Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cry havoc! and let slip the... oh wait, it's just North Korea... again

On March 7th, new debilitating sanctions were imposed by the UN on the impoverished totalitarian nation of the DPRK [North Korea] in response to yet another condemned underground nuclear test on February 12th, their third since 2006. Since then the bellicose rhetoric from Pyongyang has increased considerably, this time including amateurish video statements detailing the destruction of the United States and her allies.

South Korea and the Unites States began their annual joint military exercises as planned on March 11th and this led to additional threats from the DPRK stating that it has "abolished"the Korean War armistice [the UN has stated that such a pact cannot be unilaterally scrapped] and has a right to a "pre-emptive strike" on the US. In response to the US flying B-2 Spirit bombers over the Korean peninsula, North Korea cut the the military hotline between it and South Korea and in the past 24 hours has declared that it is in "a state of war" with them.

If this was any other nation, say Iran, then it would be quite serious. However due to the simple fact that this is a pretty common occurrence in Korea and almost certainly there'll be nothing major to come from it, the latest news concerning North Korea is making headlines, but is not a major concern for the world. A cursory glance at the main news headlines from Fox News this Sunday morning has the latest from Kim Jong-un in 6th place. The polar opposite of Fox, MSNBC carries a similarly urgently placed story also in 6th place with additional analysis in 7th. One needs to dig further down in Sky News or BBC news to find what's going on with the DPRK. But don't let media apathy alone set your mind at rest. While the media itself should be praised for not making a mountain out of a molehill in this case; it would be foolish to completely ignore the events of the past few weeks. 

Before a Colonel is nominated to receive his first star he has to write a lot about the political concerns and military threats globally. Despite my requests for assignment to South Korea, admittedly for dubious reasons, being declined at every stage, I have studied their patterns at length and I would like to assure all that everything will be copacetic and that there is little to worry about.

Traditionally, North Korea often creates some class of military provocation, aggressive rhetoric or show of strength around the time of US/South Korea military exercises and especially during the initial four months of a new South Korean president's tenure [Park Geun-hye became the first female president of the Republic on February 25th] as if to test them. As it is now and has been for some time, just words.

Kim Jong-un is a relatively untested leader. The sanctions and the establishment of a UN commission to investigate human rights abuse in his country have damaged his reputation and he may see the threat of war as a way to both rally the people behind him and also boost his military credentials.

North Korea is faced with two choices: either "go ballistic" and reap the whirlwind of destruction or abandon it's nuclear plans and negotiate it's way out of international isolation. While they do not have the technology to carry out most of it's aggressive threats, they do have enough conventional weapons near the South Korean border to kill thousands in Seoul. Both Koreas now have relatively untested leaders and the hope is that that a mis-step by one of them would not lead to conflict.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

This is the last Oscar-bait movie I had to see this year making it four in total after Argo, Django and Lincoln. It was 2010 when first last elected to see 4 Oscar nominated movies but this is the first time since that I enjoyed all four.

I had very mixed feelings about this particular movie being made as I felt that not enough time had passed since May 1st 2011 and there were certain aspects of the movie which are not only false but could certainly be detrimental to counter-terrorism efforts. As for reviewing the movie itself, it provided an additional conflict as I was ████ ██████ ███████ ███████ ████ ███████ █████ ██ ██████ ███████ █████ ████ and because of that I suspect that some of this review will need to be redacted.

Kathryn Bigelow directed the somewhat silly Point Break and the intense K-19: The Widowmaker before her fame was cemented in 2010 when her movie about a U.S. Army E.O.D. team during the Iraq War, The Hurt Locker, earned 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay thanks to Mark Boal. Therefore when Boal and Bigelow announced a team up and that they were creating a movie about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the Battle of Tora Bora. I was personally thrilled because in Dec '01 I was the commander of  ████ ██ ████ ███████ ███████ ████ ███████ █████ ██ ██████ ███████ █████ ████ and it would be "fun" to have seen me being played on screen by Liev Schreiber or someone.

However just as they were about to start filming when Bin Laden was killed and they felt that the  movie they had planned would no longer be viable, so they scrapped the whole thing and created Zero Dark Thirty - the story of the intelligence operation which began tracking Bin Laden to his Pakistani hideout in Abbatobad and the raid which which ended the life of the world's most wanted man.

Bigelow created Maya, a young CIA officer whose single-minded determination for the capture/killing of Bin Laden drove her to success. Despite it being wonderful drama, redheaded actress Jessica Chastain being easy on the eye and the obvious fabrications that a director without military public affairs support had to create I felt that her choices differed too much from the reality of  ██████ ████ ███████ █████ ██ ██████ ███████ █████ █████ ████ ████ ███████ █████ ██ ██████ ██ ██████ █  ████████ █████████ ██ ████ ██████ █ █ █████ █████ █████████ ████ ███████ █████ █ █ ██████ ██████████ █████████ █ █ ███████ █████ ███████ ███████ █████ ███ and this made it difficult for me to accept on screen.

