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'Midway' may be the WWII Navy flick that will help us forget how bad 2001's 'Pearl Harbor' was

Posted: 27 Jun 2019 04:06 PM PDT



It's about time the heroism and sacrifice made by the sailors of the U.S. Navy during World War II had a recent tribute on the big screen that isn't just an action-packed overused-cliché fest — with an awkward love triangle jammed in — like 2001's Pear Harbor, or the also very bad USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage that starred Nicholas Cage.

It's too soon to know for sure if Midway, which hits theaters on Nov. 8, will successfully pay homage to America's sea service, or lean heavily on CGI gimmicks and nonstop explosions to make up for a lack of character development and reflection on the horrors of war.

But the recently released teaser trailer for Roland Emmerich's military drama certainly looks like it'll at least be better than the most recent additions to the World War II Navy genre.

Admittedly, that's a low bar.


The Battle of Midway was a turning point in the war in the Pacific, and the focus of 1976 film by Charlton Heston of the same name. Emmerich, who also directed Independence Day — if you want to get a sense of just how many explosions and dogfights we'll be getting — told USA Today that he's wanted to make a film about the battle for years, but after the star-studded disaster that was Pearl Harbor, he "had to wait."

And though star power isn't enough to carry a movie — just like firepower doesn't make up for bad strategy — the cast of leading men in Midway is a who's who of acting chops (and inhumanly perfect chins) with Luke Evans as Lt. Cmdr. Wade McClusky, and Woody Harrelson as Adm. Chester Nimitz, along with Patrick Wilson, Dennis Quaid, and Aaron Eckhart.

The film will follow three story lines, which we catch glimpses of during the two-minute teaser trailer: The servicemen at sea during the fight; the code breaking which alerted American forces of an impending Japanese attack; and another subplot set in Japan, as they plan an attack on U.S. forces at Midway Atoll in the Pacific, according to USA Today.

The four-day sea and air battle ended on June 7, 1942, with the U.S. Pacific fleet successfully defeating the larger Japanese force — destroying four enemy aircraft carriers, and losing one of its own: The USS Yorktown. The victory at the Battle of Midway paved the way for an Allied offensive that continued into the Pacific through a deadly island-hopping campaign that took a heavy toll on American and Japanese forces alike, before finally ending with Japan's surrender on Sept. 2, 1945.

That ultimate victory may not have been possible had Japan's navy not been beaten back at Midway, due to the battlefield bravery and selflessness of the naval aviators and sailors who carried the day.

So will it take away our nightmares of the Batfleck love triangle that was Pearl Harbor? We can only hope.

Rex Tillerson caught his Mexican counterpart secretly dining with Jared Kushner

Posted: 27 Jun 2019 01:47 PM PDT



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In one of the most awkward moments of his time as U.S. secretary of state, Rex Tillerson realized his Mexican counterpart was in Washington only when he walked into a restaurant and found him dining with President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.


On another occasion, neither Tillerson nor Jim Mattis, who was then secretary of defense, knew Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates planned to blockade their regional rival Qatar even though Kushner and another Trump adviser, Steve Bannon, had been told about it at a secret dinner with their governments.

Tillerson recounted the embarrassing incidents in a seven-hour closed-door interview with leaders of the House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee last month.

Trump fired Tillerson in March 2018 after months of friction and on Twitter called him lazy and "dumb as a rock."

Tillerson's testimony, a transcript of which was seen by Reuters, shows how Tillerson's 13-month tenure as secretary of state, one of the shortest ever, was undermined by public disagreements with Trump and a sense that the former ExxonMobil chief executive was being excluded from key discussions.

Tillerson said Trump is undisciplined and does not like to read and that he had to make briefings short and simple.

"I had to adapt to the fact that it wasn't going to be useful to give him something and say this is, you know, this is an article worth reading," Tillerson said.

A recurring theme in the interview was Tillerson's frustration with Kushner conducting his own diplomacy from the White House, at times without the knowledge of Tillerson or Mattis.

FILE PHOTO: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner sit behind Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as U.S. President Donald Trump holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Tillerson said he had just arrived for dinner at the Washington restaurant when the owner shared the unexpected news that Mexico's then-foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, was at a table near the back in case he wanted to say hello.

Tillerson walked over and found Videgaray with Kushner.

"I could see the color go out of the face of the foreign secretary of Mexico as I very - I smiled big and I said: 'Welcome to Washington,'" Tillerson told the congressional panel.

"And I said: 'I don't want to interrupt what y'all are doing.' I said: 'Give me a call next time you're coming to town.' And I left it at that," Tillerson said.

