Russia may be abandoning the world's worst dictator in Venezuela - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

Nicolas Maduro is the world’s worst dictator in the world’s worst dictatorship. To be clear, he’s not the worst in that he’s particularly repressive to his citizens or running concentration camps. He’s the worst in terms of how he came to power and how he holds on to it. He rose in power thanks to Hugo Chavez’ cult of personality while he and his party managed the rapid decline of what was one of South America’s most vibrant economies.

For a while, it looked like the Kremlin might have been propping up his regime, but now it looks like Moscow might be abandoning him.


Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power solely because the street thugs – colectivos – and military generals who protect him have more to lose than he does if they lose control of Venezuela. For the Russians, their biggest gain in propping up Maduro is annoying the United States in its own backyard. Unfortunately for Maduro, Russian support may be all he has left, and he may be losing that.

In March 2019, Russia sent military planes, materiel, and advisors to Venezuela, confidently showing the world the Kremlin had Maduro’s back and that any intervention in Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis would be met with Russian interference as well. But the Venezuelan President’s luck might be running out.

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

Don’t give anyone any ideas.

On June 2, 2019, Russia withdrew its contractors and defense advisors in the country and the private Russian firm paid by Venezuela to train its military just cut its Russian staff by half. This latest development may be showing that the millions the Maduro regime owes the Russians may not be enough for Russia to keep Maduro’s government from collapsing on itself. The biggest reason for the pullout, according to the Wall Street Journal, is that Maduro can’t actually pay the Russians anymore.

American sanctions against Venezuela and the long-term decline of the country’s oil production infrastructure has led to a huge decline in the country’s coffers. The United States and Russia showcase Venezuela’s struggle in their own struggle for worldwide supremacy. But even so, it may not be enough for the Russians to keep Maduro’s barely-functional regime afloat.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA needs astronauts. Do you have what it takes for outer space?

Do some people call you a Space Cowboy? Or do they call you a Gangster of Love?

Well, if they do, have we got the job for you!


NASA recently announced that it is accepting candidates for its next astronaut class. The goal is to have humans on the Moon by 2024 with the next step of setting foot on Mars by the mid-2030s.

Dubbed the Artemis Generation, this new class of space cadets will make up the core of what should be the most historic period of space exploration since the Apollo Program.

“America is closer than any other time in history since the Apollo program to returning astronauts to the Moon. We will send the first woman and next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and we need more astronauts to follow suit on the Moon, and then Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We’re looking for talented men and women from diverse backgrounds and every walk of life to join us in this new era of human exploration that begins with the Artemis program to the Moon. If you have always dreamed of being an astronaut, apply now.”

The last time NASA took applications, over 18,000 people applied for what would end up being 11 spots.

The odds are against you right?

Probably! (Successfully applying through USAJobs is the first difficult hurdle. View the job here.)
Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

Education

You may be a genius when it comes to knowing everything during comment wars on Facebook, but to be an astronaut, you have to be educated in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. (the University of Hard Knocks doesn’t count sorry) plus at least three years of proficiency in your field. Advanced degrees go a long way.

If you want to be a pilot (the new Orion might be the new transport for Americans), you must have over 1,000 hours of command pilot experience under your belt.

The physical 

People usually focus on the science and education portion of being an astronaut without realizing that physical fitness is a major part of being accepted. Astronauts used to be only military men, but with the expansion of applicants into the civilian side, NASA makes sure that everyone that makes it into the interview stage (by this time down to 120 from 18,000) can pass a strenuous physical and medical exam.

It will probably be a bit more complicated than this.

www.youtube.com

The pay

As a civilian, you get paid GS11 to GS14 wages. If you are in the military still, you will get your typical military pay based on your rank and time in service.

Training

If you made it past the initial selection, interviews and physical and medical exams, then you have to go through nearly two years of Astronaut training. What does that entail?

Here are some of the things you will have to learn and show proficiency in:

Candidates must complete military water survival and become SCUBA qualified to prepare them for spacewalk training. Astronaut Candidates must pass a swimming test in their first month of training. They must swim three lengths of a 25-meter pool without stopping, and then swim three lengths of the pool in a flight suit and sneakers. They also have to tread water for 10 minutes wearing a flight suit.

