This is earth's real first line of defense against asteroid strikes - We Are The Mighty
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This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

To be big enough to kill all life on Earth, all an asteroid has to do is kick up enough dust to cloud the atmosphere, change the climate, and cause a global extinction. To do so, the asteroid must be larger than 270 meters across — and there are millions of asteroids that size relatively close to Earth. How do we defend against random destruction or an extinction-level event?


The meteor that killed the dinosaurs is estimated to be three to ten miles in diameter. Much smaller than that is the Apophis asteroid, at the aforementioned 270 meters across. Apophis will pass close enough to earth to hit communication satellites in 2029 – and NASA was worried it could shift orbit enough in that pass to make contact in 2036.

It’s not just Apophis. NASA is always watching near-earth objects for potential disasters, tracking 18,000 globally. What they do when they see one is still up for debate. Are they equipped to handle it? Will the Space Force be operational by then? Who will step in and save Earth’s population from extinction from above.

 

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes
No. No no no no no no no no no.

That’s where the B612 Foundation comes in. This group works towards protecting the Earth from asteroid impacts

through discovery and deflection. The NGO is dedicated to all planetary defense issues. This group of physicists, astronomers, engineers, and astronauts is looking out for you – and are motivated to do it.

They warn that there’s a 100-perfect likeliness that Earth will get hit by an asteroid in the future, they just aren’t sure when. It could have been in April 2017, when a “huge object” narrowly missed Earth. Earth saw that one coming, but it’s what we can’t see that worries B612.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes
Sucker punch!

Detection is difficult. NASA estimates that at least 1,000 near-earth objects are discovered every year, but that a potential 10,000 remain undiscovered. Once we find them, destroying them is a matter of contention as well. Lasers and nuclear weapons are considered, but B612 recommends a “space tractor” to fly alongside the heavenly body and pull it into a different orbit.

If an asteroid does hit Earth, all our troubles will be over (we’ll be dead). But for those looking to survive, you need to prepare for high, hot winds and shock waves first and foremost. Those will do the most killing of life on Earth — roughly 60 percent. But also be prepared for tsunamis, seismic activity, debris, and heat. Unrelenting heat.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes
But what do you know about that?

MIGHTY CULTURE

The fall of Soviet Russia hysterically explained through memes

The reign of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (or USSR) came to a screeching halt in 1991. After 68 years of reign, the collective of socialist countries were dissolved and reformed into new borders and republic entities.

This month, we look back on the August Coup, when Soviet Communists failed their takeover, and eventually, to the dissolution to the Soviet Union as a whole.


Take a look at the best memes we found commemorating this important event in world history.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

(Know Your Meme)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

(Reddit)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

(Memecenter)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

(Me.me)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

(Imgflip)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

(Makeameme)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

(memes-4ever.tumblr.com)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

(Ballmemes)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes
This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

Ice Age baby is actually to blame after all.

What’s your favorite USSR meme? Tell us below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This company owns a private fleet of aerial refueling tankers

The fact that there are some private air forces out there flying fighters to train American (and other) pilots may be a surprise. But did you know that there’s also a company that built its own tanker fleet?


Omega Air Refueling has been around for nearly 20 years and claims to be the only company that does commercial aerial refueling. The company was formed in 1999 as a subsidiary of Flight International prior to becoming independent in 2004, and has flown over 5,000 refueling missions since its formation.

According to company reps at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo at National Harbor, Maryland, those 5,000 missions have included over 21,000 refueling “plugs” involving over 12 million gallons of fuel.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes
The Omega 707 tanker. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

The first plane the company acquired was a Boeing 707-300 that used to fly for Pan Am. Since then, it acquired two other 707s (losing one in a 2012 crash), and a DC-10. The company has not only provided commercial aerial refueling services to the United States Navy, but it also has helped Australian and British forces make long-range deployments.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes
Omega’s KDC-10. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

All of Omega’s tankers use the probe-and-drogue system of refueling. The 707s and the DC-10 trail drogues at the end of hoses. Planes equipped with a refueling probe then fly in, and plug the probe into the drogue to refuel. This can lead to close calls, like some that WATM reported on.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes
An Omega 707 refuels the X-47B over the Atlantic Ocean. (US Navy photo)

The company’s planes were used to help certify the Navy’s X-47 unmanned combat air vehicle for mid-air refueling. In 2010, Omega helped to fill in when Airbus missed a deadline to deliver KC-30s to the Royal Australian Air Force (the company also turned to the United States Air Force).

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes
A plane comes in to refuel from Omega’s KDC-10. Note the drogue at the end of the fuel hose. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

Ironically, while the company was founded to help support the Navy and Marine Corps, many of its tanker pilots come from the United States Air Force, which operates KC-135 and KC-10 tankers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pakistani military allegedly hacked US and partner phones

The Pakistani military allegedly coordinated a surveillance operation which collected data from US, UK, and Australian officials and diplomats.

Researchers from US mobile-security company Lookout found Western officials were unintentionally caught up in a data-gathering operation which used surveillanceware tools dubbed Stealth Mango (for Android) and Tangel (for iOS).


