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Jeff Smith, a Boise State University graduate living in Utah, heard about Idahoans for Liberty’s Second Amendment rally the evening of Jan. 12. He drove to Idaho and spent the night in his car in a WalMart parking lot in Boise, and was rubbing his German shepherd Kira’s belly when Boise Weeklycaught up with him at the Grove Plaza just ahead of when the rally was scheduled to march to the statehouse.
For Smith, who brought along his loaded AR-15 assault rifle, the rally represented kickback against dependence on the government.
“We should be able to govern ourselves,” Smith said.
The threats to his freedom, he said, aren’t terrorists. “They’re guys wearing suits and ties rather than living in caves overseas,” Smith said.
In general terms, the rally was in support of Second Amendment rights and a chance for advocates to urge legislators to reinforce state support of the right to bear arms in Idaho, but the supporters who gathered at the Grove Plaza the morning of Jan. 13 had numerous reasons for attending. For some, it was to protest President Barack Obama’s efforts to enact gun legislation. Others were there to remind their legislators that gun rights are important to them. Nick Brizzi, a veteran of the Vietnam War, was there because, as a veteran, he felt gun ownership was a right he’d earned in the jungles of southeast Asia.
“If a man is given the right to have a weapon to serve his country, he should have that right until he dies,” Brizzi said.
Greg Pruett, the event’s organizer, started Idahoans for Liberty and organized the Monday rally because national organizations like the National Rifle Association needed local corollaries to work with state legislatures and city councils.
“The people who make a difference work [at the statehouse],” he said. “I wanted an organization that was Idaho specific.”
After Pruett urged the crowd to “tell [the legislators] how you feel” and thanking a motorcycle-mounted police escort, the crowd snaked its way from the Grove Plaza east on Idaho Street, then north on Capitol Boulevard to the statehouse, with people adding to the crowd’s ranks along the way. What started as a group of about 50 people at the plaza had blossomed into a throng of about 200 by the time it settled at the Capitol steps.
No legislators were there to greet them (though several did join the crowd on the steps later during the rally), which dismayed many.
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Free speech zones (also known as First Amendment zones, free speech cages, and protest zones) are areas set aside in public places for political activists to exercise their right of free speech in the United States. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law… abridging… the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The existence of free speech zones is based on U.S. court decisions stipulating that the government may regulate the time, place, and mannerbut not contentof expression. A free speech zone is more restrictive than an exclusion zone.
The Supreme Court has developed a four-part analysis to evaluate the constitutionality of time, place and manner (TPM) restrictions. To pass muster under the First Amendment, TPM restrictions must be neutral with respect to content, narrowly drawn, serve a significant government interest, and leave open alternative channels of communication. Application of this four-part analysis varies with the circumstances of each case, and typically requires lower standards for the restriction of obscenity and fighting words.
Free speech zones have been used at a variety of political gatherings. The stated purpose of free speech zones is to protect the safety of those attending the political gathering, or for the safety of the protesters themselves. Critics, however, suggest that such zones are “Orwellian”, and that authorities use them in a heavy-handed manner to censor protesters by putting them literally out of sight of the mass media, hence the public, as well as visiting dignitaries. Though authorities generally deny specifically targeting protesters, on a number of occasions, these denials have been contradicted by subsequent court testimony. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed, with various degrees of success and failure, a number of lawsuits on the issue.
The most prominent examples were those created by the United States Secret Service for President George W. Bush and other members of his administration. Though free speech zones existed in limited forms prior to the Presidency of George W. Bush; it was during Bush’s presidency that their scope was greatly expanded.
Many colleges and universities earlier instituted free speech zone rules during the Vietnam-era protests of the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years, a number of them have revised or removed these restrictions following student protests and lawsuits.
During the 1988 Democratic National Convention, the city of Atlanta, Georgia set up a “designated protest zone” so the convention would not be disrupted. A pro-choice demonstrator opposing an Operation Rescue group said Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young “put us in a free-speech cage.” “Protest zones” were used during the 1992 and 1996 United States presidential nominating conventions
Free speech zones have been used for non-political purposes. Through 1990s, the San Francisco International Airport played host to a steady stream of religious groups (Hare Krishnas in particular), preachers, and beggars. The city considered whether this public transportation hub was required to host free speech, and to what extent. As a compromise, two “free speech booths” were installed in the South Terminal, and groups wishing to speak but not having direct business at the airport were directed there. These booths still exist, although permits are required to access the booths.
WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 protest activity saw a number of changes to how law enforcement deals with protest activities. “The [National Lawyers] Guild, which has a 35-year history of monitoring First Amendment activity, has witnessed a notable change in police treatment of political protesters since the November 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. At subsequent gatherings in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, and Portland a pattern of behavior that stifles First Amendment rights has emerged”. In a subsequent lawsuit, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that “It was lawful for the city of Seattle to deem part of downtown off-limits… But the court also said that police enforcing the rule may have gone too far by targeting only those opposed to the WTO, in violation of their First Amendment rights.”
Free speech zones were used in Boston at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The free speech zones organized by the authorities in Boston were boxed in by concrete walls, invisible to the FleetCenter where the convention was held and criticized harshly as a “protest pen” or “Boston’s Camp X-Ray”. “Some protesters for a short time Monday [July 26, 2004] converted the zone into a mock prison camp by donning hoods and marching in the cage with their hands behind their backs.” A coalition of groups protesting the Iraq War challenged the planned protest zones. U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock was sympathetic to their request: “One cannot conceive of what other design elements could be put into a space to create a more symbolic affront to the role of free expression.”. However, he ultimately rejected the petition to move the protest zones closer to the FleetCenter.
Free speech zones were also used in New York City at the 2004 Republican National Convention. According to Mike McGuire, a columnist for the online anti-war magazine Nonviolent Activist, “The policing of the protests during the 2004 Republican National Convention represent[ed] another interesting model of repression. The NYPD tracked every planned action and set up traps. As marches began, police would emerge from their hiding places building vestibules, parking garages, or vans and corral the dissenters with orange netting that read ‘POLICE LINE DO not CROSS,’ establishing areas they ironically called ‘ad-hoc free speech zones.’ One by one, protesters were arrested and detainedsome for nearly two days.” Both the Democratic and Republican National parties were jointly awarded a 2005 Jefferson Muzzle from the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, “For their mutual failure to make the preservation of First Amendment freedoms a priority during the last Presidential election”.
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The Con Dao islands have an utterly unhurried ambience. “There are two traffic lights, but no work,” the bike rental guy said apologetically as he gave me the island rundown. “One gas station, but close for lunch. Only one road, so you no lost. Right to airport or left to prisons and port.”
Moped key in hand, I was relishing the chance to get out and explore some empty roads in search of a perfect beach for the day. I’d spent the previous week embracing Vietnamese city culture and its furious energy and commerce, but was now in need of some serious hammock time.
A cluster of 16 islets in the South China Sea, the Con Dao islands are 155 miles from Ho Chi Minh City. Only the main island, Con Son, is inhabited (its population is just 6,000), though the other islands can be visited.
Once hell on earth to thousands of prisoners incarcerated by French colonists and the American military, today the Con Daos are blissfully tranquil. With their ravishing sandy bays, rainforests and healthy coral reefs, their tropical appeal is easy to grasp. Flight connections used to be atrocious, but Vietnam Airlines now offers three daily flights from Ho Chi Minh City (52 one way).
The rental guy had lied about the one road. Easily sidetracked, my Honda and I had chanced upon a rough track close to the airport, and our inquisitiveness had rewarded us royally in the form of Dam Trau beach, a sublime half-moon crescent of pale sand, bookended by forest-topped rocky promontories.
After an hour’s snorkelling, exploring the kaleidoscopic coral teeming with macro life and spending five minutes swimming eye-to-eye with a hawksbill turtle, I retreated to the plastic chairs in the bay’s seafood shack, picked a victim from the live fish tank and gorged on crab with tamarind and chilli. The only other diners were a group from Hanoi, employees of a state-owned bank on a corporate jolly-with-a-purpose.
Vietnam is a country steeped in revolutionary rhetoric, and Vo Thi Sau, a teenage resistance fighter executed in Con Dao during the French occupation, fits the bill perfectly. (She killed a captain in a grenade attack at the age of 14, and wasn’t captured until years later.) The bank staff were here to pay their respects to this national heroine, and to the thousands of others who lost their lives in Con Dao’s 11 prisons.
