FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 9th through 14th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Begin procrastination early.  It will give you more time to reconsider it later on!  And today I thought I would offer this anecdote.  You have to be of a certain age to appreciate it.  When Jack Benny was invited to visit the White House, he was stopped by the Secret Service guard and asked what was in the violin case he was carrying?  “A machine gun,” Benny replied with a straight face.  The Secret Service guard with an equally straight face said, “Oh, okay.  I thought for a moment it was your violin.”


FOD Trivia Question

Only one town in the US bears the official name of Beach.  In what state in Beach located?


Previous FOD Trivia Answer

What fastening material was born from the inspiration of inventor George DeMestral after he returned from a walk in the 1950’s and noticed his jacket covered with cockleburs?  Answer:  Velcro


Hurricane Florence

A year ago I was at Carolina Beach and the greater Wilmington, NC area.  Let’s send some good prayers and thoughts to all those affected by Hurricane Florence.  I’ve heard so much about storm surge and how it’s affected by winds and tides.  This storm is moving so slowly, it will dump tremendous amounts of rain on all those inland rivers and we’ll likely see some major flooding in the region.  There will be dozens of rescues over the next days, mostly those who should have departed days ago.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 9th through 14th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day August 16th through 21st 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

I learned years ago, never wrestle with a pig.  You both get dirty and the besides, the pig likes it.  – George Bernard Shaw


FOD Trivia Question

The first inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as the 32nd President of the United States was held on Saturday, March 4, 1933.  After taking the oath of office, Roosevelt proceeded to deliver his 1,883-word, 20 minute-long inaugural address, best known for his famously pointed reference to “fear itself” in one of its first lines:  So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days. The phrase “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” is actually paraphrased from an earlier adage: “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear.”  This was originally penned in 1841 by what famous nature-loving philosopher and author?


Previous FOD Trivia Answer

Who said, “My wife and I were happy for 20 years.  And then we met.”  Answer:  Rodney Dangerfield.



President and Pentagon Postpone Parade

Maybe smarter heads have prevailed.  Military Times is reporting that on Thursday evening (August 16), the Pentagon announced that President Donald J. Trump’s military parade through the nation’s capital will be postponed until 2019.  Department of Defense spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters that both the military and White House “have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019,” delaying the Nov. 10 parade championed by the president to honor the troops and commemorate the centennial of World War I.  No makeup date for the procession has been scheduled but the Pentagon move came hours after The Associated Press and other media outlets reported that military officials pegged the price tag for Trump’s event at $92 million.  That’s at least three times higher than what White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told lawmakers it would cost during Capitol Hill testimony on Feb. 14.  Citing anonymous Pentagon sources, the AP reported that parade planners needed about $50 million to fund aircraft flyovers, equipment, personnel and other expenses. Other agencies would combine to pay a $42 million tab for other expenditures, mostly security along a parade route winding from the White House to the Capitol.  Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine four-star general, had defended the parade by saying it arose from Trump’s genuine affection for the armed forces.  (Fireball note:  What the hell does that mean?  I’m sure we could find a better place to spent $92M.)  But many troops privately grumbled about being dragooned to march during what traditionally has been a four-day weekend away from their military duties.  Critics also lambasted the administration for spending tens of millions of dollars on the November spectacle after Trump canceled military maneuvers with South Korea partly because they would cost “a tremendous amount of money,” a sum the military later estimated at $14 million.  Others had questioned whether the procession would resemble the military marches favored by dictators such as North Korea’s strongman Kim Jong-un, who told Trump during nuclear talks that he considered America’s war games with Seoul to be provocative.  But supporters of Trump’s parade pointed to similar celebrations in democracies such as France’s Bastille Day procession.  (Fireball note:  Hey it’s France – it doesn’t count.)  Eyeing Paris, Trump had said that his administration was “going to have to try and top it” in November.  Military support for events in the capital isn’t unusual. More than 5,000 troops from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, including reserve and National Guard personnel, supported Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.  A Department of Defense memo released in March revealed that the president’s November celebration would feature a “heavy air component” but “wheeled vehicles only, no tanks” because of concerns the treads would chew up the capital’s roadways.  That happened in 1991, when Washington officials held a parade to honor troops home from the war in Iraq.  On Thursday, most veterans organizations remained silent about the parade’s postponement, but two groups took to Twitter to praise the decision.  “The American Legion appreciates that our President wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops,” National Commander Denise Rohan said. “However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veteran Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”  Will C. Fischer, the director of government relations for the left-leaning Vote Vets, added that his group “always felt that blowing millions, and wasting the military’s time, so Trump could feel like a big authoritarian, was a bad idea. We will continue to oppose this parade, if it ever arises again.”  (Fireball note: Thanks for your continued opposition.).


Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day August 16th through 21st 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 10th through 14th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

Someone keeps putting vegetables in my beer crisper!


Mattis Says US is 100% Committed to NATO

After much confusing rhetoric from President Trump regarding NATO, Military Times is reporting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to clear up possible confusion on the U.S. commitment to NATO by declaring Thursday that President Donald Trump is “100 percent” in support of the alliance.  Despite Trump’s clashes with NATO members over their defense spending, Mattis said the 29-member alliance is “stronger today than it was yesterday, stronger today than it was a month ago, stronger today than it was a year ago.”  He said the U.S. commitment to NATO and members’ pledges to mutual defense are “exactly as the president described it — 100 percent committed to NATO,” Reuters reported.  Mattis made the comments to reporters traveling with him as he left the NATO summit in Brussels for talks with military counterparts in NATO-member countries Croatia and then Norway on alliance readiness initiatives along NATO’s southern and northern flanks.  On Wednesday, Mattis was a silent witness at a series of meetings at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where Trump berated and argued with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others. Trump demanded that all NATO members spend at least two percent of their gross domestic products on defense and possibly double that to four percent.  Trump threw out statistics that appeared to be wildly off the mark. He charged that the U.S. is paying 90 percent of NATO’s costs, although NATO officials maintain that the U.S. contribution is about 22 percent.  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Merkel rejected the demands, but Trump on Thursday claimed success.  At a hastily arranged news conference before leaving Brussels, he said, “I let them [NATO members] know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening. People are paying, money that they never paid before, and the U.S. is being treated much more fairly.”  The president and first lady Melania Trump later flew to Britain, where he will spend the weekend before leaving next week for Helsinki, Finland, and a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


