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  • 1941 (1979) (2 Disc Special Edition) (Directors Cut & Theatrical Version) - Armyrats
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  • 20 facts about Prince Edward In honour of The Earl of Wessex s 50th birthday today, Royal Central has compiled a list of 20 facts about The Queen s youngest child. HRH The Earl of Wessex is 50 today!

    1. Edward s full title is HRH The Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Viscount Severn .

    The title of Earl of Wessex was given to him by his mother, The Queen, on his wedding day. The last person to hold the title Earl of Wessex was Harold II, who died at the Battle of Hastings, 1066!

    2. Prince Edward met his future wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones at a tennis event in 1993.

    Sophie had to stand in for sports personality, Sue Barker, and pose for promotional photos with Edward for the event, leading to the start of their relationship.

    3. Edward shares his birthday with a number of celebrities, including: Emeli Sande, Sepp Blatter and Tudor aristocrat and uncle to Anne Boleyn, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. March 10th is also the day the Princess Lilian, Duchess of Halland (of the Swedish Royal Family) died in 2013.

    4. Edward and Sophie s wedding was at St George s Chapel, Windsor Castle. The couple wanted an intimate affair, so chose a smaller venue.

    Edward asked his brothers to be his Supporters (or Best Men ), and guests wore evening attire, without hats, as requested. Prince Edward wears his London Regiment uniform to Trooping the Colour in 2013 and travels with his wife, Sophie, and daughter, Lady Louise..

    5. The Queen s youngest child spent time at Gordonstoun boarding school, Scotland, following in the footsteps of his father and two brothers.

    Edward excelled at drama and completed his A-levels in History, English Literature and Economic and Political Studies.

    6. The newly-turned 50-year-old completed his Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award in his last year of school, 1986. Duke of Edinburgh is the world s leading achievement award for those aged 14 to 24, and offers the chance to develop skills for life and work, fulfil their potential and have a brighter future.

    Having taken part in the scheme and seeing the benefits of it, Edward has become an International Trustee and Chairman of the International Council for his father s youth award. Just last week, The Earl visited Jamaica with his wife to promote the Award, and the couple travelled to South Africa last year for the same purpose.

    7. After the passing of both his parents, it is intended that Prince Edward will be granted the title of Duke of Edinburgh.

    This will enable him to carry on the work for the eponymous award.

    8. Edward proposed to Sophie after 6 years of dating. Wed in 1999, the couple have been married 15 years.

    The 8th-in-line is the only child of The Queen to not have ever divorced.

    9. In 1982, before attending Jesus College, Cambridge, Edward spent time in New Zealand on a gap year. He was a house tutor at the Collegiate School in Wanganui, and also assisted with the Duke of Edinburgh award and drama classes, before going on to read History at university.

    10. Prince Edward pursued a career in theatrical production, stemming from his love of drama at school. He worked for Andrew Lloyd-Webber s Really Useful Theatre Company at one point, managing The Phantom of the Opera, amongst other plays.

    11. The young Royal s passion saw him set up his own production company Argent in 1993. Here he wrote, and narrated, two films about The Duke of Edinburgh Award in 1987, and even produced a documentary on the restoration of Windsor Castle after the fire in 1992, and another on his great-uncle, Edward VIII.

    Prince Edward wears the uniform for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary in Gibraltar. Note the aguilette on his right shoulder 12. After dissolving his production company, Edward dedicated himself to Royal duties to support The Queen in her Golden Jubilee year, 2002, and The Earl and Countess of Wessex both became full-time Royals.

    His work is little reported, often in favour of younger and more senior Royals, but don t be deceived: Edward is very hard-working and last year undertook 245 engagements. He ranked the third busiest, only after The Princess Royal and The Prince of Wales.

    13. In 2003, The Earl welcomed his first child with wife Sophie.

    The Lady Louise Alice Elizabeth Mary was born prematurely, and the birth made Sophie very ill. The couple s second child, James Alexander Philip Theo, Viscount Severn, arrived in 2007.

    14. Prince Edward started training as an Officer Cadet in the Royal Marines in 1986.

    He didn t take to military life and left the Marines in January 1987.

    15. Despite not having a military career, the father-of-2 has numerous honorary military appointments in the UK and the Commonwealth. This includes: Colonel of the London Regiment; Royal Honorary Colonel of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry; Royal Colonel, 2nd Battalion The Rifles; Honorary Deputy Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and Colonel-in-Chief, Prince Edward Island Regiment.

    16. At university, His Royal Highness learnt to play Royal, or Real, Tennis. Henry VIII popularised the game in the 1530s, and remained popular until lawn tennis (the kind played at Wimbledon) emerged in the mid-19th century.

    It is played indoors, over a larger area and with a heavier, less bouncy ball. The rules are similar, but with a few contrasts, such as players can use the walls for shots, and a double-bounce does not mean out . Edward continues to play today when he has the time.

    17. In January, Prince Edward was appointed Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. This means he will sit in the General Scottish Assembly on behalf of The Queen.

    For one week in May, Edward will rank just behind his parents, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, and will be styled as His Grace instead of His Royal Highness . Royal tennis is enjoyed by Prince Edward 18. Edward holds 4 degrees: his BA in History from Cambridge, and 2 honorary degrees.

    The University of Victoria awarded The Earl of Wessex a degree in 1994 and the University of Prince Edward Island did the same in 2007. As Chancellor of the University of Bath, he holds an honorary doctorate in Law.

    19. The Earl is the Chancellor of the University of Bath; this sees him hand out degrees at graduation ceremonies and represent the University.

    Last year, he presented Paralympian swimmer, Ellie Simmonds with an honorary degree, the first duty he performed as Chancellor.

    20. Edward lives with his family at the historic Bagshot Park in Surrey. It is only a few miles away from Windsor, where Her Majesty and Prince Philip spend most weekends; the Wessex children have often been seen riding with their grandmother, The Queen, in the grounds at Windsor.

    photo credit: Satreix and photopin cc 1 2 References ^ Satreix (www.flickr.com) ^ photopin (photopin.com)

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  • A Film About Atheism in Poland, 325 Years After a Soldier Was ... 325 years ago, in 1689, Casimir Liszinski 1 (a.k.a. Kazimierz yszczy ski ), a Polish soldier, was executed for the crime of atheism. Last year, Polish filmmaker Zenon Kalafaticz made an English-language documentary 2 about how atheism fares in the country more than three centuries after Liszinski s death, and now he s back with a new film 3 about the topic.

    It s called 325 Years After : I haven t had a chance to watch the whole thing, but if you moments stand out, please leave a timestamp and summary in the comments!

    References ^ Casimir Liszinski (en.wikipedia.org) ^ made an English-language documentary (www.patheos.com) ^ a new film (youtu.be)

  • A Lance Corporal's perspective | The Official British Army Blog Lance Corporal Josh Crook Lance Corporal Joshua Crook, of Y Company 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (1RRF), joined the Army in January 2011 and attended the Infantry Training Centre Catterick for the six-month Combat Infantryman Course. He joined 1RRF in September 2011 and since then has completed countless exercises. Joshua attended and passed the Fire Team Commander s Course in January this year and was promoted in Afghanistan in April.

    This is my first operational deployment. Here I am now, hoping to tell you all about it. I m sure many of you who are reading this are currently serving in the forces, whether that be out on operations or back with your units in the UK, Germany or Cyprus but I m also aware that a lot of you are also civilians, looking at joining the army or are in the process already.

    This weekly blog will be, hopefully, an insight as to what it is I m doing out here in Afghanistan as a Lance Corporal as part of an infantry battalion and also, a brief look at the bigger picture to give you, back home, a look at what is going on and why in Afghanistan. The deployment begins Troops undertake RSOI training. Cpl Si Longworth RLC (phot) I flew out on the 10th April to Camp Bastion everyone who comes to Afghanistan on deployment has to attend a week s RSOI package which is basically a full up-to-the-hour information read-in on everything that is taking place in theatre; from insurgent tactics to main causes of diseases over here.

    It really is extensive. As well as all those briefs, depending on your unit and what it is you re out here to do, you then conduct ranges and various training packages within the week to make sure you re up to scratch on everything you ve been taught in your pre-deployment training, like Counter IED training for example. It s useful and for the first time puts into perspective just how good the training is you get back in the UK leading up to your operations.

    RSOI done, and it s a long week believe me not to mention the fact that for me especially, the heat is unreal, even in April. I think the hottest day we had on that week was in the region of 42 degrees, which in full kit is pretty warm. Troops undertake RSOI training.

    Cpl Si Longworth RLC (phot) Troops undertake RSOI training. Cpl Si Longworth RLC (phot) MOB Price; Where I am now and likely to be based for the rest of my time out here in Afghanistan. It doesn t take much to work out why this place gets called MOB Nice by most people either; the accommodation is big, clean and air-conditioned.

    The place has three large gyms with all the equipment you need and the cookhouse serves better food than camps in the UK! MOB Price against a the backdrop of a sandstorm. I ve been in Price since around the 19th April and this first entry comes in June, so I ll focus mainly on what s happened so far.

    I m with Company HQ out here, working as a junior NCO in my company s intelligence cell. What that means, in a nutshell, is that whenever anything happens in Afghanistan that concerns British Forces and us here in Price, I find out about it and then if necessary, become responsible to disseminate that information to the rest of my company so that we are all constantly up to date on what is happening around us and what it means to us. It s an interesting job, and because of it, I get to go out on 90 per cent of the operations my company are tasked with, whether that s as a Top Gunner on the vehicles, or one of the blokes in the section when going out on patrol.

    It s the best of both worlds! In the eight weeks or so that we ve been out here, Y Coy have been tasked quite a few times with various operations. The first being the closure of a CP (check point) not far from Price that had both ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) and British Forces manning it, the idea; that we pull all British troops out of the CP and let the ANSF man it themselves a great example of how much the ANSF are developing and how much progress they have made and are making!

    The operation went great, no drama s at all! First task Y Company; Success! First Fusiliers handing over a checkpoint.

    Cpl Si Longworth RLC (phot) First Fusiliers handing over a checkpoint. Cpl Si Longworth RLC (phot) Since the first, tasks have come through slow and steady; varying from supporting the Engineers with CP builds, to clearing major routes here in Helmand Province. A lot of the time patrol manage is in force, which basically prevents a lot of us from going out on the ground unless it is absolutely necessary, it s frustrating for us in the infantry as it s not what we want to hear, but it makes sense.

    Here in Afghanistan it s completely different from how it used to be. A different war. We are no longer out to start fights; grenade in hand and bayonets fixed.

    We ve been there, done that and it s now the time to let the ANSF take over: take responsibility for their country and their people; and they re doing just that. Of course, there have been teething issues and at times our support is still necessary, but that is the whole point in us being here now to support the ANSF. However, we are seeing time and time again ANSF not needing our help, not needing our support and it s all because of the training we have given them and the training they are disseminating down from us to their troops.

    We are slowly but surely pulling out of Afghanistan and evidence of that is clear all around us. For example, the number of CPs and PBs (patrol bases) that are being closed around Helmand, all of which held British troops.

    1RRF Regimental Flag flies over MOB PRICE Well, that pretty much brings us up to now I ll be updating this blog weekly or even more frequently than that if I get the chance, then again, not as frequently if I don t. I ll do my best to get some sort of system in place where any of you guys reading this that have questions can get them to me and I ll endeavour to get the answers back to you.

    There s a lot of units out here in Price and many others that pass through on a day to day basis so, I ll make sure there are plenty of different points of view from all different units and cap badges out here in Afghanistan. All feedback is welcome, good or bad I m just as new to this as I am Afghanistan so any ideas would be great and feedback much appreciated. Catch you next week, Crooky .

    Bookmark the .

  • A rolling First World War reviews thread.

    Slugger O'Toole Given the day that is in it, and since there are only whatever number of shopping days until Christmas, this post is a rolling review of First World War literature, in its broadest sense to include personal accounts, historical fiction (and everything in between), histories, cinema, documentary, drama, theatre and the endless poetry. Next year, with the centenary of the outbreak of war looming, there will probably be a glut of reflections and new readings of the war, it s course and impact. So, given the extensive range of excellent works already available, if you have any recommendations give us your suggestions below.

    I m going to recommend two books: In Stahlgewittern by Ernst J nger, published in English translation as Storm of Steel , and Liam O Flaherty s Return of the Brute . They both sit roughly within the general collection of personal accounts that appeared as actual memoirs (J nger) like Graves Good-bye to All That , or the thinly and thickly disguised autobiographies of Sassoon or Hemingway s A Farewell To Arms (all of which are eminently readable). Storm of Steel went through a number of published editions in the 1920s and 1930s, conforming to the needs of National Socialist historiography in the later editions.

    If you can find a translation of the earlier editions (without the cloying Nazism that crept into later editions) J nger gives one of the rawest first-hand accounts of trench fighting, hand-to-hand combat and the brutal realities of the war. Originally J nger s war diary, it was dramatically eclipsed in popularity by Remarques (fictional) All Quiet on the Western Front in the English speaking world despite the disparity in their war experiences (Remarque spent a few weeks as a sapper, J nger fought and was wounded in numerous battles). Unlike the English memoirs which tend to dwell on the moral and psychological journey of the author, J nger revels in the detail of the actual fighting.

    Return of the Brute is fiction, although based on O Flaherty s own experiences in the Irish Guards which culminated in a case of shell shock. In that sense, O Flaherty s novel forms an out-working of his own experiences, keeping it apart from much later historical novels like Jennifer Johnstons How Many Miles To Babylon , Pat Barkers Regeneration trilogy or Sebastian Faulks Birdsong (all great reads in their own right). It is also unusual as it is not written by someone from the officer class (like J nger, Sassoon, Graves etc) but is giving a perspective from the point of view of a private soldier s experience.

    It recounts a section moving forward to grenade an enemy trench in an unnamed battle and can be read in a few hours so it is more or less in real time. Shell shock is the central theme and O Flaherty offers a frame of reference for those who fought in the war and lacked the classical learning and education that the literary officers used to give their surroundings meaning. I won t ruin it by giving away the ending.

    If you wish to add a review below (I ve not even mentioned histories of the war), leus everyone know what stands out or why that particular choice.

    Leave a Reply You must be logged in to post a comment.

  • Accused UK soldier killer `loves al-Qaeda' A man accused of the gruesome murder of a British soldier has told his trial that he loves al-Qaeda and considers the Islamic militants to be his "brothers". Michael Adebolajo, 28, sat surrounded by security guards as he began giving evidence in his trial at London's Old Bailey court on Monday. He and Michael Adebowale, 22, are accused of murdering 25-year-old soldier Lee Rigby in broad daylight as he walked back to his London barracks in May.

    The court has heard that the pair ran Rigby over with a car before attacking him with knives and Adebolajo attempted to behead him with a meat cleaver. The defendants, both Britons of Nigerian descent, deny murder. The soldier's family sat just metres from Adebolajo in the courtroom as he said: "Al-Qaeda, I consider to be mujahideen.

    I love them, they're my brothers." He added that he has never met members of the militant group. Adebolajo said he had been raised as a Christian but converted to Islam in his first year at Greenwich University in south London, close to where Rigby was killed. "My religion is everything," he told the court. The jury heard that Adebolajo, who has asked to be called Mujaahid Abu Hamza in court, is married and has six children.

    Growing up in Romford, east of London, he said that the "vast majority" of his school friends were white Britons. One of them had joined the army and was killed in Iraq. Adebolajo said he held former prime minister Tony Blair, who sent British forces to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, "responsible" for his friend's death.

    Adebolajo tried to travel to Somalia in 2010 but was captured in Kenya and brought back to Britain, the court heard. He said that before the brutal attack on Rigby, he had attended demonstrations organised by an Islamist group banned under British anti-terror laws, but then realised the protests were "impotent rage". "In reality, no demonstration will make a difference," he added. He told the court several times that he was a "soldier" and that he did not regret what happened to Rigby. "I will never regret obeying the command of Allah.

    That is all I can say," he said.

    The trial heard last week that Adebolajo told police he and Adebowale had targeted a soldier because they believed this was "the most fair target" in an attack aimed at avenging the deaths of Muslims abroad.

    He said he tried to behead Rigby because it was the most "humane" way to kill him, comparing it to halal butchery methods.

  • Act of Valor [Blu-ray] [2012] [US Import] - Reviews
  • Act of Valor [DVD] [2011] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] - Reviews
  • Afghan bombers strike during US official's visit - Worldnews.comNative name Jomh r -ye Esl m -ye Af nest n (Persian) Da Af nist n Isl m Jomhoriyat (Pashto) Conventional long name Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Common name Afghanistan Image coat Coat of arms of Afghanistan.svg Symbol type Emblem National anthem Afghan National Anthem Official languages PashtoDari (Persian) Demonym Afghan Capital Kabul Largest city Kabul Government type Islamic republic Leader title1 President Leader title2 Vice President Leader name1 Hamid Karzai Leader name2 Mohammed Fahim Leader title3 Vice President Leader name3 Karim Khalili Leader title4 Chief Justice Leader name4 Abdul Salam Azimi Legislature National Assembly Upper house House of Elders Lower house House of the People Area rank 41st Area magnitude 1_E11 Area km2 647500 Area sq mi 251772 Percent water negligible Population estimate 30,419,928 Population estimate year 2012 Population estimate rank 40 Population census 15.5 million Population census year 1979 Population density km2 43.5 Population density sq mi 111.8 Population density rank 150th Gdp ppp year 2011 Gdp ppp $29.731 billion Gdp ppp per capita $1,000 Gdp nominal year 2011 Gdp nominal $18.181 billion Gdp nominal per capita $585 Hdi year 2011 Hdi 0.398 Hdi rank 172nd Hdi category low Gini 29 Gini year 2008 Gini category low Fsi 102.3 2.5 Fsi year 2007 Fsi rank 8th Fsi category Alert Sovereignty type Establishment Established event1 First Afghan state Established date1 October 1747 Established event2 Independence (from the United Kingdom) Established date2 August 19, 1919 Currency Afghani Currency code AFN Country code AFG Time zone D Utc offset +4:30 Drives on right Cctld .af Calling code +93 Footnote1 }} Afghanistan (; ; ), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan , is a landlocked country forming part of South Asia, Central Asia, and to some extent Western Asia. With a population of around 30 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and the east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast.

    Afghanistan has been an ancient focal point of the Silk Road and human migration. Archaeologists have found evidence of human habitation from as far back as the Middle Paleolithic. Urban civilization may have begun in the area as early as 3,000 to 2,000 BCE.

    Sitting at an important geostrategic location that connects the Middle East culture with Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, the land has been home to various peoples through the ages and witnessed many military campaigns, notably by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and in modern era Western forces. The land also served as a source from which the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khiljis, Timurids, Mughals, Durranis, and others have risen to form major empires. The political history of the modern state of Afghanistan begins in 1709, when the Hotaki dynasty was established in Kandahar followed by Ahmad Shah Durrani's rise to power in 1747.

    In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the "Great Game" between the British and Russian empires. Following the 1919 Anglo-Afghan War, King Amanullah began a European style modernization of the country but was stopped by the ultra-conservatives. During the Cold War, after the withdrawal of the British from neighboring India in 1947, the United States and the Soviet Union began spreading influences in Afghanistan, which led to a bloody war between the US-backed mujahideen forces and the Soviet-backed Afghan government in which over a million Afghans lost their lives.

    This was followed by the 1990s civil war, the rise and fall of the extremist Taliban government and the 2001 present war. In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council authorized the creation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help maintain security in Afghanistan and assist the Karzai administration. Three decades of war made Afghanistan the world's most dangerous country, including the largest producer of refugees and asylum seekers.

    While the international community is rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan, terrorist groups such as the Haqqani Network and Hezbi Islami are actively involved in a nationwide Taliban-led insurgency, which includes hundreds of assassinations and suicide attacks. According to the United Nations, the insurgents were responsible for 80% of civilian casualties in 2011 and 2012. Etymology The name Afgh nist n (, ) means "Land of the Afghans" , which originates from the ethnonym "Afghan" .

    Historically, the name "Afghan" mainly designated the Pashtun people, the largest ethnic group of Afghanistan. This name is mentioned in the form of Abgan in the 3rd century CE by the Sassanians and as Avagana ( Afghana ) in the 6th century CE by Indian astronomer Varahamihira. A people called the Afghans are mentioned several times in a 10th century geography book, Hudud al-'alam, particularly where a reference is made to a village: "Saul, a pleasant village on a mountain.

    In it live Afghans ."Al-Biruni referred to them in the 11th century as various tribes living on the western frontier mountains of the Indus River, which would be the Sulaiman Mountains. Ibn Battuta, a famous Moroccan scholar visiting the region in 1333, writes: One prominent 16th-century Persian scholar explains extensively about the Afghans. For example, he writes: It is widely accepted that the terms "Pashtun" and Afghan are synonyms.

    In the writings of the 17th-century Pashto poet Khushal Khan Khattak it is mentioned: The last part of the name, -st n is a Persian suffix for "place". The name "Afghanistan" is described by the 16th century Mughal Emperor Babur in his memoirs as well as by the later Persian scholar Firishta and Babur's descendants, referring to the traditional ethnic Pashtun territories between the Hindu Kush mountains and the Indus River. In the early 19th century, Afghan politicians decided to adopt the name Afghanistan for the entire Afghan Empire after its English translation had already appeared in various treaties with Qajarid Persia and British India.

    In 1857, in his review of J.W. Kaye's The Afghan War , Friedrich Engels describes "Afghanistan" as: The Afghan kingdom was sometimes referred to as the Kingdom of Kabul , as mentioned by the British statesman and historian Mountstuart Elphinstone. Afghanistan was officially recognized as a sovereign state by the international community after the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1919 was signed.

    Geography A landlocked mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest, Afghanistan is described as being located within South Asia or Central Asia. It is part of the Greater Middle East Muslim world, which lies between latitudes and , and longitudes and . The country's highest point is Noshaq, at above sea level. , and hot summers in the low-lying areas of the Sistan Basin of the southwest, the Jalalabad basin in the east, and the Turkestan plains along the Amu River in the north, where temperatures average over in July.|date=October 2011}} Despite having numerous rivers and reservoirs, large parts of the country are dry.

    The endorheic Sistan Basin is one of the driest regions in the world. Aside from the usual rain falls, Afghanistan receives snow during winter in the Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains, and the melting snow in the spring season enters the rivers, lakes, and streams. However, two-thirds of the country's water flows into neighboring countries of Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan.

    The state needs more than to rehabilitate its irrigation systems so that the water is properly managed. The northeastern Hindu Kush mountain range, in and around the Badakhshan Province of Afghanistan, is in a geologically active area where earthquakes may occur almost every year. They can be deadly and destructive sometimes, causing landslides in some parts or avalanche during winter.

    The last strong earthquakes were in 1998, which killed about 6,000 people in Badakhshan near Tajikistan. This was followed by the 2002 Hindu Kush earthquakes in which over 150 people of various regional countries were killed and over 1,000 injured. The 2010 earthquake left 11 Afghans dead, over 70 injured and more than 2,000 houses destroyed.

    The country's natural resources include: coal, copper, iron ore, lithium, uranium, rare earth elements, chromite, gold, zinc, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, marble, precious and semi-precious stones, natural gas, and petroleum among other things. In 2010, US and Afghan government officials estimated that untapped mineral deposits located in 2007 by the US Geological Survey are worth between and . At , Afghanistan is the world's 41st largest country, slightly bigger than France and smaller than Burma, about the size of Texas in the United States.

    It borders Pakistan in the south and east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far east. History Excavations of prehistoric sites by Louis Dupree and others suggest that humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago, and that farming communities in the area were among the earliest in the world. An important site of early historical activities, many believe that Afghanistan compares to Egypt in terms of the historical value of its archaeological sites.

    The country sits at a unique nexus point where numerous civilizations have interacted and often fought. It has been home to various peoples through the ages, among them the ancient Iranian peoples who established the dominant role of Indo-Iranian languages in the region. At multiple points, the land has been incorporated within large regional empires, among them the Achaemenid Empire, the Macedonian Empire, the Indian Maurya Empire, the Islamic Empire and the Sassanid Empire.

    Many kingdoms have also risen to power in what is now Afghanistan, such as the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Kabul Shahis, Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Kartids, Timurids, Mughals, and finally the Hotaki and Durrani dynasties that marked the political origins of the modern state. Pre-Islamic period Archaeological exploration done in the 20th century suggests that the geographical area of Afghanistan has been closely connected by culture and trade with its neighbors to the east, west and north. Artifacts typical of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages have been found in Afghanistan.

    Urban civilization is believed to have begun as early as 3000 BCE, and the early city of Mundigak (near Kandahar in the south of the country) may have been a colony of the nearby Indus Valley Civilization.After 2000 BCE, successive waves of semi-nomadic people from Central Asia began moving south into Afghanistan, among them were many Indo-European-speaking Indo-Iranians. These tribes later migrated further south to India, west to what is now Iran, and towards Europe via the area north of the Caspian. The region as a whole was called Ariana.

    The ancient religion of Zoroastrianism is believed by some to have originated in what is now Afghanistan between 1800 and 800 BCE, as its founder Zoroaster is thought to have lived and died in Balkh. Ancient Eastern Iranian languages may have been spoken in the region around the time of the rise of Zoroastrianism. By the middle of the 6th century BCE, the Achaemenid Persians overthrew the Medes and incorporated Afghanistan (Arachosia, Aria and Bactria) within its boundaries.

    An inscription on the tombstone of King Darius I of Persia mentions the Kabul Valley in a list of the 29 countries that he had conquered. Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army arrived to the area of Afghanistan in 330 BCE after defeating Darius III of Persia a year earlier in the Battle of Gaugamela. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empire controlled the area until 305 BCE when they gave much of it to the Indian Maurya Empire as part of an alliance treaty.|Strabo|64 BC 24 AD}} The Mauryans brought Buddhism from India and controlled the area south of the Hindu Kush until about 185 BCE when they were overthrown.

    Their decline began 60 years after Ashoka's rule ended, leading to the Hellenistic reconquest of the region by the Greco-Bactrians. Much of it soon broke away from the Greco-Bactrians and became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Indo-Greeks were defeated and expelled by the Indo-Scythians in the late 2nd century BCE.

    During the 1st century BCE, the Parthian Empire subjugated the region, but lost it to their Indo-Parthian vassals. In the mid to late 1st century CE the vast Kushan Empire, centered in modern Afghanistan, became great patrons of Buddhist culture. The Kushans were defeated by the Sassanids in the 3rd century CE.

    Although various rulers calling themselves Kushanshas (generally known as the Indo-Sassanids) continued to rule at least parts of the region, they were probably more or less subject to the Sassanids. The late Kushans were followed by the Kidarite Huns who, in turn, were replaced by the short-lived but powerful Hephthalites, as rulers. The Hephthalites were defeated by Khosrau I in CE 557, who re-established Sassanid power in Persia.

    However, in the 6th century CE, the successors to the Kushans and Hepthalites established a small dynasty in Kabulistan called Kabul Shahi. Islamization and Mongol invasion Between the 4th and 19th centuries the northwestern area of modern Afghanistan was referred to by the regional name as Khorasan. Two of the four capitals of Khorasan (Herat and Balkh) are now located in Afghanistan, while the regions of Kandahar, Zabulistan, Ghazni, Kabulistan and Afghanistan formed the frontier between Khorasan and Hindustan.Arab Muslims brought the message of Islam to Herat and Zaranj in 642 AD and began spreading eastward, some of the native inhabitants they encountered accepted it while others revolted.

    The people of Afghanistan was multi-religious, which included Zoroastrians, Buddhists, worshippers of the sun, Hindus, Christians, Jews, and others. The Zunbil and Kabul Shahi were defeated in 870 AD by the Saffarid Muslims of Zaranj. Later, the Samanids extended their Islamic influence into south of the Hindu Kush.

    It is reported that Muslims and non-Muslims still lived side by side in Kabul before the Ghaznavids rose to power.|Istahkr |921 AD}} Afghanistan became one of the main centers in the Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age. By the 11th century Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni had finally Islamized all of the remaining non-Muslim areas, with the exception of the Kafiristan region. The Ghaznavids were replaced by the Ghurids who expanded and advanced the already powerful empire.

    In 1219 AD, Genghis Khan and his Mongol army overran the region. His troops are said to have annihilated the Khorasanian cities of Herat and Balkh as well as Bamyan. The destruction caused by the Mongols depopulated major cities and forced many of the locals to revert to an agrarian rural society.

    Mongol rule continued with the Ilkhanate in the northwest while the Khilji dynasty controlled the Afghan tribal areas south of the Hindu Kush, until the invasion of Timur who established the Timurid dynasty in 1370. During the Ghaznavid, Ghurid, and Timurid eras, Afghanistan produced many fine Islamic architectural monuments as well as numerous scientific and literary works. Babur, a descendant of both Timur and Genghis Khan, arrived from Fergana and captured Kabul from the Arghun dynasty, and from there he began to seize control of the central and eastern territories of Afghanistan.

    He remained in Kabulistan until 1526 when he and his army invaded Delhi in India to replace the Afghan Lodi dynasty with the Mughal Empire. From the 16th century to the early 18th century, Afghanistan was part of three regional kingdoms: the Khanate of Bukhara in the north, the Shi'a Safavids in the west and the remaining larger area was ruled by the Mughal Empire. Hotaki dynasty and Durrani Empire Mir Wais Hotak, seen as Afghanistan's George Washington, successfully rebelled against the Persian Safavids in 1709.

    He overthrew and killed Gurgin Khan, and made the Afghan region independent from Persia. By 1713, Mir Wais had decisively defeated two larger Persian armies, one was led by Khusraw Kh n (nephew of Gurgin) and the other by Rustam Kh n. The armies were sent by Sultan Husayn, the Shah in Isfahan (now Iran), to re-take control of the Kandahar region.

    Mir Wais died of a natural cause in 1715 and was succeeded by his brother Abdul Aziz, who was killed by Mir Wais' son Mahmud as a national traitor. In 1722, Mahmud led an Afghan army to the Persian capital of Isfahan, sacked the city after the Battle of Gulnabad and proclaimed himself King of Persia. The Persians were disloyal to the Afghan rulers, and after the massacre of thousands of religious scholars, nobles, and members of the Safavid family, the Hotaki dynasty was ousted from Persia after the 1729 Battle of Damghan.In 1738, Nader Shah and his Afsharid forces captured Kandahar from Shah Hussain Hotaki, at which point the incarcerated 16 year old Ahmad Shah Durrani was freed and made the commander of Nader Shah's four thousand Abdali Afghans.

    From Kandahar they set out to conquer India, passing through Ghazni, Kabul, Peshawar, and Lahore, and ultimately plundering Delhi after the Battle of Karnal. Nader Shah and his army abandoned Delhi but took with them huge treasure, which included the Koh-i-Noor and Darya-ye Noor diamonds. After the death of Nader Shah in 1747, the Afghans chose Ahmad Shah Durrani as their head of state.

    Regarded as the founder of modern Afghanistan, Durrani and his Afghan army conquered the entire present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Khorasan and Kohistan provinces of Iran, along with Delhi in India. He defeated the Indian Maratha Empire, one of his biggest victories was the 1761 Battle of Panipat. In October 1772, Ahmad Shah Durrani died of a natural cause and was buried at a site now adjacent to the Shrine of the Cloak in Kandahar.

    He was succeeded by his son, Timur Shah, who transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776. After Timur Shah's death in 1793, the Durrani throne was passed down to his son Zaman Shah followed by Mahmud Shah, Shuja Shah and others. The Afghan Empire was under threat in the early 19th century by the Persians in the west and the Sikhs in the east.

    The western provinces of Khorasan and Kohistan were taken by the Persians in 1800. Fateh Khan, leader of the Barakzai tribe, had installed 21 of his brothers in positions of power throughout the empire. After his death, they rebelled and divided up the provinces of the empire between themselves.

    During this turbulent period, Afghanistan had many temporary rulers until Dost Mohammad Khan declared himself emir in 1826. The Punjab region was lost to Ranjit Singh, who invaded Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in 1834 captured the city of Peshawar. In 1837, Akbar Khan and the Afghan army crossed the Khyber Pass to defeat the Sikhs at the Battle of Jamrud, killing Hari Singh Nalwa before retreating to Kabul.

    By this time the British were advancing from the east and the First Anglo-Afghan War, one of the first major conflicts during the Great Game, was initiated. Western influence Following the 1842 massacre of Elphinstone's Army and victory of Afghan forces, led by Akbar Khan, the British established diplomatic relations with the Afghan government but withdrew all forces from the country. They returned during the Second Anglo-Afghan War in the late 1870s for about two-year military operations, which was to defeat Ayub Khan and assist Abdur Rahman Khan establish authority.

    The United Kingdom began to exercise a great deal of influence after this and even controlled the state's foreign policy. In 1893, Mortimer Durand made Amir Abdur Rahman Khan sign a controversial agreement in which the ethnic Pashtun and Baloch territories were divided by the Durand Line. This was a standard divide and rule policy of the British and would lead to strained relations, especially with the later new state of Pakistan.

    After the Third Anglo-Afghan War and the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919, King Amanullah Khan declared Afghanistan a sovereign and fully independent state. He moved to end his country's traditional isolation by establishing diplomatic relations with the international community and, following a 1927 28 tour of Europe and Turkey, introduced several reforms intended to modernize his nation. A key force behind these reforms was Mahmud Tarzi, an ardent supporter of the education of women.

    He fought for Article 68 of Afghanistan's 1923 constitution, which made elementary education compulsory. Some of the reforms that were actually put in place, such as the abolition of the traditional burqa for women and the opening of a number of co-educational schools, quickly alienated many tribal and religious leaders. Faced with overwhelming armed opposition, Amanullah Khan was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to rebel forces led by Habibullah Kalakani.

    Prince Mohammed Nadir Shah, Amanullah's cousin, in turn defeated and killed Kalakani in November 1929, and was declared King Nadir Shah. He abandoned the reforms of Amanullah Khan in favor of a more gradual approach to modernisation but was assassinated in 1933 by Abdul Khaliq, a Hazara school student. Mohammed Zahir Shah, Nadir Shah's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973.

    Until 1946 Zahir Shah ruled with the assistance of his uncle, who held the post of Prime Minister and continued the policies of Nadir Shah. Another of Zahir Shah's uncles, Shah Mahmud Khan, became Prime Minister in 1946 and began an experiment allowing greater political freedom, but reversed the policy when it went further than he expected. He was replaced in 1953 by Mohammed Daoud Khan, the king's cousin and brother-in-law.

    Daoud Khan sought a closer relationship with the Soviet Union and a more distant one towards Pakistan. Afghanistan remained neutral and was neither a participant in World War II, nor aligned with either power bloc in the Cold War. However, it was a beneficiary of the latter rivalry as both the Soviet Union and the United States vied for influence by building Afghanistan's main highways, airports and other vital infrastructure.

    In 1973, while King Zahir Shah was on an official overseas visit, Daoud Khan launched a bloodless coup and became the first President of Afghanistan. Marxist revolution and Soviet war In April 1978, the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in Afghanistan in the Saur Revolution. Within months, opponents of the communist government launched an uprising in eastern Afghanistan that quickly expanded into a civil war waged by guerrilla mujahideen against government forces countrywide.

    The Pakistani government provided these rebels with covert training centers, while the Soviet Union sent thousands of military advisers to support the PDPA government. Meanwhile, increasing friction between the competing factions of the PDPA the dominant Khalq and the more moderate Parcham resulted in the dismissal of Parchami cabinet members and the arrest of Parchami military officers under the pretext of a Parchami coup. By mid-1979, the United States had started a covert program to assist the mujahideen.

    In September 1979, Khalqist President Nur Muhammad Taraki was assassinated in a coup within the PDPA orchestrated by fellow Khalq member Hafizullah Amin, who assumed the presidency. Distrusted by the Soviets, Amin was assassinated by Soviet special forces in December 1979. A Soviet-organized government, led by Parcham's Babrak Karmal but inclusive of both factions, filled the vacuum.

    Soviet troops were deployed to stabilize Afghanistan under Karmal in more substantial numbers, although the Soviet government did not expect to do most of the fighting in Afghanistan. As a result, however, the Soviets were now directly involved in what had been a domestic war in Afghanistan. At the time some believed the Soviets were attempting to expand their borders southward in order to gain a foothold in the Middle East.

    The Soviet Union had long lacked a warm water port, and their movement south seemed to position them for further expansion toward Pakistan in the East, and Iran to the West. American politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, feared the Soviets were positioning themselves for a takeover of Middle Eastern oil. Others believed that the Soviet Union was afraid Iran's Islamic Revolution and Afghanistan's Islamization would spread to the millions of Muslims in the USSR.

    The PDPA prohibited usury, made statements on women's rights by declaring equality of the sexes and introducing women to political life. After the invasion, President Jimmy Carter announced what became known as the Carter Doctrine: that the U.S. would not allow any other outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf.

    He terminated the Soviet Wheat Deal in January 1980, which was intended to establish trade with USSR and lessen Cold War tensions. The grain exports had been beneficial to people employed in agriculture, and the Carter embargo marked the beginning of hardship for American farmers. That same year, Carter also made two of the most unpopular decisions of his entire Presidency: prohibiting American athletes from participating in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and reinstating registration for the draft for young males.

    Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. In addition, generous U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghan refugees.

    The Reagan administration increased arming and funding of the mujahideen as part of the Reagan Doctrine, thanks in large part to the efforts of Charlie Wilson and CIA officer Gust Avrakotos. Early reports estimated $6 20 billion but more recent reports suggest that up to $40 billion were provided by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to Pakistan.

    This was in the forms of cash and weapons, which included over two thousand FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles. The 10-year Soviet war resulted in the deaths of over 1 million Afghans, mostly civilians. About 6million fled to Pakistan and Iran, and from there tens of thousands began emigrating to the European Union, United States, Australia and other parts of the world.

    Faced with mounting international pressure and great number of casualties, the Soviets withdrew in 1989 but continued to support Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah until 1992. Foreign interference and war After the fall of Najibullah's government in 1992, the Afghan political parties agreed on a peace and power-sharing agreement (the Peshawar Accords). The accords created the Islamic State of Afghanistan and appointed an interim government for a transitional period to be followed by general elections.

    According to Human Rights Watch: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar received operational, financial and military support from Pakistan. Afghanistan expert Amin Saikal concludes in Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival : In addition, Saudi Arabia and Iran as competitors for regional hegemony supported Afghan militias hostile towards each other. According to Human Rights Watch, Iran was backing the Shia Hazara Hezb-i Wahdat forces of Abdul Ali Mazari to "maximize Wahdat's military power and influence".

    Saudi Arabia supported the Wahhabite Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and his Ittihad-i Islami faction. Conflict between the two militias soon escalated into a full-scale war. Due to the sudden initiation of the war, working government departments, police units or a system of justice and accountability for the newly created Islamic State of Afghanistan did not have time to form.