In a report released in May 2018, Lookout researchers said they believe Pakistani military members were responsible for hacks targeting civilians, government officials, diplomats, and military personnel in Pakistan, India, Iraq and the UAE.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes
US military hardware
(Lookout photo)

“These tools have been part of a highly targeted intelligence gathering campaign we believe is
operated by members of the Pakistani military,” the report read. “Our investigation indicates this actor has used these surveillanceware tools to successfully compromise the mobile devices of government officials, members of the military, medical professionals, and civilians.”

According to Lookout, which analyzed 15gb of compromised data, perpetrators largely targeted victims via phishing messages which linked to a third-party Android app store.

Once a surveillanceware app was downloaded it was able to access text messages, audio recordings, photos, calendars, contact lists for apps including Skype, and the phone’s GPS location. It also had the ability to detect when a victim was driving and turn off SMS and internet reception during that time.

On at least one occasion the app store URL was sent via Facebook messenger which, according to Lookout, suggests “the attackers are using fake personas to connect with their targets and coerce them into installing the malware onto their devices.”

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes
A letter from the Pakistan High Commission to the US Ambassador.
(Lookout photo)

The individuals targeted in this campaign unknowingly gave hackers access to pictures of IDs and passports, the GPS locations of photos, legal and medical documents, internal government communications, and photos of military and government officials from closed-door meetings.

Officials and civilians from the US and Iran, as well as British and Australian diplomats, were not targeted in the operation but their data was compromised after interacting with Stealth Mango victims.

Some of the victims’ compromised data included:

  • A letter from the United States Central Command to the Afghanistan Assistant Minister of Defense for Intelligence
  • A letter from the High Commission for Pakistan to the United States Director of the Foreign Security Office Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Details of visits to Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan by Australian Diplomats
  • Details of visits to Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan by German Diplomats
  • Photos of Afghan and Pakistani military officials

It’s unknown when Stealth Mango was launched, but its latest release was made in April 2018.

Lookout believes it was created by freelance developers with physical presences in Pakistan, India, and the United States, but actively managed by actors in Pakistan who are most likely members of the military.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes
Australian diplomat’s travel details in Pakistan.
(Lookout photo)

The main developer is thought to be a full-time app creator. Lookout suspects he once worked for a company based in Sydney, Australia. On LinkedIn, most of the company’s employees are based in Pakistan.

When contacted by Lookout, Google said the apps used in this operation were not available on the Google Play Store, but “Google Play Protect has been updated to protect user devices from these apps and is in the process of removing them from all affected devices.”

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

Articles

7 life lessons we learned from the grunts in ‘Platoon’

With so many war movies out there to choose from, not many come from the direct perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was Vietnam.


Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into the highly political time in American history where the war efforts of our service men and women were predominantly overlooked as they returned home.

The son of a successful stockbroker, Stone dropped out of Yale in the 60s and joined the Army, becoming one of the first American troops to arrive in Vietnam.

Related: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Here’s what he taught us:

1. Respect is only earned, never issued.

Chris Taylor, played by Charlie Sheen, just landed in the “Nam” with a fresh shave and a stainless uniform. Before saying a word to anyone, he was automatically picked apart by war-harden soldiers passing by.

In war and in life, it doesn’t matter how you start the game — it’s how you finish it.

“Welcome to the suck, boot.” (Image via Giphy)

2. You have to keep up

Being in the infantry is one of the toughest and most dangerous jobs ever. You don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest, but you need to pull your own weight…literally.

Move it! Move it!  Move it! (Image via Giphy)

3. Staying positive

In the eyes of a “newbie,” the world can seem and feel like one big sh*t show — especially if you’re burning a barrel of sh*t with diesel fuel.

Finding new ways to approach a bad situation can boost morale — especially when you have a lot of time left in the bush.

Negativity can get you hurt, positivity can get you through it. (Image via Giphy)

4. We’re all the same

Regardless of what your race, religion, or education level — when it comes down to being a soldier in a dangerous combat zone, none of those aspects means a thing.

Preach! (image via Giphy)

5. Never quit

Sgt. Elias, by played Willem Dafoe, was intentionally left behind by Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) with the hope the V.C. would kill him off.

Although Elias struggled to stay in the fight, after taking several AK-47’s rounds, he showed the world he’s truly a warrior.

His back must have been killing him. (Image via Giphy)

6. War changes a man

The bright-eyed bushy-tailed boy that showed up in the beginning isn’t the thousand yard staring man who stands in front of you now.

Kill! (image via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

7. Brotherhood

When you break into the circle of brotherhood, there’s no better feeling.

Safe travels. (Image via Giphy)To all of our Vietnam war veterans, everyone at We Are The Mighty salutes you.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘Starship Troopers’ is on every military reading list

It’s safe to say that the vast majority of troops and veterans today have seen the 1997 film, Starship Troopers. It’s an expertly crafted film and its tasteful use of special effects (for late 90s, anyway) was beyond astounding.

The film is terrific in its own right, but Robert A. Heinlein’s novel, upon which the movie is (loosely) based, elevated the science fiction genre and has a place on nearly every single required reading list created by the United States military. If you’re a young private in the Marines or a battalion commander in the Army, you will be asked to read this classic — and this is why.


This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

In case you were wondering, these were the Skinnies. 10,000 of them were killed with only one human death.

(Mongoose Publishing)

Technically speaking, the film was originally based off an unrelated script for a film called Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine until the production team realized that it only had a passing resemblance to the novel. This lead to many of the significant differences between the two and a drastic change of tone.

