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Archive | May, 2012

SCO Armed Forces to Stage “Peace Mission 2012″ Drill

Armed forces from Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states will hold the “Peace Mission 2012″ drill in Tajikistan from June 8 to 14, Ministry of Defense spokesman Yang Yujun announced Thursday.

The drill is a joint anti-terrorism military exercise launched under the SCO framework, Yang said, adding that the drill will involve more than 2,000 military personnel from China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Yang said the drill will focus on the preparation and implementation of joint anti-terrorism action in mountainous areas in the context of a regional crisis incurred by terrorist activity.

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Russia to reopen Arctic airbases

Russian air units will this year start preparations to return to abandoned Arctic airfields, Western military district’s aviation Commander Igor Makushev says.

“We will start reopening airfields on Novaya Zemlya and in Naryan-Mar as early as this summer,” Makushev told a news conference in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, RIA Novosti has reported.
Plans for next year include the reopening of a military airfield on Graham Bell Island, which is part of Franz Josef Land.

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Jamestown: Russia Recreates the Berdsk Spetsnaz Brigade

An apparently random movement of a Russian Special Forces battalion located in the Central Military District (MD) may be an indication that the General Staff is increasingly concerned about future security in Central Asia. Moreover, it may be an additional sign of the persistent experimentation and policy reversals on reform that are endemic to the Armed Forces. In order to understand the significance of the redeployment of the Special Forces unit in Novosibirsk Oblast, it is important to note the role played by similar forces assigned to rapid reaction elements of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and their recent exercises in Belarus. These elite units retain higher readiness levels than the rest of the Russian Ground Forces and seem to be rehearsing changes in operational tactics

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Syria: West may be forced to seize WMD, report

The West may be forced to seize Bashar al-Assad’s weapons of mass destruction including toxic gas stockpiles, according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper Thursday.
International troops could be forced to intervene in Syria if the collapse of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime were to leave the stockpiles of his chemical weapons vulnerable to terrorists, western diplomatic sources have told the paper.

Like Israel, Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997, nor is it a member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which verifies stockpiles of these weapons.

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15 soldiers’ bodies found at Chinese border in Kazakhstan

Fire occurred on the frontier in the Kazakh Almaty region, Kazakh media outlets reported on Thursday. According to various sources, from 8 to 15 soldiers died as a result of the fire.

An attack on border post or hazing is considered as a possible version of the incident, Ca-news reported with reference to the first channel of Eurasia.

According to Interfax, weapons disappeared from the frontier following the fire.

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Stockton California: Real estate seized by Wells Fargo as city preps bankruptcy contingency plan

The Stockton City Council announced Wednesday that they will look at bankruptcy contingency plans after Wells Fargo seized the new city hall building.

The city paid $35 million to buy the 8-story building, but was not able to move in because of its money problems, and recently stopped making debt payments all together. This is the fourth building that was repossessed by Wells Fargo; the bank seized three city parking garages for the same reason.

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BAKU: Israel To Deliver Unmanned Jets Worth Over $300m To Azerbaijan

Israel has signed a large military contract with Azerbaijan. According to an Israeli Zman website, the Israel “Aviation industry” has signed a contract with Azerbaijan for the supply of some tens of unmanned jets. The negotiations between the parties lasted long enough and successful. This is a significant contract in excess of such an agreement with Turkey, which was estimated by experts at $300m.

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AU chief calls for UN-backed force in Mali

African Union chief Thomas Boni Yayi called Wednesday for the creation of a UN-backed force to intervene in Mali, where Islamist militants and Tuareg rebels have declared independence in the north.

“We are proposing that the AU strengthen its position so that its Peace and Security Council can refer the matter to the UN Security Council,” the Benin president said in Paris, calling for a UN-backed African force.

“We can take the example of Somalia, where an African force is operating with the support of the United Nations. We can move in this direction,” said Boni Yayi, who on Tuesday met with French President Francois Hollande.

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World Economic Forum On East Asia To Kick Off In Bangkok Thursday

The World Economic Forum on East Asia (WEF-EA1 2012), which will kick off in Bangkok tomorrow, will gather senior government officials, top business executives and thought-leaders from the region to tap on future opportunities in order to achieve sustainable and equitable growth.

Singapore will be represented by S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry.

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How a U.S. Radar Station in the Negev Affects a Potential Israel-Iran Clash

On a desert hilltop in the remote southwest of Israel stands a compelling argument against any notion that the Jewish state will launch an attack on Iran without the United States. The discreet complex atop Mt. Keren is a U.S. military installation, and the 100 U.S. service members who staff it are the only foreign troops stationed in Israel. The small, rectangular-shaped portable radar peeking around a concrete blast wall is so advanced it can see over the horizon, and so sensitive it can spot a softball tossed in the air from 2,900 miles away. (Tehran is a mere 1,000 miles away to the northwest.)

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SKorea teens flock online to snitch on pro-North posts

Google is not just a search engine for 26-year-old South Korean Ma Han-joo. Nor is Twitter merely a fun way to share pics of K-pop stars. For Ma and thousands of other young conservative activists – many of them teenagers – they are crucial weapons in their campaign to scrub the Internet of North Korea sympathizers.

In the past year, Ma has reported more than 30 online postings that she considered dangerous and which could “brainwash the minds of South Koreans” to the National Intelligence Service. Using search keywords such as “Great Leader” or “Nation’s Sun” – references to the North’s dynastic leadership – she trawls the Internet until finding offending content and then submits a link along with a screenshot online.

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SCO member-states to set up the Development Bank and Energy club

In his turn, Omurbek Babanov, the first deputy prime-minister from Kyrgyzstan, has suggested that the proposed SCO Development bank could be helpful for implementation of major regional scale infrastructure projects, such as high-voltage power lines or the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan rail road construction. Whereas the Tajikistan’s prime-minister Akil Akilov believes that such a bank should provide support and incentives for weaker regional economies.

Wen Jiabao, the chairman of Chinese State Council, has urged to provide for free transit of goods, capital and services through the SCO territories, along with faster development of the regional infrastructure networks for transportation, energy and communication. In turn, China has committed itself to offer soft loans in support of infrastructure projects in the SCO states.

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Gibraltar ‘has Falklands parallels’

An escalation in the long-running dispute between Britain and Spain over ownership of Gibraltar shows “disturbing” Falklands-style tendencies, one of the Rock’s MEPs has warned.

After a stand-off between Gibraltese and Spanish police patrol boats over fishing rights, Conservative Julie Girling warned: “What we don’t want in Gibraltar is a situation like the Falklands: there seem to be disturbing parallels in attempts to damage the livelihoods of Gibraltar’s fishermen.

“The Spanish are not being reasonable in their actions.”

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The U.S. Military May Blanket Afghanistan in Tiny Spy Sensors That Last for Two Decades

The palm-sized devices at the U.S. military’s disposal aren’t listening devices per se, but they would detect anyone moving nearby and report the movement back to an intelligence outpost, letting special operators know when a remote mountain pass or a known smuggling trail is being utilized. Some of the sensors could be buried, others disguised as rocks or other geological artifacts. The point is, they would be littered all across Afghanistan’s landscape, a lingering legacy of a decade-long conflict that would last 20 years more.

