U.S. charges six Russian military officers with 'destructive' global hacking campaign - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

U.S. charges six Russian military officers with ‘destructive’ global hacking campaign

The United States has charged six Russian military officers with a “destructive,” global criminal cyber-campaign that included the worldwide distribution of destructive malware and attempts to undermine the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine.

The indictment, announced by the Justice Department on October 19, also accuses the men of hacking French elections, the Seoul Olympics, and an international organization investigating Russia’s use of a deadly nerve agent.


The charges are the latest in a series of cybercriminal indictments leveled by the United States against Russian state and nonstate actors.

The six Russian nationals are all alleged to be officers in a unit of the Russian military intelligence directorate, known as the GRU, which the United States in 2018 accused of hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Convention two years earlier.

U.S. Attorney Scott Brady called the officers’ campaigns “the most destructive and costly cyberattacks in history.”

“No country has weaponized its cyber-capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” according to Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers.

Also on October 19, Britain’s Foreign Office said GRU hackers had targeted organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials declined to give specific details about these attacks or say whether they were successful, but said they had targeted the Olympics’ organizers, logistics suppliers, and sponsors.

“The GRU’s actions against the Olympic and Paralympic Games are cynical and reckless. We condemn them in the strongest possible terms,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said

The United States received help in its years-long investigation of the GRU officers from foreign governments as well as some of the largest U.S. companies, including Google, Cisco, Facebook, and Twitter, the Justice Department said in its statement.

Even though the United States is unlikely to ever bring the men to justice, the charges essentially prevent the men from traveling to countries that have extradition agreements with the United States.

The six men indicted are Yury Andrienko, Sergei Detistov, Pavel Frolov, Anatoly Kovalev, Artyom Ochichenko, and Pyotr Pliskin.

They are charged with developing NotPetya, the malware that spread globally in 2017, causing upwards of billion in damages and impairing critical medical services in western Pennsylvania.

They are also blamed for the cyberattacks against a series of Ukrainian targets from December 2015 through 2016, including the nation’s power grid and Finance Ministry, and cyberattacks against the Georgian parliament in 2019.

Russia has tense relations with both countries, having invaded Georgia in 2008 and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Russia is also backing separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Justice Department said the men were also behind a series of international spear-phishing campaigns, including against the political party of French President Emmanuel Macron in 2017, the International Olympic Committee in 2017 and 2018, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Spear-phishing is an e-mail or electronic communications scam targeting a a specific individual, organization, or business with the intent to steal data for malicious purposes or install malware on a targeted user’s computer.

The attack on the OPCW came just a month after Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer, and his daughter were found unconscious in the British city of Salisbury in 2018.

The British authorities and OPCW confirmed the Skripals had been poisoned with the Russian nerve agent Novichok. Britain accused two GRU officers of carrying out the attack.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to talk to kids about war

For anyone high school age or under, America has been at war since they took their first breath. Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, a conflict that is ongoing, it has been a nation at war. In this time span, American troops (and drones) have fought in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya, Libya, Uganda, and Yemen. To a kid, this is all very far away if they know about it at all. Such conflicts are only fleetingly headline news and barely make their way into pop culture (unless, of course, you count conflicts on galaxies far far away). But kids should know about war. Right? Is it a parent’s duty to tell them about the conflicts their country is engaged in? And if so, how much should we tell them?

It all depends on where a child is in their development. Parents of older children can engage in more complex conversations about the dangers and reasons for war, using their history lessons and entertainment as an entry point. But when it comes to a kid under the age of 7, things require a bit more finesse.


“The brain is rapidly evolving during growth and development, and it leads to very striking differences how kids understand these kinds of concepts” says Dr.Chris Ivany, a child and adolescent psychiatrist working in the Washington, DC area.

The conversation about what war even is needs to cater to a child’s understanding of the physical world while not resorting to metaphors that are either dangerously reductive – “it’s like when mommy and daddy fight” – or frightfully apocalyptic. It’s a conversation about life and death, politics, morality, and human nature. None of those topics taken alone are easy to convey to a child. Add them together and you’ve got a quagmire that needs to be explained in simple, non-terrifying terms.

That’s even tougher when parents seem to freak out about every new news item. The fact is, people have been freaking out about war’s representation in the media for generations. We’re only a few decades removed from Cold War anxieties that caused Boomers to duck and cover at the sound of an air-raid siren, and only about 30 years from the emergence of the current 24-hour news cycle, which came to prominence during the Gulf War. As we enter another period of escalation and deescalation with Iran, it’s on parents to try to calmly explain what’s happening in the world without leaving children shaking in their boots.

