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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Defense Podcasts, MH17 Background, JSF Break-In, JSON Parsing, and More

- if you're interested in defense, intelligence, or geo-politics in general these soundcasts may be of interest to you. Obviously, they're US/Allied focused but they cover a wide range of affairs that face these areas. I may go through other countries at another time...

- if you've been watching the media lately you'll have realised that Russian seperatists seemed to have been implicated in the MH17 downing. If you actually go through all of the evidence (especially the hard evidence that is hard to fake. If you listen to any one side you can easily get caught up in their perspective and miss a few things) though things don't seem that clear cut and there are a lot of people who seem to be withholding (often crucial such as RADAR records, ability to access the crash site, debris/fragments from the site, etc...) evidence for some strange reason (or just missing some things which should be obvious?). Moreover, all parties involved have had a history of fabricating evidence (I wouldn't put it past Ukrainian or Russian forces planting evidence on the crash site) so I wouldn't necessarily believe whatever is finally said. Some theories have included: it could have been a 'false flag' operation to aide Russian justification for invasion of Ukraine, it could have been a 'false flag' operation to aide Ukraine justification for action against Russia, Ukraine air force operation which went extremely bad but actually does a good explanation of why the debris has such variability with regards to damage, it was a plain accident (with a lot of silliness involved all round), possible targeted assisination of Putin himself as his plane was in area at the time (about 100-200 km) and since his plane has similar markings it MH17 which could have meant it was mis-identified. Either way, if you go through the history of all parties you'll realise that all have a credibility problem...
Dutch Safety Board MH17 final report (FULL VIDEO)
Dutch Safety Board simulates MH17 being hit by BUK missile
Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern on Who Shot Down Flight MH17 And Iran Nuclear Deal.
'MH17 crash' test simulation video: Il-86 plane cockpit hit with BUK missile
MH-17 - The Untold Story
Flight MH17: Russia and its changing story
- the Russians state that type of missile isn't used by Russian forces, the pattern on the fuesalage doesn't completely replciate the same one as one that was later tested in one of the videos above (though some of this can be put down to the difference between a static and moving aircraft). Moreover, there while there was a supposed siting of a BUK SAM system in the area in question I'm wondering whether there haven't been more people who have come forward of evidence of before and after videos of it launching a rocket at MH17? Surely, with such a massive contrail heaps more people would have come forward with evidence indicating what was happening. Not ruling out the possibility some elements of government may have gotten involved here though to hush people up or that others were paid to tell a 'version of the truth'...
Flight MH17: searching for the truth
- either way, I doubt that we'll ever know the 'complete truth'. There will be some form of cover up because it feels like they either know what happened (and the truth is ugly) or they don't know and those who are guilty are with holding evidence. The problem is that everyone seems to be doing this to some extent so it is possible that 'a deal' may have been reached behind the scenes. My guess is that a lot of people simply stuffed up and they're partly trying to figure out the best way of apportioning blame...

- if you follow the defense/intelligence space you'll have noticed some strange happenings with regards to the JSF project. Apparently, they said that 50TB was stolen a while back but later they've said it was just ALIS and that it was just non-classified information (if you think that US intelligence/security is generally better think again. Look through enough background and you'll find that they are subject to the same limitations, problems, etc... that are faced by every other organisation. There have been some bizarre penetrations of even 'classified networks'...). Either way, I'd be very interested to know how much technology they've stolen, purchased, bribed from certain officials (based on what I've heard 'incentives' have been between 4-7 figures for information regarding stealth technologies and they've been able to procure quite a lot including information about RAM coatings, AESA RADAR, EOTS, DAS, avionics, engine design, etc...)(even with the downing of and purchase of some aircraft I'm guessing they've gained access to at least some AESA RADAR, EOTS, RAM coating, and engine technology?) and how much they've reverse engineered or is entirely native? Look at the design of some of their new stealth aircraft and some aspects seem incredibly crude... The other thing I'm curious about is if it was 50TB of genuine design material how much would Western design efforts of the JSF going to be thrown off?  Would they have to re-design or is the core system good enough? This is much like the question of security of obscurity (closed versus open source security) if you know anything about cybersecurity. Even if the stolen material was honeypot/honeynet material it has to be convincing enough to throw Chinese research off... which means it's still decent (possibly old?)...
China’s new counter-stealth radar JY-26

How China Steals U.S. Military Secrets
Next Big Thing: China’s Aviation to Develop Long-Range Strike Bomber
Military Marvel: China Ready to Test Asia’s Largest Warship

- if you have to program regularly, you you have to read some pretty 'human unreadable' stuff at times. Some links regarding possible JSON parsers
echo '{"test":1,"test2":2}' | python -mjson.tool

Pandas are actually quite funny and peculiar animals if you read up about them...
Cute Alert!Clingy pandas don’t want to take their medicine
Clingy panda do not let zookeeper go
So Cute! Panda asks for hug to get down from tree!
Cute alert! Four baby pandas playing with zookeeper
Pandas addicted to hugging
Cute pandas playing on the slide

Some interesting quotes in the recent media:
-“We’ve tried intervention and putting  down troops in Iraq,” he said. “We’ve tried invention without putting in troops in Libya. And we’ve tried no intervention at all but demanding regime change in Syria. It’s not clear to me that even if our policy did not work, subsequent policies have worked better.”
-“Whenever I’m asked this, I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong,” Blair said. “Because even though he had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people, against others, the program in the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we thought. So I can apologize for that. I can also apologize, by the way, for some of the mistakes in planning and certainly our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”
-"Since 9/11, a near doubling of the Pentagon’s modernization accounts — more than $700 billion over 10 years in new spending on procurement, research and development — has resulted in relatively modest gains in actual military capability,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an address last week.
- The United States remains the most powerful nation on earth. Yet from the immediate aftermath of the heady days of 1991 to the present, nations great and small have shown themselves unimpressed by or impervious to U.S. might. To the astonishment of many Americans, the United States, for all its power and its good intentions, has frequently failed in its efforts to lead the world, enforce its preferences or impose its will.

