17 August 2018

The Unlikely Activists Who Took On Silicon Valley — and Won

By Nicholas Confessore

The way Alastair Mactaggart usually tells the story of his awakening — the way he told it even before he became the most improbable, and perhaps the most important, privacy activist in America — begins with wine and pizza in the hills above Oakland, Calif. It was a few years ago, on a night Mactaggart and his wife had invited some friends over for dinner. One was a software engineer at Google, whose search and video sites are visited by over a billion people a month. As evening settled in, Mactaggart asked his friend, half-seriously, if he should be worried about everything Google knew about him. “I expected one of those answers you get from airline pilots about plane crashes,” Mactaggart recalled recently. “You know — ‘Oh, there’s nothing to worry about.’ ” Instead, his friend told him there was plenty to worry about. If people really knew what we had on them, the Google engineer said, they would flip out.

1 big thing: How the robot revolution is changing our lives

We're entering a new, robot-fueled tech boom that is already disrupting the world's balance of power, and is changing how we fight wars, stay alive, drive, work, shop and do chores. The future is now: We keep talking about what's coming, but we're already on the leading edge of a profound global change that will create tremendous opportunity for new power and wealth. In this new age of automation, businesses are frantically installing machines and algorithms that eventually will make them far more efficient — and wipe out jobs and sectors at blinding speed. This has touched off a tech race between the U.S. and China. And the other major economies — the U.K., France and South Korea in particular — are also spending big to own a piece of this future.

We should fear the use of killer drones like in Venezuela – all you need is £5,000 and some tinfoil

Barry Jenkins

The last Zeppelin attack off Great Yarmouth during the First World War was unintentionally marked a hundred years ago to the day by the drone attack wreaking similar terror from the skies on Nicolas Maduro. But we are long past the days of manned Zeppelin raids. The new kid above the block is an illegally modified drone. They have been around for decades, but the Venezuelan attack has now dramatically put them centre stage. And having designed force protection solutions against this type of small hybrid threat in both Iraq and Afghanistan, this attack came as no surprise to me. 

Space Warfare Is Here


The White House has announced its intention to create a space force. Until now, a series of treaties have prevented the weaponization of space. Yet, even with things like the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and other fantastical agreements, space has been militarized almost from the start. The only reason no space war occurred during the Cold War was that the technology to get humans into space was so rudimentary and the costs of such operations were too high. Today, costs have come down and space is much more accessible (as it should be) to humans. As the costs for entering a strategic domain lower, the potentiality for warfare increases. This is a fact of human nature: we compete with each other.

When Would Russia's Cyber Warfare Morph Into Real Warfare? Refer To The Tallinn Manual

James Conca

Cyberspace is the new global battlefield and its soldiers sit in front of computer screens. What happens when the escalating cyberattacks by Russia on our most critical industries - energy, finance, healthcare, manufacturing and transportation – succeed too well? Like a hippo being nibbled to death by a thousand piranha, the United States is an old cyber behemoth bleeding from the savvy carnivores of the digital age. Our regulations are not current, our defenses are not adequate and our people’s understanding is not sufficient. We are wide open to attack. It is no wonder that Russia has developed a suite of more and more effective cyber weapons that are being used against the United States and several other nations around the world. With impunity.

Army Cyber Command has many roles

David Vergun 

WASHINGTON — A misconception of U.S. Army Cyber Command’s mission is that it’s only about defensive and offensive cyber, said Lt. Gen. Stephen G. Fogarty. But equally important, he said, are other “tribal members” of ARCYBER — signals intelligence, electronic warfare and information operations. Fogarty, commander of ARCYBER, spoke Aug. 2 during an Association of the U.S. Army-sponsored forum on cyber warfare. ARCYBER needs to provide the combatant commander with an entire array of options from each of those communities that will provide him or her freedom of movement on the battlefield and deny the same to adversaries, Fogarty said. “We want to present multiple dilemmas to the enemy, not just cyber,” he said.

Science Board Advises Fighting War Without End in Cyberspace

Robert Levinson

A Pentagon advisory panel recommends that the military and other government agencies seek authority to engage in a permanent state of conflict in cyberspace. It also recommends that the military become much more deeply involved in protecting key private-sector networks. The Defense Science Board, an independent federal advisory committee providing scientific advice to the Defense Department, in July released the executive summary of its report, “Cyber as a Strategic Capability.” The summary promotes the idea that the military’s efforts in cyberspace must be integrated with the other agencies of the U.S. government as well as the private sector. No. 15 of the report’s 16 recommendations would direct DOD officials to review existing statutes governing Pentagon and U.S. action in cyberspace and “update or draft replacement language to enable continuous offensive and defensive actions for protecting and promoting national interests in cyberspace.”

