Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is celebrating its 175th birthday the same way most people celebrate their (18th, 19th, 20th and…) 21st birthday–with a whole lot of beer. However, PBR has a new spin on their own birthday gift this year. They are debuting two very different beers: one a totally non-alcoholic beer, and the other a more alcoholic beer (from 4.6% ABV to 6.5% ABV).
In true yin and yang fashion–they come in black and white cans. Debauchery and purity. Dark and light. Stumbling into a Little Caesars at 2 a.m. Being the DD driving your buddies to buy Little Caesars at 2 a.m.
According to PBR, both beers are modeled after the same taste profile as standard PBR. In case you are unfamiliar with binge drinking on a budget, that taste can only be described as “fun water.” This is not to say that PBR tastes bad. It’s arguably the best bang-for-your-buck beer out there.
Please do not let beer snobs fool you. There is a reason most beer snobs end up brewing their own god-awful wheat sludge in a basement– because they are ashamed, deep down, that the neighbors will see their pretentious witchcraft-beer rituals.
It’s really refreshing to know that PBR is finally going to bring some easy drinkability to the non-alcoholic beer market. Gone are the days of choking down a couple of lukewarm O’Douls (gag) with your dad. We’re so happy you’ve kept the promise for yourself to bend your situation towards self-improvement and hold yourself accountable all these years…but damn it those things taste like liquid saltines with no salt.
Now next time that weird distant uncle nobody really knows shows up to the 4th of July party ready to turn it into a rager–you can just toss him a white non-alcoholic can of PBR. It’ll taste great, and he won’t know the difference. You just may save that above-ground pool from his antics this year…
On the flip side– think of all the possibilities now that PBR can get you drunk before 20 beers! Think about all the conversations you can see through to the end, instead of going to take a whiz every 6 minutes! Think of the 10s of dollars you can save! Think about only having to use your car keys to shotgun 10 PBRs instead of 12!
All joking aside this is great news. You and your buddy fresh out of AA can still enjoy some PBRs together in the summer heat. Throw some brats on the grill. Get too hot and move inside. Watch some underwhelming baseball game. Live life.
This is of course, if you’re over the age of 21.
If you’re a 20-year-old man or woman, you can ship out overseas. You can be trusted with millions of dollars of equipment. You can be trusted with the responsibility of defending your life and your brothers in arms.
But for some reason, you still can not be trusted with a six pack of PBR. Hell, depending on the state, you can’t even buy that nice new white can of non-alcoholic PBR.
You may never have heard of Basil Zaharoff. He’s not the Lord of War depicted by Nic Cage in the 2005 film; Zaharoff was actually around much, much earlier. Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, the “Lord of War” the Nic Cage movie is based on, has nothing on the original “Merchant of Death.”
It didn’t matter that they didn’t often work as directed.
Basil Zaharoff, the world’s richest arms dealer… eventually.
In the days before anyone actually cared about international arms trafficking, men like Zaharoff were renowned for their salesmanship. The Greek gun dealer and industrialist would become one of the richest men to live in his lifetime, selling weapons to anyone who was willing to purchase them, even if they were on opposing sides of a conflict. But his business cunning didn’t stop with getting people to buy. He was also adept at edging out his competition, selling the latest and greatest in military tech.
By the late 1880s, countries like the U.S., Britain, the Ottoman Empire, Germany, and Russia all sought out the Maxim Machine Guns, which Zaharoff had just gotten the rights to produce, along with the new submarines he was suddenly able to sell. While many of the world’s major powers eventually lost interest, the sub was especially interesting to Greece, the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Empire.
Isaac Peral’s submarine in 1886.
Until this time, the use of submarines was intermittent and untrustworthy in combat. But when a Spanish sailor created one that was actually functional, useful, and fired weapons without killing the crew, it raised some eyebrows. After Zaharoff was able to sell one to the Greek Navy, it wasn’t long before the Ottoman Turks, Greece’s longtime nemesis, noticed. The arms dealer was able to convince the Turks the submarine was a game-changer. He later told the Russian Tsar the same thing, and that Russia needed two of its own to balance power in the region.
The only thing was, no one needed Isaac Peral’s submarine. While it was an advanced invention, none of the models Zaharoff sold to the Greeks, Turks, or Russians actually worked as advertised. It still had a few bugs to work out, and besides – Zaharoff didn’t have the actual submarines; he was working from stolen plans.
None of the submarines actually worked like Peral’s original.
How you walk when you sell five useless submarines to three countries who will never tell out of sheer embarrassment.
For all his failures of morality, Basil Zaharoff didn’t stoop to cheating the Allies out of much-needed cash after World War I broke out. Far from it. He used his skills as a merchant and salesman to further the Allied cause, ensuring Greece would stay in the Entente alliance and convincing the new Greek government to open a front against the Ottomans.
Of course, after the war ended, he went right back to his old tricks. He was selling weapons until the day he died in 1936, providing weapons to the Spanish government during the Spanish Civil War.
