Disarmament group calls on Canada to ban exports of military drone tech used by Turkey

A Canadian NGO is calling on Ottawa to ban exports of Canadian-produced sensors and laser targeting technology used by Turkish military drones deployed by Ankara across several conflict zones in the Middle East and Libya.

Disarmament group Project Ploughshares says the multimillion-dollar exports of high-tech sensors and targeting technology produced by L3Harris WESCAM in Burlington, Ont., are in direct contravention of Canada’s domestic laws and its international obligations under the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), to which the Trudeau government acceded almost exactly a year ago.

In a major report released Tuesday, Project Ploughshares says “Canada’s export of WESCAM sensors to Turkey poses a substantial risk of facilitating human suffering, including violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

The report also alleges that the Turkish military “has committed serious breaches of international humanitarian law and other violations, particularly when conducting airstrikes” with the assistance of its Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

A ‘callous disregard for civilian lives’

“During recent operations, Turkish security forces have been repeatedly accused of indiscriminate airstrikes and targeting of civilians and civilian sites such as hospitals, schools, cultural locations and critical infrastructure,” the report says.

“Reports from international human rights monitors show that recent Turkish operations demonstrate ‘an utterly callous disregard for civilian lives, launching unlawful deadly attacks in residential areas that have killed and injured civilians.'”

It appears that Turkey also has exported UAVs equipped with WESCAM sensors to armed groups in Libya, which would be a blatant breach of the nearly decade-old UN arms embargo, the report adds.

L3Harris WESCAM, the Canadian subsidiary of U.S. defence giant L3Harris, is one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of electro-optical/infra-red (EO/IR) imaging and targeting sensor systems, with approximately $500 million in annual exports, according to the Project Ploughshares report.

Canadian tech critical to Turkish drones: NGO

These WESCAM imaging and targeting sensor systems — which basically allow drone operators to see what’s happening on the ground and paint targets for airstrikes, either by the drone’s own missiles or by other aircraft — are critical to Turkey’s ability to produce military drones, said Kelsey Gallagher, a Project Ploughshares researcher and the author of the report.

“These sensors are integral for their ability to conduct drone warfare, which they’ve done increasingly … in the past few years across several conflict zones,” Gallagher told Radio Canada International. “If the exports of these sensors were completely halted, then Turkey would not have the sensors necessary to conduct modern airstrikes.”

Turkey has been working on developing its own sensors and targeting systems but they are too heavy to be placed on Turkish-produced drones, making continued exports of WESCAM sensors a matter of national security from Ankara’s perspective, Gallagher said.

The export of these WESCAM sensor systems has continued despite Ottawa’s freeze of defence exports to Turkey, which was announced in October of 2019 after Ankara’s incursion into Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria, Gallagher said.

At the time, Global Affairs Canada said Turkey’s “unilateral action risks undermining the stability of an already fragile region, exacerbating the humanitarian situation and rolling back progress achieved by the Global Coalition Against Daesh, of which Turkey is a member.”

Gallagher said exports of WESCAM sensors nearly stopped in the early part of 2020 but increased again in spring, even as Canada extended its freeze on most arms exports to Turkey in April.

“This corresponds with some communication between the government of Canada and the government of Turkey that was reported to deal with an exemption on WESCAM systems specifically,” Gallagher said.

“As far as we understand, all other arms export permits [to Turkey] are still understood to be under a presumption of denial … with the exception of WESCAM.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, welcomes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau specifically discussed the issue of WESCAM exports to Turkey with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a phone conversation in April, according to sources who spoke with Radio Canada International on condition of anonymity.

Officials at the Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment on the issue, pointing only to the readout of a phone conversation between Trudeau and Erdogan on Apr. 23. That readout deals mostly with both countries’ response to the pandemic and only mentions cryptically that the two leaders also “discussed the trade and economic relationship between the two countries.”

The Turkish arms company Baykar Defence, one of the principal producers of military drones that use WESCAM sensors and targeting systems, also hired an Ottawa lobbyist to raise the issue with Canadian officials.