International relations scholars have long understood the fallacy of assuming that power routinely if not automatically provides the wherewithal to get others to do as one wishes. And yet there remains, among statesmen, politicians, policy analysts and the broader public—to say nothing of presidential candidates—an easy assumption of a correlation between a country’s overall power and its ability to persuade, entice, bribe or compel other countries to do its bidding, if not all the time, then at least when the stakes for the powerful country are sufficiently high.
- Atmar warns, "The symbiotic network of terrorists that we are confronted with is going to be a threat to every country in this region and by extension the whole world."

Obama has for years boasted of rendering al-Qaida toothless, but Atmar points out the U.S. withdrawal has reinvigorated the group founded by Osama bin Laden.

He also noted IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's new role in choosing Taliban leaders, with the new caliphate in Iraq and Syria "commanding and controlling," "financing" and even providing the Taliban with a new strategy. "We have no doubt about that," Atmar said.

Facing an existential threat, you turn to those on whom you can depend. Right now, sadly, Putin is a better bet for Afghans than America.
- It’s all a lot to take in, and makes one wonder what G.D.P. really stands for: Generally Disorienting Predictions? Guesses Done Poorly?

“G.D.P. is accounting science built to supply a need to understand an economy’s direction,” said Steve Blitz, chief economist at ITG Investment Research. “Is there more art than science? In terms of filling in all the numbers where the answers are imputed rather than measured, the answer is yes.”

And imputed values, he added, are becoming more important as the service sector grows, while in developing nations, accurate measurement is more difficult for a variety of reasons.

Pro tip: “Whenever doing cross country G.D.P. comparisons, I have always used I.M.F. data,” Mr. Blitz said. “They scrub the data and reset so concepts are the same from country to country.” Point taken.
- In 1999, Saudi Prince Nayef bin Sultan bin Fawwaz Al Shaalan allegedly smuggled two tons of cocaine from Venezuela to France. Now believed to be living under legal shelter in Saudi Arabia, Prince Nayef was accused by France of using his diplomatic status to sneak the drugs onto a jet belonging to the Saudi royal family. He managed to escape his sentencing and was convicted in absentia in 2007. The United States also indicted him with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. 

In 2010, a leaked WikiLeaks cable described a royal underground party scene in Jeddah that was “thriving and throbbing” because Saudi officials looked the other way. The dispatch described a Halloween party, funded in part by a prince from the Al Thunayan family, where more than 150 young men and women dressed in costumes and slogged expensive alcohol, which is sold only on the black market in Saudi Arabia. “Though not witnessed directly at this event, cocaine and hashish use is common in these social circles,” the cable read.

The harsh punishments for violations of Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of sharia law tend not to apply to the some 15,000 princes and princesses who belong to the royal House of Saud. But that hasn’t stopped Riyadh from pursuing executions of foreigners and non-royal citizens accused of less egregious violations of the country’s drug laws.
- "What happens in Afghanistan really does have an impact on what happens over here," Sopko says. "Heroin use is on the rise in the U.S., and although the DEA says that most of the heroin here originates from South America, some still comes from Afghanistan. Our European allies have told me time and again their concerns about the amount of Afghan heroin reaching Europe. Heroin use is a problem in Canada, and 90 percent of Canada's heroin comes from Afghanistan."
- The Iraqi government has become increasingly suspicious of the US’ lack of real commitment in fighting ISIS. On the other hand, Russian strikes have thus far been so effective against ISIS that the Iraqi government has asked Russia to take on a bigger role against ISIS, than the US.

Russia has in turn signaled that it may start bombing ISIS in Iraq as well as Syria, with the permission of the Iraqi government. Unlike the US, Russia has not broken international law and has sought permission to enter Iraq and Syria from each respective state’s legitimate government.

With these actions Russia has called the US’s bluff on fighting ISIS, and is effectively forcing the US to do a better job of convincing the Iraqi government that it is truly fighting ISIS. If Russia does enter Iraqi airspace, it will more easily cross into Syrian airspace to provide supplies to the Syrian government, since the US has bullied many countries in the region to close their airspace to Russian aircrafts. Furthermore, if Iraq asks Russia to intervene it is a scenario that would reverse any of the influence the US had gained in Iraq, throughout its lengthy occupation of the country since 2003.

The US has been backed into a corner and in doing so, has exposed itself and its allies as the source of terrorism, not champions truly fighting it. Terrorism has always been a means by which the US has sought to deconstruct Russian spheres of influences. Ironically over the last decade it has also simultaneously perpetuated the myth that it is actually fighting a war against terror. However as its allied states grow increasingly tired of this game, how long can the US continue to juggle this duplicity, before the entire deck of cards crumbles?
- Financially, the war economy has largely replaced formal economic life. Incomes are increasingly conflict-dependent, whether it is through smuggling, selling weapons, kidnapping, even distributing aid. You can buy or rent a checkpoint for the day or for an hour. Hezbollah, for one, profits through control of checkpoints. Border control by armed groups is hugely lucrative. Fruitful earnings are made from forged documents such as passports and ID cards. The Syrian regime benefits from and encourages this trade, especially if it means opponents can flee abroad.
- “Iran’s nuclear problem has been solved. From Iran, there is no threat and there never had been,” Mr. Putin said. “The only reason that was used by U.S.—to start building the Missile Defense Shield—disappeared. We [Russia] might have expected that a system of MDS development to be halted.”

Mr. Putin believes the United States lied to Russia and the world on the threat of nuclear danger coming from Iran.

