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Monday, January 21, 2019

Officer Down

Deputy Sheriff Raymond Bradley Jimmerson
Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office, Texas
End of Watch Friday, October 5, 2018
Age 49
Tour 20 years
Badge 523

Deputy Sheriff Raymond Jimmerson was struck and killed by a vehicle on US Highway 259, approximately seven miles north of Nacogdoches, at approximately 6:45 am.

He had responded to the area for reports of debris in the roadway. He was fatally struck while attempting to remove the debris.

Deputy Bradley had served with the Nacogdoches County Sheriff's Office for 19 years and had served in law enforcement for over 20 years. He is survived by his fiancee, mother, father, and brother.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

What's going on in the World Today 190121



U.S.: An Updated Missile Defense Strategy for a New Arms Race

The Big Picture

Russia and China are developing cutting-edge weapons technologies as part of an emerging great power arms race with the United States. The Trump administration's Missile Defense Review arrives as the United States increasingly focuses on bolstering its defenses against this emerging great power competition.

What Happened

U.S. President Donald Trump introduced the latest U.S. Missile Defense Review during a Jan. 17 visit to the Pentagon. The review, which initially was expected to be released in 2017, has been described as a "try everything" approach to expanding the nation's missile defenses. It calls for additional testing of the ground- and ship-based SM-3 Block IIA interceptor (part of the Aegis program) to defend against intercontinental ballistic missiles, evaluating the feasibility of using the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to track and hunt mobile missile units, exploring the use of directed-energy weapons to destroy missiles during their boost phase with high-energy lasers or high-powered microwaves and expanding the use of sensors in space to detect ballistic missile launches. The new missile defense strategy also seeks a six-month study to examine the use of space-based interceptors...

U.S.: Navy Plans to Dispatch Warship to Arctic Waters

What Happened: The U.S. Navy is planning to dispatch a warship to the Arctic to conduct freedom of navigation operations, The Independent reported Jan. 14.

Why It Matters: The deployment of a U.S. warship stakes Washington's claims in the Arctic as it competes with Russia, China, Canada and Northern European countries for influence in the region. Russia, in particular, has been devoting considerable attention to the Arctic, enhancing its infrastructure and military presence.

Background: The Arctic is of growing geopolitical importance, as it contains roughly 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas reserves and 13 percent of its oil deposits. At the same time, potential shipping routes will become available amid receding ice levels, making control of the Arctic a significant geopolitical imperative.

Why Walls and Sensors Aren't the Answer to the U.S.-Mexico Border Dilemma

By Scott Stewart
VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor


-There are compelling national security arguments for securing the U.S.-Mexico border, but terrorism is not one of them.

- Walls, fences and sensors improve border security, but their effectiveness is limited if personnel are unable to respond rapidly to efforts to breach them.

- The better physical security measures become, the more that people become the weak link in the security chain.

- Because of this, border security requires a holistic approach that not only addresses physical security at the border but also the economic forces that tempt people to smuggle contraband and humans across borders.

As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history drags on, one bone of contention is hogging all of the headlines: The U.S. border with Mexico. Discussions of the threat posed by an unsecured frontier and of the efficacy of border walls and other security measures have sparked fierce debate over how best to secure the boundary. Because the topic has spawned a great deal of interest – and perhaps just as much misinformation – a discussion of these issues is timely.

The Big Picture

Organized crime groups have been smuggling contraband and people across the U.S.-Mexico border since it was established. These groups received a huge boost when the U.S. demand for illegal drugs provided them with a large and lucrative profit pool that gave them the resources to establish private armies and bribe officials on both side of the border. Because of this, border crime has become a serious problem for both the U.S. and Mexican governments...

Missile Defense Review Directs Numerous Studies

The long-awaited Missile Defense Review (MDR) has finally been released and calls for a slew of six-month studies on technologies ranging from the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system to space-based sensors and controversial space-based interceptors.

When asked why it is necessary to study existing technologies such as Thaad, John Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy, said during a Jan. 17 off-camera briefing at the Pentagon that these assessments will focus on implementation.

For instance, the Defense Department (DOD) possesses seven Thaad batteries, including one in Guam and one in Korea. Within six months of the MDR release, the U.S. Army joint staff and the Missile Defense Agency will submit a report determining the number of Thaad batteries needed, the report says.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) says he is encouraging the Pentagon to spend money on missile defense programs that are reliable and rigorously tested before they are deployed.

“It is common sense to insist on this principle when it comes to programs that protect the American people and our allies, particularly in context of the growing North Korea threat,” Smith said in a Jan. 17 statement.

Another six-month study will be conducted by the U.S. Navy and MDA to develop a plan for converting all Aegis destroyers to be fully missile defense capable, including against ballistic missiles, within 10 years. Separately, the Pentagon will study repurposing the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Center in Hawaii to strengthen defense against North Korean missile capabilities. MDA and the Navy will evaluate the viability of this option and develop an emergency activation plan within 30 days of the defense secretary green lighting the decision, the report says.

MDA and U.S. Northern Command will present a plan to accelerate efforts enhancing missile defense tracking and discrimination sensors, including addressing advanced missile threats, the report says.

The U.S. Air Force and MDA will study how to integrate the F-35, including its sensor suite, into the Ballistic Missile Defense System for both regional and homeland defense. The aircraft has an electro-optical distributed aperture system that can detect the infrared signature of a missile in boost phase, and its mission computer can identify the threatening missile’s location, the report says...




The Belt and Road Initiative Is a Corruption Bonanza

Despots and crooks are using China’s infrastructure project to stay in power—with Beijing's help.

When former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was ousted from office in May 2018, it’s possible that no one was more dismayed than officials in Beijing.

After all, Najib had granted China extraordinary access to Malaysia. Across the country, huge China-backed infrastructure projects were being planned or breaking ground. But as China’s presence in Malaysia swelled, a scandal was engulfing the prime minister’s office. Najib was accused of massive corruption linked to the development fund known as 1MDB. As the election neared, his opponent, Mahathir Mohamad, alleged that some of the Chinese money pouring into Malaysia was being used to refill the fund’s graft-depleted coffers.

Now, Malaysia’s anti-corruption commission is investigating those claims. And last week, an explosive Wall Street Journal report exposed the most damning evidence yet: minutes from a series of meetings at which Malaysian officials suggested to their Chinese counterparts that China finance infrastructure projects in Malaysia at inflated costs. The implication was that the extra cash could be used to settle 1MDB’s debts. According to the report, Najib, who has denied any part in corruption, was well aware of the meetings.

If true, the report puts tangible proof behind widely held suspicions that China exploits corrupt regimes to propel its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI requires China to build infrastructure in other countries—a process that’s fraught with official approvals, feasibility studies, stakeholder engagement, and other bothersome procedures. In corrupt countries, however, many of these obstacles can be bypassed with bribes and back-room dealing—in fact, some of the red tape exists primarily to extort money from businesses. For this reason, it’s easy to understand why China might prefer working with corrupt regimes.

But not just China benefits from corruption in BRI projects. In many cases, the leaders of BRI-recipient countries see the projects as opportunities to sustain and legitimize their own corruption, as well.

Many countries that receive BRI investments suffer from high levels of corruption. On the TRACE Bribery Risk Matrix, most rank in the lower 50 percent, and 10 are among the riskiest 25 countries in the world. They often have opaque legislative processes, weak accountability mechanisms, compliant media organizations, and authoritarian governments that don’t permit dissent...






