Why Russia and China’s Navies Are Drilling Together More Than Ever

November 18, 2017 Leave a comment

During the “Golden Era” of Sino-Soviet relations, in the 1950s, naval matters formed some of the most pressing issues on the agenda of that erstwhile alliance. Mao Zedong was counting on the Kremlin to provide Beijing with the fleet (or at least the relevant know-how) that would finally enable the conquest of Taiwan. China’s navy received some impressive platforms, such as a cutting-edge ballistic-missile submarine, for good measure, illustrating the coziness of this relationship. Yet Soviet leaders also expected strategic benefits from the bargain, including renewed access to the old Russian base at Port Arthur (旅顺港), the building of transmitters for naval communications with submarines operating across the vast expanses of the Pacific and even the prospect of commanding Chinese ships within a “joint fleet” construct. Of course, these ambitious plans all came to a crashing halt in the early 1960s, broken on the rocks of outsized leadership personalities and nationalist dogma.

Are we back in the 1950s today? Hardly—but the growing closeness of Beijing and Moscow seems to be a generally stable feature of contemporary global politics. Back in July, the PLA Navy made a dramatic visit to the Baltic Sea, deploying one of its newest and most capable surface combatants, the Type 052D, for its first-ever joint military exercise in those sensitive waters. A Chinese military newspaper quotes an American analyst, who suggested that drill “caused regional states to feel uneasy [引起演地区国家的紧张].” That September 22 article from China National Defense (中国国防报) also offers a rather detailed examination of the second segment of the Russian-Chinese naval exercise, which occurred in the Pacific in September 2017. Western media covered that second exercise rather competently, but some additional detail and context may help in forming a more complete assessment.

As the eighth iteration of the joint naval exercise, a process initiated in 2012, the process by now appears to be well rehearsed. Russia and China have carried out the exercise twice a year since 2015, suggesting that both countries see value in it. The most recent drill off Vladivostok appeared rather low key, featuring a smallish Chinese contingent—just four PLA Navy ships—and none of the large amphibious ships with marine components that had joined previous exercises. However, the China National Defense analysis suggests otherwise: “Although the Chinese side did not send a large number of ships, the capability of the ships was relatively advanced [中方参演舰艇数量虽然不多,但性能普遍比较为先进].” True, the destroyer that the PLA Navy dispatched, Shijiazhuang, is somewhat old (ten years) by Chinese standards, but the oiler is new, completed in 2015, and the submarine rescue ship also only joined the fleet a few years ago, in 2013. A Type 054 frigate rounded out the Chinese squadron. With eight ships and boats participating in the home exercise, Russia’s contribution was naturally larger. Notable among the Russian participants were both large and small antisubmarine warfare (ASW) ships, as well as two large IL-38 ASW aircraft.

The centerpiece of this exercise appears to have been the submarine-rescue drill. As it turns out, the Chinese Navy possesses one of the most advanced submarine-rescue submersibles in the world. LR7 was built in the United Kingdom, and the Chinese Navy has operated the imported system with increasing confidence in international settings, including at RIMPAC in mid-2016. It is worth recalling that international cooperation helped rescue a Russian minisubmarine in the Pacific in 2005, underlining the importance of such exercises. On September 20, this exercise proceeded with a drill on a target-stricken submarine at a depth of fifty meters. The submarine-rescue simulation involved the use of unmanned underwater vehicles (水下航行器), as well as medical procedures for treating injured sailors. It is certainly true that such drills are quite routine among the U.S. Navy and the navies of allied nations, such as Japan. Still, it is worth noting the undersea emphasis of this particular joint Russia-China naval exercise.

