‘We the People’ at heart of White House holiday decorations
Darlene Superville – November 28, 2022
WASHINGTON (AP) — “We the People” is Jill Biden’s holiday theme with White House decorations designed for “the people” to see themselves in the tree ornaments, mantel displays, mirrors and do-it-yourself creations that have turned the mansion’s public spaces into a winter wonderland.
“The soul of our nation is, and has always been, ‘We the People,’” the first lady said at a White House event honoring the volunteers who decorated over Thanksgiving weekend. “And that is what inspired this year’s White House holiday decoration.”
“The values that unite us can be found all around you, a belief in possibility and optimism and unity,” Jill Biden said. “Room by room, we represent what brings us together during the holidays and throughout the year.”
Public rooms are dedicated to unifying forces: honoring and remembering deceased loved ones, words and stories, kindness and gratitude, food and traditions, nature and recreation, songs and sounds, unity and hope, faith and light, and children.
A burst of pine aroma hits visitors as they step inside the East Wing and come upon trees adorned with mirrored Gold Star ornaments bearing the names of fallen service members.
Winter trees, woodland animals and glowing lanterns placed along the hallway help give the feeling of walking through snow.
Likenesses of Biden family pets — Commander and Willow, the dog and cat — first appear at the end of the hallway before they are seen later in the Vermeil Room, which celebrates kindness and gratitude, and the State Dining Room, which highlights children.
Recipes contributed by the small army of volunteer decorators spruce up the China Room’s mantel. Handwritten ones — for apple crisp and pizzelle, an Italian cookie — are family recipes shared by the first lady.
Aides say she was inspired by people she met while traveling around the country and by the nation’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
A copy of the Declaration of Independence is on display in the library, while the always-show-stopping 300-pound (136 kilogram) gingerbread White House this year includes a sugar cookie replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the documents were signed.
The executive pastry chef used 20 sheets of sugar cookie dough, 30 sheets of gingerbread dough, 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of pastillage, 30 pounds (14 kilograms) of chocolate and 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of royal icing to create the gingerbread and sugar cookie masterpiece.
A new addition to the White House collection this year is a menorah, which is lit nightly during the eight-day Jewish festival of Hanukkah. White House carpenters built the menorah out of wood that was saved from a Truman-era renovation and sterling silver candle cups.
Some 50,000 visitors are expected to pass through the White House for the holidays, including tourists and guests invited to nearly a month’s worth of receptions. Among them will be French President Emmanuel Macron, who will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday and be honored at a state dinner, the first of the Biden administration.
More than 150 volunteers, including two of the first lady’s sisters, helped decorate the White House during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The decorations include more than 83,000 twinkling lights on trees, garlands, wreaths and other displays, 77 Christmas trees and 25 wreaths on the White House exterior. Volunteers also used more than 12,000 ornaments, just under 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) of ribbon and more than 1,600 bells.
Some of the decorations are do-it-yourself projects that the first lady hopes people will be encouraged to recreate for themselves, aides said. They include plastic drinking cups turned into bells and table-top Christmas trees made from foam shapes and dollar store ramekins.
Groupings of snowy trees fill corners of the East Room, which reflects nature and recreation, and scenes from four national parks are depicted on each fireplace mantel: Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah.
In the Blue Room, the official White House Christmas tree — an 18 1/2-foot (5.6-meter) Concolor fir from Auburn, Pennsylvania — is decorated to represent unity and hope with handmade renderings of the official birds from all 57 territories, states and the District of Columbia.
The State Dining Room is dedicated to the next generation — children — and its trees are decorated with self-portrait ornaments made by students of the 2021 Teachers of the Year, “ensuring that children see themselves” in the décor, the White House said.
Hanging from the fireplace in the State Dining Room are the Biden family Christmas stockings.
“We the People” are celebrated again in the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall on the State Floor, where metal ribbons are inscribed with the names of all the states, territories and the District of Columbia.
As part of Joining Forces, her White House initiative to support military families, Jill Biden was joined by National Guard leaders from across the country, as well as National Guard families. Her late son, Beau Biden, was a major in the Delaware Army National Guard.
She met before the event with children from National Guard families, telling them she wanted to hear their stories because “you have served right alongside of your parents and you deserve to have your courage, and your sacrifice, recognized, too.”
The White House noted that the holiday guide book given to visitors was designed by Daria Peoples, an African American children’s book author who lives in Las Vegas. Peoples is a former elementary school teacher who has written and illustrated a series of picture books to support children of color, including those who have experienced race-based trauma.
U.S. warns California cities to prepare for fourth year of drought
Sharon Bernstein – November 28, 2022
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Reuters) – Federal water managers on Monday urged numerous California cities and industrial users to prepare for a fourth dry year, warning of possible “conservation actions” as drought conditions continue despite early rains.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said water storage is near historic lows in the reservoirs it operates in the state, which serve the Central Valley breadbasket as well as the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco.
Shasta Reservoir, the state’s largest and the capstone of the federal Central Valley Project, is currently at 31% capacity, the agency said.
While the rainy season, which generally begins in October and continues through March or April, may yet bring more precipitation, it would be prudent for cities and industrial users to prepare for the possibility that less water will be available than the agency had contracted to provide them.
“If drought conditions extend into 2023, Reclamation will find it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to meet all the competing needs of the Central Valley Project without beginning the implementation of additional and more severe water conservation actions,” the agency said.
Initial water supply allocations for its customers would be announced in February, the agency said.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by David Gregorio)
What happened to autumn? Scientists point to climate change
Ben Adler, Senior Editor – November 28, 2022
Regarded by millions of Americans as their favorite season, autumn for many regions of the United States has traditionally been marked by the gradual transition from hot summer weather to frigid winter temperatures. But in recent years, fall seems to have all but disappeared — especially in the Northeast — and experts say climate change is partly to blame.
Throughout October of this year, a time normally associated with crisp weather and changing leaves, many parts of the Northeast saw temperatures upwards of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. And then, seemingly overnight, the weather turned much colder.
In Spokane, Wash., the warmest October on record was quickly followed in early November by the season’s first freeze and snowfall. By the end of the third week in November, snow had fallen all over upstate New York, and Buffalo, N.Y., received a record-breaking 6 feet of snow.
