To casual observers, the annual pumpkin festival in the small college town of Keene, New Hampshire, would seem like a harmless bit of seasonal fun. But to the local police, the event is apparently so threatening, it has to be monitored by military-style sniper units. Photos and videos taken by partygoers show what appear to be teams of plainclothes officers stationed on rooftops, scanning the crowds below with binoculars and military-grade sniper rifles.
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Ever since Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sat to the negotiating table with Gazprom’s CEO Alexei Miller, the number of Hungarian steps putting the Russian gas giant in an advantageous position and supporting Russian interests have oddly increased. First Hungary shut down reverse gas flow to Ukraine, then allowed Gazprom to stash its gas in local gas storage units. The latest measure is a law amendment proposal that would give Hungary the green-light to start building the South Stream pipeline.
Currency wars are back, though this time the goal is to steal inflation, not growth. Brazil Finance Minister Guido Mantega popularized the term “currency war” in 2010 to describe policies employed at the time by major central banks to boost the competitiveness of their economies through weaker currencies. Now, many see lower exchange rates as a way to avoid crippling deflation. Weak price growth is stifling economies from the euro region to Israel and Japan.
Taking an old-school approach to battle the woes of modern capitalism, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has endorsed a legislative ban on unemployment. “You want to bring back [the phrase] ‘social parasitism,’ do it. That would be easier for the people to understand,” Lukashenko was cited as saying at a governmental meeting on employment. His comments were made during a discussion of the Belarussian police’s proposal to punish people who “intentionally don’t work,” including by imposing forced labor.
The Turkish government got a big slap in the face last week when the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to turn down its application for a Security Council seat. In effect, the international community was rejecting Turkey’s hostile policies both at home and abroad. Why did Turkey lose in 2014 more than half the 151 votes it received in its successful bid for a Security Council seat in 2008? The vigorous campaign by a large number of countries against Turkey’s membership: Armenia, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, among others.
The $103 million taxpayer funding of New Zealand’s intelligence agencies is effectively a membership fee for joining the Five Eyes surveillance club with the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, according to a de-classified report. The intelligence agencies have always been vague on what contribution New Zealand makes to the 5-Eyes partnership. Speculation ranges from having good positioning on the planet for some satellite intercepts to our benign nation status being used as a staging point for electronic spying on countries less friendly to the UK or US.
Qatar is the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG). North Field, the biggest known conventional gas field in the world, is just off its shores. Consequently, an attack on its LNG production and export infrastructure could produce great shocks in the LNG, oil, and coal markets, and eventually could seriously damage the world economy. Qatar’s outward looking foreign policy is almost entirely based on projecting power through its oil and gas wealth
American support for Ukrainian democracy means providing military support for the country, director of the US non-profit organization National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Carl Gershman said Monday. “I think that we really need to be looking not just in providing NED democracy assistance in Ukraine, they need to be able to deter a foreign aggression,” Gershman said. “We have to be able to help them, and if we don’t, we’re not helping democracy,” he added.
Tensions flared Sunday between Algeria and Morocco after Rabat accused an Algerian soldier of firing on Moroccan civilians across their shared border and seriously wounding one of them. Algeria charged on Sunday that Rabat was twisting the facts and summoned its envoy to express its “exasperation” a day after Morocco had summoned the Algerian ambassador to “vigorously protest” against the shooting.
Nine people were killed Sunday in new violence in Benghazi where pro-government forces have launched an offensive against Islamist militias, raising the toll to 75 dead in five days, medics said. In the latest violence a woman was killed in a bomb attack that targeted the vacant house of former general Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the offensive launched Wednesday, a military source said. Fierce fighting raged in several parts of Libya’s second city between pro-government forces led by Haftar and Islamist militias.
Sudan’s government plans to increase military assistance to rebels in South Sudan, which could prolong the south’s civil war and return the region to a wider conflict, according to a leaked document. Sudan will provide tanks and artillery and share intelligence with rebels fighting South Sudan’s government, according to the minutes of a high-level meeting of security and military officials in Khartoum, that a top American expert on Sudan has concluded are real.
The partners in the Israeli Tamar gas field report this morning that they have signed a memorandum of understanding with Egyptian company Dolphinus Holdings for the export of up to 2.5 BCM of surplus natural gas from Israel to private Egyptian industrial customers, over a period of seven years. The gas will be transported via the Israel Natural Gas Lines system to Ashkelon, and from there to Egypt via the EMG (East Mediterranean Gas) pipeline.
Following a decade of “near-absence” in the Middle East, Russia is once again asserting itself as it looks to sell arms to former Soviet-era clients while breaking into the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) market. “Today, the Russian goal in the Middle East is to regain the influence that the USSR once had. While the USA is having uneasy relations with MENA [Middle East and North Africa] countries, Russia is making attempts to capitalize on this fact and fill the vacuum left when the United States leaves,” he said.
