An F-35A Lightning II soars over Hill Air Force Base during a demonstration practice Jan. 10, 2020, at Hill AFB, Utah. The team is now assigned to Air Combat Command at the 388th Fighter Wing.
There are so many things that make the super bowl one of our favorite times of the year; the halftime show, the food, the tailgates and oh yeah, the game. But there is nothing that gets you more amped up for kickoff than a fighter jet screaming over the stadium as the high notes of the national anthem are being hit.
How do they decide who gets to fly in the Super Bowl flyover? Well this year’s honors came down to luck.
Major Alex Horne displays the challenge coin that decided who would get to fly in the Super Bowl LIV flyover.
Tessa Robinson/We Are The Mighty
At The NFL Experience’s USAA Salute to Service lounge, We Are the Mighty spoke to members of VMAFT-140, specifically the F-35 pilots assigned to the flyover for Super Bowl LIV in Miami, FL. Marine Major Hedges told WATM, “It’s a dream to fly over the Super Bowl on game day and it’s hard to choose … so we did what most Marines would do. We tossed a coin.”
It came down to Major Adam Wellington (callsign “Zombie”) and Major Alex Horne (callsign “Ape”). They used their squadron coin to call it. The front of the coin has a blue background, emblazoned with the words VMFAT-501 Warlords with an F-35 set across some lightning, while the back mimics the squadron patch and is largely silver.
“I called blue,” Ape said. “I lost the toss.” He said he was crushed, of course, but still thrilled to be in Miami as part of the squadron and to experience Super Bowl fever, even if they aren’t going to the game.
When August O’Niell, a member of an elite special forces group, woke up from routine surgery, it only took one look at his mother’s face to tell something went horribly wrong.
She was with the doctor. “Are you awake? Are you able to talk now?” the doctor asked. “I have woken you up halfway through the surgery. There was so much scar tissue …”
O’Niell had already endured 19 grueling surgeries in the three-and-a-half years since a rifle round mangled his leg while he was on deployment in Afghanistan. He woke up hoping this 20th surgery would finally allow him to have a functional knee. But he quickly learned his left leg would never fully function again.
The entire left side was mostly scar tissue. The skin, tendons and muscle were all adhered straight to the bone in one solid layer. Given the extent of the damage, a knee replacement was going to give him less than 14 degrees of movement.
“You will be in less pain, and I can put it in there if you tell me that’s what you want,” the doctor told him. “But I didn’t feel right putting that in there without telling you that it wasn’t going to be what we thought it was going to be at first.”
“There’s so much scar tissue in there, it’ll be impossible for you to have a functional knee.”
O’Niell was an Air Force pararescueman, a para-jumper or “PJ,” as they are known in the service. He was the elite of the elite, in charge of rescuing the most drastically injured troops, and even top special operators, in dire circumstances. He loved being a PJ, and wanted nothing more than to be back in the field, jumping out of helicopters and saving wounded comrades. The diagnosis he now faced was tough, but without missing a beat, he made up his mind.
“Don’t worry about it, I’m gonna have it amputated,” he said.
Dumbfounded, the doctor asked if he was sure. O’Niell was sure. After 20 surgeries and years of unsuccessful treatment, he was done with experiments.
He allowed himself what he called a “ten minute boo-hoo session.” It wasn’t so much about losing the leg, as it was learning this particular surgery was a fail. He had been looking forward to some relief from the constant pain of his injury.
But none of that mattered now. It was time to move on. He had seen troops with major amputations make remarkable progress on prosthetics in a little as six months while he was in rehab, and here he was after more than three years barely hopping along on crutches. He thought of the amputees he had seen running on prosthetic legs and had a moment of inspiration, and it occurred to him that if he could run again, he could be a PJ again.
That was all the motivation he needed to greenlight the removal of his leg.
A Faucet Of Blood
It happened when O’Niell was halfway through his deployment to Afghanistan on July 15, 2011. The U.S. had begun drawing down forces two days before, but the notoriously violent Sangin Valley was as deadly as ever. O’Niell and his team got a call that a group of Marines were under fire. Two were injured, one critically, after taking a shot in the chest. O’Niell’s team was headed back to base after working all day, but immediately turned around to rescue the injured Marines.
The PJs came onto the scene in two Pavehawk helicopters, one leading the other. They circled in shifts. One would provide watch and draw the enemy’s attention, while the other went into the zone to rescue the wounded.
As O’Neill’s helicopter was about to take a turn going in for the wounded, his team got word that another Marine had been hit. O’Niell was lead medic for the operation, and told his team leader to let the team in the helicopter behind them go into the zone, since it had three PJ medics on board, while they provided cover.
“So it’s better patient care, you know, one medic per patient,” O’Niell told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
O’Niell’s helicopter then flew over the zone, dropped smoke grenades and popped back up so the second helicopter knew where to land. The tactic has the dual purpose of attracting enemy fire, and was successful in doing so.
“It works like a charm,” O’Neill said. “We came up over the smoke and popped up and we caught all that fire. They started shooting up at our bird, and one of the rounds, when they shot up, bounced off the door where I was sitting in the left door. [It] bounced off the doorway and then went through both of my legs.”
O’Niell initially he thought a flare had bounced off the door and hit his knee. He looked over the edge of the chopper, and then the pain hit him.
“Ah, they shot me!” he yelled while grabbing the top of the Pavehawk to pull himself back. He saw a hole in the side of the leg of his pants where the bullet had entered. “It just looked like someone had turned a faucet on, it was pouring blood,” he said.
