The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time - We Are The Mighty
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The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria launched its third strike in as many weeks on pro-regime forces inside a deconfliction zone around al Tanf, near a border crossing in Syria’s southeast desert.


Two US officials told CNN that the June 8 strike came after three vehicles were seen entering the deconfliction zone, and two of the vehicles were hit when they were 24 miles from the base at al Tanf.

Following that engagement, a US aircraft downed a pro-regime drone that was dropping bombs near coalition troops.

“The pro-regime UAV, similar in size to a US MQ-1 Predator, was shot down by a US aircraft after it dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by Coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS,” US Central Command said in a statement.

The “munition did not have an effect on coalition forces,” according to coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon.

US and other coalition personnel are at the al Tanf garrison, near the border crossing, to train local partner forces, who captured the area earlier this year. (US personnel and local partners repulsed an intense attack by ISIS soon after.)

The first such strike in the al Tanf area came on May 18, when coalition forces targeted pro-Assad forces “that were advancing well inside an established deconfliction zone” spreading 34 miles around al Tanf, US Central Command said in a release at the time.

The strike came after unsuccessful Russian efforts to stop the movements, a show of force by coalition aircraft, and warning shots.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
Christopher Woody/Google Maps

Earlier this week, pro-regime and coalition aircraft both conducted strikes against opposition forces in the vicinity of al Tanf.

On Tuesday, Iranian-backed Shia militia fighters came under attack on the ground just inside the deconfliction zone boundary, according to CNN. In response to that attack, Washington and Moscow communicated on a deconfliction line set up previously. Russia shared a request from the Syrian government to launch a strike in support of the militia, to which the US agreed.

Hours later, pro-Assad forces were observed entering the deconfliction zone with vehicles and weaponry, including a tank and artillery, as well as over 60 fighters. The US then launched its own airstrike on those forces after they refused to withdraw from the area.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
An F/A-18F Super Hornet takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) for an aerial change of command ceremony. Photo courtesy of US Navy

The coalition said it issued several warnings before “destroying two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaging a tank.”

The US-led strike, carried out by a F/A-18 fighter, dropped four bombs and “killed an estimated 10 fighters,” according to CNN.

June 8th’s engagements add to a string of encounters that could lead to greater conflict in Syria between the US-led coalition and its local partners and pro-regime forces and their backers, Iran and Russia.

“The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them,” CentCom said in its statement.

“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near Coalition and partner forces in southern Syria, however, continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces,” the statement said.

The strategic value of the al Tanf area — through which a highway connecting Damascus to Baghdad runs — as well as the direction of events elsewhere in Syria makes clashes between coalition forces and pro-regime forces a continuing possibility.

ISIS’ eroding control of territory in Syria, and the likelihood that Kurdish forces — who’ve signaled a willingness to negotiate with Assad for autonomy — will soon take control of the area around Raqqa in northeast Syria make territory in the southeast of the country increasingly valuable.

Recent events in Syria indicate that “the United States [is] seemingly looking to cement a north-south ‘Sunni axis’ from the Gulf states and Jordan to Turkey,” Fabrice Balanche, a French expert on Syria and a visiting fellow at The Washington institute for Near East Policy, wrote recently.

“The challenge is that Iran and its proxies would very much like to establish some sort of land bridge from Iraq into Syria and they have had designs on this for quite some time,” a former Pentagon official told The Christian Science Monitor.

Capturing al Tanf and the nearby border crossing would allow Tehran to link Iraq to the Mediterranean coast through Syria, facilitating the movement of men and material.

But doing so would also isolate coalition-backed forces fighting ISIS and their special-forces advisers.

Intelligence sources have told Reuters that the coalition’s presence near al Tanf is meant to prevent such a route from opening.

“Initially, the United States and the coalition had planned this unconventional warfare campaign to pressure the middle Euphrates River valley and cut off [ISIS communications lines],” the former Pentagon official said. “Now, ironically, it’s not just threatening [ISIS], it’s also threatening Iran’s designs for the area.”

Russia has also become involved in the confrontations around al Tanf.

Earlier this month, coalition-backed Syrian forces attacked Shia militias that had moved down the highway toward the Iraqi border. They forced the militias, which are backed by Iran, to retreat, but Russian jets soon launched strikes against the coalition-backed fighters, forcing them back as well.

Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shia militant group backed by Iran and heavily involved in the pro-regime fight in Syria, has entered the fray as well. The group’s military-news unit issued a statement this week warning that the “self-restraint” it had about US-led airstrikes would end if the US crossed “red lines.”

“America knows well that the blood of the sons of Syria, the Syrian Arab Army, and its allies is not cheap, and the capacity to strike their positions in Syria, and their surroundings, is available when circumstances will it,” the statement said.

