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March 5 2016

March 7, 2016


 

 

5 March 2016

Newswire

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Air Force presses forward with new cyber weapons platform

Amber Corrin, C4ISR & Networks 2:59 p.m. EST February 26, 2016

http://www.c4isrnet.com/story/military-tech/cyber/2016/02/26/air-force-presses-forward-new-cyber-weapons-platform/80994208/

 

The Air Force announced in a Feb. 26 release that its Cyberspace Vulnerability Assessment/Hunter (CVA/H) cyber weapon platform now is at full operational capacity — the second cyber weapon system to go online in just over a month.

According to the Air Force, the service is equipping its cyber protection teams with CVA/H as a defensive tool to be used within internal bounds of the cyber system they are defending. Reaching FOC means that CVA/H “is fully capable to serve as the premier enclave defense platform for prioritized traffic in the Air Force Information Network (AFIN). The CVA/H weapon system enables execution of vulnerability assessments, adversary threat detection and compliance evaluations.”

The Air Force is developing its cyber capabilities and personnel as part of broader Defense Department-wide efforts to train and staff the offense and defense teams that will comprise much of U.S. Cyber Command’s operations at the service level. All of the services are charged with developing cyber protection teams as part of CyberCom’s cyber mission forces.

“This achievement underscores our commitment to the U.S. Cyber Command Cyber Protection Team mission and to the defense of prioritized cyberspace terrain in the Air Force portion of the [DoD] Information Network,” Brig Gen Stephen Whiting, AFSPC Director of Integrated Air, Space, Cyberspace and ISR Operations, said in a released statement. “CVA/H defends the Air Force’s ability to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.

According to the release, weapon system provides the ability to find, fix, track, target, engage and assess advanced persistent threats to AF missions on prioritized network enclaves within the AFIN.

The Feb. 26 announcement comes just over a month after the Air Force launched its first cyber weapons platform, the Air Force Intranet Control (AFINC) Weapon System, which reached FOC in January.

AFINC reaching FOC means that the system “is fully capable to serve as the top-level defensive boundary and entry point for all network traffic into AFINC,” according to a January Air Force release announcing the milestone.

Other Air Force cyber weapons systems in the pipeline include the Air Force Cyberspace Defense Weapon System, the Cyber Security and Control System Weapon System, the Cyber Command and Control Mission System Weapon System and the Cyberspace Defense Analysis Weapon System.

“It was really encouraging to see senior Air Force and Army leadership come together and say, let’s build out this joint regional security stack together as a joint program for the Army and the Air Force,” said Maj Gen Craig Olson.

 

The eerie math that could predict terrorist attacks

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/03/01/the-eerie-math-that-could-predict-terrorist-attacks/

By Ana Swanson March 1 

 

A terrorist attack might seem like one of the least predictable of events. Terrorists work in small, isolated cells, often using simple weapons and striking at random. Indeed, the element of unpredictability is part of what makes terrorists so scary – you never know when or where they will strike.

However, new research shows that terror attacks may not be as unpredictable as people think. A paper by Stephen Tench and Hannah Fry, mathematicians at the University College London, and Paul Gill, a security and crime expert, shows that terrorist attacks often follow a general pattern that can be modeled and predicted using math.

Predicting human behavior is obviously a difficult thing to do, and one can’t always extrapolate from past events to predict the future. As one academic discussion of the topic points out, if you made a forecast in 1864 about how many presidents would be assassinated in office based on historical data, the expected number would be zero. But over the next 40 years, four U.S. presidents were killed in office.

Yet when you put individual human acts together and look at the aggregate, they often do follow a pattern that can be represented with math. As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writes in “The Sign of Four,” the second Sherlock Holmes novel, “. . . while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty.”

 

The Hawkes process

The mathematical model that Tench and Fry use to look at terrorist attacks is called a “Hawkes process.” The basic idea behind Hawkes processes is that some events don’t occur independently; when a certain event happens, you’re more likely to see other events of the same kind shortly thereafter. As time elapses, however, the probability of a subsequent event occurring gradually fades away and returns to normal.

