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Archive | February, 2013

Europe’s Fund For ‘Democracy’ Puts Its Money Openly Behind Regime Change

The EED, by comparison, will not be a part of the EU, but rather independent, allowing it to take more outwardly political actions. Its scope will also be narrower, focused on Europe’s “neighbors,” a loosely-defined group of Mediterranean and Eastern European countries that includes, Pomianowski noted, many countries involved in the Arab Spring.

Taking off the political gloves. Koert Debeuf, a European parliamentarian whose blog posts on Egyptian political reform were recently discussed by the Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Egyptian television, welcomes the EED’s stated goals. “I think Europe should try to find a way to stop being scared,” he told DW. “There are organizations [in Egypt], for example, that give media training to political parties and politicians. They exist, and no one wants to fund them.”

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Kazakhstan’s long quest for nuclear power relevance

Along the way the Kazakh government inked uranium supply deals with India,China, and Japan. Not even the U.S. has been immune to Kazakhstan’s uranium market expansion: in 2007, KazAtomProm, a state-owned company, bought out Toshiba’s share in nuclear power plant builder Westinghouse. U.S. politicians are in on the Kazakh uranium game as well.

If all this sounds odd, it’s only because Kazakhstan is more normally known — if people know of it at all — as an oil state. But Kazakhstan’s quest for it’s “World Bank for Uranium” always had a political element, part of a national narrative suggesting an inevitable future of progress and growth.

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Balance of Power: South Korea’s Nuclear Ambitions

Some lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party yesterday intensified their hardline stance on North Korea, calling on Seoul to establish its own nuclear deterrence capability to cope with the growing threat from Pyongyang.

“The only way to defend our survival would be to maintain a balance of terror that confronts nuclear with nuclear,” said Representative Shim Jae-cheol in a Supreme Council meeting held yesterday at the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul. Shim was referring to the North’s continued provocation against the South and the international community by conducting its third nuclear test last Tuesday, following its long-range missile launch in December.

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Panic in Greek pharmacies as hundreds of medicines run short

Greece is facing a serious shortage of medicines amid claims that pharmaceutical multinationals have halted shipments to the country because of the economic crisis and concerns that the drugs will be exported by middlemen because prices are higher in other European countries.

Hundreds of drugs are in short supply and the situation is getting worse, according to the Greek drug regulator. The government has drawn up a list of more than 50 pharmaceutical companies it accuses of halting or planning to halt supplies because of low prices in the country.Chemists in Athens describe chaotic scenes with desperate customers going from pharmacy to pharmacy to look for prescription drugs that hospitals could no longer dispense.

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Tear Down This Wall – Trapped Inside The New Barricades Of A Divided Cairo

It just happened one day, without prior notice. On Jan. 26, Moheddin Marwan lowered the iron curtain of his grocery store at lunchtime. When he came back to work the next day, he just stood there petrified, as motionless as the new barricade that blocked the access to his shop.

Stacked up like Lego bricks, the concrete blocks literally cut Cairo’s Sheikh-Reyhan Street in two – erected by authorities to protect official buildings from protesters. As if the center of the city wasn’t disfigured enough after two years of clashes between protesters and police forces.

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EU-US trade deal: Creating a new world order

“Globalisation is out, regionalism is in! One could argue that we might need to thank the lasting economic crisis for at least a few sweeping developments on the global level: Amongst them, the awareness that the world is in no way as ‘flat’ as some contemporary thinkers made many believe.

Because resolution of crises may primarily originate from bi-and multilateral, often region-to-region forms of cooperation and free trade conditions that governments (and corporations) hope will stimulate economies.

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North Korea leader monitors live-fire drill simulating ‘actual war’

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un oversaw a live-fire artillery drill aimed at simulating an “actual war”, state media said on Tuesday, a day after South Korea swore in its first female president. “An endless barrage of shells were fired by artillery pieces on ‘enemy positions’, their roar rocking heaven and earth, and all of them were enveloped in flames,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. “Feasting his eyes at the ‘enemy positions’ in flames, [Kim] was satisfied,” the official agency added.

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US gives banking green light to Myanmar tycoons

Two banks owned by tycoons associated with Myanmar’s former military regime will start to do business with US companies and investors in the latest reward for the Southeast Asian country’s rapid political transformation.

The easing of sanctions on Asia Green Development Bank and Ayeyarwady Bank underlines how politically connected capitalists of the old regime – whom the United States once castigated – are re-inventing themselves and retaining a strong foothold as foreign investors race to enter Myanmar.

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How will India respond to civil war in Pakistan?

In 1971, India intervened militarily on behalf of Bengalis in the civil war in East Pakistan, dividing the country in two and helping to create Bangladesh. In 2013, prospects of another civil war in Pakistan — this time one that pits radical Islamists against the secular but authoritarian military — have led once again to questions about what India would do. What would trigger Indian intervention, and who would India support?

In the context of a civil war between Islamists and the army in Pakistan, it is hard to imagine Pakistani refugees streaming into India and triggering intervention as the Bengalis did in 1971.

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China Has Its Own Debt Bomb

China is now in the flashing-red zone. The first measure comes from the Bank of International Settlements, which found that if private debt as a share of GDP accelerates to a level 6% higher than its trend over the previous decade, the acceleration is an early warning of serious financial distress. In China, private debt as a share of GDP is now 12% above its previous trend, and above the peak levels seen before credit crises hit Japan in 1989, Korea in 1997, the U.S. in 2007 and Spain in 2008.

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Dissecting Police Bill 2013: Pandora’s Box that can turn Kashmir into police state


With drastic decline in militancy, infiltrations from across the border and significant improvement in security situation the political class has genuinely been asking for repeal of some of the harsh security laws which are not required anymore.

However, at the same time the state government has come up with a draft legislation which puts Police ahead of every civilian organ of the State and the laws related to policing more stringent than those which are sought to be repealed, as in the case of Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

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Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms

Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms

Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to antigovernment fighters in Syria in a drive to break the bloody stalemate that has allowed President Bashar al-Assad to cling to power, according to American and Western officials familiar with the purchases.

The arms transfers appeared to signal a shift among several governments to a more activist approach to assisting Syria’s armed opposition, in part as an effort to counter shipments of weapons from Iran to Mr. Assad’s forces.

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Oil-rich Gabon in East Africa charm offensive


Gabon, the oil rich central African state, has embarked on a charm offensive to strengthen its trade relations with Kenya and Tanzania as it seeks to sell its expertise on oil and management of natural resources to the region. In exchange, Gabon hopes to tap into knowledge on wildlife management, expertise in information and communications technology (ICT) and agriculture from the two states. In an interview with The EastAfrican, Andre William Anguile, Gabon’s ambassador to Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia said the Central African state is weighing the option of setting up an embassy in East Africa’s economic hub.

