Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

All flights from Ireland’s Shannon Airport were suspended on Aug. 15, 2019, after a plane carrying US troops was evacuated because of a fire, Irish news outlets reported.

Shannon Airport said an Omni Air International Boeing 763 was halted as it taxied on the runway at 6:20 a.m. local time (1 a.m. ET).

There had been reports of fire and smoke coming from the landing gear.

Air-traffic controllers instructed the crew to evacuate the aircraft as a fire on the left landing gear became visible, the Irish newspaper The Journal reported.

The Irish Independent reported that the fire was thought to have been caused by punctured tires.


Shannon Airport tweeted on Aug. 15, 2019: “We can confirm that an incident has occurred at Shannon Airport involving a Boeing 763 aircraft.”

“Emergency services are in attendance,” it said. “All passengers and crew have disembarked. Airport operations temporarily suspended.”

Irish news outlets reported that the Omni Air International, a US charter airline flying out of Tulsa International Airport in Oklahoma, was a private charter carrying US military personnel.

Omni Air International tweeted: “We are investigating reports of an incident involving Omni Air International flight 531 at Shannon Airport, Ireland. The Omni Boeing 767-300 aircraft rejected takeoff and was safely evacuated. Initial reports indicate no serious injuries to passengers or crew.”

Shannon Airport said in a later tweet: “We are currently working to remove the aircraft from the scene of the incident so we can resume safe operations on the runway. This may take some time.”

In the wake of the incident, several flights from the airport were canceled.

Shannon Airport is the focus of an antiwar campaign demanding that the Irish government stop letting the US use the airport as a de facto military base. Campaigners say that over 3 million US troops have passed through the airport since 2003.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This common weapon was so ‘pernicious’ that Catholicism banned it

In 1096, Pope Urban II took a good hard look at this new “crossbow” thing and gave it all of the nopes. No Christians were to use it in any battle against a fellow Christian on the punishment of excommunication and eternal damnation of the soul. But the weapon that would act as the precursor to the rifle was simply too valuable to leave on a shelf.


Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

A figure depicting a crossbowman who helped execute Saint Sebastian in the later 15th Century.

(Gun Powder Ma, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Crossbows were already an old weapon when European knights first ran into them in the 900s. Ancient Europeans had used similar weapons, but crossbow-like designs had fallen out of favor in Europe by the year 500 A.D., and few Europeans would’ve recognized them before their resurgence in the late 900s and 1000s.

But French use, as well as use by Eastern nations who had never stopped using the weapon, brought it back into the lexicon of European warfare.

And Western knights did not like it. Their armor protected them from most weapons they would face with the exception of the longbow, a weapon that took years to learn and decades to master. But crossbows could slice right through the armor at greater range than even a longbow, and shooters could be trained in hours or days.

The French were the ones who brought the crossbow back into European warfare. The English had a huge advantage when it came to bowmen, especially longbowmen, and France and England fought often. But while crossbow shooters could fire at greater ranges and with less training than soldiers equipped with a longbow, the weapon did have disadvantages.

Crossbows fire only two rounds per minute while good archers with longbows could fire 10. And crossbow units needed supporting staff and spare parts that weren’t necessary with traditional archers. They were also more susceptible to weather damage because it was harder to remove and replace their sensitive strings.

Still, the advantages outweighed the problems, and units across Europe adopted the new weapon. Mercenary units recruited and trained skilled crossbowmen and sold their services. For a few years, kings largely tried to follow the ban on using crossbows against Christian foes, and Pope Innocent II continued the ban in 1139 after ascending to the position of Pope.

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

Saint Sebastian was martyred by archers, reportedly at least one of which was using a crossbow.

(Hans Baldung, public domain)

But it couldn’t last. Kings used the weapons against pagans and Muslims, but then had to leave the men behind while fighting against each other in Europe. By the early 1200s, they were once again common in European combat. Crossbowmen played a crucial role for Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1238.

In fact, just a year later, Pope Gregory IV used mounted crossbowmen against the Lombard League, an alliance of European kingdoms that were all Christian. Yeah, the allure of crossbow power was so strong that a pope employed them against Christian forces.