“Some days ago, the first tests of USA’s MDS were conducted in Europe. What does that mean? It means that when we were arguing with our American partners we were right. Russia was right from the beginning that the American Missile Defense Shield program was being developed with the goal to destroy strategic balance and to have a way to dictate her power to everyone. They were trying to deceive us, and the whole world, once again. And, to put it simply, we were lied to.”
- To the notion of America helping the “moderate opposition” in Syria, Mr. Putin responded that the division of “moderate” and “non-moderate” leads to the empowerment of Islamic terrorists.

“We shouldn’t play with words here and divide the terrorists into moderate and non-moderate,” Mr. Putin said. “The difference, according to the ‘specialists’ [a jab to the Obama advisors], seems to be that ‘moderate’ bandits behead people softly.”
- A trio of young Muslim women have been conning ISIS by setting up fake social media accounts and getting the terror group to send them money to travel to Syria to become jihadi brides, according to police.

Once the terror group wired funds to the con artists, from Chechnya, they allegedly deleted the accounts and pocketed the money.

ISIS uses social media to encourage men and women to travel to the lands controlled by ISIS to become fighters and jihadi brides. The Republic of Chechnya is a federal subject of Russia and mainly Muslim.

Now the trio have been detained by Chechen e-crime police for the scam, which has so far netted them more than £2,000, Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper reported.

“I don’t recall any precedent like this one in Chechnya, probably because nobody digs deep enough in that direction,” officer Valery Zolotaryov told the newspaper.

- as usual thanks to all of the individuals and groups who purchase and use my goods and services

Thursday, October 22, 2015

More Eurasian/Middle-East Geo-Politics - Part 2

- if it wasn't for the fact that so serious (and both sides were so duplicitous with regards to spying) it would be funny. I doubt they will be able to figure out a hands off areas. One thing an area of common ground would be how far they can actually push things though. For instance, you can't shut down essential utilities for more than a particular period of time, you shouldn't shut down hospital systems, etc... during a period of non-conflict
- imagine if you homeland were Russia or China would you discourage your coutry men from trying to earn a living? What would you do?
- a lot of intellectual property is being generated by China and Russia. They are not pure stealers of intellectual property as some people would like you to believe. In a lot of cases China is way up there as are other Asian/European countries who are considered to be not particularly creative or industrious
- some background on corruption in Russia if anyone were interested. I think the core problems are that their culture and system essentially makes the assumption that those in charge will be 'clean' and indoctrinated. Without a good system of 'checks' and 'balances' the system collapses in on itself. Just like a lot of other behaviour the most extreme profits the most so the mean moves towards the outliers
'Corruption is endemic in Russia'
Popular Corruption & Russia videos
- the problem is that both with Russia (and China) is that even if they are able to shed their 'reputation' people/countries are still going to look at them suspeciciously. Listen into interviews from the West and even journalists seem to be frustrated that Russia and China don't seem to convey what the feel to be their true intentions. One thing I remember is how someone from Russia once said that Soviet propaganda was silly and dishonest that it came across as 'funny'. That's not the case with modern Russian propaganda which is a confusing mish-mash. Of late, they've been telling lies until they've completed their objectives at which they tell the truth...
- more background regarding Putin for those that are interested
Professor Stephen Cohen on Obama and Putin UN Meeting
Putin Issues Ultimatum to Turkey - Stop Supporting ISIS or Face Break in Diplomatic Relations
Putin - Obama and Hollande are not Syrian citizens, can't decide Syria's future
Putin's Growing Tensions With The West
VEVO Documentaries _ Putin's Way _ Documentary Movie
CrossTalk - Putin's 15 Years
U.S persists in misunderstanding Putin
- some interesting Middle East background videos (think carefully. Not everything on the Interwebs is real, I sometimes listen to these and other news while working on other stuff). Obviously, it doesn't really matter who is in charge of world affairs, geo-politics will always play a significant role
Instability in the Middle East - Institute of Politics
Middle East Documentary 2015 _ Mind Blow Manipulative & Betrayals History 720 HD
- what I don't understand about many economies is that in spite of being supposedly religious many industries use simultanouesly harmful and addictive substances/systems. Think cigarettes (nicotine), drugs (can even cover medicines), fast food (sugar), beverages (mostly sugar and caffeine), consumption (facilitated through round the clock marketing), etc... All of these over time can actually kill you or severely degrade the quality of your life or cause severe problems with the local economy. In fact, in Russia they had a Vodka problem so severe that it was causing population growth issues (through cardiovascular difficulties amongst men)... I wonder how much these systems have had upon population growth throughout the world? I'm curious how countries control this if they are causing major problems, the obvious ones are high taxation or banning... I'm interested in other novel approaches
- the great irony of the US economy is that in giving in to 'freedom' for the individual private companies have now grown so large that they rival the government's power. Recently it was said that due to the continued consolidation of the defense industry in the US it was now increasingly more difficult to get a competitive price for products. At the other end you have Russia who have a largely state controlled economy which has minimal external debt. The US could potentially suffer Eurozone type problems while it is difficult to forsee Russia suffering from these problems for the forseeable future though this does come to the detriment of near term growth and capital input
- I think the key reason why the US has been able to maintain economic leadership is that the rest of the world sees them as necessary. Think about the debt loads in some of the recently beleagured Eurozone members. Technically, the US should be in trouble but an internal loop that it has created to buy it's own debt has helped to stablise things especially in light of difficulties after their banking sector troubles
- it was previously said that a lot of money was stolen during the Russia's economic problems of the late 90's (some people say the West, others say it was Russian's themselves). Cynical side of me is thinking we're dealing with former KGB/FSB staffers. They know how to hide money and apparently there are now records of money coming out of no where back into local Russian accounts. My guess is that at least some of the money may have been appropriated for 'national security/interest' purposes and have been used to buffer the local economy for precisely these type of circumstances. Even if they are technically criminals, they are nationalist criminals... Wild theory, but possible...
- in spite of what is said, outright war between the major powers is only going to start if there is a miscalcaulation and something extremely stupid occurs. Other states will take a long time before they reach the quantity/quality required to challenge abroad to genuinely make a play at the US. More likely, the US is going to de-legitimise itself or else it will do so with the aide of it's enemies over time. This will occur through a number of different ways
- I think some of the major problems with current US leadership include: allies can put up with the US spying on them but not if it takes too much of an advantage from such circumstances, decision making (particularly in the geo-political sphere) proves to be less than wise over an extended period of time, if others can continue to bridge the gap (technologically, financially, etc...) it's power will be diminished, if the US is shown to be not much more different than the rest of the rest of the world then it's perception in the eyes of others will reduce, in spite of of the amount of money that is thrown at their intelligence and defense services I'm not certain that they're getting genuine value. If they have the intelligence but make the wrong decision, if they have get thrown by mis-information, etc... then it's almost as bad as starting without any intelligence. I feel that the primary threat will not come via arms, it will come via a whole bunch of other mechanisms, such as the 'Statecraft' that was employed by the US in Ukraine, cyber-warfare, NOCs, funding/support of politically favourable opponents, etc...
UKRAINE Regime Change: Nuland Admits US Invested $5 Billion To "Assist" Democracy
- the problem with propaganda is that it's too difficult to get to the bottom of it. The end citizen just doesn't have the time to break through and figure out what the truth is. The irony is that journalist's primary end goal now is to make money in an industry which is in decline. To that end they need to push the sensationalist perspective. The one that is also likely to support the propagandist position
- as I said in my previous post, this is what I thought would happen with regards to control of oil prices...
- a lot of people believe in the position of 'Total War' to get your enemy to lay down and accept defeat. Problem is that like the notion of 'deterrence' it only works on people who are sane. Moreover, use it on people who are sane and it will likely mean that they will turn against you. There is a different between justice and vengeance
- I think the process of de-radicalisation needs to start from as young as possible. My family used to have certain opinions of other cultures. I never paid notice to them since I often had friends from those cultures and their opinions made no sense to me in the context of my own life. I believe kids of counter cultures should be encouraged to interact to interact as early as impossible to make radicalisation seem rediculous. It's also the reason why I believe in a more balanced media, political, religious, etc... response in general