USN Dedicates Japan-Based Destroyer To US Senator John McCain

Navy Times is reporting The secretary of the Navy added U.S. Sen. John McCain’s name Thursday to a warship that had already been named for the Arizona lawmaker’s father and grandfather, both former Navy admirals.  The re-dedication ceremony took place aboard the USS John S. McCain at an American base in Japan. Scaffolding covered the mast of the guided-missile destroyer, which is undergoing extensive repairs after a deadly collision, one of two last year that led to charges against senior ship officers and a highly critical review of Navy procedures and policies.  Richard Spencer, the Navy secretary, told reporters that recommended changes in operations have been 78 percent implemented. Some have been completed, he said, while others such as instilling a culture of continuous learning will take two years.  “I think we’re well underway,” Spencer said at Yokosuka Naval Base south of Tokyo.  Seventeen sailors died after the USS Fitzgerald and then the McCain collided with commercial vessels in the Pacific Ocean in June and August of 2017.  The three generations of McCains share the same name, John Sidney McCain, though they went or go by Sidney, Jack and John, from oldest to youngest. Their naval careers overlapped in World War II and Vietnam.  “It’s a name in three parts, and a name that has three stories,” Spencer said.  Sidney joined the Navy in the early 20th century and was an aircraft carrier task force commander in World War II. His son Jack was a submarine commander in World War II who rose to be head of the U.S. Pacific Command during the Vietnam War.  John was a naval aviator who was captured in Vietnam, where he was held for five years and tortured.  “Sen. McCain has proven that even the most difficult challenges can become sources of great strength,” Micah Murphy, the commander of the USS McCain, told his crew at the ceremony, alluding to the challenges they face as they work with repair teams to get the ship back to sea.  The guided-missile destroyer, which had a gaping hole in its side after the collision, was launched in 1994.  “Sidney, Jack and John. Three distinguished officers. Three truly remarkable Americans,” Spencer said.  McCain, who is battling brain cancer, said he looks back with gratitude on his formative years in the Navy.  “I hope the generations of sailors who will serve aboard the USS McCain will find the same fulfillment that my family does in serving a cause greater than oneself,” the 81-year-old lawmaker said in a news release from his office.  Spencer said the Navy hopes to return the warship to service next spring.


President Trump Wants To Update Air Force One’s Design

After threatening Boeing with cancellation of updating Boeing’s VC-25 aircraft, a B-747 derivative aircraft, it would appear he would like to improve the aircraft while he’s in office.  I hope this was all a joke, but according to USA Today and According to Axios, the president met with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg earlier this year to discuss using 747s as Air Force One. (The designation is used for whatever plane the president is on at the time, but it’s typically a Boeing VC-25.) The deal would reportedly cost $4 billion and likely wouldn’t lead to new planes available for use until 2021.  But he’s not just leaning toward a different aircraft. He also reportedly wants a new look. Specifically, one that incorporates red, white and blue.  Graphics artists here at the USA TODAY Network imagined what that could look like.  The current design of Air Force One, with the signature blue and white colors, dates back to the Kennedy administration. Per Axios, Trump doesn’t think that the current blue — a “luminous aquamarine” — is very American.  But presidential historian Michael Beschloss told Axios that the color was picked by JFK himself, back in 1962.  “Why would anyone want to discard an Air Force One design that evokes more than a half-century of American history?” he said. 


USAF Pilots Reporting Increased Hypoxia Events is reporting the US Air Force has yet to find the cause for a surge of hypoxia-like incidents in a wide variety of aircraft but has ruled out the possibility that pilots could be mistaking symptoms in some cases.  “We know for a fact what our pilots are experiencing in the airplanes — our pilots are not making things up” when they report incidents, Air Force Lt. Gen. Mark C. Nowland, deputy chief of staff for operations, told after an aviation safety hearing last month before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness. In an interview last week, Col. William Mueller, director of the Air Force-Pilot Physicians Program, backed up Nowland on the veracity of pilot reports of hypoxia-like symptoms, including shortness of breath, confusion and wheezing while in aircraft ranging from trainers to the most advanced fighters.  “It’s real stuff; people are not making this up,” said Mueller, a pilot with a medical degree who also serves as career manager for Air Force medical officers who are qualified as pilots and flight surgeons.  Mueller is working with a team of Air Force investigators, in coordination with the Navy and NASA, that is attempting to pinpoint causes for what the Air Force calls Unexplained Physiological Events (UPEs) experienced by pilots.  Air Force officials, in studies and in congressional hearings, have outlined three possibilities: failures in the oxygen delivery system, contaminants in the system, and unusual levels of carbon dioxide.  At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, “We don’t have the smoking gun yet” in the search for a root cause of the incidents, “and we’re not going to stop until we find it.”  Although the cause remains a mystery, Goldfein said the service has gained valuable knowledge since a series of incidents in 2010 involving F-22 Raptors, the most advanced U.S. fighters.  In November 2010, Air Force Capt. Jeff Haney was killed in the crash of his F-22 on a training mission in Alaska. The controversial Air Force investigation found that Haney suffered “severe restricted breathing” during the flight but still ruled that pilot error was the main cause of the crash.  There were 11 other hypoxia-type incidents involving F-22s between 2008 and 2011, according to the Air Force, and much of the concern at the time was with the On-Board Oxygen Generation Systems, or OBOGS. It was developed in the 1980s as a source of limitless oxygen for pilots and a replacement for the canisters of compressed liquid or gaseous oxygen that had been used previously.  The OBOGS was designed to draw air from the plane’s engine compressor before combustion and run it through a series of scrubbers to remove nitrogen.  Although the focus was on the OBOGS in the F-22 investigation, the Air Force later concluded the problem was with a valve controlling the pilot’s pressure vest, which could allow the vest to inflate and restrict the pilot’s ability to breathe.  Since then, the service has worked with engineers, physiologists, contractors and operators of various types of aircraft to get a broader understanding of the problem, Goldfein said at the April hearing.  In examining the F-22 incidents, the Air Force concluded the problem likely was not hypoxia, an oxygen deficiency, but rather hypocapnia, a condition of too little carbon dioxide in the blood that can be caused by hyperventilation, he said.  In addition to hypoxia and hypocapnia, the Air Force also had to be concerned with hypercapnia, an excessive amount of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, Mueller said in the interview with  “There are a lot of possible medical explanations,” but none has been pinned down, he said.  Since last year, the Air Force has acknowledged a series of hypoxia-type incidents in aircraft including the F-35A Joint Strike FighterA-10 Thunderbolt, and T-6 Texan II trainer, and a recurrence in the F-22.  As reported by’s Oriana Pawlyk, the Air Force in February ordered an indefinite operational pause for all T-6 trainer aircraft following reports of hypoxia-type incidents.  The 19th Air Force, part of the Air Education and Training Command, issued the guidance after a rash of unexplained physiological events reported by pilots at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma; and Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.  “We’re acting swiftly, making temporary, but necessary, changes to everyone’s training, general awareness, checklist procedures, and [may] possibly modify aircrew flying equipment to mitigate risk to the aircrew while we tackle this issue head-on to safeguard everyone flying T-6s,” Maj. Gen. Patrick Doherty, 19th Air Force commander, said in a release.  The Navy has teamed up with the Air Force to investigate its own hypoxia-type incidents involving the F/A-18E/F Super HornetEA-18G Growler and T-45 Goshawk trainers.  At the House subcommittee hearing last month with Nowland, Rear Adm. Roy Kelley, commander of Naval Air Force Atlantic, said:  “More work remains to be done, and this will remain our top safety priority until we fully understand, and have mitigated, all possible PE [physiological episode] causal factors.”  Nowland said aviation mishaps in general should come down now that Congress has boosted defense spending, allowing for more training and flying hours.  “We can’t find a correlation between flying hours and accidents,” he said, “but our gut as aviators tells us — the more you fly and the more you exercise the jets, good things are going to happen out there.”


