Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Investing Outlook for 2016

Money managers are setting their sights on the 2016 investment picture.
For us,it's the Euro-zone and Japan,which are benefitting from quantitative easing,said Kevin Nicholson,CFA,of Riverfront Investments in Richmond,Virginia.The US is going to have single-digit returns in 2016.When you look at Europe,they out-earned the US for the first time in a long time.We think that's going to continue.*
We like banks.We believe their low loan losses are beneficial and wages are starting to pick up.As consumer confidence builds,banks' confidence builds.*
We're staying away from energy at the moment,Mr.Nicholson noted.*
Philip White,President and CEO of Sotheby's International Realty Affiliates LLC,a Realogy Holdings subsidiary,said it's taken a long time to get to this recovery point.We've had a very good year,where we've outpaced the market-by two to one,actually.We have seen fairly stable pricing.
I think the luxury market is even stronger than before the crash.It's stable,less erratic.We are seeing a little drop-off in international buyers.We don't think this will be a long period of time,but they are a very important factor in the luxury market,and they will continue to be,according to Mr.White.*
Robert Plaza of Key Private Bank likes Walmart.Most of the bad news is already priced in,Mr.Plaza said.We think the risk-reward profile is promising.I see little earnings risk going into 2016.With only five buy recommendations on it,they're speed bump-high expectations at this point.*
Realogy Holdings Corp (RLGY),Walmart Stores Inc (WMT),iShares MSCI Japan ETF (EWJ),iShares Europe ETF (IEV)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Joint Chiefs Chairman:The Dynamics of War in the 21st Century

General Joseph Dunford,USMC,Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,participated in a national security forum at The Center For a New American Security in Washington,DC on 14 December.In a discussion with Michele Fluornoy,CEO of the Center and former Deputy Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2009-12,General Dunford said there's a high likelihood that any conflict we might have will be transregional (multi-regional),multi-domain and multi-functional.Our current planning,command and control is not optimised for this.I don't think we'll be as responsive as we should be unless we make some changes.We're doing some things every day to mitigate this challenge.
The character of war in the 21st century is actually pretty dynamic,but I think our organisational structure,command and control need to be changed.The number one challenge is balancing what we're doing in the current fight with what we need for tomorrow,in the context of reduced funding.If we're involved in a conflict with Russia,it's not going to be isolated to the old plan.Our old plans need to be born with the three m's.
In any ICBM scenario,there are the combatant command (COCOM) from which it originates;the COCOM through which it passes;and NORTHCOM to deal with the consequences.I do believe there needs to be a staff that can provide SecDef with a comprehensive operational picture.This is all about SecDef and the National Command Authority.*
The current force is not broken.I certainly believe we are recruiting and retaining a good cut of people.The Marine Corps is a very young force.Be specific about requirements and start from cradle to grave to grow the force that we need to be.*
In Europe,not only do we need a capacity to respond,but on a day-to-day basis we need to be visible.We need to be there so our adversaries can see our physical presence,more rotational forces,an aggregate of forces adequate to fight and win.My joint staff priority is to focus on strategy and joint force readiness.*
The global commons should be accessible to all.The South China Sea should be available for trade and economic activity.It's a combination of a whole of government approach;freedom of navigation;military-to-military relations.We need to have the cyber capability to escalate horizontally in a crisis.*
I don't think we ought to apologise for our values when we go to war.I'm incredibly proud of the discipline of our force since 9-11.This is a war of values,a war of ideas.We actually have something to sell.Our engagement with people in Afghanistan or elsewhere is likely the only Americans they'll ever see,General Joseph Dunford reflcted at The Center For a New American Security.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Preparations for the Pan-Orthodox Council Move Ahead

Preparations for the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church,to be held in 2016, are continuing in Athens,Greece.The Special Inter-Orthodox Committee for the Preparation of the Pan-Orthodox Council convened in Athens on 16 December and will wrap up the session on 18 December.Under the leadership of His Eminence Metropolitan John of Pergamon,Ecumenical Patriarchate,representatives of the autocephalous churches are drafting the procedural rules of the Great and Holy Council.
Among those attending the Athens meeting are several hierarchs,including:
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk,chairman of the Department of External Church Relations,Moscow Patriarchate;
Metropolitan Emmanuel of France,Ecumenical Patriarchate;
Metropolitan Basilios of Akkar,Patriarchate of Antioch;
Bishop Irinej of Backa,Patriarchate of Serbia;
Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Peristerona,Orthodox Church of Greece;
Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantine,Jerusalem Patriarchate;
and Metropolitan John of Korce,Albanian Orthodox Church.
The Great and Holy Council has long been a cherished dream of many,but it is safe to say it is now well on the way to realisation.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Fed's Rate Hike:What Was Behind It and What It Means

