Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted of killing an al-Qaeda suspect in a combat zone during a 2008 deployment to Iraq. A military court sentenced the officer to 25 years in prison, though an appellate court noted his argument of self-defense. The former lieutenant was paroled in 2014, but won’t be going back to prison. On May 6, 2019, President Donald Trump signed a full pardon for the soldier.
Behenna led a platoon in Iraq while working counterinsurgency operations in Salahuddin province. One day in April 2008, a convoy led by Behenna was returning to base with two captured suspects when it was hit by an IED. Two soldiers were killed, many more were wounded, and the convoy lost two vehicles. The next month, his unit received intelligence that the man responsible for that attack was named Ali Mansur Mohamed. They also learned where Mohamed lived.
The suspect’s house was immediately raided by Behenna and his men, who found an RPK heavy machine gun, Syrian passports, and a cache of ammunition. The Army took Ali Mansur Mohamed into custody and turned him over to intelligence agencies.
But the suspect was released less than two weeks later. Behenna would be in charge of returning him to his home.
Behenna after his 2014 parole.
It was on the way back to Ali Mansur Mohamed’s home that things started to go south. Behenna and his convoy stopped outside of the town of Baiji, where Behenna, a sergeant under his command, and an Iraqi interpreter began to question Mansur. They removed his clothes, cut his handcuffs and ordered him to sit before questioning him about the April attack on the Behenna’s convoy.
After some time and questioning, Lt. Behenna finally pulled the trigger and fired the shot that killed the suspected insurgent. They covered up the corpse with a grenade. Behenna was charged with murder in July 2008. In 2010 a jury found Behenna guilty of unpremeditated murder and sentenced him to 25 years. That was later reduced to 15, of which he served fewer than five.
The Northern Iraqi oil town would later be captured by ISIS.
But none of that matters now, as the President’s executive order of clemency is a full pardon for the onetime military officer. Behenna admitted to the killing at his trial, saying Mansur moved to try and take his sidearm from him. A government witness found Mansur’s wounds corroborated the self-defense story, but the evidence was not presented in his court-martial.
The Oklahoma native has been working as a farmhand since his release from the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.
Antibiotic resistance is a one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Scientists working on an Army project have developed a new weapon to combat super-bugs, which could protect soldiers and fight resistance.
Bacteriophage, a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria, kill bacteria through different mechanisms than antibiotics, and they can target specific strains, making them an appealing option for potentially overcoming multidrug resistance. However, quickly finding and optimizing well-defined bacteriophages to use against a bacterial target is challenging.
Researchers at the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, identified a way to do just that. The U.S. Army established the institute in 2002 as an interdisiciplinary research center to dramatically improve protection, survivability and mission capabilities of the soldier and of soldier-supporting platforms and systems.
“This is a crucial development in the battle against these superbugs,” said Dr. James Burgess, program manager, Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. “Finding a cure for antibiotic-resistant bacteria is particularly important for soldiers who are deployed to parts of the world where they may encounter unknown pathogens or even antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Wounded soldiers are even more susceptible to infections, and they may come home carrying these drug-resistant bugs.”
Green Berets assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) move to load onto a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for extraction during a training event.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis)
In this study, published in Cell, MIT biological engineers showed that they could rapidly program bacteriophages to kill different strains of E. coli by making mutations in a viral protein that binds to host cells. The results showed that these engineered bacteriophages are also less likely to provoke resistance in bacteria.
“As we’re seeing in the news more and more now, bacterial resistance is continuing to evolve and is increasingly problematic for public health,” said Timothy Lu, an MIT associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering and the study’s senior author. “Phages represent a very different way of killing bacteria than antibiotics, which is complementary to antibiotics, rather than trying to replace them.”
The researchers created several engineered phages that could kill E. coli grown in the lab. One of the newly created phages was also able to eliminate two E. coli strains that are resistant to naturally occurring phages from a skin infection in mice.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a handful of bacteriophages for killing harmful bacteria in food, but they have not been widely used to treat infections because finding naturally occurring phages that target the right kind of bacteria can be a difficult and time-consuming process.
To make such treatments easier to develop, Lu’s lab has been working on engineered viral scaffolds that can be easily repurposed to target different bacterial strains or different resistance mechanisms.
‘Blues Platoon’ conducts ‘Fallen Angel’ training.
(U.S. Army photo)
“We think phages are a good toolkit for killing and knocking down bacteria levels inside a complex ecosystem, but in a targeted way,” Lu said.
The researchers wanted to find a way to speed up the process of tailoring phages to a particular type of bacteria. They came up with a strategy that allows them to rapidly create and test a much greater number of tail fiber variants.
They created phages with about 10 million different tail fibers and tested them against several strains of E. coli that had evolved to be resistant to the non-engineered bacteriophage. One way that E. coli can become resistant to bacteriophages is by mutating LPS receptors so that they are shortened or missing, but the MIT team found that some of their engineered phages could kill even strains of E. coli with mutated or missing LPS receptors.
The researchers plan to apply this approach to target other resistance mechanisms used by E. coli and to develop phages that can kill other types of harmful bacteria.
“Being able to selectively hit those non-beneficial strains could give us a lot of benefits in terms of human clinical outcomes,” Lu said.
