Sen. Marco Rubio mocked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Thursday for wearing a mask and face shield upon arriving in the Philippines.
“Our @SecDef is vaccinated,” Rubio wrote in a tweet alongside a video that showed Austin deplaning. “But he arrives in the Philippines wearing a mask AND a face shield.”
“Embarrassing COVID theatre,” he continued.
The Philippines requires anyone in public places to wear a mask and a face shield, according to the US Embassy in the Philippines. Some of the people Austin is greeted by in the video are wearing masks and face shields as well.
The Philippines is also facing a surge in COVID-19, prompting authorities in Manila to impose tighter coronavirus restrictions this week. Reuters reported Tuesday that the Philippines recorded its highest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases in more than six weeks. The country has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia, according to The New York Times.
Rubio’s home state of Florida is dealing with its own COVID-19 surge. The state leads the US in COVID-19 cases, and has the highest number of residents hospitalized with COVID-19 per capita, according to data compiled by the Times. It also has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita, after Louisiana.
Austin met with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte during his visit. After the meeting, Duterte reversed a past decision to withdraw from a defense pact with the US, the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Associated Press reported. The VFA allows the large-scale combat exercises between the US and Philippines forces, which have occasionally sparked concern from China.
“Our countries face a range of challenges, from the climate crises to the pandemic and, as we do, a strong, resilient US-Philippine alliance will remain vital to the security, stability, and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific,” Austin said. “A fully restored VFA will help us achieve that goal together.”
In eight months of fighting in 1898, the US secured its status as a global power by defeating Spain in the Spanish-American War.
Fought on two continents, the war had a number of important moments for the US military. It led to the independence of Cuba (with the US as the dominant power there) and to US control of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam.
While there were battles in both Puerto Rico and the Philippines, Guam was taken without a fight. Indeed, the Spanish on the island had no idea they were even at war.
An important stop
In the 1898, the big prize for Spain and the US in the Pacific was the Philippines. Guam was an important stop between the Americas and the Philippines, but neither Spain nor the US paid much attention to it.
The Americans had already positioned Commodore George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron off China in anticipation of striking the Spanish fleet at Manila. But after a May 9 meeting of the US Navy War Board, which was formed to develop a strategy for the war, it was decided that Guam should also be taken to support operations in the Philippines.
To seize it, Secretary of the Navy John Long issued sealed orders to Capt. Henry Glass of the USS Charleston, a protected cruiser en route from California to Manila.
In Honolulu, Charleston was joined by three troop transports. As instructed, Glass only read his orders after leaving Hawaii on June 4.
“You are hereby directed to stop at the Spanish Island of Guam,” the orders read. “You will use such force as may be necessary to capture the port of Guam, making prisoners of the Governor and other officials, and any armed force that may be there.”
Glass was also ordered to destroy any Spanish fortifications or naval vessels he encountered.
Though the orders said the operation “should not occupy more than one or two days,” Guam’s defenses were not entirely known, so while en route Charleston’s crew spent days firing on practice targets in the ocean.
Charleston arrived off Guam on the morning of June 20. Encountering only an abandoned fort and no Spanish ships in Agana, the capital city, Glass ordered his ship to sail to Apra Harbor.
To the crew’s disappointment, the only vessel there was a Japanese trading ship. Charleston fired several shots at Fort Santa Cruz to see if it was occupied, but it was also abandoned.
Spanish officials soon sailed out to meet Charleston in two small boats, one of which had a US flag on its topsail.
Upon boarding the Charleston, the Spaniards apologized. They had interpreted Charleston’s gunfire as a salute, and they told the Americans they could not respond in kind because of a lack of gunpowder.
It turned out the island hadn’t communicated with Manila since April 14 – 11 days before the US declared war on Spain – and no Spanish Navy vessel had visited Guam in 18 months.
Glass told the Spaniards that their countries were at war and that he was taking over the island. He demanded Guam’s governor, Don Juan Marina, surrender the island in person aboard Charleston.
The delegation returned, and Marina requested to speak to Glass on the island instead, as he was not legally allowed to board a foreign warship.
