This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said Sept. 14 he will retaliate against a US halt on the issuing of most visas to senior foreign ministry officials and their families by suspending missions by US military-led teams searching for the remains of Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War.


Cambodia’s pro-government Fresh News website reported that Hun Sen said cooperation with the United States on the MIA search would be suspended until the two countries resolve several issues, especially the visa ban. Government spokesman Phay Siphan confirmed the report.

The US government lists 48 Americans still unaccounted for in Cambodia.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

The dispute comes at a time of sharp tensions between Hun Sen’s government and Washington. As part of a general crackdown on critics ahead of next year’s general election, Cambodian authorities recently arrested the head of the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and accused the United States of colluding with him to overthrow the government.

The United States has rejected the accusation and criticized the arrest, along with a crackdown on the media that shut an independent English-language newspaper and about a dozen radio stations that broadcast opposition voices or programming by the US government-financed Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

The US Embassy instituted the visa ban on Sept. 13, saying that Cambodia had refused or delayed accepting Cambodian nationals being deported by the United States after being convicted of crimes. Similar measures were taken against the African nations of Eritrea, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
Kem Sokha, Acting President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party and the country’s opposition leader, sits across from former Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo from US State Department.

Hun Sen said in an interview with Fresh News that the foreign ministry would send a notification of the MIA search suspension to the US in the near future. Earlier Sept. 14, the ministry denied that Cambodia had halted or delayed the acceptance of deportees, saying its main interest was amending a 2002 agreement under which it agreed to take them.

Hun Sen described the repatriation of convicts from the United States to Cambodia as an action that “breaks apart parents and children” and is “bad and inhumane.” He said some of the repatriated Cambodians had committed suicide.

Some human rights groups agree and note that some convicts had spent little time in Cambodia, going to the United States as children.

Articles

This is how the Old Glory Relay brings veterans and their communities together

Team Red, White  Blue’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. This effort is focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through a shared interest in physical activity like running, hiking, CrossFit workouts, and yoga classes, along with participating in social and service-oriented events. Spread across 199 chapters all over the world, the 110,000-member veteran’s group established in 2010 is geared toward creating a place for former servicemembers to meet and do a little PT — and invite their friends and family along to join them.


But while having lots of members and a host of chapters across the country is a great thing for a young veteran service organization, there’s a challenge in keeping it all connected. That’s why Executive Director Blayne Smith and his colleagues decided to link up with Team Red, White  Blue’s various members with a little run among friends.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
(WATM Photo: Tim Kolczak)

And what if this little run wasn’t so little? What if it spread across the entire country?

“We really wanted this to be a unifying event for the organization and to demonstrate the power and the inspiration that comes with a community of veterans working on an epic undertaking together,” Smith said. “We figured if we could run a single American flag averaging 60 miles a day … that would be a demonstration of the good that we could do together if we all worked together formed as a team and committed to a big goal.”

So in 2014, on a shoestring budget and with just a couple company reps doing most of the logistical legwork, the Old Glory Relay was born. Now spanning 4,216 miles and involving upwards of 1,300 runners and cyclists, the 2016 Old Glory Relay will see an American flag passed between participants — including veterans and their supporters — down the West Coast, across the desert Southwest, through the Deep South, and ending in Tampa, Florida, after 62 days culminating in a Ruck March on Veterans Day.

“For this year we decided to go even bigger. It’s a bit more ambitious, it’s a longer route but more members and more chapters will get to participate,” Smith said. “There’s something really powerful about running a few miles carrying an American flag. It’s really invigorating to run with it and hand it off to the next person knowing you’ve done your part to get it across the country.”

With the support of the presenting sponsor, Microsoft, along with other partners, Amazon, Westfield and Starbucks, the race began at the Space Needle in Seattle on Sept. 11. The relay will be following a route through Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles through the end of the month. The relay then turns east, through Phoenix, Tucson and San Antonio before crossing the South through the Florida Panhandle to Tampa.

