The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US

There’s one thing everyone can agree with President Donald Trump on about the street gang MS-13: The group specializes in spectacular violence. Its members attack in groups, in the woods, at night, luring teens to their deaths with the promise of girls or weed. One Long Island boy told me he doesn’t go to parties anymore because he worries any invitation could be a trap. A victim’s father showed me a death certificate that said his son’s head had been bashed in, then lowered his voice and added that the boy’s bones had been marked by machete slashes, but he didn’t want the mother to know that. A teenager who has left the gang told me he considers himself dead already, and is just trying to make sure MS-13 doesn’t kill his family.

I’m spending the year reporting on MS-13 members and their associates. I’ve been combing through their text messages. I’m talking with the detectives building cases against killers not yet old enough to buy cigarettes. And I’ve been spending long evenings with the gang’s victims, who often start crying as soon as they start talking about the violence that has marred their lives. Everyone agrees the gang is bloodthirsty. Most of the other assertions I’ve heard from the Trump administration about MS-13 have almost no connection to what I’m seeing on the ground.


1. MS-13 Is Not Organizing to Foil Immigration Law

Trump often talks about how MS-13 has carried out a string of murders in the suburbs outside New York City. One of the first things I did when I started reporting was talk to the ex-girlfriend of the gang leader charged with ordering six of those killings in 2016 and 2017. The girl sat at a Panera Bread in a Long Island strip mall and told how he had kidnapped and raped her shortly after her 15th birthday, threatened her family, and forced her to get a tattoo of his name on her arm. As I talked to her, I imagined a man like the ones I had seen in news reports on MS-13 — chins jutted out, arms strong from lifting weights, and gothic tattoos of the letters M and S on their faces and chests. I was shocked when I eventually saw this gang leader in court; he was a baby-faced 19-year-old who blushed when girls waved to him from the gallery. The indictment against him laid out killings that were ordered in response to adolescent trash talking.

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US
A member of MS13 gang.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called MS-13 the most brutal of the gangs driving the drug trade, and promised to go after the group like the government went after mob boss Al Capone. Really, experts have found the gang has barely any role in the international drug trade. The Congressional Research Service said that it could be misleading to call MS-13 a transnational criminal organization at all, because it has no central leader or global ambitions. The gang is made up of sometimes competing cliques, often led by teenagers most interested in wielding power over other young people in their immediate circles.

On Long Island, a detective told me police officers call MS-13 members “mighty munchkins,” because they have often not yet hit their growth spurts and tend to commit their crimes in large groups. They meet at night because, while other criminal organizations have massive international revenue streams, these guys — even the leaders — have to work menial jobs and sometimes go to school during the day. Each clique has its own shot caller, and its own hyperlocal focus. On Long Island, the gang’s focus has often been on controlling the halls of a single high school.

2. MS-13 Is Not Posing as Fake Families at the Border

In justifying the policy of child separation, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said, “The kids are being used as pawns by the smugglers and the traffickers. Those are traffickers, those are smugglers and that is MS-13.” The theory is that Central American gang leaders are showing up at the border falsely claiming to be the parents of children, and are also instructing unaccompanied minors to go to the U.S. and claim territory.

Actually, there have been fewer than 200 cases of false family claims this year — a fraction of 1 percent of the total number of families apprehended at the border — and there is no indication that any of those cases involved MS-13. Of the hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minors that have come to the U.S. since 2012, Border Patrol says only 56 were suspected of MS-13 ties.

The gang is trying to find new members, but there’s no need to step on the toes of the Mexican gangs that control human smuggling to do it. Long Island teenagers tell me that when they show up to school, gang members sit down next to them at lunch and ask them to join. Many— worn down by loneliness, boredom and the threat of violence if they try to refuse — accept the invitation.

People who study MS-13 agree that when young gang members travel from El Salvador to the U.S., they are driven by the same economic factors driving other Central American immigrants. Even the 19-year-old gang leader charged with six murders on Long Island told his ex-girlfriend he was not a member of the gang when he came to the U.S. from El Salvador. He said it was only later, in the New York suburbs, that he was recruited.

And some MS-13 members are born right here. The Suffolk County Police Department examined a sample of active MS-13 members and found that just a quarter had come to the U.S. as unaccompanied minors. The natural conclusion: This is not a border issue. It’s a recruitment issue.

3. MS-13 Is Sticking Around, but It’s Not Growing

Trump talks about the gang as if it is suddenly taking over. “The weak illegal immigration policies of the Obama Admin. allowed bad MS 13 gangs to form in cities across U.S.,” he wrote in a tweet.

MS-13 has been stubbornly persistent, but it remains a boutique criminal organization, accounting for a tiny portion of 1.4 million gang members nationwide. Trump’s Justice Department says there are about 10,000 MS-13 members in the U.S., the same number as 10 years ago. There’s also nothing new about MS-13 alarmism. Back in 2005, Newsweek ran a cover story about the group, citing its 10,000 members, under the headline, “The most dangerous gang in America.”

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US
An MS gang sign and tattoos.

On Long Island, the murder people cite most often when talking about MS-13’s brutality is the killing of a two-year-old and his mother back in 2010. But the gang’s history goes back much further than that; the FBI set up a Long Island task force to crack down on the gang in 2003. And MS-13 never invaded the U.S at all. It was founded in Los Angeles in the 1980s, and then mixed with California prison gang culture and was exported to El Salvador.

The group remains significantly smaller than the Crips, the Bloods and the Latin Kings; it’s also smaller than several gangs you’ve probably never heard of, like the Gangster Disciples in Chicago. Even the Center for Immigration Studies, which has been labeled an extremist group for its anti-immigrant ideology, can’t come up with more than an average of 35 murders per year attributed to MS-13 — far fewerthan that Chicago gang you didn’t know existed.

MS-13 is not the largest, the most violent, or the fastest-growing gang, but it is the U.S. gang most strongly tied to Central America, which is where the majority of asylum-seeking teenagers come from. In that way, it’s the perfect focal point for Trump’s message of closed borders.

