Both France and the United Kingdom will challenge Beijing by sailing through “territorial waters” in the South China Sea in early June 2018.
French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly and British Secretary of State for Defense Gavin Williamson made the announcement while speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 3, 2018. While neither official mentioned China in regards to the exercise, which will involve a French maritime task group and UK ships, the language they used was pointed.
“We have to make it clear that nations need to play by the rules, and there are consequences for not doing so,” Williamson said, adding that the UK will send three ships to the South China Sea in 2018 to enforce rules-based order.
Parly also gave further details of how a challenge will play out.
“At some point a stern voice intrudes into the transponder and tells us to sail away from supposedly ‘territorial waters,'” Parly said. “But our commander then calmly replies that he will sail forth, because these, under international law, are indeed international waters.”
“By exercising our freedom of navigation, we also place ourselves in the position of a persistent objector to the creation of any claim to de facto sovereignty on the islands,” Parly added.
(DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)
But China has drawn increasing ire for the militarization of its islands, and the US recently disinvited the PLA Navy from an international military exercise because of Beijing’s “continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea” which “only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region.”
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reiterated this stance on June 2, 2018, at the Singapore meeting, saying that the placement of weapons on South China Sea islands “is tied directly to military use for the purpose of intimidation and coercion.”
“There will be consequences to China ignoring the international community,” Mattis said.
“I believe there are much larger consequences in the future when nations lose the rapport of their neighbors… eventually these [actions] do not pay off,” he said.
Several hours later, China’s Lieutenant General He Le slammed “irresponsible comments from other countries.”
“Certain countries, under the guise of so-called ‘freedom of navigation’ and ‘freedom of aviation,’ have sent military vessels and aircraft to the waters and airspace near China’s territory, even sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese waters,” He said.
“This has jeopardized China’s security and challenged China’s sovereignty,” He said, highlighting that such acts “are the true root of the militarization of the South China Sea.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Not many people could recognize Carly Schroeder June 27, 2019, at Fort Jackson’s Hilton Field. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed “Lizzy McGuire” and “General Hospital” actress who traded her red carpet heels for combat boots, blended into the crowd of roughly 450 other identically dressed soldiers as they walked across the field during their Basic Combat Training graduation ceremony.
“Army life is very different from Hollywood,” Schroeder said. “There are some similarities, but Army life is very uniform. Everyone is very disciplined and everyone is treated equally.”
No stranger to weapons training and the physicality of stunt work, Schroeder faced a new set of challenges during BCT. She faced marksmanship courses with the Army’s M4 rifle, daily physical fitness workouts, ruck marches, obstacle courses, learning to work with others as a team and a culminating event that tests the abilities and strengths of fellow soldiers to work together to successfully complete a set of missions — The Forge.
“The most difficult thing has to be between the ruck marches and food,” Schroeder said. “Before I came here I was vegan.”
Schroeder lived the vegan lifestyle for quite some time before enlisting, but adapted to a vegetarian diet to take in additional protein during training. While the military has always offered alternate meals to those with dietary needs, it can be challenging to find a wide variety of those foods within the BCT environment.
“It was quite an adjustment,” said Schroeder. “There was only one MRE I could eat, veggie crumbles.”
Spc. Carly Schroeder, center, the actress who traded her red carpet heels for combat boots, embraces her newly made friends during her Basic Combat Training graduation at Fort Jackson June 26, 2019.
(Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea)
An MRE, or Meal, Ready-to-Eat, are daily rations that contain about a day’s worth of calories in a convenient to carry and store pouch. The MRE mentioned is Menu 11 — Vegetable Crumbles with Pasta in Taco Style Sauce. With a little help from some new friends, she “fare-d” well with field rations.
“My team mates really made sure they had my back and got the veggie crumbles for me every time,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder, like all trainees to pass through BCT, learned not only the basics of making a soldier physically but also social skills that allowed her to adapt and overcome in stressful situations and when finding herself in a foreign environment with new people. These skills empower soldiers to build personal and professional relationships quickly and units to build a cohesiveness that helps ensure successful future missions.
“Basic Combat Training was fun but hard too,” said Pvt. Mylene Sanchez, a fellow unit member. “The ruck marches were really hard, Schroeder really helped me a lot with them. She helped take some of the weight for me.”
Actions such as helping a buddy out with a few pounds during a ruck march exemplify one of the seven Army core values — selfless service. These values are instilled in each soldier from day one of training and they use them to build strong teams.
“Teamwork was the biggest obstacle for everyone to overcome,” said another unit member Spc. Joel Morris. “As long as you push forward and kept trying, it was a breeze.”
Schroeder easily cultivated relationships, even with those who knew of her silver screen time.
A camera crew from a nationally syndicated TV program interviews Spc. Carly Schroeder and some of her newly-made friends during their Basic Combat Training graduation June 27, 2019, at Fort Jackson.
(Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea)
Schroeder explained how she didn’t talk about her time as an actress and how she wanted to blend in so people wouldn’t treat her differently. Eventually, word spread about her acting career, but her relationships with her team members was already cemented.
“She was an amazing leader,” said Pvt. Cindy Ganesh, another unit member who trained alongside Schroeder. “She took the time to go and help and teach. She was a friend, a real friend.”
Morris said, “she would kick everyone’s butt in combatives.”
