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.
For the first time in decades, this direction will be led from inside the region, by those Mideast states, groups, sects and parties most threatened by the extremism. Because nobody else is coming to “save” the Middle East today. As Salafist militants swarm various borders – from the Levant to the Persian Gulf to North Africa and beyond – states are disintegrating, their territorial integrity and sovereignty under threat, their institutions and economies in shambles, and their armed forces impotent against the irregular warfare practiced by these invaders.
Since the fall of the Gaddafi regime and the foreign military intervention in the country, the need to rebuild security through a stable and capable army in Libya has become urgent. Indeed it is becoming vital to fill Libya’s security vacuum, and efficiently fight against the country’s growing chaos, the militia violence, and al Qaida. Many countries and private entities are interested in benefitting from the risky endeavour of training the Libyan armed forces, and expanding their influence within the resource rich country.
A village in Madagascar has been hit by a deadly outbreak of the bubonic plague, medical experts on the island have confirmed. Test were carried out after at least 20 people in the village, near the north-western town of Mandritsara, were reported to have died last week. The International Committee of the Red Cross warned in October that Madagascar was at risk of a plague epidemic. The disease is transmitted to humans via fleas, usually from rats. Bubonic plague, known as the Black Death when it killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe during the Middle Ages, is now rare.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega moved closer to indefinite re-election Tuesday after his allies in the National Assembly approved constitutional changes that opponents say are designed to keep the Sandinista leader in power for life. The legislation eliminates presidential term limits and lowers the bar for re-election by naming the candidate with the most votes as the winner, eliminating the current requirement for the winner to garner at least 35 percent. Ortega is serving his third term under a supreme court decision that overrode the constitutional ban.
“The purge appears to be aimed at establishing Kim’s monolithic leadership and solidifying his power base,” said an official of the Unification Ministry. “Jang’s purge and the public execution of his aides could create a sense of insecurity among the power elites, which in turn could prompt them to compete with each other to pledge their allegiance to Kim,” said a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute. Some analysts forecast that it could trigger a power struggle in the North’s power hierarchy.
INCREASED tensions between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands in the South China Sea are driving Russia and Japan closer. Both countries are concerned with the potential security threat posed by China. Russia is particularly alarmed that its thinly populated Far East could become part of China’s economic sphere and under growing economic influence. Japan is protected by its security alliance with the United States, but needs other partners to balance China’s growing influence in South East Asia.
Looting and robbing spread to several areas of the Argentine city of Cordoba on Tuesday evening and night following a walkout from the police in the midst of a conflict over pay and other benefits. The Supermarkets association has anticipated its members will not open their stores on Wednesday unless police forces are back patrolling the streets of Argentina’s third largest city which is also an important manufacturing pole. The conflict started after negotiations for salary increases with the provincial government broke down and the police force decided to go on strike.
The Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) operates Boeing E-767s, 160-foot airplanes stuffed with radar and electronics that enable them to detect aircraft from 200 miles away. They confirm that the Chinese drone is wheeling above the Senkakus, and Japan dispatches F-15Js to intercept it—and shoot it down—obviously ignoring China’s Air Defense ID Zone. Chinese long-range, back-scatter radar spots the F-15Js in the air, and China dispatches quad-prop Y-8X maritime patrol for a better-resolution look. They also alert their best fighters—Sukhoi Flankers (Su 30) and Chengdu J-10s—to prepare to take off.
Egypt’s army chief and Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has reportedly said that Egypt’s state institutions have collapsed following the January 25 revolution, which ousted autocrat president Hosni Mubarak in 2011. “People keep asking about the state,” al-Sisi purportedly said in a leaked audio recording aired by the Jazeera Mubasher Misr late Friday. “The state institutions have collapsed. The presidency has been undermined, the constitution suspended, the parliament dissolved, the Interior Ministry dealt a heavy blow and the Judiciary has been questioned,” he allegedly said.
With triple tax exemption (federal, state, and local), combined with higher-than-average yields, Puerto Rican bonds became so popular in recent years that it was able to rack up $70 billion of debt now held by institutional investors and mutual funds alike. The debt-to-GDP ratio is now nearly 70% and growing, not including pension obligations, which raises the ratio to over 90%. With a per capita debt load of $19,000 and growing, Puerto Ricans shoulder almost 4 times the burden of U.S. leader Massachusetts which carries a deficit of $5,077 per citizen.