According to the China National Defense article, “An expert observed that this kind of exercise is important as the [Chinese] submarine force increases its operational capabilities for far seas operations [有专家指出,这个演习科目有利于提高潜艇远海行动能力].” Moreover, it is also stated that ASW exercises are among the most important for all navies, so joint focus on that priority area, it is said, speaks to the high level of cooperation that has been achieved. Another analysis that appeared in China Youth Daily (中国青年报), written by an author from the PLA Navy Engineering Academy (海军工程大学), makes several additional points related to undersea warfare. This particular article underlines the significance of the Chinese Navy’s first-ever visit to the Sea of Okhotsk (鄂霍次克海), an area said to be “extremely suitable for submarine operations [非常适合潜艇活动].” That article notes the great importance of the Sea of Okhotsk for Russia’s force of “boomers” or missile-carrying submarines (SSBNs), which are able to quite easily fire missiles capable of “reaching the U.S. homeland [可抵达美国本土].” A similar point made in this second Chinese analysis is that the route of this squadron is the shortest for the PLA Navy to reach the Arctic Ocean, and this author suggests that the Arctic region has “prominent strategic value.”

One need not exaggerate the dangers to the West posed by enhanced Russia-China strategic cooperation. Indeed, this particular exercise was neither of a vast scope, nor did it adopt an overtly menacing posture. As noted above, the centerpiece of the exercise was a search-and-rescue drill. In another Dragon Eye, I have gone so far as to suggest that enhanced strategic cooperation between Moscow and Beijing could actually be critical to stabilizing the North Korea crisis.

Yet it might also be a mistake to ignore or downplay the significance of China-Russia joint military activities. As the China National Defense analysis relates: “It’s not just on the strategic level that cooperation is much closer, but cooperation has also strengthened on the tactical and technological levels as well [不仅在战略层面上合作更加紧密,而且在战术技术层面的合作更加深入扎实].” There is little doubt that Beijing and Moscow could substantially increase the size and scope of these exercises, insofar as the current iterations evince a substantial hint of restraint, and do not seem intended to alter the delicate regional strategic balance—perhaps especially in light of existing tensions on the nearby Korean Peninsula. But that reasonably benign disposition could, of course, change quickly. Indeed, Western strategists should bear in mind that if they are seeking to create a NATO-like structure in the “Indo-Pacific,” there will likely be serious consequences and countermoves, including very substantially intensified Russia-China military cooperation.

Lyle J. Goldstein is professor of strategy in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the United States Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He can be reached at goldstel@usnwc.edu. The opinions in his columns are entirely his own and do not reflect the official assessments of the U.S. Navy or any other agency of the U.S. government.

Image: Reuters

Police Can Request Your DNA Without Consent Via Ancestry Websites

November 18, 2017 Leave a comment

Access to your DNA profile from both the Ancestry and 23andMe if they have a warrant

 RT News
Sending a sample of your DNA through the post may seem like a harmless and novel way of tracing your ancestry, and millions of Americans have already done so, but there is a more sinister side to this relatively new enterprise.

If you’re suspected of a crime police can, if they have a warrant, request access to your DNA profile from both the Ancestry and 23andMe websites. The latter has received five requests for customer information from law enforcement, although the company says it didn’t comply with any of these requests.

“As the 5 requests resulting in zero information provided indicates, we resist all of these requests. For perspective, 5 requests with over 3 million customers is 0.0002% worth of requests in 11 years. That’s less than rare,” 23andMe spokesman Andy Kill told RT.com.

Though the company hasn’t ruled out providing information to authorities in the future. “We would always review a request and take it on a case-by-case basis,” privacy officer Kate Black told told WJAX on Thursday.

Ancestry.com, however, has complied with such requests. Of the nine made by authorities for customer info in 2016, the company provided information in eight of the cases, according to the company’s transparency report.

However, the company stressed to RT.com that these requests were not related to DNA profiles rather “they were all with regards to things like account data that could be useful in credit card fraud investigations.”

It’s not just your DNA cops can request. Even if you haven’t given into the temptation of trying to pinpoint your long lost ancestors, your relatives could also get you in trouble, as was the case for Michael Usry Jr.

Usry Jr was a prime suspect in the cold case murder of 18-year-old, Angie Dodge. The Idaho Falls police got a warrant to use Ancestry’s database to solve the crime. It found Ursy Sr’s DNA, which closely matched DNA at the crime scene. Police then got a warrant for Ursy’s own DNA. In 2017, he was cleared of any involvement in the murder, however.

