Things just keep getting worse and worse for Hong Kong’s paper of record.
Now, if you try to log onto South China Morning Post‘s Chinese-language news site or lifestyle site you are redirected to the paper’s English-language website and informed that SCMP’s Chinese-language services have been closed in order to better “integrate resources.” The message concludes, “We thank you for your past support.”
And just like that years of Chinese-language reporting by the SCMP has been wiped out. Current and former employees told Quartz that they were not told in advance about the decision to close the site. This is backed up by the fact that SCMP’s Chinese-language news site, nanzao.com, was still posting stories on Facebook as late as this afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »
China has conducted yet another test of a hypersonic glide vehicle designed to defeat U.S. missile defenses.
Franz-Stefan Gady reports: This week, the People’s Republic of China successfully conducted a sixth flight test of its DF-ZF (previously known as WU-14) hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), Bill Gertz of The Washington Free Beacon reports.
The DF-ZF is an ultra-high-speed missile allegedly capable of penetrating U.S. air defense systems based on interceptor missiles.
The launch of the DF-ZF took place at the Wuzhai missile test center in central China’s Shanxi Province. A ballistic missile transported the DF-ZF HGV near the edge of the atmosphere, where it separated from its launcher and then glided to an impact range a few thousands kilometers away in western China, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
“The DF-ZF flight was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies and flew at speeds beyond Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound,” Gertz notes. Previous tests of the DF-ZF took place on June 7, January 9, and August 7, 2015, and December 2, 2014. Read the rest of this entry »
Ms. Tu won for the discovery of artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced mortality rates among malaria patients.
Tu Youyou, awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine on Monday, is the first citizen of the People’s Republic of China to win a Nobel for a scientific discipline and the first female Chinese citizen to win any Nobel. Imprisoned writer Liu Xiaobo was the first Chinese citizen to win a Nobel while in China in 2010 when he was awarded the peace prize. Chinese novelist Mo Yan won the literature prize in 2012.
Physicists Li Zhengdao and Yang Zhenning, who left China prior to the Communist Party takeover in 1949, shared the 1957 physics prize while working in the U.S. Both men later became U.S. citizens.
Ms. Tu won for the discovery of artemisinin, a drug that has significantly reduced mortality rates among malaria patients, according to the prize announcement. The 84-year-old retired professor at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences was awarded the prestigious Lasker Medical Research Award in 2011 for the same feat.
The discovery of the drug came in the early 1970s as the result of a program established by Mao Zedong to find a cure for malaria that would help the North Vietnamese in their fight with South Vietnam and the U.S., according to Chinese state media. Ms. Tu led a team that scoured traditional Chinese medicinal texts for remedies that might fight the parasite. They eventually identified artemisinin, a compound contained in a plant known as sweet wormwood that proved unusually effective in fighting the disease.
“It is one of the few very truly innovative drugs to come out of China,” said Ray Yip, former China program director for both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Gates Foundation. “The introduction of artemisinin was a major force in containing the scourge of malaria.” Read the rest of this entry »
Chinese President Xi Jinping lands in the U.S. on Tuesday and will embark on a whirlwind of meetings. Here’s a quick guide to Xi’s itinerary.
A man set to become the world’s first head transplant patient has scheduled the procedure for December 2017.
“When I realized that I could participate in something really big and important, I had no doubt left in my mind and started to work in this direction.”
Valery Spiridonov, 30, was diagnosed with a genetic muscle-wasting condition called Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, and volunteered for the procedure despite the risks involved, Central European News (CEN) reported.
“The only thing I feel is the sense of pleasant impatience, like I have been preparing for something important all my life and it is starting to happen.”
— Spiridonov, a Russian computer scientist
“When I realized that I could participate in something really big and important, I had no doubt left in my mind and started to work in this direction,” Spiridonov, a Russian computer scientist, told CEN. Read the rest of this entry »
Mike at RocketNews24 writes: There are a handful of accepted stages people go through when dealing with heartbreak. First, there is denial. Then, bargaining. Then, relapse. Anger. Acceptance. Then, finally, hope, as the subject of the breakup looks to the future and finally finds something worth looking forward to.
Or, if you’re this Chinese woman traveling in Hong Kong, you just lie down on the ground and shout at anyone and everyone who will listen until the police carry you away.
