Lego lovers are known for their massive, over-the-top recreations of everything from The Wall from Game of Thrones to the battles and spaceships of Star Wars, but three big “brickheads,” Dan Siskind, Yitsy Kasowitz, and Cody Ossell, debuted a recreation of the beaches of Normandy on D-Day+1 at a large Lego convention in 2016 — to massive acclaim.
The beach scene features everything from tanks to mortars to ships and sea, as well as landing vehicles moving back and forth, ferrying supplies.
A medical unit treats wounded troops in one section while other soldiers move German prisoners across the sand.
The brick display features obstacles and fortifications, but wasn’t made to be perfectly accurate to history. For one, not everything is to scale. Most of the armored vehicles are nearly as tall as the cliffs they’re moving towards — and there’s a mermaid on the Landing Ship, Tank. The hippos in the water are probably incorrect, too, but we couldn’t tell you for sure as our zoologist is out sick today.
Check out the video above to see the map rooms, bunkers, and spent shells hiding in their complex, massive design.
The LST portion of the build is particularly impressive and has ranks of trucks waiting for their chance to drive down to the beach with towed artillery, supplies, and water tanks. Anti-aircraft crews man guns across the uppermost levels, and there’s even a signalman directing traffic on the deck.
Some of the scenes in the Lego creation are more accurate than the men in the video imagined, like the troops guarding German prisoners. The interviewer and one of the creators go back and forth about whether it was likely that German prisoners would still be on the beach, but some Canadian troops spent the early hours of June 7, you guessed it, guarding German prisoners.
Still, it’s doubtful that Captain America was in attendance.
Boeing Australia has built the first of three Loyal Wingman aircraft, which will serve as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System being developed for the global defense market. The aircraft are designed to fly alongside existing platforms and use artificial intelligence to conduct teaming missions. (Boeing photo)
The Royal Australian Air Force has its first Boeing-built drone-jet hybrid prototype, which will use artificial intelligence to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions to supply fighter pilots with more information during a conflict.
The company delivered its first “loyal wingman” prototype to Australia this week; it is expected to be used in tandem with fourth- and fifth-generation fighters on the battlefield, officials said in a release.
It’s also the first aircraft “to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years,” Boeing said, adding that it’s the company’s “largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the United States.”
“This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “The Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future.”
The delivery in Sydney is the first of three for Australia’s Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program, officials said.
The aircraft, which Boeing is co-developing with the government of Australia, was unveiled at the Avalon Airshow last year. Australia is investing roughly million into the program, CNN reported.
The jet is 38 feet long and can fly more than 2,000 nautical miles, according to its fact sheet.
It uses artificial intelligence “to fly independently or in support of manned aircraft while maintaining safe distance between other aircraft, the fact sheet states. The first prototype was constructed using digital engineering concepts, allowing developers to simulate parts via computer models, according to the company.
“We are proud to take this significant step forward with the Royal Australian Air Force and show the potential for smart unmanned teaming to serve as a force multiplier,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems for Boeing Defense, Space Security.
“We look forward to getting the aircraft into flight testing and proving out the unmanned teaming concept,” Robertson said. The drone-jet will now begin ground testing, followed by a first flight later this year.
“We see global allies with those same mission needs, which is why this program is so important to advancing the development of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System,” she said.
The concept is similar to an ongoing U.S. military effort.
In January, the Air Force conducted test flights of the XQ-58A Valkyrie drone at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, taking the unmanned aerial vehicle, made by Kratos Defense, to higher altitudes than previous tests.
The drone is part of the Air Force’s Low-Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program, an effort to develop unmanned attack aircraft, which are intended to be reusable but cheap enough that they can be destroyed without significant cost.
June 6, 1944, will forever be remembered as D-Day. On this day, the Allies orchestrated a massive, complex assault on German fortifications, establishing a foothold on the Nazi-held European mainland. The invasion of Normandy required coordination between units in the air, on the land, and from the sea. Paratroopers dropped into place, troops stormed the beaches, and even George S. Patton was used as a decoy.
But one unassuming piece of technology was a crucial component to Allied victory: a small boat.