Observers have noted that the Trump administration would likely be much less hesitant about attacking Hezbollah in Syria. Given the web of alliances that now ensnare forces in Syria, such attacks would likely have broader repercussions.

“American unwillingness to confront Iran and its proxies in Syria, if obliged by circumstances, is a thing of the past,” Frederic Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and a former State Department liaison to Syrian opposition forces, told The Christian Science Monitor.

“And Moscow would now have to anticipate with high likelihood aerial combat with US forces should it elect to provide tactical air support to Iran and its proxies on the ground,” Hof added.

“Our people are gathering in the Tanf area right now, so a clash is definitely coming,” a Hezbollah unit commander in Beirut, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Monitor.

Articles

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

For more than five centuries, farmers, treasure hunters, and others have applied a pseudoscientific practice known as “dowsing” to find water, caves, graves and more.


During the Vietnam War, American troops tried using the method to divine the location of Viet Cong tunnel networks.

It didn’t work.

Continually frustrated by the underground networks, the Pentagon made locating and destroying the subterranean passages a main goal in 1967. A year later, defense contractor HRB Singer told the Office of Naval Research that dowsing might hold the answer.

“Undoubtedly, any system that offers some promise of improving the odds above pure chance of discovering and locating the enemy is worth a try — if nothing else is available,” the scientists explained in a 1968 report. The U.S. Army and Navy had both so far failed to build a machine that could reliably detect the tunnels.

In spite of repeated studies failing to prove any scientific basis for dowsing, the practice has endured to the present day. HRB Singer was optimistic that dowsing could help in South Vietnam.

Debates have raged about whether dowsing works since the practice first evolved in Germany in the 15th century. In 1518, Christian theologian Martin Luther decried the practice as occultic — and an affront to God.

A common understanding surrounding dowsing is that certain people can either innately sense small shifts in Earth’s magnetic fields that indicate open underground areas such as caverns. These individuals can train others to feel these changes. Others have linked the diving to psychic abilities or other factors.

Dowsers may use a Y- or L-shaped wood or metal pole —typically called a “divining rod” or “witching rod” — to help in their search. However, some practitioners don’t use any special tools.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
U.S. Army troops investigate a Viet Cong tunnel. | U.S. Army photo

Despite widespread skepticism, HRB Singer was quick point out dowsing’s clear military applications — if it worked. In South Vietnam, Communist rebels routinely ambushed American troops from camouflaged spider holes and bunkers linked to extensive underground networks.

“The evidence suggests that this network of underground installations which has been under construction for more than 20 years is an even better base for communist guerrilla … than was Castro’s Sierra Maestra range in Cuba,” HRB Singer’s Richard Bossart wrote in the report.

The Pentagon was trying pretty much anything it could think of to close these tunnels. In 1963, the Army tried using anti-tank rockets to blast into the underground pathways.

Three years later, the ground combat branch started working on a handheld device that could accurately measure differences in magnetic fields to find the Viet Cong hideaways. Dogs were another option.

In 1967, the Air Force looking into trying liquids that would change colors if surface temperature was markedly colder from that underground. This could indicate a large heat source such as a mass of people or a cooking fire.

None of these projects were working out. Between 1966 and 1971, the Army spent more than $500,000 on the portable magnetometer — nearly $3 million in 2016 dollars — and only got a dozen prototype devices to South Vietnam for tests.

With few options, American troops had already turned to dowsing in the field before HRB Singer started their research. Around the same time HRB Singer started their research, the U.S. Marine Corps went so far as to “train” a small group to dowse for tunnels.

The Marine Corps Development and Educational Command put the leathernecks through a four-hour course in the practice. In March 1968, Associated Press reporters spotted the troops near their base at Khe Sanh using bent brass rods to find their subterranean foes.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
U.S. Army specialist Marvin Miller drops a smoke grenade into a tunnel. | U.S. Army photo

Bossart and his colleagues hadn’t been able to figure out if the Marines’ had any luck with their witching rods. But it wasn’t enough to dissuade him from moving forward with his own investigations.

“The fact that detecting and locating tunnels is so critical that the niceties of scientific rigor can be de-emphasized, if necessary,” the HRB Singer researcher noted. In his opinion, the fact that American forces were doing it already made objections “somewhat academic.”

After reviewing the available literature, the HRB Singer team — including a number of employees who were amateur spelunkers — kicked off its own experiment. Having already used dowsing in their hobby, these individuals were happy to explore the phenomenon.

The company’s experts worked together with locals and students in and around Pennsylvania State University. The test subjects found a underground cavern in one case and a septic tank in another.

“These experiments are by no means meant to indicate proof of dowsing,” Bossart was quick to acknowledge in his conclusions. “They are in general uncontrolled and subject to reasonable doubt.”

