One of the highest-ever ranked defectors from North Korea said Feb. 14, 2018 that Kim Jong Un is now engaging in diplomacy with South Korea because he fears a US military strike on North Korea.
“Kim Jong Un is afraid that the US will launch a preventative strike, and he is trying to buy time to complete his nuclear and missile programs,” said Ri Jong Ho, Yonhap News Agency reported. Ri, who worked for three decades in the North Korean office responsible for raising funds for Kim, was speaking at a Wilson Center Forum in Washington.
According to Ri, not only are President Donald Trump’s threats of military action having an effect on North Korea, the US’s diplomatic efforts to lock Pyongyang out of international trade have also started to bite.
“Kim Jong Un is struggling under the strongest-yet sanctions and military and diplomatic pressure, so he is trying to improve the situation by putting on a false front,” Ri said.
Ri, who defected in 2014, likely doesn’t know the current thinking in Pyongyang, but may have knowledge of the economic situation before the sanctions. Ri’s statements follow a handful of moves from the Trump administration that appeared to signal that they were on the verge of striking North Korea.
But Ri’s statements also conjured up one of the US’s worst fears in North Korea by suggesting that Kim did not legitimately want to pursue peace with South Korea, but rather that he wanted to use the ruse of diplomacy to buy time while he advances his nuclear program and continues to hold South Korean civilians at risk.
“Depending on the circumstances, North Korea could hold South Koreans hostage and continue its threatening provocations,” Ri said.
Ri’s thinking seems to agree with US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, who recently assumed command of the US military’s Pacific and Asian theater of operation, PACOM.
Kim is “after reunification under a single communist system, so he is after what his grandfather failed to do and his father failed to do,” Harris said, in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.
But Kim’s end game is irrelevant at the present. There’s evidence that a US-led sanctions campaign has begun to work against the Kim regime, and North Korea could be hurting economically. Moves in Trump’s inner circle seem to heavily suggest he’s considering responding to future North Korean provocations with force.
No president before Trump has coordinated as great an international sanctions regime on North Korea, and none have so seriously offered up use of military force as an option.
In response, Kim has made the unprecedented move of agreeing to meet with a foreign head of state for the first time, and abandoned talk of preconditions beforehand, which some see as a concession.
Some of our readers asked us to investigate the story behind an F-35 mock-up painted in arctic color scheme, located at Lockheed Martin’s Forth Worth, after the mysterious model was featured on the reputable F-16.net forum.
The mock-up has been sitting in a LM yard, from at least April 2012 to December 2018, when it was moved (the aircraft can still be seen in the latest imagery). Since 2012, photos taken from space show the F-35 model in different locations, along with other test articles and mock-ups, including the X-35 and A-12.
The LM yard with several mock-ups, including the F-35 in arctic paint scheme.
(Google Earth via Dragon029)
“There aren’t a lot of photos / points in time when the yard was shot from space, but in January 2016, January 2017 and February 2017 it’s also missing from the yard (there are no photos between those 3 times though, so it might have been gone for 13+ months, or it might have just been gone the days, weeks or months that those photos were taken),” says user Dragon029, who also pointed us to the somehow mysterious aircraft.
In this thread you can see all the satellite images Dragon029 has collected: they show all the locations the F-35 mock-up has been in the last 7 years.
As mentioned above, the “arctic F-35” was last moved in December 2018. User hawgwash took a clear shot of the mock-up as it was being moved. Here it is:
The mock-up being moved in December 2018.
(Photo by hawgwash)
We asked Lockheed Martin to provide some details about the mock up and here’s the reply we got from Michael Friedman, a Lockheed Martin spokesman for the F-35 program:
“The image is a model that resembles an F-35A that was originally used to test aspects of our Aircraft Test Facility. The model has since been used in various exercises and testing to include flight line safety and fire suppression testing. The paint scheme, which was created with spare F-16 paint, was chosen by the artisans and is not directly related to the model and its role in the program.”
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
“Russia will soon deploy an underwater nuclear-powered drone which will make the whole multi-billion dollar system of US missile defense useless,” MK.ru said, according to a BBC translation, making reference to the missile shield the US is building over Europe.
“An explosion of the drone’s nuclear warhead will create a wave of between 400-500 (1,300-16,00 feet) meters high, capable of washing away all living things 1,500 (932) kilometers inland,” the newspaper added.