Some interesting quotes I came across recently...

- Skunk — a foul-smelling liquid first sprayed on Palestinian protesters as a form of crowd control in 2008 — has become one of the characteristic scents of the Israeli occupation.
After Skunk makes contact with a person or object, the putrid stench can last for days and can cause nausea and vomiting. The smell is overpowering, similar to a skunk’s spray but worse, smelling as if it has been mixed with raw sewage, sulfur and rotting animal corpses.

“The overpowering odor of the Skunk drives rioters away — and keeps them away — effectively shutting down any escalating situation,” Odortec’s website says.
Because of its putrid smell and the confidentiality surrounding its composition — the BBC revealed yeast and baking powder are among the ingredients — rumors abound among Palestinians as to what is in Skunk.

“People say it’s made of chemicals like gas, dirty water and shit,” said Jaber Abu Rahmah, a Palestinian living in the West Bank village of Bil’in, where residents hold weekly protests against Israel’s wall on their land.

“When it hits the ground, the smell stays bad for a long time,” he said. “When it hits you, you need to take many showers to clean yourself from the dirty smell.”

Odortec did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment in time for publication but maintains on its website that Skunk is organic, nontoxic and even drinkable.
- Soviet dictator Josef Stalin once said that it doesn't matter who votes, but who counts the votes.
- Propaganda and deception are as important as ground fighting, according to Gerasimov, who wrote, "Information war is now the main type of war, preparing the way for military action." The goal: reducing "the fighting potential of the enemy" and "deluding the opposite side's military and political leaders," Gerasimov wrote.
- This week Congress sent President Obama a huge defense bill of $612 billion. The Senate ok’d it and sent it on to the president, who is threatening to veto it. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told reporters that he wants Obama to veto it.

Here’s my old rant—we need to remember this about the Defense Department:

There is a law that every Federal department be able to be audited and is audited every year. The Defense Department refuses to update its department-wide computer system so that it even CAN be audited. Therefore, it can't be audited. That means it is completely able to spend anything it wants to spend on anything it wants to spend money on. Defense Department employees, for instance, may be able to just take money out of those billions and put it in their own bank accounts if they want to and there is no audit to find that out. They can spend $5,000 on a toilet seat if they want to. They can pay their brother-in-law a million dollars a year to mop the floors and if he keeps his mouth shut, nobody might ever know about it. As an accountant I know that large companies always have an Internal Audit department AND they get audited by all manner of outside agencies. The company I retired from had a special place set up just for auditors in one of their buildings. We were audited almost around the calendar by such organizations as the IRS and regulatory agencies. We were not able to say…. Well, we don’t have the right kind of accounting system for you to audit us, so just go away and stop bugging us.

Recall just here in Kansas a woman was charged last week with stealing $400,000 from her company by taking money from the company and putting it into her own account. She's just one of the thieves that was caught. The defense department may be full of thieves, but we'll never know because THEY refuse to be audited. And they get away with that.
- Eisenhower called it a "military-industrial complex" and warned about what it could become (he remembered America when it was not a war state). Julian Assange went a step further and called it the "military-industrial-imperialist complex."

The operative word there might be "industrial," revealing the true owners of "our" military. For one thing, it is a massive corporate welfare program (something the Kochs say they don't like and want to get rid of).

"According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, every single one of the top ten weapons contractors was convicted of or admitted to defrauding the government between 1980 and 1992. For example:
* Grumman paid the government $20 million to escape criminal liability for coercing subcontractors into making political contributions.
* Lockheed was convicted of paying millions in bribes to obtain classified planning documents.
* Northrop was fined $17 million for falsifying test data on its cruise missiles and fighter jets.
* Rockwell was fined $5.5 million for committing criminal fraud against the Air Force."

