13 December 2023

The Dark Side Of AI: Israel’s Controversial Use Of Data And Algorithms In Gaza

Altaf Moti

AI is a broad term that refers to the ability of machines or software to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence such as perception, reasoning, learning, decision making and problem solving. AI has many applications and implications for modern warfare, both on and off the battlefield. Here, we will explore how AI helps Israel army select bombing targets in Gaza, and the implications and challenges of using AI in warfare.

The Gospel: Israel’s AI-based target creation system

According to the reports, Israel has been using an AI-based system called “the Gospel” to generate and prioritize targets for its airstrikes in Gaza. The Gospel is a platform that collects and analyzes data from various sources such as satellite imagery, drone footage, human intelligence and social media to identify potential targets that are linked to Hamas.

The Gospel then assigns a score to each target, based on its importance, urgency, and collateral damage risk, and sends the list to the IDF commanders for approval and execution. The IDF claims that the Gospel has significantly increased the speed and accuracy of its target creation process.

The implications and challenges of using AI in warfare

However, there are also concerns and criticisms about the use of AI in Israel’s bombing campaign. Some of the issues include:

– The lack of transparency and accountability of the Gospel and its algorithms. It is unclear how the Gospel collects, verifies, and processes the data, and how it determines the score and ranking of the targets. There is also no independent oversight or review of the Gospel’s decisions and actions .

Israel: Newly Discovered Hamas Tunnels Under Gaza Justify Expanded Attacks

Israel said Friday it has discovered a new tunnel, weapons and Hamas facilities under Gaza — evidence, it says, that Hamas, a U.S.-designated terror group carries out military operations through an extensive network running underneath civilian infrastructure.

The military did not provide video or photo evidence of the kilometer long tunnel extending from the campus of Al-Azhar University in Gaza to a nearby school, but it released photos of weapons soldiers allegedly found at the university, including explosives and rocket parts.

The military said it also found a Hamas control room with cameras, phones, walkie-talkies and weapons near a hospital in northern Gaza, as well as an additional tunnel entrance. A photo released by the military showed an opening to an underground passageway with a ladder stretching downward.

Israel said such discoveries show that Hamas is entrenched in civilian areas — a claim central to its justification for intensifying its attacks on the enclave and calling for more mass evacuations on civilian areas there.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday there is no place within Gaza that is safe, hours before the U.N. Security Council was scheduled to vote on a demand for a humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.

“The people of Gaza are looking into the abyss,” Guterres told the 15-nation council. “The international community must do everything possible to end their ordeal.”

Guterres sent a letter to council members Wednesday taking the rare step of invoking Article 99 of the U.N. Charter, drawing their attention to the crisis and pressing them to act.

“I urge the council to spare no effort to push for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, for the protection of civilians, and for the urgent delivery of lifesaving aid,” he said.

Many displaced Palestinians in Gaza crammed into Rafah on the southern border with Egypt, where Israeli leaflets urged Palestinians to flee, saying they would be safe. But the Hamas-controlled health ministry reported at least 37 deaths there in overnight Israeli air attacks.

Beyond Gaza: India’s Changing Middle East Policies

C Raja Mohan

The growing convergence of India and the United States’ (US) perspectives on the Middle East is one of the main signals from the fifth iteration of the ‘two plus two’ meeting on 10 November 2023 in New Delhi. The defence and foreign ministers of the two countries were unambiguous in condemning Hamas terror, emphasising Israel’s right to self-defence while observing the international laws of war, calling for humanitarian pauses, demanding the release of hostages held by Hamas and pressing for durable peace in Palestine.

The affirmation that New Delhi and Washington “stand with Israel against terrorism” underlines how close the two sides have come in the Middle East. India, in the past, was unwilling to condemn Palestinian terror against Israel even as it sought global support against Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism. India has ended that double standard in responding to the current war in Gaza while reaffirming its strong commitment to Palestinian statehood.

India’s external affairs minister, S Jaishankar, underlined the importance of taking a consistent position on international terrorism, stating, “We take a strong position on terrorism because we are big victims of terrorism. We will have no credibility if we say that when terrorism impacts us, it’s very serious; when it happens to somebody else, it’s not serious.”

The annual joint meeting of the defence and foreign ministers from the two sides, which has taken place every year since 2018, except 2021, has become the principal vehicle to review and advance the India-US strategic partnership. Together, the four ministers – nudged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi and Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden in Washington – have dramatically expanded the canvas of cooperation and deepened the intensity of engagement on defence industrial collaboration, technology transfer, counter-terrorism and regional security.

Cooperation on Asian security issues has been a new element in the engagement between the two nations and provided a solid regional anchor for bilateral collaboration. In the early years after independence, Indian foreign policy positioned itself in opposition to the US in Asia, especially on regional security issues. This trendline in India’s regional policies endured well into the 21st century.