While all nuclear weapons pose a tremendous threat to human life on Earth because of their outright destructive power and ability to spread harmful radiation, the Poseidon has unique world-ending qualities.
An LGM-30 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile being serviced in a silo.
What makes Poseidon more horrific than regular nukes
The US designed its nuclear weapons to detonate in the air above a target, providing downward pressure. The US’ nuclear weapons today have mainly been designed to fire on and destroy Russian nuclear weapons that sit in their silos, rather than to target cities and end human life.
But detonating the bomb in an ocean not only could cause tsunami waves that would indiscriminately wreak havoc on an entire continent, but it would also increase the radioactive fallout.
Russia’s Poseidon missile is rumored to have a coating of cobalt metal, which Stephen Schwartz, an expert on nuclear history, said would “vaporize, condense, and then fall back to earth tens, hundreds, or thousands of miles from the site of the explosion.”
Potentially, the weapon would render thousands of square miles of Earth’s surface unlivable for decades.
“It’s an insane weapon in the sense that it’s probably as indiscriminate and lethal as you can make a nuclear weapon,” Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told Business Insider.
A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo captured from Russian television.
Can Russia take over the world with this weapon? No.
MK.ru quoted a professor as saying the Poseidon will make Russia a “world dictator” and that it could be used to threaten Europe.
“If Europe will behave badly, just send a mini-nuclear powered submarine there with a 200-megaton bomb on board, put it in the southern part of the North Sea, and ‘let rip’ when we need to. What will be left of Europe?” the professor asked.
While the Russian professor may have overstated the importance of the Poseidon, as Russia already has the nuclear firepower to destroy much of the world and still struggles to achieve its foreign-policy goals, the paper correctly said that the US has no countermeasures in place against the new weapon.
US missile defenses against ballistic missiles have only enough interceptors on hand to defend against a small salvo of weapons from a small nuclear power like North Korea or Iran. Also, they must be fired in ballistic trajectories.
But the US has nuclear weapons of its own that would survive Russia’s attack. Even if Russia somehow managed to make the whole continent of Europe or North America go dark, submarines on deterrence patrols would return fire and pound Russia from secret locations at the bottom of the ocean.
Russia’s media, especially MK.ru, often use hyperbole that overstates the country’s nuclear capabilities and willingness to fight.
But with the Poseidon missile, which appears custom-built to end life on Earth, Russia has shown it actually does favor spectacularly dangerous nuclear weapons as a means of trying to bully other countries.
When special operators (or any armed force, for that matter) goes on an operation, Murphy (of “Murphy’s Law” fame) can be an uninvited and very unwelcome guest — whether with last minute changes in the plan, an inopportune discovery by civilians, or gear breaking down.
America’s highly-trained commandos have an amazing track record of achievement, wracking up huge wins with very few losses over the decades since World War II. But their missions are often so high stakes that when Murphy does pay a visit, the damage has an outsized public impact.
Here are some of the more notable instances where Murphy’s Law sent spec ops missions into a tailspin.
1. Desert One
On April 24, 1980, the newly established Delta Force attempted a daring rescue mission of the 66 Americans being held hostage in Iran.
At the initial landing site codenamed “Desert One,” the mission went south in a big way. Ultimately, eight special operators died in the abortive effort, which contributed to the undoing of the Carter administration. The mission did become the backdrop used for the opening of the Chuck Norris classic, “The Delta Force,” which was also Lee Marvin’s last role.
2. Operation Urgent Fury
After a Marxist coup seized power of the small Caribbean nation of Grenada in 1979, tensions between the country (essentially a Cuban puppet) and the United States increased. After an internal power struggle ended up leaving the island nation’s president dead, President Ronald Reagan ordered American forces to settle the matter.
The Navy SEAL Museum notes that a drop that was supposed to be in daylight and calm seas got delayed to night. A bad storm resulted in the loss of four SEALs. The lack of reconnaissance and bad comms (SEALs who rescued the island’s governor, had to use a phone to call HQ for support) created problems, but the operation was successful.
The SEALs at the governor’s mansion were eventually rescued by Force Recon Marines. Other SEALs managed to destroy a radio tower and swim out to sea, where they were picked up. Grenada was a success, and many of the lessons learned were applied in the future.
3. Operation Just Cause
The SEALs again were involved in an op where Murphy paid a visit when the United States decided to remove Manuel Noriega from power after Panamanian troops killed a U.S. Marine.