“We’re seeing this weather whiplash here in the fall, where it can be so warm, it can have record warm temperatures, and then very quickly we can transition into a very cold period,” Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, told Yahoo News.
Experts such as Cohen say climate change is a factor. Weather is fluky, and it’s impossible to ascribe most individual events to climate change, but climate change is creating the conditions, starting with a longer, hotter summer, that make fall-less years more likely.
Last year, the Associated Press reported that the fall foliage season was delayed by warmer weather from Maine to Oregon, and in some places it was ruined altogether by an unusually hot, dry summer that caused leaves to die prematurely.
“Summers are growing longer,” Cohen said. “September, a lot of times, acts more like August than what you traditionally consider a fall month. Summer is definitely encroaching on the fall season.”
“It’s staying warm later, for sure,” Matthew Barlow, a professor of climate science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, told Yahoo News. “We’ve actually looked in the Northeast for fall weather patterns, and you can see that you get summer patterns later into fall.”
One might expect, then, that typical fall weather would just be shifted until later in the year, as it would take longer for temperatures to drop to those historically associated with winter. But there’s another wrinkle attributed to climate change that explains why winter temperatures suddenly crash onto the country, plunging millions into winterlike conditions: warmer Arctic temperatures in places like Alaska that send polar vortices southward.
“I would summarize the whipsawing from weather extremes this fall as the summation of two competing factors: ambient warming due to increasing greenhouse gases and an increase in polar vortex stretching,” Cohen said.
This is the same reason that we are seeing more extreme winter weather, such as a massive snowstorm that hit the South last January. Recent research finds the polar vortex is more frequently getting stretched out, which also brings cold air south. The reason is uncertain but appears to be related to the dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice, according to a study led by Cohen that appeared in Science magazine last year.
But while extreme winter weather gets all the attention, the same phenomenon can happen in the fall, making a week in November feel more like January.
“Climate change — but specifically the changes in the Arctic — lead to more disruptions of the polar vortex, where the polar vortex kind of stretches, or elongates, like a rubber band,” Cohen said. “And we’re definitely seeing an increase in those types of events in October through December.”
“I think it’s applicable to what happened this fall, because we’ve had these unusual polar-vortex-stretching events,” Cohen added. “So in October, there was this early cold weather snap and early snow. And I know places in the Southeast were having the earliest freezes ever.”
“The cold snap that we’re seeing in November and extreme lake effects that we’re seeing here in western New York, that’s also associated with the stretched polar vortex event,” Cohen said, referring to the Buffalo snowstorm.
In a complementary phenomenon, the jet stream, a band of warm air flowing west to east, is also being destabilized by climate change. The jet stream is powered by the temperature differential between the Arctic and other regions, and the Arctic is warming four times faster than the rest of the Earth. As the difference in temperature decreases, a weakened jet stream is more frequently diverted southward, pulling a band of colder air above further south.
Scientists caution that the research on whether winter weather now strikes more frequently in fall, and why, isn’t as robust as the research showing that global warming is causing hot weather to last longer into the year.
“It’s certainly gotten cold here in a way that’s felt sudden, but I’m not really aware of anybody who has run those numbers to get at that variability piece of it,” Barlow said. “There isn’t a consensus on that, I think, yet, on whether there’s an increased breakdown or stretching of the polar vortex, or whether the jet stream is getting wavier, at least in the North Atlantic. There definitely is some evidence of that, but I don’t think there’s a consensus.”
The good news for people who want to take advantage of autumn’s outdoor rituals is that because polar-vortex-stretching events are temporary, the warm weather can sometimes bounce back. In Rhode Island, for example, the first freeze of the year in late October was followed by temperatures climbing back up to the 60s, just in time for trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said Sunday he believes Russian troops will be leaving the power plant as Ukrainian forces continue to make advances in occupied territories.
“Russian servicemen will leave the Zaporizhzhia NPP, as their line of defense is gradually moving towards the borders of the Russian Federation,” Podolyak said in an interview with Freedom TV.
Russian news outlets have also been hinting at a possible withdrawal from the plant, Petro Kotin, the head of Ukraine’s state nuclear energy company Energoatom, said Sunday.
“There are some signs showing that they might be going to leave the Zaporizhzhia NPP,” Kotin said. “There have been a lot of publications in the Russian press saying that the Zaporizhzhia NPP could be left and handed over to the IAEA’s control.”
A withdrawal from the nuclear power plant could mark a significant loss for Russian forces, which have been occupying the plant since March while Ukrainian employees continue to work there under threat of violence. Russian President Vladimir Putin worked up a sham referendum and illegally annexed Zaporizhzhia this fall, attempting to show that Russian forces had gained complete control of the territory. In reality, the Kremlin had been unsure of what portion of Zaporizhzhia Russia actually controlled and which parts it didn’t.
Leaving the power plant behind would be a major blow to Putin’s invasion scheme. Russia annexed other territories around the same time it annexed Zaporizhzhia, but lost some of them soon after announcing they were under Russian control. The potential withdrawal would add to a list of staggering losses in recent weeks, including Russia’s retreat from Kherson and defeats in the northeast of the country as well.
The Kremlin has denied that it has plans to leave the power plant.
“There is no need to look for some signs where they are not and cannot be,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Monday, according to TASS.
Now, Moscow is making moves to bar Ukrainian power plant workers who haven’t yet signed contracts with Russian energy company Rosatom from entering the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, though, according to Interfax.
The move could raise questions about safe operations at the plant.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) did not immediately return a request for comment on a potential Russian withdrawal.
Ukraine has been accusing Russia of using the nuclear power plant as a way to terrorize civilians for months now. Russia reportedly kidnapped multiple officials working at the power plant—officials whose absence has threatened the safety of operations at the plant, which is the largest in Europe. Other workers have said they have been subjected to abductions and violent interrogations. G7 leaders have condemned the “pressure exerted on the personnel of the facility.”
The IAEA’s Director General, Rafael Grossi, met with Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev in Turkey earlier this month to discuss concerns around the nuclear power plant. Rossi stressed the importance of establishing a security protection zone surrounding the area, as Ukrainians and Russians accused each other of targeting the plant.
The reactors are currently shut down but still need power for cooling and other safety functions, according to the IAEA.
