China Builds World’s First Amphibious Drone Boat For Island Assaults 

President Xi Jinping wants to ‘Make China Great Again’, — and that implies bringing Taiwan under the Communist Party’s control. For that to happen, China would need to strengthen its military capabilities before it launched a potential invasion of the island nation.

New evidence this week from China’s state-owned media reveals that the world’s first armed amphibious drone boat for sea assault operations has rolled off the assembly line.

Manufactured by Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group under China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), the new drone boat, dubbed Marine Lizard, passed “delivery checks” and left the factory on April 8 in Wuhan, capital of Central China’s Hubei Province, state-run Global Times reported on Monday.

The vessel measures 40 ft long, is powered by a diesel-powered hydro jet engine for a maximum speed of 50 knots. 

Hubei Daily reported on Sunday, citing an anonymous CSIC manager, that the amphibious drone ship releases four continuous track units hidden under its belly as it approaches land, can traverse over hard terrain at about 13 mph.

They vessels have a maximum operational range of 745 miles and can be remotely controlled from 31 miles away.

CSIC mounted advance radar, optical and BeiDou satellite navigation systems in the vessel that can connect to other autonomous vehicles.

Marine Lizards are constructed from special aluminum alloy, could be used to transport troops, establish perimeter surveillance around coasts, conduct inshore monitoring, support airport defenses, and even lead sea assault operations.

The drone boats could lie dormant near a target for eight months before being reactivated to launch an attack, a tactic that could be used to commandeer uninhabited islands in the East and the South China Sea, or even Taiwan.

“They can hide and hibernate, do autonomous patrols, and launch rapid assaults and landings,” CSIC told Hubei Daily.

Beijing-based military commentator Song Zhongping told Hubei Daily that the quick speed of the boats means China can launch surprise attacks on islands.

Song said the boats would be ideal for the military to start autonomous surveillance operations throughout the South China Sea.

“In the South China Sea, it can be used to either seize a reef or guard a reef, both offensive and defensive,” he said.

The drone boat is available for export, read a statement issued by Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group. 

Psy-Op Of The Day: North Korea And Bitcoin

Authored by Tom Luongo,

So the latest threat to global security we’re supposed to believe is cybercrime from North Korea involving Bitcoin.

There is a new report from the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) called Closing the Crypto Gap: Guidance for Countering North Korean Cryptocurrency Activity in Southeast Asia.

It’s important stuff apparently. Because it’s all over the news feeds. All the major MSM outlets are covering this story by doing what they always do, quote the executive summary and dress it up as journalism.

FEAR! HATE!

Welcome to Fearville folks. I know a catchy title is all part of the eyeballs game of the daily news feed but come on! The RUSI report is nothing but warmed over innuendo and generalizations that could be levied at anyone who owns a Trezor and a small pile of coins they overpaid for in late 2017.

In general, North Korea could seek to use cryptocurrencies as part of its proliferation financing efforts through:

  • Fundraising: To sustain its ongoing needs for cash, North Korea may obtain cryptocurrencies with the aim of converting them to fiat currencies in the short term.

  • Stockpiling: North Korea could accumulate reserves of cryptocurrencies with the objective of eventually spending them or converting them into fiat currency at some point in the future.

  • Circumvention: North Korea could use cryptocurrencies to pay directly for goods, services and resources that are explicitly prohibited by international sanctions.

RUSI Report on North Korea and Bitcoin.

The fiends!

They may *gasp* get around sanctions or convert bitcoins to dollars to *gasp* BUY FOOOD!

It’s all so ridiculous it’s beyond belief. Implicit in all of these arguments is that sanctions are a legitimate tool for political gain. They aren’t. Sanctions hit the people not the regime. They starve the people of the capital they need to effect change.

So never forget that sanctions are simply punishment by evil men of ordinary people. Everything else is just what it looks like, a psy-op.

If you just read the executive summary itself you’ll see the classic scholastic trick of footnoting someone else’s speculation, in this case The UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on North Korea, to corroborate RUSI’s speculations.

This is called appeal to authority. It’s not research. It simply says, “Some other person with an official sounding name agrees with me.” It’s not an argument.

