Rep Jim Banks
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House Armed Services Subcommittee for Military Personnel Chairman Jim Banks (R-IN) in a recent exclusive interview with Breitbart News blasted the Army for not providing the actual data for a survey it published last month, that Army officials claim shows that wokeness is not affecting recruiting.

“The Army is hiding behind some report that they won’t even release the methodology behind that report, that says that wokeness isn’t affecting recruitment in the military, but they can’t prove it,” he said.

“They don’t want to release it because they know the methodology is faulty,” he said...

To read more visit Breitbart.

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U.K. Increases Danger Of Nuclear War By Sending Depleted Uranium Shells To Ukraine

On Monday, British Minister of State for Defense, Annabel Goldie, said that the U.K. would provide depleted uranium armor-piercing rounds for the Challenger 2 battle tanks it plans to send to Ukraine. The depleted uranium rounds are “highly effective in defeating modern tanks and armored vehicles,” Goldie said in trying to justify the decision. The move would represent a significant escalation in the war.

While the British downplay any nuclear risks related to this irresponsible move, injecting this type of material into a country that has already suffered the devastating effects of the Chernobyl disaster is the height of irresponsibility. Depleted uranium shells punch a hole through the target upon impact, while uranium burns itself into tiny particles that spread out in the atmosphere. Inhaled or ingested, they can enter human bodies, causing disastrous damage due to radiation exposure and heavy metals.

Depleted Uranium (DU) has 60 percent of the radioactivity of natural uranium and is considered very dangerous. The United States used depleted uranium ammunition in former Yugoslavia and in the Iraq War. That decision inflicted serious long-term damage on the populations of those countries. A British Medical Journal study found that “The available evidence suggests possible associations between exposure to depleted uranium and adverse health outcomes among the Iraqi population.”

Through this reckless decision, the British have increased the likelihood of a nuclear conflict. During a joint press conference with Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters, “Russia will have to react accordingly, bearing in mind that the collective West is already beginning to use weapons that have a nuclear component.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a harsh response condemning the move. “We regard the statement made by British Minister of State for Defense Annabel Goldie about the U.K. government’s plans to send armor-piercing depleted uranium rounds for the Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine as yet another proof of London’s intention to take the lead in the anti-Russia campaign…. London has apparently forgotten about the well-known serious consequences of the use of toxic and radioactive munitions by the West during the conflicts in Yugoslavia and Iraq,” the statement reads. “A desire to increase the suffering of civilians and to do irreparable environmental damage shows that the British have no regard whatsoever for the Ukrainian people. This openly cynical British policy has once again shown who the real aggressor and warmonger in Ukraine is. London must know that it will bear full responsibility for violating the fundamental norms of international law…. We will respond to such actions accordingly.”

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson also condemned the move, stating that “NATO dropped 15 tons of depleted uranium bombs on Yugoslavia causing death and agony to linger for generations after the war. In Serbia after 1999, many children suffered from tumors and 366 participating NATO Italian military personnel died of cancer.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby brushed off concerns about the U.K.’s escalation of the conflict, stating “Depleted Uranium Is ‘Commonplace Munition.’ If Russia Is Worried About Their Tanks, Move Them Out Of Ukraine.”

This led Russia’s Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, to declare, “Commenting on this kind of nonsense is really hard. U.S. officials have reached a new low with their irresponsible statements. There is a continuous flow of lethal weapons to Ukraine, which are used to annihilate civilians, residential areas, schools, hospitals, and kindergartens. It seems that the enlightened West, led by Washington, has irrevocably decided to bring humanity to a dangerous line, beyond which a nuclear Armageddon is looming ever more distinctly.”

Chinese Leader Xi Jinping

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has been in Moscow meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and laying out Beijing's 12-point peace plan to end Russia's war in Ukraine since Monday. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has made it known that he is also willing to meet with Xi to discuss Kyiv's peace formula for a possible end to the war that entered its second year last month.

"We believe that many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China are consonant with Russian approaches and can be taken as the basis for a peaceful settlement when they are ready for that in the West and in Kyiv," Putin told Xi.

"However, so far we see no such readiness from their side," Putin added, assigning blame for the lack of peace talks on Ukraine.

Zelensky, however, said Tuesday that the Ukrainian government has already reached out to China and invited officials in Beijing to engage in talks regarding how to implement Kyiv's peace plan and that he is waiting to hear back from the Chinese.

"We offered China to become a partner in the implementation of the peace formula across all channels. We invite you to dialogue. We are waiting for your answer," Zelensky said during a Tuesday press conference and added, "We are receiving some signals, but there are no specifics yet."

Last month, Zelensky surprised many when he responded positively to Xi offering Beijing's 12-point peace plan as a starting place for negotiations.

"I think the fact that China started talking about Ukraine is not bad. But the question is what follows the words," Zelensky said last month.

"I think some of the Chinese proposals respect international law, and I think we can work on it with China. Why not? Our goal is to gather many around us to isolate one [Russia]," Zelensky concluded.

After China released its peace plan a few weeks ago, Beijing has begun to emerge as a mediator between the two countries, but not everyone is happy about the possibility of China-led peace negotiations. Washington has been forced to take a backseat amid unprecedented Russian and Chinese cooperation.

There is also likely mounting pressure being put on Zelensky to reject any friendly approaches from China, as many in the West see Beijing's attempt at mediating negotiations as a way to keep Russia strong and on the offensive in Ukraine. It will be interesting to see if China and Ukraine are able to materialize talks that bring in Moscow, although Washington is sure to be quite displeased.

Cluster Bomb

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Four GOP Congressmen are pushing the hesitant Biden administration to send cluster munitions to Ukraine. The munitions, which indiscriminately drop hundreds of smaller individual bombs over a large area, have been banned in some 120 countries and are seen as far less accurate compared to other, more conventional weapons. Despite this, 4 Congressmen sent a letter to the Biden White House criticizing its “reluctance to provide Ukraine the right type and amount of long-range fires and maneuver capability to create.”

The letter was signed by the following 4 Republican members of Congress:

The Congressmen want the cluster munitions provided as part of the next major weapons package approval.

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While Ukraine has specifically requested the MK-20 air-delivered cluster bombs, Kyiv claims that it will not be dropping the small bombs en masse as they are designed to be but rather will be dropping the individual bombs from either drones or 155mm artillery cluster shells.

While the U.S. has a history of producing, using, and selling cluster munitions to its allies, those practices stopped in 2016 when Textron Systems Corporation stopped producing MK-20s, and the U.S. stopped selling them to Saudi Arabia. However, it is estimated that there are still approximately 1 million cluster munitions in Pentagon stockpiles.

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Jan Emeryk Rościszewski, Poland’s Ambassador to France, made the startling declaration that Poland would declare war on Russia should Ukraine lose the war. “If Ukraine fails to defend its independence,” the ambassador told French television, “we will have no choice, we will be forced to enter the conflict.”

The statement is another example of the aggressive pro-war policy pursued by NATO and the European Union. It produced shock and outrage in France. Florian Philippot, President of the Les Patriotes Party remarked on Twitter, “Crazy statement from the ambassador of Poland in France: he announces the entry into war of his country against Russia if  Zelensky loses! France embarked with this country via the EU and NATO?! These madmen refuse Peace!”

The Polish Embassy in France quickly denounced the statement of its own ambassador, insisting that the media interpreted the ambassador’s words “out of context.” They claim that in other parts of the interview Rościszewski “clearly says that Poland is not at war, but will do everything to help Ukraine defend itself in this conflict.” Nevertheless, the video is clear that the ambassador stated categorically that Poland would enter the war against Russia if Ukraine is feated. Is Warsaw launching a trial balloon for launching World War III?

ICBM Launch from Submarine

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In a rare move on Sunday, North Korea launched at least one missile in the Sea of Japan from a submarine in response to large-scale joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea. While Pyongyang has conducted a smattering of land-based launches over the past year, it is rare for North Korea to launch missiles at sea.

Although North Korea claims to have launched two cruise missiles from a submarine, the South Korean military only tracked one missile fired from the sub, which was located near the North Korean port city of Sinpo.

The missile launches come as a warning to the U.S. and South Korea as the two countries begin 11 days of joint military drills, which are the largest in 5 years. The North Korean launches came within the first 24 hours of the U.S. drills.

According to North Korean state media, Pyongyang vowed to take "the toughest counteraction" against the joint military exercises and said that the "strategic cruise missiles" were launched Sunday morning from an "8.24 Yongung" submarine in the Sea of Japan. It is the same submarine that was used to test North Korea's first submarine-launched ballistic missile in 2016.

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While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has recently warned of "unprecedented strong responses" to the joint exercises if they took place, his sister, Kim Yo Jong, has warned that "the frequency of using the Pacific Ocean as our shooting range depends on the nature of the U.S. military's actions," according to a statement published on the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

With the U.S. government stretched thin between assisting Ukraine in its defense against Russia and Beijing ramping up its threats of reunification with Taiwan while strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally in the Middle East, the last thing the U.S. or its military needs right now is a conflict with North Korea.

Host L Todd Wood gives an update on the Ukraine War, and speaks with Major General Paul Vallely, US Army Retired on the conflict.

Virginia Class Submarine

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In an effort to expand and overhaul its navy, Australia has signed a deal with the U.S. to purchase 5 Virginia-class nuclear submarines beginning in the next decade. Both U.S. and European officials have disclosed the deal as part of a landmark defense agreement between the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. in an effort to counter China.

