Kamala Harris becomes the first woman to deliver a US Naval Academy commencement address

Kamala Harris
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the graduation and commission ceremony at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, on May 28, 2021.

  • Vice President Harris became the first woman to give a commencement address at the Naval Academy.
  • She told graduates they would be taking “an oath to support our Constitution and defend it against all enemies.”
  • Harris also paid respects to the late Sen. John McCain, a prominent Naval Academy graduate.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the graduates of the United States Naval Academy on Friday, she became the first female commencement speaker in its 175-year-history.

At the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, Harris told the graduates that they would be taking “an oath to support our Constitution and defend it against all enemies.”

“No matter what changes in our world, the charge in this oath is constant,” she emphasized.

Harris spoke of the immense challenges that graduates would face, including the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and cybersecurity threats.

She called climate change “a very real threat to our national security” and lauded the graduates for being part of the future for tackling the issue.

“I look at you and I know you are among the experts who will navigate and mitigate this threat,” she said. “You are ocean engineers who will help navigate ships through thinning ice. You are mechanical engineers who will help reinforce sinking bases. You are electrical engineers who will soon help convert solar and wind energy into power, convert solar and wind energy into combat power.”

She told the graduates that they would be critical in securing the country’s infrastructure.

“Foreign adversaries have their sights set on our military technology, our intellectual property, our elections, our critical infrastructure,” she said. “The way I see it, midshipmen, you are those experts on the issue of cybersecurity.”

She added: “We must defend our nation against these threats. And at the same time, we must make advances in things that you’ve been learning, things like quantum computing and artificial intelligence and robotics, and things that will put our nation at a strategic advantage. You will be the ones to do it because the United States military is the best, the bravest, and the most brilliant.”

Kamala Harris
Vice President Harris displays her US Naval Academy jacket.

Read more: What we learned about Joe Biden from riding Amtrak with a Senate colleague who has known the president for five decades

Harris also praised the military officers who have helped vaccinate Americans across the country.

The vice president’s speech comes as the Pentagon accelerates the timeline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, which will likely occur in mid-July, up from an earlier projected date of September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

She told the graduates that the September 11, 2001, attack “shaped your entire life, and it shaped our entire nation,” and said that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the fabric of American society.

“If we weren’t clear before, we know now: The world is interconnected,” she said. “Our world is interdependent. And our world is fragile.”

Harris also gave a nod to female graduates only 46 years since Congress mandated that women could be admitted to service academies.

“Just ask any Marine today, would she rather carry 20 pounds of batteries or solar panels, and I am positive, she will tell you a solar panel – and so would he,” she laughingly said.

She then paid respects to the late Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a graduate of the academy, whom she called “a great and courageous American.”

McCain, who passed away in August 2018, is buried at the US Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis.

“Most people don’t know he wanted to be buried next to his best friend who he met on the yard, Admiral Chuck Larson,” she said. “That is the ultimate example of what I mean, in it together.”

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden gave his first commencement address as commander-in-chief at the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

“No class gets to choose the world into which it graduates, and demands and the challenges you’re going to face in your career are going to look very different than those who walked these halls before you,” he told the graduates. “You chose, as a class motto – ‘We are the future.’ I don’t think you have any idea how profound that assertion is.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

US officials fear an NSC official falling sick by the White House is the same ‘Havana syndrome’ that struck in Cuba and China, CNN reports

the white house ellipse
The White House viewed from the Ellipse in Washington DC, December 20, 2020.

  • A NSC member’s unusual illness is being looked into as a possible case of “Havana syndrome, CNN reported.
  • The term refers to unexplained symptoms first noticed in the US Embassy in Cuba.
  • Its causes are unclear. Some have suggested they are caused by a new kind of weapon.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A a National Security Council official falling sick yards from the White House is being connected to similar instances that have affected US officials in Cuba and China, according to CNN.

The network reported that the NSC official – who was not named – fell ill in November 2020 on the Ellipse, a large lawn to the south of the White House.