The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies engages in fundamental, multidisciplinary nanoscience research relevant to the soldier. In collaboration with Army and industrial partners, this focused nanoscience research creates opportunities for new materials, properties and phenomena that will directly advance modernization efforts. As an Army University-Affiliated Research Center, the institute’s contract is administered and overseen for the U.S. Army by the Army Research Office.
When people meet Capt. Kelsey Casey, they don’t initially think the petite, young woman with an energetic personality is a pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, but once she starts talking, her charisma becomes apparent, and it’s understandable why she’s the only female AV-8B Harrier pilot in the Marine Corps.
Her dream of flying started at space camp at a young age. To her delight, she was picked to be the simulated pilot and climbed into a small, fake cockpit built to simulate a spaceship taking off.
“Coming out of the final mission, we walked down a hall and all along the walls were these giant posters with every single astronaut team that had been to space,” Casey’s voice changed as she remembered, her eyes searching for the memory. “There were women in some of the later ones. I looked up at that and thought, ‘if they can do it, maybe I can too.’ That’s where it started.”
Casey attended the U.S. Naval Academy following high school. She planned to major in aerospace engineering and Chinese, but learned she would have to attend a year longer than planned, putting her at the bottom of the list to be a pilot. This eliminated her goal of becoming a pilot via the academy route. To fulfill her dream, Casey had only one option — leave the academy.
Casey found herself trekking across the country with everything she owned, trying to navigate her way through a snowstorm. She was alone, scared and her dreams seemed unattainable.
Capt. Kelsey Casey.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)
It was her insatiable tenacity and refined grit which led her through the years that followed.
“I’m driving across the country, calling my mom for directions while she also signs me up for courses at a community college in California,” Casey said. “All I could think was ‘wow, my family is going to disown me, I just left this amazing school with a full-ride scholarship, what am I going to do?’ It was a scary thing to go through as a 19-year-old, but it made me better.”
The way Casey saw it, she had only two options: give up or complete her degree and fly. She chose the latter, and like all Marines, attacked the obstacles in front of her to accomplish her mission.
“She was always a little fireball and tireless,” said Nyna Armstrong, Casey’s mother. “She never grows any moss, she’s always moving and is always going in whatever direction she wants despite what challenges she might [face].”
After leaving the academy, Casey made her way to the Bay Area to attend San Francisco State University. During her senior year at SFSU, Casey found herself longing to return to the Naval Academy to fulfill her dream. Again she applied to the academy but was denied. At this point in her life, she was accustomed to adversity and was experienced at overcoming it.
Refusing to give up, she sought out information and spoke to mentors, who encouraged her to pursue a career as a military officer. As a result of her unwillingness to quit, she found a way to accomplish her dream. After she earned a Bachelor of the Arts degree in political science at SFSU, Casey left for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.
“My daughters and I never look to have special treatment because we are women,” said Armstrong. “The fact she is the only female is a testament to her skill and her drive and her work ethic.”
Though her experience with the Marine Corps has been mostly positive, there have been interesting moments for Casey.
While sitting at breakfast with her Marines, a nice older gentlemen with a veteran hat approached them, Casey explained. They all were in flight suits and wearing the same patches when the gentleman asked their table if they were all pilots. He seemed surprised to see Casey and specifically asked her if they let her fly. She laughed and informed him that not only was she a pilot, but she was also the one in charge.
Capt. Kelsey Casey.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeanette Mullinax)
Interactions like these are somewhat common and highlight a misconception of gender roles in the military; situations such as this motivate Casey to keep proving them wrong.
“As you move, you just keep on making that shift until you finally look around and realize you’ve made it,” she said. “But I don’t feel like I’ve really made it until I’m at an event somewhere and someone comes up to me, and they say ‘I want my daughter or my son to be like you, you are a fantastic role model.'”
Casey believes that the most important lesson is to keep moving forward — an ethos she learned from her uncle, who told her “they can’t kill you, and they can’t stop time.” This advice has helped her overcome many obstacles.
“It’s okay if it doesn’t work out the first time, and you make horrible mistakes because the next thing you know, I ended up getting internships, worked at the state department as an intern, and I worked in a congressman’s office,” said Casey. “I also moved to Colorado to be raft guide for a while before going to The Basic School because I could and then I still ended up going to TBS, commissioning as an officer and becoming a pilot.”
Casey has come a long way since being that wide-eyed little girl with aspirations of flying.
“I don’t think I’m better than anybody else ever,” she said. “I’m very good at failing but I don’t give up after I fail. Just don’t give up. It might take way longer than you thought, it might be really, really hard but anything that’s worth it is going to be hard but it will be worth it.”
Despite a difficult start, Casey succeeded and continued to excel. She completed her training and earned her wings of gold.
“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
So wrote 21-year old Nathan Hale before being hanged for espionage by the British on Sept. 22, 1776. Hale had originally been encouraged to join the revolution by an old Yale classmate, Benjamin Tallmadge.
Tallmadge and Hale had been close during their time at Yale and often exchanged letters. Three years after their graduation, Tallmadge wrote to Hale, newly an officer in the American forces, saying, “Was I in your condition, I think the more extensive service would be my choice. Our holy Religion, the honor of our God, a glorious country and a happy constitution is what we have to defend.”