And that's just the beginning of this list (and it's an old list):

- The current American "empire" consists of over 1,400 military bases in more than 120 countries. Meanwhile, Russia has only 12 military bases, one of which is in Syria that the Americans are currently trying to close down. Washington tried to do the same in Crimea, Assange said.
- The US, in conjunction with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, attempted to train and support Sunni extremists to overthrow the Assad regime. Some of those Sunni extremists ended up going crazy and declaring a Medeival caliphate putting the Pentagon and Langley in the hilarious position of being forced to classify al-Qaeda as "moderate." The situation spun out of control leading to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and when Washington finally decided to try and find real "moderates" to help contain the Frankenstein monster the CIA had created in ISIS (there were of course numerous other CIA efforts to arm and train anti-Assad fighters, see below for the fate of the most "successful" of those groups), the effort ended up being a complete embarrassment that culminated with the admission that only "four or five" remained and just days after that admission, those "four or five" were car jacked by al-Qaeda in what was perhaps the most under-reported piece of foreign policy comedy in history.
- The plight of 74-year-old British expatriate Karl Andree — facing 350 lashes in Saudi Arabia — shines a disturbing light on the repulsive relationship between the monstrous Gulf state and Britain’s leaders.

It is a relationship that generates billions of pounds annually in trade and arms sales for the United Kingdom.

But it comes at an enormous cost, namely our casual acceptance of the kingdom’s flagrant disregard for human rights, as well as its decades-long promotion of extremist Islam around the world.
In Saudi Arabia, public lashings and beheadings, rather than being considered outrageous and inhumane, are — apart from football matches — the only form of public entertainment. So if his punishment does go ahead, he will be surrounded by jeering locals as he is forced to lie face-down on the ground.

Then a white-robed Islamist enforcer will exact the barbaric punishment as verses from the Koran are blasted from the speakers of nearby mosques.

The lashings could go on for months, or even years, because they are given in bouts of a dozen or so at a time.

The rationale for this appalling dragging out of the punishment is that, in a surreal act of supposed mercy, Mr Andree would not receive each subsequent round until his wounds from previous lashings had healed.

With good reason, his family fear that he may die before the ordeal is completed.

Only North Korea’s justice system and human rights record is worse than that of our apparently invaluable ally Saudi Arabia, which has already beheaded almost 200 men and women this year.

Tens of thousands of political prisoners are thought to be incarcerated without trial in the kingdom — where political parties are banned, the media is government-controlled, women live in total seclusion and imported workers from impoverished countries are paid a pittance and treated little better than slaves.
- In what CNN recently called her "most iconic moment," the then-first lady delivered what's now considered a landmark speech, declaring that "women's rights are human rights" and, without naming China, blasting governments that deny women the right to plan their own families, force abortions or have women sterilized against their will.

For China, it was an affront — too direct and, officials felt, profoundly hypocritical. The speech was censored, and within days the state-backed media was on the attack, lambasting the United States for its own record on women.
- SEOUL - Prior to departing for her visit to the United States this week, South Korean President Park Geun-hye issued a controversial directive requiring schools to use history textbooks issued by the national government.

The new measure targets secondary school students and will replace current textbooks from eight different publishing companies.

Park’s conservative supporters have criticized some of these textbooks as ideologically biased, more critical of South Korea’s authoritarian past than of North Korea’s communist totalitarian regime. 

"History education should not divide the citizens and students over political strife and ideological conflicts," said President Park.
Critics say the Park government directive also seems hypocritical given that Seoul has criticized Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for issuing government sanctioned history books accused of downplaying atrocities committed against Koreans during Japanese colonial rule.

“They are very similar. Japan’s right-wing supporters also claim the necessity of government issued textbooks,” Pak said.

The Seoul government assured the public that the new textbook will be politically neutral, balanced and objective.
- Despite his Jewish origins, Chomsky became an increasing critic of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians and of US foreign policy as a whole.

"The fact that Chomsky is Jewish is secondary," says public radio broadcaster David Barsamian. "What I think is more important is the justice of the Palestinian cause... there are few in the United States who've been as strong an ally and friend of the Palestinian people as Noam Chomsky."
- "In the United States maybe you get slammed or denounced or kept out of the press," says Chomsky. "In the old Soviet Union you could end up in the Gulag, if you're in a typical American dependency, let's say like El Salvador, you get your brains blown up... It differs from society to society... It's condemning power systems, so of course it's not approved."

"Anyone who goes against the grain in US political culture, is going to be marginalised," says Barsamian. "The truths that Chomsky articulates are very unpopular."
- In the Middle East, especially, considerations of raw power routinely trump any expectations of law. Truth here may also be counter-intuitive. On those endlessly perplexing matters concerning Palestinian statehood, it is finally time to understand that "Palestine's" true enemy in the region is not Israel, but instead a sordid mix of Islamist Arab forces. Once again, going forward, any Palestinian advances toward statehood would likely be to the longer-term tactical advantage of the Islamic State group.
- Migranyan pulls no punches in his opening essay. A strong state is a prerequisite for establishing lasting democracy, he says, by creating institutions and setting down the necessary rules that can guarantee that groups can eventually compete for power “without destroying [the state] and allowing for the emergence of chaos and anarchy.” The ultimate goal of any democracy is to ensure the prosperity and well-being of the citizens under its care. A sovereign democracy is one whose institutions have evolved as a result of domestic processes rather than being imposed by outside powers (whose motives, it might be added, may not be to promote real democratization but a weakening of state capacity).
- SAR SHAHI, Afghanistan - When the Islamic State fighters seized the Mahmand Valley, they poured pepper into the wounds of their enemies, said villagers. Then, they seared their hands in vats of boiling oil. A group of villagers was blindfolded, tortured and blown apart with explosives buried underneath them.