Team Red, White  Blue has done a ton of legwork to prepare for the relay, mobilizing local chapters to help carry the flag and get their communities energized to cheer runners along. Smith said school kids, local police and fire stations and residents along the way all turn out to motivate the runners and keep the relay going. And while the event is geared toward unifying the chapters and its members in a good cause, it’s the spirit of shared sacrifice and appreciation for the men in women who served in uniform that really makes the Old Glory Relay special.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
(WATM Photo: Tim Kolczak)

“This is what happens when you slow people down enough to move on foot through a town with an American flag and see what happens. All those human connections start to happen,” Smith said. “America is a beautiful place. But the most beautiful terrain in America is the human terrain, and you don’t see it if you don’t slow down. And that’s what this is all about.”

You can support Team Red, White Blue and the Old Glory Relay by following the Old Glory Relay website, sharing your own photos and videos with the hashtag #OldGloryRelay, and by tracking Old Glory via the “OGR Live” webpage for up-to-the-minute information on the runners’ and cyclists’ status.

Text OGR to 41444 to learn more and donate!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bnzsvQRWhs
MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS claims suicide attack that killed 34

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in a Shi’ite area of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2018.

Earlier on Aug. 16, 2018, Afghan authorities revised the death toll from the attack to 34 killed from their earlier reports of 48 dead.

Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh said that 56 people were wounded in the bombing in the neighborhood of Dasht-e Barchi when the bomber walked into a building where high-school graduates were preparing for university entrance exams and blew himself up.


Authorities a day earlier had said 67 people were wounded.

Most of the victims were young men and women studying together at a private education center in the western Kabul neighborhood.

Fifteen of the victims’ bodies were taken to an ethnic Hazara community compound in Kabul where a mass funeral service was being held on Aug. 16, 2018.

Other victims were being taken to their villages near Kabul to be buried there.

IS extremists have carried out similar attacks in the past, hitting Shi’ite mosques, schools, and cultural centers.

Jawad Ghawari, a member of the city’s Shi’ite clerical council, said there were at least 13 attacks on the Shi’ite community in the past two years in Kabul alone.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 of the silliest means of propaganda used by North Korea

On June 25, 1950 all-out war broke out when Communist North Korea invaded Capitalist South Korea after a series of clashes on the border. The devastation was insurmountable and the war has never officially ended between the two nations, even after a UN enforced partition along the 38th parallel. Kim Il-sung shut his nation from the world and established a cult of personality every despot could only dream of having. His nation either feared him because of his iron fist or worshiped him as a god-king.


Today, Kim Jong-un has nowhere near the level of intimidation his grandfather. The Western World, and even We Are The Mighty, has poked fun at the silly dictator and his ridiculous attempts to establish a cult of personality.

Here are a few of his propaganda tactics:

5. State-run news

Sidestepping entirely away from American politics and news outlets, the Korean Central News Agency is so fake even your gullible relative who falls for every Onion or Duffle Blog article would shake their head.

Once you’ve gone on air and state that “unicorns exist and are North Korean” or that “the North Korean famine has ended because Kim invented the hamburger,” your journalistic integrity flies out the window.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops

4. Their “history” and text books

History is always written by the winners, right? It also helps when you close yourself off from the rest of the world so no one can fact check every bullsh*t claim you make.

The lies even slide into math problems for their kids. Such as: During the Fatherland Liberation War, the brave uncles of Korean People’s Army killed 265 American imperialist bastards in the first battle. In the second battle, they killed 70 more bastards than they had in the first battle. How many bastards did they kill in the second battle? How many American imperialist bastards did they kill altogether?

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops

3. Film and television

The state news isn’t the only thing that is slathered with anti-Americanisms. Surprisingly enough, they have a full-fledged film industry that is either Anti-West or a cheap knockoff of something Japanese. In 1985, the North Koreans kidnapped a South Korean film director and forced him to make Pulgasari — an over the top knockoff of Godzilla set in feudal Korea. The link to watch it on YouTube with subtitles is right here, but be warned. It’s bad. Not like, The Room, where it’s so absurd it’s hilarious. Pulgasari is just… bad…

Keeping up with the indoctrination of children…holy crap are their cartoons ridiculous. One such cartoon is about how even you can help fight the American imperialist wolves (because we somehow get depicted as wolves a lot. Which is cool with me. Wolves are cool.) by learning to use a protractor and a compass to launch missiles at us.

(YouTube, Stargeo)

2. Video games

But what about the youngsters eager to play video games like their South Korean cousins? Well. There’s “Hunting Yankee.”