Hale agreed with Tallmadge’s sentiment and soon accepted an assignment to do more than just fight–he would spy from behind enemy lines. Although Hale’s venture into espionage ended rather poorly, Tallmadge’s revolutionary feelings did not subside. Soon, he would find himself at the center of the American Revolution’s most important spy ring.
The Culper Ring, founded and supervised by Tallmadge, operated from late October in 1778 until the British evacuated New York in 1783. Although the ring was active for all five of these years, its most productive period was between 1778 and 1781.
Benjamin Tallmadge with his son, William.
After Tallmadge brought the ring together, it was led by Abraham Woodhull and Robert Townsend, codenamed “Samuel Culper, Sr.” and “Samuel Culper, Jr.” respectively. The codename “Culper” came straight from George Washington himself, a slight alteration of Culpeper County, Virginia where Washington had worked as a surveyor in his youth.
The ring was highly sophisticated, using methods still familiar today. Couriers, invisible ink. and dead drops were the norm. Some messages were hidden in plain sight, coded within newspaper advertisements and personal messages. Supposedly, one woman, Anna Strong, was even able to use the clothes she hung to dry to send messages to other members of the ring. Codes and ciphers were standard practice. These methods enabled agents to send Tallmadge apparently innocent letters. Tallmadge could pick out individual words to decode messages.
While Woodhull and Townsend ran the show, many agents, couriers, and sub-agents were also involved. Caleb Brewster, Austin Roe, Anna Strong and the still-unidentified ‘Agent 355’ all played vital roles. Other members included Hercules Mulligan and his slave Cato. Mulligan warned in January, 1779 of British plans to kidnap or kill senior American leaders including Washington himself. Cato delivered the vital message.
Other agents included Joseph Lawrence, Nathan Woodhull (Abraham’s cousin), Nathaniel Ruggles, William Robinson and James Rivington. So solid was the ring’s security that its very existence remained unconfirmed until the 20th century. Even Washington himself couldn’t identify every Culper agent. Its strict security preserved both the ring and the lives of individual members, boosting their confidence in themselves and each other.
The Culper Ring’s successes, what spies call coups, were many. They warned of a surprise attack on newly arrived French troops at Newport, Rhode Island. The forces, properly warned, were able to foil British plans to devastate their men while they recovered from their transatlantic voyage. The Culper spies uncovered British plans to destroy America’s nascent economy by forging huge amount of Continental dollars. Continental dollars were soon withdrawn from circulation, replaced with coins by 1783.
Without the Culper Ring, Washington may have fallen for a raiding operation meant to divide his forces. In 1779, General William Tryon raided three main ports of Connecticut, destroying homes, goods in storage, and a number of public buildings. Tryon was attempting to split off a portion of Washington’s forces to allow British forces to rout the Americans.
Washington did not ride out to meet Tryon. Instead, Tryon’s forces rampaged through civilian land and the general was criticized by both American rebels and those who supported the British as barbarous.
By far the Culper Ring’s most important coup was exposing General Benedict Arnold. Arnold, whose name has entered the American language as a metonym for treachery, was in contact with British spy Major John André and planned to surrender West Point to the British. The Culper Ring warned Tallmadge of a high-ranking American traitor, but lacked his identity. Tallmadge identified Arnold when André was captured and later hanged for his treason. Although Arnold escaped with his life, West Point remained safe from the British.
Benedict Arnold in 1776
Abraham Woodhull’s sister Mary is sometimes credited with exposing Major André and thus Benedict Arnold. André (alias John Anderson) fled when he realized he was under suspicion. Unlike the Culper Ring’s, André’s security was lax. That cost André his life, Arnold his reputation, and ultimately helped cost the British Empire its American colony.
Stopped by three soldiers, André first tried to bribe them to let him go. Instead of taking the bribe, the soldier, now actively suspicious rather than idly curious, searched him and found incriminating papers. The letters proved conclusively that André was a British spy. The information contained in André’s letters was almost useless to the British; their commander General Clinton already had it. They were, however, extremely valuable to Tallmadge.
André’s captured messages were in Benedict Arnold’s handwriting, making it suddenly clear who was leaking high-level information. Arnold fled for his life, going to England, then Canada. After alienating a number of business partners in New Brunswick, Arnold returned to England. André was not so lucky to escape the American forces–he would make a useful reprisal for the hanging of Tallmadge’s dear friend, Nathan Hale. Caught dead to rights by the Culper Ring, André would soon be dead, period.
Hale had been hanged on Sept. 22, 1776 at the tender age of 21. He died bravely, with composure, courage and dignity. André faced the gallows equally bravely on Oct. 2, 1780. Before his death he received a visitor: Colonel Tallmadge.
The two spent part of their time together talking. At one point André asked Tallmadge whether his capture and Hale’s were similar. Tallmadge, remembering his dead friend and perhaps feeling guilty at encouraging him to take a more active revolutionary role, replied, “Yes, precisely similar, and similar shall be your fate…”.
The British evacuated New York in mid-August, 1783. On Nov. 16 of the same year, Washington himself visited to mark the seventh anniversary of the American retreat from Manhattan. While there he met someone to whom he and his new nation owed a personal and national debt: Culper agent Hercules Mulligan.
White House officials and sources close to President Donald Trump are reportedly talking about sending White House chief of staff John Kelly to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, as rumors and calls for his ouster circulated throughout political circles.