4. MS-13 Is Preying on a Specific Community, Not the Country at Large

When confronted in June 2018 with audio obtained by ProPublica of wailing children separated from their parents, White House Communications Adviser Mercedes Schlapp said, “What’s very heartbreaking is to watch Americans who have lost their children because of the MS-13 gang members.” But the vast majority of MS-13 victims are young immigrants, many of them undocumented.

I often think about this when I’m out reporting. In 2018 I have reached out to current gang members and added them as friends on Facebook. I’ve visited the homes of people on the local clique’s kill list, and heard their police-issued panic buttons hum under tables and behind doors. I’ve explored the wooded areas Long Island police call “the killing fields,” where bodies have been found. I feel safe doing this because MS-13 rarely goes after true outsiders — people who are not friends with any gang members or targets for recruitment. The closest I’ve found in Long Island to a totally random victim was a worker at a Central American deli who was hurt when a bullet passed through the head of a targeted victim.

The White House put out a statement in May 2018 that described recent murders carried out by “MS-13 animals.” Lost in the controversy over whether it was OK to call gang members animals was the fact that of the six identified victims, five were immigrants and the other was a child of immigrants.

5. Immigration Raids and Deportation Can Only Go So Far

Secretary Nielsen said in June 2018 that the presence of MS-13 in the U.S. is “the exclusive product of loopholes in our federal immigration laws.” The loopholes she is talking about are actually specific protections contained in United Nations conventions on refugees and torture, which the U.S. ratified. The U.S. is obligated to allow Central American immigrants to stay in the country while their asylum claims are processed, which can take years. If the person pleading asylum is a minor, they are supposed to be released to relatives.

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US
Mara Salvatrucha Graffiti

But if U.S. officials determine that a teenager is a gang member, they stay in custody. And immigration officials can also re-detain teenagers who are recruited into MS-13 once they get here. Dozens of Long Island teenagers were re-detained in 2017 on suspicion of gang ties. The problem is that it can be hard to tell who is in the gang and who is just adopting gang style. MS-13 has its own music and aesthetic, bound up in Central American pride. On Long Island, some immigrant teens use MS-13 markers as a fashion statement, the way American kids might once have worn the blue bandanas associated with the Crips because they liked Snoop Dogg.

I sat in on one hearing for a Long Island 17-year-old who had been detained for half a year after he wrote the El Salvador telephone code, “503,” in a notebook at school. He had spent some of that time in a detention center now under investigation for child abuse. At the hearing, an immigration judge ordered the teen released and openly mocked the gang charges. “I note that ‘503’ is an area code,” the judge said. “He may have had his grandmother’s phone number written in his notebook. We don’t know. But I think this is slim, slim evidence on which to base the continuing detention of an unaccompanied child.”

That’s not to say that all of the immigrant teenagers accused of gang affiliation are innocent. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested some 8,000 suspected MS-13 members in the past decade. If deportation was all it took, the gang would be gone by now.

So What?

This all matters because the gang really is terrorizing a portion of the population: young Latino immigrants in a few specific communities.

In May 2018, I accompanied the mother of a high school freshman killed by MS-13 to a Trump event on Long Island. Inside a government building, the president railed against the gang. “They killed a cop for the sake of making a statement. They wanted to make a statement, so they killed a cop,” he said. (They did not kill a cop.)

Outside, the mother drifted between a pro-Trump rally and a counter protest. She took tranquilizer pills so she could face local reporters, and then told them she was unsure if Trump really cared about victims like her. She said she hoped the president’s fixation on MS-13 might spur changes that will keep other kids from being attacked and recruited by the gang.

But for any policy to work, it needs to be rooted in reality.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Doomsday Clock is closer to midnight than ever before

A group of eminent scientists behind the “Doomsday Clock” symbolically moved its time forward another 30 seconds on Jan. 25, marking an alarming one-minute advancement since 2016.


“As of today, it is two minutes to midnight,” Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which sets the clock’s time, said during a press briefing.

The clock is a symbol created at the dawn of the Cold War in 1945, and its time is set by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group founded by researchers who helped build the first nuclear weapons during the Manhattan Project.

The Bulletin began publicly adjusting the clock in 1947 to reflect the state of dire threats to the world, primarily to address the tense state of U.S.-Soviet relations and the risk for global nuclear war.

But since the closing of the Cold War in 1991, the clock has come to represent other major threats, such as climate change, artificial intelligence, and cyberwarfare.

“This year, the nuclear issue took center-stage yet again,” Bronson said. “To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger, and its immediacy.”

Why the Doomsday Clock’s time was moved forward

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US
In January 2018, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds, to two minutes to midnight. (Image from Bulletin of Atomic Scientists)

For the 2018 time shift, members of the Doomsday Clock panel squarely took aim at the rhetoric and actions of President Donald Trump, who has said he is pushing for a nuclear arms race.

Bronson and the panel specifically cited a leaked draft of the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, which lays out U.S. strategy surrounding its nuclear arsenal and suggests that the president intends to act on his word.

“The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review appears likely to increase the types and roles of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense plans and lower the threshold to nuclear use,” the panel said in an 18-page statement emailed to Business Insider.

The panel also noted the worrisome state of nuclear programs and security risks in Pakistan, India, Russia, and North Korea in its decision to move the clock forward, as well as Trump’s lack of support for a deal to monitor Iran’s nuclear program. The tense situation in the South China Sea, over aggressive Chinese claims to territory, also played a role in the group’s decision, according to the statement.

Also Read: Trump’s leaked nuclear report suggests Russia has a doomsday device

The Doomsday Clock experts are also gravely concerned about the state of the warming planet, the resulting climate change, and a fractured global effort to confront and mitigate its worst threats by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The group said in its statement that it is “deeply concerned about the loss of public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in facts themselves — a loss that the abuse of information technology has fostered.”

The time of two minutes “is as close as it has ever been to midnight in the 71-year history of the clock,” Lawrence Krauss, a physicist at Arizona State University and a Bulletin chair member, said during the briefing.