This supposedly “very popular” game with graphics on the same level as a Playstation One puts you in the role of sniper and you shoot Americans. Yep. That’s it. Game of the Year quality content right there.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
On the bright side, they probably don’t have to worry about always connected single-player, pay-to-win mechanics, or an overabundance of cosmetic micro-transactions like American games. (Image via Telegraph)

1. Staged photos

Of course everything is alright! There are photos that prove things aren’t bad in North Korea!

Almost every photo of Kim Jong-un touring his country that the previously mentioned state media runs is laughable. Sure, he and his cronies are laughing and enjoying themselves, but not a single soul outside of the regime seems to have an actual smile.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
No single photo can describe how North Koreans feel about Kim Jong-un like every single toddler and nurse in this photo. (Photo via AFP)

*Bonus* Boasting that they can stand a chance against America

Let’s just look at the stats for a quick second from what was considered the 5th greatest military in 1990, Iraq. They had the numbers, they had the skill and experience, they had the funding, they had the tech and then they messed with a nation we are cool with, Kuwait. America wafflestomped their asses in about four weeks.

Sure. North Korea boasts an impressive number of infantrymen; however, they’re malnourished and diseaseduntrained, and under-equipped. Their planes, armor, and artillery are well over sixty years old. Their military consists of defectors, meaning they’re not willing to fight. And to top it all off, South Korea (North Korea’s main target) is America’s closest friend.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
Good luck with that, tubby. (Image via Reddit)

Articles

6 employees fired from US embassy in Afghanistan for drug violations

The State Department has fired six employees at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan for allegedly using or possessing prohibited drugs, a particularly troubling infraction given the years-long U.S. effort to eradicate opium production in the country.


A senior State Department official said those who were embassy employees were fired and others who were contractors were released from their contracts.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
The Taliban and other antigovernment groups participate in and profit from the opiate trade, which is a key source of revenue for the Taliban inside Afghanistan. Pictured here, a Marine posts security while members of the Afghan Narcotics Interdiction Unit search a compound during Operation Speargun in Urmuz, Afghanistan, March 26, 2012.

The official declined to say what led to the investigation, but the Wall Street Journal reported it was launched after a person was wandering about in a state of confusion.

A State Department official told Voice of America News on March 30 the fired workers “were found to have been using or in possession of prohibited substances.”

Opium production in Afghanistan is a major source of income for the Taliban and other insurgents.

Afghanistan is the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Despite global efforts to stem the flow of narcotics, the United Nations says production reached near record levels in 2016.

The United States has spent more than $8 billion on drug interdiction in Afghanistan since the start of war against the Taliban in 2001.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US military is America’s heaviest drinking profession

“This comes as a surprise,” said no one, ever, of a new analysis that finds military members drink alcohol more than workers in any other job.

A review of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s survey data from 2013 through 2017 by a behavioral health company has found that troops spend more days a year consuming alcohol than people in any other industry.

They also binge-drink more, imbibing at least four or five alcoholic beverages a day in one sitting at least 41 days a year, the most of any occupation. That’s the CDC’s definition of binge-drinking, depending on gender. The military personnel surveyed said they binge-drank about a third of the days they consumed alcohol.


Analyzing responses from 27,000 people in 25 industries, Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a Florida-based substance use treatment company, found that members of the military reported drinking alcohol 130 days out of the year, followed by miners, 112 days per year, and construction workers, 106 days. Miners were also second in binge-drinking, doing so 38 days out of the year, and construction workers were third, at 33 days.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops

(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

At the low end of the spectrum, health care and social assistance workers had a drink roughly 68 days per year.

For those who track the Pentagon’s yearly behavioral health surveys and media reports of arrests of service members for crimes ranging from misdemeanors to cases of sexual assault and even murder, the findings support what has been known for decades: the services have a drinking problem, and according to the Delphi report, it appears to be worsening.

The report noted that military personnel in 2014 reported drinking fewer than 100 drinks per year. Now, that number tops 130.

“People in the armed forces typically have ranked the highest every year since 2014,” said Ryan Serpico, Delphi’s lead researcher. “It’s shocking, but not shocking … [These results] enforce what we already know, but again, they shine a light on this, saying it’s a problem and we need to do something about it.”

