The US Supreme Court has lifted an injunction against the Trump administration’s transgender military ban, allowing him to enforce his policy barring certain transgender troops from joining or staying in the military.
President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court in November 2018 to lift injunctions issued by federal court judges, which placed a hold on the policy’s implementation while a legal challenge continues in lower courts.
The conservative majority granted the president’s request on Jan. 22, 2019, essentially allowing the ban to be implemented while lower courts decide on its constitutionality. Liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor said they would have kept the injunctions in place blocking the policy, Reuters reported.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Along with the request to lift injunctions, the Trump administration also asked the Supreme Court to bypass normal judicial proceedings by deciding the legal merits of the policy. The justices refused, allowing a California-based federal appeals court to issue a ruling.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Pentagon has been developing a weapon system of highly flammable and intensely hot rocket balls to help destroy weapon of mass destruction (WMD) bunkers.
These “kinetic fireball incendiaries” are specially designed to rocket randomly throughout an underground bunker while expelling super heated gases that rise over 1,000 degrees Farenheit.
These rocket balls are specifically designed for destroying potentially dangerous materials — such as chemical or biological weapons — without blowing them up, which would risk scattering the materials into the surrounding area, Wired notes.
“There are plenty of bombs which could destroy a lab, and bunker-busting weapons can tackle hardened underground facilities. But blowing up weapons of mass destruction is not a good idea. Using high explosives is likely to scatter them over a wide area, which is exactly what you want to avoid,” Wired writes.
Instead, the fireballs function alongside a 2,000 pound BLU-109B bunker bomb, Flight Global reports. These bunker bombs are able to punch through six feet reinforced concrete. After punching into a bunker, the bomb would then release its internal kinetic incendiaries.
Once inside a bunker or structure, the rocket balls get to work. Essentially, the balls are hollowed out spheres comprised of rubberized rocket fuel that have a hole on the outside. As Technovelgy notes, this hole causes the balls, once ignited, to expel hot air in excess of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Additionally, the expulsion of air causes the incendiary balls to rocket wildly throughout a structure with enough force to break down doors. This allows the balls to randomly and fully reach the entirety of a bunker while incinerating everything inside.
Wired also notes that the use of such incendiary devices could allow the military to effectively clear out a building without damaging the structure’s integrity, as well as effectively dealing with a nuclear facility without spreading nuclear material into the atmosphere or surrounding region.
Ukraine’s border service has said that it will only allow Ukrainian citizens to travel to Crimea following the imposition of martial law.
Kyiv imposed martial law in 10 of its 27 regions for 30 days on Nov. 28, 2018, after Russian forces fired on Ukrainian ships and seized 23 sailors in the Black Sea off the coast of the Russian-controlled Crimean Peninsula.
“In connection with the introduction of martial law, the administrative border with temporarily occupied Crimea can be crossed exclusively with Ukrainian documents,” a spokesman said on Nov. 29, 2018.
Citizens from all nations were previously allowed to enter Crimea through the administrative border via mainland Ukraine. But the process for doing so for non-Ukrainians was fraught with bureaucracy.
Crimea is accessible by plane from Russia or via Russia’s newly built bridge from the country’s mainland. But under Ukrainian law, those routes are illegal. Violators — and there have been many — are given official bans of three years or longer by Kyiv.
Earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on NATO to send ships to the Sea of Azov to help protect Ukraine.
He claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin sees himself as a “Russian emperor” and Ukraine as a Russian “colony.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Ukrainian president later on Nov. 29, 2018, tweeted that Kyiv will impose “restrictions” on Russian citizens in Ukraine.
“No need to run to shops and buy matches and salt. There will be no restrictions on cash withdrawals, currency-exchange operations, travels abroad for Ukrainian citizens. For Russian citizens, these restrictions will be introduced. And I think that’s quite justified,” he wrote.
Relations between Moscow and Kyiv have deteriorated after Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and shortly thereafter began supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has left more than 10,300 dead since April 2014.
In an interview with the German tabloid Bild published early on Nov. 29, 2018, Poroshenko said he hoped European states will take active steps, including increasing sanctions and military protection against Russia, to help Ukraine after providing verbal support in the wake of Russia’s capture of 24 Ukrainian sailors.
“We hope that NATO states are prepared to send naval ships to the Sea of Azov to support Ukraine and provide security,” Poroshenko said.
