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Archive | August, 2012

British intelligence service enlists independent firms

british-intelligence

Britain’s intelligence service is looking beyond BAE Systems Plc, Lockheed Martin Corp and other big defence contractors to an untapped army of independent innovators for tools to fight terrorism and for cyber security.

The Government Communications Headquarters spy agency and the MI5 domestic security service have teamed with the defence ministry to enlist small-and medium-sized companies they have not previously worked with, the agency said today.

The procurement partnership marks the first time the ministry’s Centre for Defence Enterprise is working with the intelligence community. The goal is to find university startups and companies with technology for covert surveillance and online identity verification. GCHQ and MI5 can fund research activities, with CDE in charge of the technical assessment and program management.

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Race for Gas by Cypriot Rivals Adds to Tensions

race-for-gas-by-cyprus-rivals

The island of Cyprus, split by one of Europe’s most intractable ethnic conflicts, is now the focus of another contest, over who will control the significant natural gas wealth found in nearby waters. The question is whether the gas discovery will become an incentive for the two sides to cooperate, or yet another obstacle to reunification of the island.

The early indications are not promising. The two halves of the island — the mainly Turkish-speaking north, occupied by Turkey since an invasion 38 years ago, and the internationally recognized, mainly Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus in the south — are racing this summer to see who can tap the gas first.

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Georgia informs NATO about armed clash with militants on Georgian-Russian border

dagestan-militants-fight-on-georgia-russia-border

A meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission on the situation in the Georgian-Russian border was held at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Head of Georgian representation in NATO Nugzar Mgaloblishvili informed the commission about the situation in Dagestan section of the Georgian-Russian border, where law enforcement conducted an operation to neutralize militant group penetrated from Russia.

The sides expressed concern over the situation and called for a solution to all the problems on the basis of internationally accepted norms. NATO officials declared inadmissibility of intensity export of the North Caucasus to Georgia.

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FinSpy Software Meant to Fight Crime Is Used to Spy on Dissidents

finspy-spying-on-dissidents

Morgan Marquis-Boire works as a Google engineer and Bill Marczak is earning a Ph.D. in computer science. But this summer, the two men have been moonlighting as detectives, chasing an elusive surveillance tool from Bahrain across five continents.

What they found was the widespread use of sophisticated, off-the-shelf computer espionage software by governments with questionable records on human rights. While the software is supposedly sold for use only in criminal investigations, the two came across evidence that it was being used to target political dissidents.

The software proved to be the stuff of a spy film: it can grab images of computer screens, record Skype chats, turn on cameras and microphones and log keystrokes. The two men said they discovered mobile versions of the spyware customized for all major mobile phones.

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Plans for ‘Alawite state’ caught on Turkey’s radar

hatay-province-alawie-state

Turkey has been struggling to cope with the growing number of refugees from Syria, but officials in Ankara are now having to contend with a new concern – reported efforts to make Hatay a part of a planned Alawite state.

Officials are concerned about a possible country, called the Alawite State to some or the “new Hatay” to others, that will be established in the Latakia – Hatay corridor.

To some, Hatay’s major Alawite population, who have close links to the Alawite community in Syria and many relatives in the troubled country, adds to such concerns. But mentioning these links as a major potential risk would definitely be unfair because the Alawites’ responsible attitude and the centuries-old, deep-rooted ties between Alawites and Sunnis will not allow any effort that aims to manipulate the sensitive balance between the two.

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Reports: Russia plans naval missile defense system similar to US Aegis radars

russia-aegis-type-missile-defense

A top defense industry official reportedly says Russia plans to develop its own sea-based missile interceptor program similar to the U.S. Aegis system.
The Aegis radar systems technology is carried by warships with missile interceptors and can destroy missiles mid-flight. It is part of the U.S.-led NATO plan to deploy missile defense elements in Europe that has long irritated Moscow.

The U.S. says Aegis would stave off threats from rogue nations such as Iran. Moscow contends it would undermine Russia’s nuclear forces.

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China to Deploy Marine Surveillance Drones

china-will-deploy-drones-for-marine-surveillance

Drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are to be deployed along China’s coastline to undertake remote-sensing marine surveillance.

Local authorities said they could use the high-definition photos to discover illegal land reclamation and sand dredging as well as monitor marine environments along the coast and on islets.

The project also includes the construction of 11 UAV bases run by provincial maritime authorities, according to Yu Qingsong, a division chief of the State Oceanic Administration.

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Inside China: Missile defense conspiracy?

Rear Adm. Yin Zhuo

Rear Adm. Yin Zhuo, a leading Chinese navy official, told his nation Aug. 24 that plans to boost U.S. missile defenses in Asia are a strategic conspiracy to trick other nations in the region into investing vast resources to develop nuclear and ballistic weapons.

Adm. Yin told the People’s Daily’s flagship online discussion portal “Strong China Forum” that the objective of the U.S. defense effort is to force nations to deplete military budgets that should be used to develop conventional weapons.

“We think that the United States’ missile defense system conspires to lead developing countries with nascent nuclear deterrence such as China or India astray,” said Adm. Yin, who is in charge of the People’s Liberation Army’s Naval Information System Commission.

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Chinese army capable of safeguarding maritime rights: military spokesperson

chinese-army

China’s armed forces are capable of safeguarding the country’s maritime rights and interests, a spokesman with the Ministry of Defense said Thursday, referring to the Diaoyu Islands.

“It is undisputed that the Diaoyu Islands are an indispensable part of China’s territory,” spokesman Geng Yansheng said at a regular press conference, adding that any unilateral action taken by Japan cannot change this fact.

“In the meantime, China’s armed forces are capable of safeguarding the country’s territory as well as its maritime rights and interests,” said Geng.

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Chinese Cities Testing Labor Camp Reform

forced-labor-camp

It’s a penal system that requires no courts. Instead, China’s police can send someone to a labor camp for up to four years with no judicial process. There, individuals usually end up as slave labor, making dirt-cheap goods for China’s export economy.

Now, after recent uproar against China’s “re-education through labor” (laojiao) system, authorities are taking another look. On Monday, state-run China National Radio reported that four cities across the country are testing a system to replace labor camps. It’s called “education and correction of violations.” It’s being rolled out in Gansu, Shandong, Jiangsu and Henan provinces.

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U.S. Urges African Air Forces To Form NATO-style Ties

Defense Breaking News

The United States urged African nations to pool their air force assets in a NATO-style effort to take on terrorists and international criminals rather than struggle to fund costly independent operations.

Many African air forces are small components of the national military and Washington, concerned about Africa-based al Qaeda agents, traffickers and illegal fishing, wants to help improve cooperation across the continent.

General Philip Breedlove, commander of the U.S. Air Forces, Europe, told African air chiefs meeting in Senegal the situation meant any one nation would struggle to tackle groups operating across borders.

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Secret compound in Jordan desert houses 1,200 defectors

secret-jordan-compound-housing-syrian-defectors

In an isolated stretch of Jordanian desert, a heavily guarded, secret compound houses 1,200 senior police and army officers who defected from nearby Syria.

The men live in trailers with fans but no air conditioning, surrounded by barbed wire, and they pass their days browsing the Internet and watching TV for news of Syria’s civil war, longing to join the fight – but they are largely unable to leave.

The Jordanian military runs the camp near a site formerly used by the U.S. to train some its forces for the war in Iraq, and the defectors are debriefed by intelligence agents.

Access to them is tightly restricted for their own protection. They are even separated from their families, who live outside the camp near the northern border city of Mafraq but can get special police permits to visit.