The study was based on the CDC’s National Health Interview Surveys from 2013 through 2017, the latest year data was available. As with any study based on survey results, however, it comes with some caveats, including potential bias from respondents who chose to participate and their ability to accurately describe their drinking behaviors the previous years.

Also, of the nearly 27,000 survey participants, only 81 said they were in the military. So the findings could simply reflect the habits of 81 soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who like to drink. A lot.

“I don’t know how the CDC executed the surveys,” Serpico said, “but when it comes to sample size number, we typically look for 26 respondents in order to make any judgements on the data.”

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)

Still, the findings echo the results of a survey frequently conducted by Rand Corp., a Washington-based think tank, for the Defense Department called the Health-Related Behavior Survey, or HRBS. While results from the 2018 survey have not been published, the 2015 survey found that 30 percent of troops reported being binge drinkers, and one in three service members met criteria that indicated they engaged in “hazardous drinking or possible alcohol use disorder.”

According to the 2015 HRBS, the percentage of these behaviors was highest in the Marine Corps, where hazardous drinking — described as drinking that results in negative consequences like risky behavior, missed work days or serious personal problems — was reported by nearly half the service.

The Air Force had the lowest percentages of these drinking issues, according to the survey.

Excessive drinking has been estimated to cost the Defense Department id=”listicle-2634691247″.1 billion per year in lost productivity and medical treatment. It also is thought to result in the loss of roughly 320,000 work days a year and lead to roughly 34,400 arrests per year.

Despite the impact of alcohol use, however, 68% of active duty troops said they perceived the military culture of being supportive of drinking, and 42% said their supervisor doesn’t discourage alcohol use, according to the HRBS.

Bri Godwin, a media relations associate with Delphi, said there appears to be acceptance of excessive drinking in the military but added that service members can take control of their habits — and those of others — by being mindful.

“There needs to be a conversation on drinking and how much it affects you or someone else. Are you mindful of the consequences — how is it affecting you mentally, physically and financially. You have to do a personal inventory, see how it’s affecting you and determine what you need to do to fix it,” she said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Lawmakers try to expand list of diseases eligible for Agent Orange benefits

Proposed amendments to the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act would add three diseases to the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ list of illnesses presumed to be linked to Agent Orange — measures that, if approved, would provide health care and disability benefits to roughly 22,000 affected veterans.

The House and Senate amendments, proposed by Rep. Josh Harder, D-California, and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, would add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism to the VA’s list of 14 conditions considered related to herbicide exposure during the Vietnam War.


In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine deemed the three named diseases to be associated with exposure to defoliants used during the war.

But the proposals do not include hypertension, a condition that the Academies also linked to Agent Orange in 2018. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is common among the elderly and, if included, could add more than 2 million veterans to VA disability rolls in the next 10 years, at an estimated cost of $11.2 billion to $15.2 billion, according to department estimates.

Thirty veteran and military groups have backed the proposals and asked congressional leaders to do the same.

On Tuesday, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America and 27 other groups wrote House and Senate leaders urging them to get behind the provisions.

“We call on you to lead and pass House Amendment 264 into law and end the waiting for many of our nation’s ill veterans so they can receive disability benefits,” stated letters sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

“There is more work to be done to care for those who are ill from toxic exposures, including adopting hypertension as a presumptive disease … but with your leadership, tens of thousands of Vietnam War veterans will receive their benefits and justice,” they wrote.

A decision on whether to add the three conditions has been delayed since 2017, when then-VA Secretary David Shulkin expressed support for including them but never formally announced his decision.

According to internal VA documents, Shulkin had been on the verge of including the three conditions when the Office of Management and Budget and other White House officials objected, citing what they called “limited scientific evidence” and cost.

Meanwhile, thousands of veterans have waited.

“Vietnam vets have been waiting for this for decades, and it’s a national shame that it’s not fixed yet,” Harder told Military.com. “We have a real chance here to make this right after all this time, and we should seize the opportunity.”

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told lawmakers late last year he wants the results of two studies — the Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study, or VE-HEROES, and the Vietnam Era Mortality Study — to be reviewed for publication before announcing a decision on whether to broaden the presumptives list.

But lawmakers and advocacy groups have balked at the delay.

“This is something we are still fighting after how many decades from the Vietnam War?” asked Corey Titus, director of veterans benefits and Guard/reserve affairs at MOAA. “We should be making sure there aren’t any service members with illnesses who aren’t getting the care and benefits they earned.”