Ancestry explained it does not “share any information with law enforcement unless compelled to by valid legal process, such as a court order or search warrant.” It said in Ursy’s case the DNA was part of a “database we purchased that was an open and publicly available research resource at the time we bought it. After this case, we made the database private to help protect the privacy of our customers.”

Would North Korea Attack the Olympics in 2018? (By the Way, They Will Be in South Korea)

November 18, 2017 Leave a comment

Editor’s Note: In our latest Facebook Live interview (please like our Facebook page to see more of these events) Harry Kazianis, Director of Defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, and Christopher Preble, vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute, discuss the geopolitical outlook for East Asia.

Chris Preble recently wrote about the lack of a U.S. grand strategy. A portion of the article can be found below:

“The United States needs a new set of ideas and principles to justify its worthwhile international commitments, and curtail ineffective obligations where necessary,” argue Jeremi Suri and Benjamin Valentino, in the introduction to their edited volume Sustainable Security: Rethinking American National Security.

“Balancing our means and ends requires a deep reevaluation of U.S. strategy, as the choices made today will shape the direction of U.S. security policy for decades to come.”

Though rarely spelled out in such stark terms, this question would appear to be at the core of America’s grand strategy debate—if such a debate were actually occurring. We should ponder why it isn’t, and therefore why an arguably “unsustainable” strategy persists. (As the economist Herb Stein famously said, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”)

I foresaw this problem not quite two years ago. “U.S. foreign policy is crippled,” I warned in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee:

by a dramatic disconnect between what Americans expect of it and what the nation’s leaders are giving them. If U.S. policymakers don’t address this gap, they risk pursuing a policy whose ends don’t match with the means the American people are willing to provide.

And I concluded as follows:

the military’s roles and missions are not handed down from heaven. They are not carved on stone tablets. They are a function of the nation’s grand strategy…

That strategy must take account of the resources that can be made available to execute it. Under primacy, in the current domestic political context, increasing the means entails telling the American people to accept cuts in popular domestic programs, higher taxes, or both, so that our allies can maintain their bloated domestic spending and neglect their defenses.

It seems unlikely that Americans will embrace such an approach. The best recourse, therefore, is to reconsider our global role, and bring the object of our foreign policy in line with the public’s wishes.

That hasn’t happened. Although public officials and thought leaders should frame strategy as a choice among competing ends (what we seek to achieve), and means (i.e. the resources that we are willing to apply to achieve them), they have stubbornly refused to do so. They have clung to the same strategic goals, and simply hoped that the obvious fiscal constraints would magically disappear.

Given his willingness to challenge the foreign policy establishment, Trump’s upset victory last year might have changed all that. But, so far, it hasn’t. Arguably, it’s gotten worse.

Image: Reuters

The Last Time These 3 Ominous Signals Appeared Simultaneously Was Just Before The Last Financial Crisis

November 18, 2017 Leave a comment

Michael Snyder

We have not seen a “leadership reversal”, a “Hindenburg Omen” and a “Titanic Syndrome signal” all appear simultaneously since just before the last financial crisis. Does this mean that a stock market crash is imminent? Not necessarily, but as I have been writing about quite a bit recently, the markets are certainly primed for one. On Wednesday, the Dow fell another 138 points, and that represented the largest single day decline that we have seen since September. Much more importantly, the downward trend that has been developing over the past week appears to be accelerating. Just take a look at this chart. Could we be right on the precipice of a major move to the downside?

John Hussman certainly seems to think so. He is the one that pointed out that we have not seen this sort of a threefold sell signal since just before the last financial crisis. The following comes from Business Insider

On Tuesday, the number of New York Stock Exchange companies setting new 52-week lows climbed above the number hitting new highs, representing a “leadership reversal” that Hussman says highlights the deterioration of market internals. Stocks also received confirmation of two bearish market-breadth readings known as the Hindenburg Omen and the Titanic Syndrome.

Hussman says these three readings haven’t occurred simultaneously since 2007, when the financial crisis was getting underway. It happened before that in 1999, right before the dot-com crash. That’s not very welcome company.

In fact, every time we have seen these three signals appear all at once there has been a market crash.