    Atrocities were committed by individuals of the different armed factions while Kabul descended into lawlessness and chaos as described in reports by Human Rights Watch and the Afghanistan Justice Project. Because of the chaos, some leaders increasingly had only nominal control over their (sub-)commanders. For civilians there was little security from murder, rape and extortion.

    When the Taliban took control of the city in 1994, they forced the surrender of dozens of local Pashtun leaders. The Islamic State government took steps to restore law and order. Courts started to work again.

    Massoud tried to initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation and democratic elections, also inviting the Taliban to join the process but they refused as they did not believe in a democratic system. Taliban Emirate and the United Front The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995 but were defeated by forces of the Islamic State government under Ahmad Shah Massoud. Amnesty International, referring to the Taliban offensive, wrote in a 1995 report: "This is the first time in several months that Kabul civilians have become the targets of rocket attacks and shelling aimed at residential areas in the city." The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of defeats that resulted in heavy losses which led analysts to believe the Taliban movement had run its course.

    Many analysts like Amin Saikal describe the Taliban as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan's regional interests.On 26 September 1996, as the Taliban with military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia prepared for another major offensive, Massoud ordered a full retreat from Kabul. The Taliban seized Kabul on 27 September 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed on the parts of Afghanistan under their control their political and judicial interpretation of Islam issuing edicts especially targeting women.

    According to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), "no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment." After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on 27 September 1996, Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostum, two former enemies, created the United Front (Northern Alliance) against the Taliban that were preparing offensives against the remaining areas under the control of Massoud and those under the control of Dostum. The United Front included beside the dominantly Tajik forces of Massoud and the Uzbek forces of Dostum, Hazara factions under the command of leaders such as Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq and Pashtun forces under the leadership of commanders such as Abdul Haq or Haji Abdul Qadir. The Taliban defeated Dostum's Junbish forces militarily by seizing Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998.

    Dostum subsequently went into exile. According to a 55-page report by the United Nations, the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians. UN officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001 and that "these have been highly systematic and they all lead back to the Taliban Ministry of Defense or to Mullah Omar himself." The Taliban especially targeted people of Shia religious or Hazara ethnic background.

    Upon taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, 4,000 6,000 civilians were killed by the Taliban and many more reported tortured. The documents also reveal the role of Arab and Pakistani support troops in these killings. Bin Laden's so-called 055 Brigade was responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians.

    The report by the UN quotes "eyewitnesses in many villages describing Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people". President Pervez Musharraf then as Chief of Army Staff was responsible for sending thousands of Pakistanis to fight alongside the Taliban and bin Laden against the forces of Massoud. According to Pakistani Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid, "between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan" on the side of the Taliban.

    In 2001 alone, there were believed to be 28,000 Pakistani nationals, many either from the Frontier Corps or army, fighting inside Afghanistan. An estimated 8,000 Pakistani militants were recruited in madrassas filling the ranks of the estimated 25,000 regular Taliban force. Bin Laden sent Arab recruits to join the fight against the United Front.

    3,000 fighters of the regular Taliban army were Arab and Central Asian militants. Human Rights Watch cites no human rights crimes for the forces under direct control of Massoud for the period from October 1996 until the assassination of Massoud in September 2001. As a consequence many civilians fled to the area of Ahmad Shah Massoud.

    In total, estimates range up to one million people fleeing the Taliban. National Geographic concluded in its documentary "Inside the Taliban" : "The only thing standing in the way of future Taliban massacres is Ahmad Shah Massoud." In early 2001 Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels asking the international community to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan. He stated that the Taliban and al-Qaeda had introduced "a very wrong perception of Islam" and that without the support of Pakistan and bin Laden the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year.

    On this visit to Europe he also warned that his intelligence had gathered information about a large-scale attack on U.S. soil being imminent. On 9 September 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated by two Arab suicide attackers inside Afghanistan and two days later about 3,000 people were killed in the September 11 attacks in the United States.

    The US government identified Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the Al-Qaeda organization based in and allied to the Taliban's Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as the perpetrators of the attacks. From 1990 until this date over 400,000 Afghan civilians had already died in the wars in Afghanistan. The Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden to US authorities and to disband al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan.

    Bin Laden later claimed sole responsibility for the September 11 attacks and specifically denied any prior knowledge of them by the Taliban or the Afghan people. In October 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom was launched as a new phase of the war in Afghanistan in which teams of American and British special forces worked with ground forces of the United Front (Northern Alliance) to remove the Taliban from power and dispel Al-Qaeda. At the same time the US-led forces were bombing Taliban and al-Qaida targets everywhere inside Afghanistan with cruise missiles.

    These actions led to the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north followed by all the other cities, as the Taliban and al-Qaida fled over the porous Durand Line border into Pakistan. In December 2001, after the Taliban government was toppled and the new Afghan government under Hamid Karzai was formed, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the UN Security Council to help assist the Karzai administration and provide basic security to the Afghan people. Recent history (2002 present) While the Taliban began regrouping inside Pakistan, more coalition troops entered the escalating US-led war.

    Meanwhile, the rebuilding of war-torn Afghanistan kicked off in 2002. The Afghan nation was able to build democratic structures over the years, and some progress was made in key areas such as governance, economy, health, education, transport, and agriculture. NATO is training the Afghan armed forces as well its national police.

    ISAF and Afghan troops led many offensives against the Taliban but failed to fully defeat them. By 2009, a Taliban-led shadow government began to form in many parts of the country complete with their own version of mediation court. After U.S.

    President Barack Obama announced the deployment of another 30,000 soldiers in 2010 for a period of two years, Der Spiegel published images of the US soldiers who killed unarmed Afghan civilians. At the 2010 International Conference on Afghanistan in London, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he intends to reach out to the Taliban leadership (including Mullah Omar, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar). Supported by NATO, Karzai called on the group's leadership to take part in a loya jirga meeting to initiate peace talks.

    These steps have resulted in an intensification of bombings, assassinations and ambushes. Some Afghan groups (including the former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh and opposition leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah) believe that Karzai plans to appease the insurgents' senior leadership at the cost of the democratic constitution, the democratic process and progress in the field of human rights especially women's rights.

    Dr. Abdullah stated: }} Over five million Afghan refugees were repatriated in the last decade, including many who were forcefully deported from NATO countries. This large return of Afghans may have helped the nation's economy but the country still remains one of the poorest in the world due to the decades of war, lack of foreign investment, ongoing government corruption and the Taliban insurgency.

    According to a report by the United Nations, the Taliban and other militants were responsible for 76% of civilian casualties in 2009, 75% in 2010, 80% in 2011, 80% in 2012. In 2011 a record 3,021 civilians were killed in the ongoing insurgency, the fifth successive annual rise.}} After the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, many prominent Afghan figures began being assassinated, including Mohammed Daud Daud, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Jan Mohammad Khan, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, Burhanuddin Rabbani and others. Also in the same year, the Pak-Afghan border skirmishes intensified and many large scale attacks by the Pakistani-based Haqqani Network took place across Afghanistan.

    This led to the United States warning Pakistan of a possible military action against the Haqqanis in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The U.S. blamed Pakistan's government, mainly Pakistan Army and its ISI spy network as the masterminds behind all of this. |Admiral Mike Mullen|Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff}} U.S.

    Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, told Radio Pakistan that "The attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago, that was the work of the Haqqani Network. There is evidence linking the Haqqani Network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop." Other top U.S.

    officials such as Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta made similar statements. On 16 October 2011, "Operation Knife Edge" was launched by NATO and Afghan forces against the Haqqani Network in south-eastern Afghanistan. Afghan Defense Minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, explained that the operation will "help eliminate the insurgents before they struck in areas along the troubled frontier".

    In anticipation of the 2014 NATO withdrawal and a subsequent expected push to regain power by the Taliban, the anti-Taliban United Front (Northern Alliance) groups have started to regroup under the umbrella of the National Coalition of Afghanistan (political arm) and the National Front of Afghanistan (military arm). Governance Afghanistan is an Islamic republic consisting of three branches, executive, legislative and judicial. The nation is currently led by Hamid Karzai as the President and leader since late 2001.

    The National Assembly is the legislature, a bicameral body having two chambers, the House of the People and the House of Elders. The Supreme Court is led by Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, a former university professor who had been a legal advisor to the president. The current court is seen as more moderate and led by more technocrats than the previous one, which was dominated by fundamentalist religious figures such as Chief Justice Faisal Ahmad Shinwari who issued several controversial rulings, including seeking to place a limit on the rights of women.

    According to Transparency International's corruption perceptions index 2010 results, Afghanistan was ranked as the third most-corrupt country in the world. A January 2010 report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that bribery consumes an amount equal to 23% of the GDP of the nation. A number of government ministries are believed to be rife with corruption, and while President Karzai vowed to tackle the problem in late 2009 by stating that "individuals who are involved in corruption will have no place in the government", top government officials were stealing and misusing hundreds of millions of dollars through the Kabul Bank.

    Although the nation's institutions are newly formed and steps have been taken to arrest some, the United States warned that aid to Afghanistan would be reduced to very little if the corruption is not stopped. Elections and parties The 2004 Afghan presidential election was relatively peaceful, in which Hamid Karzai won in the first round with 55.4% of the votes. However, the 2009 presidential election was characterized by lack of security, low voter turnout and widespread electoral fraud.

    The vote, along with elections for 420 provincial council seats, took place in August 2009, but remained unresolved during a lengthy period of vote counting and fraud investigation. Two months later, under international pressure, a second round run-off vote between Karzai and remaining challenger Abdullah was announced, but a few days later Abdullah announced that he is not participating in the 7 November run-off because his demands for changes in the electoral commission had not been met. The next day, officials of the election commission cancelled the run-off and declared Hamid Karzai as President for another 5-year term.

    In the 2005 parliamentary election, among the elected officials were former mujahideen, Islamic fundamentalists, warlords, communists, reformists, and several Taliban associates. In the same period, Afghanistan reached to the 30th nation in terms of female representation in parliament. The last parliamentary election was held in September 2010, but due to disputes and investigation of fraud, the sworn in ceremony took place in late January 2011.

    After the issuance of computerized ID cards for the first time, which is a $101 million project that the Afghan government plans to start in 2012, it is expected to help prevent major fraud in future elections and improve the security situation. Administrative divisions Afghanistan is administratively divided into 34 provinces ( wilayats ), with each province having its own capital and a provincial administration. The provinces are further divided into about 398 smaller provincial districts, each of which normally covers a city or a number of villages.

    Each district is represented by a district governor. The provincial governors are appointed by the President of Afghanistan and the district governors are selected by the provincial governors. The provincial governors are representatives of the central government in Kabul and are responsible for all administrative and formal issues within their provinces.

    There are also provincial councils which are elected through direct and general elections for a period of four years. The functions of provincial councils are to take part in provincial development planning and to participate in monitoring and appraisal of other provincial governance institutions. According to article 140 of the constitution and the presidential decree on electoral law, mayors of cities should be elected through free and direct elections for a four-year term.

    However, due to huge election costs, mayoral and municipal elections have never been held. Instead, mayors have been appointed by the government. As for the capital city of Kabul, the mayor is appointed by the President of Afghanistan.

    The following is a list of all the 34 provinces in alphabetical order: Foreign relations and military The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for managing the foreign relations of Afghanistan. The nation has been a member of the UN since 1946, and has maintained good relations with the United States and other NATO member states since the signing of the Anglo-Afghan Treaty in 1919. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was established in 2002 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1401 to help the nation recover from decades of war and establish a normal functioning government.

    Today, more than 22 NATO nations deploy about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Apart from close military links, the country also enjoys strong economic relations with NATO members and their allies. It also has diplomatic relations with neighboring Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the People's Republic of China, including regional states such as India, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Russia, United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, and others.

    Afghanistan Pakistan relations have been negatively affected by issues related to the Durand Line, the 1978 present war (i.e. Mujahideen, Afghan refugees, Taliban insurgency, and border skirmishes), including water and the growing influence of India in Afghanistan. Afghan officials often allege that Pakistani and Iranian intelligence agencies are involved in terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan, by training and guiding terrorists to carry out attacks.

    On the positive side, the two nations are usually described in Afghanistan as "inseparable brothers", which is due to historical, religious, and ethnolinguistical connections, as well as trade and other ties. Afghanistan has always depended on Pakistani trade routes for import and export but this has changed in the last decade with the opening of Central Asian and Iranian routes. Conversely, Pakistan depends on Afghan water and considers Afghanistan as the only trade route to Central Asian resources.

    India and Iran have actively participated in reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, with India being the largest regional donor to the country. Since 2002, India has pledged up to $2 billion in economic assistance to Afghanistan and has participated in multiple socio-economic reconstruction efforts, including power, roads, agricultural and educational projects. There are also military ties between Afghanistan and India, which is expected to increase after the October 2011 strategic pact that was signed by President Karzai and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    The military of Afghanistan is under the Ministry of Defense, which includes the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan Air Force (AAF). It currently has about 200,000 active soldiers and is expected to reach 260,000 in the coming years. They are trained and equipped by NATO countries, mainly by the United States Department of Defense.

    The ANA is divided into 7 major Corps, with the 201st Selab ("Flood") in Kabul followed by the 203rd in Gardez, 205th Atul ("Hero") in Kandahar, 207th in Herat, 209th in Mazar-i-Sharif and the 215th in Lashkar Gah. The ANA also has a commando brigade which was established in 2007. The National Military Academy of Afghanistan serves as the main educational institute for the militarymen of the country.

    A new $200 million Afghan Defense University (ADU) is under construction near the capital. Crime and law enforcement The National Directorate of Security (NDS) is the nation's domestic intelligence agency, which operates similar to that of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and has between 15,000 to 30,000 employees. The nation also has about 126,000 national police officers, with plans to recruit more so that the total number can reach 160,000.

    The Afghan National Police (ANP) is under the Ministry of the Interior, which is based in Kabul and headed by Bismillah Khan Mohammadi. The Afghan National Civil Order Police is the main branch of the Afghan National Police, which is divided into five Brigades and each one commanded by a Brigadier General. These brigades are stationed in Kabul, Gardez, Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-i-Sharif.

    Every province of the country has a provincial Chief of Police who is appointed by the Ministry of the Interior and is responsible for law enforcement in all the districts within the province. The police are being trained by NATO countries through the Afghanistan Police Program. According to a 2009 news report, a large proportion of police officers are illiterate and are accused of demanding bribes.

    Jack Kem, deputy to the commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, stated that the literacy rate in the ANP will rise to over 50% by January 2012. What began as a voluntary literacy program became mandatory for basic police training in early 2011. Approximately 17% of them test positive for illegal drug use.

    In 2009, President Karzai created two anti-corruption units within the Interior Ministry. Former Interior Minister Hanif Atmar said that security officials from the U.S. (FBI), Britain (Scotland Yard) and the European Union will train prosecutors in the unit. The south and eastern parts of Afghanistan are the most dangerous due to the flourishing drug trade and militancy.

    These areas in particular are often patrolled by Taliban insurgents, and in many cases they plan attacks by using suicide bombers and planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on roads. Kidnapping and robberies are also often reported. Every year many Afghan police officers are killed in the line of duty in these areas.

    The Afghan Border Police are responsible for protecting the nation's airports and borders, especially the disputed Durand Line border which is often used by members of criminal organizations and terrorists for their illegal activities. Reports in 2011 suggested that up to 3 million people are involved in the illegal drug business in Afghanistan, many of the attacks on government employees and institutions are carried out not only by the Taliban militants but also by powerful criminal gangs. Drugs from Afghanistan are exported to Iran, Pakistan, Russia, India, the United Arab Emirate, and the European Union.

    The Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics is dealing with this problem. Recently, the people mustered courage and took to streets in Kabul to protest against gruesome killing of a woman accused of adultery by suspected Taliban in the Parwan province. Economy Afghanistan is an impoverished and least developed country, one of the world's poorest due to the decades of war and nearly complete lack of foreign investment.

    The nation's GDP stands at about $29 billion with an exchange rate of $18 billion, and the GDP per capita is about $1,000. The country's export was $2.6 billion in 2010. Its unemployment rate is about 35% and roughly the same percentage of its citizens live below the poverty line.

    About 42% of the population live on less than $1 a day, according to a 2009 report. On the positive side, the nation has less than $1.5 billion external debt and is recovering by the assistance of the world community. The Afghan economy has been growing at about 10% per year in the last decade, which is due to the infusion of over $50 billion dollars in international aid and remittances from Afghan expats.

    It is also due to improvements made to the transportation system and agricultural production, which is the backbone of the nation's economy. The country is known for producing some of the finest pomegranates, grapes, apricots, melons, and several other fresh and dry fruits, including nuts. While the nations's current account deficit is largely financed with the donor money, only a small portion is provided directly to the government budget.

    The rest is provided to non-budgetary expenditure and donor-designated projects through the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations. The Afghan Ministry of Finance is focusing on improved revenue collection and public sector expenditure discipline. For example, government revenues increased 31% to $1.7 billion from March 2010 to March 2011.

    Da Afghanistan Bank serves as the central bank of the nation and the "Afghani" (AFN) is the national currency, with an exchange rate of about 47 Afghanis to 1 US dollar. Since 2003, over 16 new banks have opened in the country, including Afghanistan International Bank, Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank, Pashtany Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, First Micro Finance Bank, and others. One of the main drivers for the current economic recovery is the return of over 5 million expatriates, who brought with them fresh energy, entrepreneurship and wealth-creating skills as well as much needed funds to start up businesses.

    For the first time since the 1970s, Afghans have involved themselves in construction, one of the largest industries in the country. Some of the major national construction projects include the New Kabul City next to the capital, the Ghazi Amanullah Khan City near Jalalabad, and the Aino Mena in Kandahar. Similar development projects have also begun in Herat in the west, Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and in other cities.

    In addition, a number of companies and small factories began operating in different parts of the country, which not only provide revenues to the government but also create new jobs. Improvements to the business-enabling environment have resulted in more than $1.5 billion in telecom investment and created more than 100,000 jobs since 2003. The Afghan rugs are becoming popular again and this gives many carpet dealers around the country to expand their business by hiring more workers.

    Afghanistan is a member of SAARC, ECO and OIC. It is hoping to join SCO soon to develop closer economic ties with neighboring and regional countries in the so-called New Silk Road trade project. Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul told the media in 2011 that his nation's "goal is to achieve an Afghan economy whose growth is based on trade, private enterprise and investment".

    Experts believe that this will revolutionize the economy of the region. Opium production in Afghanistan soared to a record in 2007 with about 3 million people reported to be involved in the business but then declined significantly in the years following. The government started programs to help reduce cultivation of poppy, and by 2010 it was reported that 24 out of the 34 provinces were free from poppy grow.

    In June 2012, India strongly advocated for private investments in the resource rich country and creation of suitable environment therefor. Mining and energy Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution explains that if Afghanistan generates about $10 bn per year from its mineral deposits, its gross national product would double and provide long-term funding for Afghan security forces and other critical needs. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated in 2006 that northern Afghanistan has an average (bbl) of crude oil, 15.7 trillion cubic feet ( bn m 3 ) of natural gas, and of natural gas liquids.

    In December 2011, Afghanistan signed an oil exploration contract with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for the development of three oil fields along the Amu Darya river in the north. Other reports show that the country has huge amounts of lithium, copper, gold, coal, iron ore and other minerals. The Khanashin carbonatite in Helmand Province contains of rare earth elements.

    In 2007, a 30-year lease was granted for the Aynak copper mine to the China Metallurgical Group for $3 billion, making it the biggest foreign investment and private business venture in Afghanistan's history. The state-run Steel Authority of India won the mining rights to develop the huge Hajigak iron ore deposit in central Afghanistan. Government officials estimate that 30% of the country's untapped mineral deposits are worth between and .

    One official asserted that "this will become the backbone of the Afghan economy" and a Pentagon memo stated that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium". In a 2011 news story, the CSM reported, "The United States and other Western nations that have borne the brunt of the cost of the Afghan war have been conspicuously absent from the bidding process on Afghanistan's mineral deposits, leaving it to mostly to regional powers." Transport and communications Afghanistan has about 53 airports, with the biggest ones being the Kabul International Airport, serving the capital and nearby regions followed Kandahar International Airport in the south, Herat International Airport in the west, and Mazar-i-Sharif Airport in the north. Ariana Afghan Airlines is the national carrier, with domestic flights between Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif.

    International flights include to United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Turkey, India, Iran, Pakistan and a number of other Asian destinations. There are also domestic and international flight services available from the locally owned Kam Air, Pamir Airways and Safi Airways. Airlines from a number of regional nations such as Turkish Airlines, Gulf Air, Air Arabia, Air India, PIA and others also provide services to Afghanistan.

    Flights between Dubai and Kabul take roughly 2 hours to reach. The country has limited rail service with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the north. The government plans to extended the rail line to the capital and then to the eastern border town of Torkham by 2014, connecting with Pakistan Railways.

    Long distant road journeys are made by older model company-owned Mercedes-Benz coach buses or carpool and private cars. Newer automobiles have recently become more widely available after the rebuilding of roads and highways. They are imported from the United Arab Emirates through Pakistan and Iran.

    As of 2012, vehicles that are older than 10 years are banned from being imported into the country. The development of the nation's road network is a major boost for the economy due to trade with neighboring countries. Afghanistan's postal and package services such as FedEx, DHL and others make deliveries to major cities and towns.

    Telecommunication services in the country are provided by Afghan Wireless, Etisalat, Roshan, MTN Group and Afghan Telecom. In 2006, the Afghan Ministry of Communications signed a $64.5 million agreement with ZTE for the establishment of a countrywide optical fiber cable network. As of 2011, Afghanistan has around 17 million GSM phone subscribers and over 1 million internet users.

    It only has about 75,000 fixed telephone lines and little over 190,000 CDMA subscribers.

    3G services are provided by Etisalat and MTN Group. The Afghan government announced that it will send expressions of interest to international companies to attract funding will launch its first ever space satellite by October 2012. Health According to the Human Development Index, Afghanistan is the 15th least developed country in the world.

    The average life expectancy was estimated in 2012 to be 49.72 years. Afghanistan has the 9th highest total fertility rate in the world, at 5.64 children born/woman (according to 2012 estimates).Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, estimated in 2008 at 1,400 deaths/100,000 live births, and the highest infant mortality rate in the world (deaths of babies under one year), estimated in 2012 to be 121.63 deaths/1,000 live births. Data from 2010 suggests that one in 10 children in Afghanistan dies before they are five years old.While these statistics are tragic, the government plans to further cut the infant mortality rate to 400 for every 100,000 live births by 2020.

    The country currently has more than 3,000 midwives with an additional 300 to 400 being trained each year. A number of new hospitals and clinics have been built over the last decade, with the most advanced treatments being available in Kabul. The French Medical Institute for Children and Indira Gandhi Childrens Hospital in Kabul are the leading children's hospitals in the country.

    Some of the other main hospitals in Kabul include the 350-bed Jamhuriat Hospital and the Jinnah Hospital, which is still under construction. There are also a number of well-equipped military-controlled hospitals in different regions of the country. It was reported in 2006 that nearly 60% of the population lives within two hours by foot to the nearest health facility, up from 9% in 2002.

    Latest surveys show that 57% of Afghans say they have good or very good access to clinics or hospitals. The nation also has one of the highest incidences of people with disabilities, with an estimated one million handicapped people. About 80,000 citizens have lost limbs, mainly as a result of landmines.

    Non-governmental charities such as Save the Children and Mahboba's Promise assist orphans in association with governmental structures. Demographic and Health Surveys is working with the Indian Institute of Health Management Research and others to conduct a survey in Afghanistan focusing on Maternal death, among other things. Education Education in the country includes K-12 and higher education, which is supervised by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education.

    The nation's education system was destroyed due to the decades of war, but it began reviving after the Karzai administration came to power in late 2001. More than 5,000 schools were built or renovated, with more than 100,000 teachers being trained and recruited. It was reported in 2011 that more than seven million male and female students were enrolled in schools.

    As of 2011, about 82,000 students are enrolled in different universities around the country. Kabul University reopened in 2002 to both male and female students. In 2006, the American University of Afghanistan was established in Kabul, with the aim of providing a world-class, English-language, co-educational learning environment in Afghanistan.

    The capital of Kabul serves as the learning center of Afghanistan, with many of the best educational institutions being based there. Major universities outside of Kabul include Kandahar University in the south, Herat University in the northwest, Balkh University in the north, Nangarhar University and Khost University in the eastern zones, as well as a number of others. The National Military Academy of Afghanistan, modeled after the United States Military Academy at West Point, is a four-year military development institution dedicated to graduating officers for the Afghan armed forces.

    The $200 million Afghan Defense University is under construction near Qargha in Kabul. The United States is building six faculties of education and five provincial teacher training colleges around the country, two large secondary schools in Kabul and one school in Jalalabad. Literacy rate of the entire population is low, around 28%.

    Female literacy may be as low as 10%. In 2010, the United States began establishing a number of Lincoln learning centers in Afghanistan. They are set up to serve as programming platforms offering English language classes, library facilities, programming venues, Internet connectivity, educational and other counseling services.

    A goal of the program is to reach at least 4,000 Afghan citizens per month per location. The military and national police are also provided with mandatory literacy courses. In addition to this, Baghch-e-Simsim (based on the American Sesame Street) was launched in late 2011 to help Afghan children learn from preschool and onward.

    Demographics As of 2012, the population of Afghanistan is around 30,419,928, which includes the roughly 2.7 million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan and Iran. In 1979, the population was reported to be about 15.5 million. The only city with over a million residents is its capital, Kabul.

    The other largest cities in the country are, in order of population size, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, Lashkar Gah, Taloqan, Khost, Sheberghan, Ghazni, and so on. Urban areas are experiencing rapid population growth following the return of over 5 million expats. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the Afghan population is estimated to increase to 82 million by 2050.

    Ethnic groups Afghanistan is a multiethnic society, and its historical status as a crossroads has contributed significantly to its diverse ethnic makeup. The population of the country is divided into a wide variety of ethnolinguistic groups. Because a systematic census has not been held in the nation in decades, exact fi

  • Afghanistan experience The British Army has always learnt from experience, as the dramatic changes in uniforms and equipment over the years show. Even the Force that will return from Afghanistan at the end of 2014 looks and operates differently to the one that first deployed to the country in 2001. And all of this is due to the service s ability to absorb knowledge gained on the battlefield and adapt its methods accordingly.

    The process, which is co-ordinated by Warminster s Lessons Exploitation Centre, draws on feedback from all ranks, from the private soldier right up to the most senior staff. Among those tasked with capturing the information is Lieutenant Colonel David Steel of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, who said that recording ideas and observations from those who have recently served was vital to improving operational effectiveness: A successful lessons learnt process should enhance our tactics and procedures, reduce casualties, mould our training so troops are better prepared, and lead to the development of better kit. The system ensures the Army remembers and acts on what it learnt during the last fighting system, from every training event and every incident.

    It is vital that personnel at all levels contribute and we ve worked hard to make sure it s as easy as possible for people to do so. Operational requirements in Afghanistan have driven forward the development of unmanned aerial systems (library image) Picture: Sergeant Rupert Frere, Crown copyright Servicemen and women give their feedback from the sharp end in a number of ways. Anyone who identifies an area for improvement can tell their chain of command, who will note it in a post-operational report.

    In addition, teams of researchers visit units that have recently returned from a tour to conduct syndicate discussions with all ranks and record their views. Mission exploitation symposiums also take place after key deployments or training periods, giving personnel from various arms and branches the chance to share ideas. Finally, troops can submit their proposals directly to the Lessons Exploitation Centre via the Ministry of Defence intranet.

    Lieutenant Colonel Steel said: The process is designed to be a thorough way of extracting information and ensures that everyone in the chain of command can get their point of view across. It plays a significant role in improving our capabilities and will continue to do so as long as personnel persist in reporting their good ideas. Once the information has been received and analysed, it is passed to the relevant branch at Army Headquarters to be put into action as appropriate.

    Tangible results can be seen in improved personal equipment such as ballistic glasses and body armour. But, while more complicated technology such as new vehicles can take years to hit the front line, other lessons are translated much more rapidly. One such example is the 1-page guide that is produced and distributed in a matter of days if troops need to be made aware of an urgent operational development.

    Mentoring skills and techniques learned and developed in Afghanistan will be transferable to future stabilisation and peacekeeping roles (library image) Picture: Corporal Jamie Peters, Crown copyright Lieutenant Colonel Steel explained: The response happens as fast as it reasonably can. In the best-case scenario, an incident could occur in theatre and within about 48 hours soldiers undergoing training for Afghanistan in the UK could know about a particular threat and how they can counter it. For example, about 18 months ago in Helmand a new type of improvised explosive device (IED) known as a pillow IED was identified.

    They look a bit like a half-empty sandbag, and insurgents could place them on a road surface, where they were very hard to decipher, within about 10 seconds. They would listen for a vehicle patrol at night, scoot in quickly to lay the bomb and leave again without being seen, which obviously left soldiers very vulnerable. The counter-IED community found a device, examined it, and were able to devise some simple countermeasures which were emailed around Task Force Helmand within a few hours.

    Soldiers may not always get the impression that senior officers are listening to them but examples such as this are proof that their suggestions are being taken seriously and used to enhance the Army s capabilities, both now and in the future.

    This article is based on a report by Becky Clark which features in the March 2014 issue of Soldier: Magazine of the British Army 1 .

    References ^ Soldier: Magazine of the British Army (www.army.mod.uk)

  • After 50 Years, A Soldier Comes Home New Day - CNN.com Blogs In today s edition of the good stuff, a 71-year-old soldier who gave fifty years of his life to serve his country finally retires home. Army Major Bill Ray is greeted by his wife and grandchildren at the airport in Milwaukee. The patriot says he retired once but claims he didn't care much for the down time.

    After a second tour of duty in Afghanistan, Ray says he's certain his family will keep him busy at home. "Last time I got bored, I tried this. So this time I think they've done everything so I'll never get bored. We worked twelve hours a day in Afghanistan, I think I'll be doing about four more when I get home." If you have #GoodStuff news, let us know!

    Leave a comment, post 1 on Facebook, or tweet to @ChrisCuomo 2 & @NewDay 3 using #NewDay.

    References ^ post (www.facebook.com) ^ @ChrisCuomo (twitter.com) ^ @NewDay (twitter.com)

  • Algeria Hostage Standoff Over: At Least 19 Hostages, 29 Militants ... A freed Algerian hostage arrives at Algiers airport after he was released by Islamist captors, alongside other Algerians, from a gas plant in Ain Amenas, more than 1,600 kilometers from the capital, on Jan.

    18, 2013. More than 72 hours after the heavily-armed militants staged a deadly raid on the complex, and two days after Algerian special forces launched a botched rescue bid widely condemned as hasty, there appeared to be a stand-off in the Sahara. (Getty Images) ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) The Algerian government says 32 militants and 23 captives were killed during the three-day military operation to end the hostage crisis at a natural gas plant in the Sahara. The provisional death toll was issued by the Interior Ministry on Saturday after the special forces operation crushed the last holdout of the militants at the gas refinery, resulting in 11 extremists killed along with seven hostages.

    A total of 685 Algerian and 107 foreigner workers were freed over the course of the standoff, which began on Wednesday, the statement added. The military also confiscated machine guns, rocket launchers, missiles and grenades attached to suicide belts. The ministry added that the militants involved consisted of 32 men of various nationalities, including three Algerians.

    THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP s earlier story is below.

    In a bloody finale, Algerian special forces stormed a natural gas complex in the Sahara desert on Saturday to end a standoff with Islamist extremists that left at least 19 hostages and 29 militants dead. Dozens of foreign workers remain unaccounted for, leading to fears the death toll could rise. With few details emerging from the remote site in eastern Algeria, it was unclear whether anyone was rescued in the final operation.

    The siege at Ain Amenas transfixed the world after radical Islamists linked to al-Qaida stormed the complex, which contained hundreds of plant workers from all over the world, and then held them hostage surrounded by the Algerian military and its attack helicopters for four tense days that were punctuated with gunbattles and dramatic tales of escape. Algeria s response to the crisis was typical of the country s history in confronting terrorists, favoring military action over negotiation, which caused an international outcry from countries worried about their citizens. Algerian military forces twice assaulted the two areas where the hostages were being held with minimal apparent mediation first on Thursday and then on Saturday.

    In the final assault, the remaining band of militants killed seven hostages before special forces killed 11 of the attackers, the state news agency said. It wasn t immediately possible to verify who killed the hostages. The military launched its assault to prevent a fire started by the extremists from engulfing the complex, the report said.

    The seven hostages and 11 militants adds to the previous toll of 12 captives and 18 kidnappers, according to the government, but there are fears that the number of hostages killed is much higher and dozens of foreign workers from the Ain Amenas site remain unaccounted for. Sonatrach, the Algerian state oil company running the site along with BP and Norway s Statoil, said the entire refinery had been mined with explosives, and the process of clearing it out had begun, indicating the militants planned to blow up the complex one of the largest in oil and gas-rich Algeria. Algeria has fought its own Islamist rebellion since the 1990s, elements of which later declared allegiance to al-Qaida and then set up new groups in the poorly patrolled wastes of the Sahara along the borders of Niger, Mali, Algeria and Libya, where they flourished.

    The standoff has put the spotlight on al-Qaida-linked groups that roam these remote areas, threatening vital infrastructure and energy interests. The militants initially said their operation was intended to stop a French attack on Islamist militants in neighboring Mali though they later said it was two months in the planning, long before the French intervention. The militants, who came from a Mali-based group run by an Algerian, attacked the plant Wednesday morning.

    Armed with heavy machine guns and rocket launchers in four-wheel drive vehicles and fell on a pair of buses taking foreign workers to the airport. The buses military escort drove off the attackers in a blaze of gunfire that sent bullets zinging over the heads of crouching workers. A Briton and an Algerian probably a security guard were killed.

    Frustrated, the militants turned to the vast gas complex, divided between the workers living quarters and the refinery itself, and seized hostages, the Algerian government said. The gas flowing to the site was cut off. The Algerian government said the militants crept across the border from Libya, 60 miles (100 kilometers) away, while the militants later said they came from Niger, hundreds of miles to the south.

    On Thursday, Algerian helicopters kicked off the military s first assault on the complex by opening fire on a convoy carrying both kidnappers and their hostages, resulting in many deaths, according to witnesses. The accounts of hostages who escaped the standoff showed they faced dangers from both the kidnappers and the military. Ruben Andrada, 49, a Filipino civil engineer who works as one of the project management staff for the Japanese company JGC Corp., described how he and his colleagues were used as human shields by the kidnappers, which did little to deter the Algerian military.

    On Thursday, about 35 hostages guarded by 15 militants were loaded into seven SUVs in a convoy to move them from the housing complex to the refinery, Andrada said. The militants placed an explosive cord around their necks and were told it would detonate if they tried to run away, he said. When we left the compound, there was shooting all around, Andrada said, as Algerian helicopters attacked with guns and missiles.

    I closed my eyes. We were going around in the desert. To me, I left it all to fate.

    Andrada s vehicle overturned allowing him and a few others to escape. He sustained cuts and bruises and was grazed by a bullet on his right elbow. He later saw the blasted remains of other vehicles, and the severed leg of one of the gunmen.

    The site of the gas plant spreads out over several hectares (acres) and includes a housing complex and the processing site, about a mile apart, making it especially complicated for the Algerians to secure the site and likely contributed to the lengthy standoff. It s a big and complex site. It s a huge place with a lot of people there and a lot of hiding places for hostages and terrorists, said Col.

    Richard Kemp, a retired commander of British forces who had dealt with hostage rescues in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are experienced terrorists holding the hostages. Casualty figures varied widely.

    While the Algerian government has only admitted to 19 hostages dead so far, the militants claimed through the Mauritanian news website ANI that the helicopter attack alone killed 35 hostages. One American, from Texas, is among the dead and least one Briton, a Frenchman and Algerians have also died in the standoff. Escaped Algerian workers describe seeing people of many nationalities, including Japanese, shot down.

    French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Saturday that the Frenchman killed, Yann Desjeux, was a former member of the French special forces and part of the security team. The remaining three French nationals who were at the plant are now free, the Foreign Ministry said. British Foreign Secretary William Hague confirmed that as of Saturday, there were fewer than 10 British nationals still at risk or unaccounted for and the majority of Britons at the plant were now safe, he said.

    Statoil CEO Helge Lund said Saturday that there were only six Norwegians unaccounted for, from the 17 at the plant at the time of the attack. BP said four of its 18 employees were still unaccounted for. Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta said Saturday one Romanian hostage was killed in the course of the siege, while four escaped unharmed.

    The attack by the Mali-based Masked Brigade, founded by Algerian militant Moktar Belmoktar, had been in the works for two months, a member of the brigade told the ANI news outlet. He said militants targeted Algeria because they expected the country to support the international effort to root out extremists in neighboring Mali and it was carried out by a special commando unit, Those Who Signed in Blood, tasked with attacking nations supporting intervention in Mali. The kidnappers focused on the foreign workers, largely leaving alone the hundreds of Algerian workers who were briefly held hostage before being released or escaping.

    Several of them arrived haggard-looking on a late-night flight into Algiers on Friday and described how the militants stormed the living quarters and immediately separated out the foreigners. Mohamed, a 37-year-old nurse who like the others wouldn t allow his last names to be used for fear of trouble for himself or his family, said at least five people were shot to death, their bodies still in front of the infirmary when he left Thursday night. Chabane, who worked in food services, said he bolted out the window and was hiding when he heard the militants speaking among themselves with Libyan, Egyptian and Tunisian accents.

    At one point, he said, they caught a Briton. They threatened him until he called out in English to his friends, telling them, `Come out, come out. They re not going to kill you.

    They re looking for the Americans, Chabane said.

    A few minutes later, they blew him away.

    This post has been updated.

  • All Quiet on the Western Front [Blu-ray] [1930] [US Import]
  • American Ranger: It's Time For This Old Soldier To Fade AwayAbout a year ago, I posted a variation of the following article. Later on I had second thoughts and continued to post my feelings and comments about the direction of our country. But now it is time to "fade away" as Douglas McArthur once said of old soldiers.

    I must also take the time to smell the roses as I walk down the ever-narrowing road of life with my wonderful wife. There will come a day - hopefully far from now - when I too will finish my last patrol. Until then I shall devote my time to my family and to God - where ever He may lead me. * * * * Since I will soon turn 65 in February of 2014, I have come to believe it is time to move aside for the next generation.

    My wife Debbie and I are enjoying our retirement, and our time together is cherished beyond description. We shall fade away together. I started this blog in 2006 in anticipation of my third mobilization in the War on Terror.