His team leader instinctively jumped towards him, putting one of O’Niell’s tourniquets on his legs. He was in critical condition, forcing the helicopter to return home. Fortunately, a second PJ team was deployed with Apache helicopters in tow when O’Niell returned. They were able to extract the Marines and take out the enemy forces in the area.
O’Niell was well known to the medical staff at the base. He and his fellow PJs would often help out with the injured between shifts in order to keep their medical skills sharp. The hospital pulled a surgeon to try to save O’Neill’s leg. He was woken up after the doctors fixed an artery, and informed he would be moved to Bagram air base.
“Not until I get my re-enlisting paperwork,” O’Niell said.
“Now that’s the type of dude we need!” a nearby officer said excitedly. O’Niell was told it was an Army general. The paperwork was there waiting for him when he got to Bagram. His brother, an Air Force officer who is now also a PJ, swore him back in while he was in Landstuhl, Germany for another round of surgeries.
O’Niell wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he joined the Air Force in 2005, but he was certain he didn’t want to be behind a desk. The Air Force occasionally gets chided as the “Chair Force” by the other services, and O’Niell knew he wanted to be doing something active. He became interested in the pararescue and combat controller jobs. A recruiter warned him that either would be tough, but assured him he wouldn’t see much of a desk.
The medical aspect of the PJs also appealed to O’Niell. His father, a retired Air Force major, had encouraged him to stay in college and become a doctor. He figured the PJs would keep him from a desk job and make his father happy.
“I just went with it,” O’Niell explained. “I joined it not really knowing anything about it except for we jump out of planes and do cool guy stuff.”
Most people have never heard of the PJs, even inside the special operations community. It’s a remarkably small force whose work is often overlooked.
They’re are a remarkable combination of expert shooters, skydivers and medics. A PJ can shoot with the top Marines, save lives like the best Navy medical corpsmen and jump out of planes like an Army Ranger. They even do their fair share of diving. This remarkable combination is why becoming a PJ is one of the hardest things you can do in the military.
“You need to be able to deal with all situations between the top of Mount Everest and 130 feet below the ocean — and in all environments, all weather conditions, all light conditions,” Nic McKinley, a former PJ, told TheDCNF. “And you need to be able to deal with them in a way that mitigates risk to the extent that you will live through those missions, because, you know, there is nobody to go get the PJs if the PJ’s gonna patrol.”
Training for the group, known as “The Pipeline,” has one of the highest attrition rates of any program in the armed forces. O’Niell started training in a class of 110. Nine would make it through. For McKinley, that was a big draw factor.
“I’m a big data guy,” he told TheDCNF. “I really like the numbers and the facts, and I don’t like your opinion.”
On the basis of data, McKinley found the PJs to be the toughest. “You know, they can get into arguments about why, or any of the subjective stuff, but the objective data shows that it’s harder,” he told TheDCNF.
Special operators often debate about who is the toughest, but one thing is clear: when the SEALs, Green Berets and Marines need saving in the worst conditions, they call the PJs.
The training puts a massive strain on your mental strength.
“You can’t just have a high level physical performance and ride on that, you also have to be able to think at a high level,” McKinley said. “Pararescue teams expect you to be able to do everything, and if you can’t do it at a high level, you need to go succeed elsewhere.”
The entire process takes between two and three years. After basic training, a would-be PJ starts “The Pipeline” with an indoctrination course at Lackland Air Force Base, which consists of ten weeks of intense physical training including obstacle courses, running and swimming.
“That’s where they test your mental and physical limits … push every button they can,” O’Niell told TheDCNF.
No aspect of indoctrination training so utterly punishes the mental toughness of a PJ than “The Pool.” Technically known as “water confidence training,” the Pool is known for chewing up even the most elite athletes in the program.
Would-be PJs are expected to swim laps under water, tie complex knots at the pool bottom, bob up and down with hands and ankles tied (an exercise known as “drown proofing”) and wrestle underwater with an instructor while not being allowed to fight back, according to former PJ Matt White. His solution? Just don’t breathe.
“When your fingers go number tying a knot, you can panic,” he wrote in a piece for Task and Purpose. “Or you can relax. When an instructor pushes you to the bottom of the pool and stands on your head, what can you do? You can quit. Or you can relax.”
PJs who survive indoctrination go on to a combat diver course in Panama City, Florida for six weeks, then to survival school in Spokane, Washington. Next they pay a visit to Army Airborne School, where they learn to jump out of planes, before heading to either Army or Navy free-fall skydiving school, located in Yuma, Arizona and San Diego, California respectively.
Once a PJ candidate is a honed warrior they attend 37 weeks of various medical courses. Trainees are expected to get their national paramedic certification within two months of medical training, a task which normally takes six months.
The Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course puts everything a PJ trainee has learned together in a 24-week course which includes shooting, jumping and full mock mission profiles. Upon completion, a PJ is given a maroon beret and assigned a team. A PJ is then expected to to do on the job training with his team to become mission qualified.
O’Niell deployed to Afghanistan with about 20 people rotating in six man teams. He recalled flying approximately eight missions per shift, all of them being worst case scenarios. He acknowledged that war is terrible, but said he loved Afghanistan because he got to do his job.
“It’s very satisfying when you have a guy [that] easily ten minutes later … would’ve been just dead, and you were able to get him, get pain meds onboard, get blood onboard, and see this guy who wasn’t even responding all of a sudden start blinking up at you and you’re like: ‘Hey man, you’re going to be good,'” said O’Niell. “And then you go and check with the hospital, they’re like ‘Yea, he’s on his way home,’ and it’s just awesome.”
When asked how many people he’s saved, O’Niell said he never kept count.