The agreement is central to the newly formed AUKUS partnership. The sub deal is expected to be announced on Monday when President Joe Biden meets with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego.

At the time of the partnership's formation 18 months ago, Biden said, "We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term," adding that "We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve."

The Virginia-class submarines cost $3 billion each and will be built in Virginia and Connecticut. Some sources, however, have said that the subs will be built in the UK and Australia using U.S. technology and assistance.

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While the AUKUS partnership has many defense components, one of the most critical is the development of Australia's nuclear submarine capability.

While Western leaders have been careful never to call out China directly, it's clear that the AUKUS partnership is aimed at countering China's influence in the Indo-Pacific. Meanwhile, Beijing has accused Australia of violating prior commitments to provide nuclear weapons or technology to its military.

US Begins 'Training Assessment' For Ukrainian Pilots On F-16s
Ukrainian Air Force
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The White House has so far ruled out calls to provide the Ukrainian government with F-16 fighter jets, but clearly the idea is still on the table and Biden may be close to pulling the trigger amid intense administration discussions.

"Two Ukrainian pilots are currently in the United States undergoing an assessment to determine how long it could take to train them to fly attack aircraft, including F-16 fighter jets, according to two congressional officials and a senior U.S. official," a weekend NBC report indicates.

"The Ukrainians’ skills are being evaluated on simulators at a U.S. military base in Tucson, Arizona, the officials said, and they may be joined by more of their fellow pilots soon," the report continues...

To read more visit Zero Hedge.

Image by Neville Goodman

Guest post by Thomas Klocek

One of my high school teachers was fond of telling us that common sense was not very common. If it ever was common, it seems to be mostly gone now. Today’s self-anointed pharisees, rather than employ common sense to foster the needs of the people, do everything they can to counter it, mostly for their own needs and agenda, regardless of the negative impacts it may have on society as a whole.

Of course, common sense is tied to logic and, despite Kamala’s obsession with Venn diagrams, many people today are like the person described in C.S. Lewis’s classic, The Screwtape Letters: “Your man is accustomed to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head.” The way the self-anointed get around common sense is to convince themselves that their ideology is better and more important than reality. Again, as Screwtape notes, “Everything has to be twisted before it’s any use to us.” Now their problem is merely to convince the rest of us, and they do this by obfuscation, misreporting, actually failing to report key information, or outright lying.

And so, we get the twisted excuse from Bill Gates (and other elites) that, because he is such an advocate for green policies, all his private airplane flights are okay. If such lame excuses don’t work, they’ll find some way to blame someone or something else for the failure of their ideology to produce the promised benefits.

We see this kind of argument when it comes to the elite’s mantra of “tax the rich” and make them pay “their fair share.” They claimed Trump’s tax cuts only benefited the rich and would reduce federal receipts. In actuality, receipts from taxes went up as a result of Trump’s tax policy. As for fair share, for decades the percentages have remained fairly constant with the top 10% of earners paying about 90% of the taxes. Similarly, the gap between the rich and the poor always seems to widen during Democrat administrations, with the rich getting richer.

Another case of suppressing common sense is the push toward green energy policies. Almost anyone (with common sense) could see that neither the country nor the technology was ready for a massive leap to green energy while at the same time just dumping existing viable energy sources (e.g., fossil fuels). Common sense tells us that make such a drastic leap into “renewable” energy while, at the same time, drastically cutting development of existing reliable resources would be fraught with danger, especially without having either a viable transition plan or a contingency plan for when things don’t go as expected. Yet, that is what this administration did, blindly cutting off or cutting back on fossil fuels, neglecting to develop nuclear energy plants, and driving people to electric vehicles whose technology is not mature, nor is the grid prepared to support them. At the same time, no plans were made for adverse conditions and so, in Scotland, for example, they are using diesel generators to keep wind turbines warm so they can function in the cold weather; and the turbines don’t make up for the fuel being used.

Supposedly the driver behind “going green” is to save the planet yet obtaining the resources to support electric cars (e.g., batteries) is more destructive to environments than the energy saved. Wind turbines kill thousands of birds (as do solar panels), are reportedly having adverse effects on fishing grounds in offshore installations (and the noise drives fish away), and their materials are neither recyclable nor biodegradable. Manufacturers of electric vehicles warn their owners not to use such amenities as heaters in very cold weather. They also have limited range and have lengthy recharging times. The mantra of buying an electric vehicle to avoid gas prices is also false as the cost to fill up and the cost to recharge are comparable.

And the idea that top-down government planning will be successful is also a denial of common sense. Show me a country that prospered with this philosophy. Soviet Russia was a huge failure. So is China. The way China has advanced of late is by its reacting to market pressures and opportunities. Most of what China produces are things that were invented or developed elsewhere, mostly in the free market innovation once permitted here in the U.S. Their success has been in being able to produce it easier and cheaper. Look what has happened when we tried top-down directed development by pushing such industries as Solyndra, which went bankrupt in less than a year on a government investment of half a billion dollars -- taxpayers’ money.

This is not to say that government-funded research is not valuable; it is. However, directing research to support a political position does not work, as opposed to research that would meet some identified need (with a good definition of requirements). Many military research projects have been successful in this way and have actually benefited society in general (think microwave ovens and plastic wrap).

Logic drives common sense and, despite Kamala’s obsession with Venn diagrams, most of the programs of this administration are decidedly illogical. One thing this administration has excelled at, however, is to show the failure of diversity and inclusion when choosing people for important decisions. The only equity of outcomes by selecting a gay transportation secretary, gay black woman for press secretary, and a non-binary activist as a Department of Energy official overseeing spent nuclear material has been abject failure on all counts. Logic would dictate the release of them from their positions and prohibition of federal employment but only one has been fired (and that the least influential of them)

Despite the failure of the woke philosophy in government, the administration continues to push CRT and the woke agenda on the country and, of most concern, the military. It is obvious that this administration sees no value in merit and merit is most important in combat.

Can this situation be reversed? Only by going back to the basics: the basics of the Constitution, the non-politicizing of science (when science becomes political, it ceases to be science), teaching critical thinking, actually teaching rather than grooming and indoctrination, the truth, and dare I say it, returning to God.

Our national motto is “One Nation Under God.” The Declaration of Independence cited God (our Creator) when delineating unalienable rights, and our Pledge of Allegiance also calls out God for our guide. The removal of God and the war against religion, Christianity in particular, has only brought anarchy and unhappiness. Organizations like Pew Research continue to show that religious people are happier and better adjusted than the non-religious. However, since faith might hold an out-of-control government in check, it has to be suppressed and even attacked outright, as was done during the COVID lockdowns when churches were closed while abortion facilities (I refuse to call them clinics as their business is murder rather than healing), bars, and strip clubs remained open.

Seek the truth and you will find God. “For where I found truth, there found I my God, who is truth itself.” St. Augustine, Confessions

Attack on carrier USS Franklin 19 March 1945

Reprinted with permission Mises Institute Martin George Holmes

It is a great tragedy that many modern military leaders and strategists do not understand economics. If they did, I suspect that there would be a lot less war, a lot less military spending, and a lot less wastefulness. Certainly, there would be greater awareness of the appalling human and economic costs of war in a capitalist age.

Ludwig von Mises, the great Austrian economist, understood this point well. In his 1927 book Liberalism, he noted that as late as the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), the world was divided into self-sufficient economic blocks.1 This factor helps explain the failure of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Continental System, a blockade designed to ruin Britain by excluding it from Continental European commerce. The system was poorly run, but Mises emphasizes that even if it had been meticulously implemented, neither side would have starved for want of trade with the other. For example, Continental communities would have been able to rely on their own agriculture for necessities. Only certain luxuries, such as sugar, would have been unavailable or very difficult to obtain.

By the twentieth century, the situation had changed. The world had become more integrated; the division of labor, fostered by liberal ideals, meant that many territories were no longer self-sufficient. In particular, several industrialized countries relied on imported food and materials for food production. To deprive them of these goods would be catastrophic.2

Astonishingly, this economic shift – so plainly evident to Mises and other astute liberal economists – was lost on Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan of the United States Navy, the most influential naval strategist in modern times. Mahan became an international celebrity after the publication of the first volume of The Influence of Sea Power upon History in 1890, which proclaimed the geopolitical importance of maritime commerce and naval prowess. In an age of rampant imperialism, great powers across the world followed Mahan’s advice and constructed (or upgraded their existing) battle fleets of heavy ships to defend – and expand – their overseas interests.

Mahan has long been stigmatized as a proponent of big battleship battles aimed at seizing control of the sea. More recent scholarship has revealed that Mahan, a devout Christian and erudite thinker, was deeply concerned about waging war as ethically and decisively as possible.3 Seeking to minimize casualties in combat, he actually championed the neutralization of enemy seaborne commerce by establishing a close or distant blockade of enemy ports. This strategy would destroy the enemy’s economic base and compel their surrender. As he noted in 1899, “It has been the glory of sea-power that its ends are attained by draining men of their dollars instead of their blood.”4 He used a series of earlier wars to prove his point, such as the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the seventeenth century (when England strangled Dutch commerce) and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (when Britain strangled French commerce).