The Yazidi women who have fought the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will be the subject of a new feature film in production by Amazon Studios and directed by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro.
This will mark Shapiro’s feature film directorial debut.
According to a report by Deadline.com, the exact plot details are unclear, but Shapiro has done much research into the plight of the Yazidi. Among the stories Shapiro has looked into is that of captured humanitarian worker Kayla Mueller.
The report notes that Mueller was forced into sex slavery and a marriage to ISIS leader Abu Bake al-Baghdadi, and that both the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders and the Obama Administration failed to negotiate for her release.
Mueller’s parents claimed they were told that if they did make an offer to the terrorist group, they would risk prosecution. Details of Mueller’s captivity were provided by at least one former sex slave who escaped ISIS, and a letter smuggled to her family.
Mueller died in February 2015, with ISIS claiming she had been killed in an air strike carried out by the Royal Jordanian Air Force, after being held for 18 months. Earlier this month, some reports claimed that Al-Baghdadi was also killed by an air strike.
Shapiro is also reportedly researching the so-called “European jihadi brides” in preparation for the project. Some of the worst torture suffered by Yazidi sex slaves has been at the hands of the spouses of ISIS fighters.
Shapiro is best known as the creator of the Lifetime series “UnREAL,” starring Constance Zimmer and Shiri Appleby, and also worked behind the scenes on the ABC Reality show “The Bachelor.”
If there’s anything America loves, it’s a good sandwich. Some are popular, some are less well-known but the one thing we do know is the United States has a lot of them. Still, no matter where you’re from, we’re willing to bet two things: the first is that some of these sandwiches will be new to you, and the second is that you’re gonna want to try at least one.
From Texas to Michigan and California to Pennsylvania, here are WATM’s favorite hyper-regional sandwiches we think everyone needs to try.
10. Beef on Weck – Buffalo, NY
Buffalo Wild Wings is sometimes abbreviated as BW3 — ever wonder what that third W is? It’s Weck, short for Kummelweck. How Wings and Weck got together was a product of two Columbus, Ohio, entrepreneurs from Buffalo, N.Y., who started a unique restaurant, Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck. While Buffalo Wild Wings has since dropped the Weck, the city of Buffalo sure hasn’t.
A favorite of German immigrants to upstate New York, the Weck is a roast beef sandwich on a salt and caraway seed-encrusted kümmelweck roll. The beef is often served rare and sometimes with mustard, but pickles and horseradish should always be available.
9. The Mother-in-Law – Chicago, IL
I don’t know whose mother-in-law this was named for, but I sure do like her style. To make a Chicago-style Mother-In-Law, Chicagoans use their local method of making tamales (a hot dog-shaped, meat-filled log made of cornmeal). The “tamale” is put on a hot dog bun and topped with chili and (sometimes) a pickle.
8. Runza – Nebraska
This is a doughy pocket of bread filled with seasoned ground beef, sauerkraut, and onions. Does that sound familiar to some of you Polish or German-American families? You’re right – this Nebraska favorite is basically a pierogi using bread instead of pan-fried dough.
You can find them at the Runza chain of restaurants throughout greater Nebraska.
7. Pimento Cheese Sandwich – Augusta, GA
Take some sharp cheddar cheese, mix in a little mayo and sweet red peppers, and, suddenly, you have a spreadable filling that is sure to draw the attention of Southerners. You can mix in other ingredients, too, like onions or cream cheese, but the basics are always going to be the same.
Slap some on a couple slices of Wonder Bread and you could be either sitting back on your porch during a hot summer’s day or watching the Master’s Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.
6. Cuban Sandwich – Miami, FL
Good things can’t be kept a secret. The Cuban Sandwich is one of those things. It’s all over the U.S. now – and for good reason. Originating with Cuban immigrants in Florida, mentions of this combination of ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard can be found as far back as the early 1800s.
5. Goetta Sandwich – Cincinnati, OH
One of the few breakfast sandwiches to make the list, Cincy’s Goetta is similar to the East Coast’s scrapple, a mix of pork parts known to Marylanders as “everything but the oink.” In Cincinnati, Goetta is referred to as “Cincinnati Caviar,” a mix of sausage and steel-cut oats, fried and served crispy.
The Goetta Sandwich usually includes an egg and cheese, but high-quality versions using hollandaise sauce and bacon jam can be found.
4. The Horseshoe – Springfield, IL
What’s under all those fries? A sandwich, of course. Where Pittsburghers put their fried potatoes on their sandwiches, over in Abraham Lincoln’s hometown, sandwiches are smothered in them. If you’re a fan of comfort food, you”ll love this open-faced ground-meat sandwich on a piece of Texas toast, topped with fries, and smothered in a creamy cheese sauce.
