28 April 2019

It’s Getting Harder to Track USProgress in Afghanistan


It’s getting harder and harder for the public to track the U.S.military’s progress in its 17-year war in Afghanistan, the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction warned Wednesday ahead of the release of his latest quarterly report.

“What we are finding is now almost every indicia, metric for success or failure is now classified or nonexistent. Over time it’s been classified or it’s no longer being collected,” John Sopko told reporters. “The classification in some areas is needless.”

Sopko did not detail what information previously made public would be blacked out in the new report, due out this month. The quarterly reports — which are mandated by Congress and are intended to be public documents — track waste, fraud and abuse in U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The reports have also become an important tracking tool for territorial and population control by the Taliban.

The inspector general reports have long suggested the creeping rise of classification. The number of Afghan security forces killed in action is kept classified at the request of the Afghan government. In the last year, the Defense Department classified basic performance evaluations for the U.S.-backed Afghan security forces, as well as the Afghan Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense — metrics that have been used in the past to gauge progress in America’s so-called “forever war.”


After a series of bombings killed over 300 people in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, the country’s government blocked access to social media sites including Facebook, instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and YouTube, along with the chat app Viber, according to state media and independent organizations that monitor internet blocks. A number of tech commentators, from The New York Times to The Guardian, quickly expressed support for Sri Lanka’s decision, citing it as evidence that Facebook has failed to stop the spread of misinformation and hate speech in the country and elsewhere.

Yet civil rights experts and researchers within Sri Lanka worry that the practice of shutting down entire swaths of the internet—which has become increasingly commonaround the world—can do more harm than good. “Curbing civil liberties and civil rights doesn’t make people more safe,” says Allie Funk, a research analyst at the nonprofit Freedom House, which publishes annual country reports on internet freedom. “These are societal issues that are going to take long-term solutions.”

Sri Lanka Attack ‘Is the Wave of the Future’


Among those least surprised, perhaps, by the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the Easter Sunday suicide bombings that killed at least 321 people in churches and hotels in Sri Lanka was Anne Speckhard, the head of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism think tank. During her career Speckhard has interviewed more than 600 terrorists and their associates, including dozens of Islamic State defectors and returnees. She said she was at a United Nations conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital, in February when a Sri Lankan intelligence officer approached her expressing concern about rising Islamist extremism in the island nation, which has been largely peaceful since a civil war ended about a decade ago. On Tuesday, in a statement issued on the social media app Telegram, the Islamic State said it had targeted Christians as well as citizens from countries involved in the coalition to fight the Islamic State.

In the hours after the attack, the Sri Lankan government attributed blame to a little-known Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jamaath, but there was almost immediate suspicion that the nature of the bombings suggested the attackers had received guidance from elsewhere. The country’s junior defense minister also suggested that a second group, Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim, may have been involved. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that some of the people involved in Sunday’s attack had traveled to Syria, but he did not say whether they had fought for Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS. In 2016, the Sri Lankan government acknowledged that 32 Muslims from “well-educated and elite” families had gone to Syria to join the Islamic State.

The attacks in Sri Lanka and the threat of foreign fighters

Daniel L. Byman

If Sri Lankan foreign fighters played a significant role in the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, it would be the largest killing by foreign fighters linked to the Islamic State ever, and the largest foreign fighter-linked attack since 9/11, writes Daniel Byman. This piece originally appeared on Lawfare.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the horrific terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday on churches in Sri Lanka, which killed over 300 people. It appears that the group may have worked with a local radical Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, mixing the resources and capabilities of both. Initial reporting—still to be verified—indicates that many of those arrested in the follow-up sweep had fought in Syria. Early reports are often wrong or exaggerated, but if Sri Lankan foreign fighters played a significant role in the terrorist attacks, this would be the largest killing by foreign fighters linked to the Islamic State ever, and the largest foreign fighter-linked attack since 9/11. The attacks suggest both the danger posed by foreign fighters and the importance of government efforts in stopping them.