Why Afghanistan's Peace Talks Won't Really Start Until the U.S. Leaves


- If peace talks fail to materialize, the primary reason will be the United States' hesitation in acceding to the Taliban's demand that Washington order the complete withdrawal of all NATO and allied forces from Afghanistan.
- Continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan as part of its broader counterterrorism operations will divert the country's attention from its main strategic priority of focusing on the great power competition with Russia and China.
- The continuing war will hamper investor activity in Afghanistan, harming plans to use the country as a land bridge linking nearby regions.

The United States is redoubling its efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan. In September 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as the U.S. special envoy for Afghan reconciliation, but the 63-year-old, Afghan-born diplomat faces a daunting task in convincing the Taliban to agree to a cease-fire and participate in peace talks with President Ashraf Ghani's administration, all in a bid to end the 17-year war.

Formal peace talks could provide the outline for a political settlement that would likely grant the Taliban a share of power in a post-conflict government. Khalilzad has already conducted three rounds of preliminary talks with the Taliban, but the insurgent movement abruptly withdrew from a fourth round of dialogue scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia this month. Very simply, the Taliban refuses to engage with officials representing the Afghan government, which the group views as illegitimate. The focus is now on the United States — the country that the Taliban view as their principal antagonist in the conflict. In this regard, the group's terms remain clear; without Washington's complete exit from the conflict, meaningful peace talks remain a pipedream...


Intelligence Report Confirms Two Chinese Stealth Bombers

A new report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) offers the first official acknowledgment of the existence of two stealth bomber development programs by China’s air force.
A previously-confirmed Chinese strategic bomber and a newly acknowledged stealth “fighter-bomber” are both now under development, the DIA says in a China Military Power report released Jan. 15.

The Pentagon first acknowledged a strategic bomber program exists in a 2017 report to Congress. The admission came a year after a senior Chinese air force official publicly confirmed the effort to develop a new strategic comber variously called H-X and H-20.

For several years, Chinese and foreign media have speculated about the existence of a separate stealth bomber development project sometimes called the JH-XX, a replacement for the Mach 1.8-class Xian JH-7 fighter-bomber...

Pentagon Confirms China Will Have A New Tactical Bomber

Aviation Week & Space Technology

Bradley Perrett Steve Trimble

In World War II, a fighter-bomber was a fighter that could bomb. They can all bomb now, so the term has fallen out of use—except in China, where it is used for strike aircraft with high flight performance but no serious air-to-air capability.

That is a good clue to the nature of a forthcoming Chinese tactical bomber. Emergence of this type, a smaller companion to the Xian H-20 strategic bomber, has long been rumored but is only now discussed by the Pentagon—which variously calls it a medium-range bomber, a tactical bomber and, tellingly, a fighter-bomber. The terminology, a few scant details and the likely choice of engines suggest that the aircraft will be conceptually similar to the retired U.S. F-111, but maybe a lot bigger and perhaps presenting a serious threat to air targets.

This new Chinese aircraft and the H-20 will “probably” not be initially operational before 2025, says the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in its annual China Military Power report, released on Jan. 15. They will both be stealthy, it adds, though that feature almost goes without saying these days and is in any case imprecisely defined.

The aircraft will probably not be operational before 2025 cruise missiles to safely attack well-defended targets...

Iran’s Next Supreme Leader Is Dead

And it’s not going to be easy for the Islamic Republic to survive without him.

On Christmas Eve (not that it matters in Iran), Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, one of Tehran’s most understated powerbrokers, died after a particularly grueling year combating cancer. Despite his relative anonymity outside Iran compared to his more outspoken and controversial clerical colleagues, Shahroudi was a quintessential establishment figure with unfettered access to the apex of power and, rather unusually, reasonable relations across factional lines. More importantly, he was also touted as a leading candidate to succeed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. His early death not only reshapes but could also greatly polarize the succession politics at play and create more instability for Iran.

Shahroudi was born in 1948 in Iraq to Iranian parents, a pedigree (known in Persian as moaved) not unusual among Iran’s political elite, most prominently the Larijani brothers, who currently head the legislature and the judiciary. He studied under the leading clerical authorities in his hometown of Najaf, including the spiritual doyen of Iraq’s Dawa Party, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, and to a lesser extent, Iran’s future Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini. In 1974, Iraq’s Baath regime imprisoned and tortured him and others amid a large-scale crackdown on the Shiite clergy. After Saddam Hussein invaded Iran, Shahroudi headed the newly created Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, but with Khamenei’s rise as supreme leader in 1989, he decided to pursue his political fortunes in Iran and shed his Iraqi trappings.

A prominent figure in the gilded seminary milieu in Qom, Iran, Shahroudi had clerical credentials that were near impeccable, further easing his entry into Iran’s political establishment. Outside the years 1999 to 2009, when he headed the judiciary, Shahroudi served from 1995 until his death as member of the Guardian Council, the powerful conservative watchdog that ensures the Islamic consistency and compatibility of parliamentary legislation and electoral candidates alike. He was likewise in the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that selects the supreme leader’s successor, and a member of the Expediency Council, created toward the end of the Iran-Iraq War to adjudicate disagreements between parliament and the Guardian Council; this council subsequently also began advising the supreme leader on the broad contours of policy and strategy. After the 2017 death of its chairman—Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a highly influential former president—Khamenei tapped Shahroudi as his replacement. Shahroudi was therefore clearly a figure Khamenei could rely on, a figure the supreme leader recently eulogized as a “faithful executor in the Islamic Republic’s most important institutions.”

Most Iranians remember Shahroudi as the head of the country’s notorious judiciary between 1999 and 2009, a period spanning Mohammad Khatami and then Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s diametrically opposed governments. During this time, Shahroudi presided over a witch hunt against reformist parliamentarians and newspapers, students and intellectuals, human rights activists and, at the end of his tenure, the pro-reformist Green Movement protesting against the fraudulent elections that handed Ahmadinejad a second term.

As judiciary chief, Shahroudi is reported to have overseen, directly or indirectly, some 2,000 executions, including of minors. During Shahroudi’s medical visit to Hannover, Germany, in January 2018, protests erupted, and the German authorities considered charges against him but then ultimately ditched the idea. His choice for Tehran prosecutor-general, Saeed Mortazavi, was widely held responsible for the rape and murder of the detained Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi.

On the other hand, Shahroudi was also credited with introducing some reforms, including reinstituting the separation between judges and prosecutors abolished by his predecessor Mohammad Yazdi, suspending stoning as capital punishment, and proposing a bill granting more legal protection to minors. Around the time of his death, reformist-leaning newspapers such as Shahrvand depicted him as an “iconoclast judge of judges” (qazi ol-qazat-e sonnat-shekan), and official government media outlets including the Islamic Republic News Agency-owned Iran called him “progressive...”

Iranian Satellite Launch Ends in Failure

TEHRAN — Iranian officials said on Tuesday that a satellite launch that had been condemned by the Trump administration failed when the carrier rocket could not reach orbit.

“I would have liked to make you happy with some good news, but sometimes life does not go as expected,” Iran’s minister of telecommunications, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, said in a Twitter post.

He said the rocket, a Safir, long used for satellite launches, had failed in the final stage, falling short of placing its payload into the correct orbit. He did not offer any explanation.

The United States, Israel and some European countries have criticized Iranian missile tests in the past, saying the launches pose a threat to the region. One reason President Trump gave for withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal was its failure to address the threat of Iran’s ballistic missiles.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran on Jan. 3 against launching spacecraft, describing the exercises as a pretext for testing missile technology that Tehran could one day use to carry a warhead to the United States or other nations. His statement appeared aimed at building a legal case for diplomatic, military or covert action against the Iranian missile program...

