The US Navy has ordered 30 ships, likely including nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines, to take to the seas as Hurricane Florence approaches from the Atlantic with 115 mph winds.
The Navy issued a “sortie code alpha” or its strongest possible order to move ships immediately in the presence of heavy weather.
US Navy ships weather rough storms all the time, and have been built to withstand hurricanes, but when moored to hard piers they’re susceptible to damage or even grounding, should the mooring lines break.
“Our ships can better weather storms of this magnitude when they are underway,” said US Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Christopher Grady said in a release.
“Ships will be directed to areas of the Atlantic where they will be best postured for storm avoidance,” another release read.
The US Navy’s Naval Station Norfolk.
(Photo by Esther Westerveld)
The US Navy’s Naval Station Norfolk hosts the US Navy’s most important and expensive ships. Because this region is one of only a few sites certified to work on the nuclear propulsion cores of US submarines and supercarriers, it regularly sees these ships for maintenance.
The US’s aircraft carrier deployment schedule dictates that two carriers stay docked for overhauls at any given time.
Hurricane Florence strengthened to a Category 3 storm around 10 a.m. Eastern Time on Sept. 10, 2018, when it recorded 115 mph winds. Much of the US’s east coast, including Virginia, has declared a state of emergency as it braces for the storm.
Florence is poised to make landfall early Sept. 13, 2018, somewhere around North and South Carolina, and is likely to strengthen as it approaches.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned military spouse heading to their umpteenth ball, rest assured you can have an enjoyable, memorable event. Military balls are a time-honored tradition, and while they’re not in everyone’s immediate comfort zone, they can make for a fun experience you won’t soon forget.
In order to attend your best ball yet, take these tips to heart, and to your upcoming formal event.
Choose an outfit you love
First things first, it’s important to dress the part. Whether you’re decked out in a fancy gown, perfectly tailored tuxedo, or anything in between, find what suits you. Choose attire that makes you feel strong and confident. No one wants to be adjusting their undergarments every few minutes. Take some time to find an outfit that actually fits, and that flatters your personal tastes.
You’ll be far more relaxed when feeling attractive, so don’t be afraid to put yourself first and find a getup you’re excited to show off!
No one wants to sit next to strangers … but it’s even worse when sitting next to a stranger who doesn’t talk or engage in any type of conversation. (Yes, this happens.) Talk to folks at your table and make nice! It will make the evening far more enjoyable, even if you don’t walk away friends. If you’re introverted, break the ice with small talk over decor, seating arrangements, the weather, parking, anything!
Whether or not you end up sitting next to folks you know, engage with them, and remain friendly throughout the night to make for a better time.
Each service branch and battalion will have its own traditions, so go ahead, jump on the bandwagon! We’re talking chants, specific handshakes, checking out displays, or voting for personalized awards. Jump into the fun!
Then again, be careful of TOO MUCH fun. Military balls are known for being heavy on the libations, and it’s a good idea to stay aware of how much you’re drinking, especially if sampling group punches.
Chances are, you won’t be associated with the unit for long, so you can make the most of each ball appearance by going all in and doing what it is they do best.
Don’t come starving
While it’s true you’re there to eat, that’s just part of the night. There are too many variables — maybe you won’t like the food, maybe someone took your fish and left you with steak (or vice versa, depending on your preferences). Or maybe you’re busy talking and don’t want to be shoving food in your face while doing so. In any case, eat a snack before you come and maybe plan a drive-thru trip on your way home. Whatever you can do to make sure you aren’t hangry!
Make a day of it
Relax. Take your time to get ready. Don’t rush it so you can enjoy the experience as a whole. This is a fun experience for all. Don’t consider the day just for your spouse or “mandatory fun,” but something you can celebrate together and with coworkers.
Show off your date!
As an extension of your military member, how you act, and what you do reflects on them. Remember to be on your best behavior (of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!). Be polite, make small talk, and find a way to have fun. You should also take their lead. Let them introduce you to coworkers, get appetizers, order drinks, etc. While yes, you’re going to have a good time, technically, this is their work event, and you should follow their moves.
Attending a military ball should be a fun, memorable experience, no matter how many of them you attend. Look to the above to more easily plan your night toward having a great time!
Afghanistan set new records for opium production in 2016 despite an $8.5 billion USD counternarcotics campaign investment by U.S agencies, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) stated in its latest quarterly report to Congress.
The report said that opium production increased 43 percent in 2016, while poppy eradication hit a 10-year low and was “nearly imperceptible.”
It said that the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conduct an annual survey with financial contributions from the United States and other donors.
UNODC estimated that the potential gross value of opiates was $1.56 billion USD — or the equivalent of about 7.4 percent of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — in 2015.
“The latest 2016 UNODC country survey estimates opium cultivation increased 10 percent, to 201,000 hectares, from the previous year,” the report said adding that “the southern region, which includes Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul, and Daykundi provinces, accounted for 59 percent of total cultivation. Helmand remained the country’s largest poppy-cultivating province, followed by Badghis and Kandahar.”
