TBR News February 22, 2018

Feb 22 2018

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. February 22, 2018:”Those who can, do and those who can’t, work for the government. What we are seeing now inside the Beltway is absolute proof of this old saying. Incompetency reigns supreme with a multitude of warring factions competing for the dunce cap while the national economy falters, we see such idiotic themes as the Pink Pussy hats screaming for their strapons, club-footed and cleft-paleted cross-dressers demanding the right to uriniate in the public lavatory sinks, ranks of intellectual losers buying PhDs from fake “universities” with the dream of million dollar salaries from cat neutering corporations and a bloated military scheming to invade Antarcticia with special tanks bought with tax-payers monies from their business friends.”


Table of Contents

  • A Top-Secret US Military Base Will Melt Out of the Greenland Ice Sheet
  • Secrecy News
  • 20 Companies Profiting the Most From War
  • Why it’s so hard to make sense of Trump’s foreign policy
  • Wait, I know you: home security startup taps face-recognition tech
  • What foreign powers want from the Syrian war
  • The Cro-Magnon man versus the Neanderthal man



A Top-Secret US Military Base Will Melt Out of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Planners thought it would stay buried in ice forever.

February 20 2018

by Kate Lunau


About 60 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, the US designed a network of top-secret mobile nuclear launch sites buried in the Greenland ice sheet to prepare for possible war with the Soviet Union. At Camp Century, which was part of Project Iceworm, soldiers lived in the ice, which enclosed the base so it wouldn’t be completely buried in snow.

Camp Century was shut down in 1967, and the site was abandoned as Project Iceworm wound down. Back then, military planners assumed the hazardous stuff buried at Camp Century—including diesel fuel, PCBs, and some radioactive coolant—would stay locked up in the Greenland ice sheet, essentially forever. But now Greenland is warming because of climate change. Dangerous contaminants threaten to re-emerge from the ice, potentially putting people in Greenland and maybe as far away as Arctic Canada (400 km offshore) at risk.

Camp Century isn’t the only US military installation abroad that’s increasingly threatened by climate change. A Pentagon report from earlier this year, for example, noted that half of all US bases worldwide could be at risk. But Project Iceworm is a useful case study, argues Jeff Colgan, associate professor of political science and international studies at Brown University, who’s studied this in detail. That’s partly because the question of who should take responsibility for Camp Century has become such a political hot potato. According to him, at this point it isn’t clear exactly who is responsible for cleaning it up.

Over the phone, Colgan described the secondary effects of climate change—like the release of dangerous substances, or infrastructure damage—as its “knock-on effects.” (He pointed to the release of hazardous materials in Texas after Hurricane Harvey as another example.) “It creates a whole new type of politics, and it’s becoming more important in a variety of ways.”

Colgan is author of a new paper in Global Environmental Politics that views the impact of climate change on military bases as not just an environmental problem, but as a political and diplomatic one.

Project Iceworm goes to show just how politically complicated these situations can be. Camp Century was the result of a legal treaty between Denmark and the US, since Greenland was a Danish colony at that time.

Motherboard contacted the US State Department to inquire about Camp Century, and was referred to the US Department of Defense. A Defense Department spokesperson then referred our query to the government of Denmark.

The Danish foreign ministry, which handles relations with the US and Greenland, referred Motherboard to the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), an independent research institution under the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate. In a follow-up phone call, a ministry spokesperson said decisions around the cleanup would be made once the science is settled.

It’s not a high priority. In fact it’s a barely known [issue] in Washington,” Colgan told me. “The only people who are really agitated [are in] Greenland, and they don’t have a lot of leverage.”

Scientists aren’t ignoring the problem. In 2016, a high-profile paper in  Geophysical Research Letters predicted that Camp Century’s site could see primarily melting conditions by the year 2090, and described in detail all the hazardous stuff buried there. “It caused quite a reaction from scientists and the political system,” Flemming Christiansen, deputy director general of GEUS, told Motherboard in a phone interview, and it spurred them to study the site further.

GEUS has been monitoring the Greenland ice sheet for years, and is now tracking the Camp Century site specifically. In the summer of 2017, Christiansen said, a weather station was installed there, and scientists used radar last year to map what is locked up under the ice. (The map should be available later this year.) Climate data from Camp Century is publicly available online, although it will take some time to begin to notice longer-term trends.

Politicians, meanwhile, have yet to sort out exactly what to do about the threat posed by climate change to military installations abroad, each one governed by what Colgan calls “ad hoc” arrangements. Colgan noted that the US Pentagon, at least, does seem to appreciate the dangers of climate change. Of the hundreds of US bases overseas, “it’s unclear how many of them are at the frontlines of climate change, like Greenland,” he said, adding that other sites, like low-lying Pacific islands, are also certain to be impacted.

Meanwhile, Camp Century is melting out. “If there is something coming to the surface, you would like to know when this will happen,” Christiansen told me. Scientists are working on that part. Now it’s up to governments to come up with a plan.


Secrecy News

From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2018, Issue No. 12

February 22, 2018


Annual spending on defense science and technology has “grown substantially” over the past four decades from $2.3 billion in FY1978 to $13.4 billion in FY2018 or by nearly 90% in constant dollars, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

Defense science and technology refers to the early stages of military research and development, including basic research (known by its budget code 6.1), applied research (6.2) and advanced technology development (6.3).

“While there is little direct opposition to Defense S&T spending in its own right,” the CRS report says, “there is intense competition for available dollars in the appropriations process,” such that sustained R&D spending is never guaranteed.

Still, “some have questioned the effectiveness of defense investments in R&D.”