Iran: Special Purpose Vehicle to Begin Operations Within Weeks

What Happened: A special purpose vehicle (SPV) for transactions between Iran and the European Union will be formed within the next two to three weeks, The Wall Street Journal reported Jan. 17. The SPV will likely operate from France, feature a German managing director and include British stakeholders.

Why It Matters: Actual progress toward forming the SPV would be a notable development as Iran has continued to pressure European countries to move forward in establishing the mechanism, but states that would host or participate in the SPV will risk exposure to U.S. diplomatic pressure and potential sanctions.

Background: The United States withdrew from the JCPOA — commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal — in May, reimposing sanctions on Iran. Proposing the creation of the SPV to facilitate financial transactions with Iran is part of a European strategy to keep Iran in the JCPOA.






North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Facilities: Well Maintained but Showing Limited Operations

A 38 North exclusive with analysis by Frank V. Pabian and Jack Liu

Commercial satellite imagery of North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center from December 2018 indicates that while the site remains operational and is still well maintained, the main facilities do not appear to be operating. The one possible exception is the Uranium Enrichment Plant (UEP), although if it is operating, in what capacity remains unclear.

What Explains Snow Melt at the UEP Plant

Imagery from December 19, 2018 shows that the roofs of the two gas centrifuge halls are devoid of snow. Considering the snowfall just prior to the image capture was light, the snow melt could be a natural result of sun exposure over time. But snow melt may also indicate that the facility is operating, a conclusion reinforced by the two patches of possible frozen water vapor evident in the immediate area of the cooling units at the west end of the UEP. That would mean the facility is considerably warmer than nearby buildings and waste heat is being dumped by some of the cooling units.

If operating, the centrifuges inside are likely, at a minimum, being maintained and spinning. Whether or not the spinning centrifuges are being fed with uranium for enrichment processing is impossible to determine based on imagery alone...


Russia: Procurement Plans Reflect the Military's Modernization Struggles

The Big Picture

Russia, along with China, is locked in a great power competition with the United States. In keeping with its goal of protecting domestic and foreign interests, Moscow must overhaul its military capability — gradually replacing out-of-date Soviet-era weapons systems with modern equipment. Low oil prices and Western sanctions, however, are complicating the Kremlin's task.

What Happened

Russia will shell out billions of dollars on military hardware this year, but when it comes to defense spending, the devil is in the details. On Jan. 15, the country's Defense Ministry announced that it would spend 1.44 trillion rubles ($21.5 billion) on military procurement in 2019 as part of a larger program to modernize outdated equipment within the armed forces. Given the expenditure, Moscow claims that the share of new equipment in the Russian military is expected to reach 67 percent, just 3 percent short of its stated goal for 2020. The predicted numbers, however, may not reflect reality...

Russia’s Conventional Weapons Are Deadlier Than Its Nukes

Withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty would take the United States one step forward and many steps back on international security.

The INF Treaty is widely seen as one of the crowning achievements of arms control, banning the possession by two of the world’s leading powers of an entire class of nuclear weapons system. As such, the Trump administration’s declaration late last year that it might withdraw from the treaty has stoked fears of a new nuclear arms race.

The United States alleges that Russia is violating the agreement by fielding the 9M729 cruise missile from land-based launchers and says Moscow must return to compliance by early February or Washington will begin the formal six-month withdrawal process.

Stepping away from the treaty could be harmful for the United States. Moscow has little need for an additional nuclear capability. However, it would stand to benefit greatly from being able to openly deploy new ground-launched conventional missiles—a process for which withdrawal from the INF Treaty could open the door.

There has been little discussion of the impact scrapping the accord would have on non-nuclear weapons systems in Europe.

Nevertheless, there has been little discussion of the impact scrapping the accord would have on non-nuclear weapons systems in Europe. Despite its name, the INF Treaty doesn’t just prohibit ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (approximately 300 to 3,400 miles); it actually provides for the elimination of all such short, medium, and intermediate-range missiles possessed by Washington and Moscow regardless of the warheads they carry. For this reason, the treaty’s abandonment has grave short-term implications that extend beyond the concern over nukes.

That the INF Treaty would also place a ban on ground-launched missiles with conventional warheads was not considered a major issue at the time of its signing, as such weapons were generally thought of as secondary to their nuclear counterparts. The emerging potential of precision-guided weapons with an extended reach was already clear to some—Nikolai Ogarkov, then the chief of the Soviet general staff, said in 1984 that the availability of those systems could “make it possible to sharply increase (by at least an order of magnitude) the destructive potential of conventional weapons … bringing them closer, so to speak, to weapons of mass destruction in terms of effectiveness.” However, that destructive potential remained to be fully demonstrated, until the 1990 to 1991 Gulf War and subsequent actions in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya validated the view of advocates for precision-guided conventional strike systems, and “Tomahawk diplomacy” entered the U.S. foreign policy lexicon.

Russia has redeveloped its precision-guided posture as part of the regeneration of Moscow’s armed forces as a whole. As a matter of policy, Russia has increasingly prioritized conventional strategic strikes as a substitute for some missions previously assigned to its nuclear force. The current Russian Military Doctrine, published in 2014, states that Russia views high-precision weapons as a key element of strategic deterrence. More explicitly, the contemporary version of Russia’s Naval Doctrine, published in 2017, says: “With the development of high-precision weapons, the Navy faces a qualitatively new objective: destruction of [the] enemy’s military and economic potential by striking its vital facilities from the sea.”

Russia has matched the evolution of its military strategy on paper with the deployment of systems capable of achieving these objectives. At sea, new and modernized surface ships and submarines now carry the 3M-14 Kalibr land-attack cruise missile—a weapon with a 1,500 to 2,500 kilometer (approximately 930 to 1,550 mile) range. In the air, many Russian Aerospace Force Tu-95 Bear and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers have been equipped with the Kh-101 air-launched cruise missile, which possesses a range of at least 2,500 kilometers. Both of these systems have been used against targets in Syria. Additional air-to-surface weapons to equip bombers and tactical fighters—including the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal and the Kh-50—are either beginning to enter service or are at the development stage...




Bomb-laden rebel drone kills 6 at Yemen military parade

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A bomb-laden drone launched by Yemen’s Shiite rebels exploded over a military parade Thursday for the Saudi-led coalition, killing at least six people in a brazen attack threatening an uneasy U.N.-brokered peace in the Arab world’s poorest nation.

The attack at the Al-Anad Air Base showed the unwillingness of Yemen’s Houthi rebels to halt fighting in the civil war, even if it doesn’t violate a peace deal reached last month in Sweden between them and Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

The Houthi attack near the southern port city of Aden with a new drone variant also raised more questions about Iran’s alleged role in arming the rebels with drone and ballistic missile technology, something long denied by Tehran despite researchers and U.N. experts linking the weapons to the Islamic Republic.

The assault shocked the pro-government troops, who carried away the dead and wounded, their fatigues stained with blood. All the victims were government forces, officials said.

“We were under the impression that the coalition has a tight control over airspace and there is no way the Houthis can send drones or planes to attack us in the south,” said Mohammed Ali, a solider in Al-Annad 2nd Brigade guarding the parade.

Yemeni army spokesman Mohammed al-Naqib was speaking at a podium during the parade, with photos of Yemen’s president and Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia’s crown princes behind him, when a high-pitched whine drew his attention and others. A moment later, the drone exploded overhead, pelting him and others with shrapnel...