The last time the Doomsday Clock was set at two minutes to midnight followed U.S. and Soviet test detonations of thermonuclear (or hydrogen) bombs in 1953.

Here’s how scientists have shifted the clock’s time from its creation through 2017:

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US
A timeline of the Doomsday Clock’s setting from 1947 through 2017. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The 2018 shift is the sixth instance the time has been moved to three minutes or less until midnight — the others were in 1949, 1953, 1984, 2015, and 2017.

How to turn back the clock

The Doomsday Clock and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists are not without their critics, however.

Writer Will Boisvert argued in a piece published in 2015 by The Breakthrough Institute that the symbology may be counterproductive to actually solving the problems the Bulletin hopes to spur action on:

Apocalypticism can systematically distort our understanding of risk, mesmerizing us with sensational scenarios that distract us from mundane risks that are objectively larger. Worse, it can block rather than galvanize efforts to solve global problems. By treating risks as infinite, doom-saying makes it harder to take their measure — to prioritize them, balance them against benefits, or countenance smaller ones to mitigate larger ones. The result can be paralysis.

Yet members of the Bulletin, who announced their Doomsday Clock decision at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, noted their full statement comes with multiple recommendations for turning back their clock, including:

  • Trump should, “refrain from provocative rhetoric regarding North Korea.”
  • The U.S. should open multiple lines of communication with North Korea.
  • A global effort to push North Korea to stop testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
  • The Trump administration should support the deal to oversee and inspect Iran’s nuclear facilities.
  • The U.S. and Russia should enact peacetime measures to avoid border conflicts in Europe.
  • Peaceful U.S.-Russian negotiations on nuclear weapons should resume.
  • Governments around the world “should redouble their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” beyond the Paris Agreement.
  • The international community should rein in and penalize any misuse of information technology that would “undermine public trust in political institutions, in the media, in science, and in the existence of objective reality itself.”

But Krauss said that if governments are unwilling to lead the way in fighting threats to global civilization, the people will have to step up their efforts to do so.

“It is not yet midnight and we have moved back from the brink in the past,” Krauss said. “Whether we do so in the future may be in your hands.”

Articles

The Marine Corps was just bailed out by ‘the Boneyard’

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US


The United States Marine Corps recently announced plans to refurbish 23 F/A-18C Hornets from “the boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to address a shortage of usable airframes. Seven more will be transferred from the Navy’s inventory to help address the shortage.

How short were the Flying Leathernecks? On average, a typical Marine squadron of 12 Hornets had only four operational planes. The shortage has had some serious effects on Marine Corps aviation, notably in deeply cutting training hours for pilots. Such a cut is bad news. A rusty pilot can make mistakes – mistakes that could result in a mishap that leaves the plane totaled, and a pilot killed or injured.

While some media reports paint this as a response to a very bad situation (and let’s face facts, the state of Marine Corps aviation – and naval aviation overall, for that matter – could be a lot better than it is), the fact remains that this is a highly-public case of a major investment paying off. This is because the “boneyard” is not really a boneyard. In fact, it is, if you will, comparable to an NFL’ team’s practice squad.

Officially, the boneyard is called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, or AMARG, formerly known as the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC). In essence, it is a place where the United States military puts its extra aircraft for safekeeping. Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is very suited for this purpose. Located near Tucson, Arizona, the low humidity, and the fact that the soil doesn’t contain a lot of acid makes it a good place for the long-term storage of aircraft. There are a lot of planes there currently – over 3,800 as of June 15 of this year.

Here are a few highlights of the inventory that the 309th AMARG has on hand in addition to the 30 F/A-18C Hornets (of which 23 will be refurbished): 95 B-52G Stratofortresses, 12 B-52H Stratofortresses, 18 B-1B Lancers, 101 A-10 Thunderbolts, 47 A-6 Intruders, 50 Harrier GR.7 and GR.9 jump jets, 107 F-4 Phantoms, 166 F-15s, 484 F-16s, 64 F/A-18As, 31 E-2 Hawkeyes, 147 P-3 Orions, and 170 KC-135s. That is a lot of planes, to put it mildly.

To put it in terms of squadrons, this is a total of about seven bomber squadrons, eleven attack squadrons, 41 fighter squadrons, five airborne early warning squadrons, a dozen maritime patrol squadrons, and 14 squadrons of tankers. It’s almost a whole `nother Air Force! And this is what the investment in AMARG buys. In a major war, it would take time to ramp up production of fighters, bombers, attack planes, transports, and other planes. AMARG’s plane, while older than the ones on the front line, can still prove to be very valuable assets in buying time to get new planes built.

In the case of what the Marines are doing now, the 30 F/A-18Cs are doing just that. In essence, the Marines get two and a half more squadrons of their primary multi-role fighter to buy time for the F-35B to become operational. It is a stop-gap measure that, in essence, is being taken because the Marines made a pair of bad decisions in the past – to wit, putting all their eggs in the F-35B basket, and not buying into the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet as the Navy did.

This wasn’t the first time that AMARG has helped the Marines. During the War on Terror, the Marines pulled heavy-lift helicopters from AMARG to meet needs in Iraq and Afghanistan, a classic example of the type of situation AMARG was intended to address. In the case of the F/A-18s being pulled out, this is more a case of mitigating the consequences for the Marine Corps decision to not buy into the Super Hornet and buying more time to get the F-35 operational. In essence, AMARG has bought time for the military to get new planes on-line. Again, it has fulfilled the measure of its creation.

Articles

The US Navy’s new, game-changing defensive weapon

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US
The USS Freedom, one of the littoral combat ships set to be equipped with over-the-horizon missiles. | Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Evans


The Navy is building and testing a fleet of upgraded DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a series of next-generation technologies — including an ability to detect and destroy incoming enemy anti-ship cruise missiles at farther ranges from beyond the horizon.

The new fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, was recently deployed on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

The technology enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.

“NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of your missile and extend the reach of your sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system,” Capt. Mark Vandroff, DDG 51 program manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

NIFC-CA is part of an overall integrated air and missile defense high-tech upgrade now being installed and tested on existing and new DDG 51 ships called Aegis Baseline 9, Vandroff said.

The system hinges upon an upgraded ship-based radar and computer system referred to as Aegis Radar –- designed to provide defense against long-range incoming ballistic missiles from space as well as nearer-in threats such as anti-ship cruise missiles, he explained.

“Integrated air and missile defense provides the ability to defend against ballistic missiles in space while at the same time defending against air threats to naval and joint forces close to the sea,” he said.

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US
Guided-missile destroyer USS Forest Sherman (DDG 98) test fires its five-inch gun on the bow of the ship during training. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo

The NIFC-CA system successfully intercepted a missile target from beyond the horizon during testing last year aboard a Navy destroyer, the USS John Paul Jones. The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said. Having this capability could impact discussion about a Pentagon term referred to as Anti-Acces/Area-Denial, wherein potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline. Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles.

Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could.  The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.

The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.

During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.

More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.

The current upgrades to the Arleigh Burke-class of destroyers can be seen as a part of this broader strategic equation.

The first new DDG 51 to receive Baseline 9 technology, the USS John Finn or DDG 113, recently went through what’s called “light off” combat testing in preparation for operational use and deployment.

At the same time, the very first Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Arleigh Burke or DDG 51, is now being retrofitted with these technological upgrades, as well, Vandroff explained.

“This same capability is being back-fitted onto earlier ships that were built with the core Aegis capability. This involves an extensive upgrade to combat systems with new equipment being delivered. New consoles, new computers, new cabling, new data distribution are being back-fitted onto DDG 51 at the same time it is being installed and outfitted on DDG 113,” Vandroff said.

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US
USS Jason Dunham DDG 109 | US Navy photo

There are seven Flight IIA DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently under construction. DDG 113, DDG 114, DDG 117 and DDG 119 are underway at a Huntington Ingalls Industries shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi and DDG 115, DDG 116 and DDG 118 are being built at a Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.

Existing destroyers the new USS John Finn and all follow-on destroyers will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies.  For example, Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.

In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which, among other things, controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, Vandroff said.

The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with a new, massively more powerful radar system, he added.

Vandroff said the new radar, called the SPY-6, is 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.

Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023, Vandroff said.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Russia and Poland are squabbling on Twitter over who invaded Poland in WWII

An 80-year-old conflict was revisited on Sept. 17, 2019, as the Polish Embassy in the UK commemorated the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s invasion, which came two weeks after Germany invaded and started World War II.


The Russian embassy in South Africa didn’t let Poland’s tweet go without a denial.

“The USSR is often accused of invading Poland. Wrong!” the embassy tweeted. “The Nazis attacked Poland on 1 September. It was not until 17 September, with Polish government fleeing forces defeated, that the Red Army entered ‘Polish territories’ – Belarus and Ukraine occupied by Warsaw since 1920.”

The USSR and Germany had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a neutrality agreement, just days before Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.

Germany invaded Poland from the west, the USSR invaded from the east, and the two carved up Polish territory between them, although the Soviet Union did not formally declare war.

Unbeknownst to the Polish, the USSR and Nazi Germany had secretly discussed how they would divide parts of Europe, including Poland, giving the USSR the territory it felt it had lost after the Treaty of Riga ended the Polish-Russian War in 1921.

Russia has attempted to rewrite history, saying World War II didn’t actually start until 1941 and referring to it as the Great Patriotic War. This year, Russia tried to justify the existence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact by claiming European countries didn’t sufficiently stand up to Hitler or offer Germany more favorable alternatives, according to the Associated Press.

Russia’s response to the Poland tweet takes on more significance in light of its annexation of Crimea in 2014, a move reminiscent of its invasion of Poland in 1939 — in both cases, Moscow denied or obfuscated the invasion but claimed the lands being invading belonged to it anyway.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited to a commemoration of the invasion of Poland this year because of the annexation of Crimea and his increasingly authoritarian rule.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Avengers: Endgame’ wasted Captain Marvel

Avengers: Endgame has officially come to theaters, destroying every box office record with a ferocity and ruthlessness that would make Thanos proud. And while the movie has received an overwhelmingly positive response from critics and fans alike, the massive movie has also raised a fair amount of pointed questions. Like who was that random teen at Tony’s funeral? Who makes outfits for Hulkified Bruce Banner? And, most importantly, why did Endgame completely waste Captain Marvel? After all, the newest Avenger seemed destined to establish herself as the baddest hero around but instead, she did very little in terms of what actually happened in the movie.


Before we look at Marvel’s surprisingly small role in Endgame, let’s look at why people assumed she would have a big role in the first place. The biggest reason that most of us assumed Captain Marvel would have a massive presence in Endgame‘s endgame was her sudden and mysterious prominence in the larger MCU canon, starting with Nick Fury reaching out to her just as he was about to disintegrate at the end of Infinity War. As the architect of the Avengers, Fury has always prided himself as a man with all the answers and so it stood to reason that if he used what could possibly have been his last moments of existence making sure Captain Marvel returned to earth, she must be pretty fucking essential to saving the day.

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US

(Marvel)

This line of thinking was only magnified by Captain Marvel coming to theaters a little over a month before Endgame, as well as the movie itself, which made a clear demonstration of the fact that the titular hero had powers that would even make Thor shake in his Asgardian boots. The cherry on top of the speculative cake was Captain Marvel‘s mid-credits scene, where we see Captain America, Black Widow, Bruce Banner, and War Machine in a S.H.I.E.L.D. hideout wondering about the pager when suddenly, Captain Marvel appears and asks where Fury is.

With this mountain of evidence, speculation naturally abound. Some wondered if she would team up with Ant-Man to use the Quantum Realm to travel through time. Others said she is the one strong enough to beat Thanos. But no matter what particular theory you subscribed to, there only seemed to be one logical conclusion: Captain Marvel would prove to be the key to the Avengers undoing Thanos’ unique form of population control.

