28 September 2015

How India and the United States Are Building a 21st-Century Partnership

SEPTEMBER 24, 2015 

The ties between our two countries will help create prosperity and ensure security for billions of people. 

Five years ago, President Barack Obama declared the U.S.-India relationship one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century. Acknowledging this unique bond and its transformative potential, our two countries inaugurated a Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) this week. The S&CD is a new mechanism to broaden and deepen U.S.-India cooperation on a range of critical bilateral, regional, and global issues and focus increased attention on the significant role of economics and commerce in our bilateral ties.

In Europe’s refugee crisis, ‘good’ Syrians have pushed out ‘bad’ Afghans, Pakistanis

The stench of human excreta hits you as you approach the “jungle” where refugees camp in Calais, a seaside town on the French side of the Channel Tunnel. Makeshift toilet cabins are lined up at the entrance that is just off a curve in the highway, outside the main town. Spread over about a square kilometre, the “jungle” is dotted with tents: there are no trees here though, only shrubs around pools of stagnant rainwater in what used to be a landfill site.

Those living here want to escape what they say are “inhuman” conditions. For them it’s a daily battle to live in a limbo in a place that is dirty, cold and inhospitable and where food is in short supply. Most trek two hours almost every day to the point where freight trains go into the Eurotunnel. Their best escape route to England. Many get severely injured or die trying. Some manage to get through.

The locals don’t want the migrants. “The negative publicity” drives tourists away, they say. The refugees want to leave too. But high fences and the police try to prevent them round the clock from doing so. They can’t work either. They have no permits.

The New Chinese Missile That Has the U.S. Air Force Spooked

America has spent hundreds of billions on stealthy fighter jets to rule tomorrow’s skies. Could a new Chinese weapon negate that edge?

The U.S. Air Force—the most powerful military service of its kind on the planet—is nothing if not confident. So it’s exceedingly rare to hear the service’s top officerspublically express alarm about specific weapons of potential enemies.

That’s why it was a big, big deal when Gen. Herbert Carlisle, the head of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command, twice mentioned with concern a new Chinese air-to-air missile in mid-September. The missile, called the PL-15, boasts a sophisticated radar seeker and a powerful rocket motor, giving it the potential to hit targets from 60 miles away or more—at least as far as American jets can fire their own missiles.

“Look at our adversaries and what they’re developing, things like the PL-15 and the range of that weapon,” Carlisle said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on September 15—the same day that China reportedly test-fired the PL-15 for the first time. “How do we counter that and what are we going to do to continue to meet that threat?” Carlisle asked rhetorically.

China's Becoming Nigeria's New BFF

September 25, 2015

During Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari’s election address earlier this year, he laid out his agenda and described the challenges facing Nigeria. Buhari singled-out terrorism, specifically, Boko Haram as an immediate priority. Other vital areas his administration intends to focus on include updating physical infrastructure, improving education standards, and lowering unemployment. All of these critical areas are receiving assistance from China which is fostering the foundation for a “win-win” relationship.

In his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in March, 2015, Director of U.S. National Intelligence, James Clapper, described the challenges facing Nigeria. “Abuja’s overtaxed security forces will have a limited ability to anticipate and preempt threats” from Boko Haram. He predicted that the terrorist group would likely continue to expand its control over the northeastern parts of Nigeria and spread into neighboring countries.

China’s President Pledges No Militarization in Disputed Islands

Sept. 25, 2015

Satellite imagery released on Friday shows that China has completed a runway on an artificial island in the South China Sea 

WASHINGTON—China’s President Xi Jinping made a public commitment for the first time on Friday not to “militarize” artificial islands that Beijing has been building in the disputed South China Sea.

Chinese Government Encourages Global Spying on Trade Secrets, NSA Director

Brian Bennett
September 25, 2015

NSA chief says Chinese government encourages cybertheft

he head of the National Security Agency told a Senate panel Thursday that Chinese officials are behind the theft of U.S. commercial data and regularly access private digital communications and data that flow through China.

