Opium production in Afghanistan dropped by 29 percent in 2017, the United Nations anti-drug agency reported, a decrease attributed mainly to a severe drought.
The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual reportreleased Nov. 19, 2018, that the drop — from 9,000 tons to 6,400 tons — coincided with a decrease in the amount of land area being used for cultivating the crop.
The Afghanistan Opium Survey, which is jointly compiled by the UN agency and the Afghan Ministry of Counternarcotics, said a total of 263,000 hectares of land was used for opium cultivation, representing a decline of 20 percent compared to 2017.
“Despite the decreases, the overall area under opium-poppy cultivation is the second-highest ever recorded. This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond,” said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.
Afghan National Police officers, along with U.S. Special Operations Soldiers, discovered 600 pounds of opium May 7, 2009, during a cordon and search operation of a known Taliban safe house, collection center and trauma center in Babaji Village, in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
(Photo by Cpl. Sean K. Harp)
The report said the farm-gate prices of dry opium — which fell for the second consecutive year to an average of per kilogram, the lowest level since 2004 — may have contributed to less cultivation of opium poppy.
Eradication of opium poppy has also dropped by 46 percent in 2018 to 406 hectares, compared to 750 hectares last year.
Ten of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are considered poppy free, unchanged from 2017.
The beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro refused to call new elections in response to demands from several European countries.
He also warned that the US presidency would be “stained with blood” if President Donald Trump goes ahead with plans to intervene.
European Union countries including Austria, Britain, France, Germany, and Spain told Maduro to call fresh elections by Feb. 3, 2019, or else they would formally recognize Maduro’s opponent, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela’s interim president.
Guaidó, the National Assembly president, declared himself the country’s interim president in January 2019. Critics of Maduro have accused him of vote-rigging in last May’s presidential election and say his presidency, which started Jan. 10, 2019, is unconstitutional and fraudulent.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Tens of thousands of people have been protesting Maduro over the past month. Maduro has presided over one of the worst economic crises, leading to hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Venezuela.
“It’s as if I told the European Union that I give it a few days to recognize the Republic of Catalonia,” he added, referring to the Spanish region of Catalonia’s failed attempt to break away from Spain in October 2017.
Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, declared autonomy from Spain after a contested referendum, and Madrid’s Constitutional Court canceled the independence bid the next month. Spanish authorities have since arrested and detained some of Puigdemont’s allies.
Britain, Denmark, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden formally recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president on Monday in response to Maduro’s refusal to organize new elections, Sky News reported.
‘Stop, stop, Donald Trump!’
Maduro on Feb. 3, 2019, also warned that Trump’s presidency would be “stained with blood” if Trump decided to intervene in Venezuela.
“Stop, stop, Donald Trump!” Maduro said. “You are making mistakes that are going to stain your hands with blood, and you are going to leave the presidency stained with blood. Stop!”
He added: “Or is it that you are going to repeat a Vietnam in Latin America?”
Maduro also warned Guaidó to “stop this coup-mongering strategy and stop simulating a presidency in which nobody elected him.”
Guaidó argued in The New York Times last week that his interim presidency was not a “self-proclamation” because the Venezuelan Constitution says that “if at the outset of a new term there is no elected head of state” he becomes interim president.
He said that since Maduro’s reelection was not legitimate, that condition has been fulfilled.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
June 6, 1944, is known throughout the world as D-Day, but for the Class of 1944 at the U.S. Military Academy, the day holds a second significance. It was the day they graduated from the academy.
Twenty-one members of the D-Day Class, as they have become known over the years, are still alive. May 21, 2019, retired Col. Doniphan Carter represented the class on the occasion of its 75th reunion by serving as the wreath layer during the annual ceremony prior to the alumni review parade.
Carter, who turned 96 in February 2019, was the most senior graduate in attendance at the parade.
Alumni Wreath Laying Ceremony and Review at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, May 21, 2019.