There was a bottom-heavy "action-imbalance" to the movie as a result of Bigelow's choices or Boal's writing which made it a difficult movie to watch. The first 75% of the movie was dedicated to Maya's hunting, tracking and sifting through intelligence reports. This is how intelligence work is done in reality of course but take it from me, the "action-imbalance" is 97% against the 3% where we take them out with a drone or strike team. But this is a movie and civilians don't want to see this, they want their action. We should have had Abattobad confirmed at most 45mins in, then the planning and an obligatory training montage for the SEALs before the actual raid, which I'll concede was filmed brilliantly.

It's a shame that she couldn't include ██████ █████ ██ ██████ ███████ █████ █████████ ████ ███████ █████ ██ ██████ ███████ █████ █████████ ████ ███████ █████ ██ ██████ █████ because that would have been great to see on screen but I doubt anyone knows about it yet.

Final Verdict: A wonderfully directed and technically competent movie but enshewed the drama of the true reality which would have made it truly great.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***1/2

Monday, March 11, 2013

No Pied Piper of Tehran

Despite it's recent move to block "unauthorised" VPNs, further curtailing citizens freedom of speech and information - media reports about giant mutated rats running amok on Tehran are real.

Apparently melting snow has raised the underground water level and flushed huge rodents, some reportedly weighing 11 pounds, from their nests. Authorities have imported approximately 45 tons of rat poison and set up information tents to help deal with the plague running rampant in 26 districts in the Iranian capital.

The International Business Times quoted Tehran city council environment adviser Ismail Kahram, that the rats "seem to have had a genetic mutation, probably as a result of radiations and the chemical used on them." Speaking to Iranian news website, he said "They are now bigger and look different. These are changes that normally take millions of years of evolution. They have jumped from 60 grams to five kilos, and cats are now smaller than them."

UNPASID officials in consultation with Dr. David Baker, laboratory animal veterinarian at LSU, have debunked Kahram's claim. "Like many in their government, he's obviously a fucking fruitcake," diplomatically said Colonel "Whopper" Creedon, the UNPASID/UNETIDA Director of Intelligence. Dr. Baker added that it's unlikely the rats got super-sized as the result of a mutation. "genetic mutations are [usually] harmful and a disadvantage rather than an advantage." However, he explained that there are species of "giant" rats found around the world that can achieve the sizes described by Kahram. "During the Middle Ages, black rats in Europe reportedly grew large enough to carry off small babies. Those had to have been some big rats," Baker wrote.

Mohammad Hadi Heydarzadeh, a top environmental official, said Iran has the biggest issue with Norwegian rats. They "entered Iran from abroad by cargo ships." Though it's unclear if the rats come with paperwork, a search of shows that that particular kind of rat can grow 16 inches long. And they are very aggressive, "fighting, chasing, biting and boxing." As the rats are fed poison by day, 40 teams of army snipers now hunt the rats by night, using rifles equipped with infrared scopes. It has been reported that 2,205 rats have been killed so far.

UNPASID said despite its mandate to control or destroy "unnatural" forms of life on earth, it has no authorisation from the UN to respond to requests for assistance from Iran's government in the unlikely event should they be made.

Source: Reuters / CNN / Fox

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Crowe captures UFO picture!

UNETIDA and UNPASID have to deal with approximately 25,000 hoaxes for every valid piece of intel they receive. Anything from a weather balloon to a Halloween costume in the wrong light can send a normally perfectly rational human into a state of blind panic screaming 'Aliens' or 'Zombies' depending on the stimuli.

Thankfully unless a jaded reporter gets hold of the reported sighting and thinks there could be a story in it most of these cases are never even heard of. Occasionally however one hits the media and we need to create a counter-intelligence operation in order to convince people that there's nothing to fear and there's a perfectly rational explanation for what they saw.

Rarer still is the situation where UNETIDA/UNPASID don't even need to comment, let alone investigate a claim despite it gathering international media attention just like this one that an obviously deranged Russell Crowe attempted last week.

Apparently Crowe posted this video on Youtube claiming it to be a UFO:

He tweeted: "UFO? Time Lapse Photos Outside RC's Woolloomooloo Office (THESE ARE REAL!)"

"A friend and i set camera to capture fruit bats rising from Botanic Gardens,this was a big surprise"

"Canon 5D, No Flash, can't be a lens flare because it moves , camera is fixed"

Naturally, celebrity gossip sites and film buffs jumped on it. However it later came to light that the photos are taken using a telephoto lens centered on trees in a park separated by a body of water in the harbour through which yachts pass regularly and the red 'streak' is simply the safety light on a mast or other rigging as it would appear if the shutter on the camera was open for longer than normal.

It's clear from the opinions of the Internet that not a single person believes poor old Russell. General consensus is while the photos were taken 4 years ago, this "evidence" of UFO activity over Sydney is only coming to light now because the Aussie star's latest movie Broken City is a pile of shit and tanking badly.