A number of active-duty US troops, the first of thousands, have arrived at the US-Mexico border.
US military personnel deployed to the border ahead of the anticipated arrival of migrant caravans have started constructing bases of operations and running razor wire to prevent illegal crossings.
These photos show some of what troops are doing at the border:
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
Soldiers from the the 89th Military Police Brigade, and 41st Engineering Company, 19th Engineering Battalion, Fort Riley, Kansas, arrive in Harlingen, TX on Nov. 1, 2018.
The active-duty troops which have been or will be deployed to parts of Texas, Arizona, and California are among a group of more than 7,000 troops expected to be sent to the border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
Many of the engineering teams are expected to be involved in activities such as barrier construction and the hardening of key border facilities.
Active-duty military personnel are heading to the border to support the Customs and Border Protection mission.
The troops deploying to the border, according to the US military, will provide planning assistance and engineering support, as well as equipment and resources, to assist the DHS as it attempts to secure the southern border against migrant caravans from Latin America.
The number of troops slated for deployment to the US-Mexico border has risen three times in the past week, surging from several hundred into the thousands, and the number could rise again in response to operational demands.
(Angela Camara/Operation Faithful Patriot)
A C-17 Globemaster III carrying soldiers and equipment from the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, landed in southern Arizona on Oct. 31, 2018, in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.
There are already over 2,000 National Guard troops serving at the border, advancing the mission for Operation Guardian Support. They were deployed in April and serve in a different role than the troops presently heading south.
(Angela Camara/Operation Faithful Patriot)
Troops are bringing significant amounts of equipment for border operations, including miles and miles worth of concertina wire.
President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly characterized the approaching caravans — without evidence — as an “invasion,” has warned the migrants that the military will be waiting for them when they arrive.
He has said that the total number of troops deployed to the southern border could ultimately be as high as 15,000. The president has also indicated that US troops may open fire on migrants who become aggressive.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)
A US Army soldier assigned to 309th Military Intelligence Battalion hammers a stake into the ground while setting up tents at Fort Huachuca, Arizona on Nov. 1, 2018.
The military units currently being sent to the border are acting in a Title X capacity. Military police, engineers, medical teams, airlift units, and command teams will be constructing barriers, hardening points of entry, and assisting CBP officials. These troops are not permitted to engage in law enforcement activities on US soil.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)
The Department of Defense has made it clear, despite the various claims stating otherwise, that these tent cities will house troops arriving at the border, not migrants.
While some observers argue that sending active-duty military personnel to the border is a waste of manpower, one that could costa s much as 0 million by the end of the year, the administration says troops being deployed to the border are responding to an escalated threat to US national security. As of Friday, there were around 3,500 troops deployed to staging bases along the border, the Pentagon told the Associated Press.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)
Multiple staging areas are being established at Base Support Installations, areas where troops from ten different states will set up operations.
One of the larger groups recently clashed with Mexican authorities on the border of Guatemala, a violent exchange which appears to have led President Trump to state that US troops might shoot migrants who throw rocks at US military and border patrol personnel, a position he has since backed away from.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine Legate)
Airmen from the 355th Civil Engineering Squadron construct Air Force deployable airbase systems (DABS) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona on Nov. 1, 2018.
The migrant caravans heading north toward the US-Mexico border are currently believed to be around 800 miles away, putting them a few weeks out.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kyle Larsen)
These tents, like those set up at Fort Huachuca, will house military personnel deployed to the border in support of Operation Faithful Patriot.
In recent days, as the midterm elections come around the corner, the president has proposed eliminating birthright citizenship, denying asylum to anyone who crosses illegally, and using disproportional military force against migrants who become violent, moves and rhetoric presumably intended to highlight his administration’s tough stance on illegal immigration.
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
Soldiers from the 97th Military Police Brigade, and 41st Engineering Company, Fort Riley, Kansas, run 300 meters of concertina wire along the border in support of CBP operations in Hidalgo, Texas.
Critics have accused the president of engaging in a political stunt ahead of midterm elections. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who approved the deployment of troops to the border in response to a DHS request, has countered such accusations, stating, “We don’t do stunts in this department.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)
US troops deployed with enough concertina wire already in position to cover 22 miles, with officials noting that the military had the capability to run wire along another 120 miles if necessary.
“It’s all preparation in anticipation of the caravan,” Manuel Padilla Jr., US Border Patrol’s Rio Grande River Valley sector chief, told the Associated Press. “We’re hoping that these people do not show up at the border. They’re not going to be allowed in.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
These NASA nerds set a record for how quickly a plane was returned to flight status after being sent to AMARC. They did an impressive job of grafting together parts from the WB-57 Canberra from the boneyard with parts from a second Canberra near Warner Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, as well as F-15 parts for the main wheels, the ejection seats from the F-16, and the tires from an A-4 for the nose wheel.
But some Army Air Force mechanics in Australia pulled off something similar in World War II, and did such a good job that their Franken-bomber is still around today. That plane is currently at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio.
She’s called “Swoose,” and she is not only the only B-17D to survive, she is the oldest surviving B-17.
Swoose started out being assigned to the Philippines in 1941, flying in combat from Dec. 7, 1941, to Jan. 11, 1942. The plane suffered serious damage, but the mechanics used a tail from another damaged B-17 and replaced the engines. The plane then served as an armed transport for the rest of the war, including as a personal transport for Lt. Gen. George Brett (no relation to the star baseball player from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s).