'IT MAKES ME ANGRY'

The Foreign Affairs Committee's new chairman, Democratic Representative Eliot Engel, asked Tillerson to talk to the panel as part of its oversight of foreign policy, after Democrats won control of the House in November 2018 elections.

In the meeting, Tillerson said there had never been discussion of Kushner's or Trump's business dealings in relation to foreign policy. He emphasized that Trump never asked him to break the law.

Tillerson said he and Mattis learned about the 2017 blockade of Qatar during a joint visit to Australia, which left them scrambling to determine the extent of the crisis and safety of U.S. assets in the Gulf.

He appeared surprised when told during the interview that the blockade was discussed at a private dinner by Kushner, Bannon and leaders of Saudi Arabia and UAE.

"It makes me angry," Tillerson said, "because I didn't have a say. The State Department's views were never expressed."

Tillerson also discussed Kushner's relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his travels to the Middle East without consulting U.S. embassies.

He said he raised the issue of such trips with Kushner, who said he would "try to do better." However, Tillerson said not much changed and that it made his job more difficult.

Trump's presidency has been dogged by accusations, which he denies, that his campaign colluded with Russia in 2016 as Moscow worked to boost the Republican's chances of winning the White House.

Tillerson described how Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived well prepared for a key meeting in Hamburg in July 2017, but the U.S. side had expected a "fairly short" session at which the two presidents would get acquainted.

The meeting lasted hours, with no one in the room taking notes.

Trump said afterward he believed Putin when the Russian leader denied Moscow had interfered in the election, drawing criticism because U.S. intelligence agencies had determined the opposite.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Kieran Murray and Bill Trott)

Add black bars and beards to your lame military photos with the 'Operator App'

Posted: 27 Jun 2019 09:19 AM PDT



Do you or a friend have lame military photos? Download the "Operator App" it's like a Snapchat filter that adds black bars and beards to all your boot pics.

Pentagon identifies Green Beret and explosive ordnance disposal specialist killed in Afghanistan

Posted: 27 Jun 2019 08:42 AM PDT



Two soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan have been identified by the Pentagon as Special Forces Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, and Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24.

Riley, who was on his sixth deployment to Afghanistan, was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson, Colorado, defense officials said on Thursday. Johnston served with the 79th Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), 71st Ordnance Group at Fort Hood, Texas, defense officials announced.

Both were killed by small arms fire on Tuesday during combat operations in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, a Defense Department news release says. A total of nine U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far in 2019.


Riley was born in Germany in 1986 and joined the Army in 2006, according to U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He graduated from U.S. Army Airborne School, U.S. Army Ranger School, and he was joined 10th Special Forces Group after completing the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2012.

His awards include the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars, three Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbons, two Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbons, Combat Infantryman Badge, Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge, and Marine Qualification Badge Expert-Rifle.

"It is with a heavy heart that we learn of the passing of Master Sgt. Micheal Riley in Afghanistan," Col. Lawrence G. Ferguson, commander of 10th Special Forces Group, said in a statement. "Mike was an experienced Special Forces noncommissioned officer and the veteran of five previous deployments to Afghanistan. We will honor his service and sacrifice as we remain steadfast in our commitment to our mission."

Johnston joined the Army in 2013 and became an explosive ordnance disposal specialist, a Fort Hood news release says.

He deployed to Afghanistan in March.His military awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Action Badge, Senior Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge, and Explosive Ordnance Badge.

"He was the epitome of what we as soldiers all aspire to be: intelligent, trained, always ready," Johnston's battalion commander Lt. Col. Stacy Enyeart said in a statement. We will honor his service and his sacrifice to this nation as we continue to protect others from explosive hazards around the world."

SEE ALSO: Once Described As On Its 'Back Foot,' Taliban Number Around 60,000, General Says

WATCH NEXT: Operation Enduring Freedom Turns 17

Pentagon selects Fort Drum for missile defense site it has no plan to build

Posted: 27 Jun 2019 07:01 AM PDT



WASHINGTON – The Department of Defense would choose Fort Drum in New York as the site of an East Coast missile defense site if it decides to build one in the future, according to a Pentagon official.

But a Defense Department official told Rep. Elise Stefanik in a letter Wednesday "the department has no intent to develop one" because a study earlier this year confirmed there's no military need for a new missile defense site.


Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, has pushed the Pentagon to add a ground-based interceptor site on the East Coast, beefing up the nation's existing defenses against intercontinental ballistic missiles.

A Pentagon review of U.S. missile defense concluded in January that the existing missile defense sites at Fort Greely, Alaska, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California were sufficient to defend the nation.

Stefanik, whose district includes Fort Drum, about 80 miles north of Syracuse, disagreed with the decision.

