America

Saturday, May 31, 2014

On Midrats 1 June 14 - Episode 230: "Summer Kickoff Free For All"

Please join us on 1 June 2014 at 5pm (U.S. EDT) for Midrats Episode 230: "Summer Kickoff Free For All":
Now that Summer is on the way and that there are more national security issues being produced from the South China Sea to the Dardanelles than can be consumed locally - that sounds like the perfect time for Sal from CDR Salamander and Eagle1 from EagleSpeak to hold a Midrats' "open house."

A little bit of a potpourri of what we find of interest from the latest news,to a chance for you to call in or ask via the live chat room the questions and issues you'd like to to discuss.
Yep, it's a good old fashioned "bull session" - join in live if you can at 5pm (EDT) on 1 June or pick it up later by clicking here.

Call in if you've a mind to -um- further our discussion.

Saturday is Heinlein Quote Day #10

From the Notebooks of Lazarus Long
If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion. It has long been known that one horse can run faster than another-but which one? Differences are crucial.




Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Fun Movie(s): The Battle of Midway

There are a few battles in history which are remembered as pivotal. Zama, Lepanto, Waterloo, Gettysburg, Stalingrad, Salamis, Trafalgar, El Alamein . . . Midway!





Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Things that will kill you

The Federal Center for Disease Control keeps track of how Americans die and from what causes, including Ten Leading Causes of Death and Injury. Among their charts and graphs is one titled, "Causes of Injury Death: Highlighting Unintentional Injury:"

Let's just look at the top two causes of death across all age groups -

Those blue boxes are death related to motor vehicles, which are, as you can see, the #1 or #2 cause of death for all age groups except the under 1 year category. "Unintended poisoning" (green boxes) is #1 or #2 in 5 of the age groups and is discussed by the CDC here:
Deaths from drug overdose have been rising steadily over the past two decades and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States. Every day in the United States, 105 people die as a result of drug overdose, and another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments (ED) for the misuse or abuse of drugs. Nearly 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs.

As for those motor vehicle deaths, alcohol plays a big role:


Teen drivers have a relatively higher death rate in motor vehicles:
- Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations.
- Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next). The presence of male teenage passengers increases the likelihood of this risky driving behavior.
- Among male drivers between 15 and 20 years of age who were involved in fatal crashes in 2010, 39% were speeding at the time of the crash and 25% had been drinking.
- Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use. In 2011, only 54% of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else.
Inexperience at driving coupled with inexperience at drinking can be deadly. Showing off weighs in, too.

So, why is this relevant to "disaster prep?"

Just a reminder that things you take for granted - like driving - can be hazardous,  especially as summer comes and that road trip beckons. Use your seat belts and make sure everyone in the car is buckled in. Don't drink and drive. You have to live to survive disasters.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

After A Day of Listening to the News

The White House strategy in Afghanistan. The White House response to the VA scandal. The White House response to the outing of a CIA Station Chief. The White House response to the situation in Syria.

Trotting out Grannie with her spinning wheel:



The White House response to conditions that existed when Mr. Obama took office and which have not been fixed. A "Time Machine" that makes 6 years disappear:




I keep wondering about why we don't go with more "punitive expeditions" and fewer "nation building exercises" - if a place was a mess before we got there, why is it incumbent on us to do more than to excise the bad doers and let the natives do their own thing.

A punitive expedition is a military journey undertaken to punish a state or any group of persons outside the borders of the punishing state.

Or, a noted here:
"When the territorial sovereign is too weak or is unwilling to enforce respect for international law, a state which is wronged may find it necessary to invade the territory and to chastise the individuals who violate its rights and threaten its security".

Monday, May 26, 2014

On Memorial Day

My father's next younger brother - 18 months apart. They were very close as brothers and friends.



Flew with the 75th Fighter Squadron, 23rd Fighter Group, China - Burma - India. Had at least 2 kills, I think I've seen an indication of 4.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturday is Heinlein Quote Day #9 - Memorial Day Edition




“Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day Navy and Marine Film

For the Memorial Day Weekend:

"Uncommon Valor"



I could post many, many others.

This weekend, remember those who have given their lives in the service of our country.

Non sibi sed patriae

Semper Fidelis

This We'll Defend

Fly, Fight, Win

Semper Paratus

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Roundup of Piracy, Sea Robbers, Kidnappers and Hostage Takers- 22 May 14

Be careful out there
From the good folks at the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)and their World Wide Threats to Shipping report for 22 May 14, a reminder that there is a threat to yachts, no matter where they are:
1. (U) DOMINICA: On 3 May, two men boarded a 43 foot sailing yacht moored south of Roseau and assaulted the owner and passenger onboard. One of the robbers attacked the boat owner while the other attempted to assault the passenger, who used mace on her attacker. At that point, the robbers fled the boat. The crew of the yacht untied from the mooring point in the harbor and departed the area after attempting to contact local authorities, who did not respond. (www.noonsite.com)
****
2. (U) PHILIPPINES: Two German citizens living in the Philippines were reportedly kidnapped in late April from their sailing yacht CATHERINE near Palawan Island while on an island-hopping trip, according to police and press reports. They are reportedly being held by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group, along with two other Europeans taken by the group in 2012. (www.noonsite.com, and www.abs-cbnnews.com)