CRS takes note of a 2012 article published by the Center for American Progress which argued that military spending was an inefficient way to spur innovation and that the growing sophistication of military technology was poorly suited to meet some low-tech threats such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan (as discussed in an earlier article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists).

The new CRS report presents an overview of the defense science and tech budget, its role in national defense, and questions about its proper size and proportion. See Defense Science and Technology Funding, February 21, 2018,

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response, updated February 16, 2018

Jordan: Background and U.S. Relations, updated February 16, 2018

Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy, updated February 15, 2018

Potential Options for Electric Power Resiliency in the U.S. Virgin Islands, February 14, 2018

U.S. Manufacturing in International Perspective, updated February 21, 2018

Methane and Other Air Pollution Issues in Natural Gas Systems, updated February 15, 2018

Where Can Corporations Be Sued for Patent Infringement? Part I, CRS Legal Sidebar, February 20, 2018

How Broad A Shield? A Brief Overview of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, CRS Legal Sidebar, February 21, 2018

Russians Indicted for Online Election Trolling, CRS Legal Sidebar, February 21, 2018

Hunting and Fishing on Federal Lands and Waters: Overview and Issues for Congress, February 14, 2018


The Department of Defense this month updated its Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, as it periodically does.

New entries in the nearly 400 page Dictionary include “battle rhythm,” “information exchange requirement,” and “maritime environment.”


20 Companies Profiting the Most From War

February 20, 2018

by Samuel Stebbins

217 Wall Street

The grim reality of civil wars in the Middle East, rising tensions between global powers, the spectre of international terrorism, and the increasing threat of cyberattacks are matters of grave concern for world leaders and citizens alike — and the lifeblood of some companies.

In the context of a seemingly ever-more dangerous world, revenue from arms and military services at the world’s 100 largest defense contractors totalled $374.8 billion in 2016, a 1.9% uptick from the previous year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Maintaining a cutting edge, state-of-the-art arsenal can act as a powerful deterrent against aggressors and can change the outcome of a conflict — and governments across the globe invest accordingly. Sales of defense contractor Lockheed Martin to the U.S. government alone totalled $35.2 billion in 2017, more than the annual budgets of many federal agencies — including the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 20 companies with the highest revenue from arms sales in 2016 based on the Top 100 Arms-Producing and Military Services Companies report from SIPRI. While the companies on this list span Russia and Western Europe, the United States is home to the vast majority of the largest defense contractors.

  1. Booz Allen Hamilton

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $4.0 billion

Total sales: $5.8 billion

Profit: $252.0 million

Employees: 23,300

Based in Virginia, consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton has clients in both the private and public sectors. Once called the world’s most profitable spy organization, the company is working for several U.S. intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, and branches of the U.S. military. While much of the company’s business is confidential, it provides intelligence and data analysis, engineering, and cybersecurity services in many aspects of defense. Defense and intelligence contracts alone accounted for over two-thirds of the company’s revenue in fiscal 2017.

The company’s partnership with the U.S. government goes back to 1940, when it began advising the Secretary of the Navy in preparation for U.S. involvement in World War II. Booz Allen Hamilton’s relationship with the U.S. government has been close since. Some 30% of the company’s workforce are veterans, and 70% have security clearance.

  1. United Shipbuilding Corp.

Country:  Russia

Arms sales:  $4.0 billion

Total sales: $4.5 billion

Profit: $90.0 million

Employees: 89,650

United Shipbuilding Corp. is one of two Russian companies to rank among the top 20 arms producing and military services companies in the world. While the company manufactures a range of commercial shipping vessels, its military vessels account for the majority of its business. The company manufactures or is developing 11 different models of military submarines and 16 different warships, in addition to a variety of vehicles used as minesweepers, landing ships, and patrol vessels.

United Shipbuilding was established in 2007 by decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin and is now the largest shipbuilding company in Russia and the broad geographic region between the Baltic Sea and the Pacific Ocean. United Shipbuilding vessels comprise nearly the entire Russian Naval fleet.

  1. Harris Corp.

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $4.2 billion

Total sales: $5.9 billion

Profit: $553.0 million

Employees: 17,000

Florida-based government contractor Harris Corp. reported $5.9 billion in revenue in 2016 — the vast majority of which came from arms sales and military service. The company’s divisions include electronic systems, which provides products and services related to electronic warfare, avionics, undersea systems, and air traffic control, as well as communication systems, which manufactures night vision and tactile communication products. The company has clients in over 100 countries. Standing contracts include lucrative deals with the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Special Operations Forces.

The company’s history with the U.S. government stretches as far back as WWII, when U.S. bombers began using Harris Corp.’s newly developed bombsight that enabled more precise bombings at high altitude.

  1. Leidos

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $4.3 billion

Total sales: $7.0 billion

Profit: $246 million

Employees: 32,000

Leidos is a defense contractor based in Reston, Virginia. The company, which was known as SAIC until it spun off part of its operations in 2013, was awarded its first long-term government contract was 1970 by the now defunct Defense Nuclear Agency. Soon after, the company also provided support to weapons development projects of the U.S. Air Force and cruise missile development projects of the Department of Defense. Today, the company is heavily involved in a global underwater arms race, developing unmanned submarines to shadow otherwise virtually undetectable Russian, Iranian, and Venezuelan submarines that could pose a threat to U.S. interests.

Leidos revenue from military services and arms sales in the 2016 calendar year totalled $4.3 billion, a 29.1% increase from the previous year.