Stefanik, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, included language in a defense authorization bill this month that required the Defense Department to designate an interceptor site for potential development.

The Missile Defense Agency evaluated two potential interceptor sites at Fort Custer, Michigan, one at Camp Garfield, Ohio, and one at Fort Drum as part of a 2016 study.

"At this time, and by a small margin, Fort Drum would be the preferred (interceptor site) in the eastern United States," Michael D. Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering wrote to Stefanik in a letter she made public Wednesday night.

"Fort Drum provides the best operational coverage but is likely the most expensive option with the most environmental challenges," Griffin wrote.

Griffin did not elaborate on the environmental challenges or provide a cost estimate.

Previous studies concluded it would cost about $3.6 billion to build a new missile interceptor site. The development would create 1,450 jobs and add $220 million per year in economic value to the community that hosts the interceptor base.

Top U.S. generals in charge of missile defense have said the money should be invested to upgrade the existing interceptor sites in Alaska and California.

Contact Mark Weiner: Email | Twitter | Facebook | 571-970-3751

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Diplomats warn Iran will breach nuclear agreement within days

Posted: 27 Jun 2019 06:41 AM PDT



VIENNA/TOKYO (Reuters) - Iran is on course to breach a threshold in its nuclear agreement with world powers within days by accumulating more enriched uranium than permitted, although it has not done so yet, diplomats said, citing the latest data from U.N. inspectors.


France, one of the European powers caught in the middle in an escalating confrontation between Washington and Tehran, said it would ask U.S. President Donald Trump to suspend some sanctions on Iran to allow negotiations to defuse the crisis.

A week after Trump called off air strikes on Iran minutes before impact, world leaders are trying to pull the two countries back from the brink, warning that a mistake on either side could lead to war.

"I want to convince Trump that it is in his interest to re-open a negotiation process (and) go back on certain sanctions to give negotiations a chance," French President Emmanuel Macron said in Japan, where he is due to meet Trump on the sidelines of a summit in coming days.

A move by Tehran that clearly breached its 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers would transform the diplomatic landscape and probably force European countries to take sides.

Macron said he had two priorities: de-escalating military tension and keeping Iran from violating the accord, which European countries still hope to save even though Trump ignored their advice and quit it last year.

The latest data from U.N. inspectors suggested Iran had not yet violated the deal on Thursday, despite having named it as a day when it might do so.

"They haven't reached the limit... It's more likely to be at the weekend if they do it," said one diplomat in Vienna, headquarters of the U.N. nuclear agency IAEA, on condition of anonymity.


"OBLITERATION"

The United States withdrew from the pact last year under which Iran accepted curbs on its nuclear program in return for access to international trade. Iran has said it wants to abide by the agreement but cannot do so indefinitely as new U.S. sanctions mean it is receiving none of the benefits.

The escalating crisis has put the United States in the position of demanding its European allies enforce Iranian compliance with an accord Washington itself rejects.

The United States sharply tightened its sanctions last month, ordering all countries to halt purchases of Iranian oil, the main source of revenue to feed Iran's 80 million people.

Trump's aborted air strikes last week were the culmination of weeks of heightened military tension. Washington accused Iran of being behind attacks on ships in the Gulf, which it denies.

Last week Iran shot down a U.S. drone it said was in its air space. The United States said it was in international skies.

Since the aborted air strikes last week there have been no major incidents, but rhetoric on both sides has become menacing.

This week Trump threatened Iran's "obliteration" if it attacked U.S. interests while Rouhani, typically the mild-mannered face of the Tehran government, called White House policy "mentally retarded". Trump later said he hoped to avoid war, which would be short and not involve boots on the ground.

IRANIAN RESPONSE

In the latest volley in the war of words, Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani said the downing of the U.S. drone had taught Washington the cost of violating Iranian air space.

"Iran's reaction will be stronger if they repeat their mistake of violating our borders," Iran's Tasnim news agency quoted Larijani as saying.

The Trump administration says its ultimate goal is to force Iran back to the table for negotiations. It argues that the 2015 deal, negotiated under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, was too weak because it is not permanent and does not cover non-nuclear issues, such as Iran's missile program and regional behavior.

Iran says it cannot negotiate further unless the United States observes the existing agreement and lifts sanctions.

Tehran says Washington would be to blame if it ends up breaching the limit on uranium stockpiles, since the deal allows it to sell excess uranium abroad to reduce its holdings, but U.S. sanctions have prevented this.

It has set a separate deadline of July 7 when it could breach another major threshold, on the level of purity of uranium it has enriched.

(Additional reporting by Christopher Gallagher in Tokyo; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Jon Boyle)