16 December 2019

Infrastructure in Tibet gets a big boost as China stepped up focus after Doklam face-off

New Delhi: China has been constructing new infrastructure in Tibet for more than two decades, and although Beijing claims the purpose is civilian, there could be military implications for India as well.

The construction of roads, railways and bridges was hastened after the Doklam stand-off in 2017; the roads around Doklam near the India-China-Bhutan tri-junction were upgraded along with other structures.

ThePrint had reported China’s big focus on rail and road infrastructure in areas bordering India in October last year, and now takes another look at satellite imagery to analyse the progress since.

Lhasa-Shigatse expressway

A Bitter Election Dispute Sends Afghanistan Back to the Brink

By Mujib Mashal

KABUL, Afghanistan — Three months after Afghanistan’s presidential vote, the entire electoral process is stalled in a dispute that Afghan and Western officials say could pose an even greater threat to stability than the last such crisis, five years ago.

Supporters of opposition candidates have besieged half a dozen election offices around the country for weeks, vowing to fight rather than accept another United States-brokered compromise like the one that resolved the 2014 dispute. Security officials worry that one wrong move could tip the protests into bloodshed. And election officials say a biometric verification process that was supposed to prevent voter fraud may have been compromised by human error.

In the middle of it all — again — is Abdullah Abdullah, making his third attempt to become president, and for the third time falling into a bitter standoff with election officials.

This one is likely to play out differently. With American diplomacy focused on negotiating an end to the long war with the Taliban, Western officials say the United States has made it clear that it will not be stepping in as it did five years ago. Then, Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated a power-sharing deal between Mr. Abdullah, now Afghanistan’s chief executive, and Ashraf Ghani, now the president, that Mr. Kerry said averted a civil war.

Lessons to Be Learned from the Afghanistan Papers

By James Carroll

On September 14, 2001, speaking from the high altar of the National Cathedral, in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush said, “Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history. But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.” The distance of history eludes Americans still, especially since the consequences of what Bush set in motion after the 9/11 attacks are still unfolding. Yet the start of a reckoning can be seen in the Washington Post’s publication, this week, of “The Afghanistan Papers,” previously classified memos and interviews with U.S. officials—Pentagon figures, combat leaders, diplomats, and aid workers—who have long presided over the war in Afghanistan, now in its eighteenth year. The officials’ indictment of policies for which they themselves were responsible lays bare the massive institutional deceit that forms the heart of what the United States has done.

The interviews had been conducted by a special inspector general who was charged with assessing the “lessons learned” in Afghanistan. One lesson, according to John F. Sopko, of the inspector general’s office, is that “The American people have constantly been lied to.” That was the lesson of the Pentagon Papers, half a century ago: how the U.S. government refashioned itself, for the sake of a lost war, as a structure of lies. And it is the lesson here.

Ending America’s Endless War in Afghanistan

By Joseph Votel

I took command of the United States Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment two months before the Sept. 11 attacks. Not long after, the regiment deployed to Afghanistan as part of the American effort to destroy Al Qaeda and remove the Taliban from power.

In the 18 years since, soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment, a Special Operations light-infantry unit, have always been deployed to Afghanistan. And as others did, I returned many times thereafter. During his Thanksgiving visit to American troops in Afghanistan, President Trump declared that he had reopened peace talks with the Taliban. The president’s announcement is a rare chance to end our longest war.

We are now in a position to seal a United States-Taliban agreement that would lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and move the conflict into the political realm. We should not miss this opportunity.

Lies Have Kept Us in Afghanistan. But the Truth May Not Set Us Free.

By Ross Douthat

In fighting successfully to publish documents showing that United States officialdom has been telling lies for years about our military endeavors in Afghanistan, The Washington Post has shown how little has changed since the Vietnam era — and yet also how much more sustainable, strangely, our own era’s quagmires seem to be.

The sameness lies in the substance of the revelations. In the Afghanistan document trove, as in the Pentagon Papers, you can see military and civilian officials feeding the press over-optimistic assessments of a likely unwinnable conflict, conducting clever statistical manipulations to create illusions of success, telling hard truths in private while lying subtly or baldly in their public statements. All quagmires seem to require a similar culture of bureaucratized dishonesty, a similar mask of optimism with the death’s head underneath.