Candidates are exposed to problems associated with high (hyperbaric) and low (hypobaric) atmospheric pressures in the altitude chambers and learn to deal with emergencies associated with these conditions.

Additionally, candidates are given exposure to space flight during training in modified jet aircraft (the Vomit Comet) as it performs maneuvers that produce weightlessness for about 20 seconds. This sequence is repeated up to 40 times in a day.

Finally, Astronaut Candidate Program will require successful completion of the following:

  • International Space Station systems training
  • Extravehicular Activity skills training
  • Robotics skills training
  • Russian Language training (We beat the Ruskies to the Moon but now have to ask them for a ride…. Until the Orion is ready)
  • Aircraft flight readiness training

Easy right?

If you think you have what it takes, go to USAJobs and apply!

The deadline is March 31.

Articles

US fires warning shots at Iranian boats after another very close encounter

A US patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian boat in the Persian Gulf July 25 after it came startlingly close to to the vessel.


The USS Thunderbolt, a Cyclone class patrol ship, was forced to fire warning shots from its .50 caliber machine gun after the Iranian boat closed to 150 yards, ignoring radio calls and warning flares along the way, according to Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson.

The Thunderbolt fired five short bursts into the water due to concerns that there may be a collision, according to a CNN report. The ship ceased its actions but stayed in the area for several hours.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces are believed to have operated the vessel. The IRGC is Iran’s paramilitary wing that is known to have close ties to the country’s extremist, conservative theocratic leadership. It is primarily responsible for Iran’s operation in the Persian Gulf area and is known to act with hostility toward US forces.

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
Navy of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution commandos and missile boats in the Strait of Hormuz. Wikimedia Commons photo by Sayyed Shahab-o-din Vajedi

Encounters with Iranian vessels have become commonplace for US forces patrolling in the Persian Gulf.

“Unfortunately, par for the course with Iran,” said Michael Singh, former senior director at the National Security Council and current managing director at the Washington Institute, in a tweet July 25.

Similar close encounters with Iranian vessels have taken an upswing in recent months, but the July 25 confrontation was one of the closer calls.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines in Afghanistan will get Reaper drone support

General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems has received a $39.6 million contract to provide MQ-9 Reapers to a Marine advisory unit in Afghanistan for air overwatch and reconnaissance, according to Pentagon announcements.

The Reapers, the first Group 5 unmanned aerial systems to be assigned exclusively to a Marine unit, may arrive in theater very soon, documents show. Group 5 is the largest class of UAS and includes platforms such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-4C Triton.


According to the contract announcement, General Atomics contractors, not Marines, will operate the systems in Afghanistan. The award was first reported June 27, 2018, by The Drive.

While Task Force Southwest, a small contingent of several hundred Marines on the ground in Helmand Province, Afghanistan is primarily charged with providing advice and assistance to Afghan National Security Forces in their fight with local Taliban elements, a significant portion of the unit’s work involves coordinating strikes on enemy targets using UAS.

When Military.com visited the unit in December 2017 and toured its operations center, Marines coordinated three deadly strikes in a single morning, using small ScanEagle drones to identify targets and Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons to drop ordnance to take them out.

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
F-16 Fighting Falcon

“This is what we do on a daily basis, is provide overwatch,” Capt. Brian Hubert, battle captain for Task Force Southwest, told Military.com at the time. “And then also, there’s a little bit of advising, because we will call them and say, ‘Hey, think about doing this, or we see you doing this, that looks good, you should go here.’ We’re trying to get them to the point where eventually, with their Afghan Air Force, they can do all themselves.”

Having Reapers, which can fly at top speeds of 300 miles per hour and can carry more than 3,700 pounds of ordnance, including Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II bombs and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, would allow the Marine task force to operate more independently rather than depending on other units for deadly force from the air.

“Task Force Southwest currently uses Group 5 [Unmanned Aerial Systems] extensively when they are provided from available assets in theater,” Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, commander of the task force, told Military.com in January 2018. “An organic Group 5 UAS capability will give us more capacity to assist our Afghan partners as they conduct continuous offensive operations against the enemy in Helmand province.”