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Turkey’s private security guards outnumber armies of six countries in Europe

turkey-private-security-guards

Turkey has roughly 217,000 private security guards who are employed in public offices and private companies, a figure that outnumbers the soldiers in the armies of six countries in Europe — Austria, Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands, Norway and the Czech Republic.

Federation of Private Security Associations (TÖGF) President Bülent Perut told the Hürriyet daily on Tuesday that the number of private security guards in Turkey is rapidly increasing. Private security guards maintain security in various institutions, such as banks, hospitals and shopping malls. Counting those carrying the title of private security guard but not currently working as such, the number of such personnel is as high as 604,000 in Turkey.

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Next oil and gas rush – South China Sea?

south-china-sea-gas-oil-rush

China’s largest offshore oil and gas company is seeking foreign partners to help it explore another 26 blocks, including 22 in the South China Sea where a similar move by China earlier this year in disputed territory angered Vietnam.

China National Offshore Oil Co., a self-described “mega government owned company,” announced the new initiative on its website, noting that the 26 additional blocks cover 73,754 square kilometers (28,476 square miles), at depths between 500 meters (1,640 feet) and 3,000 meters (9,842 feet).

It is giving foreign companies until November 30 to review data. Those companies would then submit a partnership plan.

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Media: the United States will give Azerbaijan the Northern area of Iran in exchange for participation in war

az-iran-map

The belief of some experts in the United States are ready to attach to the Azerbaijan territory of northern Iran, populated by ethnic Azeris in exchange for participation in a military operation against Iran on the West, has found a new confirmation.

As “Rosbalt” with reference to Baku Trend news Agency, the United States State Department acknowledged receipt of the letter from Congresswoman Dana Rohrabacher addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the need to support the struggle for independence of southern Azerbaijan from Iran and the possibility of unification with the Republic of Azerbaijan.

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Russian spies interested in Czech economy – military intelligence

JETE - Jaderná elektrárna Temelín, chladící věže---Nuclear power plant Temelin

The core of Russian intelligence services´ interest on the Czech Republic´s territory in 2011 were the areas of politics and economy, the Czech military secret service (VZ) says in its annual report released today.

The Chinese intelligence services, on their part, sought mainly technological espionage, says the VZ, which comprises both intelligence and counter-intelligence teams of the Czech military.

The VZ also detected activities that intelligence services from the Middle East pursued in the Czech Republic, the VZ says in an unclassified part of its report that is available to the public.

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A New Run On The Banks? Spaniards Pulling Cash Out At Record Rates

spain-bank-run

Spanish consumers are pulling their cash out of banks at record levels, according to figures released on Tuesday.

Private sector deposits fell by nearly 5 percent in July to €1.509, the Telegraph reported, citing European Central Bank data, as public confidence in the banking system reached all-time lows amid a worsening economic situation.

The news comes after bond markets continued to hammer the debt-ridden euro zone nations Spain and Italy last week.

On Friday, the interest rate on a 10-year loan to the Spanish government briefly topped 6 percent — a level that forced Greece into a default earlier this year, despite massive financial support from international sources — before settling back to 5.96 percent.

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FBI to Share Facial Recognition Software with States

fbi-facial-recognition

The FBI recently announced that it will distribute free facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies following a pilot program of the system, reported Slate.com. Police will be able to use the Universal Face Workstation (UFW) program, which grants access to a central database of about 13 million images. Police departments will also be able to submit and enhance their own image files to be cross-referenced with existing images in the database to identify matches.

UFW, which was piloted in February in Michigan, is part of a $1 billion biometrics FBI program called Next Generation Identification, which will create a database for scars and tattoos.

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Russia’s Former Spooks Invest In Social Networking Propaganda Bots

russian-propaganda

As it became known to Kommersant, the foreign intelligence service (SVR) today announced three closed tenders worth more than 30 million rubles, the purpose of which is to develop new methodologies for monitoring the blogosphere. The main task is the “mass distribution of informational messages within a given social networks with the purpose of forming of public opinion”.

The documents stated that the purpose of this virtual army will be “mass distribution of informational messages at specific social networks, using existing user accounts, with a view to shaping public opinion, statistics gathering and analysis of efficiency of informational wave”,

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Chinese banks play risky game of ‘hunt the deposits’

china-central-bank

China banks are playing a risky game: the deposit shuffle. The rules are simple. Pile billions of yuan in customer deposits onto the balance sheet in time for the financial reports, then shimmy them off right afterward.

The motivation for this “window-dressing” is simple – to make it look like the banks’ loans do not exceed the regulatory limit of 75 per cent of deposits. The regulatory cap on the interest rate banks can pay on deposits makes funding cheap but hard to find, so the banks are tempted to game the system.

At Bank of China, one of the more conservative of the big four state-owned lenders, the average of deposits reported in December and June was 6 per cent higher than the daily average deposit base for the six months, which it reports separately.

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Russian Military Brass Look To Draft 50 Thousand Men By Any Means Including Pre-Conscription Training

russian-military-conscripts

Russian military department offers the country’s leadership to increase this fall by at least 50 thousand people plan draft. The relevant documents are agreed in the Main Organization and Mobilization Directorate of the General Staff and the Russian presidential administration. The draft plan calling for the Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov to be approved by President Vladimir Putin in mid-September – so that on the eve of October 1 was issued a decree to the head of state of the early autumn draft.

In the presidential administration, in principle, support the initiatives of the Ministry of Defense.

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Inception helmet creates alternative reality

inception-machine-alternative-reality

The Substitutional Reality (SR) system, developed by researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute’s Laboratory for Adaptive Intelligence, is made of cheap, commercially available electronic components: a panoramic video camera used for recording, a computer for storing the recorded footage, and a head-mounted visual display that can switch seamlessly between the recorded footage and a live feed captured by a camera and microphone attached to it.

“In a dream, we naturally accept what is happening and hardly doubt its reality, however unrealistic it may seem on reflection.” says Keisuke Suzuki, the lead author of a recent paper describing the SR system. “Our motivation is to explore the cognitive mechanisms underlying our strong conviction in reality. How can people trust what they perceive?

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Bangladesh feels pangs of labour strife

Bangladesh_min-wage_protest-12-Dec-2010-Chittagong

The air thickened with tear gas as police and paramilitary officers jogged into the Ishwardi Export Processing Zone firing rubber bullets and swinging cane poles. Panicked factory workers tried to flee. A seamstress crumpled to the ground, knocked unconscious by a shot in the head.

Dozens of people were bloodied and hospitalised. The officers were cracking down on protests at two garment factories inside this industrial area in western Bangladesh. But they were also protecting two ingredients of a manufacturing formula that has quietly made Bangladesh a leading apparel exporter to the US and Europe: cheap labour and foreign investment.

Both were at stake on that March morning. Workers earning as little as $50 a month, less than the cost of one of the knit sweaters they stitched for European stores, were furious over a cut in wages.

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Yuan tipped to replace U.S. dollar, Euro in southeast Asia

china-yuan-replace-dollar-asean

In the panel discussion co-hosted by the National Research Council of Thailand, Huaqiao University and the Thai-Chinese Culture & Economy Association here, the official of the Thai central bank commented the Chinese currency could possibly replace the U.S. dollar and Euro when it comes to trade, financial and money-exchange dealings throughout the ASEAN community, due in part to the unresolved economic and financial problems in the United States and the European Union.

“In the long run from 2015 onwards, trade with Asia will largely increase under the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area agreement, which will influence the use of the yuan and the local currencies. The yuan is then a good alternative for the international trade in the future,” said the official, referring to the year in which the regional bloc will become an ASEAN Economic Community.

