The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

On March 22, 2019, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) offloaded approximately 27,000 pounds of cocaine at Base Miami Beach worth an estimated $360 million wholesale seized in international waters in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The drugs were interdicted off the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America and represent 12 separate, suspected drug smuggling vessel interdictions by the U.S. Coast Guard:

  • The Coast Guard Cutter Dependable (WMEC-626) was responsible for two cases, seizing an estimated 2,926 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) was responsible for six cases, seizing an estimated 18,239 pounds of cocaine.
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Venturous (WMEC-625) was responsible for four cases, seizing an estimated 7,218 pounds of cocaine.

    Tampa’s crew is extremely proud of the work they accomplished over the past three months. There are few things more frustrating to our sailors than idle deployments, and none more gratifying than accomplishing a very important mission with impacts that resound across our Nation. For many of the crew, this will be their last deployment on Tampa, and it’s one they will always remember.” said Cmdr. Nicholas Simmons, commanding officer of the Tampa.

    The Coast Guard increased U.S. and allied presence in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Basin, which are known drug transit zones off of Central and South America, as part of its Western Hemisphere Strategy. During at-sea interdictions in international waters, a suspect vessel is initially located and tracked by allied, military or law enforcement personnel. The interdictions, including the actual boarding, are led and conducted by U.S. Coast Guardsmen. The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific is conducted under the authority of the Coast Guard 11th District headquartered in Alameda, California.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Mason R. Cram wraps a palette of cocaine in preparation for a drug offload March 22, 2019, at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.

    (Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

    The cutter Tampa is a 270-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Portsmouth, Virginia. The cutter Venturous is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida. The cutter Dependable is a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Virginia Beach, Virginia. LEDET 107 is permanently assigned to the Pacific Area Tactical Law Enforcement Team in San Diego, California.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    Coast Guard Vice Adm. Daniel Abel speaks to the press about the Coast Guard Cutter Tampa (WMEC-902) crew’s drug smuggling interdictions and offload, March 22, 2019, at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach.

    (Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)

    Numerous U.S. agencies from the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are involved in the effort to combat transnational organized crime. The Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with allied and international partner agencies play a role in counter-drug operations. The cutter Tampa even participated in the first joint boarding in recent memory between the United States and Ecuador. The fight against transnational organized crime networks in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean Basin requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring, and interdictions, to prosecutions by U.S. Attorneys in Florida, California, New York, the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    The Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker took a frigid beating

    The U.S. Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, recently completed a mission to cut a resupply channel through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea, but the ship’s 150-strong crew grappled with engine failure and flooding during the trip.


    The Seattle-based Polar Star left port in December for Antarctica to support Operation Deep Freeze 2018, the U.S. military’s contribution to the U.S. Antarctic Program, which is run by the National Science Foundation. The Polar Star was charged with clearing a path through 15 miles of ice — some of it up to 10-feet thick.

    The Polar Star traveled through nearly 300 miles of pack ice before it reached fast ice, which is ice that’s actually connected to Antarctica, on Jan. 8, the Coast Guard said. After passing through the fast ice, the Polar Star reversed course to break the ice up further, clearing a channel for resupply ships.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    McMurdo Station, opened in December 1955, is the largest Antarctic station, located on the solid ground farthest south that is accessible by ship. (Christopher Woody/Google Maps)

    “Although we had less ice this year than last year, we had several engineering challenges to overcome to get to the point where we could position ourselves to moor in McMurdo,” Polar Star commanding officer Capt. Michael Davanzo told Maritime Executive.

    On Jan. 11 2018, there was a failure in one of the ship’s three main gas turbines, which produce the power needed for the ship’s propellers to break up thick, multi-year accumulations of ice. The Polar Star’s crew traced the problem to a programming error between the engine and the ship’s electrical system — which, like much of the ship, dates back to the 1970s.

    Also read: The Coast Guard warns that Russia is moving in on the Arctic

    Five days later, a shaft seal failed, allowing 20 gallons of frigid seawater a minute to flood the engine room. The crew responded quickly, stanching the flow with an emergency shaft seal. Afterward, they were able to remove the water from the ship’s engineering space and perform more permanent repairs on the faulty seal.

    “The crewmembers aboard Polar Star not only accomplished their mission, but they did so despite extreme weather and numerous engineering challenges. This is a testament to their dedication and devotion to duty,” Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Pacific Area, told Maritime Executive.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    Members of the Coast Guard cutter Polar Star’s engineering department make repairs in the ship’s motor room while in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, Jan. 16, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen)

    McMurdo Station, opened in 1955, is one of three stations operated year-round by the National Science Foundation and acts as a staging area for teams headed to the South Pole and other research stations deeper in Antarctica. It is built on the southernmost patch of solid ground that is still accessible by ship. Its average temperature in January, which is a summer month, is 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Summertime supply deliveries allow the station to stay open.

    Related: The US is ‘late to the game’ in militarizing the Arctic

    In addition to the Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Army, and National Guard personnel contribute to Operation Deep Freeze, which is led by Pacific Air Forces.

    The Polar Star, which was commissioned in 1976, is the Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, and it can break ice up to 21 feet thick. (It has one medium icebreaker, the Healy, which mainly does scientific work.) The Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea, was commissioned the same year but left service in 2010 because of repeated failures in its main engines.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    The Coast Guard cutter Polar Star breaks ice in McMurdo Sound near Antarctica, January 10, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Nick Ameen)

    In 2017, the Coast Guard determined that the Polar Sea would be too expensive to refurbish, even though its hull remains sound. The Polar Star was refurbished in 2012.

