22 January 2018

AO 2018

AO 2018
                                                        --- Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Australian Open (AO) Tennis tournament has reached the second week. Men have been separated from the boys as also women from the girls. Barring some upsets which are normal, more familiar faces are there in the second week for the real battles.

As in recent times the new balls failed to impress. The most touted world number four German A. Zverev was shown the door by the rising young Korean H. Chung in five sets, last in 6-0 ! The German’s miserable run in grand slam tournaments continues. With all his potential he has only one grand slam last 16 in Wimbledon to show. The 6ft 6 inches tall German has all the weapons in his arsenal : a good serve, solid ground strokes, fluent in both flanks specially in his double handed back hand , volleys well, can slice. His mental strength most certainly comes into question, specially after his capitulation at love in fifth set. He was booed off the court as he joins bagel club. More importantly he was slated to meet Roger in semis. And he, amongst very few, has Federer’s number! I am not complaining!

Another young Canadian Shapovalov created stir in last US Open. Where was he this time? Shapovalov fell 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7 (4), 5-7 to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round. A young coloured TIAFOE Frances of USA took Roger Federer to five sets in US Open last year and gave him a mighty scare. This year he was dumped out in the first round by Del Potro. The thin hard hitting Rusian teen ager A. Rublev did his rising reputation no harm when he went down fighting and hitting to baby Federer in a close four set match.

The last ATP year end Masters Champion, the Bulgarian G. Dimitrov popularly known as baby Federer because of his similar style has now come out of the shadows of the big man, it seems. The way he has taken out A. Rublev and the mercurial but volatile Aussie N. Kyrgios in a very close four setter, three sets went to tie breaks, augers well for him. He has all the weapons in his bag : a superb service, a powerful one handed back hand, solid ground strokes, slices, ability to change the game and supreme fitness. His next opponent is the Brit K Edmond, who? Potential semifinals with Rafa awaits.

Rafa came to AO 18 without any preparatory tournament. But that has not shown in his game. He is pounding his opponents down with his customary brutal top spin ground strokes. With a sleeve less shirt he has his female fans swooning and opponents fearing his bulging biceps. Today the diminutive 5 ft 7 inches Argentine D. Schwartzman put him under test. Rafa won in four sets, but he made some uncharacteristic unforced errors which will come down.

In the quarterfinals he meets the 6ft 6 inches hard serving powerful Cilic from Croatia. Cilic is only four of the surviving players in this AO 18 with a grand slam trophy. No guess for naming the other three. Guess the number of grand slams the three have got? It is a whopping number, 47. Cilic was the last Wimbledon finalist. He has the game to trouble Rafa, point is has he that will power and believe? Today Rafa was down 0-40 on his serve, nonchalantly he won next five points to win that game. Again no point for guessing which side I will be rooting for. I do not want the gap between the grand slam titles of Rafa and Roger to narrow down!

Nextgen Korean H. Chung awaits Novac Djokovic. Novac is coming back from an injury break. You can see lot of work has been done on him led by Agassi. He has a modified serve action, has added some muscles specially on his legs, his elasticity and ground strokes remain potent. Point is can he survive even he wins the next match against the rising Australian, the fifth seeded Thiem. There is no denying the pedigree of Novac, but even Novac possibly cannot beat the heroics of Roger and Rafa of last year’s AO. We will see.

Roger’s next opponent in round of 16 is a journeyman M. Fucsovics of Hungary. Did you hear his name earlier? He is a smart player, has an all round game, has been a junior champion, will come out swinging freely as he has nothing to lose. But I can’t see him troubling Roger as he does not have some big weapon. Rogers will probably meet the powerful Czech T. Berdych, whom he did beat in Wimbledon semis in a close fought match. But for me Berdych has done a great favour to Roger by taking out the beanpole Argentine Del Potro in straight sets. Del Potro defeated Roger in US Open, had almost beaten Roger in Federer’s backyard Bassel in a close fought final. In present form Federer should win against Berdych, the head to head statistic also demand that. Then either Thiem or Djoker will be standing across the net in the semis.

Roger has not lost a set. He is playing like only he can play. My worry is: some times he loses concentration or something happens and he gets broken. The it becomes very difficult to get back as the other player now knows that the great man is vulnerable. In 2017 year ending ATP Masters Roger was playing like a king, won all his group matches. In the semis his opponent was the Belgian Goffin. The pint sized Belgian has a twinkle feet, has all the shots in the game and was playing well. But Roger was providing a masterclass tennis lesson and won the first set easily. When we were thinking of the finals, all of a sudden Roger shanked couple of shots, netted some easy volleys and was broken. Goffin played a match of his life and did not allow Roger to come back. Where is Goffin now? Do you see him as a grand slam champion?

