The Spanish government is readying itself for an autumn of discontent, spending nearly €1bn on riot gear for police units as disparate protest groups prepare a string of demonstrations. Since June, the interior ministry has tendered four contracts to purchase riot equipment ranging from shields to stab vests. The ministry also finalised its purchase of a new truck-mounted water cannon, an anti-riot measure used during Spain’s dictatorship and the transition to democracy but little seen in recent years.
Nagorno-Karabakh is run by ethnic Armenians but is legally part of Azerbaijan. Secession in 1988 led to a war that killed some 30,000 people. A shaky ceasefire ensued in 1994, with Azerbaijan losing 14% of its territory. Exchanges of fire along the front have long been common, but the clashes this year have been the worst since 1994. Azerbaijan feels vulnerable. Russia provides a security guarantee for Armenia, where it has a military base and 4,000-5,000 troops.
Sanaa is about to fall in the hands of the Houthis. It is true they reached the city three times before and each time they would retreat at the last minute. But this time seems different. Abdel Malik al-Houthi’s group seems determined to reach its objective. It wants to clearly translate its military power and the influence of its regional alliances into political power and a piece of the Yemeni cake. The regional conflict with Saudi Arabia clearly constitutes a large part of the picture.
The new European Commission needs to shift its focus from humanitarian aid in conflict zones to conflict prevention and intervene more as a ‘best supporting actor to the UN’, says a paper by the European Think Tanks Group published today. Its theme is that “the new EU leadership must step up and realise that to ensure stability and economic growth at home, global issues must be tackled head on. Europe will prosper if the world is prospering,” according to Kevin Watkins, ODI’s executive director.
Since May 23, 2013, and the suspension of the Kimberley Process — the certification scheme for the origin of rough diamonds — the Central African Republic (CAR) has officially exported none of the many diamonds that lie in its rivers. It’s a massive loss of income for this bankrupted state. In 2012, even though most of the stones were already fraudulently exported, almost 372,000 carats were transported out of the country legally for a value equal to around 45 million euros.
Argentina is not the only country that has struggled to pay its debt recently. There are 10 other countries currently on Moody’s lists with a rating of Caa1 or worse, meaning they are at risk of default. Ecuador, Egypt, Pakistan, Venezuela, Belize, Cuba, Cyprus, Greece, Jamaica and Ukraine are all on the verge of a default, according to Moody’s ratings. Moody’s currently rates the country’s economy as stable and it is predicted that it will continue its healthy trend set in the past six years.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced Wednesday that the country will introduce a mandatory fingerprinting system in supermarkets. He asserted that the plan will keep people from buying too much of any single item. The president did not say when the measure would go into effect, the Associated Press reports. The Socialist Venezuelan government has struggled with food shortages for over a year. Basic cooking items like oil and flour are scarce.
Spain’s public debt has topped one trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) for the first time, despite years of government-imposed austerity. The nation’s accumulated public debt mushroomed to 1.007 trillion euros at the end of June from 996 billion euros a month earlier, the Bank of Spain said in a report. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government has struggled to contain annual deficits by raising taxes, freezing public salaries and curbing spending on services such as education and health care despite angry street protests.
ISIS terrorists are currently in control of seven oil fields in Iraq and large amounts of the country’s wheat supplies.
Iraqi officials said on Wednesday that the militants were holding government silos in five of Iraq’s most fertile provinces, where the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) says 40 percent of the country’s wheat is grown. “Now is the worst time for food insecurity,” said Fadel al-Zubi, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative for Iraq.
South Korea’s army faces a foe that’s currently causing far more controversy than the North Korean forces massed above the demilitarized zone – and may be just as dangerous. Sagging military morale among the South’s 640,000 troops has resulted in suicides, mass shootings and, most alarming of all from the viewpoint of the top command, the torture murder of a young soldier. In a country that still requires a minimum 21 months military service, young Koreans seem increasingly unwilling to serve.
Default is a major disaster for a government, but not much will happen right away now that Standard & Poor’s has declared Argentina to be in “selective default.” S&P (MHFI) took the action today after Argentina’s talks with holdout creditors continued past the end of the 30-day grace period for a $539 million bond payment. Defaults are usually bad for bond prices. But prices for Argentine bonds soared today to their highest level since 2010. They rose 10¢ to reach almost 96¢ on the dollar.
A powerful Iranian general has emerged as the chief tactician in Iraq’s fight against Sunni militants, working on the front lines alongside 120 advisers from his country’s Revolutionary Guard to direct Shiite militiamen and government forces in the smallest details of battle, militia commanders and government officials say. The startlingly hands-on role of Iranian Gen. Ghasem Soleimani points to the extent of the Shiite-led Iraqi government’s reliance on its ally Tehran. The Iranian role, however, risks further sharpening the sectarian rifts in the conflict.