Road To Recovery
His job cost him a leg and years of pain and surgeries, but O’Niell is laser focused on returning to the fray. There was not a hint of regret or doubt in his voice when he recalled his harrowing experience to TheDCNF. He detailed his injury like the challenges presented by one of his missions, by focusing on solutions to problems.
Step one of O’Niell’s road back to the PJ teams was to get acquainted with his new prosthetic leg. Fortunately, the Center for the Intrepid fitted him with one of the most advanced models available.
“It’s an Ottobock X3, and it’s awesome,” he said.
The leg is completely waterproof, and comes with an app that lets O’Niell switch between four modes suited for various kinds of situations. He detailed it like a piece of high-tech military equipment.
“I’ve got a boxing mode, which basically doesn’t allow the knee bend more than 14 degrees, that way I can throw a punch and don’t have to worry about the knee buckling. And I can, you know, bob and weave on it,” O’Niell said. “I’ve got a running mode, I’ve got the basic walking mode which is just the everyday mode, and I’ve got a jump mode, which keeps the knee from bending past ninety degrees while I’m jumping so that way I can fly flat dumb and happy, as we say, and not worry about backsliding.”
His injury was not the least bit apparent when I met him for the first time in an Air Force office in Manhattan, except for the presence of his service dog, Kai. O’Niell walked through the door and shook hands much like he probably did before the injury.
Most amputees usually require approximately six weeks of walking on their new prosthetics before they take them home. But O’Niell was taking his home in only two. He noted that’s because most amputees have trouble trusting the devices to hold their weight.
“I attribute it to the fact that I’ve trusted my life on much sketchier pieces of equipment,” O’Niell joked. Falling to his knees due to a prosthetic is nothing when you’re used to jumping from planes with parachutes made by the lowest bidder.
O’Niell’s sense of relief after the amputation and prosthetic was practically immediate. Even before the prosthetic was fitted, he recalled his fellow PJs looking at him strangely after the amputation when they found him moving around his thigh. He hadn’t been able to move the leg for years before, so this was a victory.
“The pain I was living with was awful,” he said. “I don’t take pain meds so it became a normal way of life, just living with pain all the time and it’s miserable. It’s miserable. So yeah, it was definitely awesome waking up and immediately not feeling that pain.”
The next step to getting back to the job he loved was requalification. By November 2016, O’Niell had qualified in calisthenics, swimming, parachuting, ropes, alternative insertion, diving and was close to reaching the requisite run time. He has been working on mission profiles as well, in order to learn how to adjust to his new leg.
O’Niell’s fellow PJs have been extremely supportive during his recovery. They’ve kept him up to date on any new tech or kit that has been incorporated since his injury, and asked him when he is coming back to the teams. He even had training plan offers from five or six team chiefs. He noted he’s unsure about their motivations, but nevertheless, he remains focused on his goal.
Fellow injured airmen have also been a source of strength and friendship. Thanks to the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, O’Niell has developed a close-knit group of friends who refer to themselves as “The Order of the Pineapple.” He noted the origin of the name is a long story, but that not a day goes by that they don’t talk to each other.
Additionally, his service dog Kai has served a crucial role in his recovery. K9 Soldiers in New Jersey gave him the German Shepherd on Veteran’s Day 2013, and he has relied on him ever since.
“Mentally, I was in a real crappy place when I started reaching out to get him, and then after getting him, he’s just made my outlook almost one-eighty,” explained O’Niell. “I’m inherently a really happy person anyway, so when I’m depressed, I’m very depressed … because a lot of things have happened to make me very depressed.”
Kai can sense when O’Niell is depressed or angry, and will come put his head on his lap or go for a walk with him, immediately putting O’Niell in a better mood. He also helps with bracing and stability and will block people from invading his personal space. Kai also can do smaller tasks, like getting O’Niell his phone and keys when he doesn’t have the prosthetic attached.
“He’s not a retriever and he absolutely hates doing it, but he will do it,” joked O’Niell.
Kai goes to work with O’Niell, and has become a big hit with the other PJs. He inspired a team in Alaska to buy their own dog so they can keep up morale abroad. O’Niell hopes to bring Kai on his next deployment. The German Shepherd won’t be tagging along on missions, but he would be waiting for him when he gets home.
The First Of His Kind
Other special operations forces have rejoined their units after an amputation, including members of the Army Special Forces, Marine Special Operations Command and Navy SEALs. Advances in medical science and prosthetics have allowed many troops to return to duty after amputations. More than 16 percent of amputees had returned to combat in the early 2000s, up from 2.3 percent in the 1980s. But O’Niell would be a first for the PJs and the Air Force.
He has every intention of getting back in, and he doesn’t plan to leave any time soon. He reenlisted in the beginning of 2015, and plans to do at least another five years after his contract runs out.
“The majority of people who want an amputation, they aren’t very crazy like I am, so they’re just kind of like ‘Yeah, I’m done,’ and rightfully so,” he said.
O’Niell’s remarkable story has also come with a great deal of unexpected fame. He has competed in both the Warrior Games and Invictus Games, the latter of which earned him a profile in ESPN. He also led the Atlanta Falcons onto the field during the Super Bowl, carrying an American flag as he ran in front of thousands on his prosthetic. And Paramount Pictures bought a pitch on O’Niell’s story in March, so a feature film could be in the works.
O’Niell told TheDCNF he’s “excited” for the press coverage to end, but he’s also pleased his story brings attention to PJs. “I don’t mind doing this type of stuff because it highlights the career field and that’s awesome,” he said.