I am a hopeless fan of Roger, like millions of them world wide. Time is not on his side. We all want to enjoy the show he puts in till it lasts, May some more grand slams come to his basket. Sorry Rafa, I can’t help. You are surely the next best.

The way the German A Kerber is playing I don't see any other women to win AO 18.

Well, did I predict prematurely? Today morning the thin affable Hsieth from Taiwan was leading Kerber 6- 4 and making the only surviving grand slam winner un the women’s draw run around the court like a maniac. At 4-5 Kerber was serving to stay in the match.You don’t become world number 1 and grand slam winner just like that. Kerber held on grimly, her first serve percentage was in high 80s, she broke Hsieth and won the second set 7-5. After that the superior speed, strength, stamina of Kerber held sway. Hsieth known more as a doubles specialist physically could not cope up with those legs of German machins and lost gallantly. Kerber remains on coursr for AO 18 Women’s Champion.

Meanwhile my single handed backhand has improved. It has strated crossing the service line. I shall inform all when my backhand cross court reaches the base line. Till that time I keep watching backhands of Roger, Dimitrov, Thiem, Gasquet not to forget Stan the man.

What’s Next for India’s Space Program?

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

By all accounts, India’s space program had a stellar 2017. That was capped with its latest launch last Friday of India’s hundredth satellites, along with 30 other satellites, on board its workhorse space rocket: the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C40). Almost a year ago, in February 2017, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) had launched 104 satellites on a single PSLV rocket, a world record. Last Friday’s launch included a Cartosat-2 earth observation satellite, along with 30 other micro- and nano-satellites from six different countries. These achievements have been warmly praised by India’s leaders, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeting his congratulations to the ISRO.

India Tests Ballistic Missile, Posing New Threat to China


NEW DELHI — India tested a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear weapons on Thursday, paving the way for membership to a small list of countries with access to intercontinental missiles and putting most of China in its reach.The ballistic missile, called Agni 5, was launched from Abdul Kalam Island, off Odisha State in eastern India on Thursday morning, traveling for around 19 minutes and 3,000 miles. In a statement, the Indian Ministry of Defense said that all objectives of the mission had been “successfully met.” The firing of the Agni-5 comes months after the official end of a standoffbetween China and India over a remote sliver of land in the Himalayas, a squabble that lasted for more than two months and that was one of the worst border disputes between the countries in 30 years. The launch also comes during a tense period in India’s troubled relationship with Pakistan, its nuclear-armed neighbor.

India’s missing middle class

THE arrival of T.N. Srinath into the middle class will take place in style, atop a new Honda Activa 4G scooter. Fed up with Mumbai’s crowded commuter trains, the 28-year-old insurance clerk will become the first person in his family to own a motor vehicle. Easy credit means the 64,000 rupees ($1,000) he is paying a dealership in central Mumbai will be spread over two years. But the cost will still gobble up over a tenth of his salary. It will be much dearer than a train pass, he says, with pride.

How ISIS’ Strategy Is Evolving

By Michael P. Dempsey

Over the course of 2017, the Islamic State (or ISIS) suffered defeat after devastating defeat at the hands of the United States and its allies, culminating in the seizure last October of the group’s declared capital of Raqqa, Syria. As of today, the group controls no major population center in either Iraq or Syria. Yet this does not mean that ISIS no longer poses a significant danger. With the end of the physical caliphate, ISIS’ tactics are evolving. It is more and more likely to avoid major battlefield engagements and instead resort to terrorist attacks in the Middle East, other conflict zones, and the West. U.S. policy needs to change quickly to meet the evolving threat, both in terms of its operations in the region and of its counterterrorism priorities at home.

The Pakistan Problem: Why America Can't Easily Cut Ties with Islamabad

Javid Ahmad
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Last week brought a new low for the U.S.-Pakistan relationship that began with a stormy tweet message from the U.S. president, citing Pakistan’s deceitfulness in fighting terrorism. Following the tweet, the United States unveiled a string of measures that made a clear distinction about how the Trump administration no longer views Pakistan as an imperfect friend, but as a clever enemy. The new measures included a suspension of U.S. security assistance to Pakistan, comprising $255 million in Foreign Military Financing and as much as $900 million in the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). On top of that, the State Department placed Pakistan on a severe watch list for religious freedom violations, all while Sen. Rand Paul vowed to introduce a bill in the U.S. Senate to cut all aid to Pakistan. In response, Pakistan’s foreign minister furiously declared that there was no alliance between the two countries and that the United States has been a “friend who always betrays.”