(Photo by Brandon OConnor)
“I’ve waited 75 years for this to happen, but I didn’t know I was going to be the oldest,” Carter, who is the president of the Class of 1944, said of getting to lay the wreath at the Sylvanus Thayer statue. “I was one of the younger members of my class and that was because I skipped a year in grade school, but nobody else is coming. So here I am, and I get to do it.”
Alumni Wreath Laying Ceremony and Review at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, May 21, 2019.
(Photo by Brandon OConnor)
Carter and his classmates originally entered West Point as the Class of 1945, but when America entered World War II the classes were accelerated. The Class of 1943 graduated six months early in January of that year, the original Class of 1944 became the June Class of 1943 and Carter’s class graduated a year early.
After commissioning in the Army, Carter served in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II. During his career, he also served with the 45th Infantry Division during the Korean War and the 25th Infantry Division during the Vietnam War. He retired from the Army in 1974.
Alumni Wreath Laying Ceremony and Review at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, May 21, 2019.
(Photo by Brandon OConnor)
“Stay in for 30,” Carter said of what his advice is to the Class of 2019. “It is a wonderful career and a lot of benefits come out of it … They needed me when I came out because World War II was on, and I got into that. They needed me when the Korean War was on, and I went and got involved in that. They needed me when we were in Vietnam, and I went and got involved in that. I’ve got three wars under my belt. I think if they stick around, they will have a very good career.”
The alumni review was attended by more than 700 members of the Long Gray Line representing the classes of 1944, 1949, 1959, 1964, 1969 and more.
Hitting the road with young kids can seem like a daunting task — especially when the destination is hours away. But with some planning and smart preparations, you can make the trip much easier on all involved, and yes, that includes you!
Whether you’re headed home to visit family or are packing up and getting ready for your next PCS, follow these proven tactics to keep the kids happy and occupied throughout the entire journey.
Pack smarter, not harder
Whether you’re driving, flying, or a combination of the two, you can make travel sessions easier by packing smart. Keep an extra outfit or two within easy reach (especially for littles). The same goes for toiletries (if you’re planning an overnight on the road), and any items you’ll need in a pinch. If you’re doing an overnight en route, pack a “hotel bag” and keep the giant suitcases in the car.
Baby wipes are a necessity for travelers of any age, and blankets, drinks, and medications always come in handy for comfortable travel sessions.
Bottles, juice, pre-packaged snacks — pile them on in. (Liquids are allowed for babies and toddlers on planes, just be prepared to have it tested.) Trust us, traveling kids can eat. It might be more out of boredom than actual hunger, but whatever works, right? If snacking keeps them occupied, it’s best to have more on hand than you’ll need.
If you prefer healthy options, just plan ahead so you can have all of their favorites within quick reach.
Leave on their schedule, not yours
If kids will sleep on the road, it’s best to bite the bullet and leave as early as possible. Sure, it’s not ideal for mom and dad, but think about the possibility of having complete control of the radio and zero complaining from the back seat. (We’re hearing angels sing!)
If they’ll sleep, create an environment in which they’ll actually sleep!
When planning around naps, you might have to wait until later in the day to get on the move. This isn’t always great for making good time, but it can help make for some happier travelers (parents included). While older kids will be a wild card — who knows if they’ll sleep, let alone when, younger kiddos can be encouraged to rest on the move. Consider kids’ schedules and look to leave around their sleep times for easier transitions.
Make a list of activities
Depending on your kids’ ages, create a list of activities and compile them into a single bin (ideally that they can get to easily). Sure this can contain a phone or tablet, but battery life only lasts so long. (Plus consider the negative effects it can have on their moods when used long term while traveling.)
Gather tiny board games, toys, homemade activities that help them learn while keeping them busy. Art projects are great, too. (Bonus if it’s water-based markers or something like a magnet board so there’s no mess.) Meanwhile, you can host participation games like I Spy or other road trip classics.
Help plan a smooth trip for all involved with a little planning ahead. And with any luck, full bellies and distracted kids will help make the trip a breeze.
On May 12, 2018, two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to intercept and visually identify two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers flying off Alaska, north of the Aleutian Islands, in the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).
ADIZs may extend beyond a country’s territory to give the country more time to respond to possible hostile aircraft: in fact any aircraft flying inside these zones without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft.