The scorned woman apparently received a text message from her boyfriend of several years with the news that it just wasn’t working out, and instead of confronting the reality of her ex kind of being a jerk and moving on with her life, she instead decided to just shut down completely, sprawling out on the ground in the middle of Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui disctrict, a major tourist hub famous for its shopping and nightlife.
She reportedly spent the next hour or more shouting nonsense at passersby, many of whom unfortunately possessed camera-equipped phones with which to record the poor woman’s meltdown, eventually landing the lady a spot on the Chinese news broadcasts, where her breakdown was treated as a sideshow not unlike a video of a pet doing something ridiculous… Read the rest of this entry »
MADRID—One of Spain’s “ghost airports”—expensive projects that were virtually unused—received just one bid in a bankruptcy auction after costing about €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) to build. The buyer’s offer: €10,000.
Ciudad Real’s Central airport, about 235 kilometers south of Madrid, became a symbol of the country’s wasteful spending during a construction boom that ended with the financial crisis of 2008, the year the airport opened. The operator of the airport went bankrupt in 2012 after it failed to draw enough traffic.
Chinese group Tzaneen International tabled the single bid in Friday’s auction, Spanish news agency Europa Press said. The receiver had set a minimum price of €28 million. If no better bid is received by September, the sale will go through, the news agency said. Read the rest of this entry »
The SF-86, a 127-page document, asks government employees to disclose information about family members, friends and past employment as well as details on alcohol and drug use, mental illness, credit ratings, bankruptcies, arrest records and court actions
David Larter and Andrew Tilghman report: Anxiety is spreading among defense officials and the military community that the recent theft of federal government data linked to China may affect hundreds of thousands of service members.
“They had access on everyone who has applied for a security clearance: families, residences and job assignments, bank records. If that’s not an absolute calamity, I don’t know what is.”
Compounding those concerns is the limited information made public by the Office of Personnel Management.
“They got everyone’s SF-86.”
Some military officials believe the recent hack targeting the civilian-run OPM seized information from tens of thousands of Standard Form 86s, which are required for all service members and civilians seeking a security clearance. That includes service members of all ranks, officers and enlisted, in a wide range of job specialties and assignments.
“This is a surreal new world and they are not being truthful. The way this works now is that they tell you a little bit of the truth, and then they obfuscate.”
“They got everyone’s SF-86,” one Pentagon official familiar with the investigation told Military Times.
The SF-86, a 127-page document, asks government employees to disclose information about family members, friends and past employment as well as details on alcohol and drug use, mental illness, credit ratings, bankruptcies, arrest records and court actions.
Given the scale of the breach as publicly disclosed by the Obama administration and OPM, it’s likely that the hackers obtained the SF-86 data of every military member who filled out the form on a computer, something that has been standard practice in Defense Department for well over a decade, said a retired senior intelligence community official who writes a blog under the pen name Victor Socotra.
The services began to make the digital SF-86 form mandatory in 2007, but service members used the digital form for years before that. Read the rest of this entry »
Large-scale cyberattacks have in recent years become effective national-security weapons
WASHINGTON— Damian Paletta reports: A tremendous number of personnel records—including some quite personal records—have likely been stolen by computer hackers. The White House won’t say who did it, but a number of U.S. officials and even some lawmakers have said all signs point to China.
“The Chinese government has denied it, but the staggering haul of records could amount to one of the biggest feats of espionage in decades.”
Right now, the White House and Congress are trying to ascertain what was stolen and how to protect people whose identifies have been compromised, not to mention their “foreign contacts” that are listed on the security clearance forms that could now be on the hard drives of the hackers.
But very soon a much different question will be asked in Washington: If the White House finds out who stole the information, what will President Barack Obama do about it?
“Even though large-scale cyberattacks have been used for more than a decade, they have only become extremely effective national-security weapons in the past few years.”
In December, the White House accused North Korea of stealing and destroying a large amount of records from Sony Pictures Entertainment. President Barack Obama called it “cyber vandalism,” angering some of his critics who wanted the U.S. government to retaliate. Read the rest of this entry »
The Fashion Mall hasn’t much lived up to its name. Already faltering a decade ago, the South Florida shopping mall has since been hammered by a hurricane, vacated by its tenants and put into bankruptcy, all the time, it turns out, being partially owned by a fugitive from China. As WSJ’s Esther Fung and Kris Hudson report:
Busted plans to redevelop the dilapidated mall have featured in a lawsuit between its Chinese investors. Du Zhenzeng, a steel baron from northern China, sued his naturalized American business partner, Wei Chen, for using their business “as his personal piggy-bank” to fund a flashy lifestyle that includes a Bentley and yacht trips, according to testimony in that lawsuit.
