2-minute history of the U.S. Air Force

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIVIA GENIUS)

 

2-minute history of the U.S. Air Force

From Civil War era hot-air balloon spying to modern stealth fighter jets, the United States has been always been involved in achieving military air superiority during wartime. And let’s not forget that the first NASA astronauts were former Air Force fighter pilots and test pilots, as well. In terms of the entity today that is the air branch of the United States Armed Forces, the history of the United States Air Force begins as a subset of another department long before airplanes became part of the picture.

Early air force alternatives

Credit: Kletr/Shutterstock

These days, the United States Army Signal Corps, a division of the Department of the Army, manages communications and information systems for the command and control of combined arms forces. When it was established in 1860, though, the corps played an important role in the Civil War, especially in terms of its control over military intelligence, weather forecasting, and aviation — all of which eventually became their own armed services divisions or were transferred to the control of other departments.

This was the case for the Air Force, the next iteration of which came into existence following the Civil War with the establishment by the Signal Corps in 1893 in the form of the War Balloon Company based at Fort Riley, Kansas. The next step, the Aeronautical Services Division of the Signal Corps, existed from 1907 to 1914, and was the direct progenitor of today’s Air Force. During its time, the Aeronautical Division took delivery of the military’s first powered military aircraft in 1909, and organized aviation flight schools to train its future pilots.

What department is this?

Credit: Michael Fitzsimmons/Shutterstock

In 1914, the United States Congress issued a statutory authorization for an Aviation Section in the Signal Corps, and this division continued as the primary organizational component of the fledgling Air Force until 1918. When the Aviation Section failed to mobilize effectively for World War I, the War Department replaced it with a department outside the signal corps, which was titled the Army Air Service.

Another shift, to the Army Air Corps, lasted from 1926 to 1941, just before the ramp up to World War II. This precipitated the final designation, when in September 1947 the United States Air Force officially became a separate military service division. This came as part of the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947, which created the National Military Establishment. Today we know it simply as the Department of Defense, which comprises the modern Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force.

Today’s ever-changing mission

Credit: Andrey Armyagov/Shutterstock

Before 1947, military aviation was divided between the other branches, with the Army handling land-based air operations and the Navy and Marines taking charge of airplane and helicopter deployments from aircraft carriers and amphibious aircraft.

Since then, technology has only continued to make the role of the Air Force more important in national security. We can take a strong sense of pride and protection when expert fighter pilots of the Air Force Thunderbirds flash overhead at an air show, flying tight formations wing to wing. Just as important for our protection these days as the roaring jets, though, are the Air Force-launched military satellites floating silently in space to help fight our next cyber wars.

 

 

Hezbollah wars that Israel could be ‘wiped out’ in war between US and Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Nasrallah warns Israel could be ‘wiped out’ in war between US and Iran

Hezbollah leader says Tehran has ability to ‘bombard Israel with ferocity and force,’ claims group has bolstered its arsenal with precision missiles that can reach Eilat

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla, File)

The head of the Hezbollah terror group warned Friday that Israel would be drawn into any war between the US and Iran and could be “wiped out” in such a conflict.

“Iran is able to bombard Israel with ferocity and force,” Hassan Nasrallah said in an interview broadcast on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television.

“When the Americans understand that this war could wipe out Israel, they will reconsider,” Nasrallah said.

His comments came amid soaring tensions between the US and Iran and just hours after US House of Representatives voted to restrict US President Donald Trump’s ability to attack Iran, voicing fear that his hawkish policies are pushing toward a needless war.

It was not immediately clear if Nasrallah was referring to Iran’s arsenal of long-range missiles or the tens of thousands of rockets and missiles that Iran has supplied the Lebanese Hezbollah.

In this photo provided November 5, 2018, by the Iranian Army, a Sayyad 2 missile is fired by the Talash air defense system during drills in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

Earlier in the interview Nasrallah said his Iran-backed group had significantly improved its military capabilities since the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel.

“Our weapons have been developed in both quality and quantity, we have precision missiles and drones,” he said in the interview to mark 13 years since the war.

During the interview Nasrallah held a map of Israel and pointed to strategic targets, which he said Hezbollah could hit, including Ben Gurion Airport, arms depots, petrochemical and water desalinization plants, and the Ashdod port.

He also claimed his missiles could hit the southern Israeli city of Eilat on the Red Sea.

Nasrallah hinted his organization had acquired anti-aircraft missiles, saying he preferred to keep an ambiguous stance, adding that the Lebanese terror group now had “game-changing offensive capabilities and weapons.”

Israel has long warned that Hezbollah plans to try and invade northern Israel in any future war and recently uncovered several attack tunnels built deep into Israel that were supposed to allow their fighters to enter into Israel.

Hezbollah supporters take part in a rally to mark al-Quds day in Beirut, Lebanon, May 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

However, Nasrallah said he was confident there would not be a war, because Israel feared the consequences.

He also said regional players were working to prevent a war between the US and Iran. “Our collective responsibility in the region is to work towards preventing an American war on Iran,” he said.

He said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had no interest in a conflict erupting.

In recent weeks the US has sent thousands of troops, an aircraft carrier, nuclear-capable B-52 bombers and advanced fighter jets to the Middle East, and fears are growing of a wider conflict after mysterious oil tanker attacks near the Strait of Hormuz blamed on Iran, attacks by Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen on Saudi Arabia and Iran’s downing of the US military drone.