Greece ranks first in the eurozone and fourth among the 28 members of the European Union for the percentage of its citizens living on or below the poverty line, according to a new report. The study, conducted by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), found that just over a third (34.6%) of Greeks – some 3,795,100 individuals – were living on less than 60% of the national median income in 2013.This percentage has risen steadily since 2010, when the country began implementing austerity measures.
Portuguese bank Banco Espirito Santo, battling a financial crisis crippling its main shareholder, came under renewed stock market pressure on Thursday after a credit downgrade. Shares in the bank, which had rallied strongly on Wednesday from record low levels, plunged again in morning trading. They fell by 6.59 percent to 0.43 euros, shedding ten percent at one point. The declines pushed down the overall Portuguese stock market, which fell 1.14 percent.
The report speaks of the fear circulating in diplomatic circles that despite the extraordinary efforts of the security forces and the support of international actors who would prefer to see Lebanon stabilized, the country is in danger of falling prey to the bad intentions of certain regional and international parties. These fundamentalist groups receive political support and cover from known regional powers and they are planning a new wave of bombings and assassinations that have a purely political goal, it claims.
Plenty of materials for a potential dirty bomb are likely scattered throughout the area of Iraq controlled by ISIS, and pulling off an attack that spreads even a minor amount of radiation could be a huge PR coup for the terror group, experts say. Last week, the Iraqi government in Baghdad warned the UN that ISIS operatives had stolen 88 pounds of uranium compounds from Mosul University. Even though many experts said the research materials were not enough to cause widespread harm, spreading fear is even more important.
Both Bai Hassan and Kirkuk Oil fields in Kirkuk province are now under Peshmerga control, with the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) having ceased control of one other oil field in the area, from where they smuggle oil to Hamreen Mountains according to a source from North Oil co. who asked to remain anonymous. “Both oil fields have been controlled by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. These two oil fields are important and very beneficial for Kirkuk because it is the place from where oil is exported abroad,” said the source.
Bulgaria is to allow its fourth-biggest lender to collapse and will hive off its healthy activities into a separate bank as it moves to clear up the mess from the country’s worst financial scandal since the 1990s. The central bank said it was removing Corporate Commercial Bank’s (Corpbank) license and alerting prosecutors to the possibility that its main shareholder stole money from the bank just before the central bank took over its operations.
The EU’s bailout fund has moved closer to being able to directly pump money into troubled banks after the German government introduced a bill allowing direct bank recapitalisation. The German government has introduced a bill allowing the EU’s bailout fund to directly fund struggling banks. The draft law will now require approval in the Bundestag, but is planned to enter into force in November. “This is an important step to stabilise our financial sector … and to increase further the trust in our common European currency,”
Africa is a major target for Chinese investment to secure resources, and Prince’s new company — Hong Kong headquartered Frontier Services Group (FSG) — provides risk management, logistics, and aviation services to companies that want to set up in Africa. The words, “high risk, high return” apply to doing business in Africa, Prince said, but he encourages his Chinese customers to focus on another slogan: “happy locals, happy project.”
Seizing on the mayhem in Iraq, Israel’s prime minister on Sunday called for the establishment of an independent Kurdistan as part of a broader alliance with moderate forces across the region, and asserted that Israel would have to maintain a long-term military presence in the West Bank to keep a jihadi juggernaut from powering its way to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Netanyahu suggested that the territorial gains made this month by ISIS could endanger neighboring Jordan
History shows that when the difference between a country or region’s credit-to-GDP ratio and the long-term trends of that ratio exceeds 10%, it indicates a pretty rapid accumulation of debt and is usually followed by serious strain on a banking system within 3 years. When residential property prices start rising above their long term trends, that often points to a credit boom and comes two to three years ahead of a crisis.
Bulgaria’s central bank said yesterday there was a systematic attempt to destabilise the country through attacks on the banking system and vowed to protect citizens’ savings. Depositors queued in the capital Sofia to withdraw funds from one of the country’s biggest banks and its shares slumped, worsening a crisis that has shone a light on weak economic governance in the poorest European Union state. The central bank took control of Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank) after a run on deposits.
The world’s newest country, South Sudan, has topped the list of fragile states in this year’s index released by a leading US-based research institute. Chronic instability, fractured leadership and growing ethnic conflict made it the most fragile state, The Fund for Peace said. The top six countries on the index are all in sub-Saharan Africa. Afghanistan was listed as the seventh most fragile state followed by Yemen, Haiti and Pakistan. Syria is 15th.
A run on Corporate Commercial Bank (Corpbank) prompted Bulgaria’s central bank to take control of the country’s fourth-largest lender and its governor appealed to depositors to stay calm. The Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) said it would handle Corpbank’s operations for three months and removed its management and supervisory board after the run, which was sparked by media reports of shady deals involving the bank. The BNB said it acted after Corpbank said it had stopped all bank operations due to a liquidity drain.