The differences begin with the absence of a draft and a much lower American casualty rate, but they extend to the larger political and cultural landscape as well. The Pentagon Papers weren’t the first great disillusioning moment of the Vietnam era; by the time they came out, public trust in government had already fallen considerably from its early-1960s high.

State Department Reprimanded Pakistan for Misusing F-16s, Document Shows

By Paul D. Shinkman

The communication came months after India claimed one such F-16 shot down one of its fighter jets during a days-long skirmish in February over the contested region of Kashmir, which would amount to a fundamental violation by Pakistan of the terms governing the sale of its U.S. fighter jets and a dangerous form of military escalation among nuclear powers.

A source who viewed the August letter, written by Andrea Thompson, then-undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, says it serves as a direct response to U.S. concerns about the F-16 use over Kashmir in February, though the letter itself does not specifically reference the incident.

Addressed to the head of the Pakistani air force, Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan, the letter began by relaying the State Department's confirmation that Pakistan had moved the F-16s and accompanying American-made missiles to unapproved forward operating bases in defiance of its agreement with the U.S. Using diplomatic language, Thompson, who has since left government, warned the Pakistanis that their behavior risked allowing these weapons to fall into the hands of malign actors and "could undermine our shared security platforms and infrastructures."

What Will the Return of the Rajapaksas Mean for Sri Lanka?

Frida Ghitis 

Sri Lanka has a tendency to flow in and out of global headlines in one of two ways. After a decades-long civil war between the government and ethnic Tamil separatists ended in 2009, it has periodically burst into the news, usually as a result of a paroxysm of violence. The rest of the time, during periods of calm, Sri Lanka datelines tend to arrive with glossy stories about tourism to an island nation rich in natural beauty.

Which Sri Lanka appears in headlines in the years to come will depend to a large degree on the ramifications of the recent presidential election held on Nov. 16, when voters pivoted sharply, handing a landslide victory to a familiar but divisive face from the past and turning their backs on a disappointing reformist government. ...

Bad Idea: China-Driven U.S. Strategy

Samuel Brannen

U.S. national security strategy is overly consumed with China to the detriment of broad global interests. A strategic overcorrection has put China at the center of virtually every U.S. national security conversation and consideration. That positioning is at once distracting the United States from appropriately responding to growing trans-regional geopolitical volatility while also failing to achieve outcomes in U.S. China policy.

In the day-to-day execution of U.S. statecraft, China mania has contributed to a distracted approach to overseeing active U.S. combat operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan, punctuated by episodes of triage as relative neglect leads to crisis. Rather than taking the time to conduct a strategic review of what it would take to responsibly redirect resources from focusing on global counterterrorism to managing great power competition, the United States is trying to jump from one speeding train onto another.

China doesn't need World Bank's loans, just as Trump says


“Why is the World Bank loaning money to China?" President Donald Trump tweeted on Dec. 6. "Can this be possible? China has plenty of money, and if they don’t, they create it. STOP!” He did so in response to the World Bank agreeing to continue lending $1 billion to $1.5 billion a year to China through 2025.

The World Bank’s newly approved country partnership framework with China has met significant criticism from U.S. stakeholders, especially those in Washington who recently supported the World Bank’s capital increase. The framework was adopted by the World Bank’s board on Dec. 5, despite objections from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and members of Congress. The U.S. should respond by gathering a coalition of shareholders and asking the World Bank board to amend its agreement with China.

I remain an ardent supporter of the World Bank and believe it continues to play a critical role in supporting global development efforts. The World Bank provides critical research, advice and financing for low- and middle-income countries around the world. I have testified to Congress in favor of capital increases for the World Bank and have been a staunch defender of the research the World Bank does, such as its Doing Business Indicators. I was one of the first people to publicly make the case for why the world should support World Bank President David Malpass when he was nominated by the United States. This being said, the World Bank has made a mistake, and President Trump is right to be upset.

U.S. Bets Old Ideas in a New Package Can Deter China

Hal Brands

Through nearly three years in office, the Donald Trump administration has made a lot of noise about competing with China geopolitically but has often struggled to lay out, coherently, what America seeks to achieve. So it is encouraging that the State Department is beginning to articulate a sharper idea of what the U.S. is against in the Indo-Pacific – and, more importantly, what it is for. 

