This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth - We Are The Mighty
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This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Myth: The way a soldier’s horse is portrayed in an equestrian statue indicates how the soldier died.


This myth, perpetuated by many a tourist guide the world over, simply isn’t true.

(Not unlike how tourist guides around the equator will often tell you that what hemisphere you’re in effects the way the water swirls down the toilet or drain. They’ll even sometimes take you a few hundred meters on one side of the equator and show you water swirling one way, then a few hundred meters from that on the other side of the equator and show it swirling the other. Magic! In fact, of course, what hemisphere you’re in has almost nothing to do with the way water swirls down toilets and drains.)

Also read: The 10 most famous ghosts in the White House closets

An example of a tourist guidebook that perpetuates the equestrian myth is the 1987 Hands on Chicago:

At Sheridan Road and Belmont Avenue, the statue of [General] Sheridan beckons troops to battle. The horse General Sheridan rides is named Winchester…Winchester’s raised leg symbolizes his rider was wounded in battle (the legs of [General] Grant’s horse are on the ground, meaning he was not wounded).

This gives a pretty good account of the myth as it is generally stated, but leaving out the third commonly said option of the horse having both front legs in the air, implying the soldier died in battle. Another caveat is that if the rider died of complications from wounds received in battle, but at a later date from the battle, most versions of this myth have it that just one leg should be up as with the people who were wounded but didn’t die of complications from the wound.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Boyer

According to the US Army Center of Military History, no such tradition has ever existed. This is not surprising considering that examples of multiple equestrian statues of the same person tend to be inconsistent in terms of the horse’s legs positioning. But let’s not take the US Army historian’s word for it, let’s look at some examples.

First, take a walk around Washington DC, which has the largest collection of equestrian statues of any city in the world. From this, you’ll quickly be disabused of the notion that the depiction of the horse’ legs has anything to do with the way the person died, with only about 30% of this city’s statues conforming to the above “rules”. (Given that there are 3 options here, that 30%-ish seems rather fitting.)

One of the oldest known equestrian statues in the United States is the 1853 statue of General Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park, Washington D.C., which was made in celebration of Jackson’s victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans.

In this statue, the horse has both forelegs in the air. Of course, Jackson did not die in battle, but of tuberculosis. The person who cast that sculpture, Clark Mills, was the first sculptor in the United States to cast a horse with a rider where the horse has some of its legs in the air (in this case both) — at this point it was more of a mark of the skill of the artist to have the horse with legs in the air rather than any sort of tradition relating to battle and death.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Andrew Jackson, 1853, Sculptor: Clark Mills, Location: Lafayette Park. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In cases where the same sculptor made multiple equestrian statues that could potentially apply to this “rule,” such as the case of world renowned Irish sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, we see that he, at-times, violated the supposed tradition and other times seemed to adhere to it.

One such statue he made of General William Techumsa Sherman has one of the front legs of the horse raised.

Indeed, General Sherman was wounded twice in battle, and even had 3 horses shot out from under him. He did not die in battle, but lived to the ripe old age of 71, and is thought to have died from pneumonia. So from that respect, this one fits. It should be noted, though, that this statue also has one of the horse’s rear legs lifted. The equestrian statue horse legs myth doesn’t seem to cover what that potentially would mean…maybe…just maybe…it means the horse is supposed to look like it’s running and has nothing to do with the rider’s death/wounds…

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There is also a major equestrian statue of General Sherman at the General Sherman Memorial in Washington DC. This statue has the horse with all four legs on the ground. (This is a common theme where multiple equestrian statues exist. One would guess the differences have something to do with sculptors wanting theirs to look markedly different than the already existing statue(s).)

The only place where this equestrian statue “tradition” seems to hold with any sort of consistency is with a few statues of soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. (This is thought to be how the myth got started in the first place.) Of the nearly 500 monuments at Gettysburg, there are 6 equestrian statues. Five of the six conform to the myth and the sixth loosely does, but the problem is the statue of General John Sedgwick, who died at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House- his equestrian statue has all four hooves are on the ground.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Statue of General John Sedgwick. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

(Aside: General Sedgwick’s last words were: “What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? I am ashamed of you. They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” He then took a bullet through his head fired from about 900-ish meters (1000 yards) away.)

Of course, it could be argued that this “tradition” was meant only to refer to what happened at the battle of Gettysburg, in which Sedgwick was not wounded nor did he die in. If that’s the case, then his is correct. However, if that’s the case then the statue of James Longstreet in that collection is not. He wasn’t wounded in Gettysburg, but his statue has the horse with one foot raised.

(He was wounded in the Battle of Glendale, so that would fit there, but not if we’re limiting the statue’s positioning based on the battle of Gettysburg to make the statue of General Sedgwick fit.)

Even then, it seems odd such a code would be created just for 6 statues of prominent people who fought in the battle of Gettysburg, and even more odd that if the code did exist that they would have broken it in one of the statues. Given there is no record of the sculptors having done this intentionally, and the discrepancy, it’s really not clear that this is what they were going for. It’s possible given the small sample size and that this is the only place we find this somewhat consistent correlation, it just randomly happened to work out that way with the way the sculptors decided to make the statues.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
The America’s Response Monument, aka Horse Soldier statue, sits in its final resting place at Liberty Park, NYC. (DoD Photo by Capt. Eric Hudson)

So this covers pretty thoroughly the statues in America. What about the equestrian statues across the pond? The Ancient Romans had numerous examples of equestrian statues, but unfortunately nearly all were destroyed or melted down for use in other things. One of the very few surviving equestrian statues from Rome was of Emperor Marcus Aurelius who died in 180 of an illness.

His horse in that statue has one foreleg up in the air. There is no record of Marcus Aurelius ever being wounded in battle and as a prominent Roman and eventual Emperor, it’s unlikely he saw much direct, close-up battle time (though was a part of many battles).