    It became my effort to highlight soldiers, police officers, military and law enforcement families, and to provide resources for them. I also couldn t resist commenting on world affairs or political events. However, since my retirement from the Army in 2009 and my retirement from the police department in 2010, I can no longer write a blog from the perspective of an active soldier or still-serving cop.

    Also, there are literally thousands of blogs and websites that do a better job of providing up-to-date information for the communities I have spent my life serving. This blog will remain active because I still get a lot of visitors who read both recent and older posts. I also receive comments from these readers, and I enjoy responding to them.

    There are people who find my book via the blog. The world we live in is changing in many ways. Unfortunately, much of what we will see over the next few years will likely alter our way of life dramatically.

    I fear the loss of many of our liberties, I am concerned about the inability of our elected representatives to save our economy from excess spending, and I wonder if those in charge of our nation really have our best interests at heart. To my children and grandchildren and to all of those in the next couple of generations I beg you to do everything you can to preserve the liberties given to us by God and defined so well by our founding fathers. They and subsequent generations have sacrificed greatly to protect the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.

    A relative of mine once said that the Constitution needed to be updated. Though a well-meaning liberal, this person did not understand that the Constitution and its liberties are timeless. They do not need updating; they need to be protected for all Americans for all the generations to come.

    After almost twenty-three years of military service and twenty years as a law enforcement officer, it is time to let a younger generation (with better backs and knees) take their positions on the bunker line of liberty. (However, if you need backup, just let me know and I'll get there as soon as I can.) Keep a steady watch, do not fall asleep, and be ready to defend the perimeter when duty calls. Because, my young friends, America is in your hands now...... Charles M.

    Grist

  • Amnesty International demands inquiry into British Army shoot-to-kill ...By NICK BRAMHILL, IrishCentral Contributing Writer Published Saturday, November 23, 2013, 5:00 AM Updated Saturday, November 23, 2013, 7:57 AM The Military Reaction Force (MRF) shot terrorist suspects on sight in Northern Ireland - whether they were armed or not. Photo by Mirror Amnesty International has called for an inquiry after evidence that a secret British Army hit squad carried out shoot-to-kill missions at the height of The Troubles 1 was revealed. Members of the covert Military Reaction Force (MRF) broke their 40-year silence in a BBC Panorama documentary last night (Thurs) to admit they shot terrorist suspects on sight in Northern Ireland - whether they were armed or not.

    The BBC probe unearthed evidence that the shadowy undercover unit killed at least two people, Daniel Rooney and Patrick McVeigh, and injured 13 more people during a five-month period in 1972. According to the documentary, members of the elite plainclothes unit didn't believe military restrictions on opening fire applied to them and used to cruise republican areas of west Belfast, gunning down IRA 2 members, whether they were armed or not. The shocking revelations have prompted calls from Amnesty International to launch a full-blown inquiry into what it described as "human rights violations and abuses." Amnesty Northern Ireland director, Patrick Corrigan, said: "The revelations in Panorama underline our call for the UK government to establish a new, over-arching mechanism to investigate human rights violations and abuses in Northern Ireland, whether carried out by paramilitary groups or the security forces. "Victims and bereaved family members have a right to truth and justice. "Such a process must focus not just on those who pulled the trigger, but also those in positions of authority who pulled the strings." Successive British governments have repeatedly denied a shoot-to-kill policy was operated by security forces during The Troubles.

    However, the programme provided evidence that the MRF's 40-strong unit carried out drive-by shootings of nationalists manning barricades to keep out loyalists. According to the Irish Mirror, one former MRF soldier said: "We were not there to act like an army unit, we were there to act like a terror group." Highly-trained MRF members were handpicked from elite ranks of the army and were told that they officially didn't exist as they were tasked with hunting down and killing IRA members, according to the programme. Another former MRF member is quoted as saying: "If you had a player who was a well-known shooter who carried out quite a lot of assassination, it would have been very simple, he had to be taken out." Some MRF members would even go undercover as road-sweepers or down-and-out alcoholics during their mission, it was claimed.

    Tony Le Tissier, a major in the Royal Military Police, said: "They were playing at being bandit, they were meant to be sort of IRA outlaws. "That's why they were in plain clothes, operating plain vehicles and using a Thompson sub-machine gun." It is not known how many killings the unit carried out, as much of the documentary evidence is understood to have been destroyed.

    However, among those they killed in May 1972, was father-of-six, Patrick McVeigh, whose daughter, Patricia, said: "We want the truth.

    We don't want to stop until we get the truth." And Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams added: "The BBC programme shines a light on one aspect of Britain's dirty war in Ireland. "The existence of the MRF and its activities have been known for many years, but the programme contains new information and provides a fresh insight into the use by the British government of counter-gangs and secret military units." Here s a clip from the BBC: "); } else document.write(""); document.write(" It may take several minutes for your comment to appear. "); } else if(readCookie("worldirish")) document.write(""); else document.write(""); References ^ The Troubles (www.irishcentral.com) ^ IRA (www.irishcentral.com)

  • Army and industry join together at military vehicle event ... Defence Vehicle Dynamics (DVD), being held at Millbrook Proving Ground near Milton Keynes today and tomorrow, 25 and 26 June, gives visitors an insight into the vast array of equipment used by the British Army. It brings together MOD s equipment and support organisation (DE&S), the army and industry to showcase the vehicles used by the military such as the heavily armoured Mastiff and the agile Foxhound. The event also looks ahead to future equipment requirements with visitors getting the chance to see some of the next-generation of army vehicles.

    The UK s first fully-digitised tracked armoured vehicle, the Scout specialist prototype, is on display to demonstrate how technology and capability requirements are evolving to meet the needs of Future Force 2020 1 . DVD 2014 2 Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Philip Dunne said: Operations over the last decade have demanded that our vehicles were created or adapted to suit the challenges our armed forces faced in 2 very different campaigns. As we move to an age of contingency, DVD 3 provides a glimpse as to how we are preparing to meet the needs of Future Force 2020.

    It highlights the innovative technology that industry has developed to enable the armed forces to deliver the capability required on operations. World-class technology that is made in Britain and that I want to support British industry to export worldwide. I am also delighted that KBR, which already provides 100 sponsored UK reserves in Afghanistan, has today signed the corporate covenant 4 and I hope it encourages other defence contractors to come forward and pledge their support.

    The corporate covenant provides large or small businesses with the opportunity formally to support the armed forces community. Our personnel and their families play an invaluable role in our society and it is only right that they get the recognition they deserve. Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Philip Dunne with the new Scout specialist vehicle being developed for the British Army Picture: Richard Watt, Crown copyright Major General Paul Jaques, Director Land Equipment in DE&S 5 , said: The impact of DVD has been significant; relationships with industry have been developed, and innovation in equipment has been driven forwards.

    DVD 2014 is about the future; out to the end of this decade and beyond.

    References ^ Future Force 2020 (www.gov.uk) ^ DVD 2014 (www.youtube.com) ^ DVD (www.theevent.co.uk) ^ corporate covenant (www.gov.uk) ^ DE&S (www.gov.uk)

  • Army Instructor Ousted Over Muslim Groups' Complaints ... - The Blaze Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley (Thomas More Law Center) A highly decorated Army lieutenant colonel says he was essentially blacklisted by his superiors after more than 50 Muslim groups complained about a course he taught on radical Islam.

    Now he is fighting to get his career back. As previously reported by TheBlaze, Lt. Col.

    Matthew Dooley, a West Point graduate and decorated combat veteran, was an instructor at the Joint Forces Staff College at the National Defense University, where he was reportedly popular among students and fellow staff members, FoxNews.com reports. That all changed when Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, slammed Dooley and his Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism course during a Pentagon press conference in May, calling his teachings unprofessional and against our values. He was later given a negative Officer Evaluation Report (OER), which was unusual given the fact that Dooley had passed the evaluations with flying colors the previous five years.

    Dooley says a bad OER is like being blacklisted in military circles. This was a very heavy-handed approach from the very top, Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, told Fox News. His organization is now representing Dooley in the case.

    To read one of their latest press releases on the case, click here. He had a brilliant career ahead of him, Thompson added. Now, he has been flagged They superiors ordered a negative evaluation.

    He will never have the opportunity for promotion unless this is overturned. (To learn more about some of Dooley s course material, click here) Attorneys at the Thomas More Law Center believe a letter sent to the White House, Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies about a year ago and signed by 57 Islamic organizations caused the federal government to clamp down on Dooley, his course and ultimately all the government s training material on radical Islam. Among the organizations who signed the letter are the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), both named unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation trial, the largest terrorism financing case in U.S. history.

    Lawmakers and critics have alleged that the letter led to the massive purge of terms than Muslims might find offensive in government training materials, which Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) says threatens U.S. national security.

    The feds enlisted a number of Islamic experts to help with the purge, however, they have refused to reveal who they are despite numerous inquiries from Congress and members of the press. The Washington Times explains some of the changes that occurred: The FBI training manual changed. Nearly 900 pages of training that was considered offensive were deleted.

    Members like Congressman Allen West, Florida Republican, and Congressman Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, were critical of the purge. Gohmert questioned FBI director Robert Mueller in May 2012 about the deleting of FBI material. Rep.

    Gohmert went to the House floor and compared the number of times certain terms (at 22:40) were used in the 9/11 Commission report as opposed to the now purged FBI training manual. For example, according to Gohmert, the 9/11 report mentioned the word Islam 322 times. However, Gohmert discusses that the FBI training manual can no longer mention the terms: Islam, Muslim, jihad, enemy, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, caliphate, Shariah law.

    The people who were the hijackers the people who planned the attacks that hoped to have killed tens of thousands of Americans instead of three thousand those were Islamists they believed in Islam. And thank God that they only represent a tiny percentage of Muslims around the world, but let s be realistic. As one intelligence officer said, we are blinding ourselves to being able to see who our enemy is.

    Watch Gohmert s epic House floor speech on document purge and radical Islam back in February: Dooley is still serving in the military and not allowed to speak publicly on his case, according to Thompson.

    But the soldier is hoping to have his negative OER revised and be reinstated in his job as an instructor, according to Thompson, who maintains that the guidelines from the NDU Faculty Handbook were disregarded when Dooley was relieved of his position, according to FoxNews.com.

    Here is the letter that reportedly led the massive purge of terms relating to radical Islam in government training materials: US Islamic groups demand Islamophobia purge in letter to White House

  • Army Instructor Ousted Over Muslim Groups' Complaints About ... Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley (Thomas More Law Center) A highly decorated Army lieutenant colonel says he was essentially blacklisted by his superiors after more than 50 Muslim groups complained about a course he taught on radical Islam.

    Now he is fighting to get his career back. As previously reported by TheBlaze, Lt. Col.

    Matthew Dooley, a West Point graduate and decorated combat veteran, was an instructor at the Joint Forces Staff College at the National Defense University, where he was reportedly popular among students and fellow staff members, FoxNews.com reports. That all changed when Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, slammed Dooley and his Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism course during a Pentagon press conference in May, calling his teachings unprofessional and against our values. He was later given a negative Officer Evaluation Report (OER), which was unusual given the fact that Dooley had passed the evaluations with flying colors the previous five years.

    Dooley says a bad OER is like being blacklisted in military circles. This was a very heavy-handed approach from the very top, Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, told Fox News. His organization is now representing Dooley in the case.

    To read one of their latest press releases on the case, click here. He had a brilliant career ahead of him, Thompson added. Now, he has been flagged They superiors ordered a negative evaluation.

    He will never have the opportunity for promotion unless this is overturned. (To learn more about some of Dooley s course material, click here) Attorneys at the Thomas More Law Center believe a letter sent to the White House, Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies about a year ago and signed by 57 Islamic organizations caused the federal government to clamp down on Dooley, his course and ultimately all the government s training material on radical Islam. Among the organizations who signed the letter are the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), both named unindicted co-conspirators in the Holy Land Foundation trial, the largest terrorism financing case in U.S. history.

    Lawmakers and critics have alleged that the letter led to the massive purge of terms than Muslims might find offensive in government training materials, which Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) says threatens U.S. national security.

    The feds enlisted a number of Islamic experts to help with the purge, however, they have refused to reveal who they are despite numerous inquiries from Congress and members of the press. The Washington Times explains some of the changes that occurred: The FBI training manual changed. Nearly 900 pages of training that was considered offensive were deleted.

    Members like Congressman Allen West, Florida Republican, and Congressman Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, were critical of the purge. Gohmert questioned FBI director Robert Mueller in May 2012 about the deleting of FBI material. Rep.

    Gohmert went to the House floor and compared the number of times certain terms (at 22:40) were used in the 9/11 Commission report as opposed to the now purged FBI training manual. For example, according to Gohmert, the 9/11 report mentioned the word Islam 322 times. However, Gohmert discusses that the FBI training manual can no longer mention the terms: Islam, Muslim, jihad, enemy, Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, caliphate, Shariah law.

    The people who were the hijackers the people who planned the attacks that hoped to have killed tens of thousands of Americans instead of three thousand those were Islamists they believed in Islam. And thank God that they only represent a tiny percentage of Muslims around the world, but let s be realistic. As one intelligence officer said, we are blinding ourselves to being able to see who our enemy is.

    Watch Gohmert s epic House floor speech on document purge and radical Islam back in February: Dooley is still serving in the military and not allowed to speak publicly on his case, according to Thompson.

    But the soldier is hoping to have his negative OER revised and be reinstated in his job as an instructor, according to Thompson, who maintains that the guidelines from the NDU Faculty Handbook were disregarded when Dooley was relieved of his position, according to FoxNews.com.

    Here is the letter that reportedly led the massive purge of terms relating to radical Islam in government training materials: US Islamic groups demand Islamophobia purge in letter to White House

  • Auschwitz - The Nazis And The Final Solution [DVD] - Armyrats
  • B

  • Backbench Business 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South, Labour) I congratulate Mr Baron on securing this debate and on the way he opened it. I spoke in the pre-recess Adjournment debate on 17 July about the anger felt in Salford and across Greater Manchester about the Government s decision to axe 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. The Manchester Evening News has run a strong campaign urging the Government to rethink their plans.

    The campaign has attracted 15,000 people to sign petitions, including the petition of 10,000 handed in today to Downing street. Many former Fusiliers from Greater Manchester, including those from Salford whom I am pleased to have met, were on the march today. There is great strength of feeling in our area and today I shall talk about what the battalion means to people in Salford, and to one family in particular.

    We have heard, but it bears repeating, that the 2nd Battalion has a long and distinguished service history dating back to the Lancashire Fusiliers indeed, Fusiliers first took that title in 1685 and have fought in every major engagement since. In 1968, when the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was formed from the four English Fusilier regiments, they inherited from the Lancashire Fusiliers a regimental history steeped in tradition. As the hon.

    and gallant Gentlemen said, the regiment won more Victoria Crosses in the great war than any other regiment: 19 of the heroes of the Lancashire Fusiliers were awarded the VC, including the six Mr Nuttall just described who won the VC in the action at Gallipoli. Many of the regiment s soldiers have given their lives fighting for this country. In 2009, the 2nd Battalion completed a tour in Afghanistan in which it lost seven men killed in action; others were wounded, some very seriously.

    Three of the seven died together in an explosion while on patrol near Sangin in Helmand province on 16 August 2009. One of them was Fusilier Simon Annis, from Salford. Simon and fellow Fusilier Louis Carter were trying to drag their injured comrade, Lance Corporal James Fullarton, to safety after a roadside bomb blast.

    As the pair lifted Lance Corporal Fullarton on to a stretcher, they triggered a second device, causing an explosion. All three soldiers died at the scene. Simon Annis was on his first operational tour.

    He was described by his commanding officer as follows: Always at the heart of whatever was going on, it was no surprise to me that he died whilst trying to save his mortally wounded Section Commander. He should be seen as a shining example to the nation of what selfless commitment really means. Simon was 22 years old and had been married for just one month before he deployed to Afghanistan.

    I met his parents, my constituents Ann and Peter Annis, when the 2nd Battalion had its homecoming parade from Afghanistan later in 2009. Salford people lined the streets to give the returning soldiers a warm welcome, and I was so proud to be at that parade and to meet Mr and Mrs Annis. When the news came through about the axing of the battalion in which her son had served, Simon s mother commented: Simon was so proud to serve in the battalion and now this feels like a smack in the face Lads are still in Afghanistan and dying out in Afghanistan and the Army are talking about cuts and job losses.

    Morale must be at rock bottom. I look at Simon s headstone at his grave and it says 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers . He was so proud to serve in the battalion.

    This week, Mrs Annis told me her thoughts: As the mother of a Fusilier who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his Queen, his country and his battalion, I can only see this decision as a betrayal of trust for the soldiers still serving and to the memory of the brave men who have given their lives while serving in this historically proud regiment. She said that this is a decision that surely cannot be justified with the recruitment figures for the battalion. This can only be seen as cost-cutting rather than restructuring.

    When I read the names on the Wall of Remembrance at the National Arboretum, I was immensely proud to be the mother of a young lad whose name appears alongside the names of such brave men from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. Over and over again I have heard government excuses and reasons why this battalion should be axed, yet I still see no valid reason. She added: I urge you to think and reconsider the decision.

    I strongly support Mrs Annis s views and, together with hon. Members across the House, am asking the Government to reconsider. As Mrs Annis said, the decision to axe the battalion feels like a betrayal of the memory of her son Simon and the other soldiers who have given their lives.

    There is a deep attachment in Salford and across Greater Manchester to the 2nd Battalion, which was formed from the Lancashire Fusiliers and has such a long and proud history of service to this country. It is linked to Salford and, as we have heard, to Bury, Rochdale and Manchester. The loss of the battalion at this time of higher unemployment in our area of Greater Manchester would significantly reduce the opportunities for local people who want to enter a career serving their country, as young Simon Annis did, and it would of course put 600 soldiers and officers at risk of being made redundant.

    I probably do not need to rehearse the key issue in the matter. As we have heard, the 2nd Battalion currently has a very good record on recruitment; it has 523 trained soldiers out of a maximum strength of 532. Brigadier David Paterson, the battalion s honorary colonel, has described it as the strongest in raw manning and deployable strength .

    Surely that is a key factor. He also pointed out that the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers is the only regiment set to grow over the next six months. Brigadier Paterson has questioned the criteria being used to single out the unit for cuts when it is actually in such a strong position for recruitment.

    It seems that officers who understand the situation do not agree with the reasoning behind the decision to axe the battalion. The previous Labour Government s plans meant that the Army would not have ended up with single-battalion regiments. This Government s plans leave regiments such as the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in a weaker position.

    When Patrick Mercer spoke about that earlier, he called it a disgrace. I urge Ministers to reconsider the decision to axe the 2nd battalion. I hope that they will respect its proud history and valour, its current strong recruiting position and, most of all, the sacrifice of fallen Fusiliers such as Simon Annis.

    The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers has had the freedom of the city of Salford since 1974. I and the people of Salford and Greater Manchester are very proud of the 2nd Battalion. Losing it would be a great loss to us.

    They are England s finest.

  • Band Of Brothers: Volume 3 [2001]
  • Basil Plumley, Army veteran of 3 wars, dies at 92 This Just In ... Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Basil L.

    Plumley, who fought in some of the U.S. Army's bloodiest battles in three wars, died Wednesday in Columbus, Georgia. He was 92.

    Plumley saw action in some of the largest battles of World War II, including the Battle of Normandy, the Battle of Salerno in Italy and Operation Market Garden. He then fought in the Korean War, but it was his role in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam that brought him the most fame. The battle was chronicled in the book "We Were Soldiers Once ...

    and Young," which was later a 2002 movie starring Mel Gibson. Sam Elliott played Plumley. The National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia, tweeted a picture of Elliot and Plumley in noting the veteran's death.

    Plumley, along with Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, led the Army's 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment in the November 1965 battle that saw 450 U.S.

    forces face off against 2,000 troops from the North Vietnamese army in the first major engagement between the two armies. More than 230 U.S. troops were killed.

    Plumley was at Landing Zone X-Ray, where 79 U.S. troops died. "That was a long day. I was the second one in and next to the last to leave," Plumley was quoted as saying by The Bayonet in 2010 when he donated a large print of himself and Moore in Vietnam to the National Infantry Museum. "Command Sgt.

    Maj. Plumley was a true American hero who spent much of his life placing his nation and its greatest ideals ahead of his own well-being," Maj. Gen.

    Anthony Ierardi, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas, said in a statement Wednesday. "He served with great valor and distinction in three wars and continued to mentor soldiers and leaders well after his retirement from active duty. The command sergeant major touched countless lives in his more than 30 years in the Army." Plumley joined the Army on March 31, 1942, and retired on December 31, 1974. His Army awards included the Silver Star with one oak leaf cluster and the Bronze Star with one oak leaf cluster.

    At a reunion of Ia Drang veterans this year in Columbus, Plumley talked about the troops he helped lead, according to a report on the U.S. Army's website. "That battalion was the best trained, in good physical shape and most disciplined that I've ever seen," he said. "We did real hard training at Fort Benning before we went into X-Ray. But that battalion was made up of hard, disciplined, well-trained and well-commanded soldiers who didn't give a damn how rough their training is as long as you're fair about it.

    I was glad to have been a member of it." Plumley was a larger-than-life figure, who had the respect of those on the battlefield, according to Joe Galloway, a reporter who was at Ia Drang and later wrote "We Were Soldiers" along with Moore. At the May reunion, he told of the scene when Plumley showed up at another Ia Drang vets reunion years earlier. "It was up in the hospitality room, and everybody's had a few pops. All of a sudden, Sgt.

    Maj. Plumley arrives, steps in the door," Galloway said. "And I saw guys who had served a two-year draftee tour in the Army and had been out for 25 or 30 years, turn white, backs against the wall. As the sergeant major made his way into the room, they made their way along the wall and out the door.

    They were afraid he still had their name and number." Plumley died of colon cancer, the Army statement said.

    See local coverage from CNN affiliate WRBL-TV in Columbus

  • Battalion makes emotional return to scene of Falklands bombing ... 21 Jan 2014 16:09 1 Welsh Guards' Number Two Company deployed in Falklands for first time since 32 soldiers from the battalion were killed in bombing of troop carrier Soldiers returning to the scene of one of their battalion s deadliest engagements in the Falklands paid an emotional tribute to their fallen comrades. The 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, currently based at Hounslow Cavalry Barracks, suffered some of the biggest losses in the Falklands War in 1982. On June 8 that year, 32 Welsh Guards were among the 48 troops killed when an Argentinian jet bombed the British warship Sir Galahad off the coast of the islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.

    It was the Army s highest death toll in a single incident since the Second World War, and the ship s hulk, which rests on the sea floor 10 miles off the islands east coast, is an official war grave. The battalion s Number Two Company was last month deployed to the British overseas territory for the first time since that fateful mission. The company of 140 soldiers is tasked during its two-month stay with deterring military aggression and maintaining UK sovereignty of the islands.

    Members of the company visited the Welsh Guards memorial in the village of Fitzroy, overlooking Port Pleasant, on Sunday, January 5 for a service led by Padre Al Nicoll. Only three Falklands veterans are still serving in the Welsh Guards but two members of the company, Lance Corporals Neil Forde and Leon Parr, had uncles who were killed during the war. They flanked the commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Dino Bossi as he laid a wreath at the memorial.

    Carol Green, who moved to the islands after her brother Guardsman Paul Green was killed in action there, and who still lives in Fitzroy, also attended the service to pay her respects.

    Afterwards, she and her husband Phil Ovendon, who has tirelessly researched the battalion s role in the Falklands, met members of the company in the village hall.

    References ^ 21 Jan 2014 16:09 (www.getwestlondon.co.uk)

  • Battle 360° - The Complete Series [Blu-ray][Region Free]
  • Battles of the Eastern Front [DVD] [2007]
  • BBC - Our War Series 2 (2012) COMPLETE HDTV x264 AAC ... More stories from the frontline in Afghanistan, told by the young soldiers themselves. Part 1: Into the Hornets Nest A daring mission deep into enemy territory is captured on camera by soldiers during Afghanistan's bloodiest summer on record. Troop surges in 2010 forced the Taliban to fight dirty, using more IEDs than ever.

    Against this backdrop a 100-strong company from 2nd Battalion, Duke of Lancaster's Regiment was deployed into one of the most dangerous areas of Helmand, tasked with protecting a vital road link. During a heavy firefight, Kingsman Darren Deady was shot in the neck. He collapsed into the lap of Sergeant Mark Wilson who was filming on a helmet camera.

    The operation later claimed the life of Captain Andrew Griffiths - the first child of a serving officer to die in Afghanistan. A dust storm grounded all aircraft in Bastion, but two brave helicopter pilots rewrote the rulebook, flying in formation to navigate so they could evacuate him. Both men were treated side by side in the UK, but died of their injuries.

    Andrew's dad, Brigadier Mike Griffiths, the colonel of the regiment, now uses his personal experience to train 'visiting' officers who break the news of injuries and fatalities to servicemen's families. Part 2: Return to Death Valley The men of C Company, 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment are getting used to life back in barracks and beginning to tell their stories of a tour far tougher than any of them expected. The two platoons that make up C Company are some of the most recent soldiers to have returned from Helmand Province.

    During the six months they were there, they filmed every moment. A timetable has been set for an end to British combat operations in Afghanistan, but two young officers, and best friends, led their platoons into an area of Helmand dubbed Death Valley to find a war that is far from over. While some areas are being handed over to Afghan forces as part of the process of transition, C Company's extraordinary footage captures the reality of the fight against the Taliban in the Upper Gereshk Valley.

    During the tour they were blown up by IEDs, ambushed and shunned by a local population too scared to talk to them - until the unthinkable happened. A civilian vehicle carrying three generations of one family was hit by an IED along a notorious stretch of Route 611 - a road C Company were there to protect. Part 3: The Lost Platoon It's May 2009 and a Welsh Guards platoon deep in Taliban country falls into a deadly ambush, just yards from the isolated mud fort which is their patrol base.

    Seven Platoon is led by the regiment's brightest young officer, Lt Mark Evison, who keeps a candid war diary revealing dangerous shortages of manpower and equipment. They are just two weeks into their tour of duty, and already a vital piece of equipment - an essential radio cable - has failed. As the Taliban tighten their noose around Seven Platoon, putting IEDs on the roads and attacking their small fort, even the most vital spares cannot get to them quickly.

    This film tells the gripping story of how the lack of one small cable has lethal consequences and leads to a platoon of the Welsh Guards' toughest soldiers nearly being massacred.

    Mirror (Rapidgator): http://rapidgator.net/file/53423457/BBC.Our.War.Series2.576p.HDTV.x264.AAC.MVGroup.part1.rar.html http://rapidgator.net/file/53423220/BBC.Our.War.Series2.576p.HDTV.x264.AAC.MVGroup.part2.rar.html Mirror (Extabit): http://www.friendlyduck.com/AF_TA/rel/index.cfm?RST=UNF&TAD=412977&dl=am278ty8rk45i5u/BBC.Our.War.Series2.576p.HDTV.x264.AAC.MVGroup.part1.rar http://www.friendlyduck.com/AF_TA/rel/index.cfm?RST=UNF&TAD=412977&dl=am278ty8rk44pv6/BBC.Our.War.Series2.576p.HDTV.x264.AAC.MVGroup.part2.rar Mirror (Uploaded): http://uploaded.net/file/n5yl0no8/BBC.Our.War.Series2.576p.HDTV.x264.AAC.MVGroup.part1.rar http://uploaded.net/file/7lwhzcat/BBC.Our.War.Series2.576p.HDTV.x264.AAC.MVGroup.part2.rar Mirror (Lumfile): http://lumfile.com/61azi19xy5rm/BBC.Our.War.Series2.576p.HDTV.x264.AAC.MVGroup.part1.rar.html http://lumfile.com/ap4olm2iuqa9/BBC.Our.War.Series2.576p.HDTV.x264.AAC.MVGroup.part2.rar.html Mirror (Ryushare): http://ryushare.com/2e79a55b79c7/BBC.Our.War.Series2.576p.HDTV.x264.AAC.MVGroup.part1.rar http://ryushare.com/4364c02eb39a/BBC.Our.War.Series2.576p.HDTV.x264.AAC.MVGroup.part2.rar

  • BBC Three to broadcast bomb disposal comedy drama - News ... BBC Three has announced it is to screen a comedy drama series focussing on a British army bomb disposal squad serving in Afghanistan. Bluestone 42 - which recently completed filming in South Africa - will be an eight-part comic drama following a group of British soldiers tasked with defusing bombs in the middle of the Afghanistan conflict. The BBC describes the show as follows: "It's a series about a bunch of soldiers who love being soldiers and the camaraderie, bonds and banter they share, even though they are risking their lives diffusing hidden bombs." Bluestone 42, which has been filmed in single-camera style, has been created by writers James Cary (Hut 33, Think The Unthinkable) and Richard Hurst ( Secret Diary Of A Call Girl ).

    The duo have previously worked together on scripts for the hit BBC sitcom Miranda. The BBC emphasise that the series has been carefully researched and informed by serving and former members of the armed forces and military experts, and that the show will "take the audience through authentic, compelling, surprising and funny stories about how heroes pass their time in between saving lives." The comedy will focus on the members of the Counter-IED unit Bluestone 42 (pronounced Bluestone Four Two, like an army call sign). The show stars Oliver Chris (Green Wing) as Nick, with Stephen Wight (Threesome, Whites) playing Simon, Kelly Adams ( Hustle ) as Mary and Tony Gardner (Fresh Meat, Last Tango In Halifax) as the Lieutenant Colonel of the unit.

    Also, Katie Lyons (Green Wing) is Bird, Scott Hoatson ( Case Histories ) plays Rocket, Jamie Quinn (Still Game) will be Mac, and Gary Carr ( Death in Paradise ) plays Millsy. Bluestone 42 initially started out as a pilot project commission in 2011 under the title IED . Its quality impressed bosses such that seven further scripts were ordered, without a pilot episode actually being produced.

    Commissioned by BBC Three Controller Zai Bennett, the series has been produced in-house by the BBC, with Michelle Farr (Two Pints, Whites) as producer, Iain B MacDonald (Great Night Out, White Van Man) as the director and Stephen McCrum (Mrs Brown's Boys, Mongrels) as the Executive Producer.

    A broadcast date has not yet been set for Bluestone 42, but it is expected to begin on BBC Three in early March.

    Our Guide to 'Bluestone 42'

  • Behind the scenes of the British Army's most coveted job The London District photographer has the privilege of recording the most iconic and historic images of the nation - but that honour is hard won. Not only does the post holder have to be among the best of their generation, to deliver a prime product they need to cope with logistical and administrative challenges unknown in the rest of the Army. Present incumbent Sergeant Steve Blake gives a cursory glimpse behind the scenes of the Army's most coveted job...

    Sergeant Steve Blake is a professional Army Photographer with the Royal Logistic Corps.

    A trained soldier, Steve has recently returned from a six-month tour of Afghanistan as part of the three-man Combat Camera Team (comprising a trained journalist, photographer and video cameraman).

    Text and video via British Army 1 References ^ British Army (www.youtube.com)

  • Bleaseworld: c The Romano-British ArmyI managed to grab five minutes today to hunt down the Dux Bellorum armies (not where I thought I'd left them!) and split them up into three. I also found a couple of packs of Old Glory Carolingians amongst them! The Romano-British army looks like this: Mounted Companion - 1 unit (3 miniatures)Noble Riders - 3 units (3 miniatures per unit)Ordinary Shieldwall - 3 units (8 miniatures per unit)Bow - 1 unit (6 miniatures) Army composition has been driven by what I had miniatures wise rather than any great tactical nous on my part.

    I am short one miniature for the Mounted Companion base, one rider for a Noble Rider unit and one Shieldwall foot.

    Rather than get too anal about this I am thinking that I should not worry that the bases don't contain the exact number of figures as long as it is clear what they are.

  • Bleaseworld: Donnybrook: Coldstream Guard VIHaving finished my second unit for my Donnybrook Coldstream Guards I decided to paint up a second character, this time painting up an officer figure. Another Warfare Miniatures model, I really enjoyed painting up this slightly flamboyant model. Here is the officer leading the completed unit of pike...

    2014 Painting Target: 49/1000

  • Blitz Street [DVD]
  • Book Review Podcast: A Soldier's War Novel - NYTimes.com This week in the New York Times Book Review, Benjamin Percy reviews The Yellow Birds, a novel by Kevin Powers that follows a soldier through his duty in Iraq and his struggles to adjust once back home. Mr. Percy writes: At the age of 17, Kevin Powers enlisted in the Army and eventually served as a machine-gunner in Iraq, where the sky is vast and catacombed with clouds, where soldiers stay awake on fear and amphetamines and Tabasco sauce daubed into their eyes, where rifles bristle from rooftops and bullets sound like small rips in the air.

    Now he has channeled his experience into The Yellow Birds, a first novel as compact and powerful as a footlocker full of ammo. On this week s podcast, Mr. Powers discusses The Yellow Birds ; Matt Taibbi talks about Seth Rosenfeld s Subversives ; and Gregory Cowles has best-seller news.

    Parul Sehgal is the host.

  • Book Review: Islamist Radicalisation in Europe and the ... - LSE Blogs Are today s radicals tomorrow s extremists? Most analyses of violence emanating from the Middle East or from Europe s Muslim communities tend to assume that this is the case. This edited collection seeks to look beyond assumptions about violence in the Middle East through an examination of specific contexts of radicalism and by asking how conditions for radicalisation are created.

    Kenneth Martin observes that almost every reader will find something new and engaging in this text. Islamist Radicalisation in Europe and the Middle East: Reassessing the Causes of Terrorism. George Joff (ed.).

    IB Tauris. November 2012. Find this book: Islamist Radicalisation in Europe and the Middle East: Reassessing the Causes of Terrorism , edited by George Joff , arises out of a conference on the subject from 2009.

    As an edited volume built around a theme rather than a specific case, the book shifts focus fairly dramatically between chapters and authors, who range from academics on both sides of the Atlantic to military consultants. Accordingly, the chapters themselves also range from deep case studies to theoretical discussions of radicalism and radicalisation. The volume distinguishes itself by adding both in-depth case studies off the beaten track and new approaches to the study of Islamic radicalisation.

    The depth of analysis many of the authors are able to reach is worthy of specific note, as the volume includes a chapter entirely devoted to the city of Tripoli s history of radicalisation, discussions of how literature has influenced individual influential Islamic radicals, and strategies for reforming educational programmes to counter radicalisation. Two chapters are worthy of specific mention. Sowing Dragons Teeth by James Spencer traces the political deployment of the term radical in Iraq post-2003, and contests the standard narrative of how radicalisation progressed in Iraq.

    When Spencer points to the rational motives grounded in local politics of those who were often dismissed as radicals , his background as a consultant who served with British forces in Iraq certainly adds a weighty voice to the process of understanding that debated conflict. Rational political and economic motivations for violence are discussed, and notions that the Iraqi insurgency was driven either by former regime elements seeking a return of Saddam or by transnational jihadists attempting to recreate the Caliphate are severely attacked. The piece thrives on deconstructing in a clear and direct style the deployment and usage of the term radical to cover up complex processes that do not fit into simple narratives, and should serve as a warning against the dangerous tendency in counter-insurgency and government writ large to paint all radicals with the same brush.

    Thinking Centrifugal by Johnny Ryan is a refreshing piece which straddles policy and theory, and considers the implications of the Internet on social expression. Ryan s chapter represents a well thought-out work, arresting cries of alarm on the Internet being a forum of increasing radicalisation of its users. The chapter s historically grounded discussion of the process of peer-review as an often overlooked online mechanism working towards moderation is fascinating it itself.

    The depth of historical detail is particularly remarkable, as this is a rarely discussed area of the growth of knowledge. However, in its implication for an open, online society working against radicalisation and debunking myths of the radicalisation of the internet, it is a timely discussion sure to provoke new ideas. While this depth by authors who clearly both know their field and in some cases have also clearly lived it is a refreshing change from mainstream academic terrorism studies who typically aim for broad theoretical sweeping gestures, the book s main strength is unfortunately also its main weakness.

    The Introduction attempts to weave all the disparate chapters into a coherent attempt to reassess the causes and processes of radicalisation and terrorism, but each author s focus is often widely separated from the previous chapter, so much so that it is on occasion quite jarring. Single country case studies follow sweeping works on the critical theory of securitisation and radicalisation, and while attempts have clearly been made by the editors to create thematic sections, only so much could be done given the continuum represented. The volume itself is therefore useful to many different audiences, but perhaps only a chapter or two within it is actually worthwhile, depending on one s interest.

    Most chapters are only related to each other by the broad topical discussion of radicalisation , a general tendency towards revisionist critique, and not much else. Furthermore, the volume itself seems to have been published at what may be regarded as simply an unlucky time for its subject material while some of the chapters attempt to discuss the recent unrest in the Middle East, the overall book itself is sadly lacking in relating its discussions to the burning question on every readers mind How did this case affect the Arab Spring? . The Introduction notably does acknowledge this point, and devotes most of its length and analysis to an attempt to tie together the various themes and arguments of the book into tentative conclusions on what is of course a complex and ongoing process of social, political, religious and violent reform across many states.

    In no way is it the fault of the authors that their chapters would suddenly acquire such pressing relevance; however, we are sadly left to our own devices when attempting to specifically relate each chapter to the most important case where studies of radicalisation would be most useful. While suffering from a certain lack of thematic unity, Islamist Radicalisation is overall an excellent addition, and often revision, to the study of radicalisation and terrorism more broadly. Almost any reader, whether academic, practitioner, or the informed general reader, will find something new and engaging here.

    There are important theoretical and policy implications throughout the entire volume, especially in regards to the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East. Much of the theoretical work is aimed at overturning established thought on terrorism and radicalisation against monocausal accounts aimed at religion as the primary cause of Islamic radicalisation and usefully complicates and grounds in deep case studies what must be a complex understanding of a difficult cross-cutting subject. Please read our comments policy before commenting .

    Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of EUROPP European Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics. Shortened URL for this post: http://bit.ly/Zm0xsL _________________________________ About the author Kenneth Martin - Concordia University Kenneth Martin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at Concordia University, in Montreal, Canada, focusing on non-state armed groups, South Asia, and the contestation and construction of the state. He is also a Fellow of the US Army s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, and a serving Canadian Forces infantry officer.

    Read reviews by Kenneth.

  • Born on the Fourth of July [Blu-ray] [1989] [US Import]
  • Brian Friel's 'Freedom of the City' at the Irish Rep - Freedom's just ... Published Thursday, October 18, 2012, 8:27 AM Updated Thursday, October 18, 2012, 8:27 AM Cara Seymour and Joseph Sikora in a scene from The Freedom of the City. Photo by Irish Rep In Irish playwright Brian Friel's uncharacteristically furious drama The Freedom of the City , now playing at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York, the long and tragic conflict between Ireland and Britain is presented as lucidly as you're ever likely to see. It begins in 1970 when three Nationalist civil rights protesters, all strangers to each other, find themselves unwittingly taking shelter in the very seat of Unionist power at the time, the 19th century Guildhall in the center of Derry.