SEAL Team 4 drew the assignment of taking Punta Paitilla airport and disabling Noriega’s private jet. According to the Navy SEAL Museum’s web page, Noriega’s jet had been moved to a hanger.
As a result of the move, the SEALs ended up into a firefight that left four dead. One of those killed in action. SEAL Don McFaul would receive a posthumous Navy Cross, and have an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS McFaul (DDG 74), named in his honor.
4. ODA 525 – Desert Storm
In this special op, Murphy took the form of children discovering the hide site of nine Green Berets lead by Chief Warrant Officer Richard Balwanz. Balwanz made the decision to let the kids, go, and his force found itself under attack.
Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Daily Caller noted that Balwanz brought his entire team back. In this case, the special operators overcame Murphy in an outstanding feat of arms that few Americans have heard about.
If you’ve seen “Black Hawk Down,” you pretty much know the story of how the firefight in Mogadishu went down. In this case, a 2013 article at RealClearDefense.com noted that two MH-60 Blackhawks from the 106th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (the “Nightstalkers”) were shot down. Murphy had a lot of room to maneuver when armor and AC-130 support was denied.
6. Operation Red Wings
If you read the book, “Lone Survivor” (or saw the movie), you have a very good sense as to what went wrong here. Lieutenant Michael Murphy’s team of SEALs was discovered by civilians, a force of insurgents launched an attack and three SEALs were killed in the harrowing firefight.
It got worse when a Chinook helicopter carrying a quick reaction force was shot down by insurgents, killing 11 SEALs and eight Nightstalkers.
The Army is now seeking to finesse a careful and combat-relevant balance between upgrading the current Abrams and Bradley to the maximum degree while also recognizing limitations and beginning conceptual work on a new platform called Next-Generation Combat Vehicle.
While the Army is only now in the early stages of concept development for this technology, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior that it may indeed evolve into a family of vehicles.
A fleet of similarly engineered vehicles would be designed to allow each vehicle to be tailored and distinct, while simultaneously improving maintenance, logistics, and sustainment by using many common parts; the objective would, of course, be to lower long-term lifecycle costs and extend the service life of the vehicles. However, of potentially much greater significance, similar engineering, vehicle structures, and configurations could definitely expedite upgrades across the fleet as enabled by new technology. This could include new sensors, sights, electronics, force tracking systems, and a range of C4ISR technology.
Many Army comments have indicated that the configuration of the new vehicles may resemble hull forms of an Abrams, Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, Bradley, or even elements of a Stryker vehicle. However, it is without question that, whatever NGCV evolves into, it will be built to consistently accommodate the best emerging technologies available.
For instance, Army developers explained that some early developmental work inolved assessing lighter weight armor and hull materials able to provide the same protection as the current vehicle at a much lower weight.
“We could look at some novel material, such as lightweight tracks or a hull replacement,” Lt. Col. Justin Shell, the Army’s product manager for Abrams, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Key parameters for the NGCV will, among other things, include building a lighter-weight, more mobile and deployable vehicle. Weight, speed, and mobility characteristics are deemed essential for a tank’s ability to support infantry units, mechanized armored units, and dismounted soldiers by virtue of being able to cross bridges, rigorous terrain, and other combat areas less accessible to existing 70-ton Abrams tanks.
Bassett explained that specific cross-functional team leads have begun to explore concepts and early requirements for the NGCV effort to, among other things, look for common, cross-fleet technologies and build in flexibility.
“Cross functional teams are defining the art of the possible as we look at what technologies are available,” Bassett said in an interview with Scout Warrior. “We could change some assumptions. We want to give the Army some flexibility.”
One possibility now receiving some attention, Army senior leaders say, is that the NGCV may implement a lightweight 120mm cannon previously developed for one of the Manned-Ground Vehicles developed for the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems program. The vehicle, called the Mounted Combat System, was built with a two-ton 120mm cannon roughly one-half the weight of the current Abrams cannon.
The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds.
The MCS was to have had a crew of two, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
The Army’s recent Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically mentions the value of adapting the XM360 for future use.
“Next-Generation Large Caliber Cannon Technology. The XM360 next-generation 120mm tank cannon integrated with the AAHS will provide the M1 Abrams a capability to fire the next generation of high-energy and smart-tank ammunition at beyond line-of-sight (LOS) ranges. The XM360 could also incorporate remote control operation technologies to allow its integration on autonomous vehicles and vehicles with reduced crew size. For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy.”
Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.
Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.
While not specifically referring to a T-14 Armata’s unmanned turret or Russian plans for an autonomous capability, Basset did say it is conceivable that future armored vehicles may indeed include an unmanned turret as well as various level of autonomy, tele-operation, and manned-unmanned teaming. The prospect of integrating “autonomous vehicles” into future armored platforms is, as noted above, also specified in the Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization strategy.
Accordingly, Basset also emphasized that the future NGCV vehicles will be designed to incorporate advanced digital signal processing and machine-learning, such as AI technologies.
Computer algorithms enabling autonomous combat functions are progressing at an alarming rate, inspiring Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers to explore the prospect of future manned-unmanned collaboration with tank platforms. It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wing man” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transporting ammunition, or performing long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.
CINCU, Romania – Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles from 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry Regiment, Montana Army National Guard, take up defensive while participating in Exercise Saber Guardian 16 at the Romanian Land Force Combat Training Center. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Baltos, 24th Press Camp Headquarters).
“The Chief has stated that all future vehicles will be tele-operated. We take those things into account and we’re are going to get some great experimentation in this area,” Bassett said. “There are things you can do in a next-gen vehicle which you cannot do in a current vehicle due to physical requirements.”
Levels of autonomy for air vehicles, in particular, have progressed to a very advanced degree – in part because there are, quite naturally, fewer obstacles in the air precluding autonomous navigation. GPS-enabled waypoint technology already facilitates both ground and air autonomous movement; however, developing algorithms for land-based autonomous navigation is far more challenging given that a vehicle will need to quickly adjust to a fast-moving, dynamic, and quickly-changing ground combat environment.
“There is a dramatic difference in size, weight, and power performance if you make something tele-operated,” Bassett said.
The “Don’t Rush Challenge” has brought countless fun videos to our social media feeds. Set to the song, “Don’t Rush,” by Young T & Bugsey, a subject is featured wearing an outfit and holding an object. They put the object close to the camera, and when they pull the object away, they reveal they’re wearing something different. We’ve seen doctors change from scrubs and a facemask to sweatpants and a t-shirt, still holding the mask, exhausted. We’ve seen kids go from athletic uniforms and a soccer ball, to still bouncing that ball in a bow tie and khakis. Moms with wine glasses, delivery drivers, you name it.
But if the challenge had a victor, one non-profit featuring female veterans just won the whole damn thing.
With over a million views on Facebook, the Pin-Ups for Vets’ “Don’t Rush Challenge” video has gone viral, and it’s easy to see why. Stunning women dressed as pin-ups hold a red flower, and when the flower is pulled away, you see the same woman who was moments before all dolled up, standing there — just as beautiful — in uniform.
Pin-Ups for Vets was founded in 2006 by Gina Elise. Disheartened by the number of Iraq War veterans returning from overseas in need of medical attention, coupled with the growing number of hospitalized older veterans, Elise wanted to do something to benefit both populations. She wanted to boost morale, provide meaningful opportunities for veterans to give back as well as raise money for veteran care facilities. Thus, Pin-Ups for Vets was born.
“I’d always been a big fan of World War II pin-up art,” Elise told WATM. “Pin-ups painted on the bombers was such a morale booster,” she explained. “I wanted to bring something like that to modern-day veterans.” What started as a pin-up calendar fundraiser featuring female “Ambassadors” has grown over 14 years to an incredibly successful non-profit, resulting in a 50-state hospital tour with the Ambassadors visiting over 14,000 veterans. In addition to donating calendars to these patients, Pin-Ups for Vets has donated ,000 in rehabilitation equipment.
When asked what prompted the video, Elise shared that she felt everyone could use a little digital morale boost right now. “When we go into these hospitals, the veterans are so excited to see these beautiful women. And when they learn that she also served, there is an immediate, incredible bond. We wanted to provide that to people at home right now, too. It would make more sense chronologically for us to show the women in uniform and then as pin-ups, as that’s how most of them come to our organization. They want to continue serving after their service. But we chose to show them as pin-ups first for that surprise factor that mimics what we see in the hospital. Anyone can be a pin-up, but not everyone can be a veteran. So many people have stereotypes about female veterans; the ladies are often asked if they are the wife of a veteran because when people think of the military, they think of men. We’re proud to show that women serve, too. And we like to say we make volunteering look glamorous.”
Female veterans turned pin-ups!
