We must speak out against the flaws of America - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

We must speak out against the flaws of America

Last week, I read an article on this site called, “America, Where Are You Going?” in which the author (anonymous) bemoaned recent social and political activism of his or her fellow military spouses.

I read all the way to the second page, where one line jumped out above all the rest: “However, that mutual understanding and respect that our spouses should never be publicly political seem to have fallen to the side for a few…” (emphasis added).

Dear Anonymous, I could not disagree with this sentiment more. Here is my rebuttal.


For over twenty years, I’ve served my country by making sure that my spouse’s home and family are taken care of. I make lunches and brush hair and comfort babies when they haven’t seen their daddy in too long. I make sure that if he is called to deploy, he can leave our family knowing that we are taken care of and focus on the job in front of him. I love my country. My work isn’t a sacrifice so much as it is an act of patriotism and pride.

At the same time, it is out of a deep and abiding love for my country that I recognize her flaws and errors. It is also my duty to speak up and call for change.

In 1830 the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek was signed, and my ancestors were robbed of their homeland in Mississippi. Choctaw Nation would start the trek west to Oklahoma where they would be confined to a reservation in a wholly new environment. My ancestors survived, though many others didn’t.

This story was told to me as a child. I could hear the pain in my grandmother’s voice as she retold the story her grandma told her. The early 1800s was one of many dark chapters in American history. But my Nation grew strong and built a future in Oklahoma.

Ever since then, I have been firmly grounded in the understanding that my country has deep flaws that we should all mourn. We also have the promise of freedom and the opportunity to grow that is lacking in so many places around the world. My American story goes back far beyond the first European settlers, then later was enriched by Italian and Welsh ancestors. I am rooted in this country in deep ways. This makes me both confident in the future that is possible and aware of the blemishes within.

Part of my duty as a patriot, as a military spouse, and as an American is to speak out against actions that harm our citizens and dishonor our history. Of course we can be publicly political! We’re stakeholders in this great American experiment, aren’t we? That means we get a say in how our country’s run. In fact, as military spouses who have lived in all different kinds of places, we have unique insights on how different systems work. Our perspective is tremendously valuable to the political process.

Those who suggest that spouses should never be political are likely the spouses who benefit most from the way things are now. I do not have that luxury. My Nation does not have that luxury. For us, our existence is political. If we do not speak up, we risk being erased entirely.

At the very end of the article, the author wrote: “The military is not just one entity, it is a family made up of individuals, all with different outlooks on life, political affiliations, religions, every race, and every culture imaginable.”

On this we can agree. Military spouses are no more of a monolith than any other demographic in America. I have military spouse friends who are Muslim, Jewish, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Gay, Transgender, socialists, and conservatives. All of us come into this military life with passions and beliefs, some that change and some that grow stronger. The shared experience of serving together bonds us across those differences with a strength that is rarely seen in civilian circles.

So of course: I no more speak for all military spouses than they speak for me. (I’ll add that in the original New York Times article I’m pretty sure this author referred to, that was made abundantly clear.) However, it does not mean that we do not speak at all. On the contrary, we cannot and must not remain quiet when we see injustices. We can and must stand up and say enough.

If you’re interested in political activism like me and what to know where to start, I recommend checking out the Secure Families Initiative. They host nonpartisan webinar trainings on how to be the best advocate you can be, whether that’s lobbying your elected officials or simply telling your story. It’s a super cool community of kickass military spouses!

My voice is important, my voice is unique, and my voice is mine. I am not speaking for my spouse or anyone else, but I am speaking for what I believe is best for my family, national security, and my country.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How much a beer costs in the top 10 most expensive cities in the world

Three cities currently share the title of most expensive city in the world — Paris, Hong Kong, and Singapore — and, across those cities, the average price for a beer ranges from $1.77 and $2.27.

That’s according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living Report, which uses over 400 prices across 160 different products and services — including food and drink — to calculate rankings. Among these products is the average cost of a bottle of beer (330 ml).


Some cities, such as Copenhagen — home to major brewing company Carlsberg — saw price drops when compared to last year’s average prices. New York, meanwhile, led the charge with the highest price per beer bottle.

Keep reading for a look at the cost of beer in 10 of the most expensive cities worldwide, along with some of the areas’ best-known breweries. All prices are in USD.

We must speak out against the flaws of America

(Flickr / Ralf Steinberger)

Tel Aviv, Israel: .94

City ranking by cost of living: 10

Tel Aviv’s price per beer bottle dropped 25 cents from last year’s price of .19. Though Israel’s two major breweries are located farther up the coast in Ashkelon and Netanya, Tel Aviv is home to micro-breweries such as The Dancing Camel Brewing Company.

Source: Time Out, Hareetz, Bloomberg, Tempo, Carlsberg

We must speak out against the flaws of America

(Flickr photo by Jörg Schubert)

New York, USA: .33

City ranking by cost of living: 7 (tied with Copenhagen and Seoul)

New York has the highest price per bottle. The city is known for its breweries, and while many are upstate, several are located in the city area. Brooklyn especially is infamous for new pop-ups — including Circa Brewing Company and Five Boroughs Brewing Company — along with Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Brewery, which was established in 1988. Overall, the price of beer in New York changed only eight cents, rising from last year’s price of .25.

Source: Time Out, New York State Brewers’ Association, City Brew Tours, NY State Senate, Brooklyn Brewery

We must speak out against the flaws of America

(Flickr / Ryan Bodenstein)

Copenhagen, Denmark: .61

City ranking by cost of living: 7 (tied with New York and Seoul)

Home to the Carlsberg Group, Denmark’s capital has been brewing beer for over 170 years. Copenhagen’s price per bottle dropped almost 50 cents compared to last year, lowering its cost from .06.