The Federal Reserve announced today that it is hiking the Fed Funds Rate,its iconic interest rate,by 0.25%.*
This action marks the end of an extraordinary seven-year period during which the Fed Funds Rate was held near zero,said Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen at a post-announcement press conference.It reflects the Open Market Committee's confidence that the economy will continue to strengthen.The Committee judged that a modest increase in the FFR target is now appropriate.The labour market has clearly shown continued improvement.Overall,the Committee sees the risk to both the labour market and economic growth as being balanced.
Low energy prices and the appreciation of the dollar have weighed on inflation.Long-term inflation expectations remain anchored.In considering future policy decisions,we will carefully monitor progress towards our 2% inflation goal.The limit on inflation is due to transitory factors which we expect to slacken over time.An abrupt tightening could increase the risk of pushing the overheated economy into recession.*
It's important not to overblow the significance of this first move-it's only a quarter of a percent.The policy we judge to be accommodative.I continue to judge there is slack in the economy:the depressed level of labour participation and the high level of part-time employment.With rates close to zero,we have less room to respond to negative shocks.If we do not begin to slightly reduce the amount of accommodation,the odds are good the economy would overshoot our goals.
It doesn't mean we need to see inflation reach 2% before we move again.I'm not going to give you a simple formula for when we would move again.It could be on a variety of different forms of evidence,but I don't want to give a simple benchmark.We do expect inflation to be moving up,but we don't expect it to reach 2%.
All oil prices need to do for us to reach our inflation goal is stabilise.I certainly grant that we've seen a number of shocks,but we don't expect them to drop much lower;but to stabilise.Market expectations are for oil to stabilise for awhile and then move up.*
Were there an unexpected,persistent change in financial market conditions,we would need to take them into account.I do not think that expansions die of old age,but the economy does get hit by shocks,and there are significant odds that the economy hits some unforeseen shock that sends it into recession,and of course we would respond.Some European central banks have cut their overnight lending rates;we could study taking the overnight rates into negative territory.This is something we have contemplated-our options.It would be nice to have a buffer in the FFR,to have some ability to respond.We have a far more resilient financial system now than we had before the financial crisis,but we will be evaluating this carefully.*
For average Americans,the Fed's decision reflects our confidence in the US economy.We see an economy that is on the path of sustainable improvement.I hope they will take this to mean that conditions will continue to strengthen and job prospects will be good.Some consumer borrowing rates,some credit card rates (and adjustable rate mortgage and small business loan rates) may move up slightly.
Gradual rate hikes does not mean mechanical,evenly spaced hikes.We will be data-dependent,and as the conditions evolve,we will take them into account.*
We are constantly monitoring foreign economic developments;we understand that our fates are linked.We've made a commitment to the emerging market policy makers that we will communicate as clearly as we can to avoid spillover to the emerging markets.Our economy doing well is encouraging to other economies around the globe.We have taken care to avoid unnecessary negative spillover to the emerging markets,Fed chair Janet Yellen told the reporters.*
In sum,the Fed judges that the US economy is doing so well,they need to slow it down it a bit,so it doesn't overheat into high inflation and another recession.The way they do that is by raising the Fed Funds Rate,which raises the rates on certain consumer loans such as credit card balances and adjustable rate mortgages.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Strategic Allies US and Singapore Aggravate Beijing

On 7 December,US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen met at the Pentagon,where they signed an enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement,or DCA.It provides for an expanded defence relationship between the two countries,the Pentagon said.Singapore already provides logistical support for US military aircraft and ships.A small number of US military personnel conduct logistics and planning activities in Singapore for US ships and aircraft in the region.
Singapore agrees that the US presence in the region is critical for peace,prosperity and stability in the Asia Pacific,as expressed in the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding and 2005 DCA the two nations signed.The enhanced DCA calls for continued cooperation in the military,policy,strategic and technology spheres,as well as in the new areas of humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR),cyber defence,biosecurity and public communications.It also introduces new high-level dialogues between the defence establishments of the two countries.*
Specifically,the defence relationship involves the US rotationally deploying US Navy littoral combat ships to Singapore.The USS Fort Worth was deployed there in December 2014.The next LCS will be deployed to Singapore in 2016 as the US ramps up to deploying four LCSs coterminously in the APAC region.
The US has just made the inaugural deployment of a US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft to Singapore,which runs from 7-14 December,in accordance with the 1990 and 2005 bilateral defence agreements.Further deployments of the P-8A could be expected,a US defence official said.The deployments are to promote greater interoperability with regional forces through participation in bilateral and multilateral exercises,while providing timely support for regional HADR and maritime security efforts.
Besides these deployments of ships and aircraft,the US and Singapore air forces conduct joint exercises,personnel exchanges and cross-attendance of courses.Exercise Tiger Balm between the Singapore and US armies,as well as Exercise Commando Sling between the two air forces,which has grown in scale and complexity since its inaugural iteration in 1990,are concrete examples of such cooperation,as are the annual bilateral Cooperation Afloat and Training (CART) naval exercises.
Singapore and the US have served together in construction and stability operations in Afghanistan and Iraq,as well as in counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and in the anti-ISIL Operation Inherent Resolve.APAC countries must work together to counter transnational threats such as terrorism,maritime security and natural disasters,Dr.Ng and Dr.Carter agreed.*
China expressed concern about the enhanced defence cooperation between the US and Singapore.The Chinese Defence Ministry said we are paying close attention as to how the relevant situation develops and hope bilateral defence cooperation between the relevant countries is beneficial to regional peace and stability,and not the opposite.The Chinese Foreign Ministry said more bluntly that the P-8A's presence in Singapore was aimed at militarising the region,which does not conform to the common and long-term interests among the regional countries.
In May,the Chinese PLA Navy shrilly and repeatedly warned a US Navy P-8A that was flying near China's artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea,which China claims almost all of for itself,contrary to the views of the US and several Southeast Asian nations.The P8-A is also stationed in Japan and the Philippines.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Orion ESM - Service module for NASA's spacecraft Orion - Clip 2


Orion ESM - Service module for NASA's spacecraft Orion - Clip 1


European Service Module arrives at NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station


