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Topics - mamen

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https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1184257/malaysias-experience-a-cautionary-tale-for-ph-economy-as-china-vies-for-strategic-assets

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China controls around 80% of the global rare earth element trade. And the only thing standing in the way of a complete monopoly is a small firm with mining operations in Australia and a processing facility in Malaysia: Lynas Corporation.

Over the course of the last few years, a concerted effort has been underway to stop Lynas’ operations in Malaysia led in large part by members of the ethnic Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP).[v] Malaysia’s Minister of the Environment, Yeo Bee Yin’s husband “runs IOI Property Group, part of a conglomerate with deep ties in China.” [vi] Also involved is a coalition of environmental activist groups speculated to be covertly supported by China.[vii]

The Lynas saga has been watched with increasing scrutiny by the global investment community not just because of its position as the sole non-Chinese producer of a strategic element, but also because the Lynas facility in Malaysia has become somewhat of a weathervane for Malaysia as an investment destination in general.

In August, the Malaysian government granted Lynas a six-month license to continue operations, when a three-month term is the norm. This unusual move has created a lot of uncertainty in the market and political risk insurance rates are edging higher for investments in Malaysia as a consequence. Further, as global companies diversify their supply chains out of China, Malaysia’s inbound investment has been markedly weak.

If Lynas is forced to cease operations in China, the $800-million facility would be a key asset for sale. But very few companies in the world have the experience and expertise needed to operate such a facility and the most likely candidates would be found in China – a situation that would effectively hand that country complete control over the rare earth trade.
China has also secured a foothold into the Philippines’ telecommunications sector – with the consortium of China Telecom and companies owned by Dennis Uy, an ethnically Chinese businessman from Davao with close personal links to Duterte, beating out other consortiums that included bidders from South Korea, Vietnam, Norway, the U.S., and Japan. To many observers, the conclusion was foregone before it even got underway, with then-presidential spokesperson Harry Roque stating in December 2017 that Duterte wanted the government to ensure that China Telecom would begin its Philippine operations by the first quarter of 2018.[ix]

China has further apparently secured de-facto control over the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), with the Daily Tribune reporting last week that NGCP is in effect a “Chinese dummy.”

Recently, the World Bank cut its 2019 GDP growth estimate for the Philippines from 6.4 percent to 5.8 percent.[xi] In fact, the World Bank now expects GDP growth to miss government targets for the next three years: “2019’s [growth] will be lower than the 6-7 percent goal; the projected 6.1 percent for 2020 will be below the 6.5-7.5 percent target, and the forecast for 2021 of 6.2 percent will be lower than the 7-8 percent target range.” The downward revision was attributed in part to “the sharp slowdown in investment growth in the first half.”[xii]

Foreign investors have become skittish about doing business in the Philippines in part due to the continuing uncertainty over the second package of tax reforms under the proposed Comprehensive Income Tax and Incentive Rationalization Act (CITIRA), a key policy agenda of the decidedly pro-China Secretary of Finance, Carlos ‘Sonny’ Dominguez III – who also happens to also be from Davao and have close personal ties to the President.

But it’s not just legislative uncertainty that’s spooked investors – the growing perception that the Duterte Administration actively favors China over other sources of investment has made the Philippines less attractive in the eyes of many investors. That “sharp slowdown” refers to five consecutive months of falling FDI, with July 2019 (which is the latest available period) seeing a reduction in inflows of 41.4 percent compared to the same period last year.[xiii]


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War on Drugs / The hunt for Asia’s El Chapo
« on: October 15, 2019, 07:30:06 AM »
https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/meth-syndicate/

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As the investigation into the syndicate deepened, police concluded that crime groups from across the region had undergone a kind of mega-merger to form Sam Gor. The members include the three biggest Hong Kong and Macau triads, who spent much of the 1990s in open warfare: 14K, Wo Shing Wo and Sun Yee On. The other two are the Big Circle Gang, Tse’s original triad, and the Bamboo Union, based in Taiwan. In the words of one investigator, the syndicate’s supply chain is so complex and expertly run that it “must rival Apple’s.”

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Information Technology & Cyber Security / How The U.S. Hacked ISIS
« on: September 28, 2019, 03:59:34 AM »
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In August 2015, the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, the military's main cyber arm, were at a crossroads about how to respond to a new terrorist group that had burst on the scene with unrivaled ferocity and violence. The one thing on which everyone seemed to agree is that ISIS had found a way to do something other terrorist organizations had not: It had turned the Web into a weapon. ISIS routinely used encrypted apps, social media and splashy online magazines and videos to spread its message, find recruits and launch attacks.

