20 September 2019

Where Does All the Plastic Go?

By Carolyn Kormann

Every year, an estimated eight million metric tons of land-based plastic enters the world’s oceans. But when marine researchers have measured how much of this plastic is floating on the water’s surface, swirling in offshore gyres—most notably, the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California—they have only found quantities on the order of hundreds of thousands of tons, or roughly one per cent of all the plastic that has ever gone into the ocean. Part of the explanation for this is that all plastic eventually breaks down into microplastic, and, although this takes some polymers decades, others break down almost immediately, or enter the ocean as microplastic already (like the synthetic fibres that pill off your fleece jacket or yoga pants in the washing machine). Scientists have recently found tiny pieces of plastic falling with the rain in the high mountains, including France’s Pyrenees and the Colorado Rockies. British researchers collected amphipods (shrimplike crustaceans) from six of the world’s deepest ocean trenches and found that eighty per cent of them had microplastic in their digestive tracts. These kinds of plastic fibres and fragments are smaller than poppy seeds and “the perfect size to enter the bottom of the food web,” as Jennifer Brandon, an oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told me. “They have been shown to be eaten by mussels, by coral, by sea cucumbers, by barnacles, by lots of filter-feeding plankton.”

Hindus, the global minority no one's heart bleeds for

Avantika D

A Hindu temple was vandalized in Pakistan’s Sindh province and a Hindu teacher was attacked by a belligerent mob over accusations of blasphemy.

This is not very different from the incident of May 2018, when a Hindu doctor in Pakistan was arrested, again on the pretext of alleged blasphemy, and a crowd of combative protestors set shops owned by Hindus to flames.

But this time, it happened under the prime ministership of Imran Khan who is often found sermonizing India on the treatment of minorities.

Imran Khan came to power with promises of a ‘Naya Pakistan’, but the condition of the almost non-existent minority in Pakistan seems to have worsened since he took over.

Earlier this month, a Hindu girl was abducted, forcefully converted and married to a Muslim man. The incident happened in Sindh: a state notorious for its innumerable ‘stolen brides’ since the inception of the country.

Jihad, history link Taliban to al-Qaida in Afghanistan


FILE - This file image broadcast April 17, 2002, by the London based Middle East Broacasting Corp, shows Osama bin Laden, right, and top deputy Ayman Al-Zawahri in an unknown location. Although the Taliban had promised Washington during months of negotiations that the U.S. will never again be attacked from Afghan soil, there's no evidence of a break in relations between long-time allies the Taliban and al-Qaida. After the collapse of the Taliban deal in September 2019, it's not clear if the Taliban gave Washington any information on where al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden’s successor, al-Zawahri, are hiding. (MBC via AP, File)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Taliban promised Washington during months of negotiations that the United States would never again be attacked from Afghan soil. Such a pledge would have included al-Qaida, which planned the 9/11 attacks from inside Afghanistan.

Yet jihad, or holy war, and a shared history continue to bind the two militant groups, and there’s no evidence of a break in relations between the long-time allies. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said the Taliban agreed to cut ties with al-Qaida as part of peace negotiations, which President Donald Trump abruptly called off last week.

America Went to Afghanistan to Fight Al Qaeda, Not to Transform a Nation

by Kara Ann Caldwell
Source Link

“Comms blackout” is a phrase you never want to hear while deployed. I didn’t know what it meant until November 13, 2009. That day a soldier in our unit was killed by an improvised explosive device in the Sayed Abad district of Afghanistan’s Wardak province. He, like the rest of us, had been sent to the country to support Operation Enduring Freedom.

In a communications blackout, lines go “black” to prevent soldiers from contacting the friends or family of the deceased until two soldiers, dressed in Class A uniforms, can knock on the next of kin’s door to give them the devastating news.