U.S. Vetoes Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire Resolution at U.N. Security Council

Farnaz Fassihi, Michael Levenson, Aaron Boxerman and Victoria Kim

The United States on Friday vetoed a United Nations resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, where Israel has launched hundreds of strikes, relief efforts were faltering and people were growing so desperate for basic necessities that some were stoning and raiding aid convoys.

The U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, and most members of the Security Council had backed the measure, saying that the humanitarian catastrophe in the coastal enclave where 2.2 million Palestinians live could threaten world stability.

But the United States, which is one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, blocked the resolution, arguing that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas attacks. The vote was 13 to 1, with Britain abstaining and some U.S. allies like France voting for a cease-fire.

Robert A. Wood, who was representing the United States on the Council, said after the veto that the resolution for an unconditional and immediate cease-fire “was not only unrealistic, but dangerous — it would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on Oct. 7.”

The failed resolution came as the United Nations reported that it was struggling to deliver essential goods like food, medicine and cooking gas to desperate civilians who have packed into shelters and tent cities after two months of war.

“Civil order is breaking down,” Thomas White, the Gaza director of the United Nations relief agency for Palestinians, wrote Friday on social media. He added: “Some aid convoys are being looted and UN vehicles stoned. Society is on the brink of full-blown collapse.”

Mr. White spoke a day after the Biden administration warned that the Israeli military had not done enough to reduce harm to civilians in Gaza.

Multiple Climate Reports Warn of Water Conflict in South Asia

Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

At the 28th edition of the World Climate Summit (COP28) in Dubai, Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal made a strong pitch for immediate implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Despite near-zero contribution to global emissions, the Himalayan country is bearing the brunt of climate change. “We have already lost a third of our glaciers, and scientists have warned that we are going to lose another third by the end of this century,” Dahal said. “Mountains are tortured by rising temperatures. Save them first!”

The gravity of the situation prompted United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who visited Nepal and the Everest region in the last week of October, to express deep concerns about its implications at the Dubai climate meet.

In his speech at Dubai, Guterres called for developed countries to clarify the status of their pledge to mobilize $100 billion per year towards climate action in developing countries.

Originally set in 2009, the goal was supposed to be reached by 2020. But with developed countries failing to deliver on their promises, the deadline was extended till 2025 at the COP21 summit in Paris in 2015.

According to a report published by the inter-governmental forum Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in November, the total climate finance provided and mobilized by developed countries for developing countries in 2021 amounted to $89.6 billion, which was an increase of 7.6 percent over the previous year. However, almost 60 percent of this finance – $53.8 billion – was for mitigation, while only $24.6 billion, or 27 percent, was for adaptation. Adaptation finance dropped by 7 percentage points compared to the previous year.

While mitigation – transitioning into a lower-emission economy – is necessary for limiting global warming, most developing countries have greater requirement for adaptation finance with people already suffering massive losses and damages due to climatic changes.

Anti-War Advocate Accused of Terrorism in Pakistan, Inspiring Global Protests

Freshta Jalalzai

Manzoor Ahmad Pashteen, recognized for his iconic red hat and outspoken criticism of Pakistan’s powerful military for inciting violence and instilling fear in the Pashtun lands, went missing on December 4.

In the volatile Pashtun belt straddling the Durand Line – a 1,660-mile 19th-century separation between Afghanistan and Pakistan stretching from China to Iran – violence, bloodshed, alleged extrajudicial killings, and abductions shape the landscape.

Pashteen, the leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement – a civil rights movement advocating for the rights of the Pashtun ethnic group – addressed a rally in Chaman, Balochistan, advocating for free border crossings between Pakistan and Afghanistan. While en route to Turbat town, where Baloch activists were protesting state-inflicted injustices, he was arrested.

Conflicting accounts emerged of what happened: Eyewitnesses claimed Pakistani forces fired at Pashteen’s vehicle, injuring a passerby, while authorities accused Pashteen’s supporters of initiating the gunfire. Pashteen was detained during the encounter. Following the arrest, his whereabouts remained unknown.

This sudden turn of events amplified fears about the safety and well-being of the civil rights leader. Thousands flooded social media, demanding that the Pakistani government reveal Pashteen’s whereabouts. The hashtags #whereismanzoorpashteen and #releasemanzoorpashteen trended on X (formerly Twitter), amplifying the calls for answers.

In Pakistan, enforced disappearances often result in permanent absences, a reality echoed by the ongoing protests of Baloch mothers and sisters searching for their missing loved ones. The U.S. State Department’s 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices outlined significant human rights concerns in Pakistan, including reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture by government agents, and ongoing disappearances and arbitrary arrests.

US, UK, Canada Sanctions Target Southeast Asian Scam Operations

Sebastian Strangio

The United States, United Kingdom, and Canada have imposed coordinated sanctions against 14 individuals and entities for their involvement in Southeast Asia’s monstrous online scamming industry.