According to the website of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada, the lobbyist hired by the Turkish arms maker met with a high-ranking Canadian official in the Privy Council Office on Feb. 12, 2020.

Officials at the Turkish embassy in Ottawa referred questions about conversations between Trudeau and Erdogan back to the Prime Minister’s Office. They also dismissed the Project Ploughshares report’s allegations as “completely false.”

“We completely reject any accusations against Turkey that are in that report,” the embassy said. “They are completely not true, they are completely false.”

‘Propaganda of a terrorist organization’

The embassy said Turkey’s operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — known by the acronym PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê) — its Syrian offshoot the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the PYD’s military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), were completely justified under international law because PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., EU and Canada.

The embassy said it “completely rejected any claims it has violated international humanitarian law.”

“This is just propaganda of a terrorist organization,” the embassy said, adding that Turkey takes “utmost care” to avoid civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq.

The embassy did not, however, deny claims that Turkey has provided military assistance, including drones, to the internationally recognized government of Libya.

“In Libya, Turkey is supporting the legitimate government against a warlord, [Khalifa] Haftar, and this is in line with the international law,” the embassy said.

John Babcock, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said Canada has one of the strongest export controls systems in the world and protection of human rights is enshrined in Canadian export controls legislation.

“Canada will consider on a case-by-case basis whether there are exceptional circumstances, including but not limited to NATO cooperation programs, that might justify issuing an export permit for military items,” Babcock said in an emailed statement.

“All new permit applications for controlled items, regardless of the destination, will continue to be reviewed under Canada’s robust risk assessment framework, including against the Arms Trade Treaty criteria, which are enshrined in Canada’s Export and Import Permits Act.”

Global Affairs Canada does not comment on individual permits or permit applications, he added.

“We have an obligation to protect confidential information about the commercial activities of individual companies,” Babcock said.

Officials with L3Harris WESCAM did not respond to Radio Canada International’s request for comment in time for publication.

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Macquarie Group, Commonwealth Bank face fresh money laundering scrutiny after ICIJ data leak


The three banks at the centre of the “FinCEN Files” leak: Bank of New York Mellon (BNY), Barclays and Standard Charted, all filed the reports with anti-money laundering authorities in the US as part of their reporting requirements.

Banks around the world are required to report suspicious transactions to anti-money laundering regulators to stamp out dirty money dealings, including the funding of terrorism and organised crime activities, such as drug dealing and tax evasion.

It is not clear whether the Australian banks reported the transactions to the local money laundering regulator AUSTRAC. Anti-money laundering laws dictate that any payment over $10,000 must be reported to authorities as potentially suspicious as well as transactions that are indicative of potential crimes, such as an account making several smaller payments to avoid the $10,000 detection threshold.

CBA settled a massive civil case brought by AUSTRAC over the bank’s failure to report suspicious transactions for $700 million in 2018. It is not clear whether the transactions included in the ICIJ report formed part of the financial intelligence agency’s case.

Macquarie has faced no court action from AUSTRAC and a senior executive with the bank, Greg Ward, said in 2019 that it had no outstanding matters with the local money-laundering regulator.

The CBA payments detail the global reach of Australia’s largest bank. BNY flagged seven payments totalling $US90,000 to CBA account holders from the Primorye Bank, located in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, near the border with North Korea.

BNY also flagged eight payments totalling $US77,800 to CBA accounts from the Kazakhstan Bank CenterCredit. The New York bank also flagged a $US41,180 payment that a CBA account holder received from Latvian bank BlueOrange (named in the data under its former trading name Baltikums Bank). Payments from Deustche Bank’s Czech arm to CBA totalling over $US40 million were also flagged by BNY.

The cache also shows a large number of potentially structured transactions sent from Barclay’s Hong Kong arm to CBA in 2016 and from UK bank NatWest’s arm in the tax haven of Gibraltar.

BNY flagged 94 possibly suspicious transactions involving Macquarie in 2016. This included a report on nine transactions flowing from Macquarie to Citibank’s Singapore office totalling $US55.8 million and another seven transactions to the same bank totalling $US48 million.