“Even more than the words that are spoken back and forth, the tone and way in which discussions like this happen between parents and kids are important,” says Ivany. “Kids pick up on worries and anxieties that parents may have. Parents (should) model the idea that there truly are hard and scary and bad things out in the world, but (also how) we get through them.”

Pop culture can help. Certain touchstones provide context, which is exactly what a child needs to understand the world around them.

“A 4-year-old seeing war presented in a Disney cartoon (like Mulan)… it probably doesn’t overwhelm him or her and then you can have a conversation about it. That same 4-year-old watching the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan is going to be overwhelmed and it’s not going to have the same effect,” says Ivany. “The exposure to the various points in pop culture or discussions in school, as long as it’s developmentally and age-appropriate it’s probably a good thing. Unfortunately, war is a reality and we need to understand it. If it leads to a productive discussion because it’s not an overwhelming topic, it opens the door for future discussions.

“As the brain grows and matures, you can have another discussion that’s more complex than when they were four. And they’ll do that because they feel like engaging you was helpful and not scary: You created a line of communication,” says Ivany.

That line of communication can lead to more productive discussions as a child ages and starts to understand the concept of war on a deeper level, touching on the reasons for war, the concept of morality and “just war”, and the ethical and moral aspects of conflict.

Still, war, even in abstract, is terrifying. That’s why it’s important to stress with children that they’re fortunate in that war isn’t immediately encroaching on them, ready to wipe them out.

“Kids tend to internalize and put themselves in the middle of things that logically doesn’t make sense, and that may result in fears that aren’t logical to adults: ‘If it’s on the TV screen, why wouldn’t it be at the door? If a missile can fly from Iran to Iraq, why can’t that missile fly to the suburb where they may live?'” says Ivany. “Especially in kids up to the age of 7, part of this conversation is a reassurance that they are safe, and this is not something that they need to be worried about on a day-to-day basis.”

As for kids with loved ones deployed, Ivany stresses that while conflict has its casualties, it’s essential that they understand, “the vast majority of soldiers come back just fine. Any time somebody is hurt it’s a tragedy, but most of the time people are safe.”

Simply having a conversation, to begin with, can be tough. But being open and honest is the key to helping assuage fears and anxieties about war. And, as with all things parenting, those conversations can evolve into larger lessons on life outside the battlefield.

“You can use conversations about serious things like this to help encourage growth and development in other areas,” says Ivany. “It can lead to a helpful discussion about compassion for other people, or it could become a launching point about speaking out about what’s wrong and to be able to take personal positions on things (like standing up to bullies). These conversations about war oftentimes provide an opportunity for other discussions that are helpful in kids’ development.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US and Russia are fighting over these key missiles

Russia must scrap its Novator 9M729 missile systems and launchers or reduce their range to comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and prevent a U.S. withdrawal from the Cold War-era pact, U.S. officials say.

Andrea Thompson, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told reporters on a teleconference call on Dec. 6, 2018, that the weapons system has a range that is not in compliance with the 1987 INF pact.

She added that Moscow must “rid the system, rid the launcher, or change the system so it doesn’t exceed the range” to bring Russia back “to full and verifiable compliance.”

“The ball’s in Russia’s court. We can’t do that for them. They have to take the initiative,” she added.


U.S. President Donald Trump announced in October 2018 that Washington would abandon the INF, citing alleged Russian violation and concerns that the bilateral treaty binds Washington to restrictions while leaving nuclear-armed countries that are not signatories, such as China, free to develop and deploy the missiles.

U.S. officials have said Russia’s deployment of the 9M729, also known as the SSC-8, breaches the ban on ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

On Dec. 4, 2018, the United States said it would suspend its obligations under the treaty if Moscow did not return to compliance within two months.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the decision after NATO allies meeting in Brussels “strongly” supported U.S. accusations that Russia violated the terms of the INF.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“During this 60 days, we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period,” Pompeo said.

Russian officials have repeatedly dismissed such demands, and President Vladimir Putin gave no indication that Moscow plans to abandon the 9M729, which it claims does not violate the treaty.

Russia has alleged that some elements of U.S. missile-defense systems in Europe were in violation of the treaty, which Washington denies.

The U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman, who was on the briefing call with Thompson, insisted that a U.S. withdrawal from the INF did not mean “we are walking away from arms control.”

“We are doing this to preserve the viability and integrity of arms control agreements more broadly,” he said.

“We remain committed to arms control, but we need a reliable partner and do not have one in Russia on INF, or for that matter on other treaties that it’s violating.”