3. The Schmitter – Philadelphia, PA
Yes, Philly is known for cheesesteaks so it makes sense that a jawn would come up with a take on the ‘steak that tastes every bit as good as the cheesesteak. The Schmitter is also shaved beef, ribeye steak, onions, and melted cheese, but instead of getting thrown in a hoagie and topped with cheez-whiz, the Schmitter gets topped with grilled salami and put on a kaiser roll.
(The Hungry Wife)
2. Old Dominion Ham Biscuit – Alexandria, VA
Yeah, the recipe does call for a biscuit and ham, but there’s more to this Southern country sandwich than just sliced ham. It’s a staple of cocktail parties, football games, and basically anywhere else a host might need a crowd-pleasing set of sliders. Along with the ham comes thin-sliced Swiss cheese and a sauce made of poppy seeds, mustard, worchestershire sauce, and unsalted butter.
1. Cudighi – Michigan
In Michigan’s upper peninsula, there exists a spicy, Italian-style sausage known locally as cudighi. In its sandwich form, the sausage is a patty on an Italian-style hard roll topped with onion, mozzarella, and tomato sauce. Go old school and use mustard and onions instead.
As a young boy, Henry Reeve served in the Union Army as a drummer during the American Civil War. By the time of his death in 1876, he was 26 years old and fought in more than 400 battles over seven years – against the Spanish.
In 1868, Cuban landowner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes led an uprising against Spanish rule over Cuba. From his estate on the Eastern part of the island, Céspedes freed his slaves and raised an army. He led a resistance against the Spanish Empire that would last ten years and cost Céspedes his life. But the uprising attracted its fair share of foreign volunteers, one of those was a New Yorker named Henry Reeve.
Reeve’s Civil War service left him a virulent abolitionist and the Spanish in Cuba were the most determined abusers of slaves left in the Western Hemisphere. When he heard about the anti-slavery, anti-Spanish uprising, he immediately left for Cuba. He arrived in 1869 but was quickly captured by the Spanish Army, who tried to execute Reeve and his group of volunteers. Reeve escaped and went on to be an integral part of an otherwise-failed uprising that came to be known as Cuba’s First War of Independence.
His units routinely outmatched the Spanish, often overcoming superior Spanish numbers with the boldness and dedication that an American combat veteran brings to any fight. By the time he jumped over an enemy artillery battery to end a battle, he earned a promotion to Brigadier General and was wounded more than 10 times. Reeve soon became known as “Enrique El Americano” and “El Inglesito” — the Little Englishman — and was placed among legendary Cuban freedom fighters Máximo Gómez and Ignacio Agramonte.
Reeve also participated in daring raids, most famously to rescue Cuban freedom fighter and Major General Julio Sanguilly from the Spanish. That battle pitted 36 Cuban riders against more than 120 Spanish troops. Reeve also led exploration columns into the jungle wilderness of Cuba and led vanguards of the rebel army’s 2nd division.
Like Cuba’s version of Baron Wilhelm Von Steuben, Reeve wore his U.S. Army uniform the entire time.
In 1876, Reeve and his staff were ambushed by the Spanish during their fateful invasion of the Western half of the island. He was unable to escape and, rather than being captured and tortured, he took his own life. It would take more than 20 years before Cuba saw independence from Spain, and even then, it required the help of the United States to unhook Spain from its cash cow.
The U.S. is beefing up its presence around the Korean Peninsula ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics by deploying stealth bombers, at least one extra aircraft carrier, and a new amphibious assault ship to the region.
Coming after Washington agreed to postpone massive annual military maneuvers with South Korea until after the Games, North Korea says the U.S. is trying to put a chill on its renewed talks with Seoul.
“Such moves are an unpardonable military provocation chilling the atmosphere for improved inter-Korean relations,” the North’s ruling party said in a commentary published over the weekend.
Representatives of both Koreas held a second round of talks Jan. 15 near the Demilitarized Zone to try to pave the way for a North Korean delegation to join the Pyeongchang Games.
The U.S. has officially welcomed the talks and the moves represent routine training and scheduled upgrades, according to U.S. military officials.
Tensions remain high and the military deployments are significant.
Last week, the Pacific Air Forces announced three B-2 “Spirit” stealth bombers with approximately 200 personnel have been deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to the Pacific island of Guam.
The statement said the deployment is intended to provide leaders with “deterrent options to maintain regional stability.”
But the Guam deployment hits an especially sore nerve and plays on a key vulnerability for Pyongyang, which is probably the message Washington had in mind as it seeks to make sure nothing happens during the Olympics and also let Pyongyang know its decision to postpone the exercises is not a sign of weakness.
Last year, flights by B-1B bombers from Guam to the airspace around Korea were a major flashpoint, prompting a warning from North Korea that it had drawn up a plan to target the waters around the island with a missile strike that it could carry out anytime Kim gave the order.
The B-2 is more threatening.
It’s the most advanced bomber in the Air Force and, unlike the B-1B, can carry nuclear weapons. It’s also the only known aircraft that can drop the Air Force’s biggest bomb, the 14,000-kilogram (30,000-pound) GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.