NASA and ESA:Orion Program Draws Them Even Closer

On 30 November,several NASA officials,plus Orion Program prime contractor Lockheed Martin and their European partners held a press conference to mark the start of testing of the European Service Module for the Orion spacecraft.The ESM test article was recently flown to the US on a huge Russian Antonov aircraft and trucked to the NASA Glenn Research Center in Clevelend and Sandusky,Ohio.The ESM will be certified for flight on Exploration Mission 1 in 2018,an unmanned mission that will be the first flight of Orion on the new Space Launch System rocket,which will take the spacecraft to the Moon and back.*
This is another step along that journey of designing a vehicle that's going to take us farther than human beings have gone ever,said GRC director Jim Free.It's really about ensuring the success of EM-1.GRC is the only place you can test a vehicle this size in its launch configuration.The huge vibration table here shakes the vehicle and the vacuum chamber simulates what space is like for the vehicle.At GRC's multiple locations for testing and getting qualified for flight,there will be ESM solar array deployment and firing pyrotechnics.It's all about ensuring mission success,meeting the flight and mission requirements here on the ground.
With the ESM Orion Service Module,we're building on the international partnership of the ISS.*
This is a significant milestone,said Greg Williams of NASA headquarters in Washingon,DC.What's more important is,we don't want to go it alone.We want exploration to be together.Orion and the Exploration Systems program will be the same as ISS.
We're building hardware,testing hardware,testing software.All the pieces are coming together.In the SLS program,tanks are being welded together;there is fabrication and testing.The huge Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center is being recertified;pads are being refurbished.It's really exciting to see we're on this march to EM-1.*
The vibration table and acoustic chamber here at GRC are unique in the world,said Mark Kirasich,Orion Program Manager,Johnson Space Center,Houston.We have to make sure we can survive that and the thermal extremes.We welcomed the ESA three years ago.Their ESM will provide Orion with propulsion,attitude control and abort capability.Its large solar arrays power the equipment and its radiators keep the equipment and astronauts comfortable.Its water and gas tanks are for drinking and breathing.
Down in Louisiana,the EM-1 crew module is almost complete;in early January,it will be shipped to KSC for the production and outfitting phase.*
This Saturday will be the first anniversary of EFT-1,the first test flight of Orion,said Dr.Mike Hawes,Orion Program Manager at Lockheed Martin.Five of the seven EM-1 crew module welds are complete.We are delivering computer boards to the ESA.We all believe exploration has to be an international venture.We work day in and day out with the Airbus team.The service module has to be totally interactive with the crew module.The crew module is the brains,directing the ESM's solar arrays and firing.The ISS proves that these partnerships can work on a vast scale.ESM is really building on that.We're testing Orion components on the ISS.*
It's a real team achievement,said Nico Dettman,head of the ESA's Development Department.I've seen a tremendous development in cooperation of the teams,a continuation of the ISS program.It's the first time ESA is embarking on a human mission beyond low earth orbit.*
On this programme,we are the partner of Lockheed Martin,building for the agencies,said Dr.Oliver Jukenhoefel,ESM Program Manager for Airbus Defence&Space.Our ESM couldn't fly alone;there is no onboard computer.The whole mission control is done by the crew module and NASA.Collaboration on a daily basis is not easy.The ESM test article is the majority of the mechanical.Space is in our DNA.The Orion Program is the best place we can be and we want to be in it for a very long period.*
The whole reason we're going to the Moon is for practice and as a staging area for equipment going to Mars,added NASA's Greg Williams.We need to develop equipment for deep space habitation;deep space propulsion ( needed first for the Asteroid Redirect Mission);and a landing capability for the Martian atmosphere.We are thinking ahead.Development and testing activities are underway.A lot is being tested on the ISS.Many componenets are either being designed or developed.It's a long,expensive proposition.We would love to see astronauts from several nations involved when we first set foot on the red planet.
All of our avionics and electronics have to be radiation-hardened.We,re building places to protect astronauts if we experience a solar flare,a place where they can hide.*

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

War On ISIL Update,Part 2 - From Raqqa To Mosul

Last week Colonel Steve Warren,US Army,spokesman for Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve,gave reporters a briefing on the progress of the anti-ISIL effort.We have not seen ISIL move forces out of Raqqa,Syria,he said.I'm not going to get into the leadership.This isn't the right place for that.*
Sinjar,Iraq is liberated.The PKK Kurds are now clearing IEDs and booby-traps ISIL left behind.The severing of strategic Highway 47 that runs from Raqqa to Mosul by the Kurdish forces will force ISIL to go through rat lines and smuggling routes through the desert.Whereas before it took them hours,now it will take them days.They are less able to mutually reinforce their own positions.
ISIL is under pressure in Iraq and Syria,from the north to the south,primarily from ground forces.They are forced to make very difficult decisions and not help other places of its organisation.When they move,they pop up and become very easy targets for our air power.
As targets are destroyed,others will emerge.If repaired,we will re-attack.The French targets in Raqqa were part of the process.Every nation receives these targets from the coalition.*
The northern access to Ramadi,capital of Anbar Province,Iraq,has met with some pretty stiff resistance.It's slow and incremental work.We believe all the pieces are in place.We believe the Iraqis have a plan that's workable.We believe it's time to execute it.The enemy has put in some fairly complex obstacles.We provided some very substantial airpower,some complex equipment and training to help,Colonel Warren pointed out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

War On ISIL Update:Operation Tidal Wave II;French Airstrikes

The US-led Operation Inherent Resolve coalition has undertaken a systematic bombing campaign to deprive the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant of its revenue from Syrian oil fields.The effort is called Operation Tidal Wave II,named for the World War II operation in which US aircraft bombed nine Romanian oil refineries.As part of the campaign,OIR aircraft attacked a number of tanker trucks recently that were waiting to fill up outside an oil facility,destroying 116 of the tankers.The truck drivers themselves are probably not members of ISIL,said US Army Colonel Steve Warren of Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve in a press briefing,so we developed leaflets to drop to them and made low passes to shoo people away.We decided it is in our interest to go strike these trucks.Oil funds more than 50% of ISIL operations.It was a long process of analysis and discussion,and finally we reached the decision.It was a US CENTCOM commander decision.
The trucks we hit were queued up in the vicinity of one of these oil facilities we had been striking.There was a backlog and they were just sitting there.It was a pretty straightforward attack.The aircraft expended 24 500 lb. bombs and all their ammuntion.Some civilians ran from the trucks into a tent.They were legitimate military targets,but-just to show what we're about-the pilots decided they didn't need to strike them.
The trucks are just one link in the chain.What we've done in Operation Tidal Wave II is break every link in this chain.This was not a piecemeal execution.It was a sudden strike that swept across these oil fields.Their problem now is trying to find out how to fix their broken oil wells.*
ISIL's decision to start expanding their operations outside their borders is something that should concern everyone.That's why we're here;it's why the 65-nation coalition has come together to try to defeat it.I don't know if our campaign has caused that.*
Manjib Pocket is ISIL's last border crossing from Syria into Turkey.There are no US troops on the Turkish side conducting operations.We are working with the Turks to help them ultimately seal that border.*
We supplied the anti-ISIL Syrian Arab Coalition with ammunition about two months ago.We've made a decision not to announce further support,other than to say we reinforce success.*
The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is steaming on its way to the Eastern Mediterranean now.We don't have a specific arrival date.We're encouraged by the fact that the Charles de Gaulle is en route to that theatre.The Charles de Gaulle is supporting the US-led coalition.We do expect the French contribution to OIR to grow.
I don't have a casualty count for the French airstrikes on Raqqa,Syria.They were vetted targets in the slate to get hit eventually.We rarely ever get back battle damage assessments from these preplanned strikes,Colonel Warren noted.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pentagon Adjusting Strategy For Europe and Asia