The USS Abraham Lincoln sails south in the Suez canal near Ismailia toward the Persian Gulf, May 9, 2019. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

Iran has recently begun surpassing uranium enrichment limits set in its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the accord a year ago.

The US has also re-imposed tough sanctions on Tehran’s oil exports, exacerbating an economic crisis that has sent its currency plummeting.

Nasrallah also said that the group had recently begun withdrawing it’s fighters that were supporting the Damascus regime in neighboring war-torn Syria.

“We are present in every area that we used to be. We are still there, but we don’t need to be there in large numbers as long as there is no practical need,” he said.

The head of the Iran-backed Shiite movement, which has been fighting in Syria since 2013, did no quantify the extent of the reduction.

A Hezbollah armored vehicle sits at the site where clashes erupted between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Wadi al-Kheil or al-Kheil Valley in the Lebanon-Syria border, July 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Backed by Russia and Iran, the Damascus government has taken back large swathes of territory from rebels and jihadists since 2015, and now controls around 60 percent of the country.

Nasrallah said none of his fighters were currently involved in fighting in Syria’s northwestern region of Idlib, where regime and Russian forces have increased deadly bombardment on a jihadist-run bastion since late April.

He spoke after Washington announced fresh sanctions Tuesday against Hezbollah, targeting elected officials from the movement for the first time.

“All dealings with the Syria file has nothing to do with the sanctions or the financial austerity,” he said.

Hezbollah is considered to be a terrorist organisation by the United States, and is the only faction not to have disarmed after the Lebanese 1975-1990 civil war.

But it is also a major political player in the small Mediterranean country, taking 13 seats in parliament last year and securing three posts in the current cabinet.

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JULY 13, 2019
CURRENT TOP STORIES
PROFILEFATHER OF FOUR STILL LIVES IN HIS PARENTS’ HOME IN TAYIBE

For 1st Arab head of major Israeli bank, breaking down barriers is second nature

Five lessons on success and excellence to learn from the story of Samer Haj Yehia, Bank Leumi’s new chairman of the board

Chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, Samer Haj Yehia (courtesy)

Chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, Samer Haj Yehia (courtesy)

Let’s clear something up right from the get-go: Samer Haj Yehia, who was recently named the chairman of the board of directors of Bank Leumi, made a significant crack in the glass ceiling. This marks the first time a major Israeli bank has appointed an Arab chairman.

The dozens of news items and social media posts focusing on Haj Yehia’s career overflow with (entirely justified) praise for the brilliant 49-year-old economist, who managed to overcome numerous obstacles as he made his way from his birthplace of Tayibe, an Arab city in central Israel, to having one of Israel’s top economy positions.

In fact — so thick is the glass ceiling he managed to shatter — that from now on, his name is likely to come up in every debate, discussion, or symposium dealing with the integration of Arabs into Israeli society.

A lawyer and certified public accountant, Haj Yehia is slated to take office on July 21, replacing David Brodet, who chaired the board for the past nine years. It is important to stress that no one questions whether Haj Yahya is worthy of this prestigious appointment. His nomination – approved by a majority vote of five in favor and three against – is free of any claim of affirmative action or political correctness, as the boards of directors of banks simply don’t bother with such matters. Their sole focus is on ensuring the bank’s success.

Illustrative image: Israelis walk next to Bank Leumi in Jerusalem on November 16, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The other three contenders for the position – ex-Finance Ministry director-general and current Israel Oil Refineries Executive Chairman Ohad Marani, former Teva Pharmaceuticals Deputy CEO Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Shmuel Ben Zvi, and former Discount Bank Capital Markets and Investments head Dr. Yitzhak Sharir – sufficed with one vote each.

That’s how you smash through the glass ceiling with style.

Haj Yehia’s nomination earned praise left and right. “It’s about time the Israeli government follows in Bank Leumi’s footsteps. Unfortunately, had Samer been vying for a position in the public sector, I’m afraid he wouldn’t have made it,” Tayibe Mayor Sha’a Mansour Massarwa told newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also rushed to congratulate Haj Yehia, tweeting, “I welcome Dr. Samer Haj Yehia’s appointment as chairman of the board of directors at Bank Leumi and wish him the best of luck!”

But congratulations aside, Haj Yehia’s personal background deserves a second glance. Before we Israelis pat ourselves on the back and feel reassured that the bank’s move proves that we are not as racist as we may seem, it’s worth mentioning that this impressive achievement – marked before he turned 50 – is first and foremost a personal feat that, if not for a set of extraordinary personal circumstances, may have remained out of reach.

And so, in the spirit of the coaching culture, here are five lessons on success and excellence one can learn from the story of Haj Yehia.

1. It’s best to be born a male

There’s no easy way to say this, and I apologize in advance to anyone who is already outraged and may be ready to write a virulent response, but gender plays a role in this story.

Haj Yehia still lives – with his wife and four children – in his mother’s house in Tayibe. Fatina Haj Yehia, now 74, is a retired schoolteacher. Haj Yehia’s wife, Eden, is an English teacher who works at a school in Ra’anana. His mother’s sister, Sawad Jabareh, who guided this reporter through the ins and outs of the Haj Yehia family, is also a retired teacher.