As the 10-weeks of training came to an end with the graduation ceremony, the soldiers now face Advanced Individual Training. Some of the soldiers who met in training will continue on with fellow graduates depending on the location of their AIT training and their occupational specialty. Schroeder is a 09S — Commissioned Officer Candidate who will attend 12 weeks of tactical and leadership training at Fort Benning, Georgia before she is officially commissioned.
While the former actress is on her way to the next chapter of her military career, she is not likely to forget soon the friendships she built in BCT.
“They’re not my team members anymore, we became Family” Schroeder said. “We worked through 10 hard weeks together. It was brutal but it’s what we bonded over.”
This is not the first time this year that B-1s have participated in drills on the peninsula. Similar exercises took place in May and July. North Korea blustered then, too. So, why are the B-1Bs such a big deal to the belligerent state?
Maybe the North Koreans know that, despite what they tell people about Kim Jong Un, there’s no way he can keep the Lancer from inflicting a lot of hurt. You see, next to the A-10, the B-1B Lancer could possible be the most effective weapon against North Korea’s army. GlobalSecurity.org estimates North Korea has over 3,500 main battle tanks and 560 light tanks.
But the B-1B Lancer has a way of dealing with a lot of tanks: It’s called the CBU-97. This is the weapon that enables the Lancer to protect the Baltics from Russian aggression. A B-1B can carry up to 30 of these internally, plus at least 14 more on rarely-used, external pylons.
Here’s a little math: Each CBU-97 has 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each with four “skeets” that fire an explosive projectile capable of going through the top of an enemy tank. A single B-1B carrying 30 of these can, therefore, deliver 1,200 “skeets” in one sortie. Each B-1B Lancer has the potential firepower to handle about 30 percent of North Korea’s tank force.
And you can safely bet it wouldn’t be just a single B-1B. Other B-1B Lancers might carry CBU-89 cluster bombs, which dispense GATOR mines in a mix of anti-tank and anti-personnel varieties. Others still might the CBU-87 cluster bomb, containing 202 BLU-97 bomblets. The fact is, North Korea’s army is primarily made up of massed ground forces — the kind of target that cluster bombs are really good at dealing with.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday announced the platform would allow its users to turn off political ads.
“Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content,” Zuckerberg wrote in a USA Today op-ed article. “For those of you who’ve already made up your minds and just want the election to be over, we hear you — so we’re also introducing the ability to turn off seeing political ads.”
“We’ll still remind you to vote,” he added.
Facebook will begin implementing the feature for some users Wednesday and plans to make it available to all users over the next several weeks, a company representative told CNBC.
Users will be able to turn off ads about political, social, and electoral issues from political candidates, super PACs, and other organizations that have a political disclaimer indicating an ad is “paid for by” a certain entity, CNBC reported.
Zuckerberg also announced in his op-ed article that Facebook would seek to boost voter registration, voter turnout, and marginalized voices ahead of the 2020 presidential election and that the platform hoped to help 4 million people register to vote.
To that end, he said Facebook would create a Voting Information Center with information about registration, early voting, and voting by mail. The center will also include details on how and when to vote, Zuckerberg said, adding that the company expected 160 million people in the US to see “authoritative information on Facebook about how to vote in the general election from July through November.”
Zuckerberg also said Facebook would continue working to combat foreign interference on its platform by tracking and taking down “malicious accounts.”
The company removed 3.3. billion fake accounts in 2018 and 5.4 billion last year as of November.
Zuckerberg’s announcement comes as Facebook continues facing scrutiny over its decision to show political content to users even if that content contains misinformation or false claims.
The social-media network has been under the microscope particularly in the past few weeks after it refused to follow Twitter’s lead in flagging President Donald Trump’s misleading statements on its platform.
Shortly after Twitter shared links debunking two of Trump’s tweets spreading conspiracy theories about voting by mail, Zuckerberg criticized Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a Fox News interview.
“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” he said.
Dorsey hit back at Zuckerberg, tweeting: “We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.”
He added: “This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.”
Zuckerberg appeared to allude to the recent strife over Trump’s tweets in his op-ed article, writing, “Everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content.”
“We have rules against speech that will cause imminent physical harm or suppress voting, and no one is exempt from them,” he wrote. “But accountability only works if we can see what those seeking our votes are saying, even if we viscerally dislike what they say.”
Zuckerberg added that he believes the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting.
“I believe we should trust voters to make judgments for themselves,” he wrote. “That’s why I think we should maintain as open a platform as possible, accompanied by ambitious efforts to boost voter participation.”
Ralph Stepney’s home on a quiet street in north Baltimore has a welcoming front porch and large rooms, with plenty of space for his comfortable recliner and vast collection of action movies. The house is owned by Joann West, a licensed caregiver who shares it with Stepney and his fellow Vietnam War veteran Frank Hundt.
“There is no place that I’d rather be. … I love the quiet of living here, the help we get. I thank the Lord every year that I am here,” Stepney, 73, said.