This grim process has happened more than 2,296 times since the start of the war in Afghanistan, now called Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Over and over and again the bodies of U.S. troops have been flown to Dover Air Force Base with U.S. flags draped over them, carried off by a military detail, and transferred to the Air Force Mortuary on base. There, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner confirms identification through dental impressions and photographs, and autopsies are performed to identify the cause of death. Those servicemembers are then dressed in pristine uniforms and transported to their hometown with a military escort.

Russia and China Are Trying to Set the U.N.’s Rules on Cybercrime

By Allison Peters

At the United Nations General Assembly, the United States must push back against their agenda.

As world leaders gather in New York next week for another session of the United Nations General Assembly, they’ll have a number of pressing global security challenges on their minds. But on one key topic—cybercrime—the United States risks losing to Russia and China if it doesn’t have a clear strategy for pushing back against their attempts to prevail on the issue. By failing to articulate its own vision for cybersecurity, it would let two countries that have sponsored and harbored cybercriminals set the rules of the game.

The playing field has long been set in the competition to create the rules governing how countries deal with cybercrime. On one side, you have a global treaty, known as the Budapest Convention, which was drafted with strong support from the United States and its allies. The convention is the only legally binding international treaty that lays out common standards on cybercrime investigations and aims to boost cooperation among criminal justice systems around the globe in these cases. On the other side, you have Russia and China, two countries that have long been accused of sponsoring malicious cyberactivity themselves. These countries have refused to join the Budapest Convention and have instead called for a new global cybercrime treaty at the U.N.—one that they could presumably influence the drafting of.

Averting a Cross-Strait Crisis

Michael S. Chase
Source Link

The risk of a serious crisis between China and Taiwan is growing. Cross-strait relations have chilled in recent years as a result of the unwillingness of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen to embrace the so-called 1992 Consensus—an understanding that was the basis for a warmer relationship between Beijing and Taipei under Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT). According to the KMT, the 1992 Consensus holds that both mainland China and Taiwan belong to “one China” but with distinct interpretations. Beijing’s stance, however, is that the 1992 Consensus means there is “one China,” which is the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and that Taiwan is part of the PRC. China responded to Tsai’s refusal to endorse its approach to the 1992 Consensus by implementing a multifaceted pressure campaign to punish and coerce Taiwan into being more compliant. Beijing’s tactics have included suspending official and semiofficial mechanisms for cross-strait communications, reducing the number of mainland tourists allowed to visit Taiwan, pressuring countries that recognize Taiwan to sever diplomatic relations with the island, and conducting military exercises and information operations designed to intimidate Taiwan.

This pressure campaign could intensify in the next twelve to eighteen months—particularly in the lead-up to and immediately following Taiwan’s 2020 presidential election—to the extent that it triggers a new cross-strait crisis. Although the United States maintains a “one China” policy in accordance with the three U.S.-China joint communiques and withdrew from its 1954 defense treaty with Taiwan after establishing diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1979, such a crisis would clearly affect U.S. national security interests.

Reimagining U.S.-China Arctic Ties in the Context of Green Energy

With the launch of Stratfor Worldview Enterprise, business leaders from a variety of backgrounds share their opinions on geopolitical risks and business strategies. In this blog post, Anita Parlow, Esq., discusses the environmental and geopolitical issues developing in the Arctic region, and how geothermal energy initiatives to combat climate change might help thaw U.S.-China relations. Parlow is a recent Fulbright Scholar to Iceland, was advisor to the Harvard-MIT Arctic Fisheries Project, and Founding Team Lead for the D.C.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Program on the Polar Code. Parlow, who has spoken in symposia in the United States, Canada, Europe and China on Arctic issues, has authored numerous articles on Arctic shipping, energy, infrastructure and, subsistence topics. Parlow has an advanced degree in law from Oxford University.

What could be a small, yet defining step toward a softening of the hard-line view in 21st century geopolitics occurred this spring in Shanghai, China. In May, about 600 people from Asia, Europe, the United States and beyond met for what China called the "first" international meeting that was dedicated solely to Arctic issues.

