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Sudanese protesters sign final power-sharing deal with army

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 10:09am

Sudan's pro-democracy movement and ruling military council signed a final power-sharing agreement Saturday at a ceremony in the capital, Khartoum, after weeks of tortuous negotiations. The deal paves the way for a transition to a civilian-led government following the military overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April. Earlier this month, the two sides initialed a constitutional document in the wake of international pressure and amid growing concerns the political crisis that followed al-Bashir's ouster could ignite civil war.


EU Chief Juncker to Undergo Emergency Gallbladder Surgery

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 9:40am

(Bloomberg) -- European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is set to undergo emergency surgery to have his gallbladder removed.The EU leader was vacationing in Austria when he was taken back to Luxembourg for the operation, the EU said in a statement on Saturday. Juncker, 64, is set to leave his post when his term ends this fall. The former prime minister of Luxembourg has previously faced questions about his health. At a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit last year, Juncker was filmed struggling to keep his balance, which the commission later said was the result of a painful sciatica attack.Gallbladder removal surgery is a common procedure, according to the U.K.’s NHS website, which says an operation to take it out is often recommended if any problems with it develop. While such procedures are uncomplicated, it can sometimes take weeks before people return to normal activities.Juncker is scheduled to attend the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, next weekend, though the emergency procedure means the EU chief may not be in a position to participate. The leaders are expected to discuss global challenges in the economy and the environment as well as relations with Iran, Russia and North Korea.The gallbladder surgery comes as the EU leader is set to hand over the presidency of the European Commission to Ursula von der Leyen in October. Following her confirmation by the European Parliament last month, the former German defense minister is accepting nominations from EU member states for the team of senior officials who will be in charge of the bloc’s executive body for the next five years.The commission has in recent years had to grapple with complex challenges, including difficult negotiations with the U.K. as it plans to leave the bloc as well as simmering tensions with the U.S. over trade.(Updates with more background from fourth paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Natalia Drozdiak in Brussels at ndrozdiak1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Giles Turner at gturner35@bloomberg.net, Chad Thomas, James AmottFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Iranian tanker to leave Gibraltar soon despite US pressure

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 9:39am

The shipping agent for an Iranian supertanker caught in a diplomatic standoff says the vessel is ready to depart Gibraltar on Sunday or Monday, as the U.S. made a last-minute effort to seize it again. The head of the company sorting paperwork and procuring for the Grace 1 oil tanker in the British overseas territory said the vessel could be sailing away in the next "24 to 48 hours," once new crews dispatched to the territory take over command of the ship. "The vessel is ongoing some logistical changes and requirements that have delayed the departure," Astralship managing director Richard De la Rosa told The Associated Press.


Iran tanker in limbo off Gibraltar as US issues warrant

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 8:12am

A last-minute US warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker preparing to leave Gibraltar after weeks of detention cast doubt over its departure on Saturday, prolonging a diplomatic spat between Tehran, London and Washington. The US Justice Department alleged the ship was part of a scheme "to unlawfully access the US financial system to support illicit shipments to Syria from Iran by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps," which Washington has designated a foreign terrorist organisation. There was no comment from Britain or Gibraltar, its overseas territory.


Airstrikes in Syrian rebel stronghold kills family of 7

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 7:07am

Syrian government and Russian airstrikes pounded the southern edge of a rebel stronghold in the country's northwest on Saturday, killing at least seven members of one family, activists and a war monitor reported. The intense airstrikes were coupled with fierce ground clashes as the Syrian government, backed by Russia, pushed ahead with a months-old offensive seeking to chip away at territory on the periphery of the rebel enclave. Idlib and surrounding areas are home to 3 million civilians and is dominated by Islamist insurgents.


The Latest: Sudan army, protesters ink final transition deal

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 6:25am

Sudan's army and the country's pro-democracy movement have signed a final power-sharing deal at a ceremony in the capital, Khartoum. Saturday's agreement paves the way for a transition to civilian rule following the military overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April after months of protests. The agreement would also establish a Cabinet appointed by the activists and a legislative body.


Did Russia’s Bizarre Nuclear-Powered Missile Just Blow Up?

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 5:30am

Did Russia’s nuclear-powered cruise missile just blow up? Or was it something else that spewed a radioactive cloud and triggered radiation alarms?  An accident at a military test site in northern Russia has sparked speculation of a mishap with the 9M730 Burevestnik ("Petrel"), an intercontinental cruise missile powered by a nuclear reactor.  Russia has confirmed an explosion during an August 8 test at Nyonoksa, a military testing base on the White Sea. The explosion killed employees of Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation. “Five Rosatom staff members died and a further three people were injured in a tragic accident that took place during tests on a liquid propulsion system involving isotopes at a military facility in Arkhangelsk region,” stated a brief Rosatom announcement.   After Russian media reports that radiation in the area had spiked to 200 times normal background levels, Russian news agency TASS hastened to claim that the dose was less than that of a medical X-ray—though the village near the explosion has been ordered to evacuate, raising memories of the Chernobyl incident.  The fact that the accident involved rocket propulsion and radioactive isotopes immediately led to speculation that the Burevestnik (NATO code name SSC-X-9 Skyfall) was involved. In fact, President Donald Trump went on Twitter to announce that “we have similar, though more advanced, technology. The Russian ‘Skyfall’ explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!”  But Edward Geist, an expert on Russian nuclear history at the RAND Corp. think tank, cautioned that it is premature to assume that the Petrel was the culprit.  “The case that this may be associated with the nuclear cruise missile is pretty circumstantial,” Geist told The National Interest. For example, the site of the accident is a closed Russian military town that is “associated with the testing of all kinds of missiles.”   Perhaps there was an accident involving Petrel. Or, perhaps there was an accident involving another weapon that damaged a Petrel. Or, maybe Russia was testing some other system: among Putin’s much-touted wonder weapons is the nuclear-powered Poseidon robotic torpedo.  In other words, something happened, and that something involved fatalities and release of radiation. But we can’t be sure, and the Russian government isn’t likely to tell us.  Nonetheless, Geist suspects that Russia is expanding on Cold War-era Soviet research into nuclear aircraft propulsion. During that era, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union explored nuclear-powered manned aircraft. They also explored nuclear-powered missiles, such as the notorious 1950s U.S. Project Pluto, a nuclear-powered, low-altitude, supersonic ramjet missile that would have dropped atomic bombs over the Soviet Union—and poisoned the Russian countryside with radioactive exhaust from its reactor.   While the United States abandoned those projects by the 1960s, Soviet research continued into the 1970s, according to Guest. It is more than possible that Petrel is based on those old nuclear ramjet designs.  The problem isn’t with nuclear power per se. NASA uses Radioisotope Power Systems—fueled by plutonium—for its spacecraft exploring Mars, Saturn, Pluto and the Voyager probes that have journeyed beyond our solar system. Operating so far from the Sun, solar power isn’t an option. Despite some public fears about launching a plutonium device through the atmosphere aboard a rocket, the system has so far worked safely.  But these spacecraft spend almost all of their lives far, far from Earth. Not only are there technical challenges to powering a missile or aircraft with a nuclear reactor (especially if the aircraft is manned), but the Petrel will fly inside the atmosphere.  Nor is it clear why Russia needs a nuclear-powered cruise missile in the first place. Russia claims that because such a weapon has unlimited range, it can evade U.S. missile defenses designed to stop ballistic missiles descending from space rather than low-flying cruise missiles. Yet even if the Petrel was hard to detect and intercept, it would be too slow as a first-strike weapon.   It would be more useful as a retaliatory weapon. But as always with the nuclear Balance of Terror, it would be simpler to just build more ICBMs, armed with multiple warheads, to overwhelm anti-missile defenses. An ICBM can also reach its target within 30 minutes, compared to a cruise missile that would take hours.   Unlike an ICBM, a nuclear-powered cruise missile could potentially stay aloft indefinitely. But over whose territory would the radiation-spewing missile orbit? For how long? And why would anyone want a nuclear missile orbiting over their heads 24/7?  Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.Image: Reuters