Still, Bossart felt the results showed the potential of dowsing and the need for more and better studies. The key was trying to conclusively prove whether the practice was a science, an art or pure luck.

In the end, neither HRB Singer nor the Marine Corps could prove a scientific underpinning for dowsing. In 1971, with the Vietnam War steadily winding down, the Marines canned their program.

With its continued popularity in certain regions of the United States, the practice continues to pop up in military circles. In 1988, Air Force lieutenant colonel Dolan McKelvy made the case for dowsing among other types of “psychic warfare” as part of an Air War College research project.

The Marine Corps “did not discredit dowsing, but merely pointed out it is a special skill his marines hadn’t mastered,” according to Dolan. “It probably requires more than a four-hour short course for use operationally.”

In 1990, Lewis Carl, a “professional dowser,” tried again to get the Army interested in dowsing. Carl claimed the practice could help solve water problems for American troops rushing to the Persian Gulf following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

Four years later, David Gaisford conducted his own experiments into the procedure as a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology. In reviewing the historical record, he noted that the Marines had concluded there was no “scientific basis” for the practice.

The ground combat branch wasn’t interested in Carl’s offer. And just like those before him, Gaisford couldn’t find any solid evidence and called for more research.

Today, civilian scientists and engineers and their military counterparts generally rely on advanced magnetometers, radars and lasers to see enemy tunnels and other threats beneath the surface. So far, no one has been able to convince the Pentagon to add witching rods to soldiers’ packs.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to avoid 3 scams that target US service members

Nowadays, you have to be cautious of everything you do online. Scammers are always trying to get money, goods or services out of unsuspecting people — and military members are often targets.

Here are some scams that have recently been affecting service members, Defense Department employees and their families.


The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

Even the most innocuous data posted to a social media feed can be married up with other publicly available information to provide online criminals the tools they need to exploit members of the military or general public, an Army special agent said.

(Photo by Mark Herlihy)

1. Romance scams

In April 2019, Army Criminal Investigation Command put out a warning about romance scams in which online predators go on dating sites claiming to be deployed active-duty soldiers. It’s a problem that’s affecting all branches of service — not just the Army.

CID said there have been hundreds of claims each month from people who said they’ve been scammed on legitimate dating apps and social media sites. According to the alleged victims, the scammers have asked for money for fake service-related needs such as transportation, communications fees, processing and medical fees — even marriage. CID said many of the victims have lost tens of thousands of dollars and likely won’t get that money back.

Remember: Service members and government employees DO NOT PAY to go on leave, have their personal effects sent home or fly back to the US from an overseas assignment. Scammers will sometimes provide false paperwork to make their case, but real service members make their own requests for time off. Also, any official military or government emails will end in .mil or .gov — not .com — so be suspicious if you get a message claiming to be from the military or government that doesn’t have one of those addresses.

If you’re worried about being scammed, know what red flags to look for. If you think you’ve been a victim, contact the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center and the Federal Trade Commission.

DOD officials said task forces are working to deal with the growing problem, but the scammers are often from African nations and are using cyber cafes with untraceable email addresses, then routing their accounts across the world to make them incredibly difficult to trace. So be vigilant!

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

A US cavalry soldiers keeps watch in a rural area near Nangarhar, Afghanistan Jan. 6, 2015.

(US Army photo)

2. ‘Sextortion’

Sexual extortion — known as “sextortion” — is when a service member is seduced into sexual activities online that are unknowingly recorded and used against them for money or goods. Often, if a victim caves on a demand, the scammer will just likely demand more.

Service members are attractive targets for these scammers for a few reasons:

• They’re often young men who are away from home and have an online presence.

• They have a steady income and are often more financially stable than civilians.

• Because of their careers, they’re held to a higher standard of conduct.

• Military members have security clearances and know things that might be of interest to adversaries.

To avoid falling victim to sextortion, don’t post or exchange compromising photos or videos with ANYONE online, and make sure your social media privacy settings limit the information outsiders can see — this includes advertising your affiliation with the military or government. Be careful when you’re communicating with anyone you don’t personally know online, and trust your instincts. If people seem suspicious, stop communicating with them.

DOD officials said sextortion often goes unreported because many victims are embarrassed they fell for it. But it happens worldwide and across all ranks and services. Here’s what you should do about it if it happens to you:

• Stop communicating with the scammer.

• Contact your command and your local CID office.

• Do NOT pay the perpetrator.

• Save all communications you had with that person.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

US soldiers dislodge their M-777 155 mm howitzer from the 3-foot hole it dug itself into after firing several rocket-assisted projectiles.

