FRIDAY FOTO Extra (October 31, 2014)

Bye-bye Bastion.

U.S. Marine Corp photo by Staff Sgt. John Jackson

U.S. Marine Corp photo by Staff Sgt. John Jackson

U.S. Marine Corps and Royal Air Force helicopters fly in formation after departing Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Monday (October 27, 2014). The Marine Corps ended operations in Helmand province and transferred their base, Camp Leatherneck, to the Afghan National Army ANA). The smaller adjacent British base, Camp Bastion, was also turned over to the ANA.

Earlier, the Marines ended their 13-year mission in Helmand, where 378 Marines were killed and nearly 5,000 wounded in fighting that peaked four years ago, according to the Associated Press.

October 31, 2014 at 12:25 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 31, 2014)

Autumn at Sea.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Abe McNatt

It’s Halloween, but instead of some scary ghosts or skeletons we thought we’d show you a beautiful pumpkin-colored sky at sea.

This Navy photo shows the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN77) as it transits the Gulf Aden. The Bush Carrier Strike Group is heading back to Naval Station Norfolk after supporting maritime security operations and carrier-based airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against the ultra radical Islamist extremist group known alternately as the Islamic State, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Pentagon Calls it Operation Inherent Resolve.

October 31, 2014 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Burkina Faso Unrest; Ebola Update; Zambia President Dies; Another Boko Haram Attack, Nigeria President Seeking Re-Election; [UPDATE]

UPDATES with  Rioting, state of emergency in Burkino Faso, Nigerian President to Seek Re-election.

Burkina Faso Capital in Flames.

Burkina Fasolocation  in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Burkina Fasolocation in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

The president of the West African nation of Burkina Faso has declared a state of emergency, after tens of thousands of people took the streets, setting the  parliament building ablaze. Violence in the capital, Ouagadugou, has left at least one person dead, according to Al Jazeera.

Army General Honore Traore, the joint chief of staff, said that the government and parliament were dissolved on Thursday (October 30). Some of the protesters, who are opposed to constitutional amendments that would allow President Blaise Compaore to stay in power for another term, ransacked state television and tried to storm other state buildings, Al Jazeera noted. 

“A state of emergency is declared across the national territory. The chief of the armed forces is in charge of implementing this decision which enters into effect today,” said a statement from the president read by a presenter on Radio Omega FM.  The president also said he would open talks with the opposition.

“I dissolve the government from today so as to create conditions for change,” the statement said. “I’m calling on the leaders of the political opposition to put an end to the protests. I’m pledging from today to open talks with all the actors to end the crisis.” 

The BBC is reporting that President Compaore  is defying opposition calls that he step down. The president says he will stay in power for a year under a transitional government, following a day of violent protests demanding his resignation. Demonstrators angered by his bid to extend his 27-year rule torched Parliament and other government buildings.

General Traore did not spell out who would lead the interim administration. He also declared the imposition of an overnight curfew. In a message broadcast by a local TV station after the general’s statement, Compaore said he welcomed the military’s “patriotic action”. He said he would hand over power to a democratically elected government after the transitional administration had completed its term. He also said he was withdrawing a controversial legislation that would enable him to seek another term in office. He has held the presidency for 27 years.

*** *** ***

Ebola Update

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion. (Centers for Disease Control)

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion.
(Centers for Disease Control)

The World Health Organization (WHO) says here has been a decline in the spread of Ebola in Liberia, the country hardest hit by the deadly virus.

The WHO’s Bruce Aylward said it the U.N. agency is finally confident health officials are gaining the upper hand against the outbreak, the BBC reported.

However, Aylward warned against any suggestion that the crisis was over.  Liberia’s Red Cross said its teams collected 117 bodies last week, down from a high of 315 in September, according to the WHO. Treatment centers also have empty beds available for patients.  “It appears that the trend is real in Liberia and there may indeed be a slowing,” said Aylward.

According to the latest WHO situation report, the death toll from the West African outbreak stands at 4,922. The WHO says a total of 13,703 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola virdus disease (EVD) have been reported in six countries: Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States as of October 28. Meanwhile, the outbreak of EVD in Senegal was declared over on October 17 and in Nigeria two days later (October 19, 2014).

