Posts filed under ‘Coronavirus pandemic’

FRIDAY FOTO (June 10, 2022)

Tall Ship Comes Calling.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson.)

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle — known as “America’s Tall Ship” is shown arriving at Maurice Ferre Park, Miami on May 19, 2022. (Click on the photo to enlarge image).

The Eagle is a three-masted sailing barque and the only active (operational) commissioned sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services.

The ship was built in 1936 by the Blohm + Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany, and commissioned as Horst Wessel.  Four identical sister ships were also built. Originally operated by Nazi Germany to train cadets for the German Navy, the ship was taken by the United States as a war prize after World War II. In 1946, a U.S. Coast Guard crew – aided by the German crew still on board – sailed the tall ship from Bremerhaven to its new homeport in New London, Connecticut.

Homeported at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut., the Eagle is used as a training platform for future Coast Guard officers.

Today, a permanent crew of eight officers and 50 enlisted personnel maintain the ship year-round. They provide a strong base of knowledge and seamanship for the training of up to 150 cadets, or officer candidates, at a time.

On a summer-long, five phase training cruise, the Eagle was scheduled to arrive at Galveston, Texas today (June 10) and return home to New London on October 1.

For more information about the Eagle, click here.

June 9, 2022 at 11:43 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: First Female Coast Guard Commandant Takes Over

GLASS CEILING SHATTERS

Admiral Linda Fagan took command June 1 as the first female commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. (Dept. of Homeland Security photo via Twitter.) Click on photos to enlarge image.

History was made June 1, 2022 as Admiral Linda Fagan became the first female commandant of the United States Coast Guard in a change of command ceremony with her predecessor Admiral Karl Schultz.

President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas attended the historic ceremony.

In his remarks, Biden noted Fagan had first served aboard the Polar Star, heavy icebreaker, been captain of the Port of New York, served on all seven continents and commanded Coast Guard operations in the Pacific before becoming Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard.

“Throughout her decades of service, she has demonstrated an exceptional skill, integrity, and commitment to our country. She upholds the highest traditions of the United States Coast Guard.,” Biden said.

“This moment of acceleration of global challenges and hybrid threats that don’t stop at any border, there’s no one more qualified to lead the proud women and men of the Coast Guard, and she will also be the first woman to serve as Commandant of the Coast Guard — the first woman to lead any branch of the United States Armed Forces. And it’s about time,” Biden added.

“With her trailblazing career,” the President said, “Admiral Fagan shows that young people — young people entering service that we mean it when we say there are no doors — no doors closed to women.”

Fagan became the 32nd vice commandant of the Coast Guard on June 18, 2021, and the first female four-star admiral in the service’s history. Biden nominated her for the top job in early April and confirmation from the Senate came swiftly.

Keeping with the tradition of wearing shoulder boards passed down from a senior officer, Adm. Fagan wore the shoulder boards of the Admiral Owen Siler. As the service’s 15th Commandant, he opened the Coast Guard Academy’s doors to women in 1975. Despite having met Silor only once, Fagan acknowledged “the outsized impact of that decision.”

“If it were not for Owen Siler’s courage, I would not be here today,” Fagan said. “I’m wearing his shoulder boards that he wore as commandant, just to acknowledge the long blue line.”

DHS Secretary Mayorkas (3rd from left) and President Biden attended the change of command ceremony where Adm. Linda Fagan  relieved Adm. Karl Schultz (2nd from right) as the 27th commandant at Coast Guard headquarters June 1, 2022. Fagan is the first woman service chief of any U.S. military service. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Magee)

In addition to praising Fagan’s service and accomplishments, Mayorkas, who heads the department that includes the Coast Guard, praised her predecessor, the 26th Commandant, Admiral Schultz, “who led the Coast Guard through a unique and unprecedented period,” Mayorkas noted.

“Throughout the global pandemic, the Coast Guard did not have the option of working from home. At the outset of the pandemic, Admiral Schultz led Coasties as they brought cruise ship passengers and crew to safety. From that time forward, he has helped keep the Marine Transportation System going, which facilitates more than a quarter of our country’s gross domestic product and maintains 31 million jobs in American ports, harbors, and waterways,” the DHS Secretary said.

“Through the most intense and active Atlantic hurricane season on record, historic levels of migration, the urgent need to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, and the Afghan resettlement effort of Operation Allies Welcome, the Coast Guard has been there, always ready and always delivering,” Mayorkas said.