The adaptation of the original script to film lead to more of a statement on how propaganda affects the troops fighting in a war in a satirical manner. The novel, however, uses the Bugs as a stand-in character for some nameless enemy to focus in on the novel’s theme of the mindset of a soldier fighting a seemingly unstoppable force.

This is immediately made clear in the first paragraph of the novel.

“I always get the shakes before a drop. I’ve had the injections, of course, and hypnotic preparation, and it stands to reason that I can’t really be afraid. The ship’s psychiatrist has checked my brain waves and asked me silly questions while I was asleep and he tells me that it isn’t fear, it isn’t anything important — it’s just like the trembling of an eager race horse in the starting gate.

I couldn’t say about that; I’ve never been a race horse. But the fact is: I’m scared silly, every time.”

Contrary to what you’d expect if you’ve only watched the film, they’re actually fighting a different alien than the Arachnids (at first.) The first enemies were called “skinnies” and were essentially just tall, lanky, human-like aliens that didn’t really cause a threat to the humans. Their entire Army is easily wiped out by just a single platoon but the prospect of war still frightened Johnny Rico, the stories protagonist.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

Hate to break it to anyone expecting giant bug battles in the novel…but it’s fairly light on the fight scenes.

(TriStar Pictures)

After the battle, the story flashes back to Rico’s time as a civilian before the Mobile Infantry. The idea of “service equals citizenship” had a different meaning in the novel. Despite the world being under the unified “Terran Federation,” the military and its veterans were treated as a higher caste than non-military people. You literally had to join the military to become a citizen.

This hyperbole was just as relevant in 1950’s society (as it is today in the military community). Despite the fact that signing up is a fantastic way to get benefits in our world, and definitely in the novel’s world, military service is often discouraged and looked down on — as demonstrated through Rico’s father.

The novel spends a lot of time in boot camp for the Mobile Infantry. It shows the deeper motivations about what it takes to be in the military — mainly the forced brotherhood, the “one team, one fight” mentality, and the loss of personal identity that comes with service. Which eventually leads to the “Bug War” when the Arachnids destroy Rico’s home city of Buenos Aires.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

The novel also misattributes the quote “Come on, you ape, do you want to live forever” to an unknown platoon sergeant in 1918 — as if it wasn’t the greatest thing ever spoken by the greatest enlisted Marine of all time, Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly.

(TriStar Pictures)

The troops are overzealous and believe they can handle it. Despite Rico being the only one personally affected by the attack, he’s also one of the only ones not to refer to the Arachnids as “bugs,” which was highly implied to have racial undertones. He instead keeps a level facade while remaining terrified. The first chapter happens around here. This is the exact mindset of many troops right before they’re sent to deploy.

When the Mobile Infantry arrives on Klendathu, it’s a complete disaster — the exact opposite of the battle with the skinnies. The Arachnids were massive and though the humans had the firepower, it was no match for the unstoppable numbers of their enemy.

Rico finally gets his chance to fight the Arachnids with the Rasczak’s Roughnecks. He and his men capture a Brain Bug and begin learning more about the “bug” society. It mirrored their own except the Warriors were the lowest caste fighting for an apathetic queen. Rico learns that aimlessly tossing troops at the problem would only result in more and more deaths.

The novel ends with a coda of the first chapter as Rico is about to make his drop onto Klendathu with confidence. He does this because he learned the value of military strategy — the one thing the Arachnids lacked.

Starship Troopers makes heavy parallels between the Mobile Infantry and Arachnids. It’s often incorrectly believed by casual readers, or those without knowledge of the military, that the novel promotes fascism and militarism — it doesn’t.

If anything, the novel explores the psyche of the troops as they head off into combat — it just utilizes an extreme science fiction setting to do it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the first all-female aircrew of the Air Force’s ‘Combat King’

For some people, making history is not about what they’re doing but instead why they’re doing it.

On Sept. 6, 2019, six airmen from the 347th Rescue Group completed the HC-130J Combat King II’s first flight to be operated by an all-female aircrew.

While most would be excited just to make history, this crew’s “why” is less about the recognition but more about representation.

“We don’t want to be noticed for being women,” said Senior Airmen Rachel Bissonnette, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster. “Any person who meets the bar can be an aircrew member. What we want is for the girls who think they can’t do it, to know that they can.”


This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmasters prepare to load a container delivery system on to the ramp of an HC-130J Combat King II, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

Capt. Sarah Edwards, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) pilot, prepares for takeoff in the cockpit of an HC-130J Combat King II at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) pilots prepare for takeoff in the cockpit of an HC-130J Combat King II at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

Senior Airman Rachel Bissonnette, left, and Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, right, both 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmasters, look out the back of an HC-130J Combat King II as it flies over south Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster, visually confirms the target for a loadmaster-directed rescue drop, Sept. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmasters preform a loadmaster-directed pararescue-bundle drop, Sept. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

Tech. Sgt. Colleen McGahuey-Ramsey, 71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) loadmaster, visually confirms the target for a loadmaster directed rescue drop, Sept. 6, 2019.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

71st Rescue Squadron (RQS) pilots fly an HC-130J Combat King II, Sept. 6, 2019.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

Lomax, Edwards, Bissonnette, Weisz, McGahuey-Ramsey, and Barden after the HC-130J Combat King II’s first flight with an all-female aircrew, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, Sept. 6, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaylin P. Hankerson)

The crew and leadership from the 347th Rescue Group expressed that their “why” has more to do with future than it does the past.

