As the US military builds up its forces in the Middle East, America’s top diplomat has been privately warning the Iranians that the death of even a single US service member at the hands of Iran or one of its proxies would trigger a military response, The Washington Post reported on June 18, 2019, citing US officials.
In May 2019, the US detected signs of possible Iranian aggression targeting US forces and interests in the Middle East. The US responded by deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the US Central Command area of responsibility.
White House national security adviser John Bolton issued a statement on May 5, 2019, saying that the military assets deployed to the region were meant “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
Two days later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unscheduled trip to Baghdad, where he delivered the warning that one American fatality would be enough to trigger a counterattack, The Post reported. Pompeo, a former US Army officer, has been a major player, together with Bolton, in shaping the US “maximum pressure” strategy directed at Iran.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
More US military assets have since been moved into the region, and more are on the way in the wake of suspected limpet mine attacks on tankers that the US blames on Iran. US military leaders revealed on June 18, 2019, that the US does not plan to carry out a unilateral military response to the tanker attacks.
Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said any military action taken in response to the tanker attacks would “require an international consensus,” something the US military has been trying to secure through the release of evidence it says points to Iran’s culpability.
“If the Iranians come after US citizens, US assets or [the] US military, we reserve the right to respond with a military action, and they need to know that,” the country’s second-highest-ranking general told reporters. “The Iranians believe that we won’t respond, and that’s why we’ve been very clear in our message.”
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)
Iran is “lashing out against the international community,” but the Iranians “haven’t touched an American asset in any overt attack that we can link directly to them,” he added.
“What happens if Americans are killed? That changes the whole thing,” a senior Trump administration official told The Washington Post. “It changes everything.”
Pompeo, who appears to be taking the lead on the standoff with Iran amid a reshuffling of senior leadership at the Pentagon, visited US Central Command on June 18, 2019, the same day acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan withdrew his name from the nomination for defense secretary and said he would be stepping down.
“We are there to deter aggression. President Trump does not want war,” Pompeo said. “We will continue to communicate that message while doing the things that are necessary to protect American interests in the region.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Jeremy Lee MacKenzie is an artist & filmmaker whose career began after being incarcerated as a teenager. His artwork, “Hidden Blueprints,” is a collection of wood-scrollwork cut from blueprints that were hidden in the prison system. He discovered the blueprints while serving sentences that totaled eight years, for bank robbery & drug trafficking.
He was inspired to become a filmmaker while working as a prison movie projectionist where he studied screenwriting and was released with scholarships to Champlain College. In 2015, he was awarded a screenwriting fellowship to Stowe Story Labs and that same year, won gold in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards in LA.
In 2017, MacKenzie completed his film “Hidden Blueprints: The Story of Mikey,” and received the James Goldstone Emerging Filmmaker Award. In 2018, he was chosen for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Award and was then admitted to the USC School of Cinematic Arts to pursue his MFA on a George Lucas Scholarship.
Annenberg Media: Tell me about where you are from and your life growing up?
MacKenzie: I’m from Burlington, VT and my childhood was complicated. I had a lot of challenging things happen while growing up and I ended up in adult prison at the age of 17 for bank robbery. Looking back, it feels like it was 100 years ago, like I’ve lived in quantum time where every year contained the events of five years.
Annenberg Media: What is the most distinct memory you have of your mother and father?
MacKenzie: A positive memory I have of my mother is how she always encouraged me to be an artist and be creative. She was always very honest and encouraging if she thought I was good at something. My father encouraged storytelling and read me a lot of books growing up. He tested me on the stories to see if I was listening. He would reread me the same story and then change certain plot lines to see if I was paying attention. I would stop him and tell him, “no dad, the storyline goes like this…”
Annenberg Media: What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
MacKenzie: My parents separated after my younger sister passed away. I lived with my mother most of the time and my father during summers. When I was really young, I did well in school. At a certain point in my childhood we moved into a trailer park where we were living in poverty. A lot of the people living in that trailer park did not care much about school and were into drugs. Those became really tough years since I valued education but was now being punished for valuing academics.
At first I had to fight kids often when getting off the school bus because I was into focusing on school. My parents always tried focus my attention on education. I was very young and got sick of fighting and being an outsider, so I ended up joining the crowd. I got into drugs to succeed in that world. I often wondered if people around me who chose the drug path, went through those same bad experiences as I did.
At the age of 12 or 13, I transitioned into selling drugs and became a drug dealer. I wanted to excel in a world I was way behind in. By 14-years-old, my parents had lost full control. I had an 18-year-old stripper girlfriend living with me. I was deep into the world of drug dealing: at age 14, it was cocaine, 15, it was opiates, at 16, I was arrested for dealing heroin and at 17, I was locked up for bank robbery.
Bang, that escalated quickly! My parents were baffled at how things changed so rapidly.
Annenberg Media: Where did this lifestyle lead you?
MacKenzie: I served three sentences totaling eight years. During one of those sentences, I earned my high school diploma but was still struggling to separate from the drug world. During the course of one of my sentences, I was sent to a corporate prison in Kentucky. When I got there, I got my first college opportunity. Hazard Community College selected 20 inmates who they gave grants to start college while incarcerated.
Due to overcrowding and the mistreatment of inmates, a lot of violence was going on in the facility. It was a for-profit prison and the administration was not friendly. I had to make a choice between focusing on college or joining an uprising in the prison. A group of inmates were planning a revolt and ended up having a riot at the facility. The riot took over the facility for a night and the administration building was burned which included the education facility. The college opportunity went up in smoke. We were in lockdown for many months while they rebuilt the prison around us. This gained a lot of national media attention.