"They pulled out my brother's teeth before they forced him to sit on the bombs," recalled Malik Namos, a tribal elder who escaped the valley along with thousands of other villagers. "They are more vicious than the Taliban, than any group we have seen."
- "There's a huge difference in the way the Taliban was treating the people and the way Daesh is now," said Hayatullah. "I prefer the Taliban any day."
- The signs of the times are everywhere. Estonia is erecting a 2.5-meter-high metal mesh fence reinforced with barbed wire along much of its border with Russia—and backing it up with high-tech drones, sensors, radars, and cameras. Neighboring Latvia has announced plans to build fences along its eastern frontier. Poland plans to build new state-of-the art watchtowers on its border with Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave.

And, of course, Ukraine has floated plans to build a wall along its Russian frontier. A new era of containment, it appears, has begun. Russia’s neighbors, wary of polite little green men appearing to stir up new non-declared hybrid wars, are building walls and becoming vigilant.
- In a 2012 report for Chatham House, James Greene noted how Putin used “the corrupt transnational schemes that flowed seamlessly from Russia into the rest of the former Soviet space—and oozed beyond it” to extend his “shadow influence beyond Russia’s borders and develop a natural, ‘captured’ constituency.”

Toward this end, Moscow has used everything from shady energy deals, to webs of shell companies, to hot money in the City of London, to the financing of extremist political parties in Europe. Its success in doing so raises the economic cost of conflict, reduces resolve to resist Moscow, and gives Russia a ready-made lobby in Western capitals. The Kremlin has effectively weaponized globalization.
- Another point. AIM-120 is not only susceptible to jamming, but also known to have serious issues maneuvering after it makes it initial acceleration burn while retaining speed. This is the same problem USSR ran into with their medium range radar guided AA missiles, which took them decades to partially solve through the strange honeycomb rear wings on the missile.

AIM-120C and D exacerbate this problem by reducing wing surface of the missile to fit it into internal bays of F-22 and F/A-35. Those missiles are quite bad in terms of kill ratio at long range because of it, which means that problem discussed in this article is worse than it appears. Not only is modern AA jamming, pioneered mainly by Russians on their newer Sukhois and French on Rafale which has apparently the most advanced jamming system for fighter aircraft in the world. It’s completely integrated into the airframe from the start, making it extremely powerful to the point where Rafale was the only non-stealth aircraft that could operate in Libya without dedicated electronic warfare support aircraft like Prowler/Growler.

As has been often noted, there are effectively two ways to reach “missile immunity”. Stealth, which is preventing radar from properly seeing and/or locking on you through denial of meaningful return signal, or electronic jamming, which is confusing the radar attempting a lock. Russians and Europeans (and by extension Chinese who base their designs mainly on Russian and sometimes European designs) went hard for the latter approach, where US mastered the former.

Right now, it appears that both approaches have significant merit, but latter has a significant advantage in not compromising weapon load size or maneuverability.
- Intelligence agencies can send or recruit agents inside organized structures.

They can bug and intercept their communications, discover their arms and explosives caches and disrupt their plans. But they can’t penetrate into the heads of individuals and read their minds. Nor can they confiscate their weapons.

As Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said, repelling criticism leveled by one of his colleagues during a cabinet meeting this week, “Do you want us to collect all the kitchen knives in Palestinian houses?” What is in common between then and now is the readiness to sacrifice one’s life and to die.
- With its numerous free zones and lack of proper control that make it very easy to create shell companies, the United Arab Emirates is a major hub both for the transit of legal goods and the smuggling of illegal goods, including weapons. In an October 2014 report by the Belgium-based Groupe de Recherche et d’Information sur la Paix et la Sécurité, researcher Géraldine Franc mentions the United Arab United Emirates as “a hub for the smuggling of weapons and other military equipment to Iran” and more broadly “a major transit point for goods under U.N. sanctions.”
- According to Chinese-language media sites, Yang is participating in the Chinese government’s secretive 863 Program. The program is designed to create advanced technologies that will wean China off its dependence on difficult-to-obtain foreign technologies. Yang’s participation in the program involves improvements to the GPS/BD2 receiver and the network of continuously operating reference stations used for real-time kinematic satellite navigation systems, used to improve the precision of positioning data.
- A study done by PwC ranked the Philippines 127th among 189 economies reviewed in terms of ease of paying business taxes. Thailand is ranked 62nd and Malaysia is 32nd.

“The Philippines is just three notches above Sierra Leone and 12 notches above Sudan in the rankings. In fact, it’s even easier to pay taxes in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. What does that say about us?” Escudero asked.

“Where else will you find a country that taxes its people severely and then makes it hard for them to pay?” he said.
The United Arab Emirates and Qatar shared the top spot for ease of payments, requiring only four payments that could be done in 12 hours in the UAE and 41 hours in Qatar.

Saudi Arabia ranked third with three payments that could be accomplished in 64 hours.

Bolivia had the worst tax payment procedure with 42 tax payments requiring 1,025 hours.

Hong Kong ranked fourth in the PwC study, with only three tax payments, while Singapore ranked fifth, with five tax payments.

“How can we encourage investors to come and put their money here when a third of that will go to taxes that will be difficult to pay?” Escudero said.
But we need to put the spending in perspective. As a continent of 52 nations, all African nations combined still spend only about as much on their militaries as India, which ranks seventh in the world.
- The Russian finance minister, Anton Siluanov, said over-reliance on oil and gas over the last decade had been a fundamental error, leading to an overvalued currency and the slow death of other industries in a textbook case of the Dutch Disease.

"We should stop caring so much about the oil industry and leave more space for others. We have to take very tough decisions and redistribute our resources," he said.

The new $50 benchmark for oil is even lower than the Russian central bank's "extreme scenario" of $60 first prepared last year.