BNY also flagged 76 payments totalling $US17.9 million from Macquarie to Barclays in Britain and two payments from National Australia Bank to a Macquarie account holder totalling more than $US1.5 million. BNY also flagged four transactions totalling nearly $US500,000 flowing from CBA to current AUSTRAC target Westpac.

A spokesman for CBA said the bank worked closely with law enforcement bodies and due to regulations it could not share the information about any particular customer.

“We are committed to ensuring that we take appropriate steps to identify, mitigate and manage the money laundering and terrorism financing risk that we face in conducting our business.”

“We recognise that we play a critical role in protecting our customers and the community from the risks associated with money laundering and terrorism financing.”

A spokeswoman for Macquarie said: “While it is unlawful to comment on the specifics of suspicious activity reporting, as a global financial institution, Macquarie is committed to helping prevent the use of the financial system to facilitate illegal activity and has invested in systems and people to detect, prevent and report any activity of a suspicious nature, working closely with government agencies around the world.

“This includes comprehensive self-reporting of transactions to relevant regulators. Macquarie is also a founding member of the Fintel Alliance, the public-private partnership sponsored by AUSTRAC bringing together intelligence and enforcement agencies and industry in the fight against financial crime.”

A spokeswoman for AUSTRAC said it is aware of reporting by ICIJ but did not comment on operational matters or provide specific information regarding suspicious matter reports.

“Under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act), reporting entities are required by law to identify, mitigate and manage the risk of their business, products or services being exploited by criminals, and report to AUSTRAC.”

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An earlier version of this article presented the figures included in the ICIJ report in Australian dollars. It has now been corrected to show the figures in US dollars.

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SuperCoach Racing: What are the Group 1 races in the first three rounds of the autumn carnival?, SuperCoach, Racing, autumn carnival, horse racing, group 1 races, horses to watch, first three rounds

With SuperCoach Racing back for the autumn, forecasting who’ll nominate let alone accept for the big Group 1 races throughout March and April can be a tricky task.

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It all comes down to campaign management; a stable, along with the ownership group, will pick and choose their path through the carnival pending the results while other factors may include the field and prize money on offer.

While there are some repeat entries throughout, today we outline Rounds 1-3 of SuperCoach Racing and the big names to look out for the autumn season.

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Myanmar soldiers confess to mass murder of Rohingya Muslims in new video: rights group

The footage of the soldiers would represent the first admission by members of Myanmar’s military that a campaign of violence against the minority ethnic group took place in the country’s western Rakhine State. That campaign has previously been described by the United Nations and human rights organizations as having the “hallmarks of genocide.”

The video confessions of Private Myo Win Tun and Private Zaw Naing Tun were filmed in July by the Arakan Army, a rebel group currently in combat with the Myanmar military, and released by the non-government organization Fortify Rights, which says it has analyzed the footage and found it to be credible.

“We destroyed the Muslim villages near Taung Bazar village. We implemented the clearance operations in the night-time as per the command to ‘shoot all that you see and that you hear.’ We buried a total number of 30 dead bodies in one grave,” said Myo Win Tun in his video statement.

CNN has not been able to independently confirm the veracity of the video. It’s unclear if the men made the video confessions under duress, after having been captured, or if they surrendered as deserters.

The two soldiers are believed to now be in the Hague at the International Criminal Court where an investigation into the Rohingya crisis is underway.

“This is a monumental moment for Rohingya and the people of Myanmar in their ongoing struggle for justice,” Matthew Smith, the chief executive officer of Fortify Rights, said in a statement.

CNN has reached out to the Myanmar government and the Arakan Army for comment on the videos and the admissions made by the two soldiers.

From 2016, there have been reports of a campaign of mass violence by Myanmar’s military in the country’s Western Rakhine state, specifically targeting the Muslim minority Rohingya. More than 740,000 refugees poured across the border into Bangladesh, bringing with them allegations of indiscriminate killing, rape and property destruction.
The Myanmar government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, has vehemently denied the allegations, telling the International Court of Justice in December 2019 that the claims were “incomplete and misleading.”

It maintains the “clearance operations” by the military in Rakhine were legitimate counter-terrorism measures which began in response to a Rohingya attack on a border post which killed nine police officers. Myanmar has denied allegations of brutality.

