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Monday, August 17, 2020

What's Going On In The World Today 200817



How Does The U.S. Army Expect To Hide A Giant Warehouse Full Of Weapons From China?

How Does The U.S. Army Expect To Hide A Giant Warehouse Full Of Weapons From China?

As the Chinese military grows more powerful, the U.S. military—the Army in particular—needs a new strategy for deterring China.

The new strategy should include secret stores of weaponry, according to RAND, a California think tank with close ties to the U.S. military.

“Because China probably will be able to contest all domains of conflict across the broad swath of the region by the mid-2030s, the U.S. Army, as part of the joint force, will need to be able to respond immediately to crises or contingencies at various points of contention,” RAND explained in an August report.

“To be ‘inside the wire’ at the outset of a crisis or conflict will require a combination of forward-based forces, light and mobile expeditionary forces and interoperable allied forces.”

For decades, the Army’s expeditionary forces—that is, U.S.-based troops who travel quickly and on short notice to distant battlefields—have relied in part on the service’s so-called “Army prepositioned stocks,” or APS, to kit up for the fighting...

USAF Stages ARRW Captive-Carry Test, Merges DARPA Payload

The latest trial by the 419th Flight Test Sqdn. (FLTS) at Edwards AFB, California, confirmed that the Navy’s sea-range ground stations at Point Mugu, California, can receive transmissions of telemetry and GPS data from the instrumented measurement vehicle, the Air Force said in an Aug. 8 news release.

The second test appears to clear the Air Force to move forward with a series of powered test flights of the AGM-183A, beginning with a booster flight test before year-end...

...When the Air Force launched the ARRW program in 2017, service officials expected to leverage flight-test data from the Tactical Boost-Glide (TBG) program, which is funded jointly by DARPA and the Air Force. The TBG and ARRW were expected to use a similar, if not identical, high lift-to-drag-ratio HGV. DARPA planned to complete flight tests of the TBG in 2019, so the performance data could be used to inform any changes necessary for ARRW, which completed the critical design review in February 2020...

...The Air Force plans to fire the AGM-183A at the most heavily guarded targets, using the weapon’s agility at hypersonic speed to evade missile defenses. The Air Force expects to field the first four AGM-183As by the end of fiscal 2022. The booster tests this year and next year will be followed by flight tests of the all-up round, including the release of the TBG-derived HGV payload, starting in October 2021...

Homicides rise across US cities amid pandemic and economic crisis
As the United States struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic and attendant economic disruption, another problem may be looming – murder rates have risen in many of America’s largest cities. Murders are up by double-digit percentages in cities across America, including New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, according to crime statistics, while some smaller cities like Charlotte, North Carolina, and Jacksonville, Florida, have also seen significant increases. Rates of homicide and gun assault began to increase in late May, according to data from the National Commission on Covid-19 and Criminal Justice, and while the murder rate is still low compared with previous decades, the evidence is clear: the situation is worsening.


Many killed in ethnic violence in eastern DR Congo

At least 19 killed and two others wounded in attacks on three villages in the troubled province of Ituri.

At least 19 civilians have been killed and two others wounded in attacks on three villages in the troubled eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) province of Ituri, a local chief said on Monday.

The attacks took place on Sunday in the Banyali Kilo area, Innocent Madukadala told AFP news agency, blaming the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO), an armed group accused of ethnic attacks.

"They killed 19 people ... some were killed by machete and others were shot dead," he said.

US spy planes in South China Sea ‘creating risk’ for civilian aircraft

The US Air Force is creating risks for passenger flights over the South China Sea with its close-in reconnaissance missions near the Chinese coast, a Chinese military source and observers have warned. ... The US has reportedly stepped up its reconnaissance activities near the southern Chinese coast in recent weeks, with a night operation by an E-8C plane on August 5 prompting Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe to initiate a 90-minute phone call with his American counterpart Mark Esper...

