US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

At the beginning of 2017, after Dutch fighter pilots deployed to Lithuania on a Baltic Air Policing rotation called home using their own phones, their families started getting sinister phone calls.

The men on the calls, made with pre-paid sim cards, spoke English with Russian accents, according to reports in Dutch media, and would ask the recipients questions like “Do you know what your partner is doing there?” and “Wouldn’t it be better if he left?”

Later that summer, after US Army Lt. Col. Christopher L’Heureux took command of a NATO base in Poland, he returned to his truck after a drill to find someone had breached his personal iPhone, turning on lost mode and trying to get around a second password using Russian IP address.


“It had a little Apple map, and in the center of the map was Moscow,” L’Heureux, who was stationed not far from a major Russian military base, told The Wall Street Journal in 2017. “It said, ‘Somebody is trying to access your iPhone.'”

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

US Army armored units in Poland.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Eaddy)

Those incidents and others like them reflect ongoing efforts by Russians to misinform and intimidate civilians and troops in Europe and abroad.

“Malign influence is of great concern, specifically in the information domain,” US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, told reports at a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.

“A comprehensive defense involves air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace, which are the five domains that we recognize in NATO,” Wolters added.

But on the fringes of those domains, he said, is hybrid activity, “and part of hybrid activity happens to be information operations … and from a malign influence standpoint we see that often from Russia.”

Learning and building resistance

Several soldiers under L’Heureux’s command had their phones or social-media accounts hacked, according to The Journal.

Wolters, who took over European Command in May 2019, said US personnel and families under his command hadn’t been targeted with that kind of harassment — spokesmen for British and French contingents deployed to the Baltics have recently said the same of their troops — but they have encountered “misinformation” put out by Russia media, including state-backed television channel RT TV.

“If … they’re part of US EUCOM, and they’re in Europe, and they happen to see RT TV, this is a classic example of misinformation,” Wolters said.

“Probably not to the severity” of those 2017 incidents, he added, “but it is another example of exposure of misinformation and from a malign influence perspective on behalf of Russia in the info ops sphere against citizens” in Europe.

Misinformation campaigns are central to Russia’s strategy on and off the battlefield as the 2016 US election interference showed, and not limited to whoever happens to be watching RT.

In Lithuania in 2017, officials warned of propaganda efforts seeking to undermine Lithuanian territorial claims and set the stage for “kinetic operations” by Moscow, a persistent concern among Russia’s smaller Baltic neighbors. Russia is also suspected of orchestrating a broader disinformation campaign to smear NATO’s reputation in Lithuania.

Farther north, Finland has dealt with Russian misinformation throughout the century since it declared independence from its larger neighbor, with which it shares a long border and a contentious history.

Helsinki launched an initiative to build media literacy and counter fake news among its citizens in 2014. The Finnish capital is also home to the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, set up in 2017 by a dozen members of the EU and NATO.

Former US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis praised the Hybrid CoE, as it’s known, for allowing democracies involved to research shared concerns and threats — “each of us learning from the other and building resistance to those with malign intent toward our democracies.”

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

US Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters speaks with airmen during a visit to RAF Mildenhall in England, June 22, 2018.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)

‘Willing to deter in all domains’

While Wolters said personnel under his command haven’t experienced the kind of electronic interference seen in 2017, it’s something they should expect and prepare for, according to Ken Giles, senior consulting fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the British think tank Chatham House, who called those 2017 incidents “unprecedented in recent times.”

“NATO forces should by now be training and exercising with the assumption that they will be under not only electronic and cyberattack, but also individual and personalized information attack, including exploitation of personal data harvested from any connected device brought into an operational area,” Giles wrote in August.

Wolters said his command and its European partners are working together to prepare troops to face and thwart that kind of assault.

“To have a good, comprehensive defense you have to be willing to deter in all domains, to include the information domain, so we have ongoing activities … that involve what we do in US EUCOM with the NATO nations and what we do in US EUCOM with all the partner nations,” Wolters said Tuesday.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

Polish soldiers use an anti-aircraft cannon’s sights to simulate engaging enemy aircraft during exercise Saber Strike 18 at Bemowo Piskie Training Area in Poland, June 14, 2018.

(Michigan Army National Guard photo by Spc. Alan Prince)

At the Supreme Headquarters for Allied Powers in Europe, or SHAPE, Wolters said, “we have information operations, deterrence activities that take place with the 29 [NATO members]” and with NATO partner nations, including Finland, Ukraine, and Georgia.

Most reports of harassment and intimidation of NATO personnel date to the years immediately after the 2014 Russian incursion in Ukraine, when NATO increased activity along its eastern flank, Giles noted in an interview with Military.com in September.

That may just mean the campaign has changed form rather than stopped, Giles said, adding that such incidents could be reduced, though not prevented, by speaking more openly about the threat and by strengthening information security among NATO personnel.

Wolters said his command does have ongoing information-operations training.

“For an infantry soldier that’s part of the battalion-size battle group that’s currently operating in Poland, they receive information-ops training, and they know that that info-ops training is just as important as the training to shoot a 9 mm pistol,” he said Tuesday. “From that standpoint we ensure that we counter with the facts, and we don’t hesitate to call out when truths are not being told in public with respect to the activities that are taking place in NATO and … in Europe.”