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Military intervention in Syria cannot be ruled out: France

Military intervention to end the crisis in Syria cannot be ruled out if it is backed by the United Nations Security Council, French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday.

“It is not possible to allow Bashar al-Assad’s regime to massacre its own people,” Hollande told France 2 television. “Military intervention is not excluded provided it is carried out under the auspices of international law, namely via a (U.N.) Security Council resolution.”

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US reportedly plans to arm Italy’s drones

The Obama administration plans to arm Italy’s fleet of Reaper drone aircraft, a move that could open the door for sales of advanced hunter-killer drone technology to other allies, according to lawmakers and others familiar with the matter.

The sale would make Italy the first foreign country besides Britain to fly U.S. drones armed with missiles and laser-guided bombs. U.S. officials said Italy intends initially to deploy the armed drones in Afghanistan.

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Quebec unrest generates more than 3,000 news reports in 77 countries: analysis

The civil unrest consuming Quebec is also seizing media attention abroad — with more than 3,000 news reports from 77 different countries in recent weeks.

That’s according to an analysis released Monday by Montreal-based company Influence Communication, which is monitoring Canadian and foreign media coverage of the conflict.

Influence analyst Caroline Roy said the student crisis generated 66-times more foreign news coverage in two months than Canada’s entire mission in Afghanistan — this country’s most extensive international undertaking since the Korean War.

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Outsourcing Surveillance: Watching dissidents is a booming business in China

While China has long been a police state, controls on these non-offenders mark a new expansion of police resources at a time the authoritarian leadership is consumed with keeping its hold over a fast-changing society.

“Social activists that no one has ever heard of have 10 people watching them,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher with Human Rights Watch. “The task is to identify and nip in the bud any destabilizing factors for the regime.”

Mostly unknown outside their communities, the activists are a growing portion of what’s called the “targeted population” — a group that also includes criminal suspects and anyone deemed a threat. They are singled out for overwhelming surveillance and by one rights group’s count amount to an estimated one in every 1,000 Chinese — or well over a million.

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Taiwan Deploys Anti-China Missiles: Report

Taiwan has for the first time deployed cruise missiles capable of striking key military bases along the southeast coast of the Chinese mainland, local media reported May 28.

Mass production of the Taiwan-made “Hsiungfeng” (Brave Wind) 2E, which have a range of 300 miles, has been completed and the missiles have come into service, the Liberty Times said, citing an unnamed military source.

The defense ministry declined to comment on the report, but the paper said the project, codenamed “Chichun” (Lance Hawk), had cost the military around Tw$30 billion ($1.02 billion).

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US Special Ops commander: We’ve sent troops into North Korea‎

U.S. Special Forces have been parachuting into North Korea to spy on Pyongyang’s extensive network of underground military facilities. That surprising disclosure, by a top U.S. commando officer, is a reminder of America’s continuing involvement in the “cold war” on the Korean peninsula – and of North Korea’s extensive preparations for the conflict turning hot.

In the decades since the end of the Korean War, Pyongyang has constructed thousands of tunnels, Army Brig. Gen. Neil Tolley, commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces in South Korea, said at a conference in Florida last week.

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A History of Bank Runs

Massive account withdrawals are in the news thanks to Europe. But while the proximate causes of the situation are unique to our time, the tradition of freaking out and demanding one’s money is thousands of years old.

Fourth Century B.C.: The Platonic Ideal of Financial Chicanery

Sicily
The first credit crisis chronicled in Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff’s This Time Is Different: Besieged by angry lenders, Dionysius of Syracuse ordered that all metal coins be collected under penalty of death, restamped one-drachma pieces as two drachmas, and used his newly doubled assets to pay his IOUs.

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EU Breakdown: Banks ready for break-up of eurozone

Policymakers and firms across Europe are making preparations to cope with a break-up of the single currency as the president of the Swiss central bank became the latest senior figure to admit to contingency plans for a “collapse” of the eurozone.

“We must be prepared just in case the currency union collapses, although I don’t expect that to happen,” said Swiss National Bank boss Thomas Jordan.

Mr Jordan added that his objective if it did come to the worst would be to prevent funds flooding into the safe haven of the Swiss franc, which could damage his country’s export sector.

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EU Breakdown: UK Plans Border Controls For Euro Meltdown

The Government is making contingency plans to cope with a potential increase in immigration should the euro currency collapse, the Home Secretary has revealed.

There is rising concern that Greece will be forced to abandon the euro after five years of recession, two bailouts and rising anger among voters over draconian austerity measures.

Political leaders in the European Union and Germany have said the euro will survive even if Greece leaves – despite warnings that it would start a domino effect among other troubled nations and cause a deep recession.

As EU citizens, Greeks are entitled to live and work in the UK and although there is no evidence of increased migration at present, the Home Secretary said it was “difficult to say how it is going to develop in coming weeks”.

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EU Breakdown: Swiss prepare plans in case of euro’s demise

Switzerland is considering capital controls to fight a sharp rise in the Swiss franc in the event of a eurozone collapse.

Capital controls — tools that directly influence the inflow of capital into Switzerland — are a radical measure that the Alpine nation has not employed since the 1970s.

The risk of a potential Greek exit from the euro has increased in recent weeks as the political crisis in Athens has intensified, heightening worries about possible effects on other heavily indebted eurozone nations. This is strengthening the Swiss franc, traditionally considered a refuge in times of economic and political turbulence.

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Trojan Horse: Researchers find vulnerability that could allow spying in Chinese chips used by US army

A team of researchers from Cambridge University say they have found evidence that a Chinese-manufactured chip used by US armed forces contains a secret access point that could leave it vulnerable to third party tampering.

The researchers tested an unspecified US military chip — used in weapons, nuclear power plants to public transport – and found that a previously unknown ‘backdoor’ access point had been added, making systems and hardware open to attack, the team says.

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Cyprus can become a gas storage hub for the EU, says government

The energy sector in Cyprus, in relation to both domestic and global developments, is at a critical juncture, Under Secretary to the President Titos Christofides said in a speech on behalf of President Demetris Christofias at the Energy Gas Storage Summit 2012 in Prague.

Christofides noted that the strategic position of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, in conjunction with the recent gas discoveries in the region and plans for their export, could promote the island as an alternative and fully flexible gas (LNG) storage hub for the European Union and the rest of the world.

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Tens of thousands protest against Morocco govt

Tens of thousands of Moroccans took to the streets of Casablanca on Sunday in the largest opposition protest since an Islamist-led government took office, reflecting mounting tensions over unemployment and other social woes.

The protest was organised by trade unions which accuse Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane of failing to deliver on the pledges of social justice that brought his party to power in the wake of the Arab Spring.

