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Thursday, August 10, 2017

What's going on in the World Today 170809



The White House Pulls Out the Trade Hammer

Just a few days after Trump tweeted his exasperation with China over North Korea, the White House pulled out the trade sledgehammer. The U.S. Trade Representative will investigate China under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 over its alleged practice of forcing technology transfers in exchange for market access. The decision is a bit out of the norm, considering the World Trade Organization's dispute settlement mechanism is the more common avenue for countries to file such cases and the United States is still required by law to work through WTO channels to settle the case. But the United States has pulled the Section 301 card successfully before, against Japan in the 1980s, and the Trump administration is hoping for a repeat of that success.

Still, the move got Beijing’s attention. On Aug. 5, The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed to adopt fresh sanctions against North Korea, further banning exports and limiting investment in the country with the goal of slashing import revenue by a third. Neither China nor Russia wielded their veto power to harpoon the measures. This is the culmination of nearly a month of talks between the U.S. and China, with Beijing keeping Moscow very much in the loop. These talks bore fruit, with Washington obtaining enough of a Chinese commitment on meatier sanctions against North Korea to move forward with a U.N. Security Council vote. Of course, China still has limits on how far it’s willing to go to destabilize North Korea, and Russia can also come in to assist with helping to sustain the North Korean regime…

U.S. Troops Train in Eastern Europe to Echoes of the Cold War

NOVO SELO TRAINING RANGE, Bulgaria — After more than a decade spent fighting Islamic insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States Army is scrambling to relearn Cold War-era skills to confront potential threats from Russia here in Eastern Europe, territory formerly defended by the Soviet Army.

The adjustments to the new threats are wide ranging. Hundreds of desert-tan battle tanks and armored fighting vehicles must be repainted dark green to blend into European terrain. Soldiers accustomed to operating from large, secure bases in Iraq and Afghanistan must now practice using camouflage netting to disguise their positions and dispersing into smaller groups to avoid sophisticated surveillance drones that could direct rocket or missile attacks against personnel or command posts…


UN sees early warning signs of genocide in CAR
The UN is calling for more peacekeeping forces to be deployed in the Central African Republic amid renewed clashes.

Renewed clashes in the Central African Republic (CAR) are early warning signs of genocide, the UN aid chief said on Monday, calling for more troops and police to beef up the UN peacekeeping mission in the strife-torn country.

Some 180,000 people have been driven from their homes this year, bringing the total number of displaced in the CAR to well over half a million, said Stephen O'Brien.
"The early warning signs of genocide are there," O'Brien told a UN meeting following his recent trip to the CAR and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"We must act now, not pare down the UN's effort, and pray we don't live to regret it."
READ MORE: Muslims return to CAR to find their homes are gone
O'Brien said it was time to authorise an increase in troops and police serving in the MINUSCA peacekeeping force to enable the mission to "deliver on its critical protection mandate".



Foiled plots to bomb plane, release toxic gas 'most sophisticated' ever in Australia http://abcnews.go.com/International/foiled-terror-plots-bomb-plane-release-toxic-gas/story?id=49032126

Two men charged in connection with a foiled plot to bring down an airplane were also accused by Australian police of trying to build a device that could unleash poisonous gas in a public space.

The two suspects, Khaled Khayat and Mahmoud Khayat, were charged Thursday night and appeared Friday morning in Parramatta Local Court in Sydney via video link from their jail cells, where they have been remanded in custody as they await a trial date. Each faces two counts of acts done in preparation for, or in planning, a terrorist act, and the charges carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. No plea was entered Friday.

Australian police have not detailed whether the men are related…

…The would-be attackers were among four men arrested in Sydney on Saturday over allegations of a potential terrorist attack. One man was released from police custody without charge Tuesday…

BANGKOK (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday pressed Thai leaders for more action on North Korea during the highest level visit to Thailand by a U.S. official since a military coup in 2014 soured relations with the United States.

Tillerson's top priority has been urging Southeast Asian countries to do more to cut funding streams for North Korea.

The United States believes North Korean front companies are active in Thailand and is trying to encourage the Thais to shut them down, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton told reporters aboard Tillerson's plane.

The companies are using Bangkok as a regional hub and change their names frequently, she said.

Before meeting Tillerson, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said Thailand would support a U.N. resolution on new sanctions on Pyongyang over its missile tests. But he made no mention of specific action…

Thailand's military seized power in May 2014 after months of street protests with a promise to eventually restore democracy, but elections will not happen before next year and a new constitution retains a powerful political say for the army.

Since the coup, Thailand has aligned itself more closely with Beijing, and this year approved purchases of more than $500 million worth of Chinese submarines, tanks and helicopters, besides construction of a new rail link.