Struggles over territory in Zaporizhzhia continued Monday. Ukrainian forces damaged a bridge in the Zaporizhzhia region that Russian forces used to deliver military supplies, according to an update from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The Russians, too, are working to thwart Ukraine’s progress, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine spokesperson, Alexander Štupun, said.
“In the Zaporizhzhia direction, the occupiers are defending themselves,” Štupun said Monday.
14 years later, NATO is set to renew its vow to Ukraine
Lorne Cook and Stephen McGrath – November 28, 2022
BUCHAREST (AP) — NATO returns on Tuesday to the scene of one of its most controversial decisions, intent on repeating its vow that Ukraine — now suffering through the 10th month of a war against Russia — will join the world’s biggest military alliance one day.
NATO foreign ministers will gather for two days at the Palace of the Parliament in the Romanian capital Bucharest. It was there in April 2008 that U.S. President George W. Bush persuaded his allies to open NATO’s door to Ukraine and Georgia, over vehement Russian objections.
“NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO,” the leaders said in a statement. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was at the summit, described this as “a direct threat” to Russia’s security.
About four months later, Russian forces invaded Georgia.
Some experts describe the decision in Bucharest as a massive error that left Russia feeling cornered by a seemingly ever-expanding NATO. NATO counters that it doesn’t pressgang countries into joining, and that some requested membership to seek protection from Russia — as Finland and Sweden are doing now.
More than 14 years on, NATO will pledge this week to support Ukraine long-term as it defends itself against Russian aerial, missile and ground attacks — many of which have struck power grids and other civilian infrastructure, depriving millions of people of electricity and heating.
In a press conference Monday in Bucharest after a meeting with Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg highlighted the importance of investing in defense “as we face our greatest security crisis in a generation.”
“We cannot let Putin win,” he said. “This would show authoritarian leaders around the world that they can achieve their goals by using military force — and make the world a more dangerous place for all of us. It is in our own security interests to support Ukraine.”
Stoltenberg noted Russia’s recent bombardment of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, saying Putin “is trying to use winter as a weapon of war against Ukraine” and that “we need to be prepared for more attacks.”
North Macedonia and Montenegro have joined the U.S.-led alliance in recent years. With this, Stoltenberg said last week before travelling to Bucharest, “we have demonstrated that NATO’s door is open and that it is for NATO allies and aspirant countries to decide on membership. This is also the message to Ukraine.”
This gathering in Bucharest is likely to see NATO make fresh pledges of non-lethal support to Ukraine: fuel, electricity generators, medical supplies, winter equipment and drone jamming devices.
Individual allies are also likely to announce fresh supplies of military equipment for Ukraine — chiefly the air defense systems that Kyiv so desperately seeks to protect its skies. NATO as an organization will not offer such supplies, to avoid being dragged into a wider war with nuclear-armed Russia.
But the ministers, along with their Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, will also look further afield.
“Over the longer term we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era equipment to modern NATO standards, doctrine and training,” Stoltenberg said last week. This will not only improve Ukraine’s armed forces and help them to better integrate, it will also meet some of the conditions for membership.
That said, Ukraine will not join NATO anytime soon. With the Crimean Peninsula annexed, and Russian troops and pro-Moscow separatists holding parts of the south and east, it’s not clear what Ukraine’s borders would even look like.
Many of the 30 allies believe the focus now must be uniquely on defeating Russia.
“What we have seen in the last months is that President Putin made a big strategic mistake,” Stoltenberg said. “He underestimated the strength of the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian armed forces, and the Ukrainian political leadership.”
But even as economic pressure — high electricity and gas prices, plus inflation, all exacerbated by the war — mounts on many allies, Stoltenberg would not press Ukraine to enter into peace talks, and indeed NATO and European diplomats say that Putin does not appear willing to come to the table.
“The war will end at some stage at the negotiating table,” Stoltenberg said Monday. “But the outcome of those negotiations are totally dependent on the situation on the battlefield,” adding “it would be a tragedy for (the) Ukrainian people if President Putin wins.”
The foreign ministers of Bosnia, Georgia and Moldova — three partners that NATO says are under increasing Russian pressure — will also be in Bucharest. Stoltenberg said NATO would “take further steps to help them protect their independence, and strengthen their ability to defend themselves.
Many U.S. officials from the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House believedRussia would quickly conquer Ukraine when it invaded last February. But Ukraine mounted an effective defense, and the Russian forces have retreated in some areas after ferocious counter-attacks. The outcome of the war hangs by a thread, and the U.S. was simply not expecting to find itself involved in a major international conflict that could go on for years.
Former military officials and intel insiders have told The Daily Beast that reviews are underway after failures in human intelligence and “lethargic” analysis led to warped predictions.
The misjudgment in Washington, D.C., was near-total. The U.S. did accurately warn that Putin’s threat of invasion was real, while some intel agencies—including those in Kyiv—sought to play down the likelihood of all-out war, but after that the biggest land conflict in Europe since World War II has confounded the world’s most extensive and costly intelligence agencies right here in the U.S.
The Ukrainians were clear from the outset that they would fight off invaders from the East with the same brutal dedication that saw Finland defeat the USSR in the infamous Winter War of 1939. So what went wrong back at the intel offices in Virginia and D.C.? Why did the U.S. not take them seriously enough? And was their analysis of Russia’s decrepit and weary army so badly out of date?
In March, the odds seemed heavily stacked against Ukraine. At the start of the war, Russia had about 900,000 active military personnel across its forces, compared with Ukraine’s 196,600. But a massive influx of Western equipment and a stronger-than-expected Ukrainian offense has surprised observers.
“I, along with many other people, misjudged the Russian military capabilities before this war began. I thought that they were much better prepared for a war like this,” retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Kevin Ryan said in an interview. “This is a high-intensity war that they hoped would be over soon.”
Ryan has been closely watching the Russian military rebuild after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. From 1998 to 2000, he served as senior regional director for Slavic States in the Office of Secretary of Defense and, from 2001 to 2003, as defense attaché to Russia.
“I think there’s a very real tendency to overestimate the capability of an adversary, not just the Russians, or the Chinese or anybody else,” he said.
Ryan said that Russia invested heavily in modern precision weapons like cruise missiles in recent years. But the problem is that the Russians didn’t have sufficiently trained troops to carry out attacks in Ukraine.