In a court hearing in October in Fort Lauderdale, Mr. Du’s lawyers said he invested nearly $160 million in the mall development project. Mr. Chen said the funds Mr. Du promised never materialized…. (more)
Brian Krassenstein reports: Education is probably one of the areas that will benefit the most from 3D printers in the long run. The problem though is getting the machines into the schools in the first place. With prices generally ranging from $400 to $3,000 for typical desktop 3D printers, they are not cheap, and with budgets within many school districts running dry, both in the United States and overseas, the unfortunate fact is that many schools simply can’t afford them, not to mention the materials and time it takes to train teachers to use them.
Speaking with former MakerBot CEO, Jenny Lawton, at CES this year, she told me that 3D printing will become mainstream and really begin to explode as far as adoption rates go, when a full cycle of education has been exposed to the technology. Just like many of us who were exposed in school to desktop computing back in the ’80s and ’90s can’t envision not having access to a computers now, the children of today may one day think the same about 3D printers.
The United States clearly understands the importance of this technology, particularly President Obama. In addition to investing heavily to bring manufacturing back to US soil, he has mentioned the importance of 3D printing on several occasions, visiting manufacturing facilities that are using 3D printers, and even going as far speaking about the technology in one of his State of the Union Addresses.
According to Shen, the Chinese government has a new policy to install a 3D printer in each of its approximately 400,000 elementary schools over the next two years. This number caught me totally off guard for two reason. First of all, that’s a lot of elementary schools. For instance, in the United States we have approximately 70,000 elementary schools, and approximately 100,000 total public schools. As a nation we could easily match China’s ambitions. Read the rest of this entry »
The world’s largest furniture retailer introduced the rule because many customers, both adults and children, have been sleeping in stores, creating a scene and affecting the experience of other customers.
Pictures also show young couples lying on the sofas, their faces covered by pillows.
The newspaper said some customers take off their shoes and lie on the beds as if they were in their own homes.
Ikea encourages customers to sit or lie on beds for a short while to experience their quality, but many sleeping customers occupy the display pieces for too long, a staff member says. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Like a beam of incorruptible sunlight, touching our hearts’
Josh Chin and Chun Han Wong report: When China is truly proud of something, it writes a song. During the Cultural Revolution, the oil workers who helped turn China into a crude exporter got their own song. More recently, China’s aircraft carrier and the relationship between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife have been lauded with jingles.
This week, China’s Internet censors got their own musical tribute — or, rather, they wrote one for themselves.
According to a report posted Thursday to the website of the state-run China Youth Daily, the Cyberspace Administration of China choral group this week unveiled a new song, “Cyberspace Spirit,” glorifying the cleanliness and clarity of China’s uniquely managed Internet.
The song, an orchestral march built around a chorus that proclaims China’s ambition to become an “Internet power,” opens with lyrics describing celestial bodies keeping careful watch over the sky. From there, the lyrics conjure more vivid imagery, comparing the Internet to “a beam of incorruptible sunlight” that unites “the powers of life from all creation.”
The Cyberspace Administration of China is the government agency in charge of managing the country’s Internet, including the complex filtering system known as the Great Firewall.
Recently, the government has grown bolder in advocating China’s brand of Internet management. In November, it hosted a World Internet Conference in the eastern canal town of Wuzhen, where Lu Wei, the minister in charge of CAC, promoted the need for rules on the Internet. A few months later, another official surprised some by openly praising China’s censorship system for helping foster Chinese tech companies….(read more)
Below is China Real Time’s rough translation of the lyrics:
在这片天空日月忠诚的守望 Keeping faithful watch under this sky, the Sun and the Moon
为日出东方使命担当 Undertaking this mission for the break of dawn [in the East]
创新每个日子拥抱着清朗 Creating, embracing everyday clarity and brightness
像一束廉洁阳光感动在心上 Like a beam of incorruptible sunlight, touching our hearts
团结万物生长的力量 Uniting the powers of life from all creation
奉献地球村成为最美的风光 Offerings to the global village become the most beautiful of scenery
网络强国 网在哪光荣梦想在哪 Internet Power! The Web is where glorious dreams are
网络强国 从遥远的宇宙到思念的家 Internet Power! From the distant cosmos to the home we long for
网络强国 告诉世界中国梦在崛起大中华 Internet Power! Tell the world that the China Dream is lifting Greater China to prominence
网络强国 一个我在世界代表着国家 Internet Power! One self represents the nation to the world
在这个世界百川忠诚寻归海洋 In this world, all rivers loyally seek to return to the sea
担当中华文明的丈量 Bearing the measure of Chinese civilization
五千年沉淀点亮创新思想 5,000 years settle and give light to creative new thinking
廉洁就是一个民族清澈荡漾 Incorruptibility is the clear rippling of a nation
我们团结在天地中央 We unite at the center of Heaven and Earth Read the rest of this entry »
Smile and give them a pen
kamenoblog shares this language insight:
Last night my Cantonese professor taught my class how to politely refuse someone.