Michael S. Rogers, America’s top cybersecurity official, spoke hours before President Obama prepared to sit down at a working dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who arrived in Washington Thursday afternoon for a state visit.

During the dinner, and in more formal talks at the White House on Friday, aides said Obama will press U.S. concerns about Chinese-backed intrusions of U.S. computer networks.

U.S. and Chinese officials have met behind closed doors in recent weeks to try to craft an agreement, similar to an arms control deal, that sets limits on cyberattacks from each country.

“We have been very up front,” Rogers told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “We cannot sustain a long term relationship" if China continues unrestrained cybertheft of U.S. intellectual property.

The Increasing Number of Incidents Involving Chinese Fighters and U.S. Spyplanes

Shannon Tiezzi
September 25, 2015

No More Dangerous Intercepts for US, China Miltary Aircraft?

The Pentagon announced this week that two Chinese fighter jets may have conducted an unsafe intercept of a U.S. surveillance place on September 15. The announcement came just as Chinese President Xi Jinping began his highly anticipated first state visit to the United States.

The U.S. Department of Defense was not nearly concerned by this incident as it was by another intercept in August 2014, which U.S. defense officials denounced at the time as “dangerous.” In the incident last year, the Pentagon accused a Chinese fighter jet of having come within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft, then doing a barrel roll over the top of the U.S. plane.

The September 15 intercept saw two of China’s JH-7 fighters cross roughly 500 feet in front of a U.S. Air Force RC-135 surveillance aircraft, according to USNI News. Both planes were flying in international airspace over the Yellow Sea, roughly 80 miles off of China’s Shandong peninsula.

Report on the Chinese Military’s NAIKON Cyber Espionage Group

Andrew S. Erickson
September 24, 2015

Camerashy: Closing the Aperture on China’s Unit 78020

ThreatConnect Inc. and Defense Group Inc. (DGI) have partnered to share threat intelligence pertaining to the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) group commonly known as “Naikon” within the information security industry. Our partnership facilitates unprecedented depth of coverage of the organization behind the Naikon APT by fusing technical analysis with Chinese language research and expertise. The result is a meticulously documented case against the Chinese entity targeting government and commercial interests in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the South China Sea.

ThreatConnect® is an enterprise solution that bridges incident response, defense, and threat analysis. Our premier cyber Threat Intelligence Platform allows global organizations to effectively manage the massive amounts of threat information that comes in daily. Organizations are able to move proactively against threats using ThreatConnect to increase productivity and deliver dynamic knowledge management, high context indicators, and automated responses. More than 5,000 users and organizations worldwide across industries, and ranging in size from the small business through the enterprise, turn to ThreatConnect to make intelligent decisions for their cyber security.

America's F-35 Stealth Fighter vs. China's New J-31: Who Wins?

September 25, 2015

Recently revealed details concerning China’s Shenyang J-31 fighter suggest that the aircraft not only looks like the Pentagon’s Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), but it also offers comparable aerodynamic performance. But the real question is how far along Beijing has come in the development of subsystems like radars and engines. Moreover, there is the question of how well Chinese industry can integrate all of those disparate technologies into an operational aircraft.

On the surface, the J-31 looks very much like a twin-engine F-35 clone—and there are plenty of reasons to believe that the Chinese jet was based on stolen JSF technology—and could eventually be more or less a match for the American jet. “I think they’ll eventually be on par with our fifth-gen jets—as they should be, because industrial espionage is alive and well,” a senior U.S. military aviator told me last year.

Could a Chinese Submarine Really Sink a U.S. Aircraft Carrier?

September 25, 2015

In 1995 and 1996, Taiwanese politicians signaled greater support for declaring their island country officially independent of China. Beijing’s response was swift, forceful … and ultimately an embarrassment to China. The Chinese fired several missiles toward small, Taiwanese-held islands.

That’s when the United States intervened in a big way, sending two entire aircraft carrier battle groups into the waters around Taiwan — and even sailing one carrier through the Taiwan Strait.