Sri Lanka shakes up top security posts after deadly bombings


A Sri Lankan police officer patrols out side a mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, April 24, 2019. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka attacks on Easter Sunday and released images that purported to show the attackers. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that investigators were still determining the extent of the bombers' foreign links. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president shook up the country’s top security establishment after officials failed to act on intelligence reports warning of possible attacks before the Easter bombings that killed over 350 people, his office said Wednesday.

The capital of Colombo, meanwhile, remained rattled by reports that police were continuing to conduct controlled detonations of suspicious items three days after the attacks on churches and luxury hotels, and the U.S. ambassador said that Washington believes “the terrorist plotting is ongoing.”

Sri Lanka’s Perfect Storm of Failure


The horrific terrorist bombings in Sri Lanka on April 21 killed more than 300 people and injured 500 more. Sri Lankan officials have identified a little-known local group, National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), as behind the coordinated Easter Sunday attacks, while the Islamic State has just claimedresponsibility.

There are questions surrounding exactly who sponsored this attack, but the real question is whether it could have been stopped. Although more evidence will emerge over time, the information trickling out paints a damning picture. The attacks were preventable, but compound failures let them happen. Sri Lankan authorities failed to anticipate the threat from Islamist groups with potential international networks, ignored warning signs, and failed to share information among themselves.

What’s Different About the Attacks in Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka has a bloody history marked by a brutal, nearly 30-year civil war. In recent years, it’s been mostly spared from violence, until Easter Sunday, when large-scale, apparently coordinated terrorist attacks on churches and hotels killed nearly 300 people.

The government blamed the attack on a little-known Islamist militant group, National Thowheed Jamath, which had gained notoriety in Sri Lanka for defacing four statues of the Buddha outside temples in Mawanella, a town in the country’s center, in December 2018. What investigators will now have to piece together is how the group’s capability skyrocketed from vandalism to a sophisticated, multipronged attack and, perhaps more important, why now.

Places of worship are soft targets, but the attacks Sunday suggested a level of complexity not seen since the civil war between the government and the separatist Tamil rebels that ended in 2009. The Tamil rebels pioneered modern suicide bombings, assassinated political leaders, and targeted civilians. But that conflict was also ethnic in nature: the majority Sinhala community versus the Tamil rebels. Since then, religious violence has been rare—and when it does erupt, it is typically restricted to Buddhist-Muslim tensions. That’s partly why the Easter assault by an obscure group on Christian places of worship is so surprising.

Lessons Learned from South Asia's Terrorism Troubles

by Abdul Basit

India and Pakistan must make concerted efforts to curb the financing of extremist groups and put an end to cross-border terrorism.

South Asia has one of the highest regional concentration of militant groups in the world, including some of most-wanted jihadist groups by the United States such as Al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Ahead of the expected U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) claimed attack on India’s Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in Kashmir’s Pulwama district has revived the concerns of a more lethal and dangerous militant landscape in South Asia.

The Pulwama attack has once again exposed the vulnerability of the two South Asian nuclear rivals, India and Pakistan, to terrorist blackmail, by pushing them to the brink of war. The aftermath of the attack underscores a new phase of militancy in violence-infested Kashmir and renewed hostilities between India and Pakistan. In the absence of joint counterterrorism and extremism frameworks at the regional level, South Asian militant groups will continue to exploit inter-state mistrust rivalries and mistrust to expand and entrench themselves in the region.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative: From Arctic to space, How China plans to expand its global footprints

By Srikanth Kondapalli

China is holding its second summit meeting at Beijing to deliberate and decide on further the course of the 2013-launched Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Over 40 leaders, 5,000 people and one hundred institutions from across the globe are expected to attend the meeting as compared to 29 leaders and 1500 participants at the first meeting in May 2017. China received a shot in the arm with Italy endorsing the BRI recently.