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

As an additional benefit, having the Reapers available may help the Marines prepare to receive and operate their own Group 5 drone, the MUX, which is now in the requirements phase.

That system, which will be designed to take off vertically from a ship and provide surveillance and network capabilities from the air, is planned to reach initial operational capability around 2027.

The contract award notice for the Reapers does not specify when the systems will arrive in Afghanistan. Earlier solicitations called for the capability by March 2018. But all work on the contract is set to be completed by November 2018, the announcement states.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis warns he will not accept the USAF’s flawed new tankers

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Pentagon acquisition officials in November that he is “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers from Boeing, which is leading the effort to replace the aging KC-135 tanker aircraft, according to Bloomberg.


Mattis has had limited involvement in the Pentagon’s weapons programs, but he is the latest defense chief to comment on the 16-year-long effort to replace the Air Force’s tanker.

Boeing won a contract to develop the new tanker in 2011, and the Air Force expects to buy 179 KC-46s. But the $44.5 billion program has been plagued by technical problems and cost overruns.

Under the contract signed with the government, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment. So far, the defense contractor has eaten about $2.9 billion in pretax costs.

The KC-46 program has been stymied by delays for years.

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter receives a tour of a Boeing KC-46 at at the Boeing facilities in Seattle, March 3, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Tim D. Godbee)

In summer 2014, Boeing was hit with nearly a half-billion dollars in overruns related to wiring problems in the first program’s first four airplanes. The test version, the 767-2C, which was not outfitted with any refueling systems, was supposed to take its first flight in June 2014, but missed that date, taking the air for the first time during the final days of that year.

In mid-2015, issues with the plane’s fueling system added another half-billion-dollar accounting charge for Boeing.

Also Read: This Air Force plane will be over 100 when it flies to the boneyard

In the middle of 2016, it was announced that Boeing would miss its contractual deadline to deliver 18 of the KC-46 tankers to the Air Force by August 2017 due to numerous technical issues. Though the tanker was able to refuel F-16 fighter aircraft at that point, a major issue was refueling the Air Force’s huge C-17 cargo plane, which put “higher than expected” pressure on the aerial boom extended by the tanker to distribute fuel.

A technical solution to the boom issue was developed over the following months, but another major problem — this time a “category one” deficiency — arose during testing in late 2016, when the refueling boom was found to have scraped the surface of the aircraft taking on fuel.

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
(Concept image from Boeing)

Though the damage was minor, the problem not only posed a threat to the aircrews involved but also risked compromising the low-observable coating on stealth aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. A KC-46 with a refueling boom contaminated by stealth coating may also have to be grounded. The Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition, Ellen Lord, said the issue was still under investigation as of November.

Two other “category one” deficiencies — considered less serious — were also found at that time, but the Air Force has said progress has been made on both.

Boeing’s president and CEO of defense and security said on December 2 that the company will miss a self-imposed deadline to give the Air Force the first KC-46 tanker by the end of 2017.

The firm is contractually required to deliver 18 certified KC-46s and nine refueling pods by October 2018.

Despite issues, the KC-46 has been praised by Department of Defense officials and the Government Accountability Office.

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
A KC-135, which is slated to be replaced by the Boeing KC-46… eventually. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht)

Mattis himself in recent days has complimented Boeing’s cooperation with the Pentagon.

“I reinforced that the Air Force was not going to accept tankers that weren’t completely compliant with the contract,” Mattis said of his note during a press briefing en route to Kuwait on Dec. 3, according to Bloomberg. Boeing has been “excellent,” Mattis said, adding that there hadn’t been any “pushback” from the contractor

“The Air Force needs tankers done right. The American taxpayer expects tankers done right, and Boeing is committed to tankers that are done right,” Mattis told reporters. “We’ll get there. It’ll be the best tanker in the world.”

Articles

These are the 9 general officers who have earned five stars

Even though the five-star general rank essentially died in 1981 with Omar Bradley, the idea of a five-star general rising above all others to command so much of the American and allied militaries is remarkably heroic.