Myanmar considers the one million or so Rohingya as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, despite the fact that many Rohingya families have lived in Rakhine state for generations.

But a UN fact-finding commission described the violence against the Rohingya as “genocide.” Doctors Without Borders has estimated that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed within the first month of the campaign alone, including 730 children under the age of 5.

Admission of rape

In the two videos released by Fortify Rights, filmed against a dark green plastic sheet, the two uniformed men describe in a matter-of-fact way how they were given orders to kill all Rohingya villagers.

Myo Win Tun said that he was sent on a night raid of a Muslim village in Buthidaung Township in August 2017, where officers told him to kill everyone in order to ensure that the Rohingya “race will be exterminated.”

After destroying the first village, the soldier said his unit of 10 then stayed in the area for two weeks, razing other nearby settlements. “We buried a total of 30 dead bodies in one grave … eight women, seven children, 15 men and elderly,” Myo Win Tun said in the video.

He said his unit raped women before shooting them and admits to raping one woman himself. “We shot and buried people in village after village. It would be around 60 to 70 people in total,” Myo Win Tun said.

In Zaw Naing Tun’s video, he admitted to working with the 353th Light Infantry Battalion to wipe out “about 20 Muslim villages.” “We shot dead and wiped them out according to the order to kill all, irrespective of children or adults,” he said in the video.

Zaw Naing Tun said they had buried about 80 Muslim villagers in mass graves, stealing money, gold and mobile phones from their shops and houses after killing them, among other items. He also said he stood watch while his superiors raped women.

No member of the Myanmar military has previously admitted to widespread violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine state in 2016 and 2017. Very few members of the military have been prosecuted for killings in the region — seven soldiers were imprisoned in Myanmar in 2018 for a massacre at Inn Din village in Western Rakhine state, after it was exposed by Reuters.
An investigation by Myanmar released in January found that some war crimes had been committed in Rakhine state, however it added prosecutions were ongoing and there was no “genocidal intent.”

International Criminal Court

Shortly after the alleged confessions were filmed, the two soldiers appeared on the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar in August.

Fortify Rights said that it believes the two soldiers from the videos are now in the custody of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Dutch city of The Hague, potentially opening the possibility for their testimony to be used in a future case against the Myanmar government.

“These men could be the first perpetrators from Myanmar tried at the ICC, and the first insider witnesses in the custody of the court. We expect prompt action,” CEO Smith said in a statement.

The ICC would not confirm to CNN that Zaw Naing Tun and Myo Win Tun were in custody.

“The ICC investigation is a confidential matter, all I can confirm is that two individuals appeared at a border post in Bangladesh, requested protection and confessed to mass murder and rape of Rohingya civilians during the 2017 clearance operations in Rakhine State,” said Payam Akhavan, International legal counsel for Bangladesh and a former UN prosecutor.

A still image of a video filmed by the Arakan Army in July with Myanmar Private Zaw Naing Tun.

“They claimed to have been members of the Myanmar military forces during that period and acting on orders from senior military commanders. Bangladesh informed the International Criminal Court, consistent with its obligations … I am not able to confirm either their identity or their location,” he said.

One Rohingya still inside Rakhine state, who asked to use the pseudonym Edin Hussein to avoid future persecution, said that the videos were a huge development which had made people “extremely happy.”

“We have no words to describe how much we are happy that the two former militaries will be in ICJ to confess all the atrocities committed against Rohingyas by (the Myanmar military),” he said.

“Our people could not collect much evidence as they were shooting us on sight and most of our people rather had to flee and save life than facing the guns … Finally we see a hope that the genocidaires will get punished for their crimes.”

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Ageing lobby group invests in controversial aged-care app Mable

‘If we’re going to clean up aged care, we need to be frank and fearless, and how can you be frank and fearless if you’re not truly independent?’

Ian Yates Chief Executive of COTA (Image: AAP/James Elsby)

The Council on the Ageing (COTA) is a not-for-profit organisation whose core mission is to stand up for the rights, interests and futures of older Australians.  