Ghosts are everywhere in Con Dao, nowhere more so than at Phu Hai jail. Built in 1862, it once housed 20,000 prisoners political and criminal inmates chained together naked in rows. The really troublesome individuals were kept in “tiger cages”, with six to 10 men crammed into a tiny open-roofed enclosure, beaten with sticks from above and dusted with lime and water (which burns the skin). Unbeknown to the world, the Americans continued operating these tiger cages until 1970 when a Life magazine report broke news of their existence, provoking an international outcry.
It had been a chastening day, the brutality of prison conditions contrasting acutely with the overwhelming beauty of my surroundings. As I strolled along the seafront promenade in Con Son town, it was easy to marvel at the sheer gentility of this pocket-sized island capital, its litter-free streets, French-era villas, well-kept municipal buildings and air of calm and prosperity.
Con Son town has a dozen or so hotels and guesthouses but the Six Senses resort (sixsenses.com; from 441), a short ride away to the north, really is in a class of its own. Occupying the island’s best beach, it comprises 50 or so ocean-front, timber-clad beach villas, each fusing contemporary style with rustic chic.
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Vietnam’s islands: an escape route to peace
Amazing Caves and Floating Islands ( Vietnam Vlog 3)
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The co-founder of Liberty Reserve, a now defunct virtual currency that was widely favored by the criminal underground, pleaded guilty on Thursday to money laundering and other charges.
Vladimir Kats, 41, also pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to operating and conspiring to operate an unlicensed money transmitter business, receiving child pornography and marriage fraud, according to a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) news release.
The Liberty Reserve virtual currency business, launched in 2006 in Costa Rica, became a financial hub of the cybercrime world, handling more than 55 million transactions worth US$6 billion over seven years, according to the indictment against Kats.
Liberty Reserve’s reputation somewhat tainted the view of other virtual currencies, including Bitcoin, for their quick embrace by the criminal world. Unlike Liberty Reserve though, Bitcoin businesses and exchangers have mostly sought to comply with global financial regulations.
Prosecutors linked Liberty Reserve with laundering proceeds from credit card fraud, identity theft, investment fraud, computer hacking, child pornography and narcotics trafficking.
Liberty Reserve didn’t validate its customers’ ID — a key requirement in many countries — which allowed people to register under false identities. A network of third-party exchangers in Malaysia, Nigeria, Vietnam and Russia directly handled deposits and withdrawals from customers, which kept Liberty Reserve at arm’s length from traditional banking systems.
Kats was arrested in May when Liberty Reserve was shut down. More than one million people used the service, including more than 200,000 in the U.S., the indictment said.
A sentencing date has not been scheduled. Kats could face up to 75 years in prison if he’s given the maximum sentence for each charge, the DOJ said.
Send news tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk
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Liberty Reserve co-founder pleads guilty to money laundering
by Ramzy Baroud October 10, 2013
Nothing is more precious than freedom, is quoted as being attributed to Vo Nguyen Giap, a Vietnamese General that led his country through two liberation wars. The first was against French colonialists, the second against the Americans. And despite heavy and painful losses, Vietnam prevailed, defeating the first colonial quest at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954) and the second at Ho Ch Minh Campaign (1975).
General Giap, the son of a peasant scholar, stood tall in both wars, only bowing down to the resolve of his people. Any forces that would impose their will on other nations will most certainly face defeat, he once said. His words will always be true.
He died on Friday, October 4, at the age of 102.
On the same day, the former black panther Herman Wallace, who had spent 41-years of his life in solitary confinement in Louisiana State Penitentiary, died from incurable liver cancer at the age of 71. Just a few days before his death, Judge Brian Jackson had overturned a charge that robbed Herman of much of his life. According to Jackson, Hermans 1974 conviction of killing a prison guard was unconstitutional.
Despite the lack of material evidence, discredited witnesses and a sham trial, Wallace, who was a poet and lover of literature, and two other prisoners known as the Angola Three, were locked up to spend a life of untold hardship for a crime they didnt commit.
Now that Wallace is dead, two remain. One, Robert King, 70, was freed in 2001, and the other, Albert Woodfox, 66, is still in solitary confinement and undergoes daily cavity searches, reported the UK Independent newspaper.
When his conviction was overturned it cleared the slate – he could die a man not convicted of a crime he was innocent of, King said of the release of Wallace, who died few days later.