Argentina Teeters, Protests Rage, Glaciers Melt: Weekend Reads

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 5:23am

(Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more.Argentina is teetering on the edge of an economic abyss while its neighbor Chile is watching its glaciers melt at an alarming rate, and China is massing its troops on the border with Hong Kong.Dive into these and other stories that chronicle the week’s major political events with the latest edition of Weekend Reads. What Life at Center of Chaos Looks Like for Argentine BusinessesAfter two sovereign defaults this century, small business owners in Argentina are well versed in navigating times of crisis. But even they were left floundering by the latest rout. With presidential elections still 10 weeks away, they were left wondering how much worse it can get. Jonathan Gilbert, Jorgelina do Rosario and Patrick Gillespie report.Macron’s Quiet Summer May Turn to Anger as Voters Return to WorkPresident Emmanuel Macron has spent three weeks in the Cote d’Azur, south of France, alternating between the beach and preparing for a delicate G-7 summit on Aug. 24. While Macron himself doesn’t face voters until 2022, Gregory Viscusi reports any turbulence would be an unwelcome backdrop for local elections that are essential for developing his three-year-old party.Xi’s Dilemma: Send Forces Into Hong Kong, or Wait Out ProtestersThere’s signs China is preparing to mobilize mainland forces to quell the weeks-long uprising in Hong Kong. The question now is whether President Xi Jinping will actually do it. The protesters, meanwhile, have raised the stakes with actions to inflict economic pain as they push for leader Carrie Lam’s resignation and other demands to loosen Beijing’s grip on the city.Hong Kong’s Massive Protests Raise Ominous Questions About 2047When the U.K. agreed to return Hong Kong to China, “One country, two systems,” was shorthand for Beijing’s pledge to maintain the city’s character for 50 years — and the possibility that by the time 2047 rolled around, the systems would have converged. But as Matthew Campbell reports, that’s now unlikely.It’s Democracy vs. the Hackers as the 2020 Election ApproachesThe front line to protect the integrity of the U.S. presidential election is in a Springfield strip mall, next to a Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant. As Kartikay Mehrotra and Alyza Sebenius report, it’s there that a couple dozen bureaucrats, programmers, and security experts are working to prevent a replay of 2016, when Russian hackers breached voter registration rolls.Protests Pop Up Across Russia as Putin’s Popularity, Economy DipYevgeny Dubinin had never been to a demonstration before. But he was so angry authorities had refused to register opposition candidates in Moscow’s city council election that he couldn’t sit at home. The protest-arrest cycle represents the biggest public challenge to Vladimir Putin’s two-decade rule since in 2012, Irina Reznik and Ilya Arkhipov write..Where America Flirted With Its Own ChernobylThe Three Mile Island accident four decades ago turned the U.S. against nuclear energy. Now the complex is closing just as some say it still has a role to play, writes Will Wade. Today, nuclear energy is at the center of a complicated debate — while cheap gas has upended the economics of operating reactors, questions about whether to shut one down involve more than the bottom line.Gaza Needs Cement to Rebuild, But Israel Dominates the MarketGaza needs concrete, and lots of it. In the 2014 war, some 11,000 housing units were destroyed, and an additional 160,000 sustained damage — affecting more than a quarter of the families in the territory. As David Rocks and Yaacov Benmeleh write, Israeli-Palestinian politics have hampered the pace of recovery.The Walls Are Closing In on Cyril RamaphosaWhen Cyril Ramaphosa succeeded Jacob Zuma as South Africa’s president, he promised a “new dawn” after nine years of misrule that hobbled the economy. But as Michael Cohen reports, 18 months later, hopes have dissipated that the former labor union leader can orchestrate a turnaround.Modi Has Limited Options to Boost Economy in Locked Down KashmirPrime Minister Narendra Modi says his move to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy is about boosting its economy. But as Archana Chaudhary and Bibhudatta Pradhan report, observers say it will take more than rhetoric to bring investments to a state that’s lost more than 42,000 lives to conflict in the last three decades.And finally … Chile has one of the world’s largest reserves of fresh water outside the north and south poles. But its abundant glaciers are melting fast, with the ice mass now retreating one meter per year, Laura Millan Lombrana reports. The formations also happen to cover some of the massive copper deposits that make Chile the world’s largest producer of the metal — and uncovering those minerals also threatens to hasten the glaciers’ demise. To contact the author of this story: Ruth Pollard in New Delhi at rpollard2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Kathleen Hunter at khunter9@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Kim expresses 'great satisfaction' over NKorea weapons tests

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 5:11am

North Korea said Saturday that leader Kim Jong Un supervised another test-firing of an unspecified new weapon, seen as an attempt to pressure Washington and Seoul over slow nuclear negotiations and their joint military exercises. Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, said that following Friday's launches, Kim expressed "great satisfaction" over his military's "mysterious and amazing success rates" in recent testing activity and vowed to build up "invincible military capabilities no one dare provoke." The report did not mention any specific comment about the United States or South Korea.