The “MOP,” capable of penetrating deep into the ground to destroy reinforced tunnels and bunkers, was explicitly designed with North Korea in mind.
The B-2 deployment came just days after the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier departed for the western Pacific in what the Navy called a regularly scheduled deployment. South Korean media reports say the carrier and its strike group will reach waters near the Korean Peninsula ahead of the start of the Games on Feb. 9.
The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, whose home port is just south of Tokyo in Yokosuka, is also in the region, and North Korea has accused the U.S. of planning to send another carrier, the USS John Stennis from Bremerton, Washington.
The Marines announced on Jan. 14 the arrival in southern Japan of the USS Wasp, an upgraded amphibious assault ship that can carry troops and launch the corps’ new F-35B stealth fighters. It can carry 30-plus aircraft, including the F-35s, which are designed for vertical takeoffs and landings.
The ships and bombers could figure largely in a U.S. response to any military emergencies during the Games. North Korea may view them as a greater and more imminent threat.
Aircraft carriers, virtually impervious to any attack the North could mount, are floating platforms for sustained air assaults, while the F-35 fighters could be a key part of any potential strike on Kim Jong Un himself.
The Navy and Lockheed Martin are taking a substantial leap forward with ship-based, high-powered laser weapons designed to incinerate enemy drones and also perform ISR missions, tracking targets such as incoming enemy cruise missiles, aircraft, or ships.
Lockheed’s High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system “is the first of its kind, and brings together laser weapon, long-range ISR, and counter-UAS options available to the U.S. Navy,” Michele Evans, Lockheed Martin, Vice President and General Manager of Integrated Warfare Systems and Sensors, said in a written statement.
As is the case with ground- and air-based laser systems, ship-fired lasers require large amounts of mobile electrical power necessary to generate and strengthen laser attacks.
The U.S. Navy Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Navy)
“HELIOS is one component of the Navy Laser Family of Systems and a major portion of the Navy’s incremental strategy for delivery of increased laser weapon capability,” Colleen O’Rourke, Spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
The HELIOS will be the first fully integrated laser weapon system to field in the DoD, she added.
With this in mind, some of the Navy’s newest surface combatants are, by design, engineered with much greater onboard power technology. For instance, the new Navy USS Zumwalt stealthy destroyer is powered by a cutting-edge Integrated Power System (IPS), an electric drive engineered to power ship propulsion, as well as onboard systems, such as computers, sensors, and weapons. Many point to the Zumwalt as an indication of the type of ship platform able to quickly integrate new weapons, such as lasers and railguns, as they emerge.
Parallels to this can be identified with the ongoing development of the Navy’s DDG 51 Flight III destroyers, which uses advanced generators and cooling technology to maintain and leverage the power necessary to support the new SPY-6 radar system. The new radar, said by developers to be more than 30 times more powerful than existing ship-based radar, requires advanced levels of power generation.
While the Navy has already deployed its Laser Weapon System (LAWs) on surface ships and demonstrated the weapon can succeed in attacking and incinerating enemy drones, this new laser advances the technology by engineering a multi-function laser system able to both attack targets and conduct ISR.
According to information from Lockheed developers, the HELIOS laser gives ship commanders a new range of options when it comes to layered-defense tactics. By using high-energy fiber lasers, HELIOS is designed to destroy drones and small boats. HELIOS ISR, Lockheed officials say, will operate within the ship-based Aegis Combat System. The weapon will also bring the stated advantage of detecting and thwarting enemy drone-based ISR.
“HELIOS will consist of both a High Energy Laser and a dazzler, and will be integrated with the AEGIS combat system and shipboard power and cooling aboard DDG Flt IIA ships,” O’Rourke said.
The Navy’s development plan calls for Lockheed to deliver the first two test weapons by 2020, with an option to deliver up to 14.
A Lockheed statement says, “One unit will be delivered for shipboard integration on an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and one unit will be used for land testing at White Sands Missile Range.”
Fast-emerging laser weapons bring a number of often-discussed advantages. Operating as part of a layered defense system, lasers offer an opportunity to “get ahead of the cost curve,” with a much lower cost-per-shot when compared with expensive ship-fired interceptor missiles. Furthermore, by offering precision and heat-based incineration, laser weapons can reduce potentially complicated explosions and fragmentation while still achieving target destruction. Additionally, power generation needed for laser systems brings the added advantage of potentially supporting equally fast-growing electronic warfare technology.
A merchant vessel burns after being torpedoed by the U-71 off Cape Hatteras, NC in March 1942.
Imagine the following scenario: A bloody war rages overseas as a fanatical, totalitarian ideology conquers entire countries. The U.S. government announces it will send military forces abroad to stem the tide of the aggression. Despite increasingly dire news headlines, however, life in America proceeds uneventfully.
After all, America is thousands of miles from the battlefields and surely far beyond the enemy’s immediate reach.