Officially, the Navy called it the Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel, but everyone knew it as the Higgins boat, named after its designer, Andrew Jackson Higgins. This small craft (it displaced just nine tons total) had a top speed of 12 knots in calm waters. That doesn’t sound like much when compared to today’s Landing Craft Air Cushion that carry 36 Marines at a blazing 40 knots, but it was was the Allies needed to fight and win this decisive battle.
A Marine officer observed Japan using Daihatsu-class barges in China and wrote a report.
The Higgins boat wasn’t an American original. Believe it or not, the inspiration came from Japan’s Daihatsu-class barges, 21-ton vessels with bow ramps, which were used in the 1937 Sino-Japanese War. Marine lieutenant Victor Krulak had observed the vehicles in action, photographed them from afar, and sent his observation to his superiors.
After his report was dismissed and filed away by Navy bureaucrats, Krulak made a model of the boat and went to directly to Higgins, asking him if he could create a version for American use. Higgins proceeded to design what would become the LCVP using his own money — he even constructed three prototypes.
German troops who saw hundreds of LCVPs closing in on the Normandy beaches or ferrying troops across the Rhine – as this LCVP is doing – had no idea the idea came from observing Japanese barges in China.
With the start of World War II, the Allies needed a landing craft. Higgins was ready to produce. The LCVP allowed the use of just about any open beach as a landing point. It was first used in Operation Torch, months after the failed raid on Dieppe.
If Nazi Germany ever wondered who was to blame for the Allies getting their hands on such a boat, perfect for amphibious assaults, they’d never think to look toward their own ally, Japan.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin was one of four US troops killed Tuesday when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
Sgt. Elchin, a 25-year-old from Beaver County, Pennsylvania, was highly decorated for his age, according to a report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Interviews conducted by the newspaper show the sergeant was a devoted hero with a kind heart.
His brother, Aaron Elchin, told the newspaper about the last time he spoke with his younger brother, who was assigned to 26th Special Tactics Squadron.
Sgt. Elchin’s awards included the Bronze Star Medal, the military’s fourth-highest award for meritorious service in a combat zone. He also received a Purple Heart and Commendation Medals from both the Air Force and the Army, according to the Post-Gazette.
“I think it is very unusual to be so highly decorated,” he said. “But you’ve got to understand, Dylan was very dedicated in everything that he did.”
Sgt. Elchin enlisted as a combat controller in 2012. In high school, he had a variety of interests; he played the horn in the high school band and also participated in the school’s shop program, according to the Post-Gazette. He was also known for his kind nature.
“[Dylan] was part of a student group who sent holiday cards to residents at McGuire Memorial, a school for students with individualized special education needs,” said Carrie Rowe, Elchin’s former middle school principal, told the newspaper. “Dylan’s Beaver Area School District family will remember him as a young man with a kind heart, who was studious, curious about life, and loved his family.”
Aaron Elchin told the Post-Gazette his family is living in a state of shock since learning about the explosion, one of the deadliest attacks against American forces since 2017.
“We’re all basically waiting to wake up,” he told the newspaper. “We feel like we’re in a giant fog, and we just don’t want to believe it.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress crew from the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam are being hailed as heroes. The B-52H located the lost crew of an open ocean Polynesian-style canoe after they were missing at sea for six days.
The traditional Pacific Island-style canoe carrying six paddlers had become lost after sailing from nearby Piagailoe Atoll on June 19, 2018. The journey from the atoll to Guam was only supposed to take one day — meaning the paddlers, who had minimal supplies had been missing at sea for nearly a week.
Following the location of the canoers from the USAF B-52H, the six-member crew of the ocean-going canoe rendezvoused with a merchant vessel in the area that was directed to their location to effect rescue. The merchant vessel provided the canoers with water, food and navigational assistance so they could safely return to land.
The eight-engine, long range B-52H bomber joined the search when the crew from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., was on a routine flight during a deployment to Guam. The heavy bomber crew responded to a call from the Coast Guard for assistance in the search on June 25, 2018.
Crew members flying a B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, successfully located six passengers who had been missing for six days and relayed their location to the U.S. Coast Guard.
“This was a unique situation for us,” Capt. Sean Simpson, one of the bomber’s crew, said in an Air Force statement. “It’s not every day the B-52 gets called for a search and rescue.”