More trouble in and off Nigeria:
1. (U) NIGERIA: On 13 May, two robbers boarded an anchored tanker near position 04:45N – 006:59E, Port Harcourt Anchorage. The robbers took two crewmembers hostage and threatened them with knives. The robbers released the crewmembers after stealing mooring ropes. Upon release, the crew raised the alarm and mustered on the bridge. While mustered on the bridge the crew smelled cargo gas and noticed a small craft alongside the vessel near the bow stealing cargo. Nigerian Navy contacted and ships in the vicinity warned on VHF Channel 16. The Navy responded by sending a small speed boat, which circled the vessel and then left. Robbers escaped and all crew safe. (IMB)
2. (U) SIERRA LEONE: On 5 May, two robbers armed with knives boarded
a berthed bulk carrier at position 08:29N - 013:13W, Berth No.2, Freetown Port. The robbers took hostage the duty cadet on rounds. They then stole the aft mooring ropes before releasing the cadet and escaping. On being released the cadet informed the duty officer who raised the alarm. (IMB)
3. (U) NIGERIA: On 4 May, three Dutch citizens and two Nigerian citizens were kidnapped near the settlement of Letugbene, a river community in Bayelsa State. The group was reportedly touring the area to promote work on a local hospital. They reportedly had local guides, but not an armed escort. Up to ten heavily armed bandits were involved in the kidnapping, utilizing several speedboats. The Nigerian citizens were later released, but the Dutch citizens are still being held. (Premium Times of Nigeria)
On the good news front, the NATO Shipping Center's Daily Piracy Update has this map of activity in the area where Somali pirates were once very active:
What with Chinese, U.S., NATO, EU, Japanese and other naval forces out there in the area around Somalia and the number of armed security teams riding merchant ships, the pirates finally may be outnumbered and certainly have been tamped down. Of course, it might be they are afraid of the mighty Iranian counter-piracy force which, according to the perhaps biased FARS News, has dominated the area:
“In the last three years, around 3,000 cargo ships and oil tankers have been escorted by the Navy’s commandos and vessels,” Commander of the Iranian Navy’s Missile Program Admiral Ali Vafadar told FNA.
He also said that pirates' attempts to hijack 147 cargo ships and oil tankers in international waters have been aborted due to the timely action of the Iranian warships deployed in the region.
Vafadar said that the Iranian naval forces have also managed to seize control of a number of pirate boats and vessels, arrest their crews and transferred them to Iran to stand trial for their crimes.
The Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008, when Somali raiders hijacked the Iranian-chartered cargo ship, MV Delight, off the coast of Yemen.
The Iranian navy has been developing its presence in international waters since 2010, regularly launching vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates operating in the area.
Those remarks were made in December 2013. It is interesting to take a look at Somali pirate activity in recent years. Here is a table from the ONI Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly for 22 May 2013:


The Iranians seem to be finding a lot more trouble out there than the rest of the world's naval vessels and commercial shipping.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: "Heat Emergencies"

Summer is coming. What's something to watch out for on those gloriously sunny days?

How about physical issues related to the heat - or, as the National Institute of Health refers to them "Heat Emergencies". At the extreme end of such issues, you can die. In fact, the Red Cross says:
In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods.
The best idea is to stay out of the heat.

Failing that, though, it is a good idea to have some idea of what to look for to see if the heat is getting to you or to your kids, friends, co-workers, etc.

"Heat Emergencies" come in three types:
Heat emergencies fall into three categories of increasing severity: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.

"Heat Cramps":
Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that usually occur during heavy exercise in hot environments. The spasms may be more intense and more prolonged than are typical nighttime leg cramps. Inadequate fluid intake often contributes to heat cramps.
***
If you suspect heat cramps

- Rest briefly and cool down
- Drink clear juice or an electrolyte-containing sports drink
- Practice gentle, range-of-motion stretching and gentle massage of the affected muscle group
- Don't resume strenuous activity for several hours or longer after heat cramps go away
- Call your doctor if your cramps don't go away within one hour or so
You see heat cramps during football and basketball games on hot days (on in hot gyms), when an athlete falls down, writhing in pain. Unpleasant but rarely fatal.

"Heat Exhaustion":
Heat exhaustion is a condition whose symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, a result of your body overheating.
***
Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition.

Image Source
Symptoms:
- Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- Heavy sweating
- Faintness
- Dizziness
- Fatigue
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure upon standing
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea
- Headache
Stop activity, get to a cooler spot, drink cool water or sports drinks.

"Heat Stroke":
Heatstroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures or by doing physical activity in hot weather. You are considered to have heatstroke when your body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher. High humidity, certain health problems and some medications increase your risk of heatstroke. So does being a young child or older adult.

Heatstroke is the progression of two worsening heat-related conditions. When your body overheats, you first may develop heat cramps. If you don't cool down, you may progress to symptoms of heat exhaustion, such as heavy sweating, nausea, lightheadedness and feeling faint.

