Life as we know it has changed in an astonishingly quick moment. Last week it was fairly normal when it looked like China might be able to contain the virus but then panic set in across the country. Sports leagues like the NBA, NCAA, ACC, and NHL canceled their games. Raleigh’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade was called off. Then Wake County Public Schools decided last Friday to not count absences before turning around on Saturday and closing schools. A week ago I worked my first day at home and have not been back to the office except for a brief time Saturday to retrieve the plants off my desk.
We are doing what is termed “social distancing,” where we interact with as few people as possible. The kids are at home, Kelly and I are at home and we have largely given up any trips outside of the house except for dire emergencies. It is frightening and surreal. In an instant life has changed drastically.
It has been day three of our all being at home. Our home is big enough that we can find our own corners and not disturb each other. When we’re sharing our home office, Kelly has complained about how loudly I chew gum (narrator: it’s not that loud). Spirits are high now but the realization is setting in that this will not be over any time soon. We may have to shelter in place like this for months.
The saving grace is that we are not strictly confined to our homes. At least, not yet. We can go for drives, walks, bike rides, dog walks. Whatever. We are just encouraged to maintain that six-foot distance experts suggest will keep us safe from getting the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Called this yesterday, too. Iran was fully capable of killing many Americans here but chose not to. They may be saner than Trump.
Iran is believed to have deliberately sought to avoid U.S. military casualties in missile strikes on bases housing American troops in Iraq launched in retaliation for the U.S. killing of an Iranian general, according to U.S. and European government sources familiar with intelligence assessments.
The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday the Iranians were thought to have targeted the attacks to miss U.S. forces to prevent the crisis from escalating out of control while still sending a message of Iranian resolve. A source in Washington said overnight that early indications were of no U.S. casualties, while other U.S. officials declined comment.
Source: Iran believed to have deliberately missed U.S. forces in Iraq strikes, Western sources say – Iran – Haaretz.com
Called this yesterday. Loss of a single engine won’t down a plane and Iranian officials declared it a mechanical problem before the fires were even out. Condolences to the victims.
WASHINGTON — An Iranian missile accidentally brought down a Ukrainian jetliner over Iran this week, killing everyone aboard, American and allied officials said on Thursday, adding a tragic coda to the escalated military conflict between Washington and Tehran.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada said his country had intelligence that an Iranian surface-to-air missile brought down the jetliner, which was carrying 63 Canadians among its some 176 passengers and crew. Mr. Trudeau said his conclusion was based on a preliminary review of the evidence but called for a full investigation “to be convinced beyond all doubt.”
Source: Iranian Missile Accidentally Brought Down Ukrainian Jet, Officials Say – The New York Times
When hackers began slipping into computer systems at the Office of Personnel Management in the spring of 2014, no one inside that federal agency could have predicted the potential scale and magnitude of the damage. Over the next six months, those hackers — later identified as working for the Chinese government — stole data on nearly 22 million former and current American civil servants, including intelligence officials.
The data breach, which included fingerprints, personnel records and security clearance background information, shook the intelligence community to its core. Among the hacked information’s other uses, Beijing had acquired a potential way to identify large numbers of undercover spies working for the U.S. government. The fallout from the hack was intense, with the CIA reportedly pulling its officers out of China. (The director of national intelligence later denied this withdrawal.)Personal data was being weaponized like never before. In one previously unreported incident, around the time of the OPM hack, senior intelligence officials realized that the Kremlin was quickly able to identify new CIA officers in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow — likely based on the differences in pay between diplomats, details on past service in “hardship” posts, speedy promotions and other digital clues, say four former intelligence officials. Those clues, they surmised, could have come from access to the OPM data, possibly shared by the Chinese, or some other way, say former officials.
The OPM hack was a watershed moment, ushering in an era when big data and other digital tools may render methods of traditional human intelligence gathering extinct, say former officials. It is part of an evolution that poses one of the most significant challenges to undercover intelligence work in at least a half century — and probably much longer.The familiar trope of Jason Bourne movies and John le Carré novels where spies open secret safes filled with false passports and interchangeable identities is already a relic, say former officials — swept away by technological changes so profound that they’re forcing the CIA to reconsider everything from how and where it recruits officers to where it trains potential agency personnel. Instead, the spread of new tools like facial recognition at border crossings and airports and widespread internet-connected surveillance cameras in major cities is wiping away in a matter of years carefully honed tradecraft that took intelligence experts decades to perfect.
Source: ‘Shattered’: Inside the secret battle to save America’s undercover spies in the digital age
USS Elliot (DD-967) in North Arabian Gulf, circa 1998
John Steinbeck spent a few weeks aboard a destroyer in World War II, the USS Knight (DD-663), and wrote this ode to destroyers called “A Destroyer” in 1943. It appeared in a collection of his dispatches published in 1958 in a book called Once There Was a War.
I think it sums up life on a destroyer quite well.
A destroyer is a lovely ship, probably the nicest fighting ship of all. Battleships are a little like steel cities or great factories of destruction. Aircraft carriers are floating flying fields. Even cruisers are big pieces of machinery, but a destroyer is all boat. In the beautiful clean lines of her, in her speed and roughness, in her curious gallantry, she is completely a ship, in the old sense.
For one thing, a destroyer is small enough so that her captain knows his whole crew personally, knows all about each one as a person, his first name and his children and the trouble he has been in and is capable of getting into. There is an ease on a destroyer that is good and a good relationship among the men. Then if she has a good captain you have something really worth serving on.
The battleships are held back for a killing blow, and such a blow sometimes happens only once in a war. The cruisers go in second, but the destroyers work all the time. They are probably the busiest ships of a fleet. In a major engagement, they do the scouting and make the first contact. They convoy, they run to every fight. Wherever there is a mess, the destroyers run first. They are not lordly like the battleships and the men who work them are seamen. In rough weather they are rough, honestly and violently rough.
In the spring of 1945, at age 17, I volunteered for the U.S. Navy.
Nazi Germany had surrendered, but World War II was still raging in the Pacific as the Americans closed in on Japan’s home islands. Kamikaze planes were diving into ships, killing sailors by the dozens.
Most of my thoughts and feelings were with those embattled men 5,000 miles away. When I enlisted, I had no idea I was about to participate in a historic experience that in some ways would prove more momentous than the final struggle against the Axis powers.
Orders from the Navy directed me to report to New York’s Pennsylvania Station, where I boarded a train with other new recruits that took us upstate to boot camp at the Sampson Naval Training Station. Soon after we arrived, we were divided into companies and marched to our barracks, as Seneca Lake gleamed in the distance.
A chief boatswain’s mate led me and some 150 other would-be swabbies to our barracks and checked off our names as we hefted seabags and settled into the spartan interior — where everyone got a shock. We were an integrated company — a third black, two-thirds white.
Without announcing it, the Navy was launching a program to upend the prevailing race-relations formula in the United States — separate but (supposedly) equal.
Source: The Navy’s journey from racial segregation to equality
Maverick flying 33 years later? File this under “unlikely.”
Late last week, as the official motion picture trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick” raced around social media, among the questions without easy answer was how was Pete “Maverick” Mitchell still feeling the need for speed as a 57-year-old captain with 30-plus years of service?
Paramount Pictures hasn’t released much about the plot of what will presumably be a summer 2020 blockbuster, and all fans have to go on are film industry site IMDB and what’s in the trailer released last week. However, the trailer addresses how odd it would be to have a captain in his late 50s when his peer group would have either made flag officer or hit the statutory retirement of 30 years of service.
In the trailer, Ed Harris’ character, an unidentified rear admiral, gives a brief overview of Maverick’s career.
“Thirty-plus years of service. Combat medals, citations, the only man to shoot down three enemy planes in the last 40 years. Yet you can’t get a promotion, you won’t retire, and despite your best efforts you refuse to die,” he said.
“You should be at least a two-star admiral by now. Yet here you are. Captain. Why is that?”
Could a real-world Capt. Mitchell still fly missions 33 years after audiences first saw the iconic naval aviator buzz control towers in the 1986 blockbuster “Top Gun”?
Source: Navy Answers How a 57-Year-Old Maverick Could Still Feel the Need for Speed – USNI News
On June 14, 2018, two armored Mercedes-Maybach S600 Guard vehicles were shipped from the Dutch Port of Rotterdam, heading out on a journey that would take months and see the cars transported thousands of miles through six countries, according to a new report from the Washington-based Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS).
After stops in China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, the two cars — each worth about $500,000 — are believed to have been flown to their final destination, Pyongyang. And in the North Korean capital, there’s only one customer who likely requires this type of ride.
The origin and journey of the two Mercedes luxury vehicles were exposed in the C4ADS report. CNN has not independently verified C4ADS’ reporting.
Source: How did Kim Jong Un get his Mercedes-Benzes? – CNN Style
With the Navy’s recent revelation that its pilots have been regularly spotting unidentified flying objects, some of those in the UFO community who were once thought crazy now have some concrete evidence to point to. And the regular spate of mainstream news stories about UFO sightings has inspired a new generation of UFO hunters and researchers.
I’m regularly asked why I, a 32-year-old man with a good job and a young family spent six years researching the UFO subculture. Simply put, I find the culture and the people fascinating.
Ufology has always been a counter-cultural movement. Faced with decades of ridicule, the UFO community has always been the underdog. I like underdogs. But unidentified flying objects have made a cultural comeback, and the last two years have seen a huge growth in popular media coverage of this curious phenomenon and the people who explore it. It seems that UFOs have become all the rage, and this popular resurgence is inspiring a young new breed of UFO researchers and hunters.
Source: The Navy Says UFOs Are Real. UFO Hunters Are Thrilled – VICE
As trade tensions rise between the U.S. and China, rare earth minerals are once again in the political spotlight. Today Chinese mines and processing facilities provide most of the world’s supply, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping has hinted about using this as political leverage in trade negotiations with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration. But in the long run, many experts say the global market involving these materials would likely survive even if China completely stopped exporting them.
Source: Don’t Panic about Rare Earth Elements – Scientific American