The 300 U.S. advisers authorized to assist the Iraqi security forces will find an army in crisis mode, so lacking in equipment and shaken by desertions that it may not be able to win back significant chunks of territory from al-Qaeda renegades for months or even years, analysts and officials say. After tens of thousands of desertions, the Iraqi military is reeling from what one U.S. official described as “psychological collapse” in the face of the offensive from militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The managing director of the International Monetary Fund is expected to launch an appeal to the European Central Bank on Thursday, urging it to deal with deflationary risks by beginning a form of quantitative easing, the Financial Times newspaper reported. That would include large purchases of sovereign bonds to stimulate growth, the newspaper said Wednesday, citing a draft of a statement from the IMF based on its annual evaluation of the eurozone’s economic health.
Violent conflict and unrest cost the world as much as the combined economic output of Britain, Germany, France and Italy last year, or $1,350 per person globally, an index measuring the state of world peace found on Wednesday. The economic cost of containing and dealing with the consequences of global violence last year was an estimated $9.8 trillion, 11.3 percent of global economic output, up 3.8 percent from 2012, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP).
President Cristina Fernandez says Argentina can’t possibly comply with U.S. court orders to pay $1.5 billion in cash to winners of a decade-long debt dispute, the position her country was left in Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her government’s final appeal. Under the U.S. court orders, Argentina must hand over $907 million to the plaintiffs, or lose the ability to use the U.S. financial system to pay an equal amount due June 30 to holders of other Argentine bonds.
Iraq edged closer to all-out sectarian conflict on Thursday as Kurdish forces took control of a provincial capital in the oil-rich north and Sunni militants vowed to march on two cities revered by Shiite Muslims. Kurdish military units known as peshmerga said they had taken up positions in key government installations in Kirkuk, as forces of the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki abandoned their posts and fled in fear of advancing Sunni militants, an official in the office of the provincial governor said.
A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”
Tehran has ballistic missiles able to pound targets over twice as distant as previously thought, and can reach the American mid-ocean strategic base at Diego Garcia, a senior Iranian official has explicitly warned. “In the event of a mistake on the part of the United States, their bases in Bahrain and (Diego) Garcia will not be safe from Iranian missiles,” said an Iranian Revolutionary Guard adviser to Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Majatba Dhualnuri.
U.S. arms supplies to Syrian rebels may create Somali-style warlords and are undermining Washington’s allies in the rebels’ exile military command, the former Syrian army general who leads it said. Brigadier General Abdelilah al-Bashir, who defected in 2012 and led rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces in the Golan before becoming chief-of-staff of the FSA’s Supreme Military Council in February, told Reuters that Washington was bypassing the SMC in sending weapons directly to groups that were hard to control.
Jackhammers are down and excavators gather dust at a Kabul construction site, spotlighting an aid-reliant economy on the edge of a precipice as Afghanistan’s war winds down and a tenuous political transition looms.The country’s banks are at grave risk of being put on an international blacklist this month if parliament fails to pass a long-demanded money laundering bill — with potentially devastating consequences for the already-fragile economy.
The shadowy leader of thousands of Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq, many of them westerners, appears to be surpassing Al Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zawahiri as the world’s most influential militant. Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – known for its ruthless tactics and suicide bombers – is arguably the most capable force fighting Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, and has even held control of a major Iraqi city for the past five months, in tandem with other groups.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt warned on Wednesday that Scottish independence would lead to the “Balkanisation” of the United Kingdom that would have consequences for the rest of Europe.Bildt told the Financial Times newspaper that a vote for independence in September’s referendum which would see Scotland leave the 307-year-old union would trigger “unforeseen chain reactions” in both the United Kingdom and continental Europe.
Troops clashed at the Burma-Bangladesh border oas tensions boiled over while Burmese soldiers were returning the body of a Bangladeshi killed in a skirmish two days before, AFP has reported. Citing Devdash Bhattacharya, the Bangladeshi police chief in the district of Bandarban, the report said that gunfire broke out on Friday afternoon when the Burmese border police failed to return the dead soldier’s body on time.
More than 10 million of Yemen’s some 25 million inhabitants are either severely food insecure — meaning they require food assistance because they cannot find enough food for themselves — or teetering on the edge, the World Food Program said. The country has one of the world’s highest levels of malnutrition among children, with nearly half of all kids under the age of five — a full two million of them — stunted, WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters.
Water Wars: Ankara suspends pumping Euphrates’ water, cutting off the water supply to Syria and Iraq
The Turkish government recently cut off the flow of the Euphrates River, threatening primarily Syria but also Iraq with a major water crisis. Al-Akhbar found out that the water level in Lake Assad has dropped by about six meters, leaving millions of Syrians without drinking water. Two weeks ago, the Turkish government once again intervened in the Syrian crisis. The repercussions of which may bring unprecedented catastrophes onto both Iraq and Syria.
The European Central Bank is “alert” to the risks of persistently low inflation, president Mario Draghi said on Monday amid speculation of further interest rates cuts to avert possible deflation. “What we need to be particularly watchful for at the moment is, in my view, the potential for a negative spiral to take hold between between low inflation, falling inflation expectations and credit, in particular in stressed countries,” he said.