After the war, the Swoose narrowly avoided the scrapyard. According to a 2007 Washington Post article, the plane was stored in various locations before the Smithsonian handed it over to the Air Force. The plane is currently being restored for eventual display alongside the famous Memphis Belle.
Shortly after the Sep. 11 terrorist attacks, New York Gov. George E. Pataki wrote a letter to the Navy requesting to bestow the name “New York” on a warship in honor of the victims.
During the naming ceremony aboard the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in Manhattan, Pataki said, “USS New York will ensure that all New Yorkers and the world will never forget the evil attacks of September 11, and the courage and compassion New Yorkers showed in response to terror,” according to the Navy.
On March 1, 2008, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England and his wife Dotty England christened the USS New York (LPD-21) at Northrop Grumman shipyard in Avondale, Louisiana.
The ship’s hull was forged with 7.5 tons of steel from the World Trade Center.
“The significance of where the WTC steel is located on the 684-foot-long ship symbolizes the strength and resiliency of the citizens of New York as it sails forward around the world,” Navy program manager Cmdr. Quentin King said. “It sends a message of America becoming stronger as a result, coming together as a country and ready to move forward as we make our way through the world.”
Today, the USS New York (LPD-21) is one of the most state-of-the-art amphibious warships in the Navy’s fleet, designed to deliver Marine landing forces stealthily and swiftly anywhere in the world. It is manned by a crew of 360 sailors and three permanently assigned Marines. Her motto is “Strength Forged Through Sacrifice – Never Forget.”
“Most of the world thinks about September 11 just once a year, we carry that responsibility forward,” said Master Chief Perez in this U.S. Navy video:
China has quietly been reaching a naval milestone: They floated their first indigenous aircraft carrier on April 23, 2017. The vessel is sort of a half-sister to their current aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
And the Chinese decided to copy this less-than-successful vessel – which probably should be hauled away to the boneyard.
According to DefenseNews.com, the new vessel, reportedly named Shandong, is almost a copy of the Liaoning. The big difference is in the arrangement of phased-array radars. But it has the same limited capacity (roughly 36 planes). Appropriately, the carrier has been designated as he Type 001A, while the Liaoning was designated Type 001.
The Shandong, though, may be the only ship in her subclass. The DefenseNews.com report notes that China is no longer testing the ski ramp – and instead has been trying to build catapults for launching aircraft. According to GlobalSecurity.org, China is planning to build two Type 002 aircraft carriers, followed by a nuclear-powered design, the Type 003.
The Type 002 carriers are slated to include catapults – which are far better at launching planes than the ski jump on the Kuznetsov-class design, and displace anywhere from 70,000 to 80,000 tons. The Type 003 will displace about 100,000 tons and be comparable to the Nimitz and Ford-class carriers.
China has stated a goal of having 10 aircraft carriers by 2049.
Effective immediately, commands can now order the Improved Flame Resistant Variant (IFRV) coverall. Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) announced manner and occasion of wear guidance for the IFRV Feb. 5 2018.
The approval of the IFRV as a fleet organizational clothing item to replace the legacy Flame Resistant Variant (FRV) coverall was announced in early January 2017 after the completion of a series of afloat wear tests. The IFRV addresses comfort and durability issues found with the original FRV coverall.
“The original FRV was rapidly introduced to the fleet because Sailor safety is our top priority,” said CAPT Mark Runstrom, director, Fleet Supply Operations/Services, USFF. “However, we recognized immediately that we needed a coverall that is more durable, functional, and comfortable as well as safe. That is what the IFRV is all about.”
Sailors stationed aboard ships and submarines will be issued a minimum of two IFRV coveralls with units authorized to procure name tags using unit operating target funds. The manner of wear will be the same as the FRV coveralls, prescribing wearers to don full sleeves and secured fastenings. The current 9-inch black, steel-toed boot and Navy or command ball caps are authorized for wear with the coverall.
Approved belts include a black cotton web belt for E1-E6, a khaki cotton web belt for chief petty officers and officers and; rigger’s belts are authorized at command discretion.
Rank tabs and insignia are authorized to be sewn or pinned on the coverall based on the wearer’s duties and unit preference.
Rectangular, Velcro-backed name tags will be worn centered, 1/4-inch above the left breast pocket-similar in size, shape, and content to the V-neck sweater name tag. Embossed leather name tags or fabric embroidered unit specific name tags similar to those worn on the green Nomex flight jacket will be authorized for wear at the discretion of unit commanders.
Blue or brown undershirts are authorized for wear with the IFRV, although blue undershirts are being phased out with the introduction of the Navy Working Uniform Type III.
Members will not be authorized to stencil or serialize any portion of outer fabric of the IFRV nor attach unit or flag patches due to the risk of degrading the flame resistant fabric. However, Sailors are allowed to stencil the inner parts for identification purposes.
The IFRV will be prescribed as an underway uniform and the appropriate attire for events such as sea and anchor detail. Commands can authorize the IFRV for wear ashore or in-port and when working in conditions where excessive wear to the uniform could occur or when needing arc or flash protection.
The IFRV coverall is made from a flame resistant, tri-fiber blend designed to offer arc flash protection and provide improved moisture management by allowing the fiber to breathe more efficiently. The IFRV coverall is also designed for sustained durability lasting nearly twice as long as the FRV.