EVD transmission remains persistent and widespread in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the WHO report said, adding: “All administrative districts in Liberia and Sierra Leone have now reported at least one confirmed or probable case of EVD since the outbreak began.” Cases of EVD transmission remain lowest in Guinea, but case numbers are still very high in absolute terms. Transmission remains intense in the capital cities of the three most affected countries. Cases and deaths continue to be under-reported in the outbreak.”

More on Ebola Later

*** *** ***

Boko Haram Attack

Updates with President Goodluck Jonathan saying he will seek re-election.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

The Voice of America website is reporting that Boko Haram militants have taken over a city in northeast Nigeria — another violation of a cease-fire declared by the government earlier this month.

Local residents tell VOA’s Hausa language service that militants stormed the city of Mubi on Thursday (October 30), pillaging the local emir’s palace and freeing jailed militants from a prison.

A Mubi resident reported seeing black turban-wearing Boko Haram fighters patrolling the city on motorbikes. The witness also said Nigerian soldiers have either fled or abandoned their positions in the city. The Nigerian air force is reported to have launched air strikes in Mubi to counter the Boko Haram advance, VOA reported.

Despite widespread discontent with how his government is handling the Boko Haram crisis, President Goodluck Jonathan announced he would seek re-election in February’s elections, the BBC reports.

The announcement comes as Jonathan faces mounting criticism over his handling of the Boko Haram insurgency and the group’s abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls, the BBC noted. The government announced a ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram earlier this month that was supposed to lead to the release of the schoolgirls.

The Nigerian government says it has been talking to Boko Haram in neighboring Chad with both parties agreeing on a ceasefire. But with attacks in northeast Nigeria continuing and no word on when — or if — the girls will be released, critics have raised questions about the validity of the truce.

*** *** ***

Sata Dead, Scott Acting President.

Zambian President Michael Sata in 2013. (Photo by Cluster Munition Coalition via Wikipedia)

Zambian President Michael Sata in 2013.
(Photo by Cluster Munition Coalition via Wikipedia)

The president of Zambia, Michael Sata, has died and his successor — at least temporarily — is the Zambian-born son of a Scottish doctor and sub-Saharan Africa’s first white head of state in 20 years.

Sata, 77, who was elected president of the South Central African nation in 2011, died Tuesday (October 28) in a London hospital where he was being treated for an undisclosed illness, according to the BBC.

Zambia’s vice president, Guy Scott, 70, will serve as acting president until elections are held in January. He is a former agriculture minister who also worked in Zambia’s finance ministry.

“Elections for the office of president will take place in 90 days. In the interim, I am the acting president,” Scott said in a broadcast address that also announced the start of  a period of mourning for the late president, the Associated Press reported.

MAP-Zambia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

MAP-Zambia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

Scott, whose parents were both Scottish, has said he has no presidential ambitions. Zambia’s constitution also bars him from running for president because his parents were not Zambians by birth or descent, the AP said.

Sata — nicknamed “King Cobra” for his blunt talk and sharp tongue — was Zambia’s fifth president and the second to die in office.  He promised to tackle corruption and create jobs and prosperity for the former British colony (Northern Rhodesia) of 15 million people.  But his declining health was mirrored by Zambia’s declining economy, and he left behind an impoverished country with one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, according to the BBC’s obituary.

October 30, 2014 at 1:11 am Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: New Threats, Tight Money

Protecting the Border — and Everywhere Else.

U.S. Border Patrol would rather send robots than agents to investigate drug smuggling tunnels, like this one in Nogales, Arizona, between the U.S. and Mexico. (Customs and Border Protection photo by Josh Denmark)

U.S. Border Patrol would rather send robots than agents to investigate drug smuggling tunnels, like this one in Nogales, Arizona, between the U.S. and Mexico. (Customs and Border Protection photo by Josh Denmark)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is responsible for protecting Americans from terrorism, transnational organized crime and natural disasters, but new threats continue to spring up.

In the past year, DHS confronted unexpected challenges like the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa and the massive influx of illegal immigrants, most of them children unaccompanied by adults.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson recently cited his biggest threat concerns. One is the lone wolf, self-radicalized gunman with no known connection to terrorist groups. Johnson said that is the threat he worries about most because it’s the hardest to detect and “could happen on very little notice.” The recent attacks on uniformed soldiers in Canada and police in New York City underscored the danger. Johnson also has concerns about Americans returning from fighting in Syria and the Islamic State, radicalized by Islamist extremists and armed with the skill sets to commit mayhem.