(US Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)

3. Service member impersonation scams

Scammers love to impersonate people of authority, and that includes service members.

These people often steal the identity or profile images of a service member and use them to ask for money or make claims that involve the sale of vehicles, house rentals or other big-ticket items. These scammers often send the victim bogus information about the advertised product and ask for a wire transfer through a third party to finish the purchase, but there’s no product at the end of the transaction.

Lately, fake profiles of high-ranking American military officials have been popping up on social media websites using photos and biographical information obtained from the internet. Scammers often replicate recent social media posts from official DOD accounts and interact with official accounts to increase the appearance of legitimacy. As an example, there are impersonator accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

These accounts are also interacting with Joint Staff account followers in an effort to gain trust and elicit information. The only Joint Staff leader with an official social media presence is Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, who is listed as @SEAC.JCS on Facebook and @SEAC_Troxell on Twitter.

Scammers are making these profiles to defraud potential victims. They claim to be high-ranking or well-placed government/military officials or the surviving spouse of former government leaders, then they promise big profits in exchange for help in moving large sums of money, oil or some other commodity. They offer to transfer significant amounts of money into the victim’s bank account in exchange for a small fee. Scammers that receive payment are never heard from again.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

A US soldier and a US Army interpreter look over a map with an Iraqi soldier before starting a cordon and search of the Ninewa Forest in Mosul, Iraq, June 8, 2008.

(US Army photo by Pfc. Sarah De Boise)

Here are some ways to lower the chances of you being impersonated or duped by a scammer:

• To avoid having your personal data and photos stolen from your social media pages, limit the details you provide on them and don’t post photos that include your name tag, unit patch and rank.

• If an alleged official messages you with a request or demand, look closely at their social media page. Often, official accounts will be verified, meaning they have a blue circle with a checkmark right beside their Twitter, Facebook or Instagram name. General and flag officers will not message anyone directly requesting to connect or asking for money.

• Search for yourself online — both your name and images you’ve posted — to see if someone else is trying to use your identity. If you do find a false profile, contact that social media platform and report it.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia will get a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier – just not anytime soon

The commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy says that Russia will build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier for the first time, but the country will not have this modern flattop anytime soon.

“There will be, of course, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier but not in the short-term perspective,” Navy Commander-in-Chief Adm. Nikolai Yevmenov said July 10, 2019, in St. Petersburg, according to the state-run TASS News Agency.

The admiral’s comments reflect earlier reports citing unnamed sources in the Russian shipbuilding industry that suggested development of a new carrier might not begin until well into the next decade.


Russia’s naval forces are not expected to even receive the ship until sometime in the 2030s — assuming they ever receive it at all, shipbuilding sources previously told Russian media.

The new carrier is expected to be a marked improvement over the troubled Admiral Kuznetsov.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.

Last fall, the Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier, was severely damaged when the massive Swedish-built PD-50 dry dock at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Roslyakovo sank with the aircraft carrier on board. A heavy crane fell on the vessel, punching a large hole in the hull and deck.

Russia’s ability to repair the damage appears to be limited due to the substantial damage to the vital shipyard, and there has even been talk of scrapping the flagship of the Russian navy rather than paying for costly repairs. The carrier offers very little in terms of capability, even with the planned modifications meant to modernize the often disappointing Cold War relic.

The Nevskoye Design Bureau, part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, presented its design for what it called the Project 11430E Lamantin nuclear-powered aircraft carrier this week at the St. Petersburg international maritime defense show, where the Russian admiral made his comments.

The carrier, as designed, would displace about 80,000-90,000 metric tons, making it much larger than the Kuznetsov but smaller than US Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

USS Nimitz.

While Russia has dreams of building a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the cash-strapped country is also considering conventional alternatives.

Last month, the Krylov State Scientific Research Center unveiled what it said was “a principally new concept of an aircraft carrier” designed to outshine the UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth. The conventional gas turbine-powered carrier would be, according to the developers, four to six times cheaper than a nuclear-powered version the center presented a few years ago.

Russian defense firms and research centers have been pitching aircraft carrier designs for years, but for now, the Russian Navy has only the out-of-action Kuznetsov.

Russia has nuclear-powered submarines, but it has never had a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in its fleet. In the final years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union began work on a nuclear-powered carrier known as the Ulyanovsk, but the fall of the Soviet Union led the Russians to suspend development. The project was scrapped, and the ship’s partial hull was disassembled.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

In early July, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center became the first VA facility to participate in an international clinical trial evaluating the therapeutic benefit of an immunomodulator drug, Tocilizumab (TCZ), as a treatment for Veterans with COVID-19 severe pneumonia.