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Americans quarantined at a US Air Force base over the coronavirus are teaching each other Zumba, boxing, and how to file their taxes

The dozens of Americans quarantined at a US Air Force base in California over the coronavirus have described taking boxing, Zumba, and even accounting classes as ways to pass the time, The Washington Post reported.


The 195 US citizens were taken from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus broke out, and flown to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California, on January 29. They are under a mandatory 14-day quarantine, meaning they would be released on February 12.

They are not allowed to leave the base and have been subjected to frequent medical tests for symptoms of the deadly coronavirus. So they are turning to their own sources of entertainment.

Here’s what they have been up to, according to The Post:

  • A boxing enthusiast is teaching boxing classes.
  • Another workout fan is teaching Zumba classes
  • An accountant is leading a seminar on how to prepare their income taxes — just in time for Tax Day.
  • A theme-park designer is planning classes for kids on how to doodle on the sidewalk.
  • Jarred Evans, a professional football player who moved to Wuhan, has been running through every part of the air base to keep fit. (You can also watch his videos of Wuhan under quarantine and his evacuation flight here.)

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Screenshot from video taken by Jarred Evans on the flight out of Wuhan.

Jarred Evans via Business Insider

“When people hear quarantine, they think of the zombie apocalypse, movies like ‘World War Z,'” Matthew McCoy, the theme-park designer on the base, told The Post. “But the reality is it’s what you make of it.”

The 195 people at March Air Reserve base are a fraction of the total number of Americans the State Department is flying out of Wuhan to take back home.

Two more planes arrived at Travis Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar carrying 350 passengers on Wednesday, and more are expected.

All of them are subject to a 14-day mandatory quarantine, and the Department of Defense has set aside six military bases in California, Texas, and Nebraska for the lockdown.

Americans flown out of Wuhan have also given harrowing descriptions of some parts of the evacuation and quarantine, like being flown in cargo planes with flight crew wearing full hazmat suits, being told to stay six feet away from one another at all times, and not being able to eat for hours on end, The Post reported.

Another woman and her 15-year-old daughter, who are observant Orthodox Jews, also said they couldn’t eat for 40 hours because there was no kosher food available on board the cargo plane and at the March Air Reserve Base, The Post reported.

Other people quarantined around the world over the coronavirus — from Russia to Australia to Japan to China itself — have also been documenting their lockdown.

Many countries are imposing 14-day quarantines on people coming from mainland China, while the city of Wuhan and at least 15 other Chinese cities have had their transport links shut down.

A group of Russians quarantined in Siberia have been livestreaming their workouts and posting photos of their food and “prisoner clothes.”

Chinese citizens are making memes and sharing their innovative — but not necessarily helpful — ways to shield themselves from the virus, including wearing inflatable costumes to minimize contact with other people.

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

Articles

North Korea shoots another missile and guess where it landed

The US believes North Korea fired a missile shortly before midnight Japan time, or 11 am EST July 28, a defense official confirmed to Business Insider — and initial estimates indicate it could be the longest-range missile ever tested by the Hermit Kingdom.


“I can confirm that we detected a launch of a ballistic missile from North Korea,” Lt. Col. Christopher Logan told Business Insider. “We assess that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile, as had been expected” Capt. Jeff Davis later said in a Pentagon release.

Ankit Panda, a senior editor at the Asia-focused news website The Diplomat, cited a US source as saying that the missile flew for 47 minutes, reaching an altitude of 2,300 miles and traveling 620 miles. Such a long flight time and high crest suggest a tremendous range.

While North Korea had already demonstrated an intercontinental range with the July 4 test of its Hwasong-14 ICBM, the missile launched July 28 appeared capable of reaching New York or Washington, DC. Yet as with the previous launch, it is unclear whether North Korea has developed the technology to accurately deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
Image from Wikimedia Commons

The missile on July 28 may have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, according to the Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

As launching an ICBM at full range could easily be interpreted as an act of war, North Korea lofts its missiles on a steep angle. Therefore a missile that flies only a few hundred miles toward Japan can still demonstrate a range of many thousands of miles.

For weeks, US intelligence monitoring North Korean military sites had predicted another missile test. July 27 marked the Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War, a North Korean holiday celebrating the end of the Korean War on July 27, 1953.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
An unarmed LGM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launch. USAF photo by Senior Airman Lael Huss.

North Korea has a pattern of launching missiles on historically significant dates, like its July 4 debut of an ICBM, but the weather July 27 was poor, possibly preventing a launch.

Typically, North Korea waits until the day after a launch to release photos or video from the event, which researchers analyze for insights into Pyongyang’s shadowy missile program.

Articles

This could be the Air Force’s next jet trainer (and aggressor aircraft too)

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
Lockheed Martin


The Northrop T-38 Talon is one of the oldest aircraft still serving in the United States Air Force, functioning as an advanced jet trainer for future fighter pilots who’ll eventually make their way to the cockpit of an F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-15 Eagle, or F-22 Raptor. The Talon gives trainee pilots a feel for what it’s like to fly and fight in a supersonic aircraft that can mimic the handling characteristics of current 4th generation fighters to a fair degree. But with the impending advent of the Air Force’s brand new F-35A Lightning II, and the upcoming F-X Next Generation Tactical Air fighter, which will supersede the F-22 and F-15, it’s time for a new lead-in trainer. One that’s better suited to adapting future fighter pilots to the ultra-modern cockpits of the next level of fighter aviation.