The Chinese military was powerless against this show of force. Beijing couldn’t even reliably track the American warships, and had no forces of its own capable of threatening the powerful U.S. vessels.

The Chinese backed down.

Rethinking the Wars Against ISIS and the U.S. Strategy for Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Insurgency

SEP 28, 2015 

By the time a new President takes office, the United States will have been at war for roughly a decade and a half. What began as a limited war against terrorism has become a major counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq and Afghanistan, and U.S. military involvement in Syria and Yemen, while the U.S. largely stands by after having played a major role in the defeat of Gaddafi in Libya.

Violent Islamic extremism is a serious threat in all five cases, as it is more broadly throughout much of the Islamic world. At the same time, in every case, the nation involved has been the equivalent of a failed state. The insurgency did not come from some foreign source and the country had a long history of violent politics, failed governance, and failed economic development.

The rise of extremism came after the failure of secularism, and because of deep religious, ethnic, regional, and other internal tensions and violence. The result was not simply insurgency, but civil war. These conflicts were sometimes triggered and fed by the actions of outside states, including the U.S. and former Soviet Union, but they escalated because of massive civil failures as well as growing violent incidents and military clashes.

When Beheading Won’t Do the Job, the Saudis Resort to Crucifixion

For Saudi Arabia, sometimes it’s not enough to simply behead a person who has run afoul of the government: On some occasions, there’s nothing like crucifixion to make your point:
A group of U.N. experts has joined rights groups in calling on Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a Shiite man convicted of crimes reportedly committed as a teenager during protests inspired by the Arab Spring.

Ali al-Nimr, the nephew of firebrand Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, faces execution by beheading and an additional rare punishment of “crucifixion,” which means publicly displaying the body after death as a warning to others, according to Saudi state media.

Saudi Arabia, of course, is a world champion of human-rights abuse. Freedom, in all of its manifestations, is absent from the country. For an accounting of Saudi Arabia’s dismal human-rights record, please see Amnesty International’s latest country report. (I would direct you to Human Rights Watch’s work, except that Human Rights Watch has a history of—believe it or not—fundraising in Saudi Arabia. It should not, of course, fundraise in any non-democratic, primary-target country, particularly one in which giving to a human-rights group could land the donor in terrible trouble.)

Kirkuk may be key to national reconciliation in Iraq

Michael Knights
23 Sep 2015 
Michael Knights is the Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He specialises in the politics and security of Iraq. He has worked in every Iraqi province and most of the country's hundred districts, including periods embedded with Iraq's security forces.

Iraq's Kirkuk province has long been identified as a fulcrum for political and ethnic tensions, with the potential to make or break national reconciliation efforts between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. With each passing week, Kirkuk rises on the agenda of Iraqi politicians and the province is becoming a focal point for Arab-Kurdish and intra-Kurdish politicking.

Battles rage for control of Iraq's Kirkuk

Kirkuk is currently central to five interlocking sets of conflicts. The first is the fight against the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, which is slowing down in central Iraq and which has been largely static along the Kurdish-ISIL front line for many months. The US-led coalition now needs to generate a new northern front against ISIL that fuses together Sunni Arab paramilitaries with Kurdish and international support. Kirkuk is the launchpad for operations against the adjacent ISIL redoubt in Hawija.

The Clarion Call of ISIS

21 September 2015

British Muslims are losing the war against ISIS. So says Sunny Hundal in a new essay in 

“For the vast majority of Muslims who disdain its ideology,” he writes, “the challenge that [ISIS] presents to them is deadlier and far more difficult because they are caught in a pincer movement: with public and government suspicion on one side, and a seductive and supposedly empowering ideology on the other.”

According to the FBI, around 200 American Muslims have left the United States to join ISIS. And according to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, 600-700 British Muslims have left the United Kingdom just this year alone. The grand total of British Muslims running off to join ISIS is well over 1,000.

Compared to just 200 Americans.

Hamas v. ISIS, An Islamist Civil War Simmers In Gaza

Céline Lussato 
After Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, ISIS tries to take root in the Palestinian enclave governed by the Islamists of Hamas. Internecine conflicts get ugly fast.