Donald had to find a team of specialists to do something that had never been done before — hack into a terrorist organization's media operation and bring it down. Most of the forces flowed in from Joint Forces Headquarters, an Army cyber operation in Georgia. Donald also brought in experts in counterterrorism who understood ISIS and had watched it evolve from a ragtag team of Iraqi Islamists to something bigger. There were operators — the people who would be at the keyboards finding key servers in ISIS's network and disabling them — and digital forensics specialists who had a deep understanding of computer operating systems.

The battle against the group had been episodic to that point. U.S. Cyber Command had been mounting computer network attacks against the group, but almost as soon as a server would go down, communications hubs would reappear. The ISIS target was always moving and the group had good operational security. Just physically taking down the ISIS servers wasn't going to be enough. There needed to be a psychological component to any operation against the group as well.

"This cyber environment involves people," Neil said. "It involves their habits. The way that they operate; the way that they name their accounts. When they come in during the day, when they leave, what types of apps they have on their phone. Do they click everything that comes into their inbox? Or are they very tight and restrictive in what they use? All those pieces are what we look at, not just the code."

Neil is a Marine reservist in his 30s, and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Operation Glowing Symphony was his idea. "We were down in the basement at the NSA, and we had an epiphany," he said. He had been tracking ISIS's propaganda arm for months — painstakingly tracing uploaded videos and magazines back to their source, looking for patterns to reveal how they were distributed or who was uploading them. Then he noticed something that he hadn't seen before: ISIS was using just 10 core accounts and servers to manage the distribution of its content across the world.

Link to full article: https://www.npr.org/2019/09/26/763545811/how-the-u-s-hacked-isis

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Military History / These Portable Runways Helped Win the War in the Pacific
« on: September 11, 2019, 01:21:23 AM »
Low-tech and still used today, “Marston Mats” were among the most important inventions of World War II.



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In 1941, a month before Pearl Harbor, General “Hap” Arnold of the U.S. Army Air Corps visited Camp Mackall in rural North Carolina, and stood in a soft pitch of pine tar at the edge of its airfield. The general was there to watch tens of thousands of paratroopers take flight in a massive war game called the Carolina Maneuvers. Arnold called it “the year’s greatest achievement in aviation warfare,” but he wasn’t referring to the exercise, or the half-million troops, or even the aircraft, but rather the “Marston Strip” on which they landed.

Marston Matting got its nickname from the nearby town of Marston, North Carolina, where it was produced. The concept had come from the Carnegie Illinois Steel Company, who under an Army contract designed temporary flight strips to run alongside U.S. highways. The mats were a simple way for crews to quickly put down a runway on any ground, paved or unpaved, where there was none, which came in handy in the remote islands of the Pacific.

Its official Air Corps name was PSP for perforated (or pierced) steel planking. “Marston,” or the incorrect but widely used “Marsden,” was tested at Langley Field in Virginia and perfected during the Carolina Maneuvers.

The steel mat came in rolls of interlocking 10-foot sections, which were ringed with hooks and slots for easy assembly by strong men using sledgehammers. A completed airstrip ran 3,000 feet long and 150 feet wide.

Each mat was pierced with 87 holes to allow drainage, which also reduced its weight to 66 pounds per section. A later aluminum version came in at just 32 pounds and could be laid down at a trot. Marston was often laid over the local vegetation, which varied depending on the location from loose straw to palm fronds. The sandwich of steel and vegetation absorbed moisture and cut the dust kicked up by heavy aircraft.

The first PSP airstrip took a pokey 11 days to install. By the end of World War II an airfield could be carried across the Pacific within a single cargo hold of a Liberty ship, and could be ready for aircraft to land 72 hours after unloading.

At first the U.S. had Marston to itself, but eventually the invention was shared with its Allies, including Russia under the Lend-Lease program.

Two million tons of temporary runway were produced in WWII to bring American airfields to each island captured from the Japanese. Marston has been used in every war since. Matting reclaimed from the jungle also has found new uses in guardrails or footbridges, while in the U.S., government surplus is sold for use in cattle chutes and warehouse floors.


https://www.airspacemag.com/multimedia/these-portable-runways-helped-win-war-pacific-180951234/

I have a personal fond memories with "Marston Mats", since my grandfather used this in his old house as a gate, and up until this year when the lot was sold. When we demolished the right portion of the perimeter fence, we were surprise to see 2 interlocking mats still holding on.

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Battling for Israel, volunteers fought in an aircraft that should have been grounded.

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No one loved the Avia S-199 at first sight. Perched on narrow, splayed-out landing gear, the Czech-built fighter had a sinister look that made pilots and potential buyers wary. And when airmen became better acquainted with the long-snouted warplane, the wariness turned to distrust.

