Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Founded and led by military families, The Safe House Project (SHP) is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering victims of human trafficking by providing them a place to call home.

The group is focused on the development of safe houses for survivors of sex trafficking. Its 2030 mission is to eradicate child sex trafficking in America by strengthening networks.


Human trafficking is a global issue that affects roughly 40.3 million people and roughly 300,000 American children each year. Less than 1% of those victims will be rescued. And, if they are lucky enough to be rescued, what happens to them?

Thinking big

“In 2018, there were less than 100 beds in special care homes [in the U.S.],” Brittany Dunn, a Navy spouse and co-founder of SHP, said.

Without a place to go, many victims are turned over to the foster care system, juvenile detentions or mental institutions, with some even electing to return to their captors.

According to the US Department of Justice, finding adequate and appropriate emergency, transitional, and long-term housing is often the biggest service-related challenge that [human trafficking] task forces face.

Dunn, along with SHP co-founders and fellow Navy spouses Kristi Wells and Vicki Tinnel, began researching ways they could fill the gap. Rather than start a small non-profit organization focused on helping their local community, they thought big.

SHP accelerates safe house development through providing education, resources, funding and government contacts to local nonprofits who seek to establish safe houses within their local communities. These individual safe houses provide specialized counseling and resources to help victims get out of the cycle of abuse. By adopting a business-like organizational structure, SHP partners do not have to work in isolation to solve a problem. They are part of a larger network and better able to solve big-picture problems.

“What most people see as a disadvantage, moving around constantly, we’ve been able to use that to our advantage,” Dunn said. “A majority of our volunteers across the U.S. are military families. That creates networks that most people do not have as a natural resource.”

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Many survivors find art therapy to be an important part of processingtheir past. Art allows them to express their pain, while also helping them find their wings.

Why is this so hard?

Like other national problems, sex trafficking issues are often complicated by the division of power between local, state and federal government. If a victim is rescued in a state that does not have an active safe house, SHP will attempt to have them transferred to a neighboring state that can provide the resources they need.

While this is the ideal model, according to Dunn, some CPS [Child Protective Services] don’t want to see their dollars flow out of state.

“That is where education and awareness come in,” she said.

Victim reintegration from a stable treatment environment back into the “real world” must be strategic. Without proper planning, victims could easily run into former “johns” and reenter the cycle of abuse. The reason safe houses are so essential is because victims have specialized needs and many shelters do not have the resources or government mandate to help them.

“There is a need domestically for improved victim services, trauma-informed support, better data on the prevalence and trends of human trafficking,” Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C., said at a Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event held earlier this year. Hudson, a cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act, hopes this legislation will “provide stakeholders — from law enforcement to prosecutors to service providers to government officials — with the guidance and information they need to better serve victims of trafficking.”

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Congressman Richard Hudson, R-N.C. was a guest speaker at the Safe House Project’s Freedom Requires Action event in January 2020 event held in the U.S. Capitol building. Hudson is also cosponsor of the 2019 Put Trafficking Victims First Act

The victims

The majority of trafficked children are not victims of a snatch and grab.

“We live under a perception that our kids are safer because they are in a first world country, but they aren’t. It is the harsh reality,” Dunn said. “It just looks different. Instead of having a red-light district in Thailand, you have kids being recruited on Fortnite or being approached peer-to-peer in schools.”

Every time a child is exposed to sexually-explicit content in conversations, on television or online, underage sex becomes normalized. For some, abusive acts do not feel like the crimes and victims do not feel like they are being victimized.

“Child sex trafficking is a difficult subject to talk about but raising awareness and talking about it is the first step in solving it,” Ria Story, Tedx speaker, author and survivor leader, said.

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Safe House Project and Coffee Beanery are teaming up to raise awareness in coffee shops across America. Advocates also marked their hands in red to support the #EndItMovement.

See something. Say something. Do something.

According to Dunn, “any epidemic has two sides to eradication. Prevention and treatment.” She encourages everyone to look for the problems that may lie under the surface.

In addition to providing safe houses, SHP has trained over 6,000 military personnel to recognize and report instances of sex trafficking and hope to more than double this number by the end of 2020. And for those who cannot attend an official training, SHP offers online tools (https://www.safehouseproject.org/sex-trafficking-statistics).

For more information or to donate to SHP, visit: https://www.safehouseproject.org/donate

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Op tempo is killing our troops… and their families

In the era of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, training was frequent and necessary in order to maintain the level of combat readiness required to sustain and prevail in battle. While times have changed, our Operational Tempo (Optempo) has not.


The number of troops needed in combat zones has decreased significantly. The amount of funds needed to maintain those combat zones has decreased as well. Funds have been redirected to modernize equipment, further training and have helped our forces remain relevant and vigilant. But what is this current wartime Optempo and Personnel Tempo (Perstempo) doing to our troops and our families?

How much is it really costing us?

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Their lives

Since 2001, more than 6,000 U.S. service members and DOD civilians have lost their lives. Of that, over 5,000 were KIA. Even more staggering is the number of wounded in action (WIA) since then. At least 50,000 service members have been wounded in action (DOD 2019). Since the wars began in 2001, the United States has spent 0.4 billion dollars on medical care and disability benefits.

This is only the beginning of medical care for wounded troops.

According to Costs of War, the financial costs of medical care usually peaks 30 to 40 years after the initial conflict (Bilmes, et al. 2015). In a study, it shows that although veteran suicide rates have recently decreased in numbers, the rate of suicide of military members versus civilians is still substantially higher, and ever-increasing. Furthermore, the number of veterans who use VHA versus those who don’t also, have a higher rate of suicide (DVA 2018). The toll this is taking on military families is creating unsalvageable relationships, emotional distress for children, and, ultimately, lives that are forever lost.

Their families

At the start of the war in 2001, Perstempo policies have been disregarded by many. According to the GAO:

DOD has maintained the waiver of statutory Perstempo thresholds since 2001, and officials have cited the effect of the high pace of operations and training on service members; however, DOD has not taken action to focus attention on the management of Perstempo thresholds within the services and department-wide (GAO 2018).