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Indian land grabs in Ethiopia show dark side of south-south co-operation

Indian land grabs in Ethiopia show dark side of south-south co-operation

The idea of south-south co-operation evokes a positive image of solidarity between developing countries through the exchange of resources, technology, and knowledge. It’s an attractive proposition, intended to shift the international balance of power and help developing nations break away from aid dependence and achieve true emancipation from former colonial powers. However, the discourse of south-south co-operation has become a cover for human rights violations involving southern governments and companies.

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Russia and China Oppose Military Intervention in North Korea


Russia and China said on Friday they would oppose any foreign military intervention in North Korea over its recent nuclear test. The two countries’ foreign ministers condemned last week’s test but said any action against North Korea had to be agreed at the United Nations, where Russia and China have the right of veto as permanent members of the Security Council. “We are against the carrying out of a nuclear test in North Korea,” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told a joint news conference after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow.

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Israel playing dirty game in troubled Africa


Israel has long been keen to establish a foothold in parts of Africa, for strategic as well as economic reasons. The vast continent offers relatively accessible (and increasingly fought-over) sources of energy and water, as well as emerging markets. While Israel has been able to establish diplomatic relationships with most non-Muslim African countries, nations such as Mali and Niger have so far refused to formally recognise it. Clearly, Israel would like to convert these nations of the Sahel into friends and a potential rear guard against hostile Arab nations in the north.

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Membership of ‘EU defence club’ costs millions

Membership of 'EU defence club' costs millions

THE cash-strapped Ministry of Defence was under fire last night after Britain renewed its membership of a European army agency at a cost of £3.3million. That is enough to run a battalion of more than 1,200 soldiers for a year or pay for the immediate repair of 300 decrepit Army homes.The decision has dumbfounded ­analysts and senior soldiers. Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said: “Throwing £3.3million away on European defence when we are part of Nato and have no wish to ever join a pan-European army is indefensible in this age of austerity.

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Afghans Expels US Special Forces Out Of Province, Charging Torture


The Afghan government Sunday ordered all U.S. special forces to leave a province after reports from local officials that the elite force is behind several cases of Afghan civilians being tortured or disappeared.

The decision seems to have caught the coalition and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, a separate command, by surprise, the Associated Press reported. Officials in Maidan Wardak, a province that borders Kabul on the west and where security has deteriorated over the past year, had presented evidence to President Hamid Karzai and other officials alleging that nine people had disappeared after being seized by U.S. special forces

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US X-Band Radar to Bolster Missile Defense over the Pacific Ocean


Japan and the United States have discussed installing an X-band early-warning radar system in Kyoto Prefecture to counter North Korea’s missile threat, informed sources have said.

The Air Self-Defense Force’s Kyogamisaki base in Kyotango has been selected as a candidate site for the deployment of the second X-band missile defense radar system in Japan, according to the sources. The first X-band system was installed at the ASDF’s Shariki base in Tsu-garu, Aomori Prefecture.

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Chinese Troops Prepare for Spillover From Myanmar Civil War


Chinese Army units have been undergoing intense training near the border with Myanmar in anticipation of an ethnic war there spilling into southwest China, according to official Chinese news media reports on Friday. The training has been taking place in the hills of Yunnan Province. It borders Kachin State in northern Myanmar, where a civil war between an ethnic Kachin rebel army and the Burmese Army has been unfolding. The fighting intensified in late December, and Chinese officials and news organizations reported that shells had landed in China.

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7 Countries Beefing Up Their Militaries in Today’s More Dangerous World

7 Countries Beefing Up Their Militaries in Today's More Dangerous World

The balance of power in the world is changing, with many new power players emerging — in some cases re-emerging — with growing militaries that challenges U.S. interests in the world and highlight the increasing security challenges of the 21st century.

While the U.S. ponders cutting its military spending, her competitors and allies are ramping up their military strength to advance their interests in their part of the world and beyond. In Asia, China, Japan, and India stand as the leaders in military spending with an emphasis in quantity for the purpose of improving their standing and to uphold their national pride.

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India’s Spies Want Data on Every BlackBerry Customer Worldwide

Audience members are tinted by stage lights while using their sm

There are about 79 million BlackBerry subscribers worldwide—and India’s government wants to hand its spy agency data on every one of them. In late 2012, back when it was still officially known as Research in Motion, the company behind BlackBerry handsets worked with the Indian government to enable surveillance of Blackberry Messenger and Blackberry Internet Service emails. But now India’s authorities are complaining that they can only spy on communications sent between the estimated 1 million BlackBerry users in India—and they want a list of all BlackBerry handsets across the globe.

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China admits pollution has caused ‘cancer villages’

China admits pollution has caused 'cancer villages'

The admission by China’s Environment ministry came in a five-year plan on tackling pollution. “In recent years, toxic and hazardous chemical pollution has caused many environmental disasters, cutting off drinking water supplies, and even leading to severe health and social problems such as ‘cancer villages’” the document says. Environmentalists have long campaigned for the government to recognise and help the hundreds of cancer clusters caused by poisoned soil, water or air. In 2009, Deng Fei, an investigative journalist helped to plot some of the worst-hit villages on a Google map.

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Japan’s PM Abe Shinzo makes moves to return Japan to militaristic state with constitutional changes


Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is pushing ahead with sweeping changes to the constitution, despite concerns that they signal a return to Japan’s inward-looking, militaristic regime of the early years of the 1900s. “My guess is that is that their view of Japan is that it should be more like pre-war Japan of the early 1930s,” said Masako Kamiya, a professor of law at Gakushuin University. “I believe there are a number of LDP members who share the view that it was not such a bad time, that there were some good things in that era,” she added.

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Why Wasn’t There a Chinese Spring?


The collapse of regimes like Hosni Mubarak’s in Egypt, which many considered “an exemplar of…durable authoritarianism” was a salient reminder to many that such revolutions are “inherently unpredictable.” Before long some began to speculate that the protest movements might spread to authoritarian states outside the Arab world, including China. Indeed, the Chinese government was among those that feared the unrest would spread to China because, as one observer noted, China faced the same kind of “social and political tensions caused by rising inequality, injustice, and corruption” that plagued much of the Arab world on the eve of the uprisings.

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Some countries may deploy nukes in space on pretext of countering asteroid threat – Deputy PM


A number of countries might consider deploying nuclear weapons in outer space on the pretext of countering the danger of asteroids, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said.

“An undesirable effect of this might be that, under the guise of countering asteroids, some countries, which I prefer not to name, might use this as a pretext for deploying nuclear weapons in outer space,” Rogozin said at a ceremony marking Fatherland Defendants’ Day at Technology Museum outside Moscow on Saturday.