When Russia began building up its forces around the borders of Ukraine in February, “I expected that those forces would work so that they would accomplish their goal not because the Ukrainians couldn’t fight but because the Russians were overwhelming with size,” Ryan said. “And that turned out to be wrong.”
Jeffrey Pryce, a former senior official in the office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, where he negotiated nuclear disarmament agreements with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, said in an interview that Russia “had a huge amount” of combat power but “used it very, very badly.”
One fundamental problem for Russia was that it has failed to achieve air superiority in Ukraine, leaving its troops open to attack, Pryce said. “Even if they took an airfield, they didn’t provide air support to a very light unit, and then that unit got decimated,” he added.
Figuring out how a conflict will unfold is no easy task. In an interview, Susan Cho, a former U.S. Army officer who worked in intelligence, said that battles are not just a matter of weapons and personnel.
“There are other factors that play a huge role in determining the outcome of a battle, which include leadership, tactics, tempo, and troop morale—and these factors are much more difficult to estimate prior to an actual war,” Cho added.
The failure by U.S. and allied intelligence agencies to predict how the war in Ukraine would work out is hardly unique, pointed out Hugh Gusterson, an expert in nuclear and drone warfare and professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs.
“Russian intelligence also got Ukraine wrong, repeating their disastrous errors back in 1979 when they told [Soviet leader Leonid] Brezhnev that Soviet soldiers would be welcomed by Afghans (who proceeded to kill 15,000 Soviet soldiers before the Soviet Union gave up),” he added. “And U.S. intelligence failed to foresee the strength of the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan that defeated them.”
Gusterson said predictions about future wars are usually based on the experience of previous wars, but new wars are won by learning from past campaigns and innovating. “In this war, for example, the Ukrainians have made innovative use of drones—drones bought from Turkey and off-the-shelf commercial drones—but who could have predicted that?” he added.
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Also, Gusterson said intelligence agencies tend to see things from a distance. “They count weapons systems and soldiers under arms, and they repeat military judgments about the relative effectiveness of different weapons systems,” he added. “But wars are not just a contest between weapons systems and armies,” he said. “They are also won by tactical innovation, brilliant commanders, morale, stamina, and civilian solidarity.”
According to retired Lieutenant Colonel Hunter Ripley Rawlings IV, bureaucracy in the U.S. defense establishment may have contributed to the misjudgment of Russian forces.
“Having worked in the Pentagon, what happens is that people typically get lethargic, that here’s the same intelligence over and over again,” said Ripley, who now runs a nonprofit that provides equipment to Ukrainian troops. “It becomes kind of the drone in the background.”
Rawlings said that it’s unclear what would have been the material benefit if U.S. intelligence had foreseen the strength of the Russian invaders.
“What would we do with that information?” he added. “Well, we could galvanize and strengthen our allies. We could certainly place the 18th Airborne Corps into Poland, which we’ve done since the invasion commenced. But we weren’t going to defend Ukraine. We weren’t going to send men and tanks and materiel into Ukraine to defend them directly. They’ve become stronger allies, but I don’t know that we even saw them as allies. We saw them as on the fence.”
Rawlings said that U.S. intelligence underestimated the importance that drones would play in the war in Ukraine, leaving the Ukrainian forces without enough drones. To keep the supply of drones flowing, his nonprofit has been trying to send Western commercial drones to Ukraine through its neighbor of Poland.
“Poland has been one of our greatest allies and one of our biggest obstacles,” he said. “For a time, they were stopping anything that was remote-controlled.”
Laurence Pfeiffer, a longtime U.S. intelligence community insider whose career included stints as senior director of the White House Situation Room and chief of staff to Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Michael V. Hayden, said the situation in Ukraine “appears to be a kind of a combination of, of a misjudgment of Russian military capability as well as a misjudgment of Ukrainian will and resolve.”
Pfeiffer said that defense establishment bureaucracy was part of the problem. “Your average bureaucrat is going to get rewarded for being conservative in their estimates as opposed to the opposite,” he added. “In other words, there’s a greater risk if I think that they can’t perform as capably as they’re advertising. So, therefore, the safer bet is to just go ahead and invest in a way that assumes that they have the capabilities that their advertising they have.”
Pryce said that there needs to be a reckoning on how the U.S. can better assess potential future conflicts.
“I’m sure that the intelligence community is engaging in a serious review of this,” he added “They’ve been asked by the Hill [to review the war in Ukraine], but they were engaged in it already. And so it’s one of the things that the intelligence community does is they’re constantly assessing, self-critiquing, evaluating, how well they did and how they can do better. And so, you know, I have no doubt that they’re doing a very serious job.”
One aspect of the intel community’s failure, is that the emphasis in recent decades has shifted towards fighting terrorism rather than clashes with global powers, as a result there is simply not as much of an obsession at the Pentagon or in Langley with tracking exactly how a potential superpower adversary will perform on the battlefield.
“There’s no question that from the time of the 9/11 attacks, for some years thereafter, there was an extremely heavy focus on counterinsurgency or operations, and also, just because of the deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, security policy and security resources are scarce,” Robert B. Murrett, a former senior intelligence official and vice admiral in the Navy, said in an interview. “And when you’re paying a lot of attention to one thing, it tends to degrade the amount of attention you’re paying to things like peer competitors.”
Russia inherited vast quantities of military supplies from the Soviet Union, but much of the equipment is outdated. Rawlings said that of the tanks in Russia’s vaunted First Guards Army, which is fighting in Ukraine, only about a quarter were modernized with modern night vision equipment and ballistic computers for accurate shooting.
“I was very surprised on the ground to see that it was that the Russian army was so far degraded in comparison with what I had expected,” he said.
Rawlings pointed out that President Putin announced in 2016 that he was modernizing the armed forces and proposed new tanks and weapons. But he said that U.S. intelligence failed to grasp how poorly Russian troops would perform on the ground.
Putin “designed new uniforms for his people, which is a lot of pomp and circumstance, but typically harkens the fact that they’re trying to reinvigorate the personnel, and then made a big show of talking about how unit leaders had more autonomy. What we found out is that was the exact opposite.”
Rawlings, who travels regularly to Ukraine, said he has spoken to Ukrainian fighters who had been on the front and said they had never seen a Russian officer on the front line. The Russian officers “were so far removed from the conflict, that the only people that I’ve ever spoken to that ever talked to Russian officers were those that captured them, and they said those Russian officers were overwhelmed.”