So why is it investing in an aged care app that some experts say should be banned because it puts older people at risk? 

COTA is a relatively small investor in Mable, an Uber-like tech company that boasts it is disrupting the aged care sector by linking carers directly with clients. 

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Costa Group 1st half results announced

Australia’s leading grower, packer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables today announced its financial results for the half year ended 28th June 2020 (1HCY20). Presentation materials for the investor and analyst webcast and conference call to be hosted by Costa commencing at 10:00am today have been lodged with ASX. These materials can also be accessed at http://investors.costagroup.com.au/Investor-Centre/

Key Headlines
• Australian operations now recovered from weather and drought challenges of late CY19 and 1HCY20.

• Strong performance from International segment. EBITDA-SL growth of 98% versus 1HCY19.

• Broad based forward momentum in Australian portfolio into 2HCY20 with market conditions showing sizable improvement driving increased earnings.

• High water security achieved across all sites.

• 1HCY20 financial impact from drought estimated at circa $15m EBITDA-SL in Tomato and Berry categories. Crops recovered to full yield by May, with new Corindi (NSW) raspberry crops coming on stream from mid – August and blackberry crop from mid – October.

• Strong retail mushroom demand throughout half, complemented by Monarto facility expansion fully commissioned in July and meeting production targets.

• As previously flagged, citrus season volume lower than normal plus quality impact from hail storm of late CY19.

• Strong citrus export and domestic demand and pricing with encouraging expectations for balance of season.

• Aggregate market conditions favourable across our core product portfolio versus prior period. Supports our view of positive financial outcomes in 2HCY20.

• Improved leverage of 1.66x, with strong balance sheet and cashflow generation.

• Strategy and investment profile supports business resilience, sustained growth and long term shareholder returns.

To view the full announcment, click here.

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Embattled SoftBank renews talks on taking the group private, FT reports

SoftBank Group Corp executives are considering taking the Japanese technology group private as the company seeks a new strategy after disposing of several large assets, the Financial Times reported https://on.ft.com/2ZAauvz on Sunday.

The signs of SoftBank Group Corp. and SoftBank Corp. are displayed at their new headquarters building during a press preview in Tokyo, Japan September 9, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

REUTERS: SoftBank Group Corp executives are considering taking the Japanese technology group private as the company seeks a new strategy after disposing of several large assets, the Financial Times reported https://on.ft.com/2ZAauvz on Sunday.

The discussions are driven by frustrations over the continuous discount in SoftBank’s equity valuation compared with the value of its individual holdings, which continues even after an asset sale programme tried to close that gap, the FT said, citing people familiar with the matter.

A SoftBank spokeswoman declined to comment on the FT report when contacted by Reuters.

Shares in SoftBank, which is led by billionaire Masayoshi Son, on the Tokyo Stock Exchange are down a little over 10per cent so far in 2020 and are trading at 1,307.50 yen. This is a steeper fall than Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index and below the 1,500 price at which it sold units in its 2018 initial public offing (IPO).

The IPO nearly two years ago, still Japan’s biggest-ever stock market listing, was widely regarded at the time as finalizing the group’s transition from domestic telecommunications company to a monolithic global tech investor.

Yet since then SoftBank has faced a host of challenges including losses on investments made by its US$100 billion Vision Fund, activist pressure from hedge fund Elliott Management and questions regarding significant option purchases during the recent run-up in the U.S. stock market.

The talks on taking SoftBank private have been speeded up due to number of fundamental changes to SoftBank’s business strategy to become a long-term investor in businesses rather than a manager of companies, according to the FT.

SoftBank’s recent investment track record has been checkered, including a particularly large bet on the prospects of shared office provider WeWork, resulting in SoftBank reporting an US$18 billion loss at the Vision Fund in May, pushing the conglomerate to a record loss.

SoftBank is nearing a deal to sell British chip designer Arm Holdings, which it bought for US$32 billion in 2016, to Nvidia Corp for more than US$40 billion, Reuters reported on Saturday.

