Posts tagged ‘Coronavirus pandemic’

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

FRIDAY FOTO (April 2, 2021)

Haul Away Joe!

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaleb J. Sarten)

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, Global Positioning, cyber warfare — and a coronavirus pandemic,  the 21st century has gotten pretty complicated for the U.S. Navy. But some things never change, like hauling a line.

Here we see Sailors heave in line as the guided-missile destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG 57) prepares to depart Souda Bay, Greece, on March 24, 2021. Mitscher is operating with the IKE (USS Dwight Eisenhower) Carrier Strike Group on a routine deployment in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national interests and security in Europe and Africa.

Click on the photo to enlarge the image. For a little atmosphere try listening to the age-old sea shanty (you say shanty, I say chanty) “Haul Away Joe.” There are two versions below.

The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem,accompanied by historic 19th century Navy pictures. OR try members of the U.S. Navy Band in full evening dress, or as they call it, mess dress.

Let us know which one you liked, or if you can recommend an even better version.

Please note: These Sailors are wearing masks while doing some strenuous work. If they can do it, you should, too. Please, mask up until we’re all safer.

April 1, 2021 at 11:59 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 3, 2020)

Solemn Masked Men.

Military Funeral Honors with Modified Funeral Escort are Conducted for U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jesse Lewis Jr.

(U.S. Army Photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Caisson Platoon conducts military funeral honors with a modified escort for Navy Commander Jesse W. Lewis Junior at Arlington National Cemetery on June 29, 2020.

It was the first funeral service since March 26 to include a caisson, the next step in Arlington National Cemetery’s phased plan to resume greater support to military funeral honors as COVID-19 cases within the national capital region trend downward.

According to the Arlington website:

 Military funeral honors with modified escort consists of individual service branch body bearers, a firing party, an escort commander with guidon, escort, bugler, drummer, national colors and chaplain. The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment’s caisson platoon may also be requested. Additionally, U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps service members with ranks O-6 [colonel] and above may receive a caparisoned horse and flag officers [generals and admirals] from all services may receive the appropriate presidential salute battery (PSB) gun salute. 

The U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard also participated in the ceremony for the Navy veteran.

Military Funeral Honors with Modified Funeral Escort are Conducted for U.S. Navy Cmdr. Jesse Lewis Jr.

(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

July 3, 2020 at 4:42 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 12, 2020)

Back at Work Again.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Dylan Lavin)

F/A-18 Super Hornets fly in formation over the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during operations in the Philippine Sea on June 9, 2020.

The TR, as the Nimitz-class, nuclear powered carrier is known, was the first U.S. Navy warship to endure an outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 while at sea.

After several Sailors tested positive for the virus, the ship pulled into Guam on March 27 and was sidelined there for more than two months. Most of the nearly 5,000 crew members were transferred off the ship — either to hospitals for treatment, or isolation in barracks and hotels on the island.

Before the ordeal was over, more than 1,100 Sailors were sickened and one died. A political firestorm sprang up when the skipper’s letter to Navy leaders seeking a quicker response to the crisis was leaked to the press. That led to the captain being relieved of command and the resignation of the acting Navy Secretary who fired him.

The TR returned to sea May 21 with a partial crew for a shakedown cruise to re-certify the carrier’s air wing and flight deck operations. After returning to pick up the rest of the crew, who now tested negative for COVID-19, the TR departed Guam on June 4 to resume its mission in the Asia-Pacific region.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt flies a replica of Capt. Oliver Hazard Perry’s “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flag, while leaving Guam after battling a COVID-19 global outbreak for more than two months. (U.S. Navy photo by Naval Air Crewman 1st Class Will Bennett)

June 11, 2020 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: Memorial Day 2020

Tradition, Updated.

Flags-In 2020

(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

A soldier assigned to the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” places flags at headstones as part of Flags-In at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on May 21, 2020.

For more than 50 years, soldiers assigned to the unit have honored the nation’s fallen military heroes by placing U.S. flags at grave sites of every service member buried at Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., just before Memorial Day weekend.

Things are a little different at Arlington this year, from the face coverings members of the “Old Guard” wear as they plant the flags to the terse message on the National Cemetery’s website:

ANC remains open only to family pass holders during the Memorial Day weekend. You must be in possession of a both a face covering and a valid family pass to enter. Access is for gravesite visitation only, no touring.

As we’ve said in the past, everything’s different in the midst of World War CV.

*** *** ***

SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

 

 

May 24, 2020 at 11:57 pm 2 comments

FRIDAY FOTO (May 1, 2020)

On a Clear Day …

USAF Thunderbirds & USN Blue Angels Perform America Strong Flyover

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cory W. Bush)

The U.S. Air Force and Navy flight demonstration squadrons, the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels, fly over New York City as part of “America Strong,” a joint effort from the Navy and the Air Force to salute health care workers, first responders, service members and other essential personnel on the front-line in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The contrails of the Thunderbirds‘ F-16 Fighting Falcon jets are on the lower right side of the photo as the Air Force team heads up the East River toward the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.

The Blue Angels and their F-18 Hornet aircraft are visible on the upper left side of the photo, heading up the Hudson River above the west side of Manhattan Island. Off to the left, lies New Jersey, which has also been hit very hard by the coronavirus.

Some critics have said the money it costs to fly these very expensive aircraft could be better spent ON those front-line health warriors — paying for more masks, gloves and other personal protection equipment. But apparently, at least some were thrilled at the sight (see photo below).

Your 4GWAR editor sees merit in both sides of the issue, but we also like seeing a bird’s eye view of our hometown on an incredibly clear day, April 28.

Blue Angels and Thunderbirds joint flyover, New Jersey

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Specialist Michael Schwenk)

New Jersey National Guardsmen and medical personnel wave and snap photos as the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds fly over University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey on  April 28, 2020.

May 1, 2020 at 10:18 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 24, 2020)

The New Normal.

 

U.S. Air Force Academy Graduation Class of 2020

(U.S. Air Force photo by Trang Le)

U.S. Air Force Academy cadets wearing face masks listen to opening remarks during the academy’s Class of 2020 graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 18, 2020.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Air Force Academy graduation proceedings were markedly different from previous years: No cheering friends and relatives packed into a football stadium. In fact, almost no one was allowed on campus except the graduates, speakers and some other Air Force and Defense Department dignitaries. The whole event was live-streamed  for friends and family members.

“This is a community we would normally welcome to Falcon Stadium but under the current circumstances we are honored to have your support from wherever you may be tuning in,” Academy Superintendent Lieutenant General Jay Silveria said in his opening remarks at the ceremony, held this year on the landmark massive quadrangle known as The Terrazzo.

There weren’t the usual hugs, handshakes and chest bumps cadets among the cadets  after receiving their diplomas. Each cadet marched or sat at least six feet away from their peers before, during and after the ceremony.

FRIFO 4-24-2020 Part2 2019 AFAcadmy grads

Class of 2019 graduates toss their hats skyward as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds roar overhead during the graduation ceremony at a packed Falcon Stadium on May 30, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by /Trevor Cokley)

However, the 2020 commencement ceremonies weren’t completely spartan.  Vice President Mike Pence gave the commencement address. The Air Force demonstration flying team, the Thunderbirds, made their traditional flyover, and 967 new officers closed-out their four years at the academy by hurling their hats in the air.

FRIFO 4-24-2020 Part3 2020 AFAcdmy grads hats

Amid the fellow cadets’ tossed hats, a class of 2020 graduate watched the Thunderbirds fly over the April 18, 2020 Air Force Academy graduation ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. J.T. Armstrong)

 

April 24, 2020 at 1:50 pm Leave a comment


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