In February, Rep. Mark Takano, D-California, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, penned a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to “take corrective action” and add all four diseases to the list, including hypertension.

“Your administration has the ability to add these conditions to the presumptive list and provide lifesaving benefits to more than 190,000 veterans. Without your action, tens of thousands of sick and aging veterans will continue to go without VA resources and health care in their time of need,” he wrote.

The letter was signed by 77 members, all Democrats.

While hypertension is not included in the proposed amendment, the coalition of veterans and military organizations pledged to continue working on adopting it as a “presumptive disease as linked by the National Academies.”

“This needs to be covered as well. This is not something that we will forget — hypertension,” Titus said.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have both passed their versions of the fiscal 2021 defense bill and forwarded them to their respective chambers for consideration. Currently, committees are weighing the rules for amending and deliberating the bills before they move ahead for debate.

Both Harder and Tester’s proposals must make it through that process before coming up for a vote.

A legislative source said Tester’s amendment has been identified for a vote.

“With a bipartisan team of lawmakers and the support of the entire veterans community, we have a strong chance to finally get this done,” Harder said.

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

Articles

The Army will soon have fire proof uniforms made out of this retro fabric

U.S. Army researchers want to improve the service’s flame-resistant, protective apparel by developing a U.S.-manufactured, wool-blend uniform.


The Army has developed a wool-blend uniform composed of 50 percent wool, 42 percent Nomex, 5 percent Kevlar and 3 percent P140 antistatic fiber, according to a recent Army press release.

Also read: Army Links M4 Thermal Sights to Night Vision

One goal of textile research and development effort is to create a flame-resistant combat uniform made solely from domestic materials, said Carole Winterhalter, a textile technologist with the Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center.

This research may provide an opportunity to meet this objective.

“We have a lightweight fabric that is inherently flame resistant; no topical treatments are added to provide FR,” Winterhalter said. “We are introducing a very environmentally friendly and sustainable fiber to the combat uniform system. We don’t have other wool-based fabrics in the system right now. This is a brand new material.”

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
Pvt. Antwan Williams, an Infantryman serving as a human research volunteer soldier at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, models a wool-blend uniform developed by NSRDEC’s textile technologists. | U.S. Army photo

Three Army researchers traveled to Germany from Aug. 26 to Sept. 15 for Exercise Combined Resolve VII to work with about 100 soldiers in testing and evaluating prototype, wool-blend uniforms composed of this fabric. The scientists joined John Riedener, the field assistance in Science and Technology advisor assigned to 7th Army Training Command. The exercise brings about 3,500 participants from NATO allies to the region.

“We were in the heat of summer here, and it was very warm during the exercise,” Riedener said. “The uniforms were lighter weight and breathed better. Soldiers were very happy with the material.”

FAST advisors are a component of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command.

Soldiers from 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division participated in the 21-day testing and completed surveys before and after the exercise, said Brian Scott, NSRDEC equipment specialist, Soldier and Squad Optimization and Integration Team. The RD team selected Hohenfels, Germany, because the previous FR wool undergarment evaluation took place there.

Each soldier received three wool-blend uniform prototypes. Each uniform was made from the same wool-based blend. One was “garment treated” with permethrin, an insecticide, and another “fabric treated” with permethrin. The third was untreated.

Soldiers wore each of the three uniforms for about seven days in a field environment for a total of 21 days. The testing and survey instructions asked soldiers not to compare the prototypes with existing uniforms or camouflage patterns. Participating soldiers came from multiple military occupational specialties.

Their feedback regarding comfort, durability, laundering and shrinkage, insect resistance, and overall performance will help determine whether researchers continue this development effort, Winterhalter said.

Initial results suggest the majority of the soldiers liked the fabric because it was lightweight and breathable; however, analysis of the survey data is not complete, said Shalli Sherman, NSRDEC program manager for the Office of Synchronization and Integration.

Winterhalter is optimistic about the prospect of a wool blend being incorporated into combat uniforms because of its environmental, manufacturing and economic benefits. She said the United States has about 80,000 wool growers, and the Army would like to include this material in the clothing system.