He said “one can only surmise” that Moscow is attempting to “somehow seek an advantage” with the missile — “a little bit like violations we’re seeing with other treaties, whether it’s the Open Skies Treaty or whether it’s the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This insane anti-aircraft gun chased the Israelis out of the sky

The Israeli Air Force has long been dominant over the skies of the Middle East. They have superb pilots and they use their planes very well. There was a time, however, when that dominance was challenged – and it was arguably Israel’s darkest hour.


In 1973, Israel stood triumphant in the Middle East. For a quarter-century, it had fended off efforts to wipe it off the map. But on Yom Kippur, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched an attack. To protect their armored forces, the Egyptian-Syrian forces used a combination of two Soviet-designed systems: The SA-6 “Gainful” surface-to-air missile and the ZSU-23-4 “Shilka.”

Recognition graphic of a ZSU-23-4. (U.S. Army)

The latter system was truly deadly, considering Israeli tactics. Radar-guided and with four 23mm cannon capable of firing as many as 1,000 rounds per minute, the ZSU-23-4 was able to hit targets almost two miles away. Many Israeli pilots in A-4 Skyhawks, Mirage IIIs, Neshers, and F-4 Phantoms soon found out the hard way that flying low to avoid surface-to-air missiles was hazardous. In one strike, six aircraft were lost taking out a missile battery.

The Israelis eventually came up with workarounds to defeat the SA-6/ZSU-23 combo, but they needed aircraft replacements from the United States, due to losing roughly 100 aircraft. The Israelis would learn their lesson, and in 1982, Syrian forces found themselves on the wrong end of a turkey shoot.

Having proven itself in combat, the ZSU-23-4 was widely exported. As of 2014, 39 countries use this system to provide tactical air defense for their forces. Russia has since replaced the ZSU-23 in front-line units with the 2S6 Tunguska and the Pantsir gun-missile combo systems but this mobile gun will forever be known for the time it almost chased one of the best air forces in the world from the skies over a battlefield.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zEcPEIzekM
(Dung Tran | YouTube)
Articles

These are the secret tunnels ISIS uses to launch sneak attacks in Syria

The Kurdish YPG, a contingent of the US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Syria, released a video Aug. 29 showing the underground tunnels that ISIS digs to launch sneak attacks.


The video shows two rather large tunnels inside a captured, bombed-out mosque, from which the YPG claim that ISIS had been using.

“The barbaric group, aware of the YPG’s sensitivity towards people’s places of worship and other historic sites, has been using [mosques] as bases to delay the liberation of Raqqa,” text in the YPG video reads.

ISIS has been known to use such tunnels in Iraq and Syria not only for sneak attacks, which the militants reportedly paid civilians $2 per day to dig, are also used for moving supplies, housing ISIS fighters, and laying booby traps.

 

(YPG PRESS OFFICE | YouTube)

 

Former ISIS fighters have reportedly said that some of the tunnels are extremely complex, some even containing rooms, toilets, and medical facilities.

A YPG commander recently said there are about 700 to 1,000 ISIS fighters left in Raqqa, and that the battle should be over in about 2 months.

This older Fox News video shows how intricate the tunnels can get:

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how the Air Force wants to turn its copilots into robots

It could be argued that the one persistent challenge faced by the Air Force over its 70-year history is how to best integrate Airmen with cutting-edge technology.


Most pressing, from the earliest days of aviation, was the need to protect the human body from the potentially deadly forces generated by advances in aircraft speed, maneuverability and altitude capabilities.

Even in the pre-Air Force days leading up to WWII, altitudes were being achieved that necessitated aircraft with oxygen systems to keep pilots and crews coherent and alive during missions. This was closely followed by the development of aircraft with a pressurized fuselage, such as the B-29, which allowed crews to fly high-altitude missions without oxygen masks and cumbersome heated flight suits to protect them from sub-zero temperatures.

The advent of the jet age led to ever increasing altitudes and gravitational forces (G-forces) on the pilot, necessitating the development of G-suits to push blood to the pilot’s brain, minimizing blackouts, and ejection seats to allow pilots to safely escape aircraft operating at high speed and altitude.

The testing of these technologies quickly became the public face of the Air Force’s human performance research and human factors engineering.

Baby Boomers routinely saw newsreel films and photos in magazines of researchers testing ways to protect pilots from the effects of high G-forces and altitudes with rocket sleds, centrifuges, atmospheric chambers and even balloons used in Project Excelsior as an Airman, Col. Joseph Kittinger, protected by a pressure suit, made a free-fall jump from 19 miles above the Earth’s surface.