June 2, 2022 at 12:02 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Ukraine’s Impact on Africa; Attacks in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Somalia

The Ukraine Effect.

The catastrophic damage and disruption caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to spread its effects across the globe.

Now United Nations officials warn the conflict in Ukraine and Western sanctions on Moscow are disrupting supplies of wheat, fertilizer and other goods — compounding the difficulties Africa faces from climate change and the coronavirus pandemic — Al Jazeera reported May 6.

“This is an unprecedented crisis for the continent,” Raymond Gilpin, chief economist for the U.N. Development Program-Africa, told a press conference in Geneva of Friday (May 6).

Hunger in West Africa reaches record high in a decade as the region faces an unprecedented crisis exacerbated by Russia-Ukraine conflict. (World Food Program/Katharina Dirr)

Many African countries depend heavily on food imports and fertilizer from Russia and Ukraine, two major exporters of wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower oil. In some African countries, up to 80 percent of wheat comes from Russia and Ukraine. Rising oil prices caused by sanctions against Russian oil have increased fuel and diesel costs.

Nearly 193 million people in 53 countries suffered acute food insecurity in 2021 due to what the U.N. said in a report published May 4 was a “toxic triple combination” of conflict, weather extremes and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Countries experiencing protracted conflicts, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, had the most food-insecure populations, according to the report.

Gilpin said rising inflation is putting several large investments on hold across the continent. He cited as examples the development of a huge steel mill complex in Nigeria and fertilizer plants in Angola, according to the VOA website.

He warned tensions are rising in hot spots such as the Sahel, parts of Central Africa, and the Horn of Africa as the Russia-Ukraine war begins to fester.

“Particularly in urban areas, low-income communities, which could spillover just to violent protests and … probably also violent riots,” Gilpin said. “Also, and countries that have elections scheduled for this year and next year are particularly vulnerable because this could become a trigger.”

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VIOLENCE/TERRORISM-WEST AFRICA

     Nigeria

Islamic extremist rebels have killed at least seven people in an attack in northeast Borno state in Nigeria, the Associated Press reported via VOA May 4.

The rebels attacked Kautukari village in the Chibok area of Borno a day earlier, residents told the AP. The attack happened at the same time that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in the state to meet with survivors of jihadi violence.

The Chibok area is 115 kilometers (71 miles) away from Maiduguri, the state capital, where Guterres met with former militants being reintegrated into society and thousands of people displaced by the insurgency.

Chibok first came to the limelight when Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from the community’s school in April 2014, leading to the viral #BringBackOurGirls campaign, according to the Aljazeera news site.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 206 million people, continues to grapple with a 10-year-old insurgency in the northeast by Islamic extremist rebels of Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). The extremists are fighting to establish Shariah law and to stop Western education.

More than 35,000 people have died and millions have been displaced by the extremist violence, according to the U.N. Development Program.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said earlier this week that the war against the groups is “approaching its conclusion”, citing continued military attacks and the mass defection of thousands of the fighters, some of whom analysts say are laying down their arms because of infighting within the group.

The violence however continues in border communities and areas closer to the Lake Chad region, the stronghold of the Islamic State-linked group, ISWAP.

*** *** ***

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the safe and “dignified” return of people displaced by conflict in northeast Nigeria.

More than 40,000 people have been killed and some 2.2 million people displaced by more than a decade of fighting in the region between the military and Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

During a May 3 visit to a camp for displaced people in Borno state capital Maidugur — the birthplace of Boko Haram — Guterres praised the local governor’s development efforts.

Nigerian authorities plan to close all camps for displaced people in Borno by 2026 – but aid agencies are concerned about security and conditions on the ground in some of the communities to which the displaced will return. While humanitarian support for the camps, is important” Guterres said, “let’s try to find a solution for people, and that solution is to create the conditions, security conditions, development conditions for them to be able to go back home in safety and dignity.”

*** *** ***

Relatives of Nigerians who were abducted by gunmen in a train attack are accusing authorities of not doing enough to rescue them. Nigerian Railway Corporation says more than 160 people have been missing since the March attack, according to a VOA video report.

*** *** ***

          Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso’s army says it has lost at least seven soldiers and killed 20 “terrorists” following militant attacks on two military bases in the north of the country.

Four volunteers aiding the army in the fight against militants also were killed in the May 5 attacks in Loroum and Sanmatenga provinces, according to a military statement, the BBC reported.