Kim Jong Un Continues To Be ‘Nice’ To Trump While Defying Denuclearization

Me thinks Kim Jong Un has Trump’s number.  Speak nice of him to his face and he’ll declare great victories, but don’t do anything.  This from Military Times:  President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted a letter to him from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un heralding “epochal progress” in U.S.-North Korea relations, despite signs that path-finding diplomacy between the adversaries is running into problemsTrump described the letter as a “very nice note” and said, “Great progress being made!”  The letter is dated July 6. That’s when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang and seemingly made little progress in fleshing out details of North Korea’s commitment for “complete denuclearization.”  Kim made that commitment when he met Trump in Singapore last month. Kim also agreed then to repatriate remains of U.S. troops who died during the Korean War six decades ago.  A planned meeting Thursday between North Korean and U.S. officials in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas to discuss the return of the remains was postponed.  State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said North Korea called at midday Thursday and offered to meet on Sunday instead. “We will be ready,” she told reporters aboard Pompeo’s plane, as the top U.S. diplomat flew home to Washington after attending a NATO summit.  It wasn’t immediately clear what prompted the postponement. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing unnamed sources, said the North requested talks at a higher level. The talks Sunday are expected to involve officials from the Pentagon and the U.N. Command, which commanded U.S.-led allied forces during the war and is involved in maintaining the armistice that ended the fighting in 1953.  Pompeo told reporters after his visit to North Korea last week that the meeting in the truce village Panmunjom was set for Thursday but “could move by one day or two.”  The secretary of state did not meet Kim as he had on his previous two trips to Pyongyang this year, and after his departure, the North’s foreign ministry accused the U.S. of making “gangster-like” demands that it unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons.  Pompeo gave a rosier readout. He reported that the two sides had substantive discussions on next steps toward denuclearization.  During an official visit to Britain, Trump posted images of the Korean-language letter from Kim and its English translation. Kim expresses “invariable trust and confidence” in the president and wishes that “epochal progress” in promoting relations will “bring our next meeting forward.”  But there’s growing skepticism in Washington over the Trump administration’s engagement with North Korea. Recent reports suggest that the North has continued to expand infrastructure at nuclear and missile sites and that U.S. intelligence assesses that the North does not intend to fully denuclearize.  The U.S. says North Korea has continued to smuggle refined petroleum products into the country in excess of the quota of 500,000 barrels per year allowed under U.N. sanctions imposed because of nuclear and missile programs. That’s according to documents seen by The Associated Press on Thursday and sent by the U.S. to the Security Council committee monitoring the sanctions.  Trump himself has remained upbeat about the outcome of the first summit between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea. Earlier Thursday, after attending the NATO summit in Brussels, he told reporters that there were clear signs of progress with North Korea, most notably that no missile and nuclear tests have occurred for almost nine months.


North Korea Continues To Defy UN Sanctions

Did anyone think North Korea would somehow become a trusted member of the world of nations by agreeing to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and allowing basic human rights within the country? Reuters is reporting The United States accused North Korea on Thursday of breaching a U.N. sanctions cap on refined petroleum by making illicit transfers between ships at sea, according to a document seen by Reuters, and demanded an immediate end to all sales of the fuel.  The United States submitted the complaint to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee. The charge of a sanctions breach comes as Washington engages North Korea in a bid to convince Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.  The North Korea U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the U.S. accusation. North Korea relies on imported fuel to keep its struggling economy functioning.  The United States said that as of May 30, 89 North Korean tankers had brought in refined petroleum products illicitly obtained in ship-to-ship transfers this year.  The United States did not broadly say which countries it believed were illicitly providing North Korea with refined petroleum. But it does mention one case of a ship-to-ship transfer involving a Russian-flagged ship and one case involving a Belize-flagged ship.  Reuters in December reported that Russian tankers had supplied fuel to North Korea by transferring cargoes at sea.  The 15-member Security Council capped refined petroleum product exports to North Korea at 500,000 barrels a year in December, down from a previous limit, adopted in September, of 2 million barrels a year.  According to the Security Council North Korea sanctions committee website, only Russia and China have reported legitimate sales of some 14,000 tons of refined petroleum to North Korea in 2018.  “These sales and any other transfer must immediately stop since the United States believes the DPRK has breached the … refined petroleum products quota for 2018,” the United States said in a document submitted to the committee, using an acronym for North Korea.  The United States provided a list to the Security Council committee of the 89 North Korean tankers and a few select photos, seen by Reuters.  “If fully loaded at around 90 percent laden, DPRK tankers have delivered nearly triple the 2018 quota at 1,367,628 barrels,” the United States said.  It asked the North Korea sanctions committee to issue an urgent note to all U.N. member states notifying them that North Korea has breached the refined petroleum cap and order an immediate halt to all transfers.  The U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.  In March the council blacklisted dozens of ships and shipping companies over oil and coal smuggling by North Korea.  Is it time for a ‘quarantine,’ dare I say blockade of North Korean ports?



Philippines Leader Duterte A Willing Victim of China Policy

Critics of the Filipino leader is once again surfacing on several fronts as the anniversary of the Hague-based tribunal ruling nullified China’s vast and completely unreasonable claims to the South China Sea.  They must have been reading FOD!  However Asia Times is reporting the Philippines is celebrating the second anniversary of its landmark arbitration award against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea handed down by an arbitral tribunal in The Hague on 12 July.  Crucially, the award legally nullified China’s expansive “nine-dash-line map” and “historic rights” claims which cover much of the South China Sea.  It also censured the Asian powerhouse for restricting Filipino fishermen’s access to the contested Scarborough Shoal as well as inflicting irreparable ecological damage due to its massive reclamation and island-building activities in the maritime area.  Until now, the Philippines remains sharply divided on how to leverage its arbitration award. Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly downplayed the relevance of the ruling by questioning its enforceability amid China’s vociferous opposition.  Soon after taking office in mid-2016, Duterte declared that he would “set aside” the arbitration award in order to pursue a “soft landing” in bilateral relations with China. In exchange, he has hoped for large-scale Chinese investments as well as resource-sharing in the South China Sea.  (Fireball note: This has meant China’s investment/loans to projects in which Duterte has a personal interest.) China has dismissed the award as a “piece of trash paper”, adopting a “three no’s” policy of non-participation, non-recognition and non-compliance vis-à-vis the award, which, according to international law formed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), is final and binding.  Other major leaders in the Philippines, however, have taken a tougher stance and continue to try to leverage the award to resist China’s expanding footprint in the area.  The Stratbase-Albert Del Rosario Institute, an influential think tank co-founded by former Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario, hosted today a high-level forum on the topic at the prestigious Manila Polo Club.  Del Rosario oversaw the arbitration proceedings against China under Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino. He opened the event attended by dignitaries from major Western and Asian countries with a strident speech which accused China of trying to “dominate the South China Sea through force and coercion.”  He defended the arbitration award as an “overwhelming victory” to resist “China’s unlawful expansion agenda.”  The ex-top diplomat also accused the Duterte administration of acquiescence to China by acting as an “abettor” and “willing victim” by soft-pedaling the Philippines’ claims in the South China Sea and refusing to raise the arbitration award in multilateral fora.  The keynote speaker of the event was Vice President Leni Robredo, who has recently emerged as the de facto leader of the opposition against Duterte. Though falling short of directly naming Duterte, her spirited speech served as a comprehensive indictment of the administration’s policy in the South China Sea.  “Today, more than at any other time, our people must all be keenly aware of how foreign policy affects our daily lives,” warned Robredo, calling on Filipino people to be cognizant of the implications of the South China Sea disputes.  “This is the time for us to peacefully protest any effort to limit or control movement in these waters. As neighbors and friends, we must stand in opposition to military build-ups in the [South China Sea],“ she said.  Robredo thanked the proponents of the arbitration award as national heroes and patriots who have provided the Philippines a line of defense against Chinese aggression: “On behalf of the entire nation, let me say this – we, the Filipino people, are grateful for the bold fight you labored on behalf of all of us.”  “This is the day to celebrate that decision, and this is the day to start planning how we should move forward,” declared the vice-president, calling on the government to use the award as a key bargaining chip.  “Our hard-won victory was a victory of the rule of law and the UNCLOS framework, and provides the foundation for all future engagements in the West Philippine Sea. It also sets the stage for peacefully reclaiming a massive resource, much bigger than our archipelago’s total land area.”

Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping shake hands after a signing ceremony in Beijing on October 20, 2016.
Duterte met with his Chinese counterpart Xi on October 20, state media said, as the Philippinesí leader seeks closer ties with the Asian giant while blasting his US allies. / AFP PHOTO / POOL

“Sadly, since then, we have lost that advantage,“ she said, while noting the recent harassment Filipino fisherman have faced by Chinese paramilitary officials in contested areas of the South China Sea.  In June, the government called on China to stop confiscating the catch of Filipino fishermen in the contested area, saying at the time that the practice was “unacceptable.”  Her keynote address, widely covered by the local media, was followed by an even more spirited speech by interim Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, another leading critic of Duterte’s foreign policy.  The chief magistrate, who also oversaw the Philippines’ arbitration proceedings against China, lashed out at Duterte for placing the landmark award in a “deep freeze.”  He called on the Duterte administration to leverage the award by negotiating maritime delimitation agreements with other Southeast Asian claimant states such as Malaysia and Vietnam which welcomed the arbitral tribunal’s nullification of China’s nine-dashed-line map.  He also called on the Philippines to expand its maritime entitlement claims in the area, in accordance to the arbitration award, by applying for an extended continental shelf in the South China Sea at the UN.  The event, which saw the gathering of leading statesmen, served as a potent reminder of the fierce internal debate in the Philippines over the current direction of its policy towards China. Despite Duterte’s best efforts, relations with China remain fraught with uncertainty and tension.


Sprint Rolls Out 50% Military Discount on Family Phone Lines

Military Times is reporting Sprint is rolling out new unlimited mobile plans ― along with 50 percent military discounts that apply to the extra family lines associated with the primary account.  Beginning July 13, Sprint will offer the Unlimited Military plan, which is a discount on their new Unlimited Basic plan. The discount is available to military personnel and veterans.  The first line costs $60 a month. From there, the military discount applies:

  • The second line is $20 a month, compared with $40 for others.
  • The third, fourth and fifth lines are $10 a month, compared with $20 a month for others.

The Unlimited Military plan includes unlimited data, talk and text nationwide; TV, with Hulu; 500 MB mobile hotspot; DVD-quality streaming; global roaming in more than 185 worldwide locations; unlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada; and 5GB of 4G LTE data.  To sign up for the discount, visit and fill out a form that that pre-registers you for your discount. You can also sign up in a Sprint store or over the phone by asking for the Unlimited Military plan, The form asks for your name, branch of service, email and phone, Sprint spokeswoman Kathleen Dunleavy said. Customers receive an email once their validation has been approved, she said.  Customers must also be enrolled in Sprint’s AutoPay to get the savings.  Those who are 55 and older might also consider the new Unlimited 55+ plan that offers unlimited data, talk and text, plus other features, for $50 a month for the first line and $20 a month for the second line. That offer is available only in a Sprint store, according to Sprint. But it could save you $10 a month over the Unlimited Military plan.


The Battle of Britain Begins

The Battle of Britain was the military campaign of the Second World War, in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) defended the United Kingdom (UK) against large-scale attacks by Nazi Germany‘s air force, the Luftwaffe. It has been described as the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces.  The British officially recognize the battle’s duration as being from 10 July until 31 October 1940, which overlaps the period of large-scale night attacks known as the Blitz that lasted from 7 September 1940 to 11 May 1941.  German historians do not accept this subdivision and regard the battle as a single campaign lasting from July 1940 to June 1941, including the Blitz.  The primary objective of the German forces was to compel Britain to agree to a negotiated peace settlement. In July 1940 the air and sea blockade began, with the Luftwaffe mainly targeting coastal-shipping convoys, ports and shipping centers, such as Portsmouth. On 1 August, the Luftwaffe was directed to achieve air superiority over the RAF with the aim of incapacitating RAF Fighter Command12 days later, it shifted the attacks to RAF airfields and infrastructure.  As the battle progressed, the Luftwaffe also targeted factories involved in aircraft production and strategic infrastructure. Eventually it employed terror bombing on areas of political significance and on civilians.  The Germans had rapidly overwhelmed France and the Low Countries, leaving Britain to face the threat of invasion by sea. The German high command knew the difficulties of a seaborne attack and its impracticality while the Royal Navy controlled the English Channel and the North Sea.  On 16 July, Adolf Hitler ordered the preparation of Operation Sea Lion as a potential amphibious and airborne assault on Britain, to follow once the Luftwaffe had air superiority over the UK. In September, RAF Bomber Command night raids disrupted the German preparation of converted barges, and the Luftwaffe’s failure to overwhelm the RAF forced Hitler to postpone and eventually cancel Operation Sea Lion. Germany proved unable to sustain daylight raids, but their continued night-bombing operations on Britain became known as the Blitz.  Historian Stephen Bungay cited Germany’s failure to destroy Britain’s air defenses to force an armistice (or even outright surrender) as the first major German defeat in World War II and a crucial turning point in the conflict.  The Battle of Britain takes its name from a speech by Winston Churchill to the House of Commons on 18 June: “What General Weygand has called The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin.  The Luftwaffe’Messerschmitt Bf 109E and Bf 110C fought against the RAF’s workhorse Hurricane Mk I and the less numerous Spitfire Mk I; Hurricanes outnumbered Spitfires in RAF Fighter Command by about 2:1 when war broke out.  The Bf 109E had a better climb rate and was up to 40 mph faster in level flight than the Rotol (constant speed propeller) equipped Hurricane Mk I, depending on altitude.  The speed and climb disparity with the original non-Rotol Hurricane was even greater. By mid-1940, all RAF Spitfire and Hurricane fighter squadrons converted to 100 octane aviation fuel, which allowed their Merlin engines to generate significantly more power and an approximately 30 mph increase in speed at low altitudes through the use of an Emergency Boost Override.  In September 1940, the more powerful Mk IIa series 1 Hurricanes started entering service in small numbers.  This version was capable of a maximum speed of 342 mph, some 20 mph more than the original (non-Rotol) Mk I, though it was still 15 to 20 mph slower than a Bf 109 (depending on altitude).  The performance of the Spitfire over Dunkirk came as a surprise to the Jagdwaffe, although the German pilots retained a strong belief that the 109 was the superior fighter.  The British fighters were equipped with eight Browning .303 (7.7mm) machine guns, while most Bf 109Es had two 7.92mm machine guns supplemented by two 20mm cannons.  The latter was much more effective than the .303; during the Battle it was not unknown for damaged German bombers to limp home with up to two hundred .303 hits.  At some altitudes, the Bf 109 could out climb the British fighter. It could also engage in vertical-plane negative-g maneuvers without the engine cutting out because its DB 601 engine used fuel injection; this allowed the 109 to dive away from attackers more readily than the carburetor-equipped Merlin. On the other hand, the Bf 109E had a much larger turning circle than its two foes.  About 20% of pilots who took part in the battle were from non British countries. The Royal Air Force roll of honor for the Battle of Britain recognizes 595 non-British pilots (out of 2,936) as flying at least one authorized operational sortie with an eligible unit of the RAF or Fleet Air Arm between 10 July and 31 October 1940.  These included 145 Poles, 127 New Zealanders, 112 Canadians, 88 Czechoslovaks, 10 Irish, 32 Australians, 28 Belgians, 25 South Africans, 13 French, 9 Americans, 3 Southern Rhodesians and one each from Jamaica and Mandatory PalestineWinston Churchill summed up the effect of the battle and the contribution of RAF Fighter Command, RAF Bomber Command, RAF Coastal Command and the Fleet Air Arm with the words, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”  Pilots who fought in the battle have been known as The Few ever since; at times being specially commemorated on 15 September, “Battle of Britain Day“. On this day in 1940, the Luftwaffe embarked on their largest bombing attack yet, forcing the engagement of the entirety of the RAF in defense of London and the South East, which resulted in a decisive British victory that proved to mark a turning point in Britain’s favor.