Before Buying Russia's S-400, Turkey Made Sure to Have Spare F-16 Parts On Hand

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 4:30am

The U.S. has threatened to end Turkey’s participation in the F-35 fighter program by July 31 if Ankara doesn’t scrap the S-400 deal.A Bloomberg report says Turkey has been stockpiling parts for F-16s and other military equipment in anticipation of a U.S. sanction for acquiring the Russian S-400 air defense system.Two anonymous officials from Turkey who spoke to the news outlet refused to clarify on what types of spares were accumulated, how much was acquired and how long they can last.Relations between the two countries deteriorated over the course of the Syrian civil war, when the U.S. armed a Kurdish militia that Turkey views as a terrorist group, and in the aftermath of a 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan that his government blames on a Turkish imam residing in the U.S.NATO member Turkey is determined to acquire ballistic missile technology, and aims to co-produce the next generation of the S-400, the officials added, citing discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdogan said his country will take delivery of the S-400 within days.“The first batch of S-400s will be delivered in a week or 10 days,” Haberturk newspaper cited him as saying in a report Monday. “I’ve clearly told this to Trump, Mr. Putin also said it.”The U.S. argues that the pivot to Moscow could allow Russia to collect critical intelligence that would weaken NATO and compromise the American F-35 stealth fighter, which Turkish companies are helping to build. Yet while Congress is drawing up potential sanctions plans that at their harshest would cripple the Turkish economy, U.S. President Donald Trump has cast Turkey as a victim in the saga.At the Group of 20 nations meeting in Japan on Saturday, the U.S. president said Erdogan was treated unfairly by the Obama administration when he sought to buy the U.S. built Patriot air-defense system. While the S-400 deal is “a problem,” the U.S. is “looking at different solutions,” he said.Turkey in fact turned to Russia to address weaknesses in its air defense after failing to persuade the U.S. to share technology from its Patriot air-defense system as part of any acquisition deal.A resolution submitted to the House of Representatives seeking sanctions against Turkey may hold a clue to the focus of Turkey’s parts-buying spree.“In addition to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Turkish defense acquisition programs that could be affected by sanctions include the Patriot air and missile defense system, CH-47F Chinook heavy lift helicopter, UH-60 Black Hawk utility helicopter and F-16s,” the resolution says.The U.S. has threatened to end Turkey’s participation in the F-35 fighter program by July 31 if Ankara doesn’t scrap the S-400 deal.If Turkey is excluded from the F-35 program, it will look for alternatives, including Russian Su-57 jets, while trying to develop its own warplanes and ballistic missiles for domestic use and export, the Turkish officials said.If Turkey had to buy the Su-57 it would be the first country (outside Russia) to buy the first Russian stealth fighter after India dropped out of Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), known in India as the Perspective Multirole Fighter (PMF), which actually was a derivative project of the Sukhoi Su-57.The Sukhoi Su-57 is a stealth, single-seat, twin-engine multirole fifth-generation fighter aircraft designed for air superiority and attack roles. The aircraft is the product of the PAK FA (literally “Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation”) program. Sukhoi’s internal designation for the aircraft is T-50.In fact, Russian state media claimed that the Su-57 will feature a maximum speed of 1,600 mph, slightly more than that of the F-22 Raptor, and that its missile range, based on the information available, also exceeds that of the F-22.This first appeared in Aviation Geek Club here. Image: Creative Commons. (This first appeared earlier in July 2019.)


The U.S. Navy Let Me Come Aboard Their Deadliest Aircraft Carrier Ever

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 4:20am

If all goes well, the ship should be operational by 2020. If the current schedule holds, Ford should be able to work up with an air wing and deploy in 2021 or 2022.The United States Navy will commission the first of a new generation of aircraft carriers into service today.The future USS Gerald R. Ford ​(CVN-78) will represent the future of naval aviation and will be the most advanced and capable aircraft carrier ever built.(This first appeared several years ago.)With Ford’s imminent commissioning ceremony coming up later this month, the Navy invited The National Interest to preview the mighty warship and see the new vessel’s technology firsthand on July 10.Recommended: How North Korea Could Start a WarRecommended: This Is What Happens if America Nuked North KoreaRecommended: The Colt Python: The Best Revolver Ever Made?Even at first glance, PCU Gerald R. Ford is an impressive sight even as she was moored pierside at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia next to older Nimitz-class carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)—one of America’s oldest flattops, USS George Washington (CVN-73) and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72).Immediately noticeable is that Gerald R. Ford’s island is not only smaller than that of the Nimitz-class carriers, but that the structure is set further astern by about 140ft and slightly further starboard. Moreover, unlike regular fleet carriers, the brand-new Ford is still in pristine condition and sports a gold-painted anchor—a badge of honor noting that she has an exceptionally high crew retention rate.Entering the massive vessel via one of her three aircraft elevators—Nimitz-class ships have four—into her cavernous hangar bay, Ford’s interior looks similar to that of other carriers. However, whereas the Nimitz-class has three partitions in their hangar bays, the new CVN-78-class has only two in order to simplify maintenance.As we walked into the interior to climb up to the bridge, the air conditioning is immediately noticeable. Ford is able to produce 9,900 tons of air conditioning—which not only makes for a more productive crew but should reduce maintenance requirements for new vessels because of reduced humidity. Indeed, the key tenant of the entire CVN-78-class is improved maintainability and efficiency. Unlike previous carriers, Ford is projected to enter drydock only once every 12 years.Climbing up into Ford’s bridge, the systems are far more advanced than anything else in the Navy’s fleet other than the new Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers. All of the controls and navigational systems are completely digital and use touch-screen interfaces. The only concession to the past is a metal wheel connected to an electronic steering and transmission system—though the ship does have backup systems.The entire ship features far greater automation—with far greater reliance on electrical and electronic systems—than any other carrier in the fleet. To power her systems and to meet future growth requirements, Ford’s twin nuclear reactors are almost three times more powerful than the ones onboard the Nimitz-class—generating 250 percent more electricity. Indeed, sister PCU John F. Kennedy (CVN-79)—currently under construction—will adopt electrically-powered elevators, further reducing the need for hydraulic systems.Primary flight control—which is a few more decks up on the island—is similarly high-tech, but aside from a few modifications to the firefighting system—the setup is very similar to the Nimitz-class according to Lt. Commander Jon Biehl, Ford’s mini-boss (deputy air boss) and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot. Biehl said he is very confident in the new carrier’s systems though the ship has yet to be tested in launching and recovering real aircraft.“Very confident, it’s proven to be successful,” Biehl said.Several decks down in Flight-deck Control, I was surprised to see a traditional “Ouija board,” which visually indicates the position and status of aircraft on the ship’s flight deck using scaled aircraft templates and various pins and washers. Ford has automated systems that track the location and status of the ship’s aircraft, but the crew setup the Ouija board as a manual backup—and for the sake of tradition.“We kept the Ouija board for guys just like you that come into flight deck control and it’s just not flight deck control if the Ouija board is not here,” Lt. Commander Jamie Roman, Ford’s aircraft handling officer told me.“This was not part of the ship’s design, this was taken out because we have a system that will track the aircraft called ADMACS [Aviation Data Management and Control System.”   Our next stop was the flight-deck, which we reached via the hangar bay via one of Ford’s three aircraft elevators. Ford’s rearranged and reconfigured flight deck—which is 1,106ft long and somewhat wider than the Nimitz-class’—visibly looks and feels considerably larger than that of previous generation aircraft carriers.Underneath, the massive steel deck, Ford is equipped with four Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch Systems (EMALS) and an Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) which are replacing their steam and hydraulically driven equivalents onboard the Nimitz-class (and which allows for unrestricted operation of the 4 catapult). The ship also features 40 refueling stations and a revised configuration for her weapons elevators. The ship could achieve between 25 and 33 percent greater sortie generation rates than her predecessors once she has been fully tested according to Navy projections.Capt. Brent Gaut, Ford’s executive officer, said that the next steps for the ship and her crew after commissioning will be to move into the test and evaluation phase. By the end of July, the ship is expected to set sail for a 10 to 12-day shakedown period where the crew will begin to test all of Ford’s systems including the EMALS and AAG. If all goes well, the ship will be certified to launch and recover aircraft by the end of September or early October.“The systems I think, in theory, are just phenomenal and designed to perform a certain way,” Gault said.“And now the challenge is to be able to go out and make sure they are able to meet the mark and they allow us to do what we need to do, which is put the ship in harm’s way and go out and fight the fight. So we need to make sure we get there first.”Capt. Rick McCormack, Ford’s commanding officer, said that the ship has already tested the EMALS and AAG with dead loads, and as such, he is very confident that the systems will work as advertised. Indeed, both systems have proven themselves in testing, but the Navy has to be certain that they meet operational standards at sea.“I’m very very confident that the EMALS will do everything we need it to,” McCormack said.“But bottom line, that’s why we’re here. We’re here to test and evaluate these systems.”As McCormack explained, the Navy will use the post-commissioning shakedown to test all of the new systems onboard Ford to identify any deficiencies or fixes that might need to be made. Ford will then move into a post-shakedown availability where the shipyard will make any needed corrections and install certain critical components onboard the ship that have yet to be installed. One such system is Ford’s Dual Band Radar, McCormack said, where there is still ongoing work that must be completed.Subsequently, the ship will then go out to sea for another shakedown cruise to ensure that all of the corrections and new systems work properly, McCormack said. If all goes well, the ship should be operational by 2020. If the current schedule holds, Ford should be able to work up with an air wing and deploy in 2021 or 2022.“All this stuff takes time, so in an ideal world—where everything works right the first time—we go out there and everything works great, you’re on timeline,” McCormack said.“If you go out there, and it doesn’t work quite right and you have to redesign—or there’s something they can do so that it works a little better—that takes time.”Early signs are promising.Ford seems to be delivering on the promise of a more efficient carrier that will take naval aviation into the future. Ford—which is based on the Nimitz-class hull form—restores weight and stability margins by reconfiguring the ship’s interior, though she displaces roughly 100,000-tons just like the CVN-68 class (Indeed, one officer noted that while a sea, Ford is much more sporty than the Nimitz thanks to her prodigious horsepower and reconfigured interiors). But more importantly, Ford adds improved survivability measures while reducing manning and maintenance requirements. If all of Navy’s projections are realized, the service will save $4 billion in total ownership costs over the life of the ship.For operators like McCormack—a career Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pilot—they just want to take the ship out and launch jets. Indeed, McCormack said that he wants to be among the first aviators to “trap” onboard Ford.“As an operator, I just want to go to sea,” McCormack said.“I want to launch airplanes and catch them and hopefully get a launch and an arrestment myself in a Super Hornet.”