    Many of the parts needed to keep the Polar Star running are no longer in production. Coast Guard personnel pull needed gear from the Polar Sea, but they’ve also had to order secondhand parts from eBay. The ship sails with a year’s supply of food in case it gets stuck.

    Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has said the Polar Star is “literally on life support,” and the service plans to build at least three heavy and three medium icebreakers to fill out the fleet. The first one is expected by 2023.

    More reading: The Coast Guard wants heavy firepower on their new icebreakers

    The harsh conditions in the polar regions take a toll on the 41-year-old Polar Star. It is scheduled to return to the U.S. in March, at which point it will go into drydock for repairs. It is the only Coast Guard cutter to go into drydock every year.

    “If the Polar Star were to suffer a catastrophic mechanical failure, the nation would not be able to support heavy icebreaker missions like Operation Deep Freeze, and our nation has no vessel capable of rescuing the crew if the icebreakers were to fail in the ice,” Midgette told Maritime Executive.

    MIGHTY CULTURE

    Why it’s (nearly) impossible to land a helicopter on Mt. Everest

    Straddling the border of Nepal and China stands the world’s highest mountain: Mount Everest. To the locals, it’s known as the “Goddess of the Sky,” and to intrepid adventurers, reaching its summit has long been seen as the ultimate test of human endurance and ability. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to make it to the top on May 29th, 1953, but in recent years, the “challenge” of climbing the mountain has lost its illustrious status.

    Though it’s still a dangerous trek — seventeen people died in April, 2015, due to avalanches caused by an earthquake — thousands of people have reached the top. It’s even possible to take guided tours of the mountain and essentially buy your way to the summit.

    But there’s no red carpet rolled out to “the top of the world.” You still have to earn it. Reaching the peak takes effort and you still need to climb, on foot, to the summit. Even with all the money in the world, there is no way in Hell any pilot would dare to fly you to the top just for a quick selfie.

    That’s because it’s almost physically impossible for it to happen — save for one French test pilot under extremely calculated and ideal conditions.


    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    That type of weather is enough to ground any helicopter and intentionally landing in those conditions is strongly ill-advised.

    (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)

    There are several factors that limit a pilot’s ability to fly to the top of Mount Everest. For much of the year, the mountain is covered in hurricane-force winds and sub-freezing temperatures. The frequent snowstorms that hit the mountain are strong enough to launch an icicle so fast that it’ll shred metal.

    The fiere weather only lets up for a few weeks per year, and that’s when the tourists flock to summit the mountain. Even when the conditions are more ideal, they’re far from perfect. During the “calm season,” the winds still reach blustery speeds of up to 75 mph, strong enough to classify as hurricane category 1 winds.

    Even when conditions are perfect enough for flight from nearby Lukla, Nepal, to the summit, a single landing is enough to spark an avalanche that would kill everyone attempting the climb.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    (We Are The Mighty)

    But if the weather doesn’t ground the aircraft, physics will. The further up Mount Everest you go, the less dense the air becomes. It’s possible for the human body to acclimate to the 50-percent drop in oxygen levels near Base Camp, Nepal, but not even the most skilled Sherpa can get used to the “Death Zone” — 8,000 meters above sea level where the oxygen levels are at 33 percent of those at sea level. And the summit is nearly 1,000 meters beyond that.

    That drop in oxygen doesn’t just affect humans — if affects everything up there. The air is just too thin for most helicopters to generate enough lift to remain airborne. If the helicopter is equipped to reach that height, making the landing is still an incredibly delicate affair.

    This all brings us to Didier Delsalle, the French test helicopter pilot who managed to pull this unbelievable stunt off on May 14th, 2005. After years of planning and weeks of waiting for the perfect conditions, he pulled off the impossible and landed on the summit.

    To make weight, the helicopter needed to be stripped down — except for the extra-powerful engine. Then, once they were sure everyone was clear of the mountain, they made the attempt. It wasn’t pretty, but it counts. Check out the video below.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Captured Western ISIS recruits confess anti-drone strategies

    ISIS terrorists recruited from western countries like the US and UK always kept their distance from each other because of the threat of drone strikes, according to a captured member of the terror group.

    “A lot of the westerners were kept distances from one another because one of the primary affairs was targeted drone strikes,” captured ISIS member and ex-police cadet from London, Hamza Parvez, told the BBC from a Kurdish prison in Syria.


    Parvez left the UK to join ISIS in 2014 but was captured in Baghuz, the final ISIS bastion in Syria, according to the BBC. The government has stripped him of citizenship.

    In an interview from prison he described the extreme fear among western members about being killed by drones.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    An MQ-1 Predator drone over southern Afghanistan.

    “So, people wouldn’t want to be associated with one another just in case.”

    “Because we didn’t actually have the list of who’s on the drone list or not. So we’d really be scared of, OK, this guy might be, and this guy might be.”

    “So it’s better I just keep to myself,” he said.

    A number of key ISIS figures have been killed in drone strikes.

    They include media director Abu Anas al-Faransi in March 2019, British ISIS fighter Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John,” in December 2015, and British defector Sally Jones in October 2017.

    Parvez also told BBC reporter Quentin Sommerville that he regrets joining, wants to come home, and never knew the “realities” of being part of ISIS.