Cognitive research led to everything from the development of the mouse, optimizing how a person inputs information into a computer, to eye-tracking studies to analyze how Airmen best recognize and utilize intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance information displayed on a monitor, to wearable devices that can measure a human’s current physical state, heart rate, blood pressure and respiration.ILLUSTRATION // COREY PARRISH

It was physiological research necessary to keep advancing the Air Force’s capabilities in the air, and later, in space. But it also made for good theater for the public.

However, from the very beginnings of the Air Force, there has been concurrent, less theatrical study of another interface between humans and their machines that has been just as ground breaking; that between the machine and the human brain.

It is research that is pivoting from an emphasis on optimizing tools for use by Airmen to creating technologies that will work with Airmen, as a partner.

Cognitive research by the Air Force began with an issue created by the U.S.’s enormous production output during WWII: lack of uniformity between aircraft cockpits and displays.

“There wasn’t such a thing as a standard cockpit configuration and aviators were confusing things like landing gear and putting flaps down,” said Dr. Morley Stone, the Chief Technology Officer for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. “Of course, that was leading to a variety of mishaps … Really, that gave birth to the whole field of human factors engineering.”

Lt. Col. Paul Fitts led the research team at Wright Patterson AFB that developed a consistent method for laying out an aircraft cockpit and instruments allowing a pilot to quickly and efficiently comprehend the current state of the aircraft. They also developed methods to manipulate controls more reliably, no matter the airframe.

The autonomous capability that we currently have is fairly nascent. Current algorithms are limited, certainly imperfect. We want to design to remedy that … intelligent assistants that sit on your shoulder that sift through data that look for correlations and relationships and present those in an easily digestible way to our Airmen to consider.
ILLUSTRATION // COREY PARRISH

“That key research that occurred here at Wright-Patterson (AFB), as well as elsewhere, enabled the standardization of the key instrumentation needed to fly an aircraft,” said Mark Draper, a principal engineering research psychologist with the 711th Human Performance Wing at the AFRL. “It’s called a T-scan pattern. Pilots quickly learned the T-scan to rapidly ascertain if their aircraft is doing they want it to do. That became the standard for decades.”

However as new weaponry, on-board radars, sensors, communications and command and control technologies were added to airframes, pilots and crews quickly became overwhelmed by too much information for the human brain to process efficiently, a condition that pilots call a “helmet fire.”

“A key milestone, which was really significant, was the introduction of the glass cockpit,” said Draper. “Over several decades of just adding more controls and hardware instruments here and there, the real estate became really limited.”

“If we were able to put in computer monitors, if you will, into the cockpit, we would be enabling the re-using of that real estate. We could tailor the information towards a particular mission or phase of flight. The controls and the displays could be changed. That opened up a wealth of opportunity to not only provide more capability to the pilot, but also to enable the introduction of graphics into cockpits to make the information more easily understood and utilized.”

These concepts advanced by human factors engineering at AFRL has led to further research making the workflow of Airmen in many career fields more efficient and has even crossed over into the public sector.

According to Stone, this type of research led to everything from the development of the mouse, optimizing how a person inputs information into a computer, to eye-tracking studies to analyze how Airmen best recognize and utilize intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance information displayed on a monitor, to wearable devices that can measure a human’s current physical state, heart rate, blood pressure and respiration.

The Air Force in its history has focused very strongly on the cockpit and crew stations for aircraft. However, where we’re going is expanding well beyond the cockpit. The Airman and machine will share decision making, and at times one or the other takes the lead depending on the particular context. In this case, Airmen and drones will be working together to deliver supplies to sometimes dangerous locations without putting Airman at increased risk for harm.ILLUSTRATION // COREY PARRISH

Yet for all of these advances in streamlining interfaces and presenting data in more digestible packets on ergonomic displays, the limits of human cognition still present an ubiquitous obstacle for the future Air Force to efficiently integrate main and machine.

Stone and Draper believe one way to scale this obstacle is to enable Airmen to share some of their workload with a partner – a silicon-based partner. Draper and his team at the Human Autonomy Lab at the AFRL focus on how to better interconnect human intelligence with machine intelligence as we move into the future.

“Seventy years into the future, we’ll still be limited by the fact that we have a very limited short-term memory, we get bored easily, we’re not known to just sit there and stare at one place for a long period of time. That’s why our eyes move a lot,” said Stone. “We’re looking at a whole variety of tools, not just wearable sensors, but other types of non-invasive standoff sensors that look at things like heart rate and respiration and other physical cues … and trying to get that information out in such a way that you can make it readable to that future synthetic teammate.”