Annenberg Media: Did you have any creative outlets while incarcerated?
MacKenzie: Isolation can be a powerful tool. After the riot, while in lock down I started designing artwork. I would design blueprints for big pieces of wood-scrollwork. I had learned this wood cutting technique as a teenager from an old clock maker in prison and I taught myself how to design. I was designing on taped-together pieces of paper but we weren’t allowed to have the paper so I had to hide my blueprints until I could bring them home.
Those blueprints came to be my artwork years later. I used them as a tool for storytelling. Many of the blueprints I drew didn’t directly depict prison but told the stories of our experience on the inside through ancient themes. When I was not designing I started getting into TV and movies and I started watching this show called “Medium.” Everybody watched it. It was a way to escape from prison.
MacKenzie: My darkest moment came during my third sentence when I could no longer hide from my darkest truths and my responsibilities. I couldn’t hide the impact my actions had on my friends, family and community; I experienced a paradigm shift. I was in a segregation cell where I had more charges coming. The drug dealers who had been supplying me since I was an adolescent, who I had been protecting my whole life, were not protecting me or anyone else. The whole veil of that world came crashing down.
I realized the effect my life was having on everyone around me and the people I had protected and followed didn’t care about me anymore. I was in the segregation cell and I noticed there was a broken razor blade on the floor. “This is my out,” I thought. This was one of the few moments in my life where I contemplated suicide. But, I looked out the window and thought to myself, “No one could explain this to my dog, she’s never gonna know what happened.” I just wanted to see my dog again. She probably saved my life. Tests find a way of placing themselves in your path, especially at your darkest moments. I needed to let things play out until the end.
Annenberg Media: How was your life impacted after making the decision to stay alive?
MacKenzie: That was a very challenging period of time, but it passed. And I ended up getting a job as a prison movie projectionist. It was a makeshift movie theater with prison walls. We screened everything from the original “Star Wars” to “Casablanca” and “Chinatown.” It was a powerful experience watching “Star Wars” projected onto a prison wall.
While working as a prison movie projectionist, I started writing stories with the women’s prison. The women were relatable and had similar situations to mine. But we weren’t allowed to write to other prisons so I would send the letters to my father and he would re-address them to the women I was writing. I invited them to write a story where the women and I could insert our own characters and set them off on a journey together. I was very grateful to the women for that, as it provided a creative medium that was very valuable. It also provided companionship and helped with loneliness.
Working with the prison movie theater was a crucial time for me. All those earlier years of my father testing me on stories came back to me. I decided I wanted to become a filmmaker. I focused on screenwriting and reached out to different colleges to get the books they used in their screenwriting courses. I was no longer in a corporate prison and I made a deal with teachers to recycle prison paperwork. The education offices would print scripts on the back of the recycled paperwork I brought them. Filmmaking was like life or death- in my previous life I was going to die and this new life was the only way out. There were no other choices.
Annenberg Media: Did you plan on getting further education?
MacKenzie: I got a scholarship to go to college when I came home. The scholarship letter came from Bernie Sanders, which I still have. When I came home I realized there was all this time that I had missed. I did a lot of catching up in college.
As soon as I got to undergrad, I won gold in the Page International Screenwriting Awards for a screenplay. The award and screenplay got me connected with Julie Pacino, Al Pacino’s daughter. I began to excel and was pushed more towards directing. Julie ended up producing my film, “Hidden Blueprints.” Things began to happen much more rapidly and I ended up using “Hidden Blueprints” to apply to USC.
Back then, Ben Stiller was making his show “Escape at Dannemora” and his group reached out to have me in the show as an inmate. I have an escape on my record- at one point I tried to run away from prison- so I was not able to get security clearance to enter prison. But, I took a role as an extra on a different part of his show so I could still be apart of the production. I had this really funny moment where I was standing on set with Ben Stiller to my right and I was quietly watching him work. Then, the main actress comes out and I’m suddenly hit with this really familiar feeling: the actress was Patricia Arquette who I watched in the TV show, “Medium” years ago in that destroyed prison in Kentucky. I realize I’m standing in the middle of a show about escaping from prison starring the actress of the show we all used to watch to escape from the prison we were in. It was an interesting and affirming moment.
I sent the production staff of the show an email about it. It made me reflect on how far my arc had brought me. Within a matter of days the George Lucas Scholarship came in for USC. It gave me chills. I had projected “Star Wars” movies on a prison wall. Now I was headed to LA.
Aron Meinhardt, J. Lee MacKenzie, and Julie Pacino
Annenberg Media: Why Hollywood and why now?
MacKenzie: This is the epicenter of storytelling. I came here to fully engage in storytelling and USC helped me get here. I knew this was the path. This is the place to begin and branch off. This is a time when people from all different places and backgrounds can tell stories. I felt like I was one of those people that could have a place here.
Annenberg Media: What is it like to be a George Lucas Scholar at the School of Cinematic Arts?
MacKenzie: From where I come from, it has been extremely helpful and it has been an honor to have the opportunities I’ve had. I had the opportunity to work with some incredible people like Riley and Austin Lynch, Julie Pacino, Aron Meinhardt and many others. I got to collaborate with C. Craig Patterson who is a great friend, he is on a George Lucas Scholarship as well. I look forward to seeing who else I get to meet and work with.
Annenberg Media: What are your career and life goals?
MacKenzie: I want to direct movies. I direct films not because I love it, but because I feel compelled to. Telling stories was my only way out and it is the only pathway I see forward. I am going to continue on that path and see where it leads. It took a lot of people helping and believing in me to get this far. It didn’t start out that way. I deeply appreciate the people that helped me along the way. Wherever this path goes, I hope it is fruitful for both myself and for those that helped.