The European Commission has published a revised and extended list of Critical Raw Materials, based on threatened supply coupled with economic importance. The 2014 list includes 13 of the 14 materials identified in the previous list of 2011, with only tantalum moving out of the list due to a lower supply risk. Six new materials appear on the list: borates, chromium, coking coal, magnesite, phosphate rock and silicon metal bringing the number up to 20 raw materials which are now considered critical by the European Commission.
Today in Mexico, Latin America’s second largest economy, 10.5 million people — 9.1 percent of its 118 million people — have no direct access to drinking water, according to government figures. President Enrique Pena Nieto said recently that 35 million Mexicans have limited access in terms of quantity and quality. He said resolving this basic problem was a “national priority.” There is only one small river, and 73% of the city’s water comes from underground.
An emergency preparedness “risk map” of Mount Vesuvius, Europe’s only active volcano, has been prepared, Italian geologists said. The map of 650 square kilometers (251 square miles) — including the mountain and the nearby city of Naples — was prepared by researchers from Pisa and Bari Universities, and “permits the first major preliminary evaluation of the areas potentially at risk,” a Pisa University statement said.
Pakistan’s natural resources, particularly reserves of gas and oil, are dwindling by 2-3 percent every day which is an alarming development, though the incumbent government has increased its focus on indigenous exploration and production of resources. This has been disclosed by OGDCL Managing Director Riaz Khan here on Wednesday in a meeting of the subcommittee of the Senate Committee on petroleum and natural resources.
MIT has received a major gift from alumnus Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel ’78 aimed at ensuring the world’s food and water supply for the 21st century. The gift establishes the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS), named in honor of Mohammed’s late father, to spearhead research that will help humankind adapt to a rapidly changing planet and combat worldwide water and food-supply scarcity.
Moderate opposition factions and Islamist rebels from Jabhat Al Nusra were on the brink of going to war with each other on Sunday night in what would be a dramatic spread of rebel-on-rebel violence to Syria’s southern front.
Mediation efforts, under way since last Saturday’s capture of Ahmed Nehmeh, a commander in the western and Gulf-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), were continuing in northern Jordan in a last-ditch attempt to avert an outbreak of open hostilities among rebels.
Over the last six months, levels of conflict and political violence have jumped significantly in 48 countries as a consequence of popular revolutions and regime change, a study released reveals. In its latest conflict and political violence index, global risk analytics company Maplecroft analyzed 197 nations, placing the most risky at the top of the list. These countries include resource-rich Central African Republic (ranked 2nd most at risk), South Sudan (4th), Somalia (6th), DR Congo (7th), and Libya (8th), all of which saw significant increases in risk.
Asia’s growing dependence on Middle Eastern oil has amplified the risks it faces if the Strait of Hormuz is suddenly shut, making it more vulnerable to such a disruption than other regions, UK think-tank Chatham House said on Wednesday. Asia is more at risk than Europe and the United States to a cut in Middle Eastern supplies as it buys 75 percent of the region’s oil exports, said Chatham House energy security expert John Mitchell in a report – Asia’s Oil Supply: Risks and Pragmatic Remedies.
Hezbollah called for a political consensus on a new president and warned that Lebanon might slip into a power vacuum if no head of state is elected by May 25. “If no consensus is reached, it means that … we might plunge into [power] vacuum,” Qassem warned. “I’m not saying we want [a power] vacuum, but I’m saying that this vacuum is the natural result of the failure by some [politicians] to make consensual decisions.”
In the nearly 20 months since the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks, al Qaeda operatives and allied terrorists have flocked to Libya, making the fragile North African country a hub for those seeking to wage jihad from north Africa, current and former U.S. counterterrorism officials tell The Daily Beast. Not only does al Qaeda host Ansar al-Sharia, one of the militias responsible for the Benghazi attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Terrorism/sabotage was ranked 46. “It is barely conceivable that a little over a decade after one of the most impactful risk events in recent world history, the ranking for terrorism is so low,” the report states. “The sad truth is that terrorism attacks are not confined to politically or economically unstable regions. They can happen anywhere, anytime and without reason, but their horrible commonality is that the results are almost always devastating.”
It was recently revealed that the company has been illegally burying hundreds of tons of chemicals underground for the last several years. About 1,000 people residing nearby, especially those living close to Roc Niu-Bai Tho have been diagnosed with various diseases, such as cancer, neurological disorders, infertility and birth defects. At the time when the water source was discovered to be contaminated with arsenic, tens of people in the locality had already been stricken with various cancers.
Heavy military spending in India and Pakistan has been detrimental to the citizens of both countries, a US think-tank has said urging the two neighbours to reinvest in trade and confidence building. The Washington-based Atlantic Council warns that “Kashmir remains a potential global flashpoint that could escalate into a nuclear war very quickly.” Although many in the two countries now favour rapprochement, the report argues that “unless both sides begin a dialogue on economic and military relations, these issues will only worsen.”