“Babe” Ruth Makes His Major League Debut

On July 11, 1914, in his major league debut, George Herman “Babe” Ruth pitches seven strong innings to lead the Boston Red Sox over the Cleveland Indians, 4-3.  George Herman Ruth was born February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland, where his father worked as a saloon keeper on the waterfront. He was the first of eight children, but only he and a sister survived infancy. The young George, known as “Gig” (pronounced jij) to his family, was a magnet for trouble from an early age. At seven, his truancy from school led his parents to declare him incorrigible, and he was sent to an orphanage, St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Ruth lived there until he was 19 in 1914, when he was signed as a pitcher by the Baltimore Orioles.  That same summer, Ruth was sold to the Boston Red Sox. His teammates called him “Babe” for his naiveté, but his talent was already maturing. In his debut game against the Indians, the 19-year-old Ruth gave up just five hits over the first six innings. In the seventh, the Indians managed two runs on three singles and a sacrifice and Ruth was relieved. His hitting prowess, however, was not on display that first night–he went 0 for 2 at the plate.  Ruth developed quickly as a pitcher and as a hitter. When the Red Sox made the World Series in 1916 and 1918, Ruth starred, setting a record with 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play. His career record as a pitcher for the Red Sox was 89-46.  (Ruth in top row far left)  To the great dismay of Boston fans, Ruth’s contract was sold to the New York Yankees before the 1920 season by Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, so that Frazee could finance the musical No, No, Nanette. Ruth switched to the outfield with the Yankees, and hit more home runs than the entire Red Sox team in 10 of the next 12 seasons. “The Sultan of Swat” or “The Bambino,” as he was alternately known, was the greatest gate attraction in baseball until his retirement as a player in 1935. During his career with the New York Yankees, the team won four World Series and seven American League pennants. After getting rid of Ruth, the Red Sox did not win a World Series until 2004, an 85-year drought known to Red Sox fans as “the Curse of the Bambino.”




Medical Supply Drop At Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station

Dr. Jerri Lin Nielsen was an American physician with extensive ER experience, who self-treated her breast cancer while stationed at Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica until she could be evacuated safely.  In 1998, during the southern winter, at a time when the station is physically cut off from the rest of the world, she developed breast cancer. Nielsen teleconferenced with medical personnel in the United States, and had to operate on herself in order to extract tissue samples for analysis. Results were inconclusive, so the National Science Foundation decided to send additional test equipment and medications to the remote station by military transport.  Such airdrops had been a yearly event several years earlier, when the station was run by the US Navy, but had later been stopped. The plane did not attempt a landing because its skis would risk sticking to the ice and its fuel and hydraulic lines would rapidly freeze, dooming the craft.  A United States Air Force Lockheed C-141B Starlifter of the 62nd Airlift Wing, McChord Air Force Base, Washington, was sent to stage out of Christchurch, New Zealand, in order to air drop the supplies at the South Pole. The mission was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John I. Pray, Jr., U.S. Air Force.  Departing Christchurch at 2154 UTC, 11 July, with six pallets of medical supplies and equipment as well as fresh food and mail for the remote outpost, the C-141 was joined for the flight by a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker from the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, Hawaii National Guard, for inflight refueling. A refueling took place over McMurdo Station and then the Starlifter headed on toward the Pole.  Amundsen-Scott station personnel set fire to 27 smudge pots arranged in a semi-circle to mark the drop zone, and turned off all outside lighting. When the transport arrived overhead, blowing snow obscured the drop zone and it took the aircrew, flying with night vision goggles, 25 minutes to locate the markers.  The C-141 dropped two cargo pallets on the first pass and the remaining four on a second. It immediately departed to rendezvous with the KC-135 tanker and both returned to New Zealand.  After a 6,375 mile round trip, the C-141 touched down at Christchurch at 1225 UTC, 12 July.  Good job Air Force guys.  Using the parachuted supplies, Nielsen began her treatment, following the advice of her doctors over the satellite link. She first began a hormone treatment. She trained her South Pole colleagues to form a small team that could assist her in the procedures. A new biopsy performed with the airdropped equipment allowed better scans to be sent to the US, where it was confirmed that the cells were indeed cancerous.  With the help of her makeshift medical team, Nielsen then began self-administering chemotherapy.  In October, a LC-130 Hercules was sent several weeks ahead of schedule, despite the risks inherent to flying in such cold weather, to bring Nielsen back home as soon as possible; the plane took off from the base on October 15. Another crew member, who had suffered a hip injury during the winter, was also evacuated.  The Navy Antarctic Development Squadron Six (First designated VX-6, then VXE-6 from 1969) originally operated the LC-130 aircraft. Initially, VXE-6 was home based at the Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode Island and later at the Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California. Operation of the aircraft was transferred in 1999 to the 109th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard when Navy support of the Antarctic program was terminated and the Navy provided training for New York Air National Guard who eventually assumed and continue to support the mission today.  Once back in the United States, after multiple surgeries, complications and a mastectomy, Dr. Nielsen went into remission. She became a motivational speaker and a scholarship was created in her honor.  After being in remission, the cancer returned in 2005 and metastasized to Nielsen’s brain, liver and bones, but she continued to give speeches and traveled extensively including to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Australia, Ireland, Alaska, Poland, and she returned to Antarctica several times. In October 2008, Dr. Nielsen announced that her cancer had returned in the form of a brain tumor.  She was active and giving talks until March 2009, three months before her death.