“The only language he [Putin] understands is the solidarity of the Western world,” Poroshenko said. “We can’t accept Russia’s aggressive policies. First it was Crimea, then eastern Ukraine, now he wants the Sea of Azov.”
Opening a German-Ukrainian economic forum in Berlin later in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she planned to press Putin at a Group of 20 (G20) summit to urge the release of the ships and crews.
“We can only resolve this in talks with one another because there is no military solution to all of these conflicts,” she added.
Dzhemil Temishev wrote on Facebook on November 29 that his “colleagues” in the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow had informed him that some of the Ukrainian sailors had been brought there.
Also on Nov. 29, 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticized Poroshenko’s request for NATO to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov, saying it was “aimed at provoking further tensions” and driven by Poroshenko’s “electoral and domestic policy motives.”
A NATO spokeswoman said the alliance already had a strong presence in the region, with vessels routinely patrolling and exercising in the Black Sea.
“There is already a lot of NATO in the Black Sea, and we will continue to assess our presence in the region,” Oana Lungescu said.
The Sea of Azov is the body of water that separates the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, from the Ukrainian and Russian mainlands. Russia opened a bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting Crimea with Russia in May and has asserted control over the strait.
The Kerch Strait is the only route for ships traveling between the Sea of Azov, where Ukraine has several ports, and the Black Sea, which is the arena usually patrolled by NATO.
Ukraine is a partner of NATO but not a member of the military alliance. NATO has already said it “stands with Ukraine” and has called on Russia to release the captured ships and their crews.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also warned Russia on Nov. 26, 2018, that “its actions have consequences.”
Poroshenko, who on Nov. 28, 2018, instituted martial law in parts of Ukraine in response to the Russian actions, told Bild he had evidence suggesting Russia is planning a new ground offensive against Ukraine, and he said he had shown NATO partners satellite pictures supporting that allegation.
“Germany also has to ask itself: What will Putin do next if we don’t stop him?” Poroshenko told Bild.
Ukrainian parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy has joined Poroshenko in calling for increased protection from NATO, saying on Nov. 27, 2018, that “I urged [NATO] to increase [its presence] in the airspace above the Black Sea and the number of military ships in the Black Sea as a guarantee of security and a guarantee of stability in the Black Sea.”
EU: ‘Utmost Concern,’ But No New Sanctions
Poroshenko’s remarks came as the European Union failed to muster support for any immediate new steps to either impose new sanctions on Russia over the naval incident or increase enforcement of existing sanctions on Moscow.
Poland, Britain, and the EU’s Baltic states have called for more sanctions, but after three days of debate, the EU’s 28 states could agree only to issue a statement on Nov. 28, 2018, expressing “utmost concern about the dangerous increase of tensions” and the “unacceptable” use of force by Russia.
The statement issued by EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini did not mention sanctions, saying only that the bloc will “act appropriately” while continuing to monitor the situation.
The bloc’s top powers, Germany and France, have so far emphasized efforts to ease tensions. Other members, including Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, have been calling for a softening of sanctions on Moscow.
The EU first imposed sanctions on Russia after it seized Crimea, and it has ratcheted up those sanctions from time to time. The United States on Nov. 27, 2018, called for stricter enforcement of the EU’s existing sanctions on Russian and Crimean officials and businesses.
While the EU failed to take any immediate action against Russia, in a gesture of solidarity with Ukraine, Estonia said on Nov. 28, 2018, that it had summoned its Russian ambassador and condemned Russia’s use of military force in the incident.
The House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee heard testimony from Defense Department personnel chiefs on diversity in recruiting and retention.
Testifying were: Army Lt. Gen. Thomas C. Seamands, deputy chief of staff for personnel; Navy Vice Adm. John B. Nowell Jr., chief of naval personnel; Air Force Lt. Gen. Brian T. Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services; and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael A. Rocco, deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs.
Army diversity efforts
“People are the starting point for all that we do. Today, the total Army is more diverse — the most talented and the most lethal force in our nation’s history,” said Seamands.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)
An important tool the Army has is the new talent management system, which amplifies diversity, he said.
Trends are pointed in the right direction, he noted. For example, in the last five years, the percentage of Hispanic soldiers went from 12.5% to 14.6% and female representation went from 16.6% to 18.8%.
Also, the first female graduate of Ranger School went on to become the first female infantry company commander, and she then deployed to Afghanistan.