“COVID-19 is known to cause extensive damage in the lungs,” said Dr. Lavannya Pandit, a Houston VA pulmonologist and critical care physician who is a co-investigator in the study. “This often leads to difficulty breathing and, eventually, pneumonia. Pneumonia triggers a hyperimmune response that we are seeing can be more detrimental to some patients than the original infection.”


Medical personnel have used TCZ successfully to treat hyperimmune responses in cancer patients. The trial results will help determine if TCZ has a similar effect in patients who are diagnosed with severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

The clinical trial is a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Both the investigator and participant are blinded to who is receiving the TCZ treatment. Eligible participants are patients who are in the hospital and who chest imaging has confirmed has severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

Veterans at Houston VA very willing to step up

Medical personnel will monitor Veterans in a clinical environment for their responses to the treatment. Responses may include disease progression, the duration of hospitalization and the need for critical care and other supportive treatments.

“VA offers cutting-edge treatments and top quality care for Veterans with COVID-19,” said Dr. Barbara Trautner. Trautner is a faculty member at the Behavioral Health Program, Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.

“Participating in this clinical trial allows our Veterans the opportunity to contribute to scientific progress,” she said. “So far, Veterans at the Houston VA have been very willing to step up and volunteer. We enrolled eight Veterans in the first three days of the study.”

Trial taking place in more than 50 locations

“The treatments we offer for COVID-19 three months from now will be very different than what we offer today because of scientific trials like this,” said Trautner.

In addition to Houston VA, the trial is taking place in more than 50 locations across the United States, Europe and Canada, including at the Baylor College of Medicine.

“I always find it an honor and privilege to care for our Veterans who have served our country,” Trautner said. “The Veterans we are enrolling in this study are eager to join the fight against COVID-19, and we are happy to provide them this opportunity and do our part.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

Watch this Marine gunner desperately try to destroy his pack

Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian P. Wade, the 2nd Marine Division Gunner as well as the personality behind that video of cooking bacon on a suppressor, has a new video where he tests the resilience of the Marine Corps’ new reinforced pack frame.


Despite long falls, getting dragged behind a Jeep, and about 51 Kalashnikov rounds, the new pack proves itself to be surprisingly tough. You can see what finally destroys the pack in the video below:

The requirement for a new pack grew out of complaints by Marines that the legacy pack frames couldn’t hold up to cold weather conditions or to airborne operations. Some were even breaking under regular use at the School of Infantry-West.

So, Marine Corps Systems Command got to work testing new builds with the goal of keeping the feel and form of the pack the same while making it more rugged, preferably without adding weight.

The initiative appears to have been successful, but Wade is still able to destroy it. Think you can make a pack he can’t kill SysCom?

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the IRS scored one of the biggest child pornography busts in history

It’s not very often we Americans want to cheer for the Internal Revenue Service. This is the organization that takes a significant chunk of our paychecks every week, after all. But trust me, by the end of this, you’re going to give this particular law enforcement agency its due. So while they irk us for the money it takes, the IRS also busts tax cheats and will reach out to taxpayers to inform them bout how to pay and pay the right way.

Oh, and they helped bring down one of the largest child pornography websites ever, netting hundreds of pedophiles worldwide, people who thought they’d never get caught. It became an international, inter-agency success story.


It’s a well-known fact that almost anything, no matter how illicit, is available on the dark web, a section of the Internet that isn’t indexed by search engines and is protected by layers and layers of encryption that can only be accessed using Tor, a special browser. An estimated 57 percent of dark web activities are illegal in nature, including the sale of stolen bank accounts, drugs, and child pornography. Because of the anonymity of the dark web, blockchain technology, and the bitcoin used to purchase much of these items, predators, hackers, and drug dealers think it’s a reasonably safe marketplace. Now the IRS can tick off its first score against these illicit practices.

An informant revealed the existence of a child pornography website to federal agents, one that appeared because other sites were shut down by authorities. This site, called “Welcome to Video,” accepted bitcoin as payment, a further way to guarantee the users’ anonymity. But the IRS doesn’t normally cover this ground. So they turned to Homeland Security for help in following the money.

The investigators weren’t able to trace the source of the server hosting the imagery, but through a defect in the website, they were able to trace individual elements of the site. Meanwhile, IRS agents sent bitcoin to addresses associated with the Welcome to Video site. The addresses, they found, were going to addresses given to them by a criminal informant. The feds were able to trace the blockchain ledgers of bitcoin transactions within Tor, a supposedly anonymous browser. Then they divided their resources, one would find the users of the site, and another would find its host.

Federal agents copied one of the confirmed users’ mobile phones and laptops when it was confiscated at an international airport. From there, they traced its bitcoin transactions to South Korea and the United States. They confirmed payments to the Welcome to Video site but also found the website operator’s bitcoin transactions. That’s when they hit the jackpot – the operator of the website opened his U.S. exchange account with a selfie – holding his South Korean passport.