“Wool is 100 percent biodegradable. It’s easy to dye and absorbs moisture,” said Winterhalter, who is also the federal government’s chief technology officer for the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

The Army has spent quite a bit of time and money to reintroduce a manufacturing process in this country called Super Wash that allows us to shrink-resist treat the wool, Winterhalter said.

“When blended with other fibers, the fabric does not shrink excessively when washed,” Winterhalter said. “The Super Wash line at Chargeurs in Jamestown, South Carolina, has exceeded its business estimates. It has revitalized wool manufacturing in this country.”

The new Super Wash process makes wool viable for combat clothing in nearly any application, including jackets, pants, underwear, headwear, gloves and socks, Winterhalter said.

NSRDEC researchers plan a larger field study with more users over a longer time period of possibly 30 days. More data on comfort and durability is needed as the Army moves forward with this RD effort, Winterhalter said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Canned soup may be fueling North Korea’s air force

Is North Korea’s air force selling canned soup and taxi rides to upgrade its runways and airstrips?


Amid the toughest sanctions ever against the North and its nuclear weapons program, there are some compelling reasons to believe the answer may well be yes. The story of how — and why — offers some insight into how North Korea’s economy functions under Kim Jong Un.

There’s a fine line between North Korea’s military and its private sector. To augment the already huge share of the country’s limited national resources earmarked for defense, North Korean military units control everything from restaurants to farms to the flagship airline.

Also read: Aircraft carriers will not join exercises in Korea this year

Air Koryo is far more than just an airline.

Over the past several years, it has also become one of the country’s most recognizable consumer brands.

With only a dozen or so active-use aircraft operating on limited routes to China and the Russian Far East, it’s hard to imagine it’s ever been much of a money-maker for Pyongyang in the conventional, ticket-sales sort of way. But it is a symbol of national prestige and serves as a key lifeline to the outside world, transporting people and loads and loads of precious — and often not-very-closely-scrutinized — cargo.

Air Koryo runs at least one gas station and car wash in Pyongyang, has its own fleet of taxis, and operates several retail shops, including a boutique at the airport. At the relatively upscale Potonggang Department Store in central Pyongyang, whole aisles are devoted to Air Koryo brand products, from crates of liquor to row after row of Coke-like sodas and a half dozen varieties of canned goods, including pheasant soup and peaches.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
Air Koryo about to push-back for Pyongyang. (Photo by Mark Fahey)

The airline’s moves mirror broader shifts in the North Korean economy, which is still socialist and technically centrally controlled, but under Kim has shifted rapidly toward capitalist-style entrepreneurialism.

At the grassroots level, street vendors and small, bazaar-style markets are common. Higher up, state-run enterprises are adapting to become more productive and profitable — quite possibly because the regime, pinched by sanctions and shrinking trade possibilities, can’t afford to prop them up anymore.

It’s not just Air Koryo: Naegohyang, a major producer of cigarettes including the luxury “7.27” brand reportedly favored by Kim himself, has begun pushing its own line of sporting goods. They’re sold alongside Nike, Adidas, and other pricey imports at its flagship stores near Pyongyang’s diplomatic quarter and in the exclusive Scientists’ Street district, a neighborhood built to reward the country’s scientists and technicians.

Related: The bizarre way this North Korean movie came to be

Air Koryo got a big boost with Kim’s decision to completely overhaul the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport, which opened a shiny new terminal in 2015. The next year, Air Koryo started its taxi service. The Air Koryo soft drink line was launched in 2016. A gas station and car wash followed in 2017.

It’s impossible to say how profitable those initiatives have been. But the swelling variety of the goods and their ready availability in the capital and elsewhere is undeniable.

The appearance of a subsidiary company, Korea Hanggong Trading, at recent trade fairs suggests Air Koryo may be considering an export business, something of a stretch in the current political climate and sanctions aimed at cutting off the North’s ability to fund its nuclear program.

Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University and editor of the North Korean Economy Watch blog, describes the airline as a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the air force, which is using its consumer goods business to help finance reconstruction of its own infrastructure, including runway renovations and new revetments at remote highway airfields.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
(Photo by Pon Pon Tin)

Selling Air Koryo-labelled products made by military factories can help the air force boost revenues outside of its official budget allocations, Melvin said.

A new headquarters for Air Koryo has been built near the international airport, he noted.