    Still reeling from the riots outside and choking from the clouds of tear gas, it takes them minutes before they realize what a potentially dangerous turn they've taken. For young Skinner (Joseph Sikora) it's a hilarious discovery, because it's the last place on earth he ever expected to find himself. For middle aged Lily (Cara Seymour) a working class mother of 11, it's just a welcome opportunity to catch her breath and put her feet up after a long march.

    But for the studious young Michael (James Russell) it's a political mistake that he wants to rectify by high-tailing it before they're discovered. Friel began The Freedom of the City in 1972, several months before Bloody Sunday, and he amended the script to reflect the notorious political whitewash of the Widgery Commission that followed it, which saw none of the British soldiers who opened fire on unarmed protestors in Derry brought to trial or even disciplined. It's the Irish Rep's 25th anniversary season and director Ciaran O'Reilly has chosen an immensely provocative and still all too timely script.

    The Freedom of the City takes the civil rights struggle as its starting point, but Friel has a much more ambitious artistic intent than to outline the developing conflict. He sees far beyond the sectarian strife to its economic roots, which challenges everything about the divided society that produced it. Through Skinner, Lily and Michael, Friel introduces us to the hardscrabble Derry community that produced them.

    Then he adds another layer through characters that personify the church, the state and the revolutionary socialism that challenges their domination. What's marvelous about the play, and why it richly deserves this handsome revival, is how nimbly Friel portrays all the various elements clamoring for a hearing. Skinner, Lily and Michael were only looking for a place to take refuge, but suddenly the building they took shelter in is surrounded by the British Army.

    To the agents of the state they're not protestors, they're terrorists. To the citizens of Derry they're not unfortunates caught up in unexpected circumstances, they're brave IRA volunteers and patriots. To the news crews setting up outside they're a gripping story.

    To the Unionist government they're a political affront. You can see where this is going early on, and it's nowhere good. But as Friel paints a backdrop of menace he simultaneously gives his three protagonists blazing life.

    It's quite a trick that, one that only a master playwright like himself could pull off.

    Sikora, Seymour and Russell all rise to the challenge of the script with performances that are so nuanced that they quietly steal up on you as the play progresses.

  • British army could be 'fatally compromised' by cyber invasion ... Britain's armed forces don't have any proven back-up if the cyber strike downs vital data and marketing and sales communications systems, the government has been informed. A Commons defence pick committee document said that a new sustained cyber attack via enemies might leave your military "fatally compromised" and demanded that the government act. The coalition government has already pledged 650m to prevent as well as tackle internet attacks and has also called cyber defence as a "level one" strategic goal.

    However, the select committee statement says a lot more needs to be carried out and ideas need to be executed quickly. Contingency plans The record said: "The research we received leaves people concerned by purchasing the soldiers now therefore dependent on data and marketing and sales communications technology, must such systems suffer a sustained cyber-attack, their capability to operate could be fatally compromised. "It isn't enough for that armed forces to perform their best to stop an attack. Government entities should set out details of the particular contingency strategies it has available should this kind of attack occur.

    If it features none, it must say so and urgently produce some." The document demanded "greater ministerial attention," required offensive internet weapons to be built as well as said your drawing-up of cyber-security guidelines of engagement were within urgent need.

    Reacting to the record, shadow protection minister Sean Murphy added: "Coverage progress can be falling behind the speed of the menace our soldiers face.

    Weaknesses must be handled urgently and ministers must react in detail towards the demands in this report."

  • British Army to launch future bridging contract ... The United Kingdom is to launch a procurement competition in October to upgrade or replace the British Army s heavy bridging capability, IHS Jane s was told at Defence Vehicle Dynamics (DVD) 2014. The United Kingdom is expected to launch Project Tyro in October to either upgrade or replace part or all of the British Army s BR90 bridging systems. (Alvis Bridging Ltd/BAE Systems) The project, now renamed Tyro, is aimed at replacing ageing bridging vehicles and increasing weight limits to accommodate vehicles with enhanced armoured protection. According to Neal Lawson, head of combat mobility programmes at the Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) procurement organisation, the aim is to raise the maximum load offered by the current BAE Systems BR90 family of bridges.

    Ageing transport and launch vehicles also need to be replaced.

    Tim Ripley, Milbrook Proving Ground IHS Jane s Defence Weekly

  • British army to shed over 5,000 jobs Around 5,300 soldiers are to be made redundant in the latest round of cuts to the British armed forces, the government has announced. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said redundancy notices would be issued on June 18, as part of plans to reduce the size of the regular army from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2017. The third round of job losses, which forms part of the cuts announced in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, will be the largest set of cuts faced by the army so far as the MoD bids to plug a 38bn hole in the defence budget.

    The first tranche in September 2011 saw 2,860 forces made redundant while the second in June 2012 involved 3,760. Today the Army are announcing the fields from which they will select personnel to be made redundant in the third tranche of the programme; this will comprise up to 5,300 Army personnel, British Defence Minister Mark Francois said in a written statement on Tuesday. He also added that a further tranche of job losses among Royal Navy and Royal Air Force (RAF) medical and dental personnel, as well as additional army redundancies, is likely .

    Moreover, British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond defended the changes, insisting that redundancies were unavoidable as the Tory-led government tries to balance the MoD budget.

    However, Jim Murphy, Labour s shadow defence secretary, accused the coalition government of implementing carry on regardless strategy by announcing thousands of redundancies in the light of the Prime Minister David Cameron s warning of what he called a generational struggle against terrorism after the Algerian attack.

  • British Army's new Scout SV vehicle takes centre stage at DVD2014 ... One of the UK's biggest military vehicle events, Defence Vehicle Dynamics (DVD), kicked off yesterday in Bedfordshire. A big theme for the government-sponsored event is to show off some of the UK s best defence technology and equipment. In the spotlight at this year s DVD was the Scout SV vehicle, currently one of the British Army s most important defence programmes.

    Held every year at the famous Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, DVD is not like your ordinary defence exhibition. Here you can see armoured vehicles driving around and, if you ask nicely, go for a ride. There are no shiny display models; vehicles are caked in mud and diesel fumes fill the air.

    DVD is a jointly sponsored by the British Army and the MOD's Defence Equipment and Support organisation, so UK equipment and capabilities is very much a theme of the show. The minister for defence equipment, support and technology Philip Dunne says the event provides a glimpse of how the UK Armed Forces are preparing for Future Force 2020. From Challenger II tanks to Mastiff MRAPs, all the Army's fighting machines are here. "DVD highlights the innovative technology that industry has developed to enable the Armed Forces to deliver the capability required on operations," said Dunne. "World class technology that is made in Britain, and that I want to support British industry to export worldwide." Replacing the British Army's ageing fleet with Scout SV A big focus of Future Force 2020 is the Scout Specialist Vehicle (SV), which will replace a number of ageing vehicles in the British Army including the vintage Scimitar.

    In a first for the Scout SV programme, manufacturers General Dynamics showed off a pre-production prototype at DVD yesterday. Visitors flocked to see the new vehicle, including a quick drop in by Dunne himself, making the stand one of the busiest places to be. Brigadier Robert Talbot Rice heads a team of 300 experts, overseeing fleet projects worth 10bn in the next ten years.

    Officials from General Dynamics said it was "fantastic" to be able to showcase the Scout SV at DVD. "This is the first armoured fighting vehicle that the UK has had for nearly 20 years," said Eddie Allen, Business Development Director at General Dynamics. "There hasn't been anything like this for a long, long time and it is a very exciting vehicle because it has been designed in the aftermath of Iraq and Afghanistan so it is highly survivable...but also it is equipped with all of the technology that has emerged from the needs of those conflicts." The prototype on display yesterday was configured as a Protected Mobility Reconnaissance Support (PMRS) variant, which recently completed its Base Platform Critical Design Review (CDR). According to GD figures, the PMRS Scout will weigh 38 tons and be able to travel up to 70km/h with four soldiers and two crew members on board. It has a remote weapon station up top, the Scout at DVD was equipped with a .50 cal (HMG) but grenade machine guns and GPMG can also be fitted.

    Compared with the reconnaissance vehicles it is replacing - the Scimitar and Spartan - the Scout SV will be a sizeable vehicle. At 38 tons and 8.75m long, the Scout SV dwarfs the Scimitar which is only 5.28m long and a featherweight 8 tons. The display model at DVD was fitted with modular armour protection packs, which also give the vehicle a much wider presence.

    Despite its heft, GD says the vehicle is transportable by A400M, though an earlier requirement to be transportable by C-130 was dropped. According to Allen, the PMRS variant of the Scout SV will go through its formal test readiness review with the Ministry of Defence later this year and a three year trials programme will begin in 2015. Recent reports indicate that negotiations are underway to speed up the approval of the manufacturing phase of the programme to avoid the UK's upcoming general election in 2015 and subsequent defence review. "his is the first armoured fighting vehicle that the UK has had for nearly 20 years." Other manufacturers show off their kit - Oshkosh, Thales, Streit Despite the Scout SV unveiling hogging some of the DVD limelight, other manufacturers also had large stands with multiple vehicles performing live demonstrations.

    Out in the off-road area, a short journey away from the main exhibition space, a host of vehicles were parked up ready to take visitors around the dirt tracks at Millbrook. Streit Group, a specialist in civilian and military armoured vehicles, gave Army Technology a bumpy ride around in one of its 6x6 vehicles. Oshkosh displayed its M-ATV MRAP and, for the first time in Europe, demonstrated its L-ATV platform - which is currently competing for a lucrative contract to replace the US Army's Humvee vehicles.

    Not to be outdone, Lockheed Martin also displayed with Joint Light Tactical Vehicle prototype which it also hopes will win the Humvee replacement contract. Fresh from displaying at this year's Eurosatory, Thales brought along its Hawkei armoured vehicle which will eventually be fielded with the Australian Army. While lacking any big announcements, DVD still offered industry figures, government officials, and most importantly, the Armed Forces, the chance to get their hands on future technologies.

    It was also a chance to see how the UK military and industry are adapting equipment and technology to the challenges of withdrawing from Afghanistan and transitioning to contingency operations.

    Follow Grant Turnbull on Google+ 1 References ^ Follow Grant Turnbull on Google+ ( https)

  • British Army, police used waterboarding as a torture method in ... By IrishCentral Staff Writer Published Tuesday, October 9, 2012, 7:34 AM Updated Wednesday, October 10, 2012, 10:19 AM Recreation of the torture method of waterboarding - new documentary claims Northern Irish police used this technique. Photo by Amnesty International The British Army and the RUC used waterboarding as a torture method in Northern Ireland over 40 years ago. Sensational new claims about the method are made in a new BBC documentary.

    The programme features claims that waterboarding was used during the Troubles. Water boarding has become a central and highly controversial part of the West s war against al-Qaeda since the Twin Towers attack. Now the BBC radio programme Inside the Torture Chamber reveals that the technique was used 40 years ago by the British Army in Ulster.

    Allegations are also made that it was used by RUC detectives in Castlereagh police station in Belfast. The programme features a major contribution from Liam Holden who was 19 years old in 1972 when members of the British Army s Parachute Regiment took him to their base on the Black Mountain in Belfast. Holden was accused of killing a soldier.

    The British Army threatened to shoot him and then used water boarding as part of their interrogation. Holden reveals: They got the bucket of water and they just slowly but surely poured the bucket of water right round the facial area, over my nose and mouth. It was like pouring a kettle of water, like pouring your tea into a cup out of the kettle, that sort of speed, basically until I passed out or close to passed out.

    Holden confessed to the murder after several hours of interrogation. The BBC website reports that he gave his trial in Belfast Crown Court a detailed account of his interrogation. Neither the judge nor jury believed him and he became the last person in the United Kingdom to be sentenced to death.

    Holden spent four weeks in the condemned man s cell at Crumlin Road jail in Belfast before his sentence was commuted to life in prison. He was imprisoned for 17 years for a murder he did not commit before his conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal earlier this year. For the BBC programme, Holden agreed to go back to Crumlin Road jail to visit the condemned man s cell.

    He adds: You were walking out that door and you saw where people had been buried who had been hung in Crumlin Road jail and you were sort of next in line. The documentary also features evidence from Felim O Hamill who says he was subjected to a similar interrogation technique in an attempt to force him to confess to a murder. The Cork University lecturer was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being caught in England in 1994 in a car containing explosives and a gun.

    O Hamill was released early under the Good Friday Agreement.

    During his interrogation in 1978 at Castlereagh police station in Belfast, he was subjected to a form of water torture.

  • British combat photographers only drop camera if enemy fire 'hits ... Cpl. Jamie Peters RLC "Sunset Soldiers": Military specialists from 21 Engineer Regiment deconstruct a building at Patrol Base Nahidullah in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, at sunset. The base was completely stripped down and the land handed back to a farmer.

    By Baruch Ben-Chorin, Producer, NBC News British troops engaged in a Close Quarters Marksmanship training exercise. The short film, produced by Sgt. Lloyd, was the winner in the video category of the British army's annual photographic competition.

    LONDON No one is closer to life in the military than the troops themselves, so there are few who can capture their images as intimately. The British Army employs a small group of combat military photographers only 37 in the whole army to capture life on the front lines. The soldiers go through an eight-month-long intensive photojournalism training course before they're turned out into the field.

    Up till now, the British Army has largely kept their photographers' work to themselves. But this week winning entries in the British Army Photographic Competition went on display to the public. The photos show different aspects of army life, operations, portraits, training and of course, the ceremonial duties unique to the British military.

    Cpl. Jamie Peters, who once served in the British Army Royal Corps of Engineers, won the overall competition for a portfolio of images he shot during a six-month deployment in Afghanistan. His and his colleagues' images are on display at London's National Army Museum 1 . ''We do get a lot of freedom to interpret how best to show the stories ourselves," he said in an interview with NBCNews.com. "Personally I prefer to cover the life in the army For instance the 'Sunset Soldiers' were engineers who were there taking down the infrastructure that the guys had set up in that place and returning it to the land-owner. "Because I used to be a Royal Engineer, I know how hard these guys work during those operations working dawn-till-dusk, with full body armor and helmets, really, really tough manual labor so I sympathized with the guys who were up on top of that roof." Cpl.Jamie Peters RLC "Hot Under the Collar": A Military Working Dog (MWD) attached to the Welsh Guards takes a rest from the heat under an umbrella during an operation in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

    Cpl. Jamie Peters RLC "Celtic Warrior": Pvt. Ross Cunningham, from Delta Company The 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland (1SCOTS), cleans his personal weapon at Forward Operating Base Shawqat after a patrol to an Afghan National Army checkpoint.

    1SCOTS, affectionately known as "The Jocks," mentor and advise the Afghan National Army in conducting operations within Helmand Province. Peters, 34, is one of the elite group of British combat military photographers. "Because there are so few of us competitively we all try to outdo each other, and that keeps the standard very high," he said. "Every bomb is different" said Sgt. James Slade, describing how he deals with Improvised Explosive Devices.

    This short film, produced by Sgt. Lloyd, was the runner-up in the video category of the British army's annual photographic competition. Peters was embedded with a unit in Afghanistan's Helmand Province when he took the "Celtic Warrior" photograph of a Scottish soldier cleaning his rifle.

    The image won best overall image in the competition. "When we returned to base after patrol the guys just clean their rifles and get their equipment ready in case they need to go straight out in a hurry," he said. "That's the thing with being a photographer: When all the guys are back on their down time you still have a job to do; you are photographing that as well." When it comes to the dangers of combat, Peters and his colleagues have an advantage over civilian photographers. "Because we are military photographers we know what to do when we get shot at and we know what's going to happen next," he said. That doesn't mean Peters and his colleagues are there to get into a fight, however. "The only time that we would put the camera down and pick up the rifle is if there is enemy fire that comes close to you and hits close to you." See more images from the competition below. Cpl Wes Calder RLC "Powder Room": Pvt.

    Craig Leaman from 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (1 PWRR) clears part of a trench system during a dawn attack while on Exercise Askari Thunder 6 in Kenya. Sgt. Rupert Frere RLC "Carl": Cpl.

    Carl Hines Royal Artillery provides covering fire while members of the 4 Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) cross open ground on Operation QALB. QALB is a joint ISAF and ANSF operation to find enemy caches and disturb insurgent supply chains in Afghanistan. Tropper Chris Wade "Snap VCP": Two soldiers and an interpreter from the Queen's Royal Lancers (QRL) question a motorcyclist in northern Helmand Province, Afghanistan, while his young daughter looks on.

    Sgt. Adrian Harlen "Changing of Queen's Life Guard" (left): The Life Guards of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR) ride in Horse Guards Parade in London despite frosty winter weather that disrupted much of the capital."The Baroness" (right): Brig. Maj.

    Lt. Col. Simon Soskin stands between the pillars at St.

    Paul's Cathedral in London during the funeral of Baroness Margaret Thatcher. Sgt. Adrian Harlen "Goodbye Kiss": Capt.

    Charlie Fitzroy, Troop Leader of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, gets a farewell kiss from Thomas, a 22-year-old gelding who was retiring after 19 years of service.

    Thomas was famous for giving kisses to the men of the Life Guard Squadron in his stables at Hyde Park Barracks in London.

    References ^ National Army Museum (www.nam.ac.uk)

  • British Genre Fiction Focus: A Conversation About Community | Tor ... In advance of a most excellent extended weekend for sci-fi fans from far and from wide, it s time for another edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus, Tor.com s weekly column dedicated to news and new releases from the United Kingdom s thriving speculative fiction industry. We have some especially exciting stories to talk about today, including an impassioned diatribe regarding the reach of the community revolving around genre fiction; a weird dream about another London, similar yet set apart from our own; and the reveal of a new monthly magazine which looks to reintroduce us to the slow burn satisfaction of serial storytelling. But if you ask me there s no bigger news this week than the Sci-fi Weekender, which begins just a few short hours from now...

    and I ve got the rundown on the best of the festival. Meanwhile, the latest round of new releases features books by Ian Tregillis, James Lovegrove, C. Robert Cargill and Raymond E.

    Feist in addition to Luke Scull s fantastic, grimdark debut, the continuation of the recast Chung Kuo , and an expert enmeshing of dark fantasy and alternate history by way of Gideon s Angel . NEWS Celebrating the Sci-fi Weekender Is there anything more important to us genre fiction fans than community? Well...

    yes. I d say the stories we come together to talk about are at least equally essential. But besides these, nothing that I know of holds a candle to community.

    The feeling of like minds meeting is a precious and powerful prize, too rarely traded in this day and age. Which is to say: inasmuch as the internet has made it easier for us to keep that vital spark alive, it s also made it simpler for some to sit on the sidelines. In the year 2013, you don t have to attend festivals to befriend a few fellow fans.

    But you surely should, and you surely shall, not least because beer makes everything better! That I won t be able to make it to this year s Sci-fi Weekender (formerly the SFX Weekender) is a real regret, but from Friday through Sunday though the fun starts on Thursday for the early birds the community is set to come together again anyway. Thousands of genre fiction fans will be making the trip to the Hafan y M r Holiday Park near Pwllheli in North Wales, where the event s organisers have laid on a long weekend of tailor-made entertainment.

    All sorts of shenanigans are sure to follow. The Sci-fi Weekender is packed with activities for fans: big-name guests, interviews, Q&A sessions, movie screenings, comic workshops, videogaming, music, book readings and plenty more. It's all about bringing like-minded people together for a weekend structured around four pillar events: the entertaining Imaginarium cabaret, the sweeping Maskerade party (with awesome DJing from Craig Charles), and the fiendish Blastermind pub quiz.

    Sci-fi Weekender attendees will get the chance to fully immerse themselves in sci-fi culture. Fans can discover how comics are made, discuss burning issues with their favourite author, or be among the first to see exclusive screenings of films and TV shows. There are also many autograph opportunities.

    Above all, though, it's a chance to hang out with like-minded people and enjoy a few drinks in a safe environment with other fans. See? I told you it was all about the beer...

    But looking beyond the bar if we must there s plenty else to entertain the many merry revellers set to descend upon Pwllheli, not least the chance to meet and match wits with any number of estimable genre authors, including Peter V. Brett, Lavie Tidhar, James Smythe, Simon Morden, Graham McNeill, Gareth Powell, Jonathan Green, Ben Aaronovitch, Christopher Brookmyre, Paul Cornell and David Moody. Other personalities, such as Brian Blessed, Peter Davison and Glenn Fabry, will be in attendance as well, but there s no sense in transcribing the entire line-up when you can simply click through to the Sci-fi Weekender website for all the details you need.

    To everyone who s headed to North Wales for the Weekender: have a wonderful time, won t you? For poor souls such as yours truly, with a country or a continent between us and the fun, I hope you ll join me in raising a glass to all the lucky buggers who will be having the time of their lives in no time at all. Have a great one, guys!

    Welcome to the Aethernet Welcome, welcome, one and all. Would you kindly stay a while? But hang on a cotton-pickin minute...

    what s this new-fangled Aethernet all about, anyway? Well, I m going to let the pair behind this incredibly exciting new endeavour explain. Over to you, Tony and Barbara Ballantyne!

    Nowadays, fiction is instantly available. There are many short fiction magazines available for download, you can download a story collection in e-book form and be reading it in under a minute. Aethernet Magazine aims to satisfy a different need.

    Aethernet Magazine is aiming to reintroduce the pleasures of delayed gratification. Aethernet Magazine stands for the slow burn, the building excitement of waiting to see how a story plays out. We want to reintroduce the pleasure of the cliffhanger ending; the gradual reveal of lives building up to a bigger picture; the leisurely float down the river leading to some mysterious destination.

    Our stories are presented over time. Aethernet Magazine is here to help you rediscover the pleasure of anticipation.... I ve long been an advocate of serial storytelling in the old mould, and though there have been certain experiments over the years since its disappearance for instance, I fondly recall reading The Green Mile by Stephen King over the course of a creepy year none, I think, were as ambitious as this.

    To wit, each issue of Aethernet Magazine will feature a whole host of original stories. Take the first installment: in addition to beginning The Smallest of Things by Ian Whates, Murder of the Heart by Philip Palmer and The Ties that Bind by Juliet E. McKenna, Aethernet #1 will showcase the start of Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky, which is, according to the author, a completely new epic fantasy, humorous in places, deadly serious in others, that serves as something of a deconstruction of the traditional prophecy-journey-dark lord narrative.

    Meanwhile, Chris Beckett will be contributing the complete text of Gela s Ring . That s the sequel to Dark Eden one of the best and most memorable science fiction stories released in contemporary memory. Care of the creator, here s a bit of a blurb to whet your appetite: Some two centuries after the events in Dark Eden , Gela s Ring follows Starlight Brooking, a young woman from a small island community founded by Jeff Redlantern, as she encounters the new, powerful, and mutually hostile societies followers of John Redlantern and followers of David Redlantern that came into being after the break-up of the original human community in Circle Valley that had called itself simply Family.

    At the centre of events is the ring from Earth that was given by her parents to Angela Young Gela the woman from whom everyone in Eden is descended, the mother of them all. I simply can t wait for Aethernet #1 particularly for that final feature. ...but I m going to have to, aren t I? :) The first compilation of these stirring new serials will be on sale from March 30th, with subsequent issues to follow on the first of each month for a period of no less than a year. Mark your calendars accordingly.

    It s London, But Not as We Know It When everyone is changing, no one is who they seem to be. That s the logline for Dream London , at least: a neat-sounding new novel coming, coincidentally, from the co-founder of Aethernet Magazine , Blood and Iron author Tony Ballantyne. This reality-bending science-fiction novel takes a magical look at Britain s capital city, a city that we would recognise but one which changes every single day.

    The effect this has on the teeming metropolis, and those who live there, is not immediately apparent but Captain Jim Wedderburn is beginning to understand that he s not the man he thought he was... Featuring cover art and book-design by Joey Hi-FI (Zoo City, Mockingbird), it is the latest acquisition by Solaris, which capped a very successful 2012 with a World Fantasy Awards Best Novel win for Lavie Tidhar s Osama. Editor-in-chief Jonathan Oliver said: Tony's novel had me from the first page.

    His strange, but familiar, world of Dream London is brilliantly realised. Tony's great strength lies in his characterisation. His grotesques are never simply grotesque and his heroes aren't always heroic.

    This is a wonderful new slice of the Weird, and I'm delighted to be bringing it to the already fantastic line-up for Solaris in 2013. London, in case you weren t aware, is where we Brits keep most of our people... and authors are humans too!

    So it s no surprise, I suppose, that the United Kingdom s capital city has figured into genre fiction in a major way of late, especially considering the rise of urban fantasy in recent years. That said, I m increasingly concerned that the notion of another London, as powerful a premise as such was once, is in danger of imminent overexposure. Just off the top of my head, and only counting books that I myself have read, in the past few years we ve seen Rivers of London , The City s Son , Kraken , The Rook , and London Falling .

    Awesome novels all, and distinct from one another to a certain extent, yet in my mind and feel free to disagree; maybe it is just me I m afraid they ve begun to melt together. So can Dream London separate itself from the sticky stuff of the city? For the moment, we can only hope.

    We ll see for ourselves when Solaris unleashes Tony Ballantyne's new book this October. Armed and Dangerous, or Defenceless and Ineffective I considered featuring this final item in last week s edition of the British Genre Fiction Focus, before resolving to sit on it for a time, the better to see if the story had legs. It did.

    Indeed, it does. It began with an ardent argument entitled Praise the Lord and Pass the Genre Ammunition," posted on the Gollancz blog by Deputy Publishing Director Simon Spanton: I look at the ceaseless back and forth of opinion, declaration, review, argument, excitement and comment that SF, Fantasy and Horror are engaged in on the internet, in print and in conversation (the latter generally in the pub, it must be said) and it is clear that we are having a very informed, passionate and ongoing conversation with... ourselves.

    Make no mistake, this is wonderful. I can t think of another area of literary endeavour that is both supported and critiqued quite as strongly as SF, Fantasy and Horror. We ve been talking like this since the first fan magazines, the first conventions.

    The internet has taken the conversation to a whole other level. It s fantastic and it s a model (like all the best models this one grew by accident and was honed by use) that other parts of the industry are now looking to repeat with their own newsletters, twitter feeds and reading groups; trying to create and then trying to reach out to an informed and dedicated following for all sorts of literary (and not so literary) genres. This level of conversation within SF, Fantasy and Horror s support networks means that we have a core readership that are uniquely engaged in what we do.

    But... There s that worry again; we re really just talking to ourselves, aren t we? Or are we?

    Spanton certainly seems to think so. He goes on to illustrate the insular nature of the community we celebrated on at the top of this column, railing against the relevance of our awards vis- -vis the additional sales they fail to generate, before wondering, ultimately, whether we have any hope of being heard ever by a larger audience than that which already exists. But do we really want to be mainstreamed in this manner?

    Is not an element of genre fiction s appeal its otherness? Consider the collective outrage over Twilight s immense success, or the backlash against Harry Potter and The Hunger Games . Mull over, for a moment, the way so many seem to despise paranormal romance simply for succeeding where other genres have failed.

    Whether or not these beliefs are truly representative of the community s as a whole, it s safe to say they re expressed often enough as to seem so. Thus, I wonder whether we honestly want the widespread recognition Gollancz s Deputy Publishing Director clearly desires dearly. In the comments, in any case, points and counterpoints have been raised and rebutted by genre fiction luminaries such as Christopher Priest, Lauren Beukes, Ian Sales, Simon Morden and Justina Robson, the lattermost of whom posits the following: We often moan about how poorly our pets are treated outside the fold.

    Yes, they are sometimes snatched just because they look good or do neat tricks and aren t treated with the full respect they deserve. However, what that tells you is that they are hugely desirable things and more than welcome on the appreciation banquet laid out for mass audiences. The most commonly observed reaction to SFF in its natural state is that for a mass audience it is simply too much like learning a new skill the piano, the bicycle it s too immediately unfriendly.

    The manner in which it likes to plunge headlong towards the innovative, odd, weird and unthinkable is way too fast for mainstream consumption. You can groom yourself happy with your superiority in noting what an elitist dude you are for loving it, and you can disdain those who don t get the attraction but that s no help. So you love a niche market.

    Big deal. Nobody will ever stop you loving, appreciating and glorying in the hard stuff. Go right ahead.

    It s all yours. You love it and I love it. And I love that we talk about it the way we do, too!

    Whatever the limitations of our beloved genre, it certainly fosters a fascinating dialogue. And of course the conversation whoever it s with continues... though the news section of the BGFF cannot.

    What say we look to the week in new releases instead? NEW RELEASES The Age of Voodoo (Pantheon #5) , by James Lovegrove (February 28, Solaris) Lex Dove thought he was done with the killing game. A retired British wetwork specialist, he s living the quiet life in the Caribbean, minding his own business.

    Then a call comes. One last mission: to lead an American black ops team into a disused Cold War bunker on a remote island. The money s good, which means the risks are high.

    How high, Dove doesn t discover until he and his team are a hundred feet below ground, facing the fruits of an experiment in science and voodoo witchcraft gone wrong. As if barely human monsters weren t bad enough, a clock is ticking. Deep in the bowels of the earth, a god is waiting.

    And his anger, if roused, will be fearsome indeed. The Coldest War (Milkweed Tryptych #2) , by Ian Tregillis (February 28, Orbit) A precarious balance of power maintains the peace between Britain and the USSR. For decades, Britain s Warlocks have been all that protects their nation from invasion.

    Now each wizard s death is another blow to national security. Meanwhile, a brother and sister escape from a top secret facility deep behind the Iron Curtain. They are the subjects of a twisted Nazi experiment to imbue ordinary people with superhuman abilities.

    And they are headed for England... Dreams and Shadows , by C. Robert Cargill (February 28, Gollancz) There is another world than our own, as close and intimate as a kiss, as terrifying and haunting as nightmares, a realm where fairies and djinns, changelings and angels, all the stuff of which dreams are made is real...

    and where magic awaits in the shadows, just a hidden step away. Between this realm and that other lies a veil, a gossamer web that muddles the vision of mortal man and keeps him from seeing what is all around him. Sometimes, someone pierces that protective veil.

    But one glimpse of this world can forever transform lives. Just ask Ewan and Colby... Once upon the time, the pair were once bold explorers and youthful denizens of this magical realm, until they left that world behind them.

    Now, Ewan is a musician living in Austin, and has just met the girl he wants to marry. Colby is still coping with the consequences of an innocent childhood wish that haunts him all these years later. While their time in the Limestone Kingdom is little more than a distant memory, this supernatural world has never forgotten them.

    And in a world where angels relax on rooftops, whiskey-swilling genies and foul-mouthed wizards argue metaphysics, and monsters in the dark feed on fear, both will learn that fate can never be outrun. Gideon s Angel , by Clifford Beal (February 28, Solaris) 1653. The long and bloody English Civil War is at an end.

    King Charles is dead and Oliver Cromwell rules the land as king in all but name. Richard Treadwell, an exiled royalist officer and soldier-for-hire to the King of France and his all-powerful advisor, the wily Cardinal Mazarin, burns with revenge for those who deprived him of his family and fortune. He decides upon a self-appointed mission to return to England in secret and assassinate the new Lord Protector.

    Once back on English soil however, he learns that his is not the only plot in motion. A secret army run by a deluded Puritan is bent on the same quest, guided by the Devil s hand. When demonic entities are summoned, Treadwell finds himself in a desperate turnaround: he must save Cromwell to save England from a literal descent into Hell.

    But first he has to contend with a wife he left in Devon who believes she s a widow, and a furious Paris mistress who has trailed him to England, jeopardising everything. Treadwell needs allies fast. Can he convince the man sent to forcibly drag him back to Cardinal Mazarin?

    A young king s musketeer named d Artagnan. Black dogs and demons; religion and magic; Freemasons and Ranters. It s a dangerous new Republic for an old cavalier coming home again.

    Jimmy and the Crawler (Riftwar Legacy #4) , by Raymond E. Feist (February 28, Harper Voyager) The Crawler: a name whispered in fear... In the crime-ridden back alleys of Krondor, a rival gang has sprung up to threaten the Upright Man s Mockers.

    Does the Crawler control the rival gang? Where does his power come from? And does it threaten the peace of the Kingdom?

    James, personal squire to Prince Arutha of Krondor, but in the underworld known as the thief and trickster Jimmy the Hand, must travel to Kesh in disguise. There, working with William, lieutenant of the prince s household guard and son of the magician Pug, and Jazhara, niece to the Keshian lord Hazara-Khan, he must attempt to unmask the mysterious Crawler and rid Krondor of his influence. The Art of War (Chung Kuo Recast #5) , by David Wingrove (March 1, Corvus) Peace has returned.

    The 'War That Wasn't a War' has ended. The Dispersionists have been broken and peace has returned to Chung Kuo, but DeVore's mission to destroy it is far from over. Employing the Ping Tiao, the 'Levellers', and officers within the Security Service still loyal to him, DeVore sends autonomous copies of himself from Mars to destroy the Seven by any means necessary.

    The fight endures The Seven lost their three most experienced T'ang in the War and have been left extremely vulnerable. Wang Sau-leyan, the new T'ang of City Africa, uses this weakness to attack them from within, but without the continued loyalty of men like Tolonen, Karr and Kao Chen they will all topple. Welcome to the future.

    The Grim Company (Grim Company #1) , by Luke Scull (March 1, Head of Zeus) The Gods are dead. The Magelord Salazar and his magically enhanced troops, the Augmentors, crush any dissent they find in the minds of the populace. On the other side of the Broken Sea, the White Lady plots the liberation of Dorminia, with her spymistresses, the Pale Women.

    Demons and abominations plague the Highlands. The world is desperately in need of heroes. But what they get instead are a ragtag band of old warriors, a crippled Halfmage, two children and a queerly capable manservant: the Grim Company.

    White Bones , by Graham Masterton (March 1, Head of Zeus) On an isolated farm in southern Ireland, a decades-old grave houses the bones of eleven women. Detective Katie Maguire of the Irish Gardai is used to bloodshed, but these white bones speak of unimaginable butchery. Not far away, a young female American tourist is at the mercy of a sadistic killer.

    His tools are a boning knife, twine, and a doll fashioned from rags and nails. The murder of his victims is secondary only to his pleasure at their pain. While Katie s marriage collapses around her, she must first solve an ancient celtic mystery if she is to catch the killer before he strikes again.

    POSTSCRIPT That s the week in new releases! I ve already read Gideon s Angel and The Grim Company for review right here on Tor.com, so this week, unless I get distracted by some future fantastic, I ll be burying my nose in Dreams and Shadows and catching up on the Chung Kuo . What looks good to you?

    And there s so much else we could consider in the comments, including convention legends, London in literature, the moreish notion of serial storytelling and the many questions about community raised by Simon Spanton s provocative piece. So... shall we?

    Niall Alexander is an erstwhile English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com, where he contributes a weekly column concerned with news and new releases in the UK called the British Genre Fiction Focus, and co-curates the Short Fiction Spotlight.

    On rare occasion he s been seen to tweet about books, too.

  • British hostages: the full list | The Times CONFIRMED DEAD: Garry Barlow , 49, from Liverpool.He was a married father-of-two and a devoted family man. An Everton fan, he was a system supervisor for BP. Garry was a loving, devoted family man, he loved life and lived it to the full.

    He was very much loved by myself, his sons, mother and sister and the rest of his family and friends and will be greatly missed, a statement by his family said.

    He was very proud of his family, as they were of him.

    We are totally devastated by the news of his death and would ask that

  • British Magazine Crowns Michelle Obama Queen | TheBlaze.com Image source: twitter.com/GreyLondon All hail Queen Michelle according to Britain s Sunday Times.

    The Sunday Times Style Magazine has ranked the first lady at the top of its best-dressed people in the world list, and created a mock first-class postage stamp a space traditionally reserved for the Queen of England to promote the issue.

    Image source: BuzzFeed

  • British troops to leave Germany a year early - The Local Published: 6 Mar 13 07:32 CET | Print version Online: http://www.thelocal.de/national/20130306-48349.html British troops will leave Germany a year earlier than planned to end a legacy of World War II by 2019, UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced late on Tuesday. Unveiling a 1.8 billion ( ' 2.1 billion) plan, Hammond said around 4,000 troops had already returned and another 11,000 would move back by 2016. The remaining 4,500 would be back in Britain by 2019.

    The government had previously said that all British troops in Germany and their families would be home by 2020. Most are stationed in the states of Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia. The speeded-up return of the troops will lead to a shake-up of UK army bases to accommodate them when they return.

    Four will close and parts of three others will shut to allow resources to be concentrated on bases where the returning forces will be stationed. They will be based at seven sites, including Salisbury Plain in southwest England, Edinburgh and Leuchars in Scotland, Catterick in northern England and Colchester in southeast England. There has been a British army presence in Germany for 70 years, but the end of the Cold War necessitated a change in thinking.

    Hammond told parliament: "The return of the British Army from Germany marks the end of an era and I want to put on record the huge debt of gratitude we owe to the German government and the German people for the support, both moral and material, they have shown our Armed Forces over more than six decades." The plan will see around 1 billion of the funding go towards 1,900 new houses for service families and accommodation for 7,800 single soldiers.

    Another 800 million will be spent on infrastructure and refurbishment of bases.

    AFP/The Local/mry

  • Broken Wing [DVD] [1967]
  • C

  • Caine Mutiny [DVD] [1954] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] @ armyrats.com
  • Captain America And The Saga of The Winter Soldier Captain America is square. He s always been square, and he always will be square. It s built into the DNA of the character.

    When Joe Simon and Jack Kirby launched the adventures of the Sentinel Of Liberty back in 1941, he was pure propaganda a star spangled hero punching out the Axis Powers. Maybe that s why, after the war ended, the character simply disappeared. Old soldiers never die, General Douglas MacArthur famously told a joint session of congress, they just fade away.

    It s probably for the best that Cap faded away before the onset of the jingoistic, paranoid fifties. (A brief, failed attempt to reintroduce the character in 1953 as Captain America Commie Smasher! gives us a glimpse of what we avoided.) When he made his reappearance in the Silver Age, he became the thawed out super soldier that we all know and love today: still square, sure, but more of a roided up crime fighter than a political cartoon. Even more than most comic book creations, however, Captain America has retained an intrinsic symbolic function. (All but unavoidable when half your name is America .) Over the years, various writers Roger Stern, J.M.