The army said it seized or destroyed weapons, vehicles and communication equipment used by the attackers.

The violence came a day after a soldier was killed and another wounded in a roadside blast in northern Burkina Faso.

Armed groups affiliated with al Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have regularly carried out attacks in northern and eastern Burkina Faso since 2015, killing more than 2,000 people and displacing almost two million, according to Aljazeera.

Unrest linked to armed groups also plagues Burkina Faso’s West African neighbors Mali and Niger.

The three land-locked countries rank among the poorest in the world and their armed forces are ill-equipped against a foe skilled at hit-and-run raids, ambushes and planting roadside bombs.

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VIOLENCE/TERRORISM-EAST AFRICA

       Somalia

At least 30 Burundian soldiers were killed and 20 others injured in Tuesday’s attack by al-Shabab militants on an African Union base in southern Somalia, according to a Burundian official.

The official, who requested anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to media, told VOA Somali that 10 soldiers died on the spot, and the rest of the soldiers succumbed to their wounds. He confirmed that other soldiers are still missing, VOA reported.

Al-Shabab said it killed 173 soldiers in the attack on the AU base in the village of El-Baraf, about 150 kilometers north of Mogadishu. The casualty figure has not been independently verified. A separate source told VOA Somali that 161 soldiers were at the camp at the time of attack. The Burundian official confirmed that number.

The Burundian official told VOA Somali that the soldiers had intelligence al-Shabab was gathering in a nearby village about 48 hours prior to the attack. He said the soldiers prepared to defend themselves and dug trenches.

May 7, 2022 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO: Christmas Edition (December 24, 2021)

SEASONS GREETINGS! 

For the Christmas version of the FRIDAY FOTO, we thought we show a range of holiday activities among the troops around the world. Please click on each photo to enlarge the image — and have a happy, safe holiday whichever way you celebrate the season!

The Santa Cause

For one thing, Santa Claus — or one of his lookalike helpers — seems to show up in some of the strangest places this time of year, like the wing of a fighter jet.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Wood)

Santa waves to onlookers during the 48th Fighter Wing Children’s Holiday Party at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on December 11, 2021. Santa made his grand entrance in an F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron. 

 

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Antonino Mazzamuto)

A UH-1Y Huey assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 (HMLA-167) transports Santa Claus to Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, for a squadron party on December 16, 2021.

 

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brandon Roberson)

Attired in a Santa suit, Lieutenant Commander Rob Nelson, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), launches a T-45C Goshawk aircraft assigned to Training Air Wing (TW) 1, on December 18, 2021.

The Chief of Naval Air Training is conducting a carrier qualification detachment aboard the carrier. It’s the first opportunity for student naval aviators from Training Air Wings 1 and 2 to launch from and land on an aircraft carrier at sea.

 

Sedate Santas

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brianna K. Green)

Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Jingle the Elf appear with the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Brass Quintet Band during a holiday-themed community relations event in Naples, Italy on December 17, 2021.

 

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Kelsey Dornfeld)

U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant Joshua Purrington of the 4th Law Enforcement Battalion talks with a child who just got her present at a Toys for Tots event in McGrath, Alaska, on December 3, 2021.  Marines and Airmen traveled to remote villages of Alaska’s Kuskokwim Valley to support the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program.

 

Speaking of Gift Giving

Soldiers from the U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys Religious Support Office check their lists twice as they load gifts for military and South Korean children into a delivery vehicle for Operation Happy Holidays on December 20, 2021.

(Photo courtesy of Chaplain (Maj.) Christian Bang) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

 

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Samwel Tabancay)

Lieutenant General David G. Bellon, commander of Marine Forces Reserve and Marine Forces South, joins a Toys for Tots distribution in New Orleans on December 18, 2021. MARFORRES Marines and Sailors assisted in the distribution of toys to approximately 2,000 families as a part of the annual Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.

Making Merry

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miranda Mahoney)

Air Commandos gather around the tree during the annual tree lighting ceremony at Hurlburt Field, a U.S. Air Force facility in Florida on December 3, 2021. The ceremony was virtual in 2020, but due to declining COVID-19 numbers, the event was held in-person again this year.

December 24, 2021 at 1:49 pm 2 comments

SHAKO: Happy Birthday National Guard

Happy 385th Birthday!

If you thought the creation of the U.S. National Guard dates back to the rebels who stood against tyranny at Lexington and Concord, you’d be wrong by more than 130 years.