Sources familiar with the situation explained to Vanity Fair that consideration for Kelly as VA secretary gained traction after Trump’s previous nominee, US Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, decided to withdraw his candidacy on April 26, 2018.
“They’re looking for a place for Kelly to land that won’t be embarrassing for him,” one Republican source told Vanity Fair.
Military service is not a requirement to lead the VA, but Kelly’s background as a former Marine Corps four-star general may give him an head start. As the second largest agency in the US government, the VA serves over nine million veterans for their medical and educational needs every year.
The VA’s sheer complexity has previously led to calls for the agency to be privatized for the sake of efficiency.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Kelly has some experience leading large institutions, like the Department of Homeland Security and US Southern Command, but the VA could prove to be his biggest challenge yet. Scandals related to accusations of inadequate care have plagued the department, and numerous secretaries have been forced out over the years.
A White House spokesperson denied that Kelly was being considered for VA secretary, according to Vanity Fair.
Rumors surrounding Kelly’s fate have intensified lately. And his role in the White House seemed to shrink as Trump reportedly takes more license to govern his own daily agenda.
Outside advisers to Trump have floated the idea of removing the chief of staff role completely, according to CNN.
Despite Trump’s initial praise for Kelly when he was brought on in July 2017, Kelly has reportedly fallen out of favor with Trump. Kelly was hired to establish order in Trump’s chaotic West Wing, which has shifted and buckled under multiple scandals and high-profile staff departures.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Navy needs to start saving money, and one of the ways it wants to do that is by retiring one of its old Nimitz-class carriers, the USS Harry S. Truman, rather than just overhauling the ship. The Truman is barely halfway through its lifespan. It began its service in 1998, is scheduled for a nuclear refueling in 2024, and set to serve for at least 50 years.
But the plan to retire the carrier is already facing opposition from Congress, despite saving billions of dollars and ensuring the construction of two new Ford-class carriers.
The USS Gerald R. Ford.
Congressional leaders were “blindsided” by the Navy’s decision, especially considering a number of seapower doctrines the move will break, including the minimum force law (yes, it’s a law, 10 U.S. Code § 5062) of maintaining at least 11 aircraft carriers and a call for an increase to 12 carriers. Resistance to the Navy’s plan is already mounting among members of Congress, despite the backing of acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford.
The arguments for the retirement of the Truman include a – billion savings over the next few decades, increased employment for the building of two new Ford-class carriers, and a 12-carrier Navy. Former seapower subcommittee chairman Rep. Rob Wittman questioned the move as it relates to the Navy’s plan of providing two carriers constantly on station with three more able to surge forward.
The USS John C. Stennis, the 7th Nimitz-class carrier in the Persian Gulf.
Retiring the Truman would keep the total force of carriers below the number required for several years, which is what lawmakers are currently concerned about most. The Navy would have a difficult time with its global power projection abilities. Still, Gen. Dunford argued about the wisdom of refueling a 25-year-old ship vs. investing in new technologies that would allow for greater projection of global power and the use of new technologies, such as unmanned vehicles.
But Congress has to deal with the monetary issues of having already purchased the Truman’s new reactor cores and the feasibility of new technologies to be integrated into the Navy’s maritime strike capabilities.
“I don’t think the president’s going to turn to the secretary of defense and say, ‘where are my unmanned surface vessels’ when a conflict breaks out in the world,” said Rep. Elaine Luria. “They’re going to turn and ask, ‘where are my aircraft carriers?'”
The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved Gen. Joseph Dunford’s nomination for a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
By voice vote on Sept. 27, members of the panel recommended the full Senate consider the selection of Dunford. He’s a highly respected, combat-hardened commander who’s received high marks from Republicans and Democrats.
Dunford completes his first term Sept. 30. The committee held his confirmation hearing Sept. 26, with just days to spare to give him another tour of duty.
Trump in May nominated Dunford to serve a second two-year term as chairman as most military leaders serve two terms. President Barack Obama had tapped Dunford for the job.
Dunford took over as chairman on Oct. 1, 2015, after one year as commandant of the Marine Corps.
The extreme and necessary measures taken to restrict the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) have impacted the day-to-day lives of everyone around the globe. From schools and jobs to sports and entertainment such as restaurants, bars and movie theaters – all been closed or impacted. The federal government has not been spared as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has directed agencies to utilize telework to the maximum extent possible.
Many Federal agencies are able to adapt to this new paradigm and can provide provisions for their employees to access the necessary government networks from home using government furnished laptops and sensible security protocols. Not to say there won’t be hiccups in this process. The scale and speed of this shift to telework are unprecedented, and there will certainly be challenges as government workers and contractors shift to this new reality. What is certain is that the nature of work has changed for the foreseeable future.
What has not changed is our adversaries attempts to leverage and exploit this vulnerable situation for their own gain. Recently, a cyber-attack on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by a presumed state actor attempted to overload the Department’s cyberinfrastructure. As the lead agency in the pandemic response, HHS is the trusted source for the latest pandemic information. When trust in the source is compromised or threatened, the public loses confidence and the results can be confusion at best, panic at worst.
The need for keeping our government networks secure is vital for agencies to accomplish their missions.
While many government workers and contractors are adjusting to remote work, there are several groups of workers that cannot. These include our first responders, military members, medical staff and other critical roles that are essential to the day-to-day security of our nation.