“Deteriorating security conditions, a lack of political will, and the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics’ ineffective management all contributed to the paltry eradication results in 2016,” the report said.
Poppy “cultivation remained near historically high levels compared with the past several decades.”
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s “narcotics industry — coupled with rampant corruption and fraud — is a major source of illicit revenue,” the report said.
The “opium trade provides about 60 percent of the Taliban’s funding.”
“Since the collapse of the Taliban government, the opium trade has grown significantly and enabled the funding of insurgency operations. Taliban commanders collect extortion fees for running heroin refineries, growing poppy, and other smuggling schemes,” according to the report.
“Powerful drug networks, mainly run by close-knit families and tribes, bankroll the insurgency and launder money. There have been media reports and allegations of corrupt government officials participating in the drug trade,” it said.
The Taliban is an Islamic extremist group that ruled Afghanistan until the U.S military intervention following the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attack in New York and Washington, D.C. that killed more than 3,000 people. The Taliban allowed al Qaeda to use Afghanistan as its training base for attacks against the U.S. and other western nations.
“Traffickers provide weapons, funding, and material support to the insurgency in exchange for protection, while insurgent leaders traffic drugs to finance their operations,” the report said.
Afghanistan “remains the world’s largest opium producer and exporter — producing an estimated 80 percent of the world’s heroin.”
John Sopko, head of SIGAR, recommended that President Donald Trump establish “a U.S counternarcotics strategy, now years overdue, to reduce the illicit commerce that provides the Taliban with the bulk of their revenue.”
Letters are a very personal and specific method of communicating, filled with all the details about feelings and moments that would get left out of official reports and summaries. That’s why they’re so loved by historians.
In these letters from the U.S. Army Heritage Education Center, a man identified as “Cofty” writes to his family about his experiences fighting in the jungles and front lines of Vietnam.
The first letter comes from Feb. 2, 1968, near the start of the Tet Offensive. The author and his unit were part of forces sent to counter the North Vietnamese attacks which had slammed into major U.S. posts at Long Binh and Bien Hoa. Saigon was also already under attack.
Though the writer couldn’t know it at the time, his unit was quite successful in driving the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces back, and attacks on Bien Hoa Air Base and Long Binh Post would cease the same day he wrote this letter.
(The author mistakenly put that his unit moved out on the 31st of December. The post-it notation on the letter is to amend “December” to “January.” The letter was written on February 2, 1968.)
The attack on the prisoner of war camp resulted in about 26 North Vietnamese dead and no U.S. or South Vietnamese casualties. There were at least two platoons involved in the fighting there, an infantry platoon and a cavalry platoon. It seems that the author was likely part of the cavalry platoon as, in an earlier letter available below, he refers to his squadron and his troop. Troops and squadrons are unit types predominantly used in cavalry organizations.
(A cavalry troop is roughly the same size as an infantry company, and a cavalry squadron is roughly the same size as an infantry battalion.)
While Bien Hoa Air Base and Long Binh Post would be relatively safe within hours of this letter being completed, attacks would continue across the front for months, including in Saigon where an embassy was partially overrun and then re-secured.
North Vietnamese forces launched approximately 120 attacks during the surprise offensive, greatly overstretching their forces and creating a situation where U.S. and South Vietnamese forces could quickly counterattack and retake the ground.
The offensive resulted in a large military defeat for the North Vietnamese, but early successes by the communist forces broke American morale at home, and the NVA achieved a major strategic victory despite their severe losses.
The other letter from this young soldier is dated January 19, a few weeks before the Tet Offensive began. It provides a little more “day-in-the-life” as the author details what search and destroy missions were, where his unit was located, and how hard it was to fight in the jungles near Cambodia.
U-505 was a near absolute failure as a killer, failing to sink a single ship for multiple combat tours in a row, suffering the only suicide of a commanding officer in the German undersea service until the final days of the war, and becoming the first submarine captured in the war despite failed attempts to scuttle the ship.
Yeah, the crew couldn’t even sink the sub properly.
The “unluckiest” U-boat, U-505, after its capture by sailors of Task Group 22.3.
Kapitänleutnant Axel-Olaf Loewe commissioned the boat in August 1941 and led it on three tours, sinking seven ships. (Kapitänleutnant is roughly equal to a U.S. Navy lieutenant, the O-3 grade.) Loewe did have one black spot on his record, though.
On July 22, 1942, a misunderstood command led to the ship shooting off the mast of a sailing boat with no flag and then sinking it. The ship belonged to a Columbian diplomat, and Columbia declared war after the incident. Berlin wasn’t exactly worried about Columbia, but that still ended up being Loewe’s last patrol.
Loewe then relinquished command to Kapitänleutnant Peter Zschech who had a much rougher time on the boat.
Zschech had been a successful officer before his command, and he held two Iron Crosses when he arrived on the U-505. He was expected to be a star. But his first two patrols had resulted in only one sinking. Before he could leave for his third patrol, French dockworkers sabotaged the U-505. They were executed, but their sabotage had the desired effect.