The Minuteman statute by Daniel Chester French (photo via Wikipedia)

According to the National Guard (and who would know better?) the official birth date of the Army National Guard is December 13, 1636. That’s when the Massachusetts colonial legislature directed the colony’s existing militia companies to be organized into three regiments.

The selection of Dec. 13, 1636 is based upon the Defense Department practice of adopting the dates of initial authorizing legislation for organized units as the birthdates of the active and reserve components of the armed services.
The descendants of those first regiments – the 181st Infantry, the 182nd Infantry, the 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineer Battalion of the Massachusetts Army National Guard – share the distinction of being the oldest units in the U.S.
The enemy in colonial days was usually Native Americans fighting to save their lands and way of life. Later in the 17th and 18th centuries colonial militias battled the French and their Indian allies in a series of conflicts known, handily, as the French and Indian wars. By 1775 they were fighting British redcoats in the war for independence.
National Guard troops have served in nearly every U.S. conflict and war since then, and have responded to floods, fires, hurricanes, tornados, civil disorders and other emergencies both in their home states and elsewhere.

National Guardsmen and a Coast Guardsman monitor Hurricane Ida response efforts in the Houma Navigation Canal in Houma, Louisiana, Sept. 13, 2021. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Vincent Moreno)

 

A crew from the California National Guard fights the Dixie Fire in northern California, Aug. 16, 2021. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Harley Ramirez)

 

The Puerto Rican National Guard assisted aid-relief efforts in hurricane-battered Haiti since August 2021. Here they help with treatment of a woman from the La Flandre community on Aug.22, 2021. (Puerto Rico National Guard photo by Sgt. Agustin Montanez)

 

Alabama National Guard Soldiers vaccinate Covington County citizens at Jaycee Park in Livingston Alabama on March 23, 2021. (Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. William Frye).

 

A pilot from the 55th Fighter Squadron performs pre-flight procedures inside an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Hulman Field Air National Guard Base, Indiana., Aug. 19, 2021.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Jonathan W. Padish)

The official birth date of the Air National Guard as a reserve component of the Air Force is September 18, 1947. On that date, the first Secretary of the Air Force was sworn in under provisions of the National Security Act of 1947, the authorizing legislation for the United States Air Force and the Air National Guard. Soon afterwards, National Guard Army Air Forces units began to be transferred to the Air National Guard as a reserve component of the Air Force.

The oldest Air National Guard unit is the 102nd Rescue Squadron of the New York Air National Guard. This unit was originally organized in accordance with existing law, and authorized in the New York National Guard as the Aero Company, Signal Corps, on November 22, 1915. The oldest Air National Guard unit in continuous existence since its organization is the 109th Airlift Squadron of the Minnesota Air National Guard, which was organized and federally recognized as the 109th Observation Squadron, on January 17, 1921.
From fighting COVID-19 to flying jet fighters, the Guard has come a long way since the 1630s.

Illustration depicting the first muster of Massachusetts Bay Colony militia in the spring of 1637. (U.S. Army)

December 13, 2021 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

WORLD WAR CV: Services’ Deadlines for Mandatory Vaccination Loom; Air Force Falls Short

Deadlines Near.

Three days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Defenses Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a directive on August 26 that mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for service members are necessary to protect the health and readiness of the force.

Because the three available anti-COVID vaccines were only approved for human application by the FDA under an emergency use authorization (EUA), no one — including members of the military — could be compelled to get vaccinated. More than 73 percent of active duty personnel had received at least one shot of the vaccines by mid-August. However, thousands more service men and women declined to roll up their sleeves for inoculation, according to SEAPOWER.

Hawaii National Guard medic Sergeant Cassandra N. Park, administers the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to Colonel Jon A. Ishikawa, commander of the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, October 1, 2021, at Kalaeloa, Hawaii. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lieutenant Anyah Peatross)

In announcing FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals 16 years of age and older in August, Dr. Janet Woodcock, the FDA’s acting administrator, said “the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards of safety and effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product.”

The Army, Navy and Air Force finalized their deadlines for all service members in the active duty forces, Reserves and National Guard to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in mid-September.

The deadline for the Air Force was November 2 for active duty airmen and December 2 for reserves and the Air National Guard. The Navy deadline is November 28 for active duty sailors and Marines, with reservists having until December 28. The Army deadline for all active duty service members is December 15. Army reservists and the National Guard  have until June 30, 2022 to be fully vaccinated. The services are each handling their own logistics for vaccinations, according to the official website of the Military Health System.