Is there a lack of genuine concern for family stability and well-being? Understanding the expectation of family interaction would decrease during wartime, once the service member has completed their deployment, reintegration, and revitalization of the home and family must take place. Families have been neglected and left without the proper resources to cultivate a healthy family environment. The concern for service member readiness has been an on-going issue in recent years. Studies have been conducted, and programs implemented, but is that enough?

Marital issues have often been associated with Perstempo, such as length of partner separation, infidelity during separation, and other challenges encompassed in a military marriage. The stress on the family of a service member is immeasurable; oftentimes, even discounted in comparison to the stress the service member endures. Support or resources for military spouses seeking separation or divorce are nearly nonexistent. They have been conditioned to believe that the well being of their soldiers comes before their own.

Military spouses sacrifice their academic achievements and employment opportunities in support of their service member’s careers. As the budget cuts roll out for the fiscal year, more much-needed family programs are becoming extinct. Programs that provide support for spousal employment, childcare, and leisure activities are being defunded, which can destabilize already struggling families.

Child and domestic abuse are an ever-growing concern within a community that is known for its patriotism and heroism. The families suffer in silence. Surviving recurrent deployments, solo parenting, housing issues, and the lack of program funding, the plight of the military family continues to decrease soldier readiness and morale.

Their mental well-being

The rate of PTSD and mental health diagnoses is on the rise for both service members and their families. However, services providing support and medical care for these issues have declined. The effect of time away from children has taken a toll on military children.

Neglect, abuse, and mental health issues are being ignored due to a lack of care. Some military installations cannot provide adequate mental health care because of their remote locations, and the costs to contract providers are often more than the proposed budgets allow. Because of this, the family’s needs go unmet.

With orders coming down the wire, Command Teams are obligated to carry out relentless training exercises, and soldiers are feeling the burn. Everyone is exhausted, each soldier doing the job of three, and families are becoming isolated. They lack sleep and proper nutrition, putting them at greater risk of making mistakes during training that may cost them their lives, but the soldiers march on.

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

The way forward

Repairing family units are necessary for the success of soldier readiness. Programs and support for families should not be cut. Revisions of budget direction may be necessary in order to tailor programs in a way that both benefits the government and the well-being of the service member and their families.

Allow soldiers to receive mental health care without fear of retaliation or loss of career. Provide structured support programs for spouses that go beyond counseling. Long term care is necessary for service members and families upon redeployment. Taking a true interest in supporting our military members and families should be the priority for our Department of Defense. We are fighting wars but not fighting for our families. Cultivate strength by improving the quality of life for everyone.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How New York is on the frontlines of cyber warfare

Five months before the 9/11 attacks, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to one of his advisers with an ominous message.


“Cyberwar,” read the subject line.

“Please take a look at this article,” Rumsfeld wrote, “and tell me what you think I ought to do about it. Thanks.”

Attached was a 38-page paper, published seven months prior, analyzing the consequences of society’s increasing dependence on the internet.

It was April 30, 2001. Optimistic investors and frenzied tech entrepreneurs were still on a high from the dot-com boom. The World Wide Web was spreading fast.

Once America’s enemies got around to fully embracing the internet, the report predicted, it would be weaponized and turned against the homeland.

The internet would be to modern warfare what the airplane was to strategic bombers during World War I.

The paper’s three authors — two PhD graduates and the founder of a cyber defense research center — imagined the damage a hostile foreign power could inflict on the US. They warned of enemies infecting computers with malicious code, and launching mass denial of service attacks that could bring down networks critical to the functioning of the American economy.

Also read: This cyber threat will exploit almost all PCs, smartphones, and tablets

“[We] are concerned that US leadership, and other decision-makers about Internet use, do not fully appreciate the potential consequences of the current situation,” the report said. “We have built a network which has no concept whatsoever of national boundaries; in a war, every Internet site is directly on the front line. If we do not change course soon, we will pay a very high price for our lack of foresight.”

The US government had a problem on its hands and it seemed a long ways from figuring out how to handle it.

More than 17 years later, that problem seems to have only gotten worse.

Follow the money

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking
In 2016, hackers attacked companies in the financial services sector more than companies in any other industry.

Willie Sutton, the notorious Brooklynite who spent his life in and out of prison, once told a reporter he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. Computer hackers aren’t so different.

In 2016, hackers attacked companies in the financial services sector more than companies in any other industry, according to IBM. Over 200 million financial records were breached that year, a 937% increase from 2015. And that’s not including the incidents that were never made public.

As hackers become more sophisticated and cyber attacks more routine, New York is on notice. Home to the most valuable stock exchange on Earth, New York City is the financial capital of the world. When the market moves here, it moves everywhere.

So it was no surprise when in September 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) was gearing up to implement sweeping, first-of-their-kind cybersecurity regulations to protect the state’s financial services industry — an unprecedented move no other state or federal agency had taken anywhere in the US.

Cybersecurity in New York’s financial industry was previously governed by voluntary frameworks and suggested best practices. But the NYDFS introduced, for the first time, regulations that would be mandatory, including charging firms fines if they didn’t comply.

Related: This is how enemies hack America — according to a cyber warrior

Maria Vullo, the state’s top financial regulator, told Business Insider that her No. 1 job is to protect New Yorkers.

“They’re buying insurance. They’re banking. They’re engaging in financial transactions. And in each of those activities, they’re providing their social security information, banking information, etc.,” she said. “The companies that are obtaining that personal information from New Yorkers must protect it as much as possible because a breach of that information is of great consequence to the average New Yorker.”

On March 1, the regulations turn a year old, although some of the rules are not yet in effect and will phase in over time.

The NYDFS oversees close to 10,000 state-chartered banks, credit unions, insurance companies, mortgage loan servicers, and other financial institutions, in addition to 300,000 insurance licensees.

The combined assets of those organizations exceed $6 trillion, according to the NYDFS — and they’re all in constant danger of being hacked.

Banks are vulnerable

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, second from left, meets with corporate and non-profit veterans organization’s leadership at a round table hosted by J.P. Morgan Chase in New York City, N.Y., on Nov. 1, 2013. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

In the summer of 2014, an American, two Israelis, and two co-conspirators breached a network server of JPMorgan Chase, the largest US bank.