Kuwait, a U.S. ally whose aid to besieged Syrian civilians has been surpassed only by the United States this year, is also the leading source of funding for al-Qaeda-linked terrorists fighting in Syria’s civil war, according to Obama administration officials. The amount of money that has flowed from Kuwaiti individuals and through organized charities to Syrian rebel groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra totals in the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to experts whose estimates are endorsed by the Treasury Department.
“Egypt plans to take actions to escalate the situation against Ethiopia,” said a western diplomat in Cairo, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “But the exact implications of these actions [are] still unclear.” Egypt’s main concern is water security, as the country faces a future of increasing scarcity. Nearly all of Egypt’s water comes from the Nile, and its population of 83 million is growing at nearly two percent annually.
The Israeli Directorate of Military Intelligence (Aman) has predicted that the year 2015 will be a decisive one for the fate of the Egyptian regime and the coup that was led by outgoing Defence Minister Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, according to Palestine 48 news site. Colonel Roital, who heads the Egypt and Jordan Front at Aman’s Research Department, reportedly said that unless huge financial support is provided to Al-Sisi’s regime after he assumes power as president, the regime will likely collapse.
Impatient shareholders are calling on the world’s top firms to start spending some of the eye-popping $2.8 trillion in cash built up since the financial crisis, as analysts warn that their thriftiness could be holding back global growth. Companies now need to rethink their cash strategy to create growth opportunities. Mark Carney, current head of the Bank of England, was more blunt in a 2012 speech as he derided unused corporate cash as “dead money”.
Sunday, a top European Central Bank policymaker described how the bank will approach an asset purchase plan to tackle low inflation in the single currency bloc, saying that such a program “would not be about quantity, but about price.” Eurozone inflation is running at 0.5% far below the ECB’s target of just under 2% over the medium term. Several ECB policymakers have deep reservations about pursuing a US Fed style program of sovereign asset purchases.
Italian special operations units on Wednesday arrested 24 secessionists who were allegedly planning a violent campaign aimed at gaining independence for the wealthy northeastern Veneto region. Police said in a statement that the group had built an armored vehicle that they intended to deploy in St. Mark’s Square in Venice. TV footage showed the so-called tank was a tractor that had been armed in some fashion.
The former princely state of India and Pakistan (once part of the British Empire, now part of India, Pakistan, and China) has been disputed since the British relinquished control of the subcontinent in the 1940s. A heavily militarized, 450-mile-long (724-kilometer-long) Line of Control has long pitted Indian and Pakistani forces against each other in this contested Himalayan region.
The two Koreas traded hundreds of rounds of live artillery fire across their disputed maritime border Monday, forcing South Korean islanders to take shelter a day after the North drove up tensions by threatening a new nuclear test. The exchange, triggered by a three-hour North Korean live-fire exercise that dropped shells into South Korean waters, was limited to untargeted shelling into the sea, military officials said.South Korea’s defence ministry said the North fired some 500 shells during the drill.
It’s hard to believe, but Japan’s total economy is smaller now than it was 20 years ago. The country’s story has become an all-too-familiar one: boom, bust, and stagnation. As Nomura economist Richard Koo points out, Japan lost three GDPs worth of wealth when its “Heisei bubble” burst in the early 1990s. The U.S., as point of comparison, “only” lost one during the Great Crash of 1929.
Maybe God has a soft spot for pirates. That would explain the Strait of Malacca, a natural paradise for seafaring bandits. Imagine an aquatic highway flowing between two marshy coasts. One shoreline belongs to Malaysia, the other to Indonesia. Each offers a maze of jungly hideaways: inlets and coves that favor pirates’ stealth vessels over slow, hulking ships. It’s a narrow route running 550 miles, roughly the distance between Miami and Jamaica.
In the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, considered a wake-up call for both the EU and the United States, meeting in Brussels for a EU-US summit today (26 March), the leaders of both blocs decided to accelerate processes to reduce Europe’s dependency on Russian gas, and deliver a sound basis for a transatlantic trade deal.Forging strong economic ties across the Atlantic is a powerful political sign.
Opposition groups have now agreed to boycott the upcoming polls and take their concerns to the streets, with the Barakat! (Enough!) Movement now working with political parties to support protests by student groups and non-governmental organizations. This is the first time that some many groups from so many backgrounds, including liberalists, socialists and religious groups. Their growing boycott calls suggest that the April 17 elections will have a turnout much lower than expected.
Japan will announce Monday that it will turn over to Washington more than 700 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium and a large quantity of highly enriched uranium, a decades-old research stockpile that is large enough to build dozens of nuclear weapons, according to U.S. and Japanese officials. The announcement is the biggest single success in President Barack Obama’s five-year-long push to secure the world’s most dangerous materials, and will come as world leaders gather here Monday for a nuclear security summit.