According to a statement from the U.K. government on Friday, the sanctions target nine individuals and five entities for their involvement in human trafficking connected to online “scam farms” in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. All of these have been responsible for supporting or benefitting from the trafficking of individuals who were forced to work as scammers and “were subject to torture, physical abuse and further cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”

The 14 individuals and entities included three prominent individuals connected to Shwe Kokko, a sprawling development in Myanmar’s Karen State that lies just across the border from Mae Sot, Thailand. The first was Saw Chit Thu, the leader of Myanmar junta-affiliated Karen Border Guard Force (BGF) that controls the area around Shwe Kokko. He was accompanied by She Zhijiang, the head of the Hong Kong-registered Yatai International Holding Group, which is developing Shwe Kokko along with the Karen BGF’s Chit Lin Myaing Co., whose managing director, Col. Saw Min Min Oo, was also sanctioned.

Shwe Kokko initially focused on casinos and online gambling, but like other Chinese criminal operations based in loosely regulated parts of mainland Southeast Asia, it has since diversified into telecom scams that have lured hundreds of workers, many of them from China, with promises of high-paying jobs – only to effectively enslave them upon arrival.

The scale of the industry, and the human misery that sustains it, is immense. The United Nations has cited “credible sources” to the effect that at least 120,000 people in Myanmar and at least 100,000 in Cambodia “may be held in situations where they are forced to carry out online scams.” It estimated that Southeast Asia’s scam centers “generate revenue amounting to billions of U.S. dollars” per year.

China’s Leader Xi Jinping to Visit Vietnam Next Week

Sebastian Strangio

Yesterday, China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed earlier reports that President Xi Jinping will visit Vietnam to meet top state officials and discuss upgrading the two countries’ relations.

As Reuters reported, paraphrasing ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, the Chinese leader will visit the country on December 12-13, for talks that “will focus on areas of political security, multilateral and maritime issues, and promote further strategic cooperation.”

According to a report by Nikkei Asia, which cited “four people familiar with the matter,” Xi and his Vietnamese counterparts will discuss the upgrade of the railway linking Kunming to the Vietnamese seaport of Haiphong, which currently operate on different gauges inside the two countries. The joint venture will fall under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Nikkei reported.

Two sources also told the publication said rare earths will also be on the agenda during Xi’s visit. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Kunming-Haiphong railway, which was built by the French in the early 20th century, runs through regions of northern Vietnam containing considerable deposits of rare earth minerals.

Xi’s two-day trip to Vietnam will be just his fourth overseas visit of the year, following trips to Russia (March), South Africa (August), and the United States (November).

With Xi’s visit, Vietnam will also become the only nation to welcome the leaders of both China and the United States in 2023. U.S. President Joe Biden visited in September, during which he and senior Vietnamese officials elevated their relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), placing the U.S. alongside China and Russia at the top of the nation’s diplomatic hierarchy.

The U.S. upgrade was just one of several with Western-leaning nations. Last week, Vietnam raised Japan to the same rank, and is reportedly in talks to do so with Singapore, Australia, and Indonesia.

Is Prabowo Set To Become Indonesia's Next President?

Harold Sacau

As the dust settles from a recent bilateral meeting between President Biden and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, engaging at the White House to announce a new strategic partnership, it’s important to note that with seismic geopolitical shifts in full view in America, the Indonesian 2024 election is also just around the corner.

Most pollsters agree that Indonesia Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto will most likely be Indonesia’s eighth president after the votes are counted on February 14, 2024. His numbers put him ahead of former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan. In the latest poll by Indikator Politik Indonesia, released last month, Prabowo was the preferred candidate of 40.6 percent of respondents.

Prabowo was previously blocked from U.S. entry due to human rights concerns by the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. The accusations stem from his time in Indonesia’s special forces under the Suharto dictatorship, leading to his dismissal from the armed forces in 1998. Prabowo was invited back to Washington D.C. in 2020 for defense cooperation talks at the Pentagon. He denies all wrongdoing.

In two prior runs for the presidency, both of which Widodo (also known as “Jokowi”) won over Prabowo, the military veteran demonstrated his differences from his recent boss.

With Widodo’s son Gibran Rakabuming Raka further positioned as his running mate, Prabowo is even more likely to continue Jokowi’s policies, including building a new national capital in Borneo.

As Indonesia ultimately ascends to the forefront of the ASEAN marketplace and critically considers decoupling from China’s geo-commercial dependency and towards Western interests, it is startling that most Westerners have very little knowledge of Prabowo’s career.

Out of the hills: The war is coming to Myanmar's cities

Zachary Abuza

Operation 1027, launched on Oct. 27 by the Three Brotherhood Alliance, has led to coordinated attacks throughout Myanmar and seen the fall of 20 towns and over 300 military posts. But violence is now starting to spread to the cities, a strategic tipping point.

Since that offensive against the military in northern Shan state by the alliance – the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) – members and others are expanding the battle front against the military junta.