KC-10A Extender First Flight

The KC-10 Extender first flew on 12 July 1980, but it was not until October the same year that the first aerial refuel sortie was performed.  That first prototype, serial number 79-0433, made its first flight at Long Beach, California with company test pilots Walt Smith and George Jansen, flight engineer Leo Hazell, and flight test engineer Guy Lowery.  The design for the KC-10 involved modifications from the DC-10-30CF design. Unnecessary airline features were replaced by an improved cargo-handling system and military avionics.  Meanwhile, the KC-10 retains 88% commonality with its commercial counterparts, giving it greater access to the worldwide commercial support system.  Other changes from the DC-10-30CF include the removal of most windows and lower cargo doors.  Early aircraft featured a distinctive light gray, white and blue paint scheme, but a gray-green camouflage scheme was used on later tankers. The paint scheme was switched to a medium gray color by the late 1990s.  The most notable changes were the addition of the McDonnell Douglas Advanced Aerial Refueling Boom (AARB) and additional fuel tanks located in the baggage compartments below the main deck. The extra tanks increase the KC-10’s fuel capacity to 356,000 lb, nearly doubling the KC-135’s capacity.  The KC-10 has both a centerline refueling boom—unique in that it sports a control surface system at its aft end that differs from the V-tail design used on previous tankers—and a drogue-and-hose system on the starboard side of the rear fuselage. The KC-10 boom operator is located in the rear of the aircraft with a wide window for monitoring refueling. The operator controls refueling operations through a digital fly-by wire system.  Unlike the KC-135, the KC-10’s hose-and-drogue system allows refueling of NavyMarine Corps, and most allied aircraft, all in one mission The final twenty KC-10s produced included wing-mounted pods for added refueling locations.  In addition to its tanking role, the KC-10 can carry a complement of 75 personnel with 146,000 lb of cargo, or 170,000 lb in an all-cargo configuration.  The KC-10 has a side cargo door for loading and unloading cargo. Handling equipment is required to raise and lower loads to the cargo opening. It can carry cargo.  (Fireball note: Refueling on the KC-10 was very easy and the hose-and-drogue system was stable, plus you could tank in the shade of the fuselage! )  Though over 400 of the original 732 Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers remain in service (the last one was accepted by the Air Force in 1964), the fleet of KC-10s provide greater fuel capacity and much longer range. McDonnell Douglas built 60 KC-10s for the U.S. Air Force and 2 similar KDC-10s for The Netherlands.  Thirty-eight years later, McDonnell Douglas KC-10A 79-0433 (above left) is still in service.


Burr Shoots Hamilton In Dual

The Burr–Hamilton duel was fought between prominent American politicians Aaron Burr, the sitting Vice President of the United States, and Alexander Hamilton, the former Secretary of the Treasury, at Weehawken, New Jersey on July 11, 1804.  The duel was the culmination of a long and bitter rivalry between the two men. Burr shot and mortally wounded Hamilton, who was carried to the home of William Bayard, where he died the next day.  In the early morning hours of July 11, 1804, Burr and Hamilton departed from Manhattan by separate boats and rowed across the Hudson River to a spot known as the Heights of Weehawken in New Jersey, a popular dueling ground below the towering cliffs of the Palisades.  Dueling had been prohibited in both New York and New Jersey; Hamilton and Burr agreed to take the duel to Weehawken, however, because New Jersey was not as aggressive in prosecuting dueling participants as New York. The same site was used for eighteen known duels between 1700 and 1845.  In an attempt to shield the participants from prosecution, procedures were implemented to give all witnesses plausible deniability. For example, the pistols were transported to the island in a portmanteau, enabling the rowers to say under oath that they had not seen any pistols. (They also stood with their backs to the duelists.)Burr, William P. Van Ness (his second), Matthew L. Davis, and another (often identified as John Swarthout) plus their rowers reached the site at 6:30 a.m. whereupon Swarthout and Van Ness started to clear the underbrush from the dueling ground. Hamilton, Judge Nathaniel Pendleton (his second), and Dr. David Hosack arrived a few minutes before seven. Lots were cast for the choice of position and which second should start the duel; both were won by Hamilton’s second, who chose the upper edge of the ledge (which faced the city) for Hamilton.  However, according to historian and author Joseph Ellis, Hamilton had been challenged and therefore had choice of both weapon and position. Under this account, it was Hamilton himself who chose the upstream or north side position. The duel took place near the area where Phillip Hamilton had dueled three years before his father.  All first-hand accounts of the duel agree that two shots were fired; however, Hamilton and Burr’s seconds disagreed on the intervening time between the shots. It was common for both principals in a duel to fire a shot at the ground to exemplify courage, and then the duel could come to an end. Hamilton apparently fired a shot above Burr’s head. Burr returned fire and hit Hamilton in the lower abdomen above the right hip. The large-caliber lead ball ricocheted off Hamilton’s third or second false rib, fracturing it, and caused considerable damage to his internal organs, particularly his liver and diaphragm, before becoming lodged in his first or second lumbar vertebra. According to Pendleton’s account, Hamilton collapsed immediately, dropping the pistol involuntarily, and Burr moved toward Hamilton in a speechless manner (which Pendleton deemed to be indicative of regret) before being hustled away behind an umbrella by Van Ness because Hosack and the rowers were already approaching.  The Wogdon duelling pistols incorporated a hair-trigger feature that could be pre-set by the user.  Hamilton, familiar with the weapons, would have known about and been able to use the hair trigger. However, when asked by Pendleton before the duel if he would use the “hair-spring”, Hamilton reportedly replied, “not this time.”  The “hair-spring” feature gives an advantage because it reduces the force required to engage the trigger, preventing unintentional hand movement while firing. It may also make people who are not familiar with the reduced force miss the target.  In 1801, three years before the Burr-Hamilton duel, Hamilton’s son Philip used the Church weapons in a duel in which he died.  The pistols reposed at Church’s estate Belvidere until the late 19th century.  In 1930, the pistols were sold to the Chase Manhattan Bank, now part of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and are on display in the investment bank’s headquarters at 270 Park Avenue in New York CityA famous “GOT MILK?” commercial highlighted the Hamilton-Burr Duel.  The ad, won a Gold Clio Award in 1994 and was inducted into the Clio Hall of Fame in 2009.  Leslie Odom Jr. parodied this commercial for the musical Hamilton. 


LT Godfrey de Chevalier Takes First Cat Shot

On July 12, 1916, then Lieutenant Godfrey DeCourcelles Chevalier took the first real aircraft catapult launched aircraft by catapult, from the armored cruiser USS North Carolina. There was no mention of who the shooter was.  Later, in November 1917 he commanded the first naval air station in France, at Dunkerque, and for World War I service was awarded the Distinguished Service MedalChevalier graduated from the United States Naval Academy in June 1910. He was appointed a Naval Air Pilot on 7 November 1915 and a Naval Aviator on 7 November 1918.  On 8 May 1913, ensign Chevalier was the passenger in a long-distance flight of 169 miles, flown in a Curtiss flying boat piloted by Lieutenant John Henry Towers, Naval Aviator No. 3, from the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. down the Potomac River and then up the Chesapeake Bay to the U.S. Naval Academy at AnnapolisMaryland. The flight took three hours and five minutes.  In 1922 he was attached to USS Langley (CV-1), the first American aircraft carrier, in connection with fitting her out. On 26 October 1922 Lieutenant Commander Chevalier made the first landing on Langley‘s deck, flying Aeromarine 39B No. 606.  A distinguished pioneer of naval aviation, Chevalier died at the Norfolk Naval Hospital at Naval Station Norfolk in NorfolkVirginia, on 14 November 1922 as a result of injuries sustained in the 12 November 1922 crash near Lockhaven, Virginia, of a Vought VE-7 he was flying from Naval Air Station Norfolk to Yorktown, Virginia.  Two U.S. Navy destroyers have been named USS Chevalier in his honor, as was Chevalier Field, an airfield at Naval Air Station Pensacola in PensacolaFloridaOK