Additionally, feedback during fleet testing of the IFRV revealed a desire for a two-piece FRV. USFF has developed several versions with varying design features that will be tested in the spring of 2018.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still dragging on, and while the shock factor has worn off, the danger remains real. Restaurants and schools are opening up, people have (mostly) stopped hoarding toilet paper, and working from home no longer feels temporary. But without a vaccine or a proper testing infrastructure, social distancing and mask-wearing are still necessary. As temperatures drop and we all head inside, the number of COVID-safe fall activities for kids are dwindling.
Luckily, there are some fall activities that are inherently socially distanced and therefore low risk. Bobbing for apples is out, and trick-or-treating will require masks, but even in the midst of a global pandemic, things like carving pumpkins and collecting leaves can still be done. Just remember to mask up in public and keep your distance.
Create a candy chute so you can distribute Halloween candy from a safe distance.
Build a fire from scratch. Tell ghost stories around it.
Collect leaves, then preserve them by wrapping in newspaper and leaving them between the pages of a heavy book for a week or two until they’re dried out. Alternatively, place them between two pieces of wax paper and iron them. The wax will preserve their color.
Go for a family bike ride before it gets too cold.
Carve a turnip. Legend has pumpkin carving can be traced back to the Irish, who carved turnips and placed them near doors to scare away spirits.
Watch a scary movie.
Decorate with “spider webs” made of stretched out cotton.
Make butterbeer. (Optional: Drink real beer while the kids enjoy it.)
Get lost in a corn maze.
Try gravestone rubbing. Go to a cemetery, look around for the oldest headstone you can find. Place a sheet of paper over it and color over it with a pencil. Watch the words appear.
Go foraging for pretty fall berries.
Make skeleton leaves by soaking leaves in washing soda and gently peeling away their outer tissue to reveal the leaf’s intricate veins.
Make a bird feeder out of a pinecone, peanut butter, and birdseed: Find a pinecone, tie a string to it, slather it in peanut butter, and roll it in birdseed. Then hang on a tree and watch the birds go to town.
Go on a hike. Look out for animal tracks. Bonus points if you assign them to imaginary animals.
If there’s one thing the DoD can count on soldiers to be bluntly honest about, it’s the food. In 2005, 400 soldiers from Fort Greely, Alaska, were asked to taste test a new menu of Meals, Ready to Eat for anything that might stand out to them.
There were a lot of standouts.
Fort Greely’s finest filled out the evaluation forms, which were then compiled and sent to the DoD office that manages the procurement of field rations. Grunts don’t pull punches. That’s kinda the whole point of their job.
“Cheese spread with bread is never a liked mix. Anger is usually the result.”
2. The prophet:
“I noticed this meal # was 666…I will probably die of a massive heart attack thank you for feeding me possessed food.”
3. The skeptic:
“This donut is just a brownie in a circle with crappy “frosting” what are you trying to pull?”
4. The poet:
“I believe it was the dinner meal that caused this (Chicken and Dumplings), but it sounded like a flatulence symphony in my tent all night.”
5. The biographer:
“I have disliked cabbage since childhood.”
6. The drama queen:
“Oh my god what were you thinking… don’t give cabbage to a soldier ever again even POWs deserve better.”
7. The fortune teller:
“The entree will only be eaten if you haven’t eaten all day.”
8. The PR Rep:
“Maybe change the name ‘Chicken Loaf,’ [it] scares me.”
9. PFC Gung Ho:
“Put Ranch Dressing on everything! Airborne!”
10. The guy who’s wrong about everything:
“F*ck hot sauce [put] gummy bears inside.”
11. Sgt. WTF:
“Tabasco is good in your coffee.”
12. The Obvious Sapper:
“Change the Ranger bar name to ‘Sapper Bar'”
13. The Stream of Consciousness:
“5 Veg ravioli ‘friggin’ sucks. Spiced apple ‘friggin’ rock. Apple cinn. Pound cake taste like cheap perfume. (Friggin). Is chocoletto a foreign Name crap? Pizza anything friggin rocks! Gum is good.”
14. Staff Sgt. TMI:
“This new menu has me using the latrine 3x a day.”
15. Sgt. Maj. No Chance:
“Please bring back cigarettes.”
16. Pvt. Ungrateful:
“Jerky is very, very good. How many years did it take to figure that out?”
17. Sgt. Missing the Point:
“The name should be fiesta breakfast party. That would be funny.”
“The vanilla pudding is so good I ripped it open, Licked the inside and rolled around on top of it like a dog. I prefer not to eat anything called loaf but in this case I made an exception… thank god I DID.”
Newsweek estimated that the total for the Iraq War comes out to an average of roughly $8,000 per taxpayer. The figure far exceeds the Pentagon’s estimate that Americans paid an average of $3,907 each for Iraq and Syria to date. And in March 2019, the Department of Defense estimated that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria combined have cost each US taxpayer around $7,623 on average.
The Costs of War Project through Brown University conducts research on the human, economic, and political costs of the post-9/11 wars waged by the US. Stephanie Savell, a co-director of the Cost of Wars Projects, told Insider it’s important for Americans to understand exactly what their taxes are paying for when it comes to war-related expenses.
“As Americans debate the merits of U.S. military presence in Iraq and elsewhere in the name of the U.S. war on terrorism, it’s essential to understand that war costs go far beyond what the DOD has appropriated in Overseas Contingency Operations and reach across many parts of the federal budget,” Savell said.
Breaking down the financial costs of the Iraq War
The Pentagon had been allotted approximately 8 billion in “emergency” and “overseas contingency operation” for military operations in Iraq from the fiscal year 2003 to 2019, including operations fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. However, Savell says the actual costs of the war often exceed that of the Congress-approved budgets.