Heatstroke occurs if your body temperature continues to rise. At this point, emergency treatment is needed. In a period of hours, untreated heatstroke can cause damage to your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. These injuries get worse the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death.
Symptoms:
Heatstroke symptoms include:

- High body temperature. A body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.
- A lack of sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel moist.
- Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
- Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
- Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
- Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
- Headache. You may experience a throbbing headache.
- Confusion. You may have seizures, hallucinate, or have difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying.
- Unconsciousness. You may pass out or fall into a state of deep unconsciousness (coma).
- Muscle cramps or weakness. Your muscles may feel tender or cramped in the early stages of heatstroke, but may later go rigid or limp.
Call for emergency help - in the meantime,
Take immediate action to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment.

Help the person move to a shaded location and remove excess clothing.
Place ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person's head, neck, armpits and groin.
Mist the person with water while a fan is blowing on him or her.

Also, don't forget to take care of your pets when it's hot out there. Dogs and cats are susceptible to heat stroke, too. Advice for dogs here. Advice for cats here.

Red Cross pet advice . One key for pets is to never, ever leave them in a closed car in the summer.

Some good ideas:
1. Keep plenty of cool water on hand if you plan to be out in the heat.
2. Wear a hat or other head covering.
3. Drink water before you feel the need.
4. Stay in the shade if you can. If nothing else try to work it so that you rotate to a cooler spot for part of every hour.

OSHA has a program:
To prevent heat related illness and fatalities:

- Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
- Rest in the shade to cool down.
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
- Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
- Keep an eye on fellow workers.
- "Easy does it" on your first days of work in the heat. You need to get used to it.

If workers are new to working in the heat or returning from more than a week off, and for all workers on the first day of a sudden heat wave, implement a work schedule to allow them to get used to the heat gradually.

Remember these three simple words: Water, Rest, Shade. Taking these precautions can mean the difference between life and death.
The CDC has tips:
The best defense is prevention. *** Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library–even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
Have a good summer, but be safe.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bureaucracy in Action: Lying to Please the Man

All of us struggle with layers of the government that are put in place to administer the laws that impact us.

All of us includes those on the highest seats of power.

How do activities in the bureaucracy below the palace level end up in causing so much trouble?

Well, there is this old Russian story about a clerical error that turned into much, much more.

What follows is a movie based on that tale with its music by Prokofiev. Takes about 85 minutes to watch (if the subtitles don't come up automatically, click on the "CC" thing (which you may have to go to YouTube to find).





Of course, the tale of a living man declared dead is part of Catch-22, another work poking at bureaucracy.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mixed Maritime Security News: Sea Robbers Off Singapore and China Irks the Philippines

A revival of an old sea robber locale off Singapore and Indonesia reported at Shiptalk: "New Smash and Grab Hotspot":
An Indonesian island just off Singapore has become the epicentre of a new epidemic of SE Asia piracy attacks.
Three vessels were attacked within the space of a week off the Indonesian island of Bintan, according to security consultants.
As can be seen on the nearby ICC IMB Live Piracy Map, the area around in the vicinity of Singapore has been busy all year. These are not ship hijackings, but rather mostly theft and armed robbery efforts (and most often the arms are knives). Because these attacks are located in the internal waters of one of the countries in the area they are not "high seas piracy" but rather the local crime of "sea piracy."

Meanwhile further up the South China Sea, the drumbeat of China irritating the neighborhood goes on, as well reported at USNI News: "New Chinese Outpost Riles The Philippines" by Carlo Muñoz:
A new Chinese military outpost located in the South China Sea is again inflaming tensions between Beijing and and its regional neighbors in the Pacific.


On Thursday, Manila released aerial surveillance photos of the small facility, located on the on the Johnson South Reef in the hotly-contested international waterway, according to recent reports.
Those photos are available here. They are a series of photos taken from March 2012 to March 2014 and appear to show the building of an island through use of dredged materials.



Republic of Philippines comment:
15 May 2014 - This series of photographs, which were released by the DFA and gathered from Philippine intelligence sources, shows in stages the extensive reclamation by China on Mabini Reef (Johnson South Reef). These actions are considered destabilizing and in violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and international law. Mabini Reef is part of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) which is part of Philippine territory.



Saturday, May 17, 2014

On Midrats 18 May 2014 - Episode 228: "A US Military Intellectually Geared for Defeat?"

Please join us on Sunday 18 May 14 at 5pm (EDT) for Midrats Episode 228: "A US Military Intellectually Geared for Defeat?" :
Since WWII, have we developed an officer corps that has not only developed a record of defeat, but has become comfortable with it?

Is our military leadership structurally unsound?

In his recent article, An Officer Corps That Can’t Score, author William S. Lind makes a scathing indictment of the officer corp of the United States in from the structure is works in, to its cultural and intellectual habits.

We will have the author with us for the full hour to discuss this and more about what problem he sees with our military's officers, and what recommendations he has to make it better.

Mr Lind is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism at the Free Congress Foundation, with degrees from Dartmouth College in 1969 and Princeton University.

