31 January 2020

Sri Lanka’s Role in Sino-Indian Competition in South Asia

By Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

How China and India will manage their bilateral relations, even as their competition intensifies, remains a major question, with implications for their ties as well as the wider region. At the Raisina Dialogue earlier this month, India’s external affairs minister, Dr. S Jaishankar, said that finding accommodation with China “is a must; it is not a choice… We have to get along with each other.” Jaishankar recognized, as he put it, that “it is work-in-progress and it will continue to be work-in-progress because both powers are very dynamic.”

Nowhere is this arguably more difficult than in the South Asian region, which has been so far dominated by India. China has tried hard to woo various neighbors of India including Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and Myanmar. These all are countries which have had closer ties with India but because of the proximity, have also felt dominated by New Delhi. Nevertheless, India has also tried hard to make sure that these countries did not fully fall under China’s sway.

Sri Lanka is a prime area of competition. And we have seen this playing out over the past few weeks, particularly as senior officials from both countries made their way to Sri Lanka to woo the newly-elected government of Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

U.S. Air Force communications aircraft crashes in Taliban controlled district


A U.S. Air Force communications aircraft has crashed in a district in the eastern Afghan province of Ghazni that is currently held by the Taliban. A video purporting to show the crash scene has surfaced.

Two U.S. Air Force pilots were killed in the crash and a U.S. Military official confirmed that an E-11 communication aircraft has been lost, CBS News reported. However, it is likely additional personnel were onboard to operate the communication equipment.

The Aviationist reviewed a video of the wreckage and confirmed that the plane was an E-11A BACN (Battlefield Airborne Communications Node). The aircraft is used to facilitate communications between warplanes and troops on the ground.

In an official statement released in English on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban noted that a U.S. military aircraft “crashed in Sado Khelo area of Deh Yak district” in Ghazni.

The Taliban did not claim credit for downing the E-11A, as has been reported by some journalists in Afghanistan. The Taliban did, however, claim it “shot down” a helicopter in Helmand province today.

Afghanistan’s Turbulent Decade

By Ezzatullah Mehrdad

In November 2010, Afghan and U.S. officials were increasingly hopeful about ending the insurgency in Afghanistan through negotiations with the second-in-command of the Taliban group: Mullah Akhtar Mansour. NATO forces escorted Mansour to the Afghan presidential palace and even paid him for his participation. That effort was part of a larger policy change to end the insurgency through a peace settlement.

The peace talks were going smoothly except for one thing: the man in the meetings was not Mullah Akhtar Mansour. During one of the talks, an Afghan official who had met Mansour before did not recognize the man sitting at the table. The Washington Post later reported the man claiming to be Mansour was a “lowly shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta.”

The decade was not off to an auspicious start in Afghanistan.

Over the course of the next 10 years, during which the real Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a U.S. airstrike, the peace talks and, simultaneously, the fighting gained momentum after the United States entered direct talks with the Taliban in July 2018 in Doha, Qatar. Recently, the Taliban announced a reduction of violence as a part of their deal with the United States, a deal under which the Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used as a launchpad for attacks against the U.S. and its allies, the U.S. agrees to withdraw its forces according to a timeline, and both sides pledge that intra-Afghan dialogue will begin.

More TAPI Delays, This Time in Afghanistan

By Catherine Putz

Not that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline needs any more delays, but Afghan officials say laws on land acquisition for the project as it crosses Afghanistan have not been signed, meaning the project’s timeline remains as foggy as ever.

According to a TOLO News report, the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum has said that some letters required for work to begin have not been signed yet. 

“There is a need for the approval of the law (on land acquisition) but there are delays because the MPs are busy in (discussing) former decrees by the president. I think it will take six months to pass this phase,” the outlet quoted Ibrahim Jafarai, a member of the Natural Resources Monitoring Network, as saying.

Additionally, a comment attributed to a spokesman from the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum should draw attention: “We will sign four MoUs in the near future, and the host country’s (Turkmenistan’s) MoU is important. After that, the construction work of the project will begin in Afghanistan.”