*** *** ***

Air Force Lags.

The Air Force missed having its entire force vaccinated by November 2. In all, 10,352 Airmen and Space Force Guardians — including 1,866 who have received medical or administrative exemptions — remain unvaccinated out of a total Active-duty force of approximately 326,000, Air Force Magazine reported November 3.

Senior Airman Sara Sanchez from the 6th Health Care Operations Squadron prepares a COVID-19 vaccine for distribution at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Sept. 30, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Lauren Cobin)

Eight hundred uniformed personnel have refused the shot and nearly 5,000 Airmen and Guardians waiting to find out if their religious exemptions will be approved. Nearly 7 percent of the Active-duty force has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 95.9 percent of them are fully vaccinated.

That still puts the Air Force behind the Navy, which was 99 percent vaccinated as of November. 1. As of that date, 93 percent of Active-duty Marines and 90 percent of Active-duty Soldiers were vaccinated.

Among those who remain unvaccinated, 1,634 have received medical exemptions; 232 have received administrative exemptions, such as separation or retirement; and 4,933 are pending a decision related to a request for religious exemption.

Another 2,753 unvaccinated individuals are categorized as “not started.” The Air Force said some of those individuals are deployed to overseas locations where vaccines are not readily available, the magazine noted.

*** *** ***

USAF Boots Recruits Who Refuse the Shot.

Forty would-be airmen or Guardians have been separated from Air Force and Space Force recruit training after refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, Military.com reported October 29.

Air Force officials confirmed that 40 basic military and technical trainees have been discharged under entry-level separation characterizations for refusing the vaccine.

Entry-level discharges can be awarded to personnel who have yet to serve 180 days; it usually carries no designation such as a good, bad or other-than-honorable discharge, simply equating to a separation from service with a potential for reenlistment if the individual chooses to get the vaccine, the website noted.

November 3, 2021 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

LAT AM: SOUTHCOM Command Change; Regional Deal on Amazon Forests

First Female Commander for SOUTHCOM.

U.S. Southern Command has changed leaders and the new chief, U.S. Army General Laura Richardson, is the first woman to head the sprawling geographic combatant command.

U.S. Army General Laura J. Richardson, assumes command from Defense Secretary Lloyd  Austin at SOUTHCOM Headquarters in Doral, Florida, Oct. 29, 2021.  (SOUTHCOM photo by Master Sergeant Stephen J. Caruso)

In a command change ceremony October 29 at SOUTHCOM headquarters in Doral, Florida, Navy Admiral Craig Faller, turned over U.S. military responsibility for the Latin American and Caribbean regions to Richardson. The 57-year-old general is only the second woman, after Air Force General Lori Robinson, to lead a geographic combatant command.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended the ceremony as did several dignitaries from the region, including Colombia’s Minister of National Defense Diego Molano.

Austin congratulated Molano on the recent capture of Colombia’s most-wanted cartel leader, Dario Antonio Úsaga (alias Otoniel). The two defense leaders discussed deepening cooperation on strategic issues including Colombia’s contributions to global and regional security, migration, cyber defense, and intelligence. They also stressed the importance of respect for democracy and human rights in all aspects of the bilateral defense relationship, according to the Pentagon.

SOUTHCOM is responsible for providing contingency planning, operations, and security cooperation in its assigned area of responsibility which includes Central America (but not Mexico), South America and the Caribbean.

During the war in Iraq, Richardson commanded an assault helicopter battalion and flew missions to support troops on the ground, Austin noted. She later commanded U.S. Army North, before taking command of SOUTHCOM. “There isn’t a crisis that she can’t handle,” Austin said.

Reflecting on his nearly three years at SOUTHCOM, Faller noted that democracies in the Western Hemisphere have been under assault from a vicious circle of threats, the Tampa Bay Times reported. They include corruption, climate change, COVID-19, major hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes, and transnational criminal organizations as well as “the corrosive, malign influence of the People’s Republic of China.”

*** *** ***

Curbing Amazon Deforestation.

The week before the SOUTHCOM ceremony, after high-level talks in Colombia, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a regional partnership to address deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

“We’ll give much-needed financial assistance to help manage protected areas and Indigenous territories, and we’ll help scale up low-carbon agricultural practices to farmers throughout the Amazon,” Blinken said October 21, in the capital, Bogota, the VoA website reported.