Those threats, and ways to deal with them, were discussed Oct. 6-9 at a homeland security conference in Washington sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA).

Officials from one of DHS’s biggest components, Customs and Border Protection, said congressional budget cuts require them to look for equipment and technology that will help them do their job with less people and, for less money. “We’re about managing risk now,” said U.S. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher.

Wolf Tombe, CBP’s chief technology officer outlined several areas where new technology could help. Tombe said DHS was dealing with massive amounts of data from biometric identification systems like fingerprints.

“The real ideal capability is to use all of them – fingerprints, facial recognition and iris scan – to see if they all match” the people presenting themselves for entry into the United States at airports, seaports and land border crossings, Tombe said. Right now fingerprints are the core biometric technology. Facial recognition “is in its early stages” of use and iris identification and verification “is being evaluated,” he added.

“The U.S. border is tens of thousands of miles and it is impossible to cover with a human presence alone,” Tombe said. Cross-border tunnels used by drug, gun and people smugglers are getting bigger and more sophisticated with lighting and their own sensors and communications, Tombe said, adding that CBP “would much rather send a robot” to investigate a tunnel than endanger an officer.

To see the rest of this story, click here or go to:

http://www.idga.org/homeland-security/articles/as-new-threats-rise-and-budgets-fall-dhs-looks-for/

October 29, 2014 at 11:47 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Brazil Election; Brazil Buying Gripens; BRICS Talk Military Products; SOUTHCOM and Ebola

Brazil Re-elects Rousseff.

Dilma Rousseff Official photo via Wikipedia

Dilma Rousseff Official photo via Wikipedia

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has been re-elected in a tight race, defeating a challenge by a pro-business candidate of the Social Democracy Party, Aecio Neves. The left-leaning Rousseff won 51.6 percent of the vote Sunday (October 26), compared to Neves’ 48.4 percent polling, according to The Associated Press.

The AP called the bruising election contest “the tightest race the nation has seen since its return to democracy three decades ago.” Rousseff is a protégé of her immediate predecessor, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who hand-picked her to take his place in 2010. Their Workers Party has held onto Brazil’s presidency since 2003. The contest came down to which candidate voters thought would be best for Brazil’s sagging economy — the world’s seventh-largest.

The majority of voters went with Rousseff’s policies which favor the poor and middle class Brazilians. But the country’s markets saw it differently. Brazilian stocks and the nation’s currency plunged in trading around the world Monday, USA Today reported. The country’s currency, the real, dropped 1.91 percent against the U.S. dollar on Monday. But Brazil’s markets rebounded Tuesday (October 28). The country’s currency and stock markets closed higher as bargain hunters stepped in after Monday’s sharp selloff, according to Reuters.

*** *** ***

Gripen Jets for Brazil

Just a few hours after the election results were announced, Brazil and Swedish aircraft maker, Saab, said they had reached a $5.4 billion (39.3 billion Swedish krona) for 36 new Saab Gripen NG jetfighter.

Saab will start delivering the first jets to the Brazilian Air Force in 2019 with deliveries running until 2024, according to Defense News.

The Gripen NG Jet Fighter (Photo courtesy of Saab)

The Gripen NG Jet Fighter
(Photo courtesy of Saab)

The deal calls for 28 single-seat jets and eight two-seat aircraft. The two seaters will be developed with Brazilian industry, Defense News said, adding that Saab officials say negotiations are underway between Brazil and Sweden on a possible deal to lease Gripens until the first batch of Gripens are delivered.

Saab beat out Boeing’s F/A-18 and Dassault Aviation’s Rafale fighters last year as the winning contractor. The deal is the biggest order Saab aircraft have ever landed, Defense News said.

The full contract comes into effect once export control-related authorizations and other conditions are met, Saab said. The Gripensare replacing Brazil’s fleet of Mirage 2000 fighters, according to MarketWatch.

*** *** ***

Brazil, Russia, South Africa Talking

According to the Russian news agency TASS, three and maybe four members of the emerging economies group known as the BRICS are discussing the possibility of joint development of “military purpose products.”

TASS quoted the deputy director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Anatoly Punchuk as saying “In terms of BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa], a series of major projects with India is being implemented now. South Africa shows more interest in cooperation with Russia in the joint development and production of military weaponry.”