In Afghanistan, Religious Schools Are a Breeding Ground for Islamic State Influence

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KUNAR, Afghanistan—A small group of boys sits cross-legged on the floor, reciting the Quran under their breath, their bodies moving rhythmically to the Arabic words, in the light-flooded rooms of the religious school connected to the mosque in the village of Lamatak. 

“At first I’d read the Arabic text without understanding, but our teachers are always here to answer our questions,” Fazil Haq, a green-eyed 14-year-old student, said excitedly. “God will be happy when I study the Quran.”

All of the children here in the madrassa in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province are getting their education free of charge. But Afghan security officials are increasingly concerned that too much of the money going to newly mushrooming madrassas such as this one could be encouraging extremism in the region. With the Kabul administration only able to financially support a minority of mosques and religious schools, money from Islamic State sympathizers might fund a growing majority of these institutions. Afghanistan’s Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs says there are likely tens of thousands of mosques in the country, but only about 7,000 are registered with the ministry. 

Asia Times | Did the US just concede defeat in China tech war? | Article


The Commerce Department has abandoned long-expected rules to tighten controls on US firms’ exports to Huawei, China’s national champion in broadband technology and the world leader in 5G Internet equipment. The Wall Street Journal this morning reported that the Defense Department blocked a long-signaled change in export rules that would forbid US companies from selling components to Huawei from foreign subsidiaries if 10% of the content is derived from US technology. The Treasury Department reportedly backed the Pentagon’s objections.

In related news, the United States has backed off from earlier threats to abandon a trade deal with Great Britain if Boris Johnson’s government allowed Huawei to build part of its 5G network, The Daily Telegraph reported on January 25. The United States has demanded that Britain exclude Huawei entirely in high-profile public statements. PM Johnson and President Donald Trump discussed the issue in a January 24 telephone call

In an apparent break from the previous US position, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told an audience at Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs on January 25 that the US might not oppose Huawei’s participation in some parts of Britain’s 5G network. Mnuchin said, “Which parts of the network it [Huawei 5G] goes into matters,” according to a tweet by the RIAA’s director Robin Niblett. “Is the Trump administration giving a sliver of manoeuvre to B Johnson?,” Niblett added.

Will the Coronavirus Cause a Major Growth Slowdown in China?

NEW YORK – The panic generated by the new coronavirus, 2019-nCov, which originated in Wuhan, one of China’s largest cities and a major domestic transport hub, reminds many of the fear and uncertainty at the peak of the 2003 SARS crisis. China’s stock market, after rising for months, has reversed itself in recent days, and global markets have followed suit, apparently reflecting concerns about the epidemic’s impact on the Chinese economy and global growth. Are these worries justified?

My baseline projection is that the coronavirus outbreak will get worse before it gets better, with infections and deaths possibly peaking in the second or third week of February. But I expect that both the Chinese authorities and the World Health Organization will declare the epidemic to be under control by early April.

Under this baseline scenario, my best estimate is that the virus will have only a limited negative economic impact. Its effect on Chinese GDP growth rate in 2020 is likely to be small, perhaps a decline on the order of 0.1 percentage point. The effect in the first quarter of 2020 will be big, perhaps lowering growth by one percentage point on an annualized basis, but this will be substantially offset by above-trend growth during the rest of the year. The impact on world GDP growth will be even smaller.

Counterterrorism and Preventive Repression: China’s Changing Strategy in Xinjiang

Sheena Chestnut Greitens Myunghee Lee 

In early 2017, the Chinese Communist Party changed its internal security strategy in Xinjiang, escalating collective detention, ideological re-education, and pressure on Uyghur diaspora networks. This strategy shift was likely catalyzed by changing perceptions of Uyghur involvement in transnational Islamic militancy in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, heightening perceived domestic vulnerability to terrorism.