Communists Rally in Moscow as Opposition Takes Weekend Off

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 4:16am

(Bloomberg) -- The Russian Communist Party held a rally in central Moscow calling for honest and fair city council elections as the newly energized opposition planned to skip mass protests this weekend for the first time in five weeks.The rally started at noon Moscow time at Sakharov Avenue, the traditional spot for demonstrations, and senior party officials, politicians and State Duma members were scheduled to take part. About 4,000 people gathered during the first hour, according to Moscow police.This weekend marks a lull in protests over the refusal to put opposition candidates on the ballot for city council elections, which sparked the biggest wave of unrest in the capital since 2011-2012. Last Saturday, as many as 60,000 people attended a demonstration in central Moscow to demand the excluded politicians be allowed to run, while over 2,000 people have been detained by riot police in recent weeks for participating in unsanctioned gatherings.Attempts to get a permit to hold an opposition demonstration this Saturday were denied by city authorities, Andrei Morev, a local politician and member of the liberal Yabloko party, wrote on Facebook Thursday. He called instead for a series of individual street protests, a form of opposition that is legal.The opposition plans to return to the streets next week en masse. While the city denied a permit for a rally in the center on Aug. 24, it authorized a meeting at the edge of Moscow in a working class neighborhood filled with Soviet-era residential towers. The protests have continued despite the arrests of many of the opposition politicians on charges of organizing unsanctioned protests. Opposition leader Alexey Navalny is serving 30 days in prison for urging supporters to join an unauthorized action last month.The Communists are one of four parties in Russia’s lower house of parliament but have seen their power wane since President Vladimir Putin was first elected in 2000. They currently hold less than 10% of seats in the chamber.Just 11% of Russians said they would vote for the Communists in parliamentary elections, according to a recent survey by the Levada Center. The low level of support comes despite the ruling United Russia party losing popularity after it pushed through unpopular pension reforms last year, according to a July 18-24 survey of 1,605 people.To contact the reporters on this story: Jake Rudnitsky in Moscow at jrudnitsky@bloomberg.net;Yuliya Fedorinova in Moscow at yfedorinova@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Torrey Clark at tclark8@bloomberg.net, Guy CollinsFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Meet the Journalist Who Exposed the Jeffrey Epsteins of Victorian London