In the east, Karenni forces launched Operation 1111 and now control nearly 80% of Kayah state. They are now fighting in the capital Loikaw.

In this Kokang online media provided photo, fighters of Three Brotherhood Alliance check an artillery gun, claimed to have been seized from Myanmar junta outpost on a hill in Hsenwi township, Shan state on Nov. 24, 2023. 

In western Myanmar, the Arakan Army ended its cease-fire in Rakhine state, and have taken major bases, while Chin forces have made significant inroads along the Indian border and claim to have established civil administration in 70% of the state.

The MNDAA has begun its assault on Laukkaing, the capital of the Kokang region.

Bangladesh: Four Opposition Members Die In Custody

Ahammad Foyez

Four activists from Bangladesh’s main opposition party have died in prison in recent days, BNP officials said Friday, while more than 20,000 members have been arrested and locked up since late October during the run-up to national polls.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party on Oct. 28 stepped up its program of anti-government street protests and launched a transportation blockade in an effort to force the Awami League-led government to step aside for a neutral caretaker administration to oversee the general election, set for Jan. 7.

The demonstrations disintegrated into violence but have largely subsided after the government arrested tens of thousands of activists from the party, BNP officials said. However, sporadic reports of the torching of buses and trucks continue to emerge.

Since Oct. 28, at least 13 people from the BNP side were killed in clashes in the streets during the protests or in officer-involved shootings or altercations with police and supporters of the ruling party, according to BNP sources.

“Of those who died, some died in police firing, while some bodies were found after police raids. Some others died due to torture in prisons,” said Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, a senior party figure.

He described the conditions in cramped jails as “inhumane.”

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal rejected the allegations that any BNP activists had died in custody because of foul play or while under physical duress.

“No person is tortured in jail. Those who fall ill are treated according to proper guidelines,” he told BenarNews. “BNP makes various complaints only to get political advantages.”

The BNP was holding mass street protests throughout the year before late October when it launched its program to shut down Bangladesh’s public transportation system and highways.

The State of China’s Autonomous Machine Computing Research

Shaoshan Liu

In a previous article, I explored the crucial role of autonomous machine computing (AMC) in China-U.S. tech competition, especially as these countries race to transition to the autonomy economy.

In this article, I delve deeper into this topic and examine the state of AMC research in China.

Note that the three factors that drive technology-driven economic growth are human capital, technological innovation, and financial capital. AMC research is the root of these factors in the autonomy economy – it cultivates AMC talents, generates technological innovations in the form of intellectual property, and attracts financial capital injections.

Therefore, to assess China’s competence in the autonomy economy, it is imperative to understand the state of AMC research in the country by examining its current research output, talent pool development, and financial commitment.

Current Research Output

Research output is the most direct method to gauge the quality of research institutes. How does China’s AMC research output compare with that of the United States?

I followed the AMC research areas defined by the International Roadmap of Devices and Systems (IRDS), including computer architecture, electronic design automation, and circuit design. I then examined the AMC-related research articles published at leading semiconductor academic conferences and compared the number of articles published by Chinese institutions with those published by U.S. institutions.

China Threatens US Interests in Micronesia, Former President Warn

Camilla Pohle

David Panuelo, the former president of the Federated States of Micronesia, came to Washington last week to warn that, without U.S. support, his country is becoming increasingly vulnerable to Beijing’s influence efforts. During a public event at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on December 1, Panuelo urged the U.S. Congress to quickly approving the funding for the Compacts of Free Association. The figures have been agreed upon by negotiators; now it all depends on congressional action.

“It is very critical that approval of this is done as soon as possible,” Panuelo said, because on February 2, the money allocated to the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands runs out under the terms of the continuing resolution. (Palau’s funding expires in September 2024, but it also needs the new Compact funding approved soon to help its struggling economy.) The White House has also called on Congress to pass the funding as soon as possible.

In the meantime, Panuelo said, “China is looking at the chaos in Washington, D.C.” Delaying Compact funding, he emphasized, “would severely impact the U.S. being the major player in our region, especially in the Freely Associated States.”

The Compacts of Free Association Are Vital to U.S. Interests

The Compacts of Free Association are bilateral agreements between the United States and three countries – the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands – that are collectively known as the Freely Associated States. Under these agreements, the Freely Associated States receive grant aid and security guarantees from Washington. Their citizens have access to domestic U.S. programs and services, are free to live and work in the United States and its territories without a visa, and can enlist in the U.S. military.

China’s Sheen of Civility Masks a Dreadful Reality

Anne Pierce

The sheen of civility with which China opportunistically presents itself masks a dreadful reality. It is illogical to assume that a dystopian communist surveillance state with vast imperial ambitions and an entrenched plan to subvert the U.S.-oriented world order will significantly change course because of economic or diplomatic “engagement.” China has, in fact, stepped up repression, grey zone attacks, and hard power provocations despite engagement. When China seeks an apparent “warming” in U.S.-China relations, as it did at the recent APEC Summit, it is usually to ease pressure on its economy, human rights violations, and expansionist foreign policy. It defies reason to think that an aggressive dictator like Xi Jinping wants a sustained détente with the United States.