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China’s Missile Advances Could Thwart U.S. Defenses, Analysts Say

china-icbm-multiple-warheads

China is moving ahead with the development of a new and more capable generation of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched missiles, increasing its existing ability to deliver nuclear warheads to the United States and to overwhelm missile defense systems, military analysts said this week.

Overall, China’s steady strengthening of its military capabilities for conventional and nuclear warfare has long caused concern in Congress and among American allies in East Asia, particularly lately as Chinese has taken a more assertive position regarding territorial claims in the East China and South China seas.

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Ukraine Looks To Central Asia, Wants SCO Observer Status

ukraine-sco-observer-status

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said he is interested in the export of Ukrainian high-tech products to Asian countries and said Ukraine would like to get observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

He also said Ukraine would like to change its stance regarding natural gas imports from Russia.

He spoke while meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.

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India walking tightrope in intra-Islam cold war in West Asia

intra-islam-cold-war

India is trying hard not to take sides in what seems to be heading towards an intra-Islam cold war in West Asia.

As Manmohan Singh heads to Iran later this month to participate in the NAM summit he is likely to be pressed to take the Tehran line on Syria, certainly in his meetings with both Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. The NAM summit too will probably devote a lot of time to the crisis in West Asia.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, where India has high stakes; have been trying to get New Delhi to see the evolving crisis from their point of view.

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The ‘Wahabi Republic’ of Pakistan

wahabi-republic-of-pakistan

There are many people in Pakistan who oppose the Taliban and their militant activities; however, ironically, not all of them question the Saudi-Wahabi ideology that provides impetus to militant Islamists.

It is not so difficult to find people in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan who despise the Taliban and their suicide bombings that have killed scores of Pakistanis over the past few years. Yet, it is not common to hear voices opposing Saudi Arabia and its Wahabi state ideology.

The Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, which is also home to the sacred Islamic site Kaaba, is one of the most revered cities for Muslims in the world. That alone is enough to make Saudi Arabia a holy country for millions of Pakistanis. Therefore, for many Pakistani Muslims, criticizing Saudi Arabia is synonymous with criticizing Islam.

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The Arab Spring comes to Saudi Arabia

arab-spring-comes-to-saudi-arabia

Of all the changes brought on by the Arab Spring, it is the ongoing unrest in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province – home to a large Shiite minority, and holding 90% of the country’s oil reserves – that could prove to be the most important in the long run.

When the Prophet Muhammad died in 632, tensions over who should lead the Islamic community – by that time covering almost the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula – emerged and persisted. On the one hand were those who favoured a succession that promoted the most qualified individual on the basis of wisdom, good conduct, devoutness and competence. This group came to be known as the Sunnis.

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Talk Brews Among NATO Allies Of Syrian No-Fly Zone

talk-brews-among-nato-allies-of-syrian-no-fly-zone

The West and its allies appear to be taking baby steps toward creating a no-fly zone over Syria — with the important qualification that it be limited in scope, minimize chances of an open war with Damascus and receive broad international support.

That’s a lot of qualifications. But even a limited no-fly zone would already be an important show of support for Syria’s opposition forces, including the Free Syrian Army.

On Thursday, France’s Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, gave a signal that his country would be open to involvement in setting up a partial no-fly zone over Syria.

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Inside the Free Syrian Army’s Turkish HQ

free-syrian-army-HQ

Even though Turkey continues to deny reports that it has been setting up bases for the Syrian opposition — for example in Adana — it is no longer a secret that it is providing military support to the Syrian opposition.

One of the centers in Turkey used as a military base for the Syrian opposition is the Reyhanli “military” refugee camp, located in Hatay province. This camp is exclusively reserved for Syrian officers, among them generals and colonels, and their families who have defected to Turkey. This camp, which hosts around 1,000 Syrians, is tightly guarded by Turkish security forces. Even foreign diplomats who want to meet the camp residents are not allowed to enter.

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NATO Maneuvers: Officials concerned over optics of Arctic war fighting

nato-arctic-drill

It took the intervention of the assistant deputy minister of policy at National Defence to smooth the way for the army’s participation, reassuring senior government officials that were “no policy obstacles.”

Rob Huebert, an expert on Arctic defence and sovereignty, said the internal debate underscores clear divisions within the federal government about how to proceed in the North.

There are “very contradictory messages being conveyed here,” said Huebert, who teaches at the University of Calgary.

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U.S. mulls PAC, THAAD missile defense in Korea

thaad-system

The Pentagon is leaving open the possibility of deploying high-profile missile defense systems to Korea.

In a report commissioned by the Pentagon and submitted to Congress in July, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank in Washington, recommended the U.S. consider placing Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC) assets in South Korea.

U.S. officials said the CSIS report talks about “possibly” adding the systems to South Korea, where around 28,000 American troops are stationed.

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Iran wants “Islamic CSTO”?

csto

It seems that a possible U.S. attack on Iran is at hand. In recent days, Iran is making frantic efforts to find allies to repel aggression. Last week, Secretary of Defense Persian state A. Vahidi made a sensational statement. According to the head of the military department, it’s time to create a “military alliance of Muslim countries to reflect external aggression to them, and to protect the Palestinian people.”

Observers immediately drew an analogy with the Russian-led military-political alliance CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization Security) and was named the alleged formation of a new “Islamic CSTO” . Recall that now the Organization of the Collective Security Treaty includes six countries: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan .

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“Hezbollah” is preparing for war

hezbollah

Lebanese newspaper “Al-Jumhuriya” reports last week that the terrorist organization “Hezbollah” had the most extensive maneuvers in its history, in the event of a possible new military conflict with Israel.

The publication notes some important points of these maneuvers is the total number of participants reached 10,000 fighters, and among them were many young terrorists, aged 16 to 20 years who have not participated in the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006. In addition, some of the stages maneuvers Secretary General of “Hezbollah” Nasrallah personally inspected.

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Hackers backdoor the human brain, successfully extract sensitive data

emotiv-brain-control-640x628

With a chilling hint of the not-so-distant future, researchers at the Usenix Security conference have demonstrated a zero-day vulnerability in your brain. Using a commercial off-the-shelf brain-computer interface, the researchers have shown that it’s possible to hack your brain, forcing you to reveal information that you’d rather keep secret.

In a real-world scenario, the researchers foresee a game that is specially tailored by hackers to extract sensitive information from your brain — or perhaps an attack vector that also uses social engineering to lull you into a false sense of security. It’s harder to extract data from someone who knows they’re being attacked — as interrogators and torturers well know.

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Belize misses $23m interest payment as default looms

belize-bankruptcy-default

Belize is in danger of defaulting on its debt after it missed a $23m (£14.6m) bond payment due on Monday.

The government still has a 30-day grace period to pay the interest, but said it was unlikely to be able to do so.

Creditors accuse Belize of trying to force a Greek-style debt restructuring on holders of the $550m bond, which represents half its public debt.

The row has drawn attention to Caribbean countries’ growing debt burden amid falling tourism revenues.

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Conflict of Interest: Syria says preparing to finalize oil deal with Russia

russia-syria-oil-deal

Syria is preparing to complete a deal with ally Russia to secure much-needed oil products to keep its economy and military running, the head of a Syrian delegation to Russia said on Tuesday, weeks after he said an agreement had been reached.

“It was an agreement in principle reached during our last visit,” Jamil said at a news conference, adding that sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union were biting into the Syrian economy.

Syria is one of Russia’s last Middle East footholds and hosts a repair and maintenance facility for the Russian navy on its coast. Russia has adamantly opposed any foreign intervention in the country, though Moscow says it is not tied to Assad.