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Russia: Syrian Opposition is Massacring people to spark intervention

Are Syrian rebels ready to kill their own just to get attention and possible military intervention from the US and NATO? Russia says “Yes”.

The U.N. Security Council met on Sunday to discuss the recent massacre in the Syrian town of Houla, which the US, UK and most NATO allies have blamed on the Syrian government but Damascus and Moscow suggested was due to a rebel attack.

At least 116 people, including many children, were killed in the Houla attack, the head of the U.N. observer mission in Syria General Robert Mood told the 15-nation council, according to a diplomat who was in the closed-door meeting. The diplomat spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

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The Globalisation of U.S. Special Operations Forces

It was recently reported that U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) commander Adm. Bill McRaven and Deputy Director of Operations Brig. Gen. Sean Mulholland want to establish a worldwide network linking special operations forces (SOF) of allied and partner nations to combat terrorism.

If created, the network would comprise regional security coordination centres, organised and structured similarly to NATO SOF headquarters in Mons, Belgium.

According to Mulholland, these centres would not be command-and- control nodes but rather centres for education, networking and coordination to gain regional solutions for regional problems.

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A Machiavellian Scheme for a United States of Europe?

Ever wondered why European politicians appear so calm when attending summits in Brussels or G8 meetings despite all the talk of a “Grexit” and economic Armageddon? They could be trying to show their confidence in their own ability to solve the crisis and avoid unnecessary panic. Maybe they really are confident that a solution is just around the corner and simply reflecting this confidence.

Or maybe this crisis was always part of the plan, and without it the great European project can never be finished.

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Afghan, Turkish SCO ties sought, Expansion on cards for Central Asia bloc

The Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) is set to approve its first comprehensive strategic plan at its summit in Beijing next month, which could pave the way to upgrade the regional security group to an economic and geopolitical alliance as well.

The six-nation group’s June 6 meeting, in which it will likely adopt Afghanistan as an observer and Turkey as a dialogue partner, comes amid a recent push by the United States to increase its influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

The inclusion of the two nations and the effort to expand its scope has led some observers to wonder whether the SCO could develop into a fully fledged regional group, like Asean, or a platform to counter Nato’s influence.

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China: ‘X-men’ para-police force condemned for brutality

Human Rights Watch yesterday condemned the Urban Management Law Enforcement agency, known as the chengguan, and urged Beijing to reform or even abolish the force.

The force, nicknamed X-Men by the media, has been accused of rampant brutality and illegal detentions for even minor offences.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a 76-page report documenting abuses by the chengguan.

“In numerous recent Chinese state media editorials, the chengguan have been … derided as law-breaking X-Men,” the group said in the report, entitled “Beat Him, Take Everything Away”.

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Greece to Exit Euro, New Currency to Fall 60%: Citi

Greece will leave the euro zone next year and the country’s new currency will “immediately fall by 60 percent,” according to Citi chief economist Willem Buiter.

Greek officials have repeatedly stressed that the country will be running out of cash by the end of June, after which it would be unable to make debt payments and pay civil wages and pensions. An election is scheduled for June 17 after inconclusive results of the May 6 polls meant a government could not be formed.

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AU, Somali troops launch offensive against al-Shabab

AMISOM and Somali government troops have vowed to flush out al-Shabab militants from their major stronghold of Afgoye. Clashes launched by AMISOM on Tuesday left several militants dead and caused civilians to flee.

Hundreds of Somali troops backed by AU forces (AMISOM) and tanks launched attacks on Somali millitant group al-Shabab in Afgoye town, which is home to 400,000 internally displaced people (IDPs).

The attack left scores of militants dead, while many civilians fled.

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Britain ‘mulling role in any Iran-Israel conflict’

It had discussed “not just the possibility of a military confrontation but what role, if any, Britain might play and whether any involvement would be legal”, the report said.

Government lawyers have been examining the legality of any British involvement, “ranging from British diplomatic support for Israel through to the possible involvement of the Royal Navy in the region”, the BBC reported.

Senior ministers on the council were told that if talks with Iran fail and Israel attacks its nuclear facilities, this might trigger a wider war in the Middle East, the report said, without citing sources.

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Israel’s Strategic Analyst: Attack Iran, Propose Mideast Peace Deal

Israel’s premier strategic analyst, Yehezkel Dror, has produced a new study for the Begin-Sadat Center which advocates a military attack on Iran accompanied by an Israeli proposal for a comprehensive peace deal. Essentially, this paper is a blueprint for Bibi Netanyahu in his march toward war. It outlines the major issues he faces in persuading the Israeli public and world opinion that his decision is just. It warns him of the pitfalls that naysayers will suggest and offers him arguments against the nabobs of negativism.

The thinking behind Dror’s analysis is so tortured, so Machiavellian that it’s worth a look. Dror, who is an emeritus professor of political science at Hebrew University, understands that an Israeli attack on Iran would be highly controversial and likely cause severe disruption both in the Middle East and in the world at large.

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Russia tests ‘fifth generation’ missile that can penetrate Nato defence system

The highly-symbolic launch came just days after alliance formally activated the first stage of a missile defence shield whose deployment Russia has bitterly opposed out of fears that it may target its own vast nuclear arsenal.

“The dummy warhead reached its target area at the Kura test range on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The set goals of the launch were reached,” Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces spokesman Vadim Koval told Interfax.

A military source told the agency that the launch was only the second ever conducted in the top-secret programme.

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US Offers Funds for Colombia to Train Security Forces in Region

The Appropriations Committee of the United States House of Representatives wants to give Colombia’s security forces US$18.6 million next year to train soldiers and police from third countries. That recommendation comes from non-binding language [PDF] accompanying the 2013 Foreign Aid bill, approved last Thursday by the House Appropriations Committee. The language in the legislation states: The Committee recommends US$18,600,000 to support the efforts of the government of Colombia to provide training and technical assistance to partners in the [Latin America] region and around the world.

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Israeli army establishes neighborhood first response teams

The Israeli military’s Home Front Command is forming first response teams comprised of civilians who would be called to rescue neighbors in the event of a missile strike or a natural disaster.

Thousands of volunteers will be recruited and trained in the coming months to deal with a host of mass casualty events, the Yediot Aharonot daily reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, each neighborhood would have up to 50 residents trained to assist professional first responders – police, firefighters and paramedics – in rescue operations conducted during the first 24 hours of a national emergency, such as evacuating survivors and bodies from structures hit by missiles and rockets or an earthquake.

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War-Gaming Greek Euro Exit Shows Hazards in 46-Hour Weekend

Greece may have only a 46-hour window of opportunity should it need to plot a route out of the euro.

That’s how much time the country’s leaders would probably have to enact any departure from the single currency while global markets are largely closed, from the end of trading in New York on a Friday to Monday’s market opening in Wellington, New Zealand, based on a synthesis of euro-exit scenarios from 21 economists, analysts and academics.