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One can appreciate Mahan’s humanitarian desire to lessen wartime casualties. However, Mahan should have learned from his study of maritime commerce that by the twentieth century, times had changed. Any serious blockade of an industrialized nation would wreak havoc not only on its economy but on its civilian population as well. Violence in battle would be replaced by violence on the home front. Astonishingly, Mahan never seems to have acknowledged this shortcoming in his thinking. As far as I can tell, scholars have not devoted sufficient attention to the issue either.

Mahan died in December 1914, shortly after the beginning of the First World War. It is tragic that Mahan did not live to see more of this conflict, because it illustrated the diabolical nature of his naval strategy. The British Royal Navy swiftly imposed a distant blockade on Germany, which relied on imported food as well as imported fertilizer for its agriculture. This blockade also affected Germany’s ally, Austria-Hungary. The consequences were catastrophic. It is estimated now that nearly one million civilians in these territories perished because of the blockade, not usually from direct starvation, but because malnutrition weakened their immune systems.5

Many more people in these countries experienced horrific health problems from eating ersatz products designed to replace basic staples like bread and sausage. These were concocted from a medley of ingredients that were frequently unsanitary, innutritious, and indigestible; some were downright poisonous.6 As if this suffering was not bad enough, the Germans’ anger toward the blockade influenced their pursuance of unrestricted submarine warfare and bombing raids against the British Empire, which caused numerous civilian and military deaths. It also influenced the manoeuvres of the German High Seas Fleet, which famously engaged the British Grand Fleet at Jutland in 1916 – a blood-spattered clash of the type Mahan had so desperately sought to avoid.

The historical lesson, in other words, is clear. Knowledge of economics is vital for understanding the world and acting ethically within it. Even military strategists ignore economics at their peril. Mainstream scholarly opinion of Mahan may have improved in recent years, but his support for blockades shows that despite his concern for ethics in wartime, he did not have a positive moral influence on world history.

Martin George Holmes is a historian with a PhD from the University of Otago, New Zealand.

Trenches in Bakhmut

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Top Zelensky officials are considering a potential ‘strategic pullback’ from the beleaguered eastern city of Bakhmut. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has admitted that he is not prepared to order the continued defense of the city at all costs. Both Ukraine and Russia are suffering tremendous casualties in the fight for the city, but Russia has superior artillery fire, which it has been using nonstop around the clock. The city is almost completely surrounded by Russian troops.

According to Zelensky aide Alexander Rodnyansky, Kyiv has not yet pulled Ukrainian forces out of Bakhmut, but Zelensky may soon decide that the cost of defending the city “outweighs the benefits.”

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“Our military is obviously going to weigh all of the options,” he said. “So far, they’ve held the city, but if need be, they will strategically pull back because we’re not going to sacrifice all of our people just for nothing,” Rodnyansky added.

Zelensky has also said that defending Bakhmut has been “most difficult” for Ukrainian troops. However, on Wednesday, Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Wagner Grop, said that Ukrainian forces have continued to put up fierce resistance to Russia’s continuous attacks on the city.

“The Ukrainian army is throwing extra reserves into Artyomovsk and trying to hold the town with all their strength,” Prigozhin said. Artyomovsk is the Russian name for Bakhmut.

“Tens of thousands of Ukrainian army fighters are putting up furious resistance. The bloodiness of the battles is growing by the day,” Prigozhin added.

Videos appearing on social media show the devastation. A barren battlefield has replaced a once peaceful, bustling city.

City streets and neighborhoods have been abandoned, bombed, and turned into a war zone.

With Russian forces pounding Bakhmut with nonstop artillery fire, there are no signs that things will improve for Ukrainian troops in the region. According to a retired U.S. Marine fighting in Ukraine, the frontlines in Bakhmut are a “meat grinder” where soldiers only survive an average of “four hours.”

On Tuesday, Zelensky said, “Russia does not count people at all, sending them to constantly storm our positions.”

“The intensity of fighting is only increasing,” Zelensky concluded.

Ukrainian Forces in Donbass

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On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that Kyiv is preparing to launch attacks in an effort to recapture Crimea. The plan for the attacks includes forming new military units and sending forces to train in other countries.

“There are military steps, and we are preparing for them. We are ready mentally. We are preparing technically: with weapons, reinforcements, the formation of brigades, in particular the assault brigades, of different categories and nature,” Zelensky said during a press conference.

According to the local news agency, Ukrinform, Zelensky said that Ukrainian forces were being sent to other countries for training on how to use new weapons. “We have to be ready. Then, there will be corresponding fair de-occupation steps, and, God willing, they will be successful,” he continued.

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While other top Ukrainian officials, along with Zelensky, have made it known that recapturing Crimea is one of their main goals for the war, it will be difficult as Russia controls much of the territory north of Crimea in the Kherson Oblast region. Assessments from the Pentagon also indicate that retaking Crimea will be unlikely for Kyiv. The Crimean Peninsula was taken by Russia in 2014.

Despite the Pentagon’s doubt, the Biden administration has said that it will remain supportive of Ukrainian attacks on Crimea. “Russia has turned Crimea into a massive military installation… those are legitimate targets, Ukraine is hitting them, and we are supporting that,” said Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs.

However, the U.S. supporting Ukrainian assaults on Crimea would risk a serious escalation with Moscow. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has acknowledged the risk of causing further escalation, referring to the peninsula as a “red line” for Russian President Vladimir Putin

Putin has exhibited a willingness to escalate the war over attacks on Crimea, given that Russia’s relentless missile and drone assaults on Ukrainian infrastructure did not begin until Kyiv bombed the Kerch Bride, which connects Crimea with the Russian mainland.

Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014, and, according to polling in the region since Moscow’s takeover, the majority of residents in the Crimea Peninsula are happy that their territory joined with Russia.

AFP Hosts Dan O'Shea and L Todd Wood speak with Sean Drake of Stony Lonesome Group about how he practices 'mission focused' investing and 'trusted capital,' when looking for dual use technologies to invest in for portfolio companies.

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Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel's latest government under Benjamin Netanyahu is increasing its talks with Saudi Arabia regarding strengthening military ties and intelligence sharing between the two countries. The U.S. government has been backing the recent talks.

The Israeli-Saudi discussions are part of an attempt to form a NATO-style anti-Iran alliance in the Middle East between Israel and the United States' Gulf Arab allies.

While Saudi Arabia has still not normalized relations with Israel, the leaders of both nations have subtly increased cooperation with one another. In 2022, both countries participated in their first public, joint military exercises.

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Talks were reportedly held between Saudi and Israeli officials ahead of a meeting of the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council Working Group on February 16. Additional talks were expected to take place over the weekend during the Munich Security Conference.

Under the Abraham Accords, Israel normalized with the UAE and Bahrain in 2020 and has since increased cooperation with the U.S.'s Gulf allies.

Since the Abraham Accords, the U.S. has brought Israel into U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which is the U.S. command responsible for the Middle East.

Adding Israel to CENTCOM operations has allowed for more cooperation between Israel and Arab countries in the region. Prior to the Abraham Accords, Israel was classified under U.S. European Command since it did not have normalized relations with most U.S. allies in the Middle East. The U.S. and Israel have a joint interest in creating a future anti-Iran alliance in the region that will focus on integrated air defense systems.

With the Netanyahu government insisting that it will expand settlements on the West Bank, it is unlikely that Saudia Arabia will engage in a normalization deal with Israel, as the Saudis have stated that such a deal would depend on the creation of a Palestinian state.

However, it is possible that the Saudis could eventually be enticed by the U.S. to do a normalization deal with Israel if the U.S. provides additional military assistance and increased arms sales.

The Pentagon

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On Monday, it was discovered that an unsecured server at the Department of Defense (DOD) had been leaking sensitive military emails online for two full weeks. The incident is being blamed on a misconfiguration that left the server without a password.

The server contained files with sensitive personnel information from the past several years, including completed SF-86 questionnaires, which contain background information for personnel with security clearance. The server is a treasure trove of sensitive information for anyone looking to do harm to the U.S.

The compromised server was hosted on Microsoft's Azure government cloud, which is exclusively for DOD customers. The Azure servers are physically separated from those for commercial customers and can be used to share sensitive information, although no classified material. The exposed server acted as part of an internal email system storing roughly 3 terabytes of internal military emails, several of which pertained to U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), which is the military unit that conducts special operations.

A misconfiguration of the server left it, and its sensitive email contents, without a password and openly exposed on the internet. Anyone could access the server using only an internet browser and the server's IP address.

Data on the server includes military emails, some of which contain sensitive personnel information, dating back years. Included in the exposed emails were several SF-86 questionnaires, which is a document that is completed by anyone seeking security clearance and contains highly sensitive personal background and health information used to vet individuals for possible security clearance. The information contained in the SF-86 questionnaires would be valuable to U.S. adversaries.

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Regrettably, this is not the first such breach of sensitive information. In 2015 the U.S. Office of Personnel Management had a significant data breach when a Chinese hacker stole millions of background check files for government employees applying for security clearance.

None of the limited data reviewed by the media thus far has been classified, which is consistent with USSOCOM's civilian network. For security purposes, all classified networks are internal and inaccessible from the internet.

It appears that the vulnerable server was first discovered to be leaking sensitive data on February 8. While it is still unclear exactly how the server came to be dumping data on the public internet, it is most likely due to a misconfiguration, which would have been caused by human error.

The server was finally secured Monday afternoon, and a senior Pentagon official has confirmed that details of the exposure have been passed along to USSOCOM to be handled accordingly.

Please take 30 seconds to tell your lawmakers to ensure that our veterans receive the disability that they deserve and help protect our vaccine-injured veterans.