Crossbows would continue to play a role in combat until after the 15th Century when advances in gunpowder slowly rendered them obsolete. First, advanced cannons were able to break up their formations from further away than even the crossbowmen could fire. And muskets and rifles eventually filled the role that crossbowmen once had.

Of course, the church didn’t love firearms either. It declared all black powder weapons to be daemonic, but armies quickly embraced them anyway.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia-based FaceApp might not be safe to use

By now you’ve seen (ad nauseam) the results of FaceApp, a Russian-based photo filter app that realistically adds wrinkles, grey hairs, and, well, years to faces. Further investigation to the origins of the app — and its Terms & Conditions — has prompted a demand for a federal investigation into the company behind the app and the potential security risks it poses to Americans.

“FaceApp was developed by Russians. It’s not clear at this point what the privacy risks are, but what is clear is that the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks,” read a security alert from DNC chief security officer Bob Lord, as reported by CNN.

In a letter to the FBI and the FTC, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated, “FaceApp’s location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of U.S. citizens to third parties, including foreign governments. I ask that the FBI assess whether the personal data uploaded by millions of Americans onto FaceApp may be finding its way into the hand of the Russian government, or entities with ties to the Russian government.”

See the full letter right here:


BIG: Share if you used #FaceApp: The @FBI @FTC must look into the national security privacy risks now Because millions of Americans have used it It’s owned by a Russia-based company And users are required to provide full, irrevocable access to their personal photos datapic.twitter.com/cejLLwBQcr

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Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

NPR reported that FaceApp had topped Apple’s and Google’s app download charts by Wednesday, July 17, attracting big celebrities and your roommate and that guy you went to high school with alike. While it can be fun to see what forty years can do to a face, there are a number of potential risks involved.

Acc. to the terms of use, people give FaceApp ‘a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license’ to use or publish the content they upload. Even if you delete the app, it’s unclear what FaceApp does with the datapic.twitter.com/BR3w0Yl4S4

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The risks

First there’s the matter of privacy. In order to use the app, you give FaceApp access to your device and some personal information. According to NPR, data privacy experts warn against these kinds of apps, especially after Facebook reported up to 87 million of its users’ personal information was compromised by a third party analytics firm.

Second, we are in a new age of facial recognition software, which can be used to target certain groups or individuals, potentially putting innocent people at risk.

Anyone read the terms of service and privacy policy of FaceApp before loading their face into the artificial intelligence system? (I didn’t)

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We’re guessing you’re not alone there, Donie.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is an actual Army guide to creating an entire arsenal

Where should you turn if you want to bring down the man? If you want to destroy the pillars of an oppressive society, one of the best places you could turn is, ironically, the U.S. military. It has a guide on how to make land mines, mortar tubes, and even propellants for rockets right at home. TM 31-210 can help you become a full-on anarchist or, as the government would prefer, a resistance fighter in another country.


Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

Joint special operations teams do lots of cool stuff like this, but they also train guerrilla warriors to build rockets. Which, now that we come to think of it, is also cool.

(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Clayton Cupit)

TM 31-120, the Improvised Munitions Handbook, was originally an annex for a Special Forces manual, and it was always aimed at helping resistance fighters fight against leaders that American administrations didn’t like.

Special Forces soldiers and the occasional CIA spook would show up in foreign countries and help train up locals to conduct operations against enemy regimes, and sometimes they could even drop a few hundred crates of weapons and ammunition.

But U.S. logistics and purchases have serious limitations and drawbacks when it comes to guerrilla operations, especially when the U.S. doesn’t want to get caught helping. If American C-130s are constantly flying over the Cuban countryside dropping crates, then the Castros are going to know just who to blame for any uprisings.

As the handbook says:

In Unconventional Warfare operations it may be possible or unwise to use conventional military munitions as tools in the conduct of certain missions. It may be necessary instead to fabricate the required munitions from locally available or unassuming materials.

So Special Forces soldiers left copies of this handbook. Resistance forces could use any weapons and munitions the Americans dropped off, and then they could make their own landmines out of tin cans. Yeah, the Army published a guide, in 1969, that explained how to make IEDs.