Samer Haj Yehia has been appointed the chairman of the board of Bank Leumi Le-Israel Ltd. (Courtesy)

Teaching is a noble profession, of course, and certainly one of the more important careers, but it doesn’t exactly require shattering glass ceilings, which is the issue at hand.

The first person to smash through the glass ceiling in the family was Samer’s father, Dr. Mohammed Saleem Haj Yahia, who was one of the first Arab students at Tel Aviv University. He majored in criminology and became a probation officer, handling many cases involving youth from the Tayibe area.

Fatina always wanted a daughter but had four sons. Each of Samer’s brothers has three sons. His older brother, Prof. Saleem Haj Yahia, is a renowned international heart surgeon who lives in Scotland, where he heads the national heart transplant program. His younger brother, Rani Haj Yehia, who also lives in Tayibe, is a finance attorney who heads the Jordan Gateway Free Zone and Industrial Park project.

The fourth brother, Saji, was an engineering major at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. He was killed in a car accident at the entrance to Tayibe in 1998. Samer Haj Yehia named his firstborn son after him.

Among the many congratulatory calls Haj Yehia received following his nomination were some from relatives who are doing well overseas, including a professor of pharmacology from the University of South Carolina and a senior official in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Haj Yehia and his wife, Eden, are the parents of four sons, the youngest of whom was born three months ago. Their two eldest boys, Saji and Bassel, attend the gifted students’ program at the Eastern Mediterranean International School in central Israel, and it wouldn’t be much of a gamble to assume that they, too, will make something of themselves, perhaps even shattering more unnecessary glass ceilings as they go. But unless some fundamental changes take place in Israel, it is also likely they may end up marrying teachers.

“They’re all geniuses. Samer’s son isn’t even two years old and he reads in English at a 10-year-old’s level,” his aunt Jabareh said. “He’s truly extraordinary. He can read the entire English alphabet and he speaks Arabic and English.”

2. It’s best to be born rich

Like the previous statement, this, too, almost goes without saying. This also has more to do with fate and luck, and while it may not guarantee success, different circumstances clearly make the road to success harder.

The Haj Yehia family isn’t only the biggest family in Tayibe – the extended clan numbers 6,000 and counting – they are also one of its most affluent families.

“They are a rich family, very rich,” Jabareh said. “They have land, lots of land. Samar’s paternal grandfather was a very rich man, and he left his children a sizable estate. Samer grew up like a kid in Kfar Shmaryahu [an affluent suburb of Tel Aviv]. He traveled and he was pampered. He never lacked for anything.

“Their life was something else, something very different from other children in Tayibe,” she continued, referring to Samer and his brothers. “In Tayibe, when a child wants a toy, he doesn’t always get it. They always got what they wanted. Well, maybe not all the time, but if they asked for something reasonable, they’d get it.

An Arab Israeli woman casts her vote during elections for the Knesset on April 9, 2019, at a polling station in the northern town of Tayibe. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

“They really lacked for nothing. They grew up then the way children grow up now – they have everything except good education. Samer lacked for nothing and he received an excellent education. He once said he was privileged to be able to teach other children, and he has done very well in doing that,” said his aunt.

3. A warm and supporting family is everything

This is the first lesson in our journey toward shattering the glass ceiling that is somewhat under our control. There is no doubt that being financially secure helps keep a family together, but we are no strangers to stories about wealthy families whose members seek to take each other down rather than lift each other up, something that is always a grave mistake.

The Haj Yehia family presents a different model. It is not a coincidence that Samer and his family still live in the family home in Tayibe, with his mother. It is hard to believe that there’s another chairman of a large bank anywhere else in the world, who still lives in his childhood home.

“They are an ideal family,” Jabareh said. “The brothers are very close to each other and close to their mother. They were also very close to their father. They’re really a very close-knit family, always supportive of each other. They always encourage each other, ‘Yes, go for it, don’t be afraid, do it.’ And it helped them all, very much, to get to where they are today.”

Haj Yehia’s father died of a stroke a year ago.

A view of Taibe (photo credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90)

A view of Tayibe. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

“Samer was in charge of his care until his very last day. He [the father] died at Meir Hospital [in central Israel] and Samer was the only one by his side,” she added. “I told Samer, ‘You knew your dad was dying, why didn’t you tell anyone?’ And he said, ‘Because I wanted to talk to him. He could hear me. I had many things I wanted to say to him before he died.’ We don’t know what he said. He loved his father very much.”

Jabareh said that back when they were all children, she used to envy the brothers.

“They were constantly spoiled. My father, Samer’s grandfather, always gave him special treatment. Even when he fell ill, he asked for Samer. ‘Bring Samer to me, I want to see Samer.’ He would always feel better after seeing him. Samer was also very close to his grandfather. He loved him very much,” said Jabareh.

“There was a time when their mother was alone at home. All four sons were in boarding schools outside Tayibe, and she would prepare food for everyone and bring it to them. She worked – she would work all week and go home only to cook for the children and then travel between their boarding schools to bring them food.

“When Samer was studying in university in Jerusalem he wouldn’t come home to Tayibe every weekend, he preferred to stay and study in the library. He didn’t have a roommate because he wanted to be able to study in peace. His mother would go to Jerusalem to bring him food. It was like that all the time,” Jabareh said.