    DeMatteis and Mark Gruenwald have tapped his symbolic quality and used the character as a springboard to deal with various social problems (racism, extremism, homophobia), shaping him into one of Marvel s most fascinating creations. Some of the more interesting work on the character was done by Ed Brubaker in 2005 when he penned the now-classic Winter Soldier storyline. It did not come as a surprise to many fans of Captain America that Marvel Studios once it had established the character in 2011 s Captain America: The First Avenger , and deployed him in 2012 s The Avengers would turn to Brubaker s sprawling political mystery as the basis for the next film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier , which hits theaters April 4 th .

    Brubaker s The Winter Solider finds Steve Rogers in a bad mood. Foiling a terrorist attack on a train, Rogers is uncommonly brutal snapping arms and grinding out threats through clinched teeth in a manner more reminiscent of Batman than Captain America. Asked about it by a concerned Agent 13, Rogers admits to feeling weighed down, haunted by bad memories: You know what I see when I dream, Sharon?

    I see the war. My war. After all this time, I still dream about foxholes in the black forest Still hear the screams of terrified soldiers.

    Smell their blood and tears I still dream about Bucky. Him and all the others I couldn t save Bucky is, of course, Bucky Barnes, the childhood friend of Steve Rogers who would become Captain America s sidekick during the war. What Rogers doesn t know at the beginning of the Winter Solider saga is that Bucky long thought dead was captured by the Soviets and transformed into a shadowy super assassin.

    Unfolding over thirteen chapters ( Captain America #1-9 and #11-14, with art by Steve Epting, Mike Perkins, Michael Lark, and John Paul Leon) the storyline spans the globe and several decades of the 20 th century to culminate in a epic showdown between the old partners. The best storylines in superhero comics almost always manage the neat trick of delivering expected pleasures with unexpected pleasures. On the expected pleasures front, we want to see our favorite characters being themselves.

    You want Spider-Man to be his smart-ass self, you want Batman to be brooding and intense. In this respect, comic book heroes are no different from other long-form narrative protagonists (Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter). You buy a Captain America comic because Steve Rogers is a known entity and you like him.

    You know he s a man defined by a largeness of spirit and a basic goodness. Of course, you also know that he has super-strength and can do some precision discus throwing with his vibranium shield. But the real key to a standout storyline concerns those unexpected pleasures.

    Anyone can write a story about Captain America thumping heads and bouncing his shield off walls, but a truly gifted writer finds a previously unexplored dimension of the character and seeks to do something new with it. What Brubaker finds in Steve Rogers is his sense of loneliness, the man out of time quality that has long been with the character but has rarely been exploited for emotional darkness. Brubaker takes a man of innate decency and puts him into the middle of a complicated (and, at points, convoluted) political landscape.

    The Winter Soldier is as much about crooked backroom political deals and shadow government operations as it is about explosions and fistfights. And this is a world where Steve Rogers doesn t belong. Brubaker doesn t give us a hero who easily overcomes this conundrum, he gives us a hero who struggles to find his footing, who reacts with rage and anguish at finding out that he s being lied to on all fronts.

    When Steve finally comes face to face with Bucky, the pathos of the moment is that the Winter Soldier is really the only one who could hope to understand him. We ll have to wait and see what screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo do with their adaptation of this story. While no film could encompass the full breadth of Brubaker s twisting tale, the filmmakers have publicly stated that they intend to stay relatively faithful to the books.

    Early buzz on the movie has been excellent with Marvel Studios quickly signing the Russo brothers to helm the third Captain America feature. One thing is for sure: The Winter Soldier provides rich opportunities for the good captain. Jake Hinkson is the author of the books Hell On Church Street, The Posthumous Man , and Saint Homicide .

    Read more about him at JakeHinkson.com 1 .

    He also blogs at The Night Editor 2 .

    References ^ JakeHinkson.com (www.tor.com) ^ The Night Editor (thenighteditor.blogspot.com)

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier Courtesy of Marvel Studios Captain America: The Winter Soldier is everything a comic-book superhero movie could hope to be: smart, original, exciting and funny. It is vastly superior to the first movie featuring the title character and not just because it draws on one of the most admired stories in the Marvel Comics canon. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have used Ed Brubaker s concept as a springboard for bold new ideas and infused their work with a bracing sense of humor, along with a serious strain of social relevance.

    In the hands of directors Anthony and Joe Russo best known for their work on the TV comedy Community the movie feels fresh and vibrant. As icing on the cake, The Winter Soldier provides a great part for Robert Redford, who knocks it out of the park. There s never a sense of business-as-usual here, making it one of the best sequels of all time.

    One of the writers most impressive feats is dealing with Captain America s adjustment from the 1940s to the present day, which they do with extraordinary economy (and comedic savvy) in the opening scene of the picture and barely have to refer to again. At its heart, The Winter Soldier is a political thriller in which our hero is forced to question his loyalties for the first time. What s more, the movie puts us in the same position, following the admonition of Nick Fury (Samuel L.

    Jackson) to trust no one. This throws us all off balance, but the canny filmmakers execute their story twists with skill and panache. I m deliberately being vague about the details because, having read nothing ahead of time, it all came as a surprise to me, and I loved it.

    Courtesy of Marvel Studios The action scenes are equally original and exciting, from a deadly car chase to a furious fight scene set in a glass elevator. Whether it s hand-to-hand combat or spectacular visual-effects-driven showdowns, once again the movie goes above and beyond the expected and never loses sight of the emotional stakes in every scene. Nothing ever seems arbitrary: every bit of action is tied to the story and the fate of its leading characters.

    The cast is uniformly fine, with Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Cobie Smulders, and Frank Grillo delivering the goods, scene by scene. But there s particular pleasure in watching the onetime Sundance Kid tackle the most unusual role of his long and storied screen career.

    I can t say more without spilling surprises, which I refuse to do.

    This is blockbuster entertainment at its best.

    If you re wise, you won t read about it ahead of time and let it work its magic; you won t be disappointed.

  • Chaplain helped instruct troops on proper handling of Islamic ...Coordinates 18.562825 N73.840812 N Native name Jomh r -ye Esl m -ye Af nest n (Persian) Da Af nist n Isl m Jomhoriyat (Pashto) Conventional long name Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Common name Afghanistan Image coat Coat of arms of Afghanistan.svg Symbol type Emblem National anthem Afghan National Anthem Official languages PashtoDari (Persian) Demonym Afghan Capital Kabul Largest city Kabul Government type Islamic republic Leader title1 President Leader title2 Vice President Leader name1 Hamid Karzai Leader name2 Mohammed Fahim Leader title3 Vice President Leader name3 Karim Khalili Leader title4 Chief Justice Leader name4 Abdul Salam Azimi Legislature National Assembly Upper house House of Elders Lower house House of the People Area rank 41st Area magnitude 1_E11 Area km2 647500 Area sq mi 251772 Percent water negligible Population estimate 30,419,928 Population estimate year 2012 Population estimate rank 40 Population census 15.5 million Population census year 1979 Population density km2 43.5 Population density sq mi 111.8 Population density rank 150th Gdp ppp year 2011 Gdp ppp $29.731 billion Gdp ppp per capita $1,000 Gdp nominal year 2011 Gdp nominal $18.181 billion Gdp nominal per capita $585 Hdi year 2011 Hdi 0.398 Hdi rank 172nd Hdi category low Gini 29 Gini year 2008 Gini category low Fsi 102.3 2.5 Fsi year 2007 Fsi rank 8th Fsi category Alert Sovereignty type Establishment Established event1 First Afghan state Established date1 October 1747 Established event2 Independence (from the United Kingdom) Established date2 August 19, 1919 Currency Afghani Currency code AFN Country code AFG Time zone D Utc offset +4:30 Drives on right Cctld .af Calling code +93 Footnote1 }} Afghanistan (; ; ), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan , is a landlocked country forming part of South Asia, Central Asia, and to some extent Western Asia. With a population of around 30 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and the east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast.

    Afghanistan has been an ancient focal point of the Silk Road and human migration. Archaeologists have found evidence of human habitation from as far back as the Middle Paleolithic. Urban civilization may have begun in the area as early as 3,000 to 2,000 BCE.

    Sitting at an important geostrategic location that connects the Middle East culture with Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, the land has been home to various peoples through the ages and witnessed many military campaigns, notably by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and in modern era Western forces. The land also served as a source from which the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khiljis, Timurids, Mughals, Durranis, and others have risen to form major empires. The political history of the modern state of Afghanistan begins in 1709, when the Hotaki dynasty was established in Kandahar followed by Ahmad Shah Durrani's rise to power in 1747.

    In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the "Great Game" between the British and Russian empires. Following the 1919 Anglo-Afghan War, King Amanullah began a European style modernization of the country but was stopped by the ultra-conservatives. During the Cold War, after the withdrawal of the British from neighboring India in 1947, the United States and the Soviet Union began spreading influences in Afghanistan, which led to a bloody war between the US-backed mujahideen forces and the Soviet-backed Afghan government in which over a million Afghans lost their lives.

    This was followed by the 1990s civil war, the rise and fall of the extremist Taliban government and the 2001 present war. In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council authorized the creation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help maintain security in Afghanistan and assist the Karzai administration. Three decades of war made Afghanistan the world's most dangerous country, including the largest producer of refugees and asylum seekers.

    While the international community is rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan, terrorist groups such as the Haqqani Network and Hezbi Islami are actively involved in a nationwide Taliban-led insurgency, which includes hundreds of assassinations and suicide attacks. According to the United Nations, the insurgents were responsible for 80% of civilian casualties in 2011 and 2012. Etymology The name Afgh nist n (, ) means "Land of the Afghans" , which originates from the ethnonym "Afghan" .

    Historically, the name "Afghan" mainly designated the Pashtun people, the largest ethnic group of Afghanistan. This name is mentioned in the form of Abgan in the 3rd century CE by the Sassanians and as Avagana ( Afghana ) in the 6th century CE by Indian astronomer Varahamihira. A people called the Afghans are mentioned several times in a 10th century geography book, Hudud al-'alam, particularly where a reference is made to a village: "Saul, a pleasant village on a mountain.

    In it live Afghans ."Al-Biruni referred to them in the 11th century as various tribes living on the western frontier mountains of the Indus River, which would be the Sulaiman Mountains. Ibn Battuta, a famous Moroccan scholar visiting the region in 1333, writes: One prominent 16th-century Persian scholar explains extensively about the Afghans. For example, he writes: It is widely accepted that the terms "Pashtun" and Afghan are synonyms.

    In the writings of the 17th-century Pashto poet Khushal Khan Khattak it is mentioned: The last part of the name, -st n is a Persian suffix for "place". The name "Afghanistan" is described by the 16th century Mughal Emperor Babur in his memoirs as well as by the later Persian scholar Firishta and Babur's descendants, referring to the traditional ethnic Pashtun territories between the Hindu Kush mountains and the Indus River. In the early 19th century, Afghan politicians decided to adopt the name Afghanistan for the entire Afghan Empire after its English translation had already appeared in various treaties with Qajarid Persia and British India.

    In 1857, in his review of J.W. Kaye's The Afghan War , Friedrich Engels describes "Afghanistan" as: The Afghan kingdom was sometimes referred to as the Kingdom of Kabul , as mentioned by the British statesman and historian Mountstuart Elphinstone. Afghanistan was officially recognized as a sovereign state by the international community after the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1919 was signed.

    Geography A landlocked mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest, Afghanistan is described as being located within South Asia or Central Asia. It is part of the Greater Middle East Muslim world, which lies between latitudes and , and longitudes and . The country's highest point is Noshaq, at above sea level. , and hot summers in the low-lying areas of the Sistan Basin of the southwest, the Jalalabad basin in the east, and the Turkestan plains along the Amu River in the north, where temperatures average over in July.|date=October 2011}} Despite having numerous rivers and reservoirs, large parts of the country are dry.

    The endorheic Sistan Basin is one of the driest regions in the world. Aside from the usual rain falls, Afghanistan receives snow during winter in the Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains, and the melting snow in the spring season enters the rivers, lakes, and streams. However, two-thirds of the country's water flows into neighboring countries of Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan.

    The state needs more than to rehabilitate its irrigation systems so that the water is properly managed. The northeastern Hindu Kush mountain range, in and around the Badakhshan Province of Afghanistan, is in a geologically active area where earthquakes may occur almost every year. They can be deadly and destructive sometimes, causing landslides in some parts or avalanche during winter.

    The last strong earthquakes were in 1998, which killed about 6,000 people in Badakhshan near Tajikistan. This was followed by the 2002 Hindu Kush earthquakes in which over 150 people of various regional countries were killed and over 1,000 injured. The 2010 earthquake left 11 Afghans dead, over 70 injured and more than 2,000 houses destroyed.

    The country's natural resources include: coal, copper, iron ore, lithium, uranium, rare earth elements, chromite, gold, zinc, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, marble, precious and semi-precious stones, natural gas, and petroleum among other things. In 2010, US and Afghan government officials estimated that untapped mineral deposits located in 2007 by the US Geological Survey are worth between and . At , Afghanistan is the world's 41st largest country, slightly bigger than France and smaller than Burma, about the size of Texas in the United States.

    It borders Pakistan in the south and east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far east. History Excavations of prehistoric sites by Louis Dupree and others suggest that humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago, and that farming communities in the area were among the earliest in the world. An important site of early historical activities, many believe that Afghanistan compares to Egypt in terms of the historical value of its archaeological sites.

    The country sits at a unique nexus point where numerous civilizations have interacted and often fought. It has been home to various peoples through the ages, among them the ancient Iranian peoples who established the dominant role of Indo-Iranian languages in the region. At multiple points, the land has been incorporated within large regional empires, among them the Achaemenid Empire, the Macedonian Empire, the Indian Maurya Empire, the Islamic Empire and the Sassanid Empire.

    Many kingdoms have also risen to power in what is now Afghanistan, such as the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Kabul Shahis, Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Kartids, Timurids, Mughals, and finally the Hotaki and Durrani dynasties that marked the political origins of the modern state. Pre-Islamic period Archaeological exploration done in the 20th century suggests that the geographical area of Afghanistan has been closely connected by culture and trade with its neighbors to the east, west and north. Artifacts typical of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages have been found in Afghanistan.

    Urban civilization is believed to have begun as early as 3000 BCE, and the early city of Mundigak (near Kandahar in the south of the country) may have been a colony of the nearby Indus Valley Civilization.After 2000 BCE, successive waves of semi-nomadic people from Central Asia began moving south into Afghanistan, among them were many Indo-European-speaking Indo-Iranians. These tribes later migrated further south to India, west to what is now Iran, and towards Europe via the area north of the Caspian. The region as a whole was called Ariana.

    The ancient religion of Zoroastrianism is believed by some to have originated in what is now Afghanistan between 1800 and 800 BCE, as its founder Zoroaster is thought to have lived and died in Balkh. Ancient Eastern Iranian languages may have been spoken in the region around the time of the rise of Zoroastrianism. By the middle of the 6th century BCE, the Achaemenid Persians overthrew the Medes and incorporated Afghanistan (Arachosia, Aria and Bactria) within its boundaries.

    An inscription on the tombstone of King Darius I of Persia mentions the Kabul Valley in a list of the 29 countries that he had conquered. Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army arrived to the area of Afghanistan in 330 BCE after defeating Darius III of Persia a year earlier in the Battle of Gaugamela. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empire controlled the area until 305 BCE when they gave much of it to the Indian Maurya Empire as part of an alliance treaty.|Strabo|64 BC 24 AD}} The Mauryans brought Buddhism from India and controlled the area south of the Hindu Kush until about 185 BCE when they were overthrown.

    Their decline began 60 years after Ashoka's rule ended, leading to the Hellenistic reconquest of the region by the Greco-Bactrians. Much of it soon broke away from the Greco-Bactrians and became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Indo-Greeks were defeated and expelled by the Indo-Scythians in the late 2nd century BCE.

    During the 1st century BCE, the Parthian Empire subjugated the region, but lost it to their Indo-Parthian vassals. In the mid to late 1st century CE the vast Kushan Empire, centered in modern Afghanistan, became great patrons of Buddhist culture. The Kushans were defeated by the Sassanids in the 3rd century CE.

    Although various rulers calling themselves Kushanshas (generally known as the Indo-Sassanids) continued to rule at least parts of the region, they were probably more or less subject to the Sassanids. The late Kushans were followed by the Kidarite Huns who, in turn, were replaced by the short-lived but powerful Hephthalites, as rulers. The Hephthalites were defeated by Khosrau I in CE 557, who re-established Sassanid power in Persia.

    However, in the 6th century CE, the successors to the Kushans and Hepthalites established a small dynasty in Kabulistan called Kabul Shahi. Islamization and Mongol invasion Between the 4th and 19th centuries the northwestern area of modern Afghanistan was referred to by the regional name as Khorasan. Two of the four capitals of Khorasan (Herat and Balkh) are now located in Afghanistan, while the regions of Kandahar, Zabulistan, Ghazni, Kabulistan and Afghanistan formed the frontier between Khorasan and Hindustan.Arab Muslims brought the message of Islam to Herat and Zaranj in 642 AD and began spreading eastward, some of the native inhabitants they encountered accepted it while others revolted.

    The people of Afghanistan was multi-religious, which included Zoroastrians, Buddhists, worshippers of the sun, Hindus, Christians, Jews, and others. The Zunbil and Kabul Shahi were defeated in 870 AD by the Saffarid Muslims of Zaranj. Later, the Samanids extended their Islamic influence into south of the Hindu Kush.

    It is reported that Muslims and non-Muslims still lived side by side in Kabul before the Ghaznavids rose to power.|Istahkr |921 AD}} Afghanistan became one of the main centers in the Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age. By the 11th century Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni had finally Islamized all of the remaining non-Muslim areas, with the exception of the Kafiristan region. The Ghaznavids were replaced by the Ghurids who expanded and advanced the already powerful empire.

    In 1219 AD, Genghis Khan and his Mongol army overran the region. His troops are said to have annihilated the Khorasanian cities of Herat and Balkh as well as Bamyan. The destruction caused by the Mongols depopulated major cities and forced many of the locals to revert to an agrarian rural society.

    Mongol rule continued with the Ilkhanate in the northwest while the Khilji dynasty controlled the Afghan tribal areas south of the Hindu Kush, until the invasion of Timur who established the Timurid dynasty in 1370. During the Ghaznavid, Ghurid, and Timurid eras, Afghanistan produced many fine Islamic architectural monuments as well as numerous scientific and literary works. Babur, a descendant of both Timur and Genghis Khan, arrived from Fergana and captured Kabul from the Arghun dynasty, and from there he began to seize control of the central and eastern territories of Afghanistan.

    He remained in Kabulistan until 1526 when he and his army invaded Delhi in India to replace the Afghan Lodi dynasty with the Mughal Empire. From the 16th century to the early 18th century, Afghanistan was part of three regional kingdoms: the Khanate of Bukhara in the north, the Shi'a Safavids in the west and the remaining larger area was ruled by the Mughal Empire. Hotaki dynasty and Durrani Empire Mir Wais Hotak, seen as Afghanistan's George Washington, successfully rebelled against the Persian Safavids in 1709.

    He overthrew and killed Gurgin Khan, and made the Afghan region independent from Persia. By 1713, Mir Wais had decisively defeated two larger Persian armies, one was led by Khusraw Kh n (nephew of Gurgin) and the other by Rustam Kh n. The armies were sent by Sultan Husayn, the Shah in Isfahan (now Iran), to re-take control of the Kandahar region.

    Mir Wais died of a natural cause in 1715 and was succeeded by his brother Abdul Aziz, who was killed by Mir Wais' son Mahmud as a national traitor. In 1722, Mahmud led an Afghan army to the Persian capital of Isfahan, sacked the city after the Battle of Gulnabad and proclaimed himself King of Persia. The Persians were disloyal to the Afghan rulers, and after the massacre of thousands of religious scholars, nobles, and members of the Safavid family, the Hotaki dynasty was ousted from Persia after the 1729 Battle of Damghan.In 1738, Nader Shah and his Afsharid forces captured Kandahar from Shah Hussain Hotaki, at which point the incarcerated 16 year old Ahmad Shah Durrani was freed and made the commander of Nader Shah's four thousand Abdali Afghans.

    From Kandahar they set out to conquer India, passing through Ghazni, Kabul, Peshawar, and Lahore, and ultimately plundering Delhi after the Battle of Karnal. Nader Shah and his army abandoned Delhi but took with them huge treasure, which included the Koh-i-Noor and Darya-ye Noor diamonds. After the death of Nader Shah in 1747, the Afghans chose Ahmad Shah Durrani as their head of state.

    Regarded as the founder of modern Afghanistan, Durrani and his Afghan army conquered the entire present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Khorasan and Kohistan provinces of Iran, along with Delhi in India. He defeated the Indian Maratha Empire, one of his biggest victories was the 1761 Battle of Panipat. In October 1772, Ahmad Shah Durrani died of a natural cause and was buried at a site now adjacent to the Shrine of the Cloak in Kandahar.

    He was succeeded by his son, Timur Shah, who transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776. After Timur Shah's death in 1793, the Durrani throne was passed down to his son Zaman Shah followed by Mahmud Shah, Shuja Shah and others. The Afghan Empire was under threat in the early 19th century by the Persians in the west and the Sikhs in the east.

    The western provinces of Khorasan and Kohistan were taken by the Persians in 1800. Fateh Khan, leader of the Barakzai tribe, had installed 21 of his brothers in positions of power throughout the empire. After his death, they rebelled and divided up the provinces of the empire between themselves.

    During this turbulent period, Afghanistan had many temporary rulers until Dost Mohammad Khan declared himself emir in 1826. The Punjab region was lost to Ranjit Singh, who invaded Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in 1834 captured the city of Peshawar. In 1837, Akbar Khan and the Afghan army crossed the Khyber Pass to defeat the Sikhs at the Battle of Jamrud, killing Hari Singh Nalwa before retreating to Kabul.

    By this time the British were advancing from the east and the First Anglo-Afghan War, one of the first major conflicts during the Great Game, was initiated. Western influence Following the 1842 massacre of Elphinstone's Army and victory of Afghan forces, led by Akbar Khan, the British established diplomatic relations with the Afghan government but withdrew all forces from the country. They returned during the Second Anglo-Afghan War in the late 1870s for about two-year military operations, which was to defeat Ayub Khan and assist Abdur Rahman Khan establish authority.

    The United Kingdom began to exercise a great deal of influence after this and even controlled the state's foreign policy. In 1893, Mortimer Durand made Amir Abdur Rahman Khan sign a controversial agreement in which the ethnic Pashtun and Baloch territories were divided by the Durand Line. This was a standard divide and rule policy of the British and would lead to strained relations, especially with the later new state of Pakistan.

    After the Third Anglo-Afghan War and the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919, King Amanullah Khan declared Afghanistan a sovereign and fully independent state. He moved to end his country's traditional isolation by establishing diplomatic relations with the international community and, following a 1927 28 tour of Europe and Turkey, introduced several reforms intended to modernize his nation. A key force behind these reforms was Mahmud Tarzi, an ardent supporter of the education of women.

    He fought for Article 68 of Afghanistan's 1923 constitution, which made elementary education compulsory. Some of the reforms that were actually put in place, such as the abolition of the traditional burqa for women and the opening of a number of co-educational schools, quickly alienated many tribal and religious leaders. Faced with overwhelming armed opposition, Amanullah Khan was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to rebel forces led by Habibullah Kalakani.

    Prince Mohammed Nadir Shah, Amanullah's cousin, in turn defeated and killed Kalakani in November 1929, and was declared King Nadir Shah. He abandoned the reforms of Amanullah Khan in favor of a more gradual approach to modernisation but was assassinated in 1933 by Abdul Khaliq, a Hazara school student. Mohammed Zahir Shah, Nadir Shah's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973.

    Until 1946 Zahir Shah ruled with the assistance of his uncle, who held the post of Prime Minister and continued the policies of Nadir Shah. Another of Zahir Shah's uncles, Shah Mahmud Khan, became Prime Minister in 1946 and began an experiment allowing greater political freedom, but reversed the policy when it went further than he expected. He was replaced in 1953 by Mohammed Daoud Khan, the king's cousin and brother-in-law.

    Daoud Khan sought a closer relationship with the Soviet Union and a more distant one towards Pakistan. Afghanistan remained neutral and was neither a participant in World War II, nor aligned with either power bloc in the Cold War. However, it was a beneficiary of the latter rivalry as both the Soviet Union and the United States vied for influence by building Afghanistan's main highways, airports and other vital infrastructure.

    In 1973, while King Zahir Shah was on an official overseas visit, Daoud Khan launched a bloodless coup and became the first President of Afghanistan. Marxist revolution and Soviet war In April 1978, the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in Afghanistan in the Saur Revolution. Within months, opponents of the communist government launched an uprising in eastern Afghanistan that quickly expanded into a civil war waged by guerrilla mujahideen against government forces countrywide.

    The Pakistani government provided these rebels with covert training centers, while the Soviet Union sent thousands of military advisers to support the PDPA government. Meanwhile, increasing friction between the competing factions of the PDPA the dominant Khalq and the more moderate Parcham resulted in the dismissal of Parchami cabinet members and the arrest of Parchami military officers under the pretext of a Parchami coup. By mid-1979, the United States had started a covert program to assist the mujahideen.

    In September 1979, Khalqist President Nur Muhammad Taraki was assassinated in a coup within the PDPA orchestrated by fellow Khalq member Hafizullah Amin, who assumed the presidency. Distrusted by the Soviets, Amin was assassinated by Soviet special forces in December 1979. A Soviet-organized government, led by Parcham's Babrak Karmal but inclusive of both factions, filled the vacuum.

    Soviet troops were deployed to stabilize Afghanistan under Karmal in more substantial numbers, although the Soviet government did not expect to do most of the fighting in Afghanistan. As a result, however, the Soviets were now directly involved in what had been a domestic war in Afghanistan. At the time some believed the Soviets were attempting to expand their borders southward in order to gain a foothold in the Middle East.

    The Soviet Union had long lacked a warm water port, and their movement south seemed to position them for further expansion toward Pakistan in the East, and Iran to the West. American politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, feared the Soviets were positioning themselves for a takeover of Middle Eastern oil. Others believed that the Soviet Union was afraid Iran's Islamic Revolution and Afghanistan's Islamization would spread to the millions of Muslims in the USSR.

    The PDPA prohibited usury, made statements on women's rights by declaring equality of the sexes and introducing women to political life. After the invasion, President Jimmy Carter announced what became known as the Carter Doctrine: that the U.S. would not allow any other outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf.

    He terminated the Soviet Wheat Deal in January 1980, which was intended to establish trade with USSR and lessen Cold War tensions. The grain exports had been beneficial to people employed in agriculture, and the Carter embargo marked the beginning of hardship for American farmers. That same year, Carter also made two of the most unpopular decisions of his entire Presidency: prohibiting American athletes from participating in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and reinstating registration for the draft for young males.

    Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. In addition, generous U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghan refugees.

    The Reagan administration increased arming and funding of the mujahideen as part of the Reagan Doctrine, thanks in large part to the efforts of Charlie Wilson and CIA officer Gust Avrakotos. Early reports estimated $6 20 billion but more recent reports suggest that up to $40 billion were provided by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to Pakistan.

    This was in the forms of cash and weapons, which included over two thousand FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles. The 10-year Soviet war resulted in the deaths of over 1 million Afghans, mostly civilians. About 6million fled to Pakistan and Iran, and from there tens of thousands began emigrating to the European Union, United States, Australia and other parts of the world.

    Faced with mounting international pressure and great number of casualties, the Soviets withdrew in 1989 but continued to support Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah until 1992. Foreign interference and war After the fall of Najibullah's government in 1992, the Afghan political parties agreed on a peace and power-sharing agreement (the Peshawar Accords). The accords created the Islamic State of Afghanistan and appointed an interim government for a transitional period to be followed by general elections.

    According to Human Rights Watch: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar received operational, financial and military support from Pakistan. Afghanistan expert Amin Saikal concludes in Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival : In addition, Saudi Arabia and Iran as competitors for regional hegemony supported Afghan militias hostile towards each other. According to Human Rights Watch, Iran was backing the Shia Hazara Hezb-i Wahdat forces of Abdul Ali Mazari to "maximize Wahdat's military power and influence".

    Saudi Arabia supported the Wahhabite Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and his Ittihad-i Islami faction. Conflict between the two militias soon escalated into a full-scale war. Due to the sudden initiation of the war, working government departments, police units or a system of justice and accountability for the newly created Islamic State of Afghanistan did not have time to form.

    Atrocities were committed by individuals of the different armed factions while Kabul descended into lawlessness and chaos as described in reports by Human Rights Watch and the Afghanistan Justice Project. Because of the chaos, some leaders increasingly had only nominal control over their (sub-)commanders. For civilians there was little security from murder, rape and extortion.

    When the Taliban took control of the city in 1994, they forced the surrender of dozens of local Pashtun leaders. The Islamic State government took steps to restore law and order. Courts started to work again.

    Massoud tried to initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation and democratic elections, also inviting the Taliban to join the process but they refused as they did not believe in a democratic system. Taliban Emirate and the United Front The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995 but were defeated by forces of the Islamic State government under Ahmad Shah Massoud. Amnesty International, referring to the Taliban offensive, wrote in a 1995 report: "This is the first time in several months that Kabul civilians have become the targets of rocket attacks and shelling aimed at residential areas in the city." The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of defeats that resulted in heavy losses which led analysts to believe the Taliban movement had run its course.

    Many analysts like Amin Saikal describe the Taliban as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan's regional interests.On 26 September 1996, as the Taliban with military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia prepared for another major offensive, Massoud ordered a full retreat from Kabul. The Taliban seized Kabul on 27 September 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed on the parts of Afghanistan under their control their political and judicial interpretation of Islam issuing edicts especially targeting women.

    According to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), "no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment." After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on 27 September 1996, Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostum, two former enemies, created the United Front (Northern Alliance) against the Taliban that were preparing offensives against the remaining areas under the control of Massoud and those under the control of Dostum. The United Front included beside the dominantly Tajik forces of Massoud and the Uzbek forces of Dostum, Hazara factions under the command of leaders such as Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq and Pashtun forces under the leadership of commanders such as Abdul Haq or Haji Abdul Qadir. The Taliban defeated Dostum's Junbish forces militarily by seizing Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998.

    Dostum subsequently went into exile. According to a 55-page report by the United Nations, the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians. UN officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001 and that "these have been highly systematic and they all lead back to the Taliban Ministry of Defense or to Mullah Omar himself." The Taliban especially targeted people of Shia religious or Hazara ethnic background.

    Upon taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, 4,000 6,000 civilians were killed by the Taliban and many more reported tortured. The documents also reveal the role of Arab and Pakistani support troops in these killings. Bin Laden's so-called 055 Brigade was responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians.

    The report by the UN quotes "eyewitnesses in many villages describing Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people". President Pervez Musharraf then as Chief of Army Staff was responsible for sending thousands of Pakistanis to fight alongside the Taliban and bin Laden against the forces of Massoud. According to Pakistani Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid, "between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan" on the side of the Taliban.

    In 2001 alone, there were believed to be 28,000 Pakistani nationals, many either from the Frontier Corps or army, fighting inside Afghanistan. An estimated 8,000 Pakistani militants were recruited in madrassas filling the ranks of the estimated 25,000 regular Taliban force. Bin Laden sent Arab recruits to join the fight against the United Front.

    3,000 fighters of the regular Taliban army were Arab and Central Asian militants. Human Rights Watch cites no human rights crimes for the forces under direct control of Massoud for the period from October 1996 until the assassination of Massoud in September 2001. As a consequence many civilians fled to the area of Ahmad Shah Massoud.

    In total, estimates range up to one million people fleeing the Taliban. National Geographic concluded in its documentary "Inside the Taliban" : "The only thing standing in the way of future Taliban massacres is Ahmad Shah Massoud." In early 2001 Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels asking the international community to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan. He stated that the Taliban and al-Qaeda had introduced "a very wrong perception of Islam" and that without the support of Pakistan and bin Laden the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year.

    On this visit to Europe he also warned that his intelligence had gathered information about a large-scale attack on U.S. soil being imminent. On 9 September 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated by two Arab suicide attackers inside Afghanistan and two days later about 3,000 people were killed in the September 11 attacks in the United States.

    The US government identified Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the Al-Qaeda organization based in and allied to the Taliban's Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as the perpetrators of the attacks. From 1990 until this date over 400,000 Afghan civilians had already died in the wars in Afghanistan. The Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden to US authorities and to disband al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan.

    Bin Laden later claimed sole responsibility for the September 11 attacks and specifically denied any prior knowledge of them by the Taliban or the Afghan people. In October 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom was launched as a new phase of the war in Afghanistan in which teams of American and British special forces worked with ground forces of the United Front (Northern Alliance) to remove the Taliban from power and dispel Al-Qaeda. At the same time the US-led forces were bombing Taliban and al-Qaida targets everywhere inside Afghanistan with cruise missiles.

    These actions led to the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north followed by all the other cities, as the Taliban and al-Qaida fled over the porous Durand Line border into Pakistan. In December 2001, after the Taliban government was toppled and the new Afghan government under Hamid Karzai was formed, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the UN Security Council to help assist the Karzai administration and provide basic security to the Afghan people. Recent history (2002 present) While the Taliban began regrouping inside Pakistan, more coalition troops entered the escalating US-led war.

    Meanwhile, the rebuilding of war-torn Afghanistan kicked off in 2002. The Afghan nation was able to build democratic structures over the years, and some progress was made in key areas such as governance, economy, health, education, transport, and agriculture. NATO is training the Afghan armed forces as well its national police.

    ISAF and Afghan troops led many offensives against the Taliban but failed to fully defeat them. By 2009, a Taliban-led shadow government began to form in many parts of the country complete with their own version of mediation court. After U.S.

    President Barack Obama announced the deployment of another 30,000 soldiers in 2010 for a period of two years, Der Spiegel published images of the US soldiers who killed unarmed Afghan civilians. At the 2010 International Conference on Afghanistan in London, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he intends to reach out to the Taliban leadership (including Mullah Omar, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar). Supported by NATO, Karzai called on the group's leadership to take part in a loya jirga meeting to initiate peace talks.

    These steps have resulted in an intensification of bombings, assassinations and ambushes. Some Afghan groups (including the former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh and opposition leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah) believe that Karzai plans to appease the insurgents' senior leadership at the cost of the democratic constitution, the democratic process and progress in the field of human rights especially women's rights.

    Dr. Abdullah stated: }} Over five million Afghan refugees were repatriated in the last decade, including many who were forcefully deported from NATO countries. This large return of Afghans may have helped the nation's economy but the country still remains one of the poorest in the world due to the decades of war, lack of foreign investment, ongoing government corruption and the Taliban insurgency.

    According to a report by the United Nations, the Taliban and other militants were responsible for 76% of civilian casualties in 2009, 75% in 2010, 80% in 2011, 80% in 2012. In 2011 a record 3,021 civilians were killed in the ongoing insurgency, the fifth successive annual rise.}} After the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, many prominent Afghan figures began being assassinated, including Mohammed Daud Daud, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Jan Mohammad Khan, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, Burhanuddin Rabbani and others. Also in the same year, the Pak-Afghan border skirmishes intensified and many large scale attacks by the Pakistani-based Haqqani Network took place across Afghanistan.

    This led to the United States warning Pakistan of a possible military action against the Haqqanis in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The U.S. blamed Pakistan's government, mainly Pakistan Army and its ISI spy network as the masterminds behind all of this. |Admiral Mike Mullen|Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff}} U.S.

    Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, told Radio Pakistan that "The attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago, that was the work of the Haqqani Network. There is evidence linking the Haqqani Network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop." Other top U.S.

    officials such as Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta made similar statements. On 16 October 2011, "Operation Knife Edge" was launched by NATO and Afghan forces against the Haqqani Network in south-eastern Afghanistan. Afghan Defense Minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, explained that the operation will "help eliminate the insurgents before they struck in areas along the troubled frontier".

    In anticipation of the 2014 NATO withdrawal and a subsequent expected push to regain power by the Taliban, the anti-Taliban United Front (Northern Alliance) groups have started to regroup under the umbrella of the National Coalition of Afghanistan (political arm) and the National Front of Afghanistan (military arm). Governance Afghanistan is an Islamic republic consisting of three branches, executive, legislative and judicial. The nation is currently led by Hamid Karzai as the President and leader since late 2001.

    The National Assembly is the legislature, a bicameral body having two chambers, the House of the People and the House of Elders. The Supreme Court is led by Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, a former university professor who had been a legal advisor to the president. The current court is seen as more moderate and led by more technocrats than the previous one, which was dominated by fundamentalist religious figures such as Chief Justice Faisal Ahmad Shinwari who issued several controversial rulings, including seeking to place a limit on the rights of women.

    According to Transparency International's corruption perceptions index 2010 results, Afghanistan was ranked as the third most-corrupt country in the world. A January 2010 report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that bribery consumes an amount equal to 23% of the GDP of the nation. A number of government ministries are believed to be rife with corruption, and while President Karzai vowed to tackle the problem in late 2009 by stating that "individuals who are involved in corruption will have no place in the government", top government officials were stealing and misusing hundreds of millions of dollars through the Kabul Bank.

    Although the nation's institutions are newly formed and steps have been taken to arrest some, the United States warned that aid to Afghanistan would be reduced to very little if the corruption is not stopped. Elections and parties The 2004 Afghan presidential election was relatively peaceful, in which Hamid Karzai won in the first round with 55.4% of the votes. However, the 2009 presidential election was characterized by lack of security, low voter turnout and widespread electoral fraud.

    The vote, along with elections for 420 provincial council seats, took place in August 2009, but remained unresolved during a lengthy period of vote counting and fraud investigation. Two months later, under international pressure, a second round run-off vote between Karzai and remaining challenger Abdullah was announced, but a few days later Abdullah announced that he is not participating in the 7 November run-off because his demands for changes in the electoral commission had not been met. The next day, officials of the election commission cancelled the run-off and declared Hamid Karzai as President for another 5-year term.

    In the 2005 parliamentary election, among the elected officials were former mujahideen, Islamic fundamentalists, warlords, communists, reformists, and several Taliban associates. In the same period, Afghanistan reached to the 30th nation in terms of female representation in parliament. The last parliamentary election was held in September 2010, but due to disputes and investigation of fraud, the sworn in ceremony took place in late January 2011.

    After the issuance of computerized ID cards for the first time, which is a $101 million project that the Afghan government plans to start in 2012, it is expected to help prevent major fraud in future elections and improve the security situation. Administrative divisions Afghanistan is administratively divided into 34 provinces ( wilayats ), with each province having its own capital and a provincial administration. The provinces are further divided into about 398 smaller provincial districts, each of which normally covers a city or a number of villages.

    Each district is represented by a district governor. The provincial governors are appointed by the President of Afghanistan and the district governors are selected by the provincial governors. The provincial governors are representatives of the central government in Kabul and are responsible for all administrative and formal issues within their provinces.