It’s time we stand up for our veterans and demand that our veterans, who have honorably served our nation but tragically were injured by COVID-19 vaccines, be able to receive the disability benefits they’ve earned and deserve. Our veterans’ representatives from each state must immediately step up and fulfill their duty as public servants to hold the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accountable for any decisions it makes to deny a COVID-19 vaccine injury and disability claim.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Lawmakers to Demand the VA Recognize COVID Vaccine Injury

The members of our armed forces deserve to be compensated for any COVID-19 service-connected vaccine injury. The Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) must be updated to consider medical diagnoses for COVID-19 vaccine, service-connected disability ratings. We need you to support the members of our armed forces by asking our elected officials to demand the VA verifies they have included medical scenarios whereby this type of injury occurs. Please take action today!

Children’s Health Defense (CHD) wants to ensure that the members of our armed forces receive the best veterans disability care and benefits they’ve earned and deserve. Urgency is required because our current active-duty members, as they begin to transition out of the military, must be able to claim this important disability rating now.

The VASRD is used by the VA as part of the process of adjudicating disability claims. This is a published collection of medical requirements used to evaluate a service member’s medical history and determine their VA military disability rating. The VASRD includes medical scenarios whereby disease, injury, dysfunction, or other issues could occur. Our veterans need the VASRD updated – now – to reflect all documented injuries caused by the COVID-19 vaccine. Our wounded warriors demand the best care they have earned.

Many injuries are due in part to the Department of Defense’s requirement that all service members be vaccinated. It’s time injuries are acknowledged and actions are taken to protect vaccine injured service members. Demand the VA add medical scenarios that address service-connected COVID-19 vaccine injuries to the VASRD.

Please take 30 seconds to tell your lawmakers to ensure that our veterans receive the disability that they deserve and help protect our vaccine-injured veterans.

Use this page to send message to your representative!

Artillery Shells

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As NATO warns that its stockpiles of artillery munitions are running low, the U.S. military is attempting to train Ukrainian forces to change how they fight in order to conserve shells. Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, outlined the effort after a meeting in Brussels with the Ukraine Defense Contact group.

Austin told reporters, ”We are working with the Ukrainian soldiers in various places throughout Europe to emphasize additional training on maneuver so that as they place more emphasis on maneuver and shaping the battlefield with fires and then maneuvering, there’s a good chance that they’ll require less artillery munitions, but that’s left to be seen.”

The secretary confirmed that Ukraine has used “a lot of artillery ammunition” and reiterated that the U.S. is doing everything possible to keep supplying Kyiv with more munitions. “We’re going to do everything we can, working with our international partners, to ensure that we get them as much ammunition as quickly as possible and that we’ll do everything we can to sustain our efforts there as well,” Austin added.

Over the course of the past year, the U.S. has sent an overwhelming amount of artillery to Ukraine, particularly 155mm shells. Due to the depletion of U.S. stockpiles and the continuing demand for more munitions from Kyiv, the Pentagon is increasing its production of artillery shells by 500 percent over the next 2 years to meet the demand and replenish stockpiles.

Even with the drastic increase in the production of ammo, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg said Monday, it is still uncertain whether or not continuing to provide massive weapons caches to Ukraine is sustainable for NATO as Kyiv is burning through more munitions than the military alliance can produce.

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“The war in Ukraine is consuming an enormous amount of munitions, and depleting allied stockpiles. The current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production, and this puts our defense industries under strain,” Stoltenberg added.

Meanwhile, the Chairman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, announced last week that Russia had lost the war and indicated that it was up to Russian President Vladimir Putin to end his “war or choice.”

Seized Ammunition

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As Washington looks for new ways to fund the war in Ukraine, the U.S. Army has begun assessing the possibility of sending thousands of Iranian weapons and more than a million rounds of ammunition to Kyiv.

According to anonymous U.S. and European officials, the weapons and ammo to be turned over to Ukraine would include more than 5,000 assault rifles, 1.6 million rounds of small arms ammunition, a small number of antitank missiles, and more than 7,000 proximity fuses, which were seized recently in the Gulf of Oman while allegedly being shipped to Yemen.

While the weapons and ammunition pale in comparison to what Western allies have sent to Kyiv over the past year, Pentagon officials see the handover of the small weapons cache as a symbolic punishment for Iran, which has been supplying drones to Russia and has recently entered into an agreement with Moscow to build a manufacturing site for Iranian drones inside Russian territory. Both Iran and Russia have denied that Tehran has been supplying Moscow with drones.

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According to the U.S. official, “It’s a message to take weapons meant to arm Iran’s proxies and flip them to achieve our priorities in Ukraine, where Iran is providing arms to Russia.”

There are still legal hurdles to clear before the Biden administration can send the weapons to Ukraine. According to the UN arms embargo on Iran, Western countries are required to destroy, store, or get rid of any seized weapons.

President Joe Biden could possibly overcome the legal challenges by creating an executive order or by working with Congress to all the U.S. to seize weapons under the civil forfeiture authorities and then pass them along to Kyiv.

Regarding the U.S. looking for ways to send the seized Iranian weapons and ammo to Ukraine, Yemen’s Deputy Information Minster told the Wall Street Journal, “What change can this make to war?”

NATO Secretary General told NATO defense ministers during a meeting in Brussels on Monday that “The current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production.” Ukraine’s Western allies recently requested Latin American nations to also donate some of their weapon stocks to Kyiv – a request which was immediately denied.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro responded to the request last month, saying, “We are not with either side. We are for peace.” Meanwhile, Brazilian leader, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told Biden during a meeting that “Brazil is a country of peace. At this moment, we need to find those who want peace, a word that has so far been used very little.”

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said of the idea, “I don’t think sending weapons to prolong a conflict has support in Latin America.”

The Argentinian government gave a similar sentiment when a defense ministry spokesperson said that the country “will not cooperate with the war.”

While the U.S. and its Western allies continue to look for money and weapons to send to Ukraine, Moscow has issued repeated warnings that should Western countries continue to provide weapons and support to Kyiv, they risk becoming directly involved in the conflict.

An F-18C Takes Off From an Aircraft Carrier

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As tensions rise between Beijing and Washington over the Chinese high-altitude balloon that the Air Force shot down last week, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are conducting exercises in the South China Sea.

According to a statement from the Navy's Seventh Fleet, the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and its strike group conducted drills on February 11 with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The statement did not say when the exercises started or when they would conclude.

In recent years, the U.S. military has increased its activity in the South China Sea and has formally rejected most of China's claims to the waters. Beijing shares a claim to the South China Sea along with the Phillippines and numerous other Southeast Asian countries.

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The U.S. involved itself in the dispute over the waters and, under the Obama administration, began sailing warships near islands in the South China Sea that are controlled by Beijing.

The U.S. has been looking to expand its presence in the region under the Biden administration, and Washington recently signed a deal with the Phillippines, which will give the U.S. access to 4 more military sites in the country.

The current drills come after Beijing declined a call from U.S. Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, following the U.S. military shooting down a Chinese balloon in U.S. airspace. The Chinese government maintains that the balloon was a weather balloon, while Washington has claimed that it was a spy device.

While Beijing refused to take Austin's call, U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, canceled a planned trip to China when the balloon was first discovered in U.S. airspace. Since shooting down the Chinese spy balloon, the U.S. military has downed at least two unidentified objects in U.S. airspace, but the White House does not believe the other objects are Chinese balloons.

Lake Huron

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On Sunday, Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) took to Twitter to announce that the military had shot down another "object" that had been identified over Lake Huron. Bergman tweeted, "I've been in contact with DoD regarding operations across the Great Lakes region today. The U.S. military has decommissioned another "object" over Lake Huron. I appreciate the decisive action by our fighter pilots. The American people deserve far more answers than we have."

The incident began earlier Sunday when the U.S. closed and then reopened airspace over Lake Huron. That was then followed by Canada closing its airspace over Lake Huron before the U.S. military reportedly shot down the object.

According to a statement released by Canadian Defence Minister, Anita Anand, the takedown of the object was a joint NORAD operation. Anand's statement read, "Today, a high-altitude object was detected in U.S. airspace over Lake Huron. NORAD launched Canadian and U.S. aircraft to investigate, and the object was taken down in U.S. airspace by U.S. aircraft."

Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) also tweeted reassurances that the object over Lake Huron was being assessed and dealt with, saying, "Just got a call from @DeptofDefense - our military has an extremely close eye on the object above Lake Huron. We'll know more about what this was in the coming days, but for now, be assured that all parties have been laser-focused on it from the moment it traversed our waters."

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Meanwhile, FlightRadar24 images showed a U.S. aircraft tracking an object from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.

While some congressmen offered reassurances to constituents, others demanded answers from the government.

Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) tweeted, "BREAKING: The U.S. military has shot down another unidentified flying object over Lake Huron. We need answers now."

NBC news also tweeted a handful of details that were available regarding the decommissioning of the object, posting, "NEWS: The U.S. military shot down another unidentified object over Lake Huron, two sources tell @ckubeNBC and me. The officials say there are no indications of any collateral damage. The object went down in the lake, and the officials expect to recover it."

While politicians tweeted discontent and reassurances, locals on the ground were tweeting videos of an E-3 Sentry aircraft that was spotted flying near both Lake Huron and Lake Michigan in Petoskey.