Huawei Wins the 5G Battle for Britain (But America and China's 5G Fight Is Not Over)

by Daniel R. DePetris
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British politics have been upended by Brexit ever since that fateful day in June 2016, when the British public surprised the world and voted to leave the European Union. The last three years and seven months have consisted of two British prime ministers, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, trying to figure out how to implement the Brexit separation with the least amount of damage to the UK’s economic and diplomatic power as possible. 

Brexit, however, has moved over as of late to make room for another important issue—whether Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company, will be granted permission to build Britain’s 5G telecommunications infrastructure. After considerable debate and division in the cabinet, Prime Minister Johnson decided to allow Huawei into the British system. For Johnson, the Chinese company is the most cost-efficient way to introduce the fastest internet connections available. 

The Huawei issue is not just another kerfuffle in the rough British political wilderness. It also represents the geopolitical battle now underway between the United States and China, two global powerhouses that are trying to gain an advantage over the other. 

Europe in US-China Rivalry: Stakes and Strategy

By Mercy A. Kuo

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Jonathan Holslag – professor of international politics at Free University of Brussels, special adviser to the first vice president of the European Commission, and author of numerous publications, including The Silk Road Trap (Polity Press 2019) – is the 220th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Assess how European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will likely manage EU relations with China and the core stakes of the EU’s China strategy.

The EU is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, it’s pressured by U.S. President Donald Trump; on the other it’s challenged by China. One would suppose this to lead the countries to work closer together, but that has not been the case and I fear it will not be the case. As a result, the European institutions make bold declarations about China being a systemic rival, without changing its policy accordingly.

Is China Setting Itself Up for Another Epidemic?

By Yanzhong Huang

On Sunday, a friend of mine in China wrote an ominous, two-word post on WeChat: “Broke out.” He meant that a mysterious surge in cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, a city in central China, was, in fact, an outbreak of something more serious.

The first case of the Wuhan virus was detected on Dec. 12. Until last Thursday, only 45 cases, with two deaths, all in Wuhan, had been reported, and no health care workers were said to have been infected. The virus was mild, we were told then, with no evidence of human-to-human transmission; all confirmed cases seemed to originate from a food market where live animals are sold. On Jan. 11, local health authorities even suggested that the outbreak was over because they hadn’t registered any new case since Jan. 3.

By Wednesday, though, 17 deaths and more than 470 cases had been confirmed. Cases of ill travelers from Wuhan have been reported in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and the United States. Disease-modeling experts at Imperial College, in London, have estimated that as many as 4,000 to 9,700 people could be infected just in Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million people.

China's biological 'Chernobyl': Different country, same lies


China’s recent deadly coronavirus outbreak, commencing in Wuhan in early December 2019 and rapidly spreading throughout the country and world, demonstrates that dictatorship can exacerbate a disaster, whether it is naturally occurring or manmade, such as the Soviet Sverdlovsk anthrax outbreak in 1979. 

The pandemic is China’s Chernobyl. While the Chinese authorities initially reported about 800 cases and 25 deaths, that death toll in China has risen to 80 and the number of confirmed cases is growing by the thousands. Videos, texts and other information sent out from the epicenter through various outlets indicate the number of people exposed to the virus may be as high as 100,000. Videos show Wuhan hospitals packed with patients, people collapsing on the streets, and medical staff breaking down. 

Chinese authorities have shut down Wuhan and 15 surrounding cities in the province, affecting some 41 million residents — but is this unusual action too drastic, and were the attempts to curb the virus imposed too late?

Europe in US-China Rivalry: Stakes and Strategy

By Mercy A. Kuo
Source Link

Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Jonathan Holslag – professor of international politics at Free University of Brussels, special adviser to the first vice president of the European Commission, and author of numerous publications, including The Silk Road Trap (Polity Press 2019) – is the 220th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Assess how European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will likely manage EU relations with China and the core stakes of the EU’s China strategy.

