• ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, May 31

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     US anti-missile success over Pacific is a huge technological achievement. 

    The tasks now: keep improving the technology, keep testing, and start producing them for deployment

    These anti-missile systems are not designed to deal with a massive attack, such as one China or Russia could launch.

    They are meant to deal with rogue nations or, conceivably, an accidental launch.

    Snarky Comment about those who fought hard to stop these systems: I don’t agree with those who say that the West Coast and Hawaii should not be protected since their Senators and Congressman–and their voters–have opposed missile defense every step of the way for 35 years. True, if they had succeeded, their cities would be the first ones at risk. But leaving them defenseless, as they actually wished to be, would be very ungenerous. 

    Still, it will be interesting to see if their Senators and House members will vote for these systems even now. After all, they might end up voting for a defense bill.

    And while the folks on Nob Hill and Pacific Palisades look down their noses at the rest of America, they might want to pause and remember who worked so hard to save their sorry butts from their ill-considered judgments.

     Illinois, which models its finances on Greece and Puerto Rico, enters the last day of the legislative session without a budget. This is getting to be a habit.  (Chicago Tribune story here.)

    Comment: You can guess the story. Who controls the legislature? Mike Madigan and the Democrats. Who is the governor? A republican. Who wants few cuts, big tax increases, and no reforms to a system that has been running on fumes for years? Oh, go ahead, guess.

    Odd, isn’t it, how the low-tax states now have public services as least as good as the high-tax states? What that means is that you don’t get more potholes fixed if you pay higher taxes. You just get the same number fixed but pay higher wages and benefits to public-sector unions and to a paving contractor who knows a guy.

    Meanwhile, Illinois’ neighboring states of Wisconsin and Indiana have put their financial houses in order. Indiana is especially well run and has been for years.

     “Kathy Griffin apologizes for severed Donald Trump head photo after backlash  (Washington Post)

    Would she have apologized if Hollywood applauded (as they may well have done, privately)?

    In fact, everybody condemns it, as they should. It is disgusting. And it shows how low our public mudslinging has gotten.

    Even CNN is “rethinking” Ms. Griffin’s participation in their cash-cow show on New Year’s Eve.

    Comment: But I was more struck by how CNN presented the episode on its main web page. It illustrates what corporate fecklessness truly is.

    Here is the ONLY thing CNN has to say about Kathy Griffin there (early morning 5/31/17). She’s just “political.” Gosh. And we learn that she begs forgiveness (from whom, I wonder?).

    A reputable news organization would have headlined the vile act, not the apology, and they would not have worked so hard to protect their asset by spinning it as “political.” But then again, they are CNN.

    Kudos to Anderson Cooper, who did the right thing. Griffin’s co-host on New Year’s Eve publicly tweeted that he found it disgusting and unacceptable. Exactly right.

    Btw, ask yourself what would have happened if she had done this with the head of Pres. Obama. I can tell you. She would never work another day in her life. And she would never attend another dinner party or reception. For Trump’s head, she will suffer some, especially on TV, where advertisers will shy away. But she won’t miss a single cocktail party in Hollywood and, after a month of apologies, she’ll be working again and telling funny stories about how “shocked” people were but were privately giving her high-fives.

     Opioid Epidemic spurs race to find safer painkillers  (ScienceNews.org)

    The need for new pain medicines is “urgent,” says Nora Volkow [director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse].

    Scientists have been searching for effective alternatives for years without success. But a better understanding of the way the brain sends and receives specific chemical messages may finally boost progress.

    Scientists are designing new, more targeted molecules that might kill pain as well as today’s opioids do — with fewer side effects. Others are exploring the potential of tweaking existing opioid molecules to skip the negative effects. And some researchers are steering clear of opioids entirely, testing molecules in marijuana to ease chronic pain.