Will things be different this time?

We shall see.

If you are not familiar with a “Hindenburg Omen” or “the Titanic Syndrome”, here are a couple of pretty good concise definitions

  • Hindenburg Omen: A sell signal that occurs when NYSE new highs and new lows each exceed 2.8% of advances plus declines on the same day. On Tuesday, they totaled more than 3%.
  • Titanic Syndrome: A sell signal triggered when NYSE 52-week lows outnumber 52-week highs within seven days of an all-time high in equities. Stocks most recently hit a record on November 8.

You can see the other times in recent decades when these three signals have appeared simultaneously on this chart right here.

Once again, past patterns do not guarantee that the same thing will happen in the future, but if the market does crash it should not surprise anyone.

10 days ago, I published an article entitled “The Federal Reserve Has Just Given Financial Markets The Greatest Sell Signal In Modern American History”. I pointed out that this stock market bubble was created by unprecedented central bank intervention, and now global central banks are reversing the process that created the bubble in unison. There is no possible way that stock prices can stay at these absolutely absurd levels without central bank help, and if global central banks stay on the sidelines a market decline would seem to be virtually inevitable.

Meanwhile, we are also witnessing a very alarming flattening of the yield curve

Hogan said the market is nervous about the “flattening” difference between the 2-year yield and the 10-year Treasury yield, which have been moving closer together. The curve dipped to 68 basis points Tuesday, a 10-year low. Hogan said 70 has become a line in the sand, and when it falls below that traders get nervous.

flattening curve can signal that the curve will invert, which historically means a recession is on the horizon.

If the yield curve does end up inverting, that will be a major red flag.

But the experts assure us that we have nothing to worry about.

For example, just check out what Karyn Cavanaugh of Voya Financial is saying

“Now that the earnings season is wrapped up, markets are more beholden to macro data. Weakness in oil prices and skepticism about the passing of the tax bill are also weighing on sentiment,” said Karyn Cavanaugh, senior market strategist at Voya Financial.

Despite the drop on the day, major indexes remain within 1.5 percentage points of record levels.

Any pullback at this stage should be viewed as an opportunity to buy, however. Earnings outlook for U.S. stocks, especially with the synchronized global growth environment is still good,” Cavanaugh said.

And U.S. consumers continue to pile on more debt as if there is no tomorrow. This week we learned that U.S. household debt has almost reached the 13 trillion dollar threshold

Americans’ debt level rose during the third quarter, driven by an increase in mortgage loans, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York report published on Tuesday.

Total U.S. household debt was $12.96 trillion in the three months to September, up $116 billion from the prior three months. Debt levels were $605 billion higher than during the third quarter of 2016.

The fundamentals do not support this kind of irrational optimism.

What the fundamentals have been telling us is that in the absence of central bank support we should see the markets start to decline, and that it is quite likely that a painful recession is on the horizon.

As the next crisis erupts, the mainstream media is going to respond with shock and horror. But the only real surprise is that this ridiculous bubble lasted for as long as it did.

The truth is that a market decline is way overdue. If central banks had not pumped trillions upon trillions of dollars into the global financial system, there is no possible way that stock prices would have ever gotten so high, and now that the central banks are removing the artificial life support we shall see how the markets do on their own.

A Porn Star And Rapper Coolio: Presidential Hopefuls For 2020

November 18, 2017 Leave a comment

Mac Slavo

A porn star and the rapper Coolio are two of the so-far presidential hopefuls to run against Donald Trump in 2020.  And both say their campaign has what it takes to beat the sitting president.

When Donald Trump won the election last year, porn star Cherie DeVille (who’s running alongside rapper Coolio) says she sobbed. “I didn’t cry because I hated [Trump] specifically, I cried because of what I felt that meant for the direction our country was going in.” Like many liberals who saw their world crumble because of Trump’s election, DeVille found herself melting down. But then she decided to do something about it.