Annenberg Media: How is the coronavirus social distancing affecting you and do you have any recommendations?
MacKenzie: As I said, isolation can be a very powerful thing. I know a lot of people are stuck inside right now, for much longer than they are used to. A lot of movies are not getting made. People are scared and they are experiencing their own moments of darkness. But some of the most creative years of my life began with isolation and darkness like this. It wouldn’t surprise me if the solitude of this pandemic inspires and gives birth to a lovely period of filmmaking in its wake, the likes of which the world has perhaps never seen. I really hope to be a part of that movement and I think we will all feel fortunate when we see it happen.
Featured image shows J. Lee and Isabela Penagos—USC arts students.
Abdel-Majed Abdel-Bary once had a brief career as a rapper.
The arrest in Spain of an infamous member of Islamic State from London who authorities thought had been killed in Syria has sparked fears among security officials that more foreign fighters survived the fall of ISIS-controlled territory than previously imagined.
Worse, sources tell Insider, he found a way to smuggle himself back into Europe by avoiding customs checks and biometric tracking at borders.
Abdel-Majed Abdel-Bary and two unnamed associates were arrested Monday by Spanish police in the Mediterranean port city of Almeria after coordination with the UK domestic intelligence service MI5, which had been attempting to track him since he left the UK to join ISIS in Syria in 2015.
He once posed with a severed head
Abdel-Bary is the son of Adel Abdel Bari, who has been accused of killing 224 people in various bomb attacks across Africa. Some believe he is linked to the terror cell that committed the Bataclan massacre in Paris in 2015.
He is one of the best-known of European ISIS members to have been arrested after returning to Europe from Syria since the arrests of members of the “Molenbeek Cell” in Brussels that conducted terror attacks across France and Belgium from 2014 to 2016.
Abdel-Bary grew up in a council house in Maida Vale, North London. His address was not far from that of Mohammed Emwazi, better-known as “Jihadi John.” When video footage emerged of three ISIS suspects putting a knife to the throat of American journalist James Foley, officials initially suspected Abdel-Bary might be “Jihadi John” before later attributing the identity as Emwazi. Abdel-Bary did, however, once pose with a severed head.
Intelligence sources said they were shaken that such a major figure could make his way back into Europe undetected.
“This is a major problem,” a counter-terrorism official in Belgium told Insider.
“Abdel-Bary isn’t some Syrian guy nobody has ever heard of. He’s a well-known jihadist from a well-known jihadist family who was active on social media from Syria and was closely linked to both the cyber-caliphate activities of Junaid Hussain and the cell of UK fighters who controlled the Western hostages in Raqqa. Now it turns out he’s not dead but rather living in a rented apartment on the Spanish coast.”
‘Who else is living here inside Schengen and able to move around freely without showing ID?’
The official said the immediate suspicion was that Abdel-Bary was able to make his way back to Europe at some point in the last few years amid the ongoing flood of civilian refugees. More than 1.5 million people fled the region through Turkey and Greece in 2015. Tens of thousands more arrived in 2019 alone.
“There was an Interpol Red Notice on him, he could not have used his legal paperwork from the UK to enter the Schengen Zone and his biometric data was available because of previous drug arrests so if he tried to enter as a refugee since the new standards were implemented by Frontex that should have quickly flagged him,” said the official. The Schengen Zone is the area of 26 countries in mainland Europe through which citizens are allowed to move without passports.
“Who else is living here inside Schengen and able to move around freely without showing ID?” asked the Belgian official, who had tracked both the Molenbeek Cell and then assisted French and Belgian special forces in targeting Francophone fighters during the fighting in Mosul and Raqqa from 2016 to 2019.
His name should have been flagged the moment he entered Europe
A source with the Greek Interior Ministry told Insider that there was no biometric data that showed Abdel-Barry passed through Greece at any point, and that his name would have been flagged if he tried to enter Schengen on his UK passport.
While the UK targeted several of its own high-profile ISIS jihadists — Junaid Hussain and Mohammed Emwazi were both killed in drone strikes in 2015 — the French and Belgians, who had more than 1,000 suspects leave to join ISIS, were much more specific and aggressive. They targeted high-value French-speaking jihadists during the campaigns to retake Mosul and Raqqa.
The French intelligence services concluded around 2016 that there was little value in accumulating more defectors from the group, and switched to a policy of targeting French-speaking groups of fighters as they were detected in Iraq and Syria.
“The Brits sent troops to assist with the overall effort and they were very effective,” said one French official, who said he considers Abdel-Bary to be part of the same cell that did the 2015 Bataclan attacks, “But we specifically worked with the Belgians to make sure that most of ‘our’ guys couldn’t come home because they were dead. This is why we see more UK fighters detained by the Kurds than French of Belgian fighters. We worked very hard to kill as many as we could.”
They thought he had been killed in a drone strike
Abdel-Bary, 28, was involved in drug dealing and had a small star turn as a jihadi inspired rapper. He was influenced by his Egyptian-born father’s yearslong detention in the UK while awaiting extradition to the US on charges he was a member of al Qaida who helped plan the 1998 East African embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
His family links to al Qaida, short career as a mediocre rapper, and heavy social media presence in 2015 made him one of the most visible UK members of ISIS before he disappeared, He was believed to have been killed as the group lost stronghold after stronghold in Syria and Iraq from 2016, until last year’s final collapse of the proto caliphate in Baghuz.
He was believed to have traveled to Syria with Hussain, a UK born ISIS member who was considered a top computer expert for the group before being killed in a joint UK-US drone strike in the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2015.