CNN cited unnamed official sources for its report.

It is one of two incidents on US soil that are being looked at as potential cases of “Havana syndrome” – a mysterious set of unexplained symptoms that have suddenly struck US officials in Cuba and China since 2016.

The issue has worried the US government for years, but has usually been reported abroad. Sources told CNN that the fact that two suspected cases have taken place domestically is has worried them.

The second US incident concerned a White House staffer who was walking her dog in Virginia in 2019, when she heard a high-pitched noise in her ears that was followed by an intense headache, according to GQ.

Very little is known for sure about the phenomenon, and investigators are treating these two instances only as suspected cases.

The phenomenon was first reported by a diplomat at the US embassy in Cuba, who heard a loud, piercing sound in one ear that was followed by a loss of balance and nausea, according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences in December.

After this, three CIA officers based in the same embassy building experienced similar sensations. Other symptoms include pain in both ears, dizziness, tinnitus, vertigo, and difficulty thinking.

The National Academies of Sciences report found that 40 State Department staff in Cuba and China had experienced similar and lasting symptoms, as Axios reported.

The cause is not agreed on, but the CIA, the State Department and most recently the Pentagon have launched investigations into it, according to CNN.

Lawmakers on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees were briefed on the issue earlier in April, the network said.

There have been multiple explanations offered for the syndrome, including a form of mass psychogenic illness or even – as some researchers have noted – that the piercing sound closely matches that of a cricket.

An early explanation was that it was the impact of some sort of sonic weapon, but the National Academies of Sciences study said in December the most likely explanation was the use of high-frequency microwaves. The report also noted that Russia has conducted significant amounts of research into the technology.

President Donald Trump blasted Cuba in an address in the Rose Garden in 2017, accusing the country of “sonic attacks.” Cuban officials called his accusations “science fiction” in response, Reuters reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider

15 common phrases civilians stole from the US military

Marine Corps vehicle radio convoy Pendleton
A Marine motor transport operator talks to vehicle commanders during convoy training at Camp Pendleton, California, January 16, 2019.

1. ‘Balls to the walls’ (also, ‘Going balls out’)

common

Meaning: To go as fast as one possibly can.

From military aviation where pilots would need to get their aircraft flying as fast as possible. Their control levers had balls on the end. Pushing the accelerator all the way out (“balls out”), would put the ball of the lever against the firewall in the cockpit (“balls to the wall”).

When a pilot really needed to zoom away, they’d also push the control stick all the way forward, sending it into a dive. Obviously, this would put the ball of the control stick all the way out from the pilot and against the firewall.

2. ‘Bite the bullet’

Meaning: To endure pain or discomfort without crying out

Fighters on both sides of the American Civil War used the term “bite the bullet,” but it appears they may have stolen it from the British.

British Army Capt. Francis Grose published the book, “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” in 1811 and used “chew the bullet” to explain how proud soldiers stayed silent while being whipped.

3. ‘Boots on the ground’

Air Force boots shoes
US airmen at a change of command ceremony, August 17, 2019.

Meaning: Ground troops engaged in an operation

Credited to Army Gen. Volney Warner, “boots on the ground” is used to mean troops in a combat area or potential combat area.

After the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the term saw wide use and has ceased to refer exclusively to military operations. It can now be used to refer to any persons sent out to walk the ground in an area. It’s been employed in reference to police officers as well as political canvassers.

4. ‘Bought the farm’

Meaning: To die

Thought to date back to 1950s jet pilots, the phrase quickly spread to civilian circles. There is no clear agreement on exactly how the phrase came about.

It could be from war widows being able to pay off the family farm with life insurance payments, or farmers paying off their farms with the damage payout they’d receive when a pilot crashed on their land, or the pilots who wanted to buy a farm after they retired being said to “buy the farm early” when they died.

5. ‘Caught a lot of flak’

Meaning: To be criticized, especially harshly

Flak is actually an acronym for German air defense cannons. The Germans called the guns Fliegerabwehrkanonen. Flieger means flyer, abwehr means defense, and kanonen means cannon.

