President Donald Trump approved a plan to check Beijing over its continued militarization of and actions in the South China Sea.
Over the last few years, China has ambitiously built up islands on reefs and atolls in the South China Sea and militarized them with radar outposts, military-grade runways, and shelters for missile defenses.
Military analysts believe China hopes to expand its air defense and identification zone into the western Pacific and build a blue-water navy to rival the US’s, but six other countries also lay claim to parts of the region.
In 2016, an international court at The Hague deemed China’s maritime claims unlawful and excessive, but China rejected the ruling outright and has continued to build military installations and unilaterally declare no-fly and no-sail zones.
When a country makes an excessive naval claim, the US Navy challenges it by sailing its ships, usually destroyers, close to the disputed territory or through the disputed waters as a way of ensuring freedom of navigation for all. In 2016, the US challenged the excessive claims of 22 nations — China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping passes, were the most prominent.
China has responded forcefully to US incursions into the region, telling the US the moves were provocative and that they must ask permission, which doesn’t align with international law or UN conventions.
“China’s military will resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security, and regional peace and stability,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in response to US bombers flying in the region.
Under former US President Barack Obama, the US suspended freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea from 2012 to 2015. In 2016, the US made just three such challenges. So far, under Trump, the US has made three challenges already.
“You have a definite return to normal,” said chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White
“This administration has definitely given the authority back to the people who are in the best position to execute those authorities, so it’s a return to normal,” she said.
Freedom of navigation operations work best when they’re routine in nature and don’t make news.
They serve to help the US establish the facts in the water, but in the South China Sea, those facts all indicate Chinese control.
When Chinese military jets fly armed over head, when Chinese navy ships patrol the waters, and when Chinese construction crews lay down the framework for a network of military bases in the South China Sea, the US’s allies in the region notice.
An increased US Navy presence in the area won’t turn back time and unpave runways, but it could send a message to allies that the US has their back and won’t back away from checking Beijing.
From Nov.7 to Nov. 10, over the span of 65 total hours, 58,318 names were read aloud and given life once again. More than 2,000 volunteers traveled from as far away as Alaska to participate in the “Reading of the Names” at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A stage with two spotlights was placed right in front of the wall. A podium stood at center stage. Every two minutes, a volunteer walked up to the podium and read a list of names.
Despite downpours and cold weather each night, people continued to read the names. Many volunteers showed up without having a reserved place in the order and helped fill in the gaps to ensure the reading never paused.
I was fortunate enough to participate in the event on [the night of Nov. 9]. The air was misty and chilly, and there were only 30 or so people around at any given time. A few people sat in chairs in front of the stage to listen. Several people pass by to look at the memorial. There’s a handful standing in line waiting for their turn to read. Everyone is there to pay their respects to the fallen.
As I stood in line waiting for my turn, I listened to the others. The more I listened, the harder it was to keep my eyes dry. One woman preceded a name with “my father” and choked up as she read his name. A gentleman that followed her struggled to get through some of the names of his comrades. Every name means something to somebody somewhere. Each name represents service and sacrifice.
The first “Reading of the Names” occurred at the National Cathedral when the memorial was dedicated in November 1982. This year marked the 35th anniversary of the memorial and a reading of the names has been held every five years.
Thank you to everyone that participated in this important event. Stay up to date with news and events happening at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by following the Vietnam Veterans Memorial fund at http://www.vvmf.org.
Rainbow Division Soldiers Help End WWI during Meuse-Argonne Offensive
(N.Y. State Military History Museum)
For this story, it’s important to remember that World War I ended without Allied troops reaching German soil (something that Gen. John Pershing and Marshal of France Ferdinand Foch protested as they believed it would lay the seeds for another war). So, the final clashes took place on French soil, and there was a surge in fighting in the last days as Allied powers attempted to put as much pain on Germany as possible.
Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur had already been nominated for his fifth and sixth Silver Stars, both of which he would later receive. He had suffered injuries in a poison gas attack, survived artillery bombardments and machine gun attacks, and led his men to victory in key terrain.
Then-Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur in World War I.
(N.Y. State Military History Museum)
On November 6, he was in Wadlaincourt with his men, taking the fight to Germany even though few brigade commanders would’ve risked being that close to the guns.
And the 1st Infantry Division didn’t know he was there. So when 1st Infantry soldiers saw MacArthur, clad in his grey cape and cap, they thought it was a German officer they were looking at. As Raymond S. Tompkins wrote in 1919 in The Story of the Rainbow Division:
All [the platoon leaders] saw in the gathering dusk was an important looking officer walking around, attired in what looked like a gray cape and a visored cap with a soft crown, not unlike those the Crown Prince wore in his pictures.