According to NORAD, the Russians were “intercepted and monitored by the F-22s until the bombers left the ADIZ along the Aleutian Island chain heading west,” and, as usual, remained in international airspace.
Nothing special then, considered that these close encounters occur every now and then, as reported in 2017.
What’s a bit more interesting this time is the fact that the Russian Air Force has released some details and footage about the training activities conducted by its long range bombers. During the last round of “winter period” training, five long range missions were launched involving strategic missile carriers Tu-160 and Tu-95MS, as well as long-range Tu-22M3 bombers: these flights brought the Russian aircraft over the Pacific, the Arctic Ocean, Japan, East China, Black, Barents, Norwegian, Northern, Bering and Okhotsk Seas.
On May 12, 2018 mission off Alaska, the F-22s (that were filmed while shadowing the Bear, as the clip below shows) remained with the Tu-95s for 40 minutes.
“As for the last such flight, only one pair of US Air Force F-22 fighters have escorted our aircraft. Just one, it says that a certain effect of surprise has worked. Usually, during the execution of such flights, we are escorted to five or seven aircraft, while escorts are carried out by fighters of various states. I want to note that during this flight no one intercepted anyone. US Air Force planes accompanied our aircraft in the airspace over neutral waters. The pilots acted in the air correctly. No violations were recorded,” said commander of long-range aviation Lieutenant-General Sergei Kobylash in an article published by Zvezda.
While it’s somehow hard to believe that the large strategic bombers caught someone by surprise, the video is interesting, especially the short part where you can see a pair of F-22s from the window of a Russian Bear.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Army acquisition leaders and weapons developers are increasing their thinking about how future enemies might attack —and looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in their platforms and technologies earlier in the developmental process, senior service leaders told Scout Warrior.
The idea is to think like an enemy trying to defeat and/or out-maneuver U.S. Army weapons, vehicles, sensors and protective technologies in order to better determine how these systems might be vulnerable when employed, Mary Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Research and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The goal of this thinking, she explained, is to identify “fixes” or design alternatives to further harden a weapons system before it is fielded and faces contact with an enemy.
“We have taken it upon ourselves to look at early developmental systems for potential vulnerabilities. As we understand where we might have shortfalls or weaknesses in emerging programs, we can fix them before things go to production,” Miller added.
The Army is already conducting what it calls “Red Teaming” wherein groups of threat assessment experts explore the realm of potential enemy activity to include the types of weapons, tactics and strategies they might be expected to employ.
“Red Teams” essentially act like an enemy and use as much ingenuity as possible to examine effective ways of attacking U.S. forces. These exercises often yield extremely valuable results when it comes to training and preparing soldiers for combat and finding weaknesses in U.S. strategies or weapons platforms.
This recent push, within the Army acquisition world, involves a studied emphasis on “Red Teaming” emerging technologies much earlier in the acquisition process to engineer solutions that counter threats in the most effective manner well before equipment is fully developed, produced or worst case, deployed.
Miller explained that this strategic push to search for problems, vulnerabilities and weaknesses within weapons systems very early in the acquisition process was designed to keep the Army in front of enemies.
A key concept is, of course, to avoid a circumstance wherein soldiers in combat are using weapons and technologies which have “fixable” problems or deficiencies which could have been identified and successfully addressed at a much earlier point in the developmental process.
As a result, weapons developers in the Army acquisition world and Science and Technology (ST) experts spend a lot of time envisioning potential future conflict scenarios with next-generation weapons and technologies.
Miller emphasized how the Army is increasingly working to develop an ability to operate, fight and win in contested environments. This could include facing enemies using long range sensors and missiles, cyber attacks, electronic warfare, laser weapons and even anti-satellite technologies designed to deny U.S. soldiers the use of GPS navigation and mapping, among other things.
As a result, Army engineers, acquisition professionals and weapons developers are working now to ensure that tomorrow’s systems are as effective and as impenetrable as possible.