The EU is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, it’s pressured by U.S. President Donald Trump; on the other it’s challenged by China. One would suppose this to lead the countries to work closer together, but that has not been the case and I fear it will not be the case. As a result, the European institutions make bold declarations about China being a systemic rival, without changing its policy accordingly.

A Global Economy Without a Cushion


NEW HAVEN – With the benefit of full-year data, only now are we becoming aware of the danger the global economy narrowly avoided in 2019. According to the International Monetary Fund’s latest estimates, world GDP grew by just 2.9% last year – the weakest performance since the outright contraction in the depths of the global financial crisis in 2009 and far short of the 3.8% pace of post-crisis recovery over the 2010-18 period.

On the surface, 2.9% global growth doesn’t appear too shabby. But 40 years of perspective says otherwise. Since 1980, trend world GDP growth has averaged 3.5%. For any economy, including the world as a whole, the key to assessing growth implications can be found in deviations from the trend – a proxy for the so-called output gap. Last year’s shortfall from trend (0.6 percentage points) brought growth uncomfortably close to the widely accepted global recession threshold of approximately 2.5%.

Unlike individual economies, which normally contract in an outright recession, that is rarely the case for the world as a whole. We know from the IMF’s extensive coverage of the world economy, which consists of a broad cross-section of some 194 countries, that in a global recession about half of the world’s economies are typically contracting, while the other half are still expanding – albeit at a subdued pace. The global recession of a decade ago was a notable exception: by early 2009, fully three-quarters of the world’s economies were actually shrinking. That tipped the scales to a rare outright contraction in world GDP, the first such downturn in the overall global economy since the 1930s.

The Fate Of The Gray Area In Europe – OpEd

By Emil Avdaliani

There is a considerable territory between Russia and the European heartland. It runs from the Scandinavian peninsula in the north to the Black Sea in the south. These lands include Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and the South Caucasus states, and can be provisionally called a “gray zone”: lands where Russia and Western/Central European states have clashed militarily for hundreds of years.

If we look at the history of last several centuries, those clashes were often conditioned by military goals: Russia did not want Western states be influential along its borders or Western states, fearing Russia’s size, tried to prevent the Slavic state’s domination over Central Europe.

However, though these military confrontations are indeed important, they overshadow economic developments on the ground in the “gray zone”.

Let us for a minute take a look at the global context. European civilization, once it attained economic and most of all technological superiority, started to export it to other continents via the oceans. France, Great Britain, Spain, Portugal and others did little to extend their influence to the “gray area”. There was the invasion of Russia by Napoleon in 1812 or the Crimean War (1853-1856) when the western Europeans were operating along the Russian borders, but their interest was mostly military – to contain Russia – rather than the spread of economic influence.

January 2020 Issue of the CTC “Sentinel” Now Online

Europe’s odd-couple politics


PARIS — A kaleidoscope of novel political coalitions are taking shape around Europe as old two-party systems crumble.

These new “odd couple” partnerships — conservative/green; socialist/radical left — offer voters new faces and some promising changes in policy. But they are unlikely to resolve the democratic dilemma driving populism and protest in many countries.

Bringing young parties with fresh ideas into the corridors of power is only part of the change that Europe needs to counter alienation, popular anger and the rise of often ugly identity politics.

Continental politics will continue to fester until policymakers take measures to reverse widening inequality of income and wealth, reinvest in depressed regions and find ways to involve citizens more actively in the political process.

How the North Korean hackers behind WannaCry got away with a stunning crypto-heist

by Mike Orcutt
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Cyberattacks waged against cryptocurrency exchanges are now common, but the theft of just over $7 million from the Singapore-based exchange DragonEx last March stands out for at least three reasons. 

First there is the extremely elaborate phishing scheme the attackers used to get in, which involved not only fake websites but also fake crypto-trading bots. Then there’s slick way they laundered the crypto-cash they stole. Last but not least: they appear to have been working for Kim Jong-un.