Source: Carlsberg Group, Visit Denmark

We must speak out against the flaws of America

(Flickr / Philippe Teuwen)

Seoul, South Korea: .13

City ranking by cost of living: 7 (tied with New York and Copenhagen)

Seoul’s beer scene is best known for the Oriental Breweries headquarters, more commonly known as OB. The city saw a bottle price reduction of eight cents compared to .25 last year.

Source: Bloomberg

We must speak out against the flaws of America

(Flickr / Pedro Szekely)

Osaka, Japan: .30

City ranking by cost of living: 5 (tied with Geneva)

As the popularity of craft beer in Japan steadily increases, Osaka remains a major hub for both food and drink. Alongside restaurants with prime beer on tap, the city is home to several breweries, including Dotonbori Beer. The price change from last year included an eight cent raise from .22.

Source: Culture Trip, Dontonbori Beer Co., Culture Trip

We must speak out against the flaws of America

(Flickr / ITU Pictures)

Geneva, Switzerland: id=”listicle-2632285079″.54

City ranking by cost of living: 5 (tied with Osaka)

While it is best known for its watchmaking and Swiss chocolate shops, Geneva hosted its first Open Air Craft Beer Festival in 2017 and is also home to Les Brasseurs micro-brewery. The city’s per per bottle dropped 34 cents compared to its 2018 price of id=”listicle-2632285079″.88.

Source: Les Brasseurs, Geneva Live Tourism

We must speak out against the flaws of America

(Flickr / szeke)

Zurich, Switzerland: .25

City ranking by cost of living: 4

At over a dollar more than fellow Swiss city Geneva, Zurich’s price per bottle rings in at .25, down three cents from last year. Travel + Leisure noted that craft beer is becoming more accessible, and several small breweries now exist in the region.

Source: Travel + Leisure, MySwitzerland

We must speak out against the flaws of America

(Flickr / Barbara Willi)

Hong Kong: id=”listicle-2632285079″.77

City ranking by cost of living: 1 (tied with Singapore and Paris)

Hong Kong is home to Hong Kong Beer Co., the city’s first craft brewery. According to the company’s website, it is also the first craft brewery in Asia to sell beer exclusively in bottles and kegs. Though Hong Kong is tied for the No. 1 most expensive city, it actually offers the cheapest beer prices amongst the expensive cities, with a price of id=”listicle-2632285079″.77 — down from last year’s id=”listicle-2632285079″.93.

Source: Hong Kong Beer Co., Time Out

We must speak out against the flaws of America

(John Towner / Unsplash)

Paris, France: .10

City ranking by cost of living: 1 (tied with Singapore and Hong Kong)

While Paris is better known for its wine — brought from vineyards in Bordeaux and Burgundy — the French capital has several microbreweries. Located both inside and just outside the city arrondissements, locations include La Brasserie de l’Etre, Paname Brewing Company, and Le Triangle. Beer prices dropped 35 cents compared to .45 in 2018.

Source: Trip Savvy, Urban Adventures, Culture Trip

We must speak out against the flaws of America

(Flickr / nlann)

Singapore: .37

City ranking by cost of living: 1 (tied with Paris and Hong Kong)

Beer in Singapore is dominated by Heineken Asia Pacific — formerly known as Malayan Breweries Limited — which produces both the Heineken brand and also owns craft breweries such as Archipelago Brewery, whose headquarters are located outside the city in Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim.

The area is best known for Tiger Beer, first brewed by Malayan Breweries Limited in 1932 but now distributed worldwide. Retaining its position as the most expensive city for the fifth consecutive year, Singapore’s beer prices dropped from .53 in 2018 to .37.

Source: The Heineken Company, Time Out, Archipelago Brewery, Tiger Beer, CNBC

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This WWII ace scored kills from every Axis country – and the US

Army Air Forces Lt. Col. Louis E. Curdes got a piece of every original signatory to the Axis Pact: Germany, Italy, and Japan. If that wasn’t outstanding enough, it’s how he got an American flag kill mark on his fuselage that earned him a place in military history — and maybe even the Distinguished Service Cross.



It’s not a mistake. The young, 20-something pilot earned every single one of his kill marks. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1942 at the age of 22 to fly planes against the Nazis. By 1943, he was a hotshot lieutenant scoring three kills against Nazi Messerschmidt Bf-109s, the workhorse of the German Luftwaffe, in his P-38 Lighting. That was ten days into his first assignment. Within the next month, he notched up two more kills, earning fighter “ace” status.

In August of that year, he ran into an Italian Macchi C.202 and shot that one down. Unfortunately, that was his last combat kill over Europe. He was shot down by Nazi pilots over Italy and captured by the Italians, resigning himself to spending the rest of the war in a POW camp.

But that didn’t happen. Italy capitulated a few days into Curdes’ internment.

We must speak out against the flaws of America
Then-Lt. Louis E. Curdes.

Curdes was then sent to the Philippines and put behind the stick of the new P-51 Mustang fighter, going up against talented Japanese pilots. He was quickly able to shoot down a Japanese recon plane near the island of Formosa. His hat trick was complete, but that’s not where the story ends.

He and his plane, “Bad Angel,” were fighting over Japanese-held Bataan when his wingman was shot down over the Pacific. Soon after, he saw a C-47 transport plane, wheels-down, headed to land on the Japanese island. When he was unable to make radio contact, he tried to physically wave the transport off, but came up empty. So, rather than allow the American plane and its crew to be held prisoner by the Japanese, he used the option left: He shot them down over the ocean.