Opinion: The Hypersonics Workforce Puzzle

Boost-glide,” the method of using rocket propulsion to achieve high speed before an unpowered glide, is an apt metaphor for U.S. investment in hypersonics research and education. Recent interviews with government leaders and experts suggest that the U.S. no longer has the luxury of exploring hypersonic flight as an unchallenged leader. In addition to the need for long-term commitment to basic research and technology development, there is a more urgent requirement for rapid deployment of countermeasures against putative adversarial capabilities.

In early 2018, following claims by President Vladimir Putin of Russian advances in hypersonic missile technology, Pentagon leaders including Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin and DARPA Director Steven Walker responded with warnings about the state of U.S. hypersonic capabilities. They emphasized that hypersonics must be a priority for Defense Department research and that, even with Trump administration requests for increased funding, there is still a need for more spending, particularly on infrastructure to support testing.

The challenges of hypersonic flight are not new. Many of today’s educators and decision makers were inspired by U.S. high-speed research including the X-15 hypersonic program that ended in 1968 after 199 flights. Using a boost-glide flight profile, the X-15—the first hypersonic crewed aircraft—sped to a record of Mach 6.7 (4,520 mph) in 1967. It was also the first reusable spacecraft, setting the altitude record of 354,000 ft. (67 mi.) and earning pilot Joseph Walker astronaut wings.

Since the retirement of the X-15, other X-plane programs have focused on the development of hypersonic technology that only recently culminated in flight tests. These programs include the X-30 National Aero-Space Plane and the X-33 that did not lead to flight-test vehicles, as well as the more recent, more modest X-43A Hyper-X and X-51A Waverider programs, which demonstrated air-breathing hypersonic flight in 2004 and 2010.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Officer Down

Federal Agent Kristopher David Youngberg
United States Department of Energy - National Nuclear Security Administration - Office of Secure Transportation, U.S. Government
End of Watch Friday, October 5, 2018
Age 41
Tour 8 years

Federal Agent Kristopher Youngberg was killed in a vehicle crash on I-40 near Okemah, Oklahoma.

He and four other agents had attended training at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, and were returning to Amarillo, Texas, in a department van. The van struck the back of a dump truck that was attempting to make a U-turn in the median of the interstate. Agent Youngberg suffered fatal injuries at the scene while three of the other agents were critically injured.

Agent Youngberg was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had served with the National Nuclear Security Administration - Office of Secure Transportation for eight years. He is survived by his wife, two children, father, and sister.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Officer Down

Sergeant Dennis W. Reichardt
Suffolk County Police Department, New York
End of Watch Thursday, October 4, 2018
Age 64
Tour 29 years
Badge 824

Sergeant Dennis Reichardt died as the result of cancer he developed after spending three months searching through debris at the site of the World Trade Center and the Fresh Kills landfill following the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks.

Sergeant Reichardt had served with the Suffolk County Police Department for 29 years. He is survived by his wife, three children, and one grandchild.

On the morning of September 11th, 2001, seventy-two officers from a total of eight local, state, and federal agencies were killed when terrorist hijackers working for the al Qaeda terrorist network, headed by Osama bin Laden, crashed four hijacked planes into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

After the impact of the first plane into the World Trade Center's North Tower, putting the safety of others before their own, law enforcement officers along with fire and EMS personnel, rushed to the burning Twin Towers of the World Trade Center to aid the victims and lead them to safety. Due to their quick actions, it is estimated that over 25,000 people were saved.

As the evacuation continued, the South Tower unexpectedly collapsed as a result of the intense fire caused by the impact. The North Tower collapsed a short time later. Seventy-one law enforcement officers, 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and over 2,800 civilians were killed at the World Trade Center site.

A third hijacked plane crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania when the passengers attempted to re-take control of the plane. One law enforcement officer, who was a passenger on the plane, was killed in that crash.

The fourth hijacked plane was crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, killing almost 200 military and civilian personnel. No law enforcement officers were killed at the Pentagon on 9/11.

The terrorist attacks resulted in the declaration of war against the Taliban regime, the illegal rulers of Afghanistan, and the al Qaeda terrorist network which also was based in Afghanistan.

On September 9th, 2005, all of the public safety officers killed on September 11th, 2001, were posthumously awarded the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor by President George W. Bush.

The contamination in the air at the World Trade Center site caused many rescue personnel to become extremely ill and eventually led to the death of several rescue workers.

On May 1st, 2011 members of the United States military conducted a raid on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed Osama bin Laden.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Officer Down

Sergeant Terrence Felipe Carraway
Florence Police Department, South Carolina
End of Watch Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Age 52
Tour 30 years
Badge 272A
Military Veteran

Sergeant Terrence Carraway was shot and killed while responding to assist three Florence County Sheriff's Office deputies who had been shot and wounded while serving a sexual assault warrant at a house off of Vintage Drive. Investigator Farrah Turner, of the Florence County Sheriff's Office, succumbed to her wounds three weeks later.

Another subject in the house opened fire on the deputies as they approached the house, wounding all three. The man then positioned himself in a vantage point in a second-floor window, giving him a view of fire of several hundred yards. Sergeant Carraway, along with three other Florence police officers, responded to the scene and were attempting to rescue the three wounded deputies when the subject opened fire on them too, shooting all four.

All of the wounded officers were transported to a local hospital where Sergeant Carraway succumbed to his wounds. Investigator Turner succumbed to her wounds on October 22nd, 2018, after undergoing nine surgeries.

The subject remained barricaded inside of his home for two hours before being taken into custody.

Sergeant Carraway was a U.S. Air Force veteran and had served with the Florence Police Department for 30 years. He is survived by his wife and three children.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

What's going on in the World Today 190114



U.S. Navy to stage Arctic ‘freedom of navigation’ operations

The U.S. Navy is preparing to take a page from its South China Sea strategy with plans to eventually carry out “freedom of navigation” missions through the Arctic as the geopolitical scramble for dominance heats up while long iced-in sea passages thaw.

Although the goal will be to send a clear signal to Russia and China that America is a force to be reckoned with in the race to control valuable territory at the top of the world, Pentagon leaders acknowledge that it could take years, and they stress that Washington has a lot of catching up to do.

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said this month that the U.S. is in danger of falling behind, specifically against increasingly provocative moves by the Russian navy, in the scramble for control over what may be the globe’s last major unexploited region.

“We need to have a strategic Arctic port up in Alaska. We need to be doing [freedom of navigation operations] in the northern passage. We need to be monitoring it,” Mr. Spencer told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He noted decades of American submarine activity deep beneath the Arctic surface but lamented a lack of major U.S. Navy ship missions through melting ice passages in recent years.

“Everyone’s up there but us,” he said. “I mean, we’re under the water. … We’ve been under the water since the ‘60s. But peace through presence with a submarine is a little tough...”

Raven Rock with Author Garrett Graff

How did Cold War governments plan to preserve the continuity of power in the face of devastating nuclear war? Lots of planning, countless contingencies and a fair amount of creative problem solving. In this episode of the Stratfor Podcast, Chief Security Officer Fred Burton sits down with author Garrett Graff to discuss his book, Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself–While the Rest of Us Die.


WASHINGTON — At a staging ground in Ghana, a group of nuclear experts watched the clock and nervously waited for the news.

The team — a mix of American, British, Norwegian and Chinese experts, along with Czech and Russian contractors — were supposed to head into the Kaduna region of Nigeria to remove highly enriched uranium from a research reactor that nonproliferation experts have long warned could be a target for terrorists hoping to get their hands on nuclear material.

