Rumen Porodzanov: Tools for Supporting Young Farmers should Become more Effective

Ensuring generational renewal in farming was the focus of the informal meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers held in Sofia on 4-5 June 2018. In the context of the Common Agricultural Policy after 2020, the ministers discussed challenges related to the aging of the agricultural labour population and to rural depopulation.

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Why the Air Force Thinks It Can Turn Gamers Into Its Next Top Guns

In late May, the U.S. Air Force announced its intention to release an advanced video game simulation. The theory is that the game, if successful, will be an effective recruitment tool among high school students.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because the U.S. Army already did the exact same thing with a game called “America’s Army,” launched in 2002. That one was for a while relatively popular, but as a recruitment tool there’s little doubt it failed. Indeed, it was panned early and often for claiming to offer a realistic soldiering experience while glamorizing it as an exciting and largely consequence-free adventure. The game, of course, never showed the tedium or the dark side of military service in conflict—but what proper recruitment propaganda ever does?

Not content to merely copy a failed program, the so-far untitled Air Force game seeks to combine the allure of video games with the Orwellian realities of modern “big data” applications that the government is so fond of. In this case, officials have suggested they are literally going to monitor players to spot particularly talented ones they can recruit.

Call it recruitment recon.

As an example, imagine that the Air Force identifies a player who is particularly good at controlling the game’s simulated planes, so they offer him/her a $100,000 signing bonus to sign up for the real thing. But isn’t it possible that video game talent might not translate into real-life skills in combat? Incredibly, that seems to have been lost on the USAF.

Which is why this could be an even bigger disaster than the “America’s Army” folly—and much more expensive, too. While the Army’s gambit cost millions to design, it at least had a limited return on investment. The Air Force is prepared to throw major bonuses at good video game players on the notion that, like the 1984 movie The Last Starfighter, that’s where you’re going to find real talent.

The reason this makes sense to the Air Force (but nobody else) is because, with the advent of drone operations (i.e. remote control targeting), a number of people actually are employed in joystick-based warfare. It’s not clear whether the game will feature a drone operator mode (based in some outpost in the Nevada desert), as it seems to be focused on advanced warplanes in the heat of battle, not blowing up Pakistani wedding parties from thousands of miles away. This should come as no surprise because the life of an actual drone operator is reportedly pretty miserable, and the point of the Air Force’s game is to get kids to play so you can collect all sorts of data from them.

So far, Air Force officials aren’t providing a lot of specifics, just ambitions. They’ve also avoided estimating what the program will cost. Creating a game advanced enough to reliably attract an audience gets more expensive every year. At this point just developing a game can be counted on to cost a minimum of $100 million, to say nothing of all of the server and metadata processing costs, and the costs associated with marketing the game.

This is precisely why high-end video games don’t attempt to survive as advertising platforms. The cost of developing games has grown precipitously over the years, and players are focused on playing. They don’t want to be sold anything—not by companies, not by Uncle Sam.

This is why using a war simulation video game as a marketing tool is a terrible idea. Even in the highly unlikely event that the U.S. Air Force actually does make a popular video game, that doesn’t mean its fan base is going to be inclined toward military service, let alone suited to it. This is what happens when you combine lofty recruitment goals with a bottomless pit of taxpayer money: the military is encouraged to make reckless attempts to engage the public. The Air Force now appears to be lining up one of the most reckless of blunders yet.

Jason Ditz is news editor at Antiwar.com, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the cause of non-interventionism. His work has appeared in Forbes, the Toronto Star, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Providence Journal, the Daily Caller, the American Conservative, the Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.

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How an online satire magazine in Bosnia and Herzegovina ends up reporting the news and fact-checking its peers

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories on how online satirical outlets around the world develop their shows and sites under difficult national conditions and repressive, authoritarian governments. Effective satire can shake power and can …

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NC School Safety Bill Would Arm Volunteer Teachers

While the airwaves and social media have had plenty of teachers saying that they sure don’t want to be armed, they don’t speak for all teachers. Not by a long shot. They’re trying to do just that, mind you, but they don’t.