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Future Shock: IARPA, CIA Looks To Forecast Future Major World Events

Global Worldwide Network of People

DARPA’s sister agency — the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, which funds experimental projects for the U.S. intelligence community — is running a four-year, $50-million program that pays people willing to predict major world events, including wars and terrorist strikes. Unlike the earlier scheme, participants can’t profit from their predictions.

The study, known as Aggregative Contingent Estimation, is designed to see whether the 17 agencies in the U.S. intelligence community can aggregate the judgment of its thousands of analysts — rather than rely on the expertise of just a few — to issue more accurate warnings to policy makers before and during major global events.

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Uzbeks jihadis join Syrian guerrilla fighters

Village-of-Tel-Rafat

Scores of foreign jihadists have crossed into Syria from Turkey in the past two weeks, some of them telling Syrians that they are planning to travel to Aleppo to join a decisive battle against regime troops, says Martin Chulov, correspondent of The Guardian.

According to locals who have dealt with them, the new arrivals embrace a global jihadist worldview that sets them apart from most leaders in the armed Syrian opposition and is stirring deep discontent among the rebel leadership.

Rebel leaders inside Syria say about 15-20 foreign fighters have been crossing each day since mid-July, trying to join up with an estimated 200-300 foreigners in Syria.

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New Silk Road: China’s long, steady march into the Middle East

china-march-into-the-middle-east

By virtually any benchmark you choose – market capitalisation, profits, assets and deposits – Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is the largest bank in the world. Tian Zhiping is the chief executive of its Middle East regional division. Here, he talks about the bank’s ambitions in the region, the prospects for the Chinese economy and what his compatriots think about bankers.

How did ICBC come to set up a subsidiary in Dubai?

We’ve been here five years now. We were the first Chinese bank to set up in the region and we did a lot of research and evaluation before we took the decision. The important thing about the UAE was its stability and safety. We found that it is one of the safest places in the world and that’s one of the reasons we’re here.

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Is Oil Giant Shell Spending Nearly $65 Million on ‘Private Army’ in Nigeria?

Shell in the Niger delta

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell plc spent nearly $383 million, between 2007 and 2009, to protect its oil installations and staff in Nigeria, revealed London-based oil watchdog Platform on Sunday, with part of the money alleged to have gone into a 1,200-member private security force, which has been accused of human rights violations in the past.

According to a Guardian report, the world’s largest company by revenue had spent nearly $1 billion on worldwide security between 2007 and 2009; while 40 percent of the total cost had gone into security in Nigeria’s volatile Niger Delta region.

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Take a peek at the British spy station in Cyprus

cyprus-british-spy-station

THE TIMES reports that British bases are providing Syrian rebels with vital intelligence information.

If true, the information probably comes from the Ayios Nikolaos base – a listening station of the spying network ECHELON.

The top secret base, which includes living quarters for British servicemen and their families, is located near the Green line, two miles east of the town of Famagusta and 15 kilometres north of Ayia Napa.

Land around the base is covered with satellites, radar and radio masts.

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Army General Carter F. Ham Welcomes Regionally Aligned Brigade Focused on Africa

carter-ham-africa-command

Army Gen. Carter F. Ham was referring to the arrival of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team from Fort Riley, Kan. The unit will become the main force provider for security cooperation and partnership-building missions in Africa.

The “Dagger Brigade” will also become the first Army unit to be regionally aligned with a specific unified combatant command. Under the new arrangement, brigades will be on deck for their mission for a full year to perform security cooperation when needed, but not operational or regular warfare missions, Army officials said.

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Report on Putin’s ‘Politburo 2.0′ A Return To Soviet Style Government

politburo

The 11-page report, prepared by the Minchenko Consulting Group, headed by political pundit Yevgeny Minchenko, roiled the political establishment Tuesday by identifying the precise makeup of the government’s ruling clan.

The report calls Putin a powerful arbiter who manages relationships between members of ruling factions.

“Russian power is a conglomerate of clans and groups that compete with one another over resources,” the report says.

Putin’s clan is described as Politburo 2.0, referring to the name of the Communist Party’s ruling body that authored all key decisions in the Soviet government.

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China in financial crisis ‘danger zone’

bank-of-japan-nishimura

Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Kiyohiko Nishimura said on Tuesday that China is now entering the “danger zone”, citing a combination of demographic change, a property price bubble, and a steep loan growth, which increases the risk of financial crisis in a country.

Speaking at the Reserve Bank of Australia-BIS Research Conference in Sydney, Nishimura said not every bubble-bust leads to a financial crisis and not every country experiencing demographic changes has a malign property bubble.

“Rather we should regard the demographic conditions of population dividend as “fertile ground” for malign property bubbles,” he added.

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U.S. Army Command develops Caucasus-linked military scenarios

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“All of these factors exist in a crucible surrounded on three sides by Turkey, Iran, and Russia. The potential for conflict is considered so plausible and the issues related to the interaction so confusing that a few years ago the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command developed scenarios linked to the Caucasus to help prepare Majors for military contingencies. The U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth uses the “GAAT” (Georgia-Armenia-Azerbaijan-Turkey) exercise as a thread of continuity throughout the course.

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Egypt to send aircraft and tanks into Sinai: sources

egypt-prepared-to-send-tanks-aircraft-into-sinai

Egypt is preparing to use aircraft and tanks in Sinai for the first time since the 1973 war with Israel in its offensive against militants in the border area, said security sources.

The plans to step up the operation were being finalised by Egypt’s newly appointed Defence Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he made his first visit to Sinai on Monday following the killing of 16 border guards on August5.

Egypt blamed the attack on Islamist militants and the conflict is an early test for President Mohamed Mursi – elected in June following the overthrow last year of Hosni Mubarak – to prove he can rein in militants on the border with Israel, Reuters reports.

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Will the US Open Its Military Depots in Israel in Case of War?

military-depot

When the drums of war reach a fever pitch throughout the Middle East, cooperation with Israel’s most important ally assumes even more urgency than ever. The IDF is, of course, a powerful and independent army but in the event of an extensive confrontation, even Israel — a regional power — may run out of ammo. Meanwhile, six secret American bases are spread out throughout the country. According to foreign reports, these depots are chock-full of ammunition, smart bombs, missiles, an assortment of military vehicles and a military hospital with 500 beds. If Israel will be forced to take action against Iran, whether alone or together with the US, there is high probability that it will need a strategic home front — in the guise of those bases full of goodies.

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Not Just Out of Africa: South America’s “Blood Diamonds” Network

blood-diamonds-south-america

In an office in Santa Elena, deep in the Venezuelan jungle bordering Brazil and Guyana, a diamond trader inspects a rough gem under his magnifying glass. Surrounded by precious minerals, stuffed tarantulas and a sprawling anaconda skin pinned to the wall, he takes calls from men who work in the rowdy clandestine mines nearby and bring him the precious stones. From there, a broker will traffic the diamonds into Guyana, where they’ll receive falsified certificates that they were legally mined and marketed. Many will end up in commercial hubs like New York, Tel Aviv and Antwerp.

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Surveillance device uses Wi-Fi to see through walls

wireless-router-see-through-walls

Researchers in England have created a prototype surveillance device that can be used to spy on people inside buildings and behind walls by tracking the frequency changes as Wi-Fi signals generated by wireless routers and access points bounce off people as they move around The device, which is about the size of a suitcase and has two antennae and a signal processing unit, works as a “passive radar system” that can “see” through walls, according to PopSci.com. It was able to successfully determine the location, speed, and direction of a person behind a one-foot-thick brick wall, but can not detect people standing or sitting still, the article said.