“When you’re accounting for the cost of war, you can’t only account what the DOD has spent on overseas contingency funds,” Savell told Insider. “You have to look at the other sets of costs including interest on borrowed funds, increased war-related spending, higher pay to retain soldiers, medical and disability care on post-9-11 and war veterans, and more.”
According to their estimates, the cost of the Iraq War to date would be id=”listicle-2645054426″,922 billion in current dollars — this figure includes funding appropriated by the Pentagon explicitly for the war, spending on the country by the State Department, the care of Iraq War veterans and interests on debt incurred for the 16 years of the US military’s involvement in the country.
Crawford says that war-related spending in Iraq has blown past its budget in the 16 years military forces have been in the country, estimating a nearly 2 billion surplus in Iraq alone.
The increases to the Congressionally approved budgets were used to heighten security at bases, for enlistment and reenlistment bonuses, to increase pay to retain personnel, and for the healthcare costs of servicemembers.
Aside from the Defense Department costs, the State Department added approximately billion to the total costs of the Iraq War for USAID on Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, 9 billion has been spent on Iraq war veterans receiving medical care, disability, and other compensation.
The US has gone deep into debt to pay for the war. That means it has interest payments.
As expected, that taxpayer dollars are going towards war-related expenses including operations, equipment, and personnel. But a surprising amount of the costs are to pay off the interest on the debt the US has accrued since going to war.
“People also need to know that these wars have been put on a credit card, so we will be paying trillions on war borrowing in interest alone over the next several decades,” Avell told Insider.
Defense Department spokesperson Christopher Sherwood told Insider that the Defense Department dedicates id=”listicle-2645054426″.575 trillion for war-related costs, with an average of spending .2 billion per month on all operations for the fiscal year 2019.
Sherwood said that the department’s costs go towards war-related operational costs, such as trainings and communications, support for deployed troops, including food and medical services, and transportation of personnel and equipment.
The human costs of the Iraq War are even harder to track
The US invaded Iraq in 2003 on the belief that Saddam Hussein had, or was attempting to make, “weapons of mass destruction” and that Iraq’s government had connections to various terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda. Although the invasion initially had overwhelming support from the American public and the approval of Congress, it is now considered one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in US history.
The Costs of War Project believes calculating the total costs of war — economic, political, and human — is important to ensure that Americans can make educated choices about war-related policies.
“War is expensive — in terms of lives lost, physical damage to people and property, mental trauma to soldiers and war-zone inhabitants, and in terms of money,” Cost of War researcher Heidi Peltier wrote.
The Pentagon originally requested less than billion of that amount for Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria — however, the Crawford believes that budget may be blown after more troops were sent into a war zone that was meant to be winding down.
If Keanu Reeves recently became the internet’s boyfriend, that would make Chuck Norris the ex the internet still thinks about sometimes. Sure, the Chuck Norris facts that once took the internet by storm have since been repurposed for other celebrities, but the man with a supposed third fist beneath his beard clearly still holds a special place in our culture’s heart — and thanks to the History Channel, that special place is now also full of all sorts of badass vehicles.
“Chuck Norris’s Epic Guide to Military Vehicles” debuted on the History Channel earlier this month, giving the public a glimpse into some of the toughest and most capable military vehicles on the planet, including some that most service members likely haven’t gotten a chance to work with (liked the arm-able robotic vehicle known as the SMET).
CAR WEEK | Chuck Norris’s Guide to Epic Military Vehicles
Norris, an Air Force veteran, made a name for himself in TV and movies through his unique combination of American cowboy sensibilities and high kicking martial arts mastery, usually found only in Kung Fu movies of the time. Today, the former action star may look like he’s lost a step or two, but since he’s rapidly approaching 80 years old, I’d say the guy looks pretty damn good.
Norris’ show dives into a variety of military vehicles, including the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) that was developed for both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to serve as a tougher replacement for the military’s workhorse Humvees. The JLTV is essentially just as much a tank as it is a personnel carrier — with a convex hull on the bottom to diffuse the force of IED blasts and a crew-protection system that wraps the passenger cabin in an armored shell.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV)
(Photo By: Michael Malik, U.S. Army)
Other vehicles Norris shows off in this show include the Stryker Combat Vehicle — a platform Army Rangers have used to great effect in the Global War on Terror. The U.S. Army recently announced plans to quadruple the number of Strykers in their arsenal that have been equipped with a powerful new 30-millimeter autocannon, making this armored personnel carrier a far more daunting opponent to near-peer competitors in places like Russia and China.
And what show about military vehicles would be complete without discussing the legendary, 65-ton M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank? The M1 Abrams has been America’s primary battle tank since the early 1980s, and thanks to repeated updates and upgrades, it remains among the most powerful and capable tanks on the planet.
Even tanks need to catch a flight from time to time.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Christopher A. Campbell)
For some of us that served our time in boots, this special may not offer a great deal of new and amazing things we’ve never seen before (aside from the aforementioned SMET robot), but even the saltiest of vets can appreciate a 60-minute demonstration of American badassery hosted by a legendary action star and U.S. military veteran.
You can catch “Chuck Norris’s Epic Guide to Military Vehicles” the next time it airs, but it’s 2019 and waiting for that sounds crazy. Instead, just swing by this link and plug in your cable provider login and you can watch it right now.
Or if you’re like me and you got rid of cable in favor of endlessly scrolling through streaming platforms, you can watch the show on Hulu.