With Russia making veiled threats about using nuclear weapons, intelligence agencies are scrambling to assess just how real the threat is. Also at issue is exactly how capable Russia’s nuclear forces are.
“I would like to think that there are a lot of people around D.C. right now completely recalibrating a lot of potentialities because of what we now know about the weakness of the Russian military,” Pfeiffer said. “I mean, they truly are appearing to be, you know, solely a nuclear power. And frankly, there’s a part of me that scratches my head and says, ‘If they’re this bad with everything else? Maybe they’re pretty bad with their nuclear?’”
While fighting is still going on in Ukraine, many U.S. military officials are pointing to China as a potential threat. “China is looking at this war and they’re seeing the same things we are,” Ryan said. They’re seeing a mistake. They’re seeing that they themselves probably anticipated the Russian military was going to be better and more successful than it did in the first. So they’re asking the same question, and they’re wondering what it is that we need to do differently.”
The U.S. needs to learn from lapses in Ukraine, said Stuart Kaufman, a professor of political science and international relations at the University of Delaware. The U.S. needs to rely less on technology to improve its intelligence assessments. “We’ve got great signals intelligence, and we’ve got great photo-reconnaissance,” he said. “What we need is more human intelligence to get at that the human side of military performance. That’s our weak spot.”
The GOP appears on track to win 222 seats in the 435-seat chamber, meaning Democrats came just five seats short of the majority.
TargetSmart’s Tom Bonier calculated Sunday that Democrats could have held the House if just 3,340 Republican voters instead cast their ballots for Democrats in the five closest House races won by Republicans.
Republicans won in those districts by just over 7,000 votes combined, according to the latest tallies — meaning that Democrats could also have won by mobilizing a few thousand more voters in those elections.
In Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, far-right Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert beat out Democrat Adam Frisch by just 554 votes — a margin so slim it triggered an automatic recount in the state.
Republican John Duarte beat out Democrat Adam Gray by just 593 votes in California’s 13th District. Along with Colorado’s 3rd, the district is one of the two races still undeclared nearly three weeks after Election Day.
In Michigan’s 10th District, Republican John James won by 1,601 votes over Democrat Carl Marlinga, despite significant blue successes elsewhere in the state. The party flipped the Michigan state House and Senate and secured the governorship in a legislative trifecta, and Democrat Hillary Scholten flipped Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District on the other side of the state.
Republican Zach Nunn won Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District by just 2,144 votes over Democrat incumbent Rep. Cindy Axne, flipping the seat that also represents heavily Democratic Des Moines. Axne had been elected in 2018 as part of the “blue wave” that brought the Democrats to their current House majority.
In New York’s 17th District, Republican Mike Lawler won over Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the head of House Democrats’ campaign arm, by 2,314 votes in the first general election loss for a campaign chair of either party since 1980.
Assuming Republicans win the uncalled races in Colorado in California, the 222-213 House seat split would be a reversal of the results in the 2020 election cycle, when the House broke in the Democrats’ favor by the same numbers.
Though a loss for Democrats, the results are far from the “red wave” many in the GOP predicted ahead of the midterms.
House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last year said Republicans would flip 60 seats or more in the lower chamber, and Republicans were optimistic about being able to take over the Senate as well.
But Democrats grew more hopeful about their chances in both chambers as poll results and special elections showed strong voter support despite historical headwinds against the party in power.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the eve of Election Day that she was “optimistic” about House races others labeled “too close to call” and later contended that her party had a chance to hold on to the House.
“I have always objected to the presentation, the media thread that was out there [that] you can’t win because it’s an off year,” Pelosi said on the day of the midterms.
Democrats will keep control of the Senate, with the Georgia runoff next week determining whether they take 50 or 51 seats.
Young voters appear to have been a major block against the red wave, with post-election research indicating this year’s midterms saw the second-highest turnout among voters under 30 in the last three decades.
That demographic voted overwhelmingly for Democrats, giving the party a critical boost in key races such as the Pennsylvania Senate contest. Though Democrats have typically done well with young voters, Brookings research shows this year saw the group shift even more toward blue candidates.
Young women in particular broke hard for Democrats: CNN exit polling shows nearly three-quarters of women under 30 cast blue ballots. Slightly more than half of women overall were found to have supported Democrats in House races specifically.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said that Republican voters “didn’t show up” for the party on Election Day.
Artillery Is Breaking in Ukraine. It’s Becoming a Problem for the Pentagon.
John Ismay and Thomas Gibbons-Neff – November 26, 2022
WASHINGTON — Ukrainian troops fire thousands of explosive shells at Russian targets every day, using high-tech cannons supplied by the United States and its allies. But those weapons are burning out after months of overuse, or being damaged or destroyed in combat, and dozens have been taken off the battlefield for repairs, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials.
One-third of the roughly 350 Western-made howitzers donated to Kyiv are out of action at any given time, according to U.S. defense officials and others familiar with Ukraine’s defense needs.
Swapping out a howitzer’s barrel, which can be 20 feet long and weigh thousands of pounds, is beyond the capability of soldiers in the field and has become a priority for the Pentagon’s European Command, which has set up a repair facility in Poland.
Western-made artillery pieces gave Ukrainian soldiers a lifeline when they began running low on ammunition for their own Soviet-era howitzers, and keeping them in action has become as important for Ukraine’s allies as providing them with enough ammunition.
The effort to repair the weapons in Poland, which has not previously been reported, began in recent months. The condition of Ukraine’s weapons is a closely held matter among U.S. military officials, who declined to discuss details of the program.
“With every capability we give to Ukraine, and those our allies and partners provide, we work to ensure that they have the right maintenance sustainment packages to support those capabilities over time,” Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Day, a spokesperson for the U.S. European Command, said in a statement.
When the ammunition for Ukraine’s Soviet-era guns, which fire shells 152 mm in diameter, grew scarce shortly after the invasion, NATO-standard howitzers that fire 155 mm shells became some of Ukraine’s most important weapons, given the vast stockpiles of compatible shells held by Kyiv’s partners.