The guiding concept: “Pluralism.” That may not sound very sexy, but it captures the essential difference in U.S. and Chinese visions for the region. And, significantly, it taps into three of the richest historical traditions of American grand strategy. 

David Stillwell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, explained this strategy of pluralism in a speech in Washington last week. The basic idea is that the U.S. doesn't need to dominate the Indo-Pacific or force the region to conform to any single model, so long as no one else can dominate the region or make it conform to a single model, either. A pluralistic region is one in which countries are free to make their own security, economic and political choices — where “they are secure in their sovereign autonomy” and “no hegemonic power dominates or coerces them.” Pluralism is about preserving the freedom and openness in which diversity can flourish.

What Does Beijing Want from the Pacific Islands?

In late September, Pacific Island countries the Solomon Islands and Kiribati switched their diplomatic allegiances from Taiwan to China. That month, a Beijing-based company signed a secretive deal granting it exclusive development rights for the strategic island of Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. (The Solomon government later called the deal “unlawful.”) Increased economic and political alignment with China, often at the expense of partnerships with countries like Taiwan and the United States, is often highly alluring to many developing countries in the region.

What does Beijing want from the Pacific Islands? What do these nations offer China politically, in bodies such as the United Nations? And what comparative advantages and disadvantages might Beijing experience in pursuing these interests? —The Editors

Beijing’s recent interest in the Pacific Islands primarily stems from its ongoing efforts to displace the United States as the regional hegemon. Due to their location, the Pacific Islands have high strategic value as links in the second island chain: They impact the U.S. military’s ability to project force and collect intelligence across the Indo Pacific. Control of this area—base access for the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and denial of such access to U.S. and allied forces—would also complicate the ability of the U.S. military to operate in the region unchallenged. And it would hurt the U.S.’s ability to transit to and intervene and resupply in a Taiwan Strait contingency should Beijing decide to launch military operations against the self-ruled island nation.

Competing to Win in the Information Environment: Complex Warfare with Chinese Characteristics

Thomas A. Drohan
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Complex warfare is high stakes competition in learning, and the United States is being out-thought and out-fought by China. Why is this so, and what can we do about it?

First, we need to recognize what warfare looks like in the contemporary information environment (IE). It’s complex warfare, and it involves all instruments of power across all domains. The common context is the information environment:the aggregate of individuals, organizations, and systems that collect, process, disseminate, or act on information.” Who are the actors? All life-forms and technologies that perform these IE functions. Therefore the contemporary IE is where any agent (human, animal, artificial) wielding any instrument of power (survival, statecraft, financial, intelligence, law enforcement) may create effects. Many US elites do not recognize China’s non-violent effects—such the use of American investments to modernize the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) —as threats.

Second, we need to think and act broadly to win complex warfare. Contemporary warfare involves land, sea, air, space, cyberspace, the electromagnetic spectrum, and a host of biological and social micro-environments. Here, too, information is what creates and influences behavior. Information is as basic as DNA, the blueprint for the replication and construction of life itself (Chapter 1). Advanced life-forms upgrade their genetic software by learning. So we compete in the IE with applied concepts. The PLA applications of “unrestricted warfare” (1999) we see today are built upon 2000 years of holistic thought. How do we compete? 

China Is Taking Patents Seriously. The World Should Take Notice.

By Bonnie Girard

By now, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a familiar term to anyone with even a passing knowledge of China, Asia, Africa, global affairs, and trade. The BRI is correctly associated with infrastructure building, investment, potential debt traps, and in general an overarching plan to deeply extend China’s influence around the world.

President Xi Jinping is thought to believe that the BRI will stamp his legacy on Chinese history.

Probably few have considered, however, that the BRI would also offer an opportunity for China to inspect and absorb for its own benefit the patent and IP protection schemes in all of the BRI target countries to which it is extending its financial and political reach.

But indeed, “The Chinese are studying the IP regimes of all the countries along the way [of the BRI], and we can expect that the Chinese will be looking at the IP aspects of all those countries.”

Smuggling Out the Truth: The Story of the Xinjiang Papers and China Cables

By Ben Lowsen

The world since mid-November has seen an unprecedented series of leaks of internal government documents from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) concerning its human rights abuses against Turkic peoples in its western region. The PRC, noted for its tight Communist Party discipline and harsh punishment of transgressors, is often referred to as a “black box” by Sinologists. For them as much as for anybody else, these leaks come as a surprise. Indeed, they are a testament to the courage of some within the PRC, an indication of how bad Beijing’s human rights abuses must be, and possibly a crack in the façade of Xi Jinping’s power over China.