We must speak out against the flaws of America
Baller.

Curdes skillfully took out one engine and then the other without blowing the entire cargo plane to bits. He was able to bring the C-47 down just yards from his downed wingman. Curdes returned to the site the next morning as an escort to an American “flying boat.” The pilot, crew, and its human cargo were completely intact.

Among the passengers he shot down was a nurse Curdes dated just the night before, a girl named Valorie — whom he later married. The story was rewritten by Air Force Col. Ken Tollefson in his book US Army Air Force Pilot Shoots Down Wife.

Internet legends say that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for downing the unarmed cargo plane, but his citation was so ordered for actions while in the European Theater.

We must speak out against the flaws of America
(Pima Air and Space Museum)

He still wins the best “How I Met Your Mother” story of all time, though. His P-51 named “Bad Angel” is in the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what it’s like to jump into an NFL stadium with SOCOM Para-Commandos

USAA and the NFL are displaying military appreciation across the league through Salute To Service.


Fox Sports host Jay Glazer interviews SOCOM Para-Commandos as they prep for a jump into Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. These professionals train day after day, jump after jump, to perform better as a team and execute with precision.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

The seemingly endless appearances of “ghost ships” full of dead North Koreans on the shores of Japan is indicative of Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his citizens, experts say.


The latest took place, when a capsized boat containing the decayed remains of seven bodies washed ashore in Kanazawa, a city on Japan’s west coast.

A badge portraying former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il was also found nearby.

It was the second such discovery in Japan in January 2018.

The number of ghost ships — vessels discovered with no living crew — reached 104 in 2017, the highest since authorities started collecting data in 2013, Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted the national coast guard as saying.

We must speak out against the flaws of America
Sea of Japan / East Sea between North Korea and Japan.

It remains unclear exactly who these people were, or why they showed up in Japan — experts have posited theories including food insecurity in North Korea, annual quotas imposed on fishermen, and a deal for fishing rights between North Korea and China.

A new theory suggested to Business Insider is that the increasing arrivals of these boats indicate Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his country and its people.

It came from Professor Hazel Smith, a researcher at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London.

Also read: This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

North Korea, notoriously, tightly controls its borders to prevent defections. Soldiers opened fire on one of their own who was caught in the act of defecting to South Korea in November 2017.

The army also plants landmines on various spots around its border — including the west coast — to prevent citizens from leaving and invaders from entering.

Smith, who lived in North Korea from 1998 to 2001, told Business Insider (BI):

“Security is disintegrating. There was always an incentive for people to get hold of a boat to try to fish and come back and sell it and make some money, but security was always extremely tight on the coasts.

“You had mined beaches, you had surveillance on the coast, so the fact that this is happening is not a surprise economically — people are taking the opportunities while they can — but what it shows also is the disintegration of the state’s ability to stop people going out in boats.”

She added that previously, obtaining boats was seen as a highly risky issue, and that only people with high security clearance could access them.

“Going to sea in any way was seen as first and foremost a political issue, not an economic issue, because individuals were so controlled,” she said.

Related: It looks like the North Koreans uncovered secret plans to assassinate Kim Jong-un

What’s changed now is the fact that North Korea doesn’t have the “capacity” to control its borders as tightly as before due to other, more pressing concerns — such as the country’s nuclear development and continuous, crippling international sanctions, Smith said.

She said: “They’ve only got the capacity to focus on certain aspects of state activity at a time now. They’re focusing on the nuclear issue, and they don’t have the capacity to focus on every aspect of economic activity, and they don’t have the money to feed people, so they have to let people do their own thing.”

Further reading: This is why no one in North Korea is celebrating Kim Jong Un’s birthday

She previously told BI it was “a lot easier” to bypass the country’s security apparatus now than it 20 years ago, because some security officials are willing to turn a blind eye in exchange for profits if someone comes back with a catch.

The sheer number of the boats appearing in recent years also suggests that people were leaving North Korea as part of small enterprises rather than a monolithic state enterprise, another expert observed.

It points to an opening of the North Korean economy, said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an editor at North Korean Economy Watch.

He told BI: “It may tell us something about the extent to which economic activity has been liberalised, but also put under pressure.

“In other words, companies run with relative freedom by individuals may have increased space to operate, but in some cases, they may also receive quotas to fill by the state or other government entities.

“In the case of the ghost ships, while their circumstances aren’t fully known, the pressure to meet quotas could explain why they need to venture further out into the ocean searching for their catch, perhaps not with adequate fuel resources on board.”

Smith added: “It looks like state priorities over vessels have either broken down or been allowed to lapse in order to permit people to go out and find ways to engage in trade to make a bit of money, which is a change.

“It might not be a major change, but it is a change in the way that the government approaches economic activity. It’s less security-focused.”

Articles

The Army is offering $5K bonuses to join new training brigade

The U.S. Army is authorizing $5,000 bonuses to woo top-performing troops into a new training brigade as the service once famous for shouldering the burden of America’s wars works to meet the growing demand for advisers in places ranging from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and Africa.


The plan recognizes the new reality of America at war: Army soldiers are more often training and building local security forces rather than doing the fighting for them on foreign soil. It replaces what has been a hodgepodge of programs over the past dozen years with projections for five new, permanent, fully-trained brigades that can be deployed around the world as professional advisers.

“It’s a recognition that this is an enduring requirement for the conventional Army,” Gen. Robert Abrams, head of U.S. Army Forces Command, told The Associated Press in an interview.