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

I would say it’s weird that MREs are heated against a “rock or something” while nitric acid instructions specify “rock or can,” but a mistake while making nitric acid could be deadly.

(U.S. Army TM 31-120)

Take the instructions for “PIPE PISTOL FOR 9 MM AMMUNITION”

All you need is a 4-inch length of 1/4-inch steel pipe, a pipe plug, two couplings, a metal strap, two rubber bands, a flat head nail, two wood screws, a piece of wood, a drill, and an 8-inch long rod.

Yup, that’s 14 items. And it only takes 11 steps to modify and assemble them. The pipe becomes a barrel with a little drilling. Slip the nail in as a firing pin, tape the barrel to the wood and cut it into a stock, then use the rubber bands and a nail to turn the metal strap into a cocking hammer.

The guide does caution that you should test the pistol five times with a string from behind a wall before carrying it into a fight.

And many of the schematics and instructions in the book assume that you’ll have some sort of access to actual modern weapons.

For instance, the tin-can landmine is reliant on a fragmentation grenade, same with the shotgun grenade launcher. But the ten recipes for “GELLED FLAME FUELS,” basically a poor man’s napalm, are made almost exclusively from household materials.

The whole handbook is interesting from an engineering, MacGyver, or historical perspective. But, and we shouldn’t have to say this, you should never try any of this at home. First of all, it’s super dangerous. The book is literally a bunch of dangerous chemical experiments complete with explosives. But also, making any of this stuff is a great way to get arrested on suspicion of domestic terrorism.

So don’t make your own shotgun at home.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US may send more troops to confront the mysterious Iran threat

Amid reports that the US could send anywhere from 5,000 to 120,000 additional troops to the Middle East to confront Iran, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan offered the first public confirmation May 23, 2019, that additional manpower might be needed.

Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday that the Department of Defense was looking at ways to “enhance force protection,” saying that this “may involve sending additional troops,” CNN reported.

Exactly how many troops could be headed that way remains unclear.


The New York Times reported a little over a week ago that the Trump administration was considering sending as many as 120,000 US troops to the Middle East amid rising tensions with Iran. Trump called the report “fake news” the following day but said that if Iran wanted to fight, he would send “a hell of a lot more troops than that.”

On May 22, 2019, Reuters reported that the Pentagon intended to move 5,000 troops into the Middle East to counter Iran. The Associated Press said the number could be as high as 10,000.

Shanahan dismissed these reports May 23, 2019, while declining to say how many more troops might be required. “I woke up this morning and read that we were sending 10,000 troops to the Middle East and read more recently there was 5,000,” he said, according to Voice of America, adding: “There is no 10,000, and there is no 5,000. That’s not accurate.”

The US has already sent the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a task force of B-52H Stratofortress heavy, long-range bombers, an amphibious assault vessel, and an air-and-missile defense battery to the US Central Command area of responsibility.

These assets were deployed in response to what CENTCOM called “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region.” The exact nature of the threat is unclear, as the Pentagon has yet to publicly explain the threat.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Oracle founder backs nemesis Amazon in supporting US military

In a wide-ranging interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Oracle founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison had a few choice things to say about Google’s newfound disdain for the U.S. military.

“Well I think it’s actually kind of shocking. Here Jeff Bezos and I absolutely agree,” Ellison said, in a rare show of kind words for the competitor that Ellison spends most of his time these days trash-talking.


Bartiromo had asked Ellison about the fight going on in the cloud computing industry over a massive cloud contract from the Department of Defense. The DoD will award the whole contract, worth about billion, to just one company. By all accounts the winner is expected to be Amazon Web Services. Oracle is one a handful of cloud competitors fighting tooth and nail to grab a portion of the contract away from AWS.

In recent weeks, cloud competitor Google dropped its bid for the contract. Google cited a new policy not to use its technology for military purposes., a policy that came about after an employee uprising on the matter. Google also admitted it was dropping the bid because its cloud hadn’t yet achieved all the government certifications that the DoD was asking for.