Saudi Wealth and Weaponry Still Can’t Guarantee Oil’s Protection

Marc Champion

How could Saudi Arabia, a country with the world’s third-largest military budget and six battalions of U.S.-built Patriot missile-defense systems, fail to defend the beating heart of the oil industry on which the kingdom depends.

That question lies at the heart of responses to Saturday’s attack on Abqaiq, which cut Saudi oil production by half, and is critical to any assessment of whether investors will have to permanently factor higher political risk assumptions into the price of oil.

The Patriot surface-to-air missile system

As audacious as the strike was, it was only the latest in a series and should have come as no surprise. The effectiveness of the Saudi military machine has long been questioned, despite spending $83 billion on defense last year, compared to $45 billion for Russia and $20 billion for regional rival Iran. The kingdom’s formidably equipped air force has been bombing Iran-backed Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen since 2015, but has so far failed to tip the civil war in favor of Saudi allies.

Yet any firm answers to the question of Saudi vulnerability will have to wait for more clarity on exactly what happened on Saturday, according to air defense specialists. There are conflicting accounts as to what technologies were used -- a swarm of 10 armed unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles or a mix of the two.

Danger in the Gulf: What the Attack on Saudi Arabian Oil Means for America

by Alireza Ahmadi

For hawks like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, American power, as the Bolshevik adage goes, cannot fail, it can only be failed. For many of his ilk, the superiority of American power means the willingness to project it is the only thing needed to earn the capitulation of foes and the only way America loses is if it chooses to relent. Donald Trump, however, watched George W. Bush’s presidency burn in the Iraq war and is unlikely to embrace the chaos of war heading into an election year. President Trump would be wise to heed the lessons of the most recent volatile security episode in the Persian Gulf region, especially as it pertains to his administration’s campaign against Tehran.

After the strike on the Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Pompeo charged that the strike was not conducted by Houthi drones but rather by cruise missiles fired directly by the Iranian military from inside Iran or Iraq. The Houthis have claimed the attack and Iran has vociferously denied Pompeo’s claim. The material evidence, in the form of satellite pictures the U.S. government claimed would establish Iran as the direct culprit, as the New York Times put it, “did not appear as clear cut as officials suggested.” Much of the rest of what is provided is in the form of claims from unnamed U.S. officials, even as the Pentagon seems disinterested in supporting Pompeo’s claim despite this being a military matter. Rather than focusing on the web of charges and retorts, it may be better to look at the strategic impacts of these scenarios.

Threat Assessment High: The Attack on Saudi Arabia's Oil Supply Signals a New Danger

by Seth J. Frantzman
Source Link

Abrazen attack on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities on September 14 marks an escalation in the drone wars that have tormented the kingdom over the past few months. The attack struck Abqaiq’s large Aramco oil-processing facility and another site at the Khurais oil field. This is the third round of long-range drone or cruise-missile attacks that have struck Saudi Arabia since May. They come in the context of rising tensions between the United States and Iran, as well as Israel and Hezbollah. Saturday’s attack is a game-changer in significance and its proximity to U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf point to a growing threat.

There was video footage of explosions, fire and smoke rising from Abqaiq in the early hours of September 14. Hours later the fires were under control and Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed that ten drones carried out the attack. Iranian media have highlighted the attack amid assertions that it cut half of Saudi oil capacity. Some of that output will be restored this week but restoring the damage and full capacity will take time. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the attack and claimed that Tehran was behind another one hundred attacks on Saudi Arabia. He didn’t specify that the attacks were mostly carried out by Iranian-allied Houthis in Yemen, but the implication is that they were. Pompeo said there was no evidence the September 14 attack came from Yemen—a key assertion that makes the Abqaiq attack a turning point. It means the assault may have come from closer to the oil fields, either from Iraq, directly from Iran or other sources. The investigation into the attack has cast a shadow over the Persian Gulf and ratcheting up U.S.-Iran tensions and representing a strategic escalation.