We must speak out against the flaws of America
A Marine assigned to Task Force Taqaddum (TF TQ) advises and assists designated Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Anbar Province to enable ISF to degrade and defeat Da’esh (an Arabic acronym fro ISIL) and support the Mosul counterattack. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson/Released)

“Most times we’re falling in on existing institutions that are probably failing, and bringing them up to a certain competency level so they can secure themselves. And we’ve got to be able to do that on a large scale.”

The new program and its signing bonuses also illustrate how the Trump administration has endorsed the Obama administration’s emphasis on working “by, with and through” local forces.

That policy emerged from the deadly and tumultuous years after the 2003 Iraq invasion, when as many as 160,000 American troops were on the ground battling insurgents while struggling to transform a rag-tag mix of often ethnically-opposed Iraqi troops into a functioning fighting force.

U.S. troops left Iraq in 2011. Less than three years later, the Iraqi security forces largely collapsed as Islamic State militants seized control of large swaths of territory. U.S. troops then returned to Iraq, training, advising and enabling the Iraqis to oust IS from the country.

Also read: Here’s how the Army is assisting Iraqi forces in the fight for Mosul

The $5,000 bonus got final authorization on May 3 and is expected to be available beginning in June. The Army has chosen a colonel to lead the first training brigade and he will travel to a number of military posts in the coming weeks to recruit soldiers for the unit. Joining is strictly voluntary.

Since it’s a new program, Abrams acknowledged some soldiers may be reluctant to shift away from current career paths by taking a chance on something they fear may fail or lose support over time.

“There is natural apprehension in the field: ‘Is this a flash in the pan?’ It’s not a flash in the pan,” Abrams said. “The chief is committed and the Army senior leadership is committed, I’m committed. This is going to be an enduring capability.”

The challenge, he said, is getting mid-grade non-commissioned officers to sign up. That’s where the bonus will help.

Of the 529 soldiers in the brigade, 360 will be officers who don’t qualify for the bonus. The rest will be enlisted soldiers and non-commissioned officers who can earn the extra money.

The objective is to fix some problems created by the current training programs. In Iraq and Afghanistan, chunks of combat brigades have been deployed to serve as trainers and advisers to local forces, often leaving the remainder of their units back at home. Right now, for example, portions of three brigades are in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We must speak out against the flaws of America
U.S. Army and Iraqi soldiers cross an intersection during a routine security patrol in downtown Tal Afar, Iraq (U.S. Navy photo)

“It separates the leaders from those they lead, and it degrades (unit) readiness significantly,” Abrams said, adding that Army leaders have expressed frustrations over breaking units apart to staff the mission.

The plan calls for a military assistance training academy to be created at Fort Benning, Georgia. About 90 civilian and military staff members are being recruited. The first class will begin in October.

Members of what is being called the new Security Force Assistance Brigade will go through a training course of six-to-eight weeks. Almost 200 will receive 16 weeks of intensive language instruction. Others will get an eight-week language course.

More reading: SEAL Team 6 is experimenting with sensory deprivation chambers to learn languages faster

The first brigade could be ready to deploy by the end of 2018, Abrams said, but there has been no decision on where they will go. Iraq and Afghanistan are the most likely locations, he said.

As more brigades are created, they would deploy to other areas of the world. While the Army initially conceived of one base in each geographical military command around the globe, it’s more likely they’ll simply be sent where most needed.

The Army will select soldiers for the second brigade in about a year. All five brigades will be created by 2022.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DARPA has a new voting booth, and it wants you to hack it

DARPA, the group behind the modern internet and stealth technology, is taking a big swing at hack-resistant voting booths.


It has been working on new ways of securing computers and other electronic devices for years now in a program it calls System Security Integration Through Hardware and Firmware. The basic idea is simple: Instead of securing electronics solely or primarily through software, they can improve hardware and firmware—the programming at the most foundational level of how a computer operates so that hackers can’t get in.

Now, there’s a demonstration voting booth with some of these improvements incorporated into it, and DARPA is taking it on the road to a hackers’ conference.

To be clear, though, this isn’t a finished product, and DARPA hasn’t indicated that the demonstration booth will prove to be secure. In fact, there are 15 processors in development with university and industry teams working on this DARPA program, and only two will be made available for hackers to attempt and intrude upon.

The demonstration booth will be set up at DEF CON 2019, one of the largest and longest-running underground hacking conferences. It will have a set of processors, and the participating research teams will be able to modify those processors according to their proposed hardware and firmware security upgrades.

Hackers will then be able to attack the booth via USB or ethernet access.

Any weaknesses that the hackers identify will be addressed by the research teams as they continue to develop hardware designs and firmware upgrades to make voting booths more secure. Once the teams have finished products with robust security, DARPA will … probably close down the program.

Yeah, DARPA doesn’t typically create final designs of products or manufacture anything. It even does relatively little of its own research most of the time. The standard DARPA model is to identify a problem or opportunity, set up a program that recruits lots of researchers from academia and industry, give those researchers money according to performance metrics, and then let the industry partners buy up research and patents and create new products.

So the best case for DARPA isn’t that their demonstration voting booth fends off all attackers. It’s that the booth takes some real hits and the research teams find out what vulnerabilities still exist. Then the research teams can create awesome hardware architectures and programming that will be more secure. But DARPA does have one surprise twist from their standard model.

Instead of leaving most of the tech developed for the voting booths in private and academic hands, it’s pushing for the design approaches and techniques to be made into open-source technologies, meaning anyone can use them.

But still, don’t expect to see these amazing voting booths when you vote in 2020. DARPA wants to spend 2019 touring the booth at universities and allowing more experts to attack it, then bring it back to DEF CON in 2020 with new tech built on a STAR-Vote architecture, an open-source build with its own democratic safeguards like paper ballots. Most state and local governments don’t update their voting hardware all that often, let alone in the months leading up to a major election.