The U-505 struggled on its sixth patrol and sank no ships. Its seventh, eighth, and ninth patrols were cut short as the crew kept hearing strange noises that likely represented ongoing problems from the sabotage, and the boat turned back from each tour.
Zschech was professionally embarrassed. He was supposed to be a star of the submarine service but had sank one ship over the course of six patrols. On Oct. 9, 1943, Zschech took the crew on its 10th overall patrol, his seventh. Fifteen days later, the U-505 was spotted and came under heavy, determined depth charge attack.
The Oberleutnant zur See Paul Meyer got his crew out of the depth charge attack and led them back to port. The ship received a new commanding officer, Oberleutnant zur See Harald Lange. His first patrol on the boat lasted only nine days with little effect. But his next patrol, launched March 16, 1944, would go for 81 days. But it would end horribly.
It wasn’t entirely Lange’s or the crew’s fault. The U.S. Navy Task Group 22.3 had successfully sunk U-515 on its previous tour, and the task group commander had gotten an idea for a greater coup. U-515 had, after suffering extreme damage, come to the surface in the middle of the task group. The task group quickly sank it with all the guns it had, but the commander wanted to try using only machine guns next time, hoping to save the sub and capture it.
Survivors of the U-505 await their transportation to POW camps in 1944.
The USS Chatelain was the first to attack after Wildcat fighters from the USS Guadalcanal spotted the U-505, and it’s depth charges quickly forced the sub to surface. U-505 began circling to the right, and the gunners of the task group began laying into it out of fear it was lining up for a torpedo attack. This quickly proved false as submariners started leaping into the ocean, and the group commander ordered the larger caliber weapons to cease fire.
It was the first capture of an enemy ship by a U.S. Navy vessel since 1815. The boarding parties quickly got classified materials and the enigma machine out, and then set about trying to save the boat. This required closing the scuttling vents, disabling the charges, and then pumping water out of the boat.
And the U-505, in either a final slap in the face of its German crew or a final act of supporting sailors, depending on who you ask, the boat’s pumps successfully cleared the water, and it was towed to the Caribbean for study. The surviving crew members sat out the rest of the war in a POW camp.
There’s a very good reason Audie Murphy is one of the most decorated veterans to every wear the US Army uniform.
Murphy was born on June 20, 1925 in Texas. His family was extremely poor, partially due to having twelve young mouths to feed. When his father abandoned the family when Audie was fifteen years old, he was forced to pick up some of the slack by hunting and doing what work he could to keep food on the table. Unfortunately, his mother died just a year after his father left.
Shortly thereafter, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Audie attempted to join the various branches of the U.S. military but was turned down in each case owing to his age and diminutive stature -five and a half feet tall (1.66 meters) and weighing only about 100 pounds (45 kg).
About seven months later, just ten days after he turned seventeen, he tried again. Having gained some weight (getting up to a whopping 112 pounds / 50.8 kg) and with falsified testimony from his sister claiming he was actually 18, this time Audie was able to get into the army. He was then shipped off to North Africa and later deployed to Sicily.
Despite his small size, Murphy proved to be a phenomenal soldier. In 1944, after witnessing the death of a friend during Operation Dragoon, he charged a group of German soldiers, took over their machine guns and other weapons, and proceeded to take out the other enemy soldiers within range using their own artillery. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day, the first of many medals.
During another battle shortly after this, to cover retreating Allied soldiers, he jumped onto a tank that had been hit and was on fire, exposing himself to the advancing enemy soldiers. Why did he put himself in such an exposed position on a tank that could potentially explode at any minute? There was a .50 caliber machine gun on the tank.
As Private Anthony Abramski said of the event,
It was like standing on top of a time bomb … he was standing on the TD chassis, exposed to enemy fire from his ankles to his head and silhouetted against the trees and the snow behind him.
Nevertheless, over the course of the next hour, he held off six German tanks and several waves of enemy soldiers, who were all trying desperately to take out the little American who was the only thing in their way at that point. He only retreated when he ran out of ammo. Once this happened, having sustained a leg wound and completely exhausted, Audie said in his book To Hell and Back,
I slide off the tank destroyer and, without once looking back, walk down the road through the forest. If the Germans want to shoot me, let them. I am too weak from fear and exhaustion to care.
Despite the leg wound, as soon as he caught up with his retreating soldiers who had now re-formed, he turned them around and managed to reclaim a stretch of forest from German occupation. According to the official report, in that battle, he killed or severely wounding at least fifty German soldiers by himself. For this act of bravery and for “indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground [saving] his company from possible encirclement and destruction…” he was awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor.
He rose through the ranks and was a captain when he was pulled out of the war in 1945. All in all, he earned 33 awards and decorations for his exemplary service during the war. He was just 20 years old at the time and, as one movie critic later put it, knew more of death than he did of life.