Authorities in Seoul raided the home of a 22-year-old living with his parents, who hosted a “mammoth” child porn site. They took down the site but didn’t alert its users. They were next. Instead, they uploaded a page in broken English about updates being made to the site.

Now that they had the server, authorities in the U.S., South Korea, and London had access to all of “Welcome to Video’s” users. This information led to the arrest of some 300 people in 12 countries – including DHS Agents and other Americans in Georgia, Texas, and Kansas. The Wall Street Journal reports that as a result of the server’s seizure, 23 minors were rescued, all being held and abused by users of the website.

Most of the arrested individuals have since pled guilty or are already serving time. One of the alleged users jumped from his balcony, killing himself.

For the whole story and more details about the amazing work of the IRS, check out the full story in the Wall Street Journal… and try to remember this on April 15th.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Classified US spy satellite is missing after SpaceX mission failure

A highly classified U.S. spy satellite is missing after a SpaceX launch from Florida on Jan. 7, The Wall Street Journal has reported.


The satellite, code-named Zuma, failed to reach orbit and fell back into Earth’s atmosphere after separating from the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. The Journal suggested the satellite may have been damaged or released at the wrong time.

Officials who spoke with NBC said the missing satellite most likely broke up or landed in the sea.

Related: There’s a new space race heating up, and the military’s being left behind

A SpaceX representative told Business Insider, “We do not comment on missions of this nature, but as of right now, reviews of the data indicate Falcon 9 performed nominally.”

The Journal, which received the same statement, said the language pointed to normal rocket operations, suggesting the cause of any issue came from elsewhere.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said on Twitter that SpaceX did not supply the payload adapter, which shoots the satellite off the rocket, for this mission. Instead, it was supplied by the customer, so Elon Musk’s SpaceX may not have been the cause of any problem. Those details, however, were not immediately known.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
The Zuma launching. (Image from SpaceX Flickr)

Zuma was built by the defense contractor Northrop Grumman, though it is unknown which U.S. agency would have been using the satellite.

Zuma was initially scheduled to launch in November but was delayed until the rocket and satellite were declared “healthy” for launch last week.

The mission most likely cost billions of dollars, and congressional lawmakers have been briefed on the developments, The Journal reported.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How to defend your coast without sailors or guns

An engineer at the respected RAND Corporation has a suggestion for small countries that want to keep their enemies at bay but can’t afford a proper navy: use loads of sea mines and drones. It seems obvious, but the advice could prevent America getting dragged into a world war.


The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians simulate the destruction of a submerged mine.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Charles White)

Engineer Scott Savitz names a few countries in his RAND post, such as Bahrain, Taiwan, and the Republic of Georgia, two American allies and a potential future member of NATO. While all of them spend significant portions of their GDP on defense, they are all also potential targets of larger neighbors with much larger navies.

So, it’s in the best interest of these countries (and the U.S.) if those countries can find a way to stave off potential invasions. RAND’s suggestion is to spend money on mines and drones, which require much more money to defeat than they cost to create. This could cripple an invading fleet or deter it entirely.

While mines are a tried and true — but frowned upon — platform dating back centuries, modern naval tactics give them short shrift. Unmanned drones in water, air, and on land, however, are reaching maturity.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

A Royal Norwegian Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Commando collects information during a mine-countermeasure dive during exercise Arctic Specialist 2018.

(U.S. Navy)

The idea is for the smaller nations to build up mine-laying fleets that go on regular training missions, laying fake mines in potentially vulnerable waters. This would create two major problems for invading nations: An enemy force capable of quickly saturating the water with mines as well as thousands of decoys that would hamper mine-clearing vessels.

And, mine clearance requires warships to sail relatively predictable patterns, allowing the defending nation to better predict where invading forces will have vulnerable ships.

The drones, meanwhile, could be used for laying mines, directly attacking enemy ships, conducting electronic surveillance, or even slipping into enemy ports to attack them in their “safe spaces” — a sort of Doolittle Raid for the robot age. They could even be used to target troop transports.

While the Russian, Iranian, and Chinese Navies are much larger than their Georgian, Bahrain, and Taiwanese counterparts, they don’t have much sea-lift capability, meaning that the loss of even a couple of troop ships could doom a potential invasion.

All of these factors could combine to convince invading forces to keep their ships at home, or at least slow the attacking force, meaning that reinforcements from the U.S. or other allied forces could arrive before an amphibious landing is achieved.

It’s easier to contest a landing than it is to throwback an already-fortified foothold.

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A underwater drone used to measure salinity, temperature, and depth information is recovered by the U.S. Navy during normal operations.