(Aside: funny enough, probably the only reason the statue of Marcus Aurelius survived when most all the others did not is that for a long time it was misidentified as a statue of Emperor Constantine the Great, who was a Christian Emperor. Why is this important to its preservation? Because many of the Roman statues were melted down to make things like church bells, coins, and sculptures for churches. Melting down a statue of Constantine would have been borderline blasphemy.)

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Marcus Aurelius. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

There is a surviving equestrian statue of Emperor Constantine with the horse having both front legs up. Constantine did not die in battle, rather of natural causes.

Fast-forward to more recent times, in Medieval Europe and there really aren’t many equestrian statues, as they were (and are) very expensive to make and require a skilled sculptor. The few examples that exist don’t seem to correlate at all with any sort of horse leg tradition. For one brief, slightly more recent example, we have King Louis XIV who had an equestrian statue at Versailles with both forelegs on the horse in the air.

Louis XIV died of gangrene at the age of 77, not in battle.

Given that many a sculptor has worked on equestrian statues throughout history, if there is supposed to be some sort of code, even if not generally followed, there would be documentation of it somewhere — after all, they have to pass that code on. Not surprisingly, there is not.

It’s almost as if the sculptor just chooses the horse’s attitude to suit personal artistic preference…

MIGHTY CULTURE

Dover Fisher House marks decade of providing refuge for families of the fallen

When Toni Gross stood at the entrance of the Dover Fisher House for Families of the Fallen, she had no idea what to expect.

The previous hours were a blur, filled with grief and disbelief. It was July 2011, and she and her husband and daughter learned that Army Cpl. Frank Gross, their only son and brother, had been killed by an IED while serving in Afghanistan.


He was 25. And just like that, a mere few weeks into deployment, he was gone.

“We were just numb,” Toni Gross said.

The day after learning of Frank’s death, the Grosses traveled from Oldsmar, Florida to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, expecting to stay at “some place like a Hampton Inn” for the dignified transfer of Frank’s body. But instead, just across the street from the runway, they spent 24 hours at the Dover Fisher House for Families of the Fallen — a house created by Fisher House Foundation specifically for loved ones of those who have fallen through combat.

“It was a wonderfully comforting experience, and everything we could possibly think of— all of our needs, food, everything — was taken care of,” Toni Gross said. “We were able to spend time focusing on why we were there: grieving the loss of our son.”

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

That’s exactly what the chairman and CEO of Fisher House wants to hear. Ken Fisher is a third-generation leader of one of America’s most successful family-owned real estate development and management companies, but he is also expressly passionate about honoring veterans while assisting their families.

The foundation offers several programs to support military families through critical times, like the Hero Miles program and a scholarship program for military children, spouses, and children of fallen and disabled veterans. In 2019 alone, more than 32,000 families were served, according to its website.

There are 87 Fisher Houses located on 25 military installations and 38 VA medical centers, with several more in the works. Run by the Fisher House Foundation, Inc., each Fisher House provides free lodging for military families whose loved ones are receiving medical treatment nearby.

The Fisher House at Dover, however, is special for many reasons, Fisher says, because “it was built to honor the ultimate sacrifices of those who wear the uniform.”

Those who stay there aren’t waiting for a recovery but a goodbye to their airman, soldier, Marine, sailor or Coastie.

“I think the Fisher House at Dover does more than just provide lodging,” Fisher said. “It’s important that these families who have made the ultimate sacrifice understand that there are Americans that are very grateful.”

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

The Fisher House at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Photo Roland Balik.

Built in just a few months in 2010, the Fisher House at Dover is equipped with nine guest suites that have seen approximately 3,700 guests since its opening. The average length of stay is 24 to 48 hours, with a typical family consists of six to 10 members.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michelle Johnson watches over each one. As house manager, it’s her job to make sure each guest has every need — and every want —taken care of.

One family with small children, for example, stayed at the house over Halloween. Staff members purchased costumes and took them trick-or-treating. Another time, they cooked a traditional holiday dinner for a family receiving their loved one’s body over Christmas.

“[These families] are experiencing a very difficult point in their lives, and grieving comes in different ways, so we make sure the Fisher House staff members takes care of those families,” Johnson said. “Giving them the care that they need and providing them with any comfort required.”

Toni Gross’ experience with staff members made such an impact that she now volunteers regularly at a Fisher House in Florida. Similarly, Ken Fisher, whose 87-year-old father served in the Korean War, calls the houses his “passion.”

“The House at Dover is particularly relevant as we approach Memorial Day, even while we’re in the grip of a pandemic,” he said. “In the end, we can never ever forget what has been done, what has been given to us, this freedom. That what we hold most dear above everything else — that came at a cost.”

And for families who have experienced that cost, like Toni Gross, it is “comforting” to have a place of refuge during such a difficult time.

“My family and I are grateful to the Fisher House Foundation for our stay at Dover Air Force Base. While it was a solemn time, it was comforting to know that the staff there all understood why we were there and were able to accommodate us during our darkest hours,” Gross said.

Visit https://fisherhouse.org/programs/houses/house-locations/delaware-fisher-house-for-families-of-the-fallen/ to learn more about Fisher House programs and services.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran shares his mental health recovery journey

Tai Chi and yoga are parts of VA’s Whole Health approach to wellness.

Mental health is still a taboo subject among veterans and service members — but it doesn’t have to be, says U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bob Moran.

Moran, who went through his own journey of mental health recovery at VA New Jersey Health Care System, is sharing his experience in hopes of inspiring others to seek help.

“I think mental health is something that a lot of veterans downplay the importance of,” he says.


According to Moran, veterans often cover up mental health issues or claim they can cope with anything. “In my experience, that’s not the case.”