When Murphy returned from the war, he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that often went undiagnosed at the time. After being featured on the cover of Life magazine, he found himself in Hollywood without work, sleeping in rough conditions. He caught his big break in 1949 when he starred in the film Bad Boy. That same year, he released the aforementioned autobiography titled To Hell and Back, which topped the bestseller charts. He went on to star as himself in a movie with the same title in 1955; it was Universal’s top-grossing film for nearly 20 years until Jaws usurped it.
Acting seemed to suit him. He made no less than 44 feature films while he was in Hollywood, many of them westerns, and also filmed a 26-episode western TV series called Whispering Smith, which aired in 1961 on NBC. It was criticised for being too violent, however, and cancelled after just 20 episodes were aired.
A man of many talents, Murphy also dabbled in poetry and song-writing as well as horse breeding and racing. Thanks to his earnings from acting, he was able to purchase a ranch in Texas. He was living an incredibly comfortable life, far grander than what he had known as a child.
Yet all was not well with Murphy. Back to his post traumatic stress disorder, he became dependent on sleeping pills to combat the insomnia he experienced after the war. Realizing he had become addicted to them, he locked himself in a motel room for a week, while he worked through the withdrawal symptoms. He ended up beating the addiction and went on to break the taboo of talking about the mental disorders many soldiers suffered when they returned home. His willingness to do so opened up discussions about psychological care for veterans upon their return to the US.
Murphy ended up marrying twice, divorcing his first wife after just two years, and having two sons with his second wife. He appeared to be happy with his family, with more than enough money in the bank to keep them comfortable (though he squandered much of it on gambling in his later years); had acted in dozens of movies; and had amazing war stories to tell his grandkids about. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get to that stage of his life.
On May 28, 1971, Murphy was in a private plane flying on a business trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Martinsville, Virginia. The weather conditions were less than ideal: rain and fog shortened the pilot’s visibility considerably, and he had a questionable instrument rating. He called in to the Roanoke, Virginia airport to say that he would be landing shortly due to poor conditions. The plane, carrying five passengers including Murphy, never landed in the Roanoke Valley. It crashed into Brush Mountain twenty miles away, close to Blacksburg. Everyone in the crash was killed. Murphy was just 45 years old. The site of the crash has since been turned into a monument, and in the 1990s, the Appalachian Trail was rerouted to go past it.
That wasn’t quite the end for Murphy, though. After a funeral in Arlington Cemetery, where his grave remains the second most visited (after Kennedy’s), he was posthumously awarded his final medal, the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. It was presented to his last remaining sister, Nadine Murphy, on October 29, 2013 by Governor Rick Perry.
Everybody knows that the GI Bill is for college, but did you know you can use it for things other than a typical brick-and-mortar institution of higher learning? Here are four VA-approved ways you can use that benefit to better fit your goals in life.
*Note: While Veterans Affairs has confirmed that each of the schools listed here are approved institutions for using the GI Bill, you should always consult with your VA representative before making decisions regarding benefits.
1. Be the best bartender you can be!
While the GI Bill itself does not actually cover bartending school, try to find an accredited school with degree programs in culinary arts. If you can manage that, your course load will most likely include classes that involve various aspects of drinkology, an academic counselor at Culinary Institute of America told WATM.
The institute- which is best known as the CIA- is a VA-approved school.
2. Make Mary Jane your money making biotch
With the rise in the legalization of cannabis — both for medicinal and recreational purposes — across the country, professionals within the cannabis industry are going to be in high demand.
There are three different areas within the weed world to look at: chemists, horticulturist and dispensary managers.
Chemists and dispensary managers can be made through any traditional college route, but to be a cannabis grower, you can attend an horticulture school that offers degrees or certificates in horticulture.
3. Show everyone that you have the perfect face for radio
The Academy of Radio and Television Broadcasting offers an intensive course of study in radio and television broadcasting. Students at the Academy learn everything a normal college student learns in a four-year broadcasting degree- but in a much shorter time and without the requirement to invest in typical “core” classes.Core classes in math and science don’t typically translate into radio and television broadcasting, so the concept behind the school is to focus solely on broadcasting.
This cuts the typical four year program down to a mere seven months.
Tuition for the entire program is roughly $15,000.
4. Dive for buried treasure.
Well, be a commercial diver, anyway. The Divers Institute of Technology actually prefers veterans, and it is (and always has been) owned and operated by veterans.
The Divers Institute’s website claims, “you’ll get lots of hands-on, in-the-water training during your seven month program. We’ll teach you surface and underwater welding, cutting, and burning. You’ll learn diving physics and medicine, safety, rigging, salvage, hazmat, inland and offshore diving and more.”
Hopefully it won’t be the tweet that launched 1,000 ships — or nuclear weapons.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,'” President Donald Trump tweeted on Jan. 2. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
Many people are concerned that statement was belligerent enough to back the U.S. into war.
Shortly after Trump posted the statement, which received about 700,000 interactions, store managers across the country noticed a spike in sales of potassium iodide (or KI) pills, which are often advertised as able to block radiation from nuclear fallout.