GAZA CITY — The grungy stairwell leaves no doubt: this dilapidated building in the Gaza City district of Sheikh Radwan is indeed where Younes Hanar used to live. Once a fighter for the armed wing of Hamas (the Al-Qassam brigades), he was accused of having joined the forces of ISIS.

On the concrete walls of the building, the graffiti features messages glorifying ISIS (Islamic State) and those condemning the Hamas internal security forces. Also, here and there, one can see the handprints of Hanar's relatives, dipped in his blood.

It was on the fourth floor that the 27-year-old militant was killed on June 2. According to the official version, Hanar resisted arrest, and had explosives strapped to his body that he threatened to set off. But his mother, who lives right below his apartment, and his wife, who was there that morning, tell a different story. The entire neighborhood denounces the killing as a cold-blooded execution.

Obama's War of Choice

September 25, 2015
Six months ago today, the White House announced U.S. support for the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen via press release: “President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]-led military operations.” As is true for all interventions, U.S. officials offered a buffet of justifications and objectives for backing the GCC side in Yemen’s chaotic civil war. In an earlierpiece, I counted seven. Unsurprisingly, these are no longer mentioned by officials. Rather, they call upon all parties in the conflict to halt their fighting, failing to mention that the United States military is one of the parties by providing material support, without which the GCC would not be able sustain airstrikes over Yemen for any period of time. When pushed by reporters about U.S. responsibilities, they reply “we continue to discuss with Saudi authorities….We’re in constant and close communication with them,” or simply deflect, “I would refer you to the Saudis.”

Kurdish Advance in Syria Against ISIS Has Stalled

Mitchell Prothero and Jonathan S. Landay
September 24, 2015

Syrian Kurd offensive against Islamic State has stalled 

A Syrian Kurdish offensive described last week by U.S. officials as the most effective assault to date on the Islamic State has ground to a virtual halt because of Turkey’s opposition to the advance and Kurdish commanders’ reluctance to extend their frontlines beyond Kurdish areas, Syrian Kurdish and Arab militants say.

The stalling of the offensive, which was aided by U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Syrian Kurdish fighters on the ground, deals a new setback to the Obama administration’s efforts to build an anti-Islamic State coalition among Syrian opposition forces, and it comes amidst a buildup of Russian jet fighters, armored vehicles and personnel near Syria’s coast.

“The Kurdish forces are important because they are America’s boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq,” said Soner Cagaptay, an expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank.

U.S. State Department “Welcomes” News That Saudi Arabia Will Head U.N. Human Rights Panel

Sep. 23 2015

Last week’s announcement that Saudi Arabia — easily one of the world’smost brutally repressive regimes — was chosen to head a U.N. Human Rights Council panel provoked indignation around the world. That reaction was triggered for obvious reasons. Not only has Saudi Arabia executed more than 100 people already this year, mostly by beheading (a rate of 1 execution every two days), and not only is it serially flogging dissidents, but it is reaching new levels of tyrannical depravity as it is about to behead and then crucify the 21-year-old son of a prominent regime critic, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was convicted at the age of 17 of engaging in demonstrations against the government.

Most of the world may be horrified at the selection of Saudi Arabia to head a key U.N. human rights panel, but the U.S. State Department most certainly is not. Quite the contrary: its officials seem quite pleased about the news. At a State Department briefing yesterday afternoon, Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner was questioned by the invaluable Matt Lee of AP, and this is the exchange that resulted:

QUESTION: Change topic? Saudi Arabia.

MR. TONER: Saudi Arabia.

A Test of Obama’s Moral Leadership

Sept. 22, 2015

The U.S. presidency, Franklin Roosevelt said, is “pre-eminently a place of moral leadership.” There is every reason to believe that President Obama agrees. He now faces a moment in which he will either meet or fail that test.