    There are also provincial councils which are elected through direct and general elections for a period of four years. The functions of provincial councils are to take part in provincial development planning and to participate in monitoring and appraisal of other provincial governance institutions. According to article 140 of the constitution and the presidential decree on electoral law, mayors of cities should be elected through free and direct elections for a four-year term.

    However, due to huge election costs, mayoral and municipal elections have never been held. Instead, mayors have been appointed by the government. As for the capital city of Kabul, the mayor is appointed by the President of Afghanistan.

    The following is a list of all the 34 provinces in alphabetical order: Foreign relations and military The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for managing the foreign relations of Afghanistan. The nation has been a member of the UN since 1946, and has maintained good relations with the United States and other NATO member states since the signing of the Anglo-Afghan Treaty in 1919. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was established in 2002 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1401 to help the nation recover from decades of war and establish a normal functioning government.

    Today, more than 22 NATO nations deploy about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Apart from close military links, the country also enjoys strong economic relations with NATO members and their allies. It also has diplomatic relations with neighboring Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the People's Republic of China, including regional states such as India, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Russia, United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, and others.

    Afghanistan Pakistan relations have been negatively affected by issues related to the Durand Line, the 1978 present war (i.e. Mujahideen, Afghan refugees, Taliban insurgency, and border skirmishes), including water and the growing influence of India in Afghanistan. Afghan officials often allege that Pakistani and Iranian intelligence agencies are involved in terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan, by training and guiding terrorists to carry out attacks.

    On the positive side, the two nations are usually described in Afghanistan as "inseparable brothers", which is due to historical, religious, and ethnolinguistical connections, as well as trade and other ties. Afghanistan has always depended on Pakistani trade routes for import and export but this has changed in the last decade with the opening of Central Asian and Iranian routes. Conversely, Pakistan depends on Afghan water and considers Afghanistan as the only trade route to Central Asian resources.

    India and Iran have actively participated in reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, with India being the largest regional donor to the country. Since 2002, India has pledged up to $2 billion in economic assistance to Afghanistan and has participated in multiple socio-economic reconstruction efforts, including power, roads, agricultural and educational projects. There are also military ties between Afghanistan and India, which is expected to increase after the October 2011 strategic pact that was signed by President Karzai and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    The military of Afghanistan is under the Ministry of Defense, which includes the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan Air Force (AAF). It currently has about 200,000 active soldiers and is expected to reach 260,000 in the coming years. They are trained and equipped by NATO countries, mainly by the United States Department of Defense.

    The ANA is divided into 7 major Corps, with the 201st Selab ("Flood") in Kabul followed by the 203rd in Gardez, 205th Atul ("Hero") in Kandahar, 207th in Herat, 209th in Mazar-i-Sharif and the 215th in Lashkar Gah. The ANA also has a commando brigade which was established in 2007. The National Military Academy of Afghanistan serves as the main educational institute for the militarymen of the country.

    A new $200 million Afghan Defense University (ADU) is under construction near the capital. Crime and law enforcement The National Directorate of Security (NDS) is the nation's domestic intelligence agency, which operates similar to that of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and has between 15,000 to 30,000 employees. The nation also has about 126,000 national police officers, with plans to recruit more so that the total number can reach 160,000.

    The Afghan National Police (ANP) is under the Ministry of the Interior, which is based in Kabul and headed by Bismillah Khan Mohammadi. The Afghan National Civil Order Police is the main branch of the Afghan National Police, which is divided into five Brigades and each one commanded by a Brigadier General. These brigades are stationed in Kabul, Gardez, Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-i-Sharif.

    Every province of the country has a provincial Chief of Police who is appointed by the Ministry of the Interior and is responsible for law enforcement in all the districts within the province. The police are being trained by NATO countries through the Afghanistan Police Program. According to a 2009 news report, a large proportion of police officers are illiterate and are accused of demanding bribes.

    Jack Kem, deputy to the commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, stated that the literacy rate in the ANP will rise to over 50% by January 2012. What began as a voluntary literacy program became mandatory for basic police training in early 2011. Approximately 17% of them test positive for illegal drug use.

    In 2009, President Karzai created two anti-corruption units within the Interior Ministry. Former Interior Minister Hanif Atmar said that security officials from the U.S. (FBI), Britain (Scotland Yard) and the European Union will train prosecutors in the unit. The south and eastern parts of Afghanistan are the most dangerous due to the flourishing drug trade and militancy.

    These areas in particular are often patrolled by Taliban insurgents, and in many cases they plan attacks by using suicide bombers and planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on roads. Kidnapping and robberies are also often reported. Every year many Afghan police officers are killed in the line of duty in these areas.

    The Afghan Border Police are responsible for protecting the nation's airports and borders, especially the disputed Durand Line border which is often used by members of criminal organizations and terrorists for their illegal activities. Reports in 2011 suggested that up to 3 million people are involved in the illegal drug business in Afghanistan, many of the attacks on government employees and institutions are carried out not only by the Taliban militants but also by powerful criminal gangs. Drugs from Afghanistan are exported to Iran, Pakistan, Russia, India, the United Arab Emirate, and the European Union.

    The Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics is dealing with this problem. Recently, the people mustered courage and took to streets in Kabul to protest against gruesome killing of a woman accused of adultery by suspected Taliban in the Parwan province. Economy Afghanistan is an impoverished and least developed country, one of the world's poorest due to the decades of war and nearly complete lack of foreign investment.

    The nation's GDP stands at about $29 billion with an exchange rate of $18 billion, and the GDP per capita is about $1,000. The country's export was $2.6 billion in 2010. Its unemployment rate is about 35% and roughly the same percentage of its citizens live below the poverty line.

    About 42% of the population live on less than $1 a day, according to a 2009 report. On the positive side, the nation has less than $1.5 billion external debt and is recovering by the assistance of the world community. The Afghan economy has been growing at about 10% per year in the last decade, which is due to the infusion of over $50 billion dollars in international aid and remittances from Afghan expats.

    It is also due to improvements made to the transportation system and agricultural production, which is the backbone of the nation's economy. The country is known for producing some of the finest pomegranates, grapes, apricots, melons, and several other fresh and dry fruits, including nuts. While the nations's current account deficit is largely financed with the donor money, only a small portion is provided directly to the government budget.

    The rest is provided to non-budgetary expenditure and donor-designated projects through the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations. The Afghan Ministry of Finance is focusing on improved revenue collection and public sector expenditure discipline. For example, government revenues increased 31% to $1.7 billion from March 2010 to March 2011.

    Da Afghanistan Bank serves as the central bank of the nation and the "Afghani" (AFN) is the national currency, with an exchange rate of about 47 Afghanis to 1 US dollar. Since 2003, over 16 new banks have opened in the country, including Afghanistan International Bank, Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank, Pashtany Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, First Micro Finance Bank, and others. One of the main drivers for the current economic recovery is the return of over 5 million expatriates, who brought with them fresh energy, entrepreneurship and wealth-creating skills as well as much needed funds to start up businesses.

    For the first time since the 1970s, Afghans have involved themselves in construction, one of the largest industries in the country. Some of the major national construction projects include the New Kabul City next to the capital, the Ghazi Amanullah Khan City near Jalalabad, and the Aino Mena in Kandahar. Similar development projects have also begun in Herat in the west, Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and in other cities.

    In addition, a number of companies and small factories began operating in different parts of the country, which not only provide revenues to the government but also create new jobs. Improvements to the business-enabling environment have resulted in more than $1.5 billion in telecom investment and created more than 100,000 jobs since 2003. The Afghan rugs are becoming popular again and this gives many carpet dealers around the country to expand their business by hiring more workers.

    Afghanistan is a member of SAARC, ECO and OIC. It is hoping to join SCO soon to develop closer economic ties with neighboring and regional countries in the so-called New Silk Road trade project. Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul told the media in 2011 that his nation's "goal is to achieve an Afghan economy whose growth is based on trade, private enterprise and investment".

    Experts believe that this will revolutionize the economy of the region. Opium production in Afghanistan soared to a record in 2007 with about 3 million people reported to be involved in the business but then declined significantly in the years following. The government started programs to help reduce cultivation of poppy, and by 2010 it was reported that 24 out of the 34 provinces were free from poppy grow.

    In June 2012, India strongly advocated for private investments in the resource rich country and creation of suitable environment therefor. Mining and energy Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution explains that if Afghanistan generates about $10 bn per year from its mineral deposits, its gross national product would double and provide long-term funding for Afghan security forces and other critical needs. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated in 2006 that northern Afghanistan has an average (bbl) of crude oil, 15.7 trillion cubic feet ( bn m 3 ) of natural gas, and of natural gas liquids.

    In December 2011, Afghanistan signed an oil exploration contract with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for the development of three oil fields along the Amu Darya river in the north. Other reports show that the country has huge amounts of lithium, copper, gold, coal, iron ore and other minerals. The Khanashin carbonatite in Helmand Province contains of rare earth elements.

    In 2007, a 30-year lease was granted for the Aynak copper mine to the China Metallurgical Group for $3 billion, making it the biggest foreign investment and private business venture in Afghanistan's history. The state-run Steel Authority of India won the mining rights to develop the huge Hajigak iron ore deposit in central Afghanistan. Government officials estimate that 30% of the country's untapped mineral deposits are worth between and .

    One official asserted that "this will become the backbone of the Afghan economy" and a Pentagon memo stated that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium". In a 2011 news story, the CSM reported, "The United States and other Western nations that have borne the brunt of the cost of the Afghan war have been conspicuously absent from the bidding process on Afghanistan's mineral deposits, leaving it to mostly to regional powers." Transport and communications Afghanistan has about 53 airports, with the biggest ones being the Kabul International Airport, serving the capital and nearby regions followed Kandahar International Airport in the south, Herat International Airport in the west, and Mazar-i-Sharif Airport in the north. Ariana Afghan Airlines is the national carrier, with domestic flights between Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif.

    International flights include to United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Turkey, India, Iran, Pakistan and a number of other Asian destinations. There are also domestic and international flight services available from the locally owned Kam Air, Pamir Airways and Safi Airways. Airlines from a number of regional nations such as Turkish Airlines, Gulf Air, Air Arabia, Air India, PIA and others also provide services to Afghanistan.

    Flights between Dubai and Kabul take roughly 2 hours to reach. The country has limited rail service with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the north. The government plans to extended the rail line to the capital and then to the eastern border town of Torkham by 2014, connecting with Pakistan Railways.

    Long distant road journeys are made by older model company-owned Mercedes-Benz coach buses or carpool and private cars. Newer automobiles have recently become more widely available after the rebuilding of roads and highways. They are imported from the United Arab Emirates through Pakistan and Iran.

    As of 2012, vehicles that are older than 10 years are banned from being imported into the country. The development of the nation's road network is a major boost for the economy due to trade with neighboring countries. Afghanistan's postal and package services such as FedEx, DHL and others make deliveries to major cities and towns.

    Telecommunication services in the country are provided by Afghan Wireless, Etisalat, Roshan, MTN Group and Afghan Telecom. In 2006, the Afghan Ministry of Communications signed a $64.5 million agreement with ZTE for the establishment of a countrywide optical fiber cable network. As of 2011, Afghanistan has around 17 million GSM phone subscribers and over 1 million internet users.

    It only has about 75,000 fixed telephone lines and little over 190,000 CDMA subscribers.

    3G services are provided by Etisalat and MTN Group. The Afghan government announced that it will send expressions of interest to international companies to attract funding will launch its first ever space satellite by October 2012. Health According to the Human Development Index, Afghanistan is the 15th least developed country in the world.

    The average life expectancy was estimated in 2012 to be 49.72 years. Afghanistan has the 9th highest total fertility rate in the world, at 5.64 children born/woman (according to 2012 estimates).Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, estimated in 2008 at 1,400 deaths/100,000 live births, and the highest infant mortality rate in the world (deaths of babies under one year), estimated in 2012 to be 121.63 deaths/1,000 live births. Data from 2010 suggests that one in 10 children in Afghanistan dies before they are five years old.While these statistics are tragic, the government plans to further cut the infant mortality rate to 400 for every 100,000 live births by 2020.

    The country currently has more than 3,000 midwives with an additional 300 to 400 being trained each year. A number of new hospitals and clinics have been built over the last decade, with the most advanced treatments being available in Kabul. The French Medical Institute for Children and Indira Gandhi Childrens Hospital in Kabul are the leading children's hospitals in the country.

    Some of the other main hospitals in Kabul include the 350-bed Jamhuriat Hospital and the Jinnah Hospital, which is still under construction. There are also a number of well-equipped military-controlled hospitals in different regions of the country. It was reported in 2006 that nearly 60% of the population lives within two hours by foot to the nearest health facility, up from 9% in 2002.

    Latest surveys show that 57% of Afghans say they have good or very good access to clinics or hospitals. The nation also has one of the highest incidences of people with disabilities, with an estimated one million handicapped people. About 80,000 citizens have lost limbs, mainly as a result of landmines.

    Non-governmental charities such as Save the Children and Mahboba's Promise assist orphans in association with governmental structures. Demographic and Health Surveys is working with the Indian Institute of Health Management Research and others to conduct a survey in Afghanistan focusing on Maternal death, among other things. Education Education in the country includes K-12 and higher education, which is supervised by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education.

    The nation's education system was destroyed due to the decades of war, but it began reviving after the Karzai administration came to power in late 2001. More than 5,000 schools were built or renovated, with more than 100,000 teachers being trained and recruited. It was reported in 2011 that more than seven million male and female students were enrolled in schools.

    As of 2011, about 82,000 students are enrolled in different universities around the country. Kabul University reopened in 2002 to both male and female students. In 2006, the American University of Afghanistan was established in Kabul, with the aim of providing a world-class, English-language, co-educational learning environment in Afghanistan.

    The capital of Kabul serves as the learning center of Afghanistan, with many of the best educational institutions being based there. Major universities outside of Kabul include Kandahar University in the south, Herat University in the northwest, Balkh University in the north, Nangarhar University and Khost University in the eastern zones, as well as a number of others. The National Military Academy of Afghanistan, modeled after the United States Military Academy at West Point, is a four-year military development institution dedicated to graduating officers for the Afghan armed forces.

    The $200 million Afghan Defense University is under construction near Qargha in Kabul. The United States is building six faculties of education and five provincial teacher training colleges around the country, two large secondary schools in Kabul and one school in Jalalabad. Literacy rate of the entire population is low, around 28%.

    Female literacy may be as low as 10%. In 2010, the United States began establishing a number of Lincoln learning centers in Afghanistan. They are set up to serve as programming platforms offering English language classes, library facilities, programming venues, Internet connectivity, educational and other counseling services.

    A goal of the program is to reach at least 4,000 Afghan citizens per month per location. The military and national police are also provided with mandatory literacy courses. In addition to this, Baghch-e-Simsim (based on the American Sesame Street) was launched in late 2011 to help Afghan children learn from preschool and onward.

    Demographics As of 2012, the population of Afghanistan is around 30,419,928, which includes the roughly 2.7 million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan and Iran. In 1979, the population was reported to be about 15.5 million. The only city with over a million residents is its capital, Kabul.

    The other largest cities in the country are, in order of population size, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, Lashkar Gah, Taloqan, Khost, Sheberghan, Ghazni, and so on. Urban areas are experiencing rapid population growth following the return of over 5 million expats. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the Afghan population is estimated to increase to 82 million by 2050.

    Ethnic groups Afghanistan is a multiethnic society, and its historical status as a crossroads has contributed significantly to its diverse ethnic makeup. The population of the country is divided into a wide variety of ethnolinguistic groups. Because a systematic census has not been held

  • Chesterton's Father Brown remastered Chestnut Trees on the ... Yesterday evening I have concluded watching my recording of the new TV series Father Brown . For some reason that eludes me BBC One decided that the best time slot for this product is 2pm. As I work full time recording was the only option (two hip-hip-hoorays for Panasonic VIERA; but not three as episode 5 failed to get recorded beyond the first minute).

    Well, what do I say. Excellent cast ( listed here ), and I really enjoyed seeing Mr Weasl y (a.k.a. Mark Williams) as the eponymous amateur sleuth.

    Nice settings (even with Gloucestershire standing in for Cotswolds), and quite a lot of nostalgia for the bygone Ye Olde Merrie Englande (well, not quite, but I ll get there in a moment). I must confess now. I like Chesterton s Father Brown stories.

    I ve read them for the first time back in the old country, translated into Russian. I used to return to the book every now and then. I read them in original English for the first time not so long ago, and have not been disappointed (you know, sometimes the translation could be better than the original; not in this case).

    However, I was disappointed having seen based on the character by G K Chesterton . Well, this is not quite true the screenplay authors did use elements of the original stories every now and then. But as far as I could see only the first episode followed a particular story more or less faithfully, and also, but much more less than more, the tenth episode, last in season one. (It is good to know that BBC is now working on the season two; I only hope that they will air them in a more suitable time Although, thinking about it having all episodes shown in just two weeks time does have certain advantages).

    The most obvious change comparing to the Chesterton s stories was that the setup has been transferred about fifty or sixty years ahead, in the early 1950s. (In the last episode, an army chaplain (well, not quite) is on his way to the Korean war with the Gloucesters who fought in Korea in the 1951 but he is reading Hemingway s Old Man and the Sea which had been published in 1952. Well, that s some attention to the detail; there was really no need for him to be with the Gloucesters, the King s Regiment (Liverpool) would have done even better, say). Father Brown is a catholic parish priest somewhere in the Cotswolds.

    I guess to justify the necessity of a Catholic priest in the middle of rural England the screenplay decided to include in the setting a camp for Polish refugees (and Father Brown s cleaner is Polish very contemporary issues, you see) were there such camps in England in the early 1950s? Maybe, but I must look it up first to believe. Screenplay added some new touches to Father Brown s rather blank biography of the Chesterton s stories.

    He now fought in the Great war, in the ranks of the Gloucesters too (this had been necessary for the plot of the last episode) before he received his calling to become priest. He is visited by the local bishop once, and I wonder if I am alone in sensing quite a bit of Father Ted here Unlike Chesterton s stories, which were really more about the faith rather than about the sleuthing, BBC s Father Brown has more in common with Midsomer Murders then with Chesterton s ideas about the human nature, crime, sin, redemption and all this fuddy-duddy. The authors of the screenplay, it seems, just did not get the message of Chesterton, and sometimes even turned it on its head.

    Take the last episode there is a dialogue between Father Brown and a genius crime master Flambeau (disguised as army chaplain), and Flambeau extolls reason above mystery, after which Father Brown understands that he is not a real priest etc etc. But in Chesterton s story The Blue Cross it is completely the other way round! It is the pretend priest who raves about mystery of faith, about miracles and how the human reason is inferior to all that.

    And Chesterton s Father Brown puts him right, saying that no priest would have denigrated the reason like that. But this is surely not the way how a religious person must think, in the minds of our creative class. So out goes Chesterton.

    And in the first episode, a great story about pride goes replaced with one where the reason for murder is anti-homosexual bigotry of the CoE vicar. Great relevance one may say (or not), poor art. Nevertheless, great fun.

    I shall look for the DVD to watch the fifth episode which failed to get recorded.

    Must check the amazon site now

  • Churchill's Bodyguard [DVD] - Armyrats
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  • Cobie Smulders Joins 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier - IndiewireA couple of little curious updates to the ever expanding and apparently litigious Marvel universe, so here we go... Yesterday it was revealed that Frank Grillo had nabbed the villain role of Crossbones in " Captain America: The Winter Soldier ," but as a few eagle eyes around the internet noticed, Variety's report also revealed that Cobie Smulders -- aka Agent Maria Hill -- has also been listed as part of the cast. No word yet on how big or small her participation will be, but needless to say, Marvel is going ahead and exercising those contract options.

    But it does suggest that S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to be integral, which isn't a shock considering a TV show is being developed around the agency as well. Meanwhile, it looks like Marvel's laywers have stumbled across their children's hip hop CD collection.

    As folks may know, Wu Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah also refers to himself as Ironman (yes, one word) and Tony Stark (in fact, his first solo album was called Ironman). His fandom of the comics is pretty well known, and he even shot a cameo for " Iron Man 2 " (that wound up on the cutting room floor). But, Marvel isn't being so nice anymore. "Remember on Supreme Clientele , we were Tony Stark d out with the skits, the Ironman skits and all that shit.

    Them niggas comin for that shit after all that time, the rapper told MTV. Indeed, the album was released twelve years ago, but it's likely the "Iron's Theme" duo of skits that has caught the attention of legal hounds at the company. We're not sure what exactly the infringement is exactly -- it's basically a repeated chorus of the word "Ironman" -- but we're sure those legal drafts will find a reason to drag this into court.

    C'mon guys, surely you have a better use of your time?

    Listen to what Marvel is troubled by below.

  • Cold Mountain [DVD] [2003] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
  • Coldstream Guard laid to rest after 200 years War History Online War Articles 1 on June 16, 2013 at 14:45 The BBC Reports: On Saturday, the nation will watch the Coldstream Guards take part in Trooping the Colour, in honour of the Queen s official birthday. But this week, the regiment also laid to rest a mystery which it has spent several months trying to resolve as it finally re-buried one of its soldiers whose remains were discovered in the Netherlands in 2011. At the Guards Chapel, the chaplain to the Household Division, the Reverend Kevin Bell, was joined by veterans of the Coldstream Guards as they took part in a solemn but unusual ceremony.

    In the garden of remembrance, they laid to rest the ashes of a soldier whose body had lain buried for more than 200 years beneath the sand dunes of a Dutch beach, before they were disturbed and revealed. A team of Dutch archaeologists identified the remains as those of a British soldier. They pinned down his regiment by his musket and pewter buttons, whose star and cross were unmistakeably those of the Coldstream Guards.

    Several thousand British soldiers landed in the Netherlands in August 1799 as part of a force trying to restore the House of Orange to the Dutch throne and counter French influence in Europe.

    Read more on the BBC website 2 Tags: Coldstream Guard , Mystery 3 4 References ^ View all posts in War Articles (www.warhistoryonline.com) ^ Read more on the BBC website (www.bbc.co.uk) ^ Coldstream Guard (www.warhistoryonline.com) ^ Mystery (www.warhistoryonline.com)

  • Coldstream Guards get Diamond Jubilee honour - Today's News ... Queen Elizabeth II inspects the Coldstream Guards THE Queen presented new Colours to the country s oldest regiment as its soldiers became the first to wear her Diamond Jubilee medal on parade. Under grey skies, the Queen, Colonel-in-Chief of the Coldstream Guards, gave the unit s 1st and 2nd Battalions new regimental banners at Windsor Castle. The officers and soldiers, immaculate in their scarlet tunics and bearskins, lined up to be inspected by the Queen and proudly wore the new military honour minted to mark her 60-year reign.

    In stands overlooking the castle s quadrangle their wives, girlfriends and parents shivered in summer dresses and suits as a light rain steadily fell. In 1660 General George Monck was instrumental in the restoration of the monarchy and yesterday s parade was an extension of the tradition of loyalty to the Crown. The Queen praised the Coldstream Guards in a speech to the soldiers after the ceremony.

    She said: Thirteen years have passed since I presented you with the Colours which have just been marched off. Since then, there have been many changes in your ranks, but the spirit of the regiment has remained intact through all the challenges and dangers which you have been required to face. Pre-eminent in ceremonial duties, like the other members of the Household Division Family, the Coldstream Guards have demonstrated both in Iraq and Afghanistan that they remain always ready and able to function as a first-class fighting unit.

    In addition, individuals have played their part when seconded for operational duties in other parts of the world. I know that in the future your activities will continue to enhance the reputation which the Coldstream have so justly achieved. You are worthy successors to those soldiers of General Monck s Regiment of Foot, who, in 1660, marched from Coldstream to restore law and order in the capital, thereby enabling the restoration of the monarchy.

    As your Colonel-in-Chief, I am delighted to be here today to pass these new Colours into your safekeeping, in the full knowledge that you will guard and honour them, and remain loyal to them and to your country.

    The Diamond Jubilee medals are being presented to members of the armed forces and the emergency services who have been in their posts five years or more.

    The Coldstream Guards were given special dispensation to wear the military honour as they will be taking the lead role at next month s Trooping the Colour.

  • Coldstream Guards return from Afghanistan duty 30 Apr 2010 00:20 1 SOLDIERS from the North East returned home yesterday after risking their lives to carry out a dangerous operation in Afghanistan. SOLDIERS from the North East returned home yesterday after risking their lives to carry out a dangerous operation in Afghanistan. Troops from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, some of whom are from the region, returned to their base in Aldershot, Hampshire, following an operational tour.

    During their deployment five members of the battalion were killed along with two other members of the wider battle group attached to it. Those who lost their lives included Guardsman Michael Sweeney, 19, from Blyth, and Sergeant John Amer, 30, of Sunderland. Yesterday battalion adjutant Captain Jamie Russell, 29, said the homecoming was tinged with sadness because of the casualties.

    In the last operation before their return, the battalion teamed up with Afghan Security Forces to conduct a helicopter operation to search a village suspected to be held under insurgent control. As soldiers on the ground approached one side of the village in south Malgir just north of the Helmand River a secondary force was lifted in two Chinooks from Bastion and inserted to the south of the village. This second force then swept north, to eventually meet up with the ground troops.

    The Battalion s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Toby Gray, said yesterday: The deployment of Coldstream Guardsmen on aviation operations in Babaji has paralysed the Taliban in the area and reassured the local population. Afghan Security Forces spearheaded the operation, speaking to locals and conducting searches of village compounds looking for any signs of insurgent activity. A British Army search dog, Caspian, also helped them in their hunt.

    This was the latest operation that Guardsmen have been working jointly with Afghan forces on during their six-month tour of duty. Although no weapon caches were found, the operation removed insurgents from a known troubled area and reassured the population of the Afghan Government s presence and commitment in the region. Before they head back to the UK, the battalion, which played a leading role in the recent Operation Moshtarak, marked the Transfer of Authority for the Nahr-e Saraj (South) area to 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles (1 RGR).

    For the past six months, the Coldstream Guards have been operating in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces to build positive relationships with the local people, enabling a move towards reconstruction and development in the area. Most notable is the progress made with constructing a new road through the area. Lieutenant Colonel Gray was commended by Brigadier Richard Felton, Commander Task Force Helmand, the name given to UK-led forces in Helmand Province, for his excellent work.

    Brigadier Felton also paid tribute to the sacrifices made since the Coldstream Guards took command of the area from the Light Dragoons in 2009. Brigadier Felton said: The Coldstream Guards have done an excellent job during their six months here. They are leaving this area in a far better position than when they arrived.

    References ^ 30 Apr 2010 00:20 (www.thejournal.co.uk)

  • Concert boost for military charity (From Swindon Advertiser) Concert boost for military charity 4:34pm Friday 21st March 2014 in News 1 THE band of the Grenadier Guards helped raise the roof of the STEAM Museum last week at a concert which boosted a charity s coffers by 2,500. The military band of the London-based regiment, which has served 15 monarchs over more than 300 years, visited Swindon last Friday for a concert with the Swindon Male Voice Choir. Together the musical sensations managed to raise 2,520 for leading military charity, Combat Stress.

    Chris Done, chairman of the choir, said: With soldiers returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we as a nation must care for those suffering physical and mental wounds from these and earlier conflicts. Our charities maintain the same enthusiasm to help as when the wars were ongoing. The band and the choir performed a number of different pieces separately before joining together.

    Their repertoire included The Rhythm of Life and Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika, the national anthem of Tanzania, Zambia, and part of the South African national anthem.

    References ^ News (www.swindonadvertiser.co.uk)

  • Coriolanus [Blu-ray] [2011] [US Import] - Reviews
  • Could the Gotovina judgement be used against the British Army ... Hrvatski Vjesnik (Australia) 10 October 2012 Could the Gotovina judgement be used against the British Army? Brian Gallagher The conviction of Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac by a UN court has met with unprecedented criticism from top western military officers and legal experts. The criticism is in relation to the now infamous 200-metre rule, upon which the entire conviction of the Generals rests.

    General Sir Timothy Granville Chapman, recently retired from the British Army, in his report for the defence effectively says that British Army operations in Afghanistan do not reach the same standard the Croats did in 1995. The implications are clear. Croatia s Operation Storm in 1995, run in coordination with the United States and with help from the Bosnian military, liberated large swathes of Croatia and saved Bosnia-Herzegovina.

    It prevented a Srebrenica style massacre at Bihac, in Bosnia. Milosevic was defeated and brought to the negotiating table. The Serbian leadership ordered and organised their own people to leave Croatia.

    The United Nations who failed to protect Bosnians at Srebrenica has decreed that in fact it was a Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE), using arms of the Croatian state to remove Serbs from Croatia. The JCE is based on Croatian artillery attacks during Operation Storm. The judges said that shells that fell outside of 200 metres from a legitimate target were unlawful.

    In this case, the 5-6% of shells that fell outside of the range killing and injuring no-one were designed to force Serbs to leave. Everything relies on this JCE; without it all the charges have to fall as everything else was due to it. The 200-metre rule was constructed by the judges in their decision; it was not mentioned during the trial and thus the generals had no chance to refute it.

    General Chapman is an artillery officer of 41 years service in the British Army. was the commander in chief of deploying the British Army into Iraq and the run-up to Afghanistan. He is currently the Master Gunner St.James Park.

    His observations, given within a defence motion earlier this year is of particular interest as they refer to a current conflict: the one in Afghanistan. In reference to Operation Storm, he says the evidence suggests the Croatians gunners took particular care , borne out by the high proportion of rounds that fell within 200M. Given the state of the equipment and so on, he even goes so far as to say that In many ways such accuracy is remarkable He points out that the judges came to their conclusion regarding the 200 metre rule some 15 years after Operation Storm.

    There have been advances in artillery, reaching a new level of sophistication. He says: Despite these advances, artillery remains an area weapon, and in the British case, a gun in Afghanistan typically delivers only 90% of its rounds within a 250 metre box at its operational range. Given that the Croats are considered to have had an accuracy of some 95% within 200 metres, then it s fairly clear that the British troops could well face some from of prosecution, no matter how conscientious they are.

    Indeed, General Chapman says that, the judgement is also extraordinarily unsafe in terms of the precedent it sets in the use of indirect fire. It could generally, bring about serious consequences for commanders concerned. General Chapman s observations are important as it shows how British soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan could be prosecuted if the Gotovina judgement is allowed to stand.

    Indeed, there has been some concern in the British press over the fairness of the British led Iraq Historic Allegations Team which is investigating UK troops who had served in Iraq. The 200 metre rule could be an easy basis to prosecute British troops perhaps by prosecutors wishing to make a name for themselves or a desire to show the world how fair the British are i.e. political reasons.

    Perhaps it could be even used internationally against Britain s political leadership by UN courts or national courts exercising universal jurisdiction . The JCE, which was concocted on the basis of the 200-metre rule, effectively criminalised the Croatian President, ministers, and even drags in the Croatian parliament as well as the military. Will British Prime Ministers past and present have to consult lawyers on the matter?

    What has the ICTY made of General Chapman s views? On 21 June, the appeals judges rejected the motion that contained his report. The decision has only just been made public.

    The judges said that the evidence could have been admitted at the original trial. This is ludicrous. How could the defence have known the judges would come up with a 200-metre rule?

    Were they supposed to guess? Although the judges have said that their decision on this evidence should not be taken as an indicator of their final decision, it does not inspire confidence. The appeals verdict will be announced in December.

    Hopefully, the judges will overturn the verdict in its entirety.

    If not, aside for the bad news for the Croatian generals, it could be a most unwelcome Christmas present for British troops serving in Afghanistan.

  • D

  • Defence secretary warns against more cuts to his budget ...Coordinates 40 4 41 N29 30 48 N Country United Kingdom Name British Armed Forces Branches Commander-in-chief Queen Elizabeth II Commander-in-chief title Commander-in-Chief Minister Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP Minister title Secretary of State for Defence Commander General Sir David Richards Commander title Chief of the Defence Staff Available 14,607,725 Available f 14,028,738 Fit 12,046,268 Fit f 11,555,893 Active 220,350 active personnel Reserve 181,720 regular reserve Amount FY 2012-13: GBP 37.5 billionFY 2011-12: USD $62.7 billion (ranked 4th) Percent gdp 2.6%}} The British Armed Forces , officially Her Majesty's Armed Forces and sometimes known as the Armed Forces of the Crown , are the armed forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Armed Forces encompass three professional uniformed services: the Naval Service (including the Royal Navy and Royal Marines), the British Army and the Royal Air Force. The Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's Armed Forces is the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, to whom members of the forces swear allegiance.

    Under British constitutional law, the armed forces are subordinate to the Crown, however this power is qualified by the requirement for parliamentary consent to the maintaining of a standing army and Parliament's approval of taxation and supply of funds for the armed forces. Under the 1689 Bill of Rights no standing army may be maintained during time of peace without the consent of Parliament and in modern times Parliament gives this consent every five years by passing an Armed Forces Act. Consistent with longstanding constitutional convention, the Prime Minister holds de facto authority over the use of the armed forces.

    The armed forces are managed by the Defence Council of the Ministry of Defence, headed by the Secretary of State for Defence. The British Armed Forces are charged with protecting the United Kingdom, its overseas territories and Crown Dependencies, as well as promoting Britain's wider security interests, and supporting international peacekeeping efforts. They are active and regular participants in NATO and other coalition operations.

    Britain is also party to the Five Power Defence Arrangements. Recent operations have included wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2000 intervention in Sierra Leone, ongoing peacekeeping responsibilities in the Balkans and Cyprus, and participation in the UN-mandated no-fly zone over Libya. Overseas garrisons and facilities are maintained at Ascension Island, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Diego Garcia, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Gibraltar, Kenya, Qatar and the Sovereign Base Areas (Cyprus).

    In 1952 Great Britain tested its first nuclear weapon under Operation Hurricane, it was the third nation in the world to achieve the status of a nuclear power. Britain remains one of five recognised nuclear powers, with a total of 225 nuclear warheads. Of those, no more than 160 are deployed and active.

    Its nuclear deterrence system is based on Trident missiles onboard nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. History Upon the Act of Union in 1707, the armed forces of England and Scotland were merged into the armed forces of the Kingdom of Great Britain. By 1815, with the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo Britain had risen to become the world's dominant superpower, and the British Empire subsequently presided over a period of relative peace, known as Pax Britannica, until the outbreak of World War One in 1914.

    Between 1707 and 1914, British forces played a prominent role in notable conflicts including the Seven Years' War, the Napoleonic Wars and the Crimean War. The current structure of defence management in Britain was set in place in 1964 when the modern day Ministry of Defence (MoD) was created (an earlier form had existed since 1940). The MoD assumed the roles of the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry.

    Cold War Post World War II economic and political decline, as well as changing attitudes in British society and government, were reflected by the Armed Forces' contracting global role. Britain's protracted decline was dramatically epitomised by its political defeat during the Suez War of 1956. The 1957 Defence White Paper abolished conscription and reduced the size of the Armed Forces from 690,000 to 375,000 by 1962.

    Seeking an inexpensive alternative to maintaining a large conventional military, the government pursued a doctrine of nuclear deterrence. This initially consisted of free-fall bombs operated by the RAF, but these were eventually superseded by the submarine-launched Polaris ballistic missile. While assurances had been made to the United States that Britain would maintain a presence "East of Suez", a process of gradual withdrawal from its eastern commitments was undertaken in the 1960s, primarily for economic reasons.

    By the mid-1970s, Britain had withdrawn permanently deployed forces from Aden, Bahrain, Malaysia, Mauritius, Oman, Sharjah, and Singapore. Agreements with Malta (expired 1979) and South Africa (terminated 1975) also ended. With a permanent presence east of Suez effectively reduced to Hong Kong (up to 1997) and Brunei, the Armed Forces reconfigured to focus on the responsibilities allocated to the services during the Cold War.

    Substantial forces thus became committed to NATO in Europe and elsewhere; by 1985, 72,929 personnel were stationed in Continental Europe. The British Army of the Rhine and RAF Germany consequently represented the largest and most important overseas commitments that the British Armed Forces had during this period. The Royal Navy's fleet developed an anti-submarine warfare specialisation, with a particular focus on countering Soviet submarines in the Eastern Atlantic and North Sea.

    In the process of this transition and due to economic constraints, four conventional aircraft carriers and two "commando" carriers were decommissioned between 1967 and 1984. With the cancellation of the CVA-01 project, three Invincible -class STOVL aircraft carriers, originally designed as "Through-Deck Cruisers", became their ultimate replacements. While this focus on NATO obligations increased in prominence during the 1970s, low-intensity conflicts in Northern Ireland and Oman emerged as the primary operational concerns of the British Armed Forces.

    These conflicts had followed a spate of insurgencies against British colonial occupation in Aden, Cyprus, Kenya and Malaysia. An undeclared war with Indonesia had also occurred in Borneo during the 1960s, and recurring civil unrest in the declining number of British colonies often required military assistance. Recent history Three major reviews of the British Armed Forces have been conducted since the end of the Cold War.

    The Conservative government produced the Options for Change review in the 1990s, seeking to benefit from a perceived post Cold War "peace dividend". All three services experienced considerable reductions in manpower, equipment, and infrastructure. Though the Soviet Union had disintegrated, a presence in Germany was retained, albeit in the reduced form of British Forces Germany.

    Experiences during the First Gulf War prompted renewed efforts to enhance joint operational cohesion and efficiency among the services by establishing a Permanent Joint Headquarters in 1996. An increasingly international role for the British Armed Forces has been pursued since the Cold War's end. This has entailed the Armed Forces often constituting a major component in peacekeeping missions under the auspices of the United Nations or NATO, and other multinational operations.

    Consistent under-manning and the reduced size of the Armed Forces has, however, highlighted the problem of "overstretch" in recent years. This has reportedly contributed to personnel retention difficulties and challenged the military's ability to sustain its overseas commitments. The Strategic Defence Review (SDR) described as "foreign-policy-led" was published in 1998.

    Expeditionary warfare and tri-service integration were central to the review, which sought to improve efficiency and reduce expenditure by consolidating resources. Most of the Armed Forces' helicopters were collected under a single command and a Joint Force Harrier was established in 2000, containing the Navy and RAF's fleet of Harrier Jump Jets. A Joint Rapid Reaction Force was formed in 1999, with significant tri-service resources at its disposal.

    The first major post-11 September restructuring was announced in the 2004 Delivering Security in a Changing World: Future Capabilities review, continuing a vision of "mobility" and "expeditionary warfare" articulated in the SDR. Future equipment projects reflecting this direction featured in the review, including the procurement of two large aircraft carriers and a series of medium-sized vehicles for the Army. Reductions in manpower, equipment, and infrastructure were also announced.

