FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day June 20 through 25, 2017

Friends of FOD

A bit delayed on this edition.  I’ve been moving the last few days.  It’s a pain in the butt.  And it doesn’t get easier with age or with the number of moves made in my lifetime.  Suffice it to say I’ve traded a great lake view for a great mountain view.   So things have gotten a bit behind.  Plus I had to wait until today to get my internet installed.  I know – excuses will be listened to, but not tolerated!


US Companies Providing Russians with Security Source Code

We have known for quite some time the Russians are employing every possible cyber tactic to undermine US computer systems, establish hacker networks and steal millions of dollars on a recurring basis.  So where are they getting some of the most critical product security secrets you might ask?  From the very companies developing the software.  Cisco, IBM and SAP have all acknowledged and acceded to the demands by Russia to review source code for security products such as firewalls, anti-virus applications and software containing encryption before permitting these products to be imported to and sold in Russia.  This, according to Reuters, has been going on for quite some time and those requests have increased since 2014.  Supposedly these requests are done to ensure foreign spy agencies have not hidden and “backdoors” that would allow them to borrow into Russian computer systems.  But in doing so Russian inspectors have the opportunity to find vulnerabilities in products’ source code and instructions that control both basic and advanced operations of computer equipment.  While a number of U.S. firms say they are playing ball to preserve their entree to Russia’s huge tech market, at least one U.S. firm, Symantec, told Reuters it has stopped cooperating with the source code reviews over security concerns. That halt has not been previously reported.  Symantec said one of the labs inspecting its products was not independent enough from the Russian government.  U.S. officials say they have warned firms about the risks of allowing the Russians to review their products’ source code, because of fears it could be used in cyber attacks. But they say they have no legal authority to stop the practice unless the technology has restricted military applications or violates U.S. sanctions.  (photo above left is the Russian Security Service Building).  From their side, companies say they are under pressure to acquiesce to the demands from Russian regulators or risk being shut out of a lucrative market. The companies say they only allow Russia to review their source code in secure facilities that prevent code from being copied or altered.  I wish I were making this up.  My recommendation – don’t sell them anything – let ’em rot.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day June 20 through 25, 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 26 through 28, 2017

Friends of FOD

It’s been reported some of you are not receiving the notification message announcing there is FOD to pick up.  If that’s the case, try deleting your history and your cookies.  I’m told if you receive recurring messages on a company computer in particular, it deletes my message or sends it to junk mail.  You may find in there as well.


China Launches New Aircraft Carrier

As mentioned in the last edition of FOD, China was ready and has now launched their first domestically designed and built aircraft carrier on Wednesday, April 26th   The launch came three days after the 68th anniversary of the Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) at a shipyard in the port of Dalian, in the northeastern Liaoning province.  It’s conventionally powered with steam catapults and a 12° ski jump take-off ramp and four arresting gear wires.  The Type 001A carrier has not yet been named.  Maybe there’s a mail-in contest for the name, like the Pandas. Their next carrier, the Type 002, is expected to launch in 2021.  Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., USN, the Commander, United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), who testified before Congress on April 27th, believes China intends to challenge free access to the South China Sea. “In my opinion China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea,” Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2016. “You’d have to believe in a flat earth to believe otherwise.”  “China is creating a great wall of sand, with dredges and bulldozers, over the course of months,” Harris told the audience at a conference in Australia. “When one looks at China’s pattern of provocative actions towards smaller claimant states — the lack of clarity on its sweeping nine-dash line claim that is inconsistent with international law and the deep asymmetry between China’s capabilities and those of its smaller neighbors — well, it’s no surprise that the scope and pace of building man-made islands raise serious questions about Chinese intentions.” ADM Harris is a 1978 graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. Harris is the U.S. Navy’s current “Old Goat” – the longest-serving Naval Academy graduate on active duty. He is also the Navy’s current “Gray Owl” – the Naval Flight Officer on active duty who has held this designation the longest period. Harris took command of USPACOM on May 27, 2015.  “We are obliged to defend South Korea by a treaty,” Adm. Harry Harris, head of U.S. Pacific Command, told lawmakers just today April 27, 2017. “They have a very strong and capable military, as we do. But if we’re going to defend them or if we’re going to fight with them on the peninsula then we have to be able to integrate with their military, we have to be able to work with their military, we have to understand their military and vice versa.” China believes the exercises destabilize the situation with North Korea and that if the U.S. curtailed them the Kim Jong-Un regime might agree to deescalate. But Harris said the exercises should continue so the U.S. can fulfill its treaty obligations.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 26 through 28, 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day February 10 and 11, 2017

