US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct - We Are The Mighty
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US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

Since February, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has scanned nearly 131,000 images across 168 social media sites and has reviewed information related to 89 persons of interest as a result of incidents related to the nonconsensual sharing of explicit photos and other online misconduct.


Among all persons of interest, 22 are civilians, and 67 are active-duty or reserve Marines. Five of these cases remain with NCIS as they investigate, while 62 have been passed to appropriate Marine commands for disposition.

To date, command dispositions have resulted in one summary court-martial, two administrative separations, seven non-judicial punishments, and 22 adverse administrative actions. These cases span beyond the Marines United Facebook page and include a spectrum of behavior.

While many cases involve photos, clothed or explicit, some involve verbal remarks without images.

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct
USMC photo by LCpl. Nicholas J. Trager, Combat Camera, SOI-E

On June 29, a Marine plead guilty at a summary-court martial related to the non-consensual sharing of explicit photos on the Marines United Facebook group. The Marine was sentenced to 10 days confinement, reduction of rank by three grades, and a forfeiture of two-thirds of one month’s pay. Additionally, the process to administratively separate the Marine is underway.

According to Gen. Glenn Walters, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and head of the Marine Corps Task Force that is addressing cultural issues with the Corps, the scope and apparent tolerance by some Marines for online misconduct has resulted in updates to Marine Corps training, policies and orders to ensure that Marines understand the expectations of what is and is not appropriate on social media.

“While those changes address the immediate behavioral issue, we also remain committed to addressing and evolving our culture by changing the way we educate, train, and lead our Marines – we will not tolerate a lack of respect for any member of our team,” said Walters.

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct
USMC photo by Staff Sgt. Greg Thomas

To help guide commanders and to ensure they have the appropriate information available to discuss and train Marines on online misconduct, the Marine Corps created a Leader’s Handbook in April 2017. According to Task Force personnel, the handbook provides leaders guidance on how to report and review each case. It also provides a range of potential accountability mechanisms available to commanders.

In addition to the updates to policies and orders, the Marine Corps has adjusted how it handles reports of online misconduct. Any allegation is now reported to NCIS for review and investigated if criminal in nature. If not criminal in nature, the cases are passed to the appropriate command for disposition. Additionally, commanders are now required to report allegations of online misconduct to Headquarters Marines Corps.

“I think it’s important to recognize that our understanding of the issue has evolved over time,” said Walters. “How we handle cases today is much different and more effective as a result of what occurred with Marines United. Moving forward, we are planning to establish a permanent structure that can address all of the factors that contribute to the negative subculture that has allowed this behavior to exist.”
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These are among the few people on Earth who actually know what it’s like to be the target of a nuclear weapon

The increasing threat of nuclear conflict between the United States and North Korea cast a shadow over the August 9 observance of the 72nd anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan in the final days of World War II.


“A strong sense of anxiety is spreading across the globe that in the not-too-distant future these weapons could actually be used again,” Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue told the crowd at the city’s Peace Park. The ceremony was held a day after US President Donald Trump vowed to respond to North Korea’s continuing threats with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct
Photo by Gage Skidmore

Mayor Taue also lashed out at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for refusing to enter negotiations for the UN Nuclear Prohibition Treaty, calling his stance “incomprehensible to those of us living in the cities that suffered atomic bombings.” Japan routinely abhors nuclear weapons, but has aligned its defense posture firmly under the so-called US “nuclear umbrella.”

Taue and the other dignitaries led the audience in a moment of silence as a bell was rung at the exact moment a US warplane dropped a plutonium bomb onto the port city, killing as many as 70,000 people.

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct
Panoramic view of the monument at the hypocentre of the atomic bombing in Nagasaki. Wikimedia Commons photo by Dean S. Pemberton.

The Nagasaki bombing happened three days after 140,000 people died in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, the world’s first using of nuclear weapons. The bombings hastened Japan’s surrender to Allied forces on August 15, 1945, bringing the six-year-old global conflict to an end.

MIGHTY TRENDING

13 photos from ‘Keen Sword,’ the Pacific exercises NATO drowned out

While most of the world was watching Trident Juncture, the massive NATO war games where 31 countries sent 50,000 participants and Russia responded with missiles and other provocations, the U.S. was participating in more war games on the other side of the world.

The U.S. and Japan sent a record number of troops to Keen Sword, Pacific war games to which Canada also sent ships and sailors.


US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, center left, and the Japanese helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga, center right, sail in formation with 16 other ships from the U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force as aircraft from the U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force fly overhead in formation during Keen Sword 2019 in the Philippine Sea, November 8, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

Keen Sword is focused on ensuring that Japan can defend its territory, and the U.S. and other allies take part to improve their ability to operate with the Japanese Self-Defense Force. Over the past few years, China’s aggression in the region has increasingly shaped the narrative — but China is far from the only threat Japan faces.

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

An E-2D Hawkeye lands on the flight deck of the Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during exercise Keen Sword 19, November 7, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class MacAdam Kane Weissman)

Japan is deeply within range of North Korea’s missiles and has an ongoing dispute with Russia over islands dating back to World War II.

Therefore, its annual hosting of Keen Sword is crucial. Japan sent 47,000 troops, about a fifth of its active military, and America sent 9,500 more. Canada sent two ships to the exercise.

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U.S. Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 5 fast rope from an MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter onto the USS Ronald Reagan during Keen Sword 19 in the Philippine Sea, November 1, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erwin Jacob V. Miciano)

The Japanese forces carry a lot of American hardware, everything from F-35s to Apache helicopters to Aegis missile defense systems. But Japan has still felt the need to further expand their military capabilities, standing up amphibious assault forces and increasing their ability to rapidly deploy with forces such as paratroopers.

The forces practiced these marine and airborne operations as well as submarine hunting, combat search and rescue, and other operations. See more photos from the exercise below:

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade jumps from a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules assigned to the 36th Airlift Squadron over Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan, November 4, 2018, during Keen Sword 19.

(U.S. Air Force Yasuo Osakabe)

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A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force solider assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade performs personnel accountability on a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules at Japan Air Self-Defense Force Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, November 4, 2018, during Keen Sword 19.

(U.S. Air Force Yasuo Osakabe)

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier assigned to the 1st Airborne Brigade waits to jump from a U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules over Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan, November 4, 2018, during Keen Sword 19.