They certainly do. The comments on the video have been overwhelmingly positive. Mary Moczygemba Stulting said, “Oh my gosh…so lovely as pin ups…so beautiful as warriors!!! #fierce!!!” Tommy Ford said, “Thanks to all you women for keeping my family safe… y’all are all beautiful in or out of Camouflage.” Alex Correa Rodrigues commented, “Amazing! It’s truly amazing to see your commitment to America and everything that you do in and out of uniform. I’m a huge fan of all of you and keep up with the great work.”
Ten female lieutenants completed the first step in becoming U.S. Army infantry platoon leaders on Wednesday by graduating from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course.
Twelve women started the 17-week course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and 10 met the standards to graduate alongside 156 male classmates.
“The training of an infantry lieutenant is a process until they step in front of that rifle platoon, and this is but the very first step in that process,” Lt. Col. Matthew Weber, battalion commander of the course, told reporters Wednesday at Fort Benning. “It’s a critical one because we are very much focused on training and preparing the soldiers, the lieutenants, to ultimately lead a rifle platoon.”
Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.
Army officials maintain that it hasn’t taken long for gender integration to become the norm in training.
“We have been integrating women into the military for years; they have fought and bled beside us for years,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning. “This is an important moment, but this is something that is in many ways business as usual.”
Fort Benning officials would not release the names of the 10 female graduates. Their next stop is Ranger School, Weber said.
Then, whether they are successful or not, they will go into other courses, including Airborne School, Striker Leader Course and then Mechanized Leader Course — a process that will take about a year to complete.
“Once they have completed all those courses, then we will have deemed them fit to lead whatever type formation out in [Forces Command] and they will depart Fort Benning,” Weber said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has directed that gender-integration first focus on leaders at those two installations, Wesley said.
“We are priming the pump and enabling success by initially focusing on two installations and then ultimately they will start to migrate out to other installations,” he said.
Griest and Haver are following the same path.
Griest, a military police officer from Connecticut, was granted transfer to the infantry branch April 25, 2016. Haver, an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot from Arizona, has been approved to transfer into the infantry, and “we are still awaiting final word on when that is going to come down,” said Brig. Gen. Peter Jones, commandant of the Infantry School.
“Upfront, I will tell you this makes us a better Army and the reason it makes us a better Army is that this whole issue has driven us — it has been a forcing function, to ensure that we had the right standards aligned to each occupational specialty in the Army,” Wesley said.
Establishing gender-neutral standards has been the “culmination of two years of different work done by Training and Doctrine Command, with physical scientists looking at what is the physiology of moving weight and what is the difference between infantrymen and field artillerymen?” Jones said.
“We have the scientific data that shows these are the propensity skills that you have to do and the physiology to do those.”
Benning officials maintain that gender integration has not lowered standards.
“There has been no change in the standards,” said Infantry Officer Basic Leader Course Command Sgt. Major Joe Davis. “There is no change in the course … we are in the business of producing leaders. It doesn’t matter if they are male or females.”
Yale is headed to West Point to face Army on Clinton Field. The Bulldogs are currently sitting at 4-4-2, but have to face Cornell before going up against the Black Knights on Tuesday. Both teams have been cooling off lately and are desperately seeking a win.
Of the more than 700,000 residents of the capital of the United States, 10,000 of those are actively working in the interests of a foreign power. The city is filled with federal employees, military personnel, contractors, and more who are actively working for the United States government, and some are working to betray its biggest secrets to the highest bidder.
It’s an estimate from the DC-based international spy museum – and it’s an estimate with which the FBI agrees.
If only it were this easy.
“It’s unprecedented — the threat from our foreign adversaries, specifically China on the economic espionage and the espionage front,” Brian Dugan, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Counterintelligence with the FBI’s Washington Field Office told DC-based WTOP news.
According to the FBI, spies are no longer the stuff of Cold War-era dead drops, foreign embassy personnel, and conversations in remote parks. For much of the modern era, a spy was an undercover diplomat or other embassy staffer. No more. Now you can believe they are students, colleagues, and even that friend of yours who joined your kickball team on the National Mall. Anyone can be a spy.
Ever watch “The Americans”? That sh*t was crazy.
There are 175 foreign embassies and other diplomatic buildings in the DC area. In those work tens of thousands of people with links to foreign powers. This doesn’t even cover the numbers of foreign exchange students, international business people, and visiting professors that come to the city every year – not to mention the number of Americans recruited by spies to act on their government’s behalf (whether they know it or not).