While the turmoil surrounding Ukraine wasn’t enough to derail a strong U.S. stock rally, the East-West conflict could bode ill for the global economy, says Mark Schofield, head of interest rate strategy at Citigroup. “All-in-all, it feels as if we may be heading into a summer of grumbling discontent, rather than the steady and progressive U.S.-led recovery that had become the consensus view around the start of the year,” Schofield writes in a commentary obtained by CNBC.
Recent monetary problems in Kazakhstan cast a shadow over the very viability of the “ruble zone” and the almost-quantum entanglement between post-Soviet economies is now under scrutiny. With a low Russian ruble, Ukraine de facto defaulting and a recent devaluation in Kazakhstan, the economic side of President Vladimir Putin’s Eurasian integration project just took a serious blow. Countries like Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, in talks to join the Customs Union, might also find it a hard pill to swallow
Could the republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan see some unofficial territory move from Afghanistan into their respective domains? It could be considered a lot less imaginary than it looks at first sight. Now, with the departure of the Americans and their allies, that wall is due to crumble. With Tajik, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Turkmen and even Kazakh communities dominating the northern regions and no Pashtun, the Taliban’s ethnic basis, to speak of in sight, the scenario looks quite possible.
Germany’s Angela Merkel delivered a rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, telling him that a planned Moscow-backed referendum on whether Crimea should join Russia was illegal and violated Ukraine’s constitution. Putin defended breakaway moves by pro-Russian leaders in Crimea, where Russian forces tightened their grip on the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula by seizing another border post and a military airfield.
Its location on the Han River helped give Danjiangkou the seeming good fortune to be chosen as a keystone in China’s solution to a worsening water crisis. Starting next year, about 9.5 billion cubic meters (335.5 billion cubic feet) of water from the Danjiangkou Reservoir will travel from here to over 100 cities—including Beijing—in northern China, where water is scarcer than in the south. Signs in the town proclaim it to be the “fount head” of the central route of the South-North Water Diversion Project (SNWDP).
“Taking the Gulf Cooperation Council to a political abyss serves nobody’s interests. The peoples and leaders of the GCC member states should have a clear awareness of just how lethal a threat the abyss politics pose to everyone,” said Dr Yousuf Al Hassan, a leading Emirati political analyst. “Qatar could face sanctions clamped by the Gulf countries, including the closing of borders with Qatar, and airspace to it if Doha doesn’t stop supporting the Muslim Brotherhood,”.
Depositors wanting to withdraw money from a rural bank in eastern China’s prosperous Jiangsu province ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday found the doors locked, their money gone and employees offering a simple explanation. “We’ve lent out all the money. There’s none left,” an employee told Reuters, repeating the explanation given to depositors weeks earlier. Word had spread that at least three rural cooperatives were running short on funds.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych threatened to crack down on anti-government protesters after the bloodiest clashes in the country’s three-month standoff killed at least 25 people. The opposition “has crossed the line when they called people to arms,” Yanukovych said on his website today. “This is an outrageous violation of the law. My advisers happen to be trying to talk me into a tough scenario, the use of force. But I have always considered the use of force a false route.” Yanukovych, backed by Russia, is seeking to end the crisis that has destabilized the country of 45 million.
Frustrated and discouraged by the ever-shifting Cabinets that rarely deliver on their promises, reform-hungry Jordanians increasingly view the pandering monarch with a skeptical eye. And the global financial crisis, waves of refugees from neighboring Iraq and Syria and failed economic reforms have hit the country hard. Food prices have skyrocketed, economic growth has been halved and unemployment stands officially at 12 percent, and unofficially hovers around 30 percent. So far, public outrage has been limited to weekly Friday protests in cities such as Amman, Maan and Karak.
Intelligence officials and issue analysts report signs that Saudi Arabia wants to develop a capacity to enrich uranium, despite proliferation concerns. Riyadh is understood to be worried that world powers will agree to allow Iran to maintain some limited uranium-enrichment capability in a potential lasting deal on its nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has an established interest in developing an atomic-energy program, but its concerns about Iran could be causing the Persian Gulf kingdom to consider a more expansive domestic nuclear capability, the Daily Beast reported on Friday.
Asia’s emergent superpowers have been flexing their respective hardware and troop capabilities around the region – a cause for concern among those who come too close. Such as Australia. A report just released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said that China’s emergence as a major economic power will pose great challenges for the global community. “The re-emergence of China as a great power will be Australia’s greatest foreign policy challenge during the 21st century. Canberra will have to carefully balance Australia’s growing economic relationship with China and its traditional alliance with the US,” the report said.
Researchers tracking social media and Web searches have detected outbreaks of the flu and rare diseases in Latin America by up to two weeks before they were reported by local news media or government health agencies, a U.S. intelligence official told USA TODAY. Working at a series of universities and companies around the country, the researchers are part of a program led by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) that is aimed at anticipating critical societal events, such as disease outbreaks, violent uprisings or economic crises before they appear in the news.