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 3:34am

Wealthy men soliciting underage girls for sex. Girls lured to expensive homes by promises of good-paying jobs. Captains of commerce and heads of state reveling in debauchery. Officials looking the other way.A newspaper exposé written by British journalist W.T. Stead, “The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon” sounds just like the sordid sex ring of Jeffrey Epstein, who died of an apparent suicide in prison on Aug. 10.The difference is that Stead’s account appeared over a century ago, in London’s Pall Mall Gazette in the summer of 1885.In the four-part series, investigative journalist W.T. Stead graphically detailed the ways that wealthy Victorian men procured young girls for sex. Ironically, Stead was the only one who ended up in jail.Lured by the Promise of a Better LifeOn July 6, 1885, the first article in Stead’s exposé was published. Stead revealed how thousands of girls, most of whom were between 13 and 15 years old, were bought for sex by prominent London men, including a “well-known member of Parliament,” a cabinet minister, a doctor and a clergyman who obtained a 12-year old virgin for £20.As soon as it hit London’s newsstands, the story went viral. Stead already had a reputation as a fearless editor who advocated “Governmentby Journalism” and didn’t shy from sensationalism. The Gazette’s reporting was front-page news in the U.S., with The New York Times covering the scandal and the reaction by Englishauthorities.Instead of working to swiftly shut down the illicit sex trade and identify those involved, London’s city solicitor ordered police to seize copies of the Gazette and to arrest vendors for selling copies of the paper. Despite – or because of – the attempted censorship, copies sold well above their cover price. Thousands waited outside newspaper offices for their chance to buy each new installment.Those who could get their hands on a copy learned about how women recruited young girls, and how the authorities who knew about it failed to intervene.Stead interviewed women who explained how they enticed girls to enter the homes of wealthy men with promises of meals, money and jobs. Looking out for “pretty girls who are poor,” brothel keepers and professional procurers recruited orphans, shop girls, servants and nursemaids to “visit” gentlemen.“The police knew all about them long ago,” Stead added, noting that officers were discouraged from pursuing leads, while prosecutors intimidated potential witnesses.Stead interviewed some of the men who paid for the girls. They assured him that the maidens willingly – sometimes eagerly – consented. As the member of Parliament told Stead, “I doubt the unwillingness of these virgins … it is nonsense to say it is rape.”The victimized girls told a different story: They were lured with the promise of a better life. They had no idea that the employment agencies they used were actually fronts for prostitution.Once the girls consented to go into the gentleman’s house, there was no going back. According to Stead, those who resisted were told that they could choose either to be raped and paid, or raped “and then turned into the streets without a penny.”Powerful Predators Remain in the ShadowsThe “maiden tribute” in the series’ title was a reference to the Greek myth in which virgins were sacrificed to theminotaur of Crete, the half-man, half-bull so brutal that a labyrinth was built to contain him. But Stead points out that, unlike the mythic narrative, which required the sacrifice of seven virgins every nine years, modern London was witnessing an exponential number of girls being sacrificed each day.The abuse wouldn’t stop, Stead insisted, until people started believing the girls.“When a woman is outraged,” he wrote, “her sworn testimony weighs nothing against the lightest word of the man who perpetrated the crime.”The Victorian men in Stead’s account were never publicly named. Nor did they ever face criminal prosecution. As a journalist, Stead refused to reveal his sources. And once public attention waned, officials declined to pursue Stead’s leads.In an ironic twist, Stead himself served three months in prison for abduction. In order to prove how easy it was, he had a procurer deliver a 13-year-old girl named Eliza Armstrong to him. Even though it was done for the sake of his reporting, the authorities pounced.Stead’s reporting did have one desired effect: It mobilized support for a parliamentary bill that raised the age of consent for girls from 13 to 16. But none of the women who recruited the girls and none of the men who sexually molested them were held accountable.Different Century, Same Story?In some ways, the parallels between the men of Victorian London and Epstein are striking.Ghislaine Maxwell, Epstein’s one-time girlfriend, allegedly acted as Epstein’s procurer. According to The New York Times, one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, fingered Maxwell as the one who approached her and invited her to Epstein’s home, promising that she could learn how to give massages and “earn a lot of money.” Maxwell has also settled several civil suits with Epstein accusers who named her as his accomplice. Too often, it seems the law serves the interests of powerful men. We saw this in Epstein’s 2007 non-prosecution agreement proffered byAlexander Acosta, who was, at the time, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.As the Sentencing Project noted in a 2018 report submitted to the United Nations, “The United States in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and people of color.” Epstein emerged relatively unscathed during his first brush with the law. Rarely do the authorities haul the same powerful men before the courts a second time, as they did with Epstein.We can thank the dogged reporting of journalists, who, over the past few years, have been exposing patterns of male sexual abuse, making sure to keep the story in the public eye until justice is served. Ronan Farrow’s Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker articles exposing Harvey Weinstein’s decades of predation and his articles detailing Les Moonves’ sexual harrassment played a big role in holding both powerful men to account.Julie Brown and Emily Michot of the Miami Herald revealed the secret Acosta deal and uncovered more than 80 of Epstein’s alleged victims. Due in part to their reporting, Epstein was indicted in July.With the continued persistence of journalists, victims and the public, perhaps the labyrinths that shield the other minotaurs in our midst will be permanently razed.This story first appeared in The Conversation on August 12.Image: Reuters


US issues warrant to seize Iranian tanker in last-ditch effort to stop supertanker leaving Gibralter

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 3:33am

The United States has issued a warrant to seize an Iranian oil tanker caught in the standoff between Tehran and the West in a last ditch effort to prevent the vessel from leaving Gibraltar. The Grace 1 was seized by British Royal Marines at the western mouth of the Mediterranean on July 4 on suspicion of violating European Union sanctions by taking oil to Syria. Gibraltar lifted the detention order on Thursday after the British territory's chief minister said he had secured written assurances from Tehran that the cargo would not go to Syria. But with the vessel and its 2.1 million barrels of oil free to leave, the United States launched a separate legal appeal to impound the ship on the grounds that it had links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which it designates as a terrorist organization. A federal court in Washington issued a warrant to seize the tanker, the oil it carries and nearly $1 million. "A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments," the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Jessie Liu, said in a news release. "The scheme involves multiple parties affiliated with the IRGC and furthered by the deceptive voyages of the Grace 1." The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the warrant, which was addressed to "the United States Marshal's Service and/or any other duly authorized law enforcement officer," may be enforced. The Pentagon declined to comment, as did the British Foreign Office. Asked on Friday about the U.S. intervention, Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said that would be subject to the jurisdiction of Gibraltar's Supreme Court. "It could go back to the court absolutely." The Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper reported that the vessel was unlikely to sail before Sunday, citing an unnamed source who added that it was waiting for six new crew members including a captain to arrive. The Grace 1 had its name erased and it was no longer flying a Panama flag. Iranian state television had quoted Jalil Eslami, deputy head of the country's Ports and Maritime Organisation, as saying the tanker would depart for the Mediterranean after being reflagged under the Iranian flag and renamed Adrian Darya.


North Korea vs. America's Mach 3 SR-71 Spy Plane (Who Wins?)