On 7 November,US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter addressed the Reagan National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley,California.
We are in the midst of a strategic transition,Dr.Carter said.In the face of Russia's provocations and China's rise,we must embrace innovative approaches to protect the United States and the international order.We must ensure that we and our partners are postured to defeat threats from high-end opponents in a complex set of environments.*
Our antagonists and competitors push many states toward us.Our troops are attractive partners.Our troops perform and conduct themselves admirably.I see this.I hear this from many foreign leaders around the world.They make us proud.*
Russia appears intent to play a spoiler role by flouting those principles and the international community;while China is a rising power and growing more ambitious in its objectives and capabilities.Of course neither Russia nor China can overturn that order,given its resilience and staying power,but both present challenges for it.In Europe,Russia has been violating sovereignty in Ukraine and Georgia,and actively trying to intimidate the Baltic States.Meanwhile,in Syria,Russia has been throwing gasoline on an already dangerous fire,thus prolonging a civil war that fuels the very extremism that Russia claims to oppose.
At sea,in the air,in space and in cyber space,Russia's actions have emerged as challenging activities-and most disturbingly,Moscow's leaders' nuclear sabre-rattling raises questions about Russia's commitment to regional stability;their respect for norms against the use of nuclear weapons;and whether they respect the profound caution nuclear age leaders showed with regard to the brandishing of nuclear weapons.We do not seek a cold,let alone a hot war,with Russia.We do not seek to make Russia an enemy;but make no mistake,the United States will defend our interests and our allies,the principled international order and the positive future it affords us all.
We're taking a strong and balanced approach to deter Russia's aggression and to help reduce the vulnerability of our allies and partners.We're adjusting our operational posture and contingency plans as we,on our own and with our allies,work to deter Russian aggression and to help reduce the vulnerability of allies and partners.The United States is accordingly making a number of moves in response,many,but not all of which,I can describe in this forum.We're modernising our nuclear arsenal so America's nuclear deterrent continues to be safe,effective and secure,to deter nuclear attacks and assure our allies.We're investing in the technologies that are most relevant to Russia's provocations,such as new unmanned systems;a new long-range bomber;and innovations in technology like the electromagnetic rail gun;lasers;new systems for electronic warfare,space and cyber space;and including a few surprising ones that I can't describe here.We're updating and expanding our operational plans for deterrence and defence,given Russia's changed behaviour.
In Europe,NATO remains the cornerstone of a principled order and its Article V a bedrock commitment;but NATO needs a new playbook.The old NATO playbook,including large American forces stationed in Europe,oriented toward the Fulda Gap,worked in Reagan's day,but it's not suited for the 21st century with its hybrid warfare;cyber threats and assymetric tactics;and also the vast enlargement of NATO territory that is subject to Article V.We're accordingly changing our posture in Europe to be more agile and sustainable;but we're continuing to take a balanced approach to Russia.We will continue to cooperate with Russia when and where our interests align.*
The single most influential factor in shaping the Asia-Pacific region's future is how China rises and relates to the principled order that has underpinned regional peace,stabiliy and security.We're putting our best and newest assets from all the services into the region.Qualitatively,we are making heavy investments in capabilities of importance there:subsurface warfare;electronic warfare;space;cyber;missile defence and more.We're building the capacity of our allies and partners.
We all have a fundamental stake in the security of maritime Asia,including dynamics within the South China Sea.The United States joins virtually everyone else in the region in being deeply concerned about the pace and scope of land reclamation in the South China Sea;the prospect of further militarisation;and the potential for these activities to increase the risk of miscalculation or conflict among claimant states.
We mean what we say.We will continue to fly,sail and operate wherever international law allows.We also know we have much work to do still to ensure our strategies and plans are as innovative as possible,Dr.Carter noted.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Receives Honours in Bulgaria

Just a few days after he concluded his journey to Great Britain,His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew continued his European outreach when he arrived in Bulgaria on 7 November.On Sunday 8 November,Patriarch Bartholomew was greeted by his host,His Holiness Neofit,Patriarch of All Bulgaria,in front of St.Alexander Nevsky cathedral in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.The two hierarchs then concelebrated the Divine Liturgy in the cathedral to mark the St.Michael and All Angels feast day.Also attending the service were delegations from the Russian Orthodox Church;the Romanian Orthodox Church;diplomats;and the former Bulgarian king Simeon Saxe-Coburg.
His All Holiness praised the Bulgarian people for having stood up to the 500 years of Ottoman rule the country endured,adhering to the Orthodox faith brought to them by Sts.Cyril and Methodius.They had been the first people to accept baptism en masse.
It is a miracle that despite persecutions,massacres,severe economic aftermaths,your blessed people remained true to the faith of their fathers,Patriarch Bartholomew noted.
For his part,Patriarch Neofit said he was grateful for the support the Ecumenical Patriarchate has always shown to Bulgaria.*
On Monday 9 November,His All Holiness was received by President Rosen Plevneliev,who awarded him the country's highest honour,the Stara Planina Order first degree.President Plevneliev said Patriarch Bartholomew is an outstanding personality with immense influence in both the Orthodox and global world.His All Holiness does not isolate the Orthodox faith from the public deeds;and just the opposite:he always seeks harmony through dialogue.*
Patriarch Bartholomew was then to receive a Doctor Honoris Causa degree from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences,as well as meet with Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Career Opportunity:NASA Astronaut

Today NASA announced it will soon be recruiting US citizens again for a new astronaut candidate class.More human spacecraft are in development now than at any time in NASA history,and future astronauts will soon be launching from the Florida Space Coast on US-made commercial spacecraft and deep space missions to advance a future mission to Mars,the agency said.Applications will be accepted from 14 December to mid-February.NASA will announce the selectees in mid-2017.You can apply at http://www.usajobs.gov.The class of 2017 will be flying on either the International Space Station;the Boeing CST-100 Starliner;the SpaceX Crew Dragon;or the Orion deep-space exploration vehicle.*
NASA selects from a diverse pool of US citizens with a variety of backgrounds such as pilots,engineers,scientists and medical doctors.*
The next group of American space explorers will inspire the Mars generation to reach for new heights,and help us reach the goal of putting boot prints on the Red Planet,said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.Those selected for this service will fly on US-made spacecraft from American soil;advance critical science and research aboard the ISS;and help push the boundaries of technology in the proving ground of deep space.*
There are 47 astronauts currently in the active astronaut corps and more will be needed to crew future missions to the ISS and destinations in deep space.In its history,NASA has recruited more than 300 astronauts.
Requirements include a bachelor's degree in engineering,biological science,physical science or mathematics.Advanced degrees are desirable.Candidates must also have at least three years of related,progressively responsible professional experience,or at least 1,000 hours of pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft.They must also pass the NASA long duration spaceflight physical.*
For more information about this career and the requirements,please visit http://www.nasa.gov.astronauts.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Patriarch Bartholomew To Visit Great Britain

On Sunday 1 November,His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,spiritual leader of all Orthodox Christians,will begin a four day visit to Great Britain at the invitation of His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby,Leader of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.They had met for the first time last year in Istanbul.According to His Eminence the Archbishop of Thyateira and Great Britain Gregorios,the patriarch's visit will consist of two parts:
1.Meeting and blessing his flock in Britain and Ireland;and
2.a series of official contacts with the Archbishop of Canterbury and his associates.
Among the worship services will be Great Vespers at the Cathedral of the Divine Wisdom,Bayswater,London at 6:00 pm on Monday 2 November.His All Holiness will preside and preach at the service.At 8:00 pm, an Official Dinner in the patriarch's honour will be held at the Hotel Marriott,Central London.On Tuesday 3 November,the patriarch will attend Evensong at Westminster Abbey and a memorial at the Shrine of St.Edward the Confessor.*
Patriarch Bartholomew's other activities will include a visit to Lambeth Palace,the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury,and an ecological discussion,as well as the presentation of an agreed statement by the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue,In the Image and Likeness of God:A Hope-Filled Anthropology (the meaning of human personhood in the divine image),to both spiritual leaders.Orthodox representatives on the Commission are from the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Churches of Alexandria,Antioch,Jerusalem,Moscow,Serbia,Cyprus,Greece,Albania,Georgia and Poland.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Walgreens Boots Alliance Acquires Rite Aid To Form Drug Store Colossus

Walgreens Boots Alliance has purchased Rite Aid for 9.4 billion dollars.Walgreens,which has more than 13,200 stores in the US,Canada,UK and eight other countries,will absorb Rite-Aid's approximately 4600 stores in 31 states,for a total of some 17,800 drug stores.The merger is the latest chapter in a trend within the health care sector,spurred on by Obamacare,to cut costs by combining operations and gaining bargaining power with drug companies and insurers by increasing size.Rival CVS Caremark has more than 7800 stores.*
Walgreens does business in the US under the Walgreens and Duane Reede names,and under the Boots name outside the US.The company's CEO is Italian Stefano Pessina,who was the executive chairman at Alliance Boots GmbH before it merged with Walgreens.
Rite Aid stores will initially continue under the Rite Aid name.Anti-trust regulators in the US could possibly require the divestment of some Walgreens assets,as there will only be two competitors of any size post-merger.*
The merged company will have 41% of US market share versus 58% for CVS.*
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA),Rite Aid Corp (RAD)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Former SecDef Gates:Putin,Russia and NATO

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning,holding forth with some well-informed views on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policies,as well as NATO's response to them.Dr.Gates served as Secretary of Defense from 2006-11 under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.Before that,he was a US Air Force officer and then served as Director of Central Intelligence under President George H.W. Bush from 1991-3,among other positions.He is currently Chancellor of the College of William & Mary.*
I had a number of opportunities to interact with Mr.Putin when I was in office,Dr.Gates said.We have similar backgrounds.I told him that while he was a lieutenant colonel in the KGB,I was Deputy Director of the CIA.What he has been most affected by was the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire.Ukraine has been part of that for a very long time.He is all about lost power,lost glory,lost empire.He aspires to:
1.Restore Russia to great power status,so that nothing may be done without Russia's involvement and approval;
2.To create a buffer of friendly or at least frozen states on the borders of Russia,such as Eastern Ukraine.
I think that he will be very opportunistic in pressing these objectives,but he is not a madman;and if he meets some difficulties and resistance along the way,he will pull back.In Syria,he wants to keep the Russian naval base at Tartus and the Russian military presence there.He isn't set on keeping President Bashar al-Assad in office;he would be willing to replace him with someone acceptable to Russia at the appropriate time.If he also has the opportunity to poke the United States in the eye,he will not miss that opportunity.
He has a lot more forces on the Ukrainian border than we or NATO have or can put on the opposite side.His limit is in the Middle East,where he is farther away and has a long supply line.We should decide what we want to do in Syria and just tell the Russians this is what we want to do and stay out of the way,such as our establishing a safe haven in Northern Syria.I think he knows exactly what he's doing and,at least in the short or medium term,he's been successful at it.*
Every decade has a variety of challenges.I think it's fair to say we have not had so many challenges in as many parts of the world as we do today.*
I agree with the NATO steps that have been taken to increase the US presence in Europe.The idea of prepositioning equipment sets has a lot of merit.I think I would work very closely with our NATO partners on considering the wisdom of having permanent US troops in Poland or the Baltics.There's always a risk of taking it a step too far.Enhancing the air patrolling and responding to Russian violations,regular NATO exercises-Putin has provoked all of this.He has created enough alarm that our Allies want to participate in these forward operations in Europe with us.I remember a time when they wanted nothing to do with it.Putin has a lot more forces in Europe than NATO,with a lot shorter supply line.*
Russia has been interested in getting out of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty for several years.Even in my time,the Russian Defence Minister approached me saying we are the only two countries who can't deploy INFs.It would not surprise me in the least if they went ahead with it,Dr.Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday morning.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