The Content of the Leaks

On November 16, the New York Times published the first watershed story detailing the extraordinary lengths the People’s Republic of China has gone to to carry out — and conceal — its massive program of ethnic “re-education” against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in its Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, which these peoples commonly refer to as East Turkistan. It is based on 403 pages of internal PRC government documents smuggled out by an unnamed official seeking only to “prevent Communist Party leaders, including Mr. Xi, from escaping responsibility for the program.” These documents, termed the “Xinjiang Papers,” represent the first time a trove of such size and importance has been exposed.

Don't Expect a Thaw in Iran

by Ariane M. Tabatabai
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At midnight on Friday, Nov. 15, the Iranian government attempted to quietly overturn years of policy by revoking long-standing gasoline subsidies. It didn't work. When Iranians woke at dawn and found that gas prices had risen by 50 percent, thousands of people in 100 cities and towns took to the streets in protest. Surprised by the intensity of the backlash, the regime quickly responded with force, unleashing security forces and cracking down on demonstrators. The next day, the regime shut down the internet. When service was restored days later, reports of brutal killings and arrests came to light. In a matter of days in November, thousands had been arrested and hundreds killed. Regime officials denied responsibility. Rather than showing a united front, they quickly turned on one another.

Iran's protests—coupled with a surprise prisoner exchange with the United States over the weekend—could mark the beginning of a new chapter in Iran's domestic politics. The recent demonstrations were more widespread and the response to them much more swift and violent than in previous decades. In fact, the regime's legitimacy has not been challenged this forcefully since the 2009 Green Movement—and the implications for Iran's domestic politics are many. Whatever happens inside the country, though, it will not likely change Iran's foreign policy, which means that there is little hope that a period of constructive engagement between the two countries will follow the chaos as Americans prepare to enter an election year.

Five reasons why Labour lost the election

Kate Proctor 

Labour has suffered one of its worst general election results in living memory with dozens of seats that the party had held on to for decades falling to the Conservatives. On Friday morning the party will begin its analysis of why this happened, with the debate likely to affect how Labour bounces back on the road to the next national vote. Below we look at five reasons why the Labour defeat happened.
Jeremy Corbyn

Shadow cabinet figures such as Richard Burgon were quick to praise the Labour leader’s decency and integrity in broadcast interviews overnight – but after the exit poll came in many candidates said that on the doorstep it was his lack of popularity that cost them. Corbyn went into the campaign with the lowest net satisfaction ratings of any opposition leader since the late 1970s (Ipsos Mori). Among older voters, Labour campaigners said his past support for the Irish republican movement came up repeatedly on the doorsteps. In London, antisemitism and what people perceived as the absence of an apology appeared to be a key issue. Ruth Smeeth, a longstanding Corbyn critic who expected to lose her Stoke North seat, told Sky News the blame for the predicted result lay with the leader. She said: “His personal actions have delivered this result for my constituents and for swathes of the country overnight.” Toby Perkins, standing in Chesterfield, said the election was tough and in part due to the “monumental unpopularity” of Corbyn.

The best students in the world, ranked by country

Jenny Anderson, Amanda Shendruk
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The results are in for the OECD’s latest global test of 15-year-olds in math, science, and reading. The test, known as PISA (for Programme for International Student Assessment), is administered every three years and used—by some—to measure which countries are best preparing their students for the future.

Once again, Asian countries came out on top. In the latest test, China and Singapore ranked first and second, respectively, in math, science, and reading. Elsewhere, Estonia is noteworthy for its performance, ranking highly in all three subjects.

The Clash of Capitalisms

By Branko Milanovic 

Capitalism rules the world. With only the most minor exceptions, the entire globe now organizes economic production the same way: labor is voluntary, capital is mostly in private hands, and production is coordinated in a decentralized way and motivated by profit.

There is no historical precedent for this triumph. In the past, capitalism—whether in Mesopotamia in the sixth century BC, the Roman Empire, Italian city-states in the Middle Ages, or the Low Countries in the early modern era—had to coexist with other ways of organizing production. These alternatives included hunting and gathering, small-scale farming by free peasants, serfdom, and slavery. Even as recently as 100 years ago, when the first form of globalized capitalism appeared with the advent of large-scale industrial production and global trade, many of these other modes of production still existed. Then, following the Russian Revolution in 1917, capitalism shared the world with communism, which reigned in countries that together contained about one-third of the human population. Now, however, capitalism is the sole remaining mode of production.