The five-star general officer was born in WWII because American generals and admirals were often placed above allied officers of a higher rank. Someone elevated to that position could never retire and was considered an active-duty officer for the rest of their life.

That’s a lot of trust. The list of the 9 officers we deemed worthy of the honor rightly reads like a “who’s who” of U.S. military history.

1. Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
How many WWII-era Admirals were issued that hat?

Leahy was the first officer to make the rank. He was the senior officer in the U.S. Navy and the senior-most officer in the U.S. military. He retired in 1939 but was recalled to active duty as the Chief of Staff to President Roosevelt and then Truman until 1949. During the latter years of his career, he reported only to the President.

2. General of the Army George Marshall

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
Gen. Marshall looks like he’s already sick of your shit.

George Marshall was a major planner of the U.S. Army’s training for World War I and one of Gen. John J. Pershing’s aides-de-camp. He would need those planning skills when World War II broke out, as he oversaw the expansion of the U.S. Armed Forces and the coordination of U.S. efforts in the European Theater. After the war it was Marshall who helped rebuild Western Europe with an economic plan that came to be named after the man himself.

3. Fleet Admiral Ernest King

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King was the Commander in Chief of U.S. Naval Forces (the U.S. now only uses the term “Commander-In-Chief” to refer to the President) and the Chief of Naval Operations. Though he never commanded a ship or fleet during a war, as the Navy representative of the Joint Chiefs, he helped plan and coordinate Naval Operations during WWII.

4. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

MacArthur graduated from West Point in 1903, fought in the occupation of Veracruz, World War I, and resisted the Japanese invasion of the Philippines for six months during WWII. MacArthur, despite having to retreat to Australia, oversaw the defeat of the Japanese in the Pacific and accepted their surrender less than four years later.

He would also orchestrate the occupation and rehabilitation of Japan, and the American counterattack during the early months of the Korean War.

5. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
Even though he looks sad, Chester Nimitz will f***ing kill you.

Nimitz was the Navy’s leading authority on submarine warfare at the outbreak of World War II.  He would rise to be Commander-in-Chief of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet and eventually take control of all U.S. forces in the Pacific Theater. He served the Navy on Active Duty in an unofficial capacity until his death in 1966.

6. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
“Hitler! Macho Man Dwight Eisenhower coming for youuuuuu OHHHHH YEAHHHHHHH.”

Ike never saw combat as a soldier, but his planning skills were essential as Supreme Allied Commander of all allied expeditionary forces in Europe during World War II. He planned and executed the invasion of North Africa in 1943, and of course the D-Day invasion of France in 1944. After the war, Eisenhower was the first Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and was elected President in 1952.

7. General of the Army and Air Force Henry H. Arnold

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

“Hap” Arnold is the only officer ever to hold two five-star ranks in multiple branches and is the only person to ever to be General of the Air Force.

Before WWII, Arnold was the Chief of the Air Corps and became commander of the U.S. Army Air Forces when war broke out. He was one of the first military pilots ever, being trained by the freaking Wright Brothers themselves.

If Billy Mitchell is the Father of the Air Force, Hap Arnold helped raise it — he took a small organization and turned it into the world’s largest and most powerful air force during the WWII years.

8. Fleet Admiral William Halsey, Jr.

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
That is one salty sailor.

“Bull” Halsey started World War II harassing Japanese fleet movements in the Pacific in his flagship, the Enterprise. He was later made commander of all U.S. forces in the South Pacific and commander of the Navy’s third fleet. Halsey earned his status after the war ended but took the Navy on a goodwill cruise of friendly countries

9. General of the Army Omar Bradley

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

As mentioned, Omar Bradley was the last surviving five-star general, dying in 1981. He fought alongside the U.S. Army’s greatest all under the command of Dwight Eisenhower. He excelled during the D-Day landings and subsequent European campaigns. He eventually commanded 1.3 million fighting men as they invaded fortress Europe — the largest assembly of U.S. troops under a single commander.

* General of the Armies of the United States John J. Pershing

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Pershing was promoted to this rank and title in 1919, though no official rank insignia existed at the time. It was made by Congress to recognize his role in the American entry into World War I in Europe.