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ABM in Qatar: American way to control ‘excess of evil’

PATRIOT MISSILE TESTED IN ISSRAEL

The US is planning to deploy an ABM system in Qatar. How will it influence the situation around Iran?

We have to understand, there are two dimensions of the problem. One dimension is that Americans have a far reaching, long term plan to have a global missile defense system as part of the system that they have already established. The same kind of facilities are in Japan. Now they are building them in Australia, in Turkey which is a part of the European missile defense. And auxiliary installations are on the territory of Romania. And of course such a sensitive area as Persian Gulf could not be avoided by Americans in terms of controlling the air space of the area where they have as they call “excess of evil”.

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Jim Rogers on the coming fiscal ‘catastrophe’

jim-rogers-eu-armageddon

The Fiscal Times (TFT): You’ve said we’re heading for financial “Armageddon.” Why that dire?
Jim Rogers (JR): The United States is the largest debtor nation in the history of the world. Our debts are skyrocketing every year and nobody’s doing anything about it. Every country in history that’s gotten into this situation has had a crisis or a semi-crisis, or both. In 2002 we had an economic slowdown, which was fairly serious, and then in 2007 and 2008 we had another one, which was worse because the debt was so, so, so much higher. The next time around the debt is going to be that much more catastrophic.

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India and Russia going to sign biggest-ever defence deal worth $ 35 billion

fifth-generation-fighter-india-russia

India’s quest for a futuristic stealth fifth-generation fighter, which will see the country spend around $35 billion over the next 20 years in its biggest-ever defence project, has zoomed into the decisive phase now.

India and Russia are getting all set to ink the full and final design or R&D phase contract for the 5th Gen fighter by this year-end or early-2013, say sources. It will again underline India’s firm rejection of the US offer of its Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) or the F-35 ‘Lightning-II’.

Ahead of the R&D contract, under which India wants to induct over 200 stealth fighters from 2022 onwards..

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“Portrait” of a classified military doctrine of Russia

secret-russian-military-doctrine

Russian military doctrine is classified with regard to plans for future wars and potential enemies, which is quite natural. But from what teachings are in our country, what weapons systems are going to develop and put on alert, as well as individual statements of officials from the Defense Ministry, we can draw certain conclusions about who was suppose to fight the Russian military planners .. . If we analyze the scenarios of future wars, targeted by the Russian military doctrine and present threats to the military security of Russia – probable and existing, here’s what “Portrait” can be drawn:

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Russian military deploys 4th regiment of S-400 missile

s-400-russia-defense-kalingrad

The Russian Military is set to deploy the fourth regiment of the S-400 Triumf air defence missile system in the country’s Far East.

The fourth regiment armed with S-400 Triumf air defence systems will be officially put on combat duty in Russia’s Far East on Thursday, a spokesman for the Eastern Military District said on Wednesday.

The new regiment with the surface-to-air S-400 missiles will be deployed near the port city of Nakhodka in the Primorye Territory, the report said. It will join other S-400 regiments deployed in the Moscow Region and in the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

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Israel deploys anti-rocket battery near border with Egypt

israel-deploys-iron-dome-near-egypt

The Israeli army has deployed an Iron Dome air defense system, designed to intercept and destroy rockets, days after two rockets were fired at the town of Eilat near the border with Egypt, a military spokeswoman said Monday.

“An Iron Dome battery has been deployed in the town of Eilat as part of tests, momentarily modifying the sites where these systems are deployed,” she said but did not give further details.

An Islamist militant group claimed responsibility for the two rocket attacks aimed at Eilat, Israel’s Red Sea resort town, SITE Intelligence Group reported on Thursday.

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Eurozone Ignoring Parallels With Latin American Debit Crisis of the 1980s

Third-world-debt-campaign-007

Monday marks a significant anniversary in recent economic history for it was on this day in 1982 that Mexico announced a moratorium on its international debts. The default marked the start of what became known as the third world debt crisis.

Three decades later that crisis is now the first world debt crisis. For Mexico read Greece. For American, British and Japanese banks recycling the 1970s windfall profits of oil producers to sub-prime Latin American governments read US and European banks pumping out cheap credit to sub-prime mortgage holders.

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Iran, Saudi Arabia fight proxy conflict in Syria

iran-saudi-proxy-war

Saudi Arabia doesn’t see Ahmadinejad as the one in charge –
The old rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia as to who is leading the Islamic world is also fought on Syrian soil. The Saudi king described himself as “the servant of the holy shrines in Mecca and Medina” while Khamenei claims to be “the leader of the Islamic revolution.”

The two countries also stand for the schism of the Islamic world: Saudi Arabia sees itself at the helm of the Sunnis, while Iran is leading the Shias. The conflict in Syria is increasingly fought along that sectarian divide with the Assad clan being Alawi, a denomination close to the Shias and therefore a natural ally to Tehran.

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German spies active off Syria coast: report

germany-bnd-spying-on-syria-off-coast

German spies are stationed off the Syrian coast and are passing on information designed to help rebels in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

Agents from Germany’s foreign intelligence service (BND) are operating on ships off the coast with technology allowing them to observe troop movements 600 kilometres (400 miles) inside the country, said the Bild am Sonntag weekly.

They pass their findings onto US and British officers who then supply the rebels with the information, Bild said.

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Putinocracy: Analysts See Freedom of Speech in Russia Slowly Eroding

pussy-riot

“Criticism is allowed. However, when it is too widely publicized or when it is too personal, then it is not allowed. When the criticism is of the president himself in particular, when it is of his personal wealth, for example, or corruption aspects, or criminal aspects high up within the regime, then the state begins to crack down. So in other words there are limits,” said Nixey.

Nixey says Russia under the leadership of President Putin, a former KGB officer, is veering toward the old Soviet style of governance.

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British intelligence aided Syrian rebels to attack Assad forces: report

free-syrian-army

British intelligence on Syrian troop movements is helping rebels launch successful attacks on regime forces, a Sunday newspaper reported, quoting an opposition official.

The Sunday Times weekly said the disclosure by the official was the first indication that British intelligence was playing a covert role in the anti-regime revolt which first erupted in March 2011.

The newspaper quoted the official as saying British authorities “know about and approve 100%” intelligence from their Cyprus military bases being passed through Turkey to the rebel troops of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

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CIA spies ‘smuggle 14 Stinger missiles into Syria so rebels can take out regime warplanes’

fim92-stinger

CIA spies have smuggled up to 14 Stinger missiles into Syria so rebels can defend themselves from air strikes.

The ground-to-air weapons have been delivered across the Turkish border to the Free Syrian Army and were partly paid for by Saudi Arabia, a security source claimed.

President Bashar al-Assad’s MIG-23 warplanes and helicopter gunships have killed more than 1,000 people.

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Turkish Intelligence betrays CIA; deceived by Iran

turkey-intelligence

In a press statement, Deputy Prime Minister Bülenç Arınç announced that the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) was sharing intelligence with Iran. This provided the answer the Americans have been looking for. American intelligence units have been suspicious that Turkey is sharing information received from American Predator drones with Iran. The US has made it clear that they would be uncomfortable with such an arrangement.

The Israeli lobby has raised a campaign in Washington pushing for recognition that Turkey has been sharing intelligence received through American technology with Iran, and stressing that the US should no longer sell Predator drones to Turkey.

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Hedge Funds Bet on Oil Spike as Israel Attack Fears Grow

oil-prices-rise-by-speculation

Hedge funds are quietly laying new bets on a potential spike in oil prices tied to the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran, skewing the options market to a bullish bias for the first time in six months.