Instead of directly saying no, Cantonese speakers can give a subtle hint by giving an unwanted suitor a pen.
The words for “pen” and “no” sound similar in Cantonese. However, both words use different traditional Chinese characters:
筆 means “pen”
不是 (“bat si”/”m hai”) means “no”
Source: Milk Tea & Pudding
Doing calligraphy, along with playing badminton, is a one of the few hobbies government officials in China admit to having
“The problem today, according to the editorial, comes when officials promote their squiggles as valuable works of art.”
“Officials should put down their calligraphy brushes and stick to governing.”
Wang Qishan, the Politburo Standing Committee member who heads the party’s anti-graft commission, hit out at the traditional craft during a plenary meeting of the organization last week in Beijing, and the message was backed up by an editorial from the agency posted on Tuesday to its website.
Officials shouldn’t “grab meat from the plates of artists,” the editorial said.
Doing calligraphy, along with playing badminton, is a one of the few hobbies government officials in China tend to admit to having. State leaders often pen well-wishes in calligraphy when they drop into companies around the country, creating valuable mementos that tend to get displayed in prominent spots in the companies.
“As you have promised to make contribution to the party and to the country, why are you greedy for an unnecessary title for unjustified interests?”
Officials can be forgiven for thinking it’s OK to strive for recognition in calligraphy, an art form associated with erudition and wisdom. Chinese leaders from Qing dynasty emperor Qianlong to Mao Zedong have been celebrated for their ability to put brush to paper, though there is some debate as to whether the latter’s distinctive style deserved the praise the Communist Party has lavished upon it ever since.
The problem today, according to the editorial, comes when officials promote their squiggles as valuable works of art. Read the rest of this entry »
Christina Bonnington writes: For years, Gorilla Glass was the toughest material a mobile device could use to protect its delicate display components. A mix of silicon dioxide, aluminum, sodium, and magnesium, Corning’s scratch-resistant composite material was the gold standard in protecting a smartphone’s display against breakage. But starting around mid-2013, a new option became visible: sapphire.
“Even though sapphire never made it into the iPhone’s display, between interest in the new material and its maturation in the market, we’re now seeing sapphire on a growing number of mobile products.”
While more expensive to produce than Gorilla Glass, sapphire is significantly tougher. It’s up to three times stronger; diamond is the only material hard enough to nick it. Apple was widely rumored to be moving to sapphire displays in its mobile devices, particularly after the Cupertino company partnered with GT Advanced Technologies in the construction of a Mesa, Arizona sapphire production plant.
“Sapphire is also making its way into wearables. Apple, of course, has a big stake in the space with the upcoming, sapphire-fronted Apple Watch. But the material has been a staple in mid to high-end watches for many years now, and is a staple across the watch industry.”
That arrangement didn’t pan out. Sapphire didn’t make it into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus as reported (other than in its camera lens), and the factory was repurposedafter GT Advanced filed for bankruptcy. It turns out it’s very challenging to build sapphire into larger devices like smartphones and tablets, according to DisplaySearch analyst Calvin Hseih, who I spoke with over email. First, it’s far more expensive, costing multiple dollars per square inch compared to roughly five cents per square inch for glass. It can still be chipped or cracked if dropped at the right angle. And, Hseih says, it has a lower optical transmission than glass, which necessitates greater backlight power consumption. Apple’s proposed solution to these challenges wasn’t actually a pure sapphire display cover glass, like we’d see on a watch: According to its sapphire-related patent filings, Apple’s phone displays would have a very thin sapphire layer coated or laminated onto the glass. This takes advantage of the material’s hardness without adding undue strain on battery life or making it too expensive for people to afford. But this design couldn’t be executed at a satisfactory quality level in time. Read the rest of this entry »
“In his post, Lo comments in Chinese: ‘A super quick way to wash a dog: soak, clean, and dry. All done. Clean and quick!'”