“We want our Army to look like our nation and to reflect what’s best of our citizens,” he said. “As the country has become more diverse, so has the Army.”
He added that service members are not only diverse in race and gender, but they’re also diverse in thought, talent, knowledge, skills and experience.
Navy diversity efforts
The Navy is promoting diversity and inclusion, said Nowell. “We have increased participation in diverse talent and outreach events and marketing materials.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Spencer Fling)
Nineteen percent of the recruiting media budget focuses on multicultural and female prospects, he said. Navy ROTC scholarships are also offered to minorities, he said.
More than 25% of this year’s U.S. Naval Academy accessions were female or minority, he said.
Air Force diversity efforts
“The Air Force considers diversity a warfighting imperative,” said Kelly. “As such, the Air Force set a goal for our force to mirror and be representative of the population of Americans eligible to serve by race, gender and ethnicity.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick)
The Air Force currently consists of 22% women; 15% African Americans — including 6% in the officer corps; and 13% Hispanics — including 7% in the officer corps. Those demographics have increased over the last 10 years, he added.
Marine Corps diversity efforts
“Diversity remains critical to the Marine Corps,” said Rocco. “It is our responsibility to ensure the Marine Corps is comprised of the best and brightest from every segment of the diverse society.
(Official Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Brian A. Tuthill)
“Diversity must be included in meaningful ways in order to take advantage of a wide array of aptitudes and perspectives necessary to maintain our current and future warfighting excellence,” he continued.
Diversity in the Marine Corps is increasing, he said. In 2010, 30% of Marines identified as minorities. Today, that number is more than 40%. “We expect these numbers to continue to rise.”
In 2010, 6.7% of the Marine Corps was female. It’s now almost 9%. These numbers should also continue to rise, he said.
On a chilly May morning, the city of Murrieta, CA dispatched a firetruck to a new home. Dozens of men, women and children congregated the driveway. The sounds of Rolling Thunder could be heard in the distance. As if on cue, the wind picked up and the huge American flag streaming from the ladder of the firetruck began to wave. American Legion Riders escorted wounded Army veteran Sgt. Nicholas Mendes to his new specially adapted home, and the community was there to welcome him.
This is the work of Homes for our Troops.
HFOT builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes across the United States for those who have been severely injured in theater of combat since September 11, 2001. The non-profit’s purpose is to assist wounded warriors with the complex process of integrating back into society.
Army Sergeant Nicholas Mendes, who was a gunner with the 10th Mountain, 3rd Brigade, is one of 214 veterans to thus far be living in one of these homes. On April 30, 2011, an IED detonated beneath his vehicle in Sangsar, Afghanistan. The explosion, set off by a 1200-pound command wire device, caused multiple fractures to his vertebrae and rendered him paralyzed from the neck down. Mendes had previously served in Iraq in 2008.
After being presented with the key to his new home, Mendes’ wife held the microphone up to his mouth so he could address the audience of well-wishers.
“Bear with me, I didn’t write anything down – because my arms don’t work.” Mendes joked. “It’s just crazy looking back on everything, this all started with a Google search, and then putting in an application to a foundation that I didn’t know if they’d ever write me back…”
Not only did they write him back and build him a home, Homes for our Troops is working with Mendes to allow him to reclaim his independence. The adapted features in his home remove much of the burden from his wife and family and allow him to focus on recovery and his plans to pursue a career in real estate.
“These men and women are not looking for pity. They’re looking to rebuild their lives.” said Bill Ivy, Executive Director of HFOT. “We have an extremely talented group of men and women who are either in homes or that we are building homes for. The whole idea is to get them back going to school, back into the work force, raising families. Since 2010 we’ve had over 100 children born to families living in our homes. So it is about the next generation and moving forward. We have a tremendous amount of successes out there.”
Homes for Our Troops lays a foundation for these men and woman to continue on after their injuries. Although their way of life has undergone major changes, their spirit and desire to serve remains. Many of these home recipients are able to rehabilitate to the point where they enter the workforce and give back to their community as teachers and counselors.
Two HFOT recipients started a non-profit together called Amputee Outdoors. Another recipient, Joshua Sweeny is an American gold medal sledge hockey player and Purple Heart recipient who competed in 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia. Four recipients participated in the recent Invictus games, and one even spent a month in a tent to raise awareness for veteran homelessness.