So the earliest you could see new, DARPA-funded tech at your local polling place is the 2022 mid-terms, and more likely the 2024 or later elections.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Swedish aircraft challenge Russians over the Mediterranean

On May 1, 2018, a Swedish Air Force S102B Korpen has started operating in the eastern Med.

The aircraft is one of two SwAF’s S102B Korpen aircraft, heavily-modified Gulfstream IVSP business jets used to perform ELINT missions. These aircraft have been in service with the Swedish Air Force since 1992, when they have replaced the two TP85s (modified Caravelle airliners formerly belonging to the SAS airline) that had been operated for 20 years since 1972. They are equipped with sensors operated by ELINT personnel from the FRA (the Radio Establishment of the Defense), capable to eavesdrop, collect and analyze enemy electronic emissions. As we have often reported here at The Aviationist, the Korpen jets routinely conduct surveillance missions over the Baltic Sea, flying high and fast in international airspace off the area of interest. The most frequent “target” of the S102B is Kaliningrad Oblast and its Russian installations. For this reason, the Swedish ELINT aircraft are also frequently intercepted by Russian Su-27 Flankers scrambled from the Kaliningrad exclave’s airbases.


Anyway, it looks like the Swedish airplane has now pointed its sensors to the Russian signals in Syria, deploying to Larnaca, Cyprus: the example 102003/”023″, using callsign “SVF647”, was tracked, by means of its ADS-B/Mode-S transponder, twice on May 1, 2018, flying off Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, more or less in the very same way many other aircraft (U.S. Navy P-8s, U.S. Air Force RQ-4 and RC-135s) have been doing for some weeks.

Here’s the first mission in the morning on May 1, 2018:

Here’s the second mission, later on the same day (21.40LT):

Considered the quite unusual area of operations, one might wonder why the Swedish S102B is currently operating close to the Syrian theater, so far from home. We can just speculate here, but the most likely guess is that the aircraft is collecting ELINT off Syria to acquire new baseline data for assets that are deployed there and which may either be currently or imminently deployed in Kaliningrad. Possibly surface vessels too, which might add to the Baltic Electronic Order of Battle. “I think they are just acquiring ELINT that is unique to Syria and might have applications in the Baltic,” says a source from the U.S. Rivet Joint community who wishes to remain anonymous.

For sure, with all the Russian “hardware” deployed to Syria, often referred to as a “testbed” for Moscow’s new equipment, there is some much data to be collected that the region has already turned into a sort of “signals paradise” for the intelligence teams from all around the world.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Ukrainian sniper killed, husband injured, in ambush

A Ukrainian veteran sniper was killed, and her husband, who was accused in 2012 of trying to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, was wounded in a shooting on Monday near Kiev, Ukraine.


Amina Okuyeva and Adam Osmayev were riding in a car past a railroad crossing in the village of Hlevakha when their vehicle came under heavy fire from someone in the bushes on the side of the road.

“She was shot in the head,” Osmayev told Lb.ua, a Ukrainian media outlet. “I drove as much as I could until the car stopped, I don’t know, the engine was also hit. I tried to give her first aid, but she was shot in the head.”

We must speak out against the flaws of America
Ukrainian sniper Okuyeva Amina was rumored to have battled in a full hijab. (image Facebook)

Osmayev, who was also shot in the leg, has since accused Russia of orchestrating the attack. He said it was connected to a car bombing last week that wounded the Ukrainian lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk, who routinely insulted Russian politicians and once posted a video on YouTube threatening to kill Ramzan Kadyrov, Putin’s hand-picked leader of Chechnya.

Okuyeva had once worked for Mosiychuk as an adviser, according to Reuters.

This wasn’t the first assassination attempt the couple had faced. On June 1, Osmayev and Okuyeva were in a car with a man named Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev who was masquerading as a French journalist named Alex Werner.

At one point, Denisultanov-Kurmakayev asked them to pull the car over so he could give them a gift from his editors.

We must speak out against the flaws of America
Ukrainian sniper and national hero Okuyeva Amina was assassinated October 30th, 2017, in Ukraine.(image Sergiy Kondratenko Facebook)

“When he opened it I spotted a Glock pistol,” Okuyeva told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty after the June attack. “He immediately grabbed it and started shooting at Adam.”

Okuyeva then pulled out her gun and shot the would-be assassin three times before she “pounced on him with my bare hands and he gave up the gun,” she told the outlet.

Osmayev was shot in the chest, but his wife treated his wound “immediately,” and he survived that attack as well. Ukraine has since accused Russia of orchestrating the hit.

In 2012, Moscow accused Osmayev of plotting to kill Putin. He was arrested in Kiev in February 2012 on charges of possession of illegal explosives. At the behest of Russia, Ukrainian authorities charged him in connection with the plot.

Also Read: Ukraine’s special guests at its independence day parade probably gave Putin the vapors

But Kiev refused to extradite Osmayev, and the charges were eventually dropped. He was released from custody in November 2014 — months after Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president, fled to Russia and fighting started in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.

Moscow in 2007 also accused Osmayev of plotting to kill Kadyrov.

Kadyrov has been implicated in several other assassinations, including the high-profile killing of Boris Nemtsov, the Russian opposition leader who was shot dead near the Kremlin in 2015, and most recently the car bombing in early September that killed Timur Mahauri, a Georgian citizen who fought with a volunteer Ukrainian battalion in the Donbas. Mahauri was reportedly a personal enemy of Kadyrov’s.

