Sunday, December 15, 2019

Editor's Note

Spending some R&R with the GF today. Blogging will return later today.

U.S. Secretly Expels Chinese Diplomats Afer They Tried to Enter A Sensitive Military Base

Chinese Embassy Washington DC.,cn

New York Times: U.S. Secretly Expelled Chinese Officials Suspected of Spying After Breach of Military Base

WASHINGTON — The American government secretly expelled two Chinese Embassy officials this fall after they drove on to a sensitive military base in Virginia, according to people with knowledge of the episode. The expulsions appear to be the first of Chinese diplomats suspected of espionage in more than 30 years.

American officials believe at least one of the Chinese officials, who were with their wives, was an intelligence officer operating under diplomatic cover, said six people with knowledge of the expulsions. The group evaded military personnel pursuing them and stopped only after fire trucks blocked their path.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: This is just the tip of the iceberg. 

Tweets For Today

Picture Of The Day

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson reacts as he and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds arrive at the Conservative Party's headquarters following the general election in London, December 13. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

WNU Editor: The above picture came from this photo-gallery .... UK destined for Brexit as Johnson wins big (Reuters).

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Held Secret Talks With Venezuela's Vice-President

Erik Prince arrives for the New York Young Republican Club Gala at the Yale Club of New York City in Manhattan on 7 November 2019. Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Reuters

The Guardian: Blackwater founder Erik Prince secretly met Venezuela vice-president

* Prince had plotted using mercenary army to overthrow Maduro
* Speculation that Prince could be back channel for White House

Erik Prince, founder of the private security firm Blackwater and prominent supporter of Donald Trump, made a secret visit to Venezuela last month and met Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez – one of Nicolás Maduro’s closest allies.

The visit, described by one source as “outreach” to Maduro’s government, came just eight months after Prince floated a plan to deploy a private army to help topple the Venezuelan leader.

It was unclear what Prince, the brother of Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, discussed with Rodríguez. The meeting was first reported by Bloomberg.

A meeting with Rodríguez, who is under US sanctions, could raise questions about whether Prince might have run afoul of US law, which prohibits Americans from virtually any business dealings with sanctioned individuals and specifically with the Venezuelan government. The Venezuelan vice-president’s office also oversees the country’s national intelligence service.

Read more ....

Update: Blackwater founder Erik Prince held secret talks with top Venezuelan official -sources (Reuters).

WNU Editor: I always believed that Erik Prince is someone that the White House's uses as a back-channel to foreign governments that have differences with the U.S.. This meeting confirms it.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

House Democrats Gave President Trump 'Everything That He Wanted' On The $738 Billion Defense Bill

The U.S. Capitol Building is lit at sunset in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Business Insider: House Democrats gave Trump 'everything he wanted' on a $738 billion defense bill while on the brink of impeaching him

  * Progressives in the House are furious that most of their Democratic colleagues voted in favor of a $738 defense bill that excluded provisions aimed at ending US involvement in the Yemen conflict and limiting President Donald Trump's war powers.
  * The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed in a 377 to 48 vote on Wednesday, with 188 Democrats voting in favor and just 41 voting "nay."
  * "The NDAA is a capitulation to the White House's priorities," Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna told Insider on Thursday, adding that it essentially gave Trump "everything he wanted."
  * The legislation passed as Trump is on the verge of being impeached, in part over allegations he abused power by freezing military aid to Ukraine as part of a scheme to aid his 2020 reelection campaign.

The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a $738 billion defense bill that funds the US-Mexico border wall, the Space Force, and continued US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, handing President Donald Trump a big win as Democrats are simultaneously on the brink of impeaching him.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed in a 377 to 48 vote. Different versions of the NDAA passed in the House and Senate earlier this year, and after months of deliberation the House Armed Services Committee unveiled a compromise package on Monday night. The NDAA now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it's expected to pass next week.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The Democrats gave President Trump everything that he wanted in his defense bill. They approved the new U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade deal thereby giving President Trump a huge victory on trade. If the Democrat leadership believed that President Trump was going to be defeated next year, they would be giving him nothing right now. So why are they giving him everything that he wants?