(U.S. Air Force Yasuo Osakabe)

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

Rear Adm. Karl Thomas, commander of Task Force 70, departs an E-2D Hawkeye on the flight deck of the Navy’s forward deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during exercise Keen Sword 19, November 7, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class MacAdam Kane Weissman)

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

U.S. Air Force pararescue specialists assigned to the 31st Rescue Squadron from Kadena Air Base, Japan, charge land during a combat search and rescue training near Misawa Air Base, Japan, October 31, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

Sailors perform preflight checks on an E/A-18G Growler on the flight deck of the forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during exercise Keen Sword 19, November 1, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class MacAdam Kane Weissman)

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit 5 ready themselves for training during Keen Sword 19.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Erwin Jacob V. Miciano)

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

U.S. Airmen stand in front of an E-3 Sentry during Exercise Keen Sword 2019, at Kadena Air Base, Japan, October 29, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Matthew Seefeldt)

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

A Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine participates in Exercise Keen Sword with Submarine Group 7 and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sailors and staff. For the submarine force, the exercise was an opportunity to demonstrate how both countries’ submariners would detect, locate, track and engage enemy assets.

(U.S. Navy Chief Electronics Technician Robert Gulini)

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

U.S. and Japanese ships maneuver during a photo event at the end of Keen Sword 19 on November 8, 2018.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

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This Aussie submachine gun looked whacky but it worked

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Australian officers and enlisted men practice firing the Owen Gun at a range during World War II. (Public domain photo)


It’s weird- and whacky-looking.

It looks like it was made from mismatched pieces of plumbing.

What’s more, there is nothing “down under” about this Australian weapon’s magazine. The magazine loads into the top of the Owen gun – and spent cartridges eject from the bottom of its receiver.

But despite all its oddball features, despite the fact it was painted with jungle camouflage colors that defy description, the Owen worked astoundingly well.

The Owen is considered one of the most reliable submachine guns of the war, with a track record that not only includes the War in the Pacific but service with Aussies who fought in the Korean War and alongside U.S. troops in Vietnam.

Mind you, that’s a performance record earned during jungle warfare — an environment known for producing the kinds of things that cause weapons to jam at the worst possible moment.

The gun is the namesake brainchild of Lt. Evelyn Owen, a member of the Australian Imperial Forces who loved to tinker with firearms.

In 1938, Owen designed and built a homemade .22-caliber automatic carbine that had a large revolver-style cylinder instead of a magazine and a thumb-operated trigger.

Unfortunately, the contraption interested no one in the military. Owen literally set the gun aside, storing it in a large sugar sack and going about his business as an Army private.

The Australian military brass distrusted submachine guns, putting their faith in the tried and true Lee-Enfield rifle. Besides, they had been promised the Sten gun, a weapon touted by its designers to be more than adequate in battle.

But then came the fall of France in 1940. The British lost thousands of small arms that were destroyed or simply abandoned after the devastating rout at Dunkirk.

Bolt-action rifles from The Great War and hunting guns were often the only firearms available for some units. Terrified generals in Australia knew they did not have enough weapons to repel a Japanese invasion force – and the Sten gun wouldn’t be production until 1941.

However, Owen had a neighbor who managed a large Australian steel products factory. Vincent Wardell found the prototype gun and expressed admiration for the design.

Owen’s father, embarrassed by his son’ carelessness, explained to Wardell how the younger Owen tinkered with weapons.  Wardell didn’t care about whether the son picked up after himself – the simplicity of the firearm convinced Wardell that Owen’s skills were wasted as a mere foot soldier.

Wardell convinced the Australian military to transfer Owen from the infantry to the Army Inventions Board, which directed the development of new weapons.

Newly promoted Lt. Owen started to develop additional prototypes in different calibers. Slowly, the Australian government began to take an interest in his ideas.

In 1942, the John Lysaght metalworks factory made three versions of the Owen in 9-millimeter Luger, .38-200 caliber and .45 ACP. All were subjected to stress tests along with a Thompson submachine gun and the Sten gun as benchmark weapons.

The tests included immersing all of the guns in mud and water, then blowing sand at the weapons. The only gun that didn’t jam was the Owen.

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The Owen 9-mm submachine gun used in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam by Australian armed forces. Photo from Wikipedia.

In fact, the top-mount magazine proved beneficial. Gravity helped feed bullets into the gun, and the ejection port at the bottom of the receiver meant water and gunk drained out of the chamber more easily.

In short, the Owen Machine Carbine as it was called officially was perfect for jungle warfare.

The government wanted the nine-millimeter version. Eventually, Lysaght produced 45,000 weapons and they were a hit with the Australians soldiers – nicknamed “diggers”—who wielded them.

It only weighed 10 pounds, fired at about 700 rounds a minute from an open bolt, and was easily fired from the prone position.

About its only disadvantage were the offset sights. The top-mounted magazine blocked a normal sight picture, so the sights on the Owen are designed so the shooter looks around the magazine – but it only works for a right-handed shooter.

The Owen routinely out-performed the Sten gun –known as the Austen in its Australian incarnation – and was so well liked that Gen. Douglas MacArthur even considered it for American jungle forces in the Pacific.

During the Korean War, the Owen remained in the Australian arsenal. Even though the Lee-Enfield rifle was the main weapon for the infantryman, Owens found their way into the hands of many soldiers. During the Battle of Kapyong in 1951, any Australian soldier who could get his hands on an Owen used one.

“All hell broke loose as Diggers cut down the surge of attackers, directing into them as much rapid fire as their weapons could produce, the Owen submachine gun being the most effective weapon for this and the dear old single-shot Lee-Enfield the worst,” Maj. Ben O’Dowd, 3 Royal Australian Regiment, Alpha Co., said in an oral history of the battle prepared for the Australian War Memorial.

Helicopter search-and-rescue crews also carried Owens, using them to fend off Chinese Communist and North Korean troops attempting to capture downed airmen.

In addition, infantry scouts and commando units carried Owens during Australian participation in the Vietnam War.

The Australians retired the Owen from mainline service in 1971. However, it still occasionally appears in the hands of special operators when they train fellow soldiers undergoing a weapons familiarization course.

Regrettably, Evelyn Owen’s life was far shorter than the oddball but long-lasting weapon he designed. Owen received £10,000 in royalties – about the equivalent of $728,000 today – but sold the patent rights for the Owen gun to the Australian government.

Owen built a saw mill with the money he received. He continued to tinker with firearms, particularly sports rifles, but he never achieved the same success he had with the Owen gun. In addition, heavy drinking took a toll on his health.

He died of heart failure in 1949 at the age of 33.

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How the luckiest sailor on earth survived being sucked into a jet engine

During Desert Storm, the USS Theodore Roosevelt was on high alert. Petty Officers JD Bridges and Michael McDonald were prepping an A-6 Intruder fighter jet before takeoff. It was business as usual.