A mathematician named Alan Hawkes first developed the idea while searching for a mathematical model that would describe the patterns of earthquakes. Earthquake tremors aren’t independent events, either – after an earthquake hits, the area often experiences aftershocks. So Hawkes designed his equations to reflect the greater probability of experiencing a subsequent tremor shortly after the first one.

Since Hawkes developed the model in the 1970s, similar equations have been used to describe all kinds of sequences of related events, including how epidemics travel, how electrical impulses move through the brain, and how emails move through an organization. Recently, Hawkes processes have also been used to predict the locations and timings of burglaries and gang-related violence.

Why gang-related violence follows a Hawkes process is fairly easy to understand. A murder or shooting by one gang often provokes retaliation by another gang. So following the first incident, the probability of a second incident typically goes up.

It’s a little harder to understand why burglaries follow a Hawkes process – i.e., why one burglary would increase the chances of another burglary happening soon after. But as Hannah Fry, one of the paper’s mathematicians, explains in the video by Numberphile below, having your house burglarized does increase the chances that thieves will visit again. The burglars now know the location of your valuables and the layout of your house and your neighborhood, meaning your neighbors are more likely to be burglarized in the future, too.

Hawkes processes so accurately describe how trends in crime vary that some security companies and law enforcement bureaus have started to use them in their work. As Fry says, companies like PredPol monitor data on past crimes to model geographic “hotspots” that can be more heavily policed or can become the focus of specific crime-prevention policies.

 

Predicting terrorist attacks

In their paper, Tench, Fry and Gill apply this same model to terrorism in Northern Ireland. The paper looks at more than 5,000 explosions of improved explosive devices (IEDs) around Northern Ireland during a particularly violent time known as “the Troubles” between 1970 and 1998, when paramilitary groups in the mostly Catholic Northern Ireland fought to secede from Britain and join Ireland. The researchers used the process to analyze when and where one group, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), launched its terror attacks, how the British Security Forces responded, and how effective those responses were.

As the chart below shows, the IED explosions follow a pattern. After one incident, others follow more quickly before subsiding, creating the peaks in the data below.

So you have the ordinary chance of the event, but afterward you have a “little kick,” as Fry says, that increases the probability that you’ll have another attack – but then fades away over time. Mathematicians can capture and model these patterns using a Hawkes process equation. The math can reveal patterns in past terrorist activity that weren’t seen before, or be used to test different theories about those patterns, the researchers say. It can also create predictive models, which estimate the probability of future attacks at different times and in different areas.

The researchers say that their analysis shows distinct phases in the conflict between the Irish terrorists and authorities. For example, bombings slowed down as the IRA was infiltrated by British security forces and when more of its members were imprisoned, and bombings increased when the group launched a renewed campaign of violence or tried to use incidents of terrorism as a bargaining tool in negotiations.

One of the most fascinating lessons of the research is on the effects of counterterrorist operations. The paper shows evidence that the death of Catholic civilians, whom the IRA claimed to be representing, would cause the group to increase their IED attacks in retaliation.

That finding echoes previous research that looked at counterterrorism operations by the United States and its coalition partners in Iraq. That paper showed that counterinsurgency operations that were carried out indiscriminately – in other words, attacks that hurt or kill innocent people who were not necessarily insurgents — led to a backlash of terrorist violence. In contrast, counterinsurgency operations that were carried out in a discriminating, targeted way led to a lower level of violence than before.

The paper looks at events in the past, but Tench says the same technique can be used to project future trends. After one terrorist attack, and especially after civilians are killed, the likelihood of subsequent “aftershocks” increases for a specific time period, and authorities need to intervene quickly to avoid a long period of violence. They must also ensure their counterterrorism operations are targeted at the actual insurgents, to avoid provoking the destructive wave of violence that indiscriminate counterterrorism has been shown to do.

Tench says he hopes counterterrorism officials will start using the technique as part of their portfolio. “This application of the Hawkes process is a relatively new idea, so I imagine it might take some time to filter through,” he says.