“Between now and 2015 terrorist tactics will become increasingly sophisticated and designed to achieve mass casualties.” Verdict: Definitely true. Sadly, this prediction became true quickly, on September 11, 2001.
“Iraq and Iran [will] develop long range missiles in the near future. Iran … could be testing such weapons by as early as the coming year, and cruise missiles by 2004.” Verdict: Both true and false. Iran is definitely working on an ICBM and was expected to test it in 2015. But international sanctions on Iran has brought it to the negotiation table and diplomats say they are close to a comprehensive deal.
“The world population will grow by more than one billion, to 7.2 billion.” Verdict: True. The world population is now about 7.3 billion.
“Europe will not achieve fully the dreams of parity with the US as a shaper of the global economic system.” Verdict: Not quite true. The CIA report was very bullish on the European economy, which had been sluggish at the start of the year, but has recently picked up steam.
“Aids, famine, and continuing economic and political turmoil means that populations in many [African] countries will actually fall.” Verdict: False. Africa’s population rose from 800 million in 2000 to 1.1 billion in 2014.
Every country’s military has their own version of Special Forces. However, none of them are quite like the 14th Intelligence Detachment, ‘The Det,’ which was formed as part of the British Army Special Forces during a time known as The Troubles in Northern Ireland. The Det was tasked with mounting surveillance and intelligence gathering operations against the Irish Republican Army and their allies.
They worked in the shadows. No one knew who they were or what they did. They received no acknowledgement or fanfare. The world will never know who they were. But, this dedicated force of highly-trained plain-clothes operatives worked to gather the intelligence needed for the British Army and others to maintain their peacekeeping role between the IRA and the unionist paramilitary forces.
The Det was formed after the British Army’s intelligence unit, the Military Reaction Force, was compromised. The MRF was compromised when IRA double-agents were discovered and then interrogated. They spilled details about a covert MRF operation out of Four Squares laundry in Belfast. This led to an IRA ambush of a MRF laundry van, which killed one undercover soldier.
With the MRF compromised, the Det was set up in 1973. The Det was open to all members of the armed services and to both genders. For the first time, women were allowed to be a part of the UK Special Forces. Each candidate had to pass a rigorous selection process. Members of the Det were expected to have excellent observational abilities, stamina and the ability to think under stress, as well as a sense of self-confidence and self-reliance as the majority of surveillance and intelligence gathering operations were solo missions.
The IRA treated the conflict like guerilla warfare for national independence. They used street fighting, sensational bombings and sniper attacks, which led to the British government classifying their aggressions as terrorism. The Det’s main focus during this time was utilizing their unique talents and training to gather information on the members of the IRA so that the British Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary could then intervene.
The skills and training of the members of the Det included the disciplines of surveillance, planting bugs and covert video cameras, and close quarters combat. They were also experts in the use of pistols, sub machine guns, carbines and assault rifles. They were also trained in unarmed combat, as well as techniques to disarm and neutralize knife or gun-wielding assailants. It was important for each member to be adept in these skills in order to be able to protect themselves while undercover.
Along with this specialized training, the Det was also equipped with unique equipment much of which could be considered ahead of its time. This included a fleet of ordinary looking saloon cars called ‘Q’ cars. These vehicles were specially equipped with covert radios, video and still cameras, concealed weapons packs, brake lights which could be switched on and off, and engine cut off switches to prevent hijacking. All of these worked to aid in the surveillance missions of the operators. The Det also had their own flight of Army Air Corps Gazelles, which were referred to as ‘The Bat Flight.’ The Gazelles carried sophisticated surveillance gear which was uniquely suited to the operations of ‘The Det.’
From the time of its inception until the end of The Troubles the Det performed numerous operations, mostly following and observing suspected terrorists. These painstakingly planned intelligence operations often led to the arrest of the suspected terrorists and/or the discovery of weapons caches. Occasionally the members of the Det would find themselves in a firefight with terrorists, this was usually due to their cover being blown. Unfortunately, several Det operators tragically lost their lives in Northern Ireland.
The highly-trained members of the Det did not do what they did for glory. They didn’t do it for the accolades, as there were none offered. These elite members put themselves in danger because they believed in what they were working for. They wanted to do their part to protect their country and those they loved. They believed in justice. They believed in the greater good. They knew going into it that no one would ever know what they did or the sacrifices they made in the name of Queen and country. But, they went in anyway. They didn’t see themselves as heroic. But, the elite members of the Det can truly be considered the unsung heroes of The Troubles.
The Det has now been absorbed into the British Army’s Special Reconnaissance Regiment, with a mission to fight the global war on terrorism.
If there ever was a Marine that took the motto “adapt, improvise, overcome,” to heart it’s Rob Jones — a retired Marine Corps combat engineer who lost both legs when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
It’s not enough that he won a Bronze Medal in the Paralympics. Or that he was the first and only double above-the-knee amputee to ride a normal bicycle 5,180 miles across America. Now, he is on a journey to run 31 marathons in 31 days in 31 major cities.
Jones will run 26.2 miles in the selected city on his own, travel to the next city, and repeat, ending appropriately on Veterans Day in our Nation’s Capital.
“I came up with the idea for 31/31/31 because I learned that I had a talent for running when I was training for triathlons,” says Jones. “I hope that by completing this challenge, my fellow veterans will be able to see what I accomplished, and can have an easier time envisioning themselves doing so.”
While in Afghanistan, Jones was tasked with clearing a path through an area thought to have a buried explosive device. “The IED found me, before I found it,” Jones described.
During his rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Jones was fitted with prosthetics and learned how to walk again with two bionic knees.