The heist, new details of which were recently published by blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis, shows how good today’s digital bank robbers have become. And if this and other reports are correct in fingering North Korean hackers as the perpetrators, it looks to be part of a larger survival strategy by Kim’s regime, which has been cut off from the global financial system by international economic sanctions meant to curtail its nuclear weapons program.

What Are the Implications of South Korea’s Decision to Send a Naval Unit to the Strait of Hormuz?

By Hae Won Jeong

The announcement by the Republic of Korea (ROK) Ministry of National Defense (MND) that it would independently deploy the Cheonghae naval unit to the Strait of Hormuz on January 21 was met with mixed reactions from the United States, the Gulf states — namely Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Iran, and the South Korean public. The decision came amid mounting pressures for South Korea to join the U.S.-led maritime force in the Strait of Hormuz following escalations from the Fujairah tanker attacks on May 19, 2019 and the Saudi Aramco attack on September 14, 2019 to the assassination of Iran’s Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, on January 3.

Amid the tensions, U.S. President Donald Trump called on the major oil importers to increase their burden sharing by contributing their own troops to protect “their own ships” and shipping lanes.

The pressure on South Korea to share the burden of defending shipping lanes in the Middle East comes amid deadlocked negotiations on a different form of burden-sharing. While South Korea has been an ally of the United States since the Korean War, the Trump administration has demanded that Seoul massively increase its contribution to the costs of stationing U.S. troops on its soil. South Korea had agreed to pay $927 million in the last Special Measures Agreement signed in February 2019, which is a $70.3 million increase from the previous agreement. And yet, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper continued to urge South Korea to increase its financial contributions for hosting over 28,000 U.S. troops during his visit to South Korea in November 2019, further hinting at the prospects of concluding future host-nation support agreements as one-year deals rather than the usual five-year agreements.

Physicists mobilize to reduce the nuclear threat. Again.

By Stewart Prager, Steve Fetter, Alexander Glaser, Zia Mian, Frank von Hippel
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From Albert Einstein letter, Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, December 1946

We live in an increasingly dangerous nuclear world, a time at least as perilous as the worst years of the Cold War. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock offers a clear representation of existential risk. In 1953, when first the United States and then the Soviet Union began testing thermonuclear weapons, the Bulletin Science and Security Board set the clock at two minutes to midnight. Over the intervening six decades the nuclear threat fell and rose, and fell again, but few would dispute that in recent years the alarm has been sounding for those who would hear it. Today, the Science and Security Board set the Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight—closer than it has ever been to catastrophe—warning that “any belief that the threat of nuclear war has been vanquished is a mirage.”

We’re Banning Facial Recognition. We’re Missing the Point.

By Bruce Schneier

Communities across the United States are starting to ban facial recognition technologies. In May of last year, San Francisco banned facial recognition; the neighboring city of Oakland soon followed, as did Somerville and Brookline in Massachusetts (a statewide ban may follow). In December, San Diego suspended a facial recognition program in advance of a new statewide law, which declared it illegal, coming into effect. Forty major music festivals pledged not to use the technology, and activists are calling for a nationwide ban. Many Democratic presidential candidates support at least a partial ban on the technology.

These efforts are well intentioned, but facial recognition bans are the wrong way to fight against modern surveillance. Focusing on one particular identification method misconstrues the nature of the surveillance society we’re in the process of building. Ubiquitous mass surveillance is increasingly the norm. In countries like China, a surveillance infrastructure is being built by the government for social control. In countries like the United States, it’s being built by corporations in order to influence our buying behavior, and is incidentally used by the government.

In all cases, modern mass surveillance has three broad components: identification, correlation and discrimination. Let’s take them in turn.

Shaping a Multiconceptual World

The 50th anniversary of the World Economic Forum coincides with a period of profound global change. These events prompted the Forum to draw on its network of diverse experts – heads of leading global think tanks and research institutions – to develop a new report with 10 chapters that explore the emerging shape of geopolitics.

