Inside the secretive world of B2 Bomber pilots

The B2 Spirit Stealth Bomber looks like one of Batman's rides. In service since the mid-1990s, the B2's distinctive flying wing shape, even after decades in service, still looks like the future – and an expensive future, at that. Each B2 costs $2.1 billion. As such, only 21 of the stealthy aircraft were ever made.

Congress, even in the heyday of "what about potential war with Russia," refused to pay for any more. It's an aircraft with a mystique that comes both from its exotic design and how little information we have on the pilots who fly it, and their experience of flying one of them.

Recently, journalist William Langewiesche was given the opportunity to become familiar with the bomber and those that pilot it. More intriguingly, given that the bomber scarcely has space in its cockpit to accommodate a pilot and co-pilot, Langewiesche, by the sound of things, was allowed to join a B2 flight crew on a mission that would take them all the way from the United States to a bombing run on an ISIS camp in Libya.

From The Atlantic:

Night came quickly after a short day. Once they passed into the Mediterranean, the pilots used their radar to find three tankers that had come from Germany to meet them for their second refueling, and to map some thunderstorms that were active in the area at the time. Because of its composite structure, the B-2 is particularly vulnerable to static discharges and lightning strikes, and is required to stay 40 miles away from thunderstorms—twice as far as other airplanes.

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United Nations: ISIS is regrouping

It’s been a while since we’ve heard a lot about the so-called Islamic State. Since the "defeat" of ISIS in Iraq and the majority of Syria, much of the focus in the war-torn regions of the Middle East has been on: the ongoing pissing match between the United States, Russia and Turkey in Syria, what will become of the civilians whose lives were shattered during the Syrian Civil War, hostilities between Iran and damn near everyone, Palestinian rights, and what the Israelis have cooking in regards to Gaza and the protection of their populace from a variety of aggressors.

Would you be surprised to learn that ISIS is still kind of a big deal? Because it sort of sounds like the United Nations was. According to the CBC, a report from U.N. Terrorism experts says that ISIS is still doing fine, thank you very much, boasting as many as 30,000 members stationed in Syria and Iraq. However, after multiple ass-kickings at the hands of professional and volunteer military forces across the Middle East, they’ve decided to tone things down a bit. That overt, "we're gonna build a freaking caliphate" look of theirs? SO last year. Currently, ISIS is playing it cool by conducting covert operations in its bases of operation while the terrorist group regroups and rebuilds.

From The CBC:

While many ISIS fighters, planners and commanders have been killed in fighting, and many other fighters and supporters have left the immediate conflict zone, the experts said many still remain in the two countries — some engaged militarily, "and others hiding out in sympathetic communities and urban areas."

...

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RIP Anna Campbell, a British woman who joined an all-woman Kurdish Protection Unit in Syria

Anna Campbell, from Lewes, England, has died fighting in the Kurdish Women's Protection Units ("YPJ") in Syria; she was likely killed by a Turkish airstrike. She was 26. Read the rest

American fighting ISIS returns home to have gunshot wound patched up in Chicago

We don't hear as much about ISIS as we used to, but the fight against their particular brand on evil is still being waged.

In Syria, for example, a Kurdish militia group called YPG is still waging war on the terrorist group. The YPG is composed of volunteers, drawn largely from areas around and in Syria, but also from countries as far away as the United States. As the militia is currently backed by the United States, it's not a crime for American citizens to find their way to groups like the YPG, get trained up and then deploy to the front lines. Caleb Stevens, a 23 year old from Illinois, felt that he wanted to make a direct impact in the world by standing against those who would do harm to unarmed civilians. After talking to YPG representatives online, he made his way overseas and boned up on the use of Soviet-era small arms before heading to the front lines with his unit in Syria. Caleb took the fight to ISIS, fending them off from civilians for months before he was shot in the calf, bringing his war, at least for the time being, to an end.

In the wake of being wounded, he sought out treatment, first at hospitals in Syria, Baghdad and Jordan, before walking into a hospital emergency room in Chicago to be properly patched up.

It's one hell of a story, it's covered, in detail, over at the Chicago Tribune.

Image: Nûçe Ciwan - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5jA7EiXQsc, CC BY 3.0, Link Read the rest

Social media's "engagement"-based algorithms are intrinsically hospitable to conspiracies and fake news

Renee DiResta is part of an interdisciplinary group that has tracked disinformation campaigns online for years, advising the Obama White House on the use of social media to spread conspiracy theories; she helped brief Congress in advance of the current hearings on the use of the internet to spread misinformation to influence the 2016 election. Read the rest

Conflict photographer risked his life in Mosul, then shared all his pics for free

Kainoa Little spent April and May documenting the harrowing battle of ISIS-held Mosul, and when no one wanted to buy his photos, he published them free of charge. His reasons were particularly cool: Read the rest

Understanding ISIS's media strategy

Lawfare's Charlie Winter got ahold of a copy of Media Operative, ISIS's long-rumored, three-party guide to media strategy for jihadis; his fascinating account of the organization's media strategy is important reading, if only to see how ISIS views its own operations. Read the rest

Verizon store customer insists he is "definitely part of ISIS"

A Pittsburgh-area man was charged with disorderly conduct after telling Verizon store staff that he was "definitely part of ISIS" and talking about ISIS on the store's demo handsets.