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‘Dagger’ brigade readies for AFRICOM missions

'Dagger' brigade readies for AFRICOM missions

Some 4,000 Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, out of Fort Riley, Kan., are training for realignment to U.S. Africa Command, expected later this year. The 2nd BCT, or “Dagger” Brigade as it is known, will be the first brigade to be regionally aligned to U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM. U.S. Pacific Command has had units regionally align to its area of responsibility with similar training at Fort Irwin earlier this year.

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Iran agrees to build oil refinery at strategic Gwadar port


Pakistan’s Advisor to Prime Minister on Petroleum and Natural Resources, Dr. Asim Hussain, said that Iran with the cooperation of Pakistan’s State Oil (PSO) will set up an oil refinery in the Southwestern city of Gwadar. Talking to reporters after holding a meeting with Iran’s Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi, he said that the refinery would refine 400,000 barrels of oil per day. He added that President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari would soon visit Iran to finalize the agreement on establishment of oil refinery.

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Temporary Tattoos Could Make Electronic Telepathy, Telekinesis Possible

Temporary Tattoos Could Make Electronic Telepathy, Telekinesis Possible

Temporary electronic tattoos could soon help people fly drones with only thought and talk seemingly telepathically without speech over smartphones, researchers say. Commanding machines using the brain is no longer the stuff of science fiction. In recent years, brain implants have enabled people to control robotics using only their minds, raising the prospect that one day patients could overcome disabilities using bionic limbs or mechanical exoskeletons. His team is developing wireless flexible electronics one can apply on the forehead just like temporary tattoos to read brain activity.

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Future Soldiers Will Have Flexible Electronics Everywhere

Future Soldiers Will Have Flexible Electronics Everywhere

More than 10 years ago, U.S. Army researchers saw potential in flexible displays. With nothing in the marketplace, the Army decided to change that by partnering with industry and academia to create the Flexible Display Center at Arizona State University.

The Army’s goal was to get this amazing technology into the hands of Soldiers. The Army established a research center with industry and universities in 2004. Fast forward nine years. Teams of researchers have scored significant breakthroughs and racked up more than 50 patents. The original goal of the program may soon be met.

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Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood suspected of running secret intelligence network


“The problem with the Brotherhood is that they came to power but are still dealing with the nation as they did when they were in the opposition,” said Abdel-Jalil el-Sharnoubi, former editor-in-chief of the group’s website who left the Brotherhood in May 2011.

“Because they cannot trust the state, they have created their own,” he added. The notion of a state within a state has precedents elsewhere in the Arab world. In Lebanon, the Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah is the de facto government in much of the south and east of the country and has its own army and telephone network.

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Can Turkey Cause a Global Power Shift in Joining the SCO?


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that Turkey was seriously considering becoming a member of the SCO instead of continuing its efforts to join the EU.

‘The European Union needs to stop stalling us,’ Erdogan said. ‘We have a strong economy. I told [Putin], “You should include us in the Shanghai Five [the former name of the SCO] and we will say farewell to the European Union.” The Shanghai Five is much better off economic-wise. It is much more powerful. We told them, “If you say come, we will”.’

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India – an aspiring hegemon


“India’s grand strategy divides the world into three concentric circles. In the first, which encompasses the immediate neighbourhood, India has sought primacy and a veto over actions of outside powers.” – C. Raja Mohan

India with a population of 1.24 billion and GDP of $2.19 trillion in nominal terms looms large on the South Asian subcontinent. None of the other South Asian countries comes even close to the size of India’s population and economy. In fact, its population and GDP are more than the combined population and GDP of all the other South Asian countries.

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Lebanon may be new front in Syria’s war


Lebanon seems to be moving closer to becoming a major new front in Syria’s 2-year-old civil war after a series of deadly clashes in Syrian between rebel forces and Hezbollah, which backs the embattled Damascus regime.

The Free Syrian Army, one of the leading groups within the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslimopposition, threatened Tuesday to strike at the Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon after the Iranian-backed movement sought to extend its control of Syrian territory along the border. The Hezbollah offensive, which began last week, appears intended to protect vital supply routes to Syrian forces loyal to the regime from Hezbollah’s heartland in the Bekaa Valley in northeastern Lebanon.

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Why uranium could become tomorrow’s gold

Why uranium could become tomorrow's gold

A pound of uranium is currently traded on the spot market at $ 42 a pound, which is ridiculously low. The price may rebound. I had a long discussion with two leading experts uranium last week. They worked on uranium in both the private sector as in the public sector since the 1970s. They attended all the twists and turns of history.

Both specialists have strong arguments to suggest that the uranium price increase this year and in the future. “The uranium ore,” remarked one of them, “Today is where gold was 10 years ago. We expect prices four to six times higher in the years to come. “

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Unrest spreads across Egypt as Morsi pumps cash into Suez


In reaction to the escalations, the presidency issued a statement on Tuesday stating that President Mohamed Morsi submitted a new law proposal to the Shura Council to re-launch Port Said’s free trade zone.

Unrest continued in several Egyptian governorates on Tuesday, as calls for civil disobedience escalated in canal governorates and spread to the governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh. In reaction to the escalations, the presidency issued a statement on Tuesday stating that President Mohamed Morsi submitted a new law proposal to the Shura Council to re-launch Port Said’s free trade zone.

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How US military plans to carry out Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’


The Pentagon is also putting money into developing a new “afloat forward staging base” in the Pacific, which can be used for everything from counter-piracy to mine clearing to Special Operations Forces missions.

Perhaps most public is the move of 250 US Marines to Darwin, Australia, last April, with the promise of as many as 2,500 at any given time in the years to come. Also, some 85,000 US troops are currently stationed in South Korea and Japan.

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‘Semi-coup d’etat toppled me’ says Berlusconi


Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday reiterated his contention that he was forced out of office at the height of the euro crisis in November 2011 by a conspiracy involving Germany.

“In 2011 there was a semi-coup d’etat,” the media magnate said. Berlusconi cited two contributing factors: the weakening of his coalition because of the defection of one-time heir-apparent Gianfranco Fini; and the German government’s “order” to its country’s banks to sell Italian bonds, pushing up the yield spread to bailout levels.

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Yale will train US Special Forces in interrogation techniques using immigrants


Following a flurry of media attention concerning a possible military training center at the Yale School of Medicine, the University issued a statement Tuesday afternoon maintaining that the potential program would meet appropriate academic standards but also denying that it has yet been formally proposed.

School of Medicine psychiatry professor Charles Morgan told the News in January that he hopes to propose the creation of a center at the Medical School in cooperation with the U.S. Army Special Operations Forces called the U.S. Special Operations Command Center of Excellence for Operational Neuroscience, which would teach soldiers interview techniques.