Jones is a true hardcharger and credits the Marine Corps for “forging” him into the man he has become. He hopes that other veterans will be inspired and wants them to know they are not alone.
“Seek out your brothers for advice,” says Jones. “No one will think less of you for struggling to cope with hell on earth. It is our duty to each other to support one another in war and at home.”
Many veterans leave the military and lose that sense of mission and purpose that drives them to be the best they can be. Rob Jones is a stellar example that the mission can go on and that veterans can find a renewed sense of purpose for their lives.
Jones’ suggestion? Find purpose in challenging yourself to do something that seems impossible. Harness the power of the veteran community, get up, and make it happen.
When the Air Force has looked to test out cutting-edge technology, like the U-2 Dragon Lady, SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk, they have had one piece of real estate they turn to. It’s an air base whose existence was denied until 2013. In the 1996 film Independence Day, the rumors about alien technology being tested at what was the DOD’s biggest open secret were used as a plot point.
Yeah, we’re talking about Groom Lake, also known as Homey Airport, Dreamland, or Area 51. According to a report by the Aviationist, the latest in a long line of high-tech aircraft to be tested there could be the upcoming B-21 Raider. A bomber being tested here? Well, author Dale Brown did have a bomber get tested at Groom Lake, a kick-ass B-52 called the Megafortress in Flight of the Old Dog and sequels like Night of the Hawk and Sky Masters.
Construction has been going on at the air base, to include a massive new hangar, estimated to be 250 feet by 275 feet. Two weapon storage areas have been built at the air base, which is officially known as the Nevada Test and Training Range and has been closed to the public.
Other programs that could be tested at Groom Lake include the RQ-180, an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of carrying out reconnaissance missions. This vehicle has a range of over 2,400 miles and can fly as high as 40,000 feet, according to MilitaryFactory.com. In the past, the base has also been used to test some Soviet-era planes that were “acquired” by the United States and/or its allies in one fashion or another.
The Air Force plans to buy at least 100 B-21 bombers to replace the Air Force’s inventory of B-1B Lancers. The effort to develop the B-21, previously known s Long-Range Strike Bomber, or LRS-B, comes as Russian compliance with a number of arms control treaties appears to be non-existent, prompting the United States to begin development of a ground-launched cruise missile.
Whether they are kept for a few weeks or a lifetime, animals in shelters and foster homes around the nation rely on dedicated and caring individuals that can help them find a forever home.
To ensure these animals receive the support they need, Air Force Capt. Daniel Hale, the officer in charge of plans and scheduling for the 563rd Operations Support Squadron here, and his veterinarian wife, Dr. Kristen Hale, decided to take on the responsibilities that comes with fostering rescue animals.
The Hales began their animal rescue efforts with their dog Squish.
“When I worked emergency, Squish came in at four weeks old after sustaining injuries from being trapped under a couch,” Dr. Hale said. “We decided to take him in as a foster and he’s been with us ever since.”
After adopting Squish into their family, the Hales continued to foster companion animals. In the past three years, the couple has fostered more than 20 sheltered pets.
Unfortunately, not all fostered pets in the care of the Hales are immediately adopted by families due to the medical condition of the animals.
“A lot of the pets we take in [have] specific medical needs,” Dr. Hale said. “Without a foster family to give them the individual attention they need, many of the animals would have never found homes because they would have been put down.”
Benny, a dog being fostered by the Hale family, rests on a couch in Vail, Ariz., May 6, 2017. Benny was fostered by the Hale family for three months before he was fully healed and adopted.
Thanks to the help of local rescue shelters, foster families don’t have to worry about paying for the medical expenses of the animals while the rescue pet is in the family’s care.
Because of the nature of some of these medical conditions, the time it takes to nurse the animals to full health can vary.
“We’ve had animals anywhere from three days to six weeks,” Capt. Hale said. “After we’ve made sure they are ready to be adopted, we get them as much exposure as we can through local rescue shelters to increase their chances of finding a family.”
Because of the efforts of families like the Hales, shelter adoption rates have steadily climbed over the years, leading to fewer overcrowded facilities.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, adoption rates have risen roughly 18 percent from 2011 to 2017, and shelter animal euthanasia rates have decreased approximately 42 percent.
“If you can’t keep an animal around for long or are not ready to make the commitment to permanently care for a pet, you can still make a difference by providing them with a foster home,” Dr. Hale said.
To find out more information on fostering and adopting companion animals, visit your local animal shelters.
The AR rifle platform is popular among gun enthusiasts because of its customization. The modular platform allows gun owners the freedom to accessorize or even create their own build from the comfort of their own homes — the epitome of user friendly in the rifle world. Now, thanks to Daniel Defense, that modularity has spread to the much-loved bolt gun with the Delta 5 long-range precision rifle.
Daniel Defense is known for their AR rifles, parts, and accessories, so the Delta 5 is a first for them in the realm of precision rifles. The modular bolt gun features out-of-the-box customization that would typically require professional gunsmithing. From the user-configurable stock to the interchangeable cold-hammer forged barrel, the user can tailor this rifle to fit their personal preferences without the wait.
Daniel Defense didn’t just “manufacture” a rifle, they designed this gun with the user in mind. Except for the Timney trigger, the entire rifle — from the buttstock to the barrel — was carefully designed and engineered in-house by Daniel Defense.
The author takes aim with the first bolt-gun offering from Daniel Defense, the Delta 5.
(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die)
The rifle I tested was chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, but it’s also available in .308 Winchester and 7mm-08 Remington. After firing more than 500 rounds through the Delta 5, ringing steal at 1,000 yards and beyond, it’s evident that this gun is a fast-cycling tack driver.