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

(Flickr photo by Nguyen Hung Vu)

Fox’s Bartiromo suggested that there’s some hypocrisy with Google’s policies: it doesn’t want to do work for the US DoD but Google is reportedly trying to return to the Chinese market with a search engine that the Chinese government can sensor.

Ellison agreed.

“I think U.S. tech companies who say we will not support the U.S. Military, we will not work on any technology that helps our military, but yet goes into China and facilitates the Chinese government surveilling their people is pretty shocking,” he said.

To be fair, numerous Google employees are also protesting the company’s plans to return to China, just as they protested the military work. So the situation is more about whether Google yields to employee protests about China rather than a double-standard in the company’s business ambitions. If Google’s management had its way, it would presumably be doing business with both the military and China.

Bezos has also spoken out against Google’s policies.”If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” Bezos told Wired in October 2018.

Bezos doubled down by donating million to With Honor, a political action committee fund trying to get more veterans elected to Congress.

Ellison also told Bartiromo, “I think it’s very important that U.S. technology companies support our country, our government. We are a democracy. If we don’t like our leaders, we can throw them out. If you don’t like the leaders in China, you can … fill in the blank.”

He went on to say he views China as a big threat to the U.S. these days.

“I think our big competitor is China, and that if we let China’s economy pass us up — if we let China produce more engineers than we do, if we let China’s technology companies beat our technology companies, it won’t be long that our military is behind technologically also,” he warned.

Here’s a segment of the interview where he discusses China.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan doesn’t expect troop withdrawal to affect security

A significant reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan won’t impact upon the security of the war-torn country, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said on Dec. 21, 2018.

It was the first official Afghan reaction to reports in the U.S. media that President Donald Trump is considering a “significant” withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, with some quoting unnamed officials as saying the decision has already been made.

“If they withdraw from Afghanistan it will not have a security impact because in the last 4 1/2 years the Afghans have been in full control,” Ghani’s spokesman, Haroon Chakhansuri, said via social media.

The Wall Street Journal quoted an unnamed senior U.S. official on Dec. 20, 2018, as saying that Trump “wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”


The AFP news agency quoted a U.S. official as saying the decision has already been made for a “significant” U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“That decision has been made. There will be a significant withdrawal,” AFP quoted the official as saying.

CNN also reported that Trump has already ordered the military to make plans for a withdrawal of perhaps half of the current 14,000-strong force.

NATO has so far declined to comment on the reports, saying only that is aware of the reports.

In response to an RFE/RL question, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said, “The Afghan Army and police have been fully in charge of the security of Afghanistan for over four years. They are a brave, committed, and increasingly capable force, who have ensured the security of the parliamentary elections earlier this year.”

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

“Earlier this month, NATO foreign ministers expressed steadfast commitment to ensuring long-term security and stability in Afghanistan,” Lungescu said.

“Our engagement is important to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists who could threaten us at home.”

However, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, whose NATO-member country is a contributor to Resolute Support, voiced skepticism that even a partial U.S. withdrawal could be supplanted by the remaining members.

“Frankly, I do not believe that we can split forces and rely that something can be done in the absence of an important player. It’s difficult really to say,” Linkevicius told RFE/RL.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to counter attacks from the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.

U.S. officials have been attempting to push the Taliban to the negotiating table with the government in Kabul. Many Taliban leaders insist that U.S. forces depart before substantial peace talks can take place.

The reports came a day after Trump surprised and angered many U.S. lawmakers, administration officials, and international allies by saying he was pulling “all” U.S. troops out of Syria, where they are leading a multinational coalition backing local forces in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants.

It also came shortly before Trump announced that his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, would be leaving his post at the end of February 2019.

U.S. media are reporting that Mattis opposed Trump’s move to withdraw from Syria. In his resignation letter, Mattis said his views were not fully “aligned” with those of the president.

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

A U.S.-led coalition has been in Afghanistan since 2001, when it drove the Taliban from power after Al-Qaeda militants — whose leaders were being sheltered in Afghanistan — carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

However, the Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to counter attacks from the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.