  1. Rolls-Royce

Country:  United Kingdom

Arms sales:  $4.5 billion

Total sales: $18.6 billion

Profit: N/A

Employees: 49,900

Rolls-Royce is one of only two defense contractors based in the United Kingdom to rank among the world’s 20 largest arms and military services companies by arms sales. Primarily known as a luxury automaker, the company’s arms sales and military services accounted for just 24% of its revenue in 2016.

Rolls-Royce is currently the only company in the world manufacturing engines that allow fighter jets to take off vertically. The company’s vertical lift jet technology is currently used by the U.S. Marine Corps. Other military-grade products Rolls-Royce develops include rotary engines for medium and heavy lift air transport vehicles, engines for long range patrol aircraft, and an engine for unmanned aerial vehicles.

  1. Textron

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $4.8 billion

Total sales: $13.8 billion

Profit: $843.0 million

Employees: 36,000

Textron is a Rhode Island-based aerospace and defense company. Bell Helicopter, a subsidiary of Textron, manufactures a range of military aircraft, including the Osprey, Valor, and Zulu helicopters. In addition, Textron develops and manufactures unmanned air and surface vehicles, armored combat vehicles, and missiles and missile defense systems. Textron has either designed or built the reentry vehicle for the entirety of the U.S. Air Force’s current arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Despite the substantial size and scope of the company’s defense division, the majority of Textron’s business is unrelated to arms sales and military services. The company has a lucrative financial services division as well as a commercial and industrial fuel systems segment. Military products and services accounted for just 34.5% of Textron’s revenue in 2016.

  1. Bechtel Corp.

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $4.9 billion

Total sales: N/A

Profit: N/A

Employees: 53,000

Based in San Francisco, construction and civil engineering company Bechtel operates in multiple businesses including infrastructure, mining, oil and gas, and defense. Bechtel has been a defense contractor for over 50 years, providing missile defense services, and developing and maintaining bases and other infrastructure critical to military operations. The company’s current projects include a missile defense and space surveillance program at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site in the Marshall Islands. Additionally, Bechtel was recently awarded a project management contract with the UK Ministry of Defense to improve efficacy and efficiency.

Bechtel is currently one of the largest private companies in the United States. Arms sales and defense services revenue alone totalled $4.9 billion in the 2016 calendar year.

  1. United Aircraft Corp.

Country:  Russia

Arms sales:  $5.2 billion

Total sales: $6.2 billion

Profit: -$67.0 million

Employees: N/A

Established by decree in 2006, United Aircraft Corp. is the largest defense contractor in Russia by arms sales revenue and the 13th largest in the world. The company is the result of the merger of several aircraft manufacturers and other related companies. Though the company also manufactures commercial aircraft, the bulk of its revenue comes from military aircraft sales. While the company has several international clients along with joint ventures in India and Italy, the Russian Foreign Ministry of Defense has accounted for the majority of the company’s military aircraft business since 2013. Among the many aircraft the company manufactures is the iconic Mikoyan MiG fighter jet.

Despite billions in revenue, United Aircraft Corp. is the only company on this list to report a negative gross profit margin in 2016. That year, the company’s costs exceeded revenue by $67 million. The company expects to reach a minimum of 10% profitability by 2025.

  1. Huntington Ingalls Industries

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $6.7 billion

Total sales: $7.1 billion

Profit: $573.0 million

Employees: 37,000

Spinning off from Northrop Grumman in 2011, Huntington Ingalls Industries is a far younger company than most major defense contractors. Still, the Virginia-based contractor is the largest military shipbuilding company in the United States. The company’s plant in Newport News is the sole manufacturer of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers — the largest warships in the world — and one of only two nuclear submarine manufacturers. The company also has a shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi, which is responsible for the construction of about 70% of all U.S. Navy warships.

The private and commercial sector accounts for a considerable share of revenue for the majority of companies on this list. Huntington Ingalls is an exception, however, as weapons sales account for about 95% of its annual revenue.

  1. United Technologies Corp.

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $6.9 billion

Total sales: $57.2 billion

Profit: $5.4 billion

Employees: N/A

A multinational conglomerate, United Technologies Corp. is the third largest company on this list with over $57 billion in total revenue in 2016. Arms sales and military services accounted for a relatively small 12% share of the company’s revenue that year. Still, the $6.9 billion the company made on defense contracts in 2016 was more than all but 10 other companies worldwide.

A considerable share of arms sales came through subsidiary Pratt & Whitney, a military aircraft engine manufacturer. Sales from defense contracts at Pratt & Whitney, which works with 34 militaries worldwide and manufactures the engines that power the F-22, F-15, and F-16 fighter jets, totalled $4.5 billion in 2016. United Technologies’ non-military subsidiaries include the Otis elevator company and the Carrier climate control company

  1. Thales

Country:  France

Arms sales:  $8.2 billion

Total sales: $16.5 billion

Profit: $1.1 billion

Employees: 64,100

French defense contractor Thales develops and manufactures electrical and weapons systems for ground, sea, and air operations. The company’s products include field optics, armored vehicles, missile defense systems, and helicopter navigation equipment. The company also produces naval anti-aircraft systems, sonar, unmanned aerial vehicles, and military avionics.

One of the largest defense contractors in Europe, Thales’ arms sales and services accounted for about half of its 2016 revenue. The company’s other segments include space exploration, mass transportation, and security services.

  1. Leonardo

Country:  Italy

Arms sales:  $8.5 billion

Total sales: $13.3 billion

Profit: $561.0 million

Employees: 45,630

Leonardo — formerly known as Finmeccanica — is the largest of only two Italian defense contractors to rank among the 100 largest weapons and military services companies in the world. Like many companies on this list, Leonardo’s operations span multiple fields of defense, including aircraft, electronics, information, and artillery. The company’s aircraft division produces a range of military vehicles, including fighter jets, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles. The company also manufactures a range of naval, aerial, and surface ammunition, including missiles and torpedoes.