Well, that, and the Talon is just plain old. Having taken to the skies for the first time in early 1959, and with full-rate production ceasing in 1972, the T-38 is due to be retired and replaced in the coming years with an aircraft that’ll be able to serve the needs of the Air Force going into 2020 and beyond. Though the formal program to replace the aging T-38 hasn’t yet started, Lockheed Martin has already taken the initiative to showcase its proposal for a prospective T-X trainer.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
Lockheed Martin

Working closely with Korea Aerospace Industries to redevelop their FA-50 Golden Eagle (which Lockheed Martin helped fund back in the 1990s), they came up with the T-50A. The Golden Eagle was actually built from the ground up as a supersonic light fighter, similar to the T-38’s fighter variant, the F-5 Freedom Fighter/Tiger II. Modifications that’ll meet T-X specifications include a new dorsal refueling receptacle, designed to mate with the typical boom/probe setup used by Air Force fighters, and a state-of-the-art glass cockpit similar to the one found in the F-35 Lightning II, featuring a large area display (LAD). The T-50A will also be equipped with the FA-50’s integrated EW (electronic warfare) suite, but will likely lack the 20mm .

The aircraft that eventually wins the T-X contract could also very well be used for the Air Force’s unique F-22 Raptor air combat training program as adversary “Red Air” fighters.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
Korea Airspace Industries

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Norway asked for 300 more US Marines

Norway will ask the United States to more than double the number of U.S. Marines stationed in the country in a move that could raise tensions with neighboring Russia, top ministers have said.

The move announced by Oslo’s foreign and defense ministers on June 12, 2018, comes amid increasing wariness among nations bordering Russia after Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014.

Nine nations along NATO’s eastern flank last week called for an increased presence by the military alliance in their region amid concerns about Russian aggression.


Some 330 U.S. Marines currently are scheduled to leave Norway at the end of 2018 after an initial contingent arrived in January 2017 to train for fighting in winter conditions. They were the first foreign troops to be stationed in Norway, a member of NATO, since World War II.

The initial decision to welcome the Marines in 2017 irked Russia, with Moscow warning that it would worsen bilateral relations with Oslo and escalate tensions on NATO’s northern flank.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told reporters on June 12, 2018, that the decision to increase the U.S. presence has broad support in parliament and does not constitute the establishment of a permanent U.S. base in Norway.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide

Oslo will ask Washington to send 700 Marines starting in 2019, she said, with the additional troops to be based closer to the border with Russia in the Inner Troms region in the Norwegian Arctic, about 420 kilometers from Russia, rather than in central Norway.

“There will still be a respectful distance with the Russian border,” Soereide said. “We can’t see any serious reason why Russia should react, even if we expect it will again this time since it always does about the allied exercises and training.”

The Russian Embassy in Oslo was not available for comment.

To ease Moscow’s concerns, before becoming a founder member of NATO in 1949, Oslo said it would not station foreign troops on its soil unless it was under threat of attack.

The ministers said Norway still abides by that commitment and claimed that the new U.S. troop presence would be “rotational,” not permanent.

The new troops will be rotated in for five-year periods, they said, while the posting of U.S. troops in Norway since 2017 was only for six-month intervals that were extended repeatedly.

Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told reporters in Oslo that the expanded military force in the country is intended to improve the training and winter fighting capability of NATO troops.

“The defense of Norway depends on the support of our NATO allies, as is the case in most other NATO countries,” he said. “For this support to work in times of crises and war, we are are totally dependent on joint training and exercises in times of peace.”

In addition to posting more troops in Norway, the ministers said the United States has expressed interest in building infrastructure to accommodate up to four U.S. fighter jets at a base 65 kilometers south of Oslo, as part of a European deterrence initiative launched after Crimea’s annexation.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Pittsburgh Steelers honor WWII Army veteran brothers

Two brothers who served in the Army during World War II were honored during the home opener for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Seattle Seahawks with the ATI Salute to Heroes Award.

Former Cpl. Theodore “Ted” Joseph Sikora, 99, served in the Battle of the Bulge in France in 1944 and 1945. Former Sgt. Ed Sikora, 95, served in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1943 and later in the Pacific theater of operations.

The brothers expressed thanks for the tribute. “We’re not used to this much recognition, and I’m very grateful,” said Ted Sikora.


Ed Sikora said he was proud to serve. “I cherished the opportunity to serve my country,” he said.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris shakes hands with Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, grandson-in-law of Ted Sikora.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Dalton Smith)

Although they are natives of Washington, Pennsylvania, both now live in the Pittsburgh area.

Ted Sikora was a crew member on a Curtiss C-46 Commando and Douglas C-47 Skytrain as a member of the 8th Army Air Force. Those transport aircraft dropped much-needed supplies to the besieged American soldiers.

He was stationed in England on D‐Day — June 6, 1944 — and remembers having trouble sleeping because of the noise from the airplanes taking off for France.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

In a historic photo, Ed Sikora poses during basic training at Camp Edwards, Mass.