Two and a half years since NATO’s UN-authorized intervention, Libya is teetering on the brink of failure. The still-transitional government has at best nominal control in much of the country, including the capital, but has been unable to disarm dozens of armed groups. Some provide essential security at the government’s behest, while others terrorize, kidnap and murder civilians and government officials with total impunity. An ambitious plan with an already-past deadline of December 31 to integrate the militias into the official security services seems rife with uncertainty.
The post office isn’t known as the most efficient or reliable business in America. It can’t run its operations at a profit, it’s got serious financial troubles, and just try mailing a package on a Saturday without waiting in line for 30 minutes. The idea, most recently floated in a white paper by the U.S. Postal Service’s inspector general and supported in theory by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.,estimates that the money-losing agency could make $8.9 billion a year by offering limited banking services to the tens of millions of people who are not served by traditional banks.
A so-called bad bank is also a semi-technical term that describes a special division at a financial institution that happens to be packed with toxic assets, unwanted loans or entire business units hived off from a banking group’s “core” operations. Banks euphemistically dub these units “non-core,” “non-strategic” or a host of other names, steering investors away from considering them part of a bank’s future (and generating increasingly impenetrable earning reports in the process).
Scores of bodies have been dumped in Iraq’s canals and palm groves in recent months, reminding terrified residents of the worst days of the country’s sectarian conflict and fueling fears that the stage is being set for another civil war. In the latest sign of the escalating attacks, the heads of three Sunnis were found Sunday in a market in northern Salaheddin province, while six Shiites were shot dead in the province after being questioned about their religious affiliation, officials said. The carnage has raised concerns that the Shiite militias that stalked members of the minority Sunni population in the dark days of 2006 and 2007 could be remobilizing.
China’s smog is visible, and vexes the urban rich. But attempts to fix the looming “airpocalypse” may be exacerbating another acute risk: water. The trouble is that China is a dry country. Coal facilities, including new plants, are often located in its parched northern provinces. And coal is thirsty: it must be washed before use, while turning it into electricity commonly relies on steam. One solution to urban air pollution, converting coal into “synthetic natural gas” and piping it into cities to be burned, uses 12 times as much water as regular coal power, according to the World Resources Institute.
Andaman & Nicobar islands could be India’s next Kargil, warned former Indian Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash. He said the Andaman & Nicobar islands numbering 537 are geographically more closer to SE Asia than India. He said the real threat comes from poachers, drug smugglers, or terrorist groups who could occupy some of the uninhabited islands and India would find itself in a Kargil-like situation, Adm. Arun Prakash said this at a two-day workshop on ‘India’s coastline and its islands’ security’ organized by the NGO Federation of Integrated National Security.
Shocking before-and-after photos show how Syrian government ‘wiped entire neighbourhoods off the map’
The Syrian government used controlled explosives and bulldozers to raze thousands of residential buildings, in some cases entire neighbourhoods, in a campaign that appeared designed to punish civilians sympathetic to the opposition or to cause disproportionate harm to them, an international human rights group said Thursday. The demolitions took place between July 2012 and July 2013 in seven pro-opposition districts in and around the capital, Damascus, and the central city of Hama, according to a 38-page report by Human Rights Watch.
Nicaragua’s National Assembly just approved changes to the constitution allowing President Daniel Ortega to run for a third successive term in 2016. Somewhere, Ortega’s former arch-enemy, the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza DeBayle, is having a good laugh. Ortega has been in office since 2007 and won re-election in 2011, following an election that observers from both the European Union and the Organization of American States deemed flawed. During this most recent eight years in power the Sandinistas, has consolidated single-party dominance over the country’s legislative and judicial institutions, including its Supreme Court.
Is Britain going rogue?: The UK is on path to recovery for 2014, with growth estimated at 2.4 percent by the International Monetary Fund. Should this be a concern for the rest of Europe? With an economy re-emerging, Prime Minister David Cameron may be on its way to re-election. Cameron has not made that many friends in Europe considering his latest comments on immigration and France, and his perpetual quest to bring power back from Brussels to London. In addition to his European agenda, Cameron will have to address the eventual referenda for the independence of Scotland from the U.K. and independence of Britain from the EU.
A three-year study by the Pentagon has concluded that American intelligence agencies are not yet organised or fully equipped to detect when foreign countries are developing nuclear weapons or ramping up their existing arsenals. In a 100-page report by the Defense Science Board, the study said the agencies’ detection abilities, including finding “undeclared facilities and/or covert operations”, are “either inadequate, or more often, do not exist.”
The peso sank 3.5 percent to a record low of 7.14 per dollar yesterday, according to Banco de la Nacion Argentina, and has plunged more than 25 percent in the past 12 months. That’s its worst selloff since the devaluation that followed the default. Currencies from only three countries in the world have fallen more: war-torn Syria, Iran and Venezuela. Power outages like the one that sunk Kanaza’s shop into darkness are becoming more frequent, deepening the economic slump, after the nation’s grid atrophied under a decade of government-set electricity price controls.
