The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier got a long-missing piece of gear in December, helping solve a problem the Navy secretary has bet his job on fixing

On December 21, the Navy’s first-in-class aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, which has been plagued by technical problems and cost overruns, got the first of its 11 advanced weapons elevators, “setting the tone for more positive developments in the year ahead,” the Navy said this week.

That tone may be doubly important for Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, who has staked his job on the elevators— which were not installed when the carrier was delivered in May 2017, well past the original 2015 delivery goal — being ready by the end of the carrier’s year-long post-shakedown assessment this summer.

Read more: Chinese companies have their eyes on what used to be the US Navy’s biggest base in the Pacific

Advanced Weapons Elevator Upper Stage 1 was turned over to the Navy after testing and certification by engineers at Hunting Ingalls-Newport News Shipbuilding, where the carrier was built and is going through its post-shakedown period after testing at sea.

The elevator “has been formally accepted by the Navy,” Bill Couch, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, said in a statement.

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer is briefed by the USS Gerald R. Ford’s commanding officer, Capt. John J. Cummings, on the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator on the flight deck, January 17, 2018
US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines

The testing and certification “focused on technical integration of hardware and software issues, such as wireless communication system software maturity and configuration control, and software verification and validation,” Couch said.

The Ford class is the first new carrier design in 40 years, and rather than cables, the new elevators are “commanded via electromagnetic, linear synchronous motors,” the Navy said in a release. That change allows them to move faster and carry more ordnance — up to 24,000 pounds at 150 feet a minute instead of Nimitz-class carriers’ 10,500 pounds at 100 feet a minute.

Read more: The Navy’s newest, most sophisticated aircraft carrier doesn’t have urinals

The ship’s layout has also changed. Seven lower-stage elevators move ordnance between the lower levels of the ship and main deck. Three upper-stage elevators move it between the main deck and the flight deck. One elevator can be used to move injured personnel, allowing the weapons and aircraft elevators to focus on their primary tasks.

The Ford also has a dedicated weapons-handling area between its hangar bay and the flight deck “that eliminates several horizontal and vertical movements to various staging and build-up locations” offering “a 75% reduction in distance traveled from magazine to aircraft,” the Navy said.

Chief Machinist’s Mate Franklin Pollydore, second from left, reviews safety procedures for the Upper Stage 1 advanced weapons elevator with sailors from the USS Gerald R. Ford’s weapons department, January 16, 2019.
US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Jeff Troutman

The upper-stage 1 elevator will now be used by the Ford’s crew and “qualify them for moving ordnance during real-world operations,” Couch said.

The amount of new technology on the Ford means its crew is in many cases developing guidelines for using it. The crew is currently doing hands-on training that “will validate technical manuals and maintenance requirements cards against the elevator’s actual operation,” the Navy said.

James Geurts, Navy assistant secretary for research, development, and acquisition, told senators in late November that two elevators had been produced — one was through testing and another was “about 94% through testing.”

Read more: Watch the Navy’s newest, most sophisticated aircraft carrier land and launch its first aircraft

The other 10 elevators “are in varying levels of construction, testing, and operations,” Couch said. “Our plan is to complete all shipboard installation and testing activities of the advanced weapons elevators before the ship’s scheduled sail-away date in July.”

“In our current schedule there will be some remaining certification documentation that will be performed for 5 of the 11 elevators after [the post-shakedown assessment] is compete,” Couch said. “A dedicated team is engaged on these efforts and will accelerate this certification work and schedule where feasible.”

Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer during a tour of the USS Gerald R. Ford, January 17, 2019.
US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Kiana A. Raines

That timeline has particular meaning for Spencer, the Navy’s top civilian official.

The Navy secretary said at an event this month that at the Army-Navy football game on December 8, he told Trump — who has made his displeasure with the Ford well known — that he would bet his job on the elevators’ completion.