“At a time when power dynamics are in flux, there is an opportunity for stakeholders to make the decision to shape geopolitics in a cooperative, rather than competitive, manner.”—Børge Brende

In the report’s opening chapter, “The Expansion of Geopolitics”, World Economic Forum President Børge Brende argues the number of actors exerting geopolitical influence is growing and domains for geopolitical competition or cooperation are also expanding.

Within this context, Brende calls for a cooperative order: “The more powers compete and pursue strategic advantage at the expense of addressing shared technological, environmental and economic challenges, the more likely it will be that a broader sense of friction will develop across the global system. A rivalrous global system will in turn make it more unlikely that shared priorities are fulfilled,” he writes.

Is Your Brand-New Windows 10 PC Really Slow? Use This One Trick To Speed It Up.

by Harry J. Kazianis
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There is nothing more aggravating than getting a new PC home, unboxing it and discovering a horrifying fact: it is really, really slow. And worse still, it takes forever to boot up.

This happens more than you think. When I worked in the telecom and PC repair industry, I used to hear countless tales of people paying $1000.00 or more on a new PC only to discover it might even feel slower than their old setup from two, three or even five years ago. Even to this day, friends who know of my interest in technology complain to me quite frequently about how their computer takes a long time to boot, is slow using basic programs like Word or Chrome, or they are just disappointed in the computer’s overall performance.

Assuming for a moment the user bought a cheap computer that just can’t deliver the performance that is needed, there is one way I have found over two decades of repairing computers and building them to speed up your PC: reducing all of the programs that turn on when the computer boots.

IBM Just Called Out Google Over Their "Quantum Computer"

by Michael Bradley
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On Oct. 23, 2019, Google published a paper in the journal Nature entitled “Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor.” The tech giant announced its achievement of a much vaunted goal: quantum supremacy.

This perhaps ill-chosen term (coined by physicist John Preskill) is meant to convey the huge speedup that processors based on quantum-mechanical systems are predicted to exhibit, relative to even the fastest classical computers.

Google’s benchmark was achieved on a new type of quantum processor, code-named Sycamore, consisting of 54 independently addressable superconducting junction devices (of which only 53 were working for the demonstration).

Each of these devices allows the storage of one bit of quantum information. In contrast to the bits in a classical computer, which can only store one of two states (0 or 1 in the digital language of binary code), a quantum bit – qbit — can store information in a coherent superposition state which can be considered to contain fractional amounts of both 0 and 1.

Training Artificial Intelligence Is Fundamental

By Lieutenant Colonel Peter Morosoff, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired) and Ray Bolger
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The Department of the Navy [DON] collects more data each day than the total amount stored in the Library of Congress. Yet, the DON is organized and funded around systems and hardware and lacks the tools to ensure the information is used to its full potential.

In artificial intelligence (AI), categorization is commonly defined as assigning something (e.g., a person or piece of equipment) to a group or class. For example, a specific large piece of equipment in the ocean could be categorized in the categories or groups: warship, aircraft carrier, flagship, and U.S. Navy-owned. However, assigning entities to groups is only the tip of the categorization iceberg because categorization also includes naming and defining categories; arranging categories into frameworks; documenting the basic methods of categorization; and agreeing on and using an upper-level framework of categories. Frameworks of categories are critical because they provide context for individual data elements and serve as job aids for people assigning appropriate machine readable labels to individual instances or entities.

Hackers Brought Down A U.S. F-15, Is Americas Air Force At Risk?

by David Axe 

A team of hackers in early August 2019 gained access to an F-15 fighter in an eye-opening U.S. military test. The successful hack underscores U.S. forces’ vulnerability to electronic intrusion.

“It was the first time outside researchers were allowed physical access to the critical F-15 system to search for weaknesses,” reporter Joseph Marks wrote for The Washington Post.

From the article:

And after two long days, the seven hackers found a mother lode of vulnerabilities that — if exploited in real life — could have completely shut down the Trusted Aircraft Information Download Station, which collects reams of data from video cameras and sensors while the jet is in flight.