“We need to better understand vulnerabilities before we design something for our soldiers. We need to see if they have inherent glitches. We now face potential adversaries that are becoming technically on par with us,” Miller said. “We are asking the ST enterprise to think ahead to a scenario where our enemies might be using our technologies against ourselves,” Miller said.
One recent example which advanced the Army acquisition community’s strategy to look for and address vulnerabilities early in the developmental process involved an assessment of Forward Operating Base, or FOB, protection technologies used in Afghanistan.
The “Deployable Force Protection” program focused on protection systems including sensors, towers and weapons systems designed to identify and destroy approaching threats to the FOB. These systems were being urgently deployed to Afghanistan in a rapid effort to better protect soldiers. The Army performed useful assessments of these technologies, integrating them into realistic, relevant scenarios in order to discern where there may be vulnerabilities, Miller explained.
Teams of Warfighters, weapons experts, engineers and acquisition professionals tried to think about how enemy fighters might try to attack FOBs protected with Deployable Force Protection technologies. They looked for gaps in the sensors’ field of view, angles of possible attack and searched for performance limitations when integrated into a system of FOB protection technologies. They examined small arms attacks, mortar and rocket attacks and ways groups of enemy fighters might seek to approach a FOB. The result of the process led to some worthwhile design changes and enhancements to force protection equipment, Miller explained.
“We have focused on small bases in Afghanistan and did Red Teaming here (in the U.S.) to make sure the system was robust. We’ve taken that whole mindset and now merged it into a new program concept,” Miller said.
In a bipartisan move, House Representatives just approved an amendment that would create the new Space Force as a department under the Air Force, moving the new military service one step closer to reality. Reps. Jim Cooper and Mike Rogers say the amendment approved is nearly identical to the Space Corps proposal they made in 2017, something they proposed because they felt the Air Force was underperforming in the realm of space.
The move was part of the week’s blitz to mark up the House’s version of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
The NDAA markup process basically determines the size of the Pentagon’s budget for the coming year.
The amendment was approved by the House Armed Services Committee as a better option than a billion plan presented to Congress by former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson. The Senate’s vision of the Space Force will run taxpayers .4 million but will have to reconcile in some way with the house version of the branch.
Under the Cooper-Rogers proposal, the Space Force will be commanded by a Commandant, a four-star Air Force general who will sit on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Their Space Force is less about creating a new system from scratch and more focused on reorganizing existing space assets to clear out the bureaucracy and function in a more efficient, cost-effective way than previous proposals.
Because if the USAF knows anything, it’s cost-effective efficiency, like these 00 coffee mugs.
The White House’s original plan called for the Space Force to be an entirely separate branch of the military but run into significant opposition in both Congress and the Pentagon, due to the potential cost of creating such a force. In February 2019, President Trump signed a directive that called for the formation of the Space Force inside the Air Force, much the same way the Marine Corps is a department of the Navy.
Few in Washington argue that a more robust plan for the United States military’s role in space is necessary, but they do argue about the best way to create such a force, how to operate it, and how much it should cost. The Cooper-Rogers amendment could remove one of the most significant roadblocks to the creation of the service.
China’s Defense Ministry says a Chinese warship is assisting the US Navy in its search for a sailor who is missing and may have gone overboard during operations in the South China Sea.
The ministry said in a statement August 3 that the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s guided-missile frigate Liuzhou is coordinating with the US in the search for the sailor “in the spirit of humanitarianism.”
The US Navy’s Pacific Fleet says the destroyer USS Stethem reported a man overboard around 9 a.m. August 2. Multiple searches of the destroyer were conducted but the sailor hasn’t been found.
China, which claims virtually all of the South China Sea, accused the US in July of trespassing in its waters when the Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles (32 kilometers) of Triton Island in the Paracel Group.
The operation was aimed at affirming the right to passage and challenging what the US considers China’s excessive territorial claims in the area. China sent ships to intercept the destroyer.
China has strongly objected to repeated freedom of navigation missions by the US Navy in the South China Sea.
Judging from the video title we were expecting an embarrassment but to our surprise, the civilian won. They both had a practice shot with an Axelson Tactical 5.56 SPR Combat Series rifle before the qualifying shot and Luttrell’s shot was the furthest from the target. Luttrell took his defeat like a champ and they guy walked away with a fond memory.