The Pentagon has sent 142 M777 howitzers to Ukraine, enough to outfit about eight battalions, the most recent tally of U.S. military aid to Ukraine shows. Ukrainian troops have used them to attack enemy troops with volleys of 155 mm shells, to target command posts with small numbers of precision-guided rounds and even to lay small anti-tank minefields.
Russia and Ukraine have struggled to meet the demand for artillery ammunition on the front. Russia has turned to North Korea for ordnance, and Ukraine has requested more shells from its allies.
The United States has shipped hundreds of thousands of rounds of 155 mm ammunition for Ukraine to fire in the largest barrages on the European continent since World War II and has committed to providing nearly 1 million of the shells in all from its own inventory and private industry.
Ukrainian forces have also received 155 mm shells from countries besides the United States. Some of those shells and propellant charges had not been tested for use in certain howitzers, and the Ukrainian soldiers have found out in combat that some of them can wear out barrels more quickly, according to U.S. military officials.
After the damaged howitzers arrive in Poland, maintenance crews can change out the barrels and make other repairs. Ukrainian officials have said they would like to bring those maintenance sites closer to the front lines, so that the guns can be returned to combat sooner, the U.S. officials and other people said.
The work on the howitzers is overseen by U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany but may soon fall under a new command that will focus on training and equipping Ukrainian troops.
“It’s not altogether surprising that there are maintenance issues with these weapons,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “They didn’t get a full training package for them and then were thrown into the fight, so you are going to get a lot of wear and tear.”
The Western artillery weapons provided to Ukraine, in the form of rocket launchers and howitzers, have sharply different maintenance needs. Of the former, HIMARS vehicles need little work to keep firing their ammunition, which is contained in pods of preloaded tubes. But howitzers are essentially large firearms that are reloaded with ammunition — shells weighing about 90 pounds each — and fired many hundreds or thousands of times, which eventually takes a toll on the cannon’s internal parts.
The nature of the artillery duels, in which Ukrainian crews often fire from extremely long distances to make Russian counterattacks more difficult, places additional strain on the howitzers. The larger propellant charges required to do that produce much more heat and can cause gun barrels to wear out more quickly.
Currently, Ukrainian forces are firing 2,000 to 4,000 artillery shells a day, a number frequently outmatched by the Russians. Over time, that pace has caused problems for Ukrainian soldiers using M777 howitzers, such as shells not traveling as far or as accurately.
Some of the issues can be traced, in part, to the howitzer’s design. Built largely with titanium, which is lighter than steel but just as strong, the weapon is easier to move on the battlefield and quicker to set up than earlier guns — a clear advantage for the United States when it began using the M777 in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s.
In those wars, unlike in Ukraine, the M777 was generally used to fire small numbers of shells in support of troops.
The United States did, however, get a glimpse of what might happen to Ukraine’s M777 howitzers five years ago, during the campaign to defeat the Islamic State group.
In 2017, a Marine artillery battery from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina deployed to Syria with four M777 guns and fired more than 23,000 rounds of 155 mm ammunition in five months of supporting combat operations in Raqqa — nearly 55 times what a typical battery of that size would normally fire in a year of peacetime training.
As a result, three of the battery’s howitzers had to be removed because of excessive wear over the course of that deployment and were replaced with guns held in reserve in Kuwait.
When one of the howitzers went down, the others simply fired more, an option the Ukrainians are forced to choose daily.
Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s.
This month, armed protesters appeared outside an elections center in Phoenix, hurling baseless accusations that the election for governor had been stolen from the Republican, Kari Lake. In October, Proud Boys with guns joined a rally in Nashville, Tennessee, where conservative lawmakers spoke against transgender medical treatments for minors.
In June, armed demonstrations around the United States amounted to nearly one a day. A group led by a former Republican state legislator protested a gay-pride event in a public park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Men with guns interrupted a Juneteenth festival in Franklin, Tennessee, handing out flyers claiming that white people were being replaced. Among the others were rallies in support of gun rights in Delaware and abortion rights in Georgia.
Whether at the local library, in a park or on Main Street, most of these incidents happen where Republicans have fought to expand the ability to bear arms in public, a movement bolstered by a recent Supreme Court ruling on the right to carry firearms outside the home. The loosening of limits has occurred as violent political rhetoric rises and police in some places fear bloodshed among an armed populace on a hair trigger.
But the effects of more guns in public spaces have not been evenly felt. A partisan divide — with Democrats largely eschewing firearms and Republicans embracing them — has warped civic discourse. Deploying the Second Amendment in service of the First Amendment has become a way to buttress a policy argument, a sort of silent, if intimidating, bullhorn.
“It’s disappointing we’ve gotten to that state in our country,” said Kevin Thompson, executive director of the Museum of Science & History in Memphis, Tennessee, where armed protesters led to the cancellation of an LGBTQ event in September. “What I saw was a group of folks who did not want to engage in any sort of dialogue and just wanted to impose their belief.”
A New York Times analysis of more than 700 armed demonstrations found that at about 77% of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views, such as opposition to LGBTQ rights and abortion access, hostility to racial justice rallies and support for former President Donald Trump’s lie of winning the 2020 election.
The records, from January 2020 to last week, were compiled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks political violence around the world. The Times also interviewed witnesses to other, smaller-scale incidents not captured by the data, including encounters with armed people at indoor public meetings.
Anti-government militias and right-wing culture warriors such as the Proud Boys attended a majority of the protests, the data showed. Violence broke out at more than 100 events and often involved fisticuffs with opposing groups, including left-wing activists such as antifa.
Republican politicians are generally more tolerant of openly armed supporters than are Democrats, who are more likely to be on the opposing side of people with guns, the records suggest. In July, for example, men wearing sidearms confronted Beto O’Rourke, then the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, at a campaign stop in Whitesboro and warned that he was “not welcome in this town.”
Republican officials or candidates appeared at 32 protests where they were on the same side as those with guns. Democratic politicians were identified at only two protests taking the same view as those armed.
Sometimes, the Republican officials carried weapons: Robert Sutherland, a Washington state representative, wore a pistol on his hip while protesting COVID-19 restrictions in Olympia in 2020. “Governor,” he said, speaking to a crowd, “you send men with guns after us for going fishing. We’ll see what a revolution looks like.”