The new realism has forced the Kremlin to ditch a raft of budget commitments and to stop topping up the pension reserve fund. Oil and gas taxes make up half the state's revenue, and almost 70pc of Russia's exports.
- Putin and Sturgeon’s popularity is propelled by a force more powerful — at least to date — than the desire for better living standards. Especially in Russia, there is a pride in displaying courage and patriotism in the face of deprivation and aggression, seen as coming largely from the United States. In Scotland, the propaganda is more muted and the English enemy less clearly delineated, but nationalism needs a foe, and the English are it.

There is no question of which nationalism is more dangerous. An independent Scotland would reduce the UK’s authority, further weaken the EU and greatly damage the state itself. Russian nationalism on the other hand is a danger, perhaps a disaster, on a global scale, not least because its political success spawns imitators. For example, China, heading into harder times and taking the world with it, has a leader keen on promoting the “Chinese dream” — a stronger, more nationalistically inclined China.

Nationalism hasn’t gone out with the tide: it’s coming in waves.
- With broader economic diversification appearing unlikely any time soon—non-oil GDP has exhibited shockingly little change since the collapse of the Soviet Union—Arctic oil and gas development takes on added importance. International cooperation is what they need, but isolation and indecision is what they’re getting.
- The results of the survey show that Turkish people have negative opinions of many foreign powers. Fifty-eight percent see the U.S. negatively and 64 percent see Russia the same way. Forty-nine percent see the European Union negatively. But, 55 percent still want Turkey to become a member of the EU.

Turkey is a member of NATO. However, 47 percent say that Turkey should not use military force to defend a NATO ally if Russia attacked the ally. In addition, only 38 percent support the U.S.-led effort to fight the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
- Authentic is a word often used to describe Mr. Sanders. People say he is “authentic,” which means real, and not a fake personality.

Kyle Klondick says that Bernie Sanders lacks the same style or positive messaging of successful past presidential candidates — candidates like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

“Sanders’ speaking style is very blunt, very direct and his stump speech is almost just this big criticism of the country and how we have problems with income inequality and other issues of fairness that are legitimate points to make, but I think that his speaking style is frankly kind of a downer.”
- No one is touching the NSA, the NSA won't allow it.
- Russia’s unspoken but unmistakable message is that Moscow is trying one— and perhaps the only— way of ending the conflict by means of a Lebanese-style segregation of Syria into zones controlled by rival militias. To Washington’s perennial concern in any Middle Eastern imbroglio, “Tell me how this ends,” Moscow responds: The Syrian conflict will be “resolved” on Russia’s terms, even if Mr. Assad proves dispensable to the Kremlin in the long run.
- Russia’s military and government spin machine has been working overtime to sell the intervention to the Russian public.

Much of the effort appears to be modelled on strategies used by Nato and other western governments during previous interventions in Iraq, the Balkans, and elsewhere.

Russia’s defence ministry, which was heavily criticised for a lack of transparency during Russia’s last official war, in Georgia in 2008, issues daily briefings including cock-pit camera and drone footage of strikes being carried out.

The briefings emphasise the “surgical” nature of strikes, consistently claim impressive results, and downplay reports of civilian casualties as “information attacks” by Russia’s enemies.

And they have sought to neuter western objections that Russia is mostly bombing anti-Assad rebels, but not Isil, by painting all anti-Assad forces as extremist “terrorists.” The “moderate opposition,” the argument goes, exists only in the imagination of American policy makers.
- The economic system of the U.S. — although often portrayed as ‘free-market’ — does not quite live up to that description, in many cases. A quick look at the telecom or energy industry shows that many monopolistic forces are at play, and big money oftentimes can get laws rewritten to preserve power and influence. Pressure from big business and labor groups is a major factor in why America is the only major world power without a nationalized healthcare system, and why there has been enormous growth in inequality, particularly as of late.
- The Bosnian War is an illustrative example of how a U.S. administration dramatically revised its approach to a bloody, sectarian conflict, and ultimately achieved a measure of peace. Four years into the war, the massacre at Srebrenica and a broader deterioration of conditions in the former Yugoslavia exposed the weakness of the U.S. strategy to that point, challenged U.S. credibility, and forced strategic change. Abandoning an ineffective approach, the United States adopted an integrated strategy that included arms embargos, economic sanctions and rewards, and airstrikes. The United States and its European allies coerced the warring factions into negotiations and prompted the pursuit of a new political reality.
- Vladimir Putin accused the U.S. of behaving like “Big Brother” and blackmailing world leaders, warning there was no guarantee for global security in one of his sharpest-ever swipes at Russia’s Soviet-era adversary.

Blamed by the U.S. and the European Union for fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Putin said the Cold War’s “victors” are dismantling international laws and relations. The U.S. is acting like the “nouveau riche” as global leader, and today’s conflicts risk toppling the world order, he told the annual Valdai Club in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

“The Cold War has ended,” Putin said yesterday. “But it ended without peace being achieved, without clear and transparent agreements on the new rules and standards.”
Putin said “global anarchy” will grow without clear mechanisms to resolve crises. The U.S.’s “self-appointed” leadership has brought no good for other nations and a unipolar world amounts to a dictatorship, he told the group of invited foreign and Russian academics and analysts in Sochi.

“The United States does not seek confrontation with Russia, but we cannot and will not compromise on the principles on which security in Europe and North America rests,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in response yesterday in Washington.
- The embarrassments began in earnest in July when the group (which numbered barely more than 50 at the time) had its commander and deputy kidnapped by al-Qaeda, who had already played spoiler to another group of US fighters in 2014.

But the real punchline came last month when, in an update to Congress, Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. Central Command and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth admitted that only “four or five” fighters from the train and equip program remained in battle.