Mere seconds before the jet will sped down the runway, an accident that forever changed flight operations procedures occurred.

Bridges was completing checks to ensure the fighter was connected to the deck’s catapult for launch when he got too close to the high-powered engine and the turbine intake sucked him up in a split-second.

Actual flight deck surveillance footage of the accident. (Image via Giphy)

At full throttle, the Intruder’s engine generates 9,300 pounds of thrust — twice as strong as the most powerful tornado on record.

After Bridges got sucked in, the engine’s force violently pulled off his float coat, goggles, and the helmet from his head. Investigators believe that because his helmet was shredded by the sharp spinning blades, it partially jammed the engine.

The way the engine was designed, it ceased its own power and shut down immediately.

Miraculously, Bridges’ shoulder wedged against the nose cone as the engine slowed and he managed to remove himself out from the powerful intake space — escaping certain death. The aircraft’s pilot was ready to take off when he heard the disruption and powered down right away.

Also Read: This is why landing on an aircraft carrier never gets easy

Within moments, Bridges was carried to safety, suffering from a broken collarbone, superficial cuts from a few pieces of shrapnel, and a blown ear drum.  The Navy now uses this historic video as a training tool of what not to do while on the flight deck.

Bridges at a news conference a day after the accident. (Lithdad, YouTube)
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is how much weight you should actually carry in combat (according to science)

In today’s combat environments, it’s not at all uncommon to see U.S. Marines burdened with more than 150 pounds of gear, with reports of some loadouts climbing over 200 for those tasked with operating or supporting larger weapons systems.

It goes without saying that carrying that much weight on foot can compromise a war fighter’s ability to operate, but that begs the question: just how much can you carry on your back before your trading gear for combat effectiveness?

It turns out, a whole lot less than you’d think.


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FYI: It doesn’t get easier if you try to carry it higher.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class James R. Stilipec)

According to research conducted by Marine Corps Capt. Courtney Thompson at the Naval Postgraduate School, the most a Marine should be stuck carrying into the fight is a comparatively measly 58 pounds. While that may sound like a lot for your average Sunday hiker, for America’s warfighters, that’s a figure that seems impossibly low for today’s combat operations.

The problem with that figure is that the vast majority of that 58-pound load is occupied by non-negotiable personal protective equipment. A standard combat loadout tends to weigh in at around 43 pounds on its own — combat loadout in this case meaning flak jacket, Kevlar helmet, rifle and the standard gear you wear rather than pack. Whatever you may need for long term survival or other mission requirements has to be added to that 43-pound baseline, meaning the 58-pound combat-cutoff would allot only fifteen pounds for all other gear, from breaching tools to spare socks and MREs.

“Marines always have to be prepared to engage with the enemy,” said Captain Thompson. “In doing so, they typically have personal protective equipment, weapons, and other gear. Ultimately, the goal is to make those Marines as lethal and survivable as possible, and my thesis works towards that same goal.”

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Like going into combat with a full grown dude on your back.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez)

Captain Thompson’s research, of course, won’t create an immediate change in loadouts for troops in combat. Any Marine with a pair of knees can tell you that carrying 200 pounds on your back will make even the most basic infantry tactics an exercise in exhaustion and managed injury. Current combat loads are dictated by mission requirements, not comfort. But that isn’t to say that the research won’t lead to changes in the future. Her work was awarded the Stephen A. Tisdale Thesis Award by the Naval Postgraduate School Department of Operations Research, and according to Thomspon, the Marine Corps has taken notice.

“The commanding general of the Marine Corps War-fighting Lab is asking for my research and results,” Thompson said. “I also worked with a few people at Marine Corps Systems Command who’ve been looking at this problem specifically so they may use it to help support their further research.”

While it may be a long time before Marines see any relief in their combat loadouts, Thompson’s research can benefit any of us wondering just how effective we are with our kits on (whether it’s a hiking kit or full battle rattle). For most of us (if you’re still in Marine Corps shape), you should cut it off at around 58 pounds of total gear strapped to your body. If you’re not quite the Marine you used to be… that number is probably a bit lower.

MIGHTY TRENDING

25 strongest militaries in Europe, according to BI

NATO member and partner forces are in Norway for a sprawling military exercise called Trident Juncture — the largest since the Cold War, officials have said.

Russia is not happy with NATO’s robust presence next to its territory and has decided to put on its own show of force.

From Nov. 1 to Nov. 3, 2018, Russian ships will carry out rocket drills in the Norwegian Sea, west of activities related to Trident Juncture, which runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2018.

The exercises come at a time of heightened tension in Europe, home to some of the world’s most capable armed forces, based on the 2018 military strength ranking compiled by Global Firepower.


The ranking aims to level the playing between smaller countries with technical advantages and larger, less-sophisticated countries.

Additional factors — geography, logistical capabilities, natural resources, and industrial capacity — are taken into account, as are things like diversity of weapons and assets, national development, and manpower.

NATO members, 27 of which are European, also get a boost, as the alliance is designed to share resources and military support. The US military has a massive presence in Europe — including its largest base outside the US— but isn’t included here as the US isn’t part of Europe.

Below, you can see the 25 most powerful militaries in Europe.

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Belgium air force helicopter Alouette III takes off from BNS Godetia for a tactical flight over the fjords in support of an amphibious exercise during NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise.

(NATO Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde)

25. Belgium (Overall ranking: 68)

Power Index rating: 1.0885

Total population: 11,491,346

Total military personnel: 38,800

Total aircraft strength: 164

Fighter aircraft: 45

Combat tanks: 0

Total naval assets: 17

Defense budget: .085 billion

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A Portuguese sniper team identifies targets during the range-estimation event of the Europe Best Sniper Team Competition at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, July 29, 2018.

(US Army photo by Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

24. Portugal (Overall ranking: 63)

Power Index rating: 1.0035

Total population: 10,839,514

Total military personnel: 268,500

Total aircraft strength: 93

Fighter aircraft: 24

Combat tanks: 133

Total naval assets: 41

Defense budget: .8 billion

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Slovak soldiers report to their commander during the opening ceremony of Slovak Shield 2018 at Lest Military Training Center, Sept. 23, 2018.