U.S. officials have been attempting to push the Taliban to the negotiating table with the government in Kabul. Many Taliban leaders insist that U.S. forces depart before substantial peace talks can take place.

‘Huge Mistake’

Mohammad Taqi, a Florida-based political analyst, told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that a rapid U.S. withdrawal would be “a huge mistake.”

“If we look at it in context of talks with the Taliban, then it seems [the] Taliban have already strengthened their position,” he said. “Now the reports of [a U.S. withdrawal] show a weakening stance by the U.S., which could subsequently undermine [the] Afghan government’s position.”

On Dec. 20, 2018, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, questioned the Taliban’s determination to end the 17-year war after the group’s representatives refused to meet with an Afghan government-backed negotiating team.

Khalilzad said that, while he was certain the Afghan government wanted to end the conflict, it was unclear whether the Taliban were “genuinely seeking peace.”

Khalilzad’s remarks came following his latest face-to-face meeting in December 2018 with the Taliban, which was held in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and was also attended by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The U.A.E. hailed the talks as “positive for all parties concerned,” while the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Khalid bin Salman, claimed the meetings will produce “very positive results by the beginning of next year.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

This former SEAL Team 6 officer just called the VA chief a ‘fellow veteran’ — which he’s not

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke incorrectly identified Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin as a “fellow veteran” in a photo Zinke tweeted from Air Force One.


Zinke, a former Navy SEAL, tweeted a photo of himself with Shulkin, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway on the way to Youngstown, Ohio, July 25 with President Donald Trump.

 

Perry is an Air Force veteran. Shulkin, a medical doctor, was appointed by President Barack Obama as the VA’s undersecretary for health in 2015 and became secretary this year. He did not serve in the military. He’s the first VA secretary who is not a veteran.

Representatives for Zinke and Shulkin did not respond to requests for comment.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you want to know about that black hole

A black hole and its shadow have been captured in an image for the first time, a historic feat by an international network of radio telescopes called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). EHT is an international collaboration whose support in the U.S. includes the National Science Foundation.

A black hole is an extremely dense object from which no light can escape. Anything that comes within a black hole’s “event horizon,” its point of no return, will be consumed, never to re-emerge, because of the black hole’s unimaginably strong gravity. By its very nature, a black hole cannot be seen, but the hot disk of material that encircles it shines bright. Against a bright backdrop, such as this disk, a black hole appears to cast a shadow.

The stunning new image shows the shadow of the supermassive black hole in the center of Messier 87 (M87), an elliptical galaxy some 55 million light-years from Earth. This black hole is 6.5 billion times the mass of the Sun. Catching its shadow involved eight ground-based radio telescopes around the globe, operating together as if they were one telescope the size of our entire planet.


“This is an amazing accomplishment by the EHT team,” said Paul Hertz, director of the astrophysics division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Years ago, we thought we would have to build a very large space telescope to image a black hole. By getting radio telescopes around the world to work in concert like one instrument, the EHT team achieved this, decades ahead of time.”

To complement the EHT findings, several NASA spacecraft were part of a large effort, coordinated by the EHT’s Multiwavelength Working Group, to observe the black hole using different wavelengths of light. As part of this effort, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory space telescope missions, all attuned to different varieties of X-ray light, turned their gaze to the M87 black hole around the same time as the EHT in April 2017. NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope was also watching for changes in gamma-ray light from M87 during the EHT observations. If EHT observed changes in the structure of the black hole’s environment, data from these missions and other telescopes could be used to help figure out what was going on.

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

Chandra X-ray Observatory close-up of the core of the M87 galaxy.

(NASA/CXC/Villanova University/J. Neilsen)

While NASA observations did not directly trace out the historic image, astronomers used data from NASA’s Chandra and NuSTAR satellites to measure the X-ray brightness of M87’s jet. Scientists used this information to compare their models of the jet and disk around the black hole with the EHT observations. Other insights may come as researchers continue to pore over these data.

There are many remaining questions about black holes that the coordinated NASA observations may help answer. Mysteries linger about why particles get such a huge energy boost around black holes, forming dramatic jets that surge away from the poles of black holes at nearly the speed of light. When material falls into the black hole, where does the energy go?

“X-rays help us connect what’s happening to the particles near the event horizon with what we can measure with our telescopes,” said Joey Neilsen, an astronomer at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, who led the Chandra and NuSTAR analysis on behalf of the EHT’s Multiwavelength Working Group.

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

Chandra X-ray Observatory close-up of the core of the M87 galaxy.

(NASA/CXC/Villanova University/J. Neilsen)

NASA space telescopes have previously studied a jet extending more than 1,000 light-years away from the center of M87. The jet is made of particles traveling near the speed of light, shooting out at high energies from close to the event horizon. The EHT was designed in part to study the origin of this jet and others like it. A blob of matter in the jet called HST-1, discovered by Hubble astronomers in 1999, has undergone a mysterious cycle of brightening and dimming.

Chandra, NuSTAR, Swift and Fermi, as well as NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) experiment on the International Space Station, also looked at the black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, called Sagittarius A*, in coordination with EHT.

Getting so many different telescopes on the ground and in space to all look toward the same celestial object is a huge undertaking in and of itself, scientists emphasize.

“Scheduling all of these coordinated observations was a really hard problem for both the EHT and the Chandra and NuSTAR mission planners,” Neilsen said. “They did really incredible work to get us the data that we have, and we’re exceedingly grateful.”

Neilsen and colleagues who were part of the coordinated observations will be working on dissecting the entire spectrum of light coming from the M87 black hole, all the way from low-energy radio waves to high-energy gamma rays. With so much data from EHT and other telescopes, scientists may have years of discoveries ahead.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Women can now legally drive in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has officially lifted a decades-old rule that barred women from driving.

Women across the country celebrated, with many getting behind the wheel and driving around Saudi streets — the first time they could lawfully exercise such freedoms for since the late 1950s.

The Kingdom has been working since 2017 to prepare for a fresh influx of female motorists.

Several women’s driving schools began popping up all over the country, with many flocking to Princess Nourah bin Abdulrahman University which became the Kingdom’s first driving school for women.


State oil firm Aramco even offered driving lessons to its thousands of female employees, teaching them the basics like checking oil levels, changing a tire, and the importance of wearing a seat belt.

Ten women made history early June 2018 when they became the first women to receive Saudi driver’s licenses. These women held licenses from other countries and excitedly swapped them over.

For many women, their newfound freedom signals an evolving paradigm for women in the country.

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire
Saudi womenu00a0in Riyadh.

“We need the car to do our daily activities. We are working, we are mothers, we have a lot of social networking, we need to go out — so we need transport,” Amira Abdulgader told Reuters. “It will change my life.”

Women can now pursue jobs that require the use of a car, like any number of the popular ride-hailing services.

“It’s not only equality, it’s about building our country together,” said Enaam Gazi Al-Aswad, who had been poised to become the nation’s first female driver for ride-hailing app Careem, according to CNBC.”It’s about community … Women and men equally now in Saudi Arabia, not like before.”

While the nation is celebrating the historic moment of progress, May 2018 the government doubled down on activists who had been campaigning for the right to drive. At least 12 prominent women’s rights activists were arrested since May 15, 2018, according to Human Rights Watch. The organization said some of the activists were held on charges similar to those for which other activists are serving long prison sentences.

Women have risked fines and imprisonment for decades

Women have been barred from driving since 1957, as part of the country’s strict interpretation of Islam. While there was no formal law against it, women who drove in public faced fines and could be arrested. While there no clear explanation for why women shouldn’t drive, supporters of the rule argued that driving could lead to women socializing with men, which was seen as potentially disrupting the established order inside Saudi’s patriarchal society.

But activists have been campaigning against the policy for years.

In 1990, 47 women were arrested after driving through the streets of Riyadh in defiance of the ban. The movement grew stronger in 2007 when a group calling itself the Association for the Protection and Defense of Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia petitioned then-King Abdullah to repeal the rule. On International Women’s Day in 2008, the movement’s cofounder Wajeha Huwaider filmed herself driving and posted the video on YouTube, which received international media attention.

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The road tou00a0Riyadh from Muzahimiyah, Saudi Arabia.
(Photo by Andrew A. Shenouda)

The movement has continued to grow over the years.

In 2011, Manal Al-Sharif, along with other women inspired by the growing Arab Spring demonstrations, started a campaign called “Teach me how to drive so I can protect myself,”There’s also the Facebook group, Women2Drive. The group gained support both locally and internationally, and soon women were risking arrest to get behind the wheel.

Because of her activism, Al-Sharif was detained and released several times, and told not to drive or discuss her situation with the media. Manal has written several books, including Daring to Drive: a Saudi Woman’s Awakening. She is seen as one of the world’s most influential women on the subject. She now resides in Australia and remains an active critic of the Saudi government, using her experience to push for change.

“I got involved with the [Women2Drive] campaign because women were invisible. It almost feels like women don’t exist in Saudi Arabia,” she told Business Insider.

She says many factors have influenced the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia.

“It is institutional oppression, and it’s carried out not only through policy, but also a general attitude that men have towards women,” she said. “We are faced with two evils: The government restricts women with policy, and male guardians restrict women through culture.”

She said a woman’s place in society starts young, with young girls going through “systematic humiliation” from primary school through college. She says girls should be nurtured to become confident leaders, not mired in shame.

Still, Al-Sharif says she has been amazed by the pace of change in Saudi Arabia over the last year. Since Mohammed Bin Salman ascended to power, the country has lifted its ban on cinemas, appointed women to positions of power, and allowed women to attend soccer matches at major stadiums.

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Prince Mohammad Bin Salman

“King Abdullah wanted to make changes for women but wasn’t able to do a lot because of internal politics,” she said. “Mohammed Bin Salman has been pushing real change, and has been paving the way for full inclusion of women in the economy and society.”

The 32-year-old Crown Prince has been pushing for modernization and a complete economic and cultural overhaul in the country through his Vision2030 program. Al-Sharif says Prince Mohammed’s desire to revamp the economy has resulted in major policy changes for women.

“The government is realizing how important it is to the economy to educate and include women,” she said. “They have no choice — the economy is our best reformer.”

But Al-Sharif says there is a lot of work to do.

“Lifting the ban on women’s driving didn’t come overnight, it’s been consistent campaigning to change people’s consciousness.”

Al-Sharif says change needs to happen in “all facets of society,” from education to policy to media, and even home life.

She is now campaigning to end Saudi Arabia’s restrictive guardianship laws, which require men to make decisions for women on matters including education, health care, and travel.

“Destructive behavior needs to end and we need to create a culture of respect. Policy can change, but its the attitude that is the real obstacle.”

A bright future for Saudi women, but a long way to go

Dr. Lina Abirafeh, the director at the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, told Business Insider that she has seen surface-level changes enhancing women’s rights, but Saudi society has some work left to do.

“Positive steps are being taken but Saudi Arabia still lags behind in terms of women’s rights. Saudi Arabia ranks very low in measures for gender equality compared to other countries.”

She noted that in the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report, ranking health, education, economic, and political engagement, Saudi Arabia ranked at 141 out of the 144 countries listed.

Abirafeh said small changes in the last year have impacted women’s quality of life, and signal positive change to come.

“The ban on driving had long served as a symbol of the country’s repressive attitude towards women and their denial of women’s rights and fundamental freedoms,”Abirafeh said, adding that there are many other inequalities that need to be addressed.

“Driving is clearly the most symbolic — and visible. This in a society where men and women hardly interact, and where women need a male guardian to make decisions and give permissions on their behalf.”

“These recent changes are important, but they come with many conditions and caveats. There might be a strategy to appear liberal in the global arena but it is hard to tell if there is genuine intention for real change within the society — or if these are tokenistic,” she said.

She believes Saudi Arabia can do much more for reform at all levels, including repealing laws that discriminate against women, reviewing the country’s extreme interpretations of religious texts that deny women freedom of mobility and bodily autonomy, and reaching out to communities to change the patriarchal ethos that exists.

“There is a need to progress gradually but also to be clear that the goal is full equality — without exceptions,” Abirafeh said.

She remains hopeful for the future, but is not convinced that Saudi society is prepared for full equality and the implications that come with it.

“Inequalities are many, and attitudes will take a long time to change. It doesn’t seem that there is broad-based buy-in to women’s rights among the population — yet. And as long as patriarchy prevails, this is a clear impediment to women achieving full rights and equality.”

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

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This company owns a private fleet of aerial refueling tankers

The fact that there are some private air forces out there flying fighters to train American (and other) pilots may be a surprise. But did you know that there’s also a company that built its own tanker fleet?


Omega Air Refueling has been around for nearly 20 years and claims to be the only company that does commercial aerial refueling. The company was formed in 1999 as a subsidiary of Flight International prior to becoming independent in 2004, and has flown over 5,000 refueling missions since its formation.

According to company reps at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo at National Harbor, Maryland, those 5,000 missions have included over 21,000 “plugs” involving over 12 million gallons of fuel.

 

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire
The Omega 707 tanker. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

The first plane the company acquired was a Boeing 707-300 that used to fly for Pan Am. Since then, it acquired two other 707s (losing one in a 2012 crash), and a DC-10. The company has not only provided commercial aerial refueling services to the United States Navy, but it also has helped Australian and British forces make long-range deployments.

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire
Omega’s KDC-10. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

 

All of Omega’s tankers use the probe-and-drogue system. The 707s and the DC-10 trail drogues at the end of hoses. Planes equipped with a refueling probe then fly in, and plug the probe into the drogue to refuel. This can lead to close calls, like some that WATM reported on.

 

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire
An Omega 707 refuels the X-47B over the Atlantic Ocean. (US Navy photo)

The company’s planes were used to help certify the Navy’s X-47 unmanned combat air vehicle for mid-air refueling. In 2010, Omega helped to fill in when Airbus missed a deadline to deliver KC-30s to the Royal Australian Air Force (the company also turned to the United States Air Force).

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire
A plane comes in to refuel from Omega’s KDC-10. Note the drogue at the end of the fuel hose. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

Ironically, while the company was founded to help support the Navy and Marine Corps, many of its tanker pilots come from the United States Air Force, which operates KC-135 and KC-10 tankers.

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These are among the few people on Earth who actually know what it’s like to be the target of a nuclear weapon

The increasing threat of nuclear conflict between the United States and North Korea cast a shadow over the August 9 observance of the 72nd anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan in the final days of World War II.


“A strong sense of anxiety is spreading across the globe that in the not-too-distant future these weapons could actually be used again,” Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue told the crowd at the city’s Peace Park. The ceremony was held a day after US President Donald Trump vowed to respond to North Korea’s continuing threats with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Mayor Taue also lashed out at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for refusing to enter negotiations for the UN Nuclear Prohibition Treaty, calling his stance “incomprehensible to those of us living in the cities that suffered atomic bombings.” Japan routinely abhors nuclear weapons, but has aligned its defense posture firmly under the so-called US “nuclear umbrella.”

Taue and the other dignitaries led the audience in a moment of silence as a bell was rung at the exact moment a US warplane dropped a plutonium bomb onto the port city, killing as many as 70,000 people.

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire
Panoramic view of the monument at the hypocentre of the atomic bombing in Nagasaki. Wikimedia Commons photo by Dean S. Pemberton.

The Nagasaki bombing happened three days after 140,000 people died in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, the world’s first using of nuclear weapons. The bombings hastened Japan’s surrender to Allied forces on August 15, 1945, bringing the six-year-old global conflict to an end.

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Former SEAL ready to break the world wing suit record for charity – Pt. 1

Former Navy SEAL Andy Stumpf wants to raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation, a non-profit that supports the families of fallen SEALs, by jumping out of a plane at 36,500 feet. His jump aims to break the wing suit overland distance world record of 17.83 miles.


You can help Andy raise $1 million for the Navy SEAL Foundation by donating to his GoFundMe page.

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