The worst part is that spies these days are so skilled at their craft, we may never realize what they’re doing at all, and if we do, it will be much too late to stop them.
It would be super helpful if they wore their foreign military uniforms all the time.
“Everybody in the espionage business is working undercover. So if they’re in Washington, they’re either in an embassy or they’re a businessman and you can’t tell them apart because they never acknowledge what they’re doing.” said Robert Baer, who was a covert CIA operative for decades. “And they’re good, so they leave no trace of their communications.”
He says the dark web, alone with advanced encryption algorithms means a disciplined, cautious spy may never get caught by the FBI for selling the secrets that come with their everyday work, be it in government, military, defense contractors, or otherwise.
By now, everyone who follows the fight against terrorism will know that there was an unsuccessful VBIED attack on Aug. 30 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in which a suicide bomber attempted to ram the embassy gates before detonating. This attack only managed to kill one person – the bomber – though it wounded several others. In the past year, Kyrgyzstan’s authorities have successfully foiled multiple alleged plots and an estimated 500 of its citizens are believed to be in territory controlled by ISIL. Whether or not ISIL eventually claims credit for this attack, it will likely have been carried out by ethnically Uighur separatists from Western China – a population that not only has a presence in ISIL’s ranks, but also is actively being trained for attacks on Chinese targets by Dutch jihadi Israfil Yilmaz.
The ongoing conflict between East Turkestan separatists/Uighur jihadists and the Chinese government has been at a low-broil for decades. Strict movement controls, an intense intelligence collection apparatus with an emphasis on big data analysis, and a heavy occupying presence in Muslim majority areas of China will largely continue to prevent successful mass casualty attacks against prestige targets. However, small-scale incidents, such as stabbings and rudimentary IED attacks, continue to affect cities in Western China from time to time – probably more than is possible to independently verify, given the inability of Western journalists to report in these areas.
In the meantime, at risk of sounding cliché, China is rising. President Xi Jinping has embarked on a well-known effort to modernize China’s oversized, lumbering, corrupt, Cold War-era military into an efficient, combat-ready force ready for contingencies wherever they occur – from the South China Sea to the transportation infrastructure in its Western near-abroad known as the New Silk Road. This “Silk Road” seeks to modernize the ancient trade route of the same name and will undoubtedly re-orient Central Asian economies towards China.
These Central Asian countries, run by aging autocrats, are universally known as some of the least free nations in the world and are potential tinderboxes. They clamp down heavily on religion (the local religion is largely Sunni Islam). They rely on trade with Russia and high energy prices – and energy prices have been low for a while now. They have restive and young populations. Saudi Wahhabis fund unemployed youths’ spiritual journeys, and some of these very youths are already trained and combat-experienced from battlefields in Syria, Iraq, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Expect more attacks against Chinese targets where and when possible.
So what does this imply for the United States? Several things, but it does not mean a straightforward area of potential military and diplomatic cooperation. China will likely reluctantly find itself more combat-experienced than it currently is (it last fought a war in 1979 against Vietnam – it did not go well for China). It will bring China to the world stage like never before as it picks up the slack it previously left for the US alone. However, China has signaled strongly that is not aligned with US counter-terrorism policy. When the heartbreaking video of wounded Syrian child Omran Daqneesh emerged, Chinese state-media ridiculed it as faked, saying that he was “eligible for an Oscar.” The People’s Liberation Army has instituted a training mission for Syrian forces (taking place safely in Mainland China). In other words, China is stepping up – and will continue to step up – but it will do so in a manner more aligned with Russia and Iran than with the United States and NATO.
Many Western analysts believe that for a country of its size, China really ought to do more to stabilize the world. Given what we know about the Chinese government and Xi’s modus operandus, and given the pressure China will be under from its nationalist netizens should a more successful attack against Chinese interests occur, we should be careful what we wish for. China stepping up will not mean closer partnership with the United States.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has approved Gen. Joseph Dunford’s nomination for a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
By voice vote on Sept. 27, members of the panel recommended the full Senate consider the selection of Dunford. He’s a highly respected, combat-hardened commander who’s received high marks from Republicans and Democrats.
Dunford completes his first term Sept. 30. The committee held his confirmation hearing Sept. 26, with just days to spare to give him another tour of duty.
Trump in May nominated Dunford to serve a second two-year term as chairman as most military leaders serve two terms. President Barack Obama had tapped Dunford for the job.