The figures are impressive. China’s leaders mention about the cumulative “strength” of the BRI by suggesting that it has already amassed over $20 trillion in combined GDPs, half of the population on the earth, more than half – 126 countries with more African than Asian – have signed inter-governmental documents with China on the BRI projects. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank membership has gone up to 97 countries.

China throws a revealing party for the anniversary of its navy

As military pageants go, multinational parades of warships deliver quite a complex message. Over a dozen countries—ranging from friends to overt rivals—sent naval vessels to the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao on April 23rd. There they steamed past a destroyer carrying China’s commander-in-chief, President Xi Jinping, in honour of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

Paint gleaming and brass fittings buffed to a hospital shine, there were frigates from near-allies such as Russia, and destroyers from almost-foes like India. Their mission was friendship and diplomacy. But these were heavily armed peace envoys, warily visiting a China whose emergence as an ocean-going nation is shaking Asia, and may one day change the world. Visitors involved in territorial disputes with China, including Japan and Vietnam, sent ships bristling with weaponry. America sent no ships at all.

Can China Take Care of Its Elderly?

Source Link.
By Phillip Orchard

China’s elderly may soon be grumbling. Last week, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences released a study estimating that China’s main state pension fund could be exhausted by 2035 – in other words, before workers born in the 1980s retire. The previous day, Beijing announced that China’s seven wealthiest provinces will, for the first time, start helping foot the bill for local pension funds in poorer regions already running dry. The immediate issue may be fixable. But the underlying problems will get worse before they get better, cutting to the heart of the Chinese Communist Party’s predicament on how to preserve its compact with its people.

We Know Why China Wants Aircraft Carriers

by Bryan McGrath Mackenzie Eaglen

Whether in a direct or support role, carriers have taken part in almost every major military operation the United States has undertaken since the Second World War. They also serve as first-rate diplomatic tools to either heighten or ease political pressure. When regional tensions increase, a carrier, or sometimes two, is sent to patrol off their coast. And when an election takes place in a nascent democracy or country central to U.S. interests, a strike group typically is sailing offshore.

(This first appeared in 2015.)

China’s recent release of its first strategic white paper signals its official emergence as a maritime—and therefore global—power. Little in the document should surprise those who have monitored China’s rise, though it remains to be seen whether China watchers will discern nuance and inscrutability instead of taking Beijing at its word. Simply put, China views the United States as Asia’s hegemon, and its strategy seeks to deprive the United States of this role. 

Israel's Support for the Chinese Military Could Harm the United States

by Michael Rubin

A desire for trade and cash in Israel’s government simply reinforces the delusion that China will take the Jewish state’s diplomatic and military interests into account.

The votes are now all tallied and Israeli prime minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has come out on top for a historic fifth term as Israel’s prime minister. Among Europeans, progressives, activists, career American diplomats and professional peace-processers, hand-wringing abounds. Shortly before elections, for example, Netanyahu promised to begin annexing portions of the West Bank and his government began planning for 3,600 new housing units in West Bank settlements. Bringing anti-Arab racists into his coalition and Netanyahu’s famous arrogance has only heightened anti-Bibi opprobrium among his critics.

For U.S. policymakers, none of this should be top concern. The annexation of some settlement blocs was something to which Palestinian negotiators agreed prior to the Camp David II Summit in 2000 and, according to both that draft agreement and Ehud Olmert’s 2008 peace proposal to Palestinian chairman Mahmoud Abbas, would be compensated for by land swaps elsewhere. As for the inclusion of Jewish Home-Jewish Power extremists, this reflects Netanyahu’s willingness to prioritize power over principle, but the rhetoric among some Arab parties aligning with the left is equally extreme and their positions equally racist. For better and for worse, democracy gives a voice to everyone.