The next day, Glass sent an envoy to demand the Spanish surrender and gave them a half-hour to comply. Twenty-nine minutes later, Marina surrendered.
The island’s garrison, which had fewer than 60 men, was disarmed and taken as prisoners aboard one of the transport ships, as were Marina and other Spanish officials.
The Americans then set sail for Manila, where they assisted Dewey for the rest of the war.
An important base
After the surrender, Glass personally examined Fort Santa Cruz, where he raised the American flag.
The fort itself “was entirely useless as a defensive work, with no guns and in a partly ruinous condition,” Glass wrote in a report to Long.
Glass described the other forts on the island as having “no value,” and that the only guns that could be found were obsolete cast-iron guns used for saluting “but now condemned as unsafe even for that purpose.”
While the Spanish had neglected Guam, the US turned it into an important base.
The Japanese captured it on December 10, 1941, but the US retook it in a bloody 21-day battle in summer 1944, and used it as a base for B-29 bombing missions for the rest of the war.
Guam is now home to roughly 170,000 people, and its importance for the US military has only increased.
The major bases on Guam are Andersen Air Force Base, which often hosts US long-range bombers, and Naval Base Guam, which is home to a submarine squadron and is frequently visited by other warships.
It also hosts some 7,000 US military personnel, with more arriving as the Marine Corps relocates 5,000 Marines from Okinawa as part of a realignment plan. Their new home, Camp Blaz, is the Corps’ first new base in 68 years.
Guam is an unincorporated US territory, meaning people born there are US citizens but have limited political rights while they live there.
The US presence there has often irritated the local population, as when thousands of US sailors were quarantined there after a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in spring 2020.
The US military presence also makes Guam a target.
North Korea has threatened it specifically in the past, and the island is believed to be a focal point of Chinese plans to neutralize US bases in the region in case of conflict.
China’s DF-26, its first conventionally armed ballistic missile capable of reaching Guam, has been dubbed the “Guam Killer.”
In 2014, Percival R. Lugue became the first person to receive a Guinness World Record title for having the largest collection of fast-food restaurant toys, having amassed a mammoth 10,000 items.
Nearly seven years later, Lugue, who is based in the Philippines, told Insider his collection has likely doubled: “My rough estimate of the total fast food toys at hand would be more than 20,000.”
Collecting toys, for Lugue, is nothing new, since his profound interest dates to when he was five years old.
During the 80s, various fast-food restaurants started popping up all over the Philippines, including in his home province.
Lugue explained: “This paved the opportunity for me to continue with my toy collection without putting a strain in my pocket.” Being a college student at the time, Lugue said he had a very limited budget “but when I saw the set Popeye toys from Jollibee, I took a plunge, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Since then, Lugue has “religiously collected” all the fast-food toys that come out from fast-food chains including but not limited to Jollibee, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King.
When asked how he stores 20,000 toys while living with his parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews, Lugue said he took a joint decision with his family to build another house. I
It became increasingly difficult for Lugue and his family to tread a path around the house because “every nook and cranny of [his ancestral home] was packed with fast food toys.”
But now, all the toys are strategically displayed on the walls of Lugue and his family’s new home, so as to not hinder traffic in the household.
Commenting on the outer appearance of the new house, Lugue said he saw a familiar silhouette in its architecture. “Although it was never intentional, the house turned out to look like a gigantic Happy Meal Box except for the Golden arches on top, when it was finished.” Since then, Lugue said he always endearingly refers to that house as a “Happy Meal house.”
“I said to myself, ‘what a perfect receptacle for these fast food toys,'” he added.
As for why he collects toys, Lugue explained that each piece would represent a vivid story in his life.
“They are like mementos of very special meals I shared with people who are very important to me.” One such toy is the Hetty Spaghetti, which Lugue bought with his mother way back in the 80s. “My mother passed on a couple of years ago and seeing and touching this same Hetty toy transported me to the place and time where both my mom and I shared a special happy moment.”