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 3:33am

No SR-71 has ever been lost or damaged due to hostile action. The aircraft was extremely difficult for enemy radars to find. Featuring the original stealth technology, the SR-71’s leading edges and vertical rudders were composite construction. Being made from a mixture of asbestos and epoxy provided high temperature resistance and radar absorbent characteristics to reduce the radar cross section (RCS).​The SR-71, unofficially known as the “Blackbird,” was a long-range, advanced, strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft. The first flight of an SR-71 took place on Dec. 22, 1964, and the first SR-71 to enter service was delivered to the 4200th (later 9th) Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in January 1966.Its incredible speed enabled it to gather intelligence in a matter of a few seconds while streaking across unfriendly skies. From 80,000 feet, it could survey 100,000 square miles of Earth’s surface per hour.No SR-71 has ever been lost or damaged due to hostile action. The aircraft was extremely difficult for enemy radars to find. Featuring the original stealth technology, the SR-71’s leading edges and vertical rudders were composite construction. Being made from a mixture of asbestos and epoxy provided high temperature resistance and radar absorbent characteristics to reduce the radar cross section (RCS).As former Blackbird driver Col. Richard H. Graham, USAF (Ret.), explains in his book The Complete Book of the SR-71 Blackbird: The Illustrated Profile of Every Aircraft, Crew, and Breakthrough of the World’s Fastest Stealth Jet, an antiradar coating with iron ferrites was also used on the leading edges as well, lowering the RCS further. In effect, the SR-71 became the first stealth airplane. Ben Rich, head of the Lockheed Skunk Works from 1975-1991, says in his book Skunk Works that the shape of the SR-71 reduces the RCS by 65 percent, and the iron ferrite radar absorbing coating reduced it by a further 35 percent. At cruise speed and altitude, the RCS of the SR-71 represented a target of less than ten square meters. For comparison purposes, the RCS of an F-15 fighter is somewhere around one hundred square meters. Even if the SR-71 could be found on radar, its detection was so late that there was simply not enough time for a missile to lock onto it for a successful kill.The only published and U.S. government-acknowledged missile firing at an SR-71 occurred on Wednesday Aug. 26, 1981. SR-71 pilot Maj. Maury Rosenberg and Reconnaissance System Officer (RSO) Maj. E. D. McKim were making their final pass on the DMZ, heading southwest, when North Korea fired two Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) at their aircraft. Major McKim was the first to notice anything out of the ordinary by his DEF system [the Defensive Electronic systems that were designed to jam or spoof any radar or SAM system as necessary and were carried in SR-71’s chine bays] automatically jamming the missile’s guidance system and lighting up his cockpit displays. After he informed Major Rosenberg of his DEF indications, he looked out to the right just in time to see the missiles scream by. The incident caused quite an uproar in the press, and crews became much more cautious in future passes through the Korean DMZ.At the time North Korea denied American charges that its forces fired SAMs at the SR-71.As Henry Scott Stokes reported for the New York Times on Aug. 29, 1981 “North Korea said nothing about whether such an attack had been made in what it defines as its own airspace. Issuing its first direct statement on the incident, the official North Korean press agency charged that the SR-71 had violated ‘the territorial air of the northern half of our republic,’ meaning North Korea […].“Since 1977, however, North Korea has maintained that its military borders extend 50 miles to sea from its eastern and western coasts. It describes its territorial limit as 12 miles from shore. The United States officially recognizes a limit of only 3 miles.“The North Korean statement charged that the SR-71 mission was part of ‘maneuvers to aggravate tension and start a new war in Korea.’ It accused the United States of fabricating a story about a missile attack and of ‘groundlessly slandering’ North Korea.Stokes continues: “North Korea’s denial came in sentence in which the Pentagon’s term ‘international airspace’ was rendered as ‘above high seas.’ ‘According to foreign reports,’ the statement said, ‘the U.S. Defense Department announced on Aug. 26 that the high-altitude reconnaissance plane of the U.S. Air Force, SR-71, seemed to be attacked by a North Korean missile above high seas, groundlessly slandering us.’ ”“The Pentagon announcement on Wednesday did not directly accuse the North Koreans of shooting at the plane as it flew in ‘South Korean and international airspace.’ It said, ‘If a missile was launched, it could have originated from any one of a number of missile sites in North Korea.’“But Dean Fischer, the State Department spokesman, said yesterday that the United States had been able to confirm that North Korean forces ‘fired a missile at a U.S. Air Force plane flying in South Korean and international airspace’ in a routine mission similar to those conducted in the region for years.“On Aug. 14, North Korea complained that SR-71’s had intruded into North Korean airspace eight times this month. ‘The flight patterns are only over South Korea and international airspace,’ an American military official said at the time. ‘They don’t go over North Korea.’“A United States military spokesman said in Seoul today that North Korea had objected to an American proposal for a special meeting of the Korean Military Armistice Commission at Panmunjom tomorrow to discuss the plane incident. He said North Korea had proposed that it be held Sept. 5.”Stokes concludes: “The incident came a week after two American F-14’s shot down two Soviet-built Libyan Su-22’s during maneuvers in the Gulf of Sidra off Libya. That case also involved disputed territorial limits.”Noteworthy there haven been reports of more than one thousand SAMs fired at the SR-71, but in his book, Rich says the number is closer to one hundred. According Graham this number is more accurate.This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2018.Image: DVIDS.This was first published last month.


Huawei denies helping governments of Uganda and Zambia spy on political opponents

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 3:30am

Huawei Technologies sent a letter to The Wall Street Journal on Friday, refuting the publication's bombshell report describing how China's tech giant allegedly helped the governments of two African nations spy on their political opponents.Uganda and Zambia, the two governments mentioned in the article, also denied that Huawei employees had helped them conduct espionage.The Journal's article on Wednesday said that Huawei employees in the two African countries were involved with government cybersecurity forces in helping intercept communications and tracking opponents' social media activity and physical movements.In the letter, Huawei lawyer Steven Friedman said "the article is neither a fair nor a responsible representation of Huawei's legitimate business activities in these countries.""The publication of these false statements has and will continue to damage Huawei's reputation and business interests across the globe," he wrote.The Journal also reported that Huawei technicians helped Zambian authorities spy on opposition bloggers running a news site critical of President Edgar Lungu.Dora Siliya, a Zambian government spokeswoman, criticised the news report in a tweet on Friday."The WSJ article on government spying on political opponents is malicious, we refute it with the contempt it deserves," she wrote.Ugandan musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, on July 24. Photo: Reuters alt=Ugandan musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, on July 24. Photo: ReutersUganda also denied the allegations, other news outlets reported on Friday. According to The Wall Street Journal, Huawei employees helped Ugandan authorities use spyware to disrupt the concerts of Bobi Wine, a popular musician who is now a member of parliament.Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, is preparing for a presidential run in 2021 to challenge President Yoweri Museveni."It is totally false to claim Huawei helped African governments among them Uganda spy on its political opponents," Ugandan presidential spokesman Don Wanyama told Agence France-Presse. "Why spy on Bobi Wine?"Huawei, the world's second-largest smartphone maker and a leading 5G technology developer, has been in the spotlight since the US-China trade war began more than a year ago.The company's development of next-generation wireless communications has made it a crucial player in China as the country attempts to achieve global dominance in critical technologies.Huawei is caught in the cross hairs as the Trump administration pressures China to rein in forced technology transfers and what the US considers intellectual property theft.In May, Huawei was put on US government's Entity List, effectively prohibiting US tech companies from selling it components. A temporary export license that allows legacy sales to Huawei expires on Monday, by which time the White House will have to announce a new rule that will either extend or suspend sales.The US fears that Huawei can be compelled by Beijing to hand over critical technologies and information that would harm American tech leadership and threaten national security.Huawei is also accused of defrauding HSBC and other banks by misrepresenting its relationship with a suspected front company, Skycom Tech, in Iran.This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.


Senior UK Conservative lawmaker says he could not back Corbyn-led government

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 3:24am

A Conservative lawmaker at the centre of efforts to block a no-deal Brexit said on Saturday he was pessimistic about his chances because he and other party colleagues could not support a caretaker government led by opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. With Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowing to take Britain out of the European Union with or without a deal by Oct. 31, anti-Brexit politicians from all sides have been trying, and so far failing, to agree on a plan to stop it from happening. Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, wants a caretaker government with himself as head, and then an election.


US issues warrant to seize Iranian oil tanker

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 2:20am

The US justice department has issued a warrant for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker, a day after a Gibraltar judge allowed the release of the detained vessel.The Grace 1 supertanker was held by British Royal Marines in July on suspicion of illegally transporting oil to Syria.Authorities in the US claim they can seize the ship and the 2.1m barrels of oil it is carrying over alleged violations of terrorism statutes and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. But officials in Gibraltar have already allowed the Grace 1 to leave.Two weeks after the vessel was detained, Iran seized the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz in apparent retaliation.A last-minute legal attempt by the US to keep the Grace 1 detained was rejected by Gibraltar on Thursday.The following day, the US federal court issued a warrant calling for the tanker and oil on board to be seized.The warrant was issued by the US district court for the District of Columbia and addressed to “the United States Marshal’s Service and/or any other duly authorised law enforcement officer”.It has also ordered the seizure of $995,000 from an account at an unnamed US bank linked to Paradise Global Trading LLC, an Iranian company."A network of front companies allegedly laundered millions of dollars in support of such shipments," federal prosecutor Jessie Liu said in a statement.She added the parties involved were linked with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the US regards as a foreign terrorist organisation.Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said the warrant would be subject to the jurisdiction of Gibraltar's Supreme Court.The Grace 1 shifted its position on Friday, but its anchor was still down and it was unclear if it was ready to set sail soon. The ship had its name removed and was no longer flying a Panama flag.The Gibraltar Chronicle reported that the Grace 1 was unlikely to sail before Sunday, citing an unnamed source who added that it was waiting for six new crew members including a captain to arrive.It is to be renamed and will fly an Iranian flag for its onward journey, the deputy head of Iran’s ports and maritime organisation, Jalil Eslami, told Iranian state television on Friday.Additional reporting by agencies