U.S. Marines Can Beat The Chinese Navy—But Only If The Marines Stay Hidden

... It’s a dangerous plan, but it just might work—provided you can avoid detection. China has more ships, planes and troops in the area than the United States does. If they spot you, you’re in big trouble. Just how you avoid detection while also staying in touch with other units and your headquarters is of utmost importance to the U.S. campaign. Rarely has so much depended on the ability of a few young Marines to use a radio. That’s the subject of a fascinating essay by Brian Kerg, a Marine Corps officer currently serving as the fleet amphibious communications officer for U.S. Fleet Forces Command. “The high risk assumed by inside forces makes signature- management a paramount requirement for success,” Kerg wrote for The Center for International Maritime Security in Washington, D.C. Marine forces possess an array of radio systems, but just one type meets the needs of a secretive island outpost. “The high-frequency band is the premier option,” according to Kerg. “Communications systems using frequency bands higher than HF remain easily detectable; in concert with their low footprint, rapid set-up and network flexibility, HF radios are the most viable candidate for successful signature management...

More than 9,000 arrests in Ethiopia since June killing of singer
Rights panel says arrests raise fears that Abiy Ahmed's government is returning to iron-fisted tactics of past regimes.

Ethiopia has arrested more than 9,000 people after deadly clashes last month, the state-run human rights commission has told the Reuters news agency, raising fears that a government hailed for reforms is returning to the iron-fisted tactics of past administrations.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in 2018 promising democratic changes in one of Africa's most repressive nations, is struggling to rein in resurgent ethnic nationalism that sporadically explodes in bouts of violence.

Abiy's changes have unleashed old disputes over land, resources and local power, and he now faces the challenge of protecting citizens while preserving fledgling freedoms that helped win him the Nobel Peace Prize last year. He has promised to hold Ethiopia's first free and fair elections in 2021, which would be a milestone for Africa's second-most-populous nation...


12 Years After Russian Invasion, Georgia Sees No End in Sight

But far from being intimidated, Georgia’s envoy to the United States says Russia’s intervention has only redoubled the country’s desire to join NATO and the European Union.

This week marks 12 years since Russia’s five-day invasion of Georgia allowed two provinces to break away, splintering the Caucasian nation. Now, its ambassador to the United States only sees further bad behavior from Moscow, which has used the coronavirus pandemic to harden borders and spread misinformation about the response to the virus.

“Unfortunately, after six months of the aggression against Georgia, business with Russia went back to normal,” David Bakradze, Georgia’s ambassador to the United States, told Foreign Policy in an interview. But he says the international community has become increasingly wary of Russian involvement in the conflict.

To mark the anniversary, the United States and seven European nations urged Russia to withdraw their troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as Georgian officials warn of an increasingly grave human rights situation. Russian-backed authorities have denied medical evacuations from the breakaway provinces, while Moscow has poured more than 10,000 troops into the area...


'Most sophisticated tunnel in US history' discovered between Mexico and Arizona

Although it’s not clear exactly what the structure was intended for, it had ventilation, a rail system and extensive reinforcement

An incomplete tunnel found stretching from Mexico to Arizona appears to be “the most sophisticated tunnel in US history”, authorities said.

The tunnel, intended for smuggling, ran from a neighborhood in San Luis Río Colorado, Mexico, to San Luis, Arizona, where it stopped short of reaching the surface. It was built in an area that’s not conducive to tunnels because of the terrain, and it had a ventilation system, water lines, electrical wiring, a rail system and extensive reinforcement, federal officials say.

“What makes this one unique is that the terrain in Yuma is very hard … the sand is very loose, and most of them end up caving. So the fact that the material was very well built and it had ventilation, it had water, it had a rail system with walls, roof, floor, electrical, makes this one a very unique type of tunnel,” said Angel Ortiz, the assistant special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Yuma. HSI is a division of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement...

...The tunnel measured 3ft (about 1m) wide and 4ft (1.2m) high...