The flood of refugees battering Europe is a humanitarian crisis. But more than that, it is a moral disaster, and not just for Europe. I won’t soon forget the images of Hungarians and others treating helpless families as less than human. Listening to Hungary’s prime minister, one wonders how much—if anything—the forces he represents have learned since the fascist Arrow Cross Party ruled the country in World War II. If not resolved quickly, the wrangling over national refugee quotas will dishonor the founding principles of the European Union.

America cannot stand by. Sins of commission during George W. Bush’s presidency contributed to this crisis, and so too have the sins of omission by his successor. The U.S., whatever its intentions, has played no small part in making substantial portions of the Middle East unliveable for millions of people. We cannot say that this is Europe’s problem alone. Nor can we make a token contribution and walk away.

Russian Military Exercises: Moscow's Navy To Begin Drills Off Syria's Mediterranean Coast

September 25 2015 

Russian missile cruiser Moskva is moored in the Crimean Black Sea port of Sevastopol in this May 10, 2013, file photo. The Moskva will take part in military drills off the coast of Syria from late September 2015 until early October.Reuters/Stringer

The Russian military, which has recently become involved in the Syrian civil war, has sent its main Black Sea battle ship, Moskva, to take part in extensive naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean, according to a Russian ministry of defense statement. The exercises come amid increased turmoil in the Middle East as Syrian President Bashar Assad's authoritarian regime fights against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, with help from Kremlin military forces that have supplied aircraft, battle tanks and other heavy weaponry over the past few weeks. 

“In the course of the training activity, the Russian ships will practice organization of antisubmarine, anti-ship and air defense, as well as search-and-rescue activities and rendering assistance to a distressed vessel,” read the statement from the Russian defense ministry, according to a report Thursday from the U.S. Naval Institute, a Maryland-based think tank. “During the exercise, the military seamen are to perform over 40 different combat tasks, including missile and artillery firings at surface and aerial targets.”

U.S. Faces Gap Between Objectives and Reality in Syria and Iraq

September 24, 2015

A substantial gap exists between American national objectives and a realistic appreciation of the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, according to a new analysis from the RAND Corporation.

The analysis examines how the dynamics of the continuing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, which have seen the rise of the Islamic State and other jihadist groups, will shape the future of these countries and the broader region over the coming years, and drive fears beyond their borders.

The conflicts in the two nations appear to be at a stalemate. The insurgents in Syria and Iraq will not be able to overthrow the governments in those two countries, but neither will the Syrian nor Iraqi governments be able to restore their authority throughout the national territories, according to the report.

The analysis details how the continued fighting has seen the diminishing strength of Syria's secular rebels and the ascent of its most-extreme jihadist component represented by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. "Whether the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant will be able to consolidate its Islamic State and become the primary political expression of Sunnis in Syria and Iraq, or instead become a Sunni badlands where warfare between armed rivals continues indefinitely remains to be seen," said Brian Michael Jenkins, author of the analysis and senior adviser to the RAND president.

Newly Arrived Russian Warplanes Begin Conducting Airstrikes Around Syrian City of Aleppo

September 25, 2015

Syrian army uses new Russian jets to strike Islamic State: monitor

Syrian government forces used newly arrived Russian warplanes to bombard Islamic State insurgents in Aleppo province in northern Syria, a group monitoring the civil war said on Thursday, in an attempt to break a siege on a nearby air base.

Russia is bolstering its ally Damascus against rebels with military aid that U.S. officials say has included fighter jets, helicopter gunships, artillery and ground forces.

The air strikes, which began earlier this week, were accompanied by ground attacks near the Kweiris air base in the east of Aleppo province, where government troops have long been surrounded by Islamist militants, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Russian jets arrived only “recently” in Syria but were being flown by Syrian pilots, said the Observatory, which tracks Syria’s conflict via a network of sources on the ground.

Latest Satellite Imagery of Russian Military Bases in Syria

September 25, 2015

New Russian Activity in Syria: Al-Assad Airport and Istamo Weapon Storage Facility

New satellite images from ISW partner AllSource Analysis shows new work at the Istamo Weapon Storage Facility southeast of Latakia, Syria. There is evidence of new paving/clearing operations, logistics/storage, and both Mi-17 (transport) and Ka-27/28 helos (naval with possible anti-submarine capability) in newly-paved areas. Images here.