Airmen in World War II would have to fly through dangerous clouds of shrapnel created by flak. The phrase progressed in meaning until it became equated with abusive criticism.

6. ‘FUBAR’/’SNAFU’/’TARFU’

Meaning: Everything about the current situation sucks

All three words are acronyms. FUBAR stands for “F—ed up beyond all recognition,” SNAFU is “Situation normal, all f—ed up,” and TARFU is “Things are really f—ed up.” FUBAR and SNAFU have made it into the civilian lexicon, though the F-word in each is often changed to “fouled” to keep from offending listeners.

The Army actually used SNAFU for the name of a cartoon character in World War II propaganda and instructional videos. Pvt. Snafu and his brothers Tarfu and Fubar were voiced by Mel Blanc of Bugs Bunny and Porky the Pig fame.

7. ‘Geronimo’

Usage: Yelled when jumping off of something

“Geronimo” is yelled by jumpers leaping from a great height, but it has military origins.

Paratroopers with the original test platoon at Fort Benning, Georgia yelled the name of the famous Native American chief on their first mass jump. The exclamation became part of airborne culture and the battalion adopted it as their motto.

8. ‘Got your six’

Meaning: Watching your back

Military members commonly describe direction using the hours of a clock. Whichever direction the vehicle, unit, or individual is moving is the 12 o’clock position, so the six o’clock position is to the rear.

“Got your six” and the related “watch your six” come from service members telling each other that their rear is covered or that they need to watch out for an enemy attacking from behind.

9. ‘In the trenches’

trenches

Meaning: Stuck in a drawn out, tough fight.

Troops defending a position will dig trenches to use as cover during an enemy attack, reducing the chance they’ll be injured by shrapnel or enemy rounds.

In World War I, most of the war occurred along a series of trenches that would flip ownership as one army attacked another. So, someone engaged in fierce fighting, even metaphorical fighting, is “in the trenches.”

10. ‘No man’s land’

Meaning: Dangerous ground or a topic that it is dangerous to discuss

“No man’s land” was widely used by soldiers to describe the area between opposing armies in their trenches in World War I. It was then morphed to describe any area that it was dangerous to stray into or even topics of conversation that could anger another speaker.

However, this is one case where civilians borrowed a military phrase that the military had stolen from civilians. “No man’s land” was popularized in the trenches of the Great War, but it dates back to the 14th-century England when it was used on maps to denote a burial ground.

11. ‘Nuclear option’

Meaning: A choice to destroy everything rather than give in on a debate or contest

Used most publicly while discussing fillibusters in the Senate, the nuclear option has its roots in – what else – nuclear warfare.

In the Cold War, military leaders would give the commander-in-chief options for the deployment and use of nuclear weapons from nuclear artillery to thermonuclear bombs.

In the era of brinksmanship, use of nuclear weapons by the Soviets or the US would likely have ended in widespread destruction across both nations.

12. ‘On the double’

Army Special Forces Green Berets
Candidates at the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School carry a telephone pole on a ruck march as part of Special Forces Assessment and Selection, March 12, 2020.

Meaning: Quickly, as fast as possible

Anyone who has run in a military formation will recognize the background of “on the double.”

“Quick time” is the standard marching pace for troops, and “double time” is twice that pace, meaning the service member is running. Doing something “on the double” is moving at twice the normal speed while completing the task.

13. ‘On the frontlines’

Meaning: In the thick of a fight, argument, or movement

Like nuclear option, this one is pretty apparent. The front line of a military force is made up of the military units closest to a potential or current fight.

Troops on the frontline spend most days defending against or attacking enemy forces. People who are “on the frontlines” of other struggles like political movements or court trials are fighting against the other side every day.

This is similar in usage and origin to “in the trenches” above.

14. ‘Roger that’

Meaning: Yes

This one is pretty common knowledge, though not all civilians may know why the military says, “Roger that,” rather than “yes.” Under the old NATO phonetic alphabet, the letter R was pronounced, “Roger” on the radio.

