sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Thursday, January 3, 2019

In Space


The Chinese have been heralded by the international press for landing an unmanned probe on the Moon. While it's a big deal for China, I guess, we landed men there several times including dune buggies for them to cruise around on, fifty years ago. Does that put China fifty or more years behind the USA? Yes, and no. They want to put their own people on the Moon, and they're working on it. But as with the Russians, they haven't been able to close the deal. This lunar landing serves to remind us that China still has a space program.

Ultima Thule

Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission released the first detailed images of the most distant object ever explored -- the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule. Its remarkable appearance is unlike anything we've seen before.

This image taken by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) is the most detailed of Ultima Thule returned so far by the New Horizons spacecraft. It was taken at 5:01 Universal Time on January 1, 2019, just 30 minutes before closest approach from a range of 18,000 miles (28,000 kilometers), with an original scale of 730 feet (140 meters) per pixel.

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

"This flyby is a historic achievement," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "Never before has any spacecraft team tracked down such a small body at such high speed so far away in the abyss of space. New Horizons has set a new bar for state-of-the-art spacecraft navigation."

The new images -- taken from as close as 17,000 miles (27,000 kilometers) on approach -- revealed Ultima Thule as a "contact binary," consisting of two connected spheres. End to end, the world measures 19 miles (31 kilometers) in length. The team has dubbed the larger sphere "Ultima" (12 miles/19 kilometers across) and the smaller sphere "Thule" (9 miles/14 kilometers across).

The team says that the two spheres likely joined as early as 99 percent of the way back to the formation of the solar system, colliding no faster than two cars in a fender-bender.

International Notes

My consulting work continues, even as I unpack at the hovel-in-the-woods. I was on the phone for a couple of hours yesterday. There is a new exchange, called a 'crypto exchange' going in on Wall Street where people will be able to swap their cryptocurrency. If you're tired of bitcoin and want to get into Etherium, it can happen seamlessly. I'm now representing a cryptocurrency that wants to participate in the exchange. For those of you who ask what I do - it's everything from corporate intelligence, to work outside of the US on behalf of American interests, to things like this.  Meanwhile, in the larger world, there is some stuff going on that you may be interested in.


The South Korean press reported the defection of the acting North Korean ambassador to Italy and his family last month. The diplomat requested asylum from an unidentified western country.

Defections by North Korean diplomats are rare. The last was by the deputy ambassador to the UK in 2016. The Foreign Ministry requires most diplomats to leave members of their family in North Korea during their period of foreign service, essentially as hostages to safeguard against defection. That was not the case with the ambassador to Italy, whose family accompanied him. Oooops. Once they're away from the worker's paradise, they seldom return willingly. For some who arouse ire, it's a firing squad waiting for them to de-plane.

Chinese Reunification

Every so often, the PRC decides to bang the drum, rattle sabers, and threaten to invade Taiwan in order to 'peacefully reunite Chinese people'. Most people in Taiwan do not want to be part of the Great Belt Road initiative because they know what the ChiComs are selling.

On 1 January, President Xi Jinping delivered a speech in the Great Hall of the People to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the “Letter to Taiwan Compatriots” sent on 1 January 1979. The letter advocated early reunification and ordered the end of the daily Chinese artillery shelling of Jinmen (Quemoy) island. 
China reserves the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control but will strive to achieve peaceful “reunification” with the self-ruled island that has a bright future under any future Chinese rule, President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday. (Emphasis added.)
The clause “There is only one China in the world” is the opening sentence of Article 2 of China’s Anti-Secession Law of 2005.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s reply. On 2 January, the Taiwan President told reporters that Taiwan would never accept “one country, two systems” and was proud of its democratic way of life. The communists assert, in retort, that people in China are free to vote for any candidate put forward by the Communist Party - their concept for democracy.

Chinese leaders will strive to achieve peaceful reunification but will use force to prevent Taiwan from declaring its independence. Article 8 of the Anti-secession law is reproduced below.
“Article 8: In the event that the ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces should act under any name or by any means to cause the fact of Taiwan's secession from China, or that major incidents entailing Taiwan's secession from China should occur, or that possibilities for a peaceful re-unification should be completely exhausted, the state shall employ non-peaceful means and other necessary measures to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.” 
“The State Council and the Central Military Commission shall decide on and execute the non-peaceful means and other necessary measures as provided for in the preceding paragraph and shall promptly report to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.”
China is building a navy that will allow them to confront the US Navy in blue water in their efforts to bring the 'unruly province' under Beijing's direct Control.

Turkish Moves in Syria

New Turkish military reinforcements arrived in the southern province of Sanliurfa on 31 December. The reinforcements included artillery, tanks and armored personnel carriers, fuel tankers and trucks carrying weapons, ammunition and supplies.

Defense Minister Hulusi Akar called President Erdogan on Tuesday, the 1st, from the tomb of Suleyman Shah - a medieval relation of the founder of the Ottoman Empire. The tomb is, located in Syria, in the village of Ashmeh.

Akar declared “the Turkish Armed Forces assumed a mission, a responsibility, in the struggle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and we will effectively carry it out in the coming days.” 

Defense Minister Akar was in Syria when he spoke with Erdogan. The Turks have not started the often-promised offensive against the Kurdish freedom fighters east of the Euphrates River.

The US withdrawal from Syria was the right thing to do for a number of reasons laid out previously on this blog. The Syrian situation is like eight chameleons making love and the US had no part to play in the drama. Whether not the Russians or the Arabs or Persians will tolerate a resurgent Ottoman Empire remains to be seen. This whole situation has been playing out for somewhere going on 5,000 years so far.