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US Senate mulls largest ever package of military aid to Israel

Legislators aim to further expand security aid so as to improve Israel’s capabilities vis-à-vis Iran, Defense News weekly reports

A Senate aide said the bill has already amassed nearly 50 co-sponsors and is expected to pass “by a lopsided margin or even unanimous vote” once it reaches the Senate floor, the Defense News weekly reported.

“There should not be one scintilla of light between the positions of Republicans and Democrats on the issue of the security of Israel,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson.

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Iraq Purchases US Drones To Keep Watch Over Oil Fields

Iraq’s navy was given approval in the last week to purchase unarmed surveillance drones from the United States. The move is meant to help the countries Navy keep a better eye on oil fields as tensions continue to mount in the Persian Gulf.

According to Army Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, head of the U.S. Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq.

“They understand the importance of the mission to protect its oil platforms.”
The U.S. government at this time has confirmed the sale but will not say how many drones or what models have been sold as part of the agreement.

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Emails alleged evidence of former military coup plan in Colombia

Alleged emails were sent a major and a retired Army General, also forwarded to thousands of military assets, with the serious “invitation” to “disrupt” the government of Juan Manuel Santos, were revealed last weekend by Channel Capital and the Noticias Uno television news

The intention is revealed in one of the email: “the time will come that (sic) some colonel or general, whether in the auditorium of the War College or the same presidential palace, put the cards on the table, demanding Santos to meet its obligations and commitments election or otherwise remove him from office, to commission an interim government and hold elections in six months. “

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Retired military officers deny that they are preparing a coup in Colombia

The president of the Colombian Association of Retired Officers of the Armed Forces, Jaime Ruiz Barrera, has denied that it is preparing a coup against the president, Juan Manuel Santos, after recognizing that there was an exchange of emails between military retirees expressed dissatisfaction with the status of the country’s security.

“They are innocent emails that have been distorted and manipulated. It is true that there was talk of removing the President, but all within the framework of institutions, not a coup. Fragments were used to make these emails see if you were brewing a situation of that nature, “the military on Sunday Caracol Radio.

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Oil Russia: Russia and OPEC

Generally, when we talk about the world oil scenario, we usually refer and focus our attention on the members of the OPEC as the most prominent and influential players when it comes to decide the curse of the oil production and prices as well as the ones who are the main actors in the world oil geopolitics dynamic that currenly unfolds, given the fact that is in the Persian Gulf where all the energy related conflicts are mostly located, which too is the region where the majority of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) country members are geographically located. In this case, most of the times, people forget about Russia’s position as a key player in the world oil arena, a non- OPEC member.

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US to sell fighter-jets to Taiwan

The House of Representatives has voted to sell 66 new fighter-jets to Taiwan, with lawmakers saying the deal would close a growing military gap with China.

The House of Representatives voted late on Thursday to force President Barack Obama’s administration to authorise the sale of F-16 jets in addition to plans under way to upgrade existing planes. The measure still needs Senate approval. The measure’s main sponsor, Republican Representative Kay Granger of Texas, said that Taiwan needed more than an upgrade of its aging fleet in light of the rapid growth in military spending by China, which claims the island. “The sale of F-16s to Taiwan ensures our key strategic ally in the Pacific has the defense capacity to defend its own airspace,” Granger said in a statement Friday.

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Russia Tells G-8 Mideast Should Be Treated As Chess Game

Leaders from the Group of Eight nations sought to smooth over disagreements about how to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions and stem violence in Syria, as Russia warned Western powers that they should approach Middle East disputes with more delicacy.

“In Middle Eastern policies we should play chess not American football,” said Mikhail Margelov, head of the international affairs committee of the Russian parliament’s upper chamber, to reporters. “Nobody wants Iran to have a nuclear bomb. The question is how to achieve this goal.”

The Russian comments were made at the G-8 summit, hosted by President Barack Obama at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland. Russian President Vladimir Putin declined to attend the meeting, sending Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in his place.

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Over 29,000 AK-47s procured for India’s paramilitary forces

AK-47s continue to be the preferred assault weapon for the country’s paramilitary forces deployed to neutralise terrorists and Maoists at the frontiers and in the hinterland.

Over 29,000 pieces of this Russian-origin rifle were imported by forces like CRPF, BSF and NSG over the last three years, leaving behind, by a large margin, other sophisticated assault weapons procured from the US and Israel.

The inventory of the assault weapons procured for security forces, including ITBP, CISF and Assam Rifles, during 2010-2013 show that while 29,260 pieces of the ‘AK’ series were procured, only 17,609 units of other weapons in this category like X-95 and SIG were imported.

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Lebanese fighting is a mirror of Syria battles

Bullet holes riddle storefronts as the crackle of machine guns sends bystanders scurrying for cover. It has been, Tripoli residents say, some of the worst fighting here in years.

From their neighbourhood stronghold of Bab Al Tabbaneh, ultraconservative Sunni Muslims known as Salafis trade gunfire with the Alawites, followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam, who live in the adjacent area of Jebel Mohsen.

The violence closely mirrors the rebellion in Syria, which pits a largely Sunni-led insurgency against the Alawite regime of President Bashar Al Assad. Bab Al Tabbaneh’s Sunni residents fly the flag of Syria’s opposition, while the pro-Assad Alawites of Jebel Mohsen have plastered homes and businesses with posters of the Syrian autocrat.

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Euro Zone’s Banks Are “In Tatters” Says UK Minister -Report

Former U.K. chancellor Ken Clarke has said Europe’s banking system is “in tatters,” warning the U.K. is “heavily exposed” to potential problems in the currency bloc, the BBC reported Sunday.

The U.K. justice secretary also said Greek voters had to “face up to reality” by voting for parties willing to cut the country’s deficit.

Clarke, a strong supporter of the European Union, told Sky News’ Murnaghan program: “The Greek voters have really got to face up to reality–it is very, very difficult for them. They are having a terrible time,” the BBC reported.

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Mediterranean Energy Wars: Israel seeks to deploy 20,000 commandos in Greek Cyprus

Israel wants its energy projects in Greek Cyprus to be run by Israelis and is seeking to deploy as many as 20,000 commandos for their protection, Anatolia news agency reported today.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuand his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Demetris Christofias, met on Feb. 16 to discuss the two countries’ joint ventures. Details of the talks between the two leaders were kept secret.

Anatolia cited a source it said was close to the Greek Cypriot government who reportedly said Christophias specifically asked Netanyahu to convince Israeli businessmen to halt their investments in Turkish Cyprus during the meeting.

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Korean Surveillance School Trains Citizen Snoops

Law-breakers in South Korea beware. Citizens trained to videotape illegal activity are on the loose and making extra income by selling the tapes to the police.

Ji Soo-hyun leads a double life. Three-months ago, the housewife began a career catching lawbreakers red handed. Ji, 54, says her specialty is going undercover at private tutoring schools.

“I pretend that I am going to enroll my kids in the school. I ask the faculty about extra services. There are a lot of illegal activities in these schools, like staying open too late and charging additional fees. These are the types of things I record,” Ji noted.

When Ji is on her mission, she uses a small, concealed camera to record video.

