, officials say, through which Iran could create a continuous land bridge that would stretch to the Mediterranean.

But the U.S. has established a so-called “deconfliction zone” in the area that spans about 55 kilometers around the base. The zone is meant to protect the United States and its allies as they battle the Islamic State militant group, and it essentially prevents any non-U.S. ally from entering the area.

“One quiet rationale for maintaining a presence there is to at least monitor and then perhaps deter some of the Iranian forces, or Iranian-backed forces that may have used that part of the country to transit into Syria,” said Brian Katulis with the Center for American Progress.

The base is not meant to completely block Iran’s involvement in Syria because much of its engagement comes via airplanes.

The U.S. post does, however, protect American military assets, giving the U.S. the ability to mount drone operations, conduct surveillance, and perhaps even create human intelligence networks.

It also helps to reassure U.S. ally Jordan, whose officials have expressed concerns about how secure its border would be if Americans weren’t in southern Syria.

“As small as that [U.S.] presence is, I think it sends a signal,” Katulis said.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit

5th Special Forces Group (A) Operation Detachment Bravo 5310 arrives to meet Major General James Jarrard at the Landing Zone at base camp Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria.

(DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Connor)

‘Shades of gray’

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior defense fellow at the Brookings Institution, says defeating IS is the “black and white” goal for American forces at al-Tanf, while all the ways that the U.S. indirectly influences Iran in Syria are “shades of gray.”

He says the base also allows the U.S. to “exercise some influence on parts of the country so that Iran isn’t the only important foreign actor.”

“In the short term, you want to create some alternative power centers,” said O’Hanlon.

Once IS is defeated, however, the United States will need a long-term political transition strategy that clearly explains why the military would stay in Syria.

“We’re sort of in a transition phase, where you can still sustain the current effort on the grounds of it being anti-ISIS, but everyone recognizes that the days of that argument carrying the day are numbered,” O’Hanlon said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terror group.

“Just staying for presence sake is not a good enough reason,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

Articles

A German man was arrested and fined for his massive collection of World War II weapons

We all have our strange collections. Some people collect tiny spoons from tourist gift shops for some reason. Others collect everyday minutiae like stamps and coins. Those people do not get hefty fines and prison time for their collections. One unnamed German citizen-turned-inmate just got both for his collection. 

German privacy laws prevent the unnamed defendant from being outed – he was named only as Klaus-Dieter F. in German reports – but he somehow managed to keep a collection of Nazi-era weapons that included a tank, a flak cannon and a trove of heavy machine guns. For his effort, he was sentenced to 14 months in prison and fined the equivalent of $300,000. 

He was also forced to sell or donate the 45-ton tank and anti-aircraft guns to a museum. 

In 2015, police in northern Germany were investigating how two bronze horses that were once displayed in front of Adolf Hitler’s Reich Chancellery could somehow have ended up in a black market sale along with other Nazi-era artwork. The investigation led them to the unnamed man’s storage unit. 

Authorities raided the storage unit later that same year. Inside, they seized not only the 45-ton tank and anti-aircraft weapons but a horde of Wehrmacht militaria. The seizure included machine guns, automatic pistols and at least 1,000 rounds of ammunition, according to an Associated Press report. 

The report also says the man never hid the fact that he had all of the weapons, including the tank, which he once drove out of the storage unit to use as a snow plow during one particularly bad winter storm. As he was sentenced, the man’s lawyer read a confession on behalf of the accused. 

Weapons restrictions in Germany are very clearly defined. Rifles, handguns and black powder muskets are all actually common, but are strictly controlled by the government, as Germany has seen a spike in mass shootings in recent years.

German law allows for gun ownership and possession, so long as the owner has a proper permit. To own or buy a firearm, Germans need to get a weapons possession card (Waffenbesitzkarte). To use or carry one, they need a weapons license (Waffenschein). Hunters, for example, would require both.

The weapons possession card only allows for the transportation of the gun. To transport one, it must be unloaded and inside a locked case in public. Even for minor firearms like pellet guns or flare guns, they would need to acquire a minor firearms card. 

For all these cards, Germans need to have liability insurance for injury and property damage for at least $1.1 million and gun owners under 25 years old must have a psychological evaluation before purchasing one. 