(Reporting by Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru and Joshua Franklin in Boston; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Lots of hot air – Extinction Rebellion shows how not to run a protest group | Britain

ON SEPTEMBER 5TH Britons woke to discover that their news-stands were rather empty. Overnight, Extinction Rebellion (XR) had blocked access to three printworks owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News UK. The protest was not well received. Newspapers, and many environmentalists, called it an attack on free speech. Boris Johnson, the prime minister, thinks that XR should be classified as an organised-crime group, which would subject activists to surveillance typically reserved for gangsters.

XR’s latest demonstrations, which include marches in central London as well as blockades on printworks, follow noisier protests last year. In April 2019 they occupied major thoroughfares in London and other cities for a week of revelry and political action. Those protests were widely seen as a success. Polls found public support for their aims. Responding to the group’s demands, Parliament declared a “climate emergency”. Since then, however, XR has struggled to retain its influence.

That is partly due to forces beyond its control. A planned protest in March was cancelled because of covid-19. This time round, the group has been prevented from camping out by a curfew put in place by the police to ensure social distancing, and coppers have stopped them taking over Lambeth Bridge and other roads. Yet it also reflects internal conflicts that have harmed the group’s cause.

XR has been through a bitter civil war, emerging scarred and exhausted. In theory, the group was run along “holacratic” lines, based on a theory in which traditional hierarchies are replaced by semi-autonomous “circles”. In XR’s case, this meant that small local groups were able to carry out protests independently. Initially, the approach united disparate factions of the rag-tag climate movement behind a core aim: pressuring the government into declaring a climate emergency.

In practice, though, hierarchies persisted. Many saw the outfit’s co-founders, Gail Bradbrook and Roger Hallam, as the people in charge. They were members of the Anchor Circle and the Rapid Response Team, two small groups that held power during protests last year. The pair were also directors of Compassionate Revolution, a company which handled donations. Yet they did not have a strong enough grip to prevent an unholy alliance of eco-fascists, eco-socialists and eco-anarchists descending into conflict.

The main dispute was about tactics. Farhana Yamin, a prominent lawyer, wanted to work with politicians. Another group represented by Mr Hallam, an organic farmer, wanted to provoke mass arrests to overwhelm the system. “Roger’s theory of change was: if you get enough people to turn up in a central square, like Tiananmen Square or Parliament Square, then that will be revolutionary,” explains Ms Yamin. At first, they struck a productive balance. Protests won Ms Yamin’s team meetings with cabinet ministers, who agreed there was a climate emergency.

But it did not last. Ms Yamin’s faction was denounced as traitors. They were subjected to a “Conflict and Resolution Circle”, which one insider says “was basically a hippie way of saying ‘Fuck off’”. That handed more power to Mr Hallam’s group, who thought riskier actions would provoke a heavy-handed response from the state, and thus public sympathy. The group’s cooler heads say they spent most of the summer of 2019 fighting madcap ideas. One, claims an insider, was to glue thousands of teenagers to London’s Tube carriages at rush hour. A more restrained version led to two activists being pulled from a train roof by angry commuters. A dispute over whether to target Heathrow airport became particularly disruptive.

Both Ms Yamin and Mr Hallam have since left XR. Compassionate Revolution has been replaced by a new company led by three younger directors. Ms Bradbrook, one of XR’s founders, denies they have any authority. “We have some legal bodies that are part of what you need in order to have a bank account and so on, but that’s not where the decision-making takes place,” she explains. A lack of donations means that central organisers can no longer afford to pay themselves; local groups have taken on more responsibility, with demonstrations becoming more dispersed as a result. Recent protests have been led mostly by aligned groups, stitched together by so-called “Rebellion Weavers”.

New divides have emerged. The so-called “Fourth Demand”, which calls for reparations and land rights for indigenous groups, is one. Many think the popularity of Black Lives Matter means XR now needs to take identity politics seriously. The demand has been adopted by local groups, but not by central office. In theory, these disputes should now be easier to settle. Ms Bradbrook says that XR has set up an Actions Council, which will adjudicate on internal battles. It just hasn’t got around to meeting yet.