Troops have been deployed in the Thai capital Bangkok to support riot police shielding official buildings from some 30,000 anti-government protesters. Tear gas and water cannon were fired as protesters tried to breach barricades outside Government House. Sunday is the eighth day of protests aimed at unseating Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has appeared on television, calling for a general strike starting on Monday. The protesters had declared Sunday “V-Day” of what they termed a “people’s coup”.
India is now the world’s third-largest grain producer after China and the United States. The adoption of higher-yielding crop varieties and the spread of irrigation have led to this remarkable tripling of output since the early 1960s. Unfortunately, a growing share of the water that irrigates three-fifths of India’s grain harvest is coming from wells that are starting to go dry. This sets the stage for a major disruption in food supplies for India’s growing population. In recent years about 27 million wells have been drilled, chasing water tables downward in every Indian state.
According to the ‘Great Men’ theory of history advanced by Thomas Carlyle, global events are shaped in significant part by the decisions and personalities of individual leaders. If this account has even marginal merit, then we might survey with optimism the personalities of the most powerful global leaders who preside over the current turbulent times in the Middle East. They have exhibited remarkable restraint and wisdom, in the face of compelling pressures to fuel further insoluble violent conflicts.
After years of tweaking and sidestepping articles that were inconvenient to Sandinista rule, such as the ban on presidential reelection, the ruling party is now embarking on an aggressive campaign to overhaul the legal document in what critics say is a bid to accommodate the party’s needs. Proposed changes to 39 articles would pave the way for President Daniel Ortega’s indefinite reelection and replace Nicaragua’s representative democracy with a version of “direct democracy,” as envisaged by Mr. Ortega’s politically active wife, Rosario Murillo.
As the latest militant-Kurdish military showdown eases in northeast Syria, Baghdad is keeping a close watch on a battle which threatens even greater instability in Iraq. Kurdish forces and al Qaeda-linked groups have for weeks fought over territory, with the Kurds taking over a key border point late last month. But with the likelihood of more fighting to follow, Baghdad is worried of militants securing a wider corridor between eastern Syria and western Iraq.
Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will, a variety of sources have told BBC Newsnight. While the kingdom’s quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran’s atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic. Earlier this year, a senior Nato decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.
This support of some €5 billion to Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad (subject to the approval by the European Parliament and the European Council) will aim to help those countries tackle the specific and complex challenges of the Sahel region: security and stability, development and resilience. Governance, rule of law and security, delivery of social services, agriculture and food security, as well as regional trade and integration will be at the heart of the development programmes over 2014-2020.
Security in Sana’a has deteriorated since popular unrest pushed President Ali Abdullah Saleh from office in 2011. Dozens of intelligence and security officials have been assassinated, al-Qaeda continues to attack government targets and Shiite-Muslim Houthi rebels, who are fighting Sunni Islamists in the north, are encamped in the city. “Yemen is slipping into chaos,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said by phone. “Assassinations of intelligence figures and threats to foreigners are rising.”
Oxford academic Paul Collier is well known for his book The Bottom Billion in which he maps the links between the world’s poorest people and the world’s most war-torn countries. In a chapter in a new book for IPPR, edited by Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, Collier argues that what Africa needs is an “African NATO”. He writes that the international community oscillates between “pusillanimous passivity” and “gung-ho intervention”.
Bangladesh poor selling organs to pay back loans microcredit loans that were meant to lift them out of poverty
Kalai, like many other villages in Bangladesh, appears a rural idyll at first sight. But several villagers here have resorted to selling organs to pay back microcredit loans that were meant to lift them out of poverty. Journalist Sophie Cousins reports on an alarming consequence of the microfinance revolution.They, like millions of other rural Bangladeshis, grow up facing a life of hardship. In an attempt to alleviate poverty, countless numbers take on debt with microcredit lenders, only to find themselves in a difficult situation when they are unable to repay the loan.
Pakistani soldier-turned-academic Feroz Khan’s book Eating Grass is an insider account tracing the history of Pakistan’s nuclear programme — and its survival despite hurdles. Khan, who was involved in formulating Pakistan’s nuclear arms control policy, spoke with Sameer Arshad about how Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal grew, implications of its nuclear race with India — and how restraints are possible. Bhutto is undoubtedly the Pakistani nuclear bomb’s father — even before the 1965 war, he envisioned the only way to offset the strategic imbalance was through nukes.