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AFRICOM’s First Regional Brigade Will Deploy And Begin Operations

A U.S.-based unit has been selected as the Army’s first “regionally aligned” brigade, and by next year its soldiers could begin conducting operations in Africa.

It is the first step in an effort to develop expert units to rotate through a region.

U.S. Africa Command will be the first to test the new rotational model, intended to give commanders a more reliable supply of soldiers available for short, training-focused missions.

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New School of the Americas For Dictators

A year ago this month, Bolivian President Evo Morales inaugurated the College for Defense of the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA) with a speech in which he called for the expulsion of U.S. intelligence agencies, a new military doctrine based on “asymmetrical war” against “imperialism” and the “abolition” of the U.N. Security Council. He also attacked the press, calling CNN a “tool of capitalism”,

ALBA is a Venezuelan-led association of anti-U.S. governments which also includes Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and some Caribbean island states dependent on Venezuelan oil subsidies. The fledgling alliance has been given little importance by U.S. intelligence analysts, who tend to dismiss it as a purely ideological entity.

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Euro Crisis: ‘Run’ On Troubled Spanish Bank

While Greece teeters on a possible exit from the euro there is a growing market focus on debt-laden Spain’s ability to avoid a financial abyss.

There is a wealth of pressure on the Spanish economy – largely stemming from the collapse of its property bubble four years ago.

Its recession was confirmed this morning by the latest estimate of GDP, which measured negative growth of 0.3% following a similar contraction in the final three months of 2011.

This came amid reports of a run on the country’s part-nationalised fourth largest bank.

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EU becoming unhinged: Italy deploys 20,000 to protect sensitive targets

Italy increased security Thursday at 14,000 sites, and assigned bodyguards to protect 550 individuals after a nuclear energy company official was shot and letter bombs directed to the tax collection agency.

Under the enhanced measures, Interior Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri deployed 20,000 law enforcement officers to protect individuals and sensitive sites. In addition, 4,200 military personnel already assigned throughout Italy will be redeployed according to new priorities.

“Based on a thorough analysis of the situation, Interior Cancellieri has confirmed the need to maintain a high level of vigilance, strengthen the security measures against sensitive targets and those exposed to specific risks,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

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U.S. special forces in Yemen

A group of about 20 U.S. special forces are on the ground in Yemen, helping the government fight insurgents in the south of the country, officials say.

Their work includes using high-tech equipment to help the Yemeni military locate targets, the Los Angeles Times reported. The new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadid, is reported to be more willing to work with the United States than his predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down after months of protests.

“There are ways of checking their homework,” a senior U.S. defense official said. “They’ve been trusted partners.”

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Energy Engagement: Turkish warplanes intercept Israeli jet violating Turkish Cyprus airspace

TURKEY accused Israel on Thursday of violating the airspace of Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus in a controversial oil and gas exploration area.

The Israeli aircraft “violated” the northern Cyprus’s airspace five times in Monday’s incident which saw Turkish fighter jets chase out the intruder, the army command said in a statement.

The airspace violations reportedly occured between 11:05 a.m. and 12:49 p. m., and lasted a total of eigth minutes.

It gave no other details about the incident nor the type of Israeli plane involved in the alleged incursion over the breakaway statelet, which is recognized only by Ankara.

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PLA ships seen testing drones in Pacific Ocean

Japan says more Chinese naval ships have been seen near Okinawa, with some staging drills involving unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) able to carry missiles and conduct surveillance that analysts say is crucial for China to expand its maritime power.

The Joint Staff Office of the Japanese Defence Ministry said the country’s maritime defence force on Monday morning spotted three Chinese ships – two Type 054A multi-role warships and one Dongdiao 232 electronic surveillance ship – going through the Okinawa Miyako Strait on their way to the East China Sea.

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Greek eurozone exit ‘could spark coup’

As markets prepare for the prospect of a Greek exit from the euro, one prominent British economist says Greece could face a military coup if it abandons the single currency.

Financial markets have been sold down amid speculation Greece will have to leave the eurozone and abandon its debts.

But Sav Savouri, chief economist at London based hedge fund Tosca Fund, says the country has little option but to remain in the 17-member currency bloc because the situation will be very bleak if it leaves.

Mr Savouri had a grim view of the outlook for the country if Greece returned to the drachma.

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Plans to strike Iran “ready”, says U.S. Israel envoy

U.S. plans for a possible military strike on Iran are ready and the option is “fully available”, the U.S. ambassador to Israel said, days before Tehran resumes talks with world powers which suspect it of seeking to develop nuclear arms.

Like Israel, the United States has said it considers military force a last resort to prevent Iran using its uranium enrichment to make a bomb. Iran insists its nuclear program is for purely civilian purposes.

“It would be preferable to resolve this diplomatically and through the use of pressure than to use military force,” Ambassador Dan Shapiro said in remarks about Iran aired by Israel’s Army Radio on Thursday.

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US/Australia Cocos Islands spy plan

DEFENCE plans to develop the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean as a base for Australian and US spy drones and aircraft run counter to assurances Canberra has given the United Nations, one of Australia’s most senior foreign policy figures has warned.

Australia promised it would not ”militarise” the islands when persuading key nations at the world body not to oppose the transfer of the former British possession to Australian sovereignty, the former Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Richard Woolcott, said.

The recent Defence Force Posture Review suggested Defence consider upgrading the Cocos Islands airfield to support the new P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft likely to be acquired by the Royal Australian Air Force.

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US helps coordinates arms for Syria rebels: report

Syria’s rebels have seen an influx of arms including anti-tank weaponry for their fight against President Bashar al-Assad regime, in an effort coordinated with the help of the United States, a report said today.

Officials in President Barack Obama’s administration insist it is not directly supplying the weapons or providing funding, with Gulf states paying for the new arms, the Washington Post said, citing US and foreign officials.

But Washington has stepped up links with the rebels and regional militaries allying with them, playing a role in the rebel’s foreign support network, the report said.

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Euro fears rise as Greeks withdraw money from banks

Greeks have withdrawn billions of euros from their banks in recent days, with the country’s president warning of “panic” at the prospect of the country leaving the eurozone.

“My family already sent some €20,000 of our savings to my sister, who lives in Switzerland,” says M.S., a Greek citizen who lives in Brussels and works in the financial sector.

Like him, many Greeks are either transferring their savings abroad or taking them out of the banks, driven by fear that the country may have to leave the eurozone.

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‘Accidental war’ waiting to happen on EU periphery

If or when a full-blown conflict erupts between Armenia and Azerbaijan, it will probably begin like this.

According to a senior source in the Armenian defence ministry, on 27 April Azerbaijani troops sneaked over the Armenian border in the north-east province of Tavush and took up positions on either side of a road connecting the villages of Movses and Aygepar.

At around 2am local time – the source said – they opened fire from close range at the windscreen of an approaching car carrying out-of-uniform Armenian soldiers. The ambush killed 28-year-old David Abgaryan, 21-year-old Arshak Nersisyan and 26-year-old father-of-one Aram Yesayan.

The killing is a “clear provocation,” the source told EUobserver in Yerevan on 5 May. He added: “We have not reacted yet. I underline ‘yet’.”

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Eurozone shocked by ‘O’ percent economic growth

The 17-nation eurozone grows 0 percent in quarter as Germany remains the only large economy to post expansion. Even the Netherlands’ economy shrinks 0.2 percent, signaling no quick recovery for the euro area
Two men are the only customers of an almost empty terrace in the Plaza Mayor, in Madrid. Spain has announced that its economy is back in recession. AP photo

The eurozone just avoided recession in early 2012 but the region’s debt crisis sapped the life out of the French and Italian economies and widened a split with paymaster Germany.

Eurozone gross domestic product (GDP) stagnated in the first quarter, the EU’s statistics office Eurostat said yesterday.

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Lebanese army deploys in Tripoli areas hit by fighting

The Lebanese army deployed Tuesday in sectors of Tripoli affected by clashes, calming the area after three days of sectarian fighting that killed nine people, an AFP correspondent said.

Troops entered Syria Street, the frontline of fighting between the districts of Bab el-Tebbaneh, and Jabal Mohsen, at around 6:00 am (0300 GMT).

Bab al-Tebbaneh sits opposite Jabal Mohsen, where the majority of residents are supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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8,000 contractors said eligible for U.S. cyber guard

Up to 8,000 companies doing business with the Pentagon may be qualified to join a newly expanded U.S. effort to guard sensitive information on private networks, a senior Defense Department official said Monday.

The Pentagon on Friday invited all of its eligible contractors to join the voluntary pact aimed at fighting what U.S. officials have described as growing cyber threats that allegedly originate, above all, in Russia and China.

The Defense Department will provide intelligence-derived information on malicious Internet traffic to the companies; the firms are to share information on any cyber penetrations of their networks with the government.

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Moody’s downgrades 26 Italian banks; ratings now among the lowest in Western Europe

Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the debt ratings of 26 Italian banks Monday as they struggled with the effect of the weak economy and government austerity measures.

The move means Moody’s now ranks Italy’s banks lower than most of their Western European peers.

The ratings agency said the banks are suffering because Italy is back in recession and government measures are cutting demand for loans. Banks are facing more loan losses, limited access to funding and weaker profits.

Moody’s noted, however, that support from the European Central Bank lowered the default risk of many of the banks.

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S. Korea, China to cooperate on Pyongyang GPS jamming

South President Lee Myung-bak and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao agreed to cooperate on devising measures to address North Korea’s jamming of satellite traffic navigation signals during their talks here on Monday.

The leaders exchanged their views on the safety of passenger flight operations in South Korea, China and Japan, said Kim Tae-hyo, senior presidential secretary for national security.

In recent weeks, hundreds of aircraft and ships in South Korea have been affected by Global Position System disruptions, which Seoul authorities claim were caused by the North’s electric jamming waves.

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South Korea cautions against deployment of US tactical nukes

Seoul officials and experts cautioned against the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula proposed by some in the United States, which they fear could refuel an atomic arms race in Northeast Asia.

The US House Armed Services Committee on Thursday approved an amendment to the fiscal 2013 national defense authorisation bill that calls for the re-introduction of the sensitive weapons to South Korea, according to the diplomacy publication Foreign Policy.

While the South Korean government is not openly criticising the idea, concerned ministries say that Seoul remains fundamentally in favour of denuclearisation of the peninsula and that such developments will bring little security benefits for Seoul.

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Israel Unveils New Butterfly-Shaped Insect Drone

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is developing a new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in the shape of a tiny butterfly. IAI hopes the vehicle can be used to reach remote locations and gather information. The artificial butterfly weighs only 20 grams and is capable of a vertical takeoff, just like a helicopter.

The butterfly can take color pictures and is managed remotely with a special helmet. “When you put this on you are actually inside the butterfly’s cockpit. You see what the butterfly sees. You can fly at any altitude and distance and see everything in real time,” said Dubi Binyamini, head of IAI’s mini-robotics department, according to Israel Hayom.

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China military paper warns officers against ‘Western’ plotting

China’s top military newspaper warned officers on Tuesday to remain the ruling Communist Party’s “most loyal” defenders in the face of what it called Western plotting, describing recent cases of ill-discipline and corruption as a “profound warning”.

The commentary in the Liberation Army Daily did not specify what problems might have prompted the unusually blunt warning over laxity, waste and abuses in the Chinese military, but the Communist Party is wrestling with scandals ahead of a power succession later this year.

Its leaders appear determined to ensure that the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) remains the ultimate shield of their authority.

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AllAfrica: Former U.S. official calls for arming South Sudan army

The United States should move in to provide anti-aircraft defense systems to South Sudan in order to discourage Khartoum from launching aerial attacks and persuade it into returning to negotiations, former special envoy to Sudan said.

Since South Sudan gained its independence from the north in July 2011, it has accused its northern neighbor of bombarding inside its territories and particularly near the border regions. Some of the bombings were confirmed by UN officials and journalists.

The alleged bombing campaigns intensified particularly after the outbreak of rebellions last year in the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan by the Sudan People Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).

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The Kremlin’s Cognitive Dissonance

It seems that for the past five months the authorities have been suffering from cognitive dissonance in their relations with Muscovites.

This is a disorder in which someone’s beliefs do not match objective reality. Unable to change his convictions, the person instead rejects reality and enters an imaginary world. That explains why Russian leaders behave as if they enjoy the support of the majority of Muscovites, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

There have been more street protests in Moscow in the past five months than in the previous 15 years combined. Of course, the demonstrators account for only about 1 percent of Moscow’s population, but that means that there are several angry, opposition-minded people in practically every apartment building in the city. A Ph.D. in sociology isn’t necessary to understand that Muscovites are unhappy with the ruling regime.

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U.S. Still Grappling with Human Trafficking by War Zone Contractors

Congressional hearings and recently-introduced legislation have put the spotlight on the issue of U.S. taxpayer-funded labor trafficking, and the abuse of third-country nationals overseas by U.S. military contractors. One of the leading associations of U.S. overseas contractors has devoted the latest issue of its journal to the topic of trafficking – a sign that the contractor community is well-acquainted with the topic.

“The U.S. Congress’s newfound interest in addressing the problem of labor trafficking is certainly welcome, given that the issue has long plagued U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan and Iraq,” writes Doug Brooks, president of the International Stability Operations Association, in the May/June issue of its Journal of International Peace Operations.

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Awaiting the Next Revolution

The violence that accompanied the inauguration of Vladimir Putin as Russian president this week is an ominous sign that Putin’s apparent desire to rule for life is leading his country toward a dangerous political confrontation.

Initial demonstrations following last December’s fraudulent Russian parliamentary elections were cheerful. Crowds of more than 100,000 kept to agreed meeting places and routes and even thanked the police for showing restraint.