The point here is that this report from RUSI is designed to create headlines and keep the narrative alive that the North Koreans are untrustworthy. That they are shifty, under-handed and, most importantly, dangerous.

It supports the notion that U.S. and U.N. sanctions on North Korea are justified for all reasons.

I have no doubt that North Korea is using cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, to circumvent sanctions. There’s little incentive for them not to. This is one of the use cases Bitcoin was designed for in the first place, serving the unbanked and the unbankable, as it were.

Muddying Waters

This report came out the same time that there is a potential summit between Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin. That rumor has been upgraded by Fort Russ News which seems to think Putin and Kim will meet next week.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may visit Russia in late April, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported, citing sources familiar with the contacts between Moscow and Pyongyang.

It is expected that Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend an event in the Russian Far East on April 24,” the source writes, adding that his sources believe that just then “the expected summit” of the two leaders could be held.

Even if that doesn’t happen there is a lot of smoke out there that Russia and China have both had enough of the U.S.’s approach to North Korean talks. It’s become clear, really, that the Russians, in particular, have had enough of the Trump administration.

The talks in Hanoi collapsed thanks to John Bolton and the U.S. added more sanctions in response. It’s all so tired and predictable at this point.

The RUSI report is designed to keep the news feed mixed on North Korea as it and China opened up a new border crossing last week and the U.S. special envoy to North Korea travels to Moscow for talks.

Putin and Kim will meet before Kim meets again with Trump and I would expect something surprising to come from that meeting with Putin. It’s clear the U.S. is not interested in solving the situation. Bolton wants North Korea as a prize and will accept nothing less.

And therefore everything else we read on a daily basis about the talks are simply misdirection and false hope. The sanctions will remain in place but they will be actively circumvented further over time.

Russia and China will continue assisting North Korea in this while saying they aren’t. The U.S. will fulminate and pile on more sanctions. And eventually everyone will stop listening. Meanwhile, trade will develop, relationships that want to develop will, the North Koreans will still have nukes and eventually someone will call the U.S.’s bluff.

Navy’s $128 Billion Nuclear Sub Project Faces Audit Over “Unreliable Cost Estimates”

A new report published several weeks ago raised red flags about the affordability of the U.S. Navy’s latest nuclear submarine project.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the Navy is considering to ask Congress for additional funds in fiscal 2021 to procure the first of its new 12-ship fleet of nuclear-armed submarines.

The Columbia-class submarine program has an estimated value of approximately $128 billion including research and development costs, with $115 billion for procurement. GAO said that makes it the third-costliest program for any weapon systems in the Pentagon’s history. But stressed the cost estimate for the program “is not accurate because it relies on overly optimistic” reductions in labor costs, added GAO.

Now the Pentagon’s inspector general is getting involved and wants to audit the program’s propulsion and steering system.

Bloomberg said an audit would begin on the first of 12 vessels, will “determine whether the Navy is managing the development” of the system to “ensure that it meets performance requirements without cost increases or schedule overruns,” the Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG) said in its fiscal 2019 audit plan.

“There is a suggestion in this statement that the stern section may present some risk of cost growth or schedule delay,” Ronald O’Rourke, a naval systems analyst for the Congressional Research Service, said in an email to Bloomberg.

The audit will surround the propulsor, a mechanical device that gives propulsion to the vessel and allows it to manuever through the water. The fleet of submarines is being built by General Dynamics Corp.’s Electric Boat division.

“We look forward to working with the DoD IG on any such effort,” said William Couch, a spokesman for the Naval Sea Systems Command.

The audit could take a year to complete as Congress deliberates the fiscal 2021 defense budget. The Navy is expected to request additional funds to start construction of the first vessel in October 2020.

Mapping The Global Migration Of Millionaires

Submitted by Visual Capitalist

High net worth individuals (HNWIs) – persons with wealth over US$1 million – may decide to pick up and move for a number of reasons. In some cases they are attracted by jurisdictions with more favorable tax laws, or less pollution and crime. Sometimes, they’re simply looking for a change of scenery.