(U.S. Navy)

For Bahrain and Taiwan, both island nations, ensuring that an enemy can’t land on their coast nearly protects them from invasion. As long as their air forces and air defenses remain robust, they’re safe.

The Republic of Georgia, on the other hand, has already suffered a four-day land invasion from Russia. While securing their coastline from naval attack would make the country more secure, it would still need to fortify its land borders to prevent further incursion.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

A Navy drone, the Fire Scout, lazes a target for the MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter that accompanies it.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Third Class Trenton J. Kotlarz)

For America, allies that are more secure need less assistance and are less likely to collapse during invasion without large numbers of American reinforcements.

But, of course, mines remain a controversial defense measure. They’re hard and expensive to clear, even after the war is over. And while sea mines are less likely to hurt playing children or families than leftover landmines, they can still pose a hazard to peacetime shipping operations, especially for the country that had to lay them in the first place.

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How the V-22 Osprey helped take down a Taliban warlord

In 2009, during some of the heaviest fighting of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Marine Corps was involved in a number of operations in western Iraq. However, things got tougher as Taliban lookouts were typically posted to provide a warning of the Leathernecks’ approach.


The Taliban also figured out to time the helicopters when they left, allowing them to get a rough idea of when the Marines would arrive.

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Afghan and coalition force members provide security during an operation in search of a Taliban leader in Kandahar city, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, April 21, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew Hulett)

So, when a Taliban warlord was using poppy proceeds to buy more weapons, the Marines wanted to take him down, but they were worried that it could turn into a major firefight, since this warlord had taken over a village about 100 miles from Camp Bastion, a major Marine base.

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(DOD photo)

Even at top speed, it would take a helicopter like the CH-53E Super Stallion about a half hour to get to that warlord’s base – and to do that, it would have to fly in a straight line. That sort of approach doesn’t help you catch the Taliban warlord by surprise.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Clare J. Shaffer

But by 2009, MV-22 Ospreys were also available in theater. The tiltrotors weren’t just faster (a top speed of 316 miles per hour), they also had much longer range (just over 1,000 miles). In essence, it was hoped that the Ospreys could not only evade the Taliban lookouts, but they’d also get to the location before the enemy could react.

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Photo by Lance Cpl. Clarence Leake/USMC

On the day of the raid, Marines boarded four MV-22s. The tiltrotors took off, evaded the Taliban, and the Marines were delivered into the center of the village – catching the Taliban by surprise.

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In roughly five minutes, the warlord was in cuffs and on one of the Ospreys. The Marines then made their getaway, having pulled off a major operational success.

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Soldiers from the 101st Infantry Battalion and Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a sustainment training utilizing MV-22 Ospreys and F-16 Fighting Falcons. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kenneth W. Norman)

Check out the Smithsonian Channel video below to see a recreation of that raid.

Smithsonian Channel, YouTube

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29 of the best politically incorrect Vietnam War slang terms

Every generation of veterans has its own slang. The location of deployed troops, their mission and their allies all make for a unique lingo that can be pretty difficult to forget.


American troops in Vietnam (Pixabay)

That same vernacular isn’t always politically correct. It’s still worth looking at the non-PC Vietnam War slang used by troops while in country because it gives an insight into the endemic and recurring problems they faced at the time.

Here are some of the less-PC terms used by American troops in Vietnam.

Barbecue from a “Zippo Monitor” in Vietnam. (Wikimedia Commons)

Barbecue – Armored Cavalry units requesting Napalm on a location.

Bong Son Bomber – Giant sized joint or marijuana cigarette.

Breaking Starch – Reference to dressing with a new set of dry cleaned or heavily starched fatigues.

Charles – Formal for “Charlie” from the phonetic “Victor Charlie” abbreviation of Viet Cong.

Charm School – Initial training and orientation upon arrival in-country.

Cherry – Designation for new replacement from the states. Also known as the FNG (f*cking new guy), fresh meat, or new citizens.

Coka Girl – a Vietnamese woman who sells everything except “boom boom” to GIs. “Coka” comes from the Vietnamese pronunciation of Coca-Cola, and “boom boom” can be left to your imagination.

Disneyland Far East – Headquarters building of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. It comes from “Disneyland East,” aka the Pentagon.

Donut Dolly – The women of the American Red Cross.

The Donut Dollies. (From “Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel”)

Fallopian tubing for inside the turrets of tanks – Prank used by tankers to send Cherries on a wild goose chase

Flower Seeker – Originated from Vietnamese newspapers; describing men looking for prostitutes.

Heads – Troops who used illicit drugs like marijuana.

Ho Chi Minh Road Sticks – Vietnamese sandals made from old truck tires.