After the object had been shot down, Rep. Slotkin tweeted more details. "The object has been downed by pilots from the U.S. Air Force and National Guard. Great work by all who carried out this mission both in the air and back at headquarters. We're all interested in exactly what this object was and it's purpose. 1..../2/ As long as these things keep traversing the U.S. and Canada, I'll continue to ask for Congress to get a full briefing based on our exploitation of the wreckage."

Unfortunately, very little information is known about what the object was, how it was detected, or what methods were used to bring it down. Hopefully, Congress will be able to get some of the answers that Americans deserve.

Missile Explodes Over The Skies Of Romania

The Balkan has received eyewitness reports from trusted sources that a missile exploded today over the skies of Romania near a military base outside of Cluj-Napoca in the northwestern part of the country. The explosion shook buildings in nearby Florești. Eyewitnesses report that the missile came from the northwest, in the direction of Poland. No damage has been reported and Romania officially denies any incident took place, but something is clearly amiss.

Earlier today, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, told Ukrainian Pravda that “Two Russian Kalibr cruise missiles crossed the state border of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova on 10 February at 10:18. At approximately 10:33, these missiles crossed into Romanian air space. After this, the said air targets re-entered Ukrainian airspace where the borders of the three states meet. At the moment, this target is being monitored, and measures to shoot it down are also being taken. The missile was launched from the Black Sea.”

Volodymir Zelensky then claimed that the rockets represented, “a provocation for NATO and its collective security.” Ukrainian officials added that they had the ability to shoot down the missiles but did not do so because they did not want to endanger civilians in the neighboring countries.

Kiev was clearly engaged in a disinformation campaign to try to prop up fading support for the Zelensky regime. The Ukrainian claims, however, were quickly debunked. “At this moment, we have no indications of a military threat by Russia against Romania or the Republic of Moldova.” Vedant Patel, a U.S. State Department Spokesman.

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An official statement from the Romanian Ministry of Defense declared: “The aerial surveillance system of the Romanian Air Force detected on Friday, February 10, an aerial target launched from the Black Sea from a ship of the Russian Federation, near the Crimean Peninsula, most likely a cruise missile, which evolved in the airspace of Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and re-entered the Ukrainian airspace without intersecting, at any time, the airspace of Romania. The closest point of the target's trajectory to Romania's airspace was recorded by radar systems approximately 35 kilometers North-East of the border.” The Defense Ministry made no mention of the incident over the skies of Transylvania.

So what can we make of the reported missile explosion over the skies near Cluj-Napoca? Clearly, no Russian missile was involved. If it had been, Romanian and NATO authorities would have raised the alarm and used the incident to strengthen support for Kiev. The missile that exploded over Transylvania was reported to have come from the northwest in the direction of Poland. Are Ukrainian troops there being trained in the use of long-range missiles and was this some sort of training exercise, error, or a deliberate action by the Ukrainian regime to blame Russia for an incident that could be used for propaganda purposes? We do not have the answers, but the refusal of the authorities to even acknowledge the incident speaks volumes.

Missile Strike on Humanitarian Convoy in Zaporizhzhia

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According to Ukrainian officials, Friday saw more of the eerily consistent nationwide missile strikes that Russia has been conducting across the country for months. However, there was a noticeable uptick in the number of strikes Russia conducted on Friday with Moscow firing up to 35 S-300 missiles at Zaporizhzhia and the Kharkiv region. The escalated strikes caused additional power outages overnight across the country.

Kyiv has been warning of a new Russian offensive since the end of 2022 and has claimed that hundreds of thousands of Russian troops have been amassing on its border. Friday's increased missile attacks came a day after Serhiy Hayday, the leader of the Luhasnk region in Ukraine said that Moscow was increasing its attacks on that part of the country. Hayday commented that the increased missile strikes were "part of the full-scale offensive that Russia has been planning."

While it has been difficult to assess with accuracy, there have been indications from both sides that Russia has been building up its mobilized reserve forces on Ukraine's eastern border and inside Ukraine itself. A pro-Kremlin, Russian military blogger, Evgeny Poddubny, wrote on his Telegram channel Thursday, "Our units, which were mostly formed from mobilized men, gained experience, which made it possible to increase the stability of the units on the front line." Poddubny went on to eventually admit that Ukrainian forces had also been able to replenish its "depleted units."

At the end of January, Hayday noted that there was an "incredible number" of Russian forces inside eastern Ukraine. Hayday said, "There are huge numbers of them [Russian troops in the Svatove-Kreminna area]. And a very large number of mobilized. And they are constantly being thrown into the offensive - almost all the time."

While the growing number of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine has not yet amounted to much on the battlefield, Hayday noted that Russian troops in the area are on the offensive. He then went on to say of the escalation in his region, "We can conclude that a certain escalation has already begun. And we can say de facto that this is part of the full-scale offensive that Russia has been planning."

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While Russia begins to gear up for its much-anticipated winter offensive, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been on a whirlwind diplomatic tour of Europe in an effort to drum up fighter jets and other military support for war-battered Ukraine. His tour has included England, France, and Poland, thus far among other nations. Zelensky has had some success with getting larger-scale weapons and equipment from Ukraine's Western allies, with both Berlin and Washington agreeing to send Leopard 2 and M1 Abrams tanks to Kyiv at the end of January.

Chinese Spy Balloon

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It's a story that reads more like the latest Bond movie than a current headline, but it is true that a 2,000-pound, 200-foot-tall Chinese high-altitude spy balloon drifted across much of the continental U.S. before being shot down by a single Sidewinder missile fired from an Air Force F-22 a full 6 days after first being detected in U.S. airspace. Now that the balloon has been downed, questions are arising about why it wasn't shot down sooner, what its purpose was, what may have been onboard, and what will happen to the debris being recovered off the coast of Myrtle Beach.

The balloon, which was first detected on January 28 when it drifted into U.S. airspace over the Aleutian Islands, was determined not to pose a physical or military threat but did violate U.S. sovereignty. However, the Pentagon had concerns that falling debris from the balloon, which was floating at 60,000 feet could cause harm to civilians on the ground if it were immediately shot down.

At a press briefing on Monday, a senior defense official confirmed that President Biden gave the order to have the balloon shot down on Wednesday, but that no action was taken until Saturday when the balloon floated over open water. According to the official, "President Biden asked the military to present options and on Wednesday President Biden gave his authorization to take down the Chinese surveillance balloon as soon as the mission could be accomplished without undue risk to us civilians under the balloon's path."

"Military commanders determined that there was undue risk of debris causing harm to civilians while the balloon was overhead," the official added.

With respect as to why the balloon was floating in U.S. airspace, the senior defense official said during Monday's press conference, "The PRC has claimed publicly that the high-altitude balloon operating above the United States is a weather balloon that was blown off course. This is false."

"This was a PRC surveillance balloon. This surveillance balloon purposely traversed the United States and Canada, and we are confident it was seeking to monitor sensitive military sites," the official concluded.

In response to the U.S. destroying the balloon, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement Sunday saying, "China will resolutely uphold the relevant company's legitimate rights and interests, and at the same time reserving the right to take further actions in response." The Chinese government has also criticized the U.S. for having "an obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice."

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While Chinese officials react to the downed balloon in Beijing, some members of Congress in Washington have begun blasting the Biden administration over its lack of action in response to a clear violation of U.S. sovereignty. Roger Wicker (R-MS) who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee said, "Allowing a spy balloon from the Communist Party of China to travel across the entire continental United States before contesting its presence is a disastrous projection of weakness by the White House."

Meanwhile, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) tweeted, "Now that this embarrassing episode is over, we need answers from the Biden Administration on the decision-making process. Communist China was allowed to violate American sovereignty unimpeded for days. We mus the better prepared for future provocations and incursions by the CCP."

Now that the balloon has been shot down, the U.S. military is undergoing recovery efforts to collect the debris and reverse engineer as much of the balloon as possible in order to further understand what its purpose was.

Debris from the balloon fell roughly 6 miles after it was shot down and has come to rest in 47 feet of water off the coast of South Carolina. The Navy and Coast Guard have both deployed vessels to the debris field to begin setting up a perimeter.

In order to recover the debris, the Navy has deployed the destroyer USS Oscar Austin, the cruiser USS Philippine Sea, and the USS Carter Hall, which is an amphibious landing ship to assist with the recovery efforts.

Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Northern Command (NORTHCOM) confirmed on Monday that an explosive ordnance disposal team is on site and has been combing through the debris field. According to VanHerck, the explosive ordnance team is searching for, "glass off solar panels, potentially hazardous material, such as material that is required for batteries to operate in such an environment as this, and even the potential for explosives to detonate and destroy the balloon that - that could have been present."

Despite the surveillance balloon floating over nuclear missile silos and other sensitive sites, the senior defense official on Monday suggested that the military was able to gather sensitive information about the Chinese balloon while it attempted to gather sensitive information about the U.S. Military.

"I would also note that while we took all necessary steps to protect against the PRC surveillance balloon's collection of sensitive information, the surveillance balloon's overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us," the official said.

"I can't go into more detail, but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable," the official added.

"We don't know exactly all the benefits that will derive, but we have learned technical things about this balloon and its surveillance capabilities. And I suspect if we are successful in recovering aspects of the debris, we will learn even more," the official concluded.

Any debris from the downed balloon that is collected will be sent to an FBI processing lab in Quantico, Virginia for further analysis.