(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Caitlin Sweet)

23. Slovakia (Overall ranking: 62)

Power Index rating: 0.9998

Total population: 5,445,829

Total military personnel: 14,675

Total aircraft strength: 49

Fighter aircraft: 18

Combat tanks: 22

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: id=”listicle-2617982766″.025 billion

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Austrian soldiers load gear onto their packhorses before hiking to a high-angle range during the International Special Training Centre High-Angle/Urban Course at the Hochfilzen Training Area, Austria, Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

22. Austria (Overall ranking: 61)

Power Index rating: 0.9953

Total population: 8,754,413

Total military personnel: 170,000

Total aircraft strength: 124

Fighter aircraft: 15

Combat tanks: 56

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: .22 billion

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A Bulgarian army tank crew maneuvers a T-72 tank during an exercise with US soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the Novo Selo Training Area, Sept. 15, 2018.

(US Army National Guard photo Sgt. Jamar Marcel Pugh)

21. Bulgaria (Overall ranking: 60)

Power Index rating: 0.9839

Total population: 7,101,510

Total military personnel: 52,650

Total aircraft strength: 73

Fighter aircraft: 20

Combat tanks: 531

Total naval assets: 29

Defense budget: 0 million

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Standing NATO Maritime Group One trains with Finnish fast-attack missile boat FNS Hanko during a passing exercise in the Baltic Sea, Aug. 28, 2017.

(NATO photo by Christian Valverde)

20. Finland (Overall ranking: 59)

Power Index rating: 0.9687

Total population: 5,518,371

Total military personnel: 262,050

Total aircraft strength: 153

Fighter aircraft: 55

Combat tanks: 160

Total naval assets: 270

Defense budget: .66 billion

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

Cpl. Cedric Jackson, a US soldier from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team of Army’s 1st Infantry Division, assists a Hungarian soldier in applying tape to secure a fluid-administration tube to a simulated casualty during a combat life-saver course led by US troops in Tata, Hungary, Dec. 2017.

(US Army photo by 2nd Lt. Gabor Horvath)

19. Hungary (Overall ranking: 57)

Power Index rating: 0.9153

Total population: 9,850,845

Total military personnel: 77,250

Total aircraft strength: 35

Fighter aircraft: 12

Combat tanks: 32

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: id=”listicle-2617982766″.04 billion

18. Denmark (Overall ranking: 54)

Power Index rating: 0.9084

Total population: 5,605,948

Total military personnel: 75,150

Total aircraft strength: 113

Fighter aircraft: 33

Combat tanks: 57

Total naval assets: 90

Defense budget: .44 billion

17. Belarus (Overall ranking: 41)

Power Index rating: 0.7315

Total population: 9,549,747

Total military personnel: 401,250

Total aircraft strength: 202

Fighter aircraft: 43

Combat tanks: 515

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: 5 million

16. Romania (Overall ranking: 40)

Power Index rating: 0.7205

Total population: 21,529,967

Total military personnel: 177,750

Total aircraft strength: 135

Fighter aircraft: 34

Combat tanks: 827

Total naval assets: 48

Defense budget: .19 billion

15. Netherlands (Overall ranking: 38)

Power Index rating: 0.7113

Total population: 17,084,719

Total military personnel: 53,205

Total aircraft strength: 165

Fighter aircraft: 61

Combat tanks: 0

Total naval assets: 56

Defense budget: .84 billion

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A Norwegian soldier takes aim during Trident Juncture 18 near Røros, Norway, Oct. 2018.

(NATO photo)

14. Norway (Overall ranking: 36)

Power Index rating: 0.6784

Total population: 5,320,045

Total military personnel: 72,500

Total aircraft strength: 128

Fighter aircraft: 49

Combat tanks: 52

Total naval assets: 62

Defense budget: billion

13. Switzerland (Overall ranking: 34)

Power Index rating: 0.6634

Total population: 8,236,303

Total military personnel: 171,000

Total aircraft strength: 167

Fighter aircraft: 54

Combat tanks: 134

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: .83 billion

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

Swedish air force Pvt. Salem Mimic, left, and Pvt. Andreas Frojd, right, both with Counter Special Forces Platoon, provide security for US Air Force airmen and aircraft on the flight line at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 26, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

12. Sweden (Overall ranking: 31)

Power Index rating: 0.6071

Total population: 9,960,487

Total military personnel: 43,875

Total aircraft strength: 206

Fighter aircraft: 72

Combat tanks: 120

Total naval assets: 63

Defense budget: .2 billion

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erved by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 28, 2018.

(Defense Department photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

11. Czech Republic (Overall ranking: 30)

Power Index rating: 0.5969

Total population: 10,674,723

Total military personnel: 29,050

Total aircraft strength: 103

Fighter aircraft: 12

Combat tanks: 123

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: .6 billion

10. Ukraine (Overall ranking: 29)

Power Index rating: 0.5383

Total population: 44,033,874

Total military personnel: 1,182,000

Total aircraft strength: 240

Fighter aircraft: 39

Combat tanks: 2,214

Total naval assets: 25

Defense budget: .88 billion

9. Greece (Overall ranking: 28)

Power Index rating: 0.5255

Total population: 10,768,477

Total military personnel: 413,750

Total aircraft strength: 567

Fighter aircraft: 189

Combat tanks: 1,345

Total naval assets: 115

Defense budget: .54 billion

8. Poland (Overall ranking: 22)

Power Index rating: 0.4276

Total population: 38,476,269

Total military personnel: 184,650

Total aircraft strength: 466

Fighter aircraft: 99

Combat tanks: 1,065

Total naval assets: 83

Defense budget: .36 billion

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A sniper and spotter from the Spanish Lepanto Battalion line up their target near Folldal during Exercise Trident Juncture, using the .50 caliber Barrett and the .338 caliber Accuracy sniper rifles, firing at targets over 1,000 meters away.

(Photo by 1st German/Netherlands Corps)

7. Spain (Overall ranking: 19)

Power Index rating: 0.4079

Total population: 48,958,159

Total military personnel: 174,700

Total aircraft strength: 524

Fighter aircraft: 122

Combat tanks: 327

Total naval assets: 46 (one aircraft carrier)

Defense budget: .6 billion

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An Italian F-35A fighter jet with special tail markings.