Dunford took over as chairman on Oct. 1, 2015, after one year as commandant of the Marine Corps.
The way the leader of tightly controlled Turkmenistan sees it, there’s an ancient remedy for warding off the coronavirus: burning a wild herb known as hamala.
Belarus’s authoritarian president had similarly folksy advice for cabinet ministers and his fellow countrymen: go out and work in the fields. And ride a tractor.
Global leaders and medical experts are struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, imposing quarantines, shutting down borders, mandating mask use, and bolstering the capabilities of infectious disease-fighting medical workers. Scientists, meanwhile, are rushing to find a vaccine and a cure for the disease that has killed more than 7,500 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Many officials are also struggling to prevent the spread of half-truths, misinformation, and unscientific remedies — something that is even harder in the era of social media and instantaneous communication — and even propaganda.
The coronavirus “outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ — an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” the WHO said in a report issued in early February.
Garlic, vitamin C, steroids, essential oils? Despite what you might read on Facebook or VK, the Russian social network, there’s no scientific evidence any of these things will combat the coronavirus.
With a view to highlighting the problem of misinformation, and nudging people toward reliable, authoritative sources, here’s a look at some of the more outlandish remedies that some leaders have – wrongly – suggested would help fight the coronavirus.
In Turkmenistan, one of the most oppressive societies in the world, the country has been ruled for years by authoritarian leaders with a penchant for quixotic quirks and health recommendations.
Before his death in 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov, who called himself the Father Of All Turkmen, routinely dispensed spiritual guidance, not to mention public-health advice, to the country, messaging that was widely disseminated by state TV and newspapers. In 2005, the country’s physicians were ordered to spurn the Hippocratic Oath — the ancient pledge used worldwide by medical workers — and instead swear an oath to Niyazov, an electrical engineer by training.
His successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, is a dentist by training. But that hasn’t stopped him from building a personality cult similar to Niyazov’s — or from offering unfounded medical advice, most recently on March 13, when he chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the looming dangers of the coronavirus.
“Over the millennia, our ancestors have developed proven national methods of combating addictions and preventing various infectious diseases,” he said.
He went on to suggest that burning an herb known as hamala, or wild rue, would destroy viruses “that are invisible to the naked eye.”
In fact, this is not true.
In December, Turkmen state TV featured a program discussing veterinary remedies for farmers coping with an outbreak of disease among cattle. Among the remedies being offered were those featured in a book authored by Berdymukhammedov.
A year earlier, the Health Ministry offered medical advice to Turkmen dealing with summer respiratory ailments. Among the tips: “use medicinal teas scientifically described in the book of … Berdymukhammedov’s Plants of Turkmenistan.”
As of March 18, Turkmenistan had reported no confirmed cases of infection.
Reap What You Sow
Over more than two decades of ruling Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has also routinely dispensed folksy wisdom to his countrymen.
Prior to the presidency, Lukashenka headed a Soviet-style collective farm operation, which is where he has drawn his suggestions and medicinal folklore from in the past.
On March 16, he hosted a meeting of cabinet officials in Minsk, where he sought to head off mounting concerns about the coronavirus in the country. As of March 17, it had 17 confirmed cases.
At the meeting, which was televised on state TV, he told officials “we have lived through other viruses. We’ll live through this one,” he said.
“You just have to work, especially now, in a village,” Lukashenka said. “In the countryside, people are working in the fields, on tractors, no one is talking about the virus.”
“There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone,” he said.
Lukashenka wished his ministers good health and offered this other piece of health advice: Go have a good sweat in a dry sauna; the coronavirus, according to Lukashenka, dies at 60 degrees Celsius.
In fact, there’s no evidence that tractors, saunas, or fieldwork have any effect on the coronavirus.
As of March 18, Serbia had 83 confirmed cases of the virus.
Three weeks prior, as officials across the world were beginning to take concerns about the coronavirus’s spread seriously, President Aleksandar Vucic met with health specialists to discuss the measures being taken by his government.
He joked that alcohol — ingested — might very well be a useful salve.
“After they told me — and now I see that Americans insist it’s true — that the coronavirus doesn’t grow wherever you put alcohol, I’ve now found myself an additional reason to drink one glass a day,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with that alcohol [liquor], I just made that up for you to know.”