Another large group that must continue onsite work are those in the intelligence community. The critical work they carry out every day, often unseen and unheralded, must continue regardless of pandemics, natural disasters, or other events. This work goes on in secure facilities and on secure networks that keep the information safe and to prevent such events as those faced by HHS. As noted by Thomas Muir, the Pentagon’s acting director of administration, and director of Washington Headquarters Services, “You will not have the capacity, obviously, to log on to a classified system from your home, you will be required to perform those duties at the workplace.”
However, with these challenges comes an opportunity for our IC leaders. How much of the work conducted in our nation’s most secure facilities must be classified? Gen Hyten, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was addressing this question even before the pandemic by saying, “In many cases in the department, we’re just so overclassified it’s ridiculous, just unbelievably ridiculous.”
Case in point, at the agency I support, I needed a parking pass for the visitor’s parking lot. This would allow me to park my vehicle a little closer to the building until my permanent parking pass became available. I searched the unclassified or “low side” systems on the building’s operations site but could not find an option to request or print a pass. I asked a colleague if they could point me in the right direction, and she pointed me to the classified or “high side” system. I must have had a perplexed look on my face because she just rolled her eyes and shrugged. Keep in mind, this pass would not allow me access into the building, I would still need to pass multiple other security measures before I could get to my desk.
The path of least resistance in the name of security has caused simple items to become overly secured. The still secure networks of the unclassified systems provide adequate security for mundane administrative tasks such as parking passes and numerous other similar items. While this is a small example and only represents a minor inconvenience to me, it is indicative of a larger problem across the IC to default to classifying all information out of routine, on the side of extreme caution, or in some cases, simply convenience. Of course, the challenges with over-classification are not new and have been documented in the past.
But what if it didn’t have to be this way?
With the explosion of publicly available information, there is more data available today than ever before and growing at an exponential rate. Leaders and organizations are no longer looking for needles in haystacks, they are looking for specific needles in mountains of other needles. Sifting through this data requires the assistance of computers through machine learning and artificial intelligence to find patterns and insights that were previously only available in the most classified environments.
This is not your father’s open-source intelligence or OSINT. The days of the Early Bird emails and newspaper clippings are long gone. The data available includes everything from shipping to industry financials to overhead imagery. All of this is available to commercial companies that are able to pay subscriptions to data providers. Hedge funds, insurance companies, and other industries that are assessing risk use this data on a daily basis to make financial decisions. Our adversaries have much of the same or similar data available to them and are using it to make informed decisions about us.
Not only is this information readily available, but it is also accessible from outside secured classified environments. Work in the open-source community continues unabated as long as there is a reliable internet connection with sensible security precautions enabled and information from data providers.
Many long-time IC members will immediately scoff at the use of OSINT and say that it does not meet the rigor of the classified environment. That may have been true years ago – however, with the speed of social media and availability of technology, events that used to take weeks to assess are now unfolding in the public eye instantaneously, and in some cases, real-time. One only has to look at the Iranian shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 as a good example. Iran denied the aircraft was shot down and challenged Western governments to provide proof. Within just a few days, a Twitter user shared a video of what was clearly a missile hitting the plane, and the Iranian government quickly backpedaled and admitted they had made a mistake.
This type of definitive proof was not something that was widely available even 10 years ago, yet is nearly ubiquitous today. There must be a change in culture in the IC as new methods are adopted to supplement traditional methods and sources. In his article “Open Sources for the Information Age,” James Davitch succinctly captured these challenges, “As breaking the current paradigm is difficult, but essential, if the IC is to assume a more proactive posture. Barriers to this goal include organizational inertia, the fear of untested alternative methods, and the satisfaction of answering simpler questions, no matter how illusory their utility.”
In addition to the cultural challenges, there are logistical and financial considerations that must be addressed. A recent RAND study titled “Moving to the Unclassified, How the Intelligence Community Can Work from Unclassified Facilities” addresses many of the pros and cons of the tactical considerations and how leaders might address them. Perhaps the most significant advantages are the intangibles that the RAND authors noted, “The advantages of remote-work programs include greater access to outside expertise, continuity of operations, and increased work-life offerings for recruitment and retention.”
While OSINT is not the panacea for all intelligence challenges, it is a worthwhile tool for a leader to exploit this INT to its fullest potential. As we adapt to the new realities of telework and ways of operating, it is a good time for our IC leaders to advocate for a new way to operate outside of the secure environment.
Thanksgiving (the undisputed #1 holiday) is finally upon us. The only day of the year where your aunt’s cooking ability is worth tolerating her 30-minute story about “her church friend meeting Patti LaBelle in 1998.” The only day we brave bumper to bumper highways, chaotic airports, snot-nosed grandkids, and Detroit Lions football. The only day where you see that one cousin who you always forget the name of, but you’re pretty sure it’s Brett (it’s Ted).
It’s all in the spoon-bending, mouth-watering, wrist-quivering name of food. But which Thanksgiving foods are the best? Everybody has an opinion, and here’s ours. Don’t like it? Grab a plastic chair and plop your ass down at the kids’ table.
Corn on the cob
Our list starts off with a classic. However, that’s corn’s Achilles Heel—it’s too classic. We eat corn constantly throughout the year. Thanksgiving is essentially marketed around eating food that you wouldn’t eat outside of special occasions or trips to Boston Market.
Also, corn is fine. It’s not bad. Its complacency is numbing.