You see, there are plenty of teachers who would gladly carry a firearm so they could defend not just their own lives, but the lives of their students.

North Carolina is considering a bill that will allow them to do just that.

Republican lawmakers have a new plan to address school safety in North Carolina.

The School Security Act of 2018 would allow teachers to apply to become undercover School Resource Officers.

Participants would be required to undergo basic police training and would be sworn officers with guns in the classroom.

The position would also come with a 5 percent pay increase.

“The two problems that the bill tries to address is, one, we really don’t have enough money to put enough School Resource Officers into schools if we just pay them for a separate position,” said Senator Warren Daniel (R-46). “And two, even if you had the funding, we wouldn’t have enough applicants to fill those positions. It would provide a cost effective way to get School Resource Officers into the school.”

Senator Warren Daniel is one of the bill’s sponsors, along with Senator Ralph Hise and Senator Dan Bishop.

“Hopefully their skills and services would never be needed as a resource officer and they would be able to focus on their teaching 99.99 percent of the time. But there’s just that small fraction of a possibility that something tragic could happen and that they would be ready,” Senator Daniel explained.

Of course, not all teachers are onboard. In particular, one is quoted prattling on like anyone is considering making this mandatory, which is typical for anti-gun zealots.

You see, in almost every aspect of life, those who oppose guns also tend to believe that anything not forbidden should be mandatory. With that mindset, they see a bill like this and automatically jump into the idea that this is somehow going to require teachers to be armed, which it isn’t. They don’t want the facts. More importantly, though, they don’t want the voters of North Carolina to have the facts.

Instead, they want to pretend that the apocalypse is upon us because a handful of teachers who want to will be armed.

I’m not crazy about requiring specialized training since a concealed carry permit should be all that is needed, but that’s a compromise I’m willing to make so that there will be more responsible adults armed in our schools.

With this law in place, don’t expect to see another Parkland or Santa Fe happen in North Carolina.

And to those teachers who think the idea of carrying a gun is a disaster, all I can say is, “Then don’t.” No one will make you carry a firearm. Frankly, if you’re stupid enough to think a bill that will allow someone to carry will require someone to carry, then I don’t want you to have a gun anyway.

The post NC School Safety Bill Would Arm Volunteer Teachers appeared first on Bearing Arms.

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With impeachment looming, scandal-plagued Eric Greitens resigns as Missouri governor

On Tuesday afternoon, following months of scandals, indictments in two separate criminal cases, and looming impeachment proceedings, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens finally announced he would resign effective Friday. With Greitens’ departure, Lt. Gov.

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Do education and employment programming for prisoners improve employment outcomes and reduce recidivism? – AEI – American Enterprise Institute: Freedom, Opportunity, Enterprise

On Tuesday afternoon, the House passed a bipartisan prison reform bill, “The First Step Act,” which aims to reduce prisoner recidivism rates. The bill focuses largely on increasing access to, and incentives for, participation in rehabilitation programs like education and vocational training, to reduce the likelihood that an inmate will commit another crime once released. How effective are such rehabilitation programs? Will increasing prisoner access to these programs lead to greater educational attainment and more employment? To what extent would misconduct and recidivism be reduced if US prison systems could improve education and employment outcomes for prisoners?

In a new report, “The Effectiveness of Education and Employment Programming for Prisoners,” academic adviser to AEI for Criminal Justice Reform and research director for the Minnesota Department of Corrections Grant Duwe addresses these questions by reviewing the available evidence on the effectiveness of education and employment programs for prisoners.