They got hold of roughly 83 million customers’ personal information, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.

The hackers didn’t steal any money from personal bank accounts, but that wasn’t the point.

They wanted access to a massive trove of emails that they could use for a larger, separate money scam. In just three years, that operation netted the hackers more than $100 million.

The JPMorgan hack wasn’t the end game. It was a piece of the puzzle.

The attack began with the simple theft of a JPMorgan employee’s login credentials, which were located on a server that required just one password.

Most servers with sensitive information like a person’s banking data require what’s called multi-factor, or two-factor authentication.

But JPMorgan’s security team had lapsed and failed to upgrade the server to include the dual password scheme, The New York Times reported at the time.

The attack, the breach, and the reputational damage that followed could have been avoided with tighter security. Instead, the hack went down as one of the largest thefts of customer data in US history.

“Banks are especially vulnerable,” Matthew Waxman, a professor and the co-chair at Columbia University’s Cybersecurity Center, told Business Insider. “Disruption to the information systems on which banks rely could have shockwaves throughout the financial system, undermining public confidence in banking or knocking off line the ability to engage in commercial transactions.”

That’s the kind of catastrophic damage that worried the authors cited in Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s 2001 memo.

They weren’t only concerned about stolen email addresses and social security numbers. They were worried about the fallout from such activity.

Banking works because consumers trust the system. But what if people lose trust?

Waiting until a catastrophe

News of impending cybersecurity regulations in New York in the fall of 2016 was both welcomed and shunned.

Some companies saw it as a chance to improve their own security standards while others complained of government overreach. Some were relieved to find they wouldn’t have to make any adjustments to the way they operated. Others were overwhelmed by the heavy lifting they would have to do to comply.

How a company views the regulations depends in large part on its size. Bigger institutions with more cybersecurity professionals and more resources at their disposal tend to already have in place much of what the regulations require. Many smaller companies, which tend to be under-staffed and under-resourced, have a lot more work to do to catch up.

The only additional thing Berkshire Bank has to do is sign off on its annual compliance form, which it sends to NYDFS to prove that it’s doing everything it’s supposed to be doing.

“We actually have to do nothing [new] from a compliance standpoint,” the company’s chief risk officer Gregory Lindenmuth told Business Insider.

While several cybersecurity consultants told Business Insider they acknowledge the NYDFS rules as a positive step in the right direction, they also point to a new law in Europe as a leading example of the role government has to play in protecting individuals’ privacy rights and ensuring that companies secure consumers’ personal information.

More: Hackers can take a hidden test to become mid-grade officers in the US Army’s Cyber Command

In 2016, the European Parliament passed a law called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — landmark legislation that imposes millions of euros in fines on companies that do not adequately protect their customers’ data.

Whereas the NYDFS regulations cover just one industry in one US state, the GDPR affects companies in all industries across all 28 member states of the European Union. Companies that do not report a data breach or fail to comply with the law more generally could be fined up to €20 million or 4% of its global revenue.

Matthew Waxman, the Columbia professor, says it’s not surprising that the implementation of such a law remains far-fetched in the US.

“It’s sometimes very difficult to get the government to take action against certain threats until a catastrophe takes place,” Waxman said. “But that could change very suddenly if the banking system were knocked offline or another very major disruption to everyday life affected the lives and security of citizens on a massive scale.”

But are the deterrents strong enough?

Data protection advocates calling for stricter cybersecurity regulations in the US are generally happy about the NYDFS rules.

For the first time, a state government is taking seriously the protection of consumer data, they say. It’s giving companies in the financial sector an ultimatum: protect New Yorkers or face punishment.

But the nature of that punishment is not entirely clear.

“My big criticism of the regulations is there’s no clear consequence for non-compliance,” Tom Boyden, a cybersecurity expert who helps companies defend against cyber attacks, told Business Insider. “If companies don’t feel like there’s going to be any consequence for any action on their part, companies aren’t going to take [the regulations] seriously.”

In fact, for many companies, Boyden thinks “that’s the default position.”

More reading: Cyber-attack wreaks havoc on US Internet traffic

Vullo, the head of the NYDFS, said she has the ability to fine companies that are not complying and is willing to exercise that authority, although how much that cost may be would depend case-by-case.

“I don’t want this to be a punitive atmosphere, but obviously if institutions are not taking this seriously, then there will be consequences,” she said. “But it’s not the objective.”

If anything, the objective is to make it clear that cyber threats are real and that New Yorkers and the companies that maintain their personal information are facing higher risks of attack.

Cybersecurity affects everyone, and Vullo said she hopes the regulations will help companies prioritize it.

“Everyone is part of our cybersecurity team,” Theresa Pratt, the chief information security officer at a private trust company in New York, told Business Insider. “It doesn’t matter what myself or my colleagues do from a technical perspective. If I have one user who clicks a bad link or answers a phisher’s question over the phone, it’s all for naught.”

New York leading the way

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking
New York Stock Exchange. (Photo by Beraldo Leal)

The new rules have far-reaching implications beyond New York. A business in the state that has a parent company based in Germany, for example, still has to comply with the regulations.

This leaves some organizations in the precarious position of having to either restructure company-wide cybersecurity practices or build an entirely new and unique security apparatus that is specific to its New York offices.

“I do think that because of the scope of some of these regulations, they’re kind of blurring the lines between countries and continents. I think we’re going to see more and more of this,” GreyCastle Security CEO Reg Harnish told Business Insider. The New York-based consulting firm is helping companies comply with the new regulations.

Further reading: Why the Pentagon will move its data to the cloud

In the absence of leadership from the federal government on certain issues related to cybersecurity and data protection, states like New York are beginning to fill the void. Several cybersecurity experts told Business Insider that the NYDFS regulations could become a model for other industries or even policies at the national level.

In 2017, at least 42 states introduced more than 240 bills or resolutions related to various cybersecurity issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. And since the NYDFS rules took effect, financial regulators in Colorado and Vermont have followed New York’s lead with cybersecurity regulations of their own.