Initially the crew of the B-52H was unfamiliar with the type of vessel they were searching for. Coast Guard personal compared the small, difficult to spot indigenous canoe with the boat from the Disney cartoon “Moana”. Capt. Simpson told media, “We asked for more details about the vessel and the dispatcher told us, ‘It’s just like the boat from [the Disney film] ‘Moana.'”
The B-52H crew were able to locate the canoe and its crew at sea only three hours after being called into the search and rescue operation.
“We spotted this vessel from about 19,000 feet,” 1st Lt. Jordan Allen told Air Force media in the statement. “It’s really a small miracle that we were able to see it, because there was quite a bit of clouds.”
The lost canoe was located by the crew from one of the B-52H after it was compared to a similar one that appeared in a Disney cartoon.
“Search and rescue isn’t something people typically think of when they talk about the B-52, but our training and adaptability really paid off,” Lt. Col. Jarred Prier, the bomb squadron’s director of operations, said in the statement. “Being a part of this successful search and rescue operation speaks to the diversity of our skill set and shows our importance here in the Pacific.”
While the 63-year old Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, first flown in 1952 and accepted into the Air Force in 1955, is oddly well suited for the maritime search and rescue role even though it was introduced as a global reach strategic nuclear bomber. The aircraft has an extremely long combat radius of 4,480 miles, meaning it can search out in a straight line 4,480 miles and return the same distance without refueling. Given midair refueling availability, the B-52’s endurance is limited mostly by its crew’s physical endurance.
In January 1957 three USAF B-52s set an endurance record by becoming the first jet aircraft to circle the earth on a non-stop flight. The early version B-52Bs flew continuously for 45 hours and 19 minutes. In total the planes flew 24,345 miles without landing.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Defense Department personnel continue to assist in the rescue operations in Thailand to evacuate the remaining four boys and their coach from a flooded cave system, the director of defense press operations said July 10, 2018.
The DOD effort consists of 42 deployed military personnel and one member from the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group Thailand, Army Col. Rob Manning told reporters at the Pentagon.
“Coordination and interaction with Thai military, Thai government, and other multinational civilians and government entities remains extremely positive and effective,” he said.
U.S. personnel have staged equipment and prepared the first three chambers of the cave system for safe passage, he said. They are assisting in transporting the evacuees through the final chambers of the cave system, and are providing medical personnel and other technical assistance to the rescue efforts, he added.
Saman Kunan died while laying oxygen tanks for a potential rescue of the trapped boys.
Multinational rescue effort
“We continue to fully support the multinational rescue effort and pray for the safe return of the remaining members of the team,” Manning said.
The soccer team and their coach entered the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand on June 23, 2018, and were trapped by floodwaters. Eight boys have been rescued so far.
Manning paid tribute to former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, who died after delivering oxygen tanks in the cave.
“The death of the former Thai Navy SEAL illustrates the difficulty of this rescue,” Manning said. “His sacrifice will not be forgotten.”
The recent aerial bombardment of Syrian chemical weapons production facilities was one of epic proportions, featuring aircraft and warships from three countries — namely France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Reminiscent of the large Alpha strike flights of the Vietnam War, this attack formation consisted of dozens of aircraft, each with their own roles and objectives. From bombers to reconnaissance jets, supersonic high-performance fighters, and a 50-year-old electronic attack plane, the strike package employed a diverse array of aircraft to achieve overall success.
These are the aircraft that were involved in the attack:
Fighter aircraft from the US, UK, and France were absolutely integral in making the entire strike mission a success. American F-22 Raptors, F-16 Fighting Falcons, and F-15C Eagles from U.S. Air Forces in Europe covered the attack force alongside British Eurofighter Typhoons and French Mirage 2000s. Armed with air-to-air missiles, they loitered nearby, waiting patiently to deal with any aerial threats.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando A. Schwier-Morales)
The British and French aerial strike force consisted of Panavia Tornado supersonic attack jets and Rafale multi-role fighters. Both were armed with the Storm Shadow/SCALP air-launched cruise missile, which has a range of over 600 miles.
A small element of B-1B Lancer supersonic bombers were responsible for carrying out the American contribution to the aerial attack mission, using JASSM-ER air-launched missiles. These behemoth aircraft have previously operated in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, supporting troops on the ground with devastating close air support.