For South China Morning Post, Hazel Parry reports: A man being investigated over a Facebook post featuring photographs of a dog churning in a washing machine claims to have fled to the mainland. The man, who goes by the name of Jacky Lo, posted a status update yesterday in which he bragged that he was on his way out of Hong Kong as pressure mounted for him to be punished.
“In response to a comment underneath asking if the dog was dead, Lo answers: ‘Yes! Do you want to see it!'”
The post included a link to the online petition urging the police to bring him to justice, with Lo commenting: “Wanted?? This afternoon I’m going back to China. See ya later.”
“His latest remarks have brought more criticism online, with people calling him a ‘weak bully’, ‘shameless’, ‘sick’ and a ‘monster’.”
The pictures, which show a small white dog submerged in water and being spun around helplessly in the washing machine, have sparked outrage, with about 14,000 people signing the petition.
In his post, Lo comments in Chinese: “A super quick way to wash a dog: soak, clean, and dry. All done. Clean and quick!”
He then add a smiley icon and the words “feeling content” in English.
— Foreign Policy (@ForeignPolicy) July 22, 2014
For WSJ‘s China Real Time Report, William Kazer writes: A Chinese general used a regional security conference this weekend to tell a global audience that U.S. rhetoric about the South China Sea risks provoking Beijing.
“As U.S. power declines, Washington needs to rely on its allies in order to reach its goal of containing China’s development.”
For the Chinese language audience, the general used language saltier — and perhaps more provocative — to describe how he feels about U.S. power.
Twice in late April, People’s Daily railed against the incorporation of acronyms and English words in written Chinese. “How much have foreign languages damaged the purity and vitality of the Chinese language?” the Communist Party’s flagship publication asked as it complained of the “zero-translation phenomenon.”
“Since the reform and opening up, many people have blindly worshipped the West, casually using foreign words as a way of showing off their knowledge and intellect. This also exacerbated the proliferation of foreign words.”
— Xia Jixuan, Ministry of Education
So if you write in the world’s most exquisite language—in my opinion, anyway—don’t even think of jotting down “WiFi,” “MBA,” or “VIP.” If you’re a fan of Apple products, please do not use “iPhone” or “iPad.” And never ever scribble “PM2.5,” a scientific term that has become popular in China due to the air pollution crisis, or “e-mail.”
“How much have foreign languages damaged the purity and vitality of the Chinese language?”
— The People’s Daily
China’s communist culture caretakers are cheesed, perhaps by the unfairness of the situation. They note that when English absorbs Chinese words, such as “kung fu,” the terms are romanized. When China copies English terms, however, they are often adopted without change, dropped into Chinese text as is…
“The use of imported words is becoming more widespread every day. It’s become so serious that the foreign words are even showing up in regular publications and formal documents, giving rise to resentment among the public.”
..In 2012, the Chinese government established a linguistics committee to standardize foreign words. In 2013, it published the first ten approved Chinese translations for terms such as WTO, AIDS, and GDP, ordering all media to use them. A second and third series of approved terms are expected this year. How French.
There is a bit of obtuseness in all these elaborate efforts. Read the rest of this entry »
This was the latest of hardships that Mr. Lau had to endure in Hong Kong, a city increasingly hostile towards the press. In January he had been ousted from his position as Editor in Chief at the newspaper Ming Pao, sparking enough outrage that 90% of the editorial staff at Ming Pao signed a petition demanding that the company state its reasons for dismissing Kevin Lau. Many speculated that it was his critical reporting of the Hong Kong government that was the reason for his removal as Editor in Chief.
Under Lau’s leadership, Ming Pao was critical of numerous government policies and pushed for democratic reforms in Hong Kong. The newspaper also exposed several political scandals, embarrassing political leaders in the city.
The new era of military competition in the Pacific will become the defining geopolitical contest of the 21st century…
“Ninety per cent of China’s time is spent on thinking about new and interesting ways to sink our ships and shoot down our planes”
— Dennis Blair, former US Pacific commander
Casey Baseel writes: There seems to be a long-running debate over whether Jesus was white or African (as opposed, to, you know, Arabic, as most people born in the Middle East tend to be).