He worked as a legislative aide for armed services for Senator Robert Taft, Jr. and Senator Gary Hart until joining the Free Congress Foundation in 1987.

Mr. Lind is author of the Maneuver Warfare Handbook (Westview Press, 1985); co-author, with Gary Hart, of America Can Win: The Case for Military Reform (Adler & Adler, 1986); and co-author, with William H. Marshner, of Cultural Conservatism: Toward a New National Agenda (Free Congress Foundation, 1987).

Mr. Lind co-authored the prescient article, "The Changing Face of War: Into the Fourth Generation," which was published in The Marine Corps Gazette in October, 1989 and which first propounded the concept of "Fourth Generation War."
Join us live at 5 pm EDT if you can or pick the show up for later listening by clicking here .

Saturday is Heinlein Quote Day #8

From Have Space Suit - Will Travel Chapter 9:
Some people insist that “mediocre” is better than “best.” They delight in clipping wings because they themselves can’t fly. They despise brains because they have none. . . .



A little more at this essay and the Charles Ives work referenced therein:



You may or may not like Ives, but he was not mediocre.




Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Fun Film: Wings of Eagles, Wings of Gold (1974)

A history of U.S. Naval Aviation from the beginning to 1974.



UPDATE: A good place to visit, The Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL.

NAS Penscola celebrates 100 years of Naval Aviation in the "Cradle."


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Funny Things

Humor and the military - the two things are vitally linked but every now and then you need a reminder.

For example, there is this photo of an LCAC entering a well deck:


Nice bit of framing an image by Gunnery Sgt. Rome M. Lazarus.

But wait - there's more. If you look at the left side of the picture, there's a red flag ("B" or "Bravo" flag meaning "I am taking in, discharging, or carrying dangerous cargo") with something on it. So, when you zoom in on that flag, you see this:


Why, that's "Dirty Harry" methinks.



Made me laugh. Reminded me of the great sailors of the U.S. Navy who manage to do things that stagger your mind and make it personal in what too many of us think of as an impersonal, lockstep military world. So, unknown LCAC master and Phibron boss, BZ for allowing some modern "nose art." And thanks for the laugh this morning.


Another bit of humor from the USNI News site "Iranian Copy of U.S. Unmanned Stealth Aircraft is a Fake":
However, unlike the original U.S. version of the aircraft, the Iranians claim their version of the Sentinel is armed—and designed to engage U.S. Navy warships at sea. Sources with knowledge of the RQ-170 design dismissed the Iranian copy as a crude mockup.

“It seems their fiberglass work has improved a lot. It also seems that if it were a functional copy, versus a detailed replica, it wouldn’t necessarily have the exact same landing gear, tires, etc,” said one source with familiar with the RQ-170.
“They would probably just use whatever extra F-5 parts or general aviation parts they had lying around.”
I have to hand it to the the Iranian disinformation group, they certainly keep trying hard.

If you missed some of the original reporting of Iran's coup in reverse-engineering, here are a couple of samples: (a) The Sydney Morning Herald and (b) International Business Times. The original FARS news report is here:
IRGC experts said the Iran-made RQ-170, similar to its original model, will be able to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions, but it has been equipped with the bombing capability as well to be able to carry out a wider range of missions.

The highly-advanced radar-evading US RQ-170 was downed by the IRGC in Western Iran more than two years ago and its indigenized model developed by Iranian experts through reverse engineering was among the most important sections of the exhibition.

The US army uses the drone for reconnaissance missions but the IRGC Aerospace experts have equipped the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) with bombing capabilities, enabling it to operate as a bomber aircraft against the US warships in any possible showdown between the two countries.
Okay, suppose the Iranians really have reverse-engineered the RQ-170? And added a "bombing capability?" While maintaining the same aircraft profile? Then, well, wowsers, they are so good we should be trembling.

But probably not.

Dirty Harry they aren't.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Family Disaster Plan - Meeting Place Planning

Most disasters probably won't strike while you and your loved ones are all gathered around at the old homestead. Instead, you may be at the office, the kids off at school (and probably different schools at that) and home is 12 miles away. How will you know that the kids are alright? Where can the family get back together? Part of any family disaster plan needs to be a plan for a meeting place after a disaster.



Good suggestions at the Pacific Disaster Center's Family Disaster Plan:
Meet with family members to discuss what to do in an emergency. Plan how your family will stay in contact if separated by disaster. Pick two meeting places: (1) a location a safe distance from your home in case of fire, and (2) a place outside your neighborhood in case you can't return home. Choose an off-island or out-of-state friend or relative as a "check-in contact" for family members to call.

Post emergency telephone numbers by every phone and put a list of the numbers in your wallet or purse. Program the numbers into cell phones.
Well, "off-island" will apply in some limited circumstances, but the point is good - make sure your kids know to call Aunt Petunia in Peoria to let her know they are safe and where they are - and you call her to check in yourself. In addition, the Red Cross has the "Safe and Well" program:
After a disaster, letting your family and friends know that you are safe and well can bring your loved ones great peace of mind. This website is designed to help make that communication easier.

