On Sept. 10, 2019, US Air Force F-15 Strike Eagles and F-35 Lightning II aircraft dropped 80,000 pounds of ordnance on 37 targets on Qanus Island in Iraq’s Tigris River. Approximately 25 Islamic State (ISIS) fighters were killed in the operation, according to Sabah Al-Numaan, a spokesperson for the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS).
Al-Numaan told Insider that US aircraft hit 37 targets, “trenches and caves,” on the island ISIS fighters were using as a stopoff on the way into Iraq from Syria. The island, which has thick vegetation, was “like a hotel for Daesh,” Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab Al-Saadi, commander of the Iraqi CTS told Insider, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Lt. Gen. Al-Saadi’s team made a sweep of the island after it was partially destroyed by US strikes. He told Insider that his team found rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPGs), several rockets, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve confirmed on Sept. 10, 2019, that a weapons cache was found on the island after the air strike.
Lt. Gen. Al-Saadi said that US drones had provided surveillance data for the secret operation, and that there were no civilians on the island.
One of the reasons the island was an ideal hideout for ISIS militants on the move was the absence of Iraqi troops nearby, Lt. Gen. Al-Saadi said. According to a Pentagon Inspector General report on Operation Inherent Resolve, the US operation in Iraq, Iraqi security forces on the whole don’t have the infrastructure to consistently counter ISIS.
Part of Qanus Island was destroyed in the airstrike, Al-Numaan, the CTS spokesperson told Insider. “The important [thing is] that Daesh lose this area and they cannot use [it].”
ISIS has ramped up its presence in Iraq and Syria since the US drew down troop presence in Syria and decreased its diplomatic presence in Iraq. Although President Donald Trump proclaimed that ISIS’s caliphate was completely defeated at a July cabinet meeting, there are still an estimated 14,000 to 18,000 ISIS fighters. Combatants in Iraq and Syria continue to carry out suicide bombings, crop burnings, and assassinations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
This may come as a surprise to anyone who is not a Vermont native: Back during the Revolutionary War, Vermont was its own free country, similar to how Texas, California, and Hawaii once governed themselves before eventually joining the Union. During its fourteen-year tenure, Vermont and its militia, known as the Green Mountain Boys, served as a key ally in aiding against the British.
The Green Mountain Boys were led by one of the founders of Vermont, Ethan Allen. Allen’s legacy, as recorded in American history books, showcases his military prowess, his leadership in an independent Vermont, and an undying hatred for the man that is now synonymous with treason, Benedict Arnold — a hatred that started well before his infamous betrayal.
In spirit, the Green Mountain Boys still exist today as the Vermont National Guard
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Avery Cunningham)
Once upon a time, control of the lands between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River was fought over by New York and New Hampshire. Both sides had claims to the land, but both were highly disputed (though many sided with New Hampshire).
Allen had been traveling the northern portion of the lands when he heard of a small, pro-independence riot that ended with the British killing two colonists in Westminster. Allen and the Boys marched on Westminster to demand that the King remove the oppressors — but bigger problems were brewing.
The issue of who Vermont belonged to was put on hold when the 13 colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. In the meantime, the people of Vermont opted to rule and defend themselves. The only real military within their borders was Allen’s Green Mountain Boys.
Which means Benedict Arnold’s entire career is based off of a guy saying “Yeah, sure. Whatever.”
After the Battles of Lexington and Concord, an irregular Connecticut militia asked Allen and his boys to join them in taking Fort Ticonderoga. Allen realized joining the colonies was the right thing to do for Vermont and mustered his men to the assault himself.
On May 9th, the day before the assault, Allen first met Benedict Arnold. One of the very first things to come out of Arnold’s mouth was a demand that Allen relinquish control of his men to him. The Green Mountain Boys may not have been a standing army at the time, but they were excellent fighters and they were fiercely loyal to Allen.
They argued all throughout the night. Allen believed he should lead his men because, for the last seven years, they had trained, fought, and died together. Arnold believed he should lead because he received a commission from the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, which meant he was totally capable of leading troops into battle.
At that point, who can really say no?
The assembled men refused to acknowledge Arnold’s authority, but Allen agreed to allow Arnold to be in the front of the formation with him — a decision that meant Arnold could be seen as a leader on paper, but not be responsible for any of the heavy lifting.
The Green Mountain Boys moved on Fort Ticonderoga at 2 a.m. while the British were sleeping. They managed to sneak through the fort undetected (except for a lone sentry who was knocked out) and Allen pulled his cutlass on the Fort’s commander as he slept. Allen demanded complete surrender.