    Comment: Lots of research but no breakthroughs, so far. US prescriptions for opioids have fallen a bit since 2012 but are still around 250 million annually and have been since 2006.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Tuesday, May 30

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     No more Mr. Nice Guy: America changes tactics on ISIS, don’t make them flee, make them die (Fox News)

    Defense Secretary James Mattis said Sunday the U.S. has switched to “annihilation tactics” against the Islamic State and is focused on completely surrounding the militants instead of moving them from place to place.

    “Our strategy right now is to accelerate the campaign against ISIS. It is a threat to all civilized nations. And the bottom line is we are going to move in an accelerated and reinforced manner, throw them on their back foot,” Mattis said. –Fox News

     Iran to renew funding for Hamas terrorists  (Times of Israel)

    This was actually not an easy negotiation since they two differed over Syria, with Iran backing Assad, Hamas opposing him.

    They also come from different Islamic sects, Shiite for Iran, Sunni for Hamas.

    The deal to restore Hamas’s financial support came after marathon meetings in Lebanon between officials from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hamas, and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, the report said.

    Relations between Iran and Hamas have been rocky since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011, when the Palestinian terror organization came out against Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is backed by Tehran. –Times of Israel

    Comment: Despite their differences, these Hamas and Iran do have one thing in common. They love killing Jews.

     Pentagon will test new anti-missile system as North Korean offensive capabilities continue to advance  (CNN)

    Comment: The issue is rapidly coming to a head as Pyongyang speeds up its testing. Intel experts are forecasting North Korea will be able to miniaturize its nuclear missiles and reach the US in as little as 3 years. South Korea and Japan will be in the crosshairs sooner.

    The danger here is profound, not only from a North Korean nuclear attack but from a conventional war. Seoul, South Korea, is a huge city and within easy reach of thousands of North Korean short-range missiles in hardened sites.

    As the US works hard on this system, with millions of lives in multiple countries at stake, the short-sighted politicians who have opposed anti-missile research for decades have a lot to answer for. 

     All Germany’s top politicians agree with Angela Merkel’s criticism of Donald Trump, say Europe “really must take our fate into our own hands” (Washington Post)

    As they campaign against each other ahead of national elections in September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her chief political rival, Martin Schulz, find themselves united in opposition to President Trump.

    Speaking at a beer hall rally in Munich on Sunday, Merkel suggested that the era when Europe could rely on the United States may be coming to an end and that the continent “really must take our fate into our own hands.” . . .

    Yet rather than criticize his rival or her Christian Democratic Union-led government for the strained relationship with Trump, Schulz has passionately offered support. –Washington Post

    Comment: It is unclear what “taking their fate into their own hands” actually means. If it means a Europe led by Germany, the world order will shake, but not before France and Russia do.

     Venezuela in chaos: opposition leaders injured (Reuters)

    Two Venezuelan opposition leaders were wounded on Monday by security forces dispersing protests in the capital Caracas against President Nicolas Maduro, according to one of the leaders and an opposition legislator.

    Maduro’s adversaries have for two months been blocking highways and setting up barricades in protests demanding he call early elections and address an increasingly severe economic crisis that has left millions struggling to get enough to eat.

    Fifty-nine people have died in the often violent street melees, which Maduro calls an effort to overthrow his government. –Reuters

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Anti-Missile Tech Keeps Getting Better: Israel’s Arrow System intercepts a Syrian Missile (UPDATED)

    As more and more bad actors get intermediate- and long-range missiles, the technology to intercept them becomes more and more important.

    The technology is significantly different from that used to intercept short-range missiles, which Israel’s Iron Dome has used successfully many times, protecting civilians living near the Gaza Strip.

    Israel’s Arrow Anti-Missile System is designed for these intermediate- and long-range threats. Last Friday, it was used for the first time in combat, against a missile fired from Syria, probably a Russian SA-5 (aka S-200).

    BBC report here: “Israel’s Arrow anti-missile system ‘in first hit'”  Times of Israel report here.