Though Leonardo also manufactures equipment for non-military space programs, defense contracts accounted for 64% of the company’s revenue in 2016.

  1. L-3 Communications

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $8.9 billion

Total sales: $10.5 billion

Profit: $647.0 million

Employees: 38,000

Defense contractor L-3 Communications is based in New York City. Each of the company’s four business segments — electronic, aerospace, communication, and sensor systems — has contracts with the federal government for defense purposes. L-3’s products and services include unmanned aerial vehicle controls, submarine propulsion systems, and pilot training programs. L-3’s market is not limited to the United States. The company has locations in 29 countries and lucrative contracts with multiple foreign governments, including Australia, Canada, Japan, and Saudi Arabia.

Outside of defense contracting, L-3 also manufactures sensor systems commonly found at airport security checkpoints. Still, military sales and services accounted for nearly 85% of the company’s $10.5 billion in revenue in 2016.

  1. Airbus Group

Country:  Trans-European

Arms sales:  $12.5 billion

Total sales: $73.7 billion

Profit: $1.1 billion

Employees: 133,780

Airbus is the second largest defense contractor in Europe and the seventh largest worldwide by total weapons sales. Defense contracts accounted for $12.5 billion of the company’s $73.7 billion 2016 revenue. The company’s military products and services range from cybersecurity to fighter jets, attack helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Currently, 526 of the company’s Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets are in operation in eight countries — four of which outside of the aircraft’s intended market of Europe.

Outside of weapons systems and military services, the company derives the bulk of its revenue from commercial aircraft and spacecraft.

  1. General Dynamics Corp.

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $19.2 billion

Total sales: $31.4 billion

Profit: $3.0 billion

Employees: 98,800

Headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, defence contractor General Dynamic has operations in 46 countries. From its beginnings in the 1950s through the early 1990s, the company manufactured tanks, missiles, rockets, warships, and submarines to all branches of the U.S. armed services. Due to the defense industry downturn in the early 1990s, General Dynamics sold all of its branches with the exceptions of its electric boat and land systems operations.

Today, the company manufactures armored vehicles and tanks in addition to nuclear-powered submarines and surface vessels. The company has also made several considerable acquisitions in recent decades, including Bath Iron Works in 1995 and Gulfstream Aerospace in 1999. Bath Iron Works is where the company is building the state-of-the-art Zumwalt-class destroyer for the U.S. Navy.

  1. Northrop Grumman Corp.

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $21.4 billion

Total sales: $24.5 billion

Profit: $2.2 billion

Employees: 67,000

Falls Church, Virginia-based defense contractor Northrop Grumman employs some 67,000 people in over 25 countries and in all 50 states. One of the world’s largest defense contractors by revenue, the company is behind one of the most advanced — and iconic — aircraft of the U.S. military arsenal. The B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber can fly 6,000 nautical miles without needing to refuel and carry up to 20 tons of ordnance — either nuclear or conventional. The U.S. military relied on the bomber in both Iraq, Afghanistan, and most recently in Libya. Adjusted for inflation, a single B-2 bomber cost over $2 billion, and the U.S. Air Force currently has 20 in operation.

The company’s other business segments include unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturing, cyber security, and logistics. Arms sales and military services accounted for 87.3% of the company’s $24.5 billion in revenue in 2016.

  1. BAE Systems

Country:  United Kingdom

Arms sales:  $22.8 billion

Total sales: $24.0 billion

Profit: $2.4 billion

Employees: 83,000

BAE Systems is the largest defense contractor in the United Kingdom, and the fourth largest in the world. Though headquartered in England, the company employs some 83,000 people worldwide, with a heavy presence in the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Australia. The company designs and builds fighter jets, surface combat vehicles, artillery systems, military electronics, and provides cyber security services.

While many companies on this list also have substantial commercial operations, BAE Systems is not one of them. Of the company’s $24.0 billion in revenue in 2016, nearly 95% came from arms sales and military services.

  1. Raytheon

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $22.9 billion

Total sales: $24.1 billion

Profit: $2.2 billion

Employees: 63,000

Raytheon was established in the early 1920s as a consumer electronics company. With the onset of WWII, Raytheon began producing critical components for British and American radars in addition to proximity fuses for anti-aircraft shells. Today, the Massachusetts-based contractor specializes in defense and cyber-security and ranks as the third largest arms company in the world.

The company also designs and manufactures a range of laser and satellite-guided missiles, torpedoes, and munitions — as well as missile defense systems. Over a dozen countries, including the United States, Germany, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, rely on the Raytheon’s Global Patriot Solutions missile defense system. The U.S. also uses the company’s more advanced Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, which is capable of intercepting warheads as they re-enter the earth’s atmosphere. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Defense inked a $650 million contract with Raytheon to sell 280 SM-2 missiles — which are typically used to defend naval vessels from an aerial attack — to the Netherlands, South Korea, Japan, and Australia.

  1. Boeing

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $29.5 billion

Total sales: $94.6 billion

Profit: $4.9 billion

Employees: 150,500

Chicago-based aeronautics company Boeing reported $29.5 billion in arms sales in 2016, the most of any company in the world after only Lockheed Martin. The U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Marines — in addition to allies abroad — rely on long-range munitions from Boeing’s Harpoon Weapon System. Boeing also manufactures and sells such fixtures in the U.S. arsenal as the Apache attack helicopter, the Chinook transport helicopter, the B-52 bomber, and the F-15 Eagle and F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets.