Yeah, coincidentally, MacArthur’s common outfit on the front just happened to be similar to the Crown Prince of Germany’s. While none of his own men would mistake the general for anyone else, he was not yet famous enough to be recognized by average members of other units.
And, the German Crown Prince had, in fact, led troops in combat in 1918 on Germany’s Western Front. So it is, perhaps, not so surprising that the mistake could happen on a fast-moving and chaotic front.
The Crown Prince of Germany Rupprecht did lead German troops in the field against his nation’s enemies.
(U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
And so the patrol arrested him, and MacArthur protested his innocence and identity, but the platoon leader wasn’t going to take the word of a probable German officer over his own eyes, so he vowed to take the man to a unit headquarters for identification.
Obviously, the 84th Infantry Brigade headquarters was nearby, since MacArthur was typically found close to his place of duty. So the 1st Infantry Division patrol took him there, to his own headquarters, for identification. Perhaps in a failure of imagination, his headquarters immediately identified him. They really missed a chance at a great prank, there.
It turned out well for them, though. The Armistice negotiations would begin days later on November 8, 1918, and was signed in the wee hours of November 11. MacArthur was made the division commander of the 42nd Infantry Division. He and his men were welcomed back to the U.S. as heroes, and it doesn’t appear that MacArthur held any personal grudges against the 1st Infantry for his short detainment.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. became the sole superpower on the world stage, and was able to take advantage of the vast global influence it had amassed since the late 19th century.
But in recent years, this power has been fading.
From the South China Sea to the Middle East to Latin America, places where the U.S. once comfortably exerted its economic, military, and political power are slowly beginning to slip out of America’s grip, and often into China’s. Although former President Barack Obama initiated this trend in some regions through calculated disengagement, it has accelerated sharply under President Donald Trump.
Here are 10 regions where U.S. influence has faded most dramatically:
10. The South China Sea
The strategic and oil-rich South China Sea is one of the most contested waterways in the world, and the U.S. and its allies have competed with China for control of it for years. While the Obama administration took a tough stance on the issue and even forced China to back down from further expansion in the area in 2016, the Trump administration has instead pursued other priorities.
While on his trip to Asia this month, Trump articulated a largely incoherent policy on the South China Sea together with Vietnam and Philippines, but focused mainly on trade and North Korea. As a result, China has had a much freer hand in asserting its dominance in the region, and has expanded military bases, strengthened missile shelters, and built up small reefs into developed islands from which it can project its maritime influence — all to the detriment of U.S. power in the area.
Vietnam and China recently reached an agreement on the sea, and China’s foreign minister indicated it was a sign that the countries in the region did not trust the U.S. anymore to resolve such disputes.
9. The Pacific
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers)
The U.S. has long had a powerful military and economic presence in the Pacific, and Obama had hoped to create even closer ties between the U.S. and east Asia through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The controversial agreement was also seen as an effort to counter expanding Chinese trade power in the region.
In one of his first moves in office, though, Trump decided to pull the U.S. out of the agreement. In response, the remaining 11 countries that signed onto the TPP formed their own pact without the U.S. earlier this month, cutting the U.S. out of potentially profitable export opportunities and diminishing its influence along the crucial Pacific Rim.
“It’s a huge setback for the United States,” Deborah Elms, the executive director of the Asian Trade Center, told Voice of America. “If you are an exporter, this is deeply damaging.”
U.S. Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank Robert Orr agreed.
“When Trump abdicated TPP and then told regional nations to go on their own as the U.S. would, it was inevitable that a new formulation of TPP would emerge not only without American leadership, but also without even an American presence,” he said.
8. The Philippines
America’s deep historical ties to the Philippines stretch back to the 1898 Spanish-American War, when the U.S. acquired the islands from Spain. Since then, the U.S. has maintained bases in the Philippines and has enjoyed immense cultural and political influence on the islands.
Along with Israel, Turkey has been considered the most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East for decades and has been a crucial member of the NATO alliance since 1952.
Yet few of America’s ally relationships have become as strained as the one with Turkey in recent years. Peeved by America’s escalating diplomatic chastisement of its authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the U.S.’s continued support for Kurds in Syria, Turkey has diverged from the U.S. on numerous regional issues.