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EU makes blood diamonds for bloody democracy offer to Zimbabwe


EU countries have said Zimbabwe can start selling diamonds and gold in Europe if it holds democratic elections. The deal – between Belgium, the home of the world’s largest diamond exchange, and the UK, the former colonial power in Zimbabwe – says the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZDMC) will be taken off the EU’s blacklist one month after the vote, expected in July. Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders told press in Brussels on Monday (18 February) that ZDMC will get off the hook automatically, unless all 27 EU countries agree “the elections have not been peaceful, transparent, credible or they have reasonable grounds to believe ZMDC has been involved in activities undermining democracy during the election.”

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Water Wars – Nine Thirsty Regions where H20 Conflict is Threatening


Will armies battle each other, as the cry for “blue gold” gets furious? Will “water wars” be as prevalent as conflict for the “black gold” of oil? Two documentary films have wetted public interest – Blue Gold: World Water Wars, and Last Call at the Oasis, and a dystopia novel – The Water Wars – warns of its imminence.

In actuality, history’s pages are already splashed with dozens of conflicts. In 2,450 B.C. the Sumerian cities of Lagash and Umma warred over Tigris-Euphrates water. More recently, Senegal and Mauritaniabattled in 1989 over grazing rights in the Senegal River Valley – hundreds were killed, 250,000 fled their homes. The Pacific Institute provides an excellent map and timeline of 225 water skirmishes.

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UAE Leads Gulf Arab Push to Build Up Domestic Defense Industry


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is at the forefront of a regional push to build up domestic defense manufacturing capability to reduce reliance on imports that come with too many strings attached, analysts say.

Wary of non-Arab adversary Iran in a competition for regional predominance, and seeing an increased security threat from Islamist militants, Gulf Arab monarchies have some of the fastest growing military budgets in the world. The UAE has established a small defense industry that includes maritime security and defense-related services such as maintenance and repairs over the past two decades.

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‘Land Grabbing’: Foreign Investors Buy Up Third World Farmland

A worker picks tea at a plantation near Kasese town

A number of developing nations have sold or leased much of their farmland to foreign investors. The list is led by Liberia, whose arable land is 100 percent under foreign ownership.

The process is known as “land grabbing,” and it is affecting countries in Africa, South America, Asia and Eastern Europe. Around half of the farmland of the Philippines is owned by foreign investors. In Ukraine, American companies have secured over one-third of the country’s farmland. Population growth in countries like India and Brazil is driving up demand for cereal crops, and investments in farmlands offer the chance of solid returns.

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Designing Life: Should Babies Be Genetically Engineered?

Designing Life: Should Babies Be Genetically Engineered

The increasing power and accessibility of genetic technology may one day give parents the option of modifying their unborn children, in order to spare offspring from disease or, conceivably, make them tall, well muscled, intelligent or otherwise blessed with desirable traits.

Would this change mean empowering parents to give their children the best start possible? Or would it mean designer babies who could face unforeseen genetic problems? Experts debated on Wednesday evening (Feb. 13) whether prenatal engineering should be banned in the United States.

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After the Arab Spring: How Al-Jazeera Became A Propaganda Tool For Qatar’s Geopolitical Interests


Critics say that the emir now essentially trusts only his own people: The network’s director general is now a relative of the emir, as is the head of the advisory board. They are seemingly required to follow political guidelines laid down by the palace — instead of serving the interests of viewers. Thanks to its oil wealth, Qatar is blessed with the world’s second highest per capita income, and it’s a key geo-political player with a clear agenda. When, for instance, mass protests were staged against the neighboring regime in Bahrain, a close ally of the emir, Al-Jazeera almost entirely ignored the situation.

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Privatization of water in Europe controversial

Privatization of water in Europe controversial

So far, Germany’s water supply has fallen under the responsibility of local authorities. Most town and city councils manage water supply systems, maintaining water pipes, ensuring that there are enough pipes for every home to be hooked to the water supply system and managing the quality of tap water. Sometimes councils grant concessions to private companies. But only in rare cases, is the operation of the water supply sectors entirely in private hands. Profit orientation leads to lower water quality

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Half of Chinese government officials fear microblogging services could cause social unrest: Survey


Most Chinese officials acknowledge the potential far-reaching impact that the rise of Weibo microblogging services could have on Chinese society, according to a new study.

WantChinaTimes notes that a survey of over 2,000 officials by the party-backed People’s Tribune found over 50 percent are afraid of increased social unrest due to microblogs, while 70 percent of them were in favor of the use of Internet in combatting corruption. While it’s nice to see so many apparatchiks in support of online anti-corruption measures, it does make you wonder about the other 30 percent.

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Australian National University Professor of Strategic Studies Predicts War in East Asia

Australian Professor Predicts War in East Asia

“There is a core argument in international relations theory that when there is a rising power and an established “hegemon” (meaning a country with a predominance of power in the world system), this is a particularly dangerous time in international relations.”

Professor Lind continued, “Historically, such situations (the rise of Germany before WWI, the rise of Japan in Asia, the rise of the Soviet Union, the rise of Germany again) have been associated with military crises and even great-power war.” However, fellow Associate Professor of Government at Dartmouth College Daryl Press commented that if push came to shove, the United States would be unwilling to “wreck its relations with China and fight a maritime war over the Islands.”

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Kashmir: The Geopolitical Hotspot That Could Lead To A Thermonuclear War


High in the Karakoram, the stubborn armies of India and Pakistan have faced off for 19 years on the Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battleground and a flash point in the deadly dispute over Kashmir. In this exclusive report, an American writer and photographer spend two months inside the ultimate no-man’s-land, witnessing the human and environmental devastation of a conflict without end. Ten years ago, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency concluded that Kashmir was emerging as the most likely place on earth for a nuclear war to break out.

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Gwadar integral to China’s maritime expansion


China’s acquisition of a strategic port in Pakistan is the latest addition to its drive to secure energy and maritime routes and gives it a potential naval base in the Arabian Sea, unsettling India.

The Pakistani cabinet on January 30 approved the transfer of Gwadar port, a commercial failure cut off from the national road network, from Singapore’s PSA International to the state-owned China Overseas Port Holdings Limited. The Pakistanis pitched the deal as an energy and trade corridor that would connect China to the Arabian Sea and Strait of Hormuz, a gateway for a third of the world’s traded oil, overland through an expanded Karakoram Highway.

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Iran to Build Navy Base Near China’s Strategic Gwadar Port In Pakistan


Iran is to build a new naval base on its coast of the Gulf of Oman. The location is Pasabandar, near Iran’s border with Pakistan.