Green bean casserole
Green bean casserole is a wild ride through culinary mayhem. Look at it from a structural standpoint: the entire point of the dish is to then hide it’s main ingredient (the worst vegetable on God’s green earth) in a slop that is, essentially, heated-up cream of mushroom soup. It’s then capped off with yet another polarizing vegetable (onions) that have been fried and breaded beyond recognition, probably for the better…
And yet sometimes, it truly hits the spot. It just has such a low floor. When it’s bad, it is BAD. It’s a casseroller-coaster (sorry).
Mac n cheese
Mac and cheese suffers from the same contextual affliction as corn on the cob—we simply see it too much during the year. However, mac and cheese gets the slight nod here because of the bells and whistles that come along with Thanksgiving. Is it going to have Panko crumbs on the top? Does it have big fat noodles? Is it going to use 4 different cheeses? These modifications all factor into how good mac and cheese is.
Dinner rolls end up on everyone’s plate, even your sister’s new boyfriend, who claimed to be “gluten intolerant” earlier. It complements every dish. I personally like to squish them into flat space saucers and use them as an edible mashed potato shovel. They’re commonly used to mop up excess gravy. They are a valuable food/tool.
Cornbread gets the nod over the dinner roll for an obvious reason: it’s better. Legend has it that the sweet crumby goodness of cornbread is so pervasive that it was confined into perfect squares to try and retain their buttery deliciousness from ascending physical form.
Turkey sits, perfectly, in the middle of our list at #5. Turkey brought everyone to the party. It’s the glue that holds the holiday together and needs to be respected as such. Sure, it’s dry, and it makes you fall asleep, but so does Jeopardy, and it’s been on TV for 34 seasons. That’s part of the appeal. It is the very thing that Thanksgiving aims for: the warm safe feeling that comes from comfortable homestyle hygge.
Canned Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce, the dark horse of the race, brings the tart sweetness you need. It’s loud. It’s bright. It doesn’t give a damn if you know that it came from a can, it wears its rings upon its body like a tattoo of unabashed confidence. Go ahead, slather it all over your turkey, cranberry sauce don’t care. You need cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce doesn’t need you.
Mashed potatoes are always the first food to run-out, and for good reason. We always underestimate how much we really want it.
It’s a tale as old as time… You scoop out two spoonfuls on the edge of your plate, pile on the rest of your food into a mound and sit down. You munch through your food, parsing out bits of mashed potatoes and gravy on each bite. 30% of the way through your meal, you realize you need more mashed potatoes to continue your breakneck pace. You ask for your uncle to pass it to you. He’s too drunk. He’s singing the praises of Amazon Prime to your grandpa. So you ask your momma. She does so, but not after making a parallel realization and scooping 3 for herself before passing it down the line towards you. Her act of self-preservation sparks a cascading domino effect: every person that touches the bowl takes a couple more scoops on the way to you. Your uncle takes 7. By the time it gets to you, it’s a shadow of a side dish. Your spoon sings the humbling song of metal against porcelain as you scrape what final bits you can find on the walls of the bowl. You make it work. You are jealous of your uncle’s drunkenness, as the earth continues to turn in cold black space, inching ever-closer towards entropy.
Ham goes so hard. Honeybaked ham? Get the f*ck out, it’s amazing. Little bit of brown sugar on ham? Tastes like that pig was proud to die for every bite. It tastes like turkey thinks it tastes. And it doesn’t stop there. It’s the gift that keeps on (i’m so sorry) thanks-giving: it’s the ultimate black Friday sandwich ingredient. If you’re lucky, your grandma will sneak you a gallon ziploc bag of the savory, salty, goodness. Slap it on a warmed up dinner roll with some mayo and cheese for a leftover that rivals the initial product.
God knew what he was doing when he made yams. The ancient Egyptians knew what they were doing when they created marshmallows. The crazy bastard who put em in the oven together had no idea what he was doing. He/She spawned a dish that is equal parts: dessert, side, and angel. If my significant other was dangling off a cliff and candied yams were dangling off a cliff, and I could only save one—then you catch me at my significant other’s funeral with a warm pyrex dish and a big ass spoon.
I’ll bet some of you sick freaks are wondering “where was stuffing on the list?!” The answer is, it is so so so far low on the list, that it is literally below anything has ever been consumed on Thanksgiving since Columbus showed up and committed humanitarian atrocities. How people have convinced themselves that mashed soggy bread would be better if it was stuck in the ass of a bird is beyond me. Then, somewhere along the darkest timeline in history, somebody decided they would dice up celery (a stalk of tasteless future teeth-stuck green string) and toss it in for literally no reason. It is the worst thing that you could eat that starts in the stomach of a turkey and exits from its anus. It is an abomination. I’m embarrassed to exist at the same time as stuffing.
Stetsons, six shooters, gunslingers on horseback galloping across a stark desert landscape. The Western is a beloved fixture of American culture that still taps into something universal, capturing the good, bad, and ugly at the heart of lawmen and outlaws everywhere. And good news, partner: many of the best Westerns are available now on Netflix for your viewing pleasure.
From classic shoot-em-ups set against the American frontier to fresh genre twists that transport you to the badlands of Brazil, here are the best Westerns on Netflix you can watch right now. Saddle up and get streaming.