“There’s duty, there’s honor and self sacrifice. Death nor injury does not diminish those qualities in our soldiers. It is a testament to the love of this country” said David Powers of Prospect Mortgage – one of the key ceremony speakers. “Duty is the mission, the lesson is the sacrifice for our country, and for our freedom.”
For more information visit the Homes for Our Troops website.
The US military has enlisted academics to fight a new enemy: Twitter bots.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) held a special contest last year to identify so-called “influence bots” — “realistic, automated identities that illicitly shape discussion on sites like Twitter and Facebook.”
The paper minces no words about how dangerous it is that human-like bots on social media can accelerate recruitment to organizations like ISIS, or grant governments the ability to spread misinformation to their people. Proven uses of influence bots in the wild are rare, the paper notes, but the threat is real.
And so, the surprisingly simple test. DARPA placed “39 pro-vaccination influence bots” onto a fake, Twitter-like social network. Importantly, competing teams didn’t know how many influence bots there were in total.
Teams from the University of Southern California, Indiana University, Georgia Tech, Sentimetrix, IBM, and Boston Fusion worked over the four weeks to find them all.
With 8.5% of all Twitter users being bots, per the company’s own metrics, it’s important to weed out those bots who go beyond just trying to sell you weight-loss plans and work-at-home methods, and cross the line into politics.
But actually making that distinction can be a challenge, as the paper notes.
Sentimetrix technically won the challenge, reporting 39 correct guesses and one false positive, a full six days before the end of the four-week contest period. But USC was the most accurate, going 39 for 39.
How to detect a robot
DARPA combined all the teams’ various approaches into a complicated 3-step process, all of which will need improved software support to get better and faster going forward:
Initial bot detection — You can detect who’s a bot and who’s not by using language analysis to see who’s using statistically unnatural and bot-generated words and phrases. Using multiple hashtags in a post can also be a flag. Also, if you post to Twitter a lot, and consistently over the span of a 24-hour day, the chances you’re a bot go up.
Clustering, outliers, and network analysis: That first step may only identify a few bots. But bots tend to follow bots, so you can use your initial findings to network out and get a good statistical sense of robot social circles.
Classification/Outlier analysis: The more positives you find with the first two steps, the easier it is to extrapolate out and find the rest in a bunch.
A key finding from the DARPA paper, and very important to note, is that all of this required human interaction — computers just can’t tell a real human from an influence bot, at least not yet.
The good news, say the authors in their paper, is that these methods can also be used to find human-run propaganda and misinformation campaigns.
The bad news is that you can expect a lot more evil propaganda bots on Twitter in the years to come.
“Bot developers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Over the next few years, we can expect a proliferation of social media influence bots as advertisers, criminals, politicians, nation states, terrorists, and others try to influence populations,” says the paper.
Thanking those who served is always appreciated. Nearly every single veteran signed on the dotted line to contribute to something bigger than themselves and, when civilians extend their gratitude, the good will is reciprocated — that is, on any day outside of the last Monday in May.
Yes, the gratitude is always welcomed, but Memorial Day isn’t the time. If prompted, nearly every veteran will give a polite response along the lines of, “thank you for your sentiment, but today is not my day.”
Memorial Day is a day that’s often confused with Veteran’s Day (November 11th) and Armed Forces Day (the third Saturday in May). While most countries around the world remember their fallen troops on Armistice Day (which commemorates the signing of the treaty that ended World War I — also November 11th), the United States of America began its tradition of taking a day to remember the fallen shortly after the end of the American Civil War.
In its infancy, the holiday was also called “Decoration Day” and generally fell on or around May 30th — depending on where you lived. It was a time when troops, civilians, family, friends, and loved ones would visit the graves of fallen Civil War troops and decorate them with flowers in remembrance.
The date was chosen because no major battles had taken place on that day — instead of honoring those died in a single battle, mourners could remember all who fell. It was also around the time most flowers started to bloom in North America.
After World War I, the country gradually transitioned to using Memorial Day as a way to honor fallen troops from every conflict. The celebration was kept around the same date and, on this day, the nation still decorates the graves of fallen troops with flags and flowers.
The final Monday in May became a federal holiday with the creation of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and was chosen out of convenience. It gave every American a federally recognized, three-day weekend in order to continue the tradition of honoring those who sacrificed everything for our freedoms.
(Photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
The convenience of this three-day weekend was noted in a 2002 speech by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who said the change undermined the meaning of the day to the general public. To many, it also marks the unofficial beginning of summer, a time filled with barbecues and trips to the lake.
Now, that’s not to say that these pleasantries should ever stop — Americans enjoying their freedoms is what many troops fought to uphold. It’s important to remember, however, that day has, and always will be, in remembrance of the fallen. It’s a day of solemn reflection most troops and veterans spend thinking of their fallen brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
(Photo by Senior Airman Phillip Houk)
To properly thank a veteran this Memorial Day, visit one of the many national cemeteries and join them in placing flags, flowers, and wreaths on the graves of those who deserve our thanks. To find a national cemetery near you, please click here.
The US Air Force used the results from a 2015 US Army test of commercial magazines to make its decision to replace Army magazines with Magpul’s Gen 3 PMAG, according to Air Force officials.
The Air Force put out guidance in July that all government-issued M16/M4 magazines – including the Army’s new Enhanced Performance Magazine – will be replaced by the Magpul PMAG. The announcement occurred in the “USAF AUTHORIZED SMALL ARMS and LIGHT WEAPONS ACCESSORIES (as of 28 July 17).”
Military.com asked the Air Force how it came to the decision to choose the PMAG, and it sent the following response:
“When pursuing any capability based requirement, and before conducting any tests, the Air Force will first work closely with our joint partners to see if they have conducted any testing,” said Vicki Stein, a spokeswoman for Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.
“In this instance, we utilized the US Army Aberdeen Test Center’s M855A1 Conformance Testing on Commercial Magazines to make our decision.”
Military.com contacted Program Executive Office Soldier for comment on this but has not received a response yet.
In May, the Army announced it was planning to evaluate how well the service’s M4 and M4A1 carbines perform using a polymer magazine as part of a Solder Enhancement Program project that was approved in February, according to Army weapons officials at the NDIA’s Armaments Systems Forum.
What is interesting is that the Army test report on commercial magazines that the Air Force used to make its decision is dated Jan. 2015, according to Stein. US Army TACOM didn’t unveil its new Enhanced Performance Magazine until 2016.
The Air Force should be commended for using the Army’s existing test data rather than conducting a redundant test to make its decision.
The question that remains unanswered is why didn’t the Army come to the same conclusion as the Air Force and choose the PMAG when it appears that the service’s own test data shows the PMAG as the top performer.
Soldiers have used PMAGs in their weapons in combat for years because of their proven reliability.
Marine Corps Systems Command in December released a message which authorized the PMAG polymer magazine for use in the M27 infantry automatic rifle as well as in M16A4 rifle and M4 carbine.
Air Force officials did say that the Army Enhanced Magazine is also still authorized for use.
But the Air Force guidance on magazines states that 1005-01-615-5169 (Black) and 1005-01-659-7086 (Tan) Magpul – Gen 3 Polymer Magazine with window will replace 1005-01-630-9508 through attrition. The 1005-01-630-9508 is the Enhanced Performance Magazine (tan mag w/blue follower) the latest US Army magazine.
The PMAG will also replace 1005-01-561-7200 MAGAZINE, CARTRIDGE (tan follower) and 1005-00-921-5004 MAGAZINE, CARTRIDGE (green follower), the document states.
Chad and Romania are situated on separate continents and share few historical or geographical links. They don’t even have an embassy in each other’s country.
The two countries rarely come up in the same sentence. That is, unless you’re discussing their flags.
Aside from slight variations in color shading, the two countries’ flags appear identical — an observation Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears to have just discovered and shared with Twitter.
According to the online Encyclopedia Britannica, Romania initially displayed a flag with horizontal stripes of blue, yellow, and red before settling on its current vertical design in 1861.
Chad decided on its own flag design after it achieved independence from France in 1959.
The country initially considered a green, yellow, and red design but quickly discovered Mali had already taken the same pattern. It then swapped the green for the blue — inadvertently creating a flag that was almost identical to Romania’s.
Chad’s flag is not the only one to resemble other flags — here are some other examples
The flag of Mali, the country Chad tried to avoid copying, is similar to Senegal’s — a single green star in the middle appears to separate the two flags. Guinea’s also replicates Mali’s design but is reversed.
Both Indonesia and Monaco fly two horizontal stripes: red over white. Poland similarly flies white over red.