As we quipped at the time: “So the only thing that the DoD’s estimate of the actual number of fighters currently on the ground has in common with the Pentagon’s original goal of recruiting 5,400 by the end of the year, is that both figures have a '4' and a '5' in them.”
- Postscript:   By way of background, the CIA admits that the U.S. overthrew the moderate, suit-and-tie-wearing, Democratically-elected prime minister of Iran in 1953. He was overthrown because he had nationalized Iran’s oil, which had previously been controlled by BP and other Western oil companies. As part of that action, the CIA admits that it hired Iranians to pose as Communists and stage bombings in Iran in order to turn the country against its prime minister.

If the U.S. hadn’t overthrown the moderate Iranian government, the fundamentalist Mullahs would have never taken over. (Moreover, the U.S. has had a large hand in strengthening radical Islam in the Middle East by supporting radicals to fight the Soviets and others).
- Psychologists who reportedly earned millions helping the CIA devise and implement post-9/11 interrogation techniques that critics call torture are facing a federal lawsuit on behalf of three men, one of whom died in the spy agency's custody.
- The Intercept's reporting on drones last week showed a high number of civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes. The website did not identify the source of classified documents it published and no whistleblower has publicly claimed credit.
- Hollande, rated the most unpopular president in French polling history, played up his rustic roots and love of France's "amazing landscapes" in an unlikely interview for a popular monthly hunters' magazine due to be published on Wednesday.

"I've always lived with cows in the fields," Hollande told Le Chasseur Francais (The French Hunter), while reminiscing about his childhood growing up in rural Normandy.
- North Korea operates lucrative gambling websites that target mainly South Koreans, the National Intelligence Service here believes.

The National Intelligence Service told a National Assembly audit on Tuesday that around 1,100 North Korean computer experts operate from China, Malaysia and other Asian countries, each generating around US$20,000 in gambling proceeds on average.

That is seven times what the average North Korean worker earns in a year.

The NIS said North Korean gambling websites target South Koreans in particular. One online sports betting website generated around W4 billion in profits on the first half of this year, according to the NIS (US$1=W1,133).

The spy agency said North Korea also earns hard currency by selling online gaming items like magical weapons. They install cheat programs or hacking software and then sell on their undeserved perks to gamers.

The NIS estimates the illegal online gambling and item-selling market at W34 trillion worldwide and suspects huge amounts of that flow into North Korea.
- “Since the enemy cannot harm Islam through armies and military warfare, it tries to cause discord among Muslim countries and bring them to their knees by using its intelligence services,” Alavi said on Tuesday.

He added that the enemy spy agencies are securing the survival of the Israeli regime by sowing discord among Muslim countries.

Alavi said the enemy switched from deploying military to psychological warfare for protecting the Israeli regime after Tel Aviv’s defeats in its military invasions.

He said that such plots have failed to harm Iran thanks to the valuable guidelines of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, stressing the importance of maintaining unity and security in Iran.

“Irrespective of ethnicity and religion, the Islamic [Republic of] Iran has not hesitated to help Muslims every time an adversity has befallen them. [That is] because the sacred establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran knows no ethnic and religious demarcation.”
- If you are a low-income person, it is, depending upon where you live, very difficult to find normal banking. Banks don’t want you. And what people are forced to do is go to payday lenders who charge outrageously high interest rates. You go to check-cashing places, which rip you off. And, yes, I think that the postal service, in fact, can play an important role in providing modest types of banking service to folks who need it.
- In Mosul alone, Islamic State may have stolen 2,300 Humvees, moving many across the border back into Syria — perhaps owing to fears of a counter-offensive. This has led to some interesting episodes whereby captured Humvees went into battle in Syria, only to be seized by Kurdish forces.

The American-led coalition has frantically tried to counter the threat from these vehicles — which Islamic State transforms into mobile and near-unstoppable suicide bombs. Thousands of air strikes and hundreds of anti-tank missiles supplied to the Iraqi army have helped abate the danger but not eliminate it.

As in Vietnam, it’s an apt reminder of just how botched many of the efforts to confront and defeat that terrorist gang have been to date.
- Speaking Tuesday at a ceremony at the Kremlin, Putin said in televised comments that the FSB intelligence agency this year had foiled 20 terror plots, arrested 560 militants and killed 112 others in Russia's North Caucasus in raids and clashes.

Putin asked the FSB to increase its efforts in preventing terror attacks as well as uncovering militants' links to international groups.

Islamic insurgency has been brewing in the North Caucasus following two wars in Chechnya in the 1990s. In neighboring Dagestan, the insurgents _ who want to carve out a state governed by their strict interpretation of Islamic law _ clash with law enforcement officers almost daily. Moscow says some of these militants have links to Islamic State.
- “The primary mission of our fighter aircraft should remain the defence of North America, not stealth first-strike capability,” the Liberal party writes. That mission includes intercepting enemy planes and ships; American and Canadian fighter jets occasionally intercept Russian bombers in international airspace near their coastlines.

Canada has planned to buy 60 F-35s to replace its 30-year-old CF-18 Hornets, but the purchase has been debated for years — memorably stirred by a 2014 video of two boys playing with toy fighter jets. When a boy says he bought an F-35 with the $10 given to him by his grandfather, his brother says he bought three Super Hornets.

Experts say the Super Hornet — cheaper and easily integrated into the Canadian Air Force — is indeed the most likely replacement for the F-35.

“What they really want is something that guarantees air sovereignty, and frankly, the CF-18 has done the job and chances are the Super Hornet will do the job,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis at the Teal Group consulting firm.
- "I can defend the invasion of Iraq," Reich told me. "What did the invasion of Iraq do? It caused all of the people who would’ve otherwise come and attacked us and killed Americans on our soil — it caused them to go to Iraq and die there. That may sound very brutal, or whatever, but we have seen what has happened when you have an administration like the current one, that did not realize what Bush had done; sent the troops home from Iraq; created a vacuum that was filled by ISIS. And they’re killing Americans and everyone else — they’re mostly killing Muslims. I lay that at the feet of the Obama Administration."

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