(Italian Air Force photo)

6. Italy (Overall ranking: 11)

Power Index rating: 0.2565

Total population: 62,137,802

Total military personnel: 267,500

Total aircraft strength: 828

Fighter aircraft: 90

Combat tanks: 200

Total naval assets: 143 (two aircraft carriers)

Defense budget: .7 billion

5. Germany (Overall ranking: 10)

Power Index rating: 0.2461

Total population: 80,594,017

Total military personnel: 208,641

Total aircraft strength: 714

Fighter aircraft: 94

Combat tanks: 432

Total naval assets: 81

Defense budget: .2 billion

4. Turkey (Overall ranking: 9)

Power Index rating: 0.2216

Total population: 80,845,215

Total military personnel: 710,565

Total aircraft strength: 1,056

Fighter aircraft: 207

Combat tanks: 2,446

Total naval assets: 194

Defense budget: .2 billion

3. United Kingdom (Overall ranking: 6)

Power Index rating: 0.1917

Total population: 64,769,452

Total military personnel: 279,230

Total aircraft strength: 832

Fighter aircraft: 103

Combat tanks: 227

Total naval assets: 76 (two aircraft carriers)

Defense budget: billion

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French sailors watch the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush as it transits alongside the French navy frigate Forbin, Oct. 25, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage)

2. France (Overall ranking: 5)

Power Index rating: 0.1869

Total population: 67,106,161

Total military personnel: 388,635

Total aircraft strength: 1,262

Fighter aircraft: 299

Combat tanks: 406

Total naval assets: 118 (four aircraft carriers)

Defense budget: billion

US Marine Corps fights social media misconduct

Russian troops participating in the Zapad 2017 exercises in Belarus and Russia.

(Russian Ministry of Defense photo)

1. Russia (Overall ranking: 2)

Power Index rating: 0.0841

Total population: 142,257,519

Total military personnel: 3,586,128

Total aircraft strength: 3,914

Fighter aircraft: 818

Combat tanks: 20,300

Total naval assets: 352 (one aircraft carrier)

Defense budget: billion

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The British Army wants binge-drinkers and nervous Nellies

Last year, the British Army made headlines when it said it wanted “snowflakes” in its ranks. This year, the Army is calling on social media addicts, binge-drinkers, and anyone else who spends their time desperately searching for a confidence boost, no matter how short-lived it may be.

The British Army, as of last fall, was still thousands of troops shy of its target of 82,000 fully-trained troops, with numbers still falling as more troops leave the service among an upswing in recruitment.


In an effort to boost its numbers, the British army is pushing forward with its “belonging” recruitment drive. The latest recruiting campaign, which came out Thursday, has a simple message: “Army confidence lasts a lifetime.”

British Army unveils latest recruiting campaign: ‘Army confidence lasts a lifetime’

www.youtube.com

The video targets people addicted to the gym, bar hopping, social media, and fashion, telling viewers that “lots of things will give you confidence … for a little while, but confidence that lasts a lifetime, there’s one place you’ll find that.”

The British Army is also putting out advertisements with collage images of muscles, emoji, applied cosmetics, and so on with captions like: “Confidence can be built for a summertime or it can last a lifetime” and “Confidence can last as long as a like or it can last a lifetime.”

The latest campaign is based, at least in part, on research done by The Prince’s Trust charity in 2018 that found that roughly 54% of 16-9 to 25-year-olds struggle with self-confidence and believe that this problem keeps them from reaching their true potential.

The British Ministry of Defense, according to The Independent, says that the ongoing recruitment campaign, which began in 2017 amid a steady drop in the size of the British armed forces, has been successful.

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(Photo by U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Staff Sgt. Brett Miller, 116 Public Affairs Detachment)

Last year’s British Army recruitment drive, which controversially targeted “snowflakes,” “class clowns,” “selfie addicts,” “phone zombies,” and “me me me millenials,” reportedly resulted in tens of thousands of people signing up to join. While the force fell short of its annual recruiting goals, it saw the highest number of recruits in a decade start basic training last fall.

“With the 2020 campaign we want to highlight that a career in the Army not only provides exciting opportunities, challenges and adventure but it also gives you a lasting confidence that is hard to find in any other profession,” Col. Nick MacKenzie, the head of the British Army recruitment, said, according to the BBC.

Despite increases in recruitment, a positive change for the British Army, the force continues to face retention challenges that keep it from meeting its ambitions. The British armed forces shrank for the ninth year in a row last year.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out these ISIS propaganda video bloopers

A new video of ISIS recruits trying to pledge their allegiance to the caliphate shows a recruit fluffing his lines and being interrupted by screeching bird calls.

A video of a recruits in Yemen, unearthed by Dr Elisabeth Kendall, a senior research fellow at Oxford University’s Pembroke College, shows a bearded youth coming struggling to get through his vows.

The footage was recorded in 2017, when ISIS still held territory in Iraq and Syria, and was attracting recruits from further afield.

Kendall told Business Insider the clip was released this week by Hidaya Media, a broadcaster associated with al-Qaeda’s operations around the Red Sea.


ISIS and al-Qaeda are rival jihadist organizations and have been known to insult and belittle each other.

Although ISIS has been deprived of its former territory in Syria and Iraq, the organization continues. Both ISIS and al-Qaeda are currently fighting over territory in Yemen.

In the video the insurgent, identified by The Independent as Abu Muhammad al-Adeni, trips over his lines, prompting a fellow recruit to say: “Stay calm, keep cool”.

On two occasions his speech is cut short by loud, intrusive bird calls. The man has a Janbiya knife tucked into his belt.

The footage may have been found by al-Qaeda operatives when they took over an ISIS camp in northwestern al-Bayda, Yemen, earlier this summer, Kendall told Business Insider.

Footage from a different part of the shoot later made it into an actual ISIS propaganda video, released in September 2017. It shows a series of young recruits gathering together, celebrating, affirming their vows to the caliphate, and eating.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Military families call for the right to withhold rent in privatized housing disputes

Army Col. Scott Gerber said he had to pay out-of-pocket for an independent inspector to verify mold infestation and water damage in his home in an effort to get the attention of the private company running base housing at Fort Meade, Maryland.


Military spouse Linda Gherdovich said she had similar problems with mold at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C.

“The only reason we knew [it was there] was because our kids were getting sick,” she said.

Gherdovich said she had to pay ,700 to an outside inspector to verify her claims, and she’s still fighting to get reimbursement.

In testimony Tuesday before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Gerber and Gherdovich echoed the demands of other military families for an expansion of the recently approved Tenant Bill of Rights to let them withhold rent in disputes over repairs and maintenance of privatized military housing.

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And in a following panel the same day, representatives from four military housing companies said that they supported giving that right to military families.

They also expressed varying levels of regret for the military housing problems that have been detailed in numerous reports and hearings, including mold and pest infestation, poor performance on fulfilling work orders, and negligence in responding to tenants’ complaints.

In his prepared statement, Richard Taylor, president of Balfour Beatty Communities, said, “I would like to begin by saying that we sincerely apologize for having fallen short of the high standards our nation’s military families deserve.

“We fully accept that we must make improvements, and we are determined to regain the trust and confidence of our residents and our military partners,” he added.