They even found bugs that the Air Force had tried but failed to fix after the same group of hackers performed similar tests in November [2018] without actually touching the device. …

Israeli Anti-Drone Technology Could Soon Be Guarding More International Airports

by Seth J. Frantzman
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Drones are an increasing threat to airports, both civilian and military. Israel Aerospace Industries recently tested its Drone Guard at several international airports in Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia and says that its system can help stop the problem. It points to the example of London’s Gatwick, which was shut down due to drones in December 2018, affecting more than 1,000 flights.

ELTA systems, a subsidiary of IAI, first unveiled Drone Guard in 2015 and has been perfecting it for the last five years to meet the growing threat. The recent tests involved using the system during operating hours during the height of activity.

Yoav Tourgeman, CEO of ELTA says that the system is operational worldwide and was used at the G20 in Argentina in 2019. “We are proud to provide the system to some of the main airports around the world. Since Drone Guard is lightweight, transportable and easy to set up, we have been able to meet these demands with an excellent level of performance.” In September 2019 the system was part of a NATO exercise in Portugal where its ability was measured to protect harbors against UAVs and other threats.

More countries participate in international cyber exercise

Chiara Vercellone
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A NATO-accredited entity said they reached new levels of cooperation during the organization’s annual cyber exercise, an event that combined technical skills with kinetic force and the input of Cyber Commands’ members.

This year, over 120 technical experts, Special Forces and military operators worked to test the skills needed to execute a cyber operation, including the testing of offensive cyber capabilities. Six countries were part of the Cyber Command element at the event, known as Crossed Swords and organized by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence, an independent research, training and exercise hub.

For the event, held from Jan. 21 to Jan. 23, Crossed Swords hosted 26 nations, up from 15 countries that attended in 2018, according to a Jan. 27 press release.

“Training tasks, such as attribution and the collaboration of units from very different fields and nations with integrating sub-teams, are meant to push participants out of their comfort zone," said Bernhards Blumbergs, a cybersecurity expert from CERT.LV, Latvia’s Information Technology Security Incident Response Institution, which helped organize the exercise. “This is when learning happens.”

We Can End Our Endless Wars

Elizabeth Warren
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Once again, the United States risks being drawn into an unnecessary war in the Middle East. Donald Trump’s impulsive and reckless escalation of conflict with Iran, most recently his decision to order the killing of Qassem Soleimani, illustrates the danger of electing the most corrupt and unqualified president in our nation’s history—a man who has little idea of what it means to put the nation’s interests ahead of his own.

But it is also the consequence of an approach to foreign policy that relies on the U.S. military to achieve the impossible, instead of doing the hard work of statecraft. Sending our military to fight should be the hardest decision we make as a country. Instead, it has become the politically easy path, across political parties and administrations—a way to avoid making compromises or difficult choices about priorities.

For nearly two decades, America has been mired in a series of wars in the Middle East and beyond that has left us less, not more, secure. The wars have taken a staggering human and economic toll. Tens of thousands of U.S. service members have been killed or wounded, and many more live with the invisible scars of war. Millions of civilians have suffered. These conflicts have cost trillions of dollars needed for urgent priorities here at home, created a drag on our economy, contributed to the decay of our democratic culture and institutions, and paved the way for Trump’s ugly divisiveness.

Does the Military Develop Narcissistic Leaders?

by Major Ronald F. Roberts

Narcissism certainly exists among military leaders, but whether or not the military encourages narcissism is worth considering. To be sure, there is an understandable desire among military members to be part of something “special.” Particularly in the vein of Special Forces, Rangers, Seals, PJs, SOAR, Recon, Delta, SAS, SBS, paratroopers, Royal Marines Commandos, fighter pilots, operators, etc. This goal is admirable and the wish to be the best, and surrounded by the best, is a worthy one. It motivates one to set goals, attain a high level of physical fitness, and complete challenging military training courses where the emphasis is on determination, endurance, and physical excellence as well as tactical and technical competence. The members of these units deserve our highest admiration for carrying out missions often involving dangerous tasks in the defense of our countries and (usually) doing so in a highly professional manner. 