4. Stand firm against pressure from your environment

Even with the support of family, your environment can still pull you down. Samer’s father, who as a probation officer supervised many paroled criminals in the Tayibe area, was familiar with the perils posed by his children’s surroundings and made sure all four attended boarding school outside the city, sending them to the Al Mutran Christian High School in Nazareth.

“It was a very good school, very few families can afford to send their children there,” Jabareh said. “Samer and his brothers were exceptional in Tayibe in every way – in their behavior, their education, even in how they dressed. Going to school in Nazareth – no one else went there. It was expensive and far away.”

Still, Haj Yehia proved to be exceptional from a very young age.

“It was clear that he was gifted. Everyone saw it, not just us. His kindergarten teachers and schoolteachers, too. A few days ago I ran into one of his teachers from third grade. She told me, ‘I knew, even in third grade, that he was destined to do great things. I used to give them [the children] arithmetic problems and he would solve them before I would finish explaining to the class what to do. He was always like that.’”

It is hard to distinguish between the retroactive compliments with which anyone who garners professional achievement is inundated, and reality. In Tayibe, Haj Yehia is a superstar, the subject of excited wedding conversations and social media posts. In his case, everyone knows that these compliments are grounded in reality, as he has always stood out from the crowd, shining brighter from day one.

Isaac Herzog outside the Knesset. (Courtesy)

By the time he turned 30, Haj Yehia had no less than five degrees under his belt, including in law, economics, and accounting. Current Jewish Agency director and then-partner at Herzog Fox Ne’eman Isaac Herzog mentored him during his internship at what is one of the most prestigious law firms in Israel.

Haj Yehia then set off for the United States, completing a doctorate in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and embarking on a successful career in the financial world. At the age of 37 he was named the vice president of Boston-based Fidelity Investments, one of the largest multinational financial services corporations in the world. He also served as a lecturer in economics at MIT and Harvard University.

Seven years ago, Haj Yehia gave into his longing for Israel and the family left its comfortable life in Boston and returned to Tayibe. He also felt that his older children were becoming Americans and he didn’t like it.

Back in Israel, he enrolled Saji and Bassel in a local school, to help them reconnect with their hometown and the Arabic language, and later on sent them to school outside Taiybe, as his father did with him.

After his return, many in Tayibe pressured him to enter local politics.

According to Jabareh, “People here wanted him to be mayor, but he wouldn’t hear of it. Many people were angry with him for declining the offer – they saw him as someone who could save Tayibe from all of its financial problems. Very senior members of the Haj Yehia family, who are involved in local politics, pressed him about it, but he showed no interest. I kept telling him, ‘Don’t go into Tayibe [politics]. It’s crazy. Don’t do it.’”

Mayor of Tayibe Sha’a Mansour Massarwa (Dov Lieber / Times of Israel)

Tayibe is the only city in Israel to be declared insolvent twice, in 1999 and again in 2007, as years of municipal mismanagement have seen it amass nearly NIS 1 billion (roughly $280 million) in debt. In 2013, six years after a trustee was appointed to oversee the city’s finances, a settlement was reached with its creditors for NIS 130 million ($36 million) – 14% of its outstanding debt, which at the time amounted to NIS 931 million ($260 million). The city has since been slowly recovering from its financial woes, but its politics remain tumultuous.

“I know what the municipality is like in Tayibe, the kind of respect the mayor of Tayibe commands, and I still didn’t want Samer to go anywhere near it,” Jabareh said. “I told him, ‘There are plenty of good jobs out there for you. Don’t go into it [politics]. If you do, everyone will end up hating you.’ So he declined the offer and shortly afterward, they [Bank Leumi] offered him a job.”

5. Strive higher, stay motivated, continue to learn and grow

Haj Yehia’s parents encouraged their children to study and work. If there is one thing that can predict success in life – that must be it. Aside from his academic and practical career as a criminologist, his father continued to work the family’s five acres of land, and demanded that his children work on the farm as well.

This had no financial justification, only an educational one – teaching the value of hard work. Rani, Haj Yehia’s younger brother, recently revealed that he and his brothers still work on the family farm on weekends.

Haj Yehia needed little pushing or encouragement. Growing up, he had only a few friends and preferred spending time at home, reading and writing.

As a child, he seemed to be innately motivated, said Jabareh.

“He would come home from school and sit down to do his homework, without his mom or dad telling him he had to do it. They never had to tell him,” she said, recalling a childhood incident that can, perhaps, offer a glimpse into the nature of Bank Leumi’s new chairman.

Illustrative image: Withdrawing money at Bank Leumi on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv, January 18, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

“I came over to their house one day and his father was working on some kind of university paper and he was using one of those old-fashion calculators. Samer, who was in the fifth or sixth grade, walked up to him, took the calculator from his father’s hand and said, ‘If you use it your mind will stop working. Throw it away and only use your head.’ So yes, he was always like this since childhood.”

Still, she would not venture a guess as to whether Haj Yehia he will use his new position to fight the racism and discrimination plaguing Arabs in Israeli society.

“I don’t know about that,” she said. “I know little about banking and economics, but knowing Samer, I have faith that he’ll try. He’s an idealist.”

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Turkey takes delivery of Russian S-400 systems defying US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

Turkey takes delivery of Russian S-400 systems defying US

Xinhua
Turkey takes delivery of Russian S-400 systems defying US

Xinhua

A Russian Antonov military cargo plane, carrying parts of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, is unloaded after landing at the Murted Air Base in Ankara, Turkey, on July 12, 2019. The first batch of Russian S-400 air defense system was delivered in Turkish capital city of Ankara on Friday, the Turkish Defense Ministry said.