Among his key points:

  • Education Programming. Prison-based education programming includes adult basic education, which generally focuses on helping inmates earn a secondary degree, but some prison systems also provide postsecondary education opportunities. Overall, recent research has shown that education programming improves post-prison employment, reduces prison misconduct and recidivism, and delivers a strong return on investment.
  • Employment Programming. Existing research suggests that work prevents crime, and, more narrowly, recidivism. While it is important for offenders to obtain employment following their release from prison, keeping a job appears to be crucial in reducing recidivism. While the effects of employment programming have been consistently positive on post-prison employment outcomes, the effects of employment programming on recidivism have been mixed. More positive results have been observed for work release programs as opposed to prison labor opportunities.
  • Improving Employment Outcomes. Programming that addresses risk factors besides education and employment can also yield positive post-prison employment outcomes. A recent study on 15,111 offenders released from Minnesota prisons between 2007 and 2010 showed that other interventions, such as substance abuse treatment, prison visitation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy, also produced positive employment outcomes. In addition, the findings showed that when prisoners participated in more interventions, it significantly improved their chances of finding a job, of working more hours, and earning higher wages.
  • Correctional Policy and Practice Improvements. There are several ways in which correctional policy and practice could be improved to achieve better education, employment, and public-safety outcomes. Based on existing evidence, policymakers could consider reinstituting Pell Grant eligibility for prisoners (to help them pay for higher education). In addition, policies should continue assistance both before and after prison release, and explore employer incentives for hiring individuals with criminal records, such as tax credits or fidelity bonds (which insure businesses for losses caused by employees’ dishonest acts).

Read the full report here.

To arrange an interview with Grant Duwe, please contact AEI Media Services at [email protected] or 202.862.5829.

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Midnight curfew in effect for some soldiers in South Korea

A midnight curfew is now in effect for the sole U.S. Army infantry division in South Korea.

A 2nd Infantry Division policy memo published Tuesday says soldiers are required to be on base, at a residence or inside a hotel room by the new deadline, instead of the U.S. Forces Korea standard of 1 a.m. followed until Monday.

The curfew, which officials called a “readiness recall,” still ends at 5 a.m.

2ID did not identify any specific incident that sparked the change to the policy, but said readiness of the unit’s 12,000 troops was its main concern. South Korean police outside of Camp Casey and Camp Humphreys said Wednesday they had not noticed a significant increase of incidents involving U.S. personnel.

“The recall readiness time was moved one hour earlier in order to ensure that the division is consistently and completely in compliance with the U.S. Forces Korea readiness recall policy,” 2ID spokeswoman Lt. Col. Junel Jeffrey told Stars and Stripes Wednesday.

The policy requires 90 percent of 2ID’s available troops to be able to muster within four hours.

The memo also put Memorial Day weekend plans for some soldiers in jeopardy by nixing nonemergency leave and off-peninsula passes for rotational units such as the1st Armored Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Stewart, Ga. That change aligns it with U.S. Army Pacific policy on leave for operational deployments across the Pacific.

“Given [Tuesday’s] effective date of the policy, fewer than 15 rotational training unit soldiers may be affected and the command is working with those soldiers on a case-by-case basis,” Jeffrey said.

The memo also announced that units will be required to report 100 percent accountability to the 2ID command staff on nonduty days by 12:30 a.m.

Jeffrey said subordinate units can use their own discretion on how to report their numbers, and the new policy does not mean troops need to be in their bunks by that time. She also said there is no division rule requiring soldiers to be in teams or in pairs known as “battle buddies” when off post.

Curfews have been an unpopular mainstay for U.S. servicemembers in South Korea over the years, but it found permanency in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks.

Jeffrey said the new 2ID policy will be in effect indefinitely until a newer policy regarding the issue is released. Eighth Army officials said there was no change to its curfew policy.

A short reprieve of the curfew policy came in 2010 when then-USFK commander Gen. Walter Sharp rescinded the curfew. “I believe that we can trust our servicemembers to do the right thing,” he said at the time.

However, it was reinstated a year later after two high-profile rape cases involving U.S. soldiers sparked outrage among South Koreans.

