Posts filed under ‘Washington’
Fighting Illegal Amazon Logging.
Government officials in Brazil say fighting illegal logging of the Amazon rainforest is like battling illegal narcotics operations elsewhere.
Maria Luisa de Sousa has been co-ordinating a month-long operation to halt illegal logging in northern and eastern Mato Grosso state by the government-funded institute responsible for environmental protection. She says the fight to save the Amazon is increasingly a fight against organized crime. “You can compare it to the struggle against drugs trafficking. The crime and the criminals keep on adapting,” she tells the BBC in a piece today (July 9) on the battle to save the rainforest.
De Sousa’s organization, Ibama, uses helicopters to spot timber poachers from the air. But in the future, unmanned aircraft are expected to join the fight to preserve the Amazon region — which represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests and has been called the Lungs of the World. Last May in Atlanta, at the huge annual robotics conference of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), several unmanned aircraft manufacturers told 4GWAR that they expected the need to persistent aerial surveillance in the Amazon region and elsewhere in Brazil will heat up the Latin American market for drones — large and small. We’ll be writing more about this at 4GWAR in coming weeks.
Meanwhile, according to the BBC report byew monthly figures show that deforestation rates in some parts of Brazil have almost doubled compared to last year. Those statistics also show that increasing amounts of wood are illegally taken from protected indigenous reserves.
Back in 2010, Brazil announced a new strategic defense plan calling for increased military presence in the Amazon region to link national defense with national development by protecting and leveraging Brazil’s large water, agricultural and energy resources. That plan called for building up Air Force, Army and Navy capabilities including five new submarines and supplying its own satellite imagery — rather than but it from other countries.
Even though President Dilma Rousseff has cut government spending as the country staggers through a contracting economy, Brazil is still among the top 15 countries with the highest military spending in 2014, according to data gathered by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
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Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff visited Washington in late June and met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. And that seemed to signal that after two years of acrimony, the two countries were moving to reset their relations, according to an article in the World Politics Review.
Bilateral relations cooled significantly after revelations in 2013 by rogue National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden of U.S. eavesdropping on Brazilian officials — including Rousseff. The Brazilian president cancelled her state visit scheduled for that October, after the scandal broke.
In the intervening years, Russia has sought closer ties with Brazil — particularly in defense technology sales. Brazil is set to buy Russian Pantsir air defense systems in early 2016.
Last Fall, Brazil announced it was buying its next generation fighter jets from Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab. Brazile will pay $5.4 billion (39.3 billion Swedish krona) for 36 new Saab Gripen NG jetfighter airplanes.
A Marine Corps bugler plays “Taps” beside the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
You’ve probably seen the famous photo of the Iwo Jima flag-raising. You may even have seen a photo of this statue, which stands across the river from Washington, D.C. But you may not have seen one that demonstrates just how monumental this sculpture is. After the bloody World War II battle, Admiral Chester Nimitz made the now-famous observation: “Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”
The Independence Day festivities haven’t begun yet (although July 3 is the day this year we’ll celebrate the nation’s birthday because the 4th of July falls on a Saturday), but we wanted to present a FRIFO with a little history, a little color and, perhaps a little magic. We think this photo fits the bill. Please click on it with mouse or finger to enlarge the image for the full effect.
And have a safe and happy holiday while pausing to remember the 56 brave men who pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor” and signed a document 239 years ago on a hot summer day in Philadelphia that changed the world. And please remember all the brave men and women who came after them to defend the ideas behind that document on battlefields and factory floors, in courtrooms and classrooms, at town halls and lunch counters.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA, AND MANY MORE.
A “Drone-Saturated World”.
Industry is looking to use unmanned aircraft for a variety of commercial purposes — from monitoring crops and livestock to inspecting oil rigs and pipelines — but a Washington think tank warns that the proliferation of drones poses a national security risk that government leaders must consider before the technology’s rapid development leaves them behind.
The Center for a New American Security this past week issued the first in a series of reports from its World of Proliferated Drones project, which recommends the U.S. government consider foreign policy and national security issues arising from “a drone saturated world” in the future.
The project, which plans a number of reports and war games “engaging international audiences” isn’t anti-drone. And it doesn’t raise the usual privacy or public safety arguments espoused by civil libertarians or pilots groups. Instead, it notes that thousands of drones are here now — mostly used by militaries around the world. But those numbers are going to skyrocket as the technology becomes available for more individuals, companies and industries.
“Over 90 countries and non-state actors operate drones today, including at least 30 that operate or are developing armed drones,” notes the 40-page report, A Technology Primer, adding” This global proliferation raises a number of challenging security issues.” For example: “Are states more willing to shoot down a spy drone since there is no one on board — and if they do, does that constitute an act of war?
