The United States has called on Russia to permit increased access to ex-Marine Paul Whelan, who is being held in Moscow on an espionage charge his supporters say is unfounded.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Andrea Kalan said on March 11, 2019, that officials would visit the 49-year-old “later this week.”
Whelan — who holds U.S., Irish, Canadian, and British citizenship — was arrested on Dec. 28, 2019, in Moscow and charged with spying. His pretrial detention runs until May 28, 2019.
“We urge the Russian government to provide consular officers unrestricted visits with Mr. Whelan, to include discussing his case freely and without obstruction from Russian authorities,” Kalan said in a statement on Twitter.
“We urge the Russian govt to allow Whelan to sign documentation that will allow his family to choose hire an attorney that best represents his interests,” she added.
Kalan said in February 2019 that the U.S. Embassy had been unable to release any information regarding the case because Russian authorities had not allowed Whelan to give a signed Privacy Act Waiver to the embassy.
If convicted, Whelan could face up to 20 years in prison. His family has said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.
Russian officials have not released details of the allegations against Whelan, who they assert was caught red-handed in an act of espionage.
Defense lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov has suggested his client was set up, saying he was handed a flash drive that he believed contained harmless personal material such as photographs but actually contained classified information.
Whelan, 49, was working as a global security director for a U.S. auto-parts manufacturer at the time of his arrest.
Relations between Russia and the United States have been strained over Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and its support for separatist militants in eastern Ukraine.
Whelan’s detainment came weeks after a Russian woman, Maria Butina, pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.
The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.
In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.
Zherebenkov has also said that his client is innocent and suggested that Russian officials may be trying to use him in an exchange for Butina.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has rejected that scenario.
Hollywood is really, really good at killing the bad guys. And even though they haven’t quite gotten to ISIS just yet, there is a trail of bloody, dismembered evil in the wake of action stars like Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, and everyone else who may have been considered for a part in The Expendables.
Despite Hot Shots! Part Deux and Charlie Sheen’s claim to the contrary, there is an undisputed number one deadliest action star in the annals of Hollywood military history. That title goes to the Terminator: Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Granted, this is before the Expendables 3 and the newest Rambo movie, but unless Rambo kills an entire Colombian drug cartel (which I admit, he might), the winner should still be pretty clear.
Randal Olson, a data scientist at Life Epigenetics, merges cutting edge epigenetics research with advanced machine learning methods to improve life expectancy predictions. He put data collected from MovieBodyCounts.com to put together data visualizations for the deadliest action heroes. At the top, was the star of Predator, Total Recall, and my personal favorite, True Lies.
Thank you, sir.
As of Olson’s 2013 writing, Arnold was at the top of the list with 369 kills. His highest single movie record came in Commando where in the final island scene alone, he managed to off 74 guys, mostly using firearms but featuring the best use of a toolshed. Hey, Alyssa Milano ain’t gonna rescue herself.
Of the 200 actors listed in the data, the top ten include Chow Yun-Fat in second, Sylvester Stallone in third, and then Dolph Lundgren (thanks, Punisher!), Clint Eastwood, Nic Cage, Jet Li, Clive Owen, and Wesley Snipes. In fourth place comes Tomisaburo Wakayama, who got 150 of his 266 onscreen kills in a single movie, 1974’s Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell.
The top 25 deadliest actors, visualized.
Olson notes that the deadliest woman onscreen is Uma Thurman, who has 77 kills because remember: the Crazy 88s only had 40 members.
The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria launched its third strike in as many weeks on pro-regime forces inside a deconfliction zone around al Tanf, near a border crossing in Syria’s southeast desert.
Two US officials told CNN that the June 8 strike came after three vehicles were seen entering the deconfliction zone, and two of the vehicles were hit when they were 24 miles from the base at al Tanf.
“The pro-regime UAV, similar in size to a US MQ-1 Predator, was shot down by a US aircraft after it dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by Coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS,” US Central Command said in a statement.
The “munition did not have an effect on coalition forces,” according to coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon.
US and other coalition personnel are at the al Tanf garrison, near the border crossing, to train local partner forces, who captured the area earlier this year. (US personnel and local partners repulsed an intense attack by ISIS soon after.)