Moran graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1983 and served for five years. In 2015, a friend recommended that he talk to a therapist. Moran became a VA outpatient with a diagnosis of low-level depression.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

“If it worked for Bob, it might work for me.”

That was only the beginning of his mental health journey. In June 2018, Moran called the National Veterans Crisis Line. “I went to the emergency room at East Orange,” he recalls.

Moran was admitted to the VA New Jersey inpatient mental health unit and then spent time in the facility’s residential treatment program. While there, he was introduced to the VA Whole Health curriculum, which turns traditional medical care on its head by focusing on the patient and what matters to them most rather than on a particular disease. It was a pleasant surprise.

“I took part in yoga and tai chi and also the Whole Health six-week introductory course,” Moran says. “It was very much an eastern sort of holistic way of looking at my life and myself as a person.” The new approach helped Moran become better grounded and gave him tools to use when feeling anxious or depressed.

Veterans can use such tools to actively work through symptoms or issues before they become a crisis, says Dr. Heather Shangold, local recovery coordinator at VA New Jersey. “You can’t pick and choose your emotions. They are all useful and important, even the ones that are uncomfortable. They give us signs to help us stay healthy. Don’t ignore them, embrace them, and if it’s too hard on your own, get help.”
This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Dr. Heather Shangold.

Unfortunately, says Shangold, the stigma associated with mental health conditions sometimes stops people from seeking treatment — which is not the case with physical illness. “In all my years of working in a hospital, I have never seen anyone reject cancer treatment because of stigma or embarrassment.”

Moran has a suggestion for veterans who are unsure whether to seek mental health treatment or think they have nothing to talk about with a counselor: talk about things you think you don’t have a problem with and have under control. “It sounds counterintuitive, but [veterans should] just talk about it and practice telling a story because it’ll help them to understand their service better and how important it is to them.”

Moran says that telling his own story has helped him. He hopes other veterans will be encouraged to embark on their own paths to wellness. “They might think that ‘if it worked for Bob, it might work for me.'”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is putting 3,500 more boots on the ground in Afghanistan

A US official has told ABC news that the Defense Secretary James Mattis authorized 3,500 additional troops to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the troop buildup associated with President Donald Trump’s South Asia Strategy.


Late last month, Trump announced his new strategy on Afghanistan which included an increase in the number of US troops to the country.

Reports in the past indicated that Mattis favored the Pentagon’s recommendation to send about 3,900 more troops to Afghanistan.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Defense Secretary James Mattis (left) and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith

On Sept. 8, Mattis told reporters that he had signed deployment orders for some of the additional troops that would be sent, though he would not disclose the number.

No details have however been released on when these troops will deploy.

On Sept. 6, Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats briefed members of Congress about the new strategy in Afghanistan.

Last week, the Pentagon disclosed that the number of American troops actually serving in Afghanistan was 11,000 and not the 8,400 official numbers it had been providing for some time.

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Today in military history: Regan challenges Gorbachev to tear down Berlin Wall

On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.

After Germany’s defeat in World War II, the capital city of Berlin was divided, with the eastern section falling under Soviet control. In 1952, the border between the two countries was closed and in 1961, during the height of the Cold War, the Soviets built the Berlin Wall to prevent East German citizens from fleeing to the west.

Standing before the wall in 1987, President Reagan famously addressed the Soviet leader, telling him that if he should seek peace, then, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Two years later, the wall was indeed destroyed, and Germany was officially united in 1990. 

During the years of the Wall, nearly 5,000 people successfully defected from East Berlin to West Berlin. The number of people who died trying, however, remains unknown. Apartments and buildings near the wall were boarded and bricked up. Barbed wire fortified the structure and border guards were issued shooting orders when dealing with defectors — even women and children. 

East Germans dug long tunnels under the wall, took hot air balloons, escaped through pre-Wall sewers, and in one instance, drove a sports car at full speed through early fortifications. 

Officials had listed 98 deaths but a historic research group at the Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam has confirmed at least 140 deaths. Other estimates are higher. 

Featured Image: View from the West Berlin side of graffiti art on the Wall in 1986. The Wall’s “death strip” on the east side of the Wall follows the curve of the Luisenstadt Canal (filled in 1932). (Image by Thierry Noir at Bethaniendamm in Berlin-Kreuzberg)

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This 12-year-old boy became a Navy hero in World War II

Calvin Graham was the youngest of seven children of a poor Texas farm family and because of his abusive stepfather, he and one of his older brothers decided to move out. Calvin supported himself by selling newspapers and delivering telegrams on weekends and after school, but he was curious about something more: the Navy.


He was just eleven when he first thought of lying about his age to join the Navy. The world was in the midst of the second world war and some of his cousins had recently died in battles. Graham made his decision. The question was how to do it.

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He started by shaving, as he thought it would ultimately make him look older. (And, note: Contrary to popular belief, shaving has no effect on hair growth rates or thickness) More effectively, he had his friends forge his mother’s signature for consent, stole a notaries’ stamp, and told his mom he was going to visit relatives for a while.

Graham later recalled that the day he showed up to enlist, “I stood 5’2 and weighed 125 pounds, but I wore one of my older brothers’ clothes and we all practiced talking deep.”

Despite all his efforts, there was one problem- a dentist who helped screen the new recruits. Graham stated, “I knew he’d know how young I was by my teeth… when the dentist kept saying I was 12, I said I was 17. Finally, he said he didn’t have time to mess with me and he let me go.”

On August 15, 1942, Calvin Graham was sworn into the Navy. He was twelve years, four months and twelve days old, the youngest individual to enlist in the U.S. military since the Civil War and the youngest member of the U.S. military during WWII.