The Pentagon has also acknowledged reports of a second Chinese surveillance balloon that has been detected flying over Latin America. Both the balloon that transversed the U.S. and the second balloon are part of a fleet of Chinese surveillance balloons that have been released to gather sensitive information and they can be maneuvered remotely using small motors and propellers.

While the military works to recover any remains of the balloon, VanHerck has been working to explain why NORAD reportedly did not detect other Chinese spy balloons that entered U.S. airspace under former President Trump's administration. When questioned about the glaring ineptitude, VanHerck answered vaguely saying, "So those balloons, so every day as a NORAD commander it's my responsibility to detect threats to North America. I will tell you that we did not detect those threats. And that's a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out. But I don't want to go into further detail."

While the spy balloon saga is sure to continue inching us closer to a potential cold war with China, it's a story of many shortcomings and disappointments. As they pile up, it's difficult to determine which is worse, NORAD's utter inability to do its job, President Biden's complete apathy and ineffectual leadership regarding the situation, or the fact that the PRC can seemingly infiltrate a sovereign nation's airspace with no repercussions.

A GOP Congressman has accused former Secretary of Defense 'Mad Dog' Mattis of withholding Chinese threats from then POTUS and Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump.

Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL): My office has been briefed by the office of the Secretary of Defense of the current Pentagon that it happened over Florida, it happened over Texas, and that it’s happened before. We have more detailed questions but what is unclear, Stuart, at this point is, did the Pentagon under the Trump Administration brief the Trump White House and give them the option to take action or did they decide not to brief them for whatever reason? And there is some speculation, I talked to Trump administration officials over the weekend, that the Pentagon deliberately did it because they thought Trump would be too provocative and too aggressive. So that’s what we need to get to the bottom of and one person that I’m waiting to hear from that we haven’t heard from that list is former Secretary of Defense, General Mattis who was the secretary during this time period. What did he know and what did he decide to pass on and brief to the president.

Waltz made the comments on Fox Business this morning.

Secretary Mattis has denied the accusation.

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The former head of the Electromagnetic Defense Task Force Major David Stuckenberg, USAF declared yesterday the Chinese balloon incident was likely a dry run for an EMP attack, which would devastate America.

Major Stuckenberg's Air University bio reads, Prior to assignment in Washington, DC, Stuckenberg served as aide-de-camp to the commander of Air Education & Training Command (AETC). In this capacity, he also served as AETC’s lead strategist and subject matter expert on technology. During his tenure as aide-de-camp, the major founded the Electromagnetic Defense Task Force (EDTF) for the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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The culmination of his EDTF research and wargaming allowed him to next establish the San Antonio Electromagnetic Defense Initiative (EDI) in concert with the Texas Military Department. EDTF-EDI was benchmarked by The White House as the first strategy to demonstrate how to holistically protect a US population center from electromagnetic and cyber threats. The EDTF culminated with Presidential Executive Order 13865, on which Major Stuckenberg advised during his tenure in Washington. The EDTF research reports authored by Major Stuckenberg and Ambassador R. James Woolsey, sixteenth director of Central Intelligence, are the most downloaded documents in Air University Press’s history.

The DoD now says China may recover the device before the United States military does, even though it was shot down 6 miles off the coast of South Carolina.

Nothing to see here...These aren't the droids you're looking for.

AFP has learned military-focused USAA has raised car insurance rates in the red, heavily active-duty military and veteran populated state of Florida over 100%.

One source told us his 6 month policy for a 2019 truck went up almost six thousand dollars, or a thousand dollars a month. The USAA Facebook chat is filled with military members in The Sunshine State enraged at the development.

We called USAA to ask questions about the issue and were told rates across the state of Florida were heavily increased. No reason was provided.

Some facts:

  1. Obviously the company has to recoup costs for hurricane-relate claims; however, the damage was located in one area and hardly would call for 100%+ increase in premiums across Florida in our estimation.
  2. USAA has not written home-owners policies in Florida for almost two decades, so real property damage is not the issue.
  3. We have checked with competitors like Geico and there does not seem to be a commensurate increase in automobile rates.

There could be another explanation - USAA writes a lot of life insurance. All Department of Defense employees were forced to take the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines. The resulting deaths could be a driver of increased costs to USAA. Hence, the increase in rates for automobile policies.

USAA has been supportive of the 'woke agenda'.

More evidence the Biden administration is compromised by the Chinese Communist Party

Screenshot YouTube

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UPDATE 1/3/22 0855 - Chinese "balloon" in U.S. airspace came from China is of a "civilian nature", China's foreign ministry claims.

A Chinese spy balloon has been detected in the airspace over Montana and is being monitored by the government. The identification of the balloon concerned Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) enough that he wrote of the "concerning event" in a letter to the Department of Defense (DoD). Daines went on to note that Montana airspace includes "Malmstrom Air Force Base (AFB) and the United States' intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fields."

The senator also expressed that given "the serious nature of the event" he was "requesting a full security briefing from the administration on this situation."

"It is vital to establish the flight path of this balloon, any compromised U.S. national security assets, and all telecom or IT infrastructure on the ground within the U.S. that this spy balloon was utilizing," Dained added.

"As you know, Montana plays a vital national security role by housing nuclear missile silos at Malmstrom AFB," the senator concluded.

Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters Thursday, "The United States government has detected and is tracking a high-altitude surveillance balloon that is over the continental United States right now."

"The balloon is currently traveling at an altitude well above commercial air traffic and does not present a military or physical threat to people on the ground," Ryder added.

While such high-altitude balloons operate at 15-22 miles above the earth, well above the altitude of commercial air traffic, the military has taken "custody" of the balloon and deployed stealth fighter jets and other aircraft to observe it.

The spy balloon is estimated to be the size of 3 buses and military commanders have advised President Biden against shooting down the balloon for fear of falling debris injuring civilians on the ground.

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Canada's Defense Ministry is also reportedly monitoring a "potential second incident" but did not provide further details.

As for the balloon in Montana, the military intends to continue monitoring it and will continue to take measures to protect any sensitive data from being intercepted by the balloon.

Former UK Defense Minister, Sir Gerald Howarth

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While the U.S. used the “domino theory” with success in order to gain support from the American public during the Vietnam War, former UK Defense Minister Sir Gerald Howarth is attempting to use the same argument to justify his reasoning for inserting NATO troops in Ukraine.

Despite most of the European and American populations being against engaging in war with Russia, established officials seem to be intent on pushing the issue.

NATO and the West’s willingness to no longer send only defensive weapons but now also tanks and longer-range rockets will be seen by Russia as an act of aggression, to which it will respond with more force. That act will then be seen by NATO as a call to escalate things further.

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The former Defense Minister does admit that alternative media has been saying for a while that Kyiv’s efforts have come to a halt without additional support from NATO forces, as military funding and weapons can only go so far without additional troops to back them up.

Howarth suggests in his commentary that NATO cannot allow Russia to succeed in its invasion and takeover of Ukraine as it will then embolden Putin to attack other neighboring countries. While there is no solid evidence to support Howarth’s argument, it seems that NATO officials are working to gain favor with the public regarding inserting troops in Ukraine.

In essence, Howarth’s argument seems to be that the West will end up at war with Russia regardless of how fast or slow the West and NATO proceed, so NATO and its allies might as well rip off the proverbial band-aid and take the next big step that many fear will lead to a third World War.

An F-16 Jet

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During a press conference Monday to discuss an upcoming trip to Poland, President Biden announced that the U.S. will not be sending F-16 jets to Ukraine, despite growing pressure from some European countries and reportedly from some Pentagon officials. When asked by reporters if he would provide Ukraine with F-16 jets, he answered with a simple “no.” 

However, Biden also said that he would not send tanks to Ukraine in March 2022, and yet last week he approved a shipment of not only M1 Abrams tanks, but also Bradley Fighting Vehicles. It is likely that this “no” is tentative. 

When asked about sending tanks to Ukraine last March, Biden said, “The idea that we’re going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews – just understand, don’t kid yourself, no matter what y’all say, that’s called World War III.” 

While Biden claims the U.S. will not send jets to Kyiv, the Ukrainian president’s office is saying that it is already working on expedited negotiations with Washington regarding possibly being supplied with long-range missiles and jets by the U.S. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that sending jets is not an option, although he was instrumental last week in the decision of both Washington and Berlin to send tanks to Ukraine.

On Saturday, a Zelensky advisor, Mykhailo Podolyak told The Associated Press that “fast-track” discussions are taking place that focus on Ukraine obtaining both jets and long-range missiles “to drastically curtail the key tool of the Russian army” by giving Ukraine the ability to strike weapons warehouses that are far from the frontlines.

Meanwhile, reports emerged from U.S. media over the weekend that there is a growing movement within the Pentagon to pressure the Biden administration into approving sending jets to Kyiv.

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According to Politico, “A contingent of military officials is quietly pushing the Pentagon to approve sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from Russian missile drone attacks, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.”

“As Ukraine prepares to launch a new offensive to retake territory in the spring, the campaign inside the Defense Department for fighter jets is gaining momentum, according to a DoD official and two other people involved in the discussions,” the report continued. It went on to quote a defense official who said, “I don’t think we are opposed” with regard to sending F-16s to Ukraine. The senior DoD official spoke on a condition of anonymity and emphasized that there has not been a final decision made. 

The White House has only commented thus far to say that the U.S. would be discussing fighter jets “very carefully” with Ukraine and its allies. Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer said on Thursday, “We have not ruled in or out any specific systems.”