The first such strike in the al Tanf area came on May 18, when coalition forces targeted pro-Assad forces “that were advancing well inside an established deconfliction zone” spreading 34 miles around al Tanf, US Central Command said in a release at the time.
The strike came after unsuccessful Russian efforts to stop the movements, a show of force by coalition aircraft, and warning shots.
Christopher Woody/Google Maps
Earlier this week, pro-regime and coalition aircraft both conducted strikes against opposition forces in the vicinity of al Tanf.
On Tuesday, Iranian-backed Shia militia fighters came under attack on the ground just inside the deconfliction zone boundary, according to CNN. In response to that attack, Washington and Moscow communicated on a deconfliction line set up previously. Russia shared a request from the Syrian government to launch a strike in support of the militia, to which the US agreed.
Hours later, pro-Assad forces were observed entering the deconfliction zone with vehicles and weaponry, including a tank and artillery, as well as over 60 fighters. The US then launched its own airstrike on those forces after they refused to withdraw from the area.
The coalition said it issued several warnings before “destroying two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaging a tank.”
The US-led strike, carried out by a F/A-18 fighter, dropped four bombs and “killed an estimated 10 fighters,” according to CNN.
June 8th’s engagements add to a string of encounters that could lead to greater conflict in Syria between the US-led coalition and its local partners and pro-regime forces and their backers, Iran and Russia.
“The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them,” CentCom said in its statement.
“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near Coalition and partner forces in southern Syria, however, continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces,” the statement said.
The strategic value of the al Tanf area — through which a highway connecting Damascus to Baghdad runs — as well as the direction of events elsewhere in Syria makes clashes between coalition forces and pro-regime forces a continuing possibility.
ISIS’ eroding control of territory in Syria, and the likelihood that Kurdish forces — who’ve signaled a willingness to negotiate with Assad for autonomy — will soon take control of the area around Raqqa in northeast Syria make territory in the southeast of the country increasingly valuable.
Recent events in Syria indicate that “the United States [is] seemingly looking to cement a north-south ‘Sunni axis’ from the Gulf states and Jordan to Turkey,” Fabrice Balanche, a French expert on Syria and a visiting fellow at The Washington institute for Near East Policy, wrote recently.
“The challenge is that Iran and its proxies would very much like to establish some sort of land bridge from Iraq into Syria and they have had designs on this for quite some time,” a former Pentagon official told The Christian Science Monitor.
Capturing al Tanf and the nearby border crossing would allow Tehran to link Iraq to the Mediterranean coast through Syria, facilitating the movement of men and material.
But doing so would also isolate coalition-backed forces fighting ISIS and their special-forces advisers.
Intelligence sources have told Reuters that the coalition’s presence near al Tanf is meant to prevent such a route from opening.
“Initially, the United States and the coalition had planned this unconventional warfare campaign to pressure the middle Euphrates River valley and cut off [ISIS communications lines],” the former Pentagon official said. “Now, ironically, it’s not just threatening [ISIS], it’s also threatening Iran’s designs for the area.”
Russia has also become involved in the confrontations around al Tanf.
Earlier this month, coalition-backed Syrian forces attacked Shia militias that had moved down the highway toward the Iraqi border. They forced the militias, which are backed by Iran, to retreat, but Russian jets soon launched strikes against the coalition-backed fighters, forcing them back as well.
Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shia militant group backed by Iran and heavily involved in the pro-regime fight in Syria, has entered the fray as well. The group’s military-news unit issued a statement this week warning that the “self-restraint” it had about US-led airstrikes would end if the US crossed “red lines.”
“America knows well that the blood of the sons of Syria, the Syrian Arab Army, and its allies is not cheap, and the capacity to strike their positions in Syria, and their surroundings, is available when circumstances will it,” the statement said.
Observers have noted that the Trump administration would likely be much less hesitant about attacking Hezbollah in Syria. Given the web of alliances that now ensnare forces in Syria, such attacks would likely have broader repercussions.
“American unwillingness to confront Iran and its proxies in Syria, if obliged by circumstances, is a thing of the past,” Frederic Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and a former State Department liaison to Syrian opposition forces, told The Christian Science Monitor.