Trying to keep channels of communication open between Chinese and American citizens and leaders makes good sense, but not when the effort and resultant “talks” lead to unwise concessions and not at the price of indifference to human rights. Too often, the veneer of congeniality and attempts to win the cooperation of adversaries lead to complacent or even enabling policies. Yet, what the Free World requires now is a sense of urgency about deterring the serious threat China poses to our security and way of life. What the multitude of people severely oppressed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) need now is for free people to react and speak out. China’s ever more menacing and emboldened stance in the world, ever more cruel and draconian authoritarianism, and ever more extensive dissemination of anti-American propaganda put both the power and the principles of the United States at stake.

The lingering hope that, once China realizes the economic benefits of opening up to the West and interacting with open-minded Westerners, more political freedom and less military ambition will follow has been overtaken by reality. After it was granted permanent normal trade relations with the United States and entrance into the World Trade Organization, China increasingly gamed the system, reaping economic spoils while cracking down on dissent and putting profits into state-dominated companies and weapons of war. China collaborated with U.S. corporations and universities to acquire advanced technology and intellectual property. From 2001 to 2021, China’s economy grew by 1,200 percent, and China became the world’s largest exporter. But China’s dramatic rise and domination of manufacturing paralleled surging imperial ambitions, a massive military buildup, and, eventually, a return to Maoist-level repression.

How to Actually Overcome China’s Rare Earths Monopoly

Tim Worstall

Rare earths are not rare; they’re also not earths. A geology joke for you should you need one over the holiday season. Yet within that misnomer is also what all too many get wrong about the industry. Yes, it’s true that rare earths are essential to many things, including this brave new world of renewable energy systems. We would find it very difficult – not impossible, just difficult – to make electric vehicles and wind turbines without using the “magnet metals.” It would be impossible to make an MRI machine without lutetium; camera lenses would be worse without lanthanum. I could continue across the varied uses of the 17 rare earths – the 15 lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium.

My particular favorite is scandium, for which I handled, for about a decade, 50 percent of the world’s usage – all couple of tonnes a year of it back then. Having me in that role might have been a mistake; I once told Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX fame that he didn’t need to bother using scandium in his rockets (which is true, but not a business-enhancing thing to say).

But it is the lanthanides that really concern us politically and economically these days. The crucial thing to understand about them is that, along with not being rare (or earths), finding them really is not a problem in the slightest. It is processing them that is difficult.

The industry as a whole is perhaps 200,000 tonnes a year globally, worth well under $10 billion. For a group that is approaching 20 percent of all the natural elements we know about, that is pretty small. In part, that’s because the material applications of the rare earths are relatively new (unlike metals like copper and iron, which we’ve been playing with for millennia). Serious research into the rare earths as individual elements didn’t really start until the 1940s, and entirely new applications are still being found.

That the industry is small and newish also explains why China has such an important hold on it. China accounts for 80 percent or so of current production, and it was 95 percent only 15 years back. There’s little about the geology of that country that explains this concentration; it’s much more a matter of simply being willing to work at it, and to provide all the world wished to consume at a price it was willing to pay.

Arab Nations Condemn U.S. for Vetoing Cease-Fire Resolution

Vivian Nereim

United Nations Security Council members raised their hands in favor of a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza on Friday. The United States vetoed the motion.Credit...Charly Triballeau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The United States’ decision to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution that called for an immediate cease-fire in the war in Gaza has sparked frustration among Arab governments that are pushing to end the conflict, with one group of regional officials expressing “deep dissatisfaction” over the move.

Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority — which Washington and others have floated as a potential governing body for postwar Gaza — called the veto “a mark of shame that will follow the United States for many years” and said that American officials’ policy toward Israel had made their country “a partner in genocide.”

Israel says that it is trying to eradicate Hamas, which runs Gaza and launched the Oct. 7 attacks that killed more than 1,200 people in southern Israel, according to Israeli authorities.

The Israeli government denies that it purposely targets civilians. Palestinians, Arab governments and international organizations, however, have raised significant concerns about the proportionality of its military response, which has killed more than 15,000 people in Gaza, according to health authorities there — a bombing campaign so intense that it has few precedents in this century.

A group of foreign ministers from Arab and Muslim-majority countries who had met with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Friday expressed “deep dissatisfaction with the inability of the Security Council to carry out its responsibilities,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement. Those ministers also called for the United States “to play a broader role in pressuring the Israeli occupation,” according to Qatar’s foreign ministry.