China, in particular, has stepped up to the plate in Africa, and the value of its investments on the continent outweigh America’s by a factor of 10. While the Obama administration had at least tried, unsuccessfully, to expand its reach in Africa from a security standpoint, the Trump administration, which has slashed foreign aid funding, has been “asleep at the wheel” according to Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Other officials, like former U.S. representative to the African Union, Reuben Brigety, agree.
“The most disturbing thing is they are looking beyond us at this point,” Brigety told U.S. News and World Report. “As [African countries] are getting their act increasingly together… They are no longer waiting for us to figure out what we may be doing.”
While Americans and Europeans often viewed Africa from a security lens, the Chinese have used state-owned corporations to entrench China’s geopolitical influence on the continent through industrial, infrastructure, and mining projects.
5. Latin America
The U.S. has also increasingly become outpaced by China in Latin America, right in the U.S.’s backyard.
As the U.S. has devoted its attention to other regions of the world, China has stepped in to fill the void economically, and has now replaced the U.S. as the main trading partner of regional giants like Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. Militarily, China has also been angling itself as a weapons provider in Latin America, and its developing Pacific Navy may well come to play a role in Pacific South America in years to come.
Following years of American involvement, the countries of Latin America formed a new international group called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that excludes the U.S. and Canada — and instead of meeting on the American continent, CELAC held a major conference in Beijing in 2015, according to CNN Money.
Evan Ellis, a Latin American expert and professor at the U.S. Army War College, told CNN that, like in other parts of the world, China is offering investment and trade benefits with no strings attached.
“China provides a source of financing and export markets without pressures to adhere to practices of transparency, open markets, and Western style democracy,” Ellis said.
All of this is very appealing to Latin American countries like Venezuela, among others.
When the U.S. passed a new sanctions bill against Russia this past July, it included a clause that said Congress could also levy sanctions against companies that worked on Russian export pipelines — and the Germans, whose companies are planning to do just that on the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline, erupted in protest.
President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said the EU was prepared to retaliate economically against the U.S. for the moves.
The diplomatic awkwardness on the energy issue reflects an increasing distance Germany and the European Union have felt toward the U.S. ever since the Obama years — Europeans’ trust of the U.S. has fallen by more than half since 2009. More recently, politicians in western Europe have complained about Trump’s refugee policy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel summed up Europe’s increasing distance from the U.S. in May of this year.
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days” she said. “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
3. The Arab Middle East
In 2009, Obama made a sweeping speech in Cairo that promised a new future for the Middle East, and especially for the Arab nations that make up its core. At the height of the Arab Spring two years later, it seemed like the U.S. had committed itself to use its power in the region to advance Arab democratic interests.
Yet in 2017, from Iraq in the east to Lebanon and Jordan in the west, it is no secret that U.S. influence in the Arab Middle East is at historic lows. Iranian regional dominance in the Fertile Crescent and Yemen, instability in Saudi Arabia, and the continuing appeal of Islamism over Western liberalism all mean that America’s ability to direct politics in the region has become seriously undermined.
After decades of American interventionism in the Arab Middle East that have borne little fruit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently stated that if Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal, “no one will trust America again.”
However Arabs’ distrust of the U.S. has deeper causes than just American waffling on deals like the one with Iran — Obama’s inaction on Syria, which many Arabs saw as a betrayal, along with America’s continued singular focus on stamping out terrorism in the region have dampened hopes that the U.S. has ever had the best interests of Arabs in mind.
The U.S. has long striven to maintain influence on the southeast Asian mainland, perhaps most directly through the Vietnam War, and has frequently served as a bulwark in the region against China.
This bulwark seems to be weakening though, and China has been rapidly supplanting U.S. influence throughout the region by investing heavily where Americans will not. While in past decades human rights and democracy had to be cultivated in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia for the U.S. to do business there, with Trump stepping back and downplaying the importance of human rights on his recent Asia trip, southeast Asian nations have been given a freer hand — and in many cases have turned to China as a partner instead due to its strategic economic know-how.
China has long sought deeper involvement in the affairs of countries in its own backyard, and America’s disengagement on issues like the South China Sea have allowed it to unilaterally extend political and economic influence over southeast Asian countries on the mainland.
Among locals though, Chinese influence isn’t necessarily a good thing. A recent survey conducted from Singapore showed that 70% of Southeast Asians see U.S. influence as positive for regional stability, however 51% also stated that the U.S. had lost power in the region to China since Trump took office.
The U.S. and Pakistan have been ardent allies throughout the Cold War and into the War on Terror, but recent political differences and the growing influence of China in the country have strained American power in the south Asian country.