Read more: The Navy secretary made Trump a high-stakes promise: A major problem with the Navy’s new carrier will be fixed ‘or you can fire me’

“I asked him to stick his hand out — he stuck his hand out. I said, ‘Let’s do this like corporate America.’ I shook his hand and said the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me,” Spencer said during an event at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC.

“We’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done,” Spencer added. “I haven’t been fired yet by anyone — being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

An F/A-18F Super Hornet performs an arrested landing aboard USS Gerald R. Ford, July 28, 2017.
US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Elizabeth A. Thompson

The weapons elevators have posed a challenge to the Ford’s development, but they are far from the only problem.

Trump has repeatedly singled out the carrier’s new electromagnetic aircraft launch system, or EMALS, which uses magnets rather than steam to launch planes. Software issues initially hindered its performance.

“They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out,” Trump told Time magazine in May 2017, referring to the new launch system. “You going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.”

Read more: The Navy’s top officer in Europe says the US’s new strategy has already duped the Russians

Spencer said he and Trump had also discussed EMALS at the Army-Navy game.

“He said, should we go back to steam? I said, ‘Well Mr. President, really look at what we’re looking at. EMALS. We got the bugs out,’” Spencer said at the event this month, according to USNI News. “It can launch a very light piece of aviation gear, and right behind it we can launch the heaviest piece of gear we have. Steam can’t do that. And by the way, parts, manpower, space — it’s all to our advantage.”

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Worst Missed Call Ever

Chris Hagan @ChrisHaganTV

That one is on the refs. I never say that. And I generally hate blaming a single instance or call. But in a game that close, when one play can change everything, yeah, that’s as bad of a miss as it gets. That flag could’ve been thrown 10 seconds late and no one would argue it.

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Watch: Steelers’ Antonio Brown Posts Video Training with Kyler Murray

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray (1) looks up, during the first half of the Orange Bowl NCAA college football game against Alabama, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Antonio Brown and Kyler Murray have seemingly made more January headlines than the players still alive in the NFL playoffs, and they are now practicing together as they await their 2019 fates:

Murray and Brown were joined by Oklahoma receiver Marquise Brown, who announced he was entering the draft on Jan. 2.

As for Murray, he declared for the 2019 NFL draft even though the Oakland Athletics previously drafted him to play baseball. He could still ultimately play baseball but is apparently focusing on football for the time being.

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller projected Murray to go No. 7 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars in his latest mock draft as the second quarterback taken behind only Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins (No. 6 to the New York Giants). Miller projected Marquise Brown to go No. 22 to the Baltimore Ravens. 

Antonio Brown did not play in the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ Week 17 game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported he asked for a trade.

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Insiders say that Google’s new cloud boss is likely to make some very large acquisitions

In mid-December, 8,000 developers met up in Seattle for KubeCon, a conference centered around Kubernetes, a popular open source software tool that was originally developed at Google.

It was there, in the densely-packed confines of the Washington State Convention Center, that an old, familiar rumor start spreading: Google would acquire Atlassian, a popular developer software company with a public market cap of over $20 billion. And it would happen soon.

KubeCon came and went, though, and Google did not acquire Atlassian — or, at least, it hasn’t yet.

But at the root of that gossip lies a kernel of truth which tech M&A insiders across the industry said they expect to see play out over the next months and years: Google Cloud needs to make a game changing acquisition if it wants to move beyond its bronze-medal status in the cloud race in which Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure have come out so far ahead.

Greene missed on GitHub and RedHat

Diane Greene, Google Cloud CEO, announced her retirement in November.
Greg Sandoval/Business Insider

The biggest sign that change was ahead at Google Cloud came in mid-November, when CEO Diane Greene announced that she would step down from her role. Thomas Kurian, the longtime president of product at Oracle, joined Google Cloud at the end of November. He’s set to take over fully from Greene this month, though Greene will remain on Alphabet’s board of directors.

Greene is a renowned technologist and product expert, known for founding and running VMware, but her tenure at Google Cloud left enterprise analysts and clients feeling less than satisfied.