Fears that two major naval bases sited near large British cities could become nuclear waste storage facilities “by default” have grown after it was revealed the Ministry of Defence proposes to remove low-level radioactive waste from the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet. According to minutes of a submarine dismantling meeting, the “early removal of low-level waste” has been proposed at two major dockyards: Rosyth, in the Forth estuary, Fife, and Devonport, in Plymouth. The first of Britain’s ageing nuclear fleet of 27 submarines is due to be broken up within five years.
The volume of shares traded outside of public exchanges is growing fast in Europe. Trades on so-called “dark pools” jumped 45% over the past six months, according to a new report (pdf) from Fidessa, a technology firm. These off-exchange venues processed €207 billion ($283 billion) in the six months to September, accounting for around 4% of total trading, Fidessa reckons. Others put the market share of dark-pool trading at 7% or 10% across Europe, with the highest percentages in major trading hubs like London.
The countries in the ASEAN aim to achieve full economic integration by 2015. Given how poorly integration has turned out for the EU, that might not seem like such a good idea. But, if nothing else, at least the ASEAN can learn from the EU’s mistakes. Economic integration would allow free flow of goods, services, and labor. Under the plan, tariffs would become almost non-existent. This would help the ASEAN corner more foreign direct investments, which at the moment go mostly to China and India. However, there are a series of economic, religious, and political problems that threaten to derail the ASEAN’s attempts at economic integration.
Last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a long awaited document summarising the findings of an in-depth investigation into the prevalence of congenital birth defects (CBD) in Iraq, which many experts believe is linked to the use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by Allied forces. “The rates for spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and congenital birth defects found in the study are consistent with or even lower than international estimates. The study provides no clear evidence to suggest an unusually high rate of congenital birth defects in Iraq.”
China is largely in line with international treaties governing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but its global dealings in small arms are shadowy and potentially helpful to anti-U.S. factions abroad, a new study finds. Most Chinese weapons for export lack the quality of weapons from the United States, Russia or other developed nations. China is therefore a cheaper source of weapons for poor countries with unsophisticated militaries, like many in Africa, the Middle East and South America. China is seen to have a “guns-for-oil” relationship with some African nations.
The number of nuclear warheads globally is about 17,000, estimates the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), down roughly 75 percent over the last thirty years largely because of cuts by the United States and Russia. Last June the US president proposed further cutting nuclear arsenals by a third but Russia responded that the shield, intended to protect against attack from Iran and North Korea, would require Moscow to hold more missiles or lose its deterrent capability. Russia fears the system’s interceptors could shoot down its long-range nuclear missiles.
As the U.S. struggles to avert a debt default, Asia’s policymakers have trillions of reasons to believe they may be shielded from the latest financial storm brewing across the Pacific. From South Korea to Pakistan, Asia’s central banks are estimated to have amassed some $5.7 trillion in foreign exchange reserves excluding safe-haven Japan, much of it during the last five years of rapid money printing by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Data this week showed those reserves continued to pile up, with countries having added an estimated $85.2 billion in the July-September quarter, according to data for 12 Asian countries.
World community is waiting with fainting heart for 2014, when NATO will start withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan. The U.S. air base leaves the International Manas Airport at the same time; financial flows to the budget of Kyrgyzstan will reduce along with increasing threat of destabilization in the region. Central Asian countries can not cope with the threats coming from Afghanistan without the help of a strategic and influential partner. However, the highest echelon of Kyrgyz power stiffly speaks about the organization as if it does not understand its importance.
The indelible factors of geography in terms of ‘location,’ ‘space’ and ‘terrain’ in shaping the destiny of nations remains profound. The conflict that has been going on ‘for’ and ‘in’ the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) for seven decades is a prime example; it is the State’s locational position on the face of the earth for China, India and Pakistan that is driving the triangular competition in which Pakistan’s virulence is being used both as the means to ‘contain’ India, and her territory, including what she occupies to act as a spring board for China’s regional outreach.