Today’s graphic, using data from the annual Global Wealth Migration Review, maps the migration of the world’s millionaires, and clearly shows which countries are magnets for the world’s rich, and which countries are seeing a wealth exodus.

The Flight of the Millionaires

It’s no secret that China has been a wealth creation machine over the past two decades. Although the country is still making a number of its citizens very wealthy, over 15,000 Chinese HNWIs still chose to migrate to other countries in 2018 – the most significant migration of any country.

Here’s a look at the top countries by HNWI outflows:

Unlike the middle class, wealthy citizens have the means to pick up and leave when things start to sideways in their home country. An uptick in HNWI migration from a country can often be a signal of negative economic or societal factors influencing a country.

This is the case in Turkey, which has been rocked by instability, mass protests, and an inflation rate estimated to be in the triple-digits by some sources.

For the third straight year, Turkey lost more than 4,000 millionaires. An estimated 10% of Turkey’s HNWIs fled in 2018, which is concerning because unlike China and India, the country is not producing new millionaires in any significant number.

Millionaire Magnets

Time-honored locations – such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands – continue to attract the world’s wealthy, but no country is experiencing HNWI inflows quite like Australia.

The Land Down Under has a number of attributes that make it an attractive destination for migrating millionaires. The country has a robust economy, and is perceived as being a safe place to raise a family. Even better, Australia has no inheritance tax and a lower cost of health care, which can make it an attractive alternative to the U.S.

In 2018, Australia jumped ahead of both Canada and France to become the seventh largest wealth market in the world.

Here’s a look at HNWI inflows around the world:

Greece, which was one of the worst performing wealth markets of the last decade, is finally seeing a modest inflow of millionaires again.

Watch: Wolf Pack Of Robot Dogs Pulls Box Truck Across Parking Lot 

Robotics company Boston Dynamics published a stunning video Tuesday of ten SpotMini robots pulling a Freightliner box truck across a parking lot, presumably at their headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts.

“It only takes 10 Spotpower (SP) to haul a truck across the Boston Dynamics parking lot (~1 degree uphill, truck in neutral),” the company wrote in the video description posted on Youtube. “These Spot robots are coming off the production line now and will be available for a range of applications soon.”

SpotMini is a medium size four-legged robot that is intended to complete tasks in offices, homes, and outdoor environments. The robot dog can carry approximately 31 pounds, weighs about 66 pounds and stands 2.6 feet high. This all-electric robot has a battery life of 90 minutes, depending on the task(s).

SpotMini can pick up and handle objects using its five degree-of-freedom arm and advanced sensors. The sensor suite includes stereo cameras, depth cameras, an IMU, and position/force sensors in the legs. These sensors allow the robot to navigate various terrains with extreme ease.

Boston Dynamics wasn’t open for comment when asked by CNET but said the robots are being developed for a range of applications. Last spring, the company’s president, Marc Raibert, said SpotMini would be released to the public in 2019.

 

 

Lori Loughlin’s Daughter Is First Student Under Criminal Investigation In Admissions Scandal

A third member of the Loughlin family – the most familiar faces in the recent college admissions scam – is now facing a criminal investigation, according to The Daily Mail. A daughter of Full House star Lori Loughlin, who recently plead not guilty to charges in “the largest ever college admissions scandal” is now the focus of a Department of Justice probe as to her involvement in the case.

Multiple sources have said that the actress’ daughter was on the receiving end of a letter from federal prosecutors in Massachusetts earlier this month regarding the investigation. The letter said that Loughlin’s daughter was the subject of an investigation that could result in criminal charges.

One person who saw the letter said: “It is a not-so-veiled threat. [The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts] is making it pretty clear that they have evidence that very strongly suggests she knew of the illegal plot.”

The tone of the letter was described as “ominous”. A source said that these letters are an indication that prosecutors are working to obtain evidence and possibly pursue additional charges and defendants.

Another source interpreted the letter as clear telegraphing of more charges to come: “It is clear that some students are going to be charged.”