We must speak out against the flaws of America
Okuyeva Amina was more than a sniper. A surgeon, Okuyeva was considered a national hero long before her assassination Oct. 30, 2017. (image Facebook)

Okuyeva and Osmayev — both Muslims and ethnic Chechens — have been celebrated in Ukraine as heroes, having served in Chechen volunteer battalions fighting against Russia-backed separatists in the Donbas.

Okuyeva, who reportedly wore her hijab in battle and fought for equality among men and women in the military, was a paramedic and sniper. Osmayev became commander of the volunteer Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion in 2015.

“I declare a war on the Russian Empire,” Okuyeva told Politico in 2014. “If Russian forces continue to fight in Ukraine, thousands of Chechen immigrants living in Europe, who had been ousted of their land during the two Chechen wars, will come to Ukraine to fight a war to defend this country.”

There have been at least 13 other assassinations — and many more attempts — in Ukraine since 2014. In one, a Ukrainian colonel who was reportedly investigating Russia for an international court case was killed in a car bombing in Kiev in late June.

MIGHTY CULTURE

11 valuable tax tips and benefits for military families

The holidays are over, and we are now in the year 2020. It’s a good time to start working on our 2019 taxes, because April 15 will be here before we know it. Taxes are overwhelming and complex, but there are numerous tax benefits for military families, so it is important to understand the basics.


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Income

Servicemembers receive different types of pay and allowances. It is important to know which are considered as income and which are not. For servicemembers, income typically includes basic pay, special pay, bonus pay, and incentive pay.

Exclusions

Items normally excluded from income include combat pay, living allowances, moving allowances, travel allowances, and family allowances, such as family separation pay.

Combat pay exclusions are a substantial benefit to servicemembers and spouses. Combat pay is that compensation for active military service for any month while serving in a designated combat zone. This may also include a reenlistment bonus if the voluntary reenlistment occurs in a month while the servicemember is serving in the combat zone. Note that for commissioned officers, there is a limit to the amount of combat pay you may exclude.

The most common living allowances are Basic Allowance for Housing and Basic Allowance for Subsistence. Moving allowances are those reasonable, unreimbursed expenses beyond what the military pays for a permanent change of station.

Sale of Homes

Servicemembers and spouses often decide to purchase homes when moving to new duty stations. Often, we then turnaround and sell the homes a few years later before moving again.

What happens if you make a profit from the sale of this home? If you are fortunate enough to profit, you may qualify to exclude up to 0,000 of the gain from your income, or up to 0,000 if you file a joint return with your spouse. This is referred to as the Sale of Primary Home Capital Gain exclusion. Normally, this exclusion requires that you owned the home for at least two years and lived in it for at least two of the last five years. There is an exception, however, for servicemembers. If you were required to move as the result of a permanent change of station before meeting these requirements, you still may qualify for a reduced exclusion.

Claim for Tax Forgiveness

If a servicemember dies while on active duty, there are circumstances where the taxes owed will be forgiven by the IRS. Contact your closest Legal Assistance Office immediately for assistance using the website provided later in the article.

Extensions

If April 15 is quickly approaching and you are running out of time, remember, there are several different extension requests that military families may make. If the servicemember is in a combat zone, an automatic extension covers the time period the servicemember is in the combat zone plus 180 days after the last day in the combat zone.

Avoid Tax Scams

In November 2019, I wrote an article on common scams during the holidays. Unfortunately, scams are not limited to the holidays. There are numerous tax scams that have stolen personal information and millions of dollars. Scammers use the mail, telephone and email to initiate contact. Please remember that the IRS never initiates contact by email, text messages or on social media pages to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contact through the regular U. S. Postal Service mail. Finally, the IRS never uses threats or bullying to demand payments.

If you have any questions, contact the IRS with a telephone number you find on its website (www.irs.gov) and verify what you received is legitimate before doing anything. To protect yourself, only use an IRS telephone number from its website. Do not use a telephone number you received that you suspect may be part of a tax scam from an email, text message or social media page.

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Signing Tax Returns

Normally, both the servicemember and spouse must sign jointly filed tax returns. If one spouse will be absent during tax season, it is advisable to have an IRS special power of attorney, IRS Form 2848 (Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative). You may access this form on the IRS website.

Military Tax Centers

Annually, many Legal Assistance Offices worldwide help servicemembers and spouses file their federal and state income tax returns starting in early February. Last year, for example, Army Legal Assistance personnel and volunteers prepared and filed over one hundred thousand Federal and over sixty-four thousand State income tax returns saving servicemembers and their families more than million in tax preparation and filing fees.

If you don’t live near a military installation, visit the Department of Defense Military One Source website at https://www.militaryonesource.mil for additional information on accessing free online tax assistance.

Legal Assistance Offices

If you have specific tax questions or receive correspondence from the IRS, contact the closest legal assistance office to schedule an appointment. Use the Armed Forces Legal Assistance website (https://legalassistance.law.af.mil) that I provided in the October 2019 blog to locate your nearest legal assistance office. The quicker you address your issues, the better likelihood that you will successfully resolve them.

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Valuable Tax Tip for 2020

Finally, here is a valuable tip for next year’s taxes. Does it seem like every year you are scrambling to find tax documents and receipts from throughout the tax year? Relieve this stress by getting a folder and writing “Tax Year 2020” on the front of it. Keep it in an easy-to-find place, and every time you receive a document or receipt that may impact your taxes place it in the folder. That way, at the end of this year, you will have most of the supporting documents you need already together.

Future Blogs

Be on the lookout for future blogs that will continue to discuss specific legal issues often encountered by servicemembers and military spouses. As always, this blog series will help to protect your family and you!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gen. Kelly’s response to a lawmaker who called him a ‘disgrace to the uniform’ is priceless

White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly issued a stinging response to Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez, after the Illinois lawmaker said Kelly’s position on DACA qualified him as a “disgrace to the uniform he used to wear.”