Small “hobbyist” drones, which can be purchased by anyone and flown without a license or formal training pose a small risk because of their limited payload and range capabilities although the recent incident of a small drone crash-landing on the White House grounds shows they are ubiquitous and hard to detect near even the most heavily-guarded site.
Of more concern are midsize military and commercial drones, which can fly farther, stay aloft longer and carry larger payloads. They are too complicated to operate and too expensive to acquire by most individuals or small groups but the report notes 87 countries from — military powers like the United States and China to small countries like Cyprus and Trinidad and Tobago — are operating such systems — “and this number is likely to grow in the years to come.” And non-state entities like the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah have obtained midsize military-grade systems already.
Larger military drones that can carry bombs and missiles or highly sophisticated surveillance payloads are also proliferating but until they acquire stealth technology or electronic attack capabilities, the report says, they are vulnerable to advanced air defenses and manned fighter aircraft. So far, only U.S. drones have those capabilities but a number of countries including Russia, Israel, China, India, France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece, Switzerland and Britain are working on their own stealth combat drones.
“Preventing the proliferation of armed drones is impossible — drones are hear to stay,” the CNAS report concludes. What that means for international security “is an open question,” it adds noting that the United States, which is the industry leader, “can help influence how drones are used and perceived by others.”
Two deceased U.S. Army veterans of World War I — one Jewish, the other black — neither of whom received the full credit they deserved for their wartime heroism, have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest military decoration for valor.
In a White House ceremony Tuesday (May 2) President Barack Obama presented the medals to Sergeant William Shemin and Sergeant Henry Johnson. Shemin, who was Jewish, was awarded the second-highest heroism medal, the Distinguished Service Cross in 1919 — even though his superior recommended him for the higher award. Johnson, who was black, received no U.S. medals although France awarded him one its highest military honor, the Croix de Guerre with Palm. In both cases racial and religious prejudice were believed to be the cause of the injustice.
“They both left us decades ago, before we could give them the full recognition that they deserved. But it’s never too late to say thank you,” Obama told the medal ceremony audience. “I want to begin by welcoming and thanking everyone who made this day possible — family, friends, admirers. Some of you have worked for years to honor these heroes, to give them the honor they should have received a long time ago,” Obama said, adding: “We are grateful that you never gave up.”
Shemin received his Medal of Honor for braving intense German machine gun and rifle fire three times to rescue wounded soldiers on August 7, 1918 near Bazoches, France. After his officers and senior non-coms were killed or wounded, Shemin took command of his platoon “and displayed great initiative under fire, until he was wounded, August 9, 1918,” according to the military. Shemin was a member of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. Read the Medal of Honor citation here.
Johnson, then a private with Company C, of the 369th Infantry Regiment — an all-black National Guard unit known as the “Harlem Hellfighters” — was cited for his heroism on the night of May 15, 1918 on the Western Front in France. While on sentry duty with another soldier of the 369th, Johnson fended off a night raid by as many as a dozen German soldiers. Johnson and the other soldier fired on the Germans until they ran out of ammunition. They then used hand grenades and rifle butts to fight the Germans. When they other soldier was knocked unconscious, the Germans tried to carry him off as a prisoner, but Johnson battled back using his rifle as a club and then slashing at the Germans with his bolo knife. He may have killed four Germans single-handed in the dark while rescuing his comrade. Read the Medal of Honor of honor citation here.
Despite 21 wounds, Johnson did not receive the Purple Heart medal or any other citation from his country, even though ex-President Theodore Roosevelt described him as “one of the five bravest American soldiers in the war.” He received the Purple Heart posthumously in 1996 and the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002. Like Shemin, Johnson’s DSC was upgraded this year to the Medal of Honor.
Johnson’s regiment, the 369th, was one of the few black regiments sent to France, although they were transferred to fight with French troops, rather than American units who were hostile to the idea of blacks in combat.
As part of the French Army’s 161st Division, they took part in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. On September 29, ater a brutal struggle during which heavy casualties were sustained, Sechault was taken and the 369th soldiers dug in to consolidate their advance position. That action is depicted in the photo above and earned the Croix de Guerre for the entire regiment. But the Meuse-Argonne claimed nearly one-third of the 369th as battle casualties.
[Digital] Help Wanted.
(REPEATING POSTING ON THIS WEB SITE AND OTHERS AFTER IT WAS APPARENTLY DELETED BY ACCIDENT FROM WORDPRESS.)
With every passing week, the necessity – and vulnerability — of cyberspace becomes more apparent.