(US Air Force)
Built during the Cold War as a way for the US Air Force to avoid air defenses and deliver nuclear weapons to their targets, the Lancer, more affectionately known as the ‘Bone,” eventually moved out of its nuclear attack role as the Soviet Union fell. Today, it carries targeting pods and scores of conventional, “smart” munitions, flying as an on-call bomb truck for ground units.
By far, one of the most interesting additions to the strike force was a sole EA-6B Prowler, a four-seater electronic attack jet flown exclusively by the Marine Corps. The Prowler originally entered service with the US Navy and Marines in the early 1970s, serving as anti-radar “jammers.” The Marines plan on operating the Prowler into 2019, when they’ll retire them in favor of the electronic warfare capabilities of the F-35 Lightning II.
During the strike mission, the Prowler accompanied the American attack force as a guardian of sorts, preventing them from being targeted by Syrian (and potentially Russian) air defense radars mated to surface-to-air missiles. Marine Prowlers have been previously deployed to the Syrian theater to conduct similar protection-type missions.
France sent a pair of E-3F Sentry AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) jets from Avord Air Base to the area, where they constantly scanned and monitored the skies for nearby Russian, Syrian, and civilian aircraft.
(US Air Force)
The Sentry, produced by Boeing, began service with the US Air Force in the early 1970s as a replacement for older Warning Star aircraft. Essentially flying radar pickets, these aircraft come with a massive rotating radar dome affixed above the fuselage and a whole suite of sensors and communications gear that allows it to feed information to friendly aircraft operating nearby.
The aerial refueling community in the US has a saying, “nobody kicks ass without tanker gas!” This was certainly true during the Syrian strike mission. American and French KC-135R and C-135FR Stratotankers were on-station, a safe distance away from the action, ready to refuel allied aircraft as needed.
(US Air Force)
Built by Boeing and operating off the same platform as the E-3 Sentry, the KC-135 has flown for the USAF since the late 1950s and will likely remain in service for decades to come. This legendary workhorse has seen action from Vietnam to Operation Desert Storm and still actively participates in coalition operations against ISIS today in the Middle East.
In the hours before the attack, a single RQ-4 Global Hawk drone was briefly tracked flying near Syria and Lebanon, according to David Cenciotti of The Aviationist. Additionally, an RC-135V Rivet Joint aircraft was also operating in the area at the time, likely generating data and gathering information in advance of the strike mission.
(US Air Force)
Global Hawks, aptly named for their jaw-dropping endurance and range, have flown with the US Air Force for the past 17 years, functioning as a versatile surveillance platform over combat zones across the Middle East. The Rivet Joint, on the other hand, is a manned signals intelligence aircraft used for reconnaissance purposes on classified missions across the world.
For every G above one that you experience, your weight increases by the G value. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds and experience 2 G’s, your weight increases to 300 pounds. At 5 G’s, you’re weight is 750 pounds (150 X 5).
A person’s G-tolerance depends on the body’s position, direction, and duration. Someone in the upright sitting position going forward experiencing front-to-back force will pass out at 5 G’s in 3 to 4 seconds. On the other hand, someone laying down feet first going forward can sustain 14 G’s for up to three minutes.
G-Loc — or passing out from G’s — happens when blood leaves the head, starving the brain of oxygen.
Beeding passed out due to shock while explaining his troubles to the flight surgeon. He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition when he woke up ten minutes later.
He made headlines when word got out that he sustain more G’s than John Stapp, who previously held the record at 46 G’s. Stapp famously used himself as a test subject in his cockpit design research to improve pilot safety against G-forces.
When asked about his achievement, Beeding was quick to point out that he was riding the sled backward and not forward like Stapp. He also said that his time at 83 G’s was “infinitesimal” compared to the 1.1 seconds endured by Stapp.
This clip from the U.S. Air Force Film “Pioneers of the Vertical Frontier” (1967) shows actual footage of both test pilots during their tests.
“Our working dogs are selfless in everything they do simply to please their handlers and those who work with them,” said Sergeant Major (retired) Jeremy Knabenshue, a veteran who worked as a K9 handler in the U.S. Army. “They give everything they have — to include their lives — without question to protect their pack.”
During a recent interview with Coffee or Die, Knabenshue spoke about his relationship with Weblo, his Military Working Dog (MWD). After a stint as an MP, Knabenshue became a K9 handler for a Special Missions Unit working alongside some of the most elite operators in the world. His work there, particularly his relationship with Weblo, had a profound impact on him. He served with that unit until retirement.