    “I didn’t know there was something waiting for me like that so most of the foreign fighters, when you do talk to them, the first thing they say to you is that we would never ever have come if we had known the realities of ISIS,” he said.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    Hamza Parvez.

    (BBC)

    “There was many times where I thought ‘time to pack up and leave,’ and there’s many times I did try to pack up and leave but the reality was that it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.”

    ISIS forces in Syria were declared defeated by joint US and Kurdish forces on March 23, 2019. Since then a number of western recruits have spoken to media about the caliphate’s final days from prison.

    General Mazloum Kobani, the commander-in-chief of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said that his forces liberated the last ISIS stronghold in the village of Baghuz, ending the terror cell’s presence in Syria.

    ISIS is still active in Iraq, and parts of Africa.

    In recent weeks, apologetic ISIS brides from the US, Europe, and Canada have attempted to secure their safe return to the west after defecting to ISIS.

    The Syrian government has called for western countries to take back their ISIS members.

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

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    The world’s minute-by-minute response to the latest North Korean missile test

    The international community has been set alight by North Korea’s latest missile test. All times are EST, Nov. 28.


    2:04 p.m.

    The Yonhap news agency reports that North Korea has launched a ballistic missile.

    South Korea’s military says the missile was fired from an area north of Pyongyang, early Nov. 29 local time.

    The news agency reported South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff saying that it and U.S. authorities are analyzing the trajectory.

    The launch is the first since Sept. 15 when North Korea fired an intermediate ballistic missile.

    2:21 p.m.

    A U.S. official says North Korea has conducted its first missile launch in more than two months.

    The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

    The Pentagon was more cautious, calling it a “probable” missile launch. Col. Rob Manning, a spokesman said, “We detected a probable missile launch from North Korea” at approximately 1:30 p.m. EST. He said the Pentagon is assessing the situation and has no further information to provide, including what kind of missile may have been launched.

    It would be the first North Korean missile test since it launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Sept. 15 that flew over northern Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile. (Photo from KCNA)

    2:25 p.m.

    The White House says President Donald Trump has been briefed on North Korea’s apparent ballistic missile launch.

    Press secretary Sarah Sanders says in a tweet that Trump “was briefed, while missile was still in the air, on the situation in North Korea.”

    At the time of the launch, Trump was in a meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill.

    A U.S. official says North Korea has conducted its first missile launch in more than two months.

    Also Read: Here is what a war with North Korea could look like

    3 p.m.

    The Pentagon says it detected and tracked a single North Korean missile launch and believes it was an intercontinental ballistic missile.

    Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said Nov. 28 that the missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about 1,000 kilometers (about 620 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan.

    Manning says the Pentagon’s information is based on an initial assessment of the launch. He says a more detailed assessment was in the works.

    3:15 p.m.

    Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary says North Korea has fired a missile that might have landed inside the country’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan.

    Yoshihide Suga says the missile appears to have been fired from North Korea’s western coast and the government is gathering information and analyzing the launch data.

    Suga says repeated provocation by the North is unacceptable and Tokyo has lodged a strong protest.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho. (U.N. photo by Mark Garten)

    3:30 p.m.

    Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho says the government has told the North Koreans “that we criticize their behavior in the strongest terms possible” following a new missile launch.

    He told reporters Nov. 28 at U.N. headquarters that “we are very concerned and we have condemned them publicly.”

    U.N. Security Council President Sebastiano Cardi says he has been in contact with key U.N. members, but no request has been made yet for a meeting.

    Cardi says he is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Nov. 29.

    Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary says the missile might have landed inside the country’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan.

    Cardi says if it fell in that zone, it would be an “even greater” danger.

    3:50 p.m.

    President Donald Trump says the United States will “take care of it” following North Korea’s latest missile launch.

    Trump told reporters Nov. 28 that “it is a situation that we will handle.”

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gives the keynote address to kick off the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of the US Army (AUSA) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, Oct. 9, 2017. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.)

    4:15 p.m.

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says North Korea is continuing to build missiles that can “threaten everywhere in the world.”

    Mattis says a missile that North Korea launched early Nov. 29 local time flew higher than its previous projectiles. He says South Korea has fired pinpoint missiles into surrounding waters to make certain that North Korea understands it can be “taken under fire” by the South.

    He says North Korea is endangering world peace, regional peace, and “certainly the United States.”

    North Korea ended a 10-week pause in its weapons testing and threatened to heighten regional tensions by launching an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan.

    Mattis spoke Nov. 28 during a White House meeting with President Donald Trump and the top Republican congressional leaders.

    Related: North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

    5:10 p.m.

    The U.N. Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting on North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch.

    Italy chairs the council and its spokesman says the Nov. 29 afternoon meeting was requested by Japan, the U.S., and South Korea.

    The Security Council has already imposed its toughest-ever sanctions on Kim Jong Un’s government in response to its escalating nuclear and ballistic missile programs and the U.S. and Japan are likely to seek even stronger measures.

    The launch was possibly North Korea’s longest. It is certain to raise tensions in the U.N.’s most powerful body.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    South Korean President Moon Jae-in. (Photo from official South Korea Flickr.)

    5:40 p.m.

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called North Korea’s latest missile test a “serious threat” to global peace and stressed the need for stronger sanctions and pressure against Pyongyang to discourage its nuclear ambitions.

    Moon said Nov. 29 at a National Security Council meeting that the South will not “sit and watch” North Korea’s provocations and will work with the United States to strengthen its security.