Japan Pushes the Speed Limit on Trade Talks


Trade talks with the United States pose a problem for Japan, largely because the Japanese don’t really want to be there. On balance they are happy with the status quo, have no real demands for concessions from Washington, and essentially wish they were not at the table. That makes it all the more remarkable that the talks between Japan’s Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer produced what appears to be a mutual agreement to work towards a quick deal. But it’s a canny tactical move from Tokyo, which has realized that, in this case, speed works to Japan’s advantage.

Until recently, Japan had been signaling that it would instead stick to its tried-and-true formula of dragging out talks for as long as possible. The Japanese ability to rotate negotiators and prolong discussions is nearly legendary among diplomats. U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty raised this concern as recently as February, when he said in an interview with Japan’s Asahi Shimbun that U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had stressed the need for a trade deal in 2017 and 2018 but had no response from Japan. “There was a great deal of frustration trying to get together with our counterparts in Japan,” Hagerty said.

The decoupling of GDP and energy growth: A CEO guideApril 2019 | Article

By Namit Sharma, Bram Smeets, and Christer Tryggestad

It’s long been axiomatic that economic growth and energy demand are linked. As economies grow, energy demand increases; if energy is constrained, GDP growth pulls back in turn. That’s been the case since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, if not long before.

But past is not always prologue. Our latest global energy perspective—part of a multiyear research effort examining the supply and demand of 55 types of energy across 30 sectors in some 146 countries—suggests that we’re beginning to see a decoupling between the rates of economic growth and energy demand, which in the decades ahead will become even more pronounced.

That’s not because the world will be less “energy hungry.” People will continue to use energy in their daily lives, and happily, in the decades ahead, more people will have access to more modern appliances and on-the-grid housing. Businesses will still need energy to run; economies will require it to grow. Nonetheless, new technologies and larger trends should cause the energy demand curve to flatten.

Trump’s Big Iran Oil Gamble


The Trump administration’s announcement Monday that it is ending waivers allowing several countries to keep importing Iranian crude is likely to push up oil prices and sour relations with U.S. friends and rivals alike that rely on Iranian energy, all while stoking more tensions in the waters around the Persian Gulf.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday morning that the United States, in a bid to apply “maximum pressure” on Tehran, will not renew waivers that eight countries received last November to keep buying modest amounts of Iranian oil. The surprising move aims to drive Iran’s oil exports down from the current level of around 1.5 million barrels a day to close to zero, the administration’s long-stated goal since it pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal almost a year ago. The waivers expire on May 2.

Is the World Economy Headed for a Fall?

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has once again cut its global growth forecast for 2019. In its new semi-annual World Economic Report, the organization now projects a 3.3% growth rate, down from the 3.5% it predicted in January, 3.7% in October and 4% a year ago. Key reasons for the downward revisions: the U.S.-China trade war and the potential for a disorderly Brexit.

Added to those concerns is a general tightening of monetary policy globally, particularly the spate of interest rate increases in the U.S. IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath wrote that with 70% of the global economy seeing a slowdown in growth, it is “a delicate moment right now.”

What might strike some as the relatively small size of the recent decreases in the IMF’s forecast belies the large impact such cuts in growth can bring on the ground to people and businesses, particularly in countries already struggling that could easily be tipped into a recession. At the same time, it’s worth noting that each of the IMF concerns has been partly ameliorated more recently. The immediate Brexit risk has been pushed back by a deadline extension to October, the outlook for the U.S.-China trade war – at this moment at least — looks more sanguine, and the Fed has clearly become more dovish, making further rate increases this year unlikely and raising the possibility of a rate cut.


The world has never been more connected, and U.S. audiences have never had as many options to access content as they do these days. In short, consumers in the U.S. seem like they can’t get enough content, and the possibilities for marketers to reach them, while fragmented, is an opportunity that is just too good to pass on.

According to the first-quarter 2018 Nielsen Total Audience Report, nearly half an adults’ day is dedicated to consuming this content. In fact, American adults spend over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media. Behind this surge are the growing use of new platforms, as well as the younger, multicultural generations who leverage them.