At al-Assad Airport, we have new images of multiple aircraft – both fixed and rotary wing. There appear to be multiples of these: SU-30SM (multi-role fighter)/SU-24 (all-weather attack/interdictor)/SU-25 (close air support)/ HIND-24 (attack helicopter), and an IL-76 (strategic airlift). Images here.

New Activity Detected in Satellite Imagery of North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Test Site

Jack Liu and Joseph Bermudez, Jr.
September 25, 2015

New Activity at North Korea’s Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site

Recent commercial satellite imagery indicates new activity at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, the location of Pyongyang’s previous three nuclear detonations. While there has been speculation that the North intends to conduct a fourth nuclear test to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) on October 10, the purpose of this activity at this point remains entirely unclear. It could be related to anything from maintenance work to preparations for another nuclear test. 

West Portal Area Commercial satellite imagery from September 18, 2015, indicates new activity at the West Portal area-site of North Korea’s nuclear tests in 2009 and 2013-around the entrance to a new tunnel that the North has been excavating since May 2013. Four large vehicles, the purpose of which is unknown, are parked side by side near the tunnel entrance. Whether their location next to the spoil cart tracks, used by mining carts to carry away spoil debris created during tunnel excavation is related to the ongoing work is unclear. Camouflage netting is also clearly visible over the entrance as is the usual practice to conceal activity. 

In addition, there are an unusually large number of vehicles at the Guardhouse Checkpoint leading to the West Portal, also indicating ongoing activities in the area. 

Now the Hard Part: Protecting the Iran Nuclear Agreement

September 25, 2015

Following a successful effort by 42 Democratic senators to block a resolution of disapproval, the nuclear agreement between Iran, the United States, and its international negotiating partners, was not derailed during the congressional review period. Winning this hard-fought victory required the Obama administration to learn lessons from its previous efforts to pass major legislation through Congress; protecting and effectively implementing the Iran nuclear agreement will require more of the same. 

For the Iran agreement, the administration put on a full-court coordinated campaign. The energetic and peripatetic Secretary of State, John Kerry, was at the forefront and Department of Energy Secretary, Dr. Ernest Moniz, proved to be a secret weapon, both in negotiating the agreement's technical aspects and in explaining it in layman's terms. President Obama and Vice President Biden were fully engaged—and so were their key staff members.

Welcome to North Korean Nuclear Weapons 101

September 26, 2015

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has pursued a nuclear weapons program for decades. In 2006, despite sanctions and economic hardship, North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon. It has since conducted two more successful tests in 2009 and 2013.
That is pretty much the extent of unclassified knowledge about Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal.

North Korea openly admits it has nuclear weapons. In fact, the hermit kingdom brags about its arsenal and regularly threatens to annihilate its enemies. Other than that, North Korea has been vague about its nukes and declines to discuss details.

It’s no surprise that little is known about North Korea’s nuclear program. Information about a country’s nukes can be hard to come by, even in free societies like Israel’s. But the Stalinist-inspired North Korean dictatorship is one of the most isolated regimes on Earth, and information coming in and out of the country is tightly controlled.

New Ambassador Holds Key to US-Thailand Relations

September 26, 2015

New U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies arrived in Bangkok this week after the senior post remained vacant for nearly a year amid troubled times for bilateral ties. The seasoned envoy, a 35-year veteran in America’s diplomatic corps, will be tasked with steering relations in the wake of last year’s military takeover and rising perceptions that China has stolen a march through overtures towards Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s rights-curbing government.

Thai-U.S. ties are arguably at their lowest point in decades, crucially at a time when Washington is bidding to marshal regional support for its China-containing ‘pivot’ policy. Outgoing U.S. ambassador Kristie Kenney staked out a hard line against the coup, a position the State Department has maintained on democratic principle to the detriment of the wider strategic relationship. Kenney’s stance has so far outweighed the views of Thailand specialists in Washington who have called for a more nuanced approach to guard the United States’ considerable economic and strategic interests in the country.