But with the team assembled and ready to go on Oct. 20, 2018, the mission was suddenly paused, with the regional governor declaring a curfew after regional violence left dozens dead. As American diplomats raced to ensure the carefully calibrated window of opportunity didn’t shut, the inspectors were unsure if the situation would be safe enough to complete the mission.

“Frankly speaking, yeah, I was nervous for my people on the ground and everyone else who was on the ground. It was important, but we had to go at it in a prudent way” said Peter Hanlon, assistant deputy administrator for material management and minimization, an office within the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration. “As someone responsible for this organization, I was nervous.”

Moving the nuclear material out of Nigeria has been a long-sought goal for the United States and nonproliferation advocates. But the goal has taken on increased importance in recent years with the rise of militant groups in the region, particularly Boko Haram, a group the Pentagon calls a major terrorist concern in the region...


US sails warship past contested islands in South China Sea, ahead of G20 summit

Washington (CNN) — The US Navy sailed the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville near contested islands in the South China Sea Monday, less than a week before US and Chinese leaders are due to meet for a high-stakes summit at the G20 in Argentina, two US officials told CNN.

The "USS Chancellorsville sailed near the Paracel islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law," US Navy Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, told CNN in a statement.

The US warship conducted what is referred to as a "Freedom of Navigation Operation" in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands to challenge claims made by China, Christensen added....

Japan Accelerates Its Defense Buildup

Tokyo will begin to alter the security equation in the Western Pacific in the not-too-distant future.

Long pacifist, Japan has decided to accelerate its military spending and effectively begin to gear up. It should hardly come as a surprise. Though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has long sought to shift Japan from pacifism to what he calls a “normal country,” North Korea’s missiles and China’s aggressiveness in the Pacific would have left Tokyo little choice anyway. Spending has stepped up dramatically, as has planning. The nature of the buildup responds to other pressures from its great ally, the United States, which wants Japan to buy more U.S. equipment, as well as from the demographic and technological imperatives facing that nation...

...Though clever accounting allows wiggle room, this rule nonetheless imposes a severe constraint especially next to China and the United States, each of which spend more than 3.0 percent of their much larger GDPs on defense. Because the constitution stresses defense exclusively, it naturally questions any preparation to project power, not the least the Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) intention to construct two aircraft carriers and possibly base Japanese ground forces outside the country. The constitution also forbids Japan entering any mutual defense pact. Despite Japan’s long-term alliance with the United States, it cannot go to America’s aid if, for instance, a U.S. base in Asia was attacked. Prime Minister Abe has strived to change the constitution and has won concessions, but it remains a constraint.

The MoD budget requests for 2019 nonetheless make clear the new military emphasis. According to documents published in September, the MoD is asking for ¥5.3 trillion ($48 billion) in overall defense outlays, which is 7.2 percent above the 2018 budgeted amount. A jump like that would be noteworthy in any country, but especially so in Japan, where heretofore defense spending grows by fractions of a percent per year. Five-year plans would sustain this heightened level of spending. Still more interesting is the proposed allocation of these funds. Here, each point reflects the various pressures on Japan.

North Korea’s presence is probably most evident. The budget document emphasizes on “deterrence,” which no doubt lies behind the decision to upgrade the electronic warfare capability of Japan’s existing F-15 fighter jets and purchase six F-35A fighters from Lockheed Martin. New plans call for purchases of 147 of these new fighters over the next few years, well above the original plan to buy forty-two of them. U.S. pressure is also clearly evident in this decision, as it will preclude purchase of the domestically developed F-2 fighter. In the words of one Japanese security analyst, Masahiro Matsumura, Japan’s “defense industry is being sacrificed for the political goal of maintaining good Japan-U.S. relations.” Less controversial but also clearly aimed at the North Korean threat, the budget calls for Japan to upgrade its airborne early warning capability and spend nearly ¥300 billion ($2.7 billion) to deploy two land-based Aegis missile defense systems (“Aegis Ashore”) and other U.S. manufactured missile interceptors.

Measures to counter China, at sea mostly, make a longer list. Of course, the F-15 upgrades and the new F-35s constitute something of an answer to China. More pointed are MoD plans to procure RQ-40 Global Hawk long distance drones, fund research to develop a long-distance undersea unmanned surveillance device, and otherwise enhance naval heft by procuring more anti-air missile and anti-torpedo ammunition as well as more standoff missiles. Plans also call for the construction of a new submarine, aimed, in the words of MoD budget documents, at “detections, etc.” (The etcetera no doubt refers to offensive capabilities that might raise constitutional questions.) Japan also has plans to construct two new multipurpose, compact destroyers that can also sweep mines. They will bring the fleet escort force to a total of fifty-four vessels—a considerable upgrade from the past...


EU Looks to Reduce Exposure to Chinese 5G Risk: Report

The European Union is hoping to lead a more coordinated response to security concerns over Chinese 5G equipment makers, it has emerged.

Brussels wants to ensure it doesn’t end up with a situation where member states have unwittingly allowed Chinese kit to dominate across the region, according to the FT.

One unnamed diplomat told the paper that with although 5G auctions can raise billions for governments, the EU is "urging everyone to avoid making any hasty moves they might regret later.”

“It’s quite a serious strategic problem for the EU and we haven’t properly mapped the exposure,” they added. “The problem is every country is interested in the 5G auction because it’s a massive payday. Once these auctions have happened you need to avoid a situation where you end up with the entire continent being with one [equipment] provider....”

Manchester Victoria station stabbings 'a terrorist investigation'

The stabbing of three people - including a police officer - in Manchester is being treated as a terrorist investigation, police say. A man, aged 25, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after the attack on New Year's Eve at the city's Victoria railway station. Two knives were recovered at the scene and a property is being searched in the Cheetham Hill area…. Earlier, officers raided a newly built semi-detached house.... a Somali family lived at the address, a mother and father of five, in their 40s, who came to live in the street about 12 years ago from the Netherlands.


Mexican mayor gunned down after being sworn in
The governor of Mexico's southern state of Oaxaca is condemning the slaying of a local mayor shortly after he took office…. The state prosecutor's office said in a statement that Aparicio had just been sworn in and was headed to a meeting at city hall when an unknown number of gunmen opened fire at him. He was taken to a hospital, but died there later.

Colombia coca production: US 'deeply concerned' by rise
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he is "deeply concerned" about the increased production of coca leaf, the raw material for cocaine, in Colombia. At a meeting with Colombian President Ivan Duque, Mr Pompeo said the two countries would try to reduce coca production by 50% by 2023. …the amount of agricultural land used for coca crops in Colombia had hit record levels. The country has fought for years to tackle cocaine production, with the US providing about $400m (£318m) annually to help combat the producers and traffickers


Taliban Tunnel Bomb Hits Afghan Army Base

Taliban insurgents have detonated a powerful bomb near a major military base in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province, killing at least five soldiers and wounding six others. The attack happened Tuesday night in the volatile Maiwand district, where Taliban rebels dug a two-kilometer tunnel into the Afghan National Army base and planted the explosives…


In China, an Unprecedented Demographic Problem Takes Shape

- On Jan. 4, 2019, Chinese state-affiliated think tank China Academy of Social Science released new reports indicating that China will experience negative population growth starting as soon as 2030. The reports anticipate that China's population will hit a peak of 1.44 billion in 2029, then steadily decline and reach its 1996 levels of 1.25 billion by 2065.