It’s a far cry from a decade ago, when Stepney was homeless and “didn’t care about anything.” His diabetes went unchecked and he had suffered a stroke — a medical event that landed him at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
After having part of his foot amputated, Stepney moved into long-term nursing home care at a VA medical facility, where he thought he’d remain — until he became a candidate for a small VA effort that puts aging veterans in private homes: the Medical Foster Home program.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
The $20.7 million-per-year program provides housing and care for more than 1,000 veterans in 42 states and Puerto Rico, serving as an alternative to nursing home care for those who cannot live safely on their own. Veterans pay their caregivers $1,500 to $3,000 a month, depending on location, saving the government about $10,000 a month in nursing home care. It has been difficult to scale up, though, because the VA accepts only foster homes that meet strict qualifications.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
For the veterans, it’s a chance to live in a home setting with caregivers who treat them like family. For the Department of Veterans Affairs, the program provides an option for meeting its legal obligation to care for ailing, aging patients at significantly reduced costs, since the veterans pay room and board directly to their caregivers.
Cost-effectiveness is but one of the program’s benefits. Stepney and Hundt, 67, are in good hands with West, who previously ran a home health care services company. And they’re in good company, watching television together in the main living room, going to elder care twice a week and sitting on West’s porch chatting with neighbors.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
West, who considers caring for older adults “her calling,” also savors the companionship and finds satisfaction in giving back to those who spent their young lives in military service to the U.S.
“I took care of my mother when she got cancer and I found that I really had a passion for it. I took classes and ran an in-home nursing care business for years. But my dream was always to get my own place and do what I am doing now,” West said. “God worked it out.”
The Medical Foster Home program has slightly more than 700 licensed caregivers who live full time with no more than three veterans and provide round-the-clock supervision and care, according to the VA. Akin to a community residential care facility, each foster home must be state-licensed as an assisted living facility and submit to frequent inspections by the VA as well as state inspectors, nutritionists, pharmacists and nurses.
Unlike typical community care facilities, foster home caregivers are required to live on-site and tend to the needs of their patients themselves 24/7 — or supply relief staff.
“It’s a lot of work, but I have support,” West says. “I try to make all my personal appointments on days when Mr. Ralph and Mr. Frank are out, but if I can’t, someone comes in to be here when I’m gone.”
VA medical foster home providers also must pass a federal background check, complete 80 hours of training before they can accept patients, plus 20 hours of additional training each year, and allow the VA to make announced and unannounced home visits. They cannot work outside the home and must maintain certification in first aid, CPR and medicine administration.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
But one prerequisite cannot be taught — the ability to make a veteran feel at home. West has grown children serving in the military and takes pride in contributing to the well-being of veterans.
“It’s a lot of joy taking care of them,” she said of Stepney and Hundt. “They deserve it.”
To be considered for the program, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care; have a serious, chronic disabling medical condition that requires a nursing home level of care; and need care coordination and access to VA services. It can take up to a month to place a veteran in a home once they are found eligible, according to the VA.
The veterans also must be able to cover their costs. Because medical foster homes are not considered institutional care, the VA is not allowed to pay for it directly. The average monthly fee, according to the VA, is $2,300, which most veterans cover with their VA compensation, Social Security and savings, said Nicole Trimble, Medical Foster Home coordinator at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland.
Pilot program takes off
Since 1999, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been required to provide nursing home services to veterans who qualify for VA health care and have a service-connected disability rating of 70 percent or higher, or are considered unemployable and have a disability rating of 60 percent or higher.
The VA provides this care through short- or long-term nursing home facilities, respite care, community living centers on VA hospital grounds, private assisted living facilities and state veterans homes.
Shortly after, the VA Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark., launched an alternative — a pilot program that placed veterans in individual homes, at an average cost to the VA of roughly $60 a day, including administration and health care expenses, compared with upward of $500 a day for nursing home care.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
And because veterans who are enrolled in the Medical Foster Care program must use the VA’s Home-Based Primary Care program, which provides an interdisciplinary team of health professionals for in-home medical treatment, the program saves the VA even more. One study showed that the home-based care has yielded a 59 percent drop in VA hospital inpatient days and a 31 percent reduction in admissions among those who participate.
More than 120 VA medical centers now oversee a Medical Foster Home program in their regions, and the VA has actively promoted the program within its health system.
It also has attracted bipartisan congressional support. In 2013, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to allow the VA to pay for medical foster homes directly.
In 2015, former House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) introduced similar legislation that would have allowed the VA to pay for up to 900 veterans under the program.
And in May, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) raised the issue again, sponsoring a bill similar to Miller’s. “Allowing veterans to exercise greater flexibility over their benefits ensures that their individual needs are best met,” Higgins said in support of the program.
A guardian ‘angel’
Foster care has been a blessing for the family of Hundt, who suffered a stroke shortly after his wife died and was unable to care for himself. Hundt’s daughter, Kimberly Malczewski, lives nearby and often stops in to visit her dad, sometimes with her 2-year-old son.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
“I’m not sure where my father would be if he didn’t have this,” she said. “With my life situation — my husband and I both work full time, we have no extra room in our house, and we have a small child — I can’t take care of him the way Miss Joann does.”
Trimble, whose program started in 2012 and has five homes, said she hopes to expand by two to three homes a year. The VA will remain meticulous about selecting homes.
“There is a strict inspection and vetting process to be a medical foster home,” Trimble said. “We only will accept the best.”
It also takes a special person to be an “angel,” as the caregivers are referred to in the program’s motto, “Where Heroes Meet Angels.”
Stepney and Hundt agree West has earned her wings. On a recent cruise to Bermuda, she brought Stepney and Hundt along.
For Hundt, it was the first time he’d been on a boat. And Stepney said it was nothing like the transport ships he and his fellow troops used in the late 1960s: “Well, I’ve gotten to travel, but it was mainly two years in Vietnam, and there weren’t any women around.”