So, Fort Ticonderoga fell to the colonists without a single shot fired and only one concussion.
“Curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal!”
Shortly afterwords, Allen and Arnold went on to take Fort Crown Point and Fort St. John. It was the success of the Green Mountain Boys that gave the colonists the foothold they needed to begin the Revolutionary War.
Allen and Arnold remained at odds with each other. Benedict Arnold kept asserting his authority over Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point to the Continental Congress. Allen was willing to step down under the provision that his men would be paid the same as Continental Army soldiers, which they were. And so Benedict Arnold was given the credit for the work of the Vermonters.
Benedict Arnold would urge the Continental Congress to invade Quebec next. Both Allen and Arnold lead men into Quebec. There, Ethan Allen’s forces lost at the Battle of Longue-Pointe and were subsequently imprisoned. While Allen rotted in prison, Benedict Arnold’s name was heralded as a great military mind — that is, until he made his offer to surrender West Point for £20,000.
Don’t get me wrong, Pathfinder was a tough course, and I proudly wore the winged torch for much of my career. But the only reason I went to the school was for the badge, and if most people are honest with themselves, that’s why they went, too. After all, the course is often derisively referred to as “Badgefinder.”
I learned some useful skills in Pathfinder School, but I probably didn’t need to go to a dedicated school to learn them. The hardest part about Pathfinder was memorizing the capabilities, tables, and charts necessary to calculate things like forward throw, HLZ and DZ sizes, and cargo capacity. Those are important things to know how to do, but (like for Air Assault School), you will rely on hard copy versions of that information, not your memory, if you need to do it for real.
Additionally, most of the people who attend Pathfinder end up never being in a Pathfinder unit, much less use those skills operationally.
Pathfinder has a long and proud history, but it has outlived its utility. It’s time to furl the school’s colors, retire the badge, and put those resources to better use.
Major League Baseball is “America’s Pastime.” Regardless of what public opinion suggests, baseball is still king of American sports in the eyes of literally billions around the world.
Its reputation as America’s game is aided, no doubt, by the fact that many of the game’s greatest legends also share a legacy of service throughout various conflicts in American history.
Take a quick glance at any top-25 list and you’ll see that a lot of the game’s greatest players, at one point or another, wore a much different uniform.
Color barrier = SMASHED
(Photo via Desiring God)
Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. That alone is enough to be noteworthy in most historical canons. Add to that the fact that Jackie Robinson was also one helluva player, winning Rookie of the Year, an eventual MVP, and becoming a perennial All-Star and you’ve got yourself a formula for retired jerseys.
“The Say Hey Kid”
(Photo by MLB/Louis Requena)
“The Say Hey Kid” was an All-Star every year of his career, including the two seasons he missed while serving his country. After winning Rookie of the Year in 1951, he went on to serve during the Korean War from 1952-53.
He retired third on the all-time home run charts, though he’s fallen two spots with the rise of modern sluggers. Still, being a top-five home run king and All-Star stalwart are hallmarks of a great career.
One of the best ever.
(Photo via Sports Illustrated)
Yogi Berra served in the US Navy during the Second World War, leaving service with a Purple Heart following participation in D-Day just a year before beginning his MLB career.
Thankfully, his injury didn’t hinder his career very much. He went on to make the All-Star game 18 of his 19 years in the league.
Ted Williams was a literal hero
(Photo via National Baseball Hall of Fame)
Ted Williams, the original “The Kid,” was drafted to the Boston Red Sox at 19 years old. Instead of donning a jersey after being picked up by the team, he put on a uniform and enlisted as an aviator in the US Navy during World War II. He actually returned to service during the Korean War in 1952.
To date, he is the last player to bat over .400 for an entire season. His career showcased such amazing hitting prowess that one of his nicknames is “The Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived.”
He was a Yankee, a veteran, and once dated Marilyn Monroe
Joe DiMaggio was one of the biggest stars of his time and in all of baseball history. He was the Mike Trout of his day, which says so much about Trout’s game and his skill ceiling — but I digress. How famous was he? Well, had enough clout to find himself as part of a power couple with Marilyn Monroe. Not bad.
To top it al off, he served two years in the US Army right smack in the middle of his career.
The man was so great on the field that his trade created 80-plus-year curse and one of sports all-time most heated rivalries
Just as with Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky and their respective sports, Babe Ruth’s name has long been tied to America’s Pastime.