How U.S. Can Beat China on Infrastructure

By Robert Spalding

While America was watching last month’s hearings on infrastructure, China slipped in and made off with a good bit of last year’s stocking stuffers – big stock gains on Wall Street. Quietly, the MSCI Emerging Markets Index upped its weighting in China’s A shares, going from 5 percent to 20 percent by 2019. Which means that, “on completion of this three-step implementation, there will be 253 Large and 168 Mid Cap China A shares, including 27 ChiNext shares, in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.” Afterwards “China A-Shares are predicted to account for about 16% of the MSCI Emerging Market (EM) Index4 which is tracked by $1.8 trillion in assets.”

Savvy investors have probably been tracking the Shanghai Exchange, which has outperformed U.S. equity markets since the MSCI announcement that it plans to add evermore Chinese A shares. To date the Shanghai Composite is up over 20 percent in 2019. They probably also know that in 2015 the Chinese government intervened in the market in ways that would be completely out of character for a market-based economy like the United States. The 2015 plunge in Chinese equity markets prompted the Chinese government to step in and prop up the markets to the tune of over 1.3 trillion renminbi (209.7 Billion USD).

The Complicated Geopolitics of U.S. Oil Sanctions on Iran

Amy M. Jaffe

It is often said, perhaps with some hyperbole, that Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers was the best hope for conflict resolution in the Middle East. Its architect John Kerry argues instead that the 2015 deal’s limited parameter of closing Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon is sufficient on the merits. The Trump administration is taking a different view, focusing on Iran’s escalating threats to U.S. allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Those threats, which have included missile, drone, and cyberattacks on Saudi oil facilities, are looming large over the global economy because they are squarely influencing the volatility of the price of oil. One could argue that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iranian deal, referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has injected an even higher degree of risk into oil markets, where traders now feel that the chances of Mideast conflict resolution are lower.

But, the Trump administration could argue otherwise. From its perspective, the United States extended to Iran $6 billion in frozen funds, opened the door for a flood of spare parts to be shipped into Iran’s suffering oil and petrochemical sector, and looked the other way while European companies rushed in for commercial deals. In exchange, it’s true, Iran began to implement the terms of JCPOA, but as Secretary of State Pompeo laid out in a major speech on the subject, the nuclear deal has failed to turn down the heat on the wide range of conflicts plaguing the Mideast region.

France bolsters cyber capabilities and commitment through new doctrine

On 18 January 2019, French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly and Chief of the Defence Staff (Chef d’État-Major des Armées: CEMA) General François Lecointre held a press conference in Paris. They unveiled France’s first offensive military cyber-operations doctrine and made excerpts available to the public. The document, entitled ‘Public Elements of the Offensive Cyber Military Doctrine’, details how the country uses offensive cyber tools at an operational and tactical level, explaining the interaction with conventional forces and highlighting the circumstances under which the armed forces would conduct offensive cyber operations. France recognised the importance of cyber defence as part of its security policy in the late 2000s. Several official documents made references to this effect, acknowledging that it had been included in the national defence strategy. The first occurrence was the 2008 White Paper on Defence and National Security, which included a brief mention of offensive cyber operations, among five references to cyber security.

The French doctrine of offensive cyber operations

Many countries are developing cyber capabilities, including for their military forces. Details are often secret. Public discussions are therefore always refreshing. There is a good opportunity. France just made public the elements of the offensive cyber operation doctrine.

This is a good move. It helps informing the public (national, international) opinion about the state and the direction of cyber security (here: offensive!). This announcement can also be seen as having a dual nature: transparency (support the public debate by giving data to the public opinion), but also deterrence (provide context to potential adversaries).