Signs that Israel is losing patience with efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, as well as the intensifying conflict in Syria, are giving funds new reason to bet on crude despite a lack of evidence that fundamentals are improving. Activity is muted so far by the summer lull, but could pick up in September.

The renewed premium has been most apparent in futures markets, with benchmark ICE Brent crude gaining 10 percent over the past two weeks. At the same time, hedge funds boosted their bullish bets in U.S. oil markets a week ago to the highest since early May, regulatory data shows.

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US Africa Command denies plans to establish military base in Botswana

africom-south-accord.drill

Visiting Commander of the United States Africa Command (US AFRICOM) Carter Ham denied on Thursday plans to build a military base in Botswana.

Ham announced this when responding to questions from media in a press briefing, before attending the closing ceremony for the two- week joint military training exercise “Southern Accord 12″ between the two countries at Botswana Defense Force’s (BDF) Thebephatswa Base in southeast part of Botswana.

“No, there is no American base in Botswana. There are no plans whatsoever to have a base in Botswana.

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Germany allows domestic military combat operations

germany-allows-domestic-military-combat-operations

Germany’s top court ruled Friday that the military may conduct combat operations within the country’s borders in case of a terror attack of “catastrophic proportions”, ending a post-war taboo.

The Federal Constitutional Court said the Bundeswehr armed forces could deploy under strict conditions in case of an assault in Germany with the potential for scores of casualties.

The deployment of troops in Germany is only acceptable in “states of emergency of catastrophic proportions,” the judges ruled, but never “in reaction to the threat posed by demonstrating crowds”.

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Yummy: 3D printed meat development funded

3d-printed-meat

Scientists have already been experimenting with bio-printing in the field of regenerative medicine. The hope is that if you need a kidney transplant in the future, doctors will simply be able to print you a new one.

Apparently, growing meat is easier than growing organs. In Modern Meadow’s grant application to the Department of Agriculture, the company points out that ”as meat is a post mortem tissue, the vascularization of the final product is less critical than in medical applications.” Mmm, I can smell that sizzling bio-printed post mortem tissue already.

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Coup d’état on reality: Egyptian government attempts to suppress the media

APTOPIX Mideast Egypt

President Mohamed Morsi’s government and allies are pushing back against critical news coverage, suppressing critical journalists and state-run newspapers, putting a journalist on trial, and attacking three journalists on the street, according to news reports.

“This is a troubling backward step that Egypt’s newly elected President Mohamed Morsi should not be taking,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We urge President Morsi to reverse this course immediately and demonstrate his commitment to press freedom.”

Several journalists have reported suppression at the state-run newspaper Al-Akhbar.

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Pakistan nuclear stockpile not ‘endangered’ by Kamra attack

pakistan-kamra-taliban-attack

The US on Thursday said Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile was not ‘endangered’ following a daring terrorist attack on the key Kamra Air Force base, believed to house atomic weapons.

“I do not have any indication that this particular attack (Kamra) has endangered the Pakistani nuclear stockpile,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters during an off camera news conference.

He was responding to news reports coming from Pakistan that the attack on the military base in Kamra had threatened the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

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CSTO takes measures to enhance security after withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan

csto-military

Withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan will require strengthening of the collective security of CSTO member states. The organization has already developed relevant action plan, said Secretary General of CSTO Nikolay Bordyuzha in an interview with RIA Novosti.

“I believe that the situation in Afghanistan requires enhancement of the collective security system,” said Bordyuzha.

He added that relevant action plan was already approved by the heads of CSTO member states, but it includes only some events.

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British Warship Exercises with Middle East US Carrier Strike Group

HMS Diamond

‘HMS Diamond’ joins with ‘USS Enterprise’ to demonstrate the Type 45 destroyer’s outstanding air defence capabilities.

During the exercise warfare specialists in Diamond’s operations room helped to choreograph sorties of F-18 Super Hornets and other aircraft, which add to the Carrier Strike Group’s potency.

As her sister ship Daring did just a few months ago, Diamond joined forces with the ‘Big E’ to show how a Type 45 destroyer can shield a task group from air attack – exactly what she was built for.

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Propaghandi: Pro-Kremlin Youth Group to Send Delegation to Syria

nashi-sends-delegation-to-syria

The leader of a pro-Kremlin youth group announced that his organization would be sending a delegation to Syria to inspect objects of cultural and historical significance under threat due to warring government and rebel forces.

Nashi commissar Konstantin Goloskokov told journalists at a news conference Wednesday that delegation members would pay particular attention to churches and mosques and that they would publish their findings on the Internet, Interfax reported.

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Kazakhstan predicts opening of the U.S. military base in Uzbekistan

oil-military-presence-in-caspian-region

As a result of the visit of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake to Uzbekistan, sides will sign an agreement on placement of American military troops at the territory of Uzbekistan. This prediction is made by Kazakh media.

The socio-political newspaper of Kazakhstan “Liter” on August 15, published an article where author says that as a result of the visit of U.S. Assistant Secretary Robert Blake to Uzbekistan, parties will agree on placement of military bases.

The newspaper writes that Blake changed plans to visit Kazakhstan and went to Uzbekistan instead.

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Troubled Times: Wave of Suicides Shocks Greece

greeks-commit-suicide-over-economic-times

On July 16, a businessman and father of three hanged himself in his shop on the island of Crete. A 49-year-old man from Patras was found by his son. He had also hanged himself. On July 25, a 79-year-old man on the southern Peloponnese peninsula hanged himself with a cable tied to an olive tree. On August 3, a 31-year-old man shot himself to death at his home near Olympia. On August 5, a 15-year-old boy hanged himself in Pieria. And, on August 6, a 60-year-old former footballer self-immolated in Chalcis.

These are also reports from Greece, reports that, at first glance, seem to have nothing to do with the economy. They come together to form a grim statistic, raising questions of what is triggering the suicides and whether the high incidence is merely a coincidence.

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Fire Sale Moves: Italy Moves To Protect Strategic Companies

italy-fire-sale

The Italian government is proceeding with new measures to protect “strategic” companies against foreign takeovers, with aerospace and defense entities topping the list.

The first companies to be protected are Finmeccanica, Avio and Fincantieri. A scheme of decree is being approved by the cabinet; next it will be evaluated by the State Council — the highest administrative authority — and by the parliament commission.

Future decrees will take care of energy, transportation and telecommunications companies.

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Trench Warfare: India boring border tunnels to take on China, Pakistan

Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol railway tracks in front of a tunnel on the eve of country's Independence Day celebrations on the outskirts of Agartala

India is finally kick-starting the plan to build as many as 18 tunnels along the borders with Pakistan and China for faster troop mobility as well as storage of critical war-fighting assets like missiles, without the threat of detection by enemy satellites and spy drones.

While preliminary work on seven tunnels is underway after requisite approvals, the construction of 11 more tunnels in Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh is now on the drawing board after “a strong endorsement” by the Army.

With China resorting to “tunnelling in a big way” to store important military equipment, the Army wants the tunnel construction plans in the mountains in J&K and north-east to be fast-tracked

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Muni Defaults May Be 36 Times More Frequent Than Reported

municipal-defaults

Municipal bond defaults occur with a frequency at least 36-fold greater than reported by credit raters, Federal Reserve Bank of New York researchers say.

When including unrated debt not covered by the firms, 2,521 issuers in the $3.7 trillion market for state and local bonds defaulted from 1970 to 2011, authors Jason Appleson, Eric Parsons and Andrew Haughwout wrote today in a blog posting. That compares with 71 reported by Moody’s Investors Service for issues it rated over the period.