Hurricane-like winds roared across the state of California, creating a catalyst that ignited wildfires Oct. 8, 2017. The fires tore through northern California, scorching more than 160,000 acres and leaving more than 15,000 people homeless.
One of the hardest hit areas was Santa Rosa, which lost 3,000 homes to the Tubbs fire.
Senior Airman Martin Baglien, 349th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, and his wife Marissa, were sleeping in their home in Santa Rosa, when they were startled awake by a pounding at their door at 2 a.m. that first morning. As they answered the knock, Marissa’s family stood outside. Their house was gone.
“We were dead asleep, just like everyone else,” Baglien said.
After answering the door, he ran into the street.
“You could see the glow all around us, a total 360,” he said. “You couldn’t know the extent of it.”
To get an idea of the scope of the fire, he and his wife drove to a high point.
“From there, we could see how massive this fire was,” he said. “It was obvious how bad things were getting.”
Driving around, they saw downed power lines and office buildings burning with no one around.
“It was truly humbling seeing my city burn,” he said.
“We went around to friends’ houses, families’ houses, neighbors’ houses, waking up everyone we could,” Baglien continued. “A lot of people had no idea.”
The next move was to go and grab water and start giving it to whoever needed it.
“We just drove around wherever they would let us,” he said. “It was a battle of trying to get in somewhere before they would block off the road. We were just trying to do whatever we could to help, whether that was finding stray animals, waking up neighbors, or bringing people water.”
The homes on the street his family lived on were completely burned to the ground. Chimneys stand above the ashes, like gravestones in a cemetery, tin rememberance of what once was. Charred cars and appliances are all that remains of families’ possessions.
“The neighbors next to my family have four kids, which is pretty hard to deal with,” Baglien said. “They worked out of their home. To see it gone is humbling, to say the least.”
The next day, after his family arrived, the Bagliens drove around giving out clothes, blankets, and water to anyone who was distraught. While trying to figure out where the fire was, they determined what actions to take.
The second day of the fires, he got a call from a friend with bad news.
“My buddy, he works in ambulances, told me, ‘Hey, I just got a radio call. The fire is coming over your ridge. You’ve got to pack your [things] because it’s coming,'” Baglien said.
They immediately drove home to find their neighborhood in chaos.
“People were freaking out, which is just so unnecessary,” he described. “We were seeing fights at gas stations and over water.”
So, Martin, his wife, and in-laws all evacuated. The Airman and his wife sent their family to Petaluma where they would be safe with other family members. However, the firefighter and his wife felt wrong about leaving.
“After we sent them down to Petaluma, my wife and I headed to our evacuation center and just started helping, doing everything we can,” he said. “I told them I was a firefighter and they said, ‘Hey, we can totally use you.'”
The scene was chaotic, he described. He ran around unloading ambulances, hooking people up to oxygen, scrambling to find extension cords, and passing out clothes.
“People were coming up to me saying, ‘I just want to go home,'” he said. “And you just had to look at them, smile, and say, ‘We’ll figure this out.'”
In the midst of all the chaos, Baglien said he saw a lot of joy.
“The community really came together,” he said. “We saw a lot more smiles than frowns, which is truly beautiful.”
Baglien and his wife, a nursing student, devoted themselves to volunteering and doing everything they could to help people out. As an Air Force Reserve firefighter, he really wanted to help out in that way.
“Everyday I would get up, put on my wildland gear, and go to either the nearest strike team or go to the evacuation center where they staged,” he said. “I’d get turned away, which is understandable. But, I’d tell them, ‘I’ll roll hoses, I’ll cook, I’ll clean,’ because you got to look at the bigger picture.”
But Martin and Marissa were not deterred. Whenever he got turned down, the two would just find another place to volunteer.
“You just give time,” he said. “Because it’s all about your family, your friends, your community. It was really important to do whatever we could for those people in need.”
Even though he and his wife were working themselves to exhaustion every day, Baglien still felt something was missing.