* Admiral of the Navy George Dewey

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Dewey received the title “Admiral of the Navy” by act of Congress in 1903. Admiral Dewey’s service during the Spanish-American War made him a national hero and celebrity.

* General of the Armies of the United States George Washington

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

President Gerald Ford promoted Washington to this rank and title — essentially a six-star general — in 1976 to always ensure Washington would be the senior-most officer of any group.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The day golf filmmaker Erik Anders Lang bonded with wounded vets

He’s a golfer, a filmmaker, a podcaster, and he has no problem swearing (which makes him cool in my book). There are worse people to hit 18 holes with.

When he set out to play at Rob Riggle’s InVETational Golf Classic, he was in for a different type of game. This one had a little more meaning as his team consisted of a couple of wounded warriors from Semper Fi Fund, a charity dedicated to supporting critically ill and catastrophically wounded service members and their families.


Playing Golf w Inspiring Vets at Rob Riggle’s InVETational

Playing Golf w Inspiring Vets at Rob Riggle’s InVETational

Lang’s teammates included 1st Sgt. Michael Barrett (U.S. Marines) and Sgt. Saul Martinez (U.S. Army Retired) — and they were cracking jokes before the first shot of the day. After the opening ceremony, hosted by U.S. Marine Rob Riggle himself, they were off, meeting up with 4-time long drive champion Frank Miller, sharing some wisdom, and, sadly, not winning a trip to Pebble Beach. But they were not winning in style.

I was there that day, and I have to say, it was refreshing to watch Lang’s experience of the event. I was working for We Are The Mighty, capturing footage, sharing the event on social media, and acting as MC for the awards ceremony in the evening.

In other words, I was working, so I didn’t get to see what it was like for everyone who came out to support Semper Fi Fund.

Lang’s video showed that the InVETational did exactly what we’d hoped it would do: raise money for a great cause, get people out of the house and into their bodies, and cross that military-civilian divide.

 

Lang’s dedication was more proof that Riggle’s tournament was a success: “This video is dedicated to those who have served. Please take a moment to experience the feeling of gratitude towards the men and women that have served in your country, whatever country that may be. No matter our differences, political, societal, or geographical, we all have golf.”

Check out the video to see these vets describe what golf means to them, especially after their injuries, and keep an eye out for the 2019 InVETational because it just keeps getting better.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 45 years, Green Beret faces his past in Vietnam — part ten

Any time in life that you do something, you tend to forget the bad and remember the good. I remembered the good. I wasn’t sure I wanted to remember the bad.

For a long time, I talked to a bunch of my peers in the Special Forces community that had made the trip back to Vietnam. They wanted to go back and see what it, see what it was like for whatever reason. Everybody has a personal reason that they want to do it.

I never found a reason because I’ve always had this whole thing in my mind, when I have a traumatic situation – I’ve got a box I put it in my head and I just put it away. After a while, I decided that it was probably time to take some of those back out, and so I said yes going back to Vietnam.


Surprisingly to me, it provided closure to a circle that I didn’t know was open. It was an interesting experience. It was a cathartic experience. It was an experience that closed that loop for me that had been open because I chose not to close it before.

I didn’t know that I needed to do that.

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela
Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

I’ve been back to Vietnam and I would recommend to anyone who has ever been there in a combat role, go back and look at it. Don’t be afraid of your past. Address it and deal with it.

Make your experience count.

Richard Rice
5th Special Forces Group
US Army 1966-94
Senior Advisor, GORUCK

Follow Richard Rice’s 10-part journey:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Trevor Noah, John Oliver dive into missing leader’s ‘silly-dictator antics’

Before his sudden reemergence at the Caspian Economic Forum, speculation had recently been swirling in Turkmenistan after the country’s strongman president disappeared from public view for more than a month.

Considering that Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov regularly dominates the airwaves in the tightly controlled state, his abrupt absence did not go unnoticed, prompting speculation that he was in poor health or even dead.

This obviously posed a problem for the Turkmen authorities, who have spent years cultivating an elaborate cult of personality aimed at boosting the totalitarian leader’s power and prestige.
Turkmenistan’s Singer, Race-car Driver, Jockey, Autocrat

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When ubiquitous dictators suddenly evaporate into thin air, it can have a destabilizing effect on their regimes.