“Although the low default history of municipal bonds has played a key role in luring investors to the market, frequently cited default rates published by the rating agencies do not tell the whole story,” the researchers wrote.

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Strategic Importance of Indian Ocean not appreciated: Australian defence minister

indo-china-rival-dominance-in-trade-routes

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith says the critical and growing strategic importance of the Indian Ocean continues to be under-appreciated. Smith noted in a speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney that the Indo-Pacific will be home to three of the world’s superpowers – the United States, China and India – and is now home to four of the world’s largest militaries – the US, Russia, China and North Korea.

“The proportion of world energy supplies passing through critical transport choke points, including the Straits of Malacca, the Straits of Hormuz and the Suez Canal will only increase in coming years. Crucial trading routes, the presence of large and growing naval capabilities, as well as transnational security issues such as piracy, will drive Australia to ultimately put the Indian Ocean alongside the Pacific Ocean at the heart of our maritime strategic and defence planning,” the minister said.

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Is the Syria crisis on the path to military intervention?

pentagon-no-fly-zone-in-syria

If those who state that there is a Syrian scenario developed by the US and their Middle East allies are right, then the developments in Syria contradict the plan. The regime of Bashar Assad appears to be hard to kill: it didn’t collapse as easy as those in president of Tunisia and Egypt. The Syrian opposition can’t turn the civil war in its favor as in Libya. The opposition admits that they were pushed out from Damascus. According to received reports, the rebels seem to fail “the historic battle” for Aleppo as well. In this context, leaders of anti-Assad forces speak about necessity of a no-fly zone over Syria. The opposition interest is understandable. Such a no-fly zone will at least neutralize Syrian Air Forces devoted to Assad, that would make implementation of military tasks easier for Free Syrian Army. It seems FSA’s urging was heard by Washington.

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Israel ‘prepared for 30-day war with Iran’

30-day-war-with-Iran

Israel’s outgoing home front defence minister says an attack on Iran would likely trigger a month-long conflict that would leave 500 Israelis dead.

Matan Vilnai told the Maariv newspaper that the fighting would be “on several fronts”, with hundreds of missiles fired at Israeli towns and cities.

Israel was prepared, he said, though strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities had to be co-ordinated with the US.

Richard Silverstein told the BBC he had been given an internal briefing memo for Israel’s eight-member security cabinet, which outlined what the Israeli military would do to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons.

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Ukraine wants to secretly export weapons to Armenia

Ukrspetsexport

Details of the letter of head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, Major-General Sergei Gmyza, to President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych on arms supplies to Armenia under a contract between Ukrspetsexport and DG Arms Corporation (the mediator of Armenian Defense Ministry) have become known, says Trend. The letter offers to use front companies registered in the EU and the CIS for supplies. The letter contains a scheme for illegal supplying 12 units of multiple Smerch rocket-launching systems and their components, as well as 50 Igla MANPADS from Ukraine to Armenia.

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World powers eye emergency food meeting; action doubted

drought-crop-failure

Leading members of the Group of 20 nations are prepared to trigger an emergency meeting to address soaring grain prices caused by the worst U.S. drought in more than half a century and poor crops from the Black Sea bread basket.

France, the United States and G20 president Mexico will hold a conference call at the end of August to consider whether an emergency international meeting is required, aiming to avoid a repetition of the food price spike that triggered riots in poorer countries in 2008.

Yet even as the third grain surge in four years stirs new fears about food supply and inflation, many say the world’s powers are no better prepared to rein in runaway prices.

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Rent-A-Thug: Libyan fighters join Syrian revolt against Assad

libyan-fighters-join-syria-fight

Veteran fighters of last year’s civil war in Libya have come to the front-line in Syria, helping to train and organise rebels under conditions far more dire than those in the battle against Muammar Gaddafi, a Libyan-Irish fighter has told Reuters.

Hussam Najjar hails from Dublin, has a Libyan father and Irish mother and goes by the name of Sam. A trained sniper, he was part of the rebel unit that stormed Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli a year ago, led by Mahdi al-Harati, a powerful militia chief from Libya’s western mountains.

Harati now leads a unit in Syria, made up mainly of Syrians but also including some foreign fighters, including 20 senior members of his own Libyan rebel unit. He asked Najjar to join him from Dublin a few months ago, Najjar said.

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China: PLA Air Force strategic projection capability covers all territories

china-pla-military-transport

The military transport aircraft is a sign of a country’s strategic projection capability. It is learnt that the transport aircraft troop units under the Air Force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have gone to 23 countries to carry out major tasks more than 30 times in the past nearly ten years, with their air routes extended from surrounding areas and close neighbors to Eastern Europe and North Africa and the south of the equator.

The transport aircraft of the PLA Air Force flew over the Karakoram Mountain for the first time and into the sky over South Asia during the “Friendship 2006″ China-Pakistan joint anti-terrorism training. The transport aircraft troop units of the PLA Air Force realized China’s first transnational air delivery of forces during the “Peace Mission 2007″ joint anti-terrorism military exercise held by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

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In The Case of War, Neither Turkey Nor Azerbaijan Will Allow Russia to Give Military Support to Armenia.

Sinan-Oghan

Turkish deputy headof “Nationalist Movement” party (NMP), the head of TURKSAM brain centre Sinan Oghan spoke about Nagorno-Karabakh’s conflict.

“In the case of beginning of war in Karabakh, even if Azerbaijan asks Turkey for military aid, Turkey will always support Azerbaijan. Turkey supports Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh’s conflict as well as in the other cases.

The Armenians should understand that in case of not leaving Azerbaijan’s lands, Azerbaijan would take them by force. And the thoughts that Russia will provide military support to Armenia are in the past.

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Unblinking surveillance stare: Army’s 7-story flying football field-sized blimp

LEMV_unblinking_eye_of_Army_surveillance

When you think about high tech “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” (ISR) breakthroughs, does a gigantic $172 million blimp immediately come to mind? If not, then join the club. In fact my first thought when learning about the U.S. Army’s new blimp was Hindenburg [1].

It’s not fashionable to call this flying spy (hybrid military airship) a “blimp,” but a Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV). You are no doubt familiar with the Goodyear blimp [2]that hovers over football games, but the LEMV is almost the size of a seven-story flying football field; it’s meant to fly at speeds between 30 – 80 knots without ceasing for 21 straight days while providing an “unblinking” eye of surveillance.

Northrop Grumman has a $517 million contract [4] to build three of these 21st century robotic airships for the U.S. Army.

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China checks into Africa with ‘Chequebook’ diplomacy

Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation

China has outmaneuvered everybody else in the strategic calculations with respect to cultivating relationships with Africa. In the recently concluded, fifth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on China-Africa strategic partnership, the President Hu Jintao pledged $20 billion of credit line for African countries in next three years — double the amount what China promised to lend Africa at the last joint forum three years ago.

Addressing the delegates at FOCAC, the Chinese president Hu Jintao stated that “Chinese and African people have always treated each other as equals with sincerity and friendship”. Hu also condemned any kind of external interference, a direct criticism on western policies and interferences in Arica and elsewhere.

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Tensions again rising between Afghanistan, Pakistan

Afghan-taliban

The continuing rocket attacks from Pakistan on eastern provinces of the country have cost two high-ranking officials their jobs and threaten to further destabilize the country’s fragile central government.

Early last month, Abdul Rahim Wardak, the country’s defense minister, was forced to step down after members of parliament called for his removal because of the ongoing shelling. Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, who controls the Afghan National Police, was also forced to step down.