...HSI said the tunnel ran from Mexico to a disused Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in San Luis, Arizona, just about 200 yards (180m) north of the border

Afghanistan to release 400 'hard-core' Taliban prisoners in bid for peace
KABUL (Reuters) - The Afghan government agreed on Sunday to release 400 “hard-core” Taliban prisoners, paving the way for peace talks aimed at ending almost two decades of war.

The insurgent group welcomed the move and said it was ready to begin talks within 10 days of the release...

...The Taliban militant had demanded the release of the 400, the last batch among 5,000 prisoners to be freed, as a condition to join peace talks...

...Among the 400 are Taliban members accused of major attacks against civilians and foreigners, including a 2017 truck bombing near the German embassy in Kabul that killed more than 150 people - the deadliest attack in the 19-year insurgency.

Taliban and official sources have told Reuters the group includes members of the militant Haqqani network, which has ties to the Taliban.

With the release, the Afghan government will fulfil its pledge to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners...

New China-Pakistan Axis Undermines U.S. in Afghanistan, Strengthens Uighur Persecution

China and Pakistan have begun an unprecedented intelligence-sharing arrangement in an attempt to secure Beijing's influence in Afghanistan at the expense of the American government.... The new relationship is the culmination of a series of previously unreported moves, designed to help China exploit its economic investments in Afghanistan while also stifling outcry over its persecution of the Uighur minority Muslim population near China's western border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. The timing of the new relationship has become deeply consequential as President Donald Trump intensifies his designs to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan after 20 years of war. It has created new concerns among American intelligence officials, who believe China will capitalize on ongoing problems in the administration's effort to secure a peace deal with the Taliban and that Beijing will further expand its influence into other contested parts of the region...


China’s Soft-Power Grab
Beijing is ramping up support for U.N. and a host of other international organizations, racking up more influence even as Washington is in headlong retreat.

Beijing as a menacing and bullying superpower. But at the United Nations headquarters, China is still viewed as a model country.

Beijing is investing tens of millions of dollars in international peacekeeping and mediation missions, increasing its diplomatic support for global health and sustainable development initiatives, and urging Chinese nationals to pursue a life of service at the U.N. and other international organizations. In contrast to the United States, which owes the U.N. more than $1 billion in unpaid dues, China pays its bills on time and in full. With the Trump administration accelerating its retreat from U.N. and other multilateral bodies, the Chinese government is playing offense.

The pandemic has provided China with a rare opportunity to showcase the supposed benefits of authoritarian rule at a time when the world’s leading democratic nation is floundering, and U.S. President Donald Trump is beating a retreat from the international order that America built to manage the world. But some believe that China has squandered a historic chance to advance its cause for global leadership through a secretive and ham-handed initial response to the virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, and by using the pandemic as an opportunity to strengthen its grip on Hong Kong, flex its muscles in the South China Sea and on Taiwan, and clash with Indian forces on its border...

Chinese Espionage: A Far-Reaching and Long-Lasting Threat

Speaking at a recent event hosted by the Hudson Institute, FBI Director Christopher Wray discussed Chinese espionage, the threat it poses to the U.S. economy and national security. Director Wray characterized the theft of U.S. intellectual property as “one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history.”

Some U.S. businesses have closed their doors and many Americans have lost their jobs because of this effort by the Chinese. Overall, the losses to U.S. businesses come to over a trillion dollars.

To place this amount in perspective, consider the Sinovel espionage case. American Superconductor, a U.S. company, had its proprietary software stolen by Sinovel, a Chinese wind turbine manufacturer. The theft cost the U.S. company $800 million, forcing it to lay off 600 of its 900 employers. It also cost investors one billion dollars.

The Sinovel case is but one example. Director Wray remarked, “We’ve now reached the point where the FBI is opening a new China-related counterintelligence case about every 10 hours. Of the nearly 5,000 active FBI counterintelligence cases currently underway across the country, almost half are related to China. And at this very moment, China is working to compromise American health care organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and academic institutions conducting essential COVID-19 research...”