Sources said that five additional people whose children received letters all refused a plea deal and filed a plea of not guilty, as Loughlin and her husband have done. Loughlin’s daughters, as part of the scam, pretended they had previously been on crew teams in order to gain preferential treatment as potential athletic recruits. To sell that idea, they posed for photos on ergometers, offering the suggestion that they were aware and willing participants in their parents’ plan. Loughlin daughter Olivia also reportedly had scam ringleader William Rick Singer’s team fill out her college applications for her.

According to the complaint:

‘On or about December 12, 2017, Loughlin e-mailed [Singer], copying Giannulli and their younger daughter [Olivia], to request guidance on how to complete the formal USC application, in the wake of her daughter’s provisional acceptance as a recruited athlete,’ states the complaint.

‘Loughlin wrote: “[Our younger daughter] has not submitted all her colleges [sic] apps and is confused on how to do so. I want to make sure she gets those in as I don’t want to call any attention to [her] with our little friend at [her high school]. Can you tell us how to proceed?”‘

In response, Singer wrote an email ‘directing an employee to submit the applications on behalf of the Giannullis’ younger daughter [Olivia].

Loughlin and Giannulli ‘agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team – despite the fact that they did not participate in crew – thereby facilitating their admission to USC,’ according to the documents.

Perhaps if you’re too “confused” on how to fill out a college application, that should automatically discredit you from admission – just a thought.

Regardless, this is the first report of a student potentially being investigated in the scandal that has already seen 16 parents face indictments. Previously it had been reported that Loughlin was worried about what a guilty plea would do to her daughters. 

“She is very concerned about what a guilty plea would do to her daughters, who may not have grasped everything that was going on. Yes, she can think about the public perception of her, but that’s nothing compared to what her daughters think of her. So that is something that has understandably made her less likely to enter a plea,” a source told People several days ago. 

Just days ago, we reported that the Harvard test taking whiz who was central to the scheme, Mark Riddell, had cut a deal with prosecutors and was facing 33 to 41 months in prison. 14 other parents were also recently indicted in the scandal last week. Two weeks ago, we noted that parents charged in the scheme were seeking out “prison life consultants” to find out what life would be like in the big house. Perhaps Loughlin’s daughters can now benefit from the same consultant. 

We have been following the admissions scandal at length. As part of our coverage, we detailed how financial speaking gigs and elite high schools helped facilitate the scam for years.

We’ve also covered the fallout from the scandal, like when UCLA’s Men’s Soccer Coach and former U.S. Men’s national team player Jorge Salcedo recently resigned from his position at the university as a result of taking bribes. We also wrote about how students were being encouraged to fake learning disabilities in order to cheat on college entrance exams. 

We profiled Mark Riddell for the first time in March. Prior to that, we also reported on the tipster who gave the SEC the lead on the admissions scandal.

Again!! Are Establishment Democrats Plotting To Sabotage Bernie?

Authored by Michael Snyder via The End of The American Dream blog,

Bernie Sanders is on a roll, and this is absolutely terrifying many establishment Democrats.  He has raised far more money that any of the other Democratic candidates, he just took the lead in a major national poll, and a Fox News town hall featuring Sanders was just watched by nearly 2.6 million viewersYou would think that the Democratic establishment would be thrilled to see such enthusiasm for one of their presidential candidates, but instead they are totally freaking out because they don’t want him to be the nominee.

On Tuesday, the New York Times published an article entitled “‘Stop Sanders’ Democrats Are Agonizing Over His Momentum”, and in that article we are told that “his critics are chiefly motivated by a fear that nominating an avowed socialist would all but ensure Mr. Trump a second term”.  And of course those critics are right.  If Sanders is the nominee, that will give Trump the best chance of winning again in 2020.  It would be a complete and total nightmare for the Democratic Party, and so in order to avoid that scenario some Democratic operatives are already plotting how to sabotage the Sanders campaign.

Right now there are 17 Democrats running for president, and it looks like Joe Biden will jump into the race very soon.

But most of the other candidates have not gained any traction at all, and a brand new poll that just came out actually shows Sanders beating Biden

Sen. Bernie Sanders finished ahead of Joe Biden in the first major national poll of the year that did not find the former vice president leading the pack of potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

When asked whom they would support from a list of 20 candidates – including “someone else” –  29% named Sanders, and 24% named Biden in an Emerson College poll released Monday. They were trailed by South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who was the pick of 9% of likely Democratic primary voters.