I analyze (along with providing comments and context) the doctrine, familiar matter to me. In past, France has acknowledged the options of recognizing specific cyber attacks as armed aggression (I wrote about it here: highlights of the French cybersecurity strategy).)). Furthermore, France is in the process of expanding its COMCYBER, the cyber command created in 2017 (I wrote about it here: Recent developments in cyber - France). 1.6 billion euros is allocated to this project. There is a clear political will to move forward (fast). Resources are allocated, plans are made. We’re speaking about not only execution but operation now.

Ukraine Elected a New President. So What?

By Ekaterina Zolotova

Petro Poroshenko was hardly a threat to the country’s oligarchs, and there’s little reason to think his replacement will be much different.

Ukraine held its second round of presidential elections on Sunday, and the results are in: The country will be led by a comedian. Volodymyr Zelenskiy earned 73 percent of the vote; incumbent Petro Poroshenko just 24 percent.

Poroshenko has already conceded, but it’s difficult to say how much he will be missed. For all the promise of the Orange Revolution and the Maidan protests that eventually led to Poroshenko’s ascension, Ukraine never really began to live, as Poroshenko put it, “in a new way.” Poroshenko himself is a member of the oligarchic class that has long dominated Ukraine, and though his administration was a material threat to many of his contemporaries, it was hardly a threat to the system itself.

The House Poroshenko Built

All This ‘Innovation’ Won’t Save the Pentagon


The Defense Department, a hierarchy fixated on technology, is unequipped to confront a world of disruptive challenges.

I recently had the privilege of attending a Silicon Valley conference attended by leaders across the national security “innovation ecosystem.” The term reflects today’s veritable freshet of interest in defense innovation, from self-styled “virtuous insurgents” and defense “hackers” to individual agencyinnovation offices and entirely new outfits with on-the-nose names such as the Defense Innovation Unit and the Defense Innovation Board. All this may suggest that the national security apparatus is at last confronting the need for long-overdue changes to how we do business. 

For two days, I listened to senior people from the military services, large defense agencies, and major components of the intelligence community as they described various “mission acceleration” efforts—that is, finding shortcuts that allow us to do what we’ve been doing a bit faster, a bit cheaper, a bit better.

This is a problem. 

Here Come AI-Enabled Cameras Meant to Sense Crime Before it Occurs


In 1787, English philosopher Jeremy Bentham came up with an idea for a prison that would cost a fraction of the cost of other contemporary jails to run with virtually no internal crime. His theoretical prison, the panopticon, was curved, the cells facing inward toward a center point where a guard tower would stand. The windows in the guard tower were to be darkened on one side. This way, a single guard would be able to observe the behavior of all the prisoners. But more importantly, the prisoners would never know whether the guard had his or her gaze trained on them. The end result, every individual within the prison internalizes a sense of being watched all the time and behaves accordingly.

This idea of the panopticon has become a stand-in for the threat of ubiquitous surveillance, due mostly to Bentham’s choice of setting — a prison. But Bentham aimed not to frighten people, but to furnish a way to manage a scarce resource: the attention of law enforcement.

If Any Of These Are Your Passwords, It’s Time to Change Them Now

Millions of people are using easy-to-guess passwords on sensitive accounts, with "123456" being the most widely-used on breached accounts, suggests a security study.

The study by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) helped to uncover the gaps in cyber-knowledge that could leave people in danger of being exploited, the BBC reported on Sunday.

For its first cyber-survey, the NCSC analysed public databases of breached accounts to see which words, phrases and strings people used.

Top of the list was "123456", appearing in more than 23 million passwords. The second-most popular string, "123456789", was not much harder to crack, while others in the top five included "qwerty", "password" and "1111111".

The most common name to be used in passwords was "Ashley", followed by "Michael", "Daniel", "Jessica" and "Charlie".