This article appeared in the Britain section of the print edition under the headline “Extinguished Rebellion”

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SuperCoach Racing: It’s time to strike while scoring opportunities are high, with short fields in big Group 1 races, SuperCoach, Racing, horse racing, Ranvet Stakes, George Ryder Stakes, Rosehill Guineas, William Reid Stakes, Rosehill, The Valley

As SuperCoach Racing moves into Round 3 this weekend, here’s everything you need to know about the dual-track race round which begins tonight at The Valley and continues tomorrow at Rosehill, with two massive opportunities to maximise scoring with limited starters in two Group 1 races.

Watch more than 50 sports LIVE & On-Demand on KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >

It’s been a crazy few weeks to kick off the SuperCoach Racing season, with packed schedules, and now the threat of COVID-19 disrupting the plans of trainers and jockeys in Victoria where restrictions are being put in place.

Victorian jockeys will be split into two groups – the best Category 1 hoops in Melbourne will be isolated and banned from riding at trackwork and jumpouts, saving themselves for race days only, with this isolation method set to apply AFTER Saturday’s racing.

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Meet the Amazing Skunk Works: The Secret Group That Invented America’s Stealth Planes

Key point: The origins of Skunk Works are fascinating and show how American and immigrant know-how helped the United States beat the Nazis. It also showed how high-tech inventions could help win the Cold War.

In June 1943, aeronautical engineer Clarence “Kelly” Johnson received a momentous request. The Nazis were only a year away from deploying the first operational jet fighter into service in World War II, which would have a tremendous speed advantage over Allied piston-engine fighters. The Pentagon wanted Johnson to develop an operational jet fighter, using then-new turbojet engines as quickly as possible—and it didn’t want Johnson to wait for the fine print to be signed in the contract.

Kelly was told he had just five months (150 days) to produce a flying next-generation jet prototype.

This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

The Michiganian of Swedish descent had originally joined Lockheed as a tool designer with an $83 monthly salary. However, after devising an innovative fix for the Model 10 airliner, he rose through the ranks to become the company’s chief designer in 1938.

Johnson’s first major military design was the P-38 Lightning, a very fast, hard-hitting and far-flying twin-engine fighter that used a twin-boom configuration unlike any other aircraft then in service. Johnson assembled a small team of engineers, walled them off from other company operations, and settled on the Lightning’s design after exploring numerous other unconventional concepts.

Johnson used similar methods to structure his XP-80 project at a new, top-secret facility in Burbank, California, adjoining a local airport. Johnson handpicked a team of thirty engineers and thirty mechanics who began working on the XP-80 under the shadow of a huge circus tent. One of them was a Cherokee mathematician named Mary Golda Ross, who had earlier helped fix aerodynamic flaws in the P-38s and became the first Native American flight engineer.

A nearby chemical factory nearby caused an unpleasant stench to drift over facility, leading to the nickname “Skunk Work,” adapted from a foul-smelling moonshine factory depicted in the satiric comic strip Li’l’ Abner. Later, copyright concerns led the nickname to be changed just as aptly to “Skunk Work,” reflected in the branch’s skunk logo to this day.

Johnson’s management philosophy, later consolidated in a list of “Fourteen Principles,” focused on moving rapidly to prototype development rather than sweating every last detail; maintaining creative autonomy from other company operations; remaining externally secretive, but transparent to government clients; keeping diligent monthly accounting of expenses to avoid cost overruns; and minimizing bureaucratic red-tape of all varieties by simply implementing fixes instead of subjecting every little change to review by committee.

Just 143 days later—seven days ahead of schedule—the Skunk Works team had produced a flying XP-80 prototype which would become the U.S.’s first operational jet fighter. Though too late to fly more than a few patrols at the end of World War II, the F-80 Shooting Star production model would see extensive action in the Korean War, and possibly scored the first jet-on-jet kill in history.

Design Philosophy

Engineering cutting-edge aircraft requires both creative vision and scientific rigor. Innovative out-of-the-box ideas must be subjected to mathematical scrutiny and then relentlessly tested to determine whether they actually work when subjected to the harsh and often inscrutable laws of physics. And unforeseen problems inevitably crop up.