Ho Chi Minh Road Sticks (from “Cherries: A Vietnam War Novel”_

Idiot Stick – Either a rifle or the curved yoke used by Vietnamese women to carry two baskets or water buckets.

Indian Country – Area controlled by Charlie, also known as the “Bush” or the “Sh*t.”

Juicers – Alcoholics.

Little People – Radio code for ARVN soldiers.

Mad Minute – Order for all bunkers to shoot across their front for one minute to test fire weapons and harass the enemy.

Marvin the Arvin – Stereotypical South Vietnamese Army soldier, similar to a Schmuckatelli. The name comes from the shorthand of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam – ARVN.

Number-One GI – A troop who spends a lot of money in Vietnam.

Number-Ten GI – A troop who barely spends money in Vietnam.

Ok Sahlem – Term American soldiers had for villagers’ children who would beg for menthol cigarettes.

Real Life – Also known as Civilian Life; before the war or before the draft.

Remington Raider – Derogatory term, like the modern-day “Fobbit,” For anyone who manned a typewriter.

Re-Up Bird – The Blue Eared Barbet, a jungle bird whose song sounds like “Re-Up.”

“Squaaaaak! Talk to your retention counselor! Squaaaaaaak!”

Search and Avoid – A derogatory term for an all-ARVN mission.

Voting Machine – The nickname given to ARVN tanks because they only come out during a coup d’etat.

Zippo Raids – Burning of Vietnamese villages. Zippo lighters were famously documented by journalist Morley Safer, seen igniting thatch-roof huts.

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Mattis warns that Syria still has chemical weapons

Syria still possesses chemical weapons, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in Israel on April 21, warning against the banned munitions being used again.


At a news conference in Tel Aviv, Mattis also said that in recent days the Syrian Air Force has dispersed its combat aircraft. The implication is that Syria may be concerned about additional U.S. strikes following the cruise missile attack earlier in April in retaliation for alleged Syrian use of sarin gas.

Mattis spoke alongside Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all,” said Mattis.

He said he didn’t want to elaborate on the amounts Syria has in order to avoid revealing sources of intelligence.

“I can say authoritatively they have retained some, it’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically and they would be ill advised to try to use any again, we made that very clear with our strike,” he said.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
Shayrat Airfield in Syria (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

Israeli defense officials said this week that Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons in its possession. It was the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad’s weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack earlier this month.

Lieberman also refused to go into detail but said “We have 100 percent information that Assad regime used chemical weapons against rebels.”

Assad has strongly denied he was behind the attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib province, and has accused the opposition of trying to frame his government. Top Assad ally, Russia, has asserted a Syrian government airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons factory, causing the disaster.

In response to the April 4 attack, the United States fired 59 missiles at a Syrian air base it said was the launching pad for the attack.

Before meeting with Mattis in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that Israel is encouraged by the change of administrations in Washington.

“We sense a great change in the direction of American policy,” Netanyahu said. He referred to the U.S. cruise missile strike in Syria as an important example of the new administration’s “forthright deeds” against the use of chemical weapons.

Related: US Ambassador to UN calls Syrian president a ‘War Criminal’

The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces. The fighting has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.

Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting, though it has carried out a number of airstrikes on suspected Iranian weapons shipments it believed were bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah, both bitter enemies of Israel, along with Russia have sent forces to support Assad.

Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal to avert U.S. strikes following a chemical weapons attack in opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people and sparked worldwide outrage.

Ahead of that disarmament, Assad’s government disclosed it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas.

The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under international supervision in 2014 and destroyed. But doubts began to emerge soon afterward that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed. There also is evidence that the Islamic State group and other insurgents have acquired chemical weapons.

Associated Press writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this story.

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The new reveal trailer for ‘Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’ is intense

The guys at Infinity Ward have released the reveal trailer for “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare” and it looks amazing (and features a great version of Bowie’s “Major Tom”).


The newest game in the iconic Call of Duty series opens with a Pearl Harbor-type attack, a massive surprise that cripples the defenders. The trailer reveals some new experiences for Call of Duty players like the ability to pilot ships in space combat as well as the standard ground warfare in the series.

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GIF: YouTube/Call of Duty

An epic storyline plays out in the trailer and will hopefully correlate to a similarly-epic campaign mode. The video description from Call of Duty promises that the new game is a return to the franchise’s roots, “large-scale war and cinematic, immersive military storytelling.”

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GIF: YouTube/Call of Duty

Since the original Call of Duty focused on the combined arms warfare of World War II, it’s appropriate that it opens with a surprise attack before throwing the player into a global fight. Infinity Ward has said the game will feature few visible loading periods, so players shouldn’t be ripped out of the story too often.

The game is slated for release on Nov. 4 for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Check out the full first trailer below: