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Foreign Affairs • Foreign Policy • International Relations

1. HBO Max Reaches a Launch Day Deal With Comcast00:45[−]

Stephen Silver

Economics, Americas

They've done it.

In the days before its launch, AT&T and WarnerMedias HBO Max reached distribution deals with most major platforms, with the exception of three: Amazon, Roku and Comcast. While most reports seemed to indicate that a deal to put the new service on Amazon Fire devices would not be in place, Roku was reportedly in talks right down to the wire with AT&T.

No such deal was announced in time for HBO Maxs launch on Wednesday, but the company did reach an agreement Wednesday, with Comcast.

Comcast and WarnerMedia today announced a deal to bring HBO Max to Xfinity X1 and Flex customers, HBO Max said in a press release Wednesday afternoon.

As part of the deal, existing Xfinity HBO customers will have access to HBO Max beginning today at no additional cost via the HBO Max app and website while the companies work to quickly bring the HBO Max app to the award-winning Xfinity X1 platform along with the recently launched Xfinity Flex, a 4K streaming device that is included with Xfinity Internet. Additionally, new customers will be able to purchase HBO Max directly through Xfinity in the coming days.

The deal is similar to those AT&T announced last week with several cable and other pay-TV companies, such as Verizon, Cox and Altice, while also agreeing to make HBO Max available to Sony PlayStation users.

Even though AT&T and Comcast are competitors on various fronts, the deal was actually HBO Maxs second agreement with Comcast of the day. The service had not been expected to include the movies from the Harry Potter movie series at launch, but the movies were there when HBO Max came online. This was due to a licensing agreement with Comcast-owned Universal, which retains the rights to show the Harry Potter films on its cable channels. Its not clear if the two deals were reached at the same time or not, but the Harry Potter films is not mentioned in the Wednesday afternoon press release.

As for Roku and Amazon Fire users still unable to get HBO Max, the service remains available on mobile devices, and those who have a Chromecast or other casting technologies can get the programming to their TVs by that means.

In the meantime, various unhappy Roku customers have complained on Twitter about the lack of availability of HBO Max.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters

2. The Making of Frozen, Percy Jackson, and Im Just a Bill: The Best of Whats Coming to Disney+ in June00:30[−]

Stephen Silver

Technology, Americas

That's a lot of good content.

Disney+ has been a juggernaut since its launch last November, especially picking up steam due to most people being home for the last several months.

The June lineup of new offerings on Disney+ for the month of June is a bit light, but there are some intriguing titles, including a movie that was originally set for theatrical release, a 1990s animated movie, and a beloved old TV cartoon. And as soon as June as over, the service is getting the big one, Hamilton, on July 3.

- Artemis Fowl (June 12.) This adaptation of the popular fantasy novel by Eoin Colfer was originally scheduled to come out in theaters this year, but once the lockdowns went into effect, Disney moved it to Disney+. Artemis Fowl is directed by Kenneth Branagh, and stars Ferdia Shaw as Artemis Fowl II, a young criminal genius seeking to rescue his father (Colin Farrell.) The film also stars Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Hong Chau and Lara McDonnell.

- Walt & El Grupo (June 12.) It wouldnt be Disney+ without a little Disney self-mythologizing, so Disney+ will debut Walt and El Grupo, Theodore Thomas 2008 documentary about Walt Disneys trip to Latin America in 1941, which later inspired the early Disney animated films Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.

- Schoolhouse Rock! (June 19.) The popular animated educational series, which originally ran form 1973 to 1984, gave us Im Just a Bill and other memorable songs. Its first season arrives on Disney+ in June, allowing its discover for a new generation.

- Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (June 26.) Disney recently announced a new TV series is in development for Disney+ based on the popular novel series about a group of kids whose parents are actual gods. Now, the first movie adaptation from 2010 hits Disney+ first.

- Tarzan (June 26.) Disney+ already has most of the Disney animated movie canon, but one thing missing at launch was Tarzan. The 1999 film features Tarzan, Jane and music by Phil Collins. That film and its direct-to-video sequel, Tarzan 2, are on Netflix currently, but will move to Disney+ in late June.

- Into the Unknown: Making Frozen II (June 26.) Disney famously put Frozen II on Disney+ months earlier than planned, due to the lockdowns, and now comes a six-part making-of documentary, which was first announced last year at a Disney investors day. All six episodes will arrive on Disney+ on the same day.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters

3. Senate China Hawks Want to Crack Down On Student Visas00:27[−]

Matthew Petti

Security, Asia


These newly proposed bills reflect long-standing concerns about competition with China.

Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) have proposed a bill to ban Chinese nationals from receiving U.S. student visas for science, technology, engineering and mathematics research.

The Trump administration has been cracking down on researchers with links to China as U.S. authorities accuse China of industrial espionage. Cotton and Blackburns bill, introduced on Wednesday, would ban Chinese researchers in certain fields from the United States altogether.

Beijing exploits student and research visas to steal science, technology, engineering and manufacturing secrets from U.S. academic and research institutions, Blackburn said in a statement. Weve fed Chinas innovation drought with American ingenuity and taxpayer dollars for too long.

Cotton has previously railed against the presence of Chinese students in American science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. He told Fox News last month that Chinese students should only be allowed to come here and study Shakespeare and the Federalist Papers.

Thats what they need to learn from America, Cotton said. They dont need to learn quantum computing and artificial intelligence from America.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) had proposed his own bill last week to freeze student visas to Chinese nationals until federal agencies can conduct a thorough national security evaluation and clearance of Chinese students already in the United States.

Cotton and Blackburns bill ups the ante, banning these visas indefinitely for STEM students.

It would also expand the definition of espionage to include Chinas alleged technology theft.

The proposed bill does not apply to students from Hong Kong and Taiwan, both of which are treated separately from mainland China under U.S. law, as well as members of religious or ethnic groups systematically oppressed by Chinas ruling Communist Party.

The crackdown on technology transfer reflects long-standing Republican concerns about competition with China.

For decades now, China has bent, and abused, and broken the rules of the international economic system to its own benefit, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said in a Senate floor speech last week. They have stolen our intellectual property and forced our companies to transfer sensitive trade secrets and technology.

Lawmakers on the other side of the aisle are also concerned with industrial espionage but tend to see foreign students as an asset rather than a liability to the United States.

Four leading Democrats proposed their own bill on Wednesday to create a national Technology Directorate, which would invest $100 billion in advanced research and development over the next five years.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), one of the lawmakers who introduced the bill, had written an essay on technological competition in May 2019, arguing that Americas tradition of welcoming immigrants gives us an advantage over Chinese insularity.

Taxpayers spend approximately 70 billion dollars in higher education each year. Why turn away brilliant minds who benefit from this investment and want to build their companies in America? Khanna wrote. We should staple green cards to our international STEM graduates diplomas.

Matthew Petti is a national security reporter at the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter: @matthew_petti.

Image: Reuters

4. Trump Urges House Republicans to Reject Surveillance Law Update00:00[−]

Chuck Ross

Politics, Americas

U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One as he departs Washington for travel to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, U.S., May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The President is unhappy with the way it was used against his campaign in 2016.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged House Republicans to vote against reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the surveillance tool that the FBI used to wiretap former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

I hope all Republican House Members vote NO on FISA until such time as our Country is able to determine how and why the greatest political, criminal, and subversive scandal in USA history took place! Trump wrote on Twitter.

Trumps advice could potentially throw a kink in plans to reauthorize the surveillance law.

The House passed FISA reauthorization on March 11 on a bipartisan vote 278 to 136 with 126 Republicans supporting the measure. Attorney General William Barr voiced support for the House version, and urged its passage in the Senate.

The Senate passed its own version of a reauthorization bill on May 14. Because of differences in language in the bills, the House will vote on the Senates measure sometime this week before it can be sent to Trumps desk.

Trumps tweet comes after a series of revelations about the FBIs investigation of the Trump campaign, which involved surveillance both through FISA and the use of confidential sources.

The FBI during the Obama administration also reportedly relied on the FISA process to snoop on a phone call in late-December 2016 between then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The Justice Departments inspector general has uncovered a pattern of errors in FBI applications for FISA orders, both against Page and other targets of surveillance.

An IG report on the FBIs investigation of the Trump campaign said the FBI made 17 significant errors and omissions in applications for FISA orders on Page.

FBI agents failed to disclose exculpatory information that undermined the theory that Page was working as an agent of Russia. They also failed to tell the FISA Court about problems with the Steele dossier, which the FBI cited extensively to support the claim of probable cause that Page was a spy.

The Justice Department deemed two of the four FISA orders against Page to be invalid because of the FBI errors.

The FBIs errors were not limited to the Page investigation, according to the IG. An audit of 29 FISA applications found errors in all of them, the IG said in a report released March 31.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact

Image: Reuters.

5. America Must Exercise Restraint on Hong Kong, 27 [−]

Ted Galen Carpenter

Security, Asia

Americans wanting to express solidarity with Hong Kong also must face the reality that there is not much of substance the United States can do without incurring totally unacceptable risks. Washington is not going to deploy military forces off of Hong Kong or make similar reckless gestures. Imposing economic sanctions is likely to hurt Hong Kong as much or more than such measures injure the PRC elites.

Beijings decision to bypass Hong Kongs legislature and impose a national security law on the supposedly self-ruled territory has very serious implications. The change effectively negates Hong Kongs autonomous status, which was supposed to last until 204750 years after Britains transfer of the territory to the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). Beijings move also is the latest manifestation of Chinas ongoing regression into authoritarianism under President Xi Jinping.

PRC officials offer assurances that the security law is merely intended to deal with disruptive, pro-democracy demonstrations that have wracked Hong Kong since the spring of 2019. Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that the law was aimed only at a very narrow category of acts that seriously jeopardize national security, such as treason, secession, sedition or subversion. It would, he emphasized, have no impact on Hong Kongs high degree of autonomy, the rights, and freedoms of Hong Kong residents, or the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in Hong Kong. Of course, PRC officials would decide what constitutes treason, secession, sedition, subversion, or legitimate rights. The reality is that both political autonomy and freedom of expression in Hong Kong would be dead under the new security law.

U.S. leaders reacted quickly and harshly to Beijings plans. Within hours, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the proposal to unilaterally and arbitrarily impose national security legislation on Hong Kong. He added that the decision to bypass Hong Kongs well-established legislative processes and ignore the will of the people of Hong Kong would be a death knell for the high degree of autonomy Beijing promised for Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a UN-filed agreement. American hostility was bipartisan in nature. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden contended that the United States should lead the world in condemning China for undermining Hong Kongs autonomy and freedoms.

In his initial comments, Pompeo strongly hinted that U.S. economic sanctions might be forthcoming, and it did not take him long to implement that implied threat. On May 27, Pompeo issued a report to Congress (required under the 2019 Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act) declaring that Hong Kong no longer was autonomous. He stated that the national security law was only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kongs autonomy and freedoms. The Trump administrations official view was that the legislation means Hong Kong no longer merits special treatment on trade and other matters.

If Hong Kong is treated as merely part of the PRC, the decision would have a dramatic impact on Hong Kongs commerce with the United Statesespecially since Washington and Beijing are in the midst of an acrimonious trade war. But the Trump administrations initial move may not be the extent of economic retaliation against Beijing. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) are pushing bipartisan legislation that would impose sanctions targeting Chinas banking sectorand indirectly targeting the PRCs political and economic elite. Van Hollen stated bluntly that the measure was designed to hit the Chinese Communist Party and the individuals involved in these decisions where it hurts.

The desire of U.S. leaders and the American public to support the people of Hong Kong and punish the PRC is entirely understandable. Beijings troubling conduct on an array of other issues reinforces such a desire. The bilateral relationship with China already has deteriorated to an alarming extent because of animosity over several issues. Longstanding trade disputes have grown noticeably worse during the Trump years. U.S. complaints about Beijings duplicity and attempted blame-shifting regarding the coronavirus outbreak have soared, and the PRCs defiant reaction has not helped matters. The Xi regimes bullying of Hong Kong may be the final factor pushing the United States into a full-blown cold war with China. Public opinion surveys suggest that Americans are willing to support a strong, confrontational stance toward China on policies across the board.

Nevertheless, it is important for Trump administration officials and congressional leaders to proceed cautiously. The relationship with China is important for a multitude of reasons. A cold war would have highly negative consequences for the already stressed global economy. Worse, the breakdown of ties would increase the danger of armed conflict regarding several issues, most notably the South China Sea and Taiwan. Such an outcome would be disastrous for both countries and world peace.

Americans wanting to express solidarity with Hong Kong also must face the reality that there is not much of substance the United States can do without incurring totally unacceptable risks. Washington is not going to deploy military forces off of Hong Kong or make similar reckless gestures. Imposing economic sanctions is likely to hurt Hong Kong as much or more than such measures injure the PRC elites. Above all, U.S. rhetoric must not give the people of Hong Kong false expectations that Washington can and will prevent Beijing from imposing direct rule and squashing the territorys desire for autonomy and democracy. Fostering such hopes could encourage a resistance that leads to a Tiananmen Square-style calamity.

Exercising the necessary restraint will be hard. One important lesson U.S. officials and the American people need to take away from this episode is that at least as long as Xi Jinping remains in power, Beijings words, promises, and even official commitments cannot be trusted. American policymakers must remember that point whenever dealing with the PRC on any issue.

Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in security studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of 12 books and more than 850 articles on international affairs.

6. Boeing Unhappy After Elon Musk Beats Company to Manned Spaceflight Goal, 27 [−]

Chris White

Technology, Americas

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken wave as they head to Pad39A before the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

"People are annoyed by Elon how does this guy who smokes pot beat us?"

Tech billionaire Elon Musk is preparing to blast American astronauts into orbit Wednesday as his rocket company gains an edge over aerospace behemoth Boeing in the quest to become the first to end the governments decades-long monopolization on space travel.

SpaceX, a relative youngster in the aerospace industry, will launch a crew of two men to the International Space Station from NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida, according to Reuters. The launch is coming after years of sniping back and forth between Boeing executives and SpaceX hierarchy, including Musk, who believed the company is too complacent to pull off the feat.

If SpaceXs move is successful, then it will effectively usher in a new era in which the government cedes space travel to private companies.

SpaceX was first considered a long shot to score contracts for the Commercial Crew Program. Boeing received more than 60% of the $6.8 billion in contracts NASA awarded in 2014, pulling in $4.2 billion to SpaceXs $2.6 billion, The Washington Post reported in a story published May 21.

One industry veteran told me, You know their rockets are put together with rubber bands and sealing wax, Lori Garver, a former deputy NASA administrator who has long advocated for the program to outsource travel to the private sector, told WaPo. Its not real. It wont fly.

Boeing dismisses any suggestions that there is animosity between the two companies. Company spokesman Bradley Akubuiro directed the Daily Caller News Foundation to a LinkedIn statement from Leanne Caret, president & CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security in which she wished SpaceX and the astronauts good luck as they seek to enter Earths orbit.

Despite the public face, Boeing executives cant accept SpaceX is flying people first, WaPo reported, citing an industry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

People are annoyed by Elon how does this guy who smokes pot beat us? the official reportedly said. We have a lot of humble pie to eat here.

The person was referring to a moment when Musk smoked a marijuana cigarette with comedian Joe Rogan in 2018 while attempting to explain why he sometimes gets caught in Twitter battles with his critics. He discussed everything from his social media behavior to concerns about artificial intelligence on The Joe Rogan Experience, a podcast that livestreams on YouTube.

SpaceXs launch, if successful, will help Trump satisfy a goal: resuscitating the United States space program without dipping into government coffers. Days of rain in Florida could stymie Musks efforts, CNN reported Tuesday, citing data from the National Weather Service.

Rich guys, they love rocket ships, Trump said during a 2018 press conference flanked by a model of NASAs Space Launch System. Having wealthy tycoons like Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos invest in space travel is better than us paying for them, the president added. Bezos owns Blue Origin, a space exploration company.

I noticed the prices of the last one, they say it cost $80 million. If the government did it, the same thing would have cost probably 40 or 50 times that amount of money, Trump said during the conference.

The DCNF reached out to Musk through his electric vehicle company, Tesla, but the company has not responded to a request for comment.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact

Image: Reuters.

7. Russia's Tu-22M3M Supersonic Bomber: Now Hypersonic?, 27 [−]

Peter Suciu

Security, Eurasia


A second prototype of the Russian Air Force's Tu-22M3M supersonic bomber underwent trials at hypersonic speeds during a fourth test flight, Russian state media reported. This second prototype successfully performed its maiden flight in March of this year, and the aim of that flight was to assess the takeoff and landing characteristics, as well as to test the information control system.

A second prototype of the Russian Air Force's Tu-22M3M supersonic bomber underwent trials at hypersonic speeds during a fourth test flight, Russian state media reported. This second prototype successfully performed its maiden flight in March of this year, and the aim of that flight was to assess the takeoff and landing characteristics, as well as to test the information control system.

"Five flights have already been performed," a defense industry source told TASS. "The hypersound speed was achieved during the fourth flight. The aircraft demonstrated good stability and controllability. Modified systems and equipment are performing normally during the trials."

The Tu-22M3M is a modernized version of the Tu-22M3 long-range supersonic missile-carrying bomber with the variable-sweep wing. It boasts 80 percent new avionics over the original Tu-22M. In addition, the upgrade provides new electronic equipment including navigation, communication, sights, engine controls, fuel mechanisms and electronic warfare. These upgrades should increase navigation precision, provide simplified maintenance and preflight preparation.

The first upgraded prototype performed its debut flight in late December 2018. That aircraft carried no armament and in a flight lasting thirty-seven minutes it proceeded at an altitude of fifteen hundred meters. As of October of last year, the first prototype had completed eighteen successful test flights.

Preliminary trials are now scheduled for completion in 2020. The Russian Air Force is scheduled to start taking deliveries of the upgraded bombers in 2021, while dozens of the older Tu-22M3 airframes will be retrofitted with the M3M upgrade package in the coming years.

During the upgrades, the bombers will get not only the new avionics but also the capability to employ new missiles including the X-32 (Kh-32), a supersonic air-launched cruise missile that has a range of 600 to 1,000km. While officially classified as anti-ship missiles, these were developed to be effective against critical infrastructure targets including bridges and power plants. The X-32, which allows a bomber to occupy a unique position between strategic and operational-tactical roles, has been the primary missile on the Tu-22M3 bombers since 2016.

The Tu-22M3M will also reportedly be able to carry Russia's new hypersonic missile, which is not part of the line of X-32 missiles.

The Tu-22M3M, along with its M3 predecessor and MiG-31k, is among just a handful of currently operational Russian aircraft that is confirmed to be compatible with the nuclear-capable, Mach 10 speed Kh-47 "Kinzhal" missile that Russian President Vladmir Putin unveiled during his 2018 address to the federal assembly.

The National Interest has previously reported that the Tu-22M3M is not only a valuable addition to the air component of Russia's nuclear tried but could be seen as the spearhead of a new power projection strategy to counter American carrier strike groups (CSG) that operate near Russia's sphere of influence.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Image: Reuters

8. Here's the Science Behind the SpaceX Astronaut Launch, 27 [−]

Gareth Dorrian, Ian Whittaker


Once launched from Kennedy Space Centre, the spacecraft will travel out over the Atlantic, turning to travel in a direction that matches the ISS orbit.

Two NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, will make history by travelling to the International Space Station in a privately funded spacecraft, SpaceXs Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule. It will also be the first time astronauts have launched from US soil in nine years.

The astronauts will take off lying on their backs in the seats, and facing in the direction of travel to reduce the stress of high acceleration on their bodies. Once launched from Kennedy Space Centre, the spacecraft will travel out over the Atlantic, turning to travel in a direction that matches the ISS orbit.

With the first rocket section separating at just over two minutes, the main dragon capsule is then likely to separate from the second stage burn roughly an hour later and continue on its journey. All being well, the Dragon spacecraft will rendezvous with the ISS at 15:40 (GMT) on May 28.

Space mission launches and landings are the most critical parts. However, Space X has conducted many tests, including 27 drops of the parachute landing system. It has also managed an emergency separation of the Dragon capsule from the rocket. In the event of a failed rocket launch, eight engines would lift the capsule containing the astronauts up into the air and away from the rocket, with parachutes eventually helping it to land. The Falcon 9 rocket has made 83 successful launches.

Docking and return

The space station has an orbital velocity of 7.7km per second. The Earths rotation carries launch sites under a straight flight path of the ISS, with each instance providing a launch window.

To intercept the ISS, the capsule must match the stations speed, altitude and inclination, and it must do it at the correct time such that the two spacecraft find themselves in close proximity to each other. The difference in velocity between the ISS and the Dragon capsule must then be near to zero at the point where the orbits of the two spacecraft intersect.

Once these conditions are met, the Dragon capsule must manoeuvre to the ISS docking port, using a series of small control thrusters arranged around the spacecraft. This is due to be done automatically by a computer, however the astronauts can control this manoeuvre manually if needed.

As you can see in the figure below, manoeuvring involves translation control as indicated by green arrows moving left/right, up/down, forward/back. The yellow arrows show attitude control rolling clockwise/anti-clockwise, pitching up/down, and yawing left/right.

This is complicated by Newtons first law of motion that any object at rest or in motion will continue to be so unless acted upon by an external force. That means any manoeuvre, such as a roll to the right, will continue indefinitely in the absence of air resistance to provide an external force until it is counteracted by firing thrusters in the opposite direction.

So now that you have a grasp of orbital manoeuvring, why not have a go yourself? This simulator, provided by Space X, allows you to try and pilot the Dragon capsule to the ISS docking port.

The astronauts will return to Earth when a new set are ready to take their place, or at NASAs discretion. NASA are already planning the first fully operational flight of crew Dragon, with four astronauts, although a launch date for that has not yet been announced and will undoubtedly depend on the outcome of this demonstration flight.

New era for spaceflight

The launch puts SpaceX firmly ahead of the other commercial ventures looking at providing crewed space launches. This includes both Boeings Starliner, which first launched last year but was uncrewed, and Sierra Nevadas Dream Chaser which is planned to be tested with cargo during a trip to the ISS next year.

The ability of the commercial sector to send astronauts to the ISS is an important step toward further human exploration, including establishing a human presence at the Moon, and ultimately, Mars.

With companies competing, however, an open question remains whether safety could at some point be compromised to gain a commercial edge. There is no suggestion this has happened so far, but any crewed mission which failed due to a fault stemming from economic concerns would have serious legal ramifications.

In a similar way to modern aircraft legislation, a set of space safety standards and regulations will need to be put in place sooner rather than later. For commercial lunar and beyond missions we also have to ensure that any spacecraft does not contaminate the location they are visiting with germs from Earth.

With more nations and companies developing plans for lunar missions, there are obvious advantages in international cooperation and finding cost efficient launch methods. This is not least because its not as dependent on the whim of elected governments for direction, which can change completely from one administration to the next.

So for us scientists looking to expand our knowledge of space, it is a very exciting moment.

Gareth Dorrian is a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in Space Science at the University of Birmingham. Ian Whittaker is a Lecturer in Physics at Nottingham Trent University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

9. The Real and Imagined Problemsofthe Middle Eastern Arms Trade, 27 [−]

Paul R. Pillar

Security, Middle East


The methods and motivations behind the U.S. arms sales in the Middle East are not the stuff of sound regional policy.

One of the latest steps in the Trump administrations never-ending pressure on Iran in its attempt to extend a United Nations-imposed embargo prohibiting the export to, or import from, Iran of conventional arms. At a rhetorical level, the administrations pitch is easy to makeno American politician ever lost votes by arguing against arms going to Iran. But the administration says nothing about the background and context of the embargo, which it would if it really were concerned about arms and insecurity in the Middle East.

The embargo in question never was intended to address the problem of destabilizing conventional arms transfers. Instead, it was one more sanction, along with other economic sanctions, that were placed on Iran as inducements for Tehran to negotiate limitations on its nuclear program that would preclude the possible development of an Iranian nuclear weapon. Iran did so negotiate, leading to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which closed all possible paths to an Iranian nuke and entered into force in 2015.

It would have been logical for the arms embargo, along with the other sanctions having the same purpose, to be lifted once Iran fully complied with its obligations under the JCPOA. But the United States argued for a delay, and Iran, as one of the concessions it made during the negotiation, agreed to a five-year continuation. That five-year period ends in October.

Iran has exceeded some of the nuclear limits in the JCPOA during the past year but has done so only as a delayed, measured, and reversible response to the Trump administrations earlier wholesale violations of the agreement, with Iran intending the move as counterpressure to induce a return to full compliance with the JCPOA. Indefinite extension of the arms embargo would be one more blow against the JCPOA, among the many other efforts by the Trump administration to destroy the agreement altogether. Destruction would mean an end to the JCPOAs restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program, a possible nuclear arms race in the Persian Gulf region, and the elevation of nuclear, not conventional, arms as the prime security worry in the Middle East.

The conventional arms trade is indeed a destabilizing factor in the Middle East, but a multilateral approach that does more than pressure one regional state would be needed to address that problem effectively. Moreover, if any state were to be targeted, targeting Iran would hardly dent the problem.

According to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ( SIPRI), arms exports to the Middle East have increased 87 percent over the past five years and now represent more than a third of the global arms trade. So there is a region-wide problem worth addressing.

It is clear who stands out on the recipient end of that problem. Saudi Arabia imported the most arms of any country in the world during 20142018, the period examined in the most recent SIPRI report. Saudi Arabias purchases of arms during that time increased 192 percent over the previous five years.

It also is clear who stands out on the seller end. The United States is the worlds most prolific seller of armaments. More than half of U.S. arms exports in 20142018 went to the Middle East. Saudi Arabia received 22 percent of worldwide U.S. military exports.

Both ends of this pattern are continuing. Data compiled by the Forum on the Arms Trade in late 2019 showed U.S. arms sales that year more than doubling from 2018. Over the next five years, Saudi Arabia is scheduled to receive ninety-eight more combat aircraft, eighty-three tanks, and defensive missile systems from the United States. The Trump administration and the Saudi regime have signed letters of intent that would see $350 billion in U.S. arms going to the Saudis over the next ten years.

These deals widen ever further the military gap between the Gulf Arab states and an Iran with much inferior equipment. Lifting the arms embargo currently in question would do little to change that imbalance. The Islamic Republicquite unlike the previous regime of the Shah of Iranhas never been a big spender in the international arms market. The continuation of other economic sanctions, the decrease in oil revenue, and Irans overall financial stringency make any change in that pattern unlikely. Even in 2017, before the Trump administration re-imposed sanctions that had been eased under the JCPOA, the International Institute for Strategic Studies assessed that high cost would continue to limit any Iranian purchases of advanced weapons systems.

Arms transfers as a problem in regional destabilization is to be measured not just in the number of transfers but also the uses to which the arms are put. Arms from the United States have been used in the harsh crackdowns that have abused human rights in Egypt. They have been used in the also abusiveand periodically very deadlyIsraeli occupation of, and assaults on, Palestinian territories. Most obviously in recent years, U.S. arms provided to Saudi Arabia have helped to turn Yemen into what is commonly described as the worst current manmade humanitarian disaster. The Saudi aerial assault on Yemen has been the biggest factor in making that disaster. According to the Yemen Data Project, the bombing campaign has killed or injured more than seventeen thousand civilians as of March 2019.

The U.S. arms provided to the Gulf Arabs have been destabilizing in other ways. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have given U.S.-made weapons to militias to buy influence in Yemen. Some of the arms have gone to radical Salafists, including ones with ties to Al Qaeda. Some have even made it into the hands of the Houthi rebels whom the Saudi-led war is supposed to be against.

The methods and motivations behind the U.S. arms sales involved are not the stuff of sound regional policy. An in-depth New York Times article run under the headline Why Bombs Made in America Have Been Killing Civilians in Yemen showed that the sales have been motivated far more by generating business for Raytheon and other defense contractors than by any thought of bringing security to that part of the Middle East.

This part of the arms trade has pitted the Trump administration against Congress. Last year Trump vetoed a bipartisan resolution thatfollowing what many other countries had already donewould have ended U.S. support for the Saudi war in Yemen. The administration also circumvented Congress and swept aside normal approval procedures for an $8 billion arms deal with the Saudis by declaring it an emergency step. This irregularity reportedly was one of the subjects of inquiry by the State Departments inspector generalalong with investigations into Mike Pompeos use of taxpayer funds for private purposesbefore Pompeo got Trump to fire the IG.

Yes, there are major problems with aspects of the arms trade in the Middle East, but problems will not be solved by subjugating everything to the obsession with Iran.

Paul Pillar retired in 2005 from a twenty-eight-year career in the U.S. intelligence community, in which his last position was National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia. Earlier he served in a variety of analytical and managerial positions, including as chief of analytic units at the CIA covering portions of the Near East, the Persian Gulf, and South Asia. Professor Pillar also served in the National Intelligence Council as one of the original members of its Analytic Group. He is also a Contributing Editor for this publication.

Image: Reuters

10. OLED HDTV & Smartphone Sales: Disaster or Booming?, 27 [−]

Stephen Silver


Worldwide revenues for OLED technology jumped 24 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2020 to $6.7 billion, even as they slid 18 percent quarter over quarter, due to the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the supply chain. At the same time, OLED gained a slightly larger share of both the TV and smartphone markets.

Worldwide revenues for OLED technology jumped 24 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2020 to $6.7 billion, even as they slid 18 percent quarter over quarter, due to the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the supply chain. At the same time, OLED gained a slightly larger share of both the TV and smartphone markets.

That's according to the Q220 Quarterly OLED Shipment Report, released Wednesday by Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC), the outfit of analyst Ross Young.

As of last quarter, 81.1 percent of smartphones have OLED panels, compared to 80.4 percent in the last quarter of 2019, while 9.4 percent of the TV market uses OLED, compared to 9.2 percent in the previous quarter.

As for manufacturers, Samsung Display and BOE both gained share in the first quarter, while LG Display lost some. Samsung Display now accounts for 71.5 percent of the OLED sector's revenue, with LG Display holding 16.5 percent and BOE rising to 6 percent.

The research also found that Samsung purchased the most OLED panels in the quarter, spending $2.8 billion for a 41 percent share, while Apple spent $1.3 billion for a 20 percent share.

On smartphones, DSCC found that OLED smartphone shipments rose 9 percent year over year, while they fell 20 percent quarter over quarter. Flexible OLED smartphone units jumped to nearly half of all sold, jumped from 39 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of this year. The flexible category now comprises 75 percent of OLED TV revenue.

Young is the same analyst who, last week, released a widely reported prediction of Apple's iPhone release plan this year. Young predicted that Apple will use a combination of Samsung, LG Display, and BOE for the panels on this year's models, with the latter two companies, mostly relied upon for the "iPhone 12 Max."

As for its forecast for the rest of the year, DSCC "expects OLED revenues to rise 18% in 2020 to $33B with smartphones maintaining an 81% share on 18% revenue growth to $26.6B. OLED smartphone shipments will rise 6% in 2020 with flexible displays growing their share from 35% in 2019 to 47% in 2020.

"Flexible displays will lose share to rigid in Q220 on traditional product launch seasonality, as they did in 2018 and 2019, and regain share in Q320 and Q420. OLED TVs will lose ground on a revenue basis in 2020, falling from a 9.0% share in 2019 to an 8.7% share in 2020 despite 19% unit growth to 4.0M units and 14% revenue growth as challenges in the TV market from COVID-19 and the delayed ramp cause it to grow slower than other applications."

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

11. History Shows Why Naval Mines Are No Joke, 27 [−]

Kris Osborn

Security, Americas

They are a real threat to even the most advanced navies.

As the Navy accelerates its development of offensive and defensive mine-warfare technology, service weapons developers often look to history for key lessons regarding the tactical and military implications they present. Although technology has long since progressed since even the days of the Gulf War in the early 90s, both shallow and deep water mines continue to present a serious problem for U.S. Navy ships on patroljust as they have done throughout the years. Large numbers of blue or deep water mines are an increasing threat, according to Navy weapons developers who are refining new mine-warfare strategies.

The significance of the mine threat is well articulated in a 2011 Naval War College Review article called Taking Mines SeriouslyMine Warfare in Chinas Near Seas. Author Scott Truver says mines are weapons that wait. They are the quintessential naval asymmetric threat. Since the end of WWII, mines have seriously damaged or sunk almost four times more Navy ships than all other means of attack combined.

Industry and Navy countermine technology developers are all too aware of the toll mine warfare has taken on U.S. forces throughout history. For instance, an interesting 2015 essay from Naval History and Heritage Command, called Mine Warfare, recalls a catastrophic mine attack on U.S. forces during the Korean War in the 1950s. The essay specifies an instance in 1950 during the well-known Battle of Inchon amphibious assault:

On September 26, off North Korea, U.S. destroyer Brush struck an enemy mine that killed 13 sailors, wounded 34 more, and put the ship out of action. Two days later YMS 509 of the ROKN sustained damage from a floater on the south coast. The next day Mansfield, spared at Inchon, hit a mine in North Korean waters that sent her to a shipyard in Japan. Then, in one day, October 1, Communist mines destroyed the wooden-hulled U.S. minesweeper Magpie, killing or injuring her entire crew of 33 men, and badly damaged ROKN YMS 504..(Mine Warfare, Naval History and Heritage Command, Edward J. Marolda, 2015).

Decades beyond WWII, mines have claimed U.S. lives and introduced significant levels of combat danger and peril. The Navys Frigate, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, was devastated by Iranian-laid mines in 1988 in the Arabian Gulf. An essay on the incident written by Navy History and Heritage Command, explains how USS Samuel B. Roberts crew members battled dangerous, raging fires while the ship was slowly but inexorably sinking.

Several years later during the Gulf War, the Navys helicopter carrying USS Tripoli was disabled by a mine attack, which exploded at 25-foot hole in the forward starboard section of the ship, according to a 1991 UPI news report. On the same day, a guided missile cruiser, the USS Princeton, was also hit by a mine; the ships midsection was cracked and the ship had to cut power by 50-percent due to damage to a propeller.

Mines are weapons that can wait.

Kris Osborn is the new Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the ArmyAcquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.

12. Can Israel Stay Democratic After Annexation?, 27 [−]

Joseph Cirincione, Zack Brown

Security, Middle East

The future of a democratic Israel could be decided in the next few months as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rushes to annex large portions of the occupied West Bank. President Donald Trumps backing of the plan is another indicator of why we need a dramatically new national security strategy, according to Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, an organization advancing pro-peace, pro-Israel policies.

The future of a democratic Israel could be decided in the next few months as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rushes to annex large portions of the occupied West Bank. President Donald Trumps backing of the plan is another indicator of why we need a dramatically new national security strategy, according to Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, an organization advancing pro-peace, pro-Israel policies.

Annexation is the issue of the moment, Ben-Ami said in an interview on the national security podcast Press The Button this week. It's a very real policy and political debate [over] the next six weeks. The new coalition agreement is a specific green light for the Israeli government to annex after July 1 with U.S. approval. And it has that from the Trump administration.

This is more than the approval of another settlement. It goes to the heart of what the state of Israel is and ultimately will be. One vision is the belief that Israel needs to be as large and strong as possible, said Ben-Ami, That it's always going to be fighting with its neighbors and it has to win. It's a zero-sum conflict. In order to survive, you need to be as big a country and as strong a country as possible.

The other vision is a much more progressive and liberal vision, he continued, And that's that you need to find a way to get along with your neighbors and resolve these conflicts and end the bloodshed and the violence. The annexation is an effort by the right of center to win this argument and to say, No, we won this territory of the West Bank over the Green Line in 1967, and we're going to keep it forever. It's ours, and we want it.

Annexation means that Israel cannot be both Jewish and democratic, Ben-Ami believes. If the only political power in that area is the state of Israel, and the only people who have the rights in the state of Israel to vote and to actually control what goes on are the Jewish people, then you have a minority of Jewish people exercising political power over a majority of non-Jewish people. And that's where you're headed if you only have one state, says Ben-Ami.

The only way to avoid that is for the state of Israel is to have a division, a physical division in the land. So that there's a state for the Palestinian people living side by side in peace and security with the state that is the national homeland of the Jewish people.

But the clock is ticking. The right-wing in Israel believes they are in the midst of a historic window of opportunity; that this moment provides them with the chance to do what they've wanted to do for 50 plus years, which is to seize and take the land that they won in 1967, cautioned Ben-Ami. If Trump loses in November and Biden comes in in January, the United States will not give the green light and will take away that approval. So, you have a six-month window of opportunity for the right-wing to annex. Ron Dermer, who's the Israeli ambassador to Washington, is quoted as being in Senators offices and meeting with other Republican Party leadership, saying to them that Israel intends to annex come July 1.

The Trump administrations policies toward Israel showcase the dangers of a 20th century, might-makes-right approach. But its not just the destabilization of our allies that is in play. Since 2015, Trump has fed into right-wing frustrations with the internationally-backed Iran nuclear deal, castigating his predecessor for failing to squeeze every possible concession from Tehran. Two years ago, he abandoned the accord and unilaterally reimposed crippling sanctions.

The result? We are closer to Iran having a nuclear weapon than we were right before the [Iran deal] was implemented, said Ben-Ami. Iran has ramped its program right back up to where it was before, while the chances for re-engaging diplomacy are going to be slim given the lack of trust in the United States.

Resolving these and other challenges requires a sea-change in how the United States thinks about national security, beginning with which tools make us safer, and which do not. When we invest money in nuclear weapons, when we invest in the military-industrial complex, when we arm ourselves to the teeth - were actually making ourselves less secure.

The types of threats that are out there to humanity are much more global and non-national in nature, he continued, whether it is the current coronavirus pandemic and the public health challenges, whether it relates to climate change, whether it relates to the threats posed by extranational organizations that pursue a nuclear agenda - these threats transcend any one countrys ability to deal with them.

Ben-Ami, active in Democratic Party politics, wants the Democrats and progressives to create an overarching message and overarching platform that recognizes not all 21st-century threats are military in nature, something the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made clear. We need to increase the amount of resources we are putting into addressing the climate, into addressing public health, into ensuring the poorest in the world have an economic path forward.

He maintained, however, that this cant simply be a top-down effort directed by Capitol Hill alone. It will require the widespread buy-in of outside organizations. So many different groups - whether they work on climate or public health or food or nuclear weapons, or even on Middle East peace - we can all come together under a shared umbrella with a shared set of language about how do we reshape the national security policy of the United States in the 21st century, Ben-Ami said. We have to redefine what constitutes the defense budget, what constitutes a national security budget. And we need new language and we need a new messaging strategy.

Ben-Ami acknowledged this shift will not be easy, especially given the vast financial resources behind defense lobbyists and other champions of the status quo. But, he argued, times are changing, and with them the ways people are able to bring money into play in Washington.

The grassroots style of bringing together large numbers of people who individually dont have the power to stand up to the large lobbies and the large organizations, but together can raise significant amounts of money and wield significant power - thats become available in these last fifteen to twenty years.

Thats a game-changer, Ben-Ami concluded. It needs to be harnessed for this issue as well.

Joe Cirincione is the president and Zack Brown is a policy associate at Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation.

Image: Reuters.

13. China Didn't Give Us the Coronavirus. Europe Did., 27 [−]

Salvatore Babones


Genetic research has now revealed that most of America's coronavirus cases originated in New York, and most of New York's cases were imported from western Europe. While all eyes were focused on China in February, it turned out that the virus was already circulating widely in New York by the end of the month. Trump's travel bans really did work to protect the United States from what he called the "China virus." They did little to stop the spread from Europe.

America's coronavirus crisis has cost the government more than $3 trillion -- so far -- to say nothing of the costs to the rest of the economy. Was most or all of this avoidable? Inevitably, like everything else in American political life, the evaluation of America's coronavirus response has become thoroughly politicized. If you believe in states' rights to open up their economies, you must be a Republican. If you believe in states' rights to shut them down, you must be a Democrat. The golden mean is hard to find.

Yet the not-so-golden mean is where the country has landed. The United States has experienced roughly the same number of coronavirus cases and deaths as western Europe, a region of the world that closely matches the US in wealth, health, population, and disease-fighting capacity. Some European countries have done better: Germany and the tiny Scandinavian countries of Denmark and Norway stand out. Some larger countries, like France, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom have done much worse.

But look across the United States, and states like Oregon and Utah have fared just as well as the luckiest European countries. Texas has far out-performed Belgium and the Netherlands, which combined have roughly the same population. Giant states like California and Florida and have avoided the worst of the pandemic, with coronavirus caseloads and death tolls on a par with Europe's best-performing big country, Germany. Strip out the greater New York area, and American coronavirus statistics don't look so bad after all.

Yet as Democrats try to pin the coronavirus blame on Trump, and Trump tries to deflect the blame onto China, could it be that the real culprit is the European Union?

China is an easy target, both because it was the origin of the outbreak and because it is currently unpopular on both sides of the political aisle. China early on suppressed information about the seriousness of the Wuhan pneumonia, as it was initially known, arresting its own doctors for spreading the word about the emerging crisis. Despite imposing its own draconian internal travel restrictions, it aggressively lobbied the World Trade Organization to discourage other countries from imposing international travel restrictions on China. China probably didn't "lie" about its case counts in the rapidly-evolving early weeks of the crisis, but it did fail to adequately warn the world that there were probably a lot more cases than it was able to detect. China has a lot to answer for.

But all of these truths obscure the one crucial point: America's coronavirus epidemic didn't come from China. It came from Europe.

Genetic research has now revealed that most of America's coronavirus cases originated in New York, and most of New York's cases were imported from western Europe. While all eyes were focused on China in February, it turned out that the virus was already circulating widely in New York by the end of the month. Trump's travel bans really did work to protect the United States from what he called the "China virus." They did little to stop the spread from Europe.

America the dangerous?

Current politics notwithstanding, America and Americans have extraordinarily deep relationships with China. Thus it is no surprise that the United States was the first country outside East Asia to identify the coronavirus as a serious risk to public safety. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a travel advisory and implemented health screening of travelers from Wuhan and as early as January 17. That was elevated into a China-wide travel ban on January 31, just two weeks later. Even Americans returning from Wuhan were subjected to mandatory quarantine. Australia and New Zealand quickly followed suit with China travel bans of their own on February 1 and 2.

These island nations, with no non-stop, flights Europe, have ridden out the pandemic largely unscathed. In fact, most of Australia's coronavirus cases were imported from the United States. Australia's most prominent coronavirus victim was actually Tom Hanks, who apparently brought the virus with him when he flew to Australia to begin filming an upcoming Elvis Presley biopic. Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson were among Australia's first 100 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Another early cluster of Australian coronavirus cases was introduced from a Colorado ski lodge. Yet despite the high-profile cases, Australia did not slap travel restrictions on the United States until it banned all international travel on March 20. Had Australia been as wary of the United State as it was of China, it might have avoided a coronavirus epidemic altogether. New Zealand, with far fewer flights to the United States and a global travel ban that took effect on March 14, nearly did. For Australia and New Zealand, it wasn't their international rivals they had to fear. It was their friends.

It's the same story for America and Europe. Although Donald Trump raised the prospect of banning travel from Italy at a February 26 press conference, there was little appetite among the country's political class for additional travel restrictions at that time. There should have been. Had Trump's European travel ban come just two weeks sooner, the United States might have avoided a full-blown crisis.

When Trump finally did impose a Schengen-area travel ban (covering Italy and those European countries that had open borders with Italy under the European Union's freedom of movement regulations) on March 13, domestic and international critics were apoplectic. European Union leaders quickly condemned the ban. One unnamed EU official complained that "Trump is simply kicking a man when he's down." Within the United States, epidemiologists and politicos panned the decision, too.

One prominent exception was New York governor Andrew Cuomo. Having kept quiet at the time, he would later complain that Trump had not banned travel from Europe soon enough, before deciding that the March 12 ban on travel fro Europe was actually what "brought the virus to New York." Had he advocated tighter restrictions at New York's international airports in late February, a bipartisan consensus around Italy and Europe travel bans might have emerged soon enough to save the country from the worst of the pandemic. As things turned out, America's European travel ban was not too harsh. It was too little, too late.

Isolation versus quarantine

Over the last few months, we've all become public health experts. We debate R-ratios and flatten curves with abandon. Two terms, in particular, have become conflated in the public's mind: isolation and quarantine. But for public health experts, they're very different. And they have very different implications for how an epidemic affects the economy.

The CDC defines isolation as the separation of "sick people with a quarantinable communicable disease from people who are not sick." Quarantine, by contrast, "separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick." All the talk for the last four months has been about "self-isolation," but what that really meant was putting the entire country under quarantine. Everyone had potentially been exposed to the coronavirus, so everyone had to stay home. You never knew who might have the disease, so trust no one.

Isolation and quarantine could and should have been applied at the border. Isolation, for people testing positive for coronavirus. Quarantine, for everyone else. International travel bans would have been much less necessary, and much less costly if everyone arriving from coronavirus hotspots like Europe had been quarantined starting in mid-February. Instead, we quarantined the entire population, so that people could freely travel for just a few more weeks. That was the "One Big Mistake" that transformed America's coronavirus challenge into a crisis.

Had the United States been as cautious in dealing with Europe as it was with China, a full-blown closure of the American economy could have been avoided. Had the country simply shut down domestic aviation, much of the country could have remained open. It would have been much cheaper for the federal government to pay airlines not to fly than to compensate for the damage caused by flying. A few months of sacrifices by the travel industry could have averted a nationwide epidemic.

As things stand, the travel industry has been essentially shut down anyway; the decision to keep the planes flying in March only bought the industry a month, at an extraordinary cost to the rest of the economy. It's the same story for the cruise ship industry, which was allowed to operate through mid-March, despite the knowledge that the risks of incubating the coronavirus were very high. Throughout the crucial month of March, America's decisions were penny-wise but dollar-foolish.

As the dollars mount into the trillions, the clear lesson for the future is that travel restrictions work. Epidemiologists and other public health experts may not want to admit this, but it's true. To prove it, just look at the experiences of island countries like Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Taiwan, and compare them to islands like Ireland and the United Kingdom. The World Health Organization and its supporters continue to advise against travel bans. But when the next epidemic strikes, the rest of us will be ready to close the airports -- and let the rest of society go on with business as usual.

Salvatore Babones is an adjunct scholar at the Centre for Independent Studies and an associate professor at the University of Sydney.

14. Meet Imperial Germany's MP-18: The First Submachine Gun Ever Made, 27 [−]

Caleb Larson

History, Europe

By MKFI - Own work, Public Domain,

The MP 18 was issued to German Sturmtruppen, who were tasked with storming enemy trenches using overwhelming firepower, and aided by the newly developed submachine gun.

The MP 18 made its combat debut during the First World War. Standard-issue bolt action rifles of the era were in no way optimized for trench warfare. They were optimized for engaging an enemy at a couple thousand meters and had long barrels to accurately meet ranged targets. This made them a rather poor choice for narrow, cramped trench conditions, as did full-power rifle cartridges.

Compounding the overpower issue, European standard-issue rifles were bolt action and had a limited capacity, usually a paltry five or seven cartridges. The MP 18 on the other hand was perfect for the trenches.

It was issued primarily as a trench-clearing weapon optimized for close combat. To this end, the MP 18 had a very high magazine capacity for its time. Using the standard-issued 32-round drum, or rather snail, magazine, the MP 18 was markedly superior than any bolt-action rifle at ranges of 300 meters or less.

During the turbulent inter-war period, a number of German paramilitary groups used the MP 18 with great effect in urban battlefields, which shared a number of the same characteristics as the trenches of the previous decade, namely tight, confined fighting at short distances.


One of the few drawbacks of the MP 18 was its weight when loaded. The drum magazine it sported made the gun somewhat unbalanced and was difficult to fully load by hand without using a special purpose-made loading tool. For a submachine gun it was very heavya whopping 11 pounds, or about 5 kilograms with a full 32-round magazine inserted.

The drum itself was also somewhat problematica stay had to be fitted to the drum to prevent it from being inserted too far into the MP 18s receiver. The MP 18 also lacked a safety. If accidentally dropped or firmly hit, the gun could unintentionally discharge.


Initially a fully automatic-only weapon, the MP 18 could only fire single shots through careful and purposeful quick trigger pulls. Some post-World War I variants were given a fire selector for semi and fully automatic firing. Some were also given bolt lock-type safety that would prevent the MP 18 from accidentally discharging.

The Brits made a direct copy of the MP 18 after their harrowing and miraculous escape at the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940. Realizing that the British Army had no weapon that could fill the gap between machine gun and rifle, a crash program was instituted to copy the MP 18 directly. The resulting Lanchester submachine gun was in some ways superior to the original and had a solid, high-quality design.

A modified MP 18, the MP 28, saw limited service into World War II with some Wehrmacht soldiers.

Caleb Larson holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics, and culture.

Image: Wikimedia

15. Could a Massive Economic Turnaround Guarantee Trump's Reelection?, 27 [−]

Desmond Lachman


Mr. Trump could very well be lucky and have the stars realign for him come November 3. However, it is at least equally possible that he could have to go the polls with a very unfavorable economic and coronavirus backdrop.

Lenin famously observed that there are decades when nothing happens and then there are weeks when decades happen.

Since the coronavirus pandemic struck early this year, we now seem to be living in such tumultuous weeks. In this new world of rapid change, and with five months still left to go before the U.S. November elections, one would do well to display humility in trying to predict the economic and international political backdrop against which that election will take place.

Never before in living memory have we seen such rapid economic change both at home and abroad as we have seen in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. From the sunny days of a strong U.S. economy and the lowest unemployment rate in the past fifty years, we have swiftly moved to an economic collapse and to Great Depression-like unemployment levels. While it took more than three years from the onset of the Great Depression for U.S. unemployment to reach 25 percent in 1932, today unemployment has managed to rise to such levels in less than three months.

Never before too have we seen such a rapid withdrawal of capital from the emerging market economies as we are seeing today. Nor have we seen such a rapid and sharp decline in their currencies. This makes it difficult to exclude the possibility that later this year we could have a full-blown crisis in the emerging market economies, which now account for more than 40 percent of the worlds overall output.

If the coronavirus pandemic is likened to a war, never before has the U.S. suffered as many war fatalities as it is doing today. In the space of a short three months, the coronavirus pandemic has claimed 100,000 U.S. lives, which is more than the combined U.S. losses in the lengthy Korean and Vietnamese wars.

It is not only in the economic and health areas that matters seem now to be moving at warp speed. So too it seems to be occurring in the area of international relations. From a truce declared in the U.S.-China trade war at the end of last year, the coronavirus epidemic seems to be moving us swiftly to a U.S.-China cold war. Chinas current heavy-handed response to the Hong-Kong protests and the approaching US November elections do not bode well for economic relations between the worlds two economic superpowers in the months immediately ahead.

The optimists in Mr. Trumps camp are hoping for a very sharp bounce back in the U.S. economy as the coronavirus lockdown is lifted that would pave the way for a return in unemployment to a single-digit level come November. It is possible that such a rosy scenario could occur. However for it to do so, it would be necessary for us to avoid a second wave of the pandemic that could stop U.S. consumers from resuming their normal spending patterns. It would also be necessary for us to find some way of mitigating the fallout on consumer and investor confidence from the wave of household and corporate bankruptcies that is bound to come in the coronavirus lockdowns wake.

For a goldilocks U.S. economy scenario to occur, it would also be necessary that the U.S. economy not be hit later this year by an external economic and financial market shock. Unfortunately for Mr. Trump, it is not difficult to identify potential triggers for such an external shock. These include the possibility that a further souring in U.S.-China trade relations could lead to a renewed U.S.-China trade war. They also include the possibility that a substantially weakened European economy will soon experience another round of the European debt crisis or that a deepening of Brazils present political turmoil could trigger a full-blown emerging market crisis.

Mr. Trump could very well be lucky and have the stars realign for him come November 3. However, it is at least equally possible that he could have to go the polls with a very unfavorable economic and coronavirus backdrop. As Mr. Trump is so fond of saying, Well see what happens.

Desmond Lachman is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was formerly a deputy director in the International Monetary Fund's Policy Development and Review Department and the chief emerging market economic strategist at Salomon Smith Barney.

Image: Reuters.

16. Why the iPhone 11 Is Now the World's Most Popular Smartphone, 27 [−]

Stephen Silver

Technology, World

Absolutely crushing it.

This time last year, an Apple iPhone was the top smartphone in the world, with a Samsung Galaxy model in second place.

Thats still the case now, except that different phones have taken those spots.

According to Omdias Smartphone Model Market Tracker Q120, which has been cited by various media outlets, the iPhone 11 was the top smartphone in the world in the first quarter, with 19.5 million units sold.

That phone, which was introduced last fall, was #1 by a factor of more than three, ahead of Samsungs Galaxy A51 (6.8 million). A pair of Xiaomi phones, the Redmi Note 8 and Redmi Note 8 Pro, were third and fourth, with the iPhone XR fifth.

That last phone was the #1 smartphone in the world in the same quarter a year earlier, when it was followed by Samsungs Galaxy J4 Plus, with the iPhone 8 third.

In the first quarter of 2020, all four current iPhone models cracked the top ten, while in the 2019 version, the iPhone XS and XS Max were not in the top ten.

According to the research, the iPhone 11 succeeded in balancing affordable pricing with features, with its dual-camera setup representing huge appeal. And these sales numbers were achieved despite the coronavirus pandemic.

For more than five yearseven amid shifting conditions in the wireless market and the global economyone thing has remained consistent in the smartphone business: Apple has taken either the first or second rank in Omdias global model shipment ranking, said Jusy Hong, director of smartphone research at Omdia.

Apples success is the result of its strategy to offer relatively few models. This has allowed the company to focus its efforts on a small number of products that appeal to a broad selection of consumers and sell in extremely high volumes.

The numbers also found that Samsungs Galaxy S20+ was the top 5G phone globally in the first quarter, with 3.5 million units, followed by a pair of Huawei models, the Mate 30 5G and Mate 30 Pro 5G. Two more Samsung phones, the Galaxy S20 5G and Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G, were fourth and fifth.

A different survey this month, from Strategy Analytics, had found that Samsung dominated sales of 5G smartphones worldwide in the first quarter, with 8.3 million sold.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters

17. Gordon Chang: China's Economy Is In Deep Trouble, 27 [−]

Gordon G. Chang

Security, Asia

It is evident that China will not have, as analysts had once predicted, a V-shaped recovery. An L-shaped onea long-drawn-out climb out of a holeis more like it. And that spells trouble for Xi Jinping.

Xi Jinping, during his appearance at the Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference in Beijing on Saturday, talked about analyzing the Chinese economy from a dialectical and long-term perspective.

Should we be surprised that the Chinese leader is resorting to ideological circumlocutions when his economy is contracting and he knows he cant rescue it soon?

The official National Bureau of Statistics reported that gross domestic product contracted 6.8 percent year-on-year during the first quarter of this year, the first announced decline since Beijing began issuing quarterly GDP statistics in 1992. Many assessments, including the widely followed China Beige Book, pegged the contraction at about 10 percent.

There has been a recovery this quarter, but it is hard to figure out the extent of the upturn. Its the worst information flow in my experience, which means since the 1980s, Anne Stevenson-Yang of J Capital Research told me.

Workers have returned to job sites, but it appears the uptick has not been enough to move the country into positive territory. In general, factories have been ready to fill orders, but orders, especially from offshore buyers, are scare. The coronavirus pandemic has flattened Chinas biggest export markets, those in Europe and North America. UBS, the Swiss banking giant, expects Q2 growth to remain negative.

The full-year does not look much better. The normally China-bullish International Monetary Fund forecasts the Chinese economy to grow only 1.2 percent this year. Private analysts believe growth will range between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent. For last year, Beijing reported the economy grew 6.1 percent.

It is evident that China will not have, as analysts had once predicted, a V-shaped recovery. An L-shaped onea long-drawn-out climb out of a holeis more like it.

Even Chinese officials do not appear confident. While delivering his Work Report at the annual meeting of the National Peoples Congress on Friday, Premier Li Keqiang announced that China would not set a target for the growth of gross domestic product for this year.

For years, economists and analysts had been recommending that Beijing not focus on creating GDP. Its relentless pursuit had, year in and year out, led to distortive investment, most famously the ghost cities and high-speed rail lines to nowhere. Yet the decision to pick this time to forego announcing a GDP target suggests Chinese leaders know their economy cannot meet any but embarrassingly low goals.

Analysts had assumed Beijing would pour on massive stimulus this year, to power through this downturn like it did after the onset of the 2008 global crisis. Premier Li, however, did not reveal a big fiscal stimulus package Friday. Instead, he announced stimulus of 4.8 trillion yuan ($672.4 billion). UBS thought that will end up about 4.8 percent of GDP. Standard Chartered estimated 5.2 percent.

This compares to stimulus in the past six months that amounted to 6 percent to 12 percent of gross domestic product, according to Andrew Collier, a Hong Kong-based analyst of Chinese debt.

Observers were unimpressed with the size of the just-announced stimulus. As Hong Kongs South China Morning Post wrote, Economists have made few changes to Chinese growth forecasts for this year after Beijing announced details of a new stimulus plan, with many disappointed it was less aggressive than the support package implemented after the global financial crisis in 2008.

Huang Souhong of the State Councils Research Office on Friday suggested more stimulus would be on the way. As he stated, We havent used up all our ammunition, and we have ample room for follow-up tactics.

Despite Huangs words, there are reasons to believe central government technocrats dont have that much ammunition. First, China, after years of heavy stimulus spending, has far less capacity to take on indebtedness. According to the Institute of International Finance, Chinas debt-to-GDP ratio increased by 11 percentage points in 2019and by a stunning seven points last quarter alone. It is now pegged at 317 percent.

Yet there are reasons to believe that ratio is, in reality, far higher. Not all categories of debt are included in these calculations, the countrys reported GDP looks exaggerated, and the excess of the liabilities of Chinas financial institutions over assets should be added to the ratio. The ratio looks understated even if central government assets were somehow factored in.

Second, Chinas foreign exchange reserves may not be as large as reported. Chinese technocrats have, from time to time, engaged in derivative transactions, Brazilian-style, to hide the amount of dollar selling to support the renminbi. Beijing has also been stuffing non-liquid investments into its reserves. Those investments may be valuable, but they are not liquid and therefore should not be counted for this purpose.

Analysts assume Chinas external debt of $2.05 trillion is only two-thirds of the countrys foreign exchange reserves. That assessment appears optimistic.

Third, stimulus at this late-cycle stage, even if Beijing had the cash, probably would not work. Chinese authorities are aware that, because of their very limited channels of financial transmission, stimulus just leads to asset inflationimmediately, Stevenson-Yang notes. So they are trying to rely very heavily on administrative measures instead of cash injections. They are telling the banks to forgive loans, telling state-owned enterprises to pay basic salaries even when people are not employed, that sort of thing.

And Chinese officials are ramping up the propaganda machine, always a bad sign. As Stevenson-Yang says, The combination of stale old ideas and magical thinking is very sad for the Chinese peoplethey will not be getting relief and will have a very tough few years.

In those tough years, China also faces new economic and financial challenges. Premier Li mentioned spending on the Peoples Liberation Army will increase 6.6 percent. Many believe the real rate could be higher, but whatever the case it is evident the military is getting an outsized portion of the central governments budget. In short, spending on the worlds biggest military will burden the worlds second-largest economy.

Also, many of the so-called loans for Xis Belt & Road initiative will come due in coming months, and some borrowers, with economies hit hard by COVID-19, cannot repay. Beijing has extended infrastructure loans to 126 countries, and in recent years has lent an astounding $520 billion to the developing world. Much of the lending is imprudent. Chinas loans to Djibouti, for instance, equal 80 percent of the African countrys GDP.

And to make matters worse, factories are leaving Chinese soil, partially to avoid geopolitical friction and partially in response to commercial factors. China is bleeding manufacturing, and the hemorrhaging will continue especially when the Trump administration provides financial incentives for relocation. We welcome any American companies in Hong Kong or China mainland, we will do what we can for full expensing and pay the cost of moving if they return their supply chains and their production to the United States, said Larry Kudlow, President Trumps top economic advisor, to Fox Businesss Stuart Varney on Tuesday.

So Trump is going after the heart of the Chinese economy. In response, Xi Jinping on Saturday promised China would not go back to a planned economy and would allow the market to take a decisive role. That sounded like a response that would keep companies in China, but he had made almost identical promises at the Third Plenum of 2013. After that meeting, Xi relentlessly steered China toward a state-dominated system in which the role of the market contracted.

Chinas leader was able to get away with ideology-laden lectures and state solutions then, but that was before the coronavirus pandemic. His approach probably will not, in a far more difficult environment, work magic now.

Gordon G. Chang is the author of The Coming Collapse of China. Follow him on Twitter @GordonGChang.

18. Pompeo Cuts Off Special U.S. Trade Relationship With Hong Kong, 27 [−]

Matthew Petti

Security, Asia

The city will now be treated like mainland China.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Hong Kong no longer has a high degree of autonomy from China, cutting off the city-states special trade relationship with the United States.

The Chinese government promised Hong Kong the ability to maintain its own government after peacefully taking back the former British colony in 1997. This policy of One Country, Two Systems has allowed the United States to maintain separate trade ties with Hong Kong and the rest of China.

But the Chinese central government in Beijing is now attempting to ram through a controversial national security law for Hong Kongwhich has pushed the Trump administration to revoke the special U.S.-Hong Kong trade relationship.

Beijings disastrous decision is only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kongs autonomy and freedoms and Chinas own promises to the Hong Kong people, Pompeo said in a Wednesday statement, citing older British-Chinese agreements. No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.

Pompeos declaration triggers the Hong Kong Policy Act, which will subject Hong Kong to the same tariffs and export controls as the rest of China. U.S.-China trade relations are currently taking a turn for the worse as competition between the two powers heats up.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative estimates that U.S.-Hong Kong trade was worth $66.9 billion in 2018, making Hong Kong the tenth largest export market for U.S. goods.

The decision could further jeopardize Hong Kongs status as a gateway to global markets. The city has suffered its worst economic contraction on record following months of political unrest and the coronavirus pandemic.

Beijing announced last week that it would impose a national security law on Hong Kong. Protests have broken out as the citys government defends the proposal.

Hong Kong has seen widespread protests in March 2019, when millions of residents demonstrated against an extradition bill favored by Beijing. The opposition to the bill soon turned into a broad movement demanding more autonomy and democratic reforms for the city.

U.S. lawmakers have kept a close eye on the unrest, passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in 2019. The law imposes economic sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for human rights violations.

Sens. Chris Van Hollen (DMd.) and Pat Toomey (RPenn.) proposed expanding the law even further by imposing sanctions on banks that do business with Chinese officials.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act also requires the State Department to issue an annual report on Hong Kongs autonomy, which prompted Pompeos declaration on Wednesday.

Hong Kong and its dynamic, enterprising, and free people have flourished for decades as a bastion of liberty, and this decision gives me no pleasure. But sound policymaking requires a recognition of reality, he said. While the United States once hoped that free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself.

Matthew Petti is a national security reporter at the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter: @matthew_petti.

Image: Reuters.

19. Double the Fun: 5 Best 2-in-1 Convertible Laptops, 27 [−]

Ethen Kim Lieser


To help you whittle down your shopping list, here are five solid options to strongly consider.

If you have a finite amount of cash and cant decide between a tablet and a laptop, know that you can always go with a 2-in-1 convertible device.

In recent years, these handy laptops have continued to garner a loyal following among consumers, and best of all, the once-high price points have started to come down, with many now in the sub-$1,000 range.

To help you whittle down your shopping list, here are five solid options to strongly consider.

First up is the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, arguably the best tablet PC on the market right now. The Surface Pro comes with Intels robust 10th-generation processor and improved battery life, which makes this convertible laptop a strong workhorse for all of your needs. At $960, it is reasonably priced, although the detachable keyboard cover and stylus will cost you extra.

If you want to give your shoulders a break by not lugging around a heavy laptop all day, be sure to check out LGs ultra-lightweight Gram, which tips the scales at only 2.5 pounds. It features amazing battery life, two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI output. LG also includes a nice stylus pen that offers a natural writing experience on a top-of-the-line display.

In at No. 3 is the HP Spectre x360. This 2-in-1 really sparkles with its high performance, design and long battery life. It comes with a 10th-generation Intel processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive. Whether it is for work or play, this feature-filled device will likely surpass your expectations.

If youre looking for something a little more different, take a gander at Dells XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop. The design is quite striking, as the 13.4-inch screen is basically bezel-less. The 10th-generation Intel Core i7 processor gives it that extra performance boost and the Iris Pro Graphics are indeed amazing. Even with all of these high-end features, the laptop should get more than 10 hours of battery life.

Finally, the Lenovo Yoga C940 has upped its game from the previous generation. This 2-in-1 boasts subtle design improvements, a longer battery life and a 10th-generation Intel processor. As many have come to expect from a Yoga-series laptop, this model is ultra-portable and features a unique hinge that also works as a soundbar speaker. When viewing content, the C940s 1080p and 4K displays are rich and vibrant.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. He currently resides in Minneapolis.

Image: Reuters

20. American National Security Is No Place for Amateurs, 27 [−]

John Douglass, David Oliver

Security, Americas


This is why we need another Reagan-style commander-in-chief in the White House.

Back in the mid-1980sbefore we got stars on our lapels, when we were just a couple of uniformed officerswe were able to serve our country in one of the most fraught periods in history. Douglass served as a director at the National Security Council and Oliver led the U.S. Navys Pacific-based attack submarines, stationed overseas to check Soviet expansionism. This was the height of the Cold War, and the stakes were high. We had a true peer competitor. The downside of an undisciplined or uneducated move by our commander-in-chief was mass American civilian casualties.

We were lucky. The commander-in-chief at the time was Ronald Reagan. He was a study in discipline. While he was happy to play the part of a genial older manhe joked that, if trouble broke out, his aides should wake him, even if Im in a cabinet meetinghe was a stickler for preparation. He read the briefing books the National Security Council staff prepared for him like they were the gospel. His meetings with senior military officers were serious affairs for him. He wanted to take in every ounce of insight they could provide. For him, the military was not a prop for public displays of respect; it was a resource he relied uponone he worked with to design a strategy he executed to perfection. The end of the Cold War, and the relatively stable breakup of the Soviet Union, is the greatest American national security achievement since World War II.

As the coronavirus has shownand North Korea and China seem intent on provingwe are in as much peril as we have been since the Soviet Union fell. American security requires another Reagan-style commander-in-chief in the White House. In the 2020 race, at least on matters of national security, Joe Biden is the more Reaganite potential commander-in-chiefand Reagan would not recognize the erratic and uninformed national security approach the current administration has instituted.

Bidens closer similarity to Reagan is a matter of temperamentyet, it is a matter of policy, too. Reagan believed we must be prepared for any threat, even if, in hindsight, it was not as large a threat as we imagined. The public saw this through his famous ad asking isnt it smart to be as strong as the bear . . . if there is a bear? We saw it more personally when Reagan would gather senior generals and admirals in the Situation Room and ask if we were ready for a given threatand that the answer better be yes.

Joe Biden is cut from the same cloth. Most recently, he laid out exactly what needed to be doneor, more accurately, what capabilities needed to be restoredto curtail the damage the coronavirus has since wrought on Americans lives and livelihoods. The administration, however, was slow to act. Biden, like Reagan, would use science to guide action and protect Americans. Biden, like Reagan, would never discount the advice of the National Security Council and leap to vacant promises that the virus would disappear like a miracle.

Reagan and Biden have a similar understanding of Americas foes. Reagan saw Americas enemies as implacable, perhaps to a fault. During the 1980s, the two of us actively executed his plans to convince the Soviet Union that the Cold War was a war it could never win. He understood the USSR was a foe, and our job was to contain it. Biden similarly sees Russia and China as revisionist powers undermining Americas traditional global leadership, going so far as to brand Russia an enemy. Even the Iran Dealan effort Biden helped to leadwas a study in the Reaganite phrase trust but verify.

Given Bidens realistic, Reaganite view of Americas adversaries, it is impossible to imagine him saying he fell in love with Kim Jong-un or taking the word of former KGB agent Vladimir Putin over the findings of his own intelligence personnel.

We both served our country during the Vietnam War. We both lost friends fighting there. It is gut-wrenching to know, then, that the coronavirus has killed more Americansand left more people like us, nursing memories of fallen friendsin just a few months than the Vietnam War did in eleven years. American national security is no place for novices. Reagan knew that serious threats require serious leadership from the commander-in-chief. Commanders-in-chief have long understood the serious burden placed upon their shoulders, from Washington forming this nation to Lincoln holding the Union together to Franklin Roosevelt leading us through World War II.

Biden understands the awesome responsibility of the commander-in-chief. The contrast is crystal clear.

Brig. Gen. John Douglass is a former Brigadier General in the United States Air Force, Director on the National Security Council, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Rear Adm. David Oliver is a former Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, CEO of the Defense Division of EADS, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

Image: Reuters

21. The Real Reason Why China's J-31 Stealth Fighter Looks Like the F-35, 27 [−]

Kris Osborn

Technology, Asia

Beijing is stealing U.S. designs.

Chinese media reports are now referencing new photos of the emerging J-31 5th-Gen stealth fighter appearing on social media, ostensibly showing various design improvements to the new radar-evading multi-role aircraft.

A May 5th report in the Global Times, an English Language Chinese newspaper, says the new photos show an . upgraded version with modifications made to its aerodynamic design just like the prototype that made its maiden flight in 2016, instead of the original version that made its public debut at Airshow China in 2014.

Improvements or changes to the J-31 likely continue a long-standing pattern of Chinas apparent and somewhat visible effort to copy, steal or mirror designs used for the U.S. F-35. Virtually all photos and renderings of the J-31, since first unveiled, revealed a striking resemblance to the U.S. F-35. This does not come to the surprise of many in the U.S., given Chinas well-known and documented cyber espionage efforts. A 2014 U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Congressional report specifically cites a Defense Science Board finding that Chinese cyber attacks resulted in the theft of significant specs and technical details of a range of U.S. weapons systemsincluding the F-35.

At the same time, a 2018 Pentagon news story about DoDs annual China report mentions that apparent similarities between the F-35 and Chinese J-20 could very well be a result of espionage. A cursory look at the J-20 does appear to show some resemblance to the F-35, particularly the blended wing-body front end and internally built, conformal exhaust pipes. These similarities do appear, despite the apparent differences, as the J-20 has a wider and longer lower-body. However, available photos show an even larger measure of similarity between the F-35 and Chinese J-31 multi-role fighter.

As recently as last year, another Global Times report said the J-31 showed design improvements at the 2019 Paris Air Show. Photos from the story reveal profound visual similarities between the F-35 and J-31. This is not without precedent, as the Chinese media itself has noted similarities between the two aircraft. Portions of a story from the Chinese governments Peoples Daily Online as far back as 2013 specifically cites design similarity between the emerging Chinese J-31 and the F-35, writing that the J-31 and F-35 use the same DSI inlet (non-boundary layer-separated lane supersonic inlet). The only major difference, the paper notes, is that the U.S. has an F-35B Short Take Off and Landing variant and that the J-31 uses two engines compared to the F-35s single engine propulsion configuration.

The articles reference to a non-boundary layer separated lane supersonic inlet appears both interesting and significant, as it pertains to designs engineered to manage heat and air movement signatures demonstrated by the aerodynamic phenomenon of air flow surrounding supersonic flight. Boundary layer aerodynamics, referring to the air flow surrounding a weapon or platform as it transits, can greatly impact the flight stability and stealth characteristics of an aircraft.

A pertinent comparison can be found in the Air Force Research Laboratories current work on boundary layer phenomenology related to next-generation hypersonic weapons. Senior Air Force science and technology leaders and weapons developers told me at the Air Force Association symposium in 2019 that boundary layer phenomenology was figuring prominently in ongoing research and development regarding future weapons and platforms. Managing heat flow and temperature is, of course, vital to maintaining flight stability for hypersonic weapons traveling at speeds up to five-times the speed of sound. Developers seek to engineer configurations which will generate a laminar or smooth airflow as opposed to turbulent boundary layer to enable a weapon to sustain an accurate trajectory and manage excessive heat.

Therefore, by extension, it seems apparent the same aerodynamic principles apply to stealth aircraft configurations which seek to manage the heat signatures and turbulence potentially generated in the air flow boundary layers of stealth jets flying at supersonic speeds. Accordingly, a non-boundary layer separated lane for airflow, (as cited by the article) which does not break up or radically change airflow trajectory, could not only ensure smoother flight at high speeds but also help manage temperature. Of course, there would be significant differences between the thermal management technical engineering needed for hypersonics and stealth aircraft, yet smother wing-body melded external designs, absent hard or protruding edges, clearly bring the added advantage of a smoother and cooler air flow boundary layer. Along these lines, the 2019 Global Times report details a few design changes to the 2019 J-31 which, according to the photographs, show a smoother, less-jagged exterior behind the cockpit as opposed to earlier models.

The Chinese newspaper stops short of exploring a fully-detailed discussion of aerodynamic designs related to the aircraft, but does cite a Chinese Air Force test pilot expert as saying the J-31s stealth aerodynamic design, stealth engine design and stealth coating design have all reached internationally advanced standards in stealth technology. (Chinas Air Force test pilot expert Xu Yongling.)

However, external configuration and some elements of visible heat-signature management represent merely a few of many characteristics when it comes to stealth technology; stealth designs also often incorporate internally-built engines, radar absorbent coating materials and internal weapons bays, among other things. Along these lines, the Peoples Daily Online report makes the claim that the J-31 has a superior weapons payload capability compared with the F-35. However, available specs report that the J-31 travels with six external weapons hardpoints the same number as the F-35.

As for how the J-31 may be employed, Chinese and U.S. newspapers are filled with various kinds of speculation; some reports say the fighter is intended for export as a way to counter the reach and scope of the F-35, however other reports cite Chinese officials saying the J-31 is intended for domestic use and possibly could even fly off of Chinese aircraft carriers.

Chinese progress with the J-31 calls to mind several timely strategic calculations. A more recent Congressional report, the 2018 U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission, makes specific reference to concern regarding Chinas expansionist aims when it comes to projecting air, land and sea power. The text of the review points to dramatic upticks in long-distance over-water training exercises over new areas in recent years which, the study goes on to suggest, improves the PLA Air Forces capability to gather intelligence and execute maritime missions against the U.S.

In November and December 2017, Chinas Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force conducted at least nine long-distance training flights over maritime areas along Chinas periphery, continuing a trend that began in 2015, stated the 2018 U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission.

All of this pertains to the often and widely discussed recognition that China has long-since past its ambitions to operate as a dominant regional power and migrated aggressively toward positioning itself as a massive, leading global power.

Kris Osborn is the new Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the ArmyAcquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.

22. Why America Has Misdiagnosed Russias Role in Syria, 27 [−]

Robert G. Rabil

Security, Middle East


Washingtons reading of the political map of the Middle East is fraught with erroneous assumptions similar to those that predicted the collapse of the Syrian regime during the initial months of the Syrian rebellion.

A recent flurry of reports and statements involving Russian foreign policy in Syria and fallout among the pillars of the Syrian regime reflected a Russian malignant engagement in the region, an American desire to make Syria a quagmire for the Russians, and a Russian inclination to dispose of its infamous client [Bashar al-Assad]. This reading of the political map of the Middle East and Russian policy in Syria is fraught with erroneous assumptions similar to those that predicted the collapse of the Syrian regime during the initial months of the Syrian rebellion. In much the same vein as I wrote on these pages in 2011 ( Damascus for Dummies and Why Assad Isnt Worried about Obama, these erroneous assumptions are the product of an abridged knowledge of the politics, history and culture of Syria coupled with a na?ve understanding of Russian Middle East politics, which are making American foreign policy rests more on sophistry than on informed strategy.

In a revised article in the Washington Post, David Ignatius wrote that Russia has been making steady progress in what State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus described as its malign engagement in the Middle East. Ignatius, reaffirming the State Departments view of the Kremlin using military power, proxies and disinformation to expand its influence across the Mediterranean, metaphorically emphasized Russian diplomacy as scavenger diplomacy feeding off the carcasses of broken Middle East states. James Jeffrey, the U.S. Special Representative for Syria, in a video call with the Hudson Institute stated: This isn't Afghanistan, this isn't Vietnam, and added: This isn't a quagmire. My job is to make it a quagmire for the Russians. Jeffrey is also known for his assertion that U.S. forces are to remain in Syria to ensure Iranian departure.

Coterminous with these views, Jeremy Hodge, penned an article in the Daily Beast in which he argued that Russia is now inclined to dispose of its infamous client Assad, given his brutality and corruption that militates against establishing even the semblance of a functioning state. He supported his argument by citing several Russian media reports harshly criticizing Assad, published by Russias Federal News Agency, which is owned by Yevgeny Prigozhim, a businessman with close ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Hodge highlighted key contentions gleaned from the three published articles, including an opinion poll claiming only 32 percent of Syrians would vote for Assad in the countrys upcoming 2021 presidential elections, and that Assad was chastised for personally failing to combat corruption at all levels of the state. Significantly, Hodge pointed out that the article on corruption suggests that the Assads are not the only powerful family in Syria and that there are also the Makhloufs.

Hodge makes the connection that Syrias infamous businessman Rami Makhloufs fallout with his cousin Asad constitutes further evidence that Russia is considering options other than Assad to rule Syria, and by extension, pursuing policies against Iran. Asad has been slowly but steadily clamping down on Makhloufs business empire, which had been sanctioned by the regime but vilified by ordinary Syrians as the House of Mafia. Hodge claims that Makhlouf, considered until recently the wealthiest man in Syria, has strong ties to Russia and seemingly Russias man. He also claims that whereas the Makhlouf clan has thrown its lot with Russia, members of Assads family and other militia leaders in the Alawi stronghold of Qardaha are Iranian-backed. He adds that these militia leaders have regularly engaged in armed clashes against Russian backed units, let alone carrying out attacks on Russias Hmeimim military base, Moscows Military Headquarters in Syria. Of particular interest to Hodge and other reporters and analysts is Makhloufs release on the heel of Russian media reports on Assad of back to back videos on his personal Facebook page criticizing the Assad regime. This unprecedented public display of both disdain and criticism of the regime amounted to no less than a direct challenge to Assads rule.

All of this led Hodge to conclude that Russia is turning against Assad and Iran to pave the way for the creation of a stable Syria, politically and safely suitable for investment, foreign aid and reconstruction projects.

No doubt, the painting of Russian policy in Syria and Syrian palace politics with the brushes of the U.S. State department and reporters like Hodge is alluring to the gullible eye; but it is catastrophic to the discerning eye. This does not mean that the State Department and Hodge are completely wrong in their description of Russian policy and the Syrian regime. They are, however, wrong in shaping an incomplete and inadequate picture of Russian and Syrian dynamics, potentially inviting another serious American foreign policy blunder.

The State Department is right in stating that Russia uses military power, proxies and disinformation to expand its influence. Yet it is quite wrong in confining Russian policy to the afore-mentioned dubious tools of foreign policy. The astute Ignatius is probably right in observing that Americas power is a waning force. Yet he is quite wrong to think that Russia is filling the void left by U.S. retreat in the Middle East through a scavenger policy.

Russias expansion of influence in the Middle East is the product of a policy combining multiple approaches. Broadly speaking, Russian involvement in the Middle East can be traced to Peter the Great. It took a geopolitical dimension when Tsarist Russia defeated the Ottoman Empire in the Crimean war. The 1774 Ottoman-Russian Kuchuk Kaynarja treaty foregrounded Moscows composite role in the Middle East as a great power player aspiring for geopolitical influence, ideological congruity under the pretext of opposing Western colonialism and hegemony, and religious indifference and/or tolerance in the name of respecting religious pluralism and supporting religious minorities, especially the Christian orthodox community. This role that disappeared following the collapse of the Soviet Union resurfaced with a vindictive tone under Putin combining elements of geopolitics, great power ideological opposition to an American unipolar international system, and religious pluralism grounded in fighting radical Islamism and supporting religious minorities.

Essentially, Putin has pursued a policy strengthening Russias credibility without being beholden to exclusive regional alliances. Russias ability to expand its influence in many Middle East countries and simultaneously supporting conflicted parties lies in its readiness to speak to all parties and to try to serve as an intermediary at the right moment. As such, Russias partnerships or alliances in the Middle East are not part of a grand strategy or shaped by binary strategies. They are not Sunni vs Shia, Christian vs anti-Muslim, pro-Arab vs anti-Israel or pro-Iran vs anti-Iran. Similarly, Russia has been careful to project itself as a protector of religious minorities, while at the same time taking a definitive anti-jihadist stance. It also lubricates its policies by being in tune with the whims of Middle East authoritarianism and speaking the regions languages.

Despite political and/or ideological differences with Middle East countries, Russia has negotiated economic, military and/or political agreements with Turkey, Iran, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, among others, while supporting the Assad regime and establishing military bases in Syria. It has negotiated the Astana Process with Turkey and Iran that established de-conflicting zones in Syria and concluded an agreement with Israel under which Moscow will prevent Hezbollah and Iran from establishing a military presence in southern Syria along Israels border in exchange for facilitating the return of Assad troops to southern Syria. Although political and military tensions have erupted within and next to the de-escalating conflict zones, especially in the provinces of Idlib along Turkeys border and Deraa along Israel border, Russia has tried to keep those tensions from escalating into wider armed conflicts. Similarly, even though it coordinates with Hezbollah and Iran to expand the power of the Assad regime, Russia has acted as a reliable intermediary between the Assad regime and Syrias Kurds, Druzes, and Arab Sunnis. At the time of this writing, as tensions flares in the province of Deraa where the Syrian rebellion began, Russia has acted as a reliable mediator between Arab Sunnis and the Assad regime

At the same time, Russia has made it clear to Hezbollah and Iran that their political and military cooperation in support of the Syrian regime does not translate turning Syria into an Iranian military satellite threatening regional peace. In fact, Russia has sanctioned Israeli airstrikes against Iranian and Hezbollah military positions deemed threatening to Israels national security. Conversely, Russia has made it clear to all actors that the regimes stability is a red line. In this respect, one could safely argue that Russias policy in Syria is more in sync with that of Israel than with that of Iran in Syria. Both Russia and Israel are at one in seeing Syria becoming stable and posing no threat to regional peace.

It is against this background that the parochial views of the State Department and others crash on the rock of Russias unorthodox yet pragmatist policy in the Middle East. And to postulate that Russia is turning against Asad and, by extension, Iran is an illusory exercise.

Makhlouf had been a pillar of support for the Syrian regime, especially when the regimes overall situation during the initial phases of the civil war was precarious. He established a charity, Jamiyat al-Bustan and attached to it a militia whose number grew to thirty thousand. In return, Assad granted him important government contracts and concessions. Makhlouf was entrusted with securing some of Syrias important oil and gas fields, including the Hayan Gas factory. Among other concessions, Makhloufs company Syriatel monopolized he countrys communications. His wealth grew exponentially catapulting him to become the ill-reputed richest man in Syria. But his rise as an untouchable and an equal to Assad, coupled with his huge appetite for illicit profiteering, was frowned upon by none other than the royal family and its underlings. Not only did Makhlouf fail to secure Syrias oil and gas fields but also he failed to pay his fair dues in taxes to the regime. Whereas Assad felt both uneasy with Makhloufs powerful image and cheated by Makhloufs pitiful remuneration, Assads wife Asma and sister Bushra were furious with his familys extravagant lifestyle at a time many Syrians have been living below the poverty level and for monopolizing Syrias most rewarding contracts. Makhloufs children have unreservedly splashed their fortune and propagandized their expensive cars and jets.

As a result, Assad began clipping the wings of Makhlouf in 2019 before Russian media published its critical reports on Assad. In fact, the coincidental timing of the release of Makhloufs videos on the heels of the publication of Russian reports is more about Makhloufs grievances with and fallout with Assad. The idea that Makhlouf is, as Hodge posits, Russias man and his clan, unlike other Alawi clans and militia, is rooting for Russia is a na?ve understanding of the Alawi clans and especially of Russias treatment of corrupt and mafia-like entities.

Russia, indeed, had a working relationship with Makhlouf and has been unhappy with Assads relationship with strong corrupt figures within his family and entourage. Nevertheless, Makhlouf was neither Russias man nor Irans or Hezbollahs adversary. In fact, Makhlouf has tried to wear the mantle of Shia Islam and forge a strategic relationship with Hezbollah. Its an open secret that Makhlouf has tried to alleviate the financial impact of American sanctions on Hezbollah by bolstering the Islamist partys illicit activities and supporting senior members of the party.

Whats happening in Syria today is an attempt, pushed by none other than Putin himself, to clamp down on all Mafia-like figures in Syria who operate outside the purview of the state, thereby handicapping the Syrian economy. This has been amply corroborated by Aleksander Aksenenok of Russia International Affairs Council:

The economic challenges now faced by Syria are even more serious than during the active phase of hostilities . . . it is becoming increasingly obvious that the regime is reluctant or unable to develop a system of government that can mitigate corruption and crime and go from a military economy to normal trade and economic relations.

To be sure, Putin is more or less replicating his policy vis a vis the Russian vory [Russian Mafia] in Syria in order to establish an economically viable state. Therefore, he has been unhappy with Assads militia leaders and other powerful corrupt businessmen and criminals who have run afoul of the state. They have created a loose criminal organization virtually more moneyed than the state and as influential as the state. Makhlouf was at the center of this Mafia enterprise. Putin pressed Assad to both stop tolerating overt or implicit challenges to the state and to allow these mafia members to operate only in so far they accepted the states overall political and economic control and enriched its coffers. Anyone who is intimate with Putins relationship with the vory v Zakone [thieves-in-law] could safely argue that Putin is pressuring Assad to mold Syrias loose Mafia enterprise into a state-controlled organized crime, corporately minded and affiliated with certain elements of the state. In this respect, as Aiman Mansour, an astute Israeli scholar, observed Assads move against Makhlouf was in step with his other moves against similar businessmen, like the Jaber brothers and Muhammad al-Qatarji.

Putin knows neither he nor Assad can stamp out corruption in Syria. Putin ascribes to the Russian proverb: The wolf may lose his pelt, but never his nature. As such, his unhappiness with Assad is more about his thus far inability to tame the Syrian vory!

Considering all of this, Washingtons misreading of both Russian policy in the Middle East in general and Syria in particular and Syrias palace dynamics is a recipe for other serious blunders. If these egocentric and haphazard views of Russian policy in Syria become the drivers of American foreign policy, then one should not be surprised if Russia (potentially supported by China) supplants Iran as the leader of the anti-American Resistance Axis in the Middle East.

Robert G. Rabil is a professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University. The views expressed in the article are his own. He can be reached @robertgrabil.

Image: Reuters

23. HBO Max Gets a Launch Day Surprise: Every Harry Potter Movie, 27 [−]

Stephen Silver

Technology, Americas

A magical time for video streaming.

HBO MaxAT&T and WarnerMedias new streaming servicemade its debut Wednesday, and users logging on for the first time noticed a surprise: The service, at launch, had all eight Harry Potter movies available for streaming.

All of the Potter movies, adapted from J.K. Rowlings mega-popular series of novels, were released by the Warner Brothers movie studio, the catalog of which is providing a great deal of content to HBO Max.

However, the rights to the digital and on-air rights to the Potter movies were sold to Comcasts Universal back in 2016 which, per Collider, has meant everything from the Wizarding World attraction at Universal Studios to Potter movies frequently showing up on Comcast-owned TV channels like Syfy. That agreement runs through 2025.

For HBO Max to land the Potter films, various pre-launch analyses said that would require an agreement between WarnerMedia and Universal to license the series for streaming. And as recently as earlier this week, it didnt appear that any such deal would be reached in time for HBO Maxs launch. Complicating matters was that Comcast is launching its own streaming service, Peacock, this summer, and Warner would have needed to make it worth their while to not offer the Potter movies as an exclusive on Peacock.

In a Business Insider interview published earlier this week, HBO Max chief Kevin Reilly said there was no timetable for an agreement on Potter, and added that Ill just say there is active engagement around that discussion.

So, it was a surprise when many users downloaded HBO Max on Wednesday morning to discover the entire Harry Potter series available.

Theres not been much reporting about exactly how the deal came together, and dollar amounts for this type of deal arent usually disclosed. But per Business Insider, the Potter movies can still air on Comcast-owned networks, while they will stream exclusively on HBO Max.

Meanwhile, WarnerMedia was not able to reach a deal with Roku or Amazon to make HBO Max available on those platforms prior to launch. With Roku, the sides had reportedly been in talks in the days leading up to HBO Maxs arrival.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters

24. Two Chinese Aircraft Carriers Are Headed to the South China Sea, 27 [−]

Kris Osborn

Security, Asia

A Chinese newspaper essay says a new U.S.-China Cold War is not inevitable and accuses the U.S. of shifting away from engagement toward all-out strategic competition. Meanwhile, at the same time, China is reportedly sending two aircraft carriers for war games to Northern portions of the South China Sea, sparking continued concerns about threats to Taiwan.

A Chinese newspaper essay says a new U.S.-China Cold War is not inevitable and accuses the U.S. of shifting away from engagement toward all-out strategic competition. Meanwhile, at the same time, China is reportedly sending two aircraft carriers for war games to Northern portions of the South China Sea, sparking continued concerns about threats to Taiwan.

The two messages appear somewhat at odds, because state-owned Chinese media is writing about a need to decrease tensions while China concurrently sends two massive warships into disputed, high-tension areas in preparation for military exercises.

A May 25 editorial in Chinas Peoples Online Daily takes up the issue of fast-escalating U.S.-China tensions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The essay, titled A New Cold War between China, U.S., far from Inevitable, states competition is and always will be a part of international relations and therefore, by extension, a part of China-US relations, but the shift from engagement with China to all-out strategic competition sets the stage for a dangerous future.

However, the accusatory tone in the essay, taken within a broader context of appearing to favor improved relations between the U.S. and China, appears to conflict with a report in The Daily Mail stating that China is sending its Liaoning and Shandong carriers into areas of the South China Sea for drills. The move, the Daily Mail story suggests, heightens ongoing concerns among many that China may be considering an invasion of Taiwan. should tensions escalate. The two carriers are, according to the report, currently in Bohai Bay in the Yellow Sea in preparation for War Game drills.

Taiwan, meanwhile, has complained of increased Chinese military harassment since the coronavirus pandemic began, with fighter jets and naval vessels regularly approaching the island on drills China has described as routine, the paper states.

Longstanding tensions regarding deployments, weapons placement and maritime navigational routes surrounding the South China Sea appear to have slightly faded from view, perhaps in part due to other pressing events such as the coronavirus pandemic. However, territorial disputes and U.S.-China disagreements over Chinas phony island building, called land reclamation in the region are far from being resolved.

At several points, Chinese maneuvers in the South China Sea area, coupled with visible moves to place weapons and war assets in the region, have prompted the U.S. to conduct Freedom of Navigation operations and sail within the 12 mile territorial boundaries of areas claimed by China. These areas claimed by China, however, are part of a large volume of Spratly Island territories spanning throughout the South China Sea, areas home to a long history of territorial disputes among Southeast Asian nations. It certainly seems conceivable, if not likely, the South China Sea tensions may again emerge as prominent and pressing concerns being entertained by U.S. leaders.

Kris Osborn is the new Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the ArmyAcquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters

25. Apple Set to Reopen About 100 More Stores in the United States, 27 [−]

Ethen Kim Lieser

Economics, Americas

Little by little, companies are trying to return to some semblance of normal.

Apple is planning to reopen approximately 100 stores in the United States this week.

That will put Apples active U.S.-based retail locations at about 130 out of 271, spread out across 21 states. The company operates 510 stores around the world

Apple said that it will reopen each location in phases, which will mean some stores will support only curbside pickups, while other stores will be available for walk-in customers.

The U.S. stores that have already reopened have chiefly focused on Apples Genius Bar, which helps customers get connected to service and support for broken iPhones and other Apple products.

This week well return to serving customers in many U.S. locations. For customer safety and convenience, most stores will offer curbside or storefront service only, where we provide online order pickup and Genius Bar appointments, Apple said in a statement.

Others will be open for walk-in customers and we encourage everyone to check their local store webpage for more information about hours at their preferred location. Customers can also visit for support by phone or chat. We are committed to reopening our stores in a very thoughtful manner with the health and safety of our customers and teams as our top priority, and we look forward to seeing our customers again soon.

Deidre OBrien, Apples head of retail, wrote an open letter earlier this month detailing the companys safety measures and reopening strategies for its stores.

In every store, were focused on limiting occupancy and giving everybody lots of room, and renewing our focus on one?on?one, personalized service at the Genius Bar and throughout the store, she said in the letter.

Face coverings will be required for all of our teams and customers, and we will provide them to customers who dont bring their own. Temperature checks will be conducted at the door, and posted health questions will screen for those with symptomslike cough or feveror who have had recent exposure to someone infected with COVID?19.

OBrien also noted that staff will perform regular enhanced deep cleanings, and that the company will screen employees for coronavirus symptoms.

The stores reopening this week are in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. He currently resides in Minneapolis.

Image: Reuters

26. 3D Simulations Reveal Asteroid Impact That Killed off Dinosaurs, 27 [−]

Ethen Kim Lieser

Enviornment, World

The impact had the power of 10 billion atomic bombs.

Some 66 million years ago, a mammoth asteroid the size of a city smashed into Earth with the power of 10 billion Hiroshima atomic bombs on the eastern coast of present-day Mexico, resulting in the 110-mile-wide Chicxulub crater and eventual extinction of about 75 percent of all plant and animal species on the planet.

According to a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications, an international team of scientistsfrom Imperial College London, the University of Freiburg in Germany and The University of Texas at Austinsuccessfully tapped into next-gen 3D simulations to get a better understanding of that extinction-level event. High-performance computing facilities provided by Hewlett Packard Enterprise were used to process the data.

What the data showed was that asteroid likely came from the northeast at an angle of 40 to 60 degrees, and this particular trajectory helped amplify the amount of climate-changing gases released into the air. Many scientists originally believed that the asteroid struck at a 90-degree angle, but this was unlikely, the study noted.

The asteroid strike unleashed an incredible amount of climate-changing gases into the atmosphere, triggering a chain of events that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. This was likely worsened by the fact that it struck at one of the deadliest possible angles, the studys lead author Gareth Collins, a professor of planetary science at Imperial College Londons Department of Earth Science and Engineering, said in a statement.

We know that this was among the worst-case scenarios for the lethality on impact, because it put more hazardous debris into the upper atmosphere and scattered it everywherethe very thing that led to a nuclear winter.

Such a colossal impact likely unleashed billions of tons of sun-blocking soot, sulfur and other gases into the atmosphere, which eventually cooled the Earths climate.

In settling on their conclusion, the team of researchers examined the craters shape and structure and the extracted rocks that provided evidence of the incredible forces produced by the asteroids impact.

Such information and data helped the scientists create a model that could simulate how the massive crater was formed. After carrying out nearly 300 different simulations, they concluded that the 60-degree trajectory is the strongest candidate because of a connection between three distinct points in the crater.

The Chicxulub is the only well-preserved peak-ring crater on Earth, but this type of crater can be seen on other planets and moons in the inner solar system.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. He currently resides in Minneapolis.

Image: Reuters

27. From Batman to Game of Thrones: The Best of HBO Max at Launch, 27 [−]

Stephen Silver

Technology, Americas

It's finally here!

HBO Max, the latest major streaming service, has finally arrived. The new service launched Wednesday, with a huge collection of Warner Brothers classic movies, the entire runs of several famous sitcoms, a handful of original shows, and the entirety of every major HBO show.

WarnerMedia, the AT&T division that supervises HBO Max, has said that the service is offering 10,000 hours of original content at launch.

Once youve figured out the difference between all the different HBO streaming options, what should you check out first from HBO Max? Youll have plenty of options:

- Friends. HBO Maxs signature show is one that went off the air more than 15 years ago. The company reportedly paid more than $400 million in order to lure Friends away from its longtime home at Netflix. The service will also offer a Friends reunion special which was supposed to arrive at launch but will instead show up later this year.

- Casablanca. HBO Max also offers a great deal of Warner Brothers catalog material from Hollywoods golden age, and a great place to start is this 1942 masterpiece, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. You can also get classics The Wizard of Oz and Citizen Kane on HBO Max.

- The Dark Knight. Warner Brothers, of course, also means Batman and Superman, sometimes together. The fabled Snyder Cut of 2017s Justice League, it was announced last week, is headed to HBO Max in 2021, but in the meantime you can work your way through all of the other DC movies, the best of which was 2008s The Dark Knight, which pitted Christian Bales Batman against Heath Ledgers Joker.

- The Sopranos. A decade ago, we were expected to drop $75 for a single season DVD set of The Sopranos or another HBO show of that vintage. Now, $14.99 a month will give you instant access to the whole series, along with every other HBO show and a whole lot more. Supposedly many people have been binging The Sopranos during quarantine, either again or for the first time, and the arrival of HBO Max would be a great time to start again.

- Game of Thrones. Then theres the other HBO standout, which has drawn a new round of re-examinations on the first anniversary of its ending. Was Season 8 really that bad, or does it deserve another chance, particularly with the brightness turned way up on that White Walkers episode?

- The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It may have been a very 90s show, but the story of how Will Smiths life got flip turned upside down still endures, and you can watch it from the beginning once HBO Max launches.

- Love Life. Anna Kendrick shows were already part of the launches of Disney+ last year and Quibi last month, and now shes got a romantic anthology series on HBO Max. Despite early mixed reviews, express this one to get a lot more attention at launch than the Quibi show did.

- Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Among the properties included on HBO Max are much of the history of Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, including this long-running series, about the adventures of a talking milkshake, order of fries and meatball.

- The Office. No, not the NBC version; thats headed to NBCs upcoming Peacock service. But the two seasons of the original British Office, with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, will be available on HBO Max, along with numerous other British shows that include Doctor Who.

- Pretty Little Liars and Big Little Lies. Yes, theyre both on HBO Max.

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters

28. Everything You Wanted to Know About Hitlers MP 40 Submachine Gun, 27 [−]

Caleb Larson

History, Europe

By Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-278-0899-26 / Wehmeyer / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,

A fascinating weapon with a post-war history.

The iconic MP 40 was a German submachine gun designed in the late 1930s that built upon earlier domestic submachine gun designs. The MP 40 was a fully automatic-only weapon, meaning that single shots could not be taken unless the trigger was quickly and carefully pulled just once. The MP 40 was chambered in the ubiquitous 9x19 millimeter pistol cartridge. Though not a particularly powerful round when compared to the American .45 ACP cartridge or the Soviet 7.62x25mm, its nearly 10-inch barrel was sufficient to propel the pistol cartridge to sufficient speeds.

The MP 40 was optimized for mass-production. Rather than using many milled parts, the MP 40 used quite a few stamped parts made from sheet steel, which greatly speeded up production and reduced the weapons manufacturing costs. It was prized for its overall reliability and ease of use, though it was far from perfect and had several design flaws.


One of the MP 40s issues that stands out was its magazine. The MP 40 magazine was somewhat prone to feeding failures, due to excessive friction between magazine lips and rounds ready to be chambered. Feed malfunctions could also be caused by tightly grasping the magazine as a forward grip, which could move the magazine slightly out of line with the guns feed and cause further feeding failures.

The MP 40 used an innovative folding stock that folded towards the lower receiver, giving the weapon a more compact profile. This aided in maneuvering the weapon in confined spaces, such as urban areas. Though compact, the folding stock was not particularly robust compared to fixed wooden stocks, or other folding wire stocks seen on some Allied weapons like the M1 carbine.

Especially on the Eastern Front, the MP 40s 32-round magazine was at a disadvantage against the Soviet PPSh-41, which had a much higher rate of fire, and was often paired with large-capacity drum-style magazine, leaving German soldiers outgunned.


One odd-looking variant designed to address the MP 40s low magazine capacity issue was an MP 40 that could load two magazines side-by-side. Using a simple sliding lever, the shooter could switch feeding from one magazine to the other, effectively doubling the MP 40s capacity. This variant was manufactured only in small quantities and production discontinued, as the slide was easily jammed if not kept free of dirt and debris. The additional weight made the MP 40 unwieldy, contributing to the variants low production numbers.

Another variant was the MP 41, which was essentially an MP 40 upper receiver mated to an MP 28s lower assembly. This combination gave the MP 41 a more solid wooden stock. It was never formally adopted by the German Wehrmacht, but used to equip Axis-allied Romanian troops.


During World War II, captured MP 40s were used by Allied troops and especially by resistance fighters to supplement their own home-made submachine gun designs. Thanks to high production numbers, the MP 40 was also employed after the Second World War in a number of other conflicts. Confiscated weapons were distributed among the Allies after the close of the war and spread further throughout the world, particularly to France and Britains colonial empires.

Caleb Larson holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics, and culture.

Image: Wikimedia

29. U.S. Senate China Hawks Unfazed By Iran-Venezuela Oil Trade, 27 [−]

Matthew Petti


That doesnt change the fundamental dynamics of either of them, said Sen. Pat Toomey (RPa.)

Sen. Pat Toomey (RPa.) called a recent Iranian oil shipment to Venezuela pathetic, as the Trump administration raised the alarm over the alleged sanctions-busting trade between the two U.S. adversaries.

Iranian oil tankers have begun to arrive in Venezuela despite warnings and threats from the Trump administration. The administration has attempted to link both countries to the looming great power competition with China and Russia through an international axis of authoritarianism.

But members of Congress are increasingly skeptical of the threat posed by regional adversaries like Venezuela and Iranand some have even portrayed these regional conflicts as a distraction from the global U.S.-China struggle.

Toomey called the trade a pathetic very, very small scale step that these two rogue countries are going to engage in during a Tuesday conference call with reporters.

That doesnt change the fundamental dynamics of either of them, he claimed. Theyre both economic basket cases. Regardless of how much oil Iran manages to deliver to Venezuela, both economies will remain basket cases for a variety of reasons.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (DMd.) said that he had agreed and had nothing to add.

Van Hollen and Toomey were discussing their proposal to impose economic sanctions on China over human rights abuses in Hong Kong.

The extent to which the Chinese economy is dependent on, integrated with U.S. dollar transactions and the American economy is pretty hard to overstate, Toomey said. So I think these sanctions that we proposed are likely to be very, very powerful for a very long time.

Iran and Venezuela have largely been cut off from the world economy by U.S. economic sanctions.

The latest oil shipment was allegedly part of an oil-for-gold scheme that allows the two countries to trade without using U.S. dollarsmaking it nearly impossible for the United States to block the transaction through legal means.

The Trump administration has used Irans secretive oil trade to link together U.S. adversaries in a global alliance of authoritarians.

China has been one of the countries that has continued to take oil from Iran, even in light of the terror campaign that they have engaged in, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Ben Shapiro Show in April. Authoritarian regimes in times of crisis tend to work together.

Irans oil deal with Venezuela is the latest example of this supposed budding axis of U.S. adversaries.

Pompeo has slammed both China and Venezuela for their dealings with Mahan Air, an airline accused of running smuggling flights for the Iranian military and participating in the oil-for-gold scheme.

It is interesting how governments that isolate themselves from the rest of the world, they end up coming together, Assistant Secretary of State Michael Kozak, in charge of Western hemisphere affairs, said at an April 24 press conference.

But some U.S. lawmakers see the looming U.S.-China conflict as a problem of a different order.

We are entering an era of great power competition involving real adversaries, not little ones like Iran, but ones that can do serious damage, Rep. Tom Malinowski (DN.J.), former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, said at an April event.

Sen. Josh Hawley (RMo.) gave a Senate floor speech last week warning of the threat of a rising Chinaand slamming older U.S. engagements as a distraction.

The free nations again confront a common threat. The Chinese Communist Party is a menace to all free peoples, he said. During the past two decades, as we fought war after war in the Middle East, the Chinese government systematically built its military on the backs of our middle class.

Matthew Petti is a national security reporter at the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter: @matthew_petti.

Image: Reuters.

30. Extreme Weather is Influencing Movement in the United States, 27 [−]

Jack DeWaard

Nature, Americas

Disasters, such as flooding in Michigan, can cause people to move, but not everyone has the means.

If it seems like extreme weather disasters such as hurricanes and wildfires are becoming more frequent, severe and costly, its because they are. And that trend is influencing peoples movements.

Since 1980, the United States has experienced 258 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters defined as disasters resulting in US$1 billion or more in economic losses totaling $1.75 trillion in losses, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. About two-thirds of these disasters and three-quarters of these losses have occurred since the early to mid-2000s.

Natural disasters force millions of people to move every year, a trend which is expected to accelerate around the world due to a changing climate. This is true in the United States as well.

Social scientists like me have seen this already occurring in the U.S. Using a combination of data sources, research shows that, while there are many factors at play, extreme weather disasters are one of the reasons that people migrate to other parts of the United States. An increase in extreme weather events could mean that disaster-driven migration will become more frequent.

One early example is Dust Bowl migration from the U.S. Great Plains during the mid-1930s. Due to a combination of factors including, but not limited to, severe multi-year drought, social erosion and economic hardship, an estimated 2.5 million people migrated from Great Plains states to California and elsewhere in search of economic opportunities.

More recent was the fallout from Hurricane Maria. In a study my colleagues and I published earlier this year, we found that migration from Puerto Rico increased considerably following Hurricane Maria in 2017 and that only about 12% to 13% of people who left the island had returned some two years later.

There are many limitations to the data available from the U.S. Census and other commonly used administrative and survey sources for studying migration, including during and after extreme weather disasters. In our case, we were able to overlay migration data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York/Equifax Consumer Credit Panel on U.S. census tracts, which crudely approximate neighborhoods, to track the movements of people after Hurricane Maria.

A wicked social problem

Apart from specific examples, what does the research show about how hurricanes and other extreme weather disasters are affecting whether and where people move? Past and current research on extreme weather disasters and migration points to three key points.

First, there is no automatic relationship between extreme weather disasters and migration. The reason that extreme weather disasters lead and will increasingly lead to migration is that the people, populations and places involved are vulnerable to the hazards associated with these disasters high winds, storm surge and flooding in the first place.

People, populations and places are vulnerable to extreme weather disasters by virtue of their lack of capacity to cope and adapt, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The capacity to cope and adapt requires economic, social and political resources. As a result, natural and social scientists are increasingly in conversation since extreme weather disasters and climate change more broadly are as much a wicked social problem as a natural one.

Second, people of lower socioeconomic means are more vulnerable to extreme weather events. The resources required to cope with and adapt to extreme weather disasters are not evenly distributed. This means that people, populations and places are differentially vulnerable to the hazards associated with extreme weather disasters depending on their socioeconomic status.

For example, one of the many lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was that the capacity of residents in New Orleans and other affected areas to cope with and adapt to this disaster strongly differed by race, socioeconomic status and other factors. Another and more general way to say this is that inequality today matters a great deal for the ability to cope with and adapt to extreme weather disasters tomorrow.

Third, those most vulnerable to extreme weather disasters are in a double bind. People and populations at the very bottom rungs of society are the most vulnerable to extreme weather disasters; they also have the least capacity to adapt by migrating out of disaster-prone or disaster-affected areas.

The research literature refers to these people and populations as effectively trapped in place, a predicament which raises a number of serious concerns about the potential for large-scale humanitarian emergencies.

Paths forward

A recent World Bank report forecasts that by 2050 some 143 million people worldwide could be forced to migrate within their countries due to extreme weather disasters and climate change. Adding the number of people who will potentially cross international borders means this figure is likely to be far higher.

The increasing frequency, severity and costs of extreme weather disasters, as well as their inherently social character, suggest a number of continued and important steps going forward to better understand how extreme weather disasters are affecting and will continue to affect peoples movements.

First, researchers from different disciplines, including both the natural and social sciences, need to collaborate to better understand the scope of and solutions to the problem.

Second, as a migration scholar, I share the concerns of my colleagues about the availability, quality and comparability of migration data, particularly data on migration during and after extreme weather disasters and on highly vulnerable people and populations. Perhaps as it has with the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau might experiment with new data collection strategies in this area.

Finally, having attended the Paris climate talks as an official observer in 2015, I see a strong need to embed the social sciences in discussions and debates, policies and interventions pertaining to extreme weather disasters and climate change more broadly.

[ Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter. ]

, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

31. You Can Now Buy Samsung QLED Laptops. Are They Worth Your Money?, 27 [−]

Ethen Kim Lieser


Or just a waste of time?

In hopes of riding the strong momentum of its QLED HDTV offerings, Samsung has now placed a huge bet on laptops that boast its much-vaunted QLED displays.

The Korean tech giant recently released the Galaxy Book Flex, Flex Alpha and Ionall three laptops tap into Samsungs full HD QLED displays and 10th-generation Intel processors. Initial reviews have these laptops positioned as solid competitors to OLED laptops, which over the past year have gained more traction among gamers and OLED HDTV enthusiasts.

As for the Flex and Flex Alpha, these laptops are convertible two-in-one PCs. The Flex starts with a price tag of $1,350, and the Flex Alpha at $850 for models with 13.3-inch displays.

The more-expensive Flex also comes with an S Pen, a wireless charger built into the trackpad and a more robust battery, which Samsung claims that it will provide 20 hours of battery life. The Flex Alpha is being touted with 18.5 hours of battery life.

Keep in mind that the trackpad is unavailable to use if its charging a device wirelessly.

For an extra $50, you can purchase the 15.6-inch Flex, featuring 12GB of RAM but slightly less battery life. Both Flex sizes have Intel Core i7 processors, while the Flex Alpha utilizes an i5.

The Flex has two Thunderbolt 3 ports and one USB-C port, while the Flex Alpha comes with one USB-C and two USB 3.0 ports.

Meanwhile, the Flex Ion is being sold as a more conventional laptop with a faster i7 processor. The 13.3-inch model tips the scales at only 2.14 pounds, about half a pound lighter than the Flex and Flex Alpha.

Even without the touchscreen option, the Ion is still a bit pricy, starting at $1,200. It does, however, come with an HDMI port, as well as two USB 3.0 ports and one Thunderbolt 3-capable USB-C.

As the worlds biggest TV seller, Samsung is continuing to rely on its highly regarded display tech. While basically an LCD display with quantum dots, these QLED panels promise richer colors, deeper blacks and greater brightness.

Although QLEDs cant compete with OLEDs in terms of black levels and wide-angle viewing, Samsungs displays can get noticeably brighter, which would enhance viewing during daytime and in well-lit rooms.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. He currently resides in Minneapolis.

32. Why an Undiscovered Planet in Our Solar System Is Unlikely, 27 [−]

Samantha Lawler


Many beautiful and surprising objects remain to be discovered in the mysterious outer solar system. An undiscovered planet is not one of them.

Planet Nine is a theoretical, undiscovered giant planet in the mysterious far reaches of our solar system.

The presence of Planet Nine has been hypothesized to explain everything from the tilt of the suns spin axis to the apparent clustering in the orbits of small, icy asteroids beyond Neptune.

But does Planet Nine actually exist?

Discoveries at the edge of our solar system

The Kuiper Belt is a collection of small, icy bodies that orbit the sun beyond Neptune, at distances larger than 30 AU (one astronomical unit or AU is the distance between the Earth and the sun). These Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) range in size from large boulders to 2,000 km across. KBOs are leftover small bits of planetary material that were never incorporated into planets, similar to the asteroid belt.

The discoveries from the most successful Kuiper Belt survey to date, the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS), suggest a sneakier explanation for the orbits we see. Many of these KBOs have been discovered to have very elliptical and tilted orbits, like Pluto.

Mathematical calculations and detailed computer simulations have shown that the orbits we see in the Kuiper Belt can only have been created if Neptune originally formed a few AU closer to the sun, and migrated outward to its present orbit. Neptunes migration explains the pervasiveness of highly elliptical orbits in the Kuiper Belt, and can explain all the KBO orbits weve observed, except for a handful of KBOs on extreme orbits that always stay at least 10 AU beyond Neptune.

Proof of Planet Nine?

These extreme orbits have provided the strongest evidence for Planet Nine. The first few that were discovered were all confined to one quadrant of the solar system. Astronomers expect to observe orbits at all different orientations, unless there is an outside force confining them. Finding several extreme KBOs on orbits pointed in the same direction was a hint that something was going on. Two separate groups of researchers calculated that only a large, very distant planet could keep all the orbits confined to part of the solar system, and the theory of Planet Nine was born.

Planet Nine is theorized to be five to 10 times as massive as Earth, with an orbit ranging between 300-700 AU. There have been several published predictions for its location in the solar system, but none of the search teams have yet discovered it. After more than four years of searching, there is still only indirect evidence in favour of Planet Nine.

The search for KBOs

Searching for KBOs requires careful planning, precise calculations and meticulous followup. I am part of the OSSOS, a collaboration of 40 astronomers from eight countries. We used the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope over five years to discover and track more than 800 new KBOs, nearly doubling the number of known KBOs with well-measured orbits. The KBOs discovered by OSSOS range in size from a few kilometres to over 100 km, and range in discovery distance from a few AU to over 100 AU, with the majority at 40-42 AU in the main Kuiper Belt.

KBOs do not emit their own light: these small, icy bodies only reflect light from the sun. Thus, the biases against detection at larger distances are extreme: if you move a KBO 10 times farther away, it will become 10,000 times fainter. And because of the laws of physics, KBOs on elliptical orbits will spend most of their time at the most distant parts of their orbits. So, while it is easy to find KBOs on elliptical orbits when they are close to the sun and bright, these KBOs spend most time being much fainter and harder to detect.

This means that the KBOs on elliptical orbits are particularly hard to discover, especially the extreme ones that always stay relatively far from the sun. Only a few of these have been found to date and, with current telescopes, we can only discover them when they are near pericentre the closest point to the sun in their orbit.

This leads to another observation bias that has historically been ignored by many KBO surveys: KBOs in each part of the solar system can only be discovered at certain times of year. Ground-based telescopes are additionally limited by seasonal weather, with discoveries less likely to happen during when cloudy, rainy or windy conditions are more frequent. Discoveries of KBOs are also much less likely near the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, where countless stars make it difficult to find the faint, icy wanderers in telescopic images.

What makes OSSOS unique is that we are very public about these biases in discoveries. And because we understand our biases so well, we can use computer simulations to reconstruct the true shape of the Kuiper Belt after removing these biases.

Adjusting for biases

OSSOS discovered a handful of new extreme KBOs, half of which are outside the confined region, and are statistically consistent with a uniform distribution. A new study (currently in review) corroborates the non-clustered discoveries of OSSOS. A team of astronomers using data from the Dark Energy Survey (DES) found over 300 new KBOs with no clustering of orbits. So now two independent surveys both of which carefully tracked and reported their observational biases in discovering independent sets of extreme KBOs have found no evidence for clustered orbits.

All of the extreme KBOs that had been discovered prior to OSSOS and DES were from surveys that did not fully report their directional biases. So we do not know if all these KBOs were discovered in the same quadrant of the solar system because they are actually confined, or because no surveys searched deep enough in the other quadrants. We performed additional simulations that showed that if observations are made only in one season from one telescope, extreme KBOs will naturally only be discovered in one quadrant of the solar system.

Further testing the Planet Nine theory, we looked in detail at the orbits of all known extreme KBOs and found that all but the two highest pericentre KBOs can be explained by known physical effects. These two KBOs are outliers, but our previous detailed computer simulations of the Kuiper Belt, which included gravitational effects from Planet Nine, produced a set of extreme KBOs with pericentres smoothly ranging from 40 to over 100 AU.

These simulations predict that there should be many KBOs with pericentres as large as the two outliers, but also many KBOs with smaller pericentres, which should be much easier to detect. Why dont the orbit discoveries match the predictions? The answer may be that the Planet Nine theory does not hold up to detailed observations.

Our observations with a careful survey have discovered KBOs that are not confined by Planet Nine, and our simulations show that the Kuiper Belt should contain different orbits than we observe if Planet Nine exists. Other theories must be invoked to explain the high-pericentre extreme KBOs, but there is no lack of proposed theories in the scientific literature.

Many beautiful and surprising objects remain to be discovered in the mysterious outer solar system, but I dont believe that Planet Nine is one of them.

Samantha Lawler is an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at the University of Regina.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

33. History Lesson: How America Hunted Down President Lincoln's Murderer, 27 [−]

Warfare History Network

History, Americas

John Surratt somehow escaped justice after the Lincoln assassination despite being intimately acquainted with John Wilkes Booth and other conspirators.

On the evening of April 14, 1865, noted actor John Wilkes Booth entered Fords Theater in Washington, D.C., where a play entitled Our American Cousin was well underway. A number of people saw and recognized Booth as he entered the theater, but they paid him little mind. After all, Booth had performed often at the theater and he even got his mail delivered there since he had no permanent mailing address in the city.

Shortly after 10 oclock, Booth entered President Abraham Lincolns private box overlooking the stage, barring the door behind him so that no one else could enter. He waited patiently until the proper time in the play arrived when he knew there would be the loudest laughter. You sockdologizing old mantrap! one of the cast called another. The audience roared. Stepping forward with his small pistol, Booth fired one bullet into the presidents brain, inflicting a mortal wound behind his left ear. He then leaped down onto the stage, catching his boot spur on the bunting beneath the presidential box and breaking his leg in the fall, but quickly limping offstage and making his way out of Washington on horseback with his accomplice, David Herold, a boyhood friend.

For the next 12 days, the largest manhunt in the nations history took place. Booth and Herold were finally cornered by Union soldiers at the Maryland farm of Richard Garrett, and after a brief firefight Herold gave up. Booth, remaining inside a burning barn on the property, was mortally wounded in the neck by a rifle shot and died on the morning of April 26. Useless, was the last word his Union captors heard him utter.

Booths death was not the end of the manhunt for his co-conspirators. While others in the plot were quickly rounded up, one man escaped, beginning the pursuit of the last Lincoln conspirator still on the loose. His name was John Harrison Surratt, Jr., and he was the son of Mary Surratt, at whose home the assassination had been planned. Before the hunt for John Surratt was over, his pursuers would follow him to Canada and Europe before finally catching up with him in Egypt.

Surratt In the Civil War

John Surratt was born on April 13, 1844, the last child of Mary and John Surratt, Sr. The elder Surratt was a drunk, but he managed to purchase a boarding house in Washington, as well as a tavern in Surrattsville, Maryland, where he also served as the local postmaster. As a young man, Surratt attended St. Charles College in Ellicott Mills near Baltimore. One of his Catholic seminary classmates there was Louis Wiechmann, who in later years would live in Mary Surratts boarding house at 541 H Street in Washington and would play an important role in the events leading up to the Lincoln assassination.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War, Surratt left St. Charles School and joined the Confederate cause as a dispatch rider. He delivered mail from Washington to his Confederate allies across the Potomac River. He once told a friend, If the Yankees knew what I was doing they would stretch this old neck of mine. After the death of his father, Surratt came home to Surrattsville to take over the reins of the hotel. The tavern at Surrattsville was a weigh station for Confederate couriers who often stopped by for food and lodging. The store also served as a mail drop for Confederate riders, and Surratt became even more deeply involved in the Confederate cause.

The Conspiracy Begins

By the fall of 1864, Mary Surratt was having financial difficulty with her Surrattsville tavern; she decided to move her family to her boarding house in Washington. Mary leased the tavern to a man named John Lloyd for $600 a year. On December 23, 1864, Surratt and his friend Wiechmann were strolling down a street in Washington when they ran into Samuel Mudd, an old Maryland acquaintance who was Christmas shopping for his family. Accompanying Mudd was John Wilkes Booth. Mudd introduced Booth to Surratt, and they went to Booths room at the National Hotel. The actor took Mudd aside for a private conversation out of earshot of both Surratt and Wiechmann. He then handed Surratt a piece of paper and asked him to draw lines showing the roads leading into and out of Charles County. Shortly thereafter, the men all went their separate ways.

Over the next several weeks, Booth asked Surratt more questions about the routes from Washington to the Potomac River without telling him why he wanted such information. Exasperated, Surratt finally told Booth that he was fed up with his evasiveness and demanded to know what Booth wanted. Finally, Booth told Surratt of a plan he had been pursuing for some timenothing less than a plot to kidnap President Lincoln. He planned to capture the president as he rode to the Soldiers Home and spirit him away to Richmond, where he would be exchanged for thousands of Confederate prisoners. Booth asked Surratt if he wanted to join the conspiracy. The young man said yes.

Booth became a frequent visitor to Mary Surratts boarding house on H Street. Booth and Surratt would sit alone for hours, poring over intricate plans to capture the president. Booth insisted that it was foolproof and that it could be carried out without a hitch. Booths plan called for the conspirators to take the captured president south via the Potomac River. They needed people who were familiar with the intricate routes and rivers to aid them. One such man was a German immigrant to the United States, George Atzerodt, a 29-year-old carriage builder who lived in Port Tobacco in Charles County. Surratt persuaded Atzerodt to join the conspiracy due to his vast knowledge of the Potomac and its tributaries. It was Surratts job to secure the boats to take Lincoln south; he bought one from Richard Smoot, a farmer who lived near Port Tobacco.

On April 14, the day of the assassination, Surratt was in Elmira, New York, on orders to scout the infamous Union prison there for a possible raid to free Confederate prisoners. It is not known if Surratt was privy to Booths plan to kill the president, but his being away from Washington on the day of the assassination proved beneficial to him in the long run. Booth had told Herold and Atzerodt that Surratt was in Washington, even though he knew that Surratt was in Elmira, possibly to set up Surratt as a fall guy if the assassination plot went awry.

Taking Flight in Canada

At 3 am on April 15, detectives from the Metropolitan Police arrived at the home of Mary Surratt. They had received a tip that her son may have been involved in the assassination, and they quickly followed up the lead. The police told boarders at the residence of the presidents assassination and said they were looking for Booth and Surratt. The detectives searched the house but found no trace of either man. The police then asked Mary Surratt when she had last seen Booth. She replied that she had seen him at 2 pm the previous day. They asked her if she knew the whereabouts of her son. Mary said no but that she believed he was in Canada. On April 17, detectives arrived once again at Mary Surratts boarding house and placed her under arrest for conspiracy in the assassination of the president.

While the manhunt for Booth and Herold was underway, John Surratt was back in Canada preparing for his journey to Europe. Unknown to most people in the conspiracy, Surratt had obtained a passport the previous January from both the American and British colonial officials in Quebec under the name of John Watson.

The United States government now mounted a worldwide hunt for Surratt. Confederate Secret Service agents took Surratt to a Catholic priest named Father Charles Boucher, who hid the former seminarian for three months at his parish in St. Liboire. Surratt was then given over to a Father La Pierre and stayed at his home for the next two months. In the meantime, Mary Surratt and the other Lincoln conspirators were tried, convicted, and hanged. Surratt made no attempt to contact his mother before her death. He said later, a little unconvincingly, that he was unaware of the grave danger she was in.

Believing that it was not safe to keep him in Canada any longer, the priests arranged for Surratt to be taken on board a ship, Peruvian, that sailed from Quebec to Liverpool, England. Surratt booked passage under the name McCarthy. Once the ship docked in Liverpool, Peruvians surgeon, Dr. Lewis McMillen, told the American vice-consul that Surratt was in the city.

Surratt did not linger long in England. He soon made his way to Italy, where he enlisted in the Papal Zouaves under the name of John Watson. One of the men Surratt met in the same unit was a Canadian, Henri St. Marie, a Southern sympathizer who had joined the Confederate Army and been captured while serving on a gunboat. Surratt and St. Marie became friends, and Surratt told him that his real name was not John Watson, but John Surratt.

In the end, the trial resulted in a hung jury. A year later the government tried to bring new charges against Surratt, getting indictments based on the District of Columbias treason statute of 1862. The court ruled that the treason statute had expired two years previously and that Surratt was legally a free man. Had Surratt been tried in military court, it is highly probable that he would have been found guilty and executed, like his mother.

After the trial, Surratt moved to Rockville, Maryland, where he took a teaching job at a girls school. He then went on the lecture circuit, appearing first before an audience at the Montgomery County Courthouse, where he told his listeners that he had taken part in Booths attempt to kidnap the president but that he had no role or knowledge of the assassination. He married a woman in Baltimore in 1872 and found a job with the Old Bay Line shipping company as an auditor.

Surratt, the last of the Lincoln conspirators, died well into the 20th century, on April 16, 1916, almost exactly 51 years removed from the first presidential assassination. With his death, the last remaining figure in the assassination of the 16th president of the United States passed from the scene, unpunished and unrepentant.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikipedia.

34. The Biden Campaign Has Its Work Cut Out for It, 27 [−]

Bruce Wolpe

Politics, Americas

Bidens task is clear: to take back those traditionally Democratic states Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin that Trump won in 2016s outburst of populist anger at the political establishment.

At age 77, in his twilight years, the third time was the charm for Joe Biden.

He prevailed over a field of 24 Democrats from across the political spectrum and has emerged as his partys nominee for president in a manner unthinkable in January: a united party, from left to right, across race and creed, age and ideology. He is the victor despite mediocre fundraising, no digital media traction, no base of wild enthusiasts. Voters had to consider his appeals before coming to understand and then accept that it was indeed Joe Biden, who failed in his bids for the White House in 1988 and 2008, who was the strongest Democrat to go up against Donald Trump and take him out.

Bidens essence is unchanged from that first race more than three decades ago. As Richard Ben Cramer reported in his legendary account of the 1988 campaign, What It Takes, Biden realised:

What Americans wanted from their government [was] just a helping hand, to make the fight for a better life for their kids, just a platform to stand on, so they could reach higher That was his life: he was just a middle-class kid whod got a little help along the way and that was all he had to show. But thats what connected him to the great body of voters in the country. Thats all he needed!

Fast-forward to Biden as vice president in the Obama administration. I captured his addresses to the Democrats in the House of Representatives. This is how I recorded two journal entries for my book (with co-author Bryan Marshall) The Committee, on Obamas historic legislative agenda in Congress.

In 2010:

We have to help the middle class and working Americans the people who sent us here.

In 2012:

It is absolutely clear that the decisions we made are working. And the public understands they are working [] The American people understand that the Republicans have rejected the notion of compromise. Thats not the way the American people want us to do business [] We cant straighten them out, but the American people will in November []

We will win based purely on the merits of our position. America is going to get an absolutely clear comparison this year. Its a stark, stark, stark, contrast [] Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.

This has been Bidens whole life connecting with the gut of middle America. His 2020 message is the same as he ran on in 1988. And the task is the same as when he was on the ticket with Obama in 2008: to ensure America recovers from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Biden was responsible for ensuring the delivery of the American Recovery Act the first piece of major legislation enacted after Obama and Biden took office. Ultimately, it spurred a decade of economic growth and full employment. So Biden has been there and will work to do it again.

A vice president to pick

We know only that it will be a woman. The oped pages and social media are on overdrive on who is best. Two things are paramount to Biden, because he knows the job and he knows what has to work.

Especially given his age, it is imperative the vice president be fully qualified and capable to step in to serve as president on her first heartbeat after his last and is seen as such by the American people. This is where Sarah Palin was such a failure for John McCain in 2008.

Other mediocrities, both callow (Dan Quayle under George H.W. Bush) and criminal (Spiro Agnew with Richard Nixon) served but did not ascend to the presidency. Others, starting with Walter Mondale under Jimmy Carter, and then Al Gore under Bill Clinton, and Dick Cheney under George W. Bush, became true partners in governance, with real power and responsibility, and remade the office. That is the Biden template.

Biden insisted on and received from Obama a promise that he would be the last person in the room with the president before major decisions were taken, so he could give the full benefit of his judgment whether the president took it or not. (Obama did not take Bidens advice on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.)

Biden wants a vice president who can do the same with him. The virtues she would bring to the ticket, such as Amy Klobuchars ability to drive votes for Biden in the Midwest, and Kamala Harris, who can bring a surge of African American voters to the polls, are but the icing on the judgment Biden will make.

The second factor is chemistry: Biden has to feel with his selection the same intensity that marked Obamas bond with him over their eight years together. So a woman who is absolutely qualified and star-studded wont get it if Biden feels they cannot do great things together through shared conviction and trust.

Given the strike rate of vice presidents who have become president five of the past 11 since 1952 Bidens choice will likely affect the future of the Democratic Party and the country for perhaps the next 12 years.

An election to win

Ask anyone in America who is politically attuned and they will tell you this is the most important election of their lifetimes. President Donald Trump has the bully pulpit of the White House where, as we have seen during the pandemic crisis, he can command the airwaves for hours every day to pound home his message. He has a TV network that has effectively become a state media channel. He has a Republican senate that will provide no check on his misbehaviour and no effort to protect the election against Russian interference or voter suppression.

Trump has 90% loyalty in the Republican Party. He has the power to declare national emergencies and launch military action to defend the United States. His campaign has a viciously effective social media war machine. He will conservatively outspend Biden by well over US$100 million. His base has not cracked it is solid at 46% after the pummelling Trump triggers from what he calls fake news and the enemy of the people, and after the disgrace of impeachment.

Trumps avalanche of lies will continue unabated. He is the most shameless and relentless campaigner in modern American history. And if gets enough votes in the key states he won in 2016, he can be re-elected.

Bidens task is clear: to take back those traditionally Democratic states Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin that Trump won in 2016s outburst of populist anger at the political establishment, which included Hillary Clinton. And he must withstand and neuter the unprecedented charges of conspiracy and corruption that Trump is unleashing with Obamagate.

As of now, Biden leads Trump nationally by three to nine points in the polls. He is leading in three key battleground states, including Florida, and has a chance to capture Arizona and North Carolina. Trump is targeting Minnesota, New Hampshire and New Mexico. The consensus today is if the election was held now, Biden would win.

November is increasingly becoming a referendum on Trump and his management of the pandemic, and whether voters, facing disastrous hardship (over 16 million Americans lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs), trust Trump to restore the economy.

Bidens message is already clear: Trumps failures to appreciate the pandemic and act to protect the American people unnecessarily cost tens of thousands of lives. Biden helped bring the nation back from the Great Recession in 2009 and knows how to do it again in 2021.

A country to heal

Bidens campaign launch video in April 2019 could not have been clearer:

I wrote at the time [of Nazis marching in Charlottesville in 2017] that were in the battle for the soul of this nation. Well, thats even more true today. I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation who we are and I cannot stand by and watch that happen [] The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America America, is at stake. Even more important, we have to remember who we are. This is America.

In the late stages of the primaries, the overwhelming sentiment of most Democrats was simple: get rid of Trump. As voters could see limits to the appeal of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg simply could not reach critical mass, they decisively concluded it was Biden that everyone knew and trusted to do the job and free the country of Trump.

Because first they want America healed, too.

Bruce Wolpe is a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the United States Study Centre, University of Sydney.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

35. Is Your Neighborhood Raising Your Coronavirus Risk?, 27 [−]

Jeremy N?meth, Sarah Rowan


America is at a crossroads, and cities can embrace this opportunity to address health disparities.

Vicente Arenas moved to the edge of Denvers Valverde neighborhood, attracted by low housing prices and proximity to his downtown job just three miles away.

The 1-square-mile neighborhood mixes small, ranch-style homes with auto body shops, metal fabricators and industrial supply warehouses, and is hemmed in on its four sides by state highways and interstates. Much of Valverde is devoid of streetlights and wide sidewalks, a fact that Arenas laments. But he immediately felt a strong kinship with the local Hispanic population, which comprises 81% of residents.

There is a real sense of familia in this area, Arenas says, where every house has multiple generations from the grandparents down to the little kids, families are piling into trucks together, and youll see five guys crowded around trying to fix an engine. And then theres the smell of fresh tortillas every night. The neighborhood is most vibrant in the evenings, he explains, when residents return home after long work days in the construction and food service industries.

But what makes Valverde so attractive to Arenas might also have raised its risks amid the coronavirus pandemic. Its location brings air pollution that can increase the risk of serious respiratory problems, bustling homes makes social distancing nearly impossible, and commuting together increases exposure to potentially infected individuals.

It came as little surprise to us, an urban planning professor and infectious disease doctor, that Valverde had the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rate in the city.

Place matters

Public health officials and urban planners have long known that ones ZIP code is an especially reliable indicator of educational attainment, lifetime earnings and even life expectancy. Near Washington, D.C., for example, residents of Chevy Chase can expect to live nearly 33 years longer than those from Barry Farm, a neighborhood just 10 miles away.

ZIP code is also a great indicator of risk for disease transmission. Across the U.S., in cities as diverse as Austin, New York City and San Francisco, lower-income communities of color are experiencing disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death.

One set of explanations for these geographical disparities focuses on the individual circumstances of neighborhood residents. Indeed, for the 60% of low-wage U.S. workers lucky enough to have kept their jobs through the crisis, those in essential service positions like construction, food preparation and retail cannot simply Zoom with colleagues from home. They often rely on family members, who may themselves be in high-risk age groups, for child care and depend on crowded public transit for their commutes before returning home to crowded apartments or houses. And those with limited English fluency often struggle to obtain reliable health information. Lacking health insurance often leads people to delay seeking medical care, sometimes resulting in severe health consequences.

In Denver, neighborhood maps also reveal other influences. For example, maps of COVID-19 hospitalizations overlap with maps showing lack of health insurance and access to preventive medical care.

Yet few people have focused on how neighborhood characteristics, or environmental factors, might play a role in virus transmission. Is it possible that neighborhoods themselves are making people sick?

Its likely. The CDC says that people with asthma are at higher risk for severe illness if they contract COVID-19, and rates of asthma are notoriously elevated near highways like those surrounding Valverde. Diabetes, hypertension and obesity rates are also strong risk factors for virus contraction; these conditions are linked to physical activity and diet, which are themselves directly influenced by access to quality walking and biking infrastructure, parks and healthy food outlets, all features that tend to be lacking in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The legacy of redlining

Why does this geographical clustering of disadvantage and privilege occur in cities around the U.S.?

Much of our present-day disparities in health, wealth and social mobility can be traced back to the 1930s, when Valverde and similar neighborhoods were redlined by the Home Owners Loan Corporation. In this racist practice, banks drew red lines on a map around neighborhoods with populations of color, restricting lending in these places and starving them of investment for generations to come.

The legacies of redlining are well-documented. Due to decades of disinvestment, once-redlined neighborhoods have higher poverty rates, lower-performing schools, more segregation, lower social mobility, greater exposure to extreme heat, fewer parks, higher gentrification rates, and more indicators of urban decline than those that were not. Property is also the primary way that families build and inherit wealth in America; the average white family now holds 10 times the wealth of the average black family and seven times the average Hispanic family.

In Denver, decades of legally sanctioned disinvestment and segregation made redlined neighborhoods fertile ground for the siting of polluting industrial facilities and two interstate highways, one of which runs directly through Valverde a familiar story in cities around the U.S..

These inequities have contributed to vast differences in levels of social vulnerability the constellation of individual and environmental circumstances that weaken a communitys ability to prepare for and respond to crises like this pandemic. Mapping scores on the CDCs Social Vulnerability Index in Denver reveals how these clear patterns of disadvantage coincide with COVID-19 hospitalization rates.

Building healthier cities

Given these realities, how can cities best contain this virus and plan for the next pandemic?

A decentralized, health equity-oriented approach to fighting the epidemic that brings testing and support services into our most historically vulnerable neighborhoods can increase access to preventive health care and improve health across entire communities.

In the short term, critical efforts can include widespread free testing events in vulnerable neighborhoods, along with distribution of free hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and masks, which also helps ensure that at-risk residents do not have to travel on crowded public transportation to shop for these items. This is also an opportunity to link uninsured residents to health care coverage and primary care providers.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock recently said the city is committed to taking the test to the people, particularly where our most vulnerable residents live. And in April, San Francisco rolled out temporary field care clinics in at-risk neighborhoods. Health care workers in these dispersed clinics are trained to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate medical information about what to do if one feels sick, what testing and treatment options exist and how to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

In the longer term, urban planners have demonstrated how a commitment to building healthy urban environments those that prioritize walking and cycling, promote recreation, produce more affordable housing, allow residents to access healthy food locally and provide public transportation options can have long-lasting impacts for all residents.

In addition, locating neighborhood health centers in at-risk neighborhoods has been proven to improve health and build a sense of community trust that can be instrumental in times of crisis.

America is at a crossroads, and cities can embrace this opportunity to address health disparities. Health care officials and urban planning professionals are beginning to work together to help lift communities from the legacy of discriminatory policies. By employing interventions that acknowledge the power of place, the country can mitigate harm from the current epidemic and help create more just, healthy and resilient communities that are better prepared for future challenges.

, Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Colorado Denver

, Assistant Professor of Medicine-Infectious Disease, University of Colorado Denver

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

36. Why America's Whig Party Was So Good At Winning (And Losing) The White House, 27 [−]

Warfare History Network

History, Americas

The Whig Party had better luck electing presidents than keeping them in office once they were elected.

The short-lived Whig Party had a fair degree of success electing candidates for president, winning two of the five presidential elections in which it fielded a candidate. It was no accident that both winners were former generalsWilliam Henry Harrison in 1840 and Zachary Taylor in 1848. The Whigs had come about in the first place as a reaction to Democratic President Andrew Jackson, himself a famous general and war hero. Indeed, the took a page from Jacksons own campaign strategy when they selected Harrison to run against Jacksons former vice-president, Martin Van Buren, in 1840.

Mindful of the success Jackson had enjoyed by running on his war record and his homespun background as Old Hickory, the Whigs marketed the aristocratic Harrison as a virtual Jackson cloneOld Tippecanoea nickname they brazenly manufactured from Harrisons rather inconclusive victory over the Shawnee-led Indian confederation at Tippecanoe Creek, Indiana, in November 1811. Shamelessly comparing Tippecanoe to the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, where Jackson decisively bested the flower of the British Army, the Whigs trumpeted Harrison as the new Jackson.

In truth, Harrisons troops had been surprised and badly mauled at Tippecanoe by the forces of Tecumsehs brother, Tenskwatawa, but a last-ditch stand had enabled them to hold off the Indians until the enemy withdrew unhurriedly into the woods, allowing Harrison to claim a technical victory by controlling the battlefield. From that distinctly unemphatic triumph, Harrison was put forth nearly three decades later as a suitable successor to Old Hickory. He easily defeated Van Buren, who was saddled with the (then) worst depression in American history, in the ensuing election. We have taught them how to conquer us, The Democratic Review lamented.

Eight years later the Whigs replicated their triumph by choosing another war hero, this one a good deal more plausible. In the just-concluded war with Mexico, Zachary Taylor had led his army to an unbroken series of victories over much-larger Mexican forces in Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterrey, and Buena Vista. Once again, the Whigs gave their candidate a memorable nickname: Old Rough and Ready. And once again, they rode their candidate to victory.

The Curse Begins With Harrison

Unfortunately for the Whigs, they were a good deal less successful keeping their candiates alive once they had elected them to the White House. Harrison, who at 68 was the oldest man (to that date) elected president, unwisely delivered a nearly two-hour-long inaugural address in the biting wind without benefit of a coat or hat. Already worn down by the rigors of the campaign, Harrison caught a cold that worsened rapidly into pneumonia. He died exactly one month after his inaguration.

Taylor, who was a still-vigorous 63 at the time of his election, did a little better than Harrison, serving as president for 16 months before ill-advisedly drinking a glass of fresh milk and eating some unwashed fruit at the height of the Washington summer. He caught cholera morbus from the tainted food and died five days later.

Four year later the Whigs disintegrated as a political party, undone by the growing turmoil over slavery, which fatally divided their northern and southern wings. They almost enjoyed the last laugh, however. In 1860, a former Whig, Abraham Lincoln, was elected president. He, too, had a colorful nicknamethe Rail Splitterbut he too died in office, the victim not of a sudden illness but an assassins bullet. Once again, the curse of the Whigs came true.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikipedia.

37. Marines to Receive Modular HandgunFirst New Pistol in 35 Years, 27 [−]

Peter Suciu

Security, Americas

Long overdue and very exciting for the Corps.

As part of the Marine Corps Systems Commands (MCSCs) Program Manager for Infantry Weapons large-scale modernization project to increase the lethality of the infantry squad, the Corps has begun the procurement of the Modular Handgun System (MHS) to replace all of its current pistols.

This striker-fired pistolthe M18 service pistol is a compact variant of the striker-fired M17 based on the Sig Sauer P320features a plastic clip-on piece, which enables Marines to change grip sizes to accommodate different hand sizes. The weapon is also compatible with the pistol-aiming module used by some units.

The M18 is a 9mm pistol that featured a coyote-tan PVD coated stainless steel slide with back controls. The handgun is equipped with SIGLITE front night sights and removable night sight rear plate and manual safety.

MCSC will begin fielding the system this fiscal year.

The MHS improves on the precision and reliability of the legacy platforms, while also bringing with it new, more effective ammunition, said Maj. Mike Brisker, weapons product manager for PM IW.

The M18 will replace the Beretta M9, which has been the standard sidearm of the Corps since it was adopted in 1985. The Sig Sauer produced M18 will also replace the selectively-fired Glock 9mm M007 concealed carry as well as the M45A1.

It has been a slow transition, and one that will still take a few more years to complete. The Marines began eyeing the Armys new pistol in 2018, and laid out plans to purchase 35,000 of the handguns in the 2019 budget request according to Task and Purpose. The service did end up purchasing some 30,306 M18s, and has began to issue the weapon in February 2019 when Sig Sauer delivered the first batch of 5,000 pistols to the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines Corps for training, demonstration and evaluation.

MilitaryTimes reported that the M18 successfully completed a MHS material reliability test that consisted of firing three M18 pistols to 12,000 rounds each for a total of 36,000 rounds in accordance with MHS requirements. Comparatively, the U.S. Armys M9 was only tested to 5,000 rounds. In the testing, the M18 experienced zero stoppages despite being allowed up to a dozen stoppages. Additionally, the M18 passed a parts interchange test, and it also met stringent accuracy and dispersion requirements.

The Air Force and Navy have each announced plans to purchase 130,000 and 60,000 M18 pistols respectively in the coming years. The Army has also announced that it will buy approximately 195,000 MHS pistolsbut the majority of those will be the M17 version.

Sig Sauer had beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta in the MHS completion, which the Army launched in late August 2015 to replace the M9.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Image: Reuters

38. Marine Corps Has Armys Next General Squad Weapon in the Crosshairs, 27 [−]

Peter Suciu

Security, Americas

Upgrade time?

Even as the United States Marine Corps continues to field the M27 infantry automatic rifles, the Corps has put the U.S. Armys Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) in the crosshairs, reported. However, it isnt as simple as adopting the new weapon that the Army is using, because the Army hasnt actually determined what will be the NGSW.

The experimental 6.8mm NGSW is still in its final phase of testing, but the Army has narrowed down the selection process to three very unique firearms. Each of the weapons being considered have starkly different designs, but notably each will be chambered for the new 6.8mm round, which was developed to be more lethal than the currently used 5.56mm NATO ammunition. It is designed to penetrate modern enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current 5.56 enhanced performance round.

Whichever one is ultimately chosen will replace the Armys M249 squad automatic weapon (SAW) and the M4A1 carbine. The rifle/auto-rifle variants are scheduled to begin adoption in fiscal 2023.The Marine Corps decision to adopt the same weapon as the Army makes sense, especially as the Marine Corps Systems Commands (MCSCs) Program Manager for Infantry Weapons has begun a large-scale modernization project to increase the lethality of the infantry squad.

This has included expanding the use of the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle (IAR), which was originally fielded to infantry units as a replacement for the M249 SAW in 2011. The M27, which is a lightweight, air-cooled, gas piston operated, shoulder-fired weapon used primarily as an alternative to heavier belt-fed SAWs, has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from Marines.

However, the M27, which was developed by German-based Heckler & Koch and first fielded in 2011, hasnt been universally adopted across the Corps. Instead the USMC is collaborating with other services to field certain systems, and this includes the Armys NGSW, which it could replace as the M27 as the primary personal weapon for infantry units.

The weapon is noted for the inclusion of an optic/fire control system that will incorporate a distributed reticle to improve the shooters accuracy, and that could provide a significant boost to the lethality of the individual soldier and Marine.

This is the largest modernization of the infantry squad in the last 25 years, said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, MCSCs program manager for Infantry Weapons.

The Marine Corps could receive first delivers of the NGSW as early as fiscal year 2025. But that may not mean the end of the line entirely for the M27 and the Corps. reported that if a decision is made to procure the NGSW, the Marines Corps will evaluate reissue of the M27 from infantry units to other Fleet Marine Force units.

According to Task & Purpose roughly 567 soldiers and Marines have contributed 7,658 hours of testing to the NGSW.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Image: Reuters

39. Essential Workers Deserve to Be Valued in a Post-Coronavirus Economy Too, 27 [−]

Christopher Michaelson

economy, Americas

The coronavirus recession has laid bare how illogically the U.S. labor market values work that matters.

The coronavirus recession has laid bare how illogically the U.S. labor market values work that matters.

In the United States, as elsewhere, citizens have been extolling the role of essential workers such as nurses, grocery suppliers and delivery drivers by, for example, rewarding them with nightly claps. Yet many of these employees receive low pay and few protections, suggesting a different appreciation of their worth in the market.

But in highlighting this disconnect, perhaps the crisis has also provided an opportunity to reimagine an economy that values jobs for something more than just wealth creation: meaningfulness.

A moral market?

Meaningfulness has to do with how much ones work matters in a moral sense, which is not always signified by how much money a job pays. It often relates to personal fulfillment from work but may also concern the social contribution work makes and what, morally, we ought to value. Contemporary social scientists and philosophers cite historical thinkers as diverse as Adam Smith and Karl Marx as recognizing the potential for meaningless work to detract from human well-being.

Unfortunately, our labor market tends not to account adequately for morality. For example, it often assigns less tangible value, such as money, to meaningful work that is intangibly valuable. A high school teacher may have a harder time accounting for her share in the success of a former students business venture than does the investment banker who helped fund the startup.

Workers who risk their well-being to clean bedpans at hospitals and stock shelves at grocery stores may have only the reassurance that their work is essential to augment their relatively meager compensation.

To suggest that moral values should be more integral to the free market is neither anti-capitalist nor partisan. As an ethics professor and business adviser, I know it is widely accepted that markets are imperfect and require mediation to balance out inequities.

Even a celebrated market economist like Milton Friedman recognized that the free market undervalues some things. Accordingly, disruptions from events like the current pandemic warrant public and private sector coordination to ensure an adequate supply of essential goods and services.

Checks and bank balances

The recently passed bipartisan stimulus package that offers proportionately more to people who have less is consistent with this view that markets warrant intervention when it can stave off human suffering.

Similarly, wealthy individuals often act generously when they perceive distress that may be caused by unfairness in market mechanisms for example, by donating money to make up for lost wages. But this only highlights a system that rewards some people with so much wealth that they can cover the missed paychecks of hundreds or thousands of others.

But I would argue that bailout checks and individual acts of kindness are not nearly enough. They may even have the unintended consequence of moral licensing creating the false impression among individuals that they have fully done their part to mitigate the problem.

Laid-off workers having to look for new work in what could be a prolonged, post-pandemic recession will not find long-term stability in temporary infusions of cash and charity. Economic and social recovery will require the creation of tens of millions of jobs for those who have filed unemployment claims. But we should also be looking to promote meaningful work in a post-pandemic economy through the rewarding of pay that is proportional to a works meaningfulness.

Work deemed essential in the pandemic has taken on more meaning because it is urgent to people now. However, even after this crisis has passed, much of this work will continue to be essential to our society.

Meaningfulness can also apply to work that seems less urgent but nonetheless important, such as the concerts and performances that we are now missing. Unfortunately, funding for the arts and public education is an easy target when budgets are strapped.

In times of disaster, those who are most vulnerable are often those who are harmed the most, a phenomenon called differential exposure. For example, during the pandemic, the lower an employee ranks in an organizational hierarchy, the more likely they are to encounter frontline hazards.

Similarly, when we emerge from the economic aspect of this disaster, as after the Great Recession, those who already had the greatest financial means are likely to be the most prepared to increase their wealth.

More than applause

If we allow that return to economic normalcy, ordinary workers who have suffered greater losses in the downturn will also be in the most uncertain position to benefit from the recovery. Americans could redress this by reprioritizing the place of meaningfulness in how they measure and remunerate work that matters.

Of course, restructuring the economy to recognize meaningfulness is complex and some would say fanciful. But I believe the moral values of our markets are a reflection of our individual and social values. And there are things that can be done to move in that direction: Prospective employees can pursue work that makes a moral contribution to society, companies can adopt more socially conscious statements of purpose and policymakers can look at ways to better acknowledge the nonmonetary contribution of work to society.

After this pandemic is over, health care workers should still be greeted with nightly applause, grocery store workers should still be treated as heroes and delivery drivers should still be surprised with gifts. It would be nice if they were paid accordingly too.

[Insight, in your inbox each day. You can get it with The Conversations email newsletter.]

, Professor of Ethics and Business Law, University of St. Thomas

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

40. About Time: U.S. Air Force Ends Pilot Height Restrictions to Attract More Female Pilots, 27 [−]

Peter Suciu


The Air Force has expressed concern about the lack of diversity with its overwhelmingly white and male pilots. Last year the service reported that about 6 percent of its pilots are women, while 7 percent are minorities.

This month the United States Air Force announced it was removing the minimum height requirement for officer applicants who wished to fly. Previously Air Force pilots were required to have a standing height of 5-feet 4-inches (64-inches) to 6-feet 5-inches (77-inches), and a sitting height of 34 to 40 inches or receive an accession waiver. While most waivers were approved, the previous restriction eliminated approximately 44percent of the U.S. female population between the ages of 20 to 29.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services Anthropometric Reference Data for Adults, United States 2007-2010, the average height for U.S. females aged 20 and over was just 63.8-inches across all ethnic groups, while the average height for U.S. males aged 20 and over was 69.3-inches across all ethnic groups.

Now to encourage a more diverse pool of applicants to pursue careers in aviation the restriction is being removed.

"We're really focused on identifying and eliminating barriers to serve in the Air Force," said Gwendolyn DeFilippi, assistant deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services.

DeFilippi, who is responsible for comprehensive plans and policies covering all life cycles of military and civilian personnel management, is the chairperson of the Department of the Air Force Barrier Analysis Working Group.

"This is a huge win, especially for women and minorities of smaller stature who previously may have assumed they werent qualified to join our team," she added.

With the removal of the blanket height standard, the medical and operations communities will apply an anthropometric screening process to individual applicants for placement in an aircraft that the individual can safely fly. The measurements would include not only height but the applicant's eye height while sitting, buttocks-to-knee length and arm span. This could determine which aircraft an applicant could and could not safely fit into.

"Studies have shown that women's perceptions about being fully qualified for a job makes them less likely to apply, even though there is a waiver option," said Lt. Col. Jessica Ruttenber, Air Force mobility planner and programmer and team leader on the Women's Initiative Team who led the height standards adjustment effort. "Modifying the height standard allows the Air Force to accommodate a larger and more diverse rated applicant pool within existing aircraft constraints."

The question will be whether the aircraft design will also require modifications. As CNN reported, historically, most of the Air Force's aircraft have been engineered for the height of an average man. What could also be an issue, Air Force Times reported, is that the age of the fleet of aircraft could be a significant factor. Many of the Air Force's planes were designed decades ago when women weren't even allowed to fly in the service and as a result most were designed for the average height of men.

However, the automotive world has long had to accommodate drivers of different heights and builds, so perhaps minor adjustments should resolve most issues.

"While most height waivers were approved under the old system, feedback indicated the entire waiver process served as a barrier, which negatively impacted female rated accessions," said Lt. Col. Christianne Opresko, branch chief on the Air Force's Air Crew Task Force and an aerospace physiologist. "It's hard to determine how many women did not previously apply due to their perception of not being fully qualified or having to pursue a waiver."

The Air Force has expressed concern about the lack of diversity with its overwhelmingly white and male pilots. Last year the service reported that about 6 percent of its pilots are women, while 7 percent are minorities.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

41. The Lincoln-Douglas Debate Of 1858 Was Like No Other, 27 [−]

Warfare History Network

History, Americas

Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln had been personal and political opponents for 20 years when they clashed for the Illinois Senate seat in 1858.

The two men facing each other across the debate stage at Ottawa, Illinois, on the afternoon of August 21, 1858, were no strangers to one another. Indeed, Senator Stephen Douglas and former one-term congressman Abraham Lincoln had been personal and political opponentsand more or less friendly neighborsfor the better part of two decades. But in ways neither man could imagine, their rivalry was about to grow exponentially and capture the attention of an increasingly divided nation. They would speak to each other, and the rest of the country, in thunder tones, as Lincoln would report. And everyone hears thunder when it rolls.

The Arrival of Lincoln and Douglas to Illinois

Few political opponents had ever known each other as well or as long as Douglas and Lincoln. Almost from the time they arrived in their adopted home state of Illinois, 16 months apart, in 1831-1832, they had been fated to be rivals on the local, state, and national scene. Lincoln, who was four years older, got there first, literally washing up on the shore of the tiny village of New Salem in the spring of 1831. Residents of the little village awoke one late April morning to see a tall, homely young man sweating mightily in the middle of the Sangamon River, striving to dislodge his makeshift flatboat from its grounding on a dam in the rivers shallows. By the simple but ingenious method of drilling a hole in the boats foredeck and shifting barrels of goods to the rear, the boat was tipped over the dam and back into the river. Lincoln and his three companions went on their way, but two months later he returned and settled down in New Salem, where he quickly struck townsfolk as a very intelligent young man. Lincoln had made his first significant public impression.

Douglass arrival in Illinois 19 months later was considerably less dramatic. He simply rolled into Jacksonville, the seat of Morgan County, aboard a stagecoach in the middle of the night on November 2, 1833. Not yet 21, Douglas had less than $5 in his pocket when he arrived. Like Lincoln, he was following the well-worn path of young men seeking their fortunes on the westward frontier. The chance to reinvent himself in new surroundings was particularly appealing to both Lincoln and Douglas, each of whom was leaving behind a less-than-idyllic home life. Lincoln and his hard-working taciturn father, Thomas, had always had a distant relationship, and by the time he left home, the younger Lincoln had developed a lifelong aversion to physical labor and a thirst to explore the wider and fairer world beyond the borders of their Indiana farm.

Douglas, whose own physician father had died when he was two months old, had grown up in Vermont and upstate New York, where he took an early interest in politics and studied law with the leading Democratic politician in Canandaigua, New York, before setting out for the West to seek his fortune. When his mother asked when she would see him again, Douglas responded, On my way to Congress. He immediately set out to back up his words, winning election as states attorney for the First Judicial District in Illinois in 1834 by a mere four votes and bragging in a letter home that he was doing as well in my profession as could be expected of a boy of twenty-one.

One of the new legislators Douglas met in the halls of the state capital at Vandalia was Abraham Lincoln, who had won his own first election (on his second try) to the legislature. Exactly when and how the two men met is unknown. Lincoln later recalled vaguely in 1859 that it had taken place twenty-two years ago. Douglas never mentioned a first meeting at all. From the start they were on opposite sides of the aisle: Lincoln was a Whig and Douglas was a Democrat. Whigs, primarily northern and Midwestern in origin, were the party of small shop owners, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and tradesmen; Democrats, the party of Andrew Jackson, centered their strength in the agrarian South. Whigs favored a weak president, a powerful Congress, and a centralized government that provided a solid infrastructure for interstate trade and commerce. Democrats wanted a strong president but also, conversely, a system based on states rights. In the South, of course, the major states right was the right to own slaves. On that issue the two parties were fated to do battle.

Lincolns Decline, Douglas Rise

By the time Lincoln and Douglas became politically active in the late 1830s and 1840s, the issue of slavery was a settled fact. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had outlawed the expansion of slavery into new territories above the 36th Parallel, with the exception of Missouri. The compromise held until the Mexican War, conducted by Democratic President James K. Polk, greatly added to American territories in the West. Whigs, including then-Congressman Abraham Lincoln, opposed the war as a naked power grab by Southern slave owners to expand their reach. A new compromise, in 1850, allowed the recently acquired territory of California to enter the Union as a free state but also put into place a federal Fugitive Slave Law that required Northerners to assist in the return of runaway slaves to their Southern owners. One of the leaders of the Compromise of 1850 was Stephen Douglas, then serving as a U.S. senator.

Lincolns opposition to the Mexican War led to his defeat after only one term in Congress. He returned to the private practice of law in his adopted hometown of Springfield, Illinois, while Douglas ascended to the heights of power in the Senate. Douglas also called Springfield home, and he and Lincoln crossed swords several times in the decade prior to the 1850 Compromise. Besides their usual political differences, the two men were also rivals for the hand of a vivacious young Springfield debutante, Kentucky-born Mary Todd. The bright, talkative Mary was a more compatible match for Douglas than she was for the awkward, plain-spoken Lincoln. She and Douglas flirted across Springfield drawing rooms and went on long, chatty walks together. But as a lifelong Whig and a family friend of party leader Henry Clay, Mary could not commit to the Democrat Douglas. I liked him well enough, but that was all, she said later. Instead, she married Lincoln in November 1842. It was a marriage based at least as much on political as romantic grounds, but against all odds, it endured for nearly a quarter of a century.

Popular Sovereignty: A Hell of A Storm

Following his failure to win reelection to Congress, Lincoln concentrated on his legal career, becoming a highly paid corporate lawyer for a number of Eastern and Midwestern railroads. Meanwhile, Douglas rose to nearly the summit of national politics, becoming the leading Democrat in the Senate and barely losing his partys presidential nomination to dark horse candidate Franklin Pierce in 1852. As a spokesman himself (and investor) for powerful railroad interests, Douglas championed a new transatlantic railroad. The proposed line he favored would cross the then unincorporated Nebraska Territory en route from Lake Superior to Puget Sound, Washington. It is utterly impossible to preserve that connection between the Atlantic and the Pacific, Douglas complained, if you are to keep a wilderness of two thousand miles in extent between you. Southern Democrats, however, were in no hurry to create another territory north of the Missouri Compromise line. Missouri Senator David Atkinson, a leading opponent, succinctly spelled out the Southern position. They were willing to see Nebraska sink in hell before allowing it to enter the Union as a free state.

Douglas, seeking a way around the oppositionand also a way to protect his recent purchase of 6,0000 acres at the Illinois terminus of the proposed routesponsored a bill to divide the territory into two partsNebraska and Kansas. In theory, this would create a new free state, Nebraska, and a new slave state, Kansas, based on the preferences of their closest neighborsIowa and Missouri. It would leave the ultimate decision in the hands of the residents, a move Douglas termed popular sovereignty. He reluctantly accepted an amendment to his proposed bill that would repeal the Missouri Compromise in the new territories, although he warned that the change would raise a hell of a storm.

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

That storm was not long in coming. The day after he introduced his Kansas-Nebraska bill in the Senate, a group of abolitionist lawmakers released a statement condemning Douglass proposal as a gross violation of a sacred pledge; a criminal betrayal of precious rights; part and parcel of an atrocious plot to exclude from a vast unoccupied region immigrants from the Old World and free laborers from our own states, and convert it into a dreary region of despotism inhabited by masters and slaves. Douglas, they said, was hatching a monstrous plot to spread the blight of slavery across the land and subjugate the whole country to the yoke of a slaveholding despotism. Douglas responded that he was merely attempting to insure the survival of a great principle of self-government, to allow the people to legislate for themselves upon the subject of slavery.

The bill was approved by Congress in May 1854 and signed into law by Democratic President Franklin Pierce. Abraham Lincoln, traveling on legal business when the bill passed, pronounced himself thunderstruck and stunned. This took us by surprise. We reeled and fell in utter confusion. But we rose each fighting, grasping whatever he could reacha scythea pitchforka chopping axe, or a butchers cleaver. His figurative language would soon become literal, as supporters and opponents of the new bill rushed into Kansas Territory to decide whether it would be slave or free.

Bleeding Kansas, as it soon became called, saw an explosion of violence between the two sides that presaged a wider conflict between the two increasingly intractable regions of the country. The worsening crisis spelled the end of the Whig Party, which was torn in half by the slavery issue, and the rise of a new Republican Party focused entirely in the North. Lincoln soon became a leader of the new party, receiving the nomination to run against his old rival Stephen Douglas for Douglass Senate seat in 1858. Lincoln cemented his leadership with an instantly famous speech accepting the partys nomination. The House Divided speech, as it became known, warned that a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolvedI do not expect the house to fallbut I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.

He is the Strong Man of His Party

When Douglas heard that the Republicans had nominated Lincoln, he was concerned but not surprised. I shall have my hands full, he told Pennsylvania newspaper editor John W. Forney. He is the strong man of his partyfull of wit, facts, datesand the best stump speaker, with his droll ways and dry jokes, in the West. He is as honest as he is shrewd, and if I beat him my victory will be hardly won. After some delay, the two men agreed to engage in a series of debates in all but two of the states county seats.

Under guidelines set down by Douglas, as the incumbent, he and Lincoln would meet seven times over the course of the next seven weeks. The first debate was slated for Ottawa, 80 miles southwest of Chicago in the north-central part of the state. It was reliable Republican territory and as such presented Lincoln with the opportunity to get his campaign off to a running start. On August 20, the day before the scheduled debate, huge crowds of people began flocking into the little town (population 9,000), which sat between the Fox and Illinois Rivers. Men, women, and children poured into town on foot, horseback, wagons, railroad trains, and canal boats blazing with partisan political banners. By eight oclock on the morning of the debate, Ottawas population had tripled, with the huge crowds kicking up clouds of dust until Ottawa looked like a vast smoke house in the evocative words of a Chicago Tribune correspondent.

The two candidates arrived separately. Lincoln came by train from Chicago, pulling in at noon to the Rock Island depot, where he was met by Ottawa mayor Joseph O. Glover and escorted to Glovers home by a half-mile-long parade of supporters. Douglas entered town from the west, his elegant private carriage drawn by six white horses. Like Lincoln he opted to freshen up before the debate, checking into the Geiger House while his supporters marched back and forth in front of the hotel, hurrahing their hero with loud cheers and improvised music.

The audience crammed into Lafayette Square an hour before the scheduled 2 pm starting time. There were no chairs and few trees, and the late summer sun pounded down mercilessly on everyone. Vendors sold water and lemonade; more potent liquid refreshments were also available. The stage, a simple platform of unfinished wood, was topped by a flimsy awning. No one had thought to guard the stage, and it took a good 30 minutes to clear a space for the candidates and local dignitaries. Meanwhile, village clowns dangled precariously from the awning to the delight of the crowds. In short order the awning gave way, toppling the miscreants into the laps of the front-row crowd. Everyone enjoyed the spectacle.

The candidates arrived a few minutes later and climbed with difficulty onto the stage. Lincoln, wearing a simple dark suit, sat at the end of the front row, a worn carpetbag filled with notes and copies of old speeches at his feet, while Douglas stepped to the front of the stage. He was dressed, planter-style, in a wide-brimmed white hat, ruffled shirt, light trousers, and dark blue coat with polished buttons. Under the agreed upon format, Douglas would speak first for an hour, Lincoln would have 90 minutes to respond, and Douglas would conclude with a 30-minute rebuttal. The order would alternate for each subsequent debate.

The First Debate: Douglas on the Offensive

Having faced Lincoln many times in the past, Douglas confidently took the offensive. Like a skilled prosecuting attorney confronting a petty defendant, Douglas threw a series of sharp questions at his obviously startled opponent, demanding to know Lincolns positions on the Fugitive Slave Act, the slave trade in general, the admission of new states to the Union, and popular sovereignty in the territories. Introducing a theme that would run through the debates, Douglas raised the doleful specter of black citizenship, charging that the Republicans favored bestowing immediate and full civil rights on African Americans, a move he warned would cover our prairies with [black] settlements and turn this beautiful state into a free Negro colony. Douglas accused Lincoln of believing that black men were his equal, and hence his brother. I do not regard the Negro as my equal, and positively deny that he is my brother or any kin to me whatever.

Thrown off balance by Douglasss aggressive opening gambit, Lincoln offered a weak rebuttal, denying that he had conspired to form a new abolitionist party in Illinois and reading a long, boring excerpt from his old speech in Peoria. Douglas, he charged, was attempting to twist Lincolns beliefs into a specious and fantastic arrangement of words, by which a man can prove a horse chestnut to be a chestnut horse. As for the charge that Lincoln believed in racial equality, Lincoln frankly asserted; I have no disposition to introduce political and social equality between the white and the black races. There is a physical difference between the two, which in my judgment will probably forever forbid their living together on terms of respect, social and political equality.

Besides their pronounced political differences, the candidates presented diametrically opposite public faces. Douglas was all clenched fists and high dudgeon, shouting out accusations in his surprisingly deep, mellow voice. Lincoln, although much taller, had a comparatively higher, shriller voice and presented a much less polished stage presence, fumbling with his glasses-I am no longer a young manand bending awkwardly at the knees before suddenly springing upward in an ungainly but compelling gesture of emphasis. Three times during Douglass speech Lincoln attempted to interrupt him, causing fellow Republican committeemen on stage to hiss: What are you making such a fuss for? Douglas didnt interrupt you, and cant you see the people dont like it? With some difficulty, Lincoln managed to rein in his temper.

Charge, Chester! Charge!

After the debate, supporters carried Lincoln off on their shoulders, his long underwear comically showing beneath his pulled-up pant legs. The partisan press judged the outcome along predictable party lines. The Democratic-leaning Chicago Times judged Douglass excoriation of Lincoln to have been so severe that the Republicans hung their heads in shame, while Republican newspapers thought Lincoln had appeared high toned and powerful in the face of the senators boorish assaults. Prominent New York editor Horace Greeley anointed the debate nothing less than a contest for the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of Satan. A well-known founder of the Republican Party, he left no doubt about which kingdom Lincoln belonged to.

Lincoln was sufficiently worried about his performance in Ottawa to convene a meeting of his brain trust in Chicago a few days later. While pronouncing himself reasonably satisfied with the outcome of the debateThe fire flew some, and I am glad to know I am yet alivehe invited suggestions on how he could improve his performance. Chicago Tribune editor Joseph Medill, a longtime supporter, urged Lincoln to be more aggressive. Dont act on the defensive at all, Medill advised. Instead, Hold Doug up as a traitor and conspirator and a pro-slavery bamboozling demagogue. Medill told Lincoln to put a few ugly questions of his own to Douglas, noting, perhaps unnecessarily, You are dealing with a bold, brazen, lying rascal and you must fight the devil with fire. Give him hell. Another supporter, Charles Ray, urged, Charge, Chester! Charge! Do not keep on the defensive. We must not be parrying all the while. We want the deadliest thrusts. Let us see blood follow any time [Douglas] closes a sentence.

Fighting on the Freeport Doctrine

The second debate took place on August 27 at Freeport, six hours by train from Chicago and a few miles from the Illinois-Wisconsin border. The candidates arrived to the already standard salvos of cannon fire and shouting supporters. It was a damp, overcast day, but 15,000 spectatorstwice the towns populationflocked into a vacant lot near the banks of the Pecatonica River, where another crude wooden platform had been erected between two trees. Lincoln again arrived first, sitting atop a Conestoga wagon accompanied by an honor guard of humble farmers to emphasize his rural roots. Douglas walked over the square from his room at the Brewster House hotel. Along the way a watermelon rind arced through the crowd and struck Douglas on the shoulder as he mounted the stage. He threatened to leave at once.

Lincoln, going first, said he wanted to respond to Douglass seven distinct interrogatories from the previous debate. He denied favoring repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law, the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, the prohibition of slave trade between the territories, or the admission of new slave states to the Union. He supported the right of people within a new state to draft such a constitution as they may see fit, but he also supported the right of Congress to prohibit slavery in all territories. Finally, he waffled on the question of whether he opposed acquiring new territories unless slavery was first prohibited within their borders. I would or would not oppose such acquisition, he said weakly, according as I might think such acquisition would or would not aggravate the slavery question among ourselves. He demanded to know if Douglas believed that the people of a new territory could legally exclude slavery within its own borders prior to the formulation of a state constitution.

As Lincoln, Douglas, and all discerning listeners immediately understood, this was the crux of the entire campaign. By championing the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Douglas had gone on record as supporting popular sovereignty. But conflicting pro- and anti-slavery constitutions had been presented in Kansas, and President James Buchananagainst Douglass advicehad recognized the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution (so named for the town in which the pro-slavery legislature was sitting). Kansas, said Buchanan, is therefore at this moment as much a slave state as Georgia and South Carolina. Douglas had denounced the state constitution as a fraudulent submission and a violation of the fundamental principle of free government. Kansas remained, for the time being, an unincorporated territory.

Now, answering Lincolns interrogation, Douglas reiterated his view that the people of a territory already have the lawful means to introduce slavery or exclude it as they please, for the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere unless it is supported by local police regulations. Those police regulations can only be established by the local legislature, and if the people are opposed to slavery they will elect representatives to that body who will by unfriendly legislation effectually prevent the introduction of it into their midst. He was only stating the obvious, but Douglass Freeport Doctrine would come back to haunt him by comprehensively alienating southern Democratsas Lincoln had cannily foreseen.

A Crowd at Charleston

From Freeport the candidates traveled to Jonesboro, in the southernmost part of the state, nicknamed Egypt after its best-known town, Cairo (pronounced, frontier-style, Kay-Ro). Jonesboro was safe territory for Douglas and the Democrats Republican presidential nominee Jon C. Fremont had won less than four percent of the vote in the last electionbut it was also small and isolated, with only 800 residents. Further depressing turnout that day was the fact that the state fair was underway at nearby Centralia, and many local farmers had opted to view giant rutabagas and corn-fattened hogs rather than stick around to listen to the two senatorial candidates. Only about 1,500 people turned out for the debate, which devolved into a question of whether or not Lincoln and other like-minded politicians were secretly campaigning beneath the black flag of Abolitionism. Suppose Mr. Lincoln should die, what a horrible condition would they be in, Douglas conjecturedallowing Lincoln to steal a laugh from the pro-Democratic crowd by loudly groaning at the sheer horror of such a thought. Lincoln uncharacteristically concluded his own remarks with 10 minutes to spare, leading the Chicago Times to comment afterward, We fancy he has had enough of Egypt, and certainly Egypt has had enough of him.

Three days later Lincoln was on friendlier soil at Charleston in the extreme eastern corner of the state. Indeed, he was something of a favorite son, having immigrated to Coles County from nearby Indiana at the age of 19. His widowed stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, still lived in a log cabin in the area. An enormous 80-foot-wide banner hung across Main Street, showing the young Lincoln driving an oxcart into the village during Abes Entrance to Charleston Thirty Years Ago. Another banner showed a giant Lincoln clubbing a cringing Douglas into submission with his mighty fists. Douglas, unamused, threatened to leave at once after he saw the offending poster but rallied his forces behind a brass band and a parade of 32 pretty young women representing the 32 states in the Union. Lincoln also led a wagonload of pretty girls down the streetit seemed to be the theme of the dayunder the banner, Girls Link-on to Lincoln.

A huge crowd of nearly 15,000 people attended the debate at the agricultural society fairgrounds. Noting an enormous Democratic banner decrying Negro Equality, Lincoln began his remarks with an apocryphal question he said an elderly gentleman had asked him about whether Lincoln was really in favor of social and political equality of the white and black races. He was not, Lincoln said, adding that physical differences will forever forbid the two races living together upon terms of social and political equality. He added, in a lame attempt at humor, I do not understand that because I do not want a Negro woman for a slave I must necessarily want her for a wife. My understanding is that I can just leave her alone. He suggested that since Douglas seemed to be so worried about intermarriage, he should give up his Senate seat and return to the state legislature, which was the only governing body that could legally change Illinoiss existing miscegenation laws. Douglas responded drolly that he was glad to have Lincolns advice on the subject.

Property Rights vs Human Rights

The largest crowd of the debates assembled at Galesburg in the northwestern part of the state. An estimated 15,000-20,000 people braved an Arctic frost of biting winds and cold rain to see the candidates make their usual entrance by train and buggy. The two were driven to Knox College, the site of the debate, in side-by-side carriages. The stage had been moved to a spot alongside the college building to shield the candidatesbut not the crowdfrom the wind, forcing the guests of honor to climb through a first-floor window onto the stage. (Lincoln quipped, Well, at last I have gone through college.) Galesburg was an old stop on the Underground Railroad, and most of the crowd consisted of pro-Lincoln college students.

The strong wind made it hard for the speakers to be heardor even to speak. Douglas took a throat lozenge before taking his turn on stage and politely offered another to Lincoln. He reminded the crowd that Lincoln had spoken out against racial equality at Charleston after favoring it at other stops. His creed dont travel, Douglas scoffed. Lincoln denied that he had been inconsistent, noting, I have always maintained that in the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, [blacks] were our equals. He contrasted his position to Douglass legalistic insistence on property rights over human rights. He insists, upon the score of equality, that the owner of slaves and the owner of horses should be allowed to take them alike to new territory and hold them there, said Lincoln. That is perfectly logical if the species of property is perfectly alike, but if you admit that one of them is wrong, then you cannot admit any equality between right and wrong. I believe that slavery is wrong. There is the difference between Judge Douglas and his friends and the Republican Party.

Debate on the Illinois-Missouri Border

Six days later the campaign pulled into the Mississippi River town of Quincy on the extreme western edge of the Illinois-Missouri border. Boats steaming downriver from Hannibal, Missouri, and upriver from Keokuk, Iowa, swelled the turnout to nearly 15,000 people. After several days of heavy rain, the day of the debate broke sunny and cool. Lincoln was escorted to the debate site by yet another parade of supporters, this group pulling a horse-drawn model of the USS Constitution piloted for some reason by a live cartoon, the symbol of the now extinct Whig Party. The stage in Washington Square was made of large pine boards, and before Lincoln could begin his remarks the railing gave way, sending dozens of local dignitaries crashing to the ground. No sooner had they regained their footing than another bench, this one reserved for the ladies in attendance, also gave way, leaving the fairer victims to reel dazedly into the arms of their rescuers, bonnets and petticoats askew.

Once again Lincoln denounced slavery as a spreading evil and repeated his claim that Douglas and the Democrats were conspiring to make the practice both national and permanent. After Douglas retaliated by criticizing Lincoln for ignoring the Supreme Courts Dred Scott decision, Lincoln, perhaps rattled by the collapsible stage, got into a shouting match with a Chicago Times reporter in the crowd. I dont care if your hireling does say I did, Lincoln roared, I tell you myself that I never said the Democratic owners of Dred Scott got up the case. On that less than elevated note, the sixth debate came to an end.

Setting the Stage For the Lincoln Presidency and the Civil War

The seventh and final debate took place on October 15 in Alton 115 miles downriver from Quincy. Despite beautiful fall weather and a special $1 round-trip riverboat ticket from nearby St. Louis, only 5,000 peoplethe second smallest turnout of the seriesshowed up at Altons new city hall for the event. Perhaps, as a Cincinnati newspaper reporter conjectured, the novelty had worn off the debates. Douglass voice had been reduced by now to a hoarse whisper, and he could scarcely be heard over the crowd. Quoting Lincolns earlier statement that he would be exceedingly sorry ever to be put in the position of having to vote on the admission of new slave states to the Union, Douglas made one of his rare jokes: Permit me to remark that I dont think the people will ever force him into a position where he will have to vote upon it. Lincoln joined good naturedly in the laughter.

Buoyed by the presence of his wife and eldest son, Robert, at the debate, Lincoln gave one of his strongest performances. He confessed that he was not less selfish than other men in seeking high political office, but I do claim that I am not more selfish than is Judge Douglas. (Roars of laughter, the Chicago Tribune reported parenthetically.) The chief difference between the two sides, said Lincoln, was that one considered slavery to be wrong, while the other did not. That is the real issue, Lincoln concluded, an issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Douglas and myself shall be silent.

Lincoln was both right and wrong in that assessment. The explosive issue of slavery would continue to rage after the debates were over, but both he and Douglas would also continue to have a real say in future events. That November the Democratic-controlled Illinois Legislature returned Douglas to the Senate over Lincoln, although Republicans won the only statewide election, that of state treasurer, by 3,800 votes. But as Douglas had presciently argued during the campaign, the Republicans were setting the stage for a presidential campaign in two years, during which they would connect the northern states into one great sectional party, and inasmuch as the northern section is the stronger, the stronger section will out-vote and control and govern the weaker section. In his worst nightmare, he couldnt have foreseen that Abraham Lincoln would be the one doing the controlling and governing.

As for Lincoln, his first reaction to losing the senatorial election was amused chagrin. I feel like the boy who stumped his toe, he told visitors to his law office in Springfield. I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh. He tried to take the longer view, recalling that on election night he had nearly lost his footing on a rain-slick path. Lincoln remembered telling himself then, Its a slip and not a fall. He viewed the just concluded campaign in a similar light. I am glad I made the late race, he said. It gave me a hearing on the great and durable question of the age, which I could have had in no other way; and though I now sink out of view, and shall be forgotten, I believe I have made some marks which will tell for the cause of civil liberty long after I am gone. He was not gone yet.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikipedia.

42. Meet AQS-24: The U.S. Navy's New Way to Find Mines Using Lasers, 27 [−]

Kris Osborn

Security, Americas

This will double the speed at which ships can find enemy mines.

Northrop and the Navy are fast-tracking a cutting edge mine-warfare hunting system able to quickly complete four out of five key elements of mine warfaredetection, localization, classification and identification.

Its called the AQS-24, an emerging system that uses underwater laser side-scanning. Speaking in January 2020 at the Surface Navy Association Symposium, Capt. Danielle George, Mine Warfare Programs Manager, said the Navy plans to deploy the AQS-24C as soon as this year. The AQS-24C, described by George as a Volume Search Sonar, is an upgrade to existing A and B variants. It is a cylindrical vehicle towed through the water beneath an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV). USVs, quickly becoming more autonomous, can be remotely operated by a ship or shore station miles away.

Think of it as being able to double the speed you can operate at, because we are pinging at the same rate but we go twice as fast. We figured out how to do that. We still get the benefits of synthetic aperture sonar. We get the benefit of going 18 knots and we maintain the benefit of high resolution. We maintain the same resolution over the full speed range of the vehicle, Gene Cumm, Director of International Mine Warfare Programs, Northrop Grumman, told Warrior.

Cumm explained that the success of the system hinges upon two distinct optical windows; one optical window transmits a beam of light on a rotating shaft to emit a laser beam across the bottom, while the other optical window functions as a receiver.

One of the mirrors has a laser light fired against it. The mirror transmits an image to the sea floor. The second mirror is looking for reflected energy from that laser light, creating an optical image of what is on the bottom, Cumm said. ?

Interestingly, the advantages of laser side scanning underwater were anticipated, if not predicted, in a 2015 essay from the National Institute of Health, called Optical Sensor and Methods for Underwater 3D. (US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. ...Massot-Campos, Oliver-Codina).

The essay seems to foreshadow the AQS-24, stating regarding the foreseeable future, more research on laser-based structured light and on laser line scanning underwater is needed. These new devices should be able to scan while the sensor is development and enhanced drivers are required.

Scanning at high-speeds, described as a way to bring increased value to undersea sensing, is precisely what the AQS-24 is engineered to do. While lasers have been working on the Northrop Grumman undersea sensor system since 2005, the 2015 essay also seems to suggest that improved, modern laser technology can generate images with new levels of precision, clarity and resolution, therefore reducing the effects of obscurants and scattering likely to compromise image quality. With these technical challenges in mind, Northrop Grumman has recently updated its laser to address these challenges.

Another challenge for the future is to develop imaging systems that can eliminate or reduce scattering while imaging. Solutions such as pulse gated cameras and laser emitters are effective, but still expensive, the essay states.

In the past when you would find contact on a sonar, you would hand it off to a diver or use a remotely operated camera, Cumm, told Warrior.

The fourth aspect, mine ID, is performed by the laser, Cumm said. The 5th tenet of mine warfare, Cumm added, is mine neutralization. Performing this mission, Northrop Grumman developers explain, relies upon sonar and laser scanning technology complementing one another. For instance, the sonar scans a wide field of view at longer ranges than the laser, pointing the laser-imaging technology toward a threat or area of interest.

Kris Osborn is the new Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the ArmyAcquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.

43. After The Civil War, The U.S. Army Nearly Went Into Collapse, 27 [−]

Warfare History Network

History, Americas

The U.S. Army of 1876 was a far cry from the fighting force that had won the American Civil War a decade earlier.

In 1864-1865 the U.S. Army had some 1,045,000 men in uniform; within a year after Appomattox, the number stood at 57,000. A penny-pinching Congress reduced the numbers further, until in 1874 its authorized strength stood at 25,000 officers and men.

The army was all volunteer, yet Congress did little to make a military career attractive. Pay was low; a private received $13 a month, a sergeant $21. Discipline was rigid, food poor, living conditions often abysmal. Yet recruits did come forward to enlist, and their reasons were as varied as the men themselves.

From Criminals to Snowbirds

Some recruits were Civil War soldiers, men used to military life who had trouble readjusting to civilian ways. Others were wide-eyed country boys seeking adventure and escape from the drudgery of farm lifeonly to discover they had traded one form of hardship for another. Some were criminals seeking an anonymous refuge, others snowbirds intending to desert when spring brought better weather. There were even men who sought relief during economic depressions; hard times were the armys best recruiter.

About half the men were foreign born. Between 1865 and 1874, 20 percent came from Ireland and 12 percent from Germany. The army was a source of steady employment and a chance to adapt to American culture.

Each cavalry or infantry regiment was composed of 12 companies. A soldiers company was his whole world, and it was there that he formed the friendshipsand acquired enemiesthat would make his five-year hitch heaven or hell. A captain headed each company, but he was a remote, almost god-like figure. It was the First Sergeant who ran the company on a day-to-day basis, a man who was not afraid to enforce his authority with his fists if the occasion arose.

A Large Social Gulf and Hard Rations

There was a large social gulf between officers and men, a chasm maintained by custom and regulations. Sometimes a man from the ranks would beat the odds and enter shoulder strap society. One example was Captain Myles Molan, a ranker who got a commission due to Custers patronage.

Although there were exceptions, most frontier forts were crude affairs, usually a few shacks centered around a forlorn parade ground. Soldiers slept on straw-filled mattresses, two to a bunk, and quarters were often infested with fleas and bedbugs. Indian fights were rare; full-scale campaigns like the Great Sioux War rarer still. Soldiers might spend months or even years without firing their guns, much less see an Indian. Their daily routine usually consisted of mind-numbingand back-breakinghard labor and drill. Rations would consist of hardtack, bacon, coffee, and salt pork, depending on circumstances. Wild game such as buffalo was welcomed, and some forts had vegetable gardens.

Not All Was Hardship

Not all were hardship posts; some of the larger establishments boasted such amenities as a bakery and comfortableif spartanbarracks. Officers Row on a post might feature some very substantial homes; George Armstrong Custers quarters at Fort Abraham Lincoln were comfortable indeed.

Disease was a much greater threat to the average soldier than an Indian bullet. Accidents such as being thrown from your horse or accidentally shooting yourself took a toll. During Crooks march a private from Captain Charles Meinholds Company B, 3rd Cavalry accidently shot himself with his revolver while chopping wood. The trooper later died of wounds.

Officers might be able to bring their wives to a fort, but enlisted men were largely deprived of feminine company. Larger forts had suds row, where laundresses and washerwomen cleaned clothes. Prostitutes could often be found plying their trade in hog ranch saloon/brothels, but most of these women were so unattractive and disease-ridden they were not likely prospects for mates.

Herculean Tasks Under Adverse Conditions

Ill-trained, ill-equipped, scorned by the public, and starved of funds by a stingy Congress, the U.S. Army of the 1870s operated under enormous handicaps. The real miracle was that it performed a herculean task so well under such adverse conditions.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikipedia.

44. Why Are Russian Mercenaries Beginning to Flee Libya?, 27 [−]

Peter Suciu


What are they doing there? And why are they leaving now?

Mercenaries have played a role in wars around the world for centuries, but in the 20th century there were many examples of soldiers who served not for their homeland but a cause that wasn't just about the money. In the First World War, there were many American pilots the La Fayette Escadrille who volunteered to fly for France before American's entry into the war, while the Eagle Squadron was made up of Americans who volunteered in Canada and flew with the RAF during England's Darkest Hour in World War II.

In both those examples the pilots' actions were in conflict with official American policy.

Other nations have been more supportive of allowing their men to join the fight for a foreign power. This was the case of Germany's Condor Legion, which used the Spanish Civil War not only to advance the fascist cause of Francisco Franco's forces but also as a testing ground for the war to come. While fascist Spain subsequently sat out the Second World War, Franco did allow for the formation of the anti-communists Blue Division, which went to fight with Nazi Germany on the Russian Front.

After the Second World War, mercenaries took part in actions across Africa notably the Congo but also in actions in Latin America and the Far East.

Fast forward to the 21st century and such "mercenaries" have largely been replaced by private military contractors (PMC), except the time-honored tradition lives on as Russian mercenaries have taken part in the ongoing Syrian Civil War, but also apparently in Libya.

It is in the latter conflict where those soldiers of fortune probably wish they picked a different line of work.

While Moscow has denied being responsible for the deploying of the "Wagner Group," the Russian paramilitary organization reportedly has close ties to President Vladimir Putin. Earlier this month the UN diplomats said the group is supporting military strongman Khalifa Haftar The Moscow Times reported. Haftar is also reportedly being supported by Syrian fighters.

The Wagner Group is a "shadowy" private security firm that employs thousands of contractors, who according to news reports have been deployed to foreign conflicts from Syria to Ukraine to the Central Africa Republic. The mercenaries have provided technical support for the repair of military vehicles, but also have participated in combat operations and even engaged in influence operations the UN report claimed.

Pro-Haftar forces have been battling to seize the Libyan capital city of Tripoli since April 2019. According to The Moscow Times the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), which holds the city, has been supported by pro-Turkish Syrians, suggesting that Libya's fate is being determined by regional powers engaged in a proxy war. A January truce brokered by Ankara and Moscow has been repeatedly violated.

However, things have not gone well for the Russian mercenaries, and hundreds were evacuated this week after retreating from fighting on the capital's front lines Al Jazeera reported. The news organization had previously reported that the Wagner Group had deployed about 1,200 mercenaries to Libya to strengthen the forces of Haftar.

To bolster the mercenaries a Russian fighter jet was reportedly deployed.

"U.S. Africa Command assesses that Moscow recently deployed military fighter aircraft to Libya in order to support Russian state-sponsored private military contractors operating on the ground there," the U.S. military's Africa Command said in a statement reported by CNN. "Russian military aircraft are likely to provide close air support and offensive fires for the Wagner Group PMC that is supporting the Libyan National Army's (LNA) fight against the internationally recognized Government of National Accord.

The aircraft was reportedly repainted to camouflage its Russian origin.

The year-long battle for Tripoli has left hundreds dead, including dozens of civilians. It has also displaced more than 200,000 people to date.

Oil-rich Libya has been in a state of civil war since the ousting and killing of dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising. Rival administrations and militias continue to vie for power. The UN has warned that both sides have continued to receive arms and fighters.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

45. How General William T. Sherman Waged Total War On The South, 27 [−]

Warfare History Network

History, Americas

Union General William T. Sherman's March to the Sea was a defining chapter in the American Civil War; Sherman became remembered in the South as a brutal proponent of total war.

Union General William T. Sherman was a friend and trusted subordinate of General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of all Union armies in the field during the Civil War. Sherman supported Grant during difficult times and assisted him capably during the pivotal Battle of Shiloh in the spring of 1862. Subsequently, Sherman was placed in command of the Union Army of the Tennessee, and in 1863 he participated in the campaigns to secure the stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the important city of Chattanooga in southeast Tennessee, where nine rail lines converged.

Promotion to the Western Theater

Sherman was elevated to command of Union armies in the Western Theater of the Civil War in 1864. That spring, he used Chattanooga as a staging area to launch the Atlanta campaign. Following an arduous trek of more than 100 miles against the resourceful resistance of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, Sherman succeeded in capturing Atlanta. He then turned his army southwestward and vowed to make Georgia howl as his troops lived off the land, destroyed rail lines, and wreaked havoc across the Georgia countryside during its March to the Sea. Union troops captured the port city of Savannah, Georgia, on December 21, 1864, and Sherman cabled President Abraham Lincoln that he wished to present him the city of Savannah as a Christmas present.

To the end of the war, Sherman dogged Johnstons ragged Confederate army into the Carolinas, burning and ravaging the heart of the Confederacy. Controversy persists to this day as to whether Sherman ordered the city of Columbia, South Carolina, the state capital, to be burned or whether fires were set by retreating Rebels. On April 26, 1865, Sherman accepted the surrender of Johnstons army near Durham, North Carolina.

A Veteran Before the American Civil War

Sherman was born in Lancaster, Ohio, on February 8, 1820, and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1840. Sherman served in the Second Seminole War, and during the Mexican War he held administrative posts in the California territory. He also served as the first superintendent of Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy, later to become Louisiana State University. Sherman was plagued by bouts of depression, which resulted in his being relieved of significant responsibility early in the Civil War. However, he assisted Grant during operations along the Cumberland River and gained Grants confidence during his performance at Shiloh, where he was wounded twice.

Sherman is remembered, particularly in the South, as a brutal proponent of total war. However, he, perhaps more than any other commander, understood that victory would only be achieved when the Souths capacity to wage war was sufficiently crippled. After the war, he served as commanding general of the United States Army and remained in contact with veterans organizations. He died in New York City at the age of 71 on February 14, 1891.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: WIkipedia.

46. Bond Investors Have Shown a Preference for Funding Green Projects, 27 [−]

Carolin Schellhorn

economy, Americas

Municipal bond investors are increasingly confident that as climate change accelerates, cities will be forced to prioritize projects that seek to mitigate the consequences.

The big idea

Municipal bond investors are increasingly confident that as climate change accelerates, cities will be forced to prioritize projects that seek to mitigate the consequences, according to a newly published analysis of bond yields I conducted.

The findings suggest investors believe such climate-related investments are safer and more likely to be repaid than other types of long-term city projects that may have less of a chance of happening because of limited funds. This can be seen in the higher prices and lower rates of return investors are willing to pay for longer-term municipal bonds certified by the Climate Bonds Initiative compared with similar debt that doesnt carry that certification.

Why it matters

Cities and other governments have for years been fiercely debating what if anything to do about climate change. My research shows that theres a reward, in terms of relatively low financing costs, to pursue long-term climate action now. It suggests investors have already acknowledged the consequences of human-induced climate change are real and have created a financial incentive for those cities that are trying to adapt. And this could help fuel a faster transition to a low-carbon world.

What still isnt known

Its unclear if this climate project premium holds for other types of debt, such as that issued by companies or federal governments. The market for Climate Bonds Initiative-certified bonds is still quite young, with about US$120 billion issued worldwide since 2014 just a drop in the bucket for a bond market worth more than $100 trillion.

What other research is being done

Beyond the market that I looked at, there is a much larger market for self-labeled green and climate-aligned bonds that are not certified. Researchers are trying to determine if investors are willing to pay a premium dubbed a greenium when bonds are issued by corporations or governments to fund any environmental or climate-related projects. Currently, the results have been inconclusive, as different studies have reported conflicting results. If a premium on all green and climate-aligned bonds exists, this would supply further evidence of an investor subsidy provided to borrowers who claim to use their proceeds for environmental or climate-related purposes.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversations newsletter.]

, Assistant Professor of Finance, St. Joseph's University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

47. The Morbidity Gap Between Australia's Rich and Poor Is Widening, 27 [−]

Tim Adair, Alan Lopez

Society, Oceania

The poorest Australians are twice as likely to die before age 75 as the richest.

People living in socially disadvantaged areas and outside major cities are much more likely to die prematurely, our new research shows. The study, published in the journal Australian Population Studies, reveals this gap has widened significantly in recent years, largely because rates of premature death among the least advantaged Australians have stopped improving.

These inequalities were already evident long before the enormous economic and social impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. While Australia (unlike the United States and some European nations) has so far avoided widespread deaths due directly to COVID-19, there may well be longer-term health impacts of the pandemic caused by widespread job losses and societal disruption, particularly among the most vulnerable.

This could well have a flow-on effect in terms of poorer health behaviours and access to health care, leading to adverse health outcomes, including a higher risk of death. Indeed, studies predict the pandemic will exacerbate these existing health inequalities.

While the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on Australias death rate will not be known for some time, we know there were already significant inequalities in our society regarding the risk of premature death.

Our research analysed trends in deaths between ages 35 and 74 years from 2006-16. We found people living in the 20% most socio-economically disadvantaged areas are twice as likely to die prematurely than those in the highest 20%.

More worryingly, this gap in death rates between the most and least well-off sectors of the Australian population grew wider between 2011 and 2016. It widened by 26% for females and 14% for males.

These figures would probably be higher still if we measured the socio-economic status of individuals, rather than the area they live in. People living in outer regional, remote and very remote areas have death rates about 40% higher than those in major cities. In 2006, this gap was smaller, at 30%.

Whats the cause?

These growing inequalities are the result of recent stagnation of premature death rates in the lowest socioeconomic areas and outside of major cities. In contrast, rates of premature death have continued to decline in the most affluent areas of major cities.

This is not a new trend. A similar pattern of rising inequality in death rates was observed from 1986 to 2002. But this time around there is much slower growth in overall average life expectancy, and a stagnation in mortality decline among the most disadvantaged population.

One particular concern is the rapid slowdown in improvements to death rates from cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease and stroke. These are Australias leading causes of death, and largely explain the significant gains in life expectancy in Australia and other high-income countries over the past few decades. Our results suggest these gains may now be drying up among Australias most disadvantaged people.

The socio-economic and regional inequalities in rates of early death are likely due to a wide range of factors. Smoking, poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption are more prevalent in lower socioeconomic groups and outside major cities, and are likely to be major contributors to the trend. People in the lowest 20% socio-economically are almost three times more likely to smoke than those in the highest 20%.

The higher rates of premature death outside major cities are also likely to be linked to differences in access to essential health care. People aged 45 years and over and living outside major cities are less likely to have a GP or specialist nearby.

While Australias public health leaders are rightly focused on controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, they should not ignore the wide and growing health inequalities that were already entrenched in our society.

Reducing this widening gap in rates of premature death will require a major policy effort. We need to understand and improve the many factors involved including smoking, diet and alcohol use, education, employment, housing, and access to health care.

We need to ensure policies and information campaigns are targeted to the population groups where death rates are highest and improvements have been slowest. Without a comprehensive approach, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely turn this widening gap into a chasm.

Tim Adair is Principal Research Fellow at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne. Alan Lopez is Professor of Global Health at the University of Melbourne.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

48. What Determines Whether a Genetically Modified Vegetable or Fruit is Natural?, 27 [−]

Christopher J. Preston, Trine Antonsen


Gene-editing technologies may create food that people can confidently consider "natural."

Is there now a way to genetically engineer crops to create food that people can confidently consider natural?

Gene-editing technology sounds like it might offer this possibility. By altering an organisms genetic material, or genome, without introducing genes from other species, advocates of genome editing argue the technique can sidestep most of the difficult ethical and regulatory challenges plaguing organisms with added transgenes, which are genes from other species. Some even argue these cisgenic products are natural enough to count as organic.

As ethicists specializing in how technology alters human-nature relations, we can understand why advocates see the ethics this way. If crossing species lines is the measure of whether a technique counts as natural or not, then genome editing appears to have the potential to pass a naturalness test.

Genome editing, its boosters say, can make changes that look almost evolutionary. Arguably, these changes could have happened by themselves through the natural course of events, if anyone had the patience to wait for them. Conventional breeding for potatoes resistant to late blight is theoretically possible, for example, but it would take a lot of time.

Although we understand the potential advantages of speed, we dont think an ethics hinging on the idea of cisgenesis is adequate. We propose a better ethical lens to use in its place.

Naturalness and species lines

Our work is part of a four-year project funded by the Norwegian Research Council scrutinizing how gene editing could change how we think about food. The work brings together researchers from universities and scientific institutes in Norway, the U.K. and the U.S. to compare a range of techniques for producing useful new crops.

Our project is not focused on the safety of the crops under development, something that obviously requires concerted scientific investigation of its own. Although the safety of humans and the health of the environment is ethically crucial when developing new foods, other ethical issues must also be considered.

To see this, consider how objections against genetically modified organisms go far beyond safety. Ethical issues around food sovereignty range broadly across farmer choice, excess corporate power, economic security and other concerns. Ethical acceptability requires a much higher bar than safety alone.

Although we believe gene editing may have promise for addressing the agricultural challenges caused by rising global populations, climate change and the overuse of chemical pesticides, we dont think an ethical analysis based entirely on crossing species lines and naturalness is adequate.

It is already clear that arguing gene-edited food is ethical based on species lines has not satisfied all of gene editings critics. As Ricarda Steinbrecher, a molecular biologist cautious about gene editing, has said, Whether or not the DNA sequences come from closely related species is irrelevant, the process of genetic engineering is the same, involving the same risks and unpredictabilities, as with transgenesis.

Comments of this kind suggest talking about species lines is an unreliable guide. Species and subspecies boundaries are notoriously infirm. Charles Darwin himself conceded in Origin of Species, I look at the term species, as one arbitrarily given for the sake of convenience to a set of individuals closely resembling each other.

The 2005 edition of the Mammal Species of the World demonstrated this arbitrariness by collapsing all 12 subspecies of American cougars down to one Puma concolor cougar overnight. In 2017, the Cat Classification Task Force revised the Felidae family again.

If species lines are not clear, claiming naturalness based on not crossing species lines is, in our view, a shaky guide. The lack of clarity matters because a premature ethical green light could mean a premature regulatory green light, with broad implications for both agricultural producers and consumers.

The integrity lens

We think a more reliable ethical measure is to ask about how a technique for crop breeding interferes with the integrity of the organism being altered.

The term integrity already has application in environmental ethics, ecology, cell biology, interhuman ethics, organic agriculture and genetics.

A unifying theme in all these domains is that integrity points toward some kind of functional wholeness of an organism, a cell, a genome or an ecological system. The idea of maintaining integrity tracks a central intuition about being cautious before interfering too much with living systems and their components.

The integrity lens makes it clear why the ethics of gene editing may not be radically different from the ethics of genetic modification using transgenes. The cell wall is still penetrated by the gene-editing components. The genome of the organism is cut at a site chosen by the scientist, and a repair is initiated which (it is hoped) will result in a desired change to the organism. When it comes to the techniques involved with gene editing a crop or other food for a desired trait, integrity is compromised at several levels and none has anything to do with crossing species lines. The integrity lens makes it clear the ethics is not resolved by debating naturalness or species boundaries.

Negotiation of each others integrity is a necessary part of human-to-human relations. Adopted as an ethical practice in the field of biotechnology, it might provide a better guide in attempts to accommodate different ethical, ecological and cultural priorities in policymaking. An ethic with a central place for discussion of integrity promises a framework that is both more flexible and discerning.

As new breeding techniques create new ethical debates over food, we think the ethical toolbox needs updating. Talking about crossing species lines simply isnt enough. If Darwin had known about gene editing, we think he would have agreed.

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, Professor of Philosophy, The University of Montana

, Resarch Scientist at Gen?k Centre for Biosafety and Associate Professor, University of Troms?

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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49. China Is Taking a Risk by Getting Tough on Hong Kong, 27 [−]

Hui Feng

Security, Asia

The U.S. must now decide how to respond.

Beijings recent announcement it would authorise the Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress Chinas rubber-stamp parliament to draft a national security law for Hong Kong caught most off guard.

The move sparked renewed protests over the weekend, caused a landslide on the local stock market and elicited the expected global outrage.

Beijings decision to bypass the Hong Kongs legislature and directly impose a national security law is widely seen as a violation of the joint treaty signed between China and the UK when Hong Kong was handed over in 1997.

It could jeopardise the rule of law and civil liberties currently enjoyed in the city, and ultimately, be the death knell for the one country, two systems framework that Beijing has touted to integrate Hong Kong into the mainland and compel Taiwan to move towards unification.

Now that Beijing has made its play, its up to the US and its allies to decide how to respond. And the situation could have more serious geopolitical consequences if neither side backs down.

What would the draft national security law do?

The Basic Law, Hong Kongs mini-constitution that came into effect in 1997, calls for the local government to enact a national security law. But legislation to do this has been suspended since 2003 when a half million people took to the streets in protest.

The law, if formally adopted this week, would prohibit treason, secession, sedition, subversion and the theft of state secrets. And it would legitimise the presence of Chinas state security apparatus in the city.

The timing of the move by the Chinese government appears to be opportunistic. It comes as the year-long pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have waned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Western countries, the traditional supporters of Hong Kongs push for freedom, have been distracted by their own responses to the pandemic.

For Beijing, the move kills two birds with one stone. In the short term, it should help quell through intimidation the civil unrest that has been raging in the city for over a year.

More profoundly, in the longer term, it could be the decisive blow for rule of law in Hong Kong and the citys autonomy.

The costs for China could be massive

What should be noted here is the significance of Beijings top-down, unilateral approach. This is, indeed, an audacious move considering the potential costs down the road.

The announcement will certainly fuel a new wave of protests in Hong Kong, this time with much higher stakes. Though some in the pro-democracy movement have expressed feelings of hopelessness recently, thousands still took to the streets on Sunday, leading to clashes with police.

China risks a severe backlash in the international arena. The UK, Canada and Australia have issued a joint statement saying they were deeply concerned about the proposed legislation.

The United States has reacted more forcefully by condemning the move and urging Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal. President Donald Trump has threatened to respond very strongly if Beijing follows through with the new law.

One option for the US is to invoke the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which was passed by Congress last year amid the continuing Hong Kong protests.

This, however, would represent the nuclear option for the US. Under the act, the US could revoke Hong Kongs preferential trading status if the citys autonomous status within China is compromised. This means the same tariffs and export controls the US now imposes on China would extend to Hong Kong, putting at risk some US$67 billion in annual trade.

There is growing support in the US to apply sanctions to mainland Chinese officials behind the proposed security law.

The aim of this kind of response would be to hurt China by hurting Hong Kong. This comes at a time when Beijing needs Hong Kong, an international finance hub, to attract foreign investment as it deals with the ongoing trade war with the US and its post-pandemic economic recovery.

Beijings credibility could be severely damaged if it fails to honour its treaty obligations with regards to Hong Kong. This runs contrary to the image Beijing has been painstakingly building in recent years of a responsible great power and an emerging leader of the world.

Given the potential costs, it is all the more extraordinary that Beijing is taking this approach. What, then, could have driven such a move?

Beijing signals readiness for new cold war

For Beijing, this is a public acknowledgement of its inability to resolve the political unrest in Hong Kong without resorting to violence, and that the ongoing protests could ultimately undermine its own national security.

It is a sign that Beijing has lost patience with the one country, two systems approach to slowly incorporate Hong Kong into the fold and provide a road map for Taiwans eventual unification with the mainland.

As Taiwan has drifted further away from Beijings overtures in recent years, the Chinese government has felt less obliged to keep up the one-country, two systems window dressing in Hong Kong.

The strategy is no longer to win hearts and minds, but to impose fear.

Beijing is counting on Washington and its allies to come to the realisation that hurting Hong Kong would not be in their own economic interests and eventually back away from their threats to take action.

If anything, this is a dual crisis in the making. It is a constitutional crisis for Hong Kong that could irrevocably redefine the nature of its autonomy and rule of law in the city moving forward.

It also has the potential to become a diplomatic crisis. Theres a chance Beijing may have miscalculated the situation and the US and its allies will retaliate with economic or other punishments.

The Chinese leadership is unlikely to back down and be seen as giving in to external pressures.

This puts China even more firmly on a collision course with the US and suggests the Chinese leadership is as determined as ever to fight a new cold war with its western adversaries.

And Hong Kong is in the middle, poised to become, as pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, put it, the new Berlin.

Hui Feng is ARC Future Fellow and Senior Research Fellow at Griffith University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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50. 6 Ways a Drop in International Students Could Set Back U.S. Higher Education, 27 [−]

David L. Di Maria

economy, Americas

The American Council on Education predicts that overall international enrollment for the next academic year will decline by as much as 25%.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer and fewer international students were coming to study in the United States.

While the number of international students who newly enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities during the 2015-2016 school year stood at more than 300,000, by the 2018-2019 school year, that number had fallen by about 10% to less than 270,000.

This trend will undoubtedly accelerate in the fall of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The American Council on Education predicts that overall international enrollment for the next academic year will decline by as much as 25%. That means there could be 220,000 fewer international students in the U.S. than the approximately 870,000 there are now.

One reason is that the U.S. has more COVID-19 cases than any other country. Other reasons include disapproval among international students regarding the U.S. response to COVID-19 compared to other nations, the ongoing suspension of the processing of U.S. visas and negative perceptions of the Trump administrations immigration policies and rhetoric.

As an international education professional, I foresee six major ways that the expected steep decline in international enrollment will change U.S. higher education and the economy.

1. Higher tuition

International students often pay full tuition, which averages more than US$26,000 per year at public four-year institutions and $36,000 at private nonprofit four-year institutions. That matters because the tuition from foreign students provides extra funds to subsidize the costs of enrolling more students from the U.S. At public colleges and universities, the revenue generated from international enrollment also helps to make up for cuts in state funding for higher education.

One study found that for every 10% drop in state funding for higher education, international enrollment increased by 12-17% at public research universities from 1996 to 2012.

According to the Institute of International Educations 2019 Open Doors Report, 872,214 international students are enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities.

As states cut budgets due to the loss of tax revenue brought on by the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, many institutions of higher education will be forced to raise tuition. While this may help college and university finances in the short term, in the long term it will make it more difficult for international students to be able to afford to study in the U.S., which in turn will make the U.S. a less attractive study destination.

2. A weaker economy

International students contribute an estimated $41 billion to the U.S. economy. However, the actual figure is surely much higher considering these students also pay various taxes to federal, state and local governments.

While a decline in international enrollment will financially hurt American colleges and universities, it will also decrease the profits of local businesses and the tax revenues of state and local governments. While college towns are likely to be the first affected, the long-term impact of fewer international students will ultimately be fewer jobs for Americans. How? Well, consider the fact that former international students founded nearly 1 out of every 4 startup companies in the U.S. individually valued at $1 billion dollars or more. Fewer international students now means fewer startups later.

3. Less innovation

One of the strongest factors that influences future international scientific cooperation is having students study in different countries. This ability to collaborate across borders is critical to addressing the worlds greatest challenges, from combating climate change to eliminating COVID-19.

Additionally, economists at the World Bank estimate that a 10% increase in the number of international graduate students in the United States raises patent applications in the U.S. by 4.5% and university patent grants by 6.8%.

Worldwide, research and development is valued at nearly $2 trillion. The U.S. share of that research and development is smaller today than it was in 2000. I believe having fewer international students will only serve to make it even smaller.

4. Job losses

One analysis found that international students support 455,000 U.S. jobs.

International students who participate in Optional Practical Training a program that allows these students to gain practical experience in their field of study by working temporarily in the U.S. help employers fill critical positions when they are unable to locate qualified U.S. workers. This is particularly true in certain science and engineering fields. The Trump administration is looking at putting restrictions on the program, it was reported on May 24.

As international enrollment declines, U.S. employers will have a harder time filling jobs. This may lead companies to look for talent in other countries or possibly relocate jobs abroad.

5. Less exposure to diversity

When students interact with people from cultures other than their own, it enhances their ability to think more critically. It also reduces prejudice.

Since only 10% of U.S. students study abroad prior to earning their bachelors degree, international students play an important role in exposing U.S. students who never go abroad to international perspectives. In essence, international students bring the world to campus and increase access to global learning for all. The result is a more globally competent workforce, which is important considering that 1 in 5 jobs in the U.S. is tied to international trade and 93% of employers value employees who can work effectively across national and cultural boundaries.

6. Less US influence

While more than 300 current and former world leaders were at one time international students in the U.S., other nations are making concerted efforts to catch up. If there are fewer students from other countries studying in the U.S., it will lessen the ability of the United States to touch the hearts and minds of future world leaders.

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, Associate Vice Provost for International Education, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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51. Why the World Needs Drugs From China and India to Beat Coronavirus, 27 [−]

Rory Horner

Health, Asia

The pharmaceutical industry relies on global supply chains. And China and India play key roles in the supply of both ingredients and finished drugs.

The biggest pharmaceutical companies in the world, known as big pharma, are American and European. The top five are Pfizer (US), Roche, Novartis (both Swiss), Merck (US) and GlaxoSmithKline (UK). Yet these companies and the pharmaceutical industry as a whole rely on global supply chains. And China and India play key roles in the supply of both ingredients and finished drugs.

Hopes for a vaccine or a medicine that will treat COVID-19 rest on this crucial sector. Yet the globalisation of pharmaceuticals and what some see as an over-reliance on products from China and India has been criticised in the US, the UK and the European Union.

Whether it be hydroxychloroquine (the miracle drug Donald Trump has admitted to taking), remdesivir (an antiviral drug used as an emergency treatment for the most acute cases of COVID-19) or a future vaccine, the physical as well as social and economic health of the world depends on pharmaceuticals. Production from China and India will be crucial if the pandemic is to be brought under control.

The supply chain

The pharmaceutical manufacturing supply chain involves two main stages. The first is the production of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). These are the key parts of a drug which produce an effect. Such production is chemical-intensive, involving reactors for drug substance manufacture. The second stage is a physical process known as formulations production. Substances known as excipients are combined with APIs to turn a drug into a consumable form, such as a tablet, liquid, capsule, cream, ointment or injectable product.

For more than a decade now, China has been the largest producer of APIs in the world. The US, Europe and Japan produced 90% of the worlds APIs until the mid-1990s. But now it is estimated that Chinese manufacturers make around 40% of all APIs used worldwide and that China and India are the source of 75% to 80% of the APIs imported to the US. Janet Woodcock, the director of the Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told Congress in 2019:

The number of Chinese facilities producing APIs for the US market has increased over the past decade, as part of a massive movement of pharmaceutical production offshore. This movement is being driven by the pharmaceutical industrys desire for cost savings and less stringent environmental regulations.

Pharmacy to the developing world

India plays a prominent role in the formulations segment of the industry. India is the third largest producer of pharmaceuticals in the world by volume. The countrys Department of Pharmaceuticals reported that it supplies 20% of global exports of generic drugs. These are drugs that are no longer under patent and are open to any company to produce and sell, and are thus usually priced at a relatively low level. India has the largest number of FDA approved plants outside the US and it is estimated to supply 40% of the generic formulations in America.

It was the absence of product patents in pharmaceuticals from 1972 to 2005, combined with foreign investment restrictions in the 1970s and 1980s that led to the development of a rare and successful manufacturing industry in India a country more known for its services role in the global economy.

India is also the major supplier of medicines to countries in the global south. This led the humanitarian organisation M?decins Sans Fronti?res to dub the country the pharmacy to the developing world. Yusuf Hamied, then managing director of Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla, announced in 2001 that his firm would provide a years supply of anti-retroviral medicines for US$350 a year (and is now less than US$100 a year) a fraction of the US$10,000 they had been provided for until that point in time by American and European companies.

Indian companies, led by the likes of Cipla, Aurobindo, Emcure, Hetero, Macleods, Matrix, Ranbaxy and Strides have played an enormous role in supplying anti-retroviral and anti-malarial medicines to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and malaria.

India is also a major vaccine producer. While the largest vaccine manufacturers in the world ( in revenue terms) are GSK, Sanofi, Merck and Pfizer, Indias Serum Institute is the worlds largest vaccine producer by volume.

The Pune-based company makes 1.5 billion doses a year, 80% of which are exported and is UNICEFs largest vaccine supplier (US$307.8 million worth in 2018). India also produces 65% of the World Health Organizations requirement of DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) and tuberculosis, as well as 90% of its measles vaccines.

Fear of dependence on China

This globalisation of the pharmaceutical industry has led to fears of over-reliance on particular sources of supply, especially China, for APIs. Such concern has been particularly prominent in the US. Last year a representative of the Defence Health Agency argued that the national security risks of increased Chinese dominance of the global API market cannot be overstated.

The state of Americas reliance on China for pharmaceuticals was documented in a book by health researchers Rosemary Gibson and Janardan Prasad Singh which highlighted that the last manufacturing plant for aspirin in the US closed in 2002, while the last acetaminophen (paracetamol) manufacturing plant in Europe closed in 2008.

India also gets most of its APIs from China an issue of concern for its government, which has had a task force investigating this issue. The country once had considerable self-reliance in production of APIs, dating back to the establishment of two state-owned pharmaceutical companies in the 1950s and 1960s. But in recent decades there are stricter environmental controls, which many believe has limited this aspect of the industry in India. China also has cheaper land, electricity and higher volumes of production.

So now India relies on China for about 70% of its supply of APIs. And for some well known drugs, such as paracetamol, amoxicillin and ibuprofen, India is almost 100% dependent on China.

While the US, Europe and India have worried about over-reliance on China, Africa is most dependent of all on the global pharmaceutical supply chain. Effectively all APIs and 80-90% of the finished medicines consumed on the continent are imported mostly from India.

There has been significant concern for some time regarding the globalised nature of the pharmaceutical industry and its vulnerability, even before the pandemic. Gibson and Singh explicitly articulated fears over the potential implications of this in their 2018 book China Rx:

The centralisation of the global supply for essential ingredients for drugs in China makes it vulnerable to interruption, whether by mistake or design. If disruptions occur for an essential ingredient made in China, the United States will wait in line along with Europe, India, and other countries to obtain it. If a global public health crisis occurs, China will likely keep its domestically produced medicines at home and stockpile them to secure access for its citizens before seeing to the needs of other nations.

Those were the fears before COVID-19, yet China has not acted in this way so far. And most of Indias export bans have been rescinded. However, the tensions between nationalism and globalisation have plagued the initial search for treatments.

Miracle drugs and geopolitics

Although China did not initiate an export ban on pharmaceuticals, tensions escalated in early March when Indias Ministry of Commerce and Industry announced restrictions on the export of 13 APIs including paracetamol, tinidazole, vitamin B1, B6 and B12, as well as any formulations made from those APIs. Reports emerged about concerns over drug shortages elsewhere in the world as a result, with European industry said to be panicking.

The Indian government also moved to address its own reliance on supply of APIs from China. On March 21, they announced a US$140m scheme, involving support for three bulk drugs parks as well as the manufacturing of 53 priority APIs, to reduce dependency on other countries for bulk drugs.

Tensions escalated as hydroxychloroquine (and a similar drug chloroquine) emerged as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Long established as an anti-malarial, but also used for treating rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, research from the M?diterran?e Infection University Hospital Institute in Marseille found a significant reduction of the viral carriage in 20 COVID-19 cases treated with the drug.

On March 14, the UK announced an export ban on hydroxychloroquine. Then, Donald Trump began touting it as a game-changer. The space and electric car entrepreneur Elon Musk also joined the hype.

Although US-based Mylan announced it would restart production of hydroxychloroquine in West Virginia, it was clear America and much of the world would require supply from India if this drug was to be effective in treating the disease.

India is estimated to produce 70% of the worlds hydroxychloroquine, with Ipca Labs and Zydus Cadila the two largest producers of the drug in the country. Ipca Labs accounts for more than 80% of Indias hydroxychloroquine supply, yet there was a problem for the US here.

The FDA had restricted Ipcas exports from some of its facilities to the US, arising from problems found in quality control checks from 2014 onwards. But with hydroxychloroquine attracting such attention, the US lifted its ban on supply on March 23.

The Indian government, however, wanted to ensure it had sufficient supply for its own domestic needs. On the same day Indias National Task Force for COVID-19 recommended hydroxychloroquine for treating high-risk cases. Two days later, Indias Ministry of Commerce and Industry prohibited the export of the drug and formulations made from it, with exceptions (such as where pre-existing commitments had been made, as well as on humanitarian grounds).

But then doubts about hydroxychloroquines effectiveness at treating COVID-19 began to emerge as the International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy which houses the journal where the Marseille-based research was published criticised the study. Yet, on April 4, India banned the export of hydroxychloroquine without any exception.

President Trump didnt take long to respond. At his White House press conference on April 6, he warned there may be retaliation if India didnt supply hydroxychloroquine to the US. Just a day later, Indias complete export prohibition was lifted. Supply would be allowed to more than 20 countries on a commercial and humanitarian basis. World leaders including Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu and Jair Bolsonaro all thanked Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister.

Searching for medicines and vaccines

While the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine is still hotly contested, the tribulations over the drug are an insight into some of the challenges to be overcome in fighting the virus.

Efforts to develop a vaccine are well under way yet projected to take considerable time, so the search continues for repurposed drugs to treat and reduce deaths from the disease. Having China and India involved as manufacturing partners for any treatment or vaccine will be vital given their unparalleled ability to produce in high volumes and cost effective economies of scale.

Manufacturing capabilities are also present in China and India for two other potential treatments. Favipiravir, normally used to treat influenza, was approved in China and Italy for experimental use against COVID-19 in March 2020. By late April, it was reported that Mumbai-based Glenmark had developed the API in-house and was applying for regulatory approval for its use against COVID-19. And another Indian firm, Strides, also announced it had commercialised and begun exporting favipiravir to a number of countries in the Middle East.

Meanwhile remdesivir (owned by US firm Gilead Sciences) has been authorised by the FDA to treat COVID-19 in emergency cases.

As early as mid-February, Gilead partnered with the China-Japan Friendship Hospital and the Chinese Academy of Sciences for human trials of remdesivir in Wuhan. A Chinese company quickly manufactured the API for remdesivir and by the end of March a total of five Chinese companies and the Taiwanese National Health Institute announced they had the capacity to produce the drug.

Patent barriers?

Remdesivir is distinct from the other drugs which have attracted attention as COVID-19 treatments so far in that Gilead has a patent for it, raising serious concerns of intellectual property issues restricting access to medicines or vaccines. Since mid-April, various Indian pharmaceutical companies had already begun developing remdesevir, as has Bangladeshi company, Beximco.

Facing a public health emergency, global trade rules permit governments to issue a compulsory license. Such a provision allows a manufacturer to produce a medicine without the permission of the patent holder, who is paid a royalty fee instead. A variety of countries including Chile, Ecuador, Israel, Canada and Germany have all moved to make it easier to issue a compulsory license, if needed, for COVID-19.

Perhaps anticipating such a move, Gilead announced on May 12 that it had issued voluntary licensing agreements for remdesevir to one company in Pakistan (Ferozsons Laboratories) and four in India (Cipla, Hetero Labs, Jubilant Life Sciences and Mylan). The deal would involve transfer of technology and allow the five companies to make remdesevir for subsequent distribution in 127 countries, primarily in the global south.

Gilead has agreed a deal with these five generic companies to manufacture and supply this drug on which so much hope has been placed. Gilead has also entered discussions with the Medicines Patent Pool a UN backed agency which tries to increase access to treatments for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis. It has now expanded its remit to include any health technology that could contribute to the global response to COVID-19.

Global public good

Any prospective vaccine faces a challenge of not just being effective, but also requiring enormous manufacturing capacities to reach the majority of the worlds population.

As of late May, more than 200 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in development around the world, according to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. While 42% are in North America, six of the ten which have already progressed to human trials are being developed in China. Many hopes are riding on a vaccine candidate at the University of Oxford, which began human trials on April 24. AstraZeneca has been given the worldwide development, marketing and distribution licensing rights for the vaccine. The UK company has also received more than US$1 billion in support for the vaccine from the US Biomedical and Advanced Research Authority. And AstraZeneca is in discussions over increasing production and distribution with Indias Serum Institute, which has already been involved in collaborations with Oxford on the vaccine.

In addition to its involvement with the Oxford vaccine, Serum Institute is also working with the US-based Codagenix to develop a vaccine. Other manufacturers in India trying to develop vaccines include Bharat Biotech (with University of Wisconsin-Madison and FlyGen), Zydus Cadila, Biological E, Indian Immunologicals and Mynvax.

Given the chance of re-infection (unless billions of people are inoculated) any effective vaccine must be manufactured at considerable scale, a task which would benefit considerably from Chinese and Indian involvement. Ngozi Okonji-Iweala (Board Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and WHO Special Envoy on Global Collaboration to fight COVID-19) has warned:

It is the duty of every government to put its citizens first, but during a pandemic this duty also requires thinking and acting globally. If manufacturing agreements or export restrictions impede the deployment of vaccines and allow the virus to survive anywhere, nowhere can be safe from reinfection.

On May 4, a number of countries and global health organisations committed 7.4bn for a coordinated approach to COVID-19 through the development of vaccines, treatments and diagnostics. Notably, while China, the UK and several major European countries participated, the US, Russia and India were absent.

A lot depends, of course, on whether China and India share the products of their manufacturing with the rest of the world. Indias restrictions on exporting key drugs in March (albeit later rescinded) are a worrying sign of things that may be to come. Recent history from mitigating the impact of HIV-AIDS demonstrates the huge benefits for global access to medicines when India is involved. The all-time high for AIDS deaths in the USA was in 1995. But for the world as a whole, mortality from HIV only fell from the mid-2000s, when anti-retrovirals became more widely available in the global south.

In contrast to some of the doomsday fears of what might happen amid a global public health crisis, China has not yet issued any restriction or ban on export of medical goods. Although often framed in the US as an unhealthy dependency on China, what is often overlooked is that China also relies on the US and major European countries for some of its medicines. In 2019, Germany was the largest source of Chinas medicine imports, followed by France, the US, Italy and Sweden. Much of Chinas anti-cancer drugs are imported. This inter-dependence in pharmaceuticals, rather than dependence, means China may not be as quick to putting up a seal around its border as some thought.

Confounding fears of vaccine nationalism, Chinas President Xi Jinping announced at the World Health Assembly on May 18 that COVID-19 vaccine development and deployment in China, when available, will be made a global public good, which will be Chinas contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

The dependencies and inter-dependencies of globalisation have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and nowhere more so than in the pharmaceutical industry. We dont yet know how the medicine and vaccine challenge will end. Whether it be hydroxychloroquine, favipiravir, remdesivir or something else, it is unclear which drug, if any, will work. It may be a vaccine. While it may be an American company or an Oxford lab that is hailed as a hero for a treatment or prevention, the task is not just about discovering a treatment or vaccine that works, but making it available to as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. Successful accomplishment of that task especially in the global south is difficult to envisage without Chinese and Indian involvement. COVID-19 ignores borders and the solutions to address it will need to overcome them too.

Rory Horner is a Senior Lecturer at the Global Development Institute, University of Manchester.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

52. How the Coronavirus Will Expand Virtual Therapy Services, 27 [−]

Nicholas Joyce


Therapists are discovering that tele-health counseling is effective.

The coronavirus has resulted in stress, anxiety and fear symptoms that might motivate a person to see a therapist. Because of social distancing, however, in-person sessions are less possible. For many, this has raised the prospect of online therapy. For clients in need of warmth and reassurance, could this work? Studies and my experience suggests it does.

I am a psychologist and counselor at the University of South Florida. When our center named me its online assisted therapies coordinator, many of the staff initially pushed back at the notion of providing services through the screen. These negative attitudes toward telehealth should have surprised me. After all, its antecedent, telephone crisis lines, have been accepted and effective for decades.

But my field of therapy has often been disdainful of telehealth, opposed to warm psychotherapy work performed via a cold screen. Its resistance to the concept has changed little over the years.

Research suggests, however, that online therapy works just as well as traditional face-to-face therapy. Studies, looking at outcomes for clients and the quality of their relationships with therapists, found them equal across telehealth and in-person conditions. Since this meta-analysis (92 studies and 9,000 clients), many other studies have confirmed the value of teletherapy.

Telehealth versus traditional therapy

Private insurance companies like Cigna and Aetna, have come around; they now provide coverage for what they see as a legitimate service. And surveys show consumers are receptive to telehealth counseling: no driving to an appointment, no searching for a parking space, no worries about childcare while theyre away, no need to switch providers if they move, and no problem if the specialist happens to be far away.

Online therapy opens doors for clients who wouldnt otherwise seek help, particularly patients who feel stigmatized by therapy or intimidated by a stranger sitting across the room from them. Often, people open up more easily in telehealth sessions. Firsthand accounts have detailed positive experiences from consumers.

Overcoming prejudices about online counseling

Now COVID-19 is forcing most traditional psychotherapists to adapt their practice to online counseling. After experiencing the medium, they are overcoming their prejudices. Many will convert some or all of their caseloads to telehealth after the pandemic ends. Most of our clients seem to be good with it: responding to a satisfaction survey, 85% of USF students strongly or somewhat agreed their telehealth experience was comparable to an in-person visit.

All this allows a continuity of care for clients that before was impossible; there is, however, a caveat. Because of the coronavirus, some of my clients at USF who live out-of-state have moved back home. That means, legally, I can no longer serve them. Even though they are still USF students, my license is valid only in Florida.

For telehealth to work effectively, our national system of licensing and regulation law needs to adapt. Although the federal government temporarily halted HIPAA regulations to promote telehealth during this time, not all states are allowing out-of-state practice. The coronavirus may not be here forever, but spring break and Christmas holidays always will. We need seamless telehealth across state lines.

That said, my own counseling center quickly transitioned to remote-only. Although most of the therapists cant wait to get back into the office, they are appreciative they can serve students in need. Certainly many clients and therapists will gladly return to face-to-face sessions, but now they know the tool of telehealth will always be available, if and when needed.

So much is changing. Now, consumers can easily access online therapy. Free e-books are available; one dealing directly with the pandemic is FACE COVID, by Russ Harris. Apps are around too some free, some paid. Check out the website to vet them. Asking for suggestions online will help as well.

Your insurance may allow you to talk to a licensed professional who does online therapy. Most major insurers have a list of them on their website. If youre uninsured, most communities have free or low-cost mental health clinics. Many universities have them too. Also, online directories can point you to places that offer services on a sliding scale, depending on your income, from pro bono to US$60 a session.

After years of dismissing telemedicine, practitioners are getting past their biases in barely a few weeks. Telehealth has allowed psychotherapy to continue unabated. More people who need help will now get it. Im sad our profession needed COVID-19 to address telehealth, but the benefits will last for generations.

[You need to understand the coronavirus pandemic, and we can help. Read The Conversations newsletter.]

, Psychologist, University of South Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

53. Why High-Speed Rail Could Increase Emissions in Australia, 27 [−]

Greg Moran

Climate Change, Oceania

While bullet trains might be climate-friendly, their construction would still generate huge emissions.

Bullet trains are back on the political agenda. As the major parties look for ways to stimulate the economy after the COVID-19 crisis, Labor is again spruiking its vision of linking Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane with high-speed trains similar to the Eurostar, Frances TGV or Japans Shinkansen.

In 2013 when Labor was last in government, it released a detailed feasibility study of its plan. But a Grattan Institute report released today shows bullet trains are not a good idea for Australia. Among other shortcomings, we found an east coast bullet train would not be the climate saver many think it would be.

The logic seems simple enough

Building a bullet train to put a dent in our greenhouse gas emissions has been long touted. The logic seems simple we can take a lot of planes and their carbon pollution out of the sky if we give people another way to get between our largest cities in just a few hours or less.

And this is all quite true, as the chart below shows. We estimate a bullet trains emissions per passenger-kilometre on a trip from Melbourne to Sydney would be about one-third of those of a plane. We calculated this using average fuel consumption estimates from 2018 for various types of transport, as well as the average emissions intensity of electricity generated in Australia in 2018.

If we use the projected emissions intensity of electricity in 2035 the first year trains were expected to run under Labors original plan the fraction drops to less than one-fifth of a planes emissions in 2018.

It should be remembered that while coaches might be the most climate-friendly way to travel long distances, they cant compete with bullet trains or planes for speed.

Theres a catch

So, wheres the problem? It lies in construction. A bullet train along Australias east coast would take about 15 years of planning, then would be built in sections over about 30 years. This construction would generate huge emissions.

In particular, vast emissions would be released in the production of steel and concrete required to build a train line from Melbourne to Brisbane. These so-called scope 3 emissions can account for 50-80% of total construction emissions.

Scope 3 emissions are sometimes not counted when assessing the emissions impact of a project, but they should be. Theres no guarantee the quantities of concrete and steel in question would have been produced and used elsewhere if not for the bullet train.

And the long construction time means it would be many years before the train actually starts to take planes out of the sky. This, combined with construction emissions, means a bullet train would be very slow to reduce emissions. In fact, we found it would first increase emissions for many years.

Slow emissions benefit

As the chart below shows, we estimate building the bullet train could lead to emissions being higher than they otherwise wouldve been for between 24 and 36 years.

This period would start at year 15 of the project, when planning ends and construction starts. At the earliest, it would end at year 39. This is the point at which some sections of the project would be complete, and at which enough trips have been taken (and enough plane or car trips foregone) that avoided emissions overtake emissions created.

This means the train might not actually create a net reduction in emissions until almost 40 years after the government commits to building it and even this is under a generously low estimate of scope 3 emissions. If scope 3 emissions are on the high side, emission reductions may not start until just after the 50-year mark 36 years after construction began.

The bullet train would create a net reduction in emissions from the 40- or 50-year mark onwards. But the initial timelines matter.

The world needs to achieve net zero emissions by about 2050 if were to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. All Australian states and territories have made this their goal. Unfortunately, a bullet train will not help us achieve it.

The way forward

Hitting the 2050 net-zero emissions target implicit in the Paris Agreement remains a daunting but achievable task. Decarbonising transport will play a big part, including the particularly tricky question of reducing aviation emissions.

But during the most crucial time for action on emissions reduction, a bullet train will not help. Our efforts and focus ought to be directed elsewhere.

Greg Moran is Senior Associate at the Grattan Institute.

Milan Marcus assisted in the preparation of this piece.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

54. Here's Why We Crave the Outdoors During Coronavirus Lockdown, 27 [−]

Deena Shaffer


Humans are hardwired for nature.

When the long-awaited warm sunny weather arrived in Toronto over the weekend, hundreds flocked to Trinity Bellwoods Park in the citys west end. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said it looked like a rock concert, but added that he understood people wanted to be outside and enjoy the outdoors.

These days, with social distancing rules still in place, it can be difficult to get outdoors, and to know whether or not to. High-rise apartment buildings have elevator limits. Neighbourhoods may have more parking lots than parkland. Or it could be that you are caring for someone with a high risk of developing severe illness from a COVID-19 infection.

Hikes, picnics or bike rides along a tree-lined path feel a long way off when youre quarantined in a low-light basement apartment or a balcony-less condo, and youre screen-saturated from work, school and social gatherings.

This sense of disconnection from the natural world is not surprising. Even prior to coronavirus lockdowns, most of us were spending 90 per cent of our time indoors.

Marika Chandler, Ontario director of Outward Bound Canada, says those of us living in urban environments were already experiencing the ill effects of high-density living and limited green space. Now, those green spaces are taped off, locked, under the threat of financial punishment if you use them, or packed full. And yet, the positive impacts on our mental health from time spent in nature is essential for all ages, all genders, all abilities, all people, she says.

Getting our green in right now, however we can, can help us repair the nature deficit we might be feeling, honour our biophilic urge, nourish our mental well-being and harness the awe-inducing restorative and resiliency benefits of the outdoors.

Hardwired for nature

The desire for more green time might be the result of a nature deficit. Author and nature advocate Richard Louv describes nature-deficit disorder as a phenomenon not a true diagnosis that shows up as challenges with focus, clear thinking, physical health and mental well-being.

As co-creator of Ryerson Universitys Thriving in Action program, resilience lecturer, co-ordinator of the campus nature-walking and paddling programs and president of Canadas Learning Specialists Association, I teach and conduct research on the intersection of learning, well-being, equity and nature.

Our lust for nature is real. The concept of biophilia, popularized by E.O. Wilson, professor emeritus of biology at Harvard University, holds that humans have an inherent love of and desire to be near and in nature.

Given this tension between our attraction to the natural world and our current indoor isolation, its not surprising that our connection with nature can feel like its slipping away right now, says Barbara McKean, head of education at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ont., and the driving force behind the Back to Nature Network, a web of organizations that aim to restore childrens relationship with the outdoors.

This disconnection might feel additionally poignant given the time of year. To not have contact with other humans, and with the outdoor world, in springtime no less, is a true deficit, says Jeffrey McGarry, an outdoor educator and researcher.

Nature as a stress reducer

Prior to the coronavirus, many of us commuted to workplaces by foot or bike, enjoyed outdoor excursions and had our sights set on summertime camping and cottaging. Now, COVID cabin fever might be setting in.

As we move to an ever-more virtual world, feeling trapped in our living quarters, we are craving a return to nature and its benefits, says Marija Padjen, director of the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health, a partnership that supports mental health capacity-building and resource-sharing on post-secondary campuses.

Alongside daily reports about COVID-19s spread, so too are there growing concerns about the strain of lockdown, isolation, fear and grief on our mental well-being, especially for youth. Yet just as this time of uncertainty can amplify stress, anxiety and overwhelm, so too can we mobilize our individual and collective resilience.

Time in nature can play a key role in fostering this resiliency. Abundant research makes clear that spending time outdoors can ease some symptoms of depression, enhance memory and cognitive function, reduce stress and improve creative thinking and problem solving.

For those who cannot get out, studies also make clear that views of nature, caring for plants and even digital images of nature can have positive impacts on stress. Roger Ulrich, health-care design researcher, has shown that people recover from surgery faster when they could see green space due to increased positive feelings, reduced fear and eased pain.

Inviting the outdoors in

We also know that nature inspires awe, encourages Linda Graham, the author of Resilience: Powerful Practices to Bounce Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster. the measurable impact of awe in nature is resilience, the capacity to face and deal skillfully with the difficulties of life.

There may be no better time to intentionally bask in the wonder of seedlings emerging in an indoor garden, the sound of early morning birdsong sitting by a screen door, or if accessible and spacious enough, the experience of walking along a favourite ravine or trail.

By walk or by window, safely harvest the restorative benefits of the available nature budding trees, springs changeable weather and the skys clouds and colours. Much of it might have passed by unnoticed prior to the pandemic.

Deena Shaffer is an Instructor in Sociology at Ryerson University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

55. Cant Resist Splurging on Online Shopping? Heres Why., 27 [−]

Adrian R. Camilleri, Eugene Y. Chan


There are a range of psychological factors behind the online shopping upheaval.

The demand for online shopping has obviously increased since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place.

But less obvious are the subtle psychological drivers behind our collective online shopping splurge. In fact, online shopping can relieve stress, provide entertainment and offers the reduced pain of paying online.

In the last week of April, more than two million parcels a day were delivered across the Australia Post network. This is 90% more than the same time last year.

More recently, data based on a weekly sample (from May 11-17) of transactions revealed food delivery increased by 230%, furniture and office goods purchases rose 140% and alcohol and tobacco sales rose 45%.

Meanwhile, weve seen thousands of retail job losses, with Wesfarmers announcing plans on Friday to close up to 75 Target stores around the country, and Myer finally reopening stores after nearly two months of closure.

Why the shopping frenzy?

Online sales of many product categories have increased, including for food, winter clothes and toys. This isnt surprising given people still need to eat, winter is coming and were bored at home.

But beyond the fact most people are spending more time at home, there are a range of psychological factors behind the online shopping upheaval.

Recent months have been stressful due to financial uncertainty, the inability to visit loved ones and changes to our daily routines.

Shopping can be a way to cope with stress. In fact, higher levels of distress have been linked with higher purchase intentions. And this compulsion to buy is often part of an effort to reduce negative emotions.

In other words, shopping is an escape.

A 2013 study compared people living close to the Gaza-Israel border during a period of conflict with those from a central Israeli town that wasnt under duress. The researchers found those living in the high-stress environment reported a higher degree of materialism and a desire to shop to relieve stress.

When mall trips arent an option

Indeed, in a time when typical forms of entertainment such as restaurants and cinemas are inaccessible, shopping becomes a form of entertainment. The act of shopping alone produces increased arousal, heightened involvement, perceived freedom, and fantasy fulfillment.

It seems the stress and boredom brought on by this pandemic has intensified our will to spend.

Whats more, psychology research has demonstrated humans inability to delay gratification.

We want things now. Even with stay-at-home orders, we still want new makeup, clothes, shoes, electronics and housewares.

Another pleasant aspect of online shopping is it avoids the typical pain of paying experienced during in-person transactions.

Most people dont enjoy parting with their money. But research has shown the psychological pain produced from spending money depends on the transaction type. The more tangible the transaction, the stronger the pain.

Simply, paying for a product by physically giving cash hurts more than clicking a buy now button.

Clear browsing history

Interestingly, online shopping also allows high levels of anonymity. While you may have to enter your name, address and card details no one can see you.

Its easier to buy embarrassing products when no one is looking. Apart from lockdown restrictions making it more difficult to date, this may also help explain why sex toy sales have surged during the pandemic.

Sales of lingerie and other intimate apparel have also reportedly jumped 400%.

How have businesses responded?

With advertising spend down, businesses have responded in different ways to recent changes in online shopping.

Many are offering discounts to encourage spending. Last weeks Click Frenzy became a central hub for thousands of deals across dozens of retailers such as Telstra, Target and Dell.

Others have moved operations online for the first time. If you scroll through any major food delivery app, youll see offers from restaurants that previously specialised in dine-in services.

Meanwhile, existing meal delivery services such as HelloFresh and Lite n Easy are updating their methods to guarantee hygienic packing and transport.

Several small Australian businesses have also pivoted. Clarke Murphy Print responded to slowing print jobs by starting Build-a-Desks.

Even established brands are getting creative. For example, Burger King outlets in the US are offering free burgers to customers who use one of their billboards as a virtual backdrop during conference calls.

Dont buy better, be better

Unfortunately, with the ease of online purchasing, and our increased motivation to give in to improve our mood or seek entertainment, many people are now at risk of overspending and landing in financial stress.

Its important to control spending during this fraught time. Simple ways to do this include creating a budget, avoiding buy now, pay later schemes, recognising your spending triggers and planning ahead.

As isolation increases materialism, its also important to keep in touch with family and friends, whether thats in person ( if allowed in your area), via video calls or phone.

So the next time youre thinking of pulling out your credit card, why not get Skype up on the screen and play a virtual game of Pictionary instead?

Adrian R. Camilleri is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Technology Sydney. Eugene Y. Chan is an Associate Professor at Purdue University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

56. How The Civil War Made The Federal Government Incredibly Powerful, 27 [−]

Warfare History Network

History, Americas

The four tragic years of the American Civil War, fought 1861 to 1865, strengthened the Federal government and ended slavery in the United States.

The American Civil War was the tragic culmination of divergent perspectives on the proper conduct of the government of the United States and socio-economic issues that had been frequently at the forefront of American political life for decades.

The war began when Confederate guns in Charleston Harbor fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1865, and is generally acknowledged to have come to an end with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to Union armies under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. Other Confederate forces, particularly General Joseph Johnstons Army of Tennessee, surrendered later, and sporadic fighting continued until early summer.

Slavery, Industrialization, States Rights

The central issues that brought about the Civil War included the theory of states rights versus a strong central government and the extension of the doctrine of nullification that proffered the right of an individual state to nullify Federal legislation that its leaders believed was not in the particular states best interests.

Complicating the situation was the industrialization of the Northern states while the South remained primarily agrarian. While the institution of slavery waned in the North, it became a significant source of manual labor in the South. As the nation grew, the extension of slavery into the Western territories became a significant bone of contention. During the first half of the 19th century, compromises managed to postpone the coming armed conflict.

Triggering the Secession

The election of Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, as President of the United States, triggered the secession of South Carolina from the Union in December 1860, followed by North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, and Tennessee. Theses 11 states declared themselves the Confederate States of America under President Jefferson Davis, with their capital first at Montgomery, Alabama, and then at Richmond, Virginia.

During the course of the war, the Union Navy exerted a strangling blockade of Confederate ports, restricting the flow of war materiel and stifling the cotton trade. On land, Union armies endured initial setbacks; however, the overwhelming superiority in manpower and industrial capacity made victory for the Union inevitable over the course of time. Major battles included First and Second Manassas, Shiloh, Antietam, the Battle of Gettysburg, the siege of Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and the siege of Petersburg.

The Countrys Most Costly Conflict

The American Civil War was the most costly armed conflict in the history of the United States, as more than 600,000 died, more due to rampant disease than on the battlefield. The institution of slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and following the harsh era of Reconstruction, the nation was again united. Issues concerning civil rights, however, persisted, and the legacy of the war is still influencing the nation today.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikipedia.

57. What is a Zero Energy Building?, 27 [−]

Charles F. Kutscher

Energy, Americas

Buildings account for 40% of total energy consumption in the U.S., compared to 32% for industry and 28% for transportation. How can we rapidly reduce carbon emissions from the building sector?

Although the coronavirus pandemic has dominated recent headlines, climate change hasnt gone away. Many experts are calling for a green economic recovery that directs investments into low-carbon energy sources and technologies.

Buildings account for 40% of total energy consumption in the U.S., compared to 32% for industry and 28% for transportation. States and cities with ambitious climate action plans are working to reduce emissions from the building sector to zero. This means maximizing energy efficiency to reduce building energy use, and then supplying the remaining energy needs with electricity generated by carbon-free sources.

My colleagues and I study the best ways to rapidly reduce carbon emissions from the building sector. In recent years, construction designs have advanced dramatically. Net zero energy buildings, which produce the energy they need on site from renewable sources, increasingly are the default choice. But to speed the transition to zero carbon emissions, I believe the United States must think bigger and focus on designing or redeveloping entire communities that are zero energy.

Tackling energy use in buildings at the district level provides economies of scale. Architects can deploy large heat pumps and other equipment to serve multiple buildings on a staggered schedule across the day. Districts that bring homes, places of work, restaurants, recreation centers and other services together in walkable communities also significantly reduce the energy needed for transportation. In my view, this growing movement will play an increasingly important role in helping the U.S. and the world address the climate crisis.

Heating and cooling are the biggest energy uses in buildings. District design strategies can address these loads more efficiently.

District heating has long been used in Europe, as well as on some U.S. college and other campuses. These systems typically have a central plant that burns natural gas to heat water, which then is circulated to the various buildings.

To achieve zero carbon emissions, the latest strategy uses a design known as an ambient temperature loop that simultaneously and efficiently both heats and cools different buildings. This concept was first developed for the Whistler Olympic Village in British Columbia.

In a typical ambient loop system, a pump circulates water through an uninsulated pipe network buried below the frost line. At this depth, the soil temperature is near that of the yearly average air temperature for that location. As water moves through the pipe, it warms or cools toward this temperature.

Heat pumps at individual buildings or other points along the ambient loop add or extract heat from the loop. They can also move heat between deep geothermal wells and the circulating water.

The loop also circulates through a central plant that keeps it in an optimum temperature range for maximum heat pump performance. The plant can use cooling towers or wastewater to remove heat. It can add heat via renewable sources, such as solar thermal collectors, renewable fuel or heat pumps powered by renewable electricity.

Putting wastewater to use

One example of a potentially zero-energy district currently being developed, the National Western Center, is a multi-use campus currently under construction in Denver to house the annual National Western Stock Show and other public events focused on food and agriculture.

A 6-foot-diameter pipe carrying the citys wastewater runs underground through the property before delivering the water to a treatment plant. The water temperature stays within a narrow range of 61 to 77 degrees F throughout the year.

The wastewater pipe and a heat exchanger transfer heat to and from an ambient loop circulating water throughout the district. The system provides heat in winter and absorbs heat in the summer via heat recovery chillers, which are heat pumps that can simultaneously provide heating and cooling. This strategy serves individual buildings at very high efficiency.

Electricity used to operate the heat pumps, lighting and other equipment will come from on-site photovoltaics and wind- and solar-generated electricity imported from off-site.

Integrated low-energy housing in Austin

Another district that will minimize carbon emissions is the Whisper Valley Community, under construction in Austin, Texas. This 2,000-acre multi-use development includes 7,500 all-electric houses, 2 million square feet of commercial space, two schools, and a 600-acre park. Its design has already received a green building award.

Whisper Valley will run on an integrated energy system that includes an extensive ambient loop network heated and cooled by heat pumps and geothermal wells located at each house. Each homeowner has the option to include a 5-kilowatt rooftop solar photovoltaic array to operate the heat pump and energy-efficient appliances, including heat pump water heaters and inductive stovetops. According to the developer, Whisper Valleys economy of scale allows for a median sale price US$50,000 below that of typical Austin houses.

The future of zero-energy communities

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and other project partners are developing an open source software development kit called URBANopt that models elements of zero energy districts, such as building efficiency/demand flexibility strategies, rooftop photovoltaic arrays, ambient loop district thermal systems. The software can be integrated into other computer models to aid in the design of zero energy communities. NREL engineers have been engaging with high-performance district projects across the country, such as the National Western Center, to help inform and guide the development of the URBANopt platform.

The projects Ive described are new construction. Its harder to achieve net zero energy in existing buildings or communities economically, but there are ways to do it. It makes sense to apply those efficiency measures that are the most cost-effective to retrofit, convert building heating and cooling systems to electricity and provide the electricity with solar photovoltaics.

Utilities are increasingly offering time-of-use rate schedules, which charge more for power use during high demand periods. Emerging home energy management systems will allow home owners to heat water, charge home batteries and electric vehicles and run other appliances at times when electricity prices are lowest. Whether were talking about new or existing buildings, I see sustainable zero energy communities powered by renewable energy as the wave of the future as we tackle the climate change crisis.

[Youre smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversations authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend.]

, Fellow and Senior Research Associate, Renewable & Sustainable Energy Institute, University of Colorado Boulder

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

58. Cybercrime has Surged as Businesses Moved Online During the Pandemic, 27 [−]

David Maimon, C. Jordan Howell

Cyber Security,

Website defacing can shut down businesses that have moved online during the coronavirus pandemic.

One consequence of the publics compliance with social distancing and quarantines during the COVID-19 pandemic is a sharp decline in most types of crime. It looks like people staying home made communities less conducive to crime.

Unfortunately, the news isnt as good as those numbers alone suggest. Other settings are seeing an increase in crime following the stay-at-home orders. One is the household, where domestic violence is likely to have increased in the past two months.

As researchers who study cybercrime, were finding that criminal activity seems to be on the rise in the online world, as well. At the same time, many people are relying more heavily than before on online services for work, entertainment and shopping. This makes them more likely to become the targets of different types of online crimes. And the websites and online platforms that these internet users access become more attractive targets to motivated hackers who aim to take them over and deface them.

Wave of website defacing

Website defacement is the online equivalent of graffiti vandalism. It occurs when a hacker infiltrates a server on which a website is hosted and changes the content of the website with images and text of their own choosing.

Unlike more sophisticated forms of hacking, the act of website defacement does not require hackers to have highly sophisticated skills. In fact, several hacker typologies suggest that this form of online crime can be a stepping stone to involvement in more sophisticated hacking, as well as a way to gain a reputation in the hacking community.

The harm suffered by victims of this online crime varies from loss of trust in the owner of the website to loss of revenue. When business websites are taken down by hackers, they cant process transactions. During the coronavirus pandemic, many merchants have been forced to shift from face-to-face trade to e-commerce, which means its likely that more businesses will become victims of cybercrime.

Findings from a recent analysis we conducted based on information about website defacement activities reported on the hacker information site Zone-h, suggest that the average daily number of website defacement attacks reported in April 2020 is 50% higher than the average daily number of attacks reported in April 2019. Moreover, the volume of website defacement attacks reported by mid May 2020, has already surpassed the volume of attacks reported in May 2019 for the entire month.

This steady increase in the number of daily website defacement attacks started in late March 2020, while January and February stayed steady. This leads us to believe that the pervasive isolation imposed by governments around the globe has given hackers more time to spend online, which became the driving force behind this trend.

Smaller sites in the crosshairs

Our investigation of the types of websites that are being targeted by hackers reveals that large corporations and government entities are less likely to be the victims. The average daily number of sophisticated defacements against government agency and large private business websites have increased from 17.75 attacks per day in February to 21.6 attacks per day in April.

However, the frequency of those attacks is substantially lower than the overall average daily number of website defacements reported by hackers during that period. It appears that websites of small businesses, social clubs and private individuals are being disproportionately targeted by hackers.

Website defacers prefer to attack extremely vulnerable websites because many of them are inexperienced hackers, often referred to as script kiddies. They lack the skills required to attack high-profile targets, but are motivated to gain status among their online peers.

Findings from our analysis suggest that the number of newbie hackers who experiment with website defacement has grown rapidly during the COVID-19 crisis. The average number of reports of defacements by first-time hackers in February was 3.41 per day. In April the number was 6.31 per day, a 77% increase in the number of first-time hackers.

With more new hackers attempting to establish a reputation by attacking vulnerable websites, it is imperative that small business owners and individuals protect their websites from attacks. Protection strategies should include keeping the software used to maintain websites up to date, using strong passwords to access the servers that host the websites, preventing website users from uploading files, allowing users to connect to websites via the secure internet protocol (HTTPS) and using website security tools. Fortunately, visitors to defaced websites are generally not at risk.

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, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Georgia State University

, Doctoral candidate in Criminology, University of South Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.?

Image: Reuters

59. How West Virginia Was Born, 27 [−]

Warfare History Network


Upon separating from Virginia in the early years of the American Civil War, West Virginia became the only state to ever secede from a Confederate territory.

Western Virginia was crucial to the Union during the Civil War. The region that lay west of the Shenandoah Valley and north of the Kanawha River held nearly a quarter of Virginias nonslave population when the war began in 1861. Since the first pioneers had pushed across the mountains and settled the western lands of Virginia, grievances had existed between them and the tidewater aristocrats to the east who governed the huge commonwealth. An unfair tax structure that benefited the slave-owning eastern counties, coupled with the fact that the vast majority of the states roads and railroads were constructed in the east, contributed to the desire for the creation of a separate state.


At the time of Abraham Lincolns inauguration in March 1861, seven states had already seceded, and there was much talk of others leaving the Union as well. Lincoln had to keep a hold on Marylandit was unthinkable to have the nations capital surrounded by Rebel territory. Keeping a major Union presence in western Virginia was almost as important. Controlling the regions would help prevent an assault against Washington from arising up its ridges, and it would help protect the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, a vital part of the Norths line of communication with the western theater of operations.

Following the wars outbreak, citizens in western Virginia voted against Virginias secession by three to one. By summer 1861 the Wheeling convention in the west had formed its own restored government of Virginia and considered the new Confederate government in Richmond illegal. The convention selected new officials as well as a new governor, Francis Pierpoint. President Lincoln recognized the new Virginia government. On July 13, 1861, two U.S. senators and three new congressmen took their seats in Congress, all from the state of Virginia.

As the political situation evolved in western Virginia, the military situation began to take shape as well. By early November 1861, General William S. Rosecrans secured much of western Virginia when he forced Confederate General John B. Floyd to withdraw all Rebel forces from the region. From then on, western Virginia remained in Northern control. The only exception was an occasional Confederate raid and a never-ending guerrilla campaign waged against Union forces. As Union infantry commander Robert H. Milroy wrote, We have now over 40,000 men in the service of the U.S. in Western Va. [but] our large armies are useless here. They cannot catch guerrillas in the mountains any more than a cow can catch fleas. We must inaugurate a system of Union guerrillas to put down the rebel guerrillas.


On December 31, 1862, President Lincoln approved an enabling act admitting West Virginia into the Union. As a result, all old western Virginia military units received new names as Virginia was not to be utilized any longer. General William Averells Fourth Separate Brigade became the First Separate Brigade, but was commonly known as Averells Brigade. The newly created Department of West Virginia, which contained some 23,000 men, was commanded by General Benjamin F. Kelley.

When Robert E. Lee advanced into Pennsylvania in July, he ordered troops under General Samuel Joness Department of Western Virginia to demonstrate toward West Virginia and then block any Federal thrust into the Shenandoah that might threaten Lees left flank as he moved north. Kelley dispatched Averell to repel the invaders. Riding with the 3rd and 8th West Virginia Regiments as well as the 14th Pennsylvania, Averell skirmished with the far-right flank of Joness line and drove the Confederates back across Cheat Mountain. The next day, July 4, Averells Brigade was ordered east to help cut off Lees retreat from Gettysburg. Riding 80 miles in three days, the troopers learned they had missed Lees column by less than 24 hours.

Impressed with his cavalry, Kelley next assigned Averells Brigade to ride 170 miles to the end of the Greenbrier Valley, capture Lewisburg, and return with the contents of the law library there as a symbol of the spoils of war. Supply difficulties dictated that Averells men would only be able to carry 35 rounds of ammunition each. Averell was reluctant to start the mission underprepared. Nevertheless, on August 18 he rode southward with 1,300 men.

Raiding through the towns of Monterey, Huntersville, and Warm Springs, Averells men were intercepted by Confederates under the command of Colonel George S. Patton (grandfather of World War IIs Patton) before they could reach Lewisburg. Following a day-long fight in which they ran out of ammunition, Averells men were forced to withdraw. Averell pushed his men hard the next day to avoid capture. Although they failed to reach their objective, the Federal cavalrymen had fought well and conducted a well-disciplined retreat in the face of a strong enemy force.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikipedia.

60. Why The Union Made Sure To Capture Confederate Northern Virginia, 27 [−]

Warfare History Network

History, Americas

Alexandria, the Northern Virginia city on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. was the first, and longest held, Confederate city during the Civil War.

Under bright moonlight, Union troops marched into Alexandria, Virginia, on May 24, 1861, one day after Virginia seceded from the Union. Alarmed by military drills during the day and campfires at night, President Abraham Lincoln had become concerned that Confederates were massing in the outlying suburbs to attack Washington. The fact that he could see a Confederate flag snapping in the wind above the city only heightened the presidents anxiety.

It was an almost peaceful invasion. While the Confederates boarded trains for a clean escape, Union troops methodically occupied the railroad depot, telegraph office, and any other buildings of importance. Thats when first blood was drawn. Colonel Elmer Ellsworth of the 11th New York Fire Zouaves spotted the offending Rebel flag hanging above the Marshall House Hotel. After cutting down the flag, Ellsworth was shot in the chest by hotel owner James Jackson. Jackson then leveled his weapon at Zouave Francis E. Brownell, but Brownell fired first, then bayoneted Jackson in the torso, killing him instantly. Ellsworth would die later that day.

A Four-Year Occupation

The shootout in the Marshall Hotel was Alexandrias only frontline combat. For the next four years, the city became a major Union supply base for the soldiers in blue. Private homes and public buildings became offices, military headquarters, and hospitals, while Union engineers built forts and protective barricades around the city. On their off hours, troops toured like vacationers, visiting George Washingtons pew at Christ Protestant Episcopal Church, examining the manacles and chains of the local slave pen on Duke Street, and tearing away parts of walls and floors at the now-infamous Marshall Hotel for souvenirs.

The city was less pleasant for the locals. When city officials refused to let Union Colonel Orlando Wilcox use their stables, he announced martial law. No one was allowed to congregate on the streets, buy liquor, or go outside after 9 pm.

A particularly incendiary incident occurred on February 9, 1862, when Union soldiers interrupted a worship service at St. Pauls Episcopal Church and dragged off the interim minister, Dr. K.J. Stewart, at gunpoint. Union authorities had demanded that all local church services include a prayer for the health of the president of the United States. Stewart declined to do so and was seized by a U.S. captain and six soldiers while still kneeling at prayer. The soldiers force-marched Stewart to the 8th Illinois regimental guardhouse (he was later freed) and closed the church. St. Pauls became a Union military hospital for the duration of the war. The Alexandria Gazette, after reporting the incident in great detail, was burned to the ground the next day.

And thats how life went on for the next five years in what would become the Souths longest Union-occupied city.

This article first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikipedia.

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