Specifically, under Greene, Google Cloud struggled to sell to the type of large enterprise customers that pay the bills at the likes of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Oracle.

Alex J. Zukin, an analyst at PiperJaffray, said in a note to clients that chief information officers and partners see Google Cloud as “fantastic technology,” but think it lacks in “maturity and commitment to enterprise sales, services and support.”

Its biggest competitive edge is in artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as price, Zukin said.

“With this in mind, we would expect Google to become more acquisitive in order to bolster its enterprise credibility and sales capacity, gain developer mindshare, and potentially expand its hybrid cloud capabilities,” wrote Zukin.

During Greene’s three-year tenure as CEO, Google Cloud made around a dozen small acquisitions and acqui-hires, but nothing that shook up the status quo or revamped its business model.

Greene had her chance to expand Google much deeper into so-called hybrid cloud, a specialized market where Microsoft is seen to dominate, through acquiring Red Hat. However, Google lost out on the opportunity, and IBM would go on to announce its intent to acquire it for $34 billion at the end of October.

Read more: IBM’s $34 billion Red Hat acquisition came after deal talks with Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, sources say

In the months before IBM’s mega-deal, Greene formed a close relationship with the Red Hat team, Business Insider reported in December. But she struggled to get the support from her colleagues at Google to actually make an offer, a source said at the time.

Instead, Google asked if Red Hat would explore a commercial partnership and a minority equity investment, which Red Hat declined in favor of the IBM deal.

It was the second time in 2018 that Google lost out to a competitor on a major, game-changing acquisition — Greene also reportedly had her eye on GitHub before Microsoft bought it for $7.5 billion back in June. Though the conversations went on for weeks, Google’s bid didn’t even come close, CNBC reported in June.

Kurian was known for M&A at Oracle

Thomas Kurian was known for M&A at Oracle.
Shutterstock

Bankers and M&A insiders told Business Insider that they expect to see Kurian make eye-catching deals to set Google Cloud on a more aggressive path, though they warned that with him so new in the role, it might take some time for that to happen.

One reason for this conviction is that Kurian has a strong track record in M&A. At Oracle, he was known for acquiring dozens of smaller companies and turning them into profitable business units, as was the case with its 2004 acquisition of Collaxa.

He also led Oracle’s bigger strategy-shifting acquisitions like its $10.3 billion PeopleSoft acquisition in 2004, and its $5.5 billion acquisition of Siebel Systems in 2005.

“Thomas Kurian has probably has acquired more companies, for the longest period of time, than almost any executives in the software industry,” said Anshu Sharma, the co-founder and chairman of Clearedin, who worked with Kurian at Oracle from 1996 to 2006.

Read more:Wall Street bankers share what they expect to see from tech M&A in 2019

While Kurian’s strategy of sweeping up $50 million startups worked twenty years ago, Sharma said he believes that the industry has changed too much for this to be possible since startups are more expensive now and can live a lot longer on private capital before getting swept up by a strategic buyer.

With that in mind, Sharma said he thinks it’s much more likely that Kurian will make a handful of big deals in his first 18 months at the company. Ultimately, he said, it will depend how much cash Google gives Kurian to play with.

“If I am running Google Cloud, how many GitHubs can I buy for a reasonable price? I think it’s very clear that you need a lot of M&A to jump start that business to be competitive against Amazon and Microsoft,” Sharma said. “Unlike the old days, you can’t buy 20 companies for $2 billion aggregate. Today you’d need 10 to 15 times more money.”

Insiders bet on Atlassian, ServiceNow

Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes, co-founders of Atlassian, a rumored acquisition target for Google.
Atlassian

While the rumors at KubeCon have yet to come to fruition, industry analysts are a fan of the idea of a Google/Atlassian tie-up.

Joel Fishbein, an analyst at BTIG, wrote in a note to clients Wednesday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if Atlassian gets taken out by a much larger technology company like Google.”

“Atlassian has increasingly become a crown jewel in the software space, and Thomas Kurian’s recent sign-on to lead Google Cloud could signal that more major changes are coming in 2019,” Fishbein wrote.

