Saturday, July 29, 2017

North Korea's second ICBM launch could have reached well into continental US

Early Friday EDT time, North Korea launched an ICBM that stayed in the air over 40 minutes, seems to have longer range than the July 4, and has been reported by various sources as capable mathematically to reach Denver, Chicago, or conceivably New York.  Washington DC and Baltimore, maybe Philadelphia seem just beyond range by Great Circle routes.  The test came on the 64th anniversary of what North Korea claims is its victory day.  There have been firings from multiple land locations in North Korea and from a submarine, at various times of day, to make missile launches hard to predict and detect in advance. 

Here’s a New York Times op-ed on the “new normal” by the AP, link. 

Jay P. Lefkowitz argues that we need a “new approach” here

It sounds likely that the missile this time had no payload. A weapon would increase its mass and reduce its range on this particular test. However, the acceleration of the range of DPRK's weapons is striking, much more than what was expected, and the idea that a nuclear strike on the US from DPRK would be possible by mid 2018 sounds credible.

Any official talk (or even public "trash talk") of “regime change” could trigger a pre-emptive strike from Kim Jong Un, who may be less stabled and less tolerant of indignation than we want to believe.  But note that no tests so far have traveled as far as Japan, although they have landed in Japanese-controlled water 50 miles out.

We won’t be able to follow DPRK’s ability to put a nuclear warhead on a missile as well as we can calculate the parabolic ranges of his missile tests.  But it does sound like a sudden attempted attack, perhaps out of a temper tantrum after one of Trump’s outbursts or even over a private company’s actions (Sony case) on America by mid 2018 is possible, at least a “marginal” or even “slight” risk in SPC terminology.  It’s likely that any device would be crude and small.  But we don’t know for sure, and James Woolsey has repeated warned about the possibility of EMP attacks from satellite, so presumably that is possible from an ICBM, especially over northwestern North America, although not much has been written about the comparative engineering challenges an enemy faces in actually doing this.
There are conflicting reports about the readiness of US missile defenses and NORAD, and the capacity to improve defenses before 2018.  I worked for the Navy Department as a civilian computer programmer 1971-1972 on missile interception algorithms, so I presume there have been considerable advances since then.   If NORAD did intercept a missile approaching Alaska, for example, would Trump immediately retaliate?  If an EMP blackout happens over South Korea or Japan, it will be pretty clear who is guilty. But what if it happens over Alaska and Western Canada?  Have technology companies figured out how to protect their hardware and databanks? 

The Washington Post has an editorial today, "What if sanctions on North Korea don't work? "  Are we all "On the Beach" listening to "Waltzing Matilda"?

Update: July 30

Max Fisher has a balanced perspective on North Korea's intentions in the New York Times today, link.

Update: July 31

Presumably North Korea could prove it can mount a small nuclear payload with another blast that lands near its own coast after parabolic high altitude route. The reduction in height and distance would give a mathematical idea of how much the payload reduces range. Possibly DPRK could try a test like this from a Chinese-designed submarine in the open Pacific.  It's not clear how effectively the US Navy detects foreign submarines approaching its own territory.  Some "right-wing" pundits have suggested that a terrorist (with help of a rogue state like North Korea or maybe Iran) could launch a scud from a hijacked commercial ship with a small nuclear weapon to produce an EMP blast.  See Michael Maloof's "A Nation Forsaken" reviewed on Books blog April 13, 2013.

Logically, demands from DPRK for the US to withdraw from dedending South Korea (the "hostage") would seem justify a pre-emptive strike, but these might not be made until DPRK had launched a test like described above.  Diplomacy with China does not look promising right now, as Trump has previously said "China is not your friend."

Senator Diane Feinstein's remarks on CBS "Face the Nation" July 29 are here. Wall Street Journal is quite blunt about nuclear blackmail of American cities and urges "regime change" from within. That is exactly what could prompt a nuclear strike or EMP attack om us if we're too late. I llike the line "Thanks for letting us know.