One of the last photos released while on his hospital bed, showed Wallace raising his clinched right fist, perpetuating the legendary defiance of a whole generation of African Americans and civil rights leaders. While some fought for civil rights in the streets of American cities, Wallace fought for the rights of prisoners. The four decades of solitary confinement were meant to break him. Instead, it made it him stronger.
“If death is the realm of freedom, then through death I escape to freedom” Wallace quoted Frantz Fanon in the introduction to a poem he wrote from prison in 2012.
Giap, Wallace, and the Never-Ending Battle for Freedom
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MIAMI Cuba’s Internet remains one of the least free in the world, suffering under “prodigious government regulation” that have left it with little access to almost anything except for email, the rights group Freedom House reported Thursday.
The number of Web sites blocked by censors has remained about the same since last year and the government still uses a “cyber militia” to attack dissidents, the Washington-based non-profit noted in its global Freedom on the Net report for 2013.
Branding Cuba as “not free,” the report’s 14-page chapter gave it an 86, with zero being the best and 100 the worst. Also on the “not free” list: China, Vietnam, Syria, Belarus, Sudan, Ethiopia, Burma and Pakistan.
Cuba “has long ranked as one of the world’s most repressive environments for information and communication technologies,” it said. “High prices, exceptionally slow connectivity, and prodigious government regulation have resulted in a pronounced lack of access to applications and services other than e-mail.”
Only select government entities have benefitted from the ALBA-1 fiber optic cable that was turned on earlier this year, the report said, although the ultra high-speed cable had been expected to allow much wider, cheaper and faster access to the Web.
At least a dozen dissident bloggers were detained and one independent journalist, Calixto Martinez, whose reports appear on several online sites, was held without formal charges for six months. Even generally pro-government blogs were blocked when they crossed the official line of acceptable criticism, the report said.
Freedom House also reported that government censors blocked Cubans’ access to phone numbers abroad for systems such as the U.S.-based Digalo sin Miedo – Say it Without Fear – once widely used by activists to publicize abuses.
The system allowed Cubans to call a U.S. number and record a brief complaint. A computer would then email an alert to those who had signed up for the service, such as exiles who support the dissidents or journalists who report on Cuba.
Government censors also tightened controls on access to the Web in the workplace – the vast majority of Cubans with Internet connectivity get it through their jobs in state agencies and enterprises – and continued to use computer-savvy supporters as foot soldiers in a “cyber war” against government critics, according to the report.
The “cyber militia,” for instance, uses blogs or Tweets to accuse dissidents of cheating on their spouses or pocketing money meant for others, and send emails to journalists abroad pushing the Cuban government line but pretending to be simple citizens.
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Freedom House ranks Cuba's Internet as 'not free'ï¿½
Posted on: 9:45 am, October 1, 2013, by Staff Writer, updated on: 12:22pm, October 1, 2013
Courtesy: Leo Shane III
Veterans from Story County boarded a plane Tuesday morning, bound for Washington D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated in their honor.
The Freedom Flight was planned far in advance of the government shutdown and veterans were hopeful the memorials they traveled to see wouldnt be closed when they arrived.
Barricades were up at the World War II memorial, but that didnt stop the veterans. Stars and Stripes reporter Leo Shane III says Iowas Rep. Steve King helped get the veterans inside the memorial.
Shane also says the park police are seeking guidance on how to respond to the situation, but currently arent keeping any veterans out.
One-hundred and fifty veterans, including thirty from World War II, are taking part in the 2ndStory County Freedom Flight.
Philip Schendel got choked up talking about the police escort and send-off at the Des Moines International Airport Tuesday morning. He said, Proud, makes you pretty, its kind of hard to explain.
Many had been paying attention to news surrounding the government shutdown. Some family members took action. Kathy Gourley, Daughter of a Korean War Veteran, said, Yesterday I spent the morning writing to all my representatives and senators telling them this better not interfere with this trip.
Veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars are also part of the trip.
FREEDOM FLIGHT: Veterans Depart Despite Shutdown
The second Story County Freedom Flight is Tuesday, but it began Sunday at Ames City Auditorium with a send-off ceremony honoring the veterans who will be on the flight.
This trip has been on my bucket list, Gary Evans, a Vietnam veteran from Nevada, said. Im just excited to be going.
This years participants are 31 World War II veterans, 50 Korean War veterans and 69 Vietnam veterans, including two women. All of the veterans on the flight either live in Story County now or did when they enlisted.