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

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The prisoner exchange before every Army-Navy game

Before kickoff at Dec. 8, 2018’s Army-Navy football game, seven cadets and seven midshipmen will walk to mid field to be traded back to their home academies.

The annual prisoner exchange ceremony is part of the Service Academy Exchange Program where students from each of the four service academies are exchanged to spend the fall semester at an academy other than their own. In 2018, seven U.S. Military Academy cadets and seven Naval Academy midshipmen are taking part in the exchange between the two schools.


The students enrolled in the program spend the semester living at their exchange academy, taking classes and training with fellow future leaders in the American military. The program has roots dating back to 1945 when West Point cadets and Naval Academy midshipmen did a weekend long exchange program. The program expanded to a semester long in 1975 and has continued ever since.

Prisoner Exchange

youtu.be

Second Class cadets, or Cows, from West Point can participate in the exchange, but must go through a competitive selection process. In 2018, seven cadets are at each the Naval and Air Force academies and five are at the Coast Guard Academy for the fall semester.

“I wanted to participate in the Navy exchange program because it provided a great opportunity to learn more about another service academy and about two other branches of the U.S. Armed Forces,” Class of 2020 Cadet Kevin Rinkliff said. “Despite the rivalry, we are both on the same side of the fight, and I knew that learning more about the experiences of Naval Academy midshipmen would be beneficial if I ever get the opportunity to work with Navy or Marine Corps Officers in the future.”

While they will stay at their exchange academy through the end of the semester before returning to their home academy in January 2019, the cadets and midshipmen will have the chance to sit with their home academy during the Army Navy game Dec. 8, 2018.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

U.S. Military Academy cadets run back to their seating area after the prisoner exchange before the 2017 Army-Navy game.

(US Army photo)

Prior to the start of the game, the midshipmen spending the semester at West Point will be led to midfield by the USMA first captain and the West Point cadets will be brought out by the USNA brigade commander. The two academy leaders will then exchange their prisoners before returning to their seating sections, allowing the cadets and midshipmen to cheer on their teams from friendly areas.

“I’m very excited for the prisoner exchange,” Class of 2020 Cadet Nathaniel Buss said. “My family will be at the game this year, and I’m looking forward to the last about-face before we run back to the Corps of Cadets. I can’t wait to be reunited with my cadet friends that I haven’t seen for a semester.”

Col. Ty Seidule, the head of the West Point history department, said he is unsure when the prisoner exchange itself became a tradition, but he believes it would have started soon after the semester long exchanges became an annual event so cadets and midshipmen wouldn’t be in hostile territory during the rivalry game.

“The prisoner exchange will likely be one of the biggest highlights of my cadet career,” Class of 2020 Cadet Daine Van de Wall said. “Not only do I get to represent my school out on the field, but I also get to then run back and cheer on the Army team with my closest friends. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The rise and fall of USPS


Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Every year, the United States Postal Service takes and delivers 142 billion mailed items. If it needs to go from point A to point B anywhere in the US, the post office can do it. It survived the Civil War, two world wars, the Great Depression, and the upheaval brought by the internet and email.

But it’s currently more than 0 billion in debt, and it’s telling Congress it will run out of cash by September and needs a billion infusion. How did this happen?

The US Postal Service has been delivering mail since before the Declaration of Independence was even signed. In 1775, Benjamin Franklin was appointed postmaster general, and it was Franklin who handled the distribution of letters from Congress to its armies during the Revolutionary War. President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, which authorized Congress to create the US Postal Service. This established routes and made it illegal to open anyone’s mail.

Clip: What matter if it took two weeks to go from New York to Atlanta, over a month to St. Louis? If the letter from Uncle Ben arrived a day or so later, nobody fussed.

Narrator: In 1823, it started using waterways to deliver mail, then began using railroads. 1847 saw the first issued stamps. And then the famed Pony Express debuted in 1860. In 1896, it began delivering to some rural addresses, meaning residents no longer had to go to the town post office to get their mail. By 1923, all houses were required to have a mail slot. And in 1963, zip codes made their debut.

Clip: What a system! As you can plainly see, just five little numbers, quick as can be.

Narrator: But what really transformed the post office into what we know today? That happened a few years later.

Clip: The post office stands to be swamped, overwhelmed, drowned in a sea of mail. Where do we go from here?

Narrator: In 1967, the postmaster general testified before Congress that the post office was in “a race with catastrophe.” There were all sorts of backlogs, and sorting-room floors were bursting with unsorted mail. Combined with a postal worker strike in March of 1970, led to the Postal Reorganization Act and established the United States Postal Service as we know it today.

Clip: The Post Office Department is leading the search for better ways to process and dispatch mail in the shortest time possible.

Narrator: The act eliminated the post office from the president’s cabinet and made the post office its own federal agency. It was set up more like a corporation than a government agency and had an official monopoly on the delivery of letter mail in the US. It also set up the elimination of the post office’s direct government subsidies, which were completely phased out in 1982. The post office has been operating without any taxpayer money since.