Though Boeing ranks as the second largest defense contractor in the world, arms sales comprise a relatively small share of the company’s overall revenue — just 31.2% of the company’s 2016 sales came from defense contracts. Boeing-built commercial airliners total more than 10,000 and comprise nearly half of all in-service aircraft worldwide.

  1. Lockheed Martin Corp.

Country:  United States

Arms sales:  $40.8 billion

Total sales: $47.2 billion

Profit: $5.3 billion

Employees: 97,000

With over $40 billion in arms sales in 2016, Lockheed Martin is the largest defense contractor in the world by a wide margin. The vast majority of the company’s revenue came directly from the U.S. government. Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in particular has been a boon. A 60-year deal for the stealth fighter jet is valued at an estimated $1 trillion — the most expensive weapons deal in Defense Department history. Lockheed sold 66 F-35 jets to the United States and its allies in 2017 and is projected to sell another 90 this year. The F-35 is one of the newer additions to the company’s lineup, which includes the F-22 Raptor and F-16 fighter jets, the C-130 Hercules airlifter, and following Lockheed’s 2015 acquisition of Sikorsky, the Black Hawk helicopter.

Lockheed Martin’s other business segments include missile defense, radar, naval warfare technology, and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Detailed Findings

It is no coincidence that the majority of the largest defense contractors in the world are based in the United States. In an email exchange with 24/7 Wall St., Dr. Aude Fleurant, programme director at SIPRI, explained that “as a general rule, arms companies make a significant share of their arms sales with their national ministry of defence or equivalent agency.” And the Department of Defense’s demand for arms and military services is immense.

The United States spends more on defense than the next eight biggest spenders combined — including countries like Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom. “The U.S. is by far the largest market in the world for arms,” said Fleurant, “so the size of demand will correlate with companies’ arms sales.” Reflecting the large U.S. defense expenditure, arms revenue of American companies account for over 73% of all arms sales of the 20 contractors on this list.

While the U.S. government is the largest client of American defense contractors, weapons makers in other countries have to rely on sales outside of their domestic market. “Contrary to the U.S., the French national market is narrow and insufficient to support the industry therefore, exports are being approved sometimes to countries which are considered problematic,” Fleurant said. Thales is the only French company to make the list of the 20 largest defense contractors.

One major factor driving arms sales are wars. “There are a number of wars now into which several countries are involved, including the U.S.” Fleurant said. These conflicts include the intervention in Syria and ongoing civil wars in Libya and Yemen. “Specific military equipment is in demand for these wars, this tends to increase arms sales.”

Another factor driving arms sales and this year’s uptick in defense company revenue is geopolitical tensions and threat perception. “Regional tensions such as the ones we have been observing for several years in the South China Sea and the East China Sea regarding territorial sovereignty over some part of the sea have led countries in that region to import new weapons such as submarines and maritime patrol aircraft, creating demand,” Fleurant said.

Racking up a tab with defense companies is not difficult. A single F-35 fighter jet from Lockheed Martin costs just under $100 million, and a single Northrop Grumman B-2 bomber cost an estimated $2 billion, adjusted for inflation.


Why it’s so hard to make sense of Trump’s foreign policy

February 20, 2018

by Scott Lucas

The Conversation

Under Donald Trump, trying to predict, dissect and understand the US’s attitude to the world has become almost impossible – not that plenty of observers aren’t giving it a go. Tellingly, they’re all coming to different conclusions.

Some see a spiral into outright chaos, citing the strain on crucial alliances, Trump’s strange embrace of Vladimir Putin, and his reckless rhetoric, which sometimes gets to the point of implicitly threatening nuclear war.

Other analysts claim to identify some semblance of order, but they disagree profoundly on what that order is. To some, Trump’s “America First” theme is an isolationist rallying cry, with its implications of economic protectionism and rejection of international agreements; others see an administration even more committed to military intervention than its predecessors. And still others say that for all Trump’s sound and fury, not much has changed – that US foreign policy, for better or worse, is hewing to the same methods and objectives pursued in the Obama era.

So how can we cut through all this noise and really make sense of it all? In the interests of clarity (and perhaps sanity) the first thing is to recognise that there isn’t just one Trump foreign policy. There are several. They frustrate each other with various irreconcilable differences. And collectively, they add up not to a coherent US strategy, nor even an incoherent one, but instead a gaping hole where a strategy should be.

The family-and-friends foreign policy

One key difference from his predecessors is Trump’s promotion in certain areas of a foreign policy set and pursued on an ad hoc basis by his family and their business allies. That approach has radically altered, even dismantled, the longstanding US approach to the Middle East – and in particular to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Instead of assigning someone with relevant experience to handle what may be the world’s single most intractable dispute, Trump instead tapped his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Kushner has no grounding in Middle Eastern affairs, nor even in diplomatic negotiations more generally. Having failed to disclose his meetings with foreign officials before Trump became president, he doesn’t even have a full security clearance. And yet Trump reportedly told him, with not a hint of irony: “If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.”

The reckless cronyism doesn’t stop there. To assist Kushner, Trump chose Jason Greenblatt, the executive vice-president and chief legal officer to Donald Trump and The Trump Organisation. The administration’s chosen US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, was previously a member of the law firm Kasowitz, Hoff, Benson and Torres – which represents Donald Trump. Along with Kushner, both have helped support (individually or through foundations) Jewish settlements in the West Bank, while the Kushner Company continues to do business in Israel.