His trade from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees marked the beginning of an 86-year long ‘curse.’ It also sparked a still-standing fiery rivalry between the two teams.
Babe Ruth was drafted into service during World War I, and found a place in the Army National Guard.
Fastest jet in the world? That’s easy. Most people know it’s the SR-71, the reconnaissance plane so fast it could outrun missiles. But the fastest fighter jet? Well, the Soviets created a fighter jet to chase down the SR-71 Blackbird, and it was so fast that it’s still the fastest fighter jet ever built. And it’s still in service today.
The MiG-25 Foxbat looks ungainly and boxy next to fourth and fifth-generation fighters. Its younger sibling, the MiG-29, is much sleeker, and the aggressive-looking F-35, F-22, and even the Su-57 make for way better wall posters than the Foxbat.
By comparison, the Foxbat looks almost like a box truck. If you’re feeling generous, you could compare it to something like an old Chrysler LeBaron, instead.
But only if that Chrysler Lebaron could sweep down a drag strip at speeds over 60 percent faster than its rivals.
A two-seat trainer version of the MiG-25 flies over forested land.
The story of the Foxbat is a fairly simple one. When Russia first understood the SR-71, it realized that the step from a reconnaissance plane that could fly three times the speed of sound to a bomber that could do so was large but hardly insurmountable. They had to plan on U.S. bombers that could outrun ground-launched missiles.
And so they got to work on a fighter that could move on the edge of space with the SR-71 and the planned XB-70 Valkyrie. While they knew it was unlikely they could create a fighter that could fly faster than a reconnaissance plane, there was a decent chance that it could outfly the bomber since the bomber would have to carry more weight.
Lacking the materials science to create light airframes like the SR-71, it did the next best thing and just made the engines so powerful that they could muscle through, carrying the nickel-steel alloy frame to record heights and speed. And the engineers at the Mikoyan and Gurevich Design Bureau (MiG is a shortening of that name), were some of the world’s best engine designers.
They came up with a twin-turbojet design that could propel the MiG-25 to Mach 2.8 in operational conditions and 3.2 if the pilots were willing to risk the engines. The plane quickly set world records for speed, time to climb, and top altitudes for a fighter.
And that scared the U.S. and the rest of NATO. Not only was the Foxbat ridiculously fast and powerful, but its design suggested that it was super maneuverable, a design characteristic that the West was moving toward.
But two events would completely change the calculus for the Foxbat. One made it a plane without a mission, and the other took away much of the fear for pilots who might be called to face it.
First, a catastrophic crash killed two pilots and destroyed the 0-million XB-70 Valkyrie test aircraft in a program that was already suffering cost problems. The program was canceled. Suddenly, there was little prospect of a Mach 3 bomber for the Foxbat to chase, meaning the most critical mission for Soviet planners was preventing American air superiority.
When they disassembled, studied, re-assembled, and tested the plane, American engineers realized that it would almost always have a speed and altitude advantage against NATO planes, but it couldn’t capitalize on it. The Foxbat didn’t have a look-down, shoot-down radar system.
Without getting too into the technical weeds, the science of getting a radar that can see ahead of a fighter and beneath it without getting confused by ground clutter is actually sort of tough, and the Soviets hadn’t nailed it yet. So Foxbat pilots would be forced to descend to engage other fighters.
And once it was on a relatively even altitude with its adversaries, it would be relatively easy pickings. While it was undeniably fast, it was not actually super maneuverable. It was unlikely that a Foxbat could dodge missiles or win a dogfight. With a few changes to doctrine, planes like the F-4 Phantom could keep the Foxbat on the run or down it entirely.
Still, the Foxbat has continued in service in Post-Soviet Russia, and it’s still the fastest and highest-flying fighter jet in the world, carrying its full combat load so high that the pilot’s tears will boil off their faces. It just doesn’t matter because there’s nothing up there for the Foxbat to fight.
There is another Murph the military comes to know through the years, and he does not come with an Instagram worthy WOD. We’re talking Murphy’s law, the one that wreaks havoc on your government issued bank account.
Years of service and plenty of direct hits to the checking account later, a few of us have learned how to add a bit of financial padding to military life.
Here are 4 tips for disaster proofing your finances:
Quit going through cars like you go through (fill in the blank)
Car buying is a longstanding way to get screwed over as military personnel. Unlike the rest of the world, buying a vehicle for military life requires a whole new set of things to consider. Take this list into consideration before you go through cars like you go through…other things. Your savings account will thank you.