But it turns out, Marvel’s role in Endgame was pretty cool but mostly inconsequential. She shows up to help the Avengers find Thanos working on his garden, allowing Thor to finish the job and behead the being responsible for wiping out half the universe, which is shown to be little more than a moral victory. After that? Marvel is basically relegated to second-tier status on the Avengers, as she is briefly shown five years later just to let everyone know that she was off helping other planets, taking her completely out of commission during the time travel saga (aka the actual plot of the movie).

The truth about the threat MS-13 brings to the US
(Marvel)

Marvel does return in time for the massive final showdown against Thanos and his forces and, to be fair, she kicks a whole lot of ass during the super war to end all super wars. But even as she is making her case to take the title of mightiest Avenger from Hulkified Bruce or Thor, she still doesn’t have a hand in the plan to take down Thanos other than participating in the extended game of keep-away with his beloved gauntlet.

Why did Captain Marvel play such a small role? The obvious answer seems to be due to the fact that this is the last ride for Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, so the majority of Endgame was dedicated to the original Avengers. But if that’s the case, why was perennial B-lister Ant-Man so fucking important to the plot? And given Endgame’s three-hour runtime, it’s hard not to feel like Marvel’s overall presence in Endgame was entirely underwhelming and a massive waste of an opportunity by the MCU.

With Tony and Steve officially riding off into the sunset, this was the perfect time to reassure fans that they were still in capable hands with the remaining supers, especially the brand new hero who arguably has the best powers of any of the Avengers and shares the name with the damn franchise. It stands to reason that Captain Marvel’s role in the MCU will only grow with the upcoming Fourth Phase and what better way to understand her place in the Avengers than to actually give her something important to do? Instead, she was forced to mostly sit on the sidelines while Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest of the OG gang got to have all the fun. What a waste.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

6 outside activities for kids that don’t involve public places

Imagine a summer with no camps, no daycares, no pools, no libraries or open parks to take your kids to enjoy. No play-dates, sleepovers, theme parks or road trips. It’s just you and your kids. All day.

There’s no need to imagine because this is our reality. Summer came early. And it’s doubly intense for spouses who already have little to no relief because their service members are deployed.

On March 13, our country was declared to be in a National Emergency. The spread of the coronavirus has not only dictated our social interactions, but schools and public facilities shutting down as well have left us with no choice but to stay in with our families. But “in” doesn’t have to exactly mean IN the house. So don’t lose hope or think you have no choice but to go stir crazy.

Here are a few ways to get creative with your outdoor activities that don’t involve public places.


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Go for a cruise through the city

If you’re newly PCS’d to your area, this is a good chance to get a lay of the land. Load up the kids and take the scenic route around the city. You can turn the music up loud and roll down the windows to feel the breeze. Take turns choosing the songs, so everyone feels involved.

Make chalk drawings or games like hopscotch on your driveway

You may have to dig for it, but reach through all your crafting items to get the old faithful sidewalk chalk. You can have a different theme for your drawings each time or make it a free for all.

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Do some gardening/exploring

I have some stubborn weeds, but my kids love picking them with me. If you garden, spruce up the yard as a family. Or you can explore your yards perimeters. Have everyone walk around the edges and count how many steps it takes to complete the trek around your home. Water your plants or dig for worms. Get good and dirty together.

Have a picnic

Picnics seem so vintage right now. Make sandwiches, fruit or whatever you like and eat out on a blanket in the yard. Then lay back and bask in the sun! Don’t forget the SPF.

Neighborhood dance party from your driveways

Make a time with your neighbors close by and come out front. Play some music loud enough for them to enjoy as well, and boogie down. This is also a good icebreaker if you haven’t made friends yet.

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Contests

Everyone likes to win at something. Make the contest a hulahoop, jump rope, or basketball game, if you have a net. Or even four square. Choose a prize for the winner each day. For example, the winner gets to choose what’s for dinner, or what the family movie will be for that evening.

The key is to get some sun and fresh air. A bonus is to find something your kids enjoy that requires them to use A LOT of energy. This makes for a great nap time. And yes, we’ve reintroduced naps now that they are out of school. It keeps everyone sane!

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army artillery doubles its reach with nearly 39-mile shot

The Army has successfully fired a 155mm artillery round 62 kilometers — marking a technical breakthrough in the realm of land-based weapons and progressing toward its stated goal of being able to outrange and outgun Russian and Chinese weapons.

“We just doubled the range of our artillery at Yuma Proving Ground,” Gen. John Murray, Commanding General of Army Futures Command, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.

Currently, most land-fired artillery shot from an M777 Towed Howitzer or Self-Propelled Howitzer are able to pinpoint targets out to 30km — so hitting 62km marks a substantial leap forward in offensive attack capability.


Murray was clear that the intent of the effort, described as Extended Range Cannon Artillery, is specifically aimed at regaining tactical overmatch against Russian and Chinese weapons.

“The Russian and Chinese have been able to outrange most of our systems,” Murray said.

Citing the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “wake-up call,” Murray explained that Russian weaponry, tactics and warfare integration caused a particular concern among Army leaders.

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A soldier carries out a mission on an M777 howitzer during Dynamic Front 18 at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, March 8, 2018.

(Army photo by Warrant Officer 2 Tom Robinson)

“In Ukraine, we saw the pairing of drones with artillery, using drones as spotters. Their organizational structure and tactics were a wake up call for us to start looking at a more serious strategy,” Murray explained.

The Army’s 2015 Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites concerns about Russia’s use of advanced weapons and armored vehicles in Ukraine.

“The Russians are using their most advanced tanks in the Ukraine, including the T-72B3, T-80, and T-90. All of these tanks have 125mm guns capable of firing a wide range of ammunition, including anti-tank/anti-helicopter missiles with a six-kilometer range, and advanced armor protection, including active protection on some models,” the strategy writes.