The occasional appearance of armed civilians at demonstrations or governmental functions is not new. In the 1960s, the Black Panthers displayed guns in public when protesting police brutality. Militia groups, sometimes armed, rallied against federal agents involved in violent standoffs at Ruby Ridge, in Idaho, and in Waco, Texas, in the 1990s.
But the frequency of these incidents exploded in 2020, with conservative pushback against public health measures to fight the coronavirus and response to the sometimes violent rallies after the murder of George Floyd. Today, in some parts of the country with permissive gun laws, it is not unusual to see people with handguns or military-style rifles at all types of protests.
For instance, at least 14 such incidents have occurred in and around Dallas and Phoenix since May, including outside an FBI field office to condemn the search of Trump’s home and, elsewhere, in support of abortion rights. In New York City and Washington, D.C., where gun laws are strict, there were none — even though numerous demonstrations took place during that same period.
Many conservatives and gun-rights advocates envision virtually no limits. When Democrats in Colorado and Washington state passed laws this year prohibiting firearms at polling places and government meetings, Republicans voted against them. Indeed, those bills were the exception.
Attempts by Democrats to impose limits in other states have mostly failed, and some form of open carry without a permit is now legal in 38 states, a number that is likely to expand as legislation advances in several more. In Michigan, where a Tea Party group recently advertised poll watcher training using a photo of armed men in camouflage, judges have rejected efforts to prohibit guns at voting locations.
Gun-rights advocates assert that banning guns from protests would violate the right to carry firearms for self-defense. Jordan Stein, a spokesperson for Gun Owners of America, pointed to Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager acquitted last year in the shooting of three people during a chaotic demonstration in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he had walked the streets with a military-style rifle.
“At a time when protests often devolve into riots, honest people need a means to protect themselves,” he said.
Beyond self-defense, Stein said the freedom of speech and the right to have a gun are “bedrock principles” and that “Americans should be able to bear arms while exercising their First Amendment rights, whether that’s going to church or a peaceful assembly.”
Others argue that openly carrying firearms at public gatherings, particularly when there is no obvious self-defense reason, can have a corrosive effect, leading to curtailed activities, suppressed opinions or public servants who quit out of fear and frustration.
Concerned about armed protesters, local election officials in Arizona, Colorado and Oregon have requested bulletproofing for their offices.
Adam Searing, a lawyer and Georgetown University professor who helps families secure access to health care, said he saw the impact on free speech when people objecting to COVID-19 restrictions used guns to make their point. In some states, disability-rights advocates were afraid to show up to support mask mandates because of armed opposition, said Searing, who teaches public policy at Georgetown University.
“What was really disturbing was the guns became kind of a signifier for political reasons,” he said, adding, “It was just about pure intimidation.”
The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project has been tracking such incidents in the United States for the past few years. Events captured by the data are not assigned ideological labels but include descriptions and are collected from news sources, social media and independent partners such as the Network Contagion Research Institute, which monitors extremism and disinformation online.
The Times’ analysis found that the largest drivers of armed demonstrations have shifted since 2020. This year, protesters with guns are more likely to be motivated by abortion or LGBTQ issues. Sam Jones, a spokesperson for the nonpartisan data group, said upticks in armed incidents tended to correspond to “different flashpoint events and time periods, like the Roe v. Wade decision and Pride Month.”
In about one-fourth of the cases, left-wing activists also were armed. Many times, it was a response, they said, to right-wing intimidation. Other times, it was not, such as when about 40 demonstrators, some with rifles, blocked city officials in Dallas from clearing a homeless encampment in July.
More than half of all armed protests occurred in 10 states with expansive open-carry laws: Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Three of them — Michigan, Oregon and Texas — allowed armed protesters to gather outside Capitol buildings before President Joe Biden’s inauguration, and in Michigan, militia members carrying assault rifles were permitted inside the Capitol during protests against COVID-19 lockdowns.
Beyond the mass gatherings, there are everyday episodes of armed intimidation. Kimber Glidden had been director of the Boundary County Library in Northern Idaho for a couple of months when some parents began raising questions in February about books they believed were inappropriate for children.
It did not matter that the library did not have most of those books — largely dealing with gender, sexuality and race — or that those it did have were not in the children’s section. The issue became a cause célèbre for conservative activists, some of whom began showing up with guns to increasingly tense public meetings, Glidden said.
“How do you stand there and tell me you want to protect children when you’re in the children’s section of the library and you’re armed?” she asked.
In August, she resigned, decrying the “intimidation tactics and threatening behavior.”
A Growing Militancy
At a Second Amendment rally in June 2021 outside the statehouse in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where some people were armed, Republican speakers repeatedly connected the right to carry a gun to other social and cultural issues. U.S. Rep. Scott Perry voiced a frequent conservative complaint about censorship, saying the First Amendment was “under assault.”
“And you know very well what protects the First,” he said. “Which is what we’re doing here today.”
Stephanie Borowicz, a state legislator, was more blunt, boasting to the crowd that “tyrannical governors” had been forced to ease coronavirus restrictions because “as long as we’re an armed population, the government fears us.”
Pennsylvania, like some other states with permissive open-carry laws, is home to right-wing militias that sometimes appear in public with firearms. They are often welcomed, or at least accepted, by Republican politicians.
When a dozen militia members, some wearing skull masks and body armor, joined a protest against COVID-19 restrictions in Pittsburgh in April 2020, Jeff Neff, a Republican borough council president running for the state senate, posed for a photo with the group. In it, he is holding his campaign sign, surrounded by men with military-style rifles.
In an email, Neff said he had since left politics, and expressed regret over past news coverage of the photo, adding, “Please know that I do not condone any threats or action of violence by any person or groups.”
Across the country, there is evidence of increasing Republican involvement in militias. A membership list for the Oath Keepers, made public last year, includes 81 elected officials or candidates, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. Most of them appear to be Republicans.
Another nationwide militia, the American Patriots Three Percent, recently told prospective members that it worked to support “individuals seeking election to local GOP boards,” according to an archived version of its website.
More than 25 members of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters have been charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those organizations, along with the Proud Boys and Boogaloo Boys, make up the bulk of organized groups in the armed-protest data, according to the Times’ analysis.
Shootings were rare, such as when a Proud Boy was shot in the foot while chasing antifa members during a protest over COVID-19 lockdowns in Olympia last year. But Jones said the data, which also tracked unarmed demonstrations, showed that although armed protests accounted for less than 2% of the total, they were responsible for 10% of those where violence occurred, most often involving fights between rival groups.