Competition from UPS and FedEx made the post office innovate on its offerings, like introducing express mail. But since its most lucrative service was first-class mail, the USPS didn’t have to worry too much about competing with other companies. In fact, the post office has partnered with both companies in the past, like when it signed a deal in 2000 that contracted its air delivery of first-class, priority, and express mail to FedEx.

So, basically, the USPS was fine. First-class mail volume peaked in 2001 at 103.6 billion pieces of mail. It operated at a loss in the first couple years of the 21st century, but by 2003, it was back to operating at a profit. In fact, from 2003 through 2006, USPS recorded a total .3 billion profit. That all changed at the end of 2006.

Clip: HR 6407, a bill to reform the postal laws of the United States.

Narrator: Enter the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush. Up until this point, the post office added to and removed from its retiree pension and healthcare accounts on an ongoing basis, putting money in as needed, based on its current retirees. This model is similar to the way many other companies and corporations fund their own healthcare pensions. This act changed all that.

It required the post office to calculate all of its retiree pension and healthcare costs for the next 75 years, including for people it hadn’t even hired yet, and put away enough over the next 10 years to cover them. To put this in perspective, that’d be like you only working from age 18 to 28 and then expecting to live on that income until you were 103 years old.

The timing for this was not ideal, either. Email, texting, and online payments had begun to chip away at the post office’s main business, first-class mail, which had slowly been declining since its 2001 peak. But even that decline wouldn’t put the post office in the negative.

If not for the 75-year pension and healthcare obligation, the USPS would have reported operating profits for the last six years. Once the bill was enacted, USPS had to contribute about .6 billion a year for people who had not yet retired, in addition to the normal amount for current retirees. In 2006, prior to the new bill, this was id=”listicle-2646188290″.6 billion for those who were already retired. In 2007, USPS had to put away 625% more, about billion, to cover both current and future retirees. This gave the post office an annual loss of more than billion for the year.

Additionally, the new bill restricted the post office’s ability to set prices. First-class mail, marketing mail, and other products the post office does not have a large competition for were all tied to the consumer price index, meaning it couldn’t increase rates for those products above the rate of inflation. This has caused various problems, like in 2009, when prices couldn’t be raised at all on those products, because there was no inflation.

The rule has created an environment where packages are the post office’s only profitable area. By 2010, the post office’s overall debt, which was just over billion in 2006, had climbed to billion. It sounded the alarm to Congress multiple times and was also the subject of a 2018 Trump administration report saying the pension obligation should be restructured. But nothing changed. In its most recent annual report, the post office said it had incurred almost billion in losses from 2007 to 2019. It couldn’t afford to make any payments into the fund from 2012 to 2016 and now owes about billion related to its future pension and health benefit obligations.

Which brings us to today. As with many other industries, the coronavirus has taken its toll on the post office. First-class and marketing mail have plummeted, and the post office expects a billion decline in revenue. The postmaster general has told Congress she expects the USPS to be completely out of cash by September. This would make it unable to pay its employees and could quickly cause disaster in mail delivery across the country, especially in rural areas not serviced by UPS and FedEx. So, can it be saved?

The post office is now asking Congress for a billion cash infusion along with a billion loan. The initial bailout bill Congress passed in March provided billion for the post office, far less than the billion the organization was seeking in the bill. However, President Trump threatened to veto any bill that bailed out the post office, so the bill was changed before signing to a billion loan, 13% of the billion it had originally asked for and another billion to add to its debt.

And then, in early May, Trump appointed Louis DeJoy the new postmaster general, and he will take the reins of the organization on June 15. Unlike the last three postmaster generals, DeJoy is not a career employee; he is a large GOP donor and the former CEO of a logistics company. Democrats and ethics watchdogs see the appointment as purely political, not just because of Trump’s desire to reshape the post office, but also because millions of Americans may be forced to vote by mail this year, which means the future of the post office is likely to become a political issue this spring and summer, especially if its cash flow starts running dry.

And those at risk? The 497,000 Americans who rely on the USPS for their jobs, and the 329 million Americans who rely on it for paying bills, medication, and everything else the USPS delivers through rain, sleet, snow, and even pandemics.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Lockheed’s new laser-guided bomb lives up to its name

Laser-guided bombs have been a mainstay of the United States military for almost 50 years, but they’re not without their downsides. Yes, they provide great accuracy, but you need to keep the target painted for maximum effect and bad weather makes laser-guidance less reliable.

Additionally, many laser-guided bombs currently in use, like the Paveway II, have a relatively short range and must be used at high altitude, meaning the plane can’t hide from radar. With improved defense systems out there, like the Russian Pantsir, keeping a target painted at close range may spell disaster for a pilot.


This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

The GBU-12, like other Paveway II systems, has relatively short range — not a good thing when advanced air defense systems can reach out and touch a plane.

(USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht)

The Paveway III system was designed to address those shortcomings. It has a longer range and can be used from lower altitudes, but the United States only bought the GBU-24, which is based off 2,000-pound bombs like the Mark 84 and BLU-109. They make a big bang, but as we’ve learned, a big bang isn’t always the best solution.