The Iranian Navy is establishing a new naval base at the country’s Southeastern borders along the coast of the Sea of Oman in a bid to strengthen the country’s line of defense, Iran’s top Navy commander said. “The naval base which is under-construction is located in our country’s far east coasts in the Gwatr Gulf along the borders with Pakistan,” Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said on Sunday.

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China emerges as smuggling platform for Iranian N-programme


Iran is using China as a platform to smuggle thousands of specialized magnets for its centrifuges, in an effort to speed its path to reaching nuclear weapons capability, according to a US think-tank.

The report, by a renowned American nuclear scientist, said the operation highlighted the importance of China as a transit point for Iran’s nuclear program, and called for sanctions against any Chinese firms involved. As enforcement efforts have tightened globally,a report, titled ‘Ring Magnet for IR-1 Centrifuges’ by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), said that China needs to do more to show that it is a responsible member of the global economy.

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Analyst: Syria Conflict Becoming a “Quasi-Cold War”


One of the most complex situations in the Middle East right now is the ongoing conflict in Syria between the government and opposition forces, in which at least an estimated 70,000 people have been killed.

Brahimi calls it a “quasi-Cold War” situation, with the United States supporting the opposition and Russia supporting the regime. Complicating the issue is the influence of regional powers such as Iran, Turkey, the Gulf States and the Arab League, as well as Israel’s military power in Israel.
Calling the continuing crisis an “absolute tragedy,” Brahimi holds many parties responsible for using tools of absolute war in order to gain power.

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Britain’s arms deals with emerging dictatorship Sri Lanka revealed

Sri Lanka Britain arms trade

Small arms weaponry, ammunition and various other military equipment were among millions of pounds’ worth of goods exported last year from Britain to Sri Lanka under licences for arms and other closely regulated exports.

Statistics taken from the British government’s own database for strategic export controls show items ranging from assault rifles and shotguns through to weapons sights, pistols and ammunition were sold last year to the South Asian nation’s government, which has been accused of extensive human rights violations in relation to its treatment of its Tamil minority and the suppression of armed separatists, who have also been acused of abuses.

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Taiwan to expand missile deployment to counter China’s navy

Taiwan to expand missile deployment to counter China's navy

Faced with the growing power of China’s navy, the deployment of Taiwan’s self-developed Hsiung Feng III missiles will be expanded to its Lafayette-class and Knox-class frigates.

The supersonic anti-ship missile, designed by the military-run Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology after nearly two decades of research and development, is already in service on the Navy’s Perry-class frigate, the Chinchiang-class corvette and the Kuang Hua VI fast-attack missile craft. A military source who spoke on condition of anonymity said the military is planning to deploy the missiles on the Lafayettes and Knoxes between this and next year.

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New South China Sea Analysis is Must Reading for Geo-Political Pundits

South China Sea dispute to dominate ASEAN forum

For starters the SCS’s geographical location dictates that it is one of the most important bodies of water in the world. Forget the Persian Gulf, because China calls the SCS the “Second Persian Gulf.”

The EIA reports begins: “Stretching from Singapore and the Strait of Malacca in the southwest to the Strait of Taiwan in the northeast, the South China Sea is one of the most important trade routes in the world. The sea is rich in resources and holds significant strategic and political importance.” More than half of the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through the Straits of Malacca, Sunda, and Lombok, with the majority continuing on to the SCS.

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China muscles US in Pacific

(FILES) In a file picture taken on Octob

WITHIN two decades the United States will be forced out of the western Pacific, says a senior Chinese military officer, amid concerns that increasingly militarised great-power rivalry could lead to war.

Senior Colonel Liu Mingfu, at the People’s Liberation Army’s National Defence University, told Fairfax Media this week that American strategic influence would be confined ”east of the Pacific midline” as it is displaced by Chinese power throughout east Asia, including Australia. Colonel Liu’s interpretation of one facet of what the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, calls ”a new type of great-power relationship” adds to the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding China’s strategic ambitions.

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At Pentagon, ‘pivot to Asia’ becomes ‘shift to Africa’


In his first term, President Obama instructed the Pentagon to pivot its forces and reorient its strategy toward fast-growing Asia. Instead, the U.S. military finds itself drawn into a string of messy wars in another, much poorer part of the world: Africa.

Over the past two years, the Pentagon has become embroiled in conflicts in Libya, Somalia, Mali and central Africa. Meantime, the Air Force is setting up a fourth African drone base, while Navy warships are increasing their missions along the coastlines of East and West Africa. In scope and expense, the U.S. military involvement in Africa still barely registers when compared with its presence in Asia, let alone the Middle East or Afghanistan.

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Burma police used incendiary weapons against mine protesters, report says

A Buddhist monk who was injured in the crackdown

Activists in Burma have demanded action against officials who were responsible for the use of incendiary weapons against peaceful protesters at a copper mine, causing serious burns to dozens of people including Buddhist monks.

Lawyers and others who investigated the crackdown at the Letpadaung copper mine in November said President Thein Sein must share responsibility and ensure justice was achieved. Launching a report on the incident, they said police used shells containing white phosphorus, an incendiary munition, to disperse the protesters.

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Another Regional War in the Wings


In the conflict zone stretching from Syria to Afghanistan lies another war waiting to re-emerge: Nagorno-Karabakh. This dispute is likely to occupy President Obama’s new foreign-policy team whether they want it or not.

Two decades ago the newly independent states of Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bitter war over this remote area of mountains and valleys. Armenia won the war, but nobody has achieved peace. A fragile ceasefire signed in 1994 remains the only tangible achievement of diplomacy. Since then, a mediation effort led by Washington, Moscow and Paris has sought a solution.

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Syria’s Proxy Wars: In Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, the Specter of Conflict Looms

Mideast Lebanon

Although the Lebanese government has adopted a policy of disassociation with the war in neighboring Syria, it is unable to prevent the conflict from leaching across the border, stirred by rival Lebanese Shi’ite and Sunni factions that have cast their lot with the Assad regime and rebel opposition forces respectively. Given its tangled sectarian demographics and rising animosity between Sunnis and Shi’ites, Lebanon is a minefield of potential flashpoints. But few hold as much possibility for serious violence as the northern Bekaa.

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Korean Brinksmanship: Seoul to deploy missiles covering whole of NK


South Korea is reinforcing its defence against North Korea including executing a new warfare plan against its weapons of mass destruction and deploying new cruise missiles capable of striking any North Korean location, officials said Wednesday.

The Defence Ministry said it would unveil the new long-range missiles within the week. “We have developed and deployed a cruise missile system with world-class precision and destructive force that can strike any location in North Korea,” Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.

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Booming Black Market: Illicit Finances Flow in and out of Russia in Post-Soviet Era


The Russian economy hemorrhaged more than $200 billion to illicit financial outflows from 1994 through 2011, a new research report by Global Financial Integrity found.