When it comes to weapons of war, German law makes a very clear distinction between the two types of firearms. Germany’s War Weapons Control Act prohibits ownership of any weapon of war, including pump-action shotguns, machine guns and tanks. Collectors must procure a Red License, which has criteria of its own.

Red Licensees are firearms experts and collectors who can purchase weapons without prior approval. Getting a Red License means the collector must provide the state with the “theme” of their collection, explain why they want to collect with that theme, and which guns the applicant wants to collect. 

Tanks, machine guns and other fully automatic weapons are expressly forbidden, even for those with a Red License. 

Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube.

Military Life

3 tips for picking out a ‘spouse’ right before a deployment

It’s no secret that both male and female troops tend to get married right before a long deployment to collect and save some extra cash. Although contract marriages are illegal in the military, that doesn’t stop many troops from heading down to City Hall or finding a justice of the peace to recite a few words and signing their names on a marriage license.


If you have the money and a potential spouse, you can plan a cheap wedding within an hour — depending on your location. Since most contract marriages end in divorce (go figure), it’s important to cover your own six when you’re out and about looking for that year-long husband or wife.

But, before you head out and find that special someone, read these tips — they just might save your ass later on.

Should I or shouldn’t I just marry a stripper?

Countless troops have gone out to their local boobie-bars to do exactly this. That fact is, strippers are humans, too, and they’re just trying to make ends meet like you, so that extra cash seems pretty good. However, never go after one that works near a military base, especially your military base.

Other service members are nosy and command “red flags” those types of relationship behaviors. So, if you’re going to marry a stripper, don’t go next door and do it a few months prior to deployment to give it some buffering time. It looks better on paper that way.

Use that dating app on your phone

Like they say, “there are plenty of fish in the sea.”

Now, we’re not saying you have the right to play games with peoples’ minds and hearts, but they, too, might be in a financial bind and you can bring the marriage idea up to them when the time is right.

Get in touch with an ex back in your home town

The best way to keep your fake marriage under wraps is to keep your new spouse far, far away from anything that resembles a military base. You’re still in contact with your family back home anyway, so you might as well drop a “hey” to your single ex that isn’t yet sure what they want out of life.

We all personally know someone who’s married their ex. There’s a history there behind the happy couple, which validates the union and lowers your chances of getting caught.

Think about it.

Articles

Trump teases big order of F-18s in response to F-35 cost overruns

President Donald Trump again teased the prospect of placing a “big order” of F/A-18 Super Hornets to a cheering crowd at Boeing’s South Carolina factory on Friday.


“We are looking seriously at a big order” of F-18s said Trump to applause from the crowd at Boeing, the company that builds the F/A-18.

Trump’s Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced in January that the military would “review” the F-35 program and possibly opt for more “advanced Super Hornets” instead of the F-35C, the Navy’s carrier-based variant of the Joint Strike Fighter that continues to struggle.

Also read: World’s most-advanced aircraft carrier one step closer to completion

Trump continues to seriously explore the idea despite backers of the F-35 program have protested the notion that an updated F-18 can do the F-35’s job.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
F-35C Lightning IIs, attached to the Grim Reapers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101, and an F/A-18E/F Super Hornets attached to the Naval Aviation Warfighter Development Center (NAWDC) fly over Naval Air Station Fallon’s (NASF) Range Training Complex. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell/Released

The advanced Super Hornet package offered by Boeing builds on the company’s reputation for delivering upgrades to the F-18, first built in the 1970s, on time and on cost.

This contrasts heavily with the Navy’s F-35C, made by Boeing rival Lockheed Martin, which has faced significant difficulties achieving readiness in the military.

Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, told Business Insider that even with the coming F-35C naval variant, US carrier air wings would consist of a majority of F/A-18s into the 2040s. In fact, Boeing has contracts currently underway to update the F/A-18s.

MUSIC

This soldier will DJ at a free music festival for Marines

U.S. Army medic Joshua K. Swensen met people from all over the world while serving and those people influenced his range of musical knowledge. He’s now a music DJ in San Antonio, Texas, a town that not only has a strong military community, but a vibrant vinyl culture as well.

Not only that, but he’s heading out to Camp Lejeune over Independence Day to spin at BaseFEST powered by USAA, a free music festival that brings the entire community together at some of the largest military bases in the United States. Troops, families, and the base community can enjoy music, food & beverages, family activities, adult games, shopping, and more.