When asked to leave the store, Fleming said “he wouldn't leave the store and that he was definitely part of ISIS,” the complaint said. He also said that “he was calling to get his posse to get them” and other Verizon stores.

Fleming eventually left the store, but was later arrested wearing a ski mask at a bar. Police said he made statements about ISIS to officers and had a block, which he said “I want people to believe it’s C-4 explosive,” the complaint said.

They have all the handsets right there to play with, but make an international call on one and everyone loses their mind! Read the rest

ISIS left behind at least 14,000 landmines when it retreated from Manbij

Once it became clear that a US-backed militia coalition was going to chase Isis out of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, Isis planted at least 14,000 mines, boobytrapping refrigerators, onion-baskets, rocks, appliances, tea-kettles, "everything." Read the rest

Daily Mail reporter poses on Syria front lines with assault rifle

British tabloid newspaper The Daily Mail posted a photo of reporter Mark Nicol on the Syrian front lines posing with an assault rifle. This is bad for numerous reasons, but the main one is that it casts western reporters as mercenary participants and invites summary execution upon capture.

Hope you can shoot straight, Mark! Read the rest

Trump says Barack "Hussein" Obama and Hillary Clinton founded ISIS

At a rally last night in Ft. Lauderdale, and repeated this morning, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that President Barack Obama was the "founder" of terrorist group ISIS and that rival Hillary Clinton was its "co-founder."

... Trump also said that ISIS "honors" Obama -- who the GOP nominee referred to as "Barack Hussein Obama."

"Normally you want to clean up; he made a bigger mess out of it. He made such a mess. And then you had Hillary with Libya, so sad," Trump said.

"In fact, in many respects, you know they honor president Obama. ISIS is honoring President Obama. He is the founder of ISIS. He's the founder of ISIS, OK? He's the founder. He founded ISIS."

Challenged on whether it's a joke, he made clear that it is not. It's just the unhinged not-quite-metaphorical blathering of the day from Donald.

"He was the founder of ISIS, absolutely," Trump said. "The way he removed our troops -- you shouldn't have gone in. I was against the war in Iraq. Totally against it."

Update: it's not the first time Trump's floated this idea.

Read the rest

Russian Embassy illustrates terrorist bomb truck tweet with bomb truck from "Command and Conquer"

"Extremists near Aleppo," tweeted the Russian Embassy in London, "received several truckloads of chemical ammo."

And just to make sure the news was sufficiently clear, they attached an image of three trucks loaded with weapons: that is, from the cartoon video game world of Command & Conquer.

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Watch: Kurds take out a "suicide bomb truck" as it hurtles toward them

Amazing footage from Syria shows an armored truck, apparently loaded with explosives and driven by a suicide bomber, hurtling toward a low ridge held by Kurdish fighters. After failing to stop it with small arms, they roll out an anti-tank missile launcher and blow the crap out of it. Comparisons with Mad Max are not entirely appropriate... but they really did get the pyrotechnic effects right in that film, didn't they? Read the rest

U.S. military claims to be dropping 'cyber bombs' on ISIS

America's military forces are dropping "cyber bombs" on Islamic State terrorist groups for the first time, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told reporters accompanying him on a military flight on Tuesday.

The ISIS internet attacks, whatever the particulars really may be, are part of a stepped-up coordinated effort to put increasing pressure on the militant organization. Read the rest

ISIS terrorist suicide bomber kills at least 30 people in Iraq soccer stadium

Just days after bloody attacks blamed on ISIS claimed scores of lives in Brussels, today dozens more people were killed by an ISIS-claimed terrorist at a soccer stadium near Baghdad. Read the rest

Top ISIS leader killed by U.S. Not the first time we've killed him, either.

The Pentagon says U.S. forces have killed a top Islamic State commander in Syria, as part of a series of military actions targeting ISIS leadership and its storage sites for explosives. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter delivered the news on Friday. Read the rest

Disgruntled IS defector dumps full details of tens of thousands of jihadis

Abu Hamed is a former Free Syrian Army fighter who defected to ISIS, where he served in their internal security forces; after a split with the organization, he stole a thumb-drive containing the induction questionnaires and personnel files of over 22,000 jihadi fighters who travelled from 51 countries to fight with ISIS. He has turned the files over to Sky News correspondent Stuart Ramsay. Read the rest

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