 

At least 2,079 Clinton emails contain classified material

By Anita Kumar

Feb 29, 2016

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/election/article63218372.html

WASHINGTON

At least 2,079 emails that Hillary Clinton sent or received contained classified material, according to the State Department’s final update from its review of more than 30,000 emails.

The State Department released a new batch of 3,871 pages of Clinton’s emails Monday evening in response to a court order. Of those, 261 contain classified information. Most were at the confidential level, which is the lowest level of classification. Twenty-three of them were at the Secret level.

None of Clinton’s emails was marked as classified during her tenure, State Department officials say, but intelligence officials say some material was clearly classified at the time. Her aides also sent and received classified information.

Clinton, running a tough race for the Democratic nomination for president, has been under fire for months for exclusively using personal email routed through a private server while serving as the nation’s top diplomat. The FBI launched an inquiry into the handling of sensitive information after classified information was found in some.

In response to a public records lawsuit, the State Department is releasing Clinton’s emails monthly after partially or entirely redacting any containing sensitive U.S. or foreign government information. It has released 52,402 pages of emails.

According to the Republican National Committee, 2,063 emails were found to contain classified information on “foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources;” 1,478 were found to contain classified “foreign government information” and 28 emails were found to contain classified information on “intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology;” and 4 emails were found to contain classified information on “vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, infrastructures, projects, plans, or protection services relating to the national security.”

Three weeks ago, the State Department designated 22 of previously reviewed emails “top secret” – the first time it has deemed any of Clinton’s emails to be classified at a level that can cause “exceptionally grave” damage to national security if disclosed. The 22 emails will not be released to the public. The department is releasing other classified emails with some redactions.

Clinton’s campaign has refuted the “top secret” designation and demanded that all of Clinton’s emails be released to the public.

The State Department inspector general said recently he had discovered that former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Secretary Condoleezza Rice’s aides had classified information in their personal emails. Powell has rejected those allegations.

The State Department had been ordered by a federal judge to release all of Clinton’s emails in January in response to a public records lawsuit. But the State Department said it would be unable to meet that deadline. Monday’s release was the 14th and final release.

 

Services chair worried Obama will hand Gitmo over to Cuba

http://thehill.com/policy/defense/271482-armed-services-chairman-wants-assurances-gitmo-wont-be-handed-to-cuba

By Kristina Wong – 03/02/16 11:55 AM EST

 

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) says he is seeking clear assurances that the Guantánamo Bay naval base won’t be handed over to Cuba during President Obama’s visit there this month.

“I am concerned that the Administration may be pursuing secret negotiations over the future of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, as it has acknowledged it did in the pursuit of normalized relations with Havana,” Thornberry wrote in letters dated Feb. 29 to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, Secretary of State John Kerry

“The Naval Installation at Guantanamo Bay is a strategically-situated deepwater port. It provides an ideal location from which to service, stage, and project U.S. Military Forces, secure the air and maritime approaches to the United States, undertake counternarcotics efforts, and provide disaster relief,” Thornberry added.

Republican lawmakers are worried the administration will seek to give back the naval base, which houses a U.S. military detention facility that Obama wishes to shut down.

Carter told reporters Monday that the Pentagon intends to hold onto the base.

“It’s a strategic location. We’ve had it for a long time. It’s important to us, and we intend to hold on to it,” he said.

Thornberry said although Carter’s answer was “less equivocal than his Administration colleagues,” he feared that “even seemingly direct statements are subject to reinterpretation by White House lawyers.”

In his letter, Thornberry listed statements by administration officials that leave open the question of whether the base may be returned.

He also noted the administration also made similar statements in the run-up to a Guantánamo prisoner exchange with the Taliban for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

“In response to questions regarding the naval station’s future, Administration officials have given hedged and qualified answers, stating they do not anticipate ‘significant changes’ in the mission ‘in the near future,’ that there is no desire to alter its status ‘at present,’ and that there were no planned revisions ‘at this stage,’ ” Thornberry wrote.