Punchuk spoke in France where he is leading the Russian delegation at Euronaval 2014, an international naval defence and maritime exhibition and conference).

*** *** ***

SOUTHCOM Chief on Ebola

The head of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) says the potential spread of the Ebola virus into Central and South America is a possibility that bears careful monitoring.

Speaking at the National Defense University in Washington earlier this month (October 8) Marine Corps General John Kelly said if the deadly virus that has killed 4,000 people in Africa makes its way to the Western Hemisphere, many countries, like Haiti, will have little ability to deal with an outbreak, according to DoD News.

“So, much like West Africa, it will rage for a period of time,” Kelly said. If the disease gets to countries like Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, will cause a panic “and here will be mass migration,” Kelly predicted.

He added that SOUTHCOM is in close contact with U.S. Africa Command to see what practices are working there.

Cocaine seized in Central American waters.  (U.S. Navy photo)

Cocaine seized in Central American waters.
(U.S. Navy photo)

On another issue, Kelly told the university audience that Central America needs a campaign plan to combat transnational crime syndicates, reinstitute the rule of law and regain sovereignty over their own territories.

Citing Colombia as a success story, Kelly said the government in Bogota shows what a country can do to throw off narcoterrorists and reassert government control. “They are a great example of what can be done so long as a government and a people — along with some help from the United States” work together towards a common goal, DoD News reported.

Colombia battled FARC leftist rebels for six decades — half of that time fighting violent narcotics cartels as well — before restoring the rule of law and re-establishing security throughout the country.

El Salvador, Guatemala and El Salvador are in the same situation Colombia was in in the mid-1980s, Kelly said.

October 28, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (October 26-November 1, 1814)

Trouble on the Frontier

October 26

The Last Raid

(Courtesy of westerncorridor1812.com)

(Courtesy of westerncorridor1812.com)

U.S. Brigadier General Duncan McArthur leads a force of 700 mounted infantry out of Fort Detroit across into Lower Canada (modern day Ontario) to raid the Thames River Valley. McArthur plans to burn out settlements along the Grand River and up around the head of Lake Ontario, an area that supplies flour for British forces on the Niagara frontier.

The raid may also divert British attention from U.S. occupied Fort Erie in Canada opposite Buffalo, New York, which U.S. troops are preparing to evacuate.

*** *** ***

Another Fort Fails

The U.S. Army’s fortunes continue to fade in the Upper Mississippi Valley.

After losing Fort Madison, in what is now the state of Iowa in 1813, and Fort Shelby near modern day Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin earlier in 1814, to Indian attacks, the Army is getting ready to abandon Fort Johnson in Illinois Territory.

Established just a month earlier by future U.S. president Major Zachary Taylor after defeat his troops are repelled by the Sauk and other allied Indian tribes at the Battle of Credit Island, Fort Johnson sits on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi.

However, the company of soldiers stationed there abandon the hastily constructed fort when provisions run out and there is no word of resupply. They make their way down river to Cap au Gris near St. Louis in Missouri Territory.

Upper_Mississippi_1812

MAP: via Wikipedia

The Upper Mississippi River during the War of 1812. 1: Fort Bellefontaine U.S. headquarters; 2: Fort Osage, abandoned 1813; 3: Fort Madison, defeated 1813; 4: Fort Shelby, defeated 1814; 5: Battle of Rock Island Rapids, July 1814 and the Battle of Credit Island, Sept. 1814; 6: Fort Johnson, abandoned 1814; 7: Fort Cap au Gris and the Battle of the Sink Hole, May 1815

 

October 27, 2014 at 1:08 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (October 24, 2014)

Pair of Hunters

 U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft

Two U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier II aircraft prepare to take off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The Harriers, which can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, were participating in Red Flag-Alaska 15-1.

Red Flag-Alaska is a series of Pacific Air Forces field training exercises for U.S. and partner nation forces. It hones skills in combined offensive counter-air, interdiction and close air support missions as well as practicing large force training in a simulated combat environment.

The pilots are assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 311. 

To see more photos of Harriers, F-16 Fighting Falcons and EA-18G Growlers as well as runway operations coping with heavy snows in Alaska, click here.

October 24, 2014 at 1:21 am Leave a comment

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