(Ed Sikora)

He also remembers planes returning damaged and on fire. He said he witnessed a lot of things he will never forget, and that he doesn’t really like to talk about.

After the war, Ted Sikora worked as a machinist. Now, he enjoys working out and taking Zumba classes.

Ed Sikora was on the opposite side of the world, assigned to the 7th Infantry Division 502nd Anti Artillery Gun Battalion.

Although Ed Sikora wasn’t in Oahu when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, he said the Americans were expecting another attack so they were on constant vigil.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

A historic photo of Ted Sikora as a cadet shows him dressed in a flight uniform with a white ascot, black jacket, headgear and goggles.

(Courtesy of Ted Sikora)

In October 1944, he was attached to the 7th Infantry Division, which landed in the Philippines amid bombing by Japanese fighter planes. His unit was credited with downing six enemy planes.

In 1945, Ed Sikora participated in the Battle of Okinawa. His unit was credited with downing 33 Japanese aircraft.

Later in life, Ed Sikora taught high school and college, specializing in industrial arts. He later established a fruit orchard in California.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora, both Army service members, pose for a photo with their rifles crossed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Ted Sikora’s granddaughter, Alia Ann Vollstedt, is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Vollstedt, who participated in the game’s opening ceremony joint-service color guard. Daniel Vollstedt is with 2nd Battalion, Army Reserve Careers Division, based in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

Brothers Ed and Ted Sikora pose for a photo wearing World War II veteran caps in October 2018.

(Courtesy of Ed and Ted Sikora)

Daniel Vollstedt said the two veterans have shared some of their stories with him over the years and were proud of his decision to enlist in the Army.

John Wodarek, the Steelers’ marketing manager, said the brothers were selected for the honor because Ted Sikora will turn 100 in March 2020 — which ties in with the National Football League’s 100th-season anniversary being observed this year and next.

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

Articles

13 hilarious urinalysis memes every troop will understand

Time for another round of memes. This week we’re doing something a little different by highlighting the infamous urinalysis. That’s right, the pee test. They say it’s necessary for a sober military, but it’s really more like a creepy invasion of privacy. What, they don’t trust us?


Urinalysis is the fastest way to get everyone on pins and needles.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

You know it’s going to be a long day when it starts like this …

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
She seems chipper.

That reaction to urinalysis raises suspicions.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

Meanwhile, across the room, there’s downer Dave with a lot on his mind.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
Downer Dave is the guy who blows his paycheck the same day he receives it.

And why are urinalysis observers people you rarely see in your unit?

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

Oh yea, that’s why.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
It’s the same look he gives you when you’re wearing silkies.

There’s a fine balance between going on demand and holding it.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

How it feels when it’s finally your turn.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
The creepy level goes up a notch.

Too bad “pecker checker” is already taken.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

Most times, peeing into the urinal is good enough, and there’s this guy …

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
Asks you to turn slightly sideways so he can see the penis, urine stream, and cup.

What he looks like when you turn and face him.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

The feeling you get when it’s finally over, nevermind the observer.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

Then, there’s the pondering boot.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation
Stop thinking, you’re not allowed to think.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Authoritarian leaders are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lock up dissenters and grab power, human rights experts warn

Country leaders, some of them from authoritarian regimes, are being accused of using the coronavirus pandemic to consolidate power and crack down on dissenters.

In March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a state of emergency that shut down the courts — including his own corruption trial — and allowed Shin Bet security forces to start tracking quarantine violators using their cellphones.


Later in the month, Hungary’s parliament voted to cancel elections, suspend its own legislative power, and grant Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the right to rule by decree indefinitely, all under the premise of fighting COVID-19. It also introduced five-year jail sentences for anyone spreading “fake news” about the virus.

Last week, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev authorized a rapid and strict military draft that the Defense Ministry said would ensure “the effective and complete protection of the health of our people.” Recruits are being charged with disinfecting spaces and patrolling streets during the lockdown.

Emin Abbasov, a human rights attorney in Azerbaijan, said emergency measures can threaten civil liberties anywhere. But the risk is greatest in countries with dictatorships and weak democracies.

“The restrictive measures imposed on civil liberties take place outside the accountability of those who exercise them — without effective parliamentary control and an independent judiciary,” Abbasov told Business Insider.

In many places, the situation is exacerbated by the absence of a free press.

“In the absence of such guarantees, people do not have the opportunity to assess the necessity, adequacy, and appropriateness of measures taken in the event of a pandemic,” Abbasov said.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

Azerbaijan’s leader threatens to root out the country’s ‘enemies’

In his 16-year tenure as president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev has faced numerous accusations of corruption, including vote-rigging, human rights abuses, and involvement in a massive billion bribery scheme to whitewash the country’s image abroad. As COVID-19 spread in March, Aliyev warned the pandemic might require him to purge the nation of “enemies.”

“Where do these provocations come from? From the very fifth column, from the enemies who are among us,” he said during a March 19 speech to mark Nowruz, the Persian New Year. “The elements calling themselves opposition, the traitors who receive money from abroad. Their main goal is to destroy Azerbaijan.”

Aliyev added that he was considering a state of emergency and that, during the crisis, “the rules of completely new relationships will apply.”

Less than a week later, on March 25, police arrested opposition leader Tofig Yagublu on hooliganism charges that Human Rights Watch called “spurious.”