“The committee has heard such qualified statements in other contexts as documented in in its December 2015 report on the transfer of the Taliban Five,” he said. “Recent experience demonstrates that such statements do not accurately reflect the Administration’s intentions or future actions.”

 

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined that the administration’s secret prisoner swap of five Taliban commanders from Guantánamo in exchange for Bergdahl violated a law to give Congress 30 days advance notice of any detainee transfer.

The GAO also found that the administration broke another law by using appropriated funds to conduct a detainee transfer without 30 days of advance notice.

The president’s nominee for Defense Department general counsel, Jennifer O’Conner, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that she did not believe the swap was a violation of the law.

“In the circumstances presented, it was not a violation of the law,” she said. “In the extremely unusual circumstances there, it was not.”

Thornberry has given administration officials until March 4 to provide answers as to whether there are any plans or discussion about returning the base to Cuba.

 

At Silicon Valley Outpost, Carter Hears Pitches from Small Firms

By Aaron Mehta, Defense News 11:34 a.m. EST March 3, 2016

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/innovation/2016/03/03/diux-shark-tank-silicon-valley-as-carter-small-firms/81244834/

 

SAN FRANCISCO — Secretary of Defense Ash Carter may not be a millionaire, but he got to play one Tuesday during a visit to the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental (DIUX) outpost.

Carter attended a “Shark Tank” event, named after the ABC show where investors can pitch funders on new products. The event saw five firms trying to sell their ideas directly to Carter.

It’s the kind of situation that the head of the Defense Department would not traditionally find himself in, but Carter said it is the kind of event that makes DIUX so valuable for his outreach to the California tech sector.

“What you saw in this room were some people who have an interest in, a taste for the challenge of protecting our society and making a better world and making everything that’s out here and throughout our country, you know, wonderful, innovative, country that it is, making all that possible and that’s security,” Carter said to reporters after the event concluded.

Although announced in April of 2015, DIUX did not open until Aug. 15 of last year. The group has met with “hundreds” of companies, according to a DoD factsheet.

DIUX has three full-time employees from the Office of the Secretary of Defense; four DIUX team members detailed on a short term basis; 12 personnel assigned by the Services; and two representatives from US Cyber Command (CYBERCOM.) Overall, five employees are government civilians and 16 are uniformed.

Joining Carter on the “Shark Tank” panel was Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official; Eric Rosenbach, Carter’s chief of staff and a former cyber advisor for the department; and Chris Lynch, head of the Defense Digital Service group launched in November.

The five companies that pitched Carter were:

•Qadium, which scans devices on the public Internet and compares the results against known vulnerabilities, misconfigurations and anomalous behavior. “This data allows an organization to footprint their own network devices and easily see existing vulnerabilities and misconfigurations that attackers could exploit,” the DoD factsheet said.

•Saildrone, which deploys wind-powered, unmanned, sailboats that can carry sensors for data gathering in environments where traditional, manned systems may not be able to access.

•Quid, which does analysis of written texts to find patterns across documents. “Quid’s technology and machine augmented algorithms cut down analysis time through automated content curation and human-to-machine teaming,” according to the DoD factsheet.

•Bromium, a firm that provides “end-point protection through micro-virtualization,” targeting each individual action that occurs on a technological device in order to isolate attacks.

•Hacking 4 Defense (H4D), which “applies lean start-up methods to solve DoD problems.

 

Earlier in the day, Carter acknowledged that small firms such as these need the Pentagon to speed up its acquisition process if they are to succeed.

“We’re never going to have the latitude a [venture capitalist] does, because it’s the taxpayers money. And the taxpayer requires a level of transparency and fairness and everything that we have to provide,” Carter said at an event hosted by the Commonwealth Club.

But, “that doesn’t mean we can’t be fast and we can’t be agile, We’re not going to keep up in a competitive world if it takes DoD two years to turn every circle, people are going to outrun us.”