Turkey began taking the delivery of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system on Friday, completing a much-debated deal that is likely to trigger sanctions from the United States and test the NATO alliance.

The first components for the state-of-the-art system arrived aboard three Russian military planes at the Murted air base, located at a distant suburb of Ankara, the Turkish Defense Ministry said in a statement.

“Turkey received the first batch of S-400 air defense systems. The deliveries are sent to the Murted air base,” the ministry said. Two more deliveries are expected in the coming days.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara that “there is no problem in the deliveries,” adding that “the process will also continue in a healthy pace in the future.”

The purchase, which is the fruit of a controversial agreement inked between Ankara and Moscow in 2017, signals, according to observers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s willingness to coordinate more with Russia and could set off a new crisis in relations between Turkey and the US, two major NATO allies.

The US President Donald Trump’s administration had given mixed signals about how it might respond if Turkey went through with the deal, but US officials had warned of repercussions, including canceling sales of around 100 high-tech US-made F-35 fighter jets to Ankara and the imposition of sanctions under a 2017 law in cooperation with adversaries.

During a visit to NATO headquarters in Belgium in June, acting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said “if Turkey accepts delivery of the S-400s, they will not receive the F-35.”

However, Trump has been publicly supportive of the Turkish president and expressed recently sympathy for Erdogan’s decision to purchase the surface-to-air S-400s. Erdogan, after meeting Trump at the G-20 Summit in June in Osaka, said he did not believe that the United States would sanction Turkey.

Erdogan has refused to back down on the S-400 deal and defended the 2.5 billion US dollar acquisition of the Russian system as part of Turkey’s sovereign right to defend itself, and said he tried to purchase the US-made Patriot air defense system but was not offered favorable terms in the past.

US officials fear that Turkey’s possession of the S-400 could give Russia access to secrets of the F-35’s stealth technology and argued that it would create interoperability problems inside NATO.

Ankara has ruled out such a possibility, saying that it is a long standing NATO country, since 1952, and that the S-400 would not be integrated in NATO capabilities.

Nevertheless, Turkey’s purchase of F-35 planes could be compromised as a concrete move last month, the Pentagon said it would halt the training of Turkish pilots to fly the warplane.

Possible US economic sanctions would mark a new standoff in Turkish-American ties. Last year, Washington imposed sanctions on Turkey over its detention of an American pastor, triggering a currency crisis. Sanctions were lifted after Ankara released the clergyman.

Following the arrival of the first S-400 components to the Turkish capital, the Turkish lira dropped about 1.5 percent against the greenback, trading at 5.76 lira.

The deal with Russia also raised some concerns in Western circles that Turkey is drifting away, closer to Moscow’s sphere of influence.

Deliveries of the S-400 components to Turkey would continue “in the coming days,” according to a statement by Turkey’s defense industries authority, which did not say when or where the completed system would ultimately be deployed.

“Once the system is completely ready, it will begin to be used in a way determined by relevant authorities,” said the statement.

An official close to the matter said to Xinhua that the first battery could be deployed at Murted base and a second one likely in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian and Iraqi border and be operational by October.

“Assessments are underway at several levels to decide on the issue, but everything is going according to plan,” said the official on the condition of anonymity.

2 Men Tried To Rob A McDonald’s Full Of French Special Forces Soldiers: Not Smart

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MILITARY NEWS PAPER ‘FOR GOD AND COUNTRY’)

 

Armed Men Attempt to Rob McDonald’s Full of Special Forces Soldiers, Fail Spectacularly

A pair of armed robbers thought they had it all worked out when they stormed into a McDonald’s. They were wearing masks, armed with shotguns, and had their plan all laid out.

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But one thing they didn’t have a plan for was an entire special operations team that happened to be eating lunch inside the restaurant, dressed in civilian clothing.

Some 40 plus customers chomping away on their burgers Sunday evening in the fast food restaurant when the two robbers stormed in, fired a shotgun blast into the air, threatening the guests and ordering staff to open the cash registers, which contained just under $2,300 in cash.

“At first, I did not realize there was a gunshot,” said 20-year-old Antony, who works in the kitchen.

The robbers went about committing their crime completely unaware that 11 members of the French special forces, Groupe d’Intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale, or GIGN – the anti-terrorism equivalent of the British SAS – who were none too amused at having their meal of Big Macs and french fries disturbed by two bumbling criminals.

The commandos kept their cool during the robbery, but leaped into action as it wound down to avoid any collateral bloodshed.

Edwige Roux-Morizot, the local prosecutor, told reporters: “During the hold-up, the gendarmes didn’t do anything. It was out of the question to use their weapons, as this would have created difficulties and could have placed many people’s lives in danger.”

The battle hardened warriors pounced when the first of the robbers stumbled on his way out the front door, taking him into custody without any gun play, but did suffer some injuries during the aggressive arrest.

The second robber wasn’t as smart and turned his gun towards the GIGN operators after being told to drop the weapon. He was shot multiple times in the stomach.

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Both suspects were transported to the hospital for treatment and now sit in jail awaiting trial on armed robbery charges.

GIGN was formed in 1972 as a direct response to the Munich Olympic massacre where Palestinian terrorists took 11 Israeli athletes hostage, killing them all.