Always go for AWD or 4WD.
It needs to drive well in Alaska, Arizona or the Alps. If it can’t, you’ll be forced to buy again at almost every post.
Be prepared to ditch the second vehicle.
Shipping a second vehicle for OCONUS assignments means an average ,000 out of pocket each way. Is it worth it? Probably not.
Get to know the Military Lending Act
Every used car salesman will claim to be a retired First Sergeant, and every one of them cannot wait to strap you into an interest rate higher than your IQ score.
This is why we can’t have nice things
Government contracted movers are exactly why we can’t have nice things. Before you buy, ask yourself: Will this survive being thrown off a moving truck? If the answer is no, buy something cheaper. In military life, you need to know the household goods to save or splurge on.
Tough boxes (splurge)
Investing in tough boxes is a smart way to keep things both organized and safer from moving-related damages. Use them to house everything from tools to your heirloom china dishes.
Everyday furniture (save)
Screws will get stripped, scuff marks will happen, and eventually, you will replace a fair bit of the goods you acquired. Save your investment pieces for things like mattresses or multifunctional pieces that can be utilized as a dresser or TV cabinet in the likely chance something won’t fit or something else won’t make it.
Quit buying houses like they are forever homes
Bold enough to buy a home while in the military? Spoiler alert, it’s nothing like buying on HGTV. Whatever you buy better have universal appeal because two years from now it will be someone else’s American dream.
The savvy military landlord knows to buy with these tips in mind:
Choose something with rental potential.
Your mortgage should be significantly lower than BAH and the potential rental income (think 0-0 cheaper).
Choose something that will be easy to sell.
Slap the twinkle right out of your eye when looking for homes to buy while serving. Your oddball taste or preference to live in a secluded cabin ten miles into the wilderness will quickly go from dream to nightmare once you’re paying two mortgages after your one of a kind place didn’t sell.
I’ve got the power…of attorney
Who knew a little document could do so much damage? Carefully and thoughtfully designating not just anyone as your power of attorney is a decision not to take lightly. Here’s some basic left and right limits for your money.
Do- Put your money in more than one bank.
Don’t- Give power of attorney to the stripper who is “a really good listener.”
Do- Name an alternate or limit power if you aren’t on good terms.
Don’t- Give it away to your brand new girlfriend or boyfriend as a trust exercise.
Members of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), made up of an alliance of Arab and Kurdish fighters, inspect the Tabqa dam on March 27, 2017, which has been recently partially recaptured, as part of their battle for the jihadists’ stronghold in nearby Raqa.
Clashes raged around a key northern Syrian town on Tuesday after the Islamic State group launched a counter-attack to fend off a U.S.-backed advance near the jihadists’ stronghold Raqa.
Backed by air power from an international coalition bombing, the Syrian Democratic Forces are laying the groundwork for an assault on the heart of the jihadists’ so-called “caliphate.”
A key part of the campaign is the battle for the ISIS-held town of Tabqa on the Euphrates River, as well as the adjacent dam and military airport.
The SDF seized the Tabqa airbase late Sunday and began pushing north towards the town itself, but ISIS fighters doubled down on their defenses on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
“The fighting is a result of ISIS launching a counter-offensive to exhaust the Syrian Democratic Forces around the Tabqa military airport,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said the SDF was working to “consolidate its positions” near the airport ahead of a final push for the town.
SDF fighters are also bearing down on the Tabqa dam after capturing its northern entrance on Friday from ISIS fighters.
The fight around the structure has been backed by forces from the US-led coalition, with American-made armoured vehicles bearing the markings of the U.S. Marine Corps seen moving along a nearby road.
An AFP correspondent at the dam on Tuesday said it was generally quiet around the dam itself, despite the occasional ISIS-fired mortar that landed in SDF-controlled parts of the riverbank.
Airplanes could be heard humming above as SDF forces patrolled the northern entrance of the structure.
On Tuesday, coalition forces could be seen standing near military vehicles less than one mile from the dam, their mortar rounds casually stacked nearby.
After a brief pause in fighting on Monday to allow technicians to enter the dam complex, SDF fighters resumed their operations around the structure, said spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh Ahmed.
“ISIS amassed its fighters and attacked our forces in the area, which forced us to respond and resume the operations to liberate the dam,” she said.
Earlier this year, the United Nations raised concern about the prospect of damage to the dam in fighting, warning that water levels — which put pressure on the structure — were already high.