Acquiring Atlassian would give Google Cloud an in with developers and fill the void left by its failed GitHub acquisition. But that’s just one strategy that folks in the industry see playing out over the next several months.

PiperJaffray’s Zukin wrote that he thinks ServiceNow and Splunk would both give Google Cloud “enterprise credibility,” and that Atlassian and Slack would give Google Cloud “increase credibility and mindshare with developers.”

Read more: 10 tech companies are sitting on $346 billion of M&A ‘dry powder’ that could change the software market if stocks continue to fall

Out of those, however, analysts at PiperJaffray predicated that ServiceNow is the most likely acquisition candidate.

“[Google] would be acquiring what is arguably (in our opinion definitively) the best assemblage of talent purely focused on selling to the IT departments of large enterprises and eliminates or significantly reduces what we believe the be the biggest hurdle in Google’s aims at gaining market share in the Public Cloud,” Zukin wrote, adding that he could see Google paying between $40 billion and $50 billion for ServiceNow, which currently has a $34 billion market cap.

To Sharma, the answer for Google lies in applications. He sees a future merger between Google and Twilio, which helps developers add phone and texting features to their apps, as well as Okta, the identity management software that enterprises use to manage passwords.

“If I had to pick one company that he should buy, it’s probably Okta more than anything else,” Sharma said.

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Beirut summit: Arab leaders agree 29-item economic agenda

Beirut, Lebanon – Arab leaders have agreed a 29-item economic agenda in addition to encouraging the safe return of Syrian refugees to their homeland at the conclusion of the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit.

The 20 countries taking part in the summit issued a joint statement called the Beirut Declaration on Sunday, calling for the establishment of an Arab free trade zone and the international community to support countries hosting refugees and displaced people.

Reading out the statement, Hossam Zaki, assistant secretary general of the Arab League, reminded the international and Arab donor communities to “help alleviate the suffering of refugees and displaced and to secure funding for developmental projects in host countries”.

In his opening speech, Lebanon President Michel Aoun had called for encouraging the “safe return of displaced Syrians”, saying that the process should not be linked to a political solution in the war-torn country. 

Syrian refugees

A key point of contention ahead of the meeting related to the wording of Article 13 in the summit statement.

Lebanon, which hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, called for their return to Syria after President Bashar al-Assad regained control of most of the country. Other countries had insisted this discussion be linked to a political solution.

The summit had also been marred by divisions among Lebanese politicians and regional leaders over the reinstatement of Syria into the 22-country Arab League.

While Lebanon’s foreign minister Gebran Bassil called for Syria’s return to the bloc, its secretary general Ahmed Aboul Gheit said there was no agreement the proposal yet, adding that it may be discussed during the Arab League summit that takes place in Tunisia in March. 

Rami Khouri, a political analyst and fellow at Harvard Kennedy School told Al Jazeera that although normalisation with Syria was inevitable, the process of refugees’ return will take time.

There’s no sign of a serious breakthrough in a political transition which would allow the safe return of refugees and the reconstruction [of devastated areas]. For this to happen, there needs to be a clear sign for a political reconciliation according to UN resolutions,” said Khouri.

Paul Salem, president of the Middle East Institute, agreed that normalisation will take time.

“The trend is still toward normalisation, but some key Arab countries, as well as some in the West, will want to use the ‘carrot’ of normalisation to get some concessions from the Assad regime,” said Salem.

Earlier in the day, President Aoun had presented an initiative to establish an Arab bank for reconstruction and development, which would help rebuild countries torn by conflict.

Discussion during the summit focussed on redevelopment plans in Somalia and Yemen.

Late withdrawals

The summit was overshadowed by political rifts. Lebanese media and analysts had called the meeting a “failure” due to poor attendance by Arab heads of state, many of whom pulled out last minute.

In addition to a brief visit by Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz was also in in attendance. 