The report estimates that Russia’s underground economy comprised about 46% of gross domestic product over the 18-year period. Illicit financial flows drive the domestic underground economy, which includes, among other things, drug smuggling, arms trafficking and human trafficking, the report said.

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Repressing China: Multilateral exercise Cobra Gold takes on a new look


Cobra Gold, the largest and oldest multilateral military exercise in the Asia-Pacific, began as a US-Thai bilateral exercise more than 30 years ago. It has now expanded to include regional partners as well and joining in this year are Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, said: “Cobra Gold now is not what it used to be. In the Cold War, it was an anti-communist front.”But in the last two, three years, it has taken on a new face. It has become an US vehicle for engaging the region in military terms but also to keep some checks on China’s assertiveness.”

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Qatar seeks a bigger role in Middle East


In Egypt, Libya and Syria, where Qatar tried to play a role post-Arab Spring, it finds itself blamed for much that has gone wrong on a local level. Close ties to Egypt’s new leaders, the Muslim Brotherhood, have alarmed countries like the United Arab Emirates, where the group is banned and which in January said it had foiled a Brotherhood-linked coup plot. Senior officials in the UAE have long believed Qatar has long-term strategy to use the Brotherhood to redraw the region. “There is both greater apprehension and appreciation for Qatar two years after the Arab awakening in the region,”

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Thai insurgents attack southern army base, troops kill 16

Security personnel investigate around bodies of insurgents at the site of an attack on an army base in the southern province of Narathiwat

A pre-dawn raid on a Thai military base ended with 16 Muslim insurgents killed on Wednesday in the deadliest violence in the country’s south in nine years, marking a dangerous escalation in one of Asia’s least-known conflicts.

Acting on a tip-off, marines lit flares and opened fire as up to 60 insurgents wearing military fatigues approached the base at about 1 a.m. in Narathiwat province on the Malaysian border, said Internal Security Operations Command spokesman Pramote Phromin. He revised the death toll to 16 from an earlier 17. None of the Thai military defenders of the base was hurt, he said.

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S. Korea deploys cruise missiles on N. Korean border


South Korea has deployed cruise missiles on the North Korean border, missiles that can hit targets anywhere in North Korea. This came in a statement for journalists by an official of the South Korean Defence Ministry, Kim Min Sok.

According to him, Seoul will also speed up the development of ballistic missiles with an effective range of 800 kilometres and will set up a national missile defence system. The statement came in the wake of Pyongyang’s underground nuclear test on the February 12. North Korea’s test has triggered bitter criticism from several countries, as well as the UN Security Council.

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Afghan Villagers Rise Up Against Taleban – ‘Fed Up With Atrocities’

Afghan Villagers Rise Up Against Taleban - ‘Fed Up With Atrocities’

Dozens of Afghan villagers have taken up arms against the Taliban in one of their key southern heartlands, the latest in a series of such uprisings, villagers and officials say.

Analysts caution that the movements could be attempts by local militia leaders to reassert their authority ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops, or could be orchestrated as part of a government strategy. The uprising in Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Islamist militants, was launched by a tribal elder at the weekend after the militia threatened to kill one of his sons for joining a US-backed community police force.

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Afghanistan’s growing number of child drug addicts


They play badminton, kick a ball around and huddle over computer games just like normal children. Except that they are recovering drug addicts aged around three to 12, representing a growing proportion of drug users in war-torn Afghanistan.

In response, increasing numbers of rehabilitation centers are weaning such children off their addiction and giving them a new appetite for life in a country that produces 90 percent of the world’s opium used to make heroin. While there are no statistics for kids, the rate of relapse is high for their parents, experts say.

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Russian state arms dealer to continue defense systems to Syria


Russia said Wednesday it was delivering military hardware and light weapons to the governments of Syria and Mali as it expands sales and maintains its footing in some of the world’s deadliest conflicts.

The head of Russia’s arms exporter Rosoboronexport, Anatoly Isaikin, said Russian deliveries to the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad included air defence systems but not the advanced Iskander missiles sought by Damascus. “We are continuing to fulfil our obligations on contracts for the delivery of military hardware,” Isaikin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

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Video: Chinese Troop Movements Signal War?


Tanks, one by one, moving along a main road in China’s coastal Fujian province. Driving up speculations that the Chinese military may be warming up for war. Local residents took these pictures between February 3 to February 6. At times, the line of tanks and artillery blocked traffic for several miles.

And it wasn’t just in Fujian province. These military vehicles were spotted further up the coast, in neighboring Zhejiang province. According to dissident website, molihua.org, these tanks in Hubei province are being transported from a military base to the coast.

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Iran ‘trying to build militias inside Syria’

Iran 'trying to build militias inside Syria'

Citing unnamed US and Middle Eastern officials, the Washington Post said Iran’s goal appears to be to have reliable operatives in Syria in case the country fractures into ethnic and sectarian enclaves.

Iran claims to be backing as many as 50,000 militiamen in Syria. Efforts to find a political solution to the nearly two-year-long conflict, which has killed more than 60,000 people, appear to be deadlocked.

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Lords of war: Arms trade networks in Yemen, Iran fueling Somalia conflict

Lords of war: Arms trade networks in Yemen, Iran fueling Somalia conflict

Islamist militants in Somalia are receiving arms from Yemen and Iran, Western diplomats told Reuters. Most of the weapons enter Somalia via the two northern autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland before being transported south to Al Shabaab rebels. The monitors found the North Korean- and Iran-made weapons at a base of the U.N.-backed African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Somalia, which raises the question of the possibility of arms smuggling networks operating within the AU force. The weapons are said to include improvised bombs and Russian-designed PK machine guns.

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Putin Turns Black Gold Into Bullion as Russia Out-Buys World


Not only has Putin made Russia the world’s largest oil producer, he’s also made it the biggest gold buyer. His central bank has added 570 metric tons of the metal in the past decade, a quarter more than runner-up China, according to IMF data compiled by Bloomberg. The added gold is also almost triple the weight of the Statue of Liberty.

“The more gold a country has, the more sovereignty it will have if there’s a cataclysm with the dollar, the euro, the pound or any other reserve currency,” Evgeny Fedorov, a lawmaker for Putin’s United Russia party in the lower house of parliament, said in a telephone interview in Moscow.

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Indian Women Dumped In Field After Mass Sterilisation Campaign

Indian Women Dumped In Field After Sterilisation

The women had all undergone surgical procedures at a hospital in the Malda district of West Bengal, around 360 kilometres (220 miles) north of Kolkata, which officials admitted was not equipped to accommodate such a large number of patients. The scandal came to light after news channel NDTV aired amateur footage of unconscious women being carried out of the hospital by men and then placed on open land.“This is inhuman and we have ordered a probe into the incident,” he added.