For now, he is continuing strength training and Pararescue qualification training at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base in Florida, where he is expected to join a team sometime next year if all goes well.
has been sent to begin requalifications so he can join a team at Hurlburt Field AFB, hopefully sometime next year. Assessments with the teams have been positive, and aside from some issues with stress fractures, he has no complaints.
O’Niell hopes to be back to jumping out of planes and saving lives as early as the end of 2017.
Belgium’s Federal Public Service announced that the cat’s owner contracted the disease after a trip to Northern Italy, one of the most infected regions in the world. About a week after the onset of their human’s symptoms, the cat followed suit, with diarrhea, vomiting, and respiratory issues. Poor kitty.
Tests conducted at a veterinary school in Liège on vomit and feces samples from the cat confirmed the vet’s suspicions: High levels of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus were found. Blood tests will be conducted once the feline exits quarantine and antibodies specific to the virus are expected to be found.
When COVID-19 first hit our shores, many media outlets (ahem, New York Times) were quick to jump on the fact that the virus was not yet shown to infect dogs. This has proven untrue — two dogs in Hong Kong were infected — and is beside the point. Dogs are not a primary vector for the disease, but if their owner is infected, they can certainly pass on the virus. This is why experts advise steering clear of strange dogs when you’re on solitary walks no matter how friendly they are.
Still, the experts don’t seem too panicked about this development.
“We think the cat is a side victim of the ongoing epidemic in humans and does not play a significant role in the propagation of the virus,” Steven Van Gucht, virologist and federal spokesperson for the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium, told Live Science.
That’s good news for the humans of the earth, especially the cat people. The good news for the felines of the earth is that the cat in question recovered from the virus after just nine days with all nine of its lives intact.
Devin Mitchell was trying to get into graduate school as a sociology major, and he needed what he called a “high impact device” to get the attention of the admissions board. Since he was also a freelance photographer, he naturally thought of creating a photo essay as the medium for that sort of impact.
The idea is at once simple and complex. Miller takes a picture of a veteran wearing a uniform of his or her choosing while looking into a mirror. The reflection in the mirror is the same vet dressed in civilian clothes that capture what his or her life is like out of the military.
“The use of a mirror seemed an appropriate device for this subject matter,” Mitchell said. “It screams dichotomy, two different people in one body, and sometimes it screams embodiment and identification.”
Mitchell’s process is simple. “I don’t know any of these people,” he said. “My encounter with any one of the subjects are usually no more than 15 minutes total. They reach out to me online. I vet their military status to make sure I’m not meeting with anyone who’s counterfeit. And I show up at their house. I don’t usually ask questions.”
The subjects decide on the composition of the essay. “Every single time so far they have had something ready,” Mitchell said. “I make the photo and I give it to them and I sit back as an audience member and wonder what the photo meant.
“I call it ‘artistic journalism,'” he said. “These are landmark observations of who these people are in this time period.”
The images provide an amazing range of emotions, especially considering they’re all shot in basically the same setting – a bathroom mirror. In one essay a Marine couple is hugging in the mirror while they stand separate in the foreground, the man still in uniform and the woman in civilian clothes holding a sign that says “PTSD – divorcing but united.” In another a soldier is peeling off the blouse to his camouflage while he’s shirtless in the reflection with “Pride” scrawled across his chest in red lipstick.
“If the photos make people squirm in their chair a little bit, then obviously that’s something they needed to be exposed to,” Mitchell said. “As an artist I couldn’t dream of anything better. Enlightenment through art is the most beautiful thing in the world.”
Mitchell is firm in the desire not to artificially engineer a reality with the Veterans Vision Project.
“This is not a project to propagandize any sense of nationalism whatsoever,” he said. “I’m very early in the project, and I will document the good, bad, and ugly. People should really expect to see everything the veterans have to say. As an artist I’m not scared of walking on anyone’s eggshells.”
Marine veteran Mike Dowling is one of Mitchell’s subjects.
“I knew some friends who had done it and they vouched for him,” Dowling said. “I liked the pictures he’d done, so when he reached out for me I was up for it. He said, ‘I just need you to have a military uniform that fits you and whatever civilian clothes you want. You pose how you want to pose.’ I had full creative control.”
And how did the result impact Dowling? “I look at my photo I realize how significantly my military service has laid the foundation for who I am today,” he said. “No matter what I wear the military is always going to be part of who I am.”
Mitchell is not a veteran, and he describes his military knowledge as “very distant, far-off media consumption.” “But I’m a student,” he added. “I like to learn.”
After 134 photo essays (and an ultimate goal of 10,000 for the project) Mitchell has learned a lot about the military community.
“There’s just as much fragmentation as there is unity among the military,” Mitchell said. “Just like any community. The military is no different. That’s one myth that I’ve demystified for myself since I started this. Everyone does not identify with everyone else in the military community. They’re still people.”
For more about the Veteran Vision Project, including how to participate in the project, go here.
To contribute to the Veteran Vision Project’s Kickstarter campaign go here.
In this era of massive budget blockbusters and even bigger “shared universe” movie franchises, it’s safe to say that we’re not always looking for realism at the cinema. While films are capable of conveying lots of different sorts of messages, the common thread that binds them is entertainment, and as such, reality often falls to the wayside in favor of plot convenience, storytelling, or sometimes, just a lack of scientific understanding.
Movies that are “based on a true story” tend to bear little resemblance to the “true stories” they’re based on, movies about the military almost invariably fail to capture the culture or even the vernacular of American troops, and the Fast and Furious franchise has a physics all its own… but some movies do a good job of establishing that the rules of their cinematic universes are similar to our own, only to offer up weapons that, at best, don’t make sense, and at worst, would leave their user reduced to little more than a puddle of goo.