There are increased calls for the United States to suspend economic sanctions against Iran, which some believe hamper Tehran’s ability to contain the deadly outbreak of coronavirus that has officially killed nearly 2,000 people.
The United States has offered to help Iran but has shown no desire to ease crippling sanctions reimposed on Tehran shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump exited the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.
Trump said on March 22 he had offered to help the Islamic republic in its fight against the coronavirus, saying that “Iran is really going through a difficult period with respect to this, as you know.”
Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rohani, have long called for the lifting of the sanctions, while dismissing Washington’s humanitarian offer as dishonest. “They offer a glass of muddy water but they don’t say that they’ve blocked this nation from [accessing] the main [water] springs,” Rohani said on March 23.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei went as far as suggesting that the United States might be behind the pandemic and therefore the offer cannot be trusted. “You are accused of creating this virus; I don’t know if this is true, but amid such an allegation, how can a wise person trust you and accept your offer of help?” he said in a speech on March 22. “You could be giving medicine to Iran that spread the virus or cause it to remain here permanently.”
In a statement issued on March 23, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Khamenei’s “fabrications” put Iranians and people around the world at greater risk. He also reiterated that U.S. sanctions did not target imports of food, medicine, or other humanitarian goods.
Iran has said it asked the International Monetary Fund for billion in emergency funding to battle the coronavirus outbreak that, according to Iran’s Health Ministry, is killing one person nearly every 10 minutes.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also appealed on March 22 for Trump to lift the sanctions — which prevent banking transactions well as the export of oil — on humanitarian grounds until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. “The people of Iran are facing untold suffering as sanctions are crippling Iran’s efforts to fight COVID19,” Khan said on Twitter. “Humanity must unite to fight this pandemic.”
‘Maximum Pressure’ To Continue
While continuing to pressure Tehran amid the pandemic, U.S. officials have blamed much of the crisis on mismanagement by Iranian leaders, who are accused of a slow initial response.
Criticism also came for the failure of Iranian officials to quarantine the city of Qom, the epicenter of the outbreak in Iran and from where the virus is believed to have first spread to the rest of the country.
“Our policy of maximum pressure on the regime continues,” Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iranian affairs, told reporters last week. “U.S. sanctions are not preventing aid from getting to Iran.”
China and Russia, allies of Tehran and signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord, have also made a similar appeal for the lifting of U.S. sanctions. “We called and are calling on the United States to abandon the inhumane practice of applying unilateral sanctions against Iran, which has an acute shortage of means to solve urgent health issues in the current situation of the spread of the coronavirus,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said last week.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry made a similar demand on Twitter. “Continued sanction on Iran was against humanitarianism and hampers Iran’s epidemic response delivery of humanitarian aid by the UN and other organizations,” it tweeted on March 16.
The Guardian reported on March 18 that Britain was also privately pressing the United States to ease sanctions on Iran to allow it to help fight against the coronavirus, which, according to figures released by Iran’s Health Ministry on March 24, has infected 24,811 Iranians. The official death toll — which has been criticized by many as being underreported — stands at 1,934.
On March 20, some 25 organizations in the United States, including the International Crisis Group, Oxfam America, and the National Iranian American Council, called on U.S. leaders to lift the sanctions for 120 days to offer Iranians relief at this critical time.
“Sanctions have harmed the public health sector in Iran by slowing or entirely blocking the sale of medicine, respirators, and hygienic supplies needed to mitigate the epidemic, and broad sectoral sanctions continue to negatively impact ordinary Iranians by shuttering civilian-owned businesses and decimating the value of the rial, making it harder to procure food, medicine, and other basic needs,” the organizations said in a joint online statement.
There have also been calls on social media by U.S. lawmakers, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Iran is facing a catastrophic toll from the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster,” he tweeted on March 18. “As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions.”
Human Rights Watch said in an October 2019 report that U.S. sanctions have drastically constrained Iran’s ability to finance humanitarian imports, including vital medicines and medical equipment.
The intensifying trade war between China and the US has caused a massive rift between the countries, but sources say tension is also rising internally among elite members of the Communist Party of China.
Over the past decade, President Xi Jinping has worked diligently to consolidate power and cement his rule over China, claiming control over the country’ military and government and cracking down on all forms of political dissent.
In the process, Chinese propaganda has pushed hard on the portrayal of China as a strong, nationalistic country, with Xi at its core.
Several sources close to the government told Reuters that this aggressive branding had backfired, further provoking the US as it ramps up tariffs in one of the largest trade wars in economic history.
An anonymous government-policy adviser told Reuters of a growing concern among leadership that China’s economic outlook had “become grim” as its relationship with the US deteriorated over trade.
“The evolution from a trade conflict to trade war has made people rethink things,” the policy adviser said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“This is seen as being related to the exaggeration of China’s strength by some Chinese institutions and scholars that have influenced the US perceptions and even domestic views.”
Two additional sources told Reuters that disapproval was being felt among senior government members and that backlash might hit the close Xi aide and chief ideological strategist Wang Huning, who has been widely credited for crafting Xi’s strongman image.
“He’s in trouble for mishandling the propaganda and hyping up China too much,” a source tied to China’s leadership and propaganda system said.
And discontent has echoed through the ranks of China’s Communist veterans.
Sources told the Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun that several party elders including former President Hu Jintao and former Premier Wen Jiabao sent a letter in July 2018 to Communist leadership urging a review of economic and diplomatic policy and noting the party’s tendency toward personality-cult leadership.