Indeed, cyber experts have come a long way in better understanding the threats we face since Rumsfeld’s dire cyberwar memo in 2001. But 17 years on, the former secretary of defense’s concerns still seem as relevant as ever.

Perhaps the memo was a prescient warning — a warning that fell on deaf ears, but is not too late to address.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of February 15th

Ah, another Valentine’s Day has come and gone. By law of averages, at least a few people somewhere in the military spent a nice evening with the person they genuinely love. The rest of us are in the field, deployed, or stationed god-knows-how-far away from our beloved.

Sure, sure. Many of those in the military marry extremely young and the spouse is often quick to put eighty-seven bumper stickers on the minivan saying they have the hardest job in the military… But on Valentine’s Day, we can let them pretend being bored, worried, and lonesome during a deployment is more difficult than serving as a nuclear submarine’s engine mechanic. After all, military spouses do put up with a lot of our sh*t, so one day with an inflated ego is fine.

Anyways. Knowing the average memer is probably stuck in the barracks and taking Hooter’s up on their order of free buffalo wings for single people, here’re some memes to take your mind off the crippling loneliness. Enjoy!


Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

(Meme via Private News Network)

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

​(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

(Comic via The Claw of Knowledge)

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

(Meme via Broken and Unreadable)

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

(Meme via On the Minute Memes)

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

(Meme via Door Kickers Inc.)

MIGHTY CULTURE

That time a soldier changed his name to Optimus Prime

Service members are awesome people — they really are. But sometimes, they can do some pretty wild sh*t. Of course you’ve heard of your unit’s token boot who bought a Mustang with an insane interest rate (you know who I’m talking about) and you’ve probably heard about the guy who creates elaborate, phallic murals in the port-a-johns, but have you heard of the soldier who legally changed his name to Optimus Prime?

That’s right — the leader of the Autobots from Hasbro’s famed line of toys served in the United States Army National Guard. During the ’80s, when the Transformers animated series and toys were very much in vogue, I’m sure a lot of kids out there felt like Optimus Prime was their daddy — and it’s very much possible that one of those kids ended up raising their right hand after 9/11.

This is his story:


Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Generation One Optimus Prime as showcased in 2018’s ‘Bumblebee.’

(Paramount Pictures/Hasbro)

The Transformers, the animated series, premiered the same year as the first line of Transformers toys (referred to as “Generation One” or “G1”), and it garnered a strong following. Kids spent their afternoons glued to the television sets, watching their favorite toys turn from robot to vehicle and back again as they fought against (or for, depending on the robot) the powers of evil.

Plenty of the boys tuning in didn’t have father figures around, and they turned to the show’s strong protagonist, leader of the leader of the Autobots (the definitive “good guys”), Optimus Prime, for guidance.

Born in 1971, Scott Edward Nall was about 13 when the show premiered. As a boy who had lost his father only a year earlier, he admired the leadership qualities and unwavering morality of Optimus Prime.

“My dad passed away the year before and I didn’t have anybody really around,” said Nall. “So, I really latched onto him when I was a kid.”
Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Soldiers with the 761st Firefighting Team prepare to fight a fire during an annual training exercise at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in June 2016.

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Matthew Riley)

Later, Nall joined the Army and become a member of Ohio’s National Guard under the 5964th Engineer Detachment with the Tactical Crash Rescue Unit as a firefighter. In May, 2001, on his 30th birthday, he had his name legally changed to match that of the Autobots’ fearless leader, Optimus Prime.

Prime later got a letter from a general at the Pentagon stating that it was great to have the commander of the Autobots in the National Guard. His fellow soldiers, however, may not have had the same opinion.

After he changed his name, of course, he had to update all of his forms, nametags, IDs, and uniforms. As one might expect, his friends couldn’t let it go without giving him some sh*t. According to Prime,

“They razzed me for three months to no end. They really dug into me about it.”
Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

The resemblance is uncanny.

Optimus Prime would go on to deploy to the Middle East in 2003 and continue to serve his country.

MIGHTY TRENDING

USCG works without pay even after surge in migrant intercepts

Jan. 15, 2019, was the first missed payday for the US Coast Guard, the only military branch who’s working without pay during the government shutdown that started on Dec. 21, 2018.

A work-around secured money for Dec. 31, 2018 paychecks, but no such maneuver was possible for Jan. 15, 2019, and communities around the country have stepped in to support Coast Guard families amid protracted uncertainty.


The strain at home comes after a busy year at sea.

In 2018, the Coast Guard apprehended five times as many migrants at sea off the coast of Southern California as it did in 2017, according to records seen by The Washington Post.

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

Coast Guard crews interdicted multiple Dominican migrants attempting to illegally enter Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, Jan. 11, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

The 1,022 migrants picked up off Southern California through the end of the 2018 fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2018, exceeded the 213 and 142 intercepted in fiscal years 2017 and 2016, respectively.

But across the entire US, the number of migrants caught at sea between 2017 and 2018 decreased from 2,512 to 1,668, according to The Post.

Most of the Coast Guard’s apprehensions at sea were for a long time off the coast of Florida; many of those caught were Cubans, who were allowed to pursue citizenship once reaching the US under the “wet foot, dry foot” policy.

The Obama administration rescinded that policy in January 2017, and most migrants intercepted there now come from Haiti or other islands in the Caribbean.

While the number of people picked up in the area has fallen, the route remains active. The service said on Jan. 11, 2019, that 66 migrants were picked up around Puerto Rico in a 72-hour period and that 708 had been intercepted there since Oct. 1, 2018.

Migrants picked up off the California coast come from throughout the region, from Mexico to Bolivia. High-value migrant smuggling — which involves people who’ve paid large sums to come to the US from countries as far afield as China and Sri Lanka — has also increased, including in the waters around Florida, Coast Guard officers told Business Insider during a patrol over Miami in November 2018.

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

An overloaded vessel with about 35 migrants is interdicted approximately 34 miles west of Desecheo, Puerto Rico, Jan. 7, 2019.

(US Coast Guard/Coast Guard cutter Heriberto Hernandez)

Out in the Pacific, Coast Guard crews were busy with a more nefarious activity in 2018.

During that period, the service seized 458,000 pounds of cocaine — less than the record 493,000 pounds seized in 2017 but more than the 443,000 pounds seized in 2016, which was itself a record.