BeiDou a threat to the West, but perhaps not individuals

Recent completion of China’s BeiDou satellite navigation system has rekindled privacy and security concerns among some in the West. China has incorporated a two-way messaging capability into BeiDou that many fear will be used to track individuals and install malware on user devices. Most satellite navigation experts view such concerns as far overblown. At the same time, though little discussed, BeiDou’s completion does signal a new phase for China’s status as a world power and its ability to challenge the West on many fronts...


Iran’s president, FM lash out at new US push on arms embargo

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s president and foreign minister lashed out on Wednesday at a revised proposal by the U.S. that would extend a U.N. arms embargo on Iran indefinitely, the latest in the Trump administration’s maximum pressure policy against Iran.

Start a Homeland Security degree at American Military University.

The U.S. on Tuesday circulated the revised draft at the U.N., seeking to gain more support in the 15-member Security Council where veto-wielding Russia and China have voiced strong opposition. The revised draft, which eliminated some provisions from the earlier version that diplomats said went beyond the extension of the arms embargo, may be put to a vote as early as Friday.

Still, with Russia and China sharply critical of the U.S. effort to indefinitely extend the arms embargo, the two will likely use their veto powers even if the draft got the minimum nine “yes” votes in the council, which appears unlikely...


Rockets Fired at US Embassy in Baghdad

Reports are flooding into media outlets that the US Embassy in central Baghdad has been hit with three rockets. It is understood that the attack took place 40 minutes ago which was shortly after sirens were heard across the capital. As yet no reports of any injuries have been reported but emergency services were seen speeding towards the well-fortified building.


Israel says it shot down drone on Golan Heights overnight

Israel’s military said on Friday it had shot down a drone overnight that crossed into Israeli airspace near Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau at the frontier with Syria. No other details were given, though the army said it was not connected to the triggering of sirens later in the day by a false alarm regarding a drone infiltration...


North Korea’s Artillery Could Inflict 200,000 Casualties In Just One Hour

Think 200,000 casualties in one hour. That’s 3,333 people killed or wounded per minute, or about 55 people per second. ... It’s the potential human toll if North Korea’s immense arsenal of artillery were fired at South Korea, according to a new study by U.S. think tank RAND Corp. ... RAND examined various scenarios in which Pyongyang used artillery as a psychological tool.... “The truth is that the North Korean military is not adequate for invading South Korea,” says Bonds. “They cannot maintain an offensive for very long and their forces would be very vulnerable in to air and ground attack.” However, North Korea has another option: the 5,700 long- and medium-range howitzers and multiple rocket launchers along the 160-mile Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. These weapons are heavily fortified, including tunnels that allow the guns to emerge to shoot a few quick rounds and then duck inside before enemy aircraft and artillery can destroy them...

Ri Pyong Chol: Kim’s New Right Hand Man?

On July 8, The Korea Herald proclaimed that Ri Pyong Chol had risen to “number five” in North Korea’s hierarchy, based on official photographs of his placement at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun memorial tribute to Kim Il Sung. While it is generally not advisable to put too much stock in the changing positions and protocol order of North Korea’s senior officials, the rise of Ri Pyong Chol is worth further analysis. Given Kim Jong Un’s consolidation of authority over Party and state, a decision to elevate a key subordinate like Ri could provide insights into Kim’s plans and priorities. Similarly, decisions to highlight or quote a particular top official other than Kim Jong Un in state media outlets can also provide deeper insights into the regime’s internal and external signaling. As a result, Ri Pyong Chol’s new status and his history merit a deeper look—particularly due to his close association with North Korea’s strategic weapons programs.