“When I was first assigned Weblo, he was a beatdown dog from Holland that flinched at every sudden move,” Knabenshue said. “I spent every single day for a year going to work to spend time with him and build our relationship until we deployed.”
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
On Knabenshue’s first deployment, Weblo was shot. They were working with a squad from 3rd Ranger Battalion, and Knabenshue credits the dog’s actions for saving his life. He treated Weblo, and “that night of saving one another’s lives solidified our bond to one another.”
“Personality-wise he was one of the guys.” Knabenshue said. “He was more than just a dog or a tool. He lived with us and was part of the team.” That relationship extended onto the battlefield as well — they had reached such a strong point of mutual understanding that few words had to be spoken. They moved together, fought together, and hit objectives together — all as one.
One night in Afghanistan, Knabenshue, Weblo, and an assault force of American operators boarded a helicopter and flew toward an enemy position. They expected to make their way to the target building when they landed, but chaos erupted as soon as the wheels touched the ground. People were running erratically, weapons were being fired, and they had to fight just to get to the objective — which should have been a simple 10 minute walk.
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
As they made it to the target compound, they began to move along one of the exterior walls. The next step would have been to hit the front door and assault the compound as usual; Knabenshue sent Weblo up front to check for booby traps before breaching.
When Weblo turned left instead of right, Knabenshue said that his first instinct was to become frustrated — now instead of breaching, he had to grab another assaulter and go get this dog who appeared to be distracted or disobedient. However, when they discovered Weblo, his jaws were clenched on a man clutching an AK47, who was lying in wait for an unsuspecting soldier to enter the breach.
This man had not been spotted by anyone on the assault force nor by the air assets circling in the sky — but he was spotted by Weblo.
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
This was how it went for six deployments — two to Iraq and four to Afghanistan. When they weren’t in a combat zone, training took them deep into the jungle, over rigorous mountain terrain, and helocasting into the water.
When Weblo came to the end of his military service, he went to live with Knabenshue. No longer under threat of death or permanent injury, their friendship continued to grow. And then Weblo was diagnosed with cancer.
As the dog’s health steadily declined, Knabenshue knew it was time to have him put down comfortably. He contacted a trusted veterinarian to set the date. But one day he took special notice of the airfield near his house, and an idea came to him. Knabenshue knew a truck wouldn’t suffice for Weblo’s last ride — he deserved more.
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
On March 8, 2016, everything fell into place. When Weblo and Knabenshue stepped onto the airfield and heard the thundering of the helicopter rotors, the dog’s chest swelled. Knabenshue swears that, for a moment, Weblo once again looked like a young working dog barreling across the Afghan countryside.
Also on the helicopter was the veterinarian. As they circled in the sky, Weblo felt the wind in his fur as he had so many times before among his fellow warriors. Following a painless injection, Weblo quietly, comfortably passed on.
After they landed, Knabenshue carried Weblo back to his truck to say goodbye.
“There will never be another Weblo for me,” Knabenshue later wrote on his blog. “I miss him daily and wish that somehow he could still be here. His death hit me far harder than any of the deaths of friends I’ve lost over the years. He was more than a pet or partner, he was an extension of myself as I was a part of him. His ashes are now placed on a shelf over my bar so that he can still look over and protect us.”
Deciding to be a Marine means you have to accept the challenges that you’ll have to face along the way. Earning that Eagle, Globe, and Anchor is no easy task. To become a Marine, you have to be willing to stare every challenge straight in the eye and say, “I got this.” That’s what it means to be a Marine. That is the very quality at the core of every person who becomes one. This is no exception for Michael Campofiori, one of the Corps’ newest Marines — and a survivor of leukemia.
According to the American Cancer Society, patients with childhood leukemia very rarely survive after five years. This disease is a monster of a challenge for anyone to overcome, and it’s a tragedy for any child to have to experience. That didn’t stop Michael Campofiori from wanting to become a Marine, despite being diagnosed at age 11.