F-4 Phantom II: 5,195 Warplanes Built (The Most Produced U.S. Supersonic Military Aircraft Ever)

Harrison Kass

One of the most adaptable airframes ever used in the U.S. Armed Forces, undoubtedly, was the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. During a four-decade service run, the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps all operated the Phantom – an all-weather, supersonic fighter, bomber, and interceptor.

The Phantom’s adaptability, paired with its commendable, and consistent performance attributed to the fighter earning a ceremonious distinction: the F-4, with 5,195 units built, is the most produced American supersonic military aircraft ever.
F-4 Phantom II: Flying Strong and Setting Records

Taking flight in 1958, the Phantom was an envelope-pusher, setting 16 different performance records, including for speed and altitude. The Phantom was well ahead of its time – its speed record remained unbeaten until 1975, when the still-serving F-15 Eagle, with its 50,000 pounds of thrust, set a new mark.

With a top speed of Mach 2.2, the Phantom is quite fast – “Speed is life” was the motto of Phantom pilots – which is remarkable given the Phantom’s brawny dimensions and hulking weight. Measuring 63 feet long, with a max takeoff weight of over 61,000 pounds, one might expect the Phantom to lumber in the air. That is not the case, of course. The Phantom’s two General Electric J79 engines enable 1,400 miles per hour speeds, a service ceiling of 60,000 feet, and a climbing rate of 41,300 feet per minute.

The Phantom was regarded for its acceleration, allowing for smooth engagement and disengagement. However, the Phantom was not particularly maneuverable. Enemy MiGs could typically outturn the F-4, which wasn’t designed for dogfighting and suffered from adverse yaw in tight turns. Instead, the F-4 was intended to fire radar-guided missiles from beyond visual range, not engage in air combat maneuvering, using internal cannons. Actually, the original Phantom variants didn’t even have a cannon, just nine external hardpoints capable of carrying more than nine tons of weaponry. The omission of a cannon was a mistake.

The U.S. Must Use Its Export Controls

David Rader  & Adam Chan

Secretary Gina Raimondo made a recent plea to Congress to increase Commerce’s budget to “build a more muscular” department. The secretary’s request to increase her budget will likely fall on deaf ears, though, at least until the department chooses to use its existing resources to achieve its stated mission.

A recent report by the Congressional Research Service revealed that the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) within the Department of Commerce approved 97.9 percent of the items on the Commerce Control List (CCL) for export to China without a license. Separately, Congress reported that BIS denied only 2.2 percent of software and technology exports to China in 2020. The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently uncovered that in 2022, BIS approved more than $23 billion worth of licenses of U.S. technology to blacklisted Chinese entities. In total, only 8 percent of licenses to blacklisted entities were denied by export control authorities during the same period. Supplies to Huawei and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC)—perhaps the two most prominent high-tech national champions in the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—alone received over $100 billion in export license approvals, despite being on the Entity List of blacklisted companies.

The alarming numbers coming out of the Commerce Department quickly show that this is not a matter of insufficient budget. After all, granting an export license costs as much as denying one. Rather, there is a problem of poor decision-making by departmental leadership, which has either deliberately or wittingly allowed for the sale of restricted goods and technologies to our adversaries. Increasing BIS’ budget is not the solution to the problem of Commerce giving away technology to blacklisted entities supporting military-civil fusion in China.

It is critical for America to maintain its global leadership and technological superiority over its adversaries. To do so, we must protect its leading capabilities at all costs, including through the robust use of export control authorities to address national security risks arising from vulnerabilities in trade and economics. If the Commerce Department continues its current policy of virtual non-enforcement, America’s technology overmatch and military dominance may be doomed as adversarial nations like China go into overdrive to achieve tech parity.

George Washington and the Military Recruitment Crisis

Andrew J. Bibb

The popular image of the Continental Army that fought and won the American War for Independence is one of a ragtag collection of farmers and tradesmen gathered from across the thirteen colonies who stood up to the strongest professional military of its time and achieved its goal of independence through patriotic zeal and tactical creativity. There is some truth to this image, but the reality was much more complicated.

Many don’t realize that George Washington often despaired of the Americans’ commitment to the cause of American liberty. Recruiting and retention was a constant struggle, and it was only through clear-eyed dedication to the ends for which the war was fought while simultaneously balancing the ways and means against the hard realities of the struggle that Washington succeeded. Given the U.S. military’s current recruiting problems, it is worth examining how Washington managed to steer the Continental Army through its own shortage of willing and able warriors to achieve final victory.

When Washington assumed command of the Continental Army in 1775, zeal for the American cause was just beginning to peak. The Massachusetts militias had forced a British retreat from Lexington and Concord and penned the enemy into the port city of Boston. Washington, as he had shown in the French and Indian War, was an offense-minded commander. But reticence on the part of his subordinate commanders and constant shortages in supplies and manpower meant he was forced to change his operational approach. Even at the height of patriotic fervor, his officers refused to attack Boston, so Washington settled for an artillery barrage that eventually forced the British to evacuate.