Perhaps hoping to avoid the crippling uncertainty that gripped the Soviet Union immediately following the demise of Stalin or the rampant rumors that accompanied the long-drawn-out announcement of Islam Karimov’s death in neighboring Uzbekistan in 2016, the Turkmen authorities went into overdrive to assure the populace, and the world at large, that their glorious leader was alive and well.

This all culminated in state TV broadcasting an Aug. 4, 2019 highlights package showing a 35-minute montage of clips of what Turkmenistan’s all-singing, all-dancing president had been doing on his “holidays,” including riding a bicycle, firing an automatic weapon in combat gear, bowling with astonishing accuracy, riding a horse, working on a new book, composing a new song, and driving an SUV through the desert to the Gates of Hell — a perpetually burning crater that resulted from a Soviet attempt to flare gas there in the early 1970s.

Watan Habarlary 04.08.2019

www.youtube.com

Not surprisingly, such blatant silly-dictator antics have been gleefully seized upon by many detractors, including the U.S.-based satirists Trevor Noah and John Oliver.

Turkmenistan’s Leader Wants Everyone to Know He’s Alive | The Daily Show

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In a five-minute segment on The Daily Show, Noah used the opportunity to reprise some of the video “highlights” of Berdymukhammedov’s bizarre reign, including the South African comedian’s own personal favorite, which shows the Turkmen leader rocking out with his grandson.

Президент Туркменистана спел по-немецки

www.youtube.com

Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver went even further, devoting a full 20-minute segment to documenting the sheer “weirdness” of the Berdymukhammedov regime.

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

www.youtube.com

Among other things, Oliver took great delight in dissecting the Turkmen president’s fascination with horses, which RFE/RL has also covered in the past.

The British-born comic paid particular attention to the time when Berdymukhammedov had an embarrassing fall while riding a beloved steed, a story that the Turkmen authorities did their best to try and bury.

Turkmen president falls during horse race

www.youtube.com

Besides mining the subject for laughs, however, both also made sure to draw attention to the dark side of life in Turkmenistan, particularly its abysmal human rights record.

According to its latest World Report, Human Rights Watch singled out the country for particular criticism, calling it “one of the world’s most isolated and oppressively governed” states, where “all forms of religious and political expression not approved by the government are brutally punished.”

With this in mind, Oliver also took the time to take a swipe at Guinness World Records for actually sending verifiers to validate what he described as Berdymukhammedov’s “bizarre obsession” with setting global firsts (something he shares with some Central Asian counterparts).

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

John Oliver repeatedly cited RFE/RL reporting in his Berdymukhammedov segment.

(Last Week Tonight/YouTube)

In Oliver’s view, enabling Berdymukhammedov to register such Turkmen records as having “the most buildings with marble cladding” or the “world’s largest indoor Ferris wheel” only serves to “reinforce a cult of personality and confer a sense of legitimacy on a global stage.”

Typically, Oliver was to have one last laugh at the Turkmen leader’s expense, however.

Taking a leaf out of Berdymukhammedov’s book, the Last Week Tonight ended the show by attempting to break another record, making what Oliver described as the “world’s largest marbled cake” — a 55-square-meter confectionery decorated with a huge picture of the Turkmen president infamously falling off his horse.

It’s probably safe to assume that this is probably not a record achievement Turkmen state TV is going to be trumpeting anytime soon.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy is struggling to stop Chinese theft of military secrets

US Navy defense contractors and subcontractors have reportedly suffered “more than a handful” of disconcerting security breaches at the hands of Chinese hackers over the past year and a half.

“Attacks on our networks are not new, but attempts to steal critical information are increasing in both severity and sophistication,” Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said in an internal memo in October 2018, The Wall Street Journal, which reviewed the memo, reported Dec. 14, 2018.


“We must act decisively to fully understand both the nature of these attacks and how to prevent further loss of vital military information,” he added.

Although the secretary did not mention China specifically, evidence indicates that Beijing is responsible for what is considered a debilitating cyber campaign against the US.