Although only part of the outreach from Carter to Silicon Valley, DIUX represents the Pentagon’s only true permanent outpost in Valley. And hence, the unit has drawn criticism from those who feel the Pentagon should be doing a better job of collaborating with the tech sector.

Ben FitzGerald with the Center for a New American Security called it “very impressive in DoD terms” that the department was able to set up and staff DIUX in under a year, and acknowledged that it “has also attracted some great civilian and military talent.”

At the same time, he says, the organization’s purpose seems muddled, to the point where he sees “competing missions,” and raised concerns that “it also does not seem that they have the right organizational and leadership support from the Pentagon beyond the obvious endorsement of the Secretary.”

 

Pitching Products

Reporters were only allowed to sit into the first presentation to Carter, but it gave a flavor of the session.

Sherban Naum, regional vice president for Bromium Federal, spent roughly ten minutes explaining his product to the Pentagon officials. Carter interrupted the presentation several times to weigh in or ask questions. In true “Shark Tank” fashion, the questions included some challenges to the setup for Naum’s system and what capabilities Bromium brings that other programs don’t.

After the event, Naum was enthusiastic about the process, and in particular the role DIUX played in setting up a conduit for small firms like his to get even a few minutes of Carter’s time.

Asked if he felt DIUX was working well, he responded effusively with “Oh my goodness yes. Yes. Yes, absolutely.”

Naum pointed out how in the 1970s, the line between the Valley and the DoD helped develop game changing technology like stealth and GPS,

“They knew they had to change the game to their benefit. DIUX is doing that. They are going to change the game not just for cyber security but for all these other problems,” he said. “This reconnection between the two I going to bear a lot of fruit. This should have been done along time ago. This is fantastic.”

He also specifically called out the staff at DIUX for having weekly meetings with his firm and maintaining a high level of engagement with companies in the Valley.

“It’s very cool. It’s very un-governmental,” Naum said. “You expect it to be big bureaucracy. This is nimble, it’s agile, and they actually do care.”

 

 

OPM hack might not have been illegal

Aaron Boyd, Federal TImes 4:03 p.m. EST March 2, 2016

http://www.federaltimes.com/story/government/show-reporter/rsa2016/2016/03/02/opm-hack-not-illegal/81225872/

 

Last year, President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed an agreement to prevent hacking between the countries focused on the theft of intellectual property, otherwise known as economic espionage. During a panel at the 2016 RSA Conference in San Francisco, current and former federal officials made a distinction between hacking for economic purposes as opposed to more traditional espionage between nations.

“All countries are going to gather information and intelligence to protect their citizens,” said Christopher Painter, cybersecurity coordinator for the State Department, admitting that some level of espionage between nations is accepted as an international norm. “But if you’re targeting trade secrets and intellectual property to benefit your commercial sector, that really is out of bounds and something that we don’t do.”

When asked, Painter declined to comment on whether the massive breach of the Office of Personnel Management last year — widely attributed to Chinese state actors — should be considered intelligence gathering under international norms.

In that instance, hackers broke into OPM databases and stole personnel records on tens of millions of current, former and prospective federal employees. The conventional wisdom is that China took this information in order to find U.S. spies within their country and potentially compromise feds using their personal information.

Paul Rosenzweig, founder of Red Branch Consulting and former deputy assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, said it isn’t clear that the hack was intended for espionage purposes but it is “close enough.”

“The purpose is not to do economic [espionage] but rather to get information about me,” he said, adding that he got a letter stating his information was compromised in the breach. “They got my file and if there’s anything bad they’ll use it to force me — if I got a job in another administration — to do what they want.”

“The term ‘traditional espionage’ is a term of art,” said Jessica Malekos Smith, a student studying cybersecurity issues at the University of California Davis School of Law. “It refers to a whole host of subcategories of information. Intelligence that relates to military, political, economic, social, cultural, health and environmental. It really does run the gamut.”

 

While the OPM hack might be not technically illegal at the international level, these types of activities pose a danger to national security and the government should be prepared.