Is The Era Of The B-1 Bomber Coming To An End?

A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber aircraft lands at Avalon Airport, Geelong, Australia, in March 2017. A House Armed Services subcommittee is raising alarms about the dismal state of B-1 readiness, and could order the Air Force to produce a plan to fix it. (Master Sgt. John Gordinier/Air Force)

Popular Mechanics: The Aging B-1 Bomber Can No Longer Fly Like It Used To

The 80s-era bomber may need to cut low-altitude flying due to old age.

* The B-1B Lancer heavy bomber was originally built in the 1980s.
* The B-1B was built for low-level flight, flying beneath radars to bomb targets deep behind enemy lines.
* Wear and tear to the airframes from decades of flight means the Air Force may restrict the B-1s from flying low.

The U.S. Air Force may soon have to restrict one of its bombers from a key mission profile: flying low. The B-1B Lancer bomber fleet is growing old and the Air Force is considering restricting its ability to fly low, which is reportedly hard on the aircraft, in order to keep the big airplanes flying.

The B-1B bomber was built during the 1980s as a heavy strategic bomber to fight a nuclear war. The B-1B was designed to use its anti-radar stealth design to penetrate Soviet territory, launch nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, and drop bombs before returning home. The bomber was also designed to fly fast at low altitude—below enemy radars—to evade detection.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Not many of them are operating right now .... There Are Less Than 10 B-1 Bombers Operational In The U.S. Air Force (June 7, 2019).

Visitors To Area 51 Have To Wear 'Foggles'

Visitors to the base are forced to wear foggles similar to these until inside a secure building

Daily Mail: Visitors to secretive military base Area 51 in Nevada have to wear 'foggles' while being escorted on site to protect classified government technology from prying eyes

* Area 51 is America's most secretive, secure military base in the Nevada desert
* Visitors to the base are forced to wear foggles until inside a secure building
* The frosted eyewear prevents wearers from seeing anything apart from what is directly in from of them and below
* Glasses prevent the base from prying eyes from those who are already on site

Visitors to America's most secretive military base are forced to wear a special kind of eye wear while on site in order to keep sensitive information classified and away from prying eyes.

The special glasses are known as foggles and use a type of frosted glass to ensure that the wearer can only see what appears in front and below them. Any kind of peripheral vision is obscured.

The glasses, which are frequently used by pilots that are learning to fly using just their instruments also appear to be a useful tool when escorting visitors around Area 51 in Nevada, long thought to be country's most protected and mysterious base.

Read more ....

Update: Visitors To Area 51 Have To Wear "Foggles" That Severely Limit Vision When Moving About (Warzone/The Drive)

WNU editor: They take their security seriously.

There Are A Minimum Of 537 Anti-Drone Systems On The Market

VICE: Report on 537 Anti-Drone Systems Shows How Wild the Market Has Become

From jamming rifles to ground installations that fire nets, a new report lays out the expansive Wild West of anti-drone tech.

Drones are everywhere. Military drones buzz war zones dropping missiles; surveillance drones hover above neighborhoods, looking for anything out of place; even now, commercial drones hide in holiday wrapping, waiting for excited enthusiasts to fly them in a park.

As the market for drones has grown, so too has the market for tools to take them down. There’s jamming rifles, spoofing software, and hundreds of other solutions for downing a drone. But what to buy the budding enthusiast?

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I doubt that the "anti-drone" market can support this many companies/products.

New Orleans Declares A State Of Emergency After Cyberattack

Forbes: New Orleans Declares State Of Emergency Following Cyber Attack

The City of New Orleans has suffered a cybersecurity attack serious enough for Mayor LaToya Cantrell to declare a state of emergency.

The attack started at 5 a.m. CST on Friday, December 13, according to the City of New Orleans’ emergency preparedness campaign, NOLA Ready, managed by the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. NOLA Ready tweeted that "suspicious activity was detected on the City’s network," and as investigations progressed, "activity indicating a cybersecurity incident was detected around 11 a.m." As a precautionary measure, the NOLA tweet confirmed, the city’s IT department gave the order for all employees to power down computers and disconnect from Wi-Fi. All city servers were also powered down, and employees told to unplug any of their devices.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Another example on why governments must invest in cyber security.