There have recently been two noteworthy developments in the long-running saga of Burma’s reported interest in acquiring weapons of mass destruction. In different ways, both were welcome but, inevitably, concerns remain. And it certainly is short, even more so than the first two reports, which briefly covered developments in 2009 and 2010. The latest report simply states that during 2011, Burma’s main suppliers of weapons and military-related technology were China, North Korea, Russia and Belarus. Also, firms based in Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand apparently assisted Burma’s defence industries in acquiring unspecified production technology.
In Britain, the words “East of Suez” hold a special meaning. In 1968, post-WWII weariness with imperial adventures, a deficit of cash and political will and anticolonial hostility forced acceptance of a greatly diminished world role. Specifically, London retreated from positions ‘East of Suez,’ i.e. beyond the Suez Canal, leaving it to America to keep postcolonial order in a Cold War world. Now looking at the Arc of Instability from North Africa to Pakistan, it is difficult to escape the question: Is the United States approaching its own East of Suez moment?
That designation and the Somalia and Libya raids highlight how governmental breakdown and increased lawlessness across a swath of Africa. Increasingly the wide geographical region is referred to in congressional testimony and reports by Pentagon officials and diplomats as an “arc of instability” – a designation that caught on in January when Islamist militants associated with AQIM threatened to topple the government of Mali, while others raided a natural gas operation in southern Algeria, killing 40 foreign workers.
Libya has morphed into the Wild West of northern Africa just two years after the fall of the Gadhafi regime. In particular, the Libyan Desert has become a sanctuary for radical forces. Mohamed Abdelkader, the mayor of Ghat, does not beat around the bush when he says, “The borders are wide open. Drugs and weapons flow in and out and the army has no capacity to catch smugglers or extremists.” An army, in the conventional sense, does not exist in Libya anyway. Out of fear there could be attempts to overthrow him, Gadhafi, when he was alive, kept the army weak.
Thanks to personal genomics companies like 23andMe, it’s becoming quicker and easier for us to find out who we are. But will the same technology one day allow us to decide who our babies will be — before they’re even born? That’s the question raised by a newly issued patent, which grants 23andMe rights to a system that allows parents to pick and choose their children’s traits prior to undergoing fertility treatment. The system, according to the patent, could be used to “[identify] a preferred donor among the plurality of donors,” based on genetic information.
India’s alleged involvement in illicit nuclear trade networks came under fire in a detailed report issued by a major security-focused think tank here, the Institute for Science and International Security. According to ISIS India was in fact among a group of “illicit nuclear trade suppliers of concern,” including China, Pakistan, Brazil, Turkey, Russia and a host of “rogue states” such as Iran, North Korea, Syria “and possibly a Khan-type network.” It also pulled no punches in emphasising that India benefitted from the Abdul Qadeer Khan nuclear smuggling network which was “exposed and rolled up in 2003 and 2004,”.
If any extra evidence was needed to shatter the myth of a “revolution” struggling for a future “democratic” Syria, the big news of the week cleared any remaining doubts. Eleven, 13 or 14 “rebel” brigades (depending on the source) have ditched the “moderate”, US-propped Syrian National Council (SNC) and the not-exactly Free Syrian Army (FSA). The leaders of the bunch are the demented jihadis of Jabhat al-Nusra – but it includes other nasties such as the Tawhid brigades and the Tajammu Fastaqim Kama Ummirat in Aleppo, some of them until recently part of the collapsing FSA.
Meanwhile in Sudan: Fuel riots, a hiring spree of ex-Soviet air mercenaries and preparations for war
The escalating fuel riots in Khartoum, and increasingly in other cities in Sudan, serve as a stark reminder of the inherent fragility and instability of the country. The riots were sparked by the spiraling prices of all fuel products following the abolition of subsidies and the growing shortages of all fuel products. Moreover, the recurring shortages of fuel have resulted in shortages of food and other products and goods brought into Khartoum from both the Red Sea ports and the countryside. Within a few days, the riots became the worst since the 1989 riots which led to the military coup which brought Omar Bashir to power.
Turkey’s Alawites, most of them concentrated in and around Antakya, are said to number up to one million. Though ethnically Arab, many consider themselves part of the much bigger family of Turkish Alevis, a community of anywhere from 12 to 20 million. A large majority of Turks, including Sunnis, oppose any outside intervention in Syria, but anti-war and pro-Syria sentiment is particularly pronounced among Alawites, whose ethnic kinsmen, including President Bashar al Assad, form the core of Syria’s ruling elite.