Ireland and Ivory Coast share the same design, but it is flipped on the flagpole.
All of these similarities may have stemmed from coincidence, but other flags have a specific reason for slight variations to a theme.
Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia all sport the same-colored horizontal stripes, but that’s because they used to be part of the same country of Gran Colombia, which dissolved in 1822, according to Britannica.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Brazil has had a decent aerospace industry centered on Embraer, a conglomerate that made everything from airborne radar planes to trainers. However, that industry has gotten a little too full of itself lately. They think one of their trainers can replace the A-10.
But we digress. We’re not here to cyberbully a wannabe A-10 to the point that Selena Gomez has to consider making an aviation version of 13 Reasons Why, despite how much fun it would be to really make said wannabe feel really bad about itself. Even though it should… but again, we digress.
The fact is, the P-51 Mustang could arguably fly circles around the A-29, but the A-29 makes for a decent trainer.
No, we are here to take a look at this plane, which is already giving honorable service in the fight against terrorism. It’s been dropping bombs on al-Qaeda and the Taliban for a bit. It’s in service with over 14 countries.
The Super Tucano boasts a top speed of 229 miles per hour (the P-51 Mustang could hit 437). It can carry rockets, bombs, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, air-to-air missiles, and gun pods for use against enemy forces. The plane also boasts a maximum range of 2,995 miles. Currently, 205 Super Tucanos are in service around the world.
The United States Air Force is one of 14 countries using the Super Tucano.
While the winner of the OA-X competition has yet to be determined, the Super Tucano does have a decent track record as a trainer and light attack plane. Learn more about this Brazilian A-10 wannabe in the video below.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on April 27, 2018, in a historic summit that observers have viewed with both trepidation and optimism.
April 27, 2018’s summit is the latest development in a fast-moving march toward diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula, following what had been a tumultuous year for the region.
Shaking hands in front of a crowd of journalists and photographers, Kim and Moon made history as they greeted each other in what was the first meeting between leaders of North Korea and South Korea in 11 years.
Moon is the third South Korean president to meet with North Korea’s leader. Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun held meetings with North Korea in 2000 and 2007, respectively.
Kim and Moon paused for photographs at the concrete steps of the military demarcation line before making their way into South Korea’s portion of the demilitarized zone. It marked the first time since the end of the Korean War in 1953 that a North Korean leader crossed the border into the South.
The two also stepped across the border into North Korean territory after Moon asked Kim when he would “be able to cross over,” to which Kim replied, “Then shall we cross over now?”
Arriving at the Peace House, a conference building in South Korea’s part of the border village of Panmunjom that will host the talks, Kim signed a guest book, writing: “A new history starts now, an age of peace, from the starting point of history.”
Amid a flurry of camera flashes in the Peace House, the two leaders gave brief statements and exchanged pleasantries, while Kim called for “frank” discussions.
“I say this before President Moon and many journalists here that I will hold good discussions with President Moon with a frank, sincere, and honest attitude and make a good outcome,” Kim said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News.
Moon echoed the sentiment.
“The moment [Kim] crossed the military demarcation line, Panmunjom became a symbol of peace, not a symbol of division,” he said, according to Yonhap News.
Later in the day, the two leaders planted a commemorative pine tree, using soil and water from mountains and rivers in their respective countries, according to a statement from South Korea’s presidential Blue House.
In a joint statement in the afternoon, Moon and Kim agreed to achieve “complete” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and work toward officially ending the Korean War with a peace treaty; the war is technically ongoing because it ended in an armistice agreement.
“The two leaders declare before our people of 80 million and the entire world there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has begun,” the joint statement said.
Though the statement was broadly worded, it outlined some plans to address lingering issues between the two nations, including the reunification of families divided during the Korean War and a goal to end the antagonizing propaganda broadcasts at the border.
How the two Koreas got here
The journey to the Peace House has been fraught with uncertainty, particularly after heightened provocations from North Korea in 2017.
In addition to firing at least 23 missiles in 2017, North Korea put the progress of its nuclear weapons program on full display, testing a miniaturized hydrogen bomb in September 2017.
But amid North Korea’s ratcheting up its missile program, US President Donald Trump displayed no qualms about lobbing equally provocative rhetoric back at the North, threatening “fire and fury” and dropping less-than-subtle hints about retaliation from Washington should Pyongyang hit a US target with one of its missiles.