    Moon says South Korea anticipated the latest North Korean launch and prepared for it.

    South Korea’s military conducted its own missile drills that started just minutes after North Korea’s launch was detected.

    6:15 p.m.

    President Donald Trump is speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after North Korea launched what the Pentagon said was an intercontinental ballistic missile.

    White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr. tweeted a photo of Trump on Nov. 28 in his office. He says Trump was “speaking with @JPN_PMO @AbeShinzo, regarding North Korea’s launch of a intercontinental ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan…”

    Abe says Japan will not back down against any provocation and would maximize pressure on the North in its alliance with the U.S.

    6:25 p.m.

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in has raised concerns that North Korea’s perfection of an intercontinental ballistic missile would let regional security “spiral out of control” and make the United States consider a pre-emptive strike against the North.

    Seoul’s presidential office said Nov. 29 that Moon said during a National Security Council meeting that it would be important to prevent a situation where North Korea miscalculates and threatens the South with nuclear weapons or the U.S. considers a pre-emptive strike to eliminate the threat.

    Moon has called for his military to take further steps to strengthen its capabilities following a recent agreement between Seoul and Washington to lift the warhead payload limits on South Korean missiles.

    6:45 p.m.

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in has told government officials to “closely review” whether the latest North Korean missile launch will affect South Korean efforts to successfully host next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

    Seoul’s presidential office reported Nov. 29 that Moon said during a National Security Council meeting that it would be important to find ways to “stably manage” the situation.

    South Korean preparations for the February games have been overshadowed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests this year. France has said its Olympic team won’t travel to South Korea if its safety cannot be guaranteed.

    South Korea has been hoping North Korea takes part in the games to ease concerns, but it’s unclear whether the North will.

    North Korea boycotted the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and has ignored the South’s proposals for dialogue in recent months.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea at the United Nations General Assembly (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    7:30 p.m.

    President Donald Trump has spoken with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss the countries’ response to North Korea’s latest missile launch.

    The White House says both leaders “underscored the grave threat that North Korea’s latest provocation poses” not only to U.S. and South Korea, “but to the entire world.”

    The two presidents also “reaffirmed their strong condemnation of North Korea’s reckless campaign to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, noting that these weapons only serve to undermine North Korea’s security and deepen its diplomatic and economic isolation.”

    Trump and Moon spoke at length about the threat posed by North Korea during Trump’s trip to Asia earlier this month.

    Up Next: This is why the Pentagon just dispatched its top general to Korea

    8:30 p.m.

    U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is warning North Korea not to test President Donald Trump’s resolve.

    Pence says in remarks at a Hudson Institute award dinner in New York that the administration is considering “additional measures” following the intercontinental ballistic missile test.

    Pence says Pyongyang would do well “not to test the resolve of this president or the capabilities of the armed forces of the United States of America.”

    He adds that “all options” remain on the table.

    Pence was introduced at the event by conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who called Pence a “positive” and “calming influence” at the White House.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    Vice President Mike Pence and Georgian and American troops at Exercise Noble Partner, August 1, 2017 (Official White House photo by Myles D. Cullen)

    9:53 p.m.

    North Korea will make an “important” announcement through television and radio at noon local time hours after it tested an apparent intercontinental ballistic missile.

    The report on state radio Nov. 29 did not elaborate on the topic of the announcement.

    The missile test-launched from near Pyongyang appeared to be North Korea’s most powerful weapon yet and could put Washington and the entire eastern U.S. seaboard within range.

    10:30 p.m.

    North Korea says it successfully tested a new, nuclear-capable intercontinental-ballistic missile that could target the entire U.S. mainland.

    The North’s state television said Nov. 29 the new ICBM was “significantly more” powerful than the previous long-range weapon the North tested.

    The report called the weapon a Hwasong 15. The launch was detected after it was fired early Nov. 29 morning from a site near Pyongyang.

     

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    What’s at stake for America in the ongoing Venezuelan crisis?

    Venezuela’s government has been in a state of constant unrest as opposition leaders, especially Juan Guaidó, have accused Nicolás Maduro of rigging elections, mismanaging the government, and causing the starvation of the Venezuelan people. Now, Guaidó has emerged from hiding and is attempting to rally military and civilian support in an apparent uprising.


    There’s a lot at stake, and the result of this uprising will determine the state of great power competition in America’s backyard. People on both sides are already dying from gunfire and vehicle charges from government forces.

    As most journalists take this time to report on the minute-by-minute developments (the AFP news agency has a lot of quick facts and quotes as the situation develops, CNN International is posting amazing photos, and the overall Twitter stream has a mix of everything), we thought we would take a moment to remind everyone what the stakes are, here.

    Venezuela is a socialist country, but, more accurately, it’s a dictatorship with a socialist system. That means that the government has direct control of significant parts of the economy, and that the government is controlled by one person. Right now, that’s Nicolás Maduro. Maduro has used short-term strategies to hop from one crisis to another since taking power.

    Maduro and Guaidó have clashed for more than a year about whether or not Maduro rigged elections in his own favor. And the clashes between their supporters have become increasingly violent, but Maduro has always held the advantage because the military was largely on his side. But today, Guaidó appeared in a video saying that he has military support and is using it to trigger an uprising.

    This is tragic for the Venezuelan people. Regardless of who wins, the violence will likely result in the deaths of at least dozens of people and the wounding of hundreds more. But it will also decide the balance of power in Venezuela, and Maduro and Guaidó have very different international backers.