There are three types of faultlines in South Asia – the fractures resulting from the movement of tectonic plates (as shown by the September 24 earthquake), the geopolitical differences that have kept Islamabad and New Delhi in a perpetual state of rivalry, and deprivation, with over half a billion people living below the poverty line in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh together. Geopolitical faultlines and state interests in certain cross-border groups also aid these militant movements, for example the alleged Indian support for the Bangladeshi tribes and for Baloch insurgents in Pakistan, and the ISI’s nexus with major Afghan Taliban groups and its support for Kashmir militancy since 1988.
A new report commissioned by the Greenland government has concluded that the country has full sovereignty over commodities trading, including for uranium, which is regulated by international treaties on non-nuclear proliferation. The report was kept confidential for more than six months but recently published as Greenland’s parliament prepares to vote on 24 October on whether to allow the extraction of radioactive substances in Greenland. The outcome of the vote is expected to be a clear ‘yes’.
Highly sensitive U.S. military equipment stored in Libya was stolen over the summer by groups likely aligned and working with terrorist organizations, State Department sources told Fox News — in raids that contributed to the decision to pull Special Forces personnel from the country. The stolen equipment had been used by U.S. Special Forces stationed in the country. Lost in the raids in late July and early August were dozens of M4 rifles, night-vision technology and lasers used as aiming devices that are mounted on guns and can only be seen with night-vision equipment.
Under government plans, the regular Army is being cut from 102,000 to 82,000 In the letter, the MPs say the plans are “clearly born of financial necessity and not strategic design” and are “high-risk in this increasingly uncertain world”. With report that the Army is struggling to recruit the number of reservists it needs, they call for a stop to the regular cutbacks “at the very least … until we are sure that the Army Reserve plans will work”. We suggest that the Government’s reservist plans are already having a distorting effect on the ground.”
Ever since 1990, when it was created out of the merger of independent states in the north and south, Yemen has been a republic. Yet if delegates at reconciliation talks have their way, the Republic of Yemen soon could be no more. Yemen’s foreign minister, Abu Bakr Al Qirbi, said this week that the delegates had agreed “in principle” to adopt a federal system in this country of 25 million people. Under such system, political power would devolve to regions, governorates and states, with the central government retaining control over such vital portfolios as defence and the country’s currency.
An arms race in South Asia and Pakistan’s development of tactical “battlefield” nuclear weapons are increasing the risk of any conflict there becoming a nuclear war, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said on Thursday.
Noting that Pakistan looks set to overtake Britain as the owner of the world’s fifth-largest nuclear weapons stockpile, it urged India and Pakistan to improve their communications to avoid any fatal misunderstandings during a crisis.
The proposed $18 billion (Dh66bn) economic corridor linking Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea and Kashghar in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province by road, rail and an energy pipeline, could be described as a “game changer” for the whole region.
The two countries recently inaugurated the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Secretariat in Islamabad, where they also discussed laying an oil pipeline from Gwadar in southwestern Balochistan to western China. The proposed pipeline might eventually be connected with Iran.
Prime Minister Mahmohan Singh said earlier that imports of gold and crude oil in considerable quantities were exerting a deplorable effect on the trade balance deficit. He indicated that the government was pondering a possible reduction of purchases abroad by increasing purchases of gold inside the country. In particular, it might buy gold from temples, he said. Officials on the cabinet of ministers deny the presence of any plans to buy out temple gold at the moment.
For the first time ever, the Chinese yuan is one of the world’s ten most frequently traded currencies, according to a Bank of International Settlements (BIS) survey. The currency ranked ninth on the bank’s top-ten list, jumping eight places from the seventeen spot it held when the survey was last conducted three years ago. BIS attributes the move to the rapid growth of offshore yuan trading, which boosted the currency’s daily turnover by three-and-a-half times since the last survey to $120 billion. “The role of the renminbi in global FX trading surged, in line with increased efforts to internationalize the Chinese currency,” the BIS said.