On the eve of this Monday’s inauguration, however, police made 450 arrests and attacked demonstrators with batons, sending at least 17 people to the hospital. More than 20 police were injured by debris and beer bottles thrown by protesters.

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Britain to deploy ‘sonic cannon’ at Olympics

Britain’s military will be armed with a sonic device that can be used as a high-volume loudspeaker or a non-lethal weapon to disperse crowds at this summer’s Olympic Games in London, the defense ministry said on Friday.

The equipment, which can project a piercing sound over hundreds of meters causing physical pain, has been used during protests at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009 and against pirates operating off the Somali coast.

The Ministry of Defense said it expected to use it primarily in loudspeaker mode to communicate with boats it wants to stop on the River Thames.

Defense chiefs have already caused controversy by announcing plans to put surface-to-air missiles on the top of residential buildings near the Olympics site in east London.

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Turkey: NATO Article 5 still at play in Syrian crisis

The possibility of invoking the right to military protection of Turkish borders against threats from Syria under Article 5 of the NATO charter is still on Turkey’s agenda, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson has said, Today’s Zaman reported.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selcuk Unal said during a press briefing on Thursday that Turkey’s expectation from Syria is that it halts the violence as soon as possible to prevent further instability. Unal said: “However, we have many options on the table if this instability deepens. We have to determine these options in accordance with the developments we face. As you know, Article 5 of NATO is related to self-defense. So, this issue was mentioned in the past due to some incidents that occurred [along the Turkish border]. This is, of course, a matter which will remain on the agenda and it will still be assessed.”

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“NATO plans to heighten tensions with Russia”

NATO plans to upgrade the U.S. estimated 180 tactical nuclear weapons in Western Europe will only heighten tensions with Russia.

This is according to European Leadership Network (ELN), a thinktank supported by former British defense ministers.
The ELN experts believe that the NATO plans are unnecessary, expensive and likely to exacerbate already difficult relations with Russia.

The Alliance is preparing to replace “dumb” free-fall nuclear bombs and ageing delivery aircraft with precision-guided weapons that would be carried by U.S. F35 strike aircraft.

The report was written by former arms control adviser to the U.S. mission at NATO headquarters in Brussels Ted Seay.

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ASEAN moving towards Asian Union and Monetary Fund

ASEAN is at the center of these talks. The association has long sought to use its collective structure to give member states more power in economic and political negotiations with outside parties than any state could achieve alone. But ASEAN has taken a non-interference pledge and as a group has few political or military ambitions. The association lacks the economic, political or military heft of Asia’s two likelier centers — China and Japan.

The United States remains an influential power in Asia. Washington’s perceived effort to use regional alliances to contain China does affect Beijing’s behavior. However, the region has become more dynamic, especially as the regional center of gravity has shifted from Tokyo to Beijing over the past two decades.

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Russia seeks India, Pakistan to join SCO

Russia has given a call to speed up the process of India and Pakistan’s accession to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), an intergovernmental mutual-security organisation, RIA Novosti reported.

The call was given by Russia’s acting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while participating in a meeting of foreign ministers of the SCO member states in Beijing Friday.

He also said delaying the decision on their membership was “counterproductive”.

The SCO, set up in 2001, includes Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

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Turkish Daily: CIA and Mossad behind Syria Bombings

The Turkish daily Aydinlik said that suicide bombings represent a way of incitement carried out by the CIA and Mossad agents in Iraq, and are applied now in Syria, Lebanese daily Al-Benaa reported.

“CIA and Mossad agents have carried out – and still – various attacks in several countries including Iraq, Pakistan and Libya,” Aydinlik stated in a report published Monday.

The report made it clear that the agents have bombed mosques during the occupation of Iraq in order to incite Shiites against Sunnis and vice versa.

“Those agents have achieved their goal where most of their operations were targeting Shiite and Sunnite mosques. All bombings were declared suicide attacks, while the suicide bombers were announced killed, but the fact is contrary to what was claimed,” the daily added.

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Massive Show of Force: Over 15 nations to join US-led military drill near Syria border

12000 soldiers from 17 countries carry out a US-led joint military exercise in Jordan amid the ongoing the crisis in Syria. ‘It has nothing to do with Syria. [The timing] is just a coincidence,’ a top US official says
Wounded Syrian soldiers are taken to hospital after a bomb attack which targets their convoy as they escort UN peace observers, including the Norwegian general. AP photo

The United States military said yesterday that 12,000 soldiers from 17 countries would be taking part in this month’s military exercises in Jordan, designed to enhance their ability to meet “security challenges.”

Special action troops, naval and air force units from countries including Turkey, France and Saudi Arabia will carry out the joint training operations, according to the Voice of Russia.

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Another Mutual Defense Treaty?: ‘What will America do if China attacks Filipino forces in Spratlys?’

The Philippines and the United States entered into a Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) on August 30, 1951, in Washington, D.C.

As stated in the MDT’s preamble, both the Philippines and the US desire to publicly declare, through the MDT, their sense of unity and common determination to defend themselves against external armed attack, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone in the Pacific Area. (Refer to the third paragraph of the MDT’s preamble.)

Article IV of the MDT states: “Each party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.”

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Winds of war between Beijing and Manila blowing across the South China Sea

In their public statements, Manila and Beijing are seemingly stoking the winds of war blowing across the South China Sea over disputed islands in which other Asia-Pacific nations, including the United States, have a stake.

Beijing warned yesterday that it was ready to respond to any escalation of a tense, month-long standoff with the Philippines at Scarborough Shoal, a reef between Luzon Island and Zhongsha Islands.

“The Chinese side has … made all preparations to respond to any escalation of the situation by the Philippine side,” Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying said after summoning Alex Chua, chargé d’affaires at the Philippines Embassy in Beijing on Monday, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. Fu made a “serious representation” about the standoff.

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Party Intrigue: Will Political Scandal Delay China’s Once-a-Decade Leadership Transition?

The rumors have floated around for a while now, as China’s leadership scrambles to contain political scandals and factional infighting that have inconveniently bubbled up just as the country is gearing up for its once-in-a-decade leadership transition. On May 9, Reuters reported its sources had confirmed that China was “seriously considering a delay in its upcoming five-yearly congress by a few months amid internal debate over the size and makeup of its top decision-making body.” Instead of occurring as expected this September or October, the 18th National Congress may take place between November and January 2013, according to Reuters.

The names of the bodies (or “central organs” as they are sometimes called) that rule China through the bureaucracy of the Chinese Communist Party are almost deliberately dull, as if their tedious designations can somehow obscure their tremendous power.

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Federal Reserve Approves Expansion Of Three Chinese Banks In US

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it approved the expansion of the U.S. operations of three of China’s largest banks, including the first acquisition of a U.S. bank by a Chinese bank.

The Fed said it had approved applications from the Bank of China Ltd. and Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. to establish new branches. The central bank also approved an application by China’s largest bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd., to become a bank holding company through its acquisition of The Bank of East Asia.