“I was getting up and doing everything that I could,” he said. “But, it didn’t feel like enough. I never had that fulfillment.”
Finally, he got a call from Travis Air Force Base to report to base. The Atlas Fire was rapidly spreading in Solano County.
“I jumped at the chance to go to base,” he said. “I was on standby, that’s where you start to see the bigger picture. In the fire department, everyone wants to be on the fire line; fight the fire, do the job, and be a hero. But at the same time, you have to know where your response is and where you are needed.”
The fires have since diminished, leaving desolation in their wake. Now, the recovery begins for thousands across California. Many have taken notice of what is truly important in their lives and have leaned on their community members for support.
“I think with all the destruction and chaos and horrible things we were seeing, a lot of people still got out with their skin,” Baglien said. “Seeing people lose everything, but they still had those smiles, because they still had each other; and that’s all that matters. They realized the things they lost were just [things]. It’s really good for people to see this.”
Baglien credited his Air Force Reserve training for helping him stay calm in such a stressful situation.
“The training we get with the 349th [CES] is wonderful and I truly love it,” he said. “We get very good training from everyone there. I could watch everything – combining the classes we’ve taken and the lectures – you start getting into it, and watching the fire and winds and understanding how hot it is. It really helped me to stay calm.”
Baglien’s home still stands, though his in-laws’ is gone. But, they are getting help.
“We are getting a lot of support from the community for our family,” he said. “Right now, they are living with us and various family members. Someone even just donated us a trailer to use for a while.”
“It’s really beautiful to see the community come together, and definitely for the better,” the firefighter said with hope. “It’s really important that we continue to overcome and we continue to push forward from this, because it really is just another day.”
The threats that failing governments and foreign influence pose to the United States have not been the norm in the Western hemisphere. Since the institution of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, the United States has opposed efforts by European and other powers to meddle in the United States’ backyard, keeping a watchful eye on its neighbors. There has been much turmoil the last fifty years — Pinochet’s reign in Chile, the civil war in El Salvador, drug-fueled gang violence in Colombia, and others, are all conflicts that divided nations, destabilized the region, and engrossed the world.
Despite the violence and attention, Latin American conflicts have generated, the United States was largely successful in limiting influence from foreign nations and overseas organizations seeking to exploit these conflicts and undermine the integrity and influence of the United States. Now, the Monroe Doctrine faces perhaps its most challenging test yet: recent unrest in Venezuela. The growing discontent in the country has reached a boiling point, with the specter of civil war looming and national security concerns that threaten the safety of the United States.
What To Know About The Attempted Coup In Venezuela (HBO)
To blame for this recent disorder is the resurgent cancer of socialism and communism, not new to the Western Hemisphere. One need not look further than 90 miles south of Florida to see Cuba: a state whose current complexion was born of communist revolution, nurtured barbarous dictators and violent revolutionaries, and welcomed as a military ally by the Soviets, nearly triggering a nuclear war. When Hugo Chavez tightened his grip over Venezuela at the turn of the 21st century, history knew how this story would end. But the predictable rise and fall of socialism in oil-rich Venezuela now creates a danger we have not seen in our hemisphere since the Cold War.
The proud people of Venezuela have witnessed what socialism provides to a country: empty promises, rampant poverty, widespread corruption, and hopelessness. Their cries for freedom were silenced by bribes and force at the hands of Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro. Free elections were touted but marred in such overt corruption that would be laughable if the consequences were not so dire.
Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
On Jan. 23, 2019, the hope of the nation turned to Juan Guaido, the opposition leader and President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, who took the oath of office as Interim President of Venezuela. This peaceful, constitutionally-valid shift of power has flipped the suffering nation on its head. Since then, President Trump and allies across the world have pledged support for Guaido and have left all options on the table with respect to lending aid and military intervention in the country to ensure his security and authority as leader.
Freedom, however, is not easy to gain or preserve, as Americans discovered during our war for independence some 244 years ago. On the ground in Venezuela, violence, and unrest have intensified as many military leaders remain loyal to President Maduro. Local government institutions have been paralyzed, and a people already crushed by a centrally-planned, corrupt economy have nowhere to turn for help. As if to say, “Let them eat cake!” Maduro’s forces have barricaded major highways to stop the flow of relief from neighboring countries.