When asked why she brought the pair along, West said caregiving is “a ministry, something you really have to like to do.”
“And you know how the saying goes,” she said. “When you like what you do, you never work a day in your life.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
An F-35 fighter pilot says he would be confident flying the Joint Strike Fighter against any enemy in the world, including Russian and Chinese 5th Generation stealth fighters.
An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be able to use its sensors, weapons, and computer technology to destroy Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth fighters in a high-end combat fight, service officials said.
“There is nothing that I have seen from maneuvering an F-35 in a tactical environment that leads me to assume that there is any other airplane I would rather be in. I feel completely comfortable and confident in taking that airplane into any combat environment,” Lt. Col. Matt Hayden, 56th Fighter Wing, Chief of Safety, Luke AFB, Arizona, told Warrior in a special pilot interview in 2015.
Furthermore, several F-35 pilots have been clear in their resolve that the multi-role fighter is able to outperform any other platform in existence.
Hayden was clear to point out he has not, as of yet, flown simulated combat missions against the emerging Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA 5th-Generation stealth fighter now in development or the Chinese Shenyang J-31 5th Generation Stealth aircraft. While he said he did not personally know all of the technologies and capabilities of these Russian and Chinese aircraft, he was unambiguous in his assertion regarding confidence in the F-35.
U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Available information says the Russians have built at least 6 prototype T-50 PAK FAs for their Air Force and Navy; the Chinese conducted a maiden test flight of its J-31 in 2012. In addition, China is in pre-production with its J-20 5th-Generation stealth fighter. This fighter, called the Chengdu J-20, made its first flight in 2011.
While Hayden did not elaborate on aspects of the J-20, he did say he would be confident flying the F-35 against any aircraft in the world.
“All those other countries (Russia and China) are trying to develop airplanes that are technologically capable as well — from an F-35 perspective. We are no less capable than any airplane and any fighters out there,” Hayden described.
In addition to leveraging the best available technologies on a fighter jet, winning a dog-fight or combat engagement would depend just as much on the air-tactics and decisions made by a pilot, Hayden explained.
“I have not flown against some of those aircraft. When you fight against an airplane, it depends upon the airspeed. If I maximize the effectiveness of an F-35, I can exploit the weaknesses of any other aircraft,” he said.
Many analysts have made the assessment that the J-20 does appear to be closely modelled after the F-35.
In fact, a Defense Science Board report, cited in a 2014 Congressional assessment of the Chinese military, (US-China Economic Security and Review Commission) makes reference to specific developmental information and specs of numerous U.S. weapons systems believed to be stolen by Chinese computer hackers; design specs and technologies for the F-35 were among those compromised by Chinese cyber-theft, according to the report.
An AIN Online report from the Singapore Air Show catalogues a number of J-20 features and technologies — including those believed to be quite similar to the F-35.
“The J-20 is a large multi-role fighter with stealthy features similar to those found in the American F-22 and F-35. Although very little is known about its intended purpose, the aircraft appears to offer capability in a number of roles, including long-range interception and precision attack.
In terms of weapon carriage the J-20 has a similar arrangement to that of the Lockheed Martin F-22, comprising two lateral bays for small air-to-air missiles such as the agile, imaging-infrared PL-10, and a large under-fuselage bay for accommodating larger missiles and precision-guided surface attack weapons. The 607 Institute’s new PL-15 active-radar missile is thought to be the primary long-range air-to-air weapon, reportedly having been test-fired from a Shenyang J-16 platform last year. The PL-21, a ramjet-powered weapon in the same class as the MBDA Meteor, is another possibility for the J-20.
The sensor suite includes an electro-optical targeting system (EOTS) and a large-array AESA radar, which was developed by the 14th Institute at Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET, 14th Institute), and is possibly designated Type 1475/KLJ-5. Diamond-shaped windows around the fuselage suggest that a distributed aperture infrared vision system is installed.
In the cockpit, the J-20 sports three large color displays, plus other small screens, and a holographic wide-angle head-up display. An advanced datalink has been developed, and a retractable refueling probe is located on the starboard side of the forward fuselage. Much of the avionics suite has been tested by the CFTE (China flight test establishment) aboard a modified Tupolev Tu-204C, in much the same way as the systems of the F-22 were tested in a Boeing 757.”
Regarding the Russian T-50 PAK FA Stealth fighter, numerous reports suggest the aircraft has numerous technological problems and is a 5th generation plane “in name only.”
“Reporting from the Singapore Airshow 2016, IHS Jane’s reports that “Russian industry has consistently referred to the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA as a fifth-generation aircraft, but a careful look at the program reveals that this is an ‘in name only’ designation.”
This is largely because of a lack of evolutionary technology aboard the plane compared with previous jets that Russia and the US have designed. Indeed, the PAK FA’s engines are the same as those aboard Russia’s 4++ generation (a bridging generation between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft) Su-35. Additionally, the PAK FA and the Su-35 share many of the same onboard systems.
And even when the PAK FA’s systems are different from the Su-35’s, the plane’s specifications are still not up to true fifth-generation standards.
RealClearDefense, citing Indian media reports that are familiar with a PAK FA variant being constructed in India, notes that the plane has multiple technological problems. Among these problems are the plane’s “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering.”
F-35 sensor fusion
Despite various reports about technologies being engineered into the Russian and Chinese 5th-Generation Stealth Fighters, it is in no way clear that either aircraft is in any way comparable to the F-35. Most publicly available information seems to indicate that the F-35 is superior — however, to some extent, the issue remains an open question. More information is likely to emerge once the Russian and Chinese aircraft are operational and deployed.
For example, the Chinese J-20 is cited as having an Electro-Optical targeting system, stealth configuration, datalink, AESA radar, and precision weaponry quite similar to the F-35, according to the AIN report.
The computer algorithms woven into the F-35 architecture are designed to leverage early iterations of what could be described as early phases of “artificial intelligence.” Broadly speaking, artificial intelligence refers to fast-evolving computer technology and processors able to gather, assess and integrate information more autonomously in order to help humans make decisions more quickly and efficiently from a position of command-and-control.
“If there is some kind of threat that I need to respond to with the airplane, I don’t have to go look at multiple sensors and multiple displays from multiple locations which could take my time and attention away from something else,” Hayden added.
The F-35 software, which shows images on display screens in the cockpit as well as on a pilot’s helmet-mounted-display, is able to merge results from various radar capabilities onto a single screen for the pilot.
An F-35 Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brandon Shapiro)
“The F-35 takes from multiple sensors around the airplane and combines them together in a way that is much more manageable and accessible — while not detracting from the other tasks that the pilot is trying to accomplish,” Hayden said.
For instance, the F-35’s Electro-Optical Target System, or EOTS, is an infrared sensor able to assist pilots with air and ground targeting at increased standoff ranges while also performing laser designation, laser range-finding and other tasks.
In addition, the plane’s Distributed Aperture System, or DAS, is a series of six electro-optical sensors also able to give information to the pilot. The DAS includes precision tracking, fire control capabilities and the ability to warn the pilot of an approaching threat or missile.
The F-35 is also engineered with an Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, which is able to track a host of electromagnetic signals, including returns from Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR. This paints a picture of the contours of the ground or surrounding terrain and, along with Ground Moving Target Indicator, or GMTI, locates something on the move on the ground and airborne objects or threats.
Hayden added that the F-35 has been training against other F-35s in simulated combat situations, testing basic fighter maneuvers. Having himself flown other fighter aircraft, he explained that many other F-35 pilots also fly the airplane after having experience flying an F-16, A-10 or other combat aircraft.
“The F-35’s low-observable technology can prevent detection. That is a strength that other airplanes do not have,” he said.
F-35 and F-22
At the same time, senior Air Force leaders have made the point that F-35 technological superiority is intended to be paired with the pure air-to-air dogfighting ability of the service’s F-22 – a stealth aircraft, with its speed, maneuverability, and thrust-to-weight ratio, is believed by many to be the most capable air-to-air platform in the world.
“Every airplane has flaws. When you design an airplane, you design an airplane with tradeoffs — give something else up. If I was flying against an adversary in actual combat, my job would be to exploit the enemy weakness and play to my strength. I can compensate for certain things,” Hayden explained. “There is a certain way to fly and fight in an airplane, using airspeed to maximize the turning performance of the airplane.”
An F-22 Raptor.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)
During a public speech in 2015, the Air Forces Air Combat Commander, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, said the F-22 is engineered such that it can complement the F-35.
“You will use the F-35 for air superiority, but you will need the raptors to do some things in a high-end fight to penetrate denied airspace,” he said. “The airplane is designed for multi-role capability, electronic warfare and sensors. The F-35 will win against any fourth-generation airplane — in a close-in fight, it will do exceedingly well. There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future.”
Hayden further elaborated upon these claims, arguing that the F-35 has another set of strategic advantages to include an ability to use internally built sensors. This prevents the need to use external pods on a fighter jet which can add drag, slowing down and restricting maneuverability for an aircraft.
“As an F-35 pilot, I can carry bombs to a target area where I can now take out air-to-ground threats. You have to look at the overall picture of the airplane. The airplane was designed to overwhelm the battlespace in a non-permissive threatening environment where 4th-gen fighters are not going to persist,” he added.
The F-35 is engineered with a 25-mm gun and has the ability to carry and fire a wide range of weapons. The aircraft has already demonstrated an ability to fire an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile), JDADM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) or GBU 12 (laser-guided aerial bomb), and AIM 9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
So-called “Block 3F” software for the F-35 increases the weapons delivery capacity of the JSF as well, giving it the ability to drop a Small Diameter Bomb and 500-pound JDAM.
As a multi-role fighter, the F-35 is also engineered to function as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform designed to apprehend and process video, data and information from long distances. Some F-35 developers have gone so far as to say the F-35 has ISR technologies comparable to many drones in service today that are able to beam a “soda straw” video view of tactically relevant combat locations in real time.
Finally, regarding dogfighting, it is pertinent to point out a “War is Boring” report from 2015 which cited an F-35 fighter pilot explaining how an F-16 was able to win a “mock dogfight” against an F-35; the F-35 Joint Program Office disputed this claim, saying the F-35 used in the scenario was in no way representative of today’s operational F-35s. The software, weapons and sensor technologies used in the mock dogfight were not comparable to the most evolved F-35.
Furthermore, F-35 proponents maintained that the aircraft’s advanced computer technology and sensors would enable it to see and destroy enemy fighters from much longer ranges — essentially destroying enemy fighters before they are seen.