Pakistan, which has been India’s arch-rival since 1947, has instead turned to China, just like so many other tepid U.S. allies around the world. Pakistan’s top foreign policy advisor Sartaj Aziz indicated as much in June of this year.
“Pakistan’s relations with China are the cornerstone of our foreign policy,” Aziz said.
Having been married to someone in the military for almost a decade at this point, there are two things I learned quickly that will almost always be true. The first is that no matter what, there will always be at least one MRE somewhere in your house. The second, is that you will have to move. You will move a lot, you will move often, and there is a high likelihood you will have to move somewhere unfamiliar. While PCS and other forms of military travel are put on temporary hold right now, it can still be helpful to think of ways to make some of the more stressful, and sometimes more time consuming aspects, work for you.
Any move, military or otherwise, comes with obvious stressors and things to consider. From prospective jobs, future school districts, housing, and arguably the most stressful: trying to convince your friends to help pack the moving truck. While there are options in the military to have your things professionally packed and moved, my husband and I have always taken the more hands-on approach. Albeit more tedious, it has kind of become tradition for us. It gives us one last chance to say goodbye to friends we’ve made, pay them in pizza and beer and convince them that we really didn’t mean to pack some of those boxes so heavy.
I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from people over the years about the best way to adjust to a new duty station. It’s easier when you have built in ice breakers like school aged kids or more social hobbies, but overall, everyone learns to adjust in their own way. Something else that seemingly less significant or explored is the actual act of getting from point A to point B.
Even during the anxiety and uncertainty of our very first move, my favorite part of a PCS has always been hitting the road and making conscious efforts to plan our route in a memorable way. Our duty stations have been all over the country, so we’ve been able to cover some significant ground in a relatively short amount of time. There’s something about taking what is typically deemed more utilitarian and turning it into its own experience that really seems to feed the soul.
When I think about some of my favorite memories with my husband and kids, I think about our PCS roadtrips. Our oldest son visited the Grand Canyon and traveled through 23 states before his first birthday. We spent an entire day driving around Albuquerque, NM visiting filming locations from Breaking Bad, which admittedly was more of a personal bucket list item, but my husband had control of the radio that day, so we found a happy compromise.
Our youngest son travelled from Oregon to Louisiana before he was even born (nothing goes better with being seven months pregnant than driving 7 hours a day for a week straight). Both of our boys have managed to get really close to crossing off all 50 states since they’ve been our roadies. We’ve made our way through the good, the bad and the ugly of truck stops, hotels and roadside attractions–few things compare to some of those alien museums in Roswell, which really have the potential to encompass all three traits seamlessly.
We take the time before our move to look at a map and see what’s out there. Sure, there are days where it really is about getting up early and putting in those long hours to get some mileage under our belt, but we always try to counter that with something fun. Sometimes it can feel like “making the best out of a bad situation” if the move comes at an inopportune time, or there are outside factors at play.
One of the realities of being a military family is having a lot of things decided for you. That can seem like a daunting thing, and I would be lying if I said there weren’t times where it was really hard for us in one way or another.
At the end of the day it’s about looking for those silver linings in the inevitable. Taking stock in the situation and being able to make it into something you can look back on and appreciate having been in that place at that time. So many things in life are done with the outcome in mind, not the process. Military members and military families will undoubtedly spend a lot of time going from point A to point B, it comes with the territory. What that does however, is offer up the opportunity for adventure. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but sometimes it’s worth taking a detour.
On August 1, 1936, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler opened the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany.
In doing so, he inaugurated what is now a famed ritual of a lone runner bearing a torch carried from the site of the ancient games in Olympia, Greece into the stadium.
“The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn’t separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That’s why the Olympic Flame should never die,” he reportedly said.
If that sounds like PR for the Nazi Party, that’s because it was.
The relay “was planned with immense care by the Nazi leadership to project the image of the Third Reich as a modern, economically dynamic state with growing international influence,”according to the BBC.
Or, in other words, Hitler wanted the games to impress foreigners visiting Germany.
The organizer of the 1936 Games, Carl Diem, even based the relay off the one Ancient Greeks did in 80 BC in an attempt to connect the ancient Olympics to the present Nazi party.
“The idea chimed perfectly with the Nazi belief that classical Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich,” according to the BBC. “And the event blended perfectly the perversion of history with publicity for contemporary German power.”
And according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Hitler’s torch run, “perfectly suited Nazi propagandists, who used torch-lit parades and rallies to attract Germans, especially youth, to the Nazi movement.”