- In light of this news, Stratfor is revisiting one of our foundational analyses from 2013, in which forecast China's impending demographic crisis and outline the contributing factors. In recent years, the Chinese government has gradually relaxed aspects of its one-child policy in an attempt to combat slowing population growth, but so far, progress in that area has trailed far behind the rate of decline in population growth.

Chinese society is on the verge of a structural transformation even more profound than the long and painful project of economic rebalancing, which the Communist Party is anxiously beginning to undertake. China's population is aging more rapidly than it is getting rich, giving rise to a great demographic imbalance with important implications for the Party's efforts to transform the Chinese economy and preserve its own power in the coming decade...

With an eye to power and profit, Beijing is building influence in the Arctic

(CNN)In its quest to become a global superpower, China has regularly become entangled in territorial disputes with its neighbors, butting up against international law.

But there's one region on its radar with fewer rivals and where the rules are still being decided: the polar Arctic.

China sees an opportunity in the Arctic's expansive sea of melting ice. Beijing has begun pushing for a greater stake in the region with a view to opening new trade routes, exploring for oil and gas and conducting research on climate change, experts say.

Geographically, China is nowhere near the Arctic Circle, which puts the Asian powerhouse at a major political disadvantage compared to eight countries that make up the Arctic Council, all of whom have territory inside the Arctic Circle.

Council members are divided on China's growing interest in the region. Some smaller economies like Iceland and Norway see an opportunity, others with a strategic interest like Russia and Canada are growing wary.
China isn't the only non-Arctic state interested in the region but it is by far the biggest, China and polar region expert Marc Lanteigne of Massey University in New Zealand told CNN..


The World's Oil Producers Prepare for a New Era of Low Prices

- The oil market is likely to remain oversupplied in 2019, leading OPEC and non-OPEC countries to cut production to prevent another collapse in prices similar to 2014-15.

- Prices are likely to remain weaker than what many of major producers anticipated just three months ago.

- Venezuela will find itself in a most difficult spot because lower revenue will drive competition among the country's political elites, exacerbating its political crisis.

- For the United States, the domestic impacts will be both positive and negative, but Washington may now have the freedom to lean heavily on Iran's oil customers and force them to reduce those imports even further.

- Saudi Arabia will encounter difficulties because it must use state-led development — financed through oil revenue — to achieve Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's ambitious reforms.

Heading into 2019, oil producers are getting the feeling that they've seen this market before. That suspicion was reinforced last month when the price of global benchmark Brent crude briefly fell below $50 for the first time since June 2017. In addition, for the second time in five years, declining oil prices have forced global oil producers to stabilize the market by cutting production by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd). And for the second time in those five years, producers will have to deal with the consequences of low prices, even if the pain might not be as bad this time around...

...Iran's Worst Nightmare

Perhaps no country will feel the pinch from lower prices as much as Iran. The country's oil exports had already fallen by about 1 million bpd due to the U.S. decision to reintroduce sanctions after pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal, but the low prices will only exacerbate the situation for the Islamic republic. The Trump administration granted 180-day waivers to eight countries to let them continue importing Iranian oil in part because of the October 2018 spike in oil prices. But if the market remains oversupplied by the time the waivers come up for renewal in May, Washington will have more room to press Tehran's customers to further reduce — or eliminate — those imports. For Iran, the prospect that it will lose most of its buyers is even more worrying than the decline in the price of oil itself, given that the knock-on economic effects are causing serious political repercussions at home.

Perhaps no country will feel the pinch from lower oil prices as much as Iran.

On Dec. 25, 2018, President Hassan Rouhani presented the country's 2019-20 budget, which envisions about 1 million to 1.5 million bpd of oil exports, as well as a price of $50 to $54 per barrel. But even if Iran attains that level of exports, it will suffer an economic recession due to the precipitous drop in oil exports and the increased cost of imports due to the rial's steep decline, as well as U.S. efforts to limit the country's access to hard currency. Politically, this will continue to weaken Rouhani to the benefit of Iran's conservatives and hard-liners, although the Islamic republic will, for the time being, achieve the bare minimum — avoiding an economic collapse...

Nuclear chief says Iran exploring new uranium enrichment

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The head of Iran’s nuclear program said Sunday that the Islamic Republic has begun “preliminary activities for designing” a modern process for 20-percent uranium enrichment for its 50-year-old research reactor in Tehran, signaling new danger for the nuclear deal.

Restarting enrichment at that level would mean Iran had withdrawn the 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers, an accord that President Donald Trump already pulled America out of in May.

However, Ali Akbar Salehi’s comments to state television appeared aimed at telling the world Iran would slowly restart its program. If it chooses, it could resume mass enrichment at its main facility in the central Iranian town of Natanz.

“Preliminary activities for designing modern 20 percent (enriched uranium) fuel have begun,” state TV quoted Salehi as saying.

Salehi said adding the “modern fuel” will increase efficiency in Tehran research reactor that consumes 20-percent enriched fuel.

“We are at the verge” of being ready, he said, without elaborating.

In June, Iran informed the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog that it will increase its nuclear enrichment capacity within the limits set by the 2015 agreement with world powers. Iran continues to comply with the terms of the deal, according to the U.N., despite the American pullout...

PERSONAL NOTE: Likely a coordinated effort between the US and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi's will take the short term pain of lower oil prices to keep Tehran on it's heels, and out of the kingdom's domain.

Iran: Council Approves Anti-Money Laundering Legislation

What Happened: Iran's powerful Expediency Council approved an anti-money laundering bill on Jan. 5, Reuters reported, citing the official Iranian state news agency, IRNA.

Why It Matters: To facilitate foreign trade, increase foreign investment and ease some of the economic pressure from U.S. sanctions, Iran needs to comply with standards set by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental organization that fights money laundering and terrorist financing. The Expediency Council's decision is a step toward reforms that would bring Iran into line with global norms.

Background: The debate over anti-money laundering legislation in Iran has pitted hard-liners against moderates. The Financial Action Task Force meets in February, and has given Iran a last chance to approve anti-money laundering legislation to avoid the reimposition of punitive countermeasures.




U.S.: Government Officials to Urge Watchdog to Examine Israeli Intelligence on Iranian Nuclear Activity

What Happened: Officials from the U.S. State Department will reportedly pressure the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to examine Israeli intelligence regarding Iranian nuclear activity, Axios reported Nov. 26.

Why It Matters: The United States is attempting to reassure Israel of its support as Israel casts doubt on the IAEA's means of investigating Israeli allegations of illicit nuclear activity by Iran.

Background: The IAEA has certified that Iran is almost always in full compliance with the strictures of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal. Israel has claimed that Iran is concealing some of its nuclear research and has been imploring the United States to support these allegations.

Israel destroys 'Hezbollah cross-border tunnel'

Israel says it has destroyed tunnels crossing into its territory after claims of discovering five of them this month…. Israel announced the discovery of the tunnels … earlier in December. It said Hezbollah planned to use these tunnels in the event of a war to conduct attacks in Israel. The Israelis have not specified the number of tunnels destroyed so far. The Lebanese armed group has not commented on the discovery. On December 17, the United Nations's Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said the tunnels violated a ceasefire agreement that ended the 2006 war.


North Korea, South Korea: World Will Not Lift Sanctions for Cross-Border Rail Link, U.S. Official Says

What Happened: U.S. State Department acting deputy assistant secretary Marc Knapper has said the international community will not lift sanctions on North Korea to allow for rail linkages between North Korea and South Korea, Yonhap reported Nov. 28. A South Korean official has said the country is planning to hold a groundbreaking ceremony before the end of the year on the rail connection in spite of potential headwinds.