That sense of security abruptly ends only weeks later when the enemy suddenly launches a fearsome assault against the U.S. homeland itself. Thousands die as American cities witness explosions and raging infernos. Worse yet, the U.S. military seems powerless to stop the assault.
If that story sounds far-fetched, it shouldn’t. It isn’t the plot of Call of Duty– the scenario described above actually happened during World War II. December 1941 saw the U.S. finally join the war against Germany, Japan, and Italy. Many Americans understandably assumed that geography insulated them from any direct threat.
However, while U.S. leaders in Washington debated how to deploy their forces overseas, Adolf Hitler made the first move. In January 1942, Hitler’s forces began a massive naval offensive against the U.S. east coast.
The German navy, or Kriegsmarine, lacked a formidable surface fleet. What the Kriegsmarine did possess, however, was a technologically and tactically sophisticated submarine force: the infamous unterseeboots, or “U-boats.”
The U-boats had proven deadly in World War I, to include a limited number of attacks near the U.S. east coast, but the scale of the U-boat offensive against America in 1942 was without precedent. Only weeks after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, war had come to the American homeland.
Rendition of the U-995
(oil painting by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau)
Cargo ships and even U.S. Navy warships began going down in flames. Many vessels were torpedoed within sight of coastal cities. Coastal residents saw the ships burning off the Jersey Shore and the Outer Banks. Debris and bodies washed ashore for months as the U-boats struck from New England to Texas.
U-boat commanders returning to port in occupied Europe reported that U.S. waters offered more targets than the U-boats had the means to attack. The easy hunting lead German crews to dub 1942 die glückliche zeit: “the happy time.”
(Alamy Stock Photos)
Compounding the fear and destruction was America’s apparent inability to stop it. A combination of factors limited the U.S. military’s ability to stop the U-boats. These included a shortage of warships suited to anti-submarine operations, a lack of convoy procedures, and a reluctance to implement nighttime blackouts of coastal cities to deny U-boat commanders the benefit of ship silhouettes to target.
While U.S. leaders debated how to stem the onslaught, the Kriegsmarine dispatched more waves of U-boats to North America. Hundreds of ships were sunk, and thousands died as desperately needed war material was sent to the bottom of the Atlantic.
The U-123, one of the German subs that prowled the American coast in 1942.
(German Federal Archives)
Fortunately, 1942 would prove to be the apex of Hitler’s U-boat assault against America. The Allies began implementing convoys, and more American air and naval assets were allocated to anti-submarine duties.
These changes eventually led the Kriegsmarine to shift its priorities away from American coasts towards the mid-Atlantic. U-boats would continue to strike in American waters until the end of the war, but the scope and effectiveness of their operations steadily decreased. U-boat losses mounted too as the hunters eventually became the prey.
The U-boat fleet, considered one of the most prestigious assignments for a German serviceman, ultimately suffered the German military’s highest casualties: 3 out of 4 U-boat crewmen did not survive the war.
The crew of the U-550 abandons ship after being crippled by a U.S. Coast Guard attack off Massachusetts in April 1944.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
U.S. waters today are littered with the wrecks of U-boats and their victims. Many of these wrecks have become popular sites amongst scuba divers. This chapter of World War II, however, has mostly disappeared from American public memory.
This is to our discredit, as the memory of Hitler’s naval assault against America bears several important lessons for a post-9/11 world. These lessons include the naiveté of assuming that large oceans can be counted on to deter foreign aggression and a sobering reminder of what a small but motivated and capable force can inflict on a much larger power.
The thousands of men lost during this forgotten campaign is a testament to the human cost of global conflict and its ramifications for national security in the 21st century.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook has confirmed that a U.S. Navy SEAL assisting Kurdish Peshmerga fighters was killed near Irbil, Iraq, on Tuesday. The SEAL was 2-3 miles behind the frontline when ISIS car bombs and fighters forced an opening, allowing for the attack on the coalition’s position.
Cook pledged in a statement that the coalition will honor the unidentified SEAL’s sacrifice by continuing to dismantle ISIS until it suffers a lasting defeat.
ISIS uses car bombs the way many modern militaries use artillery — to soften up enemy defenses during an assault by other fighters. The U.S. responded with 20 airstrikes.
The SEAL’s name has not yet been released. It’s typical for the Department of Defense to withhold the identity of a service member killed in the line of duty until at least 24 hours after the notification of the next of kin.
Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was a Delta Force operator who was working with Kurdish commandos when a tip came in that a large number of ISIS-held hostages were about to be executed. Wheeler and other U.S. and Kurdish special operators stormed the prison where the hostages were being kept and rescued them, but Wheeler was killed in the gunfight on Oct. 22, 2015.
Since operations began over the weekend to retake West Mosul from two years of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria control, Iraqi security forces have already retaken more than 125 square kilometers – more than 48 square miles – of ISIS-held territory near the city, Pentagon director of press operations Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters today.
The announcement of the Iraqi forces moving in on West Mosul came from the Iraqi government, the spokesman added.