So, to bridge that gap in capabilities, Lockheed has developed Paragon, which is based off the GBU-12, a 500-pound bomb. Paragon essentially takes a laser-guided bomb and adds a combination of an internal navigation systems and global positioning system guidance, extending range and allowing for more flexibility in how a plane approaches its target.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

Lockheed-Martin’s New Paragon direct attack bomb

(Lockheed-Martin)

The Paragon has a larger “launch acceptable region” than many legacy systems. This is, in essence, the area of the sky above a target within which a pilot can drop the munition and hit their target. Older laser-guided bombs have a narrow acceptable region, making it easier to predict a plane’s approach path and fire off defense systems. The Paragon, which is capable of hitting targets on land or sea, allows for more dynamic approaches.

Of course, Paragon is also easy to integrate into the stuff professionals think about: Logistics. It uses the same test gear as JDAMs and laser-guided bombs. Integration costs, therefore, are minimized, and it is a good way to improve operational flexibility on a budget. The Paragon may prove to be a paragon of lethality.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Tom Hanks stars as a naval commander in new WWII film

A new movie uses an all-star cast to bring the Battle of the Atlantic to life this Friday.

“Greyhound,” a WWII film, stars Hollywood favorite Tom Hanks, who also helped write the screenplay. It was initially set for release in theaters, but the coronavirus pandemic forced delays until it found an ultimate home exclusively on Apple TV+.


A large portion of the movie was shot on the USS Kidd (DD-661), now serving as a museum in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The film, which hails from the book, “The Good Shepard” (1955) by C.S. Forester, tells the story of a newly-appointed ship captain (Hanks) and his crew’s vantage point through the Battle of the Atlantic. The 1942 event involved U.S. destroyers being attacked by a series of U-boats on their way to deliver supplies to Allied Forces in Europe.

“The Battle kind of fades into the background. You don’t really think about the logistics and dangers in it,” said Tim NesSmith, USS Kidd Museum superintendent and educational outreach coordinator. “It ran the length of the entire war. It was a long, drawn out, dangerous battle – against not only the enemy, but the elements of cold and ice. I hope [the movie] will bring more attention to the people who lived it.”

Considered to be the most accurate remaining destroyer from the war, the museum is a time machine, transporting visitors back 80 years and sharing the personal stories of the experience of sailors of the time.

One of four Fletcher-class destroyers that now exist as museums, the Kidd is the only ship to maintain its original WWII layout. It’s also listed by the Historic Naval Ships Association as one of the most authentically restored vessels in the world.

“Most have been modernized or structurally updated with the times,” said NesSmith.

The USS Kidd’s target restoration date is August 1945, which calls for scheduled restorations, cleanings and refurbished pieces. This schedule allowed the ship to remain as historically accurate as possible for the film NesSmith said.

After three months of prep work, the movie was filmed throughout April of 2018 on the Kidd. Other parts of the film were shot at the nearby Celtic Media Center. During the filming, NesSmith served as the site coordinator, outlining protocol by actors and crewmember and ensuring that the Kidd was not damaged.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

Tom Hanks and crew in front of the USS Kidd. Photo courtesy of Apple TV+ press.

Film director, Aaron Schneider began scouting the Kidd for their shoot 2016.

“He researched it very well,” said NesSemith. “I think it really starts at the top and works its way down. I’ve worked on smaller sets before and this was on a whole different level. There’s a lot of planning – a lot more planning than I anticipated there would be. They did a great job.

“Everyone was really concerned about what they could and couldn’t do on the ship because they didn’t want to destroy its historical accuracy.”

Some pieces of the ship were recreated, while duplicate parts were documented and rented to the crew during filming. Museum workers also worked to obtain parts from the USS Orleck (DD-886), a fearing-class destroyer, now a museum ship, that’s based in Orange, Texas.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

USS Kidd at sunset. Photo courtesy of the USS Kidd Veterans Museum.

On Greyhound’s release, NesSmith said WWII is important to remember. For him, its importance lies in average folks coming together in large numbers in order to create “the greatest fighting force that had ever been seen at that time.”

“They created freedom for those who lost it, and it’s an important story that needs to be told.”

“Greyhound” can be seen streamed starting July 10 on Apple TV+.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Fans gather with wary excitement for new ‘Watchmen’ teaser trailer

If you’re a fan of Watchmen and you’re worried about the upcoming series from HBO, rest assured: it is in the hands of a true fan as well.

Set in the same alternate history as the graphic novel, Damon Lindelof’s (Lost, Star Trek) series will take place in the modern day where superheroes are mistrusted and the vigilante Rorschach appears to have made quite the impact.

The teaser runs against the ‘tick tock’ of a timeline we can’t yet understand, but it sets a gritty and intense tone:


Watchmen | Official Tease | HBO

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‘Watchmen’ | Official Teaser Trailer

In anticipation of fan’s reactions (and also to address the reactions of original creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), Lindelof penned a lengthy (and amazing — seriously, read the whole thing) missive, which he shared on Instagram in 2018:

[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BjFsj6JHEdq/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Damon on Instagram: “Day 140.”

www.instagram.com

“Day 140”

“We have no desire to ‘adapt’ the twelve issues Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons created thirty years ago. Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted. They will, however be remixed.”

Lindelof goes on to assert that “Watchmen is canon. Just the way Mr. Moore wrote it, the way Mr. Gibbons drew it and the way the brilliant John Higgins colored it.” (By the way, the omission of an Oxford Comma here is just as Mr. Lindelof wrote in his letter, which I will discuss with him when I get the chance.)