ISIS has also issued warnings through its propaganda agency Amaq that the dam “is threatened with collapse at any moment because of American strikes and a large rise in water levels”.
On Tuesday, technicians accompanied by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent could be seen examining the dam to assess whether water levels had risen in recent days.
“The explosions and the clashes are threatening the dam, and we ask for all sides to distance themselves from it,” said Ismail Jassem, an engineer from the SDF-controlled Tishreen Dam in neighbouring Aleppo province.
“The water levels are acceptable now. We came to open up one of the gates to relieve the pressure,” he told AFP.
The SDF launched its offensive for Raqa city in November 2016, seizing around two thirds of the surrounding province, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
At their closest point, the forces are just five miles from Raqa city, to the northeast.
But they are mostly further away, between ten to fifteen miles from Raqa.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of source on the ground in Syria, said ISIS had deployed around 900 fighters from Raqa city to various fronts in the wider province.
“Fighting is raging on every front around the city of Raqa, accompanied by non-stop air strikes,” Abdel Rahman said.
Syria’s conflict began with protests against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011 but has turned into a brutal war pitting government forces, jihadists, rebels, and Kurds against each other.
UN-mediated talks between government and rebel representatives continued Tuesday in Geneva, aimed at bringing an end to the war that has killed 320,000 people.
In 2010 scientists studied the effects of MDMA assisted psychotherapy on 19 veterans and/or first responders with treatment-resistant PTSD. Some of these guys had been experiencing PTSD for more than 19 years. Greater than 57% of the participants no longer met the diagnosis for PTSD after the study concluded. Remember, these people were previously resistant to all PTSD treatment.
The long term follow up had some other findings worth noting:
Only 2 of the participants that finished the study had a relapse that resulted in unimproved symptoms of PTSD.
16 of 19 were attending therapy before enrollment in the study. Only eight were still in therapy during the 2-month long-term follow up.
Everyone wanted to do more sessions afterward and thought that they would be beneficial.
13 of the 19 participants reported improved cognitive function. There are no negative cognitive side effects to MDMA with respect to this study.
No participants suffered from substance abuse after the initial treatment.
Healing Trauma in Veterans with MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy
Expert discusses MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD
What is even more telling to me than the numbers are some of the direct quotes from the participants.
“The therapy made it possible for me to live”
“The MDMA provided a dialogue with myself I am not often able to have, and there is the long-term effect of an increased sense of well-being.”
“I was always too frightened to look below the sadness. The MDMA and the support allowed me to pull off the controls, and I … knew how and what and how fast or slow I needed to see my pain”
The picture painted by these quotes is a complex one. The therapy was life changing for many of the participants, but it wasn’t easy, as is obvious from this statement by one of the participants.
“…one of the toughest things I have ever done…” That’s from someone who went to war. The therapy was on par with combat for this individual.
Anyone who has taken a hard look at their “shit” whether it be from war, an abusive childhood, or just having to live with being human, knows that it can be the hardest thing you ever try to do. Burying it deep down and ignoring it is the easy route.
Okay, so that’s PTSD and veterans, obviously a topic close to my heart and the rest of the We Are The Mighty family, but there is a whole host of other conditions that are being studied/treated with psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in magic mushrooms.
The most interesting aspect of these studies, in general, is that the drugs aren’t curing anything. The psychedelics aren’t doing the work; the patients are. The psychedelics are simply helping people get out of their own way so that they can help themselves, especially in mental conditions.
The cancer treatments are a little different. Cancer isn’t being cured. The studies are looking at whether these drugs can help people with cancer-associated depression and anxiety. Also, it seems to be helping people become okay with dying.
From personal experience, I can attest that these compounds can show you exactly what it means/feels like to die. Depending on your experience and the way you set up the experience, the fear of death could be completely erased.
Without going total hippie on your ass, I’d like to leave you with this one idea.
The boom in psychedelic research is great news for humanity. When done correctly with pure substances, there seem to be no side effects whatsoever from these compounds. No side effects is basically unheard of when it comes to current PTSD medications.
The main reason is that these drugs aren’t doing much more than helping us let our guard down. The world is filled with a whole lot of really messed up shit that conditions us to protect ourselves. Veterans are one of the most stark examples of what happens when you experience something truly terrible.
You close off. You bury deep. You try to fight the memories. You try to change the past in your mind. You take responsibility for something you had no control over in the first place.