Banking on the Future of Cryptocurrencies

Charlie Lee is lauded in cryptocurrency circles as the creator of Litecoin, an alternative to Bitcoin he conceived in 2011 as a Google software engineer. Today, Litecoin is the sixth-largest crypto with a market cap of $5 billion. It bears many similarities to Bitcoin, but also has important differences: Transactions are confirmed 75% faster, it has greater liquidity with four times more coins in circulation, and it is more resistant to manipulation by miners holding 51% control of the network.

In 2017, Lee sold his entire stake in Litecoin and now serves as managing director of the Litecoin Foundation, which seeks to advance Litecoin and develop blockchain technologies for the social good. At the recently held second annual Penn Blockchain Conference, Lee sat down with Knowledge@Wharton to talk about the philosophy behind Litecoin’s creation, whether cryptos will replace hard currency and what’s next for him.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Cyber Declarations of War

By Bryan Terrazas

Late last month the lights went out in Venezuela and fingers were immediately pointing and blame cast for who may be responsible. Was it internally initiated through a failed coup, or government ordered to prevent escalation of dissent in the streets? Was shoddy infrastructure to blame, or is there a kernel of truth to some of the finger-wagging towards the U.S.? As tensions between the embattled socialist country and the West continue to escalate and sabers rattle, a pertinent question may be just how the U.S. will decide to get involved, if it has not done so already, and just what the Venezuelan response will be.

Certainly, this last question is difficult to answer, however on the digital front it is irrefutably complicated by the lack of current international norms regarding what collectively can be described as an information and cyber-attack red-line. Would, for example, turning off the lights by one state constitute an act of war on another? How about flooding a country with propaganda, urging citizens to overthrow the government? To both: perhaps, and perhaps not. In today’s increasingly digitally-interconnected world, the answers to these questions are as important as they are unclear, and a miscalculation may just result in a response neither side truly wants – war.

Lockheed, Frustrated with US Air Force, Eyes Foreign F-35 Sales


The service’s proposed purchase of Boeing F-15s has the company increasing its sales efforts on Capitol Hill, and elsewhere.

Lockheed Martin is becoming increasingly frustrated that the U.S. Air Force will not increase its planned purchase of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, and suggested that growth might come instead from increased interest in Eastern Europe and Asia.

“The frustrating piece for us is the U.S. Air Force,” Lockheed CFOKen Possenriede said while discussing first-quarter earnings with Wall Street analysts on Tuesday. “We’ll continue working with our customer and with representatives in the government on what’s the right path forward there.”

In its 2020 budget proposal, Air Force officials said they intend to buy 48 F-35 jets each year through 2024. The budget also requests funding for eight new F-15EX fighters, the first of a planned 80 over the next five years.

Preparing for a Digital Pearl Harbor

By Commander Brent Spillner, U.S. Navy

The planes and submarines attacking Pearl Harbor may have appeared with little warning, but the raid didn’t come out of the blue. It followed years of escalating tension, military adventurism, crippling economic sanctions, and failed diplomatic negotiations that the American government knew had reached an impasse. Several American studies and wargames had identified the feasibility and potentially devastating consequences of a surprise attack on Oahu, even accurately predicting the weekday, timing, and direction of the assault.[i] Yet, the fleet responsible for deterring Japanese aggression was caught by surprise, concentrated in a vulnerable position and at a relaxed state of defensive readiness. In just 90 minutes, its principal striking force was crippled, over 2,000 sailors killed, and operational plans shredded, with minimal casualties to the attacker. Can we learn to do any better if the next surprise attack comes in cyberspace?

Deterrence is Relative

A front-page headline in the 7 December 1941, New York Times boldly declared “Navy Is Superior to Any, Says Knox.”[ii] The next four years would prove the Secretary of the Navy correct, but nevertheless the bombers that would hand his superior Navy its worst-ever defeat were scrambling for takeoff just a few hours after that issue went to print. The U.S. military’s justifiable assessment of (modest) superiority in conventional forces engendered a much less justifiable belief that “they would never dare to attack us” and undoubtedly drove the failure to maintain adequate defensive precautions.[iii]