Some of these nonsensical weapons play small roles in the movies they inhabit, while others, like these, have become cultural touchstones; serving as symbols of the fictional universes they inhabit and the fandoms they inspire. These weapons are cool, dynamic, exciting… and would totally get you killed in a real fight.
The Klingon Bat’leth
While the Klingons had already been around for some time before “Star Trek: The Next Generation” introduced the Bat’leth, the unique double-sided sword quickly became visually synonymous with the Empire of warrior aliens. There’s just one problem: melee weapons make no sense in a galaxy full of handheld phasers and disruptors, and even if they did — the Bat’leth is one useless melee weapon.
While most bladed weapons offer the user an increase in reach, the Bat’leth’s curved shape makes it more awkward for extended one-handed strikes like a bow or staff might allow, and while held in the traditional two-handed way, it offers little more than a solid defense against other melee weapons. Perhaps this is why the mighty Klingons always find themselves bested in hand to hand combat by humans, Bajorans, and anybody else the plot finds convenient, despite their fierce reputations.
The Jedi/Sith Lightsaber
This one is sure to ruffle feathers, as the Star Wars fandom has devoted a great deal of time and energy to explaining away how these energy weapons must really work. However, as of Disney’s purchase of the franchise, canonical sources have been slashed, and we’re left once again with lightsabers that work without the plot-hole filler that was once allotted.
What we’re left with are extremely hot energy weapons that, as others have pointed out, shouldn’t work because the beams have endpoints, but assuming they did — anything that could burn so easily through feet of steel as depicted in the films would also melt the meat off of your hands as you held it. It would take so much heat to do what lightsabers are depicted as doing, it wouldn’t be safe to be in the same room as one, let alone to start swinging it like a baseball bat.
Tony Stark’s Iron Man Suit
The Iron Man suit has become one of the most recognizable symbols of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and with good reason. The MCU as we know it was born with the first Iron Man movie and in many ways, Stark serves as the Skywalker of the series… but that doesn’t change the fact that the suit that grants him his powers would actually be his undoing.
While the Iron Man armor may protect Tony from impacts and penetration, it can’t stop inertia. Iron Man is regularly shown taking hard, nearly instant turns at jet-fighter like speeds and even hitting the ground at similar velocities (whether intentionally or otherwise). Even if the armor offered protection from impact, the inertia of those movements would turn Tony Stark into chunky stew.
In reality, the first Iron Man movie likely would have ended with Pepper Potts prying the suit open only to let what was left of the titular hero pour out… which is why maybe it’s not always good to be completely realistic with one’s movie weapons.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law that can jail citizens for insulting government officials — including him.
People who show “blatant disrespect” for the state, the government, the Russian flag, or the constitution can be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($1,550) under the new law, which Putin signed on March 18, 2019, Reuters reported.
Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 days under the new law.
Punishments became more severe as the bill moved through Russia’s government. Earlier drafts of the law had proposed fining people 1,000 or 5,000 rubles, a fraction of the final figure.
Putin also signed that a law that mandates fine for people who spread what authorities deem to be “fake news.”
People can be fined up to 400,000 rubles (,100) for spreading false information online that leads to a “mass violation of public order.”
Authorities can also block websites that do not remove information which the state says is not accurate, according to Reuters.
Russian lawmakers say the law is necessary to fight fake news reports and abusive online comments, Reuters reported.
But critics say the law amounts to state censorship.
Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin.
British human rights organization Article 19, which focuses on issues of freedom of expression, said: “Allowing public officials to decide what counts as truth is tantamount to accepting that the forces in power have a right to silence views they don’t agree with, or beliefs they don’t hold.”
Sarah Clarke, the group’s head of Europe and central Asia, said before Putin signed the bill that it will be “another tool of repression to stifle public interest reporting on government misconduct and the expression of critical opinions, including the speech of the political opposition.”
Ilya Yashin, an opposition politician, told Reuters in January 2019, before the bills were signed, that these are both “crazy laws.”
“These are crazy bills. How can they prohibit people from criticising the authorities?” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Super Bowl commercials that honor military veterans aren’t new, and odds are they’re not going anywhere because dammit they’re effective.
The 2017 Hyundai Super Bowl commercial is no exception. Troops stationed in Poland were treated to a surprise when Hyundai gave them a special Super Bowl screening experience. What they didn’t know was that a few of their family members were also getting a treat.
While the service members watched the game in fully immersive, 360-degree live streaming pods, their families joined them via a Super Bowl LI box suite, complete with huggable high-tech teddy bears (wearing the uniform of the day) and cameras that allowed the family members to livestream with their heroes.
Hyundai teamed up with director Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) to shoot, edit, and broadcast the event.
“I’m honored to have worked on this project with the troops and [Hyundai] for the Super Bowl. Thank you for your service, and thank you for letting me be part of this,” Berg said.
The Cold War spawned decades’ worth of bizarre weapon ideas as the West and the Soviet Union strove towards gaining the strategic upper hand over their superpower rival.
The US was responsible for at least seven nuclear weapon designs during the Cold War that now seem outlandish or ill-advised. But the US wasn’t alone in its willingness to build seemingly absurd weapons systems to gain some kind of advantage over the Soviets.
In the 1950s, the UK designed a nuclear landmine that would be placed in West Germany to stop a hypothetical Soviet assault on the rest of Europe, the BBC reports. The landmine, dubbed Operation Blue Peacock, would be operated remotely so that it could be detonated at the moment when it could inflict maximal damage on the invading Red Army.