At the Right Hand of Kim

The Kumsusan visit was not the first time Ri Pyong Chol has been shown alongside Kim Jong Un in state media. Most recently, Ri was shown sitting at Kim’s right hand in unusual state media coverage of the small “closed-door” meeting of the Central Military Commission (CMC) on July 18. This meeting followed a much larger session with a broad cross-section of military and defense industry leaders, where Ri was shown in photos and video as the only other official on stage with Kim—elevated over an audience of dozens of top generals and other senior officials. He was also the only participant mentioned by name in the KCNA report of these events besides Kim himself, further indicating that Ri’s leadership role as vice chairman clearly set him above and apart from the other members of the CMC...


Russia Seeks Lead With Accelerated Stealth Drone Program

Russia Seeks Lead With Accelerated Stealth Drone Program

Russia revealed plans this week to speed development of its S-70 Okhotnik (Hunter) stealth attack drone, with deliveries now scheduled for 2024 rather than 2025 as originally planned. This stands in contrast to the U.S., where plans for similar drones are moving ahead slowly and cautiously.

The new plan was disclosed after Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Yuri Slyusar, CEO of developers United Aircraft Corporation on 3 August. The Okhotnik is being developed by UAC subsidiary Sukhoi, and first flew in August last year. It is a substantial aircraft: according to Russian news agency Interfax, it can carry over 13,000 pounds of bombs and has a range of over 3,000 miles. As well as bombs and surface-to-air missiles, the drone can carry air-to-air missiles and reconnaissance gear.

According to Slyusar the Okhotnik has ‘unprecedented capabilities’ in terms of range and variety of weapons.

The flying-wing shape indicates a high degree of stealth. Unlike the U.S. Air Force’s current workhorse MQ-9 Reaper, Okhotnik is designed for full-blown conflicts, rather than counter-insurgency operations against opponents with no air defenses. In this regard it bears a distinct resemblance to Northrop Grumman’s X-47B strike drone project. However, it appears to be following a quite different development path...


In Historic Deal With the UAE, Israel Is the Biggest Winner

And Saudi Arabia may well stand to lose the most.

No matter how one reads the diplomatic deal announced Thursday between Israel and the United Arab Emirates­—and there will surely be many supporters and detractors given its historic nature—there is one conclusion that seems irrefutable: Israel was the biggest victor.

Israel, and specifically its embattled prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has scored a huge victory. In suspending threats to annex parts of the West Bank in return for full normalization of relations with the UAE, he has given himself room to back away from a promise that may have been popular but never realistic. Netanyahu thus pocketed normalization with a rising Arab power in return for something he wasn’t likely to do and was not in Israel’s long-term interest. In diplomatic circles, that’s what you call a coup.

To be sure, the UAE gets plenty in return. In striking the bargain, it solidifies both a leadership status in the Arab world and its outsized role in geopolitics. Enhanced and formalized bilateral cooperation in sectors such as energy, medicine, technology, and military industry will also reap large dividends for both countries. Already ambitious and entrepreneurial, the two societies will get an opportunity to team up without having to worry about politics. The sky is the limit in terms of technological advancements that will benefit the region and possibly the world...

Unified Gulf Council Backs Extension of Iran Arms Embargo

The Gulf Cooperation Council called for the United Nations Security Council to extend an arms embargo against Iran, an effort that dovetails with U.S. efforts to persuade Russia and China not to veto a resolution the Trump administration plans to introduce.

In a letter to the Security Council sent Saturday and obtained by Bloomberg News, the GCC called on the Security Council to extend the embargo and “further impose any additional measures necessary to prevent the destabilizing proliferation of Iranian weapons, such as a targeted asset freeze and travel ban on individuals involved in the supply, sale or transfer of arms or related materiel to or from Iran.”

Iran “has continued to proliferate weapons across the region as an integral part of its expansionist regional policy and longstanding interference in the internal affairs of Arab States, including GCC member states, in clear violation of the UN Charter,” the group wrote. It was sent by GCC Secretary General Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf.

The letter is a rare show of unity from the group -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia -- in the three years since four of the states led by the Saudis severed diplomatic and trade dies with Qatar over accusation that it supported militant groups and had meddled in their internal affairs for years. Qatar denies the claims...