The torch itself was made by Krupp Industries, which was a major supplier of Nazi arms.
Here’s a view of one of the Olympic torch bearers:
And here’s a view of the last bearer ahead of lighting the Olympic flame:
Unsurprisingly, the 1936 Olympic Games were not without controversy.
Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in Berlin — despite the racist ideology. | Wikimedia
Despite Hitler’s aforementioned pitch that “the sportive, knightly battle … unites the combatants in understanding and respect,” the Nazis tried to keep Jews and blacks from competing in the games.
The Nazis eventually capitulated, saying that they would welcome “competitors of all races,” but added that the make-up of the German team was up to the host country. (They added Helene Mayer, whose father was Jewish, as their “token Jew” participant. She won the silver medal.)
During the games, Hitler reportedly cheered loudly for German winners, but showed poor sportsmanship when others won, including track and field star Jesse Owens (who won 4 gold medals) and other black American athletes. According to Nagorski, he also said: “It was unfair of the United States to send these flatfooted specimens to compete with the noble products of Germany. … I am going to vote against Negro participation in the future.”
Ultimately, the most disconcerting thing about the 1936 Olympics is that the Nazis’ propaganda push was actually effective on visitors and athletes — despite all the racism and anti-Semitism.
William L. Shirer, an American journalist living in Berlin at the time, and later known for his book “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” noted his disappointment with the fact that tourists responded positively to the whole affair. And according to Nagorski, an older American woman even managed to kiss Hitler on the cheek when he visited the swimming stadium.
But perhaps the most chilling line cited by Nagorski came from Rudi Josten, a German staffer in the AP bureau who wrote: “Everything was free and all dance halls were reopened. … They played American music and whatnot. Anyway, everybody thought: ‘Well, so Hitler can’t be so bad.'”
World War II officially started a little over three years later in 1939.
I really want to hear the safety brief from the Seabees this week. Any time any lower enlisted screws up, they single that dude out and crucify him in front of the unit to make sure it never happens again. When officers screw up, they play it off as a thing that everyone does wrong and remind everyone that they’re the real victim here. Especially if it’s the same officer who screwed up.
“Alright, guys. I know you might have heard about this streaking epidemic, but that stops today!”
Anyways, here’re some memes.
13. He’ll be fine. That drone flying overhead has a sweet Valentine’s Day gift for him.
(Meme via PNN)
12. Always trying to look for that last f*ck to give.
11. Throwing up doesn’t make you less of an alcoholic. It just means you’re making room for more!
10. F*ck Jodie; you can always find a new wife. But what about your dog?
9. Feels like you’re wearing nothing at all… nothing at all… nothing at all…
8. Come on, Seabees. There’s a time and place for running around naked.
7. As long as they only think the party is “just loud,” you’re doing it right.
6. It’s not like they had the balls to try sh*t during the Cold War…
5. Ever wonder why so many Marine brats are born 9 months after the Marine Corps Ball?
4. Just enough motivation to check off the box.
3. Marines will also yell back if they even think you say, “Marine” without capitalizing it.
2. About to leave and you heard the words, “Hey there, hero! Where do you think you’re going?” And Retention wonders why no one speaks to them…
1. Supposedly, you only get Good Conducts for not screwing up for 3 years. Even if you do, you’ll probably still get one anyways…
The Air Force has been holding out on us. Over 50 years ago they developed a functional robot that stood over 26 feet high, could carry 2,000 pound loads, and punched right through concrete walls.
So why, 50 years later, does warfare not look like this?
Besides the obvious answer (the Air Force hates fun), it’s because the “Beetle” was designed for just a few missions, all of which were eliminated before it was completed.
The 85-ton robot was ordered by the Air Force to provide a maintenance capability for their nuclear-powered bombers. The Beetle would have been used to change out nuclear materials, payloads, and irradiated parts on the bombers in situations where a normal mechanic or ordnance worker would be irradiated.
The test report also notes the high level of maintenance required to keep the robot working, something a 1962 Popular Mechanics article also highlighted. The system was prone to leaks and short circuits, among other issues.
After testing, the Air Force allowed the Beetle and one of its support vehicles to be transferred to the Atomic Energy Commission and NASA to aid with a nuclear rocket program. But, that program was also canceled as scientists found better ways of creating chemical propellants for rockets and missiles.
As COVID-19 spreads across the planet, humanity faces a difficult and deadly trial. Here in the U.S., the best science available predicts hundreds of thousands of Americans will contract the disease. Government officials have already reported that thousands of patients with COVID-19 have died and projected that between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans will eventually die from the virus.