These sensors, coupled with ever increasing computing capabilities, could lead to Airmen of 2087 routinely conducting missions with a synthetic partner that will not only shoulder some of the workload, but constantly monitor the carbon-based Airman’s physical, mental and emotional state before recommending mission options.

“Computational power is getting ever more powerful. Also, computational power is becoming more miniaturized, so you can start putting it more places,” said Draper. “At the same time, you’re increasing the reasoning capabilities of the machines to collect domain knowledge, assess the conditions and create courses of action.”

“We have sensors becoming very miniaturized and able to sense the human physiology without even being attached to the human,” Draper added. “In a vision of the future, Artificial Intelligence can serve to continually monitor the human while the human is engaged in various tasks, and then dynamically adapt the interaction with the machinery, the interaction with the environment, and the off-loading of tasks. All with the express purpose of better team performance.”

As autonomy becomes more trusted, as it becomes more capable, then the Airmen can start off-loading more decision-making capability on the autonomy, and autonomy can exercise increasingly important levels of decision making increasing our capability to control the battlefield.ILLUSTRATION // COREY PARRISH

According to Draper, one of the Air Force’s first forays into the realm of operational autonomous computing was the introduction of flight management systems into cockpits during the 1980s.

“Up until then, you had pre-planning and the pilots did all the navigation with a navigator,” said Draper. “Then they introduced a flight management system, which would automatically generate routes … give you the waypoints all the way from point A to point B. However, the initial design of these systems was less than great and we ran into lots of problems, lots of mishaps. This inspired research in order to better design how humans interact with automation which is critical, especially when we start talking about increasingly intelligent systems that are going to be introduced to future military systems.”

These initial steps were the beginning of a slow gradation from applying of autonomous systems as advisors, to allowing them to shoulder some mission requirements, to a possible future of handling some tasks on their own.

“The Air Force in its history has focused very strongly on the cockpit and crew stations for aircraft. However, where we’re going is expanding well beyond the cockpit,” said Draper.

“The autonomous capability that we currently have is fairly nascent. Current algorithms are limited, certainly imperfect. We want to design to remedy that … intelligent assistants that sit on your shoulder that sift through data that look for correlations and relationships and present those in an easily digestible way to our Airmen to consider … We want to reduce the overall workload associated with the Airmen, but the Airmen still retain key decision making authority.”

The key ingredient in a symbiosis between carbon-based and silicon-based Airmen is the development of trust.


Consider the amount of trust you have that your consumer grade GPS or cellular navigation system will correctly plot the best route to your destination and give you timely cues to execute that route. This is the bridge that must be designed and optimized between Airmen and their synthetic counterparts.

“As autonomy becomes more trusted, as it becomes more capable, then the Airmen can start off-loading more decision-making capability on the autonomy, and autonomy can exercise increasingly important levels of decision making,” said Draper. “That’s a migration you slowly incorporate as you unleash autonomy, as its capability dictates, and then you reel it back in when you need to, when your trust in it drops and you know that you need to become more engaged, you tighten the leash. The Airman and machine will share decision making, and at times one or the other takes the lead depending on the particular context.”

Draper said this trust will be achieved by a paradigm designed with a series of checks and balances, where Airmen can override an autonomous decision and Artificial Intelligence can sense an Airman’s fatigue, stress or miscalculation and suggest an alternative course of action.

“Humans make errors too, right? We all know this,” said Draper. “We should have an almost equivalent Artificial Intelligence looking at overall system performance, telling the aiman, ‘Hey, human! What you’re doing here potentially can really disrupt some complex things. Do you really want to do that?'”

Draper believes autonomous systems will never be given the keys to the kingdom and turned loose to execute missions completely on their own without human management and authorization. There will always be an Airman in the loop working with technology, to do the right thing. The nature and level of Airman engagement will change with new technology, but the critical role of the Airman, as supervisor, teammate, overseer, will persist.

“Imagine a perfect assistant with you while you work on a car. You’re struggling and you’re switching between many different tasks. All the while, you have this intelligent assistant that is constantly supporting you; reaching and moving tools out of your way and bringing in new tools when you need it, or showing you pictures and giving you computer readouts of the engine at exactly the right time. That sort of symbiotic tight-synced relationship between humans and autonomy is what I envision 70 years from now. True teammates,” said Draper.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Wreaths Across America: How one tribute started a movement

National Wreaths Across America Day has become such a big tradition that it’s hard to believe it began from just one personal tribute.

How it Happened

The Worcester family of Harrington, Maine, owns their own tree farm. In 1992, they had a surplus of wreaths during the holiday season, so the family patriarch, Morrill — who had long felt indebted to our fallen veterans — got help from a Maine politician to have those spare wreaths placed beside graves in Arlington National Cemetery in areas that received fewer visitors each year.