If your house is on fire, it is good to have a designated spot away from the house to gather and count noses - "We will meet across the street on the Smith's front walk" is a good plan. Practice it. Remind kids not to hide in their closets. Hold fire drills.

For those bigger disasters that happen when the family is spread out, choose some location unlikely to be impacted and reachable by foot if necessary. "We'll meet at the baseball field in Disruption Park. We'll be there everyday at 10am until we know where everyone is."

More good suggestions from this commercial site How to Create a Family Emergency Meeting Place:
Meeting Place #1: Inside Your House

Where would you like your family to meet if there is an emergency such as a tornado or a shelter-in-place situation? Basements are usually the obvious choice, but if you don’t have a basement, then you’ll need to select another room. You’ll want to choose a room that no or few windows and are on the main or ground floor for safety and ease of sealing off windows.

Meeting Place #2: Directly Outside Your House

In the event of fire or other disasters that require immediate evacuation, pick a meeting place right outside your house that near the house but not next to it. The mailbox, a tree in the front yard, the sidewalk or the end of the driveway can all be a good location. It is crucial to practice evacuating to this meeting place especially with small children so that you do not have to be worried about them being trapped in the backyard.

Meeting Place #3: In your Neighborhood


If you are away from home when an emergency occurs and are not able to get back to your house – perhaps trees are down and are blocking you from your street – choose a meeting place that is in your neighborhood. It could be a friend’s house, a church, a community center, a hotel/motel or even a store that is open 24 hours. You can contact your local emergency management office to learn which buildings in your neighborhood are designated storm shelter sites, valuable especially in situations of flooding. You’ll have a safe place to go, and your family, if you are separated, will know where to call to make sure you arrived safely. A place that is within walking distance from your home is ideal.

Meeting Place #4: Out-of-Town


Hurricanes, flooding and other area-specific emergencies require an evacuation plan that asks you to leave your home and neighborhood far behind. If phone lines are down and you are separated from your family during an evacuation, you will be able to rest easy knowing that your family is headed for the same out-of-town evacuation location. Choosing this location will require some careful consideration of geographical factors: if you are evacuating from a hurricane, you’ll want to move inland. If you are evacuating from a flood or tsunami, you’ll be looking for a location at higher altitudes.
***
Once you’ve designated your four meeting places, make sure each family member has a printed copy of the locations, the addresses and the phone and email addresses to those locations. Ask that they put a copy in their emergency backpacks, send a copy to their email and download a copy to their portable flash drives.
It is also a good idea to check with your neighbors to see what their plans are and asking that if things go real south if they would mind looking after your children if necessary.

Cell phones may or may not be working right after a disaster, so it is important not to plan to rely on them solely as your system for finding your kith and kin.

Planning ahead may help to ease some of the stress of post-disaster recovery. And to drive home the point, Family Communications has a link to Family Communication Plan for Parents and Kids pdfs that you can use to assemble your plan. :

Complete a contact card for each adult family member. Have them keep these cards handy in a wallet, purse or briefcase, etc. Additionally, complete contact cards for each child in your family. Put the cards in their backpacks or book bags.

Check with your children’s day care or school. Facilities designed for children should include identification planning as part of their emergency plans.
***
Be sure every member of your family knows the phone number and has a cell phone, coins or a prepaid phone card to call the emergency contact. If you have a cell phone, program that person(s) as "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phone. If you are in an accident, emergency personnel will often check your ICE listings in order to get a hold of someone you know. Make sure to tell your family and friends that you’ve listed them as emergency contacts.

Teach family members how to use text messaging (also known as SMS or Short Message Service). Text messages can often get around network disruptions when a phone call might not be able to get through.
Let's leave this with a Robert Heinlein quote from Have Spacesuit - Will Travel:
There is no such thing as luck; there is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.
Such statistics include the odds of being involved in a disaster of some sort. Be adequately prepared.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gulf of Guinea Piracy: US and Turkey Plan Action to Assist in Beating "The World's Most Violent Pirates"

Report from Nigeria's Business Day, "US moves to curb oil theft, piracy in Gulf of Guinea"
As part of its determination to help Nigeria curb the incidence of pirate attacks and sea robbery on Nigerian bound ships, the government of United States of America, is concluding arrangements to actively assist Nigeria and her West African neighbours in line with its bi-national commission agreement with Nigerian government.

Consequent upon this, the US government has also perfected plans to hand over another warship to Nigerian Navy so as to complement the joint efforts of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Nigerian Navy in the fight against illegalities in the nation’s territorial waterways.

Presenting a welcome address to the visiting Senate and House Committee members on Marine Transport in the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington DC at the weekend, Ade Adefuye, who disclosed that Nigeria is receiving a lot of corporation from America to boost regional and internal security challenges that are confronting the nation’s economy, said that Nigeria would before the end of May, take delivery of another warship from America to complement the NNS thunder that was given to Nigerian Navy in the past.
***
In addition to this, Gyang Pwajok, a member of the delegates, who expressed worries over the rising incidences of illegal oil bunkering as well as oil theft in the Gulf of Guinea, also solicited for the support of American Government in putting an end to the illegal act that has been eating deep into the nation’s economy.