In 2016, so-called “Cinderella” passes that allowed servicemembers out past curfew were heavily restricted shortly after a video of a New Year’s Day brawl in Seoul’s popular Itaewon district went viral.

About 28,500 servicemembers are stationed in South Korea, where the two Koreas have been technically at war after the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.

Stars and Stripes reporter Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.

Memo detailing soldier curfew in South Korea (PDF)

Memo detailing soldier curfew in South Korea (Text)

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Rebekah Bletsch bill signed into law, effective immediately

Public Act 153 of 2018, also known as the Rebekah Bletsch Law, was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday, May 23. The bill, House Bill 5407, was introduced by Rep. Holly Hughes, R-Montague, in January. It was spurred by Jeffrey Willis leaving the courtroom during his sentencing hearing for the murder of Rebekah Bletsch in December 2017 to avoid hearing impact statements.

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News Corp’s Cameron King Becomes Chair Of IAB Australia’s Board

IAB Australia has announced that Cameron King will chair its board, effective immediately. King, who is currently managing director of digital revenue at News Corp Australia, will serve as chair at IAB Australia until News Corp’s board chair tenure ends …

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Amphibious Vehicles Are the Military’s Latest Tax Dollar Sinkhole

One of the worst symptoms of the paralysis in Washington and at the Pentagon has been the inability to correctly match weapon systems with current enemy threat capabilities. Hence the United States Marine Corps is set to announce the final winner between defense contractors BAE Systems and SAIC to build and field their new Amphibious Combat Vehicle, or ACV.

Or should we say the old Amphibious Combat Vehicle? Because after 46 years and tens of billions of dollars, the Marines are right back where they started with this technology, which leaves no one—except maybe the contractors feeding off this farcical routine—feeling very satisfied.

So how did we get here?

The naval campaigns in the Pacific theater of World War II were successful due to the capability of the Marine Corps to conduct amphibious assaults against Japanese-held islands. Following the war this capability was written into law via the National Security Act of 1947, which stipulated that the Marine Corps was responsible for the seizure of advanced naval bases.

In order to move from Navy ships to enemy-held territory, the Marines must be transported across a distance of water and rely on what is generally called a connector. Both the Navy and Marine Corps operate various connectors from ship to shore, while the job of the Marines is to fight their way into enemy territory. Marine connectors only carry one weapon: Marines. Step one is to take the beach.

During World War II, the Navy ships could move to within a few miles of the Japanese-held islands before loading Marines into connectors. But with the advent of ballistic missile technology during the Cold War, a new weapon made its debut: the anti-ship missile.

The idea is simple. If Navy ships are within range of an anti-ship missile, they risk being severely damaged or even sunk. The solution is standoff. The Navy ships must stay outside the effective range of the missiles or use defensive measures to shoot the missiles down. This forces the ships further out to sea and increases the distance the connectors must travel over the open ocean to transport the Marines.

The connector vehicle the Marines adopted in 1972 was the Amphibious Assault Vehicle or AAV. AAVs are stored in hollow lower sections of naval ships known as well decks, which can be flooded so the AAV can exit the aft end of the ship into the ocean. The vehicle moves through the water using two traditional water propellers and also has tracks similar to a tank in order to drive on land. The AAV can carry around 20 Marines, swim through the water at seven knots (nautical miles per hour; seven knots is eight mph for comparison), and has an advertised water range of approximately 20 nautical miles, which in reality is closer to five nautical miles.

But anti-ship missile technology advanced in the 1980s, and proved deadly in the 1982 Falklands War between Great Britain and Argentina as the British lost two ships* to French-built Exocet missiles. So the Marine Corps and Navy rewrote their doctrine to move their ships over the horizon to approximately 12 nautical miles.

This strategy necessitated a new connector vehicle. Marine amphibious doctrine requires a “swift introduction of sufficient combat power ashore.” If the AAV can only swim at seven knots and the ships are 12 nautical miles away, you are looking at close to a two-hour ride to the beach. Time equals distance divided by speed. For the Marines stacked like sardines in full combat gear in the sweltering troop compartment of the AAV, this bumpy two hours becomes a rather nauseating and incapacitating experience.