ERCA is one of several current initiatives intended to address this. Accordingly, the Army is now prototyping artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer. The new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.

“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in a 2018 interview.

The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle brake,” the official explained.

“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.

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Soldiers fire an M777A2 howitzer while supporting Iraqi security forces near al-Qaim, Iraq, Nov. 7, 2017.

(Army photo by Spc. William Gibson)

As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.

The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.

“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement in 2018.

The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.

ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority — long-range precision fires.

This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-0ff range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.

A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago — its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets — such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.

In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet — are all areas of concern among US Army weapons developers.

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The T-14 Armata tank in the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade.

(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons.

The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta — which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.

Earlier in 2018, statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia.

The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers and satellite navigation systems, the report says.

Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.

While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control and target technology.”Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.

In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.

Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.

“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”

Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

Articles

Retired SEAL Admiral turns down National Security top job

The retired admiral whom President Donald Trump wanted to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser turned down the job, he said Thursday. The Financial Times first reported the news.


Trump offered the position to retired Adm. Robert Harward on Monday, according to Tom Ricks at Foreign Policy. At the time, the former Navy SEAL commander told the president he’d need some time to “think it over.”

Related: Here’s how Mattis reacted to Flynn’s resignation

“It’s purely a personal issue,” Harward told the Associated Press on Thursday evening. “I’m in a unique position finally after being in the military for 40 years to enjoy some personal time.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper reported on Twitter that a friend of Harward said Harward was reluctant to take the job since the Trump White House seemed so chaotic and called the offer a “s— sandwich.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Robert Harward during a visit to Zaranj, Afghanistan, in 2011. | US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Shawn Coolman

Two administration officials confirmed to The Washington Post that Harward was at the top of Trump’s three-person short list to replace Flynn, who abruptly resigned from the role after it became public that he had discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the US before Trump’s inauguration. Flynn reportedly urged the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, not to overreact to the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, indicating that incoming administration might be more inclined to roll them back.

Harward, who rose to deputy commander of US Central Command before retiring in 2013, wanted to bring in his own staff for an overhaul of the National Security Council, according to Ricks.

One of FT’s sources said Harward was concerned about whether he could carry out such a “housecleaning” of NSC workers, many of whom were loyal to Flynn.

As national security adviser, Harward would have had a close ally in Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whom he served under at Central Command. He also has NSC experience, having served on the council during the George W. Bush administration.

Retired Army Gen. Keith Kellogg is serving as acting national security adviser. Trump tweeted Friday morning that Kellogg was “very much in play for NSA — as are three others.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

This woman landed under fire at Inchon with the Marines

Marguerite Higgins was a legend of the news media who went ashore with the Marines in the fifth wave at Red Beach at Inchon, South Korea, earning her the respect of ground-pounders and a Pulitzer Prize while allowing the general public to understand what troops were doing for America overseas.


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Marguerite Higgins, a war correspondent who landed with Marines at Red Beach.

(YouTube/womenshistory)

Higgins’ journalism career started when she traveled to New York with her portfolio from college, asked a newsstand guy where the closest newspaper office was, and stormed in with the demand that she be made a reporter.

That was in 1941. America was quickly dragged into the wars in Europe and the Pacific, and Higgins got herself sent to Europe where she wrote some of her most haunting work, describing the liberation of concentration camps during the fall of Nazi Germany. She braved shellfire in battle and wrote about what the soldiers around her suffered.

In fact, when she rushed to cover the liberation of the concentration camp at Dachau, she arrived with a Stars and Stripes reporter before the Army did. The German commander and guards at the southern end of the camp turned themselves over to the journalists, and those journalists had to let the prisoners know they’d been freed.

Her work in World War II was appreciated, but she hadn’t been sent overseas until 1944. When the Korean War began, Higgins was based out of Japan as the bureau chief of the New York Tribune’s Far East Office, and she immediately sent herself to the front.

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Prisoners are marched past an M26 Pershing tank in the streets of Seoul, South Korea in 1950.

(Department of the Navy)

She was there when Seoul fell to North Korea, but then the Tribune sent another war reporter and ordered Higgins back to Japan. Instead of leaving, she kept reporting from the front in competition with other journalists — including the other Tribune journalist: Homer Bigart.

Yup, she competed against other employees of her own newspaper. Though, in her defense, that just meant the New York Tribune was getting a steady stream of articles from two of the top war correspondents in the world.

Well, it was, anyway, until the U.S. passed a new rule banning female reporters from their front lines. Higgins protested, which did nothing. Then, she protested directly to Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who was then the commander of all U.S. forces in Korea. This proved to be much more successful.

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Newspaper article announces that ban on women war correspondents in Korea has been lifted.

(YouTube/womenshistory)

MacArthur sent a telegram to the Tribune saying, “Ban on women correspondents in Korea has been lifted. Marguerite Higgins is held in highest professional esteem by everyone.”

And that was great for Higgins, because her Pulitzer moment came a couple months later. Higgins got herself onto one of the largest operations of the war: The Army and Marine Corps landing at Inchon. The strategic idea was to threaten the interior supply lines of the Communists and to relieve pressure on troops that were barely holding the southern edge of the peninsula. She opened her article with:

Heavily laden U.S. Marines, in one of the most technically difficult amphibious landings in history, stormed at sunset today over a ten-foot sea wall in the heart of the port of Inchon and within an hour had taken three commanding hills in the city.

A little later in the article, she writes:

Despite a deadly and steady pounding from naval guns and airplanes, enough North Koreans remained alive close to the beach to harass us with small-arms and mortar fire. They even hurled hand grenades down at us as we crouched in trenches which unfortunately ran behind the sea wall in the inland side.

It was far from the “virtually unopposed” landing for which the troops had hoped after hearing the quick capture of Wolmi Island in the morning by an earlier Marine assault.
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Marines clamber over obstacles at Inchon, South Korea, during the amphibious assault there. Marguerite Higgins landed with the fifth wave of Marines.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

Higgins landed with the fifth wave of Marines. Her coverage highlighted the bravery of troops under fire, but was also critical of those who had sent forces in under-prepared or -equipped. In 1951, she wrote in War in Korea: A Woman Combat Correspondent:

So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth. It is best to tell graphically the moments of desperation and horror endured by an unprepared army, so that the American public will demand that it does not happen again.