China buildup also in the Paracel Islands

China is continuing to expand construction activities in yet another set of islands in the South China Sea.  Beijing has undertaken substantial upgrades to its military infrastructure in the Paracel islands, with the construction of harbors, helipads and a full-fledged helicopter base on several islands in the chain.  This is in addition to those facilities being constructed on the Spratly Islands.  The latter having been the subject of recent public comment by the Trump administration. The interests of the nations contesting these island groups include retaining or acquiring the rights to fishing areas; the exploration and potential exploitation of crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the South China Sea, and the strategic control of important shipping lanes. Free access to the shipping lanes for all countries is of strategic importance to the US.  The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (CSIC), has been following China’s activities for some time.  CSIS is one of the very finest American think tank organizations based in Washington, D.C.  It was founded in 1962 and continues to be sponsored by Georgetown University . The center conducts policy studies and strategic analyses of political, economic and security issues throughout the world, with a specific focus on issues concerning international relations, trade, technology, finance, energy and geostrategy.  The current Chinese actions follows closely emulate the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) strategy in WW II.  That scheme centered on the Japanese strategic initiative predicated on offensively extending their outer defensive perimeter in the south and central Pacific.  The US counter offensive resulted in the Guadalcanal Campaign mentioned in more than one edition of FOD in recent days.  This could become a greater issue for the new presidential administration.


Did you see that lunar eclipse last night?

Last night, stargazers were be able to view a penumbral lunar eclipse, a stunning full moon, and a comet flyby. If you were fortunate to have a view, you had a most unusual Friday night.  Lunar eclipses  occur only  during a full moon, but penumbral lunar eclipses are still pretty special, albeit more subtle. These sorts of eclipses occur when the Moon enters the outer region of Earth’s shadow, called the penumbra. Observers, like me down here in AZ (where it’s warm) were able to notice an unusual dark shade toward the top of the moon when it reaches mid-eclipse.  Since this was the region closest to the Earth’s full shadow, called the umbra. Since penumbral eclipses are more subtle than partial eclipses, you had to look more carefully to see this slightly darker shade.  Every year, two to five lunar eclipses occur, and one in every three will be penumbral. However, this was be the only penumbral lunar eclipse of 2017.


‘Pre’ Ball and Convair 880

10 February 1960: Delta Air Lines’ Chief Pilot, Captain Thomas Prioleau “Pre” Ball, (below) made the delivery flight of Delta’s first jet airliner, Ship 902, a Convair 880 named Delta Queen, FAA registration N8802E, from San Diego, California, to Miami, Florida, setting a United States National Record for Speed Over a Commercial Airline Route. The elapsed time was 3 hours, 31 minutes, 54 seconds, averaging 641.77 miles per hour (1,032.83 kilometers per hour) over 2,266 miles (3,647 kilometers).  The Convair 880 was fast with a top speed was 880 feet per second (600 miles per hour, or 966 kilometers per hour), faster than its Boeing 707 or Douglas DC-8 rivals.  Four of the U.S. National Speed Records set by Pre Ball remain current. In addition to the record set with the Convair 880 on 10 February, on 6 November 1948, Ball flew a Delta Air Lines Douglas DC-6 from Los Angeles, California, to Charleston, South Carolina, in 6 hours, 24 minutes, 32 seconds, at an average speed of 344.19 miles per hour (553.92 kilometers per hour). On 18 March 1954, he flew a Douglas DC-7 from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida, in 05:29:33, averaging 392.25 miles per hour (631.27 kilometers per hour). Finally, on 24 February 1962, Captain Ball flew a Douglas DC-8 from Miami, Florida, to Atlanta, Georgia, in 01:28:11, for an average of 406.1 miles per hour (653.56 kilometers per hour).  The Convair was built by the Convair division of General Dynamics.  It was powered by General Electric CJ-805-3 turbojets, a civilian version of the J79 which powered the F-104 StarfighterF-4 Phantom and Convair B-58 Hustler.  The airliner never became widely used and the production line shut down after only three years. The 880’s five-abreast seating made it unattractive to airlines, while Boeing was able to out-compete it with the Boeing 720, which could be sold much more cheaply as it was a minimal modification of the existing 707. In addition, the General Electric engines had a higher specific fuel consumption than the Boeing’s Pratt & Whitney JT3Cs.  Elvis Presley had a Convair 880 that he named after his daughter, Lisa Marie.  A modified version of the basic 880 was the “-M” version.   The -M incorporated four leading edge slats per wing, Krueger leading edge flaps between the fuselage and inboard engines, power-boosted rudder, added engine thrust, increased fuel capacity, stronger landing gear, greater adjustment to seating pitch and a simpler over-head compartment arrangement.  One 880-M was purchased by the FAA from Convair and for eighteen years was used to train FAA flight examiners.  The United States Navy acquired that 880-M in 1980 modifying it as an in-flight tanker. I tanked off of it when it came out to NAWCWPNS Pt Mugu once.  It was damaged beyond the reasonable-cost-to-repair in a cargo hold explosive decompression test at NAS Pawtuxet River, Maryland in 1995. Most of the remaining Convairs were scrapped by 2000.