That being said, he goes on to say that neither is this series a sequel. It will take place in the world the creators built, but it will be entirely its own — including a contemporary (albeit alternate) time period.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

“Tick tock.”

Rorschach isn’t the only character hinted at in the teaser. The ticking time clock itself harkens to Dr. Manhattan (whose father was a watchmaker) and the Doomsday Clocks that appear in the original graphic novels, counting down to catastrophe.

As for the rest, well, most of them are Oklahoma cops, who also wear masks.

The cast includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, and Adelaide Clemens. Produced for HBO by White Rabbit in association with Warner Bros. Television, based on characters from DC. It is set to debut on HBO in the fall of 2019.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Institutional operating codes: the culture of military organizations

There are many elements that make up a fighting force’s effectiveness in battle; leadership, doctrine, and equipment are most often cited as key determinants. But, as this extensive study shows, organizational culture is also an important factor. Overall, The Culture of Military Organizations convincingly shows that internal culture has an enormous influence on fighting organizations. This influence includes their approach to warfare and their performance in battle.


An institution’s culture frames what its institution values, what heroes it reveres, and what it rewards. Culture imbues an organization with a sense of mission, identity, and core competencies. Cultural influences deeply impact what members think, how they perceive problems, and how they react to them. These are reinforced by rituals and narratives, passed on to recruits and acolytes in the training and educational programs of all armed forces.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

A fighting organization’s culture emerges over an extended period, sometimes deliberately and often indirectly from victory and defeat. Culture operates internally like the operating system of a computer. Some scholars contend that culture is so deeply embedded that its existence and influence is imperceptible. In fact, military members are said to sense and act without being consciously aware that their belief system is framing their orientation and actions.

Numerous authors have researched the subject in the past.[1] Yet, it has never been comprehensively studied in a rigorous and comparative manner. This is what makes this excellent book valuable.

The editors of this anthology bring together extensive experience, from both academic and practitioner perspectives. Dr. Peter R. Mansoor, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, holds the General Raymond E. Mason, Jr. Chair of Military History at Ohio State University. Mansoor earned his PhD at Ohio State University and served as executive officer to General David Petraeus during the 2007 surge of U.S. forces in Iraq. His memoir of his tour as a brigade commander, Baghdad at Sunrise: A Brigade Commander’s War in Iraq, shows his mettle as a combat leader and student of war. Mansoor teamed up with Williamson Murray, an acclaimed U.S. historian and U.S. Air Force veteran from the Vietnam era. Murray’s best work has focused on grand strategy and military innovation and adaptation.[2] This book stands with those for relevance and historical scholarship.

The editors assembled an international cast of scholars to delve deep into their respective countries and areas of expertise through sixteen case studies. Most explore a single armed force within a particular country for a specified period of time. The book contains an introduction and framework, along with an international suite of case studies covering a range of cultures and wars, from the U.S. Civil War to the most recent conflict in Iraq. The cases examine institutional and wartime history, but stress how culture impacted its subject’s effectiveness over time.

Mansoor and Murray employ a wide definition of military culture, representing “the assumptions, ideas, norms, and beliefs, expressed or reflected in symbols, rituals, myths, and practices, that shape how an organization functions and adapts to external stimuli and that give meaning to its members.”[3] Culture is multi-dimensional, set in a large social context, and reflected in an organization’s internal practices. “A service’s culture is a complex aggregate of its attitudes,” Harold Winton has written, “toward a variety of issues including its role in war, its promotion system, its relation to other services, and its place in the society it serves.”[4]

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

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The notion that a military service has a distinctive set of values that create its personality or DNA is fairly well accepted in security studies.[5] More relevant to our current strategic context, many scholars link the limits of a rigid culture when it comes to changing military organizations and their practices. Several notable studies, including those of Elizabeth Kier and John Nagl, find organizational or military culture relevant to both peacetime innovation and wartime adaptation.[6] In Israel, Meir Finkel explored organizational flexibility and noted how critical culture was to learning and agility in wartime.[7] Murray’s own work on innovation recognizes policy makers or institutional leaders must work within or alter an existing culture to overcome barriers to change.[8]

The editors wisely commissioned two well respected researchers to establish an analytical foundation for this study. Dr. Leonard Wong and Dr. Stephen Gerras, both with the U.S. Army War College, employ two different analytical models for examining organizations. They adapted a framework generated in the commercial world, drawn from 17,000 middle managers and nearly one thousand organizations. None of the organizations involved were military. This framework is more useful for societal comparisons—which the pair recognizes, while still demonstrating the model’s analytical utility—but only within the U.S. Army. More familiar to scholars in this field was their inclusion of Edgar Schein’s list of embedding and reinforcing mechanisms. Unfortunately, this useful framework is left to the respective authors to consider, and few took up the task.