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East Africa: U.S. Army Africa Commander Engages Leaders in Djibouti, Ethiopia

During a whirlwind trip to East Africa, Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg, commander, U.S. Army Africa, and a small group of advisers visited U.S. Army troops at Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa in Djibouti and attended meetings with African Union mission leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, April 24-27.

Initially, Hogg traveled to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, where he, along with USARAF Command Sgt. Maj. Hu Rhodes, USARAF’s Political Adviser Alan Latimer and Security Cooperation Desk Officer Ron Stafford took part in a series of briefings with Air Force Brig. Gen. Eugene Haase, deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. Following the CJTF-HOA briefings, Hogg met with Texas Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve troops currently working in and around Camp Lemonnier.

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India to prepare for pincer strikes by Pakistan, China

On Monday, the Rajya Sabha members flagged China emerging as India’s new security threat overtaking Pakistan. Summing up, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said on Tuesday: “A new axis is emerging between China and Pakistan. We do not want repeat (of) the same mistake as in 1962. The armed forces should be prepared for 90 day full spectrum war.”

Responding to that Antony said India had a “volatile and dangerous neighbourhood,” and growing proximity between China and Pakistan was a cause of worry.

“Threat perceptions are changing so we are changing our strategy. New directions were given to the armed forces to meet the challenges for emerging security scenario,” he said, hinting at the possibility of a joint coordinated strike.

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Military deploys VR NeuroTracker game to train special ops forces (video)

We’ve seen virtual reality used to simulate the experience of being in space, to train engineers and even to help patients regain mobility, so it’s no surprise that the military is recognizing VR’s potential, too. The US Special Operations Command recently announced that it will employ NeuroTracker — a system currently used to train athletes in the NFL and NHL — to assess and improve commandos’ response times and perceptive capabilities.

The VR setup tasks commandos with following the movements of four different balls projected on a 3D screen, the catch being that four “decoy” objects are also bouncing around. NeuroTracker assesses how well an individual can keep track of the designated targets, and also helps determine how he or she would be able to predict trajectories in the field.

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British taxpayer funds helped Zimbabwe dictator Mugabe develop his arsenal

Britain’s arms industry and other companies are to be called before politicians to explain why taxpayer funds ended up helping Robert Mugabe buy five Hawk fighter jets and 1030 police Land Rovers which he later used to suppress dissent.

The bosses of the world’s biggest defence and oil companies, including BAE Systems and BP, will be asked to account for why hundreds of millions of pounds of government money was used to help military dictators build up their arsenals, and facilitated environmental and human rights abuses across the world.

An official inquiry into the government Export Credits Guarantee Department’s underwriting of the loans will begin to call witnesses next week, The Guardian has learnt.

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Pentagon sending military trainers to Yemen

The Pentagon said Tuesday it is sending military trainers back to Yemen for “routine” counterterrorism cooperation with Yemeni security forces amid an intensified battle against an offshoot of the al-Qaida terror network.

“We have begun to reintroduce small numbers of trainers into Yemen,” a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. John Kirby, told reporters.

Another American official said the arriving troops are special operations forces, who work under more secretive arrangements than conventional U.S. troops and whose expertise includes training indigenous forces. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the subject publicly.

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Putin Entices Oil Investors to Bankroll Kremlin Return: Energy

President Vladimir Putin has begun revamping Russia’s petroleum taxes to increase government revenue in his third term and maintain oil and gas flows that underpin his power atop the world’s largest energy exporter.

He proposed the first tax breaks for pumping unconventional reserves such as shale oil at a meeting with energy officials four days before being sworn in yesterday. While shale is booming in the U.S., such harder-to-extract unconventional reserves in Russia provide just 4 percent of total production.

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Petrodollar Warfare: Iran Accepts Renminbi for Crude Oil

Iran is accepting renminbi for some of the crude oil it supplies to China, industry executives in Beijing and Kuwait and Dubai-based bankers said, partly as a consequence of U.S. sanctions aimed at limiting Tehran’s nuclear program.

Tehran is spending the currency, which is not freely convertible, on goods and services imported from China.

Most of the oil that goes from Iran to China is handled by the Unipec trading arm of Sinopec, China’s second-largest oil company, and through another trading company called Zhuhai Zhenrong, the oil industry executives said.

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Sanctions if Nato supplies not restored: Defense Minister Mukhtar

Federal Minister for Defence Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar said on Sunday that Pakistan might face sanctions if it did not allow Nato supplies as it would be a violation of international conventions.

Pakistan suspended Nato supplies after a US attack on its Salala post along the Afghan border in November killed at least 24 soldiers.

“Pakistan has signed international conventions under which it will not be easy for it to keep Nato supplies suspended as it may lead to sanctions,” the defence minister said while talking to reporters at a luncheon hosted by PPP leader Munir Ahmed Khan.

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Turkish Factor In Leviathan and Aphrodite ‘Energy Wars’

Leviathan gas field, which is located in the Mediterranean Sea in 135km from the Israeli Haifa, was discovered in 2010 by the American Noble Energy Company, which concluded contract with Israeli government back in 2008 on initiating joint gas and oil exploration in the Mediterranean. The gas reserves found in 2010 can be considered rather impressive as, according to Noble Energy the total natural gas reserves in this field are estimated up to 450 billion m3 which makes it one of the biggest gas fields in the world. The importance of Leviathan for Israel is conditioned by the fact that it will exempt the Jewish state from the energy dependence on Egypt, which imports exports gas to Israel. Taking into consideration that the political processes going on in Egypt since 2011 can bring to power “Muslim brothers”, who are of radical anti-Israeli orientation, discovering and processing of a gas field of its own has become for Israel an issue of paramount national importance.

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China’s ‘princeling’ generals hit by Bo purge

The purge of Bo Xilai as Chongqing Communist party boss has thwarted the prospects for some “princeling” generals to join China’s top military body while giving President Hu Jintao a chance to boost his influence over the armed forces.

China is preparing for a generational leadership transition this year that will see most top political and military roles filled with new people. Two generals close to Mr Bo who are also princelings – descendants of senior Communist party figures – are now less likely to be appointed to the powerful 12-member Central Military Commission (CMC), according to two senior officers in the People’s Liberation Army.

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CIA: Following Trends and Triggers: Estimating State Instability

Estimating state instability is more than warning. It is a structured analysis of instability types, their likelihood and potential impact on US national interests, and their most likely and most dangerous manifestations. This kind of analysis goes beyond determining probabilities. It also structures scenarios and evaluates the potential impact of events.

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Greeks punish main parties, risk euro exit

Greeks angry at years of austerity shrugged off the risk of a euro zone exit and punished their ruling parties, which failed to win enough votes to form a ruling coalition in Sunday’s election.

With about 95 percent of the vote counted, conservative New Democracy and Socialist PASOK, who have dominated Greece for decades and are the only two major parties supporting an EU/IMF bailout program that keeps Greece afloat, won less than 33 percent of ballots and only 150 out of 300 parliament seats.

In order to renew their uneasy partnership, they would have to woo other reluctant parties.

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