The mechanically bedded stainless steel action of the Delta 5 is unique, and the design plays a huge part in the rifle’s accuracy. The three-lug bolt with 60-degree bolt throw and floating bolt head provides excellent lock-up and enables the shooter to get shots off faster. Combined with the integral recoil lug, this enables consistent performance for the shooter. A 20 MOA/5.8 MRAD Picatinny scope base requires fewer adjustments for long-distance shots.
However, where the Delta 5 really changes the game is the barrel, which is interchangeable at the user’s level. The fact that changing the barrel does not require a gunsmith makes moving between calibers dramatically easier and something the user can do at home. The barrels are made from stainless CHF steel, which provides longer life and requires no break-in time. These exceptional barrels are cold-hammered forged, providing a greater potential for accuracy compared to others, and the heavy Palma contour reduces the weight to 64 percent of that of other precision barrels.
The length of pull of the Delta 5 is adjustable by inserting or removing quarter- and half-inch spacers between the stock and the buttpad.
(Photo courtesy of Daniel Defense)
During my range session, the feature that stood out to me the most was the Timney Elite Hunter trigger. This is a single-stage trigger with a two-position safety and is adjustable from 1.5 to 4 pounds, enabling a smooth pull and crisp reset.
Running the bolt is an easy and smooth pull, and if the bolt knob isn’t a good fit for your hand, the threaded bolt handle makes it easy for the user to install an aftermarket knob. What took some getting used to was the long stroke required when running the bolt. If you run it by memory, you’ll come up short, resulting in an empty chamber click. After spending some time with the gun, you start to become accustomed to the longer stroke, making it much easier and a little more automatic.
The stock of the Delta 5 brings more to the table than aesthetics alone. The eye-catching design is not only ergonomic, but also the carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer construction aids in longer life and lighter weight. The Delta 5 is also configurable for length of pull, shipping with quarter-inch and half-inch spacers, and the cheek riser is adjustable for preferred height, yaw, and drift. There is a total of 14 M-LOK points along the forend, one at the bottom of the stock and three M-LOK QD sling points.
I paired the Delta 5 with the Bushnell Forge Optic. Together, this duo has the power to make anyone feel like a sharpshooter with minimal effort. If you’re a fan of long-range precision shooting, the Delta 5 is worth testing. Daniel Defense didn’t enter the precision rifle game with a cookie-cutter product — they combined cutting-edge technology with in-house manufacturing, and wrapped it in a user-friendly, modular package.
Over the last century, with the introduction of compulsory attendance and development of the modern public education system, teachers have largely held the responsibility of educating America’s youth. COVID-19 brought about the shuttering of our nation’s schools and education was very quickly thrust into the spotlight as parents found themselves back at the helm.
The sudden closure of schools brought about a cascade of consequences educators, parents and government officials were forced to triage. The bulk of this responsibility fell to parents, as they worked to fit a titan of a system into a quickly-changing scenario, with contradicting information, within the fluid environment of a home.
Though these efforts were nothing short of heroic and should be celebrated, the result has left many parents with a sense of trepidation as fall approaches.
As we approach the new academic year, homeschooling has taken on a new level of interest. In fact, a national poll completed in May indicated that 40% of parents were more likely to homeschool after the lockdown ends.
Across the nation, parents are seeking out information that will help minimize the negative impact COVID-19 has on their children’s education. Though they will ultimately have to weigh the options and choose the best fit for their family, there are a number of considerations for each.
District-directed learning and virtual academies
As mandates are passed down by governors, school districts are working to determine how to implement safety measures while balancing the educational needs of their students. As of now, district-directed learning hasn’t been fully fleshed out across the country as the plans are contingent on COVID numbers. Interest in virtual academies are at an all-time high, as parents are looking for options that won’t be impacted by rising COVID numbers. Virtual academies provided public education from state-certified teachers, adhering to the same testing, attendance, and accountability standards as their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
Among the benefits of district-directed and virtual learning is adherence to curriculum standards and special education guidelines. Students are expected to attend classes where they will interact with their teachers and receive feedback on their progress. Parents are expected to help facilitate learning and adhere to the structure of the school system.
Though there are a number of homeschool curriculums that effectively “copy and paste” the structure of public education into the home environment, the foundation of homeschool is built with the child and family center. To these ends, it’s highly individualized and fluid. For those who are new to homeschooling, there are a number of considerations to help guide you.
Homeschool is regulated at the state level, meaning that each state has different requirements. Research is key for military families. Home School Legal Defense Association has a number of resources regarding state and special education laws. Additionally, homeschool families will often utilize an umbrella school for guidance to complete their state requirements, making a potential return to public school easier.
Homeschool curriculums cover a wide range of educational philosophy. From classical style to unschooling, there is a curriculum fit for every family. Most families use multiple curriculums depending on the need and number of children. Some curriculums have module-based learning where students access videos, relieving some of the pressure from parents. Many curriculums are designed with multiple grades in mind, allowing for families to teach certain subjects to multiple-level learners at once. There are online curriculum quizzes designed by veteran homeschoolers to help you find your best fit.
One point that tends to take public-school parents by surprise is the amount of time many homeschoolers dedicate to desk-work. Overall, homeschoolers spend a fraction of the time at a desk compared to their public-school peers. Additionally, the rate with which homeschoolers move through the material is highly individualized. For instance, if the curriculum provides 20 lessons on a certain topic, but the student has demonstrated mastery in 7, they move forward to the next concept. Conversely, if a student is struggling, parents are able to recognize it and take additional time to help ensure success.