“On Jan. 2, I basically got in a month’s supply of potassium iodide and I sold out in 48 hours,” he said.
In two days, Jones said he sent out about 140,000 doses of the drug, whereas he normally would have shipped about 8,400. Some local pharmacies have seen a similar rise in sales.
But the pill is far from a protect-all against a nuclear attack. In fact, radiation health experts say it’s pretty much the last thing people need in a nuclear-blast survival kit — especially with the type of strike North Korea might be capable of.
Why potassium iodide pills are probably a waste of money
Instead, the U.S. government says fallout is a greater concern in the event of a terrorist’s nuclear detonation, which would be close to the ground. That’s because fallout is formed and spread when dirt and debris get sucked up by a nuclear blast, irradiated to dangerous levels, pushed into the atmosphere, and sprinkled over great distances.
One of the products in fallout is radioactive iodine. Iodine is absorbed and used by the thyroid gland in the neck, so radioactive forms can concentrate there and promote cancer. KI pills — which cost anywhere from a few cents to more than a dollar per pill online — can block that absorption, though not without risk of side effects.
However, radioactive iodine represents a tiny percentage of the elements that the human body would be exposed to in the event of a nuclear disaster.
“Most people seem to think of the potassium iodide, or KI, pills as some type of anti-radiation drug. They are not,” Brooke Buddemeier, a health physicist and expert on radiation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, previously told Business Insider. “They are for preventing the uptake of radioiodine, which is one radionuclide out of thousands of radionuclides that are out there.”
Buddemeier estimated that radioiodine is just 0.2% of the overall exposure you may face outdoors, and said the pills are more helpful for addressing longer-term concerns about food-supply contamination. In the case of a nuclear blast, he said, “the most important thing is sheltering in place.”
The best thing you can do is stay put
If you’re lucky enough to survive the searing flash of light, crushing shockwaves, and incendiary fireball that is a nuclear explosion, your next item of concern is fallout.
“Get inside … and get to the center of that building,” he said. “If you happen to have access to below-ground areas, getting below ground is great.”
Soil is a great shield from radiation, Buddemeier says, so ducking into a home with a basement would be better than going into a place without.
Besides cars, the poorest shelters are made of wood, plaster, and other materials that don’t shield against much radiation — about 20% of houses fall into this category. Better shelters, such as schools and offices, are made of bricks or concrete and have few or no windows.
Prepare an emergency kit with these items instead
Buddemeier recommends visiting Ready.gov to see a complete list of what to do in various emergency scenarios, including a nuclear blast, and what to include in a full emergency kit.
A radio is important for receiving emergency broadcasts and instructions. It’s one of the simplest ways to figure out where dangerous fallout has landed, when you can leave your shelter, and where the safest routes to exit a fallout zone are.
“If you have a cellphone, that’ll work too,” Buddemeier said, though he prefers a radio because “sometimes the cell towers may be affected,” by power outages, crushing demand, or an invisible yet powerful effect of nuclear weapons called electromagnetic pulse. (The effect can disable electronics, though a ground detonation would mostly confine EMP to the blast damage zone, where you’d have much bigger problems.)
Second, Buddemeier says, you’ll want water — ideally 1 gallon per person per day, according to Ready.gov. In addition to drinking it, you may need it to rinse off radioactive fallout after removing your clothes, since this can drastically reduce your radiation exposure.
Third, Buddemeier said, “I would probably grab a breakfast bar or two to stave off the hunger a little bit.” Fourth, he says, is any essential medications or treatments you might need.
If one of your kits isn’t handy in the event of an explosion, Buddemeier recommends trying to grab a few of these items — as long as that process doesn’t delay taking shelter by more than a couple of minutes. The first minutes and hours after a blast are when radioactive fallout exposure risk is the greatest, especially outdoors.
FEMA recommends each of your emergency kits have these essential items in a portable bag:
Water: 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation.
Food: at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food.
Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both.
Flashlight and extra batteries.
Whistle to signal for help.
Dust mask to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter in place.
Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation.
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.
Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food).
If you have the space, the need, and the foresight, FEMA also recommends beefing up your basic kits with these items:
Prescription medications and glasses.
Infant formula and diapers.
Pet food and extra water for your pet.
Important family documents, such as copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank-account records in a waterproof, portable container.
Cash or traveler’s checks and change.
Emergency reference material such as a first-aid book or information from Ready.gov.
Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.
Complete change of clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.
Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper: When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented or color-safe bleaches, or those with added cleaners.
Matches in a waterproof container.
Feminine supplies and personal-hygiene items.
Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, and paper towels.
Paper and pencil.
Books, games, puzzles, or other activities for children.
Who are the best commandos in the Western Hemisphere? Throw Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Rangers, Marine Force Recon, the Marine Special Operations Command, or even Air Force Special Tactics airmen into a ring and find out. Sort of.