A veteran member of the Communist Party who was said to be close to Hu told Sankei Shimbun that signs of waning support for Xi’s “dictatorial regime” had been emerging since June 2018, as Xi’s prominent presence in state propaganda was beginning to diminish. In July 2018, Xi’s name was noticeably absent from the front pages of the state mouthpiece People’s Daily — twice in one week.
In response, China announced 25% tariffs on billion worth of US goods meant to take effect the same day — though critics have suggested China is running out of cards to play as the US imports more Chinese goods than the reverse and can deal far deadlier blows to China’s economy.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Just as dust gathers in corners and along bookshelves in our homes, dust piles up in space too. But when the dust settles in the solar system, it’s often in rings. Several dust rings circle the Sun. The rings trace the orbits of planets, whose gravity tugs dust into place around the Sun, as it drifts by on its way to the center of the solar system.
The dust consists of crushed-up remains from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago — rubble from asteroid collisions or crumbs from blazing comets. Dust is dispersed throughout the entire solar system, but it collects at grainy rings overlying the orbits of Earth and Venus, rings that can be seen with telescopes on Earth. By studying this dust — what it’s made of, where it comes from, and how it moves through space — scientists seek clues to understanding the birth of planets and the composition of all that we see in the solar system.
Two recent studies report new discoveries of dust rings in the inner solar system. One study uses NASA data to outline evidence for a dust ring around the Sun at Mercury’s orbit. A second study from NASA identifies the likely source of the dust ring at Venus’ orbit: a group of never-before-detected asteroids co-orbiting with the planet.
“It’s not every day you get to discover something new in the inner solar system,” said Marc Kuchner, an author on the Venus study and astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is right in our neighborhood.”
In this illustration, several dust rings circle the Sun. These rings form when planets’ gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the Sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury’s orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus’ dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)
Another ring around the Sun
Guillermo Stenborg and Russell Howard, both solar scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., did not set out to find a dust ring. “We found it by chance,” Stenborg said, laughing. The scientists summarized their findings in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal on Nov. 21, 2018.
They describe evidence of a fine haze of cosmic dust over Mercury’s orbit, forming a ring some 9.3 million miles wide. Mercury — 3,030 miles wide, just big enough for the continental United States to stretch across — wades through this vast dust trail as it circles the Sun.
Ironically, the two scientists stumbled upon the dust ring while searching for evidence of a dust-free region close to the Sun. At some distance from the Sun, according to a decades-old prediction, the star’s mighty heat should vaporize dust, sweeping clean an entire stretch of space. Knowing where this boundary is can tell scientists about the composition of the dust itself, and hint at how planets formed in the young solar system.
So far, no evidence has been found of dust-free space, but that’s partly because it would be difficult to detect from Earth. No matter how scientists look from Earth, all the dust in between us and the Sun gets in the way, tricking them into thinking perhaps space near the Sun is dustier than it really is.
Stenborg and Howard figured they could work around this problem by building a model based on pictures of interplanetary space from NASA’s STEREO satellite — short for Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory.
Scientists think planets start off as mere grains of dust. They emerge from giant disks of gas and dust that circle young stars. Gravity and other forces cause material within the disk to collide and coalesce.
(NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Ultimately, the two wanted to test their new model in preparation for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which is currently flying a highly elliptic orbit around the Sun, swinging closer and closer to the star over the next seven years. They wanted to apply their technique to the images Parker will send back to Earth and see how dust near the Sun behaves.
Scientists have never worked with data collected in this unexplored territory, so close to the Sun. Models like Stenborg and Howard’s provide crucial context for understanding Parker Solar Probe’s observations, as well as hinting at what kind of space environment the spacecraft will find itself in — sooty or sparkling clean.
Two kinds of light show up in STEREO images: light from the Sun’s blazing outer atmosphere — called the corona — and light reflected off all the dust floating through space. The sunlight reflected off this dust, which slowly orbits the Sun, is about 100 times brighter than coronal light.
“We’re not really dust people,” said Howard, who is also the lead scientist for the cameras on STEREO and Parker Solar Probe that take pictures of the corona. “The dust close to the Sun just shows up in our observations, and generally, we have thrown it away.” Solar scientists like Howard — who study solar activity for purposes such as forecasting imminent space weather, including giant explosions of solar material that the Sun can sometimes send our way — have spent years developing techniques to remove the effect of this dust. Only after removing light contamination from dust can they clearly see what the corona is doing.
The two scientists built their model as a tool for others to get rid of the pesky dust in STEREO — and eventually Parker Solar Probe — images, but the prediction of dust-free space lingered in the back of their minds. If they could devise a way of separating the two kinds of light and isolate the dust-shine, they could figure out how much dust was really there. Finding that all the light in an image came from the corona alone, for example, could indicate they’d found dust-free space at last.
Mercury’s dust ring was a lucky find, a side discovery Stenborg and Howard made while they were working on their model. When they used their new technique on the STEREO images, they noticed a pattern of enhanced brightness along Mercury’s orbit — more dust, that is — in the light they’d otherwise planned to discard.
“It wasn’t an isolated thing,” Howard said. “All around the Sun, regardless of the spacecraft’s position, we could see the same five percent increase in dust brightness, or density. That said something was there, and it’s something that extends all around the Sun.”
Scientists never considered that a ring might exist along Mercury’s orbit, which is maybe why it’s gone undetected until now, Stenborg said. “People thought that Mercury, unlike Earth or Venus, is too small and too close to the Sun to capture a dust ring,” he said. “They expected that the solar wind and magnetic forces from the Sun would blow any excess dust at Mercury’s orbit away.”