The Real Game of Tanks – The Battle of Kursk

The area around Kursk ( Kursk OblastRussia, located at the confluence of the KurTuskar, and Seym Rivers) was the site of a turning point in the Soviet–German struggle during World War II and the site of the largest tank battle in history.  The Germans hoped to weaken the Soviet offensive potential for the summer of 1943 by cutting off a large number of forces that they anticipated would be in the Kursk salientIt was also hoped that large numbers of Soviet prisoners would be captured to be used as slave labor in the German armaments industry.  The Soviet government had foreknowledge of the German intentions, provided in part by the British intelligence service and Tunny intercepts (The British Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park an important source of “Ultra” intelligence.)  Aware months in advance that the attack would fall on the neck of the Kursk salient, the Soviets built a defense in depth designed to wear down the German armored spearhead.  The Germans delayed the offensive while they tried to build up their forces and waited for new weapons, mainly the new Panther tank but also larger numbers of the Tiger heavy tank.  This gave the Red Army time to construct a series of deep defensive belts. The defensive preparations included minefields, fortifications, artillery fire zones and anti-tank strong points, which extended approximately 300 km (190 mi) in depth.  Soviet mobile formations were moved out of the salient and a large reserve force was formed for strategic counter-offensives.  The Battle of Kursk was the first time in the Second World War that a German strategic offensive was halted before it could break through enemy defenses and penetrate to its strategic depths.  The maximum depth of the German advance was 8–12 kilometers (5.0–7.5 mi) in the north and 35 kilometers (22 mi) in the south.  Though the Red Army had succeeded in winter offensives previously, their counter-offensives following the German attack at Kursk were their first successful strategic summer offensives of the war.  In bitter fighting Soviet antitank artillery destroyed as much as 40 percent of the German armor, which included their new Mark VI Tiger tanks.  The Battle of Kursk, involving some 6,000 tanks, two million men, and 5,000 aircraft.  After six days of warfare concentrated near Prokhorovka, south of Kursk, the German Field Marshal Gunther von Kluge called off the offensive, and by July 23 the Soviets had forced the Germans back to their original positions.


Storming of the Bastille

Parisian revolutionaries and mutinous troops storm and dismantle the Bastille on July 14, 1789, a royal fortress and prison that had come to symbolize the tyranny of the French Bourbon monarchs. This dramatic action signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, a decade of political turmoil and terror in which King Louis XVI was overthrown and tens of thousands of people, including the king and his wife Marie-Antoinette, were executed.  By July 1789, revolutionary sentiment was rising in Paris. The Estates-General was convened in May and members of the Third Estate proclaimed the Tennis Court Oath in June, calling for the king to grant a written constitution. Violence between loyal royal forces, mutinous members of the royal Gardes Françaises and local crowds broke out at Vendôme on 12 July, leading to widespread fighting and the withdrawal of royal forces from the centre of Paris.  Revolutionary crowds began to arm themselves during 13 July, looting royal stores, gunsmiths and armourers’ shops for weapons and gunpowder.  On the morning of 14 July around 900 people formed outside the Bastille, primarily working-class members of the nearby faubourg Saint-Antoine, but also including some mutinous soldiers and local traders.  The crowd had gathered in an attempt to commandeer the gunpowder stocks known to be held in the Bastille, and at 10:00 am de Launay let in two of their leaders to negotiate with him.  Just after midday, another negotiator was let in to discuss the situation, but no compromise could be reached: the revolutionary representatives now wanted both the guns and the gunpowder in the Bastille to be handed over, but de Launay refused to do so unless he received authorization from his leadership in Versailles.  Just as negotiations were about to recommence at around 1:30 pm, chaos broke out as the impatient and angry crowd stormed the outer courtyard of the Bastille, pushing toward the main gate.  Confused firing broke out in the confined space and chaotic fighting began in earnest between de Launay’s forces and the revolutionary crowd as the two sides exchanged fire.  At around 3:30 pm, more mutinous royal forces arrived to reinforce the crowd, bringing with them trained infantry officers and several cannons.  After discovering that their weapons were too light to damage the main walls of the fortress, the revolutionary crowd began to fire their cannons at the wooden gate of the Bastille.  By now around 83 of the crowd had been killed and another 15 mortally wounded; only one of the Invalids had been killed in return.  De Launay had limited options: if he allowed the Revolutionaries to destroy his main gate, he would have to turn the cannon directly inside the Bastille’s courtyard on the crowds, causing great loss of life and preventing any peaceful resolution of the episode.  De Launay could not withstand a long siege, and he was dissuaded by his officers from committing mass suicide by detonating his supplies of powder.  Instead, de Launay attempted to negotiate a surrender, threatening to blow up the Bastille if his demands were not met.  In the midst of this attempt, the Bastille’s drawbridge suddenly came down and the revolutionary crowd stormed in.  De Launay was dragged outside into the streets and killed by the crowd, and three officers and three soldiers were killed during the course of the afternoon by the crowd.  The soldiers of the Swiss Salis-Samade Regiment, however, were not wearing their uniform coats and were mistaken for Bastille prisoners; they were left unharmed by the crowds until they were escorted away by French Guards and other regular soldiers among the attackers.  The valuable powder and guns were seized and a search begun for the other prisoners in the Bastille.  Seven prisoners were freed. Upon arriving at the Hotel de Ville, where Launay was to be arrested and tried by a revolutionary council, he was instead pulled away by a mob and murdered.  The capture of the Bastille symbolized the end of the ancien regime and provided the French revolutionary cause with an irresistible momentum. In 1792, the monarchy was abolished and Louis and his wife Marie-Antoinette were sent to the guillotine for treason in 1793.

Lieutenant John M. Gamble USMC Commands Naval Ship

Brevet Lieutenant Colonel John M. Gamble was an officer in the United States Marine Corps during the early 19th century. He was the first, and remains the only known, U.S. Marine to command a U.S. Navy ship, commanding the prize ships Greenwich and the Sir Andrew Hammond during the War of 1812.  His capture of the British armed whaler Seringapatam was noted as a triumph by American newspapers and thus earned him considerable fame upon his return.  The Seringapatam was deemed as the biggest British threat to American whalers in the South Pacific at the time.  On 14 July 1813, Commodore Porter wrote of Lieutenant Gamble: “Allow me to return to you my thanks for your handsome conduct in bringing the Seringapatam to action, which greatly facilitated her capture, while it prevented the possibility of her escape. Be assured, sir, I shall make a suitable representation of the affair to the honorable Secretary of the Navy.”  Later, Commodore Porter wrote a further communication to the Navy Department which went as follows: “Captain Gamble at all times greatly distinguished himself by his activity in every enterprise engaged in by the force under my command, and in many critical encounters by the natives of Madison Island, rendered essential services, and at all times distinguished himself by his coolness and bravery. I therefore do, with pleasure, recommend him to the Department as an officer deserving of its patronage.” And again he wrote: “I now avail myself of the opportunity of assuring you that no Marine officer in the service ever had such strong claims as Captain Gamble, and that none have been placed in such conspicuous and critical situations, and that none could have extricated themselves from them more to their honor.”  Way to go Marine!