But the weapon had a major hitch. Buried underground, it was possible that the mine would become cold to the point that the detonator would be unable to trigger a nuclear blast. In 1957, British nuclear physicists found a solution: chickens
“The birds would be put inside the casing of the bomb, given seed to keep them alive and stopped from pecking at the wiring,” the BBC notes. The chickens’ body heat would be enough to maintain the triggering mechanism’s working temperature. In all, the chickens would be estimated to survive for a week, after which time the bomb would return to a possibly cooled and inoperable state.
In all, the landmines designed in Operation Blue Peacock were thought to yield a 10-kiloton explosion which would produce a crater 375 feet in diameter, according to the American Digest. Such destructive potential ultimately led to the abandonment of the project as the British realized that there would be an unacceptable amount of nuclear fallout from such a blast — never mind the complicated issue of burying nuclear weapons within the territory of an allied nation.
By 1958, after the production of only two prototypes, Operation Blue Peacock was abandoned.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As the youngest member of the U.S. armed forces, the Air Force gets a lot of flak from other branches, despite having the capacity to (arguably) destroy all life on Earth in 30 minutes. In its relative short history, its Airmen evolved a culture and language all their own.
The original Dirtbag Airman, he’s an example Air Force instructors use to train Airmen how not to do the wrong things in hypothetical situations. The difference between the example and the real Airman Snuffy is the real Snuffy is a Medal of Honor recipient. He tried to put out a deadly aircraft fire by pissing on it while simultaneously shooting down Nazi fighter planes.
What the Piss
This is the trademark, go-to phrase said (yelled) by Air Force Military Training Instructors (MTI). From Zero Week until graduation, anytime you forget where you are, you’ll hear this phrase right before you get a reminder. Only MTIs know why they chose this. It could be a tribute to Airman Snuffy.
The Snake Pit
Where Air Force MTIs eat, usually right at the end of the chow line, so every Airman trainee has to walk by to get to their table.
Never to be referred to as such – it is technically the Flight Office Technician, aka the MTI’s assistant. See also: Snitch.
The most persistent myth about the Air Force. Other branches think we get these during basic training in case we need “to take a moment.” These have never existed and never will, but because of the Air Force’s old six-week basic training length, it sure sounds plausible. If the USAF ever did try this, the ghost of Curtis LeMay would burn the Air Force Secretary’s house down.
Before basic trainees get their first uniform issue (aka “slicksleeves”) at Lackland, they’re usually walking around in the civvies in which they first arrived. In formation, they look like a dirtbag rainbow and probably smell bad because they have been wearing these clothes for 2-4 days.
“Sir/Ma’am, Trainee ________ reports as ordered,” the phrase you give an MTI anytime you need to respond to an inquiry.
AF Form 341
Excellence Discrepancy Report – Every Airman in Basic Training and Technical School must carry at least three of these small forms on their person at all times. When you screw up, one will be demanded of you and turned into your training unit. The 341 is an excellent way to introduce Airmen to the primary Air Force disciplinary system – Paperwork. Rumors of this form being used to report excellence are unsubstantiated.
The Nutri-Grain Bar Prank
More advanced basic trainees will sometimes tell newer trainees they can’t eat the Nutri-Grain Bars at breakfast unless they take the bar, slam it on the Snake Pit’s table and shout out what flavor it is, then stand at parade rest until given permission to digest.
Dirtbag Airman (DBA)
The chaff that fell through the cracks — The Dirtbag Airman has no regard for regulations, dress and appearance, customs and courtesies, or even personal hygiene. It shows up late with Starbucks cups and takes the most breaks while doing the least work.
Refers to pulling the wedges used to prevent a stationary aircraft from moving while parked on the flightline. Also known as “Let’s go” or “Let’s get out of here,” in Air Force parlance, because you have to pull the chocks before the plane can leave the base.
The Air Force does not have Chow Halls or Mess Tents. It has Dining Facilities (or DFACs). Referring to the building in which Airmen who do not have the time to go to the BX Food Court or Burger King as a “Chow Hall” actually offends senior enlisted Food Service Craftsmen.
A USAF Weapons Loader. He or she sometimes drives a “Jammer.”
Notes made by USAF pilots and left for maintenance crews to fix. Because aircraft maintainers are, for the most part, funny, sometimes the crews’ responses are worth compiling.
Not an actual hunk of meat. A Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force is a rapidly deployable, specialized civil engineer unit. If you’re deployed in an austere location, you want them to be your best friends.
Means “Below the Zone” promotion from E-3 to E-4, or getting that extra stripe before your regular time in service promotion. Squadrons sometimes groom Airmen for this.
This is the regulation for Air Force Dress and Appearance Standards, and is usually the only Air Force Instruction most Airmen actually know, can remember when asked, or have ever read.
The Gauntlet – aka “Tacking On”
Enlisted Air Force personnel wear their rank on the sleeves of their ABUs. When they are promoted, their new rank is “tacked on.” The Airman’s peers stand in two lines, the new rank patches are pinned to the Airman’s uniform, and the promotee walks down the line as his coworkers punch them as hard as possible in the rank.
An enlisted performance review system designed to keep you from earning a perfect rating (and ultimately a BTZ promotion) despite being the best performer in your unit at your actual job function, because you didn’t volunteer to pick up trash at the squadron commander’s mandatory fun burger burn.
FOD is Foreign Object Debris, anything on the flightline that doesn’t belong there and could damage the aircraft. Entire units sometimes walk shoulder to shoulder picking up whatever FOD they find. Airmen in non-flightline roles will sometimes be assigned to augment FOD walks.