With an unexpected discovery and sensitive new tool under their belt, the researchers are still interested in the dust-free zone. As Parker Solar Probe continues its exploration of the corona, their model can help others reveal any other dust bunnies lurking near the Sun.
Asteroids hiding in Venus’ orbit
This isn’t the first time scientists have found a dust ring in the inner solar system. Twenty-five years ago, scientists discovered that Earth orbits the Sun within a giant ring of dust. Others uncovered a similar ring near Venus’ orbit, first using archival data from the German-American Helios space probes in 2007, and then confirming it in 2013, with STEREO data.
Since then, scientists determined the dust ring in Earth’s orbit comes largely from the asteroid belt, the vast, doughnut-shaped region between Mars and Jupiter where most of the solar system’s asteroids live. These rocky asteroids constantly crash against each other, sloughing dust that drifts deeper into the Sun’s gravity, unless Earth’s gravity pulls the dust aside, into our planet’s orbit.
At first, it seemed likely that Venus’ dust ring formed like Earth’s, from dust produced elsewhere in the solar system. But when Goddard astrophysicist Petr Pokorny modeled dust spiraling toward the Sun from the asteroid belt, his simulations produced a ring that matched observations of Earth’s ring — but not Venus’.
This discrepancy made him wonder if not the asteroid belt, where else does the dust in Venus’ orbit come from? After a series of simulations, Pokorny and his research partner Marc Kuchner hypothesized it comes from a group of never-before-detected asteroids that orbit the Sun alongside Venus. They published their work in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on March 12, 2019.
“I think the most exciting thing about this result is it suggests a new population of asteroids that probably holds clues to how the solar system formed,” Kuchner said. If Pokorny and Kuchner can observe them, this family of asteroids could shed light on Earth and Venus’ early histories. Viewed with the right tools, the asteroids could also unlock clues to the chemical diversity of the solar system.
Because it’s dispersed over a larger orbit, Venus’ dust ring is much larger than the newly detected ring at Mercury’s. About 16 million miles from top to bottom and 6 million miles wide, the ring is littered with dust whose largest grains are roughly the size of those in coarse sandpaper. It’s about 10 percent denser with dust than surrounding space. Still, it’s diffuse — pack all the dust in the ring together, and all you’d get is an asteroid two miles across.
Using a dozen different modeling tools to simulate how dust moves around the solar system, Pokorny modeled all the dust sources he could think of, looking for a simulated Venus ring that matched the observations. The list of all the sources he tried sounds like a roll call of all the rocky objects in the solar system: Main Belt asteroids, Oort Cloud comets, Halley-type comets, Jupiter-family comets, recent collisions in the asteroid belt.
“But none of them worked,” Kuchner said. “So, we started making up our own sources of dust.”
Perhaps, the two scientists thought, the dust came from asteroids much closer to Venus than the asteroid belt. There could be a group of asteroids co-orbiting the Sun with Venus — meaning they share Venus’ orbit, but stay far away from the planet, often on the other side of the Sun. Pokorny and Kuchner reasoned a group of asteroids in Venus’ orbit could have gone undetected until now because it’s difficult to point earthbound telescopes in that direction, so close to the Sun, without light interference from the Sun.
Asteroids represent building blocks of the solar system’s rocky planets. When they collide in the asteroid belt, they shed dust that scatters throughout the solar system, which scientists can study for clues to the early history of planets.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)
Co-orbiting asteroids are an example of what’s called a resonance, an orbital pattern that locks different orbits together, depending on how their gravitational influences meet. Pokorny and Kuchner modeled many potential resonances: asteroids that circle the Sun twice for every three of Venus’ orbits, for example, or nine times for Venus’ ten, and one for one. Of all the possibilities, one group alone produced a realistic simulation of the Venus dust ring: a pack of asteroids that occupies Venus’ orbit, matching Venus’ trips around the Sun one for one.
But the scientists couldn’t just call it a day after finding a hypothetical solution that worked. “We thought we’d discovered this population of asteroids, but then had to prove it and show it works,” Pokorny said. “We got excited, but then you realize, ‘Oh, there’s so much work to do.'”
They needed to show that the very existence of the asteroids makes sense in the solar system. It would be unlikely, they realized, that asteroids in these special, circular orbits near Venus arrived there from somewhere else like the asteroid belt. Their hypothesis would make more sense if the asteroids had been there since the very beginning of the solar system.
The scientists built another model, this time starting with a throng of 10,000 asteroids neighboring Venus. They let the simulation fast forward through 4.5 billion years of solar system history, incorporating all the gravitational effects from each of the planets. When the model reached present-day, about 800 of their test asteroids survived the test of time.
Pokorny considers this an optimistic survival rate. It indicates that asteroids could have formed near Venus’ orbit in the chaos of the early solar system, and some could remain there today, feeding the dust ring nearby.
The next step is actually pinning down and observing the elusive asteroids. “If there’s something there, we should be able to find it,” Pokorny said. Their existence could be verified with space-based telescopes like Hubble, or perhaps interplanetary space-imagers similar to STEREO’s. Then, the scientists will have more questions to answer: How many of them are there, and how big are they? Are they continuously shedding dust, or was there just one break-up event?