After Korea, she continued to search out chances to cover troops in combat. In 1953, she went to Vietnam to cover French forces and covered the defeat at Dien Bein Phu where her photographer was killed by a land mine. She got a pass to report from both sides of the Iron Curtain and covered the Cold War tensions as they rose in the early 1960s.

Unfortunately, her dangerous work eventually caught up with her. She returned to Vietnam to cover American operations there and, in 1965, she contracted leishmaniasis. She was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the U.S. for treatment, but died on January 3, 1966, from the disease.

Articles

5 things Marine Corps recruits complain about at boot camp

Marine Corps boot camp is a slice of hell that turns civilians into modern-day Marines.


With constant physical training, screaming drill instructors, and so much close-order drill recruits eventually have dreams about it, spending 12 weeks at boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina or San Diego, California can be difficult for most young people.

Having stepped off a bus and onto the yellow footprints at Parris Island on Sep. 3, 2002, one of those young people was me. While in hindsight, boot camp really wasn’t that bad, I thought then that it was the worst thing ever. While writing this post, I thought I would speak in general terms, but since my mother kept all my correspondence home, I figured I would go straight to the source: my original — and now-hilarious-to-read — letters back home.

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Drill instructors are the worst.

Having a crazy person with veins popping out of their neck scream in your face and run around a barracks throwing stuff can be quite a shock to someone who was a civilian a week prior. Although I later learned to greatly respect my DI’s, I didn’t really like them at the beginning, as my first letter home showed.

“Our DI’s are complete motherf—king a–holes. There’s no other way to describe them,” I wrote, before including a great example: “Today they sprayed shaving cream and toothpaste ALL OVER the head and we had to clean it up. Yesterday, threw out all of our gear, had to change the racks, and sh– was flying.”

Sounds about right.

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Photo: Cpl. Octavia Davis

My recruiter totally lied to me.

It’s a running joke in the Marine Corps (and the greater military, really) that your recruiter probably lied to you. Maybe they didn’t lie to you per se, but they were selective with what they told you. One of my favorites was that “if I didn’t like my job as infantry, I could change it in two years.” That’s one of those not-totally-a-lie-but-far-fetched-truths.

In my initial letter, I took issue with my recruiters for telling me that drill instructors don’t ever get physical. Most of the time they won’t touch you, but that’s not exactly all the time.

“Oh, by the way, recruiters are lying bastards. They [the drill instructors] scream, swear a lot, and choke/push on a daily basis,” I wrote. (It was day three and I was of course exaggerating).

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Mail takes forever to get there.

Getting mail at boot camp is a wonderful respite from the daily grind at boot camp, but letters are notoriously slow to arrive. In my letters home, I complained about mail being slow often, since I’d ask questions in my letters then get a response of answers and more questions from home, well after I was through that specific event in the training cycle.

“Sometimes I write more letters than everyone back home and I have way less time to do it,” I wrote in one letter.

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The other recruits were terrible.

I’m sure they said the same thing about me. Put 60-80 people from completely different backgrounds and various regions of the United States and you’re probably going to have tension. Add drill instructors into the mix constantly stressing you out and it’s guaranteed.

Then of course, there’s the issue of the “recruit crud,” the nickname for the sickness that inevitably comes from being in such close proximity with all these different people.

Throughout my letters home, I complain of other recruits not yelling loud enough or running fast enough. “They don’t sound off and we are getting in trouble all the time,” I wrote. No doubt I was just echoing what the drill instructor has given us as a reason for why he was bringing us to the dreaded “pit.”

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Getting “pitted” is the worst five minutes of your life.

Marine boot camp has two unique features constantly looming in the back of a recruit’s mind: the “pit” and the quarterdeck. The quarterdeck for recruits is the place at the front of the squad bay where they are taken and given “incentive training,” or I.T. — a nice term for pushups, jumping jacks, running-in-place, etc — for a few minutes if they do something wrong.

But for those times when it’s not just an individual problem — and more of a full platoon one — drill instructors take them to sand pits usually located near the barracks for platoon IT. Think of them as the giant sandboxes you played in as a kid, except this one isn’t fun. For extra fun, DI’s may play a game of “around the world,” where the platoon is run from one pit to another.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time Stalin and Churchill drunkenly split up Europe

On Oct. 9, 1944, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill walked into Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin’s study, got super blitzed on whiskey with the Soviet, and then proceeded to split up Eastern Europe with Stalin by writing a list of countries and percentages next to them. He would later call it his “Naughty Document,” and it’s going on display with other World War II and Cold War Era documents.


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Soviet troops march in 1943.

(RIA Novosti Archive, CC BY-SA 3.0)

World War II brought together unlikely allies, and possibly none of the unions was weirder than Soviet Russia teaming up with Great Britain and the United States. The U.S., Britain, and Russia were members of the Allied Powers in World War I, but Russia withdrew as the Bolsheviks rose up against the tsar.

Britain and America—as well as Canada, France, and others—sent troops to back up the tsar, but the intervention failed. So, the Soviet Union began its existence with a grudge against the foreign troops that had tried to prevent the revolution.

Then, Russia’s first foray into World War II was signing a non-aggression pact with Hitler and then following Germany into Poland, capturing sections of that country. Russia didn’t join the Allied effort until after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.

And, in 1944, Soviet forces began to take back Poland, and they were not supporting the Polish Home Army that was part of the Allied forces against Germany. This was a problem for Churchill since the U.K. had joined the war in 1939 largely in response to the invasions of Poland.

The Soviet relationship with the U.S. and Great Britain was fraught, is what we’re saying.

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The man in the middle represents Yugoslavia. This will not go well for him.