Assuring cooperation in all avenues while highlighting three key threats, terrorism, extremism and narcotics, the Chinese envoy emphasized: “China is also ready to extend cooperation in this regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan.” China was the biggest neighbour to both Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Weidong said. “China is devoted for the early settlement of Afghan issue. We have taken an active part.” He also talked about building Peshawar-Jalalabad and Chaman-Qandhar railways lines to bring both countries further closer.
Lower oil prices, reflected in falling petrol prices at the pump, have been a boon for Western consumers. Are they also a potent US weapon against Russia and Iran? That’s the conclusion drawn by New York Times columnist Thomas L Friedman, who says the US and Saudi Arabia, whether by accident or design, could be pumping Russia and Iran to brink of economic collapse. Despite turmoil in many of the world’s oil-producing countries – Libya, Iraq, Nigeria and Syria – prices are hitting lows not seen in years, Friedman writes.
Transnational organized crime likes opportunities and little resistance. Bolivia currently provides both and finds itself at the heart of a new criminal dynamic that threatens national and citizen security in this landlocked Andean nation. Basuco is like crack cocaine, a highly addictive form of the drug which is smoked. It is cheaper to produce than cocaine and has short-lived but intense highs, prompting addicts to engage in repeated and prolonged use, which ends up permanently damaging the user’s health.
Turkey decides who to arm within its own territories, Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Volkan Bozkır said in Brussels where he announced Turkey’s new EU strategy. His remarks came after Germany, on Thursday, said they can send arms to the outlawed PKK that is fighting the ISIS in Kobani. Turkey opposes Germany to arm the PKK to fight ISIS in the Syrian town of Kobani at the Turkish-Syria border. Bozkır said that both the PKK and ISIS were terrorist groups adding that the PKK was also on the terror lists of the U.S., NATO and Turkey.
Turkish Hurriyet Daily News reports that Turkish Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator Volkan Bozkύr said during a visit to Berlin that if Turkey becomes a member of the European Union, the EU would be able to establish an army of 60,000 soldiers.“EU is in a superpower position but it has been unable to build its army, ” he said. “The EU is always in the “soft power” stance because it cannot establish a European army consisting of 60,000 soldiers.”
China enjoys a unique economic relationship with North Korea. Because North Korea is under heavy sanction, both bilateral and multilateral, China captures monopoly/monopsony rents as the only serious trading partner for the DPRK. That is, Chinese firms operating in North Korea, trading with it, banking with it, and so on, can demand cut-rate prices for North Korean goods because Pyongyang has few other buyers of its products, and charge high prices for its own goods.
In the midst of the war against ISIS now taking place in both Iraq and Syria, a possible shifting of alliances that could fundamentally alter the balance of power in the region is taking place, and no one seems to have noticed. Specifically, the burgeoning relationship between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq has the potential to remake the political landscape of the Middle East. Naturally, such a development is part of a broader geopolitical gambit by Iran.
Two Egyptian officials claimed the country’s warplanes had begun bombing positions in Benghazi, the second-largest city in neighboring Libya, on Wednesday, in an attempt to wrest control of the city from the Ansar-al-Sharia Islamist militia. The mission, which will be led by Libyan pilots, marks the highest-profile collaboration between the two North African countries, both of which are beset by instability, since they experienced simultaneous Arab Spring revolutions in 2011. The Egyptian government has officially denied the news.
The United States would respond favorably to the military needs of the poorly equipped Lebanese Army in its fight against terrorism, Lebanese Army commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi has reportedly said. The local newspaper Al-Mustaqbal, quoting sources following up on Kahwagi’s visit to Washington, reported Thursday the Army chief has been assured by American officials that the United States was prepared to support the military and supply it with weapons to combat terrorism.
But what is happening in Turkey is uncannily similar to what happened in Pakistan. Turkey acted as a conduit to the FSA as much as Pakistan did to the Mujahedeen. The FSA gradually fragmented and spawned the vicious ISIS just like the Mujahedeen became the Taliban. Admittedly Taliban is not as virulent as the IS, but the ideology and modus operandi are the same. Pakistan came into being as a Muslim state with Mohammad Ali Jinnah as the strident advocate of a separate Muslim state in India.
Russia is scaring Azerbaijan, as well as Armenia with Karabakh. Moscow is showing that it can provoke both Azerbaijan and Armenia, thus keeping both beside it. In fact, Moscow’s possibilities in Karabakh are highly limited, and perhaps it has decided that it would be cheaper to devour Armenia and Azerbaijan (through the Eurasian Union) in both economic and military terms. Azerbaijan is Russia’s natural ally, unlike Armenia which is making friends with Russia under the threat of blackmail.