Middle East Mystery Theater: Who Attacked Saudi Arabia's Oil Supply?

by Matthew Petti 

“Having our country act as Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not ‘America First,’” said Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, invoking a popular Trump slogan.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ken.), who had invoked Trump’s antiwar message in a public feud with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) over the weekend, took to CNN to warn against striking Iran.

“This is a regional conflict, that there’s no reason the superpower of the United States needs to be getting into bombing mainland Iran. It would be a needless escalation of this,” he told journalist Jake Tapper. “Those who loved the Iraq War, the Cheneys, the Boltons, the Kristols, they all are clamoring and champing at the bit for another war in Iran. But it’s not a walk in the park.”

Davis agreed with Paul’s assessment. “There’s too many people who have lost touch with understanding what war is all about. They think it’s easy,” he told the National Interest. “Just imagine this. What we go ahead and do this, and Iran makes good on their threats, and American warships get sunk in the Gulf?”

Panic of 1873: The U.S. bank Jay Cooke & Company declares bankruptcy, triggering a series of bank failures.

Saudi Arabia and Iran Careen toward Conflict

by Seth Frantzman

Originally published under the title "Saudi-Iran Careen toward Potential Conflict."

Less than 24 hours after a major attack by at least 10 drones or cruise missiles on key Saudi oil facilities, the rhetoric in the Middle East is heating up, and the region appears to be on the brink of conflict.

After US President Donald Trump spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was "no evidence" the large attack came from Yemen.

This now means that Saudi Arabia, which is investigating how the attack happened, is positioned to defend itself, but must choose wisely how.

The kingdom's oil production and exports have been disrupted. The facility at Abqaiq, which was struck, is one of the world's largest processing facilities. According to Reuters, the attacks have reduced production by five million barrels per day.

Is Iran Escalating Gulf Energy Attacks?

By Ray Takeyh

The attacks on the sprawling Saudi oil facility bears all the hallmarks of an Iranian operation, marking a dangerous new phase in Gulf tensions.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of launching the weekend attacks on Saudi oil facilities, while Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility. Is an Iranian connection plausible?

Iran has its share of motivations for an attack on the Saudi oil installations. After the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and started reimposing sanctions on Iran, Tehran began to signal it could threaten oil commerce through the Persian Gulf. Iran claims it is subject to economic terrorism and thus has a right to retaliate. This is not the first occasion that Iran has threatened oil shipments; it has already attacked a number of vessels. This is clearly an escalation and, given the economic squeeze, the Islamic Republic may have considered this a justifiable move.

A satellite image shows an apparent drone strike on an Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia. Planet Labs Inc/Reuters

Exclusive: Egypt and Ethiopia at odds as talks over Blue Nile dam resume

Aidan Lewis

The comments in a note circulated to diplomats last week show the gap between the two countries on a project seen as an existential threat by Egypt, which gets around 90% of its fresh water from the Nile.

The note distributed by the Egyptian foreign ministry, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, points to key differences over the annual flow of water that should be guaranteed to Egypt and how to manage flows during droughts.

It comes as Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan met on Sunday and Monday for their first talks over the hydroelectric dam in more than a year. A spokesperson at Ethiopia’s foreign ministry, Nebiat Getachew, said on Monday the meeting had so far produced no agreements or disagreements, and gave no immediate response to the Egyptian claims.

Egyptian officials were not immediately available for comment, but after the talks an Egyptian water ministry statement carried by local media said the meeting had been limited to procedural rather than substantive issues.