The idea is to enable F-35 pilots to see and destroy enemies in the air, well in advance of a potential dogfight scenario. This can be explained in terms of a well-known Air Force strategic concept pioneered years ago by air theorist and pilot Col. John Boyd, referred to as the “OODA Loop,” — for observe, orient, decide and act. The concept is to complete this process quickly and make fast decisions while in an air-to-air dogfight — in order to get inside the enemy’s decision cycle, properly anticipate, and destroy an enemy before they can destroy you.
The F-35 is designed with long-range sensors and data fusion technologies such that, as a fifth-generation aircraft, it can complete the OODA Loop much more quickly than potential adversaries, F-35 advocates claim.
Mission data files
Described as the brains of the airplane, the mission data files are extensive on-board data systems compiling information on geography, air space and potential threats in known areas of the world where the F-35 might be expected to perform combat operations, Air Force officials explained.
Consisting of hardware and software, the mission data files are essentially a database of known threats and friendly aircraft in specific parts of the world. The files are being worked on at a reprogramming laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Air Force officials told Military.com. The mission data files are designed to work with the aircraft’s Radar Warning Receiver engineered to find and identify approaching enemy threats and hostile fire.
The mission data packages are loaded with a wide range of information to include commercial airliner information and specifics on Russian and Chinese fighter jets. For example, the mission data system would enable a pilot to quickly identify a Russian MiG-29 if it were detected by the F-35’s sensors.
The mission data files are being engineered to adjust to new threat and intelligence information as it emerges. For instance, the system is engineered to one day have all the details on a Chinese J-20 stealth fighter or Russian T-50 PAK FA stealth aircraft.
As a high-visibility, expensive acquisition program, the F-35 has many vocal detractors and advocates; the aircraft has, to be sure, had its share of developmental problems over the years. some of these problems include complications with its main computer system, called ALIS, and a now-corrected engine fire aboard the aircraft. Overall, most critics have pointed to the program’s growing costs, something program officials claim has vastly improved through various money-saving initiatives and bulk-buys.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said that the Purple Heart for Brown would be considered but the award would “depend on the definition of the event” in which his life was lost, a reference to the criteria for the Purple Heart established by Congress after the Fort Hood, Texas, shootings in 2009. Cook said the decision on the award would be up to the Army.
Brown was at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando frequented by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when the worst mass shooting in U.S. history occurred. Police say he was among the 49 killed by 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in 911 calls.
Following lobbying by families of the victims, Congress in 2013 added to the criteria for the Purple Heart to make victims of the Fort Hood massacre eligible. At Fort Hood, Nidal Hasan, a U.S. Army major and psychiatrist, fatally shot 13 people and wounded more than 30 others. Hasan was sentenced to death and is being held at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, during appeals.
Congress in 2015 amended the National Defense Authorization Act to expand eligibility for the Purple Heart to include troops killed in an attack where “the individual or entity was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack,” and where “the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization.”
Then-Army Secretary John McHugh later said, “The Purple Heart’s strict eligibility criteria has prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood. Now that Congress has changed the criteria, we believe here is sufficient reason to allow these men and women to be awarded and recognized with either the Purple Heart or, in the case of civilians, the Defense of Freedom medal.”
Brown, who joined the Army three years before the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against openly gay service was scrapped, was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 383rd Regiment, 4th Cavalry Brigade, 85th Support Command based in St. Louis, Missouri.
Brown, whose home of record was listed as Orlando, graduated from Florida (AM) Agricultural and Mechanical University with his undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant on August 8, 2008. In 2010, he received his Master’s degree in Business Administration from University of Mary, North Dakota.
In May 2009, he served on active duty with the 1st Special Troop Battalion, Fort Riley, Kansas. It was during that assignment with the battalion that Brown served an 11-month overseas deployment to Kuwait, the Army Reserves said.
In a statement Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that Brown “served his country for nearly a decade, stepping forward to do the noblest thing a young person can do, which is to protect others.
“His service both at home and overseas gave his fellow Americans the security to dream their dreams, and live full lives,” Carter said. “The attack in Orlando was a cowardly assault on those freedoms, and a reminder of the importance of the mission to which Capt. Brown devoted his life.”
US Air Force special operators evacuate wounded service members during a training exercise with an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter. A U.S. special operations team is currently trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan and one of the Pave Hawks sent to rescue them has crashed. Photo: US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Scott Taylor
More than a dozen U.S. Army special operations soldiers are trapped in Marjah, Afghanistan, taking cover in a compound surrounded by enemy fire and hostile Taliban fighters after a U.S. special operations solider was killed earlier in the day, senior U.S. defense officials told Fox News late Tuesday.
A U.S. official described the “harrowing” scene to Fox News, saying there were enemy forces surrounding the compound in which the special operations team sought refuge.
“On the map there is one green dot representing friendly forces stuck in the compound, and around it is a sea of red [representing hostile forces],” the official told Fox News.
A U.S. military “quick reaction force” of reinforcements arrived late Tuesday and evacuated the U.S. special operations soldier killed in action, and the two wounded Americans in the compound, according to a U.S. defense official.
The crew of the disabled helicopter also evacuated safely, the official said.
The rest of the U.S. special operations team remain in the compound to secure the damaged HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter in an area surrounded by Taliban fighters.