In cases of “traditional intelligence gathering” there are still things the government can do, Painter said.

“You need to harden your targets and have that deterrence by denial in place,” he said, offering a few options. “We don’t fight traditional espionage but we have to make sure we take steps to keep it from happening.”

 

 

Air Force Won’t Meet 2020 Deadline for New FAA Rules

http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/air-space/2016/03/02/air-force-wont-meet-2020-deadline-new-faa-rules/81237156/

By Lara Seligman, Defense News 6:40 p.m. EST March 2, 2016

 

WASHINGTON – The Air Force will not be able to meet a 2020 deadline to fully comply with new Federal Aviation Administration regulations, top service officials told lawmakers.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, aircraft must be equipped with the latest satellite-based surveillance system to fly in most controlled airspace. The Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) uses GPS technology to determine an aircraft’s location, airspeed and other data, and broadcasts that information to a network of ground stations. Those ground stations in turn relay the data to air traffic controllers.

The total bill to equip all Pentagon aircraft with the required equipment is $5.6 billion, including $4.4 billion for the Air Force alone, Lt. Gen. Mike Holmes, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, told the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee March 1.

The Air Force is working hard to outfit all of its aircraft with the required equipment, prioritizing its mobility fleet of C-130s and C-17s because those planes need to fly in the densest air space, Holmes said. But with limited resources due to sequestration cuts, the service won’t be able to get through its entire fleet by 2020, he said.

The Air Force will likely need some kind of waiver for certain aircraft, including the F-22 fighter jet, to operate in that airspace in future years, Holmes said.

Although the fleet will still be able to complete its mission without authorization to operate in the most crowded airspace, the situation is not ideal, Holmes said. Moving aircraft around this airspace, rather than through it, will cause delays and eat up fuel, he said.

“We’ll be able to move the airplanes where we need to go to serve the country, but with some delay and with some higher fuel costs if we have to drive around an area to get where we need to go,” Holmes said.

Upgrading the Air Force’s aging C-130Hs is clearly a priority for subcommittee Chairman Randy Forbes, R-Va., and ranking member Joe Courtney, D-Conn., who devoted much of their opening statements and questions to the issue. Lawmakers last year funded a two-part modernization program for the C-130Hs, first to meet the FAA mandate, and then to complete longer-term upgrades.

 

“I’m concerned that this budget fails to provide the resources needed [for] the avionics upgrades needed to ensure that the entire fleet of tankers, airlifters and bombers are able to cooperate safely in compliance with the FAA mandated next-generation air traffic management standards by Jan. 1, 2020,” Forbes said. “I’m concerned that our military aircraft could be shut out of the airspace they need for transit and training.”

The Air Force’s plan to replace its C-130Hs with newer C-130Js took a hit in the latest budget request. The service’s fiscal year 2017 blueprint cuts the eight C-130Js planned beyond the current multiyear agreement with manufacturer Lockheed Martin, Holmes said. The Air Force has proposed cutting 27 C-130s in all, Forbes said.

 

 

North Korea, on defense after sanctions, makes nuclear threat

Hyung-jin Kim, The Associated Press 7:55 p.m. EST March 3, 2016

http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/2016/03/03/north-korea-defense-after-sanctions-makes-nuclear-threat/81291488/

 

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered his country’s nuclear weapons made ready for use at a moment’s notice, the country’s official state news agency reported Friday.

Kim also said his country will ready its military so it is prepared to carry out preemptive attacks, calling the current situation very precarious, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The threats in the statement are part of the authoritarian nation’s regular propaganda effort to show strength in the face of what it sees as an effort by its enemies South Korea and the United States to overthrow its leaders; it follows harsh U.N. sanctions over the North’s recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch and comes ahead of joint U.S.-South Korean war games this month that the North claims are invasion preparations.

North Korea has threatened nuclear war in the past, but it is unclear just how advanced the country’s nuclear program really is. Pyongyang is thought to have a handful of crude atomic bombs, but there is considerable outside debate about whether it is technologically able to shrink a warhead and mount it on a missile.