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer.

In 2018, Chinese government hackers stole important data on US Navy undersea-warfare programs from an unidentified contractor. Among the stolen information were plans for a new supersonic anti-ship missile, The Washington Post, citing US officials, reported in June 2018.

China has been striving to boost its naval warfighting capabilities, and there is evidence that it is relying on stolen technology to do so.

And it’s not just the US Navy. Adm. Philip Davidson, the head of US Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2018 that Beijing is “stealing technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage.”

China is believed to have been behind multiple cybersecurity breaches that facilitated the theft of significant amounts of data on the F-22 and the F-35, among other aircraft. That information is suspected to have played a role in the development of China’s new fifth-generation stealth fighters.

Beijing denies that it engages in any form of cyberespionage.

A senior US intelligence official warned Dec. 11, 2018, that concerning Chinese cyberactivity in the US is clearly on the rise, and there is evidence that China is targeting critical infrastructure to lay the groundwork for disruptive attacks, Reuters reported.

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National Security Agency official Rob Joyce, a former White House cyber advisor for President Donald Trump.

(USENIX Enigma Conference)

And US officials say Chinese state hackers are responsible for a data breach at Marriott that affected 500 million customers, according to recent reports. The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized Beijing for the alleged theft of US intellectual property that’s worth several hundred billion dollars a year, one of several sticking points in the ongoing trade spat.

The breaching of US defense contractor networks is particularly problematic as China modernizes its force, building a military capable to challenge the US.

“It’s extremely hard for the Defense Department to secure its own systems,” Tom Bossert, the former homeland security adviser in the Trump administration, told The Journal. “It’s a matter of trust and hope to secure the systems of their contractors and subcontractors.”

Contractors and subcontractors across the entire military lack the desired cybersecurity capabilities and regularly suffer serious breaches, an intelligence official said.

The most active Chinese hackers are reportedly a group known as Temp.Periscope or Leviathan, which is focused on maritime interests but also hits other targets.

One defense official told The Journal that China was targeting America’s “weak underbelly,” calling cybersecurity breaches “an asymmetric way to engage the United States without ever having to fire a round.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This new nationally recognized day for women veterans almost snuck by us

There are many nationally recognized days on the calendar that sneak by without much notice if you aren’t paying attention. But here’s one that’s worth being rallied around, especially in the military community.


On Feb. 19, 2019, Vet Girls RISE founded National Vet Girls Rock Day. It’s a time set aside to acknowledge and celebrate the many veteran women who have served in the United States Military. Other reasons this organization established this day is for the women to bond, share resources, build relationships, and most of all bring awareness to existing needs among women veterans.

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1st Lt. Megan Juliana(left), 1st Lt. Christel Carmody, 2nd Lt. Rebecca Fry, attendees of the inaugural 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Sisters-in-Arms meeting flash big smiles during the event on Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Jan. 21, 2014. The program aims at allowing female soldiers from across the brigade to meet each other and learn a little about the different positions female “Warhorse” soldiers fill.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jarrad Spinner, 2nd ABCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div.)

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 10 percent of veterans are female. Although that may seem like a small percentage, the approximate number is around two million.

Women veterans serve as single service members and in dual-military homes. Apart from their male counterparts, they face their own set of challenges during their time in. They push themselves physically, carry and birth children, and come home after working to care for and nurture their families. All while staying true to their commitment to our country and ultimately being willing to sacrifice themselves to protect our freedom.

Being that it’s only a year into having an actual date on the calendar, many women veterans don’t even know this day exists in their honor.

Crystal Falch, a veteran Petty Officer Second Class, served in the Navy for 10 years. Vet Girls ROCK Day snuck by her as well. She was happy to receive a friend’s text acknowledging her. Falch’s response was, “Awe, thank you! I had no idea today was my day.”

“It’s humbling because most of us don’t do it for the glory or the praise,” Falch said. “We do it for the country. And of course we like all the side benefits, like getting college paid for and getting to see the world. I appreciate it!”

As the public is becoming aware of this nationally recognized day some businesses, like Severance Brewing, are giving discounts to women veterans.