Having faced those challenges at sea in 2018, the Coast Guard begins 2019 with a government shutdown that at 25 days is the longest in US history.

Unlike the other four branches of the military, which are part of the Defense Department, funding for the Coast Guard, which is part of the Homeland Security Department, has yet to be approved.

Some 42,000 active-duty Coast Guard members remain on duty without pay. The majority of the service’s 8,500 civilian employees have been furloughed, though about 1,300 remain at work.

Spouses create safe haven for survivors of sex trafficking

A Coast Guard crew oversees the salvage of a privately owned Hawker Hunter aircraft off of Honolulu, Jan. 7, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer Russ Strathern)

Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray said in a Jan. 10, 2019 letter that Coast Guard “leadership continues to do everything possible … to ensure we can process your pay as soon as we receive an appropriation,” but “I do not know when that will occur.”

In a letter two days later, Ray cautioned that “there is a distinct possibility that Retiree Pay and Survivor’s Benefit Plan (SBP) payments may be delayed if this lapse continues into late January.”

Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, who has missed his own paycheck, told Military.com that without a budget appropriation for fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2019, a continuing resolution, or some other funding measure, the service won’t be able pay its 50,000 retirees on Feb. 1, 2019.

Measures have been introduced to Congress to pay the Coast Guard amid the government closure.

The Pay Our Coast Guard Act was reintroduced to the Senate on Jan. 4, 2019, and assigned to the Senate legislative calendar. The Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on Jan. 9, 2019, and is with the Appropriations and Transportation and Infrastructure committees.

Those measures would have be approved by the other house of Congress and by the president in order to go into effect. On Jan. 15, 2019, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she was working with the White House and Congress on legislation to fund the service.

“Like the other branches of the U.S. military, active duty @USCG should be paid for their service and sacrifice to this nation,” Nielsen said on Twitter.

Despite support from each other and their communities, Coast Guard families around the country are feeling the strain.

“This is talking an emotional toll on us and all the families here at Fort Wadsworth,” Rebeca Hinger, a Coast Guard spouse and mother of three, told Staten Island Live. “Many of us here … live paycheck-to-paycheck, and without money we can’t pay our bills.”

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

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Why it’s a terrible idea to mess with the Queen’s Guard

There are many similarities between America’s Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknown and the United Kingdom’s Queen’s Guard. Both are highly respected positions within their respective armed forces, both remain stoic in the face of terrible weather conditions, and both will readily put disrespectful tourists in their proper place.


The Queen’s Guard silently stands watch at the Royal Residences and, throughout the years, have become more ceremonial than practical, as the task of protecting the queen has been given to the Metropolitan Police. Still, they remain outside in case the worst happens.

 

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Silly hats, serious-as-f*ck attitudes. (Ministry of Defense photo by Mark Owens)

Of course, this doesn’t stop tourists from trying to provoke the motionless sentries. Many tourists try to get a smile out of the guards with silly jokes and faces — there even reports of women flashing them just to get a reaction. The highly trained sentries will bite their tongue at mild distractions. Former sentries joke that this is just part of the position. They can’t ever show it, but they like it when tourists take photos and act politely.

Related: 6 ceremonial military units that are actually badass (when they aren’t wearing funny hats)

It’s when the tourists really get in their face — poking them with pins, putting cigarette butts out on their rifles, anything like that — then they can act accordingly. In the case of tourists getting way too handsy in photographs, they’ll wait until the last moment to ruin the picture by marching away. If you block their movements, they’ll shout, “make way for the Queen’s Guard!” If you get in their face or if they have to shout too many times, they’ll knock you out then stoically resume their post.

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In case you were wondering: No. Their bayonet-tipped rifles are not just ceremonial. (Image Courtesy of Scot’s Guard)

 

If idiots act threateningly towards the Royal Family, the Queen’s Guard, or the general public around them, they will stop you.

If you touch their bear-skin hat, they’ll probably ignore you or shout at you. If you grab their rifle, the next thing you’ll see is the end of their barrel.

For more information on the Queen’s Guard and how they react to disrespectful tourists, watch the video below.

 

(Today I Found Out | YouTube)

MIGHTY TRENDING

This service’s Gold Star program supports the military families that have lost

The Air Force family tree has many branches and one branch, representing the service’s Gold Star families, has leaves that glow consistently with the rest.


Gold Star families are survivors of military service members who lost their lives during armed hostilities, including deployments in support of military operations against an enemy or during an international terrorist attack.

The Air Force’s Gold Star program provides enhanced support and outreach for the lifetime of each survivor, or until the survivor no longer needs or desires the services. The program is designed to let families know the Air Force cares for them and will continue to embrace them as part of the Air Force family.

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The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument. Photo from the city of Vienna, WV.

“Our primary purpose is to continue recognizing and honoring the sacrifice these families and their loved ones made in the service of our nation,” said Vera Carson, Air Force Families Forever program manager at the Air Force Personnel Center. “Gold Star families fall under the Air Force Families Forever program, which ensures all families of our fallen Airmen are never forgotten.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein directed the provision of additional lifelong support to Gold Star families in April 2017. Gold Star family members, such as parents, adult children, and siblings, are now being offered the opportunity to receive a Gold Star identification card, which authorizes access to Air Force bases in the continental US, Alaska, and Hawaii. For additional information, contact your Air Force Families Forever representative at the local airman and family readiness center.

By allowing these families unescorted access to Air Force installations, they can visit their loved one’s gravesite, attend memorials and base-wide events, and stop by the local airman and family readiness center for immediate and long-term compassionate support.

“General Goldfein and his wife, Dawn, want to ensure our Gold Star families remain a part of the Air Force family, and this special ID card is helping us make that happen,” said Carla Diamond , Air Force Gold Star and Surviving Family Member representative. “We are reaching out to surviving family members, establishing contact, and ensuring that their needs are met.”

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In 1967, an Act of Congress established the Gold Star lapel pin (left) for issue to immediate Family members of servicemembers killed in combat. The Next of Kin pin (right) signifies a service-related death or suicide during active duty other than combat. Photo by Edward Johnson, FMWRC PAO.