Apparently concerned that the squabble doesn’t have enough sides, a participant in a Chinese Internet forum has come forward with images suggesting yet another theory: Jesus was Korean.
Recently, a thread appeared on a message board in China with the title, “Even Jesus could not escape the destiny that was placed upon the people of Korea.” The lengthily-phrased topic attracted the attention of other users, who found that the thread contained a series of scenes depicting the life of Jesus Christ in a uniquely Korean light.
The uploader of the pictures explained, “This information is not fabricated. I obtained these images from a seminary in Korea at great risk to my life.”
In the pictures, Jesus is shown dressed in traditional Korean garb, surrounded by similarly attired followers. The architecture depicted is also unmistakably Korean in design.
The original poster’s attempts to spread the good word were met with a less than enthusiastic response, however. In recent years, Chinese media has publicized alleged claims by Korean researchers that the characters used in writing the Chinese language were originally developed in Korea, as well as an assertion that the philosopher Confucius, largely believed to be Chinese, was actually of Korean descent.
Wealthy Chinese couples are increasingly spending big on securing surrogate mothers in the United States who can bear them a child on US soil. Children born in the country are automatically conferred US citizenship. With frequent food safety scandals, poor air quality, a presser-cooker education system and the absence of the rule of law, the safety net of permanent residency in a Western country is something many Chinese citizens covet. Greater numbers numbers of affluent Chinese are finding ways to move their cash and families abroad. The recent upward trend in birth tourism and foreign surrogacy reflects this. Read the rest of this entry »
By David Hambling
In a recent PopularScience.com post, contributing writer Kelsey Atherton suggests that Edward Snowden is at no risk from a U.S. drone strike in Hong Kong because of Chinese air defenses and the risk of collateral damage in the densely populated city.
It’s true that a strike by a Predator or Reaper drone, which can’t penetrate air defenses and cause significant collateral damage with standard weapons, could be ruled out—but the military and the CIA have plenty of other drones up their sleeve.
A morbid thought experiment: Hong Kong is an island; it’s a port city surrounded by deep water. In 2008 the Navy demonstrated something called Submarine Over-The-Horizon Organic Capability—launching and controlling a lethal Switchblade drone from a submerged sub.
The Switchblade is a one-use drone, powered by a quiet electric motor, that weighs about six pounds and flies up to 50 mph for 15 minutes. Switchblade carries a high-explosive warhead that can blow up everything within a 1-, 5-, or 7-meter range around the drone; it can take out an individual, or a truck. A high-resolution video camera in the nose allows a human operator to verify the target before detonating the drone. This is a far less destructive than the 20-pound warhead on the Hellfire missiles fired by Reaper drones, which can cause considerable collateral damage.
Although they won’t give operational details, the Switchblade has received good reviews from users in Afghanistan, where the drone has been deployed since late 2012.
If Snowden could be accurately located in Hong Kong, then a midnight Switchblade strike would be an option. Submarine launch means that the strike would be covert, and even if investigators piece together the exploded drone, it would be difficult to pinpoint where it came from (though most of us could probably guess). GPS guidance could take the Switchblade within visual range of a target, and then the human operator could steer it into, say, the window of Snowden’s hotel room.
The small size of the warhead means that collateral damage would be limited to anyone else in the room with Snowden. Switchblade can fly at a height of a few hundred feet, so it is unlikely anyone would notice or recognize a small, silent drone flying in the dark—especially in a busy place like Hong Kong.
Of course, Switchblade is comparatively well-known. Many of the details are classified, but it is an acknowledged project. The U.S. military and intelligence community also operate a number of other drones which have not yet been acknowledged, including some camouflaged as large birds and designed to operate covertly. These may even have far more impressive capabilities than the Switchblade.
Political considerations make a drone strike against Edward Snowden in Hong Kong highly unlikely. However, we should not underestimate the technical capabilities that already exist for carrying out such a strike.
(So why wouldn’t the U.S. government just send a guy with a gun to kill Snowden? First, they don’t necessarily have an agent in place—and people leave a trail that can be traced back. As in Pakistan, drones are a lot more reliable and easier to control than local assassins. And James Bond doesn’t exist….)
David Hambling is a London-based technology journalist and author.