Several volunteers stepped up to help, including veterans from American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and a truck company owner who transported the wreaths to Arlington, Virginia, where a small ceremony was held at the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This remained a small yearly tradition for nearly 15 years until a photo taken at the 2005 ceremony went viral. Almost immediately, thousands of people wanted to know how to help or how they could begin a similar tradition in their states.

Christmas wreaths adorn headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., in December 2005.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

By the next year — with the help of some civic organizations and volunteers, including in the trucking industry — there were 150 simultaneous ceremonies held across the country. By 2008, the movement to remember, honor and teach had grown so much that Congress had declared the third Saturday in September National Wreaths Across America Day.

By 2014, the now-nonprofit Wreaths Across America had reached its goal of placing a wreath at all 226,525 graves in the cemetery.

Navy personnel from the Navy International Programs Office, Washington, distribute wreaths to volunteers during the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 15, 2012.

(Photo by Chief Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca)

Wreaths Across America today

The event continues to grow. In 2018, the organization shipped a staggering 1.75 MILLION wreaths to 1,640 locations that held ceremonies across the U.S. A few dozen locations overseas also participated. According to the organization, this was the first year it was granted permission to place wreaths at Normandy to honor those who died during World War II’s D-Day invasion.

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Charles C. Orf salutes a headstone at Fort Richardson National Cemetery during the annual Wreaths Across America Day at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 16, 2017.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

Veterans and Gold Star families are many of the roughly 2 million volunteers who prepared the wreaths, shipped them across the country, and put them on graves.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast guard searches, but Japan has lost an island

With its ongoing maritime disputes with China hopelessly unresolved, the last thing Japan needed to do was go and lose an island.

And yet.

It appears no one can find the Japanese island formerly known as Esanbe Hanakita Kojima.

Not even the Japanese Coast Guard, which has been out searching for the strategically significant sliver of land last sighted somewhere off the coast of Hokkaido.


Even worse, the island first named in 2014 may have shuffled below this mortal coil a fair while ago.

This was back in September 2018 when author Hiroshi Shimizu visited nearby Sarufutsu village to write a sequel to his picture book on Japan’s “hidden” islands.

Shimizu told the local fishing cooperative, which sent out a flotilla to its former location only to find it had disappeared.

Japanese officials now believe that the island that once rose about five feet above sea level, has been inexorably broken apart by the pack ice that covers the area throughout the bitter winter. The Guardian seems to confirm this.

The uncertain conclusion is that it has gradually, uncomplainingly, slipped beneath the surface.

The Japanese Coast Guard.

While Esanbe Hanakita Kojima, might have been too small to be of much practical use, it did have an importance well beyond its fragility.

Before its unexpected absence, the island marked the very western indent of another disputed island chain Japan calls the Northern Territories, while Russia claims the archipelago as the Kuril islands.

China’s South China Morning Post said that the island was formally named by Tokyo in 2014 as part of Japan’s multipronged attempts to reinforce its legal control over hundreds of outlying islands and extend its exclusive economic zone, (EEZ) appears to have sunk without a trace.

The Japanese coastguard has been tasked with carrying out a survey of the area to see if the remnants of the island remain.

It was last formally surveyed in 1987, when records showed it was about 500 metres off Sarufutsu.

The Japanese government used the island to buffer its EEZ a similar distance out to sea where Japanese waters mingle into Russian territory.

But even if they can find the waterlogged remains of Esanbe Hanakita Kojima, it can no longer meet the very basic international legal definition of an island — land — and Japan’s territorial claims appear to be about half a kilometer smaller.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Portland Protests: Veterans aren’t special—the oath they swear is

The video of my Naval Academy classmate, Chris David, beaten by federal police last month in Portland, shook me. Like bad guys from a straight-to-DVD movie, cowardly officers attacked a peaceful American exercising his Constitutionally-guaranteed right to protest. David stood unyielding, bearing the blows, earning the nickname ‘Captain Portland’ for his almost superhuman resistance.

Ironically, as police obscured their identity, David wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt for ease of identification, as a veteran. As if the word ‘Navy,’ written boldly across his chest might act as a shield, like Superman’s ‘S’ or Captain America’s star. As someone who’s gotten out of countless tickets by virtue of the Marine Corps sticker on my car, I’d shared the same illusion: My veteran status somehow made me special.