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Senior Airman Brittany Grimes, 90th Security Forces Squadron remote display alarm monitor, and Senior Airman Amber Mitchell, 890th Missile Security Forces Squadron response force leader, pose for a photo at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., March 13, 2018. Both are defenders assigned to the 90th Security Forces Group. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Carter)

VGR believes in the power of camaraderie, knowledge, and alliance. With that as a backbone, they suggest using this day to connect with other veterans. They offer VGR meetups at different restaurants across the country, and you can also follow them on Facebook for updated information.

Every opportunity should be taken to thank a service member, and to commemorate their dedication to our country. This day is definitely worth putting on the calendar as a reminder to stop and reflect specifically on women veterans for their contribution to our country.

Articles

US intel officials report that Russian leaders think US wants to topple Putin

Kremlin leaders believe the United States wants regime change in Russia, a worry that is feeding rising tensions between the two former Cold War foes, a US defense intelligence report says.


The Defense Intelligence Agency report, which was released on June 28, says Moscow has a “deep and abiding distrust of US efforts to promote democracy around the world and what it perceives as a US campaign to impose a single set of global values.”

Despite Russia’s largely successful military modernization since the Cold War, the report says “Moscow worries that US attempts to dictate a set of acceptable international norms threatens the foundations of Kremlin power by giving license for foreign meddling in Russia’s internal affairs.”

“The Kremlin is convinced the United States is laying the groundwork for regime change in Russia, a conviction further reinforced by the events in Ukraine,” the report says, noting that President Vladimir Putin’s government has accused the United States of engineering the popular uprising that ousted Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president, Viktor Yanukovich, in February 2014.

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Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Russia responded by illegally annexing Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014 and by supporting a separatist war in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 10,000 people since it began in April that year. Moscow’s actions in Ukraine led to rapidly deteriorating relations with the United States and its NATO allies, which imposed sanctions on Russia in retaliation.

While the report does not forecast a new, global ideological struggle akin to the Cold War, it cautions that Moscow “intends to use its military to promote stability on its own terms.”

The 116-page intelligence document, titled Russia Military Power: Building A Military To Support Great Power Aspirations, offers a comprehensive assessment of Russian military power, saying the Kremlin has methodically and successfully rebuilt Russia’s army, navy, and air force since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Russian military today is on the rise — not as the same Soviet force that faced the West in the Cold War, dependent on large units with heavy equipment,” the report says. It describes Russia’s new military “as a smaller, more mobile, balanced force rapidly becoming capable of conducting the full range of modern warfare.”

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Spetsnaz. Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Speaking on June 28 at a graduation ceremony for military and police academy graduates in Moscow, Putin said that the Russian Army has become “significantly stronger” in recent years.

“Officers have become more professional. This was proven in the operations against terrorists in Syria,” he said. “We are intending to be growing further the potential of our army and fleet, provide balanced and effective ground for development of all kinds of military units based on long-term plans and programs, improve the quality and intensity of military education.”

“Only modern, powerful, and mobile armed forces can provide sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country and protect us and our allies from any potential aggressor, from pressure, and blackmailing from the side of those who don’t like a strong, independent, and sovereign Russia,” Putin said.

The DIA report portrays Russia’s intervention in Syria since 2015 as largely successful at “changing the entire dynamic of the conflict, bolstering [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s] regime, and ensuring that no resolution to the conflict is possible without Moscow’s agreement.”

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (right). Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Besides boosting Assad’s fortunes in his six-year civil war against Syrian rebels, the report says the Syria intervention was intended to eliminate Islamic extremist elements that originated on the former Soviet Union’s territory to prevent them from returning home and threatening Russia.

As Russia continues to modernize and encounter military success, “within the next decade, an even more confident and capable Russia could emerge,” the intelligence agency’s director, Marine Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, said in the report’s preface.

The report was prepared before the election of President Donald Trump and reflects the Pentagon’s view of the global security picture shifting after nearly two decades of heavy American focus on countering terrorism and fighting small-scale wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With its focus on the modernized Russian army and Russian insecurities about US intentions, the report is sure to fuel debate over how to deal with Putin in Congress.

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