Taliban Fighters Using High-Tech Gear Kill Afghan Forces


MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents using sophisticated night vision and laser targeting equipment overran Afghan Army positions near the northern city of Kunduz on Tuesday, killing at least eight people and wounding five more, Afghan officials said. The officials blamed what they said was a Taliban Red Unit, an insurgent formation that has increasingly featured in attacks on government positions, especially at night. “The unit is equipped with American weapons and night vision,” said Imamuddin Rahmani, a spokesman for the police in Kunduz. “The Red Unit carried out several attacks on check posts in Kunduz, captured the check posts and killed several soldiers. The Red Unit is a headache for security forces in Kunduz.”

Despite Two-Child Families, China’s Birthrate Falls

The birthrate in China fell last year despite the country easing its family planning policies and allowing all couples to have two children, a result parents say of the stresses of urban life.
There were 17.2 million births in the country last year, down from 17.9 million in 2016, the National Bureau of Statistics reported Thursday. With almost 1.4 billion people, China has the world’s largest population but it is aging fast even before reaching its expected peak of 1.45 billion in 2029. China changed its longstanding one-child policy in 2015 in hopes of increasing the size of the younger working population that will eventually have to support their elders. The number of births rose nearly 8 percent in 2016, with nearly half of the babies born to couples who already had a child.

Don't judge China with a fossilised mindset

'There is no Buddha or Gandhi among countries, existing for the service of others; they all exist for the good of themselves.' 'For each country, its own interests should be paramount, and it is futile and churlish to expect China to be an exception to this rule,' says B S Raghavan, the distinguished civil servant and long-time China-watcher. People's Liberation Army soldiers at a drill in Beijing. Ever since China rediscovered itself after the first few decades of tottering during the Great Helmsman's regime and began reaping the abundant benefits of 'market socialism', taking its place alongside the world's most advanced economies, it has rolled out a series of innovative blockbusters in the domain of foreign policy.

China Forces Big Tech to Make a Choice: Play By Beijing’s Rules, or Be Left Out

Zach Montague

When WhatsApp users in China started noticing technical problems with the mobile messaging application this past September, nothing seemed unusual at first. The slow sending speeds and inability to deliver video and audio files could have easily been due to a spotty internet connection or a bug. Many users in China had experienced such issues before; these were usually limited and localized, and they were resolved in a matter of days. But there was also the possibility of government tampering. A few years earlier, in 2014, users of Gmail and other email services in China had reported similar problems, right up until these services were banned outright.

China’s Bid to Upend the Global Oil Market

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Sometime soon, after the close of the Chinese New Year, officials in Shanghai will flip the switch and start trading in an arcane new financial product — one that could presage a huge shift in global energy markets and advance China’s quest to play a bigger role in the global economy. After years of false starts, a long-awaited Chinese oil futures contract will make its debut on the Shanghai Futures Exchange, likely in late March. It will be the first crude oil benchmark in Asia, which is important because that’s where oil consumption is growing the most. And it will be the first contract priced in Chinese currency, known as the renminbi or yuan. Currently, the main global benchmarks for crude oil are in New York and London — and priced in dollars.

China Wants To Dominate The World's Green Energy Markets - Here's Why

by Chris G. Pope

If there is to be an effective response to climate change, it will probably emanate from China. The geopolitical motivations are clear. Renewable energy is increasingly inevitable, and those that dominate the markets in these new technologies will likely have the most influence over the development patterns of the future. As other major powers find themselves in climate denial or atrophy, China may well boost its power and status by becoming the global energy leader of tomorrow. President Xi Jinping has been vocal on the issue. He has already called for an “ecological civilization". The state’s “green shift" supports this claim by striving to transition to alternative energies and become more energy efficient.