An AC-130 gunship has been called in for air cover as the U.S. troops now wait out the night.
Earlier in the day, two USAF HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were sent to rescue the U.S. special operations team. One of the helicopters took fire and waved off the mission and flew back to base.
The other helicopter’s blades struck the wall of the compound while attempting a rescue of the special operations team, according to defense officials who compared the scene to one similar to the helicopter crash inside Usama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on the mission to kill the Al Qaeda leader in May 2011.
The joint U.S. and Afghan special operations team was sent to Marjah to clear the area of Taliban fighters, who have retaken most of the town since November.
There were nine airstrikes on Tuesday in support of a clearing operation.
Earlier in the day, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed to reporters that the fighting in Marjah remains ongoing.
“There’s fighting on the ground as we speak,” said Cook.
“Everything’s being done to secure the safety of those Americans and the Afghan forces,” he added.
The Taliban in recent weeks has focused its efforts on retaking parts of Helmand, and the U.S. has countered with U.S. special operations forces working with Afghan troops.
Iran has debuted a new, locally built long-range missile system as it continues its defiant stance against the United States amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in a speech on Aug. 22, 2019, during the unveiling of the mobile air-to-surface missile system that since Iran’s “enemies don’t accept logic, we cannot respond with logic.”
“When the enemy launches a missile against us, we cannot give a speech and say: ‘Mr. Rocket, please do not hit our country and our innocent people. Rocket-launching sir, if you can please hit a button and self-destruct the missile in mid-air,'” Rohani added in the speech from Tehran.
Rohani’s speech and the missile system are the latest volley in a war of words between Tehran and Washington that many worry will escalate into armed conflict.
The United States withdrew from a 2015 international accord to limit Iran’s nuclear ambitions and instead reimposed sanctions on the country.
The ministers of foreign affairs and other officials from the P5+1 countries, the European Union and Iran while announcing the framework of a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, April 2015.
Iran’s economy has suffered under the sanctions, which target its oil and financial sectors.
Iran’s oil production has plummeted to 300,000 barrels a day or less while its economy will shrink by 6 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund projects. Unemployment remains high, at 12 percent.
A series of recent attacks on international ships, which the United States has blamed on Iran, and the seizure of a British tanker, have added to volatility in the region and on the global shipping industry.
Iran shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone in the Persian Gulf with a surface-to-air missile in June 2019. It says the drone was over its territory, but the United States says it was in international airspace.
Despite the increased rhetoric and animosity, Tehran maintains that it does not seek confrontation with Washington that U.S. moves against it are tantamount to bullying.
“Will there be a war in the…Gulf? I can tell you that we will not start the war…but we will defend ourselves,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on Aug. 22, 2019, at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.
Basically it’s a story about how a small group of veterans who were radicalized in Iraq and Afghanistan provide security for fringe Neo-Nazi groups. It continues with an anecdote about the author’s NYPD lieutenant uncle and his prejudice.
The piece argues that not enough is being done to aid returning veterans with Post Traumatic Stress from becoming racists. To the article’s defense, it does say the percentage of veterans pulling security for the Right Wing groups is a small one. And I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard a racial slur used by a piece of sh*t during my time in the U.S. Army.
However, it glosses over the U.S. military’s extremely hard stance against those ****heads and the astronomical percentage of troops who learned to see their fellow service member as not white, brown, or black, but “green.”
All the Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces have unequivocally denounced racism and hatred within their branch. Every value within each branch goes directly against what we all stand for. There is no way in Hell any soldier can truly live by the Army values if they are not loyal to and respect everyone on their left and right.
The Army’s diversity mission statement is: “To develop and implement a strategy that contributes to mission readiness while transforming and sustaining the Army as a national leader in diversity.” In every sense, we are.
We just assume that no matter what race you are, wherever you comes from, whatever religion, gender, or orientation: if you’re a young private – you’re probably an idiot no matter what. And if you’re a second lieutenant, you’re probably an idiot who’s also in the chain of command.
Troops come from all walks of life. I’ve served with former surfers from California, ranchers from Texas, and computer analysts from Illinois. Troops who grew up in the projects of Harlem to the high rises of Manhattan to trailer parks outside Atlanta to the suburbs of Cleveland.
I will forever be honored knowing they all embraced me as a brother. The life story of my friend, Spec. Allam Elshorafa, is proof that serving in the military will make you “see green” far more than the minute group of iditos that do radicalize.
Arriving at my first duty station in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, I wasn’t the most popular guy in the unit. I quickly realized that awkwardly talking about World of Warcraft wasn’t doing me any favors with avid fishermen and party guys, yet they still always looked out for me as one of their own.
In Afghanistan, I got to know Elshorafa. He was a Muslim born in Jerusalem. His family moved to Dallas when he was younger and as an adult, he enlisted to defend his new American home.
We quickly became friends. We’d talk about cartoons we saw as kids, video games we played as teens, and movies we hated as adults.
Things shifted when the topic of “why we enlisted” came up. He told me it was his life’s goal to help teach others that “not all Muslims are terrorists.” They are a fringe group that preys on other Muslims and are a blight on his religion.
One of radical Islam’s recruitment methods is to point at racism of westerners to rally disenfranchised Muslims. Yet, for all of the vile hatred those sh#tbags spew against the West, the largest target of Islamic terror is still other Muslims.