Why It Matters: The progress of ties between Pyongyang and Seoul will hinge on U.S. consent toward lifting sanctions. Recent U.S. comments, however, seem to indicate that the rail linkage might be in jeopardy.

Background: Knapper's statement came shortly after North Korea and South Korea agreed to begin a joint study on Nov. 30 to relink rail lines across the border. The decision proceeded following a U.N. Security Council decision to create a sanctions exemption to allow for the delivery of materials for the survey.

SEOUL, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- The United States is seeking to shorten the duration of the defense cost-sharing deal with South Korea from current five years to one year as President Donald Trump pushes U.S. allies to pay more for shared defense spending, South Korean media reported.

The U.S. and South Korea recently held a meeting to renegotiate the ROK-US Special Measure Agreement, a five-year deal that began in 1991 to share defense spending to maintain some 28,500 troops of U.S. Forces Korea.

At the 10th negotiation, the U.S. suggested that the agreement should be renegotiated every year and South Korea should increase its contribution from $848.8 million to $1.2 billion next year...


Why Ukraine Challenged Russia at the Kerch Strait

The Big Picture

Stratfor has noted that Ukraine-Russia skirmishes like the recent clash at the Kerch Strait would become more likely and that the Sea of Azov remains a flashpoint between the two countries. In addition, Ukraine is emerging as a key battleground between the United States and Russia as part of the wider great power competition.

What Happened
The Russian-Ukrainian dispute over maritime access through the Kerch Strait escalated on Nov. 25 when paramilitary forces from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) disabled, boarded and captured two small Ukrainian naval vessels and a tugboat attempting to pass through the strait. Six of the 24 Ukrainian crew members detained by Russia were injured in the forced boarding. The strait, positioned at the eastern end of Crimea, connects the Sea of Azov with the Black Sea. The Ukrainian government in Kiev immediately denounced the Russian actions and accused Moscow of military aggression. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also declared that a state of martial law would begin Nov. 28 and last for 30 days (but could be subsequently extended). Ukraine and Russia requested an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council...

Ukraine conflict: Russia completes Crimea security fence

Russia has finished building a high-tech security fence along annexed Crimea's border with mainland Ukraine.

The fence, more than 60km (37 miles) long, is topped with barbed wire and has hundreds of sensors.

Russian forces annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March 2014 - a move condemned internationally. Crimea has a Russian-speaking majority.

Russia's FSB security agency says the fence is necessary to prevent "infiltration attempts by saboteurs".

An FSB statement, quoted by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency, said the fence would also thwart smugglers trading in illegal weapons, drugs, alcohol and other contraband.

The fence spans the neck of land connecting Crimea with Ukraine's Kherson region.

Most of its sensors pick up vibrations from any potential intruders, the FSB said, but some are also radio-location devices. Russia has similar equipment along its northern and eastern borders...

Official: Russian weapon 27 times faster than speed of sound

A Russian Cabinet official says the nation's new strategic weapon can pierce any missile defenses

Russia's new strategic weapon has rendered any missile defenses useless at a small fraction of their cost, officials said Thursday.

The Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle flies 27 times faster than the speed of sound, making it impossible to intercept, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told Russian state television.

The new weapon "essentially makes missile defenses useless," he said.

Borisov spoke a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw what he described as the conclusive successful test of the Avangard and hailed it as a reliable guarantee of Russia's security for decades to come.

In Wednesday's test, the weapon was launched from the Dombarovskiy missile base in the southern Ural Mountains. The Kremlin said it successfully hit a practice target on the Kura shooting range on Kamchatka, 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles) away...

...He emphasized that unlike previous nuclear warheads fitted to intercontinental ballistic missiles that follow a predictable trajectory allowing it to calculate the spot where they can be intercepted, the Avangard chaotically zigzags on its path to its target, making it impossible to predict the weapon's location...


Facing Sharp Rebuke on Saudi Ties, U.S. Points to Growing Iran Threat

The administration unveiled new evidence that Iran is supplying weapons to militants across the Middle East.

Facing mounting pressure to end all U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war on Iran-backed forces in Yemen, the U.S. government on Thursday attempted a deflection, touting new evidence to argue that Iran is shipping weapons to militants in Yemen and Afghanistan.

In a press conference on Thursday, Brian Hook, the special representative for Iran and senior policy advisor to the secretary of state, unveiled what he said are pieces of Iranian weaponry discovered in Yemen and Afghanistan. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley first revealed evidence of Iran’s weapons proliferation in December 2017. But the inventory has expanded, Hook said, reflecting an increase in Iran’s support of the Houthi rebels in Yemen and other militant groups.

“The Iranian threat is growing, and we are accumulating risk of escalation in the region if we fail to act,” Hook said. “This is a function of Iran’s relentless commitment to put more weapons into the hands of even more of its proxies regardless of the suffering...”


U.S.: Employees Call on Google to Cancel Dragonfly Project With China

What Happened: A large group of Google employees published an open letter on Medium on Nov. 27 asking for the U.S. tech company to cancel its Dragonfly project with China.

Why It Matters: Corporate activism from its workforce has already caused Google to alter previous decisions. Earlier this year Google announced it would not extend a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense after employees opposed using artificial intelligence in military operations. Google's Dragonfly project has come under criticism for enabling Chinese state surveillance.

Background: Google withdrew its search engine from the Chinese market in 2010 and has been exploring ways to re-enter the lucrative market. Dragonfly is one such plan that would censor searches in China.



The New Face of Terrorism in 2019

Forget the Middle East—it’s time to prepare for attacks from the former Soviet Union. The way Westerners think about Islamist terrorism has grown dangerously outdated. For decades, officials have focused on attacks launched by Middle Easterners. Today, however, the real threat increasingly comes from further east. In the former Soviet states and beyond, militants who once harbored mostly local grievances are turning their attention to the West. They will be the menace to watch in 2019. The threat posed by Middle Eastern terrorists has been shrinking for some time. Even during the war against the Islamic State, Russian speakers from former Soviet countries were already committing many of the major attacks in the West. Those included relatively simple lone-wolf events, such as the 2017 truck strikes on pedestrians in New York and Stockholm—both conducted by Uzbeks—but also more complicated operations, such as the 2016 suicide bombing of Istanbul’s airport—which was allegedly organized by a Russian national—and the 2017 attack on a nightclub in the same city, led by an Uzbek. There are several reasons for the relative increase in anti-Western terrorism coming out of the post-Soviet world. For starters, in recent years Middle Eastern jihadis have been too preoccupied with local conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen to head elsewhere. The pull of the Islamic State, meanwhile, has faded after its almost total defeat in Iraq and Syria.

Up to the Last Drop: The Secret Water War in Europe


US Petroleum Employee Charged with Stealing Trade Secrets for Chinese Firm

Longtime US resident allegedly stole information for petroleum firm in China that had offered him a position.
A Chinese national was arrested in the US last week for allegedly stealing intellectual property from a US petroleum company where he was employed. Hongjin Tan, 35, is charged with pilfering some $1 billion in trade secrets on behalf of a Chinese petroleum firm where he was offered a new job.

The stolen data was for the manufacture of a "research and development downstream energy market product," according to a US Department of Justice criminal complaint filed in the case. According to the complaint, Tan downloaded hundreds of data files from the US petroleum company in the alleged theft.

"The theft of intellectual property harms American companies and American workers. As our recent cases show, all too often these thefts involve the Chinese government or Chinese companies. The Department recently launched an initiative to protect our economy from such illegal practices emanating from China, and we continue to make this a top priority," said US Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers in a statement.