During the siege, Washington complained in a private letter that the army surrounding Boston had obtained a reputation for courage and patriotism that “they by no means deserved.” Only two months after his appointment as commander-in-chief, he had already “broke” one colonel and five captains for cowardice, and two more colonels were under arrest for the same offense. He constantly tried to talk officers, including his top generals, out of resigning their commissions.

Is Ukraine really losing?

Owen Matthews

In Ukraine, the political mood has become somber and fractious. As the front lines settle into stalemate, Russia ramps up for a new season of missile and drone attacks and vital US support for Ukraine’s war effort crumbles under partisan attack in Congress, one existential question looms large. Should Volodymyr Zelensky continue to fight endlessly in pursuit of a comprehensive defeat of Russia which may be unattainable — or should he consider cutting his losses and reaching a compromise?

At the war’s outset, the Ukrainian President had a clear answer. “I am sure there are people who won’t be satisfied with any kind of peace [with Russia] under any conditions at any time,” he told the Associated Press. “But however hard it is, we have to understand that every war should end in peace or it will end with millions of victims. Yes, we have to fight — but fight for life. Nobody wants to negotiate with a person who tortured this nation. [But] millions of people want to stop this war. We cannot decide for them and say: ‘No, we are not ready to speak with murderers.’”

Zelensky said those words as he sat in a sandbagged stairwell of his presidential palace in Kyiv on April 9 last year. Days before, he had visited the devastated suburb of Bucha, where Russian troops had massacred more than 400 civilians before withdrawing from around the capital. At that time, talks were still theoretically ongoing with the Russians, directly as well as via Israeli and Turkish go-betweens. Indeed, earlier this year, Vladimir Putin claimed that Kyiv’s negotiators had initialed a draft peace plan provisionally entitled “A Treaty of Permanent Neutrality and Security Guarantees for Ukraine” which included a promise not to join NATO as well as limitations on Ukraine’s armed forces. (A former Ukrainian government source who worked closely with Zelensky at the time of the negotiations confirmed that the details of the draft document alluded to were accurate.)
In place of a sweeping Ukrainian counteroffensive, the focus is now on not losing more land

As Zelensky’s negotiator Mikhail Podolyak told reporters in Istanbul in late March last year, the deal on the table was a ceasefire, the withdrawal of all Russian troops to their positions on the eve of the invasion — but remaining in the self-declared republics of the Donbas and Crimea. “As for Crimea and Sevastopol, we have agreed with the Russian Federation to a fifteen-year pause and to conduct bilateral talks regarding the status of these territories,” he said.

UN says staggering $7 trillion spent every year on investments that fuel climate change

The report from the UN’s environmental wing, UNEP, also revealed that despite decades of calls for ending finance flows towards sectors that harm some of humanity’s most valuable assets, those investments currently account for a whopping 7 percent of global GDP.

Saturday’s report launch comes as negotiations on the conference’s outcome text are shifting into high gear – COP28 is scheduled to close on Tuesday – and against the backdrop of the largest on-site action yet for climate justice. Calls for ending the world’s dependence on fossil fuels and demanding reparations for 'loss and damage' can be heard ringing out at Dubai’s iconic Expo City venue.

This year’s State of Finance for Nature report is the first such survey to focus on what is known as “nature-negative finance flows” and underscores the urgency to address the interconnected crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and land degradation.

The report, launched to coincide with a day set aside at the latest UN climate conference for discussions on nature and land use, also highlighted the fact that these investments dwarfed the annual amount being invested in nature-based solutions, which totaled roughly $200 billion last year.

A staggering $5 billion of these nature-negative finance flows come from the private sector, which is 140 times larger than private investments in nature-based solutions, and almost half of that stems from only 5 industries: construction, electric utilities, real estate, oil and gas, and food and tobacco.

Surrounded and low on ammo, the elite troops out to spoil Putin’s New Year

Maxim Tucker

Starved of ammunition, the gunners of Ukraine’s 47th Brigade were not able to hit the Russian convoy before it was upon their infantry on Avdiivka’s northern flank.

Five armoured vehicles rolled into the village of Stepove, guns firing, allowing about 40 Russian soldiers to run for cover in the houses around Ukrainian positions. A Bradley fighting vehicle was deployed towards the Russians. American armour was to be put to the test against Russian.

This fierce battle was part of a desperate action to save Avdiivka, in the east of the country, from imminent collapse and prevent a victory for President Putin in time for the launch of his election campaign and New Year festivities.

The 47th is one of Ukraine’s best-equipped brigades. Outfitted with German Leopard 2 tanks and American Bradley M1 fighting vehicles to lead the summer counteroffensive, it was tasked with breaking heavily fortified positions in a run to the Black Sea, but was withdrawn in October after making only six miles, mauled by Russian bombing, minefields and Lancet drones.