More News On New Orleans Declaring A State Of Emergency After Cyberattack

New Orleans declares states of emergency after cyberattack -- UPI
New Orleans Declared A State of Emergency And Took Down Servers After Cyber Attack -- Time
Computers, servers connected to the city shut down -- AJC
After cyber attack in New Orleans, no data held for ransom and recovery starting -- NOLA
New Orleans city government hit with cyberattack -- ABC News

U.S. Secretary Of Defense: Strategic Interest Of U.S. Aligns With India

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 11, 2019.rin Scott / Reuters

NDTV/Press Trust of India: Strategic Interest Of US Aligns With India: American Defence Secretary

"Next week in Washington DC, the United States will host the second ever India two-plus-two ministerial, where we will continue to advance our growing partnership as our strategic interests align," US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said.

Washington: There is an alignment of America's strategic interest with India, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday as he identified China, followed by Russia, as Pentagon's top two challenges in the coming years.

"Next week in Washington DC, the United States will host the second ever India two-plus-two ministerial, where we will continue to advance our growing partnership as our strategic interests align," Mr Esper said during his appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) think-tank.

On December 18, Mr Esper will host his Indian counterpart, Rajnath Singh, at the Pentagon for a bilateral meeting. Following this, he and Mr Singh will drive down to the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department to join External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the second India US 2+2 ministerial.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: I sure Pakistan is not happy to hear this.

China Is Not As Strong As Many In The West Like To Believe It Is

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during a high-level event in the Assembly Hall at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Milton Ezrati, National Interest: No, China Is Not as Strong as It Seems

Despite commentary to the contrary, Beijing's success isn't perfect or unstoppable.

American opinion has moved away from its once-benign view of China. That older view, still favored by many business people, held that a prosperous China would threaten its neighbors less than a poor China, and anyway would offer the United States great economic advantages. Accordingly, this view recommended that the West engage China in a friendly way and accommodate Beijing as much as possible. The newer view has responded to overwhelming evidence that Chinese development is far from benign, that China flaunts common trade practices, steals technological secrets on a huge scale and spies outrageously. Moreover, this new view contends that Beijing acts aggressively in Asia, seems to have set itself on a thinly-veiled imperialist project that it calls the “Belt and Road,” and shows no regard for human rights in Hong Kong and—still more outrageously—in its Xinjiang region. This new view frequently paints China as a dangerous economic, military, and diplomatic juggernaut, so unstoppable, in fact, that the United States, short of a disastrous military confrontation, has little choice but to engage China in disarming ways and accommodate it where it can.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: China has aspirations to be the world's super power. But aspiring to be one is not the same as becoming one. For the moment China is the world's second largest economy, and that position gives it a lot of influence and attention. But the rate that China has grown in the past three decades is now at an end. And if (heaven forbid) the economy goes into a recession, there are going to be political and social consequences that may dwarf what is happening in Hong Kong right now. Is China ready for that day? IMHO the answer is no.

U.S. Secretary Of Defense Esper: China Has Become Top US Military Priority. Russia Is Number Two

SCMP: Pentagon head says China has become top US military priority, moving past Russia

* US Defence Secretary Mark Esper says Beijing is ‘asserting illegitimate maritime claims’ and ‘threatening its neighbours' sovereignty’ in South China Sea
* ‘Beijing and Moscow are not only violating the sovereignty of smaller states, they are also attempting to undermine international laws,” he said.

Even as US and Chinese officials were reducing global economic tensions on Friday by confirming they had reached a “phase one” trade deal, the top US military official said that the Pentagon has put China on the top of its priorities – ahead of Russia – owing to Beijing’s “brazen efforts” to undermine the territorial claims of its neighbours.

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper condemned China for undermining international laws and violating the sovereignty of smaller states.

“Today, the international rules-based order that America and its allies have worked hard to establish is being tested … China first and Russia second are now the department's top priorities,” Esper said.

Read more ....

Update: US defense chief prepares for 'great power competition' with China (Nikkei Asian Review).