The Ultimate Iran Nightmare: Not a War with America, But a Civil War

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 2:10am

Less than a month later, Iranian security forces suffered another devastating attack at the Mirjaveh border post, the main border crossing between Iran and Pakistan. In that attack, insurgents or terrorists somehow surprised and kidnapped a dozen Iranian servicemen inside an Iranian base. On November 22, 2018, Pakistani forces returned five of the hostages, but the fate of the others remains unknown. The Iranian investigation suggests that the attack on the Mirjaveh post was, in part, an inside job. Clearly, security around the periphery of Iran is beginning to fray.It was an unseasonably warm morning, in northwestern Iran, although a fresh snow blanketed the mountains. Civil unrest had persisted in the area for years amidst the backdrop of war and regional unrest. Crowds gathered in the Mahabad town square. They did not have to wait long. Qazi Muhammad, the founder of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, ascended a platform and delivered a fifteen-minute speech declaring the Kurds a people apart and sharing the right to self-determination with other nations. When he concluded, 300 supporters each fired five rounds into the air to mark the occasion. On that day, the Iranian central government was nowhere to be seen. Its problems were vast, and its army was riven by defection. At any rate, the Iranian leadership was far more concerned about preserving security and stability in Tehran and defending against external threats than sending its forces to restore order in the countryside.The anecdote above, of course, refers to the January 22, 1946 declaration of the Mahabad Republic, an entity that continued for nearly a year before the Iranian Army was able to restore Tehran’s control over the region. But, in Iran’s recent history, it is a story that repeated a half dozen times in the twentieth century. And, such separatist outbursts and insurgencies are a scenario that will likely repeat in the aftermath of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s eventual demise.A History of Unrest:But back to the history: In the first decade of the twentieth century, Edward Granville Browne, a British scholar of the Middle East and freelance correspondent for British newspapers, chronicled the uprisings against the Iranian monarchy’s autocratic excesses in The Persian Revolution. In that episode, Tabriz—at the time, Iran’s second largest city—became the epicenter for the revolutionary movement. The shah in Tehran effectively lost control over the city and unsuccessfully sought to starve it into submission.Then, in 1920, after five years of intermittent insurgency that was born of widespread dissatisfaction with Iran’s still corrupt, dictatorial and arbitrary leadership, for example, Mirza Kuchek Khan declared the Soviet Republic of Gilan along the Western portion of Iran’s Caspian coast.Four years later—and one year before the ultimate collapse of the Qajar dynasty—it was Khuzistan, a predominantly Arab province inside Iran, which became the scene of separatist rebellion against the central state. Sheikh Khazal of Muhammarah—a city known today as Khorramshahr—rose up in defiance of the Iranian monarchy. His rebellion lasted two months before the Iranian state could put it down. Khazal’s grandson today lives in the United Arab Emirates and remains committed to his grandfather’s goals and legacy.Against the backdrop of the chaos of World War II and its aftermath, not only the Kurds rose up, but so too did some Iranian Azerbaijanis (who, like the Kurds, received Soviet support). At the time of the Islamic Revolution, the Kurds again rose up against the central government; that low-key rebellion was put down brutally. Iran’s southeastern Baluchistan region, too, has been the scene not only of a low-level insurgency for decades, but also rampant criminality brought on by the Afghan drug trade. That the Islamic Republic discriminates against the native Baluch not only in terms of their ethnicity but also because they are Sunni in a sectarian Shia state adds fuel to the fire. So too does Baluchistan’s brief flirtation with independence.Iranian Border Security is Collapsing:Simply put, in Iran, the past is prologue. When the state is weak or governments collapse, restive minorities along the periphery rebel. There are ample signs that Iranian security forces are beginning to lose their grip. Not only do the economic protests which began nearly a year ago continue sporadically, but in recent months, terrorists and insurgents have grown increasingly bold along Iran’s periphery.Consider Ahvaz, the largest city in the oil-rich Khuzistan province, and Iran’s eighth-largest city overall. On September 22, 2018, gunmen attacked a military parade, killing twenty-five. It was the deadliest attack inside Iran since terrorists a Shia procession in the southern city of Chabahar in 2010, killing more than thirty. The subsequent Iranian investigation blamed a cell of forty terrorists, twenty-two of whom have reportedly already been executed. Iranian authorities might pat themselves for quick justice, but they might instead consider how it was that such a large cell could operate undetected for so long and how multiple gunmen could infiltrate a high-security area and kill so effectively. While some killed at the parade were innocent bystanders, if the soldiers and Revolutionary Guardsmen slaughtered were unarmed, then that would indicate how little trust Iran’s regime has in the loyalty of its forces.Less than a month later, Iranian security forces suffered another devastating attack at the Mirjaveh border post, the main border crossing between Iran and Pakistan. In that attack, insurgents or terrorists somehow surprised and kidnapped a dozen Iranian servicemen inside an Iranian base. On November 22, 2018, Pakistani forces returned five of the hostages, but the fate of the others remains unknown. The Iranian investigation suggests that the attack on the Mirjaveh post was, in part, an inside job. Clearly, security around the periphery of Iran is beginning to fray.Meanwhile, Iranian Kurdistan remains the site of continued insurgency and unrest. This summer, ten Revolutionary Guardsmen succumbed in a single attack. Clashes in the region are frequent, and only regime repression keeps the region from outright rebellion. That the Iranian government has been forced to report on such incidents rather than bury them is a testament to the fact that the challenge can no longer be denied, even in Tehran.Those new to Iran policy who look at its demography and see its sheer ethnic diversity often propose playing “the ethnic card” to support some of these separatist movements. This would be a huge mistake. The sense of Iran as a nation predates the notion of states organized around ethnicity. When, in the past, foreigners have sought to incite ethnic unrest, they only caused Iranians of all types to rally around the flag, no matter how odious the government. Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s 1980 invasion of Iran probably saved the Islamic Revolution which was already starting to spin out of control. Fortunately—and despite Iranian propaganda to the contrary—neither the United States nor any other power has supported separatist movements in Iran in the post-revolutionary-era.Post-Khamenei Security Challenges:But, as Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s health waivers and he approaches his final months or years, the central government’s control over the periphery appears increasingly weak. The vacuum which will follow his death will likely mean a number of simultaneous and indigenous uprisings. And, while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will remain on paper a formidable force, with the regime’s leadership vacant and its commander-in-chief functions absent, it will likely be faced with simultaneous indigenous uprisings and insurgencies in Khuzistan, Kurdistan and Baluchistan. It is unclear, however, how effective the IRGC could be.The U.S. intelligence community has two major blind spots with regard to the IRGC. The first is its factional divisions. While all acknowledge the IRGC is not homogenous—some men only join for the privileges—there is little understanding about who or how many within the organization represent the true ideologues. The second concerns individual units. In 2007, Mohammad Ali Jafari, the current head of the IRGC, reorganized the Guards to put a single unit in each province (and two in Tehran) with the aim of keeping order. It is unknown, however, whether each provincial IRGC unit is composed of men native to the province in which they serve. The answer to that question would indicate whether ideology trumps loyalty when servicemen are given the order to fire into a crowd which might include family, friends or schoolmates. When Khamenei dies, it is likely that those whose hearts are not in the regime’s revolutionary ideology will just go home, moves which will only further encourage Kurdish, Baluchi and, perhaps, Arab insurgency. Even if the IRGC remains largely loyal, its hands will be full securing Iran’s major cities—Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan and Tabriz—as well as Iran’s oil infrastructure. Insurgents and local councils will fill the vacuum. Some may declare independence; others will likely cloak their movements in talk of federalism.In the 1920s, mid-1940s and at the time of the Islamic Revolution, it took the Iranian regime months and, in some cases, years to restore order to the periphery. And it took officers willing to shed previous constraints and precedents to pacify the countryside. It was Reza Khan, a Cossack officer, for example, whose success putting down rebellions catapulted him first into a military hero and then, in 1925, the shah. Unclear is whether any Iranian leader in lies in wait among the middle-ranks of the Iranian Army or IRGC or, if not, what the response in Tehran, the region and the broader world would be to state collapse and fracturing. If history is any guide, the world may not have to wait too long to find out.Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.