Another source of friction is Thailand's trade surplus over the United States. It was the 11th largest last year, at nearly $19 billion, although Thai officials expect a sharp rise in U.S. imports to reduce it.

U.S. May Begin Airstrikes Against ISIS in Philippines

The Pentagon is considering a plan that allows the U.S. military to conduct airstrikes on ISIS in the Philippines, two defense officials told NBC News.

The authority to strike ISIS targets as part of collective self-defense could be granted as part of an official military operation that may be named as early as Tuesday, said the officials. The strikes would likely be conducted by armed drones.

If approved, the U.S. military would be able to conduct strikes against ISIS targets in the Philippines that could be a threat to allies in the region, which would include the Philippine forces battling ISIS on the ground in the country's southern islands.


The EU Prepares to Pursue Reforms Under Brighter Skies

Forecast Highlights

After the German general elections in September, EU members will start a long dialogue to reform the bloc.

The negotiations will again expose the different, and often conflicting, interests between the European Union's northern and southern members.

A key player to watch in the coming years is Italy, as the future role of the country will be an important topic during Franco-German negotiations on EU reform.

By the end of the year, the political situation in Europe will look much clearer than it did at the start of 2017. In March, the British government formally announced its plans to leave the European Union, triggering a two-year negotiation process. In June, French voters elected a president who, barring an unexpected crisis, will remain in office for the next five years. In September, Germany will hold general elections that will probably keep pro-EU forces in power. Afterward, with the political environment likely more conducive to reform than it has been over the past decade, EU member states will start working on the future of Continental integration. But as in the past, their different interests and priorities will shape the negotiations and their outcome…


Arrests were made after Venezuelan soldiers apparently tried to launch an uprising against President Nicolas Maduro, ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela's deputy leader, Diosdado Cabello, said, BBC reported Aug. 6. http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/06/americas/venezuela-unrest/index.html?utm_source=CNN%20Five%20Things&utm_campaign=7c7fb7d932-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_08_07&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6da287d761-7c7fb7d932-82080869

Mexico's Cartels Find Another Game Changer in Fentanyl

By Scott Stewart

VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor

In my July 13 On Security column about the Mexican government's anti-cartel policy, I discussed how the dynamics of the cocaine trade affected the historical trajectory of Mexican organized crime. In short, cocaine provided cartels with unprecedented quantities of cash that they then parlayed into power. Starting in the 1980s, Mexican criminal organizations began fighting over the immense profit pool produced by the lucrative trade in powder, and this infighting has continued in one form or another to this day.

But cocaine was merely the first of several drugs that were game changers for Mexican organized crime groups. The latest of them, fentanyl (and related synthetic opioids), is the most profitable yet, and is rapidly becoming the deadliest drug for users north of the border...


In Afghanistan, U.S. Exits, and Iran Comes In

An Afghan police officer at his unit’s outpost overlooking the districts north of Farah, the capital of the province that goes by the same name. In October, the Taliban overran posts like this one in a siege. Bryan Denton for The New York Times
FARAH, Afghanistan — A police officer guarding the outskirts of this city remembers the call from his commander, warning that hundreds of Taliban fighters were headed his way.

“Within half an hour, they attacked,” recalled Officer Najibullah Amiri, 35. The Taliban swarmed the farmlands surrounding his post and seized the western riverbank here in Farah, the capital of the province by the same name.

It was the start of a three-week siege in October, and only after American air support was called in to end it and the smoke cleared did Afghan security officials realize who was behind the lightning strike: Iran.

Four senior Iranian commandos were among the scores of dead, Afghan intelligence officials said, noting their funerals in Iran. Many of the Taliban dead and wounded were also taken back across the nearby border with Iran, where the insurgents had been recruited and trained, village elders told Afghan provincial officials.

The assault, coordinated with attacks on several other cities, was part of the Taliban’s most ambitious attempt since 2001 to retake power. But it was also a piece of an accelerating Iranian campaign to step into a vacuum left by departing American forces — Iran’s biggest push into Afghanistan in decades…


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho, in a meeting in the Philippines on Aug. 6 that Pyongyang should stop carrying out nuclear and missile tests, BBC reported.

Top diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) and China agreed on Aug. 6 to endorse a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, according to a a statement by the Philippine foreign ministry, The Washington Post reported Aug. 2.

Top diplomats from the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) and China agreed to endorse a framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, according to a a statement by the Philippine foreign ministry, The Washington Post reported Aug. 2. According to the intital draft, the proposed framework will serve as a mechanism to settle territorial disputes within the region. Critics of the proposed accord say the brief outline covers only previously agreed upon principles and fails to address China's artificial islands or a 2016 arbitration ruling that overturned China's claim to roughly all of the South China Sea.


Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a statement Aug. 3 that the new U.S. sanctions were a violation of the 2015 Joint Plan Comprehensive Plan of Action deal that eased sanctions in exchange for Iran to curtail its nuclear program, AFP reported.




Israel: Communications Minister Attempts to Pull the Plug on Al Jazeera

Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara announced in a press conference on Aug. 6 that Israel was taking "several practical steps to block Al Jazeera's incitement against Israel." Kara said he had called on the Government Press Office and on cable and satellite companies to block the broadcasting of Al Jazeera in Israel and to revoke the media credentials of the network's journalists. But those agencies and companies have not yet shown any willingness to block the channel nor could they block the independent transmission of the channel to private satellite dishes, so these efforts might be fruitless.


North Korea’s No. 65 Factory Is Not a Missile Base

The July 28 test launch of North Korea’s Hwasong-14 (KN-20) has raised concerns both over North Korea’s progress in developing an operational intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capability, but also about the nature of the facility itself and why the North conducted the test launch from this location.

Contrary to published reports, test launch was conducted from the No. 65 Factory,[1] not the Yongnim Missile Base or any kind of missile operating base. It is also not one of the Strategic Force’s missile operating bases or missile storage facilities.

This site is under the Second Economic Committee and is associated with the Strategic Force, as it was used to modify trucks into transporter-erector-launchers (TELs). It was likely chosen to demonstrate the DPRK’s ability to launch ballistic missiles from varied locations in the country, not just those associated with Strategic Force infrastructure, to enhance both security and survivability in case of attack—another sign of the difficulty the United States would have in conducting effective military strikes against North Korean missile sites…

…Located on the west side of the Changja River (i.e., the Changja-gang), immediately west and northwest of the city of Chonchon (40.611369, 126.467036), the No. 65 Factory occupies approximately 12.5 km2, encompasses seven named towns and is dominated and segmented by a mountain that is approximately 680 m high. While a number of administrative and support buildings, warehouses and erection halls are located in the valleys around the mountain, there is a massive underground facility (UGF) underneath the mountain in which the main production facilities are located. This UGF was constructed to protect the valuable production lines from damage in a future war…

A Nodong TEL inside one of the TEL Conversion Halls at the No. 65 Factory, 2013. 

The No. 65 Factory grounds, site of the July 28 Hwasong-14 Launch.

Aug 7, 2017 | 18:01 GMT
North Korea: New U.N. Sanctions Will Not Discourage Nuclear Development

The U.N. Security Council finally delivered on the sanctions against North Korea that have been in the works for the past month. On Aug. 5, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to approve the tougher measures, which the United States proposed in early July after North Korea's first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test and accelerated following the second. This marks a symbolic victory for the U.S. administration, which has been pushing China to apply pressure on North Korea and which last week signaled it was preparing to unleash severe trade measures against China. Nevertheless, these fresh U.N. sanctions will not discourage North Korea from its continued goal of attaining a deliverable nuclear device…

US spy satellites detect North Korea moving anti-ship cruise missiles to patrol boat

Despite the United States' insistence that North Korea halt its missile tests, U.S. spy agencies detected the rogue communist regime loading two anti-ship cruise missiles on a patrol boat on the country’s east coast just days ago.
It's the first time these missiles have been deployed on this type of platform since 2014, U.S. officials with knowledge of the latest intelligence in the region told Fox News on Monday.

It also points to more evidence that North Korea isn't listening to the diplomatic threats from the West.
“The best signal that North Korea could give us that they're prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in the Philippines Monday.

North Korea loaded two Stormpetrel anti-ship cruise missiles on a Wonsan guided-missile patrol boat at Toejo Dong on North Korea’s east coast.

South Korea: Another Roadblock to a Missile Defense System Rollout Is Removed

The South Korean Ministry of Defense said Aug. 3 that it would deploy the remaining Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) launchers in Seongju before the completion of an environment assessment if told to do so by the South Korean government. Two of the six launchers in the system are already in place, but South Korean President Moon Jae In suspended the remaining four on June 8 pending the environmental assessment...

UNSCR 2371: An Invitation to Evasion

By: Joseph DeThomas

August 7, 2017

There are a few good things to say about the UN Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 2371, which increases sanctions on North Korea. The most important one is that the US put in the time and effort to grind out a sanctions resolution that was passed unanimously. The resolution itself is also good news, given the state of US-Russia relations and the competing public chatter about China by the White House that seemed to close the door on further joint diplomatic efforts to tighten the screws on Pyongyang. The resolution is also a good alternative to more dangerous options, such as the possibility of preventive war, as was recently discussed in an interview with US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. But the resolution is being oversold and is unlikely to produce the kind of economic damage that its sponsors are advertising. Moreover, it opens new doors for successful evasion, which in the current environment—with a volatile US administration and high public alarm—could easily lead to sudden movements towards very dangerous over-reactions...