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Bigger than the army: South Africa’s private security forces

Bigger than the army: South Africa's private security forces

There are nearly 9,000 companies and 400,000 registered active private security guards. That’s more than the police and army combined, according to South African officials.

“The security industry is bigger than what it has ever been in South Africa,” says Zinn. “I think the growth in the industry is definitely attributed to the fact that, let’s call it a weak policing or ineffective policing, and it created the opportunity for private individuals to move into the market.” Some of those individuals have a military background.

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Seattle Mayor Tells Police To Permanently Down The Drones


As concern mounts over the U.S. government’s use of aerial drones, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on Thursday sent a clear message to his police department: whatever the government does, the Seattle police will not use the unmanned airplanes. McGinn’s decision to order an end to the program came after protests from residents and privacy advocates. Seattle is now one of about a dozen places in America where the use of these unmanned security vehicles are being challenged. Eleven states have already proposed anti-drone bills asking for a limit on such surveillance technology.

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“NATO against forming of Kosovo army”


NATO does not agree with the idea of Kosovo getting its own army, Priština-based Albanian language daily Koha Ditore writes. According to the daily, the main obstacle to the forming of the Kosovo army are four NATO member states that have not recognized Kosovo’s independence. “Kosovo can decide to turn the Security Force into Kosovo Army but NATO would not like such a step at all. The future status of the Kosovo Security Force is unclear and it remains a topic for debates within NATO,” a source told the daily.

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Lebanese military seals off a town involved in Syrian rebellion

Lebanese military seals off a town involved in Syrian rebellion

Lebanon, an important hub of support for rebel Syrian groups battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as well as home to the militant Shiite Hezbollah organization which is a staunch ally of Mr. Assad.

A tense standoff prevails between the Lebanese government and army on one side and the Sunni residents of Arsal on the other. Lebanese special forces troops have deployed around the town and the government is demanding the surrender of the gunmen who fought the army. But the town’s residents are refusing to hand them over until an independent investigation is conducted into the incident.

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US agency sees huge oil, gas potential in disputed Spratlys

Japan Election

The disputed Reed Bank in the Spratly Islands is estimated to contain up to 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas, according to a newly published report by the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Quoting data from the US Geological Survey, the EIA estimates the disputed Spratly Islands territory may contain significant deposits of undiscovered hydrocarbons. “USGS assessments estimate anywhere between 0.8 and 5.4 (mean 2.5) billion barrels of oil and between 7.6 and 55.1 (mean 25.5) tcf of natural gas in undiscovered resources,” the EIA said in the Feb. 7 report.

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Southeast Asian countries stock up on arms as they face off with China

Southeast Asian countries stock up on arms as they face off with China

“No one of us is ever going to be in a position to challenge China militarily,” one Vietnamese strategist said. “What we can do is create a strategic deterrent that would make them think very long and hard before contemplating even a limited conflict to enforce their claims. That’s what we are doing … as well as reminding China now and then that we would be prepared to fight to defend our sovereignty.”

Vietnam’s dynamic deputy defence minister, Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh, has already stated, in a clear nod to China, that if any party escalated the dispute, “we would not stand by and watch”.

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Mali: Is France’s Operation Serval Anti-Terrorism or Pro-Business?

Mali: Is France’s Operation Serval Anti-Terrorism or Pro-Business

French energy giant Arvea operates two uranium mines in Niger – the world’s fifth largest uranium producer – at Arlit and Imouraren. As al-Qaida-linked militant fighters have been driven back into desert and mountains refuges around Kidal by French troops, Paris has sent dozens of special forces reservists to protect Arvea mining sites and secure uranium supplies.Chad is another country that would have potentially suffered from a jihadist takeover in Mali. “Chad is a mayor oil producer and hosts one of the biggest French military bases in Africa. The N’Djamena government is also very close to the French government,” said Bello.

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Is Qatar Sponsoring Al-Qa’ida in Mali?


The majority of the hyperbole about Qatar seems to stem from the adage that there’s no smoke without fire. It is unsurprising that the Mayor of Gao accuses the Qataris of supporting terrorism. From his perspective he is making a heartfelt plea for French intervention and he sees the Qatari Red Crescent Society gaining access to territory held by MUJAO. Doubtless his arithmetic involves adding Qatar, the Wahhabi link, the rich Libyan-Islamist supporting Gulf State, with the Qatari Red Crescent gaining privileged access in MUJAO controlled territory; combined one comes to the conclusion that ‘Qatar’ is supporting the terrorists.

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Philadelphia Courts Begin Using Computer Forecasts to Predict Future Criminal Behavior, Determine Jail Time


Judges in the Philadelphia court system are now taking advantage of powerful new computer models to help determine how much jail time an offender should get. Computers have been forecasting weather and economic trends for years, but applying algorithms to human behavior is relatively new. University of Pennsylvania professor Richard Berk, a pioneer in the field, his forecasts, which use an algorithm to predict whether someone will offend again, have been used by city probation and parole officers for about three years, to decide how much supervision a defendant needs.

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Mineral-rich Mongolia, a minefield for Rio Tinto


Mining has been part of human life for thousands of years. Its effect – social, economic and ecological – is profound.

The pace of mine development has also accelerated in the past number of years, with the search for new resources intensifying as demand for the staples of industrial production and construction, such as iron, aluminium and copper, soar. It’s also, of course, big money. Countries such as landlocked-Mongolia have been dramatically altered by the rush to carve up the earth.

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TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS: EU and US plan world’s biggest trade bloc


The world’s two largest economic powers would like to join forces via a free-trade agreement. Yet the hurdles are high. The EU and US are aiming not just for a small trade solution, but for the largest proposal of all.

Economists, politicians and entrepreneurs are practically foaming at the mouth. The planned all-encompassing free-trade agreement between the US and EU would spur growth on both sides of the Atlantic. It would also ensure that the global economic rules of the future are put in place by western countries – and not China.

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Iran’s Ahmadinejad seeks strategic axis with Egypt


President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the first visit to Cairo by an Iranian leader in more than three decades, called for a strategic alliance with Egypt and said he had offered the cash-strapped Arab state a loan.

In a step by Iran to advance ties that were broken in 1979, the Iranian foreign minister said Egyptian tourists and merchants would no longer require visas to visit, Egypt’s state news agency reported. The effort drew a cool response, however. Shi’ite Islamist Iran is still looked on with suspicion by many in Egypt, a predominantly Sunni Muslim nation.

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China’s one-child policy creates wimpy military recruits, deserters


The ratio among all military personnel of only children rose from about 20 percent in 1996 to more than 70 percent in 2006.