Why Vinyl, Books and Magazines Will Never Go Away

Leonid Bershidsky

Vinyl records, paper books, glossy magazines – all should be long dead, but they’re refusing to go away and even showing some surprising growth. It’s probably safe to assume that people will always consume content in some kind of physical shell – not just because we instinctively attach more value to physical goods than to digital ones, but because there’ll always be demand for independence from the huge corporations that push digital content on us.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl album sales grew 12.9% in dollar terms to $224 million and 6% in unit terms to 8.6 million in the first half of 2019, compared with the first six months of 2018. Compact disc sales held steady, and if the current dynamic holds, old-fashioned records will overtake CDs soon, offsetting the decline in other physical music sales. Streaming revenue grew faster for obvious reasons: It’s cheaper and more convenient. But people are clearly not about to give up a technology that hasn’t changed much since the 1960s.

Money Is the Oxygen on Which the Fire of Global Warming Burns

By Bill McKibben

What if the banking, asset-management, and insurance industries moved away from fossil fuels?

I’m skilled at eluding the fetal crouch of despair—because I’ve been working on climate change for thirty years, I’ve learned to parcel out my angst, to keep my distress under control. But, in the past few months, I’ve more often found myself awake at night with true fear-for-your-kids anguish. This spring, we set another high mark for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: four hundred and fifteen parts per million, higher than it has been in many millions of years. The summer began with the hottest June ever recorded, and then July became the hottest month ever recorded. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany, which have some of the world’s oldest weather records, all hit new high temperatures, and then the heat moved north, until most of Greenland was melting and immense Siberian wildfires were sending great clouds of carbon skyward. At the beginning of September, Hurricane Dorian stalled above the Bahamas, where it unleashed what one meteorologist called “the longest siege of violent, destructive weather ever observed” on our planet. The scientific warnings of three decades ago are the deadly heat advisories and flash-flood alerts of the present, and, as for the future, we have hard deadlines. Last fall, the world’s climate scientists said that, if we are to meet the goals we set in the 2015 Paris climate accord—which would still raise the mercury fifty per cent higher than it has already climbed—we’ll essentially need to cut our use of fossil fuels in half by 2030 and eliminate them altogether by mid-century. In a world of Trumps and Putins and Bolsonaros and the fossil-fuel companies that back them, that seems nearly impossible. It’s not technologically impossible: in the past decade, the world’s engineers have dropped the price of solar and wind power by ninety and seventy per cent, respectively. But we’re moving far too slowly to exploit the opening for rapid change that this feat of engineering offers. Hence the 2 a.m. dread.

Sustainable Development Takes Center Stage at the U.N.

Stewart M. Patrick 

In September 2015, the member states of the United Nations unanimously endorsed a blueprint to guide global development efforts through 2030, known as the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. Next week, world leaders will evaluate progress on the guidelines, together known as the “2030 Agenda,” when they convene in New York for the annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly.

Their assessment will be bleak. No country is on track to achieve all of the SDGs, and the United States, a traditional leader on global development, has abdicated this role under President Donald Trump. Those seeking inspiration will need to look beyond—and below—sovereign governments, to global cities and the world’s youth. ...

The Last Time the United States Sought to Withdraw from South Korea

by Robert E. Kelly

President Donald Trump has hinted for years that he is dissatisfied with the U.S. alliance with South Korea. Will he try to withdraw troops from South Korea if he is re-elected? Former President Jimmy Carter tried to do so but failed in the face of heavy bureaucratic and congressional resistance. Would Trump want to take up such a fight? And does he have the persistence to push it through?

Trump has been a tough critic of South Korea since nearly the beginning of his presidency. Trump has repeatedly criticized U.S. allies, including but not limited to South Korea, for free- or cheap-riding. Trump wants Seoul to bear nearly the entire cost of U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). He has complained about the cost of U.S. military exercises with the South Korean army. He has often framed these complaints in aggressive, mercenary terms, where U.S. security allies “owe” the U.S. payment, otherwise the United States is being “ripped off.”

Trump also called the South Korean president an “appeaser” in his 2017 rhetorical war campaign against the North. He has cozied up to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and he has tacitly sided with Japan in South Korea-Japan trade war. I now hear fairly regularly on the East Asian conference circuit that Trump, if re-elected, might seek to withdraw the U.S. military from South Korea, perhaps in the context of a larger peace deal with the North.