First Shirt or “Shirt”
The unit First Sergeant. There are a lot of theories as to why, but there’s no real consensus.
Operation Golden Flow
Being “randomly selected” to have someone watch you pee for drug use testing.
Why Not Minot?
Universally regarded as the most unpleasant duty station due to its extreme remoteness, Minot Air Force Base’s staff use this phrase to laugh at their situation because otherwise the terrorists win. The entire Air Force recognizes this phrase and it’s reply: Freezin’s the reason! In the SAC days, they would say “there’s a woman behind every tree!” There were no trees.
Jet fuel. Smells like freedom.
Prop Wash and Flight Line
A fool’s errand given to new enlisted airmen, similar to a snipe hunt or the Army’s “box of grid squares.”
The Wing-level Commander — usually the base commander — who is always 0-6 or above. Sometimes the highest ranking person on the base, though some bases have multiple wings, missions, etc.
Walking outside the designated personnel areas (marked in red) on the flightline or not using designated entry and exit control areas. Breaking Red will result in youtr face pressed to the ground with a boot on your back and an M-16 pointed at your neck (aka Eating Ramp). Security Forces love it when people do this.
Liquid oxygen used in aircraft oxygen systems, run by environmental management techs. Sometimes used to cool beer. (Update: Some readers did not realize this is a joke. Using LOX to cool beer is a bad idea.)
Every career field and unit has its own slang, motto, and/or culture. IYAAYAS is the most widely-known and is the official rally cry of the USAF Munitions Specialists and means “If You Ain’t Ammo, You Ain’t Shit.” Others include “Who the hell, POL” (fuels) and “No Comm, No Bomb” (Communications).
Aerial Porters who rig cargo, parachutes, prepare airdrops and load/unload aircraft are technically “Air Transportation Specialists” but are referred to as Port Dawgs.
Derivative of “Fool Proof,” this is how Airmen lord our higher ASVAB score requirements over the Army. Every time a grunt says “Chair Force,” an Air Force PJ gains one of their IQ points.
Retired General David Petraeus shared lessons learned from over fifteen years of combatting terrorists and extremists in the Middle East and Afghanistan at a forum Sept. 13.
The takeaway: even with all the US’s military’s capabilities, you can’t “drone strike your way out of a problem.”
Speaking at the Intelligence Squared US debate at New York University with the Council on Foreign Relations’ Max Boot, Petraeus — who commanded US and NATO troops in Afghanistan and served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency under former President Barack Obama — discussed what he views as the five lessons the US should have learned from combatting Islamic extremism.
First, Petraeus said that “ungoverned spaces” in the Muslim world will be exploited by extremists. Second, Petraeus said you need to do something about it, because “Las Vegas rules don’t apply.”
“What happens there does not stay there,” Petraeus added.
Third, the US must lead the charge, Petraeus said, because the US has the assets and the expertise that is “proving revolutionary” even as the military has let other countries’ troops — like the Iraqi and Afghan armies — take the lead on the front lines.
“We are advising and assisting others, and enabling with this armada of unmanned aerial vehicles that a bunch of commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan and I very much sought more of,” Petraeus said, adding that it’s not just the hardware that gives the US an edge, but the manpower and technical knowledge of the people that deploy and operate it.
Fourth, Petraeus said, there’s a clear paradox at play when combating extremist movements — like the Islamic State or al-Qaeda — that are explicitly linked to ideology.
“You cannot counter terrorists like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda with just counterterrorist force operations,” Petraeus said. “You can’t just drone strike or Delta Force raid your way out of this problem. It takes a comprehensive approach.”
The comprehensive approach Petraeus advocated involves not only targeted raids and drone strikes, but a coordinated effort among military, diplomatic, and intelligence channels to change “hearts and minds,” impose the “rule of law,” and work towards reconciliation between opposing sides.
And fifth, Petraeus said, is understanding that these conflicts are “generational struggles,” and they’re not going to be solved in a year, or even a decade.
“It’s going to require a sustained commitment,” Petraeus said. “And in view of that, it has to be a sustainable sustained commitment.”
After Boot asked whether President Donald Trump’s administration was up to the task, Petraeus parried that the “generals” within the White House are highly experienced.
Specifically referring to H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, and Ricky Waddell, McMaster’s deputy, Petraeus said they understand the complexities of prosecuting the war against Islamic extremists.
“These generals know that every problem out there is not a nail, and you just can’t find a bigger hammer,” Petraeus said. “In fact, you generally need a stiletto.”
Petraeus did say that the state of the US’s diplomatic corps — with many crucial positions at the State Department still unfilled, or with acting leaders — is “definitely a big concern,” adding that it “carries much more weight” to have the Senate confirm people to those positions.
Camping is a quintessential summer activity, but let’s face it; we’ve gone soft. On my last camping trip, I packed pillows, blankets, a stove, a hammock, books and approximately a month worth of junk food. I brought along a car adaptor so I could blow up our three air mattresses with ease. On the way out the door, my friend asked if she could run back in to grab her straightener. Her. STRAIGHTENER.
Camping in the field is another game entirely. It’s not even a game, really. It’s challenging, team-building, possibly life-threatening work, but you’ll return knowing you fought nature and won. SO much cooler than glamping. Think you’re tough enough? Here’s how to try it for yourself. (Sort of.)
Say goodbye to your lounge chair.
As the owner of a 7-passenger SUV, I can proudly say that I have used 100% of my available cargo space on a single, five day camping trip. All of it. Camping with friends and family is about fun and convenience, not necessity.