After spending time in San Diego for basic training, he sailed aboard the USS South Dakota as a loader for a 40 mm anti-aircraft gun, a “green boy” from Texas who would soon become not only the youngest to serve, but the nation’s youngest decorated war hero.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
The USS South Dakota engages a Japanese torpedo bomber during the Battle of Santa Cruz October 26, 1942. Photo: US Navy

The South Dakota, known also as “Battleship X” during the war, was a destroyer under the command of Captain Thomas Leigh Gatch that was heading to Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. On the night of November 14, 1942, during the Battle of Guadalcanal, the battleship was hit forty-seven times by Japanese fire. One explosion threw Calvin down three decks of stairs. He was seriously wounded by shrapnel that tore through his face and knocked out his front teeth. Additionally, he suffered severe burns, but in spite of his injuries he tried to rescue fellow Navy sailors from danger.

I took belts off the dead and made tourniquets for the living and gave them cigarettes and encouraged them all night. It was a long night. It aged me… I didn’t do any complaining because half the ship was dead.

For his efforts during the battle and aiding other soldiers, despite his own injuries, he received the Bronze Star as well as a Purple Heart.

However, the distinction did not last long. A year after serving in the Battle of Guadalcanal, while his battleship was being repaired, Graham’s mother learned of what her son had been up to and informed the Navy of his real age.

Rather than simply releasing him from his service, Graham was thrown in the brig for almost three months. It would seem the plan was to keep him there until his service time was up, but he was ultimately released when his sister threatened to go to the media and tell them about her brother’s imprisonment, despite his distinguished service. Graham was released, his medals stripped from him, and then dishonorably discharged, which is significant as it made it so he couldn’t receive any disability benefits, despite his injuries.

At only thirteen, Calvin Graham was a “baby vet” who quickly found he didn’t fit in at school anymore. Once again he chose a life of an adult, getting married and fathering a child at fourteen, while working as a welder in a Houston shipyard.

At seventeen, he got divorced and enlisted in the Marines. Three years later, he broke his back when he fell from a pier. This unfortunate event ended his service career and left him selling magazine subscriptions for a living.

For the remainder of his life, Graham fought for both medical benefits and a clean service record. In 1978, he was finally given an honorable discharge (approved by President Jimmy Carter), and all his medals except the Purple Heart were reinstated. He was also awarded $337 in back pay but was denied health benefits except for disability status for one of his two teeth he lost in the Navy during WWII.

In 1988, his story came to public attention through the TV movie, Too Young the Hero. The publication of his story pushed the government to review his case and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that granted Graham full disability benefits, increased his back pay to $4917 and allowed him $18,000 for past medical bills incurred due to injuries sustained while a member of the military. However, this was contingent on receipts for the medical services. Unfortunately, some of the doctors who treated him had already died and many medical bills were lost, so he only received $2,100 to cover his former medical expenses.

Calvin Graham died of heart failure in November of 1992, at his home in Fort Worth, Texas. At the time of his death, all of his decorations were reinstated with the exception of the Purple Heart. Two years later, his Purple Heart was reinstated and presented to his widow at a special ceremony. He also received the National Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with bronze Battle Star device and the WWII Victory Medal.

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This article originally appeared at Today I Found Out. Copyright 2015. Like Today I Found Out on Facebook.

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Trump nominates VA undersecretary to take over top job

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced he will nominate Dr. David Shulkin, the undersecretary for health at the Veterans Affairs Department, to take over the top job at the agency.


Trump made the surprise announcement during a press conference in New York, saying Shulkin is “fantastic” and will do a “truly great job,” The Associated Press reported.

Also read: What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

If Shulkin is confirmed, he would be the first non-veteran to head the VA. With its nearly $180 billion budget, the VA is the second-largest federal agency behind the Defense Department.

Many veterans groups had pushed for Trump to keep current VA Secretary Robert McDonald on the job, but the president-elect has signaled he wants someone else to reform the agency in part by giving vets more access to private care — an issue he frequently raised during his campaign.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Photo by Robert Turtil | Department of Veterans Affairs

A selection for the post, expected last month, was delayed after the two frontrunners — Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam and president and CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, and Luis Quinonez, an Army veteran of Vietnam and founder of IQ Management Services — dropped out of consideration.

Shulkin was confirmed for his current position at the VA in 2015. In that role, he oversees the Veterans Health Administration and a health care system that covers nearly nine million veterans across more than 1,700 sites.

A physician, Shulkin has previously served as president at Morristown Medical Center, Goryeb Children’s Hospital, Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute and the Atlantic Health System Accountable Care Organization, according to his VA biography. Shulkin also previously served as president and chief executive officer of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

He received his medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, and completed his internship at Yale University School of Medicine, and residency and fellowship in general medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Presbyterian Medical Center.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iranian women are arrested for dancing in videos on Instagram

New details have emerged about several Iranian women recently arrested in Iran for posting videos of themselves dancing on social media – arrests that have sparked an international social media backlash.

A person familiar with the situation told VOA Persian that authorities arrested Instagram star Maedeh Hojabri and two other young women who posted popular dancing videos.


Hojabri, a 19-year-old from Tehran, had built a large following on Instagram, posting clips of herself dancing at home to popular Western and Iranian music. Some reports said her account had attracted 600,000 followers before being suspended. In recent days, fans have used other Instagram accounts bearing Hojabri’s name to share her video clips. But she has not posted any clips herself since her arrest.

The source identified the other two women as Elnaz Ghasemi and Shadab, whose last name was not known. Videos of both women have attracted tens of thousands of views on YouTube.

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The source said all three women were released on bail after three days, but also were required to appear on Iranian state TV as part of a public shaming. One of them, Ghasemi, has since left Iran, while Hojabri has been barred from doing so and Shadab’s whereabouts are unknown.

Aired early July 2018, a state TV program named “Wrong Path” showed images of several young woman whom it said had violated the moral norms of the Islamist-run state.

