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Monday, July 6, 2020

What's going on in the World Today 200706



Special Fund Could Solve Nuclear Budget Problem, Goldfein Says

Short of funds to modernize the nuclear and conventional weapons inventory simultaneously, the U.S. Air Force’s military commander on July 1 warned of “significant trades” or a shift to a financing model last used during the Reagan administration.

“This will be the first time that the nation has tried to simultaneously modernize the nuclear enterprise while it’s trying to modernize an aging conventional enterprise,” said Gen. David Goldfein, speaking during a videoconference hosted by the Brookings Institution.

“The current budget does not allow you to do both,” he added. “So there are either going to be significant trades made or, we’re going to have to find a fund for strategic nuclear deterrence that we can use to modernize, which is the way we did it back in the Reagan era.”

The Navy already uses the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund to pay for development of the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, but the Air Force has no equivalent financing structure for the B-21 bomber, Ground-based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) and Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) cruise missile...




Japan’s Building Aircraft Carriers, China’s Thinking About Sinking Them

The Japanese navy’s first aircraft carrier in 75 years is almost ready to deploy. A photo that appeared on Twitter on Wednesday depicts the helicopter carrier Izumo undergoing modification for fixed-wing operations, apparently at the Japan Marine United shipyard in Yokohama.

The Chinese military has already considered how it might sink the Japanese carriers. Which is not to say it would succeed.

The $28-million modifications underway at Yokohama will clear and reinforce Izumo’s deck in order to transform the vessel from a helicopter carrier into a light aircraft carrier capable of supporting the Japanese air force’s F-35B stealth jump jets.

Izumo’s sister vessel Kaga is slated to undergo the same modifications.

It’s unclear how many F-35s the two carriers—each 814 feet long and displacing 27,000 tons—might carry. Only a few, perhaps. The U.S. Navy’s own America-class assault ships, each displacing 45,000 tons, each can embark more than a dozen F-35Bs...

...Izumo and Kaga don’t need to be like America—to say nothing of matching the capabilities of a U.S. Navy supercarrier with its nearly 70-plane air wing.

That’s because Izumo and Kaga, in Japanese doctrine, are flagships for anti-submarine groups whose main job is to enforce a blockade stretching from The Philippines to Japan in order to intercept Chinese submarines attempting to sneak past into the open ocean. If any subs do slip past, the Japanese vessels would pursue them...


France suspends Nato mission role amid Turkey row

France is suspending its role in Operation Sea Guardian, saying Turkey does not "respect" the Libya embargo

The defence ministry said France had suspended its role in Operation Sea Guardian, accusing Turkey of violating an arms embargo against Libya.

It comes weeks after Turkish ships allegedly targeted a French warship in the Mediterranean - something Ankara strongly denies.

The Nato allies are thought to support different sides in Libya's civil war.

Riven by violence since Col Muammar Gaddafi was deposed by Nato-backed forces in 2011, the oil-rich nation is a key transit point for migrants heading to Europe from Africa.

Currently, the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) is battling against the forces of Gen Khalifa Haftar which control large parts of the east and south of Libya.

Why is France pulling out of the operation?

French relations with Turkey have become increasingly strained in recent months because of the Libya crisis, Turkey's role in northern Syria, and also drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.

But the key incident came on 10 June, when French frigate Courbet went to inspect a Tanzanian-flagged cargo ship, Cirkin, off the coast of Libya, to check if it was smuggling arms...




This Time, Russia Is in Afghanistan to Win

Putin is replicating his success in Syria in a new theater of conflict—and part of his plan is to hurt American interests once again.

The recent revelations in the New York Times and other media that U.S. intelligence officials believed a Russian military intelligence unit had offered secret bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan renew deep concerns about the nefarious agenda Vladimir Putin’s Russia has not only in Afghanistan but also to destabilize the West.

The timing of the revelations—the findings were briefed to U.S. President Donald Trump in late February—is significant as it coincided with the signing of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal in Doha, Qatar, at the end of February. It is likely that the Taliban’s murky dealings with Russia were taking place while they were negotiating with the United States throughout 2019 and 2020, calling into question the insurgent group’s commitment to any peace deal.

The agreement provided for a phased withdrawal of NATO forces, with the United States pulling out 5,000 of its 13,000 troops over the next few months. In return, the Taliban claim they would not enable Afghan soil to be used for terrorism. But the obstacles to peace are so profound and numerous that the chances of the deal being honored are slim. A United Nations report stated that the Taliban retained close links to al Qaeda and sought its counsel during the negotiations with U.S. officials. And the Haqqani network, the biggest faction of the Taliban, has been accused by the Afghan government of collaborating with an ISIS affiliate—Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP)—to carry out numerous attacks in Afghanistan in 2020. (The most horrific examples were the suicide and gun attack on a Sikh gurdwara and the storming of the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital’s maternity ward in Kabul, killing nurses, women in labor, and newly born babies...)


China Has ‘First-Strike’ Capability To Melt U.S. Power Grid With Electromagnetic Pulse Weapon

China Has ‘First-Strike’ Capability To Melt U.S. Power Grid With Electromagnetic Pulse Weapon
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued a scary report on China’s ability to conduct an Electromagnetic Pulse attack on the United States. The key takeaway, according to Dr. Peter Pry, executive director of the department’s EMP task force, is that China now has super-EMP weapons, knows how to protect itself against an EMP attack, and has developed protocols to conduct a first-strike attack, even as they deny they would ever do so.

According to the Center for Strategic International Studies, China has the most active ballistic missile development program in the world, so this is doubly troubling. China used stolen U.S. technology to develop at least three types of high-tech weapons to attack the electric grid and key technologies that could cause a surprise “Pearl Harbor” attack that could produce a deadly blackout to the entire country...