The single-engine S-199 was a product of the Avia Company in Czechoslovakia, which had tooled up to produce Messerschmitt Bf 109s for the German Luftwaffe just as World War II ended. After the war, the company opted to manufacture a version of the Messerschmitt fighter for the Czech air force.

The Daimler-Benz DB 605 V-12 engine, which had propelled the Bf 109, was no longer available, so Avia installed the heavier but less powerful Junkers Jumo 211F, the same engine used in the Luftwaffe’s versatile Heinkel He 111H medium bomber. To match the Jumo engine, Avia mounted the Heinkel’s massive oar-shape propeller, which would turn out to be a dangerous combination for the small airframe of the S-199. For the clunky fighter, Avia, not surprisingly, found no buyers other than the Czech air force.

But in the spring of 1948 another customer appeared. The nascent state of Israel was poised to declare its independence. Looming on Israel’s borders were the armies of five surrounding Arab countries, ready to invade the new nation. Israel urgently needed weapons, armor, munitions, and, especially, military aircraft. Neither of the world’s two largest owners of surplus war assets—the United States or Great Britain—was sympathetic. The U.S. Department of State strictly enforced the Neutrality Act, which banned the sale and shipment of war materials to countries engaged in armed conflict, such as Israel. Britain’s government was even less friendly, not only imposing an embargo on arms to Israel but also supplying aircraft and training to the Arab air forces.

Israel was desperate. Although volunteer airmen had smuggled a handful of surplus transports and training aircraft past the embargo enforcers, they had failed to score any fighters. Israel turned to cash-strapped Czechoslovakia, which was selling arms on the international market. In secret talks, the Czechs let it be known they would sell 25 Avia S-199 fighters to Israel.

No one representing Israel liked the deal—or the ersatz Messerschmitt. The price was outrageous: $180,000 for each fighter, including weaponry, pilot training, and support equipment. Meanwhile, the superior North American P-51 Mustang was selling in the United States for a mere $4,000. But the Mustang—and every other modern fighter—was off limits. Israel’s de facto head of state, David Ben-Gurion, personally gave the order: Buy the Czech fighters. Send pilots to learn to fly them—now.

Lenart’s inaugural flight was the beginning of a turbulent relationship. To the volunteer pilots, the Czech fighter seemed to have a vicious streak, like an attack dog turning on its handler. The narrow landing gear made the S-199 difficult to keep aligned during takeoff. Directional control was made even worse by the enormous torque of the propeller. The Czechs called the S-199 mezec, meaning “mule.” The Israeli air force gave the fighter a more menacing name: messer, Yiddish for “knife.”

The volunteers had barely begun training when, on May 15, the radio in their Czech quarters broadcast the news that Israel’s war of survival had begun. “We heard that Tel Aviv had been bombed from the air,” remembered Ezer Weizman in the 1976 book On Eagles’ Wings. Weizman, who would later command the Israeli air force and eventually be elected president of Israel, recalled the airmen’s reaction to the broadcast: “ ‘That’s enough,’ we proclaimed. ‘We’re going home.’ ”


https://www.airspacemag.com/airspacemag/czech-knife-180972958/

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Indonesia’s search for new self-propelled artillery maybe nearing its end, with the possible procurement of BAE Systems M-109A4 155mm Self-Propelled Howitzers (SPHs).
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An Indonesian Army delegation which has been examining options to enhance the country’s SPH fleet, is showing interest in surplus Belgian Army M-109A4s. Acquisition funds for up to 20 of the weapons have now been included in Indonesia’s 2017 defence budget. Belgium has previously donated materiel to the Indonesian Army, in the form of 150 BAE Systems’ M-113 family tracked armored personnel carriers, which commenced delivery this May. The M-109A4 SPHs could be delivered by the end of 2017 sources inform Armada.

Publicly available sources state that the Indonesian Army’s current artillery fleet includes Avibras Astros-II 300mm Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), plus locally-built PTDI Rhan-122 and NDL-40 122mm and 77mm MLRSs, and Nexter Caesar 155mm SPHs. Its towed artillery fleet includes Singapore Technologies’ FH-2000 155mm, KH-179 155mm, Rock Island Arsenal M-2A1 105mm and Crvena Zastava 76mm towed howitzers. by Stephen W. Miller

http://armadainternational.com/Article/more-bang-indonesian-bae-systems-avibras.html

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First posts / Test Post: The Capture of the Koga Papers
« on: November 17, 2016, 04:05:06 AM »
One of my list of good reads "The Capture of the Koga Papers", which happened in my home town

http://marshall.csu.edu.au/MJHSS/Issue2005/MJHSS2005_205.pdf

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