“For many years, North Korea has tried to turn its subsidy-dependent, state-owned enterprises into profitable operations that pay ‘taxes,'” he said in an email to The Associated Press. “Maybe Air Koryo’s time has simply come.”

Air Koryo’s connection to the military is not immediately obvious and is often overlooked.

But according to a 2014 United Nations Panel of Experts’ report, the airline, all airports, and airfields in North Korea are controlled by the Korean People’s Air Force through its Civil Aviation Bureau. The report added that the airline’s personnel are believed to be members of the air force and “all in-country maintenance is conducted by air force engineering staff.”

More: The US government has a secret airline — and they’re hiring

That makes it a natural target for sanctions, another incentive for diversification.

Though Washington-backed efforts to blacklist the airline entirely have failed, the U.S. Treasury Department in 2016 slapped sanctions on Air Koryo for doing a flyover during a 2013 military parade and for transporting spare parts used in Scud-B missile systems, among other things.

The listing does not ban Americans from flying on Air Koryo but restricts them from doing other kinds of business with it.

The U.N., meanwhile, has warned that “considering the control over and use by the air force of Air Koryo’s aircraft,” member states could be in violation of its arms embargo on the North should they engage with the airline in anything from financial transactions to technical training.

Articles

Report: Flynn to recommend Trump make a big move against Russia

On Monday, Politico reported that Michael Flynn, the retired general and national security adviser to President Donald Trump, would advise the Trump administration to back Montenegro’s entrance into NATO — a move sure to infuriate Russia.


Flynn has longstanding ties to Russia — most notably, he received payment to attend a gala event for Russia Today, a Russian propaganda outlet. On that occasion, he dined with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Wall Street Journal reported in January that US counterintelligence agents investigated Flynn’s ties to Russia. Recently, a group of top Democratic lawmakers urged the Department of Defense to do the same.

Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has repeatedly questioned the NATO alliance and the US’s adversarial relationship with Russia.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn previously led the Defense Intelligence Agency. | Photo from Defense Department

Despite that, the US backs Montenegro’s bid to join NATO, and the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has backed its bid for over a year. During this time, the small Balkan nation faced increasing pressure from Russia — including a failed coup in October that may be tied back to Moscow.

A special prosecutor in Montenegro said in November that Russian nationalists tried to sway the country’s October election with a plot to kill Milo Djukanovic, the Western-leaning prime minister.

“The organizers of this criminal group were nationalists from Russia whose initial premise and conclusion was that the government in Montenegro led by Milo Djukanovic cannot be changed in election and that it should be toppled by force,” Milivoje Katnic, special prosecutor for organized crime in Montenegro, said at the time.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
NATO

Flynn’s backing of Montenegro’s entrance into NATO would seemingly fly in the face of Trump’s proposal to try to befriend Russia, as Russia sees NATO expansion as aggression against its interests.

Jorge Benitez, a senior fellow and NATO expert at the Atlantic Council, told Politico, “No NATO candidate country has ever faced such a dire attack or threat in the process of finishing its membership into the alliance.”

However, Flynn is not alone among Trump appointees in striking a more hawkish tone toward Moscow. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley also signaled a hawkish approach, saying that “the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” Russia officially denies a military presence in Eastern Ukraine, where fighting has recently reignited.

Before Montenegro can join NATO, it’s accession bid must be approved by all 28 current NATO states and two-thirds of the US Senate.

Articles

Chinese naval engineers claim they’ve developed a super quiet sub to track US ships

China is planning to install new propulsion technology on its newest classes of submarines, making them much harder for American sonar systems to detect and track.


According to a Chinese media report, Beijing is developing pump-jet propulsion for its subs. The system has been widely used on American and British submarines since it offers much more noise reduction than conventional submarine propellers.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
The Virginia-class attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) enters Apra Harbor for a scheduled port visit. The Virginia-class submarines use pump-jet propulsion systems. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Corwin Colbert/Released)

One of the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s top engineers, Rear Adm. Ma Weiming, told China Central Television that the Chinese propulsion technology “is now way ahead of the United States, which has also been developing similar technology.”

