Never miss a story

Get subscribed to our newsletter

Amazon paid over $1 billion for Ring, the maker of a "smart doorbell" that sends a video feed customers can check and answer from their smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

Washington is supplying four Southeast Asian countries with 34 aerial drones through security assistance funds from the U.S. government, State Department officials have confirmed.

The United States is sending a U.S. $47.9 million package of ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles to the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, with officials in Manila and Kuala Lumpur saying the drones will be used for surveillance of local waterways, including the disputed South China Sea.

“Per Acting Secretary Shanahan’s recent announcement, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines have purchased up to 34 Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems under the Foreign Military Sales system,” a State Department official told BenarNews, referring to Patrick Shanahan, the acting American defense chief.

“These purchases were funded by … security assistance funding, and not national funds,” the official said. On May 31, the U.S. Defense Department (DoD) released information on its website saying it had awarded a contract to Boeing subsidiary Insitu to build the drones and deliver them to the four countries by March 2022.

The contract information publicized by the DoD stated that the order combined purchases for the governments of Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam under the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales program.

American-made ScanEagle drones (foreground) are displayed in a hangar before a transfer ceremony from the U.S. to the Philippine Air Force at Villamor Air Base, next to Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay city, Philippines, March 13, 2018. RFA

The program “is a form of security assistance authorized by the Arms Export Control Act,” according to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA). Under the contract, Malaysia will acquire 12 ScanEagle drones, the Philippines and Indonesia will each get eight of them, and Vietnam will get six. In Jakarta, Ministry of Defense officials did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment from BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

The portion of the drone package destined for Kuala Lumpur is valued at U.S. $19.3 million, but the aircraft will be paid for entirely by U.S. funds, via the U.S. government’s Maritime Security Initiative (MSI), the Malaysian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

The United States, through MSI, “provided assistance in the form of assets and training to friendly nations including Malaysia to enhance the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) in the Southeast Asian region,” the ministry said.

MSI, under the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act, aims to build up the capacity of American partner nations in the South China Sea region. The act targets five countries – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – for assistance and training paid for by American funding, according to the DSCA.

“As a maritime nation, it is essential for Malaysia to have intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to monitor its strategic waterways in the Strait of Malacca, South China Sea and Sulu Sea,” the Malaysian ministry said.

It emphasized, however, that Kuala Lumpur would collaborate with any country, even Beijing, to boost its security and maritime intelligence capabilities. “In line with Malaysia’s stance to not pick sides and to build friendly relations with everyone, Malaysia welcomes defense cooperation with all interested parties, including the U.S. and China, to ensure the safety and stability of the Southeast Asian region,” it said.

FILE – A drone demonstrates delivery capabilities from the top of a UPS truck during testing in Lithia, Florida, Feb. 20, 2017. VOA

The eight ScanEagle drones destined for Manila, meanwhile, follow the March 2018 delivery of six of those unmanned aircraft that were provided by Washington through a U.S. government grant program, according to the American embassy.

The first batch was delivered after Manila had received U.S. intelligence support in helping Philippine government forces drive out Islamic State-linked militants from the southern city of Marawi in 2017.

ALSO READ: Zomato Successfully Tests Food Packet Delivery Using Drones at 80kmph

“The help was first geared toward monitoring militants in the wake of Marawi, but the help has evolved toward the SCS, and the heavy Chinese presence there,” a senior Philippine defense source told BenarNews, referring to the South China Sea.

Beijing claims most of maritime region, and has been expanding and militarizing structures it built in the sea, despite earlier agreements to halt all construction activities. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have territorial claims in the strategic waterway through which more than U.S. $3 billion of trade passes annually. (RFA)

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.



The aim of the book is to teach children that families can exist in different forms, and show them how to accept the diversity in family backgrounds.

By Siddhi Jain

Delhi-based author Pritisha Borthakur is set to release her new book, 'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories'. The 1,404-word children's book was put together to address a new kind of societal debacle in the family system. The author says the aim is to teach children that families can exist in different forms, and show them how to accept the diversity in family backgrounds.

The author who named the book after her twin sons -- Puhor and Niyor -- is a parent who has seen and heard the tales of ridicule and discrimination suffered by many in India and beyond. She says the book is an artistic illustration for kids that details how different families can live and coexist. Whether it's children with two dads or two moms, children with a single dad or single mom, and even multiracial family units, Borthakur's book teaches love, understanding, and compassion towards unconventional families.

Beyond race, gender, color, and ethnicity which have formed the bases for discrimination since the beginning of time, this book aims to bring to light a largely ignored issue. For so long, single parents have been treated like a taboo without any attempt to understand their situations; no one really cares how or why one's marriage ended but just wants to treat single parents as villains simply for choosing happiness and loving their children.

Homosexual parents, a relatively new family system, is another form that has suffered hate and discrimination for many years. Pritisha emphasizes the need to understand that diversity in people and family is what makes the world beautiful and colourful. 'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories' is a firm but compassionate statement against all forms of discrimination on the bases of sexual identity, gender, race, and even differences in background

four children standing on dirt during daytime 'Puhor and Niyor's Mural of Family Stories' is a firm but compassionate statement against all forms of discrimination on the bases of sexual identity, gender, race and even differences in background. | Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

Clean and maintained hands boost confidence in daily life activities.

If you feel that clean and well-groomed hands are just an essential prerequisite for women, you might like to think twice. Men should equally pay attention to their hands because our hand houses 1,500 bacteria living on each square centimeter of its skin. You can easily assume what havoc it can create in our body because in India we have the culture of eating with our hands and spaces beneath nails can become breeding heaven for germs. Moreover, clean and maintained hands boost confidence in their daily life activities. Therefore, it's important to keep your hands clean irrespective of your gender by washing or sanitizing at regular intervals. And, to keep them groomed, you don't have to visit a salon.

Rajesh U Pandya, Managing Director, KAI India, gives easy and completely doable tips to follow at home:

* Refrain from harsh soaps: You should be mindful of the soap you are using to wash your hands. Your soap can have a moisturizing element in it like aloe vera or shea butter. Ensure that you're washing your hands with normal water as hot water can make your hand's skin dry and scaly.

Soap bars organic You should be mindful of the soap you are using to wash your hands. | Photo by Aurélia Dubois on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Dmitry Demidko on Unsplash

Bitcoin has become an essential crypto asset in modern portfolios and investment funds.

Bitcoin has become an essential crypto asset in modern portfolios and investment funds. The confidence generated in this cryptocurrency will depend a lot on the diversification that companies make in their balance sheets in Bitcoin and the increase of institutional investors that allocate a percentage of their funds in this crypto. American fund manager Cathie Wood makes some interesting predictions, both in the rise that the Bitcoin price will experience in the next 5 years, suggesting these institutional investors allocate 5% of their funds; this will help leverage the Bitcoin market.

Bitcoin will grow by a tenfold

Keep reading... Show less