Radio operators would say, “Roger,” to mean that a message had been properly received. The meaning evolved until “roger” meant “yes.” Today, the NATO phonetic alphabet says, “Romeo,” in place of R, but “roger” is still used to mean a message was received.

15. ‘Screw the pooch’

US Army soldiers RPG rocket propelled grenade
US soldiers conduct foreign weapons training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, October 25, 2017.

Meaning: To bungle something badly

“Screw the pooch” was originally an even racier phrase, f-ck the dog. It meant to loaf around or procrastinate. However, by 1962 it was also being used to mean that a person had bungled something.

Now, it is more commonly used with the latter definition.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Here’s a list of the US agencies and companies that were reportedly hacked in the suspected Russian cyberattack

hacker person keyboard cyber security
The full extent of the attack is not yet known.

  • Thousands of companies and US government agencies were at risk of being spied on for months following a sweeping cyberattack reportedly carried out by Russian hackers.
  • The full extent of the attack is not yet known, but the list of victims is said to include the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon, among others.
  • ┬áRead below for a list of the government agencies and firms that have reportedly been breached.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A massive cyber attack reportedly executed by a Russian intelligence agency put thousands of companies and US government agencies at risk of being spied on or having data stolen for up to nine months.

The software firm SolarWinds was breached earlier this year when hackers broke into its system and inserted malicious code into one of its software platforms. Customers who updated their software from March to June added the malware to their networks, giving the hackers a backdoor into their systems.

SolarWinds has hundreds of thousands of clients across the globe, including government agencies and most Fortune 500 companies. The company said up to 18,000 of its customers downloaded the software update that contained the malicious code.

Investigating the extent of the cyberattacks may take years, but some organizations have already emerged as compromised, meaning the hackers had potential access to their networks. But it will take long-term investigations for some firms and agencies to determine what data, if any, were stolen or manipulated.

Here’s a list of the major US agencies and firms that were reportedly breached:

Department of State

The State Department is among the US agencies said to have been breached, The Washington Post first reported. Russians had also hacked into part of the department’s system in 2014.

Department of Homeland Security

Reuters first reported the breach at the Department of Homeland security, the agency responsible for cybersecurity, border security, and, recently, the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine. The department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency also oversaw the secure presidential election last month.

National Institutes of Health

The Post also reported the National Institutes of Health, housed in the Department of Health and Human Services, was also compromised. Reports emerged in the summer that the SVR, a Russian intelligence agency, had targeted the COVID-19 vaccine research.

The Pentagon

Parts of the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Department of Defense, were breached, an unnamed US official reportedly told The New York Times. The official said the extent of the attack was unknown.

Department of Energy

Politico reported the Energy Department, including its National Nuclear Security Administration, was subject to the cyber attack. In a statement, a spokesperson said the breach was “isolated to business networks only,” and did not impact national security functions of the department, which includes managing the nuclear weapons stockpile.

Department of the Treasury

The Treasury Department, which manages national finances, was among the first confirmed breaches of the federal government, Reuters reported. Hackers were reportedly spying on internal emails, but the extent of the attack is still unknown.

Department of Commerce

The Commerce Department was also one of the first agencies to have confirmed a breach. Sources told Reuters hackers also appeared to be spying on department emails.

State and local governments

Sources told Bloomberg that up to three state governments were hit by the attack, though they did not name which states. The Intercept reported that the network of the city of Austin, Texas was also breached.

Microsoft

Microsoft confirmed Thursday it was compromised in the cyberattack. Reuters initially reported the breach may have made the tech giant’s customers vulnerable, but Microsoft denied this. The company said there is no evidence its products or customer data were targeted.

FireEye

FireEye, one of the world’s leading cybersecurity firms, announced on December 8 that its systems had been hacked by a nation-state, marking the first discovery of the sweeping cyberattack.

Read the original article on Business Insider