For Lugue, his collectibles are an “awesome tapestry” of his life, where each toy has a happy story to tell. And now, acquiring a toy from every visit to a fast-food restaurant has become “non-negotiable” for Lugue. “I have to buy a toy just so I may be able to encapsulate or immortalize that fun rendezvous in a fast food restaurant with friends and family,” he added.
Over the years, Lugue developed a methodical way to obtain toys that is not only easy on his wallet but also his diet. First, he would go with his family to Jollibee once a month to complete the set of toys that were on offer. This would be followed by a monthly visit to McDonald’s by Lugue and his friends, where they would collect toys to complete the set of Happy Meal Toys.
“Basically, it’s just two visits to fast-food restaurants per month. With a little help from my friends and family, we get to enjoy a meal together which is in no way detrimental to our health and I get to keep all the toys from all the Happy Meals and Jolly Meals.”
When asked whether the COVID-19 pandemic affected the growth of his toy collection, Lugue said he wasn’t stopped from acquiring more pieces. In fact, his immense love for toys allowed him to work around a global pandemic to add to his stash.
He made the best out of the situation by ordering food deliveries to his office and getting his colleagues into buying meals with toys on offer. “I was able to convince my colleagues into buying Happy Meals in one of our dinners. In just one delivery, I was able to complete the set of Doraemon toys, which are currently being offered here in McDonald’s,” he said.
“It was a most unusual set-up but a happy one nonetheless.”
Facebook allowed authoritarian governments to use its platform to generate fake support for their regimes for months despite warnings from employees about the disinformation campaigns, an investigation from the Guardian revealed this week.
A loophole in Facebook’s policies allowed government officials around the world to create unlimited amounts of fake “pages” which, unlike user profiles, don’t have to correspond to an actual person – but could still like, comment on, react to, and share content, the Guardian reported.
That loophole let governments spin up armies of what looked like real users who could then artificially generate support for and amplify pro-government content, what the Guardian called “the digital equivalent of bussing in a fake crowd for a speech.”
Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist on the company’s integrity team, blew the whistle dozens of times about the loophole, warning Facebook executives including vice president of integrity Guy Rosen, airing many of her concerns, according to the Guardian.
BuzzFeed News previously reported on Zhang’s “badge post” – a tradition where departing employees post an internal farewell message to coworkers.
But one of Zhang’s biggest concerns was that Facebook wasn’t paying enough attention to coordinated disinformation networks in authoritarian countries, such as Honduras and Azerbaijan, where elections are less free and more susceptible to state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, the Guardian’s investigation revealed.
Facebook waited 344 days after employees sounded the alarm to take action in the Honduras case, and 426 days in Azerbaijan, and in some cases took no action, the investigation found.
But when she raised her concerns about Facebook’s inaction in Honduras to Rosen, he dismissed her concerns.
“We have literally hundreds or thousands of types of abuse (job security on integrity eh!),” Rosen told Zhang in April 2019, according the Guardian, adding: “That’s why we should start from the end (top countries, top priority areas, things driving prevalence, etc) and try to somewhat work our way down.”
Rosen told Zhang he agreed with Facebook’s priority areas, which included the US, Western Europe, and “foreign adversaries such as Russia/Iran/etc,” according to the Guardian.
“We fundamentally disagree with Ms. Zhang’s characterization of our priorities and efforts to root out abuse on our platform. We aggressively go after abuse around the world and have specialized teams focused on this work,” Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois told Insider in a statement.
“As a result, we’ve already taken down more than 100 networks of coordinated inauthentic behavior. Around half of them were domestic networks that operated in countries around the world, including those in Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and in the Asia Pacific region. Combatting coordinated inauthentic behavior is our priority. We’re also addressing the problems of spam and fake engagement. We investigate each issue before taking action or making public claims about them,” she said.
However, Facebook didn’t dispute any of Zhang’s factual claims in the Guardian investigation.
Facebook pledged to tackle election-related misinformation and disinformation after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Russia’s use of its platform to sow division among American voters ahead of the 2016 US presidential elections.
“Since then, we’ve focused on improving our defenses and making it much harder for anyone to interfere in elections,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post.