With Trump’s family and friends running the show, it seems that American influence in the Middle East writ large is no longer a sure thing. More than a year later, as Saudi Arabia still goes about its deadly business in Yemen, and the Syrian conflict remains intractable, this triad’s chief accomplishment has been to antagonise most of the world and endanger the peace process by having the US recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Twitter foreign policy

Then there are Trump’s tweets, which too often drive the global news cycle at the US’s reputational expense. His 280-character missives can recalibrate America’s foreign policy posture in an instant – whether contradicting his own secretary of state on North Korea, denouncing fellow NATO members, blowing hot and cold over China, or souring the “special relationship” with the UK by deriding the mayor of London and blithely retweeting videos from the far right Islamophobic group Britain First.

What matters here isn’t just the content, but that Trump actually revels in the chaos it creates. As he said in his first speech on foreign policy during the campaign: “We must as a nation be more unpredictable.”

Trump probably did not think of his statement as a reworking of the Nixon-Kissinger “madman” ploy of the 1970s. Nor is he likely to have thought through its effects. What matters, in the end, is capturing the world’s attention and settling petty scores.

The alt-right foreign policy

Before Trump’s ascendancy, the “alt-right” had little direct influence on policy of any kind. But with Trump elected, its leaders suddenly had their foot in the door. Led by hard right White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, they pushed for confrontation with China and detachment from NATO as well as protectionism and departure from international agreements such as the Paris climate agreement. Bannon put himself on a key committee of the National Security Council, along with Fox News commentator-turned-Deputy National Security Adviser K T McFarland.

As 2017 unwound, the the “firebreathers” were eventually checked by pragmatists. General H R McMaster, brought in as National Security Adviser in March, removed Bannon from the National Security Council (he was later fired by Trump altogether). Senior staff Derek Harvey and Ezra Cohen-Watnick were dismissed, as was McFarland.

But one of the alt-right’s polyps is still at the heart of the Trump operation. Stephen Miller, who within two years went from e-mail spammer of Washington journalists to senior White House adviser, is not only the main architect of the crackdown on immigration but also the speechwriter behind Trump’s provocative UN General Assembly debut in September 2017 – an address that railed against “a small group of rogue regimes”, threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, and called its leader Kim Jong-un “Rocket Man”.

As far as Miller is concerned, it seems, the more incendiary and derisory the US government’s tone, the better – whatever the diplomatic and strategic consequences.

The institutional foreign policy

These competing tendencies are a brutal test for the structures of US foreign policy, and the stewards of those institutions are clearly on high alert.

McMaster, Defence Secretary James Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are all trying to contain Trump and his inner circle. They have championed the US’s traditional alliances, taken charge of operations in areas such as Afghanistan and Syria, toned down Trump’s fire-and-fury threats to North Korea by discreetly encouraging a diplomatic path, and tried to curb some of the family’s inclinations – especially a Saudi-first approach that threatens the security of a key American military base in Qatar.

But it’s hard to win a fight against true chaos. Kushner and his allies can brief the media against the pragmatists. Trump’s profound impulsiveness can unsettle any plan, especially given his widely reported lack of knowledge. And those who do know what they’re doing are jumping ship: Tillerson has overseen a dramatic depletion of expertise at the State Department, with 12% of foreign service officers departing in just eight months.

America on the sidelines

Amid all the competing philosophies and factions, the only thing that’s certain is unpredictability. The administration has issued a National Security Strategy, but with all the chaos and policy clash the inexpert Trump constantly introduces, any “strategy” is doomed to the paper shredder.

And just as Trump’s agencies try to contain him, other countries try to contain the US by sidelining it. Russia has seized the initiative in Syria; Iran wants it in Iraq; Saudi Arabia pursues it from Yemen to Lebanon; Turkey warns that it may walk away from the Americans altogether, and China increasingly calls the shots in East Asia, from the North Korean problem to the South China Sea and economic development. Even European partners are thinking twice about their reliance on what no longer looks like a dependable superpower.

Meanwhile, US-based analysts scramble to find a framework that can express what’s going on while still conveying some sense of American primacy. “Soft power”, which under Obama became “smart power”, is now proclaimed as “sharp power”. And all the while, US power – if measured in the respect for America at the centre of global affairs – plummets in the opinion polling of peoples across the planet.

In his UN speech in September, Trump declared, “As long as I hold this office, I will defend America’s interests above all else.” It remains to be seen, for all his “American First” front, how his multiple foreign policies are defending those interests.


Wait, I know you: home security startup taps face-recognition tech

February 22, 2018

by Stephen Nellis


Reuters) – A team of engineers that worked on self-driving cars and helped invent Google Street View wants to help people guard their homes against intruders using the same style of facial recognition that unlocks smart phones.

Lighthouse AI, their startup, on Thursday released a home security camera that uses a 3D sensor similar to that found in Apple Inc’s iPhone X. The sensor helps the camera recognize the faces of different members of a family and even pets, so it can send out alerts to a user’s phone when an unknown person enters a home but avoid false alarms caused by the family dog.

Ligthouse AI has roots with Stanford University and Alphabet Inc’s Google. The two co-founders, Alex Teichman and Hendrik Dahlkamp, met while both were working in the Stanford laboratory of Sebastian Thrun, the early leader of Google’s self-driving car efforts. Thrun is on Lighthouse’s board, and it’s backed by Andy Rubin, the co-creator of the Android mobile operating system, and his investment fund, Playground Global. The 3D sensor in the Lighthouse camera, which sells for $299 and a $10 per month service plan, simulates the eyes of a self-driving car. Teichman and Dahlkamp had been working on self-driving cars since 2005 and left the field because they weren’t convinced self-driving cars could beat humans’ safety record for several more years.

