America’s Cyber Vulnerabilities

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Cyber is the newest branch of warfare. Even in its baby stages, it has the potential to cripple the United States.

On the afternoon of Dec. 23, 2015, Ukrainian engineers from a Prykarpattya Oblenergo power station stared at a computer screen while the cursor progressed on its own across the monitor. The mouse on the table had not moved. But the cursor hovered over the station’s breakers, each one controlling power to thousands of Ukrainian citizens. Then, with one mouse click at a time, the hackers now in control of the power station began shutting off power to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians.

At the same time, Kyivoblenergo employees watched as dozens of substations shut down, one by one. In their case, there was no phantom mouse. A computer on their network that they could not locate was being used by someone to shut down the power—and there was nothing they could do. Continue reading

Venezuela Publishes Oil Prices in Chinese Yuan, Snubbing the ‘Tyranny of the Dollar’

 

Could this trend lead to the erosion of the dollar’s reserve-currency status?

On September 15, Venezuela began to publish prices for its oil in the Chinese yuan rather than in United States dollars, following President Nicolás Maduro’s promise earlier in the month to rid the South American country’s economy of the “tyranny of the dollar.” News emerged on September 13 that Venezuela was telling oil traders that it will stop receiving or sending payments in dollars.

The Venezuelan Oil Ministry published a statement about the decision to publish prices in yuan, saying, “This format is the result of the announcement made on September 7 by the president [Maduro] … that Venezuela will implement new strategies to free the country from the tyranny of the dollar.”

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Another Defeat for America’s Military

Skyrocketing costs and an aging military are conspiring to leave America vulnerable in unsuspected ways.

Over 70 percent of the surface of the Earth is water. Early in its history, leadership in the United States understood the vital importance of creating a strong, reliable naval force to protect our borders and trade. During the Reagan era, the U.S. Navy boasted a fleet of 600 ships. Today, 272 ships are deployable in combat and support assignments. There has been a 20 percent reduction in the number of usable ships since 1998.

With the explosive cost of new technology and ship building, difficult decisions must be made. There is only so much money available to maintain our force and build security for the future. We simply cannot afford a 600-ship navy, and many defense experts argue we don’t need that many due to weapons advancements and other technology developments.

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The Detroitification of America

A 2010 article that couldn’t be more relevant today:

 

Like a forgotten downtown billboard, Detroit proclaims a warning about the rest of America for any who will stop and look.



If ever an American city was a warning for the nation, it is Detroit. Its crumbling mansions, overgrown boulevards and abandoned factories drive a message home to those who will pay attention. We cannot afford to ignore this once-great city. Why? What killed Detroit is killing America.

Detroit used to be synonymous with wealth and prosperity. It was a city humming with big-finned cars and Motown rhythms. Factories churned out products that ended up on store shelves around the world. Full employment empowered high salaries, flourishing schools and manicured storefronts, with flashy neon lights lining the boulevards. Multiple generations of families shared the same streets and barbecues.

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The Fight for Ukraine

If Ukraine is to still join the EU, expect it to after the cold winter subsides. This way, Russia can no longer blackmail the Ukranian leadership via energy supplies by shutting off the gas lines as it did a few years back — which also was a statement to Europe as it, too, was affected.

Every decent revolution produces an iconic scene. The 1989 Tiananmen protests had tank man; during Germany’s reunification it was a segment of the Berlin Wall swaying back and forth like a wiggly tooth before finally collapsing; in Baghdad in 2003, it was the slow-motion toppling of the giant statue of Saddam Hussein. On Sunday, the budding revolution in Ukraine got its iconic scene, when, amid protests of roughly 500,000 in Kiev’s Independence Square, angry marchers felled a Vladimir Lenin statue then slugged it to pieces with sledgehammers.

The protesters are upset with President Viktor Yanukovich, and specifically his November 29 decision to reject a free-trade deal with the EU. The decision was seen not only as a rejection of Europe, but an embrace of Russia. Many Ukrainians worry that Yanukovich, despite repeated denials, has struck a deal with Vladimir Putin to form a customs union with Russia.

Whatever the outcome, events in Ukraine highlight three important geopolitical realities, each of which is also prophetically significant. Continue reading