(W. Averell Harriman Papers)

But the Soviet Union benefited greatly from allying itself with the U.K. and America. Russian troops drove American vehicles, and the British and U.S. navies kept the sea lanes open for Russian ships, submarines, and supplies. And the invasions of Italy and Normandy had greatly reduced the pressure on Soviet troops in the east. And remember, the German invasion of the Soviet Union had made it deep into Russia before being turned back.

So, in October 1944, Allied-Soviet relations were healthy, but it wasn’t clear what would happen after Germany was defeated and peace returned. On the night of the 9th, Churchill and Stalin got blitzed and tried to figure out how they would avoid new conflict in the future.

And so Churchill started writing on a scrap of paper. He wrote a list of countries that would be between the Western and Soviet spheres of influence. Romania, Greece, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Bulgaria made the list.

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(Photo by Vints, public domain. Original document by Winston Churchill)

Next to these countries, Churchill listed how much “influence” Russia and Britain should have in the countries after the war. Romania would go 90 percent to Russia, 10 percent to Britain. Greece would go 90 percent to the U.S. and U.K. and 10 percent to Russia. Yugoslavia would get an equal split. And Churchill thought Bulgaria should go 75 percent Russian and 25 percent to the other Allies, but Stalin scratched that out and made it a 90-10 split.

And then Stalin put a big blue check mark on it, and the two men looked at it. Churchill proposed burning it, worried about how posterity would look at that casual splitting up of Europe. Stalin told him to keep the document instead.

The next day, the foreign ministers of the two countries tried to shift the percentages a bit and nail down what “influence” meant, but Churchill wouldn’t be pinned down on the details, and so his “naughty document,” as he referred to it, was essentially abandoned.

For what it’s worth, Churchill credited this late night visit and seemingly cavalier negotiation with protecting Greece from a communist takeover. There was evidence discovered after the war that Stalin had already decided to back off of Greece, but Churchill hadn’t known that at the time.

Indeed, there was plenty of conjecture after the “Percentages Document” came to light in the 1990s that the British prime minister was trying to navigate the upcoming peace that would be unforgiving for Britain. The British Empire was clearly in decline, the Soviet Union was on the rise, and America had announced its plans to leave Europe as soon as possible after the war.

So, for Churchill to secure room for democracy after the war, he would have to do it by negotiating with the Soviet Union, at least in part. And if that sucked for Yugoslavia, well, that sucks for them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the agenda for Mattis’ Indo-Asia-Pacific tour

Strengthening ties with allies, increasing defense capabilities in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and discussions about the threat of North Korea are among the topics Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will contend with on his trip to the region, he told reporters traveling with him yesterday.


The secretary arrived in the Philippines on Oct. 23. He laid out his agenda for the trip during an in-flight news conference.

Mattis will meet with Philippine officials before taking part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministerial set for Oct. 23-25. That meeting is at the former Clark Air Base.

“One of the first things I’m going to do when I get there is commend the Philippine military for liberating Marawi from the terrorists,” he told reporters. “It was a very tough fight, as you know, in southern Mindanao. And I think the Philippine military sends a very strong message to the terrorists.”

The Armed Forces of the Philippines battled forces allied under the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Marawi. Coalition forces helped the Philippine troops with intelligence, advice and logistic support. While small pockets of terrorists remain, the government declared the city liberated Oct. 17.

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Marawi, Phillipines, sits on the northern bank of Lake Lanao. The tiny country is surrounded by the Phillipine, South China, Sulu, and Celebes Seas, and the Pacific Ocean to the east. (image Chrisgel Ryan Cruz)

ASEAN

The association has been in existence for almost 50 years and is a force promoting peace and stability in the region. It is a forum for the nations to discuss issues among themselves and hash out ways to cooperate that brings prosperity to the region, Mattis said. The meeting also marks 40 years of friendship and cooperation between ASEAN and the United States.

“ASEAN provides an international venue, giving voice to those who want relations between states to be based on respect, not on predatory economics or on the size of militaries,” he said. “ASEAN nations have demonstrated that they can listen to one another, they identify opportunities to increase defense cooperation for their own security and seek shared solutions to shared concerns. The U.S. remains unambiguously committed to supporting ASEAN.”

The secretary will take advantage of his time at the meeting to visit with his regional counterparts, he said. In addition to meeting Philippine counterparts, Mattis is scheduled to meet with representatives of Japan, South Korea, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

He will also hold trilateral talks with Japanese and South Korean defense officials.

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Signalman Seaman Adrian Delaney practices his semaphore aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) during an at-sea training evolution with the Royal Thai Navy tank landing ship Her Thai MajestyÕs Ship (HTMS) Prathong (LST 715) during the Thailand phase of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT). (U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class Alicia T. Boatwright.)

North Korea

Mattis said the regional disturbances created by North Korea will be on the agenda at ASEAN. He said will also emphasize the shared values the nations of the alliance have, the territorial sovereignty of the nations and the need for “freedom of navigation through historically international waters and fair and reciprocal trade.”

Related: This is why Mattis isn’t losing sleep over threats from North Korea

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mattis will lead the official U.S. delegation to the funeral of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016. The royal cremation rite ends the period of mourning for the country — one of America’s treaty allies in the region. “He was understandably beloved by his people and a proponent of our strong Thailand-United States relationship,” the defense secretary said.

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After the ASEAN meeting ends, Mattis will move on to Seoul, where he and South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo will co-chair the 49th annual Security Consultative Meeting. “There, we will underscore our ironclad commitment to each other,” Mattis said.

North Korea is a threat to the region and globally, defense officials have said. Two unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions have isolated the state from the rest of the world. The U.N. acted after North Korea detonated nuclear devices and flew an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan. During his meetings in South Korea, the secretary said he will discuss reinforcing diplomatic efforts to return to a denuclearized Korean peninsula.

The defense leaders will also discuss “how we are going to maintain peace by keeping our militaries alert while our diplomats — Japanese, South Korean and U.S. — work with all nations to denuclearize the Korean peninsula,” Mattis said.

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