This would be his first challenge on a path of many:
Michael Campofiori poses for a photo with Sgt. William Todd, a recruiter with Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach, and Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Falk, the Staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach, after swearing in to the Marine Corps on Aug. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lcpl Jack Rigsby)
Joining the military is difficult when leukemia is a part of your medical history. There’s a special waiver for it, but Campofiori had trouble finding recruiters willing to take on the paperwork and help him realize his dream of becoming a Marine. The journey took him, a native of New Jersey, all the way to South Carolina.
Poolees with RSS Myrtle Beach posing with the recruiters.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lcpl Jack Rigsby)
The recruiters at Recruiting Substation Myrtle Beach were willing to do the work necessary to get Campofiori in. They felt he had what it took — and they were absolutely right. Not only did his waiver go through, but Campofiori dominated as a Poolee, earning nearly a perfect score on the Initial Strength Test, the prerequisite fitness test for eligibility to join.
Of the maximum 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches, and 9:00 minute run-time, this badass got 29 pull-ups, 121 crunches, and a 9:18 run-time for the mile and a half. He wasn’t even a Marine before he was going above and beyond.
Michael Campofiori, a recruit with Platoon 2020, Company E, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, participates in the Day Movement Course as part of Basic Warrior Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, Feb. 6, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)
Campofiori was sent to boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina on Dec. 10, 2018. Of course, the challenge isn’t over there — boot camp is its own obstacle to overcome. It’s difficult in its own right. But, Campofiori was already slaying dragons.
Welcome to the Corps.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack A. E. Rigsby)
On February 23, 2019, Michael Campofiori completed the Crucible and received his Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, completing the transformation into a United States Marine. From battling leukemia to earning the title, Campofiori overcame every challenge that he ever had to face. Campofiori embodies the very spirit of being a Marine.
You can watch the video of him receiving his EGA here.
A former Russian official whose background matches descriptions of a high-level CIA spy hurriedly extracted from Russia has been living openly outside Washington, DC, under his own name.
According to documents from a 2017 real-estate purchase reviewed by Insider, Oleg Smolenkov bought a house in the DC area in 2018 for $925,000.
Intelligence sources told Insider that such a situation — a former agent living under his own name — was less unusual than it might at first appear, partly because of precedent and the unique personality type of high-level sources.
Smolenkov was named in Russian media Sep. 10, 2019, as a possible identity of the extracted spy. Reuters and the BBC were among Western outlets to also report the name.
A spokesman for the Kremlin said Smolenkov had worked for the Russian state but reportedly dismissed reports that a high-level spy had been extracted as “pulp fiction.”
Smolenkov was named in the wake of reports by The New York Times and CNN that described an unnamed Russian official who worked for the CIA for decades before fleeing to the US in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.
The descriptions from Russia of Smolenkov’s work for the Kremlin, the timing of his disappearance in 2017, and his presence in the suburbs of Washington, DC, appear to match the reports.
Two former FBI officials told NBC News that they thought the man in Virginia was the intelligence asset.
That asset is reported to have supplied critical information that helped shape the US government’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The asset’s identity remains unconfirmed. Among assets in a similar position, however, the practice of living openly in a Western country under a real name would not be unusual, according to a former US Drug Enforcement Agency agent who regularly ran intelligence and drug-cartel sources.
“Not shocking at all to those of us who have been there,” said the former member of the DEA’s special-operations division, which handles high-level investigations and sources.
“A guy like Smolenkov spent decades working his way to the top of the Russian government and succeeded while also being an asset for the CIA,” the source said. He asked for anonymity to protect former sources and assets around the world.
“That level of political success at the same time he knew every day for decades he could be revealed and arrested usually requires a special level of ego and appetite for risk,” the source said.
“So it’s not shocking that the first reports said he turned down a chance in 2016 to escape before being convinced by the media coverage that he finally had to go in 2017. Getting him to give up that level of status inside his own homeland along with the status he secretly held with the CIA … it’s a powerful combination.”
Three other former intelligence agents contacted by Insider were less willing to talk about the story, which immediately grabbed the attention of the media and intelligence circles Sep. 9, 2019.
But all three noted that Russian intelligence assets tended to keep their identities intact after defection despite usual pleas from their handlers to adopt fake names and go into hiding.
All three noted that the Russian defectors Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko lived openly in the UK after fleeing Russia and continued to consult for intelligence services and private companies under their own names.
Footage of Sergei Skripal’s 2006 trial.