These pampered children began quitting the military for all sorts of frivolous reasons. “I don’t want to get a tan” and “I hate military quarters with no air conditioning” were among excuses cited. In March 2011, Xuexi Shibao (Study Times), the organ of the Central Party School that teaches party ideology, ran an article that said, “Soldiers from the one-child generation are wimps who have absolutely no fighting spirit.”

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EU Fire Sale: Chinese buy property in Cyprus to gain EU permanent residence


To obtain permanent residence in Cyprus, investors from outside the EU have to spend at least €300,000 (HK$3.1 million) on a property. They must also prove that they have no criminal record and are in good financial standing and agree to deposit €30,000 for a minimum of three years in a local bank account. Their permit normally arrives in about 45 days.

Cyprus is not the only EU state to be exploring this way of reinvigorating a stagnant property market. Last year, Ireland and Portugal also offered residency to foreigners who bought property worth more than a certain amount. In November Spain’s trade minister said his country was intending to follow suit in an attempt to clear his country’s vast backlog of unsold homes.

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Israel’s Navy Plans to Protect Tamar Gas Fields


Israel’s first large gas field, Tamar, is due to begin producing natural gas next April. It is an economic bonanza for the state, and a security nightmare for the navy, tasked with protecting the huge area, much of which is outside Israel’s territorial waters.

“These fields have strategic significance and could be easily a target for our neighbors,” a senior naval official in charge of planning, told The Media Line in an exclusive briefing in his office in Tel Aviv. “Usually to protect an area, we just make a sterile zone around it. But we can’t do that in international territory.”

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China’s ‘Re-Education Through Labor’ System: The View From Within

A policeman leads inmates as they walk along a road with their wrists tied together to a rope at Emei Mountain region

Wu responded with vivid detail to a student’s question asking him to depict life in the laogai camps. “Every morning we would all get up and line up, with the guards at the camp pointing guns at us. They would divide us up into groups and assign us to plots of land. Within that plot of land we would pick grapes, tealeaves, cotton, and other things. We couldn’t go beyond our assigned space–there was an invisible line. Cross that line, and you’re shot.

“Every worker had a labor quota he had to fulfil. We would pack a cardboard box with grapes and weigh it to make sure we’d fulfilled the quota. They would take the box and load it onto a plane, which flew out to Japan.

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Japan, Saudi to sign emergency oil supply pact: Nikkei

Japan, Saudi to sign emergency oil supply pact: Nikkei

Japan and Saudi Arabia will sign an agreement this weekend that will allow Tokyo to make emergency requests for additional supplies of crude oil, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reported in its Feb 8 edition.

The agreement would set up a telephone hotline between the two governments to allow Japan to quickly seek additional oil supplies in the event of extraordinary circumstances such as terrorist attacks, unrest in the Middle East or a spike in the price of oil. Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will travel to Saudi Arabia on Saturday to sign the pact, Nikkei said.

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NATO doesn’t view Russia as threat but has defense plans against Baltic invasion


Rasmussen said he had no thorough information about the Russian-Belarusian war games Zapad 2013 planned for this year, adding that the exercise scheduled to take place in the Baltic states and Poland around that time were not aimed against third countries. Lithuania’s Defense Minister Juozas Olekas said earlier this week that certain elements of Russian-Belarusian military exercises Zapad 2013 planned to take place near Lithuania this year were directed against neighbors. NATO does not view Russia as a threat and does not constitute a threat to Moscow, however, the Alliance has all plans that may be necessary to protect its Allies, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Vilnius.

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EU and Israel research crime-stopping drones

Reaper Aircraft Flies Without Pilot From Creech AFB

The EU and a large Israeli military contractor are co-funding research to build drones that can stop moving boats and cars.

Launched in January, the three-year-long Aeroceptor project, according to its own literature, aims to help law enforcement authorities to stop “non-cooperative vehicles in both land and sea scenarios by means of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.”

Israel’s ministry of public security, global weapons manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries and Israeli-based Rotem Technological Solutions are among the list of 12 participants, most of which are based in the EU.

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Turkey: Trading Europe for the Shanghai Five


Starting in 2007, Ankara applied three times, unsuccessfully, to join theShanghai Cooperation Organization (informally known as the Shanghai Five). Founded in 1996 by the Russian and Chinese governments, along with three former Soviet Central Asian states (a fourth was added in 2001), the SCO has received little attention in the West, although it has grand security and other aspirations, including the possible creation of a gas cartel. More, it offers an alternative to the Western model, from NATO to democracy to the U.S. dollar as reserve currency.

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France’s Total joins Cyprus energy rush


Cyprus on Wednesday signed an agreement with French energy major Total to conduct exploratory drilling for gas and oil in two blocks off its southern shore. The deal comes as Cyprus aspires to become a regional energy hub with the prospect of oil as well as natural gas being tapped beneath the sea bed. Total signed a deal to exploit blocks 10 and 11 that are adjacent to a large natural gas find in block 12 and said it seeks to proceed in drilling for oil as well as gas reserves in the said blocks.

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China’s Return to Port Near Persian Gulf Sets Off Regional Alarm Bells


In a decision raising fresh concern about China’s ambitions in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, Pakistan has agreed to hand over to Chinese control a deep-water port, strategically located near the mouth of the Persian Gulf.

The Pakistani cabinet decision to transfer management of Gwadar to a Chinese government-owned company closes a circle for Beijing, which put up most of the funding a decade ago to build the facility in the first place.

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China Navy frigate locked weapons radar on Japanese destroyer


On Tuesday, Japan’s defense ministry said it confirmed that the Chinese navy frigate aimed its weapons-targeting radar at the Japanese vessel. It also said a Japanese military helicopter was targeted with similar radar earlier last month.

Since late last year, China has regularly sent government ships to patrol the Japanese-administered islands, in what observers say is an effort to establish de facto control of the area. Both sides also have scrambled fighter jets to the islands, raising fears of an all-out military conflict.

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‘Yemen on brink of political collapse’


Yemeni Nobel peace laureate Tawakkul Karman warned in an interview with AFP that her country’s transition process is on the brink of collapse and demanded ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh be banned from politics.

The activist, who was a leading figure during the youth uprising in Yemen in 2011, also claimed that President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi is unable to implement his plans to reshape Yemen’s security forces because he does not control the army.

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UK: Surveillance devices to monitor Web traffic


The U.K. plans to install an unspecified number of spy devices along the country’s telecommunications network to monitor Britons’ use of overseas services such as Facebook and Twitter, according to a report published Tuesday by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

The devices—referred to as “probes” in the report—are meant to underpin a nationwide surveillance regime aimed at logging nearly everything Britons do online, from Skype calls with family members to visits to pornographic websites. The government argues that swift access to communications data is critical to the fight against terrorism and other high-level crime.

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