“The Azerbaijani government has a longstanding pattern of pursuing trumped-up charges against government critics in order to silence them,” HRW’s Giorgi Gogia said in a statement. “The case against Yagublu falls squarely in that pattern.”

That same month, police closed the offices of the opposition group D18 in Baku, saying activists could not “gather en masse,” even though only four members were present. Several days later, the group was evicted without explanation.

“President Aliyev clearly said that the new reality of the coronavirus does not tolerate the existence of an opposition,” Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova told Business Insider.

Ismayilova said others are being summoned to the police and threatened with arrest for writing social media posts about the coronavirus.

In El Salvador, swift action spurs accusations of a ‘political emergency’

A full week before El Salvador reported its first novel coronavirus infection, the National Congress approved President Nayib Bukele’s request for emergency powers — including closing schools and limiting free speech, assembly, and travel — to contain the disease. He implemented a nationwide lockdown on March 21, the same day the country reported its first COVID-19 patient.

“Looking at the measures that the president has taken, I think this is more of a political emergency than a public health emergency,” Mariana Moisa, an anthropologist in San Salvador and member of the Uncomfortable Feminist Collective, told Business Insider.

“At this moment when there’s a public health problem, they are putting more emphasis on the militarization of society than they are investing in the healthcare system. There’s no guarantee that our rights will be respected.”

Bukele promised a 0 stipend to day laborers struggling during the lockdown, but after aid centers became too crowded, he closed them and told citizens to go online or call a toll-free number. On March 30, police in San Salvador used pepper spray to disperse thousands of street vendors and others gathering to demand financial help.

In a televised address on Monday, Bukele warned that security forces would be cracking down further on quarantine violators: “The restrictions are the same, but we are going to be much tougher in enforcing them.”

Those who defy the order could have their cars confiscated or be taken to “containment centers” for 30 days, he said, according to Reuters. Bukele added that the lockdown was being extended for 15 days, and he outlined a plan to track virus carriers.

US and NATO are preparing troops to handle Russian disinformation

A 14-year-old is among those arrested in Cambodia for talking about the pandemic

Cambodia reported 109 confirmed coronavirus cases on March 31, the same day its parliament submitted state-of-emergency legislation that would allow Prime Minister Hun Sen to order unfettered surveillance of telecommunications and censorship of media reports on COVID-19.

But civil rights activists worry that the measure, expected to pass on Friday, will grant Hun Sen far-reaching authority with little accountability.

“Instead of introducing a hasty and problematic law, the government should focus on enacting measures within their current powers in order to manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cambodian Center for Human Rights director Chak Sopeaph said.

“Now is a time for action, considered measures, and precautions — not a time for pushing a vague law through parliament that does not include any protections for human rights.”

Since the start of the year, at least 17 people have been arrested in the country for sharing information about COVID-19, Al Jazeera reported, including members of the defunct opposition group Cambodia National Rescue Party.

Most were released after signing pledges to not “spread fake news,” but those still in pretrial detention face charges of incitement, conspiracy, and spreading false information.

Police also arrested a 14-year-old girl who posted on social media that she was worried about rumors of a coronavirus outbreak at her school.

“The Cambodian government is misusing the COVID-19 outbreak to lock up opposition activists and others expressing concern about the virus and the government’s response,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

Uganda is using the coronavirus to fuel homophobia, activists warn

In Uganda, where lawmakers once passed a bill punishing homosexuality with life in prison, the government is accused of using concerns about the virus to fuel homophobia.

On April 1, police raided a shelter for LGBT people in the town of Kyengera, detaining 20 people for failing to follow social distancing. But Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said those charges were only added later.

“A search was conducted in the shelter in order to find evidence of ‘homosexuality,'” Mugisha told Business Insider. “The mayor personally beat up at least two of those arrested as he questioned them about their homosexuality.”

President Yoweri Museveni closed schools, churches, and mosques before any COVID-19 cases were reported in Uganda. He also banned public rallies, elections, political gatherings, and weddings for 32 days, and instituted a broad travel ban.

“You have seen how airports were clogged with people. That crowding is the perfect ground for new infections,” he said in a March 18 address. “Let us, therefore, move early to avoid the stampede.”

Movie theaters, nightclubs, and bars were all shuttered for a month. “These are very dangerous gathering points with the virus around,” Museveni added. “Drunkards sit close to one another. They speak with saliva coming out of their mouth. They are a danger to themselves.”

After the first infection was confirmed, Museveni closed all of Uganda’s borders and police began impounding vehicles of residents trying to leave Kampala.

The question becomes: Will these leaders lift the harsh measures they implemented once the pandemic subsides?

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch how the US Army sinks ships

It’s been decades since the United States Army attacked a ship on the high seas. The last time it happened was when an AH-6 “Little Bird” with what eventually became the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (better known as “the Nightstalkers”) caught an Iranian vessel, the Iran Ajr, laying mines in the Persian Gulf in 1987.

Well, the Army has now sunk another vessel — with an assist from the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force. This took place during RIMPAC 2018, when both forces fired ground-based, anti-ship missiles during a SINKEX, an exercise in which a decommissioned ship is towed to a designated location and then hit by live anti-ship missiles, gunfire, and torpedoes.