One resource for survivors is the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. This program provides emotional support and healing to anyone grieving the death of a military loved one. The staff provides military survivor seminars, Good Grief Camps for young survivors, peer mentors, and resources relating to grief and trauma.

Taking care of each Airman’s family is vital to ensuring an Airman is prepared and mission ready.

“Supporting family members is critical in making sure our Airmen are resilient and ready to meet their mission objectives and serve our nation daily,” said Randy Tillery, Airmen and Family Care director. “The Gold Star program reminds our surviving family members they are still an important part of the greater Air Force family.”

Gold Star families are not new. The term traces back to World War I when Americans would fly a flag with a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces. The star became gold if the family lost a loved one in the war. Along with the US flag, these family members now receive a lapel pin with a gold star resting on a purple background.

Since 1936, the last Sunday of September is observed as Gold Star Mothers’ and Families’ Day. Air Force officials are now planning events to commemorate the special day.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Mandalorian’ showrunner confirms Baby Yoda is NOT Yoda

Everyone loves Baby Yoda. For parents, the Mandalorian caring for Baby Yoda has made the bleak space saga relevant to parenthood. In just a few short weeks Star Wars has suddenly become more relevant than ever to all sorts of people, and it’s all thanks to an adorable character called “The Child” who never speaks. But who is the Child? Is he somehow a clone of Yoda? Is he Yoda reincarnated? If you’re fuzzy on the timeline of The Mandalorian, did you think this was baby Yoda?

Here’s the deal. Baby Yoda is not Yoda and the guy who runs The Mandalorian just made that pretty clear. Jon Favreau (you know, the guy who made Iron Man) has been doing a pretty solid job steering The Mandalorian ship thus far, and recently he’s answered a few questions about why everyone loves “Baby Yoda” so much. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Favreau made it pretty clear, just in case you were confused, that this little creature is not the Yoda.


“I think what’s great about what George [Lucas] created is that Yoda proper — the character that we grew up watching— was always shrouded in mystery, and that was what made him so archetypal and so mythic.” Obviously, because another creature of Yoda’s species is being featured so heavily, some of that shroud is being lifted, but Favreau is quick to point out there’s still plenty to discover.

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Giphy

“We know who he is based on his behavior and what he stands for, but we don’t know a lot of details about where he comes from or his species. I think that’s why people are so curious about this little one of the same species.”

The keywords to focus on here are these: this little one of the same species.

Baby Yoda is not actual Yoda, because The Mandalorian happens six years after Return of the Jedi, the movie in which Yoda died. It was a peaceful death though, and before he died he told Luke “there is another…Skywalker.” Funny he didn’t mention another Yoda!

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

Articles

This Army general’s death is a sad reminder of the military’s mental health crisis

The mysterious death of Maj. Gen. (Promotable) John G. Rossi on July 31, shortly before he was to be promoted to lieutenant general and take command of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, has now been ruled a suicide.


According to a report by the Associated Press, Rossi is the highest-ranking officer and first Army general officer to kill himself while on active duty since statistics were kept in 2000. In an obituary posted online, Rossi left behind a wife, three children (one an Army officer), his father and a sister.

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Then-Brig. Gen. John Rossi shakes hands with Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Thomson, Nov. 12, after arriving on Camp Taji, Iraq, for a visit to the troops there. On Rossi’s left walks Col. Frank Muth, the commander of the Enhanced Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. (Photo U.S. Army)

During his career, Rossi had received the Distinguished Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Legion of Merit with four Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Bronze Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster, among other decorations. He had served a tour during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Rossi became part of an increasingly tragic statistic. According to a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs released in July, 20 veterans take their own lives every day. That was down from 22 per day according to the previous study that used data from 2012.

While Rossi’s suicide is the Army’s first active duty general officer who took his own life since the Department of Defense started to keep statistics in 2000, high-ranking officials committing suicide is not an unknown phenomenon.

One of the most notable incidents involved Adm. Jeremy Boorda who was the Chief of Naval Operations when he shot himself in May, 1996. Another incident involved James Forrestal, who had recently resigned as Secretary of Defense when he was hospitalized for treatment of “overwork” (he was actually suffering from serious depression). In May of 1949, he jumped out of a window at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Even legendary military leaders contemplated suicide. William Tecumseh Sherman, the Civil War general who was most famous for capturing Atlanta and his March to the Sea, had a mental breakdown in late 1861 during which he considered taking his own life.

In a statement released after the announcement of Rossi’s cause of death his family said, “For our family, this has been an incredibly painful time, and we ask that you continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers. To all the other families out there, to the man or woman who may be facing challenging times, please seek assistance immediately.”

For veterans in crisis, or their friends and family, help is available. Call (800)273-8255, send a text message to 838255, or chat online at https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ChatTermsOfService.aspx.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why ‘Devil Doc’ is the unofficial name of elite Navy Corpsmen

“Leatherneck,” “Jarhead,” and “Devil Dog” are just a few of the names Marines have had labeled with throughout the years. “Leatherneck” came from the first Marine Corps’ uniform that had a high leather collar while “Jarhead” represents the shape of a Marine’s haircut.


But there is one name that stands out all above the rest: “Devil Dogs.” The accepted mythology is that Marines earned the unique nickname”Teufel Hunden” or “Hell Hounds” after bravely fighting the Germans at the Battle of Belleau Wood. This name then became “Devil Dogs.”

But Navy Corpsmen get their own nickname too.

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Also Read: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

For many years Marines and their fellow medical personnel Navy Corpsmen have always fought together.

Although Marines focus on the warfighting, Corpsmen have been right next to them, manning the frontlines. Sometimes they would meet the same fate as their ferocious counterparts. The “docs” who receive their training from Marines can be as deadly as the Marines who trained them.

To earn this unofficial title of “Devil Doc,” a Corpsman must show that he is as dangerous as his fellow warfighters.  There are only two ways for a Corpsman to earn the title.

The first way is passing the Fleet Marine Force test and earning the FMF pin.

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Behold, the almighty FMF pin in all of its glory.