So work began in earnest on the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, or EFV, in the 1980s. It was designed with a powerful jet propulsion system that allowed it to plane above the water like a speedboat and achieve 25 knots, three times as fast as the AAV with a water range of approximately 65 nautical miles. Over the course of 20 years, more than $3 billion was invested in the program. Operational EFVs were due to be in service by 2015, completely replacing the aging AAVs.

But potential adversaries didn’t stagnate. They developed a defensive Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy. Waters around potential landing sites would be mined, and the range, speed, and lethality of anti-ship missiles enhanced significantly.

The increasing complexity of the operating environment did not go unnoticed. During the Obama administration’s first term, Undersecretary of the Navy Robert O. Work envisioned an either/or type of scenario for the future of amphibious conflict. Either Marines would land essentially unopposed as in Grenada in 1983 or the A2/AD posture of our enemies would be so preventative as to require a massive bombardment using long-range stand-off weapons like Tomahawk missiles and bombers to clear out anti-ship missiles and other defenses. Neither situation necessitated the use of a high-speed, heavily armored connector like the EFV.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates canceled the EFV program in 2011. Immediately afterwards, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Amos, decided to pursue the next iteration of troop connector named the Amphibious Combat Vehicle, or ACV. High speed on water remained a top priority as late as 2013.

After some research proposals were explored, General Amos decided in January 2014 that the ACV would be developed in a phased approach with a decreased need for speed on water. The ACV 1.1 was to be an off-the-shelf, armored, wheeled vehicle that met requirements for armor protection on land but would rely on connectors like the Navy’s Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC, aka Hovercraft) to move it swiftly from over the horizon at 40 knots to a few miles from its objectives, where it would then swim the last few miles. The LCAC has a large deck area that can accommodate several ACVs. Traditionally the LCAC would bring in heavy equipment like tanks or trucks after Marines secured a beach since the LCAC lacks armor protection.

The phased acquisitions approach was a tacit admission that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The Marine Corps asked industry for a vehicle that offered protection first and then speed on the water at some point in the future.

The ACV 1.1 would not be able to self-deploy and swim from a ship like the AAV or EFV. The Marine Corps would buy a smaller number of the ACV 1.1, upgrade older AAVs and keep them in service until 2030, and research and develop ACV 1.2, a high-speed, fully amphibious vehicle.

But this solution appears to have been smoke and mirrors. In March 2015, Marine Commandant Joseph Dunford testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee concerning the program. He said industry might merge the ACV 1.1 and ACV 1.2 requirements together.

BAE Systems and SAIC were awarded $100 million each in December of 2015 to develop 16 test vehicles for ACV 1.1. And lo and behold, abracadabra, both company’s test vehicles could self-deploy and swim from a ship at, wait for it, seven knots—as fast as, you guessed it, the 1972 version.

Since the introduction of the AAV, almost 50 years have passed and many billions have been spent in research and development. And now the taxpayer will be footing the bill for a connector that holds fewer Marines than in 1972 (13 versus 20), swims at the same speed, and is more expensive.

The Marine Corps and industry are touting the fact that the ACV is under cost and ahead of schedule. The program is projected to cost $1.2 billion with 204 vehicles operational by 2020.

In October 2017, deputy Marine commandant Lieutenant General Beaudreault stated that “we have to find a solution to getting Marines to shore, from over the horizon, at something greater than seven knots. We’ve got to have high-speed connectors.”

It appears the deputy commandant didn’t get the memo. As the F-35 and USS Gerald Ford programs have shown, whenever the system wins, the warfighter and taxpayer lose.

*Story has been changed to reflect the British loss of one destroyer and one container ship during the Falklands War in 1982.

Jeff Groom is a former Marine officer. He is the author of American Cobra Pilot: A Marine Remembers a Dog and Pony Show (2018).

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