“The only way for defending the sovereignty of our nation and its right to existence under the present extreme situation is to bolster up nuclear force both in quality and quantity,” the North’s dispatch Friday said, paraphrasing Kim Jong Un. It said that Kim stressed “the need to get the nuclear warheads deployed for national defense always on standby so as to be fired any moment.”

On Thursday, North Korea fired six short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast, South Korean officials said, just hours after the U.N. Security Council approved the toughest sanctions on the North in two decades.

The firings also came shortly after South Korea’s National Assembly passed its first legislation on human rights in North Korea.

The North Korean projectiles, fired from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan, flew about 100 to 150 kilometers (60 to 90 miles) before landing in the sea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

North Korea routinely test-fires missiles and rockets, but often conducts weapons launches when angered at international condemnation.

Thursday’s firings were seen as a “low-level” response to the U.N. sanctions, with North Korea unlikely to launch any major provocation until its landmark ruling Workers’ Party convention in May, according to Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

North Korean citizens in the capital, Pyongyang, interviewed by The Associated Press said Thursday they believe their country can fight off any sanctions.

“No kind of sanctions will ever work on us, because we’ve lived under U.S. sanctions for more than half a century,” said Pyongyang resident Song Hyo Il. “And in the future, we’re going to build a powerful and prosperous country here, relying on our own development.”

North Korean state media earlier warned that the imposition of new sanctions would be a “grave provocation” that shows “extreme” U.S. hostility against the country. It said the sanctions would not result in the country’s collapse or prevent it from launching more rockets.

The U.N. sanctions include mandatory inspections of cargo leaving and entering North Korea by land, sea or air; a ban on all sales or transfers of small arms and light weapons to the North; and the expulsion of North Korean diplomats who engage in “illicit activities.”

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China, North Korea’s closest ally, hoped the U.N. sanctions would be implemented “comprehensively and seriously,” while harm to ordinary North Korean citizens would be avoided.

At the United Nations, Russia’s ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, asked about the North’s firing of short-range projectiles, said, “It means that they’re not drawing the proper conclusions yet.”

Japan’s U.N. ambassador, Motohide Yoshikawa, said, “That’s their way of reacting to what we have decided.”

“They may do something more,” Yoshikawa said. “So we will see.”

In January, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test, which it claimed was a hydrogen bomb. Last month, it put a satellite into orbit with a long-range rocket that the United Nations and others saw as a cover for a test of banned ballistic missile technology.

Just before the U.N. sanctions were unanimously adopted, South Korea’s National Assembly passed a bill that would establish a center tasked with collecting, archiving and publishing information about human rights in North Korea. It is required to transfer that information to the Justice Ministry, a step parliamentary officials say would provide legal grounds to punish rights violators in North Korea when the two Koreas eventually reunify.

 

 

Latest DoD plan to close U.S. bases gets mild response in Congress

Leo Shane III, Military Times 11:28 a.m. EST March 3, 2016

 

Defense officials repeated their plea to Congress on Thursday for another base closing round, and once again received partial empathy for their cost concerns but no real path forward on the controversial proposal.

The Pentagon’s fiscal 2017 budget request marks the fifth consecutive year military leaders have requested a new base closing round, arguing the services’ stateside footprints are too large given drawdowns in troops and equipment over the last decade.

 

Pete Potocheney, acting assistant secretary of defense for installations, estimated a base closing round in 2019 will save about $2 billion annually, and promised the process would be “efficiency focused” and designed to cut military costs.

“We are in a tough budget situation,” he said. “We need to make tough choices. And we need a BRAC.”

But lawmakers have strongly resisted the proposal in recent years, typically pointing to the questionable savings and chaotic implementation of the 2005 base realignment and closure round. That “force-shaping” process trimmed only about 3 percent of the military’s U.S. infrastructure, far below what earlier rounds had done.

Last year, Congress conceded to allow Pentagon officials to conduct a defensewide study of excess infrastructure capacity, without promising those findings would directly lead to a new base closing round.