While Germany could stand in the way, it should be noted that the Germans gave in fairly quickly to pressure from its NATO allies regarding the tank issues last week. In a recent interview, Scholz said, “I can only advise against entering into a constant competition to outbid each other when it comes to weapons systems.”

“The question of combat aircraft does not arise at all,” Scholz added. 

While both the U.S. and Germany currently do not support sending F-16s to Kyiv, talks are allegedly in the works with Ukraine, and as we have seen, both Biden and Scholz can change always change their minds.

Reversal comes as Congress considers bill seeking redress for military's discharged vaccine refuseniks.

The United States Military Academy is reimposing restrictions on unvaccinated cadets despite the lifting of the military's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, reports military attorney R. Davis Yountsa reversal that comes even as Congress mulls legislation seeking redress for service members dismissed for vaccine refusal. 

The Department of Defense rescinded the military vaccine mandate pursuant to the Dec. 23 enactment of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which included a measure repealing the mandate. 

During the height of the pandemic, West Point implemented a policy prohibiting cadets from traveling for sports or other events, according to Younts. After the vaccine was made available, only unvaccinated cadets were restricted from traveling. Then, last semester, while the military vaccine mandate was still in place, West Point dropped the policy, allowing unvaccinated cadets to travel for sports, the Army-Navy game, and other events...

To read more visit Just The News.

In an effort to decrease Vladimir Putin’s ability to fund the war in Ukraine that Russia started in February 2022, the U.S. and other Western countries have imposed heavy sanctions on Russia. Since invading Ukraine, Russia has lost access to roughly half of its gold and foreign currency reserves. Russian supply chains and economic connections between firms are also undergoing a slow reconfiguration process. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has also lost access to the European energy market due to the EU’s oil embargo and the G7 price cap on Russian oil. Russia has been forced to sell its crude for $47 a barrel, which includes a discount of $30-40 depending on the purchaser. Next week, an EU embargo on Russian oil will take effect as well.

Unfortunately, despite all the embargos, sanctions, and other restrictions, Putin still has enough funds to pursue his war in Ukraine for at least the next 3 years unless something drastic changes.

Russia has ample reserves of gold and Chinese yuan, and even if the Kremlin is forced to cut spending in the future, military and social spending will not be affected as they are ring-fenced.

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To protect its military expenditure, Russia’s budget is designed so that military spending does not depend on volatile oil and gas income but is rather backed by more “predictable” income streams. The Russian Finance Ministry anticipates the ring-fenced expenditures will need to increase by 0.5% of GDP to roughly 17.2 rubles (11.5% of GDP) and then hold at that level through 2025. The increase will take the military expenditure up to 9.5 trillion rubles and social spending to 7.3 trillion rubles.

“The economy is functioning: taxes are collected, businesses are adapting,” a Russian federal official said last week as Putin promised that the military expenditure would not see a reduction. “We still have a piggy bank,” the official added. Should there be a financial shock in the future, it is expected that the Kremlin would cut infrastructure spending and use quasi-state institutions, like development banks, to cover the cost of infrastructure projects.

Russia currently has a surplus of $227.4 billion from 2022, and most expect it to have a surplus this year, despite all the sanctions from the West. One of Russia’s continued exports is its hydrocarbons. However, income from those exports is expected to dip substantially.

Predictions for Russia’s economic future are fairly inaccurate, given that many official forecasts are not accurate. The Russian state budget currently includes 1.7 trillion rubles of revenue from the exportation of 125 billion cubic meters of gas. However, those figures are inaccurate as the macro forecasts do not account for the Nordstream pipeline explosion and loss of revenue as a result. The pipeline explosion occurred right before the budget was submitted in September. “If 90 billion cubic meters [of gas] are exported, that’s already a good result,” said Alexander Isakov from Bloomberg Economics.

In addition to inaccurate export estimates, the budget also does not account for the caps on oil and gas prices or the fact that Russia may agree to discounts on gas and payment deferrals for Turkey in 2023. Loko Bank analyst Dmitry Polevoy wrote, “I value them at $29 billion and $42 billion respectively – we are talking about $18 billion.”

On Monday, Russia extended a deferred payment of insurance premiums until 2024. The deficit was 2.1 trillion rubles more than expected in December. One of the reasons for that is that it needed to pay off 772 billion rubles in deferred insurance premiums. It is unclear how the Kremlin spent the remaining 1.3 trillion rubles.

The deferment on insurance premiums this month means that those costs will not be reflected in the budget until 2024. As a result, the deficit is likely to be 2.3% of GDP. It is officially expected to be 2%, based on oil prices of $70 a barrel, which, as mentioned above, is an inaccurate figure.

According to estimates from Elina Ribakova, deputy chief economist at the IIF, a decrease of $10 in the average price of oil over the course of this year would cost Russia $15 billion. Meanwhile, Bloomberg Economics has a more conservative estimate showing that if Russian crude costs an average of $50 a barrel, then the deficit will increase to about 3% of GDP.

The deficit will not affect Putin’s ability to fund the war, however, because Russia has enough reserves of yuan, euros, and gold to cover the deficit for the next 3 years. Bloomberg has also estimated that the sale of foreign currency could increase from 55 billion rubles this month to 120 billion rubles in February. While unlikely, if oil prices fell as low as $25 a barrel, Russia would burn through its reserve of yuan in a year.

Even if there was a sharp decline in oil and gas revenue and Russia emptied its other financial reserves, military expenditure can still be taken from tax revenues. If the situation were to become that dire, then investment in economic development would likely also be transferred to quasi-state institutions, and Russians would suffer the consequences.

155mm Shell

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On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that it will be increasing the production of artillery ammunition by 500% over the next two years due to depleted military stockpiles caused by sending millions of shells to Ukraine.

Due to the Biden administration’s promise to send more than one million 155mm artillery shells to Ukraine, the U.S. army will be forced to increase its production numbers from 14,400 155 mm shells a month to more than 90,000 each month.

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According to an Army report, the military will expand factories and contract with new producers to meet the demand. The effort is being described as “the most aggressive modernization effort in nearly 40 years” of the US military-industrial complex.

Multiple arms manufacturers are involved in the production of the 155mm shells that are used as ammunition for Howitzers. The steel bodies for the shells are produced by General Dynamics. BAE Systems mixes the explosives used in the shells, and American Ordnance fills the bodies with the explosives manufactured by BAE Systems. Additional contractors produce the fuses that are eventually screwed into the shells.

While there is no sign of Russia’s war against Ukraine ending anytime soon, the U.S. military drastically increasing ammunition production for the next 2 years is seen as an indicator that the U.S. intends to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia for potentially years to come.

There are concerns that the increased ammunition production is not sustainable long-term. U.S. military officials have indicated that it may be challenging for the U.S. to continue arming both Ukraine’s military and the United States’ military as the war continues. It is estimated that Ukrainian troops are currently using approximately 90,000 artillery rounds each month. That figure is more than double what the U.S. and Europe are currently able to produce.

In its effort to continuously support Ukraine, the U.S. has had to access a little-known stockpile of weapons stored in Israel to meet Ukraine’s demand. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has also requested that U.S. troops stationed in South Korea send equipment to Ukraine as well.

WASHINGTON, DC - There is now evidence to suggest that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was interpreted by the US as a national security threat in early 2020 and that the Department of Defense (DOD) has always had total control of the COVID program.  The Biden Administration has Covered Up this secret for 3 Years. Moreover, documents reveal that no clinical and manufacturing standards of practice have been applied to the COVID countermeasures vaccination program.   

Join us this Tuesday at 2:30 pm EST for a live Zoom Press conference to hear from Big Pharma insiders, a legal expert, and a retired senior US military officer who have uncovered the hidden program.  To receive an invitation to the Zoom event, please email [email protected] 

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WHO: Sasha Latypova, owned multiple Contract Research Organizations (CRO), contracted by Big  

            Pharma, including Pfizer more than 60 times   

            Katherine Watt, acclaimed legal researcher 

            Phillip Altman, leading global Contract Researcher 

            Retired Lt. Col. Pete Chambers 

Topic: DoD Control of COVID Vaccines - Press Conference, Tues 2:30p ET 

Time: Jan 24, 2023 02:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada) 

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 921 1489 0643 

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DoD is responsible for ALL of the following Health Emergency Counter-Measures Stockpiles: 

Covered Counter-Measures are any antiviral, any other drug, any biologic, any diagnostic, any other device, or any vaccine, used to treat, diagnose, cure, prevent, or mitigate COVID. 


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"A Lion Of The White Collar Bar"

Screenshot - William Taylor of Zuckerman Spaeder

AFP reported yesterday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's protocol aide Kathy Chung was the official recommended by Hunter Biden to move TS SCI classified documents through Chinatown for years before they ended up at the Penn Biden Center.

Now we have learned that Kathy Chung has lawyered up with one of the top criminal attorneys in Washington, D.C.

William Taylor at Zuckerman Spaeder is described on the firm's website as "A lion of the white collar bar."

In other words, he is a killer of an attorney for white collar criminals.

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The Kathy Chung situation is bad in itself, but why is she on Secretary Austin's staff?

Has Secretary Austin made a statement on the situation?

Secretary Austin pushed the Covid-19 vaccines on our troops, with deadly consequences.

Naomi Wolf described the connection of the vaccine production to the Chinese Communist Party.