“Key to our efforts has been finding and removing fake accounts – the source of much of the abuse, including misinformation. Bad actors can use computers to generate these in bulk. But with advances in artificial intelligence, we now block millions of fake accounts every day as they are being created so they can’t be used to spread spam, false news or inauthentic ads,” Zuckerberg added.
But the Guardian’s investigation showed Facebook is still delaying or refusing to take action against state-sponsored disinformation campaigns in dozens of countries, with thousands of fake accounts, creating hundreds of thousands of fake likes.
And even in supposedly high-priority areas, like the US, researchers have found Facebook has allowed key disinformation sources to expand their reach over the years.
A March report from Avaaz found “Facebook could have prevented 10.1 billion estimated views for top-performing pages that repeatedly shared misinformation” ahead of the 2020 US elections had it acted earlier to limit their reach.
“Failure to downgrade the reach of these pages and to limit their ability to advertise in the year before the election meant Facebook allowed them to almost triple their monthly interactions, from 97 million interactions in October 2019 to 277.9 million interactions in October 2020,” Avaaz found.
Facebook admits that around 5% of its accounts are fake, a number that hasn’t gone down since 2019, according to The New York Times. And MIT Technology Review’s Karen Hao reported in March that Facebook still doesn’t have a centralized team dedicated to ensuring its AI systems and algorithms reduce the spread of misinformation.
The true conquest of a country is more than just invading its land borders. To truly conquer a country, an invader has to subdue its people and end its will to fight.
There are many countries in the world with a lot of experience in this area, and there are many more countries who were on the receiving end of their subjugation.
At the end of World War II, the age of colonialism was officially ended for most of these conquerors and what grew from that end was a rebirth of those people and their culture, which just went to show that their people were never really subdued in the first place.
And then there were some countries that either never stopped fighting in the first place or have been constantly fighting for their right to exist since they won their independence. Some of them overcame great odds and earned the respect of their neighbors and former enemies rather than allow themselves to be subject to someone just because they didn’t have the latest and greatest in military technologies.
In the last installment, we looked at countries whose people, geography, sheer size, populations, and culture would never allow an invader to conquer them. This time, we look at smaller countries who took on great powers as the underdog and came out on top.
The Vietnam War wasn’t some historical undercard match. It was actually a heavyweight championship fight – the United States just didn’t realize it at the time.
The history of Vietnam’s formidable people and defenses date well before the Vietnam War and even before World War II. Vietnam has historically been thought of as one of the most militaristic countries in the region, and for good reason. Vietnam has been kicking invaders out since the 13th century when Mongol hordes tried to move in from China.
While it wasn’t Genghis Khan at the head of the invading army, it wasn’t too far removed the then-dead leader’s time. Kubali Khan’s Yuan Dynasty tried three times to subdue the Vietnamese. In the last invasion, Khan sent 400 ships and 300,000 men to Vietnam, only to see every ship sunk and the army harassed by the Vietnamese all the way back to China.
Vietnam maintained its independence from China for 900 years after that. In more modern times, Vietnam was first invaded by the French in force in 1858 and they couldn’t subdue the whole of the country until 1887, 29 years after it first started.
It cost thousands of French lives and the French even had to bring in Philippine troops to help. Even then, they won only because of a critical error on the part of Vietnamese emperor Tu Duc, who terribly misjudged how much his people actually cared for his regime.
The Japanese invasion during WWII awakened the Vietnamese resolve toward independence and they immediately started killing Japanese invaders – and not out of love for the French. They famously gave France the boot, invaded Laos to extend their territory, and then invaded South Vietnam. That’s where the Americans come in.
The American-Vietnam War didn’t go so well for either side, but now-Communist Vietnam’s dense jungle and support from China and the Soviet Union gave the North Vietnamese the military power to match their will to keep fighting, a will which seemed never-ending, no matter which side you’re on. North Vietnam was able to wait out the US and reunite Vietnam, an underdog story that no one believed possible.
Vietnam’s resistance to outsiders doesn’t end there. After Vietnam invaded China-backed Cambodia (and won, by the way), Communist China’s seemingly unstoppable People’s Liberation Army with its seemingly unlimited manpower invaded Vietnam in 1979.