Camping in the field, however, is more like extreme backpacking. Kiss your air mattress, propane heater, bluetooth speakers, and endless snacks goodbye. Creature comforts are out, necessities are in. Imagine you’re about to be stranded in the wilderness, alone, and you can only bring what you can carry. Marshmallows, White Claw, and movie projectors probably don’t make the cut.
Forget relaxing and get to work.
This probably goes without saying, but day drinking, movie nights, and leisurely hikes aren’t exactly the point of being in the field. You’re expected to follow a strict schedule; you have a job to do, after all! Your exact duties will likely vary, but sightseeing isn’t on the agenda.
Pick people for practicality, not play.
Look, it’s not personal. Your buddy who starts day drinking right after rolling out of a hammock at noon just won’t be able to keep up. Nor will Pinterest camp mom, who shopped for an entire cooler’s worth of perishable ingredients to try out the nine different gourmet campfire meals she added to her camping board. By the time she’s made a three-course campfire foil brunch and mimosas with fresh-squeezed OJ, the rest of the troops will have left her behind.
Day drinking dude and Pinterest mom are ultra-fun to camp with, but camping in the field isn’t about fun. You’ll be camping with those who are the most useful to your mission, so you better learn to like them. Even if you’re not best buddies, you’ll learn to appreciate their unique skills.
Expect the unexpected.
If a sudden rainstorm hits during a family camping trip, you can stuff all your junk in the car and book it to the closest Motel 6. Or maybe a nice hotel with a hot tub and room service. You’ve got options. When you’re a soldier, your only option is to find the driest patch of land, build a shelter with what you have, and wait it out. If there’s a dust storm, your options aren’t much better. You just have to deal with it, basically, and hope you don’t come across a demonic-looking camel spider. Shudder.
Prep your survival skills. They’re not just for show.
Who here has watched Bear Grylls eating bugs and drinking reindeer blood from the couch? Just me? As it turns out, Bear Grylls actually served in the British Army reserves from 1994–1997. He was trained in desert and winter warfare, unarmed combat, climbing, parachuting, explosives, and (duh!) survival. His training actually gave him much of the knowledge he needed for his more well-known career as a survivalist and TV persona. While you probably won’t have to resort to drinking animal blood at your cozy family campground with running water, bathrooms, and fire pits, crazy survival skills like that are actually useful in the field. While one hopes you never need them, it’s best to have them in case you do! And if you don’t, you can retire and go into reality TV.
After much back and forth, it looks like the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un is back on schedule. The details are starting to emerge about the quickly-approaching June 12 conference, including expected talking points, the venue, and the extensive security measures in place.
Each leader is responsible for bringing their own security detail from their own nation, but the overall security is going to be overseen by none other than the world’s most intense fighting force: the Nepalese Gurkhas.
Gurkhas have earned a reputation for being the hardest and most well-trained mercenaries in the world. They’ve formed a strong bond with the United Kingdom’s forces in East Asia and used Hong Kong as a base of operations until 1997. Today, they’re based out of the UK and are still the premier fighting force in East Asia.
(Photo by William B. King)
They maintain a relatively low profile considering their legendary status in law enforcement. Recently, they watched over a security conference between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and other East Asian ministers in Singapore.
They’ll be at it again when President Trump and Kim Jong-un meet for the first time.
Each Gurkha is rigorously trained and outfitted with some of the best armor and weaponry in the world. In addition to this high-tech armory, each Gurkha is armed with their signature khukuri knife. It’s said that this knife must draw blood each time it’s unsheathed.
“They remain very much a substantial and frontline force, and the demands of this kind of event are precisely the sort of special operation that the Gurkhas are trained to handle.”
It is unknown how many Gurkhas will be deployed for the conference but the International Institute for Strategic Studies lists the total number of Gurkhas in the Singapore police at 1,800, divided among six different paramilitary companies.
The US Pacific Fleet commander said July 27 he would launch a nuclear strike against China next week if President Donald Trump ordered it, and warned against the military ever shifting its allegiance from its commander in chief.
Admiral Scott Swift was responding to a hypothetical question at an Australian National University security conference following a major joint US- Australian military exercise off the Australian coast. The drills were monitored by a Chinese intelligence-gathering ship off northeast Australia.
Asked by an academic in the audience whether he would make a nuclear attack on China next week if Trump ordered it, Swift replied: “The answer would be: Yes.”
“Every member of the US military has sworn an oath to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and to obey the officers and the president of the United States as commander and chief appointed over us,” Swift said.
He added: “This is core to the American democracy and any time you have a military that is moving away from a focus and an allegiance to civilian control, then we really have a significant problem.”
Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown later said Swift’s answer reaffirmed the principle of civilian control over the military.
“The admiral was not addressing the premise of the question, he was addressing the principle of civilian authority of the military,” Brown said. “The premise of the question was ridiculous.”
The biennial Talisman Saber exercise involved 36 warships including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, 220 aircraft, and 33,000 military personnel.
It was monitored by a Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy Type 815 Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence vessel from within Australia’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
Swift said China had similarly sent an intelligence ship into the US exclusive economic zone around Hawaii during the Pacific Fleet-hosted multinational naval exercise in 2014.
China had a legal right to enter the American economic zone for military purposes under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — or UNCLOS— which defines the rights and responsibilities of nations sailing the world’s oceans, he said.
Governments needed to engage with Beijing to understand why the Chinese did not accept that the United States had the same access rights within China’s exclusive economic zone, Swift said.
“The dichotomy in my mind is why is there a different rules-set applied with respect to taking advantage of UNCLOS in other EEZs, but there’s this perspective that there’s a different rules-set that applies within another nation’s (China’s) EEZ? ” Swift said.