Reimagining a Global Europe



The idea of a global Europe is on the rise again in some European quarters—a feeling that the time is ripe for the European Union to have another try at acting as a global power. The most recent statements by the new European leaders who entered office in late 2019 underscore the need for Europe to assert itself as a genuine geopolitical player. The new president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has promised a new geopolitical role for her institution. The high representative for foreign and security policy, Josep Borrell, has prioritized the need for Europe to learn “to use the language of power.” And French President Emmanuel Macron has been speaking for some time of the urgency for the EU to build up “European sovereignty.”

It is tempting to see in these statements a new incarnation of an old and repetitive narrative. This story dates to the early days of the European venture, when the European Community—the EU’s forerunner—was struggling to broaden its economic realm. Years later, Europe started to see itself as a credible global player: the union was buoyed by a consolidated single market, a new single currency, and a promising diplomacy; it was comforted by a fresh wave of enlargement; and it had bounced back from the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s and the deep internal divisions after the 2003 U.S.-led intervention in Iraq.

Post-Putin Uncertainty Means a Jittery Russian Elite and Brittle Regime

Amid the uncertainty over what will happen when Putin steps down in 2024, everyone is striving to claim exclusive functions that could later be required by Putin during the implementation of his plan for the transition of power.

In some ways, it seems strange to talk of a political crisis: the Moscow protests have been stamped out and amounted to nothing, pro-regime candidates won in nearly all the regional elections, and political life in Russia appears to be returning to normal.

This lull, however, is deceptive. Outwardly, the regime still looks stable and robust, but on the inside, smoldering crises are building up. What’s happening now bears no resemblance to the crisis of 2011–2012, though both periods have in common an unexpected wave of protests, a fall in approval ratings, and harsh prison sentences for individual protesters. But the Russian authorities function differently now compared to how they did in 2012, meaning that similar events have very different consequences.

The main difference between the recent protests and those of 2011–2012 is in the authorities’ logic. In December 2011, it was evident from the Kremlin’s initial reaction to the protests that the leadership understood the need to make concessions. The presidential administration drew up a reform package almost straight away that included the return of gubernatorial elections and steps to relax the legislation on political parties. 

Beyond the Trade War

By Ely Ratner, Elizabeth Rosenberg, and Paul Scharre

The verdict is in on U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade war with China. Regardless of whether U.S. negotiators soon reach a deal with Beijing, the administration’s initial gambit has run aground. After wreaking havoc on portions of the U.S. economy with his trade policies, the president is now angling to freeze or roll back tariffs on Chinese products in exchange for almost nothing. Deal or no deal in the coming days, it is clear that the United States needs a fundamentally different approach to economic competition with China—one that bolsters U.S. technological and financial power while countering Beijing’s malign activities directly.

Tariff hikes haven’t forced Beijing to capitulate. Chinese negotiators are reportedly making only vague commitments to assuage U.S. concerns about currency manipulation and intellectual property theft. They have refused outright to accept a much-needed enforcement mechanism on international trade practices or to make structural reforms to promote economic competition at home and abroad. At best, Beijing will restore agricultural purchases to pre–trade war levels, offering as its biggest concession something it wants to do anyway: let in more U.S. capital to balance China’s checkbook and reenergize sluggish growth. 

China in Africa’s Peace and Security Landscape

By Abdou Rahim Lema

With growing Chinese security engagements in Africa, Sino-African relations are at a critical juncture. This is not necessarily because of the ignited international attention on what China does in Africa, but rather because of the nature of — and scintillating mutuality in — the expanding China-Africa relationships. For instance, recently China has shown unprecedented willingness and (to some extent) readiness to put its shoulder to the wheel in Africa’s efforts to deal with cycles of insecurity and instability. Likewise, aiming for an “integrated, prosperous, and peaceful [Africa],” the continent — under the aegis of the African Union (AU) — has been striving to develop better strategies in working with external partners to achieve peace and stability. It is in that regard that peace and security have increasingly gained prominence in China-Africa engagements, ranging from growing multilateral cooperation on security challenges facing Africa to nascent (sub)regional initiatives to long-held bilateral partnerships with many African countries.