“With great equipment comes great responsibilities,” said Sergeant Danylo “Sausage”, 23, who is part of a 2nd Battalion, 47th Brigade air reconnaissance team. He shows me a live feed of the battle from four of his drones.

The war in Ukraine is at a critical moment. The fall of Avdiivka would mean Ukrainian forces fall back to the reservoirs of Karlivka and the heights at Ocheretyne. Karlivka supplies water to the remaining Ukrainian-held territory in the Donbas, with any battle there severely disrupting its flow. Seizing the heights at Ocheretyne, two miles away, would allow the Russians to begin razing Myrnohrad, a city of 50,000.

The Global Economy’s Unsolved Problems


The global economic agenda has been packed in 2023. There was the United Nations High-Level Political Forum in July, dedicated to monitoring progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. The second SDG Summit was held in September, as was the G20 summit in New Delhi, followed in October by the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Marrakesh. In November, the UN adopted an important decision on international tax cooperation. Now, leaders are meeting in Dubai for the annual UN Climate Change Conference (COP28).

One obvious lesson from the meetings so far is that the world is taking far too long to achieve the SDGs – especially ending poverty and ensuring food security – and to make meaningful progress in the fight against climate change. Another is that the global economy is confronting policymakers with multiple risks: in 2022, a surge in inflation led to rapid interest-rate hikes in many countries, which, together with soaring public debt, limited governments’ ability to use expansionary fiscal policy to counter slowing growth. Although inflation is coming down, high interest rates and slower growth persist.

Among the measures that have been proposed at and around this year’s meetings, three stand out. First, international development financing must be expanded significantly. Second, developing countries need more support to enable them to contribute to the provision of global public goods, particularly the fight against global pandemics and climate change, and manage the effects of international economic disruptions. Third, some form of relief must be provided to countries at high risk of debt distress – a group that includes at least one-third of developing economies.

Is the Osprey Safe?

Takahashi Kosuke

The Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft is raising renewed concerns – and even protests – over its safety in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan. This week, the U.S. military decided to ground its fleet of the transport aircraft following the fatal crash off southwest Japan of a CV-22 Osprey flying from Yokota Air Base in Tokyo, which killed eight crew members on board.

Although the Osprey has a long history of accidents, the latest deadly crash in Japan became the second-worst accident ever worldwide. The worst accident involving an Osprey occurred on April 8, 2000, when 19 Marines died during an operational test at Marana Regional Airport in the U.S. state of Arizona.

On December 7, U.S. Pentagon Deputy press spokesperson Sabrina Singh said that the decision to stand down all of the Ospreys flown by the U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy was “taken out of an abundance of caution” while the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) conducts an investigation.

The Osprey “is versatile, and its speed and its vertical lift capabilities are not met by any other platform existing in fixed or rotary-wing platforms, and so it’s an incredibly useful platform for all of our Services to use,” Singh said.

However, no matter what the Pentagon says, there have been 20 deaths in four crashes over the past 20 months. That inevitably raises one simple question: Is the Osprey really safe?

According to the latest data from the Air Force Safety Center, the average Class A mishap rate per 100,000 flight hours was 6.00 for the CV-22 in its lifetime as of December 2021. This accident rate is extremely high compared to the U.S. Air Force’s overall mishap rate of 1.35 for manned aircraft and 2.58 for unmanned aircraft as of September 2023.

What Makes the MP7 Seal Team 6's Favorite Weapon?

Travis Pike

The elite SEAL Team 6, aka DEVGRU, is a team of extraordinary operators that conducts some of the most secretive and clandestine operations the world never knows about. Their secrets are many, but on occasion, we get glimpses of their guns and gear. Today we are tackling the MP7.

The MP7 is best described as a PDW (personal defense weapon) — but could also be considered an SMG. The PDW concept came out of a NATO requirement in the 1990s. Originally, NATO wanted a lightweight, shoulder-fired weapon, for non-combat troops, that would be more than a pistol but smaller than a rifle. FN and HK created the P90 and MP7, respectively. While NATO’s PDW project never got off the ground, both guns had buyers, with the famed SEAL Team 6 purchasing the MP7.


The MP7 is a selective-fire SMG/PDW that fires from a box magazine. The MP7 is incredibly compact at only 25 inches long with the stock deployed. The stock features a collapsing-style minimalist design that’s very simple. It doesn’t provide much support or much of a cheek weld, but it’s better than nothing. With the stock collapsed, the MP7 looks more like a big pistol than an SMG and can be fired like a pistol.

Outside of being short, the gun weighs only 4.63 pounds in its modern configuration. The barrel is 7.1 inches long, and the gun is two inches wide.

HK designed the gun to be small. To help reduce the size of the gun, the 40-round magazine well is located in the pistol grip. The 4.6x30mm rounds are fairly small, and the magazines are quite compact. The magazine release is similar to other HK pistols: it sits on the trigger guard and must be pressed downward to release the magazine.