Five Villages Liberated
Following their retaking of the eastern half of Mosul in recent weeks, the Iraqi forces moving in to liberate the western region are on the west side of the Tigris River and south of Mosul’s airport, he said, noting that they have liberated five villages in the past couple of days.
The most immediate focus is retaking the village of Abu-Saif in the southwestern region of the area surrounding Mosul, where the Iraqi forces are working while continuing to conduct defensive operations.
“The battle for the complete liberation of Mosul comes as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens have lived for more than two years under ISIS oppression in West Mosul, during which time ISIS has committed a number of horrible atrocities, terrorizing the people of Mosul,” Davis emphasized.
Proven as Capable
“Over the course of the past two years, and in particular in the past four months in Mosul, the [Iraqi security forces] have proven themselves an increasingly capable, formidable and professional force,” he noted.
The U.S.-led coalition is supporting the Iraqi operations with advice and assistance in addition to airstrikes in the past 24 hours, the captain said. “The coalition has conducted a total of eight strikes with a total of 59 engagements using 34 munitions in support of the operations to liberate Mosul,” he added.
While the liberation of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is the focal point in that country, 450 American service members are advising and assisting the Iraqi forces, Davis said, adding that number does not include an undisclosed total of special operations forces deployed to Iraq to work with Iraq’s counterterrorism service.
It’s the biggest event that happens every year in Moscow, a Russian extravaganza that rolls out weapons new and old and continues the war of words between Russia and the United States.
On Monday, Russia will celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of World War II – known there as The Great Patriotic War – with it annual Victory Day celebrations and parade.
More than just a commemoration of Russian sacrifices during the war, since Soviet times the celebration is part of a carefully crafted military spectacle intended to tell the U.S. and the West that Russia is a world power worthy of respect – and even fear.
That’s a message that Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin wants the United States to hear loud and clear.
“The Victory Day parade, with all its loudly trumpeted pomp and technology, is also a clear message to Russia’s perceived threats and enemies that Russia is not to be trifled with militarily,” Peter Zwack, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and former U.S. military attaché to Russia, told We Are The Mighty.
“The 71st anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany is the underlying theme, but in reality these recent parades are a robust display to the world and also Russia’s domestic population of Russia’s modern military might,” Zwack said. “While initially there are vehicles and troops in commemorative World War II battle dress, overwhelmingly this is an aggressive assertion of today’s Russian military which has had recent, widely publicized successes in Syria.”
Russians hold the impressive parade in Moscow’s Red Square. Traditionally, the parade is in three parts: a procession of the Ground Forces, the “military hardware demonstration” that showcases weapons systems new and old, and the “fly-by of the air forces.”
One of the ways Russia asserts its might is the tradition of rolling out new hardware for the entire world to see. This year’s parade and aerial flybys will be no different – and the Kremlin uses its Twitter and Instagram presence to gain maximum publicity.
According to the Kremlin’s recent English-language social media postings, at least one new example of Russian military hardware will appear for the first time during the Victory Day celebration on Monday.
It is the Su-35s fighter, which is reportedly an upgraded version of the tried-and-true Flanker multirole air superiority fighter. Earlier this year, the Russian government placed a $1.4 billion order for 50 of the fighter planes to expand the Russian Air Force.
In February, the Russian military deployed four of the Su-35s to Khmeimim air base near Latakia for combat operations in Syria, according to a Russian news report.
The Kremlin says altogether 128 pieces of military equipment will participate in this year’s Victory Day parade. That also will include reappearances by hardware that debuted last year such as the T-14 Armata tank.
T-90 main battle tanks, BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, and several other classes of armored vehicles will also appear.
Zwack said that in recent years Putin revived much of the Soviet-era pomp associated with the celebration as part of a carefully orchestrated campaign to bolster Russian pride. But not only will rolling tanks and soaring aircraft be on display – so will the Russian political leadership.
“Vladimir Putin is always front and center of the Victory Day parade with his defense minister, Sergey Shoigu,” Zwack said “He is clearly the ‘Alpha Leader’ in charge, and he conveys that he will at all costs and any sacrifice protect and defend the Russian populace against all threats. In his mind he benefits internationally, and most importantly, domestically from this full blown display and resurgence of Russia’s military capability and competence.”
Celebrated since 1946, День Победы – Victory Day – displays the exceptional status that Russians believe they possess because of their sacrifices during the war. It is even celebrated on a different day than Victory in Europe Day – otherwise known as VE Day.
As far as most Russians are concerned, the celebration of their victory over Nazi Germany and the commemoration of the nearly 25 million soldiers and civilians who died during World War II is an affirmation of the eternal validity of Russian nationalism, the importance of Russian identity, and the necessity of Russia’s place in the constellation of “great power” nations.
Germany signed a surrender agreement in France with the Allied Powers on May 7, 1945 – but the Soviet Union wanted a separate peace with Nazi Germany for a variety of political reasons.