The back-and-forth stoked fears that a conflict on the Korean Peninsula might be inevitable.
And at the beginning of 2018, it looked as though Kim was ready to keep the action going. He said in an address on New Year’s Day: “The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons, and a nuclear button is always on my desk. This is reality, not a threat.”
(Government of South Korea photo)
The North warms up to its neighbors and the US
The aggressive posture didn’t last.
Kim soon dispatched an envoy of North Korean athletes and performers to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February 2018. His sister also attended and met with Moon during the festivities, delivering a message that helped pave the way for April 2018’s summit.
North Korea’s conciliatory tone has extended beyond its southern neighbor. Following a meeting between South Korean and North Korean intelligence officials in Pyongyang, South Korea delivered a message to the US from Kim: He would like to meet with Trump.
Trump accepted the request, and preparations for a meeting have been underway. Trump, who would be the first sitting US president to meet with a North Korean leader, said the gathering with Kim could happen as early as May 2018, though the location has not been announced.
In a statement after Moon and Kim’s initial meeting, the White House called the summit in South Korea “historic.”
“We wish the Korean people well,” the White House said. “We are hopeful that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula. The United States appreciates the close coordination with our ally, the Republic of Korea, and looks forward to continuing robust discussions in preparation for the planned meeting.”
In March 2018, Kim visited Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, marking Kim’s first meeting with a world leader since he assumed power in 2011.
Moon and Kim’s meeting has critical implications for the future of the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea had already made some concessions ahead of the summit, including a declaration that it would stop missile and nuclear tests and drop its previous demands for US troops to withdraw from the peninsula.
Among some symbolic gestures, such as formally ending the Korean War, one of Moon’s priorities will be to reach a consensus on denuclearization.
“It’s going to take a lot of time and negotiation to see how flexible North Korea will be on this question,” Mintaro Oba, a former US State Department diplomat involved in Korean affairs, told Business Insider.
“That should be something to probe for after the summit rather than the summit itself. There’s many more meetings, many more talks, to find out common ground and see where there can be flexibility.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Bill Withers died earlier in the week from complications from heart disease at age 81. Withers was known for his amazing vocals, soulful songs and was one of the best soul singers of all time. He was also a veteran of the United States Navy.
His death has resulted in an outpouring of mourning and grief from singers, artists and fans cross the world.
Regarded as one of the best songwriters of his generation, his influence has been seen in multiple genres of music and generations of artists. Withers gave us such classics as ‘Lean On Me,’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ ‘Just the Two of Us’ and ‘Lovely Day.’
But there is one song that really resonates with veterans. In 1973, Withers released a song he had written while America was still involved in Vietnam.
Withers was born July 4, 1938, in Slab Fork, West Virginia. He was afflicted with a stutter from the time he was a child. He enlisted in the Navy at 18 where he served as an aircraft mechanic. He had good reason for wanting that field.
Withers told Rolling Stone, “My first goal was, I didn’t want to be a cook or a steward. So I went to aircraft-mechanic school. I still had to prove to people that thought I was genetically inferior that I wasn’t too stupid to drain the oil out of an airplane.”
While he was in the Navy, he was able to do speech therapy so he could stop stuttering. In fact, he stayed in the Navy as long as he could so he could work on his speech. He overcame his stutter using various techniques while also developing an interest in singing and songwriting. After nine years of service, he was discharged in 1965 and moved to Los Angeles to try and break into the music business. Withers worked for the aviation industry during the day while playing local night clubs at night trying to get noticed. His hard work paid off, when in 1970, he was signed to a record contract. His first album came out a year later and his career took off shortly thereafter.
After a couple of years of hits, Withers would write and perform a song that would be hailed as one of the most poignant songs about veterans and the war in Vietnam.
“I Can’t Write Left-Handed” was written from the perspective of a wounded warrior. It wasn’t a political statement, it wasn’t self-righteous, it wasn’t inflammatory. It was simply what he thought Vietnam Veterans went through and what they were going to go through. It was one of the first songs to touch on the mental anguish and post traumatic stress many Vietnam Veterans experienced in the years after the war.
Withers opened the song with a spoken intro….