“As far as the congressman and other irresponsible members of congress are concerned, they have the luxury of saying what they want as they do nothing and have almost no responsibility,” Kelly told Fox News Sept. 10. “They can call people liars but it would be inappropriate for me to say the same thing back at them. As my blessed mother used to say ’empty barrels make the most noise.'”

Gutierrez attacked Kelly in early September for serving the Trump administration as it moves to phase out the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program.

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USMC photo by Sgt. Zachary Mott.

“General Kelly is a hypocrite who is a disgrace to the uniform he used to wear. He has no honor and should be drummed out of the White House along with the white supremacists and those enabling the President’s actions by ‘just following orders,'” Gutierrez said in a statement issued hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA will be phased out.

The DACA program, implemented through executive action in 2012, protects roughly 800,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children from deportation and provides temporary work visas for those who qualify.

Kelly defended the administration’s decision to roll back the program, suggesting the move was a response to the program’s dubious constitutional status, rather than a personal decision made by Trump.

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Democrat Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Photo under public domain.

“Every DOJ and DHS lawyer says DACA is unconstitutional. Every other legal scholar – right and left – says the same thing. Trump didn’t end DACA, the law did. That said, I worked and succeeded to give the congress another six months to do something. I am not confident,” he said.

Gutierrez’s office took issue with Kelly’s characterization of the program’s constitutionality, arguing the program has never been challenged in court.

“The constitutionality of DACA has never been challenged successfully in court and the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the program, certainly never questioned its constitutionality at its inception or while hundreds of thousands signed up for it,” Gutiérrez spokesman Douglas Rivlin told Fox News.

The Trump administration repealed the program under threat of an impending lawsuit from a coalition of conservative state attorneys general. Trump seemed to soften following the announcement, expressing hope that Congress would codify amnesty for Dreamers through legislation before the six month reprieve period expires.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why experts think Kim Jong Un never actually attended an elite military academy

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not only the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he is the Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the fourth-largest military in the world.

North Korea’s military is part of its foundation; Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather and the founder of the so-called “Hermit Kingdom,” used his own military service — as a guerilla fighting against the Japanese occupation of Korea — to burnish his cult of personality, according to Washington Post reporter Anna Fifield’s book, “The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un.”

Military service is baked into the North Korean constitution; “National defense is the supreme duty and honor of citizens,” it says, and military service is generally compulsory. Kim has never served in the North Korean military but reportedly graduated near the top of his class at a prestigious military academy, a claim that experts and a former North Korean military member found highly suspect.


North Korea spends approximately 25% of its GDP on its military, including its nuclear program, spending .5 billion each year on its forces between 2004 and 2014. It boasts 1.1 million troops, about 5% of its population, according to CFR.

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(KCNA)

According to North Korean propaganda, the 35-year-old Kim Jong Un prepared to lead this massive force by attending Kim Il Sung Military University in Pyongyang; experts said it was more likely that he had received some instruction from military trainers associated with this university.

Some propaganda accounts cited by Fifield say Kim, who reportedly started at the academy when he was 18, was such a natural at military strategy that he was soon training his instructors.

Kim’s ‘elite’ alma mater

Kim Il Sung Military University is a “military institution for educating elite military officers,” according to Bruce W. Bennett, senior defense analyst at The RAND Corporation. It was established in 1952, according to North Korea Leadership Watch, and is one of several military training schools.

“The students of this university are middle level officers such as majors and lieutenant colonels,” Bennett said, equating the university to institutions like the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

“It is the university that is a gateway to becoming a senior officer in the Korean People’s Army (KPA). Most of North Korean military generals studied in this university when they were mid-career,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

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An image of Pyongyang, with Kim Il Sung Military University outlined.

(North Korea Leadership Watch/Google Images)

Fifield’s book, and official North Korean propaganda, report that Kim studied here alongside his older brother, Kim Jong Chol.

“It was their mother’s idea to send them to the military academy, a way to bolster her sons’ claim to succession,” Fifield writes. Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chol are the children of Kim Jong Il and Ko Yong Hui, to whom he was not officially married. Kim Jong Il installed Ko Yong Hui and her sons in a home in his compound, ensuring they were well cared for.

Kim Jong Un reportedly entered the university in 2002, after his early education in Switzerland, and began studying “juche-oriented military leadership,” Fifield writes, referring to the North Korean concept of juche, or self-reliance. Juche is essential to the North Korean identity, although the country was economically dependent on the Soviet Union until its collapse. China is now its most important economic relationship.

“I would expect that most of the training at Kim Il Sung Military University would be on military operations, military history, and political indoctrination,” Bennett told INSIDER via email.

“But a big part of the curriculum is likely also competition between the personnel to see how they deal with each other physically and mentally, which leads to forming bonds of friendship critical as officers are promoted.”

‘A natural at military strategy’

While Kim Jong Un never served in the KPA, North Korea Leadership Watch (NKLW) contends that it’s likely some students are able to enter Kim Il Sung Military University without any prior service, straight out of high school.

NKLW describes Kim Il Sung Military University as modeled on Soviet military academies; while there might be classes on North Korean military history, the structure and academics of Kim Il Sung Military University find their closest analogs in the Soviet system.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Command of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) in an unknown location in North Korea in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.

(KCNA)

According to North Korean official state media, Fifield writes, Kim Jong Un was “such a natural at military strategy that he was instructing the instructors rather than learning from them.”