[HD] Bombardier CS100 awesome low pass & landing with water salute at ZR...


Bombardier's New Aircraft On Track

Bombardier say its CSeries CS100 aircraft will be certified by year end,despite a lack of firm order flow so far this year.The Montreal-based transport manufacturer remains fully committed to the new plane.Vice President of Business Acquisition Ross Mitchell said they were in discussions with potential European customers and the first CS100 is on track for delivery to Swiss Air International in the first half of 2016.
The CS100 is one of a new line of narrow body twin engine airliners.The jet is designed to compete with the Airbus A320 family;the Boeing 737 series;and Embraer's 190 series,among others.Test flights began on 16 September 2013.*
The CS100 features a 2-2,2-2 seating arrangement-meaning no middle seats;larger windows;more overhead luggage bin volume;and wider aisles than the other narrow bodies.Its 70% advanced materials proportion,including composites and titanium/aluminium,will give the aircraft a 15% lower seat mile cost and lower maintenance costs,Bombardier points out.*
Bombardier Inc A(BDRAF):NASDAQ,(BBD/B):TO

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

General Campbell:Too Soon To Depart Afghanistan

General John F. Campbell,US Army,commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan,provided one of his periodic updates on the Afghan War to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.If the current plan to cut US troop levels there down to 1,000 by the end of 2016 goes ahead,our ability to provide train,advise and assist would be very limited,General Campbell said.Just from Kabul,I couldn't do a counterterror mission.
1.We need to continue to build the Afghan capacity for their CT element.It's going to take time to be able to raise it.
2.To have a CT capability to keep pressure on some of the ungoverned spaces.Our CT forces are the best in the world.They welcome us there.Their Par One Prison is the gold standard for terrorist prisons.*
We're seeing a switch of Taliban in Pakistan to ISIL.Pakistani General Raheel Sharif and I spoke as late as last week.He said ISIL has no place in Pakistan.I believe he is genuine and is pushing his army and intel to fight Daesh (the Arab term for ISIL).We put Daesh in the category of operationally emergent in Afghanistan,with them putting in a base in Nangarhar Province.Afghan President Ghani is concerned,and Daesh is a priority information requirement for me.We're trying to partner Pakistan and Afghanistan to look at it.The open press estimates there are anywhere between 1,000-3,000 Daesh in Afghanistan.*
The Afghan National Defence and Security Forces have really impacted the Taliban this year,based on the casualties we've seen.For the police element,the number one issue is to get the right leadership.There are many police without training that have been hired.I believe that training is the key.In many cases,they're doing the same thing as the Army,without being manned and equipped like the Army.*
The Allies that I've engaged with,for the most part,are very supportive.Once the US makes the decision to keep more troops in Afghanistan,we'll see NATO come into that-absolutely.
It becomes a matter of physics.Every single day,we continue to de-scope our bases out there.I've also made sure it's not irreversible.This is a very critical year for 2016.The NATO Warsaw conference will decide their troop commitments for 2016-20.*
I provided my senior leadership with courses of action based on the changes that have happened the last few years:the growth of Daesh;the actions by Pakistan;the new Afghan leadership of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Dr.Abdullah Abdullah.We've built the Afghans an Army and police they cannot afford.They're going to need the help of the international community.We need a year and a half to train,advise and assist the ANDSF.
In all of our courses of action,my senior leadership would have an irreversible decision point.We are overwhelmingly welcomed by the Afghan leadership and civilians.Presence equals influence.They will continue to want a coalition presence.They understand that we've provided a lot of blood,sweat and tears,and don't want to let us down.Based on what's happened since 2014,I believe we still have to do TAA for aviation,logistics,intel and special operations.The conditions on the ground have changed,and we need to look at the pros and cons of that.
I think everyone's looking at Daesh to make sure it doesn't grow to the lengths it has in Iraq and Syria.Upwards of 20-30% of Taliban are irreconcilable;Daesh is irreconcilable at this point in time.We've got to continue to move toward a peace process with the Taliban.Coalition presence has a great impact on President Ghani,the ANDSF,the people.Deciding on a larger coalition force would have a huge impact there.Afghanistan will continue to be a very dangerous place,and the ANDSF will continue to be challenged.You absolutely need to operate from a position of strength to pursue the reconciliation process there.*
Their close air support is just starting to grow.Starting at the end of the year,they will start to have a fixed wing capability,but it will be 2017-18 before it is fully online.Whenever you put a time on something,you always give somebody a chance to manipulate that.To get down to 1,000 US troops by the end of 2016,you would have to start in January,General Campbell advised the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Pakistan: overview of taliban attack on air force base - 18 September 2015


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Inside NATO's Massive Exercise Trident Juncture 2015