Project managers need the freedom to explore diverse concepts and repeatedly iterate upon the more promising ones until they deliver results, while exercising the discipline to prevent projects from running way over schedule and budget, like the infamous Spruce Goosea huge mega-transport plane that only flew once for thirty seconds.

These qualities fly in the face of the usual bureaucracy required in the military industrial-sector. Governments, understandably, want to ensure every tax dollar is spent on projects with low risks of failure—and examples of expensive projects sucking billions of dollars in funding only to fail abound.

Johnson’s high-independence, low-red tape model for the Skunk Works proved so successful a template that “Skunk Works” became a byword for any task force within a company assigned additional independence to pursue innovative, cutting-edge projects. Lockheed’s competitor Boeing, for example, has a Phantom Works division which recently was awarded a contract for a new tanker drone.

In the 1950s, Johnson was made the manager of the Burbank facility, technically designated the “Advanced Development Projects.” Under his management, the ADP developed a remarkable number of revolutionary new aircraft—many of which made their mark on American history.

The U-2, for example, was a bizarre super-high-flying spy plane originally modeled off a concept for a spy glider. A U-2 spy mission brought the United States to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union when it photographed Soviet nuclear missiles recently deployed to Cuba in 1962.

By the late 1950s, however, Johnson was aware the U-2 could not fly high enough to evade Soviet missiles and interceptors. Thus the Skunk Works then set out to develop the Blackbird family of aircraft—codenamed Archangel—that would use speed and radar stealth for protection. Lockheed had to sneakily purchase titanium from the Soviet Union through shell companies and develop new tools to work the super-hard metal.

The Blackbird was certainly fast, able to blaze past missiles while cruising at Mach 3.2, but even its angular profile failed to evade radar detection. In the mid-1970, the Skunk Works made a second go at developing a stealth jet. Johnson, who was then retiring, originally proposed curved surfaces for the new stealth plane. However, his friend Ben Rich convinced him that stealth could be achieved with faceted surfaces that the design computers of the time were more capable of handling.

The concept led to the aerodynamically unstable Have Blue prototype tested in Area 51, that evolved into the faceted F-117 Nighthawk attack jet. Though the Nighthawk’s capabilities were limited in many respects, it was the first true stealth aircraft to enter operational service.

In 1989, the Skunk Works moved to a new facility in Palmdale, California. Johnson passed away the following year. By then the division was working on two new projects that will continue to define U.S. airpower well into the twenty-first century: the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.

The twin-engine Raptor essentially married the high-performance characteristics of fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 Eagle with the stealth capabilities that far exceeded those of the Nighthawk—resulting in the world’s reigning air superiority fighter.

The single-engine F-35 fulfilled a very different concept of an affordable multirole stealth fighter that could be exported abroad and operated by the Marines, Navy and Air Force. However, designers in the Skunk Works again pursued an innovative but still controversial solution: instead of pursuing high kinematic flight performance as was done for the F-22, the F-35 instead relies on advanced sensors and computers to stay out of the detection range of opposing fighters or air defense missiles, and either engage them with long-range missiles or shuffle that targeting data to another “shooter.”

Though Kelly’s earlier projects certainly experienced growing pains, the F-35 has proven slower and rockier than its predecessors. Its developers intended to build a versatile swiss-army knife of a plane that could be upgraded with new capabilities via software patches. The many ambitious new technologies proved difficult to integrate, leading to major delays and cost overruns.

Today, the Skunk Works appears to be working on another unconventional project to build a (likely unmanned) hypersonic spy/bomber jet unofficially dubbed the SR-72. It has also developed numerous spy drones that remained veiled in secrecy, particularly the RQ-170 stealth drone.

As jet fighters grow more expensive and vastly more complex, the innovative high-speed project management methods used by the Skunk Works may prove harder to sustain due to the need to integrate more and more advanced avionics and computers developed by industrial partners.

Nonetheless, Johnson’s innovation-focused approach made an invaluable contribution to an understanding in sectors ranging well beyond military aviation that groundbreaking achievements sometimes require allowing a small team of brilliant thinkers to assume more risk and responsibility.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring. This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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