    Guaidó has the support of the U.S., U.K., and other Western powers. But Maduro is one of Vladimir Putin’s most important allies in the Western hemisphere.

    That’s not because Russia and Venezuela are especially close. They’re not. But Venezuela, first under Hugo Chavez and now under Maduro, has historically been a socialist thorn in America’s side. And Putin knows that he needs friends in this hemisphere if he ever wants to directly pressure Washington like Stalin was able to during the Cold War.

    He has few natural allies in this hemisphere, especially as Fidel Castro has died and Raúl Castro has grown old in Cuba. Raúl has stepped down as president and is 87.

    Putin showed his support for Maduro last year by deploying two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela and sending heavy investments of Russian money into the Venezuelan oil industry. That second action is larger than it sounds: Russia and Venezuela are both heavy oil exporters that need the money to fuel their economies. Russian money that supports Venezuelan oil sales necessarily cuts into Russian profits.

    But the foreign policy stakes were too high in Venezuela for Putin to ignore. Russia wants influence in the west, and Venezuela is one of its few toeholds. As then-U.S. Southern Command Commanding General John Kelly said in 2015:

    Periodically since 2008, Russia has pursued an increased presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales, counterdrug agreements, and trade. Under President [Vladimir] Putin, however, we have seen a clear return to Cold War-tactics. As part of its global strategy, Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere.

    Those actions in Venezuela have not always produced great fruit, but Venezuela is a resource-rich country that’s leadership leans towards Putin.

    Meanwhile, America has historically supported true democracies, preferably capitalist ones, in South America for obvious reasons. A capitalist democracy would necessarily share more values with the U.S. than Venezuela did under Chavez or Maduro. And the Trump administration has signaled its support for the April 30 uprising. Not a big surprise since Vice President Michael Pence also recorded a video in January supporting Venezuelan opposition and Guaidó.

    And, for what it’s worth, those Russian nuclear-capable bombers in Venezuela have the range to bomb any point in the U.S. without refueling including Alaska and Hawaii. (But, if they’re landing in Venezuela on the same tank of gas, they would be unable to hit much of Idaho, Nevada, or California.)

    So this coup in Venezuela will decide the balance of power in America’s backyard. Russia has already said that Putin has met with his top generals to discuss the situation, though there is no sign yet of the large military deployments they sent to Syria to prop up his boy there.

    While all of us should care about the crisis because of the real human suffering under Maduro, who are now caught in the crossfire, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking this is strictly a foreign problem. The effects of the uprising attempt will be felt here.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    China just launched a massive show of force in the South China Sea

    Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over China’s largest-ever naval parade in the South China Sea on April 12, 2018, according to Reuters.

    The parade involved more than 10,000 naval officers, and dozens of naval ships, and aircraft, according to CGTN.


    Xi told his troops that it “has never been more pressing than today” for China to have a world-leading navy, Reuters reported, telling them to devote their undying loyalty to the party.

    China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, is the world’s largest armed forces. The PLA is currently trying to modernize its forces, investing heavily in new technology and equipment, and unnerving its neighbors, Reuters reported.

    Here’s what the parade looked like:

    48 naval vessels took part in China’s naval parade in the South China Sea on Thursday.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    (CNR)

    Including submarines.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    (CCTV)

    As well as China’s first and only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    (CGTN)

    76 aircraft also took part in the parade.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    (CGTN)

    Such as J-15s.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    (CGTN)

    And even helicopters.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    (CGTN)

    Xi himself was onboard a destroyer called the Changsha.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    (CGTN)

    Where he watched four J-15s take off from the Liaoning.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    (CGTN)

    While addressing his troops, Xi told them to devote their loyalty to the party.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster
    (CGTN)

    You can watch the video from CGTN below:

    MIGHTY MOVIES

    5 confirmed ‘Star Wars’ projects coming after ‘Rise of Skywalker’

    “Star Wars” movies are going on hiatus after this year’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but fans can still expect plenty of content to come.

    Disney’s upcoming streaming service, Disney Plus, will not only include the entire collection of “Star Wars” movies, but new original titles. The first live-action “Star Wars” TV show, The Mandalorian, will be available at launch on November 12, and more original series will follow.

    Disney Plus will have to satisfy fans for the time being, as new “Star Wars” movies won’t make it to theaters for some time. After Solo: A Star Wars Story disappointed at the box office, failing to crack even $400 million worldwide, Disney CEO Bob Iger said to expect a “slowdown.”


    Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Teaser

    www.youtube.com

    Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Teaser

    Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy reiterated Iger’s point during “Star Wars” Celebration over the weekend. Kennedy told Entertainment Weekly that the “Star Wars” movies are “going to take a hiatus for a couple of years.”

    “We’re not just looking at what the next three movies might be, or talking about this in terms of a trilogy,” Kennedy said. “We’re looking at: What is the next decade of storytelling?”

    But Kennedy did confirm that Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson and Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are still working on their own sets of films, and even coordinating with each other. We don’t know whether these movies will be released in theaters or head straight to Disney Plus, though.

    “As they finish Game of Thrones, they’re going to segue into Star Wars,” Kennedy said of Benioff and Weiss. “They’re working very closely with Rian.”