And Trump, among all the Carnage in his White House (no one as vomited yet like in Roman Polanski's movie), says, "I'll take care of it,"  There may be some post-mortem comfort food in the fact that so far North Korea's ICBM's apparently burned up in re-entry, so they may not be advanced as quickly as DIA estimated. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Immigrant teens say Trump's crackdown makes them more vulnerable to gang recruitment

Dan Lieberman has a major report on CNN about the possible unintended consequences of Trump’s and Jeff Sessions’s policy on sanctuary cities and quick deportations for illegals.  

Teenagers immigrated from El Salvador, speaking from Long Island suburbs east of NYC, report that gang members try to force them to join, even with physical attacks, because the teens or their parents fear deportation if they talk to police.

Trump, on the other hand, claims he is cleaning up MS-13, Washington Post story by David Nakamura, link. Trump may have some leverage in talking about this problem in his own suburban back yard, not far from the expensive homes on the Hamptons. 

Here is the White House's own video of Trump's Suffolk County NY speech today on the issue. Yet Dara Lind of Vox called this "the most chilling speech of the Trump presidency." It's the "don't be too nice" stuff -- indeed, what if the cops are wrong and profile you.   

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

North Korea has its own elite, and does business with Qatar

The Washington Post and other sources report that North Korea has sent weapons through Qatar to terrorists for cash, and apparently supplies slave laborers also, story by Adam Taylor here. Does DPRK have similar contact with Iran and with terror groups? 

The Post also reports on the Internet access by North Korean elites, here (Craig Timberg and Ellen Nakashima).

This is all significant.  Communist countries have always had a ruling party elite, although this was more pronounced with the Soviet Union than Red China.  Soviet chess masters were in the elite, as the Soviets viewed chess the way the US viewed pro football. 

The possibility of an elite means that North Korea can get young men to be trained in cyberwar, and in designing and testing missiles and nuclear weapons, even satellite-based EMP. 

The New York Times is a little skeptical of Washington Post reports on DIA studies saying North Korea could be able to reach the continental US with a nuke in early 2018, but says that US missile defenses are way behind and the Pentagon is running out of time.  
Wikipedia attribution link for Qatar picture by Stellar under CCSA 4.0. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

North Korea said to be capable of hitting US with nuke on ICBM in 2018, much sooner than previously expected

Ellen Nakashima, Anna Fifield, and Joby Warrick produced a Washington Post story this afternoon that raises alarms that North Korea is making progress toward an ICBM that could reach most of the continental US much faster than expected.

The major link is here.  The Washington Post treated this as breaking news right before Trump's press conference today. 

The story implies that North Korea may well be capable of striking continental US with a nuclear weapon from an ICBM before the end of 2018, less than two years into Donald Trump’s presidency. It’s rather frightening to imagine the blackmail schemes Kim Jong Un could come up with, not to mention giving stuff to Iran or even rogue terror groups.   

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Trump applies "Atlanta" to asylum seekers around the country; hosting of LGBTQ aslyees seems to pick up in some cities

A couple of big news stories that can affect refugees and asylum seekers today.
First, SCOTUS apparently let the Trump refugee ban stand for now but slightly expanded family exceptions on the country-based travel ban.

Jason Dzubow wrote an article in the Asylumist noting that Trump had placed judges from Atlanta, which has a very low asylum seeker approval rate, in higher positions in the immigration system. “We’re all in Atlanta now” he writes, here. 

And Slate has a long article by Oscar Lopez, “For LGBTQ refugees in the United States, visibility is still a two-edged sword”, link .
The article notes a few asylum seekers who were hosted privately from homeless shelters, and also says that undocumented LGTBQ people are not told they could try to apply for asylum when put into detention (in practice, parole is very difficult).  Being “out” could be seen as challenging the immutability aspect of the “particular social group” rule, an idea I don’t’ remember reading before.  There is a lot to study here. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Local DC pastor slams travel bans, and the automatic coupling of Islam with political motives

Today Amanda Taylor gave a sermon at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC centered on religious freedom.

The emphasis was on recognizing faith for what it is, and always separating faith from political precepts.