David and I reported aboard the Naval Academy to become midshipmen in July, 1984. After the shearing, the uniform issue and the tearful goodbyes, we swore an Oath:

‘I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…’

By swearing allegiance to the Constitution and not an individual, such as the president, we bound ourselves only to the American people. Despite the nobility (or naivety) of David’s mission — to remind federal officers of their Oath to the Constitution, his presence at the protest came as a surprise for many Americans who’d dismissed protestors as nothing more than ‘lawless hooligans.’

Yet David, and our class, served the American people faithfully as Navy and Marine Corps officers, unhesitatingly laying our collective asses on the line. We’ve got the scars, both physical and mental—and disability ratings as proof. Because yes, we believe in America.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that David was at the protest. David, along with brother and sister veterans, were there to support not only one another, but to defend the Constitution, and by extension, the American people. It’s what we swore to do. Current leadership may possess the law, but not the will to resist an old Marine, soldier, sailor, airman or Coast Guardsman who swore that Oath. Because it’s the Oath that makes us special. Just ask ‘Captain Portland.’

Brian O’Hare is a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former Marine Corps officer and disabled combat veteran. He’s a former Editor-at-Large for ‘MovieMaker’ magazine and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. Brian’s fiction has appeared in ‘War, Literature and the Arts’, ‘Liar’s League, London’, ‘Fresh.ink‘, ‘The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature’ and the ‘Santa Fe Writers Project’. He currently lives in Los Angeles. You can follow him on Instagram/Twitter @bohare13x.

Editor’s note: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the various authors on WATM do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints or official policies of WATM. To submit your own op-ed, please email Managing Editor Tessa Robinson at Tessa.Robinson@wearethemighty.com.

Articles

This storied American brand is helping vets get into their homes — literally

Founded more than 130 years ago, Sears is one of the most recognizable brands in America.


With everything from power tools, to appliances and auto parts — and a myriad other products for every American home — Sears has been a part of making life better for generations.

But the company has gone well beyond simply supplying consumers with the products they need and has played a key role in helping America’s veterans have a safe place to live. For almost a decade, Sears has sponsored the Heroes at Home initiative where it has helped raise more than $20 million to rebuild 1,600 homes across the United States.

Sears celebrity designer Ty Pennington (third from right) with Sears and Rebuilding Together volunteers look on as a veteran resident is the first to use an accessibility ramp built by the Sears Heroes at Home for the Holidays program at the Open Hearts Residential Living Center for veterans in Decatur, Ga., founded by U.S. Army veteran Missy Melvin. As part of its long-standing commitment to supporting veterans and military families, Sears brought back its Heroes at Home program for the holiday season to immediately assist in building dozens of wheelchair accessibility ramps at the homes of low-income veterans before Christmas. (PRNewsFoto/Sears, Roebuck and Co.)

This year, Sears teamed with the non-profit Rebuilding Together to construct wheelchair access ramps for vets in need. Dubbed the “Heroes at Home for the Holidays” program, Sears shoppers donated more than $700,000 to support the campaign, exceeding the program’s goals.

According to the Center for Housing Policy and the National Housing Conference, 26 percent of post-9/11 veterans (and 14 percent of all veterans) have a service-connected disability and face housing accessibility challenges as they transition from military to civilian life.

“We’re thankful for the incredible generosity of our Shop Your Way members and associates who have carried on Sears’ long tradition of supporting our nation’s veterans and military families,” said Gerry Murphy, Chief Marketing Officer, Sears. “The holidays are not only about giving, but giving back. Our members have proved once again that simple, small gestures by many can result in immediate, long-term impact for America’s veterans.”

See a video of the first Heroes at Home for the Holidays ramp project which was built with the help of celebrity designer Ty Pennington for Air Force vet and non-profit director Missy Melvin and her veteran care facility.

Sears continues to raise funds for Heroes at Home in-store and online through the sale of limited-edition products, including a Kenmore patriotic washer/dryer pair, a Heroes at Home Christmas ornament and a Craftsman hat.  For more information, visit sears.com/heroesathome.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Justice Department will fight registering women for the draft

Early on in 2019, two plaintiffs representing the National Coalition for Men sued the U.S. Government in Texas on the grounds that registering only males for the draft was unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled in their favor, saying the males-only Selective Service rules should now extend to American women within 30 days of their 18th birthday.

The Trump Administration just filed an appeal to defend the all-male draft rules.


Trump’s Justice Department called ordering women to register for Selective Service “particularly problematic,” saying it would force women to register for the draft through a judicial ruling before Congress could actually address the issue. The DoJ is essentially saying the court is legislating instead of the Congress.

The Justice Department said it’s not for a court to decide what change in policy should be adopted without any involvement by the political branches and the military.