    Below are more details on all the Star Wars projects in the works for after December’s The Rise of Skywalker:

    The Mandalorian Panel – Sunday

    www.youtube.com

    “The Mandalorian”

    The Mandalorian will be the first live-action “Star Wars” TV series ever, and it will be available to stream on day one when Disney Plus launches November 12.

    It stars “Narcos” actor Pedro Pascal as the title character, a lone warrior traveling the galaxy after the fall of the Empire, but before the rise of the First Order. It also stars Carl Weathers and Werner Herzog.

    The series is written and produced by Iron Man and The Lion King director Jon Favreau, and directed by Jurassic World actress Bryce Dallas Howard, Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi, and more.

    Cassian Andor Live-Action Series Announced! | The Star Wars Show

    www.youtube.com

    Cassian Andor “Rogue One” spin-off series

    Diego Luna will reprise his Rogue One: A Star Wars Story role of Cassian Andor for a new prequel series. Alan Tudyk will also reprise his role as the robot K-2SO.

    The series has been described as a “rousing spy thriller” that will “explore tales filled with espionage and daring missions to restore hope to a galaxy in the grip of a ruthless Empire.”

    Star Wars: The Clone Wars Panel at Star Wars Celebration 2019

    www.youtube.com

    “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” season 7

    The animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series ran on Cartoon Network for six seasons from 2008 to 2014. But it’s being revived for a seventh season on Disney Plus.

    Directing The Last Jedi

    www.youtube.com

    Rian Johnson’s film trilogy

    Lucasfilm announced in November 2017 that Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson would write and direct a new trilogy of movies separate from the Skywalker saga, which is set to end with the ninth installment, “The Rise of Skywalker,” in December.

    After rumors swirled that Johnson was no longer developing the trilogy, he confirmed on Twitter in February that he actually is. Lucasfilm president Kennedy reiterated over the weekend that Johnson is still working on the movies, and collaborating with Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss on their own series of films.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQT-3JODB8k
    New Star Wars Films Announced! | The Star Wars Show

    www.youtube.com

    David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ series of films

    Lucasfilm announced in February 2018 that Benioff and Weiss, the showrunners of “Game of Thrones,” would write and produce a new series of films that would be separate from Rian Johnson’s planned trilogy and the Skywalker saga.

    The number of films and story details are under wraps, but Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy recently said that they are “working very closely” with Johnson.

    “As they finish Game of Thrones, they’re going to segue into Star Wars,” Kennedy said.

    Game of Thrones debuted its final season on Sunday.

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

    MIGHTY TACTICAL

    6 things geardos buy that are actually useful

    No one wants to be labelled a “geardo.” They’re the person in the unit that spends way too much money to buy themselves things that are either not authorized for wear with the uniform or are redundant because the issued version is just as good.

    It’s not inherently a bad thing to make yourself more prepared for combat, it’s more that people who buy extra crap are wasting their money to tack on useless crap that will do nothing but slow them down. Being fully decked out in mostly useless gear is also a telltale sign that the person has no idea what is actually used in combat — meaning they’re probably a POG.

    All that being said, some of the crap they buy isn’t without merit. Sometimes, buying your own version of gear, something that was designed by someone other than the lowest bidder, helps plenty. The following pieces of gear are popular among geardos, but are actually useful.


    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    If you’re on a boring field op that you know won’t require you to fire your weapon, having a muzzle cap will make it so you can just immediately turn your weapon into the armorer, no problem.

    (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven, 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

    Muzzle caps

    A dumb geardo buys anything to look cool. Smart geardos, however, buy things that actually serve a tangible purpose. Take the muzzle cap, for instance. It costs all of seven bucks for a pack of five and it’s literally just a piece of plastic.

    That insignificant-seeming muzzle cover makes sure that dust and sand don’t get inside your barrel. Typically, grunts clean their rifles more often than POGs, but making sure that you’re spending time cleaning just carbon out of the chamber instead of all the rest of the gunk makes life so much easier.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    They also make great unit shirts that everyone will actually want to wear… just saying.

    (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Carlos J. Treviño)

    Moisture-wicking shirts

    If you’re sent to the desert, you’re going to sweat every minute of the day. Standard-issue undershirts are made of heavy cotton, which means they’re heavier, thicker, and hold all that nasty sweat.

    Most Army regulations state the undershirt of your ACU top needs to be the same, “coyote tan” color. Thankfully, there’s a lot of wiggle room in the regulations and there are plenty of third-party options to pick from.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    They’re helpful, once you learn how to put the damn thing on.

    (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Cayce Nevers)

    Three-point rifle slings

    When you’re deployed, you constantly need to have your assigned weapon on your person, POG or grunt. The single-strap sling that you’re given can get caught when you’re trying to get to the low-ready. The three-point sling makes things a lot more ergonomic and less of a hassle.

    And then there’s the overly cool one-point slings that just tie around the buttstock. You’re going to drag your rifle through the dirt and mud with that thing — that’s entirely a geardo buy.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    You seriously don’t want to ever overdo it. Ounces make pounds, after all.

    (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)

    Store-bought magazine pouches

    One of the defining traits of a geardo is the number of pouches they have on their kit or rucksack. As long as you don’t have more than your standard six plus one magazine pouches, no one will accuse you of being a Fobbit.

    But if you swap out the six that the Army gave you with the store-bought varieties, you can use the extra magazine pouches to hold all the other crap, like those AAFES pogs that replaced coins. The M249 SAW drum pouch is actually extremely useful because it’s about the same size as a folded-up poncho.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    Whatever it takes to make you not go deaf.