Ethiopia: East Africa’s Emerging Giant

by Claire Felter
Source Link


Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most-populous country, has suffered military rule, civil war, and catastrophic famine over the past half century. Yet in recent years it has emerged as a beacon of stability in the Horn of Africa, enjoying rapid economic growth and increasing strategic importance in the region. However, starting in 2015, a surge in political turmoil rooted in an increasingly repressive ruling party and disenfranchisement of various ethnic groups threatened the country’s progress.

Since taking office in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has responded with promises of dramatic political and economic reforms and has shepherded a historic peace deal with neighboring Eritrea. The new leader’s aggressive approach to change has been met with exuberance among many Ethiopians, but experts warn that Abiy’s challenge to a decades-old political order faces major obstacles, and it is yet unclear whether he can follow through on his agenda.

Global Nuclear Threat 'Highest Since Cuban Missile Crisis'

By Henry Ridgwell

LONDON - World leaders meeting at the United Nations General Assembly, which begins Tuesday in New York, must make nuclear arms control a priority, according to a group of more than 100 political, military and diplomatic figures from Europe and Russia. They have issued a joint statement warning that the risks of nuclear accident, misjudgment or miscalculation have not been higher since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Their statement follows the formal termination last month of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty between the United States and Russia. Washington had accused Moscow of breaching the treaty and argued that the agreement was out of date, as it should include other nuclear-armed states like China.

Plan B in Venezuela

By Michael J. Camilleri 

From its first weeks in office, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has been intent on dislodging Nicolás Maduro from power in Venezuela—resorting to everything from tough talk of “military options” and indictments of senior officials to hard-hitting sanctions and multilateral diplomacy. In January, after two years of effort, Washington seemed to be close to reaching its goal. With an uncharacteristic display of careful diplomatic coordination, the United States, along with several Latin American governments and other U.S. partners, announced that it would recognize Juan Guaidó, the then-35-year-old leader of the National Assembly, as the country’s interim president. And this move, the thinking went, would surely, before long, catalyze a military or popular uprising that would drive the dictatorial Maduro from power. When Guaidó, with the support of some military figures, launched a high-stakes attempt to seize power at the end of April, it seemed that Maduro’s end might finally have arrived.


Donald Stoker

In war there is nothing more important than understanding the political objective or objectives of the combatants involved. This is the why of the war; the reasons the warring states and insurrectionist groups such as Islamic State spill blood and spend treasure. Sometimes the objective is masked by religious or ideological terms, but there is always some underlying political concern. States go war to get something they want or to preserve what they have. Carl von Clausewitz provides the keystone for analysis of all wars by reminding us that “war can be of two kinds, in the sense that either the objective is to overthrow the enemy [an unlimited aim]—to render him politically helpless or militarily impotent, thus forcing him to sign whatever peace we please; or merely to occupy some of his frontier-districts [a limited aim] so that we can annex them or use them for bargaining at the peace negotiations.” The political aim provides the basis for understanding the nature of the war being fought, something Clausewitz insists is the job of both the military and political leaders, and to which he provides a related admonition: “No one starts a war—or rather, no one in his senses should do so—without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.” The last part of the passage demonstrates a key reason why understanding the political objective is so important. Everything else flows from this: “The political object—the original motive for the war—will thus determine both the military objective to be reached and the amount of effort it requires.”

Russia and Ukraine Seek a Contentious New Gas Transit Deal

Russia, Ukraine and the European Union have a shared interest in avoiding economic losses by reaching a new deal on gas transit before the current agreement expires. But significant obstacles — including geopolitical competition and the impact of new energy infrastructure in the region — could lead to a delay or impasse in negotiations. If the parties cannot reach an agreement before the current agreement expires Dec. 31, Russian gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine could well experience interruptions.