Air and Missile Defense Integration Needed Now…More Than Ever

By Dave Mann, Dick Gallagher
“Success no longer goes to the country that develops a new technology first, but rather to the one that better integrates it and adapts its way of fighting…Cultivating a lethal, agile force requires more than just new technologies and posture changes; it depends on the ability of our warfighters and the Department workforce to integrate new capabilities and adapt warfighting approaches. -SECDEF Mattis; 2018 National Military Strategy

The Threat

It has never been more important to integrate our current and future air and missile defense capabilities, especially considering the current global threat environment. Potential adversaries have carefully observed U.S. successes in recent conflicts and seek to exploit perceived gaps and vulnerabilities. Given the cost of fielding large land, air, and maritime formations, many are turning to relatively cheaper and “difficult to defend against”

New Navy Boards Will Send Underperforming Officers to Early Retirement

The Navy as a whole is poised to grow in coming years -- but top brass say there's still no room for senior officers who don't carry their weight. In a new move aimed at rooting out officers who are underperforming or causing problems at their units, the Navy on Thursday announced the creation of a new Selective Early Retirement Board, set to convene this fall.  The move was made possible by a provision in the Fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that gives military service secretaries the ability to look within subsets of paygrades to find officers who aren't making the cut, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Robert Burke told reporters this week.

16 August 2018

The political stature and clout of the Taliban is rising in Afghanistan

Taliban’s political stature rises with talks in Uzbekistan 

ISLAMABAD (AP) — In a rare diplomatic foray and the strongest sign yet of increasing Taliban political clout in the region, the head of the insurgents’ political office led a delegation to Uzbekistan to meet senior Foreign Ministry officials there, Uzbek and Taliban officials said. Taliban political chief Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai represented the insurgents in the four-day talks that ended on Friday and included meetings with Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov as well as the country’s special representative to Afghanistan Ismatilla Irgashev. The meetings follow an offer made by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in March to broker peace in Afghanistan.

Inside Bangladesh’s Bloody War on Drugs

Arrested and killed: inside the Bangladesh prime minister’s war on drugs 

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh police arrested Riazul Islam as he was walking home from his in-laws’ house. At 3:15 a.m., he was shot dead in a sandy field beside a set of railroad tracks north of Dhaka. Police say he was killed in a gunfight with other drug dealers, and they recovered 20 kg of marijuana from the site. His parents say the officers extorted money from them and then killed him. “I knew my son was in police custody. All of a sudden my son was dead. I couldn’t believe it. The police took money and they still killed him,” said his mother, Rina Begum. Bangladesh is the newest frontline in state-backed drug crackdowns in Asia, and Islam is one of more than 200 people shot dead by police in Bangladesh since May, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the campaign.

China’s New Missile Force: New Ambitions, New Challenges

Adam Ni and Bates Gill

At the end of 2015 the missile branch of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Second Artillery Force (第二炮兵部队), was formally elevated to a full service and renamed the Rocket Force (火箭军; PLARF) part of a sweeping drive to improve the PLA’s joint operations, command and control, and combat effectiveness. The establishment of the PLARF signals the increasing importance of conventional and nuclear missiles to PLA warfighting and deterrence capabilities. It also foreshadows continued, substantial investment in missile force modernization at both tactical and strategic levels in the years ahead. Since its creation, the PLARF has made notable progress in upgrading missile capabilities, reorganizing command and control systems, developing realistic combat training for its troops, and growing its pool of talent. However, deep-seated challenges remain in all these areas. This two-part series will examine the rationale for the PLARF’s creation, its mission, and the challenges that stand in its way. The challenges are real, and could frustrate the PLARF’s aspiration of becoming a world-class missile force if not addressed effectively.

The Chinese GULAG: U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps

U.N. says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps 

GENEVA (Reuters) - A United Nations human rights panel said on Friday that it had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uighurs in China are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.” Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited estimates that 2 million Uighurs and Muslim minorities were forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the western Xinjiang autonomous region. “We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internship camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone’,” she told the start of a two-day regular review of China’s record, including Hong Kong and Macao.