“This new regional partnership will help prevent up to 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere while capturing another 52,000 metric tons of carbon, and we estimate it will save — save — more than 45,000 hectares of forest,” he added.

Deforestation in the Maranhão state of Brazil, in 2016. (Photo by Ibama from Brasil – Operação Hymenaea, Julho/2016, via wikipedia)

The Amazon spans eight countries in South America, including Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The Amazon and other rainforests are crucial because they take in carbon dioxide and produce about one-fifth of the world’s oxygen. About a third of Colombia is in the Amazon.

October 31, 2021 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 3, 2021)

Son of a Sailor.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Spencer Fling)

Seaman Dominick Mazuera, with his father at his side, lifts his son Mateo in the air after seeing him for the first time since joining the Navy and graduating from Recruit Training Command.

More than 40,000 recruits train annually at the Navy’s only boot camp based at Great Lakes, Illinois.

In addition to the technical difficulties that delayed this week’s FRIFO, your 4GWAR Editor was faced with some tough choices for this week’s subject matter. We try to give each of the services their fair share of attention, we also try for a really beautiful photo, or else one that may not be great art but has an important story behind it. Nothing like that leaped out at us until we saw this sweet little image. The caption provided by the Navy gives the basic information, the imagery itself does the rest.

Your 4GWAR editor has been on the road a lot over the past two months from Pittsburgh, PA to the rocky coast of Maine and most of the mid-Atlantic states in between. In every city and town we visited there were vacant, boarded up businesses, big hotels empty as ghost towns and local restaurants and night spots struggling to survive with a skeleton staff. And yet everywhere — literally everywhere — we saw help wanted signs.

During this time we visited with old classmates, family and friends, all of whom have been through a rugged year and a half, battered by fire and flood — literally — long hours with little respite as nurses, teachers and other critical workers, all manner of physical and mental health challenges from depression and stress to COVID and cancer. (If you click on the second highlighted item above you’ll see the pains the Navy has taken to protect its recruits and other personnel from the pandemic) To paraphrase Thomas Paine, These are the times that try people’s souls.

So this little happy moment in time made the final FRIDAY FOTO cut. We hope you experience some of the joy, optimism — and a bit of pride — it gave us.

On that note, we leave you with the Jimmy Buffett song that inspired the headline for this week’s posting.

October 3, 2021 at 1:27 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (May 28, 2021)

The Long Gray Line.

(U.S. Army Photo by Cadet Tyler Williams) Click on photo to enlarge the image.

The graduating class of cadets march across the reservoir bridge to Michie Stadium for graduation ceremonies at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York on May 22, 2021.

It was the first West Point graduation since 2019 where cadet families were allowed to attend. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, friends and family couldn’t witness the ceremony in person in 2020.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, a retired Army four star general and West Point graduate, was the commencement speaker for the Class of 2021.

We’ll have more details on this commencement and all the other service academy graduations in a roundup on Monday (May 30).

May 28, 2021 at 11:24 am Leave a comment

LAT AM: China, Russia Capitalizing on Organized Crime Chaos; Politics and COVID-19 in Brazil.

Dual Threat.

The chaos created by transnational organized crime groups in Central and South America is creating opportunities for China and Russia to undermine United States influence in the Western Hemisphere, two top U.S. military commanders say.

The littoral combat ship USS Wichita (LCS 13) conducts a bi-lateral maritime exercise with naval counterparts from the Dominican Republic on March 24, 2021. Wichita is deployed to support the Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter narcotics trafficking in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo)

“Two of the most significant threats are China and transnational criminal organizations,” Navy Admiral Craig Faller told a House Armed Services Committee hearing April 14. Faller, the commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), said China is the “Number One strategic threat of the 21st century,” adding that the Chinese Communist Party — with what he called its “insidious, corrosive and corrupt influence” was seeking “global dominance.”

Faller said China was increasing its influence in the Western Hemisphere with more than 40 commercial seaport deals, making significant loans for political and economic leverage, pushing its IT structure and “engaging in predatory practices” like illegal fishing by industrial fleets.

Southcom’s 2021 posture statement to Congress noted that South and Central America have been reeling under a wave of challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic that has savaged Brazil, political instability and corruption in Venezuela and back-to-back hurricanes that devastated Central America,  prompting mass migrations north. The statement notes external state actors like China and Russia are “looking to exploit the conditions posed by these threats.”

Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), agreed, saying the rise of transnation criminal organizations and the “subsequent instability they create, has generated opportunities for our competitors to exploit.”

To read more of this article by your 4GWAR editor, click here.

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Brazil’s Troubles.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has suggested that the army might be called into the streets to restore order if lockdown measures against COVID-19 — that he opposes — lead to chaos.

In an April 23 television interview with TV Criticia in the Amazon city of Manaus, Bolsonaro repeated his frequent criticism of restrictions imposed by local governments to curb infections — measures he claims do more harm than good, the Associated Press reported (via the Stars and Stripes website).

(Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
(Photo by Marcos Corrêa/PR via wikipedia)

The right-wing populist president called lockdowns and quarantine “absurd,” adding “If we have problems … we have a plan of how to act. I am the supreme head of the armed forces.”

Concerns about a military takeover in Brazil — like the one in 1964 that lasted for 20 years — have grown after the leaders of Brazil’s army. navy and air force all resigned March 30 when Bolsonaro replaced the defense minister. The government shake-up began, according to NPR, after Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo tendered his resignation. A few hours later, Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva said that he too was leaving the government.

Bolsonaro, is under intense pressure and mounting criticism as Brazil’s coronavirus cases spin further out of control. The departures accompany lawmakers’ threats to impeach Bolsonaro as well as his dropping popularity with the public.

Bolsonaro said April 7 that he had asked the armed forces if they had troops available to control possible social unrest from the COVID-19 crisis — adding to fears that he is pushing the military into a political role.

Critics fret that Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain, aims to marshal the army and police as a political force ahead of a fraught 2022 election, Reuters reported.

Bolsonaro has long sought to minimize the coronavirus, has shunned masks and was slow to purchase vaccines. Recently, he has suggested Brazilians could revolt against stay-at-home measures imposed by governors and mayors.

Brazil’s health crisis is being described as a “humanitarian catastrophe” by the international medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders (known by its French acronym, MSF), which has teams in parts of the country, NPR reported.

“The Brazilian authorities’ … refusal to adopt evidence-based public health measures has sent far too many to an early grave,” MSF’s international president Dr. Christos Christou said in a statement on April 14.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths remain high in Brazil as the country’s campaign to vaccinate against the disease stumbles, according to the VoA website.

With more than 386,414 total deaths, Brazil has the second highest toll in the world from the pandemic, behind only the United States, which has recorded 571,883 COVID fatalities, as of April 24.

People wait in the observation area after receiving their COVID-19 vaccination at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City April 13, 2021. The convention center serves as a mass vaccination site with more than 600 National Guard personnel assisting. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Specialist Li Ji)

Just over 5 percent of the population of South America’s largest nation’s has been fully vaccinated. The United States has fully vaccinated more than 26 percent of its population, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

ICU wards in cities within Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan area are reportedly nearly full, with many patients sharing space and oxygen bottles. Brazil’s vaccination campaign has been slow because of supply issues. The country’s two biggest laboratories face supply constraints.

The nation’s health ministry bet on a single vaccine, the AstraZeneca shot, and after supply problems surfaced, bought only one backup, the Chinese-manufactured CoronaVac.

*** *** ***

More Covid Woes.

Brazil is far from the only South American country hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Peru has one of the highest COVID-19 totals in Latin America, with more than 1,745,000 cases and 59,012 deaths as of April 24, according to Johns Hopkin University Covid Resource Center

Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America.

Peru began new nationwide restrictions for one month starting April 19, a day after reaching a new record of COVID-19 deaths. The country’s health ministry registered 433 COVID-19 related deaths on Sunday April 18, following a steady increase in deaths this month, the VoA website reported.

The new government order also places limits on the size of gatherings and the mandatory social curfew accordance comes with threat alert levels, beginning with moderate, high, very high, and extreme risk.

The capital, Lima, is listed at the extreme risk level, meaning residents are prohibited from going outside on Sundays, the state run Andina News Agency reported. The decree also extends the national state of emergency for 31 days (about one month), beginning May 1.

Other countries south of the U.S. border with high COVID-19 infection and death rates include: Argentina with 2,824,652 cases and 61,474 deaths; Colombia with 2,740,544 cases and 70,886 deaths; Mexico,  2,323,430 cases, and 214,841 deaths; Chile 1,162,811 cases and 25,742 deaths; Panama 362,358 cases and 6,207 deaths; Venezuela with 185,278 cases and  2,028 deaths, as of April 24.

April 24, 2021 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment

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