Editor's Note: This assessment is part of a series of analyses supporting Stratfor's upcoming 2019 Fourth-Quarter Forecast. These assessments are designed to provide more context and in-depth analysis on key developments over the next quarter.

Representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the European Union are set to meet Sept. 19 in Brussels to begin negotiations over a new agreement on the transit of Russian gas to Europe through Ukraine. The current agreement, reached in 2009 only after tough negotiations resulting in a temporary cutoff of gas flows to Europe, expires Dec. 31. European and Ukrainian elections delayed the start of the upcoming talks, limiting the amount of time for a new deal to be struck before the old one lapses. Even without the time pressure, these negotiations would have been difficult, meaning talks could hit an impasse, and if they do, natural gas cutoffs could possibly result.

Edward Snowden and the Rise of Whistle-Blower Culture

By Jill Lepore

In his memoir, he chronicles his life game by game, from Nintendo to the N.S.A.

One of Edward J. Snowden’s earliest memories is of sneaking around the house and turning back the time on all the clocks in the hope of tricking his parents into letting him stay up late to watch more TV. Another is of the day his father brought home a Commodore 64 and how exciting it was, that very first time, to hold a joystick. Snowden’s new autobiography, “Permanent Record” (Metropolitan), is the autobiography of a gamer, pale and bleary-eyed and glued to his screen, longing for invincibility. Some people write memoirs; other people craft legends. Snowden, who once aspired to be a model and is in some quarters regarded as a modern messiah, is the second kind. As a kid, he read about King Arthur, and his family name comes from Snaw Dun, a mountain in Wales on top of which the legendary ruler is said to have slain a terrible giant by sticking a sword in his eye. Snowden makes a lot of this Tolkien-y sort of thing—avatars, portents of destiny, signs of greatness.

“Permanent Record” offers less than what most readers will want of the John le Carré-meets-Jason Bourne stuff: why, at the age of twenty-eight, while working for a defense contractor, Snowden decided to smuggle top-secret computer files from the U.S. government and give them to reporters at the Guardian and the Washington Post; how he did it; and what his life has been like since then. In dozens of interviews, Snowden, who lives in exile in Russia, has fielded and dodged a lot of questions about those parts of his life. Critics charge him with evasion and distortion; supporters see a becoming honesty and the nobility of an unimpeachable integrity. Readers will split over his book, too, without actually learning much, except about the mind of a gamer. Most of the book chronicles not Snowden’s disclosures and their consequences but his childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, game by game, from the Nintendo Entertainment System to the National Security Agency.

Database leaks data on most of Ecuador's citizens, including 6.7 million children

By Catalin Cimpanu 

The personal records of most of Ecuador's population, including children, has been left exposed online due to a misconfigured database, ZDNet has learned.

The database, an Elasticsearch server, was discovered two weeks ago by vpnMentor security researchers Noam Rotem and Ran Locar, who shared their findings exclusively with ZDNet. Together, we worked to analyze the leaking data, verify its authenticity, and contact the server owner.

The leaky server is one of the, if not the biggest, data breaches in Ecuador's history, a small South American country with a population of 16.6 million citizens.


The Elasticsearch server contained a total of approximately 20.8 million user records, a number larger than the country's total population count. The bigger number comes from duplicate records or older entries, containing the data of deceased persons.

SPACECOM To Write New Ops War Plan: 100km And Up


WASHINGTON: The newly minted Commander of Space Command, Gen. John Raymond will oversee development of the geographic command’s first official ‘war plan’ for space. And where does space begin? It’s now defined by the Unified Command Plan as an “area of responsibility (AOR)” 100 kilometers above sea level to, well, infinity.

The new war plan, which must be approved by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, will be followed by updates to joint and service doctrine for space and counterspace operations, current and former military space officials say. (Yes, we just mentioned doctrine and there is more to come.)