Untenable debt burdens, snowballing youth unemployment and water crises rank as leading concerns for global experts. The World Economic Forum released its ‘Global Risks 2014’ report after surveying 700 people, including top business leaders. It assessed 31 risks, but the following risks emerge as urgent threats for many people across the world in 2014: Advanced economies remain in danger of fiscal crises, sparked by extremely high debt burdens, rising interest rates and inflationary pressures.
Top economic advisers are forecasting war and unrest. They give the following reasons for their forecast:
Countries start wars to distract their populations from lousy economies. Currency and trade wars end up turning into shooting wars. The U.S. is still seeking to secure oil supplies, and the U.S. doesn’t like any country to leave the dollar standard. Additionally, the American policy of using the military to contain China’s growing economic influence – and of considering economic rivalry to be a basis for war – is creating a tinderbox.
This time next year, the country known as the United Kingdom may be about to disappear. If Scotland’s separatist government gets its way in a referendum planned for September, the 300-year-old union of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland — the United States’ oldest and closest ally — will be on the road to disintegration. That is a dramatic, though accurate, way of describing the possible secession of Scotland from one of the world’s most successful political, social and economic unions.
Domestically, the militias also pose a threat to Libya’s unity and stability. Their diktat over strategic zones, including the oilfields the economy is so desperately reliant upon, has greatly undermined the government’s credibility and the country’s livelihood in recent months. For example, the Political Bureau of Cyrenaica, a federalist group headed by the self-styled Ibrahim Jadhran, has occupied strategic oil terminals since July. In October, the group announced the creation of a federal state of Cyrenaica.
About 3.33 million hectares (8 million acres) of China’s farmland is too polluted to grow crops, a government official said on Monday, highlighting the risk facing agriculture after three decades of rapid industrial growth. China has been under pressure to improve its urban environment following a spate of pollution scares. But cleaning up rural regions could be an even bigger challenge as the government tries to reverse damage done by years of urban and industrial encroachment and ensure food supplies for a growing population.
In the October case, homeless men were rounded up at Sendai’s train station by Sasa, then put to work clearing radioactive soil and debris in Fukushima City for less than minimum wage, according to police and accounts of those involved. The men reported up through a chain of three other companies to Obayashi. The reports states that the three largest crime syndicates in Japan have set up a black market recruiting network under Obayashi. There are at least 19 other major contractors tied to the cleanup in addition to Obayashi. The company has not yet been charged with any wrongdoing.
South America’s second largest country is under a state of emergency and teetering on martial law as a result of government inefficiency and Mother Nature joining forces. Power outages and water shortages are impacting thousands of individuals, with the young, infirm and elderly most at risk. The heat wave, which has averaged 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit), has caused some people to be without water or electricity for as long as fourteen days. Because of the aging water system, which has not been upgraded since the ’80s, water is unavailable during power outages when electricity cannot reach the pumps.
The world will face countless challenges in 2014, but a few nations in flux stand out in the crowd. NBC News correspondents and writers explain how the outcome of wars, negotiations and elections in these countries could have a deep impact on their own populations and regions, and sometimes the world. Will the Islamic Republic of Iran re-enter the mainstream of world affairs in 2014? The answer to this question won’t only impact Iran’s future but that of the entire Middle East, where it is stuck in a struggle for pre-eminence with Saudi Arabia.
As 2013 draws to a close, Gateway House examines the tumultous year and the significant developments that affected foreign policy globally. Below is our geopolitical forecast for 2014. The Central and South Asian regions will experience even more disorder in 2014, emanating from the transition to a smaller and still unsettled role for the West in Afghanistan. With a new president at the helm, Afghanistan will be in a suspended state as the West hastens to exit. It will be making unprincipled deals with the Taliban for the latter’s return as a player in the contested politico-military space in Afghanistan.
China’s interbank lending rate has hit its highest level since June, despite regulators’ attempts to calm concerns over a potential cash crunch. The seven-day repurchase rate rose to as much as 9% on Friday, even though China’s central bank made an emergency capital injection the day before. The rate is a key gauge of how much is available in short-term funds for the country’s banks to lend to one another. The turmoil caused China’s benchmark stock index to fall by more than 2%. Chinese stocks have posted nine days of declines, amounting to their worst losing streak in nearly two decades.
“Saudi Arabia is playing a dangerous double game—turning a blind eye to the jihadists flocking from Riyadh to Syria while assuring the West of its commitment to fighting terror.” This is the famous “blowback” theory: Saudi Arabia itself will become a target when the Saudis fighting in Syria come home. There was serious “blowback,” we’re told, after a generation of Saudis, most famously a tall guy named Osama, went off to do jihad in Afghanistan, and it could happen again.