“Nigeria needs international collaboration from countries to put an end to the
2014 GoG Piracy from IMB Live Piracy Map
existing markets for stolen oils. This is because if there is no market for stolen oil, the perpetrators of the ugly acts would have no choice other than to put an end to it. And in doing this, it would create an avenue for Nigerians to effectively enjoy the nation’s natural resources,” the senator added.
From Nigeria's Daily Independent "Turkish Navy Vows to Tackle Piracy on Nigerian Waters":
The Turkish Maritime Task Group has expressed desire to work with the Nigerian Navy personnel to tackle the criminal and unpatriotic activities and operations of pirates in Nigeria.
***
The Turkish Naval commander further disclosed that the objectives of the visit were to support the on-going efforts of these African countries in tackling piracy, contribute to the safety of sea lines of communication, conduct presence operations in oceans around the African continent.

Also, the visit will afford the Turkish Naval personnel the opportunity to contribute ideas and suggestions that could help in tackling piracy, maritime insecurity and other forms of criminalities in Nigeria’s maritime sector.

The Turkish Navy is also to exhibit Turkish national defence products and carry out humanitarian activities around Apapa in Lagos during the period of the visit.
Recently there has been an upsurge in reports of the violent tendency of Gulf of Guinea pirates and sea robbers. Let's look at this by going back ten years to this 2004 article: Piracy report says Nigerian waters the most deadly:
Nigerian waters were the most deadly in the world during the first half of 2004 according to a new piracy report. Analysts blame the proliferation of weapons in the oil-rich Niger Delta region where armed gangs trade stolen crude.

The Malaysia-based International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said on Monday that half of the 30 deaths recorded in pirate attacks around the world between 1 January and 30 June occurred in Nigerian territorial waters.

In terms of the number of attacks, Nigeria ranked third with 13 attacks, behind Indonesia (50) and the Malacca Straits (20).

"Both the increased number of attacks in this area and the degree of violence being used is of grave concern and we will be putting pressure on the Nigerians to step up anti-piracy measures," IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said in a statement.

Industry watchers, like Gbenga Olumide of oil research firm Rigs Concerns, say Nigeria's growing prominence for piracy can be traced back to oil, the country's economic lifeblood and the large-scale theft of crude oil which is sold to vessels offshore.

"The trade has in turn funded further arms procurement and been behind the spawning of a wide range of criminal activities, including sea piracy," Olumide told IRIN on Tuesday.
Now, to this 2014 report from James Bridger at USNI News, The World’s Most Violent Pirates:
West Africa is home to the world’s most violent pirates—who are now capable of overwhelming armed guards. Last month pirates killed a crewmember during an attack on German-owned oil tanker. Instead of fighting off the pirates, the embarked security team retreated to the ship’s citadel safe room.

For the shipping and insurance worlds, the widespread adoption of armed guards aboard vessels essentially “solved” Somali piracy, as no vessel employing them has been hijacked by pirates. An attempt to transfer this panacea to the pirate-prone waters of West Africa, however, has proved inadequate and ill-suited to local conditions.

On the night of April 29 pirates attacked SP Brussels about 35 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria. Local security forces guarding the vessel were unable to prevent the pirates from boarding and retreated to ship’s citadel along with the crew. The guards did not emerge until the following morning, only to find that the ship’s chief engineer had been killed and another crewmember injured; they failed to reach the citadel.

That incident and others like it highlight three important issues that distinguish West African maritime crime from that in other parts of the world.

First are the distinctive operating environment, in which international naval patrols are absent; the limited response capacity of regional security forces; and the prohibition on the use of foreign armed guards.

Second is the uniquely violent nature of Nigerian pirates and their propensity to engage in shootouts with security forces.

Finally, there are the multiple shortcomings of using local armed guards aboard vessels and the inherent danger the shipping industry faces in being overly reliant on that measure.
Well, as the last article points out, to beat the pirates you need:
  1.  To have adequate arms and well trained honest men sufficient to fight back;
  2.  A legal and political environment that allows strong counter-pirate action;
  3.  A non-corrupt counter-piracy local team in the government.

Sadly, Nigeria, and the GoG region in general, seem to lack these elements.

Further, as Gyang Pwajok stated above, you need to close out the market for stolen oil.

Without major changes, I expect that in another 10 years this blog post will be repeated.

By the way, Nigeria provides about 5% of US oil imports, Europe took 44% of Nigeria's oil exports, and is Turkey's fifth largest trade partner in Africa including natural gas and petroleum products. The impact on the people of Nigeria, according to the U.S. EIA:
Nigeria's oil and natural gas resources are the mainstay of the country's economy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that oil and natural gas export revenue accounted for 96% of total export revenue in 2012. For 2013, Nigeria's budget is framed on a reference oil price of $79 per barrel, providing a wide safety margin in case of price volatility. Savings generated when oil revenues exceed budgeted revenues are placed into the Excess Crude Account (ECA), which can then be drawn down in years when oil revenues are below budget, according to the IMF.
According to this site, Nigeria ranks as the 33rd most corrupt country in the world (144/177 with #1 being least corrupt Denmark).