How Much Is the US-South Korea Alliance Worth?

By Kyle Ferrier

The Trump administration’s heightened emphasis on the cost of the U.S.-South Korea alliance is shaking the foundations of the security relationship. To best illustrate what is potentially at stake, this new approach should similarly be met with a shift in how the merits of the alliance are represented, namely by putting in dollar terms what may otherwise be taken for granted.

Washington’s demand for Seoul to increase military cost-sharing contributions by 400 percent has raised questions and concerns about the future of the alliance in South Korea. Renegotiations of the Special Measures Agreement (SMA) – outlining how much South Korea contributes to the non-personnel costs of hosting American troops – have taken place between the two allies every few years since 1991, but have never been as contentious as they have been under Trump. When the previous SMA was set to expire at the end of 2018, the United States initially asked for South Korea to double its 960 billion won ($840 million) contribution – quadruple the highest past increase in 2002. The two sides reached a compromise in February after the deadline, with South Korea agreeing to pay 8.2 percent more, but only in a one-year deal. Washington then revealed its new asking price of $4.7 billion this summer, which has been met with a public backlash in South Korea. The SMA negotiations, however, are not the only area in the alliance where the White House has stressed costs. Trump has questioned joint military exercises and even the presence of U.S. military forces in South Korea over expenses.

Bad Idea: Assuming That Small Satellites Will Solve Big Satellites’ Problems

Morgan Dwyer

Every few years—and usually after one of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) big satellite programs runs into trouble—the popularity of small satellites, commonly known as “smallsats,” resurges. Each time, smallsats are advertised as being cheaper, faster to develop, and less complex than their big satellite counterparts. And each time, policymakers’ hopes—that smallsats will be a panacea for the space community—are dashed by institutional reality. That’s because it’s a bad idea to assume that smallsats will solve big satellites’ problems.

Big satellites’ problems are caused by their requirements, interfaces, and complex acquisition organizations. Swapping big satellites for small ones will not address those problems. Instead, defense policymakers should address the well-established, structural issues that affect all satellite programs. Afterwards, they should understand the specific circumstances in which smallsats add value and how they can be used to complement—not replace—big satellites.

Big Satellites, Big Problems

2020:Preparing for a Decade of Change and Transformation

If all the world’s a stage, then 2020 promises to be an epic multipart drama. The year will witness a momentous decision in Europe on Brexit and the ultimate leadership contest in the U.S. presidential election. Amid the hand-wringing caused by any political uncertainty, there will be plenty to celebrate next year. 

Billions will enjoy the UEFA Euro 2020 football championship and a spectacular Olympics in Tokyo. And we could see the first space tourist in 2020, which will also be Beethoven’s 250th anniversary—one of the few composers to have a record floating in the cosmos, courtesy of NASA. 

If all the world’s a stage, then 2020 promises to be an epic multipart drama. The year will witness a momentous decision in Europe on Brexit and the ultimate leadership contest in the U.S. presidential election. Amid the hand-wringing caused by any political uncertainty, there will be plenty to celebrate next year. 

Billions will enjoy the UEFA Euro 2020 football championship and a spectacular Olympics in Tokyo. And we could see the first space tourist in 2020, which will also be Beethoven’s 250th anniversary—one of the few composers to have a record floating in the cosmos, courtesy of NASA. 

Richard Feynman on Artificial General Intelligence


In a lecture held by Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman (1918–1988) on September 26th, 1985, the question of artificial general intelligence (also known as “strong-AI”) comes up.
Audience Question

Do you think there will ever be a machine that will think like human beings and be more intelligent than human beings?

Below is a structured transcript of Feynman’s verbatim response. With the advent of machine learning via artificial neural nets, it’s fascinating to hear Feynman’s thoughts on the subject and just how close he gets, even 35 years ago.

Estimated reading time is 8 minutes. Happy reading!
Richard Feynman’s AnswerFirst of all, do they think like human beings? I would say no and I’ll explain in a minute why I say no.Second, for "whether they be more intelligent than human beings" to be a question, intelligences must first be defined. If you were to ask me are they better chess players than any human being? Possibly can be, yes, "I'll get you, some day".