Facing this grim diagnosis will bring out the best in the American people. Character is displayed under pressure. We’re under pressure, and America’s character is strong. We have the discipline and determination to do what is right for our families and communities, even when it is difficult. We have the caring and compassion to help those who are suffering. We have ingenious entrepreneurs and innovative tools – including the ability to gather and process large amounts of data.
And we have the wisdom to know that our character must guide how we use tools, including data-gathering tools, to help us overcome this monumental challenge.
Countries around the world are combatting the spread of coronavirus by collecting and using the location of peoples’ smartphones. This government use of location data – i.e., surveillance – appears to be a powerful tool in the fight against the disease, but also raises a host of privacy concerns. The U.S. shouldn’t blindly copy other countries’ practices. Instead, we can and should find ways to harness the power of big data to protect public health while also protecting the rights of all Americans.
Governments use location data to combat COVID-19 in two ways. They use it for “contact tracing,” to identify all the people a sick person has encountered. Most do this by assembling a massive database of the movements of every person, sick or healthy. South Korea has been especially aggressive on this front, collecting data from infected citizens’ credit cards, GPS systems, and cellphones to determine their location and interactions with other citizens. Singapore has created an app that collects information about nearby phones over Bluetooth, focusing on who the user has been near, rather than where. No comprehensive database of locations is required.
The other purpose for which countries are using location data is to enforce social distancing or quarantine requirements. The South Korean government mandates that quarantined individuals download an app that tracks their location, enabling the government to detect when individuals break their quarantine restrictions. Governments in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Russia also use smartphone apps, geofencing, and facial-recognition technology to enforcequarantine restrictions on individuals.
While we don’t have comprehensive data on the effectiveness of these various approaches, it does appear that digital surveillance can help governments “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of COVID-19.
But when governments use these tools, they do so at the cost of their citizens’ privacy. This tradeoff is not surprising. Because information about people is useful for many purposes, tradeoffs between privacy and other values are common. Privacy values often clash with openness, competition, and innovation. But rarely are the tradeoffs so dramatic.
Calibrating these tradeoffs in advance is difficult. There is evidence that existing U.S. privacy laws hindered the use of valuable medical information, slowing the initial response to the virus. Specifically, university researchers in Washington state were delayed by weeks in their efforts to repurpose already-gathered patient data to study the growing COVID-19 pandemic. This is one reason laws that restrict private sector use of data should allow beneficial uses, including using data to improve health and save lives.
But even when fighting real, tangible harms like death and disease, unwarranted government surveillance without due process unacceptably threatens liberty. That’s why our Constitution and our values limit what government can do even when pursuing important goals. These privacy-protecting institutions are our country’s antibodies against government overreach and abuse.
Fortunately, we don’t have to give up our liberties to use big data tools in the fight against COVID-19. Rather than assemble giant databases of personal information like South Korea or China has, U.S. government public health experts should use anonymized location data not linked to individuals. Such data can help researchers assess how well populations are practicing social distancing, identify hotspots of activity that raise the risk of spreading the disease, and study how the disease has spread. (Reports indicate that health officials are already using anonymized mobile advertising data for these purposes and some private companies are offering free-to-use tools to help decisionmakers). We should also explore decentralized approaches to contact tracing, like the Singaporean app. Civic-minded individuals who want to volunteer their data for research purposes should be encouraged to do so, perhaps through public education campaigns.
In any case, U.S. health officials must protect our privacy by ensuring that any data collected for use in this current health crisis isn’t repurposed for other government uses. And both businesses and governments involved in this effort must tell the public how data is being collected, shared, and used.
The U.S. has the world’s best innovators in using data to improve Americans’ lives. We can, and should, empower those innovators to fight the spread of COVID-19 consistent with our strong American values and character.
A top US admiral explained March 13, 2019, that the Navy is keeping high-level promotions a secret because hackers from China and other adversarial countries are targeting flag officers.
While the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps all continue to publish lists of newly promoted officers, the Navy abruptly stopped in October 2018, USNI News first reported February 2019.
The policy reportedly began with the promotion of Trump’s doctor, Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, who withdrew from consideration to lead Department of Veterans Affairs amid a scandal.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson defended the policy decision March 13, 2019, arguing that publishing this information — which the US Senate continues to publish— leaves high-ranking Navy officers vulnerable to cyberattacks.
“I don’t know if you’ve been personally attacked in the cyber world, but our flags are,” Richardson said at a conference in Washington, DC, Breaking Defense reported. It is “just a vulnerability that we are trying to think about,” he added, according to Military.com.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson.