Both men were poisoned in cases where UK has blamed the Russian state.
Skripal and his daughter narrowly survived a nerve-agent poisoning in 2018, while Litvinenko died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with radioactive poison.
“It’s unlikely that someone with the level of ambition to rise that high in the Kremlin while working as an agent for the Americans would want to easily drop the social status that came with both sides of their double life,” the former DEA agent said.
“And it gets even harder to convince them they’re actually threatened and need to go into deep witness-protection programs if they have families that probably didn’t know they were working for another country on the side.
“Then you add that these are people rather used to risk and living off their wits and so ego plays a huge role.”
When asked how often high-level defectors refused to completely abandon their old life and identity, the former DEA agent said “far more often than people would think.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
‘If you’re a soldier in China, applying to leave the army is likely to leave a black mark on your social credit score.’ This was the striking opening line of a Sixth Tone article from April 2018 reposted on the Chinese military’s official website. The article was about the use of a social credit system by the People’s Liberation Army. However, it garnered surprisingly little attention for such a hot topic.
Excellent research has already been done on the various prototype social credit systems in China, but a big gap in that research is the question of how a social credit system might be applied to the PLA, particularly at a time when President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are increasingly concerned about the military’s loyalty to the party.
The 2015 Chinese defence white paper stated that the PLA is enjoying a period of strategic opportunity and can therefore modernise through ongoing reforms. However, China has faced growing domestic and international criticism and pushback in recent months. The CCP is trying to put out fires on multiple fronts: continued freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea; a slowing economy; crises in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan; and the coronavirus outbreak.
The PLA is being pushed to be combat-ready as soon as possible, but military reforms haven’t been welcomed across the board. Changes in promotion structures, preferences for highly skilled labour and a new focus on high-tech joint operations have challenged the ways in which the PLA has operated for decades. However, the party’s longstanding battle to ensure that its army is loyal to it is an increasing priority under Xi, and the CCP continues to emphasise that the party controls the gun: 党指挥枪 (dang zhihui qiang). Under Xi, disloyalty to the party has been made illegal in order to protect the CCP’s power.
In the light of that threat perception, the PLA version of a social credit system seems to be a new tool for punishing betrayal, dissuading dissent and rewarding allegiance to the military.
The Sixth Tone article reports that 17 military personnel were ‘blacklisted’ in China’s social credit system in Jilin City and restricted from travelling by air and rail and from seeking civil service employment. Their names and addresses were posted in Chinese news articles and on the WeChat account of the Jilin City military recruitment office. They apparently ‘lacked the willpower to adapt to military life’. According to the article, they were prohibited from taking out loans and insurance policies and banned from enrolling in educational institutions for two years.
Similar examples have been reported in other provinces, where one-off punishments such as fines have been accompanied by permanent ones. For instance, two men in Fujian Province were punished by having their registration documents permanently marked with a note that read, ‘refused military service’.
More recently, in March 2019, Weihai City prefecture in Shandong published its own ‘Implementation Plan for the Evaluation of Personal Credit Scores in the Field of National Defense Mobilization’, which outlined how a social credit record could be used as both a carrot and a stick in domestic military matters. Punishments were listed for those deemed to be acting against national defence interests.
China’s 2019 defence white paper and other government documents state that ‘China’s national defense is the responsibility of all Chinese people’, so punishments for disloyalty aren’t directed solely at soldiers but also at civilians.
Until Xi’s reforms, the PLA was left to set and manage its own institutional priorities, but now it has to address corruption and tackle vested interests to take the military modernisation program forward. It seems that the application of a social credit system in the military is a potential additional measure to enforce strict compliance with new military guidelines.
The social credit system, which both co-opts and coerces, might also be used as a recruitment tool as the PLA competes against China’s private sector for highly skilled graduates. Weihai City’s system not only rewards those who join or extend their service in the military with bonus social credit points for them and their families, but also punishes those who do not.
Weihai’s military-related social credit system is integrated into the city’s ‘credit joint disciplinary mechanism’. Those who contribute positively or negatively to national defence have points added to or deducted from their personal records. Credit records are reportedly correlated with overall credit ratings, from AAA (integrity model) to D (dishonest). The repercussions of dissent extend beyond the soldier to his or her immediate family members. The naming and shaming is also becoming ever more public: transgressions are announced not just on government websites (such as the local military recruitment offices and the prefecture’s Credit China website), but also on social media accounts.