The Ghosts of Global Health Initiatives Past

September 25, 2015
Source Link

Today the U.N. General Assembly convenes in New York City to discuss and approve the long-planned Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Taking the place of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which end in 2015, the SDGs set new goals and targets for a wide variety of development issues, from global poverty to healthcare, over the next 20 years. With the Ebola outbreak still fresh in the public consciousness, and with chronic and tropical diseases grabbing headlines, there has never been a better time to reassess and refocus global healthcare goals.

As the goals and targets of the SDGs are debated, however, health policy makers need more than mere words to achieve results. A recent study by Hudson Institute revealed that many global health programs failed to take into account the challenges of political will and transparency, the importance of local participation in design and implementation, and the vital role of the private sector with its diversity in financing, product development, and service delivery.

Imagine This: President Donald Trump

September 26, 2015

In Rolling Stone’s recent profile of Donald Trump (the one that generated the controversy over Trump’s denigration of Carly Fiorina’s face), there’s an anecdote worth noting for anyone interested in speculating on what kind of president ‘The Donald’ would be should he actually manage to parlay his novice-political bombast into a White Housed victory. At a rally at Hampton High School in New Hampshire, Trump rails against Ford and Nabisco for transporting manufacturing facilities to Mexico, thus vaporizing U.S. jobs. He won’t stand for it, says Trump. He won’t even eat Oreo cookies anymore, and he loves Oreos.

I survived the deadliest day in Everest’s history, and I’m still surviving it

September 25, 2015

The wind from the avalanche blew debris onto the far reaches of the Khumbu glacier. (Svati Narula) 

Promotional posters for the new Everest movie recently appeared in New York City subway stations, and these days I travel to and from work with a strange lump in my throat.

Everest, which opens in wide release in the US today (Sept. 25), is based on the true story of how eight people died in a storm on the world’s tallest mountain in 1996. It’s the same story that Jon Krakauer told in his bestselling book Into Thin Air. It was, until last year, the most deadly accident in Mount Everest’s history.

Then on April 18, 2014, an ice release killed 16 climbers on the mountain. And barely a year later, April 25, 2015 became the new deadliest day in Everest history, when a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killed nearly 9,000 people in Nepal, 21 of them in an avalanche at Everest Base Camp.

KARMA POLICE: GCHQ’s Attempt to Record the Browsing Habits of All Internet Users

Ryan Gallagher 
September 25, 2015 

Profiled: From Radio to Porn, British Spies Track Web Users’ Online Identities 

THERE WAS A SIMPLE AIM at the heart of the top-secret program: Record the website browsing habits of “every visible user on the Internet.” 

Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people’s online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs. 

The mass surveillance operation — code-named KARMA POLICE — was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom’s electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. 

The revelations about the scope of the British agency’s surveillance are contained in documents obtained by The Intercept from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. Previous reports based on the leaked files have exposed how GCHQ taps into Internet cables to monitor communications on a vast scale, but many details about what happens to the data after it has been vacuumed up have remained unclear. 

The Foreign Costs of Domestic Political Craziness

September 25, 2015

The U.S. political class and political system in effect grant a lot of leeway and a lot of tolerance to excesses of American politicians, including excesses exhibited during election campaigns. There is little consistency and almost no principle in determining which comments by candidates come to be considered as campaign-crippling gaffes and which do not. Much gets said that does not cripple a campaign but which a majority of decent Americans, if they carefully thought about it, would probably agree is unreasonable, untrue, mean, inflammatory, bigoted, or extreme.

The tolerance comes partly from an acceptance that, oh well, politicians will be politicians, and that especially during a race for a party's nomination extreme things will be said to appeal to the angriest and most active part of a party's base and will not necessarily endure during a general election campaign let alone once the winner takes office. It comes partly from a quest for even-handedness, especially among the press, involving a supposed need to give equal respect to every position expressed merely because it is expressed, regardless of the unreasonableness of its content. And it comes partly from how much all of us who are political junkies (which includes to varying degrees a large proportion of the U.S. population) are entertained by the spectacle. This last factor has been especially at work this year with the phenomenon that is Donald Trump, who first came to be known to most Americans primarily as an entertainer. What is extreme and unreasonable gets treated as harmless fun.