“We recorded this song on October the 6th. Since then the war’s been declared over. If you’re like me you’ll remember it like anybody remembers any war: one big drag. Lot of people write songs about wars and government … Very social things. But I think about young guys who were like I was when I was young. I had no more idea about any government, or political things or anything. And I think about those kind of young guys now who all of a sudden somebody comes up, and they’re very law-abiding, so if somebody says go they don’t ask any questions they just go. And I can remember not too long ago seeing a young guy with his right arm gone. Just got back. And I asked him how he was doing. He said he was doing all right now but he had thought he was gonna die. He said getting shot at didn’t bother him, it was getting shot that shook him up. And I tried to put myself in his position. Maybe he cried, maybe he said…”
The lyrics then tell us the story of the man with a missing right arm.
I can’t write left handed
Would you please write a letter to my mother Tell her to tell the family lawyer Try to get a deferment for my younger brother
Tell the Reverend Harris to pray for me, lord, lord, lord I ain’t gonna live, I don’t believe I’m going to live to get much older Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never Bless his heart I ain’t never done nothin’ to, he done shot me in my shoulder
Boot camp we had classes You know we talked about fightin’, fightin’ everyday And lookin’ through rosy, rosy colored glasses I must admit it seemed exciting anyway But something that day overlooked to tell me Bullet look better I must say Rather when they comin’ at you. But go without the other way
And please call up the Reverend Harris And tell him to ask the lord to do some good things for me Tell him, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live to get much older Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never seen, bless his heart I Ain’t never done nothing to, he done shot me in my shoulder
After a long career with many hits, Withers withdrew from the music industry. He felt that he was too old and that touring and performing were a young man’s game. Withers will go down as one of the true icons of soul and one of the best vocalists of his generation. Let us also remember him for his service to our country as well as using his talent to give a voice to those who served in Vietnam. Rest in peace, Sir.
If you’re a fan of This is Us, make sure you check out The Village, a new NBC show premiering March 19th about a group of neighbors living in a New York apartment building who form an unlikely family. One of the main characters is Nick, a combat veteran and amputee who moves in during the pilot episode.
Played by Warren Christie, Nick is instantly recognizable as a vet: he’s a good wingman, he looks out for others, and he’s affected by war.
I’ve heard many veterans complain that Hollywood only portrays broken veterans, and I’m happy to report that in the pilot at least, Nick is definitely not broken. He’s lost a limb, he’s shaken, but he’s connecting with a community — and a family — which is exactly what we want for our nation’s service members.
His scene with Enzo, who introduces himself as an Army Specialist (probably from the Korean War era) reminded me of moments I’ve had at my local American Legion post; it’s by connecting with our community that we find healing (because let’s face it — at a minimum, the military is a mind f***, but at it’s worst, it is traumatic).
And community is exactly what the creators of the show wanted to explore.
From left to right: Warren Christie, Jessica Rhoades, Mike Daniels, Shannon Corbeil
It was clear from talking with Rhoades, Daniels, and Christie that the whole cast and crew were committed to sharing a positive message here. Nick’s transition back to civilian life won’t always be easy, but this show will guide him through it with the feeling of hope.
Also, there’s a dog.
Warren Christie and Magnum the German Shepherd.
(Photo courtesy of NBC)
Magnum plays ‘Jedi,’ Nick’s military working dog, who is also an amputee. On set, the two bonded quickly, though Christie shared that Magnum was not a trained ‘actor’ so there were moments where Christie was covered in peanut butter and liver to get the shot.
Christie, who worked with a military advisor, did say one thing that caught my attention. He said he felt a responsibility to convey “the strength and the struggle” of our nation’s service members. I loved that phrase. I’m lucky enough to work at a company that celebrates military victories and veterans’ successes, but veteran suicide statistics still clearly prove that we have a long way to go in caring for our troops.
Shows like this keep the conversation going. They introduce civilians to military stories and they show veterans a way forward. That’s the power of storytelling. I’m hopeful about where The Village will take Nick’s story.
I’ve already seen a lot of comments about this moment from the trailer, and I had an immediate reaction to it, too. For all my civilian readers, I’ll fill you in: to my knowledge, no one in the U.S. military salutes with their palm facing outward, something vets will easily pick up on.
Moments like these are why I encourage filmmakers telling military stories to bring veterans on board in the process as early as possible. Shows like SEAL Team on CBS have really locked this in — from the writer’s room to production to on-set advising to casting vets for stunts and on-camera roles, hiring vets will ensure authenticity for TV and film.
The Village premieres on Tuesday, March 19th right after This Is Us — check it out and let us know what you think.