Yalta Conference Ends – Big Wins for Stalin

On February 11, 1945, a week of intensive bargaining by the leaders of the three major Allied powers ended in Yalta, a Soviet resort town on the Black Sea.  The  Yalta Conference was held from February 4 to 11, 1945, was the World War II meeting of the heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, represented by President Franklin D. RooseveltPrime Minister Winston Churchill and Premier Joseph Stalin, respectively, for the purpose of discussing Europe’s post-war reorganization. The conference convened in the Livadia Palace near Yalta in

CrimeaUSSR.  It’s often said Stalin insisted on the venue as he was supposedly afraid to fly, but the more likely reason was that Stalin would not leave the USSR for fear of a coup d’état.  The meeting was intended mainly to discuss the re-establishment of the nations of war-torn Europe. Within a few years, with the Cold War dividing the continent, Yalta became a subject of intense controversy. To a degree, it has remained controversial.  Each leader had an agenda for the Yalta Conference: Roosevelt wanted Soviet support in the U.S. Pacific War against Japan, specifically for the planned invasion of Japan (Operation August Storm), as well as Soviet participation in the UN; Churchill pressed for free elections and democratic governments in Eastern and Central Europe (specifically Poland); and Stalin demanded a Soviet sphere of political influence in Eastern and Central Europe, an essential aspect of the USSR‘s national security strategy. Significant was the fact FDR was near death and British influence was minimal in that they were broke. Yalta was the second of three wartime conferences among the Big Three. It had been preceded by the Tehran Conference in 1943, and was followed by the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, which was attended by Stalin, Churchill (who was replaced halfway through by the newly elected British Prime Minister Clement Attlee) and Harry S. Truman, Roosevelt’s successor. The Yalta conference was a crucial turning point in the Cold War and gave significant advantages to the Soviet Union..


President-Elect Lincoln goes to Washington

On February 11th in 1861, President-elect Abraham Lincoln leaves home in Springfield, Illinois, and embarks on his journey to Washington, D.C.  On a cold, rainy morning, Lincoln boarded a two-car private train loaded with his family’s belongings, which he himself had packed and bound. His wife, Mary Lincoln, was in St. Louis on a shopping trip, and joined him later in Indiana. It was a somber occasion. Lincoln was leaving his home and heading into the jaws of a national crisis. Since his election, seven Southern states had seceded from the Union. Lincoln knew that his actions upon entering office would likely lead to civil war. He spoke to a crowd before departing: “Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young man to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being… I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail… To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”  A bystander reported that the president-elect’s “breast heaved with emotion and he could scarcely command his feelings.” Indeed, Lincoln’s words were prophetic—a funeral train carried him back to Springfield just over four years later.


The Channel Dash embarrasses England and the RAF

The Channel Dash or Unternehmen Zerberus (Operation Cerberus) was a German naval operation during World War II..  Kriegsmarine (German navy) squadron consisting of both Scharnhorst-class battleships and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen along with escorts, ran a British blockade

from Brest in

Brittany, where they had been a latent threat to British trans-Atlantic convoys. At Brest and La Pallice, the ships had been attacked by Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command and by RAF Coastal Command torpedo-bombers from March 1941, which inflicted periodic damage to the ships, reducing their seaworthiness. In late 1941, Adolf Hitler ordered Oberkommando der Marine (OKM Navy high-command), to plan an operation to return the ships to German bases, to counter a possible British invasion of Norway.

Schlachtschiff Scharnhorst

The short route up the English Channel was preferred to a detour around the British Isles, to benefit from surprise and from air cover by the Luftwaffe.  The British attempted to exploit decrypted messages from German radio messages coded with the Enigma machine.  However on 11 February 1942, the Kriegsmarine ships left Brest at 9:14 p.m. and escaped detection for more than twelve hours, approaching the Strait of Dover without discovery.  (Prinz Eugen below) The RAF, the Fleet Air Arm, Navy and coastal artillery operations were costly failures but Scharnhorst and

Gneisenau hit mines in the North Sea and were damaged (Scharnhorst being put out of action for a year). By 13 February, the ships had reached German ports and Winston Churchill ordered an inquiry into the debacle.  The London Times denounced the British fiasco.


Wickenburg Gold Rush Days – Great Small Town Traditions

We escaped Seattle to come to the warm sunny weather around Phoenix yesterday.  And today we rediscovered some great small town traditions in Wickenburg, AZ.  They put it all together, a multi-day rodeo, car show, wild-west show performers and a great parade.  It’s their sixty-ninth Gold Rush Days here.  It was lots of good fun and in a venue where the parade participants know those watching the parade.  They pass out candy to the kids from every float.  This year there were 146 horses in the parade.  I counted them.  Find a small town that’s having a parade and join the fun!