During this test, Navy Corpsmen will meet requirements on Marine Corps history, traditions, weapon systems, employment of said weapon systems, and much more. Many Corpsmen don’t agree with this method. Some older Corpsmen feel that the FMF pin route has washed away in its significance. They feel when the Navy made it mandatory for all Corpsmen to earn this pin, it lost its meaning.

“I never received my FMF pin… it became meaningless chest candy when they made it mandatory,” former Hospital Corpsman HM3 Nathan Tagnipez states.

The second way to earn the title is harder, but it comes with a great level of respect from Marines. A Corpsman must take part in a deployment with Marines and earn a Combat Action Ribbon (CAR). The CAR itself is not what earns the title — the ribbon just communicates to future Marines that the Corpsman has “been there and done that.”

Also Read: Marines avoided killing officers because of this symbol

No, it is the Marines themselves that give the Corpsman the title of “Devil Doc.

“The thing that made me worthy of being a devil doc was the respect of the Marines that I served,” HM3 Nathan Tagnipez says.

Similar to the tradition where Marines earn their Shellback status by crossing the equator — and surviving the hazing fest bonding exercise that follows — Corpsmen earn this unofficial title in a trial by fire.

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Marines and Corpsmen will always share a history together. It is a symbiotic relationship. Marines need the Corpsmen for medical aid and the Corpsmen need the Marines to win battles.

When they come together, no one can tell the difference between the two on the battlefield. To be a “Devil Doc,” Corpsmen must prove they have the conviction and determination to be a “Devil Dog.”

Military Life

5 things that every aspiring Marine needs to know

This article originally appeared in The Havok Journal. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.


I get a lot of questions from young men and women about what they should do about joining the Military. Most of which are about joining Special Operations or how to become a Marine Raider. So, here are my top 5 “Tips” that every young recruit should know.

1. Stay Out Of Freaking Trouble!

It might sound like a simple thing, but if I had a dime for every time I heard of a good kid doing something stupid I would be flying to Bali every other weekend for vacation. All it takes is one night out with some friends to turn your whole life upside down. Having a good time is one thing, but it’s another to get caught drinking and driving or caught carrying some dank, mary jane, molly, dope, ganja, or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Getting caught stealing, doing or carrying drugs, or even getting into a physical alteration and having assault charges can put a roadblock between you and you achieving your goals.

I had two felonies between the ages of 11-13. While I still made it through, my decisions at that young of an age affected me for a couple decades of my life. I had to work 10 times harder than the next guy to even qualify for enlistment. I could have saved so much time, money, and energy if I would have focused on bettering myself and the ones around me.

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A recruit with Delta Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, takes notes during a class for educational benefits Aug. 26, 2015, on Parris Island, SC. Photo by Lance Cpl. Aaron Bolser.

2. Stay In School!

When I finished the 10th grade, I was working 2 jobs making 4k-7k a month. As you can imagine that is an astronomical amount of money for a 16-year-old. When it came time to go back to school it just seemed stupid for me to go back, so I got my GED and kept tracking on putting cash in my pocket. Once I tried to join, they laughed (for several reasons, one of which was my GED). I had to go back to school and get 12 college credits, which put my enlistment date another 6 months in the future at a minimum.

Needless to say, stay in freaking school! Study the ASVAB and get a GT Score of 110 or higher. If you do this, you will qualify for some of the top positions in the military, including Marine Recon and Marine Special Operations Command.

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Photo from public domain.

3. Don’t Do Drugs!

I know what you are saying.. “But Nick, It’s just a little weed or a beer or two.” Yea, I hear you, I was that age as well. What it comes down to is it worth you losing the opportunity you have worked so hard for? If it is, then you are not ready for the commitment of being a United States Marine. Hate it, disagree with it; your personal beliefs don’t matter: The Marine Corps has a strict policy on drug use. If you have used in the past then you can get a waiver for “experimental use” that is if they already know about it, if you catch my drift… Stay focused on your goals and what your future has to offer you. Don’t let a little peer pressure ruin your life.

Wait until you are a salty, seasoned veteran to experience those things (in a state that it is legal of course).

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Rct. Thomas Minnick Jr., Platoon 1014, Bravo Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, lifts a 30-pound ammunition can during his combat fitness test Feb. 11, 2014, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC. USMC photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis.

4. Be In Phenomenal Shape!

This is the foundation of everything. If you are not physically fit, just turn around and go home to your mommy. When I was young, I read an article in Men’s Health Magazine that you could start lifting weights at 14 years old. So on my 14th birthday, I got a membership to a local gym and bought Arnold’s Bodybuilding Bible then got to work! Now, of course, knowing what I know now, I would have trained completely differently and become a motherf’n beast! I did good at the time, but I would have pushed to have a 300 PFT prior to even going in the service.

Being physically fit is the cornerstone of being a Marine. Not only does it affect your promotions, job, billets, and even your friendships, but it can also affect a life or death situation. I can not stress this enough! This is not a video game, there is no respawn, start-over, or return home. We only get one shot at this life and being physically fit can mean the difference between you or your best friend losing their life. I would not be able to look my best friend’s parents and wife in the face and say your son is dead because I was not physically fit enough to save them. This is not a joke, make no mistakes in your head, the Marine Corps is a warfighting machine and when you’re in it, you are either supporting the war effort, training to go to war, or fighting a war. There is zero excuse for not being as physically fit as you can be because your life and those around depend on it.

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The Spartans are known for their excellence in combat. Learn from them.

5. Know Your History!

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This is truer to me now after serving what seems a lifetime in the Marine Corps. If I could do it again, I would’ve read every military campaign book starting with the early Spartans, the rise and fall of Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire — all the way up to current events. As I said, the Marine Corps is America’s fighting force and if you are going to be a professional in that organization, then you need to apply yourself as a professional would.

My favorite MSgt Phil Thome always said the most important trait for a leader was knowledge — not knowing was not an excuse! That being said, I would recommend knowing as much as you can about military warfare, asymmetrical operations, conventional and unconventional warfare. As MSgt Thome said, not knowing is not an excuse and if knowing can give you a slight leg up against your enemy, then that is what you need to do! We, as warfighters, take every advantage we can take because, at the end of the day, it’s us against them — and I’m going home to have a steak and beer when this is done.