In the plane of the debate on the opportunities and methods used in a chaos in the Syrian conflict, a fact is the progressive militarization of the eastern shore of the Mediterranean . The events of recent weeks have somehow forced the Western actors indirectly involved in the conflict, at least those without a concrete geographical proximity to implement some countermeasures in advance. Waiting for the go-ahead to a joint inter-and against the Assad regime, or in the event of a less than desirable escalation of the crisis, the United States, France and Britain have increased their military commitment in the area.
A nationwide strike in Colombia—which started as a rural peasant uprising and spread to miners, teachers, medical professionals, truckers, and students—reached its 7th day Sunday as at least 200,000 people blocked roads and launched protests against a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and devastating policies of poverty and privatization pushed by US-backed right-wing President Juan Manuel Santos.
When Kazakhstan’s Central Reference Laboratory opens in September 2015, the $102-million project laboratory will serve as a Central Asian way station for a global war on dangerous disease.“DOD’s involvement in biosurveillance goes back probably before DOD to the Revolutionary War,” Andrew C. Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, told American Forces Press Service last year. “We didn’t call it biosurveillance then, but monitoring and understanding infectious disease has always been our priority, because for much of our history, we’ve been a global force.”
The military’s attention on Africa continues, as its secretive Office of Net Assessment has hired contractor Booz Allen Hamilton to study the continent’s future, military documents show. The Office of Net Assessment is an internal Pentagon think tank that tries to anticipate future needs through a series of studies and war games. Created in 1973, it has been run by the same person, 92-year-old Andrew Marshall, since its beginning. Marshall, in turn, is a disciple of longtime military strategist Fritz Kraemer, a key influence on former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former vice president Dick Cheney.
The Indian rupee plummeted to a record low against the dollar on Monday, leading a rout by Brazil’s real and other emerging market currencies seen by investors as the most vulnerable to an exodus of foreign capital. A fierce selloff in many emerging currencies shows no sign of abating as the expected withdrawal of U.S. monetary stimulus prompts investors to shun markets seen as riskier because of funding deficits, slowing economies and inflation. The rupee fits that bill, as do the Indonesian rupiah, the South African rand and the Brazilian real. The rupiah plunged to four-year troughs on Monday while the rand lost another 1 per cent to bring year-to-date losses to almost 17 per cent against the dollar.
Underlying growing instability is the Egyptian state’s increasing inability to contain the devastating social impacts of interconnected energy, water and food crises over the last few decades. Those crises, already afflicting other regional states like Yemen and Syria, will unravel prevailing political orders with devastating consequences—unless urgent structural transformation to address those crises becomes a priority. The upshot is that Egypt’s meltdown represents the culmination of long-standing trends that, without a change of course, can only escalate with permanent repercussions across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and beyond.
Source: Reuters Greece will lift restrictions on home foreclosures to allow banks to recover bad loans, the finance minister said on Saturday, adding fuel to a row that may test the cohesion of its fragile coalition government. Cash-strapped banks are currently barred from auctioning most first homes owned by delinquent borrowers, under a temporary measure introduced […]
Working in top secret over a period of 17 years, Russian and American scientists collaborated to remove hundreds of pounds of plutonium and highly enriched uranium — enough to construct at least a dozen The report sheds light on a mysterious $150 million cleanup operation paid for in large part by the United States, whose specialists feared that terrorists would discover the fissile material and use it to build a dirty bomb. Over the years, hints emerged that something extraordinarily dangerous had been left behind in a warren of underground tunnels.
Pakistan-based militants are preparing to take on India across the subcontinent once Western troops leave Afghanistan next year, several sources say, raising the risk of a dramatic spike in tensions between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.
Intelligence sources in India believe that a botched suicide bombing of an Indian consulate in Afghanistan, which was followed within days last week by a lethal cross-border ambush on Indian soldiers in disputed Kashmir, suggest that the new campaign by Islamic militants may already be underway.
The suspension of Tunisia’s transitional parliament could bring the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings closer to an “Egyptian scenario” in which the secular opposition topples an Islamist-led government, analysts and politicians say.
The biggest shock to the ruling Ennahda party, the Tunisian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, may be that the latest blow came from one of its own secular allies – a sign of rising polarisation between Islamist and secular forces.
South and East Asia have become the world’s major oil consumers, but they lack the supply. Energy security thus lies at the heart of Asia’s economic transformation, prosperity and development. Jean-Pierre Lehmann and Suddha Chakravartti explain how China, India and their smaller neighboring economies are scrambling to find ways to secure and deliver enough oil from suppliers to consumers. The vastness and heterogeneity of Asia contrast with the relative compactness and homogeneity of Europe. Nevertheless, Asia does exist as a geopolitical, geo-economic and analytical entity.