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 1st through 4th 2018

Fireball Saying of the Day

All you have to know about celery is that it’s made up of 95% water, and it’s 100% not pizza.


Xi Asserts Claim On South China Sea

As followers of FOD and I expected, Military Times is reporting Chinese President Xi Jinping strongly asserted China’s determination to defend territory it claims, including in the South China Sea, in a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.  While the tone of Mattis’ visit to Beijing was largely upbeat, Xi made sure to reinforce his reputation as a fervent nationalist when it comes to issues of sovereignty.  Though Xi gave no specifics in his statement, he was largely seen as indicating the South China Sea as well as self-governing Taiwan. China also claims territory held by India and uninhabited East China Sea islands controlled by Japan.  “Regarding the issue of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, our attitude is firm and clear,” state broadcaster CCTV quoted Xi as telling Mattis on Wednesday at the Great Hall of the People. “Not a single inch of the territory left behind by our ancestors must be lost, while we are not seeking to take any bit of what belongs to others.”  Randy Schriver, Assistant Defense Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, said Mattis made U.S. positions clear, including its longstanding and widely shared opposition to China’s militarization in the South China Sea.  “It’s not for one country to diminish what are international rights for navigation as defined in international waters,” Schriver said.  Mattis said the Trump administration’s decision to disinvite China from a multinational naval exercise this summer was an “initial response” to Beijing’s activity in the South China Sea. Mattis called the U.S. action a “relatively small consequence. I believe there are much larger consequences in the future.”  The U.S. military has deployed the third aircraft carrier this year to patrol the South China Sea, where Washington has criticized China’s military buildup on new manmade islands.  The 97,000-ton USS Ronald Reagan, carrying more than 70 aircraft, anchored in Manila Bay on Tuesday for meetings between navy officials of the two countries and liberty for its thousands of sailors after weeks at sea.  The U.S. military presence in the region “promotes our ability to safeguard freedom of the seas, unimpeded commerce, to deter conflict and coercion and to promote adherence to rules-based international order,” Rear ADM Marc Dalton told reporters on board the ship.  Two other American carriers earlier patrolled the waterway.  China has reportedly deployed anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, along with electronic jammers and other equipment, on islands it built on disputed reefs in the Spratly Islands, some of which have runways. It also landed a bomber aircraft on Woody Island in the Paracels group, sparking alarm among rival claimants and the United States. Washington has no territorial claims in the region but has declared that freedom of navigation and overflight in the waters is in U.S. national interest.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 1st through 4th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day June 27th through 30th 2018

Fireball Saying of the Day

You can trust your dog to guard your house but never trust your dog to guard your sandwich. 





South China Sea:  France and Britain Join US In FON Ops

France and Britain have conducted naval operations in the South China Sea to put pressure on Beijing’s increased militarization of the disputed islands. Chinese authorities maintain they will not give up any territory.  As I mentioned in the previous edition of FOD, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis is in China this week for the first time and at the top of the agenda between the two nations is China’s continued expansion of military installations in the South China Sea (SCS).  After Mattis met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported that Xi told Mattis China would not “lose one inch” of territory “left behind by our ancestors.”  China frequently refers to islands in the SCS as part of its historical territory, although they are claimed by six other nations.  “Regarding China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, our attitude is firm and clear,” said Xi.  In early June at the Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference in Singapore, Mattis told the audience that there would be “much larger consequences” in response to China’s continued installation of military infrastructure on disputed islands in the SCS.  Joining the revamped US effort to increase pressure on China in the SCS, French Defense Minster Florence Parly said a French maritime task group, together with UK helicopters and ships, would conduct freedom of navigation operations, sailing naval vessels through international waters in the SCS, which China considers as its maritime territory.  Referring to the political differences between France and Britain, Parly said in a speech that when meeting in Asia, the two countries shared deeply significant “vision, strength and values” along with a “willingness to project them.”  Parly added that France supported a rules-based international order on the SCS and that freedom of navigation must be upheld.  “France fully supports a code of conduct in the South China Sea, which should be legally binding, comprehensive, effective and consistent with international law,” said Parly. “We should be very clear that the fait accompli is not a fait accepted.”  By building military installations on islands in the SCS, China claims territorial sovereignty over areas far from the mainland, although this is not officially recognized by any international body. The freedom of navigation operations carried out by the US and other navies are a way to demonstrate the validity of international law.  China remains defiant in claiming international waters and is using its growing navy to enforce its territorial ambition.  Jonas Parello-Plesner, an observer who was aboard a French military vessel during the joint freedom of navigation operation announced at the Singapore conference, gave a firsthand account to the Wall Street Journal of the flotilla’s encounter with the Chinese navy near the Spratly Islands.  Parello-Plesner reported that a Chinese frigate contacted the French vessel by radio as they passed through Mischief, Subi and Fiery Cross Reefs, where China in recent years has built artificial islands and military installations.  “This is China warship calling. The Nansha islands are under Chinese sovereignty. What are your intentions?” After the French captain replied that they were lawfully sailing through international waters, they were tailed by Chinese naval vessels.  It is estimate that in 2014, China began construction of artificial islands on reefs in the Spratly archipelago. This raised alarm in the US and Asia that China would be able to project it’s military around the SCS and potentially exert control over waterways that carried an estimated $3.3 trillion, or one-third of global trade, in 2016.  Despite continued international condemnation led by the US, China’s militarization of the SCS has continued unabated.  In 2017, satellite images released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (ATMI), part of the Washington-based think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), showed the extent of China’s military buildup on the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands further north. According to the ATMI, China has extensive missile systems along with radar jammers on the islands.  The images clearly show completed airstrips and other infrastructure. In April 2018, China conducted its largest-ever naval exercise in the SCS. In May, the Chinese landed a warplane for the first time on an air strip on Woody Island, in the Paracels.  Although China continues to increase its capability, observers do not think that it is too late for international coalitions to maintain the integrity of international waterways passing through the SCS.  “Beijing is certainly winning more peacetime control over activity on and above the South China Sea each day, but it hasn’t completed that control yet,” Gregory Poling, the director of ATMI told DW, adding that increased engagement of the French and British navies send a strong signal to China.  “They make clear that the SCS is not a Sino-US issue,” said Poling. “It’s a matter of China vs. an overwhelming international consensus about international law and norms.”  As for the “consequences” promised by US Secretary of Defense Mattis, there are limitations to what the US military can do, outside of projecting force. Mattis is in China this week on his first visit since becoming Secretary.  In May, the US rescinded China’s invitation to participate in RIMPAC, an international biennial military exercise in the Pacific Ocean. On Tuesday the US aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Regan, anchored in Manila Bay to begin patrolling the South China Sea. It is the third US aircraft carrier sent this year.  “There are a lot of ‘larger consequences’ the US could consider, but most of them don’t come from the Pentagon,” said Poling, adding that while the joint training and deterrence measures were what the US Department of Defense should be doing, political pressure is what’s missing.  “Putting additional pressure on Beijing will require high-level focus and a strategy from the White House, which has been sorely lacking,” said Poling.


Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day June 27th through 30th 2018”