One of the women, whose face was obscured, answered an interviewer’s questions about why she posted dancing videos on social media. The woman, whom fans identified as Hojabri, said she made the videos for those fans, not intending to encourage them to do to the same.

Rights activists said Hojabri’s appearance in the program represented a forced confession of wrongdoing – a tactic that they say Iran often uses to stifle dissent.

There have been no reports in Iranian state media of the arrest of Hojabri and the other two women or the charges against them.

But the U.S.-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said the head of Tehran’s cyberpolice, Touraj Kazemi, made an announcement coinciding with the broadcast of “Wrong Path” that people who post “indecent” material online would be pursued for crimes against national security.

Since Hojabri’s arrest became apparent from her state TV appearance, Iranian women and men inside and outside the country have led a social media backlash, expressing support for the teenager by sharing videos of themselves dancing and using the hashtag #dancing_isnt_a_crime in Farsi.

Rights group Amnesty International joined the backlash on July 9, 2018, tweeting a video of its female campaigners doing a solidarity dance on a London street.

Iran’s Islamist laws only forbid women from dancing in public and in front of men who are not close relatives.

But the growing popularity of social media videos of Iranian woman dancing at home has prompted authorities in Iran to crack down on that phenomenon as well. In recent months, Iranian authorities have vowed to take action against Instagram celebrities they deem to have posted vulgar or obscene videos.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Persian Service.

This article originally appeared on The Voice of America News. Follow @VOANews on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force is finally designing female-specific flight equipment

The Air Force is working to redesign the gear used by female pilots across the force after facing challenges with current flight equipment.

“We have women performing in every combat mission, and we owe it to them to have gear that fits, is suited for a woman’s frame and (one) can be in for hours on end,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein at a Defense Writers Group breakfast, March 2018 in Washington, D.C.

The majority of the equipment currently worn by pilots was built off anthropometric data from the 1960s, a time when only men were in aviator roles.

The lack of variety and representation in the current designs have caused multiple issues for women, said Col. Samantha Weeks, the 14th Flying Training Wing commander, assigned to Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi.


Many of the uniform issues circulate around G-suits, flight suits, urinary devices and survival vests.

“The challenges other female aviators and I face are the fit and availability of our flight equipment,” said Capt. Lauren Ellis, 57th Adversary Tactics Group executive officer.

Limited sizes and accessibility often force aircrew to order the wrong size and have it extensively altered to fit properly, taking time and money away from the mission, Ellis said.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

A participant of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop writes down issues women experience with current urinary devices at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

“All of the bladders on my G-suit need to be modified,” Ellis said. “It’s a lot of work for the Aircrew Flight Equipment, or AFE, Airmen. Even after they’re modified, the proportions don’t fit.”

G-suits are vital anti-gravity gear for aviators. The bladders in the suit fill with air and apply pressure to the pilot’s body to prevent a loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration. Not having a properly fitted G-suit could lead to hypoxia followed by unconsciousness.

Ellis said ill-fitting flight suits are a common problem for men and women. Aircrew who are significantly above or below average height have a hard time finding suits that fit their body type.

Even if a woman found a flight suit close to her size, the flight-suit zipper is designed for men—not women. Female aircrew struggle with relieving themselves during flights because the flight-suit zipper isn’t designed low enough for them to properly use their urinary devices.

“There are flight suits that were designed with longer zippers for women, but they’re almost never available,” Ellis said. “It’s common for females to have to wait months to receive the flight suit they’ve ordered which causes them to have to wear the male one.”

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop review various flight-suits designs at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

Along with the possibility of injury and discomfort associated with G-suits and flight suits, women struggle to get their life-saving gear to fit accordingly. The process of ejecting is so powerful, even pilots with well-fitting gear are at a serious risk of injury. It’s important for aviators to be heard and the modernization of equipment for everyone continues, Ellis said.

“In certain situations, having ill-fitting gear, such as harnesses and survival vests, can result in a loss of life,” Ellis said. “If an aircrew member ejects from the aircraft with equipment that doesn’t fit, they can be severely injured or lose their life.”

The Air Force and Air Combat Command are working to find a feasible solution for aircrew members.

Part of the strategy to correct the uniform problem was to take part in several collaborative Female Flight Equipment Workshops at AFWERX Vegas. Female Airmen stationed across the globe traveled to the innovation hub and attended the workshops to explore areas of opportunity and come up with proposed solutions.

“The purpose of the workshops is to bring together female aviators, Aircrew Flight Equipment, Human Systems Program Office personnel and subject matter experts to understand the current products, the acquisition process and the actual needs from the field,” Weeks said.

Throughout the workshops, aviators participated in briefings, as well as discussions and exercises with the agencies involved in the design and distribution of their gear.

“The Human Systems Program Office acquires and sustains all equipment for male and female Airmen,” said Lt. Col. Elaine Bryant Human Systems Program Office deputy chief, assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. “We are committed to hearing our consumers’ voices, and we will make the changes necessary to our current process to meet their needs.”

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Participants of the Female Flight Equipment Workshop discuss the advantages and disadvantages of multiple- piece body armor at AFWERX Vegas, Las Vegas, Jan. 30, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bailee A. Darbasie)

The workshops established the communication needed between the consumer, designers and suppliers to reach a mutual goal of understanding and development.

“We now have some pretty clear actions coming out of the Female Flight Equipment Workshops,” Bryant said. “We’ve heard the feedback, and we want to make sure we have actionable things we’re accomplishing within specific time frames for our consumers.”

The Human Systems Program Office will strive to make progressive changes within their operations and better their acquisition process, explained Bryant.

“We will take the field up on their offers of coming out to the units and meeting the aircrew for whom we supply,” Bryant said. “We’ll ensure we maintain the lines of communication needed to better our program.”

Another major improvement for female aviators is the adoption of the Battlefield Airmen Rapid Resource Replenishment System, a centrally managed equipment facility. BARS is capable of shipping needed resources directly to female aircrew. Using this system will allow women to acquire the proper fitting equipment they need within an acceptable timeline.

“BARS is a step in the right direction,” Ellis said. “Everyone deserves to have equipment that fits them. There are certain things we have to adapt to, but as long as we’re trying to improve and modernize our gear, we can be a more ready and lethal force.”

“The Air Force has evolved over the years and continues to evolve,” Weeks echoed. “Female aviators entering the Air Force now will not have the same issues I had over the last 21 years.”

Information from an ACC news feature was used in this story.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Articles

This is how it could go down if China and India went to war

A war between the world’s largest Democracy and the world’s largest Communist state may not seem likely to the casual observer. But not only is it possible, it’s happened before. Only things were very different back then.


China was facing an economic collapse in the early 1960s in the years following the Great Leap Forward. The country was struggling to feed its people, let alone support an all-out war. India, on the other hand, was on an economic upturn. Militarily, however, India was unprepared and could only field 14,000 troops, compared to China’s exhaustive manpower.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

In 1962, Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong invaded India for granting asylum to the Dalai Lama and not supporting the Chinese occupation of Tibet (Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was an outspoken critic of the occupation). The Chinese won the harsh mountain war, fought without Navies or Air Forces, at 14,000 feet.

Mao later told Sri Lankan and Swedish delegations the war was essentially to teach India a lesson.

Potential causes of a new Sino-Indian War

The 1962 war only lasted a month, resulting in slight border changes and a now-ongoing dispute on just where the border is — namely in two areas called Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, which could re-spark a conflict today. But any border disputes could turn the mountainous region hot. The most recent standoff in August 2017 was about an obscure plateau in the Himalayan Doklam Plateau region, which borders India, China, and Bhutan. India supports Bhutan’s claim to the area, while both major powers have scores of troops in the region.

The spark for that standoff is an unfinished road from China.

China also supports India’s arch rival Pakistan, turning any conflict into a potential two-front war. But India doesn’t take it all laying down. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi confronted China’s assertiveness from his first day in office – when he invited the exiled Tibetan government to his swearing-in ceremony.

The two countries clashed along their border several times, including one incident over Tibet in 1967 and another near miss 1987 over Arunachal. There were also smaller incidents in 2013 and 2014 in Ladakh, where India has since loaded the area with infantry, tanks, and reserves to be prepared for any potential aggression from China.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Chinese People’s Liberation Army during the Moscow Victory Day Parade

But the very likely spark that could drive the two Asian giants to war could come from a clash over resources. In this case it wouldn’t be over oil, it would be over water. Both countries have an eye on the fresh water and hydroelectric power from the Tsangpo–Brahmaputra River.

Water is not the only resource in question, though. Earlier in 2016, China prevented India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls the trade of nuclear material and tech.

Technology and Numbers

China and India are now economic powerhouses, 2nd and 7th (respectively) in world GDP rankings. Militarily, India is number four on the GlobalFirepower rankings and boasts the largest standing volunteer army at 1.13 million troops with 2.1 million in reserve. Ranked number three on the same scale, China’s armed forces have 2.3 million active troops with another 2.3 million in reserve.

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Indian Army Soldiers of the Madras Regiment.

China’s technology is superior to India’s, but not by much. The Chinese air forces also vastly outnumber India’s somewhat antiquated air force. The Chinese also have a homegrown version of the F-35, which can outmatch India’s 50-year-old MiG-21s. The Chinese J-20 is currently the best best for Chinese air superiority, if it’s operational in time for such a conflict.

India is working with Russia on developing a 5th-generation Sukhoi fighter with capabilities similar to the American F-22. But the Indian air force has been outnumbered and outclassed on many occasions and still came up with a win. Training and experience count for a lot. More on that in a minute.

India’s Navy matches China’s with two aircraft carrier groups but China still edges India in technological capability — barely. China also dwarfs India’s tank and submarine corps, with five times as many of each. China also has twice as many warships and military aircraft.

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The STOBOR Carrier, INS Vikramaditya.

India’s advantage is that, despite China’s superiority in merchant marine, its sea lanes come very close to Indian waters. This would force the Chinese to divert ships used for a blockade to protect their shipping. This is why both countries invest in developing submarines and anti-sub technology.

No matter what, the air and sea war would be a slugfest. Even so, the primary conflict would likely be between two land armies. Or three if Pakistan decides to take advantage of the situation.

Joota on the ground

The problem with the major border disputes is that the border in question is high in the Himalayas, making quick thrusts and land grabs unlikely. A large disparity in ground troops between the opposing forces will decide who advances. China may have the manpower to make taking the disputed provinces possible.

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A significant difference in India’s favor is that its troops are battle-hardened and have a long tradition of fighting to defend India’s borders. The Indian Army has been fighting Pakistan, terrorism, and a host of insurgencies for decades. Its last war ended in 1999, and it has employed significant paramilitary and special operations forces ever since.

The Chinese haven’t seen real fighting since the 1979 war with Vietnam. That war lasted just shy of four weeks, with each side claiming victory. The Chinese wanted to punish Vietnam for being in the Soviet sphere while proving to the world the USSR could not protect its allies. It didn’t work. The Vietnamese repelled the Chinese People’s Liberation Army using only border militias.

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A Vietnamese military officer standing on the wreckage of a destroyed Chinese tank in Cao Bang during the Sino-Vietnamese War.

The truth is, the Chinese PLA, for all its growth and advances in technology, has not truly been tested since the Korean War. China’s biggest equalizer is its ballistic missile force, capable of hitting well inside India.

China’s biggest advantage is its economy. If it suffers no sanctions as a result of an invasion, it could sustain a protracted war much longer than India. In this instance, India’s best hope is to strangle Chinese shipping using its sizable submarine force. India sits with its boot on the neck of the Chinese economy.

Related: The 10 most powerful militaries in the world

If it came to a nuclear exchange, India would not fare well. China has a stockpile of ballistic missiles and with major Indian cities so close to the Chinese border, it doesn’t even need longer-ranged weapons to annihilate major urban centers. Conversely, India has few of these and primary targets in China are much further away. Luckily, both countries have a “no first use” policy, making a nuclear exchange unlikely.

How it plays out

India invading China is highly unlikely. The Indian Army would not have the ground force necessary to drive through the Himalayas and sustain such a push.

This war would be fought with light infantry, mountain troops, and light armor. China has the advantage in numbers, but India has experienced veteran soldiers. Even aircraft would have trouble fighting in these mountains, but the Indian Army has developed specialized attack helicopters just for this purpose: the HAL Druv and HAL Light Attack helicopters.

China has very few airfields in the area, which would limit its ability to provide air cover, whereas India’s Air Force maintains considerable assets in the area.

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Indian Army HAL Light Combat Helicopter.

India also has multiple layers of anti-air and anti-missile defense and is developing more. China would have to get the bulk of its ground forces across the Himalayas as fast as possible, or the war would grind to a halt.

Any halt to the Chinese advance would be a de facto win for India. China would have to completely capture the disputed territories and move into India to be able to claim victory. China’s only real chance to progress into the subcontinent is to perform an Inchon Landing-style maneuver from the sea, but that would require going through India’s submarine force unopposed.

Frankly, no matter what the provocation might be, these two countries are better off being friends. Growing economies and technological capabilities serve only to bolster the rest of the world’s growth. Any conflict between the two would be explosive and bloody, requiring a lot of manpower and ending with a massive loss of life and little to show for it. The geography and population density between the two countries makes both of them unconquerable.

MIGHTY TRENDING

50,000 Coast Guard retirees will miss pay if shutdown drags on

As the partial federal government shutdown enters its fourth week, another group is about to get hit in the pocketbook: retirees of the Coast Guard.

The 50,000 annuitants on the Coast Guard’s rolls will see their first missed check Feb. 1, 2019, if a budget agreement is not reached or another arrangement made, a service spokesman confirmed to Military.com.

“In order for the Coast Guard to pay its active-duty, reserve, civilian, and retired members, the service will require an FY19 appropriation, a continuing resolution, or passage of an alternative measure,” Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride said in a statement.


As an active-duty Coast Guardsman, McBride himself will miss his first paycheck Jan. 15, 2019, if the status quo continues.

The partial shutdown, which began Dec. 22, 2018, was originally expected to affect end-of-year paychecks for all members of the Coast Guard.

But active-duty service members saw a last-minute save due to “extensive research and legal analysis,” Coast Guard officials announced Dec. 28, 2018. A determination was made that the service had the authority to dole out the remainder of pay and allowances for the month, despite the lapse in appropriations.

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(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

The Coast Guard, which falls under the Department of Homeland Security, worked hard to make sure that those on the retired rolls could continue to receive their paychecks as long as possible.

“In spite of the government shutdown, the U.S. Coast Guard has identified essential personnel who shall continue to report to work; they will be responsible for ensuring the retiree and annuitant payroll for USCG, [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] and [Public Health Service] is run and distributed on time,” states a message posted to the Coast Guard pay and personnel center Dec. 26, 2018. “As such, you may expect timely delivery of your pay on 31 December, 2018.”

But without a new injection of funds, the next monthly pay installment is halted.

Legislation introduced in the House and Senate this month would provide pay for active-duty Coast Guardsmen as well as contractors and civilian workers out of unappropriated U.S. Treasury funds in the event of a continued shutdown. It would also provide pay for any furloughed civilian workers and “such sums [as] are necessary to provide for Coast Guard retired pay.”

The legislation still awaits passage, however.

In the Senate, the Pay Our Coast Guard Act, introduced Jan. 4, 2019, was assigned to the Senate Legislative Calendar after reading; in the House, the Pay Our Coast Guard Parity Act of 2019 was introduced Jan. 9, 2019, and assigned to the Committee on Appropriations and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where it remains.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A-10s brought the heat in fight against ISIS

The 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron is wrapping up a deployment that saw heavy involvement in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.


Upon arrival, their efforts were focused on Raqqa for approximately three months. During that time, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs participated in an urban, close air support role. Pilots focused on protecting friendly forces as they maneuvered in the city between very large buildings in which the enemy hid and used as fighting positions.

“It was a difficult location to work in and we faced some situations that we have not dealt with before we arrived here,” said Maj. Matthew Cichowski, 74th EFS assistant director of operations. “Our weapons and tactics planners have done an excellent job preparing us for the variety of tactics and locations that we use and operate in.”

Adapting the squadron to the new location and varied tactical situations fell to the squadron’s weapons tactics planners.

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A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly in formation. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

“When we showed up, we got thrown into this fight essentially on day one,” said Lt. Col. Craig Morash, 74th EFS commander. “The fight itself was within the urban complex of Raqqa and the pilots had to get creative to figure out ways to strike targets at the bottom of these five story buildings. There was a lot of learning as this wasn’t something we traditionally trained to when we arrived. We reached out to different communities to see what we could learn from them.”

“Everyone jumped on board trying to figure out solutions to the problems we faced even though we had long days and a mountain of work to accomplish,” Morash continued. “Our intel shop processed an unbelievable amount of expenditure reports to make sure (U. S. Air Forces Central Command) had an accurate picture of what we were doing. Our life support troops were generating equipment and doing it perfectly every single time.”