    (DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Kitt Amaritnant)

    High-speed ear pro

    Tinnitus is a very serious problem. It’s a constant ringing in your ears that lasts for the rest of your life, and it seems to hit the military community in far greater numbers than the civilian world — for obvious reasons. It’s actually the number one disability among U.S. veterans.

    The ear pro that your supply NCO tosses out barely works and is a pain in the ass to put in properly. If going out of your way to buy a good set of ear protection gets you to actually use them and not screw up your hearing, it’s a hundred-percent justified.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    Once you make the switch, it’s kinda hard to go back to regular boots.

    (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Robert L. McIlrath)

    Barely authorized boots

    If there’s one piece of military gear that the Army keeps issuing out despite being complete garbage, it’s got to be the general-issue boots. They rip easily, they have no arch or heel support, and the soles wear out extremely quickly.

    As long as you can find a pair that is within regulations for your branch and your command doesn’t seem to mind if you supply your own, these are a must.

    MIGHTY TACTICAL

    This company wants to make the Army’s M17 into way more than a pistol

    Warfighting, like any line of work, gets much easier when you have the right tools for the job. A long barrel and high powered optics may make you a lethal opponent in the long-range shootouts of Afghanistan, but that same loadout could quickly become a liability in the close-quarters battles of Baghdad. Of course, some circumstances may call for both accuracy at a distance and the rapid target acquisition of an in-your-face fight, and in those situations, you’ve got to make do with what you’ve got.

    That’s where platforms like FLUX Defense’s MP17 for the new Army standard issue M17 pistol could come in. Instead of replacing the Army’s existing sidearm, FLUX Defense went to work on finding ways to make Sig Sauer’s M17 more lethal and efficient in situations where one might not normally reach for a sidearm. In order to do that, they found what the M17 really needed was a third point of contact on the user’s body.


    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    A soldier firing the M17 like a stockless chump.

    (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Samantha Stoffregen)

    Most special operators rely on a pistol as a secondary firearm, using their primary weapon (commonly an assault rifle or submachine gun) whenever possible thanks to its greater degree of control, accuracy, range, and often, ammunition on hand. A sidearm like the Army’s M17 pistol is often seen as a weapon of last resort, or at the very least, a weapon with advantages under only specific circumstances.

    The FLUX Defense MP17, however, adds a retractable stock (though, it’s important to note, it’s not legally considered a stock) and accessories to the standard Sig Sauer M17. The retractable stock and custom holster means the pistol still rides on a soldier’s hip like the M17 normally would, but instead of drawing the weapon and firing it like a traditional pistol, the user can deploy the stock and shoulder the weapon like a rifle — adding a great deal of stability, accuracy, and recoil control that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

    While current M17s come standard with either a 17-round or extended 21-round magazine, the MP17 increases that capacity to 43 rounds, thanks to a second magazine holder that doubles as a forward grip. It also offers a rail for mounting lights or lasers and optics mounts on the back. Importantly, beneath that optic mount is a gap that allows users to continue to use the pistol’s iron sights even while it’s housed in the FLUX brace.

    The new Flux Defense MP17 // FluxDefense

    youtu.be

    According to the manufacturer, you can convert your standard-issue M17 into the MP17 in as little as 60 seconds, and it weighs in at just 2.8 pounds with the firearm (and no ammunition) installed.

    FLUX advertises that the platform “shoots like a primary, holsters like a pistol,” and for many special operators or even those with concerns about home defense, that’s an offer that’s too good to ignore. This system could also serve as a significant benefit for personal security details and pilots — both of whom are constantly balancing security and preparation against a lack of usable space.

    Last year, fighter pilots began carrying a new M4 variant dubbed the GAU-5/A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon, which breaks apart to be easily stowed in the cockpit. A platform like the FLUX MP17, however, could be used to those same ends without requiring assembly after a crash.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    The holster allows for suppressors, flashlights, lasers, or whatever else you crazy kids are using these days.

    (FLUX Defense)

    Civilian customers can purchase the brace system without its custom holster for around 0, or with the holster for 0. As FLUX will point out, there aren’t currently any other holster options available on the market for the platform, however, so you’ll probably want to spring for the full package. That duty holster is open near the muzzle, allowing for a wide variety of flashlights, suppressors, or other tacticool (or legitimately tactical) add-ons. They also sell variants for use with Glock pistols.

    Of course, despite being classified as a pistol brace rather than a stock, there could potentially still be legal issues with picking up your own MP17. While FLUX doesn’t sell their brace kit as a Short Barrel Rifle kit (SBR) and they say it doesn’t fall under the ATF’s AOW (All Other Weapons) category to require a special stamp, the ATF is sometimes slow to make rulings about new products. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with any state or local laws pertaining to the use of SBRs before you make a purchase.

    Provided you can get your hands on the FLUX Defense MP17 legally, it may be just what you need to turn your standard sidearm into the right tool for the job, even if the job at hand is something pistols have no right to be doing.

    MIGHTY TACTICAL

    What China’s newest jets can actually do in a war

    The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force has released a new video showcasing its deadliest air assets, including some newer aircraft developed as part of China’s extensive military modernization.

    The nearly three-minute video is a compilation of footage from Chinese training exercises emphasizing preparation for a new era of warfare. The promotional video, titled “Safeguarding the New Era,” highlights some of the PLAAF’s newest war planes and was aired for the first time Aug. 28, 2018, at the air force’s Aviation Open Day in Jilin province in northeastern China.