President Hamid Karzai said he would respect parliament’s views and remove the two ministers, but he asked the two to stay on until replacements could be found. Wardak refused the president’s request.

Meanwhile, there is growing anger in Kabul as rockets continue to fall on the eastern Kunar province.

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New DIA director expects intensified demands for intelligence

MIL_US_DIA_Logo_lg

The new director of the Defense Intelligence Agency is approaching his dream job with eyes wide open, valuing people over technology and expecting a future that holds more intense demands for intelligence.

Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn became DIA director July 24, as well as commander of the collocated joint functional component command for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance that is part of U.S. Strategic Command.

“If there’s a dream job for me, this is it,” Flynn said during an interview with American Forces Press Service.

His vision for the agency, the director added, “is to operationalize the capabilities that DIA brings to bear, for the defense community and specifically in support of our combatant commanders – [the] commanders and organizations that are spread throughout the globe in support of our nation’s defense.”

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SCO vs. NATO: The Western Collision with The ‘Eurasian Balkans’

sco

The reason I include the Central Asian region in my analysis is that because the region constitutes the heart of Asia, coupled with providing the main route to the New Silk Route, a future venture that may lead to a faceoff between Washington and Moscow. The formation of the region’s states makes it interesting to monitor for a neutral observer. Although the US national foreign policy would never keep the region at its top priority, implicit indications from the word go provided a fair picture of what the US was after. The former US National Security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski once referred to Central Asia as a hotbed of conflict and one of the most strategically important parts of the world, as the ‘Eurasian Balkans’.

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CIA allegedly overseeing arms into Syria

Weapons used by mercenaries in Homs

Syrian opposition officials claim the CIA is controlling weapons flow to Syrian insurgents.

“Not one bullet enters Syria without U.S. approval,” a Syrian opposition, speaking in Istanbul, told The Australian newspaper.

“The Americans want the (rebellion) to continue but they are not allowing enough supplies in to make the Damascus regime fall.”

The allegations, if true, reveal a division between the U.S. State Department, whose stated policy is to assist the removal of the regime of President Bashar Assad and U.S. intelligence services, which are, Syrian opposition forces say, attempting to monitor and manage the tempo of the Syrian insurgency’s armed efforts against the regime, The Australian reported Monday.

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Indian Army gets battle-ready on Jaisalmer border with Pakistan

india-army-near-jaisalmar-border

Jaisalmer is set to house the first “model modern military station” of the country with reduced response time to emergencies, battle-ready capabilities in modern warfare and a set up critical to the supply chain for army rationing.

According to highly placed sources, the Indian Army has decided to develop a modern army base in the border district to cut down on the response time to an emergency, including a reduction in travel time in case of a disturbance along the border. It’s proximity to the international border of India and Pakistan has got the army to reap the benefits of this strategic location for securing the nation against any foreign aggression in future.

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Pak and India mulling meet between RAW and ISI chiefs: Report

pakistanindia

Pakistan and India are mulling a proposal for a meeting of the chiefs of their intelligence agencies as part of a series of confidence-building measures to build goodwill, according to a media report on Monday.

The proposal is among “numerous mechanisms” being explored to reduce the trust deficit between the two neighbours, The Express Tribune quoted official sources as saying.

It quoted a source as claiming that the US was instrumental in persuading the two countries to discuss the possibility of a meeting between the heads of the Research and Analysis Wing and Inter-Services Intelligence.

A Pakistani official was quoted as saying that several proposals, including regular interactions between the security agencies of the two countries, were on the table.

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“Kurdish spring” looming over Near East

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Turkey, faced with the Kurdish issue for several decades now, plays a major part in preventing such scenario. The Turkish regular army keeps trying to annihilate Kurdish militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), yet to no avail. Penetration onto the territory of sovereign Iraq under the veil of Kurdish camp destruction also ends up in failure. In addition, there are Syrian Kurds united to form the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which has close links with PKK. Furthermore, the Kurdish Pejak party banned in Iran and other independent groups of Kurdish militants also cause serious damage to Turkey.

The failed “zero problems with neighbours” policy by Ahmet Davutoglu stirred talks on his resignation on top governmental level in Turkey, since Turkey’s foreign policy has turned into a “problem with almost all its neighbours”.

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Currency’s Days Seen Numbered: Investors Prepare for Euro Collapse

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Banks, companies and investors are preparing themselves for a collapse of the euro. Cross-border bank lending is falling, asset managers are shunning Europe and money is flowing into German real estate and bonds. The euro remains stable against the dollar because America has debt problems too. But unlike the euro, the dollar’s structure isn’t in doubt.

Otmar Issing is looks a bit tired. The former chief economist at the European Central Bank (ECB) is sitting on a barstool in a room adjoining the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. He resembles a father whose troubled teenager has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Issing is just about to explain again all the things that have gone wrong with the euro, and why the current, as yet unsuccessful efforts to save the European common currency are cause for grave concern.

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Financial Shock Model Could Lead to Forecasts of Crises

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University of Missouri economist Christopher Otrok is working on a mathematical model designed to help explain the way financial shocks, or sudden drastic changes in the economy, spread from one country to another. Otrok’s model could eventually lead to ways of forecasting shocks and minimizing the damage they cause.

“The model we are developing will help explain how shocks function in the global economy and why certain economies react differently than others,” said Otrok. “For example, after the financing and housing collapse in the U.S. led to a global crisis, developing economies, like India and Brazil, bounced back sooner than developed economies. These developing economies are now significant drivers of the global economy; and the model will help explain how globalization has changed the relationships among nations since the ‘80s.”

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German intelligence fears Salafists re-base in Egypt

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Germany’s intelligence service fears that members of a radical Salafist group, banned in the country since June, could establish a new, dangerous Salafist colony in Egypt, the German daily Die Welt cited security experts as saying.

In Germany, radical Islamist groups are kept under surveillance relatively easily, but the situation abroad is far more complex, a member of the intelligence service told the daily in an article to be published in its Saturday edition.

Germany banned the Millatu Ibrahim Salafist group in June in a crackdown on radical Islamists suspected of plotting against the state. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said they worked against the constitutional order.

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Venezuela plans a ‘guerrilla army’ against US invasion

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Venezuela is training a “guerrilla army” aiming to be a million strong by 2013 to fight off a possible US invasion, an opposition lawmaker said Sunday.

“Plan Sucre” — apparently crafted with input from close ally and fellow US foe Cuba — covers the legal, logistical and other angles necessary to “transform a professional army into a guerrilla army,” Representative Maria Corina Machado told El Universal newspaper.

The former presidential candidate said she had obtained a copy of the plan, printed by an institution affiliated with the national army.

“The strategic objective is to build a new Bolivarian military doctrine” that would prepare Venezuela to be successful in a prolonged popular war against “the empire,” or the United States, Machado said, citing the document.

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Sinai Terror Attacks Portend Gold Mine for Israeli Military-Intelligence Services

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While many have reported on the recent terror attacks on the Sinai border between Egypt and Israel, few have reported on two aspects of the fallout of this Islamist campaign. Until last summer, when a similar group of local Sinai Bedouin crossed the border and attacked Eilat, few in the Israeli intelligence apparatus had Sinai on their radar. But now it is there with a vengeance. With crisis comes opportunity for bold, ambitious military-intelligence operatives.

The question is who will take responsibility for combatting the terror threat represented by Sinai Islamist militants. Traditionally, the Shin Bet would take primary control of such matters. But given that the terror attacks are trans-national, the army can make an argument that it should be responsible. This is not a matter of dry jurisdictional bureaucratic matters.

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