The other 32 must be real gems.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Saturday is Heinlein Quote Day #7

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a
Drill Press
Dwight Clark Shepler
Oil on canvas, 1945 from Navy Art Collection
ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

— Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love
Some of the things above you could learn from mom.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Friday Fun Film: "Naval Adviser in Vietnam" (1968)

Hey there, young stud - wanna an "interesting" tour of duty? In the late 1960's there were openings for Naval Advisers to the South Vietnamese Navy. These jobs probably offered up some unusual experiences for those who partook.

The following film was part of their indoctrination. You might note the dubbed in rotor noise during the dialogue of the air tours . . . anyway, it's Friday - welcome to Vietnam!



There are some words from the much later movie Good Morning Vietnam that you might want to keep in mind, though they don't seem to have been mentioned in quite the same terms in the Navy film:

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Sea Piracy: The Value of Trained Armed Private Security Teams


Indian Ocean/Strait of Malacca Area Piracy as of 8 May 2104


Ripped from the pages of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence's Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 29 March – 30 April 2014, these reports might give an indication of why piracy is down off Somalia:
1. (U) GULF OF ADEN: On 17 April, five armed persons in a skiff approached an underway bulk carrier near position 12:24 N –043:42 E, approximately 21 nm southeast of Perim Island, Yemen. The ship’s master raised alarm, mustered the crew, increased speed and charged fire hoses. The onboard security team fired flares, but the skiff continued its approach. At a distance of 0.15nm a ladder was sighted in the skiff and the security team showed their weapons, resulting in the skiff aborting the attempt and moving away. (IMB)

2. (U) GULF OF ADEN: On 14 April, seven persons armed with an RPG in a white-and blue skiff approached an oil tanker near position 12:25 N – 043:43 E, south of the Bab El Mandeb Strait in the Gulf of Aden. The ship’s master raised the alarm, sounded ship’s whistle, activated fire hoses, and fired two warning flares. When the armed embarked security team displayed their weapons, the skiff departed the area. The security team reported observing a ladder on the skiff during the incident. (IMB)

3. (U) YEMEN: On 13 April, four persons in a skiff approached an underway chemical tanker near position 13:58 N – 055:32 E, approximately 106 nm northeast of Socotra Island, Yemen. The master raised alarm, increased speed, and mustered the non-essential crew members in the citadel. As the skiff closed to four cables, the armed embarked security team fired a warning shot, which resulted in the skiff departing the area. The security team reported observing a ladder on the skiff during the incident. (IMB)

4. (U) GULF OF ADEN: On 5 April, five persons in a skiff approached an underway chemical tanker near position 12:35 N – 043:26 E, Bab El Mandeb Strait in the Gulf of Aden. The master raised the alarm, altered course, and directed non-essential crew members to muster in a safe room. When the skiff got to within a third of a nautical mile of the tanker, the armed embarked security team fired a warning shot, which resulted in the skiff departing the area. (IMB)

5. (U) OMAN: On 5 April, two skiffs and a dhow approached a merchant vessel to within 300 meters near position 2015 N – 05902 E, approximately 15 nm from Masirah Island, Oman. When an armed embarked security team fired warning shots, the skiffs turned away. (NATO Shipping Centre)

H. (U) PERSIAN GULF: No current incidents to report.
Obviously, the armed private security teams are valuable, especially in conjunction with the naval forces in the area and the continued use of convoys in the region.

Worth comparing are the following hijackings and cargo thefts (previously noted here:
6. (U) MALAYSIA: On 22 April, up to ten heavily armed pirates boarded and hijacked the product tanker, MT NANIWA MARU No 1, near position 02:59 N – 100:54 E, 3 nm west-northwest of One Fathom Bank, near Port Klang. The pirates pumped out 3 million liters of the
4.5 million liters of diesel carried by the tanker into two waiting vessels and then made off with three Indonesian crew members, including the captain and chief engineer. (IMB, gCaptain, www.theguardian.com)
***
12. (U) MALAYSIA: On 17 April, 16 armed pirates boarded and hijacked an underway product tanker near position 01:59 N – 104:25 E, 26 nm south-southwest of Pulau Aur. The pirates then transferred part of the fuel cargo into smaller unknown tankers. Crew and ship properties were stolen and ship communication equipment damaged. Master and crew managed to repair the damage and proceed to a safe port. (IMB)
The countries adjacent to the Strait of Malacca tend to -um- discourage armed private security teams. Since that water is also their territorial waters, that is their privilege.

Map at the top is but a part of the information provided by the ICC Commercial Crime Services' International Maritime Bureau, a very worthy organization.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

South China Sea: China and Vietnam Heat Up the Waters

Headlines read Vietnam and China face off in South China Sea:
Vietnam said on Wednesday a Chinese vessel intentionally rammed two of its ships in a part of the disputed South China Sea where Beijing has deployed a giant oil rig, sending tensions spiraling in the region.

The foreign ministry in Hanoi said the collisions took place on Sunday and caused considerable damage to the Vietnamese ships. Six people sustained minor injuries, it said.