Circle of Blue, with the Wilson Center, is looking at what’s probably the most important drama unfolding on the planet today, and that’s this confrontation between water, food, and energy. We created a project called Choke Point: U.S. Then we backed up and said, “Let’s take a look at China.” Our next Choke Point lens is to take a look at India, the world’s second-largest, second-most-populated nation. Keith Schneider: In the ’60s and the ’70s, the policy was to make energy, electricity, and water free to the agriculture sector in a nation that knew serious starvation.
The Arabian Peninsula Seas contain two of the most important strategic waterways in the world: Bab Al-Mandab and Strait of Hormuz. Without them much of the geopolitics of the Horn of Africa and South West Asia would make little sense. The Red Sea is moderately integrated into the regional level but it is much more deeply integrated into international level. National pride, regional developments, international commerce and worldwide political events all have played a part in shaping in the Red Sea Region as it exists today. The “new” Red Sea Region should be characterized by regional cooperation.
Soldiers once loyal to Yemen’s ousted president Saleh, protesting against what they say is neglect by the new leadership, clashed with a rival faction of the military in Sanaa on Friday, police and witnesses said. The hundreds of soldiers protesting were former members of Yemen’s elite Republican Guard, which was run by Saleh’s powerful son and which Saleh’s successor, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, abolished last year in a bid to unify the army. Yemen’s military remains divided between allies and opponents of Saleh, who stepped down in a Gulf-brokered deal in 2012 after a year of protests against his rule, but still looms large in Yemen.
In many cases the police and paramilitary units used non-lethal methods in responding to rallies and violence by supporters of Islamic parties, the New York-based advocacy group found. In other instances they resorted to “excessive force,” shooting demonstrators at close range, and beating others to death, according to witness testimony. More than 150 people were killed, including seven children, and at least 2,000 others were injured in clashes between February and early May, Human Rights Watch said after interviewing 95 victims, witnesses, journalists, lawyers and human rights workers. Police officers were among those who died, it found.
Washington welcomes visits to its nuclear weapons facilities by Japan as a way to provide “firsthand knowledge” of the U.S. nuclear posture and reassurances of its nuclear deterrent, a former senior U.S. defense official says.
“The nuclear umbrella is a centerpiece of the U.S.-Japan security alliance,” Bradley Roberts, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, said in a written response to The Asahi Shimbun’s questions in early July.
United Nations is assessing private military and security companies and their commitment to international norms, an envoy said from New York. The United Nations announced a panel discussion on the use of mercenaries and private security companies is scheduled next week at the U.N. headquarters. Group director Anton Katz said the United Nations has an opportunity to influence the standards and behavior of the private security industry in a way that puts it in line with international human rights laws.
A long time corrupt, disconnected ruling party? Check. Contentious elections? Check. Allegations of voter fraud? Check. Ethnic and religious fault lines? Check. On the surface, two months after the closest election in Malaysian history, one in which the opposition coalition actually received more votes, the situation looks ripe for an uprising along the lines of Egypt or Tunisia, or even nearby Indonesia and Thailand. Instead, the country seems destined for more years of unequal, resource-driven, racially divisive policies.
Here’s what your stockbroker and the media aren’t telling you: the world is more indebted now than it was at the height of the financial bubble in 2007. That’s right. Despite the extraordinary government intervention of the past six years. Despite continuing optimism of a recovery. Despite the reassuring words of central bankers. We’re worse off in debt terms. Interest rates can’t rise above GDP rates, otherwise debt to GDP ratios will climb further. If they do, you can expect more money printing, budget cuts and tax rises.
After the genocide that tore apart a nation and killed 800,000 in Rwanda, the world said never again. But nearly 20 years later, we find ourselves on the brink of another campaign of destruction against an entire people. Yet once again it is being greeted with silence.
In Burma, ethnic cleansing is happening. We have seen more human rights violations and attacks on Rohingya minorities in the past two years than in the last 20. Mobs have attacked our villages, driving us from our homes, children have been hacked to death, and hundreds of my people have been killed by members of the majority.