This means a lot because weve been there, done that, and served our country with pride, Eldon Boswell, of Nevada, said. Boswell, who served during the Korean War, said he wanted to see the monuments with this group, and that there was a sense of brotherhood in seeing them together.
On Sunday, the veterans gathered first at Iowa State University for a motorcade tour through the campus and downtown Ames. The veterans rode on buses with a motorcycle escort and were accompanied by area law enforcement officials and firefighters. The motorcade was greeted when it arrived at City Auditorium by a large crowd of friends and family members.
Highlights of the ceremony included a medley of service branch songs, a performance of God Bless America and a special presentation of an honorary high school diploma to veteran Donald Phipps.
Phipps was a member of the 2012 Freedom Flight, and received his honorary diploma through the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs Operation Recognition program. The program recognizes veterans who didnt complete their high school diplomas because of service during World War II, the Vietnam War or the Korean War. Phipps, a World War II veteran, received his honorary diploma from Boone High School.
He was then also presented with a letter of honorary acceptance to ISU, signed by ISU President Steven Leath.
Also presented at the ceremony were a Gold Star wreath and POW/MIA flag.
The Gold Star wreath, which represents soldiers who lost their lives in service, will be taken on Tuesdays trip and placed on the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, Tony Nussbaum, Sundays master of ceremonies, said.
College at Brockport students got a history lesson Thursday that was breaking news for their parents and grandparents.
Students heard straight from a woman whose voice was also heard in a landmark United States Supreme Court decision about the First Amendment.
Advocate Mary Beth Tinker asked students to keep the First Amendment alive through new-age social media.
Tinker was one of the students suspended in 1964 from her school in Des Moines, Iowa for wearing black armbands to honor and remember those who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.
That case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, ending in a landmark decision that protects students and teachers rights to freedom of speech.
“I’d just like to encourage all young people to stand up and speak up and make a difference, and that goes for adults too,” said Tinker. “We should all be involved in using our first amendment rights to be involved in our communities, and our schools, and make a difference and make things better in the world.”
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First Amendment Advocate Speaks to Brockport Students
Posted at: 09/26/2013 6:44 AM
A nationally-known First Amendment rights advocate will visit The College at Brockport Thursday morning.
Mary Beth Tinker was a principal figure in a 1965 case about students’ rights to free speech. She and other students were suspended after publicly denouncing the Vietnam War and the Supreme Court ruled in their favor.
Tinker and a First Amendment lawyer are lecturing at Brockports Union Ballroom. It starts at 8 a.m.
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WASHINGTON (AP) – Mary Beth Tinker was just 13 when she spoke out against the Vietnam War by wearing a black armband to her Iowa school in 1965. When the school suspended her, she took her free speech case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. Now 61, she’s quit her part-time job as a nurse and will travel the country telling her story.
Tinker will visit her first school Monday in Philadelphia. After that, she’s scheduled to travel by RV to 18 states and the District of Columbia as part of what’s being called the “Tinker Tour.” She’ll log 10,000 to 15,000 miles, the equivalent of driving across the country three to five times, before her tour ends Nov. 25 in Kansas City, Mo. Along the way, she’ll stop at more than three dozen locations, most of them schools, and she plans a tour of schools in western states in the spring. Her message: Students should take action on issues important to them.
“It’s better for our whole society when kids have a voice,” Tinker said in a recent interview at her home in Washington.
The tour, which will include participating in Constitution Day celebrations Tuesday in Philadelphia and visiting her old school in Iowa, won’t mark the first time Tinker has talked to young people. After a career as a piano technician, a nurse and then a nurse organizer for the Service Employees International Union, Tinker started speaking more to students about a decade ago.
She tells young people “You, one person, can make a difference,” and “You’re important. You are someone.”
She said standing up isn’t just “practice for the future,” but something children can do today. And students have a variety of concerns, she said, whether it’s school uniforms, bans on chewing gum or, at one school she visited, the fact there wasn’t enough sand in the sandbox.
The fall leg of Tinker’s tour is expected to cost about $50,000, and it’s backed by a number of First Amendment and journalism groups, including Washington’s Newseum, which donated $3,500 for black armbands that Tinker will sign and give out. The American Civil Liberties Union, which took Tinker’s case to the Supreme Court originally, is among the organizations endorsing the trip.