“And Moscow would now have to anticipate with high likelihood aerial combat with US forces should it elect to provide tactical air support to Iran and its proxies on the ground,” Hof added.
“Our people are gathering in the Tanf area right now, so a clash is definitely coming,” a Hezbollah unit commander in Beirut, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Monitor.
Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached initial agreement on the biggest expansion of college aid for military veterans in a decade, removing a 15-year time limit to tap into benefits and boosting money for thousands in the National Guard and Reserve.
The deal being announced early July 13 is a sweeping effort to fill coverage gaps in the post-9/11 GI Bill amid a rapidly changing job market. Building on major legislation passed in 2008 that guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university — or the cash amount for private college students similar to the value of a scholarship at a state college — the bill gives veterans added flexibility to enroll in college later in life. Veterans would get additional payments if they complete science, technology, and engineering courses.
The Associated Press obtained details of the agreement in advance of a formal bill introduction July 13.
For a student attending a private university, the additional benefits to members of the Guard and Reserve could mean $2,300 a year more in tuition than they are receiving now, plus a bigger housing allowance.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R- Calif., praised the bill as a major effort to modernize the GI Bill, better positioning veterans for jobs after their service in a technologically sophisticated US military.
“It’s really about training the workforce in a post-9/11 GI Bill world,” he told The Associated Press. “Veterans are being locked out of a whole new economy.”
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, the bill’s lead sponsor, said he would schedule a committee vote next week. Pledging more VA reforms to come, McCarthy said the full House will act quickly, describing the bill as just the “first phase to get the whole VA system working again.”
“We’ll move it out this month,” McCarthy said.
Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said he would introduce a companion bill, while Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the panel’s senior Democrat, said he was “encouraged” by the bipartisan plan. Veterans’ issues have been one of the few areas on which Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have found some common ground, as they remain sharply divided on health care, tax reform, and other issues.
The education benefits would take effect for enlistees who begin using their GI Bill money next year.
Kristofer Goldsmith, 31, says he believes it would benefit many former service members who, like himself, aren’t ready to immediately enroll in college after military service. Goldsmith served in the US Army as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005, reaching the rank of sergeant, but returned home to constant nightmares and other PTSD symptoms. He was kicked out of the military with a general discharge after a suicide attempt, barring him from receiving GI benefits.
Now an assistant director for policy at Vietnam Veterans of America, Goldsmith advocates for veterans with PTSD and is appealing his discharge status. He’s heading to Columbia University in the fall.
“I feel extremely lucky I have found my passion in veterans’ advocacy,” Goldsmith said. “But I’ve taken out tens of thousands of dollars to go to school. GI benefits are something service members earn while they serve. They shouldn’t lose it just because they aren’t transitioning back the way the government wants.”
According to Student Veterans of America, only about half of the 200,000 service members who leave the military each year go on to enroll in a college, while surveys indicate that veterans often outperform peers in the classroom. The bill is backed by the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, which says hundreds of thousands of former service members stand to gain from the new array of benefits.
“This is going to be a big win,” said Patrick Murray, associate director at VFW.
The legislation combines 18 separate House bills, also providing full GI Bill eligibility to Purple Heart recipients. Previously, those individuals had to serve at least three years. The bill also would restore benefits if a college closed in the middle of the semester, a protection added when thousands of veterans were hurt by the collapse of for-profit college giant ITT Tech.
The bill hasn’t been free of controversy.
A draft plan circulated by Roe’s committee in April drew fire after it initially proposed paying for the $3 billion cost of upgraded benefits over 10 years by reducing service members’ monthly pay by $100 per month. Veterans’ groups sharply criticized that plan as an unfair “tax on troops,” noting that Army privates typically earn less than $1,500 per month.
“The GI Bill is a cost of war, and Congress needs to pay for it as long as we are at war,” said Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA’s founder and CEO.
The latest proposal would be paid for by bringing living stipend payments under the GI Bill down to a similar level as that received by an active-duty member, whose payments were reduced in 2014 by 1 percent a year for five years.
Total government spending on the GI Bill is expected to be more than $100 billion over 10 years.
Rep. Tim Walz, the senior Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee and a bill co-sponsor, praised the plan, saying it will “improve the lives of future generations of veterans … without asking our troops or American taxpayers to pay more.”