Over 36,000 NATO and Partner nation troops,and,for the first time ever in a NATO exercise,international and nongovernmental organisations,are participating in Exercise Trident Juncture 2015,the biggest NATO exercise since 2002.The innovative exercise includes the EU and African Union as participants,along with the ICRC and other organisations.It is NATO beginning to shift from over a decade of intense counterinsurgency in Afghanistan to the current security environment-although its work in Afghanistan continues as dictated by conditions on the ground.*
TRJE 2015 will use new and evolving concepts;advanced technology;cutting edge military capabilities and the world's most modern land,sea and air forces,including special operations,in the most complex and realistic scenarios.The main goal is to train,evaluate and certify the NATO Response Force,at the core of which is the new Very High Readiness Joint Task Force,VJTF.The fictitious but realistic setting is a country beyond NATO's borders that is a victim of international tensions,natural hazards and a neighbour's aggression.The events will range from the effects of subversion and terrorism to grand military manoeuvers on a large scale;from the conditions of chemical warfare to the battlegrounds of cyber and information;from the intricacies of tribal rivalries to the challenges of unpredictable and autocratic political leaders.*
TRJE 2015 will primarily be held in Spain,Portugal and Italy-a huge area to provide safety for the complex manoeuvers.The exercise is characterised by:
1.the size of the training area,which is huge to Europeans;
2.speed-speed on the land,sea or in the air;
3.multiple events happening simultaneously in the huge training area.
In the scenarios,airports are heavily fought for,both defending or taking them;the use of artillery,IEDs and propaganda are represented;four full brigades of marines will be coming in and out of several amphibious operations together,with air cover assisting;a fight for air superiority and a fight for freedom of navigation are enacted;the use of the Global Hawk UAV is tested.The exercise is divided into phases CPX,the Command Post Exercise for strategic and operational level staff training,evaluation and certification with the EU and AU;and LIVEX for Tactical level troops engagements throughout Italy,Portugal and Spain;the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea;plus Canada,Norway,Germany,Belgium and the Netherlands.At the conclusion of TRJE 2015,the headquarters staff from Joint Forces Command Brunssum will be officially certified to head the NATO Response Force,if activated,throughout 2016.Its core element,the VJTF,is required to respond with 5,000 troops in 48 hours to crises in the East and South of the Alliance.*
Those participating in TRJE 2015 are 27 of the 28 NATO Allies,plus Partners Australia;FYROM;Sweden;Finland;Austria;Bosnia-Hercegovina;and Ukraine.It runs from 28 September to 3 November.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Combating ISIL:Where It Stands Now

We are providing the Syrian Kurds with a tremendous amount of air support,said General Lloyd Austin,Commander of US Central Command,at a hearing before the Senate Armed Forces Committee on 16 September.A portion of this element held on in Kobani.They've increased their size and activity and made a significant difference in the Northeast, with the help of the sustained airstrikes they requested.They will also need to partner with the Syrian Arabs in the neighbourhood,and we're helping them with that.
Turkey has shortened the lengths our fighter pilots are forced to fly.They are focused on ISIL elements in Syria,and we have asked them to tighten up their borders to stop the flow of foreign fighters.We will provide air support to our trained fighters and intelligence,surveillance and reconnaissance over-watch,and have already done so with our first class of trained fighters.We have undertaken airstrikes for trained Syrians under threat by al-Nusra.What our special operations forces have done in Northern Syria is,they began to train elements like the YPG Kurds.There are ten of thousands of Kurds on the battlefield fighting ISIL.*
Only four or five of our first class of moderate Syrian fighters are in combat now,explained Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth.The others were captured by ISIL or fled from them.Immediately they entered Syria,they were attacked by ISIL.
Note:soon after the hearing,a second class of 75 US-trained Syrian fighters graduated.*
The assessment right now is,the Assad regime is not in immanent danger of falling.We're going to make sure we have the ability to protect ourselves at all times,General Austin added.
1.We remain vigilant.
2.We work in the battlespace in such a way that we avoid conflicted zones as much as possible.
3.We routinely use all of our ISR assets before we use weapons.
4.Our joint tactical air controllers are in the command and control centres.They have visibility of what's going on in the target area and visibility of where the friendly troops are.*
ISIL is a transnational threat,and if left unchecked,it will continue to expand and occupy territory,erase international boundaries and export terror to other parts of the world-and in particular,to places like our homeland.We see the beginning of this in the lone wolf phenomenon,and the threat will continue to increase.
Assad is losing capability every day.The wild card is,if Iran or Russia move in and shore him up,that would extend things for a period of time.We continue to look at what the possibilities for encounters with the Russians are.The Russians have not started operations as of this point.Our pilots have to have certainty that there are ISIL targets that can be engaged.We can see the targets,so that is not an issue.*
In Iraq,we're going to need a greater commitment from the partners we're enabling.I think they want Mosul back;they want to stabilise Anbar first,and then take back Mosul.*
Iraq is starting to open the pipelines as to which units will be trained,said Ms.Wormuth.They are starting to plan for this.There are now 4,000 Sunni fighters in Anbar that weren't there six months ago.*
Our airpower is supporting the Syrian Kurds and the Syrian Arabs who are with them.They are not enough to counter ISIL alone.ISIL has made a net gain in personnel over the past 24-36 months,General Austin told the Committee;but they have less money.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