More recently, GIGN received worldwide video coverage of their operations following the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the bombing at the Bataclan theater.

Special forces are getting a stealth motorcycle that’s silent and deadly

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POPULAR SCIENCE)

 

Special forces are getting a stealth motorcycle that’s silent and deadly

Here comes the dirt bike, beware of the dirt bike.

SilentHawk stealth motorcycle

The SilentHawk can also run on jet fuel.

Logos Technologies

A dirt bike is a tool for getting a person to a place they shouldn’t be. Lightweight, made for rough terrain, and fast, motorcycles allow special forces to slip through woods, navigate narrow canyons, sneak through alleyways, or hurtle down footpaths. There’s only one problem: dirt bikes are really, really loud, so any secrecy gained by using a bike is lost to the engine’s roar. Which is why DARPA, the Pentagon’s future projects wing, is funding the development of a versatile electric dirt bike, so that special forces can have as silent a ride as possible on two powered wheels. The bike is called “SilentHawk,” and after receiving the first prototype, DARPA liked to so much they asked for two more.

SilentHawk is a collaboration between Logos Technologies, which makes military tools like drones and sensors, and Alta Motors, which makes electric dirt bikes. Creating a silent motorcycle meant starting from an electric bike. As designed, one modification of the SilentHawk uses a hybrid engine, so it can run on gas most of the time, and on electricity when it needs to be quiet. And it’s not limited to gas: It’s can run on diesel, as well as JP5 and JP8 jet fuels, so that the special forces using it in the field can power it with whatever fuel they might encounter. When running on fuel, the SilentHawk recharges its own batteries and any electronic devices the troops might have, like radios, GPS receivers, or tablets.

SilentHawk

SILENTHAWK

The SilentHawk motorcycle has an expected top speed of 80 mph, on either electric or hybrid power.

Logos Technologies

“Because they’re motorcycles and they’re relatively small, you can put several of these in the back of a V-22 and they could be dropped off somewhere,” said Doug Rombough, VP of Business Development for Logos Technologies. “They could go 50 miles, and when they get within 10 miles of an objective, they could shut off that multi-fuel engine, and go all-electric—the only noise [they] will produce at that point will be the noise of the tires on the surface and or the chain of the motorcycle.”

Running on fuel with the generator activated, the bike is about 75 decibels, or the sound of a garbage disposal. Switched to all-electric, SilentHawk lead engineer Alex Dzwill says it produces less than 55 decibels, or about the sound of normal conversation. Is it possible to make it quieter?

“Literally the loudest thing is the chain, and it’s possible for us to outfit a belt, though there’s a whole host of reasons for why you wouldn’t want a belt on a dirt bike,” said Dzwill. “If you get a rock in there, it’s very likely that you’ll rip the belt up, but if you’re in a sandy location like the desert, it’s possible you could use a belt and be fine.”

So 55 decibels may be as quiet as a dirt bike gets. Competition dirt bikes are regulated to stay under 113 decibels, so compared to the roaring engines that normally come with such vehicles, the SilentHawk represents a world of improvement.

SilentHawk motorcycle

SILENTHAWK MOTORCYCLE

SilentHawk

Logos Technologies

The bike is so quiet it even surprised its designer. Dzwill recalls a testing session in the woods where a rider was able to sneak up on him undetected. “He just popped up behind us, like the sound of us walking was enough to completely hide the sound of the motorcycle approaching behind us.” As a comparison, they were able to hear a traditional gas-powered dirtbike from almost a mile away.

There are no other stealth features for the SilentHawk other than its quiet engine, but that’s still probably enough for the silent professionals that may take it into battle. Traveling undetected is a tremendous advantage, provided the bike itself doesn’t end up a encumbrance. Which nods to one of DARPA’s goals in asking for new prototypes: reducing the weight, while retaining all the added functionality.

Off the shelf, an Alta Motors electric motorcycle weighs 270 pounds. With everything added to the first prototype, including two-wheel drive, the hybrid engine, and the control system, the total weight is 350 pounds. To get that heft back down, Logos is going to need to rework part of the hybrid engine. Originally built for the Parahawk unmanned aerial vehicle program, the engine is liquid-cooled. A new air-cooled engine could do-away with the radiator and shed pounds in the process.

And to provide flexibility as well as lightening the load of the bike, SilentHawk is somewhat modular. One kit will provide auxiliary power, a user interface, and equipment storage. Another one will extend the range of the bike. Both kits can work with the hybrid engine, and the seat with generator attached can be swapped out for a standard seat. (The generator can work even if the bike isn’t moving, too). The end goal is something flexible for lots of needs, which can be adapted in the field.

“You can transfer a hybrid power motorcycle back to an all-electric motorcycle, in about 30 minutes, maybe an hour if you’re not experienced at doing it,” said Rombough, “You could leave that in the environment, go back and forth if you want a slightly more nimble motorcycle for your upcoming mission.”

The soon-to-be-signed follow-on contract with DARPA will produce these new prototypes within a year. If DARPA likes what it sees, the next stage would be more of a production model, and then after that it’s possible special forces could get a brand-new bike for moving undetected wherever they may need to go. Just don’t expect them to make a big noise about it.

Argentine navy says it’s lost contact with submarine

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Argentine navy says it’s lost contact with submarine

The ARA San Juan submarine, pictured in May 2014, is delivered to the Argentine navy after repairs.

Story highlights

  • ARA San Juan submarine was last spotted Wednesday in the San Jorge Gulf
  • At least 44 crew members were on board, state-run news agency says

(CNN)The Argentine navy is looking for one of its submarines after it lost contact with the vessel off the country’s Atlantic coast, the military service said Friday.

The ARA San Juan submarine was last spotted Wednesday in the San Jorge Gulf roughly 432 kilometers (268 miles) off the east coast, the navy said.
At least 44 crew members were on board, state-run news agency Telam reported Friday.
Crews are searching for the vessel by air and sea near its last known location, navy spokesman Enrique Balbi told reporters.
“We have ordered all terrestrial communication stations along the Argentine coast to carry out a preliminary and extended search of communications and to listen in to all the possible frequencies of the submarine,” the navy said in a statement Friday.
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The vessel had been traveling from far southern Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago to its home base in Mar del Plata, a coastal city hundreds of miles to the northeast.
“The submarine knows that if it does not have communication with land for this long, it has to surface,” Balbi said.

Young Soldier

Young Soldier

When we were young did we not all play

Pretending to be Generals and Sergeants

In our backyards or barns filled with hay

President Mom calling a truce

To fill our bellies with hot biscuits and ham

No foul, no harm, no spills I guess

When young, is not time and the world

Our personal sandbox full of new thrills

 

17 who can now say that I am not a man

Jungles and deserts I now low crawl

With M-16 with 203 in my hand

I hold my breath and tweak my sight

With one finger the trigger I quietly squeeze

One less breath, one less enemy,one less man

As the earth inhales their blood

To me one more notch, one more trophy

As his last breath leaves with the wind

Is there blood on your conscience

For the blood on your hands

Not knowing your temple

Is the target

17 your life is over

Before it began

Russian Defense Minister’s Plane Buzzed Over Baltic By NATO Jet: TASS

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS AND TASS)

Russian defense minister’s plane buzzed over Baltic by NATO jet: TASS

(PRESIDENT PUTIN NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND THAT THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES TO HIS POLICY OF CONSTANT ‘FLY-BY’ IGNORANCE)(TRS) 

A plane carrying Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was buzzed by a NATO F-16 fighter jet as it flew over the Baltic Sea, but was chased away by a Russian military jet, the TASS news agency reported on Wednesday.

TASS said the NATO plane had tried to approach the aircraft carrying the defense minister even though it was flying over neutral waters. It said Shoigu was en route to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad at the time.

(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

VA Denied Stay On Paying Emergency Care Claims: Good Luck On Actually Getting Them To Pay Their Bills Though!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PENSACOLA NEWS JOURNAL)

VA denied stay on paying emergency care claims

LINKEDIN 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has rejected with stunning speed a motion from the Department of Veterans Affairs that it be allowed to stop taking steps toward reimbursing hundreds of thousands of veterans, for the non-VA emergency care costs they have paid, until higher courts rule on VA’s appeal.

Warning of possible “accounting chaos” if payments must begin before appeals are exhausted, VA lawyers Friday filed a motion with the Veterans Claims court to stay the “precedential effect” of the court’s decision last year in Staab v. McDonald, now renamed Staab v Shulkin with a new VA Secretary in office.

VA should not have to continue to take complex and costly steps toward reimbursing these veterans or survivors for non-VA emergency health care claims, VA lawyers argued, because the Veterans Claims court decision is likely to be overturned, which would mean VA isn’t liable to pay a rising mountain of claims.

By Monday, however, the Veterans Claims court applied a rubber stamp of red ink to VA’s stay request, ruling “Motion Denied.” Judge Alan G. Lance Sr. signed the stamp on behalf of a three-judge panel.

“It’s the quickest judicial ruling I’ve ever seen,” chuckled Barton F. Stichman, one of three attorneys for the appellant, Richard W. Staab. Staab is an 84-year-old Air Force veteran who had to pay roughly $48,000 in unreimbursed medical expenses following emergency health surgery in the private sector in 2010.

VA claim experts told Staab that because he was eligible for Medicare Part A, any additional out-of-pockets costs he incurred tied to non-VA emergency care were his responsibility. Under a 1999 law, VA only has covered outside emergency care if a veteran has no other health care coverage, which would include Medicare.

Staab sued, arguing that Congress changed that law in 2009 but that VA chose to ignore the change and continued to deny emergency care reimbursements to any veteran with alternative health care coverage.

Last April a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims agreed with Staab, finding that VA, in rewriting regulations, ignored the “plain language” of the 2009 statute which Congress passed to protect VA-enrolled veterans from out-of-pocket costs when forced to use non-VA emergency care.

VA’s plea for reconsideration by a full panel of judges on the Veterans Claims court also was denied last summer. This month attorneys for VA and the Justice Department filed a fresh appeal brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, urging its judges to overturn the Veterans Claims decision.

They argue that Congress in 2009 did change language of one relevant provision of law, but it left another provision untouched, which VA appropriately used to continue to deny claims for reimbursement of non-VA emergency care.