    The decision to reduce the Army's regular infantry to 36 battalions (from 40) and amalgamate the remaining single-battalion regiments was controversial, especially in Scotland and among former soldiers. Envisaging a rebalanced composition of more rapidly deployable light and medium forces, the review announced that a regiment of Challenger 2 main battle tanks and a regiment of AS-90 self-propelled artillery would be converted to lighter roles. In November 2010 Prime Minister David Cameron signed a 50-year treaty with French President Nicolas Sarkozy that would have the two countries cooperate intensively in military matters.

    Today The British Armed Forces is a professional force with a strength in July 2012 of 184,160 regular and 36,190 volunteer reserve personnel. This gives a combined component strength of 220,350 personnel. In addition there were 181,720 regular reserves from all services of the British Armed Forces.

    The British Armed Forces constitute the second-largest military in the European Union in terms of professional personnel. Britain has the fourth-largest defence budget in the world. The United States, China and Russia have larger defence expenditures, whilst France and Japan have a comparable expenditure.

    In September 2011, according to the Royal United Services Institute, current "planned levels of defence spending should be enough for the United Kingdom to maintain its position as one of the world's top military powers, as well as being one of NATO-Europe's top military powers. Its edge not least its qualitative edge in relation to rising Asian powers seems set to erode, but will remain significant well into the 2020 s, and possibly beyond." However by 2012 there was a 63 billion gap between the ten year plan for defence spending and the available funds for it. Command organisation As Sovereign and head of state, Queen Elizabeth II is Head of the Armed Forces and their Commander-in-Chief.

    Long-standing constitutional convention, however, has vested de facto executive authority, by the exercise of Royal Prerogative powers, in the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence, and the Prime Minister (acting with the support of the Cabinet) makes the key decisions on the use of the armed forces. The Queen, however, remains the "ultimate authority" of the military, with officers and personnel swearing allegiance to the monarch. It was once claimed by a former military official that this includes the power to prevent unconstitutional use of the armed forces, including its nuclear weapons.The Ministry of Defence is the Government department and highest level of military headquarters charged with formulating and executing defence policy for the Armed Forces; it currently employs over 80,000 civilians in 2011.

    This number will be reduced to just 55,000 by 2015 (a reduction of 25,000 as per the October 2010 SDSR) and then again to 48,000 by 2020. The department is controlled by the Secretary of State for Defence and contains three deputy appointments: Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Minister for Defence Procurement, and Minister for Veterans' Affairs. Responsibility for the management of the forces is delegated to a number of committees: the Defence Council, Chiefs of Staff Committee, Defence Management Board and three single-service boards.

    The Defence Council, composed of senior representatives of the services and the Ministry of Defence, provides the "formal legal basis for the conduct of defence". The three constituent single-service committees (Admiralty Board, Army Board and Air Force Board) are chaired by the Secretary of State for Defence. The Chief of the Defence Staff is the professional head of the Armed Forces and is an appointment that can be held by an Admiral, Air Chief Marshal or General.

    Before the practice was discontinued in the 1990s, those who were appointed to the position of CDS had been elevated to the most senior rank in their respective service (a 5-star rank). The CDS, along with the Permanent Under Secretary, are the principal advisers to the departmental minister. The three services have their own respective professional chiefs: the First Sea Lord, the Chief of the General Staff and the Chief of the Air Staff.

    Current operations There were over 30,000 members of the British Armed Forces deployed abroad in January 2007, serving in various capacities. Peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief tasks have increased in recent years, many under the auspices of the United Nations and NATO. The Armed Forces most recently contributed to the international humanitarian and reconstruction efforts that occurred in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami and 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

    Within the United Kingdom, there were approximately 140,000 personnel stationed in England, 13,200 in Scotland, 7,000 in Northern Ireland, and 6,200 in Wales. The conflict in Northern Ireland has required the Armed Forces to provide "Military aid to the civil power" since 1969, with a presence that peaked at over 20,000 regular personnel in 1972. Sectarian and paramilitary violence has subsided since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998.

    and the IRA declared an end to its campaign in 2005. Operational support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, known as Operation Banner, officially ended on 1 August 2007, resulting in the reduction of the military presence to the size of a peacetime garrison. Personnel are based in a number of overseas territories, though internal security for the majority is provided solely by small police forces.

    Garrisons and facilities exist in Ascension Island, Diego Garcia, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, and the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus. These deployments accounted for over 5,000 personnel in 2006. Locally-raised units are maintained in Bermuda (The Bermuda Regiment), the Falkland Islands (Falkland Islands Defence Force), and Gibraltar (Royal Gibraltar Regiment).

    Though their primary mission is "home defence", individuals have volunteered for operational duties. The Royal Gibraltar Regiment has recently mobilised section-sized units for attachment to regiments deployed to Iraq. UK Joint Expeditionary Force The UK Joint Expeditionary Force was announced in December 2012 by the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards.

    It is designed to be an integrated joint force, with capabilities across the spectrum at sea, on land and in the air, with the aspiration being greater levels of integration than previously achieved especially when combined with other nations' armed forces. Of variable size, it is intended to be the basis of all the UK armed forces' combined joint training; a framework into which other nations will fit. It will be the core of the UK's contribution to any military action, whether NATO, coalition or independent.

    Together with Command and Control elements including HQ Allied Rapid Reaction Corps and the maritime component HQ at Northwood, the force is designed to meet the UK's obligations to NATO. Service branches Naval Service The Naval Service consists of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. In addition the Naval service is supported by the now privatised Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service.

    Royal Navy Referred to as the "Senior Service" by virtue of its being the oldest service within the British Armed Forces, the Royal Navy is a technologically sophisticated naval force, consisting of 78 commissioned ships and around 170 aircraft. The Navy has been structured around a single fleet since the abolition of the Eastern and Western fleets in 1971. Command of deployable assets is exercised by the Commander-in-Chief Fleet, who also has authority over the Royal Marines and the civilian Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

    Personnel matters are the responsibility of the Second Sea Lord/Commander-in-Chief Naval Home Command, an appointment usually held by a vice-admiral. The United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent is carried aboard the navy's Vanguard -class of four nuclear ballistic-missile submarines. The surface fleet consists of helicopter carriers, destroyers, frigates, amphibious assault ships, patrol ships, mine-countermeasures, and miscellaneous vessels.

    A submarine service has existed within the Royal Navy for more than 100 years. The service possessed a combined fleet of diesel-electric and nuclear-powered submarines until the early 1990s. Following the Options for Change defence review, the Upholder class diesel-electric submarines were withdrawn and the attack submarine flotilla is now exclusively nuclear-powered.

    The Royal Navy is building two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, embarking an air-group including the advanced fifth-generation multi-role fighter, the F-35B. Seven Astute class nuclear-powered attack submarines have been ordered, with two completed, and four under construction. The Astute class are the most advanced and largest fleet submarines ever built for the Royal Navy, and will maintain Britain's nuclear-powered submarine fleet capabilities for decades to come.

    The recently built Type 45 destroyers are technologically advanced air-defence destroyers. Royal Marines The infantry component of the Naval Service is the Corps of Royal Marines. Consisting of a single manoeuvre brigade (3 Commando) and various independent units, the Royal Marines specialise in amphibious, arctic, and mountain warfare.

    Contained within 3 Commando Brigade are three attached army units; 1st Battalion, The Rifles, an infantry battalion based at Beachley Barracks near Chepstow (from April 2008), 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, an artillery regiment based in Plymouth, and 24 Commando Regiment Royal Engineers. The Commando Logistic Regiment consists of personnel from the Army, Royal Marines, and Royal Navy. Royal Fleet Auxiliary The 19 commissioned ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) primarily serves to replenish Royal Navy warships at sea, and also augments the Royal Navy's amphibious warfare capabilities through its three vessels.

    It is manned by approximately 2,700 civilian personnel and is funded and run by the Ministry of Defence. British Army The British Army is made up of the Regular Army and the Territorial Army. The army has a single command structure based at Andover and known as "Army Headquarters".

    Deployable combat formations consist of two divisions (1st Armoured and 3rd Mechanised) and eight brigades. Within the United Kingdom, operational and non-deployable units are administered by three regionally-defined "regenerative" divisions (2nd, 4th, and 5th) and London District. The core element of the Army is the 50 battalions (36 regular and 14 territorial) of regular and territorial infantry, organised into 17 regiments.

    The majority of infantry regiments contains multiple regular and territorial battalions. Modern infantry have diverse capabilities and this is reflected in the varied roles assigned to them. There are four operational roles that infantry battalions can fulfil: air assault, armoured infantry, mechanised infantry, and light role infantry.

    Regiments and battalions exist within every corps of the Army, functioning as administrative or tactical formations. Armoured regiments are equivalent to an infantry battalion. There are 11 armoured regiments within the regular army, of which six are designated as "Armoured" and five as "Formation Reconnaissance".

    With the exception of the Household Cavalry, armoured regiments and their Territorial counterparts are grouped under the Royal Armoured Corps. Arms and support units are also formed into similar collectives organised around specific purposes, such as the Corps of Royal Engineers, Army Air Corps and Royal Army Medical Corps. Royal Air Force The Royal Air Force has a large operational fleet that fulfils various roles, consisting of both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft. , the RAF operates around 827 aircraft.

    Frontline aircraft are controlled by Air Command, which is organised into three groups defined by function: 1 Group (Air Combat), 2 Group (Air Support) and 22 Group (training aircraft and ground facilities). In addition 83 Expeditionary Air Group directs formations in the Middle East. Deployable formations consist of Expeditionary Air Wings and squadrons the basic unit of the Air Force.

    Independent flights are deployed to facilities in Afghanistan, the Falkland Islands, Iraq, and the United States. The Royal Air Forces operates multi-role and single-role fighters, reconnaissance and patrol aircraft, tankers, transports, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, and various types of training aircraft. Ground units are also maintained by the Royal Air Force, most prominently the RAF Police and the Royal Air Force Regiment (RAF Regt).

    The Royal Air Force Regiment essentially functions as the local ground defence force of the RAF. Roled principally as ground defence for RAF facilities, the regiment contains nine regular squadrons, supported by five squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment. By March 2008, the three remaining "Air Defence" squadrons had disbanded or re-roled and their responsibilities transferred to the British Army's Royal Artillery.

    Civilian Agencies of the Ministry of Defence The British Armed Forces are supported by civilian agencies owned by the MoD. Although they are civilian, they play a vital role in supporting Armed Forces operations, and in certain circumstances are under military discipline. Ministry of Defence Police The Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency.

    Defence Equipment and Support The Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) is the merged procurement and support organisation within the UK Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). It came into being on 2 April 2007, bringing together the MoD's Defence Procurement Agency and the Defence Logistics Organisation under the leadership of General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue as the first Chief of Defence Materiel. it has a civilian and military workforce of approx.

    20,000 personnel. DE&S is overseen by the Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology. UK Hydrographic Office The UK Hydrographic Office (or UKHO) is an organisation within the UK government responsible for providing navigational and other hydrographic information for national, civil and defence requirements.

    The UKHO is located in Taunton, Somerset on Admiralty Way and has a workforce of approximately 1000 staff. For more Information about Civilian Agencies of or within the MoD see Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). Recruitment The Armed Forces mainly recruit from within the United Kingdom, and normally has an annual recruitment target of around 24,000.

    The minimum recruitment age is 16 years (although personnel may not serve on armed operations below 18 years); the maximum recruitment age is 32 years. The normal term of engagement is 22 years; however, the minimum service required before resignation is 4 years, plus, in the case of the Army, any service below the age of 18. Low unemployment in Britain has resulted in the Army having difficulty in meeting its target, and in the early years of the 21st century there has been a marked increase in the number of recruits from other (predominantly Commonwealth) countries.

    Citizens of Commonwealth countries, the Republic of Ireland, and dual-nationals are eligible to join the British Armed Forces. In 2005, the proportion of foreign nationals in the Armed Forces rose from a 2004 figure of 7.5 to almost 10 percent. While the Army has been the destination for the majority of recruits, large contingents exist in the Navy and Air Force.

    Excluding the Brigade of Gurkhas and the Royal Irish Regiment, 7,155 personnel were recorded as being of foreign nationality in 2005. The largest tri-service national groups recorded in 2005 were Fijian (2,040), Jamaican (1,030), South African (710), Zimbabwean (590), Ghanaian (590), and Irish (335). Smaller contingents were drawn from countries such as Australia (110) and Canada (105), and island nations with relatively small populations.

    A Grenadian, Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, was awarded the Victoria Cross in 2005 for actions in Iraq. Specific initiatives to develop female and ethnic minority representation in the Armed Forces has yielded percentage increases of 3.4 and 4.5 since 1997. In 1997, there were 14,830 (5.7%) women and 2.184 (1.0%) personnel who identified as an ethnic minority.

    This had increased to 17,870 (9.1%) and 10,180 (5.5%) in 2006. A higher percentage of personnel have attained higher-rank since 2000. Notably included among these officers are Rear-Admiral Amjad Hussain, Air Commodore David Case, Commodore Carolyn Stait, and Squadron Leader Nicky Smith.

    Women have been integrated into the British Armed Forces since the early 1990s; however, they remain excluded from primarily combat units in the Army, Royal Marines, and Royal Air Force Regiment. The first female military pilot was Flight Lieutenant Julie Ann Gibson while Flight Lieutenants Jo Salter and Kirsty Moore were the first fast-jet pilots, the former flying a Tornado GR1 on missions patrolling the then Northern Iraqi No-Fly Zone. Flight Lieutenant Juliette Fleming and Squadron Leader Nikki Thomas recently were the first Tornado GR4 crew.

    While enforcing the Libyan No-Fly Zone, Flight Lieutenant Helen Seymour was identified as the first female Eurofighter Typhoon pilot. As of August 2011, a female Lieutenant Commander, Sarah West, will command HMS Portland.Since 2000, sexual orientation has not been a factor considered in recruitment, and homosexuals can serve openly in the armed forces. All branches of the forces have actively recruited at Gay Pride events.

    The forces keep no formal figures concerning the number of gay and lesbian serving soldiers, saying that the sexual orientation of personnel is considered irrelevant and not monitored.

    Recent Defence Reviews Options for Change (1993) Strategic Defence Review (1998) Delivering Security in a Changing World (2003) Strategic Defence and Security Review (2010) See also Banknotes of the British Armed Forces European Security and Defence Policy Military of Scotland Military of the Falkland Islands Franco-British Defence and Security Cooperation Treaty and Downing Street Declaration Commander-in-chief of the British Armed Forces Notes References External links British Ministry of Defence Support for Britain's Reservists & Employers British Armed Forces & National Service Military Knowledge Online, MOD Defence Academy The government s expenditure plans 2005-06 to 2007-08 Military of the United Kingdom British Armed Forces deployments ar: ' az: ngilt r Silahl Q vv l ri bn: be: ' ' cs:Britsk ozbrojen s ly da:Storbritanniens milit r de:Streitkr fte des Vereinigten K nigreichs es:Fuerzas Armadas Brit nicas fa: fr:Forces arm es britanniques gl:Forzas Armadas do Reino Unido it:Forze armate britanniche he: ' hu:Brit hader ' ms:Angkatan Tentera British nl:British Armed Forces ja: ' ' ' no:Storbritannias forsvar pl:Brytyjskie Si 'y Zbrojne pt:For as Armadas do Reino Unido ro:For ele Armate Britanice ru: ' ' ' ' sl:Oboro ene sile Zdru enega kraljestva fi:Yhdistyneen kuningaskunnan asevoimat sv:Storbritanniens f rsvarsmakt tr:Birle ik Krall k Silahl Kuvvetleri uk: ' ' ' vi:Qu n ' i Anh zh:

  • Delta Force 4 - Black Hawk Down Full Version Game Free Download Delta Force was formed after numerous, well-publicized terrorist incidents in the 1970s. These incidents led the U.S. government to create a counter-terrorist unit.

    Key military and government figures had already been briefed on a model for this type of unit in the early 1960s. Charles Beckwith, a Special Forces officer and Vietnam veteran, had served as an exchange officer with the British Army's Special Air Service (22 SAS Regiment) during the Malayan Emergency. Upon his return, Beckwith presented a detailed report highlighting the U.S.

    Army's vulnerability in not having an SAS-type unit. U.S. Army Special Forces in that period focused on unconventional warfare, but Beckwith recognized the need for "not only teachers, but doers." He envisioned highly adaptable and completely autonomous small teams with a broad array of special skills for direct action and counter-terrorist missions.

    He briefed military and government figures, who were overtly resistant to create a new unit outside of Special Forces, or change existing methods. Finally, in the mid-70's, as the threat of terrorism grew, Pentagon brass tapped Beckwith to form the unit . Beckwith had estimated that it would take 24 months to get his new unit mission-ready.

    In the meantime, the 5th Special Forces Group created Blue Light, a small counter-terrorist contingent which operated until Delta became fully operational in the early 1980s. On 4 November 1979, shortly after Delta had been created, 53 Americans were taken captive and held in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran.

    The unit was assigned to Operation Eagle Claw and ordered to covertly enter the country and recover the hostages from the embassy by force on the nights of 24 and 25 April in 1980. The operation was aborted after aviation failures. The review commission that examined the failure found 23 problems with the operation, among them unbriefed weather encountered by the aircraft, command -and-control problems between the multi-service component commanders, a collision between a helicopter and a ground-refueling tanker aircraft, and mechanical problems that reduced the number of available helicopters from eight to five (one fewer than the minimum desired) before the mission contingent could leave the transloading/refueling site .

    After the failed operation, the U.S. government created several new units. The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), also known as the Nightstalkers , was created specifically for Delta infil/exfil in missions like Operation Eagle Claw.

    The Navy's SEAL Team Six was created for maritime incidents. The Joint Special Operations Command was created to control and oversee joint training between the counter-terrorist assets of the various branches of the U.S. military.

    Download Delta Force 4 - Black Hawk Down full game from this site.

  • Demonstration in London to save Royal Regiment of Fusiliers ... Former Fusiliers at the protest at Old Eldon Square WAR veterans from the North East are demonstrating outside the Houses of Parliament in London this morning in a bid to save 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. Around 100 campaigners from the North East will join hundreds of supporters from across the country in a march against Government plans to scrap the battalion. The demonstration coincides with the first House of Commons debate on the future of 2nd Battalion, arranged by Conservative MP for Basildon John Baron.

    Ex-soldiers from Tyneside, Northumberland and Durham will be joined by soldiers from Lancashire, Warwick and London - the regiment's other recruiting areas - on their march through Whitehall before assembling at Parliament Square. They will then be met by MPs Dave Anderson for Blaydon and Mary Glindon for North Shields before heading inside the House of Commons to listen to the debate. Major Chester Potts, chairman of the Northumberland Fusiliers Association, said: "We've got the lads down to London to show how seriously we are against the decision to scrap 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

    We're marching, we'll be wearing our hackles and we have drummers too.

    We're absolutely against the cuts to the regiment and we're out in force today to send that message."

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  • Disbandment of 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers David ... There is a debate today in the House of Commons on the following motion: That this House opposes the disbandment of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (2RRF); notes that 2RRF is the only infantry battalion being cut that was not initially due for disbandment on military grounds; further notes that 2RRF was instead caught by the Government s additional criteria of only one battalion loss per regiment and no deletion of cap-badges, which has resulted in more poorly-recruited Scottish battalions being saved; further notes the social and economic costs of disbandment; and urges the Government to reverse its decision.

    I have put in a request to speak in the debate and hopefully I will be called.

    Hundreds of retired Fusiliers will be parading through London and many will be attending the debate.

  • Documentary on fallen soldier has North Carolina ties An original documentary about a fallen U.S. soldier debuting Sunday night on HLN has a connection to the Apex-based security and defense contractor TigerSwan, Inc. "108 Hours: A Father's Journey to Iraq" tells the story of Robert Stokely 's trip to Iraq to honor his fallen son, U.S. Army Sgt.

    Mike Stokely , a member of the Georgia National Guard who was killed in action. Robert Stokely, from Sharpsburg, Ga., traveled with TigerSwan security personnel to a dangerous region of Iraq to place a marker at the site where his son was killed. The excursion was coordinated by Soldiers' Angels, a volunteer, non-profit charity.

    TigerSwan's services were donated. The News & Observer detailed Robert Stokely's journey back in March. The documentary airs Sunday night at 8 p.m.

    on HLN (which you may know as CNN's Headline News).

    You can watch a trailer for the film below.

  • Download The Odd Angry Shot movie 1979 (dvd, mp4, divx, dvdrip) Download The Odd Angry Shot movie 1979 (dvd, mp4, divx, dvdrip) Download The Odd Angry Shot in dvd, mp4, divx, dvdrip. Free torrents. Year: 1979 Genre: Action, Comedy, War Country: Australia Imdb id: 0079652 Runtime: 92 min Ratings: 6.5 Release date: 1 March 1979 Budget: AUD 600,000 Stars: Graham Kennedy, John Hargreaves, John Jarratt Storyline: A group of Australian SAS regiment soldiers are deployed to Vietnam around 1967/8 and encounter the realities of war, from the numbing boredom of camp life and long range patrols, raids and ambushes where nothing happens, to the the terror of enduring mortar barrages from an unseen enemy.

    Men die and are crippled in combat by firefights and booby traps, soldiers kill and capture the enemy, gather intelligence and retake ground only to cede it again whilst battling against the bureaucracy and obstinacy of the conventional military hierarchy. In the end they return to civilization, forever changed by their experiences but glad to return to the life they once knew. Leave a reply Official Trailers Categories Recent Posts Download The Stoning of Soraya M.

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  • Downloads History of the King's German Legion.

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  • Duchess Kate: Updated: Kate in Icy Blue for Trooping the ColourIt was a glorious morning of pomp and pageantry in London for this year's Trooping The Colour 1 , The Queen's annual birthday parade. The Duchess of Cambridge accompanied Prince Harry and The Duchess of Cornwall in a horse drawn carriage. Her Majesty's birthday is actually the 21st of April, however, it has long been tradition to celebrate the Sovereign's birthday publicly on a day in June, when good weather is more likely.

    The Queen has attended Trooping the Colour, every year of her reign, except in 1955 when a national rail strike cancelled the event. Trooping the Colour actually originated from traditional preparations for battle. Colours, or flags, were trooped down the rank so it could be seen by the soldiers.

    In 1748, it was announced that the parade would also mark the Sovereign's official birthday. The royals waved to the crowds. Prince William, Colonel of the Irish Guards, Prince Charles, Colonel of the Welsh Guards and The Princess Royal, Colonel of the Blues and Royals were on horseback.

    The event was meticulously planned with over 1,400 officers and men on parade, together with two hundred horses; over four hundred musicians from ten bands and corps of drums marched and played as one. Some 113 words of command are given by the Officer in Command of the Parade. The parade route extends from Buckingham Palace along the Mall to the Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall and back again.

    Guards march towards the palace. The Royal Family assembled on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch the Royal Air Force perform a flypast. The Royal Air Force shared a detailed graphic of the flypast's line-up.

    The flypast was an impeccable display as always. Kate chatting to Estella Taylor. Kate and Prince Harry.

    They appear to have such fun together. A lovely shot of William and Kate. Trooping The Colour is one of the highlights of the royal calendar and one of the very few events where so many members of the British Royal Family are in attendance.

    It is the fourth consecutive year Kate has been present at the event. In 2011 and 2013 she chose Alexander McQueen 2 coats and in 2012 she opted for an embroidered piece by Canadian designer Erdem 3 . I can vividly recall last year's ceremony; it was Kate's last public appearance before the birth of Prince George and there was a tremendous air of excitement amongst royal fans.

    Indeed, it had been speculated Prince George might join his parents today; hopefully we will see him at the event in the not too distant future. Below we see Prince William at his first Trooping the Colour, when he was almost two. Prince Harry was one when he first attended.

    When George does attend, William and Kate will be hoping he will not provide a repeat of his Uncle Harry's appearance in 1988 (this was too good not to share!). The Duchess always gets it just right sartorially for this event and today was no exception. Kate looked regal in a bespoke icy blue suit, it very much looks like an Alexander McQueen 4 ensemble, incorporating elements we know the brand favours.

    A closer look at the jacket's short-stand up collar with v neckline. Carly from Kate Middleton Style 5 believes Kate's jacket is a modified version of the Alexander McQueen Silk-Cotton Jacquard Peplum Jacket 6 . Below we see the jacket shares the same v neckline and collar as Kate's.

    It also features concealed hook and eye closure with peplum cut-out and pleated back. The matching hat is by talented milliner Jane Taylor. The most noticeable aspect of the look for me was the addition of a beautiful pearl brooch we haven't seen before.

    Following research, I don't believe it is a piece from The Royal Collection. Perhaps a wedding gift? The Duchess wore her Annoushka pearls 7 .

    Kate completed the look with her McQueen 8 clutch. I do love these annual events, Trooping The Colour always provides some great photos! VIDEOS We have one other update today concerning Kate's calendar.

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will watch athletes from across the globe compete at the Commonwealth Games 9 in Glasgow on 28 and 29 July, Buckingham Palace has confirmed. The trio were official ambassadors at London 2012. The visit promises to be an exciting one.

    The Queen will formally open the games and members of the Royal Family will lend their support throughout.

    We expect to see Kate on Monday for the annual Order of the Garter ceremonies.

    References ^ Trooping The Colour (www.trooping-the-colour.co.uk) ^ Alexander McQueen (bit.ly) ^ Erdem (bit.ly) ^ Alexander McQueen (bit.ly) ^ Kate Middleton Style (katemiddletonstyle.org) ^ Alexander McQueen Silk-Cotton Jacquard Peplum Jacket (bit.ly) ^ Annoushka pearls (www.janetaylormillinery.com) ^ McQueen (bit.ly) ^ the Commonwealth Games (www.glasgow2014.com)

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  • Ebook - Paddy Mayne: Lt Col Blair 'Paddy' Mayne, 1 SAS Regiment ... Paddy Mayne: Lt Col Blair 'Paddy' Mayne, 1 SAS Regiment Ebook By Hamish Ross Language: English An Irish solicitor and international rugby player, Blair 'Paddy' mayne become one of the most outstanding soldiers and leaders of the Second World War. After seeing action in Syria with the Commandos, he joined the new unit that David Stirling was establishing, the Special Air Service. The raids Mayne led in the Western Desert destroyed over one hundred enemy aircraft on the ground.

    The common factor in these successes was Mayne's ability to read the situation, anticipate how the enemy would react, and then attack. Mayne was twenty-two when he won the DSO for the first time. Mayne subsequently led the unit in Italy, France and Germany, winning a further bar to the DSO in each of these campaigns, as well as the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d'Honneur.

    At the end of the war, after a short period with an Antarctic Survey, Mayne returned to the law. In 1955 he died in a car accident, aged forty. Soon after his death, misinformation about Mayne began to appear.

    He was portrayed variously as a classical tragic hero of drama, and a man of anger and aggression. Hamish Ross's work largely refutes these standard interpretations, using official war diaries, the early chronicle of 1 SAS, Mayne's papers and diaries, and a number of extended interviews with key contemporaries. It has the support of the Mayne family and the SAS Regimental Association.

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  • Ex-Israeli soldier intent on Palestinian citizenship -- New ... Andre Pshenichnikov being restrained at the funeral of Shahid Mustafa Tamimi, a Palestinian man killed by Israeli soldiers . Photo by Oliver Weiken/EPA.. Andre Pshenichnikov was working on a software project for the Israeli military when he came across something both bizarre and depressingly familiar.

    The test video the project used was a film of Palestinians being shot by Israeli soldiers. It s so deeply ingrained it was just seen as normal, he says. The denigration of Palestinians is common throughout Israeli society; their lives are seen as having less value, as expendable.

    This was just one of the many experiences that convinced Andre, a former Israeli military programmer, that he no longer wanted to be Israeli. It is my opinion that those with Israeli citizenship are part of the crime of occupation because by remaining citizens they tacitly support the system of occupation and apartheid, he says. Andre, who is now 23, emigrated to Israel from Russia when he was 13.

    After completing three years of mandatory military service, he enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces Signal Corps and served an additional year and a half as a career soldier. But during this time his opinions changed dramatically and in an unprecedented move he is attempting to fully renounce his Israeli citizenship to become a Palestinian. But it s not proving easy.

    Andre was arrested in May after he was found living in the Dheishe Refugee Camp near Bethlehem. The camp is in the Palestinian Area A , which comprises 18 per cent of West Bank. Under full security control by the Palestinian Authority, it is out of bounds for Israeli citizens.

    Between interrogations he was held in a small cell on his own, where he remained 24 hours a day for eight days before being released on bail. For three of the days I was in a room without any windows and I was beaten up once, but it was bearable, he says. He told his police interrogators that he believes the concept of a Zionist state is not valid and that Israel is the representative of Western power interests in the Middle East.

    He told them that he wanted to break all ties with Israel. For this, the police accused him of being a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Andre only said he believed in the ideas of the PFLP, not that he was a member, so they couldn t press those charges, says Andre Rosenthal, Pshenichnikov s lawyer.

    They were trying to get 15 more days to interrogate him but eventually they had to let him out on bail. Yet he still faces charges relating to being in Area A and is waiting for his trial date. In the meantime he is forbidden from returning to where he was living.

    Close ties between the Palestinian Authority and Israel meant it took just a phone call to have Pshenichnikov arrested in the street in the middle of the day. The Palestinian Authority picked him up, but they are subcontracted by the Israeli authorities they re basically a wing of the Israeli authorities, says Andre Rosenthal. If nothing else, Pshenichnikov hopes his trial will highlight Palestinian oppression and the real nature of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government.

    I believe everything in this world is possible and even if I m not able to get citizenship, the process itself is very important, says Pshenichnikov.

    It will show the world that Israel, not the Palestinian Authority, is really in control of the West Bank.

  • Experience: I Served in the British Army of 1812 My introduction to the geopolitics of British Romanticism came about in a highly unusual way. In the summer of 2007, I had a job as a historical reenactor: six days a week, I became a foot soldier and musician in a Drum Corps of the British Army during the War of 1812. My one-time service for the honour of the Prince Regent took place at Fort York, a National Historic Site located in downtown Toronto, Canada, and in this post I will share my lived observations of what the daily experiences of colonial military service would have been like for a British soldier at the height of the Romantic period.

    The American attack on York in 1813 (Fort York website) First, a little history of the British Army at Fort York, Upper Canada. Now surrounded by condominiums, a brewery, an airport, and former abattoirs, Fort York is one of Toronto s oldest landmarks, with a complex history 1 . Built in 1793 in anticipation of an American invasion, the Fort housed the British regiments outposted to Upper Canada, including grenadier corps like the 8th Regiment of Foot, the Canadian Fencible Infantry, and the Royal Artillery detachment.

    As Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe had anticipated, Fort York would indeed see action, and it was a key site of conflict on the Canadian side of the border during the War of 1812. In April 1813, the City of York (now Toronto) was overcome by an American force of 2700 men who crossed Lake Ontario in a fleet of fourteen ships, armed with 85 cannon. (By contrast, the defending force consisted of only 750 Britons, Canadians, and First Nations peoples, with a meagre 12 cannon.) Notable events during the battle included the British commander s order to blow up the gunpowder magazine, and the death of the American commander, Brigadier-General Zebulon Pike. Though the American force occupied Fort York for six days, and burned the surrounding town, by 1814, the British forces had strengthened Fort York sufficiently to repel another water invasion from Lake Ontario, and the war ended with York still under British control (Canada, of course, would not become a separate nation from Britain until 1867).

    Today, Fort York operates as a historic site that portrays the regimental activities of British forces in the early nineteenth century, preserving details from the reenactors uniforms, to musket drills 2 , to sumptuous (if somewhat bland) Georgian mess dinners 3 for both officers and the distinguished citizens of Toronto all in full Romantic-era dress. The Art of Playing the Fife (Fort York website) I fell into the job almost by chance, and began my service at Fort York as a musician. Fresh from my first year at University, I was a pretty good flautist and piccolo player, so the job of fifer in the Drum Corps seemed a natural fit.

    When it came to mastering the shrill instrument itself, I was a quick study; the far greater challenge was memorizing up to 40 short pieces to be played on command. All of our music (ranging from duty calls to marches) was historically accurate, and our repertoire included the usual suspects (like God Save the King and The British Grenadiers ), but also some rarer melodies from eighteenth-century collections of folk tunes. Later, I learned that many of our fife and drum pieces predated the Romantic period, with several of them, like Lillibulero, appearing in The Beggar s Opera (1728), or even dating to the English Civil War.

    On the battlefield, the role of the Drum Corps was to deliver orders to the different squadrons through musical calls, and, as I was to learn during reenacted battles, military convention forbade shooting at the musicians, who were armed only with swords. In preparation for battle exercises, we practiced several calls to summon the troops. Our particular affiliated troop was the Fort York Squad, a regiment that drilled with muskets and bayonets and performed on parade.

    Fort York Drum Corps on parade (Wikimedia Commons) But the musical training was only a small part of the Drum Corps duties. What I wasn t anticipating were the rest of the Corps military responsibilities. Each day, we would arrive at the Fort to spend up to an hour in the blockhouse cleaning the brass buttons and insignia on our uniforms and shakos (top hats), and polishing our boots to a perfect shine; each day, we had to show them to a commanding officer for approval before venturing outdoors.

    Our uniforms consisted of white linen trousers that buttoned at the front, a simple linen shirt, a wool jacket with the design of the Regiment of Fencibles (yellow for the Drum Corps; red for the Squad), black leather boots, and a black shako with a brass plate and an enormous felted plume (it looked rather like a pipe cleaner). In the middle of summer, the heat of the uniform was almost unbearable, and we would march hastily after drills into the blockhouse to strip off our wool jackets. We were also allowed to walk outdoors, while not on parade, in just our under-layers and boots, but were required to wear a small felt hat at all times. (The historical e ffet de r el of our garments was heightened by the rumour that one of Fort York s directors had been a consultant on the uniforms for the British Navy in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.) Fort York Squad drilling (Fort York website) At the Fort, our daily routines 4 included numerous drills, raising and lowering the flag 5 (a historically accurate version of the Union Jack, which was missing a few key white bars), musical demonstrations, and most excitingly artillery.

    Directed by our Drum Major, the Corps practiced for battle by marching in two rows, while playing in time an activity that required hours of drilling on the parade grounds of Fort York. (Thanks to the extensive drills, I will never forget how to do a right-about FACE! ) We were also instructed in the minutiae of dressage within the rank and file, which we practiced faithfully before performing our drills before the visiting public. In addition, we were well-versed in military decorum, never failing to salute our Lieutenant, Corporal, Sergeant, and Drum Major while passing them on the parade ground. Meanwhile, the Squad practiced their musketry, bayonet-charges, battle-cries, and marching.

    There was one particularly terrifying Squad member who would lead the troops in screaming Kill Kill KILL! during bayonet exercises (the Corps would often quietly retreat to the barracks during those sessions). Intriguingly, the drills revealed that the musket, the Romantic-era individual weapon of choice, was surprisingly inefficient: since the musket often took a minute or more to reload after a single shot, the Squad could not afford to waste a second, and our Squad s hard work in mastering their drills that summer was rewarded with a first place in the Drill Competition at Niagara-on-the-Lake s Fort George.

    The only surviving photo of me from my time at the Fort. Here I am on the cannon (with sponge in hand) during an unusual women-only artillery demonstration. My favourite daily practice was the artillery demonstration.

    Instead of our usual yellow regimentals, we wore the blue coats of the Royal Artillery Detachment for this exercise, and manned a six-pound field gun in three- to six-person teams. Each person took a specific position on the gun, which included commanding the drill, sponging out the barrel, loading the powder charge, carrying and igniting the wick, and hooking out the debris after the cannon had fired. Thanks to my enthusiasm for the latter responsibility, I won (for the first and hopefully the last time), the Happy Hooker award at the end of the summer.

    Since we were firing directly at a major expressway, we didn t use ammunition, but the demonstration 6 was still impressive enough with gunpowder alone. As members of a broader ceremonial British Army still apparently extant throughout Canada, we also took part in occasional mock-battles at other forts around the region, including a water invasion at Fort Niagara in New York State, and several battles and marches at Fort George just across the Ontario border. The Fort Niagara battles were particularly fierce, since we the British cohorts had been instructed to lose command of the Fort to a huge invading American force of reenactors.

    During the battle, since the reenacting squads were permitted to use their weaponry, there were sounds of shots and wreaths of smoke surrounding our Drum Corps as we played the duty calls to our troops, and, in a moment of horror for all concerned, one of our soldiers actually fell to the ground bleeding (it turned out he had had a voluminous nosebleed due to the stress of the experience). As night fell, we resumed our open-air sleeping quarters inside Fort Niagara s walls, while the American reenactors pitched white tents outside the Fort, and their families and children, in full period dress, prepared historic cuisine on small campfires. Though we came together in solidarity for mock battles, there was also tremendous rivalry between local British Army forts: our great competitor, Fort Henry 7 (in Kingston, Ontario) even took out a huge billboard mockingly advertising its reenactment programs over the expressway above Fort York, and, when I dined at Fort Henry with family that Thanksgiving, I felt almost treasonous to my own Fort s good name.

    This historically accurate rivalry, intriguingly, became a key motif in Canadian literature. As I learned later in my English classes, Margaret Atwood and Northrop Frye have written extensively about how the Garrison Mentality of early British colonial forts, like Fort York and Fort Henry, contributed to a kind of willful isolationism in the settings of the literature of the next two hundred years. As a microcosm of a distant civilization in the face of an encroaching wilderness, the garrison demanded total obeisance to internal hierarchies, and an attitude of competition towards other such outposts; what is striking, to me, is how this garrison mentality from the Romantic era persists in quite literal fashion among the post-colonial historic sites today.

    What did I learn by serving in the Regency military? The life of the colonially-posted British soldier was exceptionally formalist, with a great deal of emphasis on appearance, protocol, drill, and duty, and often with very little active service. But when service suddenly became real in battle, our well-practiced forms were all we could fall back on.

    I was also surprised at the central role of art in providing formal structure to the British soldier s life: the fife and drum calls governed the structure of the day, the soldier s physical movements, and even his (or her!) survival. Finally, and perhaps in contrast to other immersive experiences that are available in the modern era (e.g. Dickens Universe; the Jane Austen Society of North America s conferences), becoming a Regency soldier for several months meant entering in a more serious way into the daily pace of Regency military life.

    The most memorable thing, to me, was the shift in pace between bucolic in-Fort domesticity and the sudden, shocking nature of battle, which Austen captures so well (with reference to the Navy) at the end of Persuasion : we, like the Wentworths, had suddenly to pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance.

    All photos come from the Friends of Fort York website www.fortyork.ca unless otherwise noted.