China and Russia:Power and Partnership

Several scholars have been carefully analysing developments in the military postures of China and Russia,as well as the strategic interrelationship between the two states.
China's recent naval buildup is aimed at:
1.targeting the US fleet;
2.targeting US allies;
3.targeting US bases,
in the view of Thomas Karko,International Security Program Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.The US must invest in more standoff and penetrating weapons to meet this challenge,such as the LRSO,or long range standoff missile;and the LRS-B,or long range strategic bomber.It must invest a lot more in the fleet and missile defences against these Chinese threats as well,which are conventional threats.
As Admiral William Gortney noted,for the forseeable future,we are still going to need rockets to kill rockets.*
The Chinese are doing testing every three months.That will require a layered counter.Hardening,deception and dispersion are needed.We need to proliferate counters to these things and to alleviate the strain on our forces.US Navy and US Army stress is only going to get worse.
China-Russia ties are taking the form of arms sales,as well as exercises in the Pacific and the Mediterranean.It's a great concern to many Asian militaries.Both states appear dissatisfied with the status quo.Historically,dissatisfied states tend to clump together to work against the hegemons.Both Russian and Chinese leaders call for an end to US alliances in those areas,according to Zack Cooper,Japan Chair and Asian Security Issues-Fellow at CSIS.
Russia and China are employing hybrid warfare in Eastern Europe and the South China Sea.We are reaching an important inflexion point here if these ties continue to grow.For the first time,Chinese military equipment may be flowing toward Russia.China is trying to sell a frigate to Russia,observed Paul Schwartz,Russia Military&Security Senior Associate at CSIS.
China has produced about 80 catamaran small missile boats,complemented with air and submarine-launched missiles,to overwhelm US missile systems.In the far east,China and Russia can pretty quickly link up ship-to-ship.China and Russia joined together to limit US basing in Central Asia.They want to see US power limited and constrained.They share opposition to US ballistic missile defence.*
China opposes NATO expansion because they do not want to see US military influence get stronger,said Jeffery Mankoff,CSIS Russia&Eurasia Program Deputy Director&Fellow.*
Something else has to happen to drive China and Russia really closely together,added Paul Schwartz.China is still very closely integrated with the West.Some kind of shock in the Western Pacific;a Taiwan Strait dispute;a Senkaku Islands dispute,would have to happen.
The Japanese navy is more competent than the Chinese.It has better leadership skills and traditions.The Chinese coast guard is building a 10,000 tonne paramilitary coast guard ship.They will push and push until Japanese or US Navy ships show up.The Japanese have more than 40 highly capable destroyers and diesel electric submarines,while Vietnam is building up its navy with Russian technology.The Chinese still rely on conscripts,but are developing a mid-level cadre.
If China keeps building like they are,they are 15-20 years away from matching the US Navy.They are starting to deploy an aircraft carrier to learn from and plan to deploy three more with over-the-horizon targeting capability,the CSIS expert believes.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Will the Fed Raise Rates This Month?

I think the volatility is going to sideline the Fed in September,said Mohamed El-Erian,Chief Economic Advisor at Allianz.The second and the third facts have turned violently against the Fed.If they make a mistake,it could spill over into the economy.There isn't much the Fed can do.The market doesn't have the circuit-breakers that it needs.That is a major paradigm change for the marketplace.The market has to find its own equilibrium and level,and that's going to take some time.*
China helped create a market bubble in their stock market,and now they're finding it very hard to control.I think they will be able to soft-land the economy at around 6%,but we are going to observe the financial instability.
I pay a lot of attention to the currency markets.It started flashing red early on and started contaminating other markets.Central banks are having tremendous difficulty because the currency markets are coming unhooked regardless of what the fundamentals are,and the fundamentals are stronger relative to the rest of the world,noted Mr.El-Erian,who is a native of Cairo,Egypt.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Deterring the Changing Threats

We need to update our deterrence and response model to Russia's hybrid threat,said General Joseph Dunford,USMC,before the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing last month.I think rotational forces are envisioned,along with prepositioning equipment and infrastructure.Quite frankly,I think that kind of threat is one we're going to face in the future-the idea of deterrence to the changing threats we face.
Russia is not just threatening;they are actually doing it.My assessment today is that Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security.It is a nuclear power that could pose an existential threat to the United States,and their recent acts are nothing short of alarming.I also think it's important to maintain a military-to-military relationship with them to prevent the chance of miscalculation.
Russia is aggressively moving military forces into the Arctic-we need a plan,noted Senator Dan Sullivan,R-Arkansas.
We will in fact develop an appropriate role for the military in support of our political and military goals for the Arctic,General Dunford promised.
Modernising our nuclear deterrence is the nation's top military priority.I think we need to think about how we are going to fund it,as opposed to whether we are going to do it,in that we face a nation that is an existential threat.The Ohio-class submarine is the most survivable part of the nuclear deterrence triad,and critical to modernise.*
With regard to Iran's current activities and support of activities,Iran is one of he most destabilising influences in the region today.They're exacerbating the Sunni-Shia divide.From my perspective,they have provided support to the Taliban in Afghanistan versus ISIL.The Shia militants in Iraq could be a malign influence and certainly we shouldn't provide any support to them.My expectation is,Iran will continue the malign activity across the Middle East that we have seen in recent years.My understanding is,we have the military capacity to destroy Iran's nuclear program.I'll make sure that our leadership has a full range of military options for dealing with Iranian military activity.We have both the plans and the capacity in place to deal with a wide range of contingencies in Iran.
Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a significant threat to the homeland,especially with a ballistic missile,and would be destabilising in the region,causing a nuclear arms race.
In Iraq,there's no question in my mind that retaking Ramadi from ISIL is a strategic action.I've got both a personal and professional stake in Anbar Province,having lived there for years.*
China's military capability and presence in the Pacific are an area of concern,as distinct from a threat.There's no question about our rebalance to the Pacific.We have an unprecedented number of exercises in the Pacific.The rebalance is aimed at modernising our presence,explained General Dunford,recently confirmed by the Senate as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.He will be sworn in next month.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Disney's New Theme Lands Unveiled at D23 EXPO

On Saturday 15 August at the Disney D23 EXPO in the Anaheim Convention Center,Disney CEO Bob Eiger revealed the company's plans to build a Star Wars Land at both Disneyland in Anaheim,California and Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando,Florida:
We are creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single-themed land expansion ever.These new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney Word will transport guests to a whole new Star Wars planet,including an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance,Mr.Iger said.The lands,on 14 acres each,will include the ability to take the controls of one of the most recognisable ships in the galaxy,the Millenium Falcon,on a customised secret mission.*
Disney bought Star Wars creators Lucasfilm Ltd in 2012 for four billion dollars.The next installment in the saga,Star War Episode VII:The Force Awakens will hit the theatres on 18 December in hopes of drawing in both older fans and a new generation of enthusiasts.The new film,starring original cast members such as Harrison Ford,Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher,as well as new actors,has been estimated to have a box office potential of 1-2 billion dollars.*
Walt Disney Company (DIS)