The commander of Air Combat Command and his son fought each other live on a Twitch stream in a combat flight action video game on June 29, 2019.
Gen. Mike Holmes pitted his skill with the F-15 against 1st Lt. Wade Holmes and his F-16 in this exhibition match designed to highlight the Air Force’s pilot community and to answer questions from viewers about military service.
While there was a fair share of air-to-air kills and crashes into the ground for both men, the younger Holmes was the clear winner of the video game version of life in the cockpit.
“This type of alternative interview format is a really great way to engage with our audience,” said Michelle Clougher, chief of the ACC Public Affairs command information division. “We’re always looking for a different way to tell the Air Force story, and these two rock-star pilots have a lot they can share.
“Ten years ago, we never would have thought to have our top fighter pilot play a video game while broadcasting it live to the whole world,” she continued. “But as our technologies evolve, so do we. We must communicate in a way that is meaningful and connects with people.”
US Air Force Gen. Mike Holmes and 1st Lt. Wade Holmes, his son, play a combat flight action video game, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, June 29, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Emerald Ralston)
Twitch is a live-streaming video service platform introduced in 2011. The service has grown to share video content with more than 15 million daily active users.
During the stream, the Holmeses discussed the Air Force’s current pilot shortage, and explained the importance of air battle managers and the communications from the E-3 AWACS. They also expressed their gratitude for all the service’s crew chiefs and answered various questions about their aircraft, while sharing stories from their careers.
The pilots gave advice for joining the Air Force and compared real flight versus this arcade simulation. And while the general has more than 4,000 hours in a real aircraft — many of those are combat hours — the lieutenant had the edge with this matchup.
One Twitch user even asked the lieutenant to take it easy on his “old man” toward the end of one match.
“I appreciate that,” General Holmes said with a laugh. “I’m going to feign an injury here in a moment.”
“Air Combat Command does not teach me to take pity on my adversary,” replied Lieutenant Holmes as he secured the win.
The stream lasted for approximately one hour, and it can be viewed below:
“Thanks for tuning in,” General Holmes said to wrap up the event. “We enjoyed having a chance to talk to you for a little bit. As the Air Force, we’re trying to reach out to people that could find a home in the Air Force. We hope you’ll consider finding a way to serve your country in some way.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If there is one comic book character who embodies the military veteran spirit, it has got to be Marvel’s Frank Castle, also known as The Punisher. While there have been several movie and television adaptations, the one that most faithfully portrays the Frank Castle we know from the comic books is Netflix’s The Punisher, starring Jon Bernthal.
Bernthal’s Castle first made an appearance in the second season of Daredevil, and his graveyard monologue solidified his role in the hearts of fans. The first season of his solo series was everything fans of the comics could have hoped for. The next season, which is to be released on January 18, is also highly anticipated, but a dark cloud looms: This may be the finale.
Don’t despair; the pieces are lining up to make this the greatest thing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet.
Deadpool can jokingly play with the PG-13 rating by breaking the fourth wall. The Punisher on the other hand…
(20th Century Fox)
In October, Netflix cancelled Iron Fist. Not even a week later, Luke Cage was also cancelled. A month after Daredevil’s season three premiered, it, too, was given the short end of the stick. Put two and two together and you can reasonably expect The Punisher and Jessica Jones to eventually get the ax as well, but not before their upcoming seasons are released in 2019.
Both Iron Fist and Luke Cage ended on bizarre cliffhangers. You can tell the cancellations probably came as a shock to the show-runners. Daredevil, on the other hand, had enough of a heads up to carefully and properly wrap up the story threads of each character. The Punisher — which wrapped filming in mid-August — hopefully had the same kind of foresight.
The current rumor is that each character will appear in later Marvel properties after the contractual two-year “cooling-off” period is over. If they do come over, they’ll be utilized in the already-established, PG-13 Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that’s great; it’d be amazing to see Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin face off against Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. We could even see Mike Colter’s Luke Cage join the New Avengers alongside Wolverine and Dr. Strange.
But those future appearances will adhere to PG-13 restrictions. If you saw Once Upon a Deadpool, the edited-down, more family-friendly version of Deadpool 2made entirely to keep the Regenerating Degenerate just the way he is in his R-rated films while remaining compliant with Disney, then you know there are creative ways to make this work.