While the rest of the world celebrated VE Day on May 8, Nazi representatives and the Allies repeated the surrender in Berlin where supreme German military commander Wilhelm Keitel, Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov and others signed the instrument of surrender. It was May 9 in the Moscow time zone when the agreement took effect – hence the date for Victory Day.
Since last year, one of the themes repeated by Moscow is the United States does not respect the sacrifice of the Russian people during World War II. It appears that is also a message that will accompany this year’s Victory Day celebration.
For example, the message from the Kremlin to the United States regarding the upcoming anniversary is bitter. Its English-language social media site recently published photographs of post-war banners that said in Russian “Americans will never forget the heroic deeds of Russians” and “America says ‘Hi’ to our valiant Russian allies.”
The Moscow-written tag-line to the recent post is: “How sad that you’ve already forgotten.”
Photos have been circulating on social media that show a Chinese ship with what could be a prototype railgun on its bow.
The photos, taken at the Wuchang Shipyard in China’s Hubei Province, show a Type 072III-class landing ship identified as the Haiyang Shan with a much larger gun on its mount than its usual twin 37mm cannon.
The size and shape of the weapon are roughly the same as the U.S. Navy’s own prototype railgun, and the shipping containers on the deck could be used as control rooms or to house the power supply. Moreover, the location of the photographs may hint as to the gun’s true nature — the Wuchang Shipyard has been the sight of previous tests for the Chinese Navy.
It also comes at a time when the U.S. has been scaling back their efforts on developing railguns and other electromagnetic technologies. The Navy has spent more than $500 million on the project, which will likely never see combat.
Officials at the Department of Defense “don’t want to fund the railgun because they’re simply not buying it,” a senior legislative official with direct knowledge of the U.S.’ railgun project recently told Task Purpose.
“Promising technologies fall into the ‘valley of death’ all the time,” another legislative source told Task Purpose. “Testing is great, but unless you want to put money into transitioning that tech into an actual weapons system then what the hell are you doing? We’re afraid to take a risk and try to get things moving.”
Railguns are cannons that can shoot inert projectiles without gunpowder. They achieve this by using magnetic energy sent through rails on the projectiles as they make their way down the barrel, allowing the projectile to reach hypersonic speeds.
The technology would allow for faster target acquisition, increased range, and could free up space for more projectiles because propelling charges would not be needed — something that may also make the railgun cheaper than its current counterparts.
The photos suggest that the set up is still in a testing phase. A Type 072III-class landing ship would be a good candidate; the ship can hold 500 tons of cargo, and has enough open space to fit large components.
China’s military has a well known history of being interested in electromagnetic technologies. The country has been researching how to build and deploy a Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for its aircraft carriers.
EMALS would require less maintenance that current systems, which rely on compressed steam to launch aircraft, and could allow Chinese aircraft carriers to carry and launch larger aircraft, increasing the range and strike power of a Chinese carrier force.
Railguns are something that China has been pursuing for decades. While the research has been going on since the 1980’s, China has recently claimed to have made massive progress on the program, with Rear Admiral Ma Weiming boasting of China’s breakthroughs in October 2017.
Though there has been no official confirmation that the pictures show a railgun, China would be the first nation to successfully install a railgun prototype onto a sea-worthy vessel if the reports are true.
Over the course of four weeks in June, I flew seven flights on the largest airlines in the US including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.
After on flight on Delta, two flights on American, two flights on United, and two flights on Southwest, I’ve been adequately reacquainted with flying having been grounded since February.
The experiences have been unlike anything I’ve seen before in a lifetime of flying with each airline having its own, unique way of handling the pandemic. No two airlines have been exactly alike on any of my journeys and seemingly ever-changing policies are creating confusion for passengers.
Social distancing, for example, has different definitions depending on what airline you fly on. Some airlines have chosen to block middle seats and limit capacity in an effort to achieve social distancing while others have given up entirely or only give the appearance of social distancing.
Here’s what you can expect on each airline.
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes
Starting July 1, American began filling its flights to capacity and not blocking any middle seats. If a passenger is on a crowded flight, there is an option to change flights free of charge to an alternate flight, if there is one available.
Middle seats can be selected in advance and passengers flying in basic economy may be automatically assigned a middle seat, even if other aisle or window seats are available. Only check-in or gate agents typically have the power to change seat assignments if a passenger isn’t happy with their seat location.
American has not stated what factors determine whether the option to change flights is offered. The airline has been operating a reduced flying schedule so alternate flights have not always been available for passengers but an airline spokesperson told Business Insider that more flights being flown starting July 7 should give passengers more options.
American operates a normal boarding process and passengers still board in their assigned groups, which vary based on seat location, fare type, and elite status. First class still boards first and basic economy boards last, regardless of seat location.
This results in economy passengers in the back of the plane walking through an entire aircraft of people before arriving at their seat.
Signage at the gate informs passengers that masks are required and that the airline has adopted new cleaning standards but does not go into detail.