“The Qataris are trying to promote a reconciliatory spirit around the region and reconfigure relationships following the siege,” Khouri told Al Jazeera.

Amine Kammourieh, a Lebanese political analyst, said the “Emir’s attendance broke the siege imposed on the summit [by Arab leaders], saving it at the last minute”. 

Technology initiative

A key contribution during Sunday’s meeting was the launch of a $200m technology investment fund across the region by Kuwait’s foreign minister.

Sheikh Sabah al Khalid al Sabah said Kuwait would contribute $50m to the fund to allow “investment in the fields of technology and digital economy” which the private sector will take part in.

Following the announcement, Qatar’s finance minister Ali Sharif al-Emadi pledged the same amount in support of Kuwait’s initiative.

Speculations had circulated across Lebanese media on Saturday that Qatar would pledge coverage of all the summit’s costs as well as a deposit of $1bn in Lebanon’s Central Bank. But Bassil said those reports were rumours and aimed to create a let-down of the summit.

The League’s secretary general Abul Gheit announced that the next Arab economic summit would be held in Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott in 2023, adding that the four-year break would provide time for the summit objectives to be achieved.

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Tornados inflict damage in Alabama town, Florida Panhandle

Homes, businesses, government offices and churches were among the buildings badly damaged or demolished when tornadoes struck central Alabama over the weekend.

The severe weather hit Saturday and another tornado was reported later that evening at an air base in the Florida Panhandle.

On Sunday, the National Weather Service says its initial surveys indicated there was an EF 1 tornado in Autauga County, and a stronger EF2 twister in Wetumpka, Alabama.

“We suffered a tremendous amount of damage,” Mayor Jerry Willis said at a morning news conference with city and Elmore County officials. “Something that we’ve never had here before.”

The familiar steeple of the First Baptist Church of Wetumpka was missing after the storm. And much of a historic Presbyterian church was reduced to rubble.

Officials said at a news conference Sunday morning that at least 25 homes were seriously damaged or destroyed. Also severely damaged were the Wetumpka police station, senior citizens center and recreation center, according to WSFA-TV .

“Thus far we’ve seen damage indicating wind speeds of 120 to 130 mph,” John DeBlock, of the National Weather Service in Birmingham, said during the news conference.

No deaths or life-threatening injuries were reported.

Willis advised Wetumpka residents to avoid the downtown area as debris was being removed Sunday. There were no immediate estimates of the dollar value of the damage. Willis said that was being documented in anticipation of seeking federal aid. The Central Alabama Community Foundation is raising money to help Wetumpka storm victims.

In the Florida Panhandle, authorities said buildings on an air base were damaged by a tornado early Saturday evening. Tyndall Air Force Base posted a message on its official Facebook page that no one was injured but that the tornado damaged structures and vehicles on the military installation. The air base was hammered by Hurricane Michael in October.

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Patriots Staffer: Tom Brady Said He Was the ‘Baddest Motherf–ker on the Planet’

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 13: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Tom Brady is a 14-time Pro Bowler, three-time MVP and five-time Super Bowl champion. The New England Patriots quarterback gave himself another distinction in the buildup to Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

A member of the Patriots staff told NFL Network’s Michael Giardi that Brady walked into the team’s facility earlier this week and said he was the “baddest motherf–ker on the planet”:

The Patriots are in a somewhat unfamiliar position for the AFC Championship Game. They have to go on the road to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, and Kansas City is a three-point favorite, according to OddsShark.

Clearly confidence isn’t in short supply for New England, though. Brady is likely feeling particularly assured given his team’s matchup.

The Chiefs allowed an average of 273.4 yards per game through the air, second-most in the NFL, though they did finish 12th in pass defense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), per Football Outsiders

Brady, meanwhile, threw for 4,355 yards and 29 touchdowns in the regular season and torched the Los Angeles Chargers secondary for 343 yards and a score in the AFC divisional round.

Although the Patriots are technically the underdogs, nobody will be surprised in the event they roll on to their third straight Super Bowl.

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