However, are we in the military putting too much emphasis on individual achievement when promoting our leaders which encourages narcissism? Do these types of individuals necessarily make exceptional leaders due to their specialized skill set? What are the second order effects of these actions? Perhaps the military in general and SOF in particular have a “blind spot” which then exacerbates and perpetuates a narcissistic and toxic culture. This culture then breeds a leader who is lacking in the most important quality — leadership — with dire consequences. 

30 January 2020

A New Look At Ritwik Ghatak’s Bengal

Ratik Asokan
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In February 1972, three months after the close of East Pakistan’s bloody war of secession, the Indian filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak traveled to Dhaka, capital of the new nation of Bangladesh, as a state guest. It was a kind of homecoming. Born in 1925 in the eastern part of Bengal province, then an undivided state in British-ruled India, Ghatak grew up in the region before he relocated west to Calcutta in the early 1940s. Since 1947, when the province was split in two during Partition, its western half going to India and eastern half to Pakistan, he had not returned east.

As his flight crossed over the River Padma, which runs down Bangladesh, and on whose banks Ghatak had played as a child, the director was so moved that he burst into tears. “I felt that Bengal in plenty and beauty as I knew her years back was still there untransformed,” he recalled years later. Inspired, he returned to Bangladesh the same year to shoot a film, his first in a decade, A River Called Titas. But up close, he saw that the world of his childhood had all but disappeared. “Everything has changed out of recognition—people’s thought, mind, and soul,” he admitted. “They have lost culture.”

Afghanistan at an Impasse

Joseph J. Collins
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The war in Afghanistan is at an impasse. The current and next U.S. administrations will have to grapple with the aftereffects of an 18-year campaign in a country that has been at war for over 40 years. The war in the field is a stalemate. Neither side seems able to win. At home and abroad, among friends and even some enemies, war weariness and a desire for peace is very much in evidence, even as the fighting continues. Neither side has been able to find a path to a negotiated settlement.

The Taliban refuses to even talk to the Afghan government, which they characterize as a puppet of the United States. At the same time, it is doubtful that the Taliban ideology would tolerate participation in democratic power sharing or electoral politics. Human rights remains another sticking point. While the sharia-bound Taliban suggest that they are more enlightened than in the past, the ambiguity in their statements and distrust among the populace is at a high level. As one female judge hiding from Taliban noted, "A Talib is a Talib …. They have proven what type of people they are, what their ideology is. And if they return with the same ideology, everything will be the same again.”[1]

The roots of the conflict are deep and include ethnic strife and contending interests and policies from Pakistan, Iran, India, and others. After 20 years of aid, the Afghan government cannot stand on its own politically, economically, or militarily. To achieve its ends, the United States must avoid impatience, stay true to its goals, and develop a strategy to bring about a stable, enduring peace. Like most things in Afghanistan, it will be extremely difficult.

The Wuhan Virus: How to Stay Safe

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As the new Wuhan coronavirus has spread not only all over mainland China, but also worldwide, panic is rising. Inside China there is a growing sense of helplessness, as the government is compelled to take drastic measures to stop the virus, including introducing some travel restrictions in Beijing. I have received panicked queries from journalists and public health workers in China, asking, “How can we protect ourselves and our families?”

The epidemic could have been controlled fairly easily three weeks ago had there been more openness, swift action, and no attempted cover-up. But now it’s too late, and this virus is spreading globally. Because there is no vaccine or treatment for nCoV2019—the Wuhan pneumonia—and infection has spread throughout China, the government is forced to turn to its 2003 SARS playbook. And that means entire cities must be cut off, and the population of the nation must be restricted in its movements and potential disease-spreading behavior. It is not surprising then that travel out of Beijing may be forbidden; the entire mainland could go on lockdown soon.