“There’s always a tension between on the transparency and security,” he explained, telling reporters that the Navy intends to do anything it can “to make sure we’re keeping their information and stuff secure.”
An alarming internal Navy cybersecurity review recently concluded that the service, as well as its industry partners, are “under cyber siege,” The Wall Street Journal reported March 12, 2019.
“We are under siege,” a senior US Navy official stressed to The Journal. “People think it’s much like a deadly virus — if we don’t do anything, we could die.”
The service has been hit relentlessly by Chinese, Russian, and Iranian hackers, with the threat presented by Chinese cyber criminals among the most severe. China is accused of hacking the US military, large and small defense contractors, and even university partners to steal anything not nailed down.
In 2018, Chinese government hackers stole important data on several US Navy undersea-warfare programs from an unidentified contractor. Among the stolen information were plans for a new supersonic anti-ship missile, The Washington Post reported in June 2018, citing US officials.
Speaking to Congress March 13, 2019, Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, head of US Cyber Command, said that the US is prepared to aggressively strike back against adversarial powers in cyberspace.
While Navy leadership argues that the decision to keep flag officer promotions a secret is to eliminate exposure that could put its admirals at risk, the defense appears a bit thin, as their names, ranks and biographies are still publicly available.
“This may not work out in the end, I don’t know, but that’s kind of our mindset there,” Richardson reportedly said March 13, 2019.
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When Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) went down in eastern Ukraine on Jul. 17, 2015, a long investigation was launched to determine what happened. Through extensive modeling and forensics, a Dutch-led investigation determined that the plane was downed by a Russian-made Buk missile fired from the area of Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
Russian state media drudged up a “satellite image” from an obscure message board and began reporting that the scene it presented, one of a Ukrainian fighter jet firing on MH17, was a fact. But, as users at the investigative journalism site Bellingcat pointed out, the planes’ relative size to each other and the ground were way off and the MH17 plane perfectly matches the first Google result for the Russian equivalent of, “Boeing top view.”
Russia repeatedly claimed that its troops weren’t in Ukraine during the invasion of Crimea, a region of Ukraine, and couldn’t understand why so many people thought they were. (Hint: It was mostly the Russian license plates, uniforms, accents and language.)
No one thought to cut off the soldiers’ access to social media, though. The Atlantic Council followed the digital footprint of a soldier and proved that he — and a lot of his closest friends and squadmates — had come from Siberia in Russia.
Before Ukrainian protesters ousted the country’s pro-Kremlin leader and tried to join the Western world — kicking off the armed conflict with Russia and pro-Russian separatists — it held a series of large rallies and protests against the then president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych.
State media later claimed that swarms of ethnic Russians in Ukraine were fleeing the country to get to Russia, but their footage of the “Russian” border stations had clear signs identifying it as a Polish-Ukrainian border station.
4. The re-hired actors fiascos
In multiple incidents over the past few years, propaganda creators have used the same actors in different videos and photo shoots, sometimes over and over again.
The unfortunate thing for the rest of the international community is that — despite Russia’s frequent missteps — their propaganda model does work. Rand Corporation looked at the body of evidence and found that Russia’s use of multiple channels buys it credibility even when most of its arguments can be proven false.
The effect can be even greater when they actually get a gift of real information. After all, the Democratic National Committee hasn’t released anything saying that the leaked emails were faked. So while Russia may get made fun of for trying to pass off an actor as a Romanian hacker, they’re still influencing an American election.
And this time they get to enjoy the fact that no one can debunk the kernel at the heart of the story.
The black box of a Ukrainian passenger airliner shot down by Iranian forces in Tehran in January is damaged and Iran will not hand it over to another country, despite pressure for access, state media quoted top Iranian ministers as saying on February 1.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that he had “impressed upon” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that a complete and independent investigation into the shooting down of the airliner had to be carried out.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was brought down by Iranian air defenses after it took off from Tehran on January 8, killing everyone on board. Iran says the shoot-down was a mistake. The 176 victims included 82 Iranian citizens and 63 Canadians, many of them of Iranian origin.
The crash occurred with Iran’s air-defense forces on high alert following an Iranian ballistic-missile attack a few hours earlier against U.S. forces in Iraq. The strikes came days after Iran’s most prominent military commander, Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.
“We have a right to read the black box ourselves. We have a right to be present at any examination of the black box,” Zarif said.
“If we are supposed to give the black box to others for them to read it in our place then this is something we will definitely not do,” he said.