Which is kind of what happens during an annual competition called Fuerzas Commandos. It’s been held 13 times. In 2017, Honduras took the trophy from Colombia, an eight-time winner of the 11-day event.
So, what, exactly goes down at these commando Olympics?
First, there is an opening ceremony during which the trophy is returned to an officer of the host nation.
This year, 20 countries (Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and Uruguay) competed, sending over 700 commandos.
Participants take part in both an Assault Team Competition and a Sniper Team Competition.
The Assault Team Competition features a number of challenges. One is a physical fitness test.
There is a “confidence course” and an obstacle course is run as well.
Close-quarters combat skills are tested and there is a rucksack march.
Don’t forget the aquatic events or the hostage rescue events.
The Sniper Team Competition features marksmanship.
A Mexican soldier looks over his ghillie suit before the beginning of a stalk-and-shoot event July 20, 2017 during Fuerzas Comando in Ñu Guazú, Paraguay. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Tonya Deardorf)
Then there is concealment.
They also have a physical fitness test and there’s a mobility event.
This year, Honduras won the title, Colombia finished second, and the USA took third place. Next year, Panama will host Fuerzes Commandos. Will Honduras defend their title, will the Colombians make it nine out of fourteen, or will there be a surprise winner?
After hitting a low in 2012, Colombia’s cultivation of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, jumped 134% between 2013 and 2016, US officials said late 2017.
2016 alone saw a 52% increase in the area under coca cultivation, rising to 360,774 acres from 237,221 acres in 2015, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Potential cocaine production jumped 34%, from 712 tons in 2015 to 954 tons a year later.
The amount of cocaine seized in the country also rose by nearly half, the UNODC said, from 253,591 kilos in 2015 to 378,260 kilos in 2016. That was accompanied by a 26% increase in the number of illegal cocaine labs destroyed, from 3,827 in 2015 to 4,842 the following year. (The real amounts are likely much higher than official estimates.)
Colombia has faced pressure from the US to clamp down on that surge, but there were a variety of factors that drove it through 2016, when the government signed a peace accord with left-wing rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Under that deal, the government has pursued crop-substitution and alternative-development programs to pull farmers away from coca.
But a lack of resources has hindered implementation of those programs, and in lieu of an alternative, Colombian growers have forged ahead with the only one they can grow profitably.
“What really happened, I think, is that the government did stop fumigating, which was a factor,” said Adam Isacson, the director for defense oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America. “It also cut way back on manual eradication, and it didn’t make a presence” in often-marginalized parts of the country where cultivation has been the most intense, Isacson told Business Insider.
Isacson, who spent a month on the ground in Colombia in February 2018, pointed to Putumayo, a department on Colombia’s southern border.
“That fringe area with Ecuador is no-man’s land, and nobody’s seen an eradicator or a development official, same for most of Catatumbo,” he told Business Insider, referring to a region in the northwest Colombian department of Norte de Santander, where cultivation is also intense.
“So if it’s no-man’s land and you see your neighbor’s now got waist-high coca bushes, and they’re two years old and nobody’s messed with him, it’s probably pretty tempting to grow it yourself,” Isacson said.
Efforts to get farmers to grow other crops have faltered because they aren’t economically viable — in part because getting those crops to market from rural, isolated areas eats away the profit margin.
“You probably often make more with almost any other crop, but it’s always a different crop. Sometimes it’s coca. Sometimes … something else might be getting a better price than coca, but coca never goes down,” Isacson told Business Insider. “It’s just this always above-average price. It’s like an insurance policy for them.”
“The government has tried alternate-crop development and what have you, but it’s never worked, because growing breadfruit, bananas, and other crops does not come close to fetching the prices that coca does,” said Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
The value of coca increases dramatically as it is refined and moves toward consumer markets.
The ton of fresh coca leaf needed to make a kilo of cocaine costs a few hundred dollars in Colombia. After its processed and turned into power, that kilo can fetch $30,000 or more in the US. On the street, once that kilo is “stepped on” by cutting it to grams and adding fillers, its total value can exceed $100,000. (Though not all that money filters back to the source.)
“Coca cultivation has always been the most marketable and the highest-priced commodity that the criminal groups have engaged in, because really there’s no other crop that brings the price that cocaine does,” Vigil, who worked on the ground in Colombia while in the DEA, told Business Insider.
That doesn’t necessarily translate into a boon for farmers, however. Traffickers and criminal groups, as the main buyers, have outsize control at the point of purchase, often dictating the price.
“The farmers really don’t have a say, because they have to be able to sell the cocaine that they produce,” Vigil said. “If they don’t acquiesce to the prices of the major drug-trafficking organizations, they’re going to move on, and there’s always somebody else that they can buy it from.”
Farmers have also been left vulnerable by the Colombian government, which has forged ahead with manual eradication, which has vastly outstripped the building of roads and infrastructure that would support alternative development and cultivation of other crops, in part because of an economic downturn that has lashed the government’s budget.
And while nearly 30,000 families are now receiving benefits from Colombia’s Comprehensive Program for Illicit Crop Substitution, that’s only about one-quarter of the families who have signed collective agreements, which is just the first step in a long process to get aid.