He graduated on Dec. 24, 2006, Fifield writes, “with honors,” after writing a final dissertation on “A Simulation for the Improvement of Accuracy in the Operational Map by the Global Positioning System (GPS).”

But a former member of the North Korean military who now lives in the US and is familiar with the Kim family said it was unlikely that Kim Jong Un actually attended Kim Il Sung Military University, at least not in the traditional sense.

“According to North Korean propaganda, Kim Jong Un attended Kim Il Sung Military University, but I couldn’t find any of his classmates or Army mates. If he really attended that university, somebody should know that he attended,” the former military member said.

“If Kim Jong Un actually attended that college, he has pictures, he has a record, and he has friends. But [none] of the North Korean elite could find his picture and his friends. I think it’s a kind of propaganda,” the former military member said, noting that the North Korean propaganda department would have exploited any evidence of Kim Jong Un having attended the university to build up his cult of personality.

Rather than actually physically attending classes, there were “probably private instructors visiting his house to give him a lecture,” the former military member said.

“Kim Il Sung Military University is a more closed university, the students are military officers, not civilians, so they can keep the secret that Kim Jong Un didn’t actually attend.”

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(KCNA)

Kim would have been unique in attending the military school named for his grandfather; “I don’t think most of the Kim family become military officers — they avoid becoming military officers,” the former military member said.

“They have a good life […] they don’t need to go [in] the military to risk their lives.”

In order to qualify for a school like Kim Il Sung Military University, potential recruits must have, “superior service records, excellent physical condition and trusted political reliability” and have “a flawless family background, be popular among fellow soldiers, and receive the approval of their commanding and political officers,” according to Joseph Bermudez’s book “Shield of the Great Leader: The Armed Forces of North Korea.”

NKLW contends that Kim probably had private tutoring for at least a few years, and that he was likely a very good student, exhausting teachers with his questions. The academics on military operations are thought to be rigorous, even if it’s unlikely Kim also participated in the physical and professional competitions that other students must face.

In whatever capacity he studied with the university’s instructors, it influenced his relationship with the North Korean military today, in particular the aggressive missile testing North Korea undertook under the third Kim leader.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army schedules hearing to consider Bowe Bergdahl plea

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will appear in court next week to enter an expected guilty plea to charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009.


The Army announced that Bergdahl will enter a plea Oct. 16 at Fort Bragg. The news release didn’t elaborate on what his plea would entail, but two individuals with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press last week that Bergdahl is expected to plead guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. They were not authorized to discuss the case and demanded anonymity.

Prosecutors aren’t saying whether they have agreed to limit Bergdahl’s punishment. The misbehavior charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, while the desertion charge is punishable by up to five years.

A lawyer for Bergdahl didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Oct. 12.

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Photo via US Army

His trial had been scheduled to begin Oct. 23, but those dates are expected to be used for sentencing now. While guilty pleas allow Bergdahl to avoid trial, his sentencing is still likely to include dramatic testimony about service members injured searching for him.

Legal scholars say it will be revealed at the Oct. 16 hearing whether Bergdahl struck a deal with prosecutors, or is simply pleading guilty with hopes of leniency from the judge. His five years of imprisonment by the Taliban and its allies could be a factor in his sentencing in either scenario.

Military judges are supposed to make unbiased decisions, so if prosecutors have proposed a more limited punishment, this judge won’t know exactly what they’re calling for until after he decides on a sentence. Military jurisprudence calls for Bergdahl to ultimately be sentenced to the lesser of the two punishments, legal scholars said.

Because the defense has lost several pretrial rulings, government prosecutors have a strong hand to pursue punishment and little to gain from a lenient plea deal, said Rachel Van Landingham, a former Air Force lawyer who teaches at Southwestern Law School in California.

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Bowe Bergdahl watches as one of his captors displays his identity tag in this still from a Taliban-released video.

“The Army has gone after this case with a vengeance – why not continue that pursuit by asking for a stiff punishment?” she said. “But who knows, this case has been quite topsy-turvy.”

Bergdahl could admit guilt without a plea agreement — known colloquially as a “naked plea” — which would be a risky move with some possible benefits. Such a plea wouldn’t require Bergdahl to agree with prosecutors on certain facts of the case, as he would under a deal, said former Army lawyer Eric Carpenter, who teaches law at Florida International University.

But, Carpenter said, “The military judge can sentence you to whatever he wants, so that’s the real risk that they would be taking.”

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Photo courtesy of USAF.

Prosecutors gained leverage when the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance, decided to allow evidence of serious wounds to service members who searched for Bergdahl at the sentencing phase. The judge said a Navy SEAL and an Army National Guard sergeant wouldn’t have wound up in separate firefights that left them wounded if they hadn’t been searching for Bergdahl.

The defense also was rebuffed in an effort to prove President Donald Trump had unfairly swayed the case with scathing criticism of Bergdahl, including suggestions of harsh punishment. The judge wrote in a February ruling that Trump’s campaign-trail comments were “disturbing and disappointing” but did not constitute unlawful command influence by the soon-to-be commander in chief.

Defense attorneys have acknowledged that Bergdahl walked off his base without authorization. Bergdahl himself told a general during a preliminary investigation that he left intending to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit. He was captured soon after by the Taliban and its allies.

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Photo from US Coast Guard.

But the defense team has argued that Bergdahl can’t be held responsible for a long chain of events that included many decisions by others on how to conduct the searches.

The military probe of Bergdahl began soon after he was freed from captivity on May 31, 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed he jeopardized the nation’s security with the trade, but Obama said: ” The United States of America does not ever leave our men and women in uniform behind.”

Bergdahl, who’s from Hailey, Idaho, has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base pending the outcome of his legal case.

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