Why the Air Force Gave Up on the SR-71 (The Fastest Plane Ever)

Yahoo World News Feed - August 17, 2019 - 2:00am

Said the former astronaut, “The termination of the SR-71 was a grave mistake and could place our nation at a serious disadvantage in the event of a future crisis. Yesterday’s historic transcontinental flight was a sad memorial to our short-sighted policy in strategic aerial reconnaissance.”​The SR-71, unofficially known as the Blackbird, was a long-range, advanced strategic reconnaissance aircraft developed from the Lockheed A-12 and YF-12A aircraft. The first flight of an SR-71 took place on Dec. 22, 1964, and the first SR-71 to enter service was delivered to the 4200th (later 9th) Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in January 1966.No SR-71 has ever been lost or damaged due to hostile action: in fact its incredible speed enabled it to gather intelligence in a matter of a few seconds while streaking across unfriendly skies. From 80,000 feet, it could survey 100,000 square miles of Earth’s surface per hour.Despite the aircraft’s incredible flight characteristics, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) retired its fleet of SR-71s on Jan. 26, 1990, because of a decreasing defense budget, high costs of operation and availability of sophisticated spy satellites.“General Larry Welch, the Air Force chief of staff, staged a one-man campaign on Capitol  Hill to kill the program entirely,” Ben Rich wrote in his book Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed. “General Welch thought sophisticated spy satellites made the SR-71 a disposable luxury. Welch had headed the Strategic Air Command and was partial to its priorities. He wanted to use SR-71 refurbishment funding for development of the B-2 bomber. He was quoted by columnist Rowland Evans as saying, ‘The Blackbird can’t fire a gun and doesn’t carry a bomb, and I don’t want it.’ Then the general went on the Hill and claimed to certain powerful committee chairmen that he could operate a wing of fifteen to twenty [F-15E] fighter-bombers with what it cost him to fly a single SR-71.That claim was bogus. So were claims by SAC generals that the SR-71 cost $400 million annually to run. The actual cost was about $260 million.”Both Welch and SAC commander General John Chain testified before Congress that the SR-71 should go, and so it did.As Rich so aptly reflected, “a general would always prefer commanding a large fleet of conventional fighters or bombers that provides high visibility and glory. By contrast, buying into Blackbird would mean deep secrecy, small numbers, and no limelight.”Blackbird operations, except training flights, were officially terminated in November 1989, having been eliminated from the FY1990 Defense Department budget.On Mar. 6, 1990, one Blackbird famously set a series of world speed records on its ‘retirement flight.’ The SR-71 with tail number 64-17972 was flown from California to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum (NASM) Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, where it would eventually go on display. In the process, it set the official National Aeronautic Association coast-to-coast speed record of 2,086 miles in one hour and seven minutes, averaging 2,124.5 mph. It made the 311-mile St. Louis-to-Cincinnati leg in less than nine minutes, averaging 2,176.08 mph.As told by Bill Yenne in his book Area 51 Black Jets, within a few months of this much-publicized flight, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army had occupied Kuwait and the U.S. was involved in the Desert Shield buildup that culminated in Operation Desert Storm in January and February 1991. During that conflict, many operational commanders, including General Norman Schwarzkopf, lamented the absence of expedited reconnaissance that the SR-71 might have contributed.Mounting concerns about the situations in world trouble spots from the Middle East to North Korea led Congress to reconsider the reactivation of the SR-71. In 1993, Admiral Richard Macke, director of the joint staff for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that “from the operator’s perspective, what I need is something that will not give me just a spot in time but will give me a track of what is happening. When we are trying to find out if the Serbs are taking arms, moving tanks or artillery into Bosnia, we can get a picture of them stacked up on the Serbian side of the bridge. We do not know whether they then went on to move across that bridge. We need the [reconnaissance information] that a tactical, an SR-71, a U-2, or an unmanned vehicle of some sort, will give us, in addition to, not in replacement of, the ability of the satellites to go around and check not only that spot but a lot of other spots around the world for us. It is the integration of strategic and tactical.”In its FY1994 appropriations, Congress authorized a reinstatement of funding to permit a revival of part of the SR-71 fleet. By that time, many of the twenty surviving SR-71s were being prepped for museum displays, but at least a half dozen were in storage at Palmdale or flying research missions with NASA.The USAF moved too slowly on the path to SR-71 reactivation, and in October 1997, using a line-item veto, President Bill Clinton deleted the funding. The Blackbird was permanently grounded by the US Air Force in 1998, leaving just two at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB.One of the last NASA missions for the SR-71 was the Linear Aerospike SR-71 Experiment (LASRE) series conducted in 1997 and 1998. The object was to study aerodynamic performance of lifting bodies combined with aerospike engines such as would have been used in the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works X-33, the demonstrator for the conceptual VentureStar single-stage-to-orbit reusable spaceplane. The latter program was abandoned by NASA in 2001 but pursued by Lockheed Martin thereafter.In signing off any discussion of the Blackbird’s demise, Americans are left with the words that Senator John Glenn spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate on the day after the 1990 “retirement flight.”Said the former astronaut, “The termination of the SR-71 was a grave mistake and could place our nation at a serious disadvantage in the event of a future crisis. Yesterday’s historic transcontinental flight was a sad memorial to our short-sighted policy in strategic aerial reconnaissance.”This article by Dario Leone originally appeared on The Aviation Geek Club in 2018.Image: DVIDS.This article first appeared last month and is being republished due to reader interest.


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