For three weeks, the war ground Vietnamese border villages in a bloody stalemate until the Chinese retreated back across the border, taking an unexpectedly high death toll.
Though not much about early Finnish history is known, there are a few Viking sagas that mention areas of Finland and the people who inhabit those areas. Those sagas usually involve Vikings getting murdered or falling in battle. The same goes for Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, and virtually anyone else who had their eyes set on Finland.
In the intervening years, Finns allowed themselves to be dominated by Sweden and Russia, but after receiving their autonomy in 1917, Finland wasn’t about to give it up. They eventually became a republic and were happy with that situation until around World War II began.
That’s when the Soviet Union invaded.
The invasion of Finland didn’t go well for the USSR. It lasted all of 105 days and the “Winter War,” as it came to be called, was the site of some of the most brutal fighting the world has ever seen to this day.
Finns were ruthless and relentless in defending their territory. For example, the Raatteentie Incident involved a 300-Finn ambush of a 25,000-strong Soviet force – and the Finns destroyed the Russians almost to the last man. The Finnish sniper Simo Hayha killed 505 Russians and never lost a moment’s sleep.
When the retreating Finns destroyed anything that might be of use to an invader, it forced Soviet troops to march over frozen lakes. Lakes that were mined by the Finns and subsequently exploded, downing and freezing thousands of Red Army invaders.
The Winter War is also where Finnish civilians perfected and mass-produced the Molotov Cocktail.
From the British War Office:
“The Finns’ policy was to allow the Russian tanks to penetrate their defenses, even inducing them to do so by ‘canalising’ them through gaps and concentrating their small arms fire on the infantry following them. The tanks that penetrated were taken on by gun fire in the open and by small parties of men armed with explosive charges and petrol bombs in the forests and villages.”
This was the level of resistance from a country of just 3.5 million people. Finns showed up in whatever they were wearing, with whatever weapons they had, men and women alike.
In short, Finns are happy to kill any invader and will do it listening to heavy metal music while shouting the battle cry of, “fire at their balls!”
If part of what makes the United States an unconquerable country is every citizen being able to take up arms against an invader, just imagine how effective that makeshift militia force would be if every single citizen was also a trained soldier. That’s Israel, with 1.5 million highly trained reserve troops.
Israel has had mandatory military service for all its citizens – men and women – since 1949 and for a good reason. Israel is in a tough neighborhood and most of their neighbors don’t want Israel to exist.
This means the Jewish state is constantly fighting for survival in some way, shape, or form, and they’re incredibly good at it. In almost 70 years of history, Israel earned a perfect war record. Not bad for any country, let alone one that takes heat for literally anything it does.
Not only will Israel wipe the floor with its enemies; it doesn’t pull punches. That’s why wars against Israel don’t last long, with most lasting less than a year and the shortest lasting just six days. As far as invading Israel goes, the last time an invading Army was in Israel proper, it was during the 1948-49 War of Independence. Since then, the farthest any invader got inside Israel was into areas seized by the Israelis during a previous war.
In fact, when an Arab coalition surprised Israel during Yom Kippur in 1973, the Israelis nearly took Cairo and Damascus in just a couple of weeks.
More than just securing their land borders, Israel keeps a watchful eye on Jewish people worldwide, and doesn’t mind violating another country’s sovereignty to do it. Just ask Uganda, Sudan, Argentina, Germany, Norway, France, Italy, UAE, Tunisia … get the point? If a group of Jewish people are taken hostage or under threat somewhere, the IDF or Mossad will come and get them out.
The Mossad is another story entirely. Chance are good that any country even thinking about invading Israel is probably full of, if not run by, Mossad agents. Israel will get the entire plan of attack in plenty of time to hand an invader their own ass.
Just before the 1967 Six Day War, Mossad agent Eli Cohen became a close advisor to Syria’s defense minister. He actually got the Syrians to plant trees in the Golan Heights to help IDF artillery find the range on their targets.