Though families are also facing tough decisions about how to proceed in the fall, co-ops have historically been sources of a great community and learning among homeschoolers. The size and design of each co-op vary greatly as each community serves a different purpose. Though many co-ops are also awaiting further guidance smaller gatherings may continue to have fewer restrictions. Additionally, you can connect with a few like-minded families and create a co-op, allowing your students to continue to have a social connection with peers during this time.
Though the circumstances that have led us to this point have been, in many ways, catastrophic; parents should be empowered by policy and lawmakers to make the best educational decisions for their children. At a time when uncertainty is the only constant, embracing alternative forms of education may just be the thing that allows this generation of students to excel.
Nichole is a doctoral-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst, professor, and school psychologist with a specialization in education law and policy. A homeschooling mom of four and Marine spouse of 13 years, Nichole and her husband are stationed outside of Washington, D.C.
1:23 a.m. It’s pitch black in Ramadi, Iraq, except for the cold moon above.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Major and his squad creep silently closer.
The enemy has already killed and maimed American troops with roadside bombs. Intel says the largest cache of explosives is right here. Major is part of the late-night raid to bring them down. This is where he wants to be.
“I was a junior in high school when the Towers were hit. I knew I wanted to do something then. And when it came time to choose college or something else, I wanted to get my hands dirty. It all stemmed from the Towers. I wanted to do my part.”
He’s in the desert as part of a light infantry unit. As he and his team get closer, the insurgents wait.
“We were two or three blocks away and I watched two squads cross that intersection,” he says.
He’s only a couple feet away now.
“I took like five steps … “
Major steps down with his right leg.
The enemy pushes the remote control.
The bomb explodes with a deafening roar, and fills the air with a lethal mix of fire and shrapnel.
“I was awake for the whole thing,” he said. “I remember going up and facing the stars.”
Major, 22, is blown up and over a steel gate and six-foot concrete wall.
Ryan Major loves rugby because it’s loud, fast and has lots of crashes. He is hoping for gold at this year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
His team, many with shrapnel injuries themselves, jump into their armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle, smash through the concrete and rush him back to the base camp.
“My guy, he had me laying on the floor and he is covering my leg. I’m losing blood like crazy. Trying to go to sleep. He smacks the p— out of me a couple times. I knew I was in a bad situation.”
“Read me my Last Rites. Tell my mom I love her,” Major says to his soldier.
“No! Wake your b— ass up! I’m not telling her anything! You’re telling her!”
They make it back to base.
“The surgeons and the doctors, they did their thing. Then they induced me into a coma.”
Doctors cut off his right leg and right thumb in Iraq. An infection while he was still in the coma took his left leg, two fingers on his right hand, his thumb on his left, part of his elbow and forearm.
Major wakes up six weeks later, December 26, in a hospital room inside Walter Reed.
“Hey, it’s sports. I’m a competitor. I was competing in the military. I’m competing still. It’s fast and I like to go fast.”
Major whips around with a white ball in his hand. A wheelchair cracks into him from behind and throws him from the chair and to the ground. He gets helped back in and shakes it off. Another chair crashes into him from the side as Major smacks down on his wheel into a backspin and then scores.
He crosses his arms, leans back his head and howls to the rafters.
He makes it look easy, but it wasn’t always this way.
Ryan Major races down the court on the way to a score.
“Dude, it was rough,” he said. “So rough, and I was in a really dark spot. A deep, weird depression. It was a lot of self-doubt and being hard on myself. It’s typical, going from a 100 percent independent man, having to depend on everybody for everything. That took a really big shot to my pride.
“It took me so long. I don’t have my legs. I can’t play football or anything I used to do and love. I used to play football. I wrestled. I did track and field. Now I can’t do any of that.”
Days turned into weeks, months and years.
His mom, Lorrie Knight-Major, said she and his brothers — Michael and Milan — along with Ryan’s friends, rallied to do whatever needed done.
“I credit his brothers, his family and his amazing friends who have been there all the way for him, and for all of us,” Knight-Major said. “To this day, he has a great support system. I wished every veteran and every person recovering had that kind of love.”
Corey Fick, Ryan’s best friend since the 6th grade, visited him almost every day in the hospital and made him get out and about.
“Everybody was crying when we found out he got hurt, but he is a soldier through and through,” Fick said. “He is a soldier through and through, and whatever his cause, he’ll die for it. There’s no fight he’s not going to win. I think he had a 4 percent chance of making it out of Ramadi alive.
“If this happened to anyone but Ryan, I don’t think they could do what he is doing. He has no fear and is living life to the fullest.”
As Major watched others in a wheelchair living their lives, that’s when he knew he had to do it, too.
“I’m watching other vets in my situation who had been hurt for a few years. They’re walking and talking and out having fun and I’m overhearing them. Why am I moping around when you got other amputees going out and having the time of their life?
“It was time for me to get my ass out of this bed and start getting active.”
Besides quad rugby, you can find Ryan Major kayaking and even skiing.
The first thing he did was the Hope and Possibilities handcycle race around Central Park.
“You hear people cheering you and that started to boost me back, but it was easy. I went back to my therapist and said, ‘What’s next?'”
“There’s an Army 10-miler,” the therapist said.
He did it and wanted more. So he did the New York Marathon — 26.2 miles on a hand cycle.
“I went from a 5K to a 10-miler to a marathon all in a year,” Major said. “The best part of a marathon, is all the fans on the side, yelling at you and telling you you’re doing awesome. The worst part of a marathon, in my opinion, are those last two miles. Those last two miles were the longest two miles ever.
“I was hurting bad. My fingers were cramped and locked in place. But I crossed that finish line and said, ‘God, I am a freaking trooper. I am the biggest bad ass in this whole, entire race!”
He hasn’t stopped since.