However, Iran is in discussions with other countries, particularly Ukraine, about the investigation, Zarif said. Defense Minister Amir Hatami said the flight data recording box had “sustained noticeable damage and the defense industry has been requested to help in reconstructing (it).”
“The reconstruction of the black box is supposed to take place first and then the reading,” Hatami said.
When it comes to sheer hardship under appalling combat conditions, it is hard to match what the 5307th Composite Unit (provisional), better known as Merrill’s Marauders, endured in the China-India-Burma campaign.
When the Japanese had overrun and taken Burma from its colonial master Great Britain in 1942, it had cut the only real overland route for military supplies heading to Chinese forces fighting the Japanese in mainland China. The famed Allied air transport route “over the hump” of the Himalayas was no substitute for a reliable road considering the amount of supplies needed.
U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided at a conference in August 1943 to form special American units for infiltrating Burma, modeled after the British Army Chindits, a long-range penetration unit that had already operated in Burma under Brigadier Ord Wingate. The plan was to disrupt Japanese communications and supply lines and capturing key points, the reopening of the Burma Road could be accelerated.
An Army-wide call for those interested in volunteering was put out under presidential authority, drawing about 3,000 recruits from stateside units. Many were specifically drawn from soldiers who already had experience in jungle fighting from earlier in the war. After assembly in India, they received months of intensive training in jungle warfare under the instruction of Wingate, including extended exercises with the Chindits. The 5307th was placed under the command of Brig. General Frank Merrill, the source of the name ‘Merrill’s Marauders’ eventually given to the unit by the press.
Conceived as a mobile raiding force, the Marauders were lightly equipped by conventional infantry standards, with no heavy weapons beyond light mortars, bazookas, and machine guns. Dense jungle and mountains made ground vehicles impossible, so supplies were to be carried by the soldiers themselves and hundreds of mules and horses. Resupply was limited to airdrops and whatever the unit could forage off the countryside in trade with indigenous locals.
Embarking on Feb. 24, 1944, the Marauders mission began with 2,750 men marching over a thousand miles through the Patkai region of the Himalayas, in order to get behind Japanese lines in Burma. Operating with indigenous Kachin scouts and Chinese forces, they began a series of raids against Japanese patrols, supply lines, and garrisons. Their ultimate goal was to capture the strategic Burmese town of Myitkynia, which had an important airfield and was along the route for an alternate road to China.
The Marauders were almost always outnumbered and outgunned by the Japanese 18th Division, which formed their primary opposition. Lacking artillery and out of range of any serious air support, they had to rely on surprise, training, and mobility to outfight the Japanese regulars, and they often found themselves on the defense because they were ill-equipped for fighting against larger forces.
But their greatest enemy, which inflicted more damage than even superior Japanese forces could, was the jungle. Malaria, amoebic dysentery, and typhus took an awful toll, inflicting more casualties than Japanese fire did. Soldiers shaking from fever and tormented by diarrhea had to force themselves through dense jungle and intense close quarters combat. Torrential rains, stinging insects, and snakes only added to their misery.
The issued K-rations were relatively light and compact, but at 2,900 calories per day were wholly inadequate for heavily loaded men marching, sweating, and fighting in the jungle. Even for men facing hunger, many components of the rations were so widely detested that they were often thrown away, and failed air drops only made the situation worse. Malnourishment and its accompanying weakness and exhaustion made the troops more vulnerable to already endemic diseases, and many of them were reduced to little more than walking skeletons.
Despite the enormous challenges, the Marauders managed to inflict far greater casualties on the Japanese then they suffered, and used their mobility and seeming ability to strike anywhere to throw Japanese forces into confusion. After dozens of skirmishes and several major actions, the 5307th managed to take the airfield at Myitkynia in August 1944 alongside elements of the Chinese Army, and the town itself after reinforcements arrived.
So decimated were the Marauders by disease and combat that only 200 men of the original task force were still present at the end of the campaign. Frank Merrill, who suffered a heart attack before being stricken with malaria by the end of the mission. Every last member was evacuated to hospitals to recuperate from months of hunger, disease, and exhaustion.
The 5307th was disbanded shortly thereafter, and in a very rare distinction every single member of the commando force received the Bronze Star for staying and fighting. They fought five major actions and dozens of smaller ones while marching over 750 miles through enemy territory, all the while fighting a different but even more deadly battle against hunger and disease. The unit was eventually redesignated as the 75th Infantry Regiment, from which today’s 75th Ranger Regiment descended.