In February, 2018, the Army announced their plans to use a truck-mounted version of Kongsberg’s Naval Strike Missile, also known as the NSM, during these exercises. A few months later, in June, the United States Navy selected the NSM as its new beyond-visual-range, anti-ship missile.

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The Army fired a truck-mounted version of the Kongsberg NSM.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Zachary D. Bell)

Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force has also been using truck-mounted, anti-ship missiles for a while. Their mainstay in this department is the Type 88, also known as the SSM-1. A slightly modified version of this missile is widely used by Japanese ships, called the Type 90.

The Type 88 has a range of just under 112 miles. The Type 90’s range is a little over 93 miles. The service is soon introducing the new Type 12 truck-launched missile, which will replace both the Type 88 and the Type 90 and has a range of 124 miles.

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Japan’s latest truck-mounted anti-ship missile is the Type 12, with a range of 124 miles.

(Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force)

During RIMPAC 2018, these militaries tested their missiles on a decommissioned Newport-class tank-landing ship. Their target, the USS Racine (LST 1191), could carry 29 tanks and 400 troops, was 522 feet long, and displaced almost 8,800 tons. A total of 20 Newport-class ships were built, all of which served at least 20 years with the United States Navy.

Watch the U.S. Army and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force launch their missiles in the video below!

MIGHTY TRENDING

These drones are fighting the massive fires in California

Five years after a proof-of-concept mission, the MQ-9 Reaper drone has developed into a key asset in California’s fight against wildfires, including the Carr and Mendocino Complex Fires, which are currently burning in Northern California.


“It’s a technology I never thought I’d see,” said Jeremy Salizzoni, a fire technical specialist with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection who was embedded with the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing at March Air Reserve Base, California, during 2013’s devastating Rim Fire.

More than 250,000 acres burned in August 2013 as the Rim Fire raged in Tuolumne County, California. At the time, it was the state’s third largest wildfire on record. More than 100 structures were lost in the blaze, which took nine weeks to fully contain.

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An aircrew from the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing flies an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft during a mission to support state agencies fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California, Aug. 4, 2018. The aircrew conducted fire perimeter scans and spot checks on the blaze, which encompasses the Ranch and River fires.

(California Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

Game-Changing Technology

Eleven days after the Rim Fire started, the wing launched a first-of-its kind mission to overfly the fire with an MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted reconnaissance aircraft and beam back real-time video footage of the fire to Salizzoni and wing intelligence analysts working in an operations facility at March.

Through the Predator’s footage, Salizzoni, who was used to driving for hours through rugged terrain to access overlook points and put eyes on the leading edge of a fire, could see any area of the fire he wanted, in real time and without ever leaving the operations facility.

The remotely piloted aircraft’s thermal imaging camera provided a view of the fire unlike anything he’d ever seen. Traditional aerial assets are important, but encounter limitations due to smoke, fuel, altitude and field of view, he said.

“It was such a dramatic change from anything I’d seen in my career,” Salizzoni said. “It was like being blind and then having vision in the blink of an eye.”

He and his colleagues knew they had a new tool in their firefighting toolbox.

“We saw things over the course of that fire that you couldn’t have made up,” Salizzoni said. “I don’t think there’s a better intel resource at our disposal right now.”

During its eight-day emergency activation for the Rim Fire, the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing — the unit’s name at the time — logged more than 150 hours of fire support and was credited with helping firefighters expedite containment.

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MQ-9 Reaper RPA

Domestic Response

In the five years since, the 163rd Attack Wing has changed its name and the kind of airplane it flies, but one thing hasn’t changed: the wing’s dedication to domestic disaster response missions right here at home.

RPAs are no longer just trying to prove their worth, said Air Force Maj. Mike Baird, the senior intelligence officer at the 163rd Attack Wing. The wing’s MQ-9 Reaper RPAs — a big-brother to the recently-retired Predators — are an in-demand incident awareness and assessment asset preferred by California’s civil authorities when disaster strikes.

The wing has supported more than 20 wildfires since 2013, but it takes more than just airplanes, Baird said. Keeping California safe takes a wing-wide effort.

“What we’ve been doing behind the scenes from maintenance and communications to refining our deployment and personnel processes has led up to our ability to provide an unprecedented level of MQ-9 support,” Baird said.

The wing provided real-time full motion video support over a number of fires in 2017, including California’s most destructive fire on record and also its largest fire to date. More than 5,600 structures were damaged and 22 lives were lost during the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County in October. Two months later, in December, the Thomas Fire ravaged Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to become the state’s largest fire on record with more than 280,000 acres burned.

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(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class James Thompson)

Innovation on the Fly

The wing works to refine its techniques and procedures, and works to expand the detailed real-time incident awareness and assessment data it provides to incident commanders. Innovation on the fly is the name of the game.

An investment by James G. Clark, director of Air Force innovation, and Air Force Col. Chris McDonald from the disruptive innovation division in Clark’s office, helped the wing’s Hap Arnold Innovation Center develop a specialized network to push and pull data from RPAs and other data-generating assets from civilian and military organizations.

The network’s customizable data sets — coupled with the RPAs’ real-time thermal imagery — provide incident commanders and first responders a common operating picture they can access from anywhere, anytime.