Onboard the aircraft
American is limiting the in-flight service depending on the duration of the flight. Flights under 2,200 miles will no longer have a snack or drink service with non-alcoholic canned or bottled beverages being served on request in economy.
Flights greater than 2,200 miles will see a beverage service but no snack service in economy. The airline will also not distribute wipes or hand sanitizer kits to passengers upon boarding or as part of the in-flight service.
Flight attendants on American are typically asking passengers to remain seated until it is time for their row to deplane.
Delta Air Lines
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes
Delta is blocking middle seats and certain aisle seats on its flights until September 30. Passengers who still do not wish to travel on a crowded flight even with the capacity restriction will have the option to request a free rebooking to a later flight, a Delta spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider.
Delta is boarding its aircraft back to front with passengers being asked to remain seated until their row is called. Elite status holders and first class flyers can still board first.
Signage at the gate area informs passengers that aircraft are being “sanitized and inspected,” asks passengers to social distance, and reminds passengers that face coverings are required onboard the aircraft.
The airline has also installed placards both on the floor and in jetways at hub and outstation airports reminding passengers to social distance. In its Atlanta hub, Delta employees were distributing hand sanitizer to passengers of all airlines after the security checkpoint.
The traditional in-flight snack and beverage service has been replaced by flight attendants distributing a sealed bag containing snacks, a water bottle, and sanitary products.
Flight attendants did not ask passengers to stay seated during the deplaning process.
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight changes
United is not blocking middle seats but won’t assign them until there are no more aisle or window seats to assign. Passengers on flights with greater than 70% capacity will have the option to change their flight for free but as United’s flying schedule has been reduced due to the pandemic, options are limited.
United is boarding its aircraft back to front with first class passengers and elites still boarding first. Economy passengers are boarded from the last row forward in groups of five rows.
Gate agents are asking passengers to scan their own boarding passes when they board to reduce interactions between staff and passengers. Every passenger is given a sanitary wipe when they step on the plane that can be used to clean the seat.
Signage at the gate area informs United passengers of the sanitary measures the airline is taking including requiring face masks to be worn and the new fogging procedures. The displays, however, were inconsistent and were only prominent at United’s hubs and not outstations.
United has suspended the in-flight snack and beverage service for shorter flights in economy, including those less than two hours and 20 minutes. Passengers can, however, request beverages from the flight attendant.
On flights longer than two hours and 20 minutes, passengers in economy will receive a snack bag that includes a sanitary wipe, water bottle, stroopwafel snack, and package of pretzels.
Flight attendants on United are typically asking passengers to remain seated until it is time for their row to deplane.
Blocking middle seats or allowing free flight change
Southwest is limiting capacity by around one-third so that there is only a maximum of two people in each row, with exceptions for family. The airline does not assign seats in advance.
Southwest is boarding its aircraft in groups of 10 based on a boarding number given at check-in. The system is similar to the airline’s current procedure except only 10 passengers line up and board at a time instead of 30.
Some airports were not following the rule of 10 procedure, as I found on a recent Southwest flight, and passengers who boarded first chose to sit in the front of the plane. As Southwest allows for open seating, this meant passengers boarding last would have to walk passed crowded rows of people.
There is some signage at the gate asking passengers to social distance and informing them of the new boarding procedure but no visuals or anything pertaining to the airline’s new cleaning procedure.
Southwest is suspending the in-flight service on flights under 250 miles. Passengers on flights over that threshold will receive a cup of ice water and a snack bag served by flight attendants.
Flight attendants did not ask passengers to stay seated during the deplaning process.
Delta Air Lines is the clear winner here as nearly every aspect of a flight has been revised to become more passenger-friendly during this pandemic while not compromising too much on service. From placards and informational signage in the gate area to blocking middle seats and maintaining an in-flight service, albeit limited, Delta is leading the way in multiple aspects.
Southwest Airlines comes in a close second with the low-cost airline earning its reputation for good customer service even more so during this crisis. The only downsides were the boarding process, the lack of informational signage at the gate area that I found on most other airlines, and a lack of consistency in staff following the new procedures.
United Airlines is the second-runner up mainly because I found its policies to be more empty gestures than actually helpful. The airline is offering free flight changes despite having few back-up options and restricting the advance selection of middle seats rather than blocking them but are still allowing flights to fill up,
United did have some positives in that it revised its boarding procedure and offered sanitary wipes upon boarding but I did find a lack of consistency in informational signage at different airports. Flights on United were boring, above all, as the in-flight service was also suspended.
American Airlines was the least passenger-friendly airline I found on my travels with a complete lack of social distancing policies and abandonment of in-flight service on most of its domestic flights. It’s largely business as usual when flying on American as if there is no pandemic occurring, with the airline happy to assign middle seats to basic economy passengers when entire empty rows are available and keep the standard boarding procedure.
I will say, however, that all aircraft I flew on from all airlines were clean and I was never worried I was getting on a dirty aircraft.