Something is rotten in Denmark.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with President Joe Biden

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While the U.S. Treasury is taking extreme measures to avert a crisis as the June debt ceiling deadline approaches, the Biden administration has promised another $2.5 billion in military aid to Ukraine. On Thursday, Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, announced the aid package and vowed that the U.S. “will stand united with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

The current aid package comes after Congress passed a massive $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that granted $45 billion to Ukraine. The spending bill brought the total amount of U.S. aid provided to Ukraine to over a staggering $110 billion.

Congress added to the omnibus bill an additional $8 billion to the $37 billion in aid that the Biden administration had requested.

In a press release, Blinken said, “Pursuant to a delegation of authority from the President, I am authorizing our 30th drawdown of U.S. arms and equipment for Ukraine since August 2021.”

Blinken added:

This assistance package will provide Ukraine with hundreds of additional armored vehicles, including Stryker armored personnel carriers, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, and High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled vehicles. The package also includes critical additional air defense support for Ukraine, including more Avenger air defense systems, and surface to air missiles, as well as additioanl munitions for NASAMS that the United States has previously provided. The package also contains night vision devices, small arms ammunition, and other items to support Ukraine as it bravely defends its people, its sovereignty, and its territorial integrity.

Blinken went on to say that the U.S. “continues to rally the world to support Ukraine” and commended the “incredible solidarity from our allies and partners” in assisting Ukraine.

“Russia alone could end this war today. Until it does so, we will stand United with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Blinken added.

In a letter expressing concerns about the continuously increasing aid packages for Ukraine, Republican Congressmen Sen J.D. Vance (R-OH) and Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) wrote, “Taken together, the four Ukraine supplemental spending bills passed since the escalation of the Ukraine/Russia conflict in February of 2022 amount to arguably the fourth-largest discretionary appropriations bill. Further, multiple DOD Inspectors General advisories have raised questions about DOD’s budget execution practices in regards to these funds.”

The lawmakers also demanded a “full crosscutting report” of all the “U.S. government-wide expenditures for Ukraine and ‘countries impacted by the situation in Ukraine’ since February 24, 2022.”

Gen. Mark Milley

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley visited a military base in Germany on Monday to inspect the expanded U.S. training of Ukrainian forces.

Milley arrived at the base for the second day of training on a visit that sends a strong message to Moscow that the U.S. will not back down in its support of Ukraine in its war with Russia.

American advisors are training 600 Ukrainian troops on armored vehicles, tanks, a variety of weapons, and combat techniques. The training is expected to be a 5-week rotation at the Grafenwoehr training area.

Milley told commanders in a briefing that “this is not a run-of-the-mill rotation. This is one of those moments in time where if you want to make a difference, this is it.”

According to the Associated Press, strict press controls were in place to protect the identities of personnel present, saying, “The reporters were allowed to follow Milley and watch his interactions with Ukrainian and U.S. troops and commanders, but were not allowed to report specific conversations with the Ukraine forces or take any photos or video.”

It was also noted that “The restrictions reflect ongoing U.S. concerns about escalating Russian anger over the West’s involvement in the war or triggering a wider conflict.”

The training of Ukrainian forces is not new, with a limited number of Ukrainian troops receiving instruction from U.S. and allied trainers at Grafenwoehr prior to the February 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The training program will include field work along with classroom instruction that will begin with small squads and will eventually include larger units. The training will peak with a battalion and headquarters unit working together on a complex combat exercise.

Due to the Pentagon’s involvement with training Ukrainian forces, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated last month that NATO is a “direct” participant in the war. Lavrov told reporters at a press briefing, “You shouldn’t say that the US and NATO aren’t taking part in this war. You are directly participating in it.”

Lavrov added, “And not just by providing weapons but also by training personnel. You are training their military on your territory, on the territories of Britain, Germany, Italy, and other countries.”

Host L Todd Wood speaks with Attorneys Col Tom Rempfer (USAF, Ret) and Lt Col "Lou" Michaels (USAF, Ret) on developments with the military vaccine mandate, the consequences, and restoration of member careers.

This video is part of the series Information Operation.

Soldier Receives Covid Vaccine

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After the Republicans used the passage of defense legislation last month as a means to force Democrats to drop the mandatory Covid-19 vaccine for all military personnel, the Pentagon released a memo from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Tuesday evening that formally repealed the mandate.

Austin’s memo rescinds the mandate for active duty, the National Guard, and the Reserves.

The repeal comes after an order from Austin on August 24, 2021, in which he mandated that all military personnel be full-vaccinated or be discharged from military duty.

Prior to the lifting of the mandate, some 8,400 troops were discharged, with tens of thousands applying for accommodation requests, including for medical, administrative, or religious reasons. Tens of thousands of reservists, allegedly up to 60,000, remained unvaccinated and were set to be discharged as well. The mass discharges came as the military has faced a serious recruiting crisis in recent years.

In an escalation of the battle between the military and leadership, forces successfully sued to temporarily enjoin the Navy, Air Force, and Marines from taking action against individuals who had applied for religious accommodations. The inspector general for the Pentagon also sent a memo to Austin indicating that blanket denials of religious accommodation requests flirted with breaking the law.

Some troops took a different tactic and fought the mandate on the basis that the DOD can only mandate FDA-approved vaccines, which some of the Covid vaccines at the time were not. The claim argued that the military was using a form of the vaccine that was under the Emergency Use Authorization provision and not FDA pre-approved. Then-DOD official, Terri Adirim, replied in another memo the two vaccines were interchangeable.

Despite the repeated challenges from troops and the massive loss of forces, the Biden administration refused to back down and reverse the mandate until House and Senate Republicans used the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes defense spending, to strong-arm the administration into repealing the mandate. In a statement released in conjunction with Austin’s memo, the Pentagon said, “This recession requirement was established by the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023.”

The Pentagon’s statement continued, “The health and readiness of the Force are crucial to the Department’s ability to defend our nation. Secretary Austin continues to encourage all Service members, civilian employees, and contractor personnel to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 to ensure Total Force readiness.”

Austin’s memo stated, “No individuals currently serving in the Armed Forces shall be separated solely on the basis of their refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccination if they sought an accommodation on religious, administrative, or medical grounds.”

The memo went on to clarify that the military would also remove adverse actions that were solely associated with denials of accommodation requests for troops, including any letters of reprimand, which could be career-ending.

The memo also noted that the military would stop any current reviews of accommodation requests for service members.

The correspondence did include a section indicating that the DOD would still take action against unvaccinated troops saying, “Other standing Departmental policies, procedures, and processes regarding immunization remain in effect. These include the ability of commanders to consider, as appropriate, the individual immunization status of personnel in making deployment, assignment, and other operational decisions, including when vaccination is required for travel to, or entry into, a foreign nation.”

Austin concluded his memo by noting that the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness would be issuing additional guidance to “ensure uniform implementation” of the memo. Recently, the Coast Guard and Army have both issued guidance only to have it retracted hours later. It just goes to show that the military leadership has never considered any alternatives to the vaccine mandate.

Meanwhile, Republicans have vowed to fight for the reinstatement of discharged troops with backpay in 2023. The question remains though, how many discharged service members will return to a military that denied their civil liberties, attempted to silence their voices, and turned its back on them? Unfortunately, the answer is probably, too few. Austin’s memo is like Biden’s border visit – too little, too late.

Emmanuel Macron Shakes Hands with Volodymyr Zelensky

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In a move that Russia is likely to interpret as an escalation, French President Emmanuel Macron agreed on Wednesday to provide French-made AMX-10 RC light tanks to Ukraine. Macron is the first Western leader to provide tanks to the war-torn country.

The tanks were designed in the 1980s and are currently being phased out of the French military. Until this week, Macron has refused to provide armor to Ukraine for fear of escalating already mounting tensions with Russia.

Despite France's hesitation to send tanks in the past, the Western country has provided Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with air defense systems, artillery, armored vehicles, and anti-aircraft missiles. In addition to providing arms to Ukraine, Macron has been one of the only European leaders to consistently call for peace negotiations between Moscow and Kiev to attempt to bring the conflict to a peaceful resolution.

The transition from encouraging peace negotiations to now providing armored tanks is a clear indication that hopes of negotiation are dwindling among Western leaders. A French presidential aide told reporters that "The president wanted to increase aid [to Ukraine] by accepting to deliver AMX-10 RC light tanks." The aid continued, "It is the first time that Wester-designed tanks are supplied to the Ukrainian armed forces."

In response to the gesture, Zelensky wrote on Twitter, "Had a long and detailed conversation with President of France Emmanuel Macron on the current situation. Thanked for the decision to transfer light tanks and Bastion APCs to Ukraine, as well as for intensifying work with partners in the same direction."

Days after Macron's commitment to send tanks, U.S. President Joe Biden agreed to send Bradley M2s to Kiev. Germany also vowed to send Marder IFVs to Zelensky, which is a bit risky given that Germany has had to move its Marder vehicles to the front-line service after the tanks purchased to replace them have had numerous problems and have been deemed unusable in actual battle.

Previously this year, Germany reversed its long-standing policy to not send or sell weapons in combat zones after the invasion of Ukraine last February. Following the invasion, Germany also announced that it would finally begin to meet its NATO spending requirements for its military, after having neglected its military for years.

While Western leaders continue to hope for a peaceful end to the war in Ukraine, it appears that multiple countries are preparing to support Ukraine for the long haul, given the refusal of either side to negotiate a peaceful end.

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