She talked about freedom as requiring more than just toleration, and pluralism as a much more inclusive concept than simple diversity.

She also was critical of both versions of Trump’s travel bans toward the end of the sermon, but recognized that the Supreme Court will rule on them this fall.

Also today, on the TV blog, I mentioned Fareed Zakaria’s covering of the idea that Putin wanted Trump to be elected in order to undo the Magnitsky Act, which could threaten Putin’s hold on power.  It would be a good question as to whether some of the human rights abuses in question are related to the 2013 anti-gay propaganda law.  Putin has banned American couples from adopting Russian children in retaliation, although Putin is also concerned about a Russian population bust. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Former CIA director James Woolsey reiterates North Korea's EMP threat from a current satellite, making the ICBM launch moot

On CNN’s Don Lemon show tonight, former CIA director James Woolsey reiterated a statement he had made in March, that North Korea can launch an EMP attack against the US from an orbiting satellite at any time.

He had said this in March.

That would presume that DPRK can place a nuclear warhead on the satellite and detonate it when it passes over the US.

Woolsey says that DPRK has had this capability for four years, since about mid 2013.  Ironically, that’s when I made my visit to Oak Ridge, TN.

Woolsey says that this threat makes the targeting of current or future ICBM’s a side show.  He said Trump is uninformed on this matter.

Here is Woolsey's original WSJ article.

The cable stalled a moment tonight, making me wonder if the EMP had happened.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

North Korea apparently has launched a "primitive" ICBM; a game-changer with Trump in office?

The very latest scuttlebutt today is that North Korea’s claimed ICBM missile test probably was a two-stage ICBM.  Some accounts claim that were the trajectory made less of an uppercut and more like a line drive, it could have reached parts of Alaska.  It seems to have landed just barely within the DPRK’s claimed international waters.

The latest CNN story and analysis is here.  The Washington Post has more recent analysis, and it's grim, here. Vox's Alex Ward writes that is is a test for Trump, and that China has little motivation to help destabilized the regime because it doesn't want a refugee crisis (ironic).

The Wall Street Journal has a gif warning about the possible range of North Korea’s missiles “launch pattern” here.

It is unclear how close North Korea is to putting an operable nuclear warhead on an ICBM and having it re-enter.  But the most dire threat of all could be an EMP blast, now over South Korea or Japan, and later over western US / Alaska/ Canada. The projected range of DPRK’s missiles keeps increasing.

Update: July 5

Most news analysts believe that Un is insisted on becoming a nuclear power (comparable to Russia and China) to protect himself from having the same fate as Saddam Hussein and Qadaffi.  But the US already is unwilling to let Iran become a nuclear state.

Fox calls North Korea "the Mob State" that, like a crime family, will do anything to the bloodline. But Un especially has shown a willingness to go beyond mere self preservation.  Consider the unusual ugliness of the Warmbier death, which might have been a set-up  (how did anyone get to the 5th Floor, anyway, in the first place?)  The extreme Left has been capable of horrific personalized crimes in the past -- consider Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974.  North Korea seems to be behind some of the recent malware attacks, and consider what happened to a private company, Sony Pictures, over a movie that portrayed Un unfavorably?  (He expects to be worshiped by his people when he looks like the antithesis of binary cis  manhood.) Could Un out of a temper tantrum, threaten to use nukes in the future over a public insult from an American company or even a private citizen online?

CNN has a video on why North Korea hates the US, even personally. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

"Countercultural hospitality"

Today, at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, youth pastor Alyssa Aldape gave a sermon “Countercultural hospitality”. 

The acoustics of the church made it a little hard to follow, but the sermon seemed to argue the need for openness among Americans to be of personal assistance to some immigrants, such as potential refugees and asylum seekers, beyond the observance of the law.  This might have been applicable to the recent law proposed attacking sanctuary cities, and might have defended some people who, out of commitment of faith, are willing to house some undocumented people, especially in the border states, as has been in the news sometimes.

 The scripture was Matthew 10:40-42