WNU Editor: The Chinese have noticed the Pentagon shifting their attention to them .... South China Sea: US stages 85 military exercises with regional allies in 2019, report says (SCMP).

China's Military Is Betting Big On Drones

Warzone/The Drive: Highly Impressive Lineup Of Chinese Air Combat Drone Types Caught By Satellite

The display of China's most prominent operational and developmental unmanned military aircraft is another sign that Beijing is betting big on drones.

A satellite image that was posted on Chinese internet shows an impressive lineup of the Chinese military aerial drones, some of which are in development while others are operational. The lineup occurred at Malan Air Base, a known hub of testing for these types of systems. The image is yet another stark reminder of how China is betting big on unmanned aerial military capabilities, from high-end unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) to swarms of small expendable drones.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Some customers are not happy with China's military drones .... Iraq's Fleet Of Chinese Drones Is Struggling With Maintenance Issues (August 9, 2019).

The Growth Of China's Military Power Over The Past 40 Years (Video)

WNU Editor: China's military growth has primarily happened in the past 15 years. Now they will have to maintain what they have built up.

China Wants Group Commanders For Its Aircraft Carriers

J-15 fighters aboard China's Liaoning aircraft carrier conduct a drill in the South China Sea. REUTERS/Stringer

SCMP: Chinese navy trains top guns to command expanding aircraft carrier fleet

* Best pilots from carrier-borne squadrons sent to naval academy for warship training to meet ‘urgent need’ for commanders
* They had to pass more than 10 assessments – from political thought to psychological testing – before they could join the programme

The Chinese navy is training fighter pilots experienced in carrier-borne operations to command and manage its warships as it seeks to expand its global naval power.

Its best pilots from carrier-borne squadrons – including some qualified to fly fighter jets during both daytime and at night – were sent to a naval academy for warship combat and command training late last month, PLA Daily reported on Monday.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: China may soon have 4 aircraft carriers, but they still need the personnel to command it. That is going to take a lot of time.

Is This The Future Of Stealth Fighters?

Image: BAE Systems.

Robert Beckhusen, National Interest: What Is The Future Of Stealth Fighters? This Picture Is Your Clue.

Will stealth survive in the age of artificial intelligence?

Key point: It’s long been a goal of aerospace developers to eliminate moving control surfaces from airplanes.

Researchers at BAE Systems and The University of Manchester successfully test-flew an experimental unmanned aerial vehicle with no moving control surfaces, BAE Systems announced in December 2017.

The 12-foot-span, jet-propelled MAGMA drone could help BAE develop stealthier warplanes. Control surfaces account for a significant portion of an airplane’s radar signature.

Instead of rudders, ailerons and other conventional control surfaces, MAGMA relies on two new technologies for maneuverability. Wing circulation control “takes air from the aircraft engine and blows it supersonically through the trailing edge of the wing to provide control for the aircraft,” according to BAE Systems.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: The BAE news release on this new technology is here .... Successful first flight trial completion of unmanned aerial vehicle, MAGMA (BAE Systems).

North Korea Conducts Another 'Crucial Test' At Its Sohae Missile Site

BBC: North Korea conducts 'crucial test' - state media

A spokesman told KNCA news agency it took place late on Friday at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground, but did not give specific details.

This is the second test to take place at the Sohae site in less than a week.

Talks between the US and North Korea about its nuclear programme remain stalled.

US President Donald Trump has refused to lift biting sanctions until North Korea fully abandons its nuclear programme.

Read more ....

More News On North Korea Conducting Another 'Crucial Test' At Its Sohae Missile Site

North Korea conducts 'crucial test' at Sohae launch site: KCNA -- AFP
North Korea says it conducted another 'crucial test' at missile site -- CNN
North Korea claims successful 'crucial test' at long-range rocket site -- Guardian/AP
North Korea conducts 'crucial test' at its long-range rocket launch site strengthening its strategic nuclear deterrent', military leaders claim -- Daily Mail
North Korea conducts new test at rocket site, aims to 'overpower U.S. nuclear threats' -- Reuters
North Korea Links 2nd ‘Crucial’ Test to Nuclear Weapons Program -- NYT