“If the Court’s declaratory judgment is upheld, it should be left to Congress, in consultation with the Executive Branch and military officials, to determine how to revise the registration system in response,” writes Justice Department lawyer Michael Gerardi.

President Trump’s Selective Service Card.

The two men who filed the initial lawsuit argued that their chances of being sent to war were higher because women were exempt from the draft. The judge’s ruling means that women will either sign on for the draft or Congress may have to get rid of the draft altogether, something the Trump Administration says is not an option as it would compromise the country’s readiness and ability to respond to a military crisis.

When Selective Service was instituted in 1980, then-President Jimmy Carter wanted females to register, but Congress did not include mandatory registration for women. In the past, courts have upheld the all-male draft, arguing that since men were the only ones who were able to fill combat roles, then the draft was acceptably all-male. Since President Obama allowed women to serve in those roles, the door for changing Selective Service registration opened once more.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Community providers: How to submit medical documentation to VA

VA strives to provide Veterans with seamless care and encourages community providers to support these efforts by the timely submission of medical documentation within 30 days of providing services.

One of the best ways for community providers to submit medical documentation is to use HealthShare Referral Manager (HSRM), the main system VA uses for managing referrals, authorizations and medical documentation exchange.


Dr. Megan Stauffer, a community provider at In-Home Care Connection in Sterling, Ill., shares her positive experience with HSRM. “It has drastically cut down phone calls and faxes that I’m having to receive daily, because now all the information I need is there at my fingertips.”

In addition to HSRM, VA offers more options for community providers to submit Veteran medical documentation. Community providers can:

Using convenient electronic options to send medical documents to VA enables you to comply with the 30-day requirement for medical documentation submission.

Visit our care coordination page and review our Medical Submission Requirements Fact Sheet for details on what documentation should be submitted for care coordination purposes based on the type of service provided.

Thank you for your commitment to caring for our nation’s Veterans.

Resources

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia hacked the FBI to stop bureau from tracking Russian spies

The Russian government hacked into the FBI’s communication system to stop the bureau from being able to track Russian spies working in the US, Yahoo News reported in a bombshell investigation published Sept. 16, 2019.

The US in 2012 became aware of “the full gravity” of Russia’s ability to breach certain types of secure communications and track devices used by FBI surveillance teams, the report said. In addition to fearing that the Russians may have gained access to US intelligence channels, officials also believed that Russian spies could locate undercover FBI surveillance teams and the substance of FBI communications.

That would have not only enabled the Russians to evade surveillance and communicate with human sources, but given them the opportunity to collect information about their pursuers, Yahoo News reported. It also prompted concerns among officials that there was a Russian asset lurking within the US intelligence community.


The Russians first breached the FBI’s communication systems in 2010, after the arrest and exposure of a group of Russian spies in the US, Yahoo News said. That year, the FBI began investigating Russia’s efforts to recruit US assets; one of the foremost targets was Carter Page, who later served as a foreign-policy aide on President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Carter Page.

The FBI informed Page in 2013 that the Russians were trying to cultivate him, but Page ignored their warnings and even publicly boasted about his connections to high-ranking Russian government officials.

The Russians are also said to have breached the backup communication channels the FBI used, something one former senior counterintelligence official told Yahoo News the US “took extremely seriously.”

The investigation found that Russia’s hack of the FBI’s communication systems was a key reason the Obama administration kicked out 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian diplomatic facilities in December 2016.

President Barack Obama said the measures were in retaliation for Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, but Yahoo News reported that the US also wanted to close those two compounds because they were critical to Russia’s efforts to intercept FBI communications.

Russia and the US have ramped up their counterintelligence and cybersecurity operations against each other in recent years as tensions between them mount.

(Photo by Markus Spiske)

In particular, the US has recently targeted Russia’s electrical grid and placed “potentially crippling malware” within the Russian system, The New York Times reported in June 2019. Power grids have long been the focus of cyberattacks, but the US’s operation is the most aggressive yet and meant to serve as a warning to Russia, as well as position the US to carry out additional cyberattacks in the event of a conflict with Moscow, the report said.

The Times described two administration officials as saying there was “broad hesitation” to brief Trump in much detail about the operation, in part because of concerns about how Trump would react, or that he would shut down the operation or discuss it with foreign officials.

Trump’s disclosure of classified information to two Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting in 2017 contributed to the US’s decision to extract a top CIA asset in Russia shortly after, CNN reported last week.

Other US media outlets subsequently published key identifying details about the asset, and Russian state-sponsored media later said it had the intelligence operative’s name. Shortly after that, the Russian government filed a request with Interpol for more information about the spy.

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