“Armed groups or individuals might say they have no intention of intimidating anyone and are only participating in demonstrations to keep the peace,” said Jones, “but the evidence doesn’t back up the claim.”
In a landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment conveyed a basic right to bear arms for lawful purposes such as self-defense at home. It went further in a decision in June that struck down New York restrictions on concealed-pistol permits, effectively finding a right to carry firearms in public.
But the court in Heller also made clear that gun rights were not unlimited and that its ruling did not invalidate laws prohibiting “the carrying of firearms in sensitive places.” That caveat was reiterated in a concurring opinion in the New York case.
Even some hard-line gun-rights advocates are uncomfortable with armed people at public protests. Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, told The Washington Times in 2017 that “if you are carrying it to make a political point, we are not going to support that.”
“Firearms serve a purpose,” he said, “and the purpose is not a mouthpiece.”
But groups that embrace Second Amendment absolutism do not hesitate to criticize fellow advocates who stray from that orthodoxy.
After Dan Crenshaw, a Republican congressman from Texas and former Navy SEAL, lamented in 2020 that “guys dressing up in their Call of Duty outfits, marching through the streets” were not advancing the cause of gun rights, he was knocked by the Firearms Policy Coalition for “being critical of people exercising their right to protest.” The coalition has fought state laws that it says force gun owners to choose between the rights to free speech and self-defense.
Regardless of whether there is a right to go armed in public for self-defense, early laws and court decisions made clear that the Constitution did not empower people, such as modern-day militia members, to gather with guns as a form of protest, said Michael Dorf, a constitutional law professor at Cornell University who has written about the tension between the rights to free speech and guns.
Dorf pointed to an 18th-century Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that a group of protesters with firearms had no right to rally in public against a government tax. Some states also adopted an old English law prohibiting “going armed to the terror of the people,” still on the books in some places, aimed at preventing the use of weapons to threaten or intimidate.
“Historically,” said Dorf, “there were such limits on armed gatherings, even assuming that there’s some right to be armed as individuals.”
There is no evidence that the framers of the Constitution intended for Americans to take up arms during civic debate among themselves — or to intimidate those with differing opinions. That is what happened at the Memphis museum in September, when people with guns showed up to protest a scheduled dance party that capped a summerlong series on the history of the LGBTQ community in the South.
Although the party was billed as “family friendly,” conservatives on local talk radio claimed that children would be at risk. (The museum said the planned activities were acceptable for all ages.) As armed men wearing masks milled about outside, the panicked staff canceled all programs and evacuated the premises.
Thompson, the director, said he and his board were now grappling with the laws on carrying firearms, which were loosened last year by state legislators.
“It’s a different time,” he said, “and it’s something we have to learn to navigate.”
How to lose fat and build muscle in 3 simple steps, according to personal trainers
Rachel Hosie – November 26, 2022
Losing fat and gaining muscle simultaneously, known as body recomposition, can be tricky.
Eating a high-protein diet in a small calorie deficit, strength-training, and sleeping enough are key.
Body recomposition is easier to achieve if you’re new to resistance-training, experts told Insider.
Personal trainers have broken down what it takes to to lose fat and build muscle at the same, to achieve what is known as body recomposition.
As a general rule, to lose fat a person needs to eat fewer calories than they burn, known as being in a calorie deficit, while building muscle requires a surplus.
However, there are certain contexts that make body recomposition easier to achieve, according to Nick Shaw, personal trainer and founder of RP Strength, the official nutrition coaching platform of the CrossFit Games:
If you are new to strength training
If you are returning to strength training after time off
If you have changed your diet to hit the right calories and protein for the first time
Body recomposition is “not the norm” as it’s tricky to achieve, Shaw told Insider.
It may be more difficult for some people due to potential barriers such as their genetics, socio-economics status, or mental health, Dr. Mike Molloy, founder of M2 Performance Nutrition, told Insider. But it’s theoretically possible for anyone to lose fat and gain muscle.
Here’s what personal trainers said you need to nail to give yourself the best chance of achieving body recomposition.
One small 2016 study found that men who consumed more protein while also resistance training and doing high-intensity interval training lost more fat and built more lean body mass, which is everything except the fat.
Another small 2018 study of women found that those who ate a high-protein diet while resistance training lost more fat and built more muscle than those who consumed less protein.
Protein helps muscles recover from workouts and is satiating so keeps you feeling full. It also has a higher thermic effect of food than carbs and fats, meaning the body uses more energy to digest it.
Resistance training is key for body recomposition.
“Most people focus entirely on the weight loss aspect when trying to recomp,” Molloy said. “However, I would argue that most people need to spend as much if not more time putting energy into building muscle mass as well.”
While cardio has many benefits for overall health, and any type of movement burns calories, it’s not essential for fat loss, Molloy said.
A 2015 meta-analysis found that overweight people who strength-trained lost more fat than those who did cardio.
Another study published in 2021 found that people who mostly did strength-training were less likely to become overweight than people who mostly did cardio.
“Make sure you are training with higher volumes in the gym,” he said, meaning enough reps, sets, and weight. Shaw suggests sets of 8-12 reps of each exercise with weights that are heavy enough to be challenging.
Continue challenging yourself and stimulating muscle growth by applying progressive overload, which means gradually increasing the reps or weights, he said.
Sleep enough and manage stress
As well as eating well and strength training, recovery is also key, Molloy said.
Molloy recommended sleeping for eight hours a night and keeping stress levels down.
A 2004 study suggested that two nights of less than six hours’ sleep could lead to a 25% increase in hunger, and a 33% increase in cravings of ultra-calorie dense food. This is because ghrelin (known as the “hunger hormone”) increases when a person is sleep-deprived, the researchers found.
Body recomposition is not a fast process, so patience is required, the experts said.
“Unlike weight loss that can be very rapid (demonstrated with the prevalence of hardcore crash diets), building muscle is a notoriously slow process, and, therefore recomping is no different,” Carpenter said.
“People tend to have stubborn areas that, even by training those areas with weights, will still be the last place that you lose fat from,” Shaw said. “The best idea is to just slowly get leaner and eventually that stubborn fat will come off.”