BaseFEST at Camp Lejeune will be free and open to the public (but premium tickets will get you drinks and a private beer garden — hey-o!). Swensen is looking forward to bringing his passion to the event.


Also read: This is the Air Force vet who will kick off USAA’s free music festival

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
U.S. Army veteran Joshua K. Swensen spins classic vinyl.

“Trends are one thing but good music does not have an expiration date.”

For Swensen, who owns about 2500 pieces of vinyl, putting on a good show for Marines and their family is a way to give back.

“These men and women are working very hard, so the time they get with their families is really precious. Making people dance is one of the best feelings in the world.”

Also performing this 4th of July are Cole Swindell, Tyler Farr, Lindsay Ell, and more. This is the third BaseFEST event in 2018, but not the last. The next festival will take place at 29 Palms, California, after Labor Day Weekend.

Check out the video below to hear this solider-turned-DJ tell his story:

popular

This Army dentist died mowing down 98 attacking Japanese soldiers

The only dentist to receive the Medal of Honor did so posthumously, 58 years after his death, for his World War II exploits defending his patients. He killed a few enemy soldiers in hand-to-hand combat before slowly falling back with a machine gun and killing dozens more, totaling 98 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing his patients to escape to safety before he died of fatal wounds.


How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
U.S. Army dentist Capt. Benjamin Salomon (U.S. Army)

 

 

A young Benjamin Salomon fought for entry into the University of Southern California’s dental program despite the fact that many American universities at the time had a cap on how many Jewish applicants they would accept. When he graduated in 1937, he immediately tried to join both the Canadian and American armies, possibly because of how his brethren were being treated in Europe at the time.

Both armies rejected him and the young man started a successful dental practice in Beverly Hills instead. In 1940, he had a small client base that included aspiring actors in Hollywood when he was drafted into the American infantry as a private.

While it may seem odd that a man with a doctorate of dental medicine was an infantryman, Salomon reportedly took to the training and became a top-tier machine gunner. He gave free checkups and cleanings to his friends in the barracks until, in 1942, the Army commissioned him into the dental corps. Salomon tried to refuse the commission to stay in his position as sergeant of a machine gun team, but his request was denied.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
(U.S. Army)

He was sent to the Pacific Theater with the 27th Infantry Division. There, during the Marianas Island Campaign, a battalion surgeon was wounded. Capt. Salomon offered to fill in until a new surgeon could be assigned and sent.

It was in this role that the 29-year-old was serving when, on July 7, 1944, the Japanese commander ordered waves of suicide attacks against American positions, calling for each attacker to kill 10 Americans before dying.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
(U.S. Army)

Salomon saw his first attacker while working on a patient. The Japanese man emerged from the brush and began bayoneting wounded troops lined up for treatment. Salomon grabbed a rifle and shot the man down and tried to return to his patient.

But two more attackers rushed through the front. Salomon clubbed both, then bayoneted one and shot the other before soldiers started to climb in under the tent walls. The dentist shot one, knifed one, bayoneted a third, and head-butted the fourth.

Seeing that the situation was desperate and the hospital would be lost, he ordered the medics to assist the wounded in a withdrawal while he provided cover.

Contact with Salomon was lost for 15 hours as the American force conducted a withdrawal and then slowly took the territory back. When they found Salomon, he was laying on a machine gun, dead, with 76 bayonet and bullet wounds. Dozens of enemy dead were arrayed before him, a blood trail showed where he had repositioned the gun multiple times, almost certainly while fatally wounded, to continue covering the retreat.

While Salomon’s exploits were well investigated and documented, the recommendation for a Medal of Honor was rejected by Gen. George W. Griner who believed that Salomon’s actions were a violation of the Geneva Convention, which generally bars medical personnel from carrying or using offensive weapons.

How the branches stacked up in the Pentagon’s first-ever audit
(U.S. Marine Corps)

But medical personnel are allowed to use weapons in final defense of themselves or their patients, and a review of the case decades later resulted in a 2002 ceremony in the Rose Garden where President George W. Bush presented the medal to Dr. Robert West, one of the Salomon supporters who worked for years to get the award approved.

The medal is now on display at the University of Southern California.

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