“It seems like there are many more research problems in the way. We wanted to deploy something at 99 percent accuracy that would be delightful and useful to use right now,” Teichman told Reuters.

Another key element of the Lighthouse system is a voice-based interface for setting up alerts and finding video. Users can ask the device’s accompanying smart phone app questions like, “Show me video of the dog” or “Send me an alert if the kids aren’t home from school by 4 p.m. on weekdays.”

Lighthouse says it does not share user data and lets users set the camera to only record when they are not home to ease privacy concerns over a camera that can recognize specific people.

But the company is hoping other benefits outweigh those concerns. Jessica Gilmartin, the startup’s chief marketing officer, said it is working with elder care companies to use the cameras to detect changes in an older person’s gait that could put them at risk of a fall.

“How do you get that information to family members so you can get help before it happens?” she said.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by David Gregorio


What foreign powers want from the Syrian war

The Syrian opposition and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are not the only groups fighting in the conflict. Other countries have also intervened to pursue their own interests.

February 21, 2018

by Alexander Pearson, Matthias von Hein, Martin Muno, Jens Thurau, Rahel Klein, Mikhail Bushuev



What it’s done: Tehran has been one of Assad’s strongest advocates, supporting loyalist forces with money, weapons and intelligence. Iran has also sent military advisors from its Revolutionary Guard to Syria and directed fighters from Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based militant group backed by Iran, which is also involved in the conflict.

Why it’s there: Tehran’s involvement in the war has allowed it to portray itself as a guardian of Shiism — the branch of Islam that the majority of Iranians belong to. Syrian Shiites have been targeted by some militant groups that identify with Sunni, another major branch of Islam. Iran also wants to keep Assad in power. The Syrian leader allows Iranian aid to flow to Hezbollah in Lebanon, opposes US influence in the Middle East, and favors Iran over Saudi Arabia for regional leadership.


What it’s done: Tehran has been one of Assad’s strongest advocates, supporting loyalist forces with money, weapons and intelligence. Iran has also sent military advisors from its Revolutionary Guard to Syria and directed fighters from Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based militant group backed by Iran, which is also involved in the conflict.

Why it’s there: Tehran’s involvement in the war has allowed it to portray itself as a guardian of Shiism — the branch of Islam that the majority of Iranians belong to. Syrian Shiites have been targeted by some militant groups that identify with Sunni, another major branch of Islam. Iran also wants to keep Assad in power. The Syrian leader allows Iranian aid to flow to Hezbollah in Lebanon, opposes US influence in the Middle East, and favors Iran over Saudi Arabia for regional leadership.


What it’s done: Moscow came to Assad’s aid when it started airstrikes in Syria in 2015. Russian officials said the airstrikes were targeting terrorist organizations like “Islamic State” (IS). But Russian bombers have also struck other anti-Assad groups.

Why it’s there: Moscow wants to secure its influence in the Middle East by keeping Assad in office and securing an important military airbase in the western province of Latakia and a naval base in the port city of Tartus. Russian President Vladimir Putin also appears to want to bolster Russian prestige and influence in the Middle East at the expense of the United States.

Saudi Arabia

What it’s done: Riyadh has given money and weapons to Syrian opposition forces, including some Islamist militant groups. It has also flown airstrikes against IS as part of a US-led international coalition.

Why it’s there: Saudi Arabia, a majority Sunni country, has opposed Iran’s attempts to expand its influence in the Persian Gulf since the end of the Iraq War in 2003. Riyadh wants to replace Assad with a pro-Saudi, anti-Iranian leader.


What it’s done: Turkish leaders had a good relationship with Assad in the mid-2000s, but they have supplied non-Kurdish Syrian opposition groups with weapons since the war broke out in 2011. Turkey has allowed opposition fighters, including jihadist militants, to direct ground fighting from Turkey and to enter the fray across the Turkish-Syrian border. Ankara has also launched airstrikes against IS and has been fighting Kurdish opposition forces in northern Syria since mid-2016.

Why it’s there: Turkey wants to prevent Syrian Kurds from gaining autonomy in northern Syria. Ankara fears that Kurdish gains could embolden the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a Turkish group, to seek greater autonomy within Turkey. Ankara also wants to defeat IS, which has conducted terrorist attacks in Turkey, and install a more pro-Turkish government in the Syrian capital Damascus.


What it’s done: Israel has primarily launched airstrikes against Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria since the conflict broke out.

Why it’s there: Israel wants to prevent Iran from gaining influence in Syria. Iranian leaders have repeatedly questioned Israel’s right to exist and funded anti-Israeli terrorist groups. Israel also wants to stop Hezbollah gaining any ground. The group has repeatedly fired rockets into Israel from neighboring Lebanon and Israel fears it could try and do the same in the strategically important Golan Heights in western Syria.

United States

What it’s done: The US has led an international coalition fighting IS with airstrikes since 2014. It has also provided air support and weapons to opposition groups in northern Syria, including Kurdish forces currently fighting Turkey, a US ally in NATO. Washington has also deployed several hundred US special forces to fight alongside opposition groups.

Why it’s there: Washington’s foremost stated goal has been the destruction of IS and other extremist groups in Syria. US policy toward Assad is less clear. Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, said “Assad must go.” Apart from its opposition to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, the Trump administration’s position on Assad’s future is more ambiguous.


What it’s done: Germany has flown surveillance flights over Syrian territory to support airstrikes against IS and helped train Kurdish opposition fighters.Berlin has also called on Russia and Iran to persuade Assad to leave office in any peace deal.