Hardware and software failures on the Bloomberg LP network forced its iconic trading terminals to go dark for several hours on April 17 and financial markets across much of the globe ground to a halt.
The private correspondence of top executives and personal data of thousands of employees at Sony Pictures were revealed to the world last year by North Korean hackers after the movie company released a comedy about a plot to assassinate the dictatorship’s leader. The data was published again by WikiLeaks in mid-April.
And in the most recent incident, hackers, traced to Russia, penetrated an unclassified Pentagon network earlier this year before they were detected, identified and expelled. “They discovered an old vulnerability in one of our legacy networks that hadn’t been patched,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told an audience at Stanford University April 23.
The revelation came as Carter unveiled an updated version of the Defense Department security strategy for cyberspace. While the technology advances developed in Silicon Valley and elsewhere have made many things in modern life “easier, cheaper and safer,” Carter noted that “it’s become clear that these same advances and technologies also present a degree of risk to the businesses, governments, militaries, and individual people who rely on them every day … making it easier, cheaper, and safer to threaten them. The same Internet that enables Wikipedia also allows terrorists to learn how to build a bomb.”
Rating the Raiders.
TAMPA, Florida — The Delta Force team that killed a key Islamic State leader in a raid into Syria last week also recovered a “treasure trove” of information about the violent extremist group, the president’s top intelligence adviser said Wednesday night (May 20).
James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence saluted the special operations forces (SOF) that killed Abu Sayyaf, captured his wife and freed a young Iraqi woman reportedly being held as a slave by the couple. According to press and government accounts, the raid’s aim was to capture Sayyaf, described as the chief financial officer of IS, but a gun battle broke out and he and about a dozen IS fighters were killed.
“They collected, what appears to me to be a treasure trove of valuable intelligence,” Clapper told attendees at a black tie awards dinner at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC). I congratulate and salute you,” Clapper told the SOF members in the audience, “it was well done.” Clapper noted that the raiders “got in and got out and no one from our side got hurt.”
Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general (three star) and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, among other intel community posts, said the raid’s success illustrated the cooperation that now exists between the SOF community and the intelligence community.
He recalled the intelligence bonanza reaped by SOF when they raided a Pakistani compound in May 2011 and killed al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. The Navy SEALs that took out bin Laden stayed in the house long enough to collect books and papers as well as files from his computers. “I was blown away when I saw — not only by what was picked up but the care with which it was picked up,” Clapper said. He called the materials taken from bin Laden’s compound “invaluable in our fight against al Qaeda.”
Delta Force did exactly the same thing in Syria, Clapper said, noting that papers and other documents have given the intelligence community insight into ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), the Defense Department’s preferred term for the brutal extremist group.
Clapper said his staff has just released “a sizable tranche” of documents seized from the bin Laden raid, including what he termed bin Laden’s book shelf: a list of commercially available and public domain books found in the terrorist leader’s home. The documents were posted on ODNI’s unclassified public website.
“Those who want to see him as a super villain are going to be a little disappointed,” Clapper said. He read Chinese military theorist Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” But about half of the 38 English language books on bin Laden’s bookshelf included books about conspiracy theories and the Illuminati and Free Masons.
No Drone Zone.
The Federal Aviation Administration has a message for hobbyists and commercial unmanned aircraft vehicle operators: keep your drones 15 miles away from the Nation’s Capital — or else.
The FAA announced this week (May 13) a public outreach campaign for the region around Washington, D.C. The purpose of the campaign is to reinforce the message that the city itself, and communities within a 15-mile radius of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, are a “No Drone Zone.”
In short, if you come to Washington as a tourist, photographer or UAV enthusiast, the message is clear: “Leave Your Drone Home.” Don’t even think about taking video or still photos of the White House, Capitol Hill or the Pentagon with your camera attached to a quadcopter or other mini unmanned aircraft.
Rules put in place after the 9/11 attacks establish “national defense airspace” over the D.C. area and limit aircraft operations – including unmanned aircraft – to those with an FAA and Transportation Security Administration authorization. Violators may face stiff fines and criminal penalties.
The effort includes furnishing outreach materials to other federal, state and local partners around the National Capital Region. The agency wants to ensure residents and tourists all understand that flying an unmanned aircraft in this area for any purpose is against the law.
The ban took an urgent turn earlier this year when a government employee, flying a small quadcopter for fun late at night on the Washington Mall, accidentally crashed into a tree on the South lawn of the White House. No one was hurt but the inability of the Secret Service to track such a small intruder raised questions about White House security.
Just a day after the announcement, a 39-year-old California man was arrested and charged with violating the no drones zone. He and his UAV were seized when Secret Service officers saw a man flying a small, remote-controlled aircraft over Lafayette Park north of the White House.