But trying to fit The Punisher, a man known more for his penchant for violence than a tendency to break the fourth wall, into a PG-13 rating may not work quite as well.
There is a silver lining here. The series is afforded something rarely seen in television series: closure. Season 2 can go all out because there’s no season 3 for which to save some energy. They’re not going to get renewed. They can wrap up characters or kill off important ones to better fit the narrative.
We may even get the story that’s always been teased in the comics: his ending. Punisher fans know Castle won’t settle down in some suburban home, but can he keep living the life of a vigilante? He never really managed to keep an ever-growing rogue’s gallery of villains because he kills them all — just to have another secure a place on his sh*tlist. What happens when this well dries up? What is a Punisher without anyone left to punish?
Details about the next season are sparse. Ben Barnes is reprising his role as Billy Russo, who completed his transformation into the villain Jigsaw in Season 1, and Josh Stewart is playing John Pilgrim, who may end up being the villain from the PunisherMAX comic series, Mennonite.
Since the burden of a serialized third season is lifted, the show-runner, Steve Lightfoot, said in an interview that his focus was to make the best season possible and to keep characters true to their comic-book counterparts. And as a huge comic book fan and a veteran, that’s all I’m asking for.
The Army plans to issue a new World War II-style uniform starting the summer of 2020, as senior leaders look to sharpen the professional appearance of soldiers and inspire others to join them.
The Army Greens uniform, a version of the uniform once worn by the Greatest Generation, will now be worn by today’s generation as they lead the service into the future.
“As I go around and talk to soldiers… they’re very excited about it,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey. “They’re excited for the same reasons why we wanted to do this. This uniform is very much still in the minds of many Americans.”
The Army Service Uniform will revert to a dress uniform for more formal events, while the Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform will still be used as a duty uniform.
The Army does not plan to get rid of the ASU or have soldiers wear the Army Greens uniform in the motor pool, Dailey said Nov. 19, 2018, during a media roundtable at the Pentagon.
“The intent is to not replace the duty uniform,” he said. “You’re still going to have a time and place to wear the duty uniform every day.”
A pair of soldier demonstrators wear prototypes of the Army Greens uniform.
(US Army photo by Ron Lee)
Ultimately, it will be up to the unit commander what soldiers will wear.
“It’s going to be a commander’s call,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Potts, who is in charge of PEO Soldier, the lead developer of the uniform. “Each commander out there will have the opportunity to determine what the uniform is going to be.”
The Greens uniform, Potts said, will provide a better option to soldiers who work in an office or in public areas.
“What we found is that the ASU itself doesn’t really dress down well to a service uniform with a white shirt and stripes on the pants,” the general said Friday in a separate interview.
In the summer of 2020, fielding is expected to start with soldiers arriving to their first duty assignments. The uniform will also be available for soldiers to purchase at that time. The mandatory wear date for all soldiers is set for 2028.
The new uniform will be cost-neutral for enlisted soldiers, who will be able to purchase it with their clothing allowance.
Before any of that, the Greens uniform will begin a limited user evaluation within 90 days to help finalize the design of the uniform.
The first uniforms will go out to about 200 soldiers, mainly recruiters, who interact with the public on a daily basis.
“Every time you design a new uniform, the devil is in the details,” Potts said.
PEO Soldier teams will then go out and conduct surveys and analysis with those wearing the uniform.
“What that does is that helps us fix or correct any of the design patterns that need to be corrected,” he said, “or any potential quality problems you might see with some of the first runs of new materials.”
PEO Soldier worked with design teams at the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center to modernize the WWII-era uniform. Some of the updates make the uniform more durable and comfortable, he said.
“There will be differences,” Potts said. “Differences in materials, slight differences in design, but keeping the authentic feel of that time period and that original uniform.”
The Army Uniform Board, part of the Army G-4 office, also sought and addressed feedback from the service’s first all-female uniform board.
One approved change the female board recommended was the slacks and low-quarter dress shoes instead of the skirt and pumps for female soldiers.
“It was a more comfortable uniform for them during the day,” Potts said of what he had heard from female demonstrators who have worn the uniform. “And they really felt like it was a very sharp uniform that they were proud to wear.”