Up to now, space warfighting plans put together by Strategic Command (STRATCOM) under Gen. John Hyten– including Olympic Defender, the ops plan shared with allies — have had a not-quite-official status, according to a former Pentagon official. That’s because STRATCOM is a so-called ‘functional’ combatant command, with a support mission. The new and improved SPACECOM, as Raymond and other Air Force brass have been eager to point out, is now a ‘geographic’ command with responsibility for fighting anywhere above 100 kilometers.

The Pentagon Has Officially Joined the War on Alternative Media


(KN Opinion) — Fake news is so threatening to America’s national security, the Pentagon’s DARPA research agency has announced it will launch a project to repel “large-scale, automated disinformation attacks,” according to Bloomberg

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants custom software that can unearth fakes hidden among more than 500,000 stories, photos, video and audio clips. If successful, the system after four years of trials may expand to detect malicious intent and prevent viral fake news from polarizing society.

As usual, a translation is in order. DARPA is working on a system that will prevent news and analysis contrary to the establishment narrative from rising above the mosh pit that is the lower depths of social media. 

This Formula Predicts Soldier Firepower in 2050


Drawing trend lines across seven centuries suggests that tomorrow’s troops will rock some seriously heavy gear.

In 2050, exoskeleton-equipped soldiers could carry the sorts of heavy machine guns that are today mounted on vehicles, while tanks could be armed with howitzer-class cannons, according to a mathematical formula derived from seven centuries of weapons development.

To build the formula, Army Research Laboratory scientist Alexander Kott carefully scrutinized the performance attributes of weapons across the years, starting with crossbows and proceeding through muskets and tanks. 

“Building a model of technology evolution based on performance attributes rather than on design attributes allows us to seek regularities across multiple technology families, increase the temporal span of the investigation, and offer superior capability for longer-term forecasting,” Kott writes in a paper that will appear in the Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation. (Defense One obtained an early copy.)

Why the Air Force acquisition chief wants to be hacked

By: Mark Pomerleau

As the top acquisition official for the Air Force, Will Roper seems like an unusual visitor to the annual information security conferences that take place in Las Vegas each August. But there he was in a T-shirt playing off an old James Bond catchphrase, “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to hack.”

Roper, the former director of the fast-moving Strategic Capabilities Office, wants the Air Force to be more cognizant of the role coding plays in national defense and wants the service to do more to foster its cyber and coding talent.

He spoke recently with C4ISRNET.

C4ISRNET: Why did you think it was important to head out to these conferences and engage with the white hat hacker community?

Taiwan’s Defense Strategy Doesn’t Make Military Sense

By Tanner Greer 

Taiwan is approaching an ominous deadline. For decades, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party have declared that China’s “great national rejuvenation” must be accomplished by the year 2049. National rejuvenation, the party insists, includes a Taiwan governed by the same powers and principles that now reign across the Taiwan Strait. Beijing would prefer to accomplish this through the free assent of the Taiwanese people. If they do not give it, party leadership has made clear that it is willing to decide the matter with military force.

For many years, this seemed like an empty threat. Traditionally, Taiwan offset Chinese manpower with superior technology and training. But over the last 15 years, the Chinese military has implemented the most ambitious modernization program the world has seen since the 1930s. China’s navy has, in the words of one U.S. defense analyst, “metamorphosized from a coastal-defense force composed of largely obsolescent Soviet-era technologies into a modern naval service” with its own carrier wings, guided missile destroyers, and amphibious transport capacity needed to storm enemy beaches. Its air force now has more fourth-generation fighter jets than Taiwan has military aircraft. And its specialized missile force has more than 1,000 short-range ballistic missiles to lob at Taiwanese runways, command centers, and fuel depots in the first hours of a war. Chinese naval squadrons and fighter aircraft now boldly circle Taiwan, while Taiwanese intelligence and security systems are the targets of an estimated 10,000 cyberattacks per month. For the first time since the 1950s, China’s threats to invade Taiwan are frighteningly credible. The countdown to 2049 is ticking.