In this illustration, an asteroid breaks apart under the powerful gravity of LSPM J0207+3331, a white dwarf star located around 145 light-years away. Scientists think crumbling asteroids supply the dust rings surrounding this old star.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott Wiessinger)
Dust rings around other stars
The dust rings that Mercury and Venus shepherd are just a planet or two away, but scientists have spotted many other dust rings in distant star systems. Vast dust rings can be easier to spot than exoplanets, and could be used to infer the existence of otherwise hidden planets, and even their orbital properties.
But interpreting extrasolar dust rings isn’t straightforward. “In order to model and accurately read the dust rings around other stars, we first have to understand the physics of the dust in our own backyard,” Kuchner said. By studying neighboring dust rings at Mercury, Venus and Earth, where dust traces out the enduring effects of gravity in the solar system, scientists can develop techniques for reading between the dust rings both near and far.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
What holiday gifts do you buy the whiskey — or whisky — lover, the one who knows their Bokers from their Basil Haydens, their Islay versus Highland? Glad you asked. From bourbon and rye to single malt and some damn fine barware, here are the gifts we think whiskey lovers will be happy with any of these gifts.
1. “Nightcap” by Kara Newman
Featuring more than 40 cocktails expertly assembled by Kara Newman, the spirits editor at Wine Enthusiast magazine, and beautifully photographed Antonis Achilleos, Nightcap makes for great inspiration whether you’re whipping up the final cocktail of the evening or just getting the party started. Try the Storm King, a fun play on the classic Rob Roy.
2. Glenmorangie Signet
Not only is Glenmorangie Signet one of our go-to special occasion whiskies, but it’s also simply one of our perennial favorites. This deep amber whisky is beautifully complex thanks in part to the roasted chocolate barley used in the distilling process. After a lengthy time maturing in virgin American oak, the result is flawless — and like all great whisky there is something new to discover in every bottle.
3. Lagavulin 11 Nick Offerman Edition
Well it was bound to happen. Lagavulin gave Nick Offferman his own expression. Big and complex, like the actor/woodworker’s beard, the whisky features notes of toasted marshmallow, banana, and caramel charge that through the intense smoke.
4. Wild Turkey 101
Iconic and affordable, the classic Wild Turkey 101makes a great stocking stuffer for your bourbon lover or cocktail enthusiast. Sweet notes of vanilla and caramel play off the oak and char for balance and you’ll find a pinch of mint on the finish adding another layer of depth.
5. Death Star Ice Cube Mold
We love a big old rock in an old fashioned and this one that molds the ice into the shape of the Death Star is sure to bring a smile to Star Wars fans no matter what their favorite cocktail might be.
6. Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood Cask Strength
Cairdeas, which means friendship in Gaelic, is an annual release from the venerable Islay maker. This year’s bottling features juice that’s been aged in ex-bourbon barrels, then in quarter casks and wood that was used to make oloroso sherry, giving the whisky layered notes of honey, fudge, nuts and spice. Of course, it’s a sweaty dram, so share this with loved ones who enjoy that classic Islay smoke.
7. Basil Hayden Caribbean Reserve Rye
A blend of Kentucky rye and Canadian rye, plus a touch of black strap Caribbean rum, Basil Hayden Caribbean Reserve Rye is one of our favorite new whiskies of 2019, perfect for sipping or creating slightly new twists on old fashioned cocktails. That small portion of rum goes a long way, giving the juice strong notes of burnt sugar and rum spice, that plays nicely with the rye’s vanilla and oak.
8. Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19
Despite the fact that Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 (named after a local Islay beach) is a new addition to the brand’s core range, it’s a staggeringly hard bottle to find at your local shop (it’s an annual release). But if you happen across one of this year’s batch, we highly recommend you grab it and don’t let go till it’s safely stashed on your bar. Through the signature Ardbeg smoke, a radiant note of juicy pineapple arrests your palate in a way that will alter the way you think about whisky.
9. Dorset Crystal Triple Old Fashioned Glasses
These glasses from William-Sonoma have a weight that feels substantial in the hand and will add a touch of gravitas to every sip, even if your whiskey lover is pouring from the bottom shelf. Set of four.
10. The Macallan 12 Sherry Oak Cask
Accessible, approachable and classic, The Macallan 12 Sherry Oak Cask is a sumptuous whisky at a reasonable price. This Speyside juice ages for a dozen years in Spanish Sherry casks sourced from bodegas in Jerez giving it lovely notes of oak, fruit, and spice as well as a luscious sweetness.
11. Old Forester Rye
This rye from Old Forester is a big, flavorful whiskey with peppery spice for days, notes of vanilla, buttered rye toast, and a hint of molasses. Not to mention it retails for a mere – a perfect secret Santa gift.
12. Booker’s Bourbon
If you have a bourbon lover on your list for the holidays, there’s a 124-proof chance Booker’s is on their wish list. The label is known for its thick and intense releases. True to form the current bottling, Beaten Biscuits, is a rich, luscious mouthful, loaded with Booker’s hallmark vanilla sweetness.
13. CB2 Stud Decanter
Sometimes it’s just a little more fun for your whisky drinker to pour their daily sipper from a decanter. The act and the presentation adds something special to the ritual.
14. Whisky Tasting Weekend at Glenmorangie House
Want to treat a whisky lover to a bucket-list experience? Consider springing for a whisky tasting weekend at the Glenmorangie House in the Scottish Highlands. Nestled amidst tender fields of farmland only a short walk from a stunning beach on the Moray Firth, this posh hotel offers a two-night stay filled with sampling curated drams from the storied brand, stellar food, and a tour of the distillery in Tain.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.