The tour’s major sponsor is the Student Press Law Center, a Washington nonprofit advocate for student First Amendment rights. A lawyer for the group, Mike Hiestand, will join Tinker on the tour to answer legal questions and talk to student newspaper groups about censorship and other issues.
Hiestand, who has spent more than 20 years working with student journalists, called Tinker a “rock star.” He said he had been talking about her case with students long before meeting her about three years ago. The 1969 decision in her case, he said, was a high-water mark for student speech. The decision famously says students don’t “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” But Hiestand said that since then, the law has changed drastically and students’ rights have been curtailed.
Tinker said that “every time you turn around,” it seems there’s a case where “a kid is getting in trouble for something that they’re expressing.” But she said she’ll tell students to stand up anyway: “You have a lot of power if you will use it.”
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Free speech icon's tour aims to encourage student action
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They stand as symbols of freedom. Some are perched on concrete pedestals at parks and military bases. Others guard the entrances to American Legion and VFW posts.
The thunder from their jet engines and deafening blasts from their barrels have long been silent. Yet their sun-baked shrouds remain as reminders of their historic roles in the nations defense.
Freedom Park at Nellis Air Force Base has the most prolific display of war relics in Southern Nevada. Eight jets line the lawn at Freedom Park, spanning five decades of combat training.
Theres an F-86 Sabre from the Korean War era; an F-111A Ardvark, F-105G Thunderchief, and an F-4C Phantom from the Vietnam War; an F-100D Super Sabre from 1954 that was first to fly level, supersonic speeds; an F-5 Freedom Fighter flown by Nellis aggressors from 1972 to 1989.
Theres also an A-10 Thunderbolt from the New Orleans-based Ragin Cajuns reserve wing; and the Stealth on a Stick, a black F-117A Nighthawk that flew under a cloak of secrecy at Tonopah Test Range in the 1980s.
This is a visual history of Nellis and fighter pilots, the modern successor of knights and chivalry, said Jerry White, the 99th Air Base Wing historian.
Whether you are a pilot, maintainer, weapons guy or a G.I. or Marine in a foxhole, this means the difference between life and death, he said as he gave a preview for Independence Day of the Freedom Park display.
OTHER AIRCRAFT, ARTILLERY
The aircraft plus an F-16 Fighting Falcon outside the Thunderbirds hangar and another red-white-and-blue jet, an F-84F Thunderstreak near Creech Air Force Base, 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas, are all on loan from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at the Wright-Patterson base in Ohio.
Similarly, a pair of towed artillery guns and a UH-1H Huey Iroquois helicopter parked at Amargosa Valley VFW Post 6826 are on loan from the Army Tank and Automotive Command in Warren, Mich.
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Nellis War Relics Symbolize Freedom, Dedication Of Military
US Secretary of State John Kerry nudged China on Monday to agree a code of conduct to prevent clashes in the South China Sea after the Philippines accused Beijing of a “massive” military build-up.
But Kerry, speaking at Asia-Pacific foreign ministerial talks in the tiny petro-state of Brunei, said after a meeting with his Chinese counterpart that the two Pacific powers were united in their opposition to North Korea’s nuclear drive.
A year after a US-backed push for a South China Sea code of conduct broke down acrimoniously, this year’s hosts Brunei have instilled a more cordial tone, with China agreeing Sunday to hold talks on establishing such a code.
“We very much hope to see progress on a substantive code of conduct to help ensure stability in this vital region,” Kerry said at a meeting with foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Overlapping claims to the South China Sea loom as a flashpoint, with China claiming virtually all of the body of water, drawing accusations from rival claimants the Philippines and Vietnam that it is mounting a creeping takeover of disputed islets.
ASEAN members Brunei and Malaysia, as well as Taiwan, also claim parts of the sea.
Beijing asserts the South China Sea is not Washington’s concern, but Kerry insisted the United States saw a “national interest” in ensuring freedom of commerce in a waterway vital to world trade.
He reiterated after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that the United States does not take a stand on individual disputes but added it had a “strong interest” in security in the sea.
On Sunday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario told his ASEAN colleagues that China had begun a “massive” military build-up in the sea and its actions “pose serious challenges for the region as a whole”.
China has been reluctant to reach a code of conduct with the ASEAN bloc, preferring to negotiate individually with each country.
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US nudges China on sea disputes
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