Potocheney said that work is underway, but he expects to find about 20 percent excess capacity, based on studies from the department in the early 2000s.

Miranda Ballentine, Air Force assistant secretary for installations, said her service’s unused space likely tops 30 percent.

“We simply cannot afford to maintain our current infrastructure footprint,” she told lawmakers. “Sustaining and maintaining extra infrastructure strains our limited funds by forcing us to spread them even further.”

She and officials from the other services argued the next round could be done without jeopardizing the military’s ability to boost end strength in the case of a future war, and could provide financial relief in the near future.

Lawmakers supported that concept — Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., begged witnesses to call it a “military infrastructure savings commission” instead of a base closing round — but did not offer any promises to adopt the proposal this budget cycle.

Potocheney said officials are finding ways to close some buildings and runways to save on maintenance costs, but that base closings will be needed to achieve substantial savings.

 

Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, March 05, 2016

 

So far the Republicans’ organized punch-out of Donald Trump doesn’t seem to be working, but we won’t know for sure until 10 days from now when GOP voters in Florida and Ohio go to the polls.

Despite two hard-hitting debates and a strong denunciation of Trump by Mitt Romney, the last Republican presidential candidate, voters are even more convinced that the billionaire businessman will be this year’s GOP nominee.

Right now, that’s not good news for Republicans. Democrat Hillary Clinton has moved to a five-point lead over Trump in a hypothetical presidential matchup. The two were tied in late December.

Still, Democrats will find it a lot harder to pigeonhole Trump as the typical social conservative Republican, and that, along with unhappiness with Clinton, may make this race a lot more competitive than many originally predicted.

More Democrats than ever now support Clinton’s bid for their party’s presidential nomination following her big win in the South Carolina primary. 

This week’s bad news for Clinton is that the U.S. Justice Department reportedly has granted immunity from prosecution to a former State Department employee who worked on her private e-mail server. Most voters still believe it’s likely Clinton broke the law by sending and receiving classified information through the server while she was secretary of State.

Trump and Clinton may be the presidential front-runners in their respective parties, but right now there are more voters who say they will vote against them than will vote for them.

One-in-five Republican (19%) and unaffiliated voters (20%) say they’ve switched their support to another candidate as a result of the presidential debates, compared to just 11% of Democrats. 

All four candidates at Thursday night’s GOP debate swore to support the party’s eventual nominee. Over a third (36%) of GOP voters said last summer that they are likely to vote for Trump if he’s a third-party candidate, and that was before the surge in support Trump has experienced in recent months.

But win or lose, Trump is doing the GOP a favor by making it potentially a less ideological party and one that is more attractive to a wider spectrum of voters.

Senate Republican leaders made it clear to President Obama this week that they will not consider any nomination he makes to fill the U.S. Supreme Court seat vacated by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Nearly half (48%) of Republicans say they’d be more likely to vote for a senator who refuses to consider an Obama nominee, but slightly more Democrats (50%) say they’d be less likely to vote for that candidate.

In the thick of primary season, most voters still think their fellow Americans need to prove their identity before voting and don’t believe photo ID laws discriminate against some voters.

Six years after its passage by Congress, Obama’s national health care law remains unpopular with a majority of voters who still believe it will lead to higher costs and lower the quality of care.

Reducing costs remains voters’ top health care priority, and they continue to believe that keeping government out of the health care market is the best way to achieve that goal.

Most Americans think the public outcry over the ongoing water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, by prominent officials like Clinton and the president is more about politics than a solution to the problem.

In other surveys last week:

— Twenty-nine percent (29%) of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

Our latest Consumer Spending Monitor suggests that consumers have some spring home improvement projects in mind.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters approved of Obama’s job performance in February, up one point from January and matching the highest finding in all of last year.

The president’s daily job approval rating rose to -5 earlier this week, the highest it’s been in nearly three years.

— Americans don’t consider their fellow countrymen an overly honest group, but they think most play fair when it comes to their taxes. They’re also less worried this year about being audited by the IRS

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