The link between Weihai’s social credit score and national defence suggests that the PLA is also more concerned about its ability to mobilise the military in a national crisis than previously thought. If Xi’s anticorruption campaign was also a tool to address the CCP’s control over the military, then the targeting of those in PLA logistics roles further suggests a concern in the military’s leadership about the force’s ability to mobilise when needed.
It’s important to note that the PLA’s experience with social credit is based on isolated pilot projects and not a complete institution-wide program. However, the published examples indicate that those projects might be a strong indicator of a future system by which the PLA’s leadership ensures that the PLA remains the party’s army.
It’s probably common knowledge that when Old Glory is flying at half-staff (or half-mast), it indicates a period of mourning, but unless it’s Memorial Day or a president has just died, people might not know why the flag is at half-staff. Who gets to declare a period of mourning? How long does the period last?
Fear not, dear patriot. I will answer all these questions and more.
On March 1, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered a presidential proclamation codifying the display of the flag of the United States at half-staff. Here are the basics you need to know:
The American flag is flown at half-staff above the White House Sunday, Dec. 1, 2018, in memory of 41st President George H. W. Bush.
(Official White House Photo by Keegan Barber)
Death of the President: 30 Days
The flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions for the period indicated upon the death of the President or a former President for thirty days from the day of death.
The flag shall also be flown at half-staff for such period at all United States embassies, legations, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
Death of the VP, Chief Justice, retired Chief Justice, or Speaker of the House: 10 days
But for an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a member of the Cabinet, a former Vice President, the President pro tempore of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, or the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, the flag will fly at half-staff from the day of death until interment.
Honoring the seven astronauts who lost their lives aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2003, the American flag was flown at half-staff over the White House Monday, Feb. 3. President George W. Bush has directed the government to fly the flag at half-staff through Wednesday, Feb. 5.
(White House photo by Paul Morse)
Other deaths “as appropriate”
For example, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the metropolitan area of the District of Columbia on the day of death and on the following day upon the death of a United States Senator, Representative, Territorial Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and it shall also be flown at half-staff on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels of the Federal Government in the State, Congressional District, Territory, or Commonwealth of such Senator, Representative, Delegate, or Commissioner, respectively, from the day of death until interment.
In the event of the death of other officials, former officials, or foreign dignitaries, the flag of the United States shall be displayed at half-staff in accordance with such orders or instructions as may be issued by or at the direction of the President, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law.
Visitors on the USS Arizona Memorial as the flag flies at half-staff.
On Memorial Day and other notable dates
According to the VA, on Memorial Day the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only, then raised briskly to the top of the staff until sunset, in honor of our nation’s fallen heroes.
There are other notable dates throughout the year that are honored with the half-staff display, such as September 11th (Patriot Day), December 7th in honor of the attacks at Pearl Harbor, or October 7th in honor of fallen firefighters.
The president is also authorized to order the flag to half-staff in response to tragedies, such as mass shootings or the Challenger tragedy.
Anyone who wishes to can receive notifications for when to fly their flag at half-staff, including nation-wide or state-wide alerts.
There have been times when officials have been confused about their authority with regards to “ordering” the American flag to half-staff. The National Flag Foundation gives the example of the late Attorney General Janet Reno ordering the flag to half-staff on all U.S. Department of Justice buildings after the deaths of several DEA agents. Though it was a well-intentioned gesture, legally Attorney General Reno did not have the authority to give such an order.
“NFF points out these ‘good-faith misunderstandings’ not to criticize or embarrass anyone, but rather to head off a growing trivialization of this memorial salute, and to preserve the dignity and significance of flying the U.S. flag at half-staff. To any readers who may think that NFF is insensitive for raising these breaches of etiquette, please be assured that our motives are pure. We grieve these human loses deeply; however, we believe proper respect for our flag must be maintained – no matter the circumstances. We owe that respect to our living, our dead, and our flag.”
“When Salvador Dalí died, it took months to get all the flagpoles sufficiently melted.”
(Image by xkcd)
One final note: proper etiquette dictates that the flag must not just be raised to half-staff. “The flag should be briskly run up to the top of the staff before being lowered slowly to the half-staff position.”