Why it’s there: Berlin also wants to see the defeat of IS, which has carried out and inspired terror attacks in Germany. It has also opposed the Assad regime. German officials have said there can be no lasting peace in Syria if Assad remains in power.


What it’s done: France initially sent medical supplies and weapons to opposition forces. In 2015, it began airstrikes against IS that intensified after an IS terror attack in Paris in November 2015. Paris has also warned Assad against using chemical weapons.

Why it’s there: Paris also wants to defeat IS after a string of IS-related terrorist attacks in France. It also Macron urges Putin to help ease Syria crisis . French President Emmanuel Macron said in 2017 his country would no longer condition peace talks on a promise by Assad to leave office.


The Cro-Magnon man versus the Neanderthal man

February 22, 2018

by Christian Jürs

The Cro-Magnon were the first early modern humans (early Homo sapiens sapiens) of the European Upper Paleolithic. The earliest known remains of Cro-Magnon-like humans are radiocarbon dated to 35,000 years before present.

Cro-Magnons were robustly built and powerful. The body was generally heavy and solid with a strong musculature. The forehead was straight, with slight browridges and a tall forehead. Cro-Magnons were the first humans (genus Homo) to have a prominent chin. The brain capacity was about 1,600 cubic centimetres (98 cu in), larger than the average for modern humans.

The name derives from the Abri de Cro-Magnon (French: rock shelter of Cro-Magnon, the big cave in Occitan) near the commune of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil in southwestern France, where the first specimen was found. Being the oldest known modern humans (Homo sapiens) in Europe, the Cro-Magnon were from the outset linked to the well-known Lascaux cave paintings and the Aurignacian culture whose remains were well known from southern France and Germany. As additional remains of early modern humans were discovered in archaeological sites from Western Europe and elsewhere, and dating techniques improved in the early 20th century, new finds were added to the taxonomic classification.

It was formerly thought by paleontologists that the Neanderthal man became the Cro-Magnon and that from the latter, modern man descended.

There are, however, serious problems with this theory.

The Cro-Magnons lived in Europe, what is now European Russia and Persia between 35,000 and 10,000 years ago. They are virtually identical to modern man, being tall and muscular and slightly more robust than most modern humans.

They were skilled hunters, toolmakers and artists famous for the cave art at places such as Lascaux, Chauvet, and Altamira. They had a high cranium, a broad and upright face, and cranial capacity the same as modern humans.

The males were as tall as six feet.

They appeared in Europe in the upper Pleistocene, about 35,000 years ago and are now believed to have originated at the mouth of the Volga River by the Black Sea.

Their skeletal remains show few differences from modern humans.  The theory that all mankind originated in Africa is no longer a viable one.

Cro-Magnon’s tools are described as the Aurignacian technology, characterized by bone and antler tools, such as spear tips (the first) and harpoons. They also used animal traps, and bow and arrow. They invented shafts and handles for their knives, securing their blades with bitumen, a kind of tar, as long as 40 thousand years ago. Other improvements included the invention of the atlatl, a large bone or piece of wood with a hooked groove used for adding distance and speed to spears.

They also invented more sophisticated spear points, such as those that detach after striking and cause greater damage to prey. The Cro-Magnon type man was also the originator of such abstract concepts as time. They marked time by lunar phases, recording them with marks on a piece of bone, antler or stone. Some of these calendars contained a record of as many as 24 lunations.

In the relatively recent past, tool industries became diversified.

Cro-Magnon people were nomadic in nature, lived in tents and other man-made shelters in groups of several families. They were nomadic hunter-gatherers and had elaborate rituals for hunting, birth and death. Multiple burials are common in the areas where they were found. What is most interesting is that from 35 to 10 thousand years ago, there was no differentiation by sex or age in burials.  They included special grave goods, as opposed to everyday, utilitarian objects, suggesting a very increased ritualization of death and burial.

They were the first confirmed to have domesticated animals such as the horse and the dog, starting by about 15 thousand years ago. They were the first to leave extensive works of art, such as cave paintings and carved figures of animals and pregnant women. Huge caves lavishly decorated with murals depicting animals of the time were at first rejected as fake for being too sophisticated. Then they were dismissed as being primitive, categorized as hunting, fertility or other types of sympathetic magic.

The Upper Paleolithic signals the most fundamental change in human behavior that the archaeological record may ever reveal. The only explanation for this tremendous change is that a new kind of human appeared.

First of all, we still have the problem of a 60,000-year time lag between the appearance of the sub-Saharan man whose descendants still live in Africa, who was on the scene, with no improvements in his technology, for that length of time.

It should be noted that the Neanderthals did not have any form of art. And also that there was essentially no change in their stone tools for 100,000 years

If Cro-Magnon evolved in Africa, why isn’t there absolutely no trace of him in that land?

The most effective and popular way that sociologists and the public media deals with this potentially embarrassing issue  is to either ignore it,  deny it, or make an effort to twist facts to suit their fancy.   Many archaeologists continue to account for the cultural events of the Upper Paleolithic by tying them to the emergence of a more modern, intellectually superior form of human being from Africa. They propose a “second biological event” to explain this regardless of the fact that such a migration has left no trace whatsoever.

At the present time, it is socially acceptable to suggest that the other “modern men” of sub-Saharan Africa were not really fully modern. They were “near-modern”. Thus, they try to reason, Africa is preserved as the origin of all mankind, and the only thing necessary was a breakthrough in the African lineage, is some kind of a find that would prove that the decedents of Lucy has some kind of an event that would prove the Cro-Magon/Celt morphed from a thick-skulled, short legged and long armed African migrant.  Unfortunately for their hopes, no such proof has ever been found.



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