SEPTEMBER 25, 2015

OPM failed harder than we thought. Wired (among many other outlets) has this story. Apparently, 5.6 million fingerprints of federal employees were among the data breached from OPM. It was originally thought it was just 1.1. million. If you are a federal employee, @Maliciouslink has alerted us to a portable device being issued by the government to solve this problem (this is a joke, please do not actually do this and then sue us). And if you aren’t worried enough, here are the nine scariest things China can do with all that OPM data. Oh, and only one person has been fired for this whole thing. At RealClearPolitics, Michael Auslin has an interesting take on what a cyberspace pact between the United States and China would mean, and it ain’t good.

After that dose of government incompetence that may impact you for the rest of your life, do you need a drink? We do too. Check out our Molotov Cocktail blog for a few choices.


SEPTEMBER 25, 2015

Earlier this month, the Argentine army declassified documents showing that some officers abused other officers and soldiers under their command and subjected them to excessively harsh disciplinary measures, including torture, during the Falklands War of April to June 1982. Reportedly, this included beatings and mock executions. One lieutenant described how “another officer tied his hands and legs to this [sic] back and left him face down on the wet sand of a cold Falklands beach for eight hours.” Though declassified, these documents remain in the army’s archives, requiring a trip to Buenos Aires for anyone who wishes to read them.

Argentine Lieutenant General Benjamín Rattenbach, however, presided over an inquiry just after the war. The Rattenbach report, which Argentina’sServicio Privado de Información, an independent news agency, has made available online, presents the junta‘s history of the Anglo–Argentine dispute from 1833 to 1982. The report critically reviews the junta’s strategic and operational planning that preceded its decision to invade the Falklands (which Argentina refers to as Las Malvinas) in 1982, and summarizes the negotiations that occurred both before and after the war. It contains insights that help us understand what was going on and why it led to some Argentine officers’ and soldiers’ maltreatment.

NATO’s Endless Caucasian Courtship

SEPTEMBER 24, 2015

To fanfare, NATO inaugurated a new Joint Training and Evaluation Center (JTEC) near Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, in late August. Though a minor addition to the alliance’s vast constellation of European infrastructure, the new base is notable for being in a non-NATO state, making it a major symbol for Georgia, which has doggedly pursued NATO membership since the late 1990s. The new center is unambiguously good news for Tbilisi — but it is, at best, a consolation prize. That’s because, despite promising to admit Georgia in 2008, NATO leaders have made it clear that it can’t expect to join anytime soon. The problem is not that the country has been unable to meet the alliance’s high standards. Rather, 
NATO refuses to clearly elaborate what Georgia can do — if anything — to win entry.NATO refuses to clearly elaborate what Georgia can do — if anything — to win entry.

Jeez, what’s happening to Army artillery?

SEPTEMBER 25, 2015

First of all… this is all being talked about in hushed tones around the office. None of this is official… YET.
The other day, at a meeting consisting of high level commanders, General Abrams outlined his views on Division Artillery, and more to the point the uselessness of it. Keep in mind that DIVARTY’s were just re-stood up across the Army in recognition that our units and branch as a whole has been underutilized and left to atrophy over the past decade. In 2005 when we lost DIVARTY and pushed the FA BN’s to the maneuver brigades — long story short, nobody looked after the BN’s. The only thing they really cared about was were we filling in for Infantry where they did not have enough, did we carry out red cycle taskings, etc. There was no mother DIVARTY to keep an eye out for the BN’s, fire supporters, etc. Training fell apart, and institutional knowledge has bled away at a dangerous rate. Just try and imagine an Aviation BN being told how to train and do it’s job by an Infantry COL. There is absolutely no way that would fly (no pun intended). You get my idea.