In their motion to stay the effect of Staab until the decision is overturned or appeals are exhausted, VA attorneys told the lower court that the volume of claims affected is “indeed significant.” Since April 8, the date of the Staab decision, VA has suspended consideration of 373,000 emergency care claims it previously would have denied. VA estimates reimbursements for such claims, filed in 2017 alone, would fall between $75 million and $273 million. Over five years, the added costs would fall between $394 million and $1.45 billion, and over 10 years the total could exceed $6.5 billion. Meanwhile, VA work toward paying the claims is proceeding.

“Policy program officials, revenue officials, rulemaking professionals, legal and other subject matter experts across the Department have already been directly involved in this undertaking and will continue until its completion,” wrote VA in its stay request. “Preliminary steps have been completed to craft the regulations and identify computer needs, and absent the grant of the stay, VA will need to proceed with costly software upgrades and continued investment in resources.”

Despite the “strong possibility” Staab will be reserved, VA argued, without a stay it will continue a “heavy and irreversible investment in rulemaking and implementing” the decision, using up resources that VA should be applying “to health care programs that would undisputedly benefit veterans now.”

VA has been fighting the Staab decision in Congress too. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) revealed during the Feb. 1 confirmation hearing of Dr. David Shulkin to be the VA Secretary, that some senators schemed twice last year with VA to try to offer quietly, and to pass by unanimous consent, bills that would reverse the effect of Staab and modify the 2009 law on VA emergency care reimbursements.

Rounds referred to them as “hotline bills,” which he and other senators blocked. Rounds asked Shulkin his opinion of such back-door efforts.

“My opinion doesn’t matter because this is law,” Shulkin said. “The judges have ruled … I have instructed VA to start putting together (the) regulation that it’s going to take to be able to start paying these emergency room bills. Every day we delay, veterans are going to be put in the middle and that’s really unfair to them.”

But Rounds reminded Shulkin that the VA is appealing Staab and so its lawyers “continue to do battle on this.”

Shulkin agreed he should “clarify our position.” He said, “While VA is moving forward to start paying these bills” it also “does not believe that the court interpreted the statute correctly … and so we will see what happens. But in the meantime, I am not going to allow veterans to be put in the middle like we have been continuing to (do). We are going to move forward and we will do it with speed to make sure we start paying these bills as soon as we possibly can.”

Rounds noted the costs involved, as much as $10 billion over 10 years, which will fall on veterans “if the VA doesn’t pay it. You don’t have the money in your budget. Are you prepared to ask Congress for appropriate funds,” he asked.

Shulkin expressed concern that Staab and the 2009 law change is “a new interpretation of a benefit for veterans who have other health insurance” and need emergency care, in many cases for conditions that are not service connected.

“If we do not get additional funds authorized, that money will come from the services we provide today to veterans, and they will have less health care,” Shulkin warned. “So, yes, we will … ask (Congress) to help support with additional funding this new benefit — if it is not overturned on appeal from the Department of Justice.”

Staab’s attorney Stichman, who is joint executive director of the National Veterans Legal Services Program, said the court was right to reject VA’s stay request because its chances of winning on appeal actually are low. Also, more delay in paying claims would cause “irreparable harm” to elderly veterans.

“If they happen to die while the claim is on appeal then they’ll never see the money and the debt would pass on to the estate,” Stichman said.

Send comments to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120, or email [email protected], or twitter: Tom Philpott @Military_Update

China’s President Xi Has New Year Message For The Nation’s Military

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Xi has New Year message for the nation’s military

PRESIDENT Xi Jinping called on the military to improve its political awareness, push forward reform, and govern its forces according to law to aid the building of a strong military.

Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, underscored the importance of improving combat readiness through troop training.

The president made the comments on Monday during a visit to the 65th Army Group, which is stationed in north China’s Hebei Province.

While at the barracks, Xi extended Spring Festival greetings to the armed forces, armed police force, the militia and reserve forces.

The weeklong holiday, which starts on the eve of the Chinese New Year tomorrow, is the most important in the Chinese calendar, when millions of people travel home, many seeing their relatives for the only time in the year.

Xi visited a study room of a company of an infantry brigade under the 65th Army Group, where he saw servicemen using a smart phone app to compare study results. He encouraged all soldiers to carry forward the country’s excellent traditions and move with the times, while using the Party’s new theories to arm their ideologies.

Xi expressed an interest in soldiers’ living arrangements during the Chinese Lunar New Year. He was briefed by a platoon leader that soldiers will have dinner, play games and attend entertainment events.

After listening to the soldiers singing, Xi sat with them, talking to every soldier in the platoon and urging the leaders to make sure that the soldiers have a good Spring Festival.

At the company clubhouse, Xi posed for photographs with the soldiers and told them that the grassroots units were the foundation of the military. He urged officers to care about their fellow servicemen and address their concerns.

He also voiced the hope that young servicemen could make personal achievements while in service.

Better work order

At the command and training center of the army group, Xi ordered better ideological and political work, saying that the pernicious influence of Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, two corrupt former CMC vice-chairmen, should be purged.

Guo was jailed for life last year. Xu died of cancer in 2015 before he could face trial.

It must be ensured that the military upholds the authority of the Party’s Central Committee at all times and under any circumstances, and firmly follows the command of the Party and the military commission, Xi said.

He demanded reform tasks be implemented and the military’s combat capability be enhanced through drills under battle conditions.

Xi stressed that the military should be strictly governed according to law, with a focus on primary-level units.

While striving to complete military missions, Xi said, the military should also support the integrated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the country’s poverty alleviation efforts.