US government officials last week also indicted two members of a Chinese nation-state hacking team known as APT10....

Up to the Last Drop: The Secret Water War in Europe

In 2010, water was officially recognised as a universal human right by the United Nations. However, the European Union has yet to do the same. The management of water has long been in the hands of private companies, but resistance to this profit-driven model has increased in Europe since 2000. Activists against water privatisation in Greece, Portugal and Ireland say that the EU applies pressure to privatise water services using the economic crisis as a pretext for the creation of a water market in Europe. In many cases, the decision to close the book on water privatisation is the response to the failure of private operators to put the needs of communities before profit.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Officer Down

Corporal Moak
Patrolman White

Patrolman James Kevin White
Brookhaven Police Department, Mississippi
End of Watch Saturday, September 29, 2018
Age 35
Tour Not available
Badge B33
Military Veteran

Corporal Walter Zachery Moak
Brookhaven Police Department, Mississippi
End of Watch Saturday, September 29, 2018
Age 31
Tour 3 years
Badge B32

Patrolman James White and Corporal Zach Moak were shot and killed in front of a home at 630 North Sixth Street while responding to reports of shots fired shortly before 5:00 am.

Both officers encountered a male subject in front of the home and exchanged shots. The subject and both officers were struck during the shooting. Patrolman White and Corporal Moak were both transported to King’s Daughters Medical Center where they succumbed to their wounds.

The subject was taken into custody and taken to a separate hospital. Two additional subjects were taken into custody as part of the investigation.

Patrolman White, who served in the Army National Guard, is survived by his fiancee, two young sons, his parents, sister, stepfather, stepsister, stepbrother and other family members.
Rest in Peace…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Officer Down

Deputy Sheriff Mark A. Cox
Real County Sheriff's Office, Texas
End of Watch Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Age 57
Tour 8 years
Badge 3
Military Veteran

Deputy Sheriff Mark Cox suffered a fatal heart attack while conducting canine training on the 600 block of County Road 202 in Liberty Hill, Texas, at 10:00 am.

Deputy Cox was a U.S. Navy veteran and had served with the Real County Sheriff's Office for three years and had previously served with the Edwards County Sheriff's Office for five years. He had also previously served with a law enforcement agency in Florida. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Something I pray outlast Secretary Mattis's departure from the Department of Defense

Last summer I posted on a proposal for a a fix the major issue with our services core branch, infantry. I was disappointed when President Trump and General Mattis went their separate ways. Hopefully it doesn't stop this project, God knows it is needed.
Mattis's Infantry Task Force: Righting 'A Generational Wrong'

Retired Maj. Gen. Bob Scales is the former commandant of the Army War College, a Vietnam veteran (and recipient of the Silver Star for valor) turned military historian and futurist. He’s also one of the fathers of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force to reform the infantry. In this op-ed, Scales goes into the task force’s achievements, its rationale, and the decades of unnecessary bloodshed it seeks to end. — the editors

Eight months ago, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis created the Close Combat Lethality Task Force to right a generational wrong. A retired Marine Corps infantryman himself, Mattis understood that America’s close combat forces, consisting of less than four percent of those in uniform, had suffered more than ninety percent of American combat deaths since the end of World War II. His intent: to make our infantry formations dominant on tomorrow’s battlefields.

Most efforts at reforming the Pentagon are premised on the development and acquisition of things — guns, planes, ships, missiles, satellites, all at every-increasing expense. But close combat demands far more than superior weaponry. At its essence, the close fight is a uniquely human experience that matches one small unit against another in a duel to the death. Victory comes to the side that has superior will, cunning, intelligence, tenacity, and skill at arms.

Thus technology is only one of the Task Force’s five lines of effort. Three others embrace the intangibles of the human dimension: personnel policy, training, and human performance in combat. The fifth is a future-gazing effort to leverage emerging, as-yet unproven science — from new lightweight materials to cognitive performance — to achieve leap ahead advantages on tomorrow’s battlefields.

The Task Force’s main line of effort is devoted to recruiting, selecting, training and acculturating superior infantrymen. We can’t go back to the days of “Willie and Joe,” the iconic World War II caricatures of poorly-treated and poorly trained doughboys. From now on, infantry will be treated as an “excepted” category, a force set apart from other arms and the usual personnel bureaucracy. Initiatives the Task Force has launched or is considering include a new system for evaluating recruits for the special attributes of close combat soldiers; increasing the time leaders spend in a specific small unit before being reassigned; adding additional professional schooling for small unit noncommissioned officers; extending the training time for new recruits; selective bonuses and incentives to serve in the close combat branches and policies that exempt close combat units from the distractions of non infantry duties.

Training is critical: Secretary Mattis has said infantrymen must fight “25 bloodless battles” before they first see combat. Traditional training methods will never adequately prepare a close combat soldier for the horrific shock of his first time under fire. Thus a first priority of the Task Force is to develop small unit simulations that replicate the shock, uncertainty, chaos and fear of the close fight. The team is well along in creating place virtual environments enhanced by augmented reality technologies, immersing infantrymen inside simulations that offer the repetition with variation, scenario after stressful scenario with new surprises each time, a truly transformational training experience.

The Task Force is dedicated to the premise that close combat soldiers are the ultimate athletes who if, unprepared or unfit, might pay the ultimate price in defeat. Thus the Task Force is dedicated to replicating an NFL sports science regime wherein professional fitness professionals and therapists will become integral to a close combat unit’s training.

Human performance research for professional athletes, pilots and astronauts has come a long way over the past few decades. Not so much for close combat soldiers and Marines. A key objective of the Task Force is to exploit recent advances in performance science in order to enhance the ability of infantrymen to excel in the deadly skills of close combat. Human performance initiatives include an expansion of the Army’s effort to fully instrument infantrymen’s bodies with sensors and feedback devices to track a soldier’s physical and psychological condition in combat. The Team is preparing an enhanced series of programs similar to the Army’s “H2F” heath and fitness initiative that will optimize the ability of soldiers to perform under the extreme stress of close combat.

While human science and personnel policies form the decisive elements of small unit reform, the tools of the infantryman’s trade are still important. Two technologies seem to offer the greatest potential for achieving dominance in the close fight:

First, for almost half a century, America’s ground forces have been equipped with inferior small arms, the 5.56 caliber, gas-impingement assault weapons of the M16/M4 family. A top priority of the Task Force has been a technological leap ahead in individual weapons technology. The ground services are well along in the development of a next generation family of rifles and machine guns that will be capable of penetrating peer competitors’ advanced body armor at extreme ranges with extraordinary accuracy.

But technological dominance in the close fight is not solely a function of superior small arms: victory in the close fight goes to the side that can see, sense, and shoot the enemy first. So the Task Force has dedicated most of its effort to new technologies to give an Army or Marine infantryman a set of digital glasses, a “Heads Up Display” with built-in night vision, tactical data, and targeting cross-hairs linked to his weapon’s sight. This HUD technology will allow the infantryman not only to engage the enemy with great precision and lethality, but also to see a virtual display of essential combat information such as suspected enemy positions and the location of nearby friendly units...
A close friend, fellow Army officer, and mentor, put on his Facebook page a list of infantry truisms, published by a retired Special Forces major. One that stuck out, because it's true, and applies here:
Weapons systems are compromised not only by being manufactured by the lowest bidder, but by being multi-functional.

Hopefully we can focus on the needs of the core branch of the Army and Marine Corps. Excellent idea from a serious and focused leader. I pray it continues after General Mattis' departure.