Islamic terror to Elshorafa was the same as how every group deals with the radicals. Not all Christians are Branch Davidians, and not all Republicans are in the Alt-Right. To him, America was his home and we were his family. I, and everyone else in the platoon, embraced him as such.
My brother-in-arms ended his own life in June 2017. He joined the staggering number of veterans that still remain one of the most tragic concerns within our community. The loss still pains me, and I wear the memorial band every day.
It didn’t matter what race or religion either of us was, Elshorafa had my six and it will always hurt that I didn’t have his in his time of need.
He taught me about his faith and never attempted to convert me. He invited me to join him at an Eid al-Fitr celebration and the food was amazing. Just as you learn the players of every other football team other than your own by hanging out with their passionate fans, you learn in the military about others’ ways of life by bullsh*tting with them.
Everyone embraces the same suck on a daily basis. We all bleed the same red. And we all wear the same ‘green.’
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley strongly condemned Iran for its alleged recruitment and use of child soldiers in battlefields across the Middle East.
“The use of child soldiers is a moral outrage that every civilized nation rejects while Iran celebrates it,” Haley said Oct. 18, 2018, during a U.N. Security Council meeting.
Haley’s remarks came two days after the U.S.Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced new sanctions targeting businesses that provide financial support to the Basij Resistance Force, a paramilitary force under the command of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
“Iran’s economy is increasingly devoted to funding Iranian repression at home and aggression abroad,” she said. “In this case, Iranian big business and finance are funding the war crime of using child soldiers. This is crony terrorism.”
The latest sanctions are part of the U.S. efforts to pressure Iran economically for what the Trump administration has described as Iran’s destabilizing role in the Middle East and its sponsorship of terrorism in the region.
The U.S. Treasury Department has listed a network of some 20 companies and economic entities that are believed to be funding the recruitment and training of child soldiers for the IRGC.
“Any company or individual that does business with this Iranian network is complicit in sending children to die on the battlefields of Syria and elsewhere,” Haley said.
The network providing financial support to the Basij is known as Bonyad Taavon Basij.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
“This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij’s efforts to recruit, train and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC’s direction,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
“The international community must understand that business entanglements with the Bonyad Taavon Basij network and IRGC front companies have real-world humanitarian consequences, and help fuel the Iranian regime’s violent ambitions across the Middle East,” Mnuchin added.
Tehran called the U.S. sanctions a violation of international law.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in a tweet on Oct. 17, 2018, that the latest U.S. sanctions violated two orders by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“Utter disregard for rule of law human rights of an entire people. U.S. outlaw regime’s hostility toward Iranians heightened by addiction to sanctions,” Zarif said in a tweet.
Bahram Qassemi, a spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Oct. 18, 2018, it’s part of a psychological war waged by the U.S. against Iran.
“Such actions show the spitefulness of the U.S. government towards the Iranian people and are a clear insult to legal and international mechanisms,” the state-run IRNA news agency quoted Qassemi as saying.
Some Iranian rights activists have welcomed the U.S. move, however, and described it as a positive step to discipline the Iranian government for its actions in the region.
“Any action focused on children’s rights is important because it highlights the importance of protecting children’s rights and puts the issue of child soldiers under the spotlight,” Hamed Farmand, a Virginia-based children’s rights activist, told VOA. “Any international action with the purpose of condemning child soldiers is widely appreciated but it needs more action than just financial sanctions on some institutes involved in it.”
A 2017 Human Rights Watch report accused Iran of committing war crimes by recruiting and sending Afghan refugee children “as young as 14” to fight in Syria. The New York-based organization also has documented how the IRGC has recruited Afghan immigrant children living in Iran to fight in Syria along Syrian regime troops.
Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, also an Iranian human rights activist, said there should be an effective mechanism to force Iran to improve its human rights record.
“To change the behavior of the Iranian government, the international community needs a human rights-focused approach and must take multiple actions simultaneously,” she said during a recent Geneva Summit on Human Rights and Democracy.
Effects of sanctions
But Sadegh Hosseini, a Tehran-based analyst, said U.S. sanctions on the Basij force actually are indirect punishment inflicted on the Iranian people.
“Sanctioning the Basij could affect many Iranians who have voluntarily become members of it or have joined it in the past,” he said.
He told VOA “the purpose of this embargo is unclear but many Iranians who have bank accounts with those financial institutes could be affected, since many of them receive their employment salaries only through accounts at those targeted banks.”
Other experts say that following the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the U.S. Treasury Department has stepped up its efforts on this front because it is the main pillar that can block Iran’s sale of oil and impose banking restrictions on the country.
“The latest move by the [U.S.] Treasury to sanction Iran’s Basij Resistance Force is an important part of that campaign,” said Farhang Jahanpour, a professor of international law at Oxford University.
“So far, other signatories to the [nuclear deal] have refused to go along with American sanctions on Iran, but many major European companies have cut back or have completely ended their dealings with Iran in fear of U.S. retaliation,” Jahanpour added.
Behnam Ben Taleblou, a researcher at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the recent designations were different from previous measures “because they focused on the role of select financial institutions in generating revenue that was ultimately used to benefit the Basij.”
“The [U.S.] Treasury Department’s willingness to go after the entities in the Basij financial support network highlights the challenge of doing due diligence in Iran, as well as signals to the international community that the U.S. is serious about putting the squeeze on all elements of the Iranian economy tied to the IRGC,” Taleblou added.