“I found out I can still do sports. I didn’t ski before I was injured. I had my first skiing experience in Colorado and didn’t anticipate liking that. They had me going down that mountain fast and I fell in love with it. I’m kayaking. I’ll do anything.”
Besides rugby, Major is competing in javelin, table tennis and even bowling this year.
“But I want that gold in rugby,” he said. “That’s the goal. Haven’t gotten it yet. Got close and made it to the final round once. I’ll get it.”
“I am so very proud of him,” his mom said. “I am amazed at the adversity he had to overcome. Ryan has always been a fighter. He wakes up every morning happy, and makes the most out of each day of his life.”
He sometimes thinks back on that day when everything changed, but doesn’t stay in that place too long.
“Those thoughts creep in my head every once in awhile. The what ifs, the woulda, coulda thing. Those are never good,” he said. “There are positives and negatives to every situation. If I wouldn’t have joined the military, wouldn’t have met my brothers in arms, who are a huge part of my life. I never would have had that experience. I never would have traveled. I never would have had those life experiences.
“I still keep in touch with those guys from Walter Reed and with some of the staff. All these years back, and we still talk.”
It’s that brotherhood, he said, that makes these Games so important.
“I like to be loud out there and have fun. Other vets look at me and that makes them proud. They say it inspires them. Well, they inspire me.”
Major just has one request if you see him on the street. Don’t call him disabled.
“I’m an athlete. And I hope when they look at me, they think I’m a good athlete. That’s what they can call me.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Robin Williams went on six separate USO tours from 2002 to 2013. Williams inspired countless other comedians and performers to pack their bags and head overseas to share their light with the world. There are hundreds of stories that surround the humanity of each and every visit Williams had.
For example, take the time on the 2007 USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour, where Williams saw a group of soldiers waving at him from behind a fence across a grassy berm. A wave and a loud joke across the field would’ve surely made those soldiers day… But according to USO VP of Entertainment Rachel Tischler, “… he jumped across the berm and went running over to them. Obviously, our security team completely freaked out. Again – height of the war here. But he didn’t care. He just wanted to go over and shake their hands and thank them. And that is what he was like.”
That’s the thing with Williams. He didn’t just go overseas and perform a couple of comedy sets and dip out. That, in and of itself, would still be a beautiful act of service. But that wasn’t enough for Williams. He jumped the berm in everything he did.
“What was great about him on tour was that he always took the time to sit down and talk to people about what they were going through, what life on the base was like, about personal experiences,” Tischler said. “And then he’d get on stage and he’d be telling a joke about Mexican Night in the [dining facility].”
Robin Williams as troops “Retreat” at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
Williams wasn’t just a loose cannon of human decency on USO Tours, either. He was also a respectful observer of military tacit codes. Just watch this video of Williams’s set being cut short by Taps at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
At the first sound of the beagle, you can almost feel his gut lurching to make a joke. Every single time that Williams had gone on stage, he was a comedic amoeba, calling out things happening in the present moment. He had conditioned himself to make a joke there. But he resisted. He pulled against his greater impulses, and respectfully lowered his head.
You can tell it meant something to him, as he said “I’m never going to forget that.” And what happened next is quintessential Robin Williams— he made a joke about the present moment that unified the entire camp.
Holiday Tour, International Airport in Baghdad (2003)
(Mike Theiler. EPA.)
Unity is the central theme of Robin Williams USO tours, and that’s the legacy left behind. Every man and woman stationed who got to see him took a piece of Williams back with them. Williams loved it too, “There’s nothing I enjoy more than traveling with the USO and giving back to our troops in whatever way I can,” he said, “They work hard, sacrifice a lot and deserve to be treated like the heroes they are. The very least I can do is bring a smile to their faces.”
Many comedians have followed in his footsteps of unity since: Lewis Black, Louis CK, Ralphie May, and Stephen Colbert, just to name a few. As our country feels increasingly disjointed, it’s important to focus on the “Robin Williams” moments; we can reach across the aisle and truly connect with each other.
Whenever we feel distant from each other, we don’t have to shout from behind a fence. We can jump the berm.
Iran’s latest attempt to put a satellite in space in spite of US opposition ended in failure, an Iranian defense ministry official told state media, Reuters reported Sunday.
“It was launched with success and … we have reached most our aims … but the ‘Zafar’ satellite did not reach orbit as planned,” the official told state television Sunday.
The latest failure marks the fourth time in a row Iran has been unable to successfully put a satellite in space.
In January 2019, the Iranian rocket carrying the satellite into space failed to reach the “necessary speed” during the third stage of flight, a senior telecommunications official told state media, the Associated Press reported at the time.
The US has criticized Iran’s efforts, arguing that its satellite program is a cover for the development of long-range ballistic missile technology.
President Donald Trump has said that Iran’s space program could help it “pursue intercontinental ballistic missile capability.” Iran argues that the Simorgh rocket is nothing more than a satellite launch vehicle.
In February of last year, Iran made another attempt. Iran’s foreign minister revealed in an interview with NBC News that it failed as well. He added that his country was looking into the possibility of sabotage after a New York Times report suggested the US could be behind the failures.
Iran tried again in August, but the rocket apparently exploded on the launchpad.
In denying US culpability, Trump inexplicably tweeted out an image of the scorched Iranian launchpad from a classified briefing, a photo that appeared to have come from one of the US’ most secretive spy satellites.
After the second failed test, Dave Schmerler, a senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told NPR that this is a “trial and error” situation, explaining that “eventually they’re going to get it right.”
Iran managed to put a satellite into orbit in 2009, 2011, and 2012, but lately their efforts have been unsuccessful.