RPAs proved “an opportunity for people to make tactical and objective based decisions on real time information,” Salizzoni said.

As the Rim Fire nears its fifth anniversary, RPAs are once again in the sky, flying through smoke to deliver data and protect Californians as wildfires ravage the state.

By July 31, the 163rd was on its fifth fire of the summer.

Throughout July, the wing flew nearly 350 hours to support civil authorities working the County, Klamathon, Ferguson, Carr, Mendocino Complex and Eel fires, and is credited with helping to protect thousands of structures in the process. The MQ-9 provided near real-time full motion video and frequent fire-line updates to decision makers determining where to build up future containment lines.

It’s a marathon pace, but the wing’s airmen up for it, said Air Force 1st Lt. Frank Cruz, officer in charge of the 163rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, whose unit provides direct support for the MQ-9’s around-the-clock fire operations to aid civil authorities.

“Everyone is 100 percent on board,” Cruz said. “They’re all-in.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Oklahoma resident opens heart and home to guardsmen

Two weeks ago, a man named Bob and the soldiers of Headquarters Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment had never met. They would have never met. They would have continued being perfect strangers and never knowing of the other’s existence. But due to torrential rainfall and catastrophic natural disasters occurring across Oklahoma and the surrounding states, Bob and these guardsmen were soon to meet.

On Friday, May 24, 2019, members of the 279th were sent to a site along a levee in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. There was severe flooding and the looming threat of homes being affected. The mission of these soldiers was to monitor and maintain the pumps that were placed on the property to move the water and put it into the creek on the other side of the levee.


When events like flooding, tornados, or other disaster hit the state, the Oklahoma National Guard activates for state active duty upon the request of the Oklahoma Office of Emergency Management and with approval from the governor of Oklahoma.

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Oklahoma National Guardsmen are working alongside first responders and emergency personnel to provide disaster relief following record-breaking flooding of the Arkansas River in the Tulsa, Okla. area.

(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)

“I got here last Friday,” said Sgt. Vince Humerickhouse, a Stillwater resident and an infantryman with HHC 1-279 Infantry Battalion, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “We didn’t know what we were getting into.”

For the first day or two, the soldiers remained in or around their vehicle during their shift monitoring the pumps. A kind man named Bob who owned the property would come out every now and then and check on them.

“He was always asking if we needed anything,” said Spc. Kailey Bellville, a unit supply specialist from Miami, Oklahoma with HHC 1-279. “He would bring us food and drinks, make sure we had enough water.”

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Spc. Kailey Bellville, a unit supply specialist in Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, hauls sandbags to the base of a tree in the yard of Sand Springs, Oklahoma resident Bob Casebold, May 30, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)

He even offered them a more comfortable place to get out of the sun and maintain the pumps, under the shade of his hand-welded gazebo, adorned with classic decorations and lawn furniture. At first, the soldiers respectfully declined. At the persistence of Bob’s selfless and giving nature, the guardsmen graciously accepted his invitation.

Over the next several days, Bob and the soldiers developed a rapport and a working relationship. The soldiers would fulfill their mission while Bob kept them company and took them under his wing. He cooked food, let them use his gator, a side-by-side off-road vehicle, and simply offered them the care and support of a grateful and appreciative community member.

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Spc. Allison Smith, a combat medic specialist in Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, hauls sandbags to the base of a tree in the yard of Sand Springs, Oklahoma resident Bob Casebold, May 30, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)

“Bob has been a really great blessing to us and thanking him just doesn’t cover it,” said Spc. Allison Smith, a combat medic specialist from Salina, Oklahoma with HHC 1-279. “This mission would have been a lot harder if we didn’t have the support from neighbors like Bob and other people in the community.”

The acts of kindness from Sand Springs residents fueled the Oklahoma guardsmen in a way that you rarely get to witness first-hand.

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Sgt. Vince Humerickhouse and Spc. Allison Smith of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, move sandbags to the base of a tree in Sand Springs, Oklahoma resident Bob Casebold’s yard, May 30, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)

“The unlimited energy these soldiers have, how do they keep going?” asked Bob Casebold, a Sand Springs resident and owner of the land that the soldiers were monitoring. “Carrying sandbags, wading through water, filling sand boils and things like that.”

It didn’t take long for Bob to gain notoriety through the ranks of the guardsmen responding to the floods across the Tulsa metro area. Miles away, at the main hub for flood operations, the name Bob was buzzing around the building. The stories of his selflessness and support were being told by people who hadn’t even met Bob. Everyone wanted to shake the hand of the man that had given back so much to the soldiers who were protecting his community.

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(Left to right) Sgt. Vince Humerickhouse, Spc. Allison Smith and Spc. Kailey Bellville works together to unload sandbags to protect the trees in the yard of Sand Springs, Oklahoma resident Bob Casebold, May 30, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)

“We did not ask for these guys to come down here,” Bob said. “They volunteered and came down here to help us; to protect us. It was totally amazing and I appreciate it so much.”

Bob would be the last person to pat himself on the back for his support of these soldiers, but that certainly wasn’t lost on the soldiers that he helped.

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Spc. Kailey Bellville, a unit supply specialist in Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, hauls sandbags to the base of a tree in the yard of Sand Springs, Oklahoma resident Bob Casebold, May 30, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)

“He’s one of the cornerstones to the support of this mission out here in the area,” Smith said. “It’s awesome knowing that they rely on us and we can depend on them if we have to.”