The squadron’s intelligence Airmen also provide vital key information to pilots before their missions, enabling those pilots to adapt to threats and challenges on the fly.

Also Read: Everything you need to know about the A-10 Thunderbolt II

“We’re trained on what the capabilities of the aircraft are, which allows us to give threat perspectives to pilots with what’s going on in the area of operations and how that affects the aircraft and pilots,” said Senior Airman Jake Owens, 74th EFS intelligence analyst. “We brief pilots on possible threats they may face while flying missions and we’re also tied into the intelligence reporting, where we report targets struck to higher headquarters. There’s a lot of battle tracking and predictive analysis.”

According to the squadron’s weapons and tactics chief, one of the most difficult aspects of close air support isn’t physically dropping the bomb, it’s making sure the rest of the process has been done correctly. The pilots assigned to the 74th EFS are trained to work through that process correctly, making sure friendly positions are confirmed, any attack restrictions make sense and are adhered to, and they are flying above or are laterally deconflicted with any artillery that may be firing, and avoiding any exposure to threats like anti-aircraft fire or other aircraft.

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Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly in a wingtip formation after refueling from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Feb. 15, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

“Positive identification is extremely important and is something that takes a large team and a long amount of time to get right,” said Capt. Eric Calvey, 74th EFS chief of weapons and tactics. “Long before we show up there are individuals who use Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets to get an idea of what targets to strike and make sure that what we drop on is, in fact, a hostile target. We’re the last link in the chain and there’s a large amount of work done ahead of time to prepare these targets for strike before we employ munitions on them. It’s amazing seeing the utmost care that is taken before we employ on these targets.”

Although the squadron’s deployment is coming to a close, Morash said they are still keen on supporting the ground forces, no matter where they are.

“Every single person in this squadron was and still is mission focused. They are looking at the bigger picture, seeing what solutions to problems could be and mitigating risk to ground forces every single day,” Morash said. “The way this team came together, operations and maintenance, to look after each other and to get things done made me proud to be an Airman.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s looking more like Kim Jong-un’s half brother was done in by VX

A government chemist testified Oct. 5 he found traces of the banned VX nerve agent on two women being tried in Malaysia on charges of murdering the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader.


The testimony was the first evidence linking VX to Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, who are accused of smearing the nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a brazen assassination inside a crowded airport terminal inKuala Lumpur on Feb. 13.

Raja Subramaniam, who heads the government’s Center of Chemical Weapon Analysis, said he found VX in its pure form and VX precursors on Huong’s white jumper and found a degraded product of VX on Huong’s fingernails.

Huong was seen on airport surveillance videos wearing a white jumper emblazoned with the big black letters “LOL,” the acronym for “laughing out loud.”

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Screengrab from Malaysia’s The Star Online.

The chemist, who is the only Malaysian with a doctorate in chemical weapons analysis, said laboratory tests also detected VX acid, a degraded product of the nerve agent, on Aisyah’s sleeveless T-shirt.

He said VX will degrade once it is exposed to the atmosphere, and even faster when it is in contact with water, leaving degraded products of VX.

“The presence of VX precursors and VX degradation products confirms the presence of VX itself,” he told the court.

Raja also confirmed that he found VX on Kim’s face, eyes, clothing, and in his blood and urine.

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Kim Jong Nam. Photo from The Asahi Shimbun.

Aisyah and Huong have pleaded not guilty to the murder charge, which could bring a death penalty if they are convicted. They have not testified but their defense has said the women were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera TV show.

Raja earlier described VX as the “deadliest nerve agent created” and literature showed that 10 milligrams could be fatal. He said VX is oily and difficult to detect because it is colorless and odorless, and can be easily transported in a water bottle. He said Malaysia’s airports do not have the special equipment needed to detect VX.

Raja also said rubbing VX on the eyes and neck would be the fastest way to kill a person, compared to splashing or spraying the chemical. He said VX doesn’t evaporate quickly, making it a strategic choice because a person could be targeted without affecting the surroundings. It takes six days for a drop of VX to evaporate, he said.

He agreed with the prosecutors’ assertion that Kim didn’t inhale VX because no nerve agent was detected on a nasal swab.

 

 

The trial is to resume Oct. 9, with the judge, lawyers and the two suspects visiting Raja’s laboratory to see VX-tainted samples from the two women before they are formally submitted as evidence. This came after Raja told the court it would be safer to view the samples in the lab because the VX may still be active.

Gooi Soon Seong, lawyer for Siti, told reporters that detection of VX on the women was not enough to convict them.

“If I have the knife, it doesn’t mean I killed the person. They must have other stronger evidence,” he said.

He also said Raja was inconsistent and shouldn’t be afraid to open the VX-tainted samples since he testified VX could easily be washed off and doesn’t evaporate quickly.

Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, Huong’s lawyer, said the defense has another explanation of why VX was present on the Vietnamese and would reveal this later.

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Suspects Doan Thi Huong (left) and Siti Aisyah. Images via gov’t handout.

The VX-tainted evidence from Kim’s body and clothing was presented in court Oct. 4 in sealed plastic bags, and the lawyers and court officials wore surgical masks and gloves as they viewed it.

Earlier witnesses have testified Kim quickly suffered symptoms of chemical poisoning and died from acute VX poisoning within two hours of the attack.

VX is banned by an international treaty as a weapon of mass destruction but is believed to be part of North Korea’s chemical weapons arsenal. Kim was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea’s dynastic rulers but was believed to have been cast out by his father and had lived abroad for years. He reportedly never met current leader Kim Jong Un, who is widely believed to have perceived his older sibling as a threat and targeted him for assassination.

The trial is being closely watched by the Indonesian and Vietnamese governments, which hired the defense lawyers for both women.

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