A Philadelphia man unaccustomed to the rough Western life and two gambling outcasts arrive in the town of Big Kill in an attempt to make themselves a fortune. The once-prosperous town is in a slump, however, and the rag tag men find themselves teaming up against the dastardly gunslinging preacher and his gang who wreak havoc on the townspeople. The cast includes Jason Patrick, Lou Diamond Phillips, and Danny Trejo.
This dark and gritty 2016 Western takes place in a small Texas town on the Mexican border. Texas Ranger David Kingston (Liam Hemsworth) is sent to investigate a series of deaths and disappearances of Mexican citizens after the niece of a Mexican general goes missing. Once Kingston arrives in the religious town, he finds the people there under the rule of a despotic and occultist preacher, Abraham Brant (Woody Harrelson). The further Kingston looks into the town and Brant, the closer he gets to uncovering the troubling mystery and a link from his past.
This 1968 epic Spaghetti Western by Sergio Leone is considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time. When Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) arrives in the town of Sweetwater, she finds that her new husband and his three children have been murdered by a merciless gunslinger, Frank (Henry Fonda). As Frank tries to ruthlessly clear the way for a railroad tycoon’s new train line, a bandit named Cheyenne (Jason Robards) and an enigmatic stranger with a harmonica (Charles Bronson) try to protect the widow from the cruel assassin.
Strap in, because this 1994 biographical Western crime film clocks in at over three hours. The film follows Wyatt Earp (Kevin Costner) from his teenage years through to his later years with his wife Josie (Joanna Going). Several pivotal moments throughout Earp’s life are covered in the movie, including his friendships with Ed Masterson (Bill Pullman) and Doc Holliday (Dennis Quaid), his time as a lawman, and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
The Outsider embraces the tropes of classic Westerns, while pushing the story forward with a darker, modern edge. The film stars Trace Adkins as Marshal Walker, a lawman with a begrudging yet unwavering support for his unhinged and sadistic son, James (portrayed by Kaiwi Lyman). After James assaults and kills the wife of Chinese railroad worker Jing Phang (John Foo), the marshal tries to keep his son safe from the widower on a violent path of justice. Sean Patrick Flannery portrays Chris King, a jaded tracker caught in the middle of the brutal dispute.
Even the most novice of Western watchers have heard of the 1969 classic True Grit. In Arkansas in 1880, the young tomboy Matte Ross (Kim Darby) seeks justice for the murder of her father, hiring tough-as-nails, hard-edged U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) to track down the killer, Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey). While Mattie and Cogburn are joined by Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Glen Campbell), Chaney is joined by the rotten outlaw “Lucky” Ned Pepper (Robert Duvall). The two groups track each other through Indian Territory, setting themselves up for a deadly confrontation.
This popular series ran for five seasons on AMC. In the aftermath of the Civil War, former Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) sets out on a path of revenge to find the Union soldiers that murdered his wife. Along his journey, he becomes entangled in the railroad business. The series also stars Colm Meaney, Common, Dominique McElligott, Robin McLeavy, Dohn Norwood, Eddie Spears, and more.
Quentin Tarantino wrangles an all-star cast of gunslingers for his ultraviolent 2015 Western set against the snowy expanse of post-Civil War Wyoming. Bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) escorts fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to her execution in Red Rock, Wyoming, when they’re waylaid by a blizzard. They seek refuge in a stagecoach lodge, alongside six other strangers—each with a severely itchy trigger finger.
Hannibal‘s Mads Mikkelsen unleashes a wave of bloody vengeance in this independent Western from Danish filmmaker Kristian Levring. Mikkelsen plays Jon, a Danish homesteader on the American frontier who sets out to avenge the brutal murder of his wife and son by an outlaw gang.
Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Gil Birmingham star in this gripping Western heist thriller set against the bleak backdrop of bankrupt, small-town America. Brothers Tanner (Foster) and Toby (Pine) join forces to rob different branches of the Texas bank that’s threatening to foreclose on their family ranch. Bridges and Birmingham play the Texas Rangers in hot pursuit of the desperate brothers.
Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Caren Pistorius star in this stylish and thoughtful Western. Smit-McPhee plays Jay Cavendish, a Scottish teen who enlists the help of a stoic gunslinger named Silas (Fassbender) to traverse the American frontier and reunite with his lost love Rose (Pistorius). But bounty hunters stalk the pair as they head west.
Prefer the narrative expanse of a Western TV show? Check out Godless. Set in 1880s America, the series tracks Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels), a sadistic gang leader in search of his former protégé Roy Good (Jack O’Connell). Good’s trail leads Griffin to the town of La Belle, a New Mexico town inhabited nearly entirely by women after a mining accident wiped out its male residents.
Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, and Wes Studi star in this powerfully acted Western set in 1892. Bale plays Joseph J. Blocker, a U.S. Army Captain who after years of bloody fighting against the Cheyenne is tasked with escorting tribal leader Chief Yellow Hawk and his family to Cheyenne lands in Montana. Along the way, they cross paths with young widow Rosalie Quaid (Pike), whose family was murdered out on the plains. Together, they must endure the challenges and dangers of their arduous journey.
Interested in a comical spin on the Western genre from the Coen Brothers? Take a gander at their dark and absurdist Western, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, starring everyone from Tim Blake Nelson and Zoe Kazan to Liam Neeson and Tom Waits. Keep in mind we’re still talking about the Coens here—so expect plenty of bloodshed alongside your cosmic hilarity.
Known as O Matador in its native Brazil, this striking international Western transports viewers from the 19th century American frontier to the desert badlands of early 20th century Brazil. The film follows Cabeliera (Diogo Morgado), an orphan raised in the wilderness by an outlaw named Seven Ears (Deto Montenegro). Now an adult, Cabeliera sets out to find Seven Ears—and transforms into a dangerous gunman himself.
The US military is currently conducting a massive sealift stress test during which ships will flex atrophied muscles needed to fight a great power conflict.
US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), which oversees important military logistics activities, launched the large-scale “Turbo Activiation” sealift readiness exercise on Sept. 16, 2019, the command announced in a statement Sept. 17, 2019.
While these exercises, which began in 1994, typically include only a handful of ships, the latest iteration will involve 28 vessels from the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) and TRANSCOM’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) Ready Reserve Force.
Navy Capt. Kevin Stephens, a TRANSCOM spokesperson, told Defense News that this is the largest training activation on record.
Ships located along the East, West, and Gulf Coasts will have five days to go from reduced operating status to fully crewed and ready for action. The no-notice activations are usually followed by sea trials.
The MSC, according to The War Zone, has 15 roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo ships, and MARAD has another 46 ships consisting of 35 RORO ships and 11 special mission ships. The MSC, Defense News reports, also has 26 pre-positioning ships.
These vessels are “maintained in a reserve status in the event that the Department of Defense needs these ships to support the rapid, massive movement of military supplies and troops for a military exercise or large-scale conflict,” TRANSCOM explained in a statement.
There are reportedly another 60 US-flagged commercial ships in the US Maritime Security Program available to serve, but they are not part of the reserve fleets.
These sealift ships would be responsible for moving roughly 90 percent of US Army and Marine Corps equipment abroad for a fight, but this force has been languishing for years.
(US Army photo by Steven J. Mirrer)
“We are not in a good position today,” Rear Adm. Peter Clarke, the director of Strategy, Policy, Programs and Logistics at Transportation Command, said of US sealift capabilities last year, according to USNI News. “We’re on the ragged edge,” Kevin Tokarski, the associate administrator at MARAD, explained at that time. “Foreign countries [especially China] are eclipsing us.”
There are also concerns that in the event of a major great power conflict, the US Navy may not be able to provide enough escorts, given that the service is smaller than it once was.
The ongoing stress test is a critical evaluation of the sealift force’s ability to surge ships, but also the “underlying support network involved in maintaining, manning and operating the nation’s ready sealift forces,” TRANSCOM explained.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Taliban militants have killed several Afghan security forces in fresh attacks on several security checkpoints in the northern Sar-e-Pul Province, according to officials.
In one of the Jan. 1, 2019 attacks in the Sayyad district of the province, local police chief Khalil Khan was killed along with four other officers, a source told RFE/RL.
The dpa news agency quoted provincial council member Mohammad Asif Sadiqi as saying a high-ranking provincial official with an Afghan spy agency and an army company commander were also killed in the attacks on two security posts, which it said left 23 Afghan security forces dead.
Gunbattles raged for several hours in the Sayyad district as heavy artillery fire by Afghan troops trying to beat back the insurgents sent locals fleeing for safety.
AP quoted Taliban spokesman Qari Yousof Ahmadi as claiming responsibility for both attacks.
Sar-e Pul Province in Afghanistan.
The violence comes a day after Iran said a Taliban delegation made a rare visit to Tehran for talks with a senior Iranian official on efforts to end Afghanistan’s 17-year-long war.
It also occurred just over a week after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of 7,000 American troops deployed in Afghanistan, about half of the U.S. contingent in the country.
Many observers warned that the partial withdrawal could further degrade security and jeopardize possible peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending its insurgency.
U.S. forces make up the bulk of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission that is training and advising Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban and Islamic State militants.
The U.S. military also has some 7,000 troops deployed in a separate U.S. counterterrorism mission.
A Marine corporal may have come up with a brilliant way to treat a gunshot wound the moment a bullet pierces body armor.
Cpl. Matthew Long, a motor transport mechanic, designed a tear-proof package filled with a cocktail of blood clotting and pain-killing agents that sits behind body armor, which would be released instantly if pierced by a bullet. Though Marine body armor, called “flak” jackets, come with small arms protective insert (SAPI) plates to stop bullets, they can have trouble stopping multiple rounds.
Long’s invention, if fielded, would render first aid immediately, without a Marine having to do anything. The seemingly-simple tweak could save lives when a medic is not immediately available.
The corporal was selected as a winner for his invention in September during the Corps’ Logistics Innovation Challenge.
“We thought we’d get one, maybe two ideas, but thanks to your support, we got hundreds,” Lt. Gen. Mike Dana said in a video announcing the winners. “We’re going to send all winners out to DoD labs to prototype their idea. These ideas might end up in the Marine Corps.”
Long and the nearly two dozen other winning projects will be considered for further use by the Marine Corps. As part of this, challenge winners are being partnered with government-affiliated labs to prototype, experiment, and implement their idea.
Other winners include a team of enlisted Marines who came up with a way to make affordable 3d-printed drones, an officer with an idea for a wrist computer, and glasses made for medical tele-mentoring.