    MIGHTY CULTURE

    The 4 rules of being a good wingman

    In the Air Force, we call them wingmen. In the Army, they’re called battle buddies. In the Marines, they’re swim buddies. Name aside, the idea is simple and clear: Accompany your wingman in all possibly dangerous or questionable situations. You keep your wingman out of trouble or, in some cases, make sure they don’t get in trouble alone.

    For the most part, the concept is well understood and regularly executed. There are, however, a few absolutely unacceptable areas of failure when it comes to implementing the concept. Here’s a tough pill to stomach: Sexual assault is, unfortunately, all too common throughout the military.

    Having a few good wingmen can play an instrumental role in preventing such behavior. And while, ultimately, only the assaulter is responsible for their actions, it’s up to you, the wingman, to keep a watchful eye. Implementing these techniques will help make the military a safer culture for everyone.


    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    It’s that simple.

    (Photo by sholefet.com)

    Consent is not optional

    If you see any kind of behavior that’s flirting with the line, don’t take (or let anyone take) a chance.

    This one’s simple enough, and it deserves to be at the top of this list.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    Have a plan.

    Establish your team and roles before you go out

    It doesn’t matter if it’s just the two of you going out or an entire group, build set of rules for everyone to stick by. Know exactly who is responsible for watching who and make sure everyone has at least one person accountable for their safe return. Set up a triple-check system for when someone is breaking away from the group.

    As long as everyone sticks with the established rules and takes care of who they are expected to take care of, everyone will get home fine.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    Actual footage of the new Sergeant’s first weekend off.

    Know your limits… and your team’s limits

    It’s almost as if they issue you a stronger liver and a standard-issue drinking habit upon swearing in. As a result, many of us tend to carry on as if liquor isn’t impairing our judgement and decision-making abilities. Here’s a fact: it is.

    Knowing what you can actually handle (and what your buddies can handle) is crucial to having an incident-free night. Know your team.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    It is a yes? An undeniable and clear yes? Does it ever become a no? Please understand consent.

    Consent. Again.

    Consent should be simple. No means no, and that’s that.

    While you’re out partying and sparks fly with someone, typically, there’s some amount of intoxication involved, and that can muddle things up. What might start as a “yes” might morph as the night goes on. It’s simple: When you hear a “no” (or anything that isn’t explicitly a “yes”) stop immediately. Do not slow down and creep on creepin’ on. Do not try to guilt or coerce the other party into continuing. Do not do anything other than stopping. Just stop.

    Use your words and have a conversation that may (or may not) lead to a sober and completely consensual hook-up down the line. Or better yet, maybe you’ll leave the conversation with an understanding of one another. Best of all, you’ll come away without inflicting or sustaining any horrifically permanent scars.

    To keep it very simple, just remember: No means no.

    That’s all there is to it. Nobody should stop you from having a good time, but it’s up to you to be a good wingman and keep your buddies out of trouble.

    MIGHTY TRENDING

    Don’t believe it: Chuck Norris is not dead

    The celebrity dead rumor mill is at it again. This time the (supposed) victim is Chuck Norris. According to rumors circulating on social media, the 80-year-old martial arts action movie star and Air Force veteran was felled by the novel coronavirus.

    What fools these mortals be.


    Norris, who served in the Air Force in Korea and beyond, is alive and well still, and maybe forever. He’s just the latest target of the endless rumor mill surrounding celebrity deaths — a rumor mill that had better watch its back.

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    Especially if it’s going to target Chuck Norris. (U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Corporal Ben Eberle)

    Celebrities are frequently the targets of such rumors, dating all the way back to Mark Twain, who was famously reached for comment about his own death in a June 1897 issue of the New York Journal. Beyonce, Clint Eastwood and — arguably the most famous — Paul McCartney have all supposedly died before their time.

    The age of COVID-19 has brought out a lot of new rumors surrounding celebrity deaths, given the misunderstandings about the virus and its lethality. Many celebrities have (really) contracted it, including actors Tom Hanks and Tony Shalhoub, singer-songwriter Pink and even the UK’s Prince Charles. All went into isolation to prevent the spread of the virus.

    Chuck Norris isn’t one of those. Chuck Norris puts the coronavirus in isolation.

    According to the Poynter Institute, the Chuck Norris rumor comes from a Facebook post on June 11th in the group “Are You Not Entertained?” It read:

    “Corona Virus claims a black belt. Carlos Ray ‘Chuck’ Norris, famous actor and fighter, died yesterday afternoon at his home in Northwood Hills, TX at the age of 80.”

    Like many things on Facebook, readers apparently only read one part of the gag and then ran with it to spread the “news” among their networks. If they had kept reading, they would have arrived at the obvious joke.

    “However, after his minor inconvenience of death, Chuck has made a full recovery, and is reported to be doing quite well. It has also been reported that the Corona virus is in self isolation for 14 days due to being exposed to Chuck Norris.”

    The US Coast Guard is a drug busting monster

    (Are You Not Entertained/Facebook)

    Remember to keep a skeptical eye toward rumors of celebrity deaths. Just because your favorite celebrity’s name is trending somewhere, doesn’t mean they’ve met their maker. They might have instead met Chuck Norris.

    As for Chuck, when Chuck Norris actually decides to die, you’ll know. Chuck Norris doesn’t cheat death, he wins fair and square.

    This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.