Now that conditions are improving, for the time being, soldiers and residents can take a deep breath and work on returning back to normal life. But the bonds that were made during this trying time are going to remain long after the guardsmen return to their homes and families.

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Sand Springs resident Bob Casebold gives Spc. Kailey Bellville, a unit supply specialist with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Oklahoma Army National Guard, an appreciative hand after she helped lay sandbags around trees at his Sand Springs home, May 30, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Bradley Cooney)

“I definitely believe that God put me out here to help these people,” Humerickhouse said. “And I believe coming out here and meeting Bob was meant to be.”

“It’s an experience I’ll never forget,” Bob said. “It comes from a bad deal, but I’ve made some great friends. I would consider them lifelong friends.”

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

Articles

This is what happens when you give a Marine and a Ranger motorcycles

Sponsored by PenFed Credit Union


Wil Willis knows a thing or two about weapons. He was born into a military family, served as an Army Ranger for four years, then transferred to the Air Force to become a pararescueman for another ten years. Since his time in service, he’s found ways to utilize the skills he learned on active duty as both an entertainer and an instructor.

Now an actor and writer, Willis is perhaps best known for his work on Forged in Fire, a competition series where world-class bladesmiths compete to create iconic edged weapons from history. He also teaches veterans and members of the first responder community about tactical combat casualty care.

So, yeah, he’s kind of bad ass.

U.S. Marine Weston Scott met up with Willis to connect over a past-time they both love: hitting the road on two wheels.

In this episode of “Paving the Way,” Willis and Scott hang out in their favorite Los Angeles garage working on their bikes and chatting about what it means for them to ride.

“I don’t do anything illegal. It’s not out of control. But I definitely am more aggressive than a lot of other riders. I ride every day.”

His riding style might be “fast and loose” but Willis insists it helps him slow down.

“I think being left alone with your thoughts can be scary sometimes, especially when you’re talking about a transitional period. I’ve got through it a bunch of times. Everybody’s had rough times. For me, getting back on the back was a way of slowing everything down in my mind. I do believe there’s something spiritual I get out of riding.”

Check out the episode above to find out more about why Willis rides every day, but Scott sums it up nicely: “It’s just good for the soul.”

Articles

This is how Army snipers train to be one-shot killers

During large, multi-unit exercises, the US military’s snipers can be overshadowed by the men and machines roving the battlefield.


To correct that, Staff Sgt. Joe Bastian — a former active-duty sniper who is now a sniper observer/controller/trainer with the First Army’s 1st Battalion, 335th Infantry Regiment — designed a special 10-day training course for snipers during the 33rd Infantry Brigade’s Exportable Combat Training Capability, or XCTC, at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

“The course is designed to get all of the snipers from the brigade together to train, broaden their horizons and share tactics, techniques and procedures,” he said in an Army news story.

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Staff Sgt. Joe Bastian and co-trainer Tarrol Peterson look for snipers during the 10-day sniper training course at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

Bastian called on two former instructors from the US Army’s Sniper School at Fort Benning in Georgia, and their course filled the 10-day exercise with weeks’ worth of training for soldiers from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Puerto Rico’s 1st Battalion, 296th Infantry Regiment.

The course teaches snipers how to design their own training courses, as well as how to work with ammunition, targets, and ranges, and how to use camouflage and stalking techniques during training.

Below, you can see some photos of US Army National Guard snipers getting the specialized instruction they need to seek out and pick off their targets.

XCTC is the Army National Guard’s program to provide an experience similar to an Army combat-training center at a home station or a regional training center, like Fort McCoy. Soldiers from the 502 Infantry Regiment stood in as opposition forces.

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Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, move to a new location for a training scenario during the XCTC Exercise on June 9, 2017, at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. U.S. Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, PAO, Fort McCoy

“The Army has a multitude of systems and professionals to continually train everyone, except snipers,” Peterson, one of the co-trainers, said. “When these guys go back to their units, there’s not a lot of personnel that can train them properly. This course will help them continue their education and properly train themselves.”

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Staff Sgt. John Brady, a sniper instructor at the 10th Mountain Division’s Light Fighter School at Fort Drum, New York, explains why a sniper from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team was spotted.US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

Spc. Johnny Newsome, a sniper with Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 178th Infantry Regiment based in Chicago, during a stress-shoot exercise.

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US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

“It’s a force multiplier getting multiple sniper teams together to train and gain the knowledge they need for success,” Brady, the other co-trainer, said. “Over this 10-day period they’ll realize how much work it will take them to learn how to conduct their own training, and we’ll give them the knowledge they need to do so.”

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Brady instructs snipers from Illinois’ 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team on hasty scope maintenance.US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Spreitzer

The XCTC Exercise is coordinated by the Illinois National Guard’s 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and Joint Forces Headquarters-Illinois. Here, soldiers from the Illinois National Guard prepare vehicles for gunnery training.

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US Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, PAO, Fort McCoy

A soldier from the Illinois National Guard prepares a weapon for gunnery training on June 9, 2017, at Fort McCoy.

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US Army Photo by Scott T. Sturkol, PAO, Fort McCoy

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