"On May 4, Chinese ships intentionally rammed two Vietnamese Sea Guard vessels," said Tran Duy Hai, a foreign ministry official and deputy head of Vietnam's national border committee.

"Chinese ships, with air support, sought to intimidate Vietnamese vessels. Water cannon was used," he told a news conference in Hanoi. Six other ships were also hit, other officials said, but not as badly.

Dozens of navy and coastguard vessels from both countries are in the area where China has deployed the giant rig, Vietnamese officials have said.

"No shots have been fired yet," said a Vietnamese navy official, who could not be identified because he was not authorized to speak to media. "Vietnam won't fire unless China fires first."

By the way, this may not the first time that Vietnam and China have had a set to over an offshore oil rig. Way back in 1983, there was tension between the two countries over off-shore drilling. The clipping to the left reports on part of the issue.

More on the Glomar Java Sea here.

UPDATE: You can review the pdf of the U.S. Coast Guard report on the loss of Glomar Java Sea here. Some of you may recall there were questions of whether a Vietnamese vessel had rammed the vessel at some point, perhaps weakening its hull and contributing to its loss. There were also reports that some of the crew had been taken ashore. The CG report addressed some of these issues at page 19:


UPDATE2: Vietnam's side of the story:

The information was released by Rear Admiral Ngo Ngoc Thu, vice commander of the Viet Nam Marine Police at the international press conference in Ha Noi on Wednesday afternoon.

He said that Chinese ships intentionally crashed into and caused damages to the vessels of the Vietnamese marine police and fisheries surveillance force right in Viet Nam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf though the Vietnamese forces exercised restraint over the perverse acts of Chinese ships.

The rear admiral also showed footage provided by the Vietnamese fisheries surveillance force of a Vietnamese boat being besieged by Chinese ships during a clash. Mr. Thu said six Vietnamese people have been injured.

Speaking at the press conference, Spokesperson of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Hai Binh said that China’s acts violate Viet Nam’s sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Southeast Asian country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf as stipulated in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Earlier on May 6, Deputy PM, FM Pham Binh Minh made a phone call to Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi after China illegally deployed a drilling rig and vessels in the oil and gas lot 143 belonging to Viet Nam’s continental shelf since May 1.

Deputy PM, FM Minh stressed that China’s unilateral deployment of the drilling rig HD-981 and a large number of vessels, even military ones, in this area is illegal, runs counter to the international law and practices, seriously violates Viet Nam’s sovereignty over Hoang Sa archipelago and sovereign right and jurisdiction over Viet Nam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

This act negatively impacts mutual political trust and cooperation aspects between the two countries and hurts the Vietnamese people’s sentiment.

Viet Nam cannot accept and resolutely protests the China’s act and demands China totally withdraw the drilling rig HD-981 as well as escort vessels from this area, together with Viet Nam to join talks to handle the related differences.

UPDATE3: More here. Photos of action are from Vietnamese Marine Police.

UPDATE4: Good stuff at USNI News.

Disaster Prep Wednesday: "Turn Around Don't Drown"

Seems like every super heavy rain storm that creates street flooding comes with a few things:
(1) People who insist in driving into water that is clearly too deep to successfully cross, or who really don't know what they are driving into;
(2) A smaller collection of thrill seekers who insist on driving their four wheelers through flooded streets, for the thrill of the "big splash" they create; and
(3) A television crew nearby capturing these folks as they hit the water.

So, here's the question: "is it safe do drive through flooded streets?"

Well, probably not. As noted at NOAA's Turn Around Don't Drown:
Each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other severe weather related hazard. The Centers for Disease Control report that over half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters.Why? The main reason is people underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded.

Solution?
Most flood-related deaths and injuries could be avoided if people who come
Source - Times (UK)
upon areas covered with water followed this simple advice: Turn Around Don't Drown®.


The reason that so many people drown during flooding is because few of them realize the incredible power of water. A mere six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes only two feet of rushing water to carry away most vehicles. This includes pickups and SUVs.

If you come to an area that is covered with water, you will not know the depth of the water or the condition of the ground under the water. This is especially true at night, when your vision is more limited.

Play it smart, play it safe. Whether driving or walking, any time you come to a flooded road, Turn Around Don't Drown®



Pretty good description of wrong thinking on the part of drivers here:
Why do vehicles float? They float for the same reason a 97,000 ton aircraft carrier floats, buoyancy!

Where does this idea that "my heavy vehicle will keep me safe" come from? It comes from the false trust in the weight of the vehicle you are driving.

Many believe their 3,000 pound or more vehicle will remain in contact with the road surface, that it is too heavy to float. Think about that for a moment. Aircraft carriers weighing 97,000 tons float.

Vehicles, including ships, float because of buoyancy. In fact, most cars can be swept away in 18-24 inches of moving water. Trucks and SUVs do not fare much better with an additional 6-12 inches of clearance.

Your car is not USS Eisenhower, but it can still float!
Flood waters will recede eventually. The results of heading into flood waters? They may last a shortened life time.