China cuts Uighur births with IUDs, abortion, sterilization

The Chinese government is taking draconian measures to slash birth rates among Uighurs and other minorities as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population, even as it encourages some of the country’s Han majority to have more children.

While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor. The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of “demographic genocide.”

The state regularly subjects minority women to pregnancy checks, and forces intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands, the interviews and data show. Even while the use of IUDs and sterilization has fallen nationwide, it is rising sharply in Xinjiang.

The population control measures are backed by mass detention both as a threat and as a punishment for failure to comply. Having too many children is a major reason people are sent to detention camps, the AP found, with the parents of three or more ripped away from their families unless they can pay huge fines. Police raid homes, terrifying parents as they search for hidden children.

After Gulnar Omirzakh, a Chinese-born Kazakh, had her third child, the government ordered her to get an IUD inserted. Two years later, in January 2018, four officials in military camouflage came knocking at her door anyway. They gave Omirzakh, the penniless wife of a detained vegetable trader, three days to pay a $2,685 fine for having more than two children.

If she didn’t, they warned, she would join her husband and a million other ethnic minorities locked up in internment camps ¬— often for having too many children...








He Sends Up Balloons, and North Korea Wants Him Dead

SEOUL—A black car rolled into the parking lot in southern Seoul, and three men stepped out into the summer heat. Two of the men were police officers, even though you couldn’t tell from their appearances. The third was the man they were there to protect: Park Sang-hak, a North Korean defector now living in South Korea and sometimes referred to as “Enemy Zero” by the North.

“I’ve already almost died twice,” Park casually said last week from a park bench where he escorted Foreign Policy and other international journalists. In 2011, he was supposed to meet another defector but was warned against it by South Korean intelligence agents. They arrested the other defector and found two pens on his person, one with a concealed poisoned needle and the other that could fire a projectile coated in poisonous powder, as well as a flashlight capable of firing three bullets.

The following year, another North Korean spy was arrested for planning to assassinate Park. He also gets the occasional reminder of the target on his back, he claimed.

“Through the spies here in Korea, they send pigeon necks and even mice to my office,” Park said as the two police officers blocked the trail leading down to the bench, so elderly citizens had to trek through some shrubbery to continue their daily stroll...


What’s This Unit of Russian Spies That Keeps Getting Outed?

Unit 29155 of the GRU is behind plenty of Russia’s high-profile misadventures abroad—and now, apparently, the bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

On Friday, the New York Times broke the explosive story that a unit of Russia’s military intelligence—Unit 29155 of the GRU—had allegedly offered bounties to militants in Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops. The GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, has emerged as a key player in Moscow’s efforts to sow chaos around the world, including the operation to hack and release emails from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Unit 29155, accused of offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants, has spearheaded some of Russia’s most brazen overseas operations in recent years—or at least the ones we know about, from the attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016 to the botched effort to assassinate former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in England...




Senators Introduce Deepfake-Focused Amendment to Defense Authorization Act

Bipartisan legislation directing an annual, comprehensive examination into the technology underpinning, and threats posed by super-realistic manipulated media called deepfakes may have found a path forward as an amendment to the Senate’s fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.... The Deepfake Report Act, which passed the Senate in October and was referred to the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee, would mandate the Homeland Security Department to investigate the potential impacts of deepfakes and other, related technologically altered content on national and election security. “As [artificial intelligence] rapidly becomes an intrinsic part of our economy and society, AI-based threats, such as deepfakes, have become an increasing threat to our democracy,” ...“Addressing the challenges posed by deepfakes will require policymakers to grapple with important questions related to civil liberties and privacy. This bill prepares our country to answer those questions and address concerns by ensuring we have a sound understanding of this issue...”

Domestic violence assistance app breached placing victims at risk

The app in the discussion is the Aspire News App which, among other data, also leaked victims’ voice recordings asking for help against their abuser....the “Aspire News App” for Android developed by a US-based non-profit suffered a data breach as reported by researchers .... The app provides news stories sourced from Yahoo and is focused on helping domestic violence victims by allowing them to make timely distress calls which are sent with the help of voice recordings accompanied by details ....

Republican senators introduce bill that tech advocates have warned would weaken privacy


• A group of Republican senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would weaken the lawful use of encryption in communication services so law enforcement officials could gain access to devices with a warrant.

• The “Lawful Access to Encrypted Data Act” was introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham and Sens. Tom Cotton and Marsha Blackburn.

• Tech industry leaders have warned that any system requiring a “backdoor” to encryption would undermine its privacy protections altogether...

Russian Criminal Group Finds New Target: Americans Working at Home

A Russian ransomware group whose leaders were indicted by the Justice Department in December is retaliating against the U.S. government, many of America’s largest companies and a major news organization, identifying employees working from home during the pandemic and attempting to get inside their networks with malware intended to cripple their operations. Sophisticated new attacks by the hacking group — which the Treasury Department claims has at times worked for Russian intelligence — were identified in recent days by Symantec Corporation.... In an urgent warning issued Thursday night, the company reported that Russian hackers had exploited the sudden change in American work habits to inject code into corporate networks with a speed and breadth not previously witnessed...

The Army will soon allow users to access classified info from home

The Army is expected to roll out a capability that will allow employees to remotely access sensitive and classified information in the next 30 days.... The Army will be onboarding the first 500 users in the next 30 days, and it plans to eventually scale up to 2,000 users, according to Barrett. NETCOM is working with the Army CIO/G-6 and 7th Signal Command — which is responsible for defending Army networks in the United States — to gather “user requests for prioritization,” Barrett said, adding that the environment is “currently operational with initial onboarding and testing...”







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