The research on psychedelics is showing us that what actually needs to happen is the opposite of all those things. We need to forgive ourselves, let go, and become okay with moving on. Facing your own death and coming to terms with it helps in dealing with the deaths of others as well.
Sometimes we just need some help to do those things. A properly set up psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy session may just provide the help needed. The opportunity to face your demons may be accessible and legal in a city near you within the next few years.
Share and promote this research if you’re on board with helping veterans. The reason this research is being conducted is because of people that care. The system isn’t set up to promote this research. We have to speak up to get our brothers and sisters treatments that could change their lives. Visit MAPS for information on how to help and donate to this cause. Share this article if there’s someone you know who could benefit from this type of treatment. Comment on Facebook and keep this conversation going. Send me an email at email@example.com if you have had an experience or know someone who has had an experience with these substances that you think would help shed some light on this conversation. We need to be the keepers of our health and the health of our brothers and sisters.
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Their last book, Ghost Fleet, had parts that rang truer than others, but I really enjoyed it. Ghost Fleet’s portrayal of US Marines liberating a US state from foreign occupation added up. As a former grunt, I could absolutely see a senior leader eating an Osprey ramp under full combat load on insert, breaking his nose and getting stuck fighting that way for days.
On the other hand, the war widow turned murder-hooker or the grizzled Navy Chief’s love story seemed harder to buy (everybody knows Chiefs don’t have hearts). Basically, you read Ghost Fleet for the rail guns not the feels. So you can imagine my surprise when I picked up Burn-In and found the storyline of the Marine war-bot wrangler turned FBI agent’s disaster of a homelife just as compelling as the high stakes domestic terrorist hunt she was leading. It might be the pandemic talking, but the upside-down outside world following the characters home and wreaking havoc on their relationships will be equal parts release and escape for anybody who’s spent a little too much time at home over the past several months.
Big tech offers a utopian view of our connected future but Burn-In plays trends forward and explores the dystopian outcomes lurking around the corner. Ever feel a pang of guilt when you hand over your biometric data without reading the terms and conditions or connect your new toaster to the cloud? Burn-In will make you painfully aware of what all that data can do in the wrong hands.
The book is extensively researched and footnoted so the reader can link the real world to the future storyline. Did I mention there’s a ninja robot, plagues visited on DC, and elite hostage rescue FBI agents fighting in exoskeletons?
Burn-In hits the e-shelves today and We Are The Mighty recently caught up with Peter Singer to talk about the coming technological revolution, the future of terrorism, and tactical robots.
WATM: The characters in Burn-In are living through a technological revolution not that dissimilar from the pandemic-induced disruption we’re all living through. The economic upheaval follows the characters home, straining their relationships, upending their careers and even changing their identities. How did you paint this picture so accurately?
Singer: A lot of the trends that the book explores in this future that’s a mix of fiction and nonfiction are at play in the pandemic—from the move toward AI and automation, to the challenges of greater amounts of distrust in our politics and our society, to critical infrastructure and public services that are more brittle than we ever wanted to admit—and coronavirus has drastically accelerated them. Much of the population has been rapidly thrown into distance learning, remote work or unemployment.
Telemedicine is now used at a level that no one anticipated would happen for at least a decade. Robots are policing curfews and cleaning subways and hospitals. AI and data tracking implementations are rolling out that go beyond even the most wild science fiction. It’s guaranteed that we’re not going to go back to the way it was before, so all of the tough social, political, legal, moral, security issues that our character wrestles with in this future are going to come faster for us in the real world.
WATM: The term sabotage was coined when workers fought back against technology in the Industrial Revolution. What will be the first flashpoints between workers and robots?
Singer: Science fiction is starting to come true but the reality is very different from the familiar story lines. The word ‘robot’ was coined a hundred years ago and there’s an early 1920s sci-fi play that’s informed our fears of robot overlords since. In the play mechanical servants wised up and rose up—it’s always been a story of robot rebellion. Instead, what’s happening is that we’re going through an Industrial Revolution. Revolutions have a good and a bad side. The Industrial Revolution gave us mass consumer goods and modern concepts of rights but it also gave birth to climate change and new political ideologies like fascism and communism that we spend the next 100 years working our way through.
We’re entering a technological revolution with three key trends. The first is job replacement and displacement and it won’t be just a matter of changing the tool in someone’s hand in an early factory. This is a tool that takes on the job of the people, whether they’re lawyers or soldiers. A McKinsey study argues that AI and automation will replace over 40% of current occupations in the next 20 years.