Russia Finds a New Way to Wage an Age-Old War

War isn't what it used to be. Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than in Russia's ongoing struggle with the West for influence, which now seems to take place in the shadows as often as it does in plain view. With the dawn of the digital age, conflicts between great powers have spread from battlespace to cyberspace, something the Kremlin has embraced with open arms by honing its capabilities in hybrid warfare.

The term "hybrid warfare" may be in vogue these days, but it has been in practice for centuries. The Napoleonic Wars, revolutions across the Americas and the Cold War all featured it in one way or another by combining conventional and unconventional tactics. But the recent evolution of technology and mass media has reinvented the concept, changing its very nature with the introduction of elements like trolls, bots and hacktivists. Though there is some debate about the term's definition, hybrid warfare — at least for the purposes of this analysis — now can include the deployment of any number of tools in the cyber realm, in addition to traditional troops, paramilitary groups, punitive economic measures, political manipulation and the spread of propaganda and disinformation. And as the costs of conventional conflict have risen, so, too, has hybrid warfare's prominence as a tool in international relations…

The Front Line Drawn Across Russia's Backyard

Globalization has changed how we think about time, space and distance, but geography is still the same where it counts: national security. The former Soviet states lining Russia's border know this better than most, since their proximity to the eastern giant renders them more vulnerable to Moscow's hybrid warfare tactics than countries farther afield. Nations like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova sit on the front line of Russia's lasting battle with the West for influence in the international system, and they are the countries most at risk of being caught in the crossfire.

Russia’s hybrid warfare tactics vary by country and region. There are three broad categories, or tiers, into which various Western or Western - leaning countries fall within Russia’s hybrid strategy - the former Soviet periphery, the European periphery and the core Western states.

Russia's goal within this first tier of states is simple: to weaken the West's influence while strengthening its own…. .


Turkey has sent six howitzers and tanks with military vehicles to its Kilis province, which borders the Kurdish-controlled Afrin region of Syria, Reuters reported Aug. 5.




GPS killed the radio nav in 2010, but a high-def version is set to return.

Sean Gallagher - 8/7/2017

Way back in the 1980s, when I was a young naval officer, the Global Positioning System was still in its experimental stage. If you were in the middle of the ocean on a cloudy night, there was pretty much only one reliable way to know where you were: Loran-C, the hyperbolic low-frequency radio navigation system. Using a global network of terrestrial radio beacons, Loran-C gave navigators aboard ships and aircraft the ability to get a fix on their location within a few hundred feet by using the difference in the timing of two or more beacon signals.

An evolution of World War II technology (LORAN was an acronym for long-range navigation), Loran-C was considered obsolete by many once GPS was widely available. In 2010, after the US Coast Guard declared that it was no longer required, the US and Canada shut down their Loran-C beacons. Between 2010 and 2015, nearly everyone else shut down their radio beacons, too. The trial of an enhanced Loran service called eLoran that was accurate within 20 meters (65 feet) also wrapped up during this time.
But now there's increasing concern about over-reliance in the navigational realm on GPS. Since GPS signals from satellites are relatively weak, they are prone to interference, accidental or deliberate. And GPS can be jammed or spoofed—portable equipment can easily drown them out or broadcast fake signals that can make GPS receivers give incorrect position data. The same is true of the Russian-built GLONASS system…

Hacker cracks smart gun security to shoot it without approval

Smart guns are supposed to be safer than traditional weapons. They're designed to only fire when paired with a second piece of technology that identifies the shooter, like an electronic chip or a fingerprint.

Supporters say they could stop accidental shootings or misfires. And they've been lauded by law enforcement to prevent criminals from using stolen or misplaced guns.
However, like any technology, they're not unhackable.
A hacker known by the pseudonym Plore doesn't want to put a stop to smart guns, but he wants the firearm industry that's increasingly manufacturing these devices to know that they can be hacked.

The model Plore hacked is called the Armatix IPI. It pairs electronically with a smart watch so that only the person wearing the watch can fire it. The devices authenticate users via radio signals, electronically talking to each other within a small range.

Plore broke the security features in three different ways, including jamming radio signals in the weapon and watch so the gun couldn't be fired, and shooting the gun with no watch nearby by placing strong magnets next to the weapon.

"Future smart guns might use different authorization mechanisms," Plore said. "But you'd want to make future smart guns robust against interference, intentional or unintentional, even if it doesn't use radio signals…"

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