On Feb. 25, the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the secretaries of the service branches had signed the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights, which was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

There were 15 provisions in the bill, including “the right to a written lease with clearly defined rental terms” and “the right to reside in a housing unit and a community that meets applicable health and environmental standards.”

The Pentagon’s announcement acknowledged that three rights were missing from the list — access for tenants to a maintenance history of their units, a detailed process for dispute resolution, and the withholding of rent until disputes are resolved.

The military will work with the private companies and Congress to get those three provisions added to the list, the Pentagon said at the time.

At the hearing, Gerber said the right to withhold rent is vital to leveling the playing field with the private companies.

He said he and his wife, Sandy, “lived through two mold-infested homes,” adding “our situation wasn’t unique.”

Military families need “the ability to hold that contractor accountable. We need an easy mechanism to stop that [Basic Allowance for Housing]” from going to the private companies during disputes, Gerber said.

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In a separate panel at the hearing, representatives of four companies managing private housing on military bases said they are in favor of adding the ability to withhold rent and the other two missing provisions to the Tenant Bill of Rights.

Denis Hickey, chief executive officer of Lendlease Americas, said under questioning, “We realize we can and must do more” to improve conditions.

“Obviously, some of our families feel our company has come up short,” said Jeff Guild, vice president of Lincoln Military Housing. The company is resolved to “repairing a culture of trust with our residents,” he added.

Heath Burleson, a senior vice president at Corvias Group, said the company had gotten away in the past from the “basic blocking and tackling” needed to keep homes in good repair. “I believe we’re on the right path, but we’re not done,” he said.

After listening to the company representatives, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, the subcommittee’s chair, said, “all of your testimony is very nice now, [but] the system was set up as a gravy train for your companies.” There’s no accountability to military families, she added.

“It is outrageous,” she said.

The military contributed to the failures of the system through inattention and poor oversight of the performance of the private companies involved in military housing, said Pete Potochney, the acting assistant secretary of defense for sustainment.

“The fact that we’re having this hearing and others like it is saddening,” Potchney said. “We simply took our eye off the ball” over the years in oversight of military housing.

“We sure as hell didn’t do a great job,” he added.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Serbs jailed for breaking quarantine; Member of Putin’s staff infected

The global death toll from the coronavirus has neared 27,000 with more than 591,000 infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.


Ukraine

Ukraine says it has confirmed 92 new coronavirus cases as the country begins to impose new restrictions at its borders in the battle to contain the effects of the global pandemic.

The Health Ministry’s Center for Public Health said that with the new infections, there were 310 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 respiratory illness as of the end of March 27.

Since the crisis began, five deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, with patients’ ages ranging from 33 to 71 years.

The jump in new cases comes on the eve of new measures ordered by the government.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in an online video address to the nation explained the country’s decision to shut cross-border travel after March 27, including for Ukrainian nationals.

Previously, the cabinet had issued a nationwide directive limiting passengers in all public transportation. All above-ground transportation such as, minibuses, buses, trolleybuses, and trams should only ride up to half capacity.

Russia

The Kremlin says a member of President Vladimir Putin’s administration has been infected with the coronavirus, but the person had not been in direct contact with Russia’s leader.

The announcement came as the government widened restrictions aimed at fighting the disease, ordering all restaurants and cafes to close, beginning March 28.

As of March 27, the country’s total number of confirmed cases was 1,036, up 196 from a day earlier. Another reported death on March 27 increased the total to four.

According to Moscow’s coronavirus-response headquarters, the 56-year-old woman who died on March 27 was also suffering from cancer and had one lung removed during an earlier operation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that a man working in the presidential administration had been infected with the coronavirus.

“Indeed, a coronavirus case has been identified in the presidential administration,” Peskov was quoted as saying.

“All necessary sanitary and epidemiological measures are being taken to prevent the virus from spreading further. The sick man did not come into contact with the president,” he added, saying this was the only known case at the Kremlin.

He gave no further details.

As Russia’s confirmed cases have climbed, the government has steadily increased the restrictions and other measures seeking to curtail the disease’s spread.

Putin has called for a weeklong work holiday, ordering all nonessential businesses to close down for a week, beginning March 28.

In the order released by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin’s government on March 27, regional authorities across the country were instructed to “halt the activities of public food service organizations.” The restrictions will take effect on March 28.

The government has also ordered all vacation and health resorts closed until June. Other restrictions included the cancellation of all international flights.

In Russia’s capital and largest city, Moscow, city authorities have encouraged people to stay home and placed restrictions on public transit.

The majority of confirmed cases are in Moscow.

The Russian media regulator, meanwhile, said the social messaging network Twitter has deleted a post that it said contained false information about a pending curfew.

Roskomnadzor said it filed a request with the U.S. company on March 26, asking for the post to be taken down.

According to the regulator, the post made mention of a pending order by the Defense Ministry that a curfew was to be imposed in Moscow. That information is false, Roskomnadzor said in a statement on March 27.

Twitter had no immediate comment on the statement by Roskomnadzor.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office, meanwhile, said officials had made similar requests about allegedly false information circulating on other social media outlets, including Facebook and VK.

Facebook “removed the incorrect, socially significant information concerning the number of coronavirus cases,” Roskomnadzor said.

Iran

Iran reported 144 new coronavirus deaths as authorities continued to struggle to contain the outbreak, with the number of confirmed cases jumping by nearly 2,400.

The new tally, announced on March 27 by Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, pushed Iran’s total confirmed cases to at least 32,332.

Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in the world, along with China, Italy, Spain, and now the United States.

Earlier this week, authorities enacted a new travel ban after fears that many Iranians had ignored previous advice to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20.

On March 25, government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned about the danger of ignoring the travel guidelines.

“This could cause a second wave of the coronavirus,” Rabiei said.

State TV, meanwhile, reported that the military has set up a 2,000-bed hospital in an exhibition center in the capital, Tehran, to shore up the local health-care system.

President Hassan Rohani has pledged that authorities will contain the spread of the coronavirus within two weeks. However, the continued rise in numbers, along with fears that the country’s health-care system is incapable of dealing with the surge of infections, have raised doubts about meeting that goal.

Earlier this week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refused U.S. aid and seized on a conspiracy theory that the United States had created the virus, something for which there is no scientific evidence.

Om March 27, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the United States to release Iranians held in U.S. jails on sanctions-related issues due to fears about the coronavirus epidemic.

“Release our men,” Zarif said on Twitter.

The minister referred to a report by the Guardian newspaper about an Iranian science professor who it said remained jailed by U.S. immigration authorities after being acquitted in November 2019 on charges of stealing trade secrets related to his academic work.