Second are the new ethical, legal, moral questions that always accompany new technology but go further this time because they’re now about machine permissibility and machine accountability. What do you allow the machine to do on its own and who’s in control? These questions impact everything from combat to your kids getting to soccer practice and there are already real world examples such as the fatal Tesla wreck. Who was responsible? The human driver that wasn’t driving? The municipality that allowed it to be deployed before there were good laws? The software programmer?
The third set of issues involve new kinds of security vulnerabilities. We’ve mostly thought about cyber security as information theft: stealing a jet fighter design or stealing credit card information. Instead as we move into this new world cyber means will be used to cause kinetic damage like any other kind of weapon. There will be new kinds of attacks and crimes such as a murder conducted via a smartphone hack or the ability to hold all of Washingtion DC hostage through critical infrastructure control (DC has flooded before). A country that’s divided politically, socially, economically is less able to weather that kind of change.
The Industrial Revolution was rife with outbreaks of extremism and worker protests that morphed into what we’d now call insurgency and terrorism. In 1814 more British soldiers were fighting Luddites at home than were deployed in the War of 1812. Luddites were craftsmen who were put out of work by the early factories and in turn, they assassinated factory owners and orchestrated street violence to try and check technological progress. What does it look like when a modern Luddite doesn’t have a hammer and a musket but a drone, an AR-15 and malware?
WATM: The book takes place decades from now but the social media landscape is recognizable. Users provide their data freely and live in a completely connected world. Events trend in real time and the characters have to navigate the consequences of the culture of influence during a terror attack. Is social media as we’ve come to know it inevitable?
Singer: There’s a lot of action in the book but the scariest scene to me is when Lara Keegan, the protagonist, takes her little girl to the Starbucks of the future and the staff greets them by name. Lara has an internal dialogue asking herself if they know her by name because she’s been coming there for years or because of face recognition technology and a record of her visits in the past. Is there a human connection or not? We’re always going to be trading back and forth between privacy, security and convenience and that balancing act is something that will touch every aspect of our lives: how we interact with government and businesses, who we are politically, and what happens at home.
Who is going to own the information and who is going to be able to access it? The individual, the private sector, or the government? We talk about this with Twitter and FaceBook now but there will soon be other dimensions including the camera on the street and the delivery robot. An observer will not only be able to know what you’re doing right now, but could access all of your life’s history, and shape the decisions you make in the future. You will not always be conscious of this shaping. What can we do? We have to understand the ecosystem—if you’re ignorant of it you’re just a target.
The next step is implementing things that support the better and limit the bad. How do we protect privacy and limit malicious influence? Deepfakes are in the book and they’re also being used to misinform during the pandemic. The Belgian premier was just targeted with a deepfake. The book explores virtual watermarks and that type of verification is possibly the policy path out of deepfakes and malicious disinformation.
If you’re stuck at home, it might as well be with a great book. Pick up Burn-In and you’ll find that your quarantine just got a whole lot more interesting.
When Elvis Presley turned 18 years old in 1953, he registered for the draft – just like every other young American male during that time. The rules governing the draft stated that all young men that were in good health were required to serve in the United States military for a minimum of two years. When he signed his name on that line, promising to serve, he had no idea of the superstar fame that would soon be coming his way.
After signing up for the draft, he graduated high school and soon began his entertainment career. Three years later in 1956, he was a film and recording star. Presley was in the middle of filming King Creole when he received his draft notice. He requested a delay so he could finish filming, which he was granted.
On March 24, 1958, with his family and friends by his side, The King reported to the Memphis draft board. Once he was sworn in and processed with others into the Army, he boarded a bus to Arkansas.
He would go on to coin the phrase “hair today, gone tomorrow” after he received his G.I. haircut.
Once Presley finished his basic training, he was on leave and managed to do a concert and recording session in Nashville. He then headed back to Ft. Hood, Texas, to complete his advanced training. His mother became ill during this time and passed away and Presley was granted leave to be with her.
When he returned to Ft. Hood, he was assigned to the Third Armored Spearhead Division. He soon boarded the U.S.S. Randall and sailed for Germany. Upon arrival, he served in Company C, which was a scout platoon. He was declared off limits to the press.
Presley would be right there in the thick of things alongside his unit. He completed all required duties. Some research suggested that he did more than what was required of him because he didn’t want people to assume he got special treatment. He would go on to earn a medal for expert marksmanship and rise to the responsibility of an NCO, all without seeking celebrity treatment.
He was honorably discharged from active duty in 1960.