The best chapter is Richard Sinnreich’s overview of the Victorian-era British Army. This case is a common interpretation, concluding that this era embraced the English gentleman ideal of an officer corps drawn from the upper tier of society. Rigorous professional development and competitive promotions were disdained and book learning frowned upon. Sinnreich details how pre-World War I tactical modernization in the British Army was stillborn, despite the introduction of breech-loading rifles and quick-firing artillery. The tribal conformity imposed by regimental life, and a social system that deferred instinctively to one’s superiors were pressures that “tended to stifle subordinate initiative and to breed a tactically rigidity ill equipped to deal with more modern and sophisticated enemies.”[9] This all came to a head in South Africa near the end of the century, where “British regulars, including storied regiments, repeatedly were outgeneraled, outmaneuvered, and outfought by South Africa’s indifferently organized but well-armed and determined Boer militias.”[10] Readers may want to compare this interpretation of social linkages and limited intellectual development with recent scholarship.[11]

The Royal Navy is not slighted, Professor Corbin Williamson covers its evolution from 1900 to the end of the Second World War. Williamson deftly addresses the Navy’s struggle to balance near-term training against higher order education to develop competent officers in a period of rapid technological change. He quotes another scholar’s assessment: “The educational system, as it existed in 1914, lacked coherence and ambition.”[12] When the test of war emerged, the Navy lacked officers who could make an impact at the cabinet level or in theater strategy debates. Andrew Gordon’s wonderful insights from Rules of the Game are leveraged to good effect to detail how rigid naval command had become. The disappointments from Jutland influenced the Royal Navy’s reconception of command, initiative, and offensive employment, and served as the basis for a series of reforms, drawn from Lambert’s Sir John Fisher’s Naval Revolution. “Through these reforms,” Williamson concludes, “the navy reinvigorated an offensive ethos and placed a higher priority on subordinate’s initiative based on an understanding of the admiral’s intent similar to modern ‘mission command.'”[13]

Allan Millett, former Marine and author of the definitive history of the U.S. Marine Corps, writes about the intense nature of that institution’s internal operating system. Millett gives appropriate recognition to General Victor Krulak and his son, General Charles C. Krulak, as institutional innovators. But this chapter overlooked an excellent appreciation of Marine Corps change agents by Terry Terriff of the University of Calgary.[14] There are other recent works that readers will want to explore.[15] The culture of the U.S Marine Corps is going to be sorely tested in this next decade, as a generation of Marines leaves behind a half-century focus on amphibious missions, after its 15 years of counterinsurgency operations, and now attempts to redefine its identity and transition to great power competition.[16]

The U.S. Air Force has a distinctive culture, and Robert Farley superbly draws out how that institution developed an unshakable and misguided belief that high-altitude, daylight, and precision bombing was a decisive form of warfare. He correctly notes how influential the Pacific and European campaigns of World War II were to the Air Force, conflicts in which its preferred operating paradigm was severely tested by adversary counter-responses. He argues the Air Force’s fervent desire for independence promoted an element of autonomy and assertiveness that still exists today, and with studied understatement notes, “the pursuit of technological innovation has played an unusually large role in the culture of the USAF for the course of its history….”[17] This is a culture now beset by numerous priorities from air superiority fighters, stealth bombers, and remotely piloted aerial systems…and now to a competing Space Force. Farley suggests the combat experiences of the last generation has moved past its fixations with autonomy and technology, and moved towards closer interaction with other services, especially special operations. That may be the official line but the previous generation still contends airpower is even more precise and decisive.[18]

One of the distinguishing aspects of this book is the inclusion of non-Western examples. Dan Marston, now with Johns Hopkins University, provides an illuminating discussion on the Indian Army, and Gil-li Vardi’s chapter on the Israeli Defense Force is balanced. Vardi depicts the evolution of the Israeli Defence Force’s psyche; including its offensive nature and penchant for initiative and improvisation over hierarchy and directive command.

The lack of Chinese and French chapters is an obvious drawback in the book’s design. Given the increasing salience of the Chinese military today, this has to be considered a shortfall.[19] Furthermore, while the chapter on Russia was well executed, it stopped at the end of World War II, leaving readers to wonder how Russia military culture has since evolved. These weaknesses are offset by a strategic culture chapter penned by David Kilcullen, who does address Russian national culture. What he does not capture is the debate over the utility of strategic culture.[20] Some dispute its existence and use in understanding or anticipating a rival’s moves or deriving insights on how history, geography, form of government, and civil-military relations influence a state’s strategic behavior.

The editors present a selective suite of implications. They note the social links from any military to its larger culture, the criticality of military education to sustain critical thinking, and the tensions between continuity and change. Gil-li Vardi’s point about the difficulty of leveraging culture is underscored: “organizational culture is a resilient and even sluggish creature, which operates on cumulative knowledge, organically embedded into a coherent, powerful and highly restrictive mind-set.” This is the most salient feature of the study, assisting leaders in closing the gap between today’s force and one that meets the needs of the future conception of warfare. Murray’s past works on innovation clearly show that an organizational culture inclined to test its assumptions, assess the external environment for changes routinely, and experiment with novel solutions is best suited for long-term success.[21] The challenge for leaders today, not explored enough in the book, is learning how to successfully reprogram the internal code to improve its alignment with new missions or technologies.[22] We can hope some enterprising scholars will jump into this field and apply the same conceptual lens to complement this product.

This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

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Retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus observed that “culture, once formed, is difficult to change; it cannot always be ‘tamed’ but it can and should be understood.”[23] Those responsible for strategic leadership and for preparing their military for the future, must understand how culture impacts the effectiveness of an armed force. This is particularly relevant since most officials today describe the strategic environment as an age of disruptive technological change.[24]

Professors Mansoor and Murray offer a superlative foundation for reflecting on how to change the odds of gaining that transformation short of the carnage of a world war.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.