    What is the Arrow Anti-Missile System?

    Here is what Defense Industry Daily says:

    The Arrow project is a collaboration between Boeing and IAI [Israel Aerospace Industries] to produce the missile interceptors that accompany the required radars, satellites, command and control systems. . . .

    In general, the Israeli Arrow is a more advanced weapon than the Patriot and possesses far more range, undertaking high altitude interceptions and covering a wide area (est. 54 mile range, maximum altitude 30 miles for Arrow 2) as a Theater Missile Defense system. Unlike the USA’s THAAD, PAC-3, or SM-3 which all use “hit to kill” technology, Israel’s Arrow relies on a directed fragmentation warhead to destroy enemy missiles. –Defense Industry Daily

    Here’s a clear visual representation:

    The Arrow System and Israel’s Tough Neighborhood: Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran

    A skilled Israeli observer, Ofer Bavly, offers his concise observations on the Arrow system and its use to protect Israel against regional threats:

    On Friday night Israel for the first time launched an Arrow missile under operational circumstances. The event occurred as the Israeli Air Force was launching an attack on a convoy carrying long-range missiles and other advanced weaponry from Syria to the Hezbollah terror organization in Lebanon. While Israeli attacks on Hezbollah convoys are not a new phenomenon, Israel usually does not publicly admit such attacks and sometimes even denies them so as not to force the hand of Syria or Hezbollah in retaliation. This attack was different in that as the jets were making their way back into Israeli territory, Syria launched surface-to-air missiles at them. It is not common for Syria to try and shoot down Israeli jets. The Russian-made missiles that they launched, SA-5, are not modern or very efficient. As such, they did not at any time endanger the Israeli pilots. However, computer models tracking the missiles showed that they would be falling in Israeli territory, so the Air Force decided to intercept them using the Arrow missile. The interception was successful and was the first such operational interception since the Arrows came online. The system is designed to handle more modern and more efficient missiles including those that would exit the atmosphere and would be intercepted in outer space. Debris from the interception fell in two locations inside Jordan. Sounds of the explosions could be heard in Jerusalem and along the Jordan Valley.

    Although tested extensively on dummy targets in the past, this is the first time that the Arrow is used against an actual threat.

    The event is also significant for the fact that Syria tried to shoot down Israeli jets, a rare move which may signify that the Assad regime, now propped up and supported by Russia and Iran, feels emboldened enough to attack Israeli planes. This may be a step up in the level of Syrian belligerency towards Israel, which may affect future Israeli operations in the north, or it may be an isolated case. In any case, the use of SA-5 missiles which are relatively old and ineffective against modern jet fighters, may show that Syria does not have more advanced anti-aircraft missiles. So while the event revealed an important Israeli card, it also exposed the weakness of the Syrian army.

    –Ofer Bavly, private communication (published with his permission)

    Beyond the threat from Syria and Hezbollah lies a far bigger threat: Iran, which is working closely with North Korea to develop effective long-range missiles and, many fear, the miniaturized nuclear weapons to fit on them.

    UPDATE: Blake Fleisher on Missile Defense in Israel: From Reluctant Acceptance to Full Embrace

    Fleisher, a policy analyst at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Washington), comments:

    Arrow was Israel’s first missile defense system and at the time the Israelis were skeptical about the project because it didn’t fit into their offensive doctrine.

    They supposedly took it on to benefit from US aid (Reagan’s SDI), but the catalyst was Saddam Hussein firing ballistic missiles in the 80s and 90s.

    Ironically, today Israel uses lots of missile defense and you can’t imagine the country without it. –Blake Fleisher, 

    For those interested in more detail, Fleisher recommends a study from the US Army War College:

    Jean-Loup Samaan, Another Brick in the Wall: The Israeli Experience in Missile Defense (PDF online here)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Thanks to

    • Ofer Bavly
    • Jay Tcath
    • Blake Fleisher
    • Robert Lieber