The President of the United States has a few jobs, and one of the most important is his role as Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces. Another part of the job is knowing when to delegate authority to someone who is just as much, if not more qualified than the President in a certain area.
For President John Adams, looking down the barrel of a possible French invasion, that meant asking the previous President to be Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces again.
Every time you think you’re out, they pull you back in.
It was John Adams who suggested to the Continental Congress in 1775 that George Washington be named Commander-In-Chief to lead the new Continental Army. In 1798, Adams was doing it again. The first challenge of the Adams Presidency was not just being the second president after a war hero like Washington; it was a looming war with revolutionary France.
The United States refused to pay its Revolutionary War debt to France after the French Revolution toppled the Bourbon monarchy that had helped the Americans separate from England. What’s more, is the U.S. further angered the French by actively seeking the British as a trading partner. France began to authorize its privateers to attack American merchants, and the United States retaliated in kind. Battles raged at sea, and the only reason it was called the “Quasi-War” is that it was undeclared.
Like our Quasi-War in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Joseph Chenelly)
While the U.S. Navy, though young, was holding its own at sea, led by legendary sailors like William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur, the land forces of the United States were still found to be wanting. At this time, the defense of the U.S. relied heavily on state militias, raised locally, and sent into federal service by the state’s governor. And until this point, the President who was expected to be Commander-In-Chief of these forces was a battle-hardened veteran of at least two wars. President Washington even led a 13,000-strong U.S. Army to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.
John Adams was a smart guy and realized he just didn’t have the chops for something like that, especially if the French invaded. Luckily, Adams and Washington were on the same page in two very important ways.
John Adams knew when to delegate.
The first point was that the U.S. should remain neutral in the war between England and France. The second point was that John Adams didn’t have the skills required to lead a young country – and likely its actual army – in a war. So he appealed to George Washington’s military prowess once again and was able to name him Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces, despite the fact that Washington was no longer president.
If the United States was ever in danger of actually being invaded from French forces isn’t known. They were certainly near the young United States, but with a government in such a state of upheaval as Revolutionary France’s was and the number of troops and ships the French could have brought to bear, it was probably wise for Adams not to take any chances. If the French had any notion of invading the U.S., they probably thought better of it once the man who’d beaten the mighty British Empire took command.
Everyone wants to throat-punch ISIS, right? Right!
But what is ISIS…really? And who attacked the World Trade Center? And what’s the deal with Syria?
Keeping track of terrorist groups can be confusing, so here’s the quick and dirty on three hard-hitting groups the U.S. is currently fighting:
1. Al Qaeda
Al Qaeda is a Sunni Islamic militant organization founded by Osama bin Laden circa 1988 and is responsible for the attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Originally organized to fight the Soviet Union during the Afghan War, al Qaeda continues to resist entities considered corrupt to its leaders, including differing Islamic interpretations and foreign (read: U.S.) occupation of their lands.
Al Qaeda operates under the belief that it is their duty to kill non-believers, including civilians.
After 9/11, a U.S.-led coalition launched an attack in Afghanistan to target al Qaeda, which had been operating under the protection of the Taliban government in the country. Operation Enduring Freedom successfully toppled the Taliban and dispersed al Qaeda throughout the region, but U.S. forces remain unable to fully eradicate the group.
From 1979-1989, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan. Afghan fighters known as the mujahedeen resisted, finally forcing the Soviet Union to withdraw from the country. In the aftermath, there was a power vacuum, with fighting among the mujahedeen until the Taliban was established in 1994.
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan and imposed strict Islamic laws on the Afghan people. A Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement, the Taliban harbored al Qaeda operations, including bin Laden’s stronghold, which led to the U.S. invasion Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.
Today, largely funded by opium production, the Taliban fights to regain control of Afghanistan, engaging with military forces in-country and claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks in the region.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or just the Islamic State, is a Salafi jihadist Sunni Islamic militant group established in 1999 with the intention of establishing their God’s rule on earth and destroying those who threaten it.
They are known for being exceptionally brutal, utilizing publicity and the social media to broadcast mass executions, beheadings, and crucifixions.
They once pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, but separated from it in 2014 and concentrated their attention on Syria and Iraq.
In January 2014, ISIS captured the city of Raqqa, Syria. For the next six months, the group overtook major Iraqi cities like Mosul and Tikrit before self-declaring a caliphate, an Islamic State with authority over the global Muslim population.
In August 2014, President Barack Obama approved airstrikes against ISIS.