DeVille, who’s starred in such videos as “A$$ Planet” and “Hot Tub Hottie,” says she was inspired to run for office out of her “personal frustration for the current political climate.” The porn star then, ironically, went into full blown hypocrite mode. “We’re voting for people as if we’re on a reality television show, and my concern is if we continue to purely vote for celebrities, or political figures, or the most entertaining, they’re not always going to be quality politicians,” DeVille told ITK on Tuesday. So vote for the porn star! That’ll fix it!

The 39-year-old porn star said she was (surprise, surprise) going to run as a Democrat. “If our criteria now for becoming a political official is minor celebrity, I have that,” says DeVille, who boasts 190,000 Twitter followers. “I feel like I can be potentially what I’m feeling the American people — for better or for worse — want, which is interesting news, scandalous news, you know, not ‘boring’ political news.”

“But at the same time [I can] do what the American people really need,” she continues, which is “having a person with integrity, and having someone listen to the people, and actually care about America in public office.”

According to The Hill, DeVille (whose campaign slogan is “Make America F—— Awesome Again”) says a lot of people “giggle” when they learn that “Gangsta’s Paradise” rapper Coolio is running as her VP. “He’s lived and exemplifies what I consider the American dream,” DeVille says. While a rep for DeVille told ITK the Grammy winner wasn’t available for comment on the 2020 campaign, Coolio told Los Angeles’s KESQ-TV in a recent interview, “We need normal, regular, everyday people in office.”

“Normal” and “everyday people,” like porn stars and rappers. DeVille admitted that the original intention with her trading porn for politics was to “start a dialogue” about stereotypes against sex workers. “I just want to challenge the public opinion that a sex worker, just because they’re a sex worker, couldn’t be in public office.”

While she hasn’t filed any intention to run documents with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), DeVille insists, “It’s evolved into a real and realistic run for president.”  Filing with the FEC sets up a fundraising vehicle for a campaign. It’s a necessary part of the process. And DeVille believes she has a shot at winning – and she just might.

Madagascar Outbreak: It Is ‘Inevitable’ The Plague Becomes Resistant To Drugs

November 18, 2017 1 comment

Mac Slavo

The newest warning about the outbreak of the airborne pneumonic plague, or black death, in Madagascar has been released. Officials warn that it’s inevitable that this bacterial infection that’s infected over 2000 people will become resistant to antibiotics.

The only way to treat a person who has contracted the plague is with antibiotics. But experts now warn that because they are being used so much to treat the infection, antibiotics resistance is inevitable and making this disease much more terrifying. Once the bacteria is resistant, the Madagascar healthcare system will be overwhelmed, and the disease will have control of the nation.

According to the Daily Mail, Madagascar’s healthcare system will be unable to cope if the deadly plague outbreak continues to escalate, a scientist has warned. Scores of doctors and nurses have been struck down with the disease, which is predicted to gather momentum in the coming weeks and there are growing fears hospitals will be unable to meet the illness’ burden. Official figures reveal at least 2,034 people have been infected with the “medieval disease” so far in what has been described as the “worst outbreak in 50 years.” The black death outbreak has so far claimed at least 165 lives.

Although the plague is responding well to antibiotics right now, drug resistance is also an increasing concern amongst experts who predict it will vastly accelerate the disease’s death toll. Professor John Joe McFadden from the University of Surrey told MailOnline: “Fortunately in [the] plague, it has not developed much antibiotic resistance. If that kicks in, the plague will be far, far scarier. If you throw more and more antibiotics at patients, antibiotic resistance is more or less inevitable.”

Dr. Derek Gatherer, from Lancaster University’s biomedical and life-sciences department, told MailOnline the country would struggle “to cope” if cases continue to spiral. “Madagascar, typically like many African countries, doesn’t have many doctors. There are around three-and-a-half thousand doctors for 22 million people. They only have around 6,000 hospital beds, so they aren’t particularly well positioned to cope with these kind of events. And if it wasn’t for the international aid coming in things would definitely be much worse for them.”

And experts continue to fear the healthcare system is on the brink of being overwhelmed. Should the disease actually spread to the African mainland, it will be all but impossible to control and the health care system would certainly be unable to handle the outbreak at that point, making a global pandemic much more likely.

%d bloggers like this: