Pompeo moves up, Cotton moves in?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2017/12/01/the-cia-could-be-permanently-damaged/?utm_term=.ea316c548fba

It has been leaked that the White House is ready to get rid of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Under the reported plan, Pompeo would likely be replaced in the CIA by Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas. Cotton is one of Trump’s strongest defenders and a confidant to some leading members of the foreign policy team. Although it is important to note the change in the Secretary of State, reports have been analyzing the affect of placing Cotton in the CIA. Cotton is seen as a controversial choice for CIA director.

It is feared that Cotton would politicize and thereby permanently damage the CIA’s reputation as director. Being a politician worries the intelligence community because they have had a mixed record at the CIA. George H.W. Bush was a politician but a highly respected director. Porter Goss, a former Republican congressman from Florida, was a disaster, who only lasted about a year. Additional concerns include: that he has repeatedly demonstrated hyperpartisanship (in grilling former FBI director Jim Comey, for example) and recklessness (in pushing a plan to decertify the Iran deal and arguing that a military option is viable). From a security impact, we need to focus on making a seamless transition, and on ensuring someone who will protect the homeland. If Cotton becomes too partisan (as his history states) he could potentially risk American lives rather than attempt to make an objective analysis of a situation.

-Kelly

Missiles in the Water

Once again North Korea has defied Japan’s sovereign waters and launched another ICBM test missile. While not breaching the country’s airspace as it did over the summer, the test missile did showcase an increase in technical prowess that has officials in Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington worried. Those that have closely followed the missile launches claim that although the missile flew longer and father then the previous tests due to its “fake” or “useless” payload, which are significantly lighter than the actual explosives that would be used on them, these numbers may need to be scaled back in the case of an actual launch.

Still, the continuation of the missile tests this year by the Kim regime showcases the dictator’s ambition to see how far he can push Trump and the South Korean/Japanese regimes. Although Trump has promised ‘fire and fury,’ and allies have showcased their ability for a second strike should they, themselves, be attacked, none of these strategies have been enough to stop the testing. The president himself has only thrown fuel on the fire, heightening fears of nuclear war or at the very least an increase in nuclear proliferation as our allies in Asia begin to lose faith in the ‘American Nuclear Umbrella.’

For a more detailed look at the launch, please read: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/28/world/asia/north-korea-missile-test.html

-Ariadne

UN Peace Talks About Syria’s Future to take Place in Geneva

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/expect-syria-talks-171127093905806.html

There have been separate, simultaneous talks ahead of this week’s UN peace talks regarding what’s next for Syria. Russia and Turkey met in Sochi last week and Syrian Opposition Forces met in Saudi Arabia. These talks signal an end to ISIS’ hold on the region and now the negotiations for keeping peace have begun. While this is a step in the right direction few think much will come of these talks. The opposition forces have been opposed to Assad remaining in power and seemed initially unwilling to negotiate any outcome that would see him stay, but there have been recent transitions and leadership shakeups that now seem more willing to consider “other options.”

Analysis:

Both sides want Syria to stop fighting and to bring a peaceful conclusion to the war-torn country. Russia, Turkey and Iran want control of much of the country resources and vital borders and have no problem with Assad staying in power if they can make it work. They can control him. The opposition forces still want him out as they have since the beginning of the war. No one seems to know what to do with the Kurds in the region. The UN is hoping to get in the country and oversee free and fair elections for the new government but the Security Council has yet to make it clear if that will be allowed–Russia can always veto. The UN had recently wanted to investigate last summers attack on civilians allegedly carried out by Assad’s regime but Russia used their Security Council veto power to disallow any investigations.

 

Sandra

ACE

Most of us have probably heard of the US Army Corps of Engineers, but many probably give relatively little consideration to what the agency does. The USACE is a federal agency that employs 37,000 civilians and military personnel to do critical work. It of course helps to build and maintain military installations here and abroad, but the USACE is also responsible for a plethora of civil missions as well. It maintains infrastructure such as dams, levees, and waterways. It provides hydroelectric power and keeps the integrity of major commerce highways like the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The USACE also plans for and responds to natural disasters like floods and hurricanes and cleans contaminated sites. Perhaps though, the mission least implied by its name is maintaining outdoor recreational facilities for the public; hiking, boating, rafting, geo-caching, and etc are all activities one can engage in at facilities managed by the USACE. This agency provides a critically important set of functions for the nation. The USACE seems something like a miniature Department of Interior. It is one of many structures within the defense arena that takes a backseat to the sensational combat campaigns and heavy metal. But, it is not necessarily less important to our country. I would say that these $4.7 billion are some of our best spent defense funds.

John

Taliban Defeat in 2 Years

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-usa/u-s-general-sets-two-year-goal-for-driving-back-afghan-taliban-idUSKBN1DK25O

U.S. Army General John Nicholson assigned to Afghanistan has made a claim that US /Afghan forces will push back the Taliban within two years. There are any similarities to the current US policy and that of the Obama2009-2011 era. I can see how success may be had once again, however I don’t believe it will solve the problem in Afghanistan.
“Many analysts, as well as current and former U.S. officials, believe that Afghanistan’s war cannot be won militarily, particularly when the Taliban benefit from safe-havens in Pakistan”(Foreign Policy). I believe what is meant by this is that beating back the Taliban is only the first part of the solution. The second part involves bringing stability back to the country. I don’ t believe the Trump administration intends to follow through with any post degraded Taliban policy in Afghanistan.

Stephanie

Hacks Be Gone!

http://thehill.com/361764-sec-hack-was-preceded-by-years-of-warnings-about-lax-cybersecuity

PC: https://www.google.com/search?q=SEC&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjUgIDcleDXAhUGMd8KHVj5Aq0Q_AUIDCgD&biw=1280&bih=615#imgrc=wnWy_EXVdi5CcM

          The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was repeatedly warned in the years before the 2016 attack on its EDGAR corporate filing system, by the agency’s inspector general, that its defenses against cyber intrusions were lax. This information was discovered during a review of internal evaluations conducted by The Hill. The EDGAR system is used by all publicly traded companies and the hack may have been used to make illicit trades and some personal information was accessed.

          Cyber security expert, CyberScoop, detailed the following reasons as to why many U.S. government agencies have lax cyber defenses: they have legacy systems (technology that is 15-30 years old) to which new technology cannot be added and they do not have properly trained personnel in cybersecurity. Congress is investigating the breach and is determined to rectify the problem.

          The details of this article may be consequential for U.S. prestige in the international community, because it is yet another indicator that the U.S. is behind technologically in the cyber realm. It also reveals to other potential hackers that legacy systems are still active and vulnerable in U.S. governmental agencies. Finally, it highlights the necessity of an increased federal cyber budget for replacement systems that are less vulnerable to hacks.

Kendall

Maduro Appoints General Quevedo to Head the State Oil Company

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-42132694

President Maduro has appointed military general Manuel Quevedo as the new head of Venezuela’s PDVSA and the energy ministry. Maduro called the move a “revolution” toward ending corruption in the oil sector. This move is also largely an effort to hopefully increase productivity of the company. In the past, PDVSA has accounted for 95% of the country’s exports. However due to circumstances such as corruption, the bonds of the state’s oil company make of approximately 30% of Venezuela’s external debt. It has yet to be made clear how general Quevedo will work to increase productivity, however Maudro has put a heavy emphasis on anti-corruption efforts. This move shows that Maduro is beginning to address the daunting economic crisis that the country is experiencing. Increasing oil production can only serve to help the economy, which has reached an inflation rate of 4,000%. US sanctions will however make the exportation of the oil more difficult. It is also troubling that the new head of the PDVSA appears to be just another one of Maduro’s loyal supporters, however the shift from blaming the opposition to blaming corruption and publicly addressing these problems suggests the possibility of progress for the nation.

Kelsey Burham

Panel City

Denver has recently taken the initiative of being the latest Midwestern U.S. metropolis to (collectively though mandatorily) take on the fight against climate change through an effort of forcing owners of new buildings of significant size or central city location to implement either rooftop solar panels or gardens. The goals of the Denver council and fifty four percent of the voting constituents is to more easily manage storm water while reducing the amount of energy consumed by city skyscraper appliances such as air conditioners. It was mentioned that inspiration largely came from other large cities like London, Paris, and New York either encouraging or requiring the new eco-friendly rooftops. While solar panels can be expensive at first but pay off in the long run, rooftop gardens immediately start to absorb rainwater and release it more slowly throughout the city drainage systems. New technological advancements are enlightening building owners of new ways to claim all levels of their held space. Rooftop gardens protect the top layer while keeping the interior cooler when desired bringing lower utility bills. Many are worried that if initiatives like the Denver Green Rooftop remain mandatory, it can be costly enough to curtail affordable housing and impede upon nonprofit organizations. I believe the new presidential administration needs to acknowledge the existing effects of climate change and reinitiate national investments in a shift towards cleaner energy sources like solar, wind, current and geothermal. I do believe that some negative externalities can and will arise from initiatives being publicly enforced. If they could just shift towards simply being encouraged while being funded jointly between the state and federal governments; than the enduring resistance to adaptation will disperse.

  • Daniel

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/energy-environment/the-latest-denver-voters-mandate-environment-friendly-roofs/2017/11/09/1b65183c-c5d1-11e7-9922-4151f5ca6168_story.html?utm_term=.e9027f8c200f

Twenty-Six ISIS Militants Arrested

https://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/twenty-six-islamic-state-members-arrested-southeast-mosul/

 

Twenty-Six Islamic State militants were arrested as security troops carried out a security campaign in southeast Mosul. Security troops have launched a campaign in order to locate and arrest other Islamic State members. The Iraqi army’s 16th division, combining with al-Hashd al-Shaabi and local police forces combed the central islands on the Tigris river and regions on the banks of the river in the western flank of Mosul.

 

This is significant for Iraq and their allies as campaigns have been launched to locate ISIS members and arrest these individuals. Since October 2016, 25,000 militants were killed as a result of ISIS taking over Mosul. The news of Islamic State members being arrested is another step in the right direction in the fight against ISIS as their territory is declining as well as militants are being arrested. A key factor in finding these individuals that are involved with the terrorist organization is the advanced technology being put to proper use and Iraq seeking help with international organizations such as the United Nations.

 

-Sydney

Suspects Held in Supposed German Christmas Market Plot Released

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/21/europe/germany-christmas-market-possible-terror-attack/index.html

Six Syrian nationals have been released without charges because of lack of evidence during an initial investigation. There was not enough concrete evidence that these men belonged to the ISIS terror group. The investigation is still on going because these men have had contacts with ISIS in the past.  According to German police, the Syrian nationals had applied for asylum and were suspected of being ISIS members. An attack “had not been fully planned yet” according to the previous statement, but the suspects were believed to have been planning to carry out attacks with “weapons or bombs on a public target in Germany.” A similar incident last year left 12 dead and 50 injured because of a tractor trailer attack by ISIS members. This incident gave German police reason to investigate their hunch on these men. The German police force that carried out this raid needs to continue to find patterns in ISIS attacks just like they did in this instance. To do this they need to rely on the intelligence they have on nationals entering the country and tracking their activities. Especially around the holidays with European people enjoying outdoor festivities making the streets an ideal place for attacks. Police forces around Europe need to focus on making preemptive strikes on known terror suspects so that the Christmas market incident in Berlin last year doesn’t happened again.

-Curran

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