Advisory group looks to redesign federal cyber response

By Derek B. Johnson

A government advisory group is warning that escalating cyber threats to critical infrastructure represent "an existential threat to continuity of government, economic stability, social order and national security."

While this conclusion is not novel -- U.S. policymakers have known for years that the nation's infrastructure contains massive targets for hackers and foreign governments -- a new draft report released this week by the National Infrastructure Advisory Council argues that current efforts have fallen short.

"America's companies are fighting a cyber war against multi-billion-dollar nation-state cyber forces that they cannot win on their own," members of the group wrote in a companion letter to the White House. "Incremental steps are no longer sufficient; bold approaches must be taken. Your leadership is needed to provide companies with the intelligence, resources, and legal protection necessary to win this war and avoid the dire consequences of losing it."

We Just Got a Rare Look at National Security Surveillance. It Was Ugly.

By Charlie Savage
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WASHINGTON — When a long-awaited inspector general report about the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation became public this week, partisans across the political spectrum mined it to argue about whether President Trump falsely smeared the F.B.I. or was its victim. But the report was also important for reasons that had nothing to do with Mr. Trump.

At more than 400 pages, the study amounted to the most searching look ever at the government’s secretive system for carrying out national-security surveillance on American soil. And what the report showed was not pretty.

The Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, and his team uncovered a staggeringly dysfunctional and error-ridden process in how the F.B.I. went about obtaining and renewing court permission under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.

“The litany of problems with the Carter Page surveillance applications demonstrates how the secrecy shrouding the government’s one-sided FISA approval process breeds abuse,” said Hina Shamsi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. “The concerns the inspector general identifies apply to intrusive investigations of others, including especially Muslims, and far better safeguards against abuse are necessary.”

How Congress wants to help sync military cyber

Mark Pomerleau

The government’s annual defense policy bill, if signed into law by President Donald Trump, will create several new cyber positions within the military.

The fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act outlines the roles the Department of Defense must fill — at the Pentagon and within the services.

The first position is a senior military advisory for cyber policy — who will also serve as the deputy principal cyber adviser and be at least a two-star general — within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Under the scope of the senior military adviser for cyber policy, specific duties include being the principal uniformed military adviser on military cyber forces and activities to the under secretary of defense for policy; advise the under secretary on policies related to cyber operations, readiness, resources and personnel; help synchronize DoD military cyber forces and activities; and maintain lines of communication between the chief information officer senior civilian leaders, Joint Staff, services and combatant commands on issues related to cyber policy and operations.

Embrace the App Store: Leveraging Smartphones for Army Maintenance

Andrew Shaughnessy

Against the backdrop of a generation of Soldiers who grew up tethered to smartphones, the Army remains rigidly analog in many of its systems. While there are numerous potential examples of how smartphone applications could make Army systems more accessible, few seem as immediately viable for disruption as unit maintenance. A dedicated Army smartphone maintenance app, guiding operators through weekly maintenance inspections, would alleviate many of the challenges encountered while trying to diagnose and resolve equipment faults. With the current emphasis on readiness, there is no reason that the Army should tolerate the existing shortcomings of our analog maintenance processes.

Few institutions in the Army are as universal or protected as the venerated tradition of “Motor Pool Mondays.” Across the force, Monday mornings are a protected slot of time where units hold formations, maybe receive some words of encouragement from their leadership, and then Soldiers immediately descend on their equipment to conduct Preventative Maintenance, Checks, and Services (PMCS). Soldiers take their printed Technical Manuals (TM) and go through a prescribed series of checks to ensure their equipment, primarily vehicles, will perform optimally. Soldiers will top off any vehicle fluids, test that electrical systems function properly, and annotate any vehicle faults on printed equipment inspection worksheets (DA Form 5988-E). Empowered by the Army’s centralized logistics software and database, Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-A) these 5988s are printed that morning and accurately reflect historical issues for each vehicle. After thoroughly inspecting their respective pieces of equipment, these analog 5988s are collected, reviewed, and then turned in to the Battalion’s Forward Support Company (FSC) to be digitalized in GCSS-A. From here, faults that can be fixed with parts on hand are remedied throughout the week or, in the absence of the right bench stock, have the correct parts placed on order. Leveraging cutting edge innovations in supply chain management, it is only a matter of time until parts arrive and equipment is brought up to a Fully Mission Capable (FMC) status.