Most troubling however may be dueling threats from major geopolitical adversaries that put the safety of our hemisphere in jeopardy. Russia has sent bombers to Venezuela in support of the Maduro regime – a provocative show of force that harkens back to the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As global support for Guaido grows, so does Russian resolve to prop up a failed despot.
Further testing American dominance of the Western Hemisphere is another sinister force lurking in the shadows: radical Islamic terrorism. For years, reports of burgeoning terror cells popping up in Latin America have made their way into newspaper headlines, with the most recent example involving the growing presence of Iran-linked terror organization, Hezbollah, in Latin America. The ever increasing instability within Venezuela offers fertile grounds for these terror networks to take root and grow amid a nation made susceptible to radical proposals offered by fanatical organizations in the face of social and economic collapse. Consider: there remains air travel between Caracas and Tehran, and American intelligence has little way of knowing who all are on those flights. Should bad actors from the Middle East’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism with intentions of harming the United States make their way to Venezuela, what will that mean for the United States and the continent at large?
If terror organizations find safe-haven on the streets of a failed state in South America, the threats to our homeland become incalculable. Crossing into the United States via our southern border, once difficult, has been made easier by assistance from international non-profits, failure to enforce and reform current immigration law in the United States, and “Coyotes” – individuals guide those seeking entry into America across the border for a fee. This has already been made manifest in the formation of migrant caravans comprised of hundreds if not thousands from all over Latin America seeking asylum in the United States in mass numbers, regardless of the validity of their claims. The political class’ failure to seriously address this immigration problem is a dream come true for international terrorists, drug smugglers, and other criminals seeking to cross our borders — with smuggled arms, drugs, diseases, and more — to then harm the American people.
So where do we go from here? First, we must recommit to the Monroe Doctrine and assure Interim President Guaido that we, as well as our partners and allies in the region, have his back. This means potentially mobilizing both naval forces and ground troops in areas of strategic importance to signify not just our support for the Guaido presidency, but also to send the message that foreign interference in our hemisphere will not be toleration. Our aim is not to violently provoke but to firmly warn.
(Flickr photo by Senado Federal)
Second, we must finally secure our borders. On top of violent drug trades and human trafficking that pose a risk to people throughout the American continents, our border is now facing an even graver security threat considering recent developments in Latin America. Our southern neighbors have proven incapable of controlling migration across their borders, unable to filter out narcotics and criminals in an acceptable manner before they invariably arrive at ours. Every day that passes where our border is left unsecured while tensions mount in Latin America, American workers and their families face an ever-imminent threat to their work, their communities and their way of life.
The current situation in Venezuela is a new and evolving crisis for the Americas the likes of which have not been seen since when John F. Kennedy was president. The success or failure of the Guaido presidency will depend on the shared ability of the U.S. and our allies to pressure Maduro to leave office and cede power to Guaido. If we do not take care of our nation’s homeland security in the meantime, the fallout from potential catastrophe in Venezuela in the near-future will spell disaster for the entirety of Latin America and significantly harm the United States. The time to act is now, and I believe these recent developments give ample justification to do just that.
Earlier this week, images surfaced out of the reclusive nation of North Korea showing Kim Jong Un posing with a bevy of senior military leaders as they show off their fancy new pistols. The pistols were handed out by the nation’s Supreme Leader in celebration of the 67th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, and according to North Korean media, the pistols were awarded to Kim’s top generals as a symbol of his trust in them.
Of course, after looking at the pictures for a minute… you might start to wonder if that trust is all that founded.
Literallychillin’ like a villain. (North Korea’s KCNA)
Long before a recruit earns the right to call him or herself a Marine, they’re ingrained with the four weapons safety rules. This essential training step comes before being bestowed the title of Marine for good reason: If you can’t handle your own weapon safely, you represent a potential threat to your fellow Marines. Let’s run through those rules again, just in case you’re not familiar with them:
Treat every weapon as if it were loaded.