Trump’s Iran Reset

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Recent protests across Iran offer a new opportunity for American policy — just not the one to which President Trump is instinctively drawn. Over the next few days, the president has to decide whether to continue the nuclear deal with Iran. Trump and his team may be tempted to argue that abiding by the deal while the Iranian government cracks down on protesters is a fool’s errand. But that would amount to a strategic own goal. It would make the issue about us, not the vulnerability and wounded legitimacy of a regime out of touch with its people. It would also miss the real policy opportunity before us — to renew international pressure against the Iranian leadership’s threats to the region and its people, while still constraining its nuclear ambitions. The Trump administration could reset its Iran policy in a way that puts Washington back in the lead and Tehran on the diplomatic defensive.

Embracing the New Age of Automation


With rapid advances in automation and artificial intelligence in recent years, many are worried about a jobless future and sky-high levels of inequality. But the large-scale technologically driven shift currently underway should be welcomed, and its adverse effects should be managed with proactive policies to reinvest in workers. LONDON – Ever since early-nineteenth-century textile workers destroyed the mechanical looms that threatened their livelihoods, debates over automation have conjured gloom-and-doom scenarios about the future of work. With another era of automation upon us, how nervous about the future of our own livelihoods should we be?


The comment highlighted in blue below is by/from Col. (Ret.) David Maxwell & his contact info is at the bottom of this page. RCP, fortunascorner.com Full disclosure: I am one of those who seriously underestimated North Korea’s resilience in the 1990s. Twenty years ago, I would have thought it almost unimaginable for the North Korean state to survive to this day. Needless to say, subsequent events have proved otherwise, and studying my own mistakes has led to the analysis under way here.

Europe Turns to Russia, and Elsewhere, to Meet Rising Gas Demand in 2017

In 2017, Europe imported a record amount of natural gas: Russia’s exports rose by 8 percent, reaching an all-time high; Norwegian pipeline exports reached an all-time high as well, up 7 percent; pipeline imports from North Africa were slightly down, but imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) rose by 16 percent—but still below their 2011 peak. Higher imports came largely from higher demand. After a decade of almost steady decline, gas demand in Europe has risen three years now—a major reversal. Europe pulled in more gas from most major suppliers since there are no longer any systematic differences in pricing among them. Invariably, the headline take-away is likely that Europe became more dependent on Russian gas, which is true but also beside the point. The real take-away is that demand rose—and that a continent that will rely more on gas needs to remove the final obstacles in the way of a fully functioning internal market.

Containing Russia, Again

By Robert D. Blackwill and Philip H. Gordon

With each passing week, the evidence of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election—and in U.S. politics and society more generally—grows. Since at least 2014, in an effort to influence the election and undermine confidence in U.S. democracy, Russia has hacked private American citizens’ and organizations’ computers to steal information; released that information in ways designed to affect electoral outcomes and divide Americans; planted and disseminated disinformation in U.S. social media, through its own state-funded and -controlled media networks and by deploying tens of thousands of bloggers and bots; cooperated with Americans, possibly including members of Donald Trump’s campaign, to discredit Trump’s opponent in the election; and probed election-related computer systems in multiple states. We will never know for certain whether Russia’s intervention changed the outcome of the 2016 election. The point is that it tried.

Climate-driven Migration in Africa

By Stefano Torelli

Europe is underestimating the primary cause of migration from sub-Saharan Africa: climate change. Environmental changes have a particularly pronounced impact on migration from Africa for at least four reasons: the continent is highly dependent on natural resources and agriculture, which are the first assets to be undermined by climate change; it has poor infrastructure, such as flood defences; its states are often characterized by weak institutions, which are less able to adapt to climate change; and its high poverty rate undermines the resilience of local populations to climate shocks.

Inside a European Center to Combat Russia’s Hybrid Warfare

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HELSINKI — Located in an unassuming office building filled with boardrooms, lecture halls, and projectors in the Finnish capital, a new entity under the joint auspices of the European Union and NATO was founded with a herculean mission. Tasked with a 1.5 million euro budget, the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats was created to find new ways to defend against hybrid warfare: the blending of diplomacy, politics, media, cyberspace, and military force to destabilize and undermine an opponent’s government.

Trade Deficits: Live by the Sword…?

The end of the year brings with it the announcement of the annual trade deficit. There is always a lag, so we will not see the full 2017 results until February, but in the meantime, we got a strong hint about them via the release of November 2017 data. That showed a trade deficit of $50.5 billion, a 3.2 percent increase and the highest since January 2012. For the first 11 months of the year, it was $513 billion, 11 percent more than the same period in 2016. Now if you’re an economist, you would probably say that’s a good thing because it means that growth is picking up. Indeed, the last time our deficit shrank significantly was during the recent great recession. If you think about it, the relationship is obvious—a recession means declining growth, lower employment, and consumer retrenchment. People postpone buying things or pass them by altogether. If you look at unemployment data over the years you can see it correlates inversely with the trade deficit.