The professor, Sirous Asgari, complained that conditions in detention were “filthy and overcrowded” and that officials were “doing little” to prevent the coronavirus outbreak, according to The Guardian.

Iranian authorities have arrested dozens of foreigners and dual citizens over recent years, mostly on espionage charges.

Rights activists have accused Iranian authorities of arresting them to try to win concessions from other countries — a charge dismissed by Tehran.

Serbia

Three people in Serbia have been sentenced to jail for violating a self-isolation order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

The two- to three-year sentences were handed down during a video court session, a first in the Balkan country. The session was conducted remotely to protect employees and defendants from potential exposure to the coronavirus.

One of the defendants was sentenced to three years in prison — the maximum — in the eastern town Dimitrovgrad, a Serbian justice source confirmed to RFE/RL. The others were sentenced at a court in the city of Pozarevac to two and 2 1/2 years.

Dragana Jevremovic-Todorovic, a judge and spokeswoman for the court in Pozarevac, told RFE/RL that the two people convicted there had been charged with a criminal offense of noncompliance with health regulations.

“They violated the measure of self-isolation when they came from abroad. One arrived in Serbia on March 14, the other on March 17, both from the Hungarian border crossing,” she said.

“They were informed that they had been given a measure of self-isolation and a restraining order, which they did not respect. The measure was to last 14 days, and they violated it before the deadline,” Jevremovic-Todorovic said.

“By violating self-isolation, they have created a danger to human health, as this can spread the infectious disease,” Jevremovic-Todorovic said.

The Ministry of Justice on March 26 sent a memo to courts that conduct proceedings against people who violate self-isolation measures, allowing them to hold trials remotely using Internet-enabled computers, cameras, and microphones.

The judiciary noted that the first-time video judgments were not final, but the defendants remain in custody while they await trial.

According to the Justice Ministry’s Criminal Sanctions Directorate, 111 people are in custody at detention facilities in three Serbian cities – Pirot, Vrsac, and Pozarevac — on suspicion of violating the emergency public-health order.

Serbia has recorded 528 coronavirus cases and eight deaths. Restrictive measures introduced by Belgrade include a ban on people over age 65 leaving their homes and a 12-hour overnight curfew enforced by police.

Meanwhile, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic pledged on March 27 to donate 1 million euros (id=”listicle-2645588735″.1 million) to buy ventilators and other medical equipment for health workers in Serbia.

“Unfortunately, more and more people are getting infected every day,” Djokovic told Serbian media.

The world men’s No. 1 player, who was in top form before the pandemic interrupted the current season, thanked medical staff around the world for their efforts.

Georgia

Georgia’s government has canceled a id=”listicle-2645588735″.2 million contract to buy thousands of rapid-result coronavirus tests from a Chinese company.

The cancellation is the latest controversy for Bioeasy, whose test kits have been deemed faulty in Spain and returned.

Georgia’s order for 215,000 rapid-result tests also will be returned to Bioeasy, based in the Shenzhen region, near Hong Kong.

Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze told reporters on March 27 that Bioeasy had agreed to take them back.

Rapid-result tests, which can be used for diseases like influenza as well as coronavirus, are known for providing quick results, though with less accuracy.

In Spain, which is one of the countries worst-hit by the coronavirus, health officials found the tests were far less accurate than needed, and ordered the tests returned.

Tikaradze said Georgians should not be afraid of being misdiagnosed.

She said new diagnostic tests were being examined at Tbilisi’s Lugar Center for Public Health Research, a medical research facility funded mostly by the U.S. government.

“I want to reassure our population,” she said. “Any new tests coming into the territory of Georgia are being tested at the Lugar Center and hence we are testing the reliability of the tests and then using them for widespread use.”

Georgia has 81 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and no deaths, as of March 27.

Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan has tightened its quarantine rules from March 29 in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The movement of vehicles between regions and cities across the country will be banned, with some exceptions, including ambulances, social services, and agricultural vehicles, the government said on March 27.

Baku’s subway system will operate only five hours a day.

Restaurants, cafes, tea houses, and shops — except supermarkets, grocery stores, and pharmacies — will remain closed.

Access to parks, boulevards, and other recreation areas will be restricted.

The South Caucasus country has reported 165 coronavirus cases, with three deaths. Officials say 15 patients have recovered.

In addition, more than 3,000 people remain in quarantine.

On March 26, Azerbaijani authorities extended holidays related to Persian New Year celebrations until April 4, from a previous end date of March 29.

Hungary

Hungary’s prime minister has ordered new restrictions to try and curtail the spread of the coronavirus, calling for Hungarians to remain at home for two weeks.

In a March 27 announcement on state radio, Viktor Orban said people would only be allowed to travel to work and make essential trips to buy food or medicine or take children to daycare until April 11.

He also proposed special shopping hours at food stores for people 65 and over, and called on people to observe “social distancing” — staying about 2 meters away from other people to prevent the spread of infection.

Hungary currently has 300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, though Orban has said the actual number of cases is likely much higher.

Ten infected people have died.

Orban has increasingly tightened his grip on power during his decade in office. Opposition leaders and critics have accused him of moving the country towards an autocracy.

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s government has widened restrictions in the country’s two largest cities, ordering most companies to suspend operations next week as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

The restrictions, announced March 27, came as the number of confirmed cases announced by the government reached 120. Most of the cases are in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.

A day earlier, as the country reported its first death from COVID-19, the government barred residents of Nur-Sultan and Almaty from leaving their homes except for work or to buy food or medicines, starting from March 28.

The closure of most businesses in the two cities also takes effect March 28.

Authorities have also closed all intercity transport terminals and public spaces in Shymkent, Kazakhstan’s third-largest city, in order to curb the spread of coronavirus, the government said.

Uzbekistan

In neighboring Uzbekistan, officials announced the country’s first death from coronavirus: a 72-year-old man in the city of Namangan who had suffered from other ailments.

As of early March 27, Uzbekistan — Central Asia’s most populous nation — has confirmed 75 cases of infection.

Earlier, municipal authorities announced restrictions in Samarkand and the Ferghana valley cities Namangan and Andijon on March 26.

All vehicle traffic in and out of the cities has been restricted, with the exception of cargo transport, or security and government officials.

Tashkent has been closed to the entry and exit of all passenger transport since March 24.

Kyrgyzstan

Another Central Asian country, Kyrgyzstan, announced 14 new cases on March 27, bringing the country’s total to 58.

Earlier this week, authorities declared a state of emergency in the capital, Bishkek, and several other cities and regions.

Two other Central Asian countries, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, have not reported any confirmed infections yet.