What is even more important is the trajectory of the support for the two candidates.  Biden’s support appears to be dropping because of his history of “inappropriate touching”, and support for Sanders has risen 12 points since February

“Biden has seen his support drop. In February, he led Sanders 27% to 17%, and in March, the two were tied at 26%. Now, Sanders has a 5-point lead,” said Spencer Kimball, director of Emerson Polling.

If Biden ends up flopping as a candidate, establishment Democrats are going to be in quite a quandary because nobody else is even polling in double digits at this point.  Perhaps someone like Pete Buttigieg will end up catching fire, but there is no guarantee that will happen.

As it stands today, there is a very good chance that Bernie Sanders could be the Democratic nominee, and many establishment Democrats are trying to figure a way out of this mess

From canapé-filled fund-raisers on the coasts to the cloakrooms of Washington, mainstream Democrats are increasingly worried that their effort to defeat President Trump in 2020 could be complicated by Mr. Sanders, in a political scenario all too reminiscent of how Mr. Trump himself seized the Republican nomination in 2016.

How, some Democrats are beginning to ask, do they thwart a 70-something candidate from outside the party structure who is immune to intimidation or incentive and wields support from an unwavering base, without simply reinforcing his “the establishment is out to get me”’ message — the same grievance Mr. Trump used to great effect?

Of course if Sanders supporters get the impression that the nominating process is being rigged against their guy again, that could cause a full-blown civil war in the Democratic Party.

Needless to say, Republicans would absolutely love that.

But despite that danger, establishment Democratic operatives such as David Brock are publicly talking about sabotaging Sanders

“There’s a growing realization that Sanders could end up winning this thing, or certainly that he stays in so long that he damages the actual winner,” said David Brock, the liberal organizer, who said he has had discussions with other operatives about an anti-Sanders campaign and believes it should commence “sooner rather than later.”

Once this New York Times story came out, it was inevitable that there would be a tremendous amount of backlash from Bernie supporters.

For example, Bernie supporter Katherine Krueger very quickly released a response piece entitled “I’m Going to Have a Rage Stroke Over This Story About Dem Elites Trying to Take Bernie Out”

I’m spent. I want nothing from these people; in fact, I’d prefer they retire from politics entirely for their role in losing what was arguably the most winnable presidential election in modern history. Neera Tanden might punch me in the chest for saying this, but that’s OK!

It’s insanely telling that the people featured in this story—who call themselves “progressives,” despite being wedded to deeply middle-of-the-road centrist policies—are so threatened by a candidate who, after being screwed by them in 2016, isn’t inclined to make concessions to the vast, useless apparatus of consultants and donors that they represent. Of course they want to stop Sanders. He’s sworn off big money, has actual progressive policy ideas, and is thumbing his nose at scolds like Tanden and her cronies! If the voters choose Bernie, he should be the nominee. End of story. If you’re the kind of person who would tack a “but,” onto the end of that sentence, you’re probably more wedded to rewriting the perceived wrongs of 2016 than actually taking back the White House in 2020.

The fact that Bernie Sanders has so much support shows how much America has moved to the left in 2019.  He represents just about the opposite of everything that our founders believed in, but a large percentage of the nation is embracing him anyway.

But could a self-described socialist actually go all the way and win the entire thing?

Probably not, and that is why establishment Democrats are so freaked out right now.

There is still plenty of time, and a lot can change in the coming months.  But at this moment, many are describing Sanders as the front-runner

“Right now, he is the front-runner,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, the chief public affairs officer for MoveOn, a progressive group. “He is leading in the fundraising. He is leading in the polling — except for Biden, who has not jumped in yet. … Bernie’s start has been impressive. Clearly his base is still with him and still excited.”

Of course there is one Democrat that would beat Bernie very easily, but she has insisted over and over that she is not running.

However, the stronger the Sanders campaign gets, the louder the calls for her to run will become.