Waiting for Skynet

This is an expanded version of an essay originally written for the National Intelligence Council. Computers were invented to augment human performance. They are powerful tools, but even as processing speeds increase and algorithms grow more sophisticated, these machines still cannot “think.” Eventually this will change. A group of leading scientists and public figures signed an open letter warning of the dangers of this moment. One famous scientist warned that “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” This kind of fear is not new. 1920 saw the first drama where evil robots take over the world. A group of distinguished scientists warned President Johnson in 1964 that “cybernation” (the mix of computing and automation) would destroy jobs and create widespread poverty. Yet robots do not rule the world and fifty years of computer automation has not made Americans poorer.

The urgency of shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum

In the 47 years since I founded the World Economic Forum, I have witnessed first-hand that when we change the way we talk, we begin to think differently too. Likewise, changing the way we think leads to changes in the way we act. This is true for all of us — whether you are a private citizen at home or making consequential decisions as a head of government, the language we use and the way we think about the world shapes our subsequent behaviour. The shift in attitudes and approaches toward shaping the environment agenda over the last decade is quite a good example of this. When, in 2005, the World Economic Forum began to advance cross-sector dialogue and highlight the potential for public-private cooperation to help meet pressing global environmental challenges, such as climate change and water security, there was an absence of substantive collaboration among influential stakeholders on these sorts of issues. People tended to talk about and act on environmental challenges in quite separate ways, depending if they were working in government, business or civil society organizations, for example.

Game Changer – Cyber Security in the Naval Domain

By Ralph Thiele
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The systems and networks naval forces must protect are complex and large in size. Ships are increasingly using systems that rely on digitization, integration, and automation. Offensive actors understand the naval reliance on communications, ISR, and visualization technologies, and perceive them as vulnerable to disruption and exploitation. Cyber has been moving from a supportive to a rather active role within an operational force. With today’s rapidly evolving threats, naval forces are well advised to develop a sense of urgency not only to develop cyber resilience capabilities that will enable them to “fight through”, but also cyber warfighting capabilities as these will be particularly valuable when they can be delivered reliably and in concert with other capabilities.

Op-ed: Has cyber warfare reached the age of limitation?

By: Matthew Botsford
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A senior executive arrived for work at Sony pictures and found her desktop computer had a random and slightly strange picture on her front page as she tried to log in. She sighed to herself and then reached for the phone to call the IT desk. But this was not a Ctrl-Alt-Del day, this was a hack. The “Guardians of Peace” left skulls on her desktop as the final piece of a jigsaw they started building a year before hand. This was the culminating point of a well planned operation with a clear purpose in mind. As we all know now, Sony was knee deep in a cyber conflict and what she didn’t know was that this would outgrow Sony pictures. This cyber-salvo was fired because Sony was intending to release a film on someone assassinating the North Korean leader. The anonymous hackers had broken in to Sony’s system and had erased terabytes of information including actual (unreleased) commercial footage. Sony was given an ultimatum; stop the film release or the digital attack would be followed by a physical attack in cinemas. Sony conceded. The US’s first amendment was in trouble and the instigators, aka The Guardians of Peace, had won.

Landline Phones Are A Dying Breed

by Felix Richter
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In 2004, more than 90 percent of households in the U.S. had an operational landline phone - now it’s (significantly) less than 50 percent. That’s according to data provided by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, which has been tracking phone ownership in the U.S. as a by-product of its biannual National Health Interview Survey since 2004. If the trend continues at the current pace, and there’s little reason to believe it won’t, landline phones could soon become an endangered species, much like the VCR and other technological relics before it.

Countering Unmanned Aircraft Systems Requires an Enterprise Integration Approach

Unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) have quickly emerged as mainstay assets in the arsenals of many adversaries. Though the United States military has historically led many advancements in UAS technology, recently the rapid commercialization of these devices combined with their inexpensiveness, availability and versatility have allowed even the most poorly-resourced adversaries to acquire them. Due to their relative size, composite materials and quiet operation, traditional force protection measures often cannot detect UASs. These attributes and the variety of threats they can introduce have made UASs formidable obstacles for government and military organizations.