Never point the weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot.
Keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire.
Keep the weapon on safe until you intend to fire.
The first thing I couldn’t help but notice in these pictures is the egregious lack of trigger discipline on display in this photo of what should theoretically be North Korea’s most competent military minds. The third weapons safety rule says clearly that you should keep your finger straight and off the trigger until you’re ready to fire. Why is that rule so important? Well, in this case, it would be so you don’t accidentally blow the leader of your country’s head off…
But this guy is clearly thinking about it.
And this guy might just want to replace the 3-Star sitting in front of him.
Dude on the left is literally pointing a pistol at Kim with his finger on the trigger.
Of course, even if you violate the keeping your finger straight and off the trigger rule, the people around you should still be fairly safe if you’re careful not to ever point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to shoot.
I’m pretty sure these two guys think they’re in a water gun fight.
“I’ll just point this weapon safely at Bob’s face.”
Maybe they’re all trying to rob each other?
Of course, it’s safe to assume that none of these weapons were loaded, as Kim Jong Un almost certainly didn’t intend to equip his generals to overthrow him — but that’s not really the point. The whole idea behind firearm safety is not to grow complacent about the rules; a Navy SEAL and a food service specialist learn and exercise the same basic tenants of firearm safety because it serves as the foundation from which you can develop more advanced skills. Snipers still keep their fingers straight and off the trigger until they’re ready to fire for the same reason professional race car drivers wear helmets: Because no matter how good you are, everybody has a bad day.
But like… has this guy ever even seen a pistol before?
Of course, North Korean troops are regularly starving, are poorly equipped, and almost certainly receive sub-par training even by a third-world standard, so we shouldn’t be terribly surprised to see how uncomfortable and awkward its military leaders seem to be with pistols. In that case, it’s the photo op that might be the most confounding.
The P-47 Thunderbolt and the P-51 Mustang fought side-by-side with the Allies in World War II. They even divided the job of kicking Axis ass between them by the end of the war. The Mustang became known as an escort fighter, while the Thunderbolt took more of a role as a fighter-bomber.
That said, how would they have fared in a head-to-head fight? It might not be as fantastical as everyone thinks.
The Nazis captured several P-51s during World War II, usually by repairing planes that crash-landed. They also captured some P-47s. This means there was a chance (albeit small) that a P-47 and P-51 could have ended up fighting each other.
Each plane has its strengths and weaknesses, of course. The P-51 had long range (especially with drop tanks), and its six M2 .50-caliber machine guns could take down just about any opposing fighter.
In fact, the P-51 was credited with 4,950 air-to-air kills in the European theater alone. During the Korean War, the P-51 also proved to be a decent ground-attack plane.
That said, the secret to the P-51’s success, the Rolls Royce Merlin engine, was also, in a sense, the plane’s greatest weakness. The liquid-cooled engine was far more vulnerable to damage; furthermore the P-51 itself was also somewhat fragile.
By contrast, the P-47 Thunderbolt was known for being very tough. In one sense, it was the A-10 of World War II, being able to carry a good payload, take a lot of damage, and make it home (it even shares its name with the A-10 Thunderbolt II).
In one incident on June 26, 1943, a P-47 flown by Robert S. Johnson was hit by hundreds of rounds of German fire, and still returned home. The P-47 carried eight M2 .50-caliber machine guns, arguably the most powerful armament on an American single-engine fighter.
The “Jug” shot down over 3700 enemy aircraft during World War II, proving itself a capable dogfighter.
Which plane would come out on top in a dogfight? The P-51’s superior speed, range, and maneuverability might help in a dogfight, but the P-47 survived hits from weapons far more powerful than the M2 Browning — notably the 20mm and 30mm cannon on German fighters like the FW-190 or Me-109.
What is most likely to happen is that the P-51 would empty its guns into the P-47, but fail to score a fatal hit.
Worse, a mistake by the P-51 pilot would put it in the sights of the P-47’s guns, and the Mustang would likely be unable to survive that pounding.
All in all, we love ’em both, but we’d put money down on the Thunderbolt.