While the uniform is issued with an all-weather coat, there will be optional jackets for soldiers to purchase and wear.
An Eisenhower or “Ike” waist-length jacket will be available as well as a green-colored tanker jacket and a leather bomber jacket.
Options for headgear will include the garrison cap and the beret, both of which will be issued. Soldiers will also have the option to purchase a service cap.
For soldiers who do wear the uniform, they will help honor those who came before them.
“This nation came together during World War II and fought and won a great war,” Dailey said. “And that’s what the secretary and the chief want to do, is capitalize on that Greatest Generation, because there’s another great generation that is serving today and that’s the soldiers who serve in the United States Army.”
The Justice Department on Thursday indicted two alleged Russian hackers who work for a Russian-backed cybercriminal group called Evil Corp.
Maksim Yakubets is accused of being involved in international computer hacking and bank fraud schemes spanning from May 2009 to the present. He is also alleged to have ties to Russian intelligence.
Igor Turashev was indicted for his alleged role in the “Bugat” malware conspiracy. According to the FBI, Bugat is a “multifunction malware package that automates the theft of confidential personal and financial information … from infected computers through the use of keystroke logging and web injects.”
The State Department, in conjunction with the FBI, offered a reward of up to million for information on both men’s whereabouts. That figure is the highest reward for the arrest and conviction of an alleged cybercriminal to date.
The Treasury Department also sanctioned Evil Corp. on Thursday for its role in using malware to steal more than 0 million from banks and financial institutions.
Russian hacking group “Evil Corp” accused of targeting American businesses
“Maksim Yakubets allegedly has engaged in a decade-long cybercrime spree that deployed two of the most damaging pieces of financial malware ever used and resulted in tens of millions of dollars of losses to victims worldwide,” Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said in a press release.
“For over a decade, Maksim Yakubets and Igor Turashev led one of the most sophisticated transnational cybercrime syndicates in the world,” said US Attorney Scott Brady, who represents the Western District of Pennsylvania, which was particularly hard hit by the Bugat malware.
(Photo by Philipp Katzenberger)
A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh brought a 10-count indictment against Yakubets and Turashev. The document charged the two Russians with conspiracy, computer hacking, bank fraud, and wire fraud in connection with Bugat.
The indictment also accused Yakubets and Turashev of using individuals, known as “money mules,” to take their stolen funds and smuggle them overseas.
Ultimately, the indictment said, the two defendants were able to steal “millions of dollars” and the scheme was active as recently as March of this year.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As China banned all mention of Kim Jong Un on its internet during his secretive visit, people on the internet dodged the ban by calling him “fatty on the train” instead.
The North Korean leader made an “unofficial visit” to Beijing late March 2018, China finally announced on March 28, 2018. But while the visit was in progress, nobody would say what was going on, despite huge speculation and the fairly obvious signal of Kim’s personal armored train pitching up in the city.
In an attempt to keep the visit under wraps, China censored the characters for “Kim Jong Un” and “North Korea” from its internet — as well as longstanding nicknames for the North Korean leader, such as “Fatty Fatty.”
To circumvent the ban, some Chinese people picked other unflattering nicknames, like “fatty on the train” and “the obese patient,” Reuters reported. Others used more diplomatic terms, like “the visitor from the northeast” and “the sibling next door.”
The Chinese term they used for “fatty on the train” is pronounced “pang zuo huoche” in Mandarin.
Since the visit ended, references to Kim and North Korea have reappeared on China’s internet.
On March 27, 2018, four of the top 10 blocked terms on the microblogging site Weibo were “Kim Jong Un,” “Fatty the Third,” “North Korea,” and “Fatty Kim the Third,” according to FreeWeibo, a site that tracks censorship on the platform. (The “third” refers to the fact that Kim’s father and grandfather, also surnamed Kim, were also North Korean supreme leaders.)