    References ^ complex history (www.fortyork.ca) ^ musket drills (www.youtube.com) ^ Georgian mess dinners (www.fortyork.ca) ^ daily routines (www.youtube.com) ^ lowering the flag (www.youtube.com) ^ demonstration (www.youtube.com) ^ Fort Henry (www.forthenry.com)

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  • Fallen soldier's military blog may be published - Milblogging.com ... Fallen soldier's military blog may be published Monday, November 12, 2012, 02:13 PM - Fallen Military Bloggers, News Stories I wrote about fallen military blogger and flight medic Army Sgt. Eric E. Williams in July and August.

    Williams was just starting his long journey home from Afghanistan when he came under enemy mortar fire and died. In his last post published only days before he was killed he wrote of coming home on his blog titled "Eric Williams" which can be found at http://myfriendthemedic.blogspot.com/ Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times wrote that his wife and mother hope his blog can be published to help the public understand the war from the perspective of a soldier on the front lines. Full story here.

    Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us Did Petraeus' mistress leak info via Facebook? Monday, November 12, 2012, 01:58 PM - News Stories Did Petraeus' mistress leak sensitive information on Facebook? Former aides say biographer disclosed details of military operations in lighthearted posts.

    The coterie of officers and advisers surrounding Gen. David Petraeus had become suspicious of the woman, now known to have been his mistress, due to her playful Facebook status updates they claim disclosed sensitive details of military operations in Afghanistan. Paula Broadwell, the woman who penned the military chief's biography and ultimately began a romantic relationship with the married 60-year-old, became a cause of concern back in 2009 when those in Petraeus' inner circle saw her lighthearted postings on the social networking website... (Mail Online) Boston Veterans Launch Military Social Network.

    It was only after Aaron Kletzing and Yinon Weiss met at Harvard Business School that they realized they d served together. At the same outpost outside of Taji, just north of Baghdad, Kletzing served as an Army fire support officer and Weiss commanded a team of special forces. Seeing each other again in Boston made it sink in how armed service members have strong, but often brief, professional interactions.

    People in the military moved around so much, Kletzing said. And they meet new people professionally everywhere they go, and then they move again. On this Veterans Day holiday, the two retired officers are using their Harvard Business School training to launch a new social network.

    Called RallyPoint, the idea is to help military personnel and veterans stay connected... (WBUR) Soldier s insider attack story to be a teaching tool for war. Not a day goes by that Zach Camp doesn t replay that terrible August day over in his mind. Was there anything he could have done differently?

    Were there any signs that an Afghan Army soldier was going to turn his machine gun on the American troops he had been training alongside for months? Nearly three months after the assault that sent Camp home with a gunshot wound, the Army first lieutenant says he doesn t think there was any way he or his fellow team members could have anticipated the insider attack... (The Durango Herald) War stories, in words, photos. War veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan were given a camera and an assignment - use photos to tell your story, to convey what it was like to be deployed, come home, get medical care, get along in the world.

    Eighty photos and accompanying quotes were assembled for an exhibit, "From War to Home," that opens Tuesday at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, timed for near Veterans Day. The images, submitted by 40 veterans from the Philadelphia area, convey the horrors of war and difficulties of coming home... (Philly.com) Monroe County's frontier forts: Diary details captain's 18th-century life at Fort Hyndshaw. This is the third in a four-part series highlighting the history of the four frontier forts that were built from 1755 to 1756 at the command of Benjamin Franklin.

    From December 1755 to January 1756, frontier forts were built in and around present-day Stroudsburg and Shawnee-on-Delaware, but there was a necessity to protect the settlers who lived in the northeasternmost corner of the area... (Pocono Record) Ken Hall: Combat veterans have earned right to tell war stories. This will be a special Veterans Day for Tammy Duckworth. She lost both her legs in combat in Iraq, then turned to politics.

    Last week she won the election to represent the 8th Congressional District in Illinois. It was, as they say in political circles, a hard-fought battle not that it came close to the real ones veterans like her have survived or the others that veterans face when they return home. The contest attracted national attention because she and her opponent, one-term incumbent Joe Walsh, let each other have it... (recordonline) New LA film festival highlights veterans in movies.

    The GI Film Festival Hollywood has chosen Veterans Day weekend to launch its first event in Los Angeles. Festival co-founder Brandon Millett said Sunday that films at the two-day festival highlight the successes and sacrifices of American military personnel and the worldwide struggle for democracy... (Houston Chronicle) US military looks to social nets for intelligence strategy. Students at a U.S.

    military graduate school in California are mining social media with new methods that may change the way the armed forces collect intelligence overseas. Students and researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School have tackled two projects that could begin the shift in the way intelligence is gathered... (TechHive) Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us Fake Syria war videos - Have you been duped? Monday, November 12, 2012, 01:55 PM - News Stories Have you seen the brutal videos and photos from Syria?

    Have you found yourself sympathizing for one side or the other? You may have been fooled. An article that appeared in the GlobalPost today has a good analysis on many of the fake disturbing videos that have been circulating on the internet, which are assumed to be from Syria, but really aren't.

    The sham videos can have very real effects, creating sympathy for one side or the other. Last week, the United Nations accused the rebels of war crimes, based on a YouTube video of fighters executing prisoners. This type of atrocity makes intervention less appealing to the West.

    While that video appears to have been real, many other bogus ones have found their way onto major television networks in the United States and beyond, and are spread widely by social media. It s not uncommon for the two sides to use the same footage to make opposite claims. To have a look at some of the most viewed fake videos, go to GlobalPost.

    Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us Stories of war shared on Veterans Day Sunday, November 11, 2012, 04:39 AM - News Stories Prisoner of War tells his story. A chance to honor those who have served in each branch of the armed forces. Every service member that has put their life on the line in combat has their own personal account of what they endured.

    But for one local soldier in particular, cossing enemy lines was more than he bargained for. Former army specialist and prisoner of war, Edgar Hernandez said, "I still remember everything like it happened yesterday. Back in 2003, Hernandez and a small group of 33 soldiers riding in a convoy in iraq got lost... (ValleyCentral.com) A Veterans Day story: 'Why Johnny and not me?' This is a Veterans Day story in two parts.

    It involves my late father, Harold Silverberg, and a deadly battle in Germany he survived during World War II. Like many war veterans, he rarely talked about those times. But 41 years later, at the age of 65, he finally was able to express in writing its lingering impact.

    The first part is his 1985 account of an attack by his unit, the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment of the 8th Infantry Division, on Nov.

    27, 1944. Its objective was to capture a vital hill near the H rtgen Forest from the enemy, despite steep embankments, deep mud, barbed wire, land mines and German artillery fire... (Newsday) From waterboy to war hero, a Veterans Day story. Ben Overstreet badly wanted to play football, but when he started his senior year at Gulf High School in 1949, he stood 5-feet-5 and weighed 105 pounds.

    He was as fearless as he was slow. His parents knew he would try to play and probably get hurt. They talked to the coach.

    Ben made the team, but as equipment manager, not player. He cheered from the sidelines, celebrated the other boys' glory, brought them water. His time would come... (Tampa Bay Times) 87-year-old veteran breaks silence, lets loose his war stories.

    The stories of World War II came Stateside first in newsreels, papers and radio dispatches from the front. Then the troops returned home, and they went to work or college on the G.I. Bill.

    Drafted as teens and turned into adults, it was time to earn a living, get married and start a family.Meanwhile, many kept their most painful memories hidden, or they leaked out their war stories over decades. Gerald Bregman's tale of war, capture and salvation spewed out suddenly, over Spanish food... (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) Local man shares story of Korean War battle. The Korean War is often considered the forgotten war.

    But for those who were there, including one Leavenworth man, the conflict is impossible to forget. Hersch Chapman, 85, will serve as the grand marshal of the 93rd annual Leavenworth County Veterans Day Parade. He has since 1980 been one of the owners of Lavery s Jewelry in downtown Leavenworth.

    But among the massive jewelry display cases in the circa 1892 store is one at the end containing maps, pictures, articles and items from the Korean War. Every piece has a different story and Chapman is more than willing to share... (The Leavenworth Times) Veterans Day: Pennsylvania soldier's art helped him get through WWII. WWII veteran Williard Dominick s story is one of many in the new exhibit: The Soldier Experience at the U.S.

    Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle. The following account is based on a 2000 interview with Dominick. Williard Dominick was born in Bolivar, Westmoreland County, Pa., in 1920.

    He started drawing at an early age and discovered that he had an innate talent for sculpture. In the 1930s, he entered a soap-carving contest sponsored by the Ivory Soap Co. He won a national prize by carving a colt.

    While he was growing up, he kept sketchbooks and diaries... (PennLive.com) Haverhill WWII veteran shares memories of a long escape. John Katsaros s adventures in World War II seem like something straight out of a Hollywood movie. For now, his story is told in a book he wrote four years ago called Code Burgundy The Long Escape.

    It is the basis for talks he now gives regularly at schools, colleges, and community organizations. I don t do this for myself, Katsaros said, after speaking to the Student Veterans Organization at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. I want people to know what the Eighth Air Force did, how we helped to win the war. (Boston.com) Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us Milblogger Alex Horton writes note to self Sunday, November 11, 2012, 04:12 AM - Milbloggers in the News I watched a great video, Note to Self, produced by CBS.

    Military blogger and Iraq War veteran writes a note to his younger 21-year old self on the eve of war. Hat tip: Blackfive Source: CBS Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us News: The Duffel blog fools news sites again Saturday, November 10, 2012, 11:59 PM - News Stories Thousands demand recount after fake news said military ballots weren't counted. Thousands of Mitt Romney supporters have begun to clamor for a recount after reading that military absentee ballots were delivered one day late.

    The Duffel Blog reported on Wednesday that, hundreds of thousands of military absentee ballots were delivered hours after the deadline for them to be counted, with preliminary counts showing that they would have overturned the vote in several states and brought a victory for Gov. Mitt Romney. (Examiner) 7 Navy SEALs disciplined for role with video game. The U.S.

    Navy SEALs are part of an elite force that operates in the shadows, best known for killing Osama bin Laden. However, CBS News has learned a group of SEALs has been disciplined for revealing secrets. The seven members of SEAL Team Six are all still on active duty.

    One of them was on the raid which killed Osama bin Laden and made SEAL Team Six a household name. For two days this spring and summer, they worked as paid consultants on a recently released video game, "Medal of Honor: Warfighter." (CBS News) History preserved through Military Museum of Butte County in Oroville. Located inside Surplus City, the museum has dozens of items, including a 1917 Swiss Army ammunition wagon, a 1942 M-16 Half Track, a troop carrier tank and various posters.

    A tank and a Nike missile outside are also part of the museum. Of course, the missile's electronics are gone, said owner Steve Seidenglanz in a phone interview Wednesday. Seidenglanz began collecting military memorabilia 51 years ago... (Oroville Mercury Register) Army Wives 'Battling Bare' For Their War Torn Husbands Are Everywhere From CNN To Psychology Today.

    I first wrote about Battling Bare and Ashley Wise in June when her case made it to a small Clarksville, Tn newspaper and onto the web. The story went viral and made its way to the Daily Mail, by the end of the day I'd signed Ashley and her group on as contributors and they've submitted some powerful pieces... (Business Insider) War exhibits in danger of being lost to time. Many valuable collections of military artifacts and memorabilia may be lost as aging custodians become fewer, military veterans and historians say. "Our volunteers here are Second World War and Korean War vets," Jim McKinny, a veteran with the Nutana branch of the Royal Canadian Legion in Saskatoon, told CBC News. "So the youngest one would be in their low 80s." (CBC News) Gravesend nurse s diary tells the story of WW1 victims.

    For Remembrance Day, Anna Dubuis opened the pages of an album that returns to the days when Gravesend Hospital housed the victims of the First World War On Christmas Day, 1901, a girl named Kate Harvey was given an empty album by her father. Fifteen years later, she was working at Gravesend Hospital when the First World War broke out, and she took the album with her... (Gravesend Reporter) Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us Paula Broadwell's e-mails led F.B.I. to Petraeus Saturday, November 10, 2012, 11:58 PM - News Stories News reports are being heard around the world about General David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell.

    Emails sent by Paula Broadwell, Petraeus's biographer, to another woman who knows both of them, led the F.B.I. to the C.I.A. director, reports the New York Times.

    When F.B.I. agents following up on the complaint began to examine Ms. Broadwell s e-mails, they discovered exchanges between her and Mr.

    Petraeus that revealed that they were having an affair, said several officials who spoke of the investigation on the condition of anonymity. They also discovered that Ms. Broadwell possessed certain classified information, one official said, but apparently concluded that it was probably not Mr.

    Petraeus who had given it to her and that there had been no major breach of security. No leak charges are expected to be filed as a result of the investigation. Full story here.

    Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us News: Social media, soldiers and suicide Friday, November 9, 2012, 03:48 AM - News Stories Social Media Is Saving Soldiers' Lives In Ways You'd Never Expect. TROOP IN TROUBLE was the beginning of the status update posted last week by the military Facebook page Awesome Shit My Drill Sergeant Said. The humor-based page that originally started as a place for Drill Sergeants and soldiers to share stories had just become the last lifeline of a suicidal soldier.

    Just before going to sleep around 11:30pm, Dan, a Staff Sergeant in the Army National Guard who is one of the page administrators and goes by the pseudonym HMFIC , decided he d check the page activity one last time. There was a message in his inbox... (Business Insider) Female officers sent nude photos to general. Two female Army officers testified Wednesday they provided nude photos to a general facing sex crime charges.

    A married captain testified that Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair repeatedly asked her to send him nude photos of herself, which she said made her uncomfortable.

    Eventually, she said she placated the married general by sending him downloaded pornographic photos of other women cropped so that their faces weren't visible... (KTIV) Comedian Victoria Jackson fooled by spoof blogger over Romney loss. Brushing off the criticism by Wednesday night, Victoria Jackson tweeted about a military blogger going by the name of "Drew" who posted an article titled "Military Absentee Ballots Delivered One Day Late, Would Have Swung Election For Romney." The only problem is, the article is obviously a spoof... (Examiner) Facebook Page Connects Fort Hood Families. What if everything you needed to know about your new hometown was conveniently placed on one Facebook page?

    Well, that's a reality for Fort Hood families. All thanks to a stay at home military wife. And she's helping more than 9,000 people for free.

    As a stay at home military wife, Jessica Mitchell found her calling in sewing. But it wasn't until she saw a post about vendors at a local event on the Fort Hood Area Events Facebook page that she decided to use those sewing skills to make some extra cash for her family... (KCEN HD) Battlefield Images, Taking No Prisoners. AS a form of photojournalism, war photography can sometimes seem to be telling the same story over and over across conflicts and eras.

    But as technology has grown more sophisticated, photojournalists have been able to bring us ever closer to its daily realities and to offer new ways of understanding the experience of those who live through it. That s one lesson of War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath, now at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, through Feb.

    3... (New York Times) Campus veterans to share war stories. War: Through Their Eyes, Warriors & Nurses exhibit will be held on Friday in Reeve Memorial Union Theater and Steinhilber Gallery to tell the stories of students and alumni who have seen war.

    The Warrior & Nurses event is a multimedia project led by UW Oshkosh professor Grace Lim, students from the journalism and music departments, art director of the University s Learning Technologies Shawn McAfee and others in the campus community... (The Advance-Titan) Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us GI Film Festival goes to Hollywood Friday, November 9, 2012, 03:33 AM Starting today the Los Angeles Film School will host the GI Film Festival. The event which takes place Veterans Day weekend will feature best of award-winning films from the 6th annual GI Film Festival. Attendees will be able to watch films, connect with top industry professionals, and even mingle with Hollywood celebrities.

    To learn more, visit the GI Film Festival website. Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us Fighting a war with Twitter? Friday, November 9, 2012, 03:24 AM - Twitter, News Stories According to a story in ComputerWorld, students and researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School are working on two projects that could change the way intelligence is gathered.

    One project uses software for Twitter that helps to gauge public opinion in some of the world's hot spots, while another project analyzes the situation in Syria with social media. There are a lot of details provided in the story that explain each project in more depth. Full story here.

    Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us News: Soldier shares story with Memory Project Thursday, November 8, 2012, 03:40 AM - News Stories War stories shared by hero from Memory Project. Drouin is one of 1,500 volunteers that make up The Memory Project Speakers Bureau , a national bilingual initiative of The Historica-Dominion Institute where veterans or still serving Canadian Forces members share their story with students. I think that he really is a hero, said 12 year-old Anne Chambers with a big smile on her face.

    I m just so happy to come from a country with people that brave who are willing to go in and help people. (Ottawa Sun) A soldier's story: Injured WWII warrior found lifetime success in Granville. In Granville, there are many veterans worthy of thanks on Veterans Day for what they did for their country in the military service none more so than World War II veteran and retired Denison University professor, Andrew Sterrett. The quiet and reserved Dr.

    Sterrett s life in and out of the military serves as an inspiring demonstration of human fortitude, considering the nightmarish sacrifices he and thousands like him who answered their country s call have made... (The Newark Advocate) Ancestry.co.uk releases Remembrance Facebook app to raise funds for Royal British Legion. Ancestry.co.uk, the genealogy website has released a Remembrance app on its Facebook page while planning to open up its military records for free over the weekend of Remembrance Sunday. The company has posted the app to allow users to donate 1 for each tribute that they leave, and 3 for each heroic story posted to the Hall of Heroes section, with the funds going to the Royal British Legion... (The Drum) Museum exhibit tells the story of the Civil War through quilts.

    In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the American Textile History Museum in Lowell presents Homefront & Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War, through Nov.

    25. An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum tells America s story through the art, history, and science of textiles. The Civil War traveling exhibition is presented by guest curators Madelyn Shaw and Lynne Zacek Bassett... (Boston.com) SC World War II vets' stories told in ETV documentary.

    Lou Fowler was a waist gunner with the 454th bomber group when he was shot down over Yugoslavia. After being held in a German concentration camp for more than a year, Fowler, who lives in Columbia, planned and eventually made his escape. It was 1944 and he and three other prisoners of war had just stumbled upon an American tank in the dead of night.

    That was the greatest day of my life, he said. My freedom. Fowler s harrowing account along with others can be seen in the fifth installment of the series, South Carolinians in World War II A World War. (The State) Concord vet writes memoir of his battle experiences to garner appreciation for the military.

    When Bob Whitworth was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1967 and served as a combat infantryman during the Vietnam War, he'd witnessed horrors that to this day remain vivid in his memory. "The minute we stepped off the military base, there were snipers, ambushes, land mines in a jungle so dark you couldn't even see your hands," said Whitworth. In his early 20s, Whitworth said he faced the fact that his life, which was just beginning, could possibly end in a blink of an eye... (San Jose Mercury News) My Army Life in Photos seeks contest entries.

    My Army Life in Photos, a new contest by the U.S. Army Installation Management Command s Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Programs, is now accepting submissions. Eligible FMWR patrons can upload photos capturing their Army experience to the entry application on Facebook.com/FamilyMWR.

    All eligible submissions will be entered into a random drawing for a prizes... (My Guidon) Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us Military blog CORKSPHERE to shut down Wednesday, November 7, 2012, 04:19 AM - Milbloggers in the News 83-year old veteran Bill Corcoran has decided to shut down his military blog CORKSPHERE which he launched four years ago to cover the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. At its peak, the blog reached over 3,000 page views per day according to Corcoran, but he also says interest in the blog had been waning since passing the 1 million hits a year ago. He attributes the waning interest to war fatigue by the news media and the American public.

    Corcoran discusses the highs and lows of the blog in a story that was published in The New York Times yesterday. I m a realist and I m fully aware that after so many years it is hard for people to continue to care deeply about a conflict that doesn t seem to have any end goal or sense of mission. So a few weeks ago, I decided I would stop the blog after the election. (I m leaving the door open just a bit to a last-minute change of heart.) If I do stop posting, however, I intend to keep it on the Internet as a historical reference for anyone interested in the Iraq and Afghan wars.

    There have been many gratifying moments. One involved a woman who wrote me after I had posted a video of a firefight in Afghanistan that included her son. She said that she had not heard from him in weeks and that she was thrilled to be able to see him in the video.

    She went on to tell me what a wonderful job I was doing for all the military families who felt as she did, that the media had let them down in its coverage of the Afghan war. Full story here. Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us Blogger preparing for embed in war zone Tuesday, November 6, 2012, 03:22 AM - Afghanistan Military Bloggers The last time I wrote about military blogger C.

    Blake Powers (aka The Laughing Wolf ) back in September, he had just published a post telling readers he would tell them more about what it takes to do an embed. Earlier this week Powers posted a new story called Preparing For An Embed: Getting Started that talks about the first step. Powers writes on the military blog Blackfive: The first step in any embed is a journalistic outlet.

    All embeds are journalistic embeds. Period. Dot.

    They are not for morale, they are not for sightseeing, and they are not for cooking or other culinary endeavors. Trust me, I spent a couple of months earlier this year trying to set something up for a chef who wanted to go cook for the troops, and despite my efforts and those of two very helpful people in DoD, no go, not even in conjunction with a real embed. Now, that is not to say that an embed can't chose to do something once there if the unit approves, but that is not a valid reason for an embed and won't help your cause in applying.

    Embeds are for journalism and journalism only. Keep in mind that blogs (even milblogs) don't have the clout or prestige they once did and that there does still seem to be an institutional bias towards "real" media in some circles. More here.

    Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us News: Lawsuit over dead soldier's body Tuesday, November 6, 2012, 02:57 AM - News Stories War Widow's Lawsuit Says Nat Geo, Fox Depicted Dead Husband's Body, Aired Family Photo. An Army staff sergeant's widow says in a lawsuit against National Geographic and Fox that a documentary from the companies depicted her husband's dead body and showed a private family photo she believes was taken from his laptop after he died. The suit seeks unspecified damages and to ban Nat Geo and Fox from using military family members' images, names or likenesses for commercial purposes without their permission.

    Nat Geo declined to comment. Donnice Roberts, of Carthage, Texas, has two children with Staff Sergeant Kevin Casey Roberts... (Chicago Tribune) 'Witness' Documents the Work and Art of War Zone Photojournalists. The violence is what you start out with because it s the obvious story.

    I fill in the blanks with contexts about how these people live, says Eros Hoagland. A photojournalist in war and conflict zones, he sees in his work both opportunity and limits. You need layers and arcs and different things happening kind of at the same time, rather than in-your-face imagery of death and suffering.

    How much of that can you look at? As Hoagland speaks, he s packing for his next gig, the camera panning over his camera case, his helmet, and his body armor... (PopMatters) Social Media Wins and Fails: Eye of the Storm. Mashable tackled this very early on in a post they called 7 Fake Hurricane Sandy Photos You re Sharing on Social Media .

    From a photo of soldiers in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, to a picture stolen from a popular disaster movie, to various photoshopped photos combining non-sandy images with random storm photos people spent much of the day passing around images that were either blatant fabrications or legitimate photos that weren t of Sandy at all. In fact, as I was stuck on the East Coast because of the storm, I spent a good couple hours practicing my troll skills as I debunked photo after photo on my own timeline... (Business 2 Community) Veterans Day: Loveland veterans share their stories (video, form). Note from the reporter: Thank our veterans for their service to our country.

    Fill out the form at the bottom of this story; call 599-1218 and leave a message of thanks; or email [email protected] The military experiences changed many veterans for life even though their service spanned such a short time. Some of the comments and voice recordings will be printed with a story on Nov.

    11, Veterans Day... (Reporter Herald) Family defends Malaysian held over Facebook insult. The family of a Malaysian man detained for allegedly insulting a state sultan on Facebook called for his release Monday, saying the government is violating his free-speech rights. Police arrested 27-year-old Ahmad Abdul Jalil in Kuala Lumpur and took him to southern Johor state late Friday.

    He was freed briefly Monday after a magistrate court in Johor refused to extend his remand order but police immediately arrested him again, said his sister Anisa Abdul Jalil... (WBOC-TV 16) Bookout shares stories of courage and loss during Vietnam. One peek into Army veteran Steve Bookout s Newton home gives a glimpse into the two tours of duty he served during the Vietnam War: At his computer desk sits an armored seat, stripped from a helicopter much like the ones he used to fly. His basement houses two helicopter doors, emblazoned with a red wild boar, the symbol of the Razorbacks gun squad, and a photo of Gen.

    William Westmoreland hangs on a wall, a personalized inscription scrawled at the bottom.... (Newton Daily News) Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us Execution video by Syrian rebels goes viral Monday, November 5, 2012, 03:05 AM - News Stories Video of Syrian rebels executing government soldiers that surfaced last week has gone viral, while drawing condemnation from around the world. This isn t the first video of a war crime being committed in Syria by either rebels or government forces, and likely won t be the last as the war continues on. According to The Wall Street Journal: Summary executions by rebels of regime loyalists, soldiers and members of the Syrian security forces and police are believed to have occurred with frequency in the northern city of Aleppo, where fighting has been raging since July, according to human-rights groups, video footage and in some instances the admission of rebels themselves.

    Amnesty International said it was working on verifying the video and the circumstances of the executions, but the preliminary assessment by its technical specialists indicated the footage was authentic and doesn't appear to have been manipulated. More on the story here. Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us News: War reporter says my camera is my weapon Saturday, November 3, 2012, 11:53 PM - News Stories War reporter: 'My camera is my weapon'.

    As he strode on stage to accept the 1999 Rory Peck award for hard news journalism, Sorious Samura struggled to find the words that would fit the moment. He hadn't expected to win the prestigious prize and so hadn't prepared a speech. Looking out across audience, the pioneering video journalist made the snap decision to speak his mind rather than proffer faux gratification... (CNN) Civil War-era diary gives insight.

    Sally Hale holds history in her hands. Wearing protective cotton gloves, the nontraditional history student gently turned the pages of the personal diary of Franklin E. Fox, a Michigan soldier who chronicled his experiences during the Civil War.

    She paused and referred to a page, separated from the binding of the 150-year-old diary. Here is a passage on the assassination of the president, she said, referring to Abraham Lincoln. They learned about it several days after it happened.

    It says, The men were not in good spirits. (Kearney Hub) Civil War letters tell story of Niagara County veteran. For more than a century, the letters sat in a tiny Niagara County farmhouse, a precious link to one of the nation s bloodiest struggles. The long-forgotten ink spread across yellowed pages has roared to life once again, telling the story of a Niagara County man who battled through the Civil War and lived to tell about it.

    More than 40 letters from Elmer Fox, who left Somerset at a young age to join the Union Army, are on display in the Royalton Hartland Community Library, 9 Vernon St., through November... (The Buffalo News) Blog Roundup: Three Blogs You May Have Missed. It was a busy week with Hurricane Sandy blasting through town and leaving many Sudbury residents without power. If you're catching up on your news from the week, look no further.

    Throughout the week Patch's Local Voices bloggers share information, insight and opinion about what matters to them. Here's a selection of blogs from throughout the week. In Not Forgotten: Sudbury Military Support Network Collects for Troops, Thom Kenney talks about collecting food and supplies to send overseas where he recently returned from as a captain with the U.S.

    Army... (Patch) Korean War vet shares stories during Monticello visit. One of the Cold War s most grueling and bone-chilling battles came to life during a Korean War veteran s recent presentation at the Monticello Senior Center. Harry Burke grew up in Clarkfield, Minnesota, and currently lives in Bloomington.

    He is prominently featured in the book, The Last Stand of Fox Company, the story of how his military unit was cut off at the Chosin Reservoir. Burke visited Monticello Oct.

    26 and spent more than an hour telling his tale of service to local listeners... (The Monticello Times) Photojournalists "Witness" war zones in new HBO series. NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some people liken a bad day at work to being in a war zone but for the photojournalists chronicled in HBO's upcoming documentary series "Witness," that's not an exaggeration.

    The series, which premieres on November 5 and will air every Monday for the rest of the month, follows photojournalists in Mexico, Libya, South Sudan and Brazil as they navigate violence to report issues such as drug trafficking, gang violence, corruption, and ethnic warfare... (Chicago Tribune) Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us Bahrain activist gets prison time for tweets Friday, November 2, 2012, 03:16 AM - Twitter, News Stories According to the Associated Press, an online activist charged with insulting the Bahrain king on Twitter has been sentenced to six months in prison. "Bahrain has been hit by unrest for nearly 21 months as the island s Shiite Muslim majority seeks a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled kingdom that hosts the U.S. Navy s 5th Fleet," wrote the AP. Full story here.

    1 comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us My Army Life in Photos contest by Army MWR Thursday, November 1, 2012, 06:50 PM - News Stories Army MWR announced this week its first annual My Army Life in Photos Contest. The Grand Prize includes a complete digital camera set, a $1,000 gift certificate and the photo to be featured in an Installation Management Command, Army MWR branded campaign. Via U.S.

    Army MWR: Beginning 1 November, right here on ArmyMWR.com, you can win great prizes by submitting your best photos of Army Life. So start saving those snapshots from favorite MWR events, memorable homecomings and more! Weekly winners will be awarded for submitting photos in the following categories: Theme 1: Army Strong Families Theme 2: HOOAH Homecomings Theme 3: Vacation Fun Theme 4: Patriotic Pets Theme 5: MWR Moments Participants may enter at any time during the promotion.

    Simply submit photos that fit the week's theme and you will be entered to win! Grand prize winner will be generated through a random drawing of all photo entries at the conclusion of the promotion. More information about the photo contest here.

    Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us News: Facebook Reverses, Allows SEALs' Post Thursday, November 1, 2012, 03:17 PM - News Stories Update: Facebook Reverses, Allows SEALs' Post Critical of Obama. UPDATE: Facebook Manager Andrew Noyes emailed the following to Breitbart News this morning: We wanted to follow up on the Special Operations Speaks PAC (SOS) article published on Breitbart.com last night. I assure you that removing the image was not an act of censorship on our part.

    This was an error and we apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused. Over the weekend, Facebook took down a message by the Special Operations Speaks PAC (SOS) which highlighted the fact that Obama denied backup to the forces being overrun in Benghazi... (BREITBART) The battle for Maarat: Using social media to cut through the fog of war. Following Syria s civil war is never easy.

    The old adage that the first casualty of war is the truth still applies, and such is the relentless brutality it is often difficult to even confirm when an incident took place. But we ve been following the Syrian conflict through social media since the beginning, and have developed a number of methods of cutting through the fog of war to get a clearer picture of what s taking place in the embattled state. The recent battle for Maarat al-Numan was a case in point... (Storyful Blog) Old tricks, new target: cyber criminals scam soldiers.

    No one earns their paycheck more than the men and women who defend our country. Scam artists are now using old tricks online on new targets; members of the American military. "When you sign up for the military, it's a sign up for service, and pay is never mentioned as part of the good deal, said U.S. Navy Adm.

    Robert Natter. Natter spent 41 years in the Navy. From his start at the prestigious Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md, to consulting the Commander in Chief, he admits that the military pay is sufficient as long as thieves can't get a hold of it... (ActionNewsJax.com) Learn about soldier through diary at Frank House.

    As part of the Saturday at the Frank House series, Sally Hale of Kearney will present her research on the Franklin Fox Diary. The program, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Frank House on the University of Nebraska at Kearney West Campus.

    Hale said Fox was a Union soldier in the Civil War, and he volunteered in Michigan. The Franklin Fox diary was discovered in the Frank House by archivist Rachael Downs, Hale said. I was then assigned the task of electronically preserving the document. (Kearney Hub) Expanded Social Media for Army-Navy Game Presented by USAA.

    The Army-Navy Game Presented By USAA, already the top football rivalry game in the country, will have an expanded presence on Social Media, leading up to and following the annual service academy matchup. The Army-Navy Game, will take place at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Dec.

    8 with kickoff set for 3 p.m. Now, fans will have the opportunity to follow and participate in a host of new initiatives surrounding the event.

    Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube will all be utilized to showcase this rivalry in the weeks leading up to the game as well as on gameday itself... (NAVYSPORTS.COM) Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us Bringing Home the Browns story tops 600K likes Thursday, November 1, 2012, 02:50 PM - Facebook This is a heartwarming love story of Sean and Heather Brown. As reported by the Longview News-Journal, during Heather s pregnancy and Sean s time of military service in Afghanistan she slipped into a coma and baby John Brown was born by cesarean section. People from all over the world are following their story on Facebook.

    This week, their Facebook page passed 600,000 likes.

    You can follow their story here.

    Add comment | 0 trackbacks | permalink | Discussion | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us

  • Father-to-be Prince William faces tough career decisions - Hello! 29 MARCH 2013 As Prince William approaches the end of his current tour of duty as a Royal Air Force helicopter search and rescue pilot, he faces tough decisions over what to do next. He will no doubt be taking into account the fact that he and Kate Middleton are due to become parents in July. "It's a big watershed moment whether or not he stays in the services or whether a dynamic role can be created for him," Robert Lacey, the Queen's biographer and historian, told People. An official announcement from palace officials regarding the Duke of Cambridge 's future plans is expected in the next few weeks.

    It won't be an easy decision for the prince to make who explained during an upcoming BBC programme that there is "no greater feeling" than saving lives. CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE William, who is known as Lieutenant Wales at work, speaks openly about his job in the new documentary, Helicopter Rescue . "I don't think there's any greater calling in life," he said. "To be able to see a son or daughter's face when you bring their mother or father back from the edge of death it's quite powerful." The 30-year-old prince is presented with several career options. He could stay in the RAF, go back to the Household Cavalry which was the original regiment he joined or he may even leave the military entirely.

    Royal commentators believe that the latter is the most likely option and that he will do so in order to take on more royal duties. Given his wealth and fortunate position, he could follow in the footsteps of his parents Prince Charles and Princess Diana and dedicate more of his time to charity work. Leaving his job at RAF Valley would mean moving away from the Isle of Anglesey, the peaceful haven that he and the Duchess of Cambridge have called home since 2010.

    The young royals have rented a secluded farmhouse there and enjoyed the slower pace of life, taking their cocker spaniel Lupo for long walks and visiting local pubs. With William busy at work, Kate, who is almost six months pregnant, is "finally getting a chance to enjoy her pregnancy" according to an insider. The 31-year-old is reportedly spending time preparing Apartment 1A of Kensington Palace, the home that she will share with husband Prince William and their new arrival, when they move later this year.

    The mum-to-be has been sorting out decorating supplies for the 21-room apartment, according to reports. "It's a fabulous time," the source added. Their future London home is currently undergoing extensive refurbishment, estimated to be costing 1m. The four-storey home includes a nursery , staff quarters and a private walled garden.

    A country retreat is on the cards for the couple too. Royal officials were recently granted permission to carry out a series of renovations on Anmer Hall, a ten-bedroom property housed in the Queen's Sandringham estate. The house has been marked as a possible country retreat for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge .

    The approved changes provide the house with greater privacy and security and include re-routing of the driveway, extensive tree planting to shield the property, and plans to expand accommodation, perhaps for the couple's protection officers.

    Please note, all comments are those of readers and do not represent the opinion of Hellomagazine.com Hellomagazine.com reserves the right to remove comments it considers offensive or not relevant Please focus on the topic

  • 'Fighting the war' BBC Iraq Documentary Anyone got any links or such to this? Seem to remember it being broadcast a couple of months after the Iraq invasion, a few episodes long from what I remember an hour each? Wouldn't mind watching it again as seem to remember it was a decent documentary and very scathing of the political aspect. Naafi cock bollocks tits etc Cheers
  • Film reveals Canadian Sikh community's World War I stories | SikhNet When it comes to the history of Canada s South Asian community, Sikhs form a significant portion of the mosaic. Every year, Canadians participate in the Remembrance Day ceremony and pay special tribute to those compatriots who died defending their country during the wars. Until recently, nothing much was known about handful of Sikhs who joined the Canadian army and fought during the First World War This year on Remembrance Day another little known part of Canadian history was brought to light by the hour-long documentary Canadian Soldier Sikhs: A Little Story in a Big War.

    The documentary reveals the fascinating and untold story of those Sikh immigrants who enlisted in the Canadian Army during the World War I, reminding Canadians of the many challenges faced by ethno-cultural groups in the process of making Canada their home. They were volunteers who fought, and some died, for a country that was not only discouraging and preventing South Asians from immigrating to Canada but were also denying them Canadian citizenship. With a long military tradition Sikhs have always been at the forefront in serving their country.

    Over 65,000 Sikh soldiers fought in WWI as part of the British Army and over 300,000 Sikhs fought against German and Japanese tyranny in WWII. While searching for information on a group of 40 Sikhs who came to Victoria, British Columbia in 1906 -1907 for his film Searching for the Sikhs of Tod Inlet, David Gray discovered that eight Sikhs, with the surname Singh, had enlisted in the Canadian Army in the First World War. Two additional Canadian soldier Sikhs have since been found.

    This part of Canadian Sikh history was virtually unknown and thus of great interest to the Canadian Sikh community. The film goes back in time to observe the soldiers on their journey. From the enlistment process and training, to their transport to France by ship and their return to civilian life, the documentary features the struggles these Sikh soldiers faced and the battles they fought, including those during which two of the men were killed.

    The film also follows one injured soldier back to Canada on a hospital ship and to Kitchener s TB hospital. He was 25-year-old Private Buckam Singh, who came to Victoria, British Columbia from Mahilpur village in the Hoshiarpur District of Punjab in 1907 at age 14 and eventually moved to Toronto area in 1912/1913. He fought for Canada, came back and died alone in Kitchener, far from his birthplace in 1919 in a community that did not know the funeral rights of Sikhs.

    His grave in Kitchener is the only known First World War Sikh Canadian soldier s grave in Canada. His family, who lived in Punjab, British India, knew nothing about his time at war. They just received a notice when he died.

    While he never got to see his family again and died forgotten almost 93 years ago, his heroic story has only recently been reclaimed and celebrated. About five years ago, Sandeep Singh Brar, a historian from Brampton bought a Victory Medal that led him to a Kitchener cemetery, where he found the tombstone of Private Buckam Singh. With the discovery of the Victoria Medal of Private Buckam Singh a heroic story of bravery and adventure has been uncovered.

    He enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the spring of 1915. He served with the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion in the battlefields of Flanders during 1916. Buckam Singh, whose grave drew little attention for almost 90 years, now attracts hundreds people every year for Remembrance Day Sikh prayers at the Kitchener cemetery.

    Images of his war grave, a remembrance service almost 90 years after his death, and the story of how his war medal was discovered, bring a personal touch to the film. The film ends with the story of the soldiers return to civilian life, the tracing of their descendants, and the visit to the European grave sites of two of the Canadian Sikh soldiers. Singh who died alone without his family has once again been reunited and embraced by his fellow Sikh Canadians after a separation of nearly a century. ------------------------ Mohsin Abbas is Pakistani-Canadian journalist, filmmaker and press freedom activist.

    He is the editor of Diversity Reporter , a multilingual weekly newspaper for newcomers and immigrants in Canada.

    He can be reached at: email protected

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