It didn’t help matters that, earlier on, Vucic’s foreign minister, had gone on Serbian TV to suggest that the virus was a foreign plot targeting the Chinese economy.
Belarus’s Lukashenka, meanwhile, echoed Vucic’s quip about vodka himself earlier this week.
“I’m a nondrinker, but recently I’ve been jokingly saying that you should not only wash your hands with vodka, but that probably 40-50 grams of pure alcohol will poison this virus,” Lukashenka said.
In fact, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure the coronavirus, or any other virus inside the body. Alcohol can, in fact, help kill germs and viruses externally, but washing your hands with vodka will not.
Holy Water, Holy Virus
While political leaders have been confusing people with unhelpful medicinal folklore, they aren’t the only leaders to do so.
Some clerics in a number of Orthodox countries — Russia included — have spurned medical guidance that has warned the coronavirus can be transmitted via close physical contact, or bodily fluids, such as droplets in the air, or saliva on utensils.
Metropolitan Ilarion, a top official in the Russian Orthodox Church, told state media that the church will not be closing parishes for services during the period leading up to Easter, which is to be celebrated on April 19.
Ilarion also told Rossia-24 TV that church leaders do not believe that any “virus or disease can be transmitted through communion” — the religious rite of eating bread and sipping wine during a church service.
Still, he indicated that the church would consider changes to things like the use of a communion spoon, used to give blessed wine to parishioners.
“But if it comes to bans or recommendations that we are obliged to follow, then in some cases single-use [disposable] spoons will be used,” he said.
On March 17, he went further.
“This does not mean that the church underestimates the threat. If the virus spreads and the number of infected grows, if new orders from the authorities appear regarding the fight against the coronavirus, the church will respond to them,” he was quoted as telling Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
He said church leaders were taking other unusual steps, including the use of disposable cups, disposable rubber gloves, and a suspension of the practice of kissing the cross or religious icons — a common practice in Orthodox tradition.
Two days earlier, however, at least one Orthodox parish, in the Volga River city of Kazan, was using a reusable “holy spoon” to administer communion wine.
As of March 18, Russia had 114 confirmed cases.
Meanwhile, in Georgia (38 confirmed cases), Orthodox priests were reportedly continuing to use a common spoon to ladle communion into the drinking cups of worshippers who chose that option. And the Greek Orthodox Church also echoed Ilarion’s unfounded insistence that viruses could not spread via Communion.
Other Georgian Orthodox priests, meanwhile, took to the roads this week to try and curtail, or cure, the coronavirus, driving around Tbilisi sprinkling holy water on cars and drivers alike.
The Truman sailed into the Arctic Circle on Oct. 19, 2019, to conduct operations in the Norwegian Sea. After years of operations in warmer climates, leaders had to think carefully about the gear they’d need to survive operations in the frigid conditions.
“We had to open a lot of old books to remind ourselves how to do operations up there,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said this week during the McAleese Defense Programs Conference, an annual program in Washington, D.C.
In one of those books was a tip for the Truman’s crew from a savvy sailor who knew what it would take to combat ice buildup on the flattop.
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
“[It said] ‘Hey, when you get out to do this, when you head on out, don’t forget to bring a bunch of baseball bats,'” Richardson said. “‘There’s nothing like bashing ice off struts and masts and bulkheads like a baseball bat, so bring a bunch of Louisville Sluggers.’
“And we did,” the CNO said.
Operating in those conditions is likely to become more common. Rising temperatures are melting ice caps and opening sea lanes that weren’t previously passable, Richardson said.
But it takes a different set of skill sets than today’s generation is used to, he added.
“Getting proficiency in doing flight operations in heavy seas, in cold seas — just operating on deck in that type of environment is a much different stress than doing flight operations on a deck that’s 120 degrees in the Middle East,” Richardson said. “You’ve got to recapture all these skills in heavy seas.”
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor M. DiMartino)
The Truman’s push into the Arctic was part of an unpredictable deployment model it followed last year. For years, the Navy got good at taking troops and gear to the Middle East, hanging out there for as long as possible, and then coming home.
Now, Richardson said, there’s a different set of criteria.
“We’re going to be moving these maneuver elements much more flexibly,” he said. “Perhaps unpredictably around the globe, so we’re not going to be back and forth, back and forth.”
The Truman sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar after leaving Norfolk, Virginia, last spring. The carrier stopped in the Eastern Mediterranean, where it carried out combat missions against the Islamic State group and trained with NATO allies.