Last night the Commander-in-chief addressed the nation to lay out the latest iteration of his plan to fight ISIS (aka Daesh, a name the terrorist group hates) in Iraq and Syria. The speech came at a critical time as the fight requires a legal vote from Congress to continue funding the military response in the region. Until now, the President used the 2001 and 2003 resolutions Congress passed to allow for military action in Iraq and Afghanistan against Daesh, maintaining the terrorist group is an offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
In effect, the President is asking for a declaration of war but without the powers and privileges a formal declaration of war from Congress would give the Executive office. An authorization of military force gives the President the power and funds to use the military as he sees fit, but does not automatically trigger a constitutional set of domestic laws that he might need in an all-out war. Those laws include giving him the power to take over businesses and transportation systems, detain foreign nationals, conduct warrantless domestic spying, and the power to use natural resources on public lands. The last time a declaration of war from Congress gave the President these powers was at the outset of World War II.
The President’s 13-minute speech was, in effect, an request to Congress to vote on an authorization of military force. Obama said the following:
“For seven years, I have confronted this evolving threat each morning in my intelligence briefing. And since the day I took this office, I have authorized U.S. forces to take out terrorists abroad precisely because I know how real the danger is. As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people.”
He laid out four points in his current plan to combat the terrorists at home and abroad:
Hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where necessary.
Provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIS on the ground to remove safe havens
Work with allies to stop ISIS operations, to disrupt plots, cut off financing, and prevent recruiting
Lead the international community to establish a process for ceasefires and a political resolution to the Syrian Civil War
His request to Congress on expanding the fight in the United States not only includes passing an authorization for use of military force (AUMF) but means to combat those who are already radicalized in the United States or are on their way to the U.S.:
Vote to authorize the continued use of military force against the terrorist organization
Ensure no one on a No-Fly List is able to buy guns or assault weapons
Place stronger screenings for travelers to the U.S. without visas if they’ve been to war zones
On top of his call to Congress, the President, as Commander-in-chief, laid out the roles of the American civilian in the fight against terrorist extremists.
Avoid a costly ground war
Reject anti-Islamic sentiment
Help American Muslim communities root out extremist ideology
“Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes — and, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country.” – President Barack Obama
The three points enumerated by the President are points many experts agree is part of the terrorist organization’s strategy to draw the West into un-winnable ground wars in the Middle East while gaining followers and recruits, disillusioned by the West’s potential knee-jerk anti-Islamic responses to Daesh terrorism.
While the President’s actions against ISIS have so far been acceptable to Congress, even without an authorization for use military force (AUMF), a formal AUMF would require details and specifics which would telegraph the U.S.’ plans to the enemy
Politics: The Presidential race is wide open and neither side wants to give that kind of power to a potential political rival
A new AUMF is not necessary. The Obama Administration has been acting on previous authorizations and the Bush Administration established a precedent of engaging abroad as matters of “imminent national security.”
Congress’ disregard for a new AUMF suggests that no one wants to rock the boat for fear of giving too much power to the other political party, and there’s no political pressure to change the course of action for the time being.
Sure to be fodder for conspiracy theorists, the files all relate to Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. Following his murder, more than 30,000 government documents — totaling millions of pages — have been incrementally released to the public, although many of them have been redacted or only partially released.
Much of the public stayed in the dark about the presence of these files until Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK,” in which a closing statement told the public about the secret documents. Movie-goers quickly turned into letter-writers, as concerned citizens began demanding that Washington make the full set of files available.
The index does, however, present eyebrow-raising file names that seem to implicate a connection between the Assassination Records Review Board and the CIA. One such batch of files is listed with the subject line “CIA CORRESPONDENCE RE ARRB,” Politico reported.
Drone-controlled boats filled with explosives were reportedly used in at least one attempted attack on Saudi Arabia in early October 2018.
Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen, claimed that the A Royal Saudi Naval Forces frigate Al Madinah-class 702 intercepted two boats laden with explosives traveling toward the major port of Jazan, located directly north of the country’s border with Yemen.
He warned that coalition forces “will strike with iron fist all those involved in acts of terrorism.”
“Those hostile acts will not go by without holding the ones executing, plotting and planning them accountable for their actions.”
On Oct. 2, 2018, Saudi border guards said they rescued a Saudi fishing boat that came under fire from unknown attackers while in Gulf waters, according to Al Arabiya. Border guards said that three fishermen on board were being treated for injuries, and an investigation into the origin of attack was underway.
Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the Arab coalition in Yemen.
Over the last year, regional forces reportedly intercepted several drone boat attacks.