One of the world’s oldest civilizations, Japan was able to keep its culture and history relatively intact over the centuries because mainland Japan has never been invaded by an outside force.
Contrary to popular belief, the “divine wind” typhoons didn’t destroy the Mongol fleets outright. Mongol invaders were able to land on some of the Japanese islands, but after a few victories and a couple of stunning defeats, the Japanese exhausted the Mongols and they were forced to retreat back to their ships. That’s when the first typhoon hit.
Mongols invaded again less than seven years later with a fleet of 4,400 ships and some 140,000 Mongol, Korean, and Chinese troops. Japanese samurai defending Hakata Bay were not going to wait for the enemy to land and actually boarded Chinese ships to slaughter its mariners.
Since then, the Bushido Code only grew in importance and Japan’s main enemies were – wait for it – the Japanese. But once Japan threw off its feudal system and unified, it became a force to be reckoned with. Japan shattered the notion that an Asian army wasn’t able to defeat a Western army in a real war, soundly defeating the Russians both on land and at sea in 1905, setting the stage for World War II.
Although the attack on Pearl Harbor was not a great idea, the Japanese made sure the Americans knew that any invasion of Japanese territory would cost them dearly – and they made good on the promise, mostly by fighting to the death.
The United States got the message, opting to drop nuclear weapons on Japan to force a surrender rather than attempt an invasion. Even though the US got the demanded surrender, Japan was not a conquered country. The United States left Japan after seven years of occupation and the understanding that communism was worse than petty fighting.
“Bushido” began to take on a different meaning to Japanese people. It wasn’t just one of extreme loyalty to traditions or concepts, or even the state. It morphed throughout Japanese culture until it began to represent a kind of extreme bravery and resistance in the face of adversity.
While many in Japan are hesitant to use Bushido in relation to the Japanese military, the rise of China is fueling efforts to alter Japan’s pacifist constitution to enable its self-defense forces to take a more aggressive stand in some areas.
Since the end of World War II, Japan has worked not to dominate the region militarily but economically. Japan’s booming economy has allowed the country to meet the threats raised by Chinese power in the region, boosting military spending by $40 billion and creating the world’s most technologically advanced (and fifth largest) air force, making any approach to the island that much more difficult.
5. The Philippines
The 7,000-plus islands of the Philippines are not a country that any invader should look forward to subduing. The Philippines have been resisting invaders since Filipinos killed Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.
For 300-plus years, people of the Philippines were largely not thrilled to be under Spanish rule, which led to a number of insurrections, mutinies, and outright revolts against the Spanish.
As a matter of fact, for the entire duration of Spanish colonialism in the Philippines, the Moro on Sulu and Mindinao fought their occupiers. That’s a people who won’t be conquered.
By the time the people of the Philippines rose up to throw off the chains of Spanish colonizers, there was already a massive plan in place as well as a secret shadow government ready to take power as soon as the Spanish were gone.
This revolution continued until the Spanish-American War when the Americans wrested the island nation away, much to the chagrin (and surprise) of the Philippines.
Freedom fighters in the Philippines were so incensed at the American occupation that US troops had to adopt a new sidearm with a larger caliber. Moro fighters shot by the standard-issue Colt .38-caliber M1892 Army-Navy pistol would not stop rushing American troops, and the US troops in the Philippines were getting killed by lack of firepower.
Meanwhile, the Philippines created a government anyway and immediately declared war on the United States, and even though it ended with the capture of rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo, American troops would be in the Philippines until 1913, attempting to subdue guerrillas in the jungles and outlying islands. Until, that is, Japan invaded.
If you want to know how well that went for the Japanese, here’s a photo of Filipino freedom fighter Capt. Nieves Fernandez showing a US soldier how she hacks off Japanese heads with her bolo knife.
So even though the actual Armed Forces of the Philippines might be a little aged and weak, anyone trying to invade and subdue the Philippines can pretty much expect the same level of resistance from the locals.
Consider hot climate and dense jungles covering 7,000-plus islands, full of Filipinos who are all going to try to kill you eventually – the Philippines will never stop resisting.
Like the Moros, who are still fighting to this day.