With a lack of state support, farmers interested in moving out of the coca trade are often exposed to FARC dissidents and other criminal groups, who have rushed to fill the vacuum left by demobilizing FARC units and want farmers to continue tending coca bushes.
“They don’t have the money to support us, and the pressure to continue [growing coca] is fierce,” a community leader in the isolated southwest municipality of Tumaco — a global hub for coca — said in late 2016, after a deadly clash between state security forces and farmers protesting efforts to destroy their coca.
In January 2018, the Colombian government sent 2,000 troops to Tumaco to contain violence there.
“What we have seen — in Norte de Santander it’s happened [and] in Putumayo to some extent — is people signing on to the crop-substitution programs [and] getting threatened or killed for … abandoning it.”
Jeremy A. asks: How did flipping the bird come to mean fu?
While some common gestures, such as the high five, have pretty well known and surprisingly modern origins, it turns out one of the most popular of all has been around for well over two thousand years, including having various similar connotations as it has today.
Unsurprisingly once you stop and think about versions of the expression’s meaning, extending the middle finger simply represents the phallus, with it perhaps natural enough that our forebears chose their longest finger to symbolically represent man’s favorite digit. (Although, there are some cultures that instead chose the thumb, seemingly preferring to have their girth, rather than length, represented here…) It’s also been speculated that perhaps people noticed that the curled fingers (or balled fist in the case of the thumb) made for a good representation of the testicles.
Either way, given the symbolism here, it’s no surprise that the expression has more or less always seemed to have meant something akin to “F*k You” in some form or other, sometimes literally.
For example, in Ancient Greece, beyond being a general insult, in some cases there seems to be a specific implication from the insult that the person the gesture was directed at liked to take it up the bum. In the case of men, despite male on male lovin’ being widely accepted in the culture at the time, there were still potentially negative connotations with regards to one’s manliness when functioning as the bottom in such a rendezvous, particularly the bottom for someone with lower social standing.
Moving on to an early specific example we have Aristphanes’ 423 BC The Clouds. In it, a character known as Strepsiades, tired of Socrates’ pontificating, decides to flip off the famed philosopher.
Socrates: Well, to begin with, they’ll make you elegant in company— and you’ll recognize the different rhythms, the enoplian and the dactylic, which is like a digit. Strepsiades: Like a digit! By god, that’s something I do know! Socrates: Then tell me. Strepsiades: When I was a lad a digit meant this! [Strepsiades sticks his middle finger straight up under Socrates’ nose]
For whatever it’s worth, in the third century AD Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, we also have this reference of a supposed incidence that occurred in the 4th century BC, concerning famed orator Demosthenes and philosopher Diogenes.
[Diogenes] once found Demosthenes the orator lunching at an inn, and, when he retired within, Diogenes said, “All the more you will be inside the tavern.” When some strangers expressed a wish to see Demosthenes, [Diogenes] stretched out his middle finger and said, “There goes the demagogue of Athens.”
(No doubt water was needed to put out the fire created by that wicked burn.)
Moving on to the first century AD, Caligula seems to have enjoyed making powerful people kiss his ring while he extended his middle finger at them. On a no doubt completely unrelated note, the chief organizer of his assassination, and first to stab him, was one Cassius Chaerea who Caligula liked to do this very thing with, as noted by Suetonius:
Gaius used to taunt him, a man already well on in years, with voluptuousness and effeminacy by every form of insult. When he asked for the watchword Gaius would give him “Priapus” or “Venus,” and when Chaerea had occasion to thank him for anything, he would hold out his hand to kiss, forming and moving it in an obscene fashion.
Speaking of the implications of this insulting gesture, it seems to have fallen out of favor during the Middle Ages with the rise of Christianity, or at least records of it diminish. This may mean people actually stopped popularly flipping the bird or may just mean its uncouth nature saw it something not generally written about. That said, we do know thanks to the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville that at least as late as the 6th century people were still extending the finger as an insult, in this reference particularly directed at someone who had done something considered “shameful”.
Moving on to more modern times, the gesture was popularly resurrected in documented history starting around the early 19th century, with early photographic evidence later popping up in the latter half of the 1800s. Most famously, we have a photograph of the gesture flashed by present day Twitter sensation and former 19th century baseball iron man Charley “Old Hoss” Radbourn. Radbourn was a pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters in 1886 when the team, along with the New York Giants, posed for a group photo. In the photo, Old Hoss can be seen giving the bird to the cameraman. (We’ll have more on Charley “Hoss” and his possible connection to a different expression in a bit.)
Boston Beaneaters and New York Giants, Major League Baseball Opening Day 1886. Charles Radbourn giving the finger to cameraman (back row, far left).