Ma is said to be held in very high regard by navy brass. At one point, a photo posted on social media showed the commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy holding an umbrella over Ma’s head, a sure sign his expertise is revered in Beijing.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
A 1993 photo of a Chinese Han-class submarine. These vessels were very noisy, and thus, easy to track. (US Navy photo)

The Chinese are reportedly slated to introduce the technology on some of their Type 095 submarines, known to NATO as the Sui-class, as well as the Type 096 class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Type 095 displaces about 7,900 tons, and is armed with a number of 21-inch torpedo tubes, and the ability to fire land-attack cruise missiles and YJ-83 anti-ship missiles.

China’s current nuclear submarine fleet includes a mix of Type 091 Han-class and Type 093 Shang-class attack submarines and Type 092 Xia-class and Type 094 Jin-class attach submarines. The Han-class submarines were particularly noted for their noisiness while operating, while the Shang-class submarines are considered to be comparable to the Soviet-era Victor III-class vessels.

Articles

The officer in charge of a major Marine wargame says failure means success

The officer who’s running a massive Marine Corps and Navy war game in April that’ll test around 50 new technologies for storming beaches actually wants things to go wrong.


Navy Capt. Chris Mercer, a top tester for the service’s future concepts and technologies office, went so far as to say during a March 23 meeting with reporters: “If we don’t fail, I haven’t done my job.”

 

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
A MV-22 Osprey. The tilt-rotor’s game-changing technology took a lot of RD to get right. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Maldonado)

Now, before you start measuring Mercer for a new white coat with a very snug fit, think about this. With the upcoming Ship To Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise 2017 in April, the Marines are looking to change how they carry out forced-entry operations. Forget what you saw in “The Pacific” – the renowned HBO series actually presents an outdated view on such operations. It’s not going to be sending hundreds of Higgins boats to storm a beach under heavy fire. Instead, the Marines, rather than storming a surveyed beach, will be looking for what Doug King of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory called a “gap in the mangroves.”

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
Amtracs severely damaged on the shores of Iwo Jima. (Robert M. Warren, United States Navy)

But how will they find that gap? The answer lies in new technology – and this is what ANTX 2017 is intended to evaluate. With over 50 dynamic demonstrations planned for the 11-day exercise and another 50 static displays, ANTX 2017’s purpose is to find out what the state of today’s technology is – and to turn “unknown unknowns” into” known unknowns” or “known knowns” — to borrow from the logic former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made popular.

“In these early stages of prototype demonstrations and experimentation, the intent is to push the envelope and take on higher risk technologies,” Mercer told We Are The Mighty. “We expect to find systems that perform well technically, but score low in the operational assessment and vice versa.”

“If everything is performing well and going exactly as planned, then we were probably not aggressive enough in our efforts to advance.”

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops

So, that’s why Mercer is hoping to see failures during ANTX 2017 — if you don’t fail, you don’t learn.

Articles

The US response to confirmation of ISIS leader’s death is priceless

A Pentagon spokesman said July 11 that he hopes reports of the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are true and advised the terror group to develop a “strong succession plan.”


In response to a query from Stars and Stripes reporter Chad Garland about the alleged death of Baghdadi, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the military effort against ISIS, said the US cannot confirm reports of his demise, but added that the Pentagon “hope[s] it is true.”

“We strongly advise ISIS to implement a strong line of succession, it will be needed,” the spokesman continued.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi.

A monitoring group called the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Newsweek on July 11 that it had confirmed Baghdadi is dead based on information received from the second in line for ISIS leadership.

“(We have) confirmed information from leaders, including one of the first rank, in the Islamic State in the eastern countryside of Deir al-Zor,” Rami Abdel Rahman, SOHR director, said. “We learned of it today but we do not know when he died or how.”

Baghdadi allegedly died near the Iraqi border.

This is why Cambodia stopped searches for missing US troops
US-led Coalition successfully executes a large scale, multinational strike on a weapons facility. (DoD photo from Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo.)

Reports of Baghdadi’s death follow about a month after the Russian Defense Ministry stated it possibly killed Baghdadi in an airstrike near Raqqa, ISIS’ capital city in Syria. At the time, the Syrian Observation for Human Rights claimed the Russians were simply fabricating information, and the Pentagon said it was unable to independently confirm those reports — just as it is still unable to confirm the new report from the SOHR.

Since 2014, Baghdadi has been reported dead numerous times. The State Department has placed a $25 million dollar bounty for any information leading to his capture.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information