China, The Language Of Virtue, And The Global Order

by James Watt

From a Western viewpoint, never has the international scene looked more provisional, more uncertain. Some of the confusion is self-inflicted (Trump, Brexit). Some results from a century of political failure and social crisis inflicted for the most part by outsiders (the Middle East). Western weakness has been exploited (Ukraine, Crimea). Western control of global economic governance is challenged by the greatly increased size and trading weight of developing economies. Foremost among these of course is China. 

China Reveals Test of New Hypersonic Missile

BY: Bill Gertz

China has conducted a flight test of a new hypersonic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead against advanced missile defenses, according to U.S. officials. The flight test of the Xingkong-2 or Starry Sky-2 missile was disclosed by Chinese state media and touted as an ultra high-speed missile capable of thwarting missile defense systems. The officials confirmed the test was carried out over northeast China and reported in U.S. intelligence channels earlier this week. Such tests are closely monitored as part of the renewed focus by the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies on China’s growing military power. Video released by Chinese state television showed the new weapon being launched atop of a ballistic missile.

China Doesn't Want to Play by the World's Rules


U.S. President Donald Trump’s most recent threat to target all $505 billion in annual Chinese imports to the United States is only the latest development in the looming U.S.-China trade war. While Trump and his team are preparing for an economic competition focused largely on tariffs, policymakers must prepare for a multi-domain competition rooted in Chinese political posturing, domestic propaganda, and economic coercion targeting American firms operating in China. These unconventional challenges will demand a comprehensive U.S. response.

Critiquing Islamist Fundamentalism Is No 'Attack' on Muslim Women

By Munira Mirza

It is hard to know whether Boris Johnson’s comments about the burka would have provoked the same hysteria had they been made outside the August silly season, but one suspects they would not have received much notice if said by almost any other senior politician. Ken Clarke has argued for a ban on wearing the burka in law courts, describing the garment as “a kind of bag”. None of the people now lining up to attack Johnson were vocal about Clarke’s comments. Emily Thornberry said she wouldn’t want a woman in a burka looking after her child. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police didn’t seek guidance as to whether her remarks constituted a criminal offence. If Jeremy Wright and Ruth Davidson truly believe that anyone who describes the burka in derogatory terms is ‘crossing a line’, then we must ask why they have never criticised the many other senior politicians who have done so, such as Anna Soubry and Sadiq Khan.

The Potemkin Village Is Falling Down: The Kremlin’s efforts to pretend that the Russian military is a modern, capable force are not working

All Is Going According To Plan

Government efforts to project the image of a modern, professional and constantly improving armed forces is proving more difficult to sustain. During the decades of communist rule the state had complete control over the media, a massive internal security forces and, most important, no Internet or smart phones. Those last two items have crippled efforts to persuade Russians and foreigners that Russia was still a major developer and manufacturer of new weapons. The constant stream of press releases detailing new weapons the Russian forces will be equipped with are undermine by the reality, often documented vis smart phone video spread via the Internet. The new weapons often do not work at all and even if they do there is never enough money to produce them in the quantities implied. Russian development and manufacturing efforts are still crippled by shortages of cash and talent. Arms exports are hurt by this, especially with competitors like China continuing to produce Russian designs more efficiently (more effective, reliable and less costly in the long run). New gear that does get produced in significant numbers is usually for export customers who have cash for procurement that the Russian military still lacks.

Russia developing new tank warfare tactics in Syria

Russians Get Schooled In Syria

Russia has learned a lot about modern combat in Syria. Russian advisors were often called on to help devise new tactics to deal with problems Syrian troops were encountering. One of the more vexing situations had to do with the rebels using ATGMs (Anti-Tank Guided Missiles), including Russian models like the Kornet or the American TOW. Russian armor experts drew on their own history and more detailed knowledge of Israeli innovations (developed during the 1973 war) when they encountered Egyptian troops using lots of older model ATGMs.

Why Germany Should Get the Bomb

by Christian Hacke

The U.S. president’s semi-authoritarian attitude and his willingness to make friends with the enemies of democracy has exacerbated doubts about whether the West is at risk of breaking up. President Donald Trump treats once valued allies with scorn and castigates them in public. Under the battle cry “America first,” allies have suddenly become a burden. President Trump is trampling on the core Western values and interests and in so doing, he is gambling away the role of the United States as the leading power of the West. Instead he is chumming up with dictators and squandering America’s reputation as a responsible global power. He is giving up crucial influence, which could lead to alarming shifts of power to the detriment of the free world.