At this point you might be wondering why we call extending the middle finger today — “flipping the bird” or “giving the bird”. The connection is speculated to derive from the centuries old practice of more or less making bird sounds, particularly owl and geese calls, as an equivalent to booing when an audience is dissatisfied by something. This, in turn, gave rise to the popular 19th century expression to “goose” someone and then a little later led to the expression “give the big bird”, as noted in William Earnest Henley’s late 19th century work, Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present:
Big Bird: To get or give the big bird — To be hissed on the stage…. When an actor or actress gets the big bird, it may be from two causes; either it is a compliment for successful portrayal of villainy, in which case the Gods simply express their abhorrence of the character and not of the actor; or, the hissing may be directed against the actor, personally for some reason or other. The Big Bird is the goose.
By the mid-20th century, this seems to have extended to “giving the bird” not just referring to insulting sounds, but to describe extending the middle finger as well. One of the earliest examples of this can be found in the 1942 animated film A Tale of Two Kitties. In it, the pair of cats attempt to capture Tweety bird. At a certain point, one of the cats implores the other “Give me the bird!” The other cat then turns to the viewers and exclaims “If the Hays Office would only let me, I’d give him the bird alright.”
Going back to Charley “Hoss” Roadbourn, he is widely speculated to be the inspiration for the expression “Charley Horse”, indicating a random muscle cramp in the leg. The expression popped up in baseball shortly after his historic 1884 season in which he posted a 1.38 ERA with 441 strikeouts in 678 and 2/3 innings, winning 59 games by modern rules (or 60 by the scorers of the day) despite the fact that his team only played 112 games that year. If you’re wondering how he managed to pitch in so many games, this was as a result of a fight between he and the team’s other best pitcher, Charlie Sweeney, that saw Sweeney leave and Old Hoss offer to start every game for the remainder of the season. He nearly did this, starting 40 of the remaining 43 games that year and winning 36 of them. However, at a certain point he reportedly became so sore he couldn’t even raise his arm above his head without significant warmup that required starting by soft tossing from just a few feet and slowly working back as his arm loosened up. It is speculated that his prolific pitching around this time, and presumably frequent cramps from over use of his muscles, may have inspired the expression. For whatever it’s worth, a 1907 issue of the Washington Post indicates that Old Hoss actually once had a severe leg cramp in a game, which directly gave rise to the expression. Whatever the case, one of the earliest known instances of the expression “Charley Horse” occurred in an 1887 edition of The Fort Wayne Gazette where it notes, “Whatever ails a player this year they call it a ‘Charley horse’…”
American seamen captured by the North Koreans in the famous “Pueblo crisis” once used the North Korean’s ignorance of the meaning of extending the middle finger to good use in propaganda photos taken by their captors. When asked, the captured men simply stated that it was a good luck gesture, so were allowed to continue using it in the photographs… at first. When the North Koreans discovered what it actually meant, the seamen were beaten.
As we alluded to in the body of this piece, there are several places on Earth where a thumbs up has a similar meaning to extending the middle finger. Why we bring this up specifically is that when American troops first started being stationed in Iraq, some reported being greeted by civilians offering a thumbs up, with the soldiers (and many in the media) interpreting it as most Westerners would — all the while not realizing the people were more or less flipping them off.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
But on Dec. 2, Saleh flipped his allegiance by offering to turn a “new page” with Houthi rival Saudi Arabia. He called the Houthis a “coup militia,” which they saw as the ultimate betrayal and the reason for his assassination.
Yet Saleh’s death is just the latest incident contributing to turbulent conditions in Yemen.
The Saudi-backed government first faced rebel Houthis in the 1990s
According to UNICEF one child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes like hunger and disease,
The United Nations has tried to broker peace agreements on several occasions, but with little success. In May, the UN’s envoy for Yemen told the security council that a peace deal was urgently needed, but confessed a deal was “not close” to being accepted by the warring sides who refuse to compromise.
In November, Saudi Arabia partially relaxed its crippling blockade to let aid deliveries through, but it had little effect on the country’s starving residents.
Relations deteriorated even further this week
On Dec. 2, former President Saleh offered to mediate the conflict and “turn a new page” with the Saudi-led coalition in exchange for stopping air strikes and ending the blockade that has crippled the country, according to the BBC.
However, Houthi rebels, who had formed an unlikely alliance with Saleh, saw the move as a “coup” against “an alliance he never believed in,” the BBC added.
Last weekend, a convoy Saleh was traveling in came under deadly fire from Houthi rebels. His death was confirmed on Dec. 4.
What happens next?
With Saleh dead and his allied forces facing an intensified battle with Houthi fighters, the future of war-torn Yemen is uncertain, and hopes of putting an end to the bloody civil war look bleak.
According to analysts, the Saudi-led coalition’s fight against the increasingly brazen Houthis will likely intensify, Al Jazeera reported.
Joost Hiltermann, International Crisis Group’s Middle East program director, told Al Jazeera that the breakdown of the Houthi-Saleh alliance will “increase fragmentation and conflict by adding layers of revenge.”
Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi celebrated Saleh’s death as a victory against the Saudi-led coalition in which “the conspiracy of betrayal and treason failed.”