The US Government Is Spamming Random Iranians and Russians With Text Messages

On Thursday night, people in Russia and Iran started getting weird text messages. The texts offered people $10 million for information about cyber threats related to the upcoming U.S. election. It had a handy link where respondents could report tips. The U.S. State Department has admitted responsibility for the text messages, according to Reuters. The State Department told Reuters in an email that the unsolicited text messages were meant to build awareness internationally. “This is a worldwide campaign in multiple languages,” State told Reuters...

FBI says an Iranian hacking group is attacking F5 networking devices

A group of elite hackers associated with the Iranian government has been detected attacking the US private and government sector, according to a security alert sent by the FBI last week. While the alert, called a Private Industry Notification, didn't identify the hackers by name... the group is tracked by the larger cyber-security community under codenames such as Fox Kitten or Parisite.... FBI officials also warn that this group isn't targeting any particular sector, and any company running a BIG-IP device is likely to be targeted...


Drone Crash Due To GPS Interference In U.K. Raises Safety Questions

Drone Crash Due To GPS Interference In U.K. Raises Safety Questions

A British survey drone crashed into a house and fell outside due to GPS interference, according to a report by the U.K.’s Air Accident Board. The 25-pound drone fell from sufficient height to cause serious injury or death, but fortunately no one was present at the time.

A second drone sent up to find the crash site almost suffered the same fate.

The incident occurred in December during a routine construction site survey with a DJI Matrice 600 Pro, essentially a scaled-up version of DJI’s popular consumer quadcopters. Operators had previously noted interference with the satellite navigation signal, but these had not caused serious problems. On the final launch though, the drone rose to an altitude of a hundred feet and reported a GPS compass error.

When this happens the drone automatically reverts to a manual flight mode and hovers in place. It uses a barometric pressure sensor to maintain altitude, but without knowing its movement relative to the ground it drifts with the wind. Normally the operator would take over control, but in this case they were taken by surprise and the drone sailed behind trees on a stiff 15 mph wind, disappearing out of sight and manual control range over an industrial site.

The drone maintained its height above sea level, but the rising ground meant that it was at rooftop level when it reached a housing estate a few hundred meters beyond. It struck a house, damaging rotors, and fell into the garden...

...The drone operator launched a second drone to go looking for the crash site, as they had only a rough idea where it was. This also gave a signal interference error and the second drone was quickly and safely landed.

The source of the interference has not been identified. It may have come from a GPS jammer. Sold as ‘personal privacy devices’ these can be easily obtained on the internet for $30. These are legal to own, but illegal to operate in the U.K. They are typically used by truck drivers and others who do not wish their vehicles location to be recorded, but interfere with all GPS receivers within line of sight. The GPS signal from orbiting satellites is very weak, equivalent to a car headlight from 12,000 miles away, so is easily swamped by a nearby transmitter no more powerful than a cellphone.

The incident raises questions over civil drone safety, especially with larger drones which present a significant injury risk. Planned drone delivery services, like Google GOOGL ’s Wing and Amazon’s Prime Air will need robust navigation that will not go off-course – or crash – when exposed to GPS interference. Especially when there are many people who do not like the idea of drones flying over their towns and are willing to act against them. Accidental GPS interference is also an increasing issue, with concern in the U.S. that the Ligado Networks’ 5G transmitters will interfere with any precision GPS – like those on survey drones – within two miles...




New York's MTA is asking Apple to create a Face ID that works with masks

New York's mass transit agency is calling on Apple to create a Face ID that works with masks in an effort to help slow the spread of coronavirus on the city's buses and subways. Patrick Foye, the CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook ... asking the tech company to develop better Face ID technology, so that people don't have to remove their face masks off to unlock their phones while riding transit. ... "We have observed customers removing their masks in order to unlock their iPhones with Face ID in order to use their devices for other purposes, when standing on the platform and riding our buses, subways and commuter railroads," Foye wrote....

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