The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. –George S. Patton

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Sgt. Justin Glenn Burnside motivates a recruit with Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, SC. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. David Bessey.

Now, you might say, “yea, yea, yea, Nick. That’s all simple stuff.” Well, then I say to you, “why is it that all of the questions I get revolve around these five things.?” Truth is, common sense is not a common virtue. I fell subject to every one of these 5 things, so I speak from the heart and from my own experiences and struggles in hope that you might learn from my mistakes. Then learn and be even better and more badass than I could have ever been!

Semper Fi

MIGHTY TRENDING

To prevent Russian invasion, Ukraine might need NATO

Ukraine’s border service has said that it will only allow Ukrainian citizens to travel to Crimea following the imposition of martial law.

Kyiv imposed martial law in 10 of its 27 regions for 30 days on Nov. 28, 2018, after Russian forces fired on Ukrainian ships and seized 23 sailors in the Black Sea off the coast of the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula.

“In connection with the introduction of martial law, the administrative border with temporarily occupied Crimea can be crossed exclusively with Ukrainian documents,” a spokesman said on Nov. 29, 2018.


Citizens from all nations were previously allowed to enter Crimea through the administrative border via mainland Ukraine. But the process for doing so for non-Ukrainians was fraught with bureaucracy.

Crimea is accessible by plane from Russia or via Russia’s newly built bridge from the country’s mainland. But under Ukrainian law, those routes are illegal. Violators — and there have been many — are given official bans of three years or longer by Kyiv.

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on NATO to send ships to the Sea of Azov to help protect Ukraine.

He claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin sees himself as a “Russian emperor” and Ukraine as a Russian “colony.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Ukrainian president later on Nov. 29, 2018, tweeted that Kyiv will impose “restrictions” on Russian citizens in Ukraine.

“No need to run to shops and buy matches and salt. There will be no restrictions on cash withdrawals, currency-exchange operations, travels abroad for Ukrainian citizens. For Russian citizens, these restrictions will be introduced. And I think that’s quite justified,” he wrote.

Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have deteriorated after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and shortly thereafter began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has left more than 10,300 dead since April 2014.

In an interview with the German tabloid Bild published early on Nov. 29, 2018, Poroshenko said he hoped European states will take active steps, including increasing sanctions and military protection against Russia, to help Ukraine after providing verbal support in the wake of Russia’s capture of 24 Ukrainian sailors.

“We hope that NATO states are prepared to send naval ships to the Sea of Azov to support Ukraine and provide security,” Poroshenko said.

“The only language he [Putin] understands is the solidarity of the Western world,” Poroshenko said. “We can’t accept Russia’s aggressive policies. First it was Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, now he wants the Sea of Azov.”

Opening a German-Ukrainian economic forum in Berlin later in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she planned to press Putin at a Group of 20 (G20) summit to urge the release of the ships and crews.

“We can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts,” she added.

Meanwhile, an unknown number of the captured Ukrainian sailors have since been transferred to a detention center in Moscow, according to one of their lawyers.

Dzhemil Temishev wrote on Facebook on November 29 that his “colleagues” in the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow had informed him that some of the Ukrainian sailors had been brought there.

Also on Nov. 29, 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticized Poroshenko’s request for NATO to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov, saying it was “aimed at provoking further tensions” and driven by Poroshenko’s “electoral and domestic policy motives.”

Putin has claimed that the naval confrontation was a ploy to boost his Ukrainian counterpart’s popularity ahead of an election in March 2019.

A NATO spokeswoman said the alliance already had a strong presence in the region, with vessels routinely patrolling and exercising in the Black Sea.

“There is already a lot of NATO in the Black Sea, and we will continue to assess our presence in the region,” Oana Lungescu said.

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The Sea of Azov is the body of water that separates the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, from the Ukrainian and Russian mainlands. Russia opened a bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea with Russia in May and has asserted control over the strait.

The Kerch Strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, and the Black Sea, which is the arena usually patrolled by NATO.

Ukraine is a partner of NATO but not a member of the military alliance. NATO has already said it “stands with Ukraine” and has called on Russia to release the captured ships and their crews.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also warned Russia on Nov. 26, 2018, that “its actions have consequences.”

Poroshenko, who on Nov. 28, 2018, instituted martial law in parts of Ukraine in response to the Russian actions, told Bild he had evidence suggesting Russia is planning a new ground offensive against Ukraine, and he said he had shown NATO partners satellite pictures supporting that allegation.

“Germany also has to ask itself: What will Putin do next if we don’t stop him?” Poroshenko told Bild.

Ukrainian parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy has joined Poroshenko in calling for increased protection from NATO, saying on Nov. 27, 2018, that “I urged [NATO] to increase [its presence] in the airspace above the Black Sea and the number of military ships in the Black Sea as a guarantee of security and a guarantee of stability in the Black Sea.”

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EU: ‘Utmost Concern,’ But No New Sanctions

Poroshenko’s remarks came as the European Union failed to muster support for any immediate new steps to either impose new sanctions on Russia over the naval incident or increase enforcement of existing sanctions on Moscow.

Poland, Britain, and the EU’s Baltic states have called for more sanctions, but after three days of debate, the EU’s 28 states could agree only to issue a statement on Nov. 28, 2018, expressing “utmost concern about the dangerous increase of tensions” and the “unacceptable” use of force by Russia.

The statement issued by EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini did not mention sanctions, saying only that the bloc will “act appropriately” while continuing to monitor the situation.

The bloc’s top powers, Germany and France, have so far emphasized efforts to ease tensions. Other members, including Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, have been calling for a softening of sanctions on Moscow.

The EU first imposed sanctions on Russia after it seized Crimea, and it has ratcheted up those sanctions from time to time. The United States on Nov. 27, 2018, called for stricter enforcement of the EU’s existing sanctions on Russian and Crimean officials and businesses.

While the EU failed to take any immediate action against Russia, in a gesture of solidarity with Ukraine, Estonia said on Nov. 28, 2018, that it had summoned its Russian ambassador and condemned Russia’s use of military force in the incident.

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

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