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


MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran will withdraw from parts of the 2015 nuclear deal

On June 17, 2019, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that it will scale back its compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal – that the United States withdrew from in 2018. According to Iran’s Tasnim News Service, the government will increase stocks of enriched uranium and the heavy water required to make more enriched uranium at its Arak heavy water site.


Heavy water is used in nuclear reactors to slow down neutrons so they are more likely to react with uranium-235, where the element will capture neutrons in a fissile manner. uranium-238 cannot sustain a nuclear reaction, but uranium-235 can. Heavy water reactors create plutonium as a waste material, plutonium that can be used in nuclear weapons.

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Iran has been making consistent nuclear advances since the reviled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in office.

The Islamic Republic also announced it would begin enriching uranium again as a result of the U.S. leaving the 2015 deal. This means Iran will begin creating more of the uranium-235 required to sustain nuclear reactions, using the heavy water in its reactors. Under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpiles of medium-enriched Uranium and reduce its stock of low-enriched Uranium by 98 percent. It also agreed to limit its centrifuge production and use while limiting its future enrichment to uranium at on 3.67 percent.

Iran also agreed to limit the possibilities of nuclear proliferation by converting other sources of uranium enrichment and heavy water production to other purposes.

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The Arak Heavy Water Facility.

Until now, other global powers have agreed with Iran ending its participation in some areas of the deal. Those powers are still signatory to the agreement. The most recent developments, the continuation in heavy water production and the increased production of enriched uranium, were not agreed upon by the other signatories to the deal. Iran warned the world in May 2019 that it would take these steps unless the sanctions on Iran were lifted as per the terms of the agreement.

It has been true to its word in all areas regarding the deal – and its dismantling – so far.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US urges Japan to boost defenses against North Korean nukes

The United States has welcomed Japan’s planned introduction of a land-based variant of the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, but there are growing calls in Washington for Tokyo to acquire strike capability to further boost deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat.


American experts say the deployment of Aegis Ashore will be a significant step in strengthening Japan’s missile defense, but that even such an advanced platform is not perfect for interception, especially because North Korea is stepping up its ability to launch multiple missiles simultaneously.

“With North Korea demonstrating increasingly sophisticated missiles and threatening to sink Japan with nuclear weapons, Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe should consider making strike capability a top priority,” said Jeffrey Hornung, a Washington-based political scientist at the Rand Corporation, a US think tank.

In a meeting Nov. 6 with Abe in Tokyo, President Donald Trump underscored the “unwavering” commitment of the United States to the defense of Japan, including extended deterrence backed by the full range of US nuclear and conventional defense capabilities, according to the White House. Trump urged Abe to purchase more defense equipment from the United States.

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Japan’s Prime Minister Abe (left) shakes hands with President Donald Trump during a visit Nov. 6, 2017. (Photo from White House Flickr.)

But it was not known if Abe and Trump discussed Japan’s potential adoption of strike capability, or what some refer to as “counterattack capability,” as the US envisages Tokyo acquiring the ability to undertake retaliatory strikes against an opponent’s missile facilities and supporting infrastructure, as opposed to first-strike capability.

Such capability would surely bolster security cooperation, intelligence exchange, and alliance management between the United States and Japan, a development that security experts say would be effective in deterring any kind of attack against the two countries.

Some argue the resounding victory by Abe’s ruling coalition in the Oct. 22 general election could stimulate debate in Japan about the possible pursuit of strike capability, especially as the Defense Ministry plans to draw up its next five-year plan for defense procurement and update the National Defense Program Guidelines in late 2018.

“Prime Minister Abe has the political capital and the reasoning to begin to talk more specifically about the need to prepare or consider counterattack capability,” said James Schoff, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank, citing the rising nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

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Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence the Kantei, in Tokyo, Aug. 18, 2017. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

“I think the chance of that happening or that becoming a more high profile issue is greater now as a result of the election,” Schoff said.

Referring to the political stability in Japan after Abe’s victory, Hornung said, “Now the Abe administration can have a more long-term view about defense policies and what capabilities they want to acquire in the years ahead.”

Also Read: Here’s the kind of damage North Korea could do if it went to war

Debate about Japan adopting strike capability gathered steam in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party following the simultaneous firing on March 6 by North Korea of four ballistic missiles — three of which landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan — and Pyongyang’s announcement that the action was a drill simulating a strike on US military bases in Japan.

On Aug. 6, Abe said in a news conference that “at this point,” he was not considering acquiring such capability. North Korea, however, has continued to increase its bellicose threats and provocative acts against the United States, Japan, and South Korea.

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(Photo from Rodong Sinmun.)

Pyongyang conducted intermediate-range ballistic missile launches over northern Japan into the Pacific on Aug. 29 and Sept. 15, as well as its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, with the detonation of what it said was a hydrogen bomb that can be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

On Sept. 13, Pyongyang’s Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said, “The four islands of the (Japanese) archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb” launched by North Korea, and that “Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.” The committee issued a similar warning on Oct. 28.

With North Korea accelerating development of deliverable nuclear weapons that could reach as far as the United States, Pyongyang has suggested it could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean — a threat that prompted Japanese defense officials to speculate that a nuclear-tipped missile may fly over Japan.

Schoff and Hornung recommend that Japan pursue strike capability in “a modest form” so that it will not become too expensive. They also stress the need to make sure that such capability falls within Japan’s exclusively defense-oriented policy, because the issue would be politically sensitive not only domestically, but to neighboring countries such as South Korea and China.

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Maj. Toru Tsuchiya (right), Japan Air Self-Defense Force, Japanese F-35A foreign liaison officer and Lt. Col. Todd Lafortune, Defense Contract Management Agency Lockheed Martin, F-35 acceptance pilot, shake hands Nov. 28 during the arrival of the first Foreign Military Sales F-35 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. (USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

Schoff said the proposed measure, therefore, should not involve hardware such as long-range strategic bombers and attack aircraft carriers, but equipment like Tomahawk cruise missiles for Aegis-equipped destroyers and air-to-surface missiles that can be loaded onto new F-35 stealth fighter jets of the Air Self-Defense Force.

“You don’t want to spend your whole defense budget on this capability that you hopefully will never have to use,” he said.

Despite the likelihood that Seoul and Beijing would criticize Tokyo for “re-militarizing” itself with the proposed capability, Hornung said Pyongyang’s advancing military capabilities have “drastically changed the threat environment.”

“If the existing ballistic missile defense system has gaps, any means for Japan to strengthen its deterrence capabilities should be welcomed,” he said. “Japan no longer has the luxury to be complacent about its security threats.”